Archive for September, 2010

Change would be good for us too!

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010 September 29th, 2010 Priyanka JoshiPriyanka Joshi

Humbled by reader feedback that my previous blog post generated — both positive and some not so positive — I had to write another one to finish what I started. Just to reiterate, I began with how PR executives can best use technology available to establish good media relations and how emails to social media platforms are abused by a large section.Even after reading my post, a few who sent me positive feedback continue to cold call me during peak rush hours (and some even SMSed me Monday meeting reminders on Sunday afternoon), pitch for non-existent news/feature sections over chat, call at least a 100 times in a day (with introductions that last over 2 minutes) to check on emails and press releases (most of which are not even my interest areas). And then I’m branded ‘rude’ by peers in the industry.

Beginning with the general assumption that (bulk of) journalists seem to treat public relations and its practitioners with contempt, I have to admit that I’m guilty too. But listening to 25-odd cold calls from trainee PRs to check if “a particular column was still carried in paper” or “to confirm if I have received the email they sent,” pardon me if I lose my calm.

But really, I (and many many journos) don’t treat all PRs with contempt. It’s not sustainable for us to ignore this category of media personnel. There are at least 100 fabulous PR professionals whom I respect, listen to and even call in case I have not understood a particular section in press releases. The reason: they know their client. They know what press release is saying (and often what press release refrains from saying). They understand if I’m a reporter from a business daily, then what kind of data and deadlines we work for. These will be the signs of a good PR. I have had healthy discussions arguments

I admit that not all PRs and journos can be generalized in good or bad category but if you want to keep a client/brand (who pays you the retainer fees) featured on any newspaper/magazine, then please take the time out to read the daily at least once in your life. Figure out if the magazine/daily/TV channel presents any scope for your client and how it would interest the audience of that news medium. Is it too much to ask? Perhaps yes, but if you want to be a PR professional who is respected for his/her insight about a newspaper/news medium then it’s a small homework to do.

Journalists, I have seen, tend to take the presence of PRs for granted. There are journos who care two cents about media ethics when they interact with PRs — they call up PRs/corporate communications expecting instant gratification or sometimes even threaten with zero publicity if contact details of company executives are not shared. Here’s where we go wrong. While there is a sliver of chance that a PR might disclose his client contacts to a journos (usually a friend/confidante) but really if we expect instant gratification then it’s time to step out of our AC offices and meet all companies (a journo tracks or writes) in person. This way you develop contacts and establish a rapport on your own.

The job of the media is (in theory) is to tell the stories (based on facts & figures) to its audience that PR people sometimes don’t want told. Here’s where the fine line is. There are journos who take “telling stories” literally and then there are journalists who will think and check twice before they add their bylines to a speculative article. It is open to argument what breed of journos you deal with on a day to day basis but as PR professional you are required to have answers and deal with uncomfortable situations, or just have non-answers that work well enough that people forget what they are asking. It is akin to the situation where we are expected to have working knowledge and insights on every subject (even the ones we have no clue about).

Public Relations has to be much more than press releases and pitching. Yes, I have never been on the other side of the fence and I really don’t understand what pressures a PR deals with. But I know that if they have to interface with journos and editors on a daily basis, there are some lessons to be learnt the right way.

Just as any journo sends his/her “questionnaire” with unrealistic deadlines that your client cannot abide by, the behavior is mirrored by PR professionals too. Spam blast emails and broadcasting “messages” at “audiences,” contacting reporters without reading their work only means sacrificing the investment in relationships for the gamble of percentages, hoping to turn big campaigns into measurable pockets of coverage and visibility.

For argument sake, if bylines are sacred to a journalist a PR professional’s career is defined by hits and coverage & whether the published stories were “on message.” So, no one can point fingers at any one.

But the one thing that we can do is adapt so that each tribe thrives in peace.

‘No one is going to vote in Bihar’

Saturday, September 18th, 2010 September 18th, 2010 Aditi PhadnisAditi Phadnis

A conversation with an autorickshaw driver in delhi was revealing.

“You are from Bihar,” I stated, rather than asked him.

“How did you know?” he asked with a grin but answered the question himself: “I know. It must because of the way I speak”

“… and a very sweet lilt it is,” said I, anxious not to be misunderstood.

He was from Madhubani, the district that Jagannath Mishra belongs to and the heartland of fedualism. “There’s a drought there,’ he said.

I asked him what the political news from his village was.

“Well, no one is going to vote. They would like to vote for Nitish, but Lalu Prasad will win…” he said.

I pointed out the contradictions. “They won’t vote because of a drought? That’s silly. And how can Lalu Prasad win if the people vote for Nitish?”

“Ah, you don’t know Bihar,” he said. I confessed I didn’t.

“Nothing happens in Bihar because the people will it. Everything happens on directions from the bahubali (mafia). Nitish has done really good work. We think he should be given another five years – the roads, power, jobs…The way people talk about Bihar now…? They will have to eat their words if the state can have Nitish for another five years,” he said.

“So what’s the problem?” I saked a trifle impatiently.

“In Madhubani, people don’t have enough to eat. The government is making grain available but it is not available freely. You have to take somebody’s obligation to get ration. And then when the elections come, that obligation has to be repaid…” he explained.

What if Lalu came back?

“Then there is no hope,” he shook his head. “Gangs, criminals…”

Once he started talking about the paddy fields of Madhubani, it was like a breach in a dam. Words flowed out in a torrent.

“I haven’t lived there for 17 years. There is no safety, no regard for life. I’d like to go back, till the small plot of land my family has, set up a cottage industry… but what’s the point. People demand money even to let you exist. So I live here, in a slum but dream of the emerald fields of Madhubani..”

I had tears in my eyes when I got off the rickshaw.

Change is good

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 September 15th, 2010 Priyanka JoshiPriyanka Joshi

Seven years back when I started my career as a reporter, journalism was different and so was the  way it was done.

Just to speak of the basics — internet was a dial-up connection (which took annoyingly long minutes to connect) and filing stories from anywhere but office meant an extra dent to your pocket (if you take in to account the cost to log on from an internet café or home). Most Press Releases were usually faxed or delivered physically (in case the email was not read by the recipient or worse got lost in the world wide web!) Mobile phones were catching on but there weren’t any SMS reminders sent in bulk for press events.

Today, both journalists and the industry have adapted itself around technology. Emails have become a part of life and emails on mobile phones are even more critical. International corporates are just a call or a video-conference away and filing news reports is possible from any corner of the country as long as it has a mobile cell tower or a data signal connectivity.
Yet when I look at corporate Public Relations (PR) executives – an important part of any journalist’s life – sending ‘bulk’ emails that make no sense, doing follow-ups of press releases (usually the junior most PR colleague is assigned this task) on ‘deadline’ hours, and off late pitching for clients on social media sites, it just makes me cringe.
Why can’t PR executives use technology efficiently? And this brings me to the question, how exactly should a PR professional function? Here are a few things that come to my mind:

Use social media responsibly: If you have managed to get on to a journalist’s Facebook friend list or have been following his Twitter updates, then use this carefully. For me, it seems okay to talk about a prospective client/story on these sites, but remember not every journo takes to such invasion spiritedly.

Also, it’s unfair to post good story ideas on an open forum as might attract attention from other journalist colleagues.

After you friend a journalist, engage regularly and most importantly read their stories, post comments, share their stories with your friends and colleagues, and ask people in your company to make comments and share the stories further. To the journalist, that’s a huge win, and he or she will feel like they owe you one back, so to speak.

Use Chat Messengers, even more carefully: My personal rule is not to add any more PR guys to my web chat list (unless I have met them in person), primarily because it can become a nuisance. Some of them of try to behave like my long lost buddies and it is really irksome since most of the time I haven’t even seen their faces in real-time.

But if you are on a journalist’s chat messenger, then don’t try to use it as a tool to follow-up on press releases, or mail pitches. And if you have to, then don’t push it beyond one reminder on chat window as that will surely lead to blocking you on the chat.

And lastly, it is not cool to keep pinging on chat to ask whereabouts or designations or profile checks of colleagues of the journalist. Do that homework on your own.

Vow to never send attachments in Email. Ever: Imagine this – most journalists are on the road for a good part of the day and there’s nothing more frustrating than wasting time waiting for emails to download (on smartphones where data charges matter) because some PR chap attached four MB worth of photos that you never asked for in the first place.

Easier way would be to include a simple link in your email for the Press Release from where the writer can grab, download and get anything additional they want. If the journalist needs any details like photos, white papers, or whatever, they will revert to you (for sure!).

CAPS LOCK IN SUBJECT LINES? WRITING SUBJECT LINES AND HEADLINES IN CAPITALS DOESN’T MAKE THEM ANY EASIER TO READ AND IT SOUNDS AS IF YOU ARE SHOUTING AT THE JOURNO.
See what I mean about readability?

Know your journo: Make sure that you have an updated media list on your mobile phone. If you are calling a journalist for the first time, please do read his/her articles, blogs etc. It will only help in utilising time better.

When you don’t hear back after the press release/SMS blasts: If the writer is interested in your press release/story pitch/client, be assured that they will reach out to you (they need to show their bylines to bosses after all). Even if your email might have been flagged by their spam filter, they will eventually find it and decide if your pitch is worthwhile to them. If they don’t respond to your first attempt, take that as a sign of not being interested.

And please, don’t lurk during meetings: As a PR, when you sit in on conference calls or interviews then please remember who the journalist is trying to interview (clue: it isn’t you). PRs, who try to step in, once too often, not only deviate the course of the interview but also create a lot of irritation.

Wouldn’t it be easier if you briefed your clients beforehand and gave them – and the journalist – the space to have a proper, uninterrupted conversation?

In a nutshell, for me a good PR is the one who makes things easy for journalists. They coordinate things efficiently keeping the deadlines in mind and understand how journalist or publication plays its part in communicating news to wider audience. A bad PR is ill-informed, demanding, haughty, deceptive, intrusive, and sometimes plain idiotic.


Sick Lit

Monday, September 13th, 2010 September 13th, 2010 Pablo ChaterjiPablo Chaterji

One of my recent Facebook status updates read ‘What’s worse than being sick while travelling? Not travelling at all’. I wrote this in Calicut, where I had gone to do a travel story, and where I was being hosted by my friend Junaize and his charming wife Tessy. The idea was to weave a story around the famous Malabari ‘Mapillah’ cuisine of the area, and I couldn’t have found better hosts than the couple I was staying with – they’re both lifelong Calicut residents, the food in their own home is mind-bogglingly good and they know the owners of some of Calicut’s most famous restaurants, so back-stage access had been set up for me.
I arrived there tremendously eager to eat my way through Calicut’s history, and my first day there couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. I was treated to a home-cooked lunch of jackfruit and tapioca, with a spicy fish curry and fried fish to go with it, as well as those lovely ‘blistered’ Kerala-style papads, ghee rice and a fabulous payasam to wash it all down. This was followed by a chat in the garden, sipping Arabic tea and discussing Calicut’s varied and highly interesting history, and soon after that we took a drive around Calicut, which is a small but picturesque town. The promenade by the sea is particularly pretty, especially when viewed from an 8th floor sea-facing apartment with dazzling, white Ikea furnishings (I was lucky enough to have the apartment as my base during my stay). Dinner that night was an outstanding chicken biryani, with delicately browned onions, cashew nuts, raisins and chicken so well done that the meat virtually melted off the bone. I went to bed well satisfied that night, with the promise of more delicious food on the morrow.
What I got instead was a raging fever and a severe chest infection, both of which combined to knock me out for the count. I hasten to add that neither of these was caused by the previous days’ gluttony – a doctor I consulted said it was probably a relapse of a similar infection I had come down with a while earlier. Whatever the cause, one thing was for certain – my culinary explorations had been comprehensively shafted. I made a valiant effort to recover enough to be able to get some sort of story, but it was no use – I became so ill that at one point my friends considered taking me to hospital. Instead of aadu porichathu (roast mutton stuffed with chicken, in turn stuffed with egg) and beef varratiyathu with porotta, I had to make do with kanji (rice gruel) and coconut water.
I was bitterly disappointed, of course, but I somehow managed to see the silver lining on the cloud (hence the Facebook update), which is kind of unusual for me. Being ill while travelling sucked big time, no doubt, but if I hadn’t gone to Calicut at all, I wouldn’t have sampled the food that I managed to. I also wouldn’t have had the pleasure of my friends’ company, I wouldn’t have seen even the little bits of Calicut that I did, I wouldn’t have seen Calicut’s ‘College of Knowledge’ ( I swear such an institution exists there), I wouldn’t have been told that RD350s can be bought there for very little money (I’m not saying how much), I wouldn’t have discovered that the guy with the Duty Free licence at Calicut airport sells excellent imported booze on the open market (he even home-delivers) and I certainly wouldn’t have known that Calicut has an aviation academy called Flying Goose. For the first time in seven years’ worth of road trips, I wasn’t able to complete a story – but that just gives me ample reason to go back to Calicut as soon as I can.

Unfairport

Monday, September 13th, 2010 September 13th, 2010 Rrishi Raote

Last week a design-related experience left me angry and unsettled.

We went to pick up a relative at the new international airport terminal. The plane was to land around 3 am, so we were on the Gurgaon highway at about that time. The lane leading to the international airport exit was marked, on the big green signboards above the highway, thus: “I.G.I.A. Terminal 3″.

Help!

If you don’t know what IGIA is, or what Terminal 3 might be, you will not know that the sign actually points you towards the “International Airport”. That’s bad design. (Mind you, the domestic airport exit is marked “Domestic Airport”.)

This was our first visit to T3. As we neared the new terminal we had to decide what lane to get in for the premium lot at Arrivals.

Help!

No clear answer! All sorts of cars had slowed down at the same spot so that the drivers could figure out which lane to enter. We picked the lane that said “ARRIVAL” and “Premium Lane”. No! Wrong choice! A poor securityman had to wave us down and come jogging up to the car to tell us we were not allowed on this lane. But arrivals, premium? No, sir, not allowed, take the the other lane. So we reversed out and took the other lane.

That lane took us along the facade of the arrivals hall. We stopped where we saw two CISF constables, and one of them very politely told us to go to Gates 4, 5 and 6. So we moved on, but to our consternation all we saw from the road was large pillars, numbered 13, 14, 15…

Help!

We reached the very end of the terminal, and pulled over. Ah, it turned out that the numbering of the pillars has nothing to do with the numbering of the gates. Way behind pillars 13, 14, 15, etc., were Gates 4, 5 and 6. Not plainly visible from the car lane. So we got off and walked toward the terminal. Our driver said he’d try and wait there, or else circle around. The main parking lot looked like a hassle to enter and leave at short notice, what with access control and multiple floors.

Help!

We had to cross two lanes and two broad strips of pavement before we reached kerbside. No zebra crossings were marked.

Help!

But there wasn’t much traffic, so that was OK. One intervening lane was a taxi lane. The other was the premium lane to which we had been denied access. There were expensive-looking private cars and luxury rental cars parked there. Why were we not allowed to use the lane? We had been perfectly ready to pay.

At the airport facade we decided to enter the Visitor’s Lounge. Where’s the entry gate?

Help!

It was small and tucked behind a large pillar.

Help!

The securityman sitting there said we had to walk to the next gate to buy an entry ticket. So we did; a good 50 metres. Next to the ticket booth (with its polite operator) was a gate also leading into the visitor area.

Help!

We were not allowed in. Go back to the first gate, said this guard. So we did.

Inside, the air smelled nice. It was also cold, so we went to use the washrooms. The door creaked and groaned so madly, loudly and slowly that we were hearing it still as we walked out of the washroom.

The relative arrived. She was very pleased with the airport interiors, especially with the Paresh Maity paintings inside (she is a Maity fan). Pushing the luggage trolley, I phoned the driver. The poor fellow had been chased away from his distant lane and had then parked and was chatting with some policeman. I spoke to the policeman over the phone and asked him whether we could use the premium lane. Yes, of course. Phew, we thought, no need to push this trolley 100 metres (I measured the distance on Google Earth) to the distant car lane.

Help!

Our car still wasn’t allowed into the premium lane. So we started the long trek with the trolley.

Help!

There was no way to get the trolley off the kerb. No slope, just a vertical drop. All around us, individuals and families and old people were doing their best to get the trolleys down without spilling their luggage. I walked a long way looking for a walkable section, but there wasn’t one. So we huffed and puffed and lifted the trolley off the kerb.

Help!

We had to get the loaded trolley on and off two more pavement sections before we reached the car lane. Ouch.

Someone at the airport seemed to have belatedly realised this disaster and one (one!) sloping ramp had just been cut out of the kerb and cemented. There was caution tape around it, because the cement wasn’t yet dry.

Help!

That last section of the furthest car lane outside the Arrivals gates was busy with many cars and people. It was a very Indian operation (think functional chaos) getting the car close enough to the kerb to enable us to load the luggage without too much trouble. So much for streamlined.

Phew. We were done. We headed home. But I was sweating and cursing the thoughtless people who had laid out this part of the airport, and those who were supposed to administer the premium lane.

The only airport I know well enough to compare T3 to is Washington DC’s Dulles International. There, too, you exit onto car lanes. But the parking is straight ahead, it’s surface parking, and what’s more, there are zebra crossings and the pavements slope gently so that you can waft your luggage comfortably towards your car or one of the airport-city shuttle vans. Dulles is nothing fancy, but it’s infinitely more convenient.

So: go ahead and complain about iffy Commonwealth Games infrastructure, and cheer instead the capable Delhi Metro. But don’t forget to ask why, when the new airport will probably cost Rs 16,500 crore ($3.5 billion, which flyers are now being told to help pay), the contractors didn’t bother to find a designer who could have helped them get the basic inside-outside interface design right and user-friendly.

The airport is not fully operational yet; imagine the chaos when all domestic and international air travel through Delhi converges on T3. The mind quails; but the spirit is Indian, so it will adjust.

Of mid-career crisis and an MBA

Thursday, September 9th, 2010 September 9th, 2010 Kalpana PathakKalpana Pathak

In the past one month, I have received calls from a couple of my friends asking me for any career enhancement programme that I could suggest.

They have been working for over seven years in the corporate sector and wish to take up a short-term course to get ahead in their area of specialisation.

But to my disappointment, I have not been able to help them so far.

Every expert I speak to, directs me to an MBA programme in some specialization or the other.

What I fail to understand is, why should I go only for an MBA—executive or a full-time or otherwise?

I don’t wish to spend a year or two of my career on the campus or pay a whopping Rs 15-20 lakh for a diploma or certificate programme which will get me back to where I come from.

I wonder if there are any specialised programmes for many such executives who can afford to or would like to spend only around 6 months to pursue a course which helps them specialise in their area of work.

Am sure, distance education could be an option and with every other player today entering into the distance education segment, offering some certificate course or the other, there’s certainly no dearth of options.

But most of these courses add little to your practical knowledge and are beneficial only for the company which starts it. As the CEO of a company (which has launched a string of vocational education programmes in the past few months) rightly put it, “Distance education is the next growth area for our company.”

But let’s face it, employers themselves admit they prefer people with a full-time programme than a course in distance education.

So while you may end up paying a good Rs 2 lakh even for a distance learning programme, there’s no surety if the course will add to your skills or knowledge or will be a source of a better job (if you are looking at that).

In fact, a journalist friend who wished to major in economics, recently enrolled with one of India’s top ten universities for a distance learning programme. She however, quit in two months when at every weekend class she would be told there are no faculty members to take classes and she should come next week.

So even if you are lucky to find the course that you are looking for, there’s no guarantee that you would be able to take it.

Another instance. When a friend was looking for a career in certified financial planning, we called one of the very few institutes that hold the programme. Their official advised me against joining his own institute as they did not have faculty members (He was in exit mode to join a mutul fund organisation).

I wondered, had my friend joined the institute without doing proper homework, she would have paid a good Rs 4 lakh for a two year programme (sans teachers). But yeah, she would have got a free laptop!!

And this is not an isolated example. Two months ago I rang up a highly-recognised local institute for a six-month programme in communication, the co-coordinator said they will begin the programme only when they get enough number of inquiries. They wanted to fill 70 seats. A little more homework on the institute revealed, am doing better off.

This took me back to my student days in journalism classes. I was highly irritated to know that we were still being taught the age old methods of making news papers.

This, when the newspaper organizations themselves graduated to QuarkXPress, years ago.

So while we spent a good Rs 1 lakh for the programme, at the end of the day we would sit with newspaper cuttings trying to place them on a piece of chart paper cut in an eight column size and make dummy newspapers. The most surprising part of the entire exercise was that it was common– at an institute in a three tier town like Visakhapatnam and a metro city like, Delhi.

The sad part is, while the course cost at the institute in Delhi has doubled in the past five years, the age old teaching methodology remains in place. I don’t know how it is at Visakhapatnam now.

Meanwhile, I have suggested to my friends to get in touch with their HR departments and seek recommendation for an executive training programme (from any institute) that the company could have tied up with. Am sure, the companies know it better when it comes to training their manpower.

State and the snake

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010 September 8th, 2010 Devjyot Ghoshal

It had been, admittedly in a rather off-handed fashion, pitched at the weekend meeting that is slowly beginning to define my journalistic week. But after gauging the response that it had evinced, I had silently left it to foment in my head, while working on a new angle for a renewed sales effort later.

That renewed effort, though, was never required.

The Mahindra Bolero, as I had climbed into it at dusk, had seemed rather robust. But as it sped through in complete darkness, the vestige of a metalled road under it put things in perspective.

 A local walks by the red mud ponds of Vedanta Aluminium's refinery

A local walks by the red mud ponds of Vedanta Aluminium’s
refinery, built immediately under Niyamgiri, in Orissa’s
Kalahandi district. (Photo: Devjyot Ghoshal)  

The car, along with the driver and I, lurched and lamented with near absolute devotion through the hours, as the plains of Kalahandi melted away. Ahead, just as the forests began clearing, the mountains arrived, barely framed by the bolts of lightening that momentarily lit the sky.

There was something vaguely unnerving about being driven, so quickly, into the near unknown; an unfamiliar terrain that had come to capture the imagination of millions. Some, from even as far away as London, had decided to paint their faces blue in support.

But I had to travel only some 20 hours from Kolkata to see that faint orange glow grow increasingly stronger. It wasn’t till another few minutes passed that I realised I had arrived.

The dimension, among others, was something I was unprepared for. I knew Vedanta wanted to mine atop a hill, but I had never thought Niyamgiri would be what it is.

The piercing lights of the refinery, situated immediately below the mountain, merely added to the drama. Because where their reach ended, the clouds moulded a wreath around the plateau that comprises the summit.

And the wreath refused to remain unmoved. Wave after wave of suspended vapour wrapped itself around Niyam Raja’s fabled abode. Then, the moon finally broke through. Niyamgiri seemed alive.

Sometime in the beginning of this year, Jairam Ramesh sat onboard a wobbly speed boat deep in the Sundarbans. As the craft jetted through the mangroves forests, he spoke of how the “unrealistically low rate of rejection” of environment and forest clearances given by the ministry of environment and forests had to be changed.

Subsequently, the discussion veered towards brinjals and remained there.

But at Lanjigarh, under the shadow of Niyamgiri, morning came swiftly. The Dongar, as hills are known in local parlance, continued to have its head stuck in the clouds. With the sun climbing steadily, the Bolero was revisited.

It gunned down the narrow forest track that winds it way around the sacred mountain. Bleary eyed, I danced with it, completely oblivious of what was coming. Abruptly, the tree line broke. The excruciating green of the Niyamgiri hills stood naked.

Deba, my driver, felt no such pain. Blankly, he stopped at Oolbali, where my guide wanted to introduce me to the medicine man. Laksa Majhi came in nothing but a white loincloth; his greying hair tied back.

The intensely dark eyes said he knew his world and when he raised his right hand, I believed them. A mangled finger drew the map of mountains that his forefathers worshipped; the corrupted digit supposedly the result of a Cobra’s fang.

I curved my hand to imitate the snake. He nodded plainly. Later, he said, “We have served Niyam Raja, and he has given us life. But if the government wants to save Niyamgiri, they should kill us first.”  

Laksa Majhi feared the state, more than the snake. I am sure he wasn’t the only one.

Poor Post-Doctoral Fellow

Saturday, September 4th, 2010 September 4th, 2010 Praveen Bose

37, and jobless! Studying… rather researching and researching… now left searching for a job. That’s Subho for you. A hostelmate of mine who over the numerous packets of Britannia Pure Magic, became a friend in 1996, and remains a friend till today.
The only genius friend I have. But, alas like many a true genius his academic achievements have not translated into a good job and monetary gains.
Subho has spent dozens of hours trying to get me to understand what it all those 0s and 1s in programming actually mean. He’s tried explaining to me what writing algos (as he refers to algorithms) mean. It’s another story that I remain as well versed with super-computing, his forte, as I am with sky diving… even after these 15 years.
We are an IT superpower, but only a BPO super-power not the one for those who are really computing wizards. Our IT industry needs, cyber-coolies who take orders from the other time zones, not people who are capable of thinking… creating something anew.
That’s what he’s told.. all the time when he approaches many an IT firm that has itself splashed all over the news pages boasting about itself and about the country’s IT prowess. “Your place is in the West, maybe in the US, not in India. Your skills are useless here.”
Approach an MNC IT firm… and he is handicapped by the fact that his doctorate and post-doctoral fellowship come from India… the land of cyber-coolies. His degree may not after all be worth the price of the paper it is printed on… they probably think.
I am reminded of Grigory Perelman, the Russian genius, who solved the Poincare Conjecture and remains a recluse, living with his mother.
Subho stays with his mother alright. But, he is more human than Perelman. Thank God for that. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been in touch with me.
He interpreted Noam Chomsky’s phonology for me… whatever that is.
His guide has now advised him too the same as the great Indian IT firms. “Go abroad.”
“I have no money even for my passport that needs to be renewed,” is his refrain. “I am running on my reserves.”
The algos he wrote are now the property of his guide who is travelling the globe presenting the papers at seminars on super-computing.
There… another “brain in the drain”.
Why should we cry about brain drain then?

A deadline is missed

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010 September 1st, 2010 Aabhas Sharma

Every morning when you pick up the newspaper there are more than a couple of stories on the Commonwealth Games. At least for those of us living in the Capital, this has become a regular feature. Most of these stories tell us about the stadiums won’t be ready on time or how the debris and mess created courtesy CWG won’t be cleaned up before the Games. More or less it’s all about missing the deadlines which were set. In between all this chaos, there’s one story – about missing deadlines – which hasn’t got much attention. It’s the story of Oscar Pistorius, a South African athlete.

Pistorius, also known as The Blade Runner is an extraordinary athlete. He is 23-years-old and is “the fastest man on no legs”. A double amputee, Pistorius runs with the aid of carbon fibre artificial limbs and competed with “normal” athletes in 2007 for the first time. However, claims were made that he has an unfair advantage over other runners. Yes, you’re reading it right. A double amputee having an advantage over people who can walk, run and do other things which Pistorius just can’t do. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) actually amended its rules to ban the use of “any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels or any other element that provides a user with an advantage over another athlete not using such a device”.

After monitoring his track performances and carrying out tests, scientists took the view that Pistorius “enjoyed” considerable advantages over athletes without prosthetic limbs. Thanks to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the decision was reversed on the basis of insufficient evidence.

Pistorius failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics though he did win gold medals in the 100, 200 and 400 metre sprints at the 2008 Summer Paralympics. He has reiterated his desire to compete in the 2010 London Olympics.

Earlier, this month Pistorius missed out on the chance of competing at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. He missed out on qualifying for South Africa’s Commonwealth Games team by two hundredths of a second. He worked as hard as he could but in the end missed out on the chance to compete at the Commonwealth Games.

In all the talk about the country is going to embarrass themselves and what a shambolic event the Games are going to be, maybe we should think about someone like Pistorius. There are lessons to be learnt in the mess that has been created thanks to the people behind organizing the Games. Pistorius missed a deadline and aims to rectify that by correcting the mistakes he made. Will the authorities do the same? Your guess is as good as mine.