Monday, August 24, 2015

How objective is objective



Do personal beliefs influence your professional work? Example: A Court judge believes in superstition. Would his belief affect his judgement on a god-man or god-woman accused of some wrongdoing? Or if a celebrity is accused of some wrongdoing. Would the celebrity's track record in public life bear an influence on decision-making of the judge. How much role does prejudice play in delivering a judgement.

Imagine your Boss is a god-fearing person, and a faithful believer in god. You on the other hand, aren’t an atheist but sort of an agnostic. Would your difference in belief be a criterion to be judged by your Boss?

Imagine your leader is okay with finding the gap between legality and ethics. Like, using a loophole in the rules to gain- personally or professionally. You on the other hand, have unwavering belief in ethics. You have shown your displeasure about it. Would you be considered a threat? As someone who might rock the boat in future or be a whistle-blower? Would you be able to be your leader’s confidant? Or would you be respected for your belief in ethics? Or would you be sidelined from important decision-making and be given mundane tasks. Consider the situation vice versa. Your leader is ethical whereas you don’t mind finding that gap between legality and ethics. The above questions still apply.


This begs the question, how objective is objective. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

What the Director wanted us to see: Manjhi- The Mountain Man




The central theme of the story asks us to take matters in your own hand. Not to depend on others. This is summed up well at the end of the movie. When asked how he feels about finally walking down the road through the Mountain, he replies “Don’t depend on god. Who knows, god might be depending on you”.

The movie shows people celebrating the abolition of untouchability, around 8 years after independence. I think the Director wished to draw attention to the fact that 68 years after independence, some of our villages still struggle for water and electricity. Untouchability isn’t an issue in the movie. It is used as a metaphor to talk about the current environment.

Manjhi’s quest to make a road for his villagers and believing in his task irrespective of people calling him fool and an idiot shows the focus we need to have towards work. There will always be naysayers. Single-minded approach always bears fruit. More important is the process rather than the end result. Because process makes fundamental changes in thinking or perspective. End result can be different from what one visualizes when set out towards achieving it.

Two issues the director touches upon though subtly. One, dwindling reserves of water and the Naxalite issue. Drought was a concern in 1960s and is a concern in 2015 as well. We have failed to provide this basic necessity to our people. Technology has improved healthcare and education and overall standard of living but hasn’t been able to address effective utilisation of our water resources. Unfortunately, companies providing water facilities will not get high valuation on stock exchanges. Same applied for the Naxalite issue. A concern in 1960s and in 2015 too. Capitalism has failed to uplift the masses especially in far-flung areas of India. Naxalites will not come into the mainstream unless they see an opportunity that this is addressed.

There is a disclaimer at the start of the movie which says that even thought the story is based on a real event, some creative liberties have been taken. A snake biting Manjhi, and him having to cut off his toe so that the poison doesn’t spread could be one of the fictionalised account. The director must have wanted to show that in a single-minded pursuit of a task, tough decisions should be taken. And if it means physical pain, so be it.

The movie, I suppose, takes a jibe at our democracy. When a make-shift stage during a political rally crumbles under its weight, a few people rush and hold it aloft with their shoulder. And the politician nonchalantly continues with her speech. A police inspector releases Manjhi because people outside the police station shout slogans for his release. And he is released under public pressure. I don’t mean that Manjhi was a criminal and should not be released, it shows that our laws have so many perforations, that arresting someone and releasing them is a subjective issue than objective.


The movie end with the road being built bearing Manjhi’s name. As the end credits roll, you feel sad that the government could only help Manjhi by naming the road after him. Countless un-named people are toiling in India and hope the government reaches them before they give up.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What the Director wanted the audience to see- Double Seat




The central theme of the story is to make one believe in himself/herself. To take that leap of faith into the unknown. A new house is that metaphor. How a young, newly wed couple along with their family takes that leap of faith.

Straddling through fear and an ambitious dream, the young couple take that leap of faith only to be pulled back by an insolvency of a local pathpedhi (a Non-banking financial corporation- like a credit society) in the process losing all their savings. The director wishes to draw attention towards these sorts of institutions. Though they are under the RBI rules, lack of desirable financial reporting make them vulnerable to non-transparency and frauds. A case in point being the CKP Co-operative bank in Mumbai & Thane or the Pen Co-operative bank in Khopoli (Maharashtra).

When the head of the house, their father comes to know about the intent of the couple to buy a house, he feels intimidated by the magnanimous thought leading him to not believe in the leap of faith of his children. Relationships these days are based on material possession and the director makes his point when the character Amit says that he was rejected by 7 prospective girls after seeing his dilapidated house whereas Manjiri, who is his wife now, saw the person in him.

Manjiri’s character is well-etched out. Rooted in traditional upbringing, she adjusts to the city life like a fish takes to water. Turning a snide remark by a neighbour (I don’t want insurance policy) into an opportunity to make her sales pitch (as an insurance agent), she shows perfect presence of mind. When they see their dream coming apart, she takes the lead to pacify her husband and in-laws and gives them confidence to try again. And that he should hold his head high for the efforts. She sums it well when she says that if we have been forced to take two steps back, it will help more in our efforts to catapult (like a high-jumper) into our dream.

The director wishes to show the life of an honest police-hawaldar (lowest in the police hierarchy) to manage in Rs. 12000 (USD 200) monthly salary. When asked whether he indeed does not take bribe, he feels pain to say that he has to justify that he is honest. This rubs off on Amit who rejects a proposal to buy a shanty (hut) in an area which is proposed for re-development by a builder. These two are much nuanced moments showing the society a mirror.

Amit’s mother is a balanced lady who understands her duties as a mother, wife and a mother-in-law. She gives the young couple privacy, stands by her husband and shows confidence in his son’s and daughter-in-law’s ability. Amit’s father acknowledges towards the end of the movie that he did not change his perspective with time. A lesson to all of us to find that balance between needs and wants.

Lastly, in this day and age of nuclear families, having your father and mother together can be so much helpful to take a leap of faith. Double-seat shows this well. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015



Boeing and Airbus print ads in today's newspaper.. Both using birds.. similar beige background.. complete lack of creativity!!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Altruism



Overlooking the Ganga, Arjuna asked Krishna “Who is the biggest giver”? Krishna answered “Karna”. Arjuna seemed offended. And gave a list of selfless acts done by him. Krishna patiently heard him and thought it is better to let Arjuna judge for himself. He took Arjuna to a far-off village. He produced a mountain of gold and asked Arjuna to donate it among the villagers. Accordingly, Arjuna called all villagers and asked them to form a queue so that Arjuna can give each one of them a bag full of gold. The day ended without even an ounce of gold being reduced despite all villagers getting the gold. Similar story occurred the next day. Finally Arjuna gave up. Krishna then called Karna and told him to do the same. Karna called all villagers and told them that this mountain belongs to the village and that they can have it as they want. Moral of the story: If you want something, even blessings, in return for a favour, it isn’t a selfless act.

In the corporate world, largely driven by capitalist philosophy, where we talk of competitive blood bath, guerrilla marketing, carpet bombing, pink-slips, cut-throat competition among others, how difficult it is to maintain altruistic nature. The answer squarely rests on your thought-process. Going beyond the superficial nature of physical things we see in this world, it is about your control over your senses. The need to go into the depth of the whys, whats, hows, whens, wheres is essential. Newton’s third law states “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. Same hold true in physics or philosophy. The difference is that, in physics, the opposite reaction is logical. In philosophy, the opposite reaction is not necessarily to oppose. All decisions taken by you have a reason and thus always ask the why of it. This decision will have an impact or effect. Whether the timing of the decision is correct. Once all the answers to these questions are in sync with your though-process, you will not need to the worry about the fruits of your labour.


There will always be a dichotomy between the goal and the process. Each will have its place under the sun at different times. The challenge is to be able to understand the difference. You will have reached the stage of self-actualisation when this challenge ceases to exist because fruit of labour isn’t your source of inspiration. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Yanis Varoufakis- the pariah


No, no, this isn’t about the Greece crisis of 2015 which started in 2010 after austerity measures were put in place. This also isn’t about whether Greece or Germany is right. This is about Yanis Varoufakis. An academic who never practiced what he preached (not saying in a condescending manner, it is just that academics are not judged based on the result of actual policies). He was ‘selected’ as Finance Minister by a leftist-government to oversee a crisis which has no precedence. An economic union which has no precedence. An economic union on the verge of losing one of its members due to default in debt payment. A crisis caused by excesses of capitalism.

He is a political novice. And he is negotiating with the Germany, the strongest economy in Europe. Germany who have been its creditors. His naivety turned to be his strength. He did not have any baggage to carry. He had a free-mind and he came out with solutions. In spite of being from a leftist party, he was open to privatisation. In one of his interviews he said they wanted privatisation but that doesn’t mean to sell assets at fire-sale prices. Rather to bring in know-how to bring the economy back on its foot. He was stubborn on his thinking that the crisis was not all Greece’s fault. He wanted time and respectful help to revive the economy.


Normally, any person would have acceded to the demands made by the creditors. This is where socialism, despite its negatives, is better than capitalism. When they saw that its policy is going in unchartered territory, they went back to the people with a referendum. Being a democratic country having an elected parliament, they did not have to go for this. They had the right to take a decision. Yet, they went back to the people. They realised that the people had enough of austerity and depended too much on others. They wanted their respect back. And if it means being alone, so be it. Once the referendum vindicated Yanis Varoufakis’ of a ‘No’ vote, he swallowed his pride and stepped aside so that a solution could be found out. The hatred he faced from the creditors shouldn’t have acted as an hindrance for a deal between Greece and Europe. He will accept accusations of being obdurate. He resigned and paved the way for a new deal with Greece on a moral higher ground after the ‘No’ vote. If we have more men as Yanis Varoufakis in politics, the world will be a much economically stable place.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

To catch the 6:06 am Churchgate local


Facing parched land and in the backdrop of Prime Minister’s announcement of Smart Cities, Ajay decided.

Dadar railway station intimidated Ajay. Roaming the streets in humid April weather of 2014, Ajay found work as a un-loader in trucks for agricultural produce. Rs. 20 for a hard morning’s labour. He had Mumbai’s famous vadapav. Month-long sleeping on station, the mundane continued. He saw physical development in city but without a moral well-being. He did not like it. But smart cities was the way forward. From working as newspaper vendor, hand-car puller, security guard at mall to delivery boy for online portals, Ajay lived life from hand-to-mouth.


With some luck he became an office-boy in a multinational company with confirmed job. Marriage, kids followed. Ajay wasn’t happy living a stressful life. He yearned for a simpler life. He turned in his bed to adjust alarm for 5 am - 14 May 2024. 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The art of asking questions


Confucius said “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” In a similar way, you can say “Teach a student to ask questions and you wouldn’t need an exam.” With individualist lifestyles inspired from Western countries, ego as an emotion has started to have an overwhelming affect on individuals.

If you ask questions, they seem to offend people. Questioning authority is a strict no-no. We were taught in school to ask questions and those who did were considered to have a scientific temper. Our knowledge is superficial these days. Conceptual understanding is not done. And therefore we are afraid of people asking questions. Thus, we muscle the thinking ability of people which makes them mute followers without a scientific temper.

Beliefs, faith and religion are the only aspects which cannot be explained with a proof. All other things have a reason for their existence. Armed forces are the only places where we need a line of authority without questioning the decisions. Everything else needs to be questioned.

The most important aspect of a teacher is not to feed information but make the subject interesting enough for the student to be inquisitive about its contents. Then the teacher need not worry if the student will study or not. Leaders or bosses, too, need to encourage questioning because only then will the fundamental understanding of their subordinate improve. Questioning will make an individual look at the future. And try to understand what impact will a decision have in the future. This will make companies to make a second line of leadership ready who can fill in shoes in case of a retirement or attrition.

Sad though that inspite of all literature on team-building and working in teams, no one touches upon the idea of encouraging different view-points although it says to accepts different view-points. But if scientific temper isn’t improved upon, there will be no contrary view-points.

When arguing on a point and you know that you are right, keep on asking leading questions and over period of the argument, your opponent will understand the fallacy of his argument. 

Employees with a knack of asking questions are worried about their superiors getting offended with questions. They have to learn to ask questions in a round-about way and be apologetic of asking questions. The world these days is ruled by bottom-line and money-mindedness. If this continues, majority of the followers will lose their thinking-acumen and will be mere robots with power to a few. And as they say “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”


So, if you encourage at least one individual to start getting to the depth of any aspect, you got a winner on your hands. There can be no better ability than to ask questions. The target should be to catch them young. Youngsters at impressionable age can be moulded like clay. Any questions?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Why did Anurag Kashyap get angry post Bombay Velvet failure


Acknowledgement: I am an Anurag Kashyap fan and will continue to remain so. 

Anurag Kashyap has never defended himself or his work. He never cared about what the critics said. He shows to the audience what he wants to show. Yet, when his magnum opus Bombay Velvet failed at the box office and critics were out with their knives, he comes out in a defensive mode and gives an explanation. This is completely unlike Anurag Kashyap. He did not get angry with the criticism but he is angry with himself. Because he knows this isn’t 'him'. Probably for the first time, the expectations and the ensemble cast got the better of him. He did not want a film on his resume which he thought, did not have the original ‘him’. It was slightly condescending to say that audience will take time to understand the shocking narrative. Even the average film-goer will say that the narrative wasn’t any different from usual period films let alone be shocking. But we will give him the benefit of doubt. It was the anger speaking rather than the director himself. We do find fault with others when others cannot see what we intend to show them.

It is a fact that none of his earlier films had the kind of star power that this film has. Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma and Karan Johar. The biggest pressure on him was the launch of Karan Johar. Here is a successful director and producer, loved by the metro audiences and the media, who has his own talk show, judges a dance reality show, and hosts award ceremonies. He wanted to try his hand at acting. Chooses a negative role and to be directed by Anurag Kashyap. The onus of his success lies on the director. If Karan Johar is successful as an actor, Karan Johar will win all praise singularly. If he doesn’t, the director will be criticized for wrong casting and not being able to get the best out of a newcomer.

For the first time, he was feeling the pressure of the box office as well. This can be gauged from a few mistakes in the script (Spoilers ahead). Karan Johar’s character gets impressed with Ranbir’s character all too easily. It was as if the director was short of ideas on this one. The turnaround of Siddharth Basu’s character from honest to corrupt was as swift as a formula one car. Ranbir’s character wanted to kill Anushka’s character himself then why did he have someone keep a bomb in her room. It wasn’t that he had not killed anyone earlier. The double role of Anushka’s character was laughable. There wasn’t any logical explanation to keep the union leader alive. Vivaan Shah’s character was not required. It would have reduced the length of the film which seemed stretched at the end. All these points in the script made it look like a typical bollywood masala film where one keeps the logic at home. Unlike Anurag Kashyap again.

It is a blessing in disguise that Bombay Velvet failed at the box office. It is a learning for everyone to not get swayed by 100 crore collections. Indian audiences are slowly moving towards meaningful cinema and Anurag Kashyap must take credit to be the one to start this. I hope he comes back stronger and with renewed vigour to show his true mettle. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Why a strong Indian National Congress (INC) is essential for India


Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. I don't want to jump to that conclusion yet but fair to say that the indicators are not too good. The BJP having got a full majority on their own has made them feel invincible. Remember the India shining campaign. Similar thing is happening now with the kind of advertisement spree of the BJP. It is such a shame that they think they won the general elections 2014 due to a strong media blitz. Such lack of respect to the then Prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and his team of lieutenants.

This government won on the basic premise of development with the Gujarat model of development as a benchmark. I do not want to dwell much whether the Gujarat model is a model which can be emulated nationally or whether the model is itself self-sustainable, as the naysayers would say. The Prime Minister has been quite forthright with his views and is in a combat mode to get the economy back on track. His direct interactions with people, and putting India on the world map through international engagements and diplomacy has no precedence in Indian politics. Kudos to that. However, all these good aspects have been over-shadowed with various aspects of Hinduism, ghar-wapsi, attacks on minorities among other things.

If BJP believes they won the general elections 2014 because of direct interaction between the PM candidate through Twitter then it should also realise the double-edge of twitter. Every small mis-step is blown out of proportion on Twitter and can come back to bite BJP in a big way.

Here it is required that the Indian National Congress, a national party in true sense of the word steps in. If INC are not strong, BJP will face un-sustained resistance from other parties and it will not be good enough. And it will allow BJP to get away with unpleasant things. Moreover, 4 years down the line when the general elections are due in 2019, the electorate would not have a viable option if BJP fails to perform. The Indian electorate has been intelligent enough to not give a fractured mandate in 2004, 2009 and 2014 and I would not want them to be a position where this could come true. Because as they say, lesser of the evil is better. The small regional parties in the Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and a few other states do not have the vision to take India forward nor are there enough intellectuals to know what is good. They have too many vested interests to be good for the country. Therefore, like it or not, do wish and pray fervently that Rahul Gandhi takes on the mantle and is ably supported by good people in the Congress. The Gandhi family is the glue keeping the INC together and we have to take the thorns for the roses.

A special note for AAP considering the positive attitude it gets amongst the middle class for taking on the establishment. It will be naïve to think that they will be a national player anytime soon. I wish I am wrong. They need to prove themselves in New Delhi before venturing on the national stage. It will be better if it proves itself in a few other states before going national. Else it too will add to the possibility of a fractured mandate in 2019.


To be less harsh on the INC, there did some miserable mistakes during their two terms. I hope they have learnt their lesson. Only if they get their act together will they have a chance of redemption and give India a viable and strong option, come 2019. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Live for money or money to live


When the Sensex is down a few points, it becomes a headline. Farmer suicide never becomes a headline. Corporate awards are headlines. Why are there never awards for agricultural excellence. Attack on the rich in Taj Hotel becomes a headline. Attack in Assam never becomes a headline. Subsidies and loan waiver to farmers become a headline. Land at concessional rates and tax breaks to industry never make headlines. Oil spills in the Sunderbans never make headlines. Restrictions on industry to pollute makes headlines as anti-industry. Minimum Support price for farmer output makes headlines as subsidy but salary increments in April for industrial employees is a right. Profitability is measured on the Sensex but is employee life measured on the Sensex. Down-sizing of employees starting with blue-collared workers is acceptable when real down-sizing will start if white-collared workers in middle and senior management are asked to go. But that is not palatable because a white-collared worker is considered to be an asset for profit-making whereas a blue-collared worker is a liability during weak economic demand.

For all its good aspects, Capitalism fails on these points miserably. For a country like India where there is such a large population without basic food, shelter and clothing and there is constant pressure on urban infrastructure, capitalism can never be the answer. Because the vested interests for a capitalist mind-set will hinder increased standard of living across the spectrum.


We all have lost our first identity as humans. We prefer to identify ourselves by our nation, religion and name, in that order. Humanity and compassion are being lost in pursuit of materialism.  

Saturday, January 17, 2015

FALSE GRATIFICATION


Growth is the most important word for everyone these days. How do we define growth? Simplistically, the amount of money we earn. As it increases, we are growing. And for others to grow, we need to spend. Velocity of money, isn’t it? Surprising though that in a world as divergent as the human race, money has become the sole parameter to define and measure growth. It doesn’t matter what we do to the environment. It doesn’t matter about the deep chasm between the haves and the have not’s. Ethics, values, compassion, love are all kept as ornaments on the mantle. It is not needed on an everyday basis. Use it as we deem fit for our comfort.

Why are we moving towards such a consumption mindset, if we already not were? Why do we require material assets to be happy? The demon of inflation never had so much of fury than it is now. We are all defined by governments as economies rather than societies. What we offer to the world in terms of supplies and how much we consume show our place in the world pecking order.

Thus we have the Thanksgiving or Black Friday sale in the US, the Dubai Shopping festival, and a host of online sales by retailers at deep-discounts.

This brings up the question of online retailers which are the biggest thing in India currently. We have India’s locally grown flipkart closely followed by US giant amazon and other local players such as jabong, snapdeal, indiatimes among others. Every other day there is a big sale announced. The USP of these online retailers is less price vis-à-vis brick-and-mortar stores. And that too from the comfort of the house without having to venture out. This saves us a lot of time. But by saving the time, what good are we doing? Do we go out and play sport? Do we read more books-online or offline? Do we spend time with our family or friends? Do we explore nature? Do we go out and help the needy? Then why are we saving time. What is our achievement in saving time. This is least of the problem. The problem lies because the kind of promotional activities that are done makes one wonder how did we all survive and make purchases when online world wasn't there. We are enticed into buying a host of goodies which you would not bought in the first place were it not for the low price and deep discount. You begin to wonder that do we buy because we need it or want it or desire it or just because we are getting it at a low price.


In the Maslow's hierarchy of needs, after the first two stages, there has to be a third stage of deep discount. We all are swayed immensely by low prices. Digging deeper, one feels that consumerist mindset isn’t the real problem here. The real problem is our disillusionment with the world and our surroundings. There is lack of empathy among people. Tolerance levels have reached its nadir. And therefore we find gratification when we are in possession of physical objects. We love that object more than the people surrounding us. Why? Because the object behaves as we want it to. It doesn’t expect from us. Whereas people expect from us. Thus it is easy to be in the arms of a dispassionate object than having to make sacrifices or leeways with our loved ones. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Did god fight with bhagawan? Then why are we fighting.



It is ironic and sad that there is so much of hatred in the name of religion. A common thread in all religions is live and let live. What is religion? In simple terms, religion is a set of ideals laid out by the Supreme force unknown to all and who we are in awe of. I will not say here if it is god or bhagawan or deva or or allah or give it any identity. The whole concept of an individual believing in the Supreme and the one who doesn't believe in Supreme (an atheist) itself is wrong. Because the Supreme is called into the field of play of our life only when we are taken over by the fragilities of human nature- happiness, sadness, fear, greed, jealousy, and to satisfy the ego of our five senses. Thus everyone believes in the Supreme at some point in life and is an atheist at other times.

Critics might point out that there have been wars since time immemorial on religion. This argument precisely defeats the purpose. Every religion has its sacred books and mythology which talks of the way of life and asks us to choose a path. It means we all have to learn from these stories and from the past. Therefore, if we have a history of wars based on religion, this should not act as a rationale to continue. No history in the world talks of a war between god and bhagawan or between allah and deva. It is individuals who have fought wars out of fear of the morbid.

In the current context, the people of all religions have been wary of existence of another religion. There seems to be an one-upmanship race between different faiths. This is like asking a mother to choose between her two children. Different religions ask you to search for the end result which, in Hinduism (or better say as Sanatana dharma) is Moksha, Christianity is Gratification or Nirvana and in other religions has different names. Wishing is done by people in different ways. Some say hello, some say namaskar, some say salaam, some say as-salamu alaykum. Does the underlying feeling of greeting one another change with the change in language. If it doesn't, then why should our belief in our Supreme change.

If some people do not believe in a particular religion and foul-mouth it, they will pay for their deeds. Letting your anger overpower the good in you affects the Self more than the other. And this has scientific acceptance than mere philosophy. Killing, to avenge the desecration of a Supreme manifestation, cannot have any justification. If everyone starts to think for themselves and not assume that self-thinking is a voice of the collective, there will be no bloodshed. Ever. We all are humans first. Humanity takes precedence over any other belief or ideology or faith. Humanity reigns the Supreme. Being humane will always be in fashion.  


PS: I have used lower case for god, bhagawan, allah, deva because, for me, these are the collective. It is an objective perspective, an idea rather than a material being. And I have used Supreme as a proper noun to signify that that is the only idea which, although non-material, is the one binding force. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Loss of compassion



Why have we all become so discompassionate about our fellow human beings. There is anger everywhere. And this anger is exacerbated by social media where we vent this anger and have our friends and acquaintances add fuel to it. We are unhappy with each and every product and service we are offered and make sure that those companies know it. Should we not give them a benefit of doubt that they made an honest mistake? Probably they knew they were not doing the right thing but were hampered by the system.

We get angry with the airlines if they are late. Fair enough. But no airliner is perennially late. We are angry if the check-in baggage comes late. We are unhappy about our telecom service providers. We have endless complaints about them not responding to us. We are unhappy about politics. We are unhappy about corruption but will indulge in it as per our discretion. We are unhappy with the restaurant if the food comes a second late. We are sarcastic about the food with the waiter if the food is less tasty by an infinitesimal amount. We are unhappy about rickshaw and taxi drivers over-charging but we can do it with our customers. We will break all traffic rules and blame others for the traffic.

All companies have their senior management living a luxurious life but go for downsizing as soon as the quarter sales are not up to the levels of ‘stratospheric’ satisfaction. All that each company cares is profit at the end of the year and for attaining that, the process is immaterial. Ethics, laws, helpfulness, care, empathy, respect and family can take a back seat. Sales people are driven by fudging sales numbers, accounts people are driven by window-dressing the financial statements, finance people find ways to raise money through short-term objectives, human resource people are worried about least employee cost. There isn't an end to it. No one cares about the skilled worker on the shop-floor. Or the security personnel who is watching over your multi-billionaire conglomerate. It is ironic that you have mega photo-shoots with poor children to show that you are doing your bit of charity and spend millions on television ads when the same money can be used for the betterment of those children.

Why are we becoming so impatient. What are we going to do with the time we are saving by not stopping at the 30 second traffic signal. We are always on the worry about our jobs because we have so many wants which we assume are our needs. Social media has made people consume things to show others that they are living an exciting life. The situation is rather contrasting. Lifestyle diseases are on the rise. Love is at an all-time low.

Look inward and you will see that there are solutions. If we stop living life like wanting to consume each and every materialistic pursuit available, we will have more time for ourselves. We will be more accepting of supposed problems in our life and be compassionate towards people. Respect a human being and not the chair that he occupies. The sweeper is not less human than the Chief executive officer. Everyone is bound by the same life and how you help others show who you are than the external manifestation.


Our current ways of life can be summed up by the two lines of this beautiful poem from W.H. Davies “What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.”

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ban on loose cigarettes. Uncalled for. Look beyond the obvious.


It is sad that we all consider cigarettes and alcohol as the only evil. An individual smoking a cigarette of drinking alcohol is considered to be having a bad habit or an addict. There is a whole laundry list of wrong things we humans do but none get the kind of blame as cigarettes & alcohol. I do not smoke and I drink occasionally but I abhor the kind of condescending attitude towards smokers or drinkers. We all do corruption in some way or the other. We all find ways to avoid taxes. We all (Men, in this case) are to be blamed for the crimes against women. We all exploit individuals working under us (agree it or not) through less pay or inhuman working conditions (read, workers cleaning the sewers or coal mines or maid at homes among others) yet take the moral higher ground when it comes to ethics. We all watch pornographic videos. Has banning porn reduced divorces or infidelity? Guns kill more people in the world than smoking and alcohol combined. The crux of the matter is that we pick and choose what is right and wrong for us.

The problem lies in our attitude to look at external beauty and get impressed, to look at materialistic objects and feel proud. We never look beyond what is visible to the physical eye. Since time immemorial, cigarettes and alcohol have faced a larger tax because it is a luxury and the government wants to reduce its consumption. Yet the consumption doesn’t reduce because for every person dying or giving up the habit, there is a college going student introduced to it as the solution to all ills. There were written warnings on cigarette packets. Subsequently they introduced gory photos. Why is there not a warning on liquor bottles? Why are there no photos on liquor bottles. Man is designed to find out ways to do things when told not to do so. We all know that corruption is wrong. But it still exists. The only way we can reduce consumption is by educating the people about the perils of both these things and then let them decide their course of action. Force will not work and never will.


The government needs to find ways to educate the children, right in school. Education is the only way consumption will decrease. Who is the government or tell a person what is right and what is wrong about a personal consumption. It is entirely his or her prerogative. If it doesn’t affect other individuals, then it shouldn’t matter. Every individual is intelligent enough for his or her volition. A teetotaller isn’t a morally better individual and neither is a smoker/drinker a morally degraded one. Move beyond the obvious. Try to find the underlying which affects human decisions and then work on that underlying. Until then, we will have more bans which will not work. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Yuvraj Singh and the frustrated Indian citizen!

Who can forget Yuvraj Singh crying after the World Cup win of 2011. It still gives goose bumps thinking about that campaign.

The seething anger at Yuvraj Singh over India’s surrender at the finale of the cricket World T20 shows a lot about the state of mind of the current Indian.  To put it in a harsh way, it shows a lot about ‘what is wrong’ with the state of mind of the current Indian citizen. The stress of elections 2014 and the hope of better governance is taking its toll on the average Indian. Let us look at cricket first and then move on to Indian psyche.

The rise of Sachin Tendulkar coincided with India climbing up the global success ladder giving it confidence to be world-beaters. The era of the Gangulys, Dravids, Laxmans came to an end with the meteoric rise of current India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and present heart throb Virat Kohli and in-between we had Yuvraj Singh and Virendra Sehwag. The contribution of out-of-favour Virendra Sehwag has been exemplary but it does not match the heroics of a Yuvraj Singh. Yuvraj has been the darling of the masses starting from his exploits in India’s win in the under-19 World cup followed by a dream debut against Australia in 2000 in Kenya consolidating it at the Natwest series in England in 2002, catapulting himself with six-sixes in an over in World T20 in 2007 (which India won) and the ultimate pinnacle of World Cup 2011. It would not be exaggeration to say that the kind of influence he has had over India’s success is unmatched. Don’t compare his individual records with others because individual performances matter less in a team game.

Yuvraj’s personal fight with to overcome cancer and his subsequent return to International cricket is nothing short of a miracle. He has not been the Yuvraj of yore though. We can draw parallels to the state of economy that India finds itself here in 2014. India also was a darling of the International investors not too long ago and the eminent rises of the Indian economy never ceases to the hopefuls. We have flatter to deceive more often than not. As the world comes out of a trough after the highs between 2002 & 2007, India does not seem to find favour with those who form the bulwark to get the world economy back on track. Yuvraj and India seems to follow a similar path. Just like Yuvraj who finds favour with the captain and selectors based on past performance and talent, India too finds favour among the international community on basis of past performance (namely the importance of BRIC) but this does not translate into on-field performance.


The suppressed energies of India’s youth due to an overall letdown of the incumbent government over the last decade find its outlet with the seething anger at Yuvraj. Cricket has always been passionately followed in India but the expectations surrounding the grand entry of India into the World Cup final turned into a damp squib. Yuvraj found himself at the centre of attention when he unintentionally turned out to the anti-hero with his hapless performance. But the Indian fan who had sky high expectations could not bear the loss. A team failure was attributed to one person who bore the brunt of freedom-of-speech on social media. It doesn’t augur well for the incumbent government considering the kind of restlessness among the citizens. Sports and movies are an escape route for the citizens of a country who are under stress of under-performance and lack of satisfaction in daily life. When this escape route meets a dead end, it is bound to create repercussions. And the seething anger at a failure in sports is one such repercussion. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Good guys always win. Arvind Kejriwal’s story though is unfolding otherwise



Good guys always win. And I think Arvind Kejriwal’s innings in the politics reinforced the fact. Last two months though have saddened the lot of people who believed in the Arvind Kejriwal Story. I still think over a longer period of time, he might bring about a change in the political mindset even though he may not remain a major player.

He won people’s hearts with his actions which were in sync with the way people liked their leaders to be. Simple, straight-forward and action-oriented. Everything he said after forming his political outfit, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was in tune with the ground realities. Corruption has always been an impediment all over the world and it is no different in India. That does not make us attuned to it and he rightly made it is agenda to root out corruption. He also understood the people’s problems with the current political functioning and the disillusionment of the working class who contribute the majority to the exchequer. Against all odds and disrespect from the leading political parties and with a lot of trepidation, he fought the Delhi state elections 2014 and came out the second largest party. As destiny would have it, he became the Chief Minister of Delhi.

With all due respect, he had the chance to prove that he walked the talk. Unfortunately, we do not know what transpired or what was the thought process of him and his team. They went berserk with announcements which by all counts were populist. A lot of unconventional methods went into the kind of governance. Austerity drive that did not materialise, alleged anarchist attitude with the Dharna, vigilantism to catch corruption through hidden cameras, on-ground mob mobility against alleged drugs & prostitution. All the actions were for the larger good although they might not be too pleasing to those who follow the rule of the book. It won him friends and foes as well. Lot of arguments about the process being right or wrong. And then the Jan Lokpal. Not being allowed to get it through, the unnecessary accusation of the Lieutenant Governor being ‘partisan’ and the ego battle to pass the Jan Lokpal finally took out life out of the Arvind Kejriwal Story with his resignation as New Delhi Chief Minister.

It is a case of missed opportunities. He could have been slow with the announcements and could have had a measured approach to governance. He though thought otherwise. Wanting to go for the big-bang statements and have an immediate impact.  I think he has over-estimated the success story of AAP far too much. I hope I am proved wrong. There is a theory going around that they are looking at the bigger battle now i.e. the Lok Sabha elections 2014 in May by contesting 350-400 seats out of 544. Apart from the resources required for such a large scale elections, they do not have the individuals who have a mass acceptance. Merely fielding social activists or corporates will not guarantee success. It worries me that in case the results do not come out as expected, the whole movement might fizzle out. Thus I hope better sense prevails and Arvind Kejriwal takes a long-position rather than go for instant gratification. You should not try your luck too far. But then Arvind Kejriwal has being unconventional and might make a lot of us ‘eat crow’ with its success going forward.


Bottomline is- goods intentions do not necessarily translate into actions. And altruism isn’t always better for others especially when it comes to being on the administrative and governance side. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Romanticism- thy name is Rahul G


                                                   (pic source: www.funnychutkule.com)

It always is a pleasure to see romanticism in every walk of life. Rahul G personifies the romanticism in politics at its pinnacle. Much has been said about the interview this week and reams of newspaper and electronic space will be devoted to intricately dissect every word said. It was sort of a damp squib at the end of it.

Any individual who isn't related to India and has not seen the last 10 years of India's journey would not be blamed if he chooses to endorse him for the next PM. On the basis of sheer innocence and forthrightness. But as always, there is more to it than what meets the eye.

Rahul wants to go for 'Business Process Re-engineering' of the political system i.e. make radical changes than go for ‘Kaizan’ i.e. slow and steady improvements. Nothing wrong in the thought. However, if you consider the anomalies, extremities and dichotomy in behaviour. On one hand you want to scrap the ordinance which bars individuals with criminal proceedings to stop contesting elections but on the other, you align yourself with the RJD chief implicated in a scam. On one hand you pride yourself on bringing in the Lokpal but on the other, you save the politicians from the Adarsh scam. On one hand you talk of 'women empowerment' but on the other, you do not take a 'zero-tolerance' stand against injustice meted out to the fairer sex. On one hand you talk of opening up the system and bringing in meritocracy in selecting individuals for elections but on the other, you are a beneficiary of dynastic politics. On one hand you talk of RTI as a game-changer but on the other hand, you have the biggest scams in India- Coalgate & spectrum allocation wherein your coalition partners ran amok and you were a sitting duck. On one hand you talk of Narenda M and his government abetting 2002 riots in Gujarat in spite of him being exonerated but were audacious enough to accept that 1984 riots had a few Congressman involved. This isn’t an endorsement of what happened in Gujarat. It is your double standards on two heinous events.

Having said this, you still want to believe him when he says that he isn't afraid of Narenda M because it is a trivial thing for someone who has seen his Grandmother and Father assassinated. When doubts are raised on him being afraid of a one-on-one contest with Narenda M, it is a metaphor being used. We know he isn’t physically afraid of Narendra M and he need not be. If I want to be harsh on him and turn this issue on its head, it can be argued that he is indeed afraid of being the PM as it gets him directly in line to be assassinated next. He might like to be in power yet without having this precedent and thus have a dual power centre as is the case with his mother and the current PM. I do not want to believe this but circumstantial reasoning might force me to.

'Women empowerment', opening up the system to meritocracy, making India a manufacturing hub to compete with China, and eradicating corruption are issues common to not just India but all countries in the world. It is a no-brainer that this has to be done. You will be treated with respect if you show- in actions- how this will be done.


Sycophancy is ingrained in Indian politics and thus he isn't shown the mirror by someone. And this is the reason you have to Aam Aadmi party taking shape to fill in the void. They have ideas and have shown the willingness to take actions. They are faltering at the moment but no one doubts their credibility. Credibility for the other political parties is at stake. Lip service and honest intentions will only help you to a break-even point. Deeds will get you the respect and support to govern. An attempt to have an upheaval in the current political system isn't necessary. What is necessary is to bring accountability. Having your ear to the ground will help. Hope a time doesn't come when you behave like Queen Marie Antoinette of France who, on being told that the peasants had no bread, said “Let them eat cake”.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Request to the Aam Aadmi Party’s First Among Equals


 Success has taken quite a liking to you. Your impeccable strike rate of hitting the bulls-eye on first attempt might have few precedents. IIT in first attempt. Civil services in first attempt. Chief Minister in first attempt. And who knows, Prime Minister in first attempt as well. Life is good to good people.

 You have been like an Arab spring of 2013 for India. It has shown our democratic foundations are as strong as ever. But admit it that you too would have been surprised by your performance in the New Delhi state elections. Even more surprising would have been Indian National Congress' support to you to form a government. And most surprising would be your own acceptance of the support provided by the INC. Because your entire election was fought against Congress' indiscretions vis-a-vis corruption. Pragmatic people have no doubt this was the right thing to do considering the high cost of re-elections. And this also gives you an opportunity to prove your mettle the first time. The start of your innings as the CM started on good footing with attempts to be a common man as the name of the party suggests. No red beacons on cars. No palatial bungalows. Although these are small issues and tokenism, you have won the hearts of millions by practising the Gandhian principles of austerity and not just wear the Gandhi topi.

 Things though have been off-course. Nothing against populist measures such as electricity and water subsidies but retracting on the FDI has been a regressive step. Yes, there are instances of FDI not helping many countries though that cannot be considered as empirical evidence. As marketers have understood, no other country can even come close to India's diversity in terms of cultures, languages, perspectives and landscapes. FDI will help India in solving supply chain issues via infrastructure growth and reduce inflation related to supply-side constraints. Kindly have a rethink. You also need to have an economic cell to develop economic policies because being new, your team doesn't have the experience of policy-making. Not that it’s a problem but it needs to be addressed on priority.

 Two things have to be addressed by you- citizen empowerment and economic development through the most-abused word in politics these days – inclusive growth. Both these things are inter-dependent and could act as imbalance in isolation. When the citizens are empowered, there will be economic development and when there is economic development, the citizens will feel empowered. Your movement was started with an endeavour to root out corruption and the disillusionment of the populace towards the political establishment. The latter is because of the former and the helplessness towards the former. All countries face the uphill task against corruption and India is no different. It would be foolhardy to think that corruption could be eradicated although that could be the ultimate vision. We, as human beings, are the ones who make laws and therefore have the wherewithal to find loop holes and make ways around it. Materialism is the root cause of corruption and any government cannot change the thinking of an individual. It would be better to concentrate on the process and reduce the dependence of any individual on another individual especially a government employee in different department. Corruption in private sector is generally towards the giver rather than the taker. It is in bureaucracy that corruption is at an individual stage and palm greasing becomes the norm rather than an exception. Thus rationing, excise, property, water, electricity, energy, public works department and such places need to have oversight and less influence over policy. If this can be done, then corruption automatically takes a back seat. Sting operations & phone help-lines will help but as I said, eventually people will find a way around it. gauging the root cause will help rather than excessive policing. It is better to have more controls in place rather than administering medicine on a case-to-case basis.

 The other necessary issue is of economic development. And this I am saying from a national perspective. There is a need to bring accountability in public institutions. No white-collar job is safe in private sector where you perform or perish. Why doesn’t the same barometer apply to government institutions? There is a tendency in India to apply for government jobs because they offer job security. An endeavour should be made to change the perception because this results in lack of accountability. There are no checks and balances. Cartelisation is banned through the Competition commission of India which keeps a hawk eye on private companies. But no accountability is the biggest cartel by government employees. They can hold the public to ransom at their whims. Socialism has its advantages but this is harming all. Free electricity, free water, low energy prices are affecting the overall economy because subsidy becomes the norm rather than an exception. Would it not be better to have the infrastructure and businesses in place that people earn enough to pay market price. This would bring equilibrium to society and the gap between the haves and have-nots will come down.

 The kind of activism that is on display will alienate the thinking middle-class and further increase the disillusionment with politics. A goodwill wave with the Aam Aadmi party isn’t strong enough to catapult it into the national centre-stage. You need to go slow. An attempt to expedite might result in unfavourable situations. Like if you contest 400 + seats in the Lok Sabha elections of 2014, and if you lose heavily, it will have a domino effect on your supports, majority of whom are youngsters looking for instant gratification. It would be better to show you mettle in New Delhi and decide to strike it by going national. That doesn’t mean you don’t contest Lok Sabha 2014 but go small and in territories where you can relate to the issues at the grass-root level.


You have bought politics from a dirty word to the buzz word. Efforts need to be in place to sustain it and work towards cohesive governance. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Why the Indian Rupee isn't appreciating anytime soon


versus

I might not be wrong to say that at no point in time since India attained sovereignty, has the Rupee depreciation seen such a public discourse. Social networks have played a part in this. It also points to a fact that the Indian masses are much more educated and aware of the economic scenario in India and the world over. They are discerning to the issues affecting their lifestyle and savings. India was always known for its scientists and mathematicians, from Aryabhatta to Bose among others. Indian economists were not too revered. It was always about the Keynesians & Hayekians. Things have changed now with Nobel laureate Amartya Sen to the Prophetic Raghuram Rajan and Ex-RBI governor YV Reddy, who got accolades for his iron fist in insulating India from direct damage of the 2008 economic tsunami.

Getting back to the vertical descent of the Indian rupee, it’s slightly difficult to give weightage to the factors for this slide. Global economic scenario and India's economic policies are to be blamed. It was a foregone conclusion that as soon as cheap money through US quantitative easing starts reducing, it will have direct consequences for the emerging markets where majority of this money flowed. The timing though was not factored in. Among the BRIC countries, India is the only country with most diverse democracy. It can be strength and equally a weakness. The economic loosening for the Indian industry expected as early as 2004-5 never occurred. Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) and Foreign Direct Investment  (FDI) in India was ‘despite the policies rather than because of’. The overflowing coffers of cheap money from developed nations had to flow in India. The developed markets were saturated with predictions of a laboured economic recovery. Economists again got it wrong this time with US showing more than just green shoots. Naturally the money was going to flow out at the slightest hint of recovery. This was exacerbated by the India's obsession with gold and the ever-burgeoning import bill for energy- oil & gas.

India has flattered to deceive more often than not on the economic front and this time was no different. With the desired policies not on the anvil, the rupee will continue to fall or abate slightly but appreciation seems a far-off. A year to go for the General Elections 2014, economic policies would be the last thing on the minds of the government. With so many allies to answer to, arriving on a consensus on policies which are harsh in the short-term but good long-term is extremely tough. The focus will be on cobbling their allies to stick together during times when there will be heavy horse-trading. The government and the bureaucracy will go in auto-pilot mode with no major reforms allowed to go through.

Increasing interest rates too cannot be an option because the domestic industry has been calling for reductions from the Reserve Bank of India to facilitate growth. Interventions by the central bank in currency markets will be a temporary balm. It cannot be sustained. Thus they too have been wary of meddling with the markets. Good economic outlook in US/Europe, coupled with lack of reforms and significant energy increases - all these factors are heavily against the rupee strengthening anytime soon. It might recover about a percentage point or two but to levels about a year back seem improbable. 

A clear path might start be visible once the General Elections are over and economics takes precedence over politics. That too would depend on the overall economic strength of the developed markets. Till the time, India has to survive with a weak rupee and hope to live to fight another day.