IPL: Unofficial Team Naming Galata

You may have noticed that SM covered an upstart, professional cricket league’s launch last year. It was the brash, confident, cheerleader-laden counterpart to the then ephemeral IPL (which even then boasted an incredible array of current and former international players) Well, it’s finally time for the BCCI and ICC approved version to commence it’s own charge at the most amazingly cricket-mad market in the world. Continue reading

Terror Cell in Madrid

Hey Mutineers – been on the road for last week & a half and I’ve got a couple of posts in the coffer… Still, headlines covering the break up of the suicide bomb cell in Madrid were worth a quick post. Why? Because it’s the first bust-up I’ve seen where all the terrorists were desi

The judge identified the three alleged suicide bombers as Mohamed Shoaib, Mehmooh Khalib and Imran Cheema. He said they had arrived in Barcelona from Pakistan some time between October and mid-January.

…Moreno identified the ideologues in the new alleged plot as Maroof Ahmed Mirza, 38, and Mohammad Ayud Elahi Bibi, 63. He said the former was the main religious leader and organizer of the cell.

The five other men sent to jail were named as Mohamed Tarik, Qadeer Malik, Hafeez Ahmed, Roshan Jamal Khan and Shaib Iqbal.

Nine are Pakistanis; Khan is Indian.

The implications are interesting and many.

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Free Market NGOs in Bangladesh

There’s an article in the January/February issue of The Atlantic about Bangladesh. Authored by Robert D. Kaplan, it’s called “Waterworld,” and it starts out with a long, perhaps sensationalist account of what Bangladesh might have to look forward to because of global warming — a scenario which wasn’t very surprising to me at least. (This much we knew from Al Gore.) There is also a bit about the growth of Islamic extremism — and that too wasn’t at all surprising for those of us who have followed Bangladesh even off-and-on.

What was interesting, however, was Kaplan’s account of the role NGOs play in making an otherwise dysfunctional country work. To begin with, Kaplan argues, central government has always been rather weak in Bangladesh because of the geography and climate:

Yet Bangladesh is less interesting as a hydrologic horror show than as a model of how humankind copes with an extreme natural environment. Weather and geography have historically worked here to cut one village off from another. Central government arrived only with the Turkic Moguls in the 16th century, but neither they nor their British successors truly penetrated the countryside. The major roads were all built after independence in 1971. This is a society that never waited for a higher authority to provide it with anything. The isolation effected by floodwaters and monsoon rains has encouraged institutions to develop at the local level. As a result, the political culture of rural Bangladesh is more communal than hierarchical, and women play a significant role.

Four hours’ drive northwest of Dhaka, the capital, I found a village in a Muslim-Hindu area where the women had organized themselves into separate committees to produce baskets and textiles and invest the profits in new wells and latrines. They had it all figured out, showing me on a crude cardboard map where the new facilities would be installed. They received help from a local nongovernmental organization that, in turn, had a relationship with CARE. But the organizational heft was homegrown. (link)

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Do India’s Stock Market Investors Lack Sophistication?

Via Manish’s News Tab at Ultrabrown, a blog post by John Elliott (“Riding the Elephant”) at Fortune. Is it just me, or is there a certain contradiction in the following paragraphs?

India has unsophisticated investors. I’m talking about stock market investors of course following the stock market crash, with Mumbai’s key Sensex index plummeting 19% from an all time and over-priced high of above 21,000 on January 8 to under 17,000 by Tuesday. Such a remark, judging from past Riding the Elephant experience, will generate a furious tirade of comments, especially from readers based in the United States who are always anxious to protect India’s reputation.

But how else can you explain a market which swings from such extremes. Last week it mobilized bids totaling an astronomic $180 billion for the $2.9 billion initial public offering launched by Anil Ambani’s Reliance Power (which has yet to produce a revenue stream). On Monday and Tuesday, it crashed, seemingly ignoring the country’s strong economic fundamentals. As Palaniappan Chidambaram, India’s finance minister, pointed out when he tried to calm nerves during the slide, the fundamentals are strong. The economy, he pointed out, is growing at around 9%, and the prime minister’s economic advisory council is forecasting 8.5% for 2008-09.

It’s not just Indian retail investors, but foreign funds (many of them based in the United States) that have been rushing herd-like into Mumbai in recent months – and then rushed out on in the past days. This afternoon I spoke to a leading Mumbai banker who has close links with the United States. “If anyone thought that having strong foreign institutional involvement in the Indian market would bring stability, it is clear that that assumption was misplaced,” he said (anonymously because of his links). He complained about a “lack of conviction and analysis” by foreign funds which “on Tuesday told me they were ‘getting the hell out of India’ and today are saying ‘buy.’” (link)

Who is John Elliott referring to when he talks about “India’s Investors”? His title and first sentence suggest he means local Indian investors. But the main focus of his post, starting in the third paragraph, is actually on foreign investors, who have added to the instability of the Indian markets with panic selling. Read the rest of his post — who do you think he is really talking about? Continue reading

Suspect in Duke Murder Case Arrested

I just received an email from Jay about the latest development in the murder of Abhijit Mahato, a DBD PhD student at Duke University:

Durham police say a late-night chase into Wake County on Tuesday led to the arrest of four people responsible for at least one recent armed robbery near the Duke University campus, one of whom is now charged with murder in connection with a previous robbery.
The arrests of William Dozia Smith, 20, Stephen Lavance Oates Jr., 19, and two juveniles, both 14, may bring investigators a step closer to solving some of the more than 70 robberies that have been committed since Jan. 1. The spate of robberies — many preying on Hispanics and often involving handguns — prompted Durham CrimeStoppers on Wednesday to increase its reward offer to $5,000 for information leading to arrests.
Smith, Oates and the two juveniles were charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon and felony fleeing to elude. They are accused of robbing a couple at gunpoint at an apartment on Lambeth Circle late Sunday and may be suspects in other, similar armed robberies including a second incident just hours prior at the Poplar West Apartments, also near the Duke campus.
Oates was later charged with murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon in the Friday slaying of Abhijit Mahato at his apartment at 1600 Anderson Street, Apt. C-2, police said in a news release tonight. And he was also charged with robbery and simple assault related to a Nov. 19 armed robbery at the Bennett Pointe Grill on Hillsborough Road. [News&Observer]

After reading over 300 comments on the original thread about this tragedy, I know that many of you were especially moved by this story; we’ll do our best to keep you informed.

For those of you near Duke, a funeral service will be held this Sunday morning, at 10:30 a.m., by The Hindu Society of North Carolina. ABD, DBD, bespectacled or not, I think the one thing we can all agree to do is to keep Abhijit and his family in our thoughts and prayers. Continue reading

Indian Men Dig Mills & Boon Too

Via the Literary Saloon, an article in the Economic Times on the upcoming formal distribution of Harlequin Mills & Boon romance novels in India. These novels have of course been available in South Asia for many years — but mostly via redistribution and consignment. It’s only now that Harlequin is planning to start distributing its books in India directly:

For most Indian readers, it will come as a surprise that M&B was never actually distributed in India. The novels have been so much a part of our lives, stacked in the hundreds in circulating libraries, borrowed dozens at a time by women (especially in hostels, where the trick was for one girl to borrow them and ten to read them the same night), laid out for sale second hand on pavements.

We’ve seen the special sections in large bookshops, shelves aching with romantic desperation, anguish and fulfillment. We’ve fantasised about the busty heroines and tall dark handsome heroes on the covers. We knew about all the different varieties of novels: nurses, Regency, exotic settings and so on. And exactly how we knew all this we would never say since like most people we would never admit to reading M&B.

But all of this was achieved with Harlequin ever selling directly. “We had some idea about this market, but we never really followed it up,” admits Go. “At the Frankfurt Book Fair, we would meet Indian distributors who would offer to take on consignments and we never bothered beyond that.” (link)

Interestingly, Harlequin is finding that Indian men are just about as likely to be Mills and Boon fans as women:

What he wasn’t expecting were the men, “A substantial percentage of Mills & Boon readership in India is male! You don’t see that in other markets.” Go has speculations on why this is the case. Perhaps it’s just the sheer ubiquity of M&B novels, “Their sisters and mothers are reading them and since they are lying around the men read them too.” (link)

(Come on, desi guys — I know you’ve read a few of these. MoorNam? Floridian? Now is the time to come clean.)

Finally, the author of the piece asks an obvious question on my mind from the start — what about the desi version:

But the interesting question is whether, as with FMCG products, M&B will see the need to Indianise their offering. When even a Kentucky Fried Chicken has to offer a chicken curry thali to survive in India, will M&B be able to continue with its offering of Western-oriented romance fiction? Or is this sort of escapist fiction exactly its appeal? (link)

(“Tall, dark, and handsome” might have to become “fair and handsome” in the Indian context. And maybe they could still use Fabio on the cover, only with Shah Rukh Khan’s hair style?)

Incidentally, I have long wanted to write my own pulpy romance novel to make some quick cash, but I’ve been starved for a good (desi-oriented) plot. Can anyone suggest a good scenario for me to use, as I attempt to enter the world of trash fiction popular romantic fare? (The best I can think of right now is an Indian version of this plot. Hopefully I can come up with a better title than “The Rancher’s Doorstep Baby,” however) Continue reading

Scrabulous: Dead App Scrabbling

I’ve mentioned it before, but for those of you who weren’t aware, I’m addicted to Scrabulous, the Facebook application which allows me to play multiple games of Scrabble with several of you at the same time, and at our leisure.

Scrabulous is so fabulous, I ditched Friendster and MySpaz out of my desire for it; I had no need for such retrograde networks, not when Facebook was so superior– and the whole basis for its superiority is this stellar timesuck. If you read the message boards on the “official” Save Scrabulous group or under news articles about the game, I’m not the only one who has embraced Facebook out of my nerdier impulses, nor am I the only one who is twitching in a corner, rocking back-and-forth over this:

The saga of Scrabulous is nearing an end…[link]

I can’t bear to contemplate it. Better I edify you as to why this tragedy is occurring. Hasbro is not pleased that their game is suddenly so popular, not when they have no part in the fun. Never mind that they were stupid for not sensing the untapped desire of millions of word-nerds for protracted online Scrabbling, they’re using words like “licensing” and “stealing” to rain on our vocabulary-littered parade.

A flurry of behind the scenes deal-making has been going on between Hasbro, Scrabulous, and Electronic Arts, which has the license in the U.S. to the online version of the game. Hasbro is trying to get Scrabulous to sell itself for a song to Electronic Arts, or else shut down completely by the end of the day today. [link]

The Calcutta-based brothers behind the awesomeness, software developers Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla are trying to find a way…

Scrabulous has been trying to shop itself to other buyers as well, but its legal liability is scaring away any potential white knights. Unless it gets some sort of reprieve or agrees to sell to Electronic Arts, Scrabulous will be no more, despite the more than 46,000 Facebook members who have joined the “Save Scrabulous” group. What choice does it have, really, but to sell? [link]

Lest you think this is a tiny sort of tempest, consider these numbers:

Scrabulous was started in 2006 as a standalone site operated by a pair of 20-something Calcutta, India-based brothers, Jayant and Rajat Agarwalla, but the game exploded when they created a Facebook application that currently boasts 2.3 million active users and soon became the workplace productivity drain du jour. It’s currently the ninth most popular application on the site. [link]

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Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta’

On my now-defunct personal blog I used to give some of my blog entries their own soundtrack. You know, music one should play in the background to make reading the post more enjoyable. Before continuing on to read the rest of this post, please hit play on the Geto Boys:

Sudhir Venkatesh’s latest book, Gang Leader for a Day, has finally hit the bookstore shelves (see WSJ review here). We’ve blogged about Sudhir several times before on SM (see 1 and 2). His previous book was titled, Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor. Gang Leader for a Day chronicles Venkatesh’s time spent hanging in the projects while pretending to be the chief biographer of a Chicago-land crack dealer named JT:

“Gang Leader for a Day” provides an often compelling, if amateurishly written, account of his quest. Under the protection of J.T., a middle manager in a citywide crack-dealing operation, Venkatesh sets himself up at the Robert Taylor Homes, one of the nation’s largest and poorest housing projects. Over seven years of study, he hangs out with gangsters, witnesses drive-bys and – remarkably – even participates in the beating of a man accused of abusing his girlfriend. Venkatesh’s research provides groundbreaking insights into the corporate-like hierarchy of drug dealers. It reveals the intricate shadow economy of the high-rise hustlers and the ways legitimate neighborhood businesses support it. And, most effectively, it offers a heartbreaking glimpse of how residents struggle just to survive in a place where even emergency vehicles fear to venture. [Link]

Sounds like Venkatesh really got into character. If he was a cop and not a sociologist I might have titled this post “Dhiren Brasco.” In fact, some of the reviewers openly wonder if Venkatesh may have gotten too close to his “subjects:”

I found this a difficult review to write. The book is very interesting and Venkatesh is one of the world’s best and leading social scientists (and I don’t say that lightly). Still, I thought his book was…how can I put it….somewhat evil, if I may call upon that old-fashioned concept. The book required him to work with, and often encourage, a vicious gang leader for up to six years. [via Marginal Revolution]
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Beats, Rhymes and Life 2: Open-mic in Houston-WED

For those readers who live in the Houston, Texas area (or have friends out here in need of a better social life), this Wednesday night at 8:30p.m. some friends and I will be hosting a South Asian open-mic night at The Proletariat. This is the second time this event is being held. The first time we had a highly successful night last July where over a 120 people showed up to Bar Bollywood. The model for this type of event was based on D.C.’s Subcontinental Drift (which Anna has coincidentally just posted about as I’ve been writing this). The purpose of this event is to put a brighter spotlight on all the talented desi and desi-inspired artists we have here in the Houston area.

On stage (yes, we have a stage this time) we will have a ridiculously good drum circle (they stole the show last time), two comedians, a couple of singers, a drama piece by Shunya, a dance, spoken word, and a fabulous DJ.


Location: The Proletariat
903 Richmond Ave, Houston, TX 77006 US
When: Wednesday, January 23, 8:30p.m.-12:00a.m.

Please come on time because we will begin promptly at 9p.m. and you’ll regret missing any of the talent we’ve got lined up. No charge. And we will still be signing up people for the South Asian Bone Marrow Registry. The battle continues.

p.s. If you want to take to the mic email me: abhi [at] sepiamutiny.com

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