Sri Lanka – The after


I am back from my trip to Sri Lanka and what is to follow over the next few days, is a detailed description of the how , the when , the why and the why nots of my week long trip. And you will also notice how my intricately planned trip will slowly meander  out of course over the week.

Sri Lanka- The Before


I am off to Sri Lanka in a few days. This post will be two part( this depending on how committed I am to completing the post) , part 1 the plan , part 2 the execution. Why do i want this to be two part? simply because more often than not what is planned for a trip is rarely what is done. The before and after will be fun examining .
I bought myself a Lonely Planet Sri Lanka a month or so back. The book recommends routes based on your interest. There is the ‘Classic route’ – which i chose to take, the one with all the temples and the one with all the wild life. The Classic route covers the essentials, but sort of leaves out the monasteries. Here is what the Classic route looks like. Colombo – Kandy- Galle- HikkaduwaThis route covers the hill stations and the beaches, but leaves out the national parks and the temples.Given that i will be traveling with a bunch of 25 year old men , the temples might be colossal waste of time. So, I altered the route to include Horton plains and Bentota. For those who want to visit the monasteries, try Anuradhapura.
We plan on heading straight to Kandy on arrival. While one should make it a point to walk to Adam’s peak, i will be unable to do so due to an unstable knee of a fellow traveler. I will make it a point to fill this space with all the information i can collect about the hike when i am there. Besides the Knuckle range treks( of which Adam’s Peak is a part of) there really is very little to do in Kandy ( to quickly remind the reader, this is being written before the trip has been made and all recomendations are based on the reading i have done). I have located a few pubs around Kandy town, we plan to spend time doing nothing in Kandy, not really the start I was hoping for. The next day is when we head out to Nuwara eliya. A sleepy colonial town south of Kandy. NE is known for the tea estates formerly run by the Brits. Again very little that can be done here. Although the tallest peak in SL is visible from here . You are not allowed to approach the peak because the army uses this as its communications base. NE is famous for its old world charm . Next we are off to Horton plains. The authorities allow you to walk through the forests to the “world’s end” . This is the Only hike that we have planned. This should be an event. I am looking forward to it.
From here we head out to Hikkaduwa ( how, i do not know yet). Acclaimed party capital of SL. This should be fun. There are tons of pictures all over the internet with clear blue waters and pretty women on the beach.More than enough reason I’d say to squeeze the place into the itinerary. We then continue to travel upward to Bentota in search of water sports. I am told the water sports happen here on an estuary. Jet skis , body boarding the works. Lonely Planet says non of the ‘rides’ are too expensive and one should have fun here no matter what.
While this is the travel plan, the accommodation hasn’t been charted too well. I have booked homestays in Kandy and Colombo through hostel.com . The idea was to keep this trip cheap and stay under INR500 per day. Hostel.com gives you plenty of options on these lines. If you are looking for something a little more upscale try agoda.com . But remember to be quick on this website, rooms disappear quicker than Indian governments.As for the rest of the trip, I am going to go ahead and take a chance, given that the places that fall in our budget bracket have no booking systems online in the other locations. Lonely Planet gives you a bunch of options with telephone numbers and addresses.
Now for the reason I travel – Food. I am told prawns are eaten for tea here. My kind of place. I promise to go ‘street’ on most of my meals and write all about it the minute I get chance.

The American Hand in the Indian Backside


We always knew the Americans to be an interfering lot. We have seen this in Korea, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan.
The following rant spews from the Indian edition of the Wikileaks.
As we speak the Indian parliamentary house erupts with rage, demanding that the Prime Minister step down given that he got there unlawfully. Now , I am not yet in a position to agree or disagree with the authenticity of the leak. I am sure the developments in the weeks to come will show us what really happened.
A specific post, and this one holds bearing with the title of this post, has Hillary Clinton questioning her Indian embassy on what Pranab Mikherji’s economic policies were, why Montek Singh was not chosen over him and what Anand Sharma’s relationship with Montek Singh Ahuluwalia was like.
It never is wrong to find out more about your colleagues , but what seems oddly discomforting, is the nature in which these questions have been posed. Think of it as some one visiting your facebook page and spending hours on it , trying to figure out who your friends are and what alliances you subscribe to. Maybe this seems marginally normal these days, or maybe I am not just yet as open about my life as one should be. What really bothers me is why this whole process seems like we need to consult the United States of America before we appoint our ministers. She goes on to ask what Mr, Sharma’s views on the WTO are and how he plans on conducting his first meeting with his counterparts.
I am assuming she received answers to most , if not all her queries, because if she didn’t , then i am sure at some point she would stop asking them!

In 2005, David Mulford, the then US ambassador to India, had some serious contributions to India’s stand on IAEA censure on Iran.India was on the verge of signing the Joint statement ,which would effectively separate the Civil and military nuclear functions , with the US. This was incidentally the same time that US was working its way through IAEA censure on Iran. Now India’s stand was clear. India depended largely on Teheran for oil supplies and natural gas. India would want to nothing that would stress their relationship with Teheran. Mr.Mulford writes to Condoleza Rice , asking her to recommend a change in the Indian stand on Iran and almost as if blackmailing India, threatened to refuse to sign the Joint agreement if India chose otherwise.
Next thing we know India voted against Iran in Vienna.

The look of consternation on PM Manmohan Singh’s face gives me no pleasure. These decisions made were certainly made with larger benefits in mind, but India needs to take a stand.

The reactors are safe


Before you read about how the Indian reactors are unsafe and how we should not go ahead with the nuclear program, here goes.

We have 20 reactors in India. 18 being pressurized heavy water reactors and 2 boiled water reactors. Japan uses the latter.

While there are audits running as we speak, the Kakrapar atomic station and Madras Atomic station have withstood the earth quake of 02 and tsunami of 04 respectively. So clearly they have been built to last.

Just the dumbest professor I have met!


The class i sat for ( mind you i hadn’t signed up for this class) , was one of International business, or so he claims.
Before i start , I must tell let you know that my politics to me is what Christ is to the Pope.
Lets get back to the happenings to today then.
This professor, is from Bombay. Head of a reasonably good school in Bombay, and guest lecturing at mine. He starts his class off with the usual do’s and don’ts , to which he receives the standard tepid response, and then he starts off.

This was no lecture on International Business or how to conduct the same. It was a maudlin rant on how India was way behind China and how industrious the Japanese where. Where I study ,this is not new.
But here is when things get nasty for me.
“Manmohan Singh hasn’t heard about the decisions he has made until he reads the newspapers in the morning , just like you and me” – Strike one you bucket of Lard.

“S M Krishna can’t even bring himself pick up the right speech”- Strike two you tone deaf geyser.

” Sonia Gandhi is the biggest Crook ever known”- Strike THREE!

This went on for a really long time by the way, there was Ratan Tata , Reliance , the CPI so on. No one was spared.

Here are my retorts.

He says Manmohan SIngh has no handle on his decisions? What did Vajpayee do ? He was only a mere puppet in the hands of a sly Advani. Manmohan Singh is true statesman. India will any day will find an educated economist more representative of their abilities than a dreamy poet.

You say SM Krishna can’t bungled up a speech at an UN this year. Well, Listen to this- George Fernandes while in office, when at a school in Nagaland decided to thank the children for their hospitality. He says- ” You have been very kind to me, I will return to India and tell them all about what a lovely place this is.” That is all I have to say.

Sonia Gandhi is a smart politician, no doubt. She is charismatic and more Indian than most of the safron waving Rashtriya Swayam Sevaks claim to be. If Nitin Gadkari is under the impression that the country thinks that he belongs in heaven, think twice fat boy.

Easy to point fingers at the incumbent but then when was the last time the BJP enjoyed being the incumbent? I feel safer in a country run by smart crooks than in one run by  a sectarian government hopped up on populist propaganda.

Going the Distance- A movie review.


Who says I don’t watch romantic comedies? I ran out audio visual material and Moby Dick just did not look as attractive today. So i walked up to my room mate and picked up the least known movie to man kind. Turns out this one was called- Going the distance. Clearly i had.

You see, the movie starts off like a charm. Well not so much to most people. But to me , the male protagonist, a 25 something employee in a record label, is freaking splitting image of me. Certainly not the way we look. He is as confused about women want as I am. Anyway, he goes on to meet fun filled female protagonist, they very steadily fall in love and start to think about the “what next” bit. Here is the heart breaker. She is only a visitor to the city of New York( where he works for the record company) , and that she will have to return to San Fransisco in 6 weeks. Boo Hoo.

Well , yada yada yada.. they figure a way out and the movie closes with random humor.

Well, here is the good bit- Very Juno like humour( or an attempt at it). She is made out to be a very desirable  31 year old and the romance is not so mushy after all.

 

The Bad bit- At some point, all you want to do is wring the neck of the chap who made the movie and ask him to move on. Translation- Flattens out in between.

 

Dont watch it if your time is worth something.

The King’s Speech- A movie review


A prince who stutters. His brother, the heir to the throne, a philanderer and care free and then the speech therapist who never learnt to correct speech.

The movie revolves around something as simple and otherwise banal as a speech impediment. Well, certainly not any regular stutterer. This one is the Duke of York. After several failed attempts at having his speech impediment corrected, Prince Albert of Britain chances upon a somewhat unconventional therapist. Prince Albert is resistant at first , but then is convinced by what the therapist can do for.

What is absolutely wonderful about his movie, is how tormented the lives of the Royals are. The Prince narrates the story of how he was brought up almost entirely by a nanny who favoured his brother over him. So much so that he was not fed for days on end. Prince Albert is everyone of us who doubt ourselves. He stands for every apprehension we have had about an impending change. The average Joe.

Maybe i would be rather unfair if i said nothing about the therapist. He is infact a nobody. An Australian , he learns to fix people’s speech impediments during the time of war, when shell shocked soldiers returned speechless,literally. The therapist is absolutely unperturbed by the raucous the Prince causes on many an occasion,every time reminding him that  they were equals outside the palace. He unabashedly calls the prince Bertie( again much to the Prince’s annoyance) and for most of the movie makes him self to be the strong genius that he is.

Loved the movie. Stays in the collection.

Nine Lives-William Dalrymple


This book makes you wonder why you never knew about the Bauls in Bengal , the Theyyam dancers in Kerala , the bhopas in Rajasthan. Certainly you are more Indian than Dalrymple will ever be. Or will you?

To be honest , this book leaves you feeling ashamed of why you never spent time to find out about all that our country has to offer. Then you sit back and give in to the sheer splendour that is India. The book takes you through the lives of some of the most banal people living the most interesting lives. You almost forget how India is the “fastest growing nation” , ” the one to watch out for in the decade to come” . Instead , you see the lives of the real people in India, their real troubles.

There is the Jain nun -Prassanna Mataji, who renounces her contemporary way of life to take on the harsh ways of a Digamabara Jain.  The painful recantation of her journey as a nun, her loss of a friend and finally her decision to slowly induce death all leaves you wondering why does all this seem so detached from your own life?While a monk deals with having killed innocents and the prostitute from Belgaum works on with AIDS only so as to feed her daughter, we worry about what shoes to wear to work.

The India I live in is not the India that it really is. Read the book.

What does this mean for us?


With the Congress and their allies poised to form a government that hopes to function on their own terms , what are we to expect?

Here are few

1> Chidambaram during his tenure as finance minister early in 2004 had proposed an increased share of FDI for insurance in india. This was squashed by the left almost instantly. Looks like one could expect this dusty propaganda to be polished and made ready for revival.

2> Plans to allow investment of PF into the commercial market might see the light after all, given that the left was against this propoosal too. This will allow a whole range of long term funds to operate in our markets.

3>The unutilised funds in the highways programme might finally find a usefull outlet after all these years.

 

More to follow