Know-brainer : No-brainer – Series Part 2

…was busy preparing a quiz for my b-school. And hence the delay. 100th post. Yay!

(Part 1 of this series here)

1) Guruji, I thank you for giving me yet another opportunity to ask questions today, inspite of your busy schedule around Thanksgiving. The first question I have today is with respect to the US Auto industry. Every pundit and his grandfather, every politician and his respected chamchas seem to have an opinion. What is your view on this Guruji? Should the auto industry be bailed out with $25 billion?

ANSWER: Shishya, first, let’s understand the basics before moving on to conclusions. Auto industry is very cyclical. It entirely depends on the cost of steel and aluminium which form the major part of their costs. Inherently, both the steel and aluminium industries are also cyclical. Couple this with a weak economy, it is no wonder that every automotive company in the world is going through one of the worst slumps it has ever known. However, the problem with the US Auto industry is not one of cycles but of gargantuan stupidity. Neither can these companies sustain themselves in face of outside competition like Toyota, Hyundai etc., but cannot reconcile themselves with internal tussles with UAW (United Auto Workers) with respect to pensions and other benefits which are bogging these companies tremendously. All said, there is no hope – whether it is $25 billion or $250 billion. If they are sustained today with $25 billion, there are going to go bankrupt 2 years down the line. That is a much worse investment than producing a Himesh Reshammiya movie. The only hope is for them to declare a Chapter 11 bankruptcy (not Chapter 7, which is liquidation) and allow themselves to restructure it.

2) But Guruji, what would happen to millions of workers, ancillary suppliers and other vendors? Wouldn’t it send the US economy in a tailspin?

ANSWER: Shishya, listening properly is the key to knowledge. Else, you would end up like Manmohan singh who just nods but doesn’t listen. I said, declare a Chapter 11 bankruptcy and not a Chapter 7 bankruptcy – which essentially means that all the vendors, ancillary suppliers would still be functioning. The companies would not shutdown but would restructure. Yes, there certainly would be retrenchment and a lot of pain but isn’t efficiency a good thing in the long run. Doesn’t the US propound itself to be the champion of free markets? (although all evidence when it comes to free markets within the US is close to zero). It is time for a ‘Change’ as the President-elect put it. Else, we would have the Airline industry, then the Steel industry and then the Cement industry and so on begging for alms like this and if fulfilled, we would have another USSR in the making. [On a side note, the difference between Treasury bonds and GM bonds is 7000 basis points – 7000 basis points?? That’s like double bankruptcy and then some]

3) Guruji, focusing on India, our real leader Sonia Gandhi made a very important statement the other day, which I think made a lot of sense. She lauded her mother-in-law (which is probably the first of its kind in the world) for nationalizing the banks 40 years ago since we haven’t really been affected by the slump in world economy, atleast in the financial sector. She praised her mother-in-law’s foresight  (again, first of its kind) and indicated to the western powers to go eff themselves if they ever comment on India’s financial strength again. Did she finally speak sense Guruji?

A) Shishya, first up, Sonia and Sense are parallel lines – they never meet. Such dreams are best forgotten. Foresight of 40 years…hmm. The total asset size of India banking sector is US$270 billion. Heck, it is just close to one-third of the bailout package of the US (which was US$750 billion). As we all know, growth in financial sector correlates with growth in the economy. So, effectively by nationalizing those banks, the ‘foresight’ had killed our growth to a large extent (an estimate which is beyond the scope of this discourse). Recessions are a part of every economy. They are necessary to reduce the flab in the system and not necessarily a bad thing. Only when there is growth, there is a possibility of a recession. I don’t know how far this ‘foresight’ has helped but Indira’s foresight had almost driven us bankrupt in 1992 (where we pledged gold for some money) before we opened up our economy under the aegis of then-brilliant Manmohan Singh and the results are there for all of us to see. Shishya, always cut through the clutter and trash of these politicians – else, you would be led to think that driving an Ambassador and waiting for a Bajaj Chetak to be delivered after 7 years is Utopian.

4) One final question Guruji. With the Indian colts winning against England today in Cricket, they have achieved an unassailable 4-0 lead in the series. Do you think this is the resurgent India that we are seeing?

A) Shishya, Winning is important. Performing, even more important. Our role models should be someone like Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble and Vishwanathan Anand who perform and win but with dignity and discipline. Not someone like Gautam Gambhir or Harbhajan singh who abuse at every chance and get docked for either fees or matches. Resurgence in winning is important. Not reaction, not over-confidence. I hope India wins all the matches, but with the right intent. With that final message, I will leave you with one final message (heard on radio) that has been on my Gtalk for this week –  ‘The financial meltdown is so bad that women are now marrying for love’.

Have a great week ahead!

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‘The Angrez’ on IM :)

Of all the multiple conversations on IM that I was a part of in the office till date, this conversation takes the cake. One of my very good friend, Harish was working from California on this particular day. The background essentially is that we both love the movie ‘The Angrez’ – a movie based on hyderabadi-hindi-urdu dialect. The following conversation is based on one of the scenes in the movie – it was spontaneous and hence even more hilarious. [Conversation copied verbatim]

Jayagopal, Harish [11:39 AM]:
Kal kya hua maloom..
Dhanwada, Kiran [11:39 AM]:
kya hua re?
Jayagopal, Harish [11:39 AM]:
Homestead main party thi
Jayagopal, Harish [11:39 AM]:
Andar jaate hee Manejaraan wanejaraan Hello Hai bole,

I didn’t get the drift yet…
Dhanwada, Kiran [11:39 AM]:
kyaa??

Jayagopal, Harish [11:39 AM]:
Party mein jaake, ab main naach ra toh saare pottiyaan mereko lipat jaati,..
Jayagopal, Harish [11:39 AM]:
Toh main aisa hallu se table baita,
Jayagopal, Harish [11:39 AM]:
table pe baithe he Jolie aayi..
Jayagopal, Harish [11:40 AM]:
ab pooch Jolie kaun !!

My manager called me for some reason…so I had stepped out for about 5 minutes at this point…

Jayagopal, Harish [11:40 AM]:
kidhar mar gaya rey Iflaaz..

Ilflazz…I was LOL…and immediately got hooked up…

Dhanwada, Kiran [11:45 AM]:
kyaaaa baat kar raha hai be?

Jayagopal, Harish [11:45 AM]:
pooch Jolie kaun
Dhanwada, Kiran [11:45 AM]:
kaun Jolie re Harish?
Jayagopal, Harish [11:46 AM]:
Tomb Raider yaaroon
Dhanwada, Kiran [11:46 AM]:
LOL

Jayagopal, Harish [11:46 AM]:
aake.. Hi Harish.. where are you…how do u do.. now u do boli..
Jayagopal, Harish [11:46 AM]:
do teen peg kya pee vee lee une “Harish, mereko long drive main jaana” boli
Jayagopal, Harish [11:46 AM]:
Abhi LA main kahan leke jaaton..
Jayagopal, Harish [11:47 AM]:
Santa Monika se Sunset Blvd,
Jayagopal, Harish [11:47 AM]:
Sunset blvd se Hollywood st.,
Jayagopal, Harish [11:47 AM]:
Aisa Broadway ke bajoo se nikal rahe the toh
Jayagopal, Harish [11:47 AM]:
“Harish mereko Shrimp hona..” boli,
Dhanwada, Kiran [11:47 AM]:
LOLLL…shrimp.?!
Jayagopal, Harish [11:47 AM]:
Shrimp ke liye kidhar leke jaaton,..
Jayagopal, Harish [11:47 AM]:
pooch kidhar…
Dhanwada, Kiran  [11:47 AM]:
kidhar re Harish?
Jayagopal, Harish [11:48 AM]:
Bubba Gump yaaron
Dhanwada, Kiran [11:48 AM]:
abaa…
Jayagopal, Harish [11:48 AM]:
Bair filhaal hum log baithe to 5 5 plate khaayi
Dhanwada, Kiran [11:48 AM]:
paanch paanch?
Jayagopal, Harish [11:48 AM]:
itte itte toh plateaan they yaaron
Dhanwada, Kiran [11:48 AM]:
LOLL
Dhanwada, Kiran [11:49 AM]:
ah..uske baad?
Jayagopal, Harish [11:49 AM]:
kaafi der ho gayi… tum ghar jaao Jolie bola toh…
Jayagopal, Harish [11:49 AM]:
unho boli…Harish…Aisa kaise hota… uppar aao kuch baat karna boli
Dhanwada, Kiran [11:50 AM]:
abaa…gaye tum?
Jayagopal, Harish [11:50 AM]:
ab uppar jaa ke raat bhar kya kua poocho nakko..
Dhanwada, Kiran [11:50 AM]:
neend kab khuli yaaron?
Jayagopal, Harish [11:50 AM]:
subeh…
Dhanwada, Kiran [11:50 AM]:
LOLL!!
Jayagopal, Harish [11:50 AM]:
hahahhhaaa
Dhanwada, Kiran [11:50 AM]:
perfect!!
Dhanwada, Kiran [11:51 AM]:
you’ve mastered the art of Urdu-Hindi dialect.

For those who haven’t watched this movie, do watch it. It’s falling-off-the-chair-hilarious. The original scene relating to the IM conversation can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gM6QrKkMtk

Know-brainer : No-brainer – Series Part 1

One day, a shishya (disciple) named ‘no-brainer’ finally met his Guru ‘Know-brainer’ after a lot of search and meditation. ‘No-brainer’ was very inquisitive and ‘Know-brainer’, realizing this, decided to answer some of his disciple’s questions. This Q&A, which would happen over a period of time would be represented as a series.

Here is the first part of the series (Shishya’s questions followed by Guru’s answers) –

1) Guruji, Why are desis in the US intent on debating American politics, get involved in heavy-duty discussions about who is going to be the next American president, watch Fox/CNN/MSNBC for the latest update on different campaigns – when in fact, none of the policies any of the presidents make affects them? Why is there an obsession to discuss American politics when they don’t have the right to vote, and even more embarrassing, they refuse to discuss/acknowledge the political happenings back in India?

ANSWER: Shishya, your question is culturally significant. Culturally and historically, we are known to be very self-centered and apathetic. As you sow, so you reap. Desis in the US lead very…erm…for the lack of a better word…interesting lives. Most of their life runs around pooling money to buy a house and subsequently pay EMIs for life, paying health and car insurance, paying heavy tuition fees for their kids and in general, lead a very dynamic life in making ends meet till their end. In such situations, an outlet for frustration in terms of discussing totally irrelevant, the inconsequential and highly insignificant is of paramount importance to the desi. To answer your second part of the question and since pithiness is in order in this world of infinite information, the singular answer is ‘ghar ka murgi daal barabar’.

2) Guruji, why is there a misplaced sense of the term ‘terrorism’ in India. I understand that in the US, the way things work, the logic is pretty clear – if you work for the US, you will be deemed a freedom fighter while working against US would coronate you with the word ‘terrorist’. However, what I am not able to understand is, in India, if a youth fires randomly on someone due to some frustration, he is branded a terrorist. In the same breath, ransacking railway stations, bringing the govt. to a halt and throwing stones at police is not terrorism. Is this a way of the world?

ANSWER: Shishya, you have asked a very important question but it has a simple answer – an answer which all Ph.Ds are aware of. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism, to steal from many is research. Similarly, one death is a tragedy and a million a mere statistic. I can go on and on, but again the rule of pithiness stops me. You should understand that our society does not allow individuality, does not allow us to challenge things and situations individually. We are a democracy – where opinion of 100 fools is more correct than of one genius. I see your frustration – but this is not Timbuktu. This is the Republic of India, funnily having a multi-party democracy and comical things such as these are bound to happen in a country where Times of India is read widely, Vijay Singh is a celebrity (golfer from Fiji, mistaken to be Indian because of the name) and Mamata Banerjee is a leader of a party.

3) Guruji, what is the harshest lesson that can be taught to Gilchrist after he insulted Ten’gul’kar in his autobiography, ‘True Colours’? And why do people have to resort to cheap publicity like this to gain sales? The backlash has been severe. What are the lessons to be learnt from this episode Guruji?

ANSWER: Shishya, you are touching upon very important questions today. There is Bollywood to the rescue of the Indian cricket fan like you and to the peril of Gilchrist (fondly called Gilly). Gilly, instead of just playing in the gully tried to steal the thunder from Mr. Cricket. Well, for starters, I think you can telecast Saawariya and God tussi great ho all across Australia on Saturday and Jimmy and Shabd on Sunday. That would serve as a  lesson, not only to Gilly but all Australian fans and cricketers who plan to write a biography or a autobiography or any graphy. Ideally, most of them would be dead by Saturday night but any remaining folks would certainly be killed on Sunday. That would take care of Gilly. The lesson to be learnt, my dear Shishya, is to be daring, cunning, controversial while writing a book or otherwise – it pays, in bounty, to have cheap…err..free publicity!

4) What is your message on the eve of Diwali Guruji?

ANSWER: Like life, my message is very simple Shishya – be healthy, wealthy and lead a prosperous and happy life. Don’t buy real estate, sell stock and hoard cash. Things are going to get worse before they get better. Value-buying is being bitch-slapped right now in all TV channels and newspapers – but who knows what ‘value’ is in this grim economy, which is supposed to get worse (with such news trickling in). Become an anti-consumerist for some period of time. Hold your expenses, and invest in yourself and be happy throughout your life. That, my dear shishya brings us to the end of our session today.

Wish you all a happy and prosperous Diwali! 🙂

Festival of India

Last weekend, ‘Festival of India’ was conducted in our city. Now, ‘Festival of India’ in any city in the US necessarily attracts lots of food caterers first, along with the usual unnecessary audience which doesn’t make noise at an event. There were many interesting events, most of them with tiny-toddlers dancing away to glory while their parents were basking in reflected glory. There is indeed some magic in those little kids below the age of 6 not dancing, yet dancing (if you know what I mean!) – most of our group were spellbound by their charm and innocence. That, I must say, was the best part.

The second best part, was of course, the food – from chat to idli sambar, from rasmalai to falooda – we had it all. Not top-notch, but decent enough to carry the day.

The worst part (‘of course’ would be a cliché!), were the desi couples and the desi gang who congregated the place out of sheer boredom rather than to contribute anything significant – either in terms of performance or in terms of noise (which we specialized in).

Sample this conversation between the married guys –

Guy1: So, I took I-95 for about 70 miles and then hit the beltway, went round it and merged into 264. That took me about 90 minutes from X to Y.

Guy2: Ohh…that is a slightly longer route. What you should have done is taken Route 288 for about 40 miles, Exit 31B and then I-64 west. That way, you avoid the traffic and save about 15 minutes atleast.

Guy1: Ohh!!

(at this point, I am thinking…guys, get a life – buy a GPS)

The wife of Guy2 steps up to the challenge now

Wife of Guy2: You know Guy1, my husby is too good with all these routes. He remembers almost every exit and route we take – here or anywhere on a holiday. He just remembers every route. Call him up in case of any route discrepancies you may have.

Guy1: (doesn’t know whether to smile or cry) mumbles smthg to the extent of ‘Sure’

(I have already excused myself from the conversation, but couldn’t help laughing at first, Guy1’s expression, two, Guy2’s amazingly stupid memory capacity of seemingly nonsensical things and Guy2’s wife’s leadership initiative, propounding superiority! I don’t want to sound condescending…but then, can’t help but say – specimens, specimens!!!!)

Another excerpt conversation from friend of friends I overheard (with so much fun going around, you do want to overhear things and laugh about it very discreetly – that way, the cycle of fun grows exponentially)

The scene – The kid of A performed on stage. Kids being kids, always look cute on stage, irrespective of whether they dance or not. It is the parents who should be shot. Anyways, so, B walks in (enters the audi just then). B is a friend of A (or act as friends, you can never tell with these ladies). B suddenly realizes that A’s kid has finished his performance. She comes rushing towards A, with all the enthusiasm of a little gadfly – all buzz and no performance – ‘Ohh…your kid looked soo cute, no? Aiyyooo…what a performance, what a performance…you are very lucky I say’. I am totally stunned at the sudden turn of events (I, for all my innocence had thought that B was rushing towards A to apologize profusely for missing the event). My friend shakes me out of stupor and says ‘ye sab chalta hai, tension mat le’. As I pass out of the auditorium, I notice A and B hugging each other like best of friends, putting Caesar and Brutus to shame.

Such is life.

Flash Fiction: The Breakup

It was a hot summer afternoon in a crowded parking lot. Sitting in a car, sweating profusely, we broke-up. Rather, apt to say, she broke up with me, saying it was in my best interests, a fact I could neither convince nor reconcile with myself.

She was one of the best singers in college. In fact, she had represented the college in many inter-collegiate and national competitions. At first, I was in love with her voice. As I came to be introduced to her, know her and got close to her, I fell in love with her. Fortunately or unfortunately, she too fell in love with me in due course of time. Two wonderful years had passed, until recently, when cracks began to appear and the spark that once was, was doused to ash. The beginning of the end is such a cliché!

We sat in the car, holding hands, cold sweat trickling down the forehead to the chin like a little stream, only for the sounds of our breath, the little whispers of life, to break the silence. As I looked into her starry eyes, tears dancing within them reluctant to join the sweat, I saw for the first time a clueless and frightened set of eyes in what used to be a calm and confident set. What do elders always say – ah, yes – you always see your reflection in others – how apt!

As the initial blur of the break-up passed within the car, I noticed that the color of the walls housing the parking lot was not beige, but yellow. There were other cars in the parking lot, from Benz to Maruti, children playing in the parking lot with the multi-colored hoops that were the latest fad in the market, and people going past our car with their own thoughts and reflections of the life gone by. Details I would never have observed nor reflected on if I was lost in her eyes and hear her sing and listen to her constant chitter-chatter as was the case for the last two years. With her hand held tightly in my grip, tears finally rolling down, I moved to my right to kiss her goodbye. To quote someone I knew, I said ‘love you to the extent that the measurable becomes the unmeasurable’. She…she kept looking at my direction…not knowing when her vision would allow her to see the love of her life.

I want you to sing that tune

The one you are letting go of

Because, for every memory you are disowning now,

There is a forgotten song.

Getting fired and the US financial crisis!

Last week, one of my colleague got fired. He got fired due to non-performance rather than the huge financial turmoil that has been happening lately in the US. He was a very good friend of mine and we spent a lot of time talking about soccer (he was from Europe) and in general were on very good terms professionally too. He came down early in the morning, like he usually does but was promptly walked out of the door by his manager. It was a shock to him, as it was for everyone else, including me. This was the first time I saw anyone getting fired, and it shook me for that day. I called up one of my good friends and my conversation went on the lines of ‘I might not see him ever again, he is as good as, if not exactly, dead to me’ – not exactly sentimental or sympathetic but close to it but that was that. Life continued on the same enthusiastic tone from next day onwards.

Over the last week, however, hundreds have been fired. Over the next 6 months or so, many more will be. Lehmann, AIG, Washington Mutual, Wachovia – its almost like the who’s who of US financial services. Quite a few of my friends work in many of these companies and many of them and their colleagues have got fired. Other than the usual friend bonding-sympathy, I felt no particular remorse that these giants were going down nor that people in these companies were getting fired. Was it the feeling that these companies deserved to be punished that made me feel non-remorseful/not shocking? Maybe so. But there was another reason.

I believe in Capitalism (more libertarian than capitalist, but for simplicity purposes, let’s stick to capitalism). Whether I like the Darwinian capitalism of the West, state-sponsored capitalism of Europe or the neo-Confucian capitalism of the East is anybody’s guess. Capitalism drives efficiency, promotes markets, promotes level-playing field and in general, is an accepted form of generating value for a long time, for the greatest number of people.

I think that’s the precise reason why the United States is the hotbed of capitalism, entrepreneurship, innovation and in general, the destination market for almost every company in the world. Resources get allocated to the highest bidder or the brightest idea. Money is not a consideration as long as your idea can work, or you have the right skill sets. Markets (and by extension, Wisdom of the Crowds) determine whether you/your idea are successful or not. Markets determine your profits and in an ideal, capitalistic society, Markets should indeed determine your losses.

The last point precisely pissed me off during the last week. Failure of the basic tenet of capitalism. All the who’s who of US financial service companies made truckloads of money over the past few years, over seemingly intricate financial products, only understood by a few. These companies were champions of the market, proclaiming how good the Wisdom of the Crowds was. However, when it was time to recoup the losses, they criticized the market for short-selling (which simply means that the market has lost confidence in these companies and hence will eventually lead to a downturn in their share prices) and shamelessly begged the Government to bail them out. And, the stupid Government did.

Communism is another concept, wherein the resources are taken from the rich and are given to the poor, thereby creating a sense of equality. What has happened in the US over the last week, is Reverse Communism – taking from the poor (in the form of taxes which inevitably have to be raised over the next few years, in the form of less development due to resources deployed to bail these companies out, increased cost of borrowing due to a screwed up financial economy etc etc). Heard of double standards? Capitalism on the way up and Reverse Communism on the way down – thereby making hay whether the sun shines or not. Well, I would love to be on such a party, if I was not paying for it. But, the tragic part is, that I will – atleast in the form of increased taxes. When the shit hit the fan in Wallstreet, all the walls in US homes got colored.

It is not the huge profits that these companies raked that pissed me off, it is not that the Government has bailed them out that has pissed me off, but the very concept of privatizing wealth and socializing debt is what that has made me angry, frustrated and when I hear such things as AIG getting sold at $1.5 a share and Lehmann close to zero, I experience immense schadenfreude – and if that makes me a sadist – so I am.

P.S – On my other blog Framework for Increased Profits – An Understanding

Labour Day – Whitewater Rafting at Poconos!

31-August-2008, Pennsylvania, Poconos, Leigh River, Whitewater Rafting, 12 miles, 7 hours, 4 people -> Exhilirating Fun!!

It was the Labour day weekend in the US, and what better way to spend it, than in one of the best sporting adventures ever created – Whitewater Rafting.

Rafting or whitewater rafting is a challenging recreational activity utilizing a raft to navigate a river or other bodies of water. This is usually done on whitewater or different degrees of rough water, in order to thrill and excite the raft passengers.

There are many places to raft in the US but one of the best places for rafting in this country seemingly is the Whitewater rafting in the Poconos. The Poconos is a mountain located in Pennsylvania (a 2hr drive off New Jersey). Many adventurers come to this place every year to raft in the whitewaters. In fact it is rated as the best place for rafting by the world’s best rafters, The waters here provide several thrills and spills and ergo, exciting adventure.

Although there are several agencies for rafting in Poconos, we went to the Whitewater challengers who had high ratings from the US government – and we came away mightily impressed. They were very organized – from inward parking to dropping us off – just perfect. Very professional and extremely committed. I would recommend them to anyone who would want to go rafting.

The actual rafting experience was simply awesome. The experience in whitewater rafting is totally unique every ride one makes because the water rapids are different each time. Our rafting was through the Lehigh River Gorge which has class I II and III rapids. The Poconos mountains in all its pristine glory overlooked the Leigh River gorge. The trip was about 7 hours (12 miles, approx 19km) on the river, a little overview of safety and what to expect, about a 20 minute school bus ride to the trail to walk down to the river and about a half mile to a mile hike down to the river. After about an hour of setup, intro and travel time we hopped in a raft and shoved of down the gorge. There were four people in the raft (three of my friends and myself), a bail bucket, a lunch bucket and of course we all had paddles and life jackets. This particular weekend was a dam release weekend which means they let a ton of water out of some dam upstream somewhere and there is enough water in the gorge to create some rapids and go rafting.

Our group on the raft was very interesting. Since this did not involve any Class IV rapids, there was no professional guiding us on the raft. Therefore, we four of us had to figure out the navigation of the raft for the entire 12 mile trip – and that is where the problem began. You understand ‘mutiny’ – this was even worse. Whosoever took the responsibility of guiding the direction of the raft came under a lot of flak, and nobody on the raft listened to him. Make no mistake, each of us took turns to ‘guide’ the rest in the right way, but to no avail. There was never a common understanding inspite of loud urges of ‘left, left, left’, ‘right, right, right’ and ‘All, All’ – people in the raft did what they pleased and what they thought to be the right way to guide the raft. Getting stuck on rocks, spinning through the initial rapids and in general, attracting attention due to our loud shouts – it was one helluva ride for 12 miles – interspersed by few periods of silence and brilliant rafting. It was fantastic fun at the end of the day when we finally reached the destination and people on the raft (including thyself) were taking credit for guiding the raft in the right manner – an illusion no one would be able to erase for a long time to come. The only casualty on the entire 12 mile trip was P dropping his raft into the river after we hit a rock at a wrong angle and with a bad velocity, about 4 miles from the end point. We however traversed through some difficult rapids among rocks and some swirling rapids inspite of the casualty very efficiently before reaching our destination. We were extremely lucky not to have run into injuries along our entire trip inspite of our ‘skilled’ rafting.

But, nobody gets it right the first time. We practise, we learn – and next time any of us are on any raft, I am sure this rafting experience would come in very handy. 7 hours in the blazing sun on a tricky river, paddling and shouting, was enough to pulp our muscles for the next two days. For anyone looking for an adventurous trip, I would definitely recommend Whitewater rafting – it is an experience which words cannot describe and an occurrence one would never forget.

An ‘Indian’ Outlook to the Olympics gone by

Spectacular closing ceremony. Stunning peek into London Olympics 2012. And, of course, Impressive display by the Indians.

If I were a statistician, I would say that after a period of almost zero growth for about 20 years in Olympics, India has had a 200% spurt in Olympics tally (1 medal status since 1988 and 3 medals in Olympics 2008 ) – an indication of a nation growing not only in its economic strength but also in Sports.

Only if statistics were true and would serve some direction – if ever they were.

– I can understand that countries like US, China, Russia and Great Britain can win the most number of medals, simply because of superior infrastructure and being either authoritarian rules or private enterprises.

– What I don’t understand is countries like Estonia, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Azerbaijan winning more medals than India? Surely, their infrastructure could not be superior to us. Surely, we did not have to content with 5000% inflation and worry about where the next morsel is coming from. And surely, they do not have a 1 billion population and a growing economy like us. Then, why or how could they win more medals than India – rather, how have they been consistently winning more medals than India?

I am not discounting the players of Estonia, Ethiopia etc., in fact, I admire them that inspite of challenging odds, they strived towards perfection in their art and succeeded in it. What I am sad about, is the fact that the situation may not change for the better in 2012 or even the 2016 Olympics even after a wonderful performance by Indian players in this Olympics.

I heard people prophesizing that improved infrastructure, no politics and genuine meritocracy would lead to more Olympic medals. I also heard people saying that most sportsmen are on lookout for those Government jobs that our beloved democracy hands out rather than winning Olympics. What’s more, I also heard that it is sad that in a nation of 1 billion people, we have only a few Olympians and hence the derivation that more people should start participating in Olympics.

Well, there is talking the talk and then, there is walking the talk. I often wonder if people would want to ponder a question – ‘Would I send and encourage my son/daughter/brother into playing sports professionally?’ That one question is powerful enough to gauge whether you truly believe in something you say/talk. We are masters at talking about how the government should be run, but does anyone want to participate in Elections? Similarly I guess, in the nature of continuity that we are now so adept at, we are masters at talking about the direction that sports should take in India, without really wanting to get into the dirty secrets of it.

However, I would go even further – that question of self-inquiry has deeper ramifications:

1) We are a country with a huge middle-class. Being in middle-class implies staying within limits, not taking risks, every month’s salary being of prime importance and all such. Most other countries that I mentioned previously like Estonia, Ethiopia etc has a huge poor class. The only way out for them is to win – and win big to secure their future. It is the medal or abject poverty – thereby driving them harder. In the US and other developed countries, there is money in sport. For the huge middle-class in India, sport is not an option – no money, no security and hence no encouragement from the family.

2) Second, and more importantly, simply put, there is no pride in being in sports. Unless, somehow anyone reaches the pinnacle in sports, like V. Anand, or A. Bindra – there is literally no other big name that pops up in mind (S.Mirza, of course, for reasons other than sport). There is a certain pride associated with a job (however monotonous), pride associated with a business (small or big) (however risky) but no pride associated with sports. That kills most of the young sports enthusiasts – our future sportsmen who migrate to jobs or business.

A plea to the Government – please don’t throw money at sports. Throwing money has never solved problems and never will. In case of Sports, increase visibility, increase pride associated with it, improve economic prosperity and then – an entire ecosystem around these themes will come up automatically- playgrounds, stadiums, schools, competitions, coaching, etc. – which will win us more Olympic medals and thereby make the dream of every statistician come true – wherein he would see the result fit into his/her conclusions rather than the usual other way round.

Olympics = Close to Perfection?

I have always wondered what ‘Perfection’ looked like – rather, is there anyone in the world doing the perfect thing or is there a perfect person? As a child, I had always been taught a maxim, which I have held dear over the course of many years –

Perfection is the Goal;

Nature tolerates Excellence.

Over the years, I have come to believe the adage to be true – we are really built to become perfect beings, but never are due to a variety of reasons – laziness being the prime among them. Not having any perfect role model/never seeing anything perfect might also have been one of the reasons. Achieving a level of maturity to understand what is ‘perfect’ is also one of the reasons. This Olympics, for whatever reason, has taught me what ‘perfect’ is meant to be.

Olympics is unique among sports events. It is a sporting extravaganza. For 15 days, the eyes of the world would be on who’s who of sports. Make no mistake, each and everyone participating in the Olympic events are the best their countries could come up with. All the players would have practiced for years together to showcase their talent in this particular event – an event through which they would be known forever. The kind of pressure and media-hype the players have to go through and yet perform to the best they can is what makes these Olympic events even more special. The winners of these events even more so.

As I watched Michael ‘The Phenom’ Phelps race towards his 8th gold medal in a single Olympics, Usain ‘Thunder’ Bolt thunder across the 100m race to break the world record, Shaun ‘Magical’ Johnson providing the perfect momentum for the US gymnastics team with her graceful, yet stupendous performance and many many more reach medal after medal, I understood that this was being as close to perfect as it can get in Sports.

Rules of Nature are simple, aren’t they? Hardwork and dedication (along with the oldest saying I ever heard ‘Practice makes man Perfect’) is all it takes to be ‘perfect’ in almost any discipline. And yet, it is so very surprising that we are content with just above average (which means, more or less ‘mediocrity’) to spend all our lives. Yet, these sportsmen battle it out, day after day, year after year for the greatest glory in Sports – to participate in the Olympics, and win a medal for themselves (and their countries). What drives them? Is it the money, is it fame? Would you or I want to exchange the best part of our lives (most Olympians are below the age of 30 and on average, would have practiced in that particular discipline for atleast 10-15 years) for money and fame – which again, is only based on winning a medal and not just participating? I think not. What is the probability of winning – 1 in a billion atleast; and what happens if you don’t win the medal after all that effort? You are treated as a loser (atleast in India), someone who could not perform at the highest level and thereby bringing down country’s name (whatever that means!). Yet, the same players pick themselves up and brace for another day, another competition and another event. Hardwork, practice, dedication – again and again and again.

That spirit, my dear friends, makes them perfect – and to all the players who have made it to the Olympics – I salute you!

P.S: There was an advertisement that was telecast a few years back in India – it went something like ‘Do you know the value of 0.1 sec? Ask an Olympian who won the silver and hence lost gold’. After the 100m butterfly event involving Phelps in Olympics 2008, I think it should be changed to ‘Do you know the value of 0.001 sec? Ask Milorad Cavic who won the silver, and hence lost Gold to Phelps!!’ 0.001 sec? 0.001 sec? Surely gotta be kidding, right? 🙂

Save the Planet – Eff you guys!

There, I said it – All you guys who claim/market to ‘Save the Planet’ – you can go eff yourselves (Eff (read it as a single letter ‘f’), of course, certainly doesn’t mean Fraternity, but means a four letter word whose usage would block my blog at the workplace!)

Isn’t it fashionable nowadays to be a part of this ridiculous movement called ‘Save the Planet’ or some such? Everyone wants to save something – Save the Trees, Save the Tigers, Save the Polar bears, Save the Icecaps. Everyone wants to be a part of this green movement which seemingly will save the planet. To tell you the truth, I have never ever, ever seen such self-importance, self-conceit and self-righteousness in any issue till date except for this jazz of ‘Save the Planet’.

Let’s look at certain facts which will ascertain whether we can claim to ‘Save ‘something” – The planet has been here for the past 4 billion years, humans have been part of it for maybe 50,000 years, if not 100,000. We have had Industrial revolution and all this pollution for about 100, maybe 150 years. The Planet has gone through more trouble than our greatest fear of increased greenhouse effect – hundreds of volcanoes spewing ash in the air, earthquakes, floods, comet and asteroid hits, plate tectonics, magnetic flares from the sun, pole reversals – and we have the guts (and the balls, unfortunately!) to even talk about ‘Saving the Planet’ from us, human beings. A passing species, in the entire timeline of the planet. More than 95% of the species that existed on this planet are non-existent today, they just disappeared. Did we kill them all? Why don’t we understand that it is a Nature that decides which species lives and which doesn’t. Are you guys telling me that we should interfere with Nature, a concept which we can’t even comprehend in an abstract fashion, let alone understand it. The planet is fine, perfectly fine – the people are effed.

Let’s not talk about ‘Save the Planet’ – let’s just talk for what it is – we are currently peeing in our pants that our species might get eliminated, the all-knowing, self-important, arrogant species like us, in the near future and we don’t want it to happen. You know, the changing Nature thing. Then, let’s just effing call it ‘Saving our asses’ (let’s be parliamentary and call it ‘Save your future generations’ or ‘Save the Humanbeing species’ or some such – the green marketing folks can certainly come up with a better catchy phrase than me!) That would be better and more self-directed. Let’s save ourselves rather than talking all this mumbo-jumbo about saving the planet. Most people on the planet, including the poor and uneducated will understand this concept rather than the theoretical ‘Save the planet’ concept, where they don’t understand what the eff is all the fuzz about.

[Kindly do not give me the explanation of “‘Save the Planet’ is an abstract concept, it’s a metaphor – in fact, we meant saving ourselves”. What the eff are you talking about, eh? I mean, do you think the majority of the population gives a damn or has time to think about abstract concepts and metaphors? Majority are still trying to come to terms with their abstract lives, do you think they would give a shit about other abstract concepts which they don’t understand?]

That brings us to the actual situation – saving ourselves. Certainly, this clear concept throws up difficulties which we humans almost always fail to handle. The concept of ‘Saving ourselves’ has given rise to NIMBY concept – NIMBY is short form for ‘Not in my Backyard’. For example, Kyoto Protocol – a noble agreement where all the nations in the world agree to certain emission standards has not been signed since its inception in 1994. We have actually been negotiating over an agreement for 14 years while the world was emitting more and more greenhouse gases. The developed world wants the developing world to conform to the standards while they themselves wouldn’t want to get binded by ‘harsh’ emission limits. Why talk about governments, let’s talk about us. Isn’t it fashionable to talk about not using plastics and aluminium cans (non bio-degradable stuff seemingly) and yet use it almost every day in retail stores? [Don’t talk about, do we have a choice? Oh yes, we can buy paper or cloth bags you know. But guess what, those cost more and hence, what the hell, let me continue with plastic bags attitude] Or drink cold drinks from aluminium cans by the dozen? Why hasn’t all this green-stuff been made an electoral mandate, atleast in India? Simply because, beyond our mean, self-centered, petty lives, we could care less about others. The same is true for majority of the people from the stupid effing ‘Save the Planet’ movement.

Please guys – let’s learn to care about each other first, let’s learn to live to-gether in harmony – the planet will live on, inspite of us – don’t worry about the planet, worry about yourself.

For all others who still want to ‘Save the Planet’, I hereby humbly show you the finger!

P.S: One of the better articles I have read recently on the fallacy of Go-Green concepts – http://www.newsweek.com/id/143701/output/print

On my Other Blog – The Three Foundational Rules of Business

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