Monday, June 29, 2009

Rain Rain come again - Part II

Today, I came across a beautiful quote by Clarlie Chaplin: "I love walking in the rain, because then, no one knows that I'm crying...". I somehow connected with it since I love rains and the rainy season which brings with it a strange mixture of joy, melancholy and peace.

The Moonwalker's final walk - We'll miss MJ

MJ was an unsurpassed entertainer, a gifted and driven song-and-dance man who wielded rhythm, texture and image to create and promote the best-selling album of all time, ‘Thriller’. As a child star he was precocious; as an adult he was childlike. His only competition was himself. Within the razzle-dazzle of his songs, he sang about fears and uncertainties in that high, vulnerable voice: flinching from monsters in ‘Thriller,’ wishing he could just ‘Beat It’ when trouble began. His own face slowly became a mask.
Despite all his time onstage and on air, MJ stayed remote: styled, rehearsed and choreographed. He had one of history’s largest audiences, and it never really knew him. There was no denying his talent. His ambition was seductive when he urged ‘Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough.’ He offered something to everybody on ‘Thriller,’ which may have been the most strategic crossover album to date.
MJ wasn’t just an oldschool show-business expert who could sing and dance onstage in real time; he was also more than ready for the music-video era, turning his songs into high-concept video clips. His dance moves were angular and twitchy, hinting at digital stops and starts rather than analog fluidity — except, of course, for his famous moonwalk, the image of someone striding gracefully without ever leaving centerstage. The world-beating success of ‘Thriller’ was MJ's triumph and burden. He had the sales, the Grammy Awards, the screaming audiences in every country he toured. MJ never stopped being catchy, but behind the sheen some of the songs grew darker and stranger. But, no matter how harsh some of his critics might be on his social behavior, he'll always be billed as the King of Pop.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Rain-Rain, come again...

Sometime ago, the authorities claimed that a delayed monsoon didn't necessarily mean a bad monsoon. Then came the announcement of a "below normal" monsoon glum news especially for the granaries of the north-west.
Surely, instead of see-sawing between hope and despair each time rains play truant, India ought to deal with the problem of its monsoon-dependence scientifically. Representing around 17 per cent of India's GDP, agriculture has averaged nearly 4 per cent growth over five years. The sector was expected to buoy India's overall growth, hit by the global crisis. Manufacturing is down. Exports are down. If the monsoon does disappoint, farm production will fall at about the worst possible time. Nearly 70 per cent of Indians depend on farming. Many handling summer-sown crops like rice, soybean, sugarcane and cotton would be impacted, as also dealers in food and cash crops. Rural demand has been robust. A poor monsoon could change that. Food prices are already high. They could hit the roof. If rains are deficient, many rain-fed farms will need help in switching to less water-dependent crops. Rice-growing Orissa advises use of short duration paddy seeds.
Bihar is thinking of diesel subsidies so fields can be kept irrigated. Andhra is even mulling cloud seeding. Whatever strategies they adopt, affected states must rigorously implement the rural job guarantee scheme should farm hands need alternative employment. While buffer stocks are comfortable, proper storage to avoid wastage and corruption-free distribution need attention to ensure food security, now and as a general rule. Here's also hoping for better forecasts from India's weathermen. Irrespective of how the situation plays out, studies on monsoon patterns indicate a generally erratic and weakening trend. Yet India's output of water-intensive crops is to grow exponentially in future, implying massive groundwater depletion in wheat and rice-growing states. Managing water resources harvesting, extraction, storage or recycling can't but be top priority. Woefully inadequate irrigation infrastructure needs overhaul. India can learn a lot from technologically innovative Israel, a model of efficient water management. Consider drip irrigation, which avoids evaporation by keeping the soil moist underground. Also, power subsidies encourage waste of water. Their calibrated rollback is required, as also strict use of water meters. Finally, there's need to boost manufacturing to meet growth targets and ease dependence on agriculture. By World Bank estimates, our water demand will outstrip supply by 2020. Staving off such a scenario will require more than propitiating the rain gods.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Connecting with my Roots: A dip in the ocean of spirituality...

The story of Gajendra Moksham is well known: King Indradhyumna was a devout Vishnu Bhakta. Vanity over his devotion to God brings upon him Saint Agastya's curse and he is born as Gajendra, the proud elephant king. In order to redeem His devotee entangled in mundane pleasures, divine play is enacted by way of Gajendra getting caught by a crocodile while playing with members of his royal household in a forest lake. He fights the crocodile with all his might but in vain. Weary, anguished and helpless after struggling to free himself for long, the elephant laments why no one has come forward to save him.
He prays to God, in the context of his past sanskaras : "God is the Universal Self which is eternal and has no beginning or end. He is the cause as well as the effect for the universe that is but His illusory play with Himself playing all the roles like actors on a stage. He is omnipresent, omniscient and Almighty. He is beyond speech and thought and can be realised only by the yogis who have exhausted all vasanas and steadfastly see Him in their mind's eye..." But there is no Divine response. Gajendra is distressed why the omnipresent and Almighty God who is said to come to the rescue of the destitute is not answering his prayers and has not granted darshan or given him relief. He now begins to doubt His existence. As he deeply contemplates over this, realisation occurs within him that God alone is the protector for the universe; all his doubts vanish like mist before the Sun and he entreats Him for ending his agony in a spirit of total surrender. The Supreme Lord soon appears, kills the crocodile with His Sudarshana Chakra and releases Gajendra.

Similarly, man, egoistic and proud of his power and pelf, struts about the world unmindful of God until defeat and dejection make him realise his limitations. He turns to God for instant solution to his problems and when it does not happen, he loses faith in Him. Instead of surrendering to His will and praying for relief, he specifies solutions and action plans without realising that God being Almighty and Omniscient will give relief in His chosen way.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

BJP: A Party in Disarray

It is an apt observation on the BJP’s preoccupation with Hindutva and its lack of understanding of the Indian electorate. The party is now largely being led by overconfident politicians who have failed miserably in learning the correct lessons after the 2004 debacle. The latest election result should be an eye-opener for it.

Ram cannot be thought to be confined to one small area and the spirit of Ram should not be debased by politicising him to gain a narrow, political advantage. India is a pluralistic state and belongs to all Indians irrespective of colour, caste, creed or religion. The BJP must understand this. Only then can it truly aspire to provide political and social leadership to India and Indians.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Let AI Fall...

The Govt. Of India, with the inputs from Mr. Praful Patel (our Civil Avaition Minister), is planning a bailout for Air India, an Airline which has always resisted the infusion of professionalism and has become a haven for the IAS lobby.
The Govt. should remember that any Bailout is at the expense of taxpayer's money and at the cost of some other development programme in the country. Is there a guarantee that the airlineand it's highly unionised employees will wake up to the harsh realities after any infusion of funds and run the airline professionally? I strongly feel that with the 'Chalta-Hai' attitude of it's employees, it is unlikely that any bailout plan would help Air India. And moreover, why should the common taxpayer suffer due to the neglegence of AI's officials towards mordanization and fund the travel plans of our lousy politicians and IAS officers. Hence the bailout idea should be resested by all of us.

The malaise that plagues Air India is political interference in its internal affairs. Without governmental interference, it could survive and surmount all odds. The large aircraft acquisition ordered was with the sanction of the civil aviation ministry and with the government standing surety, but now the same government has proposed pruning the order. The best solution would be to privatise the airline and free it from any government control whatsoever, not to bail it out.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My analysis on why Team India got kicked out of the T-20 WC-2009

The sudden and dramatic exit of Team India from the race for the semi-finals of the ICC World Twenty- 20 Cup 2009 has shocked onlookers and confounded experts. Being the joint favourites along with South Africa for winning the Cup, the defending champions displayed a lack of innovation as also the absence of sheer desperation that resulted in their amazing success in South Africa in 2007 when they lifted the trophy as rank outsiders. The main reasons that led to their shocking elimination are -
"Complacency" - There seemed to be an air of 'nothing-can-go-wrong' in the team's approach. They appeared to feel all along that the Cup was rightfully theirs and that no other team had the fire power to gun them down. That they lost to both the West Indies and England, two of the less formidable teams in the draw, indicated a sense of false superiority which did not result in runs on the board or wickets in the bag.
Sehwag's unavailability - Despite a star-studded line-up, India had no other batsman who could scare the wits out of the opposition bowlers quite like Virender Sehwag does. Yuvraj Singh is India's batting hero in this version of the game, but the task proved too much even for him, in the absence of the Sultan of Multan, whose shoulder injury cost India dear.
Wrong team selection - India bungled by playing an extra bowler in a batsman oriented format of the game. As a result, there was not enough ammunition in the late middle order to test the opposition seriously enough. Dinesh Karthik should have played instead of Ravinder Jadeja in the match against England. Yusuf Pathan and Rohit Sharma could have bowled spin along with Yuvraj Singh to fill the breach. Ishant Sharma could have been dropped in favour of Praveen Kumar whose swing bowling was suited to English conditions. RP Singh should have played all the matches, given that he was the highest wicket taker in the IPL, and the in-form bowler in the team!
Dhoni was out of sorts - Captain cool, MS Dhoni kept wickets reasonably well, and marshalled his forces to the best of his ability, but his batting was a let down. Even in the match against England when he and Pathan almost chased down the target, he could not really get the big shots going. His bat seemed to have lost its potency, for his shots simply lacked the explosiveness that they are known for.
Media trouble (or Arrogance) - Another factor was surely the off-the-field distraction especially the manner in which the Sehwag issue was dealt with. The media flayed the present Captain's attitude for the first time ever and the foolhardy attempt at displaying a sense of camaraderie by presenting the whole team at a Press conference was most bizarre.

This was the World Cup after all, but from the look of them, Team India could well have been playing any other international series. Gautam Gambhir, who has been the most prolific scorer in world cricket in the past one year, looked totally jaded, and exemplified the mal-effects of excessive international cricket. Fans of the Indian team are distraught and shocked at their early exit from the ICC World Twenty 20. Let's see if the team can re-group from here and win back our admiration in the coming months...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Jeans in our Genes...

Four colleges in Kanpur are only the latest educational institutions to ban female students from wearing jeans, among other western attires, on campus. Kanpur is far from the only city in India to have implemented such draconian dress codes for women. Varsities in Hyderabad and Lucknow have also put in place measures to bar women from wearing outfits of their choice because university officials believe women in western dress are more vulnerable to that peculiarly Indian phenomenon called 'eve-teasing'. This is outrageous. It goes without saying that young adults of both sexes should have the freedom to decide what they want to wear to college. The colleges that have barred their students from wearing jeans in the guise of protecting them from sexual assault are betraying their parochial mindsets. It is ridiculous that these institutions continue to use a euphemism eve-teasing to refer to crimes as serious as sexual harassment and in some cases, assault. That phrase is as anachronistic as the attitudes of the people who run these institutions. Our cities are unsafe for women, which is an aspect of the everyday discrimination that Indian women face. Why must female students be punished for the harassment they suffer at the hands of their male counterparts? Authorities at universities, whose job it is to protect their students, would rather blame women for dressing 'provocatively'. To compound the irony, many of the strictures are being imposed by colleges that are exclusively for women, with restricted entry for men. At the bottom of the draconian dress restrictions is a refusal by college authorities to treat their wards as adults, even if they have the right to vote. Studies have shown that the way women dress has no impact on how vulnerable they are to sexual assault. Yet officials persist in acting as if women and their fundamental freedoms are the cause of the problem. After this latest move by Kanpur colleges, some quarters are asking that funding for colleges that try to dictate dress codes be cut. That is a good idea, particularly if it is combined with strict punishment for men who sexually harass women. Things will only change if the perpetrators of the crime are punished, not the victims.

Team India bites the dust against England in T-20 world cup...

The Men in Blue never looked in pink of health. But who would have foreseen MS Dhoni and company ending up red-faced so early. The narrow three run loss against England will rankle in the heart for a long time. Simply put, India wasn’t up to the challenge.
Where did we go wrong? Our bowling lacked passion and class. But it was primarily batting failure that cost us the game. Our top order’s weakness against the short-pitched ball was exposed.
There were strategic blunders too, for which the Dhoni-Kirsten thinktank must take the flak
I will never know why Jadeja was promoted to no 4 and sent ahead of Yuvraj and Dhoni. Especially since his batting limitations had been conclusively established in the practice game against the Kiwis. And I will never be able to fathom why Yusuf Pathan was held back for so long.
Feels really bad to lose a game with two hitters left at the crease with no balls to play with. That’s the penalty one pays for bad 'batting order' management. Among other things, we also seemed to lack the hunger to win. And, yes, we did miss Sehwag.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Training for E'preneurs...

A lot of E'preneurs fall into E'preneurship, without a grounding in business knowledge. Today, it is important to build a base of knowledge, to recognize the improtance of networking skills and to hone the ability to have a larger vision to build a bigger business. This is true for everyone considering embarking on an E'preneurial career pathway - whether that be forming a business base around new technology, developing a social enterprise or taking an innovation forward within a larger or more established organisation.
Investment in self development before setting on a venture shortens the learning curve of the individual. Giong 'back to school' and learning essential skills allow E'preneurs to understand business realities. It also helps to review investment options and exposes them to much harder aspects of business.
Develooping a good n/w is very critical. Through the network, future business owners can communicate their ideas and recieve valuable feedbacks. E'preneurs need to understand the industry or the vertical in which they seek to launch their business. They need to have a clear understanding of the potential of their idea and finally, they need to have a good vision of growing the business beyond the initial 'good' idea. Even the colleges should have student enterprise societies, which is quite a force in student E'preneurship. It is important to have motivation, guidanceand support within the student and academic circles.

Bang Bang Aussies...

Ever since reports of recent attacks on Indians in Australia began coming in, I've been in touch with friends and relatives who have lived there or continue to do so. I asked the same question to each one, "Have you ever personally encountered racism in Australia?" They all shared their experiences readily.

The first person I spoke to is my cousin who had studied in australia and her husband who pursued his higher education (PG) in Australia. "No, we never encountered any kind of racism personally, though we did find a lot of ignorance about India. And, of course, there are cultural differences you need to be aware of," she said. That's for sure. I've always found it ironic that the Australians were apparently OK with Harbhajan Singh insulting the mother of Andrew Symonds, but regarded 'monkey' as a deadly insult. In India, of course, it would be exactly the other way around. However, she then added, "I worked with a leading retail chain group in Australia, and I used to moderate chats. And I was shaken by the kind of ugly comments that used to come in about Asians, especially when the Mohd Haneef controversy was on. I always used to think Indians were oversensitive, but seeing those comments made me realise the depth of antipathy that so many Australians have towards us". The couple came back to India about 6 months back, though they say racism had nothing to do with it.

I chatted with a few other people too, mostly friends and other people whom I know through my cousin, and those who have absolutely no intention of returning to India. "What are you making such a fuss about," demanded one. "Didn't the Shiv Sena target South Indians? Isn't the MNS targeting North Indians? Don't we treat people from the north-east and Blacks abominably? If you say those are isolated incidents, well, so are these. Why doesn't India fix its own problems before lecturing others? This is all just media hype." A lady of indian origin was equally blunt: "As a woman, I feel much safer in Australia than I ever did in India."

Frankly, I tend to disagree with these arguments. At least 100 cases of 'curry bashing' have been reported in the last one year in Australia –- four deadly ones in the past month alone -- and many more probably weren't reported out of fear. That goes well beyond being “isolated incidents". The fact that thousands of Indian students came out to stage a peaceful rally in Melbourne on Sunday also surely indicates that these concerns aren't just 'media hype'.
The very fact that so many attacks could go on for so long seems to indicate a certain lack of sensitivity on the part of Australian authorities -- who were quick to initially dismiss these crimes as "opportunistic rather than racist". Finally, Australian foreign minister Stephen Smith had to acknowledge that there was a problem and Indian students were being specifically targeted. One can only hope that this awareness speedily percolates down the ranks of the Australian police and local authorities.
I think India is fully within its rights to be worried about the welfare of its citizens in a foreign country. Having said that, we certainly need to be as sensitive about how we treat other people -- including our own countrymen -- as we are about the way we are treated by others. And there's no question that we need to develop a zero-tolerance attitude towards louts who molest women, or assault them just because they happen to be in a pub.
What about the charge that most Indians living abroad form exclusionist groups? Even if that's true, I think that's probably a defensive reaction to perceived hostility from the local population. Of course, it turns into a vicious spiral. The more Indians cut themselves off from the mainstream, the more unpopular they become, and the more they retreat into their shell... and so on. But even then, I don't think there can be any justification for the kind of murderous attacks that we've seen on Indians. Even if you don't like someone, that doesn't give you the licence to beat them into a coma.
So, should Indians still go to Australia to study? I think they need to ask themselves whether they intend to return to India or not. If they intend to work in India, it's probably worth bearing in mind that most recruiters here have long since outgrown the foreign fixation. A Harvard or Oxford degree still makes your resume look good, but most recruiters are now much more impressed by a good Indian university than by a B-grade foreign one. So, students should make sure that the university they intend to go to will carry weight back in India. Otherwise, they'll just have wasted a lot of time, effort and money for nothing.
If the answer is that they want to migrate for good, then my next question is, "Have you considered that India's GDP is growing at 6.7% at a time when most of the developed world is undergoing recession?"
If they still want to go abroad, then I think they should be able to do so without fearing xenophobic attacks. And it's the responsibility of both the Indian and the relevant Australian government to ensure their safety and well-being.

India's loosing out on diversified energy sources to fuel growth...

Iran recently signed an agreement with Pakistan under which the latter would get an annual eight billion cubic metres of natural gas. Originally meant to partner the $7.2 billion gas pipeline project, India stayed out though Iran would like it to come aboard. On paper, an Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline seems a win-win deal for all concerned.

With the world's second-largest gas reserves after Russia, Iran wants to sell. India is a massive, expanding market, ever on the lookout for diversified energy sources to fuel growth. Pakistan also needs to meet increasing domestic demand. IPI would run over 2,775 kilometres from Iran's South Pars gas field through Pakistan and on to India. Such an overland linkage has economic and functional logic. A deep-sea pipeline would cost four times more while liquefied natural gas (LNG) trade involves long-distance sea transport. On delivery at port terminals, LNG needs to be regassified for piped distribution. Though a viable alternative for India, which imports LNG from countries like Qatar, it is logistically circuitous.

On the diplomatic front, it's been argued that shared stakeholding in a "peace pipeline" would improve India-Pakistan ties. Finally, as a pressure tactic, Iran has hinted that Beijing might enter if New Delhi exits. A project of this transnational scale would, however, have long-term implications in a world of rapidly mutating geopolitical contours. There are nettlesome issues of pricing as well, with Iran on gas price and with Pakistan on transit costs. Even if these were resolved, times have changed since 1993 when this initiative for South-South cooperation was visualised. Indo-Pak ties have been strained by the repeated torpedoing of a peace process by Pakistan's disingenuous postures on terrorism emanating from its soil. From Kargil to 26/11, it has been a story of eroding trust. Pakistan's internal situation must improve drastically for IPI to be risk-free. There are security concerns about the 475-mile stretch of pipeline that would traverse Baluchistan. This strife-prone region's separatist tribes have blown up pipelines in the past. And, with Islamabad's writ not running in vast swathes of the country, its ability to protect vital installations even nuclear facilities has been in question. The Taliban and other extremists run free and a multibillion-dollar gas pipeline would be a sitting duck in their destructive path. So, persuasive as the pro-IPI arguments are, India would do well to look before it leaps.