Showing posts from 2009

Regional Poetry in India - Sparkling

The regional poetry In India is sparkling with talent and some of the sharpest voices are from women.They are breaking barriers. They speak with irony,insight and courage. Here are samples from two of them – both young and original.

When I pull him close
And fondly nuzzle his hair,
He flinches from the touch Of my breasts and moves away
Forgetting that they had once
Processed my blood to feed his hunger
When I reach with my hand
To run my fingers through his hair —Tendrils upright like reeds on a riverbank —He pushes it away, and moves on.

Sunanda Das/Orissa/Oriya
How is it possible ?
Everything smells of your body.
Detergents have no use.
However so much as I scrub,
The odour remains.
What do I do?
How do I escape ?
I am not able to lift
My little finger.
I can do nothing
Except lie down with eyes closed
And long for that fragrance.

Organised Retail Is Getting Back

Organised retail is getting its bearings back. The astronomical rentals are down. The frenetic increases in wages are a thing of the past. The supply chain and its evils/blessings are the focus of many retailers.

Many new entrants are close to store breakeven. The mall operators are more careful in planning and design. Most important of all, the customers have slowly and imperceptibly started realizing the value of modern retail – clean dealings, convenience and a good environment to shop. The problems of the store staff apathy remain but like in evolution, the customers have begun adapting to this.

Arvind Singhal published an interesting article two weeks back in Business Standard. The malls in Saket in South Delhi have taken away customers from South Ex and GK1-just last year amongst the priciest markets in the world. The productivity in these south Delhi traditional markets is down by close to fifty per cent. It was virtually impossible to imagine this and no retailer in his senses w…

Billions of Stars and Us

There are an estimated 140 billions of galaxies, many of them bigger than the Milky way. Each galaxy has probably hundred to four hundred billion stars. The Earth happens to be one planet in one ordinary star. The earth has millions of creatures. And the universe has been in existence for about 13.7 billion years.

Yet we think we are important. We think we have been specially created by an omniscient and omnipotent God who has sent us to this world with a special sense of purpose. He also keeps an eye on all our actions and thoughts and more interestingly he has a special interest in our kitchens and what we eat on specific days. He cares if we violate the customs defined in some old text. He cares if do not bathe and enter his abode: the temple. He loves fruits and sweets and is indifferent to vegetables.

Organised religion is curious to say the least.


Like most other races, Indians have plenty of biases. We have biases against people from other religions – it is very rare to meet a Hindu who is completely open and does not see Muslims with some bit of suspicion. Many of us treat people from North East as strangers. The white-skinned have always tended to see the dark complexioned as inferior. In many parts of the country, there are caste discriminations. There are stereotypes about communities, gender and age.

That is why it is so silly to see cases filed against Emran Hashmi for saying that he has been refused houses because he is a Muslim. It is completely hypocritical to profess otherwise. He has just stated the truth he has experienced. Many of us know that such instances are common.

We need to confront the ugly realities of our society and eliminate them rather than hide behind legal and political obfuscation.

Leadership Lessons From Obama

The ascent of Barrack Obama has entranced millions across the world. We find people in urban India bewitched by the rise of a black man in another country. This is true of many individuals around the world. From Kenya, through Berlin and Russia to Malaysia, we are all awash with hope and a sense of optimism through this splendid leader.

Reams have been written about him, his mixed lineage, his transcendence of race and his stupendously efficient organization of the election machinery. There have also been endless discussions about the fundamental transformation of the American society which has enabled his rise.

But the Obama phenomenon powerfully demonstrates the classic principles of leadership. These are the basics, many have chosen to forget or ignore, in the daily battle for survival and growth and some out of short-sightedness. True leadership stands on the pillars of self-awareness, managing paradoxes, authenticity, vision, and ability to fight against odds in pursuit of a dream.…

Forecasts for 2009 Elections

In less than an hour, the results of the 2009 elections will start flowing in. This is turning out to be one of the most exciting elections ever with no holds barred campaigns, shifting of course by many parties and the undercurrents of socio-economic change driving preferences.
The opinion poll forecasts went horribly wrong in 2004. The forecasts started off by giving 335 plus seats to the NDA and then towards the elections came down to 272 odd. But the seats finally were much lower and the Congress came back to power in a really unexpected comeback. The media was even more confident of the NDA victory.
The media tends to hype up the parties like BJP more ,because ideological parties tend to be more passionate in articulation of their views and in their fervor. This over a period of time before any election ,starts giving a slightly higher degree of false hope and momentum to these parties. Secondly, the silent voter, most likely of a mainstream non-ideological party, keeps a low prof…

2009 Elections

With seven hundred million voters (possibly, two hundred million of them illiterate) and a colorful cast of leading characters, Indian elections are one of the most fascinating events of our times.
Sonia Gandhi: Sixty something Italian, widow of a Prime Minister, cannot speak Hindi clearly, represents the heart of the Hindi belt, reticent and operates by consensus.
Mayawati: Dalit woman, unsophisticated and aggressive, unmarried, narcissist and uses the administrative machinery to build huge statues for herself, weighs herself in gifts of gold on her birthdays and accumulator of wealth.
Advani: Refugee from Pakistan, erstwhile RSS member, loves Hindi movies, chief claim to fame being that he rode a truck decorated as a chariot to demolish Babri Masjid, 81 years old and using the full power of the net to promote himself.
Manmohan Singh: Ph.D. from Cambridge, economist, brilliant and honest, has had three heart surgeries, lost the only election he fought, bureaucrat extraordinaire.

Tough Times for Indian Retail

The retail industry operates on extreme efficiencies. The net margins are thin and each cost element is typically tracked closely and working capital is tightly controlled. The Indian retail is going through its baptism by fire and discovering the impact of extra costs in the system. The regulatory issues, infrastructural bottlenecks, supply chain constraints, sourcing problems and lack of economies of scale are creating inefficiencies and hence additional costs. These costs have hobbled the industry and thus have led to the turmoil the industry is in.

The infrastructure in the country is generally deplorable. The supply of power is erratic and inadequate in most places forcing the retailers to invest in extra capital equipment for power and extra costs. The roads are in a decrepit condition leading to delays and wastages during transit. This also means that within the country , the best produce cannot be transported and so large retail is not able to offer the advantages that it ca…

Fashion in New India

Fashion, as we know it today, had its origins in the French empire of Louis XIV. In Paris of the seventeenth century, the ladies of Versailles outdid one another in creating and being seen in extraordinary and exclusive clothes and ‘La Mode’ and ‘Couture’ were born. To many it seems frivolous in a developing country, but fashion gives a unique peek into the social trends and the follies or the tastes of the rich.
The Indian fashion scene has changed dramatically. The fashion shows give a good glimpse into what the business is going through and what the trends are. I went to the Delhi fashion week recently and found very interesting contrasts with the fashion events five to ten years back.
The big change is that fashion is more accessible. Earlier, the shows were populated by a westernized audience in their twenties or thirties. Today, the shows attract all age groups reflecting the romance of fashion even with mature age groups.
The second change is in the models. The models earlier wer…

Rian, A Song for My Son

I was so elated when my son was born and this is what I wrote when he was nine months old. What is interesting is that , I still feel the same after so many years.


Into the flickering lamp of my existence,
You glided in gently,
You created a wavering in the fabric of light and darkness,
And everything changed.

In your unquenchable thirst for life,
You seem like the energy of the Brahmaputra flowing into the sea,
You are my explosive desire to embrace the sky of hope.

And you pluck my hair like it is a bunch of flowers from divinity,
When you touch my face with your tiny, innocent fingers;
You bring the rivulets of pure water,
Of immortality and sunshine, into my life;
Nothing remains the same anymore.

And I want to fight for clean water and fresh air,
I want to jump at joy.

Who said, you are an infant, weak and dependent;
Who said, you will grow up and be like a star in the firmament of life;
To me, you already are the lone star: Rian, my son.

A Poem Dug Out

A diary is an interesting tool to rediscover your past. If you are lucky, you might even understand it a little better. Rummaging through my old diary, I came upon this poem I had written eight years back.

Holy and Grey Ganga

On the road, virgins and the rest look alike,
Sometimes the virgins weep and the others are smiling.
Sometimes the others clutch at their sad and used breasts,
And the virgins dream of riding galloping horses.
It is the strangeness of a magenta and black.

The orange of the horizon is the blood of the Aztecs,
The spires of the Kandariya Mahadev echo the cries of a tortured artisan,
And the inseparable story of joy and tragedy continues.

And in the frontier of light and darkness,
Where Gods and demons dance and caress each other,
Where the wrath of a Rama and the fury of a Ravana,
Coalesce into a tragic stab on my heart,
I look for the purple prose of your blood.

And in the forest of emotions of the earth,
In the holy and grey Ganga,
I look for my dream amid the corpses. (10th July…