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 places...like 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!