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Showing posts from September, 2006

The Future Arrives Faster Than You Think

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A friend has commissioned a project on "Futuristic Business Opportunities" with some ISB students and that set me thinking about predictions for the future. It is a difficult terrain and the world's greatest experts have fared badly in it. In 1990, John Naisbitt wrote 'Megatrends' and Alvin Toffler wrote 'Powershift'. In both, India features as a peace-loving, backward, democratic country which buys a lot of arms and has satellites. Neither could predict the arrival of India on the world stage. Both thought Japan will set the fashion and cultural trends of the future. China's emergence is suspected but not the scale of its achievements and growth.

Let us just look back at 1995 in India .Even ten years back, nobody would have thought that India would be an emerging superpower in 2005 . We cannot today manage without a cellphone and e-mail which barely existed then .The aspirational products for the upper-middle class were microwave ovens,compact music…

What do We Eat Now?

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The list of foods that we can eat is shrinking faster than an aspiring model's waistline. Even as early as twenty years back, we were able to eat several dishes with pleasure and without worrying that we were murdering ourselves.But now the list of items with dubious value is longer.

The first item on the list is milk. This was supposed to be the panacea of all food deficiencies. Dara singh drank two jugs of it everyday and so did the Gods. It was holy and healthy, affordable and nutritious. It had Calcium to make our bones strong and Protein for our growth. But today its parentage is under severe question. We are told that no animal drinks milk of anybody other than of its mother and so cow or goat milk cannot be suitable for us. It has growth hormones more suited for calves than humans. We are also told that in large parts of the world like China and Africa, they do not drink milk at all and yet are flourishing. The propaganda juggernaut has become so powerful that Maneka Gandhi …

Lalu Prasad Turns Into Jack Welch

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I have been tracking Laloo (not Lalu as he calls himself now) for a long time. I got fascinated by this rustic man with tremendous wit and humour ten years back. I also knew he was the smartest operator in Indian politics - anybody who can install his wife, with a primary education , as the chief minister has to be really a smart cookie. He also gave a voice to the downtrodden.

But the lower castes in Bihar under his patronage started doing what the upper castes had indulged in-plunder, terror and exploitation. The state treasury was shamelessly looted by Laloo and his cronies. The state went back in time. But Laloo survived through his buffoonery and political savvy.

I had to follow his motorcade once on a drive from Gaya to Patna. Laloo had just lost the lok sabha elections and you expected him to be down. But he was irrepressible on the route. The route itself was lined with his supporters on both sides - thousands of emaciated, bare torsoed men and children cheered him as he went by…

In Agra

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Went to Agra on a holiday. The folks in Delhi smile indulgently when you tell them you went to Agra of all the places-it sounds quaint !

The beauty of Taj never fails to astonish me. Amongst the wonders of the world and the architectural masterpieces, it is the only one in the lists for its perfect beauty. The colosseum, the great wall of China or the pyramids are there for their size or other unique attributes. But the Taj exists possibly as the most beautiful monument in the world. It seems perfect in shape,symmetry,design and aesthetic appeal. It would have been even so much more wonderful when the marble would have been completely white and the inlay work was not damaged.

Contrast this with the city of Agra- filthy, chaotic and rough. The touts, the guides and the autowallahs treat fleecing the tourist as their divine right. I cannot even fathom how the poor foreigners would be getting taken for the ride of their lifetimes. The facilities outside the five stars are pathetic. The tow…

Indian Art in the Stratosphere

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In December 2002, my wife and I went to a gallery in Calcutta which claimed to be selling affordable art. I was always interested in Indian art and I had some knowledge about a few painters. The proprietor of the gallery recommended an ink on paper by Shyamal Dutta Ray. I had not even heard of him.But the owner seemed genuine and the painting was aesthetically good. We bought it for fifteen thousand rupees. The art market boom was in its incipient stages then. Neville Tuli was just beginning to get some media space and there was some talk about Indian artists generating excitement in western art markets. Then the interest in India began. The westerners interested in India began to buy Indian art. The non-resident Indians with wealth and some aesthetic interests reached a critical mass. The rich domestic Indians also saw art as a great status symbol. The market exploded. The prices today have reached absurd levels. I got mail today from a gallery about a self-portrait by Paritosh Sen for …

Timbuktu and Mali

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Today, Timbuktu means a place from nowhere. It seems to be beyond the end of the known world. It is actually a town in Mali in West Africa. Mali is a poorly governed, impoverished country today. Thomas Friedman in his book discovers that ,even in Mali individuals have started using open-source software and to him it is almost like the final acceptance of the concept of open-source software. Naseruddin Shah fantasises of sending his wife to Timbuktu on his 25th marriage anniversary in Omkara.

But it was not like this six hundred years ago. Mali was then a country of fabled wealth. It was said that gold grew on trees in Mali. It was for about twenty years ruled by Mansa Musa (part of the Mansa family) when it reached the zenith of its glory. Mansa Musa undertook the Haj and went through Egypt. He distributed immense amount of riches wherever he went. Apparently, he gave away so much gold in Egypt that it caused inflation and the price of gold crashed by twenty five per cent.

The world-tra…

Utter Rubbish

There was a time when I used to think that everything printed in the newspapers and magazines is the absolute truth. Growing up in remote places of Orissa,a copy of The Statesman or the Sunday magazine were items worth looking up to. Later, I joined a B-School which itself was written about in the press and for the first time I realised everything written is not true. But I gave the benefit of doubt to the media.

Working in the corporate sector also did not open my eyes to the bullshit perpetrated as news for a long time. But I was not sure about why they wrote what they wrote. Then I discovered the P.R.agencies. And I realised ,that may be fifty per cent of what is written in respectable newspapers could be trash handed over by the agencies. In fact,any article talking about the plans and expectations of a company or an industrialist or a politician is usually only that-plans of smart operators who know how to use the media.

I know of an industrialist, a rogue would be the better word,…

The CEO-The Other Side

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The aspiration of anybody who passes though a B-School is to be a CEO. He is the great figure of our times. He is intelligent,powerful,smart and experiences life in ways that other people cannot. It does not hurt that he makes loads of money. The media has stories about these celebrities and their lifestyles which encompass but are not limited to , buying art, diving in Australia and spending the summers in Finland besides driving the latest cars. There is a massive industry of consultants and reporters which thrives on understanding this great animal. So a couple of years ago, four of us sat down to unravel the mystery of these creatures. Was it genes or parenting or the management school that made them successful? Or was it exceptional communication skills or interpersonal ability or strategic thinking? Or was it all of them? Arun Sarin of Vodaphone has probably given the best answer , I have come across, to explain the phenomenon. He says to be a CEO you need to be two sigma on the s…

History Through News Reports

Nothing brings the magic and flavour of history back like news reports of the time when the event happened. No historian today can reflect the mood and temper of the moment better than the news hacks who were present at the place of the event.

Read the Oct 1931 article on Gandhi in Time magazine when he visited the House of Commons. He is described as a small ,nut-brown man, bare-legged and bare-footed as usual. A special meeting of the house is convened to meet him.There Gandhi meets the world's most talented hecklers, the members of the House of Commons.

Rajmohan Gandhi said recently that Mahatma was not a bore as he has been portrayed by Indian historians and media. He was witty and interesting.The first member of the House sarcastically asks him about the meaning of the term Mahatma. Gandhi replies with a deadpan face that it means an insignificant person!

He then travels to Lancashire where the mill workers have been hit hard by the boycott of British textiles by the Indians. He…

Speed of Snails and Origin of Tennis

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It is really a fascinating experience to see your children grow. It is even more interesting when you discover through them that you are an ignoramus about the world. It is more galling to understand that when I thought I was the well-read types. Rian is two months short of his sixth birthday and his mission in life seems to be 'Exposing Papa'.

Today, he saw a snail in the park while playing and the question to me was,"Papa,how many years will the snail take to go around the earth?" I said,"I don't know beta but we will find out on the net."

The snail has a fastest speed of 0.03 mph and the circumference of the earth is 24900 miles. So the snail, going at its fastest speed, will take 95 years to circle the earth. Not bad for a snail!

We came back home and he saw a bit of U.S.Open. So the missile thrown at me was,"Which country did Tennis start in?". Flummoxed again, I ran to my reference book. It started as Jeu De Paume in the middle ages in Fran…

Resuscitating the Blog

After a long time saw the blog again and got a shock to see that the last post was in April-four and a half months back. And then,I did a google search for Green Monsoon blog which threw up the name of Indiblogger on the first page. They have an interesting cut-off period for defining dead blogs. Any blog which is without a post for four months gets listed under R.I.P. So, it seems, to the world at large this blog is well and truly dead !

But it probably comes like its namesake -the monsoons. It will appear at regular intervals.

But now I intend to make blogging a regular practice and see where it takes me.