The world’s coming to India. Are you?

Sixty years ago, India threw off the chains of the British Empire and became a free nation. And now the world’s largest democracy is rushing headlong into the future. As the brief heyday of the West draws to a close, one of the greatest players in history is rising again. India has seen the ebb and flow of huge events since the beginning of history. Its tale is one of incredible drama and the biggest ideas. It’s a place whose children will grow up in a global superpower and yet still know what it means to belong to an ancient civilisation. This is the story of a land where all human pasts are still alive. A 10,000-year epic that continues today. The story of India.

Thus began Michael Wood’s narrative in the famous BBC documentary – The Story of India. The documentary, which was released almost a decade ago, revolves around India and the subcontinent, right from the beginning of the first civilisation to how India has shaped up the world around it and how it has been moulded by the influence of the West and the East.

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Source: BBC

But you get the irony in the series right? A British historian travels through the lush green landscapes and modern cities of India and Pakistan (which was India till 1947) to uncover, discover and unravel the culture that abounds India to air it on British television via Britain’s pride in the media industry, BBC. All this comes after the British ruled India for ages. The rulers now have become the researchers who want to know further how the world’s largest democracy was formed and how it is rising again to be a global force, despite the saga of ebbs and flows.

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Do you prefer “prefer to” to “prefer over”?

News reading is fun, especially when someone is as nerdy and hungry as me. I love reading and I love knowing. It keeps me abreast of the world around me. Reading is a joy. But not when it is penned down in incorrect English.

I read several newspapers, magazines, blogs, websites and journals online. My favourite, as you might have gleaned from the string of posts in the recent past, is The Economist, which offers intellectual insights into the globe. Business, economics, art, science, people profiles et all… It’s all there in impeccable English, fit for GRE/GMAT aspirants.

But when prominent newspapers err on their English, it pains me. I’m not even talking about complex sentences that make up paragraphs and minor omissions of commas; I’m talking about the wrong idiomatic usage in basic sentences.

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Source: Long Ridge Editors Blog

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From outsourcing data entry to outsourcing the board – Part 2

The Economist’s article Replacing the board took me to the history of outsourcing and the way it has evolved with time. The internet proliferation, aided by the opening up of the labour markets, brought about a drastic change in the business models of the Western organisations, which came to rely on cheaper yet labour-intensive menial tasks to be outsourced to the East.

With such rapid change occurring in the East, the West wasn’t sipping a mojito relaxing on a hammock in Hawaii either. With its labour-intensive operations outsourced, it began to focus on more high-value tasks as more time was available to its employees with the burden of operational nitty-gritties lifted from their shoulders. Research and development, innovation, ideation and strategy formulation were still areas that the West prided itself on and retained control of.

Consulting firms such as McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group and others provided their strategic guidance to organisations willing to go global and reduce operational costs. These firms provided high-level consulting to organisations to fulfil their aspirations, leaving out the arduous implementation of these strategies to service firms in cheaper labour economies. The West focused on strategy and the East focused on outsourced work.

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Source: Businessweek

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From outsourcing data entry to outsourcing the board – Part 1

Corporate boards are among the most important institutions in capitalism. Their job is to police the relationship between shareholders who own companies and managers who run them. This means keeping an eye out for managerial incompetence and fraud. It also means standing back and offering strategic advice on hiring new managers or buying competitors.

Thus begins The Economist’s article, Replacing the board, which cites how the board of directors of contemporary organisations has succeeded in some cases and failed miserably in some (Enron and WorldCom). The success of boards across industries and countries cannot yet be attributed to a specific common underlying theme, but, in most cases, the theme for failure has similar foundations. The board’s duties are confined to limited oversight. Cites Schumpeter:

Board members are part-timers with neither the knowledge nor the incentives to monitor companies effectively. And they are beholden to the people they are supposed to monitor. Boards are thus showcases for capitalism’s most serious problems: they are run by insiders at a time when capitalism needs to be more inclusive and are dominated by part-timers at a time when it needs to be more vigilant about avoiding future crises.

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Bond with your burrito

Business models are continuously evolving and are becoming more innovative, as competition heats up and start-ups face more hassles getting their foundations established. One of the new ways to obtain money from its engaged customers was listed by The Economist in its piece – Hitting up the customer.

They mention a Mexican food chain in London, Chilango, which started selling bonds, or rather, mini-bonds, with their burritos. This may seem very weird initially, but the more I thought about it, the more appealing it seemed.

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Source: Chilango UK

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The power of information is that information is power

Time and again, we have read and learned about how people vie for information. Everyone wants to know everything. Even media powerhouses want to know more so that they can assimilate that into news to be fed to the world. The race is to be the first to know.

Omniscience, as a virtue, is lucrative indeed, but nowadays, everyone wants to be God. Even atheists.

In TV series, characters are shown to possess enormous (eidetic) memory that they use to obtain their goal. Case in point: Mike Ross from Suits. Once this guy reads anything, it remains imprinted in his mind forever. He can then bring that out when he has to.

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Source: Quora

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Why Rupert Murdoch is like Sherlock’s Charles Augustus Magnussen

As I read The Economist‘s book review of Nick Davies’ “Hack Attack: The Inside Story of How the Truth Caught Up with Rupert Murdoch“, I couldn’t help but draw similes between Rupert Murdoch, the Australian media mogul, and the mind-mapping character of Charles Augustus Magnussen, another media mogul shortly introduced in the final episode of Sherlock Season 3.

Magnussen, throughout the episode, has been depicted as the conniving, cunning media owner who possesses secrets of people which he uses to gain leverage of when in need. He is the epitome of media high-handedness, with his arrogance manifested through his actions at Sherlock’s residence, 221B Baker Street, and his control over the lady who wants to bring him to justice.

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Source: Rebloggy

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First time lucky, my foot

A recent post by The Economist was simply ludicrous, to say the least, considering that India has become the first country in the world to successfully put its Mangalyaan Mars orbiter into the Martian orbit. While many people have lauded Indians, some people want to view it a little differently. A little difference of opinion is fine; but when this extends to downplaying the effort and success of the brilliant scientists and engineers who have put us into the Hall of Fame, leaving behind the technologically advanced “rich” countries such as the US and the UK, it just makes me gape at the ill-advised self-proclaimed superiority of people.

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And the Liebster award goes to…

“Me… me… please… please… please let it be me”, prayed my subconscious as he sat patiently but uneasily at the noted award function at Kodak Theater. I watched him as he waited, silently hoping to hear his own name being called out. As he waited with all his piety, no matter how little, he could barely control himself for it was the prestigious Liebster award that would change his life forever.

“SIDDHARTH !!!”, screamed the award function host into the microphone. Momentarily, the room went deafeningly silent as people registered the name that had made headlines. It felt like a moment right out of a horror movie, just before the door creaks open with a heavy noise that announces impending terror.

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Do you need to know how magic works?

The Economist, in its print edition of August 16, reviewed the book “Invisible: The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen” by Philip Ball. The review, as usual, is thorough, covering the gamut of the book and highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the writer.

But there is a point, rather a couple of them, mentioned in the review that caught my eye. I had to go back to re-read them and ponder. The Economist wrote:

[...]in traditional magic tales, all that was needed to make something invisible was special knowledge or powerful friends. The feat itself was not awesome. Once invisibility had been secured, “no one was particularly surprised or impressed” by it.

While this totally makes sense, it also raises a question of how we view things. Even in Harry Potter books, we never question how and why magic happens. We never question how and why everything is the way it is and how the invisibility cloak works. We never bother to worry about how the feat happens. Why? Is it because we aren’t curious about it? Or is it because the feat itself is not awesome but the benefits that it brings with it are?

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Apple fans continue to buy iPhones, despite warnings on social media

Soon after the new iPhones were unveiled, I published an article citing a conversation with a friend, who staunchly protested Apple and its products. Though it did not make sense to me, I did my best to convince him to let people make their own choices and tried to dissuade him from judging people. For instance, he read on social media that Apple fans are dumb and believed it because it seemed to be everywhere. I am still wondering how dumbness is decided by a purchase.

His statements troubled me though, not because they made sense and I was changing my mind (no, they didn’t; and no, I wasn’t), but because I failed to understand the rationale behind his comments. I could not sleep well that night and felt uneasy thinking about why someone would chastise a company for its business practices, when so many others seem to be working in the exact same way. Just because their products are pricey and portray an aura of exclusivity?

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OMG: Cleavage show !!! Relax, it’s a compliment…

If you jumped to this piece expecting some more hormone-pumping pictures and videos, you’re at the wrong place. Just leave…

There is no cleavage, there is no show and certainly no “exposure”. If you want exposure, I’m sure Google can help you out. No wait, don’t Google it. Google Search will give you too many options and you will be spoilt for choice.

Check out The Times of India. It is the fastest emerging soft porn website in India with a different market positioning. I salute their efforts to bring to the fore the grave issues that plague our country today – someone’s cleavage, someone’s “assets”, a salacious kiss from an upcoming movie, the lingerie choice of celebrities and the latest MMS scandal.

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Apple fans are dumb…and so am I

Ever since the unveiling of the new iPhone, people have been going crazy on the internet, trying to mock Apple fans and users and criticising Apple for their apparent lack of innovation, which was once their forte. The internet has flooded with memes, trolls and technical comparisons between Apple and every other phone maker to show how the new iPhone is uninteresting, shockingly expensive, un-innnovative and remarkably late.

The day after Apple’s launch of the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Watch, I had an interesting discussion with a friend.

Me: Hey, saw the new iPhone?

Sam (sung): Yea, it’s pathetic.

Me: Really? Why?

Sam: Yea man, nothing new in it. Huge waste of time and money.

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5 lessons I learned from blogging – Part 4

In the final part of this series, I will cite how the most important lesson of blogging is not about writing, but about reading. I already stated that a blogger receives encouragement from the community which is created by the innately passionate bloggers building on top of each others’ ideas in a manner that the reader understands because of its structural prowess.

My friend, in a comment that triggered this series of realisation, cited the benefits of blogging as he observed. He wrote:

However, I do realize it has potential other benefits as well:

1. Improves ones ability to structure, articulate and present thoughts (This is true man! I had to revise the structure of this reply multiple times so far to think what I was actually intending to write :D

2. The process of writing a blog creates the need to read/brush-through many journals and blogs, thereby improving knowledge and awareness

5. Reading is a pre-requisite:

Before we write, we always have to read. This is not a luxury; it is a necessity. It is a necessity because to express our opinions onto the world, we first need to know something about what we intend to communicate with the audience. For that, we need to read.

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Source: Grammarly

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5 lessons I learned from blogging – Part 3

My previous two posts (cited here and here) in this series stemmed from a comment on my post about blogging, which made me realise my learning through blogging.

In the first post, I cited how the blogging community has always been very encouraging of peers and seers, and in the second, I highlighted the importance of forming communities on top of each others’ ideas created by innately passionate bloggers.

In that comment by my friend, he also raised some benefits of blogging as he had observed. He wrote:

However, I do realize it has potential other benefits as well:

1. Improves ones ability to structure, articulate and present thoughts (This is true man! I had to revise the structure of this reply multiple times so far to think what I was actually intending to write :D

2. The process of writing a blog creates the need to read/brush-through many journals and blogs, thereby improving knowledge and awareness

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5 lessons I learned from blogging – Part 2

My friend’s comment on my post about my early days of blogging started my thought process about what I had learned from blogging. I stated in this post (also the first point my friend made) that the blogging community always encourages others, be it newbies or veterans. That is also my first lesson from blogging. This learning led me to my next point, which deals with communities.

2. Community creation is vital:

Every blogging platform – WordPress, Blogger or any other – thrives on the creation and sustenance of communities. Communities are built when ideas are expressed openly without fear of retribution and others build on those ideas. If one person puts forth an idea, there should be at least ‘n’ number of people who have something to say about the idea, where n > 1. When that happens, ideas and content are built on top of each other.

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Source: Rework Engine

People may agree or disagree, but the point that a point has been made and others have something to say about that point triggers an expression of a new point, using the previous one as a reference and source. This new point made might act as a trigger for a further rebuttal or expansion of that idea, ultimately creating a network effect that is the underlying foundation of everything social in our lives. This leads to a networking circle of idea expression and community building.

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5 lessons I learned from blogging – Part 1

When I wrote about my journey of writing, learning and blogging, I relived my experience of entering the world of blogging, learning how to go about it and venturing into the vast world of content publishing, while clawing at the tips of the iceberg known as freelancing.

A close friend commented elaborately on that post, highlighting how blogging made him feel and what he had realised about the blogging community in a very short span of time.

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Writing about football, are we ??!!

The odyssey of camaraderie took some time to start. But once it had begun, there was no going back. I could not stop a missile that was already launched and was in motion. I’m not Tony Stark.

So, the only way for me was forward. The journey had begun and the march would have to go forward, no matter what. The freelancing journey had taken time but it was gradually taking shape. I was in search of that one assignment that would be a long term commitment to work and learning.

One day, while casually browsing projects to apply for, I saw an employer looking for people to write football articles on his website. That felt like a dream come true… I love writing and I am very interested in football. Moreover, I was going to get paid for combining these two passions. Writing on a topic I follow and love, with the scope of learning tremendously about both the sport and writing drew me to it like mice to cheese. What more could I ask for!!!

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Challenges China’s Tencent faces as it tries to bring more Western games

China has always been a challenging market for businesses. Many large companies, including Apple, Facebook and Twitter have been witnesses to this. Apple had problems with sales of its iconic iPhones, which had local competition from “copycats”, amid reports of mistreatment of employees at Foxconn, Apple’s assembler in China. Facebook and Twitter have their own Chinese versions and have minimal, if at all, presence there. Google also withdrew from the country in 2010 after failing to make headway into the market dominated by local player Baidu.

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Source: The Telegraph

The more recent phenomenon, however, is that Chinese firms are luring Western talent to bring in their expertise to customise content for the Chinese market. Tencent, one of China’s internet behemoths, has been trying to bring more online and mobile games into China, despite the high rankings it enjoys in the app stores.

The rapid growth of mobile devices and proliferation of smartphones in China have resulted in a surge in mobile and online games. However, as the size of the pie increases, more players are vying for a larger share of the pie. Tencent faces stiff competition from internet giant Alibaba, which has its own local and global expansion plans. Its impending IPO in the US and its series of US start-up acquisitions lend credence to its strategy.

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Thank God It’s Friday !!!

We often evolve and change over time. But some things remain the same. I noticed that something I had penned down a couple of years ago is as applicable today as it was then…

After a gruelling week during which I had to undergo a training in the morning, have a quick bite in the afternoon for the mere purpose of sustenance, slog through the afternoon trying to make sense of ubiquitous lines of code that demanded to be put in logical sequence, attend client calls in the evening and report the status of my work and pose questions on the next day’s tasks, and finally start working again to try to complete the day’s tasks and prepare for the unmatched repetition of the next day, I found respite in the Friday. TGIF, as they say !!!

Thus, after five gruelling days of hard work, I found some time for myself, to dismiss the idea of work and indulge in myself. After all, the weekend is as much a necessity for me as oxygen. It began pumping on the most wonderful day of the week – Friday. It is truly wonderful because it brings with it a lot of plans, sentiments and anticipation. I’ve noticed that what seems so boring on a Mundane Monday does not seem so on a Frolicking Friday. Work gets done remarkably quickly, productivity levels shoot up, sincerity takes precedence over laxity and procrastination is almost thrown out the door. People begin to transform on a Friday, apparently.

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The odyssey to the odyssey of camaraderie…

I realised pretty late in my life that I could write. As a matter of fact, I realised it just this year, when I started this blog to pen down whatever came to my mind. I had been an English-enthusiast all along, having excelled at English in school, whenever the teacher could comprehend what I had scribbled in my ‘calligraphic’ handwriting. But those flashes of brilliance had only been limited to academics, given my pedantic nature.

Earlier, I did not even have an inclination to pen down my thoughts, but when a friend introduced me to the world of blogging, I took to it immediately. Before long, I was writing about a host of topics that I cared about. Initially, I worried that I might not be good enough for the blogging community, but as I kept on reading and writing, I realised that the community does not care whether you are good or bad. The community is not judgemental and does not treat blogging as a competition for survival. Most people enjoy writing and write only for the purpose of writing, with a tinge of reverence to the writing community. It felt wonderful to connect with them.

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‘Crush’ed… Am I in love ??!!

I recently had an opportunity to interview the elusive Mr Heart, who has been evading interviews for a long time. Thankfully, after a lot of prodding, Mr Heart agreed to an exclusive interview in which he allowed me a peek into his world of love and emotions. Here is the full transcript of the first ever interview with Mr Heart.

Me: Mr Heart, thank you very much for your time today to discuss matters with me. I really appreciate the opportunity.

Mr Heart: You’re welcome. In fact, I decided it was time to come out of my shell and let the world know what I really am and felt about.

Me: Yes, I am glad you want to discuss this with me. I’ve been informed that you wanted to talk about Her.

Mr Heart: Well, not specifically, but I wouldn’t mind. I guess it is that time of the age cycle when everyone realises just how valuable I am.

Me: So Mr Heart, you’re saying that you are in love, again?

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An inspirational start on an auspicious day

Returning to an academic environment after a few years of corporate life is difficult, at least initially. One-year MBA courses just make one realise the value of time. It literally flies by in the blink of an eye while we wonder what just happened. There is barely any time to adapt to rapid changes that keep happening perpetually. The mind is at work all day long, picking up bits and pieces of information that keep floating around everywhere. At the end of the day, when one would expect some kind of relief for all the hard work during the day, there is more work to be done. In short, the mind is taxed.

The weekdays are just a matter of routine. Classes, assignments, quizzes, projects, student life, peer learning and what not !!! Everything possible is cramped into the tiny slot of 24 hours. The weekends are not much different either. The never-ending burden of assignments just fails to leave our heavy shoulders. Our professors make sure of that.

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Change The Game… Are we ready to do that just yet? – Part 2

In the previous part of this post, I expressed concern over the general lack of infrastructure in India in the field of sports other than cricket and how that is manifested in India’s dismal performance in sporting events.

In this one, I will cite a couple of incidents which will highlight my point to the glaring difference in the perception of football in India and England.

If you missed the post and the ad that triggered it, here is the post and below is the ad.

On March 17, 2012, when Bolton Wanderers footballer Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the ground at White Hart Lane in the match against Tottenham Hotspur, he was immediately taken care of by several medics who tried to resuscitate him, before he was taken to the nearby London Chest Hospital, where he was attended to promptly. Jonathan Tobin, Bolton’s team doctor, later said that Muamba was ‘dead’ for about 78 minutes (his heart was not beating for that duration). Andrew Deaner, a consultant cardiologist at the London Chest Hospital, happened to be at the match with his brother. An ardent Tottenham fan, he rushed down the stands to help Muamba. His help was considered a life-saver.

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Change The Game… Are we ready to do that just yet? – Part 1

Ranbir Kapoor’s Pepsi ad is amusing at best. The dismissive tone by Ranbir Kapoor at the start, when he mocks the kid for playing football, exemplifies the stereotypical Indian mindset towards football as a sport. To support his point, Ranbir further adds that cricket is a “gentleman’s sport” and encourages the kid to become a man by playing cricket.  However, as if to refute his opinion, the machine refuses to dispense a bottle of Pepsi. The young kid, who till then is quietly enduring Ranbir’s badgering, smiles derisively and uses his head, literally, to get the bottle, and tells Ranbir to play football at times. After all, it is handy occasionally.

The ad, obviously intended to promote sales and business, also takes a stand on sports as they are perceived in India, and poses a question that would only be answered with time. Promotion of football in India, especially by such large entities – PepsiCo and Ranbir Kapoor – at such a magnitude, is unprecedented. That is why this advertisement serves a purpose greater than mere publicity and business promotion.

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City, we rise; United, we fall…Lessons from Manchester 2011-12

The most watched football league in the world, Barclays English Premier League, undoubtedly had an epic finale to its 2011-12 season. The winner of the year-long battle for glory was decided and sealed in less than five minutes.

While at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland FC’s home ground, Manchester United reigned supreme and won with a goal’s margin, Manchester City produced a game at Etihad Stadium, its home ground, that can only be described as phenomenal. The title holder was to be decided between the two Manchester teams, with City needing a win at home to surpass United, who played away to Sunderland.

Towards the end of the ninety minutes, it looked like United were destined to lift the trophy for the twentieth time. Sir Alex Ferguson, United’s manager for over quarter of a century, looked confident of having done just enough to win both their final game and the title. While Ferguson just waited for the final confirmation of his success through the referee’s final whistle, Roberto Mancini, Manchester City’s manager, hoped for a miracle at Etihad.

As if He heard his prayers, The Almighty granted City that opportunity to prove to the world the existence of a miracle. Edin Dzeko, the Bosnian striker who moved to Manchester City in Jan 2011, emerged as that miracle in the 92nd minute of the 5-minute stoppage time.

A corner kick converted into a brilliant header by Dzeko put some hope into the Citizens. The long-awaited equaliser had finally come. There was still work to be done, however. City needed to win the match to etch their name on the trophy. As would be expected, with just a couple of minutes left on the clock, City attacked incessantly and out of the blue, Sergio Aguero, after the slightest of touches to get a clean shot, created history for City. City, the tortoise in the race, proved their worth at Etihad with late goals, driving Citizens crazy.

On the other side of the battle for the title, United had already finished their match and were awaiting news from City. But in a tragic quirk of fate that rendered him speechless, Ferguson could only wonder what had hit him when he heard the score and success of City at Etihad. He would have almost certainly felt those ‘so-close-yet-so-far’ emotions that give a sense of seeing the finish line of a marathon yet being unable to reach there first. Darkness had suddenly befallen the Stadium of Light, not for Sunderland, who were not in contention for the title, but for Manchester United, who had their victory snatched away by a whisker. United had already taken the shuttle to seventh heaven but were brought back. Manchester had changed colours – from glazing red to sky blue in less than five minutes.

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India’s Take on ‘Daylight-Savings’

Something I had penned down a couple of years ago still makes me wonder whether anything has changed. Here is the updated version…

Having had to deal with clients in the US for work, I’ve been accustomed to their switching time rituals every March and November. The concept of ‘daylight-savings‘, much-needed in places with hugely varying levels of sunlight, seems to amuse us Indians though.

Most Indians, I am pretty sure, are not quite aware of why the concept was introduced, what purpose it serves, when and why it is observed and so on. Some of us take the literal meaning of the word ‘savings’ and wonder what exactly is being saved when time changes twice every year. Then there are some others who know briefly what it is but are unsure of the rationale behind it and continue to live without any curiosity towards it. Finally, there are some others who are aware of it, follow it and know it in much detail, but just don’t give a damn about it.

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