Saturday, March 31, 2012

March 2012 - Links of the Month

Random posts that grabbed my attention:

India Design Forum - Design Within Reach -
"If India does not establish some brands soon, it will be too late since all the imports will just take over the country,” says Karim Rashid. “It was a shame that the hotel I stayed at in New Delhi had Italian lighting, Italian furniture, German sinks, German faucets, French products,”

Architecture in Osaka: When the Hanshin Expressway company and a building owner sat down to resolve a common problem they came up with a rather unusual solution!

TED  - How simple ideas lead to scientific discoveries -

TED - Nancy Duarte: The secret structure of great talks -

Courage under pressure: Ditching of plane in Lake Hudson

Book (eulogy) on MS Swaminathan: One Man's Quest for a Hunger-Free World

Falser Words Were Never Spoken - BRIAN MORTON, The New Yorker, August 29, 2011 - URL -

Conflict of Interest and the Cure for Cancer -

Obituary to a Music Director - 'Bombay Ravi' -
Aage bhi na Jaane tu (Waqt 1965) -

Nayak-2005-Suzuki-India Case Study - URL -

Henri’s Walk to Paris: Saul Bass’s Only Children’s Book, 1962, Resurfaced 50 Years Later --

New Delhi Railway Station Masterplan concept (If wishes were horses... :)  )

My Experiments with Self - A salary-man attempts to follow the footsteps of Gandhi-

Japan can learn from Israel -

Escape Delhi (river rafting etc) -

Devdutt - Getting Better and Better - Durga statues as a metaphor for presentation-preparation -

Harnessing Energy - an imaginative German advertisement -

Rana Hasan, ADB Papers -

Wave Clouds -

Glasswinged Butterfly -

Nahalal: Circular moshav (coop village) designed by RIchard kauffman -

Arial Photography -

Jonathan Haidt: Religion, evolution, and the ecstasy of self-transcendence -

Rushdie, Salman : Outside the Whale,Granta -

Common Bird Monitoring India (CMBI) -

Flying like a bird -

Delhi Dairy: Sorry, no Indian mobile = no Indian rail ticket -

Song - Roumor Has It - Mathai -
And the Original by Adele - Rumour has it (with lyrics) -

Electronic Market Research -

Writing Rules by Henry Miller, Elmore Leonard, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman & George Orwell >>>

Jayati-Jayati Bharata Mata (brought back memories of K V Uppal!) -

Painting & Interpretation - Beijing 2008 -

Ghosh, Jayati (2012): Could Ecuador be the most radical and exciting place on Earth? The Guardian, UK, 19 Jan 2012, URL -


DEFENCE SCAMS - Clear and present danger, Josy Joseph | Mar 28, 2012, ToI -

Words from AWAD:

Def: Serene; harmonious; disciplined; well-balanced.
An Apollonian gasket is the name for a beautiful fractal composed of ever-shrinking, mutually tangent circles. It's named for a Greek mathematician, Apollonius of Perga, whose work on conic sections gave us the names of some more common mathematical objects: the ellipse, the hyperbola, and the parabola.

Def: Uninhibited; undisciplined; spontaneous; wild; orgiastic.

Def: adjective: Boldly creative; defiant; audacious. noun: A person who is boldly creative or defiantly original.
According to the ancient Greek poet Hesiod, Prometheus (meaning "forethought") had a brother, Epimetheus ("afterthought"). We all have afterthoughts, although perhaps none so dramatic as regret over Pandora, but there is no suitable adjective "Epimethean" in our vocabulary today.

Graffiti (gruh-FEE-tee)
noun: Words or drawing made on a wall or other surface in a public place.
Plural of Italian graffito (a scratching). Ultimately from the Indo-European root gerbh- (to scratch), which also gave us crab, crayfish, carve, crawl, grammar, anagram, program, graphite, and paraph. Earliest documented use: 1851.

Def: A thought experiment: an experiment carried out in imagination only.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Daruma: Of Limbless Dolls and a South Indian Monk

Mention the word "Daruma" in Japan and you are quite likely to see faces light up with smiles. Children would instantly recall playing with a "Yuki-Daruma" - the Japanese version of a snowman, while the adults would talk of the cutesy, egg-like doll on which they paint eyes on  New Year's day, to absorb and ward-off evil.

I was mildly shocked to discover yesterday that Daruma tradition has its origins far from Japan. The doll is actually based on a monk who moved from the plains of South India to the Songshang mountains of China.

In circa 520AD, the original Daruma, a South Indian prince-turned-monk appeared at the Chinese port city of Canton (now Guandong). His name was Bodhi-Dharma. After a brief  - and irreverent encounter - with Emporer Wu of the Liang Dynasty, he moved on to the Shao-lin monastry in the Sonshang mountains.

The legend goes that at this monastry, Bodhidharma meditated for nine long years facing a blank wall and came up with a treatise that forms the basis of Dhyana (Zen) Buddhism. It was also during this period that both his legs atrophied away and he tore away his own eyelids to avoid falling asleep during meditation!

Perhaps the legend carries a lot of metaphor and symbolism which can be understood only by those who dive into the deep waters of Dhyana-meditation. For the rest of the lay public mere limbless dolls would suffice, to amuse the children and to remind them about what it takes to really know yourself.


Hoover, Thomas (1980): The Zen Experience (Link to Amazon Page)

A note on the commercialization of Daruma's at Wikipedia

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Labor Pains

In a recent article, M. Sabarwal pointed out that the recent surge of  worker-strikes in the Indian manufacturing industry (Orient Craft, Maruti-Manesar, Munjal Showa, Honda-India) were not about the usual labor-related issues: minimum wages, a safe working environment, or social security.The flash-point, he noted, was the informalization of work (90% of employment) and the explosion of contract labor (30% of total; 50% of non-farm employment).

This adds an interesting dimension to a long-standing complaint of FII and FDI investors in India, voiced by the World Bank (2008) - "India’s labor regulations - among the most restrictive and complex in the world - have constrained the growth of the formal manufacturing sector...Better designed labor regulations can attract more labor- intensive investment and create jobs for India’s unemployed millions..."

So which are the labor laws & regulations that need to be re-designed?

A paper by Ghosh, Fields and Dasgupta (2006) offers some pointers:

Industrial Disputes Act, 1947:

  • Provisions introduced in 1953 relating to payment of compensation for layoff and retrenchment
  • Amendment in 1957 required the employer to compensate the workers affected by closure in the same way as if they were retrenched.
  • The 1976 amendment reduced the demand for labor by 17.5%, increasing the pressure on the unorganized sector to absorb excess labor supply.
  • Chapter V-A requires an establishment employing 50 or more workers, in the case of valid retrenchment, to provide the workers with thirty days’ notice and 15 days’ pay for every year of continuous work by the worker at the firm.
  • 1982 Amendment - Employers employing 100 or more workers must give notice of a closure to workers or their representatives and to the government, 90 days prior to the date of intended closure.

Indian Contracts Act, 1972:

  • Provisions can be used  to resist dismissal under grounds that are not covered by IDA, 1947


Sabharwal, Manish (2012): PUTTING INDIA TO WORK, Indian Express, 26Mar12 p11

Basu Kaushik, Fields Gary and Debgupta Shub (2006): Retrenchment, Labor Laws and Government Policy: An Analysis with Special Reference to India, WB Papers

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Passport to Thebes

"Welcome to Thebes" was one of the most unusual play I have seen at the National School of Drama in New Delhi.

Directed by Annie Ruth and presented by the final year students of NSD (16-21 March),  it was an adaptation of a 2010 play by Moira Buffini. Apart from a ticket, you  needed a 'passport' to get into the theatre. The play itself an energetic mix of Greek mythology and contemporary politics, presented by actors dressed in African costumes, with their lines forcefully delivered in Hinglish, Tamil and Mizoram's Aso dialect!

The play revolves around the death of a Thebian warlord named Polynices. In the ensuing power vacuum, two neighboring states are vying to control Thebes: Athens and Sparta.

It was interesting to know that, as in the Indian classics, names of key character's have a meaning that is closely reflects their true nature. Polynices means "manifold strife". What about the names of the other characters?

Megaera (played by D. Antony Janagi):  'The jealous one'
Sergeant Miletus (N.P. Chouhan): Named after the Milax shrubs where he was hidden after birth
Eurydice (Kalyanee Mulay): 'She whose justice extends widely'
Prince Tydeus (Debasis Mondal):
Pargeia (Bharti):
Haemon (Mrigendra Konwar): 'Bloody'
Antigone (Arundhati Kalita):
Ismene (Amanjeet):
Tiresias (brilliantly played by Bendang Temsu Walling):
Harmonia (Prashant Kumar):
Polykleitos (Prateek Srivastava):
Aglaea (Raju Roy): 'Splendor, brilliant, shining-one'
Thalia (V. Uto Chishi): 'Abundance'
Euphrosyne (Hardik Shah): One of the three Graces
Eunomia (Janagi): 'Good order - governance according to good laws'
Helia (Thoudam Victor Singh): 'Children of the sun'
Eris (PrashantKumar): 'Strife'!
Xenophanes (Himanshu Kohli):
Thesus (Sanal N):
Phaeax (Victor):