India is one of the most corrupted nations where the evil runs right from the top to the bottom in every level and in every face of life. Almost any dealing with the government – whether to get a drivers license or a business permit requires some level of bribing. So, it is no wonder that the society feels strongly about this and anti-graft movements have sprung. The latest of these is the Anna Hazare’s fast last month and Yogi Ramdev’s fasting that’s going on right now. The activists have demanded that they have right to prosecute judges, Prime Minister and host of other top level officials.
I would love corruption to end as much as any other Indian, but this Lokpal issue is getting into a dangerous ground. If this group of self-selected individuals can exert control over Supreme Court and the politicians that we have elected & have direct control of (through elections every 5 years), how do we make sure it does not become an oligarchy by itself? And the Lopal activists have question to answer to indian public – what have they done to change Indian corruption through existing instituitions?
I trust Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi and other people that are now involved in the movement and who will be a part of the initial LokPal council. But, what is the guarantee that these will not be replaced by corrupt & autocratic bureacrats in a decade? And when that happens as a citizen what control can I have over these nobles & aristocrats?
For all its faults I love the Indian democracy. It has an awesome constitution and carefully built checks and balances. That’s why unlike other nations in Asia, we never descended into a dictatorship. We are able to bring people clean hands Abdul Kalam, Vajpayee and Lal Bagadur Shastri to the top – and I firmly believe even current PM is a lot less corrupt than the ground level politicians. And none of them seriously posed threat to Indian constitution for more than 2 years. And I trust Supreme Court and RBI more than the bureaucrats who will represent Lokpal.
So, we dont need any top level solutions. Rather it should be bottom up. We should take lessons from the greatest soul who walked this ground – Mahatma Gandhi. He built a movement from the bottom most rung of the society unlike the other congress politicians who loved to just talk and broker deals.
I would suggest the Lokpal activists to try bottom up solutions. Why not let us create corruption free zones (say one village at a time), corruption-free sectors (say Passport office) and corruption free times (say one day every week) and slowly start expanding the circle?
STP (Seattle to Portland) is an annual event where people bike 200 miles (320 km) from Seattle to Portland. Some good bikers do it over 1 day, while most of the rest do it over 2 days. This is a major biking event in North Western US, with over 10000 people taking part in the challenge. I wanted to do this ever since I moved to Seattle in 2006. This year I finally got to do it.
This year the event was on July 11-12 (2009)
Here is the approximate route.
Preparation: The ride requires a bit of preparation (200 miles over a lot of small hills is no joke). I had a few 40 mile+ practice rides into Corey Is loop, Lake Washington loop and Flying Wheel 70 mile ride before the trip. Still, I felt I was grossly unpreapred because I was not using my bike daily. You must ride daily for atleast 60 days before the trip. Have atleast 5+ rides over 50 miles. Let your ass, back, shoulder, calf and thighs get used to long rides.
The trip is organised by Cascade Club, Washington and the registration closes pretty fast. It is limited to only 10000 riders normally. You can register for the trip here: http://www.cascade.org/EandR/stp/index.cfm. I spent around $250 bucks which included the trip, a cycling jacket, the return bus ride from Portland to Seattle and the accomdation in a dorm.
Parked the car in a friend’s place in Seattle Downtown and biked 4 miles from there to University of Washington Campus. We started the ride at around 7am. It was a hot, brutal day and I didnt bike the previous month. It was pretty hard for me. By the time I reached the central point – Centralia at 6pm, the 100mi biking took too much of my energy. I went and rested for a while. Inspite of the tiredness, I managed to walk 0.6 miles to the nearest mall to eat a Denny’s dinner, instead of taking a inspid food. The whole day I ate so many sugars (burnt nearly 12000 calories in 2 days) that my tongue needed somethign nice and spicy.
It started ominously with thunder and lightening that scared hell out of us. We started at around 5:30am on an overcast day. But, this time i was more energised. The cool weather definitely had a part and previous day of cycling had my muscles going. I didnt use any pain killer or cream and let the natural healing process to go on. The second day had a lot more rolling hills than the first day, which just had one bad, steep hill. The thing I learnt about hills is, if you lose your momentum and slow down too much you get sucked in. Before reachin the hill pick up a lot of momentum in your high gear and slowly reduce the gears as you climb up is what I did on second day and it was now lot more easy. Previously, I used to directly switch to lowest gear before the start of mountain and without momentum I would stuck in about 100 yards. I finally reached Portland at 3:30pm. Not bad, I woudl say for a first timer considering that they allow riders to return till 7pm.
I then called up my cousin who lives up there and asked her to take me to some good, spicy restaurant to get the antidote to all the sugars in my system. We went to a Mexican place and I had more Jalapeno sauce in my Taco salad than even taco, and it was awesome. I finally got in the bus at 6:30. Instead of being tired, I felt pretty energised and excited. So, I kept on talkign the whole time with my neighbors in the bus not allowing anybody to go to sleep in the 3.5 hours bus ride to Seattle. We reached Seattle by 10pm. It was so dark and a bit wet that I decided not to bike to my friend’s place. So, I called up another friend to pick me up and finally reached home at around midnight.
On the whole it was a great process and if I were to do it over next weekend too, I will do it. I was a bit slower than the average (particularly on the first day) and that allowed my body to space out energy distribution a lot more. So, while I was diasppointed that everybody was whizzing past me, I was not as tired as some of my friends. (Ok, this was my lame excuse for biking so slow). My average for the entire trip was around 12-13Miles/Hour or 19 Kmph while my bike buddies were at 15-18MPH. NExt time I will do it lot more faster with some more preparation.
In the recent days, I’m pretty much disappointed with what economists forecast for India. I’m not rather disappointed at Indian growth, rather, I’m disappointed at the skills of the economists :P. I dont know whether they understand the whole picture and take all the information into account of what is happening to India. The other day, I found an economist’s article totally questioning the India’s growth statistics just on the premise that the growth of services is unusual for a growing economy, and he just had the east asian economies in mind, when saying that. I also read a gazillion articles of why people should invest in China, and why India is overheating, India will be affected by slow downs, India is just call-center centric, blah blah blah. Let me get around to my own understanding of what is happening. Read the rest of this entry »
Seattle had an unusual burst of snow in the last couple of days, and it shocked everyone. For a city that has only 3 seasons – rainy, more rainy and even more rainy, snow caught everybody unawares and the fact that only a few inches of snow could lead to closures of school and paralysis of road-systems and even Microsoft offices, show how much “prepared” Seattle was. The road and footpaths were not cleared even long after the snow stopped and coming from North-east where we see much more snow, I could not stop wondering what would Seattle do with a foot of snow. Read the rest of this entry »
This day appears so vivid in my memory… Who can forget this day, when the nation of America was threatened, for the first time in its own shores? Who can forget when the symbols of economic prosperity of the world – the WTC are brought down by a group of evil men believing in bigoted ideology?
As a coincidence, on this same day in 1893 Swami Vivekanda spread his word of religious tolerance and equality of religions in the Chicago Conferance. On this same day in 1906, Mahatma Gandhiji started his legendary Sathyagraha that ensure peace and justice for a billion people and stood as an inspiration for freedom all over the world, right from Martin Luther King to Nelson Mandela. And a great chain of events took place after this 9/11 is standing to put an end to the evil flames of religious extremism. Read the rest of this entry »
Abstract: “What would you do when a dozen people talking in an unknown language, having the racial profile as South Asian, all Muslims, talking and passing excitedly on cellphones in a plane, changing the seats repeatedly, and don’t repeatedly listen to the flight attendent’s orders when Air travel world over has been placed at heightened threat level? Discomfort a few people for few hours or put your entire plane to risk?”
In an interesting move, a large body of astronomers collected under the aegis of IAU (International Astronomers Union) decided to demote the status of Pluto to a dwarf planet, instead of regular planet. It means our solar system has only 8 planets and not 9, as we studied till now. Read the rest of this entry »
I read the reports of Indian states banning Pepsi and Coke, with great dismay. Not that I don’t support the use of healthy drinks like Coconut drink and properly purified fruit juices (do they exist in Indian??), but I don’t think banning Coke and Pepsi has any scientific validity. Read the rest of this entry »
Since, I was not blogging I must have been doing something in the last two months. Oops, nothing meaningful comes out. Anyway, I’ll summarize what I did.
First, and most importantly I defended my thesis (on June 5th… google for what happened on June 5th) without offending my dignity. So, they allowed me to pass and here I am – Balaji Viswanathan, M.S. The defense was slightly strenuous and lots of technical and math questions. Pretty grilling indeed. Read the rest of this entry »
After a gap of 2 years, I’m again back to biking thanks to the biker-friendly area of Redmond. I was a pretty much enthusiastic cyclist between the age of 12 to 21 and pretty much used cycle during all of my high school and college. I had a pretty good race bike in my college and drove it more than 10K miles in 4 years. I loved it a lot and miss it greatly. I’ve always dreamed of driving around the world in a bike (though it might never come true, I can at least try to go for longer bike tours). Read the rest of this entry »
Hey Guys… Sorry for the long hiatus. I’m now goin to restart my vigorous blogging habit. I’ll write detailed posts on what was happening in the last 2 months to me and to the world, in general.
In short, my status changed from a Masters student to a Software Design Engineer in the Windows core team of Microsoft with me successfully defending my Masters thesis in June.
I was pretty lax in my communication (through blogs, orkut, mails and phone) and now I’m gonna pack all my energy to get me back to the communication forest.
Here is a paper that I wrote 3 years ago for UK’s philosophical journal.
I went for the release of Da Vinci Code, yesterday. I was awaiting this movie for a long time and in preparation re-read the book and solved all the puzzles of Google's da Vinci code quest and won a crypetex as prize… Probably, I was expecting too much out of the movie… The movie was a total disappointment… Read the rest of this entry »
What is an Arranged Marriage?
Arranged Marriage is a custom wherein the the marriage partner is decided by parents and society, instead of the intended parteners choosing each other by falling in love and pursuing methodical courtship.
I would like to discuss on the aspects of the Arranged marriage custom of Southern India, which has one of the highest instances of Arranged marriage among educated families, in the world. The practice is controversial and might even appear outright stupid for a casual observer. But, why do we still follow it? I wanted to pursue a deeper study in this and understand its concepts, as I would like to do with every other custom and tradition, particularly of my community. In this blog, let me put down some of my initial thoughts on this subject. Read the rest of this entry »
This is one topic that is troubling me for the last few years. Is the world moving towards mediocrity? Every era had its share of great persons in every field and the process of producing the greats kept on getting accelerated ever since 15th century. People like da Vinci, Newton, Keppler, Bismark, Adam Smith, Shakesphere… kept on arising in various fields and created various fields and revolutionized the entire society. But, do we still produce such greats in our era? Read the rest of this entry »
One of my friends put it fantasically – "Unity in diversity what politicians say, lets distribute fools also uniformly". Reservation, like Communism, is bad not just for its implementation, but it is rotten in its whole principle.
There are intelligent guys in every community and every walk of life. They have different economic and social backgrounds and so I agree that there is no equal competition. But, the purpose of this life is its competition and the struggle. Read the rest of this entry »
For the last two weeks, I've been vigourously trying to read and re-read all India related articles on the news. I've read almost 600 articles on India's rising prowess and Bush's visit to India. In fact, it was too much of India that I forgot what all I read and where all I read. In a recent meeting of US Indians Politicial Action Committee, I heard lots of voices praising India. There were discussions on the famous nuclear deal (I must put a post on this) and India's crumbling infrastructure and redtapism fighting the zealous entrepeneurism and intellectual prowess of the youngsters. Newsweek put a cover story on India, every major newspaper described the story of India and ABC news has a great news coverage on "Ïndia rising" (video can be found here). Read the rest of this entry »
For the world economists, the biggest question before them is "Can India match China" and there are arguments and counter-arguments put forth for each of the sides. Both nations have lots of similarities, yet they are strikingly different. Thus, the comparison is very interesting and presents two entirely different spectrum of choices.
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What is common between German Holocaust, Srilankan Genocide (that wiped off all the top-performing Tamils in 1950's and became a seed for today's crisis), Russia's communism and India's reservation? They are all wars against a performing minority by unperforming majority. Worse, the war is so subtle that the victims are deaf against the drums of war. It is a slow and painful torture…
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