Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hilarious Clip

Those of you, connected to scientific research is going to love this video clip.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mode of Denial

Last week I had my doctor's appointment and while waiting for my turn in the waiting room, I was browsing some travel magazine. There was a section on India tourism inside the magazine and in the section, there was an ad with a picture of herd of elephants and big bold note "we still believe in joint family system". Now this is a mode of denial. Like any other society, India is also going through changes and as globalization is increasing, there are visible changes in the Indian society and family system, specially in the middle class. I am not saying that all changes are for good (who knows it anyway) and I am also not saying that we should not highlight the selling points for getting more tourists. But there is a contradiction in what we think we are and what the realities are. Now, what we need is more of smart and unbiased social scientists and anthropologists to study and analyzed these social changes and break some of the myths about our family system.

Picture Gallery - 2

Some of the readers of this blog came from while searching about Jaipur Zoo to the page I have put here earlier. Actually, Google shows very few images of Jaipur zoo and this image is one of them. Curiously, when I Google Jaipur, I was very much disappointed to see the that the most of the images came from travel agencies and hotels and they are heavily photo-shopped, which means they were heavily modified for the advertising purpose. It is very disappointing to see the pictures of Hawamahal without the shops around and does not give clear picture of the city. Shops which sells clothes, jewelery, art work are integral part of Jaipur experience. Here are some of the pictures of Jaipur, India:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Picture Gallery -1

There are times when I feel strongly about something and want to write and there are times when I am contended just to read different things and don't feel like writing anything. For these times, I will share pictures from my camera from different places around the world. I have been fortunate enough to travel to many destinations inside and outside of India for various reasons. Some pictures are recent and some are old, some are taken by me and some are by my spouse, but I consider them important enough to communicate about the place (I will label them according to the name of the place). Here is the first series about Rocky mountains in Colorado, USA during summer:


Wednesday, November 11, 2009


As a first generation immigrant, it is inevitable to constantly compare the life outside and inside India. My daughter goes to school and it is also inevitable that I constantly compare her school experience with my own schooling experience. Here are the random list of things which I like in USA and which I miss from India on very regular basis. This will give idea to many people in India what to expect when going out. One thing is certain, that you need to be very open to understand why certain things are the way they are, and don't start blaming to everything which doesn't seem the way it seemed in India. The list is in no particular order.

- First of all, I am really happy to get a chance to see different countries and people. This experience made me richer in every way.

- I like the cleanliness in all the countries I have visited or lived (List is long: Israel, Russia, Germany, France, Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, USA). Streets, buses, trains, restaurants, toilette, you name it and it is much cleaner than it is anywhere in India. No, don't blame Indian climate (Israel has very hot, sandy and dusty climate too). I think it needs real efforts from people and government to keep the city clean. I miss garbage cans in Indian streets at regular intervals and I think there should be serious campaign to educate people about the cleanliness. We also have high density of population which makes it very hard, but still there is scope of improvement.

- I miss people, food and clothes from India. I miss my friends and easy atmosphere of chatting at workplace. Even though I eat Indian food, it doesn't taste the same as it does in India. I also hate dressing dull, boring top and Jeans everyday. I miss variety. I don't like that everybody has to dress black all the time to look cool. I miss colors. I miss dressing cotton, silk in beautiful colors and shades. I miss warm weather.

- I love the fact that as a 5 year old, my daughter has much more opportunity and exposure to learn different things than I had or normally kids in India have. She has excess to rich library in her school which has thousands of books appropriate to her age. These are story books, books about science, mathematics, nature and animals. There are poetry books exactly for her age. She has exposure to Bharatnatyam, piano, belle or any other sports she would like to play. She can go for ice skating in winter and playground everyday in summer and fall. She has seen Indian culture and western culture and this makes her richer in experience. She can appreciate the different things from different culture. She has seen many countries so probably will not have fancy ideas about the culture and countries. She has exposure to Indian music and western music. And no, she doesn't hear the stupid nonsense that Indian music is all spiritual and western music is superficial.

- I like that I live in very international community inside the university campus. Its very enriching experience. Not all the Indian people are nice, as well not all the people from other countries are unapproachable. I have been able to make a good balance of friends from different parts of the world with whom I meet on regular basis to sit, chat and eat.

- There are libraries, theaters and museums around. There are forest reserves around where you can walk. There are botanical garden and nature conservatory around. There are museum devoted to insects, bugs and science around.

- I like the efficiency of system and you really enjoy your work whatever you do, whether you are scientist, doctor, lawyer or anyone else. Professional opportunities in USA are incredible and you will have all chances of growth. Politics at workplace is everywhere, but somehow system allows you concentrate on the work as well. You will spend less energy for fighting on trivial issues (although it does happen and don't expect that human being are anyway different everywhere), but you can avoid that if you want.

- I like the fact that almost all the information about anything is available online.

- I like the fact that if tomorrow I decide that I want to quit science and do something else in life, there is no restriction. I can enter university again to study whatever I want and start a new career, or I can do something else. People are more flexible about these things and almost all the work is respected, that makes easier for people to decide what they actually want to do. There is a piano teacher in my neighborhood who earns equivalent to a professor in the university.

- As I mention in my previous posts, bureaucracy is generally more efficient. That means you will have less hassles for any kind of routine work.

- and finally it matters that you start liking wherever you live. There are pros and cons of every place, its all a matter of being comfortable with oneself and one's surrounding.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Indian Bureaucracy

In my previous post, I described an example of efficient and fast bureaucracy. I wanted to give few examples of Indian bureaucracy which is slow, inefficient and corrupt, but somehow I do not feel like writing about it. My this week's feeling is more of sadness than anger. When the whole system is like that, it is wastage of time and effort try to describe that. I will just write few points which I think should be addressed in order to improve the overall quality and efficiency of Indian baburaj.

- Time: Time is an important factor for efficient administration. In most developed country, there is a time limit of processing each request made by public. Once you gave all the necessary document, it becomes responsibility of the office to process it and return back to you within few weeks. Some jobs can be done in the same day and some jobs needs more time. What is needed is to place strict time limit for each type of routine job each office handles or there should be consequences for the office for delay. Can you imagine, that German rails pays 10 euro to passenger for each 1/2 hour delay in trains? In Russia, there is a rule that once you gave papers to the office, they have to give you back needed document within 4 weeks. Its their problem what they do inside the office, but if they don't get back to you in 4 weeks, there is consequences for them. Unless there is consequences, there is no way to insure timely disposition of services.

- Efficiency: Major problem in my opinion with Indian bureaucracy is pyramid structure of system which is most inefficient in dealing with routine tasks. For example, when I was working in government college, most of the paper work had to go to the higher education department at the state capital which causes significant delay and corruption. I had to go state capital or keep in touch with an appropriate babu each time I needed something to be done. This is very inefficient system and way to encourage corruption. If someone needs a birth or marriage certificate from municipality, again the file will run from bottom to top until it gets sign from the top officer for that. Instead, power should be given to the first person who receives the papers so that he can deal with the situation by himself unless there is a complexity in the case for some reason. This way it will be easy to fix accountability and time limit as well. In current situation nobody is responsible for delay or inefficiency.

- Transparency: This one will be most hard to implement given the secret nature of everything in any Indian office. Recently, when we were looking to buy an apartment in my city in USA, we were surprised to find that the prices from past 20 years or so are available online, so you can actually see how the prices grew over the years of any particular property or area of interest. But in Indian offices, so much things are hidden in the name of official secret that it will be hard to implement transparency.

- Parallel Processing (can not find better administrative word for this, I am not administrator after all): Most of the efficient system relies on giving the same power to at least 2-3 people within the office, so if one person is absent, someone else can finish the job. Once you remove all the reasons for delays, system delivers by itself.

I will add more points as it will come to me. But for now, I can only hope that citizen of India get better system which they deserve.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Bureaucracy: what it should be and what it shouldn't be

I will write some real life examples (either from my experience or from experiences of someone I know) of bureaucracy with the idea of what it should be like and what it shouldn't be like. Dear readers, please consider providing your experiences (positive or negative) of Indian bureaucracy as well as bureaucratic system of the country where you are living, to make this discussion richer. The idea is to provide readers from India what they should fight for. When I talked with someone in India, they seem to be fine with corrupt, slow and inefficient system until they know how to get around with the system. Their frustration only comes to fullest once the usual things doesn't work or if they do not want to follow the bribe route and still want to get things done in efficient manner.

Positive: example 1

- One of my Indian friend worked in Germany for few years before moving to USA. He contributed to the pension fund in German system while working there. Now, there is a rule in Germany, that you can claim your contribution 2 years after leaving the country if you have no intention to return. He had no idea about the process, so first thing he did was to write to Germany Embassy with his question. In few days, he got response from the Embassy with the links of forms he can download from internet and which he need to submit to the pension office to complete the process.

- He filled the forms (they were simple 2 forms) and send them with necessary evidence of his work to the pension office. Now, there are 5 pension offices in Germany and he had no idea where to send these forms, so he send to one office which he thought might be most appropriate for his case.

- in 3-4 weeks, he got response from the pension office which deals with such case (not the one where he sent the forms, but they forwarded his forms to the right place), and he was asked to submit an additional form. Of course, copy of this additional form was included in the letter. This form needed signature from German Embassy/consulate, or any other public notary from the USA. It was a verification form that indeed this is the person who has requested the pension refund.

- Since my friend lives in the city, where there is a German Consulate, he decided to go to the consulate directly. It took him sitting in nice sofa for half an hour until one officer came to talk with him and in few minutes, she came back with the form signed. Then she asked him- Do you want us to send this form for you to the pension office through diplomatic mail? Pleasantly surprised, he said fine, and his job was done.

- It took another 3-4 weeks, and there was money in his bank account which was transferred from Germany and an accompanying letter explaining the details of money with the contact details of the person in case there is any problem.

Now, can you imagined the process, if there would be similar case with India? Can you imagine if you had actually worked in India and needed to do similar process with Indian bureaucracy?

This is it. Processes could be as simple and straight. These may be the underlying simple reasons for many people not wanting to go back to Indian system.

I will continue this series giving another real life example of Indian bureaucracy in my next post.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Indian Bureaucracy and Attracting Talent

I have written previously (here, here and here) about attracting talent (I mean, people who otherwise don't feel obligation to return out of nostalgia and family obligations, and looking for more professional opportunities) from abroad to Indian education system. Today I will write about a big negative factor which will affect you regularly whether you return to some big name institutes or any other university, and that is to deal with the Indian bureaucratic system either in the university you will work (or Institutes) or in the city where you will live. If I have to mention single most important factor for not wanting to return to India, it is the administrative system you have deal with while working. Even in a college in small city, you can find talented motivated students who are joy to teach, but my experience with the bureaucratic system is mostly negative while working for years there. Recently, I had a very bad experience, that's why this post is generated.

When we talk about Indian bureaucratic system we actually talk about British bureaucratic system as it was during the colonial time. There are two factors in this, first that it was designed for the population whom British were governing, not for their own population. So the idea was to create a system for the population keeping British person as supreme authority. The babus and middle level officers we have in our systems(I don't understand their presence as well), most probably were middle men to communicate between masses and a final authority (typically a British guy) in every matter. Now front forward, that system is still continuing more or less even after 60 years. And since British were ruling the India, system was based on mistrust. So in current context you cannot trust population and basically you don’t need to deliver. I am not a political science person, but this is my explanation of Indian bureaucratic system.

For every single matter (big or small), files moves slowly upwards and reaches to top level officer for approval and there is no provision of delivery or time-line, so it can take months or years before your matter will be resolved. Since there nobody accountable for anything, you really can not do anything other than greasing babus and trying to do things fast. In my opinion, the root cause of problem is pyramid structure of administration where all authority is with the highest level officer and middle level people are not accountable for anything and also do not have power to take any decision at all.

If you are used to western system where in my experience (my sample is from 3 different developed countries) there is almost no direct corruption in routine office work. In most cases, the job is done either on the same day or following day. In case there is some delay, it is explained, and can be followed up by an email or phone until it is over. In most cases, if you provide sufficient papers, its the job and responsibility of the officer to resolve the matter as soon as possible. If you ever plan to return to India, be ready to get frustrated with the system on routine basis.

Of course, I hope this will get better but it may take decades before some professionalism comes. Its hard to change mind set and work ethics of whole system.