How to save your documents from Forgery

The steps mentioned here is only to make it costly and difficult for anyone to modify (insert/delete) the contract signed between 2 parties.

1. Number each and every page and have a count of the total number of pages in the document. With the latest software, it is quite easy to even count the number of lines, words and character in the document.

2. Never use a black pen for signing the document. Always use a pen with a hard metal tip and press hard to ensure that the pen leaves a physical dent on the page.

3. Always sign each and every page of the document. Put your initials next to any changes and amendments.

4. Most importantly in the last, spread the sheet of paper as a Chinese fan/accordion so that only the ends of the pages are visible. Then sign on this fan. This makes changing only 1 page of your contract nearly impossible to photocopy or modify. So the entire document now has to be redrafted.

There are several hologram, smart papers, digital signature etc to protect the document. It all depends on cost vs benefit. One security measure you should definitely explore is depositing the contract with a Notary. It might cost as much as 500$ to deposit the contract but it’s quite secure.


French Paradox

A lot of people are complaining that even though I am in France for the past 3 months, I am writing more about India than about France. Hence this post.

To me the French meal and dining habits looked pretty odd. There was the usual stuff like
1. While Indian meal had 10-15 spices, salt and pepper are sufficient for a French
2. While Indians prefer piping hot meal, in France often a sandwich stuffed with thin slices raw meat.
3. While there are only 2 varieties of commonly available cheese (paneer/cottage cheese and processed industrial cheese) and 2 varieties of bread (white bread and brown bread) Food in France is a piece of art. There are a few hundred varieties of cheese and wine and several kinds of bread.
4. The meal in India, esp. the lunch is functional. Most people can gobble up food in 15 minutes and then resume their normal daily work. In comparison the meal in france can easily last for over an hour, even when the person is eating alone.

However the real surprising fact was that a normal French food consists of a serving of red meat, fried potatoes, cheese and wine but very little vegetables. So essentially it’s quite high on calories and also food is central to the French daily life. However still there are hardly any obese people around. Dr. Serge Renaud, calls it the French Paradox.

The gist of his arguments are:
1. The French eat smaller portions. So it does not matter how much calorie laden each bite is.
2. Most of the fat comes from natural sources which body is able to handle more efficiently without the risk of accumulating in the body. Pre-cooked and packaged food forms a very small portion of French diet.
3. There sugar intake is low and also there is less prevalence of snacking.
4. French value a balance of life. i.e. they take time for walks, exercise, weekend get-away and pursuit of hobbies.


Ryan Air

I was watching the interview by Tony Fernandes (the founder of AirAsia) and was surprised that even though he has recently launched a very successful low cost airline, he claimed that his inspiration was EasyJet (a small European low cost airline). It was odd for me because his previous employer was Richard Branson (of Virgin Airline) and the most successful European low cost airline was RyanAir.
In India also we have a couple of low cost airline. Some are doing well, some were earlier low cost, but now they have abandoned this business plan. Hence I booked a return ticket with RyanAir to see firsthand how they operate and how they are so successful in cutting costs. Here are few of my observations (the list is not exhaustive)
a. They fly not from main airports, but from small airports at the fringes of the important city. This is important because this means that RyanAir becomes an exclusive airline at these airports. This helps it schedule landing and takeoff priorities better, faster turnaround time. Most important that not only do airports charge a lower taxiway, parking, passenger handling charges (sometimes as low as 50% or the international norms) but Charleroi airport even paid a six figured sum to sign a contract with ryan air.
b. Being a remote airport outside the city, ryan air also gets a share of the profits from the transport operators (busses, car rentals), restaurants and motels that owe their fortunes to the airline.
c. Passengers are supposed to print their own boarding pass.(15 euros if you don’t) If they are carrying a big bag or it weighs more than 10kg, then they have to pay 15 euros (35 euros if you don’t book in advance) As my frustrated friend once said, it costs me more to check in my 10kg bag than what I paid to carry a 70kg human being.
At Barcelona and Belgium there was a RyanAir flight every 5 min, yet it was hard to see any of the RyanAir staff and this saving is passed on to the passengers.
d. Inside the aircraft, they have even removed the trays or the personal basket. Hence the airhostess doesn’t have to spend time cleaning up. Even the seats don’t have a reclining button. So no need to waste time telling the customers not to recline etc. Not to mention every service inside the aircraft is charged and for the 2 hour flight you are constantly bombarded with advertisements and promotional schemes.
e. The airline does not give seat numbers to the passengers. There are no busses to transport them to the aircraft hence in a way there is a mad rush to race to the aircraft and occupy the window seats. The airline also charges 3 euros for priority boarding. All this gives RyanAir best turnaround time in the industry.
f. Bulk of the fleet purchases were done at the time of the SARS scare when airline gave substantial discounts and concessions to anybody who could keep the manufacturers in business. Also unlike other European airlines Ryan has a fleet exclusively of Boeing 737 and the Americans were just happy to sell to the Europe for the first time that they forget to even bill them properly.
No wonder their future vision is to ferry the passengers for free and charge only for the services.


Red Yellow Green

Have you noticed how many countries in Africa have the same Red, Yellow and Green Stripes as their national flag? Check the list

I could count:
Guyana (Guinea)
Sao Tome and Principe
and Zimbabwe.

Incidently as per my friend from Senegal al these countries have totally different history, culture and even religion. Many of them are sworn enemies for centuries now. Yet to a layman all their flags looks so much the same.

As my friend Gregory pointed out, this probably has to do with Ethopia (which was the only independent country in the African world)


30 year old virgin

Traditionally, in India a person is supposed to be a virgin till he/she gets married. However this was usually not a problem because Indians used to get married early almost immediately after they start working. Being financially independent (strong) is important because in most cases the bride and the groom have to seek approval from the parents and the approval comes easily if the boy is financially able to support him and the girl.
However now a days with the emphasis on university education and even post-graduation degree, the marriageable age is getting pushed. So it is not uncommon to meet a 25 year old virgin and in some extreme cases he/she can be as old as 30 years ago because it now takes longer for a guy to complete his education and get a stable job. Times are changing and pre-marital sex is no longer a taboo, but still for many it’s a problem if they lose their virginity to someone other than their fiancé (or would be fiancé).

According to my African friend, who once had an Indian girlfriend and has spent a lot of time in India, this delay is sex creates a barrier between the desires and the practices which is unnatural. It creates a sexual tension and uneasiness, a barrier that prevent the Indian youth to express themselves freely and openly. According to him this causes frustration and might even lead to the increasing crime level.
Being no authority on the subject, I am unable to impartially and accurately comment on the issue. However I strongly believe that it’s only our generation that is facing this transition hiccups. The previous generation had not much problems with chastity because they used to get married early. It’s this generation that wants to follow the traditions, yet be considered cool enough in the modern society with changing values. Most likely the next generation will not face this problem because the transition from a conservative traditional society to the modern liberal society would be complete by then.


Origin of the word India

2 days ago when I was asking about “what keeps the country together” only one thought came to my mind:Indians don’t even have a name for their country, religion or region.

There was a river flowing at the Eastern Boundary of the Persian Empire which the Indians called Sindh. The Muslims called it Hind (and hence the name Hindu (which is the name of the main religion of India) and Hindustan (which is what the Indians call their country). The Europeans (esp. the French) pronounced this region Inde which the British called as India and the river as Indus.

Incidentally no portion of the river Indus flows in India anymore. When the Europeans took to the sea, they started labeling almost every new culture as Indians, irrespective of whether they had any ties with India or not. So now many races in Northern and Southern America are also called Indians even though they bear no resemblance.


But what is it that you want?

I was raised in an environment where we did not have much of a choice. The major decisions are made easy because in reality you are not taking them. Its governed by the norms and expectations of the parents, society, relatives and even teachers.

You study hard because the neighbor’s kids have higher grades. You speak English and not your mother tongue because that is a sign of being educated. After schooling you have no choice but to pursue engineering or medicine because it is hard to support oneself on art or sports. After the bachelors one has to pursue MBA. Not because they want to but because that is expected of them by others. Jobs, marriage, kids, house, cars everything is governed by one big question “What is expected out of me?”

Indians have a greater external locus of control than most people from other countries, however things are changing. It is easier when we are told by our family, spouse, boss or society what to do and what not to do rather than take a plunge ourselves. We judge our success not by how much happiness it brings us, but by the eyes of the others. Surprisingly the system works and the country is growing by leaps and bounds. However the question is when we are going to rise above the Maslov’s basic needs of materialistic success and security to pursue our passions. When are we going to take a time out to fully understand ourselves and take time to develop our hobbies and interests? The goal of life is not material success.


What keeps India together?

In Europe, I have met so many people who are really interested in Indian culture. They repeatedly ask me how is it done in Indian culture. I find it so hard to explain that there is nothing like a single Indian culture. For all practical purposes, each of the 28 states/regions of the country have totally different language, culture, tradition, history. Even inside a state, the rural India and the cities are totally different.
Two words have always amazed me:
“Dada”: In North India it means Grandfather, In the Eastern India it means elder brother and used to address a person with a lot of respect and social standing. However in the Southern India Dada is used to brand a notorious muscle man or someone who lives in the wrong side of the law and terrorizes the people.
Second word is the name of a loaf of Baked Bread. It’s called Double roti in the Northern Western Part of the country which means it is twice the size of the Roti (or the standard wheat dish) While in the south Western part of the country it is called ‘Pav’ or ¼ the size of the standard Roti. Incidentally the Roti in both the regions as well as bread are of almost the same size and shape.
Coming back to the discussion: It makes me ask the question what keeps the country together? Is it that Indians are too lazy that they don’t care about their governments and policies and want a status quo? I would not like to agree to that hence I tried to find some universally practices cultures and passion. The only 2 things I could find were our love for cricket and bollywood movies. But then is our rich culture so shallow that these two frivolous passions can keep us united?


Brugge or Bruges trip

Walking in the streets of Belgium and rowing in the canals of Bruges make me realize how important history is for Europeans. Even the cities bombed during the World War have rebuilt their cities in the way it had been for centuries before the wars. Even in cities where there are new constructions, residents have tried hard to give it the same look and feel as the historical buildings. Not only has this reinforced the visual delight of living in history rather than making the entire city look like a concrete jungle.
India also has several historical structures that are older and more majestic than what is seen abroad. However I still don’t know of any city where walking on the old city gives the same pleasure. Most of the old city have so crowded and have narrow streets that navigating there without the threat of being stuck in the traffic jam or your pocket being picked. The sanitation level of the older sections of Indian cities are low and often the streets don’t have sufficient sunlight, fresh air or even clean. The smell alone can drive people away.
The solution Indian government has adopted is to evacuate people from the ancient structures in the same of preserving these structures or public safety. In several areas government has even torn down the sections of our heritage in the name of modernization and infrastructure. However why can’t our antique buildings and their inhabitants co-exist the same way they do elsewhere?


ABCD (American born confused desi)

One of the hardest things to be is being a second generation Indian immigrant. The parents still tend to have the same set of values and expectations that they witnessed in India 20-30 years ago, while the fantasy world of Bollywood movies show a kind of society that is quite similar to the west or their adopted country. They don’t realize that Hindi movies are a fantasy land and often bear little resemblance with Indian culture and society, while the parents don’t realize that over the past 20-30 years the culture and values in India have modernized quite considerably.

Indians unlike the folks from China and Middle East try extra hard to mingle with the local population of their new country. There a conflict of the values and culture which they need to have to be cool enough in front of their friends and what they are expected to practice at home.

Most likely it is a short transitional phase which most people in societies facing rapid changes and development face.