December 09, 2013

Back to routine

1. Aussies thrashing the Poms.

2. The Great Indian Cricket Team getting sucker-punched in its face by the Saffers. Of course, its not IPL!

3. Someone gets up and says he'll carry on Brian Lara's legacy.

March 10, 2013

Book review: Chanakya's New Manifesto

Chanakya's New Manifesto
Author: Pavan K Verma
Number of pages: 248
Price: Rs. 295

I love the way the author has placed his facts and figures that make up the way the succesive governments have treated this country since Independence and the rebuttal he has put forth as his new manifesto.

The author has been significantly inspired by the Arthashastra, though he belongs to the new world and writes for it. He has given a new manifesto that could transform the nation if followed.

The nation is in a crisis. "Between the hopes of 1947 and the challanges of the twenty-first century", claims the author, lies a story of stagnation and growth. He has laid emphasis on a few aspects that concern the nation and bringing about a change in those could mean a change towards a healthier nation.

Governance, Democracy, Security, Corruption and the creation of an inclusive society are the pivots that Chanakya's New Manifesto balances on. The New manifesto is nothing short of a constitution on those issues and if in an idealistic world, these would have led to the country top-notching in all fields. A lot of us know these things would be good, but are they practical?

Take for example:

"4.13 Our Defence sector needs a better command-and-decision making structure. It is axiomatic that our defence forces must remain under civilian control. But this does not mean that the leadership of our armed forces is systemically marginalised in vital strategic decisions.

Any educated and politically aware citizen will know that its too idealistic to be true. Our politicians would die before letting the defence sector off their hands. That's where the moolah is, after all. And you are generally not accountable to the common man as it pertains to national security.

The chapter on Creation of an Inclusive society has a lot going for it. The author spells out most of the stuff that we need to do brilliantly. However, just eliminating illiteracy, poverty and malnourishment is like applying a pain balm on an aching muscle. You are trying to treat the symptom without getting to the root cause. I have always maintained that the overpopulation of this country is the single largest cause of most of its, maybe all of its, greatest troubles. The author has not really gone on to say it directly - that the same needs to be tackled, and how. This I feel is the single biggest drawback in the New Manifesto. Failure to highlight one of the major hindrances in our progress.

When what talks about what needs to be done, things can go subjective, hence what I feel may not be the same that the author does. Still, I feel, that the author has skimmed a few things in his new manifesto.

Pavan K Varma has surprisingly written it in a text book style, and that may not derive the interest of the youngster from the university. It is more in the line of a research scholar or a journalist or a political science student. Or the Uncle who keeps badgeoning the government listening to Arnab Goswami.

And the problems of this nation are much more than what Chanakya's new manifesto aims to solve. Somewhere down the line, one gets the feeling that we have read the stuff someplace. And the feeling that the author has left us without reaching a conclusion. Enjoyable read nonetheless.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

February 01, 2013

Book Review: Accidental India

Accidental India: A History of the Nation's Passage Through Crisis and Change
Author: Shankkar Aiyar
Number of pages: 352
Price: Rs. 695

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An engaging narrative of how the country came about its most interesting transitional policies or agendas if one can call them so, this book is a must read for those who look towards a better future for India.

Although set in the past, this book is a glorious salute to the men and the policies that made India a name to reckon with in the world of International economics, and is an effective pointer to what best we can do to make the country prosper in the future times.

From being an agrarian economy to the technology behemoth, transitioning across the decades with slow but succinct growth patterns, the book follows the path taken by this country in a gripping manner.

The author knows his facts well. Figures even better. Although I may not be in a position to ratify their correctness, as an observer, they appear pretty accurate. And being a seasoned journo, I'm sure, he won't fib facts and numbers. And the fact that he has placed his facts in very well depicted chapters of Indian history makes the reading all the more pleasureable. 

I personally loved the Soup Kitchen for the Soul and the Da Vinci code chapters which talk about the Mid-day Meal scheme and the Right to Information Act, to mention only a couple of them. Given a random topics and asked to pick out a few that moulded the nation's growth, I'm sure not many would have zeroed in on simple yet far reaching topics like Dr Verghese Kurien's Amul White revolution which is depicted as The Milky way or the rather contentious nationalization of banks pioneered by the Indira Gandhi regime or even the genial Lal Bahadur Shastri giving a push to fill India's grain godowns.

And it is good to note that the author has not taken up topics like the Bofors or Mandal Commission or the Babri Masjid demolition and harped on more positive growth aspects of this country. The author has also looked into the future to talk about what lies ahead of us. However, what the author has elaborated upon were the disturbing circumstances, the crises under which the reforms took place. The Indians act bold only with their back to the walls was well known in cricketing parlance - Eden Gardens 2001 a fine example - but the same is actually true of the nation and some of the glorious revolutions that took place in the country. While Steve Waugh's Aussies were on a ride steamrolling everyone in their path, two brave men showed them the finger salute and turned it all around. The author was well placed to unearth the pledging of our gold reserves to the Brits to repay our debts. We were at a pawn-broker selling our family jewellery. And then decided to fight against the odds, open up reforms under the guidance of a pouting premier and a turbaned financier. Such are the logs that the author has put on paper.

I thought of cataloging this book to a single genre and failed miserably. History, tick. Facts, tick, Politics, tick. Industry, tick, Governance, tick. Ideals, tick. Research, tick. Hell, it even will tick if I classify it as a post-doctoral thesis!

I would surely recommend this book to everyone. Especially to most of the socially unaware, educated, working, earning female population of this country. 

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

January 27, 2013

Silk at 158

Its been more than 10 days that its been away from me, and the most recurrent memory I have of it is the silky smooth handling at 158. Yes, 158kmph is the top speed of the soon-to-be-released Tata Indica Vista D90. And it felt smooth as silk at that speed.

I did a constant 150kmph for over 10 minutes and there were hardly any speed variations. The inbuilt computer does a fantastic job of guaging the terrain changes and applies adequate power to overcome those to help maintain a near constant speed. The accelerator was also extremely comfortable and responsive. So, here is a short burst about the car:

External Features:

It maintains the same trim of the Indica Vista which derived from the Indica V2. The premium black top is the only additional feature. I'm not sure if its the best colour to put on a car top in a hot country like ours. But it does add some zing to the appearance of the car. The triple barrel headlight also has its design sourced straight from the earlier version, which is not a bad thing after all. A bit of chrome here and there adds to the cool look of the car.

Internal Features:

First thing that strikes you before entering is the rehashed colour scheme giving a slightly upmarket look. But the moment I felt the same, the feeling vanished. It was not the best quality plastic used and on closer look, did give me a cheaper feel. My Santro which sells at half the rate of this car has a better quality plastic.

The seats were very well designed and placed and the backlit dashboard was good. The cool feature was the Driver Information system with time, temperature, speed, fuel left in tank, mileage readings. These were not accurate, but gave a decent estimate.

The A/C was quite powerful and cooled the car quite efficiently. The stereo system was a double din system equipped with full bluetooth, USB and Aux inputs. I could connect my mobile to the system using the bluetooth. I also could do the same using the Aux cable that I had. A charger input was also present in the console.

There was some thought given to driver and passenger comfort and two cup holders were present. The fully automatic power windows were controllable from the individual doors as well as the master control at the drivers'. The driver's door console also had remote adjustment for side view mirrors which was a great feature.

There was adequate leg room for both the front and back seats. Another cool feature was that the foldable back seats were in 40-60 config which allowed one to fold a part of the seat only. Many manufacturers put in a 50-50 config which allows seating for only one person. In this 40-60 config, two people could comfortably sit when the shorter part was folded. The boot was quite spacious too.


Driving the VistaD90 was superfun. The seating height, controls and other parameters were very nice.

The start was not too noisy. Gear shifts were a bit harsh, but thats probably due to the new gearbox and should smoothen out with use. The car was a bit sluggish on the lower speed lower gear movements, and that might not earn it most points in heavy bumper-to-bumper traffic, but when given the go above 30-40kmph, even on city roads, it performed beautifully in the 3rd and 4th gears.

To test the car's handling and speed runs, I took it to the Nehru Outer Ring Road of Hyderabad and floored it. The 5th gear is a pleasure. Its extremely smooth to drive on and very responsive even at speeds of 140+. The company advertises its max speed as 158 and it did not go any faster than that. There was absolutely no vibration and the handling at that speed was awesome. The braking too was good and smooth and there were no jerks. I took it off road for a mile and the suspension was found a little wanting in that field, but hey, its not what the car is meant for.

Overall, the driver would have a good time on roads with sparse traffic, but would not be very happy in city traffic.


External Look: 7
Internal Feel: 7
Comfort: 8
Driver Comfort: 8
City Drive: 5
Long Drive: 8
Fuel efficiency: 7
Value for money: 6

This is a review as part of the Sponsored Reviews program of