Franklin Roosevelt’s inaugural speech

Although many have compared the current recession caused by unregulated trading of credit (and it’s many derivatives) with the Great Depression of the 1930’s it is only an insincere soul who would in fact believe it. We are in a much better position in terms of food security, healthcare, access to information and all other essential services, etc. Even during this recession most Americans are still living a luxurious life compared to the rest of the world. It’s almost impossible for anybody living outside of US to summon any pity for folks who chose to dig and delve in an ever deeper credit hole. It’s probably not fair to use the word chose in this context. After all, it was the market created by the banking industry who connived effectively under the Federal government’s eyes-only-for-homeland-security to create this economic morass. Nonetheless, the comparison of our current times to the Great Depression years seems juvenile.

A recession does not only mean a loss in earning potential, loss in opportunities or even a drastic reduction in one’s standard of living, back then it also meant a very real threat of loosing one’s life, one’s family and access to even the very essential of human necessities. Large families were forced to split and fend individually. Families migrated in hordes to different pastures, fuelled only by hope. Loosing a dear one to illness was a real and present threat. With a feeble social safety net to speak of, the falling had little hopes.

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Maximum authority, limited liability and zero accountability

Ever since the alleged improprieties in awarding of certain contracts for CWG 2010 was triggered in July, the avalanche of further embarrassing accounts in other aspects of the preparation has only gained momentum even though we are now into the eleventh hour. Indian government lobbied for the privilege of hosting the Games quite actively and successfully. India was chosen as the host nation as early as 2003 but development activities did not begin until 2008; after a full 5 years of passion wilting slumber. Even Kumbhakarna woke up every 6 months to take stock of situation. 5 years is a long time to squander every ounce of intent with which the patronage of other Commonwealth nations were sought. The public has shown very little enthusiasm in playing host to the games. Majority of the citizens of Delhi, from all cross-sections of the society, have been enduring the preparations rather than enjoying the prospects. An event of this magnitude should have galvanized the locals in ensuring that their sporting spirit be granted better facilities to exercise. Instead, the stereo typically opaque manner of execution that is so effective in alienating the public from all matters of governance was staged in it’s full glory.

The political steeplechase that is the Commonwealth Games Delhi
The political steeplechase that is the Commonwealth Games Delhi

It is not my intention to parrot all the deficiencies that have been highlighted with ever increasing exuberance by the media as well as the member nations. We have passed the point where the volume of controversies will create more impact. The national psyche has be been scarred irreparably. The autocratic sub-culture that thrives within our democratic carapace was spotlighted best by the manner in which contracts were awarded without adhering to even the basic regulations of the process for sealed tenders. Unadulterated apathy towards even the basic and universally accepted methods of estimating both time and cost is underscored by the actual expense to date which now stands north of Rs. 70,000 crores. The initial estimate was under Rs. 2000 crore – an obscene deviation of almost 4000%. Opinions and sentiments of the actual stars and star-makers of the show – the sportsperson and the spectators – were never even considered. If it were, then the facilities would have be ready well in advance for at least 1 round of national games to be held so that anticipation of a better competition involving world class athletes could have been cranked up.

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Bal Gangadhar Tilak on nationalism and patriotism

Bal Gangadhar Tilak was perhaps the first among equals when it came to defining Indian nationalism. The concept of nationhood never existed prior to British rule in India. The challenges faced in uniting disparate regions for this cause that was alien to most commoners was expertly handled by Tilak. The effectiveness of this idea, planted using his incisive speeches is there for all to see. Modern Indian patriotism is a distinct offspring of Tilak’s efforts. Even though other greats like Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi and Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore have all extolled the virtues of universalism it is Tilak’s idea that has taken root in popular culture.

In this particular speech, Tilak explains the change in responsibilities of the common man in adapting to altering circumstances. The unification of various regions by British for easier administration, he suggests, should be accepted as a part of changing history. The subjects of this new empire has newer responsibilities. A broader perspective must be developed by each in order to fulfill their purpose in society. He urged folks to think beyond their regions, something that was never needed before as their rulers were the ones brokering alliances and allegiances.

As is his style, the language is quite candid in places. It is also flavoured with a brand of sarcasm that is typical of a Punekari as is evident in the following section:

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Self taught lessons in publishing for the web

Of the many first-impression reactions I received from friends, acquaintances and even total strangers, many commented on the presentation aspects of this blog. The writing, I understand is not everybody’s cup of tea. I was pleased to receive positive feedback on the presentation because over many years I have been drawn towards the many intriguing aspects of publishing. Perusing typefaces endlessly, studying character spacing, word spacing, line spacing and paragraph spacing. I also had a weak spot for publications that lay out it’s text and images on sublime background colours and images, creating just the perfect contrast that makes it both eye catching as well as readable. Some of the better one’s like Wired had a spread that could match even the best buffet layout in getting the drool going. So, when I decided to publish my blog it was only natural that the layout be satisfying to the senses.

Publishing for the web has it’s own challenges. It’s ironic that the very same technology that enabled mass adoption of many unique publishing techniques for the print are unavailable for web publishing. The reasoning is easy to follow if you know the history of web; but that history is monstrously complex for me to attempt and simplify at the moment. The availability of fonts are limited; the best options among the serif types are Times New Roman and Georgia. Among sans-serif it’s Arial and Helvetica. Without the proper sizing and background some fonts come out looking disturbingly anorexic. And if you would like to layout the text so that it flows around the outline of an image of Coke bottle the challenges are just too much to even make it worthwhile. That is why the creative talent at most magazines find their product’s online avatar embarrassing, and rightly so.

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