गरीबों का गणतंत्र 

स्वतंत्रता-दिवस भीगता है और गणतंत्र-दिवस ठिठुरता है।

मैं ओवरकोट में हाथ डाले परेड देखता हूँ। प्रधानमंत्री किसी विदेशी मेहमान के साथ खुली गाड़ी में निकलते हैं।  टिप्पणीकार कहता है – ‘घोर करतल-ध्वनि हो रही है।’ मैं देख रहा हूँ, नहीं हो रही है। हम सब तो कोट में हाथ डाले बैठे हैं। बाहर निकालने का जी नहीं हो रहा है। हाथ अकड़ जाएँगे। लेकिन हम नहीं बजा रहे हैं, फिर भी तालियाँ बज रहीं हैं। मैदान में जमीन पर बैठे वे लोग बजा रहे हैं, जिनके पास हाथ गरमाने के लिए कोट नहीं है। लगता है, गणतंत्र ठिठुरते हुए हाथों की तालियों पर टिका है। गणतंत्र को उन्हीं हाथों की ताली मिलतीं हैं, जिनके मालिक के पास हाथ छिपाने के लिए गर्म कपड़ा नहीं है। पर कुछ लोग कहते हैं – ‘गरीबी मिटनी चाहिए।’ तभी दूसरे कहते हैं – ‘ऐसा कहने वाले प्रजातंत्र के लिए खतरा पैदा कर रहे हैं।’ 

#ठिठुरता_हुआ_गणतंत्र#परसाई

Speed of the team….

A couple of days ago I read this wonderful quote in the Newspaper by Lee Iacocca – Speed of the boss is the speed of the team.

At the first instance it didn’t seem like much but as I pondered over it contrasting Mr. Lee’s wisdom with my own experiences over the last 17 years of corporate existence, I  discovered how deep and true was the meaning. Let us look at the word speed which comes twice in the sentence. Now speed could be either slow or fast which is obvious but at one level it also means alignment of goals and objectives along with the timelines  set for their achievement. I have seen many times that the goals set by the Bosses for Themselves are not communicated to the team and even if they are it is not necessary that the team believes in the value that they will bring to the individual or the organisation. An individual will always link the growth of the organisation to their own growth and if they cannot see this critical connect the ‘speed’ does not match, in direction and therefore not in velocity. The team feels that they are direction less and the Boss feels that the team is too slow. Ultimately it leads to friction and low motivation levels.

A classic case in point are the Indian elections. We have The BJP all aligned and motivated and running towards their goal of making Modi the PM, the congress slogging it out somehow, fearing the eminent defeat with little chance of victory and finally the AAP which is a congregation of headless chickens running in all directions not knowing why and where to?  While the BJP and its cadres are rejoicing in the sunshine they could have well been facing the heat as their counterparts are, had it not been for their Boss. Can you imagine if Advani was named the PM candidate ? Would BJP still be having the same drive jumping all over the rivals pumped up with their winning spirit ? Election results are due and we will have to wait and see if Modi was able to achieve the goal but at least the campaign was charged with energy and enthusiasm.

Going a step further in our analysis we would realise that it is the belief in the ability of the leader to win not only for himself but also for the team which makes all the difference.In a highly competitive environment this becomes paramount and the team looks up to a Boss who can show the way. The teams are pitched against each other and they know that the one which has not only got a great strategy but a plan to deliver effectively will win.The decision to make Modi their PM candidate was not an easy one but they were almost forced into it as he was the only one who had the vision, the capability and the plan for execution. And yes he also had credentials.  Rahul Gandhi had none of these and Kejriwal probably had the vision but is lost as far his execution plan is concerned. His Delhi exodus also put a big question mark on his credentials.

So much for the team…but let us also look at the Boss. Not every Boss is a Modi to be able to do some 1400 3 D rallies, travel 300000 Kms, work tirelessly for 18-20 hours and still have the energy to think and walk straight. Most bosses are not born leaders or supermen but are pushed up the hierarchy riding  on age and experience. It’s  quite possible therefore that the sparks of vision and creativity allude them or what they feel as the next big wave may just be a hump in the continuum.  They may lack the same energy level 24x7x365 and even suffer break down once in a while. What about Bosses alignment with their own Bosses ? They might have a great idea but it may not fit in well with the overall strategy of the company. While Modi played favourites and got away with it, not everyone would be lucky enough not to end up with a fractured group with small power centres within.

Can members on cross purpose achieve the same goal ?The resultant drag speed will certainly get compromised for the team and for the boss too. Managing aspirations within the team is a challenge as individual ego stems from self image as well as how others perceive you. Then there are comparisons made between grades, levels, remuneration where understandably most would not be willing to understand the Bosses point of view unless backed by impartial data and unwavering trust.

So while the statement made by Mr.Iaccoca  holds true in case of a great Boss and a good team to back him, it takes different dimensions when a gap exists and there are limitations. In my personal experience there are more gaps when we look around us than there are ‘ made for each other’ stories. I am not sure if a solution exists but I feel that if we replace the word speed with ‘pace’ things would get more sensible for lesser mortals like us.  While speed is about competition and keeping up with others, pace is about doing things that you believe and enjoying the journey more than constantly being anxious about the destination. Whether the pace will be gentle or  intense can be decided by the Boss and the team but one thing is sure they will be happy with the overall results.

 

 

 

 

 

Lucknow Boy – Book review

Its been a while since I put up a book review on my blog. I was compelled by a feeling of utter disappointment to do this one. Lucknow Boy is a memoir of much celebrated Editor of Outlook Mr. Vinod Mehta to whom my alma mater Lucknow university bestowed the life time achievement award last year.

I wouldn’t say that I am a huge fan of Mr Mehta but nevertheless I have intently heard the debates on TV in which he is participating as I have felt that he is one of the few sane voices in a medium infested with the ‘ sound bite’ disease. Journalists today are the a bunch of ill informed megalomaniacs and psuedo intellectuals peddling their stale wares to an equally dumb franchisee. I thought Vinod was different till I read his memoir. I still hope that I am wrong and he was just ill advised by some of his media savvy friends in turning his observations of himself into a rant on Indian public life aka tamasha we all love to hate. What really put me off was that someone of Mr Mehta’s wit,stature and intelligence could not figure it out. The only excuse I can muster is that he himself did not bother to read the 500 odd pages from start to finish else he would have shared the disgust I was subjected to.

The book begins in Lucknow (obviously)  where the Young Vinod goes to La Martiniere  School. I must say that this was perhaps the most interesting part may be because till this time Mr Mehta was writing with a pen on his heart lost in the deep love,wonder  and nostalgia of childhood and youth. I could as would any other youngster of Lucknow identify with him perfectly. Lucknow is not only a city, it’s a character that grows on you until it becomes a part of how you Live,eat,pray and love. Lucknow Wallahs tend to create  a dream world of their own which has subtle humor, sarcasm, a laid back lifestyle, good food , great wine and lots of women ( mostly imagined). The world of a young Vinod along with the pranks and trials could be of anyone growing in a city that  defies all definition but remains charming in an odd way.

The story moves on as Mr. Mehta goes to England and is still readable and engrossing as you empathize with a small town boy finding a place in the big bad world full of intellectual Pseudisms   and societal pretensions. But this is where it was ‘ innocence lost’ and nothing gained for the young Mehta. The more He thought he found the world the more he started losing  himself.

Life is Mumbai and the stint with Debonair ( all of us grew up with it) was the last leg of the journey that warranted companionship.After this Mehta is on his own churning  a sagging tale of the various interactions he had with a milieu of corporate,business and political characters – some he won and some he lost but for the reader the plot started to dwindle to sorry little details of who drank what scotch and who screwed whom with all the soggy details thrown in.

By the time I was half away I  started skipping paragraphs.Since I did not find anything interesting especially in the context of a Memoir I will jump the details and highlight some of the stuff that Mr Mehta must take a note of. Being the Iconic editor that he is I am sure it will give him some pointers as to what went wrong :

1. Found it absolutely funny even out of place to see pages written about various celebrated personalities of India Sonia Gandhi dot dot : 4 pages, atal behari dot dot 4 Pages, Rahuil Gandhi !!!! who writes about Rahul Gandhi in his Memoir ??

The craziest thing was to try and belittle Amitabh Bachchan for his visits to temples for the good of his sons married life. Why did you do it ?? It was your memoir and I can promise you that Amitabh would never bother about a non entity like you in his Memoir. And by the way I bought the book to read about your journey not his.

I don’t know whether your wives – ex and current will bother to read what you have come up with but if they do they would be singularly disappointed to find a chapter about your Dog and not more than a line about either of them. Guess Dogs are more important than Soul mates.

Last but none the less the least and lowly was the bit about giving gyan on what to do to become a successful journalist and what not to do. Sir it is your life story not a Navneet ki Kunji for High school Exams. Passing out in third Division in arts stream from one of the most lowly ranked universities in the world If you could figure it out I can assure you that the future generations can as well do it – without your kind advice.

Agree  ?? My sincere suggestion is that you pull back all copies in circulation and rewrite the whole thing.This time all by yourself and strictly without the commercial advice of your publisher friends. You made your money, now make your mark….

Fortunately for me I picked up The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghssh on my return flight and was washed off from all my sins of the onward journey.

Six Men, Elephant and FDI in retail….

Watching the circus on TV  for the last two days since FDI in Retail has been announced I could not but help comoparing the situation to the famous parable of the elephant and six blind men. While each has its own opinion based on what part of the elephant they are holding ( like the opinions of our learned media,business men and politicians) , no one exactly knows what the animal ( in this case quite literally ! ) looks like. For someone like me who has worked closlely with the farmers as well as in retail for a long time the picture is quite clear. We are talking two different business models here : one is based on scale and the other is based on service and convenience. If you just look around : has a single mom and pop store closed down even when you have a number of so called organized big box retailers are all around them. Within a Km radius of my place in Bangalore I have a Big bazar super centre, a More Super centre and a number of Nilgiris, MK Retail,Reliance and others but I still order from the store next to my place or go and buy it from there for day to day needs : No ques therefore quick transaction or homedelivery that gets the store to your doorstep being my simple drivers.

For farmers there is absolutely no link between FDI and what they will get for the price of their produce. They sell to the mandis governed by APMC act today or just sell their produce to anyone that gives them a better price. On what basis are people debating that farmers will be adversly effected beats me completely.Typically in all economies with dominance of organized retail farmers realize 2/3 of the retail price of their produce vs. just 1/3 or lower in economies where such a mechanism does not exist.It’s quite simple if You know that at what price the retailer is going to sell what he buys from me and if all farmers know what price their produce sells in organized retail are they fools that they willl give it up to a Wal Mart just like that ?? It is this non transpareny that kills them today.When we are buying Onions at Rs50 a Kg the farmer is still getting just 5 Rs for it , so where does the Rs. 45 go ??No one knows or those who know are crying wolf wolf !! I don’t even want to go into the efficiencies in supply chain etc which will of course add a lot o value to consumers, producers and retailers alike. I have seen Wal Mart very closely and I know that it is one of the most hoenst, forthright and efficient companies in the world. What a lot of people say about Wal Mart is mostly out of ignorance or their own selfish interest. It’s a giant that competition is afraid of and fear always brings in insecurity.

Anyways you enjoy the poem and try to figure out which of the blind men is Politicians, Media, Businessmen, shopkeepers, farmers and general public :

It was six men of Indostan

To learning much inclined,

Who went to see the Elephant(Though all of them were blind),

That each by observation

Might satisfy his mind

And so these men of Indostan

Disputed loud and long,

Each in his own opinion

Exceeding stiff and strong,

Though each was partly in the right,

And all were in the wrong!

So oft in theologic wars,

The disputants, I ween,

Rail on in utter ignorance

Of what each other mean,

And prate about an Elephant

Not one of them has seen!

For the complete version click here : http://www.wordfocus.com/word-act-blindmen.html

Let’s first see the elephant and then we can talk about it.

I am not Anna Hazare…I am just me

Although I seldom watch TV, the events of last 3 days have forced me to switch on the Box so I can witness what Anna calls the ‘2nd movement to free India”. The congress has proved to the country that they are nothing but a bunch of good for nothing morons who double up as thieves when the opportunity arrives. I have maintained this belief always campaigning for the BJP in all the elections. My simple principle is that spineless people are no good as friends or enemies.

Media today is no different than sensationalism at its best not reporting the facts but what gives them the TRP’s. So if it’s good to make Anna a hero today they will do it and if tomorrow the tide turns they will end up making him a villain as well. With all my patriotic emotions bursting at the seams I was forced to do some soul searching, the prime driver being that whether I am qualified to support a movement against corruption. The answer sadly was a NO I am not Anna Hazare. How can I say something I really don’t believe in – Have I not paid a bribe ever ? I have. For some clicking a ‘like’ button is just something that makes them look good in the eyes of others but for me I will fall from grace in my own eyes if I did something like that.

But then I thought that perhaps I was being too hard on myself. I had paid a bribe but why did I do it. Am I a victim or a abettor of the crime. Well to set the record straight I have tried my best to avoid paying up wherever and whenever the system allowed me to but then there have been times when there was nothing I could do. I have to work to make the money to pay the government its ‘hafta’ and to keep myself afloat. I am not wired to quit my job and go around circling the of government offices living in a state of poverty. And who is it that I will be proving a point – to the 3 monkeys ?? Another consideration is that with no money the question of paying or not paying a bribe will itself wither away.

I have realized that for me paying a bribe has more to do with convenience than with morality or ethics. The concerns of my conscience are far larger than currency notes.

Going into the total recall mode I remembered how I used to keep a 50 Rs note handy so I can roll it as soon as a traffic cop approached asking me to go to the Police station with him or to take my driving license away only to be retrieved after appearing in front of the magistrate. But now with Bangalore Traffic cops having Blackberrys with printers I have graciously admitted my guilt each time I am on the wrong side of law, paid 100 bucks and happily walked away with a receipt. In fact I have some 5 of them with me as a symbol of a hidden pride in an efficient system that lets the citizens as well as the authorities do their duty with efficiency and honesty. To me the BBry traffic receipts are a symbol of a ‘free and fair’ India.

Let’s try and understand the concept and how things have changed for me. In the first instance when I was paying a bribe I justified that the penalty of wasting a day at the court and paying the fine as well was not commensurate with the offence of jumping a red light when it was almost orange. The law in this case was on the wrong side itself. But with the bbry I knew my sin, the penalty was just and I could absolve me and my soul by paying up and getting a receipt as a souvenir. And  what is at the heart of this – transparency and ease of operation that drives compliance with convenience.

I have been canvassing about the wonderful experience I had with the Bangalore passport office. I paid up extra for the ‘tatkal’  but I got a receipt and my passport was delivered within the 2 working days as promised. I spent half a day at the passport office where everything was well organized and all of us understood that the delay is only because of the numbers getting serviced. That was not too bad either as it just took me 2-3 hours for the whole process sitting in a clean and comfortable air conditioned environment.

However for certain other cases I will continue to pay bribes. I cannot change the law which says that I should pay the government a property tax which is 15 % + some other taxes of the rental income even when I am already paying a 30 % income tax on my rental income itself on a house that I bought after paying all my income tax..And why the hell should I pay the property tax anyways when there are no roads or water in lieu of the registration and stamp duty already paid. The funniest thing is that we pay exorbitant amount as BWSSB charges not to get a drop of municipal water ! The guy at the property tax office wants a cut for looking the other way and I will do what’s best for me. Don’t you think that the options are pretty straight forward for a sane mind ? The system created a monster and I am just dodging it and moving on…I can fight it when there is an equal chance of winning but would not sacrifice my life for nothing.

In the book Shantaram Bhai Abdul Khader says – I don’t see how much crime is in the sin but I see how much sin is in the crime. That’s my guiding light when it comes to paying bribes. End of the day I care about myself and my family and not the Congress and its corruption brigade which garbs itself as the government.

I sincerely request all of you who read this post to keep a hand on your heart and dig deeper into your soul before wearing a Gandhian cap or a fancy T shirt. The fact is that the power we give in the hands of those who are supposed to serve  will drive us again and again to the brink of Pay up or else ………

Being straight and not straightened

Here is something I found on You tube.

I do not subscribe to the views expressed in the video and this is being put up by me just for the sake of reference as many others I have interacted with have similar notions.

Personally,whenever I have tried to explore Islam , I have found it to be a very repressive philosophy -arcane in its expression and orthodox in its approach.Going through the verses of Quran , it feels like you are going through a manual of Do’s and Dont’s  which tells you how to act in times of strife.It seems quite opposed to my idea of a religion.

Even though what Churchill says is not free from his own prejudices , his point about Islam being more of a cult rather than a religion as it does not allow self exploration and inquiry strikes a chord in an interesting way. Hinduism and Budhhism both give a lot of emphasis on looking inward and challenging yourself to find the truth in you.Islam on the other hand offers a philosophy in which others and their view of you seems to be central to your existence.I am really aghast sometimes the way women and their freedom is dealt with.Are they not children of the same God??

As a Hindu religion is personal to me and I find it hard to subscribe to a point of view which forces discipline on others around you while discouraging knowledge of your own self.

I believe in Being straight and not straightened as Marcus Aurelius has said.

I am reading more to understand one thing – if a billion people believe in Islam so ardently ,there has to be more to it than what I know. Coming from a very tolerant Hindu background I find the ways of Islam quite bitter and aggressive but then I find myself being drawn to Sufism time and again.

A word of Caution on Churchill’s speech: We must remember that it’s the same Churchill who uttered all kinds of statements about India and Hindus , Brahmins in particular.Here’s what noted Historian Ramachandra Guha writes in the Hindu :

http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/mag/2005/06/05/stories/2005060500170300.htm

And being a drunkard and a womanizer himself it is understandable that he found the tenets of Islam particularly annoying.

Anyway being honest to the spirit of inquiry is what will finally  remove all doubts – for or against and that’s exactly what my pursuit is going to be.

Global Warming and Cow fart

Here’s an interesting article from Wall Street Journal refuting the Global Warming enthused Doom’s day scenario.Even if this is not completely correct,it makes more sense to me than those monkeys shouting ” Blah,Blah” from the TV screens.

Anyone who talks without facts and proof about the world coming to an end should be classified as a “terrorist” and be treated accordingly.

Suppose for a minute—which is about 59 seconds too long, but that’s for another column—that global warming poses an imminent threat to the survival of our species. Suppose, too, that the best solution involves a helium balloon, several miles of garden hose and a harmless stream of sulfur dioxide being pumped into the upper atmosphere, all at a cost of a single F-22 fighter jet. Good news, right? Maybe, but not if you’re Al Gore or one of his little helpers. The hose-in-the-sky approach to global warming is the brainchild of Intellectual Ventures, a Bellevue, Wash.-based firm founded by former Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Nathan Myhrvold. The basic idea is to engineer effects similar to those of the 1991 mega-eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines, which spewed so much sulfuric ash into the stratosphere that it cooled the earth by about one degree Fahrenheit for a couple of years. Could it work? Mr. Myhrvold and his associates think it might, and they’re a smart bunch. Also smart are University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and writer Stephen Dubner, whose delightful “SuperFreakonomics”—the sequel to their runaway 2005 bestseller “Freakonomics”—gives Myhrvold and Co. pride of place in their lengthy chapter on global warming. Not surprisingly, global warming fanatics are experiencing a Pinatubo-like eruption of their own. Mr. Gore, for instance, tells Messrs. Levitt and Dubner that the stratospheric sulfur solution is “nuts.” Former Clinton administration official Joe Romm, who edits the Climate Progress blog, accuses the authors of “[pushing] global cooling myths” and “sheer illogic.” The Union of Concerned Scientists faults the book for its “faulty statistics.” Never to be outdone, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman scores “SuperFreakonomics” for “grossly [misrepresenting] other peoples’ research, in both climate science and economics.” In fact, Messrs. Levitt and Dubner show every sign of being careful researchers, going so far as to send chapter drafts to their interviewees for comment prior to publication. Nor are they global warming “deniers,” insofar as they acknowledge that temperatures have risen by 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century. View Full Image Gloview Associated Press Gloview Gloview But when it comes to the religion of global warming—the First Commandment of which is Thou Shalt Not Call It A Religion—Messrs. Levitt and Dubner are grievous sinners. They point out that belching, flatulent cows are adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than all SUVs combined. They note that sea levels will probably not rise much more than 18 inches by 2100, “less than the twice-daily tidal variation in most coastal locations.” They observe that “not only is carbon plainly not poisonous, but changes in carbon-dioxide levels don’t necessarily mirror human activity.” They quote Mr. Myhrvold as saying that Mr. Gore’s doomsday scenarios “don’t have any basis in physical reality in any reasonable time frame.” More subversively, they suggest that climatologists, like everyone else, respond to incentives in a way that shapes their conclusions. “The economic reality of research funding, rather than a disinterested and uncoordinated scientific consensus, leads the [climate] models to approximately match one another.” In other words, the herd-of-independent-minds phenomenon happens to scientists too and isn’t the sole province of painters, politicians and news anchors. But perhaps their biggest sin, which is also the central point of the chapter, is pointing out that seemingly insurmountable problems often have cheap and simple solutions. Hence world hunger was largely conquered not by a massive effort at population control, but by the development of new and sturdier strains of wheat and rice. Hence infection and mortality rates in hospitals declined dramatically as doctors began to appreciate the need to wash their hands. Hence, too, it may well be that global warming is best tackled with a variety of cheap fixes, if not by pumping SO2 into the stratosphere then perhaps by seeding more clouds over the ocean. Alternatively, as “SuperFreakonomics” suggests, we might be better off doing nothing until the state of technology can catch up to the scope of the problem. All these suggestions are, of course, horrifying to global warmists, who’d much prefer to spend in excess of a trillion dollars annually for the sake of reconceiving civilization as we know it, including not just what we drive or eat but how many children we have. And little wonder: As Newsweek’s Stefan Theil points out, “climate change is the greatest new public-spending project in decades.” Who, being a professional climatologist or EPA regulator, wouldn’t want a piece of that action? Part of the genius of Marxism, and a reason for its enduring appeal, is that it fed man’s neurotic fear of social catastrophe while providing an avenue for moral transcendence. It’s just the same with global warming, which is what makes the clear-eyed analysis in “SuperFreakonomics” so timely and important. (Now my sincere apologies to the authors for an endorsement that will surely give their critics another cartridge of ammunition.) Write to bstephens@wsj.com