Oct 22, 2008

Happy Diwali

Warning: Long post. One part senti, one part stupid, all badly shaken and not stirring.
(Putting it up early since I am on leave during Diwali).

Once upon a time, not so long ago, there lived a little brat in a town near the foothills of Ooty. He was a normal child in a normal town.

He had a typical middle class upbringing. Parents who strived to inculcate ‘values’ in him, blissfully unaware that all their efforts would go waste some twenty years later. Parents who stretched a rupee like only middle class moms and dads can, ensuring that the brat is never short of all the things he needs, but slightly short of all the things he demands.

However, even value-inducing parents have their weak spots. And every brat is born with the mysterious ability to recognize them. So every year, during Diwali, the brat saw to it that the rupee was stretched further and more crackers were bought than was affordable. And the parents usually gave in. Just so that the brat’s face can light up as bright as the sparklers he held. Just so that his spirits may soar as high as the rockets he lit up. (The same brat would grow up and look at crackers as a perfect way to “blow up money”, but we are not in the brat’s boring miserly present, but his stupidly nostalgic past).

Thus the crackers were bought. A big, fat carton of them. Multi-coloured sparklers. Rockets which went straight into the neighbour’s first floor window. Flower pots which nearly blew up the brat’s face the year before. Ear-shattering bombs which thankfully did not kill innocent people but merely made them deaf. And other utterly useless stuff which strangely fascinate a young brat.

The brat, like all his fellow brats, followed a curious tradition of ‘sun-bathing’ his crackers, in the belief that exposing them to the sun made the rockets soar higher, and the bombs to burst louder. The brat never questioned whether it was scientifically true, as the brat never had a scientific bent of mind. (Never would too). But every day, for a week before Diwali, the brat would lovingly spread his treasure on a mat under the hot sun, taking the crackers out one by one, visualizing the pleasure of bursting the crackers. And every evening, at sunset, he would carefully pack the treasure back into the carton, one by one.

The brat also visited fellow brats, to compare their treasure to his. And always came away a bit disappointed. He was too young to understand why his dad couldn’t buy some more crackers. After all, the fellow brat’s dad worked in the same company. But, the brat’s mom was an expert in child psychology, and always managed to make the brat feel that he had the best cracker collection in town. (The grown up brat takes a moment to bow to her genius).

Anyways, to cut this boring story short, the D-day arrived. And the brat took his treasure chest to the verandah, and started lighting up his crackers one by one. Even his genius of a mom couldn’t take his attention away from the rapidly diminishing pile of crackers. The brat remembered the Mahabharata story and fervently prayed for a never-emptying vessel of crackers.

Presently, two kids (we can’t call them brats by any stretch of imagination) from down the street came near his door. They were poor kids, whose parents did not have a rupee in the first place for them to stretch. The kids just stood by in a corner, and watched wistfully as the brat proceeded to burst his crackers with glee.

The brat’s mom, ever generous to a fault, called the kids over and handed them one cracker each. Not a packet, not even a few, just one each. She might have had the mind to hand over more, but the brat would have none of it. He, like Arjuna of the “I can see the eye of the bird and nothing else” fame in the Mahabharata, could only see his near-empty stock pile and not the kids’ plight. He threw a wild tantrum, he screamed, he flailed his arms, he kicked the ground, he cried, he acted stupid. He even threw his precious treasure pile on the ground and ran inside the house crying.

But the brat’s mom held firm. She just took the opportunity to hand over more crackers to the poor kids. She then coaxed the brat out of his favourite crying place in the fartheset corner of the room, and taught him to watch the joy in the faces of the kids as they took turns to burst the crackers. She even made the brat hand over a few crackers to them.

It would take a few more years for the brat to realize that there is more joy in seeing the poor kids lighting up crackers than bursting them yourself. The grown up brat wishes he would remember the joyful faces of those kids more often than a once-a-year-senti-attack.

Apparently, value-inducing parents and their brain washing have a more lasting effect than the grown up brat would care to admit.

Happy Diwali people. And much prosperity too.

Oct 21, 2008

End of an era...

This tribute is coming some 10 days late, blame it on the hectic work life...

Entered our consciousness in the 90s.

A trend-setter.

The one who inspired a dozen clones. And was eventually overshadowed by some of those very clones.

Managed to win the adulation of a set of die-hard supporters.

But was also the object of wide-spread ridicule. Mocked by many, spoofed by the likes of MTV.

The subject of many a fierce debate, over media shows, blogs, campus discussions.

Known to evoke emotions of maniacal support or downright hatred.

And when the end was announced, a great majority heaved a sigh of relief and said it was long overdue.

While a small set grieved the end of a legend.






Yes, dear friends, Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki ends. Life will never be the same again.

PS: On a totally unrelated note, Sourav Ganguly also announced his retirement. But, I will leave better writers to do the tribute.

Oct 15, 2008

Kidnap - not the review

I have been watching a lot of movies lately. The more movies I watch, the more I feel that I am a contrarian movie critic. Movies which a lot of people like, I normally don’t. Movies which are panned by many, I normally appreciate. Vivah was one. Kidnap is another.

Director Sanjay Gadhvi is a genius. He belongs to the league of the Wachowski brothers. After all, he has put so many hidden messages about the current politics of a foreign nation in a bollywood film.

Unfortunately, most of the film critics got too distracted by Minissha Lamba's cleavage and failed to appreciate the hidden message in the movie. Even GreatBong, who could derive messages on Chinese diplomacy from a Shakti Kapoor video, missed this one. Sigh.

Luckily for you, there are some people like this blogger who look beyond the cleavage (not without great difficulty, let me assure you), and try to decipher the hidden nuances in the name of public interest.

Don’t believe me?

What’s a hypothesis ‘without laying facts on the table’, to borrow a friend’s oft-used expression:

First, we have the Old Man. He played a soldier once upon a time.

And now, he plays a hardliner, who needs an assistant to just list down his enemies. He is too old for action, but sadly doesn’t realize it. And thinks he rules the world.

Next, we have a hot lady who once played hockey.

Now she plays a mom. Not just any mom, but a strict one who advocates abstention for her kid. The kid doesn't seem convinced and dresses up as if getting pregnant is her sole objective in life. Now, how many hockey moms who preach morals to promiscuous daughters do you know?

Then, we have their opponent, whom we shall call Young Man. Athletic build. Smart looking. Displays mature skills (like driving a car, helping out friend in distress) at a very young age. And the Young Man has suffered discrimination in his youth.

In a telling scene, we have the Old Man chasing the Young man. Young man climbs higher, widens lead and leaves Old Man panting and huffing in his trail. Prophetic? Time will tell.

Young Man makes the rules, and Old Man has no chance but to play by them. Every time he tries to play it differently, he faces road blocks.

Most astute viewers would have got the message by now.

But Gadhvi is a genius, who also ensures that he caters to the masses.

Thus, we have the most blatant clue: the leading lady.

Symbolic of the economy of the country-the-director-shall-not-name, stripped bare, drowning, but still intent on artificially pushing up ‘assets’ to gravity defying levels. Too dumb to realize the crisis and the danger, but somehow clever enough to stab the same person who ‘understands’ your need to ‘clean up’.

As I said, Director Sanjay Gadhvi is a genius. Pity, the critics don’t get it.


PS: Images from google search. Any who has copyright, kindly consdier yourself acknowledged.

Oct 7, 2008


I come home tired... log on and wish people 'Happy Budday' on orkut... and then, just log in to gmail...

and I go... WTF??? WTF WTF WTF???

So finally, Ms. Shetty of Big Brother fame realizes that this SRK is the real star...

and I get this...

I have had Nigerians mailing me to give me a million dollars... I have Viagra sellers offering me miraculous 'performance'... I have even had offers to have my you-know-what lengthened... and a very nice girl calling herself 'Jane' had even offered to show me her bedroom pics...

But this is the first time that some nice looking chick has sent me a mail saying I like your profile and I want to know you better...

Trust me darling, so do I...

For starters,

How the f*** did you get my mail id? and which part of my non-existent profile interests you?


PS: All those smart-ass friends who want to hint at "your time has come da", shut up...

Oct 4, 2008

Dear Mr. Moore...

Recently, I received a mail forward which was an example of the typical reaction to the Wall Street mess. Outrage at the bailout, calls to ‘tax the rich’ and ‘reduce CEO pay’ and so on...
Except this was written by Michael Moore (http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/message/index.php?messageDate=2008-10-01) , and I used to think he was a cool guy known for his docu movies...

Anyways, here’s how it starts:

The richest 400 Americans -- that's right, just four hundred people -- own MORE than the bottom 150 million Americans combined. 400 rich Americans have got more stashed away than half the entire country! Their combined net worth is $1.6 trillion. During the eight years of the Bush Administration, their wealth has increased by nearly $700 billion -- the same amount that they are now demanding we give to them for the "bailout." Why don't they just spend the money they made under Bush to bail themselves out? They'd still have nearly a trillion dollars left over to spread amongst themselves!

Interesting start. Exploit the emotion called jealousy and capture the reader’s attention. Except that, what is the crime of these 400 Americans, except that they happenned to be successful and made some money. None of the people in the top 20 are connected to Wall Street (except maybe Buffett, but we know he did not do sub prime). I am too impatient to go through the list of the entire 400 names to find out Wall St connections. If you, as a taxpayer, are outraged at ‘paying for someone else’s follies’, then I fail to see the logic behind asking someone else to do it, just because they happen to earn more.

Then, Moore goes on to propose his version of a bail out plan...


How about indicting people who had no income and no assets, but wanted a house? Oh, but they are poor, honest Americans who got caught up in the asset bubble. And we are on their side.

2. THE RICH MUST PAY FOR THEIR OWN BAILOUT. They may have to live in 5 houses instead of 7. They may have to drive 9 cars instead of 13. The chef for their mini-terriers may have to be reassigned.
a) Every couple who makes over a million dollars a year and every single taxpayer who makes over $500,000 a year will pay a 10% surcharge tax for five years.
b) Like nearly every other democracy, charge a 0.25% tax on every stock transaction. This will raise more than $200 billion in a year.
c) Because every stockholder is a patriotic American, stockholders will forgo receiving a dividend check for one quarter and instead this money will go the treasury to help pay for the bailout.
d) 25% of major U.S. corporations currently pay NO federal income tax. Federal corporate tax revenues currently amount to 1.7% of the GDP compared to 5% in the 1950s. If we raise the corporate income tax back to the level of the 1950s, that gives us an extra $500 billion.

I don’t know where he got his figures from, but I am assuming they are right. Now, the rich people and the corporations are usually smarter than Mr. Moore, and they’ll simply find a way to avoid the surcharge. Move their incomes to tax havens at the worst case.
Now the stock transaction cost: Simple economics – increase in trading costs means lower volumes traded, which means inefficient price discovery which means more opportunity for your much hated Wall St. people to ‘influence’ prices.
And why should only the stockholder prove his patriotism? Why not the salary earner, interest earner? If wages and interest are to be paid before stockholders in good times and in liquidation, isn’t it fair that those very parties contribute to the bail out before the stock holder does?

There are 1.3 million homes in foreclosure right now. That is what is at the heart of this problem. So instead of giving the money to the banks as a gift, pay down each of these mortgages by $100,000. Force the banks to renegotiate the mortgage so the homeowner can pay on its current value.
And let's set the record straight. People who have defaulted on their mortgages are not "bad risks." They are our fellow Americans (emphasis mine), and all they wanted was what we all want and most of us still get: a home to call their own.

Ever heard of moral hazard? I am assuming you have, since you are protesting against a bail out to greedy bankers. But, what is the message you are sending out now? People, when the next bubble comes along, do go out and borrow more than you can. Then default. After all, you are my honest, hardworking fellow American. You are not at fault. Let the greedy banker take the hit.
What next? Our honest fellow American wants a car. No problem, borrow and default. Want a college degree. Borrow and default. After all, should the bank’s profit come before our fellow American’s education?

4. IF YOUR BANK OR COMPANY GETS ANY OF OUR MONEY IN A "BAILOUT," THEN WE OWN YOU. Sorry, that's how it's done. If the bank gives me money so I can buy a house, the bank "owns" that house until I pay it all back -- with interest. Same deal for Wall Street. Whatever money you need to stay afloat, if our government considers you a safe risk -- and necessary for the good of the country -- then you can get a loan, but we will own you. If you default, we will sell you. This is how the Swedish government did it and it worked.

Ok, I can’t really find fault with this. After all, the Swedes proved how it works. But, owning a company is nothing but indirectly owning the assets of the company. If you default, the bank doesn’t come and declare, “Thou shall be my slave for the next twenty years”. It just takes the house. So, the US Treasury can just take the mortgage assets and be done with it, instead of owning the whole goddamn company. Same to Same. If you can’t value one portion of the bank’s ‘assets’, how are you going to value the whole bank?


And the US should add two letters to its name and become USSR?


How large is acceptable for you? Should Wal-mart have only two stores? Twenty? Two hundred? What if they can have more stores and apply supply chain management on the bulk and reduce costs so that goods are cheaper for our fellow American? No, they are getting too big. Slice them up!
Maybe it is time for a new Moore's Law: "The size of the companies will halve and the cost of the goods double every two years"

... "If you can't explain it in two sentences, you shouldn't be taking anyone's money."

I wholly support this man. We’ll ask all our clients to give us a two line project report: “Plan to set up power plant. Will burn coal, generate power, sell and make money” and voila, we’ll give him the loan he wants. Makes my job easier.


Psst... did our PM get in touch with you on his visit to the US? If the owners of the company do not have a problem with how much the management is making, who are we to question them?


I’ll agree with one part of the argument. Give people the option to invest their pensions in safe treasury bonds which earn a rate just better than inflation. And another option to invest some in equity, which may give higher returns, but can be wiped out too. Now, trust the average honest fellow American to choose his future wisely. After all, if he is greedy enough to choose equity and exotic derivatives, FDIC has no business protecting it. And if he is willing to gamble on his future, you and I and the FDIC have no business in trying to stop him.


Ha, one sensible point. Sad, it took eight nonsensical points to come to this. And just to nitpick, the sky might fall. So, I would rather watch TV and discuss how I can find a shelter. Plus, if no one is watching TV or reading news, who will support your plan, Mike?

If we really are itching to print up a trillion dollars, instead of giving it to a few rich people, why don't we give it to ourselves? Now that we own Freddie and Fannie, why not set up a people's bank? One that can provide low-interest loans for all sorts of people who want to own a home, start a small business, go to school, come up with the cure for cancer or create the next great invention. And now that we own AIG, the country's largest insurance company, let's take the next step and provide health insurance for everyone. Medicare for all. It will save us so much money in the long run. And we won't be 12th on the life expectancy list. We'll be able to have a longer life, enjoying our government-protected pension, and living to see the day when the corporate criminals who caused so much misery are let out of prison so that we can help reacclimate them to civilian life -- a life with one nice home and a gas-free car that was invented with help from the People's Bank.

And where will this ‘low-interest’ loans be funded from? From the tax of the honest fellow American? And this is permanent funding, not a one time bail-out? You are too good man. If I was in US and you ran for office, I’ll be voting for you.

PS: Sorry for the looooong post... half of it was his lines, so you can blame him partly. And of cousre, I havent pasted the entire plan here. You can read it from the reference given at the top.

PPS: I am not very good at economics. Else, I could have ripped him apart better. Sigh.