Sunday, March 18, 2007

Shoes from Japan and trousers from England?

There was a really popular patriotic song by Raj Kapoor which goes something like this:

Mera Joota hai Japani
Yeh Patloon Inglistani
Sar pe lal topi rusi
Phir bhi dil hai hindustani

(My shoes are Japanese
The pants are from England
The red hat on my head is Russian
But even then, my heart is Indian)

In an ironic twist of India's fate, shoes and trousers now seem to be made in India and the heart...not so much as the younger generations try to break free from the 'meaningless' shackles of the traditional Indian society !!

Mira Nair's Namesake

After 20 years of marriage, Aashima (Tabu) and Ashoke (Irfan Khan), the immigrant parents of the main character, visit the Taj Mahal. After the magnanimity of the Taj Mahal soaks into their consciousness, they start small talk. Ashoke asks Aashima why she chose him in the match making process, 20 years ago. She tells he was best in the lot when compared to a widowed father and a bald guy. By this time, both of them are fully blushing with just on the brink of breaking into a smile. She then asks if he would love to listen "I love you" like Americans. Later, back in the United States, Aashima keeps complaining, to her white co-worker/friend at the local library, how her now-working son almost never calls her. Her friend replies children are gone once they reach 18 in this country.

Mira Nair makes a clear point. People think and feel almost the same things, but some cultures choose to say some things out, while others say some other things. But the movie is not just about cultural similarities nor is it entirely about identity crisis as reflected in the title Namesake. The main character, Gogol (played by Kal Penn) is named after the Russian writer Nikolai Gogol. In a sea of white kids, Gogol finds his name so uncool that he changes his name to Nikhil.

So what's the rest of movie about? Most of the latter half was about Closure. The characters come to terms with a death and the guilt of not being around. Aashima grows stronger and Gogol finally comes to accept his name and the Russian author.

With Sholapur bedsheets on the beds of newly arrived and a gradual change in English accents of immigrants, Mira Nair makes 3 decades of time flow by smoothly. She makes the movie for Fox Searchlight but subtitles only Bengali and NOT Indian English. Nair has a flair when it comes to filming lovemaking. Scenes in all her earlier work, especially Mississippi Masala, have a strong woman-director signature. She continues the tradition and takes it a step further with the most honest lovemaking scene in a saree ever to be filmed.

With quite a few insider jokes, some US-thru-immigrant-eyes jokes, wonderful performances by all the cast, good music by Nitin Sahwney and some INTENSELY personal moments, Mira Nair's Namesake will linger in your mind for a while.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Funny Reject Letter

Dear School of Something at the University of Samething,

After careful review of admissions from different schools, I regret to inform you that I will not be accepting admission from your school. Please note that it has got nothing to do with your school but merely a space-time limitation of Einsteinian Physics which forbids me from staying at more than one place at the same time.

All the Best with your current and future students


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sell by mm/dd

BTFM dumped food 1
Originally uploaded by M.Eugenia.

According to an estimate shown on BBC's One Planet, a third of all food in the developed world gets dumped. A lot of food goes waste in the developing world as well. But the reasons for wastage are vastly different. In the developing world, a lot of the wastage is because of inefficiencies in supply chain, inadequate refrigeration facilities etc, where as in the developed world, a large chunk of the wastage is at the household level. For instance, in UK alone, out of US$ 38 billion worth of annual food wastage, the retail-store sell-by expiry contribution was a mere $3.54 billion !! They clearly got their act together.

As you might have guessed, information can play an enormous role in minimizing waste in both worlds. A little e-chart on the refrigerator that keeps a tab on expiring foods can be an approach. Another approach could be letting people know the amount of energy and water spent in growing all that food. For example, fruits take water 100+ times their weight. A lot of developed countries import food (as shown in this map) which means wastage of water at places where its usually scarce.

One key insight from both IS210 and IS243 has been: "The key to supply chain optimization isn't moving things faster according to plans, it is moving things smarter according to actual demand" (which implies its more about managing information than actual physical goods). Corporates in developed world have realized and enormously benefited from this for a long time. Besides not seeing any benefit from this realization, developing world poses another significant problem. Its really hard to see an end-to-end system where there are a million different vendors and farmers both of whom have little holdings and revenues. It's a challenging problem and pay-offs can be as large as significant elimination of global poverty and hunger.