Why People Fail To See The Obvious?

Thinking of starting a business in India, but not sure what to do? If you are looking for the most profitable, least risky area, it is the “charity industry”. Start with a good mix of religion/spirituality. The ‘Indianness’ should be prominent. Find some initial investment and do something for the poor, the unprivileged. They are plenty and easy to find in India. Arrange for some good PR – this is of utmost importance. Spread stories about miracles associated with you/your organization. The miracle part is required to get followers in India. Indians are trained to believe and not to question anything, especially if the matter is religious. So, “Indian spirituality”, lots of followers, and above all, charity – that’s all you need to win the heart of many a donor in the Affluent West. Dollars, Euros, Pounds – all keep flowing in. Divert a little of it to charity to keep the feedback loop running, and a little more towards PR. The rest is all your profit!

What is surprising and shocking is that so many, so many people do not see this! These days, I often happen to talk about some godperson during casual conversations with relatives or friends. Every time it would turn out that he/she does not realize the magnitude of business driven by donations from abroad.  Maybe a deeply programmed affinity for cults in human brain masks the ability to think sensibly. Most, if not all, of these godmen/godwomen and their organizations have more to do with wealth and profit than religion or social welfare.


I’m scared

Last week, sitting in a plane waiting for take-off, I was shocked when I spotted a stray dog at the HAL airport. I hoped there was fencing to keep the beasts away from the runway. Today’s news says there isn’t. Plane hits a dog and skids on the runway! This is just an indication. I’ve seen dogs that are afraid of thunder. But these dogs are different. They assemble, create thunder and wake you up at night. The horrible roar made by 100s of them barking together… it’s an indication too. They are going to take over. Our sleep, our streets, our airports, everything. We are doomed.

The sixth sense of direction

An unbelievable discovery – that is what happened when I went home this time.

My cousin told me that one of his friends had an incredible sense of direction – e.g., he remembers which direction the entrance of a building faces to, if he has been there once. I thought that was some kind of a trick. We decided to conduct a quick test: we made a list of buildings – houses, temples, restaurants etc. – that we knew he had seen at least once. All of them were buildings whose orientations we either knew or could verify easily. The list of about 10 buildings included a few that he visited just once, several years ago. We called him up and asked the directions. The answers came in seconds and all of them were correct!

I was stunned. I never thought any living being had this kind of an ability – not even a migratory bird that has some magnetic sense. It is as if the guy has a built in compass, and the input from this compass is stored in his memory along with other sensory information. This is easily retrieved whenever he thinks about it later! Amazing.

But maybe he is not the only one. I was able to find a few mentions of this sense of direction: This one is about how the author recognizes Earth’s magnetic field. There is one that talks about an inner sense of direction. I need to find more about this.

A lazy Sunday ends

Another weekend comes to an end. Items in my to-do list remain undone as usual. The only thing I did besides wandering in www was to watch the movie Villa Paranoia on Jaman player. First of my three free rentals. It took almost two days for the file to dribble in at a mere 128 kilobits a second. Hope the unlimited 1mbps connection becomes a bit cheaper than the current Rs. 9999 sometime before I start travelling by Namma Metro. The movie was worth the wait, though. A simple tale relevant in any modern society, told in an unpretentious way. Some good acting too. It reminded me of Kaurismäki’s The Man Without a Past – maybe because of the European social background. Watching this movie was interesting in another way: I got to listen to a few of the Danish words I picked up recently IM’ing with a friend in Denmark. The film didn’t make me feel “I would’ve deleted the last 10 min if I were the director” at any moment. And I didn’t say “successfully wasted another couple of hours in life” to myself as I do after watching some piece of shit the great Indian movie industry churns out.

The experience of watching Naalu Pennungal a couple of weeks ago was quite the opposite. It would have been a great achievement for Adoor if he managed to make a good movie out of the hackneyed theme. But he didn’t. I felt it was as banal as a Malayalam TV serial. Or maybe it was just that I was expecting too much from the creator of Vidheyan, one of my favourite flicks.

4D antennas and 3D me

P2p mobile phones. Interesting. Especially after you’ve read Spaceland in which the whole story is woven around p2p cellphones with antennas projecting into (vinn to, rather) the 4th dimension. Less interesting was the book per se, despite the brilliant theme, despite being penned by a famous author. Very little science and dull fiction. But there is something that’s worth a read – the notes that Rudy Rucker jotted down while he was working on the book.

Talking of books, my to-read list is growing. Maybe I have to read one of those “Improve Your Reading Speed” books first. Bookseeker generously lent me a couple of Kurt Vonnegut books a while ago… well, a long while ago. At the current speed of 2 pages per Sunday, I’m not very confident that I can return them anytime soon 😦 Why the hell does the Earth rotate so fast?

Why there almost certainly is no God

The first thing I did when I returned from the Academic bookstore after my search for The God Delusion had failed was to order a copy of the book from amazon.com. When I read the reviews (including this one by physicist Lawrence Kraus) I felt immensely tempted to own it. Especially so because the author was Richard Dawkins, whose great book Selfish Gene had made me an ardent fan of his. Having finished Delusion Im frantically looking for the other titles from him.

I can’t say that the book influenced me in a big way because it has been years since I have become a ‘religious’ follower of most of the ideas Dawkins preaches. But it’s surely very interesting to know whether a believer will read the book end-to-end and whether that will convert him/her. I am far from being equipped to write a review; I’m just quoting a passage from the book that summarizes everything:

“God almost certainly does not exist. This is the main conclusion of the book so far. Various questions now follow. Even if we accept that God doesn’t exist, doesn’t religion still have a lot going for it? Isn’t it consoling? Doesn’t it motivate people to do good? If it weren’t for religion, how would we know what is good? Why, in any case, be so hostile? Why, if it is false, does every culture in the world have religion? True or false, religion is ubiquitous, so where does it come from?….” [p 158]

We need unicast

In a cab, returning home after the tiresome chores of the day in office,
you close your eyes and try to retreat into your cocoon…
Suddenly you realize with a shock that the guy next to you
suffers from an extreme case of verbal diarrhoea.
Non-stop noise pollution. Literally nauseating.
The gal next to him – her name must be insensitivity – is the only intended recipient of the filth.
But there is little choice: he has to broadcast, you have to recieve.
You curse the Magratheans for making such a design error.
We need unicast. Badly.


I moved from bloglines to netvibes. I had to. I still have no clue where all my bloglines feeds have gone today morning. It must be a bug or crash on their server; it wasn’t such an important piece of database for someone to crack my password and delete. All those feeds i accumulated and cherished – they all vanished into thin air. See how empty it looks now:


Hope i’ll not be shocked like this another day when I open my gmail or yahoo mailbox. But there is “ABSOLUTELY NO GUARANTEE”, I guess.

But in a way, it isn’t all that bad – without this happening, I wouldn’t have tried Netvibes! Netvibes has a much better interface, and it’s a bit more than a mere feed aggregator – quite similar to google personalized home page, but better in looks, IMO.


Sailing the Baltic

“Here is your ticket. Now, RUN!!”, said the lady at the terminal opening the gate she had just shut, after she requested the captain to wait for one more minute through her walky-talky. I ran along the long boarding corridor – and I had been running for quite a while before, all the way from the railway station to the Katajanokka Terminal in South Harbour. And that was how I managed to report “on time” at 5:29 for the Viking Line cruiseferry to Stockholm that was scheduled to depart from Helsinki at 5:30. Who could have imagined that a tram would break down near the port and that would immobilize the enitre tram system all of a sudden, right when you had just 15 min to cover 3 km on a route where the only means of transportation is tram? When my friend who managed to reach a couple of minutes earlier called me up before boarding to say “you have two more minutes”, I was sure that it was going to be another photo finish. How many times have I narrowly avoided missing a train or a bus or even a flight in India! Probably I have started enjoying the excitement that it gives.

The extra long winter night hid all the beauty of Baltic archipelagoes from my sight. But the amazing view of the clear night sky and the vast ocean – each in its own right a humbling sight – from the deck was unforgettable. Cassiopeia smiled at me from straight overhead. The same Cassiopeia that I used to see down in the northern sky through fluttering cocunut leaves during those stargazing nights in Kerala.


Stroll around Helsinki’s katus (streets), and these are the words that catch your eyes most frequently: “Parturi Kampaamo” (Parturi – barber, Kampaamo – hairdresser). Today for the first time I ventured inside one of those small rooms behind the semi-transperent panes of glass to experience my first haricut outside India, expecting to discover new wonders of the developed world. I was sure that there would be a haircutting machine – something that looks like this! You put your head inside, the barber presses a few buttons, the machine whirrs, and in less than five minutes you find yourself window-shopping in Aleksanterinkatu with a perfectly trimmed hair!

But to my disappointment, it wasn’t that hi-tech. The barber used the same tools as her counterparts at New Thippasandra. In fact it was more primitive: she used her comb much less skillfully and mostly used her hands instead! The operation ended satisfactorily after half an hour. While waking back to the metroasema, a quick calculation showed that what I payed at the “Parturi Kampaamo” (when converted to Rupees) possibly exceeded the total amount that was spent to cut my hair during the last two and a half decades in India.