How to become a politician? (India)

The why. You want to change the system and do some real work you can take pleasure in than just whining about it. Get that road straightened, or better, a new one carved! But then, you have your principles and you don’t want to break them – and politics is about doing away with all the principles. Bull shit, it is about breaking principles, so what? Like they said in “Page Three”, “To change the system, you have to be in the system“. So break those bloody principles you have and do stuff to get to the top. Don’t lose sight of your aims and of what you were and when you get there, re-establish the real you.

The good. Contrary to belief, you really don’t have to be a son of a tycoon to become a politician – though it would certainly help a lot. Money is the goer in Indian politics today, but not the only one.

Let’s look at the timelines first. You start today with one of the few options we explore here, and you would probably take another 10 years to reach at the top – if everything falls right in place. Even if you are partly successful, it will take you to a position where you can do a considerably lot more than just whine.

The first option is to enroll into the civil services. This works best, since the chances of entering the political arena are a million times more than any of the other ways in. The plan is simple:

  1. Get ready for the civil services entrance exams conducted by UPSC.
  2. The hardest part is clearing the Mains, but well, you’re preparing for something larger in your mind – the Indian Polity, so this is nothing.
  3. Be in service for another 8-10 years, make your contacts and get your voluntary retirement when a party promises you a ticket.
  4. Even if your party, whoever it is, gets you to organize an election – you still can change a lot. It’s not about getting elected, the power to do anything at all on those levels can help you move stuff faster.
  5. With clear objectives, you can even do a lot of stuff if you are just a manager/organizer/adviser in a State/National party committee – since the only thing that matters is getting stuff done.

Obviously, I am imagining that you want to be a politician to be a change catalyst – and not a money minter. I hope you are never successful in case you are planning all of this for the latter. :|

The second way in is to apply to a local political party. The best time, when they need most help, is during an election (any election). You can showcase your public speaking skills, your education, your background, your negotiation skills – anything at all. Chances of your getting in at organizational levels are very high. They even pay a salary to individuals. Now, it is mentionable, that at every level of these options – there will be a tough job for you to get through by playing some “real games” in life. Did you hear, “you can never please everyone”? Get it out of your head. Time to change age-old adages and get them wrong is what your attitude should be.

The third option, and the real way that was devised to get into the system is… In most circumstances, you are already late for this. This was through being elected at the university level as a president for a youth wing of a particular party. This doesn’t apply to a lot of states where University politics has been banned or is extremely controlled. You don’t have to be the president per se, but this is the best arena you can sharpen your skills to get to the top.

The fourth way in is by going to the village of your dreams (or where you can associate yourself the closest). You attend the Panchayats, become a helping hand in every possible way and get to become one of the Panchs. Then you work your way up to the top. It would take a lot more time this way, but this is by far the easiest ways in for the urban-educated masses if they can understand and relate to rural problems. If you can’t take life without a packet of weekend, you have to practice and live with it.

The bad. These are a few of the ways to get there – all that sure looks easy but ain’t so. Not to disappoint you, but power comes after great risks but with greater benefits and even greater responsibility. Won’t talk about the benefits & responsibility, but now follow the risks and the tough part.

Civil services are not for onboarding politicians. The idea of it being a launchpad is since it’s the closest you can be with a real politician. Since you get close to them, you can tell them how you want to be one of them. There are threats though. 90 of 100 politicians today don’t want newcomers. Nepotism is what reigns there. So you have to be at the right place, with the right people and to complete it, at the right time with the right words. You risk getting far-posted and at worse, getting deported or even worse – getting stripped & jailed for things you never did.

Getting to work at a local office of a political party is no fun. You deal with people who themselves have been there for ages and have dreamt of becoming the CM-then-PM. To compete with such political nerds, who have nothing but fetishes of power, it’s a completely different game. Threat to life is the worse that it can get. Don’t try it if you are not a local yourself or cannot act like one. That is the best pretext to get you thrown out if they find out.

Studying in a University infested with a political system is the worst thing a student wants to do in India. But who said you were a student? You wanted to be a politician – and being a student who gets a degree at the end is just a side-effect. Since such Universities are numbered, your chances of getting into the University get lower since you again have to be a local to get all the advantages. To get to the top, you’d have to do things that you never believed in.

Of course, the surest way is always the longest – though with lesser risks (depending upon how aggressive the environment is). Getting into the Panchayati system (which is completely different from the state-union), makes sure you can do your stuff, strike a chord with the local polity and get to work on real-life projects that will alter the way people lead their life. The only thing it doesn’t do is – do it fast. So being in the realm of your final objectives all the time is going to be very critical. In most cases, this will be the most rewarding experience since you will see change happening as you go – and unlike the other options above, you’d get to do stuff right from the beginning.

New York, I love you – 2.5/5

Based on separate events in NYC, this movie is actually a string of short-films woven together. Out of some 10+ short films, I liked around 5 of them & thus my rating of 50% to the movie. For the most part, it doesn’t matter if it was NYC – because the same events could have taken place in LA, SFO or for that matter, even Delhi or Mumbai.

Unfortunately, Mira Nair’s directive stunt here was innately naive and I couldn’t be more disappointed. Natalie Portman was nice with the story direction, though it wasn’t as great in Ms. Nair’s part of the story. Shekhar Kapur was as usual at his best (though the screenplay was a little out of place).  Story transitioning was a little weird and it didn’t have to be NYC for two stories to be together anyway.

Pizza Incident

Ok, this doesn’t have anything to do with Pizzas, but with a party I threw out in Pizza Hut a long while ago. Since I have changed a lot of bosses now, I am sure nobody remembers who this ex-boss really is (unless you come picking on me). Here it goes:

Me: Has been 25 minutes already, if they don’t come back with the order in another 5 minutes, we’ll get it free.
Ex-manager: I’m looking at that guy in white shirt, he’s the most useless guy not doing anything at all while these folks serve..
Me: Well, he’s the manager.
[choke] [choke]

Not to be politically correct, but this was really all in good humor. ;)

The Secret – Rhonda Byrne – 1/5

It should be expected that “The Secret” will talk about mystical beliefs – something will happen on it’s own kind of thing. All you have to do is, believe that it will happen. The advice was a bit costly though (GBP 12).

There’s more to the secret though. There are testimonials and advices from a think tank that always believed in it any way. Things like the placebo effect are taken to the advantage of the topic. So what happens when things don’t come true even though you believed in them? The answer is, you had some “doubt” or “negativity” about it. Even though the book talks about the “negativity” being a thousand times less effective than the positivity, still the idea would stick in that the whole thing goes bust if you are out of faith. Heh.

This is a new cult coming up that is linking Quantum Physics to God and energy within you. I don’t think people should read this trash since every sensible human being already knows that “looking forward”, “being positive” and “believing in yourself” are the things to be successful. People who just lost something need a reminder, but please read it here instead of unnecessarily feeding on the garbage that is devoid of any new ideas and just keeps the parrots alive.

“Why are you even giving it a 1/5?” asks my wife. “To make myself feel good that I did not completely waste GBP 12 and the 1 day spent reading”. After all, that was one of the messages: “feel good”.

Dhanushkodi: Annular Eclipse

Moon's shadow on EarthWas my first time at an annular eclipse (with 100% contact – have been in partial contact once in 2005). Just to be clear, an annular eclipse, contrary to a total eclipse, does not induce darkness due to the increased distance of the moon from the earth. To understand further, you might want to see this image (preview on the right).

Pavan (an active volunteer of BAS) was accompanying me and Raghu on this trip. We drove to Dhanushkodi via Madurai and Rameshwaram (the oncoming two/three wheelers on your side of the lane deserves a separate post). We almost got killed by an oncoming Ambulance. A day’s stop in Madurai on Jan 14 and Jan 15th saw us in Dhanushkodi (DKD). DKD is right across Pamban bridge, some 10 Kms from Rameswaram. It’s a small island, surrounded by the ocean on two sides and extends to the last point of India that just touches Sri Lanka.

Annular Eclipse Phases - (click to view larger: in a new window/tab)

Contrary to expectations, DKD was free of an enormous crowd. The Tamil Nadu Science Society was organizing an event there (and quite a few folks from Assam – the Guwahati Planetarium, Gujarat, Bengal etc. were to be seen). Photos were being clicked as the “Media” approached us and we shyed away. Though we were carrying a telescope, due to lack of a filter we could not set it up and missed  the oppurtunity to use it. Pavan got a filter for his camera right on time (though I carved out something with an X-ray sheet, but the mylar sheet filter was definitely a better bet).

First contact of the eclipse was at 11:15 AM – as we put on our eclipse viewers, the sight was stunning.  The intensity of the sunlight decreased by as much as 75% (approximately) and the temperature certainly decreased by at least a couple of degrees (if not more). The sea wasn’t very rough, but the tide certainly had increased a lot more than what it was in the morning.

At about 1:20pm, we saw the ring – a beautiful sight as I kept gazing at it. There’s still a lot of light around you, just that it is white and not the usual yellow light and the intensity is nothing like a sun in a clear sky. The sky was spotless during the maximum eclipse around the sun, but it felt like there’s a cloud covering. Something very unusual, but a characteristic property of an annular eclipse on the ground. To understand how the eclipse traces the path on the ground, see this image.

We came back to Rameshwaram, stayed on till night and hopped back home the next day.

Interestingly, Raghu pointed out that I ended up following the popular superstitous Hindu activity of:

  1. not eating anything during the eclipse (though I drank some water and ate peanuts – which he discounts as: “even monkeys eat them“),
  2. taking a bath post-eclipse (we found a room at Rameswaram only in the evening, so I took a bath ASAP),
  3. visiting a temple post-eclipse (we went to hog – but couldn’t find anything since Rameswaram halts between 5pm and 6.30pm – so we had to go into the temple to make the most of our time)
  4. eating only after a bath (we were forced to take another 22 baths in the Kunds in the Rameshwaram temple – and then we hogged Dosas).

Heh, I broke (1) though, while Raghu/Pavan somehow broke (1) and (2). So glad I am.

2 Idiots

Me: सुना है 3 idiots बहुत अच्छी फ़िल्म है..
She: हाँ, मैने भी सुना है। कल देखने चले?
Me: नही।
She: परसोँ?
Me: नही।
She: तो फिर सुन कर क्या किया?
Me: बस सुना और तुम्हे सुना दिया।

35 to Badami

Badami has single-rock sandstone caves carved into temples (near Hampi – around 160 Km). That was my motivation to get there and after seeing Malegatti Shivalaya (Badami)the Hampi ruins, I thought it best to get some positivity back. It so happened that the road to Badami had much more to say than probably the place itself.

The road from Hampi to Badami is kind of nice until you follow a state highway that leads you all the way until the last 35 Kms to Badami are left. This 35 Km journey was very interesting. The road is broken and slows you down completely. It’s a single lane road, meaning you can either come or go if you have the road for yourself. That doesn’t mean that there’s no oncoming traffic. Mini trucks would still ply there forcing you and themselves to go off the road on one side of the axles.

That ain’t all. It was around 7.30pm in the evening and I saw a bunch of folks walking towards Badami on the same road. The highway was converted into a single lane footpath-cum-road. It wasn’t until I saw the milestone with 35 on it (and the mention of Badami) that I realized that there was quite a bit of travel left. What geared me up was the fact that I was in a car, while these people were walking – in the dark – on a broken road for a journey as long as 35 Kms (around 22 miles).

There was ample time to wash down, since all I could do was a meager 30 Kmph on that road and I knew it would take me another hour or so. Thinking on these lines, it struck me, why was the 130 Km highway suddenly changed into a broken footpath? There’s a well paved out two lane road with cat’s-eye markers, 2 ft shoulders and signs that tell you to keep under 60 and suddenly it goes dud!

The slowdown angered me so much that I felt what the people living out there could do. There are only a couple of transport vehicles plying on the road because of the very condition of the road. Due to the bad condition, you cannot even ride a cycle there, the humps would break your knees. I wondered, what if they became violent one day in protest? Will that make a difference? Well, that’s what turns into naxalite activity. This very frustrating 35 Km stretch could well become a seed for naxalites there – people who fight for simple things and fight so hard that they forget what they were fighting for. Things Chhattisgarh, AP and Bihar are facing for a long time.

It’s not just Badami – the story is same for Karmala to Bijapur  (MH),  Lucknow to Bareilly (UP) and Shirdi to Aurangabad (MH). Bad roads are everywhere – and there are long ways to go.

Car fuel/service log template (spreadsheet tool)

Was filling in data for my car’s fuel and service logs for the past year when I thought I’d post it here in case someone else needs it too. It’s simplistic and is accompanied by a fuel log that you can print and keep in your car’s glove box to keep a record (in case you don’t have fancy PDAs that do it already).

What the spreadsheet provides (after all your data entry hard work):

  1. Estimated average (Km/L) of your car
  2. Spot average – this is exact (when you top your tank twice in a row)
  3. Cost per Km

Here’s the spreadsheet: car-fuel-service-log-template.xls (Excel sheet – you can use the free OpenOffice Calc to use it). Directions of use are included in it, though I’d list them out here too:

  1. Enter date of fuel fill (column A), kilometer reading (column B), total fuel filled (column F) and whether the tank was topped to be full (column E).
  2. Other fields are optional, but will help if you enter data.
  3. Column D (used %age), is the estimated used %age that you see from the fuel tank indicator – this value is used in case the used %age cannot be calculated (in column M).
  4. Copy paste formulae in columns K (Left), L (Spot Mileage) and M (Used %age) from  the above rows to fill in values automatically (this is pre-filled till row 75).
  5. Make sure you edit the tank capacity in the sheet as per the tank capacity of your car.
  6. Total trip cost for particular trips can be summed and indicated in column M.

There’s an additional service sheet in the spreadsheet file that you can use to log your car’s service job details. I use it to keep a log of all the service jobs, what was fixed/replaced etc.

To maintain the fuel logs, I have this document: petrol-log-template.doc that I print out, trim to border with scissors and harden it by pasting two of them together. This is kept in my car until it fills up completely and then I enter data into the spreadsheet I mentioned above. At every fuel fill, I just have to ensure the discipline of filling in the fields and later filling them into the spreadsheet I maintain.

I Don't Tweet

Twitter has been downright silly for me since the very beginning – but then I thought may be that is because I don’t use/understand it well. Then I saw this: and was very glad. Some nuisance about twitter:

  • “tweet tweet” – someone is doing something somewhere – go check
  • “tweet tweet” – retweet – someone really did it
  • “tweet tweet” – this url is f**king – you have to f***ing click it to see what the heck I am talking about
  • “tweet tweet” – gawd this news I heard was really the same one every one else knows about – retweet!
  • “tweet tweet” – i want to so follow you for the reason of you following me in reciprocation – puhleez
  • “tweet tweet” – sent from my chuck-phone – I bought a $500 device to tweet all the time, how cool!

All that said, I still am on twitter in some automated way, where blog posts get tweeted. Heh.

Well, I just thought I’d add this one in too:, on how bloggers and tweeters have a gazillion share buttons on their blogs/posts or anywhere else. And then, once again like:

  • “tweet tweet” – that road is like blocked for the last 2 years, but let’s tweet about it #road #bangalore #fail #totallyapocalypticfailure
  • “tweet tweet” – the keys I forgot in my backpack, came thru from my car’s back seat #keys #forgetting #stupidme #stupidyou #car
  • “tweet tweet” – vote my ?post=3441 on reddit #reddit #my…com?post=3441

Khosla Ka Ghosla – 5/5

My all time favorite, Khosla Ka Ghosla (KKG) is a must watch for people who can understand Hindi. I was just seeing the flick for the 10th or so count and thought it should be given a rating right away. Score is five out of five. Supreme direction, tight and apt screenplay, witty dialogues, amazing characters and to top it all, a story that moves in a direction to build upon a superb plot.

If you haven’t seen it yet, please order the movie right away (it would only cost a mere 60 bucks if you wanna see it on a VCD – or 100 for a DVD). There is no point explaining what the movie is about here. To write a gist, the movie has a plot that will hold you until the end of it and has extreme humor that will hazard you falling off the chair laughing. I had to see this movie 10+ times over just to hold on and laugh at every point where I am stuck laughing.

Anupam Kher, Bomman Irani, Vinay Pathak and Ranvir Shorey – these guys are my acting heroes throughout the flick. The troubled Kher, evil Irani, avenging Pathak and dumb-headed Shorey – all the characters move the story right into the spot. Beautifully done. Not to say that others were any less, but then I think it’s everyone in the movie who were at their peak. Flawless. See it.

Favorite quotes:

..lijiye ho gayi na galti, jaldbaazi mein aap ke aur aap ke pitaji ka naam exchange ho gaya..

“..ji aisa nahi ho sakta ki jab woh aaye to aap hamein bula le?” .. “..ji aisa nahi ho sakta ki main aap ki taang tod du?”

..aap to shagird bana lo ji apna..

“..aap kuchh lenge..” “..nahi ji, nahi..” “..kuchh thanda wagerah?” “..nahi ji, nahi..” “ kuchh chai..” “nahi ji, zaroorat hi nahi..” “ aap chup lene ka kya lenge?”

Dual monitor automation

See the file ~/.config/monitors.xml – this file generally is screwed when you are changing the monitors being connected to your laptop. Most of the times, the symptoms are:

  • connecting to a new environment doesn’t automatically bring up the new monitor on-screen
  • a second VGA monitor is either not detected, or it just doesn’t get the display because: “your display resolution is only XYZ
    whereas you are trying to set a display resolution of ABC”
  • you can only set mirror display and not “dual display” as it should be

Since all of these problems are so chronic, you may want to consider doing away with your dual monitor automation (that gnome’s display applet provides) and using xrandr+customized X configuration. That would require you to use a script that you might have to run every time you change the number of monitors (like connecting a new one etc.). I wanted to believe that openSUSE 11.2 doesn’t need this any more, but I don’t think we’re there yet, since if you are traveling around with your laptop connecting to different resolution screens, it doesn’t work out of the box.

Or – delete the monitors.xml file every time you want to change resolutions. It’s still hacky.

For anyone who wants to try out the dual display script I use, here it is (copy paste this somewhere and save as and chmod a+x on that file).


# Rishi Pande
# http://fryol./net
# This works well on openSUSE 11.0 / Compaq nc6400, please report if it ain't
# working or even if it works elsewhere.


if [ "x$1" != 'x-h' ];

# You should make sure that you see similar settings\\n\
# enabled in the Display sub-section of /etc/X11/xorg.conf: \\n\
#     Virtual    2880 900 \\n\
# And these in the monitor sub-section \\n\
#     Option       \"PreferredMode\" \"1440x900\" \\n\
#     Option       \"Xinerama\" \"off\" \\n"

if [ "x$1" = "x-h" ];
   echo "Usage: $ [WIDTHxHEIGHT]";
   echo "$app: In case you want to undo things, plug out your laptop from the";
   echo "$app: docking station (or pull out the VGA cable) and run $ again.";
   echo "$app: To use a different resoltion, please supply WIDTHxHEIGHT (like 1280x800)";
   echo "$app: as an arguement to the script, and if your /etc/X11/xorg.conf is fine,";
   echo "$app: things should work. Note that this resolution is for your VGA.";
   echo -ne "$app: These are the relevant settings in /etc/X11/xorg.conf:\n";
   grep Virtual /etc/X11/xorg.conf
   #echo -ne "\n$app: "
   grep -E 'Option.*Xinerama' /etc/X11/xorg.conf
   #echo -ne "\n$app: "
   grep -E 'Option.*PreferredMode' /etc/X11/xorg.conf
   echo -ne $directions

if [  `xrandr --prop|grep ' connected'|wc -l` -gt 1 ];
   xrandr --output VGA --preferred --mode $dual_disp_resolution --right-of LVDS;
   # With suse 11.0, this is no longer needed:
   #  xrandr --output VGA --left-of LVDS;
   #  xrandr --output VGA --right-of LVDS;
   #  dcop kwin KWinInterface reconfigure;
   xrandr --output VGA --off;