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Letters | Aug 16, 2004
A Penny For Your Idea
Monitor Lizard & String Quartet
Aug 16, 2004
The August 2 cover story (A Penny for Your Idea) opened an all-too-rare window into some of the pioneering technological innovations coming out of India. The article should go some way in convincing our fence-sitters cribbing that we Indians do good work only in the service of Uncle Sam. A small clarification, though: the perfect dosa, as far as I know, originated from the Udupi hotel chains and not in Tamil Nadu.
Dr Vivek Bhaskar, Nellore, AP
Nice piece on Indian innovation. And to pre-empt the few who may go on about these ideas not being new, let me say that in my experience as a patent attorney, I’ve yet to see an invention that’s truly new or path-breaking. This is true even of the US where a great many patents are filed and a substantial number of them are but small improvements on the existing art. Even rocket science isn’t ‘rocket science’, it’s more a series of small steps taken by different people (think Newton’s oft-repeated quote). The difference is in India many an inventor fears their ideas are not "good enough". Remember, often it’s the simplest inventions that carry the day and make a difference. PS: It isn’t just high technology that is the path to progress. For proof, check out the innovations database on www.sristi.org.
Anuradha Moulee, Sydney
Kudos to these innovators. There is no dearth of ideas in India, we just lack funds and encouragement. For me, the best part was that six of the 10 innovators featured are from my home state, Karnataka. Still, if the iisc, krec and the 10-plus engineering colleges in the state were to collaborate more, the sky is the limit. Looking at the bigger picture, I wish the upa government would put in one per cent of the
Rs 77,000-crore defence allocation towards practical research.
Ravi Sathish, Logan, US
Great inventions, but do these guys have patents and is mass production viable for their products? Not to take the mickey out of their micro inventions, but if their products don’t come out and are not of use to the common man, then what’s the point? If it’s good, why hide it?
Shadi Katyal, Georgia, US
Nice story but a sidenote on basic technology innovations would have been nice. Like the widely-reported "water drawing system" developed by a schoolboy from Pathanamthita, Kerala, which uses gravity and atmospheric pressure to pump water (it uses electricity too but in very small amounts compared to usual pumps). The best part about it is that even a couple of Nobel winners hailed the innovation, saying it could be an answer to the energy crisis.
Manoj K.S., Thiruvananthapuram
Good story, but I don’t know where String Theory fits in here. Also, the electricity-from-tubes is not Sood’s invention, it was discovered by a University of Alberta team some months back. And I’m not holding my breath for the language translator that lets Ramlal read Gone With the Wind. There are fundamental reasons why it will never work at that level.
Chandra, Portland, US
Apropos the ‘Home theatre with a 25 ft screen’, its applicability as an educational tool is supplementary. It’s more a teaching tool than a learning one. For, one can’t replace PCs in a classroom with this product. Trivedi’s product allows interactivity for a single user, not multiple users.
Anusha Singh, Ambala Cantt
Oh, so Outlook also has thoughts on science and technology. Running out of ideas on the Sonia spin?
Vishwas Tiwari, New York
Storm In A Kulhar
Aug 16, 2004
If the kulhar idea is good, then so is using bullock carts instead of cars (Storm in a Kulhar, Aug 2). It won’t need foreign investment and think of all the business it’ll get the poor bullock-cart makers! What a bunch of garden slugs! A nation can only move ahead if it constantly tries substituting labour by technology.
Dharmayudh Singh, Philadelphia, US
How can we trust the Indian railways with our health? Rather than ban plastic cups and impose kulhars on the travelling public, I can think of a third eco-friendly and more hygienic option for the Indian traveller: carry your own coffee mug or tumbler.
Philip P. Eapen, Bangalore
The doubts Maneka Gandhi raised about the loss of microbial population when soil is dug for making kulhars sound more political than scientific. Earthen pots are made of clay dredged from the bottom of ponds and canals, not soil or subsoil. The microbial population can multiply faster than it takes for plastic waste to degrade. Plastic waste management and the toxic fumes generated by incineration are more costly and hazardous. Laloo’s decision will boost the dying industry of clay artisans. Earlier, there used to be an area in every village for artisans to live and manufacture utensils. The growing plastic industry has virtually finished the potter. He can now perhaps thank Laloo for espousing his cause.
Anupriya Dutta, Noida
Laloo’s intentions may have been honourable while replacing plastic cups with kulhars, keeping the greater good of the potters in mind. But the decision seems to have been taken in haste because the biggest hurdle won’t be the supply, but the hygiene. You just can’t rule out the possibility of recycling and reselling, and no one can monitor it.
Bal Govind, Bareilly
All The Perfumes Of Arabia
Bats for Saddam?
Aug 16, 2004
I can understand left-leaning sanctimonious idiots not supporting the Iraq war, but Prem Shankar Jha’s support for Saddam amazes me (All the Perfumes of Arabia, Aug 2). No wonder India is in the state it is in, ideologically bound to economic, political and social misery whereas the US will continue to dominate the world both economically and politically. Is it also any wonder that the US and India do not have the kind of relationship that should otherwise have prevailed between the world’s largest democracies?
Prithijit Ray, Chicago, US
Jha is absolutely right. An illegal invasion can’t lend legitimacy to the invader. If a gangster invades my home and throws me out at gun-point, I will remain the owner—however loudly he might proclaim otherwise from the rooftop. The invasion of Iraq being illegal, all actions taken by the occupiers are equally illegal. Jha should also have mentioned that prior to the invasion, Saddam had been willing to call fresh elections under international supervision. The Americans, however, provoked war.
Biswapriya Purkayastha, Shillong
Watch The Other Pack
We Aren’t Sinking!
Aug 16, 2004
In his column Watch the Other Pack (June 7), Prem Shankar Jha says, "Other statements by newly-appointed ministers indicate that the sick, loss-making Shipping Corporation of India will not be privatised...." I am surprised that a journalist of such standing should come up with such an unverified, unauthenticated statement. The sci, ever since its inception in 1961, has been a profit-making company except for two years (early ’80s) during the prolonged economic crisis/recession that had affected the shipping industry the world over.
S.S. Rangnekar, Director (L & PS), SCI
Icarus Of The Hills
Aug 16, 2004
Apropos your article Icarus of the Hills (Aug 2), it seems a blind reaction from the high court to ban the sport when abroad the pilot who causes the death of his passenger is investigated and, if necessary, tried in court, the sport is not punished. Perhaps after the next serious bus accident, the high court will ban all buses from the road until the operators can explain why the industry should be allowed to continue having drivers overtake rashly and driving buses with faulty lights and brakes.
Vineet Thakur, Palampur
Aug 16, 2004
Globally, a wide range of service providers, including those in the transport and sports sectors, are realigning themselves to adjust with the expanding human bodies. Wimbledon, for example, has expressed its intention of widening the centre court seats. Many size-related terms like ‘sizing surveys’ and ‘sizing experts’ have pervaded the contemporary business scene. It’s only natural that the Indian fashion industry is following international trends (XXXL Chic, Aug 2). Whoever said ‘Size doesn’t matter’ had great prognostic sense.
Suresh Behera, Ranchi
A Mere Flick Of The Ash
Don’t Trash Ash
Aug 16, 2004
I never expected Outlook to give the review it did for Bride and Prejudice (A Mere Flick of the Ash, Aug 2). Is it some general malice towards a successful star or is it complete ignorance of good work? Whatever it is, I wish you were more honest since a lot of readers depend on your review.
Sebastian Paliakkara, on e-mail
"Here Aishwarya, such as she is, seems to fit the script, such as it is." An apt description of this over-rated model. Commendable of Outlook not to have succumbed to Gurinder Chadha’s hype and hoopla and giving us an honest and incisive review of this Punjabification of Jane Austen’s classic.
Kiran Kalla, on e-mail
The Man Deserves Better
Aug 16, 2004
I resent Vinod Mehta calling Wasim Akram a "self-confessed crook and match-fixer par excellence" (Delhi Diary, Aug 2). For starters, Wasim has never confessed to fixing matches. The signed confession that you refer to is about hiding income/assets from tax authorities. It is an open secret that most well-off individuals in the subcontinent are guilty of tax evasion. I’ll bet Indian cricketers evade taxes too. What about the money that was found in the locker of a (rightly) revered figure like Sunil Gavaskar some years back? Does it mean he was a match-fixer too? And who knows about Mr Mehta’s tax returns. And (as Wasim has said himself), where is the proof of his involvement in match-fixing? Azhar, on the other hand, has been found guilty with solid proof. Allegations of all kinds have been levelled against famous personalities, but when it is an issue as serious as this, one would expect the editor of a national newsmagazine to exercise restraint before making rash comments. Mr Mehta’s approach seems to be "guilty until proven innocent". Surely, the world’s finest left-arm seamer deserves better.
V.S. Chauhan, Jabalpur
Aug 16, 2004
Apropos the item Messrs Nobodies in Vinod Mehta’s Delhi Diary (Aug 2), all political cities are cruel: here is a Washington DC story. When jfk was president, he appointed brother Robert as attorney-general. Robert supervised J. Edgar Hoover, the fbi director, who hated the Kennedys and Robert. To ensure obedience, Robert had a direct dial phone installed between his and Hoover’s desk. When news broke that jfk had been shot in Dallas, Hoover called an urgent top-level fbi meet. As he chaired it, the phone from Robert rang. He ignored it coolly and carried on.
Nitin Kibe, Washington, DC
Okay, Mr Mehta, you want to be a Sonia chamcha, but don’t like to be called so!
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