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Sambhar Mafia - Cooked To Kill!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mayhem at SRM Engg. College

Every other week, some engineering college in TN is pulled up by the AICTE and quite expectedly the students are the ones who are affected by the ruling. The college managements seem to be having the last laugh because of their muscle power, financial power and political power.

Update: Dreamchaser has been following the developments closely. His Flickr photo set is available here. Other reactions from Balaji, Sriram and Madhu.

Business Line’s New Look

After the redesign of The Hindu and The Sportstar, The Hindu group decided to go for a redesign of The Hindu Business Line. (This is how the front page looks). Next in line is the launch of the new look Frontline.

Business papers and pink always went together. Business Line broke the stereotype and launched a business paper in full white. Lot of people started buying Business Line as the section on Stock Prices had bigger fonts thereby causing very little strain on the eye. This USP may not be valid anymore as people rely on SMS and the Internet to get the latest stock prices.

Business Line has come a long way. If you go by circulation numbers, Business Line is No. 2 (behind ET). I was a bit surprised by this as I expected Financial Express to be No. 2. One of the reasons for BL’s higher subscription number could be the fact that they are using Hindu’s distribution network to launch editions in smaller cities like Trichy, Coimbatore, Mangalore, Vizag and Vijayawada. The redesigned Business Line also features a new Sudoku section. If BL really wants to move ahead, it needs to spruce up its supplements like Catalyst and Life to make them more interesting.

Sidin Turns Columnist

Apart from the section targetted at CA students, the Monday edition of Business Line now comes with a management related supplement called The New Manager. The New Manager also features a column by Blogosphere’s Humour King Sidin.

Every week this column will teach you things that are critical to your success as a manager of tomorrow. As a student you might want to know which courses to avoid and books to read. Which cocktail is best before an economics end-term exam (Bloody Mary) and how to interact with the women in business school? As a young manager your doubts and tribulations are vastly different. Which departments to avoid and e-mails to read? Which cocktail is best before an Annual performance review? (Screwdriver)

Many ambitious young managers today are faced with a singular obstacle to their career progression: The overwhelming pressure to go to office. We will share deep insight into how you can take over 150 working days off and still become employee of the year. Boss demanding well over the 45 minutes of hard work you are prepared to put in everyday? We will reveal some of the interesting things successful managers have been doing for centuries to keep their bosses in place.

With columns like these, Mondays will never be the same again.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Medical Tourism is here

Much before the term "Medical Tourism" caught on, the same concept existed, but no particular buzzword was attached to it. Chennai used to receive some amount of Srilankan medical tourists who were looking for treatment for heart ailments. The presence of Apollo, Madras Medical Mission and a few more top-notch hospitals was the prime driver. More recently, we started hearing about Pakistani patients who started visiting hospitals in Bangalore (Narayana Hrudayalaya is one name that comes to mind).

Even though medical tourism existed, most of the inflow was from the SAARC region. India was not seen as a medical destination by the West. This seems to be changing now.

Neil is one such tourist who was in Chennai for a hip-related ailment. Neil has documented some of his experiences about his stay in India and also about the way he was treated in Apollo Hospital. It seems he zeroed in on India after watching the TV show called “60 Minutes”.

He is not fully convinced about the English skills of some of the people whom he interacted with and he explains it here:

One reason for the language barrier is that this hospital isn't really geared for Westerners. I was under the impression that this particular hospital targeted Westerners but that isn't the case (at least not to a large extent). According to one of the nurses, she sees around 50 Americans a year. I asked her about Europeans and she said that there are very few. The foreigners that do come, however, appear to be the Saudis. Neil is the only Westerner that I have seen in the hospital during our stay.

The IT Boom (or the lack of it) seems to have caught his eye as well:

Chennai isn't as well known for its IT companies as Bangalore or Hyderabad but they are here. The interesting thing about wandering the streets is seeing a new, westernized 5-story glass building in a neighborhood of decaying buildings. Invariably, that building has a name like 'I-soft' on the front.

It looks like most of the medical tourists are coming to India after doing their own research. There is no central body, which serves as a repository of information (travel, sight-seeing, accommodation, pre and post-surgery care etc) related to medical tourism. It’s still unclear whether the Centre wants to create a Medical tourism campaign and integrate it with the overall Incredible India theme.

Quite recently, I happened to see a booklet promoting Medical Tourism in Singapore. The booklet came along with Business Today. I glanced through the booklet and also visited the dedicated website which has been created for this purpose. This looks like a concerted effort and some initiative even half as good as this might do wonders for promoting India as a medical destination.

Gossip Time


Sunday, February 26, 2006

India is the flavour of the season

Be it Davos or Newsweek, India seems to be top on the agenda everywhere. To coincide with Bush’s visit to India, Newsweek has come out with an elaborate cover story on the growing dominance of India in the global arena (particularly on the economic front). Fareed Zakaria, editor of the International Edition of Newsweek was at the World Economic Summit and he writes about his experience at Davos:

As you got off the plane in Zurich, there were large billboards extolling incredible India. Davos itself was plastered with signs. world's fastest growing free market democracy! proclaimed the town's buses. When you got to your room, you found an iPod Shuffle loaded with Bollywood songs, and a pashmina shawl, gifts from the Indian delegation. When you entered the meeting rooms, you were likely to hear an Indian voice, one of the dozens of CEOs of world-class Indian companies.

There is also a 5-minute podcast interview with Fareed Zakaria on the same topic that he has dealt with in the cover story. Since outsourcing continues to be a buzzword in India related stories, Newsweek has a separate piece on how the Americans are no longer bothered about their earlier concerns about outsourcing.

Other India related articles in the same issue:
Indian-Americans move beyond science and engineering careers

Friday, February 24, 2006

BLINK Before You Blog

When every other author / journalist has a blog, can Malcolm Gladwell be far behind?

In the past year I have often been asked why I don’t have a blog. My answer was always that I write so much, already, that I don’t have time to write anything else. But, as should be obvious, I’ve now changed my mind. I have come (belatedly) to the conclusion that a blog can be a very valuable supplement to my books and the writing I do for the New Yorker.

Jargons take over Blogosphere

When the outside world is full of jargons, can the Blog world be devoid of it? NYT tries to capture the popular jargons (MSM, Link Love, Memes etc) and decides to create a new word called Blargon (Blog + Jargon) in the process. Patrix used the word Blogisfaction (Blog + Satisfaction) few days ago. I’m sure more such words are going to be coined and added to list of blargons. At the height of the dot com boom, the words “cyber” and “e” were being prefixed to all possible terms. The current trend indicates that we’ll see a similar trend in the blogosphere as well.

MK – The Camel Owner

Never knew that Jaya is so good in story telling:

A vegetable vendor, a fruit seller, a pottery merchant and a glass dealer formed an alliance with a camel owner. They took advance from people and went to New Delhi, promising to procure them articles at cheaper rates. The consignment was loaded on the camel. On their way back, the camel ate up the perishable items while the breakable ones fell down and were smashed. The people who trusted them suffered huge losses.

Now the same merchants were approaching the people with a promise that they would supply them articles at cheaper rates procured at the ''Chennai market.''

How can such an old camel / camel owner carry so much load?

How to reach the Readers’ Editor?

With the Readers’ Editor expected to assume charge on March 1st, The Hindu explains the scope of his role and also the various modes through which one can reach him. Don't be surprised if bloggers spam the Readers' Editor with a long list of complaints.

Complaints will be enquired into and follow-up action taken by publishing corrections or clarifications; by replying to the complainant; and by enabling corrective action to be taken, as needed. Communication not related to editorial content will be passed on to the departments concerned. In all cases, the aim will be to respond as quickly as possible.

The Readers' Editor will also write a regular column on a range of journalism-related subjects, among other things promoting openness and transparency and providing readers access to what goes on within a major newspaper.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Blogs Inc.

Business Line has an article about how blogs are making an impact in the corporate context. One example stated is the product review segment, which can have a potential impact on a particular brand or a company. The article talks extensively about how sites like Mouthshut (an Indian product / service review site which deals with books, movies, music, gadgets etc) have a bearing on brand image.

The article gives rise to some unnecessary confusion as reviewers in Mouthshut have been referred to as bloggers. Mouthshut has probably been around since the year 2000 (much before blogging really took off in India). Although product reviews and blogs might be considered as forms of citizen journalism (in an online form), it would have been better if the article had made a distinction between the two. Mouthshut is a dedicated review site and potential buyers / users turn to it to get some feedback. Individual blogs may not be dedicated to reviews and hence may not have the same impact like a review on Mouthshut. Further, Mouthshut would probably combine all particular reviews under one roof so that it's easier for the reader to get a big picture. This may not be possible in the Blogosphere.

Bloggers are also penning product reviews on sites such as Mouthshut.com. "These writings or opinions on Mouthshut.com serve as critical feedback for companies to improve their products," explains the CEO, Faisal I. Farooqui.

The statistics prove that Indian bloggers are taking to product reviewing in a big way. Mouthshut.com gets 80,000 browsers every day and 15 million page views per month and even the most minute details are discussed - from a restaurant menu to ringtones.

The film Black did not rake in much moolah in the first few days of its release, reckoned the bloggers of Mouthshut.com. However, the critically acclaimed movie eventually drew a bigger audience through word of mouth. Kiruba Shankar, who is not much of a Bollywood buff, decided to watch Rang De Basanti after bloggers raved about the film. MSN India's Head of Sales and Marketing, Rajnish R., says there is a growing number of reviews on FMCGs, electronics, financial and automotive products on MSN's blogs.

Even though the celebrity blogs have not really taken off, the article goes to say how Bollywood and cricketers are taking to blogs. I wonder whether Viru knows that MSN has created a blog for him:

Tinsel town and cricket icons too are hogging the limelight in the blogosphere. MSN Spaces (MSN's blogosphere) has featured Aamir Khan (during the release of Mangal Pandey) as well as the Rang De Basanti cast. Virender Sehwag, whose Web site is backed by MSN India, has also joined the blogging fraternity on MSN Spaces. Rediff blogs were used for marketing the film Apharan. The cast shared its experiences in shooting the film with Rediff bloggers.

A Peek Into Life at Google

TIME has a photo essay on the facilities that Google’s employees enjoy. When do they get time to work? (via)

Nivea Aftershave Ad

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

State of Tamil Mags

Identical cover pages (it has to be one of the top 5 heroes or heroines), identical columns, identical columnists & identical gossips to name a few. If you dig deep, you might be able to spot some difference in the newsstand prices. Why can't we merge all of them and save some paper?

Sample of 2 recent cover pages:

Bangalore Expats: Looking For Monkeys

Apart from snake charmers and elephants, monkeys seem to have caught the attention of expat bloggers. Bangalore Dreamer is trying to decipher what “Mushroom Section” means and Bangalore Monkey is trying to find his way with Indian power switches. Being in Bangalore, how can they miss talking about the Forum Mall?

The Forum Mall in Koramangala could nearly be in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, except that there's more Indian choices at the Bangalore food court, and the mall's movie theater offers three tiers of service capped with a deluxe cocktail-and-snacks "Gold Class" that you won't find at any U.S. cineplex.

(Cross-posted on DesiPundit)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

MK is a relieved man

How else can we explain this statement?

On Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's invitation that the AIADMK's alliance doors were open and Vaiko not responding to the same, Karunanidhi said, "Vaiko did not enter that door because he should not be mistaken for the proverbial dog entering an open house.

Somebody save Kollywood….

........because we're ruined.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Blog revenues are hard to come by

In a comprehensive post on the US blogging scene, Trevor Butterworth presents a pessimistic view of blogging. I’m sure this article is going to generate lot of debate:

One blogger who would open his books suggests that fortunes are not being made by even the above-average site. Andrew Lienhard earned $1,100 last year by using Google’s ad service on his blog, jazzhouston.com, which has been running since 1996 and gets some 12,000 page visits a day.

After talking to various people in the new media world, it’s possible to estimate an income of $1,000 to $2,000 a month in ad revenue from a typical blog getting 10,000 visitors a day and playing to a national audience with a popular topic such as politics.

The problem is that few blogs do even that much traffic. According to the monitoring done by thetruthlaidbear.com, only two blogs get more than 1 million visitors a day and the numbers drop quickly after that: the 10th ranked blog for traffic gets around 120,000 visits; the 50th around 28,000; the 100th around 9,700; the 500th only 1,400 and the 1000th under 600. By contrast, the online edition of The New York Times had an average of 1.7 million visitors per weekday last November, according to the Nielsen ratings, and the physical paper a reach of 5 million people per weekday, according to Scarborough research.

If you are still interested in generating money through blogs, take this route.

2 Bottles of ‘O’ Positive urgently needed for DMK

Vaiko offers to donate blood.

The Comedy Continues

Just like most of you, I have also decided not to take Anna University Vice Chancellor’s sermons seriously. He continues his attack on the student community by stating that the engineering students lack basic skills and knowledge.

Excessive use of mobile phone, indulgence in cinema and television are distracting today's youth upon whom the country's future lay and President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam had reposed faith in transforming India into a developed nation by 2020, D. Viswanathan, Vice-Chancellor, Anna University, has said.

Jobs were aplenty but engineering graduates were not competent, lacking in the basics of core subjects and application of knowledge as well as in communication skills, he said and pointed out that five lakh jobs were lying vacant in manufacturing and software companies.

That trend could be arrested with the intervention of parents and teachers, he said. "Parents' role is important. When their wards are in school the parents monitored their progress but once the children entered the college the parents seldom paid attention to their children." He advised the parents to do "good monitoring" of their children till they graduated.

Calling upon students to reorient their priorities, he told them that the burden of blame lay on their shoulders if they failed to perform. "Students are responsible for their own failures."

Isn’t it part of his duty to ensure that the students walk out of campuses fully equipped to face the outside world? Apart from the dress code, ban on cellphones and the ban on film-related events in culturals, what else is he doing to improve the standards in the university? If it all boils down to student discipline and enforcement of rules, we might as well appoint a cop to head the university rather than having an academician.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Everyone's talking about it

NY hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal’s son’s wedding is being billed as the Indian wedding of the year. This wedding has generated lot of interest even in the Western media. This is what Guardian has to say:

The invitation stresses that the dress for the event needs to be "formal, no blacks or whites. Only colours". For foreign guests there is a 20-page wedding booklet which explains Indian attire: salwar trousers are baggy pants and the choli top is a tight-fitting blouse.

Some advice for those entering the Corporate world

Dilbert at his usual best:

Your hard work will be rewarded. Specifically, your boss’s boss will reward your boss for making you work so hard.

Business success is mostly about waiting for something lucky to happen and then taking credit.

Preparing a Powerpoint presentation will give you the sweet, sweet illusion of productivity.

It is better to be an “expert” than it is to do actual work.

Turning Indian Broadband Into A Family Business

As part of its red herring prospectus, SUN TV has mentioned that it has plans to enter the mobile telephone and broadband space. Long before Dayanidhi Maran took over as the IT & Telecom Minister, SUN TV had grand plans to foray into cable broadband as it was already operating in the Cable TV distribution space through Sumangali Cable Vision (SCV).

Sun TV is open to entering the mobile telephone and broadband space. The company, in its offer document submitted to the Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI), disclosed that, "as part of our growth strategy, we may broaden our media presence through other platforms, including broadband, mobile and DTH''.

I hope somebody raises an issue about the potential conflict of interest (Kalanidhi Maran runs SUN TV and his younger brother Dayanidhi Maran, by virtue of his ministerial post, has the right to interfere in BSNL decisions). Don’t be surprised if BSNL increases broadband prices or decides to provide below par service in order or make a SUN TV Broadband offer look more attractive. Further, SUN TV might also get access to sensitive information like cost structures, subscriber information through its networks in BSNL.

Update: SUN TV denies report on mobile service.

Friday, February 17, 2006

‘Pondy’ hub

Apart from being famous for hardware manufacturing, spiritual tourism and cheap booze, Pondicherry is also becoming famous for some other things.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Entertainment Guaranteed

Blame it on the camera

Guess who said this?

Observing her expanding waistline on screen, X says that it is not that she is obese, but the camera magnifies her image, so she is forced to think of becoming svelte to look moderately shapely on screen.

If you are still not able to figure out, click here for the answer.

(This message is brought to you by Subway, the latest sandwich outlet in town).

More Screens

SSI, the software training company, which forayed into the hospitality industry, wants to grab a piece of the Multiplex action. At this rate, there is going to be no dearth of movie halls in Chennai. SSI is embarking on this expansion through its entertainment arm Telephoto Films (Actor Suresh Menon used to run Telephoto in the past).

Indhiya Stock Marketil Mudhal Muraiyaaga

SUN TV is coming out with its much-awaited IPO. I think the money raised will help in every way except in improving the content and the style of SUN TV.

The issue proceeds will be used to beef up Sun's subsidiaries, launch more TV channels, construct its own corporate office, set up studio facilities and up-linking infrastructure, purchase new equipment and upgrade the existing ones.

Sun TV's red herring prospectus says that in Tamil Nadu, the combined audience share of all Sun channels is 60 per cent compared to the 5 per cent of its closest competitor for the year ended March 31.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Mallya on a high!

CNN-IBN’s live streaming has been pretty good and I make it a point to watch it to get my daily dose of desi news. CNN-IBN had a program called Being Vijay Mallya on Sunday (12th Feb). The whole transcript of this interview is available online. Knowing Vijay Mallya, you would expect that there would be something unique. The interview was conducted when Mallya was flying between Jaipur and Mumbai on his personal jet. Mallya now joins the ranks of Presidents, PM’s and Cabinet Ministers who normally make it a point to give interviews on board an aircraft.

The questions were largely on expected lines (lavish parties, swimsuit calendars, succession plans etc). I felt that the interviewer uncessarily brought in the question about how Mallya’s daughters (aged 10 & 12) figure in the succession plans of UB Group.

Anuradha SenGupta : You just mentioned your daughter and that got me thinking about an earlier question. When we were talking about succession plans and things like that, we didn't mention your daughters at all. Does that mean that Indian businesses are chauvinistic and Indian media has also started becoming chauvinistic? Because I didn't even think of it.

Vijay Mallya: You see, you must understand things in a perspective. Siddharth is already 18, Rehana is 12, Tanya just turned 10. There is an eight-year gap between the youngest and the eldest.

Anuradha SenGupta : I understand the age, the fact that they are much younger, so the question does not arise right now. But why would you not think of the fact that may be one of your daughters may be the chairperson of the UB Group?

Vijay Mallya: No problem with that at all. They must be given the opportunity, first of all, to grow up and secondly, shown the aptitude, none of which is possible at age 10 or 12. Now, Siddhartha is 18, a lot older and has shown the aptitude. So, at the end of the day, why deny him the chance?

Time for Hindus to protest

Are Indian newspapers and websites going to be taken to task for publishing this picture?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Blog for profit

I simply don’t get the message, which ET is trying to convey here.

Turning the hobby into income is much easier in the present day with ample options like displaying ads on blog pages, getting sponsorships , working with a blog network, leaving a tip jar for donation on blog sites, merchandising personalised products or offering consultations to people in need and on it goes.

Blogging for money has already caught on and blog gurus all over the world vouch that it will only move up in the following years.

Displaying ads on blogs doesn’t lead to a goldmine (people need to click on those). Further, most of the ads on Google Adsense are not India-centric. The common India-centric ads are mainly matrimonial ads, banks advertising for NRI remittances, property ads and ads for used cars. Niche blogs, which target a particular segment, have managed to get sponsorships. Blogs like Rupya.com are well positioned to get ad revenue, as some of the ads are very focussed on the topic being discussed. Other than these blogs, I doubt whether the rest of the desi blogosphere can even dream of making a few thousand rupees through blog revenue. Although lot of people are not forthcoming in revealing their Adsense earnings, atleast the word of mouth publicity could result in more people trying out Adsense and other revenue options. I think most people tried it out for a limited period and gave up after seeing the paltry earnings from those ads.


………Dinesh Dalmia is behind bars. Given that so many people have been landing at this blog after searching for him, I thought of putting this up so that the people behind those random searches stay well informed.

How to show your loyalty in TN Politics?

There are many ways to show your loyalty in TN politics. One way is to fall at the feet of the political leader and the other way is to submit an application in favour of your leader:

The AIADMK has raked in a cool Rs 8 crore by selling 8,000 application-forms priced at Rs 10,000 (non-refundable) each. February 1, the opening day of the distribution of the forms, saw a mad rush of leaders, including ministers, MLAs and other ticket aspirants buying more than 1,000 forms, of which 800 were filed in the name of party leader J Jayalalithaa. At the end of the ninth day, more than 1,600 applications were filed in her name.

Star Battle In The Offing

The ADMK has been working hard in wooing members of the tinsel town and has managed to bring in lot of stars (Senthil, Vijayakumar, Mike Murali) who are past their prime. If the Junior Vikatan story is to be believed, we are going to see a star battle in Thousand Lights constituency. The forthcoming election promises lot of action. With opinion polls suggesting an ADMK victory, it would be interesting to see how this situation changes as we move closer to the polls.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Fallout of IT Boom

It’s not just the manufacturing sector, which has bad things to say about engineering graduates. Some HR professionals give an idea about the demanding nature of today’s engineering grads:

"Weekends are job shopping time for them and some of them agree to attend three-four interviews at different companies at the same time." There is another fallout to the whole turn of events: a casual attitude toward job change and very often, a `no-show' at the interview.

"With so many jobs and so few candidates, the entire seriousness of the job market has gone," he says. TVA now finds that only three out of every ten candidates scheduled to attend interviews actually do so. And excuses are as flippant as bad memory, bad health, or worse, attending another interview.

Though this behaviour is more rampant among candidates with 3-4 years experience, there are some seniors too who do not show up. This `unreasonable behaviour' is extending beyond the interview stage too, says Mr Sinha. Some demand a 100 per cent jump in salaries and do not turn up for work on the first day.

Amul in full form


TN Film Awards- Better Late Than Never

The Tamilnadu Government has announced the state awards for 2003 and 2004. I don’t see the logic behind releasing 2003 state awards in the first quarter of 2006. Although I didn’t spend much time reading through the awards list, I just decided to focus on one category – Best Music Director. Srikanth Deva has been chosen as the Best Music Director for 2004. A little bit of research would reveal that he has bagged the award for the hit movie M Kumaran S/o Mahalakshmi. Although the songs of MKSOM were a hit, there are much better choices for the Best Music Director award. I would have been pleased if one of the following three had bagged the award:

Bharadwaj for Autograph
Yuvan Shankar Raja for Manmadhan / 7/G Rainbow Colony
ARR for Aayutha Ezhuthu / Kangala Kaithu Sei / New

At the end of the day, awards are being determined largely by recommendations and political affiliations. It would have been more appropriate if they had given some award like Best Upcoming Music Director to Srikanth Deva.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Of Globizens and Locazens

Just when you thought you couldn’t take words like metrosexual any more, you now have some more new terms being thrown at you. Globizen, Locazen, Globehave and Globatude are the new additions to our vocabulary. IMO, Globizen sounds more like a polished version of pseud. A recent survey on Global Indians has attempted to define Global Attitude.

It defines people with ‘global attitude’ as those who like to keep track of international news, benchmark themselves against the best, and stay up-to-date in science and technology. Those who also exhibit ‘global behaviour’ — regularly emailing colleagues or friends abroad, watching a Hollywood film or a game in which no Indian participated in the last month, travelling abroad in the last two years, and conversant with a foreign language — were considered ‘globizens’.

If emailing friends and colleagues is going to be counted as global behaviour, I’m sure a majority of the urban population is going to fall under the category. This survey might join the list of useless surveys that are growing very rapidly.

From Wellington, NZ to Wellington, India

A New Zealand tourist writes about his Wellington (located near Ooty) experience in a NZ magazine. Some of the scenes will take you directly to a Balu Mahendra movie:

An aged herder, who speaks excellent English, proves a marvellous source of information. He's proudly retired from a supervisory position in the tea industry and explains that leaves must be taken to the factory, treated with steam, withered and oxidised before they end up in a cup. While we talk, we wander uphill behind the cows. From the top, he points out a factory in the distance beyond the carpet of tea bushes. It's one of many in the Nilgiri Hills, where tea begins its transformation from something that looks like camellia leaves to the beverage we love.

The tea gardens are a lasting legacy of the Raj. British plantation owners sold their properties to Indian companies in the early 1940s when they saw independence's writing on the wall. Not much changed except the nationality of the owners: the plantations are still called Glendale, Sunnybrook and Pencarrow, the managers still live in British-style cottages and speak English with plummy accents.

The next day I wait for an hour for the train to Ooty, 21km away, before someone tells me it doesn't run on Sundays. But the wait is lovely. I sit in the sun on the grass and watch monkeys frolicking on the station roof and children playing cricket on the green near the stream. I study the wildflowers that, because we are at high altitude but in the tropics, are a strange assortment: magnolias, gladioli and daisies bloom together.

On Monday, the train arrives as scheduled. I see it puffing up the valley, belching smoke, and feel a fizz of excitement about a steam-train journey, but, alas, it's only an old diesel engine in bad need of maintenance. The train ambles, whistling volubly, through neat tea gardens and forests, and around the edges of wide valleys with hamlets as cute as Wellington. We pull in at Lovedale and Ketty, where I could stay at the railway station retiring rooms for 30 rupees – $1.50 – per night.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A Sambhar Mafia Exclusive

Exclusive is probably the most misused word in Indian media today. It is quite irritating to see the various magazines and news channels using the exclusive tag for almost every other article / news report. At the going rate, the fatigue caused by the overdose of exclusive reports might result in the audience ignoring even a genuine exclusive report. Very soon we can see the following events being covered 'exclusively' (if not already covered) by the desi media :-

Fashion Show / Beauty Contest held in your apartment / street / colony

An act of spitting / snoring / coughing by a politician / filmstar

Shot down by Blogosphere, picked up by Bollywood

One Night @ The Call Center has a happy ending.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

ToI puts Chennai plans on hold

Looks like it’s good news. It’s going to be The Hindu Vs Deccan Chronicle for the time being. Exchange4Media has more:

The market has been abuzz with news of The Times of India’s impending launch in Chennai for some time now. Denying any immediate intentions of launching an edition here, Das said, “Strategy is also what not to do. For the time being, our priorities are different. You can’t manage business with emotion. It has to make sense commercially. It would depend on whether or not there is a need gap in the market. Right now, someone else is battling it out in the market. Let that battle get over first. We are immediately not thinking about it.”

The South is being viewed by TOI as one of the most promising regions. One key to this was identified as political stability and a resultant favourable environment for emerging industries, leading to creation of a new category of employees and consumer affluence. Das explained that the South would “definitely be in the consideration set for any launch, and that includes media”.

Firefox yet to ignite the fire in India

Although Firefox usage has been growing globally, Indian sites seem to be largely ignorant of the fact that their sites don’t display properly when viewed through a Firefox browser. Except for few Indian sites likes The Hindu and Rediff, most of the leading news sites (Business Standard, New Indian Express, Sify) have problems when viewed through Firefox. It’s usually the special characters like currency symbols and punctuation marks that have problems. Although most Indian sites have started offering RSS feeds, I fail to understand why they are not keen on offering a Firefox-friendly website.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Why should this blog be blocked by Websense software under the grounds of offensive content because of this reason? I tried to break my head to find out whether it is because of some offensive word in the URL, but couldn't come up with any answer.

Friday, February 03, 2006

An expat tries to learn Tamil

Chennai has no dearth of expat bloggers. Their experiences suggest that they are trying their best to get to know India better. Julia’s blog is no different. She pens down her observations and experiences in the process of learning Tamil:

One of the things I’ve been doing in my free time is taking classes in Tamil, the local language. People are always asking me why I’m learning Tamil, since it isn’t something I’ll be able to use when I return home. I decided to take classes for a few reasons, partly because learning a new language is mentally challenging and interesting, partly because it helps with my volunteer work, and partly because I needed things to do during the day. But once I started learning I found out the best reason to speak Tamil: the look on people’s faces when they hear me speak their language. Uttering even the simplest phrase, “how much?” to the auto driver or the Tamil equivalent of “see you later” causes people’s eyes to widen as they ask me, “you know Tamil?” When I reply that I’m studing Tamil, or that I know a little, everyone starts beaming and telling me that I speak very well (romba nalla Tamil payseringeh.) I have had hundreds of people in this city tell me that I speak Tamil well, which is bit of an overstatement but nice nonetheless.

Random facts about Tamil:-

The word for “think” and “feel” are the same.

There’s a sound in Tamil, the American “r”, which is difficult for some people here to pronounce. They are very impressed when they hear me say it.

One Tamil term of endearment translates to “the pupil of your eye.”

We all know about all of the Eskimo words for snow. Tamil is like that with family members (it might be like this for all Indian languagues, I’m not sure.) There are separate words not only for big brother and little brother but the big brother of your dad, his wife, her family, and on and on. I even have a word scribbled in my notebook that says “a woman who lives in another house,” but I have no idea what it means.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Hungry for news

Singapore may not be a big market for Indian channels and hence viewers in Singapore generally get to see only the most popular ones (Sun TV, Zee, Sony, Star Plus & Asianet). In sharp contrast, viewers in the US and UK get to enjoy a large bouquet of Indian channels. Indian news channels like NDTV, Aaj Tak and Headlines Today seem to be on an expansion spree abroad and their focus is primarily restricted to the West. CNN-IBN seems to be the only option for people who don’t have access to any other Indian news channel. I don’t know how long CNN-IBN is going to offer free live streaming, but do enjoy it till it lasts.

Sentosa Flower Show 2006

I happened to visit the Sentosa Flower Show during the long weekend. It looked as if half of Singapore was in Sentosa (the remaining half would have gone overseas during the break!). Although the Flower Show was not out of the world, it didn’t disappoint us. People in the know say that the stuff in Lal Bagh and Ooty Flower Show are much better than the one in Sentosa. The flower show is on till this weekend (5th Feb). Here are some snaps:

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Deccan Chronicle gains marketshare in Chennai

Apart from an attractive invitation (?) price I don’t think Deccan Chronicle (Chennai edition) has any other USP. I hope they are not overstating their circulation figures:

Net sales also more than doubled to Rs 102 crore from Rs 45.78 crore rupees as readership of the company's new edition in the southern city of Chennai jumped to 300,000 copies daily.

The company plans to step up Chennai's circulation to 400,000 copies in the coming months and reach 500,000 copies by December, P.K. Iyer said.

The Chennai edition of the Deccan Chronicle has managed to win market share from the two leading English dailies with a low price of one rupee, which can be sustained because of the surge in advertising revenues, he said.