All posts for the month May, 2017

The Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta In Our Schools?

Published May 22, 2017 by vishalvkale

Should we be advocating the teaching of the Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta in our schools? I ask this question of myself, and that too as a Bill is being raised in our parliament, to this effect. So far as I am aware, this is a private member’s bill {do drop a comment if that is not so, will edit article}. This bill is coming at a time when a combination of factors is driving interest in reading this code-book of life, judging from posts on Social Media. While it was always a central theme of our life, movies as well as our polity, it has off late come centre stage, which is a great and welcome development.
My first experience  was reading an Amar Chitra Katha on this topic at age 9-10 or thereabouts; later, at age 12-13, I started reading The Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta. I managed to read maybe a few chapters, before moving. Time passed till around 2014, when I again found an interest in this code of life. Since then, I have read it daily, four pages a day, and tend to restart after reading it completely. I have two versions at home – one, Geeta Press; a second one from Bhaktivedant Book Trustwhich I use for reference purposes. In addition, I refer one or two internet sites daily. I also send two shlok daily to my close family and select friends {who ask for the same}.
The above preamble was essential, not to toot my horn, but to establish that not only do I respect The Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta, but have a deep reverence for it. I request people not to read too much into my opinion on this matter; I am speaking up as I believe this should be debated, that my opinion be placed before my friends. This post will be uploaded on FB marked Friends only, and on my blog. No other promotion will be attempted on this. My opinion on this matter is on two fronts -one minor, one major. Both are basis my understanding, and my opinion; I do not lay claim to being an expert. If any other explanation is present, I am open to understanding it.
First of all, I would like to call attention to the following Shlok from The Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta – Shlok 67 & 68 from Chapter 18:
इदं ते नातपस्काय नाभक्ताय कदाचन |
चाशुश्रूषवे वाच्यं मां योऽभ्यसूयति || 67||
“This instruction should never be explained to those who are not austere or to those who are not devoted. It should also not be spoken to those who are averse to listening (to spiritual topics), and especially not to those who are envious of me. Source :”
इदं परमं गुह्यं मद्भक्तेष्वभिधास्यति |
भक्तिं मयि परां कृत्वा मामेवैष्यत्यसंशय: || 68||
“Those, who teach this most confidential knowledge amongst my devotees, perform the greatest act of love. They will come to me without doubt.”
Another site has this to say of 16-67: “You should never disclose this science to one devoid of austerities, nor to one who is not devoted, nor to one adverse to spiritual advancement and never anyone who is envious of me” Source : This second site also has commentaries from Shridhar Swami, Madhavacarya, Ramanuj, Kesav Kashmiri; they seem to be in general agreement.
For further evidence, I looked towards my two physical copies; being a daily reader, they are always handy and near to me. The Geeta Press version says of Shlok 18-67 “Tujhe yeh Geetaroop rahasmay updesh kisi bhi kaal mein naa toh taprahit manushya se kehenaa chaahiye, na bhakti-rahit se, aur na binaa sunneki ichchaawaale se hee kehenaa chaahiye; tathaa joh mujhme doshdrushti rakhtaa hai usse toh kabhi bhi nahi kehenaa chaahiye” Bhaktivedant Trust version states  “Yeh Guhyadnyaan unko kabhi bhi naa bataayaa jaaye jo naa toh saiyami hain, na eknishthh, na Bhakti mein rat hain, na hi use joh mujhse dvesh kartaa ho
I have used several sources which I regularly refer to, and given the reproduction of the relevant material with source links or specific book references. All of these state the same thing, which I interpret after years of reading them, that The Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta is not to be told to anyone who is not a Bhakt, or who is not willing to listen, or who is not at least trying to do some tapashcharya as given in the various Vedic texts. The second verse, 18-68, clearly states that one who preaches this among devotees is blessed. Thus, teaching it in schools does not seem to be warranted by the above {for ex, there will certainly be some students who do not want to listen}, or at the very least, needs a much closer examination by people with real knowledge. {I do not lay claim to such knowledge}. If any reader has a better idea, for I am still a learner, please update me, am willing to learn & upgrade.
The two together are the reason why, despite being a regular early morning reader of 4 pages of The Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta & 2 pages of one Upanishad {have read a total of 9 so far} for 2+  years, I have never discussed this openly. That is also why I circulate the morning Shlok only on request, that too only  among people I know personally and am in daily touch with, or are my family. Even in my family, I started only after receiving a request, or an expression of interest.
The Second reason – we are a Multi-Religious nation, and teaching a book associated with one Religion does not seem to be the way to go…
These are my two cents on this topic, for what they are worth!

Book Review : The Wrong Turn

Published May 22, 2017 by vishalvkale

Disclaimer: This is a work of historical fiction – and if some of it has any basis in facts, I, the reviewer, am not aware of them {insofar as they pertain to underlined word}

As a Fiction Book : 4.5 Stars…
As a work of Historical Fiction :   2-2.5 Stars…
Why this difference? Because I am an amateur historian, and a researcher on the Indian Colonial Period in particular, having studied well over 40 authentic books and manuscripts from all possible viewpoints in a research study that is into its 9th year now, and will in all likelihood continue for at least another few years to come. The increasing penchant to study the INA is welcome, as its contribution is not known to us Indians. But the rising popular belief that it was only the INA that got us independence does not have basis in the facts so far as I am aware; basis my long study. And that is why I don’t welcome fiction works on the INA, it is way too important a subject.  
The INA was a key factor in Independence, that much is historical fact. But it wasn’t the only factor; a complete explanation is beyond the scope of this review article. The other factors were, rising feeling of nationalism courtesy The Mahatma and the INC, the rising factor of communal tensions, and the Linlithgow-Jinnah duplicity or what I like to call the Anglo-Pakistani pact were just some of the other factors. It was the INC and its mass movements that drove the message of “India” into the people – a comparison of writings from the 1700s, 1800s and the 1900s brings that out in finality; further, by the mid-1940s, India was almost ungovernable by the British. The final nail in the Raj’s Coffin was the INA – and it is the INA which hasn’t got the credit it so richly deserves.

Sanjay Chopra & Namita Roy Ghose

The book is a heart-rending story of love, betrayal and strong characters dominated by ambition, desire and outright greed, set in the backdrop of the Second Great European War of 1939-1945. It is the story of three people : a complete bastard, a wayward and hopeless misbegotten hero/anti-hero, and a nice but tough girl with her priorities set right. It is the story, above all, of one man, and one man only : Debraj Mukherjee, a man with too many mistakes to count, a man with few redeeming qualities – and how he changes, or rather is buffeted by circumstances to change into what he becomes.  
Cirucumstances force Debraj to abandon home & family, where he stumbles onto the INA – and doesn’t betray them. From there he starts changing as he meets his future best friend, Nishonko Mitra; a complete bastard with no redeeming qualities, a swine who loves his kid sister {Pg 109 – specific reference to sister as relationship[} amorally & sexually – but a patriot all the same. This man is easily by far and away the most reprehensible and ugly character I have ever read in my life.
These, then, are the three principals : Debraj, already on the run; gets deeper and deeper into the INA – and likes what it is all about, as he slowly overcomes his faults and rises like a phoenix; Nishonko, the evil bastard, as he sinks from the high perch of a patriot into a hell-hole of incest, as he “loves” {God forgive me} his own kid sister {moonh-boli, but so what?}; and the inimitable Aditi, the frontispiece of the book, the charming and delightful, near-flawless lady who carries the story and ALL the accolades.
One of these three will fall; one of these three will betray India, the INA, and the other two… who will it be?  Will it be the incestuous Nishonko? Or will it be Debraj – the former anglophile, who once aspired for all things British, a man who joined the INA as  last resort,  whose sister is still in danger in the Raj? Or will it be the Lady Aditi – the poor, poor Aditi, chased by her Brother {though in his mind only}, separated by war from her lover? For two of these three rise to become close to The Netaji, as the war progresses and The INA reaches Kohima, set for its pivotal battle against The British… Who will fall – the one who was already a fallen man at the start of the story, or the one who was already an established beacon of patriotism, nationalism and impeccable personal character – or The Lady?  
As a work of fiction – this book deserves a standing ovation; I give it 4 stars, but it can easily merit 5 stars even. Let us settle for 4.5 Stars as a compromise – this is a superb, unputdownable book of astounding skill. This is a book of action, raw pumping action; at the same time, it is a book of passionate love that blossoms into a mature and stunning love story; it is a book of incest & dark one-sided passion; all at the same time, all in one book. That is a remarable achievement.
A special mention of the characetarisation : each character and supporting character has been developed with consummate skill. You can see Debraj growing into a decent man with each page; you can see and agree with the changes. You can see the fall shattering fall of Nishonko into Evil; you can see Aditi growing into a patriot and a great Lady. Even the supporting staff has been adequately developed, and along completely logical lines.
The book is not a fast read, as it is a highly involved and complex story. Yet, it is a riveting tale, skillfully told. The action seems realistic, the characters abosorbing – and they tend to stay with you even after you close the book and put it down. All in all,  great book – one you should definitely read! 

Book Review : SuperCouples

Published May 19, 2017 by vishalvkale

“Supercouples” is yet another addition to the fast growing field of literature on Indian Business as well as Indian Literature, which makes it one of the groundbreakers in these fields. Just a few years ago, there was a complete silence on writing in India, about India; bookstores were filled with Western stuff, even on matters pertaining to India! It was hard to find anything – good or otherwise – by Indian Authors, writing in India & about India. Happily, this is now beginning to change, with a series of excellent works in any number of genres; the current book carries this happy trend forward.

The concept is simple – it tells the story of 19 husband-wife couples who ventured into Business, the big bad / good, new and challenging world of Start-ups. That by itself is quite sufficient to grab attention; a couple going into business is, shall we say, a solution that most people would avoid, as it does tend to create problems. At least that is the general impression some people will have – self included. And when you hear of 19 people who have done it – your interest is decidedly peaked. That is for sure, as I can state with authority, giving my own example.
The variety of business ideas will hold deep learnings, as well as a vital re-training of your mind, enabling it to appreciate, spot and analyse the contained lessons as you are repeatedly exposed to people  spotting an idea which can be developed into a successful bread-earning business. What is special is that these 19 ideas are as alike as chalk and cheese; making for a very wide breadth of exposure, which is vital in the modern day.
The range covered in terms of business is startling : Art, Nutrition, Brands, Deals & Coupons, Toys, Software, Events, Gifts, Sweets and Clothing! This drives home a very strong and powerful message – the change that is happening in India, as well as the disruptive power of the internet, and its capability of reaching into the gut of existing systems, turning markets inside out – a topic I have covered earlier in this blog, as well as one with an upcoming article.
Thus, this makes it a book that is a small but valuable set of case-studies on Emerging India, as well as on Start Up India. That is where I felt the only weakness in the book; there was a strong opportunity to develop it into a superb set of case studies, much like Anisha Motwani’s landmark book Storm The Norm, or the class compilation by Anuradha Goyal “The Mouse Charmers”. The author, being a Management Graduate herself, in addition to a Start-Up Enterpreneur, could certainly have done that, and with consummate ease.
This is an excellent short, sharp and happening book; the short length, though in some ways a minor hindrance, is in many other ways a big plus, as it makes for a quick read. This is a book that can be read either in one sitting, polished off in one reading. Or you can choose to read it chapter by chapter, and absorb the various learnings from it. This makes it an excellent time-pass and yet engaging book, one that can reside on your coffee table, or in your travel handbag in your journey as a companion!

I will not go into the details of the stories of the couples it look at; read the book for yourself – trust me, you wont regret it. If you cant equate with the reasons given above, the other side is the Human Interest angle, which might be attractive to you. The way in which we get to read of 19 couples who started a business together, the problems they faced and how they overcame the same makes for an engaging read, that is for sure. The way in which work division was implemented, the candid admission of differing viewpoints and the way they were overcome make for a fascinating read. All in all, I rate this book 4 stars out of 5, and a very richly deserved 4 stars! 

Listen To The Macro Trends – Or Lose Marketshare!

Published May 15, 2017 by vishalvkale

One of the current trending news items in Business news is the status of India’s IT Industry, which has been hit, seemingly hard, by the gale force winds of what seems to be The Trump Administration’s new approach towards the US Economy. The impact, as per two news reports I have read, is expected to be quite massive, at least in terms of Jobs: the job loss is expected to be 56,000 in one year, and upto 2,00,000 in three years.
This is now more than terrifying… this is turning into a virtual bloodbath… if true {IF true}, then my question is how could we be so underprepared? The answer : the exclusive focus, the singleminded focus on current cash flows, current revenues, excluding any focus or analysis of the future trends, emergent risks, technology & consumer trends… we need to spend far, far more on investing in people at all levels, increasing their knowledge base, sensitising them to long term trends. The current manager is taught to think that reading is bookish; that the present is all that matters; that statistics, trends are nor them.
This isn’t the first time an Industry has been hit by large-scale gale-force external winds; though this instance is by far and away the most visible. The Telecom Services trade is also witnessing a similar external wind; though for different reasons. Another example that comes to mind is the Handset trade, which has also been hit brutally hard by external winds. In both cases, organisations have shut down or been sold; there have been pink slips; tumultuous shifts in Market-Share as the industry dyanamics changed course seeminglyovernight.
Let us take a closer look at a couple of these instances, and see whether the changes were really indeed overnight, and could they not have been either foreseen, or at the very least, a rough estimate of the trend be prepared beforehand. Take the IT Trade, for example. There were indicators aplenty; the rising trend of protectionism, which isn’t a new trend, neither is it a trend isolated to the USA is just one such example. This development was well known before it struck. That is why the massivity of the expected impact comes as a surprise. This trend has been evident for some time now; it should have been anticipated by all of us. Similarly, the domain specialists in this field have, for some time now, been writing of the need for Indian Firms to step up the value chain, and get innovative. The combination of these two factors accounts for the impact we are seeing!  
Let us move our emphasis to Telecom Hardware – the advent of 4G devices was a known factor. This should have been anticipated, and yet wasn’t, not fully at any rate. The rising market-share of Chinese players as well as the online players was another well known trend, that should have been noted, and its import extrapolated. Yet, at least one or two firms in my knowledge were stuck with high 3G stocks, leading to price pressure. This is standard, first year marketing – new technology drives down the prices of existing products on the path towards obsolescence. The power of the internet as a disruptor again should have been anticipated. Some brands, which anticipated both trends – succeeded in not only holding on to their share, but also growing. The ones that didn’t, either failed or lost market-share.
Telecom services is another sterling example. The advent of additional players was, is and remains a known factor. The dilution in ARPUs in the past 4-6 year is also a matter of public record. The investments in the industry are again, exceedingly well known. Balance sheets and their status is also on public record. Add to this the on-ground competitive factors  like increasing competitiveness on retail counter shelves, lack of stickiness in retail, erosion of pricing power at consumer level, as well as known advent of Jio were all factors that are well known in the trade. All that is required is the connection of all the dots.
In some cases, these factors were connected well in time, the big picture successfully drawn, appropriate decisions taken; these companies are today reaping the benefit of these timely decisions. But the fact remains that by and large, Macro  Factors are not usually connected up – Patanjali is another example; there were a host of indicators that should have indicated to the FMCG companies of big trouble on account of the Patanjali factor. In each of the 4 examples analysed above, it represents an ill-timed focus on the current, the now, and not enough {in some cases, zero} focus on the future trends. Another factor is innovation; unless the firm & the local industry is innovating, the risk that it is not growing in value addition remains. When the Macro Environment changes, it is these innovative firms which are at the edge of competence / skills and Technology developments, which weather the impact and come out of the change phase in flying colours.
The current & the now deserves our attention; any laxity in this sphere has crippling long term impacts. That is beyond argument; but, at the same time, what is needed is a focused, planned attention on the future in terms of Micro as well as Macro trends. The Business Manager, probably starting from Junior-Mid Levels, {Third line in tall structures, 2nd in flat structures} should be sensitive towards such movements. This will help escalate relevant industry long terms shifts & trends to top management; as well as help in upskilling these potential top managers to read critical business factors. This small shift will strengthen the organization in the mid levels, freeing up top management time for criticalities. This isn’t easy to implement – but needs to be done. You have to learn the skills for the top while you are climbing the ladder; every manager must ideally invest in self on the way up; that said – every company should also invest in upskilling its line & staff teams in reading the business environment…

Book Review: People Called Ahmedabad

Published May 13, 2017 by vishalvkale

The People Place Project is an initiative to chronicle the NOW- the life and times we live in. Through a lens of people, we hope to pin together the narrative of how we have come to be here – our language, our thoughts, our attire, our structures – everything that defines us. We like to call it a mapping project – exploring  a city/place  with the stories of the people. That is what the website states on its landing page; how is it {their objective} achieved is the question!

This is done through chronicling the various people in selected cities; with one volume for each city. So far, they have done Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Shillong & Kochi. The current book under review is the chronicle on Ahmedabad : People Called Ahmedabad. The approach is surprising, to say the least; as also damned hard to review, as you shall see. But, curiously enough, this surprising approach holds more than enough pulling power in it for me to want to read the other books in this series!
The key question remains how does one define a city? That, to me, is the only seemingly negative point in an otherwise riveting, interesting and engaging concept; perhaps I have not succeeded in fully identifying with the project, or with fully understanding it. Be that as it may, as of now it seems to be a project half-done, or to be more accurate, 3-quarters done. As an outsider to Ahmedabad, but a person who has visited it often, I could not grasp the flavor of the city in full through these chronicles. That said, it does present a logical and immediately identifiable picture of the city, of that there is no doubt.
As for all good books, I will look at the failures first, so that my readers can go away with a positive impression at the end. Where does it come short? Frankly, it looks at an Ahmedabad caught in a time-warp, so to speak; it looks at an Ahmedabad in many aspects, but it fails to capture the spirit that makes it one of the most happening cities for Business in India. There is just a passing hint of the teen and young adult aspect, the education hub that is Ahmedabad. For that is the now of the Ahmedabad; that is what it currently is. Yes, all the aspects covered are true, logical and vivid; but this aspect is absent. All it would have taken are 4-5 stories on these aspects in total.

On the plus side, it has to be said that the book describes Ahmedabad in myriad ways such that you can visualize it as a living entity, so to speak; every flavor, every aspect of this city has been highlighted through carefully selected real stories of unknown people, with each story being engaging, vivid, interesting, as well as containing either a learning, or a moral, or a message – or a fervent hope. In these pages you can see and read a lot, both in actual words as well as by reading between the lines. And that is the biggest success for this excellent collection of stories.

The Food of Ahmedabad is one such example; with several stories around this theme – telling of the food as well as the stories of the people who prepared it, with the attendant learnings. {Though as someone with close family in Baroda, and one having visited it several dozens of times more than Ahmedabad – I refuse to accept this; you cant match Baroda in Gujarat in terms of the Gujarati Veg snacks}. I guess it is the same Mumbai-Pune tangle all over again even here!

Another example is the delicate, gentle, and beautiful handling and presentation of the communal problem of the city as it used to happen; the stories don’t dwell on this topic, but rather tell a positive tone. They do raise a feeling of disquiet as you trace the in-city movement of people, with some people moving their residences etc. This disquiet, though with no worrisome issues, does raise a feeling of melancholy in you, as you shake your head in regret.

All these stories tell of Communal Harmony; of people living together & staying together – which is a welcome change in the narrative, and one that is much needed. It tells the story of people transending religious boundaries in a salutary lesson to our modern world, which makes it a classy effort indeed. What is more, it covers all religions, all classes of society, all languages, from one side of the spectrum to the other. You get a complete picture of the city, so to speak, including generational Amdavadis as well as  people who made the city their home.
No aspect of life is left uncovered – except the one I pointed out above. Arts, Handicrafts, Dramatics find a mention here; which is remarkable in the modern world, where increasingly being “Western” is seen to be the in-thing. This shows the project is in tune with the current trend, where it is now seen to be the in-thing to be “Indian” so to speak; with the rise of the Vernacular, The local Arts and the Local Music and films – as shown by the sales trends of the past decade.

The best aspect of all? Riveting, moving stories of people who gave up big careers, who sacrificed and who thought out of the box to set up ventures to help people. There are more than a few such examples. This is a superb approach, setting exemplars for people through live stories. In these pages, you will find real life, you will find beating hearts; you will find the true heroes of our great country. All in all, this is a tremendous effort that makes for a rapid and riveting read, full of interesting stories, learnings, experiences, lives, events and case studies… rated 5 stars out of 5! 

Trump & India : A Reality Check

Published May 6, 2017 by vishalvkale

The election of Trump as POTUS had got the right wing in India in a celebratory mode; there were hopes of this event having a positive impetus on the Indo-US relationship. This hope was, at the outset, a wildly optimistic hope, given that Trump was elected on a protectionist rhetoric, a message of bringing jobs back to The USA; this was, however, ignored in the larger light of his views on terrorism as well as other factors, which seemed to indicate good tidings.
In the approximately 100-odd days since his taking over as POTUS, however, early indicators have given enough reason for the more optimistic among us Indians to become far more realistic; Trump as a President has done exactly as he has promised – which is admittedly a surprise even to me. Frankly, on one side, it is good to see a politician walking the talk in the USA. That said, the other side of the equation has given rise to many, many deep rooted questions which need answering for us.
His focus on creating Jobs in the USA are beginning to give results for the Americans; good for them. But, it has come at a cost. In a connected world, any movement either side in any place will have an attendant cost side on some other side. And in this, we are on the other side, as more Jobs in America mean lesser Jobs in India, as visa rules tighten up, and Indian companies are forced to invest in the USA not just in infrastructure but in hiring as well. This means, as per at least one article, loss of jobs in India, to the ratio of 4:1. This makes perfect sense, given the per capita difference and wage rules difference.
From this one example alone, it can be seen that the coming of Trump is nowhere near being exactly a great thing for us Indians, at least not in the business atmosphere. Now whether it is a bad thing remains to be seen; just cause it isn’t good doesn’t automatically mean it is bad. It depends on a variety of sectors {I have taken but one example} as well as on our response on the diplomatic and business fronts. That is something that we shall see in the fullness of time. But for now, there is enough reason for us to become realistic, stop eulogizing Trump and the USA, and analyse dispassionately.
Having said that, there are early indicators of rising stress in some other areas as well, where either disputes are pending, or where the Trump administration is showing signs of toughness. Taxation in startups and corporates is one such area that comes to mind; the USA reviewing nations with which it has a trade deficit is another area of potentially rising stress. Note that early last month, The Trump administration launched  a 90-day investigation of countries, including India, against which the US runs a bilateral trade deficit – just another example.
Just think of this for a moment; a rich country, doing its best to profit for itself, at the cost of a poor country. Think of the amorality of this hard move. You can call it business all you want – but if you knowthat your move will harm a country with which you are trying to be friends, I am pretty sure that a middle path can be found, so long as there is genuine desire on both sides of the equation. India has shown its desire to be friendly; now the ball is in the the US court to respond. I am not hopeful! Not only is this amoral, it does not sound a very friendly move on the part of the USA!
If that isn’t all, this – aah – trend of moves that have the potential to disturb India doesn’t stop at trade. It extends to the Geopolitical and Strategic levels as well, where there is a lot more clarity needed on direction as on date. So far, the USA has not only shown no indication of acting against Pakistan, it has in fact done the reverse,  trying to re-hyphenate India-Pakistan, offering to intervene in our bilateral matters. More recently, it gave indications of cutting aid to India, while keeping Pakistan untouched!
Put it all together – and the reality stares at you. India-USA are as far apart as they were before; yes-  there are possibilities of great relations, a potential which was absent earlier. Agreed, and granted. But the very real differences in world view, economic realities and priorities, internal realities, and geopolitical differences mean that we need to keep our eyes peeled, and our options open; we need to ensure our interests are protected. And this is where the right-wing can help by stopping the rhetoric!


  1. Delhi Solar Policy plans to solve energy crisis; here’s how solar panels will power your homes     
  2. Trump card: Delhi to get tough if US blocks Indian exports
  3. Solar energy subsidy: After attempts for amicable solution fail, India drags US to WTO dispute settlement body
  4. India rejects US offer to mediate with Pakistan
  5. US plans to gut aid to India but continue with $200mn to Pakistan
  6. Every American Infosys hires in US will lead to loss of 4 jobs in India