Vantage point

Saturday, May 29, 2004

I Love This Game :)

I have never really liked video games or computer games. My friends would go crazy over Prince, or NFS, or Roadrash, but I never really caught on to them.

I have liked only two computer games so far. And both are connected to my real life passions. The first one was Cricket 96.

The second one, which i played yesterday, is Formula 1 2002. I have tried that game before, but it didnt run on my old computer.

Well, thanks to IBM presenting me with a Thinkpad T41 with 512 MB RAM (ahhem!!), I could play it.

And it is so amazing. The amount of work that must have gone into the game is astonishing. The visual details are just one part of it. You can actually set up the car, like F1 mechanics do. That feature would be a treat for a hardcore F1 nut like Sumeet.

One version of the game I love playing is the one I call Demolition F1. :) In that I just make my car "invulnerable" and then run it in the opposite direction. I love breaking the Williams and the McLarens of the world into small pieces. The faster I put all cars out of commission, the better. :)

Try it, sometimes it is more fun in a depraved sort of way.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Gandhi, Nehru and Raja Bhaiyya

It is the story of Mahatma Gandhi and Raja Bhaiyya.

Yes, that is what it is. You know what I am talking about?


I disagree with Ramanand and Sarika when they say that Yuva is not about politics, just the way Dil Se was not about terrorism. Yuva is very much about politics. Yes, it is a story about three youths, and a phase of their lives, but what binds them together is politics.

Yuva is, in my opinion, Mani Ratnam's take on the different genres of Indian politicans.

Michael Mukherjee is Mahatma Gandhi. He is a staunch idealist who cares more about his ideals than about his personal gains. He plays the game honestly, courting arrest after he has threatened his enemies. He accepts the consequences of his actions. Don't link gandhi with ideas of ahimsa and then compare him with Michael. Look at the core and you will realise both are the same.

Lallan, by far the most interesting character in the movie, is like Raja Bhaiyya. The only way he can make a living is by using his fists. His ego is not satisfied at being paid 2000 rupees for physical labour in a factory. He would much rather sell his labour for a higher price. That is where it starts off. But soon he realises that his talents can get him more than just money. They can get him that ultimate addictive, power! The way Lallan's story proceeds, in my way, aptly sums up the story of Indian politics today. The system is such that if a Lallan enters it, and has some brains, he will gain power using power.

Arjun is Nehru. A person who has lived a life of opulence, and is prepared for a similar life. He has at home, a father who has served the country in some measure, as an IAS officer(just like Motilal Nehru). However, he is swayed enough by Michael's ideas to join him. By himself, Nehru would not have become the PM of India. He needed Gandhi's word. Similalrly, Arjun by himself, is nothing, but is an able lieutenant for Michael.

What Ratnam does is throws these 3 people together and hope that "sach ki jeet hogi....truth will prevail". So what we see is a seemingly Utopian end. Four college kids manage to win an election, beating seasoned politicians. Where this turn of the story tastes unpalatable is the assumption that politicians win only by using muscle power. Reality is, in my opinion quite different. There are other factors like caste equations, ideological loyalties and local issues that play a big part.

However, one is tempted to pardon Ratnam this simplification, because of the dialogues of Om Puri in the end.

Om Puri, welcoming Michael and Arjun into the assembly says "Before you too, many have come here to change the world. But they themselves were changed."

It is this profound statement that sums up Indian politics for me. Whenever I hear someone say "Indian politics will improve if honest people get into it", I feel like laughing. Do we also think that the film industry is full of adulterers because only promiscuous peoploe enter the industry?

It would be interesting if, ten years down the line, Mani makes a sequel of Yuva. I would say that by then, Michael would have been assassinated. Lallan will be as powerful as ever. And Arjun will survive, with noble intentions, but lacking the erudition to be a good politican.

Basically, honesty is not the only thing that ensures a good politician, as Nehru's life showed us.

anyway, this review might seem a bit hurried, but i have some work pending, and so will have to end it here. I have tried only to say things which no one else has said so far. Technically, and performance-wise, I concur with other reviewers. But centrally, I maintain that it is Mani Ratnam's part-realistic-part-Utopian take on Indian politics.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Fiscal Deficit!!!

Wiser counsels prevailed and Manmohan did not waste the talents of P Chidambaram by retaining the Finance portfolio.

In his first press conference, PC has said that fiscal deficit is an area of concern. That is heartening to hear, but it will be interesting to see how he manages to cut the fiscal deficit by slowing down disinvestment. The left parties want "assistance" to be given to ailing PSUs. As if 55 years of assistance is not enough.

He has also talked about public investment. Balancing public investment, not disinvesting profit-making PSUs, with reducing fiscal deficit is going to be very tough.

Either PC will manage the left somehow and continue with aggressive reforms, especially on the disinvestment front. Or he will end FY05 with a a deficit of over 5%. I do not see a middle path.

p.s- A few days back Jairam Ramesh was a shoe-in for the post of Planning Commission Dy. Chairman, which I considered a good news, having read an appreciated his views in the media over the past few years. Now I hear someone else might get the job because of pressure from the left. Arrrrrrgggggh Left!

p.p.s- Good news! Arjun Singh, the new HRD Minister is in favour of giving IIMs more autonomy. :) Yay!!

Friday, May 21, 2004


Consider some of these excerpts from some news sites -

Google's controversial Gmail e-mail service, under invitation-only testing on the Internet, is the toughest ticket in town.

Netizens are offering trades of everything from tours of Barcelona and Tokyo to home-cooked spaghetti sauce in exchange for a very rare Gmail account invitation. Those lucky enough to already have an account are auctioning invitations for $100 to $150 on eBay.

Dallas Pool is offering a two-hour Segway rental from his shop in La Jolla, Calif., in exchange for an invitation.

So I could have sold the two Gmail invites for $300, i.e almost 15,000 rupees!!!

But it is proof of my nobility that I gave the invites away to my sister and my girlfriend! *halo appears around my head*

Thursday, May 20, 2004

From Rann to the Small B has fallen

His career started in the Rann(of Kutch) in Refugee. Now considering his latest movie Run, he has become more of a Refusee.

On my first day in Bangalore, me and my host and hostess decided to watch a movie. For some reason we chose Run, knowing fully well that it would be hideous.

My review of the film is a bit different. yes, the movie was bad, but it was bad in a very different way. It is slightly difficult to explain this, but let me try.

Firstly, the movie is directed namede Jeeva. Jeeva? Jeeva!!! Jeeva!!!

The story of the movie is pretty run-of-the-mill (heehee) - Boy from small town(Allahabad actually) comes to big town, falls in love at first sight, girl has an overprotective brother from the underworld, etc etc.

However, for a change, the big-bad-city is Delhi, instead of the usual Mumbai. So instead of a visual of Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, we see a visual of the Delhi Rly Stn.

The girl's evil brother is a Jatt(played by the very Bambaiyya Mahesh manjrekar) and speaks in Haryanvi accent instead of the Bambaiyya accent. So "apun ki bhen" becomes "Mhaari bheN".

The guy and girl don't bump into each other in a local, but on board a DTC Bus.

Then there are also some funny moments, intentionally or intentionally, due to the "different" handling of some cliches.

Hero has a sister. Now I was expecting that this sister with the Jeeja(a very different shy role for Mukesh Rishi) would either be de-izzatified or killed by the goon. Sure enough, the evil bro with a dozen of his goons barge into the house, and start manhandling the jeeja. At this point, evil bro's mobile rings. At the other end is his school going kid who says "papa, yahan par koi hai". It is our man Abhishek with a knife at the throats of evil bro's wife and kid. He takes the phone and says "Agar meri family hai, to teri bhi to family hai" or something to that effect". Evil bro and his goons exit the house rapidly.

I thought this was funny. For a change the hero was playing mind games.

Then one day he barged into evil bro's house and says "kal subah 9 baje teri behen ko utha ke le jaunga aur shaadi karoonga". Tense evil bro and henchmen are waiting at their place at the given time the next day, ready to kick dude's ass when hero calls to say "Abey, agar shaadi 9 baje karni hai to main 9 bajey kyun uthaunga usko? Usko to main kal raat hi bhaga le gaya. Abhi hum shaadi kar rahe hain. aana hai to aa ja."

Evil bro and henchmen jump into a car and note....hero never said where they are getting married, and yet these dudes are speeding away somewhere.

As soon as they leave, hero walks into the house, cos he hasnt abducted the girl at all. She is still there!

All in all, the movie was hilarious. The evil bro's goons are the puniest henchmen ever seen in Bollywood history, most notable one being a Sardar who barely touches 5 feet. No wonder Abhishek keeps bashing them up all the time. And even after getting repeatedly bashed up, the evil bro sends the same henchmen to do his work.

Another weird thing is the title of the movie. No one runs long enough in the movie to warrant the name. Its not like Daud where they actually are on the run. here the whole story takes place in Sheila Dixit's jurisdiction. yet the movie is named "Run".

As if the movie was not funny enough, you have the talented Vijar Raaz who gets fleeced by one and all in Delhi.

All in all, worth a dekko......but not in a cinema hall.

Definite nomination for Ramanand's "JaDe Project".


He woke up and his eardrums were almost torn apart by the silence. Complete silence! How did this happen, he wondered. He touched his bed.....yes, it felt solid. So it was still the real world he was a part of. Could this still be a dream?

"Ouch" he muttered to himself, wincing from the pain caused by his own fingers pinching his arm. Still the same, still the deafening silence. Certainly not a dream. He pushed the door.....It Opened!!!....and walked out. The corridors deserted, and quiet. By now he wads getting used to the silence, even enjoying it. His fingers no longer seemed to itch for a mobile phone or a keypad. His feet were no longer trying to remember the accelerator-brake-clutch sequence. His feet were just walking.

He walked out of the building, and was amazed at how beautiful the streets looked when deserted. The wide pavements, uncluttered by office-goers and vegetable vendors, seemed majestic. The air smelt different, it smelt cleaner. By now he was positively relishing the silence and the emptiness that had suddenly descended on the world.

He admired the view for a while, and decided to walk down the road. As he took the first step on to the street,


A din ensued as people gathered around the body. The driver, sweating even in this cold weather got down, hoping against hope that the worst had not occurred. However, it had.

Two men ran out of the building towards the crowd. They dived in to see their worst fears confirmed. Their father's mangled torso still held unharmed a face with a serene smile on it.

The momentary surprise at seeing this unfamiliar expression on their father's face was rapidly replaced by grief......which was, as usual, accompanied by an overwhelming urge to blame someone.

The statement "I was telling you we should take him to the mental hospital. I was telling you" was said at the very same time as "Had you not kept the door open, this would have never happened".

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Ever since I got the ThinkPad laptop, I find myself taking down a lot of notes during lectures or seminars. Of course I don't actually "write" the notes down, but use the Notepad application for that. When a friend noticed this sudden spurt in my notes-taking activity and quizzed me about it, all I could say was, "Well, I can at least read what I type"

p.s- does the above para seem too readers-digest-ish?

IIMs Safer Than Ever!!

The IIMs have been around for decades now, but it is only in the past 10 years or so that they have gotten attention comparable to the IITs. Do you know when this rise from mediocrity started?

In the early 90s, when the government told the IIMs to raise funds for themselves, and gave them autonomy. A fellow in the government suggested that the IIMs build up corpuses of their own through means they deem fit, instead of relying on government funds.

This fellow had also helped save the Delhi School of Economics from closure using similar ideas.

This fellow was then the Finance Minster, and on Saturday, will be sworn in as our Prime Minister.

The autonomy of the IIMs has never been more secure. :)

A Tailender's Sixer and the Ensuing Silence

One of the most remarkable televeision cricketing moments for me was in 1997 when Rajesh Chauhan hit a towering six off Saqlain during the last few balls of the one dayer at Karachi. The six itself is not what made it remarkable, but the crowd reaction. The Karach crowd which was crying itself hoarse with joy at the prospect was stunned into silence as they realised that the match was lost. You could hear a pin drop.

The reaction of the BJP to the events in the last couple of days has been somewhat similar. The woman they have been calling a political novice has just pulled a fast one on them. I am sure that the BJP leaders would gladly trade this feeling for a kick in the solar plexus, were that possible.

I have always said that to me by and large the two parties are similar. They just find some non-issues to attack each other with, lest the voters get confused as to who is who. So the Congress sometimes rakes up the issue of secularism, which is so hypocritical that it is funny. And the BJP, over the past few years has heavily relied on the Foreign Origin issue.

Gone are the days when corruption, or economic ideas, or "gareebi hatao" were differentiating factors.

In such a situation, what Sonia has done is stripped the BJP and indeed the NDA of its sole rallying point. I am sure what hurts them even more is that a tail ender has hit the sixer. And that is why they have all been stunned into silence.

For the past few days, instead of learning from the TDP (which said "we made foreign origin an issue and went to the people. people didnt vote for us. so it is not an issue for us. we accept the people's verdict") and sitting tight for something wrong to happen, they played into Sonia's hands. Every BJP leader and his momma appeared on the cameras with headline-grabbing statements. One lady wanted to resign from the Lok Sacha and tonsure her head. Another lady, a Chief Minister for whom tonsuring her head is routine, submitted her resignation to the party president(!!!)....and not the state's Governor. Other fellas talked of "nationwide agitations".

What this did was hype up the issue even more than necessary. And then, when the hype reached its peak, with all Indians on the internet and on the street debating on whether it was good that we had a supposedly incompetent Italian born PM, Sonia swung her bat, connected, and lofted the ball for a towering six. She declined the post.

While it is a brilliant strategic move, the refusal by itself, in my mind, does not make her worthy of any commendation. Her choice of the PM's candidate however does.

I have in the past praised Sonia's ability to pick the right people, an ability which has been responsible for winning the party many states. Sheila Dixit is obviously one example. And now she has gone and chosen Manmohan Singh. This is a brilliant choice for two reasons - internal and external.

Internally, the Congress' biggest flaw has been factionalism. This flaw has seen them return, time and again to the Dynasty. So Sonia has brought in Manmohan, who has never been in any faction. So while he may not have Congressmen who will dance the bhangra for his success, neither does he have(at least now) any surly Congressmen with a past grievance against him.

Externally, the PM-elect is one of the cleanest, most admired and most intelligent politicians in the country. He has a huge "Re-employment Coefiicient"......

...a detour to explain this jargon....

I was just wondering that if India's Prime Minister had decided to quit politics after leaving office, what could they be re-employed as? Rajiv could have become a pilot, or an executive in an airline. Atalji could have been a.....poet, author or something. Deve Gowda could have become a farmer. Gujral could have become a diplomat. V P Singh could have been the guinea pig for all experiments in a laboratory for mental research.....

You get my point?

Manmohan Singh has the most impressive resume, in the field of economics. And at a phase when the Indian economy is aspiring to take off, who better than an Economist in the top post?

The opposition will find it very hard to attack Manmohan Singh personally. He was not born in Italy, has not received kickbacks, has not stoked communalism, has not collaborated with the Brits, has not fallen asleep in the parliament......and he does not have men in white clothes waiting to escort him to a padded cell.

So fertile was the foreign origin issue for the BJP that it did not bother to find any other point to attack the Congress with.

And until such time as it does not find an issue on the national level to attack the Congress or its PM with, the BJP will be as effective as a defanged cobra with a raised hood.

That for me is something that Sonia deserved credit for, rather than her "noble renunciation" and all that jazz.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

I am sure the BJP is reacting with horror to reports (yet unconfirmed) of Sonia gandhi refusing to be the Prime Minister.

An Italian-born PM gives them so much more political ammo than an Indian-born one. Just like a makeshift Ram temple gives them so much more ammo than a magnificent one.

Monday, May 17, 2004


Today was my first day at IBM and I absolutely love the company. The people are helpful, the work seems interesting(not that i have started on it yet, still on training) and the best of all, the facilities are amazing!!!

I am making this post from my spanking new IBM ThinkPad, which was issued to us today. Incidentally, the laptop is not included in the CTC!!! The laptop has been plugged into one of the numerous LAN ports.

I love this company!!! Hope my sentiments remain the same a few months and years down the line.

Friday, May 14, 2004


The Sensex crashed yesterday. And though just one day is not enough to make a judgement, my guess is that for the next couple of months, the markets will be in the 4500-5500 range. That will be the trend line for the first few months of the government until the budget is released.

The main reason for this is that the surge in stock prices over the past year has been driven in part by the prices of the Oil PSUs.

Let me just take ONGC as an example. In 2002, the highest price for the ONGC stocks was 406. It ended 2002 at 133. In 2003, the highest price was a whopping 812 and it ended the year at 348. yesterday itopened at 820 odd and ended at 720 odd.

Okay.....maybe ONGC is the wrong example because of the public issue. Let us take....HPCL.

2002 - High - 338 Closed - 133
2002 - High - 452 Closed - 269

In 2004, the high has been 542, and yesterday HPCL closed at 331, down from 378.

Now the thing is,the surge in these stocks has been mainly because the NDA government was keen on privatising these companies. However with the Congress and Left clear on the point that they will not divest "profit-making PSUs", you are going to find lesser and lesser takers for these stocks.

Add to it the fact that global oil prices have reached a 14 year high, and the oil companies have not been allowed to hike prices in India, it meansthat they will be taking losses. The first step of a new pro-poor-looking government will not be hiking oil prices. So this will continue and the OIL PSUs will keep becoming unviable.

Hence do not be surprised at further fall in their prices. Just than heavens for the IT stocks that will keep the market in a respectable position.

Many people have said "why sell profit-making PSUs?"

On the face of it, the question seems good. but please remember that it is not just about profits, but about profitability, efficiency and productivity. India needs more productive and efficient IOCL, HPCL, BPCL and ONGC. Privatisation is how they will achieve more productivity and efficiency.

The current maze of babudom, combined with the spectre of APM that still exists, means that those companies will never reach their true potential.

Disinvestment of all PSUs is necessary, and whether they make profit or not is irrelevant. The relevant factor is productivity and efficiency.


If yesterday was any indication, the LEFT is getting loonier by the day. Why did the first they say have to be "We will dissolve the Disinvestment Ministry"?

Now we know why the Indian Left is languishing behind the Chinese left on economic as well as governance issues.

My optimism index, like the Bombay Sensex has plummetted. The Congress needs to put its foot down and keep the Left miles away from economic policy. Let the voices of Manmohan Singh, Jairam Ramesh, Chidambaram and Co prevail.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

This is interesting - Was Murali's defeat handiwork of some IIM allumni? .

Even if the defeat was not caused entirely by it, the fact that those fellows took these efforts is a heartening example of people getting off their butts and trying to get what they want using democratic means.


When Vajpayee called for early polls, I remember saying to Sunil, "The BJP's laders remind me of the Australians in December 2003. They assume that they have to just turn up for the contest and they will win. It is not that easy you know. Sonia Gandhi may just pull a Ganguly with the right candidates and the right alliances." This statement was made more because of the BJP's arrogance than a real expectation that the Congress would or could win.

But yesterday, 13 proved unlucky for the BJP again, as on the 6 year anniversary of the Pokhran 2 Blasts Phase 2, the NDA was blasted out of power as everyone watched shell-shocked.

Even the worst case scenario in the exit polls for the NDA gave it 230 seats, enough to make a "late charge" in horse trading. Arrogant BJP men kept saying "200 for BJP, 300 for NDA". In the end, the NDA fell short of 200 by a good amount. Not only that, the Congress has emerged as the single largest party. This is as surprising as India dominating the series down under.

The parallels with the Australia series don't end just there. The usually bankable Damien Martyn and Adam Gilchrist let down the Aussies when they were needed to deliver the most. For the NDA, it was Jaylalitha and Naidu who were dismised cheaply. Tamilnadu continued their "Binary Voting" methods. A complete wipe-out for one side, as has often been the case.

Many in the media are saying "this is bharat's win over india" or "the poor man ddint feel india was shining". I don't really agree with it. If it was Rural Bharat vs Urban India, then why have both voted in the same way? Delhi was a cleen sweep for the BJP in 1999. This time Congress has won it 6-1. Mumbai has traditionally been a BJP-SS bastion. However, Congres has won it 5-1 with people like Govinda, Milind Deora and Eknath Gaekwad defeating shoe-ins like Ram Naik, Jaywantiben Mehta and Manohar Joshi. Even "shining" Pune voted in the Congress with a big margin. In other cities like Hyderabad, Chennai, Calcutta etc too, the NDA lost.

So the reason is not that simplistic. I think in India, the Lok sabha elections are a combination of regional elections, in the absence of a National Unifying factor. The unifying factors have been various like the anti-Indira wave in 77, the sympathy wave in 1984 and the "poor Atal mean jaya" factor in the 1999 elections.

This time the Atal Brand just did not prove to be strong enough. Anotherparallel with the Aussie series - In 1999 when the Australians wiped out India 3-0, the Indian team was very weak. Inexperienced players, infighting, and lack of unity. In 1999, tings were similar in the Congress. They ruled barely 5-6 states then, and there was a great deal of confusion within the ranks. In 2004, they rule 16 states, and the leadership has gained a great deal of experience. Sonia Gandhi, Ambika Soni, Pranab Mukherjee, Kamal Nath, Kapil Sibal, et al are wiser and smarter. They got rid of one thing that hurt them in 1999 - "Ego". The alliances with NCP, RJD, Left, DMK and the reconciliation with the SP are good examples of this.

I think it is time the upper middle class of the country get over the "foreign origin" and the "political inexperience" of Sonia Gandhi and look at some positives. Her support of Sheila Dikshit and Ashok Gehlot shows she has a good eye for leaders. Her willingness to let the PDP rule in spite of the Congress getting the largest number of seats shows maturity as well. She has taken the Congress from extinction to power. Atleast in terms of handling of the Congress, she has been a Ganguly.

However like the Indian team, despite a couple of series wins is not best in the world, the Congress is still a fair distance away from being the top party in India. A lot of work needs to be done, especially in the big states. In UP, the Congress needs to create a presence. They need to learn the caste game because apparently that is all that works in UP. They need to convince NCP to do a "TMC" and merge with the Congress again. And they should break up the NDA and pull towards themselves some allies who are not outright anti-Congress. Dependence on the support of the Left is an uneasy feeling, and the sooner the Congress rids itself of this, the better.

My biggest worry about the NDA coming back to power was another term for MM Joshi as HRD Minsiter. Not only did the NDA lose power, but MMJ lost the Allahabad seat as well. talk about icing on the cake. :)

Murli Manohar Joshi's plans about education in the country were a reason big enough for anyone to not support Atal. The Free and Compulsory Primary Education Bill 2003 literally fills me with dread. His plans to regulate fees and admissions even in private colleges was another ominous design. In general, the evil wrought by MMJ would have more than negated the good work by Shourie and co.

I am sure people will now be dreading a slowing down of reforms. But I am not concerned about it. No political party went for reforms proactively. even the BJP didnt come to power as a pro-reform party. remember how the economy reacted to Sinha's first ever budget? But gradually they learnt. because liberalisation is an irreversible process. With people like Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh in the Congress' Economic think tank, I haveno doubt that they will carry on where the NDA left off. After all, one of the most liberal Finance Ministries was during the left-supported UF government. Even the SP is samajwadi only in name. In fact the SP's closeness to Reliance may force faster oil reforms.

I know people won't agree with me, because of what Congress has said during the campaign, so we will let only time be the judge of this.

We privileged elite of the country better accept the fact that Atal Behari is history, and bid him a find goodbye. And rather than harp on and on and on about "i am ashamed to live in a country led by that italian woman", accept the reality, and move on. Not just that, considering the personality-centric nature of India's politics, Congress is also the future, with the 2 charismatic Gandhi siblings entering politics. The BJP, minus Atal will find it very tough to not just regain power, there willalso be an internal churning regarding ideology. Do they remain pro-reform or woo the poor? Do they go back to hardline Hindutva and rake up the Mandirs(incidentally BJP lost Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura :)) ? I would not be surprised if there is a repeat of Gujarat 2002, especially since the voters of Gujarat gave many seats to the Congress. I just hope they keep in mind the assembly wins in MP and Rajasthan without resorting to Hindutva.

Oh by the way, I had written a few days back about how I was impressed with Govinda's diginified campaign. Well, so were the voters. His margin over Ram Naik was huge....48,000 votes!!! Another victim of over-confidence methinks. While Govinda covered miles and miles in the huge constituency meeting people, Ram Naik sat back and assumed he could not lose a seat he has been winning since 1978. Well, he was wrong.

Monday, May 10, 2004


The exit polls are throwing up prospects of a nail-biting finish in the Lok Sabha elections. Taking into account various exit polls, the NDA will get anywhere between 230-270 seats. The Congress -Left combine looks like it will get between 220-260 seats.

In such a close race, the winner is often decided by the exact numbers. However this time, even more than ever, it looks as if the Prime Ministership will be decided in Lucknow. No, I am not talking about the candidature of Vajpayee. I am talking about the envious position the SP and BSP are in. Now whichever exit poll you take, the NDA looks like it will get at least 10-15 seats more than the Congress-Left combine. The SP looks like it will get about 10-15 seats more than the BSP.

First let us examine the possibility of BSP supporting the NDA. This can happen if a quid-pro-quo is struck so thatthe BJP promises BJP support in the UP Assembly. For all the noises Mayawati makes against the BJP, another alliance won't shock anyone. In such a case, if SP joins the Congress and the BSP joins the NDA, then the result will literally be too close to call, with even individual seats having a lot ofimportance. In such a scenario, seats like Chhapra will assume even greater significance, especially if Sharad Yadav wins in Madhepura again.

The best bet for the Congress would be to get both the SP and BSP on board. This would be Herculean task however and they will really need a true Machiavelli to achieve this. Only Sharad Pawar seems to have the guile and the standing to make that happen. However as of now, Mayawati, in its true style is lambasting all in sight, giving no one any clue about what she wll do. Don't forget how she caused the ouster of the Vajpayee government in 1999.

Right now the NDA and the Congress+ are neck to neck. Only May 13 will tell us what happens.

I wonder what the Congress' position is on the IIM issue. The babus in the Ministry are heavily in favour of the fee cut, and a la "Yes Minister", for all we know it may be the babus cracking the real whip.

In Andhra Pradesh, the TDP is headed towards a massive rout. Babu is on his way out, and I guess that means curtains for a Hyderabad F1 Grand Prix. :) Go Mumbai!! But on a more serious note, it will be interesting to see what the Congress government in AP does about the Telangana issue. There are two aspects to it. One is that the Congress looks set to win a majority on its own. So it can ditch the TRS and sit on the Telangana issue. Another aspect is that the Congress and allies in AP look set to get a 2/3rd majority, which means they have the power to create a separate state even without the TDP's support. Which way will the Congress go? Which strategy hold more logn term beenfit? The Congress will have to make political NPV calculations. If it gives Telangana statehood, then Vidarbha willbecome an issue during the Maharashtra Assembly polls later in the year.

Coming back to the Lok Sabha, the BJP appears to have made a colossal blunder by throwing in its lot with the AIADMK instead of the DMK, if the exit polls are to be believed.

In general it looks like though the Hindi belt may remain loyal to the NDA, it is the sub-Vindhya region that voted it out, with the exception of Karnataka.

Anyway, let's see what happens on the 13th May. This time, apparently the results will be knownby the early afternoons!!

But I guess there will be a few panicky BJP men right now, like a team chasing a 270plus total in an ODI, and having lost crucial wickets. Jaylalitha and Naidu have been dismissed cheaply. Let us see if there can be a lower order fightback.


....or should I say more boring than 2002? It does not look like anyone else can even come close to beating the Ferrari of Michael Schumacher this year. A few weeks back i wrote about "withdrawing support" to Schumi, but heck, i gotta return to the Tifosi fold, because no one else is good enough. This recent hype surrounding Jenson Button does not impress me much. Okay, the guy is talented, but so what? He is not in the league of Kimi Raikonnen, who in my view is the only guy with championship material. He came tantalisingly close last year, and i am sure he will be a multiple world champ by the time he retires.

Too bad he is in a crappy team, which is reaching lower and lower standards of crappiness this year.

But even Kimi last year got that close because of mistaks by Ferrari and Schumacher. The year that the Scarlet Combo does not make mistakes, it is bound to blow away the opposition. And Bernie Ecclestone can change all the rules he wants. Until Michael hangs his helmet, it is going to have many more feathers tucked in it.

The season so far has been one of almost flawless driving by Schumi. Except for the qualifier at Imola, the guy has raced better than God himself. In this form, and considering Raikonnen has a horrible car, I won't be surprised if Schumi climbs giddy heights of greatness this year.

Will people please stop carping about that colombian sluglord? Montoya has been around for ages now, and he still has shown no department where he can match Schumi except shooting off his mouth. What the hell does Williams see in him? I was sceptical about him the very first year they brought him in, shunting out a very promising Button. And he just has not delivered. He seems to have this inferiority complex related to Schumi, and he can't get over it, as we saw at Imola.

Montoya needs to watch Jerry Maguire, and pay special attention to this portion when Tom Cruise says to Cuba Gooding Jr -

When you get on the field, it's all about what you didn't get, who's to blame, who underthrew the pass, who's go the contracts you don't, who's not giving you love. That is not what inspires people. That is not what inspires people! Shut up, play the game... play it from the heart. And I will show you Quan!

Sunday, May 09, 2004


A few days back some people expressed surprise that I call myself a quasi-libertarian. This post explains the reasons.

I have been a part of the libertarian school of thought for as long as I can remember, without actually knowing the term "Libertarian". I remember during a history class in school I had argued with my teacher saying that the ideas of Marx and Engels don't make any sense. During a civics class I asked the teacher why there has to be so much civic machinery to complicate matters (as well as dull education :P). During Economics class, when the teacher read out "India is a rich country with poor people", I asked her if it isn't so because we make it so problematic for someone to even open a shop (an acquaintance of mine had been through the immense red tape to start a small bakery).

Later in school, when I read Ayn Rand's books, they struck a chord within me at one. During discussions with my friends I always supported the globalisation choice, when the WTO issue was a hot one. The idea of the government getting out of businesses like baking bread, made so much sense. Simultaneously stuff written by the Leftists in India disgusted me more because of their fallacious logic than their fallacious philosophy.

So as I joined IIM Lucknow, I was a firm believer in Capitalism, personal freedom and reduction in the role of the government. That was when I read a notice about the "Liberty and Society Seminar". I signed up for it and enjoyed the three day process. However I was not completely satisfied with the logical soundness or the articulation of these speakers either.

The first bone of contention came up minutes into the first speech. The speaker said something to the effect that "The greatest ruler of India in my eyes has been Sher Shah Suri. Why? because he built the Grand Trunk Road. It gave an impetus to the economy then, as towns and cities along the GT Road flourished. Even now you see some of the most productive cities in Northern India are those along the GT Road". Fair enough. Even I had always viewed the GT Road as one of the best things done in Indian history. But what the speaker said next was baffling "And now look at what this idiot, the Prime Minister of our country is planning. This dude has dreams of building highways across the countries. The Golden Quadrilateral, and the NSEW Corridor. This is such a stupid move and I am sure it is the poet in him which came up with this idea. Why is he spending our money on this?"

Had the speaker spoken about corruption or flaws in the proper completion of the project, one would have understood. Heck, the Dubey case would have vindicated him a year down the line. But he was attacking the very idea, while praising GT Road. I even confirmed this with him later during lunch. This sounded to me faintly similar to the "Green Cheese Syndrome" I had noticed among the leftists.

The Green Cheese Syndrome that aflicts the leftists is their tendency to criticise ANYTHING the government does. It can be ANYTHING, even remotely beneficial, and the leftists will lambast the government. So if the government says "Moon is made up of rocks and mud", the leftists will say "the moon is made of green cheese". The priority is not tobe right or true, the priority is to be anti-government.

Of all the uses that the government is putting our tax money to, the development of infrastructure is the most ideal one. And the government has gotten private companies involved in it. The project is as "libertarian" as is practically possible in India today, in the infrastructure sector. And yet instead of telling listeners that the government should take more such projects than subsidising kerosene, the speakers starts of by attacking the best tstep of the government?

There were several such bones of contention. The tendency was to attack the government and socialism, which I am fine with. But often the attack was not supported by logical reasoning.

Another thing that jarred a bit was the narrow-minded-ness of the speakers. I am not saying they should be open-minded towards leftists ideas. But even libertarian ideas which were different from their own were dismissed, that too very rudely. Here's an eample.

There was a group project given to us in which we had to give ideas about how to make a city better. Our team was supposed to give ideas related to sanitation. We suggested that since government employed servants are not doing a job good enough, it should be given to private parties. The city should express its desire to privatise sanitation so that it would encourage companies being formed in the sanitation sector. These companies could be goven the job of cleaning up a particular ward of the city, and in exchange, they can sell the public advertising space in the ward, like bus stops, street dividers etc. About how to decide which company gets responsibility for a ward, we suggested that there be elections every 5 years in which people vote for companies. So in a particular ward, companies would come and make promises like "We will keep your ward clean without erectign ugly billboards" or "We will make sure that footpaths are clean" etc. If the company doesn't live up to its promises, it would be voted out in the next elections.

The speaker however trashed (pun unintended) our idea. The only rounds for doing so was "Companies fighting elections? What a preposterous idea. It has never been done before".

When a Libertarian rubbishes an idea solely on the grounds that "It has never been done before", you find a Libertarian who is indirectly rubbishing his own philosophy.

There were a few more such issues on which we disagreed with the speaker. The speakers' approach to resolving disagreements was a very weird one. There were either ad hominem attacks or a tendency to repeat stuff without even acknowledging what was said. And this was with Libertarian-leaning people like me.

With such an attitude I don't see the LSS ever makin a real difference. It will remain an elitist phenomenon, and the few people it will win over will be again people with fallacious logic, perpetuating their mistakes. The LSS people had good ideas by and large, but like the Commies they were too caught up in their own rhetoric to give any importance to logic.

Fortunately later, on the LSS egroups I found other libertarians with a logical way of thinking and an awareness of on-the-ground realities. People with whom I could have conversations about social, political and economical issues without either side descending into rhetoric or ad-hominems. And I throw in my lot with the libertarians.

However if the speakers at the LSS in IIML were libertarians then I am a quasi-libertarian.


Yesterday I saw Shwaas, a wonderful marathi film. Staring Arun Nalawade, it is the story of an old man living in rural Konkan, who has brought his 6 year old grandson to Pune for treatment of his eyes. The grandson is diagnosed with retinal cancer, and the doctor says the only way to save his life is to remove his eyes. i.e, blind him for life....for the sake of life.

The director has done a splendid job of handling the sensitive subject without getting too melodramatic, as is the case with most marathi directors. The strong script, with moving dialogues gets the viewer completely hooked. Sarika was with me, and she could follow the movie thanks only to the english subtitles, and yet the movie affected her deeply.

This is for the first time in almost a decade that I had etars in my eyes during a movie.

If you live in a city where it is being shown, go watch it. I hope this movie is suitably rewarded at the National Awards.

A post script about the movie is the scenic beauty of Konkan which the adroit cinematography highlights. The Maharashtra Tourism Depatment will not find a better visual depiction of the region.


Here is a game that I am about to apply for a patent of. It is called "Punjection of Songs". The game was born on one lazy day in summer, when Channel V (jispe hai zayada hindi) was playing the song "Mere pyaar ka ras zara chakhna oye makhna".

The part of the song that led to the genesis of this game is when a large gaggle of voices suddenly expostulate the word "PUNJABI!!!!" . I have on a previous occasion made fun of this tendency of song writers. But converting it into a game took a while.

Here is how you play the game - Replace some word in a song with "punjab". The funnier it sounds the more points you get. Thus you need some judges to play the game.

Example -

"O raamji, bada dukh deena, tere PUNJAB ne bada dukh deena...."

You try some.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004



His eyes opened with a jerk, as he realised he was sweating buckets. A hand went to his forehead, touched it, and held itself in front of his eyes, as if to confirm. Yep, he was sweating. When had he fallen asleep, he wondered getting up from the chair. He stared at the table in front of him in the daze of someone who has just woken up.

This is a wooden table. And the wood is wet because of my sweat. Why rubber? He went through everything he had kept on his table. Pens, pencils, a stapler......but no rubber (as erasers are often referred to in India). And yet the thought swirled in his mind again and again


He often had vivid dreams, and sometimes remembered them too. He loved analysing his own dreams. And for a psychology student and dream-nut like him, remembering only part of a dream as irritating. Remembering just one line, even more so. He jogged his mind to remember if he had heard this line before, or maybe read about it in a book. Nope, nothing. As if out of habit, he went online and entered the words in Google, but drew a blank.

Forget rubber, he thought. My forehead is still wet. Damn, there is a power cut again, he thought observing the motionless ceiling fan. The clock informed him it was 5 in the afternoon. He had never experienced such a scorching summer in Pune before. Usually there would be some pre-monsoon showers towards the end of April that would cool the weather off. Now it was the first week of May and it still hadn't rained. The mercury was higher than it had ever been.


Hmmmmmm. What could it mean? What could it mean? Should he go to the library and check up on some Psychoanalysis books? Plus the library would be air-conditioned, he smiled to himself.

In a few minutes, he was on his bike, headed to the library. The smile on his face had gotten a bit broader, because he noticed that he was driving in overcast conditions. It would surely rain today, he thought with ecstasy. Maybe if he was lucky, he could get wet in the rain. Getting wet in the first rainshower of the year was always special.

Sure enough, a few minutes later, the heavens opened up. The clouds roared and it started raining with uncommon intensity. The parched earth welcomed the falling water with hisses of satisfaction. Even the tar roads resembled a frying pan which had just been sprayed with water.

He opened his mouth in glee and looked up, hoping to drink the rain water. A split second later, he realised that it had been a mistake, for he was about to crash into a bicycle. He had been travelling at about 70 kmph, and he braked hard, not realising that the road was no wet. His bike skidded sideways and hit the road divider. He was trapped with his left leg under the bike, as he noticed the tyres of the approaching truck.

Though everything happened in a matter of a couple of seconds, for him it was happening in slow motion. The approaching tyres, his futile last ditch attempt to sway his body away from them, realisation that wherever he swayed, he was still falling in the truck's path. A look at the truck's tyres from the distance of a few centimetres, and the following reflex action of turning his head away. As a feeling of deja vu swept over him, and tyres came as close as they could and the last thought he ever had was