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I publish my blogs in four different sites. Here are some selected blogs about India from my other sites. Click on the topic you want to read to jump there.

Bollywood versus Hollywood
(Originally published in Shoban Sen's Diary on February 19, 2009)

I was planning to write on this topic for a very long time. But laziness (actually more important things that I needed to attend to first) always won - and I could not get myself to write on this topic.

Did anybody watch NBC nightly news with Brian Williams tonight (February 19, 2009)? Those stunts that you see in Hollywood movies are usually done with the help of computers, most people know that. But what most people did not know (but I knew) was the fact that most of those computer animations are made thousands of miles away from Hollywood - in Bombay, India (home of Indian movies popularly known as "Bollywood"). Hey, Brian gave the reason also -- Indians have better imagination and they have a strong grasp on the language called English. (Not to talk about technical expertise.) Surprised?

Don't be. India will soon emerge as the super-power of the world (along with China). So stop using those out-of-date words like Third World Country, backward country, poorest of the poor, and all that. Wake up America. The table has turned. Mind your own business. Try to turn your economy around. Find jobs for millions. Then criticize others. Just yesterday, CNN reported that according to leading economists, America's standard of living has gone down forever. It is a permanent thing. America will never get out of this. You know why? Because of America's false ego. "We are the best" attitude. Today, more than half of the world hates America. Even then average Americans, many of whom have never gone out of the country, still have this "couldn't care less attitude". Wake up, before it is really too late. Learn about, and understand other countries, their people, their belief, their religion, their way of life, and above all learn to respect other countries. Don't contribute to America's doom. A country's good or bad depends on its population. Just the Government cannot do much.

Talking about Bollywood, does Hollywood have any movie that ran in a movie theater for OVER 12 YEARS at a stretch? India's Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ for short) has that world record. Before that record, Sholay ran for over 7 years in a movie theater continuously. Does Hollywood have any such movie? Did you know that Bollywood movies are watched by one-third of world's population? Ouside India, Bollywood movies are popular in Pakistan (pirated DVD disks go there), Bangladesh, Nepal, Srilanka, the Middle-East, many African countries (especially East African countries), many East European countries, and so forth. What is more, due to high worldwide demand, many Bollywood movies these days are released internationally, meaning they are released in India along with places like New York, Los Angeles, London, Berlin, etc. on the same day! I almost forgot to mention that Bollywood, on an average, makes about 1000 movies in a year. Hollywood produces about half as many.

And everybody knows how many Oscars Slumdog Millionaire has been nominated for this year.

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My Favorite Places in India -
The Hill Stations

(Originally published in Shoban Sen's Diary on May 11, 2008)

These are small towns on the hills at an average elevation of about 5000 to 7000 feet from the sea level. These small towns are called hill stations in India.

Why are these hill stations my favorite, and not places like Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Mumbai, Goa, Cochin, etc.? There are many reasons, such as:

1. The hill stations are never hot, not even in summer (because of the altitude, of course). And even in winter they are not excessively cold. Because of the weather, during the British regime, The British government used to move the capital from Delhi to Shimla (Simla), from Calcutta to Darjeeling, and so forth in summer.

2. The hill stations are smaller towns and therefore, not as crowded.

3. The hill stations are by far pollution free. No smoke from factories, no dust, no smog.

4. All hill stations provide superb views of the surrounding areas. Generally you can see the peaks of the surrounding hills or mountains from any place and the valley or plain below from certain places. Many hill stations such as Srinagar, Nainital, Bhimtal, Ooty, and Kodaikanal have grown up around a lake. This adds to the beauty of the town and offers watersport facilities like boating, kayaking, surfing, fishing etc. to the visitors. And all hill stations have evergreens like pine that completes the picture-book like scenary of the place.

5. Lastly the local hill people, called paharis, are one of the best classes of people in India. They are hard working, yet very gentle, honest, and hospitable people by nature. They are very trustworthy and safe. They always wear a sweet, innocent smile on their faces. Usual city crimes are almost non-existent in India's hill stations.

When I used to live in India, I always visited a hill station during my vacation. The serene atmosphere of the hill stations quickly washed off the stress and strain of city life and I always returned home completely rejuvenated. Taking a small walk and sitting down in a quiet place by the side of a hill stream and watching nature and hearing the birds chirping and the leaves rustling by the soft cool breeze of mountain air can lower blood pressure and take out mental strain so quickly that unless you have experienced it yourself, you will never believe. Yoga, meditation etc. can help and city dwellers, even in advanced countries, are taking recourse of these. But the same effect can be had much quicker just by sitting down for sometime and relaxing in a quiet spot by the side of the mountain in a hill station. It can be very romantic too if you have your spouse/fiance(e) with you. I had my honeymoon in Darjeeling!

Somewhere (don't remember where) I said I miss India. I think, more specifically, I miss the Indian hill stations. Next time (probably this October) when I go to India, I want to visit places like Dehradun, Mussoorie, Nainital, Bhimtal, Ranikhet, Almora etc. Talking about Almora my mouth waters thinking about Balmithai (a local desert) I tasted there. And will the Boatman #24 in Nainital still recognize me? I was his regular patron last time when I went there. He did say, "How can I forget you?" when I asked him if he would recognize me when I came on the next day for boat riding. I probably had tipped him a little too generously.

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Test-driving a Camel in India
(Originally published in Shoban Sen's Diary on April 12, 2008)

Test-driving a camel in India

The balance was good, as you can see from the picture. But the pick-up was slow. It took nearly 30 seconds to go from 0 to 20! I didn't buy it.

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India's Allergy to Credit Cards
(Originally published in Shoban Sen's Thoughts on August 9, 2011)

It is amazing that in the 21st century, when all the countries of the world are trying to modernize themselves and adjust to the present day needs and standards, whether it is in the technological areas or economic areas, India is still sticking to its traditions of "cash only" for business transactions.

I am talking about acceptance of credit cards for business transactions. First of all, most smaller businesses in India simply DO NOT take credit cards as a form of payment. Some bigger businesses, which accepts credit cards, ONLY accepts credit cards issued by an Indian bank. But they pass on the merchant fee (usually 2.5%) levied by credit card companies to the customers! That means if you buy something from them worth Rs.100, you pay only Rs.100 if you pay by cash. But if you pay by credit card, they will charge Rs.102.50 to your credit card and they think it is normal! (Thank God, really big and international companies such as Sheraton or Hyatt Regency Hotels of India, accepts international credit cards and they don't charge you 2.5% extra.)

Wake up India. Acceptance of credit cards are a must in today's business world. And the 2.5% you charge extra for credit cards payments is supposed to be absorbed by you, not the customer because it is called "merchant fee" not "customer fee".

In advanced countries like America, even taxi drivers accept credit card payments and they DO NOT charge you anything extra beyond what the meter says! (Tips is, of course, up to the customer.)

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