Thursday, May 24, 2007

Save the Big Five: The NDTV-Sanctuary Asia Campaign

The NDTV-Sanctuary Asia Campaign aims at protecting India's five most famous and most endangered animals: rhinos, tigers, leopards, elephants and lions.

To know certain shocking statistics on the fate of these five, click here.
Now, the People's Republic of China plans to legalise trade in tiger parts, which would instantly wipe out the already dwindling tiger population. This campaign aims at saving tigers in particular, as well as the other four mentioned above.
You too can contribute to this campaign. Vote for the NDTV Petition to save our natural heritage.


This post is a goodwill gesture. For more see

A Blogger's Code of Conduct

Be Honest and Fair
Bloggers should be honest and fair in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
Bloggers should:
• Never plagiarize.
• Identify and link to sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability.
• Make certain that Weblog entries, quotations, headlines, photos and all other content do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
• Never distort the content of photos without disclosing what has been changed. Image enhancement is only acceptable for for technical clarity. Label montages and photo illustrations.
• Never publish information they know is inaccurate -- and if publishing questionable information, make it clear it's in doubt.
• Distinguish between advocacy, commentary and factual information. Even advocacy writing and commentary should not misrepresent fact or context.
• Distinguish factual information and commentary from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.

Minimize Harm
Ethical bloggers treat sources and subjects as human beings deserving of respect.
Bloggers should:
• Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by Weblog content. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
• Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
• Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of information is not a license for arrogance.
• Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone's privacy.
• Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects, victims of sex crimes and criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.

Be Accountable
Bloggers should:
• Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
• Explain each Weblog's mission and invite dialogue with the public over its content and the bloggers' conduct.
• Disclose conflicts of interest, affiliations, activities and personal agendas.
• Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence content. When exceptions are made, disclose them fully to readers.
• Be wary of sources offering information for favors. When accepting such information, disclose the favors.
• Expose unethical practices of other bloggers.
• Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.

Courtesy See orignal page


Monday, May 21, 2007

Media Legends

The three people who have changed the very definition of news and current affairs. List compiled based on the author's views and experiences.

Barkha Dutt Managing Editor, NDTV 24x7

Considered the best journalist in India, Barkha Dutt is a recipient of a number of International awards, including the British Commonwealth Award for Best Journalist. Starting from her unparalleled coverage of the Kargil War (1999) to her compassionate presentations on the Uri Earthquake, she has taken Indian Journalism to its zenith.
Wish her a happy birthday on December 18
More on Barkha Dutt
Interview with Richard Boucher, Asst. Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Government of the United States of America (with Barkha Dutt having conducted the interview to review India-US Relations, particularly the Nuclear Deal)

Thomas Loren Friedman Foreign Affairs Analyst, New York Times
A staunch believer in the benefits of globalisation, author and three-time Pullitzer Prize winner, Thomas ('Tom') Friedman is a regular columnist on foreign affairs, his opinions ranging from the Israel-Palestinian Conflict to the IT Revolution in India. He propagates the First Law of Petropolitics, based on which he claims that India is very lucky to be natural resources-deficient. Hailing from St. Louis Park, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis, he is considered an expert on Foreign Policy, having acquired this skill through many years of practice, starting with writing articles for his High School newspaper.
Wish him a happy birthday on July 20
More on Thomas L Friedman
Interview to Yale Global

Suze Orman Host, The Suze Orman Show, CNBC
American financial adviser, author of several books and TV host, Susan aka Suze Orman has made it her career to give confused citizens sound financial advice. From telling people whether they can afford something to handling a family financial crisis, her no-nonsense, to-the-point attitude has left her viewers both dazed as well as in awe. Apart from her financial expertise, she is critical on the issue of credit card debt. Her favourite phrase is 'People First, then Money, then Things'. Born in Chicago, Illinois, she now lives with her lesbian partner Kathy Travis [source: Interview to the New York Times]. She also founded the Suze Orman Financial Group.
Wish her a happy birthday on June 5
More on Suze Orman
Interview to Open Exchange
*Pronounce Suze as Su-sie

This opinionated article contains several pieces of information obtained from Wikipedia. The author takes no responsibility for its accuracy. However, the details as well as the opinions are that of the author's.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Musical Maverick

Music. Is it an art? Is it a sport? Or is it a way of life?

Whatever might be your opinion, music in today’s world can be defined by one word: COMPETITION. And in this tuneful war zone, two shows stand out exceptionally well in the clutter of reality shows which saturate Indian cable television. Yep, I’m talking about Sony Entertainment Television’s (SET’s) Indian Idol 3, and Zee TV’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2007. So, on the occasion of an undeclared war between two channels desperate to takeover each other in terms of market share, I decided to hand over my cards by telling you which show I prefer and why.


Large talent-pool amassed from all corners of the world (well, all corners that can sing in Hindi, anyway) 1 point
Keeping the spirit of ‘the oldies’ and Indian Classical Music alive 1 point
Large number of qualified music directors 1 point
Well-experienced judges 1 point
Teacher-student tradition, in true spirit of the olden days 1 point
Very effective in combining today’s lifestyle and yesterday’s traditions 1 point
Fair title song ½ point
Subtotal: 6 ½ points

Out of reality: too much preference given to age-old (and indeed, boring, at least most of them) songs -1 point
Show is done in a saas-bahu serial type format, obviously to rake in higher TRPs, but compromising on quality -1 point
Ineffective host -1 point
Condescending judges and gurus -1 point
Far too much stress is laid on the theory of the song (such as the sur and the lay), and not enough on enjoying the song -1 point
Subtotal: -5 points

Total: 1 ½ points


Excellent hosts 1 point
Fun and youthful 1 point
Judgement taken on a consensus basis, rather than a single vote 1 point
Covering all parts of India (including the south and north-east) as well as parts of the world with a sizeable Indian population 1 point
Good title music 1 point
Formal behaviour between judges and participants kept to a minimum 1 point
Joint-song sung by the final 10 (lacking in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa) 1 point
Friendly format, not promoting fights and grudges 1 point
Very high participation (auditions exceed a million participants) 1 point
Subtotal: 9 points

Drastically copies American Idol with very few alterations -3 points
Anu Malik is very rude -1 point
Any Tom, Dick and Harry allowed to perform before the judges, even if they do not possess even the most basic of all musical talents -1 point
Long-drawn auditions with various untoward incidents -1 point
Too much emphasis laid on glamour and style quotient -1 point
Subtotal: -7 points

Bonus Point: India Idol 1 and 2 have both been recipients of the Asian Television Award for Best Reality Show in two different years 1+1=2 points

Total: 4 points

Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2007: 1 ½ points
India Idol 3: 4 points
Indian Idol 3 wins!

Presumably, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa borrows heavily from the soap opera style of presentation. Although this does raise its ratings – after all, who doesn’t enjoy a good fight? – it tends to overshadow the music. Furthermore, since it puts greater weight on theory rather than enjoyment, the overall effect is that of a student struggling to understand the frills and by-lanes of musical conjecture and in the process, limiting the overall pleasure in listening to the song.
Indian Idol 3 borrows heavily from the Internationally-acclaimed format of American Idol. Although some cite this as a negative attribute, I disagree. The format is not only entertaining but also invigorating: something the world might be used to, but India is not. After all, bringing in something new, even if it is a copied version, is not bad, since it raises the bar of quality and leads to a win-win situation for the consumer (and the advertiser). All-in-all, the show encourages a good performance, which appeals to the youth of the nation.

Indian Idol 3 is my choice, and I recommend it to anybody who has a free night. However, if you are interested in the (g)olden days of Indian Melody, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2007 might not be such a bad option after all.
And if you really want to see cut-throat competition for good music, do compare the abundant news and current affairs channels that India has; my pick: NDTV Profit!

Watch Indian Idol 3 on Fridays and Saturdays at 9:00 PM on Sony Entertainment Television (Duration: 1 hour). Also visit the this page for more.

Watch Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2007 on Fridays and Saturdays at 10:00 PM on Zee TV (Duration: 1 hour). Visit this page for more.

UPDATE: STAR Plus has joined the bandwagon by launching its own musical talent hunt, Amul: Star Voice of India on Fridays and Saturdays at 10:00 PM on STAR Plus.

This post is heavily opinionated. CONSTRUCTIVE criticism is welcome.

A Candle to the Hyderabad Blast Victims

The truest help we can render an afflicted man is not to take his burden
from him, but to call out his best energy, that he may be able to bear the
burden. - Phillips Brooks

For more on the Hyderabad [see on map] Mecca Masjid blast, please read this article from About the mosque.
Quote from GigaQuotes

Thursday, May 10, 2007

When the Only Cure is Death

This post relates to the act of Euthanasia. This article is purely opinionative and is NOT meant to harm any sentiments.

Euthanasia, simply put, is the act of killing a person or animal who is terminally ill with a very slim chance of survival. This is done through painless means, such as administering lethal injections or cutting-off life-support systems. Euthanasia is derived from the Greek words ‘eu’ meaning ‘good’ and ‘thanatos’ meaning ‘death’. This act is also called mercy-killing.

Euthanasia has become a very controversial subject in recent times. The crux of the matter is its morality: should a person be allowed to die a dignified death, or is life far too precious for anyone to end by unnatural means. The opinions are diverse: in the Netherlands and Belgium, the act is legal, as long it is done by a competent doctor and with the consent of the patient or, in case the patient is not in a state to decide, by a relative or a guardian. Over 3,000 people are “legally terminated” or euthanized in the Netherlands each year. On the other hand, euthanasia in Britain is a legal offence that carries with it a 14-year imprisonment.

Before we analyse the pros and cons of the practice, it would be apt to discuss two points. Firstly, does any doctor – however talented or educated – have the right to end a life? Before taking up practice, a doctor always takes the Hippocratic Oath, named after Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine. This oath entails the following words: "To please no one will I prescribe a deadly drug nor give advice which may cause his death." Yet, the act of euthanasia is performed in many parts of the world by doctors, whether regulated or unregulated. Secondly, the question arises as to what would happen in case euthanasia goes out of hand and every ill individual is asked or chooses to be terminated. One major case would be the practice of the Nazis. In 1939, Nazis, in what was code named Action T4, involuntarily euthanized children under three who exhibited mental retardation, physical deformity, or other debilitating problems whom they considered ‘life unworthy of life’. This program was later extended to include older children and adults. Hence, the issue of regulation and misuse of the practice cannot be ignored, nor can every doctor be expected to adhere to ‘moral and ethical’ sensibilities.

Let’s start with the pros. A person deemed terminally ill will not survive, at least not by modern standards. At most, he/she can be made to live in a semi-conscious state by means of ventilators, dialysis and a whole barrage of equipment. However, this would bring with it a complete collapse of dignity. The patient would not be able to do anything for himself/herself. Every single need, from eating to going to the toilet, would have to be assisted. The patient would be rendered bed-ridden. Would it then not be appropriate to end this mental and physical suffering, simply by ending the very problem: life? Wouldn’t the patient be happy that his/her private life would no longer have to be invaded day and night for the mere sake of extending an over-stretched life? Furthermore, the patient’s healthy organs could be donated to a needy person. Would it not be better to save a life that can be saved rather than extend a life which should have already been over?

Another factor is cost. In countries such as the US, the cost of healthcare is exorbitant. If they lack in health insurance, a family would have to spend anywhere between tens of thousands to millions of dollars to keep on hold the imminent death of a beloved but incurably ill member. Would it not be a better option for the patient to be given a dignified end to his/her life, rather than spend a fortune on something that will eventually turn out to be useless?

Apart from these, there is also the question of how much a patient suffers. The process of slow death is excruciatingly painful. The patient would have to live like a vegetable, depend on a machine for his/her very existence! Anaesthetics and pain-killers would become his/her bread and butter. Would it not be fitting then, to end this unending cycle of pain and helplessness, so that the patient can bypass the suffering and reach the imminent ending? Is it not better to die a human that live a vegetable?

Then of course, there are the cons (which some feel outweigh the pros). An obvious question is how the dignity of an individual is determined. Are efficiency and productivity the only measures of dignity? Surely not: dignity must be more profound and must include deeper thoughts and emotions. Is slow death really so undignified? Is the desire to live in spite of all odds truly so humiliating?

Another point is the misuse of euthanasia. Could it be possible that it would get out of control? A study says that the Netherlands has moved from assisted suicide to euthanasia, from euthanasia for people who are terminally ill to euthanasia for those who are chronically ill, from euthanasia for physical illnesses to euthanasia for psychological distress, and from voluntary euthanasia to involuntary euthanasia (called "termination of the patient without explicit request"). The Dutch Government's own commissioned research has documented that in more than one thousand cases a year; doctors actively cause or hasten death without the patient's request.

Another controversial point pertains to exactly who this doctor is to declare that a life is not worth living? Is he really so proficient, has he really viewed so many aspects of human existence, observed so many rare miracles, that he can say with confidence that there is no cure? Is he earnestly trying to help the patient or is he hastening the process so as to hide his own inability to offer relief? Many would argue that no doctor would dream of killing his own patient, but this is hypothetical; there have been known cases of deceiving doctors, and when the question is of a human life, deceit can lead to death.

There is also the aspect of family pressure. What if the family cannot afford health care? What if, in a bid to stop the heightening medical bills, members of a family put pressure on the patient to end his/her life? What would happen if a patient who is not terminally ill is forced to consent to euthanasia under reeling force from his/her family to do so? Would it not be a waste of a human life? And then, what if the patient is not is a mental state to decide? As per Dutch law – which we shall take as a benchmark for this discussion – a panel would be formed consisting of medical experts and relatives and friends of the patient. They would then look through previous medical records, take second opinions, discuss and conclude whether euthanasia is the best option. But here again the question arises: who are these people to decide whether someone else’s life is worth living or not? Do they really know the patient well enough to make such a decision? And then there is the case of misuse of opinion. Say the panel first goes to a doctor, who is known to be supporter of euthanasia, for an opinion. Naturally, they would get a nod. Next, if they went to another doctor, who also supports euthanasia, on purpose, then their second opinion would be consistent with the first. And that would be and to a human life. This is the controversial matter of selective usage of opinion and data, both of which are a matter of ‘life and murder’ in such cases.

The arguments are many, and I doubt if there is any answer. However, a survey of over 2,000 HIV-infected patients in the European Union (EU) shows that a majority are in favour of allowing euthanasia by law under certain conditions, which is currently legal only in Belgium and the Netherlands.

I wonder if a solution can ever be found. Life and death have always been regarded as two sides of the same coin, but moving from the former to the latter is a very contentious topic.

Lastly, let me relate an incident sent by a Mr. Suryanarayan Sharma, a reader of the Gujarati weekly Navjivan, in response to two articles on euthanasia published on December 21 and 23, 2004. Mr. Sharma takes us to Sabarmati Ashram, in the October of 1928. Gandhiji had just put to sleep (read, killed) an ailing calf, thus inviting a lot of spite from conservatives (a cow is considered sacred in India). In response, he said this:

“A calf, having been maimed, lay in agony in the ashram and despite all possible treatment and nursing, the surgeon declared the case to be past help and hope. The animal's suffering was very acute.

“In the circumstances, I felt that humanity demanded that the agony should be ended by ending life itself. The matter was placed before the whole ashram. Finally, in all humility but with the cleanest of convictions I got in my presence a doctor to administer the calf a quietus by means of a poison injection, and the whole thing was over in less than two minutes.

“Would I apply to human beings the principle that I have enunciated in connection with the calf? Would I like it to be applied in my own case? My reply is YES. Just as a surgeon does not commit himsa when he wields his knife on his patient's body for the latter's benefit, similarly one may find it necessary under certain imperative circumstances to go a step further and sever life from the body in the interest of the sufferer”.

For more information relating to euthanasia, do visit the Euthanasia website.
This article contains information amalgamated from several websites and blogs.
CONSTRUCTIVE criticism is welcomed.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Book Review: Wise & Otherwise: A Salute to Life (Revised Edition)

A Slice of Indian Life

Title: Wise & Otherwise: A Salute to Life (Revised Edition)
Author: Sudha Murty
Publisher: Penguin
Price: INR 150
Pages: 220
Rating: *** of 5 (Good)
For more about the author, visit this site. For another review of this book, see this one. To see the publisher's entry on this book, you can visit this page.

Sudha Murty, as a person, has seen many facets of life. Hailing from Shiggaon, a small village in Karnataka, she has gone on to become a much-loved professor and the head of the philanthropic wing of India’s best-known IT solutions provider: the Infosys Foundation. And as a humanitarian, she has not just seen, but has also changed many lives. Wise & Otherwise is a collection of some of her experiences in her mission to show the human side of corporate India.

In this book, we are treated to over fifty short tales, all told through the eyes of Sudha Murty. A very interesting part of this book is when she tells us that in spite of working in the “charity section” of a multi-billion dollar company, the Infosys Foundation does not even have a separate nameplate for itself, and anyone who goes into her office would surely not guess her credentials!

A man deserts his father as a destitute; a couple of teenagers born into capitalist-India discover the heroics of the Rani of Jhansi; a village school Principal who uses the school’s property as her own; a light-headed and unlucky stock broker who demands money from the Foundation or threatens suicide; and how one man’s earthquake is another’s gold mine. These and many more tales bring out the face of the other India: the one we don’t like to talk about with out foreign friends.

Mrs. Murty regularly points out the ever-bothersome habit of fawning and exaggerating praise that all those in need of quick money seem to magically acquire! She reminds us that Generation Next is not totally wrong, and that they too (or should I say we too?) have some degree of respect towards Indian as well as international culture. Added to this is her short anecdote on the genesis of the Nobel Prize, and this book is a complete picture of the wise, and the not-so-wise, which she puns “the otherwise”.

However, towards its end, the book does become a bit boring; with continuous comparisons of different situations lacking is a comprehensive inference. Perhaps she could have spoken more about the different sort of students she taught, and how India is slowly changing. And of course, the story titled ‘Sorry, the Line is Busy’ could have been truncated, as it failed to say anything worthwhile, except how teenage girls seem to talk a lot!

All-in-all, the book is worth a read and has been successful in giving an unbiased view of India today, India tomorrow, and the grey area in between. And the ultimate thought this book leaves us with is that life is not always fair, but it is better to light a candle than curse the dark.

Reviewer’s Favourite Extract:
‘Alliance invited for a smart, slim, fair, 22-yr-old software engineer, from a modern family, preferring to stay overseas. The girl is convent educated and prefers nuclear family. Outgoing and Karate Black Belt. Enjoys Western music and travelling. Handsome boys between 22-25 yrs, well connected, well settled, preferably a software/MNC, small family, can apply directly. Horoscope not needed. Caste no bar.’
Pg. 160

For any help required in buying this book, please visit the publisher's site.