Friday, June 23, 2006


June 2, 2006. Between 6:45 and 7:15 PM
After a typical day's work, I carried an extra dose of headache as I walked out of office. Before I walked home I stopped by at the nearest newsstand to look for the latest magazines. The newsstand is just a temporary erection by the road side, which actually used the bordering compound wall to hang most of the magazines like clothes drying over the balcony of a flat. Impulsively, I reached out to Frontline only to find hopelessly biased pro-reservation cover stories. India Today ran a cover story on how the Young and the Rich of India is getting addicted to drugs. "Yea, you need a Rahul Mahajan to hit the nail on your head!" I thought. Whatever happened to balanced, pro-active journalism? Actually, The Hindu Group does that from time to time with articles regularly highlighting problems like child-malnutrition and government inaction, contracting river and lake water resources because of bottling companies etc. But with the reservation issue, The Hindu Group, has shot itself in its foot big time. As the train of thoughts got slowed down a bit, I became conscious of a well groomed, good-looking girl in a nice copper sulphate salwar kameez with a white dupatta. Only when I looked up thoughtfully about the journalism in India did I notice that she is a foreigner. She was a blond with fairly big eyes, angular jaw-line, with enviably well aligned, white teeth. Funny how much you observe within a short span of time when you are interested in something. She spontaneously picked up a Business Line and reached towards me to pick up a Fronline. Looking at her spontaneity, I thought that she must have been here in India for a while.

"Excuse me". I blurted out.
"Yes". She looked up at me with a puzzling, but smiling face.
"You've picked up BusinessLine and Frontline. Both are from The Hindu Group..."
(I was wondering if she liked The Hindu Group's way of news presentation)
"Yeeaaaah" she said thoughtfully. "There should be more variety. Uuummm. So, what do you suggest"
(Oh! She must be from the UK. Soon I forgot that I meant to ask her if she liked the The Hindu way of journalism)
"What kind of news item are you looking for?"
"Economy, economic policies development...", she examined my face to see if I make some connection.
"I think The Economic Times is a good one", I started searching for it in the stands, but couldn't find it.
"Oh! Yes, I have seen it before." She started looking for it too!
"Its from the The Times of India Group", I said.
"And in magazines..?" she asked showing me the Frontline she held.
"Frontline, being a fortnightly, offers a good variety of news", I said running my hand of the its contents page. "But, off-late I am thoroughly disappointed with the way it has handled the reservation issue. Totally biased reporting."
"Yeaah! That is because The Hindu is based in Chennai where there is heavy support for reservation".
(Now that is really impressive, I thought)
"I am from Chennai", I grinned wondering if I just took the first step to mess up a good conversation.
"Oh! Really!" she gave a broad smile. "So, are you against reservation?"
"Yea. Atleast against reservation the way it is currently implemented. I guess the press can have its opinion, but the reporting should be balanced a bit....." I gestured a "Balance" moving both my hands up and down alternately, searching for a nod.
"Yea.." She agreed giving the nod and wearing a beautiful smile across her face!
"India Today is popularly read magazine, but its kind of reactive reporting." I said showing her the cover on which a guy was blissfully enjoying cocaine. At times it gets into the self-congratulatory stories like increasing number of malls or how women across India are more open to pre-marital sex (Oops!). They are interesting, but don't really address anything useful for the society.
She looked a little confused at what I said, as she looked at the guy-with-cocaine in IT cover.
"Yea, What's that guy's name...the guy who's in trouble for cocaine abuse? Rahul...mah.."
"Rahul Mahajan" (Amazing!)
"Yeah, this story is based on that right, I think I see what you are saying".
(Ye, I guess my opinions are not as crappy after-all!) I handed her the copy.
"So what are you doing here? I mean.... in India?"
"I am here for my Ph.D research"
"Oh, thats great! Ph.D in..."
"India's economic policies, development, etc.."
"Wow!". I paused letting the thought sink in. "Which University may I ask?"
"University of Bristol"
"Oh Cool". I wanted to say that I have a friend who has graduated from University of Luton. But didn't, since I somehow that it might sound like I am showing off.
"Anyway, I am Badhri, I work here at Synopsys, in Lifestyle Building"
"Carol", that smile again!
"Nice meeting you!"
"Nice meeting you too!"
We shook hands and parted in the opposite direction. I didn't really know why I ended the conversation right there. Here is a foreigner who has considered Indian Economy a worthy subject for her Ph.D and has bothered to travel all the way to India. As I walked towards the bus stop, I realised that the India she sees, is probably the India that the world sees. As a global player, for India, nothing else matters. I suddenly had so many questions to ask her like, what encouraged her to choose the topic and how much of value would it add to her. The obvious question comparing the economic policies of India and China and so on...After just a few paces from the newsstand, I realised that I didn't to get my copy of India Today. Honestly, I don't know if getting a copy of IT was just an excuse to talk to her for longer or if I had really decided on buying it. But when I went back to the news stand she was already gone. I have never missed anybody after such a brief introduction, like I miss her now.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Media Exposed: Rakhi Sawant case

I know! You guys are thinking "As if the media is not enough, here is another blogger who is wasting his time and reader's time to come up with the crap about Justice to Rakhi Sawant". Hey, I am one of you too! Rakhi doesn't deserve the air time or the page-space because she managed to show-off her assets in discotheque-targetting "item songs" and she ended up getting molested. But there is another angle that I am trying to see.

Allow me to start from the beginning. I have a sensation-stuck room-mate who sticks to Star-News and its totally irrelevant and senstionalistic news reports for his worldy no-ledge (thanks to D.N.A.). As a surprise to nobody, Star News dedicated its prime air time to this. It showed footage of Rakhi offering a friendly kiss to Mika on his cheek as a split-screen along with another footage of Mika returning it to her on her cheek in a slow motion to let it sink into the audience. I thought "And she is filing a molestation charge against him?".

But the opinion in equally sensationalistic Outlook magazine along with the pictures published exposes (better than Rakhi herself!) the collective media irresponsibility. As claimed by the article, the media (CNN-IBN, Star News...) neither published the photograph published in Outlook, nor clearly indicated that the footage shown on TV was the one that Rakhi was complaining about.

The reason may be many things, plain want of time dedicated to news, predetermined notion on part of media that Rakhi is after cheap publicity (as claimed by Outlook). But the reasons don't matter. The fact remains that the news report has given a biased angle to viewers.

Again, the specific news report by itself is insignificant since it doesn't affect the greater good of the society. But this fact is only more concerning than relieving. What about all the issues that do concern the society and the public opinion does matter? How am I to expect objective and accurate news.

My hopes are already dampened by The Hindu Group .It abased itself by heaping up tonnes of totally biased pro-reservation views in all its publications, but not finding space for single article on its down-sides.

Media: Shame on you!


Friday, June 09, 2006


It is around 3 O'clock in the afternoon and it is hard to stay awake, let alone focus on work. But this situation occurs so often that everyone knows the remedy to it. Coffee! This is probably the sole reason why people in our site are as active as they are after lunch. Employees in Synopsys, Hyderabad are diverse not only in culture, but also in habituation to coffee. Some totally refrain from coffee, while some practically live on it. Some prefer tea, while some enjoy both alike.

What one prefers is one's choice. But the reasons behind the choice is interesting and worthy of a discussion. An employee of Synopsys Hyderabad who consciously refrains from coffee, says, "I don't want to drink coffee because it is addictive." So, how true are such common notions about coffee? A quick search in the internet shows that coffee is hot! as a topic of discussion, that is. News articles on latest scientific findings, dedicated websites for awareness about coffee, recipes for various purposes like pre-workout nourishment and stress reduction are common search results on coffee. Like any thing famous, controversy and sensationalism afflicts coffee's reputation, but truth emerges quickly with some patient research.


The most widely "known" opinion about coffee is probably coffee's "addictive" nature. After all every one knows that coffee (or the lack of it) causes headache. World Health Organization admits that it happens to "some sensitive individuals" who may "experience such effects when their daily intake is quickly and substantially altered. But any such effect is always overcome by progressively reducing the intake of coffee over a few days." So, moderation, rather than abstinence, will suffice.

Coffee and Cancer:

If research is to be trusted, coffee has a love-hate relations

hip with cancer. One Japanese research published in Journal of the National Cancer Institute says that two to three cups of coffee helps reducing the risk of liver cancer. On the other hand, a research publication in Chronic Diseases in Canada links coffeewith risks in bladder cancer with four cups of coffee per day. For women, the same amount of coffee may increase the risk of breast cancer.

A little effort beyond casual "google-ing" brings out the truth about coffee's relationship with cancer. While certain research studies categorically vindicate coffee from its perceived ill-effects, a few others that eulogize coffee's effects are based on possibilities, rather than scientific proof. For instance, a research article involving researchers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center New York, (the top ranked cancer institute according to US News) concludes that "consumption of coffee does not influence the incidence of breast cancer."[1] On the other hand, if we consider coffee's "capabilities" on curing liver cancer, according to reports in MSNBC, the Japanese researchers have tested two groups of 100,000 people. One group "never or almost never drank coffee", while the other group drank coffee regularly. They found that the first group had 547 individuals with liver cancer after 11 years of observation. In the same period, the second group produced only about 215 with liver cancer. So, they concluded that, coffee may be responsible for preventing liver cancer. But MSNBC followed the news up with this.

"While the study found a statistically significant relationship between drinking coffee and having less liver cancer, the authors note that it needs to be repeated in other groups. And the reason for the reduction remains unclear."[2]

With no scientific evidence relating coffee to reduction of liver cancer, the conclusions of this research cannot be a convincing proof for coffee's benign effects.

Another angle:

Looking at the issue from a different perspective, coffee's effect on a healthy individual, malign or benign, usually shows up when the consumption is four cups or more. For instance, coffee's possible contribution to bladder cancer is prominent only when an average four cups are consumed per day. Similar observations are made on rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Another research claims that six cups of coffee a day reduces the chance of Type 2 diabetes by 50% (University of Harvard Medical School). So, it may be safely assumed that a moderate coffee consumption of 2 to 3 cups a day will be non-intrusive.

Popular truth:

However, not all the popular notions about coffee are false. Coffee increases mental alertness, but excess coffee causes insomnia and indigestion. If coffee is loaded up with sugar and creamer, over a period of time, it increases the LDL cholesterol level and hence the chances of diabetes. Hypertensive individuals are especially prone to increased blood pressure.

Bottom line:

Most of the research studies linking coffee to a disease don't go beyond establishing a possible statistical correlation. Alternatively, research pointing to coffee's beneficial effects mostly point out that such effects are prominent only if the intake is high. If you avoid coffee thinking that it will shorten you lifespan, you are a victim of media hype and unsubstantiated rumors. A cup or two of coffee per day is non-intrusive to a healthy person, save its mouth-watering aroma and a taste that lives up to the expectation its aroma generates. But to avoid the short-term effects (insomnia etc.) moderation is the key.




Further read: