Saturday, November 28, 2009


A gush of cold wind hit me as I alighted. My fellow passenger had warned me.” Wear something warm. You don’t feel inside because of the a/c”. I just smiled at her. She was young. She wouldn’t understand. I had been longing for this ever since I retuned from USA. It was an animal instinct. They recognize things from smell, sights and sounds. For me it was the whiff of cold breeze every year the plane hit the tarmac that screamed ‘ Home’.

I love traveling by train when I am in India. My friends often question the wisdom. There are two reasons. One Gwalior is not on the Flight map. So I have to land in Delhi and then run to catch a train. The whole travel thus becomes rush rush , wait wait. There is another very deep reason. This is the only time when I am totally removed from the world. I do not carry a mobile phone, a watch or even a pen. I spend these twenty odd hours in the company of my thoughts alone. I don’t talk to anyone nor read anything. Its splendid bliss as thoughts jostle for space with memories.

This time I took this experience to a new higher level!!!! The girl on the lower birth slept all the way. I had no option but to be on my upper berth.
It felt like I was a rishi meditating on the Himalayas.

I remembered Tanmay tugging at my heart strings as he hugged me good bye. His eyes brimming , he promised that he will be a good boy but come soon. His Environmental science subject (God ! what happened to the simple old fashioned civics!) had taught him about joint family and it left him confused that we didn’t all live together like one big joint family! his constant refrain is " why do you have to go."

It tickled me to remember the evening before. it was a dry day and the bar was closed on account of something. I thought we shall have to skip our drink. But the Indian businessmen are enterprising. The bar owner had kept a bottle for us. He arranged an impromptu seating in the garden behind and left us with the keys.

I don’t know if it was premeditated or at the spur, but friends started chiding me for worrying too much about my future. They assured me that they were there to help. One of them stood there giving me a big lecture. I suddenly giggled. A glass in hand another hand on his waist, he appeared to me like Lord Krishna exhorting Arjuna. After all this was my Kurukshetra. needless to say, all serious talks vanished once i painted this imagery to them

On reaching home I got the news that Sandeep has finally left IIT. He is joining his new job from Monday. I called him up. A lot of water has flown under the bridge. He was a 19 years old neighbour, my first teacher who taught me how to use our first computer. MS Office had still not arrived and it was the age of cumbersome DOS. C: popped up when you booted the computer. It left me baffled as to how did c arrive before a and b.Sandeep explained why. He was a student and a teacher.we owe him a lot.
He brought knowledge and virus in our life!!
Now he is a Doctor from the most prestigious school in the country.
Good luck Sandeep. IITs loss is the Corporate gain.

There is no substitute for nature. The cold water from the fridge can never really replace the refreshing and cool water of the river Ganges. Visit Haridwar and you will know what I mean. As I waited on the platform and felt that cool breeze I thought that A/C is no substitute either.

Suddenly I saw Dada , my elder brother waving at me. Sister was waiting on the other side of the bridge. I had forgotten to give them my compartment and seat no. and they were left scurrying.

It’s not easy being my brother.

We laughed happily as we hugged each other. Friends are something you can decide. But brother you just have to tolerate.

No words form in my mouth as I grin from ear to ear.
It feels great to be home.!!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A sham called Liberhan report

The congress party can be accused of many things. But the one thing no is ever going to accuse it of , is being intelligent.

consider the timing.

This was supposed to be the finest hour for the PM. He was going to be the state guest of America. This was a much needed fillip for a government which was trundling from one embarrassment to the other and whose very credibility was at stake. This government never looks to be in control of anything, be it the spiraling prices, or swine flu or the Maoist attacks. They needed a gloss. What better way then showing the PM , as a great statesman, on the lawns of the white house shaking hands with the President of USA. Never mind if the same President on his visit to China almost accorded it the status of the leader of the Asia. (One wonders if the pomp and ceremony would alter that perception. But that’s one of PM’s least worries. He has a most genuflecting and pliant English press). But being Dr.Manmohan Singh isn’t easy. He has his party to contend with.

The Lieberhan report is nothing short of an embarrassment for any government.No government can justify that kind of delay. It took the venerable judge a remarkable seventeen years to come out with a report on the contentious Babri Masjid razing. And even after that there's nothing new and the report looks half baked.

Its not just the opposition saying that. Even the congress Governor, Mr. Satyanarayan Reddy criticized the report saying that he was in charge of the UP government after the dismissal of the government but he was never summoned by the judge. He described this report as incomplete. Mr. Vajpayee was indicted without inviting him even once. so what was so great or secretive about this report.

Yet some clever and a half Johnny from the party decided its time to honor the services of a servile paper and a TV channel. He leaked the findings.( I told you being Dr. Manmohan singh is not easy!)

He thought he was killing two birds. One obliging the said media and two dividing the opposition who had come together on issues of price rise etc. and deflect attention.

He did kill two birds though. But not the ones he wanted.

He brought the completely comatose opposition ( read BJP) to life and did the unthinkable. He united them!! and two he dislodged the PM visit from the headlines. Common sense indeed is the rarest of sense. What was lying dormant in the custody for six months with the government after dragging for painstaking seventeen years couldn’t have waited for the PM to return? The report isn’t worth the paper on which it is written on. But by leaking the contents, the government gave the opposition a stick with which to beat them.

The world has moved in the last seventeen years. Our country suffered many attacks. 26/11 is still fresh in everyone’s mind. A young voter must have been a baby when this happened. Today he worries more about recession, employment and price rise.

Another theory is that the party wanted to win the muslim votes in UP. My feeling is that it would nullify whatever good work Rahul Gandhi may have done there. Assuming this was the motive it begs one question to the intelligent English media. If pandering to the Hindus is communal , how can appeasing the muslim community become secular? But clearly we do not have many cerebral journalists anymore.

I am proud to say that throughout my life, I had some very good muslim friends. We grew together. Our different religions never came in the way. We celebrated Eid and Diwali together. I am sure that they too would be offended by this brazen tokenism. If the Government is really serious, what happened to the other commission’s findings – The Srikrishna panel on the Mumbai riots or the Nanavati commission on the Sikh carnage?

If the guy who leaked it to get muslim sympathy thinks he won a lot many admirers, he is in for a rude shock. I am sure that the muslims are not going to go running to add him as a friend if he has a facebook profile!

A common man , hindu or muslim, doesn’t ask for much. All he asks for is a decent and dignified life. Is that too much to ask?

It took Justice Liberhan 17 years to write this. It was buried for six months under the other files with the government. It could have remained buried for another 17 years.

No one would have really cared.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

India Inc. Rocks.

Yesterday Warren Buffet and Bill Gates were on CNBC. They were answering to queries from the MBA students of Columbia University. One student asked Warren Buffet if he really took five minutes to take major decisions. Pat came the reply from the incredible Buffett, “ Fifty years of training and five minute of decision making!”

Today when I look at the India Inc. I see the same confidence. Deals are being made, companies are being acquired. All in no time. There are no boundaries left . So a Jindal steel goes and acquires mines in South Africa or a Bolivia while a Reliance goes and buys a company in south America. Its not just the biggies. Even small and unknown companies are on a shopping spree.

India had never had it so good. I remembered the publicity the media gave when the Mittals were bidding for Arcelor. Today everyone is talking in billions. So its no news.

If we look at the stock exchange, the sensex is healthy largely to the FII. It is a tribute to our industry that they have been giving very great Quarterly results making investments attractive. I was pleasantly surprised to listen to one of the prominent American bankers eulogizing the Indian market. He said that with the current recession in the Americas and Europe , India is the most attractive destination.

This did not happen overnight. Each company has been meticulously trying to make itself cost effective- Cutting operating costs, increasing sales , diversifying.

I am sitting here in a friends office. Ten years back when I left this country, he worked from a rented shed and a rented office. He worked hard. Withstood all kinds of pressures. He can write a book on what they don’t teach you in the IIMs and the ISBs. He had the guts to borrow money at a very high interest and invested in the business. His bad luck a few clients became bad debts. He still didn’t lose heart. Borrowed more and invested. The cheekiest part is that he even gave bonus to his workers with money borrowed from the market. He didn’t give up two things. He didn’t lose Hope and didn’t stop Dreaming.

Gradually a ray of sunlight peeped through the dark clouds of despair. A few projects clicked. He made some profits. Bought some land. Slowly brick by brick he built one factory. Every year he kept adding. A Korean bus bar bending machine here . A mini truck there. This was followed by the purchase of another factory.

But it wasn’t all work and no play. They are incorrigible when it comes to enjoying. They go vacationing to fancy places abroad, drink only scotch and are wonderful hosts. I can vouch for the that!! The moral of the story is that if you can’t slog or have vision, at least have the sense of having some friends who have!!!!!!!

Creating wealth is an art. It needs a vision. I am proud to say that Indian Corporates have shown that we have it in abundance.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Why do I Blog!

There is something delightfully refreshing about childish exuberance and youthful innocence. The only thing that separates them is the age. As the boy grows he is able to temper the effervescence. But the innocence and the curiosity still remains. Its only when he matures into an adult does the guile and diplomacy creep in. The curiosity and innocence both are buried under layers of canard. The questions are still there in the mind. But they don’t come direct. They take a tangential trajectory.

Last night after dinner I and Tanmay went for our customary walk. I took him up to the recreation hall in his community to watch Table Tennis. But he was bored. So we came out and walked a while and then sat on the kerb. He is a real chatterbox. I have to listen to all that happens in the school everday. But today was important. He pompously informed me that he is the Hospital Leader of his class. I just gaped. What on earth is that? “Well! If someone is hurt or sick , its my duty to take him to the doctor in the school.” “ But you can’t speak Telugu!” Immediately he recited what he says in front of the doctor fluently in three languages- Hindi , Telugu and English.

Before I could compliment him on his skills, the lean and gangly boy from his bus stop was standing shyly in front of us. He had that awkward teenage gait. I smiled at him and invited him to join us. Suddenly he smiled expansively and told me that he had solved the conundrum . I laughed. Conundrum indeed! These kids couldn't speak normal english!

Two days back he had met me in the morning when I went to see off Tanmay to his school. He said that he knew me but cant place it how. I was sure I didn’t know him. I can hardly recall ever talking to a teenager in India , forget Hyderabad. But I didn’t want to sound rude and I told him that he certainly looked familiar but even I cant place him.( I am an adult. And I am supposed to lie!)
“ It’s a conundrum.” He had laughed. I had to agree it indeed was. The next day we met again. He smiled at me. I had forgotten him the moment he had left.

“ When you invited me to join your Chaupal I suddenly remembered. I read your blog”. There was a glint of Joy and mischief.

I felt like Jeffrey Archer. I had to buy this kid a treat.

As he settled down, his curiosity had totally taken over and he started bombarding me with all kinds of questions. Who I am( a small fish in a giant pond), what do I do in USA ( nothing! )and why am I in Hyderabad when I am not a south Indian. (I don’t even know why am I in this world! This is my second home I instead said. He wasn’t impressed.) Did I speak Telugu. ( Kuncham Kuncham . Now I tickled him.) Did I ever try the local food. ( Ofcourse! Love Gonghura. He was now rolling). I think I passed the test.I relaxed.

Suddenly, he threw me a googly. “ why do you blog?”

I was silent for a while gathering my thoughts. “ Is it the creative urge within you?”. He enquired helpfully. Boy!. This kid has a real flight of imagination.
What will he think if I tell him the truth? I had compelling reasons. That I started because I was jobless. This was the cheapest way of killing time. That it was my safety valve. I could vent my frustration, my angst, my anger without harming any one.
That the words that I wrote were silent. They didn’t disturb anyone. if I sang or danced instead , the neighbors would have dialed 911. That the last thing I wanted was cops at my doorstep.

He was too young to understand that life doesn’t go by lofty ideals.
But I had to be honest. I had to tell him the truth. I cleared my throat and as I was about to open my mouth I looked at Chikka ( that’s how he introduced himself.) and I stopped.

His smile could light up the whole street. His eyes had that puppy like adoration. His face had a rare innocence. I wistfully thought. A few more years.

“ A writer is like an artist. It’s just that the brush is replaced by the pen. The paper is his canvas and his imagination the colors with which he paints a picture. Some deft strokes, some gentle……….”. For the first time I almost felt noble as I lied.

( Hope Chikka doesn’t read this!)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy Birthday Yugesh

Dear Yugesh,

Tomorrow shall be just another day for the world. The milkman shall ring the bell once precisely at 5 am. Then there would be a lull for some time until pandemonium breaks. There will a collective assault on all the senses at precisely 6am. Another day would begin.

But for us, it would be a day to gilt edge and frame it and store it in the deepest vaults of our memories along with your other birthdays and cherish them once in a while.

I try to remember the day the stork brought you home. OK. You are too old for that. And let us also not fool ourselves that you were as pretty as a picture. You were as ugly as any new born.

You were a benign Buddha. Always smiling. The only one afraid of you was our dear Alsatian, Bonny. You would shriek with delight as you saw him and try to use him as a prop to stand up pulling his skin and sometimes tripping over him. He would let out a howl of anguish as soon as he saw you crawling.

As you grew, you loved to sit on my lap and sit next to your dad while driving. I don’t remember when you suddenly grew up and I started calling you an overgrown Alsatian no longer fitting in my lap. Last year in KC chacha’s house , I felt my eyes go moist when you wore my Ralph Lauren shirt and it fitted you beautifully. KC chacha spoiled the moment by removing the plate of onions I was chopping from me. Some people are so blatant!

Do you remember that day you had your unit test and you overslept. You were afraid of going to school as the principal would punish you in front of the school. How we borrowed your dad’s car and I kept bragging that your principal doesn’t have the guts to do that to you as long as I was with you. You really believed it. How we sneaked you from the back gate to the classroom as the class came back from the prayers and how you felt so proud of me. I can let out a little secret today. I had bribed the security at the gate. You see ,even gods have feet of clay. It’s expensive to maintain the super hero status. I am glad now you are grown and accept me for what I really am.

We shared everything. Even your anguish and pains. I am proud that you always think of me when you have self doubts.Remember that night when you chatted with me at 2 am hiding the laptop inside your bed and covering yourself with quilt and using a torch. If your dad reads this, he would be horrified. So would your mom. They never knew. Wonder if you could have pulled that trick against bua?

You were always a sensitive and an understanding kid. Remember that time when I eagerly came from USA to celebrate your birthday with you and paiya? And how you ,instead, decided to go for a movie with your friends. It is this sharing and caring that keeps us together!

This birthday, I want to let out a little secret. Of all the nephews, you are my favorite. Now its not my problem that you are the only nephew I have. But let’s assume, hypothetically , that I did have, trust me you still would have been my favorite. ( It’s your birthday after all and I have to be good to you.)

But I have one more dilemma. All your friends are my friends too. Now what should I do? Support them when they give you the customary birthday bumps or save you since you are my only nephew. I am glad I am not in Dehradun. You are on your own son. I told you. This caring and sharing has kept us together so long and I see no reason to change this winning formula.

One last thing. We live in very hard and trying times. The least we can do is smile and be happy and try to make others laugh.Thanks for bringing so much happiness and laughter in our life. I am glad you have inherited my sense of humor. But trust me. You are funnier when you borrow some one else’s jokes.

Happy Birthday!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sachin Ton'dulkar- The big bull of Indian cricket

I hate much use of metaphors, aphorisms, adages or proverbs in writings. It denotes a bankruptcy of talent , my English teacher would say.

And yet I can’t resist using one today. Or maybe two. Or may be three. ( Forgive me teacher). My adrenalin is still high!

Yesterday there were two wars going on. One between the bears and the bulls on Dalal street. One between the Australian and the Indian cricket team. I preferred the Dalal street. The Indian team is more unpredictable than the stock market.

Luckily the timings were such I witnessed both.

I doff my hat to the big bull of the Indian cricket. I know he is a class. But this was master class. Sachin did everything right. The trademark cuts, the elegant drives, the ferocious sixes.
It wasn’t a bull vs. bears. It was a bull vs. the bullies. The bullies won. I am developing a grudging admiration for the Aussies.

Now every one wishes to kick Australia’s butt. But if wishes were horses even beggars would ride. Think about it. Their seven players were injured. And still we lost.

But if Sachin was a class , the guys in the commentary box were classier. As he was crashing the ball in all parts of the ground I heard one bozo gush, “ Ahh now he’s just 800 runs away from 18000”. Now can we call that an expert comment! Can anyone say anything more stupid than that?I was plain jealous. Think he was being paid to say that! I can say a hundred more stupid things and no one would take notice ; forget paying for that.

Tomorrow a new day a new war. Both at the Dalal street and at Guhawati.
( For the record, the bulls are winning at the Dalal street)

Tail piece : Sachin Tendulkar first shot into limelight when as a 15 year old he smashed a triple century in the local harris shield competition. This year a 12 year old boy Sarfaraz Khan hit a record 439 with an incredible 56 boundaries and 12 sixes.

Another sachin in the offing?!!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Quirks and Idiosyncracies

Hotel Green Park has some very fond memories. I was one of the first guests there when the hotel was newly built. That must have been at least ten years ago.

But it wasn’t nostalgia that brought us for the break fast buffet last weekend. The hotel has a reputation for authentic south Indian food. “ Genuine Nellore cooks” My friend had informed. I was tempted.

The buffet was a veritable visual delight. As I surveyed the assorted fruit juices, my eyes caught an emerald green juice. The waiter looked alarmed when I filled a glass but said nothing. I can now say with my first hand experience that bitter gourd juice is the last thing you want to eat on an empty stomach! It reminded me of the custom of eating neem leaves on the Maharashtrian new year gudi padwa. Chastised I decided to stick to the known cuisines.

As I was finishing the sumptuous breakfast , I saw a platter of dougnuts, Danish pastries and croissants sitting incongruously in a corner. I suddenly felt a pang of guilt. Doughnut was something I ate everyday with coffee in the evenings in Miami. How could I forget my staple food so soon? Quietly I reached for one.

As I sat there eating my doughnut and slurping sambhar , an American sitting on the next table smiled and quipped, “ Now that’s what I called fusion food!” He was dunking his bread in spicy sambhar! I asked him if he ever heard the pot calling the kettle black! He gave a hearty laugh.

Thank god for idiosyncracies. They make for a delightful change.Imagine if all persons were prim and proper and looked like clones of each other!

I remember one very famous criminal lawyer in Gwalior. He used to argue his cases fiddling with the button of his shirt. He was simply unbeatable. That is until one of his opponent bribed his servant to remove that button. He just folded.

Bless David Shepeherd, one of the finest umpires, who died recently. His quirky humor, best expressed in standing on one leg whenever a nelson ( 111 or 222 ) was on board, endeared him to millions of spectators.

MF Hussain always walked bare foot though I wonder if this was more of a publicity stunt than a real quirk. Somehow I always feel he is more of a showman than a real quirk.

I know a friend who drinks chilled beer with piping hot soup. If that sounds strange , my ex boss used to eat grapes while having coffee. Try topping that.

My father’s friend had a strange habit. He always read the book from the end to the beginning. Yes even Agatha Christie and Hitchock! He said it was fun to see how the writer creates the story.

I am reminded of a software engineer in New York who only ate one cantaloupe in the whole day. When asked how did he manage, he would retort that a human body needs only that much energy. We pamper our body too much.

Some food for your thought!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Of cricket, Bananas and Hope!

Originality is a myth. Even God was original only once when he created Adam and Eve. The rest, in the modern jargon, was a cut and paste job.

Life ,being a part of the system ,cannot be different. That’s why we hear comments like life imitating art or real life copying reel life.

My life, currently, is as volatile as the stock market. Bullish one day and bearish the other. Happiness is like the Foreign Instituitional Investment. Its withdrawn and left a huge trough. We both are still recovering from our bad health. The flu was like the RBI Credit policy which triggered the collapse. But we both are optimistic and look enthusiastically for the markets to reopen on Tuesday! There is no place in the stock market for permanent gloom. You just accept both the phases and try to make the most of them. Sell on rallies and buy on dips. That means you don’t wait for the proverbial sunshine to make hay! Treat every day as a sunshine and try to make hay!

Some farmers have shown remarkable ingenuity in Erode district in AP. Their crops were doing badly. But as the going got tough, the tough got going. They had to experiment. They first tried Pepsi as pesticide. It worked! Common sense. If it can screw human, there is no reason it will not kill pests! Next they mixed brandy in their soil and Bingo! got a huge crop of bananas. This was not only cheaper than the conventional fertilizers, but also the crop out put has been remarkably high. The experts are baffled and trying to figure out the reason. Maybe the experts can have a drink or two while trying to figure it out. If it can work on the banana trees, it sure would work on them.

The Australian team lost James Hopes yet we look hope less. They lose Brett yet we look bre(a)tt(h)less. They lose Paine yet look pain less. One is left wondering if we are waiting for Ponting and Hussey to get injured to make us look like champions! I know some die hard fans would be scandalized but the last win was far from convincing. Only Dhoni saved us the closing blushes. Can we really call ourselves the no.1 team? To me this seems more like Obama holding the Nobel prize.

The mornings are suddenly pleasant. There is nip in the air. Soon it will be cold in the north. I have spent too long in the sunny climes of Miami to being called a ‘son of a beach’. Gwalior would soon drop to 4 degrees centigrade. The mornings would be foggy. Visibility close to zero. Cheeks would be ruddy and the nose ruddier. Time to get buried in layers of warm clothing. Time to go home.

To many the fierce and biting cold may mean a sign of discomfort. To me it’s home!

I am still in Hyderabad. But soon I shall visit Gwalior. The Sensex will rise and the bananas will grow larger. The Indian cricket team will play like champions.

The Optimists never give up hope.