Sunday, 29 May 2011

Guilty until proved innocent

She never thought it would come to this. Being dumped in a 15ft by 10ft cell in the country's most notorious jail. In a filthy place and in the close proximity of some of the most hardened criminals of the land. Her only consolation was that there were many like her, who believed they were innocent, hadn't been convicted and yet forced to already begin serving their punishment.

Her crime was that she was famous. Or rather, her family was famous. And probably notorious as well, but then if guilt by association was a crime, virtually all of us would be in jail. In a land where the rule of law is supposedly in force, you ought to be judged on your own actions and not the actions of those you are "palling" with (the awful word within quotes is courtesy of a certain lady in the US of questionable intellectual capability ).

The problem in this land is that there is a public perception (not unaffected by jealously) that the rich and famous have all got there by unfair means and are all guilty of crimes. Quite a few of them may indeed be. But many of them are certainly not. And never mind that the public that hasn't got there, would do exactly the same thing given half a chance. And so the great body called public opinion, is all too ready to believe that you only have to make an allegation and its already sealed, served and delivered that the person is guilty. Never mind the formalities of a trial, of producing hard evidence, of proving beyond reasonable doubt, and such other inconveniences.

The great body of the public believes (rightly) that the process of justice takes far too much time , often decades, and therefore believes (wrongly) that we can dispense with the formalities and assume the right to pronounce an instant guilty verdict. The judiciary, which delights in issuing homilies to the executive and passing strictures against all and sundry should hang its head in shame if it just looks at its own navel. It should set itself in order before commenting on anybody else - has it heard of the cliche that justice delayed is justice denied. When it can take a decade or two to pronounce a judgement, when sometimes the protagonists have actually died of old age before a verdict was given and when undertrials are jailed for periods of time greater than the maximum sentence if they had been found guilty .........

The great body of public also believes that all this is extremely unfair on the poor, but is extremely fair on the rich. For some reason, the rich and famous need to be made an example of to prove that all are equal in the eyes of law. That's an awful argument. We should be fair on the poor; not unfair on the rich. Two wrongs don't make a right.

The words civil society is often heard of these days in my nation. I am not sure there is much civility about it. In a civil society, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Not the other way around. You can only be punished if you are proven guilty. The operating word is proven. Not presumed. 

All of this was not of much consolation to her. She was licking her woulds, both literally and figuratively. Literally because she had been jostled , pushed and pulled, on her way to the jail. The media, which vigorously defends its freedom, believes that rugby tackles, scrums, brawls and such other techniques are perfectly acceptable in trying to film an "event". Pushing and shoving  a subject is totally acceptable while pushing and shoving a reporter is a grievous assault on press freedom.

She knows that she'll have to wait and wait. And resort to some underhand political machinations to get released, which she indeed will probably resort to. There is little chance of an upright stand on  the strength of the argument or the defence. Because it won't work. Others like her , languishing in the jail, don't have any other option. Their only option is to languish.

One of the greatest sins a civil society can do is to arbitrarily withdraw the liberty of a human being . Without a due process of law, trial and conviction. Doesn't matter if she is rich or poor. Obscure or famous. Plagiarising one of the greatest ever sons of the country "Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake".

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Why, on earth, a pedicure ?

This post is a vain rant against the female invasion , nay takeover, of the street barber. Evidence of the extreme intellectual rigour of this blog. Needling fair ladies, who throng this space :) is an occasional pastime of this blogger. Considering that its been a while since the opposite sex was needled here, and considering his rather impish mood today, its time to risk life and limb again.

There was a time, not so long ago, when the barber down the street was exclusively a male preserve. Indian women of that vintage, let their hair down (literally, but never, figuratively) and had no use for that specimen, who had the artistry of a butcher.  Men could go there in peace and submit themselves to the shears, while engaging in discussions exclusively masculine in nature. Alas , no longer.

The blasted guy has metamorphed into a 'unisex salon". Or a "spa", Or a "beauty therapist". I understand none of these words and had to look them up. These places are now well on their way to being a 99% female preserve, with the poor male consigned to a single seat near the loo. While the men queue up for 2 hours to gain the attention of the solitary guy who condescends to cater to men (did that yesterday; hence this post !), various Rajalakshmis breeze in and out, for all sorts of "beauty treatments". I had the urge to quip that their beauty would be better served by a few hours in the gym rather than here, but then wisely refrained given the substantial body mass disadvantage that I have.

And what all do they do in this place. I shall desist from graphic description of what  goes on - suffice to say that seeing a Rajalakshmi in that state is enough to drive men off the female species forever. But what completely boggles me is the pedicure.

Why on earth would any woman want to tend to her toenails ? I once asked this question to a lady , while offering the brilliant insight that a male would never bring his eyes down to look at her feet, he being preoccupied at a rather higher level. She looked at me pityingly and gave me an even more brilliant insight. She disabused me entirely of the notion that women are in the least interested in looking pretty to a man. Apparently they are strictly in the business of catching the eye of other women (perhaps with a hint of jealousy). Ah; I never realised that before (male ego completely deflated).

So the pedicure rules supreme. Cut your nails. Soak your feet in water, Apply some goo. Get your feet tickled. And dump a whole wad of cash for that privilege. Eeks.

Yes, I know. Women are from Venus. 

PS : Comments to the effect that "metrosexuals" also indulge in this abomination are entirely unacceptable on the grounds that they are not members of homo sapiens masculinitis.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Succession at the IMF

Unless you have a visceral hatred of the IMF, you could not have missed all the media coverage of Dominique Strauss Kahn, its boss. The affair has exploded like a nuclear bomb on a number of fronts. Firstly there is the IMF itself, currently deeply involved in the European bailout situation. Secondly it has blown open the French Presidential race - he was the front runner and it was quite possible that Sarkozy would have lost to him in the elections next year. It has called into question Continental European tolerance for sexual profligacy of its leaders - surely the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is at least a bit worried.
But this blog must remain a strictly non political one. This post is about the appointment of the new IMF chief - DSK has just resigned today and even if he is acquitted, is unlikely to get his job back.

It has been an utterly shameful arrangement that a cosy understanding exists that the World Bank chief is an American and that the IMF chief is an European.  This is a throwback to the post World War II days when only America and Europe mattered. Its a different world today and yet the old boys club still remains. Its a multi polar world these days, in case you have not noticed. But then old foggies in gentleman's clubs are rarely wont to look outside the window until its too late.

That the head of a major international body is chosen for reasons of nationality rather than merit is simply an unacceptable position. But then, alas, head of major international bodies, are indeed chosen that way. Witness the position of the Secretary General of the United Nations  a succession of colourless personalities have graced this chair. Witness the boss of the EU - can anybody even remember his name. Such are the contortions of world politics. So its futile to expect that merit alone will decide the next head of the IMF.  But there is no harm in at least stating the obvious, however unlikely the chance of it happening.

This is a time to change. The new head of the IMF must simply be the best man for the job. In a time of unprecedented financial and economic challenges, it cannot be anybody but that. Irrespective of whether he is from Timor Leste or from Tuvalu. He must be a world renowned economist and also somebody who has worked in the IMF before - after all its a huge and complex organisation.  He must have a track record of major economic policy achievements on the international stage. He must be a heavyweight - not a puppet who can be strung along.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

A world without oil

The price of oil has been well above $ 100 a barrell for sometime now and there is every likelihood that its going to stay there. Yesterday the Indian government was forced to raise the price of petrol by Rs 5 per litre.  This blogger has railed often against the the largest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich, from the rest of the world to the Gulf, etc etc. This Sunday, its a light hearted look at the benefits of a world without oil.

Imagine the utopia it shall be. At an instant the road everywhere in the world will become oases of peace. The whole world will become slimmer,  Rajalakshmi will now have to walk, or bike and hopefully an ounce of athleticism will come to her. TV programmes such as the Biggest Loser will cease to exist - instead new programmes such as "how lazy can you be" may become the rage.

Some of blots on humanity will mercifully be consigned to oblivion. Like Heathrow, or O'Hare. And imagine  a world without Air India - sheer bliss. And " On a clear day, you cannot see General Motors".

Bedouins can reclaim the Middle East. Ambulisamma has to return back and monstrosities such as the Burj al Arab can  safely be mothballed.  Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley can at last be made bankrupt as the most boring sport in the world - Formula 1 (made most boring thanks to the aforesaid gentlemen) has a complete remake. It shall morph into a bullock cart race which India shall rule, until the Chinese take it into their head that they have to dominate that sport too.

Imagine, no fat tourists, awfully dressed, of indeterminable age and thrusting a camera in the direction of "locals". No visits from  "damagers" (copyright courtsey gils as a synonym for manager), from awfully cold places like Chicago or Tokyo trying to escape the shivers and holidaying in sunnier climes under the guise of inspecting the natives.

And so on and so on. Readers are invited to share their vision of the new world. Each of your thoughts in a para please (I'll transport it from the comments here) and this post will expand into a collage .......

Gils - oil'yam natchathirathula poranthavangallam ippo semma demandla iruppaanga pola. English translation - People born under the ahilyam star sign (a play on Oil) will be in great demand.

Zeno - No Oil means, no need to bargain with autowallahs, no accident causing metro lorries in Chennai :) no car chases in movies :(

Sandhya - well.... as you say, there are many positives of the no oil world - no morning -evening flights and no stale aircraft food - no airhostess with a the artificial smile (works like a mechanical robot - opens and closes at the same speed at the same precision with the same expression!!)

and then, if there were no oil, you would create huge living spaces for many homeless poor - i mean where will all the cars and buses go - some one has to use them up

and then people like Gils would be India's most wanted... i mean on the positive side. that is because - In a world devoid of all fuss and frolic... there are few people who can keep the energy going and lively....

Hema - oil means no traffic, no traffic jams, no getting late to office, no office,no need of vacation, more blogging, more reading, more poetry, more morning walks, bliss...

Venkat - 1)No oil means, Indian politics or atleast kerala politics will definetely change. yes millions of gulf living NRI's will turn to vote. also the density of present population in some states will increase with these NRI's return. 2)World may not familiar with the nineth richest man Mukesh. 3)Goverment may increase income tax % to compensate revenue from oil. 4)No wonder still world will run vehicles and air crafts will with water like in steam engines.

RamMmm - Ha! No petroleum derivatives also then. No vaseline et al, no creams of most kinds (fairness creams esp., we can tan-o-tan), no deo sprays ('no babe magnet deo aXe' esp. we may stink, so what!), no dandruff shampoos (hmmm... lets use groundnut/shikakai), no washing powder (back to old smash on stone technique), less pharma products (ayurveda may fill-in), no plastics (yay!, but what do we do without it?, no fertilizers (globally organic), no air-conditioning as no anti-freeze (toast to skin roast!)) gosh!, the dependence on petroleum is starting to look scary. :(

Vishal - The thought of a world without oil is so serene to imagine. Can we indeed go back in time? Aah!

The same puff of fresh air which is otherwise available in the Maidan area of Calcutta early morning, could be felt in other big cities also. NH-8 would be a lovely place to take an evening stroll... oh! nothing can beat that!

IST will be IST then... or may be better than that.

Consider Biogas for home fuel. Water could be treated like water in the country like ours and even in gulf.

Whoa... the world will be a different place then...

Srivats : No oil means we wont get to have the vegetables , milk and other groceries in the nearby mall. We got to create our own plot and start planting vegetables and paddy :)

Deepa : The more I thought of it, the more I realized what a beautiful world its going to be.

Imagine, Gilsu or zeno on bicycles with their gals perched on the front bar. The ladies' hair swaying into their faces with the breeze. Our two heros can throw in some of those romantic songs they keep posting on facebook! I kid you not, the biggest stumbling block in the dating scene these days is the fuel cost. No petrol, we gals dont expect long drives, no bike rides, just simple (cost effective) walks in the parks and watching the sunset by the beaches.

Fresh food everywhere. (Food is a touchy subject for me)! No dreaming of Alphonso mangoes in
Hyderabad, and Banganpalli in Mumbai, or both of these in America. You'd appreciate what you
get locally and learn something we all have completely forgotten these days- 'Contentment'.

I do trust my species to come up with some alternative, if we are pushed to the corner (in fact we already are) . People would look for non-conventional sources of energy. Mr. Tesla may find fame anew (purely my guess). Which would be nice, because, all countries could strive to be self-sufficient, and there would be level playing fields. Uncle Sam would no longer be interested in watching over the ever fighting middle-eastern brethren, and no more of the completely useless gang wars. Everyone would mind their own businesses. Imagine the amount of tax-payer's money freed to be used for good cause. Not that we would stop fighting, 'coz we can fight over something as stupid as river water, but just one BIG issue less!

J : Somehow I visualize a world without oil very differently from the idyllic picture that you paint (have you forgotten Etah?). I imagine a world like some science fiction movie where people will zip in small one-person electric cars and maybe satellite pictures of earth will not have the standard blue and green look but a lot of black on land as the world will be covered in solar panels. And lots of white in the seas as there will huge wind farms - maybe Ramamrithams of the world will mandate that they have to be blue so that google earth's pictures still look pretty. Rajalakshmi will still ride her bike but she will also carry with her a small generator to convert all her cycling into power - not far fetched since a gym in Portland is actually doing it to their exercise machines.

Ambulisamma : All the NRI's would return back,including self and if sensus happens properly India might overtake China. If you consider India it should not be a big problem,we can find alternatives. But think about Gulf and US,the world without petrol will be terrible for them.

Venkatraman : No oil because a barrel of crude oil is $100 today? Come on. We will be buying even if it goes up to $1000 or more. In the early sixties I was filling up the tank at 65 paise a liter. Today it is Rs.65 and more. Who cares? There are cars on the road more than hundred times now than it was immediately after the Second World War. If you stop oil and it uses; what will happen to the followers of all the IPL matches and tamasha. No Cheer Leaders or Sundaries? Don't be cruel. Many of the IPL followers will resort to other entertainments ! Consequences will be disastrous

Reflections : I have full confidence in our own kind....if and when we are reduced to tht state u can be assured tht the human brain will ceaselessly work[36 hrs a day] and come up with something even better than oil...wht is tht saying....aaaah yes 'Necessity is the blah blah ;-D

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Dot Com Bubble II

I am a dinsosaur. I freely admit it. In the heady days of Dot Com Bubble I, it was often said that old foggies didn't "get it", when they stared open mouthed at insane valuations. A decade after that, I still don't "get it". Can somebody explain to me the valuation of $ 8.5 bn for Skype, which Microsoft announced buying a couple of days back.

Skype  still makes no money after being around for a fair bit now. Make no mistake; its an excellent product - I am an unadulterated fan and user of Skype. Its just that most users, and there are millions of them,  use it for free and don't spend a nickel. Skype doesn't make a profit and there's nothing in sight as to how they might make one. A year and a half ago, Skype was sold for less than $ 3bn - what has happened in a year to almost triple that valuation ??

Or take Linked In - a so called business networking site that I abhor. At least it turns a profit. But its turnover is in the low millions. It has just filed for an IPO for a reputed valuation of some $ 3 bn. When you see sales multiples in the region of 10, you ought to do a double take.

The Skype acquisition has every hallmark of the lashings of an alpha male who has been deposed. The most charitable description of Microsoft is that it has lost its mojo. Nothing like a headline grabbing acuisition to try and rediscover it. Especially since it has tons of cash and doesn't know what to do with it.

Couple all this with the atics of Chinese intenet companies that are in unseemly haste to list in the US. And the jaw dropping valuation of Facebook  which I have alluded to before here. It appears Dot Com Bubble II is truly well and underway.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The voice of an angel

Nature chooses to bless some people in an out of worldly way. It gives a gift so rare and so amazing that other mere mortals can only watch in awe and wonderment. One such recipient of nature's blessing is Sissel - the gift of the voice of an angel.

This blogger is usually tone deaf and musical sensibilities do not invade his rather dour exterior. But occasionally he breaks out into a song , metaphorically that is, like he did here. Today is another such day, a tribute to the amazing voice of Sissel.

Sissel is a Norwegian soprano, who isn't as well known or as classically feted as many others. She is somewhat like Andre Rieu, the subject of the other post referred to earlier. She tends towards the T20 side of classical music rather than the purity of a Test Match. But boy; can she sing- one of the usual comments that I see in her You Tube videos is that if you close your eyes and heard her, you probably would think that you are in the presence of an angel. 

One of her amazing pieces is her contribution to the sound track of Titanic. Contrary to popular belief, Titanic is not all Celine Dion. Listen to this from Sissel and tell me  if you aren't haunted.

Or take this rendering of Silent Night. Gave me goose pimples.

Whatever may be his musical sensibilities, this blogger is a sports nut. In football a self confessed long time supporter of Liverpool. One of his cherished memories is his visit to Anfield, the home of Liverpool FC and swinging and swaying on the Kop belting out Liverpool's anthem - You'll never walk alone.  There are many famous singers who have sung this song. And then there's Sissel. Her rendition of this is on a different plane altogether.

Even if this is not your genre, listen to her. She is Something, with a capital S.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Sox and smelly feet

Remember the Sarbanes Oxley Act ? The one that was promulgated in the aftermath of Enron. This was supposed to ensure that accounting scandals are greatly minimised. The Act that had every business chief howling that it was draconian , that compliance was putting a huge cost on business, etc etc. Well, it turns out that investors, whom the Act was supposed to protect, actually don't care all that much about accounting scandals.

Take the case of the "success" of many of the Chinese IPOs in the US market. In the fine print , most of them have disclosed accounting deficiencies. But does the market care ?? Not one bit. Take Renren which IPOed yesterday. The stock rose some 50% above the issue price. Never mind that the Chair of the Audit Committee resigned on Tuesday, they changed a key growth figure, they disclosed a "material weakness" that they did not have enough people in their accounts department and a "significant deficiency" that they had no policy on the treasury function and investment of cash.

Material weakness and accounting deficiency are Ramamritham speak. The former means the accounts are definitely wrong. The latter means that it is most probably wrong.

And yet investors seem to care two hoots. These days anything with a China name will sell like crazy. Even if they presented their accounts in Chinese and qualified it by saying that they just made it up to satisfy a legal formality.

Even the famed General Motors IPO showed a material weakness in the accounts. Didn't come in the way of its much touted success.

I am sure that the Public Companies Accounting Oversight Board ( what other name can you expect Ramamritham to dream of), that was supposed to regulate auditors under the Sarbanes Oxley Act has done enough research to prove that disclosures of accounting weaknesses have had a positive correlation to the share price and therefore they should be considered as having done great benevolence to the human race. It is probably true - the research finding that is. But as long as cases like Renren exist, its hard to take Sarbanes Oxley seriously.

Sure Sox, does reveal smelly feet. But if gorgeous blondes find smelly feet sexy, there's not much that can be done about it.

Disclosure : This blogger has made merry with the aforesaid Act; making a fair bit of money for his company from it. His opinions are therefore completely biased.

Material Weakness : This post is utterly without research, written on a whim and totally opinionated.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Watch out; Big Brother is watching

Readers of the blog are perhaps too young to have read George Orwell's 1984. Its a fictional novel about a totalitarian future state where every individual is completely monitored and controlled. In fact the term Big Brother, originated in this novel. Well, here's news for you. Big Brother has indeed arrived - just 27 years late.

If you hadn't heard, both Apple and Google are accused of recording and monitoring cellphone locations. Since none of us would move 4 inches from our cellphone henceforth in our lives, surely BB knows where we are and what we are doing. Privacy advocates are up in arms.

I come from a different point of view. Is Google and Apple mad enough to want to be tracking my colourful life. That I leave for office exactly at 8.04 in the morning. That I spend the whole day like an idiot in the office. And that I come straight back home. And then go nowhere else. Leading a totally colourless life.  Earth shattering information.

Take Gils for instance. We don't need Big Brother to tell us that he spends 2 hours one way commuting to his office and that on weekends he is seen at Devikala watching the latest Tamil flick. In between, he is never more than 2 metres from his mother - constantly nagging her for treats from the kitchen. Or take Hopfrog. That he is cooling his heels at home waiting for the snows to melt after which he can be seen somewhere on the PCT - he has very helpfully posted a map of his thru hike route. 

No, I cannot allow  the geeks at Apple and Google discover my highly exciting life. I am therefore going on a drive in a  random direction for an hour - I can imagine BB, puzzling as to what I am upto now. I shall also switch off the mobile now and then to fool them into believing that I am catching flights regularly. I shall download some app or the other than will confuse BB into believing that I am actually located in Ougadougou - if you are wondering where that is, its in Burkina Faso. I shall also pass by some many starred hotels and stand outside the gate, so that BB believes I am fine dining with a gorgeous member of the female species. When Akon lands in town, as he did a week or so ago, I shall lend my phone to a much tattooed, ear pierced, red streaky haired individual of indeterminate sex so that BB thinks I am cool going to such events.

Cut to Steve Jobs and Larry Page, They are presiding over an emergency Board Meeting, convened to debate on what I am upto. Why am I leading such a breathtaking life, when they themselves are not. Their own cell phone tracking is showing that they spend 14 hours at the office and 10 hours at home. How can I be having such fun.  How do I manage to be in Ougadougou and in Marathahalli on the same day. The mystery has to be solved.

Expecting to met an emissary of BB quite soon. Meanwhile I'm off to Toscano,  to lunch with a Prince - I can imagine BB scratching its head wondering what a teetotaler is doing in a wine bar ?

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