A few days ago I watched the Veer Das Netflix special “Losing It”. While he is probably the best when it comes to stand-up comedy (the reason Netflix is going for the second special with him, of all the artists), there was a part where he couldn’t stop whining about the beef ban that’s in place in the majority of the states in India. Now, he’s not the first person to do that. In fact, many left-wing so-called intellectuals have been doing that and ironically the same people also diligently share photos or post tweets about how they are enjoying beef in India (which essentially contradicts what they are saying).

Now, I do agree with the whole freedom of eating part and to a very large extent, I support it. I’m saying “very large extent” and not “completely” because we should be cognizant of the fact that with every freedom, comes the responsibility as well. While we can surely enjoy the freedom we want, freedom is never (or shouldn’t be) absolute. A driving license gives you the freedom to drive but it also holds you responsible to drive safely. A voting right gives you the freedom to vote but also holds you responsible to choose the best of all candidates fighting the election since the country’s/state’s future depends on your decision. A job gives you financial freedom but also holds you responsible to manage your expenses. And all the debates I’ve seen so far about the freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of eating – talk only about freedom and conveniently forgets the responsibility.

Theoretically, I should be able to eat pork right outside a mosque or in the middle of a Muslim neighborhood. I should also able to eat out in open during Ramadan in the same area – I have the freedom to do it.

Can I do it? – Yes.

Should I do it? – No.

And not because of the backlash I might receive or worse, I can get killed. Even without those fears, I should not be doing it. If my freedom is making someone uncomfortable, I would try to think of ways to get some solution that will not hurt that person and also doesn’t make me compromise a whole lot.

Essentially, at some point, we should also think about what kind of a person we want to become.

And, to take it to the next level, what kind of a nation we want to build. India is one nation that has always been accommodative to a multitude of cultures. When Parsis were getting converted or executed by Islamists in Iran, they made India their home. India is the only country where Jews found safe heaven and never got discriminated. This is the country where countless faiths have been able to live peacefully. And a part of the reason why this has worked is because of mutual respect extended by most of the other religions as well who haven’t been infected with the disease of evangelism, forceful conversion, and disrespect for other faiths.

Secondly, we also need to take time to understand the history behind why cows are considered holy in India. It’s not surprising that the animal that has been the second most important source of livelihood for millions after agriculture, is worshipped. And it’s not just the milk. Cow dung was used for flooring as well as on walls in the houses as a mode of insulation from the scorching heat outside. It was also used as a source of heat for cooking besides the wood. Cow urine was used for therapeutic purposes in ancient Indian medicine. And of course, the cow has reproductive capabilities. With one animal playing a very important part in the daily life of Indians, cow essentially reached a motherly status and one doesn’t kill a mother to eat her flesh.

To a large extent, the emotions people in the western countries have with dogs, Indians have with a cow. But while protesting against Yulin festival, that doesn’t even happen in the US but all the way to the other side of the world, is cool, protesting against beef is not because it doesn’t have a western endorsement.


Can IVMS Hit 2 Targets with One Stone?

Automating the Driver’s License Issue/Renewal and making our roads safer.


Everyone deserves a safe environment – be it inside our house, our work or even the road. Given that after our home and workplace, the third largest pie is most likely to be the roads, where we spend considerable amount of time through our daily commuting or traveling for other purposes, it is imperative that ensuring road safety goes long way into creating a safer society.

Being a data analytics professional, I tend to think how this field can help create a better society overall. And being a driving enthusiast, linking the two wasn’t a long shot.

What is wrong with the existing system of driver’s license issue/renewal?
The most obvious reason to automate anything is to eliminate human intervention. Removing human intervention is not only required to reduce unnecessary human effort utilization but also to remove subjectivity as well as corruption from the entire process. Secondly, the existing process depends on testing the driver for just one day for a few kilometers and deciding whether the driver is a safe driver for the next 5-10 years. While this system has been going on since long but doesn’t mean it is right.
Also, the current system of penalizing drivers is only based on violations (that too, if the violation is caught) or accidents. Also, in most of the cases, once the drivers clear the road test, they start thinking of themselves as James Bond and go back to their own unsafe driving habits – over-speeding, tailgating, lane cutting, suddenly accelerating/decelerating, not providing signals while turning or changing lanes and more.

How IVMS (In-Vehicle Monitoring System) Changes Things?
IVMS is not such a new concept. Largely based on “black box technology” used in the aviation, it is now finding applications in automobiles as well with some use cases such as that of Shell Global.
To begin with, I see it is possible to automate issue and renewal of the drivers license based on the data provided by these monitoring systems installed into the cars of the drivers. Based on the data collected on driver’s driving habits over the entire period of time and applying suitable algorithms, the system will determine whether a particular driver is a safe driver or not. These systems can also be used to downgrade a driver’s license category if the driver fails to maintain the driving standards. This will essentially ensure that the drivers follow the rules irrespective of whether there is a police car or not. It can essentially eliminate rash driving, unless the driver isn’t really worried about losing the license.

What can be under monitor?

Acceleration Rates
Smooth accelerations gives greater control to the driver over the vehicle and also the vehicles/pedestrians around to adjust to the speed of a given vehicle. There can’t be any necessity for high acceleration rate.

Deceleration Rates
Yes, in emergencies, there may be situations where you may need to decelerate very quickly or hit a short break. However, many times, these short breaks are also because drivers don’t pay attention on the road while driving as they may be busy quickly looking into a message on phone or chatting with the passenger next seat. Either of the reasons do not suggest good driving skills. Beyond certain limit, there can’t be any justification for high deceleration rates if the driver is vigilant enough.

Signaling during lane changes or turns
Signalling is the most fundamental medium of communication between drivers on the road. Failing to communicate results in crashes that are fatal at times. We already have software in the cars that alert if there is a lane departure without signaling. Taking it further, these software also store the number of times these alerts have been flagged for a given driver. In addition, any turning of the car without an indicator on, also indicate bad driving practice.

Distance from the car ahead vs speed
Many of us know the 3 second rule. Personally, I feel 3 seconds is more and, in practice, people generally keep about 1.5 to 2 seconds, which is still in the safe zone if you car’s breaks are working fine and you are attentive on the road. There are already software available in some cars that identify the distance between your car and the car ahead of you and determine if it is the safe distance or not. These systems can monitor whether the drivers maintain safe distance between the cars, taking into consideration the speeds as well. This can prevent tailgating which can be dangerous.

Road Speed Limit vs Car Speed
This might be a little tricky as it may require data about the speed limits of every road in a given geography. In general, there is a tolerance or 5-10% above the posted speed limit but beyond that, it can be dangerous for the driver as well as other cars around him/her. And this is perhaps the most violated rule while driving in most of the countries, once drivers acquire their licenses.

Seat-belt Compliance
Not wearing seat belts can increase the severity of injuries or even fatality in an event of an accident. Seat belt is also one of the reasons you can get a ticket, if you are not wearing one. It is a good enough reason to fail a drive test as well. Cars, since more than a decade, already have alerts if the seat belt is not on and the car is in drive mode. It will not be something very difficult to track.

Complete Stops at Stop Signs
This might be stretching things a bit too far but then that’s what STOP signs are for – to stop. This one may have a little low weightage, and depending upon whether the violation is in the form of complete failure to stop at the STOP sign or partial stopping at the STOP sign, the penalty quotient can be determined.

In addition to these, the number of at-fault accidents and total number of violations can be other major determinants during the issue and renewal of the drivers licenses. The entire system can ensure that the drivers remain safe drivers throughout and not just during the driving tests, which is essentially the objective of the road safety. Also, as they say, never send a human to do a machine’s job – we can put human intelligence to better use rather than have them sit with a stranger whose driving habits they are not at all aware about.

Sources: Wikipedia, Shell Global


So, What Do You Eat?


Yes, They are all Vegan!!!

“So, what do you eat?” – I am used to getting that a lot. Earlier from non-vegetarians because I was a vegetarian, and now from vegetarians as well, because I am a vegan.

But I don’t really blame them because before becoming vegan, even I didn’t pay much attention to those Silk Soy/Almond/Cashew/Coconut Milk tetra packs right beside the regular milk gallon-jugs. I didn’t bother to look at that “V” sign on a food packet. I never noticed in any cafe, a separate line on the menu that said: “Add Soy/Almond Milk – $X”. I never googled a vegan version of traditionally dairy-based recipes like Pizza, Cakes, Indian Desserts etc. Those things pretty much didn’t exist for me.

One thing that being vegan made me understand WHY cooking is a pure art. And we often understand that art has no limits but we forget that art has no dimensions either. While there is ‘n’ number of things you can draw on a canvas, each of those things can be further drawn in ‘n’ number of ways as well. In a class of say 20 children, even if we give all of them an assignment to draw a natural scenery, all of them may have two mountains, one river, one house, three clouds, four trees, one sun and a well (if it is in Europe or Asia) – but still, each of these drawings will be different from the other – not just in terms of colors but also in terms of how those elements are projected.

Same goes for cooking as well. We may think that a particular dish must follow a certain list of ingredients and must taste in a certain way – but who certified that? There isn’t any organization that mandated it? Why can’t there be another dimension in a given recipe? Nothing is irreplaceable – is what being vegan taught me. One just needs to expand the universe of tastes, textures, ingredients, and combinations. It does take time to work out the perfect replacement and involves a lot of failures as well, but the results definitely come in.

It took us months to figure a perfect alternate recipe to make the Indian tea and coffee from soy milk but we did eventually reach there. Yes, it is different from the milk-based tea in terms of taste and texture – but then that’s what exactly it is – “different”.

And since last 2 years, I have come across so many varieties of diets that exist in this world – based on different principles, some of them being religious, some of them being philosophical, while others being nutritional. However, they all have their way to coexist.

The Identity Politics India Needs

I saw the India Today Conclave 2018 debate today on the topic of “Identity Politics” – something that has been deeply ingrained into the Indian political mindset. The panelists included Hardik Patel (Patidar Andolan Leader), Kanhaiya Kumar (ex-President of Students Union at JNU), Sheila Rashid (ex-VP of Students Union at JNU), Rohit Chahal (Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha national media in-charge) and Shubhrastha (right-wing columnist).

Just as expected, the debate, in no time, slipped into panelists mudslinging each other and hardly sticking to the topic. However, a few points and the topic of the debate itself brought a good thoughtfulness on the idea of what kind of identity politics India needs, especially when the politicians in the past have done nothing but dividing the country by race, caste, religion, region and sometimes even gender – just for their vote banks.

I guess the answer was right there when the moderator, Rahul Kanwal, was introducing the participants. Not for once, he used any of the divisive adjectives like race, caste, religion, region or gender, to introduce the panelists. They were introduced based on the work they did and the positions they have held or hold currently. And from the debates and discussions, I have witnessed so far, panelists are always introduced by the work they do and the positions of power they hold.

During the discussion, Kanhaiya Kumar made a point on the identity where he said that if someone asks him abroad that who is he, he will respond by saying that he is an Indian. If someone asks within India, he will respond by saying that he is a Bihari. If someone asks him within Bihar, he will respond by saying that he is from Begusarai. I think that is exactly the mentality we are fighting. Why can’t his identity be the leader of AISF and the students’ wing of CPI? And there should be a full stop after that. It is the identity based on “karma”.

And for humans, it gives the true and greatest joy when the identity is associated with something they have done. And the reason is that the other identities – region, religion, caste, gender, race etc. – humans do not have any control. It is by fate. However, the identity associated with a profession is something that the person has worked hard to “earn”. And with a country like India, building an identity associated with profession can be the greatest motivator for the people to work hard and achieve their dreams irrespective of their religion, region, caste, color or gender.

Whenever we talk about our farmers, we feel proud because they work so hard to bring food to our table. Whenever we talk about our scientists, we feel proud because they enable our technological advancement and improve the quality of life for everyone in the country. When we talk about our athletes, we feel proud because they work hard and bring medals/trophies to our country at international stages. When we talk about our artists, we feel proud as they do not just entertain us but also sometimes bring awards at the international stage through their work. These personalities also feel proud because of what they have achieved in their profession – not because they belong to a particular religion, region, caste or gender.

When farmers strike, we always say “kisaan andolan”. Recently in Maharashtra, the farmers marched from Nashik to Mumbai. I didn’t see any news channel reporting it as “Marathi Farmers” but just as “farmers”. Even the protest in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra last year by farmers was called “kisaan andolan” in MP and Maharashtra and never as “Marathi and MPite kisaan andolan”. When farmers from Tamilnadu went to protest in Delhi, they were never called “Tamilian farmers”.

As long as we keep associating ourselves with such pity things, we cannot develop because our horizon will be limited. And unfortunately, problems do not see race, religion, caste, gender etc. before striking.

–Featured Image Source: India Today

90s Indi-Pop Artists I Wish Were Active Even Today

Pop songs in India became a rage during the 90s, started to lose sheen in early 2000s and pretty much died later on – at least in terms of the quality it produced. With many high-quality pop singers making their career into playback singing for movies, it kind of left a void. To add to that – the originality took some good hit as the pop songs reduced to mere remixes of old Hindi movie songs. Also, to a large extent, music piracy also played its role in killing the industry.
When I think about listening to some good quality Hindi non-movie songs, I just can’t think of anything in recent past but the era around 1995-2000, especially these four artists.

I’m not sure but I can certainly bet that this lady was pretty much every teenager’s crush – at least at some point in time – in that era. Starting off with a quick acting+singing stint in the movies and an MTV VJ (she’s popularly known for), she ventured into the Indian pop scene with a bang – launching back to back successful albums “Duniya” and “Pyaar Ka Rang” around 1997-98. It was her versatility in her singing that made her an amazing singer. It takes a good talent to move from “Duniya” to “Oye Shava” and then pull off a song like “Mere Mehboob”. Raageshwari had it pretty much all. However, the successful stint at the pop scene was interrupted by Bell’s palsy that left her left side of the face paralyzed and a slur in her voice. Even during her recovery, she came in as a host to many television shows with her infectious energy that could bring life to even a stone. In 2006, Sagari Rayn brought a completely different side of her with quite a mature signing. By that time, the Indian market had pretty much lost its ability to appreciate pop singing as it starting going south with crappy singers like Himesh Reshammiya.

Lucky Ali
He had a unique, heavy but melodious voice that made him a perfect candidate for pop songs – something that gives him his own face on the screen to match the voice. I still cannot get bored of listening to his “O Sanam”, “Dekha Hai Aise Bhi”, “Tere Mere Saath” and “Kitni Haseen Zindagi” – probably the best 4 of all his amazing songs. And, for me, on some days, even “Gori Teri Aankhen” hits the chords. His voice generated some amazing and highly popular songs in the movies but those remained very limited. When these days, music largely overpowers the voices – I definitely miss someone with such a distinctive voice you cannot miss noticing but still with a music that you can find your solace in.

Colonial Cousins
I guess, after A R Rehman if anybody was able to nail the Indo-Western fusion music, it was Colonial Cousins. Their sense of putting the right western instrument in the midst of a classical music, as well as the other way round, was simply amazing. With Lesle Lewis pouring in his expertise in Western music and vocals and Hariharan, a maestro in the Indian classical – it was the fusion of ages. They smashed many records with their first album with numbers like “Krishna”, “Sa Ni Dha Pa” and “Let Me See The Love”. “Krishna” pretty much transported you to another world with so much depth in lyrics and music just bringing everything together. The next two albums also went on to become chartbusters. They came back again in 2012 but they can definitely do more than that – provided the Indian audience is up to it.

Bombay Vikings
In the era where remixes were being made left, right and center with utterly disastrous music by random artists, Bombay Vikings brought the class to it with their amazing ability to fuse old songs on a western music with some infused English lyrics as well. The spin they gave to some of the songs like “Kya Soorat Hai”, “Woh Chali” and “Hawa Mein Udta Jaaye” brought them to a new and refreshing level. For me, they were probably at their best when they composed “Tera Mera Pyaar” – top class music and an audacious vocal combination of Neeraj Shridhar and Falguni Pathak, pretty much brought the best of everything in just one song. Neeraj Shridhar had a great run in Bollywood movies too, writing and singing some amazing songs – however not as memorable as his albums which gave a very distinct identity of him as a singer and Bombay Vikings as a group.


Besides these, the 90s saw many amazing artists coming up with melodious songs, some of them made their way to playback singing in movies, the rest just phased out and made their way somewhere else. The 90s pop music scene in India wouldn’t be the same without names like Sonu Nigam, Shaan, Alisha Chinai, Baba Sehgal, Usha Uthup, Shubha Mudgal, Aryans, Hans Raj Hans, Daler Mehndi, Silk Route, Kamaal Khan, Euphoria, Anamika, Anaida, and Junoon etc.
Yes, I may be forgetting some names that may be very special to some people – especially Parikrama and the Indian Ocean – but then, their level of music was altogether at a different height and genre.

Source: Wikipedia pages of the artists for some fact checking.

The Great Indian Debate Killer – “Where Were You When…..”!!!

Invariably, this statement comes at least once in almost every “so-called” debate you see in Indian media – both television and social. Be it firecracker ban, mob lynching, morning azaan issue or Gauri Lankesh murder – “where were you…” rocked – diluting the importance of the issue and making it yet another opportunity to take political and religious potshots.

But why is it such a lame thing to do in a debate?

The degree to which people are using this word, not just diverts the entire debates from the core issue but also gets the conversation into a filthy territory where judging people becomes the central idea. The ones who use this statement will often raise the flag of “exposing the hypocrisy” but essentially it is just another way of saying “What I am supporting is bad but you did not oppose the same bad a zillion years ago so this bad is good”. That argument undermines the idea of tipping point when a person says “enough is enough” – which clearly doesn’t mean that whatever happened in the past is acceptable.

Secondly, and probably the most important one, it shifts the focus of the debate from the topic in hand to the participants itself. And that happens when the participants don’t have anything constructive to offer on the topic. An ideal debate is fought on facts and focuses on the validity of the issue raised with possible solutions, if valid. It requires a good amount of research, a strong understanding of realities on the ground and having facts/figures on hand. That enables someone to make strong points supporting a stance. When people do not research and are not aware of ground realities, they resort to personal attacks and digging up the past instead of convincing the other party on why they are wrong.

Also, the phrase undermines the evolution of opinions as people gain more information, experience and perspective about an issue. While it cannot be denied that many people would find the compulsion to cling on to their beliefs in spite of seeing the truth in front of them, just because they feel the need to be faithful to one side, it may not be the case always. People evolve and so does the thought process. The everyday experiences and the stories that we hear, add to our perceptions and how we think about a particular issue. People even change opinions mid-way the debate – if you don’t believe, see “12 Angry Men”.

“Where were you when……” is perhaps just one such example of what’s wrong with the “argumentative” Indians. It is more difficult than it seems – to be rational all the time, especially when you have the prejudices and personal biases growing like a tree in your mind. It is up to us on how much we are not just able to control it but quash it before they damage our interactions with others around us.

Evolving and Encouraging Stand-up Comedy in India

There are two kinds of stand up comedians emerging in India. One, who cannot end a sentence without the S or the F word. And then there are the ones who can actually crack jokes (not that they don’t swear at all). And slowly, I also see a beginning of the third genre who is using comedy to drive attention to some of the key issues our country is facing. The evolution of the stand-up comedy scene is very refreshing and encouraging to see, especially in a country that seems to be losing its sense of humor and the ability to laugh at itself.

There are a couple who I love to hear and follow on YouTube.

Atul Khatri:
He’s a CEO turned standup comedian – probably the eldest in the fraternity but I guess that’s why inspiring across age groups to send a message that it’s never late to follow your passion. He is largely known for his Sindhi jokes – how everyday efforts to save every single penny creates comic situations. He isn’t even shy to crack a few ones on his age – turning it into an advantage!!

Amit Tandon:
The ease with which he creates humor is amazing. I have seen very fewer folks trying out stand up comedy in Hindi and do well (although increasing these days). He definitely comes as one of the best. The theme of aam aadmi’s everyday struggles and feelings with a comic touch establishes the connection with that group of audience.

Kenny Sebastian:
I loved his show “Chai Time with Kenny Sebastian” that picked up various topics like childhood comics, ladies purse, Indian kitchen and more. His sense of humor and the metaphors are amazing. He supplements that with the props and visual aid to increase the impact.

Anshu Mor:
Former Director of Interactive Entertainment Business (XBOX), he is, again pretty much like Atul Khatri, a corporate drop out. In his 40s, he definitely inspires people – it’s never too late. He has a good variety when it comes to topics he picks up. I didn’t see any set pattern to expect when watching him again and again, which is really good for an artist. His selection of language (between Hindi and English) to communicate a joke or even a line within an entire piece to increase the impact is amazing.

Kunal Kamra:
We randomly came across his channel on YouTube and instantly subscribed to it. Politics is his forte. Very recently he has started his podcast named “Shut Up Ya Kunal” where he invites a guest, associated with the topic intended to be discussed – mostly politics and current affairs – and exchanges views and counter views on various aspects of the topic. The first episode had BJP Youth Wing Vice President, Madhukeshwar Desai, while the second one had Indian National Congress National Spokesperson, Priyanka Chaturvedi. The most recent one had the two JNU students – Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khaled. I loved the ease with which he discusses every single point in a logical way and still keeping it very humorous.

Besides these, there are other good ones like Nishant Tanwar, Vikramjit Singh, Anirban Dasgupta and Rahul Subramaniam. I don’t follow them but watch them whenever it pops up on my YouTube recommended videos.

Overall, it’s a healthy trend but it’s not yet reaching the masses who deserve to receive the context of a particular issue in an unbiased and possibly humorous manner which they don’t receive from today’s 24X7 news channels.