Saturday, February 20, 2010


Ever since I first held a digital camera in my hand in 2003, I have been sold on photography - the reason is not far to seek - the cameras are so capable that one doesn't have to do anything. I have been clicking away with gay abandon and keep admiring the results. I never did realise that there is more to photography than just point and click. To me photography has always meant capturing moments for reliving them at leisure when one has nothing better to do. They say a photograph is worth a thousand words... why write a thousand words when one can make do with one click of a button.

I was leafing through a photography book yesterday, and read some words of wisdom there. It said that one needs to understand the three important basics before one can aspire to click a good photograph. These are, the subject, the composition of the picture, and the lighting. I wanted to put this advice to good use and thought of taking pictures of the sunset. I love sunsets - the various hues and colours that are splattered on everything around, by the setting sun, are sometimes absolutely breathtaking. I had gone for a walk this evening, and the sun was at its Western most travel, just about touching the horizon. I started taking pictures with various subjects and compositions - I did not do anything about the lighting, except select the camera to 'sunset' mode. I tried the upper 1/3rd, bottom 1/3rd and also some close-ups too.

I started to click at 17:52, when the sun was just about vanishing below the horizon and continued to click upto 18:18, during the entire twilight period. The results are reproduced - your opinions are solicited.

click on the photographs to get a larger view

There is a small wooded area behind the house in which there is some wildlife in the form of squirrels, birds, cats and a few other species. These three squirrels keep playing around in this area throughout the day. About once a day these come and play around in the backyard of the house. I caught these squirrels on camera.. the first one is licking an icicle, and the other one resting with the bushy tail vertically up resting against a branch... probably trying to shield the body from the cold wind that was blowing that morning.

Now that you have admired my photography skills, could you please tell me if I should concentrate on wild life photograhy or nature?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Forbes India: Why India's CEOs want Government jobs

I chanced upon this really interesting cover story by Forbes India. I was elated to read this 4 page story. I am reproducing the first page with a link to the story, at the bottom of this post. We only get to see and hear about the ills of our government. It is good once in a while to read about what people who strongly feel about 'making a difference' are actually doing. This is the story of Dr. M M Singh and his team and the roping in of private industry stalwarts like Arun Maira, Nandan Nilekani, Shailesh Gandhi and Raghu Raman. Will they be able to make a difference in the lives of common citizens? Some of them are already doing it, and I do wish them well and pray that their breed continues to grow. The cover story by 'Malini Goyal' follows: -


The Mission: Member, Planning Commission. To help the government evolve better policies on urbanisation and industrialisation.

The Difference He Makes: As a consultant, he can locate systemic problems and provide solutions. He is already helping the Planning Commission overcome its inward-looking mindset and open up to feedback from the outer world.

Key Insight “The biggest thing that hits you here is the scale. Anything that you do affects millions of people.”


Arun Maira was on a holiday with his wife. He was on a train in Prague when his phone began to buzz. In normal course, he would have been hard-pressed to recognize the caller’s soft, gentle voice amid the rattle and roll of the express train. It was the Indian Prime Minister on the line. Maira had been alerted about it just 15 minutes earlier. In fact, his idyllic vacation had suddenly turned topsy-turvy that morning with an urgent mail and a call from his college batch-mate and deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

Ahluwalia had come to the point straightaway. “The PM would like you to join the Planning Commission. You have rich experience in industry.” Both surprised and taken aback, Maira enquired politely, “It is an honour. Tell me who thought of me.”

“The PM asked for you himself,” Ahluwalia said. “He would personally like to invite you. I am sorry to bother you on your vacation. But are you okay to take a call from him?”

Maira was glad to agree but since he was out sight-seeing, he asked for enough time to rush back to the hotel. But not even 15 minutes had passed when the PM’s call came through. “Arunji, would you accept the invitation to the Planning Commission?” Dr. Manmohan Singh asked. “We need growth which is much more inclusive.” The PM also told Maira he would have a minister’s rank as a planning commission member.

Shailesh Gandhi got his wake-up call some five years ago. Till then, he was running a successful packaging firm with more than 500 employees and a clientele that included many blue-chips. Then one day, an alumni meet changed everything for him. One of his professors chided him: “You used to be so critical about the society. What now? Things have only gotten worse. What have you done?” It tugged at his conscience. By 2003, he had sold off his business and become a Right-to-Information (RTI) activist. He reckoned he could shine the spotlight on governments and force them to be more transparent and improve their performance.

In August 2008, Gandhi heard from his activist friend Arvind Kejriwal. The Manmohan Singh government was appointing four information commissioners. “Why don’t we nominate four, five names from civil society?” Kejriwal asked. Gandhi’s name was one of them. One day, he got a call from Prithviraj Chauhan, minister of state in the PM’s office, inviting him to come on board. He agreed. “Why not be an insider and make a bigger difference rather than just criticising from the outside?” he asks.

In June last year, military veteran Raghu Raman felt he had finally got the break he had always aspired for. He became the CEO of Mahindra Defence Land Systems, a Mahindra-British Aerospace joint venture, a position he had coveted for long. Raman joined M&M in the 1990s and seeded its security business in 2000. Instinct told him it was the right place and the right time to be in, given the growing security awareness around the country. “Everything felt just perfect,” he said.

The moment didn’t last long. In the wake of the 26/11 terror attacks, the government decided to set up a national grid that would link up all the intelligence agencies in the country, under the leadership of Home Minister P Chidambaram. Raman was one of the candidates being vetted by the government to head the NatGrid.

For a while he could not make up his mind. Of course, there was no comparison between the government job and the M&M assignment in terms of money and perks. Besides, taking a plunge would mean giving up the thrill of leading a growing company. Speaking to friends didn’t help. “Some said I am mad to even consider a government offer,” he recalls. Others thought it was a great opportunity. For a while he was torn. But his employers were supportive: “Where is the doubt? You have been called for national service. It’s an honour,” a proud Keshub Mahindra, the chairman, told him.

The government took its time to vet the candidates and complete its due diligence for the critical position. It also gave Raman time to make up his mind. “Once I gave my commitment, the clarity emerged. The amount of difference a civil servant can make [to the country] is of a different caliber altogether.”


The Mission: To launch the world’s most ambitious national identity project.

The Difference He Makes: Renowned networking specialist. Understands building consensus is the first step to bringing big change.

Key Insight: “It is just that the processes here have more cholesterol in them than we are used to. I am not unduly worried about it. That’s a legitimate part of democratic process.”

Nandan Nilekani got his call from the PM towards the end of May 2009. Singh first offered him a Planning Commission job, but Nilekani said he was interested in a more independent role where he could make a larger impact. Leaving Infosys would be a big decision and he could do that only for a challenging assignment. The PM asked him to meet him in Delhi two weeks later.

When told about this, the co-founders of Infosys agreed that this was a significant opportunity for Nilekani and gave their assent without any hesitation.

On June 15, he met the PM privately at his 7, Race Course Road. The meeting lasted half an hour. Singh offered him the role of Chairman, Unique Identity Authority of India, with a cabinet minister’s rank. He would report to the PM and have the freedom to bring the best minds from outside for the project.

Within 10 days, Singh cleared the papers and informed the Cabinet. Within a month, Nilekani was on board.


Maira’s first day at work turned out to be a huge culture shock. He has been given a modest but spacious office at the commission’s headquarters, Yojana Bhawan, replete with a big dining table and the familiar red-green lights outside his room.

Continued at the original site here.