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10 defining moments of 2014

Another year has just passed by and as we welcome the new year of 2015, I took the first new year resolution that I will pen down 10 defining moments of 2014, which I feel had impacted the world. I am sure 2015 will be an exciting and good year for me – because, here I am taking time out on 1st Jan to honour my new year resolution. Believe me, this is a record for me and I pat my back myself :-) Coming away from the self-glory mode, let me focus on really writing on the 10 defining moments (in a chronological order based on the time of occurrence)

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1) Early 2014, most probably around Feb, we came to know the devastation being caused by the outbreak of Ebola. While the outbreak of Ebola is not new to mankind, what this made me feel that we are probably still hundreds of years behind unravelling the mysteries of nature. While technology has progressed by leaps and bounds in last few decades, still we are at a mercy to understand life and it’s manifestations through different forms – some makes us smile with hope, some makes us cry with despair. We can only hope for the best in the years to come ….

2) Political muscle power has been in display over hundreds, thousands of years. In olden days, kings used to force into others land in search of valuable resources. People have killed people easily in wars fighting over territories and show of strength. Ego’s have played big in many leaders of the world, past and present. Wars have been inflicted under the excuses of “imaginary” weapons; gaining “strategic” geographical positions to keep an eye on what others are doing; crippling economic growth or at least try to do so has been in play for years. So, when the Ukraine conflict started in Feb / March ’14, we are once again reminded of the erstwhile Cold War in action. While that struggle of power still continues, sometimes I laugh at the irony of human civilisations – on the one hand we give “peace awards” and talk of peace, harmony, development, growth; on the other side, the same hand does not hesitate to take action to break the same peace & harmony ! What a contradiction of human beings !

3) Disaster hit us when the ill-fated flight of MH370 just disappeared from everyone’s eyes. Yes – just “disappeared” ! In today’s world, when technology is in fingertips of people everywhere in the world, it is sad to convince ourselves that a big flight with so many people can just “disappear” from everything ! Or are we really convinced ? Till date, we have not got any conclusion of this disappearance – and till that happens, let us humans remain optimistic with the belief that the individuals in that flight are safe somewhere !

4) Came May’14 and came an event that has been rare in Indian politics for last few years. Came a political party with absolute majority by itself in forming the government of India after many, many years – thereby decimating the main opposition party by a huge margin. While I will not deliberate on whether this is good or bad for India, what we all have to admit is there is a big brand of NaMo on the rise – that one individual can take on everything and yet succeed in winning the elections is something I have not witnessed in my lifetime. Positive perception of India is on the rise since that day, stock markets have been consistently high – only thing to wait and watch for is whether the “acchhe din” (good days) have really come or not.

5) For every four years, sports lovers across the world always wait for the grand event of FIFA World Cup to happen – so, Jun’14 was the time of the year when people lifted themselves from their frustrations, problems of life and focused attention on the sand, beaches, beauties of Brazil. As always, this world cup also brought great tactical football – apart from that, two things really caught me unawares. Firstly, how frustration and disappointment on performance in one match can bring the demon out (again !) of a star and classy player of Luis Suarez! It was hard to believe even after seeing the replays that he actually bit a player (again!). The other thing was apparent from the first game – Brazil was riding on hope, emotions rather than quality play in the world cup. But that’s not what surprised me – the utter desolation, collapse of their play and riding on emotions was so spectacular that they conceded 7 goals in a world cup semifinals ! Germany scored 3 goals in 76 Seconds and 4 goals in 4 minutes (have a look at this article) – can you still believe that ? I have never witnessed such a collapse in football ever, that too in a semifinal of a world cup !

6) Oct’14 witnessed the recognition of human peace – the Nobel Peace Prize‘s were awarded to Malala (Pak) and Kailash Satyarthi (India). Contributions by these two individuals are undisputed – one a very “matured” girl, the other a great person. But what this made me to think that while so much animosity, fighting happening on a daily basis along the Indo-Pak border, here are two individuals from these two nations talking peace, walking hand in hand. Such contradictory visuals – but you still feel that one day, this “dispute” will come to an end and then common people from these countries can actually walk hand in hand.

7) Indian football arena was suddenly buzz with excitement with the launch of Indian Super League (ISL) in Nov’14. Optimism was running high and expectations were that Indian football will improve by leaps and bounds after this month-long tournament. Rationale was that if you practice, play and rub shoulders with players like Del Piero, Anelka, Pires, Materazzi, James, etc, definitely something will be transferred to the Indian players, apart from sweat and dust. Well, I had already shared my personal views on ISL in one of my earlier blog entitled “Indian Super League (ISL) – the saviour or the conqueror?” (https://ayanmajumdar.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/indian-super-league-isl-the-saviour-or-the-conqueror/). But definitely football had become more “family” game when you saw families going to the stadiums. Whether that enthusiasm still runs high when iLeague starts is something to watch for.

8) Internet freedom has been under threat for sometime now. Internet was defined as a place where expressions can be shared “freely”; technology is being advertised even today as “technology does not discriminate” – but in last 5 years, I have seen a throttling of such speech by ruling governments, whenever someone expresses opinions which does not suit or favour the parties in power. I personally feel that internet should be kept “free” and governments / corporations should not clamp down on the benefits for their gains. I also feel that control should be exercised by police if internet is used to violate laws (like fostering terrorism, human trafficking, etc). But broadly if technology can provide cheap facilities to common man for communication, expressions – then why will organisations intervene and try to control that for their benefits, monetary or otherwise. The small incident that happened in India in Dec’14 forced me to think on this topic – that is when Bharti Airtel planned to impose VoiP charges on consumers just because they are unable to compete with the likes of  WhatsApp, Skype, Hangouts, etc. While this was an incident of curtailing net-freedom because of profits, the issues of internet freedom will continue to haunt us in the years to come.

9) Throughout the year 2014, oil prices have been falling steadily. The oil price has fallen by more than 40% since June, when it was $115 a barrel. Currently is around $70 a barrel. At a meeting in Vienna on November, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which controls nearly 40% of the world market, failed to reach agreement on production curbs, sending the price tumbling. Also hard hit are oil-exporting countries such as Russia (where the rouble has hit record lows), Nigeria, Iran and Venezuela. While experts can analyse why this is happening, my guess as a layman is that again the reason of “conquest” amongst nations is probably the main reason. Of course, as a common Indian, I welcome this “fighting” amongst nations for a change – because at the end of the day, I can buy petrol at a cheaper price. Thanks for this “disagreement” and hope that this “disagreement” increases more and more in the years to come.

10) Finally, as I was almost certain the year will come to an end peacefully with no major incidents, came another out of the blue related to Indian cricket. The “sudden” retirement of MS Dhoni from test cricket at the end of the 3rd test at MCG between India and Australia has opened up all kinds of theories. We love controversies, we love “sudden” decisions, we love to be “experts” – we definitely had another opportunity to voice our opinions, have debates amongst friends and foes, listen to TV “experts” discussing on the issue, etc. Definitely the year ended with a huge energy level for sure :-)

So, with an opening balance of high “energy” levels, I am sure 2015 will be more energetic than ever. With this, I wish you and your families a very happy and prosperous new year 2015 !

Champions League 2014 Final

At the outset, I was totally pessimistic on today’s final between Atletico Madrid (AM) and Real Madrid (RM) – simply because Real Madrid was a much superior team in terms of individual players, experience and style of play. This effectively meant that Atletico Madrid as the “weaker” team will play to a strategy that will be hardly entertaining. As I believe a weaker team will have to play defensive and a “negative” brand of football, relying on either counter-attacks, slice of luck or eventually the “lottery” system of penalties. This is the way I have seen football evolved over years and I had written the same in an earlier post (click on the link https://ayanmajumdar.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/the-evolution-from-a-laymans-eyes/ to read the same). But this is not the topic that I want to write on today. What I want to share with you are my thoughts on some defining moments of today’s game.

Firstly the gamble of playing an injured Diego Costa backfired on AM. Not just of being deprived of a prolific striker, but also consuming one of the important substitutions which will be costly specially if the game went into extra-time. And as destiny would have it, the match did went into the extra 30 minutes, thanks to a last-minute injury-time equaliser. Whether a star player who is injured should be brought into the playing XI is always debatable, but I personally believe this is worth a gamble. Because one chance or one flick resulting in a goal can be priceless plus the morale of the others rise tremendously when you have the star striker playing, when many people think he won’t.

Then came an ultra-defensive display of AM for next 30 minutes. Hardly the RM creative players got space – be it Ronaldo or Gareth Bale or anybody else – only exception was Di Maria who was threatening to break free through some skilful wing play. In the history of the game, there have been many instances when defensive-playing teams have pulled the result in the end … and they have done defending doggedly in their own half. However, what I found a difference between AM and other defensive teams of the past, AM forced the opponents to keep the ball in the mid-field and not just in front of their penalty box. This is indeed a credible strategy – as the pressure of soaking of attacks just in front of the penalty box is too high. Very often, the team’s succumb and one moment of brilliance of the opponents or one mistake of the defense can lead to disaster.

But the “mistake” came from RM – an almost trophy-loss mistake from the experienced Casillas. I still wondered what he was thinking ! The AM player Godin was getting an innocent center, there were 2 stoppers behind Godin, the ball was even not within the small box and on top of it Godin had his back towards the goal – so the most he can do is to head backward, which can never be powerful. But to my dismay, Casillas went ahead, was caught in the no-man’s land and that tame back-head was a goal !! Just reminded me of 1990 world cup when Zenga, the Italian goalkeeper, made a similar mistake against Argentina and that had resulted in the elimination of Italy when the world was thinking that Italy should be the champion!

Then was a continuous spell of dogged defending – very often by 8-9 players. By that time the pressure increased from RM and in spite of the defense, Di Maria was breaking the defense – however Ronaldo and Bale were often spectators. So, my thought was that either there will be a mistake or a blunder for RM to come back to the game, or it would be a victory of AM. My thoughts were almost coming true … almost …

Then came the equaliser in the 93rd minute of the game – just 2 minutes away from the end of the match. And I felt that there was a big mistake by AM in their defense. Yes, it was a great corner and a great header by Sergio Ramos, but what was the defense doing ? I will not blame why Ramos got the space to head without being challenged greatly (as that kind of movement and head flick can happen without much challenge).

I will blame the strategy of defending against a corner – normally you keep two defenders keeping the ends of the two posts with the goalkeeper in the middle. And the reason you keep those two defenders is to thwart out a perfect head or a perfect shot – which will beat a goalkeeper when the ball enters through the corner. To me, irrespective of the quality of the goalkeeper, there is that space having the width of a ball which an out-stretched goalkeeper will never reach – if you can place there, whether in a dead-ball situation or a penalty or a shot, the chances of getting a goal is 90% … and that is why you keep those two defenders to protect that precise situation. But here, there was no defender at all manning the posts – and so a perfect header from Ramos was beyond the AM goalkeeper Courtois to protect. Look at goal below for you to judge:

So, just 2 minutes away from the match, a drastic mistake aided by a perfect header … the match was equalised and the die was cast.

It was now just a matter of time when RM will tear apart AM – as not only they got rejuvenated by that life given when they were about to die, but equally AM players will feel the despair of being so near and yet so far. And now you have a  rejuvenated RM coming at a despairing more-mentally-tired AM with full venom for 30 minutes. So it was just one goal and the flood-gates will open … and it so did … the strike from Gareth Bale after a mesmerizing run by Di Maria – the match was over. Two more came in as a bonus.

So, at the end of the day, I felt the right team won and the right spirit of the game was upheld – a spirit of positive, entertaining football (instead of a negative defensive brand of soccer).

PS : I don’t know who was the Man of the Match – but my choice would be Di Maria as he alone threatened AM continuously and was definitely the architect of the Gareth Bale goal

Champions of Europe

 

We want a mature, patient, civilised world …. not to be ‘trigger-happy’

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We live in a so-called civilised world driven by the power of law, which has been formed by thoughtful groups and lots of common sense. One definition of ‘civilised’ means to have a high state of culture and development bound by basic virtues. We have found lots of ‘unions’ which gives us a platform to resolve issues at the highest levels, in case disputes are hard to solve at lower levels. We have vowed for following the rules, the ‘unions’, the ‘bodies’ we have formed across the world.
We call ourselves ‘mature’ – which has an inherent meaning of looking at a broader picture, taking lessons learnt into account  and then take decision based on facts, based on debates and consult these ‘unions’ & ‘bodies’ to come up to a decision that will be respected by all. When decisions are taken, it is normal that all parties who participated in the decision-making debates may not come to a unanimous consensus – but when a majority decision is taken, even the parties who had been advocating for the reverse, respects that. These all come under ‘maturity’.

We call ourselves ‘patient’ and that is linked to ‘maturity’. By patience, we imply that a decision will be taken by weighing different options, by hearing all sides of the story and then coming to a meaningful conclusion which we believe has been taken after much deliberation and to the best of our efforts. For that, respecting other’s opinions, understanding the context and the implications of the decision is key.

However, still why do we have the most ‘powerful’ and most ‘matured’ persons takes huge decisions in a trigger-happy manner without even deliberating with a broader forum ? Maybe that is the correct decision – but why do we have to behave like a ‘know-it-all’ person without any ‘patience’ and declare that the rest of the ‘unions’ and ‘bodies’ are of practical no-use, simply because we fear that those ‘unions’ & ‘bodies’ may come up with more logical & mature thinking that may result in a different decision ?

I hope we all can really behave as a civilised, mature and patient way resulting in uniting the world to collectively take a decision (and not just by myself) that will benefit in the long run ….

Of dictators and oppression ….

Very recently one of the leading newspapers screamed in its headlines “The Last Dictator is dead” and rightfully so as the world celebrated the death of Gaddafi amongst a turmoil burning in the streets of Libya. These incidents are often described as the win of the good over the evil and hence supported by most sane people over the world. I also fall amongst the same category – but this incident forced me to think a little beyond the apparent dictatorship and the oppression of the common people, who look for a decent and happy life with his / her loved ones.

Whenever we think of oppression, the obvious picture that haunts us a ruthless dictator stealing away fundamental rights, freedom and stalls the voice of dissent or difference in opinion with a strong hand, resulting in deaths without trials and extreme violation of basic human rights. However, if the same or similar incidents happen with a democratically elected body or a country’s government or even a philosophy followed by thousands, do we react in the similar manner ? Is it that actions against oppression happens only when we have certain individuals implementing those acts and not when groups or governments do the same ? Is it that military action is successfully carried out when the world tries to remove dictators like Hitler, Saddam Hussain, Gaddafi, but the same world remains not to carry out aggression against groups or governments carrying out similar acts ?

Let me ask some questions that come across my mind and leave to you to define whether this is oppression :

  • When freedom of speech is stopped by a certain sect of political philosophy and currently ruling big nations in the world, is this not oppression ?
  • When certain policies of democratically elected governments take away the daily livings of common people without much options given to them, is this not oppression ?
  • When certain foreign policies of powerful countries goes “all out” against some weak but strategical nations rich with natural resources, is this not oppression ?
  • When certain corporations neglect safety measures that lead to disasters which are termed as “accidents” resulting in death of hundreds of innocent people, is this not oppression ?
  • When corporate greed leads to unethical practices resulting in crisis across the world resulting in erosion of hard-earned money of commoners leading simple lives, is this not oppression ?
  • When deadly weapons of mass destruction are invented and stored by any country for the purpose of saying “just listen to me or you might be in trouble”, is this not oppression ?

The questions are too many and my mind says that the answer is quite simple and obvious.

If this is so, then where are the world forums and others going “all out” to finish off these kind of oppression ? Where are the tough talks from various leaders threatening of more actions including military actions to eliminate these elements ? Haven’t seen much so far and I doubt whether I will have the privilege of witnessing in my lifetime …

Last question before I end – why is that we don’t see ‘actions’ to eliminate these kinds of oppression ? Why is that we see only selective ‘actions’ when the evil is removed for the sake of the good ? Is it that behind these actions (and lack of actions), there are bigger motives of self-prosperity and economic dominance from the powers of the world ?

Well, nobody answers these questions and frankly speaking, I do not expect any explanations – while the world will wake up after few months or years to find many more dictators and eliminate them all for the good of the people ….

The scene of “obscene” pricing

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Very recently some of my friends, including myself, were debating on the topic of the prices of the expensive smart phones available in the market and one of the common conclusions being drawn was that the prices can be labelled as “obscene” to a common man. That led me to think what defines this definition of obscene pricing and whether the corporations have the right to go for this kind of obscene prices of products.

The basic philosophy of corporations is not only to make profits but to maximize the same at a minimum cost. This is because this will allow the companies to grow, make more profit and by that measure make the share holders happy. Hence in a free economy, any organisation has the right to price any of their products in a manner that will help then to make more profit and I personally believe that is not a crime. If they price a product insanely high resulting in people not buying it just because they don’t see the value in buying that product at that price, then obviously the company will not generate that amount of sales to create any profit and will soon be out of business. While pricing, they might definitely target a particular customer category which might make the other customer categories feel that the same product is “too costly” for them to afford it.

However if the economy is state controlled, then the scenario might be current as the government will feel the necessity to control the prices of the various products and hence to the consumer, they will feel that they are getting the prices as dictated by a bigger and powerful body. Obviously this will lead to the lack of options to the consumer and hence in the longer run the people living in that country will feel that they are deprived of the fundamental right of having a self determination of choosing a right product for his use and to his own liking. We have seen that happening in several countries in the 20th century.

In a free economy if a business is so lucrative that a company can afford to maintain an “obscene” pricing, then either the company has some unique technology to invent an unique product which no other company has; or they are the first entrants with that product in that market. But it will be a matter of time when the prices will be coming down with competition coming in to take a slice of that thriving market.  The best example we have seen in recent years in India is in the telecommunication sector wherein the prices of hardware as well as services 10 years ago was quite “oscene” and only a few selected people could afford that price. But now you will find a mobile in the hands of every person walking in the street. This is what a free economy can do to an obscene pricing.

Inventions or “first of a kind” products can afford to keep a very high price in the beginning, but the balancing power of a free economy will force the system to come to a price equilibrium. Till that comes, there might be instances when the prices looks “obscene” – but it will be the force of the competition which will bring down the insane prices to sanity !

Let’s follow Japan

When I started my professional career, I was exposed to something called The Quality Circle, which is encouraged by many organisations. Basically, it encompassed the philosophy of one Mr. William Deming – an American who was not recognised for his recommendations, who moved to Japan on an invite and was instrumental in the rise of Japan for quality products. At one point of time, the word “Japan” symbolised lack fo quality and was looked upon with a smear on a face. However, thanks to Mr. Deming, the Japanese found out the huge potential within its production line and soon became a leader in quality products – surpassing their American counterparts quite easily. The laughing-stock of international forum had become the leaders in a very short timeline. This was Japan transforming to a great example to emulate.

The World War-II had destroyed many countries – but the most severely impacted was Japan, after the two atom bomb attacks. The country was grounded, buildings razed to the ground, physically exhausted, war-criminal acts pursued by other nations. Obviously, the country was ‘finished’. Then how come within a span of 40 – 50 years, the country has risen like a spectre to be treated with respect and become one of the leading countries in the world ?

Only recently I read an article on Japanese honesty and I quote from the article

Since the March earthquake and tsunami that leveled much of Japan, thousands of wallets containing a total of $48 million in cash have washed ashore — and been turned in, ABC reports. In addition, 5,700 safes containing $30 million in cash also have turned up.

Japanese honesty !

This is simply unbelievable to me – here is a nation destroyed by a huge earthquake, many of the people living in distress having lost all their earthly things, the temptation to get ‘free’ money is huge … yet, 2.3 billion yen of cash has been given back to the owners ! Amazing – specially coming from a country where we see huge scams, corruption everywhere in public life …

This country is worth emulating and instead of going towards Russia or US, we should take lessons of national pride, honesty, hard-work, honesty from this country named Japan !

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