India, Miscellanous

Why Uber cannot be exonerated?

Lot has been written about the Uber incident that happened two weeks back in Delhi. Most of them were *understandably* outbursts calling for banning Uber. I condemn the incident strongly and my empathy lies with the victim and her family for what happened. Banning Uber is not the solution for this, for that as a society we need to look deeper.

In this background, I happened to read this  article “In defense of Uber in India”  by my friend Sriram Krishnan (who works in Silicon Valley) which has looked into this from a different perspective. In response to that article is my below response.

Sriram, yours was a refreshing piece to tell the Uber side of story. But I feel it misses the forest for the trees. I sympathise with Uber that they have been made a scapegoat for a systematic failure in India for Women safety especially in New Delhi. But that doesn’t exonerate Uber from their failure.

Uber is not doing this as a “free” service. They are charging me (the user) $$$ to deliver me a ride and that ride has to be safe. That’s part of the social and legal contract when I start using their app and get into their cabs. Period.

If verification systems in India are not functional (which I agree are far from perfect) then Uber had to invent its own. Many international firms are doing that across industries for various functions.  If we give benefit of doubt in this to Uber, then McDonald’s (or Saravana Bhavan) can serve a poisoned meat and say India’s food control are patchy, so we are helpless. Similarly Facebook can do nothing for child pornography and say India’s law on that are weak or non-existent.

The advantage of globalisation is the cross polination of good ideas and best practices. As an Indian user when I use an American (or Global) service/product I expect I am getting the best from the world. Not the same stuff I can get in my street corner. I don’t need an Uber to give me a ride in an old dirty autorickshaw ride with Uber sticker on the side.

In this incident, Indian society and my elected Government(s) have failed to ensure safety for that poor woman. It is no secret that women safety in India is poor. A 10 minute analysis on social media would have told Uber that. This is what India is today. Before launching the service, Uber should have taken notice of this, planned their checks in place and then rolled out their service. I have not read in media, that they did anything beyond routine “eye-wash” actions and that’s why I feel they are guilty.

India, Yoga

International Yoga Day falls on my son’s birthday

When I picked up the morning newspaper today with my cup of coffee, I was delighted to see a full page advt. from Ministry of External Affairs (Govt. of India). It was the announcement of United Nations announcing June 21st as International Day of Yoga. My joy was not because of my love for Yoga (which I have been practicing for last 14 years) but because June 21st is my only son’s birthday!!!. My 11 year old son has been doing Yoga for last many years as well.

Having said this, I am aware that this may amount to nothing on ground to spread the art of Yoga. But then in life we don’t need to be left-brained always, symbolic occasions like this should be enjoyed!!!

Picture of Yoga statues in New Delhi Airport (Terminal 3), Courtesy: MEA

Picture of Yoga statues in New Delhi Airport (Terminal 3), Courtesy: MEA

Economy, India

Small businesses are backbone of Indian economy

In the past I have written few times in this blog about “Challenges of Doing business in India” and “Running a Product business in India“. Is it only thorns along the way?, not really. There have been many instances of “Small Indian Companies that have stood over time” and how you can succeed by taking advantage of technology and first step for that will be to “Secure your business website“.

In this background, I was happy to see a new initiative titled “The Action Committee for Formal Finance for Non-corporate Small Businesses”, certainly a mouthful. The group is constituted by leading organisations from across India, to create a financial architecture for small businesses. They have launched a new good looking website I appreciate this effort and wish them good luck.


In their advertisement today in Economic Times, I noticed these impressive statistics:

  • 5.77 crore enterprises
  • INR 6.28 Lakh crore per annum
  • 45% contribution to national GDP vs. 15% by the corporate sector
  • Provides 90% of employment in the country
  • 46 crore employed; 24 crore self-employed
  • 62% owned by ST/SC and OBCs
  • Only 4% of their financial needs are met by banks
Events, India, Tamil

Dravidian proof of the Indus script

First a disclaimer, I know nothing about epigraphy and I can write in one post card what I know about language (Old Tamil) and history including Indus Valley. I attended the talk today out of curiosity and to listen in person to Mr.Iravatham Mahadevan. I took limited notes of the talk, so I may have misunderstood some, so please refer to the actual paper for correct following.

Padma Shri award winning Indian epigraphist Mr.Iravatham Mahadevan (IM) delivered today evening in Roja Muthiah Research Library (RMRL), what the scholars hosting the talk proudly claimed as a historic talk. This was the first public presentation by Mr.Mahadevan titled “Dravidian Proof of the Indus Script via The Rig Veda: A Case Study”. The man at 84 years was frail, his voice feeble but his energy on the subject, his urge to unravel the mysteries of Indus Valley Script was super clear and infectious. The small hall at RMRL was filled with nearly hundred experts (excluding myself) and there was pin drop silence (a rarity in India) to listen carefully to Mr.Mahadevan.

Mr.Iravatham Mahadevan presenting - 14 Nov 2014

Mr.Iravatham Mahadevan presenting – 14 Nov 2014

The presentation began by listing 4 signs (or symbols) named for convenience as ABCD, reading right to left. The four ideograms are the following:

A – looks like a “Back of wolf”, a four legged animal with no face meaning the real identification of the animal not important, its more of an object/asset

B – looks like a Hook, receive

C – looks like crossroads, village

D – looks like a Jar, a most frequent occurrence in Indus script, almost 10%. Frequently appears in the end

From this, Mr.Mahadevan arrives using various techniques to deduce Old Tamil (Dravidian) root words with the nearest literal meanings and use a technique called “rebus” which uses images to indicate the (pronunciation of) a letter (for example he said letter I in English can be shown with an image of Eye).

In the first process, he deduces the Old Tamil root words for these 4 signs. By this,

A – is மாறு as in மகாகவி பாரதியார் பாடல் வரிகள்:

கங்கை நதிப்புறத்துக் கோதுமைப் பண்டம்
காவிரி வெற்றிலைக்கு மாறுகொள்ளுவோம்

where மாறு indicates “Barter”, extending to “Merchant”

B – is கொள் as in மாறுகொள்

C – is Village, (Proper Noun) a Resident of a village, பாடி as in ஆயர்பாடி/காட்பாடி. Another meaning is வாழ் as in வாழ்கிறான், வாழ் in old Tamil is to differentiate between living and to live prosperous

D – is like ‘அன்’ as in மஹாதேவன் to indicate masculine gender

Reading all  the 4 signs together we can arrive at மாறு கொள் பாடி அன், from this he arrives at proper forms to “One who receives barter and lives in the city”. In other words, “Merchant of the city

In the second process, he deduces the 4 signs to be the root words of names of later day Pandian Kings, who were probably descendant of Indus Valley who retained the names without knowing the meaning.

A – மாறு, மாறன் – meaning Barterer – now a Pandia King

B – செழி, செழியன் – meaning he of lightning – now a Pandia King

C – பாடி, பாண்டி, பாண்டியன் – meaning the prosperous – now a Pandia King

C – வாழி, வழுதி  – meaning he of the city – now a Pandia King

In the third process, he deduces the 4 signs to arrive at Rig Veda days Sanskrit names including the god name “Pusan”. I didn’t follow the Sanskrit names properly so couldn’t take notes on that. He mentioned instances of how some of the names (words) in Rig Veda could have been wrongly understood (myths created), and understanding their root words from Indus Script can explain the intended meaning of those words.

I remember in one place he using the word “அம்பல்” to indicate “அம்பலம்” which means Assembly as in அம்பலப்படுத்துதல்  (bring it out in open village assembly).

By the above 3 process, Mr.Mahadevan concludes the following 3 points:

  1. The Language of Indus civilization was an early form of Dravidian
  2. Due to migration of a section of the Indus population southwards, they formed some settlements in South India
  3. (Rig) Vedic age succeeded the Indus civilization. The Rig Veda is a product of cross composite


Chennai, India, Writers

Modern India was made in Madras

Today TiE Chennai as part of their charter member dinner had invited  Madras Musings founder and writer Sri S.Muthiah for giving a talk. Muthiah as the favourite historian of Madras and tomorrow being Madras (Chennai) 375th Birthday (founded in 1639 by Francis Day and Andrew Cogan) the topic was easy to guess. It was about how The Beginnings of Modern India (was from Madras).

Having been to few of Madras day walks organized by Mr.Sriram V including Alwarpet, Old Fort Wall and Royapuram I was looking forward to hearing about Chennai’s history from the authority of the subject S.Muthiah in person. Lucky for me, after the event I got a chance to take a picture with the man himself along with my friend Pravin Sekhar.


With Sri S.Muthiah (in centre) of Madras Musings

Before the event  started Muthiah was chatting around with few of his friends. The moment,  master of ceremonies mentioned “Madras”, Muthiah transformed into a man half his age (he is 84 years old). Dates, Names, Places, Events started flowing with ease, from 2500 years back to present day.

Muthiah talked how the Arabs 2500 years back were trading between Europe and India through the high seas. Ships were frequenting from Muscat, Bahrain, Alexandra to West coast of South India (Kerala predominantly). This was the time when the Silk Route (land route) from Europe to India through present day Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan was rifled with pirates. Vasco da Gama  then got his glory by discovering an alternate route over seas to India from Europe across African continent, who was guided from African east coast to India by an Arab navigator. If Arabs were to be credited of bringing in trade (they brought Islam from middle east much later) from Europe through seas, it was St.Thomas (The Apostle) in 1 AD who brought Christianity to India nearly 1500 years before Vasco da Gama and to this day San Thome Basilica stands in his remembrance.

Fast forward to 1639 when Francis Day bought a settlement for John’s Company (East India Company) in what is today Fort St.George, Chennai. That time this area had only villages (Mylapore, Poonamallee, Tiruvottiyor, Thiruvanmiyur), British built a small warehouse and for next hundred years were traders with no security forces or territory building ambitions. Around 1746 then French Governor of Pondicherry  François Dupleix attacked British in Madras (First Carnatic War). With Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle of 1748 happening in Europe, British and French exchanged between them Madras (India) for Louisbourg (Canada). Looking back now as a Madras Citizen, Muthiah joked that British got the best of the bargain :-)

Next 30 minutes Muthiah walked through this troves of Madras Photos. Each Photo showed a Madras landmark building including Chepauk Stadium, Government General Hospital (GH), Fort St.George, SBI Beach road branch (which got burned recently), General Post Office, Royapuram station, Raj Bhavan, St.Mary’s Church, Anderson Church, Ripon building, Armenian Church, St. George’s School and more. With each photo he talked how the modern institutions of India were born or influenced heavily in the Madras of British. Western Medicine in Asia, Postal Network, Railways, Imperial Bank (Fort St.George basement), Government, modern municipality (even before it got setup in Britain), Great Trigonometric Survey by Major Lambton in St.Thomas Mount (and Mount Everest getting its name) and British education system that Indians take for granted today owes its roots in India to Madras.

The Beginning of Modern India by S.Muthiah - 21 August 2014

The Beginning of Modern India by S.Muthiah – 21 August 2014

Muthiah had an interesting story of how Australian colonization propaganda by British owes dues to help from printing workers coming from Chennai St.George school trained on printing press techniques.

Bishwanath Ghosh has written a brief biography of S.Muthiah here.