May 282012
 

My column in today’s DNA

Dwight Eishenower, the former American President, was asked about his Vice President’s (Richard Nixon’s) contribution to the Presidency. His response was “If you give me a week, I might think of one.” This is the quote that came to mind when thinking about the achievements of the United Progressive Alliance’s second stint in Government. That is not to say that they have made no positive contribution – it is just that a combination of the scams and the paralysis has wiped out anything good that may have been done from our collective memory. So on the 3rd anniversary of UPA 2 a A to Z of issues :

Authority – no Government in the world can rule without authority. That authority is not just legal and moral, but also the capability to stand up and say – I am the Government, and this is my job because the people elected me. To be able to govern in the next two years, the Prime Minister & his cabinet need to exert authority. Or Go.

Budget – It is all right to spend if there is a plan in place to grow and earn. The current finance minister is old school socialist and happy with spending. But, there seems to be no plan to earn. No plan to grow. Only to spend. Next two years focus on growth.

Coalition – and management of diverse parties. The people, who are supposed to manage it, have failed. This coalition is more to prevent work than to get work done. Get them on board. Or Go. .

Deficit – See B above. If you spend without earning, Deficits – and large ones at that – will result.

Exchange Rate – the best thing to do when your currency starts to seek a new level is nothing. You would expect a Government led by an economist to know that.

F for … well this is a family newspaper, and one cannot really expand the F word here. Sufficient to say that that most feel that is what has been done to the country and the economy.
Governance – Governance is seeing Government in action. Not Government inaction.

Higher Power – The buck stops at the Prime Minister. Or it should. Having a higher power that second guess decision making does no good as far as either the Party or the country is concerned.

Inflation – when you grow you will have inflation. If you check that inflation, you will deflate growth. That is what has happened.

Jokes – it is bad for authority and legitimacy of a Government when it becomes the butt for jokes. The solution is not to ban jokes, but get work done.

Kapil Sibal – See J Above. The man whose defence of the Government made people more convinced that they were trying to hide something.

Legislation – that is pending because the government mangers cannot come to an agreement with their coalition partners or the opposition. See G for Governance above.

Mamata – the person no sane government should touch with a barge pole. Her dogma will be the death of the Indian economic dream. Dump her now.

National Advisory Council– or the Non Accountable Counci. A bunch of civil society big wigs, whose heart overwhelms their brain.

Opposition – see M above, and T below.

Prime Minister – whose silence is deafening.

Questionable Deals – Is there any deal that this Government has done that is not questionable. Do they have logical answers rather than pulling up the drawbridge ? Can they share those answers with the people?

Raja – the telecom minister who took a policy aimed at increasing tele-density – the first come first serve policy – and murdered it, while seniors in the cabinet did nothing. If you auction all resources the cost of doing business will increase.

Sonia Gandhi – the power behind the throne. Who along with the NAC (see N above) formulates welfare policies and prevents the Government from achieving growth that will pay for those policies.

Trinumool Congress – see M for Mamata above. With allies like this one doesn’t need an opposition.

UPA2 – it isn’t United, it is regressive rather than Progressive, and the Alliance seems all but dead.

V.K.Singh – General. The nicest thing that one can say about his tenure as COAS is that it is over. Done with. Thank God. But, another example of total mismanagement by the Government. (check A for Authority)

We the People – see F above.

X – marks the spot where people vote. And if state elections are any indication, the people are unhappy.

Y – the economist’ term for national Income. Dear UPA2 – focus on all aspects of that, not just government spending.

Z for Zero Loss – the incredibly arrogant response to the 2G scam – see K above – that convinced people that something was dreadfully wrong.

 

May 212012
 

Harish Hande 

Learn from the street vendor. My mother has been buying vegetables from a particular street vendor for two decades now. Think about it—irrespective of floods, strikes and holidays she comes around selling her vegetables. Every morning, she borrows money at an interest rate of 10 percent a day, pays Rs 50 for her cart rental and Rs 15 for kerosene. In the evening, she has to determine the pricing strategy for vegetables that remain, as she has no refrigeration at home. After all these expenses, she has enough to feed herself and her family. And she does all of this without an MBA. Has one ever been cheated by a street vendor? Has one ever heard about a street vendor going out of business?

On the other hand, we are aware of what happened with Lehman Brothers or now with Kingfisher Airlines or with so many of the software companies in the ‘90s. The street vendors know how to balance social and financial sustainability. We need to learn from them.

———-

via Forbes India Magazine – Harish Hande: India Can Show The Right Way To Do Business.

Value, not Valuation :D

a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away – before the last dot com crash - I was working for a corporate that was looking for a strategic investor. They had got in business consultants – A list types – to help ‘restructure’ the business and get the ‘moolah‘ in.

Boxes were drawn, as were arrows. Little coloured rectangles used to appear on PPT’s, one after the other like little steps. Each had a fancy slogan written on it- Expand. Contract. Merge. Scatter .. process diagrams were manufactured. It all looked like the cross section of the USS Enterprise, superimposed on a GANTT chart. The company expanded. Hired lots of people. Did all those things that create ‘shareholder value’. And then the market crashed. And a lot of good people lost their jobs. I told most in my team (of 150) to leave. and then I left.  The company before the valuation game was profitable. The company that played the game was left as a shell..

there are of course issues of scalability and economies when it comes to the vegetable vendor. But, nothing wrong with the values.

—————

The other thing I read was this - on the bankers who kept quiet when Maddox was pulling his Ponzi. the other side.

 

May 182012
 

Aurangabad:  A woman has filed for divorce in a court in Aurangabad because her husband refused to change his relationship status to “married” on his Facebook profile.

A report in the Deccan Chronicle says the couple married two months ago. The husband allegedly told the judge hearing his case that he had forgotten to change his status from “single” to “married.”  His wife says that she cannot trust him, reports the paper. The judge has reportedly asked the couple to spend six months in counseling.

via Telugu wife wants divorce over husband’s Facebook status: Report.

Someone i know figured that their significant other was having a scene because of uploaded (indiscreet) photographs on FB.  the lawyers are sorting out the terms and conditions.

May 142012
 

My column in today’s  DNA

Rinkle Kumari was a typical teenager, growing up in Mirpur Mathelo in Sindh, Pakistan. Given the attacks against Hindus in the State, especially girls from the community, her parents were extra vigilant about their daughter. One day in late February, men broke into the house, kidnapped Rinkle converted her to Islam and then got her married off to a neighbour. Due to the tireless, thankless and courageous work of civil society & human rights activists in Pakistan the case did not die. It was revealed that there was an organised ring, led by a leading politician from the area, that was kidnapping and trafficking girls. The case went to court, but the politician and his mob filled the court and the neighbourhood. Rinkle’s family faced threats, and Rinkle did the only thing she could to keep her family safe – accepted that the kidnapping, and forcible conversion did not occur and her current state in life was of her own accord. The issue became a cause célèbre , not just in Pakistan but in India and resonated across the world. Rinkle Kumari was not the first girl to be kidnapped and put through this torture, nor will she be the last. Women and religious minorities are particularly vulnerable in Pakistan because the State is unable protect their rights. The State is failing, if not already failed, which makes it open season on everyone who is not strong enough to protect themselves.

The question is what can India do? In Rinkle Kumari’s( case – does India have locus standi in taking the issue of criminal acts that take place in Pakistan against its citizens? Not really. Rinkle Kumari is a Pakistani citizen, crime against her has been committed in Pakistan’s sovereign territory. India could invoke the  Nehru Liaqat pact, but given the number of pacts and agreements that Pakistan has violated, it would be naïve to expect them to honour this. The maximum India can do is proactively offer asylum to her, her family and the remaining Hindus in Sindh. But why only Hindus, why not Sikhs, Christians, Ahmediyaas, Shias and the rest,? Civilisationally and culturally they all have links with India. Religion alone doesn’t define culture or civilisation, there are other factors like language, ethnicity, shared history. And why only Pakistan? Why not those in Bangladesh or in Sri Lanka? Also should you only look at people being discriminated on the basis of religion, or do you look at it in a larger perspective – people being discriminated for their beliefs and ideals? But to do that India needs a coherent Asylum Policy.

In 1951, most UN members signed the Refugee Convention. As per this convention a refugee was a person who, “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality.”. In more recent times civil war and targeted human right abuses have also formed the basis of declaring a person or a community as refugee. Neither India nor any of the South Asian nations are signatories to this convention or the 1967 protocol that abolished geographical barriers to seeking refuge. However, the Republic of India has traditionally provided asylum to those who cross her borders and ask for protection. In 1959, a large number of Tibetans crossed over to India and were granted refugee status. Many of them found jobs and settled here. Subsequent to that, India changed her policies. Refugees live in camps and have neither the right to free movement within India nor are they entitled to work.   Most are in a state of suspended animation and have their lives at standstill. If Rinkle and her family escaped to India this is what they would face, and there is something terribly wrong and unjust about that.

From time immemorial, India has been a refuge for the persecuted. Kings granted asylum, people became citizens, and added to the diversity that is India. For the ancient Parsis, Jews, Siddhis from Africa, Iraqis, – India was a beacon for hope and freedom where people could make their homes, bring up their families and practise their beliefs without fear. For the modern Tamils, Tibetans, Afghans, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis seeking refuge – home is a camp, where they have little or no citizenship rights. To be considered a world power, you don’t just need nuclear arsenal and growing prosperity. There needs also to be a measure of compassion, sharing and providing of refuge. India needs to start by offering asylum and citizenship to the persecuted minorities in its neighbourhood. There will be those who misuse this open policy – as they have in other countries. But the needs of the persecuted, the fate of one Rinkle far outweighs the misuse of an asylum policy.

http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/report_why-india-needs-an-asylum-policy_1688395

May 132012
 

My Column in today’s Lokmat 

Yes the Force will be with them

A mother is the cradle of civilisation. We are what we are because of them. And, in Indian cinema, they are the scene-stealers. And, also the cause for your samosa and popcorn getting oversalted, as your tear up in the comfort of the dark watching gung-ho males quivering their lips and warbling: “Maaaa!” Harini Calamur peeps into her bioscope to rewind Bharat”s history and Indian cinema”s solid theme on the special day and for Lokmat Times” continuing series on 100 years of Indian cinema

Aai! Maa! Mom! Mother. The term that is laden with emotion. An emotion of security and safety. An association of being well-loved. A memory of being scolded for doing wrong. A taste of your favourite meal. The comfort of hiding your head in her lap and wailing. The sensation of being protected, comforted and safe. A flash of her sitting next to you when you study. The vision of her bringing you a glass of piping hot tea, when you used to wake up really early to study for your board exams. And yes, a flash of her disapproving, which translates thus: “Look at something you have done!” All these memories are distilled in us as various threads that we can call on when we need it the most. These memories are indeed special. Almost every culture in the world has one day in the year dedicated to celebrating mothers, motherhood and the love that is showered on you. The logical question is why only one day, what about the remaining 364 days. And, the answer is quite simple — one day in a year helps create an ‘event’, sell cards, market chocolates, and create a warm & fuzzy feeling around motherhood.

 

In India the cult of worshipping the  mother is as old as time. The Mother Goddess, Mother Earth, Birth Mother, Adoptive Mother, Step Mothers, Mother of the heart – the epics had them all. The ancientIndusValleycivilisation had depictions of the mother Goddess. Hindu theology is replete with stories of the Mother of the Universe destroying evil and saving her children. The epics, the puranas have given us some fabulous role models as the epitome of motherhood. And, till today those ideal types  endure. Indian cinema has given them a lease of life and converted these to stereotypes we all know and love.  So, on Mother’s day –here is looking at you, mother!

 

The Mother as one who endures. The child gives birth to a mother, goes a popular saying. It is almost as though a switch is turned on. The moment a woman becomes a mother, her tolerance for all things increases exponentially. She endures for the sake of her child or children. She tolerates almost anything, until such time an invisible line is crossed. When that happens she takes action that is fairly final, including taking action against a child who disturbs the lives of her other children. . In legend this is the role played by Bhooma Devi or Mother Earth.  She who endures till she can endure no more. Movies have tried to build this epitome of motherhood through their narrative. All movie mothers built on this stereotype don’t necessarily have to kill their kids, but they definitely endure all sorts of travails and troubles while being good ‘marg darshaks’ for their children. The most famous of all Indian films based on this role model is Mehboob Khan’s film Mother India – starring Nargis. From the word go the movie is about a woman who endures everything that the universe throws at her. Death of a husband, extreme poverty, a salacious money lender, being a single mother, having to manage on her own – everything is taken in her stride with equanimity . The iconic poster of Mother India wielding a plough to farm on her meagre land and provide for her children reinforces this image of the Mother. And of course, the final scene in which she shoots her son to maintain ‘dharma’ is a hark back to the most ancient narratives of the mother. She has to do what is right for the good of the social order.

The Mother as the Guru, the teacher of values. A mother is the guide who forms the child’s character, teaches him between dharma and adharma. And, in this regard there is no mother greater than Kayadu, the wife of Hiranyakashyap and the mother of Prahlad. This tpye of mother is a pillar of goodness and decency and will stand up against her husband and disown her son, if need be, if they deviate from the path of righteousness. Indian films have honoured this form of mother in many movies. One of the most enduring Marathi Movies is Shyaamchi Aayi, based on the book by Sane Guruji. It is the story of a mother who teaches her son, through personal example,  the importance of values. Till today, the movie and its message resonate with audiences. Another mother in the same mould is Nirupa Roy in Deewar. She brings her sons up, with great difficulty –enduring poverty and manual labour to give them a chance at a better life. When her favourite son – Amitabh Bachchan (Vijay)  in one of the most powerful roles in Indian cinema – strays from the path of what is right, she disowns him and goes to live with the good son – Shashi Kapoor (Ravi). When Vijay taunts Ravi, in the film, with his wealth and possessions and asks Ravi what he has,Ravi’s retort “Mere paas maa hai” is a reminder of the values most mothers expected us to follow, and the acute disapproval when we didn’t follow those. The same is the case  with both variants of Agneepath. The mother’s disapproval of the wrong path chosen by the son is evident, as is the need of the son to be accepted by the mother. All three films end with the death of the errant son in the lap of the mother. As symbolism it can’t be greater – Motherhood will not accept wrong doing by the child and the imparting of values is as important as feeding or giving love.

The Unwed Mother – Happiness mana hai -  Ever since Kunti invoked the power of Surya – the Sun God to have a child, and then abandoned that child, Indian stories have had the motif of the unwed mother. The unwed mother will know no joy in her life. Her life is one of struggle and tears. Her overwhelming guilt at breaking societal rules and at abandoning her child cripples her actions, and allows her to believe that is her only fate in life is misery. The  Tamil film Dalapti, is a modern day interpretation of the friendship between Duryodhan and Karna – but the tragedy of the Mother is as much a pivot of the story as is the friendship. Sri Vidya plays mother to Rajnikanth (Surya) the son she abandons at birth, and Arjun, (Arvind Swamy)  the son she brings up. Her character, throughout the film, only expresses various degrees of acute unhappiness. The Hindi film Aaradhna and its Tamil Remake Sivakamiyin Selvan- have the lead female protagonist going through hell for act of having a child out of wedlock. However, the bonds of mamata are stronger than anything the universe can throw at the woman and she (Sharmila Tagore in Hindi, Vanisri in Tamil) stands like a rock to protect her son. In Paa, the heroine Vidya Balan, decides to be an unwed mother, and while society and her family is kinder to her, her child is afflicted with an illness that can only lead to tears all around. More modern films like Kya Kehna do not heap so much unhappiness on the unwed mother, but they are exceptions and not the norm.

Annapurna – the mother who feeds. Annapurna in Hindu theology is the goddess of food who takes great joy in seeing her children (all of us) fed. In Indian films. Maa ke haath ka khaana is one of the most oft repeated clichés. The mother is for ever making and feeding her children with the choicest of dishes. It is almost as though the love with which the mother makes the gaajar ka halwa or the garma garam phulke gives the hero a suraksha kawach with which the bullets of the bad guy are deflected. A mother, in Indian films, can look at her child and know his hunger. It has almost ruined most Indian children’s diets. The mother looks at her child, decides he is hungry and stuffs him with the most cholesterol ridden food. After all, if you cannot show your love through food, how else will you show it?

The Adoptive Mother – ever since Vasudev let  Krishna with Yashoda, on a dark and stormy night, motherhood implies the woman who nurtures and brings you up – not just the mother who gives birth to you. Movies like Naam, Parvarish, Amar Prem – talk about a feeling of ‘mamta’ that is beyond birth pangs. Her maternal instinct can embrace the whole world and still have enough maternal love left over for some aliens. In the film Anari(1959), Mrs.D’sa looks upon Raj Kumar (Raj Kapoor) as her own son, and he reciprocates that deep affection and feeling. Salma (Waheeda Rehman) brings up Sunny (Rishi Kapoor) with the same love that she had bestowed on her biological child Iqbal (Amitabh Bachchan) in the film Coolie.  In  Karan Johar’s film Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham – Jaya Bachchan’s character loves her adoptive son (Shah Rukh Khan) just as much as she cares about her biological son (Hrithik Roshan) . Movies  such as Mani Ratnam’s Tamil film Kannathil Mutthamittal (a peck on the cheek) deals with adoption in the modern era with a lot more sensitivity. But, it is an exception. By and large the old hindi film dialog “aaj se tu mera beta aur mein teri maa” (From today you are my son and I am your mother) holds more true than taking a nuanced look at adoption.

The Step Mother – ever since Kaykeyi moves into the kopagruha (the room of anger) and demands the exile of Ram and the coronation of Bharat – the role of the step mother has been looked at with suspicion. One of the earliest films from Kerala – the movie Balan dealt with a boy and a girl exploited by the evil step mother. They run away from home to find love elsewhere. In the Hindi film Beta – which is based on earlier Tamil (Enga Chinna Rasa) and Kanadda ( Mallammana Pavada) films deals with a step mother out of hell. Anil Kapoor’s character loves his step mother (Aruna Irani) and would move heaven and earth for her. She on the other hand wants him out of the way so that her own son can inherit everything. More recent films such as ‘We are Family” based on the Hollwyood film “Step Mom” take a more sensitive look at this issue – but frankly, it is far more fun to see an evil step mother on screen than have watch a much nuanced film on the same.

The Single Mother  – The prime example of a Single Mother who brings up her children with the best of care and nurtures them is Sita. She brings up her children alone, after her husband, Shri Ram, exiles her.  When they grow they take up the issue of their mother’s humiliation with their father fairly effectively. Kalidasa’s Shakuntala touches on the same theme. The woman rejected by her man and her fight for her child’s patrimony. The boy is Bharat – the emperor after whom this country is named. What greater tribute to a single mother.  Indian films are full of stories of women who are abandoned by their men because of social pressures. For example, in the film Trishool – Sanjeev Kumar abandons Waheeda Rehman. She moves away – into exile – and brings up her son. The son grows up to be Amitabh Bachchan and settles the score on his mother’s humiliation.

The Conflicted Mother – The bond of the mother and the child (son), as portrayed in legend so strong that it can sometimes threaten the authority of the man as the head of the household. One of the earliest example form the epics is the story of how Shiva decapitates his son for following his mother’s (Parvati’s) instructions .It takes a unleashing of Mother’s powers to get the Mahadeva to restore his Son’s life, albeit with an elephant’s head. That family lived happily after. But, most women have faced the conflict of choice between the two most important men in their lives – husband and son. In the film Moghul-e-Azan we see the depiction of the fight between Akbar (prithviraj kapoor) & Salim (Dilip Kumar). But the most imporatnat woman there is not Anarkali (Madhubala) but Jodha (Durga Khote) – the wife and the mother who is put in a position of having to choose. A similar predicament is faced by Rakhee in Shakti – her husband (Dilip Kumar) a cop and her son (Amitabh Bachchan) are estranged – and that takes a toll on her. She does, in both these cases, choose the husband – but the cost of her choice is high.

And finally even nature cannot compete with the power of motherhood. Death bows before her. As is evident in films like Karan Arjun – where Rakhee’s character wills her dead sons to be reincarnated to take revenge on those who wrecked her life.  The power of motherhood is a magic wand, it so impacts those who see it that even the wicked transform. In the film Dada (1979) gangster Fazlu (Amjad Khan) comes across the abandoned wife Tara Dharamdas (Seema Deo) and the way she brings up her son (Vinod Mehra). He is so moved by the power of that love that he turns new leaf and becomes ‘good’. The song “’Allah Karam Karna Maula Tu Reham Karna’ tells of the point of transformation of the bad into good through the power of mother hood. magic of motherhood is that it recognises ‘its blood’ even through blindness and does not need complex DNA tests. The line “meri mamta yeh keh rahi hai ki woh mera beta hai’ epitomises the woman’s link with her child. In the film Amar, Akbar, Anthony –a sightless  Nirupa Roy gravitates towards all her three lost sons without even realising that they  are hers. Motherhood sees no religion, no race, no looks. It just loves without questioning.

Indiais a young country – our median age is 26. In such an era film makers are tending to make films about the lives of 26 year olds and their trials, tribulations and coming of age. The mothers too have become more modern. Less traditional and more ‘cool’. However, when a film comes along that harks back to the traditional mother – the mother with the gajja ka halwa, the mother who soothes your brow, the mother who waits up for you to get home, the mother who yells at you because you are doing the wrong thing – it still resonates with the audience. Nothing stops us from celebrating Mother’s day all year long, but today is extra special. The day, that maybe, you tell you mother about all the little things that made your growing up years so very special.