Thursday, February 28, 2008

Currency conversion Vs. purchasing power parity in articles

I am an subscriber in Switzerland (English version), and has read National Geographic Magazine (NGM) for a few years on and off. Its great magazine with stunning photographic content and research.

However, one thing has always troubled me. The way the writers/editors look at the other countries economic situation with an outsider's view. I would imagine that a publisher of their stature would go another level and get the local view.

For example, in an article on Hazara people of Afghanistan in Feb 2008 issue, there is a reference to two people working as labours and earning $1.2 for toiling hard. Fair that $1.2 looks like a very lowly sum when looked in USD, but, converting it to local currency brings out the fact that its equivalent to about 59 Afghanis.

And, by averaging that if a person earns 3 USD per day, he would end up with about 150 Afghanis. Now, what I expect from NGM is that they get to the reality and figure out what's actually possible with that amount. Whether its enough to buy food for the family, pay for the shelter stuff like that.

Well, its sort of given that there is poverty, but leaving the numbers in USD does not give a local image of the place. It rather leaves the reader perplexed, "Only $1.2, I spend more than that of money on cigerettes",or something like that.
In my view, its more important to show the purchasing power of the money that is being earned by the poorer people. Only then, the real extent of the poverty and the crisis they are facing will show up.

In another instance in the same article, one man is photographed with a caption that says that he works 12 hr days and earns about $65 a month. Again, I would expect the localization of the info here. Is it a norm that people in that region work 12 hr days. What good is 65$ in local currency, what can that money buy...

These numbers in USD or Euros or Pounds dont make much practical sense unless mapped with ground reality of what they are worth.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

When I miss India

Yesterday evening when I was returning home from office, a lady boarded the bus. She looked very much similar to a south Indian native.

I knew by instinct that she was a Sri Lankan, thats because there are a lot more Sri Lankan people living in Switzerland than South Indians. However, I couldnt deny myself the possibility that she could very well be an Indian. Somewhere I wanted her to be an Indian, and then there was this urge to go upto her and speak to her. About where she is from, what does she do here, how long is she living here and all that.. kind of small talk..

There are times when living overseas you feel like getting back in touch with homeland. The people, the culture, the food, the mindset, local issues, scenarios.. things like that. And when you come across someone strange, where there is a possibility that he/she is from your homeland, the urge goes higher.

Another exponent for me are few hindi songs. Whenever I happen to listen certain hindi film songs, I feel very homesick... Take for example, "ऐसा देस है मेरा" from Veer Zara. Few more in the same genre would be...

  1. ये जो देस है तेरा, स्वदेस है तेरा... फ़िल्म स्वदेस
  2. घर कब आओगे - फ़िल्म बॉर्डर
  3. चिट्ठी आयी है - फ़िल्म नाम
These are some examples of songs that make me feel nostalgic about home. There is a strong urge of leaving all the overseas business and just move back home. Close to parents, family members, old friends everything...

I hope I am depicting the emotions correctly.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Residence Permit renewal in Switzerland

In first week of November 2007, I submitted an application to renew my residence permit based on a work permit renewal request from my employer.

At that time, they said that the new permit would arrive in two weeks time. When I contacted them back, it was told to me that it normally takes 6 to 8 weeks, and the 2 weeks date that I was given was incorrect. Well, now, its more than 3 months and there is no permit in my mailbox.

The real problem behind this is, being a foreigner in Switzerland, this residence permit is part of "travel documents". So, for example, if I plan to visit Greece and apply for a visa at the embassy here, I would have to produce the right kind of travel documents. Not having a valid residence permit means that I cant apply for a visa anywhere.

Furthermore, embassies issue visas only for a period that is a month lesser than the validity of the residence permit. For example, if I would have a valid residence permit today in my hand, and I apply for a visa, I would get a visa starting tomorrow and valid till a date which is derived from residence permit's expiry.

Now with this permit already late by more than a few weeks, and the next extension to be applied within a few days, its pretty clear that there is no chance for me to be able to visit any european country for the immediate future.

Thanks for all the restrictions on Indian citizens.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Jodhaa Akbar in Zurich

On the 16th of Feb, we enjoyed Ashutosh Gowarikar's new epic "Jodhaa Akbar" in Zurich. A particular cinema, that seems to have some ties with Indian movie distributers was screening it for a few days. The same cinema had already screened "Welcome" in past.

Before the movie was released, we have seen quite a few reports about the movie's correct depiction of historical facts about the emperor Akbar and his Rajput wife Jodhabai. It was so clear that people were trying to gain publicity out of nothing. People and groups that nobody has ever heard of were now on TV news talking about history and correctness or incorrectness of the movie's depiction of historical facts.

This is typical of populists in India. Give them anything that can be cashed upon, and they will. Arranging demonstrations, publishing press releases, breaking stuff at cinema halls screening the movie and what not.

I am no historian, but ever since I remember, we were taught in history classes in schools that Akbar married a Rajput princess "Jodhabai" in order to start diplomatic relations with Rajputs and avoid un-necessary bloodshed. It was depicted as a rather intelligent trait of the ruler.

I dont quite know where did they get to know something different about Akbar or Jodhabai and are furious upon.

Now, given all that background of weeks before release of the movie, the antipication was high. At times I feel that the movie produces try to enrage such sentiments in people, just to get their movie the same sort of anticipation that I felt. It gives a feeling to people, "Lets see this movie, what the hell is all this agitation about".

As it turned out, the movie is a result of brilliant effort. Being a costume drama set in a different time slice, it was always going to be difficult for the director to produce the same feelings and effects of that time. However, in my personal opinion, he came out pretty good. The movie has great visuals, fantastic costume design and the two lead actors, Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Roy, have not given their director anything to complain about.

At 3 hours 30 minutes, its a bit on the longer side of movie spectrum, but we didnt fell bore in there. Perhapy it was relatively easier for us since we knew certain parts of historical facts, but otherwise also, the movie is pretty engaging.

Congrats to Ashutosh Gowarikar on such a nice movie. :)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

बाल कृष्ण की आरती

॥ श्री कृष्ण : ॥

आरती बाल कृष्ण की कीजे, अपनौ जनम सफल कर लीजे ,
आरती बाल कृष्ण की कीजे, अपनौ जनम सफल कर लीजे ।

श्री यशुदा कौ परम दुलारो, बाबा की अँखियाँ कौ तारौ ,
गोपिन के प्राणन कौ प्यारौ, इन पै प्राण निछावर कीजे ।
आरती बाल कृष्ण की कीजे, अपनौ जनम सफल कर लीजे ।

बलदाऊ कौ छोटो भैया, कनुआ कह कह बोलत मैया ,
परम मुदित मन लेत बलिया, यह छवि नैनं में भर लीजे ।
आरती बाल कृष्ण की कीजे, अपनौ जनम सफल कर लीजे ।

श्री राधावर सुघर कन्हैया, बृज जन कौ नवनीत खिवैया ,
देखत ही मन लेत चुरैया, अपनौ सर्वस इन को दीजे ।
आरती बाल कृष्ण की कीजे, अपनौ जनम सफल कर लीजे ।

तोतर बोलत मधुर सुहावे, सखन मध्य खेलत सुख पावे ,
सोई सुकृति जो इनको ध्यावे , अब इनकू अपनौ कर लीजे ।

आरती बाल कृष्ण की कीजे, अपनौ जनम सफल कर लीजे ।
आरती बाल कृष्ण की कीजे, अपनौ जनम सफल कर लीजे ।

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

महाराष्ट्र के हालत

यह महाराष्ट्र में क्या हो रहा है ? क्या किसी को दिख नहीं रहा कि कुछ नेतागण अपने किन्ही स्वार्थों के कारण सीधे-साधे नागरिकों में मनमुटाव पैदा कर रहे हैं।

इन श्रीमान नेताजी की बातों से पहले तो लोगों में कोई मन मुटाव नहीं था। इन श्रीमान ने कुछ अच्छा बुरा कहा और लोगों में मनमुटाव पैदा हो गया। बहुत बार ऐसा लगता है के हमारे नागरिकों में इतनी समझ तो होनी चाहिए कि इन नेताओं कि बातों का तत्त्व निकाल कर सोचें। बहुत बार ऐसे ख़याल भी आते हैं कि हमारे नेताओं को भी बुद्धिमानी दिखानी चाहिए और सोच समझ कर बयान बाजी करनी चाहिए।

सोच कर देखें...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ice Skating

Saturday was a very sunny day... one of those really clear sunny days when everything is shining and you cant ignore the beauty scattered around.

We were just being lazy at home, basking in the sun coming in from the window when the call came. It was a friend from work and he suggested going for ICE Skating.

I like such adventures, though I am not good at most of them. But the very idea of something outdoor excites me. Its the same for my wife as well. And so, it didnt take him much to convince us to join him despite the fact that both me and her have not done it ever in our lives.

As expected, the weather outside was as good as it looked from the windows. Sunny with light breeze on, its that kind of sunny cold feeling that I love.

We had to rent the skating shoes and that turned out to be the least interesting part of the adventure. They didnt had her right size and therefore she had to settle for one bigger. That gave her constant pain the feet. :(

And, when we finally hit the rink, it was wonderful. Despite the fact that we didnt know ANY ice skating, the whole atmosphere was lovely.

We were so bad with the skating thing, that we couldnt even stand on ice without holding onto something. The side railing came to our rescue even for the slow walking across the ring. I cant say it was skating because it was not. We were literally, dragging ourselves through the place, making a mockery of ourselves (not that bad though). We saw little kids doing lot better than us. I was overwhelmed... really...

The Rescuers, Railing and Friends

Before yesterday, I had only seen ice skating on TV (on those ice skating championships, that they air even in India) and loved the way these sportsman sort of float on ice...those movements, gyrations... just wonderful. I always felt it to be like a piece of art.

An Expert at Work

Now that I was there myself, in person, it came to me in reality. There I was, looking at all those people moving on the ice, the kids, the teenagers, the couples, the experts, the novices, the first timers (like me). Before that moment I had only imagined this thing, never set foot on that surface myself. I loved it from the heart.

Besides the fact that I loved the sport already, the weather was proving to be a perfect companion. It was sunny, the rays bouncing off the surface, somehow made it look unreal. It was later afternoon, and so the shadows were getting longer and the sun turning orange. All of it gave the situation a very romantic perspective.

A glimpse of sunshine on ice

While we were there, a truck came on to the ring to clean the surface. As it was going about the ring with the cleaning bit, the surface behind it was gleaming. I couldnt stop thinking, "Where in India would I find such a place, with all that infrastructure, all that care, attention to tiny details".

I like the way the western countries maintain what they have built. The infrastructure they have, the system they have in place for building that kind of community structures and maintaining them.

There were some learning aids for ice skating। An steel bar, a ice-man etc using which you could get a head start with skating. We tried to use some, but didnt get much out of it. Where I managed a few stints with the aid, my wife didnt like it so much (perhaps it was her shoes, hurting so she couldnt enjoy much anyway).

Steel Bar - The Learning Aid

After about about two hours we came back. It turned out to be pretty tiring. We didnt feel it right away, but the effort to skate showed up with legs, specially ankle aftwards.

We had planned to go to the local town carnival parade, but skipped give the tiredness.

Will write about that sometime later.

Friday, February 8, 2008

हिन्दी में पहली ब्लोग एंट्री

पहली बार में हिन्दी में ब्लोग पर कुछ पोस्ट कर रहा हूँ । बहुत अच्छी फीलिंग हो रही है। मेरी भाषा को इतना सम्मान मिल रहा है, मेरे लिए यही बहुत बड़ी बात है।

मैंने हमेशा से यह महसूस किया है कि हिन्दी को बड़ी भाषाओं कि तरह कंप्यूटर क्षेत्र में सम्मान नहीं मिलता, काफी हद तक इसलिए कि इसकी लिपि (script) बिल्कुल अलग है, बाकी पश्चिमी भाषाओं की अपेक्षा।

मैंने पहली बार हिन्दी भाषा में कोई कंप्यूटर ऍप्लिकेशन देखा था, Ubuntu, Unix जैसा दिखने वाला operating system. फिर उसके बाद काफी कुछ और आया है बाज़ार में।

लेकिन आज गूगल पर हिन्दी में ब्लोग करने कि क्षमता को देख कर मैं बहुत ज्यादा खुश हूँ।

धन्यवाद गूगल।