Sunday, January 6, 2008

The end of a long, enlightening journey by shashi tharoor

hi i like the way he has described the new india. here's his full article

Seventeen instalments ago we embarked in this space on a quixotic scheme: to compile a glossary of things Indian, "a sense of what we have in common: the assumptions, the habits, the shared reference-points that constitute the cultural and intellectual baggage of every thinking Indian."

We have ploughed through the alphabet, with tongue yoked firmly to cheek, and here we are at last at the final furrows on our brow (and the last letters of the alphabet).

But before we get there, as faithful readers have reminded me, there are a couple of other terms I should have defined for our glossary that I didn't before their alphabet slipped away.

Call Centres: The quintessential symbol of India's globalisation. While traditional India sleeps, a dynamic young cohort of highly skilled, articulate professionals works through the night, functioning on US time under made-up American aliases, pretending familiarity with a culture and climate they've never actually experienced, earning salaries that were undreamt of by their elders (but a fraction of what an American would make) and enjoying a lifestyle that's a cocktail of premature affluence and ersatz westernisation transplanted to an Indian setting.

Critics argue that this is "coolie work" (see my column of April 15 this year) but it's transforming lives, boosting our economy and altering our society. When the story of the New India is written, call centres will have to play a large part in the narrative.

IITs: Are perhaps Jawaharlal Nehru's most consequential legacy: they epitomise his creation of an infrastructure for excellence in science and technology, which has become a source of great self-confidence and competitive advantage for India today. Nehru's establishment of the Indian Institutes of Technology has led to India's reputation for engineering excellence, and its effects have been felt abroad, since the IITs produced many of the finest minds in America's Silicon Valley and Fortune-100 Corporations. Today, an IIT degree is held in the same reverence in the US as one from MIT or Caltech. There are not too many Indian institutions of which this can be said.

Back to our final entries:

Villages: Are where two-thirds of Indians still live. They are, for the most part, neither the dregs of misery they are sometimes portrayed to be (living conditions in our city slums are surely far worse) nor the idealised self-sufficient communities our Gandhians wish they were (there are too many inequalities and vested interests, and too few opportunities, for that). Our villages are just as susceptible to the encroachments of change, to the influence of the nearest movie theatre, to the ideas of the loudest politician, as any of our cities. They have simply lasted longer, and changed slower, because neither the attempts nor the resources have been geared for dramatic transformation. But village India is changing — few villages can claim to be identical in every respect to the way they were even a decade ago — and the pace of change can only accelerate. As urbanisation proceeds apace, within the lifetime of many of the readers of this column, villages will no longer house a majority of India's population. And then, to borrow from Edward Luce, if Gandhiji hadn't been cremated, he would surely have rolled over in his grave.

Weddings: Are the classic Indian social event, glittering occasions for conspicuous consumption, outrageous overdressing and free food. In a culture where marriage is a family arrangement rather than a legal contract, the wedding is the real opportunity to proclaim a new relationship to society, and brings together friends, business contacts, relatives and spongers in orgiastic celebration of the act of union. Beneath the surface bonhomie and backslapping jollity, however, lurk the real tensions, as the bride's father asks himself, "Are the groom's party really happy with the dowry? Can i trust the chap who's collecting the presents?"

Xerox: Xerox machines are a relatively new feature of Indian life. The cost of photocopying, though it has been dropping, is still prohibitive enough to dissuade all but companies, scholars and the occasional spy from resorting too freely to it. But the existence of so many roadside sheds with Xerox machines in them is, like our STD booths, a contribution of Indian democracy to the popularisation of technology.

Yes-men: Known north of the Vindhyas as chamchas, yes-men have existed throughout Indian history and will no doubt continue to do so. Their role is sanctified by the tradition of deference, the power of position, the fact of overpopulation and the alternative of unemployment. No one with money, power or position moves alone when he can be accompanied by a host of sycophants ready to echo his every nod. Yes-men are not necessarily at the bottom of the social scale; the role can be played at various levels. Thus, a peasant can be a yes-man to a contractor who is a yes-man to a landlord who is a yes-man to a party boss who is a yes-man to a chief minister who is a yes-man to a cabinet member who is a yes-man to the prime minister... At no stage in the process does anyone actually think anything other than, "What does my boss want me to think?" Fortunately for the country, somebody up there values the word no.

Zoroastrianism: See Parsis. (This is part of the typical Indian habit of observing the letter of an undertaking, while violating its spirit. It is also known as having the last laugh.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

CAT 2007 Results

The results of CAT 2007 will be available on the cat website: on the 8th of January from 3 PM onwards. The scores can be accessed by keying in the test registration number and either the date of birth (preferred) or the cat application number. The IIMs that have short listed the candidate for group discussion and interviews (if so) will also be displayed automatically. However, the details of the date and venue will be available by post as well as on the individual IIMs web sites (after a couple of days).

The scores can also be obtained telephonically through the IVRS or by sending an SMS to 57333. To access the results through SMS, the candidate should send an SMS to 57333 as follows: 'CAT space registration number space date of birth (dd/mm/yy)' or 'CAT space registration number space application number"
Example: CAT 5370082 030482.