(E) dragon has woken up… 

Had stopped twittering and blogging thanks to ‘facebook’. Got tired of seeing other faces! 😅

Getting back to real conversations thanks to reading posts & comments on Medium. Finally feel writing something back over a post. A comment does not cut it.

Bye for now. Hoping to get started with a silly project that I have taken up for next 100 days (one those things that you take when you are bored in life! See the next post for that  ;)


Note : Kindly excuse the typos! Written in a flow with no interest for editing. Kindly do read through the links and do comment here. Post is long as the context, the uproar might be lost when someone reads it later in time. Kindly read if you have 15-30 mins in hand. And yeah if you follow up the links and are not lazy, it is even longer.

Context (What?):

The groundswell on the internet about Net Neutrality in India primarily started with Facebook’s initiative to have certain sites free as part of internet.org (About , Wikipedia – detailed document of the issue). If you are in India and you go the website you see a response in Hindi (India’s national language) – which doesn’t work if you are not on a Reliance network. (I have a translated version here)

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 3.27.53 AMWhich seems very odd and unfair. Feels like it is a walled garden where the site is available only for certain India Internet users using the Reliance Network. Also do check out Wikipedia link on ‘Facebook Zero’ which aims at getting more users where people who are so called ‘poor’ or in other words not used internet before due to cost being an issue can use the internet for free. It offers a stripped down version of Facebook apart from essential sites that Facebook thought would be useful. Where even ‘photos’ on Facebook would be charged at a different or regular rate that the user falls or subscribes to.

I feel Airtel responded to this with an Airtel Zero Plan in order to compete with Reliance. The plan (unlike Facebook’s initiative) completely flipped the funnel and was a great idea which said if the business wants to pay us (Airtel) for the bandwidth – then it is free for the users of your business/site! Airtel had initially actually done – Wikipedia Zero project to access Wikipedia for free over SMS / USSD. The Airtel Zero plan was marketed as as follows :

  • Airtel launches ‘Airtel Zero’: A win-win platform for customers and marketers
  • Customers benefit: Customers enjoy free data access to a variety of mobile apps signed up with ‘Airtel Zero’Compelling marketing tool for marketers: App providers pay for customers’ data charges, thus giving customers toll-free access to their mobile application
  • For startups to enterprises: An open marketing platform that empowers companies ranging from small businesses to large conglomerates with an equal opportunity to reach out to customers in India
  • Spurs national agendas: Contributes to Government’s focus on Digital Inclusion and ‘Make in India’

Kindly note – the pitch is a very positive one saying it helps everyone! And helps the nation and giving access to specific sites for users on Airtel with the hope that people will switch due to this initiative and the perception that there is good intention at the end of it for Airtel to retain / get more users.

When Facebook Zero or internet.org or Wiki Zero were launched everyone was quite. However, Airtel Zero opened up the whole issue for debate.

This started a movement of protests from large number of online Indians protesting against such initiative. Some links that are for net neutrality that make sense and don’t make sense {I leave it to your judgement :- )} and my opinions in the sub bullet :

Enough of articles that created or support the movement.

Kindly note, I see the net neutrality debate in the US (Obama video, FCC 2015 proposal, Nytimes articles – 1,2 and 3) is different and is even more severe as to what is prevailing in India. Basically it comes down to the following according to my understanding (I totally agree to this if telcos are doing this) :

  • Blocking of sites is not right
  • Charging extra for certain sites either from the business or users is not okay
  • Giving variable bandwidth between services or sites should not be allowed
  • Even if there are competing services being provided by certain sites or services on the internet that the telco or service provider is engaged in, there should not be extra cost i.e a byte is a byte. This means Skype should not be differentiated if a telco is offering voice services.
  • Lack of transparency for the customers and under the table deals between certain companies

However, giving the users different plans according to internet speed is not part of the debate nor is giving only certain sites for free apart from the basic internet package. People also site Obama’s video and the new laws enacted by the FCC. Where the claim is internet has to be viewed as an essential good, like electricity or water. This is not the moot point in India’s current net neutrality debate.

My View about the debate in India currently

I am against the current net neutrality debate in India. People are jumping the gun saying giving certain sites for free if the business decide to pay bandwidth is not right. The basic claim is if we allow this or don’t protest now, we are allowing or giving leeway for possible doomsday scenario for the telcos sometime in future where they can discriminate between certain websites or businesses. Also, this will lead to new startups or internet / mobile companies not being able to compete in a unequal world and hence stopping the innovation culture. In simple words, the rich get richer! I see it as an incentive for business to use their websites and visit their website with no cost. They are not saying start-ups cannot get onto the platform.

Metaphorically from the real world cases : it is like Amazon or Flipkart saying “Free Delivery / Shipping”. Some sites can afford it and others cannot. We can then say transportation is a basic need and hence there should not be variable pricing between petrol / diesel. All cars or taxis should be charge at the same rate of bus tickets or train tickets in general or AC. Some people will say these metaphors don’t make sense but that is how I see it. There is a convenience charge and there is a business advantage. Let’s face it! However, in case of essentials goods, the rates are fixed by the government in India. The oil companies for instance. Most of them are public sector companies and the government keeps them alive. Best case being Indian government rescuing Air India. Which has been making losses for ages but my tax money is been sunk there without my approval with no hope to helping the sector!

Current scenario in India is not of discrimination. It is about certain companies paying money to the telcos so that users can get their content for free as they have figured our their business model to make money in other ways i.e. Ads or profitability due to scale. It is not about charging more for certain sites. Start-ups cannot afford that as they have not figured out how to make money. They will achieve scale in some time to make money. Plans like Airtel Zero provide an app store like advantage where they can be featured and there will be better visibility. However, search engines and word of word still exist to give them visibility  Net equality still remains, you can still access the ‘other’ sites at the same cost depending on your plan and the choice to speed (in this case 2G / 3G /4G or whatever Gs!)

My thoughts/understanding overall :

  • It is okay for telcos to offer certain sites for free if it is due to debatable ‘goodwill’ or businesses bearing the cost of the bandwidth business or government (say IRCTC and others) instead of users. Ultimately someone has to bear the cost?
  • Of course, users cannot demand that if a site is free on a certain telecom network due their policies then their network should also follow suit. They are welcome to choose/change their network and with mobile number portability in India there should not be any issue on phone numbers.
  • Some of the article that raised the question and primarily were thought leaders in the groundswell (1 million+ mails were sent to Government ultimately protesting against this!) They have viewed this with a very narrow lens. 1 million people mailing is primarily due to herd mentality. 1 million people who are intellectual and are economically well have sent the email and I don’t think they have bothered to send the mail after understanding the real debate. Couple of posts by influential people and they should be right – let us also join the wagon.
  • Current issue is of not blocking. (Kindly correct me if this is wrong)
  • Not charging extra for certain sites or throttling of bandwidth (I am not sure if this is being done). After all, telcos make more money if people are using more bandwidth. Telcos are making money as lot of people are using Youtube on 3G, helping them to charge more or provide packages with higher cost based on data download.
  • The main issues came up due to WhatsApp not Airtel Zero or Facebook Zero or internet.org! The new feature of free calling opens can of worms. They already killed the SMS or MMS business. Telcos and operators felt threat. Primarily due to superior technology (managing huge users efficiently).
  • Prime reason MMS didn’t take off between the telcos in the world as operators across the world did not come to agree that they will work out the pricing across the world. In fact they priced it too high. Even SMS – the actual cost of sending an SMS is almost close to zero in the telco network. Basically they were greedy and not innovative to understand lowering the cost will only help them. While I was working at Netcore around 2008, we got blocked from sending free SMS as the operators saw their monetization going down leading to lower ARPU. Media reports (Airtel, Vodafone and Rajesh‘s posts) – which violates the net neutrality point. There was no movement then as users felt it was not internet.
  • The governments are also to be blamed as the spectrum was sold at exorbitant charge and they promised the telcos they will have regulation to protect the telcos by giving them pricing and other advantages in terms of VOIP not being legal and having interconnect charges for SMS and Voice calls. Albeit throttling innovation in the telecom business.
  • They way I see it – government is the only party to be blamed. They got greedy under the pretext that it will help them in getting tax money which can be used to help the poor with subsidies or the political leaders making money!
  • They way I see telcos giving free internet for certain sites are in fact being innovative. Let the market dynamics decide who will win – are people going to move to other service providers due to rate differential or better quality of service or presence of service when one travels in India or abroad or unfair advantage that some sites are free on their network !?

Articles I would like to point out against the argument (just googled and I am happy to see them – media journalist who have put their views clearly and have not succumbed as most of media has done) :

However, I am disappointed on the comments by people to these posts that are leading the movement. They just doing +1 or simply saying telcos are assholes

What the government needs or could do to help everyone (I am yet to read the TRAI consultation paper – possibly next post I will give my opinion on that. Missed the deadline on 24th but who cares! At least I don’t) :

In fact, what people should be really concerned is what is in the news recently as of yesterday : Airtel, Reliance Jio, Vodafone & Idea want WhatsApp, Viber, Skype under regulation. Basically they are asking and implying to their users –  you can’t have your cake and eat it too! It TRAI agrees – the entire movement goes bonkers. Well have to see if MODI delivers – abki baar aap ki sarkar … :-)

Update :

  • I tried to fix the typos and have added some words or sentences in the post. However have not changed my stance.
  • Telecom operators warn of six-fold hike in data tariffs – the article makes sense. Telcos are building their cases on why the services like Skypes i.e. VOIP can be allowed on their network. However, I wonder how they came up with 6x number. Can some one say why 6x and not 10x or 100x?

Tamilnadu Politics

I have had a nomadic, apolitical upbringing. I have appreciated logic, non-emotional and non-judgement way of life. I grew up in various SBI Officers’s quarters i.e. Orissa, Mumbai, Chennai and in Pondicherry. Also stayed briefly in the US in and around Berkeley. Then moved to Mumbai, Bangalore and then back to Chennai. I have never been passionate about Politics. I have voted only once in my entire life at Mumbai 4 years back and the candidate lost! In fact looked down upon it during my college days and continue to do so :-) I have always believed that the entire world is one country. An utopian or naive way of life. But over the last few years, I have come to terms with the fact that having been exposed to democracy as the way of life in the places I have visited it is important.  As part of work, I even participated in the Mobile SMS campaign for BJP as part of the last elections (in other words spam!)

I have always wondered why lots of my India friends have taken appreciating US politics more than India. Why the India TV channels create drama. Always admired the way students and people in US supported and had a view on the politics of its country. They way the US presidents talk, the UK House of Commons functions and why Indians mostly take up to yes-manism, chair throwing, buying votes. Pondered very briefly, Why can our representatives sit down as statesman and fix the real situation? And never get lost in who shouts the most and not have structured discussions. Whether if we were a dictatorship, India might be a better place to live :-) The statement from my physics professor who helped me prepare for IIT exams always comes to my mind when I think of these things : Thank God Physics doesn’t behave as democracy does. (He would ask a spot poll on what people think the answer is and the majority of intelligent people came up with wrong answers! ;-) )

Off late, Tamilnadu has been in the national news over the last few months. Main items have been the 2G scandal (which I don’t think is a scandal! Apparently Time lists the scandal as the biggest one after Watergate!!), AIDMK wining the state elections, Eminent fall of the DMK and now the Sri Lankan war crimes associated politics that have been affecting the Indian Nation. I think everyone should watch the video Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields  on youtube first before forming an opinion.

Anyway, the reason I decided to write this post was, I was not sure how do I get started to know or even started comprehending the political situation in Tamilnadu. And the best way I thought was history. But, I am very lazy when it comes to reading books and taking the effort to have a fact based opinion. Partly because at a gut level, I don’t care in my heart but my mind accepts I need to get educated! Its like if you are an engineer you don’t care about sales but for the success of the company sales is very important function! I happened to pick up a copy of Frontline (Jan 25, 2013 Issue) during my travels across india in Jan, Feb and Mar and it had very interesting articles about Tamilnadu politics and its history. Would love to discuss with some people who understand this more but just thought will blog it away for later reference.

The last article is very relevant to the current news that has lead the DMK to withdraw support from UPA and current TN Government deciding not allow Srilanka players to play the IPL while also making a resolution today to push for Sanctions, Trade Embargo against Sri Lanka and declaring that Sri Lanka is not a friendly nation to India. Though these developments are primary political in nature, the actions are being taken as a good portion does reflect the mood of the state. I think one should also see the movie Iruvar (also Aishwarya Rai’s debut movie?) to get a feel of the political climate then when AIDMK was founded. The rise of Jayalalithaa is also an amazing story, which I still don’t understand.

Tamil Eelam (A survey in late 2008 by the Tamil Nadu daily Ananda Vikatan found 55.4% of Indian Tamils in the state supported the separation of Tamil Eelam, while 34.63% supported a federal Tamil Eelam) is only point on which Tamilnadu stands together and no party wants to be seen lacking in terms of actions against it. Some quotes from the last article Tamil Nationalism – Then and Now:

The frequent references in Tamil Nadu and outside to “Tamil nationalist” and “Tamil protectionist” movements by leaders of the Patali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) and other political parties are confusing and misleading.

These terms were initially used in the context of the struggle for Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka. But their use in the context of Tamil Nadu calls for explanation. The concept of “Tamil nationalism” was initiated at the end of the 19th century mainly to protect the separate identity of the Tamil language. When a false impression was created that the pan Indian culture was Sanskrit, a section of educated Tamils asserted the point that Tamil culture was distinct from Sanskrit culture and demanded its independent recognition. This was followed by the non-Brahmin movement of the non-Brahmin upper castes (who identified Brahmins with Sanskrit) against Brahmin monopoly in education and employment in the first three decades of the 20th century and by E.V. Ramasamy Periyar’s Self-Respect Movement since 1925 and the Dravidian movement thereafter.

The non-Brahmin movement of the Justice Party founded in 1916; the Justice Party’s rise to power in the 1920 elections to the Madras Legislative Council through the “communal electorates”—a major outcome of its non-Brahmin movement; the Self-Respect movement founded by Periyar in 1925 with his long-term goals of establishing a rational egalitarian society; C.N. Annadurai’s acceptance of Periyar as his leader in 1935; their work together for the next 14 years when they changed the course of Tamil culture, politics and society, with Periyar more on the campaign side and Anna on the culture side; the related groundswell and efflorescence of the Dravidian movement from the 1930s to the 1960s; Anna’s entry into the Justice Party in 1935 when it was in its last gasp, which, as he revealed later, was “to convert the party of the affluent into a democratic and socialist party”; the Justice Party unwittingly facilitating this radical change by naming Periyar as its leader in 1938 when he was in jail for the anti-Hindi agitation.

Anna and Periyar together transforming the moribund Justice Party into the Dravidar Kazhagam (D.K., or Dravidar Federation) in 1944, laying the foundations of Tamil cultural and political nationalism in the province; the rupture between Anna and Periyar in 1949 when Anna left Periyar and the D.K. and founded the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, or Dravida Progressive Federation); Anna’s election to the Rajya Sabha in 1962, even as the DMK graduated to become the principal opposition party in the Madras legislature; Anna’s demand in his maiden speech in the Rajya Sabha expounding his goal of an independent Dravida Nadu (Dravidian country), which Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru rejected in the House later; the Sixteenth Amendment to the Indian Constitution, which proscribed advocacy of secession and the DMK’s decision to drop its Dravida Nadu demand, all should be seen as precursors of the DMK’s rise to power in 1967.

Anna, after he became Chief Minister, used power to achieve the goals of the Dravidian movement, of Dravida Nadu. He named Madras State Tamil Nadu, enacted the progressive legalisation of self-respect marriages, which was central to Periyar’s Self-Respect Movement, encouraged inter-caste marriages by awarding gold medals to such couples, and, daringly, abolished Hindi as a mandatory subject in government schools.

Anna pleaded with the Centre for a constitutional realignment in favour of the States, and believed that India could play an international role when Indians “are socially integrated, economically self-reliant and work out ostensibly what can be federal and State subjects”. Anna’s DMK pioneered the advent of regional parties in India’s polity, providing a safe and democratic outlet for regional aspirations within a united India and the espousal and accommodation of linguistic cultural nationalism in India’s complex plural ethnic and religious mosaic.

After the breakup of the DMK in 1972 when film actor-turned-politician M.G. Ramachandran formed the Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (ADMK), later renamed the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the political landscape of Tamil Nadu spawned many new parties, each for the promotion of a single caste, mainly to gain from the loaves and fishes of public office, have a share in the State’s caste-based power play and a larger slice of the cake in its caste-based reservation politics.

The PMK is a product of this caste-centred political churning. Its single-point political agenda has fostered the Vanniyar caste, first through the family of its founder, Dr S. Ramadoss, and then through “Vanniya Nadu”. For this, Ramadoss has been doing a Bal Thackeray in Tamil Nadu by appropriating what he fantasises as Tamil culture and Tamil nationalism, crying foul that “Tamil culture is in danger” without understanding the heterogeneous and palimpsest nature of culture, which is of multiplex complexity in a caste-ridden society.

The upshot of the power play and factional politics in the State is the conflict between the Scheduled Castes and the intermediate castes. The non-Brahmin movement was successful in highlighting Brahmin domination in every sphere of public life. The Brahmins retreated tactfully. It was a slow process. In the face of the social mobility movements of Dalits and their legitimate aspirations for a higher and better place in what is increasingly seen as a secular and not a caste society, that too after centuries of subjugation, sections of the so-called “intermediate castes” such as Vanniyar, Mukkulathore (Thevar, Maravar, Agamudayar) and Goundar, who once tried to move up the caste hierarchy by claiming Kshatriya status through Sanskritisation (briefly, imitation of Brahmin behaviour), are unwilling to yield social and political space to Dalits as the Brahmins did from the 1940s to the 1970s. (These castes were not really intermediate in the traditional fourfold Varna system but at the bottom of the hierarchy of the Sudra castes and are “intermediate castes” only now in relation to Dalits; Dalits were outside the Sudras and hence were characterised as Avarnas or Panchamas.)


Madras Music Season

Finally 45 days of awesomeness in Chennai. The real beauty of living in Madras ( Chennai ) is here to be enjoyed! Its winter (albeit some small rain hung over) and its time to listen to great carnatic music, great food, party over New Years and top it with some sports action of the Chennai Tennis Open.

A quick short guide on the MMS i.e. Margazhi Music Season

Locations of sabhas (halls) http://goo.gl/maps/GIOdh


Schedule for Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan – best according to me :-) { AC and food just across the road}

Best part is till Dec 14th all the Halls have free music. All you have to do is show up!

The wall and the egg

Just read an amazing article about a speech by HARUKI MURAKAMI {About him from Wikipedia: His works of fiction and non-fiction have garnered critical acclaim and numerous awards, including the Franz Kafka Prize and the Jerusalem Prize, among others. Murakami’s fiction, often criticized by Japan’s literary establishment, is humorous and surreal, focusing on themes of alienation and loneliness.[2] He is considered an important figure in postmodern literature. The Guardian praised Murakami as “among the world’s greatest living novelists” for his works and achievement}

The article The novelist in wartime at Salon talks about the individual (egg) and the System (wall). Some nice excerpts (for my reference mostly) – applies a lot to India!

“Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg.”

Yes, no matter how right the wall may be and how wrong the egg, I will stand with the egg. Someone else will have to decide what is right and what is wrong; perhaps time or history will decide. If there were a novelist who, for whatever reason, wrote works standing with the wall, of what value would such works be?

What is the meaning of this metaphor?

It carries a deeper meaning. Think of it this way. Each of us is, more or less, an egg. Each of us is a unique, irreplaceable soul enclosed in a fragile shell. This is true of me, and it is true of each of you. And each of us, to a greater or lesser degree, is confronting a high, solid wall. The wall has a name: it is “the System.” The System is supposed to protect us, but sometimes it takes on a life of its own, and then it begins to kill us and cause us to kill others — coldly, efficiently, systematically.

Take a moment to think about this. Each of us possesses a tangible, living soul. The System has no such thing. We must not allow the System to exploit us. We must not allow the System to take on a life of its own. The System did not make us: We made the System. That is all I have to say to you.

what is journalism

With technology costs coming down and people becoming more participative, I have always wondering what and how to define what journalism actually entails. Jeff Jarvis quotes in his post on Product vs Process Journalism and I totally endorse Robert’s definition

Robert Picard writes that journalism

is not business model; it is not a job; it is not a company; it is not an industry; it is not a form of media; it is not a distribution platform. Instead, journalism is an activity. It is a body of practices by which information and knowledge is gathered, processed, and conveyed. The practices are influenced by the form of media and distribution platform, of course, as well as by financial arrangements that support the journalism. But one should not equate the two.

Another point, I strongly feel everyone (esp. India Media) should start understanding the implication of what they mean by citizen journalism. Just aggregating tweets or news bits or live reporting on the internet by people is not what I would call journalism. And the word citizen journalism with the general interpretation becomes too overloaded and loose. What is processed and how it is presented in any media at the end is what matters not how fast (not too late ;-) !) and how much (esp Indian New TV Channels).

the media tree

My sister sent a lovely story as a forward and then it made me think about the Seventh Mass Media. This made me think a good way to help people visualize evolution of media is using a family tree analogy. Let me know how you like it. My family tree is different than what the story entails but I hope this make sense.

Grand Pa (Cinema – 1900) married Grand Ma (Radio – 1910) outcame daughter (TV – 1950) with strain of Richness+Mass
Grand Pa (Print – 1400) married Grand Ma (Recording – 1800) outcame son (Internet – 1980) with Curiosity+Interactivity
Pa (Internet – 1980) married Ma (TV – 1950) outcame (Mobile – 2000)!

I would say its a bit too soon to deciding its gender and its characteristics. Lets just wait and watch :-)

The story my sister sent The Stranger

A few years after I was born, my Dad met a stranger who was new to our small Texas town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around from then on.

As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family. In my young mind, he had a special niche. My parents were complementary instructors: Mom taught me good from evil, and Dad taught me to obey. But the stranger…he was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries and comedies.
If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present and even seemed able to predict the future! He took my family to the first major league ball game. He made me laugh, and he made me cry. The stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn’t seem to mind.

Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other to listen to what he had to say, and she would go to the kitchen for peace and quiet. (I wonder now if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave.)
Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honor them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our home… Not from us, our friends or any visitors. Our longtime visitor, however, got away with four-letter words that burned my ears and made my dad squirm and my mother blush. My Dad didn’t permit the liberal use of alcohol. But the stranger encouraged us to try it on a regular
Basis. He made cigarettes look cool, cigars manly and pipes distinguished.
He talked freely (much too freely!) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing.

I now know that my early concepts about relationships were influenced strongly by the stranger. Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked… And NEVER asked to leave.

More than fifty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was at first. Still, if you could walk into my parents’ den today, you would still find him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.

His name?…. .. .

We just call him ‘TV.’

(Note: This should be required reading for every household in America !)

He has a wife now….We call her ‘Computer.’

Their first child is “Cell Phone“.

The Seven Mass Media

  1. Print (books, pamphlets, newspapers, magazines, etc) from the late 1400s
  2. Recordings (records, tapes, cassettes, cartridges, CDs, DVDs) from the late 1800s
  3. Cinema from about 1900
  4. Radio from about 1910
  5. Television from about 1950
  6. Internet from about 1990
  7. Mobile phones from about 2000