The Truth – Let us accept it.

Raghu was the only son of a rather well-off family. His father was into district administration and money was never a problem. Raghu mostly got what he wanted. Being the only kid in the family, his demands were immediately fulfilled. Seeing a Microsoft X-Box in one of his friend’s house, he was pestering his parents to buy him a Sony Play Station II. He was so impressed by it that he wanted it pretty badly. Not that they didn’t have the money, but his parents wanted to bargain with him. He had to get the first rank in the quarterly examinations to get his Sony Play Station II. That was the deal. He was one among the top ten students in the class, but that was just not enough.


Sudha was of the same class as Raghu. Both were studying their fifth standard in a Government Central Board School. But Sudha was from a poor family. She had two elder brothers and one younger sister. Since her fathers income was not enough to manage such a big family, her mother used to help him by selling knitted jasmine flowers near the temple. But during the evening time, the crowd was particularly heavy and hence Sudha would go with her mother. She would do the knitting and her mother would do the selling. This happened from five to eight thirty in the evenings, daily. But this was the time she used to study her lessons – until last year. Her academic performance this year, was predictably lagging.


Both Raghu and Sudha had one common passion – Painting. There was a painting competition held in their school in which all the primary classes participated to exhibit their talent. The prize money was sponsored for this event by some trust, but the school didn’t believe in just giving the money to the kids. So, they devised a procedure – The first prize winner would receive fifty rupees per week, on Saturday. They had to go to the nearby post office and deposit the money on the same day and hand over a copy of the receipt to the class teacher. The school deliberately did this to inculcate the habit of savings in the kids. They wanted to create an example with the winner to other kids. But all the money was sponsored only to the first prize winner. And he could take it only after a year of savings in the post office account opened by their school.


Raghu thought about the prize money. If he gets the prize, he calculated, how many months would it take for him to buy a Sony Play Station II? The results were not very encouraging. By the time he would be able to save enough money, the model may not even exist. He wanted the Play Station II now.


Sudha also thought about the prize money. She was imagining the possibilities. If she was able to get fifty rupees a week, in a year, she could make a huge sum. She had learnt Simple Interest recently. So, when she was informed that they would be offering an interest of 8% a year, she was able to calculate the interest amount too. Wow. That was a lot of money. She was juggling her priorities.


There was some thing that Raghu was thinking about – He had already been getting a pocket money of fifty rupees per day (Being in the senior most section of the primary, he had a lot of expenditures). Besides, Saturday evenings were spent happily playing his favorite game – Cricket. He had not missed a single match until then. If he had to collect that fifty rupees every Saturday afternoon, walk to the post office, stand in the queue, make the payment and get the receipt, file it and then go to play, there would not be much time left before the sun comes down. Besides, if he pestered his parents enough, he might still get the Play Station II even if he did not get the first rank. Well 10 was very close to 1, after all!


The principal asked him – “Do you accept the terms and procedures for receiving the prize money or do we give it to Sudha, the second prize winner in the painting competition?”


It took only two minutes for him to take a decision. “Give it to anyone” he said.


Sudha was over-joyed. She would indeed get the money at last! She was thinking about all the possibilities. She would give the entire money to her parents. She would request only one thing in return – To allow her to study in the weekdays instead of knitting jasmines for her mother. She might be able to complete a college degree some day! She was beaming when she told about the whole thing to her parents. Could she stay back and study on the weekdays, she asked.


Her father replied to her mother: “See what a bargain she wants to strike. That too at such a young age! That’s why I asked you not to let the girls study. You would never listen. Well, how about this bargain – She’ll give all the money to us after one year and work in the evenings or she’ll not go to the school anymore”


It took only two minutes for all her dreams to get completely shattered.



Destination Infinity.


PS: The video at the beginning of the post was made by the colleague of a friend who works for a software company in Bangalore who worked extensively on Saturdays and Sundays with a team of friends to make it. The video even got a mention in “The Hindu”. This is the link to their website:



There was a time when Germany was holding most of the patents in the chemical industry. Most of the leading chemical industries were based out of Germany. But there was an empire some where else, which wanted the technology – very badly. This empire was built by manufacturing armaments – Guns, Gunpowder and a lot more. But civilization, they say keeps changing. The armaments industry was no more as profitable as it was before. The empire needed to diversify soon.


There was a new recruit in one of the chemical industries in Germany. He was clearly not the average German worker you would find. In fact his German language was highly broken and irregular. But he was able to impress the supervisor. His efficiency and speed impressed many. He was so good that he was promoted twice in the first six months. And six months was the time which he needed to understand a particular chemical process. The process for which scientists had toiled day and night. The process and the patent the company possessed, that enabled the company to refuse re-sale rights to the Empire.


In a totally unrelated incident after 150 years, there was an interview in the TV. They interviewed a lot of people in the malls, theatres, parks etc. The question was – “Would you like to become the CEO of a big company and why?”


Some of the answers are given below:


“Yeah. Why not? I would like to have a lavish lifestyle wear costly watches and suites, drive BMW…….”


“Definitely. I could travel in business class. Maybe own my own personal jet……”


“Why not? Work hard, play hard, party big time……”


“The power. That’s what I like about the CEO position. I have total control over the resources and I can take decisions and implement them as and when I wish. I would have the money, people and the influence. That’s power…..”


“Well I have 25 years of Government service behind me. Trust me, this is the best job in the world. Are bhaiyya, CEO ke job mein bahut tension hota hai. Look at me, I am happy, my son Is employed with the Government too and we are totally settled in life…”


“Well frankly, it’s a challenge. A small decision you make could have a huge impact on the people working down the line. If I could make an informed decision and if I have the experience, why not?…..”


Let us get back once again to the chemical era, 150 years ago.


The empire was called Du Pont. It is still called so. The worker who did the entry level jobs in the German Chemical industry for quite some time to obtain the chemical process was none other than the CEO of one of the Du Pont companies in the United States, back then. Of course, they later got the resale rights but this time it was at their price.



Destination Infinity


PS: This is almost a true story (Except the interview part). A bit generalized because I don’t remember the exact names involved.

ENA – Elite Public Education in France

The Ecole Nationale d’ Administration (ENA) was the result of a disaster. The disaster called World War II. Until then, it was the role of universities in France to impart education, which remained hotbeds of feudalism, clericalism and intellectual conservatism. But as a post World War purges of 1944-45, France desperately wanted to replenish the higher ranks of its civil service. Hence the birth of ENA.


In 1945, in the first year of ENA’s service, the school didn’t even have a building, let alone a curriculum. The only thing the new students could do was field training. Soon after, the directors realized the wisdom of giving students contact with the real world after so many years in the education system of cramming for exams.


ENA’s program lasts 27 months. But the first two six months are for field training even today. The internships are in a prefecture, embassy or even a French multinational corporation.


After the field training come the classes. The courses cover administration of a prefecture, control of community affairs and management of public affairs. Informal courses and through role plays, the students are taught about economic analysis and decision making. They are taught how to evaluate a budget and assess diplomatic efforts. In teams of twelve, they produce a group report on weighty topics such as assessing France’s energy policy, the minimum wage reform or unification of Germany.


Each year the Prime Minister reserves top positions in each ministry for ENA’s top graduates. They begin their careers where the best civil servants usually expect to end theirs. About one half of the ministers in any present cabinet, six of the last nine Prime Ministers and two of the last three Presidents were from ENA.


All this, not without reason. And that being the competitive nature of the selection process, which make sure that only the best are taken into the ENA. The entrance tests are divided into two parts: Written and Oral.


Candidates write five tests of five hours each on public law, economy, political thought, second language proficiency (Second language is a language other than French) and the European Union(Or Social Affairs). They are required to analyse issues like “Recent reforms of the qualified majority in the European Commission” or “The place of the contract in Administrative Law”. They have to read sixty pages of documents and produce a ministerial memorandum on an issue like ‘Amendments to the language Law of June 1994’.


The written tests eliminate six of seven prospective candidates. Those who pass become eligible for the oral examinations. The first part consists of three hours of oral exams to test candidates capacity to speak a second language and their general knowledge of public finance. Foreign affairs, Social Affairs and European Union. The fourth examination is the Grand O (Grand Oral), in which for 45 minutes, a five person jury questions candidates on anything. This is public. Anyone interested to watch, can.


ENA students are graded on everything they do during their 27 months of study. Each course ends with a five hour exam, during which a student much read eighty pages of material on the topic of study and produce a four page ministerial memorandum. At the end of all this, the students tend to choose their postings (among the ones available) according to their grade.


This choice by rank system also serves a broader purpose. It helps prevent the kind of thickly woven network of contacts, friends and political sympathizers. Before ENA, families, associations and political parties monopolized the ministerial services. Now, ministers have no choice about the candidate they hire under them. The Government is forced to cooperate with a corps of prefects and a Conseil d’ Etat that wasn’t put there by friends or family.



Destination Infinity.


PS: Almost all the points were taken from a particular chapter of the book “Sixty Million Frenchmen can’t be Wrong”. Quite an informative book which attempts to understand the ways of a nation whose public administration ranks among the best in the world.


To read more such articles, you could visit the People Places and Culture section of this blog.

The Humble beginnings of the “Red-Tape”


“Dad, my school wants me to donate some money for the flood relief scheme”

“Great. Actually it is a very good thing to do, son. It is good to do your part to help the people suffering in another part of the country”

“It’s been made compulsory”

“I thought it was voluntary”

“Yeah, that’s what the notice board says. But the teacher is asking all the students to donate”



“Its still fine, son. It’s always good to do something to support people who are affected by natural disasters”

“How much do I give?”

“How much did Kumar’s son give?”

“100 rupees”

“Then you give 150. If that Kumar can donate 100, we can do much more. After all, when it comes to the ‘status’, we are far ahead of them”

“They are also organizing a camp. We could volunteer to directly go to the affected villages and distribute materials”

“You are too small for all that…”

“But a couple of guys from my class are going…”

“You don’t understand. The villages are affected by floods. They don’t even have good water to drink. And besides you get cold if you stand in the rain just for even five minutes… Why don’t they give the money to the Government? They are supposed to do the distribution”

“But the teacher says that the Government will take a long time to bring in aid. Our school is adopting one village and we would be helping that village to come back to normal life. They also feel it would be a good opportunity for the children to learn about the ways of dealing with emergency by volunteering to help”

“By doing these things, your school is acknowledging that the Government is unable to do its job. If they are really concerned, they should make sure that the money goes into the right hands and the necessary things are done, instead of involving kids into all this”


Does the Red-Tape start from home or the Government?



Destination Infinity.


PS: The video is the effort of one person wanting to help some of the Tsunami Victims in Sri-Lanka.


Match Fixing

He practices for ages…
That stuns even the sages.

He is the gifted one…
Also the chosen one.

Placing is hard, so he thought…
Leaving is harder, which he felt.

His performance was a stunner…
But he deserved an Oscar.

Oh God,

We miss catches and fix matches
And still call it ‘sport’

You mix actors and fix the script
And still call it ‘Life’

What is the difference between Thou and I?

Destination Infinity

Karate and Social Sciences


When you are young, it’s the thrill of doing something that gets you doing many things. Dheeraj was about twelve, when he enrolled in the Karate Classes. Three days a week, two hours per day and a lot of kicking – he thought. Only after joining did he come to know that there would be absolutely no sparing (Karate equivalent to fighting), while he was in the white belt stage, which was the entry level for new joinees. It would be vigorous exercising for 45 minutes and Khatta practice for the remaining time. (A Khatta is like a dance. The steps, moves, punches and kicks are all done in a sequence – Orderly way). After about six months, Dheeraj at last entered the Orange III level.  (White, Orange III, II, I, Brown III, II, I, Black I, II, III…. Is the sequence in which you progress. The colour of the belt is different for different schools of Karate). When you reach the Orange belt level, you are expected to spare (fight). Dheeraj was well built, quite tall and have an above average structure. So, he was eager to do this. There were four points one needs to score to win over his opponent. The point awarded, depended on the quality of the hit.


The first day of fighting was a disaster for Dheeraj. He had to fight a senior. Before he could move, there was a high reverse kick, which landed straight on his face. Blood. He had seen blood before, while playing many of the outdoor games. But this was different. The next class got only worse. This time he had to fight the Sempai (Master). But there was no blood this time, Only a few kicks and falling down. Of course, Dheeraj was on the receiving end always.


He felt this was unfair. He had just started to learn how to fight and straight away he was pitted against his senior and master. There was this uneasy feeling inside him as this continued for some more time. He could no longer be patient. He asked the Sempai – “Don’t you think this is unfair? Why don’t you let me fight the guys from my batch? I might be able to hit them better and score more points”



Rohini was very good in Mathematics. Her love for numbers and problem solving always reflected in her results. She always topped the class in mathematics. The interest and enthusiasm she showed in mathematics impressed everyone. It came naturally to her. She was always proud of her marks in mathematics. Her Social Sciences teacher, who was also her class teacher, was not all that happy as she was not doing well in other subjects. She called Rohini to the Staff room and wanted to know what was the problem in other subjects. Especially Social Sciences.


“Its so hard for me to memorize. I mean, look at maths. If I practice solving a particular type of problem, the formulae and the methods get registered automatically in my mind. But in Social Science, I have to force myself to memorize. I find it really hard to remember the events and especially the dates. I am not interested in them.”


The teacher was shocked. She was from a different country and a different way of teaching altogether. She was new to the ways of urban India.


“Is this the way all the students learn?”


“Most of them, yes”


“Why do you have to memorize the whole syllabus?”


“Because we want to get more marks. That’s how you win in life – getting more marks. And you get more marks by reproducing the text book word by word”


“What you learn out of those lessons are not important to you?”


“Not If we get good marks. As long as we keep getting good marks, how we get it and what we learn out of it, doesn’t really matter”



The Sempai (Karate Master) asked Dheeraj – “Why did you join Karate?”


“Because a lot of my friends did. Many of my neighbors are already in brown belt.”


“What do you want to learn in Karate?”


“I want to reach the highest belt possible, in the shortest possible time. I heard that Black X is the highest. Or is it the red belt?”


“So, if I offer you the black belt immediately, would you happily take it?”


“Why not? But you haven’t answered my question. Why do we have to fight with you and seniors, and not our own batch mates?”


“Since you are curious, Ill tell you. In Karate, we train you to hit in self defense. But more importantly, we train you to cope up with the pain inflicted by an opponent who may be much stronger and larger than you. Being able to get back to your feet, even if the opponent has landed a powerful punch on your face, and getting in position to fight back is more important than the most powerful punch you can deliver. Irrespective of your strength and skill, you can always expect your opponents to be better in Karate. You cant always keep winning in Karate”


Perhaps so in life, too.



Destination Infinity


“You can buy education. But not wisdom”

Pushing the limits of Unconventionality


Much like the Grandes Ecoles in France, the Indian Institute of Technology is as hard to get in considering the sheer numbers that write the examination and the percentage of them that do get the admission. Alok, like any other upper middle class family in India, always wanted to get into one of them. They don’t teach education in India – they preach. Grades are not a reflection of the amount of work put in by him, but rather a reflection of the extra effort put in by the cousin or neighbor who managed to score 0.5% marks more than him.  Of course, there are hundreds of other engineering colleges to get into for the lesser intellectual. But Alok was determined not to be one of them. He still remembers all the work that was put in for the preparations, and more importantly, all the time he lost which would otherwise have been spent happily playing cricket or some other games with his friends. His tenure at IIT was better. He was able to indulge in occasional movies and some indoor games. But peer pressure kept him busy with course material for most of the time. At the end of the course, though he was having a couple of offers, he decided to start his own company. He wanted to become an entrepreneur.


“Wasn’t that a big risk?”


“Well no. If you look at it from my perspective, it was not at all a big risk. I have already lost a quarter of my life, to achieve what ever I have achieved till now. I have been fulfilling the dreams of my parents, teachers and relatives. Its time I take control of my life and fulfill my dreams”




The Black Mamba is the deadliest snake in Africa. They can grow upto four meters and once bitten, even a small giraffe could die in minutes. They are extremely venomous. They could move at speeds of 25 Km/h which makes them the fastest moving snake in Africa. Jack was always fascinated by these snakes. All he needed to catch one of them was a long rod with a small holder which could squeeze the neck of the snake, thereby making it impossible to lounge forward and make that deadly strike. There was two occasions when he came very close to death. Once when a four meter fully grown Black Mamba was able to escape the catching rod and came right in front of his face directly staring at his eyes. Jack didn’t flinch a bit. Even if he had made a small quick movement, he would have died for sure. After a few agonizing seconds, the snake went off on its way. The second occasion, a snake did bite him when he accidentally let off his hold on its neck. He was totally paralyzed for a week and put on partial life support systems. He was able to listen to others and also see but could not move a bit. Finally his own anti venom (which he helped prepare by extracting the venom from these snakes) saved him after a long battle because about 10% of people are allergic to the anti venom, and he was one of them. But nevertheless, he has caught a lot of these snakes, took a lot of pictures of them, made documentaries, extracted their venom to make anti venom and saved a lot of lives and made a rather successful career out of it. A successful career, I said.


“Wasn’t that a big risk?”


“Well no. Not if you can understand the nature of these snakes. They would strike only in defense and only when they are cornered or feel threatened. But otherwise they exhibit a remarkable level of tolerance towards humans, sometimes even in captivity. They don’t strike unless you agitate them. Otherwise how could I stay with a couple of Black Mambas in a closed room for hours together, when we were raising funds for a wild life project? If they were so deadly, they would have certainly killed me”



Destination Infinity.


PS: The second story about the Black Mamba is a real life story.




Just because a person is born into a particular caste….”


“Just because a person is born into a particular nation….”


“The Indian Premier League is an interesting concept where people from different nations unite and play together under their respective city banner, truly symbolizing the confluence of various cultures and creating an electric atmosphere where their skills are tested at a different level of competition. The game of cricket is the ultimate winner especially as it is fast paced, unpredictable and more importantly you get to see the great players of various nations play as a single team, which in itself is a treat to watch. The shorter version of the game is an instant hit with the audience and deservedly so….”


“Just because a person is born into a particular caste, we cannot discriminate him based on that. We need to emancipate the lower caste people and reservations need to be applied in the higher education as well as government jobs. This would at least bring back more and more people from the backward castes into the mainstream. Just because a person is born in a certain caste, he should not be restricted to a particular profession and that is the aim of this Indian Post-independence Liberation commission.


“Just because a person is born into a particular nation, we cannot discriminate him based on that. We need to emancipate the people especially in the under developed nation states and investments needs to be pumped in these nation states in the form of loans and grants. This would atleast ensure free money flow and give a fair chance for these nation states to build their infrastructure and start doing business with us in more equal terms. Just because a person is born into a particular nation, his business should not be restricted to a particular region, with almost all nation states warmly accepting the open market policies. This is the aim of this International Parliamentary League”

Destination Infinity.

The Longest Jump

The Longest Jump

Long Jump Event, Bejing Olympics, China

Among the various athletes participating, the Chinese athlete Wong Chung and the Tibetian athlete Malang were the favorites to win the gold medal.

The qualification rounds were underway and the players needed to jump at-least 7.15 m to qualify. Wong Chung had already made it in the first jump. For some reason, the Tibetian athlete Malang was not able to concentrate. He took the first jump, and over stepped the jumping board. It was a Foul. The second jump also resulted in over stepping and he fouled again. There are only three chances within which the athlete has to cross 7.15 meters at-least once to qualify for the next round. If the last jump was not made properly, he could well be out of the event.

At this point, seeing his nervousness, he was approached by the Chinese athlete, Wong Chung, who spoke to him for a little while, to calm him down. Though he was his rival, Wong Chung suggested that Malang could draw a line and jump from one feet before the jumping board. This way he could be sure of not making a foul and also be able to qualify as he was jumping well over 8 meters every time.

The Tibetian athlete Malang took his advice and not only qualified for the next round but also went on to win the gold medal by jumping a distance of 26 feet and half inches.

All this happened right in front of the Chinese premier, who was glaring at them. But it was a proud moment for Tibet, with the crowd cheering for the Tibetian with a lot of enthusiasm.

The above narrated incident is indeed fiction. It would be great if something like that happens in this Olympics so that the spirit of sportsmanship wins over everything else.

Too good to become True? This piece of Fiction can indeed become a fact, if we make the following replacements.

  • Beijing Olympics, China replaced by Munich Olympics, Germany, 1936
  • Chinese athlete Wong Chung replaced by German athlete Luz Long.
  • Tibetian athlete Malang replaced by United States athlete Jessie Owens, who was black.
  • Last but not least, Chinese premier replaced by Adolf Hitler, who was an ardent racist and considered Blacks to be inferior.

Longest jump indeed, right into the hearts.

Destination Infinity

PS: There are three more points which I would like to share:

1. “I wasn’t invited to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn’t invited to White House to shake hands with the President either” – Jessie Owens
2. “It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler. You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn’t be a plating on the 24-Karat friendship I felt for Luz Long at that moment. Hitler must have gone crazy watching us embrace” – Jessie Owens
3. India, participated in the Munich Olympics and won Gold against Germany in the finals of (What else?) Hockey. Hitler left the match during the half time. Double embarrassment?

SLS – Same Language Subtitling

SLS – Same Language Subtitling:


“Self respect is a question of recognizing that anything worth having has a price”


Even Literacy. I am not talking about education, which comes at a huge price tag these days. But plain literacy – the ability to read and write, at least in one language.


If at all technologies like internet have to reach the masses, literacy for the masses is extremely critical.


Books have their advantages. One interesting argument I have read about books is that it encourages creativity by letting your imagination run and explore freely while the TV dumps the producers imagination onto you. “Books are the masters who instruct us without rods or ferrules, without words or anger, without bread or money. If you approach them, they are not asleep. If you seek them, they do not hide. If you blunder, they do not scold. If you are ignorant, they do not laugh at you” – Richard De Bury. But therein lies the flaw – You have to approach them, you have to seek them.


News papers and magazines are informative medium for people who are already literate. There are so many people who have discontinued their school at a very early stage of their lives. And more still, who haven’t gone to school at all. Local language news papers do help, but the fact is, it is still out of the reach of masses as they simply cannot read.


The only other popular mass medium is TV. Though there are quite a few education based channels like Gyan Darshan etc, I really wonder who sees them. Most popular programs in the TV are entertainment based. The songs, movies, serials, etc. get good viewership. Can this medium help increase literacy levels? Specifically, can the entertainment based programs on TV help people read better?


TV may not be the best medium for promoting literacy and entertainment based programs may not be the best choice for increasing literacy levels, but they have one advantage over all other media – Reach. They reach almost every nook and corner of the country. They reach the masses, who watch them out of their own interest.


SLS – Same Language Subtitling is an interesting concept wherein subtitles appear in the same language for popular entertainment based programs – Like songs, movies etc. If a person is watching a Hindi song, the subtitles appear in Hindi along with the pace of the lines being sung.  So, as they listen and read the script (in subtitles) at the same time, they can be sure (some times even if only by guessing) that a certain word correlates with a certain script. This is especially useful with people who know only the basic words, but have lost touch since a long time and hence their ability to read has also decreased. After exposure to the subtitles in TV, which they automatically start reading, the script sub-consciously gets registered in their minds as they always flash along with the voice. After a period of time, the reading ability increases and they can even start reading the headlines in the newspaper.


How’s that for a change? Literacy to the masses while having fun. And that too, by the same box which was considered to be idiotic. No force, no lectures. So simple.


Maybe we could utilize this concept in the cinemas too. In the towns, the English channels could have English subtitles for people to improve their English vocabulary. Especially in cartoon and kids channels, which is watched endlessly by the kids. The possibilities are unlimited, if the private channels start adapting SLS.


At the beginning, I had said that there is a price for everything. Even literacy. The price for SLS is approximately one paisa per person per year – according to Dr.Brij Kothari, president, Planet Read. The whole concept, and the credit for implementing it in certain DD channels, goes to him. Please do visit the link given below to know more about the initiative.


Destination Infinity.



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Literacy for a billion with Bollywood songs 

PlanetRead uses the power and reach of entertainment to fill the need for education. In India, Bollywood songs appear on national television – Doordarshan with PlanetRead’s Same Language Subtitling (SLS). This provides automatic reading practice to 300 million early literates. With SLS the viewers subconsciously associate the songs with the text, so the familiar lyrics on screen reinforce their literacy skills.


Know more…