Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rail budget blah

February 26, 2008

H/l: State in the thick of things in rail budget
Intro: Maharashtra about to become centre of a well-defined railway axis

Mumbai: When Lalu Prasad gives, Maharashtra state rejoices. The Railway Budget 2007-2008 was unveiled yesterday to a storm of shouting from the Opposition benches for what they termed was a “parochial” budget, but Maharashtra has many reasons to be happy.

Lalu Prasad yesterday announced a slew of measures to upgrade existing and create new rail infrastructure in the state during his fifth budget speech on the floor of the House. A study of these measures indicates that not only is Maharashtra about to get better connected both within and without, but more power centers are going to emerge within the state apart from Mumbai and Pune.

The state will thus get the whole gamut of goods from automatic signaling on certain routes to new train services, from new initiatives to augment freight earnings to new regions being surveyed for possible railway station sites.

Pune and Mumbai are the major beneficiaries of such initiatives that will help develop both cities into world-class metros. Hence, while Pune shoots into prominence with the Delhi-Pune services during the October Youth Commonwealth Games in October this year, Mumbai’s CST railway station will be upgraded to world-class standards, and will get 300 new services up to next year.

Significantly, the state is about to get higher connectivity in most part with the Hindi hinterland and also with some parts of the south, thus creating a clear North-South-West axis with Maharashtra at the centre. A glaring illustration of this is that the Konkan railway is to serve as a conduit for an upcoming Goa-Patna rail route.

Another indicator is the clearing of the Delhi-JNPT (Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust) western freight corridor in the budget, construction of which will commence later this year. The Mumbai and Pune cargo terminals are also to be upgraded.

In all, there are to be at least 15 new routes being started from the state to other parts of the country, and two intra-state services.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Shoot me

...because I felt like listing the most howlarious music videos and film songs I have had the good fortune to come across.

1) Rhythm divine (Enrique Iglesias)
Boy, was this one corny or what. After the boy (who is over 30 years old) and girl emerge out of what appears a seedy hotel room, she runs her fingers along the wall as she walks and daubs it with what looks like the white of an egg in a runny avatar. But the ending really cracked me up - after following the silly girl all over town and right into a carnival, Mr Kournikova hangs around and lets himself be tossed in the air by party revellers. While he's airborne, Ms Egg White walks into the sea and continues walking till it is too late to stop walking.

2) Samundar mein nahake...tum bahut namkeen ho gayi ho ho ho.
At the end of this line, there is too much Ho ho ho for a man who is neither Santa Claus nor can ever harbour hopes of being that cute. I have never seen Amitji looking so wet and shapelessly fat while romancing any woman on-screen (maybe off-screen but my head was turned at the time). Zeenie baby was also not worth a second's screen time because she too was wet, with what they assure me was seawater, but mercifully she was in shape. You have got to see the choreography or whatever the hell it was, to believe it.
p.s.: The sea looks nice in the song. Wins my vote for Character artiste of the year.

3) Mast (from Mast)
After all the flak she receives the moment she makes one wrong career move, let's face it...Urmila's bum is FAT. Don't believe me? Check out the silver bodysuit the woman sported at the fag end of the song (and I swear it was stitched on her or how did she get into it?) and which was probably taken off with a candle and daggers later. There is a lot of effort involved in the song - Aftab tries to dance, Urmi tries to look sexy, Aftab tries to look mesmerised, Sandeep Chowta tries to sing, we try to wait patiently till the song ends.

4) Namak isq ka (Omkara)
If Bipasha thinks she can dance sexily, I think she's an ass. Looking more like a Mumbai bargirl than UP nautch girl, Bipasha at best moved from spot to spot with a fixed smile on her face. Beedi was worse, but Saif and Viveik kinda salvaged a lost cause (read Bipasha Basu). But for all the salt on her lips (she's headed straight for high BP) she still gets to kiss Christiano Ronaldo. Maybe he also likes salt?

5) Koi mil gaya (Kuch kuch hota hai)
Rani Mukherji made us all happy by dying early on in the movie. But she did get our goat by showing up for a shoot of this song in her petticoat. Actually, this song was filmed like this: director Karan Shahrukh Khan Johar sent invites to the entire crew for a Come-as-you-are-when-invited party. Which was why Shahrukh showed up with unbrushed hair, Kajol showed up in the clothes she was wearing when she was washing her car, and most of the girls showed up in a state of undress. Then when they showed up, Karan played cheesy music (a tradition he has continued into his movies) and while they were all dancing, he filmed them secretly.

6) Mere dil ka tumse hai kehna (some god-awful film)
Preity Zinta was in this song. And when I say she was in it, I also say she was in a frightful black wig. And a bathtub at the start of the song. And in a small housecoat thingy later. And all over Anil Kapoor for some reason that I now forget. Check out when Preity executes a tricky two-step after planting her butt firmly on the door frame. Other wonderful Preity Zinta dance numbers: Where's the party tonight?, Jaaneman Jaaneja and Jiya Jale Jaan Jale. 10 years in the business, and Ms Zinta puts on more flat feet as the years pass by.

7) Yeh mera dil (Don)
If only somebody had held up a mirror when Kareena was jiggling during the filming of this song, maybe the woman would have opted out of it. Okay, it's too tedious to lug a mirror around a bad dancer, but at least somebody should have pointed and laughed while shooting was still on, instead of leaving us mere spectators to do that after the damage was done . This dance proves, if you're fat enough, that it is possible for your body to keep moving after you have stopped.

8) Crazy kiya re (Dhoom II)
Doom. DOOM. If you let left-out-in-the-sun-too-long Aishwarya Rai dance with her legs at 90 degrees to each other, the result is an effort that leaves you so cold, you need a sweater. What lyrics, too. "Main yahan bhi gayi, main wahan bhi gayi...socha pal pal usey, main jahan bhi gayi." You mean to tell me she went here and there with her legs still like that? :O

9) Tumhi Se (Chup Chup Ke)
One of Shahid Kapur's more violent numbers. He was fitted with two large Duracell batteries before filming began.

10) Tu jo maange dil (Aflatoon)
Urmila changed her saris for every sentence in this song. There were more American georgettes on display in this song than an ad for Narayani sarees would display. Akshay Kumar got no change of outfit for the song while Urmila got to play several rainbows at once. No fair.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

That thing you do

Every single day, for the last three months or more, my Gmail Spam folder has been inundated with some really alluring emails about how, with a minimal investment of a few dollars, I can get a bigger 'thing'. Does not matter if I don't have a 'thing' in the male sense of the word. Does not matter if I don't want anybody with a big 'thing'.

What does matter to me is this: why are big 'things' suddenly so much in fashion? And more to the point, why are these 'things' couched behind such wonderfully suggestive words and phrases?

The last email I got was from somebody called Stephanie Lellalin (yeah, girls with such names are also marketing The Next Big Thing) who wanted me to consider how, with the use of some tablets for a week, I, or rather a person with a 'thing', would become a stallion in bed. I was a bit concerned about this: what if you go to bed, all disgruntled with your man over some'thing', you wake up to a soft neighing in your ears. Okay, so stallions are good-looking, but there's not enough room on my bed for a horse.

Then another email promised that using some lotion resulted in the user being the cynosure of all other guys' eyes in locker rooms. Which disturbed me even more. I didn't know guys openly gape at others' 'things' and after that, actually get jealous (Guys, huh?). A third email proclaimed, 'Women will LOVE your new love machine!'. Probably, but next time, solicit my opinion before presuming anything.

Other emails use such imagery as 'Your nights will never be the same again!' (I really don't see why not), or 'For $7.50, get bigger by three inches!' (THREE inches? What is this 'thing', an illusion?) or even the unoriginal, 'Get bigger, get better NOW!'. Seems to me guys all over the world have suddenly decided to go for it, if you get my drift, with a gusto that should leave nothing to the imagination. Or they're probably wanting to compete with such other 'things' as silicone implants and Brazilian waxes. Or maybe they're all auditioning for the lead role in 'Big Ben'.

Excuse me, somebody just emailed me another thingummy.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Lo, kar lo baat

February 10, 2008

H/l: Sena, not Raj, started the fire
Intro: Party workers attacked professor in Mumbai in January for reading a poem referring to Shivaji
Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: What a to-do over something the Shiv Sena began with and the MNS picked up on just a day later!

When Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray stirred up a hornet's nest with his anti-North Indian statements this month, he became the focus of a national protest against his line of thinking, with even the erstwhile anti-'paraprantiya' Shiv Sena attacking Raj for his divisive line of thinking.

But now it turns out that the Sena, for all its new liberalist leanings, had actually resorted to its usual strong-arm methods just one day before Raj began his tirade on February 1, 2008. On January 31, workers associated with the Sena's Bharatiya Kamgar Sena (BKS) had beaten up professor Sanjay M G from VJTI, Mumbai, for reading a published poem with reference to Shivaji Maharaj.

About five BKS men beat up the professor, a senior academician and social activist with Medha Patkar's National Alliance for People's Movements (NAPM), while others shouted slogans against 'outsiders' commenting on Shivaji.

Speaking to The Herald, NAPM activist Simpreet Singh said, "Prof Sanjay was reciting a satirical poem during the college function, and the poem had an oblique reference to Shivaji. Some of the peons and other class IV staff affiliated with the BKS then attacked him."

After the attack, the assembled crowd was reportedly warned of "dire consequences" if they lived in Maharashtra and disrespected Shivaji and Marathi people. "Professor Sanjay has lived in Mumbai all his life and can hardly be termed as outsider. He has been working here as an educationist for the last 30 years," said NAPM activist Mukta Srivastava.

"We have written to the college authorities and got a petition signed by 23 artists and activists, who have all called for the state government to look into the matter," she added.

The very next day, Raj made the first of his comments against 'outsiders' in Mumbai who celebrated North Indian festivals, during the Konkan festival organised by the MNS in Mumbai. With the storm that his statements evoked, the BKS attack was quickly buried and two weeks later, the Sena took the moral high ground by terming Raj's actions as "foolish".

In an editorial published by Sena mouthpiece Saamna on February 8, Sena chief Bal Thackeray said, "When we demand that Marathi speaking people should be given priority in the metropolis, we do not consider caste, region and religion. Shiv Sena's simple theory about Marathi speaking person is a person who is true to Marathi soil, culture and tradition. But, how can you call people who have not gelled into the Marathi society even after living here as Maharashtrians?"

How indeed?

Sunday, February 10, 2008


February 8, 2008

h/l: Maharashtra issue is local affair, says Pranab

From: Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: With the arrest of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray looming large on the horizon, the political situation in the state and particularly Mumbai city is heating up by the moment. But Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee thinks that the continuing fracas in the state is a 'local affair'.

When questioned yesterday by media persons in Mumbai, where Mukherjee was present at the Bajaj Bhavan to inaugurate the paintings of artist Subrata Ghosh, the minister completely dismissed the seething turmoil in Maharashtra as a minor skirmish. "It is a local affair and the local people are handling it. I don't even want to comment on it," he said.

This comment comes at a time when state CM Vilasrao Deshmukh flew to Delhi on Thursday to brief UPA chairperson and Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi on the developments in Mumbai in connection with the anti-North Indian statements and the ensuing controversy that Thackeray started off in the country. Yesterday, the plea to deregister the MNS also entered the portals of the Bombay HC, a day after a similar petition was filed in the Supreme Court.

The state government has also sought legal advice on arresting Thackeray; meanwhile railway minister Lalu Prasad has also brought the matter into the national spotlight by raising the issue with the PM. There have been nationwide protests against Thackeray and MNS ever since this controversy began last week.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Technology comes right back to bite your ass.

February 5, 2008

H/l: State numero uno in cyber crime

From: Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: Call it an evil of advancement in the state’s Information Technology (IT) expertise, or simply a new outlet to commit a crime in newer ways, but the fact remains that the state tops the country’s list in cyber crimes.

As per the recently-released figures for cyber crime for year 2006 by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Maharashtra has the highest numbers of cyber crimes registered in the country over the period 2005-2006. In this one year, 61 registered cases in the state led to a staggering 300 per cent variation from previous years.

What’s more, the state’s cyber pranksters are from all ages, and outnumber those in the country by a big margin of 66:80. Of the 66, the maximum miscreants are from the 18-30 age group (55 offenders) followed by 14 offenders from the 30-45 age group.

Of all the various cyber crimes listed under the IT Act, the state’s offenders seem to have found more favour with publishing or transmitting obscene matter in electronic form (19 offences of the country’s 67 total) and causing loss or damage to computer resource or utility (11 offences).

The NCRB has also listed the motives behind the cyber crimes committed. Maharashtra has registered higher numbers under Greed (16 cases), Fraud (9), Eveteasing/ harassment (6), and Revenge and Causing disrepute (3 each) than other states.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

This is where I take a bow

That's right, me hearties! This is yours truly's first editorial for this paper.

Mumbai Meri Jaan!
Civic budget ensures it stays top migration destination

While Raj Thackeray continues to slug it out over the issue of migrants arriving in Mumbai and grabbing the resources that he says ideally belong to the native Marathi manoos, the latest BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation budget should give him a fresh reason to worry, at least on paper.

The futuristic civic budget for 2008-09 should please citizens and migrants alike. There are a slew of firsts in all spheres -- health, education, social, environment, recreation, disaster management, citizen services, roads and transport -- to be covered by a huge Rs 16,792.77-crore outlay for the financial year. With a better quality of life being made available without increased taxes and duties, Mumbai is bound to attract many more migrants than the average 300 families recorded daily so far.

Mumbaikars will soon be proud owners of citizens’ smart cards aimed at improving the BMC’s efficiency in grievance redressal. Besides, Mumbai will soon be exempt from octroi duty on textiles. Being an economically and socially backward migrant in Maximum City will actually make more fiscal sense now on. A poor ‘outsider’ can now set up home in Mumbai, and the BMC will give him free medication, pay him to send his daughter to a civic school, provide free food, textbooks, uniforms and bus pass to his children, apart from public toilets in slum pockets and possibly more water connections. The BMC also plans up to 80 per cent garbage pickup from all over the city.

As for the average Mumbaikar, there will be more gardens, recreation spaces, upgraded hospitals, better drainage and storm water disposal, underground car parks and concrete roads.

The budget’s ‘come-one-come-all’ approach is, thus, directly in keeping with the state’s plans to upgrade the existing city infrastructure enough to catapult it directly to the League of Extraordinary Cities. What is not yet clear is how much funding will have to be set aside to tackle the imminent resource crunch that will set in to accommodate the new arrivals.

Friday, February 1, 2008

If you want more networking, that is...

If this could get a technologically-challenged person as yours truly more than mildly interested, you bet this is good for techno geeks.

February 1, 2008

H/l: Coming soon: Social networking on your phone

Intro: World's only complete mobile phone networking application launching in India; allows real time, safe use


Mumbai: The world is about to become really small. A new mobile phone application called JuiceCaster, the world's first complete social networking site, is soon going to help you become 'visible' to the world even though you are miles away and on the move.

If a friend texts you, "Where r u now?", instead of texting back, simply photograph yourself at a busy traffic junction, add text to the picture, saying, 'I am at Deccan,' and send the picture and text as your reply. Alternatively, you can shoot a short video of yourself, add sound and text, and post it to your friends.

This revolutionary application is formally launching in India on March 15, 2008. Founder and CEO of Juice Wireless, Nick Desai, and technical adviser and partner Dan Paik are in Mumbai currently for talks with service providers Airtel, Vodafone, BSNL, Tata and Reliance to provide a platform for the service, which is currently operational only in the US and some parts of Europe.

"JuiceCaster is the only mobile phone-based, complete social networking and user-generated application. It is easy to use and automatically connects a user's pictures and videos with web-based social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Orkut, as well as blogs," says Desai.

So you can now have social networking on your mobile phone, literally on the move. "Apart from immediately sending pictures and videos, you can check out other people's profiles to make new friends, or publish pictures directly from your phone to an online site," says Desai.

Apart from the networking aspect, however, is the self-security one. Such an application can have huge implications for women travelling alone or with strangers, or for people working on projects from different locations. "The content is broadcast with a maximum time lag of about three minutes after it is posted," says Desai.

The most significant aspect, however, is the application's safety policy. "We have a security cell based in Hyderabad that works on the 24x7/365 model. Whatever content you post, text or imaging, is first scanned by this cell. If any inappropriate content is posted, the cell rejects it automatically," says Desai, adding that JuiceCaster has so far won three international awards with the security feature as a key aspect.

In fact, the Hyderabad cell is to be the centre of operations for the entire world. A business development office is to come up in Mumbai this year, apart from the India server to be set up at Navi Mumbai.

"We are offering JuiceCaster as a premier download application through operator partners. We will not be offering a subscription based package in India, and we are working out how best to offer the service without hiking up costs," Paik says. Desai says, "We are launching in India first in English. By the third quarter of 2008, we should come out with Hindi. With over 50 million mobile users in India having internet access on their phones, we are looking at a growth above Rs 40 per user per month."


The juice on JuiceCaster:

- The application bars pornographic, hate content and over 2,000 English words

- Repeated posting of banned material can get the user barred from the application

- Users can create groups, private accounts, access others' accounts on phone or computer

- The application controls the mobile phone camera so separate hardware is not required

- Users have complete control over where they want to broadcast

- Inbuilt 'search' option for quick access of content

Iss Maharashtra ki toh...

January 31, 2008

H/l: No IT awards for state

Intro: Centre announces e-governance awards to be presented in upcoming function


From: Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: The state government's representatives need not book tickets or set aside time to attend the 11th National Conference on e-governance in Haryana next month. The Centre yesterday announced the list of winners for excellence in IT and e-governance in New Delhi yesterday, and Maharashtra state has drawn a blank.

Incidentally, the government of Maharashtra website proudly announces the state as 'Maha-IT Rashtra' and claims credit for winning the National Award for e-governance when the site was launched a few years ago. The list of winners announced also blows apart CM Vilasrao Deshmukh's claims of the state being one of the frontrunners in the use of IT for e-governance.

The major winners include the IRCTC for their internet ticketing programme, government of Tamil Nadu for the best website, Grapenet the project of Agriculture and Food Product Export Development Authority (APEDA), Ministry of Commerce and Industry and Tele Bhugtan, Madhya Pradesh for innovative usage of technology in e-governance.

Other winners are government of Haryana for Exemplary Horizontal Transfer of ICT-based Best Practice, Rourkela Steel Plant, Orissa in the Category- Exemplary Usage of ICT by PSUs and GOI's Ministry of Corporate Affairs for Excellence in government process reengineering.

The awards are presented every year in seven categories under three fields – Gold, Silver and Bronze – by the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DAR&PG) jointly with the Department of Information Technology, Government of India.