All posts for the month July, 2014

Book Review : Private India : Ashwin Sanghi / James Patterson

Published July 24, 2014 by vishalvkale

This is the first – and I sincerely do hope the last – co-authored book by Ashwin Sanghi and James Patterson. Despite it being a page-turner, I am unimpressed; deeply unimpressed. Sorry, Ashwin – I admire your books; read them on pre-order… but this is your worst effort yet. And not because of your fault; it is because of the innumerable horrendous bloopers that fill the book. These bloopers take the fun away, cause irritation – even while the story keeps you turning the pages. The net result is that as you complete the book, the normal satisfaction one has on reading a great book is absent. This is not a book one can read a second time. And the clincher – this did not read as a classic Ashwin Sanghi… variety in writing is fine – but this is too much, sorry!
The plot is simple, and yet totally implausible. A private detective agency is called in by the police, and all investigation of a rather strange murder handed over to it. This murder turns out to be a first in a series of murders, strangely arranged in a peculiar fashion, and all strangulated with a yellow scarf. 

The Indian Police agree to let the Private India setup {A private detective agency} handle the investigation {Wow! Is it that simple? We do have laws, you know! Come on, dont be ridiculous!}. You just request the police officer, who calls his boss, and there you go! Wow, man! I learnt something new in this book! Well, the story picks up from there, and progresses through murder after murder till the final confrontation

The book is fast-paced, relentless and is well written. But there the good points stop. Characterization is minimal, not one single character makes a lasting impact – the entire character plot seems half-done – most unlike Ashwin Sanghi. The constant use of pejoratives and bad words is also totally unlike classic Sanghi, who by-and-large writes clean stuff. The explicit sexual scenes and pointless formulaic vulgarity add nothing to the story, and make for poor reading.

I am on record in his other reviewed books on my blog – praising cleanliness of writing, as well as effectiveness of the storyline. He is one of our topmost fiction writers, no doubt. But n this book – again, unlike his other books – the story just fails to connect, and does not leave a lasting impact. There isnt even a single character you recall, or which has been adequately fleshed out. All in all, you are left wondering if this is really Ashwin Sanghi? Fine, this is a co-authored book – but it should not have been so far away from his known strengths as to cause massive dissonance. 

To top it all, you have what I can only call pandering to Western Misconception of my Religion,  which has been poorly portrayed coupled with unbelievably poor research and backworking. Again, unlike Ashwin Sanghi. For example, Chowpaty is referred to as “Chowpatty Beach”! {In 26 months in Mumbai & 43 years in India, I have never heard it being referred to as that! It is always called Chowpati / Chowpaty {no double T, or emphasis on T}.

Then you have the history lesson on the Thuggee – which some colonial historians love to refer to as a vast and massive problem {As does this book as well}. Well, I spent one hour reading the 21+ history books in my possession, and could find only one reference – Page 47-48 of Becoming Indian – The Unfinished Revolution of Culture and Identity by Pawan K Varma. This categorically blames the Colonial Historians for massive exaggeration, and states almost the exact reverse of the book. 

Similar is the portrayal of the entire Devi Maa aspect etc.Did you know that Human Sacrifice was a big thing in Medieval India, and even for Devi Maa? Nice of a fiction book to take the trouble educate me. And, if all of the above is accurate, and I am ill-informed – why not give references in a bibliography, as has been done in other works, even those of fiction? 

Critically, all of these have no relation with the story – and what is more, this is patently clear right from the first appearance of the episodes. There are other bloopers – but you get the drift. This is a book that panders to stereotypes about India, and is big put-off for a person like me. These admittedly small points lessen the enjoyment of an otherwise fast-paced action thriller.

Purchase it by all means if you are large-hearted enough to ignore all of the above, or if you are open-minded enough to scroll over these bloopers, and dont care either way. The book is a fast paced thriller, which is ideal for a journey; it is not a book you will enjoy reading more than once. Problem is that the story does not pull you in, and is just plain unbelievable. 

Biased Rating : 1 star out of 5

Fair Rating : 2.5 stars out of 5

Book Review : Infinite Vision

Published July 21, 2014 by vishalvkale

How Aravind Became The World’s Greatest Business Case For Compassion

The Story Of a Hospital That Provides Free Treatment To The Community, And Is Yet The Best In Its Field In Terms Of Technology, Skills, And Throughput

By Pavithra K Shenoy and Suchitra Shenoy

Infinite Vision is the real story of a phenomenon, an anachronism that belongs more in the Satyug or Tretayug than in the modern cutthroat Kalyug, Anno Domini 2014; an absolutely unbelievable and yet completely true story of a family who redefined the concept of life, living… and Medical Care in the Modern World. A book that is guaranteed to take your breath away, a book that will challenge – if not actually change – the way you look at the world; a work of art, and a book that should be required reading in schools. I wish I could rate is 6 stars out of 5… stunning… 
This is the real story of Aravind Eye Hospital – of how one man, one single man went about doing the impossible. The story of one man who overcame a career-threatening illness to work for his employer till retirement. What makes him doubly special is that after retirement, he doesn’t hang up his boots; quite the reverse – he sets about creating a concept that will one day shake the whole planet and its medical fraternity to its core. 

This is also the story of a family, a family that was cajoled, talked and convinced into sharing the dream stated above; note my words – “sharing” the dreams, not trying to fulfill out of love. It is the story of how every member of the family contributed to the dream. It is also about how the family, through sheer dint of hard work and performance, stunned the world, and made their creation – Aravind Eye Hospital – the finest of its kind in the world, a hospital focused not on profits, but on a dream – the eradication of treatable blindness  in India. 

The target was clear : eradication of Blindness. The method was clear – free treatment, or highly subsidised – and absolute world-class, the best treatment. The problem is that nothing comes for free in this world. At this point, they made what would seem to us to be an illogical decision – we wont accept donations or grants. So, they went about creating internal systems and procedures that would minimise expenses, while not compromising on quality.

Infinite Vision, indeed – appropriate title for the book. It is the engaging story of how these Doctors, MBAs, Business Professionals connected together, and created the internal systems, procedures that ensured they handled the highest number of patients worldwide, by a factor or 3 times. Procedures that ensured that they achieved and maintained financial independence, while providing free services to the community of the poor people, who could not afford to pay! The Money Will Come – Focus On Your Tasks was the constant refrain – dont worry about money; if we are the best, money will come. Remember 3 idiots? Chase Excellence – Success will follow. Well, the Aravind Eye Hospital is the living proof of that statement.

Aravind Eye Hospital is also the story of the chase of excellence in treatment; of the sacrifices everyone made for the greater goal. It is the story of a single-minded chase after excellence, and the pursuit of perfection, challenging all norms, modes and systems. It is the story of how one Hospital went about ensuring the availability of the best the world has to offer in a 3rd World country like India, and then subsequently beating the world at their game. 

It is a text-book case study, in that it covers every aspect of a modern organisation – from Marketing to Operations, and from Finance to Human Resources. This is the book that will help you understand the importance of Vision and Mission of an organisation; this is the book that will teach you the magic of training. This is the book that will teach you the importance of constant upgradation of skill sets; of a single-minded focus on employee retention and how it works wonders in the company; This is the book that will teach you the importance of backward integration, of research, or opening markets, of a planned and strategically executed expansion strategy – of bringing the latest technologies to India, of setting state of the art manufacturing facilities, and consulting houses.

This is the book that teaches you the benefits of a focus on the long-term, of the importance of total intolerance towards short-termism that is so common now, this is a classic case of how to plan your human resources both for the current-to-mid term as well as the long term, of smooth succession planning right till the topmost levels without compromising on even one single point. This is the book to read to learn just how vital a long-term look at Human assets is important, and how training can play a pivotal role – and of the importance of robust systems and processes in an organisation; and how following the basics and building blocks leads to marketshare, leadership as well as an excellent top and bottomline. At is also the story of how one organisation can create a worldwide ecosystem, and create as well as define a new market – becoming the leading consultant in the world. It is a story of sharing information, and helping the competition – and reaping rewards from the experience. A book that challenges long-held notions, and does so quite successfully.

 The writing style is engaging, and keeps you absorbed. You are not taken into a series of numbers and facts; instead you are taken onsite, and get a prime seat among the main players as the time rolls. You are treated to organisational lessons for learnings in a fun form, loaded with examples and practicalities, while fully detailing the roadblocks, problems that emerged, internal as well as external. 

All in all, a deeply engaging book that leaves you richer for the experience, and successfully changes the way you look at life and business… A must read book of how one family created an ecosystem, as well as the finest Eye Facility in the World – a book that should be required reading for everyone in India at least. Last but not the least, Infinite Vision is the book that explains how having a purpose and a dream can be actioned, and of the importance of having your soul in what you are doing, combined with a higher purpose- while meeting the requirements of practicality. A book that reaches deep into your soul, and forces you to ask some tough questions of your own self.. .

Are The Poor, Poor Because- We Keep Them That Way… ?

Published July 18, 2014 by vishalvkale

I have previously blamed the middle class and above fair and square for the continuing prevailing reality of poverty. Before I go into further detail on that, let us get a balanced perspective, in the interests of fairness, by looking at one or two factors that mitigate the middle classes performance and responsibility. How can a poor person come out of poverty? What are the avenues available to him or her? How does one earn money in the modern world? Answer –

  1. Do a Business
  2. Get a Job

Is there a third alternative in front of the person? To get a job, or do a business, schooling is essential. It is only through education can true emancipation be brought about; till that happens, our dreams will remain unachievable. The question is how a can the son or daughter of a landless labourer, toiling all day just to live and avoid starvation, send his children to school? How can a beggar, or a poor day jobber send his children to school, when his salary is just not sufficient to do both, give him food, and give him clothes? 

Even if they manage to send them to school – the children perforce quit midway due to the above problems, or other related reasons. Point being, there are no easy solutions to this problem. Let us all keep that in mind before we blame either ourselves, or the Government. The scale of the problem is gargantuan. To put this in the proper perspective, look at the following figures from The Post-Colonial Hangover: Our Colonial Heritage Part – 2 :

“In 1947, we had nearly 80% plus citizens below the poverty line; we had an infant mortality rate of more than 140 per 1000; a life expectancy of around 31; literacy rates were around 12%, and no industrial base of note. These numbers tell the tale; this is the colonial heritage; this is the price we are still paying for our colonial past. And our achievements, seen in the light of these numbers, are a matter of considerable pride – just 2 figures will be enough to convince people. We now have a life expectancy of 67, and a literacy rate of 74.”

The key question that arises from this is – what can be done about it? And, why has this transpired – why are we in such a terrifyingly sad state 67 years after independence? Why are our poorer people at the mercy of the elements? Is it all due to Colonialism – which is beyond even a shade of doubt a critical factor, as I looked at in Why are we so poor?

An Excerpt, a portion that is critical to our hunt here : 

“Thus we can see that India was already poor when she became independent. Given the scale of the destruction, it was always going to be a difficult, long and arduous climb spanning decades. But that does not mean we did not commit mistakes.  We have made only 2 mistakes since independence, in my humble opinion:

  • Governance: we have failed to deliver to the people. That is something for which there can be no excuse. These problems stated below have created a people who are unaware, and are unprepared to reap the advantages of the freedom we now enjoy. They have not been developed, which is a developmental and Governmental failure of monumental proportions. This has meant continued stagnation, as agricultural productivity did not grow, meaning lesser produce and money in rural markets; underdeveloped and unregulated rural markets; uneducated people etc. We have created an unweildy and unresponsive bureaucratic class in the bargain. The problems can be identified as:

    • Absent or inappropriate Health Services in Rural India
    • Lack of even basic educational facilities in Rural India
    • Leakage in funds allocation to the priority sector and villages
    • Lack of even basic amenities in certain villages
    • Resultant continuing Urban Migration
    • Severe shortage of needed infrastructure in the hinterland
    • Very low knowledge transfer from universities to Rural farmers, entrepreneurs etc; this has nothing to do with the internet: here I am talking about upgrading farmers with latest techniques; awareness of opportunities that arise with economic growth; awareness of technological developments that can be used to generate business etc

  • Corruption: this is the single most significant drag on our growth. This has its impact on every segment of the economy from the farmer to the agricultural mandis; from the rural mandi gundas to the urban thiefs; from the corporate scams to the governmental scams… there is not a single aspect which does not carry this rider…”
In short, we have not developed our human capital, and further not empowered them to take the advantages that are present. A simple look at our Human Development Index Parameters will be sufficient proof. The poor of our land may be poor in large part due to the Colonial factor; our inability to lessen their numbers at a faster pace than is the current situation or reality lands squarely at our doorstep. {Please note the usage of words above} This is honestly speaking too large a topic to be taken up on a blog post, as it has massive listed parameters as contributing factors over and above the ones listed above; we are further hampered by the absence of precise data. That is an excercise to be taken up in a later article in this, the poverty series – so please bear with me. 

Education, health, amenities and facilities are all required for a healthy, productive population. It is a known reality that the various agencies dispensing these facilities in the rural {or even urban} areas are not performing upto the mark. The teacher who does not attend or take school classes is a middle class Indian. The doctor who does not attend the Primary Health Center is also a middle class Indian. A similar point can be made for each and every facility or amenity being provided to the poor people of India. 

What is the quality of governance that is reaching these poor people? Are we, the educated classes, from whom the bulk of the public servants arise, doing are utmost? Let alone utmost, are we performing our basic tasks as Government Servants? Are the inputs being put into the poverty eradication mechanism in India being implemented properly? We know for a fact that that is not the case; the Media has ensured that. 

This is exacerbated by corruption; as schemes, amenities and facilities meant for the  peopleget siphoned off in varying amounts. Thus, we are not only not implementing the plans wholeheartedly, we are also ensuring that the inputs get diverted into other hands – undeserving hands. The people who implement these facilities and schemes are middle class. Who is responsible if not the great middle class and above? 

We, the middle class, can and do get out work done by other means, both fair and foul. It causes us inconvenience, no more than that. But what happens to the poorest of the poor, whose problems are exacerbated by the apathy of people like us – who, by want of corruption or shoddy implementation, condemn these poorer sections to poverty. 

Neither can those of us who are not Government Servants, or not related to facilities, amenities etc catering to the poorer sections of society – absolve ourselves of the blame. The non-performance of the bureaucracy and the scale of corruption is a known fact of life in India. Not one of us can feign ignorance on that score. 

I admit that there are other, deeper issues at stake – socio-cultural issues, economic factors, political factors etc that are intertwined with this matter of poverty. It is not my contention that we are solely to blame. But the simple undeniable fact is that all of us are also part of the problem, we also have to share the blame. 

Despite knowing of the scale of corruption, of how schemes, infrastructure projects, schools, hospitals, government offices etc are ridden with inefficiencies and corruption – we are silent and tolerant. It is our tacit acceptance of corruption and inefficiencies that is reason that both of these {inefficiency  & corruption} are so deeply anchored into our systems. We can afford the loss – as we earn, by the Grace Of God. But what about the weaker sections of society? Can they afford it? Somewhere along the line, our apathy is furthering their condemnable status by keeping them poor, as well as denying them the chance of escaping the trap of poverty by accessing services that will empower them, or their children – enabling them to live lives of dignity. 

So long  as we are accepting corruption as a way of life; of public systems’ inefficient performance as something we can do nothing about- the rate of poverty reduction will not increase. For these systemic inefficiencies hit the poorest sections of society the hardest. Our silence and tolerance is a condemnable response to the challenges facing our India; we are hurting the future of millions of fellow Indians, who could have otherwise benefited by proper functioning public systems and lesser corruption. 

We are making things easy for ourselves by tolerating Governmental inefficiencies and corruption- at the cost of others. Others who are in no way capable of competing with us, or hurting us in our careers or lives. 

Jaago, Sonwaalon… Apne Zameer Ko Jagaao! 

India’s Forgotten Citizens – Forgotten By We Middle Class+ : An Ugly Reality

Published July 16, 2014 by vishalvkale

Shining India… The rising regional power… one of the fastest growing economies in the world… one of the largest economies in the world… home to several Indian MNCs… the destination of some of the biggest companies in the world… the land of IITs and IIM, and the successful front-page NRIs… the land with the demographic dividend… the land with some of the best technologies the world has to offer, and some of the best facilities in its top cities… the land with the magical Mumbai Film Industry… the land of Tendulkar, Vishwanathan Anand, Saina Nehwal, Geet Sethi… I could go on and on literally indefinitely on these lines
India, the land of the morrow, a nation which is set to a regional power of some note; and a nation that is the cynosure of all eyes for various reasons. India, a nation that is on the move, with its nascent open economy, and vast promise, combined with its pool of highly trained manpower and well-developed institutions and markets; a nation that is counted as among the top nations of the world, possessing ingenuously developed technologies and skills the cover practically the entire gamut of human activity – a nation that, quite justifiably, has much to be proud of. 
But this euphoria, and these achievements hide an ugly reality that is hidden from everyone, and is yet in open sight. All anyone has to be is observe and record what one can see in daily life. I am referring to :
  • The half-naked beggar on the streets of any town or city, within yards of the most swanky and posh hotels, offices and homes
  • The half-naked children frolicking in front of the slums
  • The footpath dwellers- often ill-clad, emaciated
  • The hungry child who looks at you with desire as you relish your food
  • The hopeless casual labourer, toiling in the sun for a few rupees to help him survive
  • The homeless wanderers with nowhere to go
  • The man or woman with torn clothes, or iold clothes – going from place to place doing odd jobs, just to survive
  • The terrifying scepter of the slums, with their hatchment homes that cannot keepm out rain water, and surrounded with the stink of the trash around them
And I havent even started looking at the sights in the villages yet! All this, and much, much more can be readily seen in one short glance on nearly every street in India; a sight that chills you to the bone, and makes you thank the Lord for whatever you have. A sight that jars you, or should jar you, since the large majority of these poor people are those whom life never gave even a single chance, or even a ghost of an opportunity. These are what I call our Forgotten Citizens – forgotten and abandoned not by the state – but by us, the creamy layer of India. For the state does do some activities at least {errors and corruption notwithstanding}; we the people, blissful in our ignorance, do almost nothing.
Read these links which appeared recently in the news, which are the only ones that I recall reading about in the Media:
  1. 33% of World’s Poor are in India 
  2. 3 in 10 are poor
 To paraphrase, “One third of the extreme poor global population reside in India which has also recorded the highest number of under-five deaths in the world, the latest UN Millennium Development Goals report has said.” The other reports reports that 30% of our population are  poor – 363 Million as per the article. Think about that – 363 Million. And we are silent, as is usual for us; silent and undemanding of our political leaders to explain this shocking status. 

The elections also focused on economic development, GDP Growth, Bullet Trains and 100 new cities, Improving investment climate and so on and so forth. Somewhere in this din, the reality of the poor in India was lost; the assumption being that economic growth will take care of the destitute – without even one article anywhere in any Media that tried to analyse the veracity of this unstated assumption. No one in my memory at least has tried to get to the bottom of this

As per some research and surveys, economic inequality in India has actually deepened; “There is evidence of growing concentration of wealth among the elite. The consumption of the top 20% of households grew at almost 3% per year in the 2000s as compared to 2% in the 1990s, while the growth in consumption of the bottom 20% of households remained unchanged at 1% per year; ” In comparison, the income of the bottom 20% of households in China grew at double the rate in the 2000s as compared to the 1990s, while the increase for the top 20% of households was much slower. In Brazil, household incomes have been growing faster among the poorest households than among the richest for the last two decades. :  Times Of India – Income Inequality
The Hindustan Times also has some terrifying numbers : “Income inequality has increased in society ever since economic reforms were introduced in India. This was stated by Dr Sanjiv Gupta, deputy director, fiscal affairs department, International Monetary Fund (IMF), here on Thursday while delivering a talk on fiscal policy and income distribution at the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID). Dr Gupta said studies had shown that till 1990, only 1% of the people in India were custodians of 8% of the country’s total income. By 2005, the same 1% enhanced their income to nearly 16%. Till 1990, 65% of the people possessed 10% of the total income. By 2005, 50% of the people of India had only 5% of the total income” : Income Inequality – Hindustan Times
That last number is doubly damning – I reiterate : The consumption of the top 20% of households grew at almost 3% per year in the 2000s as compared to 2% in the 1990s, while the growth in consumption of the bottom 20% of households remained unchanged at 1% per year. Does this indicate the the benefits of the economic growth we are in the midst of have not reached the poorest of the poor? The numbers certainly provide the indication of that. 
And there is no discernible focus on this vital aspect of India; this ugly reality – which all of us can see, but are unaware of. The evidence is in front of our eyes; we do not even require the little detail of the fall in the Gini Coefficient from 0.032 – 0.38 for this. What kind of society are we building? What will happen if this trend continues, and inequality deepens even further? Where is the guarantee that this will not be repeated? And most critically, what can we do to ensure that this does not happen? Where are we going wrong, and how to stop this trend for the benefit of all?
But over and above all of these questions, is the single most damning question of all – why arent these questions being asked openly and regularly in top Media? Why this lack of focus, and the focus only on one side of the equation – GDP, Big Business, etc? We need both for true success – Big Business as well as income distribution. Why are we assuming that GDP growth and the trickle down effect will tackle these problems, when the numbers seem to indicate the exact reverse? Why are we still and silent on this most critical of parameters? Why? Because it doesnt affect us? 

The Misunderstood Hindu

Published July 2, 2014 by vishalvkale

As I noted in my previous post, the targeting of the BJP among a set of hardcore religious fundamentalist organisations, most with militant and armed wings – armed with the latest arms and weapons, with a history of armed struggle behind them – is highly suggestive, and confirms the stereotype the West holds us Indians, and especially Hindus, in, as well as underscores the colored glasses and biases held by the West towards Hindus. It pains me, a confirmed moderate, to use these words; but I now have no choice but to call it like it is. 

The list is extremely though provoking, and incites deep questions, disquieting questions, for the BJP is chosen as one among a series of hardcore fundamentalist organisations, equating the approach of the BJP with these organisations, all of rest of which have far more serious repercussions for the USA than the BJP; all with either a chequered or violent history, and all of them being from unstable nations, or Islamic nations, or nations in deep strife – or nations with established terrorism-supporting history. 

By clubbing the BJP with these, the USA has straightaway equated India with these nations – which makes for a wonderful reading : Pakistan, Venezuela, Egypt, Bolivia! India, with its established history of calm and peace, and focus on solving its own internal problems; India, with its non-aggressive culture, internal focus and non-expansionist mindset – is no threat to anyone, and cannot be called a flash-point either. We have proven the ability to sort out our own problems without crying or complaint. 

By targeting the BJP with such  an august list, one straight point has been irrevocably made – the West, especially the USA, does not understand Hinduism, and does not understand India, or its politics or its culture or even its ground realities. It further equates the BJP with they call fundamentalist Hinduism, which can be the only reason for this unacceptable clubbing. 

This can only happen when a nation’s internal realities are not understood by a super-power, and its culture is equated with other cultures. It just cannot see beyond its own narrow conceptualisation of the nation, of the state. It confuses Hinduism with other religions, and also confuses Indian nationality and internal truths with its own biased perceptions, without serious engagement with, or attempt to understand the truth. 

First, Hinduism is not equal to India, and India is not equal to Hinduism. One is a religion and the other a nation. We are a nation of several religions, all of which exist in complete equality. The special privileges to minorities are constitutionally protected, and the state does not equate itself with any religion. Neither does the majority religion – Hinduism make any attempt to do so. There are calls to dismantle some of these – true, but these are dealt with in true democratic fashion, which is our own internal right, as a sovereign nation. 

Hindus, or any of its “supposed” socio-cultural organisations do not target non-Hindus in India. Violent, systematic targeting and vicious targeting is all but absent and sporadic outbursts of violence do not deny this fundamental reality. In fact, the various sub-sects of the minorities peacefully exist in India – unlike any other country, including the USA. No religion is preferred; in fact, the minorities receive special privileges.  We Hindus can differentiate between our religion and our nation. 

Hinduism, even in its most aggressive avatar, isnt even a patch on some of the other fundamentalist scenes we see around the world, and especially so when compared to others on the list. The most aggressive avatar of Hinduism : 

  • does not provoke the spread of extermination; 
  • does not target minorities in the fashion of the others;
  • does not spread armed extremism as in the Islamic world; 
  • does not advocate any  set of oppressive laws; 
  • does not seek to build a political identity across political borders; 
  • does not seek to build a pan-Hindu identity; 
  • does not seek modern arms, or advocate militancy; 
  • does not exterminate populations; 
  • does not seek to spread outside India; 
  • and it does not differentiate between internal streams of thought in Hinduism – unlike the other major religions!

The entire focus of even the most fundamental Hindu is the recognition of India as a Hindu state – which, first of all, is devoid of any fundamentalist overtones as indicated above. The focus is internal – on India; and poses no international threat to any nation. This is an entirely Indian problem, with no one having any locus standi on it. We can deal with it internally, and have the institutions and laws to deal with this by our own selves without any intervention, as recent history has proven beyond any shade of doubt. 

The sad part is that historically, it is the Hindu identity that has been the most viciously targeted by 

  • oppression, 
  • suppression, 
  • external violence, 
  • forced conversion, 
  • destruction of places of worship,
  • denigration of and direct, targeted insults to the religion and its followers,
  • innuendo and false impressions,
  • torture and pain,
  • Racist intolerant views, and 
  • biased, one-sided portrayal of its practices combined with derisive and insulting coverage of its proponents

We have been suppressed for more than  hundreds of years, within our own land; we were forced into practically beggarly existence in the lap of our own mother. Despite this persecution, we opted for a secular polity in the interest of peace – with complete separation of religion and the state, unlike even the USA. We are still made fun of, poked at, derided and insulted on a routine basis by the Westerner in facebook posts, social media, news articles, books, news channels and newspapers. All bad happenings are still blown out of all proportion in international media, with its jaundiced, prejudiced and one-sided portrayal of India and Hinduism both. 

India is the only land where all Islamic sects enjoy peaceful co-existence. India is the only land where all religions enjoy a peaceful coexistence, without state discrimination. And most critically, India is probably the only land most fundamentally impacted by the scourge of Islamic Terrorism. We live surrounded by enemies; we are the closest to Islamic terror. Not only that, we also have the highest {or second-highest} population of Muslims in the world. And yet, By The Grace Of The Lord, India is the one nation that has remained relatively at peace when the rest of the Islamic world goes up in flames!

You will not find a Hindu poking fun at other religions, or questioning them, or deriding them. At least, not as much as others, especially westerners. The Hindu will not intervene in other religions – at times, even when it impacts his or her own practices. This is a tribute to my religion and its openness that allows fundamental thoughts to coexist with moderate & even liberal thoughts, and compete with each other without dogmas and dictats of any kind. It is a further tribute to my land as well as my religion, which ensures peace for all religions.

Despite all this persecution, derision and misunderstandings, The Hindu remains resolute in his faith, non-violent, calm, difficult to arouse, and internally focused. Yes, we have problems – and big ones. Yes, there have been incidences of sectarian violence, which is sad especially considering our tolerance. But what is more important is that we are dealing with these issues on our own, within our own laws, without disturbing other nations. And the people- including The Hindus themselves – are probing, questioning and self-examining. We do not want trouble; there are forces active who are questioning the background, and taking-  or trying to – take corrective action.

Be it Hindus, or Muslims, or Christians, Or Sikhs… we Indians are dealing with our own problems within our own land without disturbing anyone. This is a tribute to followers of all Religions of this Great Land. And this makes us more mature, developed and calm a people than any other nation on Earth. That is the key : without disturbing or involving anyone. If we are wrong, we will pay for it. If we are right, we Indians will reap the benefit. The message : Stay the hell out of our problems. We can deal with them!

It is crystal clear, and has been for some time now, that the USA as well as most of the West continues to map its own perceptions on our internal realities, and confuse right-wing politics and/or what they love to call Hindutva with Fundamentalism. It is a known fact that even the most aggressive Hinduism is not even a patch on other religions, as I observe above. My advice to all such ladies and gentlemen : make an effort to understand Hinduism, its history, its internal realities. You dont have even an iota’s worth of concept of what we are, how advanced we are in our thoughts, and how positively ridiculous your suspicions are. Try and understand us- in place of deriding us – which, incidentally reveals more regarding your nature and exposes you more than us!

USA Snoops Again, Targeting BJP… Massive Overreach And Paranoia?

Published July 2, 2014 by vishalvkale

1st July, late evening… and our favourite, our media darling and our pet punching bag got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Yet again, caught at its irresponsible antics. I am referring to our “defining 21st century partner”, “friend” The United States Of America. Good ol’ Unka Sammie! Apparently, it so transpired on a sweet, sweet 2010 morning that some people within the USA asked for permission to spy on a select few political organisations, namely : 

  • The Amal – Lebanon
  • Pakistan People’s Party
  • Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt
  • Bolivarian Continental Coordinator
  • National Salvation Front, Egypt
  • The BJP, India

My, what august company to be in. Amal is thought to have links with the Hezbollah; an Islamic Organisation with know and proven militant and armed wings, and as per some reports is suspected of Anti-US attacks. Bolivarian Continental Coordinator is said to have links with FARC, yet another armed group. Of the remaining parties, it can be seen that they are purely Islamic organisations, and the state of affairs in the Islamic world and its utter tragedy is well known to the rest of the world. 

Now how does the BJP fit in? Because it supposedly drives what the West loves to term a fundamentalist agenda, a strong Hindutva agenda? Thus, in the eyes of the West, Indian Hindutva is the equal of Islamic terrorism and pure Islamic parties driving a purely Islamic Agenda politically, to the exclusion of all else? Even the Muslim Brotherhood is thought {although debated in some quarters} to have some terror links. And, as per the USA, the BJP is comparable to these august organisations? 


The above begets the question – why is this so? Is it based on a fundamental lack of knowledge of Hinduism, and the West’s collosal ignorance of its basic tenets? This does seem to be an important reason for the misplaced western apprehensions, which club all fundamentalism into one, without analysing whether or not it is actually “fundamentalism” in the commonly understood sense of the term. 

Hinduism, unlike Christianity and Islam, is not evangelical, and is not interested in conversion of other faiths into Hindus. Hinduism is not a fundamentalist religion at all; there is nothing in Hinduism that is fundamentalist. Hinduism is further not interested in claiming itself as the best and/or only path. It does not have a worldwide organisation, nor does it have any global aims. This is manifestly different from both Islam and Christianity. 

In fact, Hinduism is, technically speaking, not a religion at all as it has no central body, or organisation or dogmas. It does not have any history of bloodshed. Everyone is a Hindu – even the atheist can call himself a Hindu. Atheism is a known philosophical thought in what we now call Hinduism, which earlier had no name. The closest any term came was Sanaatan Dharm, or the eternal way. 

There is no organised aggressive face of Hinduism even in its Hindutva face that is in any way comparable to the others. It does not support militancy, neither is there an organised militant form of the  same, not counting some local small scale outfits – which again, are not armed in any way in the conventional sense. 


Furthermore, how does the BJP fit into a comparable slot, with respect to the rest of the organisations listed? The listing itself is deeply humiliating, and highly offensive. That the USA can transgress all norms of international conduct as well as undermine Indian Privacy Laws is a further insult to our nation, and a direct questioning of internal laws, and a strong signal that the USA does not care about India, its laws and its opinions. This is in no way acceptable behaviour, any which way you look at it. 

The more you consider it, the more deeply disturbing this news becomes. There is no logic that can justify the listing of the BJP in such a list; that itself indicates the deep distrust in the BJP the USA has. Distrust is fine, you are entitled to your own views, howsoever unjustified they may be, or howsoever bigoted; that does not justify the action of throwing away trust, diplomacy, international norms, relations and laws into the dustbin. This proves conclusively that first, the USA has no understanding of Indian ground realities, its culture, or even its political realities, as has been proven earlier as well. Second, it also proves that the USA views India not as a partner, or a friend – notice that it exclusively let out its real friends from the listing. 

There is no way the BJP poses a threat to the internal security of the USA. There is no way it can cause any kind internal threat. Further, it has proven itself as a pragmatic party with a good governance record. There is no history of terrorism by the BJP, which is a clean and purely socio-political organisation. I state socio-political for the USA’s benefit and warped understanding; for us, it is a purely political organisation, and a good one at that. 

Not only that, it hails from a peaceful nation which is no way connected to interests inimical to the USA. There is no turmoil in India; there is no Hindu Terrorism to speak of. {Please dont quote exceptions by misguided people, or unproven allegations}. The BJP, or India is not harmful to the world in any way, nor do we in India have any global designs. This is unlike Pakistan, Egypt, Lebanon, Venezuela, or the others. 

Why then is the classification, nay – the deeply offensive and insulting classification with such organisations and countries? By what stretch of imagination is India or its internal political and socio-cultural realities comparable with Egypt and Pakistan, for heaven’s sake? By what stretch of imagination is a rightist political organisation with a good governance record in a nation such as India a target for such spying?

And most critically, how does this fit in with the USA’s declaration of India being a “defining partnership of the 21st century”? Far too obviously, there is no such intention! Its actions speak for themselves – most are not what you would associate with a friendly nation! If you continue on this path, Unka Sammie – there wont be much of relationship left. You do not treat your partners and friends this way. This is rank arrogance, and brute display of strength, which is not the way to build  relations with a proud nation such as India. Wake up before India walks away! As it is, we are trying to build a strong Eastern foray, a marked shift from our pro-West stance. 

I say this as a friend, USA : Wake up before India walks away! You are trying your damndest to push us away; well, you might just succeed. Read the comments on the news articles; talk to the man on the street – your image has taken a major beating. More and more people are turning anti-USA in India… if you dont care about that, high time you did!

Wake up before India walks away!

References : 

The Skill Gap – 2 : The Way Forward; Focus On What You Can Change

Published July 1, 2014 by vishalvkale

I am penning this article based on my experience as a corporate guy with nearly 16 years work experience cutting across Indian companies, as well as MNCs. What makes me slightly different is that I have been a visiting faculty in 3-4 management institutes, and have managed to develop relationships with quite a few students. These institutes range from top ones to unknown ones, and thus represent the entire cross-spectrum.

I am also an active blogger, and regularly attend blogger meets across platforms like Indiblogger and Blogadda, where I meet and mix with teens, 20-somethings as well as 30-somethings.

Thus, I have seen the so-called “unskilled” people at 4 levels –

* hiring manager;

* team leader / area manager / segment manager / regional manager;

* Professor and/or guide

* Friend, or group member, having been talking to and conversing with them as one of them.


As I observed in my previous post on this – The Great Indian Skill Gap, the so-called Skill Gap is vastly different from the perception. I have read several news articles that wax eloquent on this, as well as a few surveys – all have the same verbiage and meaning; but fall short on specifics, Furthermore, most are a survey of hiring managers, and are frankly based on the gift of gab. This is by no means in the category of an exhaustive research. 

The answers to the questions are based on personal experience, and the background of that experience, the company policies, industry realities, specifics KRA requirements etc is not taken into account. 

The phraseology is wonderfully indistinct, and proves nothing either way. What does “lack of technical competencies” mean in specific terms? It can mean anything under the sun. It needs to be specific, this is just a general statement. This statement can also be construed to mean that companies are setting the bar way too high. This is way too general a statement, and we can draw no conclusion based on this. The technical competencies vary widely with the role, function and the industry. There can be no generalisation; we can conclude nothing based on these reports. 

Frankly, it could also mean that employer expectations are rising too fast, and employer willingness to invest in training is waning too fast. This hypotheses has not been tested; hence, one simply cannot draw the conclusion that there is a skill gap from such data unless the reverse hypotheses is tested, and not on hiring managers, but on a more exhaustive research. Only then can we state anything for certain!


It is not about setting the bar high; it is about hiring for skills that are just not required for on-the-job performance! Our intake process does not measure KRA-Specific skills, but rather wavers all over the place, including all and sundry items in addition to job-specific skills in the guise of gauging personality. And the fun of it is that this judgement is passed by people who themselves have precisely zero knowledge of psychology, or personality! The entire process is highly subjective and prone to error which is perhaps why frequently positions go unfilled or hiring gets delayed. 

And the description “technical competencies” cannot be so vague – especially not in a high-level report, on which basis strategic vision documents are created. It has to be specific – and it will vary from industry to industry. For example, for underwriting in insurance, the core skill is knowledge of documents & their veracity; basic finance; insurance theories, concepts and processes; and so on. No college teaches these skills; and oral communication is not a pre-requisite. Neither is an excellent knowledge of English a requirement, given that documents can also be presented in the Vernacular. 

Anything else is frankly immaterial insofaras underwriting is concerned. A similar case can be stated for other functional skills – the moment you go specific, you realise that the organisations are equally responsible for bloating the entire affair out of all proportion. I say this as I have seen all sides of the coin – the college, the young brigade as well as the company side. Whether or not the candidate can speak English is immaterial, as is any other point not mentioned as a core skill. Not all jobs require you to be technically savvy, or speak English at all {let alone fluently}

The focus on hiring managers in survey after survey is fallacious; this requires a deeper research to get a handle on this entire matter, which is far too complex to rely on one set of individuals alone. Few hiring managers are skilled in psychology, and yet “bad attitude”, and “personality mismatch” feature as rejection reasons. How can a person who has zero knowledge of psychology pass judgement on these parameters? Far more critical, how can any decision on future direction be taken on the pronouncements of these people?


How much emphasis is placed on training? How much emphasis is placed on skilling the candidate in specific KRA-designed training programmes by companies? Nil. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Nothing. Cipher. Induction programmes are unimaginative affairs, listing things a simple google search will reveal. You require an induction for that? What for?

How many hours are devoted to periodic training that is KRA specific by companies? Again, very near zero. Training is looked upon as a waste of time by line managers. A training programme nomination is looked upon as a warning, as is treated as a first step to sacking by more than a majority of line managers. Periodic training to refresh skill sets is absent across functions. Simple fact.

How can you blame candidates or universities in such a scenario? The companies are not willing to invest in their own people, whom they call “assets”, and want to earn profits from their performance? Furthermore, no company is wanting to engage with universities and colleges outside the top 10-15, and communicate with and work with these colleges. Arent the companies a part of our society, our culture? Shouldnt they do it – if not for nationalist feeling, then out of a pure play profit motive?

I am not absolving the colleges of the blame – just making a simple point that this is far too complex a matter. 


Let me clarify. I once had occasion, during my tenure as a visiting faculty, to check what my students are using as study material. The non-regular students were using translations into the vernacular; these students were further not in the A-Graders, or even B-Graders. Now companies immediately scream at this juncture : English Problem! No Skills! Prima Facie, this seems logical, and spot-on. Except, on deeper analysis, this is exposed as a fallacious impression. 

First, is the knowledge of English mission critical? In most roles, it isnt. Fact. Then why reject because of this? Next, how do you expect a student from the heartland and hinterland, schooled in poor schools or local languages to upgrade to flowing top-level English in the space of a heartbeat? Impossible – it cant be done! Does this mean that this person has no talent whatsoever? 

The next point follows from this – if the person cannot even understand English, how can anyone expect him to be functionally an expert, or at a par with those who can, given that most top-level books are in English? At this point, companies reject, scream “Skill Gap” and wash their hands off the entire matter. Seems logical – except that it is anything but, as deeper thought reveals.

As Corporate India moves into the smaller towns / smaller colleges in big towns for its hiring, this is going to be a persistent problem. This is not really a problem – it is a signal that Corporate India is not in sync with the ground realities, and needs to modify its processes and procedures, and undergo serious introspection. 

The reality is that only the creamy layer is exposed to good schooling; this is an external reality. Hindi / Marathi / Bengali / Tamil / Telugu etc are the medium of instruction. Corporate India has yet to realise this reality, let alone accept it. Books and quality material, access to resources are absent in this layer. Schools and parents alike cant afford it. This is a hard reality. 

Does this mean that this entire set of people, or a large majority among them, is not worth hiring? Has anyone given them a chance, by proper timely training interventions before deployment on the job / regular interaction with college managements and faculties and such like? No! Then how can you assume that they cant perform, when you are using standards of judgement that they just cannot meet, and are therefore manifestly unfair? 

This isnt socialism – I am talking pure capitalism and perfect business sense. You have a vacancy; you have candidates who have passed an exam pertaining to that required skill set; and you dont hire! You choose – note that – actually choose – to leave the vacancy open in a hyper-competitive market! Amazing! 

Not one corporate in my experience has tried to retrain these people. And, sadly and shockingly, in corporate India itself there are people who have overcome these handicaps, reskilled themselves, and succeeded – thereby proving that this is a gap that can be bridged. And if it can be bridged, it ceases to be a gap, and becomes a ground-level challenge that needs attending to. 

Trust me – there are students who are raring to go, given a chance at reskilling. It is in corporate interest to give them that chance. Either that – or cry skill gap, leave positions vacant and impact your business competence. Corporates are running away from the problem, not trying to solve it. 

They are a part of this nation; they are a part of this society. That they should get in, dirty their hands and get it done is beyond debate. The pay-off? Talent. And there is plenty of latent talent – try interacting with these students. I did. And was stunned, humbled and shameful. 

Remember : Focus on what you can change, the circle of influence. The socio-economic factors, the schooling issues are way too complex and are in the circle of concern. Changing that will require decades- and you want business performance in the near term. 

My point is that this is not so simple, and has many, many facets and roots – Socio-Cultural, Economic, Political, Business etc. This does not lend itself to simple and-or situations. In the meantime, we in Corporate India need people. 

Any youngster will have dreams and aspirations, that is natural. It is the absence of dreams that is a problem, not how tall they are. Similarly, not all can communicate their feelings and thoughts. That is again a human trait. Does this mean that all those who cant communicate are worthless, and have no talent? Obviously no. What is needed in counselling – which is not done, or proper guidance as to what suits which person. This is the most significant gap in educational systems. 

What can WE do should be the question? That is our circle of influence. Remember – we require people as much as they require jobs. Our need is in some ways greater than theirs. We can either sit and cry as to the failures of the system – or roll up our sleeves, plan and execute strategies that will bridge the gap. The latter course is a sure guarantee of success. The former isnt. 

What we can do is step in, fill the perceived gaps in chosen institutes that have the potential of meeting our needs, and work with these institutes round-the-year, through monthly seminars with students, one-on-one counselling sessions,and other such activities. This will cost next to nothing, and give us a strong understanding of the prospective candidates to boot. In the pressure for immediate results, we forget to nurture new talent; we set the bar too high due to our internal deliverables which are demanding, so say the least. The need of the hour is a long-term approach. To be specific, choose and target specific colleges in smaller towns and cities – Indore, Bhopal, Varanasi, Surat, Nasik, Akola, Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Udaipur, Bhuj, Agra etc. Work with these places – you will get talent, and at a lower cost. Win-win situation 

This will also go a long way in reducing employee turnover, reduce stress, build engagement. Survey after survey is showing rise of dissatisfaction, unbearable stress, physical diseases, mental diseases in Corporate India. 

In my experience, students do respond to counselling, and proper guidance. Problem is, they dont have anyone to approach for help and guidance. We can play that role. The pay-off? Talent. Assured talent, and tie-ups with institutes that will last years, as also fulfilling your CSR mandates in a sure way.