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A Life

By Gerald Martin

Illustrated. 642 pages. Alfred A. Knopf. $37.50.



Unravelling the Labyrinthine Life of a Magical Realist


Published: May 27, 2009 , New York times



In a January 2006 interview with a Barcelona newspaper, Gabriel García Márquez, whose memory had begun to fail, deflected a question about his past. “You will have to ask my official biographer, Gerald Martin, about that sort of thing,” he said, “only I think he’s waiting for something to happen to me before he finishes.”


The author Gabriel García Márquez in the mid-1940s.

GM Family Archive

Mr. Garcia Márquez with Mercedes, his wife, and their sons in the late 1960s in Barcelona.

This otherwise doom-laden remark brought good news to the newly designated “official biographer.” Mr. Martin at that point had devoted 15 years of his own life to chronicling that of Mr. García Márquez, though he spent a total of only a month in that Nobel laureate’s company during his extended research. Until that point Mr. Martin had called this project only a “tolerated biography.” It has turned out to be much, much more.

This intensive, assured, penetratingly analytical book will be the authoritative English-language study of Mr. García Márquez until Mr. Martin can complete an already 2,000-page, 6,000-footnote version “in a few more years, if life is kind.” He compressed that sprawling magnum opus into 545 pages (plus notes and index), a “brief, relatively compact narrative,” so it could be published “while the subject of this work, now a man past 80, is still alive and in a position to read it.” Both author and subject have been treated for lymphoma, Mr. Martin says.

That kind of bluntness runs throughout “Gabriel García Márquez: A Life,” and it is essential to the book’s success. The last thing this literary lion needed was a fawning, accommodating Boswell. Nor did he need a biographer eager to show off his own flair. When writing about Mr. García Márquez, king of the magical realists, Mr. Martin understands that it is best to stick to the facts and skip the fancy footwork.

Could any biographer have been better suited to this gargantuan undertaking? Absolutely not: Mr. Martin is the ideal man for the job. He has already written studies of 20th-century Latin American fiction; translated the work of another Latin American Nobel laureate, Miguel Ángel Asturias; and written about Latin American history. These are essential prerequisites for unraveling the labyrinthine cultural and political aspects of Mr. García Márquez’s peripatetic life. So are Mr. Martin’s demonstrable patience, wide range of knowledge and keen understanding of his subject’s worldwide literary forebears, from Cervantes to Dostoyevsky to Mark Twain.

Mr. Martin confidently calls Mr. García Márquez, Colombia’s best-known storyteller and superstar (“Gabo”), the “Mark Twain of his own land: symbol of the country, definer of a national sense of humor and chronicler of the relation between the provincial realm and the center.” But he is just as comfortable linking Mr. García Márquez to less likely literary figures (Virginia Woolf), historical figures who loomed large in his imagination (Simón Bolívar) and dictators, of whom Mr. García Márquez has known more than his share.

This book has the sophistication to weigh its subject’s affection for Fidel Castro against the changing currents of left-wing governments over 50 years, sharply revealing the personal revisionism that has sustained this novelist’s huge popularity no matter what goes on around him. (Not for nothing has he earned “García Marketing” as one of his nicknames.) The biography can slip readily from the exploits of Bolívar to revolutions in Cuba and France. It can discuss “the most famous punch in the history of Latin America,” an occasion on which Mr. García Márquez addressed the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa as “Brother!” and Mr. Vargas Llosa slugged him in reply. Mr. Vargas Llosa’s wife seems to have played a role in this confrontation.

Mr. Martin’s book also has the heft to deliver penetrating thematic analyses of each García Márquez work, even if literary criticism is not its first concern. “No one writes,” “solitude,” “autumn,” “funeral,” “death foretold,” “labyrinth,” “kidnapping”: these are all words used in García Márquez book titles and, as Mr. Martin asserts, words that imply some challenge to power. In addition to parsing each book and its meaning, Mr. Martin must trace the family stories that figure in the fiction, so that childhood years spent with Mr. García Márquez’s maternal grandparents can be seen as seminal to the fictitious setting (Macondo) and family (Buendía) found in “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”

The complexity of all this is staggering. So is the magnitude of Mr. Martin’s accomplishment in grappling with it. Consider: this is a book that includes four different family-tree illustrations, three devoted to Mr. García Márquez’s actual relatives (including those by marriage and by illegitimate birth) and one for the Buendías he invented. It travels with its subject from his European days as a hungry (literally) young journalist to his politically formative glimpses behind the Iron Curtain to his celebrity globe-trotting in later years.

From time to time the book hits a brick wall, as when Mr. Martin unearths the painful story of a thwarted love affair in Paris and Mr. García Márquez refuses to talk about it. Dogged biographer that he is, Mr. Martin perseveres, though never in a salacious fashion. He finds the old flame, connects her with events in the García Márquez canon and explores his subject’s ideas about sex and love, about private, public and secret lives. How long has this research been going on? Long enough for Mr. Martin to have a firsthand interview with the mother of a subject who is 82.

Given the global love affair with “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and “Love in the Time of Cholera,” which have been popular even in countries (like the United States) often reviled by Mr. García Márquez, this biography would be essential reading even if it delivered just the facts. But Mr. Martin is too dedicated for that, though not admiring enough to make excuses for his subject’s transgressions. And he zeroes in on the precise achievements that have meant so much in literary history.

How did the early blueprint for a novel about Mr. García Márquez’s childhood turn into a masterpiece about his memories of childhood? How did he bring the town of Macondo to the world by weaving the world into the town of Macondo? And how did his magical realism become this magical? Such questions are in Mr. García Márquez’s books. The answers are in this one.

The Author:  

Gerald Martin

Filed under: Book of the week, , , ,

Alchemist by Paulo Coelho to be turned into a film


The Alchemist, the best-­selling book by Paulo Coelho, is to be turned into a film.

By Anita Singh
Last Updated: 11:25PM BST 18 May 2009

Laurence Fishburne will direct, write and star in the £30 million production, which is being made by Harvey Weinstein.

The book has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and translated into 67 languages. Such is its enduring appeal, it is currently at number six on The New York Times bestseller list, 20 years after it was published.

It tells the story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who travels across the Egyptian desert in search of treasure, leading to an encounter with an alchemist who teaches him the meaning of life.

Weinstein unveiled details at the Cannes Film Festival and said it was a project dear to his heart.

He said: “It is a book I have been truly inspired by and I have agreed to personally produce it. The Alchemist is simple and spiritual, and the screenplay will reflect that.

“The book means so much to people on a spiritual level yet there is also a great love story in it. It is an incredibly moving, emotional story.

“I think this story will act as a bridge to the Middle East. In the Middle East, the book has been an overwhelming success.

“That is a world that we need to know more about and extend a bridge to. This movie could be a healer in that region, bringing the West and the East together, especially the Middle East.”

Fishburne will play the alchemist of the title and Weinstein said he was determined to cast Penelope Cruz after seeing her in Vicky Cristina Barcelona at the Cannes festival earlier this week.

“One way or another I’m finding a part for Penelope Cruz,” he said.

The project has been in gestation for over a decade and will mark the major directorial debut of Fishburne.


Filed under: Snippets, , ,

Alice Munro wins 2009 Man Booker International Prize

Canadian short story writer is third writer to win prize


Alice Munro  is the winner of the third Man Booker International Prize.

The Man Booker International Prize, worth £60,000 to the winner, is awarded once every two years to a living author for a body of work that has contributed to an achievement in fiction on the world stage. It was first awarded to Ismail Kadaré in 2005 and then to Chinua Achebe in 2007.

Best known for her short stories, Munro is one of Canada’s most celebrated writers. On receiving the news of her win, she said, ‘I am totally amazed and delighted.’

The judging panel for the Man Booker International Prize 2009 is: Jane Smiley, writer; Amit Chaudhuri, writer, academic and musician; and writer, film script writer and essayist, Andrey Kurkov. The panel made the following comment on the winner:

‘Alice Munro is mostly known as a short story writer and yet she brings as much depth, wisdom and precision to every story as most novelists bring to a lifetime of novels.  To read Alice Munro is to learn something every time that you never thought of before.’

Her latest collection of short stories, Too Much Happiness, will be published in October 2009. Alice Munro will receive the prize of £60,000 and a trophy at the Award Ceremony on Thursday 25 June at Trinity College, Dublin.

Read more about the judging process of the Man Booker Internatonal Prize in an exclusive piece by Fiammetta Rocco, administrator of the prize, in our Perspective section.

For more information on the 2009 Man Booker International Prize winner please see the press release.




Alice Ann Munro

(née Laidlaw; born 10 July 1931) is a Canadian short-story writer, winner of the Man Booker International Prize for her lifetime body of work, and three-time winner of Canada’s Governor General’s Award for fiction. Generally regarded to be one of the world’s foremost writers of fiction,[citation needed] her stories focus on the human condition and relationships through the lens of daily life. While most of Munro’s fiction is set in Southwestern Ontario and the Canadian Pacific Northwest, her reputation as a short-story writer is international. Her "accessible, moving stories" explore human complexities in a seemingly effortless style.[1] Munro’s writing has established her as "one of our greatest contemporary writers of fiction," or, as Cynthia Ozick put it, "our Chekhov."[2]



Alice Munro was born in the town of Wingham, Ontario into a family of fox and poultry farmers. Her father was Robert Eric Laidlaw and her mother, a school teacher, was Anne Clarke Laidlaw (née Chamney). She began writing as a teenager and published her first story, "The Dimensions of a Shadow," while a student at the University of Western Ontario in 1950. During this period she worked as a waitress, tobacco picker and library clerk. In 1951, she left the university, in which she had been majoring in English since 1949, to marry James Munro and move to Vancouver, British Columbia. Her daughters Sheila, Catherine, and Jenny were born in 1953, 1955, and 1957 respectively; Catherine died 15 hours after birth. In 1963, the Munros moved to Victoria where they opened Munro’s Books. In 1966, their daughter Andrea was born.

Alice Munro’s first collection of stories, Dance of the Happy Shades (1968), was highly acclaimed and won that year’s Governor General’s Award, Canada’s highest literary prize. This success was followed by Lives of Girls and Women (1971), a collection of interlinked stories that was published as a novel.

Alice and James Munro were divorced in 1972. She returned to Ontario to become Writer-in-Residence at the University of Western Ontario. In 1976 she married Gerald Fremlin, a geographer. The couple moved to a farm outside Clinton, Ontario. They have since moved from the farm to a house in the town of Clinton.

In 1978, Munro’s collection of interlinked stories, Who Do You Think You Are?, was published (titled The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose in the United States). This book earned Munro the Governor General’s Literary Award for a second time. From 1979 to 1982, she toured Australia, China and Scandinavia. In 1980 Munro held the position of Writer-in-Residence at both the University of British Columbia and the University of Queensland. Through the 1980s and 1990s, Munro published a short-story collection about once every four years to increasing acclaim, winning both national and international awards.

In 2002, her daughter Sheila Munro published a childhood memoir, Lives of Mothers and Daughters: Growing Up With Alice Munro.

Alice Munro’s stories frequently appear in publications such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Grand Street, Mademoiselle, and The Paris Review. In interviews to promote her 2006 collection The View from Castle Rock, Munro suggested that she would, perhaps, not publish any further collections. She has since recanted and published further work, and her newest collection, tentatively titled Too Much Happiness, is scheduled for publication in 2009.[3]

Her story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" has been adapted for the screen and directed by Sarah Polley as the film Away from Her, starring Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent. It successfully debuted at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival. Polley’s adaptation was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, but lost to No Country for Old Men.


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Text: Courtesy: Wikipedia


More about Alice Munro

Read an interesting article by  DAVID LASKIN

Alice Munro’s Vancouver

Photo: Dan Lamont for The New York Times

Kitsilano Beach, in the Vancouver neighborhood where Alice Munro lived in the early 1950’s, provided the setting for some of her fiction, including "Cortes Island."


Published: June 11, 2006

IN Alice Munro’s Vancouver nobody eats sushi. Nobody jogs along the seawall or browses Granville Street galleries or shops for organic herbs at the Granville Island market. Ms. Munro, the 74-year-old Canadian whom the novelist Jonathan Franzen dubbed "the best fiction writer now working in North America," set a handful of her marvelous short stories in the damp British Columbian metropolis, and the urban geography is so exact you can practically map the city off her fictions. But though the addresses match, the vibe is unrecognizable. Young but hopelessly uncool, lustful without being sexy, dowdy, white, blind to its own staggering beauty, Ms. Munro’s Vancouver is an outpost where new wives blink through the rain and wonder when their real lives are going to begin.

Read the full article…/travel/11footsteps.html

More…  (Interview with Radio National 25/12/2005)

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“Making the world’s knowledge computable”

Visit this website and feel the power of web search, if you are looking for really serious  material.

Before using it see some examples and move on.




Wolfram|Alpha’s long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone. We aim to collect and curate all objective data; implement every known model, method, and algorithm; and make it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything. Our goal is to build on the achievements of science and other systematizations of knowledge to provide a single source that can be relied on by everyone for definitive answers to factual queries.

Wolfram|Alpha aims to bring expert-level knowledge and capabilities to the broadest possible range of people—spanning all professions and education levels. Our goal is to accept completely free-form input, and to serve as a knowledge engine that generates powerful results and presents them with maximum clarity.

Wolfram|Alpha is an ambitious, long-term intellectual endeavor that we intend will deliver increasing capabilities over the years and decades to come. With a world-class team and participation from top outside experts in countless fields, our goal is to create something that will stand as a major milestone of 21st century intellectual achievement.


That it should be possible to build Wolfram|Alpha as it exists today in the first decade of the 21st century was far from obvious. And yet there is much more to come.

As of now, Wolfram|Alpha contains 10+ trillion of pieces of data, 50,000+ types of algorithms and models, and linguistic capabilities for 1000+ domains. Built with Mathematica—which is itself the result of more than 20 years of development at Wolfram Research—Wolfram|Alpha’s core code base now exceeds 5 million lines of symbolic Mathematica code. Running on supercomputer-class compute clusters, Wolfram|Alpha makes extensive use of the latest generation of web and parallel computing technologies, including webMathematica and gridMathematica.

Wolfram|Alpha’s knowledge base and capabilities already span a great many domains, and its underlying framework has the power and flexibility to support ready extension to essentially any domain that is based on systematic knowledge. More »

The universe of potentially computable knowledge is, however, almost endless, and in creating Wolfram|Alpha as it is today, we needed to start somewhere. Our approach so far has been to emphasize domains where computation has traditionally had a more significant role. As we have developed Wolfram|Alpha, we have in effect been systematically covering the content areas of reference libraries and handbooks. In going forward, we plan broader and deeper coverage, both of traditionally scientific, technical, economic, and otherwise quantitative knowledge, and of more everyday, popular, and cultural knowledge.

Wolfram|Alpha’s ability to understand free-form input is based on algorithms that are informed by our analysis of linguistic usage in large volumes of material on the web and elsewhere. As the usage of Wolfram|Alpha grows, we will capture a whole new level of linguistic data, which will allow us to greatly enhance Wolfram|Alpha’s linguistic capabilities.

Today’s Wolfram|Alpha is just the beginning. We have ambitious plans, for data, for computation, for linguistics, for presentation, and more. As we go forward, we’ll be discussing what we’re doing on the Wolfram|Alpha Blog, and we encourage suggestions and participation, especially through the Wolfram|Alpha Community.

Less »


Wolfram|Alpha, as it exists today, is just the beginning. We have both short- and long-term plans to dramatically expand all aspects of Wolfram|Alpha, broadening and deepening our data, our computation, our linguistics, our presentation, and more.

Wolfram|Alpha is built on solid foundations. And as we go forward, we see more and more that can be made computable using the basic paradigms of Wolfram|Alpha—and a faster and faster path for development as we leverage the broad capabilities already in place.

Wolfram|Alpha was made possible in part by the achievements of Mathematica and A New Kind of Science (NKS). In their different ways, both of these point to far-reaching future opportunities for Wolfram|Alpha—whether a radically new kind of programming or the systematic automation of invention and discovery.

Wolfram|Alpha is being introduced first in the form of the website. But Wolfram|Alpha is really a technology and a platform that can be used and presented in many different ways. Among short-term plans are developer APIs, professional and corporate versions, custom versions for internal data, connections with other forms of content, and deployment on emerging mobile and other platforms.

History & Background

The quest to make knowledge computable has a long and distinguished history. Indeed, when computers were first imagined, it was almost taken for granted that they would eventually have the kinds of question-answering capabilities that we now begin to see in Wolfram|Alpha.

What has now made Wolfram|Alpha possible today is a somewhat unique set of circumstances—and the singular vision of Stephen Wolfram.

For the first time in history, we have computers that are powerful enough to support the capabilities of Wolfram|Alpha, and we have the web as a broad-based means of delivery. But this technology alone was not enough to make Wolfram|Alpha possible.

What was needed were also two developments that have been driven by Stephen Wolfram over the course of nearly 30 years. More »

Courtesy: Wolfram|Alpha

Filed under: Website of the week,

Quiz Time



1. She is the first American woman and the third woman in space. She celebrates her birthday today. Name her.

2. The UN Headquarters in New York was built with an interest-free loan from which country?

3. On which sea is Zimbabwe located?

4. Bibendum is the symbol/mascot of a famous tyre company.

5. In which Asian country, always in the news in recent times, are Pashto and Dari official languages?

6. In which popular comic book series would one meet Old Man Mozz, Rex and Guran?

7. Which part of the body is affected by Gingivitis?

8. On which river does Lisbon stand?

9. What was the first name of the famous artist Gauguin?

10. Who was the first Chairman of the Rajya Sabha?

11. For which wild cat is pardine the adjective?

12. Which was the first country to retain the football World Cup?

13. What is housed in a scabbard?

14. The direct-to-video sequel to the 1992 hit Disney film ‘Aladdin’ was called…?

15. Who is a ‘gaffer’ in movie production?


1. Sally Ride; 2. United States of America; 3. No sea! It’s a landlocked country; 4. Michelin; 5. Afghanistan; 6. The Phantom; 7. The gums or mouth; 8. Tagus; 9. Paul; 10. Dr. S. Radhakrishnan was the first Chairman of the Rajya Sabha; 11. Leopard; 12. Italy; 13. Sword; 14. The Return of Jafar; 15. The head of the electrical department or chief electrician

Courtesy: The Hindu

Filed under: Young World Quiz

Black and white and read all over


Holidays are the best time to catch up on your reading. Here are some Indian authors who have some interesting stories to tell…

Lovely, long vacation for you to do whatever your heart desires. And, of course, to read all those books. Someone asked me if I could think of great storybooks for children written by Indians, and that set me thinking. I asked friends, publishers, bookstore owners and other kids your age for a list of Indian books in English they felt were absolute ‘must reads’, and I got a curious mix of responses. Some said there were no Indian writers or books for children worth their weight (I am happy to say they are wrong). But some others came up with loads of suggestions. So, here goes…

Ranjit Lal. His wonderful, wonderful stories on birds are a ‘must read’. From his stories, absolutely delightful, you learn astonishing facts about birds. In his Birds From My Window each chapter begins with a hilarious limerick. When Banshee Kissed Bimbo and other stories, is about friendships, feuds and family intrigues among the birds of Goa. How cool is that!

Different takes

If you enjoy nature stories, then Ruskin Bond it is. He lives in Mussoorie, so naturally he has a lot to say about trees, mountains and animals and birds. I recollect a story, a particularly nice one, called An Island of Trees, where a father and son plant an island of trees and the man speaks of a time when trees roamed the earth freely, till a curse rooted them to a spot for ever. Speaking of trees, but this time in verse, Bond writes of a granny who decides at age 62 to live on a tree and never come down! Bond writes ghost stories too.

On the top of my best books’ list would be R.K Narayan’s

Swami and Friends. I must have read it, oh 328 times, and I plan to read it at least another thousand times more. Please do read it, oh please. It opens with Swami feigning a stomach ache, on a Monday morning before school. Need I say more?

If you like detectives, then Feluda is your sleuth. Film director Satyajit Ray made him up. He wrote 35 Feluda stories and turned two of them into fantastic films — Sonar Kella (The Golden Fortress) and Joi Baba Felunath (The mystery of the elephant God). Ray wrote the stories in Bengali and they have been translated into English. His son has made some more films on these stories.

Satyajit Ray’s dad, Sukumar Ray, also wrote rollicking Nonsense Verse. If you know Bengali then yippee! You are in for some ‘rolling-on-the-floor-with-laughter’ with his Abol Tabol. That also has been translated into English and is called Abol Tabol The Nonsense world of Sukumar Ray.

Apropos verse, read aloud Vikram Seth’s

Beastly Tales from Here and There. If you want to revisit the stories your tatha pati told you, then it’s all there in the Amar Chitra Katha series. Hundreds of stories from the epics, the Panchatantra, from history, etc. If you enjoy music, then sing along with the Karadi Tales audio visual series. Singing along with Dhondu the donkey, or Karadi the bear can be great fun. May be you could get together with friends and have a play reading session with music. Oh yes, I believe another ‘must read is a compilation of the best of Chandamama in the last 60 years.

Check out these books/websites

Ranjit Lal – The caterpillar who went on a diet, The Crow Chronicles

Samhita Arni – Mahabharata, A Child’s View

Anoushka Ravi Shankar – The Rumour

Rachna Gilmore – Gita Trilogy, A friend like Zilla

Timeri Murari – Children of the Enchanted Jungle

Narinder Dhami – Bend it like Beckham

Bhajju Shyam, Ram Singh Urveti – The Night Life of the Trees

A few websites where you may find your kind of books :

From the blogs…


I met him (Ranjit Lal) at his Civil Lines home a few months ago — it was a short, to-the-point visit and there wasn’t much scope for an in-depth conversation. He’s a small man, a little hesitant in his speech at first, but as we got talking he opened up. Soon he was sifting through the many books in his room, pulling out a tattered copy of one of his favourites, Usha Ganguli’s A Guide to the Birds of the Delhi Region, a comprehensive nature study that is sadly out of print today.


The charm of Ray’s Feluda stories lie, among other things, in their skilful mix of mystery and humour. Another reason for Feluda’s enduring popularity is that he looks like your next-door neighbour who travels to places like the hills, sea-sides, bucolic Bengal countryside, and even to London to solve mysteries. The settings are a great attraction.


Quite obviously, as Seth himself says, his decision to write this Jungle book fable was an impulsive one, prompted by a hot, sleepy day. He says, “I decided to write a summer story involving mangoes and a river. By the time I had finished writing The Crocodile And the Monkey, another story and other animals had begun stirring in my mind. And so it went on until all ten of these beastly tales were born.”

© Copyright 2000 – 2009 The Hindu

Filed under: Snippets, , ,

Electoral processes and democracy: a moving field

by Andrew Ellis



A vital task of democracy-building is understanding the links between national elections and the wider dynamics of democratic change, says Andrew Ellis.

Elections are a core part of the common understanding and practice of democracy. Yet experience – not least in countries emerging from violent conflict – increasingly suggests that electoral events conceived and held in isolation from their broader political context can become as much part of the prevailing political "problem" as their democratic "solution". This article reviews critical issues and challenges in the relationship between elections, popular validation and democratic consolidation.

In transition: the peace building element

Elections are considered as a defining and unavoidable element of any peace building process. They are clear, identifiable and newsworthy events. They are thus highly likely to be overemphasised by the international community, which has often regarded them as the benchmark point for its exit strategy from a peace building effort – getting out before international politics moves on to the next great cause and before domestic political and financial pressures grow to declare victory and go home. Local participants in negotiations – whether democrats or not – are fully aware of this. 

Andrew Ellis is director of the Asia & Pacific programme at International IDEA

Warlords believe that if they only wait long enough and make a few concessions, sooner or later there will be an election and the international presence will almost certainly be gone – as Charles Taylor, for example, made fully evident during and after his successful electoral campaign in Liberia in 1997. While electoral processes – elections and referendums – are integral to democracy, their context and conduct during transition requires much more careful thought than has sometimes been the case in the past.

Politics, negotiation, trust

Even when there is no rush to hold an election or a referendum, there never seems to be enough time for the organisation and implementation of the electoral process. This is no accident. It follows inevitably from the dynamics of negotiation, in which the value of political concessions is likely to be higher the later they are made, and the technical and logistic side of electoral planning is unlikely to be an important factor in the minds of those reaching political agreements. 

Neither is any peace building or democracy-building process as a whole likely to succeed without a commitment to dialogue, local ownership and broad stakeholder inclusion and participation. Even when an inclusive process of dialogue and negotiation takes place, there is almost inevitably a deep lack of trust in electoral processes held in the context of peace building – which means that the inevitable errors and rough edges that are accepted as just that in established democracies often lead to suspicion and to damage to the credibility of electoral processes in transitions. 

This can be just as true outside the direct peace building context. In the words of a former chief electoral officer of Guyana: "We have to deliver our elections to a higher standard than in Europe: people do not forgive small mistakes as inevitable, but automatically regard them as evidence of cheating or skulduggery".

Nonetheless, the challenge is to hold good enough elections rather than to set a one-off standard which cannot be sustainably repeated. There can be a "good enough" election in a politically flawed peace building process (as Iraq, for example in the local elections of January 2009, has shown): it is difficult to have a politically sound peacebuilding process without a "good enough" election sooner or later. In particular, the ability of armed groups excluded from a peace negotiation to disrupt the process tends to incline agreements towards the design of inclusive institutions which will involve all or most of these groups – although sometimes questions of transitional justice may temper who is allowed to participate. 

The frameworks which then emerge tend to require the continuing construction and maintenance of coalitions after elections have taken place. However, the new politicians may find they need to acquire different and new skills to do this, especially if they have previously embraced the very different disciplines required in armed or insurgent groups – as has been borne out by the experience of Nepal.

Both peacebuilding and democracy-building are intrinsically political: any outcome inevitably advantages some stakeholders and disadvantages others, while actions that promote peace are not necessarily actions that assist democratisation – and vice-versa. A "good enough" election is about the political environment and conditions, not just about the technical competence and independence of the electoral administration. 

Interventions which depend on importing external technical "experts" with ready-made "solutions" (often copies of the system used in the country of origin of the "expert") are particularly unlikely to be appropriate and may well be harmful. Electoral issues that are often thought of as technical but which always have political sensitivity include electoral-system design, franchise qualifications and evidence-requirements for registration, boundary-delimitation, absentee and external voting, and counting, tabulation and declaration of results. 

Disputes, conflict, violence

Moreover, "good enough" electoral processes do not end when results are declared. The little things that go wrong often violate the individual rights of voters. When bigger things go wrong – or when little things go wrong and the result is close – there are wider political impacts: the results change, or are uncertain. Serious thinking about mechanisms for effective electoral justice is now taking place, with the independent judicial electoral courts developed in Latin America providing particularly interesting models.

Where electoral competition is itself the cause of violence, early-warning systems (looking at the context of the electoral process in each community and pinpointing likely trouble-spots) are important new tools; India and Colombia are among the leaders here. But this approach may be insufficient where the electoral process is not in itself the cause of violence but rather the catalyst for existing conflicts within a divided community – when different sources of advance intelligence become even more important. 

It is especially easy for the electoral process to be a flashpoint when the community sees the police or the military themselves as a source of insecurity. Even where the popular view of the security forces is more positive, their world rarely intersects with that of the electoral community, and there is still a lot to do to familiarise police and military personnel with the behaviour that a democratic electoral process requires. 

The growth of electoral independence

In designing and establishing electoral administration, a structure that enables its fearless independence is essential. Such independence means that the electoral administration does not bend to government, political or other partisan interests; though it is worth emphasising that the threat can come not just from overt political restriction or pressure, but from financial mechanisms which prevent the administration from accessing money and other resources when needed. 

As democratic institutions have been established across the global south, many countries have followed India in establishing an independent electoral authority. While not all have matched the unchallenged respect with which the Election Commission of India is held or the success of other independent electoral commissions (such as that of South Africa), the model is now used by over half the world’s countries and territories. 

Even in much of the francophone world, where a substantial body of jurisprudential opinion finds the concept of an independent electoral body untenable, a move towards independent electoral administration is visible.

Towards sustainable capacity

The key objective – building fearlessly independent electoral administration that becomes over time administratively and financially sustainable throughout the entire electoral cycle – has consequences for electoral assistance. This should be viewed as a long-term process. It should not primarily aim to support highly visible events and international observation exercises immediately surrounding polling day, but engage to support capacity-building over a series of electoral cycles. 

However, electoral administration is only one of the claims on the limited financial and human resources that may be available within a country in transition. Organisational and staff development, and the building of institutional memory within electoral institutions, are essential. Generally accepted "best practice" has been developed since the mid-1980s in various knowledge resources (for example, handbooks and networks such as the ACE Electoral Knowledge Network and the world-standard electoral capacity-building curriculum, BRIDGE.

The use of new equipment and technology can sometimes be valuable, in particular for managing vast amounts of data such as the electoral register or the processing of the results, but the temptation to throw money at technology needs to be resisted (especially when this is done late in the day).

On the political side, the issue is whether voters, political parties and candidates will perceive the technology as a contribution to electoral integrity or as an unverifiable "black box" which increases the suspicion of fraud. 

On the technical side, the needs for maintenance and for trained operating personnel, and the issue of potential obsolescence, should be considered. Commercial vendors of equipment and technology (for example of identity and registration systems) have their own interests; these are not the same as those required to build sustainable electoral administration. 

The test of robustness

Sustainability takes time to build. Respect for electoral authorities develops only over a period of years, and their political robustness may only fully be proved in difficult circumstances. If election results are uncontroversial, then electoral-management weaknesses and failures will be less critical. 

Indonesia’s independent electoral authority was less well organised in 2009 for the third legislative elections of the reform era than for the previous two, and substantial problems were visible with electoral registration in particular: but the overall results of the elections were clear and accepted. If they had been as close as the result of Mexico’s presidential elections in July 2006, with less than one-half of a percentage point separating the two leading candidates, the credibility of the elections could have been in the balance. 

But in Mexico, while there were cries of fraud in the counting process, few such were made against the electoral register. The electoral management body was heavily challenged and emerged bruised, but its underlying strength was still intact.

Kenya’s elections in December 2007 offer a very clear example that political robustness is not the same as technical competence. The electoral authority had the technical knowledge and capacity for everything to work well – but it did not have the political robustness to cope with the political pressures of a disputed election (which may or may not even have been close). There have been few sadder recent electoral moments than the chair of Kenya’s electoral authority finally admitting that he had no idea who had really won.

Design, timing, sequencing

A challenge for peace-builders and democracy-builders alike is to facilitate choices in the design, timing and sequencing, implementation and assessment of electoral processes to a constituent assembly, legislative bodies and/or local government bodies – all of which are fundamentally political questions. The first universal elections in South Africa in 1994 took place after the process of transition had been under way for several years. 

By contrast, the early elections held in Bosnia & Herzegovina in 1996 under the Dayton agreement led to the freezing into place of zero-sum identity politics in which the participants in the conflict played the major roles. It may thus not always be advisable to hold early elections for bodies that are not transitional in nature. But if holding early elections is undesirable, who holds power until elections do take place? When does democracy delayed become democracy denied? 

Is it easier to encourage the beginnings of reconciliation by focusing initially on creating local-level institutions to engage in practical service delivery on the ground? This approach poses the question of who can legitimately hold national power, and be responsible for the design and resourcing of the local institutions, in the interim: in Kosovo, the United Nations mission did so, and elections were held at local level first. 

Not all such approaches are as welcome: in Timor Leste (East Timor), the World Bank took an initiative to set up village committees as soon as possible after the conflict – but this action was clearly not welcomed by the UN transitional authority.

Representation, accountability, and the system

Election laws may be changed with alarming frequency as the weaknesses of a given electoral framework are discovered – or as parties seek to gain advantage of it. But the opposite can also be true: once laws and structures have been put in place, it can be difficult to remedy mistakes because the incumbent politicians and officials have vested interests. The provisions for amending electoral rules are another area which looks technical but is highly political in its effect.

Electoral system design is a key political choice, both in assembling the electoral framework and more generally in the institution-building process. Discussions about electoral systems and the design of legislatures talk a great deal about representation and accountability, but both words have multiple meanings. The basis chosen for representation and accountability is an important factor in the incentives for accommodative or "winner take all" behaviour by those who hold or gain power. 

Do elected legislators respond primarily to the whole electorate, all voters, party supporters, party members, party activists, party leaders, or whoever is going to give them their next job? Term-limits are one factor: in addition, some constellations of electoral systems and institutional frameworks are intrinsically more likely than others to promote turnover of elected members. 

This relationship is not simple: well over 90% of incumbents are re-elected to the United States’s House of Representatives using a first-past-the-post electoral system; but the same system as used in Papua New Guinea (PNG) until recently produced a turnover rate closer to 50%. The incentives for the PNG members to take benefits from their position while they were in a position to do so were self-evident – as were the consequences for the coherence of the PNG parliament.

Electoral frameworks do not only create incentives for candidates: they create incentives for political parties, who measure using different criteria. When a voter is invited to express preferences between candidates, she or he may well prioritise according to how close their positions are to those of voters. A political party, however, gains strength by attracting new voters, who are likely to be supporters of parties which are relatively close: it has an interest in the failure of adjacent parties in the political spectrum. 

This is demonstrated in the recent history of Fiji: the unsatisfactory nature of the 1997 institutional framework in approaching this question has played a substantial role in the events that have led to the full military takeover.

Electoral-framework debates are also conditioned by a conventional ideal which aims to establish a stable political party system based on programmatic differences between parties. However, this framework is often an unattainable ideal in the age of mass political communication. 

Today’s new challenge – even more difficult than reaching the ideal – is how to entrench service-delivery and accountability in a volatile political party system, in which voter choice may well be based on leadership and/or identity rather than on programmatic difference. The real danger should perhaps not be seen as leadership or identity themselves, but as the entrenchment of zero-sum politics. 

Electoral processes: the big picture 

Many lessons have been learnt since the 1970s-1980s about approaches to electoral processes which are more likely to constitute comparative good practice; this article notes only some of the most important. But the more experience, expertise and analysis – from the global south as well as the north – that exists on electoral processes in democratisation, the more complex and context-driven they turn out to be. 

Democracies are more likely to be stable than authoritarian states: democratising societies may not be. Peacekeeping activities may provide space for peace, but do not necessarily assist democratisation processes in the longer term. Electoral processes are an essential element of democratic change, consolidation and stability: but in the early stages of transition in particular, they can be flashpoints with the potential to encourage the re-emergence of conflict, and if badly designed, can entrench forces that do not promote democratisation. 

Every element of a process of change – in the sphere of democracy-building, electoral processes, constitutions, political parties, legislatures, decentralisation/devolution, independent judiciaries, among others – is likely to be linked to every other. The democratic nature of the institutional framework as a whole cannot be separated from its ability to deliver development and services; nor from the space allowed for democracy as a whole (by, for example, security-sector issues).

Both democracy-builders and peacebuilders will always need to engage with electoral processes in depth – the devil is certainly in their detail. But it is critical that they never lose sight of the inextricable links, potentially both positive and negative, between electoral processes and the wider process of democratic change.

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“Pathummayude Aadu” turns Fifty


1959 ¯dÉßW ÎÞØJßÜÞÃí ÉÞJáNÞÏáæ¿ ¦¿ßæÈ Ì×àV µâ¿í ÄáùKá Õß¿áKÄí. RÉÞJáNÞÏáæ¿ ¦¿íí ¥ÅÕÞ æÉHáB{áæ¿ ÌáißQ ®K ÄÎÞÖAÅÏÞÃí ¾ÞÈßÕßæ¿ ÉùÏÞX çÉÞµáKÄí ®K ¦Îá~çJÞæ¿ ¦ø¢ÍßAáK æºùáøºÈ ØÞÙßÄcJßW ÕÜßÏ ¥ÈAB{ÞÃí ©IÞAßÏÄí. ØÞÙßÄcJßÈí ÉøߺßÄΈÞJ çÜÞµ¢, Õß×Ï¢, µÅÞÉÞdÄBZ, ÏáµíÄß, ÈV΢ ®KßÕ ¨ øºÈæÏ ¥AÞÜæJ ØεÞÜßµÎÞÏ ®ˆÞ µãÄßµ{ßW ÈßKᢠÎÞxß ÈßVJß. ÆÞøßdÆcJßæa ¦ÝB{ßW ÈßKí ¼àÕßÄæJ çÈÞAß ºßøßAáµÏÞÏßøáKá Ì×àV ÉÞJáNÞÏáæ¿ ¦¿ßÜâæ¿…Ì×àùßæÈ d·Øß‚ ©zÞÆJßæa ÈÞ{áµ{ßÜÞÃí ÉÞJáNÞÏáæ¿ ¦¿í ÉßùÕß æµÞUáKÄí. ºßµßrÏßÜßøßæA øÞÕßæÜ ©ÃVKÄá ÎáÄW ©ùBáKÄáÕæøÏáU ºßLµZ ɵVJÞÈáU ºáÎÄÜ Ì×àV ØáÙãJáAæ{ ¯WMß‚ßøáKá. æÉøáK çÄÞÎØí, çÖÞÍÈÞ ÉøçÎÖbøX ÈÞÏV ®KßÕøÞÏßøáKá ¥ÄßÈá ÈßçÏÞ·ßAæMGßøáKÕøßW dÉÎá~V. Ì×àùßÈá çÕIß ®ÝáæJÝáÄáK ç¼ÞÜß ÈßVÕÙß‚ßøáKÄí ÉøçÎÖbøX ÈÞÏøÞÏßøáKá. 1954 ¯dÉßW 27Èí ®ÝáÄß ÄàVJí ɵVJßæÏÝáÄÞÈÞÏß ÎÞxßÕ‚ øºÈ ¥Fí ÕV×çJÞ{¢ Ì×àùßæa èµÏßW ÄæKÏÞÏßøáKá. ¥Fí ÕV×JßÈáçÖ×¢ dÉØßiàµøÃJßÈá ÈWµßÏÄí ɵVJßæÏÝáÄÞæÄ ¥çÄÉ¿ßÏÞÏßøáKá. (¨ øºÈ ¦ÆcÎÞÏß ÕÞÏß‚á çµGÄí çÖÞÍÈÞ ÉøçÎÖbøX ÈÞÏV ÎÞdÄÎÞÏßøáKá. ÎÜÏÞ{ØßÈßÎÏáæ¿ ÍÞÕß ÎÞxß ÈßVÎß‚

¥çÄ çÖÞÍÈÞ ÉøçÎÖbøX ÈÞÏV ÄæK).Ì×àùßæa ©zÞÆJßW ÕßøßE ÉâÕÞÃí ÉÞJáNÞÏáæ¿ ¦¿í. ¥AÞÜæJ Äæa ÎÈØßæÈMxß Ì×àV ÄæK ÉßKà¿í çø~æM¿áJßÏßGáIí…

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Cyber Quiz



1. Name the aborted Microsoft product for China which was to be a set-top operating system designed to work with low-end televisions?

2. What famous text used in printing and typesetting industry is said to have its origins in Cicero’s ‘de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum’?

3. In 1991, three cyber giants formed the AIM alliance to create a new computing standard based on the PowerPC architecture. Name the three.

4. What is codenamed ‘Kumo’?

5. What was acquired by Google for $3.1 billion (in cash) from a San Francisco-based private equity firm Hellman & Friedman along with JMI Equity and management?

6. Which co-founder of Sun Microsystems wrote the utilities rsh, rcp, rlogin and the first BSD release of utilities?

7. Jim Safka recently left his job as the CEO of which search engine, only after 18 months in the job, because of personal reasons?

8. In 2002, Google increased the number of URL characters it was indexing just to accommodate the very long URLs of which online giant’s services and products?

9. Which service, which went live recently, calls itself ‘a computational knowledge engine’ rather than a search engine?

10. The precursor to Mozilla’s mobile version of the Firefox browser is called…?


1. Microsoft Venus

2. Lorem ipsum

3. Apple, IBM and Motorola

4. Microsoft’s in-the-works update to its Live Search product

5. DoubleClick Inc.

6. Bill Joy


8. Amazon

9. Wolfram Alpha

10. Fennec Alpha 1.

Courtesy: V V Ramanan,The Hindu Business Line

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“A long way gone” by Ishmael Beah: Book review


A long way gone


Ishmael Beah


" A long way gone " by Ishmael Beah is an extraordinary memoir which gives a first hand report of the hardships and desolate situations faced by people and countries during war.Ishmael Beah is a graduate from Oberlin College and a member of the Human rights watch children’s rights division and advisory committee of U.S.A. He emerges as a gifted writer by reporting his life in a clear eyed and liberate fashion and will surely haunt the reader for some time.Among the different war stories which are published, this one stands out as a bestseller because of its simplicity and transparency as seen and experienced by the author. It is a first hand information and gives an idea to the reader of the problems faced by the civilians, the army and the rebels during any war like situation.

            In this story, the author is a 12 year old boy living happily with his close knit family in a place called Mattru Jong. He and his gang of friends, enjoyed school like any one of us and played rap music as pastime. The only exposure to war for them was movies. Suddenly their lives are torn apart by a group of rebels who attack unannounced  and the whole family is separated. Initially the author stays with his brother whom he later loses as they move from village to village in search of safety. The book vividly describes the impact on the young minds as they see families blown apart and the sufferings of those left behind.

             It also gives a vivid description of the life of refugees who are ill treated and bribed by the nation’s own army. This book depicts the events in sequence how the cruel fate, forces them to join the army and the hardships and atrocities they are forced to commit and how it changes the impressionable young minds from home loving  to destruction. This book not only gives the account of war but also the turmoils in the young minds as they try to re-acclimatize to the civilized way of life. Thankfully by the timely intervention of the UN, we find as we read that we will start to concur with the actions  done by these young minds. the author finds some timely respite as he is reinstated with his uncle at Sierra Lane only to be heading to war. He tries to escape in order to not end up as a rebel or recruit. Reading this book makes us wonder how any one can come out of such horror with his humanity & sanity intact.

            This book is also a testament of the ability of children to outlive their sufferings if given a chance. It really leaves an impression of a long way gone…by a determined impressionable mind……………………….. 




IX – C (Shift-I)

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Online safety tips for kids

Safety By Age


2 to about 4:

This is the age of "lapware," when children start interacting with the computer in the presence of a parent or sibling. There are numerous activities and sites that are likely to be appropriate for this age group but, in most cases, it makes sense for the parent and child to be exploring together. This is not just a safety issue, but also a way to assure that the child has a pleasant experience, and to help build bonds between the child and the older person who is surfing the Internet with them.

Starting at about age 3, some children can benefit by having a bit more independence so that they can explore, experience discoveries, and make mistakes on their own. That doesn’t mean that they should be given free access. It’s probably best for parents to choose the Web sites they visit and not let them leave those sites on their own. You don’t necessarily need to stand over them or sit with them the entire time that they’re in a known safe site.

4 to about 7:

Children begin to explore on their own, but it’s still important for parents to be in very close touch with their children as they explore the Net. When your child’s at this age you should consider restricting her access only to sites that you have visited and feel are appropriate. For help with this matter, you can consider using one of the pre-screened Web sites in GetNetWise, as well as child-safe search engines.

At this age it’s important that kids experience positive results from sites that can enhance their discovery. The issue here isn’t so much avoiding dangerous sites, but making sure they are visiting sites that don’t frustrate them or lead them down blind alleys.

7 to about 10:

During this period, children begin looking outside the family for social validation and information. This is when peer pressure begins to become an issue for many kids. It’s also a time when kids are looking for more independence from parents, according to psychologist Richard Toft. During these years, children should be encouraged to do a bit more exploring on their own, but that doesn’t mean that the parents shouldn’t be close at hand. Just as you wouldn’t send children at this age to a movie by themselves, it’s important to be with them — or at least nearby — when they explore the Net. For this age group, consider putting the computer in a kitchen area, family room, den, or other areas where the child has access to Mom or Dad while using the computer. That way, they can be "independent" but not alone.

Also, consider using a filtering program or restricting them to sites that you locate via a child-safe search engine. Another option for this age group is a child-friendly browser.

When your child is at this stage, you need to be concerned not so much about what he’s doing online and with the PC as how long he’s spending on the PC. Be sure that his time on the computer and the Internet doesn’t take away from all his other activities. Kids need variety, and it’s not a good idea for them to be spending all of their time on any single activity, even reading books. One way to deal with this might be through the use of a software time-limiting tool. It’s even important to be sure that they are varying what they do online. Encourage them to explore a variety of Web sites, not just one or two of their favorites.

10 to about 12:

During this pre-teen period, many kids want to experience even more independence. If children aren’t already doing so, this is a time when they should start using the Internet to help with schoolwork and, perhaps, discover resources for their hobbies, sports activities, and other interests. This is also an age when you have to be concerned not just about what kids see and do on the Internet, but how long they are online. Your job is to help them manage their independence. Set limits on how often and how long kids can be online, and be sure that they are engaged in other activities such as sports, music, and book-reading.

At about age 12 children begin to hone their abstract reasoning skills. With these enhanced skills, they begin to form more of their own values and begin to take on the values of their peers. Before that they’re more likely to reflect the values of their parents. It’s important at this age to begin to emphasize the concept of credibility. Kids need to understand that not everything they see on the Internet is true or valuable, just as not all advice they get from their peers is valuable. A good way to illustrate this is for them to do a search for sites on subjects they know a lot about — favorite athletes or musicians, subjects they love in school, etc.

12 to about 14:

This is the time when many kids become very social and when they are most likely to be interested in online chat. Go over the basic privacy rules with your kids to be sure they understand never to give out information about themselves or to get together with anyone they meet online without first checking with their parents. Also, emphasize the importance of never exchanging photographs with people they don’t know. At this age they need to understand clearly the fact that people on the Internet may not be who they appear to be.

This is also an age where many children start expressing interest in sexual matters. It is natural for them to be curious about the opposite (or even same) sex and not unheard of for them to want to look at photos and explore sexual subjects. During this early exploratory period, it is especially important for kids to know that their parents are around and aware of what they are doing. You may not need to be in the same room as your kids the entire time they’re on the Net, but they do need to know that you and other family members can walk in and out of the room at any time, and will ask them about what they are doing online.

Don’t be alarmed if they are interested in exploring sexual material. How you manage this, of course, depends on your own view of such material. It’s important, however, to be aware that some of the materials they might find on the Internet are different — and more explicit — than some of the magazines that may have been around when you were that age. If kids search hard enough, they can probably find Web sites and newsgroups that explore sexual fantasies that they — and even you — might find disturbing or even frightening. This is probably the strongest argument for Internet filters but it’s also an argument for close parental involvement, reinforcing your family’s values, and creating a climate of trust and openness between parents and children.

Children at this age are likely to be interested in games that they can download from the Internet to play either online or offline. Some of these games may have content that parents feel is inappropriate, so it’s important to be aware of what your kids are doing on the computer, even when they’re not connected to the Internet. Monitoring software may help you in this effort.

This is also a period when many parents choose to speak with their children about sexual matters. It may be a good idea to think about how you might react if you discover that your child has visited places on the Internet that you feel are inappropriate.

You can use filtering and monitoring software at this age, but you may start to run into some resistance. What’s important is that you are honest with your kids and that they know what you are doing and why you are doing it. If you use filtering software, for example, you need to explain to them that you are doing it to protect them from material that you consider to be harmful. Just as you might not let them go to certain places in your community, you are exercising your parental right to keep them from surfing to certain types of places in cyberspace.

14 to about 17:

This can be one of the most exciting and challenging periods of a child’s (and parent’s) life. Your teen is beginning to mature physically, emotionally, and intellectually and is anxious to experience increasing independence from parents. To some extent that means loosening up on the reins, but by no means does it mean abandoning your parenting role. Teens are complicated in that they demand both independence and guidance at the same time.

Teens are also more likely to engage in risky behavior both online and offline. While the likelihood of a teen being abducted by someone he meets in a chat room is extremely low, there is always the possibility that he will meet someone online who makes him feel good and makes him want to strike up an in-person relationship. It is extremely important that teens understand that people they meet online are not necessarily who they seem to be.

Although it’s sometimes difficult to indoctrinate teens with safety information, they can often understand the need to be on guard against those who might exploit them. Teens need to understand that to be in control of themselves means being vigilant, on the alert for people who might hurt them.

The greatest danger is that a teen will get together offline with someone she meets online. If she does meet someone she wants to get together with, it’s important that she not go alone and that she meet that person in a public place.

It’s important for parents to remember what it was like when they were teenagers. Set reasonable expectations and don’t overreact if and when you find out that your teen has done something online that you don’t approve of. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take it seriously and exercise appropriate control and discipline, but pick your battles and try to look at the bigger picture.

If your teen confides in you about something scary or inappropriate that he encountered online, your first response shouldn’t be to take away his Internet privileges. Try to be supportive and work with your teen to help prevent this from happening in the future. And remember that your teen will soon be an adult and needs to know not just how to behave but how to exercise judgment, reaching her own conclusions on how to explore the Net and life in general in a safe and productive manner.

Courtesy: Getnetwise

Filed under: Online safety Tips, ,



Progress: An outdoor school in Sandarwa

By Dina Fine Maron | Newsweek Web Exclusive

Courtesy: NEWSWEEK, May 1, 2009

One young woman’s fight to set up schools for girls in Afghanistan despite formidable cultural and logistical obstacles.

Some girls walk as much as two hours each way, their plastic sandals slapping against dirt trails and fields lining the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan. Others take even longer when puddles impede their progress. Their common destination is one of the scattered houses enlisted to double as classrooms in Godah, an isolated village in Wardak province. The homes are part of a network of six schools for girls in Wardak and Nangarhar provinces that educate more than 2,800 students, the product of the efforts of a 28-year-old Afghan woman named Sadiqa Basiri Saleem. To bring education to rural areas like this one—where many girls may not know a single woman who can read—Saleem has battled widespread illiteracy and daunting cultural obstacles for the past seven years, setting up schools to change the educational landscape, one child at a time.

After her own hopes of being a gynecologist were dashed because the Taliban forced her Afghan-run university in Pakistan to close, Saleem pooled her personal savings with that of a few other women, founding the only girl’s school in Godah. Since then the system has expanded, and her organization, the Oruj Learning Center, has started five more, though not without difficulty. It’s been less than a decade since Taliban rule blocked girls from attending school, and threats, both real and imagined, continue. Though the Taliban has its strongest hold on southern provinces like Kandahar, the communities that house Saleem’s six schools in eastern Afghanistan still feel its influence. A male teacher from one of her schools was stopped on the street by a stranger last year and asked if he teaches at a girl’s school. He quickly answered no, fearing for his life, and waited each day for further incident—but nothing more came of the conversation. "The sense is that [any of us] could be targeted at any time," says Saleem, who is currently working toward a B.A. in international relations at Mount Holyoke in Massachusetts, spending her summer and winter breaks overseeing the schools in Afghanistan and checking in on operations from afar the rest of the year.

In 2005, the tents that housed the Godah school burned to the ground. Though no one claimed responsibility for the midnight act of arson, and many think the tents were a target because they were to be a voting site in the first parliamentary elections (not because they housed a girls’ school), the attack still left some parents anxious about sending their daughters to school the next day. Most girls continued to show up, though, studying in the hot summer sun while waiting on new tents. Then two years ago, as reports of violence across Afghanistan increased, the schools moved once again from tents that had replaced the burnt ones to the school’s current locations: several volunteered private homes. "Just in case," Saleem says, noting that the move would make the girls safer since culturally it would be less acceptable for a stranger to enter a private home than a public space.

The Godah school isn’t the only one concerned for its safety. The Afghanistan Ministry of Education says that 458 government schools (mostly in the south) are closed due to threats of violence, leaving 400,000 boys and girls at home. In the 2008 school year alone—from March 2008 to March 2009—22 students and teachers were injured (including a November acid attack that left 15 girls and teachers scarred in Kandahar province). Another 33 were killed, a ministry spokesperson reports.

Building schools and ensuring that girls can attend has been one of the main objectives of the Afghani government and the nations that have contributed to its reconstruction, yet the guerrilla warfare that has sprung up in southern and eastern Afghanistan has proved a formidable obstacle.

Still, many of the girls continue to show up, encouraged by mothers, sisters and cousins who never had any chance to learn basic reading and writing themselves. In the aftermath of the tent burning, the girls studied in the shade for the next month, taking frequent breaks to drink from a nearby stream. "In 2005 things weren’t that bad. People were much more hopeful about the future," explains Shirin Sahani, 33, then a graduate student from Georgetown who visited the Godah school postfire while she interned with the Oruj Learning Center.

For Saleem, seeing the girls wash off the charred chairs and search through the ashes for usable supplies reminded her why she had worked to set up the school in the first place. "Bringing education to girls was based on the needs I witnessed, not a drive to bring about social change," she says.

It hasn’t been easy. Saleem remembers sitting with Godah community members three years before the fire, trying to persuade them to educate their daughters. Though many families had resisted the idea, she had two advantages: the support of her father, a respected elder in the community, and her own educational background. Saleem’s early education at an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan and later at a Pakistani private college had equipped her with the skills that would make her good money as a tutor.

But it is her religious faith that is her best weapon in trying to convince reluctant parents that the education of girls is sanctioned by the Qur’an. "The first word revealed to the Prophet is iqra: read," she says as part of her argument. "By educating girls you are honoring God. It’s right there in the Qur’an." She attributes her drive to make these schools succeed to her deep religious faith too. "I believe from my religion that if you have good intentions and keep it up, the time will come to do your good deed."

At the Godah school most students cluster for three hours a day, every day but Friday, learning to read, write and do math, and studying geography and the Islamic texts—standard curriculum in Afghanistan. The oldest students, fifth and sixth graders, also take on biology and history. Though it would be more culturally accepted to have female teachers for Godah’s older students, the Oruj Learning Center continues to employ mostly men since literate, educated women are hard to find in Afghanistan.

Despite all the hurdles, the students and their teachers continue to come. Even though the schools are now registered with the Afghanistan Ministry of Education, Saleem’s international donors (whose funds are often funneled through the Washington, D.C.-based Advocacy Project) foot the bill for most of the teachers’ salaries, and the school continues to recycle many old school supplies while waiting on new ones from the government. Saleem hopes to be able to hand her current crop of schools over to the government and move on to founding new ones, but for now she thinks she needs to continue her work there. "If I leave, I don’t see anyone else who will step up," she says.

This summer, diploma in hand, Saleem plans on returning to Afghanistan to oversee the schools and plan her next steps with her husband, a doctor who has supported Saleem’s own quest for education from their home in Afghanistan. The news is not good back home, she says. Earlier this month prominent Afghani women’s rights activist Sitara Achikzai was murdered outside her home in Kandahar province, and the Taliban claimed responsibility. "I’m not concerned for me but I am concerned for my girls, the students. Really, for everyone," she says. But she won’t quit, not as long as the students show up.

© 2009 Newsweek

Filed under: Article of the Week, ,

Cyber Time



1. Peter Sunde, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Fredrik Neij, and Carl Lundström, who were in the news recently, have been the brains behind which site that has run into trouble?

2. Intel’s first 32-nanometer chip, that has recently been ‘pulled in’ and will be shipping later this year, is called..?

3. Hal Varian is the Chief Economist at which cyber-giant?

4. Whose video site is called Crackle?

5. Whose ‘residents’ logged 124 million hours and economy topped $120 million in Q1 2009?

6. Who recently said he will donate 10,000 mosquito bed nets to charity for World Malaria Day if he is first to 1 million followers on Twitter?

7. Name the recent and popular second-generation P2P tool developed at the University of Washington with the aim of letting file swappers preserve their privacy?

8. Expand YTMND, the initialism for an online community centred on the creation of hosted Web pages.

9. Miles Beckett, Mesh Flinders and Greg & Amanda Goodfried created….?

10. What is/was the nickname for Ubuntu 9.04?



2. Westmere

3. Google

4. Sony

5. Second Life.

6. Ashton Kutcher.

7. OneSwarm

8. You’re The Man Now, Dog.

9. ‘Lonelygirl15’, the cult interactive web-based video series.

10. Jaunty Jackalope.

More Stories on : Cyber Quest


VV Ramanan, Business line

Filed under: YW-Cyber Quiz

Quiz time



Photo : AP

Dolly : The world’s first cloned sheep.

1. Alphabetically, which is the last of the seven Emirates in the United Arab Emirates when written in English?

2. If Dolly was the first cloned sheep, Injaz is the first cloned…?

3. Which rodent is also called a woodchuck or land beaver?

4. Ambulophobia is the fear of which normal activity?

5. Which popular candy, a hit with kids, was/is named after a racehorse?

6. The fruit of which funnily-shaped tree is called ‘monkey bread’?

Photo : AFP

Grand finish : At the Champs-Elysees.

7. What ‘first’ did English cricketer Claire Taylor achieve recently?

8. According to the nursery rhyme, whose garden grows thus: “…With silver bells and cockle shells/And pretty maids all in a row.”

9. On a standard computer keyboard, which number would be pressed with shift to produce the ‘hash’ sign (#)?

10. Which famous sporting event traditionally finishes at the Champs Elysee in Paris?

11. If it is Sansad for India, for which European country is it ‘Cortes Generales’?

12. If one does a work ‘gratis’, how much is he/she paid?

13. Which EPL was founded as Dial Square in 1886 by workers in Woolwich?

14. Which common flower is considered the symbol of secrecy?

15. According to the Mayans, both good and bad fortune was tied to a planet’s orbit. Name the planet.


1. Umm al-Quwain; 2. Camel; 3. Groundhog; 4. Walking; 5. Lollipop; 6. Baobab; 7. She became the first woman to be chosen a ‘Wisden Cricketer of the Year’; 8. Mary Mary Quite Contrary; 9. Three; 10. Tour de France; 11. Spain. It’s the native name for the National parliament; 12. Nothing!; 13. Arsenal; 14. Rose; 15. Venus.


V.V. Ramanan, The Hindu

Filed under: Young World Quiz



Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd

“When you see world class supermarkets and food chains in our towns, and when our urban youngsters gloat over the choice of toppings on their pizzas, why should 51 per cent of children in the country be undernourished?” asks Infosys mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy in his introduction to “A Better India: A Better World”.

A comparison of this kind, which underlines the glaring disparity in income levels in India of the post-1990s, is commonly made to critique the policies of economic liberalisation and the development priorities accompanying them. Of course, the author often described as the “Information Technology czar” of India is far from being against economic reform.

In fact, in the very first chapter, he talks about being on a train along the border between what was then Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, an experience that purged him of “any last vestige of affinity for the Left” and transformed him from “a confused Leftist into a determined compassionate capitalist.”


With this out of the way, Mr. Murthy affirms and reaffirms his faith in the “virtues of compassionate capitalism” (as opposed to laissez-faire capitalism) in several chapters and highlights the “need for broadbasing these reforms for inclusive growth.” The “only solution to the problem of poverty is the creating of jobs with good disposable incomes,” he says, arguing this is an end that can be achieved by entrepreneurs who convert ideas into jobs and wealth, with the government playing the facilitator.

Lest we mistake this as a treatise on business and profits, he repeatedly explains in the 38 speeches compiled here that the “elite and influential” class should have a strong moral conscience and “relate to the reality that is India” with all its contradictions, show “fairness to the less fortunate” and bring “hope and betterment to the millions of poor, uneducated…”

The economic downturn may have dimmed the enthusiasm of many to freemarketeers. But Mr. Murthy, a beneficiary of the 1991 reforms, has unflagging faith in the fundamentals of this regime. Many of the lectures were delivered before India began to feel the full impact of recession. The solution he offers to a range of problems — from urban infrastructure to healthcare and primary education — generally involves large doses of private participation across sectors.


Divided into sections such as “Address to students,” “Values,” and “Leadership challenges,” the articles here are essentially a scattered bunch of thoughts. The format — speeches delivered in different contexts — seems to have provided greater room for “inspirational” aphorisms rather than for the building of an argument in a sustained way. Even when he addresses a complex set of questions, the answers sometimes end up being predictable and anticlimactic.

There are citations galore from people as varied as Mahatma Gandhi and Thomas Friedman. Honesty, hard work, discipline and so on are sometimes advanced as final solutions. There is a tone of avuncular advice running through the book. So much so that it might eminently qualify to be a text book for those who champion “corporate social responsibility.”



The Hindu

Filed under: Book of the week, , ,

Kamala Surayya


Kamala Surayya (born Kamala Das on March 31, 1934-May 31, 2009), is a well-known Indian writer who writes in English as well as Malayalam, her native language. She is considered to be one of the outstanding Indian poets writing in English, although her popularity in Kerala is based chiefly on her short stories and autobiography. Much of her writing in Malayalam came under the pen name Madhavikkutty. She was born in Malabar in Kerala, India. She is the daughter of V. M. Nair, a former managing editor of the widely-circulated Malayalam daily Mathrubhumi, and Nalappatt Balamani Amma, a renowned Malayali poetess. Kamala Das is probably the first Hindu woman to openly and honestly talk about sexual desires of Indian woman, which made her an iconoclast of her generation.[1]



Kamala Das spent her childhood between Calcutta, where her father was employed as a senior officer in the Walford Transport Company that sold Bentleys and Rolls Royce, and the Nalappatt ancestral home at Ponnayoorkulam in south Malabar region. Her husband often played a fatherly role for both Kamala and her sons. Because of the great age difference between Kamala and her husband, he often encouraged her to associate with people of her own age.[2]


Like her mother, Kamala Das also excelled in writing. Her love of poetry began at an early age through the influence of her great uncle, Nalappatt Narayana Menon, a prominent writer. However, she did not start writing professionally till she was married and became a mother. When Kamala wished to begin writing, her husband supported her decision to augment the family’s income. Being the housewife, she could not use the morning-till-night schedule enjoyed by her great uncle. She would wait until nightfall after her family had gone to sleep and would write until morning: “There was only the kitchen table where I would cut vegetables, and after all the plates and things were cleared, I would sit there and start typing” (“Warrior” interview). This rigorous schedule took its toll upon her health, but she views her illness optimistically. It gave her more time at home, and thus, more time to write.[3]


She is famous for her many Malayalam short stories as well as many poems written in English. This Keralite is recognized as one of the foremost poetesses of India. She is also a syndicated columnist. She has moved away from poetry because she claims that “poetry does not sell in this country (India)”, but fortunately her forthright columns do. Her columns sound off on everything from women’s issues and child care to politics.

Her eldest son M D Nalapat is married to a princess from the Travancore Royal House. He holds the UNESCO Peace Chair and Professor of geopolitics at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education. He was the former resident editor of Times of India. Her second son Chinem is placed in Bangalore.

Kamala Surayya died on 31st May 2009 in Pune  and  buried on 02 June 2009 at Jum-a-Masjid Palayam, Thiruvananthapuram.



Her first book, Summer In Calcutta was a promising start. She wrote chiefly of love, its betrayal, and the consequent anguish, and Indian readers in 1965 responded sympathetically to her guileless, guiltless frankness with regard to sexual matters. Ms. Das abandoned the certainties offered by an archaic, and somewhat sterile, aestheticism for an independence of mind and body at a time when Indian women poets were still expected to write about teenage girlie fantasies of eternal, bloodless, unrequited love.


Musing of a lonely heart is a common theme in her poems. It seeks love with never ending passion. Lust, greed and hunger never satiate and finally the mind becomes an old playhouse with all its lights put out. For Das, poetry (or love?) is “The April sun squeezed like an orange juice”, the heat permeates into the reader’s mind. When she is moving to a new city, “Sadness becomes a silent stone in the river’s unmoving core”. She bid farewell to “the shadows behind the windowpane, the rain, the yellow moon, the crowd and the sea”. This sensitivity is the strength of her poetry.


At 42, she published her autobiography, My Story, baring the secrets of her heart. It creates a lot of interest and controversies though not for any literary value.She herself later made it clear that it WAS after all a work of fiction and should not be read that literally.She alleges that many translators have not done justice to the original and it is one of the reason that complicated the whole matter. The book was translated into many foreign languages—about 15.



Kamala Das, better known as Madhavikutty is one of the foremost short story writers in Malayalam. In any listing, she figures among the top 5 writers, even after considering the personal choices and socio-cultural background of the readers. She writes, with dexterity, the story of poor old servant in Punnayoorkulam or the sexual disposition of upper middle class women living near a metropolitan city or in the middle of the ghetto.

Her writing style is economical and the use of language is very precise. Her widely acclaimed stories include Pakshiyude Manam, Neypayasam, Thanuppu, and Chandana Marangal. She wrote a few novels, among which Neermathalam Pootha Kalam stands out, which was received favourably by the reading public as well as the critics. It recreates the nostalgia of an old ancestral home with it adjacent snake shrine. It is often said that even her casual talks falls in the genre of short stories. Such is her creative genius that even after succumbing to several unwanted controversies, she remains a widely popular figure.

Awards and other recognitions

Kamala Das has received many awards for her literary contribution. Some of them are

She has traveled extensively to read poetry to Germany’s Essen, Bonn and Duisburg universities, Adelaide Writer’s Festival (Adelaide, Australia), Frankfurt Book Fair, University of Kingston, Jamaica, Singapore, and South Bank Festival (London), Concordia University (Montreal, Canada), Columbia University (New York), Qatar, Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, etc. Her works are available in French, Spanish, Russian, German and Japanese.

She has also held positions as Vice chairperson in Kerala Sahitya Academy, chairperson in Kerala forestry Board, President of Kerala Children Film Society, Orient editor of Poet magazine[4] and Poetry editor of Illustrated Weekly of IndiaISSN 0019-2430

Conversion to Islam


Born in a conservative Hindu Nair (Nallappattu) family having Royal anscestry, she embraced Islam in 1999 at the age of 65 and assumed the name Kamala Suraiya. Like the themes of her stories, conversion too, kicked up much heat and dust in the social and literary circles.[5]

Her statements like “I’m converting Krishna into Allah and making him the Prophet after naming him Mohammed. If you go to Guruvayur now Krishna will not be there he will be with me” infuriated many conservative Hindus. They cannot digest when some one who has written

Krishna, I am melting,
Melting, melting
Nothing remains
But you

Starts writing,

Ya Allah
I perceive the Prophet’s features, as
yet unrevealed, on my beloved’s

Her serious readers observed the same undercurrents lying beneath both lines, this time more lively.

She was also active in politics in India, and has launched a national political party known as the Lok Seva Party, to concentrate on humanitarian work as well as to provide asylum to orphaned mothers and promote secularism. In 1984, she contested election to enter parliament, but lost.


  • 1964: The Sirens (Asian Poetry Prize winner)
  • 1965: Summer in Calcutta (poetry; Kent’s Award winner)
  • 1967: The Descendants (poetry)
  • 1973: The Old Playhouse and Other Poems (poetry)
  • 1976: My Story (autobiography)
  • 1977: Alphabet of Lust (novel)
  • 1985: The Anamalai Poems (poetry)
  • 1992: Padmavati the Harlot and Other Stories (collection of short stories)
  • 1996: Only the Soul Knows How to Sing (poetry)
  • 2001: yaa Allah (collection of poems) published by [IPH]

middle age[poetry]

  • 1964: Pakshiyude Manam (short stories)
  • 1966: Naricheerukal Parakkumbol (short stories)
  • 1968: Thanuppu (short story, Sahitya Academi award)
  • 1987: Balyakala Smaranakal (Childhood Memories)
  • 1989: Varshangalkku Mumbu (Years Before)
  • 1990: Palayan (novel)
  • 1991: Neypayasam (short story)
  • 1992: Dayarikkurippukal (novel)
  • 1994: Neermathalam Pootha Kalam (novel, Vayalar Award winner)
  • 1996: Chekkerunna Pakshikal (short stories)
  • 1998: Nashtapetta Neelambari (short stories)
  • 2005: Chandana Marangal (Novel)
  • 2005: Madhavikkuttiyude Unmakkadhakal (short stories)2x
  • 2005: Vandikkalakal (novel)


  1. ^ The Rediff Interview/Kamala Suraiya
  2. ^ K e r a l a . c o m – God’s own country Keralam India-Celebrities
  3. ^
  4. ^ Love and longing
  5. ^ The Hindu : Magazine / Personality : Still a rebel writer

Courtesy: Wikipedia

An Introduction by Kamala Das


An Introduction
Kamala Das

I don’t know politics but I know the names
Of those in power, and can repeat them like
Days of week, or names of months, beginning with Nehru.
I amIndian, very brown, born inMalabar,
I speak three languages, write in
Two, dream in one.
Don’t write in English, they said, English is
Not your mother-tongue. Why not leave
Me alone, critics, friends, visiting cousins,
Every one of you? Why not let me speak in
Any language I like? The language I speak,
Becomes mine, its distortions, its queernesses
All mine, mine alone.
It is half English, halfIndian, funny perhaps, but it is honest,
It is as human as I am human, don’t
You see? It voices my joys, my longings, my
Hopes, and it is useful to me as cawing
Is to crows or roaring to the lions, it
Is human speech, the speech of the mind that is
Here and not there, a mind that sees and hears and
Is aware. Not the deaf, blind speech
Of trees in storm or of monsoon clouds or of rain or the
Incoherent mutterings of the blazing
Funeral pyre. I was child, and later they
Told me I grew, for I became tall, my limbs
Swelled and one or two places sprouted hair.
WhenI asked for love, not knowing what else to ask
For, he drew a youth of sixteen into the
Bedroom and closed the door, He did not beat me
But my sad woman-body felt so beaten.
The weight of my breasts and womb crushed me.
I shrank Pitifully.
Then … I wore a shirt and my
Brother’s trousers, cut my hair short and ignored
My womanliness. Dress in sarees, be girl
Be wife, they said. Be embroiderer, be cook,
Be a quarreller with servants. Fit in. Oh,
Belong, cried the categorizers. Don’t sit
On walls or peep in through our lace-draped windows.
Be Amy, or be Kamala. Or, better
Still, be Madhavikutty. It is time to
Choose a name, a role. Don’t play pretending games.
Don’t play at schizophrenia or be a
Nympho. Don’t cry embarrassingly loud when
Jilted in love … I met a man, loved him. Call
Him not by any name, he is every man
Who wants. a woman, just as I am every
Woman who seeks love. In him . . . the hungry haste
Of rivers, in me . . . the oceans’ tireless
Waiting. Who are you, I ask each and everyone,
The answer is, it is I. Anywhere and,
Everywhere, I see the one who calls himself I
In this world, he is tightly packed like the
Sword in its sheath. It is I who drink lonely
Drinks at twelve, midnight, in hotels of strange towns,
It is I who laugh, it is I who make love
And then, feel shame, it is I who lie dying
With a rattle in my throat. I am sinner,
I am saint. I am the beloved and the
Betrayed. I have no joys that are not yours, no
Aches which are not yours. I too call myself I.


Filed under: Author of the week, , ,

Annual Day 2009 videos

Kendriya Vidyalaya Pattom celebrated

Annual Day 2009

on 29 & 30 April 2009

For Annual Day 2008 videos click here

Filed under: Snippets, ,


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