Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Sachin vs a Dravid

I hate comparisons, but this is one comparison I couldn't stop myself from doing. Both are absolute champions in their own right, and each one of them has a space of his own.

If Tendulkar has amassed 30,000 international test match runs, one can only admire the man and draw inspiration from his stupendous longevity and continuous run of achievements. Contrast that with Rahul Dravid (my senior in college!), and I just cannot stop feeling that had Rahul been playing in an era that was so non-Sachin, he would have reached the iconic status himself. This is not to demean the genius of Sachin; but, it is just to put in perspective that the contribution of Rahul Dravid has just been overshadowed by the Sachin Tendulkar era.

Look at it this way, for all the centuries that Sachin has hit, I can remember a Rahul Dravid's ton in each of those situations. You name it - in adverse conditions of New Zealand in Hamilton; in seaming conditions in Headingley; in tough conditions in Adelaide (a 233!); or in the heavy-weight and war-like game in Pakistan (a 270!). Of course, how will I ever forget that legendary 180 by Rahul at the Eden Gardens, against Australia (just as the world wrote justifiable accolades about that magical genius called VVS Laxman & his 281!). I even remember Rahul hitting a commanding 86 in 52 balls in one of the one-day games in Hyderabad that took the game away from the opposition.

He has done even more than may get noticed. The great Dravid has done wicket-keeping in ODIs, and then balanced that off with a top order batting slot. What does he have to show - more than 10,000 runs in ODIs, to go along with his 11,174+ runs (fourth place in the Test batting league of most runs scored). That is no mean feat. 28 Test hundreds - just one shy away from equalling 29 of Bradman. If that is not great, what else is?!

What is possibly Rahul's greatest personality trait, is that tough ability of not comparing himself with anyone; least of all Tendulkar. That is so tough to do in this sort of a competitive world & Rahul has held his own by doing just that. When the world was praising Sachin for all his achievements & a handful few writing about Rahul's epilogue in the last 2 years, the great Bangalorean did not submit to them. Nor did he react. He did what he knows best - going back to the basics, going back to the local cricket league (Ranji Trophy), going back to his roots, ironing out his game & coming back to Test cricket. What did he do on his return in the series against Sri Lanka ?Well, he did what he knows best i.e. let his bat do the talking - he scored a sublime 177 in Ahmedabad and an even better 144 in Kanpur.

The same critics who were writing his epilogue now talk about his contribution to Indian cricket and how it was important for Rahul to be there at the crease when India were reeling at 30/4 in Ahmedabad. That, is what is called a blue-chip cricketer. And Rahul is certainly a blue-chip that never hit the headlines, but kept contributing as a heavyweight of the Indian cricketing index!

Hats off to you, champion! You are a true inspiration to me - I cannot quite recall the number of times I have thought of a Sachin in various crises in my life; but when the crises has been extreme, I have never looked beyond you Rahul, for inspiration. You are a champion, a genuine champion! And don't let the fact that you played in a Sachin-era bog you down - you have your own individual identity that fans like me notice, admire, and truly get inspired from.

Ray Ban!

It was a chanceless, quick buy. A brand new Ray Ban! I must say that I never thought I'd buy this particular product, given that I always thought it to be something that would never fit my type of a face/personality. I even had a feeling that one needs to be a supreme extrovert to own this product; simply because the brand is associated with the elite, a league I have never been a part of or have never associated myself with.

But, in the end, it was a pretty nice buy I guess. There was this nice cooler, black in colour, in a reasonable price range (not the super expensive variety) which had good curves and cuts and sat on my face pretty neatly. I thankfully got this opinion endorsed by a good friend of mine, who is a past veteran at buying Ray-Bans and eventually ended up buying it.

This is one of those purchases I never thought I would do. But well, feels good that I did!:) Good to know that these brands are now reaching the masses, so to speak!

Friday, September 11, 2009

1 year in SAP and 1000 kms in my car

What is funnily coincidental about 28 Aug, 2009 is that I just finished 1 year in SAP. It is also during this particular week that I clocked the first 1000 kilometres in my new Swift car! I can only call it coincidental, because I am pretty happy with both the developments! For the first time in my career, I feel that I have a job that is contributing very heavily to my learning curve and to my future growth; and given that this is my first car, it feels even better to have hit the 1000 km mark at this time!!

As short and sweet as that!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Nothing can beat the feeling of achievement, not even money

I have been thinking long and hard about this. And also trying to see if I can get any evidence to prove/disprove it. And the more I think about it and the more I try to find evidence about it, I am convinced that there is some merit in the case.

Let me get to the point. My essential thought is, in life, is money the greatest satisfier? Or, is that feeling of achievement, of having done something in one's life more satisfying (most satisfying)?

In order to see the merit of this case (there are de-merits), I have been looking at a cross-section of people from different walks of life. Sports, writers, etc. Now, most of the examples seem to be glamourous. But across disciplines, I notice that the sense of thrill, elation, and happiness of reaching the pinnacle of your discipline, seems to far override any thought of money. Let's take the example of a Wimbledon champion - any champion at the All England Club more often than not breaks into tears on his/her victory. Any cricketing World Cup champion is overcome with emotion of having conquered the world - just think back to 1983, when there was no money.

Think of other streams, the Oscar awards maybe - a chap like A. R. Rahman grabbing 2 Oscars and performing at the top of his mark on the world's biggest stage; or maybe, an author who wins say a Pulitzer or a Booker Prize; a scientist or an economist winning the Nobel Prize; other sportsmen breaking records held for years; historians cracking the code on ancient myths; painters creating that one masterclass item that will put them above others (why do we have only ONE Mona Lisa?); advertising gurus, trying to get that ONE ad right, all their lives.

Simpler things, like a mother seeing her kid reach the top of his/her stream; or, a kid jumping around if he/she wins a prize in a school competition or tops his/her exam; a banker or a consultant getting past tough competition and scoring points with a hard client; a child's dream coming true - whatever it may be (Taare Zameen Par?); a childhood dream coming true; two people, a boy and a girl, growing up together, falling in love and getting married to each other; the birth of a kid; a student getting a rank in his/her university; winning a match or a competition for your school, college, university or country...the list is very long, and actually, endless.

In all this, I really do not see any evidence of the money factor adding to the thrill of the human being. As people, all of us have our dreams and aspirations (yes, monetary included, but not overriding, always). And, when we realise those dreams in real life, I doubt, if, at that moment of glory, one looks at the money. I am guessing that, that moment is for the person alone i.e. to sit back and relish the moment. Simply because he/she knows the amount of struggle that went into scaling that summit (whatever it may be).

Yes, the counter to this can easily be, that money is everything. But, for the truly passionate achievers, I would think, that money is a derivative; not the main thing.

Perhaps, there is no end to this argument. But, I would think, that for the truly passionate achievers, money is only a function or outcome of what they set out to do. Else, I doubt if the world would have progressed the way it has, across time i.e. if everyone wants ONLY money and no specific achievements, we would all be robots chasing currencies.

Like I said, an endless debate. But, I would think, that we need more passionate achievers, than currency-driven human beings. That is the one great way of ensuring progress. Else, money will come and go, people may not achieve enough to transfer a better life for the generations ahead.

Money, is passe. True achievement, makes life worth living.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My first drive on a highway- to Ramanagaram

I had not imagined that it would turn out that way. Nor did my friend accompanying me. Aravind and I had gone to our gym, like we have always, on any given day of the week. On reaching the gym, we were told that they are closed for the day. We had no prior wind of this and were caught off-guard, as we are generally serious about our workouts.

Given this sudden turn of events, we were wondering what to do. We were not in the mood to go back home immediately. At the same time, we were not exactly well attired to go to any public place like a movie etc - after all, gym wear is not exactly presentable! We trudged out of the gym to my new car and were generally wondering what to do next.

Out of the blue, I suggested to Aravind that it might make sense to go on a long drive. Both of us are recent buyers of our first cars and he completely understood the excitement that I was hinting at! On the spur of the moment, we decided to go past Mysore Road and enjoy some music along the way. That was the start of a very sudden weekend getaway on this lovely Sunday afternoon.

We crossed the city limits in about 30 minutes and hit Mysore Road. I soon realised that this was the first time ever that I was in a car of my own, on a state highway. The road was immaculately laid out and the weather outside was quite magical. I was as excited as a small kid boarding his first flight and being greeted with chocolates by a good-looking air-hostess!

Given that both of us are travel maniacs, we quickly sized up the situation and realised that this could be a fantastic, quick/sudden trip that can be converted to a memorable one if we stretched a bit. While Mysore is a good 130 kilometres from Bangalore city and was a touch impractical to achieve (given that we were well into Sunday afternoon & had a Monday morning coming up!), we decided to go to Ramanagaram - about 25% of the way to Mysore.

Ramanagaram, as the average Indian Bollywood fan would know, is the venue of that giant of a movie shot in the 1970s-Sholay. This is exactly where the characters of Gabbar Singh, Jai, Viru, and Basanti hit national headlines and captured the imagination of the Indian populace. And for us to see those tall hills, big rocks, and the paths that led to the top of the hills was indeed exhilarating. What added to the spice of the afternoon was the beautiful cloudy weather, with a tinge of sunlight peeping through the skies.

I was particularly excited when the speedometer in my car hit 100 km/hour. To do that on Indian roads in my own car, was truly a moment to cherish. I had dreamt of that moment for years. The fact that it happened without any planning and with no hint of a trip coming up, made it particularly thrilling.

We crossed Ramanagaram and reached a place called Janapada Loka - translated in Kannada as the World of Janapada (a folk dance in Karnataka state). It was a lovely, low-key kind of a place run by the Government of Karnataka. The beauty of the place lay in the manner in which the history of the state was captured - it was a place that showcased the state's rich culture & heritage, had a museum full of old artifacts that were used in yesteryear in interior Karnataka, had colourful dolls replicating real-life artistes with great attire in folk dances etc. In particular, the magic of the Yakshagana form of art was brilliantly depicted in all floors of the museum.

Following the visit to Janapada Loka, we proceeded to the neighbouring building - Kamat Yatrinivas, one of the most famous restaurants in the state! There, we had great south Indian dosa, authentic Maddur vada (slurp!) and a coffee that was par excellence. For a non-coffee chap like me (tea -freak!), the coffee here was amazingly crisp and strong.

We finally trudged out of the hotel back onto the highway for our return journey home. The drive back to Bangalore was replete with a couple of rash drivers giving me an opinion or two about my safe driving on a highway + dumb auto-richshaws crippling the fast-moving traffic. Well, they need to understand that I was driving in a new car for the first time ever on a big highway! And in any case, even if I were a veteran highway driver, I don't think I will be a rash one.

I dropped Aravind at his place and came home directly. On reaching home, there was a sense of immense thrill and satisfaction of having driven a car on a highway and clocking very good speeds at that. An old dream, suddenly fulfilled. Like Aravind rightly said, the best thing to do in life is to take it as it comes - who in the wild world knew this morning that we would end up making a round trip of 100 kilometres, on the outskirts of Bangalore between 230 and 630 pm! That's life!!:)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Recession and curves...

I never knew that curves can make national headlines. I only know of curves being talked of in page 3 columns and by adventurous writers. But, this recession has changed that perception on its head.

We now have economists, policy-makers, bank governors, analysts, financial engineering experts, TV anchors, news reporters, authors, and people from every discernible walk of life talking about how the economic recovery will pan out. Some call it the U-shape curve, othes say its V-shaped, and more creative ones say that it will be a W-shaped curve, driving all of us along the path of recovery!

While that may be technically true (in economics, at least), I find it hard to associate curves with alphabets like U, V, or W. I mean, curves are meant to be naturally admired and not defined into specific alphabets, isn't it? I mean, the last time I ever heard of curves being viewed, but never talked about too much was during Baywatch days!

Ok, I may have stretched it a bit in this piece, but well, I think we lightened our lives a wee bit, given the treachery of this recession around us.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Congratulations, Nandan Nilekani!

It must be a matter of immense pride for a person like Nandan Nilekani to be called directly by the Prime Minister of India to head the Unique ID Authority in New Delhi. What a rare achievement that really is in Indian conditions! I do not know of too many top businessmen who have been hand-picked like this for a nationwide initiative in our great nation. Yes, we have folks from industry who are members of the Parliament in the Rajya Sabha, particularly. But, I don't think any of those industrialists really have received the kinds of accolades that Nandan recently has.

The media has harped on the fact that it is very common for corporate hotshots to move to roles in Government and public service, in western markets. That may be true, but this really is a different one, in our case. Simply because, it is almost a first that such a thing is happening in India. Secondly, the fitment of the man for the kind of role that the PM has in mind is pretty much unchallenged. Thirdly, it is also a tribute to the class of an Infosys that one of their top executives was handpicked for a national cause.

I am quite sure that the co-founders, employees and many other folks who understand the contribution of an Infosys to India, truly believe that the selection of Nandan is a tribute to the fantastic brand and cause that the firm stands for. Moreover, it is also a credit to this organization that it is indeed perceived to have added tremendous value to the nation in terms of positioning India's technology brand on the world map.

I have never met Nandan or a Narayana Murthy. But, given the publicity that their careers have received, it is only but natural that the National ID programme is given the sort of mileage that it is receiving. It is one thing to select a corporate hotshot with such immense credibility for a national cause. It is altogether another thing to lead a nationwide initiative that will involve problems of illiteracy, poverty, lack of access, unawareness and all the associated issues related to public policy. But, that is exactly where a person like Nandan possibly scores – looking at challenges, as opportunities, a lesson that I definitely plan to reaffirm to myself.

And to Nandan himself, he must be caught between the extremes of emotions and the extremes of 2 worlds. For a man, who walked out of IIT Bombay, learnt the strings of the outsourcing world in his first job, to engaging in the long, arduous and exciting journey of creating India's greatest IT brand, it must be nothing short of a choking throat that he is currently undergoing. The man, to his credit, has brilliantly maintained his poise despite admitting that he will miss his Infosys email id.

But, he has been hailed as a master in handling clients, and people. That will be an extremely critical skill when he negotiates the ways of the Government of India. It will also be a big change for him in terms of lifestyle - imaging an IT czar shifting to a good, old-fashioned Ambassador car with VIP status and a Ministerial berth, after 30 years of corporate life!

Congratulations, Nandan! Hats off to you! You have certainly rejuvenated an old spark from school days, to do something for the country, in whatever shape of form that one can. Quarterly earnings are passe, now!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Archie proposes to Veronica! Betty, hang in there!

He did it. After years! Archie Andrews, the red head in Riverdale, proposed to Veronica in the latest edition of Archie comics. And I am thrilled to bits, simply because, it means, Betty Cooper is still single!

Betty is the type of girl that I would love to take home and introduce to my mom. She is down-to-earth, seems to have her priorities right & has her range of interests in life intact. So what if she is not as rich as that 'attitude-heavy' Veronica; Betty has character; Veronica has everything only from her dad with nil individuality. Ok, Veronica fans will counter by saying that she lives life king-size, can afford all the goodies in life etc. But, sorry, those things are ephemeral; Betty is the exact type of girl that I would call the most durable option a guy can ever consider. 

Archie is someone I am fond of, yes. But, the guy has seriously lost it in terms of being dreamy-eyed about Veronica. It is like saying every single guy in India will not settle for anybody less than Katrina Kaif or the old heartthrob called Madhubhala or Madhuri Dixit. 

Well, I think I need to get hold of this 600th edition of Archie comics. Been a while since I read it. But hey, Betty, don't you worry. You have enough number of guys out there that will root for you! Hang in there!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Indian National Congress to cross 272!

It beat all pre-poll predictions. Every discernible political expert had to swallow hard to digest the election results in India yesterday. For the first time in nearly 2 decades, India voted for a stable government. I last remember this being a foregone conclusion, before Mr. V.P.Singh thought it better to introduce caste-divisions in education (Mandal Commission, 1989).

But, irrespective of the party that has got the mandate, what is good for me to see is that India has voted in stability; a majority government. I was getting the strong feeling that the great Indian growth story that most pundits have been harping about for the last many years, was under severe threat, thanks to the constant bickering in the political class. More than anything else, fractured mandates always gave me the feeling that it was never economics at its best, but political convenience being accommodated into economic policies.

That should change now. And hopefully, the Congress will get a touch smarter and go into the government with some buffer i.e. not stop at the majority mark of 272, but go up to 300. Simply because they need to guard against elements such as Mamta Banerjee in this goverment. (remember the way she booted out the Nano project from Bengal?). I think she has 18 seats in Parliament from election. So if the Congress manages 300 seats, it will not be hurt even if Mamta misbehaves on the UPA's economic policies & threatens to back out- the Congress will still have 282! Am not trying to be pessimisstic, but realistic. Coalition politics has taught all of us in India, as to who is progressive and who is not. And it is better to take those lessons and be better off from such experience, as we enter a new phase of the Indian polity.

Of course, the best news for me is that the Left has been decimated. About time too, I would think. They are seriously not in sync with economic realities of the day. I mean, an average working class citizen cares a damn about regressive policies - he is bothered about his infrastructure, water, taxes, retirement kitty et al. Not some ridiculous trade unionist-led backward policies. Yes, those unions have their place in the economy - but more from a sense of participative & constructive dialogue with management/decision-makers/polity; not like the Left, who are so out of sync with economic realities. The anti-climax for me, is that the same leaders in the Left Front, live a very rich ostentatious life in New Delhi & talk about the lower classes and their lack of benefits in the trade unions. Hypocrisy at its best!

And to the man himself. Dr. Manmohan Singh. I had written a blog article about him a few years back in terms of not discrediting him etc. The man has gone about quietly doing his job, without compromising on his principles. He is also a classic example of a technocrat (NOT a politician) who knows what is good for India's economics. Singh is, indeed, King!

Let's see if this stable mandate translates into economic realities that we have been dreaming of & talking about for so many years. The Congress & the UPA combined cannot get a better platform than this to propel India well & truly into the 21st century. I live in hope now. The basics of the Indian polity has been restored - i.e. a majority mandate for a leading political party. That, I would think, is a good starting point.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The cheerleaders at the IPL

They are eye-catchers for sure & they get the crowd extremely excited by their wonderful expressions of happiness near the stands. I am talking about the cheerleaders at all the IPL games in the current tournament in South Africa!

Every time a batsman scores a sixer or hits a boundary in the IPL, the crowd erupts. That has always been the case with cricket, right? At least, the one-day international variety of cricket changed the involvement of the crowds immensely at cricket stadiums. But, what we are seeing in the IPL is new. Something, all of us had seen on television while glued to the NBA action every year - those games had extremely colourful cheerleaders with their pom-poms & going berserk every time a three-pointer or an aggressive basket was scored.

We see that translated, adapted & now extended to cricket. Right, into our own game! That has created ripples in our midst, simply because, whenever a four or a six is hit, we now have cheerleaders leading the crowd with the cheers for the respective teams that they are supporting.

I am not too sure if these girls actually understand the game in depth (no offence meant to the fairer sex!), but they have added immense colour to the way the fantastic game of cricket is celebrated. We now have dancing steps, pom-poms, mini skirts, sleeveless tops, songs, fast dance, tap dance, break dance, jumbo smiles and colour of various types to go with every smash hit to the fence by the batsmen, or, wickets taken by the bowler.

There are various types of cheerleaders too - the extremely vivacious, the pretty, the genuine beauties, dance experts, others who are there for sheer flamboyance & looks etc (am not getting into the details in public!). There was a commentator recently in one of the IPL matches who said that the batsmen were incentivised to hit the big shots towards the cheerleaders & getting the momentum in their favour! Now, that's called incentive, for sure!!

The whole thing may be an outcome of successful sports marketing (a field I'd love to be involved in)! And it has changed the way the game is being celebrated. More than anything, the IPL has combined fantastic marketing with the thrills of man's old celebration, dancing. And to get to do that in a global scale, in front of the whole world, in extremely regulated conditions (no obscenity allowed, technically!) has changed the crowd's involvement in the game. I wonder if this can be extended to badminton, hockey, or football...!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Warren Buffet & Bill Gates at Harvard- good CNN show

I have this back of the mind feeling that CNN is a channel that only cares about stock markets, CEOs, and high profile delegates & journalists reporting from the best places in the world. They sure did live up to their reputation today, on their show Back to School, where they hosted two extremely rich people of our generation - Bill Gates & Warren Buffet.

It was a unique show where these 2 vastly admired gentlemen demonstrated how their temperament and personalities are so diverse, yet, effective towards the things they do. These two guys were at Harvard, that famed institution, giving out tips to current students from various streams, about how they got to where they did in. And not all of what they said was purely related to their work life - there were good jokes, extremely good one-liners, talk about deeper issues affecting mankind, what are some of the mistakes they made, how their average work day looked like, the real story behind the first time they met in 1991(Bill nearly didn't make it as he was busy in office) et al.

I found the show quite freewheeling in nature, where young to-be-graduates asked these two men questions, only to try and learn what worked for them so very well in their lives. I particularly found Warren Buffet to be extremely chirpy.I thought he had a brilliant presence of mind to quip and create some sensational humour on stage that had the students in peals of laughter.

Very nice show, CNN. Well done. The punch line for me was Warren Buffet's answer to the last question by a student, 'how do you measure success?'. The investment banking legend said, when you are old, my age, and have friends & family and business associates still caring for you and loving you and making time for you (though they may not have the time), that is the biggest success possible; 'coz everything else, is passe.

Sanity...after the recession

A lot has been written about the current downturn being the worst ever seen in the last century (ignore the 1930's Great Depression, for a second). And enough has been said about the credit excesses of the American financial system that had such a wild & cascading negative effect around the world.

I just feel that the lessons learnt from the last 8 months will lead us to a world that will be quite regulated. More than anything else, I am convinced that we will enter a world that will restore some level of sanity in the way business is done. The economic boom for a majority of the time in the last 2 decades, had led to wild business excesses that were never caught in the light of the good times. But, the current recession has taught us that bad things will be found out eventually & people will have to pay a price for continuous excesses.

I therefore think, that in a strange way, this killer recession of 2008-09 was a much needed correction factor for the business world to be given a serious wake up call. I just hope the lessons learnt now are only used to create a saner environment in the future (am convinced, it is required).

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Shashi Tharoor - a real hope(sans the Malayalam!)

I saw him for the first time on NDTV Profit today, joining a youth program.The agenda of the program was to find out what the youth of India care about in Indian politics - what bothers them most, do they care about political ideologies, how does a terror attack impact them, what does recession mean to them etc.

Pretty intriguing choice of panel too - an ex banker turned writer, an RJ, a VJ, a student from a famous Mumbai college and a student from one of the famous Mumbai families. AND, in all this, Shashi Tharoor, joining in remotely via satellite.

While the debate was animated and the young panel was pretty cut & dry in stating their expectations. But Shashi Tharoor held his own in all this - he understood outsourcing and its current backlash, showed enough knowledge about the interiors of India being plagued by unemployment etc. All this was a bit of a surprise to me, as I did not expect this up-market diplomatic veteran to be so well-versed with intricacies in India.

The punchline for me was from Shashi himself. He said, "People claim that I do not know Malayalam and have problems in connecting with my people in Thiruvananthapuram. But, I only have to say that I know enough Malayalam to understand your problems and even more, I know the right English and Hindi that will work for you in the Lok Sabha".

I just hope these are not mere words by a man who has generally been perceived as India's greatest diplomatic success - after all, reaching the position of the under-secretary of the UNO is no joke!

We need more such people. And to see the ABN Amro India Country Manager, the former CEO of Deccan Airways and this former UN diplomat, might just be the right triggers the Indian political system needs. My logic is that when veteran political foxes in India talk about banning English or banning computers etc, hopefully, this new breed of progress-oriented candidates, can keep the old foxes in check.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Government of India...please don't make us shameful

The government has done it again. They have forced the sporting authorities to rework their strategy and move out a signature event, the IPL, out of the country. While it may make eminent business sense for Lalit Modi & co to swear by the words, 'the show must go on', this move is also a reflection of the appalling state of affairs in Indian security. Now, I am no expert in security, but its truly unjustified to move a truly Indian-based event to a foreign nation and leave the cricketing public gasping for breath on television.

Yes, there are the fair claims of the country's general election being greater than any sporting event. There are also justified claims for prioritising national security over everything else. But what I have serious problems with is the utter arrogance towards the average citizen. Ok, the government may tell Lalit Modi and his franchise owners, that they are rich enough anyway, and don't need the IPL to fill their coffers. But, for the average citizen in the country who generally struggles to make a living, this concept of unadulterated, fantastic, action-packed entertainment (that was such a great marketing success as well), will now only have to be enjoyed on television.

I just wish the government did a little more about security. There are countries I know which make it mandatory for every citizen to work in the army for 2 years, as soon as he turns 16 years old. I wonder if such a system can ever come to India and, even if it does, if it will create that much-needed lift and drive to serve in the Indian armed forces.

Its all load balancing at the end of the day. We need sports; the politicians need their seats. While businessmen are smart enough to find avenues and alternatives to serve their cause, the Indian public is always left with a set of either corrupt,, or inept, or unwilling, or crime-tarnished individual seats, who hold the powerful seats in New Delhi. I just wish we had a better choice of candidates to elect from when we go to vote. Granted, everyone should vote and make their statement; but, if the very choices on the voting table are between corrupt, inept or unwilling folks, then, I wonder what the solution is.

I am disturbed at this ridiculous development today. High time the armed forces were positioned as super-premium careers, rather than a punishment in extreme conditions for the average Indian. Maybe, we should set up a legal or constitutional qualification that ALL ministers in the central and state government should have served for 2 years in the Indian army, that too at the border (near Pakistan), before they qualify to contest an election!

Public sector bank with FM radio in its office!

When I first heard it, I thought it was the sound emanating from the pocket radio of some high net worth individual who was visiting the bank. But, the audio sound persisted even after I noticed this individual (who I thought had a radio), finished his transactions and left the branch. It turned out to be an FM radio, with one of my favourite radio jockeys in 94.3 on air, that was actually owned and being played by the bank! That's when I realised that I was sitting in a completely revamped model of customer service, in India's most famous public sector bank. And it felt good to see them change with the times so well.

That was the new age of public sector banking right in front of my eyes - swanky office, air conditioned, fantastically user-friendly counters, friendly staff, highly computerized, good interiors, nice ambience and excellent service to boot.

And with FM radio, it sure is a catchy way of getting the generation next to bank with them!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pink chaddi campaign & freedom

If Mr.Pramod Muthalik thinks he is the custodian of the cultural fabric of India, he is highly mistaken. He is also highly erroneous in his judgement that people who celebrate V-day, are not as respectful of Indian culture.

I say this simply because, people have found their new freedom in expression, that was absent all these years. The fact that they choose to exercise their freedom has no bearing on any remote allegation of their having forgotten their roots. Granted, some of these celebrations may not be in true Indian taste, but that is part of the transformation that is sweeping the country. We are becoming an increasingly global country. V-day is just one part of that transformation. It does not mean that we have forgotten our roots.

I am very much a part of the youth brigade in this country (defined as folks below 40!) and am eminently aware of my roots. At the same time, I see the reasons for the Pink Chaddi campaign hurled at the likes of Pramod Muthalik - people want to tell such folks not to interfere in the youth's expression and freedom.

This may have been a very crude way of making the Muthaliks of the world to eat humble pie, but I also think that it was a fantastic, peaceful and highly impactful way of putting the point across. Just imagine receiving endless pink panties as a V-day gift....that's exactly what Mr. Muthalik will remember for life - hopefully, as a scar that drives sense into his maniacal stand!:)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Roja to Slumdog - Jai Ho Rahman!

A man who simply knocked at the deepest corners of my musical compass & interests since that mesmerising music in Roja, back 1992. And the man's genius has echoed on the world's biggest stage in commercial cinema - 2 Oscars for A.R.Rahman! Yahooo!

What a guy - immaculate, perfectionist, hard-working, sincere, committed, down-to-earth (to the point of being boring!) and extremely passionate about his art - almost the perfect recipe to scale the earth

Hats off to you, AR...I cannot tell you how proud I am of your achievement at the Oscars 2009. You are truly India's musical brand ambassador around the world.

May you show the way for more stars in India, in the future. Jai ho! Jai Hind!!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The sitar and the tabla are a great couple!

They are a great couple. I have admired their companionship and ability to speak to each other for years. They get better with age. The longer they are together, the more mesmerising their togetherness becomes - almost like, old wine in new bottle. I had another reconfirmation to this intriguing couple yesterday evening, when they came together at the Bangalore Habba - courtesy Anoushka Shankar and Tanmay Bose.

I am not referring to a pair of human beings and their love story here, but am talking about the fantastic symbiosis between the sitar and the tabla. They have fascinated me since a tender age, and I have only grown to appreciate them more as I have grown older myself! There is something amazingly soothing about them, operating together - seems to bring a certain peace; a vast reservoir of love, alive; a full expression to latent talents; a fantastic mode of expressing oneself; an uncomplicated, unadulterated kind of companionship, with no malicious intent beneath. They just enjoy each other's company. I find it thoroughly enjoyable!

The strings of the sitar are really one of a kind and that 'tone' of the tabla sends me into a different zone - I almost forget myself & the things around me, when I listen to them together. The variety of the pitch that the strings of the sitar bring out, gel so well with the adjusting beats of the tabla. It is seriously thrilling to note that when the tabla-wadak (player) shakes his head vigourously and pounds with melody on his magical 'drummy' instrument, the crowd just focuses on the phenomenal expression on display. Even the sitar player constantly gazes at the tabla-wadak and appreciates his energy!

And when the sitar hums its different tunes in different types of music, it’s amazing how the tabla can adapt itself to such diversity. Be it classical, carnatic, hindustani, western classical, fusion music or even jazz - the ability of the sitar to hit the highest/lowest pitches and hit you at the deepest corners are brilliantly tied in with the ability of the tabla to keep the beat of the music at a steady/high/low pace. It changes your mood. It makes you feel extremely good. And it just makes you appreciate how versatile these 2 magnificent instruments really are.

Possibly, the best thing I like is the exchange of smiles between the sitar player and the tabla-wadak ever few seconds during a concert. A lot goes on in exchanging those smiles - musical knowledge, indication of a change of tune, pure appreciation for each other's talent, hints to create a variation within the existing tune, you name it. (I am not a sitar player or a tabla-wadak, and am only guessing logically from what I have seen on stage!).

They are a great couple. Just makes your heart dance to their tunes- and it is one of the few things worth listening to, every now & then. The standing ovations are really earned...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pride of being a defence man

I am still recovering from the fantastic display of aeroplanes at the Aero Show 2009 yesterday in Yelahanka, Bangalore. It is an annual show that attracts the who's who in the world of aeronautical engineering, not to mention, the flashier movie stars and business tycoons.

I have been to this show a couple of times earlier in the decade, but this was the first time I learnt something concrete. Courtesy, the company of some knowledgeable friends, who are analysts of this wonderful industry called aeronautical engineering! All these years, I used to go to this show just to experience the thrill of skillful pilots rip-rapping the skies and making displays that would make my jaw drop.

Of course, my jaw did drop this time as well; just that I was even more amazed when I learnt about all of the following - the risks that these pilots undertake, the kinds of technologies they handle, the criticality of each of the planes that they operate for national defence, the competition that goes on in securing deals in defence, the incredibly sensitivity of the information that these planes carry and provide to defence intelligence et al. It was an eye-opener.

The greatest moment of the day was not actually on display in the air, but right on ground zero. There were scores of uniformed men patrolling the entire expanse of land that housed the planes and passers-by. As we were walking under the blazing heat, there were a bunch of people who were taking photographs with an armed officer. My defence analyst friend, Brijesh, also went up to him and posed for a couple of photographs with him - only to return stumped! That armed officer had 4500 sorties on his uniform i.e. he had flown a fighter plane 4500 times in his life, successfully i.e. returned alive! That just made all the hair in my body stand erect - out of sheer respect for the man. Just imagine the kinds of situations he would have undergone in his life; the kinds of enemies he may have encountered in his life; the kinds of conditions he would have operated under; and the sheer horizon and level of thinking that he would have. Mind-blowing. Just made me appreciate and respect the uniformed officer of India that much more - as against the bashing that I have seen on TV shows. Hats off to such people!

Of course, on display were some great planes and the antics on display were stuff that one usually sees in Hollywood war movies (Indianised version here, though)! The display of the day for me, was, as always, that magnificent F-16! What a plane! What a sleek, magnificent, classy and incredibly dynamic plane!! The kinds of revolutions it made, the kinds of drones it made, the ease with which it flew at low altitude or rotated 1000's of feet up in th air, were just breathttaking. After a point, I stopped clicking photographs of the F -16; I just wanted to stand there and enjoy the display and internalise it for a long time to come. And both my friends & I thought that the pilot navigating that fine aircraft would possibly be one of the finest aviators in the world. Phenomenal!!

There were other classy performances as well -the MiG, the F -18, EuroTyphoon, and of course that captivating Sukhoi!! There was even a regular aeroplane standing on the ground - LuftWaffe - with people mistaking it to be the Lufthansa!:). But the powerful are some of the greatest 'brands' in the aerospace world, and to see them do the kinds of things they did in mid-air were scintillating. And to think, that these things that were putting up acrobatic after acrobatic, actually have the ability to knock out the world, with their missile powers...

The Indian versions of the planes were a touch more mellow - Saraang, Suryakiran - but powerful in their own right! But, they were more popular with the crowds there, as they let our steam in the form of the national flag!:)

The crowd was colourful too - what with Valentine's Day coinciding with this weekend schedule of the Aero Show!:).

At the end of it all, I saw the reason as to why a place like Singapore has its nationals compulsorily serve the city-state in their defence service. It instils an incredibly amount of pride for the nation, teaches a person a lot about handling extreme situations and I guess makes a person amazingly worldly-wise.

I salute the armed forces!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The i-bankers are gone!

The credit excesses of Wall Street are only too well documented for us to narrow down to the prime cause of the world's ghastliest recession in the modern era. Not to mention the mounting debts that these credit excesses brought with them to the average denizens.

In all this, we seem to have forgotten the basic theory that world is a lot more global than it ever was in its history. It has taken us this sort of a severe beating to realise that classical economics no longer holds true i.e. supply will find and be matched by demand, purely by market dynamics. That was the old school. The Keynesian rules are far different from that - the market needs regular checks & balances, lest it crashes.

I am not great professor of economics (though it is my all-time favourite subject!). But, this market theory has just been seen in theory and in real life in the last year or so. How many of us envied those pin-striped i-bankers with jet-setting lives and making a few million bucks by selling the most complicated (so-called) equity reports. B-schools harped on i-banking placements, whenever consulting firms took a dip. More often than not, these 2 industries were jostling for space in most top campuses with the aim to grab the 'cream' of the talent. Cream for sure they did - the entire world economy, that is!

Who is to blame? I don't know. Why am I even bothering to write about it, when I am not in Wall Street or never defaulted on a payment? Well, I don't know why I feel it - no facts to back them up - but I feel it. Our globalized world and ambitious currents just made us believe these guys way too much. We swore by them, almost. A Merrill Lynch stamp on an IPO was sacrosanct! These Wall Street guys were 'aspiration' for folks who did not get there. They represented the successes of a corporate life - the types dreams are made of. Jet-setting, five star life, CxO connection, partying, and the millions! The important things in life - or, so they seem from outside, anyway!:)

But, how many of us who interacted with these salaried-millionaires, managed to ask tough questions on each recommendation they made? I don't know, again. Maybe they were asked, maybe they were not. And maybe they were asked and answered to as well. I don't know.

But, I do know, that the shareholder and average citizen never knew anything beyond those flashy reports. And that, I know is where the accountability ended with these flashy i-bankers. They were out to make their buck (good for them, nobody denied it to them); but they lacked accountability; made recommendations in a bull run, that the underlying currents went unnoticed - by everyone: experts, decision-makers, clients, finance whizkids, CFOs, CEOs, stock brokers, economists, students, et al. That, I guess was the biggest mistake.

In a way, it is sad that the i-banking profession has been hit so hard. Who would have ever dreamt that a household name like Lehman Brothers - ah, that dream placement for any MBA - would be history? But then - this is my conjecture again - alumni after alumni from every discernible business school, possibly did not correct the credit excesses of their predecessors?

I am not for once discounting the credibility or capability of these i-bankers. I am only thinking that maybe, nobody, just about nobody on the Street saw anything beyond his/her bonus. After all, the bonus is (rather, used to be), 5 times the salary of an average Wall Streeter!! We paid the price for THAT excess!

Now, the press and everyone else has enough ammunition to hurl at these erstwhile blue-eyed folks in the corporate world. We were possibly waiting for this sort of ammunition to hurl at them in our lifetime, anyway. Not because of the millions alone, but at a deeper level, for the 'gasbag/lack of accountability' they had.

The other day, my friend told me about the kind of rather discomforting reaction she received when she told somebody that her husband was an equity analyst - a once pristine profession! That, is a story in itself.

It's not Obama's problem alone

Obama has rocked the world. The man, who was an unknown quantity just 4 years ago, is now in the most powerful chair on planet Earth (or, so they claim). Expert parliamentarians, political analysts, economists and psephologists have all been stunned at his stellar growth from a chair on a village ranch in Chicago to the prime chair in the Oval office in D.C. His campaign was all about hope and bringing about the much-needed change. Not just for corporate America, but to the world economy at large.

But, I firmly believe that it is not Obama's solo prerogative to solve things in the world. He alone cannot do it and should not be given the responsibility to do it. After all, what justice is it to overload one man with the problems of the magnitude that are confronting us today? Solving job losses, pay cuts, no hikes, drowning brands and companies that are household names, inflation, high interest rates, declining revenues, taxes, poverty, AIDS eradication, the I's (Iraq, Israel) and the K's (Korean) and the P's (Pakistan, Palestine), are just a few of the things on this man's 'to do' list.

What we need is a collective endeavour to attack the world's problem head on. There needs to be a greater and more actionable role for the UNO (after all, it was created in the height of the mess in the 1940s', right?). We also need greater resolve from top funding agencies like the IMF, World Bank etc, in conjunction with banking institutions - and by that, I mean, exercising basic rules of credit checks while disbursing loans, be it a retail, government or corporate consumer.

I also feel that people around the world should stop saying that their solution is the only solution around. Liberalisation has brought this "know-it-all" attitude amongst a varied many, that can have a ripple effect (negatively) - as sound theory and alternate opinion will dissolve. For good opinions not to dissolve, I think we need a global central agency for policy reforms - not just country level. Some sort of a central authority that takes in inputs from various people around the world and presents the most actionable inputs to the 'powers-that-be' (Obama & his ilk). My reason is that, solutions may emerge even from the unfanciest of places possible and we need not always believe that pin-striped guys travelling in limos are the solutions to the world.

All in all, it is certainly not Obama's sole prerogative. He has a role to play. So do the rest of us.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

World Bank and Indian IT - is this professional racism?

The biggest names in the corporate world have been doing the rounds in the last few days - Enron, Satyam, Wipro, Infosys, World Bank, SEC, NYSE, SEBI, PwC, ICAI, you name it. All this, thanks to the massive INR 7800 crore fraud done by the infamous Mr. Raju, of the even more famous, Satyam Computers.

In all this, I have been seeing the World Bank hurling ban after ban on Indian firms, especially the IT outsourcing folks. Fine, there is eminent reason for the World Bank to slap a ban on Satyam, even before this fraud took place, given that there was so much scrutiny on Maytas Infra and all associated parties with Satyam. But, a couple of days ago, the World Bank pretty much "de-listed" Wipro. God knows who is next.

I am not for a minute suggesting that any firm is above water in its accounting disclosures, be if of their own accord, or as a result of their "hand-in-glove" relationship with their auditors. That is how accounting has been done for a long time and am not too sure if one Satyam will resurrect the way accounting will change overnight. Yes, there will be greater scrutiny and checks & balances. But that is not my point.

The moot point really is, why the World Bank hurling these "bans" on Indian firms, one after the other? What is the World Bank doing about throwing out names of firms from other parts of the world? Are they even trying to suggest that their relations with companies from all other parts of the world, except India, are cordial and above water? More than anything else, is the World Bank so sure that no other firm in any other country engages in financial fraud? What are they trying to prove by picking so hard on Indian companies?

Granted, there is an Enron-like scenario that has catapulted India into the world vision in the last 3 weeks. But, the World Bank seems to be using this as an opportune moment to hit the iron while it is hot, on India. Does it mean that this famous financial institution is going to wait for all the frauds in different parts of the world to crop up, before it de-lists/bans its relationships with different companies?

If the World Bank thinks that it is the custodian of all financial discipline around the world, especially in the case of its relationships with its clients, then, they should not single out one country like this; especially, when its steeped in a crisis, in a recessionary environment. It is actually OK for the World Bank to be calling out the names of these companies where there is so much of nonsense going on. But, it is in sad taste that one country and its most famous industry is being singled out like this (deservingly so, I add!). The World Bank might jolly well call out all the fraudsters that it has any hint on; let's see what happens then and how many more CEO's buckle down and own up their mischief (like Raju did).

Also, in the interest of cleaning up the system, the World Bank should ideally throw out all the names that it wants to de-list around the world, along with adequate proof. These nicely-worded press releases from PR gurus in the World Bank on de-listing companies will do no good. If anything, such press releases will only alert the other companies that are engaged in financial bungling to be wary of the World Bank. Such companies, in the light of such PR exercises by WB, might even end up cutting down on the business volume with this major financial institution and slowly fall out of the radar. That will still not stop fraud around the world.

If what the World Bank is currently doing is not coined as professional racism, what else qualifies?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Golden Globe Awards,Oscar Awards ...A.R.Rahman..and India!

The man has the humblest of beginnings possible. Not so much of a rags to riches story, but certainly an amazing success story of a man with extremely simple roots, who has reached the epitome of musical success. A.R. Rahman stunned me with his "Kaadal Roja Ve"(Tamil version) or "Roja Jaan-e-man" composition in 1992, that resonated so deeply inside me that I sit static whenever I see/hear that song even now. I guess, it was his way of announcing to the world that there was a supreme musical power from the south of the Vindhyas, ready to dismantle Illayraja from his iconic position; possibly, dismantle is too aggressive a word; take over from the Illayraja genius is more appropriate.

And take over he did. Rahman brought in some incredible sounds mixed in technology that created notes through the times that India liberalized and globalized. He put Indian music on the world map, pretty much by the dint of his own compositions. The man's contribution was so immense that he managed to bring in a Rs. 6 crore musical set from Germany into his troop, that doled out some of the most amazing compositions seen in the last 2 decades.

Golden Globe is one of the many glories that this genius has reached. Deservingly so! It always makes me proud to see an Indian take on the world and come out on trumps. More so, in the case of Dileep Raghavan (that's Rahman's real name, before he converted to a Muslim in 1989), because he beat the tide in an extremely tough era.

Also, I think there are some careers in India that started in the 1989-90 period which have gone on to stump the world in different spheres of life. Think cricket and you have Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble; think chess, and you have the legend of Vishwanathan Anand; think music and I possibly cannot think beyond a Rahman. All these people have done yeoman service to the nation and deserve the accolades that they are getting.

Rahman has gone a notch higher, what with 3 nominations to the Oscars for his own contribution. I just hope, for the sake of billions of ambitious Indians, who are out to take on the world in the 21st century, this genius wins at least one award. It will be a fitting tribute to a man who changed the complexion, role and contribution of Indian music.

Three cheers to A.R.Rahman. Hip hip -hurray! Hip hip-hurray! Hip hip- hurray!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A nonsensical question in a B-school interview

I was shocked to see a news clipping on CNN-IBN a few minutes earlier. The show was about how to fight the current tough times and how the average citizens are coping with the strenous times.

One of the people interviewed on the show was a 21-year old boy from Delhi - a Muslim from India, aspiring for his MBA in a top business school in India. His dreams are to head the operations of a top multi-national in their Indian operations. So nice & I genuinely wished him luck, because I know the difficulties in getting into a top business school and then scaling the corporate ladder, so to speak. But, there was a problem in his MBA dreams recently.

Apparently, the business school interview panel asked him this question, "What do you feel about all terrorists being Muslims?". The candidate was dumbfounded, stuttered his answer and was really not prepared for that missile. Cannot blame him; nobody in his right senses and in a well-meaning way with dreams of a fine corporate career would expect this sort of a ridiculous question thrown at him, at the point where it all starts - business school admissions interview. It appears, from that news report, that this 21-year old was angry with that, but has slowly learnt to handle this and had the heart to say, "It was Sikhs in the '80s, Soviets before that, who were associated with terror, now its Muslims, so, this will go on". Fantastic maturity for a 21-year old.

I guess this candidate naturally was tested on this question for his temperament, ability to handle a pressure-cooker situation. But this sort of a test, is the MOST ridiculous way to assess a candidate's ability to handle pressure. What did that panelist think he was doing by asking such a racist question? If he was trying to prove a point, I am afraid, he has sent out racist connotations about his business school to the public at large.

I also hope that this candidate does not enrol into such a racist business school, as he deserves better. Nobody has any business to be asking a Muslim candidate or any body from any religion, who has passed the same exam as other candidates, questions about his religion and connection with terrorism. A business school is supposed to be a temple of learning where values, ethics, constructive thoughts of development are built in the formative years. It is certainly not a place to sow seeds of religious factionalism and ridiculous divides like this interview panelist has done to this candidate.

I just hope business school interviews are slightly more mature in their questions; these panelists would do well to remember the struggles they went through before they got to the chair that they hold. They have no business to question candidates in this light. Such panelists might as well be summarily be banned, as one never knows what sort of inputs they will pass on to candidates, once these dreamy-eyed hopefuls enrol into such business schools.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

2009 - its all about dreams, isn't it?

The New Year is here! The one thing that I still feel, despite the economic recession, is that unique ability of human beings to dream and hope. To dream and hope for a better future; to aspire for something that each individual wants to achieve in his/her life. I therefore look at the New Year with that same, strong, basic human emotion of dream and hope.

It is actually all about dreams and hope, simply because we as individual entities do not control many things - market dynamics, global economic policy, government policy, bilateral relations and so on. But, what we do control is our ability to get past all this, within our sphere of reference as Stephen Covey called it, in an ethical and legal manner. Its the fire in the belly that matters.

Each of us hopes for so many different things - some hope for financial freedom, some dream about the most exotic and expensive experiences in life, others aspire for a better standard of living, many others look at getting past just the poverty line and into basic subsistence, few others look at sharing some of their greatest moments in their lives with the MOST special human being that they care about and so on.

I am a firm believer that, this ability for us to hope is not going to disappear, despite any world disorder. Man has seen wars, devastation of many other kinds and has only come out of it much stronger. I do not see any reason not to believe that the current economic rape that we are undergoing will weaken us. If anything, I am only going to get more resilient and look for an even better future.

After all, in despair, lies hope. Happy New Year!!!!

Singapore - a few seconds of discpline

Of all the moments that I will remember from my Singapore trip, one of the most memorable was on the morning of Jan 1 at around 3 a.m. After the New Year party, when the whole city was jostling for cabs and the streets were extremely populated, I hailed at one of the few cabs that were running empty. Next to me were 2 girls and 1 guy, all waving at the same cab.

But, the minute the cab stopped next to me & they figured that I had waved at that particular cab BEFORE them, they backed out. Infact, it was so evident, because that girl right next to me, just turned right and waved at another cab.

This may seem like a very menial and normal thing to do i.e. backing off when somebody else gets the same cab that you waved at; but, coming from Indian conditions, where public transport is generally a nightmare + the indiscipline of the public here, it was a great moment to see the self-discipline on the part of the Chinese. I could never dream of anybody in India letting go of a chance to get a cab at 3 a.m. in the night, especially when no cabs were available, to somebody else. That too, JUST because, somebody else waved at the same cab BEFORE you did.

This sort of discpline speaks volumes about the culture of a land. It also speaks immensely about the kind of discpline that people in a nation are brought up with. I LOVED it and respected it immensely.

I will remember that level of discipline for life. It can be very well applicable to numerous other streams in life, not just public transport.