Sunday, September 23, 2012

Save the Planet

“OOOh! Was that some gig,
Despite that capitalist pig
Now, it time to relax
Cushion on our backs
Lets head to that rig

Nice thing about five star
There’s always a stocked bar
On conference days,  the bill
Paid by the company till
Per diem on top, since I’m afar

Hi!  Glenmorangie double shot
No, you don’t pay, its time I bought,
Some vodka for you, Raj,
Absolut maybe, and large,
To celebrate the battle we fought?”

He takes off his jacket
Pulls his tablet from its packet
“Some snaps for you
Since we have time to view
Without all the day’s racket”

That’s my humble office
Where every day I surface
Outside it’s the North Pole
Inside its climate control
A very clever purchase”

“Sven, that’s the size of my house!
For the kid, me and the spouse
We do have fans, but
Only if the power ain’t cut
Otherwise, no other grouse.”

“So, Raj, you’re NGO
Its got a great logo
It’ll be a powerful brand
When people understand
That you aren’t just a hobo “

“Sven, we’re working on the science
Of complete compliance
Local resources for local needs
Ensure everyone reads
So its complete self reliance

The big glitch is power
That goes off by the hour
But we have a gen set
That  has a cable outlet
That also runs the wireless tower”

“What, you’re burning all the gas?
And polluting en masse
Why can’t the power be green?
When you try to change the scene
On the village canvas”

“This is place is drought prone
Almost nothing is grown
So no crops of size, or cattle
To help fight the battle
Of people starvation prone.

Why don’t visit us there?
Direct bus from the city square
It’ll take half a day
200 bucks one way
Of our work, you can be aware”

“Here, let me check my list
If there’s time for a tryst.
Waiter, could I  have refill ?
Ice up to the sill
Its hot, turn up the A/C to mist!

I could come next May
I’m generally away
A conference in Qatar
Then hub through to Dakar
Then a retreat in Monterrey

Vacation time in Cancun
It never seems to come too soon
The frequent flier miles
Translate into family smiles
They’re over the moon!”

May it is, Raj, that’s great
We should leave, its late
Can I give you a drop?
To the nearest train stop
Yeah, that Merc, with the diplomatic plate

Raj, its so damn tiring
To think that pig is conspiring
To sell the earth away
So he gets more pay
And can think of retiring

Here we are,  trying our best
Bravely registering our protest
To say, the earth has its limits
Doomsday is in just minutes
Don’t rape the earth, invest.

Conserve the resources
Dump the car, take the horses
Don’t live your life by bourses
Any other view, just can it
What’s important :  Save The Planet

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Jack's Tale

{Aspiring Rap track}

That’s Jack out there,
Winning the prize
And it ain’t a surprise
He’s not just one of the guys
Its time that you were made aware….
…of him

Jack’s now on the plate
The crowning moment
That makes him a great
Look at that shy smile
Wonder where’s it been all this while?

He says “Time for a speech
Something from the heart
That won’t sound like a preach
As always, a little apart
Where your soul can reach

You’ve heard this all before
Sounds like folklore
That money is nothing
That can make you something
Am I sounding like a bore?

You can play the fool
When you’re in school
But be ready for the test
To prove you’re the best
Its called the learning tool

“hey, Jack, I remember what you did
Way back in school
When I was the mule
Who’s work you stole
To make the honors roll”

Then work for the learning
Not for the earning
You got to be a team man
And fit into the plan
Suppress your own yearning

Its Pete now (different voice)

“hey, Jack, remember the talk we had
When we were doing so bad
At the bar over a whisky
An idea that wasn’t too risky
That would turn the bad to glad

When I turned up the next day late
In front of the whole board
Who stood up to applaud
And told you it was great
you thanked privately mate

……..Jack the team man!

Remember the kids and wife
And a home that’s warm
Helps you weather the storm
And life’s N-bomb
Helps build the good life

Jill (another voice)

“Hey, Jack, remember pretty Jane
The one who drove you insane
The one who kept you  from home
While I was alone
While my heart was crushed with pain”

Then jump into the gale
Bring in the new for the stale
Let your team know
That its for all to grow
Its not just about powerpoint and email

Investment Banker Jim:

“Hey, jack you always paid the bill
Never understood that until
I chanced upon the monument
That was your expense statement
That told me it wasn’t your till”

Your buddies you have to trust
As even you will rust
Nothing you can do
When age declares a curfew
And the faculties go bust

Treat your owners
Like they aren’t rich loaners
But your best friend
Working to a common end
Without any groaners

If you wanna play Mr Nice
You’ll pay the price
Of a mangled decision
That lacks the precision
Of a guru’s advice

Don’t let the quest for pelf
Leave truth on the shelf
‘Cos it always comes back to bite
Its almost like a rite
So just protect yourself

The G man says:
“Hey Jack, liked the trip to Hawaii
When I let the laws go by
We kept it under a lid
To help you win the bid
And the shares went from “sell to buy”

So let me conclude
I hope I haven’t been crude
About the things I’ve shared
And the soul I’ve bared
But I’m not a prude

The key to success
Just follow that process
And you will appreciate
That its never too late
To be the next great”

“Bullshit sold
I’m never too old
Just like the old Jack
Give it a whack
Cover my back
And run with my stack”

……Jack’s tale…….

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Good Guys wear Brown

(an Ode to the FDI in retail related strike)

A crisp new morning, it’s a Thursday;
It’s 7, an empty road,
Except some garbage in the way
Like a big sign board
Yeah! It’s strike today!

The old man’s waiting for the printed sheet,
That lady’s looking for the milk ferry,
The school boy’s put up his feet,
And watching soccer on the telly,
He knows today the school can’t turn on the heat

The mob crosses with the banners and flags,
“Keep the pigs out, they’re here to pillage”
The chauffer and buddies light their fags,
Wonder why the bosses are in a rage
This early, and in unusual rags

The young man watches the crowd,
In his hut by the pavement
No wages today, its all that loud,
Nothing he can do to prevent
This work day being in a shroud

The little girl asks her mom, “Why”?
“It’s war between saffron and white
They can’t let a thing lie
And have to show their might”
“So, mom, life stands still while they vie?”

“There’s some bad men coming here,
Who’ll steal our very souls,
Stoke up all the fear
And leave us with begging bowls;
They’ll start by telling us what we want to hear

They’ll sell us things we want to buy,
At what they call a low price,
Force us to keep up with the next guy
Tell us its all nice
Leave us feeling all high”

“But isn’t that how Dad’s boss runs things?
Sells stuff that people want
And collect the money that it brings?
He goes on a holiday  jaunt?
While  Dad answers to the customer rings?”

“Remember the time, Mom, the food was bad?
And two hundred fell ill
‘cos they’d been had
Even we ended up taking a  pill
And we got all really mad.

So what are these bad men gonna do?
It can’t be worse than that.
Come on, isn’t that true?
So why put them on the mat?
Unless there’s another reason for this crew.”

She points at the crowd with her forefinger
And looks to her mom for a reply
Mom doesn’t want this moment to linger
Even if it means telling a lie
“This crowd is just a harbinger…

Of the great glory of our land
Of managing our own life
Without an alien hand
Even if means a lot of strife
What’s playing will be our band.

So even if we have to take the bus
While the boss is such a jerk
Why make such a fuss?
He’s the one who gives dad work
And then, he’s one of us!

Remember, little one, its about pride
To live poor but with our very own
Even if they take us for a ride
We know that they’re home grown
And they’re always on our side.

You see, dear, the good guys wear brown
They’re always from our part of town
Even if they’re giving us a hard time, honey,
Can we forsake them for just money?

Don’t let them here, to Dad I say,
Even if means a job with more pay
We can’t let the bad men take over our land
Rather die here, by our very own hand.

“Mom, how do you know they’re bad?
When you don’t know them at all?
Or are you just glad?
To see them try, and see them fall?
If that’s the only reason, its sad.

I just don’t want to be poor,
Of that I’m sure
More money, cheaper stuff,
Of law that can call the bluff
The aliens I can then endure.”

The evening mob adjourns to the bar
Turns to the leader, he’s the star,
The party carries on late into the night
The drivers all out of sight
They never get overtime, and not tonight.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

An Eye on the Tiger

Yesterday, I read a piece on Facebook on tiger conservation. One of the links had an interesting line, as part of the Save the Tiger initiative. “Humans encroaching on tiger habitat”.  Wow! There’s some MasterPlan to life, that I haven’t seen, that clearly demarcates territorial rights to different species, and human beings seem to be the perpetual runner-up in a choice between any other species and them (I’d have said Andy Murray-like, but he killed that quip recently – I’m happy for him).

Its really nice being out in the jungle, mountains, beaches,  and the Hard Rock Café when there’s a live band.  There’s something beautiful about nature (I include music in this list) that’s calming and breath-taking simultaneously. But this one’s about the jungle and the rock star of the jungle – the tiger.  In our context,  very Indian, this beautiful and unique, cat.  I wanted to quote William Blake’s tiger poem, except William Blake is the inspiration for the psycho in “Red Dragon”.  For those who missed out, that was the first Hannibal Lecter book by Thomas Harris – Bill Graham seeks Hannibal’s help in tracking down the Red Dragon.

I love tigers in the jungle. My natural instinct in a zoo has always been to gravitate first to the tiger pen, even though it’s a bit like watching Samson in chains with a hair cut.  But watching them loose in the jungle it the real deal.

Above are two photographs taken on my last visit to Ranthambhore (2008).  I’d gone on work to meet the Chief Warden to discuss some stuff and as we leaving at dusk, this tigress walks across the car park (the picture on top) about 5 yards in front of us. We followed her in the Warden’s jeep. At some point she turned and ran towards us. We backed the jeep up….she was running to be with her cubs who were somewhere behind us. She was about 4 yards across the road when I took the picture beneath. Both were taken on the phone camera. I didn't have much time to react, so they aren’t great photos.

The million dollar poser is – how come after all the millions of dollars, equipment, public pressure and dedicated conservationists, the tiger is still a much threatened species vis-à-vis extinction?
Let’s safely assume that :

  1. the Chinese (and many other Asians, so I’m now politically correct) aren’t going to stop believing in the mythical properties of the tiger’s anatomy. The Chinese are creating a run on the elephants as well (recent article on organized crime tusker deaths in Africa). Maybe its time to campaign there about the mystique of rabbits instead, to save the tiger and the elephant. “Millennium of the Rabbit”.  (There’s another school of thought on commercially farming tigers, elephants for such needs – like we do with cows and chicken – but I won’t dwell on that here). 
  2. Human beings are naturally greedy – it’s their animal instinct.

Here’s how things work in the save the tiger campaign – simple version:
  • .           A National Park is declared
  • .       No industry is allowed to be established within a 100 km (it could be more) of a zone like this. Passive smoking from industrial pollutants ain’t good for animals – never mind if the trees thrive on carbon dioxide through the day.
  • .       Human encroachments in the zone are evicted (there’s some new law that’s slowed this process down a bit, but the net result is the same – Resettlement - except the likes of Ms Patkar won’t be fasting in protest for these guys.)  There are some settlements around the main sanctuary. In Ranthambhore, this effectively means just across the road from the boundary.
  • 4.        Forest guards then patrol the jungle to ensure the safety of animals

What happens next?

Protection zones created by law
  •           interfere with the ability of the residents in these villages to graze cattle and collect firewood;
  •    There is a no industry zone within the radius around the park, so alternative jobs aren’t available in the vicinity, the young people migrate to Jaipur at the first opportunity and then live in slum there. So their direct economic life is affected - screwed on what used to be normal life  + fewer jobs in the neighbourhood.  Why? Because of the tiger.
  •    Plans afoot to relocate these communities from the Park and its immediate vicinity. You see there’s pressure now for resources in the jungle, so the humans have to find their food elsewhere.

Result: Economic deprivation for the already marginally earning,  no jobs in the neighbourhood (no industry allowed) – go elsewhere is the push.
  1.       All revenues from the Parks go the Consolidated Fund of India or some central govt kitty.
  2. Private sector hotels/tourism employ skilled workers from elsewhere. Ranthambhore is a classic case in point.  The forty plus larger hotels in the vicinity largely employ skilled people from elsewhere. The drivers of the authorized park jeeps that take you around are also from elsewhere. It takes about two months to learn how to drive a car, and clearly local villagers can’t make the transition from bullock-cart to car….er, that seems to the visible outcome.

Result: The now "criminal" population (they’re illegal human encroachers on tiger habitat)  gains jacksh## from the tiger reserve plus has their daily life disrupted. (step out a little distance from Ranthambhore and there isn't much to graze at, so the forest it is).

Enter Sansar Chand (he’s the brigand that got caught) and buddies. He says, " Mate, game bajana hai, uska. Rokhda milega". (Need to hunt, will give you money). Deal struck.  The locals, who’ve lived in the jungle, probably know the tiger’s daily routine best (why aren’t they the forest officers?).

Exit tiger, locals make some money at last. Locals understand the forest better than anyone else so they're damn good at what they do. Tiger poaching earns them something while Mr Touchy Feely "save the tiger" rules, propagated by a large chunk of conservationists and enacted by govt, screws them. If the tiger vanishes, they may hope, at least their life could go back to normal. Plus they made some money in the process.

Net result: The Tiger Vanishes! Headlines! More Forest Patrol needed! Rehabilitation of forest people sucks, blah blah blah, some more international conferences (they will be held in Singapore and London, not at Kanha National Park),  pledges of millions of dollars of funding for meaningful things like satellite tracking, electronic collars, better guns and training for forest guards etc.  If I were poaching a tiger with an electronic collar, I’d just remove the collar and put in on another animal, so the blokes on the backroom (some BPO outfit in Bengaluru or Gurgaon) still thinks its on the prowl.

So what’s the alternative?
The King Kong (I'm using a pop phrase here, no disrespect intended) Gorillas in Uganda actually grew in population when....surprise, surprise...a direct toll fee per visitor went directly to in-forest communities. Suddenly, making sure King Kong Lives helped find resources for these guys to better their lives. Costa Rica, South Africa - I gather have similar win-win policies that are directly helping.

Ranthambhore gets about 125,000 visitors per season, that’s the park capacity. They’re all wildlife enthusiasts who’ll wake up every morning on a winter’s day at 5 am to make sure they get to the park at dawn and spend the whole day in the Park barring the lunch break…that’s for the blokes who run the Park, not the tigers. So there are typically a few daylight hours not available for viewing due to working hours constraints…..anyone hear of a shift change?  A typical three day visit (that’s normal) would set back an average visitor at least about Rs 5000 per day.  A small royalty to communities won’t dent the budget of this crowd.  It could means hell of a lot to the communities in and around the park.

In case you’re not convinced yet, let me pose this situation to you.

I wanna reclaim precious species that grow where your house is in - Malabar Hill,  Defence Colony, Manhattan, Mayfair Gardens, Monte Carlo (tick appropriate box). All visitor fees are mine.'s some money, please relocate to Johnston Atoll and learn fishing.  Johnston Atoll may have welcoming hosts like Marine La Pen, Geert Wilders or Raj Thackeray.

What's your reaction in such a context? “If the species is extinct, my life is safe” or “hey, I helped preserve beauty on this planet”?

My case rests. 

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

A Question of Attitude

The past few days some interesting things crossed paths with my reading:

Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” clocked its 50 years.  Its widely regarded as a landmark moment in sparking off what’s become the environmental movement.  She’s spent years tracking the stuff prior to actually writing the book influencing the likes of President Kennedy along the way. Interestingly, Ms Carson didn’t advocate banning pesticides and chemicals, but recognizing that they can be inimical to life and thus seeking moderation.  That isn’t the way its playing out. In the right hand corner wearing Black bottom line shorts are the rampaging corporates screaming murder at any environmental laws and in the left corner wearing  Green shorts are  the gurus of “preserve life” who’ve found environmental objections to demarcation of bike lanes in San Francisco (no kidding, this happened within the last year).

Today also happens to the anniversary (40th) of the Munich Olympics killings of Israeli athletes by terrorists,  a Palestinian group called Black September.  The knee jerk reaction of the then US administration was to brand Palestinians terrorists and the deep end of the war that still is on between Israel and Palestine continues.  This is exactly what the terrorist faction wanted, a point of no-return that justifies the violence.  The ability to sit down at the table to seek resolution has taken decades to happen.

A separate article in The Wall Street Journal cited the problems between a couple, married several years, who were Democrat and Republican in political allegiance. The husband, heading on tour, handed over his ballot to his wife to mail in for the Presidential election.  She knew his political leanings and threw the mail away rather than poll it.  The matter came to light several years later and remained a sore point on the matter of trust. They’re still married several decades later, but something went out of the window permanently. Another couple with a similar context used the difference to acknowledge the other's presence - she put up her George Bush poster and he'd keep turning it to the wall - just a way a saying "hi, I'm around"! 

Aren’t bacteria bad for us? No. Within our bodies lie about 1 trillion bacteria peacefully co-existing most of the time and actually helping our bodies, the most beautiful machine every designed, work.  As long as things are in harmony, no problems about the 1 trillion.  Howard Hughes, the billionaire, died in a specially designed cabin designed to prevent bacteria / disease that he was paranoid about. I doubt he realized how much was inside him anyway. The world’s richest man dying like a nutcase, I still remember the Time Cover picture (artist’s impression) of him.

Carbon Monoxide is lethal. Well, not quite. Scientists have discovered its therapeutic properties in healing the body including pulmonary arteries if delivered in the right doses.  Smoking unfortunately ain’t the right dosage (weep, weep!). Companies are working on products that can deliver the right dosage customized for medical purposes.  

So what’s the big point here?

The fact is that nature and life is about harmony – different things co-existing in balance, even natural enemies. Nothing in nature is just about one dimension only. Chocolate can be brain food in one context and fattening in another.  

Unfortunately,  there will always be high priests who’ll take matters to an extreme view point, as that then becomes the locus of power. Without the conflict, such people have no importance in life, as they perceive it and live it. A King Rat (James Clavell) kind of phenomenon.

Seeking ways of finding the balance between extreme viewpoints  works better  than looking  for the killer blow to win your point of view. The creeps profit from the desire for the killer blow. And you aren’t any happier for it. The bacterial example illustrates how its possible for everyone to rock and roll while being potential enemies.  

It’s a question of attitude.  

Now don’t ask me how Test cricket is going to survive when matches start on Monday. Unless they start playing it in France, where they seem to shortening work weeks to the extent working days are the weekends and the rest of the time is off!  And Karan Johar movies……grrrrrrr!