Über Desi

Keeping it real, desi ishtyle

Is Google playing political games with India’s map?

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And Betteridge’s Law may not hold the answer, in this case. You make the call after reading this post.

A few days back, I tweeted out something I noticed when checking out the new Google Maps – the Indian states of Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh were entirely listed as dotted lines (See below) instead of solid, indicating Google considered them, at best, disputed territories, and at worst, not part of India.

My limited understanding of international politics notwithstanding, I know that most maps these days split Kashmir in 3, to indicate regions controlled by India, and the ones not controlled by India. Additionally, the state of Arunachal Pradesh has been a point of contention between India and China for the better part of the last century. So, my assumption was that Google Maps was reflecting the same.

However, after a brief interaction over Twitter, my findings are as follows: Google Maps displays the state of Arunachal Pradesh as disputed territory (image on left) when you access it from the US (and perhaps, the rest of the world) but when you access Google Maps from India, the state of Arunachal Pradesh is shown as an integral part of India (image on right).

This post is not intended to stir “patriotic fervor” between Indians, Pakistanis and the Chinese but rather to encourage a discussion on how big technology companies are starting to indulge in politics, at an international level. Please feel free to add to this discussion in the comments space below.

Your name is Khan?

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And are you a celebrity? Or for that matter even an average person somewhat considerate of unwarranted exposure of your body.

Conspiracy theorist – Alex Jones on his website prisonplanet.com has this to say:

Claims on behalf of authorities that naked body scanner images are immediately destroyed after passengers pass through new x-ray backscatter devices have been proven fraudulent after it was revealed that naked images of Indian film star Shahrukh Khan were printed out and circulated by airport staff at Heathrow in London.

The report is related to a yahoo news article here in which SRK appearing on a popular British television show, narrated how he signed his autograph on what apparently was pictures of his body scan at the airport. Commendable/Condemnable as his response may have been – this is bound to blow up into a controversy in India and elsewhere, and possibly brickbats for SRK from the random Indians, among 1.2 billion of us (hey – so many people, so many opinions, don’t blame us). And then, step into his shoes – what would you prefer to give up for a safe ride on the plane? Something you perceive as self-dignity  and privacy of yourself and your fellow travelers including your family – spouse, children, parents. In spite of objections due to privacy violation – the scanners as you can see are already in operational mode. And without a practical alternative solution in sight, controversies such as these might just make things more complicated for everyone – the travelers and the governments.

Tip: Before TOI or other papers pick this story up ‘Drudge Report’ was kind enough to highlight these articles with ‘bollywood in the buff’ headlines blaring in red. Let’s see the media game unfold in the next few days.


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This may soon be a reality!

Hebrew, Hindi, other scripts get Web address nod . Link

ICANN – Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the regulating authority for domain names and accreditation authority for website registrars, announced support to non-latin characters (Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew and Hindi) in web addresses and they could be a reality by middle of next year.

ICANN has also called this the ‘biggest change’  since the inception of the internet in its crudest form 40 years ago.

More info from ICANN here:


“The coming introduction of non-Latin characters represents the biggest technical change to the Internet since it was created four decades ago,” said ICANN chairman Peter Dengate Thrush. “Right now Internet address endings are limited to Latin characters – A to Z. But the Fast Track Process is the first step in bringing the 100,000 characters of the languages of the world online for domain names.”

ICANN’s Fast Track Process launches on 16 November 2009. It will allow nations and territories to apply for Internet extensions reflecting their name – and made up of characters from their national language. If the applications meet criteria that includes government and community support and a stability evaluation, the applicants will be approved to start accepting registrations.

Can’t help thinking how the translations of spellings and phonetics will cause confusion, for eg., is it ऊबरदेशी or ऊबरदेसी  or something totally different.

What about e-mail addresses? If I can be sidhu@ऊबरदेसी .com , can an American reader send an e-mail to me, or will there be isolation of heavily regional traffic driven websites?

It is indeed a big challenge to adapt to and technical possibilities opening up, apparently the biggest hurdle was security and measures have been put in place by ICANN and related bodies.

P.S: Non-English characters for the post created at http://www.quillpad.in/

Mera Chicken Tikka

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India’s top chefs have warned Scottish MPs to keep their hands off the rights to chicken tikka masala.


So here’s the story, Scottish MPs made an attempt to ‘patent’ the name Chicken Tikka Masala, claiming the dish was made in Glasgow, in 1970’s. They got a spicy reply back from Indian food historians who trashed the claim and suggested that the dish has been around for decades (some others claim centuries).

Wikipedia suggests, this (without a reference, though)

The literal meaning of tikka in Panjabi is “bits, pieces” (fron Sanskrit ṭikka, m., “Cake.” and is related to Panjabi ṭikkī f. “cutlet.” . The Punjabi version of the dish, however, is barbecued on red-hot coal and does not always contain boneless pieces.

I personally think the Scottish MP’s claim is ludicrous, and the original motive maybe different (15 min of chicken tikka fame?) But this reminds me of the moves to patent, Basmati by RiceTec Inc, with a purely commerical interest banking on the popularity of the name, Link.

What do readers think? What could be the motive for such a claim, anyone find it remotely plausible that we have been chomping up on Scottish food? Or maybe the Scots did make Chicken Tikka first, and we should try to patent scotch as a trademarked Indian item that no one else can lay claim to?

The fascinating journey of the Roma

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The Roma Gypsies may very well turn out to be the first Indian immigrants to the West.

And what a journey it has been.

Historians agree that the Roma’s origins lie in north-west India and that their journey towards Europe started between the 3rd and 7th Centuries AD – a massive migration prompted by timeless reasons: conflicts, instability and the seeking of a better life in big cities such as Tehran, Baghdad and, later on, Constantinople.

Consisting of largely manual laborers and entertainers, they moved to the Middle East and from there to Europe. Apparently even the language they speak to this day has traces of Sanskrit in it.

However, aside from their nifty origins and migration patterns, their history has been one of persecution. Even as India was mired in its own social issues, namely the caste system, the Roma with their customs and rituals derived from Hinduism were subject to similar treatment in the lands they adopted.

Maybe because they were carrying customs and memories connected to their Hindu gods, the Roma were regarded as heathens in Byzantium and were assimilated into a heretic sect: “the Untouchables” or Atsingani. This designation is the root of the words used for “Gypsy” in most European languages, such as the French “Tzigane” and the German “Zigeuner”.

During the Renaissance Era as Europe experienced a cultural awakening, the Roma experienced their first genocide in Europe. This persecution continued over the centuries and culminated in the Holocaust during World War II.

The persecutions culminated in the Holocaust, or Porajmos – “the Devouring” – as it is called in Romany. The Roma found themselves among the first victims of Nazi policies. They were sent to die in the gas vans of Chelmno, and were subjected to gruesome experiments in the extermination camps. Up to 500,000 Roma are believed to have been killed under fascist rule.

And so, it goes on to this day, albeit in a milder form.

Decades of communism and the recent admission of Eastern countries into the EU seem to have made little difference to their history of exclusion and poverty. Most Roma families live in small shacks with no electricity or running water, and international institutions calculate that Roma poverty rates are up to 10 times higher than those of the majority population where they live, while their lifespan is 10 or 15 years lower.

The Roma seem to have retained some of their Indian origins, in terms of the language they speak which supposedly is similar to Sanskrit. The BBC article compares the Roma to the Banjaras of Rajasthan and surrounding areas. Comparing the traditional costumes, it appears that the costumes of Roma women (left below) are closer to traditional Kashmiri women (right below) than Banjaras (center below). [BBC] (tip Sandeep via email)

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