Whistleblower's musings... Then some trivia. Write to me at ranjanyumnam@gmail.com

Thursday, August 25, 2005

IT's us, not US!

Surprise, surprise! Even as the population of female computer science graduates in IT 'heavyweight' US hits rock bottom, there is an ever-rising number of women in the IT industry in 'lightweight' India. The dynamics of the gender bender...

  • According to a recent survey by NASSCOM, the current ration of male to female professionals (79:21) in Indian software companies is likely to be 65:35 by the end of 2005.
  • In the ITES-BPO sector, the employee ratio is loaded in favour of women -- 31:69 (male:female).
  • The ratio of women workers in Wipro rose from 18.75% in April 2004 to 27% in August 2005. ''Our organisation believes in diversity and equal opportunity,'' says a spokesperson.
  • The percentage of female employees in Infosys rose from 17% in 2002 to 19% in 2003 to 22% in 2004 and 24% in 2005. ''Of 39,806 Infosys employees, 8,262 are women,'' informs an official of the organisation.
  • More and more Indian female students are opting for computer science rather than traditional subjects like humanities and pure sciences.
It's not without reason that the Indian woman is going the geek way. Elaborates Preeti Desai, president of the Internet and Online Association of India: ''One, since hiring is preceded by stringent aptitude tests, the Indian woman clearly has a natural aptitude for IT jobs. Two, IT jobs require little or no travelling at all, suiting women all the more. Three, companies realise that recruiting more women means that they have fewer cases of employees leaving. Four, women seemingly learn faster than men. Five, the big pay packets in the IT sector are proving to be a big lure.''

Besides, IT jobs are proving to be suitable for women because they offer flexible working hours, glamour, and a safer/cleaner working environment compared to manufacturing industry. ''Then, women have intrinsic advantages like being better knowledge workers than men. Of course, since IT offers more job opportunities than most sectors, it's natural for women to take the plunge and, thereby, tilt the male:female ratio in their favour,'' says Vivek Agarwal, CEO, Liqvid.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Is protest music dead?

Mick Jagger writes an anti-Bush song and makes headlines. But not so long ago, pop music WAS all about protest. Delhi Times on who killed the Woodstockers' 'why'...

You call yourself a Christian, I call you a hypocrite/You call yourself a patriot, well I think you're full of shit. How come you're so wrong, my sweet neo con?

-- These are lines from the song Sweet Neo Con penned by Mick Jagger for his latest album A Bigger Bang. Though the song doesn't mention Bush or Iraq, it refers to military contractor Halliburton who has been awarded meaty commercial contracts in Iraq, making it amply clear who the main target of the song is. Jagger himself says "it is direct."

Blogosphere is abuzz with Jagger's bang. One blog attributes an uncharitable motive to the protest song: "Clearly a somewhat desperate move to remain relevant, it's atleast a year too late." Another blogger comments: "Earlier, it was fear of Richard Nixon and the FCC. Today, it is fear of the Neo Cons. The more things change the more they stay the same." But one thing is certain: 'protest' music is almost extinct. Whose fault is that?

According to Bhagwati Prasad, a student researching Hindi music: "Music companies are reluctant to back protest music as they already have enough albums that sell well and deliver profits. Protest music is uncharted area, with unwanted repercussions." Music companies, however, blame the market. "We have to see whether a project has commercial viability. Yes, sometimes, we release songs to support a cause," says Mukesh Desai, CEO of a music label.

"Who says there is no market for protest songs?" asks Bhagwati. "Music companies are afraid of investing in projects that might attract the ire of the establishment. There are many Leftist songs that support the Dalit movement, the Narmada Bachao Andolan, minority rights etc, but they remain underground or unnoticed. It's incorrect to say there are no takers for protest music. In fact, Indian Ocean's album Kandisa, which has compositions dealing with social and political messages, is a hit." Agrees ghazal singer Pankaj Udhas: "The buck stops at music companies."

Udhas feels that the entire music scene is India has declined, let alone protest music. "We need to protest against the assembly line production of remixes. There aren't any original songwriters interested in advancing social/political messages. Gutter music has gutted out music with a social conscience," he says.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Love @ 3 minutes!

Yes, it’s that fast. And it can be that effective. Welcome to speed dating, the world (and Delhi’s) latest way of finding the right partner. Delhi Times on dating in the time of stopwatches...

Can you date 20 partners in less than an hour without fear of rejection, awkward silences and clock-watching? No one’s so lucky to have this kind of a privilege? Wait. It’s possible if you pay Rs 2,000 and participate in a speed dating event. ‘‘Speed dating, for the uninitiated, is meant for singletons in the fast lane of careers who don’t have enough time to socialise and find dates,’’ says Maria Arif, founder of a speed dating agency in Delhi.
Need for speed
Priyanka Chawla, an executive with a BPO firm, relies on speed dating. ‘‘I’ve been looking for Mr Right for a long time but because of the hectic schedules of my profession, I have neither the time nor the opportunity to meet a suitable partner. Last but not the least, my co-workers are either married or too young for me!’’
Done in 180 sec!
But is a mere three minutes sufficient to know a person? ‘‘Yes, you know a person not by grilling him endlessly for hours, but instinctively by the way he/she talks and behaves,’’ says Jennifer Zorensiami, fashion designer. According to Maria: ‘‘It is scientifically proven that you can decide in three minutes, and quite accurately at that, whether you want to meet a person once again after the initial meeting.’’
Indian context
For MBA student Niti, speed dating is at best a fun experience with no long-term commitments. ‘‘You can’t understand a person in 30 years, how can you find a soulmate in three minutes? Still, it’s a matter of luck and anything is possible.’’ That’s precisely why speed dating is a popular phenomenon in the West. Sceptics here, though, ask: is speed dating suitable for Indian society? ‘‘Yes, why not? Speed dating is particularly convenient for the urban Indian woman as she is a busy professional with no time for love. Unlike her Western counterpart, the single Indian woman can’t go to a bar and chat up a guy without being misunderstood. Speed dating gives her an opportunity to meet many like-minded people at one venue in a controlled environment,’’ says Gary.
According to Maria: ‘‘Anyone who says speed dating goes against Indian society is being hypocritical. Speed dating is just a harmless platform for single men and women of the same professional wavelength to meet and forge a friendship, possibly for life. Whether you agree with this explanation or not,the response to the concept of quickie dates is overwhelming in India.For instance,we got around 1,000 respondents to our ad — meaning that not all of them could be selected for our event. Aspiring speed daters had to be screened and categorised according to their age, profession, income and hobbies.’’
Fast can last
So what are the chances of speed dating leading to a walk down the aisle? ‘‘The concept of speed dating is ideal for today’s fast-paced life as it brings together 20-40 eligible single men and women and allows them to have three-minute conversation with each other. If a speed dater likes a person, he/she can set up dates with that person and take the relationship forward,’’ says Gary, organiser of speed dating events. The bottomline is speed dating works — atleast Sumit Sethi, a DJ, believes it can.‘‘I’ve got four proposals from a single speed-dating event and have to decide which girl to accept.’’ Even as Sumit is saying this, a girl in red top, apparently one of the four, comes up to him with a mug of beer in hand.‘‘At 3 pm tomorrow,’’ she says. Sumit nods. It works!

Evolution of speed dating
Speed dating was born at a Torah class in Los Angeles as the brainchild of Rabbi Yaacov Deyo, educational director of Aish HaTorah, a Jewish resource group in LA with branches across the world.Aish Ha-Torah owns the service mark SpeedDating.
Rabbi Deyo and his students formulated the concept of a speed date to help Jewish singles meet and marry.According to a speed dating website, the goal of the programme is to ‘‘directly facilitate Jewish continuity by helping Jews meet Jews.’’ From its LA origin in the 1990s, the speed-dating idea lost its religious characteristic and spread throughout the world.

Mike Tyson's nemesis

Here's my interview with Evander Holyfield, Boxer, on Mike Tyson and his next big fight

So, when is your next big fight?

My next fight is in Milan on 1 October 2005. But I don't know who would be my opponent till now. Presently, I am training in Texas. After the fight, I shall visit India (on October 2, 2005) to promote peace in a one of its kind peace rally.

Do you plan to become an evangelist when you quit boxing?

I don't have such plans as of now. All I can say is that I would be involved in activities to promote global peace. We need to end bloodshed and turmoil the worldover. On the personal front, I want to live a better life.

And what about Mike Tyson?

I have forgiven him a long time ago. In fact, what happened is history. I have moved on and hope he has done the same too. However, what needs a special mention is the fact that an Indian evangelist, KA Paul helped me to abandon the path of retribution.

Would you like to compete in India?

Definitely... I would love to fight with anyone anywhere, but I doubt if there is any Indian who can challenge me. If I am asked to promote boxing in India I would not be averse to it. However, I think boxing is not a popular sport in India.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Why do Indians love arguments?

If you ever need an economist's endorsement of the view that Indians are vocal with their arguments, bank on Amartya Sen. According to Sen, being argumentative is an asset rather than a liability acquired as a legacy from India's historical, cultural, racial and religious ‘heterodoxy'. "India is so full of contradictions that any generalisation about India has an opposite argument which is just as true," explains Sen. So, in his just published book, Sen -- who "enjoys putting forth arguments rather than giving advice to people" brings up the brighter side of being argumentative. Here are a few Sen specials...

* "Arguments aren't a hurdle to progress. They lead to more aspects of an issue, which need to be addressed before resolving the issue for good. People argue because they are curious and want to know the truth, which is in the interest of one and all. This may take time but the outcome is always a better one than a hastily taken decision that may backfire."

* "India may be economically behind China, but democratic India, by virtue of being argumentative, enjoys freedom and rights that can only be dreamt of in authoritarian China. Indians have a much better healthcare record, in part because public opinion forces the government to provide it. But that kind of public influence doesn't exist in China -- blame China's repressive measures. Consider the SARS episode in China, and the subsequent efforts by the authorities to hush it. Whether democracy leads Indians to develop a mindset of arguing or vice versa is open to more arguments."

* "Indians, being argumentative, have the ability to look at things with cold reasoning. When Alexander came to India in 325 BC, he was amazed as well as disappointed by the Indians' disregard for him: the world's greatest conqueror. When he asked Indian philosophers the reason for their I-couldn't-care-less attitude, he was told: "You are a nuisance to the world."

* Contrary to widespread belief, all Indians are not spiritual. There are more rationalists in India then imagined. Even the Vedas contain passages that allude to agnosticism. The Bhagwat Gita, Ramayana, Mahabharata are actually treatises on arguments of epic proportions.

* "Indians like Aryabhata and Kautilya were pioneers in the systematic study of knowledge. Thanks to the Indian tradition of argumentation."

PS: For those who don't agree with Amartya Sen, feel free to argue with him!

Porn in Harry Potter?

Are there hidden sexual messages in Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince? Consider these excerpts...
'There was no need to stick the wand in that hard,' he (Dumbledore) said gruffly, clambering to his feet. 'It hurt.' (p 64)
...a hole opened in the middle of all the tentaclelike branches; Hermione plunged her arm bravely into this hole, which closed like a trap around her elbow; Harry and Ron tugged and wrenched at the vines, forcing the hole to open again... (p 281)
Lupin burst out laughing. 'Sometimes you remind me a lot of James. He called it my 'furry little problem'... (p 335)
'I dunno,' said Harry. 'Maybe it's better when you do it yourself, I didn't enjoy it much when Dumbledore took me along for the ride.' (p 355)
'You see?' Dumbledore said quietly, holding his wand a little higher. Harry saw a fissure in the cliff into which dark water was swirling. 'You will not object to getting a little wet?' 'No,' said Harry. 'Then take off your Invisibility Cloak... and let us take the plunge.' (p 556)

Double entendre..no?

"These passages should be read with their context in mind. Yes, when they are read in isolation, they sound like sexual innuendoes."
-- VK Kartika of Penguin India, distributor of Harry Potter books in India

"Yes, there have been instances where they have shown Harry growing up and how he is slowly getting initiated to sexuality. In case of Harry Potter, having double entendre to express sexuality will not have a negative impact on children. Showing their role model -- Harry -- as someone with natural urges will only make children consider sex as something normal."
-- Rimi Chatterjee, lecturer of English, JU

Children's literature might not be kidstuff after all. According to Fredric Wertham's 1954 book The Seduction Of The Innocent, it is replete with sexual innuendoes. Wertham also claims that comic characters like Batman and Robin are gay.

Are Batman and Robin gay?

Wertham's logic is that the two are unmarried males living together, that they sometimes sit close together on a couch in their shirt-sleeves, and that Robin's hand is sometimes shown touching Batman's arm. They slide down poles and try on different outfits. Like girls in other stories, Robin is sometimes held captive by the villains... Robin is a handsome boy, usually showing his uniform with bare legs. He often stands with legs spread, the genital region discreetly evident. Besides, Batman's lack of commitment to women is a recurrent theme. Using similar logic, critics allege that comic books like The Authority And Superman,

The Incredible Hulk, Alpha Flight, The Flash, Tintin, Uncanny Xmen, Star Fleet Academy, The Darkness, Darkchylde and WildStorm promote the 'gay' agenda. Generations of kids have grown up reading Batman, Archie, Tintin, Noddy.

But is there any truth in Wertham's th eory? "Yes. A good part of popular children's literature is unsuitable for children, Indian or otherwise. Only few comic books don't have violence and sexual innuendoes. For instance, Barbie books feature scantily-clad females with unrealistic body proportions. Fairy tales perpetuate gender and social stereotypes," says Nirali Sanghi, editor of a parenting website. Here's more: Author Stephen King had once commented, "I couldn't believe that Archie could go on ignoring her in favour of that spoiled rich girl, Veronica. Betty was a blonde! And that figure!"

Archie & Co -- a bad influence on young minds?

"Countless strips feature Veronica in a revealing dress or bathing suit bringing boys to a libidinous swoon. And Betty, in her desperate moments, is also known to show off the goods," says Suresh Manchanda, an avid reader of Archie comics. According to Gulshan Rai, distributor of Archie comics: "Yes, many strips have characters in swimwear, but that's nothing compared to what the children see on TV, billboards, the Net and other media outlets."

Does that call for a ban on comics and fairy tales?

"Banning comics or any fairy tales don't make sense. Enid Blyton shows children as children. These books show children growing up. That's a better approach to reality," says Thomas Abraham, president, Penguin India.

Mae West, who mined the symbolic terrain of fairy tales, once quipped, 'I used to be Snow White, but I drifted'. These days, the social and sexual messages of fairy tales are no secret. Take Little Red Riding Hood.

An engraving with the first published version, in Paris in 1697, shows a girl in her dishabille, in bed beneath a wolf. In the plot, she has stripped out of her clothes, and the tale will end with her death in the beast's jaws. The message: In French slang, when a girl lost her virginity, it was said she'd seen the wolf. Penned by Charles Perrault for aristocrats at the court of Versailles, Le petit chaperon rouge dramatises contemporary sexual contradiction.