Sunday, May 24, 2009

Differance between Delhi & Bombay

After a few weeks in Delhi last month and then going out a few times in Bombay, realised that the key difference between the 2 cities is how everything is stated.

In Delhi on each occasions when we went out for dinner our friends would be typically attired in a Cartier watch, Versace jeans (with belt strategically under the label), Gucci shoes, Louis Vutton bag and carrying a Vertu phone. The conversation would be about how much they spent on renovating their new farmhouse (with ear & eye popping numbers) and how they took their 3 maids with them on holiday to Monaco (Miami, London, etc). If they bumped into someone at the restaurant, their friends would be similarly turned out. The dinner was inevitably in a 5 star restaurant where there would be lots of fuss with the staff on the meal and the chef would inveitably visit our table. Later they would leave in Range Rover piolted by a chauffer in white uniform with a cap to match. We would always feel underdressed attired in rolled up sleeves with no watch and having arrived in lowly rental car.

In Bombay, out for dinner our friends would turn up for dinner similarly attired as us, usually with no watch and non descript outfits. The place we'd meet would normally be a club, or a low profile resteraunt with excellent food, where we'd be going for years and where the owner is well known to us. If the conversation ever moved to material things, then it would always be about how much they saved in doing the deal, if they bought a house for Rs. 10 cr ($2Million), you could never hear that from them, you'd hear something like "oh I got it for Rs. 2.5cr, because I knew the developer really well and he gave me a special discount", which would leave everybody at the table fuming and jealous on the bargin struck. If they went on holiday to Dubai or New York, it would be about all the art galleries visited or how they got an amazing deal at the place they stayed. They would leave in their self drive Honda or Toyota cars, or a vintage Mercedes.

In Delhi one always overstates to show how successful one is; in Bombay one always understates to show how smart one is!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

India's shameless silencing of citizens

Today's newspapers carried stories of how Sapna Pereira was arrested after protesting for not receiving a MHADA flat as part of the lottery. She had been applying for many years but did not receive an apartment; and because she is a widow with small chilren living with her inlaws where she is constantly ill-treated, in frustration she started shouting and tearing her clothes and tried to strangle herself. The answer of our self righteous government officials: arrest her and slap charges on her of creating a scence (sec 332), damaging property (section 427), et al!

2 days back, noted RTI activist Krishna Raj Rao, along with 10 other activits went to meet the Maharashtra Chief Information commissioner, Suresh Joshi, when he did not listen, they started singing the National Anthem. The government immediately silenced them and arrested them, on grounds of "tresspass" and sent them to jail for 2 days! Truly shocking.

Is this anyway to treat the frustrated and protesting citizens of our country? This is government gone all wrong. Is India turning into a Police State where no one can raise their voice against the government?

On the other hand you have politicians who incite violence which even gets people killed and they walk around free.

I was in Amsterdam a few years back when there were street protests against the government and I was happy to see that despite citizens shouting abusives at the government, the police stood by and simply maintained order. This is how our governernment needs to behave, respecting frustration and and venting of anger by our people.

May these protesters never silence due to the intimidating acts of our government. May those in power respect our people and act on the frustrations expressed.

The message the government is sending out "Don't protest, don't express frustration, don't oppose, only live in fear"


Sunday, May 17, 2009

BJP denies India a credible 2nd alternative

Once again the BJP has lost, and their numbers are even worse than they were 5 years back in 2004. Once again the BJP fought this election with a strategic emphasis on communal divide. They then went all out to promote this, with aggressive campaigning across India, running newspaper advertisements, making TV appearances, running large scale online banner campaigns; and they even gave social media marketing a go via Facebook and Orkut groups; and their leader LK Advani even aggressively promoted his blog, the 1st of a major Indian politician. So interms of marketing execution they were A++.

It is their product that was faulty that cost they yet another election. They are trying to push a communal strategy where they hold one religion superior over others, to a youthful India (60% of India is under 25) who has grown up on a live TV & Internet diet of MTV, Reality Shows, Soap Operas, Travel Shows, Discover Channel, Fashion TV, Tabloids, Social Networking, Blogging, Wikis, Gaming and 20/20 cricket; who have been indulging more and more in cross community marriages; and work in corporate cultures where all are welcome, where skill is the only thing that counts! Are the youth of India interested in one community greater than the other? Ofcourse not! They are interested in buying house, nightclubbing, playing tennis, travelling and running up the corporate ladder. This is now no longer a theory, it has been proven at great cost of 2 national election losses for the BJP.

I am however sad that the BJP product is faulty. It takes away from the people a credible 2nd alternative to the Congress, who have scored a homerun once again, up 41% from the last election! With no credible 2nd alternative, we have no choice but to vote for the Congress; there is no alternative party that presents a merit based agenda of development that we can choose from. Its sad for the country.

I would love it that India has 2 strong political parties which present an option of development agendas, so that we may choose amongst them.

The BJP may have lost, but its far from a spent force, it has the national presence and millions of party workers. It needs to shed the communal divide plank and solidly base itself on development. It should do this as soon as possible, so that in 5 years it provides India with a choice. Ofcourse it has other ills such as lack of youth in their party, but that is not as large an issue as their core positioning as a communal party. Lets hope someone in there wakes up!

Ps. its interesting to see that independents went up from 5 last election to 9 this time, possibly showing that people are looking for alternatives.

PPs. The CPI+CPM's anti development policies of the last 5 years gave them a thumping defeat, down 62% from the 2004 elections! This again shows that India wants a pro development government.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Air France fined in India for racism

Air France was fined Rs. 40,000 per passenger by an Indian court for racist behavior against its Indian passengers and did not serve them meals onboard their flights. A few years back when flying Lufthansa I too observed a very unfriendly attitude by the ground staff in Frankfurt towards many Asian flyers.

I also saw a very unfriendly attitude in the air by Air Austria staff and extremely rough behaviour at Vinenna Airport where flights were delayed due to winter weather, but there was inadequate information to passengers.

Personally, I have experienced lousy service by Lufthansa's Miles & More program, where due to errors they had missed 14 of my flight! Even after writing to their program director, he refused to give me credit while accepting that I had indeed flown those flights, but because in their computer my name (there was a mistake in the way they had entered my name) did not exactly match the name on my tickets he would not give me the credit! Disgusting!

I really don't know what Indian passengers choose to fly these rude European airlines and I can imagine its obviously due to price. I guess that is why every advertisement by Lufthansa and all these other airlines is about cheap tickets! Not exactly the best way for them to stay in the black.