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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Save Lalbagh, explore alternatives for Metro - Please sign the petition!!!

Last week, a group of Bangalore Residents under the umbrella of Hasiru Usiru got together to protest against the running of the Metro Rail through Lalbagh. This Metro Rail Station will result in indiscriminate felling of trees and destroy the last remaining greenery spot worth talking about in Bangalore. Do we really need this Station going through Lalbagh? 

I feel one of the best examples of a poorly planned project that will in all probability not serve its intended purpose is the Bangalore Metro Project.

  1. A metro that will be used by such a small part of the population. It doesn't cover enough of the city for starters to be used by more people and become a widely used transport system. 
  2. A metro which atleast with its current plans won’t be able to meet the city’s public transport needs. I am sure it will help, but its surely not the magic bullet it is being touted as.
  3. A metro which is surely not state of the art. Who uses over-ground metros these days? They are so much slower, so much noisier, need so much more maintenance due the vagaries of wind, rain and other weather elements and so much  more uglier.
  4. A metro that will need car-parks around it which will lead to more destruction of greenery.
  5. A metro that will have malls around each station that will lead to even more destruction of greenery.
  6. More than anything else, even if this is the best solution for us, whenever  something like this is pushed through without as much as a public debate or atleast a debate in the legislature, there surely is something fishy about it.

Please sign the below petition and voice your opinion against the destruction of Bangalore's last surviving greenery. Also share this with all your friends from Bangalore or friends who have visited Bangalore and enjoyed its pleasant weather because if you don't do it, the next time you come to Bangalore, the weather might not be so pleasant and you won't have any right to bitch about it. :-(


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Zeopane needs your help

As I mentioned in my previous post, we are in a critical phase in Zeopane. We have made a lot of significant progress in the last few weeks. Based on feedback from a couple of VCs we approached and some honest introspection, we strongly believe that we are now at a stage where we need some specific and relevant skills on the management team and/or the board of advisors. So I'll provide a brief recap on the company, our technology and our current status and the kind of people we are looking for.

If you can help us out by spreading the word among your friends in the industry (irrespective of where they are located) and to well-connected friends who might know others, I'd really appreciate it. Of course, any contact that comes through you, we'll ensure that when we go to the next level, your assistance will be suitably rewarded. This will be over and above the satisfaction you will get from helping a pain-free drug-delivery technology reach the market and help save millions of lives.

Zeopane is an early-stage medical device start-up based in Hong Kong that has access to a unique and innovative nano-scale drug-delivery technology called Zeolite microneedles. Microneedles is the next-generation of innovative transdermal drug-delivery technologies and is being pursued by big names of the likes of 3M, J&J, BD among others. We have done thorough research on the competition and have strong reasons to believe our technology is superior in terms of costs and in terms of features.

We have already prototyped the technology, patented it (US and PCT patents filed and approved) and validated the technology in in-vitro trials. We are now moving into in-vivo trials in collaboration with some partners with a lot of experience in medical device commercialization and are looking to raise capital for the same. We plan to be ready to move into the first phase of human trials if all goes smoothly by mid next year. In order to strengthen the management team and the advisory board, we are looking for

  1. Management Partner: Strong background in pharmaceuticals or medical devices (preferably in a start-up) in a middle to senior management position with relevant experience in commercialization of medical devices, business development or clinical research / validations and regulatory affairs in medical devices. The person should be either willing to move to Hong Kong / Australia (that's where one of our partners is) or India (that's where another potential partner of ours is) and / or travel frequently between two of these three places.

  2. Advisory Board Member: For a person with the above skills and experience, but is not up for a management team position (right away due to current job commitments or not at all), we are also open to looking at getting them on our Board of Advisors (in which case they'll need to participate in occasional meetings and be available to guide us to move forward with our commercialization steps) in exchange for being a part of our growth story.

  3. Biochemical Engineer: A bio-chemical engineer who has experience in the manufacturing space or the capability to work with the scientists in understanding our critical IP around nano-technology based drug-delivery and preferably zeolite based micro-structures and helping us setup the processes and infrastructure to begin manufacturing micro-needles. If you know someone who you think might fit the bill but is not willing to commit to this right away, do put me in touch with them so that we can work out an arrangement that will be beneficial to them and the company (an advisory role for now and a position in the management team once we make more progress for example).

Please share this post with friends, relatives and acquaintances by e-mail and through social networking sites that you are a part off, send out a tweet on twitter with this post or blog's address and do whatever else is possible to get the word around and eventually reach people who might be able to help me out. I may be sounding desperate. But this is a very crucial time for this company and technology and that's the reason I am trying to push forward with this.

Thanks in advance for any help that you can provide. You can contact me or have them contact me at arhebbar (at) gmail.com in case of any interest / need clarifications.

My sudden burst of active blogging and tweeting

This blog hadn't seen activity since August-September of last year. How then did I become so active in this space over the last one week. This one week has had more activity (traffic, updates, format changes) than the whole of last year. How did this come about (you must be wondering)?

It all started with my efforts to revamp our company's website(www.zeopane.com). Having been out of touch with doing anything technical for the last one year and probably more (considering that I was mostly managing developers for a year or two before that), I really had a tough time getting stuff done. Faced a few minor challenges such as connecting to the FTP server using Adobe Dreamweaver (apparently - the user account had expired), designing a UI that looked atleast half-decent (didn't want someone to come to the website and think "Oh!! This must be some really cheap start-up) and getting Apache Server setup on my computer to test my website changes (apparently due to a port conflict with Skype using the same port). I had to really go surfing into tons of blogs to get these problems resolved and some of these were finally resolved by random posts by someone who faced these problems before. That's what got me blogging.

The burst of Indian political scenario focussed posts and tweets stem from a deep desire to a clean, changed and flourishing India and a strong belief that we are close to making some major changes and that this is a critical election for us as a country. Seeing the many young and dynamic new breed of politicians coming out of high-paying jobs to contest elections, got me thinking that I should do something. The least I could do was spread the message. Twitter, FB and my Blog was the media I chose.

But the last five days have also been my most inefficient in terms of progress on Zeopane. And this is a critical time for us. So looking at my current priorities, I will try to be less active on the tweeting, facebook, blogging scene for the next few weeks and focus on making some progress with Zeopane. Wish me luck!!! As the visitors to my blog are mostly my friends, I will go out and make one more post later today giving an update on Zeopane and suggesting ways in which you too can help us and take part in our story without of-course revealing anything that might be harmful to the company.

Coming Up: Zeopane - Some Updates and Seeking Assistance

Friday, April 17, 2009

India Elections 2009: My Vote and why?

Living in a democracy where we swear by the secret ballot, I am going out and sharing my opinion on whom my vote is reserved for this time. I guess I am not breaking any rules since I unfortunately won't be able to vote. But a promise I've made to myself is that I'll not only vote in the next election, but will also take a more active role in this. Inspired by all the leaders who've given up careers and made the move to clean-up this mess, I'll surely take some action come the next election.

Coming to the topic at hand, I am going all out in support of the BJP for several reasons:

1) WYSIWYG - What you see is what you get? At least they are being vocal and proud of being the rightists that they are. Unlike the Congress, who claim they are secular but what about the muslim appeasement by turning a blind eye to infiltration , making statements that muslims have first right to Indian resources, and rescinding POTA and putting back a similar law in place after 4.5 years of their rule (or should I say mis-rule and a dastardly incident which opened their eyes or was it just a short term measure to cool down the heated tempers among Indian citizens). Need I talk about the shoe-throwing episode and the history behind it.

2) Party that is not family-centric: We are a democracy and not a monarchy under the Gandhi family as Sonia Maino Ghandy and her children along with the rest of the coterie seem to think. BJP is an entirely grass-roots driven party with almost every leader coming up through the ranks on the strength of his or her own work or abilities. Take Narendra Modi for example. He's a national level leader now largely for his development in Gujarat.

3) Takes a stand against the muslim (yeah I said it) favoritism (or do we say appeasement) that is rampant across all parties by being soft on fundamentalist organizations like SIMI, by encouraging subsidies like for the Haj (have we ever heard of a Teerth Yatra subsidy for Hindus or maybe a visit to the Vatican for the Christians - that's too small a votebank to focus on). I believe the whole BJP strategy of supporting the Ram Janma Bhoomi Movement (of course they didn't start it) was to ensure that Congress Party's votebank politics is shown up for what it truly is.

4) BJP's vocal vows to get back the black money (predicted to be near 1.4 trillion USD) stashed away in tax-havens across the world. See this. If nothing, it shows that the BJP is much less corruptible (they have tons of Congress leaders that have moved into their party over the last 10-15 years) and they have to play the game until the game changes which might make it difficult to say that they are 100% clean. But atleast we'll have a lot more of our tax-money going back into development schemes.

5) BJP government will come without the baggage of the Left and this will be a huge huge relief to the Indian Economy. The last five years have been back-breaking with every forward step being blocked by the left parties that were supporting the government (Was that really support or was it another puppeteer managing the MMS puppet other than of course the lady in 10 Janpath).

6) In terms of policies, BJP has been more populist than the Congress (Rs 2 a kg Rice vs the Congress's Rs 3 a kg rice) because that's the only way you can play it in India (unfortunately). But going by the track-record of their work between 1998 and 2004 where India (atleast Urban India) was truly shining, I think they should do a decent job with managing (or atleast not harming) the Indian Economy. They initiated several infrastructure initiatives that have made no progress in the past five years maybe??? because the Congress realized they would get no credit for it (how cheap???).

7) Although besides the NDA comes to power, I pray that they come to power with the support of a handful of the new generation of independent candidates such as Capt. Gopinath from Bangalore South, Manu Digvijay Singh (the one I mentioned in a previous post) and the several IIM grads contesting the elections all across India so that they can keep a check on the crazy elements (such as Varun Gandhi) within the BJP going berserk.

If you are still reading, thanks for your patience as I bitch my heart about why I hate one party and don't mind another (the lesser of two evils since we need to have a party in power unfortunately), do me,  yourself and our country a favour. Come election day, Go out and exercise your vote!!!

India-Pak screw-ups

India messes up big time (http://tinyurl.com/ck9a7j)  with DNA, Anajali Waghmare fiasco and Pranab Mukherjee Election focussed??? dumb as always double-speak (here and here). 

Dawn - A leading Pakistan Newspaper puts PoK as part of India(http://tinyurl.com/cuzylr) in a map that they publish. Not sure what they are trying to do to themselves. I guess an effect of the "Copy-Paste/Reuse culture in IT in general (maybe the web-development was outsourced to India)" so rampant these days and a bit of laziness to go find another image or a lack of technical know-how do some image-editing. :-)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

HKUST Entrepreneurship Club - Enrichment Talk by Roger King

Nice talk overall by Roger King (See bio here) organized by the MBA Entrepreneurship Club. Roger is an Adjunct Prof at HKUST-Kellogg eMBA who teaches Entrepreneurship and Family Businesses, has worked on several family businesses, headed companies such as SASA and Pacific Coffee and has had a pretty interesting career. I'd heard him speak the last time about Pacific Coffee and it wasn't very inspiring I must say. Partly because that wasn't his best (he will say luckiest phase) although he did end up making a good chunk of money on it.

Some takeaways:

  1. Look for a rich father-in-law who will fund your ventures and allow you to use his strong network. :-) I was all ears!!! ;-)
  2. Always keep an eye out for your exit strategy. His reasoning for why he chose to exit Pacific Coffee was that they had a few failed attempts at growth thanks to an overzealous person-in-charge, Starbucks had come in a few years back and was expanding quite fast and he just didn't see the kind of growth that he wanted. Around the time came a rich realty focused conglomerate looking to expand into F&B.
  3. His narration of how he negotiated a deal with SASA to pay for his services as CEO in share options (over a three year period) instead of funds was intriguing. Again Negotiation rule 101 - there's always a Win-Win option. Need to use this in my negotiation on the Zeopane patent transfer with HKUST TTC later this week.

Monday, April 13, 2009

How I lost 20 pounds in under a month?

One early wintry morning in Columbus, I woke up and slowly ambled across to wash my face. One look at the face in the mirror woke me out of my slumber. I was shocked to see how much I’d put on in the past few weeks and how I hadn’t noticed this all these days (the whole problem of seeing gradual changes each day). One look at that sphere in front of me made me decide that it was time for action. Long story short, in under a month I’d come down from about 202 lbs to 182 lbs. A previous post when I was going through this phase.


I always had very strong beliefs in the power of the human mind. Like Paulo Coelho says in “The Alchemist”, you want something with all your heart and the whole world conspires to ensure you get it. A few things I did to ensure that it happened: 

  1. Visualization – I put a photo of my lean self (from ages ago but it doesn’t matter) at a location where I could see it every day.
  2. Set a concrete goal (I will lose some weight by next month is just not good enough and I will try to lose some weight soon is probably the best)
  3. Believe you can do it (I of course had this belief since I’d recently gained about 8-10 lbs hibernating in the damned winter of Columbus. I knew the first few lbs would be a cake-walk and with all my efforts described below, I should surely get close to the target.)
  4. Diet + Exercise (It can never be just diet or just exercise)

a.       Diet: I stuck to healthy food (Subs and Veggie-Delight at that most of that month – had just read about that Subway Mascot guy losing so much of weight eating subs) or home cooked chappathis with sabzi (preferably cooked with no or min oil).

b.      Exercise: 5 days a week of 45 mins of aerobics on the cross-trainer first thing in the morning. I’d read that first thing in the morning helps you lose weight since most of the carbs from the night meal have been digested by then. Alternately, do it after 4-5 hours after a meal. Sports of some sort – Tennis/Volleyball at Bel-Air Court.

  1. Setup a Challenge – I told everyone in sight that I was going to set out to lose 20lbs. No one believed I could. One of my friends (Ravish) actually took up a bet that I couldn’t do it. It was fun to see how he was ever-willing to take me out for some fast-food treats all of that month and the look on his face when I declined.
  2. Get a few easy wins early on (The weight I had just gained was easiest to get off and this really helped motivate me for the rest of the month)
  3. Make it a fun exercise – The challenge and fun/games everyday really helped make this a fun experience. And of course, the encouragement and the discouragement (from Ravish) really helped.

Thanks a lot to my friends (Ravi, Ravish, Gops, Chandhu, Mahaniya and a host of others) who were there with words of encouragement and support (that's obviously a very important factor too). They helped ensure my strong faith in myself wasn’t baseless.

PS: A disclaimer I need to make is that losing so much weight in such a short time is not believed to be good. You know your body best. I am one who’s more easily prone to gaining / losing weight within a range of 160-200lbs. So it wasn’t that big a deal. :-)

Shoe-shy politicians

Looks like Jarnail Singh - the journalist from Dainik Jagran is the saviour of India. He's scared the s%%t out of all politicians all over India especially in the ruling party since it appears a shoe is all it takes to get you the boot from contesting the elections.

Get all your dirty old shoes ready and vent your anger now so that they get the message.

Change is definitely on its way

A note I received from a friend. Change is definitely on its way. I had goose bumps all over after reading this and of course other similar stories.

Even though I have been a vocal supporter of the BJP because of the TINA factor (there is no damn alternative), I am inclined to think that we need to make a strong statement by voting for such candidates even if it means not being able to get the person elected and potentially allowing another 5 years of UPA mis-rule (considering that most of these candidates are strong in the urban areas where BJP is believed to be strong). Because only by such action, can we encourage more such people to come forward and in a way give these mainstream parties a kick up their back-side for screwing us all these years.

Please pass this onto your friends and friends of friends so that anyone in the Hissar constituency of Haryana hears this story and votes. And of course, if you are lucky enough to be in India (which unfortunately I am not), please go out and vote!!!

Thanks to my friend Brej for sharing this story with me. Very well-written.


Manu Dig Vijay Singh, an IIM B alumni and till recently a senior dealer, selling currency derivatives in Standard Chartered, Delhi, has quit his banking job and taken on the mantle of cleaning up the facade that runs in the name of politics. He has filed his papers with the Election Commission, and is contesting the Lok Sabha elections this year as an individual candidate from the province of Hissar, Haryana, where he hails from.

The son of a simple newspaper correspondent and one of 2 siblings, Manu has no prior experience in politics, is not from a “connected family” and certainly does not have a silver spoon to help him on this arduous road that he has chosen. All he has are blessings and good wishes, and a hope that he, and more of his kind would be able to stop the existing politicians from hemorrhaging this country. Manu, is pretty much like anyone of us, urbane youths... middle class, educated, employed...married and father to three beautiful girls.

So then what induced this madness? I cannot think of a better word to describe such a drastic move, and that too, in this time of recession and job losses. Who in his right frame of mind, would leave a well paying job, in a niche business, with a large foreign bank, for a greater cause. And mind you this is some one who has a wife, 3 children and no real safety net to speak of.

Like most people, my inherent cowardice ensured that all I could do was render some financial support, and applaud, his efforts from afar. Manu has only a short window of time, India goes to polls in less than a month. Also his paucity of funding, lack of campaigning experience, and independent status( no backing of any large political party), make it highly improbable for Manu to win.

It was with these thoughts plaguing my mind that i boarded the aircraft to Delhi to go onward to Hissar to meet Manu, on his campaign trails. For the benefit of those, who like me, are slightly geographically challenged, Hissar a province in Haryana, is situated about 200kms to the northwest of Delhi, and is home to over 2.2 million Jats,Banias,Punjabis,Agarwals, and other communities.

Hissar Statistics

Population                   :           2.20 Million

Voting Population        :           1.25 Million

Area                             :           6000 sq kms

Covers                         :           2 major cities Hissar/Haansi, 10 towns and about 650 villages

Competition                 :           Jay Prakash ( Congress) is the reigning MP

Sampat Singh  ( NDA ) is the Ex Finance Minister of Haryana State

Bhajan Lal / Kuldeep Bhisnoi   ( Haryana Janhit Congress ) Father /Son  Ex Chief Minister of Haryana State 

7th April 09

A 2 hr flight to Delhi, and 4 hr road trip takes me to Hissar. The road trip is not the most pleasurable of experiences, given that like most Indian roads, it has no central divider, so 16 wheelers, cars, bikes and bullock carts all whiz past on both sides at hairs breadth, keeping you riveted to your seat. I counted 3 major accidents on my way, but then again, this is India, and life is cheap here. If you are unfortunate and meet with an accident on this stretch, it is not very comforting to know that this constituency has only one civil hospital, where I am told, not much has changed in the last 30 years. But then again, unlikely any of you reading this mail, will ever dare step into a government hospital in India. We are so used to not expecting help or only such substandard help from the government, that we do not really expect any hospitalization support and assume that one only goes to a private hospital. Sadly not many can afford that luxury. Between accidents, disease, malnutrition and lack of infrastructure so many die in this country, that it is just a number. As some one famous once said "One death is a tragedy, a million, just a statistic"

I pass ripe wheat fields on both sides, the crops seem ready for harvest, “ Baisakhi “ ( North Indian harvest festival) is around the corner. I m glad that given some amount of good work done here in the 70-80s on agriculture , the farmer of Hissar, is better of than his not so lucky, cousins in Maharashtra /Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, where farmer suicides are at record highs...and this is an agrarian country, for crying out loud.

These and a host of other issues, is what Manu, and I know frankly many other good contestants like him are taking up.

Its well past noon, by the time I reach Hissar City, and try and locate the address of Manus campaign office. Its dusty and dry, the temperature is well over 30C but better than Delhi/Mumbai, although the sunlight is exceptionally harsh. I finally come across a bold sign in red “ Election Office Hissar Lok sabha : Manu Digvijay Singh “   It’s a modest 20ft * 20ft, square room, that boasts of a table some scattered chairs and a solitary computer in one corner. Manu is flanked by his brother in law Ranbir, another colleague from Stanchart Manish, and a friend Anil. All my doubts, on seeing such a basic and bare office, are done away with, by the sheer enthusiasm in the room. Hope breeds here. An optimism, a belief, and a fire to bring about change.  After exchanging pleasantries and having the quintessential Indian “ chai “, I was brought up to speed, on local politics, issues, electoral statistics, competition, campaign plan and strategy.

Post my de-brief, braving the scorching afternoon sun, we venture out to our first stop a local public place. Flanked by Ranbir and I, Manu would walk up to the unsuspecting passerby and fold his hands, say namaste, and go about his pitch. All in all, Manus pitch was basic, a brief introduction during which most people would wonder what this was about, till he uttered the word “ independent candidate “ and “ Lok Sabha Eelctions “.  Most of the people we met, went through a pretty much standardized series of emotions, starting with suspicion, then raised eyebrows on realizing that they were indeed face to face with the candidate, disbelief when they realize he is standing as an “ Independent “, surprise at his age, and shock at his background but finally a smile, to know they finally had an honest candidate they could vote for.  Initially it seems hard for people to accept that he has left a well paying job in the city, to enter politics. Like most Indians, they only know politicians who come from uneducated, criminal back grounds, and with a main motive of amassing personal wealth. In a country where most politicians, especially in northern India, are infamous for their bloodied charge sheeted history, and their manifestos are nothing but progress reversing, Manu is an aberration.

By 4.00 pm we were back at the office, to our surprise, we are greeted by a group of young boys waiting to meet Manu. They had heard read about Manu and his campaign in the local papers. We spent the next hour interacting and chatting with this young group of students. It was heartening to see this level of awareness amongst the local children about politics. In the 14-16 year age bucket, they were clearly too young to be able to vote, but they were keen to know what ideas Manu had for Hissar, and pledged their unwavering support in any way possible.  Having seen most of the urbane youth rarely take any interest in politics, it was nice to see that these kids knew more about their local state of affairs than their city cousins.

Its 6.00 pm, and we are busy getting Manu ready for his rehearsal speech. He will be going live on local televisions over the weekend. Having studied in Hindi medium village schools till 9thgrade, its laudable how he self taught himself English, studied further and now converses in English with ease. But given where we are today, Hindi will have to be the medium of communication and Manu can be quite the orator in Hindi. It is the first time I hear Manu give a speech. His language, diction and choice of words are hard hitting, and so is the content. It is ironic, as usual, certain large established political parties are distributing television sets, to woo voters. I am only glad, because it’s probably these same television sets that will spread the message that Manu and the other Manus in this country are spreading, and will hopefully lead to the undoing of these unscrupulous politicians.

By 9.00 pm we are back at the office, a bit famished, but the day is still not over for an aspiring politician. We break for dinner at Manus house, and then proceed to meet some of the well connected elders of the city. They are quite encouraging of young Manu. There is much debate on his strategy. Some of them feel, he will be no match for the fire power of some of the more well established players, who are using every thing in the book to win. Cash is king. And I am sure no one is more acutely aware of this than Indians. It is indeed a country of contradictions. On one side it has more than a third of its population below the poverty line, and yet the same country has the highest amount in the world stashed away in Swiss Banks( rumored to be at $ 1.4 Trillion ), the closest country that comes in second has only about 0.5 trillion. Political will to bring the names to light, absolutely Nil, no points for guessing why.

In any case, thankfully there are those who feel that now, that there is a good independent candidate for people to choose from, a lot of votes will swing Manus way. All in all, apparently, given the dirty politics in place, the criminalization of candidates, lack of real concern for the ordinary citizen, and sheer dirty politics, Manu seemed like a breath of fresh air to the people of Hissar. That means the main problem that Manu faces is lack of visibility.

To address this, we are up early the next day. Its 6.00 am, thankfully there was some rain and hail in the night, and the temperature drops to a comfortable 18 C. The plan is to stalk out the famous parks and walking areas, where a lot of the more politically active people take their morning strolls. Ranbir and I take up strategic positions distributing pamphlets, while Manu does the talking. It is not easy. As an electoral candidate you have to learn to strike the right balance. Humility is required since nobody knows him, Manu has to walk up to complete strangers and make that connection. He has to be confident but not cocky, educated and urban yes, but not so urban to have lost touch with ones roots, humble because he knows he is dependant on them for their votes but not servile, because he can actually help make their lives better. Better in every sense, and not just financially. It is a good thing to spread financial and economic welfare, but not by fuelling communal hatred or splitting people on caste and religion.

All most all the people we met, were happy to see a good clean candidate, especially someone young and educated. We got invited to a couple of houses for tea. Amidst snacks, farsan, mithais and sugary teas, the discussions continued. One common topic that reverberated was the debate about aging politicians, and how it is time for youth to jump in to the fray. If nothing else, this countries demographics call for it. We cannot have a country with over 35 % of its population under 21years run by politicians who still harbor aspirations for office, and that too, when they are 20 years past even the legal retirement limit age of 55 years. Neither is politics any families inheritance that can be handed down over generations, it should go to the deserving candidate, and lineage cannot be the only reason to qualify. In fact as we left the last house, one elderly gentleman, just held Manu tight, with moist eyes welling over, he smiled and said, Yes there is still hope……

After a standard local break fast of cholesterol laden yet sumptuous parathas, we plod on, and finally arrive back at the base camp ( Office ) by 10.00 am. We have only half an hour to bathe and shower, apparently there is a press conference at 10.30 am. By 11.00 am the room is filled with press media and a couple of local TV stations. They are all curious to meet and hear more about this new candidate of Hissar. I am pleasantly surprised to see their solidarity and support towards Manu, who at this juncture is clearly a dark horse in this race. Given that most of the reporters know about his background by now, the questions are restricted to mainly them trying to get air Manus political views, ideas, and manifesto. The interviews last about 2 hours and Manu is unsparing of any party and critical of both ruling and opposition ditto. Manu did justice to most questions, especially what comes to mind, is when Manu was asked his views on the recent controversial  “ show throwing case “. Manu retorted that “ If by just flinging one shoe, justice was reinstated and 2 politicians had to step down, then may be we should consider flinging 275 shoes and cleansing the whole system “ caused titters even amongst the reporters.

The rest of the day was again a flurry of activity as we went from one place to the other, the basic agenda being meeting people and spreading the word. We covered colleges, public places, parks and any other place of public activity. We did come across some touts, who said that for a price, a certain number of votes could be easily bought. I was shocked to know, apparently the going rate in Hissar is Rs 500 ( about US 10) per vote. That’s all what it takes to buy the right to cheat plagiarize and exploit this country and its people for another 5 years The tout was thanked and shown the door. The end could justify the means and all that crap, but fact is, Manu and his fellow mates, have the firm belief that if given a choice of a clean, righteous, do good, candidate, most people will do the right thing. The fact that US 10 means a months ration for the larger part of this country, means that a lot of people will probably still take the money, but thank god for “ Secret Ballot “, they might still actually vote differently and make the right choice.

Its late in the afternoon now, and I hasten to leave. I still have to cover that long road trip, and have a night flight to catch. I am certainly not brave enough to venture on these highways, once the sun sets. After long goodbyes and best of lucks to Manu and the team, I head back. I know that by this week he would be done with the city campaign and would probably start to target the villages. I am sure his campaign will be a success there too. I like to believe that even in rural uneducated parts, people have realized the power of their vote and want to make a difference to their lives.

As I sit in the comfort of my home, sharing my thoughts with some of you, I know that Manu, and like him there are others, who are out there trying to make a difference. I helped in whatever little way I could. Frankly I don’t know if Manu or so many of the other new deserving independent candidates will win. Given the odds stacked against them, its long shot, by far. But having experienced this political campaign for 2 days with Manu, and seeing what I have seen and experienced I am convinced that CHANGE has started. It is only a matter of time now, before this change permeates through the entire system. I don’t mean to sound ideological and impractical, I am every inch, the cynical, capitalistic, luxury chasing, bonus loving banker, but if even, I can feel this, then I guess change is not far away.

Voting is not only your right, but also your responsibility. Hopefully fewer people will not just use the public holiday to plan a family getaway, but will exercise their precious vote judiciously.

In then interim, if you feel you wish to contribute in any way whatsoever, you can contact Manu and his team on the numbers listed below. 

Email Contacts for Manu and team

ekbharat@gmail.com  ;   manudigvijay@yahoo.co.in

Mobile Contacts for Manu and team

9416146529 / 9910436336 / 9996648415

Their Website



Sunday, April 12, 2009

Once a geek ...

I always thought "Once a geek, always ...". But after spending several hours trying to get my company's (Zeopane's) website cleaned up, I came to the conclusion that I am no more the geek that I once was. I decided I don't have the patience to learn new technologies, experiment with new tools and learn web-programming. It didn't help that in my 6 year long stint in IT, I had rarely done any sort of web-programming. The most I had done was some HTML coding ages ago and of course tons of reviews and modifications (that's what Project Managers do in a large IT services company in India) of codes in Java, JSP, ASP, Javascript and a few other technologies. But as I found out yesterday, reviewing codes never sets you up for doing anything from scratch. So decided to clean up the content and leave the design as it is.

Of course, I am not one to give up on challenges that easily. This was just the short term solution to get an item checked off my task-list. Then I used Adobe Dreamweaver template to create a simple web-structure and started playing around with it. Downloaded some reading material of the latest trends in web development and started reading it. Before I knew it, it was 4am in the morning and I was going great guns on my third cup of "Chai".