Friday, December 26, 2008


As the jetlite flight started descending over Nagpur Airport and I could see those small tiny houses dispersed in between green fields I was thinking how far has my city come. Or how far have I travelled away from it in last so many years. Both physically and mentally.

Nagpur is obviously not the same. But neither am I. We both have moved on. We both have changed. Taking a different trajectory from the time we both lived together.

People who know me, know that I, amongst other things, am unabashedly pro-Nagpuri and unabashedly pro-America. And I am apologetic about neither. Why pro-America? Simple answer - 'I have my reasons'. For a more elaborate explanation we need a whole new post.
Coming back to Nagpur, the obvious reason being - 'I am rooted here'. But let me go a little deeper than that.

Every time I come to Nagpur it feels like coming 'back home'. Whether I returned from my hostel life for vacation, or when I was working in Mumbai and came home or now when I am in Chicago and come to Nagpur. The feeling on landing at Nagpur, whether Airport or Railway st or Prasanna bus stop at Bole petrol pump,is similar. It just feels good. It just feels like my city, my home town is waiting with open arms to embrass me.

The feeling can best be described by the beautiful urdu word - Mehefooz. Yes, thats the closest I can think of.

The familiarity with everything just resonates from the word go. The language,
the traffic, the unnecessary honking of vehicles, the arrogant shopkeepers, the total disregard to value of Time, all ring a familair bell. It's home. It's here that my foundation was established. My family, my friends, my school, my childhood everything is deeply rooted here. This non-metro, second tier city of India, smack on the center of India's map.

This is the longest both me and wife have stayed in Nagpur in a very long time. And goes without sayin we are having a ball. That's an understatement actually. To put it in marathi Amhi jeevacha Nagpur Kartoye.

From eating different stuff every day to going to my paternal and maternal relatives almost every day, to flying kite, to playing with my niece and nephew, to having picnic in places around Nagpur, to taking long morning walks on well paved roads, to giving random calls to folks and making programs at run time, to meeting old buddy at coffee house, to contributing nothing to random family discussions and observing the ruckus to simply doing nothing and lying on bare floor and dozing off in afternoon naps.. we are making the most of it and we have not had a single dull moment so far..

The good part is I have been able to impress upon the positives of Nagpur to my non-Nagpuri wife. And best part is, I din't have to try too hard. Nagpur has changed for good.

Off course there are few things that haven't changed and won't in the future..

-General apathy towards Time and Appointments
-Method to chaos
-Endless discussions on any damn topic
-Pure and Wholesome Loudness of it all.

My battery is fully recharged now. I am taking a good mental picture of this vacation and leaving it on a positive note. Mumbai's tragedy on my first day of arrival overshadowed my stay initially. But now after having stayed with my family,cousins and friends I feel relaxed, re-fuelled and ready to go back.

If there's a notion of another life, and I am asked to choose a city I wish to be born again, it will be Nagpur for me. Simply No contest.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Still Hurting

I was hoping to calm down in a few days. But looks like this anger won't recede easily. I wrote a long emotional post full of expletives and profanity 2 days back, but refrained from posting it. I thought I could handle myself once I cool down.. But may be, being in India and in Mumbai at that, is not letting me. And in a strange way I want to continue being angry.. And I want India to be angry.

This hurts. This physically hurts. There's a strange toxic mix of anger and sadness inside me. Not sure there's an antidote for that. May be a complete annihilation of POK..

But then again, when I think with a little context and put some perception around last week's grand display of inhumanity, I think India had it coming. For too long India has taken it's one billion "cheap" human population for granted and it had it coming for a while.

Nothing happens in a vacuum. There are a series of events, series of missteps along the way that bring about such devastation on a nation. Those 20 odd, punjabi/urdu speaking young men were holding the entire might of Indian state hostage for a reason; because *they could*! And that to with relative ease. They have exposed something about our internal security apparatus that we always knew but were in denial.

And more than that they exposed something far bigger. Those 20 assholes exposed the dis-unity of the Indians. And that hurts like nothing else. Even during this extreme point of pain and crisis, when country should have come together with one voice, the Indians have responded, as only we could - incoherently, clueless-ly and with a sense of hopelessness.

India is the next 'Super Power' ?? My foot. You wanna know what super powers or wannabe super powers do when such inhuman acts are forced on them externally? You don't have to look too far; Indians, just check your big neighbor next door, and you may get some clues.

But it's not enough to just sulk at this point.To try and understand what happened and why, one has to connect the dots to the past. That's the only way we can make some sense of this spectacular dance of inhumanity. be continued

Sunday, November 23, 2008

All Set

So looks like we are all set. My wife has made sure I am not procrastinating. Procrastination is something I revel at. She set a deadline for this Sunday to pack all bags, complete all shopping and documentation etc. So that we can just jet, set, go... I am almost there and mentally checked out from here of course.

Although I still need to buy a book to read on the flight. I am thinking of getting 'The Ascent of Money', written by a very smart guy - Niall Ferguson, a Brit with a sense of humor (I know, sounds oxymoron)

Also made a list of movies I need to get while coming back. I have Ijazat, Shatranj Kay Khiladi, Party, Kalyug, Albert Pinto Ko.., Mohan Joshi Hazir Ho, Nayagan(Tamil), Chanakya (TV Series), Bharat Ek Khoj (TV Series)... on the list. Not sure if they are available on DVD yet. I also wanted to get a 1980s movie called New Delhi Times. I don't think it saw the light of the day, but it might still have a DVD. There are some comedy Marathi dramas, that we need to get too. My wife has a list of those.

Totally looking forward to our train journey from Mumbai to Nagpur. Should be fun, hopefully.

Other things I am looking forward to
  • Food! of course.. this has to top the list. Bade Miya Kebobs in Colaba,Mumbai, Barbeque in Sadar,Ngp, apart from Saoji for sure. Adding 5 pounds per fortnight wouldn't surprise moi!
  • Bike ride escapades in Ngp. Two wheelers still rule. And rock!
  • Plan to fly some kites while in there. This is kite season and I might have some serious cuts on my fingers when I come back.
  • Few family get togethers at the Gondwanas should be cool.
  • Be at my niece's school for her concert. She already got me booked for that on phone today.
  • Visit either Pachmarhi, Kanha or Kalmazari. Also on her demand.
  • IMAX theater, Ngp again with my niece. I ditched her last time and need to make up for that. It's on the other end of the town apparently.
  • Visit to Dad's ancestral village, in Yeotmal district, possibly and have Zhunka Bhakar there
  • A visit to Ngp Infotech Park. A close relation owns a company there. Should be quite an experience to walk around and check Nagpur's newest feather.
  • Plan to catch up Marathi drama while in Mumbai.
  • My wife insists on going to Indian version of McDonalds (Or as they say MAK-donalds). Not personally interested though. But will have to budge eventually.
  • Mom, might insist on visiting Koradi Temple. Also Mahalaxmi temple, Mumbai should be on cards from my wife's end. No escaping either demands.

Some packed schedule this! Even 4 weeks seem short. Will see!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A phenomenon called 'O'

Long before Obama was Chicago's most famous 'O' there was the other O, the real O - Oprah. The O that has ruled pop-culture-America like no one before her, for about a quarter of a century now.

They say Oprah Gail Winfrey has more credibility than the President of the country. She has been consistently ranked most powerful women time and again and is beyond doubt, not just a media icon. She is beyond icon. She is an Institution by her self.

What makes O tick? I once put this question to my cousin sister who lived in Chicago for 15 years. 'What is the big deal with her?' I asked. Of course my cousin, a suburban 'soccer mom' herself, was Oprah's prime demography, the perfect target audience if you will. I assumed, she would know better. And she did. Her answer was simple - "She chooses the 'right' topics and good topics'.

I wonder what are those topics that can be so devastatingly popular. I haven't seen any of her shows till date. I mean a complete 1 hr (I am assuming it is hour long at least) show. I have seen glimpses of the re runs in passing, but haven't sat through an entire show. I guess I am more of a Jay Leno kinds - quick, fast consumption audience. But again, O's success is fascinating for me nevertheless. She surely is not only talking women on her shows. Or to women. I have a feeling her reach is beyond the fairer sex. Else you can't hit it such big.

I think the reason she ticks is because she's REAL. That is the only way you can explain this phenomenon called Oprah. FAKE will last only so far. But REAL will last much much longer. Her durability is testimony to that fact.

Again, it is hard for me to gloss over the fact that a poor Black girl, born to abject poverty, sexually abused in her teenage can reach such enormous heights in her career. Again salute to you - US of A. Yo gotta somethin goin far ya. For sure. If you got talent, you can go places in this nation. Thanks, USA, for not suffocating the rise of this immensely talented individual, who was lucky not have been born in a Venezuela, or a China or Europe.

O is the richest African American in the world. And every bit of her success is well deserved.

"I mean this is a woman that came from nothing to rise up to be the most powerful woman, I think, in the world. I think Oprah Winfrey is the most powerful woman in the world, not just in America. That's — anybody who goes on her program immediately benefits through the roof. I mean, she has a loyal following; she has credibility; she has talent; and she's done it on her own to become fabulously wealthy and fabulously powerful"

These words were not spoken by a NY-Times journalist or a media mogul or some random politician but by - hold your breath - Bill O'Reilly. For some, this dude is the very anti-thesis of Oprah herself. And if O can bring out such massive praise from a guy who stands almost at the opposite end of her spectrum, you know she has DONE IT.

You Rock 'O', you do.. and this coming from a guy, who probably does not understand women or her issues like AT ALL.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro

Abdul Rehman Antulay, an old guard Congress Chief Minister, reigned over Maharashtra's biggest political scandal ever; the infamous Cement scandal of late 1970s-early 80s. This scandal probably triggered Kundan Shah's timeless masterpiece 'Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro' (JBDY)

It was a dark madcap satire that took pot shots at the then prevailing corrupt system of 1980s urban India; A movie that brought together an ensemble of some of the most amazingly funny characters ever witnessed in an Indian movie. Co-Produced by the venerable NFDC, JBDY turned into a cult classic and has been ranked by IndiaTimes amongst the 25 'must see' movies of Indian Cinema.

This movie got made at a paltry sum of 7 lac Indian Rupees. (This is probably equivalent to SRK's driver's salary now).

JBDY, was a refreshing way to look at a system that had decayed beyond repair. The despair of 1980s India got reflected in a unique way in this movie. When a system overwhelms you so much that you almost become numb and the only way to deal with it is to laugh if off, that's what JBDY did. In fact the title itself identified with that emotional numbness of 1980s youth. It almost became the mantra of Indian way of life - Jaane Bhi Do Yaar - "just let it go dude, move on".

No power, move on. No roads, move on. No jobs, move on. Corrupt Politician, no worries, just move on. JBDY in a weird way relieved that stress that captivates us all at some point. Whether it is the prevailing geo-political condition or socio-economic one. At some point we just say .. "Forget it. Just Move On".

Apart from the outrageously comic Mahabharat-Akbar scene near the end of the movie, there are some other super hilarious scenes I can always easily recollect. The one when Taneja (Pankaj Kapoor) interrupts a conversation with his Chief Site Engineer midway to spread perfume under his armpits, the Time Bomb scene during the supposed compromise meeting between the two builders that blows off 30 mins too late (mocking in a way the Indian Standard Time), the rat scene with security guards and my favorite one - the one where Pankaj Kapoor ,his sidekick(played by Satish Kaushik) and secretary Neena Gupta get stuffed inside the commissioner's bathroom and the chaotic,panic mode conversation that follows thereafter.

This movie almost redefined 'method to madness'. Built around two losers, played by Naseeruddin Shah and Ravi Vaswani who get outsmarted by the big bad world around them and that ends with their "hum honge kamyab.." hopelessness is still endearing. It is movie that was always going to retain it's contemporary feeling, because the issues it revolves around were and always will be universal. In a sense, since it was a comic relief from the all round sadness, it also in a strange way gave us a handle to deal with our own belief system that needs to be re-charged time and again. There is an alternative way to deal with system around (or not deal at all, if that is an acceptable solution) is what JBDY told us in the end.

A famous Israeli PM once said - "Some problems don't have solutions, you just have to manage them". JBDY told us- don't try to SOLVE it in one shot; rather just deal with it, manage it and if possible work around it.

When you can talk about a movie that was made more than 25 years ago with relative ease, you should know you are not turning any young and middle age is probably hitting you. While that *is* a depressing thought, the idea of having JBDY as a collector's item is not.

Salut to you JBDY. You probably told us all in a most funny way possible that sometimes you have to 'take it easy'

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Pray tell me this is not a norm in India now.
I mean really?

Look at poor'ol Lloyd. Velvetti, Blanketti... something. I mean what the HELL is that anyways? And Border ? He could have a sleep over for ever... And our very own Haryanvi Jat, grinning as usual from ear to ear... we could play chess on it.

Picture courtesy : Times of India

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Saoji Beckons

Looking forward to India vacation next month. Can't see no reason not to have Saoji Chicken in Nagpur. Last time I had it near Sai Temple on Wardha Road...

This time I am looking to go to the "original" Saoji folks.. I am assuming this is controversial, because everyone would claim their chain as original. Last time one of my cousin bro-in-laws (and I think I have like 50 of them) suggested we go to a place called Umred, which apparently has the original Saoji.. (I was like wtf... why should Umred have it?). But the dude seemed convinced and one thing I have learnt over the years in Nagpur - NEVER ARGUE - with a hard core Ngpite. It's waste of time and energy amongst other things. Just go with the flow...

Saoji's taste, IMO, is directly proportional to how un-sanitized the place is. If the pot, is really burnt and dirty, if the place is filled with the (perversely defined term) "unwashed masses", you are in for a good deal.

Cant' wait..

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Education System of Yankees

Few years back, a co-worker friend of mine made a very interesting comment - "We have to hire people from India to make software because we Americans don't find I.T jobs very sexy".

The words 'job' and 'sexy' in same breath was striking for me. I always thought a profession like say Advertisement was a sexy job or I don't know.. movies may be. But I.T? Why would Americans want even their regular jobs to be sexy. Never mind.

In other words, either the I.T job is too geeky or not macho enough for young white kids to pursue.I told him, we Indians don't care really, whether our jobs are sexy or not. We "just do IT", Nike style. We Indians are like herds. If 5 of our friends are going in IT, we will follow. We are very communal and social. We like to travel in groups, notwithstanding the "Ekla chalo ray" theme. Then it does not matter what branch or field we come from. Mechanical,Electrical,Civil,Fisheries... doesn't matter. I.T - it is.

Actually even before we are born, our parents have decided in their minds what their sons and daughters are going to be. And they ensure to push their choices down our throats from day 1. But we can't blame them. Given the socio-economic conditions, they choose the "safest" route.

Today's article by Nicholas D Kristof is spot on.

"So let’s break for a quiz: Quick, what’s the source of America’s greatness?

Is it a tradition of market-friendly capitalism? The diligence of its people? The cornucopia of natural resources? Great presidents?

No, a fair amount of evidence suggests that the crucial factor is our school system — which, for most of our history, was the best in the world but has foundered over the last few decades."

Key words here? Yes - "has foundered over the last few decades".

Every year India's heavily subsidized education system produces a huge talent pool. A good %age of that talent pool migrates to USA because the "native talent pool" finds certain jobs non-sexy. This an amazing demand-supply paradigm. But how do we look at it? Is it America's loss and India's gain? How is it India's gain if a good %age of skill is 'brain-draining' it's own economy?

According to an estimate, Govt of India (GOI) spends about 100,000 $ via subsidies etc for a decent Engineer in India. If that Engineer happens to move to USA, and becomes productive here and creates wealth in a way, isn't that like GOI gifting USA 100 grands for free?

100,000 Indian students in USA

BUT, here's a good counter to that. Say, the Engineer X comes back to India after 10 years and starts an enterprise that creates amongst other things wealth and employment. Isn't X transferring the knowledge back to India? And 10 times more? This interesting phenomenon of shared brain-drain has compelling arguments on both sides and I don't want to get into it.

Kristof's point is American Education is decaying and needs a reinforcement of ideas . He is clearly concerned about his own country's future and rightly so. By same token we should be concerned too. I think we in India have a retrograde policy towards our education system. We need to "de-centralize" it smartly to leverage our immense talent pool for our own good. The socialist mind set of monopolizing everything including Education has proven costly. The smart thing to do is not for us to remove education subsidies but optimize it's vast advantage for our own good first. We need many Kristof's to tell this loudly to our leaders who's panacea for all problems is one word - RESERVATION.

It is important that we make sure the rich people in India, who can afford, are not subsidized. I made a simple case before. I pointed out that Indians spend 500 crore per year on educating their sons and daughters in USA. This means we "give" USA 500 crore per year to educate our kids. In a way we are 'outsourcing' our Education needs to USA. The smart thing to do was to actually keep that money back home and educate 10 times more kids in same amount of money. There is an extremely high demand for education in India. I mean people are willing to spend like crazy. Now if the GOI was smart enough, it would have sensed a perfect economic opportunity here and not allow the cash flight to USA. But alas, for every Arun Shourie we have ten Arjun Singhs. And I think that is an explanation in itself.


Post Script: Reservation is an emotional subject. I am all for "affirmative action" for economically weaker sections. But I vehemently oppose cast-based reservation. Because with caste-based system even a stinking rich person like a Lalu or a Mulayam can get his / her daughter to IIT.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My first evers...

My First ever Bike - Hero Cycle / Red color

My first ever cricket bat - "SG" (Not original, but because it was written SG on it and had Sunil Gavaskar's picture plastered on it)

My First Neighborhood Friend - Pintoo Bhagwat. (I never knew his real name. He was always called Pintoo, Pintoos, Pintya, Pintal, Pinti.. anything but his real name)

First girl I spoke to in school - I think her name was Janaki. But I don't remember. I must be in 3rd grade.

First ever Newspaper I read - Nagpur Times.

My first home address- New Ramdaspeth, Nagpur (I still don't know why it was called 'New')

My first school friend - Aditya

My first school Rickshaw wala - 'Parkaas' (Actually he must be Prakash, but that's what he called himself)

My first pencil box - Waterman (It was called Compass Box for some reason). I graduated to the upscale "Camelin" much later

My first "failed" test - Elementary exam for Drawing and Arts / 7th grade. I screwed up royally.

The first ever Television I watched - It was called 'Televista'. At my aunt's place in Mumbai.

The first Hindi movie I watched in theater - Shaan. (At Saroj 'Talkies' Nagpur. The only things I remember is Yamma Yamma and Shakal)

The first English Movie I watched in theater - Superman (Liberty cinema, Nagpur)

The First auto two-wheeler I rode - TVS 50

AND ..

The First time I "mastered my domain" - 8th grade (Check 'master-of-my-own-domain' episode of Seinfeld)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Singularly Brilliant

The word brilliant cannot even begin to do justice to this.. "President Bush, because he was so easily demonized, made being a free-rider on American power easy for everyone — and Americans paid the price. Obama will not make it so easy."

Friedman, the dude... doesn't stop at that, does he?

"If you want Obama to succeed, though, don’t just show us the love, show us the money. Show us the troops. Show us the diplomatic effort. Show us the economic partnership. Show us something more than a fresh smile. Because freedom is not free and your excuse for doing less than you could is leaving town in January." {clap,clap,clap...}

I wish he would have added one more line - "Just coz Obama is President, Angels are not going to rule this world". I know he wants to say this but holding it back. He seems to have said this in as many words or more...

Friday, November 7, 2008

'Quantum of Solace'

LOL.... how on earth do these Bond guys come up with such cool titles...!
'Die another day'... I am like wtf... and then how about 'Tomorrow never dies'... I mean what the hell..
But 'You only live twice' takes the cake amongst Bond titles.... (yeah I am sure I do only live twice.. :))

I think Daniel Craig has got the Bond back in the Sean Connery mode. Tough, brawny, techno-machismo mold. I liked the last one.. Casino Royale, although I would have liked a little more wit and humor. A depressed Bond is no Bond as far as I am concerned.

Waiting for 'Quantum of Solace'. If for nothing else, I am watching it for the title.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Tomorrow morning Chicago will wake up to it's biggest news ever, that is, if it sleeps at all tonight. Chicago's favorite boy, Barak Hussein Obama(BO) will have been declared USA's 44th President.

If I was Obama tonight, I would thank at least 2 Republicans. One, of course, Abraham Lincoln, the guy who laid grounds for a humane road to end slavery and two,George.W.Bush, who screwed up so bad, he helped create the biggest media movement ever against any incumbent President till date.

It would have been insane to even think just 7 years after 9/11 struck USA, that a Black man who's middle name would be Hussein would lead America someday. But that is America for you. More action, less blabber. Did you get it France? Don't just lecture others, make "affirmative action" work. This fairy tale journey of a son born to a Kenyan immigrant to become most powerful man in the world, could have possibly been scripted only in America.

From Martin Luther King to Mohammad Ali to Colin Powell to Condoleezza Rice to Barak Obama, it is only America that has given voice, platform and avenues to achieve greater and greater heights for these minority leaders. (I can't for my life think an equally important personality in entire Europe, the so called "Liberal" Mecca)

Obama Obama

The pictures coming out of Grant Park, Chicago are nothing short of spectacular. These pictures are saying loudly and clearly -Take that, World. Stop lecturing us. Set your own house in order if you have balls.

Obama has beaten an honorable man. And he beat him fair and square. Let us not take away anything from his well oiled and well managed campaign. This is a massive massive win for Democrats, who never forgot the "stolen election" of 2000. They have never forgiven Republicans for that. Today's massive win can only be sweet vindication of 8 years of relentless campaign.

This is clearly a watershed movement in America's life. A sustained campaign against Bush has finally come to it's fruitation. Obama was an idea who's time had come. And nothing explains it better than a huge, a huge surge in young voters coming out in unprecedented numbers. Obama had captured nation's imagination and more importantly tapped it's emotion. I have not seen what it was like to be in Reagan's America or Kennedy's America, but I can't imagine it being as electrifying as today.

If I was a numerologist, I would have looked at these figures. BO was born on *4th* of August, he assumed his first office as a senator on *4th* of January and he won the Presidential elections on *4th* of November, even as he is declared the *44th* President of USA. Interesting coincidence of number 4.

But beyond a doubt this is Obama's calling; this *is* America's calling.

What would the post-Election Obama look like? Will he move this country more towards Left with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid? Or will he take the Bill Clinton centrist path. More importantly how would this icy cool head, deal with enormous load of expectations. How will he deal with unpopular decisions? I am not sure. All I know for now is that, he is a smart guy with a grounded attitude. He is a good man for sure; whether he is the "right" man, only time will tell.

Presidential Election

This is such huge movement that it is easy to loose sight of the loosing candidate. I always thought that McCain was an honorable man, a war veteran with an impeccable integrity. I think he and his running mate got a raw deal from media. Specially Sarah Palin, a mother of 5 kids, one of whom will be deployed in Iraq and other a son with down syndrome. I thought she got the rap of her life on her knuckle. Some of the attacks on her were plain spiteful and tasteless. In the end they were not only running against Obama, but against a hugely unpopular incumbent President. In the end they could not beat Bush.

It's fair to say, this was a year for Democrats in the cycle of Elections and Obama was smart enough to sense that. And he hit the sweet spot with the American electorate. Truly a remarkable movement in history of the world. I am ending this post, even as Obama has started his speech at Grant Park.

Live well Sir!


Post-Script : I could not come up with an appropriate title for this post. Should I have called it "Obama Wins" or "McCain Looses" or "Liberals Win" or "Conservatives Loose" ...
I think I should have called it "Bush Looses". But again, he was not running.. so I did not go with that..although I thought 'Bush Looses' came closest to what i was thinking, coz even though Bush Jr did not fight this election, he was looming large over it.

May be I should have called it America Wins... but I thought '!!!' said it all :)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The 'O' Factor

The is running a WORLD POLL on USA elections on it's website. No prizes for guessing who is leading hands down. Check it and Vote

This is obviously not scientific and complete reflection of world opinion, but definitely a "pointer".The entire globe on that website looks "Blue", except 3 countries - Iraq,Algeria and Congo. These three nations are liking Mc more, apparently.

But there's something interesting I observed - amongst the 'blue' countries only one country is supporting McCain much more than others. Guess which?

Yep, it's Pakistan which is relatively less Obama than others. I also have a theory. There's a good chance that if this website link was available to a larger Chinese populace, the results would not have been so lopsided. The reason - the Republicans right from Nixon days have been China's favorite politicians. What with all business going to their land post-Nixon era.

So when O finally wins this week, there are at least 2 countries that may have issues with his win - Pakistan and China.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

You said it!

There's a reason I like to read Friedman, even though I do not agree with everything he has to say; he "keeps it simple".

I have argued against this over-correction of "evil" capitalism in one of my previous posts where I mentioned Google too. In his latest article Friedman gives example of Larry and Sergey asking for loan from a "nationalized" bank. So apt, given the current scenario.

Coming from a country where socialism ruled for more than 5 decades and still continues to be dominant philosophy, I think I am qualified to judge it's consequences. Nothing explains it better than Churchill's quote

Just simply put - "We need to fix capitalism, not install socialism." As Mr. Friedman has rightly said

Friday, October 31, 2008

Chicago Ready

If people do not go to sleep on day of voting and/or meteoroids do not fall on earth, this November 4th'2008 will be Chicago's day under the Sun.

Barak Obama (BO) will be declared the 44th US President and for Chicago it will be the first home town President. The buzz is already around everywhere I go in the city. From metra stations to trains and from work area to cafeteria... it's BO ruling every where. Yesterday while playing foosball at work, there was a conversation going around "tickets" for BO rally at Grant Park. I almost felt like we were talking of a World Series pass or a Rock Concert.

But that is what BO has done in these last few days. He has energized a whole new generation of Americans into "believing" in something positive. You may not entirely agree with BO on all counts (and I certainly don't), but it's hard to decouple yourself from this BO frenzy.

Having said that, I will continue to watch these American Presidential Elections as dispassionately as possible. Last few weeks I have avoided the temptation of falling into that trap and I will continue to look at it via the "third party" prism. Because as a non-American working professional thats what I think is the right and principled approach. This is not "my" country, it's Election's are not "my" elections.

For me it's like watching a Brazil-vs-Germany World Cup Soccer finals. I may have my favorites, I may pick my side but I would avoid carrying it on my sleeves.

Monday, October 27, 2008


'Bombay is a crowd' - this is how V.S Naipaul started his grand book - India, A Million Mutinies Now.

Growing up, Bombay was my favorite city. Partially because a good part of my extended family lives there and as kids we would enjoy vacations every summer in Bombay. But more so because of it's "cool" character. It was cool to be in Bombay and be a part of it. It's 'Bumbayya" language, those double decker buses, those local trains, going to Mud Island on a ferry from Versova, visiting Juhu beach as if it was a family tradition, visiting Mom's old cousin in South Bombay who would throw us a party in Bombay Gymkhana almost like a religious ritual every year... it was positively engaging.

My cousins were spread across the Bombay island.. from Santacruz to Parle and from Saat Bungla to Chembur. Somehow Bombay always felt "at home".

In some sense, to me it symbolized something bigger than sum of the parts. It was pluralistic, pragmatic and had lots and lots of energy. The true melting pot of India, if there ever was one.

Today's Bombay I think is a patch of it's own past self. The Bombay that could pride itself on civic sense and discipline has imploded under it's own weight. I started having an uncomfortable feeling when finally as a working professional I actually started living there. It seemed to me that the city had been taken over by something and it was hard for me to figure out what. Bombay was always crowded, but around 2000 when I was living there, there was something odd about the crowd. It had become rowdy and you could feel that in local trains and markets and stations. The language and character of old Mumbai that I knew growing up had changed. It had acquired a different color, a different dialect and entirely different character.

There was an indication that a massive inflow of immigrants had flooded the city suburbs like never before. The local politicians were no more the Joshis and Patils and Naiks but names like Kripa Shankar Yadav and Javed Khan (both from UP) started becoming Bombay's "local" politicians.

Maharashtra politics was the last remaining citadel of Marathi Manus in Mumbai. Because even though Mumbai was state capital it was never ruled by Marathi manus as such, except only politically. For example, the restaurant industry was dominated by Shettys, the real estate was always dominated by Sindhis, Bollywood was always dominated by Punjabis and north Indian Muslims and Stock Exchange was dominated by Gujaratis,..

Another View from Chennai (Interesting Take)

At no point did Bombay feel restless. It embraced and absorbed endlessly. I would often call Bombay a miracle. It boggled my mind to see the sheer size, diversity and population density of this great city being managed each and every day. Power and Electricity, Road network, BEST buses connecting remotest of places. All seemed streamlined and seamless. The system in all it's strange ways "Worked". And when you were in Bombay, you knew it always "Worked".

What has happened in last few weeks in Bombay is a wake up call for it's residents. Raj Thackrey may just be the name and face behind the violence buut it would be naivety if the elite think it's only a language and MNS problem. What we English media reading elite may not realize is there may be an under current of support for Thackrey Jr and he may be shrewdly tapping on that anger. It is common trait in Times of India reading and NDTV watching crowd to discard these MNSs of the world as "irritants and nuisance". But before we know, it's this same attitude that makes these clowns, Heroes. Because the Raj Thackreys of the world have a connection with the grounded "ghati" which we may not have.

More on this by Shobha De, a hard core Mumbaite herself

It should be remembered that Lalu Prasad Yadav was uncouth, English hating, rowdy guy who ruled Bihar for 3 terms continuously. Every time the English media would count him off because of his violent ways of getting things done in Bihar, his massive corruption, his near total disregard for anything legal and constitutional, every election that guy would come out more powerful; media's scorn notwithstanding. The elite did not read what he read. There was anger in Bihar against the upper cast feudal system. Arguably lot of it was only perception. But Lalu was shrewd enough to tap into that Yadav/OBC anger and become a leader of masses he never would have been. It's interesting to see how a nobody can become an ogre, a "somebody" if a threshold is reached in his/her popularity by series of events that may have been avoided.

If Raj Thackray has to be stopped and we want to make sure that Maharashtra state does not have it's own version of Lalu 2.0, the "elite" should look at the deeper problem and just not discard MNS violence as random act of political gimmick. There may be more to MNS anger than what meets the eye. There may be a genuine discomfort in regular Mumbaite at the "squeezing out" of Marathi from Bombay's DNA.

Raj Thackrey and his ilk is not qualified to stand up for anything Marathi. In fact his standing up is only counter productive to genuine problems. But to discard these events as only MNS issue is playing right into hands of Thackrey. He will only becoming more powerful if mindless, rampant influx is not stopped into a decaying city, who's infrastructure, resource and resilience has been tested beyond limits.

Happy Diwali!

It's about Brightness, Smile and Spirituality.
(Something that is dwindling from our quota every day.)

Happy Diwali to Defense Forces who are not with their families today. We owe you big Dudes.

Happy Diwali to Anna Saheb of Pune ( and people like him around the country) who are working relentlessly to bring smiles to thousands of orphan kids in the city

Happy Diwali to 70% rural and small town Indians who even in this age and day are "keeping it simple"

Happy Diwali to all Forest rangers across the country who are saving us from Poachers

Happy Diwali to Police men and their families who do not have respite from Terrorism and violence almost every day

And also..

Happy Diwali to Indian postmen. (Sorry folks I am not in to hand over baksheesh this time)

Happy Diwali to MSEB folks (Thanks for managing "power" efficiently)

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Winston Churchill : "The inherent vice of Capitalism is uneven distribution of wealth. The inherent vice of Socialism is even distribution of miseries"

They don't make such stimulating quotes no more!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chandrayaan Launched

India's first unmanned lunar mission - Chandrayaan - was launched successfully yesterday.

India is only the 6th nation to do this. More importantly this was an indigenous effort.

Congratulations to ISRO and India

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Currently Reading

Brought two very interesting books (I think!) from Public library today. One, Thomas Friedman's 'Longitudes & Attitudes' which was on my list for a while and two, 'Pakistan' written by Mary Ann Weaver.

Not sure why I picked the second one while browsing through the shelf. Something about the cover struck me. Will see, how it comes out.

Few weeks back I interacted with Mr. Razi Azmi again. Azmi is a Pakistani journalist of repute and was kind enough to reply back on personal emails. I was intrigued by some of his columns that appeared sometime back in Friday Times and even asked him in one of my emails - "How can you survive in that country after writing such stuff" :)

Pakistan is currently on brink of economic collapse. Their foreign reserves are barely touching the last level of pool and not to mention the near vertical split in defense ranks about supporting US attacks. The inflation not to mention is above 25%.

Amidst all this chaos in Pakistan, I could not help but notice that Kashmir which had reached a boiling point just two months back is not in news anymore for the wrong reasons. (Indian government just announced State elections there). Could it be possible that it's finally dawning upon the militant leadership in Kashmir (the hurriyats and the jklfs) that aligning with an already bankrupt Pakistan is not making sense? I mean they do need to see what side of bread is buttered don't they? Where are they going to export their apples and cherries and kashmiri chillis? Not to a poverty stricken neighborhood, eh? And who's going to pay for their random and inhuman acts of violence? Arundati Roy? nah..
Just a random thought as usual.

Friday, October 17, 2008


The week that was.. : The last editorial surprised me. I have not seen such an openly biased editorial in India in a while. It's obvious that the economictimes editor is rooting for the twisted version of secularism in India, as defined by the Nehruvian polity. The totally one sided slant does not bode well, specially coming from the second most successful financial newspaper. Any which way, Business and Productivity (GDP) is moving towards the "Communally governed" states of India (latest being Nano moving to Gujarat), and I can see why Economic Times is being uncomfortable with that. Their bosses at 10, Janpath are not liking it. The silver lining for me though is, these arm-chair editors, living on crumbs thrown to them by 10, Janpath are almost always not in tune with nation's opinion. As a thumb rule, if economic times is rooting for a party X, it's opposite party Y is more likely to be beneficial for over all country.

Open Letter Season: Talking of Nano moving to Gujarat, seems like every one is falling into the "Open Letter" bandwagon. First it was Modi who sent an "open" letter to Buddhadeb and then came Ratan Tata who sent an "open" letter to people of West Bengal. Since when was sending confidential posts / mails not in vogue?

Zakaria GPS : Last Sunday on the CNN's GPS, Zakaria had some "eminent" economists on the panel. Not surprisingly majority of them had that "we-told-u-so" chip on their shoulders about the current Economic crisis. All these eminent experts almost always come out in open and give fundaes, when things go wrong and analyze something in hindsight. I find it a little amusing.
So one of these experts said, the Reagan era of free-market is over after 30 years. And he had a glee in his face, as far as I could tell.

Oh please , "OVER"? Isn't that a bit extreme? I mean this same era gave us the Microsofts, Oracles and Googles of the world!! Yes the "evil" Corporate America that makes this blog's existence possible; and GPS possible and CNN possible with 24 X 7 crap of these eminent experts!
One crisis, and the system is OVER? Oh for crying out loud. When will we stop this extreme talk. "It's over", "All has ended", "Back to Socialist format now"....

It's fair to say a System failed to plug the holes of greed of few fat cats. It's fair to say that a Design flaw was exposed. It's fair to say that we need to 'correct' the flaws; but to write off this entire Free Market, which by the way, is helping those 10 Million Chinese labors, who these bleeding hearts find so endearing? I find it a bit of a stretch. No?


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Three Weeks to go...

And the race is more or less over as far as I can see. I mean the O vs Mc race. I think the economic crisis was the last nail in McCain's coffin who's campaign was living each day on borrowed oxygen, in any case. The mean and negative attacks launched by McCain campaign in last 2 weeks is clear indication of desperation and clinging somehow to last straw.

At 72, McCain was fighting too many odds. An economic crisis (widely perceived to be) perpetuated by his party, an unpopular regime, a light-weight-easy-to-target running mate. One too many mountains to climb I guess, in the end for McCain.

Hope this "change" is for the larger good. In the end whatever happens, I hope Democracy wins and the bitter and partisan temperature prevailing everywhere is brought down. A "swing of pendulum" is a sign of healthy democracy.

[It's not a coincidence that after about 3 terms of Labor party in UK, the Conservative party under a young dynamic leader is leading the opinion polls in Britain currently. Food for a thought!]

Saturday, October 11, 2008


One of the shows that I record on my DVR and watch regularly is Jay Leno's Tonight show. Call me old school, but I still find him funny. (I heard a conversation over the office lunch table the other day - "Leno is so 1990s").

I think Leno is still cool, smooth and more importantly apolitical. Not that there's anything terribly wrong in being political. But most comedians who lean on either side of the "aisle" loose control and focus and often forget the line between plain simple fun and ugly vitriol. I think Leno has maintained that balance so far. When he attacks a particular politician its funny, and he makes sure that there's no underlying seething anger behind that attack. It's not scathing.

Can't say that for some of the other comedy-show talk hosts I see. One of the famous liberal comedian who's podcast I download regularly, recently made some sexist and vulgar remarks against Sarah Palin's daughters. I mean come on; one of her daughters is just 5 years old! I understand there's hatred for Mrs Palin, but give me a break. Shouldn't you keep her daughters off limits? It was crass and tasteless to say the least.

Leno earns around 25 million dollars doing what he does. I find this whole talk-show hosting, intriguing. I am sure, since it is such a high earning profession it would be having it's share of stress as well. Although the word "stress" and comedy-show sound paradoxical, when put in same line. Think about it - 'A stressful job of making people laugh'

Here's for me what's intriguing. To come every day to studio, whether you are in a good mood or bad, and involve yourself in creativity of producing laughter. I mean EVERYDAY.

For regular professions having bad-mood days is not that bad. You can still pass by. I mean you can go on doing your routine job, may be feeling like a grump. But for Lenos of the world, you have to be in good mood every day of your working life. The bosses at NBC cannot afford to have a grump Leno even for one day. It would be a permanent taint. And they make sure they make it up to him for not being a grump by paying him millions.

One of the things that I like about Leno is the way he recovers from flat jokes. He makes sure he spells it out loud and laughs at himself for cracking a poor joke. That is a smart thing to do. You don't want to raise the stakes too high, but rather leave some space to make a come back if needed.

Johnny Carson, who preceded Leno on Tonight Show ran that show for 30 years. 30 years; about the same time a regular salaried person would work in his life time. Only thing, Carlson had to be creative and in public radar every day of those 30 years. Leno did this for around 16 years. Not bad for an era where public taste changes at a rate faster than Nasdaq.

Leno will be retiring next year. He would be leaving his current job at the top of his career. At his peak, when his show is beating other similar genre shows in viewership by several miles. I think again, you have to give him credit. Not many have the stomach to 'time' their exit right. It may be argued that NBC is kicking him off and replacing him with *this* generation's guy. But think about it, a network that is already struggling to keep it's head above water; why would it want to let go Leno?

I think the rational lies in the fact that viewers taste is changing fast and NBC needs to be ahead of the curve. Leno will surely be leaving a legacy that would be tough to top. An early retirement of Leno can be milked better by NBC then if he is allowed to continue and loose his popularity down the years. They are timing the Crest and not waiting for the Wane.

Smart move.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Vijay Dashmi

Dusshera, amongst other things reminds me of washing and cleaning all home vehicles in the morning,going to Tilak Nagar ground to watch Ravan being mercilessly fire cracked through his butts and exchanging "sona" later in the evening.

I think around the time of Dusshera the festive season really sinks in. The air is crisp and getting cooler and now you are truly in midst of the prolonged festive season where you take a vacation from calorie consciousness. For every place you visit, whether friends or family, you are deluged with elaborate servings of that deadly trio of chivda,chakli,ladoo and more. Not to mention free flowing oily lunches and dinners over at the extended families.

In Nagpur, the western part of the city, there's this huge crowd that comes from all over Maharashtra and collects at, Ambedkar Stadium. You don't want to know more. Except that the "face" of the city changes quite drastically only to recover back in a few days.

There are a couple of mythologies around Vijay Dashmi. The most consensual being that Bhasmasur was finally killed on this day. Apparently this dude, Bhasmasur, had caused quite a chaos in the universe, and needed a force in form of a Goddess to destroy him. Bhasmasur was otherwise indispensable as one of the Gods from the trio of Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva, had given him a boon of immortality. That is, he cannot be destroyed by any Male.

Lol.. don't you just love these stories!!! How convenient is that? So you can't be killed by a male, fair enough, create a female and you got him. :))

Another story is that, Ram finally was able to destroy Ravan on this day in Sri Lanka after a massive battle, and news reached Ayodhya on this day. He finally arrives from that win on day of Diwali and does a victory lap, roughly after 15 days.

The victory of good over evil. The victory of truth over lies. These basic templates of Hindu Mythology have been celebrated for last 3000 years. I am not going to question or judge or analyze them . On the other hand, I am going to just feel the joy of this festival and take a spiritual journey for a day and hope that all modern day Bhasmasurs are destroyed. (Actually I am going to just go around and do my work as I ain't have no holiday today)

Happy Dusshera!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Friday Nama

Let's see what's going around..


Rajdeep rooting for Indian Debates : IBN's Rajdeep Sardesai, who and his wife Sagarika Ghosh, redefined "shouting" journalism, argues that Indian Television should have it's share of Election Debates now.
Well let's see here. So I am trying to think how in last general elections, a one on one television debate between Vajpayee and Sonia would have looked. I know. Don't even bother.

He does point out something interesting though - "As for Mrs Gandhi, in over a decade in public life, she has barely given three and a half interviews, most of them carefully choreographed, the questioning in most instances confined to the gentle and routine."

Ahem Ahem. Makes me wonder; are we qualified to judge other country's VP nominees who falters in couple of interviews, when we as a nation have allowed a de-facto ruler to rule us for last 5 years; someone who was as clueless about Indian affairs, both domestic and internationl, as my 8 year old niece?

Don't know. But sounds like a valid point.


Terrorism Bail out : As if to take a cue from the on going bailout season, the Sonia Gandhi led UPA government in India has decided to bail out the mushrooming madarsas of the coutry. Times of India reports that a sum of 3.2 Billion rupees is being granted to Madarsas to "upgrade".
Well.. it's only fair. After all, bombing and maiming people does require resources, management, technology and man power to execute plans on such massive scale. The already well funded religious schools, probably needed 'some' Government support after all.


Veeps don't weep : Yesterday's Vice Presidential debate was ok. No home runs scored. No gaffes. I thought it went alrigt. In any case the VP debates, I think have only entertainment value. They are not meant to be game changers in any case.

Biden's, sentimental moment, stuck out for me. May be it was genuine, but certainly not (vice) Presidential. He is expected to be in control all the time.

P.S : I hate it when CNN's Wolf keeps parroting -"Best Political Team in Television" ad nauseum. But CNN is still better than watching left wing haven - MSNBC and right wing idiots at FOX. Hardly a choice though.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

'Save the fat cat'

It took me a while to figure out in actual digits, how to write 700 billion dollars. No Kidding. Here's how it looks - 700,000,000,000 - after adding zeros one by one to 700,000 which is a figure I can relate to as within my realm of existence. And that, if I really look too far from me.

So, Senate today passed the bill to bail out the fat cats of Wall Street and hand over to them 700 Billion US Dollars. We are being told by all the wise men, including journalists and politicians, that this is the right thing to do. And if we don't do that heavens will fall (or something of that order will happen. Doomsday theories you know!)

The idea is, that if the falling banks and their big fat wild cats are flushed with this kind of cash, they in turn will be free to give credit to people, which in turn will roll the economy back on the track over the period of time. On the other hand if Banks keep tumbling for lack of cash, no one will be getting credit which means, no money rolling back and forth into economy and which means "depression".

Now let me tell you quite frankly, I do not like the word depression. It is too fking depressing. And so I am like.. "yeah, do whatever..give those fat cats what they want.. but don't talk of depression please.."

Or is it? Should I as a tax paying resident of this country, who pays his bills regularly, without fail, and who lives within his limits as an honest salaried person not question this bail out?

I am sure, that the 700 Billion figure has my name in it, a small one I agree, somewhere in there. Me and my wife are contributing to bailing out a bunch of greedy CEOs and their Bull Shitting Management gurus and we are being told right now, that do not question this. If you are against bail out, you are a moron.

Ok, fair enough. I am a moron. An honest tax paying moron. But I need to know, the idea behind this RUSH to bail out. Nancy Pelosi's Congress and Bush's managers were sleeping for 1.5 years and all of a sudden they want to apply bandage to a nagging pain and think all is taken care of!!!

I am thinking NO. If you could wait for almost 2 years and sleep over this issue thinking everything is fine, you should wait for another couple of weeks at least. Tell me and my wife, why those greedy cats are not being penalized. Why they are not expected to pay their dues. How do me and my wife not know that these 700 Billion will not vanish in thin air again? Whooooooosh!!!

In a plain, simple, well written op-ed today in New York Time, Nicholas Kristof argues that America should "save the fat cat"

Who am I to question an Harvard educated guy like Nicholas Kristof, who's columns I have been following with great delight?

I am not arguing against the bail out Mr. Kristof. I am arguing against the mad rush to do that without communicating and addressing my fear that the cat is really dependable. I am worried, they are being let off too easily. I am worried that the right lessons are not being learnt here. I am worried that we are not giving ourselves even time to sink in and learn. Quick fixes have a flip side. And you probably have a greater visibility than me to world crisis to know that.

And please do not compare Japan to USA. Japan's economy sunk coz of the financial culture (of obsessive savings by the way) and not because their government did not bail out. I have not been to Harvard or have an MBA degree. But life's own management school of common sense taught me to take each problem on it's merit. If you try to apply Japanese template to USA, you are not going too far.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Whoa la Nagpurkar

Born in Nagpur, India, 51-year-old Pandit earned bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering from Columbia University in New York City. He received a doctorate in finance from the school in 1986. At Morgan Stanley, he headed institutional securities, overseeing banking, trading, prime brokerage and investments. While his unit performed well, Pandit often sparred with fixed-income chief Zoe Cruz, who said he was too conservative and unwilling to use leverage to magnify bets.

- Times of India - 2008/09/30 on CitiBank Chief Vikram Pandit

Friday, September 26, 2008


I don't know why I am writing this. But if I have to hazard a guess - well it's Friday morning, I am traveling in my local Metra train on my way to office and I have nothing better to do.(Actually it would really help if the lady sitting in my next seat, keeps her stretched out New York Times, away from my nose)

Friday's are usually fun time at work. They come with a few games of "foosball" and a couple of beers with colleagues before the day ends. Not to mention some weird meetings during the days.

I know my opinion counts a squat. But here's one more of my opinions - America, *can* market anything. I mean ANYTHING. Americans can convert a crappy shit of an entity into a brand and still sell it to world. They are world leaders in marketing. That I am utterly and completely convinced about.

Why do I say that? OK, lets see. Let's start with two of America's most known brands. Mickey Mouse and McDonalds. At the very basic, Mickey is a cartoon character to be found in children comics and day time television. That's as far we mortals could have thought. These Americans converted Mickey Mouse, into a multi billion dollar industry.
Same with McD. At the very basic McDonalds sells wada-pavs. Only, it packages it well. But it's a wada pav after all. Nothing more. And McDonalds has a turnover bigger than some nations GDP. Get the drift?

Brits created English language, but Americans made it COOL.
This 'coolness' factor is essential to re-branding something. You can make a shitty stuff cool and all off a sudden it becomes sell able.

Most Indians re-discovered Yoga after they came in contact with Western World. Ideally it should have been the other way round.

All of us are "going green" today. But we Indians were always "going green". We always recycled. Now Americans are making it "cool" to go green (More on this later)

So why am I calling the title of this post - "Friday"? Coz, I just think that it was the Americans who made "Fridays" cool. They branded Friday as the cool day. A day to just loosen yourself. It may be argued that TGIF is not an American term. But who knows how it came into being. The fact that Friday is celebrated across the western world, as the 'coolest' day, does not take away from this notion that it was made cool by Americans.

The term Friday Dressing must have boosted the Mall sales, when it was introduced I am sure. Sometimes I feel there are forces who work together to create this brand so as to induce more market into it.

Just think about it. 'Thank Goodness It's Friday', just makes you feel good even if you know it's going to be a regular day. You have a bounce in your feet. You hang out at those bars shouting loudly. Checking scores on monitors while checking other things and keeping scores of your beers.

(Blame this lame post on the book I am reading - "The Tipping Point". There's a bunch of "branding" crap in it)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Terrorism in India

5 stages

1. Denial
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance.

I think we reached the last stage pretty fast. In fact we by passed 2,3 and 4 and have reached the stage of Acceptance after being in Denial for about 15 years.


NDTV, is insulting my intelligence by comparing SIMI and Bajrang Dal. One takes orders from Karachi, places bombs in public places and kills 2 year old innocents and wants Sharia to become Indian law. Other breaks window glass panes of Shops in Manglore and Orrissa and attacks Christian Missionaries who are converting poor tribals in Orissa. Ya both are same, right!

Apparently the argument is - "both are dangerous as both are breaking laws". Ahem, even Sonia Gandhi has broken "Office of Profit" Law. Does that mean she is same as Dawood Ibrahim? Shouldn't we have same punishment then for DUI driving and Parking Ticket? Both are laws broken, yaha..!

This is by the way, a classic "secularist" strategy to dodge blame on "peace loving" and "victimized" organization like SIMI. Make a noise about Bajrang Dal and create a notion of moral equivalence between BD and SIMI. This way, the anger against SIMI can be diminished. The professional "secularists" do not like to loose arguments. So they go to any lenghts to use this classic defense mechanism - "See your guys do it too.. they block traffic, break windows... so what if other side just bombs and maims innocent people.. same difference..right?"


'Geography of Bliss'

- a book review (attempted)

It's a good feeling when you find validation. A validation of your ideas. And it may sound a bit cliche', but you connect to someone with your ideas instantly.

Nothing like this happened for me when I started reading "Georgraphy of Bliss" - A grump's search for happiest places in the world.

The book dragged for a few pages initially and then it picked. And boy it did!
Once I started sipping each page one by one, the "wine" became tastier and more intoxicating. I sort of found a validation in my own ideas after reading this. I always knew that we as a people are whiners basically. We are looking to run away from what we have. In fact world is getting whinier every day. And this clearly comes out to me after reading this book.

Eric Weiner was an NPR journalist. As an author of this amazing travelogue he goes to about 9 or 10 countries and tries to find out why the people in these countries are happy. He tries to see if they are happy at all? If yes, what ticks.

He goes to strange places like Bhutan, Qatar and Iceland and interacts with the local people to know what's going on. He also goes to the world's unhappiest place - Moldova.
He begins his journey in Netherlands, where a Research institute maintains a list of Happiest places in the world. And he is surprised by some findings of that research. For example, a country like Iceland, where half the year is complete darkness and cold and bitter, is actually a very happy place. He says Iceland is country of only 300,000 people. It's population is about the size of Louisville or as he says the "average bus stop in China" :)

The book is evenly spaced between bouts of humor and some serious information. Weiner does a good job of keeping the balance. It's important for a funny guy who's on a mission to not loose his focus and try to be too funny. As a messenger of this research, Weiner needs to inform his audience in a way that they do not loose interest. And considering the kind of attention span we have these days, Weiner's job is not easy. To his credit he maintains that track all along. Making sure, he does not miss the point, keeping a subtle thread of humor running. I like the smooth narration. It is not preachy or high handed. It makes you feel easy.

He keeps best for the last. His last stop before coming back to his home, America,is India. And here's what he has to say about India -

"Some places are like family. They annoy us no end, specially during holidays, but we keep coming back for more because we know, deep in our hearts, that our destinations are intertwined. For me, that place is India. I hate it. I love it. Not alternatively, but simultaneously"

We all think about that elusive "perfect job". In my head that job is still not completely defined or clear. But if ever there was, Eric Weiner's job of going to 10 different countries, staying with local folks, interacting with them, interviewing them and finding what clicks or not, would be very close to a perfect job. :)

Not a masterpiece or a classic. But a good informative, relaxing read nevertheless.

Recommended : YES

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Financial Bloodbath

We din't see it coming. Or may be we did, but we were in denial. What a shocker this was? But was it? Lehman Brothers, one of the biggest investment bankers of our times collapsed yesterday. And how?

NYtimes thinks, today it would be AIG. The biggest Insurance company. AIG has already been downgraded by Moody to it's lowest ever.

Has excessive Greed finally caught on Capitalism? Should we now move to more government regulations as Obama and his campaign managers have already started suggesting? I don't know. But it makes sense to keep a balance for sure. (If I was Obama, btw, I would be very happy with timing of this news. Palinmania, was clearly shifting the sand under him since last two weeks. This Wall Street Bloodbath, should surely help him provide effective argument against Republican capitalism. Let's see how that cow is milked now)

Coming back to my earlier question though- is "evil" Capitalism finally finding it's nemesis? Has uncalibrated greed, made free market Capitalism a failed philosophy?

Before I write obituaries on Capitalism, let me put it this way - if Capitalism as a system is bad, should I move towards Socialism and may be it's more aggressive brother Communism? Meaning, if I loose all my money currently stocked in Fidelity,Chase etc( who knows they may collapse too), should I move to Venezuela ( a socialist dictator's nation) or to China (a Commie Giant) ?

I am thinking NO for now. You know why? Coz, Capitalism as a system has flaws.And when I chose to be a part of it, I knew it (or should have known it) had. No one was putting a gun on me to be a part of this "flawed" system. And what we are seeing today is, one of it's design flaws getting exposed. Now I have a choice. To become an eternal skeptic, like Michael Moore and Bill Maher, and whine about how bad capitalism is and how we are all doomed for ever, while sipping on a nice beer in an Air conditioned room watching the latest Hollywood movie or NFL game on my Plasma, or think hard. A little hard. Does capitalism system with all it's flaws, has a chance to bounce back?

Or more importantly, does a combination of Capitalism and Democracy have a chance to bounce back from this massive setback? Does the US ogre have the capacity to dust off it's butt and bounce back and walk again? Does the checks and balances mechanism work?

I would like to take a brief vacation from cynicism and I would go for later theory - believing that it *does* have a capacity to rebound, like it it did post Enron or post 2001 bubble burst. I mean, I would certainly like to believe that China with it's water tight control over all banks and hard wired regulations is certainly "safer" than the greedy un regulated banks of USA. Or for that matter since Chavez of Venezeula has nationalized everything in sight in his small hapless nation, we should all move to that great socialist "paradise". But I am thinking no. Crisis, keep coming. What's important is, do we as a people, as a system have that ability to re calibrate, recode, regroup to bounce back. Does the system we are in allows us enough leverage to correct it's flaws?

If the answer is yes, I feel it's a rational argument to stick back. Take a deep breath, take a few steps back and re-code the broken piece, rather than just pulverize the whole system itself and say we are Doomed. Leave that job to Bill Maher or as Greeks would say to Cassandra.

I am no blind supporter of USA or Capitalism per se. I don't pretend they are flawless. I am very well aware of their flaws. And, I, as a responsible semi-citizen am equally accountable for it's problems as I myself have made a choice to be a part of this "flawed" system. Nobody forced me to. (Like nobody forced lower middle class people who could not afford to buy mansions at sub prime rates. They were "incentive-ized" alright, but they got themselves into the black hole, like some people going to Las Vegas casinos do)

My problem is I am equally aware of the "other" or alternative systems around the world that are currently looking at me and my professional home (the USA) with a sarcastic - SEE-I-TOLD-YOU-SO look. And I am telling them in my mind, nah.. sorry, enjoy your sarcastic laugh for all you want to.. you are still wishing down in your heart somewhere.. "I should have been there.."


P.S : I am currently reading an excellent book called - "The Geography of Bliss". And this book is what I was looking for since a while. Written by Eric Weiner, of National Public Radio. The book is making a lot of sense to me. More on it later.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Apparently SIMI was looking to complete the B-A-D loop (Banglore-Ahemdabad-Delhi). They are calling it 'Operation BAD'.

For those who are "interested" at all, Delhi was hit by a series of blast (sorry, I din't mean to yawn anyone).

Here's what PM,Sonia,Home Minister have to say (i guess) : "We will not spare the terrorists and hunt them down. Please maintain peace though"

Here's what L.K Advani and Co will say : "This PM is weak. We need POTA...."

And life goes on.....

(Before I forget, I need to update the India.jpeg file with another big bang blast image on the map)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I am a huge fan of Varsha Bhonsle. Huge Huge fan. I even have a personal email response from her, from a few years back, that is most cherished.

She is currently in ICU. Doctors and Police are tight lipped about this being a suicide attempt or not. I hope not. She is a tough women.

For every Shabana Azmi we need a Shobha De. For every Barkha Dutt we need a Varsha Bhonsale. I am still not sure, why Varsha stopped writing those fiercely inspiring columns. I hope her art is revived. Amen.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

There you go!

More than half of country's businesses are owned by OBCs/SCs/STs now.

No comments, except - The timing of this article is suspect. With UPA government not really at the peak of it's popularity, it needs to reinforce some election gimmickry pretty soon. Such news items help it's pet "socialist" propaganda, alright.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Congratulations Manmohan Singh

Congratulations are in order for Singh and UPA. I never thought I would say those words to Singh or UPA who I have scant respect for; but congratulations to them for sticking with what they believed in. It is important to understand what the NSG Waiver means for India.

India has been isolated from the world nations since last 34 years after it went ahead with it's first nuclear blast in 1974 under Indira Gandhi. This isolation meant India could not trade any new ideas related to nuclear technology while the world moved ahead. With this NSG waiver, India has officially entered the Nuclear club. And we can now deal with France, Japan, USA etc to transfer technical know-how and develop our own technology if needed in future. Remember Nuclear energy is NOT ABOUT bombs. This nuclear energy we are talking of is actually about clean and alternative energy. (France for example has 70% of it's power coming from Nuclear technology).

In a competitive and globalised world order any sort of isolation is counter productive. And if for nothing else, India needs to congratulate itself for breaking that first glass ceiling.

But we should not celebrate blindly. Last week's leak of a letter sent by Bush to his people was a dampener in a lot of supporters enthusiasm about the deal. It is clear USA will pull out of this deal if India undertakes another nuclear test. But India should now be a more confident nation. In a situation where US and other countries do act "super smart", we should do what Vajpayee did, after Pokhran II blast - show them our middle finger.

We need to be smart and tough in this world order. We need to see our backs and look at what is good for 1 billion Indians before worrying about what others think of us. (learn something from our Red neighbor China)

Talking of China, not surprisingly it was playing dirty behind the scenes during negotiations. US was steadfast in it's support and played a very important role. But before we get too smitten kitten about USA we should know it's all about business baby. They are looking for that economic interest. And to be fair, thats alright. Everyone should and always will.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Please do not insult us

Dude, Karat,
We know you are under pressure from your Big Brother (China), who does not want this deal to go through, but for God sake don't insult us like this

Monday, September 1, 2008

"Ganpati Bappa Morya"

My wife was asking me this morning, how Ganesh Utsav is celebrated in Nagpur (She is not from Nagpur)... and I din't have a good answer till I said - "It was much cuter, much neater than in other Mumbai and Pune.."

I know, I know. This was a weird response. But I did not mean to compare. I just meant to tell her it was "different".

Ganesh Utsav is Maharshtra's signature festival. Like say Durga Puja in Bengal or Navratri in Gujarat. In Nagpur, Ganesh-utsav, is not celebrated on a scale that can be compared to other major cities in Maharashtra, though. It is pretty low key in relative terms. But in it's own little way it is neatly celebrated. Like you'd find a "sarvajanik ganesh mandal" (a cooperative group of people) erecting 'pendals' and putting out devotional songs on loud speakers at every nook and corner.
In 80s it was not unusual to find big white screen cloth with Hindi movies projected on them and people sitting on both sides of the white screen to see movies. I am not sure if it is still in vogue. I am thinking not. The Cable television has killed that thrill.
Apart from movies, the organizers would come up with schedules of indoor and outdoor games, dramas, fancy dress competition (as it was called), music night etc. They would ensure 10 days of community gathering on one or the other programs.

As kids, it was normal for us to visit different "sarvajanik mandals" on our bicycles and compare Ganpatis. The bigger the size of the Elephant God, the more appealing was it for us. I remember when I was in 9th grade, one of my friend even forced me to see "21" Ganpatis in one evening. There was something auspicious about it apparently. So he would make me go to 21 different places and pay a devotional visit to each of them. I never understood his obsession with the number 21 though. So I would count even the smaller insignificant mandals to make that number up, which he din't like. And he made me go all the way to east side of Nagpur (which west nagpuris like me visit only few times in a lifetime) to complete his ridiculous missions.

But we were boys. And we did all sorts of weird things. As we grew up, some of us started having ulterior motives behind visiting the "pandals". The pandals were good forums for meeting or seeing "people" as they would say. (If you are a guy from Nagpur, you have already read between the lines, so I don't need to elaborate).

Last several years, I have not been in Nagpur for all these festivities including Ganpati, Dassara, Sankranti etc. I think I miss them now. Anyways... sigh!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Women burried alive

5 Women were buried alive in Pakistan because they wanted to choose their own husbands

"A Pakistani lawmaker defended a decision by southwestern tribesmen to bury five women alive because they wanted to choose their own husbands, telling stunned members of parliament this week to spare him their outrage."

No Comments

Saturday, August 30, 2008


The secular elites obsession with Modi is beyond me. TOI,IBN and NDTV have reported that US government has "denied" Narendra Modi a US Visa.

First of all I am not sure what the big fuss about this whole Visa is? When I last checked, I thought you denied someone a Visa if and only if someone applied for it in the first place. The democratically elected Chief Minister of Gujarat has NOT APPLIED for USA's visa, so what are they denying at all?

A handful of Commies and Congress Non-resident Indians, who have formed forums in USA have been lobbying against Modi since last 5 years. And if you ask me, he cares a damn about USA or visiting it.

Modi has been duly elected as a leader, not by those handful elites, but by people of Gujarat. There have been allegations but no convictions against him personally. So I am not sure of the grounds of this so called denial. I always thought Rajiv Gandhi, one of the most popular leader of India, who's implicit and complicit involvement in killing of innocent Sikhs of New Delhi and Punjab and who clearly justified the killings of people should have been denied Visa if at all there was a case of such instance. (Although I would have opposed that too)

But anyways, barking dogs keep barking, and Elephants move on their path. Gujarat is moving at 15% GDP and it's people are happy with their efficient, resourceful and productive leader.

So sulkers and whiners can whine all they want to... no one really cares for your stupid Visa. Boooo to u.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Presidential Race

By all accounts the Obama vs McCain race is amongst the most interesting political races of last few decades. McCain today picked up Governor of Alaska - Palin, for his choice of Veep. After Democratic nominee, Barak Obama, gave a stirring speech last night, one of his best I have heard, it was McCain camp's time for hogging some spotlight and remove some wind out of Obama's storm.

By announcing a female conservative women as his VP nominee, McCain has to some extent taken out the thunder out of Obamania. But will this be enough?

This race is interesting because to an extent both candidates are not run-of-the-mill nominees. This race is "colorful" (no pun intended). McCain has gone against his party's line of thinking a few times and Obama seems to at times talk pragmatic politics over partisan one. Both candidates do not come off as hard core ideologues to me, but what do I know?

Obama looks to have the momentum, energy and lead at this time. But this could be deceptive. There may be a build up of groundswell for McCain in rural America, which will show up in polls only later in the race. Who knows? One cardinal rule of Election analysis is to "never under-estimate the force" (As Sunny Deol once said)

If Obama wins this race ultimately though, it would be a historic moment for America and even for the world as we know. A pre-dominantly white country electing a semi-Black man, to it's most powerful post, will be monumental and infinitely appealing. USA will once again lead by action and not mere words. To that effect Obama's win can go a long way in lifting the sagging image of USA around the world.

But is that what it is all about? Image? What even if USA's image improves, as we think, it will? Will it be enough to counter the growing domestic issues , some real , some perceived. The important question the US voter needs to ask to herself or himself is who will make a better president?

As a non-citizen and an outsider, I am more interested in how the America of today will tackle this question? I have limited stake in who becomes the president. In a lot of ways it does not affect me one way or the other. My interest is more out of curiosity to see how this functional democracy responds to a significant moment in it's history.

I don't really buy into the Democrats blame game of "more of the same" if McCain comes to power. I think his term, if it happens, will be qualitatively different from Bush's. I also do not buy Republicans argument that Obama will be a disaster on foreign policy and his perceived lack of experience will be bad. Both these arguments don't stick as far as I am concerned. Both candidates, at least on paper have a potential to bring some freshness to the governing. And that is what I am interested in. Will Americans trust with their country's faith with a Harvard educated, suave, and eloquent speaker or will they hand it over to a veteran of a war. What America decides can have a rippling effect outside it's shores.

The race is too close to call currently and I think, it will unfold in coming weeks, what approach is taken by each side. I have a feeling that negative campaigns won't fly with general public. If a candidate focuses on other sides negatives and keeps harping about it, he won't make any substantial gains. John Kerry's democrats did that mistake. They kept on attacking Bush so hard and on so many occasions, they lost the focus on what alternative were they offering to the people. People want to know, what is that, that you bring to the table. They already know so and so is bad. So don't keep reminding them that.

McCain and Obama both should learn from the badly executed campaign of Kerry. Criticize your opponent but don't make "attacking other side" as your campaign's base theme. Tell clearly what you are offering instead.

If I was a campaign manger I would create a 70-30 model. 30% negative attack, 70% positive alternative. The 30% of attack is important because, you don't allow the other side to run over you in politics and keep it guessing where the next one is coming from. The 70% +ve is for the people, who want to listen to the solution you are offering and not bothered about how bad other candidate is.
You can only hope and not ensure winning election by default. Meaning- "the other guy is so bad, you should elect me to keep him from coming to power. So elect me by default." This does not work, even if you hope. And hope is not strategy. It is an abstract emotion.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Edurance unlimited

Even as the Beijing 2008 Olympics came to an end, there's no doubt in my mind that it meant many things for many people around the world.

For people who keenly follow geo-politics, it was no less than a Chinese "statement" announcing it's grand arrival on world stage with a bang. No where was that statement more underlined than at the opening ceremony of these Olympics. There was an unmistakable machismo associated with that sensational exhibitionism and show of grandiose on Day 1.
2000 young Chinese men shouting out their lungs and beating drums marked the ARRIVAL of China on world stage, like never before.

It was never in doubt that China was going to use these Olympic games as a showpiece event. And China spent a whopping 43 billion USD to do what they finally did. (The London Olympics budget is 1/3rd of this even 4 years from now). Just shows how much these games meant for the 1.3 billion people of China. The People's Republic did not let it's people down. Brand China came out as the ultimate winner of these games.

If the opening and closing show was spectacular, the Medal tally of Team China was nothing less than a miracle. 51 golds, 21 silver and 28 bronze medals, a whooping 100 overall medals left little doubt in the sporting world, who was the next ogre. China finished in style.
It picked up about half it's golds only from 3 events - Gymnastics, Diving and Weight Lifting. Tells you of their incredible strike rate. It was a well planned effort. They focussed on events that would have highest returns.

If China's medal tally was story 1, story 2 would have to be Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps. If the Jamaican thunder bolt, made a mess of all records in athletics, Michael Phelps made a mockery of all previous swimming records. When Phelps left Beijing, he had broken 7 world records out of the potentially 8 he could have. Usain Bolt on the other hand was part of 3 record breaking efforts. These two are super humans. Phelps with 8 golds had more than 20% of total US gold medals.

Great Britain put a neat overall performance and came close 4th only behind Russia in medal tally. Coming ahead of teams like Germany and France would be specially sweet for the Brits.

Another story for me was the silver medal win by Afghanistan. Rohullah Nikpai's of this war torn country won it's country's first ever medal in Taekwondo . Truly a great hero.

I had a lump in my throat when Abhinav Bindra stood on the podium and India's national anthem was played. But Vijendra and Sushil Kumar's win were no less sweet for 1 billion Indians.

In the end, Olympics is about breaking new barriers of human endurance. Both mental and physical. How long, how high, how deep can you push the human envelope. At what point, would it break? If 9.69 seconds in 100 meters is not good enough, what is? Are we going to see some one break that record soon? May be Bolt himself.

Just as Bolt completed his 100 meters race, a thought struck in my mind. What if half of the humanity became half as fit as Bolt - wouldn't we solve the world energy crisis :) ? Think.

I would also like to mention that one of the reasons I got hooked to this years Olympics is a well packaged presentation by NBC. The other day I read a report in Hindustan Times, about how India's Doordarshan had messed up it's Olympics telecast big time. A cousin, in India, I spoke to told me the same. He said no one was really following Olympics there.
Luckily NBC is pretty professional and if I was from Chinese government, I would send across special thanks to NBC for being agents of these games promotion for the North American audience. Not only did NBC focus on sports, it took us to various facets of Chines culture. It was truly fascinating.

I am going to the Gym now. Hope this Olympic fever does not fade out soon. I will be resting my bums on the couch a little less.