Sunday, December 7, 2008

Letting it Slide......

2nd day after the Mumbai attacks. Life returns to normal. People go to work. Financial institutions open for business. No losing any time.

What the hell is happening here?

We have lost touch with our basic human instincts; second guessing every decision and being plain indifferent. It’s difficult to see beyond our own wants. We don’t have time for others.

“Opportunism” as mentioned by a professor at college recently. “Self-serving guile” he said. And rightly so. It has seeped deep into our heart and drives our every action. Why am I doing this? What should I be doing? Will it help me?

And it is this very indifference that is our weakness. We have taken to adopting all everything the west does. Now we have also taken what is heading them down the wrong highway at breakneck speed.

The difference? Their politicians and decision makers can be trusted to look out for the welfare of the citizens. Here we vote and then we slaughter.

Politicians – day after the attacks, talks of a change in leadership. A week later new leaders are appointed. Same promises. Same results?

Law enforcers – to busy to bother about national security. Encounter specialists?

The Fourth Estate – TRP’s, screen time and punch-lines. Giving the people what they want or what they think we want? Doesn’t matter.

What have we done so far? Talk about it? Debate? Grieve? Shed a tear? Feel outraged?
The BSE got back to business even as the attacks were still on.

We have let it slide.


People are dying and we want to trade stocks and get on with it?

What the fuck is wrong with us?

We want to show the world a strong face?

Would you show a strong face when someone kills your family? Or do you go after the sons of bitches that did it and make them pay?

Chris rock once talked about Rudi Giuliani and the 9/11 attacks. “Before 9/11, Giuliani was the terrorist....” he said. I partly agree with him. The cover up and the subsequent string of lies and deceit that followed the attacks were as evil as the attacks themselves. But at least he was there when NY needed him.

Where were Deshmukh and his stooges or even Shivraj Patil and his for that matter?

What we need is someone like Giuliani. Described by Rock as a Pitbull - Someone who may eat your kids in times of peace but at least he’ll go after the burglar as well.

So why hasn’t the Indian government done anything as yet? Politics, bureaucracy, incompetence, ignorance.....take your pick.

I know I don’t have a right to criticize anyone as I haven’t even cast a vote. (I intend to in the coming elections).

But enough is enough. Let’s just DO. No talk. No think.

Just DO.

(I apologise for the obscenities, crass language and irrational idologies, but it is needed here).

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bretton Woods and the Birth of "Irrational Exuberance"

“Money, get away.
Get a good job with good pay
and you’re okay.
Money, it’s a gas.
Grab that cash with both hands
and make a stash.
New car, caviar, four star daydream,
Think I’ll buy me a football team.”

Pink Floyd had it on the spot when they wrote one of the songs with probably the most complex time signatures for any modern rock harmony. It’s funny that the essence of this song has captured the crux of the current state of the US economy.

It signifies the “irrational exuberance” of the largest capitalist power in the world economy. From building trillion dollar military weapons to spending billions of dollars on block-busters, they seem to be invincible.

But scratch the surface and you’ll realize the reality: $1 trillion subprime debt. $9 trillion national debt. $2.4 trillion held by private investors. $600 billion held by Japan. $500 billion held by China.

James Fallow sums it up:
“every person in the United States has over the past 10 years or so borrowed about $4,000 from someone in the People’s Republic of China”

They were overconfident, reckless and arrogant.

The US catches a cold and the world sneezes.

Looking closer to home, we can probably make a safe bet on India. But what is currently happening here is also uncertain. We have our Prime Minister and Finance Minister who are both notable economists and yet unable to face the current crisis.

This brings us to the fundamental problems of the world economy.
Keynes in 1941, at Bretton Woods, suggested the forming of an organization that would act as a monitoring and regulating agency for the world economy:
The International Clearing Union.

The idea behind this institution was that the member countries would be able to contribute towards the institution which would then allocate the funds between wealthy and poor nations. At the end of the financial year, all countries would aim to balance their accounts, i.e. countries with deficit would have to make payments and countries with surplus would have to draw out their funds, leaving the countries on an equal footing. Both the excess and shortfall of funds would be charged interest. So the net result was social welfare.

This was vehemently opposed by the US which went on to propose and succeeded in establishing the two most famous organizations in our times: the IMF and the World Bank.

Thus in hindsight Keynes was arguably right. The US now finds itself hiving off the scraps of other nations and heading towards deep recession. With credit friendly citizens and rash decision making, even Friedrich von Hayek would not approve of.

Keynes was a blatant socialist and thus the US now is falling back towards the foundations of the Keynesian philosophy and reinforcing the theory by the fed bailing out the chapter 11 companies.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the idea of free markets and the proposition that the markets take care of themselves. But the changing global scenario suggests otherwise.

At the risk of sounding cliched, let me end with Pink Floyd again:

“Money, it’s a crime.
Share it fairly but don’t take a slice of my pie.
Money, so they say
Is the root of all evil today.
But if you ask for a raise
it’s no surprise that they’re
Giving none away.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Chaos Theory

The magical figure.
The mythical quantum.
What happened to the mighty?
Into the abyss.
Where have the Knights gone?
Sanity forsaken?
Why suppress the crippled?
Why bleed the feeble?
Why still ponder?
The redeemers?
Where’s the hope?
Where are the dreamers?
Where are the achievers?
How are the tears shed?
How the despondent are engaged?
Where is the collectivism?
Where is discipline?
Where is the reason required?
Faith leaves the faithful.
Hope leaves the hopeful.
Logic abandons the reasoning.
Desperation urges the meek.
Shameless aggression impending.
Weak underpinnings .
Triumphant fabric of insatiability.
Sliver of neglect.
Linked destinys.
Naked Capitalism?
Effluent Socialism?
Sagacity dumbfounded?
Brazen desolation?
Linking of fates.
Unfailing truth.
Ashes to ashes dust to dust.
Clean slate.
Redefined passion.
Fundamental Chaos.
Indispensable Order.
Evident Caution.
Inevitable Complacence.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Scars Unseen

“Children of god” is such a clich├ęd term that it has lost its significance. It no longer stands for even a sliver of what it used to. It may be one of the few terms in English that can be translated into any other language and still hold its value.

Before you think that I have lost my sanity, let me tell you where this is coming from.

Sat through two lectures of Society and Business Management and conducted one session as a group assignment. The research involved made me realize that what we believe is no longer what we practice. We found some startling facts about the real India and what really goes on inside people’s head.

We conducted numerous interviews. Everyone from “chhotu” to “Mr. Joe Regular”.

The First.
We met a small girl who was a snake charmer. The question –
Why she did what she did?
The reply?
“Because I believe this is what god wants me to do”

This is possible the most outlandish reasoning I have heard in my life. Granted that she was an innocent, but nonetheless this is what people are telling their kids these days.

The Second.
This was a “chai-wala”. Looked no more than 12, but had an electrifying smile and may just make you believe that he’s an actual adult.
Same question.
“Dad told me to.”
Next - What does dad do?
“He’s a farmer in UP.”

This is the perennial vicious cycle. Dad worked as a child. Makes son work as a child. Grandson ends up working as a child. It is just too difficult to find the breaking link.

The Third.
This girl was managing the shop while her mother was at home. She doesn’t have a father. She goes to school in the morning, comes back to work at the shop and studies in the evening. She had wisdom beyond her years – something you wish you could sometime see in some college grads.

So that’s what has been bothering me all week. How can any parent allow their kid to work?
But more importantly, how can we just standby and do nothing?

I have no foundation to even attempt to understand the logic behind this. But I know that it is wrong. Every person of sound mind should be against this. It should be so preposterous that it stimulates us to action.

But that’s where the problem lies. ACTION.

We asked a person buying fire crackers on diwali what he thought about the child labour involved in manufacturing those crackers. He simply replied that it was the government s job to stop the law-breakers, not his. He further explained away his situation by saying that he was restricting himself to a minimum of crackers for this diwali.

Can we actually get any more insensitive?

One of my classmates has taken an initiative to teach poor kids here at the college. We were sceptical and found all the right reasons for him to be wrong. We came up with all excuses such as - “attention grabber”, “marks-oriented”, “will-never-go-through-with-it guy”.

But this is what I realised. I have no right to criticize him. Why?

Because I have not spent five minutes even thinking about those kids and their situation.

Does that mean that I’m an awful person? No. It simply means I don’t give a damn.

We have become so involved in our own lives we find it difficult to empathize with anyone. We distance ourselves from any crisis that doesn’t concern us.

So is that what we are? Self-centred, narcissistic, indifferent, arrogant?

I honestly hope not. Someone please prove me wrong.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Deceive, Inveigle, Obfuscate

The simplest of things never are. Love, relationships, right, wrong, truth, hope, aggression.

What we fail to realize is the innate need of humans to be and to make ourselves as close to gods as possible. Wouldn't we all love to be superhuman? Fly, be invincible, and live forever? But it’s not that simple.

We love to define ourselves by our pain and suffering. Without it we often feel as if that intangible, ever-elusive piece of us is missing. I guess that’s why relationships are so hard to manage. We fail to identify with the belongingness that we crave but refuse to accept.
It is nearly impossible for us to even begin to define what we are. We simply lack the mental acuity to attempt it. But then, I guess that’s what makes us special. That’s why we are who we are. It comes down to this; what can we do to ensure that we can truly even begin to make ourselves immortal?

Selflessness? Sacrifice? Charity? Achievement? Manna? Spiritualism?

No. None of these are the quintessential traits of the most intelligent animals on the earth. For that’s what we truly are.
The only way to ensure that we can live up to our own expectations is to live regardless of the expectations of others. Once this is done, we can focus on what’s relevant and necessary. But then do we truly want that?

That’s the question we have to individually reflect inwards and explore in the depths of our being. There is no guide, no mentor, no teacher. Only disciple and follower. Partners in this long and winding journey called “life”

Saturday, October 18, 2008

How to do more

What the problem in sleeping 4 hours a day? Laziness, tiredness, inattentiveness?

The answer is none of the above.

At an MBA college one of the few things you'll learn that are of actual practical value are : how to sleep less, how to work under deadlines, how to seriously multi task, how to crave for that 3 am maggi fix, how to spew out "wisdom" on anything at all, how to drink all night and give a presentation in the morning, how to study just 2hrs before an exam, how to read more than 2 newspapers a day, how to write a good resume,........the list goes on.

So whats the big deal u may ask......u don't need to spend 8lakhs to learn these things.

But that's where you're wrong. Here is where the "best and the brightest" of the country are. The next CEO of an Infosys or a ICICI Bank(does anyone want this job right now?) may be sitting next to you for two years. This is the place where you can develop relationships that will last you a life time (that's right i said relationship not friendship).

The advantage of sleeping less is unrivalled. You can read the book you always wanted to, you can play the games you always wanted to,you can think about your future in the silence of the night, you can discuss business, politics, food, philosophy, the future with the most brilliant individuals, you can study(if you want), and pretty much do anything except soak up some sun.

The most important lesson that you'll learn however, is that you'll learn to prioritize your life. You will realize the importance of personal time and family time. You'll learn to balance extra-curriculars and academics. You'll learn which one is more important. You will see your plans materialize and fail and you'll see yourself still manage to cope.

When I arrived here, for the first week i slept a net total of maybe 15-16 hrs. But believe me it felt good. We as a group were able to gel so well one may think we were friends for the last 10 years. We supported each other, challenged each other, pushed each other to the limit.......

Lets hope this is the beginning of something great.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

50 and counting

Was 50 and counting the last time I checked, and yet, here I find myself after close to a week and still jobless. Funny. Would have thought that after close to two years of working in the largest private company in the country it would have been a cake walk. Turns out that I'm wrong. And how!!!!

Easy for me to criticize the process....the system......the companies.....

Easier still to simply get disappointed and lower my standards and goals......

But the fact remains....this is where the world is headed.......

The neo-achievers:

I am the best of the best. I cannot accept failure. I don't like to daydream. I don't like to just chill. I hate stupid people. I hate wasting time. I hate coming second. I hate breathing fresh air. I hate being without a goal.

I hate being really me.

The system is equally to blame. It has created a generation of test-takers instead of learners. Students have actually mastered the art of acing an exam and regurgitating all the remaining learning simply to get the SCORE. Everything from what goes on your resume to what books you should read to what kind of activities corporates look for in a c.v., everything is thought through. The youth of my generation fears being a non-achiever. It has simply become taboo. The burgeoning number of MBA's and the similarly growing number of schools is testament to this fact.

The need to achieve. The need to be the best.

Whats really wrong is that the influence's give a damn about this.......everything is now business.

We still see MBA students fresh out of grad school. What the hell do they even know about the working environment. Give them some time to work at the lower level in an organization to understand the ground realities of the working world, then perhaps we will see them shine far beyond imagination.

Seems only right that the financial systems world over are in a crisis. When marketers do finance and financiers do operations and operations people do sales......what do you expect.

I fear India is headed down this same path.

CGPA's, extra-curriculars, social causes, all combine to form the perfect well rounded individual. Who is often burnt out by the time he/she is thirty. Even stress management is now a resume bullet point.

We Indians have lost the plot somewhere over the last 20 odd years. Close to 5 lakh Engineers graduate in India every year. 25,000 in Mumbai and Pune alone!

Yes the competition is stiff and extremely volatile.

But where are the parents? Where are the teachers? Where are the educators?

Where is wisdom?

The youth of my generation needs to be told it's OK to fail. We need to be told it's OK to waste time. We need to be told it's OK to just relax. We need to be told that life is not about building a resume. We need to be told that we are really appreciated. We need to be told the truth about the world.

We need to be told it's OK to be ourselves!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Beginnings get complicated the farther we progress.......opinions are calculated immune to openness.......

This is what i have been doing all my life........

Wanted to be a pilot........f***ed that up
Wanted to join the services......f***ed that up
Wanted to be the best engineer......f***ed that up
Wanted to be the best manager......f***ed that up
Wanted to be the best son..........f***ed that up
Wanted to be the best brother...f***ed that up
Wanted to be the best friend......f***ed that up
Wanted to be the best guitarist........f***ed that up
Wanted to be the best basketball player.........f***ed that up
Wanted to be a writer........f***ed that up
Wanted to design video games......f***ed that up
Wanted to chill out for a year after college.......f***ed that up
Wanted to drink till i puked......f***ed that up
Wanted to smoke till i passed out......f***ed that up
Wanted to scream out from the top of my lungs for no reason...........f***ed that up
Wanted to jump from the top...of anything......f***ed that up
Wanted to win Pepsi storm......f***ed that up
Wanted a black unicorn......f***ed that up
Wanted to be the best at everything.....f***ed that up
Wanted to be with the one person i most relate to since school.......f***ed that up

Wanted to kill someone.......f***ed that up
Wanted to get famous before turning 25......f***ed that up
Wanted to get laid before turning 21......f***ed that up
Wanted to get a summer job before the placement week....f***ed that up too....:-)
Wanted to go base-jumping........f***ed that up
Wanted to work at Lehman Bros..........f***ed that up
Wanted to drive a Ferrari Enzo.....f***ed that up
Wanted macaroni for dinner last night.....f*** that
Want to see Dream theater in concert.....f*** that
Want to party on the beach.....f*** that
Want to get high tonight.......f*** that

So whats awaiting me?
Life bring it on...........................and i'll show you how it's to be f***ed.