Suketu on load shedding

Suketu Mehta wrote this sensuous take on the Great Northeast Power Outage (via Green Channel):

As it got dark, the texture of the city changed. The street lights were out, and people strolled about with flashlights, lanterns. Street vendors were selling glow-sticks and phosphorescent necklaces which would save you from being run over at intersections… It was a steamy night; men walked around without their shirts; women came out in their shortest skirts. People trying to catch the trains to the suburbs realised they couldn’t make it, met other commuters, and made impromptu dinner plans with them; ate pizza by candlelight and slept together in the parks… For one night, the city shed its load.

Food plaza offers 104 different dosas; patents some

Eyebrow-raising patents are also granted outside of the U.S.:

…a food plaza in Hyderabad has recently introduced 104 different varieties of Dosa. They have already patented 27 of them. The food plaza introduced this new concept in Hyderabad after a successful trial in Mumbai…“Focal point of the Dosa Plaza is we have created more than 104 varieties of Dosas out of which 27 are patented, nobody can copy it. The difference between other Dosas and these Dosas are the fillings. We have the international flavour like Mexican dishes are filled in the Dosas or there are American fillings,” said Jagdish Khorwal, Project Head, Dosa Plaza. [ANI/Yahoo!]

This far-out concept of wrapping a round piece of flattened bread around Mexican ingredients is going to be big. Picture, if you will, a whole chain of hacienda-like eateries with…bells…selling this truly groundbreaking product to all of India’s mostly non-obese citizens. So big, that it should spark unbridled franchising around the world, catering to those starved for affordable Mexican food prepared quickly. Billions upon billions of dollars will be generated. Luckily, Khorwal has patented this ingenious design, so he won’t have worry about unscrupulous businessmen stealing his idea. He will also finally collect the years of royalties owed to him by the citizens of entire continents, who have been enjoying for eons just such a delicacy without paying him his proper dues.

ANI/Yahoo!: 104 varieties of dosa to stir Hyderabadis’ taste buds!

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Bill Gates again denounces H1-B visa curbs

So does this mean that Microsoft is hiring?

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates slammed the federal government’s strict limits on temporary visas for technology workers, saying that if he had his way, the system would be scrapped entirely. “The theory behind the H-1B (visa)–that too many smart people are coming–that’s what’s questionable,” Gates said Wednesday during a panel discussion at the Library of Congress. “It’s very dangerous. You can get this idea that the world is very scary; let’s cut back on travel…let’s cut back on visas.” Federal quotas on H-1B visas, capped at 65,000 last year, have long been a sore spot for Microsoft and other technology companies. But, Gates said, the increased caliber of research institutions in China and India means that curbs on immigration and guest-workers will pose a greater threat to America’s competitiveness than ever before. [News.com]

Of course, the rudimentary pro- and con- noise from elected officials:

“I think there was a post-9/11 effort to cut down on visas,” added Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat. “I think this was a mistake.” Rep. David Dreier, a California Republican, was left defending stricter immigration rules. “We can’t be so naive as to think there is not a very serious problem” with terrorists entering the country, he said. [News.com]

News.com: Gates wants to scrap H-1B visa restrictions

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Gangadham: A Hindu theme-park

I sense a conspiracy. My senses are often way off though so I will let you guys be the judge. First, Renu Kansal sends us the following tip from Variety.com (subscription required):

Outgoing Walt Disney chief exec Michael Eisner and his successor, Bob Iger, were stalking the Indian subcontinent this week in search of new business opportunities. The pair met both President APJ Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday and Tuesday and held talks with Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Information and Broadcasting Minister Jaipal Reddy and senior bureaucrats before traveling to Mumbai today.

Leaders of the world’s top media and entertainment groups are increasingly beating a path to the subcontinent as they recognize its huge potential as an emerging market with a population of 1.3 billion. Rupert Murdoch, in particular, is a frequent visitor.

hindupark.jpg

Did you get that so far? Michael Eisner of DISNEY was spotted in India on business. TODAY the BBC has this story (thanks to my brother for the tip), announcing the world’s FIRST Hindu theme-park (that we’d heard rumblings of before). Coincidence I ask you??

Its backers describe it as the “world’s biggest ever mythological theme park”. Hindu gods such as Ram, Hanuman and Krishna will be the central attractions for a ‘Disneyland on the Ganges’ in India.

The aim of the 25 acre park, called Gangadham, is to recreate great moments in Hindu mythology through hi-tech rides, an animated mythological museum, a “temple city”, food courts and a sound and light show.

The park is to be on the banks of the Ganges, in the north Indian pilgrimage town of Haridwar.

I bet you they will just take apart and old Dumbo ride from Disneyland, modify it to make it look like Ganesh, and then charge a fortune. Also I remember the California case not so long ago where Tigger was charged with, but acquitted of fondling a young girl. Can you IMAGINE if such scandal were to hit a Hindu theme park? Perish the thought. Of course Disney in reality has nothing to do with this but it’s fun to imagine what would happen if they did.

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The more things change…

Consider if you will some of the following quotes:

“There are Koreans, Chinese, and Hindoos numbering over one billion. Allow them to secure a foothold in the United States, and they will, within a few generations, sweep like an avalanche of death from the Himalayas around the globe”

or

“It is essential that the blood of the American-Europeans of this country, who together with their ancestors developed civilization to its present state, should be kept pure and free from the taint of the decadent Orientalism of China, Japan and India. We have no quarrel with those people. We wish them well in their own countries, but we do not want them in ours.”

or

“[Indian religions are] debauched with deeds of lust and blood…Many of the Indian deities, given to lustful amours, are especially worshipped by the people….It is not surprising that religion in India is not only divorced from morality but married to vice…much indecency exists in India under the guise of religion, many of the temple dancing girls are merely consecrated prostitutes, and in many cases respectable women are led to lives of shame.”

Do you get angry when you read this? Or perhaps it sounds vaguely familiar to you? When compared to the transcript of the Jersey Guys radio show that I posted a few days ago the above quotes aren’t that radically different. Well what if I told you the quotes above are all about a century old? Indolink.com has a very educational article titled, Fear and Loathing: Hinduphobia in America .

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Blogs as Freudian Telephone

When you were a kid, did you ever play telephone? That game where a whole bunch of people would sit in a circle, the first would pass a message to the second, and so on until it came back, having changed in some bizarre and unpredictable way? Well, blogging on news stories can be like that, as bloggers pass along a story it becomes simply an inkblot, showing us more about the bloggers involved than about the original item. Here, I offer a minor example of such an indianinkblot from two of my favorite economics bloggers:

Recently Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution wrote another in his series of wonderful Outsourcing for Everything posts:

Why not grade exam papers in India?  Brad DeLong offers the link.  The obvious question is what we really need professors for anyway  — are we simply magnets of personality to keep students interested?

Working backwards, we find Brad’s story etitled  Offshoring Creeps Closer to the Professoriate! which contains the following blurb:

BBC News: British exam papers India bound: “Thousands of exam papers from England will be sent to India later this year as part of the marking process. Critics in England say the move is the latest example of cost-cutting by outsourcing, and will result in errors in exam marking and delays in results. The exam board behind the initiative, AQA, told the BBC that no marking would take place in India and that the move would make marking more efficient.

What’s the original story really about? It’s about how the brits are scanning in handwritten one word answers on exam sheets, and sending them to India to be transcribed. There is no actually exam marking in India at all! None! To their credit, neither blogger says that there was any grading going on in India, but I’ll bet many sloppy readers might have come away with that impression.

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Just deserts

Imagine being a poor Indian villager. You’re recruited for an honorable blue-collar job in the Middle East. Your dad borrows money to buy you the ticket. Your travel agent takes pity on you and buys you decent clothes for your first day on the job.

When you arrive, customs searches your belongings. You’re shocked when they tell you they found a small amount of heroin in your shoes and throw you in jail. You quickly realize the travel agent was not as generous as he seemed. You spend the next five years in lockup. The Indian embassy doesn’t help.

One fine day, the police take you out back and cut off your head. Then, while closing out your case, they realize they made a mistake and send a message to the Indian embassy: you were innocent after all. Shrug. Body’s been disposed of. Shit happens. Whaddya gonna do.

Unfortunately, it’s not a macabre short story by Edgar Allen Poe. Naickam Shahjahan, a poor Muslim from Kerala, was beheaded two months ago in Saudi Arabia for a crime he didn’t commit (via Prashant Kothari). 1.3 million Indians work in Saudi Arabia, and 18 were beheaded in 2003. But when innocent Brits are caught in the Saudi sharia system, their government usually manages to get them out.

… an undetermined number of foreigners, among them Indians, have been sentenced to death in the kingdom and await execution. Details of their trials and the evidence presented to convict them are treated as a State secret. “The tragedy is that in many cases, the condemned men did not know they had been sentenced to death, and their embassies were only informed after the fact,” says Menon.

Last year, an Indian diplomat in the Gulf said no advance information is given to the embassy before Indians are beheaded. “We get the information after the execution from local newspapers,” he said. After the execution, the body is not returned to the family. Relatives receive no official information about the location of the mortal remains in Saudi Arabia…

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Do you feel safer?

Yesterday, Vinod reported on the convinction of Hemant Lakhani, would be merchant of death. Lakhani is clearly scum:

Lakhani was filmed clapping his hands in glee as he admired the missile he thought he had single-handedly smuggled into the US and was clearly delighted with his achievement. [cite]

However, I don’t feel any safer today. Consider the following:

1.  Lakhani was a nobody who got set up in a sting.  He wasn’t a big time arms dealer before the FBI came to him, he was a two-time loser in textiles who “had declared bankruptcy, owed taxes on his house, was evicted from the office where he ran his clothing business and owed money on bounced cheques.” From what I can tell, he had no prior involvement with arms dealing, nor any prior association with “terrorists” (it’s in quotes since the FBI guy was a ringer) before the sting.

2.  He was completely incompetent as an arms dealer. Lakhani spent 2 years trying to find missiles to sell to the FBI’s fake terrorist buyer but he still couldn’t get his hands on any weapons. He was so clueless that, according to the fake buyer,  Lakhani was unfamiliar with terms such as ‘ammo’.” His lawyer characterized him as: 

a failed businessman, motivated solely by money who “couldn’t finish a deal if his life depended on it” and would not have done so without a hefty government operation behind him.  [cite]

3.  To make the arrest, the FBI had to supply the arms for Lakhani to sell to them. The FBI supplied both “the arms buyer, and Russian agents who posed as sellers” They even smuggled the “missile” to New Jersey. Before that point, for almost 2 years, the buyer never received any military hardware from Lakhani.

I am not trying to defend Lakhani’s actions. He did something criminal and has been sent to jail. I am simply not convinced that there are any fewer arms or (real) arms dealers in the world today as a result. Continue reading

How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and…

By the title alone I think I’m going to like this book. Little Brown & Company has offered Kaavya Viswanathan a $500,000, two book deal. The Financial Express provides the details:

YouÂ’re 17 and want to get into USÂ’ Harvard University, but first what do you do about those infernal jumping hormones that every gal goes through post-teens. Being an Indian, you donÂ’t indulge your sex-oriented daydreams (study first, pleasure later). So the next best option is to pen them to paper and get rid of the hots.

In a huge first, US born Kaavya Viswanathan did exactly that and more. Little Brown & Company, a respected 109-year-old publishing house offered Kaavya a $500,000 two-book deal with the first one to be out next spring titled How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got In. Considering that first-time writers get $10,000, Kaavya sure made a killing.

Writing is also the way I get rid of my “hots.”

The New York Sun (registration required) goes into more detail:

Ms. Viswanathan began writing the novel while still at the Bergen County Academy at Hackensack. She’s the only child of her Indian-born parents, Viswanathan Rajaraman, a neurosurgeon, and Mary Sundaram, a gynecologist.

“Everybody in my family, including my parents, won science prizes,” Ms. Viswanathan said. “I was the one with the writing gene – and I’ve no idea where that came from. My parents are still in a state of shock. When I’ve gone home on some weekends, they look at me working at my computer and surely wonder, ‘Who is that strange person?’”

What I can’t help noticing is that a 17-year-old writer, seems to like writing about day-dreams and possibilities, and getting wild, whereas older writers like to focus on why Indian men (or women) suck.

“The main character is a girl of Indian descent who’s totally academically driven, and when she senses from a Harvard admissions officer that her personal life wasn’t perhaps well-rounded, Ms. Mehta goes out and does what she thinks ‘regular’ American kids do – get drunk, kiss boys, dance on the table,” Ms. Viswanathan said.

Can I get a “hell yeah?” Please, anyone? :)

Desilit Daily comments: I can’t tell if this is more likely to sell to desi high school students applying to colleges, or to the parents desperate to get them in to Harvard…

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Desi uncle in the import / export bidness

Oh simple trader, I hope thee rots in hell -

NEWARK, N.J. (Reuters) – A British man was found guilty of trying to provide material support to terrorists on Wednesday for selling a shoulder-launched missile to an undercover FBI informant posing as an Islamic militant seeking to attack the United States. Hemant Lakhani, 69, a British citizen born in India, was found guilty of five criminal charges by a U.S. District Court jury in Newark, New Jersey, that began deliberating on Tuesday.

His defense – racial profiling -

But while the prosecution depicted Lakhani as an enthusiastic broker eager to supply a terrorist group, the defense said he was a victim of overzealous law enforcement in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

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