Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Pakistan and terror

Reading a respected Pakistani daily for a couple of weeks, starting with the Mumbai bomb blast, has giving me a much wider perspective about the nation and its citizens. Pakistanis are much more disadvantaged than us Indians. They do not have a functional democracy, their society is still constrained by feudal setup, politicians are even more shameless than ours and are even more corrupt. Inflation is raging high, economy in shambles and people are worried. This Bakri-id was not a good one for many of them, in fact lot many people toned down their celebrations because they could not afford to buy the animal for sacrifice. (I wonder if this is the festival for which Camels are brought down to South India from the northern parts of India and there will be routine articles in the paper about cruelty on animals and stuff..)
More from the captured terrorist, Like most of them he has very little education, hails from a very poor family and the easiest option for him to earn respect in society is to join these killer-organisations and pretend to be saving a religion, kill some people and gain entry into ‘paradise’. No wonder Pakistan is a hotbed of terror. One thing it has managed to export despite the global slowdown is –terrorists! The problem of the nation is so much akin to the underdeveloped tribal regions in our own backyard that is a Naxalite hotbed. So much for Jinna’s dream and so much for Iqbal’s “Sare Jahan Se Accha”; every thing ultimately remained on papers.
What ever the historical reasons are, for me, the whole problem of terror is due to underdevelopment, more economic than it appears. If people had opportunities to lead a decent live, ensure that their children went to school and were promised better things in life, why would they want to die a violent death? If things are just depressing, if meeting ends is tough and there are no other option but to become a foot soldier of terror earning so much more than ever possible on the right path to livelihood, why not? If only Pakistani rulers has a little more sense than their India-phobia, nipped the Frankenstein’s monster of terror in the bud, and spent the money they eventually did on public expenditure, they would have been a lot better. They have the geographical advantage. They were in the land of five rivers, the breadbasket of the sub continent. They were a smaller nation so should have been far easier to manage. They did not have as much diversity as we have. But where did they end up? And where are we today? We are in a position to inject a stimulus package and they are going around beseeching for aid. I should say it is just the misfortune of the Pakistani people.
I was reading Pervez Musharraf’s autobiography. One thing, like all dictators, he is an egomaniac. The book was full of I, me, me and more me. A good autobiography should never been an overdoes of Is and me’s.. All that came out of the book was the dubious glorification of Pakistani armed forces, a claim of the force being far more superior to Indian forces and of course the assertion that Mujahiddin were behind the Kargil war, even after India proved that the Mujahiddin were none other than Pakistani army regulars, with identity cards and badges. The army was indeed so great that they had to thing twice to accept the remains of their fallen soldiers. So how great can be an army that does not honour the remains of its fallen soldiers? The book was evidently an eye wash intended to keep the Pakistani people in a state of ‘imposed’ suspension of disbelief, just a continuation of school text book that speaks of Indian atrocity but does not mention the number of Prisoners of War released unconditionally by India in the aftermath of second Indo-Pak war. This is where the problem begins and may be ends- the power of Pakistani army and its generals have over Pakistani people and society. It appears Pakistani army can go a better job at governance than securing its citizens, after all they are used to it. Even if these dubious claims are discounted, why is that Pakistani army occupying such a big space in the policy-public-media domain? Army should do what it should, protect the citizens from external aggression and secure its borders. This army is more interested in creating disturbance in neighbouring countries, is unable to secure its western borders and has willingly supported extremist factions and pulls the strings ultimately. So it is like the Army deciding what to do the money with the exchequer? Buy food for the poor, build schools or buy arm and ammunitions? What could be the tendency of an institution like army? Naturally buy arms and ammunitions. Where will that lead to? Into the quagmire of underdevelopment and associated frustration, the frustration can be expressed in many ways, farmer suicides (as in the case of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh), the Naxalite movement (as in Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand) and religious extremism and related violence. Where will it lead to but here, a bloody, society marred by violence?
At this juncture, the role of CIA and USA is conspicuous. Back during the Zia-ul-haq days the Americans had the ability of persuade Pakistani rulers, they could have used their power to act more responsibly. All they managed to do was create another fear psychosis that Russians wanted Pakistani warm waters and that India being Russian ally wanted the same. They funded these Jehadis to fight against the Northern Alliance, but could not for see what the monster – a Bhasmasura they create would do after they had attained their goal of winning the cold war? They woke up only after their ego was hurt right in their own back yard. Suddenly all their friends became their enemies. What Pakistan has started in Punjab and Kashmir never assumed importance till 9/11. So what is the price we pay for the selfish American game of promoting Jehadis and strengthening Pakistani ISI and Army? Die like flies when a young man just out of his teens sprays bullets in a crowded railway station.
If only people both in India and Pakistan were at the centre stage, allocating national budget to high priority issues like education and health care rather than on embarking on an arm’s race. If only we common people had our ways, and we could see things more clearly that things would have been better for both countries and for the larger world. For, common people on both sides of the Radcliff line life is but a struggle, (of different proportion though), in all its sense- economy, national security and social.Till that happen, peace and stability is just a pipe dream.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Mumbai Terror 2

Continuing from the last post….

The political circus continues with more resignations even as the anger of common man boils over onto the streets of Mumbai. I wish I were there at the anger march screaming my lungs out. Yes, politicians are intelligent deaf; they cannot hear things they don’t want to. So such cases we need to scream even more loudly.

Bomb blasts and such violence has become more or less a routine in India these days, there is one every other week. It is just the casualty figures and the number of bombs that are different. So what makes the recent Mumbai episode so special that people from every walk of life just decided to take it down to the street? I am not sure. My blood always boils after such violence. But this time it was all the more frustrating because of the prolong pitched battle and hostage situation. I just feel that our country’s political system and law enforcement systems are so weak that I cannot trust them any more. Adding to my anger is the official apathy. The ‘chalta hai’ attitude. This is not the first time it has happened, this is definitely not the last time it is going to happen. So how come are our leaders so complacent? They just do not seem to be doing enough. While they have Z+ category security, we have none. When we go out of home in the morning, we never know what we are getting into. This being the case do we really need those donkeys who rule us? (The Donkey thing is copied from one of the boards held during anger march, it read “ India a nation of lions ruled by Donkeys) I wish our politicians were donkeys. At least they would just be stupid instead of being cold calculating profit seekers.

During all the violent incidents before the Mumbai episode, my anger would be straight at terrorists and their backers at Pakistan . Now it is more direct at the Indian authorities. We know there are hoards of well trained terrorist, we know they want to kill us. We know Pakistan is a failed state, it’s civilian government had very little control over its all-powerful Army and ISI. Fine those are external factors we cannot do any thing about them except be prepared for any eventuality. But what we can do is make sure our public areas are safe. Hotels, roads, hospitals, schools, collages are all safe. As it is we have enough reasons to die right from contaminated water to various diseases. We do not want a crazy maniac to add to the list. All I need is the reassurance that there is enough money, men and material being dedicated for my safety from the government coffers that I painfully pay for every March/April as a tax payer. But I am getting such a raw deal. I pay my taxes religiously, I am left to die a miserable death at the hands of a lunatic whereas our politicians, who do not work half as hard as I do, they get to use free phones, free Bunglows in Luyten’s Delhi, they get free air tickets, they get to over stay in the government Bunglows shamelessly even after the supreme court calls them shameless asking them to vacate immediately, they get Z+ security with NSG commadows following them probably even when they answer nature’s call. While I pay they enjoy. Is it so much like the feudal societies of medieval ages. Democracy here is just a farce.

I guess this is actually where my anger is bubbling from. May be this is the reason why rest of my fellow citizens are anger as well.

The second development is a change in political orientation. I have always been a supporter of BJP. I have admired Sri Vajapeeji and some very efficient people in his cabinet like Col. Khanduri and Arun Shourie. This time too I would have been sympathetic to the party but then the full page bloody advertisement begging for votes even as people lay there dying, was something that spoke volumes about the current leadership. They wanted to derive maximum political millage here. That was truly grouse. Now Advani just seems to be another power hungry politician at the dusk of this career trying to be the prime minister he always dreamt of. What crap! I will not get into this thing. Never. I will never vote for either BJP not Congress. Congress I have never voted for chances are that I will never vote for them even in my entire life. For all the 1.2 billion, they just need the Gandhi’s to lead them. Even if it means someone who is a Gandhi by marriage and the other is so reluctant and uncomfortable being a politician. This is what I think I need to do, much better if we all could do.

1) Demand for better service as tax payers. Government after all is just another player here and they should realise we the tax payers are their boss, not the other way round.

2) Make sure our voice is heard. One great thing about American democracy is the voice. Voters demand that candidates debate each other and then they make up as to whom they did be voting for. Along with these debates there are civil society institutions, think tanks that analyse, debate and influence public policy and of course out comes in elections. Such think tanks are much helpful when media is bias and inefficient as it is in India right now. We seriously lack such institutions. We need to build them, since building them is rather an expensive and time consuming affair, we can take some help from the blog-o-sphere. Academicians and intelligent people can express themselves here so that each one of us has a space and our collective voice be heard in Delhi . Such a voice will definitely act as a part of the checks and balance so crucial in the functioning of any democracy.

3) Keep the pressure up. Lets not forget that this year alone the toll related terror related violence has been close 3000.Let us not forget everything as time goes by. Let us keep reminding it to ourselves, and keep asking question and make sure our so called leaders provide us with satisfactory answers.

Despite everything, I cannot but stop myself from sympathising with the Hindu right wing. After all, may be it is just the Bhajarang Dal, and people like Purohit and Sadhvi who actually care for us and wants to make a difference in our lives. They have risked their lives (if they indeed did) and they are doing something which we are not. May be supporting them is definitely not a bad idea even though I do not want them to kill anyone (except the terrorists and may be some unwanted politicians)…

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Mumbai Terror

Mumbai still continue to be on the headlines. Surprisingly, the entire thanksgiving day news cover on CNN was on Mumbai. I do not quite know what the reason behind the more than 50+ hours of coverage on a main stream American media, could be because there were American citizens involved, could be because Americans still respond very strongly to acts of terror in the post 9-11 context, or could be because they did not have any other event, covering which they could have reaped better TRP. I did not have access to BBC even if my first preference has always been BBC.
Now that the dust has settled, it is anger, frustration, the crippling feeling of helplessness and despair at the lives lost, orphaned children, wrecked families. Everybody is writing something of the other right from the mighty Mr. Bhachan to journalists of all hues.. from red to saffron. Including Arun Shanbagh, BigB There are all sorts of articles right from those informing us about the increased TRP of news channels due to terror attacks (grouse) to those debating the position of a Muslim organisation refusing to accommodate the bodies of the terrorists. So where do we go from here?

1) Resignation of the home minister: And finally Mr Shivraj Patil realised he is incompetent for the job as well as that resigning now with just 5 months left for his term to end, there were so much brownie points to be collected if he owns up moral responsibility and so much less to loose. Oh! Come on. We the electorate we are stupid enough to elect incompetent governments but not as stupid to see the ‘moral responsibility’ stuff. We have seen this far too often in the past. It is surprising to see how he managed to be around even with so many terror acts unfolding across the length and breadth of the country.

2)Pakistan :It has become a sort of ritual to blame country-region> for everything that happens here. We are tired of that as well. place st="on">Pakistan is like a monster created to keep the attention of the electorate diverted. Just like young parents do when feeding their stubborn child “oh! If you don’t finish this entire apple, I will call the monster; the monster will come and gobble you up”. So incompetent government just wants to divert our attention and we shut our mouths and refrain from asking those crucial questions. Let us not get into this whirlpool of diversion. We all know Pakistan is a problematic neighbour. They have a huge, restive indoctrinated force of unemployed youth with not much prospects in life, besides the rogue ISI flush with cash from American handouts and the Islamist hardliners with their deep oil pockets will not find it difficult to get the required man powder. Fire power, they already have plenty of it. Even if the civilian government of Pakistan has nothing to do with it, there are enough rogue elements to cause the harm. So what there are rogue elements everywhere, inside our own country, our own cities sometimes right in our back yard. So why start the blame game? Why don’t we stop the blame game and think about avoiding such situations in future. Who did it might be an obvious question but definitely not the most important question. The most important question is how to stop it? So Pakistan card is definitely not working out here.Also, I was surprised to see Pakistani media publishing some real good pieces. So balanced were the articles that I am impressed with the media.One such here in Dawn Are they not the victims of poverty, power hungry politicians, opportunistic mullas and of course beneficiaries of the regular anti-India propaganda?

3)Politicising the entire terror issue: So everyone wants to make the best of the situation. Don’t they? A few politicians do not want to ban SIMI because their terror acts are not strong enough. So if they end up killing more people, that’s when they can be banned according to these people. Of course the incumbent incompetent government is slower to react. They figure out they need NSG after loosing top police officials including IPS officers. Then there are disgusting full page advertisement as to whom to vote, who will be a better option when it comes to fighting terror? All these folks are of course not bothered about their own safety because they are covered with Z+ security. That means, there are competent people around then who will sacrifice their own lives to protect these folks. So they can stop bothering about their own lives, they do not have to worry about earning a living, they usually male as much to last for at least 3-4 generations (unless the lineage turns out to be extremely stupid) and they it does not matter for then as to who die. After all in a democracy it is the percentage of votes that matters not the absolute number. Let them die.. is their point

4) Irresponsible politicians: Then there are people like R R Patil who think it is normal for such ‘small’ incidents to happen in big cities like Mumbai. I wonder what his reaction would be if he were to be holed up in one of the rooms there at Taj/ Oberoi; Better yet his son-daughter or a younger member of his family. Then there is Vilas Rao Deshmukh, who wants to help his aspiring son attain star-hood, takes his son and Ram Gopal Verma (Till now I had respected him for his directorial abilities, now I abhor him) to the blast site so that they could make a realistic movie! What apathy. Then there is Achutanandan the chief minister of Kerala who after being snubbed by the father of a slain soldier goes on to say,’ not even a dog would visit…’disgrace. I only hope not even a single person, let alone a dog would vote for these people in the next elections. Boot them out bloody, boot them out.Raj Thakhary and his wife, who feels all the dead were Marathis etc. We citizens did not know ‘Yama’ was partial and had a preference for Maharastrians. I only hope Raj Th.. learnt his lessons very well. He is yet another face of greedy, powder hungry b……. that populate our political system. Then there is Advani (A few days back I would not have mentioned his name with out the respectful ‘ji’ in tow, now he is just Advani) equally power hungry, instead of standing behind the country, all he wants to do is criticise the government and campaign for more votes. Well done. You bloody politicians think of nothing but your own skins, your own votes.

5) What next? Now it is as important to think about clues as it is to think of ways to stop such incidents from occurring again. How do we do it? No single answer. Even as I write this, there is another bomb blast in Assam. Where have we come? Is this the Kali yuga that is supposed to be horrid? I have no idea. Irresponsible government action: A) After all the blood and toil, our best men on duty get to go back in BEST buses, not even air-conditioned cars bloody, they get treated with no respect and importance. I wish politicians were made to travel by BEST buses at peak hour, may be then they will realise what it is going to be like. B) Prime Minister pointing fingers at Pakistan even before the operations were complete and enough evidence was at hand. Is it not stupid? Blaming another country with out enough proof? Could he not wait for a few more days, put forward compelling evidence and then pressurise Pakistan? C) Summoning ISI chief: What crap? Why should India seek to summon ISI chief? Is it not hubris? Is it the way diplomacy works? How would we feel if Islamabad wants our RAW chief explain a bombing in some obscure tribal area? Awkward but fails to serve the purpose. Then the demarche and the list of fugitives, why don’t the politicians stop fooling us. What did we achieve with all these. Why don’t they bloody do something that will stop these bombings for ever? Why don’t they look for solutions instead of harping and haranguing? What the hell is wrong with all of them?

What next? In my next post…

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fiscal Deficit

Fiscal deficit
Another word that seems to scare American politicians appears to be fiscal deficit. Why are they afraid? Because fiscal deficit is bad! Why is fiscal deficit bad? No idea!!!

Some theory behind the story of Fiscal deficit; It is a common practice in economics to just state the theory, assumptions are also presented but many a times they take the back seat. So the story of the fiscal deficits begins with some such assumptions.
The theory says that when ever there is fiscal deficit, there will be inflation. (Therefore fiscal deficit is bad! What about the assumptions?) One of the most important assumptions behind this theory is that of full employment. Fiscal deficit leads to inflation if and only if the economy is in full employment. That is to say, all the resources, labour, capital, natural resources are already employed and there is no scope for further increase in production, will a fiscal deficit (where in the government spends a lot more than it earns) leads to a situation where too much money is chasing too few goods and there will be inflation in the economy. So what is so scary about it that Mr McCain wants to go for a balanced budget?
I don’t know.

Under the conditions of the assumption, there will definitely be inflation, true. But what if the assumption is violated? In the presence of spare capacity in the economy, there is always a chance that fiscal deficit which is used to print money (monetised fiscal deficit) will lead to better utilisation of the existing capacity/resource to improve production and therefore be beneficial to the economy.

What are the current economic conditions here in United States? Does the situation warrant a balanced budget?

Well currently unemployment is very high. There are a lot of people wanting to work, but are finding no work. There are producers who have excellent prospects but are slowing down due to lack of credit. The propensity to consume is weak, consumer driven American economy is slipping into a recession. We might already be in the midst of a recession!! It does not take very long to get from recession to depression, a balanced budget or a budgetary surplus is just the shortest way to get there!

So why is Balance budget good? And Ms Palin was so proud of her fiscal achievements in Alaska? Well it is alright to cut down expenditure on extra cars, fancy dinners, business class air tickets, but what about schools, what about infrastructure and what about productive expenditure? No answers I guess…

The candidates will keep harping about balanced budgets! Please vote for us, we will give you a balanced budget and as a complimentary offer, we will give you a small piece of hell….

Socialism and American Public

I have been following the election campaign here in the United States. One thing that stands out is the American public’s fear for words like ‘welfare’ and ‘socialism’! these words seems to have derogatory connotations! It is so surprising, that one presidential candidate should criticize another because his plans amount to ‘welfare’ and sounds ‘socialistic’. I don’t believe that this could even happen. Personal ideological longings apart, what is the harm in taxing those who can afford to pay and spend the money thus raised so that the less privileged could have a better life. After all the richest in this country are indeed the richest in the entire world, if they cannot part with their accumulation for the betterment of their own fellow citizens, what is the hope for the rest of the world which is evidently so much less privileged than all these people?

The first question that arises is why do people fear ‘welfare’?
The first thing to strike me is that this country made enormous gains in the past few decades from free enterprise, much more from open global trade and from low tax regime that now they are scared of higher tax rates? No not convincing enough. Liberalising health care sector, meant hardship to a lot of people but Insurance, Medical care providers, Pharmaceuticals and hospitals made a lot of money. Similarly, in financial sector, investment banks, hedge funds and those rich enough to invest a lot of money made much more money than they had ever done. Now what is the result? Who is bearing the brunt? The ordinary tax payers, small investors who lost money at the stock markets, bonds (issued by companies like Lehman) people who are being laid off left right and centre and those who brought homes at the peak...Why does ‘welfare’ scare even this subset of the population? Does not ‘welfare’ mean cheaper healthcare and cheaper education and better infrastructure for all these people? Is it not the duty of the state to ensure that its citizens can afford these basic facilities?

Before coming to this country I strongly felt that the Indian government is not doing enough to provide healthcare and education to its population, but now I feel it is doing a much better job. Being one of the richest countries in the world and for the small population they have, this country is not taking care of those who cannot afford the expensive healthcare, or the expensive college; whereas in India, there still is something to fall back upon. However poor you are there are charitable hospitals, government run hospitals that provide somewhat inferior quality care, but do offer something which is better than nothing- total exclusion! And education in India! I studied in a government run free school, a government aided college and a government university. The cost of my entire 20 + years of education cannot be more than the fee charged for a single course in the cheapest possible university here in United States! Indeed with all the scholarships that I got, I must have made a lot more money than I paid up in fees. I am glad we do have the option to do that in India. Of course with the increasing richness, there are so many more choices than before, but competition is good for all of us. I strongly feel we have this option in India because our resource constrained Indian governments feels obligated to have ‘welfare’ in mind! The State still feels responsible for the welfare of its citizens, just that they should not be producing cars and incense sticks, but concentrate on schools and hospital.

Why are Americans scared of ‘welfare’? The question still remains to be answered!
Does it have something to do with the cold war era mindset? When it was believed that ‘right’ is ‘right’ because it is opposite of ‘left’? Is it because it is so very easy to obfuscate communism, socialism into sounding similar? That reminds me of the presidential debate in JNU-2004, when a candidate from one of the smaller parties took on the task of differentiating himself from the left-backed major party candidates and did a wonderful job. May be American public needs to hear one good lecture on the topic. Though the aim of this post is not actually to differential between the two ideologies, I will try and do it in may be a few lines!

Socialism could also be a part of a democratic ‘welfare’ state. No doubt the communism had its roots in socialism but socialism is not just communism. In a democracy, there are enough checks and balances to avoid the trap of communism. And what is wrong in providing free health care (education)? The Scandinavian governments do, the French and the British do it. They do not have to shell out $ 700-800 on their health insurance each month. They do pay higher taxes and their economic growth has been slower. But what is the use of having faster economic growth rate that just benefits the rich and leaves the underprivileged worse off? Every research that studied inequalities in the recent decades concludes that inequality has risen; so why do we need growth if it cannot benefit a majority of the population? Life in Scandinavia and Europe is much better than that of United States, is it not? Here it would not take long for a hardworking salaried taxpayer to become homeless and not afford heath care; the possibility is so much more muted in Europe.

Communism on the other hand is a setup which seeks to establish a classless society. Everyone owns everything and everything belongs to the communes. So there is no scope for private ownership, no private enterprise, no private profits, everything is for everyone and people simply disappear never to come back. True this experiment has failed; the proof is Russia and other eastern European states. It kills enterprise, incentive to work hard and breeds a discontent and violence. True, communism and its lack of liberty scared me like hell! I even have nightmares about it. I was never as disturbed as I was when I went through George Orwell. It is scary, but it has nothing to do with welfare.

A ‘welfare’ state can exist very well without even coming kilometres close to communism. They are successful welfare states which encourage private enterprise and private ownership of assets, have vibrant democracies and their citizens are better off that way. Why should social welfare be scrutinised under the leans of communism?
What ever it is the spin doctors are doing a good job of scaring the hell out of American public. The bottom line is, in our enthusiasm for certain jargons and prescription; we forget the aim of ‘society’, ‘government’ and ‘democracy’ themselves. The primary aim is wellbeing of all citizens, if all is impossible; the aim is the wellbeing of a majority of the citizens (Bentham still rules!!!) and it should always be remembered. What ever promotes the wellbeing of the majority should be promoted, cheered and accepted. What reduces wellbeing of the majority should be feared, discouraged and snubbed. It is not easy get lost in the jungle of jargons?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Sarah Palin

My take on the performance of Palin in the VP debate; This is the first United States presidential election that I have been following so closely for obvious reasons- I love elections and right now I live here in United States! The election has been pretty interesting, watching out for Hillary in the beginning and now Palin. After all despites more than 200 years of independence they still have not had a woman at the helm of affairs! Where as we developing nations in south Asia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh we have all had great women politicians.
Hillary Clinton was fabulous. She had the right credentials, she spoke right, she had the charisma, she had her policies right, but she failed to gracefully accept the challenge posed by a rookie!! By the time the primaries were finished, she looked desperate for power which I feel was her undoing. But she is a politician any party and country should be proud of, a person who can represent the country abroad. After all, being in the white house means interacting with leader from every corner of the world. And United States could have felt safe in the hands of a person like Hillary. Well now that Hillary is not running in 2008, we will have to keep watching her.
On the contrary is Sarah Palin. I had not watched her interviews before, but having read about her ‘Russia close to Alaska’ statement, I was rather amused. Yes, she is spontaneous; she is the mom next door; she is cute but is she a VP material? I was very disappointed. Is this the best female candidate this entire country has to offer? Most of the times, she intelligently beat around the bush failing to answer. She was adamant that she will speak what ever she knew regardless of the question. It reminds me of a fellow in school, who used to cram two-three chapters on the previous day of the exam and end up writing only about the two chapters what ever the questions were. But she is smart enough to sound very confident, for she is a good politician-material. She knows how to strike the populist note and tried to sound the person next door. But is that enough? One person with questionable IQ and dubious judgement at top position here in this country has created enough mess that the entire world needs at least a few years to recuperate. The world is more dangerous than it was 8 years ago, economically it is more fragile than it was 8 years ago, poverty has increased, and income inequality has increased. Everyone is worried about their jobs, about their mortgages from America to Europe to India.
How well does Sarah Palin mean in a circumstance like this? She does not seem to understand security issues. She feels Iraq is at the heart of terror!!! So where did Bin Laden go? Did he suddenly disappear from the most-wanted terrorist list? So that means she does not even remember ‘weapons of mass destruction’ that Mr Bush was so scared of and managed to scare the entire American public with it to secure another term. Thank goodness he cannot run again. Who knows he could have said India has ‘weapons of mass destruction’ so smoke out India next. Now the faint public memory cannot even understand that the person whom they could be voting for is so unaware of the events not long ago! Again she wants to build an embassy in Jerusalem. If only American and Israelis had kept away from Palestine and parts of Jerusalem, the world would have been a far peaceful place. In the first place I really don’t understand the Israeli concept of the land being promised by God to Jews. No one has seen god promising the lands, but Israel continues to occupy disputed lands. The ultra right wingers continue to build settlements in disputed areas. What I do appreciate is their guts to settle down in a hostile region and make sure their borders are safe. Just know where to keep your enemies, neither far that they escape your sight, nor close that they can hurt. I wish India could pursue such an aggressive policy like Israel does with its neighbours. Coming back to American embassy at Jerusalem, does Ms Palin even know how dangerous a place Jerusalem could be for an American embassy? As outsiders, as foreigners who just read news papers we are so much more aware of the problems in other parts of the world which Ms Palin does not seem to know. Does that mean she does not even read news papers?

On issues of economy, she kept on saying that tax cuts will improve the number of jobs and all the problems of the economy will be solved miraculously. Wow! Is it so simple? If it were so simple we professional economists would be out of jobs !!! One simple question is why is that after eight years of tax cuts has led the American economy into today’s quagmire? How did the jobs evaporate if tax cuts were a cure? And she kept highlighting fiscal austerity. But has it not been proved that what matters is the quality of spending than fiscal austerity and a zero based budget? Of course spending on a wasteful war is no more a good option. As I see it, there was a time when America had to spend on wars to pump prime their economy. But Iraq war proved rather different stretching too long and far more expensive to pump prime but large enough to suck crucial resources out of the economy. It is time to stop the bleeding wounds from further haemorrhage. So both measures are problematic. She fails there as well.

Then if there is a question she could not comprehend or she did not know the answer, she just got back to something she knew a bit. Energy policy. Wow. How intelligent. I was reminded of Rabri Devi in her initial days.
The saddest part of Ms Palin is that despite her inadequacy, is that she subscribes to a brand of policies that has just been proved to be wrong. Free markets will never work, tax cuts will not increase jobs, market fails without the interference of government (regulatory or participatory) and there are no simple solutions to complex issues. All these have so long been proved in the academic circles but so poorly received in the policy circles. She is just in the wrong boat at the wrong time. Her lack of knowledge is only aggravated by her leaning towards free market philosophy. That’s a heady combination.

There are a few more issues that I find rather too old-fashioned for my tastes, one is her anti-gay stance. Hey come on, gays are normal people, they need to have their own choice whether to get married or to live with each other or to get hospital visitation rights. What applies to a relationship between a man and a woman should also apply to a relationship between two men or two women. Another such issue is that of abortion rights. It is all about choice. There are people who want to have babies and there are those who would not want to. The choice should obviously be left to individuals. Spending money to promote unwanted babies will just lead to unloved and uncared for children. What life can such children look forward to? Strange when she knew her conscience will not allow her to go for an abortion; she should have at her age known better to use other preventive methods. Now what did that end up with? An infant affected by down’s syndrome, who needs to travel and keep awake at odd hours because ‘mama has to pose for a photograph’!
She is always pitching in for the mom-next door image, contrasting and characterising her fresh-ignorance with that of the seasoned long time Washington-ers. Unfortunately her parenting skills are not great either. Her teenage daughter is pregnant, the way she brings her infant son for all photo-ops is sad. So where does Sarah Palin fit in?

I just imagine Sarah Palin facing gutsy politicians like Mayawathi, Jayalalitha or for that matter Mamatha Banerjee. (Sonia Gandhi again is rather too coached!!! just like Palin) Agreed that politics is a different ball game in India, but these ladies are no-no-brainers. They know what it is to be where they are; they are astute, well informed and are great spin doctors. No wonder they survived in the male bastioned Indian political fiefdom. Will Sarah Plain hold upto them? The Answer is pretty clear. Sarah Palin fails to fit into the jigsaw puzzle .

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Greed and the credit crunch

The fairy tale ended for Lehman brothers! Such a sad ending indeed, just the way Elliot thought it would ‘not with a bang but with a whimper’. My heart does bleed to see big brands going belly up, but bleeds harder to see once well paid, employees cast away overnight. It is funny that there was a job posting for a ‘quantitative specialist’ at Lehman on public job sites as late as 15th September. Does this say anything about the disconnect between the top and the grass root levels in the company? Or is it that some HR who was not well versed with the status of the company scheduled an automatic re-posting of the job! What ever it is, it is sad. For me it is sad because Lehman was so big, so big that I always dreamt of being able to work, after all I am a brand-o-phile. I love big brands, brands that command respect, recall value and command a following. (Somehow I don’t like coke-a-cola, even though the brand meets all these criteria)

So there it goes Bear and Sterns, Lehman, Meryl Lynch, all of them big investment banks.

So how they did they all come about it? McCain and Obama say they were greedy corporations and we should not be sympathetic to them when they fall prey to their own greed. Interesting, I wonder if they ever held stocks in any of these banks! They were greedy no doubt, but what does it boils down to? These banks are not some machines, some faceless creatures greedy for more; they were owned by stockholders, investors like you and me, very human indeed. So why did these banks grow greedy? Because investors demanded they do, else they would be prone to hostile takeovers, and the top management would loose their jobs. So they do everything to maximise profits. After so many complex theories about behaviour of firms and managers, it all still boils down to profit maximisation.

Look at Goldman; it is no doubt the strongest of all the investment banks (now that only two remains) It is fundamentally solid, its competitors have been wiped out, so their revenues and business opportunities will definitely improve. Most importantly they are good in what ever they do. They have the best of brains and they keep exporting their brains to all branches of the industry. They still eked out a profit during such turbulent times, their revenues grew, but. But their stock prices are falling in the stock markets because of lack of confidence on part of the investors. So people like me and you are selling Goldman shares faster than there is buyer for the same. So what are we as a group of investors doing, pressurising a firm to make huge profits, a modest profit is no good.

It is at such points that the firms are forced to take irresponsible risks after all, higher the risks higher will be the gains. The unlucky ones though will loose the bet and the lucky ones get away with it. Lehman proved to be unlucky. So whose greed are we to blame? I did say the investors, and the whole capitalise system that has an unshakable faith in the magic of markets and the invisible hand!!!

The second point is the greed of individuals. The whole crisis started with the housing markets when people started buying one, two, three and god knows how many houses on mortgages on the belief that the values of the houses will keep increasing and that they will be able to pay the mortgage every month. Bad planning and extremely risky behaviour and the banks encourage such behaviour by lending crazy to such customers. So they went belly up first, took with them mortgage lenders like Country-wide( they should thanks their stars that BofA brought them, otherwise they did be out there on the street long time back) Indymac and later Bear & Sterns, Lehman and Meryl Lynch!

It now threatens the whole system.

My only question is how legitimate is the accusation of McCain and Obama that investment banks were greedy and they deserved to die? It is a sort of judgement debated in G.B.Shaw’s Doctor’s Dilemma! But how far is it acceptable?
The greedy millionaire investor in a rich custom made suit might what be in the minds on Obama and McCain as they speak of greedy corporation, but it is not a very narrow view? Were not we at fault, as individuals, as customers, as greedy investors, as a part of financial markets? Did we not invest in products we hardly knew but someone told would maximise our returns? Did we not buy additional houses because we though housing prices will go up and it will earn us a quick buck? So how should we blame? Ourselves? Or should be start searching for a scapegoat? Like say Lehman now that it is gone. If there were no buyers for pricey homes, no one would have built it much less sold it! If there were no buyers for risky securities, there would have been no securitisation, no subprime and Lehman would still be nearing their 200th anniversary. (You never know they still might, I cant believe they are gone, I still feel they will come out of Chapter 11, to occupy the office space they have leased till 2033!!!)

So who is the root of all these mess? For me, it is us, collectively, our collective greed to make the extra buck over everyone else. So we all should learn our lessons alright.

The lesson is frightfully simple. Never stretch beyond limits. Never go after investments that claim to double your investment in six months, or even 2 years. Anything that earns a little over inflation should be the bet. Those expecting beyond this should be ready to burn their finger in choppy waters and not whine about ‘greedy corporations’, ‘regulatory failure’ or ‘government intervention’. It is ‘us’ who needs to learn a lesson rather the ‘greedy’ corporations. If not for us, there would be no greedy corporations!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Religion and Secularism

Respected journalists like Mr Kuldip Nayyar should not be writing irresponsibly as in the case of this article. How can he wonder why Orissa government has not been dismissed by the central government? Does this not go against the very spirit of democracy? Why should the central government act against a legitimately elected popular state government?
There are problems every where, economic, communal, political etc. The only thing we can we proud of today is our robust democratic set up, which has survived all onslaughts. Efforts indeed should continue to strengthen the process and make sure all our voices are heard. People who ardently support ‘secularism’ (as they themselves define!!) should remember that as religious communities, Hindus are fighting retain their own identity amidst the extremist Islam and well funded strategic ‘harvesting of souls’ of Christianity. ‘Secularism’ would have mattered to all Indic-religions be it Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism, Animism etc had it been a level playing field, which it is not. Let mongers of ‘secularism’ figure out that it is definitely not intellectually fashionable to call for secularism, while ignoring how sadly people practicing ancient Indian religions are being treated in their own country, no vote banks, no subsidies on pilgrimage, no money flowing from abroad, no muscle power, no bargaining power but a helpless and discontented set of people. The fire that burns deep within is what had led to the Ram Janma Bhoomi Movement, now the Amarnath Movement and violent spin-offs of the same discontent is the violence in Orissa; the more educated but equally discontented set of people end up commenting on the internet, just like me. After all, every article echoing ‘secular’ ideas attract hundreds and thousands of such comments. In short there is discontentment every where. If there has to be communal peace, concerns of the larger population should be addressed before blowing the bugle of ‘secularism’. There cannot be peace without people practicing Indic religions finding a political voice addressing their concern. It is a pity that such a fragile space is occupied by hate mongers like Praveen Togadia and likes.

How else would any community feel when their people are killed mercilessly by some mentally unsound group of people trying to establish a medieval Caliphate that no longer exist that make their women wear tonnes and tonnes of clothing but feeds them feebly?

How else would any society feel when their people are killed by instruments of missionaries for having questioned their practice of conversion?

How else would the society feel, when a distant European nation (Italy) summons the diplomatic attaché to lodge a protest the violence against ‘Christians’? What right do they have? Just because a women born in Italy is pulling the political strings in India does not give Italy the right to question us. Besides are not Christians in India, Indians firsts and their religious identity comes a distant second? Why should their religion become their primary identity? What right has Italy to bestow Indian Christians a primary identity of their religion?

What else how any society feels when Hindus are persecuted everywhere in the very subcontinent, in Bangladesh, in Pakistan and now even in Nepal where as minorities in India are a pampered lot?

How else should those Sindhi and Punjabi refugees and more recently Kashmiri pundits feel who were forced to abandon their homes and everything they had but their lives to start afresh else where as paupers? Is it that their fight and their sacrifices are not of any value today?

Then there is an old pope, a holy man, may his soul rest in peace, who comes to India and declares that they need to harvest more Hindu souls to please his Abrahamic god, which is unable to bless people who believe in other forms of god!!

Then the missionaries point out that caste system in India is a bane and they need to convert everyone to create a homogeneous society. But paradoxically a Dalit after conversion becomes a Dalit Christian not just a ‘Christian’, so he goes to different church and gets his son-daughter married to other Dalit Christians and what else gets a Dalit Christian cemetery to wait for the judgement day. How did his social status improve by conversion?

Then there are tribal population. They are told that when they convert to Christianity and they wear the crucifix, no wild animals will attach them, no disease will harm them. Being gullible they do convert, but will their live improve significantly? No. The conversions just effective tear the tribal fabric of society. After all tribal societies are more favourable to women than is the main stream society; they don’t stifle their infant daughters or burn their daughter-in-laws. They live in harmony with the forests, an eco-friendly way of life, unlike us in the main stream society. Their indigenous knowledge base is far more exhaustive than what we perceive. These conversions are resulting in nothing but destruction of a balanced society, making enemies of brothers. Adding fuel to the fire is the well greased funding of such missionaries who in the name of hospitals, education indulge in conversions?

How should a society respond to such challenges? How should a multi cultural and multi religious society deal with the onslaught of mono-cultural Abrahamic religions?
How should we make sure that our religious space is well guarded? And we still have the liberty to remain as multi-cultural as possible? If we are to remain secular, we should be allowed to remain as multi-cultural as we have been through ages, worshiping hundreds of gods and believing that we can worship any of the millions of gods in any of the millions of ways but still be able to attain salvation, unlike the secularists who seem to support sections promoting a ‘one-god, one-way of worship and that is my way’ kind of religions.

In this light the reaction to Godhra, Mumbai riots, Amarnath Movement, Orissa violence are all different expression to the same feeling of insecurity, discontent. The need of the hour is a sane but brilliant voice to address such grievance. In the early 20th century, decades of imperialistic contempt for Indic religions and social fabric had translated into feelings of insecurity and inferiority, leading to similar social milieu. Back then Swami Vivekananda, a brilliant man grew to be the voice of the majority, motivated the society and instilled a sense of pride that they so much lacked. That is what we need today, Swami Vivekananda ver. 0.2; a brilliant voice, who cannot only convince the world that we are good just the way we are, but instils in us a sense of pride, and be our voice. A person much beyond the considerations of political equations and vote banks who understands the seething discontentment and is capable of channel the discontentment into something constructive

Friday, August 22, 2008

SIMI and India

In recent days, i have been following the aftermath of Surat bomb bast case. Though i am not the one to keep track of such investigations, the frequency and the scale of such occurrences and a successful investigation has kept my interest in the case.
Three things actually surprised me.

1) The efficiency of Gujarat police. What Delhi police, Andhra police, Maharastra police,Rajasthan police and Karnataka police could not do, Gujrat police did it in the matter of days. May be it all boils down to the political will, not how intelligent the police men are. After all, police men in other states are just as smart and work as hard.. Why is that only Gujarat police were successful in nabbing the culprits. It is no surprise that the terrorists had grown so audacious after the repeated failure of police to nab them, that they very well stayed back home in Gujarat!!!So it boils down to political will.

2) Contrasting to the political will in Gujarat is Lalu prasad yadav and Mulayam singh yadav. They went on to say that SIMI the organisation behind the blasts should not be banned! How strange that mainstream politicians are defending an organisation with terrorist history and under surveillance.It happens only in India. What extent politicians actually go in order to safe guard their vote banks.

3)It is the psyche of the terrorists themselves.How can a man who's very father was treated in the hospital just a few days back bomb the very same hospital. What was he thinking of the hospital while he looked after his sick father? Memorizing the floor plan of the hospital, contemplating which corner is better to hide a bomb, pattern of crowd movement in and out of the hospital?? How can any possible human being think of something like that? also those guys want to establish a khalipat no national boundaries, they want to convert all Hindus. How gullible their minds must be to be encapsulated in medieval times? How can they even come to think like that? What makes them think like that? What makes them so powerful? Gosh.. cannot believe it at all.

With all the questions all i can think of is how dangerous such people could be.
And what rings in my mind is 'Dharmo Rakshati Rakshita ha'... Who ever protects the Dharma, the Dharma protects them and who ever tries to ruin the dharma, will be ruined. I wonder when such people who are always trying to ruin Dharma will be ruined.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The first Olympic gold

Its party time!!! And finally India managed the first Olympic gold in an individual category. The entire credit should go to Abhinav Bindra. We as honest tax payers need not gloat about the gold! After all all sort of babu's blow up our hard earned money and nothing remains for actual sports persons. Well that's the reality. Lets accept it... Its truth. Probably the ratio of medal to contingent is the smallest in case of India; Almost half the contingent made up of babus and only one may be two medals.. its probably worse than Somalia!

The biggest disappointment.. and the story that even made it to Wall Street Journal is the disgraceful absence of Indian Hockey team. What a pity. We are not representing our national game in Olympics! Even though we have had fine players like Dhanraj Pillai, Ashish Ballal..they were all wasted. I still remember the scene on TV, Pillai's outburst and his men returned home triumphant Busan Asiad.
Here in the USA, sports and sportsmanship is appreciated, funded, encouraged. That's what keeps them up on the medals tally despite having about a fifth of India's population. If only things would improve in India. If only all our hard earned money that the tax man pinches off our purse reached the actual sports people. It cant be that the worlds second most populous country lacks in quality athletes.. if we can produce cricket stars we can definitely produce hockey stars, track and pool stars.. If only we could gather our act and do something about our ailing sports.
A couple of questions here. Mr Gill.. the tough cop, who has troubles keeping his pants up (remember Ropan deol bajaj) was at the helm of hockey administration despite the simmering angst of players that was expressed in public as well. Why was he there till he was sacked after the selection for money episode...What better can we expect from such a team? Nothing ... Therefore memorable performances has been far and few in between and Indian hockey is a pale shadow of itself..

The second question. Mr.Suresh Kalmadi.. He had been at the top of Indian Olympic Committee ever since i can possibly remember. Looks like Mr.Kalmadi has no other business than being a sports babu.He could be very clean and honest given his Air-force background but what about results. He had been promissing more medals in every games.. only to our disappointment. So where is the accountability? Nowhere to be seen. So Mr. Kalmadi gets to hang around and hog the lime lights for the Commonwealth Games Delhi 2010.. (Yeah! that probably his achievement indeed... getting the Commonwealth Games to India; we have to foot a hefty bill too) But what about finding, polishing and presenting the sporting gems India has the potential to produce?
No answers.

The questions remain. If only there was something like IPL for Hockey and a Chak De like victory could come true....If dreams could come true..

Friday, July 25, 2008

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Great Indian Growth Story

So the Indian economy did clock 9% growth according to the FM, so what does it mean? it means the stock market will recover slightly, the FIIs will again pour some of their excess money, pro-reform economists will keep screaming for more reforms so that the economy can break the barrier of 10%+..Things will just go on as usual. What difference will it make if the economy grows at 10% ,20% or more to the common man? I feel it is nothing. And there can be no better example than India right now. I am not a left-winger nor a right-winger.. i am just a believer in Bentham's law ..greatest good of the greatest numbers....So is that happening with all the growth and stock market boom? The answer is a clear no.

A vast majority of Indian population still live in conditions that renders figures like per capita income, poverty line useless in assessing well-being. The indicator that is more meaning full is more basic like consumption of food, nutrition, life-span, child-maternal mortality, employment, then of course gender dimension (after all neglecting half the population is a sin).
It puzzles me to see stock market getting such a wide media coverage ..especially in the new-papers calling themselves 'economic'...I am more than convinced that because of this coverage, majority of the new-paper reading population corelate economy to stock markets. There is obviously a co-relation, not to deny it. But then is not the economy much more than the stock market? Far from dalal street, economy should be much more related to the people far and away breaking their backs to feed themselves and their families? The stock market! If there were to be a record of how many individuals profited from activities in stock market and how many institutions especially FIIs profited, i m sure it how skew the balance in favour of FIIs solidly. I have seen more people kill themselves after having lost heavily in stock markets than people who invest there to make up for their retirement funds.. Simple enough. Its uncharted territory for a vast majority. In the latest meltdown, many of my friends have lost their hard earned money. They invested at the wrong time, (despite my warnings!!!I keep myself away from a bull market!!!) and they are not alone. They will have hundreds of small investors along with them. The pity is your bank fails, the government will pay you back your money, you loose at the stock market, its gone.. just gone in the useless bits of paper...I wish it were as clear.
All said and done stock market and horse race has far too many things in common than economy and stock market. The same is the case in the great US of A!!! I m surprised how the Wall street gets to have its way. They are profit monger of the worst kind. In a bull market, they want the government and the regulators out... they always scream for reforms-free markets-magic of invisible hands-etc.. but at the smallest signs of trouble they expect the Fed-Federal government to pitch in! its like heads i win, tails you loose! Come what may they will still be around and make money!Unfortunately this is what a financial sector led economy goes through.

Its true that Indian financial economy still has a long way to go. I am glad it has. After are we still don't have something called sub-prime mortgages! (we do have the commercial micro credit which is almost the same but much better regulated than sub-prime stuff but micro credit has its own pitfalls!)
So what is the real economy saying right now?
Firstly, consumption of food: Has reduced in the past few years, more rapidly after 2003-04.
Nutritional status: Though no famine-starvation related death, there is wide-spread malnutrition.
Poverty : actually much more than what the planning commission estimates using an archaic formula.(they are intelligent enough to fool us by over-estimating the reduction in poverty levels)
employment: most recent data.. no significant increase in employment.
That means Indians are not eating well and are more vulnerable to ill-health and malnutrition,more Indian kids are malnourished, people are not getting jobs, they don't have access to PDS food, so what is the celebration about the growth and the stock market hitting 20k, or even 50k.. if course if it hits 50k, Mukesh Ambani and likes will still be able to build grand structures for homes... import the latest of cars,gadgets, wear cloths designed by french designers, throw grand parties, host wedding celebrations in palace of Versailles...and keep thinking of innovative ways to blow up their burdensome money-bags!! But what about us? what about our domestic servants? what about people in villages who still have to travel far often on dusty roads in moving shacks of vehicles for schools, hospitals and live on less than Rs 300 per month per person.
When i work on the Indian data, i feel frustrated with myself and my creed. What are we trying to do.My blood boils the very minute i hear reforms!!
Yes we do need reforms.. what kind of reforms? Introducing universal coverage under PDS (greater good of the greater number here there are more under nourished than are affluent who will anyway abhor the idea of buying insect infested, rat bitten PDS food, and there will be a self selection; but if food is that much more affordable to those who would not buy from markets, they would be better for sure) Make sure that all food and civil supplies department is completely computerised and stocks are never diverted to open market. Also issuing ration should be redone perhaps linking it with individuals to generate some kind of unique number skin to Social Security Number in the US. With the availability of bio-metric technology, it is not difficult today to undertake such an exercise. After all India is the back office of the whole world, and has the expertise in processing that kind of huge data. So that one person is not given a hundred ration cards as in the case of Delhi is not repeated. Is this asking for too much? If the government can handout Rs 60,000 crores to farmers, it can definitely be more liberal with respect to the nutritional adequacy of its citizens.
After food comes education. Why not spend more on education? Establish more primary schools, more colleges, more world-class universities? I doubt if Bangalore University still has a functional computer lab with broadband Internet access! It was not there not a long time back when i was a student there. I am sure its not much different now. I wonder if young men in the cyber parlours that have mushroomed in every corner of Indian cities know much beyond emails, orkut and pornography. (Regardless of the city and cyber centre, the machines are full of bugs from the pornographic websites!)...There is a huge body of information that is up-to-date that we can harness to make ourselves better, more competitive and have better prospects.

Reforms for me means just these for now. If any thing, universal health coverage is the other most important matter that requires urgent attention.. the rest may go to hell.. Let the government get out of Maruti Udyog, useless Air India, Indian, and Ashoka Hotels and all such stupid ventures, But realise its obligation to its citizens are more basic, not the stock markets and cell phones, but food, water, education and health.
I wish our politicians had a commitment, even a small wish to make a difference. But pity they are just the same as G.B.Shaw called them!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Independence day and partiotism

This was the Independence day long week end! So the media was full of themes related to patriotism etc..After reading all those pieces, i started wondering what patriotism means to me? What makes me a patriot? Why should i be a patriot?

Patriotism is a difficult idea to define. If i call myself a patriot, so will a naxalite deep in the jungles of Andra Pradesh, so will a devoted RSS worker somewhere in India, so will a soldier who is fighting a meaningless war somewhere in Kashmir. But are our ideas the same? Definitely no.. our ideas of patriotism is as different as is apples from pears. Patriotism just like Bhagat Singh can be claimed to their own by people of all political colours!
If i look at all these ideas of patriotism, each one is true in that particular context. So what is it for me?
Is patriotism limited to standing for the national anthem? hoisting flags? or is it something greater?

For a long time patriotism was for me more of such symbols. Flags, the national anthem, hating Pakistan (which i feel is ingrained as a necessary symbol of patriotism after learning Jan Gan Man!!!).As i grew older, my ideas went on to mature from these symbols to love and appreciation of my country. Our democracy, our fundamental rights even if we manage to forget our fundamental duties most of the time..

Now in the prime of my adult life, i feel patriotism today is about doing our duties to the nation, contribute in a small way to the betterment of our country, Not that i need to be a rocket scientist or a civil servant, but being myself. I can do a difference. Just by doing something like not dirtying our roads, being responsible when using our public transportation, not dirtying up our buses and trains.. and biggest of all, Stop complaining about our corrupt system, pothole ridden roads, and not resigning to the 'nothing can change India'
After having come across Atlantic ocean, i figure out, my India can still hold its head high. The United States being the oldest and most powerful democracy is not free from flaws. Only 40% vote to elect their president, the candidates spend millions and millions on campaigning, there are poor and homeless, the system has its own problems, the income inequality and the liberal gun laws which makes the frustration of being poor even more dangerous. And of course on the more bread-butter level of life, there are traffic jams, there are frauds on scales we can never imagine (think of bear and sterns & Enron)
On the contrary in India, we are so many people, it is definitely not easy for the machinery to be up and running with so many of us, so many of us not even bothering to pay taxes, so many of us just trying to make ends meet, so many of us having no access to medical and health facilities as well as education, employment and at times food. The number of starvation deaths have gone down (even if malnutrition prevails on a large scale.) We have a decent infrastructure given our resource constraint...our sound constitutional right, All these make me hold my head high up in the air.Make me proud of our country.

What pains me the most is our ability to appreciate such good things in our country, our culture, our heritage,our religion,our values...if we are to appreciate it and cherish it, is there any better patriotism than that?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The blame game of global food crisis

We all know that the prices of food stuff has increased in a past few months.. especially since Feb, it has started hitting our wallets. I was surprised the other day when i has to get a bag of rice for close to $27!! that's crazy what will we eat if its gonna be this expensive??
And Mr. Bush the favorite whipping boy the press went on to say that increase in demand from India and China has lead to the increase in the prices..Poor fellow he is no economist to say something like this. He will repeat what the American media has been harping for some time now..Even respected news papers like Wall Street Journal published a string of articles blaming India and China for causing the pain in their wallets. How silly. Are there no economist with wall street journal?? After reading so many pieces over a period of time i started questioning my own judgement, the chances that my belief that the causes of food price raise is else where going wrong was slim, very slim; But how can still stick on get my daily dose of news from a questionable publisher who has been churning our unsubstantiated news over and over again? Should i still stick on to the journal?? Well since we have subscribed for a long period (we got an excellent deal on that) i decided to keep it.
Nevertheless i did send out a letter to the editor. Now that FAO has refuted the hypothesis that India-China are behind the price raise, may be the American media will try and investigate the actual causes and try and pin it down.
This reminds me of The Economist and its coverage of Fidel Castro's letter last year criticizing American corn based bio-fuel policy.. I don't often look up to to Mr.Castro but on this issue, he is saner than most of those who ought to have been...

Here is what i wrote to wall street journal on the issue of India- behind the food price increase!!!


It is extremely unfortunate that the recent food price inflation is wrongly being attributed to India (China). The line of argument that is being pursued is that the burgeoning Indian middle class is fueling the price rise by changing their dietary pattern in favor of meats because of increasing wealth. It is even more unfortunate that a reputed journal like yours is also supporting the claims on a regular basis, almost in every article published on the issue. The argument is flawed on the following counts.
1) Indian dietary pattern is distinctly different from its western counterpart ;Where as in the West, meat has always been the center piece of the meal – the main course with cereal preparations, vegetables being the side dish, It is exactly the opposite in case of Indian meals. Rice/Wheat (others cereals as well) is the main course with meats and vegetables being on the side. The concept of eating just meats for meals is unknown in most parts of India for most of the population.
2) The idea of President Bush (also Ms Rice and various journalists working for your esteemed journal) that the Indian middle class being comparable to the whole of American population and thus is responsible for the increase in food prices is based on this above mentioned faulty premise. It is like drawing conclusion about a pear based on the data of an apple.
3) Despite the growth story, the so called prosperity of the nation, Indian nutritional standards remains poor. A large section of the population is still able to afford only food good enough to keep the body and soul together.
4) According to latest report of National Sample Survey Organization on household expenditure, the average monthly consumption of cereal is well below 12 kilograms per person, per month. It is as low as 9 kilograms for the lowest expenditure group, given that cereal still remains the mainstay of the Indian diet, many a times they are also the only nourishment one gets.
5) The commodity import data of India also shows that there has not been a step up in the imports of food grains so as to make a difference to the global prices. It shows that the import of bulk consumption goods (food) for the year 2006-07 was about Rs 14889.61 crore, not very high from 14,120.05 crores during 2003-04. The figure includes imports (thereby the demand) for commodities like cereal preparation, pulses, rice, sugar, wheat vegetable oils and other cereals. In real terms it translates into Rs 4223.044 crores for the year 2006-07 and Rs 4266.907 crores (base year 1986-87/consumer price index for agriculture labor). That is the imports during the year 2003-04 were marginally higher than that of the year 2006-07. Indian’s demand for food is more or less still dictated by the weather conditions rather than the upward mobility of a consumerist society.

6) While more than half the expenditure of rural households and close to 40% of the urban households was food related, just about 2.3% of it in urban and 4% of it is attributed to egg, poultry, fish meats and meat products. In comparison, 4% of it in urban and 6% in rural areas was on vegetables. This seems to indicate preference for vegetables over non-vegetarian food products

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Karnataka Elections

Hmmm!! It is such a relief to see a stable government in Karnataka, of course sans Mr.Son of the Soil or his overweight kids. I am personally relieved.
I am so glad the i was able to get a live coverage from IBN-live sitting here half the world across from Karnataka.Congratulations to BJP and Mr Yeddi. Being a very big fan of Sri.Vajapayeeji, i am actually happy that finally BJP made its huge cut. That also raises my personal expectation from the governement. Hopefully they do well for my state, my people.

Next thing is the exit polls issue. IBN and the respected Yogendra Yadav failed miserably in their prediction. A few people were really harsh on them. I certainly understand the gravity of such predictions given the instability in Karnataka prior to the elections, but after all its all about statistics. People who criticise do not realise how difficult it can be to model something as qualitative as an election.
Secondly the Rajdeep Sardesai was gracious enough to acknowledge that there was a mistake on their part. Yes always appreciate graceful losers!!!

Thirdly its about Ms Gauri Lankesh and Mr. Ramachandra Guha and their opinions that is actually being aired even as i write this piece.
Man !!! Gauri Lankesh says its a 'black day' for Karnataka, As if she is speaking for the whole of Kannadiga community; Well she should know that she is not the sole representative of the Kannadiga community.Besides what she thinks does not matter.In the first place i was just wondering why should a channel like IBN interview a person like Gauri Lankesh? What is her claim to fame? Being Lakesh's daughter?or as a person continuing his yellow journalistic legacy?
Personally i never likes Lankesh Patrike. I still view the journal as the harbinger of yellow journalism in Kannada circles. Kannadigas are supposed to be gentle and civilised folks, but journals like Lankesh Patrike and Hai Bengalure make me look back and check if at all Kannadigas have any signs of civility!!!!
Mr Ramachandra Guha is definitely more credible than Kavitha Lankesh, But for some strange reason Mr. Guha was championing the cause of the minorities. That was not convincing. There is a saying in Kannada if Mr.Guha understands Kannada, 'ollada gandange mosaralli kallu'..A husband who dislikes his wife finds stones even in yogurt....So leftist-academicians will have to pick one or the other flaws in this victory!
And Ms Lankesh is just trying to be a fashionable intellectual- the pseudo-types that are abound everywhere, just trying to portray themselves to be more intelligent than the general population.
Lets not give too much attention to such bujji- Buddi-Jeevis (intellectuals). Let rationalism prevail!!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Puttanna Kanagal

I ended up watching two Kannada movies back to back. Both the movies were associated with Puttanna Kanagal, Kalpana, Triveni and Da.Ra.Bendre... No prizes for guessing, they were Sharapanjara and Bellimoda. While Puttanna directed the movie based on Triveni's novels, Kalpana played the lead roles. Incidentally the song "uttara druvadin" from Sharapanjara and "Moodala Maneya" from Bellimoda were penned by the famous poet Da.Ra.Bendre.
They were master pieces indeed.
First Sharapanjara or the 'cage of arrows', the ultimate confinement. It is a story of a women 'Kaveri' played by Kalpana who is beautiful, educated and hails from a very good family. She gets married to a man who falls in love with her at first sight. All is well, its a picture perfect family. Kaveri is loved by all. She is the object of everyone's affection. She has a loving husband, a cute son, an adorable mom-in-law, she has servants at her disposal, a big house and of course a car, which was a luxury at that time. The car shown in the movie is a red colored fiat, now outdated and almost off Indian roads. Kaveri has another baby and becomes very weak. Hysteria strikes her during this post-pregnancy weakness. She is haunted by her pre-marital one-night-stand with another man who repeats the caesarian 'Veni, Vidi, Vici'. The Husband gets a wind of the affair and is very very upset. She is admitted to a mental hospital in Bangalore. After a while she recovers and is discharged. Unfortunately for her, despite the doctors advice, the husband cannot bring himself to love her the way he did before. She craves for the lost love, but she is disappointed. Later she finds that her husband is having an extra-marital affair with his typist. That comes as a trigger. She breaks down.
There are two issues addresses in the movie. One is the mental illness and people's perception about it. The other is the concept of a women's chastity. As a post-liberalization child, i don't find mental illness a big deal, nor will others of my age or younger. In fact our generation is one which seeks the refuge of psychiatrist/counselor at the drop of the hat after all we can afford it right! Back then, mental illness was something incurable, something scary. Post treatment it was nothing but social ostracism. People are scared to talk, they make false accusation, they jeer, make fun and are scared. The affected person craving for love and attention are given anything but love or affection. All that remains with them is the brand. It must have been a difficult era for people with mental illness at that milieu. The movie poignantly brings out the insensitivity of the society in dealing with such people. Well, frankly speaking, we still keep on reading about mentally unsound people chained in temples and such and tortured instead of being cared for. Such apathy, no doubt bodes no good. Triveni was a pioneer when it comes to bringing such episodes to forefront. She wrote during the 50s and 60s probably even earlier, and see her sensitivity. She is so mature for her age, exposure and education. And of course Puttanna is such an expert in translating such a complicated story from print media to a three hour feature film! Beautiful. I was also impressed by Kalpana. My god what terrific acting. It left me disturbed for a while, and had to watch a lighter movie to tone down the effect. I understood for once why she is called a great actress.There are some scenes where she over-acts a bit but then considering her theater background, the extra histrionics can be ignore.

The second issue addressed in the movie is a women's chastity. In the movie, the heroine is abused by a man who says, "he came, he saw, he conquered". He takes pride in having enjoyed the company of a naive girl who is not his wife and leaves her to her fate. No one knows about it. But the girl as she matures into a women still has it in her bosom. She feels she has erred. She has lost her chastity. Feeling guilty all the time. Why should she? It was definitely a mistake but she was not alone in it. Her accomplice in crime has gone scot free. Why should she suffer? Its an unfair deal. Of course when the husband come to know of it, he resolves to adultery. Does two wrongs make a right? Why does he lose his love for a wife who had a past? Could he not have forgiven her?? Is his love not strong enough to forgive her? parallels are drawn in the movie to Ramayan, where Rama has similar point of views. He loves is wife Sita but will not accept her without subjecting her to the test of chastity for which she had to jump into fire. Subsequently the fire god vouches for her chastity. Finally he banished her because of some hearsay on her chastity again. We ordinary mortals could not have succeeded the test! That means not only dying of nth degree burns as well as the stigma of being not-chaste. How can a women prove that she is chaste! Is that a possibility. Is chastity not something you feel about yourself. Say can a women who is raped can still be chaste? Is she not? Why should she pay for no mistake of hers? Some bugger violates her and she feels she has lost her chastity. Its such skewed equation. This makes me wonder what is chastity?? is it something that can be lost in a second? looted by some frustrated maniacs? What is it something you lock it up in a safe? in a bank?Can something be more ridiculous? How did ever come into such morals, who made this code of conduct?(definitely a man)
At the end i still done have answers. I still cant think clear, everything is still muddled. But i know deep down my heart, and still believe that chastity comes from mind more than ones body. It is thoughts that matter than actions that are beyond one's control. Yet a women who has been wronged earlier can still be loyal to her spouse, can still be chaste the way she feel for her spouse. There is no reason for women to still follow Sita and accept ill treatment because of chastity-related problems. i hope things change and for the good. The change comes not as acceptance of multiple parters but in the form of acceptance of a women who has been wronged; this could be a sensible way change mindsets.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Job hunt

Job hunt can be so frustrating. Job hunt in this era??##@@@ might sound so unfamiliar. But i remember old Kannada and hindi cinema. The hero carrying file and degree certificates and going about the streets from one interview to another and discovers that his shoes have worn out because of all the walking! One great visual hint.. the worn out shoe says so much about the grimness of the situation. Well today's job seeking generation has walked miles away from it. figuratively speaking of course. The walk ends at the computer. Everything is reduced to Google search is it not? even job hunt. Research is Google search, spouse hunt is again clicks away(may be not straight Google search, but i believe Google search will definitely help in that as well) and now job hunt if also Google hunt. Life is all about googling.. Well that is why Google Inc is making a lot of money i guess.

Job hunt on even the Internet could b frustrating. after posting resumes after resumes to companies after companies, and getting no response but an automated mail saying ' ur resume has reached our database. will be get to you if need be' and they never get back. Day after day, nights after night, the seasons roll by, trees start to bloom, and grass turns greener yet no calls. the summers wears away no call yet.. on top it you see the TV programmes, magazines, news papers screeching a possible recession. When you are most professionally qualified to say if a recession is imminent and you find no reason to believe what they say, all your years at the college seems waste. What does a job hunter do when the 'shoe-shine' boys talk of recession? Well sit and ponder over the situation. May be it is not gonna be that bad. May be there is gonna be a silver lining somewhere there in the distant part of the horizon..nothing except time can help.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A lost vegetable!!!

These days i do not have too many activities to indulge in except for job-hunting and recipe hunting. Got to get 2-3 meals on the table everyday and i am perpetually running out of ideas to be a little more creative and avoid repetitions in my kitchen!! Mom wonder how you managed all these years! Even god damn mess secretaries had so much to think about in my erstwhile hostel!! I guess i appreciate them better now....
I was thinking of possible vegetables that i was familiar with as a kid. Now all those sounds really exotic.. like the tender tamarind blooms and leaves (hunase chiguru in Kannada) which tastes heavenly. My mouth salivates at the very thought of it. I did have the privilege of savouring it a few years back...had prepared mixed greens with the tamarind blooms! man it was heavenly.. its so sad that it is not available in super markets.
Then there is the farm greens blend. It is just about all the weeds that are plucked on farms cooked with green chillies, cumin and garlic...the fresh aroma of the greens is a step over heaven. I miss it too.. It has become a delicacy indeed.

Then there is this really mysterious vegetable called "Tuppada Herekai" which resembles the silk squash in appearance. When it is cooked it smells like Ghee/ clarified butter...amazing aroma without all the calories. I have not had the vegetable for decades now. I wonder if it is still cultivated somewhere in the remote hearts of Karnataka. I want that vegetable to survive so that i can dream of eating it at least once more.. I wonder if someone out there is familiar with this vegetable. Do get back to me if you happen to know more about the vegetable!!!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

About me!

Its been such a long time that i last posted something on my blog. I don't know what triggered the inertia!But something did, pretty strongly! Well well well..As usual lot of water under the bridge..

My submission did look rather impossible till the last minute and then lo behold i managed to submit. However i still had to reschedule my ticket by a day and lose money. What ever i was able to submit and catch the next available flight to NY. It was an experience ...however, i miss my campus. Today the validity of my ID card expired. I cease to be a student of JNU from today formally..it is a day of reckoning...strangely today i am thinking of my beloved campus and trying to measure up all that the campus gave me...From the protected confines of a loving family, i went into the unknown arms of JNU, I still remember the day my father left me in the campus with tears in his eyes not sure of how his beloved daughter will manage without him in such a far away place; and of course i remember his choking voice from a borrowed cell phone even as the train marched out of New Delhi railway station...I looks like yesterday. And then there were so many experiences that added layers and layers on what i was and of course what i am. I cherish my days at the University. I might sound romantic but then i understood what i gained from the university long long back.

I miss the long lonely walks, i miss the serenity, i miss the debates, i miss the politics and of course i miss the piece of the university we were used to carry with ourselves, on our sleeves...I miss being called a scholar, i miss being called a JNUite. But life goes on and i have thus far carried myself gracefully. Hoping to do a better job on it later as well.

On the day i landed after a long journey on the brand new Jet Airways flight ( watched 4 movies back to back and of course made full use of their food n drinks!!!) was pleasant. Much like Delhi, it was cool but not chilly. I saw my husband from a distance. There was something strange. It was as if i was meeting him for the first time. I never realised till that point that distance takes a toll on the relationship till then, not even when we were actually away from each other. He looked like a stranger. In fact he later told me that he felt the same. The day was good.. the next few days went in bringing the house under some sort of order. I got my reward as well... a trip to Walt Disney World, Orlando. It was nice. will require another will episode to document that particular trip. Then of course the new year.

The new year was great. It was a bash. Lots of food, loads of drinks and of course many guests over at my place. I play the near perfect hostess..The dust has since settled.
I am just polishing my skills at the kitchen a bit these days. Documenting recipes, writing down those that are in soft copies, thinking of vegetables that i have ignored for a while (like Pumpkin or butternut squash / kaddu or tori/ zucchini) and searching for ways to cook such vegetables the way we might like them!!!! that's a lot of work and of course it is keeping my hands full for now..

I have one more important work to do. Graduate completely from student into an adult with a real job and real income. Need to do a lot on that front ... and i hope to do a good job on the graduation part of it.