Here’s what happened in Mutiny this week.

Jo started off the week with the tragic news of Laurie Baker’s death. He also blogged about how Google played an April Fool prank and the ABCs of audio/music blogging
Nita wrote about some students who have moderate views on reservations. She is concerned that couples can no longer enjoy sunsets on sea fronts without looking over their shoulders and is worried about wild Life in India which is under grave threat
Swetha takes a sneak peek at Sivaji – Rajnikant’s Next Blockbuster
Jerry blogged prolifically about Eragon, Mid-Night Hot and The New Detectives  CPM. He rants about why the M6A1 is being deployed overseas.
Guru tells us about Network Computers and provided some very informative links in HowTo: Startups
Chacko writes about  a league for cricket and  gives his opinion on the BJP. He also shows us a very  interesting piece of Indian art in a restaurant in Smash Menu.
Cakerfare informs us about ATM Access in Bihar
Maltesh writes about Logan and opines that we should not give a reservation to folks who don’t want to stay in India
Gentledude writes about the ubiquitous hand pump
Sridhar ended the week informing us that Musharraf is deliberately letting Talibanization creep into main cities
 Keep coming back for more at the Mutiny !


Listen to this – “US caused the Nandigram killings”, “CIA running a media-syndicate in Kerala”. Stop smiling .. its serious.. its the latest intelligence report from CPM(ya its our own communist party).

US intelligence agency sponsoring a “media syndicate” in God’s Own Country to drive wedges into the Left, and destroy the VS Achuthanandan government in the state.“If what our intelligence reports say on such activity is found serious enough, the Central Government would be informed,” VS Achuthanandan.[Indian Express Report]

What does he mean by our intelligence reports?Is it KGB? May be, but this time it could be Kerala Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti and not Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti. Stop blaming and try to so something useful for the Nation. Let the Intelligence work be done by RAW. We didnt elect you to do make baseless comments like this.

VS also added that he would “neither deny nor confirm”

Well watch out they might even come out with the news that MI6 cause India’s exit from the Wordcup so that England has a chance.

The Reports – Economic Times News – CPM blames US for Nandigram(you would require an IndiaTimes ID to view the news)

Indian Express News – God’s Own Country fights ‘CIA demon’

(cross posted here)

Laurie Baker
Lawrence W. Baker (Laurie Baker), the legendary architect and a great humanitarian passed away today in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. The Baker method of building low-cost houses that co-exists well with nature and environment has made an architectural revolution in Kerala.

Low cost is only one of the many aspects of his buildings that set them apart from the monsters other architects impose on us. His buildings merge with nature and do not stand apart like a sore thumb, are environmentally inexpensive, make best use of the space available, are designed with the needs of the client, and not just the external appearance or some design trend, in mind, makes best use of available sunlight and winds, thus reducing the need for artificial lighting and fans, just to mention a few. This in a society which discusses environmental issues in large rooms with tall windows, all of them shut tight with thick curtains, artificial lighting and air conditioning, with tea and snacks served in disposable plastic cups and plates. Come to think of it, it is no wonder that we don’t take Bakerji seriously! [Via Random Thoughts]

From the Blogosphere:
Lest we Forget
Laurie Baker – Living for a cause
More o Laurie Baker – Prabhu Karthik

From the media:
Laurie Baker’s creative journey – The Hindu
Of architectural truth and lies – The Hindu

Recently there was a discussion in Varnachitram about Malayalam actor Mohan Lal appearing in the advertisement of a liquor company with that famous selling line, “what’s up this evening?“. The article argued that Mohan Lal should not be blamed for selling liquor. The opposition is against Mohan Lal, an actor who has high influence on Keralites particularly on youngsters, promoting liquor.

Now what made Mohan Lal do the advertisement?

As an Economic Times news article says it’s purely business.

Southern matinee idol Mohanlal is forging a strategic pact with Paul John Enterprises to jointly develop a category of ‘evening snack foods’. Under the agreement, Mohanlal Taste Buds, which is already into the packaged food and restaurant business, will produce and distribute a product-line which could go well with beverages.

The argument of Mohan Lal and his supporters in this case is that it wouldn’t make any change in the liquor conception rate of Kerala just because Lal appeared in the ad. I do not buy this argument. Mohan Lal has high influence on youngsters in Kerala. His promotion of alcoholism can impact these youngsters (school and college students) and make them think drinking is a ‘cool’ thing and thus give it a start, which might lead to addiction for some.

I am not saying that a youngster who see this ad in the TV or movie hall would go straight to the bar and order for liquor and be an alcoholic. Its got something to do with the sub-cautious mind which will come into the action when the situation comes.

Now, let us look into some of the comments that appeared in the VC article that made sense to me (I put some words in bold to highlight).

Sree Says:

I believe it will have an impact, Mohanlal is a role model for lot of people, as VC had mentioned in the beginning of this article, they “love him sometimes more than their parents” (interesting!).

In my view messages have a great social impact, eventhough sceptic in us would say “what the heck”, remember people like Gandhiji, Sri Narayana Guru and V.S. Bhattathiripad reformed our society through simple messages.

Sandeep Says:

With concentrated effort celebrities can change the perception of the society, particularly the youth. Today movies promote alcoholism as a stylish recreation and is associated with power and might.

Mohanlal is the most saleable Brand in Kerala and its better used not promoting alcoholism. The brand value of Malabar Jewellery has definitely improved by its association with many celebrities.

And most importantly the following comment made me respect actor Suresh Gopi as a person and a social, celebrity figure. I think Malayalam cinema has never seen such a socially committed actor. Correct me if I am wrong. I hope you all remember him taking two HIV infected kids to their school to show the local people that the other kids won’t be affected with AIDS just because these kids study with them.

ANIL Says:

In an interview given by Suresh Gopi I read the actor refused to become the brand ambassador of a chewing gum since it proved it would create addiction on kids after he send the particular product to a lab test. That time he had no films at all and was going through a rough stage. The company offered him 15 lakhs to do it. Still he refused to play brand ambassador. That was really nice of him. It underlines the fact that a celebrity has got some obligations towards the society as a whole. Kudos to him.

Mohanlal is absolutely a millionaire. He could had skipped that booze ad. Well if it is for money you are making a lot of it. Then for what? As an actor you spend millions on a film like “Vaanaprastham” which did not collect. But film lovers applauds on your effort to enrich films. It proved you had some commitments and obligations towards the society as an actor. But before acting in a booze ad you had to think twice about your social commitments. Yes you definitely have some commitments towards the society as a whole. The matter is serious. It cannot be shoved aside with a grin.

On another note, a friend who tasted Original Choice after seeing the ads said he would never taste it again because it has a bad taste compared to the other popular brands. He even mentioned that Mohan Lal should have tasted it before being the brand ambassador of it. 🙂

To act in a liquor advt is Mohan Lal’s original and personal choice. But to justify it by saying it doesn’t make any social issue is not fair. Instead just say, “I don’t care about the social effects of this advt, I just want to make more money“. People would easily understand this because we know antics cost you a fortune to collect.

CIDS from IndiaI must admit, I’m a big fan of CSI Miami and CSI Las Vegas. The death of Pakistan Coach Bob Woolmer is the ideal time to launch CSI Jamaica.

I think India should send a CSI team lead by two Malayalee CIDs of the Tamil Nadu police who have proved themselves before in America. CID Sub Inspector Dasan and CID Constable Vijayan.

We at the Mutiny have learned that they are carrying dummies of Bob and the Pakistanis to do a drop test.

vinod_new.jpgLike we promised, we have with us today Mr Joseph, the author of Hitchhiker which has created quite a buzz on the blogosphere. Our earlier story on Hitchhiker.

Vinod is a solicitor based in London and was kind enough to spare some time for us, in fact, kind enough to wake up at 5:00 am London Time in the morning to have a chat with us 🙂 Now thats someone we do not interview everyday !

Ujj: So Vinod do you normally wake up this early or is it just because of me bugging you for an interview?

Vinod: I am a morning person and I try to swim in the morning before going to office. So, this is my usual time. Just 30 minutes of swimming in the slow lane. What about you?

Ujj: uh .Ahem. me too. Ok so lets hear something about you. Birth place, education and how did a lawyer end up writing a book?

Vinod: I was born in Kerala and my mother-tongue is Malayalam. I grew up at a place called Virudhunagar in Tamil Nadu. My Dad used to work as a lecturer at a polytechnic there. My mother used to teach at a local school. I went to National Law School in Bangalore to do a 5 year law degree after which I worked in Mumbai as a corporate lawyer for 4 years. After that I came to the UK to do a masters course at the London School of Economics. I completed my LLM in 2003, during which time I took an exam called the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test (QLTT), which allowed me to qualify as a UK solicitor. I have been working as a solicitor with a commercial law firm since January 2004. My parents have retired and now live at our ancestral home in Kerala. I have been married for the last 4 years (almost). Nisha is a software engineer and works for a telecom company in the UK.

Ujj: Yes she must be really proud of you, so were you the lawyer by the day and the writer by the night…

Vinod: Sort of. I wrote Hitchhiker while I was doing my LLM. When I finished my LLM in September 2003, I had completed my first draft. I took me a few more months to find a job, by which time I had finished editing it. My day job involves long hours and so I don’t manage to write for more than a few hours every week, mainly on week-ends.

Ujj: Novel moves around delicate topics like conversions, caste reservations, inter caste marriages, riots but all from the perspective of a kid and then a financially insecure man. Did you yourself ever face any identity crises or anything?

Vinod: Many people have asked me this question. Some even ask me if it is an autobiography. The answer is No. Hitchhiker is based entirely on what I have seen and not what I experienced. For the record, I’ve had a relatively privileged life. I belong to a caste which is quite high up on the caste/social ladder. I went to good schools and colleges. I have never really experienced discrimination, neither in India, nor in the UK.

Ujj: did you always know that a kid with identity problem was going to be your protagonist..

Vinod: Not really I decided to base my novel on issues I am familiar with, am very interested in Ebenezer was the end result, but even when I started writing, I had no clue how Ebenezer would turn out to be.

Ujj: Do you think Ebenezer would have done better for himself if he could avail reservation even after converting? cause even after converting his father could not offer him anything special? reservation in fact would have landed him in the IITs?

Vinod: Yes, he would. At the end of the day, a reservation, despite its inefficiencies and collateral unfairness, is a huge boon to the one who actually benefits from it.

Ujj: I know many people must have asked you this but I want to hear it from you, will Hitchhiker have a sequel? Are there any more works in the pipeline?

Vinod: I seriously doubt it. I want to leave Ebenezer’s future to the reader’s imagination. I have been writing a collection of 10 short stories which are based in a fictional village in Kerala. I hope to complete them soon.

Ujj: cool ! thatll be something to look forward to. So how did you hook up with books for change? Is this publishing house like an NGO?

Vinod: Books For Change (BFC) is the publishing division of Action aid India, which is an NGO. BFC publishes books which have a high social content.

Ujj: A ok…some time back I read a survey done by the time group that concluded that more than 60% of the youth of our country like to keep friends with the people of the same religion and more than 65% would like their parents to chose their brides for them..I for one felt quite sick about this..

Vinod: It is a good thing that it is only 60%

Ujj: phss.. 🙂 . but seriously don’t you think the youngest country in the world ought to be a little more progressive.

Vinod: It would be nice if people were a little less bigoted

Ujj: One last thing, what stand would you take about reservations? in the book one of the characters believe that the one thousand year old suppression and stigma cant go without a sustained reservation? what do you think? Or lemme put it this way, what was your reaction when you saw doctors and engineers facing water cannons while protesting against reservations?

Vinod: I feel that reservations do serve a purpose. It is no easy task to undo the damage caused by caste divisions which have existed for many centuries. Providing good schools, hospitals etc to the weaker sections of society will go a long way in creating an egalitarian society where all children go to school and every one has the opportunity to eke out a decent livelihood. However, providing reservation is still the most effective way to move a marginalized caste up the social ladder.
It must also be recognised that reservations do result in a lot of collateral unfairness. Even though reservations make sense in a broad way, there will be many individual instances where deserving candidates lose out on account of reservations. The higher the percentage of reservation, the greater the collateral unfairness. It is very difficult to say what would be the optimum percentage of reservation. I feel that total reservations should not exceed 20% or at the most 25%. Also, economically prosperous sections should not have reservations, even if they belong to a marginalised caste. Creamy layers should definitely be skimmed off. Also, I would not support reservations for promotions.
What I have stated here is my personal view. While writing Hitchhiker, I did my best to ensure that my personal view did not affect any of the characters in it.

Ujj: well thats enlightening. Vinod we really thank you for this and sorry for having eaten away your swimming time. I am sure our readers are going to enjoy this conversation.

Vinod: Thanks a lot 🙂

In a recent blog post, I wrote about some studies from Africa which show that emigration might not be a zero sum game, and hence, brain drain might bring some benefits to the country which is losing its trained man power. The study in question relates to the improvements in the health care systems of those African countries which are losing their trained man-power due to brain drain; in that sense, the brain drain does bring some material benefits to the mother country. In this post, I would like to show that those are not the only benefits.

At least in the Indian context, the Indian diaspora also brings a huge amount of monetary flow in to India; for example, take a look at this blog post by Alex Thomas, which explains the trade-off between brain drain and remittances wonderfully (with data, references and neat explanations).

There are also some soft benefits that the so-called brain drain brings. As an example, let me take the case of Prof. Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. Chandra became a naturalised US citizen in 1953 (30 years prior to his being awarded the Nobel prize); however, I am yet to come across an Indian physicist who is conscious of his citizenship–in Indian physics circles he is spoken as an insider; as countless reminiscences of Chandra in Current Science (here is one for example (pdf)) show, Chandra contributed quite a lot to the Indian science and science establishment. By the way, the soft benefits of brain drain is not just with reference to scientists and engineers along — take a look at this essay of Shashi Tharoor, where he answers the question “Why NRIs matter to India?” for example.

Before I end this post, I need to address a couple of issues raised by a few of the comments in my earlier post:

  1. It is wrong to believe that by becoming a citizen of a different country, a person becomes suspect in his/her loyalty to India; the Indian identity, by definition is plural, and is in some sense spiritual (as Raja Rao used to insist); and,
  2. It is true that life outside of India could be alluring; however, that is no reason to believe that (a) there is no room for improvement, and (b) that even under the present circumstances some are not willing to come back to India; take a look at this rather old article about returning to India from abroad, for example (and, needless to say, things have improved since then).

Thus, in the final analysis, while we need to improve the economic and social conditions in India so that more and more people would tend to stay back in India (or return to India), we should also be  inclusive enough in our outlook towards those who have emigrated, for, they also contribute to Indianness (and, its economy) as much as those who live in India.

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