Thursday, September 08, 2005

How much is a house anyway?

"Mr Bush asked agencies in the disaster zone to treat bodies with "dignity and respect", and announced initial aid of $2,000 (£1,090) for displaced families."

$2000, thats a perfectly reasonable amount right? That can buy a house, food, clothes, funeral services for loved ones who died, transportation out of the superdome, and maybe protection from the looters, muggers, and rapists.

Just a little math here....according to The National Priorities Project the cost of the war in iraq at this time is:$193,002,399,744

The population of New Orleans as of 2000 was 484674 people so that gives each person: $398210.75

or if we do it by households (188251)...$1 025 239.70, that'd buy a new house for sure....

So, if even 5% of what was spent on the war in iraq, that would give families $50 000 to spend, not enough to completely rebuild, but a semi-reasonable conservative amount for someone who has lost everything.

the $2000 offered of course is less than .2%

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Overcontrolling Bosses Aren't Just Annoying; They're Also Inefficient

Cubicle Culture by Jared Sandberg

Overcontrolling Bosses Aren't Just Annoying; They're Also Inefficient March 30, 2005 by Jared Sandberg The Wall Street Journal

One of Ken Marcus's former bosses was so reviled by underlings that when he dropped dead, a colleague went up to Mr. Marcus and shook his hand. Unlike some others, Mr. Marcus never danced on his old boss's grave. But the soft-spoken reference librarian still smarts from the travails of working under a tormenting control freak.

The former boss wouldn't let his employees order personalized stationery or even use up the stationery they had left. "A lot of paper went to waste," Mr. Marcus says. The man also spent days trying to get in touch with employees on vacation and then had nothing much to say to them -- except "keep me posted" -- once he got them on the phone. And in a gesture that Mr. Marcus found impossible to believe when he first heard about it, his boss assigned middle initials to employees who didn't have middle names. "I guess it offended his sense of order," he speculates.

Mr. Marcus still struggles with the illogic of it all: "You get up to that level," he says, and "you don't need to worry about these little things."

But the problem is that a control freak most certainly does worry about the little stuff. Deeply untrusting and puffed up with some devil-in-the-details justification, control freaks wrest tasks from colleagues, along with the colleagues' sense of self worth. It's as if they were burned by someone or something long ago, and everyone they come into contact with is a walking evocation of the past demon. The irony is that in the name of efficiency and cost savings, these managers are often the most guilty of operating far below their pay scales.

Overcontrolling "can cost more money in a whole bunch of ways," says Richard Kilburg, senior director of the office of human services at Johns Hopkins University. They create, for example, a culture driven by the assumption that everyone can't perform. "If everybody's covering their tail ends," says Dr. Kilburg, "you have all kinds of processing losses. You also have a tendency to lose your most creative people. They're able to say, 'Screw this. I'm not staying here.' "

Just ask Rich Dowd, the founder of executive search firm Dowd Associates, who learned that lesson the hard way. He says he used to hover over employees and interrupt them because they weren't working "in the way I saw fit," even though their work product at the end of the day was "outstanding." He recalls that one employee told him that if he wanted to do her job, fine, she'd quit.

Asked by Mr. Dowd to describe some of his annoying behavior, colleague Stephanie Bates cites his yellow-legal-pad rule, which dictates that anything other than a yellow legal pad "doesn't work." Mr. Dowd questions whether he ever imposed this rule on anyone else, so Ms. Bates reminds him of the time she had the temerity to use a blue binder. "Yup," Mr. Dowd says sheepishly.

And another colleague, Lauren Hendrick, recounts how Mr. Dowd once sent her home from the office for being three minutes late.

So what taught Mr. Dowd to let go? "It's got to cost you money," he says. "I've lost people that way."

Most control freaks, though, can't laugh at themselves. Don Shobrys used to work for a boss who argued that the office should remain open during a blizzard even though the governor had declared a state of emergency. That boss also spent valuable time trying to scrub a stain out of the office carpet. And he even threatened to fire someone for leaving computer boxes stacked in the hallway in advance of the company's relocation to a new office.

The worst thing about his behavior was the corporate paralysis that resulted. The company had planned to paint the men's room in the new office, including the wall behind the urinals. The painters recommended using tile on that wall, but midlevel managers were afraid to approve the $1,000 expenditure. They eventually went with the tile, but "the whole organization was intimidated," Mr. Shobrys says.

What explains the penchant of many control freaks for performing menial tasks? "At some level of consciousness they don't believe they know how to handle the demands of the job they're in," says Arthur Freedman, director of organizational development and change at American University. "So they revert or regress down one or two levels to the level where they felt comfortable."

Marilyn Helms, a professor at Dalton State College in Dalton, Ga., says she has seen too many managers waste valuable time taking attendance. There was her boss at the Rotary Club in Memphis who always dreamed up an excuse to call the office at 4:59 p.m. to make sure no one had slipped out early. At a university, she had a department chair who would "come by with some stupid excuse just to do a bed check," she says. And still other managers have required her colleagues to produce business cards as proof they were soliciting new clients or to staple their name badge to travel receipts to prove they were at a conference.

"Don't they need to focus on the big picture?" asks Prof. Helms. "It seems like they don't know how to do their upper-management jobs."

Five minutes of watching Indian channel leads to five hours of watching Indian channel

NEW YORK—A five-minute sampling of Hindi-language channel Zee TV stretched into a five-hour Indian TV marathon for Craig Mieritz, 23, Monday. "I have no idea what's going on, but I can't turn it off," the channel-flipping Mieritz said about a colorful, frenetic musical number on the soap opera Tum Bin Jaaoon Kahaan. "Maybe I'll just watch another minute..." Following the soap, Mieritz watched a Hindi pop variety show, 11 music videos, and the three-hour Bollywood epic Khuda Gawah, the remote in his hand the entire time.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Canada May Be a Close Neighbor, but It Proudly Keeps Its Distance

Canada May Be a Close Neighbor, but It Proudly Keeps Its Distance

Published: March 23, 2005

TORONTO, March 22 -Every Canadian student of foreign policy knows the story, but few Americans remember. In 1965, at the height of the Vietnam War buildup, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson suggested to a college audience in Philadelphia that the United States stop bombing North Vietnam in the pursuit of a negotiated settlement.

President Lyndon B. Johnson was not amused. When the courtly Canadian leader stopped by for a visit to Camp David, Mr. Johnson grabbed him by the lapels and accused him, in so many words, of soiling his rug.

Emotions are a bit lower now, and President Bush is likely to be a lot more polite on Wednesday when he greets Prime Minister Paul Martin, along with President Vicente Fox of Mexico, at his ranch in Crawford, Tex. But things could be tense nonetheless, with differences over trade and Mr. Bush's planned missile defense system adding to past strains over Iraq.

There is nothing really new about that. With the possible exception of France, no traditional ally has been more consistently at odds with the United States than has Canada.

Canada refused to take part in President Truman's Berlin airlift, withheld full support from President Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis and retains diplomatic and trade relations with Fidel Castro to this day. Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau made a distancing from Washington a centerpiece of his foreign policy, going so far as to welcome draft dodgers during the Vietnam War. Ottawa criticized President Ronald Reagan's interventions in Central America and more recently split with the United States by pushing vigorously for the International Court of Justice, an international land-mine treaty and the Kyoto climate control accord.

While the leaders always claim the greatest of fondness for one another, more often than not they have not gotten along very well. When they have, Canadian leaders have sometimes had to pay a political price.

"It's something in our bones, it's part of our DNA," said Lloyd Axworthy, a former foreign minister who is now president of the University of Winnipeg, "though it's not something we necessarily immediately recognize." The distinguished Canadian historian J. L. Granatstein has called anti-Americanism "Canada's state religion." For Robert Fulford, the Canadian literary journalist, widespread "prejudice" against the United States supposedly lends the country "an aura of virtue."

It has been that way since the American Revolution and the War of 1812, when thousands of Loyalists left their homes to go north rather than rebel against the British Crown and then fought off repeated American invasions. Their hardships and efforts to differentiate themselves from the rebellious colonists forged the dominant Canadian identity.

Brian Mulroney was the exceptional prime minister who embraced the United States and negotiated a free trade agreement with Washington. At a meeting in 1985, he and Mr. Reagan hugged and sang "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling." But the coziness of that "Shamrock Summit" did not sit well with many Canadians, with one pundit commenting that "our prime minister invited his boss home for dinner."

Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and President Bill Clinton got along, but relations soured when Mr. Bush took power and Mr. Chrétien's press secretary called him "a moron" (for which she was eventually fired).

President Bush acknowledged how much Canadians dislike him and his administration during his visit to Ottawa late last year by thanking everyone who waved at his motorcade, particularly those who waved "with all five fingers."

But the laughter did not help relations much. A couple of weeks ago Mr. Martin refused to join Mr. Bush's missile defense system, after defending it only a year ago, because of pressures in his Liberal Party.

His foreign minister said the decision reflected "Canadian values," the usual suggestion from Ottawa that Canada follows a higher moral calling than its American neighbor - a distinction increasingly applauded by American liberals.

"Whether it's nukes or Iraq," said Mr. Axworthy, "we're just not in synch."

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Desk Surfers Abound

Cubicle Culture by Jared Sandberg/20050314

Desk Surfers Abound, But Some People Find Ways to Outwit Them March 9, 2005 by Jared Sandberg The Wall Street Journal

Unless you're a dentist, doctor or family member, don't get within three feet of Carol Kromminga.

That's pretty much the radius that circumscribes her personal space. It's bad enough that some colleagues waltz around to Ms. Kromminga's side of the desk and linger. And it isn't any better when they try to eye documents on her desk or the work on her computer screen from afar.

When a desk surfer barges in, she says, she swivels her chair around, puts her elbow on top of her documents and makes eye contact to "control those roaming eyes." But the computer screen is trickier to protect. She has closed one embarrassing site -- say, the Estée Lauder Web page -- only to reveal another embarrassing one. So she has concluded that her best tactic is to click on the Start menu -- "A big menu pops up and temporarily distracts them," she says -- and then to swivel and make eye contact.

The prevalence of snooping is yet another indication that office privacy is a myth. And because some co-workers mistakenly think they're subtle about it, it's yet another example of office self-delusion, right up there with all the people who think they have great leadership potential or interpersonal skills. Granted, it's impressive that these people can read upside down or somehow appear out of thin air behind you. But that's where their magic ends.

One New York equity trader isn't exactly fooled when someone he calls the "chief surfing officer" visits. "When she is at your desk, she does the old, 'Oh, your son is so cute,' and leans forward to grab the picture," he explains. "But prior to picking up the picture she thoroughly scans the content on my three flat-panel screens."

Some people peep to gain grist for the rumor mill; others do it to slake their insatiable curiosity. "They're trying to pick up any shred of information, personal or professional, that'll give them a sense of power that they don't have in their current job," says Angelo Calvello, a financial-services executive in Chicago.

And sometimes snooping stems from office rivalries. Fred Chang and his colleagues in the marketing department used to be visited regularly by the folks in sales to find out what was going on. "They couldn't help but look at what we were doing," Mr. Chang says.

Lynn Urban admits to an occasional look-see at someone else's work because, she says, "you can find a lot of things out." She never goes into someone's office intending to conduct reconnaissance, she says. But "if I get bored, the longer I'm in there, the more likely my eyes are to wander." And if someone takes a phone call, she adds, "how can they expect that you not look?"

Still, office spying tends to inspire massive counter efforts. At one point, when Ms. Urban's office was arranged in such a way that her back was to the door, "it drove me nuts," she says. One colleague even lifted documents off her desk for closer inspection. So she bought a small rear-view mirror, which she attached to her computer screen, at an auto-parts store. "I had a wide view of what was going on behind me," she says.

Some victims behave as though their most innocuous information is a state secret. Patricia Witkin, who works for a computer-book publisher, says she doesn't mind providing data that colleagues request. "If you ask me, I'll probably give you the key to the castle," she says. But anyone who tries to glean information surreptitiously, as a female colleague did recently, isn't met with the same sharing spirit: "On principle now, I don't want to share anything with her: what I had for breakfast, how I spent my weekend or what Web site I'm visiting."

Obvious counter measures may only serve to whet the office snoop's appetite. When Tim Dougherty worked for a publisher, he was asked to use a privacy screen on his computer that limited the angles from which it could be read. But it also prompted snoopers to think: "He's got a privacy screen, this must be juicy stuff," he says. "People would just come right up behind me and stand there, without any qualms, and read what I was doing."

Engineering manager Jeff Ihnen has developed a special rebuke for
peepers: "Would you like to have a seat at my laptop for a better view, operate the cursor, see what I'm writing, or should I just e-mail you a copy?" Eric Blinderman, on the other hand, recommends a diversionary approach: "Hey," he suggests saying to snoopers, "I hear there's chocolate cake in the kitchen."

To battle office spies, Mike Wetherington, a securities analyst in Dallas, puts his messy office to use. "There is so much crap on my desk, floor, credenza you can't really tell what I'm working on," he says.

And Stephen Cotton and a colleague at a manufacturing plant tried setting a trap. One of their co-workers had a tendency to rifle through their supervisor's desk, so they wrote a bogus memo on the company letterhead exploring the "feasibility" of having "a very small implant put into employees to monitor their activities."

A day or two later, people from human resources came around asking questions like, "What in the world is going on here?" Mr. Cotton recalls.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Da Vinci Code: “Bloomers In Dock” Cavil

Da Vinci Code: “Bloomers In Dock” Cavil
By James McConnachie
February 1, 2005

Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code is a great thriller – eighteen million readers can’t be wrong – but it claims to be much more: it rewrites the stories of Jesus, Leonardo da Vinci and some of the most fascinating buildings in France and the UK. The preface states “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate”, but from the start, Dan Brown makes basic errors of fact, as co-author of the Rough Guide to The Da Vinci Code, James McConnachie, demonstrates.

The new Rough Guide to the Da Vinci Code aims to separate fact from fiction by examining Dan Brown’s arguments and providing the historical, cultural and religious background material to enable readers to make up their own minds. From the true history of the Holy Grail and the Priory of Sion to what art historians really make of Leonardo da Vinci’s symbolism in the Last Supper, the guide covers a complex topic with Rough Guides’ customary mix of impartiality, irreverence and erudition. The selection of Da Vinci Code claims that follow are just a few of the most interesting divergences from the truth.

Da Claim: Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married.
Da Truth: If they were, then the oldest and most authoritative sources – still the Gospels – don’t mention it. Rabbis did usually marry in Jesus’ time but prophets and other religious figures (John the Baptist, for one) often didn’t.
Da Funny Thing Is: One of the “Gnostic Gospels”, discovered in a cave in Egypt in 1945, says that Jesus used to kiss Mary Magdalene on the mouth, though this may just have been a mark of special respect.

Da Claim: Jesus and Mary’s descendants ruled France as the Merovingian dynasty, and are still alive today.
Da Truth: The whole idea that Mary went to France is a eleventh-century monastic fraud. Thankfully, the ghastly Merovingian dynasty has long since died out – a habit of murdering members of their own family can’t have helped.
Da Funny Thing Is: Like most European royal families, the Merovingians made up illustrious ancestors to make themselves look better.

Da Claim: Leonardo’s Last Supper shows a woman “with flowing red hair, delicate folded hands and the hint of a bosom” sitting at Jesus’s right hand.
Da Truth: It’s actually John the Evangelist, who was typically depicted in Leonardo’s time as a young, pretty and beardless man.
Da Funny Thing Is: Leonardo did make a habit of painting strangely androgynous figures. One expert even thinks the Mona Lisa is a Leonardo self-portrait in drag.

Da Claim: The Louvre’s pyramid has 666 panes of glass.
Da Truth: 673: that’s what the Louvre says, and I’ve counted them myself.
Da Funny Thing Is: The office of the pyramid’s architect, I.M. Pei, counted 698. But Pei is not interested in numbers or symbols. Geometrical abstraction and light are his obsessions.

Da Claim: The Holy Grail is not the cup that Jesus used at the Last Supper, but a coded way of talking about the Holy Blood, or family of Jesus.
Da Truth: The idea was made up by a trio of semi-serious authors in the 1980s, based entirely on fake etymology for the medieval French word for the Holy Grail. They creatively turned “Saint Graal” into sang royal, or “royal blood”.
Da Funny Thing Is: The idea of the Holy Grail was itself an invention, by the twelfth-century poet Chrétien de Troyes. And he said it was a serving dish – graal in medieval French – not a cup.

Da Claim: Rosslyn Chapel, near Edinburgh, stands on a “north-south meridian” that also runs through Glastonbury, and its name cames from the mystical “Rose Line”.
Da Truth: Glastonbury’s longitude is 2°65’ W; Rosslyn’s is 3°16’ W. The name comes from the Scots Gaelic ross, meaning promontory, and lynn, meaning pool or stream.
Da Funny Thing Is: Rosslyn Chapel was built in 1446 but it has carvings of cacti and maize, which are indigenous to America. Did the builder’s grandfather, Prince Henry of Orkney, sail to America a hundred years before Columbus?

Da Claim: Mona Lisa is an anagram of Amon L’Isa, from the Egyptian god Amon and the goddess Isis – “whose ancient pictogram was once called L’Isa”. Leonardo meant her to represent the goddess.
Da Truth: “Mona Lisa” is an English nickname for the painting, taken from art historian Giorgio Vasari’s comment that it was a portrait of one Monna (“M’lady”) Lisa, so Leonardo had nothing to do with it. Isis’s pictogram was never called “L’Isa”.
Da Funny Thing Is: The sitter may not actually be “Mona Lisa”. Vasari described Lisa’s portrait as having thick eyebrows, while the Mona Lisa has none, and parting lips (she smiles, but her mouth is closed).

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Poetry time continues...

I LOVE MY JOB (with apologies to Dr. Seuss)

I love my job, I love the pay,
I love it more and more each day.
I love my boss and he's the best.
I love HIS boss and all the rest.

I love my office and its location.
I hate to have to take vacation.
I love my desk, so drab and gray,
And love those paper piles each day.

I love my chair in my padded cell;
There's nothing else I love so well.
I love to work among my peers.
I love their leers and jeers and sneers.

I love my computer and all its ware;
I hug it often to show I care.
I love each program and every file;
I even try using it once in a while.

I'm happy to be here, I am, I am...
I'm the happiest slave to my Uncle Sam.
I love this work; I love these chores;
I love the meetings with deadly bores.

I love my job and I'll say it again,
I even love these friendly men:
These men who've come to visit today,
In lovely white coats to take me away!

- Author unknown

"The Travails of Single South Indian men of conservative upbringing" or "Why we don't get any..."

Written by a dude from REC Trichy/IIMA named Sidin.
Thot id do my bit 2 make him popular with the ladies....
Yet another action packed weekend in Mumbai, full of fun, frolic
and introspection. I have learnt many things. For example having
money when none of your friends have any is as good as not having
any. And after spending much time in movie theatres, cafes and
restaurants I have gathered many insights into the endless monotony
that is the love life of south Indian men.

What I have unearthed is most disheartening. Disheartening because
comprehension of these truths will not change our status anytime
soon. However there is also cause for joy. We never stood a chance
anyway. What loads the dice against virile, gallant, well educated,
good looking, sincere mallus and tams? (Kandus were once among us,
but Bangalore has changed all that.)

Our futures are shot to hell as soon as our parents bestow upon us
names that are anything but alluring. I cannot imagine a more
foolproof way of making sure the child remains single till
classified advertisements or that maternal uncle in San Francisco
thinks otherwise. Name him "Parthasarathy Venkatachalapthy" and his
inherent capability to combat celibacy is obliterated before he
could even talk. He will grow to be known as Partha. Before he
knows, his smart, seductively named northy classmates start calling
him Paratha. No woman in their right minds will go anyway near poor

His investment banking job doesn't help either. His employer loves
him though. He has no personal life you see. By this time the Sanjay
Singhs and Bobby Khans from his class have small businesses of their
own and spend 60% of their lives in discos and pubs. The remaining
40% is spent coochicooing with leather and denim clad muses in their
penthouse flats on Nepean Sea Road. Business is safely in the hands
of the Mallu manager. After all with a name like Blossom Babykutty
he cant use his 30000 salary anywhere. Blossom gave up on society
when in school they automatically enrolled him for Cookery Classes.
Along with all the girls.

Yes my dear reader, nomenclature is the first nail in a coffin of
neglect and hormonal pandemonium. In a kinder world they would just
name the poor southern male child and throw him off the
balcony. "Yes appa we have named him Goundamani..." THUD. Life would
have been less kinder to him anyway.

If all the women the Upadhyays, Kumars, Pintos and, god forbid,
the Sens and Roys in the world have met were distributed amongst the
Arunkumars, Vadukuts and Chandramogans we would all be merry
casanovas with 3 to 4 pretty things at each arm. But alas it is not
to be. Of course the south Indian women have no such issues. They
have names which are like sweet poetry to the ravenous northie
hormone tanks. Picture this: "Welcome, and this is my family. This
is my daughter Poorni (what a sweet name!!) and my son Ponnalagusamy
(er..hello..).." Cyanide would not be fast enough for poor Samy.
Nothing Samy does will help him. He can pump iron, drive fast cars
and wear snazzy clothes, but against a braindead dude called Arjun
Singhania he has as much chance of getting any as a Benedictine Monk
in a Saharan Seminary.

Couple this with the other failures that have plagued our
existence. Any attempt at spiking hair with gel fails miserably. In
an hour I have a crown of greasy, smelly fibrous mush. My night ends
there. However the northy just has to scream "Wakaw!!!" and you have
to peel the women off him to let him breathe. In a disco while we
can manage the medium hip shake with neck curls, once the Bhangra
starts pumping we are as fluid as cement and gravel in a mixer.
Karan Kapoor or Jatin Thapar in the low cut jeans with chaddi strap
showing and see through shirt throws his elbows perfectly, the
cynosure of all attention. The women love a man who digs pasta and
fondue. But why do they not see the simple pleasures of curd rice
and coconut chutney? When poor Senthilnathan opens his tiffin box in
the office lunch room his female coworkers just dissappear when they
see the tamarind rice and poppadums. The have all rematerialised
around Bobby Singh who has ordered in Pizza and Garlic bread. (And
they have the gall to talk of foreign origin.)

How can a man like me brought up in roomy lungis and oversized
polyester shirts ever walk the walk in painted on jeans (that makes
a big impression) and neon yellow rib hugging t shirts? All I can do
is don my worn "comfort fit" jeans and floral shirt. Which is pretty
low on the "Look at me lady" scale, just above fig leaf skirt and
feather headgear a la caveman, and a mite below Khakhi Shirt over a
red t shirt and baggy khakhi pants and white trainers a la Rajni
in "Badsha".

Sociologically too the tam or mallu man is severely sidelined. An
average tam stud stays in a house with, on average, three
grandparents, three sets of uncles and aunts, and over 10 children.
Not the ideal atmosphere for some intimacy and some full
throated "WHOSE YOUR DADDY!!!" at the 3 in the morning. The mallu
guy of course is almost always in the gulf working alone on some
onshore oil rig in the desert. Rheumatic elbows me thinks.

Alas dear friends we are not just meant to set the nights on fire.
We are just not built to be "The Ladies Man". The black man has hip
hop, the white man has rock, the southie guy only has idlis and
tomato rasam or an NRI account in South Indian Bank Ernakulam
Branch. Alas as our destiny was determined in one fell swoop by our
nomenclature, so will our future be. A nice arranged little love
story. But the agony of course does not end there. On the first
night, as the stud sits on his bed finally within touching distance
and whispers his sweet desires into her delectable ear, she blushes,
turns around and whispers back "But Amma has said only on second

Monday, February 14, 2005

The Great Indian Absence - from media

Tsunami Relief — The Great Indian Absence
By Ashutosh Sheshabalaya | Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Why did the U.S. and European media virtually ignore the post-tsunami relief efforts mounted by the Indian military? Ashutosh Sheshabalaya argues that this failure is just another sign of the West’s inability to get over its stereotypes of India as a backward country. It’s time for the global community to give due recognition to this fast-emerging giant — or risk itself becoming out-of-date.

On January 5, 2005, several thousand tons of wreckage and debris were cleared from Sri Lanka’s tsunami-crippled harbor of Galle, following round-the-clock operations by the Indian navy. This effort paved the way for a sea-borne lifeline, to enable both relief and delivery of heavy reconstruction materials.

India to the rescue
Even as it coped with the tsunami’s impact at home, India moved decisively to help its neighbors.

On December 27, 2004 — within hours of the tsunami — an Indian naval hospital arrived at Sri Lanka’s Trincomalee harbor, followed by helicopter-equipped corvettes and other ships for search and rescue.

The Indian air force added muscle to the effort, using heavy-lift transporters to deliver fully-staffed field hospitals and clinics, as well as its own Mi-17 helicopters to airdrop relief supplies.

Late, but good PR
The Indian relief mission outstripped those of all other powers in the region, involved over 20,000 military personnel and almost 35 warships — operating in an arc from the Maldives to Indonesia.

For a variety of reasons, this colossal deployment went largely unnoticed in the rest of the world. Observed by bemused Indian sailors, the world media made a beeline on January 10, 2005, to welcome the USS Duluth to Sri Lanka — two weeks after the arrival of India’s navy to assist with relief operations.

Not much left to do
The irony escaped the Associated Press, whose January 17, 2005, report did nothing to explain comments by U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, in Sri Lanka: “Help from U.S. military engineers,” he said, “won't be needed much longer.”

Largely unnoticed, the Indian military had already finished doing much of the work for which the Americans had, belatedly, arrived in that country.

Such a mindset — of overlooking an obviously huge contribution from outside the Western world — is central to what I call the Great Indian Absence.

It is part and parcel of the matrix of ‘us and them,’ which regretfully defines the worldview of many Americans and Europeans. They are handicapped by a continuing inability to accept India’s often quiet, but potentially dramatic, rise.

Europe behind the curve
Sure, there is plenty of awareness in the United States and Europe about the rise of India as an outsourcing power. But this development tends to accentuate — rather than diminish — the feeling that India is not an equal.

Thus, the observations by some European commentators about how the tsunami spared none — neither rich Western tourists, nor those (presumably serving them) from the poor Third World — are at least five years out of date.

Too little expertise in the media
In Sri Lanka, much of Southeast Asia and — in the near future — New Zealand and Australia, Indians are the highest-spending tourist group.

Part of such oversight is clearly due to the media’s poor military-technical expertise. In their reports about the challenge of delivering aid on the scale required after the tsunami, BBC correspondents repeatedly failed to underline that America’s proposed relief coalition with India, Japan and Australia depended heavily on India.

As it happens, the Indian air force has three times the transporter fleet of Japan and six times that of Australia. In addition, its IL-76 Gajraj carries twice the payload of the C-130 Hercules military transporters used by Australia and Japan.

In Washington, too
The Great Indian Absence, however, also extended to the Washington Post. On its website, the paper presented a striking sequence of pictures about the tsunami’s aftermath.

One showed a woman in India with outstretched hands, drawing attention to the “lack of helicopters” in the region.

Uncle Sam to the rescue
Another depicted an American SH-60 helicopter, stuffed with food. In spite of the Internet, ‘Post’ reporters had not consulted sources such as the website of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

They would then have learned that India’s military operates more helicopters than Japan, Indonesia and Thailand combined. This includes the Indian Dhruv helicopter, now being considered by several countries for search and rescue.

Notwithstanding its scale, the Indian relief operation involved only about one-tenth of its 225 military transport aircraft and 400 helicopters. In spite of the subtle allusions to a helpless but savaged region, India’s capabilities should never have been an issue.

Quite ironic
One of the most surreal examples of the Great Indian Absence, however, occurred when European experts on television were using Indian IRS remote-sensing satellite imagery on the tsunami damage — while complaining about a lack of technology in the region.

As it happens, IRS images about a potential Tibetan dam burst in the summer of 2004 led to a mass evacuation in northern India. This riverine equivalent of a tsunami might otherwise have resulted in several thousand casualties.

Indian high-tech
India’s high-technology early warning and disaster management systems go further than remote-sensing. They also include sophisticated weather satellites directed at the routine — but still-devastating — hazard of cyclones.

Across the entire Indian Ocean, seaborne search and rescue is enabled wholly via the Indian-designed INSAT 3-A satellite.

And more recently, India’s post-tsunami relief efforts were buttressed by sophisticated satellite hook-ups at its Integrated National Command Post, which provides real-time links to all military units across the country — and to every naval vessel out at sea.

Just the facts
Knowing such facts may help put relief and disaster management issues into perspective in the future, both in Asia and elsewhere, long after the media has gone home.

One salutary case would be the widely reported gush of Western sympathy for victims of the earthquake at Bam, Iran, in December 2003.

Following up on Bam
Until the tsunami, few journalists — or NGOs — cared to follow-up this story, and report that just $17 million of the $1 billion pledged by the international community had been received by Iran.

Four months after the Bam quake, a paragraph buried within a report by the British Guardian newspaper referred to what was clearly one of most significant contributions to that relief operation.

An “elaborate Indian military hospital that treated 48,000 patients and performed 2,500 operations since the earthquake”, said the Guardian, “packed up this week, leaving a serious gap in medical services.”

Indeed, questioning the relief and disaster management capacities of a country like India reveals an outdated mindset.

Respect where it is due
India has 25 million tons of food stocks, produces one-sixth of the world’s generic medicines, exports doctors and nurses to fill shortfalls in the West — and, in April 2003, vaccinated 100 million children in just one day.

Clinging to the idea that India is entirely backward is clearly a waste of time — and only serves to keep stereotypes alive well beyond their expiration date.

Adjusting institutions
As hysterical outbursts about the threat of epidemics finally wane, India’s own relief efforts however seem to have also disappeared off the world media‘s radar.

In a rare exception on January 19, 2005, a social worker told Charles Haviland of BBC News that newly-orphaned children in India were, relief-wise, “very satisfied with what they are getting.”

True, much more remains to be done. But an analysis of India’s response to the Asian tsunami only underlines the point that the world urgently needs to adjust its thinking — as well as its institutions — to such new realities.

India on the Security Council
This also concerns the G-7, whose exclusion of countries like India and China risks making it an anachronism.

And last but not least, the United Nations could only benefit from the presence of a mature and capable India as a permanent member of the Security Council.

For more details on what India is doing, check out :
India shifts the regional geopolitical cards

India takes care of its own

even Business Week carried out a coverage accepting the changing status of India
India pulls together amid disaster
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