Sunday, 16 December 2007

Mousetrap - 129

Where were you when the lights went out?
Mumbai Unplug
As I write this, it is many hours to go before Mumbai Unplug’s designated ‘batti bandh’ time, so I have no idea how successful it was. I hope it went well, because it makes me optimistic: political parties, rival media houses and businesses have put aside their differences and supported this; huge numbers of people care enough for our environment to make this gesture; and not least, because it reassures us that our future is in good hands (the four people who started this snowball rolling are striplings in their twenties). I’m extra delighted because this idea also demonstrates the power of networking and online collaboration. But that aside, why am I pointing you to the site again (this column featured it on October 21st), and that too after the event? For one, in October, the site was a mess, and I was uncharitable in my review. It has since spruced up quite a bit, and there’s now information there that has value beyond the 15th December, like how you can continue, in simple ways, to save precious resources. Secondly, this column runs in all editions of this paper. If it helps the Batti Bandh boys to inspire similar efforts elsewhere, I would be delighted.

Softer voices
Links are currency in the blog world. Your chances of being read increase once other bloggers link to you. Preferably A-Listers. Who, alas, tend to link most to other A-Listers. Blogbharti, when it started up, promised to bring a wider selection of blogs to the fore, by seeking out and linking to less well-known blogs. I’m somewhat dubious—the reason why popular bloggers are popular and others are not, is because, well, the stars are just darn good at what they do—but there’s usually enough quality to keep one reading. The added attraction just now is a series of guest posts on, as one of the blog’s founders told me via email, ‘a diverse range of topics.’ How diverse? Alternative films, race and caste, Indian English literature, dalit consciousness, Hindutva, primary education, Sufi poetry, and much more. See to get the whole lot as the series unfolds. The argumentative Indian is alive, well, and online.

Free, free at (hic) lasth!
Free Beer
Come back here, young man, let me explain. Richard Stallman, open-source guru, explaining the Free Software concept, said ‘“Free software” is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer.”’ Then, a group of students in Copenhagen decided to ‘see what happens when an open-source structure is applied to a universally known product.’ Being students, and wags to boot, they chose, well, beer. Their site has the story. And the recipe! Which, as per open-source philosophy, you can use and adapt, provided you make your adapted recipe available under the same conditions. Um. Now what’s our Government’s position on this? Am I going to get pulled up for assisting unlicensed alcohol distillation?

Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to for past columns, and to comment, or mail The writer blogs at

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 16th December 2007.

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