Saturday, July 09, 2016

On Federer

"He should retire.. Why doesn't he retire??"

That's pretty much where conversations lead to these days.. Whether it's continuous beatings at the hands of the latest sheriff in town, or injuries.. Or just the guy has won so much that he doesn't need it any more..

But essentially the entire conversation leads to the topic of the guy's retirement.

For a long time, I too was of the same opinion.. All the rooting for the guy, the incessant viewing of the latest score - all the apps, all the websites, all the television channels (now in HD).. and all I've had to show for it since for pretty much the last 6 years is disappointment..

So, essentially my response to the disappointment is to ask him to stop it.. To retire, because I know I cannot take it any more.. I know in my heart of hearts that he will have to beat 7 guys essentially 5-8 years younger than him to win another Grand Slam..

And I have lived long enough to know that it's not happening, or rather if it DOES happen, it will take a miracle of Leicester City proportions..

But then Cilic happened.

And everything came rushing back.. The same frustrations, ecstasies, reliefs.

And came the epiphany.. It's an individual game, no one is forcing anyone to play.. He's still good enough to be 3 in the world.. If I cannot handle the disappointment, it's not anyone else's problem.. Certainly not his.. Especially if he's playing as if he's having so much fun..

Keep on playing sir..

It's not you, it's me.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The F- word

Every so often, it becomes important to sit down and question. And so, the Question of the Day, seems to be something on the lines of –

“Does anyone, anyone at all, know what the hell is going on?”

It’s all nice and easy to say that X is anti-national, or Y is autocratic or whatever. But whatever it is that you are saying, with so much certainty and sense of finality, it implies you are very well aware of the repercussions of what you say, and with the knowledge of this, you stand by what you say.

Even if all you have done, is actually pressed on that WhatsApp message, copied that message and then touched that right arrow and broadcast it to the 256 contacts on your phone, who then have forwarded to 256 more such blow-hards.

You still stand by what you say. Or forward. 

But then, that implicitly assumes you know what is going on.

What if you don’t? What if you’re being played? 

This thought keeps coming to me, when I see people express their anger on social media. Eminently normal people, people who I meet and see every once in a while, some close, some not so, all evidently have a humongous reservoir of anger deep inside, where they express what’s deep inside. They call people names, they advocate murder, support lynching on the foundation of whataboutery, call for armed revolt, and what not. Many of these do this, even though, their “side” is supposedly the responsible one.

Do these people have any clue to what they’re saying?

And then people like this, vote for people like them, who then land up in the corridors of power.

Either completely clueless, or extremely cognizant, of the power they wield.


The worst part is, I don’t know which of the two, is the scarier scenario. 

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. 
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)  
 

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Life in the age of Razzle Dazzle

It's amazing.. Simply amazing!!! 

How is it that no matter what I try, I never have time to do anything that I want?? So many things, often meaningless, mundane bull crap, that occupy my mind, that need my immediate attention, and the day just speeds by as if it's Dash on steroids.. 

You'd think there's been some technological miracle that has made a day last only 19 hours!!!

The funny thing is that I hear so many people, who keep saying this to me about their own lives. 

If only there was some free time for me to just concentrate!! 

So then I sat this morning, and tried to figure out what the problem was.. And it hit me that there indeed has been a technological miracle.. One that has been in my hands for the longest time.. 

The frikkin' smartphone!!

Earlier, there used to be some time to switch off. Some "down time" which allowed the brain to relax a bit. Now, with the addiction of the smartphone and the gadgetry and apps and the non-stop blast of information coming at me, the brain is consistently occupied with no refresh mode.. 

The problem is not the down-time, or lack thereof.. Rather it's more to do with the fact that the feeling of being rushed into things is not something that I am very fond of. It makes me take short cuts, where I shouldn't. It forces me to speed through things which I should spend more time thinking about. 

Like reading the headlines of the newspaper, most information thrown at me hardly provides any details of what actually is going on. 


The rush to the next bling, is the closest I have come to an addiction.. 

The problem with this, is that with incomplete information, it is always possible that my thoughts and decisions are half-baked and not well thought through.. I might be taking the easy way out, instead of doing what is right.

In short my brain is more System 1, rather than System 2.. The sad part is, it's quite possible that I am not the only one.. 

A state of affairs where Donald Trump can be looked at as a possible Leader of the Free World, suggests that I am definitely not the only one obsessed with the next glitter in town. One where the simple promise of "Acche Din" has a greater connect than detailed policy specifics, and where a prestigious military event needs the likes of Akshay Kumar and Kangna Ranaut as "brand ambassadors"  is not the one I was told that I would be growing up in. 

Is it possible, that all the nonsense spewing in the world, is basically a side-effect of our own busy schedules and inability to find the time to think?? 

I think he knows what Rome is. Rome is the mob. Conjure magic for them and they'll be distracted. Take away their freedom and still they'll roar. The beating heart of Rome is not the marble of the senate, it's the sand of the coliseum. He'll bring them death - and they will love him for it 
~Gladiator 


(Full disclosure: Even as I type this, I have Apple Music streaming on my phone) 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Brain damage..

The lunatic is on the grass
The lunatic is on the grass
Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs
Got to keep the loonies on the path

It never was this way.. That's what everyone seems to say.. You never got killed for what lay in your fridge.. I don't know if that was ever the case.. It have heard of weird stuff happening for a long, really long time... Maybe people are getting killed for the food in the fridge all along.. It just wasn't being reported maybe.. Who knows?? Maybe the liberal media is playing up things.. Or maybe the entire shenanigans are a result of a lot of people finding their voice in the new majority that they have gotten.. The anonymity that being in a mob allows them, makes them do things that would never dream of doing if they had to do it all by themselves.. Maybe beef, is a symptom of a wider malaise..


Who knows??

Who cares??

The lunatic is in the hall
The lunatics are in my hall
The paper holds their folded faces to the floor
And every day the paper boy brings more

It's not as if bad news wasn't flowing through in previous governments.. Bad things kept happening.. The damned set was corrupt, that's what they all said.. We got rid of them, got promised good, nay great days.. But the bloody bad news keeps coming unabated.. One weirder than the others.. Every single one of them, where people unwilling to take individual responsibility for their actions, acting in a group.. The PM says it's not his fault.. What could he do in Delhi, if a dude, hitherto unknown, got lynched in Himachal, or wherever.. Writers were getting bumped off for the longest time.. We didn't say anything then, did we?? So why now, you biased so-and-so.. 

But it's not about finding fault, is it?? It is about accepting the fact that this has happened, and being ashamed that something like this has happened on my watch.. It doesn't matter a whit, if it had happened before.. We didn't like it that the other lot took zero responsibility for the shit that hit the fan on their watch.. We hoped that you would be different.. But alas, you're no different than the other bunch.. 



And if the dam breaks open many years too soon
And if there is no room upon the hill
And if your head explodes with dark forbodings too
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon
The lunatic is in my head
The lunatic is in my head

Maybe it's not really them.. Maybe it's me.. Maybe it's me that's driving down the wrong side of the road, blaming everyone for coming in what is, essentially, a one way street.. Maybe it's all in my head.. Maybe I'm the wrong guy in this bunch.. 

Maybe

Just, may be..


You raise the blade, you make the change
You re-arrange me 'till I'm sane
You lock the door
And throw away the key
There's someone in my head but it's not me.

So then, what should we do?? What should we do to all these voices in my head that keep telling me to call their bluff?? What should we do to the tremendous urge to tell everyone to just shut up, and not outrage, since there really is nothing to outrage about?? What should be done to the feeling to sit them down and explain to them the simple statistical fact that when you are 78% of the country, there is no bloody way in this universe that you can be outnumbered by someone that is only 13% .. Even if we live in Kalyug, these are actually the most peaceful and prosperous days that humankind has since the Big Bang.. 

But is the ONLY way to drown outrage, MORE outrage??


And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear
You shout and no one seems to hear
And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon

~ Brain Damage
By Pink Floyd

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Lazy thoughts

It's not very often that I have not had a computer to type out a quick blog. But over the last three odd months, I've refrained from writing something. That's because, we got rid our old faithful desktop and are yet to replenish our computing stocks with some worthy equivalent. As a rule, I do not use my work laptop for any of the blogging activity, in order to keep some level of propriety by not mixing work and pleasure. 

That being said, it's not like the thought process has stopped in the intervening period. So, I'm trying a new method to post something. Something that I ought to have done long , long ago.. Use the iPad to blog about the world..

It's a grand Sunday afternoon, with the Ganpati immersion processions enforcing a kind of house arrest. The kids are playing and studying (in some combination thereof) and it's basically a lazy day. Just the kind of Sunday I normally have in mind.

Wonder why I never thought of this writing via the iPad thing before??

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Killing the Golden Goose..

Overdoing something is such a common human tendency that Aesop was compelled to write a fable about it..

However, when it comes to India, Indians and Indian politicians in particular, there is an affinity of a special kind..

The immediate incident that comes to mind is the news report recently that Engineering college seats in Maharashtra are only 2/3rds occupied.. Out of about 157,000 seats in 365 engineering colleges, only 107,000 seats will likely be used up this year..

Read that again.. 365 engineering colleges.. in Maharashtra alone..

Over a 20 year period, this number has gone up 3 fold, with the number of seats increasing 4-fold.. Also, there's really no substantial increase in the number of government colleges, it's only fair to assume that this increase is solely fueled by private institutes mushrooming up in every nook and cranny of the state.. Every single money bag, either a politician or with political connections, worth his / her salt has an educational institute - mostly engineering and medical colleges - instituted in the name of their father, their son and the holy spirit. The resultant supply overshoots demand - remember population growth rate and economic growth rate have not kept pace with the increase - and we have ghost classes

A normal economist would call this a classic demand supply mismatch and would probably wait for the supply curve to correct itself to meet the demand or whatever.. But when there's an Indian money bag involved, rational economics can go for a toss. A lot of these "institutes" are likely the avenue for churning funny money into legal tender.. So, the promoter, really doesn't see the need to wind up - since the actual need for this college is being met anyway.. All you are left with, is engineering students, brought up on a rote learning system, with the sole objective to pass 4 years of undergraduate school, get placed in a "Cogni" type body shop, 2 years to return a positive ROI on the engineering fees and then an MBA - Rinse, Repeat.. see above.

It's not just Engineering colleges.. it's everywhere.. Kindergarten / Day Care.. MBA / Medical schools.. Tuition classes.. from KG to PG..

All to make a quick buck.. and everyone happy... Unfortunately, unlike the famous Warren Buffett quote, there's really no sign of the tide going out anytime soon.. 

This is not a post with a solution in mind.. It's probably a good idea to have an engineering body to certify the engineering skills of individuals - kinda like the Chartered Accountancy thing - for the engineering degree to mean something. But not knowing enough about who and what can certify engineers, it's not right for me to comment.Plus, what all can you regulate?

It's just something that's bothering me, that's all..

My old English teacher once told me that Fools rush in, where the angels are fearing to tread, but would you rather be a rich fool or a middle class angel?? 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Blood, sweat, but no tears - a Father's Day post..

They say every boy's role model is his father, and I have been no exception..

From the walk, to the hairstyle and the voice tone, not to mention the looks, the love for English music, the ability to sit in front of a computer endlessly, the natural tendency to watch TV lying down, (I could go on and on) I have consciously or sub-consciously copied my dad. Well, everything except the smoking habit - that my brother has picked up..

As I sit here and try to refresh my memories from 36 years, so many instances stick out on how my dad was way ahead of his times.. Every now and then, I meet women who relinquish their career choices to satisfy those of their husbands, and I think how - in 1987, no less - my mother went to Germany for 2 years on her own for her Ph.D work, with the full support of her husband.. He took care of us, as a "single" parent, not just for those 2 years but even beyond that, since my mom worked daily in Mumbai, especially the 6 months in a year, when my grand parents were away in Delhi, he ran the show all by himself..He ran his own business, but he would be there for every school event, every teacher meeting, every sick note, and every breakfast..

Once in a while, when I fret about how doing a job is pointless and how I should start something of my own, but really don't have the balls to do so, I am simply amazed how he managed his little business, from scratch to a respectable level, give it his blood and sweat and tears, only to see it crumble one fine day.

No sweat.. No excuses.. Just dust yourself up and do your job.. ..

However, like most "men" he's not very comfortable with emotions.. It's something you just don't do - I am no exception.. It's probably how generations of men have been raised.. Keep calm and carry on.. Do your job, and don't worry about frivolity like emotions and sentiment..

No wonder, the hero of this post - my dad, would probably think of Father's Day as a colossal waste, therefore potentially rendering this post as a waste too.

At least that's what he'll say publicly.. Deep inside, I think, he loves the attention :) 

Happy Father's Day, Papa!!! I hope I can be half the dad that you've been to us..

  

Saturday, June 20, 2015

10 Questions..

So..

  1. Are you going to participate in the International Yoga Day?? 
  2. If you are, would you be doing it as to fulfill your fitness routine, your religious beliefs or out of patriotism? 
  3. If it is out of your fitness routine, are you doing it regularly or just tomorrow? 
  4. If it is not part of your regular fitness routine, why are you doing it tomorrow? Just for kicks or to keep up with the Joshis?? 
  5. If you are going to do this as part of your regular fitness routine, do you normally exercise on Sundays? 
  6. If you are doing it out of your religious beliefs, what about yoga is religious? 
  7. If you are not doing it out of some weird patriotic belief that by doing this, you reinforce your patriotic duty now that the Indian Government has successfully lobbied the United Nations to make June 21, International Yoga Day, will you be engaging in this next year, when International Yoga Day will be on a boring Tuesday?? 
  8. If not, is it important to you that you be part of a Government sponsored mass PT event that makes it to the Guinness Book? 
  9. If you are going to do it anyway, for a reason not mentioned above, will you still be taking part if someone called it the Indian version of North Korean calisthenics?
  10. Finally, if all this is purely symbolic, and really nothing is going to be gained out of this entire "exercise", why are you wasting a bloody Sunday??? 


Friday, June 19, 2015

A Blank Canvas

"Where were you, when the pages were blank??" - Paul Butterworth

The blank page - or screen, in this case - when I am sitting to write, can be very overwhelming. While the computer loads the screen (I have a really, really old computer, mind you) the wait can be quite excruciating.. Not quite sitting in the dentist's chair, but it is extremely daunting to stare at the screen as it loads..

In that one moment, whatever that I had thought of writing goes off poof... Like Baital..  

The challenge therefore, lies in overcoming this blank slate. 

The easiest way to overcome this stasis is to write something, anything, as it comes to mind.. 

Bhimsen Joshi on the playlist, and a cloudy, typically Puneri monsoon morning is definitely a big help too.. 

May not quite be 300 words as promised, but any writing is good.. 

Releasing that vulnerability is essential, especially on the 4th day "sober" :)

If I can fill the blank canvas, with no inspiration, then on better days, I can be more creative.. 

At least that's the hope..  


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Dear BJP..

There exists a truism in life, "Never argue with idiots, they will bring you down to their level and then beat you with experience".. For the longest time, I believed our relationship being one such, and therefore never bothered interacting 

Yet, it never hurts to engage with people, idiots or otherwise, especially if - as in our case - we have to make peace for the next 4 years, and very likely more. It is important to explain where we stand, and what our misgivings and misunderstandings might be, and to try the very best to give it the best shot.. 

This, therefore, is the beginning of the effort. This ought to be a regular exchange, and hopefully not one sided.. 

You see, I have historically been accused of being a Congress supporter, an unfair (and to use a recent Jaitley term, baseless,) accusation. The Congress has historically made a mockery of the potential of this country, indulging in cynical symbolism. They have succeeded in doing this, because thus far, there was no voice to point this out. 

And I was so hoping, against hope, that yours would be that voice.

The reason I say this, was because your past interactions with me have not really been very inspiring.. You see, I am not the type who gets patriotic or outraged or anything like that.. So your past shenanigans have been a turn off.. I have also been wary given your role in stoking the "religious" fire, even though you might term that as much needed.. As for your record in power, I think it is fair to say that the root cause of the Kargil war was an intelligence failure, plus you ruled over 2 other major security lapse - the Indian Airlines hijack and the attack on the Parliament.. You even handed over a major criminal - with the defence minister actually escorting the bastard Masood Azhar as part of the handover.. Economically, I really don't remember life being any better - and the downturn of 1998 - 00 actually took down our family business.. Basically, the romance of the Vajpayee rests in the minds of the people who have either been in nappies then or were wearing rose tinted glasses. 

But still, it was time for a change, and whether I liked it or not, you were that change.. 

I must say, that though the initial noises were promising, they had an important lacuna. That was the absolute and complete lack of details on what it is that you were planning to do, other than bring India's GDP back to 8% and restore India's reputation in the world - for which there is no universally agreed to metric.. Your manifesto, if I am not mistaken, actually came out after the first phase of voting.. It is a reflection of the Indian mindset that you won such a thumping majority despite nobody knowing what exactly you were going to do.. Your focus on "execution" and not so much on questioning the fundamentals of Indian governance, also implied to me that you didn't have a problem with the patronizing, favour based system of political governance that the Congress has cynically executed for 60 years, rather your problem was with the execution of the system.. 

But, as they say, raat gayi, baat gayi.. 

Your first 13 months in power though - an important milestone since Mr. Vajpayee first was elected for 13 months - have been essentially UPA on steroids.. Nothing really different from what the 2 Manmohan Singh governments have been doing, just rushing through them.. Again, very little focus on details, more on the optics.. Whether it is ramrodding the Land Acquisition Bill or the GST upgrade or the Aadhar, all of these are essentially bills that you blocked continuously through the last 5 years, and now it is your 300+ majority that is allowing you to get these in place.. 

This is what I don't understand.. If the people of India voted for a change, why are you giving us the same shit that the UPA had been trying to serve us for the last 10 years?? The single largest land holder in the country, by a hitherto unknown order of magnitude is the Government of India.. Why then do we need a Land Acquisition Bill? Why is it that the names of Warren Anderson and Quattrocchi need to be pulled out when Lalit Modi comes to the fore?? I mean, what's the bloody connection?? Why is it that you need to indulge in continuous "what-about"ism when any question is asked of you?? Why is it that a party which promised "Minimum Government, Maximum Governance" has brought about more regulations in the first year than the last 3 combined?? 

And I am not even going to the Sakshi Maharaj and his other loudmouth brethren.. 

Fundamentally, is your only plan for Acche Din, to apply lipstick on a pig?? 


  

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Working for Free

Every once in a while, there comes a moment, when I wish I had a bigger house, a larger car, and essentially, more money in the bank.. There's no guarantee when that moment will come, but it does.. You could say, that it has started to come with a frequency that is more regular than what I am comfortable with. 

I don't know what the driver for this is. My hypothesis is that it is essentially my mind conscience asking if I would still be doing what I was doing, if there was no money involved.. Or to put it in a different way, would I be doing what I am doing, if it were for free?

I really don't know the answer. I enjoy what I do for a living, but yeah, the money is good. Is it something that I would do if I had to do it for free? I don't know. I think that I would, but I really don't know and that is probably the best way to put it. I also get the feeling that I am not alone in this "quest" since I see a lot of people - all, incidentally, the same age or thereabouts as me - doing a lot of things that they probably wouldn't do if they had to do it for free.

Anyway, all this thought in my head can be very distracting at times. It's not something I particularly enjoy or anything, There are definitely times, when I start berating myself for not being more money conscious. This is especially true when I see / hear of people who have large amounts of money spare to invest in some non-sensical (in my mind, at least) scheme which guarantees more returns.. Maybe its my conservative mind which wonders how much money would these folks have available, that they can "play" with large sums (10-12  Lakhs is a big deal, IMHO). I mean, what use is a fucking Stanford degree if you can't be rich??

But then when I think about it, I realize that some folks take the elevators and some take the stairs, and those who take the stairs tend to be a bit fitter. I don't know if that is true, but hey, those are my sour grapes :)

So imagine my intrigue when I landed on two different links from two different sources on this topic. Both these individuals are pioneers (at least in my mind) in their field - coincidentally the same field of investing - and both came up with different perspectives on how to approach this topic. Sanjay Bakshi, - the legendary fund manager, teacher and one of the good guys in life - linked to a long post on how the philosophies of his life have evolved and how he has essentially moved to a life where he is not working for the money. Deepak Shenoy - Founder, Capital Mind - had a fantastic post on his "FY quotient" on how much money he would need to live a life of luxury for the rest of his life, without doing much and essentially Fuck You" to life. (I cannot find a link to the post right now, and I shall update as soon as find it, but I trust his opinion, and can definitely say that I am nowhere near living the FY life, since I don't have anything close 15 crores anywhere).

Essentially, what both those articles brought to me, that there comes a point, where the enjoyment of what you're doing takes over and the money doesn't matter. It does require a certain amount of financial security, and the more I think of it, I am probably close - not quite there, but close. There is a roof on top of my head, there is a nest egg that's being developed and all in all it's not so bad.. Also, one factor, which is somewhat inspiring / motivating is that these fine gentlemen were in a similar situation as I, when they were my age.


To cut a long story short, there's hope..

Joe Heller  True story, Word of Honor:
Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer
now dead,
and I were at a party given by a billionaire
on Shelter Island.
I said, "Joe, how does it make you feel
to know that our host only yesterday
may have made more money
than your novel 'Catch-22'
has earned in its entire history?"
And Joe said, "I've got something he can never have."
And I said, "What on earth could that be, Joe?"
And Joe said, "The knowledge that I've got enough."
Not bad! Rest in peace!"
--Kurt Vonnegut
The New Yorker, May 16th, 2005

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ground Rules..

- This is not the first time you're probably reading this on the blog, but it really shouldn't take me 4 months between posts, but that is something I really need to correct.. Now, have made a goal to myself to get into healthier living habits (and, touch wood, have made a decent start, if I may say so myself) and one of the things I really need to get out of my system is all the various things that I would like to write about (and also a book, if all goes well)

- One of the things I have realized, is that not writing regularly stunts my brain. I feel it makes me dumb. I don't know if I have writer's block - since I never considered myself much of a writer - but I think the practice of writing makes one more prolific - kinda bit sized version of Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours concept. And I really want to write more..

- SO.. Going forward, what I hope to achieve is one post, minimum 300 words, on a daily basis. (I know I have said this in the past, but hey, no point in being cynical about this). It could be here, or somewhere else, but writing is a must..

- Also, Rule #2, is that the post shall be written at home, and not at my place of work. That is because, it is not fair for me to do that. This is, and shall remain, my hobby.. If something comes out of it, great.. But there's no point in writing for the sake of writing.. There should be a time and a place, and that time and place belongs in my spare time and not at my place of work. If, for whatever reason, I don't write a post, it should not be a time to beat myself up, rather accept that I missed a day (or two) and move on.

- What I aim to achieve out of writing more regularly is the ability to construct my thoughts (or "regain" the ability) such that I can write better, more creatively, and (hopefully, fingers crossed) be able to write a story creative enough to publish one day. I think, that I have now a small window in my day, when I can write, and I would like to make full use of this window..

So wish me luck..  

Friday, February 13, 2015

Completely Unrelated Questions

If you had to choose between the competent - but corrupt - and the incompetent - but well "intentioned" - which one do you pick?

Has the intense desire for change made us blind to the consequences of the change?

Is outrage and outrageous, the only way to be noticed any more?

Whatever happened to attention span?

Why is everyone so certain about everything?

Whatever happened to doubt and curiosity?

When did the memo for universal conformity arrive at my desk? 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Just realized..

Quiet Saturday afternoon..

The kids and the wife have been asleep for over an hour..

Just me, and the computer,

And the internet..

And I just spent all of it on Twitter and none here..

That, right there, is a good sign of how things have progressed over the last few years..


AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Suit yourself time..

Thanks to my children, primarily my daughter, I have been introduced to a fantastic animation series (we don't call them cartoons, any more, do we?) called Sofia the First.. To quote IMDB,
 "This animated series features Sofia, an ordinary girl who becomes a princess overnight when her mom marries the king. The adventurous young girl, first introduced in the 2012 TV movie "Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess," must learn how to adjust to royal life. Offering Sofia words of wisdom are classic princesses -- including Ariel, Belle and Jasmine -- who make special appearances as they help advise the youngster during her transition to royalty. Throughout her journey, Sofia learns that it isn't having a title that imparts royal demeanor; it's that having the characteristics of honesty, loyalty, compassion and grace make one worthy of the role" 
And oh, it's "awesome!!".. There are Victorian palaces, royal wizards, Hogwarts style schooling, kings, queens, princesses (but of course), the works..

All this would be educational, but for one tiny problem.. While all the bit players - the butler, the school headmistress, the help - seem straight out of a proper British / Victorian era, the main roles are all speaking with an American accent!!

Now you might say, they're playing to a primarily American audience, and c'mon it's Disney!! And I get it.. I get it that the core audience of these princess sagas (of which my daughter is only an adjacency) is the American 8 year old girl.. And princesses, this way or that, HAVE to live in a Victorian world, and there has to be an ability to relate to the protagonist for any entertainment to succeed.. But this cherry-picking of entertainment is somewhere delusional..

I understand that children need to shielded from realities of life, but then there should be a limit to which you can cherry-pick facts and data, and randomly join the dots to make the most bizarre things look coherent..

But then I see our Prime Minister cherry-picking history about how genetic science existed in mythological times and some random dumbass turned political gadfly saying that a fictitious Lankan was actually a Dalit from Ghaziabad and then I wonder whether it's just preparing Annika for growing up.. :)

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

On Uber..

Something horrific just happened.

And needless to say, the first available scapegoat has since been butchered. At worst, Uber could be guilty of carelessness, and taking shortcuts, but there’s no way, in a society that is supposedly just and “maximum governance”, that this incident would be dignified by a #UberShame hashtag.

I actually used Uber on Friday for the first time.. My experience was extremely positive, and the driver who was also using for the first time, also had only positive things to say. He was most amazed by the fact that the entire roll-in process was handled by 2 people.. It helped him that he was able to opt in and out whenever he was free, so it allowed him extra cash.. As a passenger, I had absolutely no issues, and the whole thing was really seamless.. Including a receipt, no cash transaction involved, no "price extortion" that I normally face when looking for a rickshaw in Pune..


In some quarters, I hear that Uber has itself to blame for its destiny. Maybe so, but I would argue that this is more a classic case of brand positioning and multinationals not understanding the core market dynamics..

In the US, Uber/Lyft/AirBNB etc benefit from "regulatory arbitrage".. Regular drivers have to go through a huge amount of certification and licensing requirements on a periodic basis. Being a cab driver, requires regular visits to the DMV and also periodic inspection of the vehicle. Uber (and Lyft) allow drivers to circumvent this by calling themselves independent contractors. The core benefit of Uber is to the driver, who doesn't need to go through rigorous regulatory oversight and can earn an income as well.

In India, the regulatory compulsions for cab drivers to go through rigorous licensing simply do not exist.. Anyone can go through the RTO to get a commercial license, and get registered as a driver. That's it!! The core benefit is to the passenger, in that he/she doesn't have to wait alone for a cab driver, nor go through ridiculous negotiation on the price. In-addition, the car is available on-call, and is rather cost effective (at least as long as private investors keep pumping $$ into Uber). I'd be willing to bet, that Uber will not succeed in Mumbai, where you have a rather systematic cab & rickshaw process where passengers don't need to go through the kind of hoops that those of us in Pune and other towns have to go through.

However, calling itself a cab company will get Uber into needless hassles, something Uber has no need, nor the business model to sustain. There's no way an Uber could/would or even should, get in the business of background checks, especially in a country where there is an entire ocean of individuals who go nameless in the system, with no way to know their identity, their background, and where, regardless of what the paid hacks at Times Now say, we remain innocent until proven guilty. All Uber can do is provide the guarantee to comply with the law and hand over all relevant evidence for speedy resolution. That the law takes so long to work it's way around, has more to do with the legal system than with Uber. 

Thus, the positioning of Uber has to be more like an online market place, which it actually is, one where it plays more the role of getting the two individuals together to meet a mutual need. The passenger understands that they're getting into a contract with the driver, and Uber acts as the intermediary. When it comes to issues related to criminal law, Uber has the technology to trace the driver in a jiffy (which is what happened in this case, the guy got caught inside 48 hours, in Mathura all because he had the Android GPS on in the car). Actually, let me rephrase that. Uber has the technology to trace the driver AND the passenger who have been the co-signees of this contract. (The potential of a psychopath passenger slashing the neck of the driver is equally likely). 


It could also point out, given the significant sample size and grossly underreported tragedy called marital rape in India, no one is blaming Shaadi.com.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Bheja Fry!!

Every so often, I meet an old friend / acquaintance and he/she asks me why is it that I have not written much on my blog lately.

It’s a pertinent question, since the frequency is definitely lower than what it should be. (and that would be quite an understatement).

At this point, I really don’t know what I should write.. There are many things I would like to write about, but there’s really nothing that comes to mind when I wish to write about something.. It’s as if there’s an immediate writer’s block that comes up when I see a blank MS Word screen..

But more importantly, there’s really nothing intelligent to write about. And even if I do think it will be intelligent, I doubt it will be read by many. And in the event it is read by someone, I am almost certain that the said reader will vehemently disagree with me. 

For example, I have been meaning to write about this new stupid concept called “Love Jihad”. In my 36 (or so) years, I have not seen a stupider concept, trumping even Freedom Fries. The thought is that somehow there is a conspiracy of Muslim men trying to “lure” innocent Hindu women into marriage, thereby increasing the Muslim population to a level that one fine day, the population of Muslims in this country will outnumber the Hindus.

It’s almost as if someone went “You know, this idea is just so crazy, it might actually work!!”

I mean, think about it. 85% of this nation is Hindu, 13% (or so is Muslim). Assuming that normal birthrates apply, it would take roughly 150 years for the balance to go 48:48. Surely, there’s no strategy in place where the earliest possible solution is so far away.

But let’s not get sanity get in the way of a sexy conspiracy theory. However, there’s a much bigger problem at hand.

The problem is not that this is a foolish theory. The problem is that by writing about such bullshit, even if we’re conclusively proving that it cannot happen, we give it a level of legitimacy. Simply by writing about this, even as nonsense, this article will pop-up in a Google search about Love Jihad.. We just accentuate the entire cycle just by talking about it, nonsense as it is. And that, only helps the whole myth to get a life of its own. 

And that’s what this entire exercise does, it gets you down to talk at an intellectual level which is so low that there’s no chance you’re going to win..


Which is why it is probably better not to write at all.

(picture courtesy: Conrad Hackett)

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Giving idiots their due

There's this dude who goes by the name Dinanath Batra. He's 85 years old, and lives in Delhi. For roughly 84 years and some months, this chap was hardly known to anyone other than his family (and a certain Narendra Modi, but that's not important)

Frustrated by this anonymity Mr. Batra went and raised some shit and got a book that no one had read, pulped - thereby helping the English language reading public in India understand that books that are not read are "pulped" - kinda like mangoes, except that there's no edible use for the pulp in this particular case.

Even now, all this would have just passed by completely uneventfully, in a water-under-the-bridge sort of way, except that this book that he got pulped, was a book called "The Hindus" and that this year is an election year, where a certainly Hindu partisan party won an astounding majority.

Oh, and when the aforementioned Mr. Batra wrote a book (which no one had read, by the way), which has some fascinating material about how the birth of Krishna, was through stem cell research, and the mythological rishis of centuries past, were actually scientist, it also contained a foreword by the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Mr. Narendra Modi.

Perfect recipe for a hullabaloo about nothing in a 24x7x52x137  news channel world.

Long story short, the simple entry of Dinanath Batra leads to 382,000 results on Google. Other than the standard, RSS bot created, Wikipedia entry for the man, 381,999 results are expressing outrage.

God, how I miss Lewis Black!!!


















Why do we need to spend so much time on someone who's irrelevant anyway?? Conversely, is it necessary now to make a fool of yourself, come up with the most ridiculous soundbites just to gain some attention?? Has news really dried out so much, that we need to give cartoons like this our valuable time? DId I miss the memo where it said that all idiots will be given their 15 minutes of fame??

What the f@#$ is going on out here??? 

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Them's the rules!!!!

The irony was inescapable.

Rush Hour traffic at one of Pune's largest chowks. A large poster overlooking all offering Shraddhanjali to the Divangat neta - Maharashtrache laadke - Gopinath Munde.

And 3 cars attempting to cut their traffic light.

Honestly, this post is not about the late Mr. Munde and his unfortunate, fatal accident. It's not even about traffic sense (or lack thereof) or traffic congestion or anything of that sort.

It's just simply about our societal abhorrence for following rules.

What is it about our culture that we prefer to conveniently ignore any rule which stands in our way?

Is it that there is no point in following any rule since there are so many of them that it is physically impossible to be compliant with all of them at any given point in time?

Is it that in our fatalistic destiny driven culture, whether you get caught or not is all in your destiny and is God's way of testing you?

Is it that historically, we have always been a ruled-class - there have been rulers who rule, with an iron fist, and make sure you don't get caught. If you're caught you're guilty, and if you're not, you're not? It's always us versus them, and we really don't believe what "they" have decided for "us" is worth following?

Is it some or all of the above?

Weren't we supposed to in this all together, and this is our country, and we have the right people, who represent our interests and have, in keeping with those interests, set certain rules which we all have supposedly agreed to follow?

I mean, why should I ask my kids to follow rules, if all they see around them is people flouting rules and getting ahead? 

Saturday, April 05, 2014

A Rant!!!

I wish I was more prolific in writing.. I really need to pick up this habit again..

All this bottling up inside, is not good for me.. Have been meaning to write something about Modi, something about Rahul Gandhi, etc.. But really haven't found the motivation to do so.. the German phrase, "Kein Lust mehr" is probably more applicable..

I mean, what's the point?? We're on our way (or so the press says) to vote into power a man, who has significant question marks over his character in terms of engineering a massacre for political gain.. All in the name of development.. In normal times, we'd be ashamed of such a development, but in this day and age, there is no culpability, no responsibility, no accountability.. The only people eager to take responsibility seem to be terrorists, and that is after they've caused grievous harm..

The problem is not that the man with the question marks wants to be the leader.. The problem is that no one is questioning him.. The bigger problem, is more like the people are rather looking forward to him being the leader.. People in my own family, actually.. That's what is more painful.. I feel like I am wrong, and I should be the one who should be ashamed for not seeing the light..

Is it really so easy to forgive and forget?? The person who has brought shame to the country, is now looked at as a savior, and we're all ok with it??

All in the name of pragmatism?? 

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Aamir Khan and the 100 Crore war on Intelligence

We have a nightly ritual in our house, where I tell a bedtime story to our 5 year old. It could be a book, something from memory, something downright from my imagination, anything. It just has to be a bed time story..

Most often, I invent a story (Have you heard when the animals from the zoo went to McDonalds'? or the one where Chhota Bheem went to Mumbai?). It's not like I am good with inventing stories, but the lights are off, so I cannot read, my memory of my childhood stories are so sparse that the story gets invented anyway, but most importantly, without the story, the child won't sleep.. So I muster whatever ingenuity I can, and basically structure grammatically sound sentences all in sequence and hope that it makes sense, all the way till she falls asleep.

Here the story that I narrate is really not important. What's important is that the child sleeps.

And sleep she must..

Now you might be wondering what all this has to do with Aamir Khan. Nothing really.

It's just that that is how I felt when I came out of the theater after spending 3 hours watching Dhoom: 3.

The story was not important, at least to the makers of the movie. What was important is that everyone be numb at the end of 3 hours, having been transfixed at one gigantic gimmick following another, so much so that everyone (well, almost everyone) believes that they had a monumentally good time, while the only people who are having a good time are those who were financially associated with the movie..

And I really shouldn't be complaining, since you pretty much know what you're getting into when you're going for a movie like this. The 300 bucks I spent, suspending my intellect, I should have spent on something more worthwhile.

Leave your brains behind at the door. That's what they all say.

The money I spent on Dhoom: 3 would really not have bothered me much, had I not seen a beautifully crafted movie yesterday called Shahid. It's a gripping, true story of the lawyer Shahid Azmi, who as a youth was trained in the terrorist camps across the border, but saw the light of day, and eventually dedicated his life trying to get falsely accused youth (mostly Muslim) who have no other means of acquittal, against a prejudiced society, and a cold hearted system. His bravery, led him to be killed and probably would never be heard of, but for this movie.

It was cold, chilling, provocative, realistically thought-provoking, and everything else that I would want in a movie.

And I didn't spend a penny on it, since I saw it on cable. Just chanced upon it at the right time - failing which I would've ended up watching some crap called Besharam (since it had Ranbir Kapoor - I have a 5 year old girl in my house, don't you know?) - and couldn't take my eyes off the TV screen.

This was a story that deserved to be told.

This was a story that deserved to be seen

This was a story that deserved the 250 crores or whatever that Dhoom-3 made..

This was a story that truly, truly deserved my 300 bucks..  


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The best few lines I read today..


From Pratap Bhanu Mehta in today's Indian Express: "A sleepwalking economy"..


...The third fatalism comes from an excessive faith in deliverance by a leader. The complete abdication of responsibility by the top leaders of the Congress has sowed the seeds of confusion. It is also true that the institutional chaos in the wake of the corruption scandals has slowed down some sectors. But it does not follow that a single leader can come and fix this. For one thing, there is no evidence yet that the current opposition party has anything sensible to say on macroeconomics. And what Narendra Modi does in fact say on a range of issues of fundamental reform, from FDI to the value of the rupee, is not very reassuring. He also distinctly seems to lack control of his parliamentary party, which is busy putting its weight behind all kinds of half baked laws, including the Lokpal Bill. But it has little time to intelligently talk about the economy.
Admittedly, administrative decision-making at the top will help. But it will get you only so far. Cleaning up the institutional mess on a range of things from contracting to environmental clearances will be a huge task. The UPA's legacy of institutional corrosion is so deep in these areas that rebooting them will not just be a matter of one man's will to give orders. It will be setting new norms. Indeed, the big worry is that the system will again risk wheels getting stuck in the sand if new norms are not institutionalised. While there is some discussion of institutions to tackle corruption, there is very little about institutions to promote growth in a new context.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

The Right Reasons

Over the past year, life has been busy.. Quite busy in fact.. I never thought it would be such a hectic life, that I would not get chance to blog about something.. I made a promise to myself (kinda a new year resolution) to write every day for a 1000 words at a minimum, but that promise was a resounding failure.. About 5 posts in, I gave up.. (silly, silly me).. For about the first 4 months I started feeling very guilty about not keeping up to my promise.. I think sometime around April, I posted something again.. but did not keep up..

Months went by, and the odd acquaintance who read this blog once in a while, would remind me why I had not written for a while.. And it bothered me again..

As I have written before, writing for me is somewhat of a cathartic process. I write what I feel, and more often than not, what I don't think I can say in public.. Writing has been my refuge, my comfort food, my security blanket, and everything else.. (you get the picture)..

Over the last year or so, and especially over the last few months, there have been many instances where I have had the intention to write something.. Sachin Tendulkar's retirement, for instance, was one where I had everything in my head on what I wanted to write.. The words, however, never strung together to write a constructive enough post.

And this bugged me no end..

Here was I, who loved to write, who loved to write about cricket, who loved to write about Sachin Tendulkar, and I never wrote anything when he said farewell..

Don't worry, this is not a post about SRT.. It is about me..

It has taken me the better part of a month to realize what it was that made me not do what I liked doing best..

I think, not sure, that I was afraid, that whatever I write should be so good and so constructive, that everyone should "like" what I wrote. Everyone who reads it should comment, retweet, +1, or whatever it is that people do these days.. The fear of meeting and surpassing the expectations of others was why I never ended up going beyond the first word of the post..

And that's completely against why this blog was set up in the first place..

It was set up, long years ago, to write what I felt like, good or bad, sensible or tripe.. Not to receive likes and dislikes and anything else..

So, starting today, I am disabling the auto-post capability for this blog to any social network..

Because I am not writing for others

I am writing for myself..

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Argumentative Indian (in me)

I have not forgotten my new year's resolutions.

I have been meaning to write about so many things, it's just that I never got around to writing them, if you know what I mean. I have been busy, but really not so busy to avoid writing, just that I didn't allocate the time to do it. And so, what was supposed to be 1 post every day of the week, is now at latest count 4 posts in 6 months. Which is being charitable, since the 4 posts were there in the first 23 days of the year itself. Last 5 months and 7 days have been blank.

But then, I am not here to bore you with statistics of how often I write or should write. I know I should write, but to paraphrase Paul Simon, "If I could, yes I would". Nuff said.

So what got me out of this stupor?

2 things actually.

First was a spam post on this blog in Spanish or Portuguese or something. No bloody clue how it got there (there is still some chance that it will be back), but then it got there. Luckily D saw it early enough, and asked me about it, and I was able to delete it in time. But then it also left me with the feeling of someone crapping in my backyard without me knowing about it. And I don't like the thought of strangers crapping in my backyard (assuming I had one)

Secondly, I got to read a post last night about my favorite topic of the sole symbol of all that is wrong with this country, and that is the Times of India. I follow Thane Richard on Twitter, and he has excellent perspective on all that we're hyperventilating about, but then he's American and we Indians don't appreciate taking feedback you see. In some of his past posts, you can see the way he gets "ostracized" when he starts with his perspective on what's wrong with this country. (I wonder what his perspective on the other Indian darling, Mr. Modi is)

Anyway, I fully support Thane in his quest to boycott the Times of India !!! I would have asked you to support us in the cause as well (here), but then I am not the types who is a social mobilizer of outrage, and therefore it really is not my business whether you use it or not.

The Times of India, nay the entire Times Group, (a.k.a. The Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd,) is the single most dangerous entity in this country today. It should be sent to the sin-bin before the Home Ministry does anything about the Naxals.

Long years ago, (on my first date actually) I saw a James Bond movie, where the villain was a media mogul who manufactured news to increase business. I dismissed it at as typical Bond movie hogwash, but thanks to the Times Group, I am now thinking maybe it was more of an indication of where things are headed.

And seriously, don't give me this freedom of the press bullshit.. If you really believe the Times is a constructive force and a conscience of this country, you probably also believe that this country is going to the dogs, ergo the conscience of this country is egging it on to the dogs, ergo I rest my case.

Phew.. 

So my pent up frustration about the Old Lady of Boribunder is now out.

My Outraged Indian avatar is now sated.

But there is another avatar inside me (among others).

The Practical Indian.

And this practical Indian believes  knows, that 6 people signing to a Causes  website to get a $1.5 billion behemoth to be sidelined, is beyond ridiculous. And that nothing is going to happen. And that moron Arnab is still going to holler on my behalf regardless of whether I have conveyed my grievance to him or whether I have asked him to represent him in airing my grievances or heck, even having a grievance in the first place. (From what I have seen, even if I did meet him, I doubt I'd get a chance to open my mouth to air my grievances)

There might be a chance, but it's about as big as a "dimple on the arse of an ant on the arse of the elephant". And even if with that minuscule a chance, we do succeed in ensuring that we have a boycott on the Times on a Gandhian scale, it's probably not going to make a difference. They've faked so much, that very likely they will fake circulation numbers (assuming they don't do so already). And then they'll still be number 1.

Which brings me to another Indian in me - the disappointed Indian.

Disappointed not with India per se, but with the absolute & stubborn refusal of people to see the obvious.

See, what is peddled in the Times, (and Times Now, and all their media entities) is what has been philosophically described as bullshit. I read a book (On Bullshit - Harry G. Frankfurt) and the description of Bullshit and the distinction from falsehood and truth is quite clear.

... bullshit either can be true or can be false; hence, the bullshitter is a man or a woman whose principal aim — when uttering or publishing bullshit — is to impress the listener and the reader with words that communicate an impression that something is being or has been done, words that are neither true nor false, and so obscure the facts of the matter being discussed; i.e. “the bullshitter is faking things, but that does not necessarily mean he gets them wrong.”
 In contrast, the liar must know the truth, of the matter under discussion, in order to better conceal it from the listener or the reader being deceived with a lie; while the bullshitter’s sole concern is personal advancement and advantage to his or her agenda;
Bullshit thus is a greater enemy of the truth than are lies..
- courtesy Wikipedia 

Now does this not align with how the Times treats us?

But even then, this is not what disappoints me. The Times group is free to peddle all the bullshit that it wants. People pay  for this crap (me included) for whatever reason. They have a right to sell us crap, and if we deem that crap to be worthy of the price we are asked to pay, pay we shall.

What's sad is this apparent role of being the voice of the country - and therefore by extension my voice. It is a sad indictment on this country, and the polity of this country that people assume the media to be the voice and therefore the representative of the country. Per process, it should be the political setup which should represent us, right? Isn't that what their job is? Be our voice to the powers that be? Ensure that we get basic human rights and all that? Basically, be our voice for all that is important to us?

If you haven't dozed off as yet, here's a little secret.. They do. Basically, it's how you define the term "us".

If by "us" you mean everyone that you interact with on a daily basis, your co-workers, your society people, your friends on Facebook and elsewhere, your secret crush, etc., then you being at the center of your universe, you may have a point about being sidelined and feeling like you don't have an outlet to voice out your frustrations.

But by "us", if you mean each and every single one of us Indians, irrespective of religion, age, caste, creed, sex, sexual preference, colour, regional location, then you will see that the political class represents pretty much the average of the various spheres.

It's just that you we are way out on the fringe.

And the day we realize this, tempers will be soothed a little bit

And the Times will go back to reporting the news, and not telling me how I feel about hearing the news.. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

There's something about Modi..


Lately, whether I am reading the news or scanning Facebook, I get the impression that in 2014, we’re going to have Narendra Modi as the prime minister of India. It is just a small matter of having the elections over and done with. The shouting over the rooftops, the writing on the wall, the entire point of the discussion is that it is a mere formality, just the coronation is pending. All this dilly-dallying, nonsensical, rudderless style of governance will end, and will be replaced by a strong, patriotic leader who will bring India back to the days of 9% GDP growth till our kids have kids of their own. (After that, who really cares man, after all the whole point of life is to play with grandchildren!!!)

But given that this is being billed by everyone and their nanaji, that this is a straight fight between Mr. Modi and Mr. Rahul Gandhi, and given that I have already sent out an open letter to Mr. Gandhi on this blog (which you can read at leisure here) on what he would have to do to get my vote in 2014 (or whenever), I think it is incumbent on me to give a similar bhashan to Mr. Modi.

Mr. Modi, 
Please surprise me.
Thanks,
Chirag Panjikar.

Dang!!! That was so easy, I could even have tweeted it!!!

I have been accused of a Congress supporter in the past, but it’s truly not the case. I really don’t see the difference between the average Congress politician, and any other average politician. Which is what everyone seems to say anyway, when they utter the standard refrain of “All Politicians are the same!!!?”, and I do have extremely, extremely, extremely low expectations of the standard politician. 

But what I am hearing from Mr. Modi seems to be different, so I am interested & intrigued by this new language. I must admit I didn’t read or see the speech he gave at the Sri Ram College in Delhi, but whatever I read, seemed to be a fair representation of what I think is needed in this country.

Yes, the youth of this country is the future, and is where we can differentiate ourselves from the rest of the world. Yes, government has not business to be in business (among other things. I mean c’mon, why should there be a ministry of sports & youth affairs, or a ministry for animal husbandry). Yes, there should be no vote bank politics. And all that jazz.

All in all, it’s very difficult for me to decipher whether or not he’s going to be the one. But for what it’s worth, the guy doesn’t pass my “smell” test. I wish I could elaborate, and not be able to restrict myself to abstract smell tests to gauge the character of a person. There’s something about this entire narrative that leaves me as yet unconvinced that his policies are the best thing for India. But I’m still not convinced that he’s the guy to do this for us.

Here’s why:

Most of the people I see supporting or denouncing Mr. Modi seem to make emotional cases for their opinion, and very little data to convince me this way or that. Based on the material available on the internet, there’s really no conclusive evidence this way or that whether he’s the next prophet.

I read a report that Gujarat is the best state in India to do business, but I also read that off the 1000-odd MOUs of starting a business, the state has only about 50 or so projects which have taken off.

I read somewhere that Gujarat is at  9% annual GDP growth, but then so is Maharashtra and that too with a much higher base, and from personal experience I can vouch that the government of Maharashtra is ridiculously incompetent.

My Facebook wall tells me that he will take a bullet on his 56” chest before anything wrong happens in India, but then it also tells me that if I type 71 and “like”, then some kid in that photo will start dancing.

I don’t know whether it is the fact that while Gujarat has the largest amount of MOUs signed for investment every year, for some reason it has an extremely meager amount of businesses actually fructify. I keep hearing that business heads are saying we need a leader like him, but other than Mr. Tata*, no one has invested much in that state (anew. Reliance and Adani have been there since before. GM is there, but from what I recall, it has been there for a while, before this hype started). I don’t know much about the budget of the state, but surely given his popularity with the net savvy public, if the state had a budget surplus then we would have heard about it over and over and over again. (A simple search will lead to an RBI document (see here) which will suggest that the debt to GDP ratio of Gujarat is above average, and has the third highest interest-revenue expenditure ratio) Neither does it seem to have taxes any lower than the average state in India. Almost none of the people who are shouting over the rooftops to have him installed as the leader are from Gujarat, nor do they seem to have any intention of moving there.

So on what exact basis people are clamoring for him, is beyond me. However, there are some things that do trouble me, and these have nothing to do with any nonsensical labeling of “communal” politics. The Congress is, if anything, much more communal than the BJP, and is also spectacularly and shamelessly cynical about it.
What troubles me, is that anytime someone tries to write anything remotely negative him about him, you get a slew of trolls after you like zombies**. What troubles me is that any voice of dissent in his own state has been crushed ruthlessly like a dictator would do to a prospective coup. What troubles me, is that most of this seems to be the handiwork of a PR agency called APCO, which has been contracted to promote Mr. Modi (not the state of Gujarat). What troubles me is that any time I check anything remotely related to Gujarat, I see his face and nothing and no one else. What troubles me, is that other than Mr. Modi, the only other ministers from his cabinet that I hear of, are when they are convicted of carnage. What troubles me is that the justification of having said ministers in the cabinet, is the example of Kamal Nath, which really is not a factor of differentiation from the other team, when your main point is that you're different from the other team...

But then, surely so many Gujaratis cannot go wrong. Surely so many of my friends cannot be wrong (I mean, scientifically comparing a sample size of one (me) to a sample of a few millions, you know which one is more reliable, right?) Surely, they’ve seen something in the man that has them convinced that he is the one to lead us to the path of salvation, and is not really the BJP’s answer to Indira Gandhi’s despotism. Surely, when he comes to power all of India’s ills will get solved, even though the last time the BJP was in power, we had a year of about 4% GDP growth, terrorists attacked the Indian parliament, and the Indian intelligence setup failed so miserably that the Pakistani army actually crossed the border leading to the Kargil war. Surely, he is a patriot of unquestionable integrity, who just happens to be in politics, an area where anyone associated is immediately considered as ruthless, self-centered and corrupt. 

Which is why, all I can say is,

Mr. Modi, please surprise me!!!! 

*- Full disclosure: The company I work for has invested in a mid-size manufacturing plant in Gujarat and also has a Public-Private-Partnership with the Government of Gujarat. The post on this blog is in my personal capacity as a citizen of India, and has no bearing on any professional commitments. In any case, the main point of this post if you haven't figured out yet, is that the Chief Minister is no different from the average Indian Chief Minister in terms of performance, but certainly seems to be much better in making an emotional connect with the average Indian voter. 

**- I must admit, the 3 posts I have written till now about him, have been among the higher viewed on the net, including visitors from Russia, Brazil and Sweden, so there is an ulterior motive here. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Heal the World, Read Times of India..


If you want to know all that is wrong in India, all you need to do is pay the newspaper vendor 2 bucks and get a copy of the Times of India.

Like the other day, as part of its new found aura of social responsibility it had a wonderfully long article on the front page of the Pune Times on the evils of ragging. Needless to say, since Pune Times is an “Advertorial and Promotional feature” and the article was bloody long (at least longer than what I normally get the chance to read”, there was no way for me to know whether it wanted to advertise & promote ragging in colleges or dissuade people from ragging in colleges.

This article had all the standard Pune Times “glamour”. It had some Bollywood photo depicting ragging (3 Idiots, but of course). It had some two-pence celebrities telling their experiences of ragging in colleges. One smart ass actually told the story of how his cousin was ragged in college, and how that was an emotionally traumatic experience for him. For some reason he also mentioned in the same quote that his cousin has forgotten that incident, but this dude was traumatised enough to make a movie about it. 

I skipped through most of it, (I mean, who reads Pune Times for its journalistic excellence?) till I came to very the end, in a bright red box with bold white font was my absolute favourite TOI section.

Times View.

In case you have not heard about it, Times View is where the editors of ToI decide that they should show off their vast and superior knowledge of all that is just and fair in this world, and you know, for the benefit of the reader guide him through what is an absolute horror that this world has now become. This applies to politics, sports, civics and everything else where the ToI believes that the nation has a right to know. (It is another matter that with a circulation of approx. 7.65 million in a country of 1.2 billion, TOI has the eyes of roughly 0.58% of India’s population, or as a wise Parsi man once told me – “A dimple on the arse of an ant that sits on the arse of an elephant”)

Anyway, such insignificant details should not bother us.

This beautiful piece of socially relevant journalism had this fabulous insight.
Those found ragging should be punished severely, so it acts as a deterrent. We need stricter laws, applicable nationwide. Institutions should be vigilant and take immediate disciplinary action against senior students who rag.
Now, raise your hands all those who think that what we need in India is stricter laws.

Seriously?? We waste 7 million trees every day on tripe like this??

We have laws made from the 1860’s still in place.

We have laws where you can face serious jail time for a speech.

We have laws where a Facebook post can cause you to be booked for sedition (it’s never been done 
before, but it’s possible. Look it up).

We have laws which still allow the death penalty.

That’s how strict our laws are.  

Our problem is not that we don’t have enough strict laws. Our problem is that we have too many strict laws.

In case you haven’t figured out yet, I have serious issues with this state of affairs. Two serious issues, at least.

One, given the strictness of the laws, the system always has to decide whether a. a crime was committed and if it was, then b. whether the crime merits the strictest possible punishment. This takes up a lot of time, (especially since we have 1.2 billion people, so the possible permutations are beyond the standard excel sheet). This, delays the entire judicial process and the justice is served at times when it is completely irrelevant.

And that is not taking into account frivolous charges, for which there is no penalty on someone placing frivolous charges.

Two, when someone is caught for the crime, everyone involved (investigator, investigated, support resources) takes all this into account and then individually determines whether it is worth going through this rigmarole or negotiate a suitable punishment among all concerned instead of going through the entire judicial system. Some people call this corruption, but in essence it is a bargaining tool for not having to go through years of litigation.  

All this nonsense about the government needing to be a stricter school principal is hogwash and cynical.

School principals need to be better at being school principals.

The world will then be a better place..