Monday, December 29, 2003

In CAS we trust

CAS is the latest buzzword and castrating it the latest fad. Politicians are not expected to support anything that doesn't translate into votes, but what happened to the great Indian Middle Class that takes pride in being progressive?

A group of South Delhi RWAs went to court against the experiment in the area. The court however did not acquicse to their demands and made it clear that Delhi has to take the next step in cable TV revolution.

Not long time ago, the autorickshaw drivers of Delhi, led by some politicians, went on a strike against CNG. The reason was that the government had asked them to buy CNG kits that cost a couple of thousands of rupees. There were rallies, processions, debate and what you have. Government didn't buzz. Today Delhi breathes easier.

So how different are those among us, who oppose CAS, different from those blackmailing autorickshaw drivers? Are we opposing things just because we resist change. We would not have been a country of a billion people if we could take to the idea of family planning.

There are just too many similarities in how Delhi is dealing with CAS and how it dealt with CNG. The natural gas had its share of teething troubles. Conditional Access has its own.

THEN: There is not enough gas. Conversion kits are very expensive. The gas causes explosions and buses are catching fire. CNG doesn't have the power, so vehicles drive very slow.

NOW: There aren't enough set top boxes. Set top boxes are far too expensive. Now we'll have to pay double the amount we did. The picture quality is bad. The box gives you electric shock.

CNG was not connected to any of those issues listed in the THEN crib. Neither is CAS with the NOW cribs.

CAS is the logical progression from the cable-operator controlled TV veiwing. It's primary goal is to give consumers the choice of paying for what we watch. Better picture and stereo sound come as added benefits.

In the existing cableoperator system, you get all the channels out of which you may be watching just a handful. CAS will give you an option to pay and of course watch only the channels you want. Besides the cablewallah could hike his rate, as he's done in the past much to your anger, whenever he liked.

Pay channels are pay channels even without the set top box. You have been paying for Star and Zee even now. It's just that you are not sure whether this money reaches Star or Zee. Cablewallahs lie to broadcasters and government about the number of homes they reach.

They do not pay entertainment tax to the government, though they collect it from you. The business became so lucrative that underworld and mafia elements established networks and muscled their way to prosperity. The Multi-Service Operators (MSO) like Siticable, Hathway and INCable, bigger companies bound by the book, had to accept what the cable guy said.

It's not that the cable guy would disappear. But he cannot lie about the numbers because MSOs would give consumers the STBs. It will make the business transparent. It'll cut out the increasing pollution in the cable industry.

TV channels would have to bring down their subscription rates as they would like to reach into all homes. Many pay channels would go free-to-air and ultimately benefit the viewer. You'll know what you are paying and who you are paying.

Some people have confused the matter with the coming Direct-to-Home television. A newspaper went to the extent of asking people to wait, till DTH is "imposed", said the other. Well, you do not need to wait for DTH. It's already here. DTH is the next step after CAS and they co-exist.

The DishTV DTH (launched by Zee) has all the Zee channels with some international channels. And you have to pay DishTV a monthly bill for the pay channels on the bouquet. But it does not have Star or Sony or Discovery. Tomorrow Star would launch a DTH service but may not have BBC or CNN or Zee TV.

If you decide to buy the Dish TV later, you can ask your cable operator to remove all the Zee bouquet channels from your bill.

For CAS, one doesn't have to buy the set top box, you can rent it from your cable operator. If you decide to buy, there is no harm for you can return it to the cable operator whenever you want, he will refund the deposit.

Politicians have delayed it enough for the Assembly elections here. CAS was supposed to be here a long time ago. Now is the time for Delhi to come together and help clean the cable TV system and breathe easier.

Mad Vow Disease strikes Malhotra

Veteran Delhi politician Madan Lal Khurana is being officially sent on sanyas after he failed miserably to snatch victory from Congress' Sheila Dikshit in the just-concluded Assembly election. The prime reason, all agreed, was that Mr Khurana had just too many regressive ideas to attract a Delhi on a progressive path.

He loved taking vows. He would vow to stop CNG implementation, he would not just vow but manage to defer the implementation of the Conditional Access System (CAS) for TV, he would vow to stop Delhi Metro from demolishing houses coming on its route, he would vow to protect the illegally built floors across the city. He was a man of vows. Sometimes bad, sometimes mad, but vows nevertheless.

Alas Delhiites were not wowed by the vows. Khurana lost his last battle. As he proceeds to the final stage of his political career, governorship, he would be happy to know he would not be missed. A certain Vijay Kumar Malhotra is his vow-rthy successor. He has begun making the right-sounding wrong noises and the din would only increase with time.

Mr Malhotra has appealed to Information and Broadcasting Minister Ravishankar Prasad to postpone the implementation of CAS by a year and reconsider it so as to make it consumer-friendly. The last time it was extended for a year was when Mr Khurana wanted to fight elections and it sounded cheap publicity. He lost. Now as the Lok Sabha elections seem imminent, Mr Malhotra wants another postponement.

But Mr Malhotra did not stop there - he jumped the gun. He appealed to consumers that they should not buy the set-top boxes (necessary to watch pay channels in a CAS regime) as the Ministry Of Information And Broadcasting is reconsidering the whole issue. That was before Mr Prasad sent him a reply about whether he would acquiesce to his request.

In a really ironic zeal to bend the Parliament Act passed to enact CAS, he wrote to Mr Prasad: "The CAS Act was passed unanimously in both Houses of Parliament to give protection to the consumer from exploitation by service providers. But, it has resulted in just the opposite. It has become consumer hostile."

Wow! Mis-Leaders like him turned consumers against the system and now he's positioning that hostility to justify his hostility. Mr Prasad belongs to his party, the Central government is led by his party, and everything favours him, so Mr Malhotra might get his wish. And Delhi might just remain in the hands of the cable racketeers for another year, who have nearly turned this into a mafia business.

But if Mr Prasad has his conscience and can stand by his word, he can castrate Mr Malhotra's queries easily. Here's a quick two-bit reply to Mr Malhotra's two-bit questions:

MALHOTRA'S ARGUMENT: Service Providers are exploiting the situation by forcing the consumers to buy set-top boxes under the threat of not showing pay channels.

Reply: That's exactly what Conditional Access System means. The boxes are necessary to watch pay channels. And the consumers pay for pay channels even if they don't have CAS or that set-top box. A set-top box at least gets the best possible picture and sound quality for pay channels we pay for.

MALHOTRA'S ARGUMENT: The price, quality, rent, security, refund of security and the rate of different channels have not yet been finalised.

Reply: Who's responsible for that? Madan Lal Khurana, you and your government. Had you let the government go ahead with the system, many channels would have gone free-to-air by now for lack of subscription. The refund, security, rent and quality are anyway finalised by now. The channel bouquets, bunching and individual channel rates are not. Had this been implemented in all four metros simultaneously, the rates would have crashed anyway.

MALHOTRA'S ARGUMENT: The High Court has directed that it would monitor the implementation of CAS and has fixed the next hearing in April next year. However, what will happen to those who buy the set-top boxes during this period.

REPLY: What will the high court monitor if CAS is extended for a year? Stupid!

What goes around.....

What goes around come around. That's what we call a full circle. Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf has just seen it coming around. Not very long ago, the Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar was seen addressing victorious rallies in Pakistan.

What was terrorists for India were freedom fighters to him. Mr Musharraf was patting their backs and backing their war in Kashmir in particular and against India in general. Now the General has realised that the most recent and deadliest suicide attack against his convoy was a Jaish operation.

The same freedom fighters have decided to first free themselves of American "stooges", Musharraf topping that list.

History always repeats itself, men repeat mistakes. The biggest mistake is not learning from history. Indira Gandhi trained the Bhindranwale gun on the Akalis and that Bhindanwale turned into a monster that ended in the death of Frankenstein, Mrs Gandhi herself.

She petted the Tigers who mauled Lanka and came around to eat her son, Rajiv Gandhi years later. The United States founded Osama and Company to push Russians out of Afghanistan. That Osama and Company has grown into a multinational terror corporation and US tops the list of its enemies.

The Bihari voter refused to heed to common sense and stayed with the joker in the political pack. It'll take a long time to foget the life and times of Laloo Raj for a simple reason: he's isn't gonna go any time soon. India's Shining in eight-columns colour ads across all newspapers and Biharis are whining. That includes this writer.

You paid for the music, now dance to it. Dance Perv Dance.

Monday, December 08, 2003

On Record: Sting in the tale

These are difficult times for politicians. And not just Jogi and Judeo. But because of Jogi and Judeo. No one is sure about a tiny little microphone lurking nearby.

A couple of years after a small website gave the term tehelka a new meaning, every politician worth his third eye claims to have his own. When the Judeo VCD came into circulation, it was accompanied by speculation that there were more VCDs on more ministers. Now more are coming out of the Jogi cupboard and his political future is tumbling. We, Tomorrows News Today, bring you all the stings in the tale. Here are some two news reports from the future.

WASHINGTON DC: After what is being called the slickest sting in the history of modern-day diplomacy, Pakistan President Parvez Musharraf lies trapped in his own twisted tale after Indian Prime Minister taped his conversation with him.

In a tape that has rocked the subcontinent, Musharraf has called US President Bush's English an insult to the language. President Bush has refused to meet him even as he flew to Washington DC to explain his side.

Instead Bush told reporters: "Musharraf has said a mistake. Make no mistake about it. English is my mothertongue. My mother spoke only English and used English tongue-cleaners. What America and I have inherited has come in inheritance and language is the spoken medium of understanding such inherited heritage and go deeper into the deeper world of understanding the English language. I know my Shakespears. I have my sex and eat my pears right. We'll not let such loose tongues talk about America. We'll defeat them. God bless you. God bless America."

LAHORE: Two days before the Presidential elections in Pakistan, India released a videotape showing Pakistani President Parvez Musharraf wearing a T-Shirt with a slogan: I Love India.

Indian authorities had apparently bugged his hotel room and spy cameras caught Mr Musharraf singing in his bathroom. Majority of Pakistanis sing in the bathroom as extremists fundamentalist organisations have banned singing in public.

What has shocked the country is the kind of song their leader was singing, while apparently pulling down his Tee's neck and checking a tattoo on his chest. The song goes by the name of Kaanta Laga.

President Musharraf has admitted to wearing a T-Shirt but called the tape fabricated. "I got the T-Shirt for just Rs 30. When I bought the T-Shirt it said I Love You. And I don't even know Kaanta Laga. And may I add here that I sing only Pakistani songs by Noor Jahan baaji. Yes I was singing but I was singing Chadhti Jawani. It is the only song I know by heart," he told a crowded press conference in Karachi. "As you know Bangalore is in India and I suspect the software engineers are behind this fabrication. I have banned this obscene VCD. We will not allow such di**s to play in Pakistan." He also denied reports that he fell on the bathroom floor and had a slip-disc. "Never has my di** slipped. And may I assure the nation that I shall not let my di*** slip away. I am a soldier. I'll hold on till my last breath. Pakistan paindabad."

Friday, December 05, 2003

Sanjay (1972-2003)

The earliest memories of memories of Sanjay are of the bully who looked much elder to us in our RMK Hostel days. The gurukul regime had done nothing to the rebel streak he so much symbolised.

Yet he would not break the rules. We, not so rebel-like, would run away from the campus and come back to the rod. He never accompanied us on such outings. He didn't have to face Panditji's rods.

He was a rebel because he was not kind of alone, unique. He was not a studious kind, but he did not belong to the non-studious kind. He was alone, most of the times. His father seldom visited him. His mother died when he was very young.

He had hardened with times. We used to miss our protective and loving mothers all the time. We used to talk about how our respective moms were the greatest cooks in the world and how bad the hostel food used to be. He never talked about his mom, and little about his dad. He was a loner.

It took a couple of years before he was really among US -- Prabhat, Abu Bakr, Nandu, Alok and I. We gave him his space and all was well. We fought, we laughed and we went out together. We shared the snacks, sweets and fruits that came from our respectives homes.

Another couple of years passed. Then came the big Board exams. And just before it began, Sanjay's dad passed away. He wrote the exams and did well. All of us did well. The state of education had deteriorated in Bihar but we belonged to a different school, a different regime. We were proud to belong to R.M.K.

And we all got into descent colleges. Different colleges. We drifted.
A year later Abu Bakr died in an accident. It was one hell of a shock. One of US was not among us any more. 1989.

In the nineties, Prabhat and I were together. We met almost every day. I was in a hostel in Bhagalpur, he had his home there. And then we discovered Sanjay in the same town nearly two years later.

He said he couldn't meet us as his father's death had left him to fend for himself. His father, a teacher, hadn't left much in the bank. He said he wanted to be back on track before he met us.

He had left his native place and rented a room in town. He was dealing in land while keeping his quest for degrees alive. He was an estate agent in a place dangerous for real estate dealers. Mafias controlled land, criminals collected property tax and police watched. He had no back up, no family to bank upon. He still plunged into the business.

And in 2002, he decided to build his own market complex on a large plot he had just signed a deal for. A prime land, it was occupied by some local musclemen. He fought cases, he braved all their threats, and finally found his own musclemen to threaten them.

He was put in jail for threatening the occupiers. But he was out soon, for the truth and even law favoured him. Ultimately, the police had to force the occupiers out.

I met him as recently as last month. He told me how after the marketing complex, on which work had already began, he would build a massive apartment complex on the banks of the Ganga, a mini township, with assurance of security and full power back up.

He wanted to sign a contract with the NTPC and get power bypassing the state's decaying transmission system. He talked like a visionary. I told him the DLF success story near Delhi. He said he would build a new DLF.

On the night of December 1, 2003, he was murdered. Now I learn the killers knew him. They called him to a place not far from the site his body was found. Then he pinned down and slaughtered. They could not slash his neck from front, so struck on the back of his neck. The death must have been slow and painful. His body was thrown at the plot his market complex would have stood a year later. Prabhat organised the last rites.

We'll always remember him as the one who was solid as a rock, a true self-made man. Another martyr in the land of thousand bloodbaths.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Welcome To The Machine

A friend just back from Australia was proudly wearing a T-Shirt that says: Sex is like Rugby. You don't have to be good at it to enjoy it.
Oh yes. Let the machine do the job, guys. Just sit back and enjoy. Long after the simple vibrator hit the spot, sex has become more technology-driven than techniques-driven.
Now a new machine called the Slightest Touch has added tron to orgasm. Stimulation Systems, a Texas company, has invented a kind of Orgasmatron for women — an electrical stimulation device that takes women to a pre-orgasmic state. Priced at $200 (Rs 9,000 approx.), the battery-powered device electrically stimulates sexual nerve pathways in a woman's pelvis.
Why Slightest Touch? Because it still needs a touch to deliver orgasm. The company says the device's gentle, pulsating current brings its wearer to a state of sexual readiness, where the "slightest touch" can trigger an orgasm.
A journalist, who used the product during its tests, told Wired magazine: "It warms the oven. It brings women to the one-yard line.... It's a wonderful product. I think the world of it."
And like all things sexy, it happened with an accident. One of the four co-inventors was trying to develop an electrical foot massager. Using his girlfriend as a test subject, the prototype didn't do so much for her feet, but it did stimulate her sexually, the company said.
Not to be left behind, a British company has given the term phone sex a new meaning. Vibelet’s Purring Kitty software turns the Nokia mobile phone vibrator into well a vibrator. The software, which costs as little as Rs 150 can be downloaded to the phone via WAP. Well, the Kitty and Touch may well bring a much-needed relief to those who can do with it. Technology is making life easier and sexier.
Welcome to the Machine. Yesterday nearly 45 million Indian voted in what's being called the semifinal elections. None of them used ballot paper. The electronic voting machines or EVMs have taken the paper out of the ballot. And exit polls have taken the suspense out of results. Now that the biggest democracy in the world has got used to the small machines, may yours truly discovers some new machines that help shape the new realities of Indian politicians' life.

KHURANASTICK: Great demand in the great Indian political bazaar. Madan Lal Khurana may already be scouring Palika Bazaar for a stimulation software. "It is a tiny stick that can send tiny electrical signals to his heart and help boost his morale ever-sagging like a wilting lotus," so did not say a BJP worker.

A-SHOCK-ING-A-LOT: Though the name of this yet another tiny machine sounds similar to that of Ashok Gehlot, but he apparently has not developed this machine. But FOR him. This machine does some shocking things. Like it sends minute electrical shocks to the brain that stretches about 14 facial muscles in a shape that people call smile. And the user heads for a haircut. Out comes an A-HANGING-A-LOT Assembly.

ANTI-VCD: A sure-fire cure to end the curse of the VCD, which misfires so well that it would shame an Australian boomerang. A gentleman called Ajit Jogi used the simple video disc to its devastating perfection a la Krishna of Mahabharata. This disc nearly shaved the moustache off a man. That man, a not-so-gentle Dilip Singh Judeo, had a close shave. Jogi's orgasm needed a Slightest Touch. And simple tribalfolks didn't approve of the Jogi way of visual politics. Now he a vaccine, that can eliminate the side-effects of the VCD.

DIGGITAL DIVIDER: No one's invited. Digvijay Singh of Madhya Pradesh is in the middle of nowhere in hiw own pradesh. His victory rath got stuck in the craters on the state's roads as Uma Bharti rode on a anti-incumbency wave. The urban population thought he gave power to rural areas and the rural folks thought he gave power to only urban areas. So they both gave power to Uma Bharti. Now Diggi now-not-so-tall is sure there was a Divider machine at work by the name of Mayawati.

MIZORAM-IT-DOWN THE THROAT: There is a great need to develop a machine that forces the media to recognise Northeast as part of India even when terrorists aren't killing innocent people. The elections in the Hindi land cause so much debate and no one wants to waste airwaves and paper on Mizoram. Can we treat states as equal at times?