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All posts for the month January, 2017

Movie Review – Raees

Published January 30, 2017 by vishalvkale

The King is back! And he is back with a real big Bang… after a long time, SRK is back to his best… what a movie! Stunning! Superlative stuff! Welcome back, Shahrukh Khan … after a long series of movies that failed to impress me – good to see the old SRK we all 40-somethings grew up with! Fantastic movie! This movie was a long time coming; you made us wait one hell of a long time; but when you returned – you did so with supreme panache, classy attitude, letting no one forget that there is only one Big Boss of Hindi Movies – and that is the one and only Shahrukh Khan!
Raees The Movie – FB : Raees The Film

Make no mistake – Raees is Shahrukh Khan from the first scene to the last, this is his return as far as I am concerned; the ultimate entertainer, the showman of the 90s and 00s is back again after a long hiatus! This is the Shahrukh Khan we all loved to watch in college and our 20s  … the King, the Boss, the one with the attitude and screen presence to beat almost everyone, save the one and only {I, of course, refer to Amitabh Bachhan}; this movie is a full-on entertainer in classic Shahrukh Style, with Shahruklh doing what he is unmatched at : playing the Anti-Hero! Who among us fans can forget Darr or Baazigar?
Image result for raees trailer 

THE STORY
I wont tell you. And if you want to enjoy, don’t read or watch reviews that tell its story, period. So there!
THE CHARACTERS
RaeesPlayed by the King, SRK…. Anti-Hero… for the rest, find out yourself!
Jaideep MajmudarPlayed by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Tough Cop, IPS, is out for Raees come hell or high weather!
JairajPlayed by Atul Kulkarni… mentor, crook, smart guy in that order
AasiyaPlayed by Mahira Khan, Raees Wife, Confidant, Strength and Cohort
MusabhaiPlayed by Narendra Jha, Criminal Tycoon…
THE PERFORMANCES
I have mentioned the screen presence & attitude of Shahrukh Khan; but the two people who steal the show are Atul Kulkarni, with a superbly controlled performance, true to his by-now inimitable and powerful style {Premachi Goshte in Marathi is his best performance till date; this one comes very close} and – Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Now this man, I have to admit, stands upto Raees throughout. Sure, the script is a strong factor in his favour; but remember this is a SRK film, with a role tailormade to SRKs strongest point. Nawaz has faced upto and matched SRK throughout, balancing his presence and depth with a strong performance with awesome control and elan! Take a bow, Nawaz!
The controversial Mahira Khan – well, I don’t really want to praise her, due to her nationality… but I am a fair man. Credit where credit is due…. She fits in to the role, and makes it believable. Effortless performance, she made her mark in a movie dominated by one personality. And last but not the least – Shahrukh Khan… man, what a comeback! A dominating screen presence, no hamming whatsoever, complete unlike some other movies; incredible intensity, depth and range I did not think he had anymore, not after movies like Swades where we all fell for him bigtime!
THE SCRIPT
First of all, thank you for writing a script that is near flawless; the background, the characters, the taut narrative are all spot-on. There are those who may disagree; I can only say I go to the movies to enjoy, not get tense. And this script delivers… big time. And I really enjoyed the mix of Hindu and Muslim characters; Indian cinema is finally coming of age when we can portray Muslim dominated characters and stories on screen, which is a far cry from the 40s and 50s when people had to change their names to Hindu names! It felt realistic, refreshing, and good to see! Well done!
THE MUSIC
This is the big score; and this, coming from me, is a big praise. I haven’t liked a Hindi song for longer than I can recall; 95% of my repertoire comprises Marathi songs. But it is for the first time after Main Hoon Naa {SRK Again, what can I say?} that I am listening to the songs {even as I type} which is a big first. The music is mesmerizing, haunting and unbelievably classy! A very strong reason for the superlative review I am writing is due to the music. The best number? Hard to state; they are all great…. But I loved  Zaalima, Khwaahishon Ki Dua and Saanson Ke. A small word for the background score : I clearly remember the opening tones as the movie started, and recall thinking, this should be good; and this is a first in my memory. The background score also shines, and adds to the tautness and the intensity of the movie throughout!
1) Saanso Ke
2) Zaalima

THE CONCLUSION
You will read average and not-so-good takes on this movie; my advise – Ignore these reviews; watch the movie and decide for yourselves. This movie is a great entertainer, not too over the top, has tremendous music {Now that is an understatement; the music is out of this world!}, a taut and tight script; and superb performances all round from nearly every character. It is not too stressful; loaded with action and hits you hard with the intensity of the overall finished product. And if you are, like me, someone who grew up on the films of Shahrukh Khan, and pine for the vintage SRK – this is for you.
Even if you are not like me, and enjoy a good entertainer; or a classy action movie; or a simply well packaged entertainment product – go for it. You can watch it with family; it is enjoyable and good stuff throughout. This isn’t as good as Shivaay, which was and is in a class of its own; but this is nonetheless a really, really good movie. And, like Shivaay, this can be watched again and again, especially due to its tremendous music score, hats off. Take a bow, Team Raees! Well done – and welcome Back, King!

Protectionism in Trade – Recent Developments Analysed

Published January 29, 2017 by vishalvkale

ENTER PROTECTIONISM!
Worldwide, the rise of so-called nascent protectionist tendencies has seen increasing focus in pink as well as white media; this is almost the flavor of the season. I don’t blame the media – the hyperbole emanating from society, social media as well as the political sphere justifies the focus on this theme. And so long as this focus causes an informed dialogue around this theme, it is a welcome development. We need a serious, informed debate in all Media around this tendency, or perceived tendency.
I say perceived tendency; this may sound counter-factual. But stop a minute, and think through – is it really counter-factual? I am not denying the trendlines increasingly visible the world over; all I am asking is to abandon hyperbole, and focus on the facts. Isnt it a fact, for us developing nations in general – and India in particular {given I am an Indian} – that protectionism emanating from the Western economies has always been the exception rather than the rule? It is only a difference of degree. Why is that degree important is the focus of this article.
First, let us hark back towards history, and consider a few examples from history. Let us start at the beginning – the 50s, when Steel Plant technology was denied to us on flimsy grounds by the USA. What was that? Wasn’t that politics mixed with protectionism? To some, this example may be debatable; to them, there are other examples that can be quoted : Recall the imbroglio over the AMS and Food Security? Solar Panels and Cells? Or Compulsory Licencing and Patent Rules? Preferential Market Access and Localisation Conditions?
Each of the examples above is a clear indication of a powerful western nation – {or nations, if you consider the Food Security issue at the WTO}  – protecting its turf, and very fiercely at that. Other examples readily spring to mind in various fields – IP rights in the Drug field is yet another very evocative example. This is the way of the world – and rather than cry about, let us accept it; and figure out how to fend for ourselves in the midst of these established tendencies.
There is nothing wrong with a globalised world; India thrived on free trade for over 4 millennia. But it takes on an entirely different hue altogether when a state, or a set of states, gang up on another, deny access to capital and/or technology on frankly flimsy grounds. It becomes almost a buccaneering loot {from our perspective} when you fight the ability of the state to provide for its own people as it may impact your profit lines. And that is precisely what the entire Farm Subsidy, Green House Gases, Pharmaceutical drug battles are all about.
WHAT HAS CHANGED?
I argue that nothing has changed, precisely nothing. What is in evidence is the mere continuance of the trendline I have pointed out above, with clear proof and precise examples. Why, then, are we seeing the updates, events, news and happenings that we noticing nowadays? This is what bears a closer examination, not the bugbear of so-called protectionism! What we call protectionism is simple Human Nature; no point crying about it. It is basic nature to protect your turf; it may not be fair – but this is the way it has always been since we entered Dvapar Yug!
What has changed is that rising prosperity in the developing nations, rising educational levels and favourable demographics combined with cheaper factors of production – especially labour – has led to two movements. First, an emigration of educated and/or talented people to the West, who come with significant economic benefits in terms of lower wages and a harder work ethic; and two – stagnancy in the West as compared to rising lifestyles & infrastructure in the East has bridged the gap somewhat, at least in pockets in some developing nations, leading to other factors getting highlighted.
These factors are, simply, first the markets, wherein the size has made them attractive; and better facilities and educated workers meaning a lower cost of production at a comparative quality. Obviously, in a finite system, if one side manages to attract capital through superior factors of production, it is going to fuel political, economic and cultural undercurrents in the other side. For, at least temporarily, and in some products – centers of jobs are going to shift, and a cultural & demographic change in worker profiles is going to happen in the target economies of the new world.
This, combined with the inability of these economies to create new jobs for the lost ones, and a high burden of social expenses by virtue of the freebies the population in these nations enjoys – creates a whirlpool. These factors taken together are bound to fuel short-term tensions and rises in protectionism. What can we do? Wait it out; hope for better sense – and play sound policies, that focus on the factors of production, making business easier – and consistently pointing out how these tectonic shifts in the past 2-3 decades have had benefits as well, even for the Developed World; that is a story that badly needs to be told, and not just in Indian Media – but in World Media. We have been focusing only on one side of the coin; has anyone systematically tried to point out the benefits flowing from these tectonic shifts that I pointed out above? It needs to be done, and now. 

Book Review : Saraswati’s Intelligence

Published January 29, 2017 by vishalvkale

SARASWATI’S INTELLIGENCE
Part 1 of the Kishkindha Chronicles
Author – Vamsee Juluri
A Word About The Publisher
This book is published by Westland Books, to whose products I was first exposed to 2-3 years ago; since then, I have been noting the consistently high quality of their products – both in terms of variety, content as well as external finishing. They have branded themselves through unmatched quality, and attained a level of performance and  a place for themselves in this highly competitive industry. Yet again, we get treated to an excellent book; keep up the good work, Team Westland!
THE PLOT
Image result for saraswati's intelligenceThe book is a work of fiction;  a very interesting, fascinating re-telling of a part of The Ramayan : The Story {fictionalized} of Lord Hanuman. This is the first part of a series; a series which focuses on Lord Hanuman {or someone so closely resembling Hanuman that there can be no doubt who the author is referring to}. This is an important distinction to make – as I connect up in the review portion. The series is around Kishkindha, the Kingdom of King Vali {Bali in the real history of The Ramayan}
The book describes an almost mesmerizing, fantastic and completely believable land of total peace {which one can readily equate to Satyug}; a land in which there is no bloodshed, no evil and total harmony. Fittingly, it becomes clear from literally the first page that the series describes the descent of humanity from that high and haloed perch. Again, this is in keeping with the established history of The Ramayan. The extrapolation from history to recreate that time has been superbly done, making for a really fascinating and captivating read.
The story starts from a young Hanuman {I will Jettison the word Lord, since the book refers to fictional characters, not the Lord Himself} playing with the elder Vali and Sugreev. It chronicles how Sugreev and Hanuman fall out of favour when they break the law of peace and bloodshed by pure accident; how they are banished from the society, and traces the path they take. It traces the coming of age of Hanuman, and how he starts to become the all-powerful hero that the Real Lord Hanuman is known to be. The parallels to the real story are near-flawless, and well executed.
The story revolves around the start of fighting in this peaceful land, as the noble people are overcome one by one, until they come face to face with the now-angry peaceful people of Kishkindha in the climax of this part of the series. The enemy is a primordial enemy, less cultured, less civilized, almost animalic in behaviour. It has a rather interesting take on Lord Ganesh {This is an assumption; the name may be coincidental – the further story will tell}; in the book, The Land of Ganesh is populated by Elephants; there is a take on Naraklok as well, with flesh-devouring birds, loosely represented by and named Jatayu. All in all, it contains every element of The Ramayan; and yet is sufficiently different to make it an original fiction story that is at best loosely based on historical events from our ancient history.
THE REVIEW
First things first : the book is a very interesting, mesmerizing and fascinating re-imagination of our history. The treatment of all characters is tender, well thought out, and does not incite any passions. Now this is a tremendous achievement, given that you are dealing with The Ramayan, a book that is closest to the heart of every Sanaatan Dharmi. Playing fiction with characters as real and powerful as Lord Hanuman, Goddess Saraswati etc is no joke; and the Author successfully manages to keep the two separate in our minds. These have powerful contemporary relevance to the modern follower of Sanaatan Dharm, wrongly called Hinduism, hence the tasteful, tender and logical treatment is welcome.
I have to admit – at no point did the book incite any objection or passion whatsoever, even from a person like me; an ardent reader of our ancient scriptures as well as history, and a devoted Sanaatani. Not only that, the book is written very well indeed from a novel or fiction perspective as well; it is a fast, rapid read, is fun and without any needless side-lines and twists. The author had of course, one powerful advantage – he had no need for detailed characterization, as he could simply build on public memory; this has been skillfully achieved.
The upshot of this, which I call a massive advantage {though Westland and Mr Juluri will differ, quite obviously} is that this is a book specifically targeted at the Sanaatani reader. If you are not a Sanaatan Dharm follower, then this book may not make much sense to you, or may not have much of a connect with you. Make of that what you will; that is my recommendation. The immediate connect the material has is due to the patkatha, the background which we can immediately  recognize. That this connect has been properly nurtured through a host of cultural clues and similarities is a tribute to the skill of the author, who has assiduously built an excellent story based on our cultural history
The biggest aspect of the book lies elsewhere; though this will be clear only to ardent readers of our ancient literature, people with a relatively deep reading of that ancient time. The re-imagination of that time is so logically done, so in keeping with what is stated in the historical literature, that one easily imagines that this is how it could have happened. The Ramayan clearly describes a far long gone time, almost pre-historic; there are many indications of that. And the re-imagination of that society, of the life through small hints, like how the Gadaa came into being seem very logical. This is what impresses deeply in this re-telling or re-imagination. All in all, rated 4 stars out of 5!

Smartphones – India Vs China Markets

Published January 26, 2017 by vishalvkale

Recently, we saw a very interesting, and for Smartphone and Telecom trade pundits and employees, monumental occurring – a recent report of marketshare showing that the top 5 brands in the Indian Smartphone market are not Indian. On top of this is a constant lament by Media and Telecomists {to coin a new term} alike, that Indian Handsets Brands are not making it; that Indian  manufacturing is not picking up in this industry.
Let us try and place things in perspective first, before we try and understand what can be done to improve the situation; or, indeed, whether it can be improved. In this article, I focus only on the perspective, and an overall market analysis of the two markets in general terms as well as specifically Teleocm / Device terms. After that perspective, I then introduce the basics of the competitive scenario. The reason for that is you need to understand the two markets and their difference to make a meaningful comparison, as well as figure out the way forward.
FIRST, NUMBERS & COMPARISONS
Let us get something straight : we cannot compete against China as things currently stand. This isn’t pessimistic thinking, but a simple statement of facts. You cannot compare chalk and cheese, or as some like to state, apples and oranges. India is a low-income market, while China is approaching middle income levels. Indian Per Capita Income is dwarfed by the Chinese income. As of April 2015, Nominal GDP per capita of China was $11449, while India was at $2672. If you take PPP, even then we are dwarfed : $20004 vs $9327. There is simply no comparison feasible between two markets with such a comparative economic scenario; we are doing ourselves a massive disservice by comparing
Be it Steel Industry or Handset Industry, India is dwarfed in numbers, and this is something that is not going to change anytime soon. The markets as well as the manufacturing scenarios are completely different; China is a nearly 100 Billion dollar Smartphone market, with production in excess of 600 Million units in 2015, although 2016 may see a slight dip. Exports account for more than 2/3rds of these numbers – even so, you are looking at numbers in excess of 140 Million Handsets in 2015, which though comparable to India’s 100 Million plus/minus a few, is still a larger market. Of greater relevance is the footprint of Chinese Exports, which are 450 Million plus – and that is one hell of a lot.
A DEEPER ANALYSIS
Moving on, the higher numbers in terms of dollars for the Chinese gives them enormous financial clout, flexibility and strength to innovate. Also note that there is a price differential of a full 100-plus dollars in the average sale price of a smartphone in India vs China. That means, China is a more mature Smartphone market than India. Three, Smartphone penetration in China is also much higher, in excess of 68%  – there were 913 Million Smartphones in China in 2015, and 691 Million unique users. China had 208 Million Smartphone users way back in 2012! In & by 2016,  50% of China’s population had internet connectivity – a figure we are nowhere near. The internet advertising market in China is 3 times India’s.
I could go on; but I think the generic and the industry numbers quoted above or indicated above give a reasonably good feel of the two markets – India vs China. It stands to reason that the Chinese players will be more mature, with a better handle & understanding of the technology involved, with deeper pockets and a larger range of products. They are also ahead on the learning curve, and have been growing right in step with the technological developments in the trade; we are only now catching up in terms of keeping abreast in the technological space.
2010-2012 were the critical years for the Smartphone trade, with a rapid evolution in technology, a massive churning in the competitive space. These two factors combined to heat up the smartphone market from 2008-9 onwards, give or take an year. And the numbers tell us that the Chinese market was following closely on the heels of these developments; thus, making any India-China comparison an exercise in futility, and despondency if we are trying to outcompete them playing on their turf!
They have the money and the deep pockets; they have the manufacturing investments; they have the infrastructure; they have the competence in the industry in terms of economies of scale and captive markets as well as a much wider experience in the technology; they have the technology; they have the processes; all of these add up to a significant advantage. There is no point in beating around the bush; we cant beat them– so long as we are playing to their strengths. This does not mean we cant compete; our competitive response has to be formulated basis our market realities. This is what I look at in the next article, wherein I spell out the ground realities of the smartphone market and consumer in India
References : 


Book Review : A Vegetarian Lifestyle

Published January 26, 2017 by vishalvkale

BOOK REVIEW : A VEGETARIAN LIFESTYLE
A Presentation by Beauty Without Cruelty
NOTE from Website :
Moreover, there was no point in BWC approaching food manufacturers to fill questionnaires up, because in 2001 the Government of India made it mandatory for all packaged foods to carry the veg/non-veg symbol. Some years later these labels began being affixed by manufacturers on all beverages like carbonated waters. Then in 2014, BWC’s persistent efforts bore fruit, when the new Prime Minister, in response to our request, extended the veg/non-veg labelling law to cover cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and toiletries.
This current guide being reviewed is an old one I found in my family
The title of the book almost says it all; this is a book that is entirely focused around being a Vegetarian; though its primary focus is on Veganism, you can easily find Vegetarianism also in its pages. For the uninitiated, Vegan people don’t take anything associated with Animals, like even Milk. The reason for the same is the underlying animal exploitation that is inherent in most Vegetarian Products that are of Animal Origin – like Milk, and Milk Products as an excellent example.
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This book just goes much, much farther than your dietary habits, and introduces you to Animal Exploitation in products and categories where it isn’t so readily apparent. That is one of the biggest plus points of this excellent guide – for that is what it is, a one-stop guide, a reference book on what is Vegan, Vegetarian and non-Animal sourced, covering nearly all categories one normally encounters in ones daily life. It also goes into products that are Animal sourced, and lists them, which is excellent material especially for fully committed Vegans
The other stupendous plus point is the amount of research that has purportedly gone into this book; the base of the book is a questionnaire that was sent out to manufacturers. Sadly, not all of the manufacturers chose to respond – and here I agree with the book, if indeed you are saying that one or more of your products are 100% Vegetarian, then where is the issue in answering? Hearteningly, in some cases, upon learning that their products were actually not in consonance with the claim, the manufacturing process / ingredients were changed. This is the way it should be – no one is saying they are perfect. But being open and transparent can yield a win-win situation, as above.
This is a book that forces you to think of your choices – especially if you, like me, are slowly but surely increasingly edging towards Veganism, driven by your own internal choices, beliefs and value systems. Like I increasingly abhor leather, wool in all forms; I don’t know why. Leather, I can say for certain that it is due to Animal Slaughter; Wool, well, it happened all by itself. I find it hard to even kill an ant; so for me, with the increasing awareness of age, it began to occur as to why am I participating in killing? In some cases, like in leather, the push was medical, as injury forced me towards soft shoes. In food, I similarly don’t know why a Non-Vegetarian like me is now 100% Vegetarian… it just happened, primarily driven by an exposure to great Vegetarian range post marriage, added to by my natural instincts
But if you are, like me, discovering the joys of Vegetarianism, or is slightly uncomfortable about misuse of Animals and their exploitation, or is a nature and animal lover, then I highly recommend this book. Of course, if you are a non-vegetarian, my advice is to avoid this book. The content actually requires a receptive mind; the non-receptive mind is more likely to spot the myriad practical issues and the so-called unavoidability that is bound to occur in the quest to abandon non-vegetarianism in all its forms. My only take on this : to each his own. And one other point : no one is being adamant or hard about this; do it as far as is practical, like I do. Anyway- individual call.
You will find lists of products, brands, catagories that are listed, after research and/or study, of their contents, as well as {from what I understood}, the manufacturing process, or rather the intermediary products that go into the final product. This part of each chapter is a true stunner – as one gets to learn of a host of normal everyday use products that are almost unavoidable, and yet may be objectionable. This is where I felt the book goes way too far; and almost gets into preaching mode and philosophical territory, as it seems to advocate total Veganism from the tone, at least to me
This is, unfortunately, the way of the world; it is an entirely new discussion and philosophical point as to whether humanity has gone too far; and this is applicable in many aspects, not just treatment of animals. My personal opinion is yes, we have gone way too far – and we need to deeply introspect as to what our species has become and is increasingly turning into. We need to stop, take a deep breath, and really face ourselves in the mirror & see the hard reality of our daily existence. Yes, we have become enslaved to desire, naked ambition, greed, and so-called practicality. Yes, we have gone too, too, too, too far – of that there can be no doubt whatsoever.
But, and this is a significant  but, change doesn’t happen overnight. To be fair, the book makes no such attempt; but the endeavour & and what seemed to me the tone –  of the book was titled towards Veganism, which is frankly not fully feasible in the modern world. Even I would love to live in a simpler world, but as of now, there is little choice. My own inability to fully control my desires, despite being among the few to be aware, is only part of the problem. The other part is that I have to coexist in a society which places near-zero value on these personality attributes, and views such habits as quaint, impractical, ideological, and in some cases, foolish.
And this is where this book scores big time: it gives you feasible choices wherein you can make adjustments to your lifestyle, so long as you aren’t going over-the-board, that is feasible. It gives you information to make an informed choice, gives you choices that are in consonance with your values and belief systems. And, in some cases, {at least one so far as I am aware}, it actually gives solutions to problems or issues that you were facing, as I was in digesting at least one food item, for which I now have an alternative that is readily available… and that is why the title of the book is so apt! 

The NRI Question Revisited

Published January 23, 2017 by vishalvkale

Our love for NRIs – especially the variety who go to the US has always been paramount in our society. This is something I hold dear to my heart and my core reality. It has always been a bone of contention for me; why should an educated person leave India to settle abroad? Lets be practical; the modern job can carry you abroad for certain lengths of time. This is unavoidable; in fact, it has its benefits. Those benefits are beyond argument; that is not the point of the article.
The Media feeds this national past-time, engorging themselves on NRIs and their achievements nearly every day; the same Media who would not recognize a local success, or find him or her worthy of placement on their august and hallowed sites.  The people in turn, in a funny circle, simply adore reading about these people, including even PIOs – people who didn’t even care enough to retain the citizenship. A person doesn’t even care to remain Indian, and still we create a hero or heroine! Why cant the Media devote a lot more space to Indian stories? Because the people lap up the stories of the people who effectively ran away from our nation, that’s why!
I came from my parents, and also from this holy soil. This soil produced the food my parents ate, the air which they breathe. The public spent its taxes on me as I grew up. I owe a debt to every Indian, and every cubic mm of this air, water and soil. My body, my entire existence has been crafted by India. How can I  forget this? I, personally speaking, cant; not for a moment. This realization does not leave me even for a single moment of my life. Every breath I take, I acutely realize to be a gift of this holy land.
I admit that there may be cases of harassment – I personally know of one case; and am aware of some unsavoury realities that queer the pitch. Yes, in such cases it is understandable; you cannot argue with that. Each person has his or her own reality; and in cases where there is harassment, the logic I state may not apply; to such people, I can only say that I understand, respect and accept your decision – although why my acceptance or otherwise should be of material importance to them is debatable!
The biggest argument presented as a counter is that NRIs benefit us by sending money. How much would a person contribute if they stayed, as opposed to the above – have you calculated this? We arent beggars, we dont want or need a contribution equal to 0.6% of GDP. I refer to US contribution; total contribution of NRIs is 71 Billion dollars estimated, out of a GDP of around 2100 Billion Dollars. That is peanuts. These same people might contribute well over several hundred Billion to the US economy, if reports are to be believed! Ok, the economic reality there is different – accepted.  
But we have success stories of Indians who stayed in India to create value. Read my blog, business books section, for some excellent examples. The point is the value addition generated has these people stayed in, or come back to, India. They would have generated Jobs, livelihoods, brought in new methods of work and technology; in fact – that is how we have progressed over the millennia! I already stated going abroad isn’t the problem; the problem is not coming back. What use is it to us Resident Indians {yes, there is such a category} if the NRIs retain passports? That is meaningless, without value!
Yes – it would mean some frustration, and some adjustments. I once read an interesting, and outright funny real experiences of an NRI who tried to come back and could not adjust for what I regard as silly and stupid reasons. The problem you regard as problems need to be overcome – you cannot cry; this is your own holy land, your country. If you wont make it a better land, who will? They aren’t problems, but challenges. You think I don’t face issues? Of course I do – but unlike some other people, I don’t sit crying and blaming the world. I face up to them, and try to defeat them, like my many fellow Indians.
That is why the entire argument of NRIs being beneficial is plain nonsense, in my opinion. The best brains go out – how can that be good? How can a person place self-realisation above the nation? Even our holy literature is quite specific in this regard : the qualities of a good person listed specifically list doing your bit for your “desh”! Especially when the people who run away abroad are the educated – who could easily build a more than decent life in India itself!
Ok, so you  guys send in 71 Billion Dollars, thanks a whole bunch. What about the taxes and the public facilities you used when you stayed here? Want I should start putting a price on that? Or the seats you used in your education – which could have gone to a person who would have stayed? Want I put a price on that? Or on the opportunity cost involved, in terms of value added by doing jobs here, creating value and generating income & livelihood? Or should I count the cost to the nation in terms of the positive impetus you could have generated in the momentum?
Nahi chaahiye NRI paisa, I don’t want it at any rate. We {I} want Indians to stay in India. But then that is my opinion – and there are 1.3 Billion  opinions in my lovely land! In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for us local people to set a price, just as a reminder to any person who claims the NRIs benefit us by sending money – price in terms of reminding them, hello bhai – you used educational seats, public facilities, etc! Are you an investor – sending money? It is a far more effective input if a person puts in his or her knowledge, education and experience, a far greater value addition. Paisa toh investor bhi bhejtaa hai

Book Review : More News Is Good News

Published January 22, 2017 by vishalvkale

MORE NEWS IS GOOD NEWS

UNTOLD STORIES FROM 25 YEARS OF TELEVISION NEWS

The current book under review is from NDTV,  in part a chronicle of its 25 years journey so far, and in part a telling series of stories from these 25 years, ones that bring us face to face with many queries, questions, hard truths, uncomfortable realities as well as stories from under-represented genres. This book is also a management case study – albeit a rather longish one, one that I would recommend each and every person in Industry anywhere in the world read. This is, to top it all off, a standing lesson in the trendlines in the Media, as well as the how these developed over time, making it a powerful value addition to anyone in sales and marketing!
The collection of stories is tastefully done, and with strategic thought; you get a lovely read, one that triggers your mind into questions, realizations, learnings, entertainment and fun all in the same volume, making it a true rarity. This book is a collector’s edition, one of the books that belong in the must read category, and in the library of every Indophile, every Indian non-fiction reader and everyone related with Industry and the Media. The language is fluid and easy to comprehend, and the content is well laid out, properly edited and presented in swift read format – not too detailed, not too crisp.

THE JOURNEY

You get a ringside view to NDTV and its entire journey – which is a management lesson for many a company and industry. You can feel the passion, and the commitment of the company; its adherence to values and its employee friendly atmosphere. These are the two factors that are most critical to success in any industry – passion, and valuing your employees; and this shows in what I would like to refer to as an excellent case study for business management professionals. This is the way you build a company! There are deep learning to be had nearly every experience: the launch, the implementation, the new products, the daily grind in first a new and then subsequently an older company, and  of course especially the way hurdles are overcome.

THE MEDIA

For people not from the Media trade, one of the biggest take-aways this book brings is a fascinating look at the Television Trade from the inside, what makes them tick, the many many minutiae revealed and/or discussed in the book, the way the people and the Television programmes operate, the background of the shows we see on the screen, how they are planned and many other small and large aspects. That is what makes this book a truly fascinating read, and an entertaining ride. Perhaps the most important is a fascinating and riveting closing chapter that deals with online media, its launch and the issues it faced…

STANDOUT ARTICLES

The best topical articles, apart from the points discussed so far, that make this book extra special are the ones on Kargil – the first an account of the Kargil War Coverage & the next Kargil Ten Years Later; From Jessica to Nirbhay; Ravish Kumar; the simply awesome Gaza Notes article; Lutyen’s Journalism; Centre-State Dynamics; and the one article that is to me head and shoulders above the entire book, bar none : the one titled Whose Side Are You On… a deep, searching and hard-hitting article on journalism, reportage and the personal aspect from a journalist’s eye.

BEHIND THE SCENES

I mentioned above that the book takes us deep into Media territory, giving us a ringside seat and a fascinating internal look at the mystic world of Media and particularly Television; it actually does far more than that. The book rates so highly not just because of the points I have mentioned – but because it takes you into the mind of a journalist. You as a reader, for the first time, get a peek into the mind of the journalist, the men and women we all watch on TV everyday. For the first time, we get a feel of the emotions, thoughts, debates inside the minds of these people; we get a peek at the challenges they faced and the minutiae behind the epochal stories that we remember so vividly, like the ones given above in the preceding paragraph.

QUESTIONS AND REALITIES

The other aspect of the book is that it forces you to face a series of questions, some small, some large; some of minimal importance – while others being quite critical. This is done not through rhetoric, but through had evidence, leaving little scope for argument; these are field observations, some of which I myself have noted with disquiet, though on a much smaller scale and on a much lesser dimension. My only hope is that these are the exception and not the rule. Let us hope so, hope that this too shall pass, that we are in a passing phase! I will not like to prejudice the reader as to the content, so let me leave it at that; read for yourself, and make of it what you will is my view on this. Suffice it to state that these are evidence-based, and not opinion-based. These are points all of us have to ruminate upon for ourselves in our own minds… kudos, NDTV, for a brilliant first book! Rated 5 stars out of 5!

Sanaatan Dharm Explained : My Personal Path; The Basics

Published January 22, 2017 by vishalvkale

I am an ardent student of the Ancient Literature of our Religion, Sanaatan Dharm. The following article is the first in a series in an honest attempt to consolidate my readings in my mind, and represents a continuing hunt, a search and a struggle to understand. This article is basis two years of studying the following Sanaatan Dharm Literature repeatedly : The Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta, Ishavasya Upanishad, Mundak Upanishad, Mandukya Upanishad, Ken Upanishad, Kathh Upanishad, Prashna Upanishad, Aitareya Upanishad, Taittriya Upanishad and Shvetaashwar Upanishad.
My thanks to Naveen Nawathe & Amitabh D Sinha, without whose discussions I would never have crossed the rubicon, so to speak, and started writing on religion. It was these two gentlemen who first raised the issue and stated, what is the point of your reading if you selfishly keep it to yourself? Further, why don’t we Sanaatanis take our literature in a more friendly form to people? To them, my rejoinder – I am not an expert, just a student. There is a long way to go for me, many many years of study. But yes, I can use my writing in an effort to consolidate what I have learnt, by writing from memory thereby firming the information stored through my readings.
UNDERSTANDING THE PATH
Sanaatan Dharm, also & in my opinion wrongly called Hinduism, is more of a path, a path the basis of which is individual choice. Many people have noted lack of doctrinaire trends in our path; it goes far beyond that. There is actually no precedent, no tenet and no concept of collective action of any sort in the path that we have to follow; the path is a highly individual choice. Many other writers, more knowledgeable than me, have underlined the importance of Karm and Dharm; to be honest, even after reading the Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta four times, and the other books twice, I cannot be sure of what is Karm, and what is Dharm.
I have honestly no inkling of God, nor do I have the vaguest idea of my path, or indeed what it should be, beyond a vague idea. Suffice it to say the day I truly find my path, my hunt will be over. That, to me, is the eternal path, Sanaatan Dharm… my interpretation. The reason is that it is extremely hard to be specific about each person; the definition {if there is such a thing} will vary with the individual. At the current level of my study, I think it would be perfectly feasible to have 1 billion definitions from 1 billion people. That is the true nature of what everyone likes to call Hinduism; it is a highly individualistic faith, with many levels and layers.
This makes sense if you consider that each human is different, a fact that has been proven by psychology.  Thus, it makes perfect sense to have different interpretations depending on the individual. Since individual strengths, weaknesses, attitudes, values and behavior is  bound to be different, so too the belief systems and what one takes from the path is bound to be, and should be, different. It is dependent on one’s mind, one’s thoughts, experiences, learnings, attitudes, behaviour, conscience, values etc. Frankly, to understand Sanaatan Dharm fully, you will have to understand life itself– for that is what our religion is all about, at the absolute core : understanding life. And, to understand life, one first has to understand oneself… the day you do that, you are at peace, and one with the Lord… you attain, as we call it, Moksha…
FREEDOM OF THOUGHT IN SANAATAN DHARM {HINDUISM}
The concept of an all-powerful Single God, strange though it may seem, actually is the base of Sanaatan Dharm. It is a gross fallacy that we have multiple Gods; but more of that later. Further, this goes to the core of our path, our religion; and is one of the most complex facets that can be stated, with no easy explanation, and with certainly no easy way of putting it in writing for a student like me. Hence, let me start with my sights set smaller. I think we can all relate to the reality that all people are different, that each of us is a wonder in ourselves, no pun intended. Each person has a different reality, a different mindset, and cannot be so very easily put into a mould. The net result is that each person has different perceptions of the world, and varied desires & ambitions.
And that is why individualism is hard-coded into our path; in fact, the Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta is categorical : the path is not to be revealed at all, except to those who are genuinely interested and deeply passionate in their hunt; and that you require a Guru, a Guide to take you forward on that path. This immediately closes expansionism and proselytization; it also lays the hardwired code of individual interpretation and effort in the path. This also clarifies another important, critical aspect: not everyone wants to go on the path, or realizes the value of the path. However, in a stunning factor – if a Sanaatani is not on the path {or what you perceive as the path} it does not mean he is wrong!
It just means one of several alternatives : he or she may have self-realised; he or she may have different priorities; he or she may not yet value the path – which is perfectly acceptable so long as no evil is committed; or something else that I have not realized yet. Simply put, his or her reality is different to yours, and you cannot force your interpretation of the path upon him or her. Given that each mind is different, how each mind perceived the world and God is bound to be different. And that is one of the reasons why idol worship is practiced in Sanaatan Dharm. Not everyone can develop his or her existence to such a level as to be able to conceive the Lord in his or mind; idols help channelize the energy inside you, by the simple expedient of unlocking your faith and belief…   
This actually encourages individual freedom, thought, interpretation, as you are free to think for yourself. Over time, it helps develop the person and consequently the society naturally, as well as acting as a rock-hard belief base that is near-impossible to crack, as other religions have found over time, as India time and again proved the final frontier for them… enabling the path to survive unchanged for nearly 7000-10000 years, despite many inroads and invasions even on our Religion. This individualism is also why it has been so easy for us to accept other people, realities, belief systems and even incorporate it in us.

What is the path? I have used this word many times, but how do I define it for myself? What are the psychological or behavioural attributes on a broad sense that define perception in Sanaatan Dharm?  How does one perceive, and what does the religion say about that? This is a continuing series, and other articles will appear as I try to come to terms with, realize and imbibe my path within me. I shall continue to document my experiences in this series – feel free to read if you find it giving value. I shall document and try to answer these questions and more in the coming articles…. 

Book Review : Einstein – His Life And Universe

Published January 21, 2017 by vishalvkale

EINSTEIN – HIS LIFE AND UNVERSE
AUTHOR : WALTER ISAACSON
Image result for EINSTEIN – HIS LIFE AND UNIVERSEBiographies can tend to be among the most tedious to read, unless you are from that particular field, or harbor a deep passion in it; I had neither going for me. In fact, I was most doubtful about reading this – but was taken in by the enthusiasm shown by Rohit Sharma, one of my close friends. So enthusiastic was he, so agog with excitement that I was pulled into reading a genre I run away from, and run away as fast as my legs would carry me. So it was with some trepidation, to put it mildly, that I started out on this journey into the world of Albert Einstein…
THE BOOK
And I can wholeheartedly admit, this stands as one of the most educative books I have encountered in quite a while. It was easy to read, easy to comprehend – at least for anyone with a basic grounding in Science – and I am a Science Grad. It is not a fast read; it can get quite detailed at times; and in many places, it is deep philosophically as well, in addition to the bits on science. The scientific aspects and parts were not too complex – not for me at any rate; the philosophical and political aspects were both interesting, riveting as well as took time to absorb – as I would frequently relate the experiences to the current world, as well as the implications in those times.
It is an entire life chronicle of Albert Einstein, his world – the world he lived and interacted in at least insofar as it affected him, his science, his nature and philosophy, his internal tribulations in regard to religion, his external interactions with regard to religion, his life-long struggle, his momentous contributions to science, his stunning perspicacity and far-sightedness in a variety of matters, his personal life and relationships, his politics and the politics in the environment in which he co-habited : it isn’t just the life story of a scientist; it is the story of a era, and of a famous man who lived in that era through a constant struggle despite being world-famous…
THE REVIEW
This is a book on many levels – it is the story of an entire era through the lens of a Jewish Scientist, a conscientious decent scientist, a genius and a difficult eccentric man. It is the revealing and educational story of a life of a stunning and humbling struggle, a life with a constant hunt and a never-stopping chase; it is the story of 50+ years in which the world changed around an individual – a story in which you can see the momentous changes happening… it is the story of the Western History from approx 1900 onwards, a story that leaves you with innumerable take-aways.
First – this is the story of the Jewish people, above everything else. It may be about Einstein – but through Einstein, you can see the impact of oppression or sidelining on the thought process of an individual; you can see the thoughts of Einstein changing with time as he observes, and you can see him become more and more Jewish in his policies, his philosophy and his politics. And you can see the reverse through his friends, as some Jews try to adjust – and then the Christians who become more and more hardline towards Jews, even friends. This book is an unmissable lesson in sociology!
Second – this is a book about struggle, about never giving up, about not admitting defeat, about conviction and about hard work. It is also a book about compromise, as even a man like Einstein had to struggle 9 years just to get a science professor’s job, and 22 years for true recognition. It is a book about self-belief, and a focused work ethic toward that self-belief. It is also a book that drives home a strong hard lesson – that the world is full of people with pre-concieved notions, selfish dotards and less-qualified people; and that if you have to prove your point, just about the only way is not to give up!
Third – this is a book on politics, and teaches us many a lesson; as well as exposes the West and its shenanigans in no uncertain terms. You get to read that Einstein never supported the creation of Israel. His observations are a standing lesson to anyone who dreams of mixing Religion with Politics. His views on the Atomic Weapon, which he first and last regarded as a tragedy, are a standing sermon to western leaders and people; as are his practical views in supporting armament in Nukes, saying they are a must for self-protection {which is exactly India’s stance by the way}
Fourth – this book is a standing testimony to political stupidity and world myopia, as people after people went after crass stupidty; first the Germans towards anti-semitism, then the Jewish example and then the idiocy of communism and its US aftermath in the McCarthy years. You read with rising surprise and tragic amusement at the heavy handed tactics of that great Democracy the USA against its own people. You read about a civilization that is just unable to conceptualise a separation of the state from Religion, a state of affairs that in my opinion continues to this day – something that seems strange to us Sanaatan Dharm people {Hindus} who are very easily able to separate the two!
But above all, this book is about human nature- about the willingness to work hard, to dream, to imagine, to create rather than discover; to be human, and to keep smiling through it all. He was a man with faults, he was often wrong – but he was also ready to accept that he was wrong; and that makes the difference. This is manifest in his changing views on Israel, Judaism, Science, Atomic Weapons etc; the way he changes practically is remarkable. This book is a lesson in being a good human being, warts and all. It is a book that leaves you with innumerable take-aways on many, many levels…
And it is a book that  conclusively proves the inherent capability of the Human Mind… and the power of thought & imagination, the strength of insight. Most of the famous theories were first conceived as thoughts, and not born from experiments. Einstein knew he was right; at times it took well over several years to prove him right, and yet he went ahead and published! That tells us something powerful : and teaches us to be a whole lot less skeptical about our own ancient literature – as the educated Indian is habitual of putting down as being mythical!

Indian Economy : A Question of Revenue

Published January 17, 2017 by vishalvkale

Indian Economy : A Question of Revenue
Source Data for this article is from a LiveMint article of today, link given at the end of this article
LiveMint today has carried an excellent article on The Indian Economy vis-à-vis the global economy, comparing our Fiscal Deficit, Revenue-to-GDP,      Government Expenditure-to-GDP, Gross Debt-to-GDP ratios with the G-20 group of nations. The Group of Twenty (G20) is an international forum that brings together the world’s leading industrialised and emerging economies. The group accounts for 85 per cent of world GDP and two-thirds of its population. That is what makes the comparison a stroke of genius, as it immediately benchmarks us against all the relevant nations – {Definition From Telegraph.co.uk}.
1) General Government Overall Balance / GDP %



2) India’s Government Revenue / GDP in %

3) General Government Expenditure / GDP in %




4) General Government Gross Debt / GDP in %



What emerges is a most interesting situation – our Fiscal Deficit is indeed among the highest in these nations; the Expenditure and Debt charts also show a similar trend, But, and this is interesting, the revenue chart shows us around middle of the group. The article also states, and I quote : “Yet, in spite of lower expenditure, these countries mostly have higher levels of social welfare indicators than India. That would seem to indicate that our expenditure is wasteful and not targeted well…
EXPENDITURE
A few clear points emerge from this interesting comparison – particularly our Expenditure Pattern & heads, implementation culture and inadequate revenues. Let us look at the Expenditure aspects first in a short note. From the italicized segment in the above paragraph, it is evident that we have higher expenses than others, more so as we are not doing too great on Social Development indices. How can you prune your expenses – under what heads? Subsidies? Which do you prune, and how much as a %age of GDP can you save from that exercise? Is it plolitically, socially implementable?
The major subsidy bills of the Indian Economy are courtesy Food Security, MNERGA, Fertilizer and Oil. A simple reading of this list tells us that while rationalization & proper utilization of funds, controlling leakage can be done in these areas – the scope for pruning does not inspire much hope. The rural sector, with its turbulent past few years as well as the ground reality in terms of current income levels means that you will have to provide support to these areas. Neither is there much scope for tinkering with the respective allocations provided to these segments, as we saw in the preceding budgets of NDA2 and the impact It created. Here we run into a dead wall. Furthermore, as an amateur economist I am not too convinced controlling the Fiscal Deficit beyond a certain level is healthy; emerging economies require infusion of funds to realize their potential…
As far as cutting waste is concerned, that is firstly a long-term project, requiring complete digitization {which is admittedly underway as far as I am aware} since identifying the leakages is a matter of records and investigation. Second, corruption is also a serious matter  of contemplation, making achievable targets in this area a tough ask. Furthermore, given the the political problems associated with excess flab in government as well as other issues, you cannot realistically expect genuine fast action on that parameter; this area will take time, to be honest.
IMPLEMENTATION CULTURE
The second aspect that jumps at you is our implementation culture : if we are spending among the highest, if our expenditure has a clear and high social sector component, and if then we have social indices among the worst in the world, then this is an area of serious concern. It straightaway means that either we are spending in the wrong areas, or that there is high leakage – or both. I don’t think that there can be much doubt that the issue is simpy – both.
The scepter of corruption is too well known  to us now; add to this the lack of adequate support to education and health – and it adds up to the scenario we see today. Again, this is ciomplex; both education and health are on the concurrent list of the Indian Constitution – meaning that they can be legislated on by both the states as well as the center. Second, given the rampant around us, there is a felt and dire need for social support as well, making prioritizing expenses a tall task, and a proper examination of this a subject unto itself!
A QUESTION OF REVENUE!
This brings us to what is perhaps the only realistic way forward – Revenue. Our revenue is middle of the road in comparison to other economies- meaning we are not getting maximum bang for the investments we are putting into our nation. The question then arises – how can we increase the revenue we generate? It isn’t a simple matter of Make In India alone; the internal combustion engine also has to generate adequate demand to absorb the increased production! And here, in my observation, no one in India is even asking this question, including the Pink Media – which focus on Plan and non-Plan Expenditure. Subsidies, Fiscal Deficit and what-not. To me, the most important question should be- how do we generate revenue?
Generation of revenue requires an increase in the level of economic activity. Sample the developed nations in the world : which have far higher revenue-to-gdp ratios. That tells us the full story – development isn’t a matter of infrastructure or other such issues; these are the factors that go into development. The only true barometer can be a full macro-economic analysis, including the revenue parameter. For, a higher ratio of revenue to GDP simply implies a higher level of economic activity, a far higher rate of revenue-generating transactions taking place
picture 1e

A nation earns revenue through various means : Tax, Non-Tax and Capital Receipts. That again tells us one thing – {sample chart for 13-14 above} you have to grow the Tax portion, for Non-Tax revenues include interest, dividends, profits, social services earnings etc. Capital Receipts can logically only be an additional source – for a receipt has to paid back. The level of economic activity determines the tax revenues – which are direct plus indirect taxes. And unless the base –the number of taxable transactions increase – you cannot grow revenue.
That brings us full circle – we can see one effort of the Govt in increasing Tax Revenue, in increasing the taxable  base. The need for increasing revenues is why we need to control corruption; large numbers of untaxed transactions mean a loss for the nation. The second aspect is what has not been properly highlighted, being limited to only Make In India. MII along will  never be sufficient; it has to be a wholesome package basis the Indian Economic Realities on the ground… this forms the second part on this analysis, wherein I look at the steps that can be taken…