Sunday, July 26, 2009


No, I am not referring to the automobile Toyota Paseo. Paseo means a walking path connecting different parts of the community. People can take a slow easy stroll in this walkway. It is a Spanish word.

In USA, nowadays, when they build a new city, many builders put paseo from the main street. They construct houses along the paseo. The paseo also has trees and flowers and very beautiful to look at. Here are some pictures of a paseo I would like to share.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Language Controversy

Recently I read a blog named “Any Excuse to Write” by Smita. The title was “Selective Freedom?”. It dealt with the use of languages in the Indian Parliament. I wrote a comment that the whole language controversy in India was created by politicians. I also mentioned that I would write my own blog on this subject. Smita asked me to go ahead, so here is the blog.

Before reading this please remember I am describing below the situation in 1950s and 1960s. Things have changed a lot since then.

The language issue in India, was created and has been orchestrated since 1950 by politicians from Hindi speaking states and Tamilnadu.

The Constitution of India came into effect on January 26, 1950. It says “the official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script. However, for the next 15 years English shall continue to be used for all the official purposes of the Union”. This was the first mistake by the writers of the Indian Constitution. If they had said in the Constitution that Hindi will be THE official language of India (and do not say anything about English) there would be no problem. Some minor protests here and there and that would be the end of it.

Now let’s fast forward to 1965. It’s time to amend the Constitution to eliminate English. The DMK party went into full swing opposing the removal of English. In 1964 and 1965, the DMK’s leader Mr. Karunanidhi organized a massive protest movement in Tamilnadu. He organized statewide demonstrations, protests, and strikes by students. The students included kids from kindergarten to post graduate. 5 year old kids sat in the scorching sun, as protestors, for the whole day without even knowing why they are sitting in the sun. In addition, all Hindi signs from railway stations and post offices were removed. The police came into action and more than 500 students died in the hands of the police..

There were organized public meetings every day and they spoke in an uncivilized manner about Hindi language, Congress Party, and the leaders from Hindi speaking states. Here is a sample:

“Hindi language has got only 2 literatures. One is Ramayan by Tulsidas and and another one is All India Railway Time Table”.

Mr. Shastri was the Prime Minister at that time. He decided against the use of Hindi only as the official language of the government, and India has since continued a policy of conducting its business in English as well as in Hindi.

How about the other states? Non-Hindi speaking Northern States have no objection except a little objection by the Bengalis. Since most of the north Indian languages come from Sanskrit, Hindi was not a big problem for them. However, all the South Indian languages come from Tamil. But in other South Indian States, there were no political leader who wanted to manipulate people for personal gain.

Even today, some fanatical Tamil zealots are proud to say in public meetings that both Sanskrit and Tamil are root languages, but Sanskrit is a dead language. It is not spoken in homes and streets. Whereas Tamil is still spoken by millions of people around the world. Therefore, Tamil is a better language than Sanskrit. Only in Tamilnadu, speaking is a profitable business.

Bingo! In 1967 DMK came to power in Tamilnadu. Mr. Annadurai was the Chief Minister and he later died in 1969 and then Mr. Karunanidhi came to power.

What was the role of the leaders from Hindi speaking states back then? They were extremely chauvinistic about Hindi. They wanted to wipe out all the other languages from India. They thought if you are not a Hindian then you are not a Indian. Some leaders believed India means only “North” India. This helped the DMK guys to popularize their favorite slogan. Vadakku Vaazhkiradhu Therku Theikiradhu (North Lives South Erodes). When anti-Hindi agitation was spreading in Tamilnadu, one North Indian leader even made a hilarious statement. He said: South Indians, especially Tamil speaking people, are “born intelligent”. Therefore, they will be proficient in Hindi in no time. What a joke that is! There is no such thing as Tamil speaking people being “born intelligent.” Even if a 10 year old child in Tamilnadu learns Hindi and is proficient, that child will be no match in Hindi language skills of a 10 year old child in UP, whose mother tongue is Hindi.

There was a lot of misunderstandings. The then Government and political parties and leaders did nothing about it. People in the North have never heard of problems faced by Tamils in Burma and Sri Lanka. People in the South never cared about Kashmir problem. To the North Indians, all South Indians are Madarasis…No Malayali, No Kannadiga, No Andhrite. To the South Indians, all North Indians are Hindikaaran (person who speaks Hindi). No Punjabi, No Gujrati, No Bengali.

In this context, let’s say that all your life you are speaking one language and all of a sudden you must learn Cantonese for reading writing, speaking, and comprehension. Also, it’s used on TV, radio, newspapers, school, and work…you will have a very difficult time adapting no matter how intelligent you are. Also, when it comes time for measuring performance and success in school and at work how will you compete with a native Cantonese speaker. You are at a disadvantage from the start…even if you are born more intelligent than your Cantonese counterpart. Of course in 3 or 4 generations everything will even out, however what do you do about the inequity for the HERE and NOW?

Another mistake was made by the Congress government in the Center. They never developed tourism for South India in the 50s and 60s. If there were opportunities for people to mix and mingle, there would have been far less misunderstanding. If 100 South Indians visited North India in a day, there were only 3 North Indians visiting the South. One of the 3 was probably an Army soldier. The other one was an old person making a pilgrimage to Sri Rangam and Rameshwaram.

What was the role of the DMK leaders in Tamilnadu? They never cared for the people in Tamilnadu. All they wanted to do was seize power in Tamilnadu and they found the perfect platform to use. The Hindi agitation helped DMK come to power for the first time in 1967. Students who listened to the politicians, and hated Hindi, never learned that language and missed out on all of the opportunities that Hindi would have provided them. And of course, nobody cared for the many students who died during the Hindi agitation.

Fast forward to the present. After the 2004 Parliamentary elections, Mr. Karunanidhi came to Delhi and personally recommended a cabinet post for his grand nephew, Mr. Dayanidhi Maran. Mr. Maran was a newcomer to politics. One reporter asked Mr. Karunanidhi “what qualification does Mr. Maran have to become a cabinet minister?”

Mr. Karunanidhi replied: Mr. Maran can speak Hindi very well.

Different yardstick when it comes to own family.

It is high time we rise above petty politics and learn to change and accept other languages and cultures, without abandoning our own.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Allan Bakke Case

I just read the following news item:

“Women candidates appearing for competitive exams conducted by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and Staff Selection Commission (SSC) will not have to pay fee while applying for central government jobs.”

I am just wondering if this kind gesture should be need based or gender based. If it is part of the efforts to increase representation of women in central government jobs, this exemption from paying fee should be extended to financially disadvantaged women. Not to all women.

Then I remembered about the famous Allan Bakke case in USA. Here it is:

Allan Bakke was born in 1940. He received his bachelors degree in Engineering from the University of Minnesota. He then served 4 years with the U.S. Marines in Vietnam. After returning from home, he obtained a masters degree from Stanford. He got a job with NASA near San Francisco. At NASA he was involved with testing the effects of weightlessness and radiation on animals. This work increased his interest in medicine.

In 1972, he applied for admission into medical school at the University of California, Davis. His MCAT score was above the 90th percentile in 3 out of 4 categories. UC Davis admitted 100 students in medical school every year. They “reserved” 16 seats for “economically or educationally disadvantaged” candidates. He had a lesser score than those in the general admission pool. He reapplied in 1973 and was rejected. Even the dean of the UC Davis Medical School thought that the faculty was of the view that “disadvantaged” means “membership in a minority race”.

When Bakke was rejected again in 1974, he sued UC Davis for discrimination.

Even though the lower court judge agreed with Bakke, he refused to order Bakke’s admission. He appealed the decision to the California Supreme Court. The California Supreme Court voided the minority recruitment program of UC Davis as unconstitutional.

UC Davis appealed this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1978, U.S. Supreme Court decided the case. It ruled that while the University can take race into account to have a diversified student body, it cannot reserve a specific number of seats for students of color. It also ordered U.C. Davis to admit Bakke in the medical school.

In the meantime, Bakke was married and had 3 children. He went to UC Davis in the fall of 1978 to enroll himself. There were several TV and newspapers reporters and camera. Every one thought he will get himself admitted symbolically and will not pursue the medical course. Were they all wrong!!! He got himself admitted in medical school and graduated with an MD in 1982, at the age of 42.

Bakke is a very private person. He does not want to talk about this famous landmark case. He is now practicing as an anesthesiologist in Rochester, Minnesota.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Name Confusion

In India, people in many States have given names and family names. Given names are like Ashok, Asha, Satish, etc. Family names are like Banerjee, Khosla, Patel, etc. However a few places, like Tamil Nadu, have only given names and no family names. They go by initials (father’s given name’s first letter) and their own given names. For example, our Home Minister is Mr. P. Chidambaram. Chidambaram is his given name. P stands for his father, Mr. Palaniappan.

In USA, for anything and everything, they ask for first name (given name) and last name (family name). In the above example of our Home Minister, what do we write as his first name? Palaniappan? That is not correct because that is his father’s name. His given name is Chidambaram. Therefore, we can write that as his first name. What should we write for family name? Palaniappan? That is not right also. Therefore, quite a number of people have a dilemma.

They have opted for several kinds of solutions. Some people have chosen to use their father’s given name as their first name and their own given name as their last name. Some have decided vice versa. This brings another problem. What will be the last name of their children? If they go by family tradition, they will have a different last name in USA. That will bring several other problems. Most people opt for their given name as last name and give it to their kids also.

Some others use their caste name as last name.

There are some folks Americanize their given names to make it easy to pronounce. Anandarangan is now Andy. Janakiraman is now Jerry. Even some Indians who have a proper given name and family name also Americanize their given name. I know a gentleman named Puri. It is a quite common name in North India. He changed his first name to Cook. Mr. Cook Puri? I am not joking. It is real.

Here is another real story. While filling out application form from a university, one guy wrote his mother’s name as his first name. I have no idea why he wrote like that. While he was a student in the university, everyone addressed him as Susheela.

Mr. Chidambaram got his MBA from Harvard University. Just interested to know what his friends called him? Chidambaram or any shorter version of that? Palaniappan or any shorter version of that?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Job Search and Interviews

I was watching a Tamil TV show called “Senthoora Poove”. The star of the show goes for a job interview and was denied the position because he was overqualified.

Due to the current economic climate in the world, there are many people applying for jobs that are below their qualifications. They are willing to take a lower salary in the hopes of getting a paycheck. However, if the applicants put their real qualifications in the resume, such as a Masters Degree or their real job title at the previous company (Senior Manager), those people will not even get an interview. No employer wants to hire an overqualified person. The employer is afraid that he/she may quit this job when the right opportunity comes along to them.

If someone does get an interview, they have to go through the whole crazy process of answering questions again and again. Many times it’s the same thing and at some point you’ll run into interviewers who are jerks.

Once upon a time, interviewers used to ask for the candidate’s age. If it was a female candidate, they asked if she is pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Nowadays, there are other questions which are considered standard and regularly accepted but they are still somewhat silly questions. Why do you want to work for us? What makes you think you are qualified for this job? Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? Are you a team player? Please tell us your strengths and weaknesses.

In an article, the HR guru Mr. Mark McNulty wrote about other unusual and weird questions that are being asked in interviews. Some of them are: If you were a fruit, what kind would you be…and why? Which movie star do you think would make the best employee? What color describes your personality?

There are books and online articles available to prepare for these types of questions. Answers to these anticipated questions must be rehearsed at home. However it must be recited, during the interview, sounding as natural as possible.

However, running into jerks can go both ways. Sometimes candidates behave like jerks and ask the dumbest questions at the wrong time. For example, during the interview candidates have asked the following: When can I transfer to another job? When will I get an increase in salary? Will you perform a background check on me? Do you do drug testing here?

One HR manager told me the most unlikely and bizarre answer a candidate wrote on his job application form. Name: He wrote his name. Address: He wrote his address. Sex: He should have written “Male”. Instead he wrote “occasionally”.

I cannot end this blog without telling about my own personal experience.
My first job in the USA was a first line Manager supervising 14 non-management employees who prepare financial reports. During the interview my potential boss asked me if I had any supervisory experience. I said yes. Knowing that I was new to the USA, he asked me if I had ever supervised Americans before. My immediate reaction was to say NO, however I held back. I thought about giving a well worded answer for 30 seconds. I was looking at him straight in the eyes while I was coming up with the right words. Those 30 seconds of silence felt like 30 hours. Finally I answered his question with a question back to him.

I said, why are you asking me this question? Are Americans very difficult to supervise? The guy burst into uncontrollable laughter. Then said: You’re hired.

I was about to post this blog but then I came across an article in an Indian magazine. This is a real story and I wanted to share it in this blog. A divorced girl went for a job interview. The interviewers asked the following questions: You did not give your husband’s name in your bio data. Why? What is he doing now? Did you see him after your divorce? Will you both live together again? The interviewers were smiling and enjoying the moment. The girl came home in tears.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Jury Duty

Yesterday, I received a summons from the Superior Court of California to appear for jury service on a particular day in August 2009.

In India, there is no jury system. Over there, after hearing both sides of the legal argument, a judge decides the outcome of the case. In the USA, the judge does not decide the verdict in the case. In the American legal system, people accused of a crime have the right to a trial by jury – where they can present their case to a jury of their peers. Once the legal arguments end, the jury decides the outcome – GUILTY or NOT GUILTY. If found guilty, the judge gives the sentance.

The names of potential jurors are selected randomly from a list of eligible voters in the same geographic area where the trial will occur . It is the duty of every American citizen to serve as a juror if called upon. Many people find jury duty as a nuisance as it disrupts their daily lives. In many instances, people serve as potential jurors for only one day in court. If you receive a notice to be a juror, you cannot ignore the summons. If you do not show up for jury duty, the court can issue a very heavy fine against you.

If you are called for jury duty, your employer must give you permission to go to court, with pay.

If you wish to be excused from the jury duty, you should inform the court in writing well in advance. Normally, the following excuses are accepted by the courts.

I am not a citizen of the United States.
I am not 18 years old.
I am not a resident of this county (district).
I am a convicted criminal.
I do not have sufficient English knowledge.
I am a police officer.
I am a health care provider.

After you go to court, you may be selected as a juror for the trial or you may be sent back home. Once you are selected as a potential juror, the prosecutor and defense attorney will question you. During this question and answer period is where people give bizarre answers to get out of jury duty. The Prosecution and Defense want impartial jurors so they want to know, through their questions, if you have any biases or pre-conceived opinions that might jeopardize their case. The jurors know this and at times give ridiculous answers to questions so they can be excused from jury duty and go back to their normal lives. Here are some of the responses given in court; which by the way is in front of the judge, prosecution, defense, and other potential jurors.

I hate the police.
I had sex with the accused.
I can tell if a person is guilty by just looking at them.
I am a full time college student.
I am an alcoholic.

There are some people who really like being a juror and serving on a jury.

There was a strange jury selection in 1981 in California. Jerry Brown was California’s Governor. He was asked to come and serve as a juror; remember the selection is always random. He was selected as a juror in a case involving a Yugoslavian immigrant arrested on malicious mischief charges in Sacramento. There was a slight controversy with having Jerry Brown sit on the jury for this case. He was the current Governor of California which means that he has the authority to “pardon” anyone in his State. How can he serve on a jury?

If the panel of jurors thought the defendant was guilty but Jerry Brown did not, they could convict the defendant in court and the next day Jerry Brown can use his authority to pardon the defendant. Gov. Brown assured everyone that the jury’s decision will be final. The jury elected Gov. Brown as the jury foreman (leader). The verdict: Brown voted with the other jurors and found the Yugoslavian immigrant NOT guilty.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Happy Birthday

Today, July 7, is my best friend’s birthday. I want to wish my friend a very happy birthday.

I met this friend a long time ago and we both grew up together. This friend gives real meaning for the word “friendship”. Participated in my happiness. Participated in my sorrow. Never always said ‘yes’. Never always said ‘no’. When I deserved some butt-kicking, this friend did not hesitate to kick.

When I was gravely ill, this friend helped me a lot. Words cannot express my appreciation.

Want to wish this friend “Happy Birthday” every year on this day, for another 100 years.

Here is a birthday poem quote:

Happy birthday my best friend,
Amazing times, we always spend.
Laughter and jokes are common place,
Since we built that solid base.

(I have purposely used the gender free word (friend).)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Michael Jackson Memorial Service

Michael Jackson’s memorial service is set to be held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles this coming Tuesday, July 7th, at 10 am. Look at the bizarre things happening regarding his funeral.

There is news going around that those who want to attend the memorial service should buy tickets for $25.00 each.

Some people are saying that the tickets will be issued free of charge. However, those who get those tickets may sell them for a profit.

If there are too many people want to attend, then there is a plan to have 2 memorial services, one at 10 am and another at 12 noon.

What is this tamasha surrounding his funeral/memorial service!

It is a funeral. The poor man is gone and people want to mourn him. This is not his final concert to sell tickets.

Disgusting. Give him some privacy for the last time.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

London, Venice, and Oh yes the T20 World Cup (Part 3)

Visit to Venice, Italy.

We left London on June 16 and went to Venice, Italy. It is a 2 hour flight from London to Venice (courtesy of British Midland Airways). Whenever we travel on Indian Airlines or Air India we complain about the service. Once you travel on British Midland, you will never complain again about Indian Airlines or Air India because we have a new bottom feeder in the airline industry. On board the BMI flight, you better have your money ready at all times as you will need to pay even for a cup of water.

Venice is located along the Adriatic Sea in Northern Italy. It is best known for being a city built on water. It is famous for its canals and gondolas. The main transportation is motorized water buses. There are also water taxis available in Venice.

Street in Venice

There are several attractions in Venice. Since we stayed here for only 2 days, we were able to visit the following; St. Mark’s Square, St. Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Campanile, Museo Correr, and of course we went on a gondola ride.

St. Mark’s Square is known as Piazza San Marco in Italian. It is very popular with tourists…as well as pigeons. It is the main gathering place in Venice and was built in the 9th century.

St. Mark's Square

St. Mark’s Basilica is the main Cathedral in Venice. Even though it originated in 828 AD, based on Byzantine architecture, much of what we see today was constructed in the 11th century.

St. Mark's Basilica

Doge’s palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice. Doge is an Italian title, roughly meaning Leader of Venice or Chief Magistrate of Venice. They were elected for life by the city’s aristocracy. A total of 120 Doges lived in this palace from 697 AD to 1797 AD.

St. Mark’s Campanile is a bell tower building located in St. Mark’s Square. It is almost 100 meters tall.

Museo Correr is a civic museum located in St. Mark’s Square. This museum has art, documents, artifacts, and maps that chart the history and daily life of Venice across the centuries.

Finally, we went on the gondola ride. We booked the gondola ride tickets online before leaving the USA. That was a mistake. We thought we were going to be riding on a gondola operated manually by a gondolier named Mario or Luigi who will be sporting a traditional hat. Instead, we were “taken for a ride” (literally and figuratively) in a water taxi. Since we travelled by water buses several times during the course of our 2 day visit, this water taxi gondola ride was not a big deal for us. It wasn’t exciting, special, or memorable in a positive way.

Marco Polo was born in Venice. The Venice International Airport is named after him.

Overall, we did fall in love with Venice and plan to return there again someday. It is one the world’s most beautiful cities. We were told that Venice is slowly sinking into the Adriatic Sea and will be completely submerged within the next 200 years. There is a famous saying about another Italian city: See Naples before you die. We now have a saying about “Venezia” (the city’s name in Italian): See Venice before it sinks.

June 19 arrived back home in the USA via stopover in London.