Saturday, June 22, 2013

Too busy (lazy) to blog, so here is my twitter feed

It is about 3 years since I created a blog post. I attribute it to being busy, lazy and having nothing worthwhile to say. I seem to be tweeting stuff on twitter for whatever it is worth (maybe, NSA has taken interest in my tweets). So, here is my twitter feed on the side. BFN

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Immigration to Absurdistan... a.k.a India or Bharat

To the east of Pakistan lies the land of Absurdistan, where I come from. It is also known as India or Bharat in some circles. Immigration process to this wonderful place is painful.

I recently went to the Chicago consultate to collect the approved Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) papers of my daughter. Now, OCI for the uninitiated, is the screwed up version of dual citizenship that India offers. Basically, they decided that dual citizenship as offered by other nations was no good and created something unique and messy. Anyway, having successfully got three OCIs I felt that I was good at getting it right even though each of the consulates have their own set of instructions on how to apply and no two of them match (my favorite is the sample should have light background goes the instructions and the sample photo has a dark red/maroon background).

It used to be that Chicago consulate never accepted applications in person, it had to be mailed in. And, when you mail in you have to mail them "mailing fees", probably, for them to mail it back. Only issue here is they never mailed it back. I had to go in person to collect it all three times. So, this time I sent in the forms, money (two money orders - one for $275 and other for $20), tracked the application process on the web (one of the better aspects of the process. Once it gets to India it can be tracked) and went to collect it when the website indicated that it was back at the Chicago consulate. The consulate has a great atmosphere - a combination of being at a funeral + Chennai railway station - loads of grumpy people ready to kill waiting in a passive aggressive mode. I got to the consulate and hurried to the OCI window. Once I got there I was told that I had to get a token ( First indication of change). So, I went looking for a token vending machine. I could not find one. So, I went back to the guy who said I need to get a token to find out where to get it. He said, I had to stand in line at the first counter to get a token from the person there. Yes,"...stand in line to get a token." I did. Then, when I got back to the waiting area I noticed that others (most of them) were waiting to submit the forms. So, I told the guy who told me to get a token that I was here to collect the approved forms. He said that might be at a different time, so I should check with the person who gave me the token. So, I got back in line. The lady there said both submission and collection are handled by the same window. When I pointed out that they had just managed to make an already painful process even more painful, she pointed out that they had a process and had "dedicated" one window for just OCI processing. Given that it takes about 3 minutes per person waiting to submit and less than 30 seconds per person waiting to collect, I realized that I would have to wait for over 90 minutes to drop the US passport and then return to collect it with the stamped visa about 3 hrs later effectively forcing me to be off work for the afternoon. So, I decided to enlist the help of my wife whose office is closer to the consulate. She tried doing it by herself the next week, got there at 5 minutes after the window opens (11am) on a Friday only to find that tokens are given any time after the consulate opens. So, she had about 40 people in front of her. After waiting for 90 minutes she gave up. The week after we decided to make a joint effort, she would get the token as soon as the consulate opens, then I would get the token from her around the time the window open and drop off the US passport. Then, she would go back about 3 hrs later to collect it. This time it worked. We were licking our OCI wounds in satisfaction when we heard another absurd story.

My wife's cousin, who was born in the UK and is a British citizen is getting married in India in Dec. His dad and sibilings were having a hard time to get visas to go to India. They were told it would take upto 3 months to get their visas approved. The reason, the dad was born in Karachi back when the Brits ruled undivided India. It did not matter that he had never lived in Pakistan, the fact that he was born in mordern day Pakistan made him eligible for the special treatment that India reserves for its favorite cousins. Of course, it is not the first trip to India. In fact, one of his children who is being subject to the same absurb procedure was in India last Dec. Hey, this is a new year so the process has to be applied with new rigor. I some times wonder if the folks in Govt. of India/ the embassies and consultates of GOI are plain dumb or just acting dumb.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hypocrisy and Immigration go together

First off, let me congratulate the Governor of Arizona for a bold immigration bill. More about that later. And, before I get into it let me tell you where I stand - I believe illegal immigrants are illegals and a nation has the right to manage who moves in.

Now, to the specifics. The Arizona law is bold but I am not sure it will solve the problem. It does polarize the populace and bring more visibility to the issue. Maybe, that is what the governor wanted. Or, maybe it was just signaling to the people who tend to support that party just like the Healthcare "reform" that the federal government passed. Contrary to what has been reported, I don't think the law is racist. In fact, the law does not talk anything about race or color. But, as a recent Newsweek report said "Your baby is racist", we are all racist. So, the folks who are going to implement the law are going to do so with their own prejudices. So, its implementation might be. I wonder how many white people will be stopped. I wish they would stop the white illegal immigrants. Interestingly, the illegal immigrants that I have come across in Chicago have all been whites.

I wonder what those who feel that stopping people and asking them for ID is an infringement on this liberties and is racist feel about people asked to provide ID, present themselves for "random" security checks to board a flight. Ah, you are ok with that because your life depends on that. I have been subject to these random checks - about 6 out of 8 times I flew out of Detroit back in 2002. This is when my boarding pass had "CORPORATE" stamped on it. You want security; you have to give up some of the "liberties." This is an imperfect world.

For the folks from the Church and other religious institutions that have taken the case of illegal immigrants I wonder what your stance would be if Mexico had been an Islamic state and the guys crossing over are the ones with beards. I think I know the answer.

And, finally for the folks who repeatedly point out that the nation was built on immigrants, so illegal immigrants are ok why keep quotes on legal immigration then? Let’s do away with the border security, INS etc... we will save lot of money. The US has changed a lot and so has the world. The US now feels the need to manage the immigration process that means both legal and illegal.

I love to watch how the seats on the CTA "L" fillip. You see people's preferences for color. The seats next to African American males generally tend to go last. Over the last few years I have seen a better uptake on the seats next to Indians - coincides with India's emerging economic muscle. I think there is a statistically significant bias/preference to certain type of seat partners. I bet none of the people on the train will identify themselves as racist just like my former colleagues who quite often confused me for the other brown guy in the office (we were an office of 30 people with 2 brown guys).

I feel sorry for the illegal immigrants - their economic plight forces them to take risks. I wish any immigration reform treats companies and people who employ (and, exploit) illegal immigrants with strict fines. And, I think "Winner takes all" economic treaties do not work. There needs to be economic incentives that make sure that they have a reason to remain in their nation.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

IPL...International Productivity Loss

Just wrapped up watching my former home town's team Chennai Super Kings win their first IPL with a rather comfortable victory over Mumbai Indians on YouTube. This was YouTube's first foray into live streaming and I believe they comfortably beat their viewership estimates of about 10million by 5 times. People from about 200 countries watched the game. Now, that is the power of the Internet, not cricket.

I came to know of IPL on YouTube when an American friend of mine IM'ed me at work saying he was watching IPL on YouTube. He had no clue what IPL was, no interest in cricket. He had been on the Internet (Youtube, possibly) and saw an advertisment for IPL. So, there he was work watching IPL, its cheerleaders, the "strategic timeout" and as he put it "a full six."

According to Google the number one viewership was from India and the US came second. I wondered who in India would watch IPL on YouTube rather than on TV. Of course, the folks in the call centers, BPO, KPO and in general folks who then to be at work late into the night, have access to a good internet connection and computer. As for the US, it has to be folks at work or school since the games are played during US work hours.

Imagine a conversation between a customer in the US and the support center person in India, both watching IPL

Customer: So, when can I get the refund for the order

Suport person: As soon as the IPL controversy surrounding Lalit Modi and Shashi Tharoor has been sorted out.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Two scarifices... one "progressive", other ancient

This weekend there were two stories about India that I ran into... both related to sacrifices.

The first one was the story of a alleged human sacrifice in a temple in West Bengal (Kingdom of Kalii, I can almost hear a Hollywood movie or Game with that name). I read about it first on the BBC and in the coming days was picked up by all and sundry in the Western world. Now, for the "progressive" sacrifice.

The other one was the Indian Premier League (IPL. Think NFL for Cricket) ownership controversy that involved Shashi Tharoor, Indian Minister of State for External Affairs. Tharoor has been one of the well known indian faces in the West - as part of the Indian UN mission, as deputy to Kofi Annan, and a reasonably successful author. Tharoor started this one off by saying something to the effect that the powers to be wanted the new IPL franchise to go to some other city, not Cochin. Now, this was not the first time that he had suffered from "tweet in mouth" disease. Somehow, this might be his last. Turns out that the Congress party, his party, feels he is an embarrasment by his actions and the fact that he does not deny his association with part owner of the Cochin franchise. So, they want him to "resign voluntarily." Now, for Congress party to feel embarrased must be a great deal for this is the party that did not feel any embarrasement about the Shah Bano case, or the Bofors arms scandal or its ministers involvement in the riots and killing that followed the assasination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Cricket, I guess is more important than all of that.

I have no sympathy for Tharoor's state (or, the state that he represents in the Parliament). Tharoor turned out be a bureacrat turned politician with great education but very little street smartness - an embarrasment to the Great Indian Political Establishment. Tharoor can go back to writing. That might be a better way to serve India. BTW, Indian foreign service establishment (not specifically, IFS) seems to be better at producing authors than statesman. I know of three decent ones - Shashi Tharoor, Pavan Varma and Vikas Swarup. As for Tharoor, I hope I get a chance to run into him in the state that I call "God's own hell's hole."

Friday, January 08, 2010

Indian 'KKK' cartoon - case of pot calling kettle black

BBC News - Indian 'racist police' cartoon angers Australia

Apparently "Mail Today" (is that a newspaper or one of those national enquirer type ones) ran a cartoon depicting Aussie police as KKK folks because of the string of attacks on Indians in Australia and Aussie police/ government's inept response.

Truth be told both Aussies and Indians are racist. I am not sure who is more racist of the two or how it can be determined. But, in general I have a little more faith in the Aussie judicial system and hope they will bring the prepetrators of these crimes to justice.

Indians should not talk about racism (those who live in glass houses...). For all north indians, south indians are "saala, madrasis" (btw, where is the zero point on the north/south line). That is just the tip of the iceberg. How many race/ caste related issues do we have in India. I wonder if "Mail Today" ran any cartoon related to these. I find it interesting that they choose to use KKK image, something not many in India would know (other than, of course, the "liberal" educated elite who like to preach to rest of the world) but it was certainly bound to elicit an international response.