Friday, July 29, 2011

Mumbai's Auto Waalas - Cheats, Thieves, Blackmailers and Robbers...

There was a period of time when auto rickshaw drivers in Mumbai were very professional and ethical people (Yes I have experienced it!!!)

Over the years, and since the last one year in particular, when the fares were increased by 30% in June 2010, they have become far ruder, lazier and more unethical on an average. Almost all meters are manipulated to the extent of at least 10%-15%.

Hailing an auto has become a nightmare for most of us. These people simply do not want to go anywhere. The problem post the fare increase is that they are able to make a living with fewer trips and hence do not give a damn about where commuters want to go since they manage to find enough people anyway.Traffic policemen are too busy harassing hapless commuters to fulfill their official and unofficial fine collection targets, to be disciplining them.

They have no civic or traffic sense. They spit all over the place, have no lane or signal discipline and park where they please.

One of the worst places to hail an auto from is the Airport. It is a complete nightmare. I start dreading that part of it months before I am taking any flight.

Now they have a list of demands:

Firstly, even if they go on strike, I don't think it will affect too many of us. We don't get an auto most of the time anyway.

Secondly, why should they be allowed in the city limits? Aren't the suburbs a shining example of how bad things become with them? The modicum of sanity that prevails in the city will be lost. Imagine places like Marine Drive with autos crawling all over it. Ugly.

Thirdly, just a year back fares were increased by 30% without any increase in fuel prices. What cost of living index are they talking about? Its just plain greed because they think they can make more money.

Fourthly, what do the commuters get in return even if the demands are agreed to? Things will only become worse. With the additional city area for them to ply in, they will only agree for long distances, the way taxis do now. It will be a nightmare.

Fifthly, what assurance can they give about their rude behaviour and refusals to ply? None. They are just out to make a fast buck. And they are increasingly trying to bias it in their favour and make it worse.

I think refusing a commuter should be made a non-bailable criminal offence. Then there may be some deterrent. Let that be a counter demand from the commuters' side.

I wonder how stupid those one lakh people who signed on the petition supporting the auto drivers are. They don't realise they have signed their own death warrant. Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.

The problem is that their demands will be met in some form, increasing the horrors for most of us. If there was a strong Commuter's Union, it could co-ordinate effectively and make sure that commuters grievances were taken into account. We are too scattered and disenfranchised for that. In that kind of a situation, we can't depend on the system to take care. We have to fall back on the old maxim of jugaad.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Aaj mainay kuch pannay paltay
Kuch yaadein jholi mein bikhar gayi
Yaadein jo beetay kal ki umeedein thi
Yaadein jinki ab umeed hai nahi

Kitna kuch tha tab jo ab nahi hai
Kitna kuch nahi tha tab jo ab hai
Kuch qaid hai lekin pannon mein ab bhi
Jo mujh say wohi sawaal poochta hai
Aakhir yoon na hota to kaisa hota?
Fir un pannon ka aakar kaisa hota?

Lekin umeed pannon ki fitrat mein nahi
Fir pannon ko kya kosna, palatna kya
Umeed to kal par aaj ki parchhai hai
Woh kal to apni marzi se hi aayega
Us kal se hi to umeedein saji hain
Us kal se hi to naye pannay banengay...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Escapism 2.0

Bollywood has long been derided for producing and promoting escapist cinema. The antics of lead characters, action sequences, song and dance routines, melodramatic finales and the underdog triumphing against all odds - these were the hallmark of Bollywood films for a long time. For an economy which operated under an autarkic, insular mentality for nearly 5 decades after Independence, cinema, apart from cricket, was the one ray of light. It provided much needed succour to the ordinary Indian, buried under corruption, scarcity and underdevelopment.

This was Escapism 1.0 - the escapism of a country that wasn't quite sure where it stood, the escapism of a country which had so much of reality in reality that it desired no more in cinema (In many ways, Dabangg last year was a tribute to Escapism 1.0, while Bollywood Calling was one of the most masterful depictions of it)

With time, film-making has changed and evolved (evolution is not necessarily a positive term by the way - it is just a fact). One can suppose that a near-total consensus exists that on an average, the films being made now are more realistic than before. The use of the word realistic however, is open to interpretation and highly subjective. Delhi Belly is realistic (arguably) in many elements such as the conversational styles between characters, their professions, living standards and so on. But is it more realistic in the core plot? How many of us are expecting to be the target of a diamond-smuggling gang tonight? What then is "realistic" cinema? A truly realistic film based on the lives of many of us would show the lead character working from say 9 AM to 7 PM every weekday, going home, facing hordes of insurmountable traffic on the way, watching TV, going out on weekends and so on. It sounds mad when put that way, but that is what our reality is! In that sense, Delhi Bellhy definitely is not "realistic" cinema. In fact, no movie would then come under that category.

Reality is routine. Reality is continuous. Reality is boring unless we are constantly engaged in processes that stimulate us and we take up tasks that we enjoy doing. And that simply is not possible most of the time. In fact more many of us, its the exception rather than the rule.

With time India has changed and is changing. I can't claim to be an expert on it, but I can feel it everywhere. Surveys now highlight how brand conscious Indians have become, vis-a-vis surveys 10 years back which used to harp on how value conscious Indian consumers were. Indians have become richer on an average and are spending more. We are more conscious of what's happening in the world and are more confident about ourselves. Growth has changed India.

At the same time, growth has not been uniform. I remember an article in my English textbook, which had the following line about India: "India is like a snake, with its head in the 21st century and its tail in the 17th century" The same holds true today. In particular, while many people have become richer than before, institutional and infrastructural growth has not kept pace. That is why the same city where a bungalow is sold for 270 crores has its phone lines jammed after a bomb blast.

This leave many of us confused and irritated. Many of us now earn well, work hard and party harder. But the eyesores do not go away. We yearn for a controlled atmosphere, a system. We yearn for someone to take these irritants and drags of traffic, slums, bomb blasts and pesky auto rickshaw drivers away. If done, it would leave us free to concentrate on our core ambitions. Its no longer about having a secure job and getting Munni married. It's all about dreams, ambitions and personal fulfilment now. We are still bored in our daily lives. We crave for exaltation of a different kind. We desire a system in which we are free to pursue what we want, without encumbrances.

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara exemplifies this. Everything is very nice, almost utopic. There are no murders, robberies or safety problems. Everyone is reasonably to very well-to-do. It's  a film which not only sells well-toned bodies, captivating poetry and breathtaking locales; it also sells a controlled atmosphere.

Taking all the drags out of the picture leaves the films of today to focus on what perhaps many of us today want to see - smart dialogues and punch lines, good performances, interplay between characters, emotions, personal struggles and how they are ovecome. Its not about sacrificing oneself for the country or saving the world. The focus is on individuals. Its more about self-actualization for the confused soul. We have the physiological basics in place. Or rather, the "we seem to have everything, but something's missing" mentality. Cinema now depicts people finding that missing piece.

Welcome, then, to Escapism 2.0!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Kaisay rahun dekhay bin...(A translated song)

Always wanted to translate this English song into Hindi (would be superfluous to name it - figure it out; Will be much easier to sing along then!)

Jaagun saari raat, mahsoos ho teri saansayyy...
Chehray pay woh teri muskaan, teray khwab woh haseen
Guzaaron jeevan, teri hi panaah meinnn...
Khoya rahun hamesha is pal mein
Har ek pal tere saath hai kitna anmolll...
Kaisay rahun dekhay binnn...
Tujhe har raat aur din
Kyunki tu jo nahi to
Main bhi kuch nahin hoon

Khwaab ho chaahay jitna haseen
Tere bin woh khwaab nahi
Kyunki tu jo nahi to
Main bhi kuch nahin hoon

Tere paas rahun, sunoon teri dhadkanein
Aaun khwabon mein teray, sajaaun sapnay saaray
Main hoon khush itna, ki tu jo meray saath hai
Tere saath hi rahun main bas hamesha, hamesha, hameshaaa....

Kaisay rahun dekhay binnn...
Tujhe har raat aur din
Kyunki tu jo nahi to
Main bhi kuch nahin hoon...

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Tears of joy. For the absolute good. The good not asked for or striven for. The good that just is.

Tears of rage. For violations. Transgressions. The subservience of morality to indulgence.

Tears of fear. For hunger not satiated. For protection not available. For vulnerability.

Tears of innocence. For purity to be nurtured. For it to not get ravaged.

Tears of grief. For the mockingbird not saved. For possibility denied. For the choice that couldn't be.

Tears of reason. For the willful neglect of logic. By family. Friends. Colleagues. Strangers.

Tears of loneliness. For emptiness. For the mind tethered and left by itself.

Tears of hope. For that which may. For the slim chance. For the ray of light.

Tears of fulfillment. When the outcome long foreseen happens. When the illusion of control is foregone. When peace is attained.

Sherlock Holmes - Favourite Quotes

The body of Shelock Holmes' literature created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is replete with a rich assortment of quotable quotes. Though they occur in the context of his narratives of Holmes as an investigator, they are applicable to all walks of life. I find that a lot of them apply to business management and financial markets. Below are some of my favourites:

1) "...when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth..."

This is one of the recurring statements; It is mentioned in multiple stories with slight variations. Simple as it sounds, it's one of the cornerstones of any logical analysis.

2) "It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."

We all do this so many times. We have our own views, hypotheses, prejudices and biases. Once those are framed, we obstinately cling to them even when the evidence suggests otherwise. Many financial market traders make this mistake in particular.

3) "You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear"

4) "There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact."

This happens in financial markets all the time. When everyone "knows" something and takes it for granted, the markets end up moving the other way!!!

5) "The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes."

6) "It is of the highest importance in the art of detection to be able to recognize, out of a number of facts, which are incidental and which vital. Otherwise your energy and attention must be dissipated instead of being concentrated."

80/20 at its best. Humans tend to use inductive rationality to make decisions for the future, which is necessary. They cannot process all the information that is available, nor is it necessary. Merely processing additional information does not add to the quality of the decision that gets taken.

7) "We balance probabilities and choose the most likely. It is the scientific use of the imagination."

This is THE requirement of decision making. It is a mistake to construct only one scenario as a possible future outcome. There are multiple scenarios possible, each with differing probabilities.Construct, and then choose.

8) "It is impossible as I state it, and therefore I must in some respect have stated it wrong."

Many a times I have noticed, seemingly, one arrives at the same view or possible outcome, even in differing scenarios. For example, if inflation is higher, equities will react negatively, so buy USD-INR. If inflation is lower, interest rate differentials will narrow, so buy USD-INR. Clearly, we are missing out on what factors are really driving USD-INR.

9) "Education never ends Watson. It is a series of lessons with the greatest for the last."

Truly instructive on how important continual learning is!

10) "We must look for consistency. Where there is a want of it we must suspect deception."

While forming views, often people become subservient to it and try to manipulate opinions accordingly.There has to be consistency in what assumptions one makes. Assumptions are made in two areas: 1) What will happen, and 2) What will be its effect. We may mistakes in either or both at times.

11) "The more outré and grotesque an incident is the more carefully it deserves to be examined, and the very point which appears to complicate a case is, when duly considered and scientifically handled, the one which is most likely to elucidate it."

Beauty of a statement. Many a times we observe that market movements are contrary to the kind of correlations which we expect. Further examination and thought reveals that they actually make complete sense.

12) "I cannot agree with those who rank modesty among the virtues. To the logician all things should be seen exactly as they are, and to underestimate one's self is as much a departure from truth as to exaggerate one's own powers."

Saturday, July 9, 2011


You may not understand my bad habits. Understand the good ones.

You may not understand the times when I was not there. Understand the times when I was.

You may not understand the times I did not praise. Understand the times when I did not criticize.

You may not understand what I spoke. Understand what I left unspoken.

You may not understand why I didn't do what you told me to. Understand why I did what you did not tell me to.

You may not understand the lies I spread. Understand the truth I hid.

You may not understand my dreams. Understand my passion for them.

You may not understand what I am thinking. Understand what I am feeling.

You may not understand how important I am to you. Understand how important you are to me.

You may not understand me. Understand yourself.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Aching News: Al-Qaeda to float IPO, raise funds

In what is being dubbed as the first ever transaction of its kind, Al-Qaeda, the world's leading discretionary terror dissemination MNC, has decided to raise funds for expanding its activities through an IPO.

A spokesman for Al-Qaeda said "We believe investors worldwide are looking for newer avenues to put money in. We believe we have the right fundamentalists to attract investments. In the long term, we aim to be present across all components of the terror value chain, with best in class services. People are our biggest assets, with most of them being current assets"

Dim O'Meal, Head of Research of Goldie Gold Investment Bank, has a bullish view on the stock. "Our proprietary Stockwise Holistically Integrated Technicals (S.H.I.T) model suggests that the stock is a good defensive play to hedge downside risks for investors. The stock acts as a leading indicator of  downturns in economic activity, for obvious reasons"

Chiina has already expressed support for the IPO. "It is a natural hedge for us to diversify out of our huge base of worthless US dollars. Between monetary terrorism and people terrorism, we have always preferred the latter"

Al-Qaeda is also considering issuing a convertible bond. The spokesman remarked "The structure of the convertible bond is quite simple. At the end of the maturity period, the investor either converts or gets redeemed..."