Friday, April 24, 2009

Being Self-Employed in IT

I have been self-employed doing freelancing programming work for the past 6 months. Let me describe how I got into it and a few administrative details.
Taking the plunge
There is a difference between being self-employed and running a business. If you plan to run a business, you can face exponential growth or risky shutdown. Freelancing is not the same thing, even though there is pressure for you to expand. (Note: Do NOT freelance if you plan to get loans. Banks do not give out loans to freelancers)
If you are in the USA and planning to come back to India, or if you are already in India but have enough contacts in the USA, freelancing may be a good idea for you. Let your contacts know that you plan to freelance. Your contacts will need some credentials to justify hiring you. For that purpose, register a domain and have a basic website - if only with html. Put your resume outline in that resume and highlight your work. If you can write well (with grammar and good content), then link your blog articles in the website. Have a set of email addresses registered under your domain. My own website is here:
Freelancing works well if you have a stable contact who trusts you and vice versa. Companies may not trust just an unknown freelancer in another country. You need a champion at the client. It would be ideal if he/she can coordinate payments and also help you get set up for starting. The gain the companies have is, of course, lower rates.
So, I would advice you to cultivate potential clients if you are abroad and planning to come back. If you are already in India, do not hesitate to contact your friends abroad.
Technically, you will generally need a VPN connection to the client. You will need a high speed internet connection.
You will also need to be self-motivated to work by yourself. I maintain a timesheet even if the client does not ask for it. I have regular calls and status updates sent to them - and that keeps my work planned.

Infrastructure and Administration
Freelancing, of course, needs the following infrastructural and administrative elements:
1. You need your own computer, preferably a laptop. Make sure you have a warranty.
2. Get an UPS for electricity failures.
3. You may not need an office space, if you have enough space at home. Otherwise, get a small enough office space, close to home. Don't plan a long commute or spend too much money on decorating the office.
4. Get a webcam.
5. Open a Skype account with SkypeOut (ability to call international phones). Start with a $10 SkypeOut credit. For the SkypeOut payment, get an online receipt printed for your tax purpose.
6. Get a good set of headphone with a microphone.
7. Get atleast two physical file folders. Label one of them for your business account in the bank and the other for your taxes. (I will come to banking and taxes later)
8. Since you will spend time at home, make sure you have a decent broadband internet connection. Atleast 512kbps will be needed.
9. Get a good computer table and chair. Make sure your working location has good airconditioning. This is important, because if you are at work, the AC is takend care of by a company. If you only have AC at bedroom at home (as most middle class households do), then you will find yourself trying to work from the bedroom all the time. That is not a very good place to work from. Plan for a second AC room.
10. Buy an external hard disk with atleast 160GB for backup. Have a bunch of DVDs for storing your important files. Have a USB flash drive with 4-8GB capacity. If possible, sign up with a service like Windows folder share or SugarSync for an online backup of your programming work.
11. Backups are VERY important. Take a full system backup atleast once a month. If your client uses source control, check in your files regularly.
12. Get a copy of Norton Anti Virus with Internet Security. Run LiveUpdate once a week. Keep running Windows Update every week or have it run automatically. Keep your computer well patched and do not have any anonymous shares. If you use Vista, run under the UAC (User Access Control) mode all the time. You cannot afford a virus infection.
13. Get a laser printer; they are not that costly now and will help you out.
14. For ALL of the above purchases, whether online or not, get a receipt. You will need it for tax purposes.

Founding the Company
In India, there are different kind of company structure - proprietorship firm, partnership or private limited. For a beginning freelancer, a proprietorship firm is ideal. It ties to a single bank account and you can use your personal PAN card for filing taxes. (You can still hire people under a proprietorship firm). Other than the bank account, you do not need any other form of registration. Here are the steps for founding a proprietorship firm:
1. First decide on a name. Make sure the name is also unique for starting a website.
2. Make sure you have a individual PAN card. A PAN card in your name is sufficient.
3. Decide on a bank. Contact the bank official and let them know you will be running a current account for your business. They will give you a set of guidelines for opening a current account.
4. You need rubber stamps. 3 stamps at least - a seal called a "For" seal that you will affix with your signature to documents; a seal called the address seal with your company name and address; and a date seal. All these rubber stamps cost around Rs.600-800.
5. You need letter pads and a logo. If you already have a website designed, you may have a logo. Otherwise design a logo, a letter pad and a visiting card. A graphic designer can do this for you. Get a letter pad printed and the visiting card printed. (The visiting card is not essential).
6. Contact an auditor near your location. Let them know you are starting a company. You would go back to them when filing your taxes.
7. After the bank opens your account, they will send you a checkbook.
8. Usually, if you work with clients from abroad, the easiest and fastest way to transfer money (payment for your services) is to wire transfer. But wire transferring has charges - upto $100 for a single transfer. The charge applies to the person doing the transfer ie your client. They may deduct it from your payment. If you do plan wire transfers, then get the wire transfer details document from your bank. Every bank has a slightly different procedure and there are some details to fill in. Send the details to your client.
9. From a stationery shop get a "Cash Voucher" book and a receipt book. They may come in handy when you document expenses.
10. For invoices, get an invoice template online. Every invoice should have a unique number and will have the amount you will be charging your client. (Invoices are the "bill" for your client. They will make payments according to the invoices.)
9. With a bank account, stamps, letter pad, PAN card, invoice template, cash voucher book and (if possible) a website, you are all set to go.

Payments and Taxes
Before you negotiate with your clients, you need to know this: it is better to be on a hourly work basis than on fixed-bid work. If your work is such that the clients engage you for a long term with a steady hourly payment, that situation is ideal. Please note that a commitment for an engagement long term does not mean much - the client can cut you off at any point with payment for services till that point.
So for hourly work, what would be your "take-home"? Let us say you bill $100 every hour (unlikely, but it is easy for calculations. Being in India, you would probably only bill less than half that amount).
There is no service tax for dollar exports in software coding services. So, your taxes would come to 20%-30% (depending on your slab). Let us say you started work in January; If by end of March, you earn less than 5 Lakhs, then your slab would be 20%. But, this is assuming you had no other income from the previous April to December. You are taxed for your entire income from April to March.
So $30 of every $100 you earn would go to the government ideally. But there are a few expenses that you can claim to lessen your tax load.
(Your US client may want to know if he needs to tax you in the USA. Because India and the USA have a dual taxation treaty, your income will NOT be taxed twice. )
The expenses you can claim are:
Capital expenses (all your initial investment such as buying the UPS, printer, headphones, stamps and so on)
Location rent (if you work from home, only 50% of your rent is eligible for deductions. If you have an office, your entire rent is eligible)
Transport (if you commute to work; have a car or two-wheeler)
Phone and broadband
Stationery (not much use in IT)
Entertainment (such as lunch with your client at the Taj)
You are a proprietorship firm - you can hire people. You do NOT have to deduct tax for them. Your payments to them count as expenses.
Your LIC, PPF and other savings still apply.
Keep a receipt of ALL your expenses in a physical file. Auditors advise to keep a note of credits and expenses in a excel file.
You have to pay advance taxes twice a year (March and September) and file returns in June. For advance taxes, you would sit with your auditor and go over all the expenses and income. The advance tax can be paid in a local bank such as SBI or HDFC. Keep the advance tax receipt safe.
When you file returns in June, you will include the advance tax receipt and then adjust your final payment according to actual figures. At that point, you need all the proof of your expenses. The Income Tax office may ask you to come in person and ask you to submit the proofs.
If you receive foreign exchange payment, then do NOT forget to get the receipts from your bank called the FIRC. You need it for submission to the Income Tax office.

How to Plan Future Work
The biggest problem you will face as a freelancer is insecurity. Your contract may end at any time. It is tempting to take additional contracts to stave off this danger, but then you may end up having a hard time managing two contracts and clients. So, you tend to try to hire someone. But then you have to face all the problems that comes with trusting a third party - he/she may not like to work for such a small shop. they may disappear any day. They may ruin your reputation with clients.
So, it is a dilemma. I have avoided this by deciding early on never to hire other full-time people. I also decided that I will not take additional full-time contracts. Sure, my position is risky in that case - I actually lost a couple of contracts because I refused to work full-time for them. But that is fine for me.
One key struggle psychologically is NOT to consider yourself a budding star entrepreneur. It is very tempting, particularly with all the propaganda about entrepreneurs to consider yourself a special sort of human. I remind myself constantly that I am simply self-employed and not running a business. It helps.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tamil Short Story

I wrote this story (among others) 4 years back. I thought I may as well publish here. It is copyrighted to me and should not be reprinted without my permission.

ஒரே ஒரு ஜோக்
இரா. இராமையா

வீட்டில் இருந்து பார்ட்டிக்குக் கிளம்பியதில் இருந்து ஒரே சண்டை.
முதலில் ரகு மௌனமாகத் தான் வந்தான். பிரேமா பேசிக் கொண்டே வந்தாள். திடீரென்று ரகு கத்திச் சிரித்தான்
"என்ன?" என்று கேட்டாள் பிரேமா.

பெண்களிடம் இது சொல்ல கூடாத பதில் என்பதால் சற்று நேரத்தில் அவனே பணிந்தான்.

"இல்ல.. ஒரு ஜோக் ஒண்ணு யோசிச்சேன்."
"என்ன ஜோக்?"

"பார்ட்டில சொல்றேன்"
அவள் நிதானித்து, "பார்ட்டில ஜோக் சொல்லப் போறீங்களா? வேணாமே.."

"ஏன்? போன முறை மாபிள்ளை ரொம்ப ஜோவியல் டைபுன்னு எல்லாரும் சொன்னாங்களே? நீ தான சொன்ன?"
"ஏதோ சாதரணமா சொன்னாங்க"

"ஏ.. சும்மா மட்டம் தட்டாத ..போன முறை எங்க தாத்தா பத்தி சொன்னேனே. எல்லாம் விழுந்து விழுந்து சிரிச்சாங்க."
"உங்க பரம்பரைய பாத்து யாரு தான் சிரிக்கல?"

ரகு அவளை முறைத்தான்.
"நீ கூட அன்னிக்குப் பெரிய பல்லை காட்டி சிரிச்ச .. குழந்தைங்கல்லாம் பயந்து அலறிச்சு."

பிரேமா வாயை மூடிக் கொண்டாள். சில நிமிடங்கள் கழித்து, "ஒரு முறை ஜோக் சொன்னா சிரிப்பாங்க. ஒவ்வொரு முறையும் சொன்ன கோமாளின்னு சொல்லுவாங்க." என்றாள்.
"யாரும் அப்பிடி சொல்ல மாட்டாங்க."

"சரி..என்ன ஜோக்? சொல்லுங்க.."
ரகு சிரித்தான். அவனுக்கே அவன் ஜோக்கை நினைத்துச் சிரிப்பு வந்தது.

"ஒரு முறை ஷார்ஜா கிரிக்கெட் மேட்ச் எந்த ஊருல நடக்குதுன்னு பேசிக்கிட்டோமே?"
"ஐயே. அது வேணாம்."

"ஏன்? நீ சிரிச்சியே?"
"கேவலமா இருக்கும்"

ரகு கவலையுடன், " வேற எதுனா யோசிக்கிறேன்" என்றான்.
மணி பார்த்தான். இன்னும் ஐந்து நிமிடத்தில் ஹோட்டல் வந்து விடும். அவனுக்குக் கவலை அதிகமாகியது.
"எங்கயாச்சும் காரை நிறுத்திட்டு ஜோக் யோசிப்போமா? " என்று கேட்டான்.
"அப்பிடியாவது ஜோக் சொல்லி ஆகணுமா?"
" என் மேல எதிர்பார்ப்பு நிறைய இருக்கு பிரேமா. பார்ட்டியே என்னால தான் களை கட்டணும்."
திடீரென்று, "கிடைச்சிடிச்சு ..சூப்பர் ஜோக்", என்றான்.
"உன் கிட்ட சொல்ல மாட்டேன்."
"அங்க வந்து மானத்த வாங்காதீங்க."
"முதல்ல நீ என் மானத்த வாங்காத. ஜோக் சொன்னா சிரி. போன முறை சில ஜோக்குக்கு நீ சிரிக்கவே இல்லை. எல்லாரும் விழுந்து விழுந்து சிரிச்சாங்க. நீ மட்டும்..திமிருடி உனக்கு"
"சிரிப்பு வந்தா சிரிக்குறேன். தத்து பித்துன்னு எதாவது சொன்னா?"
"உனக்கு எப்பவுமே நான்னா நக்கல்"
"என்ன சரி? இந்த முறை மட்டும் சிரிக்காம இரு..உன்னை வச்சுக்கிறேன்."

ஹோட்டல் வந்து விட்டது. இருவரும் கடுகடுவென்று இறங்கி உள்ளே போனதும் புன்னகைத்துக் கொண்டே போனார்கள். பிரேமாவின் உறவுக்காரப் பெண் மாயா, பிளஸ் டூவில் நிறைய மார்க் வாங்கியதால் இந்த விருந்து. அந்தப் பெண்ணிடம் நேராகச் சென்றார்கள்.
"கங்க்ராட்ஸ்", என்றாள் பிரேமா.
"என்ன மாயா..பேப்பர் சேசிங் போல இருக்கு? இவ்வளவு மார்க் வாங்கி இருக்க?" என்றான் ரகு.
அந்தப் பெண் பயத்துடன், "அதெல்லாம் இல்ல", என்றாள். லேசாகக் கண் கலங்கியது அவளுக்கு.
பிரேமா அவனைத் தரதரவென்று இழுத்து கொண்டு போனாள். "சும்மா இருக்கீங்களா?" என்றாள் தரதரவிற்கிடையே.
"நான் என்ன சொல்லிட்டேன்?" என்றான் அவன்.

எல்லோரும் சாப்பிடத் தொடங்கினார்கள். ரகுவிற்குப் பரபரப்பாக இருந்தது. தகுந்த தருணத்திற்காக காத்திருந்தான். எல்லோரும் கத்திப் பேசி கொண்டிருந்தார்கள்.
"இப்பல்லாம் ஸ்டூடென்சுக்கு நிறைய வாய்ப்புகள் இருக்கு", என்றார் ஒருவர்.
பிரேமாவின் அப்பா, "மாயா ..என்ன படிக்கப் போற? மெடிகலா?" என்று கேட்டார்.
"சிங்கப்பூர்ல ஒரு ஸ்காலர்ஷிப் வந்திருக்கு", என்றாள் மாயா.
ரகு, " சிங்கபூர்ன உடன ஒரு ஜோக் ஒண்ணு நினைவுக்கு வருது", என்றான்.
யாரும் அவனை கவனிக்கவில்லை.
"சிங்கபூர்ல எப்படித் தனியா போயி படிப்ப?"
"அதான் யோசனையா இருக்கு"
ரகு பல்லைக் கடித்து கொண்டான்.

சாப்பிட்டு முடிக்கும் வேளையில் ரகு ஆவலுடன் காத்திருந்த சந்தர்ப்பம் வந்தது. எல்லோரும் பேசி முடித்திருந்தார்கள்.
"கேர்ல்ஸ் தான் இப்பல்லாம் நிறைய மார்க்கு", என்றார் ஒருவர்.
"உலகத்தையே சுத்தி வந்திடறாங்க கல்யாணத்துக்கு முன்னாடி", என்றார் பிரேமாவின் அப்பா.
"உலகம்ன உடனே ஒரு ஜோக் நினைவுக்கு வருது", என்றான் ரகு.
அவனே பயப்படும் விதமாக எல்லோரும் அவனைத் திரும்பிப் பார்த்தார்கள்.
"என்ன ஜோக்", என்றார் பிரேமாவின் அப்பா.
ரகு சற்றே கலவரத்துடன் தொடங்கினான்.
"அமெரிக்கால ஒரு பொம்பளைக்கு நாலு குழந்தை பிறந்துதாம். நாளுக்கும் நார்மலா பேரு வச்சா. அஞ்சாவது குழந்தை பிறந்திச்சு. அதுக்கு மட்டும் ஹூவாங் ஹூவங்க்ன்னு பேரு வச்சா...ஏன் தெரியுமா?" என்று கேட்டான்.
ஒரு பாட்டி, "என்ன அசட்டு ஜோக்கா இருக்கு..", என்றாள்.
"சிரிப்பே வரல", என்றார் ஒருவர்.
"ஜோக் இன்னும் முடியல", என்றான் ரகு.
"மாப்பிள்ளை..சீக்கிரமா முடியுங்க. குலோப் ஜாமுன் சாப்பிடணும்", என்றார் பிரேமாவின் அப்பா.
ரகு, "ஏன்னா உலகத்துல பொறக்குற ஒவ்வொரு அஞ்சாவது குழந்தையும் சைனிஸ் குழந்தையாம்", என்று முடித்தான்.
எல்லோரும் அவனையே பார்த்துக் கொண்டிருந்தார்கள். பிரேமாவின் அப்பா, "உம்..மேல சொல்லுங்க", என்று ஊக்குவித்தார்.
ரகு கோபத்துடன், "ஜோக் அவ்வளவு தான். முடிஞ்சு போச்சு ", என்றான்.
பிரேமா "ஹா ஹா ஹா ..." , என்று கத்திச் சிரித்தாள். வேறு யாருமே சிரிக்கவில்லை.

வீட்டுக்குத் திரும்பிப் போய்க் கொண்டிருந்தார்கள். ரகு மௌனமாக இருந்தான். பிரேமா ஏதோ பேசிக் கொண்டே வந்தாள்.
ரகு திடீரென்று, "என்ன திமிருடி உனக்கு..", என்றான்.
பிரேமா திடுக்கிட்டு, "என்ன?" என்றாள்.
"அந்த ஜோக்குக்கு ஏண்டி அப்பிடிச் சிரிச்ச?"
"நீங்க தான சிரிக்கச் சொன்னீங்க?"
"எல்லாம் சும்மா இருக்காங்க. நீ மட்டும் ஏண்டி சிரிச்ச?"
"இது என்ன இது..சிரிச்சாலும் தப்பு ..சிரிக்கலன்னாலும் .."
"உம்..சும்மா கிட"
கார் போய்க் கொண்டிருந்தது.
"திமிருடி உனக்கு"

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Indian English Media

This is going to be a long post.
For the past couple of years I have been observing the English news channels in television and also online portals such as and A pattern emerges, but I wonder about the causal factors for news reporting in India.

Two Recent Campaigns

The IPL move to South Africa and Tata Nano's launch are two cases in point. To any dispassionate observer watching the news reporting, it must be obvious that the media went nuts with both. They hysterically covered Tata Nano's launch so much that it seemed Tata needed no additional marketing. One reporter, self-reighteously asked Tata what he would say to Mamata Bannerjee, as if Mamata's campaign was somehow against the Nano (it was not). Tata, of course, is a businessman; even though the media tried to project him as a warrior against politics in this country, he knew his place. So he just said "Good afternoon". But that statement was enough for the media to interpret as some kind of witty come back to the evil Mamata.
On the two days following the Nano's launch, rediff had a total of 39 stories on the launch. Many of these did not read like news - it was as if Tata had paid rediff, Indiatimes and all those English television channels.

At around the same time, the IPL controversy was gathering momentum. On the day IPL decided to move out of India, rediff publishes the following lead-up to a discussion forum:
That particular article has to be read to be believed. A basic journalistic standard is to clearly show the difference between editorializing (expressing opinion) and news reporting. This helps readers understand that what you are talking about may not be facts, but your own opinion.
The above article blurs that distinction and presents the IPL organizer point of view as if it is objective fact. It does it through some standard tricks - such as omitting quotation marks from quotes.

While the government did not want to take chances with the security after the attack by gunmen on Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore [Images], it also lost a lot of revenue and a chance to show that the country is a safe place to host sports events, keeping in mind next year's Commonwealth Games [Images].

The BCCI also apologised to fans, saying the government had left them with no other option. It made it clear that a lot of money was at stake and the Board along with the franchises and broadcasters could not afford to lose so much.
Who do you blame for depriving Indian fans of the high-octane action in the IPL, which was a mega success in its first year?

At first glance it seems as if rediff is doing this violation of ethical journalism so that they can support the BJP.
In both these news stories, the media went overboard, with the English TV channel's 24 hour coverage of the Nano. Watching the pathetic emptyheads on television cheerleading for a car, we can easily blame them for being without substance. It is clear that in both these cases, the media is forcing a certain narrative down the throats of viewers. The question is why they do that.

What is at Stake
In India media criticism is rare, but before I make a case I have to explain what is at stake here. After watching decades of doctored news from outlets like the Tamil Sun Television or Jaya Television, it is natural for us to assume that the media, like any other institution can report whatever they deem as news. At least that is what they say.
The Corporatised media needs to earn money, true. But we should not forget that a honest press is one of the pillars of democracy. They have responsibilities to the public beyond earning money. They have strict ethical guidelines for news reporting.
More than anything, the press enjoys a host of benefits from the government. A member of the press enjoys access to high officials and is definitely more powerful than an ordinary citizen.
Without a free press that is not acting as a tool for the rich and powerful, we may as well call off our democracy experiment. People curse politicians all the time and celebrate corporations as repositories of all that is good and benevolent. But we ought to be cursing our corporate media too, for letting down the majority people's interests.
Having said that let us analyze two views for the corruption of media.

Ezra Klein and the Media Narrative- A Charitable View
There is a charitable view we can take about the media behavior. That is explained in this classic post by Ezra Klein, a leading liberal blogger in the USA. Klein was talking about the nature of the American media, but it applies here too (emphasis mine):
I think one aspect of the modern press that doesn't get enough attention -- either among folks in the media or folks critiquing it -- is the transition from the fundamental scarcity being information to information being in abundance and the fundamental scarcity being mediation.
If everyone got a newspaper once a day, and there were eight political stories, and all of them were different each day, and one of them had pointed out that Palin actually did support the Bridge to Nowhere, then the press would indeed have done its job. The job was to report the story, and they reported it.

But cable news and blogs and radio sort of changed all that and now there's too much information, and so consumers largely rely on the press to arrange that information into some sort of coherent story that will allow them to understand the election. And the press assumed that role -- they didn't create some new institution, or demand that the cable channels be credentialed differently and understood as "political entertainment."

They fill this new role through the methods storytellers have always used to tell stories: the repetition of certain key themes and characters, which creates continuity between one day's events and the next and helps the audience understand which parts to pay attention to. It's sort of like a TV show:

In the case of the Nano, it was obvious from the first that there was a narrative here - a businessman is let down by powerful, evil politicians such as Mamta Bannerjee. He takes his show and leaves for the arms of another, more business-savvy leader (Narendra Modi). And he finally releases his car thereby satisfying the dreams of millions.
The press chose this narrative and ran with it, even though there were big holes in the story - for example, Tata had an private agreement with the Communist government in West Bengal for land transfer in Singur. If he was so noble, he would never have tried to go for such a deal. Secondly, during the entire controversy, Tata himself never expressed any antipathy to a deal with the politicians - he knew that he needed them as they need him.
Thirdly, Tata's cars in Gujarat are now heavily subsidized by the tax payer. There are estimates that Rs.50,000 to 60,000 of each Nano is borne by the tax payer. If Tata was a people's hero, he would never have tried to wrestle such concessions from elected governments. Gujarat has literally bribed a single businessman enormously to base his plant in their state.
This is transparently not capitalism, but the media thought the narrative was powerful. The same narrative idea holds for the IPL, where Lalit Modi was the new brave warrior against government.
So, it is entirely possible that the Indian corporate media is simply building these narratives and presenting well-packaged stories to the Indian public (even though they are violating news standards) - because that has become their job in this age of "too much information".
But then there is another possibility.

The Indian Media and Elitism
We should note that every narrative the media builds somehow enables and enriches private business elite. I suspect that the IPL controversy made the private business elite go crazy because government seemed to be saying that business was not the most important thing in the world. They screamed about lost revenue for the government - if government's purpose is only revenue making we should probably rent out Parliament House in the summer.
But over the past few years there is a strong streak of class warfare in our media. It is clear that the media tries to suggest the following:
1. Government should be run like a business
2. Any government "inteference" to regulate the private business world is a travesty of capitalism.
3. The interests of everyone in India is closely allied with the interests of business people
4. Businessmen are noble
During the IPL auction, which they feverishly covered, the media stars declared "What Recession?" because the amounts in the auction were astronomical. Meanwhile ordinary construction workers were facing the recession alright. In fact everyone was feeling the recession probably except for the narrow band that the media glorifies. P.Sainath wrote an excellent article on this elitist coverage here.
I am not sure how much the media has succeeded in this myth creation - reality, like the Satyam fiasco, kind of tends to expose their stars for what they are.
But it seems to me that the media is performing this dance around private business because their own corporate masters see what we all see - that in India the business class has an excellent opportunity to suppress a class struggle. It never fully worked in the developed countries, but they see an opportunity here.
This is why I reject the view that the media is directly paid by Tata or Lalit Modi to do their marketing. It is more subtle than that. They get access and power and form an alliance that blurs the real issues at stake in modern India.
They think they have formed a heady concoction using Cricket stars, Bollywood's talentless tarts and "lifestyle" issues.
I got a glimpse into their inner workings in an article by Tehelka editor, Tarun Tejpal, 3 weeks after the Mumbai attacks. In that article, Mr.Tejpal talks about a media consultant who lost his life at the Taj. But he also talks about what these consultants advise - they apparently guide media corporations towards such "lifestyle" issues and meaningless trivia in news. They think this is what the public is asking for. This is why your local newspaper publishes a lifestyle section with unrelated stuff about Paris Hilton and Brad Pitt.

As a more interesting note, corporatization seems to have directly caused this abuse of power and a complete corruption of journalistic ideals. So much for the glory of private business and businessmen...

As much as we hate politicians, we have as much to fear from the corruption of this new monster in the block.

Is Hindi Film Music in a Renaissance?

Short post - but it seems like Hindi film music is going through an amazing resurgence the last few years. I don't know what is the cause of it...if it is the increasing number of fresh music directors; or the music talent shows sparking a renewed interest; or the influence of Pakistani bands. But I am hearing more and more sweet and well-sung numbers. Most movies now come with a Sufi style song (and an item song, which is another matter).
I have a few personal favorites, such as:
Mitwa from Kabhi Alvidha Na Kehna
Dil De Diya Hai from Masti
In Dino Dil Mera from Life In a Metro
Jab Se Tere Naina from Saawariya
Aaoge Jab Tum Saajna from Jab We Met
Aaj Ki Raat from Don
Woh Lamhe from Zeher

"In dino dil mera" rendered by Debojit Datta in Zee SaReGaMaPa (starting 1:20)

At the same time I am worried about the Tamil music industry. Harris Jayaraj or Yuvan Shankar Raja are pale substitutes for giants such as Ilayaraja and Rahman. Yuvan still has off key singing in his songs. They are going wholesale Western without any attempt at fusion. It is disappointing and it would be nice if we have another music director of the calibre of Ilayaraja...