Friday, December 23, 2016


"Passengers", a movie about space travel (with just 2 actors on screen for the most part), takes your imagination wild into the endless realms of space. 
The conceptualization of space travel is the best part of this science fiction.
How do you travel to a planet that is many hundred years away without aging and dying on the way? There lies the main plot.
The gigantic spaceship has been imagined and brought on screen so well. Although there is the usual heroism and romance, you can still admire the movie for the creative story-line of space travel.
Like someone said, "Passengers" is a mix of "Gravity", "Interstellar" and "Cast Away".

Friday, November 4, 2016

Shame That Sticks Like Tar

She was 23 when FBI agents surrounded her - while she was having lunch with a colleague in Washington DC - in January 1998. She was unaware that the lunch was a trap. What followed was a scandal that shook the world. She was caught having an affair with her boss, a married man at 49, who also happened to be one of the most powerful men in the world. Tabloids had a field day. She was intimidated, threatened, bullied, and pushed to the extremes of humiliation - in an ugly political storm that raged for months.

She was branded a tramp, tart, slut, whore, and a bimbo. The world stood around, stoning her virtually to death. Her cry for mercy went unheeded.

"Overnight, I went from being a completely private figure to a publicly humiliated one worldwide", she said in a speech years later. In the following years, she tried returning to normal life, occasionally appearing on TV shows, but life was anything but normal. She was always identified as "that woman".

In 2005, she left everything behind and went to UK, where she graduated with a master's degree in Social Psychology from the London School of Economics. A small circle of friends were her support. Yet the bitter memories continued to haunt her. She was constantly hyper-aware of how others were perceiving her. Her friends even suggested that she change her name, but she refused.

After more than a decade of living in silence, she decided to come out in the open in 2014, and help young people who were bullied, shamed, and intimidated, for mistakes they did or did not do. She became a social activist and an anti-bullying advocate. She joined hands with organizations like Bystander Revolution to help kids fight cyber bullying. 

In March 2015, she gave a TED talk about the shame that stuck to her like tar. "Not a day goes by, that I'm not reminded of my mistake", she said, narrating her story, choking at times and holding back tears. In a world of hypocrites, where many still hasten to stone her, she stands out as a wonderful human being, who has learnt from the mistakes of her youth, turned her life around, and is making a difference in the society today. She still goes by her real name - Monica Lewinsky.

In an unforgiving world, few get a second chance; very few make a difference with it.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Getting Old

The other day, I came upon a friend's page while wandering on Facebook and I was surprised to see how old he had become. His hair was grey. His shoulders were drooping and he looked frail. And this was a guy who played sports back in school.
The writing on the wall was clear: We are getting old.
Well, I know everyone grows old by age, but I never thought I am old enough to be called "old". This feeling of "getting old" is not the same as mid-life crisis which has to do with one's identity and self-confidence. This is more like - you go to a party and realize there aren't much people there to understand your good old jokes.
Then I remembered how, as kids, we used to criticize Sunil Gavaskar for not retiring even after turning 36. "He can't even run between wickets!". "He should give youngsters a chance". "Do they call him Uncle in the dressing room?". We joked. Now when I play tennis with my son and he tells me, "Hey Dad, you could've run and taken it, you know?" - I remember Gavaskar.
Most of the political leaders whom I admired back then are now gone. They are either dead or behind bars. Some are out on bail. And some are in Chennai Apollo Hospital.
During one of our bedtime talks, I told my son that when we were kids we didn't have a TV or phone in our home. He looked at me sadly and asked, "So you had to do chores all the time?". "No! We played many outdoor games!", I tried to explain. He didn't get it.
Since my son loves tennis, I thought of showing him US Open finals few weeks back. I texted my friend, "Why am I seeing some guy called Wawrinka? Is this the right match?" He replied back, "Yes, Boris Becker doesn't play any more. This guy is world No. 3".
Time flies. 
Coming back to where I started, I pinged that grey-haired-fragile-looking friend and sent him a Friend Request. He replied later, "Hey, is that you? You look old, man!".

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

How To Select Lesser Of The Evils In An Election?

In the elections coming up everywhere, most people would be choosing lesser of the evils, rather than choosing best of the cream. 
"Lesser of the evils" actually involves the process of elimination. Try this method and see if it works.
1. Select the one thing that matters the most to you in this election. 
2. Then ask the question, "Which candidate(s) can NEVER satisfy this criteria?". 
3. Eliminate those candidates.
Repeat 1 to 3 for the next important thing that matters to you. Continue till you end up with just one candidate.
Take only one criteria at a time. You should eliminate a candidate only if you are sure that he/she cannot satisfy your criteria. If you are not sure, don't eliminate them, take them to the next round.
The criteria and the decision whether to eliminate or not will differ from person to person. But, it will give you a candidate who you can tolerate! Try it!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Tamil Nadu - What do the numbers say?

With the state election set to take place on May 16, 2016 - election speeches in Tamil Nadu (India) are spiked with rhetoric, lies, and hatred. So, out of curiosity, I collected data to get an objective view of Tamil Nadu's economy.
How well has Tamil Nadu fared in the past 5 years (2011-16)?
TN ranks 8th in Human Development Index (HDI), an index measured on 3 factors - income, education, and health - a reflection of the standard of living. The top 3 are Kerala, Delhi, and HP (Source: Institute of Applied Manpower Research).
In Agriculture, TN was the largest food grain producer in India in 2012, producing 102 lakh metric tonnes. When DMK left, it was 82 LMT. Food grain production reached 128 LMT in 2015 and the government has set an even higher target of 147 LMT for 2016. As per India Today's Best of States report, TN comes next only to Maharashtra in food grain production at 1,626,000 tonnes per sq km.
When it comes to Industrial growth, TN was the 2nd most industrialized state in early 2015 (Source: Business Standard); Maharashtra and Gujarat were at 1st and 3rd positions respectively. In 2014, its growth rate of 3.53% in Manufacturing sector surpassed the national average of 0.71%.
What about debt? With a debt of roughly 211 crores, TN is the 6th largest debtor, next to Maharashtra, UP, WB, AP, and Gujarat. However, debt alone doesn't give the full picture of an economy. If the borrowed debt is put into good investment, it is beneficial. So, a true picture is given by the (Debt / State GDP) ratio; the lower the ratio the better. TN's Debt / GSDP is 20%; lower than national average of 21.2%, indicating that there is economic growth in parallel with rising liability.
So, where did TN under-perform?
Power sector? While the CM announced in mid 2015 that the state had then met its power demand of 13,000 MW per day, it is yet to be widely acknowledged. The Adani group's investment on solar power generation is another ongoing project of interest.
Although the government had the Global Investors meet in 2015 with a lot of fanfare, TN has been slipping down in converting proposed investments to actual investments (Source: TOI, March'16). In 2015, out of 19.5 Crores proposed, only 5.01 Crores materialized (Source: Dep of Industrial Policy & Promotion). There are also complaints of less transparency.
And bad news to manufacturing sector: some companies are moving out of TN and expanding elsewhere, like Ford, ISuzu, and Saint-Gobain.
When Jayalalitha was not the CM (Sep'14 - Apr'15), the state's progress almost stalled. This sort of risk is bad for any investment.
So, the question is: who can perform better than this? 

No matter who you vote for, make sure that your candidate can beat these numbers! At the end of the day, it is numbers that speak the truth.