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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 !

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At the end of the day, when sleep beckons ….

At the end of the day, when sleep beckons
The delicate silhouette takes away my senses
Which emotions breaking the darkness, silences my work ?
Come and take me away …..

They walk with their heads down
And happiness blotted up
Never turns back to imagine their return
I need to go to them at the end of the tide
Leaving behind my home
Will you give me space in the last boat of the day
Come and take me away …..

All the loved ones have gone to their love
All the aspiring ones have gone to cross the river
Only the in-between’s lie torn in the evening
Waiting for someone to call them back home
Come and take them away ….

Devoid of any fragrance of the flowers
Devoid of the success of their living
Tears have dried up on their faces
The light of the sun has vanished from the horizon
And yet the lamps of the evening have not lit
They have all silently sat beside the river
Come and take them away …

 

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 ….

State security or human rights violation?

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photograph taken from the internet as available in public domain

Mr. Snowden has brought up the dilemma of the notion of state security vs human rights violation quite strongly. This issue is nothing specific to one country, but probably applies to any major nation. It is true that the incident of 9/11 has changed the definition of security and fundamentally the definition of human trust. This is definitely very unfortunate, but again very true.

On one side the logic of national security lies very strong. Till the time a person is caught in crime, major or minor, that person is an ordinary citizen of a country. Hence, how on earth the intelligence of a country can actually detect any ill motives which can lead to mass destruction or killing of innocent civilians. Waking up after the horse has already bolted cannot be accepted by the citizens when it comes to safety of the people. The situation had become more challenging because of the power of the internet, the easy access of smart phones and the ease of communication between people, across localities, across cities, across countries… all in a real time mode.

On the other hand lies the sensitive topic of human rights violation, the infringement of unauthorized access of very personal communication. This brings in the sense of “big brother” is watching everyone over the shoulder. Hence comes in lot of frustration from common people when they feel suddenly betrayed by no other person, but from the government who is the guardian of all people. So the other view point will be the voice of common people asking the question “who gave you the right to monitor our personal conversations, without even asking me ?”

Probably the answer lies in the middle. In cases of national security, as the government is the guardian of the people, they probably should have the right to monitor things as they are doing so to maintain good amongst the people. Because in a family where you may have errant kids, the father actually monitors the activity of those kids, isn’t it ?

However, the main distrust comes because people do not believe that the governments actually monitor things just because of national security. Who guarantees that the government are actually telling the truth? Because in the recent past, wars have been triggered off based on pure lies or because of the intention of capturing important resources and exploiting the situations at a later date….

This trust deficit between ordinary citizens and the country governments is growing across the world and unless there is more transparency from the powers-to-be, these issues will be like thorns which will tend to grow and grow…. and the situation might turn explosive enough to trigger mass protests which the same powerful people will find tough to control.

Unbiased Reporting

Unbiased reporting to me is a utopian concept – something which you can dream of in an ideal world, but if you believe in that in the real world, you may land up in some major dis-belief after some days. I am not a reporter, nor a writer and hence do not have the inner conscience to recollect on some personal vows someone might have taken before they embarked upon on their careers. So, here I am writing controversy right now …

When I am a reporter writing on a piece of news or an interesting subject, in all probability, within my mind, I have already formed an opinion on that topic when I am doing some pre-research before I dive on the topic. Opinions will tend to be whether this person was a tyrant or not, whether this topic is a ‘right’ thing or a ‘wrong’ thing in my opinion, and so on. And that will dictate my questions in a future interview, dictate my nature of follow-ups …

Very often, we get influenced by the definition of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ by simple values of life learnt during the formative years. And who defines the definition of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ – well, famous people, history who have come up with that definition based on THEIR interpretation of good or bad that point of time.

Let me try to provide an example – we all will agree that murder of people is an unforgivable crime, no doubt on that. So, when news comes that X has killed Y, the culprit is already identified and crucified in our judgement. But what if murder arose because of self-defence ? We normally don’t think of this at all when we read the news for the first time – isn’t it ?

Now, let’s see if some actions of great leaders of various countries lead to similar situations. We all know the cold-blooded murders caused during World War II and do know from the history books who is responsible for those incidents. Now, what happens that because of certain political / economic decisions in a different nation, common people have been affected indirectly and have died in hundreds. Is that not a murder as well ? And for that, have we crucified those famous leaders and marked them as ‘murderers’ ? No … simply because the history was written by the victors, history was written by people who had been influenced by their definition of right or wrong. We can put on trial dictators who have put his own people to tortures and killings, but we do not even jail leaders who can start a bloody war based on their ‘perception’ of threat without any facts (people call that ‘war started based on false allegations) … why ? because when we report or take decisions, we only consider one point of view and in that process become biased in our thoughts.

So, I do believe unbiased reporting, unbiased ‘history’ is something we all can strive for, but never see that in reality.

ACT NOW !!

It is high time that the political parties in India build up credibility with the common man on the streets. That is needed for the proper functioning of a huge country within the governance framework defined within the constitution. The youth of India are a different lot as compared to the generation we had 30 years ago, when our politicians were the youth. The faster this realisation comes, the better it will be for the political parties to reconnect with the people so that the common man can restore his faith back on the parties they are forced to vote for during the elections.

Today’s world is very much different than what we had even 10 years ago. Internet and information is now available at the click of a button – and no longer restricted to the limited access of desktops and laptops. Most of the middle class youth today owns a mobile and many of that population have versions of a smart-phone where access to internet and social media are part of day to day life. Today’s youth are more confident of themselves and have strong opinions which can potentially raise lot of movements within their social circles. Today women are more forthright and are no longer willing to take things for granted – they are rising to be equals and rightfully so. Hence, if we believe that today’s generation, equipped with technology, are the same as our parents, then everyone will be mistaken.

Today, we do not get fooled by false promises, we do not get fooled by the theatrics of our politicians, we do not get carried away by the ‘awe’ of our political leaders and family dynasties ruling politics. Today, we can analyse news and incidents ourselves and do not need others to force their opinion on us. Today we are more forthright on expressing what is right and what is wrong. Today we are more empowered by information and hence we are less likely to take things for granted.

Hence, it is important that political parties understand that and gauges the feelings of the people. They still might survive by using their political power and muscle power to lower down rightful protests – however, on the long run, with the actions and arrogance being shown by these leaders, what they are doing is nothing but more harm to themselves only. It will not be too much in the future when our political parties gets totally cut-off with the people whom they are forced to woo when it comes to elections.

It is time NOW for our political ecosystem to understand, reconnect and build credibility with the people …. and this can be only done by concrete, swift actions without politicising human emotions. Otherwise I can foresee pockets of defiance against the lawmakers and politicians which can spread very quickly across cities and towns to become a force which will be difficult to tackle without taking a big toll on human life and dignity … and God forbid, if that day comes, it will be am uprising that we will all like to forget.

Hence, in this day of grief, my request to our leaders is to ACT NOW against crime, corruption and build positive politics for the good of our nation and the people.

The modern era revolution ?

The world is going through a tough time with lot of potentially big issues that can destabilise the modern day society. The world is today integrated in a matter that did not exist so much even twenty years ago. The inter dependency of countries are intertwined through many channels – whether it is through import and export or through dependency of resources (both natural and human skills) or through political compulsions that trigger lot of funding across nations, the fact remains that we are all nodes of a huge interconnected network and we cannot build enough firewalls to insulate ourselves in times of disturbance and chaotic situations happening in some part of the network. I would tend to describe the entire world as a huge octopus with all countries being its tentacles, some big and some small; but if you prick any one of the tentacles, you will definitely feel the tremors and impact in all the other tentacles. Its as simple as that !

So, once we acknowledge the interdependency, we cannot ignore what is happening in a different part of the world with the thought that this will not effect me as a nation or as an individual. It is bound to touch us whether we like it or not.

Now comes the recent turbulent times which got triggered by the financial scams in the USA which even potentially led to the total collapse of the banking system of a lot of big countries. There might be so many reasons and analysis behind the collapse, but to me this was greed leading to corruption amongst big institutions. This has led to a situation where the world is yet to recover from the recession across the so called developed countries. But did that allow the smaller and developing countries to go through their predefined path of growth ? Don’t think so … As the growth rates inspite of being positive have come down. I know politicians will relate that to inflation, corruption, etc .. But the fact remains again that the growth rates are coming down.

The next big thing to me that has hit us is a real sense of people revolution facilitated by technology through social networks. Regimes that were thought to be untouchables came down like a pack of cards by simple pressure from the common people. Probably the era of the “people voice” has started in the modern era. The scales and the impact of this varied from country to country, from issue to issue. Even in my country I was really surprised by the spontaneity of the common people to come down heavily against corruption – the momentum might be hard to be maintained with the same pace it started with, but our beloved politicians just could not ignore the voices, which they had ignored for so many years in the past. Hence there was a flurry of parties trying to encash that by showing solidarity to the peoples voice, but when it came to the fact that people were targeting them as being the most corrupt, then their true nature came to the front, but that’s another story for future.

People have become so much frustrated with greed, corruption, some few people getting rich and the poor becoming poorer, that they have come up with amazing expressions in the streets of Delhi, Wall Street, London, etc. Again this is becoming a global phenomena that governments can hardly ignore.

This probably has now triggered the frustration of the people within the European Union that its very existence might be at stake. I am not an economic expert at all, but my common sense tells me that by simply taking austerity measures will not solve the problem. That can be a tactical move for a short term horizon, but you definitely need growth to remove the gloom hovering around Europe. And common people are not seeing any such measures being taken or being talked about …. And that has reflected in the election results in Greece and France. Spain, Portugal, Ireland are all under crisis and time will tell how the common people will voice their concerns.

People are relating this as return of socialism and communism and the end of capitalism. However I don’t look like that at all. To me, these incidents symbolises the frustration of the people which is shown by removing the current governments, does not matter what type they fall under. It is probably a coincidence that the current governments were more on the capitalist line, I am sure the same treatment would have been rolled out if they were socialist. The problem of economic inequality is a problem which will probably cause lot of headaches to the governments of various countries, unless they make a honest try to minimise that.

Net-net: the signals are ominous : the power of the people are growing and it will be foolish of anybody to ignore this.

I can’t talk anymore

When I grew up, I was told by my parents, my relatives, my teachers that expressing your own opinion is a fundamental right and unless you discuss and exchange ideas, you will not enrich your thought. Sometimes, you tend to differ with someone on a particular topic, you tend to argue and even might have a verbal fight, but you still appreciate the different perspective and respect people’s different views on a topic. Each influential decision on life has different sets of positives and negatives – nothing is perfect ! But, still amidst the imperfect world, people tend to sit and discuss together to come up with what can be described as the ‘best within the current constraints’. And that is how life is supposed to roll on …. each decision has a time-stamp associated with it – a decision without a time-stamp is absolutely irrelevant – hence a decision taken at this point of time might change after 10 years … and that is why decisions are to be taken after discussions.

I grew up by believing and reciting a poem written by Rabindranath Thakur – ” Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where knowledge is free, Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls, Where words come out from the depth of truth, Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection, Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit, Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action, Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake”

But for that, you need freedom of speech in the form that is prevalent at that point of time. Whether you actually talk and voice your opinion or whether you write something, or whether you sing a song, or whether you type your thought in the internet world – all these things do not matter. The thing that only matters is that you are free to share your thoughts and in that process can get challenged or challenge someone else’s thoughts. That is how we mature as human beings and that is how ‘tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection’.

However, my rulers are deciding to stop talking and hence, I can’t talk any more ! Sorry, if my voice is never heard … I can’t talk any more !!

 

Definitely, I am an animal !

It is said that human beings after all are animals and hence possess qualities that are called commonly as “animal instincts”. However, one of the reason why these animal instincts are not displayed very often in public space is because human brains have an extra ‘layer’ of sanity, education, sense of ‘good vs bad’. But when circumstances push and push human beings to the limit of sanity, the strength of these animal instincts become so forceful that it overcomes all other senses and is then displayed in bouts of madness, extreme behaviour that defies common sense and understanding.

Therefore, whenever we see such incidents, we feel that is the limit of humanity and then we are on that grey corridor of uncertainty between an animal and a human being. This limit varies between person to person and probably gets dictated by the cumulated mental state of mind the individual has been for some months or years. Otherwise, how will you justify that in situations of mob violence, many ‘sane’ persons tend to lose themselves for that fraction of a second and actively participate in the act of insanity. Some gets triggered by the sense of frustration on the system and breaks down into a bout of extreme violence only for a couple of minutes. After that, you will very often find that person not only normal but also regretful with his insanity accompanied by self questioning of “how could I do that ?”

But today’s topic is not animal instinct – rather on the fact whether we ‘sane’ animals love to see acts of ‘animal instincts’ in play when human beings disintegrate amidst strong and pushy atmosphere ? If there are certain players doing this and we see a live (or rather edited) display of the mental disintegration on television, do we love to see that ?

I believe so ! Because that’s what reality shows like Big Boss (the Indian version of Big Brother) tends to do. We sit on a sofa, drinking tea, waiting for some explosive scenes to happen within a group of diversified individuals being mentally pushed to a limit. And if one episode ends without any quarrel or any clashes, we feel ‘bored’ and switch off the television. Basically, in the name of a contest, we human beings love to watch animal instincts being displayed by human beings, who in normal life are known to be well-behaved and dignified.

To trigger the most unpredictable behaviour amongst the people, the producers selects people who have varied upbringing experiences, who are mentally strong (and hence can be brittle as well) and put them in a ‘circus’ arena to bring out their ‘animal instincts’. We, the common people, sit around to see the circus and applaud loudly if someone screams or threatens to hit out others in scenes of extreme stress.

We sometimes are not so much interested to speculate on who will win this years contest, but we are definitely well-informed through the ‘trailers’ whether tomorrow’s episode has a quota of violent behaviour and hence, we make ‘time’ to watch the episode at any cost, in spite of tolerating the break in continuity through the numerous advertisements.

Definitely, I am an animal … are you ?

 

The 92 day blockage

Let me tell you a medieval age story. There was a small state within a big country which did not have much of natural resources, except for the glimpses of nature. This was a state that was housed on top of the mountains, cradled in the envelope of soft clouds and bathed in the morning sunshine. The people living there yearns for simple and happy living like all other people situated across the world. As agriculture is difficult on the mountains, as industry growth is limited because of lack of resources, the living of the people depended on tourism and on the supplies that came from the rest of the country. The supplies came from one major road which connected the state with the big country.

As always, any happy community will have its own share of problems and there were dissidents also living in the state who had their own sets of demands. The muscle power was quite strong for these dissidents and they often controlled the happenings of those simple families who just earned for some food and the rest happiness was their responsibility. These dissidents became powerful and was very often fighting with the bigger country. As always, the king of bigger country was busy in getting his gains from the growth of the countrymen and hence the issues of this small state was always neglected. The reason was that this state was never a “rich investment” simply because the returns were never there to the kings coffers. Who cares about the happiness of common people ? The king never cared …

Now to put pressure on the king, the dissidents blocked the only road where supplies used to come to the state. What happened after that was obvious – the prices of simple food soared up by 200% in a few days; most of the simple but poor people struggled to fill up their stomachs; their happiness vanished within a few days and life became so miserable.

However, the king was “busy” in doing many things and never cared to hear the despair shouts from the people of this state. Inspite of being part of his kingdom, the king never carried out his duties of looking after the poor people and allowed him to be “dictated” by the dissidents.

The only irony was that this blockade continued for 92 days – more than 3 months !! Before someone finally woke up and resolved this blockage. The crisis was over but the trust and belief of the people was broken down forever.

Now – imagine the situation happening in 2011 in modern world, where words and stories can pass across the world by click of a button; where the king has the power to put off blockades by any means and where this same problem can be resolved in 2 days – isn’t it ? Specially when the world knows that this one national highway is the bloodline of the entire state !

Well, this incident actually happened few days back in the state of Manipur in India, where the blockade ACTUALLY happened for 92 days and at the end of the day, nobody is accountable and nobody cares. After these kind of incidents, we all feel why there are so much dissidents in the north-east states !

The rest of the story is all true ……

Sometimes, my head bows down with shame as an Indian … This is one of those days …

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

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 !

The balancing act

The recent but year-long (more than a year ?) crisis at Greece has the potential impact across the world – probably we are already looking at the early symptoms. The stock market in India is hovering around 16000 mark against a 19000 value not so long ago – and this is in a country which is still projected for a 7% growth where many of the other countries are under negative or zero growth. And what we are witnessing in Greece will probably be repeated across various countries if things just cascade down and across.

That brings out the question of the balancing act each government has to think and plan for – the balance between ‘profit’ and ‘work for society’. In blunt terms, whether a country needs to work like a CEO of a corporation where profit and growth are the only key words and where profit means excess funds for further investment; or whether the country needs to look to ‘serve’ the people, even if a majority of the people are not that much ‘productive’ (read as ‘poor’, ‘jobless’, etc) or do not earn a healthy value of revenue per person. Probably, that’s the dilemma each of the governments face – does not matter whether they follow capitalism or socialism. Even the so-called capitalist states like US, UK have so much socialism built within their social security system, that the so-called socialist or semi-socialist states like China or India will find hard to believe !

Even within an extended family, we will find family members having different levels of cash-flows – and unless the family shares the ‘burden’ amongst themselves, some of the members might be under debt and some might be using a 100 buck note to light a cigarette ! Again, here is the balancing act ….

If we extend this concept from a 15-20 member family to a nation of say 100 million, the problem becomes really complex – isn’t it ? And what happens if we extend this to a group of nations trying to follow a common philosophy and currency like that of the European Union ? The resolution to the problem becomes so much difficult, even when all the members say “we will all help each other to play the balancing act”. In case any member says “I am doing well myself and hence I am not in a position to help another one”, what happens ? You can guess !

So, basically we are playing the balancing act within our own spheres and so are the nations. This balancing act will never go – but hypothetically, if all the members are of “equal” prosperity and having no ‘inequality’, then there is no need of any balancing act – as balance needs to happen only when there is an inequality. But, I added the word ‘hypothetical’ as inequality will be always there in a practical world and equality is an utopian concept ….

Hence, let’s try learn the balancing act as much as possible – because we will all need that at some point of time (if not experienced already) …

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

The borrowing feats …

I will start this post with a BIG disclaimer : I am not an economist, nor do I have any competency in analysing how nations run; but I am a commoner with some basic views that I claim as “common-sense”. I am sure the experts will disagree with my views – but if they do so, I would appreciate if they help me ‘learn’ by explaining the rationale behind their disagreement.

The experts say that the world is interconnected – and in all sphere’s of life. It’s just not the internet that is the backbone behind the interconnection, but all financial markets, nations economies, the quality of your and my life – all are interconnected. That is why, we poor Indians were waiting what will be the decision in US on their handling (or mis-handling) of public debt – because that decision might have an impact on our Sensex.

As a lay-man and a commoner who is worried on whether his stock investments will be hit because of the US decision, I decided to learn something on the borrowing feats by the most powerful nation of the world, United States of America. What I saw, what I learnt made me feel that is this the way power is defined at an international level ? Maybe I am too naive to question the very basics, maybe my conclusions do not make any sense … time will answer me surely.

The above figures have been taken from IMF site and depicts the public debt as percentage of the country’s GDP. Though I could not find out the benchmark value against which nation’s performances are to be compared; what strikes me that apart from Japan (again, don’t understand why the values are so high and yet Japan does so well), US leads the above elite group of nations with not only 99%, but with an increasing trend (at that high value) of public debt as compared to other nations. Singapore is also quite near to that, but at least it has a decreasing trend. Amongst the BRIC countries, probably China leads the way by such an aggressive value. Experts say that with such high public debt figures (w.r.t. the GDP) will lead to lesser economic growth, more job losses, more spending cuts, less development projects, etc

What perhaps is more alarming for US is that the figures increased from around 70% in 2007 to ~ 99% in 2010 – which basically means that the huge amount of debt was taken in last 3 years compared to the yield that the country had produced. I am sure this was in line with the financial crisis (or scams) that rocked the country – but again, there were huge write-offs that also eliminated bad debts from the corporations.

 


The above chart from Wikipedia shows that China has increased their debt holdings dramatically from 2005 till now. Currently it holds more than 25% of all foreign-held treasure securities. Interestingly, all the major nations are there in this chart, except for say UK and France … and India. What will happen if China decides to sell all their 25% of the securities overnight ? Maybe a theoretical question – but the impact will be HUGE … maybe, that can trigger off a nasty Third World War !

What I also learnt was that total national debt in US will nearly double in dollar terms between 2008 and 2015 and multiple government sources said the U.S. is on an unsustainable fiscal path. This indeed is worrying – and now I can appreciate when I read reports that President Obama did not have much sleep in the last few days, till he found an agreement on passing on the US bill to raise the debt ceiling level. Whether this solves the problem in the longer term, I don’t know – but definitely this will save US from international embarrassment and obviously will allow the politicians to fight a big election battle next year.

Net-net – What I have understood that some very fundamental, basic decisions needs to be taken by the most powerful nation to override the fundamental problem. Currently, their strategy is perhaps postponing the problem as long as they can – specially keeping the impending elections in view. But if drastic spending cuts, increasing of GDP and yet not to borrow proportionately is done, will this be a big balloon which will eventually burst one day ? And in that process, not only the country, but the entire world gets heavily impacted ? …. If the policies don’t change drastically, then the borrowing feats will continue and we can then only keep our fingers crossed …..

Do what you want to do …..

Films reflect the happenings of our society – it’s a mirror of the current happenings, the positives and the negatives of our current society. Hence, films are nothing but us – you and me; and this realisation is not a rocket science invention. Very often, some of the films do touch us quite deeply – this happens because we as individuals either feel very strongly about the theme of the film or we are often ‘victims’ of life on the same issues that are depicted so strongly in the movie. Films are really a ‘strong’ story-teller in all respects.

Recently watched the movie “Zindagi Na Mile Dubara” – the overall theme of the film was that of many others including the hit “3-Idiots”. All it says is Do What You Want To Do … go for what makes you happy and pursue your dreams. A simple yet powerful philosophy – simple because even a school kid will know this, powerful because very often the more matured adults gets coerced into doing something totally different in the race called life.

Why do people always call jobs as a rat-race ? Maybe it’s a race towards reaching the top and in that process edging out others, sometimes legally, sometimes illegally. But I am sure the real significance of the definition is the word ‘rat’ – even if you win or lose this race, at the end of the day, you live the life of a ‘rat’ ! You become a RAT ! And while in the peak of your career, you very often look behind the path which could have been your path of life – and then gulp down some drinks, or take a few deep breaths and again you carry on being the RAT the very next day … It’s also sometimes called as “Abhimanyu’s Chakrabuha” – you know to enter the vicious circle, but don’t know how to exit. The only exit route you know is when you exit the orbit of life.

Why is this so difficult to achieve ? Is it that monetary and positional excellence is too tempting ? Is it that the ‘pressure’ of life forces you to always follow a path which is always about how to increase your bank balance and / or how to become a boss – from a ‘small’ boss to a big ‘boss’ to a bigger ‘boss’ and so on ?

When is the last time when you spent valuable time with your best college friends ? When is the last time when you did not think of deadlines, but just put your arms on the shoulders of your best friend ? When is the last time when you did not talk about a client presentation, but just talked nonsense with its quota of gaali’s with your friend circle ? When is the last time you did not think of your elegant dress getting spoilt by sitting on a dirty bench with your classmate’s and having a good laugh ?

If the answers to the above questions comes with an answer of “last time was more than 6-7 months ago (if not years)”; then I can only say DO WHAT YOU WANT TO DO ! 

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