All posts for the month July, 2017

Book Review – In The Name Of God

Published July 30, 2017 by vishalvkale

In The Name Of God is the title of the latest thriller from the mighty pen of Ravi Subramanian; one of the finest authors from India in the thriller Genre. And, all I can say is that the book justifies its title – In The Name Of God. This is a book set in the backdrop of a case that hogged media headlines in India for ages – The Padmanabhaswamy Temple, the of whose vaults and their wealth was national news for a pretty long time, and will still be in public memory.

The story is around the legal case of the wealth in the vaults of the temple, which is sub-judice. The backdrop is precise – there is a royal family and its patriarch, and a litigator {as in the real world}, who is asking for a judicial intervention and valuation of the vaults of the famed temple. The High Court concurs, and transfers the charge of the Temple and its wealth to the State. This verdict is appealed in The Supreme Court by the State in the book.
A 7-member panel of valuers is appointed by the court to value the assets in the vaults. As most of the assets are in the form of Jewels, this has to include some major people from the Jewel and Bullion Trade. This is where the story takes off. A side-story develops, that of a new bourse in BKC in Mumbai – where the Jewellers don’t want to move, led by one of the most significant players in Mumbai in this trade. Simultaneously, a case of Stolen Artefacts is being investigated as part of an international investigation. In addition to all this is the spectre of irregularities in the Temple affairs.
The CBI steps in, and sends a capable officer to investigate; this officer walks slam-bang into a local intrigue, as the Royal Family enjoys patronage – and the investigation slowly but surely links upto the Temple. The local liason and senior officers are under pressure from the State Government; the CBI Investigator has to navigate this problem in order to crack the case. To make matters worse, a murder gets involved in all of this, elevating this case from mere irregularities and/or Artefact thievery to one of  a very high  priority murder investigation…
One of the most stunning aspects of this book is the blend of fact and fiction; the scale of the intermingling in mind-blowing! You have outdone yourself, Mr Subramanian, hats off! The real case also started at a local level, went to the HC, and was appealed in the SC – but not by the state; it was appealed by the Royal Family. As per This Link from India Today, the Amicus Curiae did find “serious irregularities and malpractices in the management of the temple and its immense wealth”. And as per This Link from TheHindustan Times, there were thefts reported from The Padmanabhaswamy temple – first Gold worth Rs . 189 Crore, and then Diamonds.
This is one of those books that cant really be properly reviewed without revealing too much; so I chose not to properly review it – I will not give Characters Outlines; nor a review of the story. Anything I say, I run the risk of spoiling the readers’ fun. Given that this is a suspense thriller, I would much rather the reader goes into this book a “virgin”, if you will excuse the usage of the term. The less the reader knows while starting this book, the better.
The book is, from start to finish, a stupendous effort, make no mistake. It is one of the finest from the pen of Mr Subramanian, who has outdone himself. It is a riveting book – and yet, it isn’t too fast paced. It is more of an involved book, with an intricate plot, and an extensive character-cast, with each character being vital to the story and the flow. There isn’t any one strong character : I could spot at least 4 or 5 key characters with equal presence and strength. It requires uncommon skill to craft such an intricate plot with so many diverse and equal characters.
Given the scope and spread of the subject – there isn’t much scope for character development; though this isn’t missed at all, as it is not critical to the story. This is a story with a vast and massive kaleidoscope and tremendous breadth and span. Part of the magic it weaves on the reader can be attributed to this range. The story isn’t tightly knit, in that it takes a couple of small detours – yet, at no point does it falter, as the detours help to build the background and the expectations.

It isn’t all hunky dory – I do have a small grouse with the book; specifically, the treatment of the solution – which I shall share personally with Mr Ravi Subramanian over the mail. Sharing it here will reveal too much about the plot. Suffice it to state that the statements in some parts do not gel to me. But that does not mean that the book’s ending isn’t as riveting or conclusive or convincing or surprising, given the ground reality of the chosen background. That is all I will state. I rate it 4 stars including my bias or view above, and 5 stars without bias.  

Clicking Photos While A Man Dies – Shabaash People!

Published July 21, 2017 by vishalvkale

Stock image from the internet – Blogger was taking incorrect images, so used this

The morning news  – the first article I clicked, an action I sincerely regret now, was on an accident in Pune, the city I live in. I was stunned into shock by the news – people stood around clicking photographs of the poor hapless person while he lay bleeding on the street. Not one person came forward to help. God Bless the only decent man there, a dentist, who came forward to help, and assisted in taking the injured person to the nearest hospital. Just think – people standing around, clicking photographs while a hapless and helpless person lies on the road, bleeding!

PUNE: A 25-year-old software engineer, who was bleeding severely after being knocked down by a hit-and-run accident, died because he did not get timely help from passersby at Indrayaninagar corner in Bhosari on Wednesday evening. Shockingly, the onlookers chose to shoot videos and click photos of the accident rather than take the engineer, {Name Deleted}, to hospital. –
What do I say to this display of inhuman brutality and idiotic insensitivity? I feel sick, feel like puking at the very thought of clicking photos of a man in dire need of medical help? What kind of sickening mental depravity of the worst order, what kind of sick insane bastard would do that? What kind of mad and equally cruel idiot would stand clicking photographs while a man died on the road? All who did this – you call yourself humans? Even ANIMALS have a greater sense of what is right and wrong. At this point, I am feeling ashamed to be a part of the human race!
What is so damned attractive of an injured man lying bleeding on the road? What is it that makes it a memorable event? Are we so blinded by the attraction of likes on social media that it eclipses our basic human instincts – instincts which make us human in the first place? Why this sickening, horrible and nauseating habit of clicking photographs of a dying man? What will you get out of it? A few damned likes on Social Media? Is it that bloody important?
If it isn’t likes on Social Media, what other reason can you find? If it isn’t likes, then what is it – is it that you are getting satisfaction out of it? Because if that is the case, my don’t-call-yourself-my-friend, you need to check into a psychiatric ward and get treatment. Blunt, Frank and Straight. Human misery – if that gives you satisfaction – then you are mad, period. And evil. The only possible recourse in such a situation is to leave to place immediately if you do not want to or for some reason cant do anything; or – at the very least you can and should try and collect like-minded people to get them to help; Not stand around clicking gory photographs and videos, something emblematic of a society and a person in terminal decline, a sign of a mentally sick man or woman!
If it isn’t either of the above- then what is the curious fascination some people have for such unfortunate scenes? Why are they drawn, and yet stand gawking like morons at the scene? Ok – it isn’t about likes, and it isn’t about a sick fascination. What else can it be? Why do we see regular scenes of half-wits standing around gawking and staring at scenes of mishaps everywhere around us? In every city I have lived in or travelled to in India, I can see this sick scene, when people are attracted like flies to a fire – to scenes of distress and destruction, and yet doing nothing, Just staring blankly as though they were watching a stupendous and mind-blowing performance on Theatre or Cinema!.
As a matter of fact, this actually proves that Animals are superior to what has now become of the Human Race. We call ourselves the pinnacle of evolution; to all those who subscribe to this wholly inaccurate belief, look around how animals also help each other. Compassion is an integral part of being Human – and these displays of evil insensitivity just make us all that little bit more inhuman with each passing day. This is an all-too-regular happening on our roads – I have written regarding this earlier as well. As a Human Being, today I ask for forgiveness from the family of the deceased, and from God… Please forgive us…

Wells Fargo Grilling – Why It Cant Happen In India

Published July 20, 2017 by vishalvkale


One of the latest videos running viral on Social Media currently is the brilliant takedown of the Wells Fargo Top Man by a Senator, an excellent demonstration of interrogative skills, diligent and fair research, and deep domain expertise combined into one devastating argument. For the unaware, in very short, The Well Fagro account fraud scandal is an ongoing controversy brought about by the creation of millions of fraudulent savings and checking accounts on behalf of Wells Fargo clients without their consent. Various regulatory bodies, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), fined the company a combined $185 million dollars as a result of the illegal activity, and the company faces additional civil and criminal suits. You can read more on it here : Wells Fargo Accounts Scandal – Wiki
While I agree with the general contention of all who have voiced a regret that this is not the case in India, that such searching questions are not asked of corporations in India- one can offhand think of more than a few cases where such deep questions can be asked, and should certainly be asked. Let me state just one, and that too individual example, let alone the bigger cases. A very well known conglomerate, highly respected, once opened a division to sell corporate debt bonds, or FDs, to unsuspecting investors. My Dad invested quite a bit of his money in it, despite my ardent pleas not tom as my analysis told me to beware. The net result is that we defaulted on our final installment {we were paying in two parts} on our home, lost it – and my parents died without a residence. We haven’t seen that money since.
This is just one example – there are others. The above is quoted just to make a point; that enforcement and accountability in extremely lax in India. This is beyond debate – even in the above case, there was a lot of, aah, action. A lot of noise, a lot of so-called questions and what-not. But the long and short of it was that we never got to see our money again -and it has now been 20+ years. I haven’t forgotten – that company is responsible for a lot of pain my parents went through. Neither can I forgive myself that despite having the knowledge and the ability I was unable to prevent the catastrophy that befell us.
The point of relevance is that never have I seen such stunningly blunt questioning being asked of the top management as in this video; and never have I seen such transparency being at least asked for from the Government to the Corporate Top Managers. This does not mean all is well on wall street – that it assuredly isn’t; it is as bad, maybe worse – far worse, than Indian Companies. History is mute proof of that – and we don’t need to go beyond 10 years in that history for proof. Wall Street and/or The Oh-So-Great West hasn’t learnt, not by a long shot; but at least they are asking, or are beginning to ask, hard questions of the Top Management and trying to hold them accountable for their misdeeds.
What we need is a dose of the same – hard, searching questions asked in televised open debates from Senior Management, by Parliamentarians  & Regulators who have deep domain expertise in that area, backed by thorough solid investigation and research. Let us be honest and ask ourselves do we have the atmosphere in the environs that matter – Parliament & Regulators -that can allow such a move? Knowledge isn’t an issue; that is certain – there are experts with deep domain skills available even in the regulators and the Government. But is it feasible for us, given the current atmosphere that prevails, that can allow such sessions with Top Honchoes from Corporate India? Look around, and see who has defaulted, and got away; who has done scams, or has highlighted major shortcomings, and got away without deep searching questions in public. The list is long.
In most cases we get investigations running into years, court cases, but no top man is ever brought to answer his or her decisions, actions; not in my case above, and not in any other case in my memory. Contrast with this Wells Fargo video – this happened in 2012-2014/15; and already we have this brilliant takedown. Thus, it isn’t just a question of will or atmosphere or ability alone – it is the entire ecosystem that needs to evolve to that level of accountability and speed of execution. Hard fact is that in India, we don’t ask our leaders any questions, be it in Public Sphere or be it in the Corporate World.
Ask yourselves – do we have the requisite resources in each identified area to execute something like this? How many scamsters, corporate top guys etc have been grilled like this? What is more – can they be grilled like this in India? If no, why not? Bringing this here requires more than just will etc – it requires investigation, proper and fast response mechanisms to a crisis, people of domain expertise involved in this matter who can guide the investigators in the right direction; it requires a speed of execution, and relative independence in operation.  That requires deep seated reform at the central and state polity; it requires speed of execution and independence, and freedom from political-corporate nexus. That is what we need – can we make it happen? I certainly hope so; but I fear not… I hope I am wrong….

Tarkeshwar Mahadev : Pune Hidden Gems

Published July 15, 2017 by vishalvkale

What do you do when you have something good, something that is praiseworthy, and something that can be an attraction? Answer, if you are in Pune – keep silent about it, tell no one. This is seemingly exaggerated – perhaps it is exaggerated; but I am flabbergasted by a series of unbelievable locations that I have visited in Pune City – within main Pune City, mind you. These are not well known – at least not one single localite informed me, even on asking. At least those I talked. If I didn’t talk to the right people, perhaps I am in the wrong.

But – if you expand your vision to TV, Cinema, Popular opinion, hotels – the situation above gets proof. I earlier visited Pune on a family holiday, stayed in a good Hotel. Not one Hotel informed me of these; not one person – Taxi, Tour Guide – even mentioned these. Thus, it seems to me that Puneites don’t realise how lovely a city they have, how mesmerizing are its many, many tourist-worthy places, how rich and unspoiled, unaffected by commercialism and popularity – making them lovely family visits.

I am referring to the many, many locations not mentioned usually, unlike the ever present Shaniwar Wada and Sinhagad etc. Sure, these are noteworthy; these are lovely and stupendous in themselves, they are the crowning Jewels of the city of Pune. But the people here forget that it has many other places – that deserve greater attention, like Pataleshwar Caves, Southern Command War Memorial {shared on my blog earlier} and the current one being reviewed – Tarkeshwar Mahadev, Yerwada, Pune

I did not even know of the existance of these three; Pataleshwar Caves I discovered on my own, as I was visiting JM Road on a market visit with team. The key account we were visiting was out, and I had time; I noticed something across the road – and walked. To my stunned and shocked surprise, I walked in on an ancient Temple cum cave complex, one of the loveliest locales it has been my luck to see. But more of that in the appropriate place when I document and review Pataleshwar… let us look at Tarkeshwar today in this review

Tarkeshwar, like Pataleshwar, is my discovery, insofaras not one single Puneite told me of its existance. I happened to notice a tall Shivji statue on my way from Bund Garden to Yerawada; I just walked in -yet again, to be stunned out of my wits – I was slam-bang right in the middle of one of the loveliest, and extremely holy sites, with a beautiful mesmerizing view and climb, and an even lovelier beauty of a temple  complex, with the primary deity being Shivji.

There is no indication of its heritage, or of its historicity – none that  I saw, at any rate. One of the pilgrims there told me that it is a very ancient temple {that is apparent from the construction etc}, and that it has linkages to the Pandav Brothers. I hunted on the internet – I could not spot anything on any site, save for a small article from January 2016 of its renovation being planned. I don’t think this said renovation has actually happened by the way, judging from the article and the temple. Only on tripadvisor and other such aggregator sites and one or two blogs is there a mention so far as I could see.

So tell me, Puneites – why should this be so? Look at these mesmerizing snaps, and tell me that this place isn’t worth a visit, even without the connected holy temple! Look at the images, dear readers, and decide for yourselves whether this place deserves a visit or not for yourselves. As regards the Temple, I can only say it is clearly very old, and is an immensely calming presence with Shivji as the primary deity, and smaller temples dedicated to other dieties in the Temple complex, like Renuka Mata and including clearly newer addition like one dedicated to Saibaba. Please look at these enclosed photographs, and decide for yourselves that this place deserves at least one visit or not… 

Book Review: Quarter Life Crisis

Published July 12, 2017 by vishalvkale


This story has been due for a long time now… about time someone wrote something along the lines of something that is almost pandemic among the clueless youth of the modern world, self included. It is a surprise no one thought of penning something like this earlier, though I have read one book along similar lines, though not quite on the ball, as this one is. I am referring to the modern youth, and his or her attitude towards life in general and career & family to be specific.
The plot is fairly simple – though fascinating. It is about two people: one a young man, the other a young lady. The young man is completely clueless about his life; has got into an Engineering degree course without an iota of planning or thought; in the 4th year, he has little idea or interest in what to do with the rest of his life. To put it simply, this poor man is clueless. He is even more clueless about his lady love, beyond the obvious fact that he is genuinely in love, and totally committed to her. The lady has none of the above problems – and is a beacon of strength, unlike the half-wit she loves.
The long and short of it is that things get out of hand in the personal sphere first – and the lady lands up getting pregnant. To make things interesting, she categorically refuses the option of abortion, though she is all of 21 or thereabout. Despite the fact that she has a clear definable life goal & a workable plan for it – she is adamant, as only a woman can be; trust me. The good point, or should I say the only redeeming point in the gentleman, he is a true gentleman. He stands by his lady love, and vehemently supports her, once he sees that there is no changing her mind. Tremendous maturity on his part, the way he accepts the reality, and wholeheartedly supports her.
The family of the lady, on the other hand, has some other ideas; they are just not willing to listen to either of them, or the lady’s plan to have the child. The two lovers plans were well known to both families, as they were together since long, but the lady’s parents will not accept this – given the gentleman’s cluelessness of his direction & life. The gentleman & the lady are clear-  lets get married immediately. But that is easier said than done, as the lady’s family will have none of it.
The gentleman’s family, though understandably distraught over this nasty surprise, gets over it fast enough – aided by a strong elder sister of the Gentleman, who is critical yet supportive of the two. She even tries to intervene in the Lady’s family, to no avail. Eventually, this family rises in solid support of the two lovers, a phase which has been handled remarkably well in the book. The book takes off from this point in the second half, for a series of genuine heart-warming, at times melancholy, surprises as the main characters show uncommon resolve, faith and patience… for what happens next, read the book!
There isn’t much to analyse in this book, to be honest; I don’t mean that as a criticism. This is a human interest story, a story on human lives and emotions. This is not a situational story, or a circumstantial one full of twists and turns and / or action. This is a book of Human Emotions, Life, Life Choices, Reactions, Family, and about Building a Life by Overcoming Ones Weaknesses. This is a book of how a clueless man finds himself; this is a book of choices – on how the choices you make impact your life as a whole. This is a book that teaches a standing life lesson, to be honest, in some ways.
The book does, at one level, serve to raise some pertinent life questions to the discerning reader, as to the importance of one’s choices, the importance of having a clear definable goal in life; of being on the right side of social norms; of having the strength to face the consequences of going against the norm; of being committed about everything in life; and about how things can go wrong if commitment is lacking in your approach or your attitude towards anything. It does all of this without being judgemental!
The story is intense and slow-paced; the author deserves credit for writing an engaging story despite it being a slow story. The way the intensity of the relationships portrayed in this novel has been brought out with clever wordplay, and a minimum of fuss and needless over-dramatization is what impressed me the most. Further, this intensity has been quite successfully maintained throughout the entire novel, without any  sacrifices made on any aspect of the novel.

The charectarisation is adequate; quite good, in fact. The character sketches are near-flawless in the consistency of their reactions over time and range of situations, which is a tremendous achievement in a novel of this genre. The behaviour of each character is fully believable and seems practical in the light of the overall character; not one scene seems forcefully done, or out of place. The best part of all is the female characters, all of which are shown as strongly-etched, which I personally liked. The language is simple and functional, not flowering, yet it succeeds to create a moving image in your mind. All in all, rated 4 stars out of 5…

Movie Review – Hrudayantar

Published July 9, 2017 by vishalvkale

Child / Family member having Leukemia or being terminally ill is a theme that has been dealt with more times than you and I would care to count; which is also an observation critics have made of this movie as well. Thus, if you are deciding to make a movie on this aspect or theme, then it should be having loads of glue so that the audience will respond to it; which is not easy to do in the modern day with its fickle and well-informed audience. As per some critics, it is a movie that has an old subject or is predicatable; as per me – this stands as one of the most stunning movies ever made in its genre, any language. So what is it that makes this movie stand out among all others?

This is the story of a DITK family – Double Income Two Kids family;  The Husband {Shekhar, played by Subodh Bhave} is a top – and I mean top – hotelier; the lady {Samaira, played by Mukta Bhave} is the Creative Head of an Ad Agency; two successful and exceedingly well-placed individuals. They have two children – Nitya and Nysha, played by Trushnika Shinde and Nishtha Vaidya. The couple are going through a hard phase, as the Husband is a workaholic who has not learnt to navigate the fine dividing line between office time and personal time; a man who lives only and only for his job.

The lady, on the other hand, has managed to fit in both into her life, and justifiably expects the husband to do so as well. This leads to them filing for divorce by mutual consent; and then disaster strikes, in the form of the elder daughter getting diagnosed with Leukemia. The rest of the story revolves around this theme, as the couple respond to this crisis, and together they try and do everything within their power and the power of medicine, to save their girl. How the family responds, reacts, coalesces, how each family member copes with the crisis is the crux of the movie.
As can be seen, the plot is quite straightforward; what matters in a movie is not just the plot, but the whole package; that is what most professional reviewers have been forgetting. On site after site, one can see that critic reviews and customer reviews vary from each other by a wide margin – Bookmyshow, 4.1 vs 3.2, with 80% loves; most other sites are also showing a 0.5 higher rating by customers. To the professional reviewers – those figures are telling a story, that w don’t agree with you. Isnt a movie supposed to be about the audience? And if your ratings don’t tally, what does that say?
So what is it that makes this movie one of the best I have ever seen – given that it has reached my blog, which has only reviewed 10-odd movies in the past 6-7 years, it is, to me, a very special movie indeed? It is the entire package, which comes together in one magnificent whole to make a great product. It is the attention to detail, the minutiae, the small aspects that create the magic. Add to that the uniqueness in the script {A script is different from A story!}, the screenplay, the performances, the music and the direction – all of these come together in one magical product, a product that can be seen again and again. I for one cant wait to see Shekhar and Samaira on screen once again, that is for certain!
The script seems logical – the moment the illness hits, the interpersonal issues of the couple vanish – unlike some other movies we have seen in this genre. This is entirely logical; that is the first aspect that hits home. Gone are the fights, the disagreements, the egos – in one stroke of terrifying lightning, as the couple immediately comes together. The best part – they don’t become lovey-dovey overnight; it is just that the immediate priority is fighting the crisis, which makes them rise above their internal issues. This is dealt with superbly, with the script and the screenplay showing a slow and decidedly thaw developing as the story progresses. This took some doing – as the illness hit within the first 30 minutes of the movie. The way the script and the screenplay develop this is masterly!
Second, the Performances. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G! Simply amazing! Subodh Bhave – I have always maintained that Subodh is among the best actors ever produced by our country; and was therefore wondering if Mukta Barve can hold her own against such a powerful screen presence, with an actor with such a wide range of capabilities as seen in his other efforts. I have earlier noted her abilities in no uncertain terms in one other review before; and had a very high regard for her. Despite this, I must confess I was concerned about this casting, and was eagerly waiting for the results.
I needn’t have worried; this casting was a masterpiece. The script required two strong performers of equal merit, depth and range of emotions, and gravity of purpose and screen presence to cocreate magic; this was achieved by this casting. The expressions, the movements, the gestures, the faces, the body language – and the eyes; especially the eyes. I saw two acting aces, geniuses pull off what has to be the best performance of their lives, and that is saying something. So captivating were the two performances, so absolutely mind boggling, that you are moved to tears, and yet maintain a great mood, as you watch, transfixed, as Samaira and Shekhar take us deep into their lives.
A word here for Trushnika and Nishtha, the two child actors; I am speechless at the talent of these two incredible performers. They add the required substance, believability, class and connect to the movie, and their performance had to be just right; not too overdramatic, not underdone. And it was perfect, as near perfect as can be. Without these two performances,  the movie would have lost a lot of its sheen; it is the overall balance in the entire product that makes it great.
And it is here that directorial genius becomes evident – the directorial efforts get hidden by two towering geniuses in Samaira & Shekhar; but getting the kids, the supporting actors to also perform as well –  is class direction. It is also evident in the overall construction of this landmark project, the music, the balance, and the overall handling; we have a new and very, very talented director who would bear watching very closely indeed – if his first venture is anything to go by. I have said nothing of the music so far – so let me correct that; the music with its mix of lively and mood numbers is just right for the movie, and is very good indeed – and also gels well with the screenplay, script and the characters.

To Film Critics – couldn’t all of you see these aspects? Why the comparatively miserly rating for such a great product? Just because it deals with an oft-dealt with product? What do you guys require to rate a move highly, do tell me! And if the audience rates the movie higher, much higher – then I respectfully submit that there is a lack of audience connect on your part. All in all, this is one of the finest movies made in India in its genre. It is a complete entertainer; despite being a relatively tragic topic, you come out transfixed and in a great mood. That is one hell of an achievement! Rated 5 stars out of 5, and I wish I could rate it 7 stars out of 5! 

Drama Review – Yugpurush {Marathi}

Published July 9, 2017 by vishalvkale


The play is directed by acclaimed director Rajesh Joshi of ‘Code Mantra‘ fame, and scripted by well-known playwright Uttam Gada of ‘Maharathi’ fame. The music direction is by popular composer duo Sachin – Jigar. Duration: 120 minutes with intermission. This play has a series of awesome reviews and testimonials, in addition to being from the stable of one of the most powerful dramas in Marathi – Code Mantra. Click the link to see the testimonials

How did The Mahatma become just that : The Mahatma? How did Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi traverse the journey to becoming a Mahatma? This is the subject the current play under review attempts to tackle, which it does remarkably well. This, however, is not a play on the Indian Freedom Struggle; neither is it a play on The Mahatma per se, in that it doesn’t have The Mahatma in the primary role; the central character is a man who should be known to us all – Raichand Mehta. {Click link to know more about this great soul}  This is the story of The Mahatma’s Guru, who played a key role in the formation of the views of The Mahatma.

First, let us look at the claim that the play makes – as that Guru. There is some historical basis for this claim – as we can see from The Mahatma’s Autobiography, Pg 81-83, and Pg 189 of The Story Of My Experiments With The Truth, Navjivan Publishing House {To be reviewed on my Blog}. I quote : “Thus, though I could not place Raychandbhai on the throne of my heart as a Guru, we shall see how he was, on many occasions, my guide and helper”. It is clear from this that while the claim that the play makes is not fully borne out by the book I have, it is reasonably accurate. We can proceed from this assumption.

Further, reading on in the same paragraph, we read : “Three Moderns have left a deep impress on my life and captivated me: Raychandbhaiby his living contact, Tolstoy by his Book – The Kingdom Of God Is Within You, and Ruskin by his Unto The Last”. This sentence is most interesting and critical in analyzing the script of this play – Raychandbhai has been specifically mentioned by The Mahatma as the only living person who has influenced The Mahatmadeeply by his living contact. From this, we can accept the gist of the play, we have sufficient indication for this acceptance.
This is not a subject that is amenable to a theatre presentation; this is more suited to motion cinema. Adapting the story to the stage presents several challenges : how does one write the script to fully show, with power and sufficient impact, the change in beliefs and thoughts, personality and attitude of a simple man with normal failings and weaknesses into one of the greatest living souls to walk our holy land? How did this incredible transformation happen? The limits of space, time, content and technology seem insurmountable – at first sight. At least, until someone of the caliber of this team steps in and decides to do the seemingly impossible!

The aspect that impressed me the most was the innovative usage of characters : normally you have one person playing a part – here, we had two different people playing the part of The Mahatma, which was a treat, as due to this single seminal decision of the Team, the message of the play became all the more clear and strong. This understanding requires a more than basic knowledge of the actual history of The Mahatma is the most siginificant downside to this. Nonetheless, even to normal viewers, the message ought to have been more than clear.

Due to this, i.e.two people playing The Mahatma, a few significant advantages were achieved. You could see a flashback almost as you would in a cinema. Second, you get to see The Mahatma in two stages of his life at the same time on the stage : making crystal clear the massive difference that had come in him by the time of his last years. History is clear – The Mahatmawas increasingly isolated during the last years of his life, which is forcefully brought home through this as you get to see the juxtaposition of the young and the old Mahatma. The palpable difference in approach as well as personality was there for all to see – the confident, at times brash, yet sensitive young man, and the painfully old isolated elder Mahatma. Third, it becomes believable, when you see two different people portray the two stages of a long life; this is the advantage of the Drama genre as opposed to movies.

The core – the personality change, belief formation of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi as he slowly transforms into what he finally became is also put forward with panache and elan; you have to keep in mind the limitations of the genre – theatre / drama – and within those limitations, what is there is actually stupendous. This is, as far as I recall from my readings as documented on my blog, alongwith a few not yet reviewed there {The Story of My Experiments with the Truth; Jinnah, Partition, Independence; India’s Struggle for Independence etc} – close to documented history. That said, such is the power of the play  – due to its remarkably amazing perfomances, useage of stage space, direction and props – that I could actually hear two ladies sitting behind me, enraptured and commenting how they didn’t know this aspect of history. Now that is true praise – as it comes from somone not an expert on the topic, and yet was sufficiently impressed by it to comment as such.
Yes, there were weaknesses – but they weren’t mission critical, and some of these were further limitations imposed by the genre adopted for the adaptation of this story. There is actually little more you can do to show this exceptionally hard change-over from one personality type to another, deeper and far more powerful personality type. Thus far, I have focused only on The Mahatma – not on the central character. That is by design. Suffice it to say that I am stunned by this majesty and the power of the personality, views and transparent genius of Shri Raichandbhai Mehta. To know more – please watch the play!
The Best part about the play is it serves to give a series of exemplary lessons to us about the deep aspects of the purpose of our life, our approach towards it, dharm, and duties etc. These are driven home to superb anecdotal evidence-based presentations, and sheer class of a performance and direction. One dialogue and anecdote has stayed with me – “mag kaay dharmaache paalan fakt sanvaari, ravivari karaave kaa?” Translation – So, one should follow dharm only on festivals and auspicious days only? This was the response of Raichandbhai on being asked how do you do business while strictly following Dharm? A simple, hard-hitting question. And observation – you should follow a dharmic life in all aspects, which is also what the Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta says… all in all, if it were feasible, I would rate it 7 stars out of 5! 

The Israeli Relationship – Moralistic, Geopolitical & Palestine Considerations Analysed

Published July 5, 2017 by vishalvkale

This week, just yesterday as a matter of fact, our Prime Minister landed in Israel  – the first ever Prime Ministerial visit to that nation from our side. This is a seminal event; yet, it was saddening to see some voices being guarded, as opposed to openly welcoming this move. In a democracy, it is perfectly fine if you don’t support the ruling party, having voted for the other side; it is accepted as well as expected that you criticize – but when the Government does something laudable – you should welcome it.
This move by the NaMo Government stands in that list; a fully laudable move, one that we would do well to welcome, leaving our apprehensions aside for the time being. On that other hand – this is not a time for chest-thumping either; let us reflect what this move means for us as a nation, and analyse the pluses and the minuses of this new equation. Whatever else we look at, this is not the time for misguided moralistic analyses – Geopolitics is not a field that lends itself to excessive moralization, to be honest. You have to be extremely hard-nosed and practical in Geopolitics.
These stem from the Israel-Palestine issue; and the hard-nosed Israeli response. I feel for the problem, to be honest; but I have to admit with deep regret that they aren’t Indians – and Indian interests have to be placed first. I don’t say I like the way it is being handled – but there is little we can do, beyond a point. We aren’t the world police – and neither do we want to be the world policeman either. The onlyway to look at this problem is from a Geopolitical angle; not a right-and-wrong angle.
Further, it is surprising to note objections being raised basis Palestine, and in some cases China: I do not recall many voices questioning our relationship with the USA, which actively sends arms and aid to Pakistan, and which was the original provider of weapons to our enemy, leading from the Afghan conflict. The continuing support from the USA to Pakistan is a matter of documented record – and yet  few people raised a question as we went closer to the USA. Where were these moralizing objections then?
Not only that, Is the USA’s record crystal clear? Want that we should go into its highly chequered and ugly history? Or perhaps the innumerable times it stopped India, or tried to, from achieving its justified goals? I respectfully submit that The USA has a far uglier record than the Israelis who actually are saints by comparison. Remember the Iraq Fiasco? Where are those WMDs? And yet, we welcome closer ties – because it is the primary world power, and a much-sought after relationship?
I don’t recall as many questions being raised on the impact of our relationship with the Russians as we came closer to The USA. Why is that? So, it is OK if you go after an aspirational relationship with the premier world power, forgetting our long standing support from Russia? That is something that has required far more serious thought, and has been handled very adroitly by all Central Governments we have had; let us give them credit for that. Thus, cant we cut slack for our Government and our Diplomatic forces that they can handle Israel and Palestine with equal aplomb?
Yet, when we come to Israel, we get instant moralization. Where was this moralization when The USA is involved? Its human rights record is ugly beyond mention – yet, no controversy. Where was this moralistic stance when we moved USA-wards, forgetting that it was Russia who has always stood by us? When has the USA ever stood for us in Geopolitics? Almost never historically! What’s good for the geese is good for the gander – you cannot ignore moralistic issues in one relationship, and apply them in another. You have to apply the precise same standards in each case.
More serious are the Geopolitical objections, which to be perfectly frank – deserve a serious reading, and merit a reasoned response from us. To summarise, these are India-Iran; Arabs; NRIs in the Middle East; and the Israeli-Chinese relationship. We need to look at all of these in an informed debate : a dispassionate analysis of these is required, shorn of ideological baggage. Some of these frankly are fantastic, like the NRI problem or how our NRIs will be treated due to a relationship with Israel – that is just stretching things too far. The Arab world also has relations with Israel!
First, India is seeking alternatives to OPEC actively, trying to reduce the dependence on it for Oil. Second, some Arab nations are anyway fedup with Pakistan due to terrorism, and that is a huge point in our favour. Third, The Arab World is itself giving overtures to Israel – Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to be specific. We are also building relationships with The Arab World, who can also see our impact in Afghanistan. So, why on earth shouldn’t we build a relationship with Israel?  Fourth, Iran has seen our support to them in the face of The USA – and our diplomatic forces can be expected to handle the delicate relationship balance. That leads to Fifth – the Israel visit comes after a visit to the Arab world!Thus,  If we can balance USA and Russia, we can certainly be expected to balance Iran and Israel, that much seems to be certain. Let us not sell ourselves short.
Now, the Israeli Chinese Relationship. Why on earth should this make us uneasy? First of all, Israel is but of three major defense partners of ours, alongside the USA and Russia. We have hedged our bets, not being dependent on any one partner. Sure, a lot more needs to be done, but the direction is right. Second, Israel had supported us in 1962 against China. While that is no guarantee of the future, it is nevertheless a significant factor. It actively supported our Armed  Forces as well as our anti-terror efforts many times after that as well, including as recently as in 1999 during the Kargil conflict. Third – we are perfectly fine with having a relationship with USA, which is supporting Pakistan openly – but use a different yardstick to judge the India and Israel relationship! That is amazing!
Finally, on Palestine, I accept that we have been a long-standing supporter of the cause.  But we need to understand that we need to look out for ourselves first. We are in a world with rapidly re-aligning geopolitical relationships. In such changing times, we need to change with the times, and respond to the challenges being raised. A strategic alignment with Israel is a given, as we have many common points and mutual areas of interest. This is not present in the Palestine relationship.  Furthermore, there is no other reason to be reticent; we will have to trust our diplomatic corps to play the balancing role, That is the need of the hour. There is no such thing as a perfect strategy – it is always give and take.
This does not include the many areas of trade and scientific commonality that we enjoy with Israel – which is only just one more added incentive for closer and more open relations with Israel. From my opinion, my point of view, it sounds slightly hypocritical to talk of our relations with The USA is one voice, and analyse the Israeli relationship along diametrically opposite tones. In this, I stand solidly with the Government praisers – well done, NaMo Government. You have taken a splendid step for the reasons outined above. That said, it has been a collective effort- it has to be said that all political parties have stood by this relationship for years and nurtured it actively.

Selected References : 

Gold Story Since 1991 : A MacroEconomic Perspective

Published July 2, 2017 by vishalvkale

A lot of us Indians set store by Gold – both as an item of value, a shubh indication or item so to speak, as well as by its capability to generate returns. While I don’t argue with the first – Gold is indeed auspicious, and also in addition comprises Streedhan, and has no comparison on that scale. But as an investment vehicle it leaves a lot to be desired for. In the realm of macroeconomics, in addition to this, Gold is also used as an indicator by some people, and as a hedge against inflation.
The purpose of this article is just to look at the price of Gold over the past 20 – 25 years, and look at the returns it has generated over this period of time. This is the first article in a concerted effort to understand the interplay between various macroeconomic indicators and overall economic performance. I am documenting my thoughts and my personal research on my blog so that others who may have the same thoughts can be stimulated to research for themselves. For the period 1991-2017, the returns from Gold over the 25, 20  year periods has been range-bound in the area of 8-9.5% approx., which needs to be kept in mind by retail investors; as my article is not about retail investment, I leave it at that. The data is readily available, interested people can study and draw their own conclusions.
Gold in MacroEconomics has no precise treatment to the best of my knowledge; that said, various experts have tended to use it as a lagging indicator or as a proxy. However, in the 25 years whose price I have studied today, I could not find a correlation, except one significant factor- which is anyway well understood by Economists the world over. I will come to that later on in the article. Gold is universally considered a hedge against risk and inflation, due to its perceived safety and value proposition.
That is why I chose the year 1992 for the beginning point – as Gold is thought to be a lagging indicator. Even if you go back, the price of Gold was stable from 1988 through to 1991, when it jumped by nearly 25% – recall 1991 was the crisis year when we had the balance of payments crisis. The price movement of ,a lagging indicator. In fact, a comparison of Gold vs Senses makes for a most interesting study – both charts given below for your ready reference and study.
We have seen that Gold price can fall – recent history is proof of that; and has been proven time & again in the past as well. But more to the point is the comparison of the trendlines of Gold, GDP Growth and Sensex, which can then use to judge the direction of the economy. Further, we are well aware of the exact events that have occurred in the study period in terms of various marcoeconomic factors, as I went into in a previous article on my blog, replete with charts. Such a combined comparative study across parameters can then be an indicator of the current situation.

Chart 1 – Gold

These are given in the 3 charts above & below- one each on Gold Price, Gold vs Sensex, and GDP Growth rate. It is a most instructive comparison across these three parameters. The charts {Charts 1 & 2} clearly show a flat trend of Gold rates leading upto the watershed year in Global Economics – 2007, and the sudden spurt in the prices from that year. This is also replicated in other indicators – like inflation, given below – which is another macroeconomic indicator. From any parameter, almost, that we may choose for assessment, the year 2007 comes out as a significant watershed; nothing was the same afterwards. But that line of thought shall have to be consigned to the waiting bin for now; let us move on to Gold.
Chart 2 – Gold Vs Sensex

The interesting aspect is the years 2010-2016, wherein it is evident that gold was hovering or in fact increasing as uncertainty and issues cropped up for the UPA Government – a small but significant proof of the fact that Gold is a hedge investment against uncertainty and risk. But the most critical aspect is the trendline in comparison with the Sensex – in itself not exactly a great comparison, but one that gives unsights nonetheless. One can see Gold rising steadily even as risks piled up in the Global Economy in the leadup to the 2007 event, and continue its rapid rise through the tumult.
Chart 3 – Sensex

But most interesting is the event of 2004-2006, wherein Gold had, after a remarkably steady few years at 4000-6000 levels, jumped up by a significant margin. This is a lead indicator, which is not borne out by the some examples of prevalent macro-economic theory, which identifies Gold as a lagging indicator. Not being a qualified economist I cant say more; but I have personally always traced Gold as a Leading Indicator of the Economy. Given that it is a hedge against risk & uncertainty, it is fairly certain that as risks become unacceptable, investors will shift towards safe havens.
Chart 4 – GDP

Chart -5 : Inflation

Now coming to the present, we have seen in previous articles that the current situation is, to put it mildly, rather dicey; with a series of indicators ranging from PMI to GDP indicating a rising unease in the Economy. Let us put it all together to see if we can spot a trend. Interestingly, here again a trend is clearly visible – as seen above in the rising Gold price from 2011. But trace the inflation, gold, sensex and gdp graphs from 2004; {Charts 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5}  we can see all are again rising in that period. However, the current situation is markedly divergent – in that inflation is falling, demand is falling or subdued {it follows from inflation, but demand trends are also available – the subject of a future article on my blog}
Moving on, once again, we can see Gold reversing the trend of stability or falling prices from 2011 towards a higher returns from 2016, which again coincides almost perfectly with the rising stress factors identified in my earlier blog in this continuing study of the Indian Economy. Again, we can readily see rising uncertainty in the period of 2016-2017 due to various well-known factors; which is tending to shore up Gold prices for now. From this we can surmise that, given the various factors identified in the previous article – PMI, GFCF, IIP, PMI, Credit Growth, Rising NPAs etc – the uncertainty period is far from over.

That is self-evident; or should be – yet we can find grandiose statement abounding. But sadly, this is not borne out by any Macro-Economic indicator that I have studied so far. It will be some time before the Economy can begin delivering the hoped for numbers, which is what is indicated by all the indices we have looked at so far in this continuing self-study of our economy. That is also what the movement of Gold seems to indicate, at least to my mind. But over and above this – this small study raises deeper questions in my mind, as I trace the period from 2002 onwards till 2009, and see the sudden spurt in prices and indices from 2004. Are we still suffering from the aftershocks of the seminal 2007 event that shook us all? That is a question I hope to answer in the fullness of time…  

Book Review – Superwomen

Published July 2, 2017 by vishalvkale

This is the fifth book in my focus on Indian Business related real stories and case studies; and it ranks right alongside the top 2 in terms of influence on me as a person – perhaps even at the very top. Other books have provided deeper insights, have been greater in their absolute knowledge quotient {if, that is, knowledge can be quantified, which I seriously doubt}; have given deeper and more detailed Marketing and/or business details, that I grant. But in terms of impact on my mind & soul, this book ranks at the very top. My personal congratulations and gratitude to the author for penning this wonder.
Superwomen – By Prachi Garg

The book is a series of short stories – I don’t want to call them case studies as it would give an incomplete picture of the nature of these stories and this book. These stories are all about women who picked up the challenge and made it in the world of the business of start-ups through sheer dint of effort. Unlike an earlier effort by another author on women, it doesn’t take the route of famous women; it gives stories of unknown ladies, people very much like the ladies we meet neary everyday. That is what makes the content 100% relatable. It tells their stories, of their business ideas and startups, and how they went about bringing them to fruition
In 2 words – 5 stars. End of Review. But, acting on the premise that some of you might want to know why I rated it as 5 stars, read on for the explanation. I could go on indefinitely here – so let me try and summarise the main points that hit home in my head, heart and mind. The first point – it represents a cross-section of society & disciplines. You have A Mumbai, A Bangalore as well as A Bhopal represented here. Second – it is 100% Indian – Indian people, doing business in India. Not only that, it also has MBA, plain Graduates, people educated in The Developed World as well as Tier – 1 and 2 towns in India. The selection of stories  represented here deserves a standing ovation.
Second, it has a cross section of disciplines in terms of business, online as well as offline, though the majority are online or have a significant online play. The Businesses represented are an eclectic mix of sectors,  from hard core IT domain to social sector to hard core consumer oriented. That is another point that deserves a round of applause : the adequate representation to social sector entrepreneurs through several real stories contained herein are a standing lesson to many who would want to, and indeed are, desirous of doing something on the social themes.
This point is what impressed me the hardest, the most deeply – the selection of off-the-beat themes, and how business sense can be welded into making a difference to society makes for a moving read for people like me – who are beginning to question the selfishness of Corporate Life, and are hunting for either solace, or the chance to make a difference. This lights hope in people like us, it lights a fire, enables us to keep looking, for surely, surely – life will present the chance to make a difference to society if only you have the will and the genuine desire for it. The fact that it can make economic sense is the best aspect!
Thirdly, it offers a look at the startup environment in its initial stages – much unlike another equally good effort by Anuradha Goyal {The Mouse Charmers – Digital Pioneers of India, reviewed here}, which  looked at the most successful and pioneering brands. That approach had its own lessons; true – but this approach offers a completely different and equally educative look at the business of actually setting up a start-up company; contained in these 20 stories are deep learnings on what makes a successful startup actually start up! It underscores the need for the fundamentals, the basics as taught in marketing and management books – passion, finance, product, market relevance, consumer centricity et cetera.

Fourthly, it looks at and details the struggles women have to go through in this man’s world, of the issues small and big that crop up if you are a woman – just because of your gender, which has absolutely nothing to do with your skills sets and your innate and learned abilities. It looks at the challenges a woman faces on the home and societal front just to do something on her own; but it does all that in a very invigorating and positive light, shorn on value judgements and giving tremendous hope. Not only that, this is perhaps the first book that shows the man of the house supporting and further enabling the lady, at least in some stories. For these reasons – this book scores 5 stars. It is a must read for anyone related to startups… as well as for our entire society, which  needs a decided change in outlook!