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.