Sunday, November 21, 2010

India Microcredit Faces Collapse From Defaults - NY Times Article

From the article:

Microfinance in pursuit of profits has led some microcredit companies around the world to extend loans to poor villagers at exorbitant interest rates and without enough regard for their ability to repay. Some companies have more than doubled their revenues annually.
Now some Indian officials fear that microfinance could become India’s version of the United States’ sub-prime mortgage debacle, in which the seemingly noble idea of extending home ownership to low-income households threatened to collapse the global banking system because of a reckless, grow-at-any-cost strategy.


Strong winds in Summer used to blow in the afternoons and bring with it bunch of dead butterflies. Butterflies of different colors and shapes. Little, poor, dead butterflies. My brother and I had a solution for this mass of dead bodies. We used to pick up each butterfly and bury it in a tiny grave that we would create for them. Burial was a solemn process. 

First dig a tiny pit a few inches wide, layer it with salt (I don't remember why we did that , may be someone told us to ..there must have been an important reason but i can't remember now), then layer it with tiny flowers, lay the dead butterfly in this grave, cover the grave with mud and put more flowers on it and finally stick a cross on the grave (we are Hindus so I am not sure why we put a cross on the graves, I think that idea must have come from some movies we had seen, also no one objected to this burial ritual except our gardener who used to pick out such graves and clear up the garden for the flower beds  amidst huge protests from me and my brother ) ,  shut eyes for a few seconds and pray that the soul of the dead butterfly rests in peace. 

I remember having a 'serious' conversation with my mother on why we should be allowed to continue sending these poor souls to heaven in this way and why we can't let them lie unattended here and there in the garden. Finally, as a result of this discussion we were given a part of the garden as a cemetery. We could create as many graves as we wanted and send as many dead butterflies to heaven as we wanted!

I remember feeling deep sadness and also a sense of responsibility while caring for these poor, battered, dead butterflies. As a child the sorrow of seeing a dead butterfly was huge and then the task of burial was even more heart wrenching. I remember seeing cocoons in the garden and waiting for the butterflies to emerge. 

Life is so ephemeral , precious and that lesson came to us from our parents - who let us observe and be part of the nature and open our hearts to all life forms.    

Saturday, November 20, 2010

One Art - Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three beloved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

-- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) a disaster. 

A beautiful poem about the art of losing. Have you ever thought of losing in this way - taking the grief to a level of art? I think she is telling us it is hard and very hard when you lose family,  friend or a lover or someone really close to you. I like it when she says 'the art of losing's not too hard' in the last part of the poem.....ha! Caught you!! - It is indeed VERY hard to master this art. 

A lovely poem about loss and trying to come to terms with it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Social Network - Movie Review

I saw 'The Social Network' recently. I liked it. I give it a 6 out of 10. It would be interesting for the people from the IT industry who have been following the growth of Facebook. This movie is the story of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook (Did you know it was known as 'TheFacebook' when it was launched?). Aaron Sorkin adapted his screenplay from Ben Mezrich's 2009 nonfiction book The Accidental Billionaires

 Jesse Eisenberg does justice to his role as Mark. I enjoyed every second of this movie. It is fast paced and pretty much takes you through the history of creation of Facebook and life of Mark Zuckerberg - the youngest billionaire. What is interesting is it also leaves you with a lot of questions. To those of you who think it might be a movie about Mark as a 'hero' - let me just tell you this - it is not. The movie takes you through his early Harvard days, the ups and downs in his personal life and ofcourse all those law suits. Andrew Garfield as Eduardo is awesome. And how can I forget Justin Timberlake!! He looks good as always! Except I wasn't really impressed with his acting skills. Long way to go yet Justin :-) The last scene of the movie is nice. Many people I know who have seen this movie found it strange or abrupt end, but I loved it. If you have seen it then let us discuss why.

I found it to be an interesting and fun movie. Do check it out!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


What Difference Does It Make to the Dead,
the Orphans, and the Homeless,
Whether the Mad Destruction Is Wrought
under the Name of Totalitarianism
or the Holy Name of Liberty and Democracy?

- Mahatma Gandhi

Cafe Fernando

Double Chocolate Bundt Cake

I came across Cenk's (Jenk) blog a few months ago. He is (in his own words) - "a food blogger, novice photographer, seasoned home baker and a shameless chocoholic from ─░stanbul, Turkey."  I have found some lovely recipes from his blog and also learnt few nice tips about cooking. A lovely food blog - I highly recommend it to all food lovers and baking aficionados.

The Zoya Factor - Book Review

The Zoya FactorThe Zoya Factor by Anuja Chauhan

It is one of the most boring books that I have read so far. What a waste of my time! It is about a rajput girl named Zoya Singh Solanki, who meets the Indian Cricket Team through her job as an executive in an advertising agency and ends up becoming a lucky charm for the team for the Cricket World Cup 2010 (Wiki).

Cricket - are we all really that obsessed with cricket?? It is hard to believe this book is listed amongst top 5 in many Indian newspaper (who makes all those rating anyway!). Here's what Times of India (found on Wiki) has to say , "it is a fun read which takes the Indian chick-lit way beyond mush and smut, right to freakily naughty. Her writing is very funny, very now and very funny. Her themes of cricket, love and politics are smartly topical." I laughed when I read that. Zoya factor is a run of the mill M&B book. Madam Anuja Chauhan please - try some other topics -- as it is, we do get our good and daily dose of cricket from all channels here.

The last book that I found so boring was The White Tiger. Phew!

View all my reviews

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Use It or Lose It: Dancing Makes You Smarter

Now here is more research to support the fact that dancing is really good for health and not only that, it can also make us smarter ;-) Ok! So that's not me saying all that to support and propagate dancing :-) na, na....It is really the good old science telling us with facts and figures. Check out this awesome article

From the article:

The 21-year study of senior citizens, 75 and older, was led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, funded by the National Institute on Aging, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.  Their method for objectively measuring mental acuity in aging was to monitor rates of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.

The study wanted to see if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity.  They discovered that some activities had a significant beneficial effect.  Other activities had none.

They studied cognitive activities such as reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and playing musical instruments.  And they studied physical activities like playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise and doing housework.

One of the surprises of the study was that almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia.  There can be cardiovascular benefits of course, but the focus of this study was the mind.  There was one important exception:  the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing.

            Reading - 35% reduced risk of dementia

            Bicycling and swimming - 0%

People who played the hardest gained the most:  For example, seniors who did crossword puzzles four days a week had a 47% lower risk of dementia than those who did the puzzles once a week.

            Playing golf - 0%

            Dancing frequently - 76%. 

That was the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical.

Quoting Dr. Joseph Coyle, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist who wrote an accompanying commentary:
"The cerebral cortex and hippocampus, which are critical to these activities, are remarkably plastic, and they rewire themselves based upon their use."

And from from the study itself, Dr. Katzman proposed these persons are more resistant to the effects of dementia as a result of having greater cognitive reserve and increased complexity of neuronal synapses.  Like education, participation in some leisure activities lowers the risk of dementia by improving cognitive reserve.

Our brain constantly rewires its neural pathways, as needed.  If it doesn't need to, then it won't. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Singapore Vacation Oct 2010 pictures

Lanterns in Chinatown, Singapore

Little birdie with a missing toe..she came so close to me :)


"How wrong is it for a woman to expect man to build the
world she wants, rather than set out to create it herself."

~~ Anais Nin


‘I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverge in a wood, and I
Took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.’

~~ Robert Frost

Every person who wants to do something different with their life will face some or the other difficulties. What decides your success is how you handled those difficulties. Did the obstacles make you lose heart or did they make you more determined? I have always looked at life as full of possibilities. Even as a child I wanted to do so many different things. I never worried if others my age where doing it or not. I didn't want to blend into the crowd, i still don't. I believe life is about continuously changing. It is not about finding a perfect state and sticking there till the end. That is like being dead. Life is about living with compassion, joy, taking risking, losing, getting hurt and  getting up back on your feet. Life is to live with reverence for all other beings, big or small, around you.

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Tuesdays with Morrie is a lovely story of life's greatest lessons. I have read this book many times and still go back to it . I believe that there is immense wisdom hidden in every page of this book.  This is a simple , heart touching story.

From the book:

So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things.

The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.


    'Imagine that every person in the world is enlightened but you. They are all your teachers, each doing just the right things to help you learn perfect patience, perfect wisdom, perfect compassion.'


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Consciousness: One of the last great mysteries of life

Interesting article in Guardian UK about consciousness. Alok Jha introduces a lecture by Christof Koch of the California Institute of Technology on how the brain creates the sensation of consciousness.

In the video, Christof Koch, a professor of biology and engineering at the California Institute of Technology, introduces the neurological basics upon which scientists hope to build our future study of consciousness. Are bees conscious? Can you replicate consciousness in a machine? Are you sure that you're conscious of most of the things your brain is up to?

Friday, November 5, 2010

A.J. Jacobs' year of living biblically

Interesting talk by A J Jacobs . He tried to live life for a year biblically -- following the rules in the Bible as literally as possible.  Listen to his experience and ideas!


Have you ever given a book to someone and never got it back from them? How did it feel ? 
I have lost many books to many friends over the past several years. I love reading books and also like sharing them with anyone I know that likes reading. So many times my friends forget to return my book. Sometimes they go away to other places and take my book away with them , sometimes they are here and don't remember that they took my book and worst case they really lost it!

I have tiny list in which I maintain the names of the books and the borrowers. In case I don't get back a book after many , many months. I write it off as a 'Gift' to that friend.  :-) I feel a bit sad if it happens to be a book that I really liked.

I don't like books stagnating on my home library shelves. Books are meant to be read and if it means I lose few books while I lend them around, I am Ok with that. I just hope people who take those books away read them or at least share them with someone, somewhere.  I think I am a chronic 'book lender' and minor setbacks don't hold me back. I love reading and sharing the joy of reading. 

Books are fun and there is so much knowledge hidden in so many books around the world. If only I knew more languages, I could have read more books from authors from other countries too in the original languages instead of their English translations.  

Thursday, November 4, 2010


"With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity."

~~Keshavan Nair


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