Two Indian Days

Someone had written a few months ago that India’s near-term future rested on what happened on Feb 28 (the Indian Budget) and Mar 1 (the India-Pakistan Cricket World Cup match). Well, both events have taken place and the verdict is out – India is Rising.

The Budget presented by Finance Minister Jaswant Singh was quite a positive one – well-detailed and thought-out (like the man he is), and growth-oriented. He has some limitations considering that general elections are due in India next year, but overall, he has done a good job. It is now for Indian industry to deliver. There is a lot of emphasis on infrastructure development, which India so desperately needs. Concessions for the IT sector continue, and pharma and biotech have been equated to IT.

The India-Pakistan cricket match was a scorcher. For many in India, this was like the final. Or even a proxy war. The two countries had not met on the field in recent times. The match was a delight to watch. Pakistan’s good score was pulversied with the Indian batting in the first few overs. In the end, India won quite easily. These were a few hours when the nation put aside everything and watched on TV.

So, India’s come out with flying colours on both counts. Perhaps, its just my personal bias, but one can almost sense that positive optimism in most walks of life.

On a personal note, as I watched the Budget and the World Cup on TV, a strange feeling overcame me. For most of the past many years, I was used to doing updates on IndiaWorld for both these events. We had updated the budget live for the first time in March 1995, a day after IndiaWorld was launched. We would watch it on TV and then update our Internet website. It was something which continued for many years. So also for the World Cups. 1996 and 1999 were spent in the office making sure our live coverage went well. So, it was a bit odd sitting in front of a TV!

A NetFlix for Books

You Are What You Queue is the story of Netflix and the addiction with setting up queues of which movies to watch. Writes NYTImes:

“We call it the Queue obsession, and about a third of our customers have it,” said Reed Hastings, chief executive of Netflix. “They visit their lists three or more times a week and look at it the way they look at their stocks. ‘What’s on the list?’ `What should I move around?’ Honestly, I’ve heard of people who have more than 400 films in their Queues.”

My current list of 45 movies may pale by comparison, yet I know I’m a victim of the addiction. For instance, I just checked my Queue to get the latest count for this article. As I did that, I remembered seeing a commercial featuring Jackie Chan earlier in the day. That reminded me of my favorite Chan film, “The Legend of Drunken Master,” which I hadn’t seen in a few years. So in the space of one paragraph, my Queue count has risen to 46.

That’s how Netflix gets you. I can’t recall any previous service that allowed movie lovers to quantify their fixation with such detail.

Once you start free-associating about films, the service’s vast collection makes the process nearly impossible to stop. Nearly everything starts reminding you of movies you always wanted to see but never got around to, or that you saw once and never forgot, or that you are curious about although you were too embarrassed to catch them in the cineplex.

I was wondering why a similar kind of “rental” service cannot be done for books in some of the world’s developing countries. Yes, the neighbourhood libraries are there, but many have shut down or become smaller, since revenues have dried up and real estate has become much more expensive. Running a centralised service where 2-3 books can be sent each time to readers could be a workable idea.

More than watching movies and TV, the next generation has to read. And if we can take away the cost of ownership of books and make it easier and cheaper, perhaps they will.