Friday, November 28, 2008

Why do the honest cops die early ?

When the shit hits the fan,
some guys run...
and some guys stay.
Here's Charlie facin' the fire,
and there's George...
hidin' in big daddy's pocket.
And what are you doin' ?
You're gonna
reward George...
and destroy Charlie.- Scent of a Woman (1992)

When the dust has settled, and Mumbai is crammed back into those tin sardines that snake through its soul,the world will move onto obsessing over its next madness.

Nearly all will believe that you died in vain.Most shall forget your unspoken sacrifices. Some shall color your motives.

I shall not.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

On this path-breaking election day...

None of my comments can match the timeless beauty of this classic. Besides, it sums up my feelings very aptly. Congratulations, President Obama.

Times they are a-changin' - Bob Dylan

Come gather round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
Youll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin
Then you better start swimmin
Or youll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance wont come again
And dont speak too soon
For the wheels still in spin
And theres no tellin who
That its namin.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Dont stand in the doorway
Dont block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
Theres a battle outside
And it is ragin.
Itll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And dont criticize
What you cant understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin.
Please get out of the new one
If you cant lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

And the winner is…

Going by the aggressive campaigning, polls and “internal polls”, Nov 4 might end up spawning a lawyer’s utopia. Then again, it might well end 8 years of GOP rule with a deluge. Either way, until the race is finally over both candidates can have the satisfaction of being President-in-waiting.

However, this election has seen some big losers and winners already. Some of these are quite apparent, while in the case of others the sands have shifted more slowly. Also, there are strong parallels between these winners and similar ones back home in India. It is pertinent to study these shifts and draw inferences for the way our lives will change in the future. This study excludes potential winners, no matter how high their chances. Thus for instance, Sen. Biden who will become to be the master key in navigating Washington for Sen. Obama is not discussed.

And the undisputed winners of Nov 4 are…

1.The fourth estate
Almost like the Jedi, the fourth estate after wilting under the sustained onslaught of the last 8 years has struck back with a vengeance. Preferences have perhaps never come out this sharp, with channels vying to press home the advantage to the max. And the result- an OD of polls on almost every possible angle of attack, with nothing left to chance. The result of this polarization has serious consequences for the polity. How will the new President (whoever he is) manage the media? If he comes from a particular party, he would owe his success in no small measure to the media, and would almost end up having an additional advisor on his team, a voluble one at that. If the other man gets in, he would face the attacks of a media, which has lost its coveted prize. Either way, expect more muck your way.

2.The Late Rev. Martin Luther King
My first introduction to Rev. King was ironically through the last speech he had made –“I've been to the mountain top”. In the land of the Wild West, guns and Harleys I must confess to have been pleasantly surprised to learn of the non-violent ways that his movement employed to achieve real change. In many ways, the suffering of Dr. King and his people were similar to the suffering of my forefathers as they sought freedom from the British. Rev. King actively studied Gandhi and applied his principles. The Powells and Obamas of today owe their success to the spark lit by this noble soul. In doing this, they are now the light for all minorities across the USA that the country can get its divisive past behind it. India, the land that gave the world Dr. Ambedkar and Gandhi still waits for the emergence of an inspirational leader who can straddle caste, religion and class with elan.

3.Sarah Palin
Gov. Palin is perhaps the biggest winner of Nov 4. In 2 short months, she has moved from Sarah-who to Hockey-mom in chief. I don’t go by the polls that trash her, nor am I interested in the value of her wardrobe. Indian politicians routinely dress like the Maharajas& Maharanis of yore, even if their entire constituency is the most woe-begone part of India. She has established her credentials excellently within her party base, and will no doubt use this opportunity to improve her acceptance levels with the electorate. Of the 4 people involved in the race, it is her future which has a richest “Plan B” to fall back on. Perhaps the day might emerge where both the lead candidates are women! The Guilianis and Pawlentys might well sit up and take note of that day, if they have not already. And Mr. Baldwin, you too please.

4.The anti-Clintonites
The fall of the Clinton machine has been perhaps the least analyzed part of this marvelous election. The Clintons gave 8 of the most prosperous years in recent US history. In Sen. Clinton they offered a feisty lady who rallied her troops magnificently when the chips were down, and knew her constituents like the back of her hand –witness her superb re-election effort. With the background that was grass roots, a legacy of service, and a command of policy that her opponents could not match, her candidature should have been a shoo-in. Instead she was undone by the emergence of a rival power bloc which seized every opportunity to out-gun and ambush her march. Any fault, perceived or real was used to bring down a transformational figure. The result is the loss of political capital that the Clintons had truckloads of. The Democrats have no doubt benefited from the emergence of Sen Obama, perhaps the most charismatic candidate to reach out to the masses since Pres. Clinton. But they should also introspect on the loss of a candidate who could have given so much back to the country. Instead, they have the prospect of a President who may be beholden to a group which commands power behind the lines, and who might form rival camps to trip him from within.

But who knows where 4 years might bring ? Sen. Obama would do well to watch out for her.

The most subtle winner ? This is the party of Lincoln and Reagan that has re-defined American history since the time that men got together to sign the Declaration of Independence. 8 years are a speck of dust (an irritating speck at that) in the eye of this party. Who knows what would have been Pres. Bush’s legacy if 9/11 had not come visiting? But then, 9/11 and beyond did happen and the electorate has the right to respond to it. If anything else, this would be the perfect time to introspect and wait. The new league of Republican leaders will find this time perfect to grow and present viable alternatives to the Democrats. The US polity would only be richer for it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Battle Royale - Debate No.2

Inspired by Megan McArdle’s post on the first debate, I thought a live blogging session on the McCain –Obama debate would be a different idea.

I’m blogging just as the debate goes live. This debate will be the defining moment to judge both candidates, coming as it does after the bailout package and the continuing market meltdown. America is going to ask some tough questions, and I hope for a spirited debate.

I spent the first half hour wolfing down some Upma for breakfast (my cooking today!) and some piping hot Assam tea. So I’m just going to jot down my impressions on the candidates for the first half, and then move on to specific questions.Its



He’s appearing extremely professorial in his replies and quite childish if I might say so in his repartees. He does not thank the questioner, and actually walks away from them to talk to the rest of the crowd. Way too much statistics than is required. I guess he believes that Mc Cain will fight back harshly and is quite charged up to hit Mc Cain where it hurts. It’s embarrassing to see him ask Brokaw whether he can reply to Mc Cain’s barbs – almost like primary school.

And lastly, he seems so focused with his answering that he’s upsetting the moderator with his line of talking. And the moderator is giving it back by making him wait, and giving McCain the upper hand. Obama seems to believe he can win absolutely, and he’s quite cocky with his answers. There is a lot of talk, but are there any specifics?


Shrewd fighter turned Mr. Congeniality on this show. Of course there are a lot of selective quotations that he makes to attack Obama. And Obama is quick to point it out as in the case of nuclear energy track record, where he contrasts MC’s support for nuclear energy with the record that shows he did not vote for alternative energy. But Mc smartly gives barbs, by bringing the point to his angle by slipping in his position to an earlier question. So he does not sound like he’s robbing time – which he is.

He’s smart enough to know that the economy has left him very weak, but strangely he’s holding his own on economic issues. This should have been his Waterloo. It’s beginning to look like Stalingrad.

Q: Ability of the USA to act as peace maker, when the economy is down.

MC thanks the questioner by agreeing that strong military needs strong economy. He believes that American dream is still alive. Good linkage to his vast experience in foreign policy and military matter. Goes back to the record – Bosnia, Gulf War, Russia, surge. This seems to be a recurring theme – Go back to my record! (Corollary – Obama does not have one to talk about!). He highlights the short experience of O and talks about no time for on-the-job.

O does not thank the questioner. He moves into negative territory immediately with Iraq. I think he’s being quite grave in his responses – is he trying to show he’s one with the American mood, and refute the criticism during the bailout discussion that he was too detached? Quickly, he highlights with the strain on the budget. He’s blunt – no economic power, no military adventurism.

Follow up: What will your doctrine be?

O doctrine – We will respond for non- natl security issue. He goes back to the holocaust, Rwanda about the moral obligation question. Says we’ll consider acting. Waxes philosophical, in saying we cannot be everywhere, cruelty is everywhere. Highlights Darfur. His view: Provide logistical issues - @ little cost.

MC – says O will bring them back in defeat, I will with honor. Says we must prevent genocide. But favors interaction based on the ability to be a beneficial influence, says it requires a cool hand. Highlights Somalia – Black hawn down ( for the uninitiated) . He differentiates between peacekeeping and peace making in Somalia. Says he’s been in these issues all my life. Securing the life of my men will be top priority.

Q: Should we respect Pakistani sovereignty.

O thanks questioner. The diff situation in Pakistan is because of hitting Iraq and the distraction. Bin laden escaped and now they are hitting us. P is the central front on terror. Urges end to Iraq move to Afghanistan and put pressure. No more cuddling with the dictator. Encourage democracy. Expand non-mil aid, insist they go after them. If OBL is in sight, and Pak is not able to pull the trigger we will.

MC thanks questioner. Quotes Ted rosevolt – talk softly but carry a bit stick. Quotes O –“ I’ll attack Pakistan”. Questions the naiveté of talking aloud, and insists that it has resulted in public opinion moving away from USA in Pak. Conveniently ignores the fact that Bush signed the decree in July (O lets it go !) Talks about the afghan war- slips us – “We pushed back the Russians” – is it the first declaration of US support to the mujahid by an American politician?

Urges to get the support of the people and help them turn against the Taliban.

O talks about a follow-up, cutting into the schedule. This is becoming quite a pain actually. Mc is able to act the higher ground, and wins second follow-up once O talks. The result is that MC has the last word on everything! O tries to talk about similar rhetoric about NK. (But NK has never been a US ally, unlike Pakistan!)

(Aside – Tom Brokaw tries to restore order – O’s reply – “You are doing a good job Tom!” – quite condescending, reminds me of his “You are likable, Hillary” comment which led him to lose a primary (Was it Ohio or Penn State?))

MC’s response – “I am not going to telegraph my punches”! Good knockout attacks on O.

O talks about the afghan situation. Says will tell Karzai, you have to do better. He wants to have to have a democracy in Afghanistan. I don’t think he understands the Loya Jirga politics of the Afghans.

MC talks of his hero Petraeus in Afghanistan. Praises the surge and hits at Obama for still does not admitting to it. O lets it pass.

Q: Pressure on Russia:

MC: We are not having a cold war. But its behavior is outside of norms due of petro dollar. Hits out at Putin – talks about the KGB in his eyes and Russian stance in Georgia. “Watch Ukraine” – he says. Advocate their membership in NATO. He says again that negative behavior should attract penalties. Hopes this will modify behavior.

O: Russian resurgence is central issue. Will provide financial and “concrete” assistance – military? Mum on NATO membership. Says we should see around the corner – it comes back to MC’s experience! Talks about his note on South Ossetia. He makes the point that we have been reactive over 8 yrs, goes back to Iraq. He links Russia to oil spending.

Is Russia the evil empire ?

O: I think they engaged in evil behvr, have nationalist ideas.
MC: He makes a better, nuanced answer, and says it depends on our behvr. Yes- and it signals cold war. No – ignore behvr. (I think that’s a more realistic answer.)

Q:Israel – if Iran attacks Israel what will u do – War veteran

MC – Thanks the man for his service. Shakes his hand. He is emphatic in being unilateral in this scenario. Says R and Ch will be obstructive, goes to the pre-condition point of O and lambasts it. Says he will go with legal democracies. We can never allow a second holocaust.

O: Thanks the man for his service. We cannot allow them to get nuclear weapons as they will threaten the world. We will never take the war option off the table. Not give the UN veto option. Work diplomatically. Prevent them from importing gasoline – cost benefit analysis!

Final thoughts:

Obama is clearly somber here with contrasts his opportunities along with the current scenario today. Says we need change and he can provide it.

MC is a lot more optimistic in his views I feel here. Holds out the fact that the US can be innovative, and can go back to its earlier highs. Spoke of his bad-mortgage plan and says we can put the worst behind us. Ends with – “Times are tough, we need steady handed-ness.” (Look at my record and experience !)

First impressions:

I think both candidates gave it a great performance. Obama sounded more somber note, and wasted no time to go to the jugular MC was strangely chirpier, and went out of his way to be congenial. I reckon that must have got O to back off a little bit. It helped MC to get away from his economy Waterloo. The economy is clearly going to be an issue; MC said he would buy bad home mortgages in an effort to provide some kind of a new plan.
I found it interesting that Obama was unable to dislodge MC despite being on the higher ground today. Perhaps Obama believes the economy is going to do it for him?

On personality terms, MC sounds more likable while Obama appeared out of touch and was confident tending to condescending. On economic facts, O is superior primarily because MC was down. Foreign policy might not bring in the votes, given the US is focused on its own troubles.

Final Analysis:

In the short term MC will get a bump for sure, because he sounded a lot more confident. But if the economic problem drags on, people will forget MC’s optimism and elect Obama to power.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Bessie !

This morning saw me emerge from my kalaripayattu classes alongside Besant Nagar beach. Kalari has this magical effect of making me feel like a freshly squeezed lemon(the rind i.e)just after it’s over, but full of vim later on. Anyways at that time I wobbled lemon-like over to my bike.

So far, so ho-hum. But today was different. I beheld perhaps why Bessie is so famous with all us sambar-slurpers. A most beautiful spectacle unfolded in front of me. Huge rain clouds were heading towards the sea, sending the sundry walkers scurrying to avoid the incoming downpour. A gang of school kids were kicking away at a football taking care to avoid the few drunks sleeping off last night’s booze party. All this in an atmosphere of utmost peace, with no stud boys on noisy SUVs. I was hooked. I strode up to the promenade and got a seat.

The world may have done six merry-go-rounds of the sun since I last lashed out on the field, but it appears that football talk remains the same. I named the teams Da and Oatha(sorry,honest reporting here…) dividing the group based on who said more of which word. Cries like “Man on you!!!” (We are all boys when we say that, and never play the game when we become men…) along with “Oatha, pass the ball da” (which team dude?) got me super excited. Soon, with a few quick goals along the way both exhausted teams had the good sense to stop at 5-5. A group of fisherwomen strode briskly past me, with those huge loads on their heads screaming their heads off at their kids telling them to get home now. Just then behind me, I spied a chappie with a Tantra T-shirt and smart gym clothes. It looked like he was chucking change from both pockets before it hit me that this was his idea of a workout. Out of nowhere trundled a tramp with his pet monkey asking for some money. Kanjoos me loosened the purse strings. Must have been the weather.

In all this the above mentioned rain clouds revved up the motor and let loose thunder and a couple of sparks. Bessie quickly got the message and started to wind down. I turned to retreat and found that Tantra-man was doing something that looked like Sridevi’s dance moves from “Nagina”. Perhaps he was stretching his triceps. Suppressing a chortle I gunned the motor and sped away leaving these folks behind. As I passed one of the chic cafés lined up on the beachfront, I spied a couple at a table, with the guy cooing in the PYT’s ear as she tried to navigate the menu.

Bessie’s morning shift had just begun :)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Arise !

Another day,another attack on our way of life. What will tomorrow bring ? Hope or nonchalance ? Will we forget -again ?

I Am The People, The Mob
-A Poem by Carl Sandburg

I am the people--the mob--the crowd--the mass.
Do you know that all the great work of the world is done through me?
I am the workingman, the inventor,
the maker of the world's food and clothes.
I am the audience that witnesses history. The Napoleons come from me
and the Lincolns. They die.
And then I send forth more Napoleons and Lincolns.
I am the seed ground. I am a prairie that will stand for much plowing.
Terrible storms pass over me. I forget. The best of me is sucked out
and wasted. I forget. Everything but Death comes to me and makes
me work and give up what I have. And I forget.
Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few red drops for history
to remember. Then--I forget.
When I, the People, learn to remember, when I, the People, use the
lessons of yesterday and no longer forget who robbed me last year,
who played me for a fool--then there will be no speaker in all the
world say the name: "The People," with any fleck of a sneer in his
voice or any far-off smile of derision.

The mob--the crowd--the mass--will arrive then.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Emancipation of Eve

Men might tend to agree to the statement that women have it easy in life. Not only is it believed that expectations are lower here (the “paraya dhan”funda) but the widespread belief is that if a woman made it to the top, she either schemed, slept around, or somehow discarded her “duties” to her family.

Is this true? Well, from my personal life and work experience I’ve come across women from both ends of the spectrum, whether as peers or clients. I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with some of the most commonsensical and erudite people at work, and mostly such kind of people were women. But I also know of quite a few who have allegedly left no stone unturned in their quest for a “successful career/life”. So it’s pretty much a neutral stance. Ditto for men.

So why this Venus-Mars thing ? Actually, I think the reason why men label women such is quite simple. As Iago warned, it’s the “the green eyed monster that doth mock the meat it feeds on”. Jealousy.

If a bastion like management which for long has been a males-only club is stormed by the opposite sex, it’s perhaps only natural for the existing members to feel insecure. Add to it the fact that the average woman is believed to represent qualities that make her more sensitive and inclusive than the average guy. Plus she’s more likely to be sharper as she’s had to face a lot many nay-sayers in her life. Stir all of this together and you have a perfect recipe for a clash of the sexes.

The fault lies less with men than with the system that we have become slaves to. A corporate is measured by what it did last quarter and the CEO by share price growth alone. An inclusive corporate culture, is it? Does it spruce up the cash flows? The pecking order is dictated by whether you are wearing a Hermes tie or not, which special edition car you drive, the whiskies, the Cohibas you smoke etc. etc.

Society is the brain that runs this system. I am no great social reformer nor have any grudges about working towards monthly sales targets. But sometimes we should introspect about how we live our lives rather than just whether we lived them well. Petty jealousies get magnified into ego clashes in personal life. The obvious impact is on the productivity and motivation of an individual to perform on the job, notwithstanding office politics. There are no majority/minority partners here. Men and women should be treated at par in business and in personal life. Is it not true that when we play right that we play well too?

In my last term in B-school, I took a course called Gender and Leadership. Faff, scoffed my friends. Some wondered where a finance buff was headed. The increasing influx of women into corporates and the law of probability indicated that in my career I would definitely work alongside, lead or report to women. If I never learnt how to cast my prejudices aside and figure out what women really want (super-cliché here), I might perhaps fall into confrontation too. On a more personal front, given the grand scheme of things (I’m just yearning for the right post on this one ….) I might as well reconcile to the idea of a significant other (Mom, what’s cooking behind my back?). Hopefully, a more “enlightened” me will learn to keep my ego in check.

Equality, like charity, begins at home.

Friday, June 13, 2008


I should confess to loving my blog. Or rather, the act of writing it. Over a year and half I’ve been able to pour out my thoughts on a variety of issues that I think about and wished that most of my urban counterparts did too. It’s very interesting when somebody reads your blog for the first time. Akin to an expectant father waiting outside the OR, Hindi film style, (perhaps the connection is too dramatic, but you get the idea) you hope that they have a comment or idea which can take your thoughts forward.

Last evening, I found myself chatting with my dear friend R. R professes never to have had anything even remote to do with politics or read my blog, but stumbled on it through another dear friend (Bless you too, Z). R had however not made any comments but had quite a few thoughts to share.

R liked my blog of course but felt that it was too angry, too angsty. Well, considering that all around me I see basic values being jettisoned like New Year resolutions, I guess I can be pretty irritated about urban India’s steadfast refusal to have anything to with the problems of real India. We talked about this and that and said our byes.

But the thought still existed. Should not your emotions transition from despair to hope? The world has enough madmen as it is, does it need another angry blog? Cut to the point, what should I be doing from here?

I think R has a point. Let me move from shrilly pointing out problems to holding out ideas. From hand-wringing in general to cautious hand shaking. Talk less, work more. So from now on, I’ll perhaps really walk the talk.

Lest the reader start missing the fire and brimstone speeches, don’t count on me not slipping a fast punch!

Here’s to a new and (hopefully) improved me.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Vignettes from Wimpistan

Wimpistan is firmly amongst us. As I write this I’m watching the Big Fight that’s discussing the latest media pet “story” – the horrific double murder of Aarushi Talwar and Hemraj. To be specific, random individuals like you and me, “experts” summoned to this grand studio where pet theories and counter arguments freely handed out.

Let me show some respect to the dead and not stain my blog with my views. To be specific, I have none. I shall only go back to my initial posts here. I had spoken of 4 pillars of respect. Those I want to talk about today are:
1. Respect for the rights of the individual
2. Respect for rule of law
3. Respect for women

A measure of society is gauged by its response to its worst fears. We then see how low it is willing to stoop, how lofty are its pronouncements and how calibrated its response to an issue. More importantly, we see the metrics by which it measures success, critiques failings and gauges its progress.

When, in the case of the Aarushi case we let our faculties adrift and instead chose the easy wrong over the more difficult right not only do we do injustice to the memory of a child who is no longer able to defend her good name, we also create an unholy precedent for the future.

Shall every incident now be judged by the media? Will every investigation be so shoddy and vindictive? What came of the respect for the due process of law and of the individual? Are they subservient to 30 seconds of TV fame? And what of things more important for this nation?

In all this media attention, we’ve quietly ignored issues like the dismal state of Indian agriculture. In a country which boasts of super-smart IITians and MBAs, it is inconceivable that farmers consider suicide an honorable option. Unfortunately, agriculture does not sound sexier than an extra-marital affair, and so we languish.

These days what with time on my hands, I’ve been reading quite a bit. Most pertinent here is the source of Kamala Subramaniam’s book. Sage Vysaga, the author of the Mahabharata sees the incoming downfall of man in the Kali Yuga. Sage Narada visits him at this time and suggests that the only way for man to attain liberation from the horrors that will visit him in his life is to read the stories of the Lord’s incarnation.

This is the genesis of the Srimad Bhagavatam. Given the state of affairs, I think I’ll read faster. Till then, sileo in pacis,Aarushi and Hemraj.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

What the F!

This brief break amidst an education and a job has had quite an effect on me. Apart from the mundane activities which characterize the existence of every individual on this planet (and hence not being repeated here) I have been up to no better good. The only salutary impact has been that I have flipped a few more pages than usual and I’ve been seeing a lot of shows of George Carlin.

Now who’s this? George is in my humble (and irrelevant) opinion an amazing artiste who uses comedy to harangue the petty minds and activities which somehow surround us and take much of our time, effort and worst of all money. His expletive-rich shows have had me laughing my guts out at his irreverence and sincerity.

So, today I’ll be noting my top 4 (why 5 always?) pet peeves, at this point of time. If you like to read on, do. Else, close this window.

4. Gazettes and beyond
What is it about official procedure which makes sense and yet does not make sense? Why for instance should the Connemara Library in Chennai require your membership application to be signed by a Gazetted officer? This presumes that every applicant knows one such officer who can vouchsafe for him/her. One can understand a vetting procedure in issuing passports, but a government library? What’s the intention? Prevent theft? So why not have a better system to prevent it? Isn’t this just a waste of my time?

3. C*#p about “Youngistan”
What the F! This is perhaps one of the most bull-s*&%%y marketing ploys I’ve ever encountered. The idea that there is a world for youth, into which you have entry only if you happen to drink a particular brand of cola and watch an insane program on a gone-to-the-dogs music channel( more on this channel coming up) is pure bull. I think it’s an insult to the youth of today by STPing (MBA lingo- figure it out) and making consumer zombies of them.
To add insult to injury, I am subject to an irritating advertisement with a storyline weaker than the government of today. It features an as-yet to provide a hit male Johnny with a one-hit wonder diva and a bunch of extras doubling up as college students. Do me a favor and pull the plug on this, Marketing Honcho!

2. IPL
Oh come on! It’s not like we were facing a shortage of insane regionalism, sensationalism, crass consumerism and superstars to gawk at that we need these torture session.
I don’t quite understand why anybody with at least a pea-brain watches this. The players are the same prima donnas, it’s the same depressing game and there is more action off the field than on it as usual. The attraction for the advertisers is the probability that they can pander to our consumerist tastes through a new channel now. For the owners, who strut around in their Pradas and Tag Huers it’s yet another way to satisfy their overweight egos and (hopefully) milk Mother cricket. The players of course got bid for over-hyped capabilities than anything else. Proof of this is in some of the high fliers having much reduced egos these days. Perhaps Mumbai should restrict itself to the Salsa…

1. Pseudo-reality shows
If there was every an award for the most warped, most f*&^%d up, most hedonistic act ever on the telly, this would be it. What kind of a depraved executive producer would ever associate with this rubbish? These claim to create some kind of heroes amongst teens. But the reality show is just a cover-up for perpetuating a “winner-takes-all” culture amongst the youth who are miserable enough to watch this crap regularly. And this is audition is managed by jerks that are supposedly qualified, or are ageing DJs in front of the camera.
I happened to view an audition for this. The dope had his self-respect rubbished at almost every stage of the way. And what was his answer for the why-you question? “Because I will do whatever it takes, I play mind games very well and am a failure in whatever I’ve done, this is a springboard for me” Or another show, where a girl asks people who are voting on her future to rise above the “Delhi-Bombay” fight. With a DJ who couldn’t speak proper Hindi even if you put a .45 to her head.
This brings me to the end of this special George-Carlin wannabe show. Let me end by expressing my deepest sympathies to those who have had the misfortune of watching Tashan! (Not me, I wouldn’t go near a movie that has the lead actors donning blonde wigs and doing insane dance steps with a hundred extras!)

PS: Yea, I should probably stop watching TV but without it this blog would not exist!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Flowers of the Gulmohar

Flowers of the gulmohar,
are shed at long last.
Blood red, still so beautiful,
now etched into the past.

For one year they danced and sang
and brought merriness all around.
Now they lie yonder,
and adorn the holy ground.

The wind shall lift them now,
and hurl them into the sky.
Come hither! Go thither!
pleasing to the eye.

Spring will soon blossom,
and new buds will burst.
They will be beautiful too,
and that you can trust.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Ambassador Mulford comes calling...

Amongst the best experiences at the ISB ("takeaways" - in MBAspeak)is this unique ability to interact with thought leaders. And I really mean leaders. In this last year, I've met Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, shook hands with Mr. Digvijay Singh and lunched with the Home Minister. What would be the probability that I would have similar opportunities if I was working as before ? Zilch.

These experiences were capped by an unique opportunity to interact with His Excellency Mr. David C Mulford, the US Ambassador to India. It was wonderful and exciting to be in the same room with the Ambassador of the most powerful country on earth today. And true to form, it was a very interesting insight into the thoughts of some of the most influential people of the day.

I shall endeavor to put into this post some of the views expressed by the Ambassador as also cover the interactive discussion which followed it. I've faithfully recorded on paper much of his speech, but any errors or ommissions are all on me.But I do clean my ears regularly, so I dont think this should be much of an issue ! Also, I would not be expressing specific comments on this post. I leave it to the reader to form his/her own perceptions.

The Ambassador, in his opening remarks referred to the increasing depth of the Indo-US relationship. He spoke of it being broad-based in its reach, and counted as many as 22 different agencies which work with the Indian government today. He noted that there is a move from govt-to-govt interaction into the private sphere and hoped that this would increase. He believed that there was genuine reform going on, albeit slowly and surely, although privatization of national assets was yet to happen.

On commercial agreements, he focussed on the Open Skies policy and noted the expansion in trade due to this legislation. However, he hoped that there would be aggressive liberalization of financial services and expressed frustration with a lack of reforms and the subsidies.

He believed that as future business leaders we need to focus on Energy,Infrastructure and the Restructuring of the Indian rural economy. He mentioned that the civilian nuclear deal was the energy thrust and that enough has been mentioned on Infrastructure. Commenting on the last issues, he spoke of the tendency for coalitions, and that much of the rural economy was locked in a political vise, with no appetite for land reform. He spoke of rental and contract farming as possible options here. He believed that invigorating the rural economy was a surefire way to ensure that incumbent governments can get "30 years in office". As the Government was unequipped to the task, he opined that private participation in the rural sector would be useful. He drew paralells with the Maoist experience in Nepal and the Naxalite movement, and mentioned that reviving the rural economy was paramount to prevent a similar slide in India.

On US issues, he indicated declining economic activity in the US and spoke of emerging nations such as China and India which would have an increasingly important role to play in global economic affairs. He spoke of how the world at large would have to incorporate these realities and bring these countries to the negotiating table as equals. He was concerned that the US in general has perhaps still not understood the nature of the new world, and was concerned with some of the US-China rhetoric. Thus he believed that there needed to be a new order, and not just the G-7,and spoke of fundamental policy changes over time to reflect these realities.

At this point, he concluded his remarks and threw the floor open to questions. P began with a well reasoned question as to why the Kyoto protocol has not been signed upon by the US ? He replied by stating that first, not all signatories have adhered to the the Protocol. Secondly, he said if global warming was taking place, the US would definitely take the lead. Lastly, he was critical of the capping requirement and believed it to be a form of punishment, which was why the US did not sign.

Prof. R spoke of the rural economy views and asked whether fresh investment into the rural economy would not spur inflation, which was a key lookout for the govt.? The Ambassador quickly responded by pointing out that he was speaking in general terms and not in the current context. He mentioned that there was no project financing culture, and believed that the capital/bond markets can be developed atleast for domestic participation. That way, the wealth of India can be harnessed for the rural good. Here,he commented on the World Bank which he characterized as slow, inefficient and bureacratic.

ATP asked for his comments on the low level of Indo-US trade versus Sino-US trade. He rightly highlighted on the time gap in both trade relations and highlighted the differences in both countries, especially mentioning the presence of a confident Indian private sector, a different kind of production base, and different policies on currency.

H queried as to the negative comments on outsourcing heard in US politics of late. The Ambassador was confident that such comments, heard earlier in Senator Kerry's campaign would definitely die down, but mentioned that if the next President was "beholden" to a state like Ohio, which blames NAFTA, he was not so sure.

Yours truly popped the final question for the day.I began by aggreeing with him on his views on the new world order, but pointed out as to why this view was not seen in context of India's efforts to win a Security Council seat ? I also asked his view on our chances for the seat in future.

He went "Ummm..." and began by saying that these ties have a long way to go. He drew in the historical context of Indo-USSR ties, and mentioned that while there are common values, there are different interests. While he believed we are now friends, and are signing up deals, in his view India could serve a better role with economic power rather than just political power. He spoke of a "dichotomy" and expressed a view that our foreign service at the UN did not provide co-operation to the US at the UN. Pulling out statistics, he mentioned that India has supported the US only 22%of the time, and only 11% on important issues. In such a scenario, he mentioned that any US president supporting us on the seat had some explaining to do to the American public. He struck an optimistic note and ended the discussion.

I'd just like to say that I came away impressed by the forceful ability of the Ambassador to put forth his views. And not to mention, the obvious high from getting one of the most powerful individuals in India to go "Ummm..." to my questioning !

Howzzat !

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Carry On, Mr Buffett !

I'm back !

Yes, after weeks of being busy doing nothing in general, i've succummed to the lure of my blog. Interestingly my life seems to resemble the world of Sherlock Holmes - weeks of languor, followed by brief spells of frenetic activity !

Fruity opening over, lets cut to the chase, shall we ? There was this most amusing article I read a few days back at the Mess Hall. It appeared in the ET (Page 11, 6th March, '08)with the title- "Sage of Omaha losing followers among Indian Fund Managers".

The article talks of how some of the pithy Buffett comments which are enjoyed by millions don't cut much ice with our desi managers. Particulary his quote on competitive advantage -" A truly great business must have an enduring moat that protects excellent returns on invested capital" was lampooned as " stating the obvious".

The managers qouted spoke of how one needs to be "completely flexible, like an amoeba" and that "investment philosophy can't be written on a piece of paper". It also talks of HUL as an ideal example that has failed to measure up to return expectations despite meeting Buffett's "obvious" comments.

Well, arguing Buffett's case is simple.During the 32 years of Berkshire Hathaway, an investment in 1965 has grown at a compound growth of 21.1% versus 10.8 % at the S&P500. Berkshire is now a behemoth straddling different industries, combining scale and gargantuan size. On the PetroChina sale, Berkshire paid the IRS a tax of $1.2Bn-enough to fund all expenses of the US government for 4 hours.. And finally, he has not been fully quoted on this one. He talks of an enduring moat. But he follows it up with the hope that the moat expands, has some sharks swimming in it (read entry barriers)and a Duke (read CEO) who managers the fort well.

All this talk has not been at the cost of ethical flirting. Mr. Buffett is well known for his principles and the freedom that he gives to his managers to run the business. Simply put, a man who know what he is best at and gives it his all.

At $62Bn in networth, Mr. Buffett stands as the richest individual on earth, and holds a track record that has withstood the incurable emotional problems of the global markets. Most fund managers in India have simply benefited from the high tides of the last 5 years. Now that the tide is ebbing, we shall soon know who has been swimming naked.

Carry on, Mr. Buffett !

Thursday, February 7, 2008

A haiku for The Week to come ...

Seven times- the sun rises
Hope enters hearts,
there will be light.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Veni, Vidi, Vici - This is the ISB !

You guessed it right- I'm finally opening my account for this year and its about the ISB ! Excited-yes.Thrilled-definitely.Humbled-surely.Determined-to succeed!

The two pics above say it all. Photo 1 shows the tridev - academia (Prof Jagmohan Raju!),Industry (current Treasury Secretary Mr. Hank Paulson, then heading Goldman Sachs)and a visionary(Mr Rajat Gupta)as they contemplated the future over a model of a fledging ISB. Cut to Photo 2 our very own Associate Dean Mr. Rangnekar breaking the good news to the ISB community at the Atrium!

I heard the news at 6 30AM,when M braked his car an inch from my kneecap while I was sweating it out on a jog(ok,I was sauntering...). Logging on campus mail brought a whole new meaning to the word thrilled ! Its a great feeling to know that the FT, one of the finest financial dailies has declared us at Rank 20 amongst the global B-Schools!

Kudos must go definitely to the group of visionaries who dared to dream and then delivered flawlessly to create the institution that is the ISB! It is the culmination of the dreams of academia,industry and the AP government of the day which displayed tremendous foresight in bagging the institute. Kudos to you too Mr. Naidu !

The FT rankings have been drawn out of a set of considered factors,including the originality of research ideas. It is heartening to see the contributions by committed faculty being recognized on a global platform. But more importantly, its the alums who have kept the flag flying high and done much to spread the good word around. Whether its for "strategic advice" on placements, the fears of bidding to general campus gossip our folks have been around always. Thanks guys !

Lest I let this post to sound like a rambling advertisement, let me just paraphrase what Associate Dean Mr. Ajit Rangnekar had to say -" Accept it with dignity,humility,sensitivity".Guess that sums up the general feeling.

Oh and we've been promised a big party !!! N i'm sure is working out the details.Knowing her well, I'm sure this one is going to be talked about for a long time !

Here's the link !!!

Cheerio !