Friday, October 24, 2008


I think my earlier post today was written in a bit of anger at the RBI's (in)actions. Later events have caused me to revise that opinion.

As we speak, trading in the Dow Jones and S&P futures has been halted since they have fallen to the maximum permittable limit. European markets are down by 9-10% (only). Asian markets have closed down 9-12%. The Indian Nifty 50 index has closed down 14%. Why? Because everywhere, everyone thinks the world economy is going into recession. Not so the esteemed RBI.

So now, in more measured tones, I can blandly state the following - the Indian Finance Minister and the Reserve Bank of India are crazy lunatics (I wish to use stronger words but propriety prevents me from saying f***ing idiots since this is, after all, a family blog :-)).

Wake up and smell the ...

Here is a quick quiz:
True or False?
  1. The world is spinning rapidly into a period of deep recession
  2. Millions of jobs will be lost, in developed and developing economies
  3. Commodity prices (oil, metals, foodgrains) have crashed and are only going further south
  4. Consumption is declining (will decline even more) as people have less disposable incomes to spend
  5. India is not immune to the global slowdown (as seen by the 1.3% growth in the Index of Industrial Production for August) and is going to feel the shocks of a slowdown. Already Q2 results have been terrible and things are going to get worse before they get better.

If you answered True to any / all of the above questions, you are in disagreement with the esteemed Reserve Bank of India. In its mid year policy review, the honorable central bank has kept key rates unchanged (repo rate at 8%, CRR at 6.5%, reverse repo rate at 6%). It has not even cut the SLR. It thinks inflation will be at 7% for the year and GDP growth rate will be 8% (no, this is not a typo). At a time when Keynesian stimulus is the order of the day (this is not only my opinion, Paul Krugman, the Nobel Economics Prize winner for 2008 thinks so too), our central bankers prefer to be dyed-in-the-wool monetarists!

This attitude reminds me of the Indian economy in 1994-95 when similar bull-headedness (or should I call it bear-headedness?) in terms of interest rates cost India a full 4 years of lost growth. Anyone listening to history at the RBI?

One of you or the honourable RBI is smoking dope, and I dont think it is you!! By the time these esteemed gentlemen wake up and smell the shit, the economy will be in a shambles, credit growth will have crashed and investments would have been totally squeezed out of the system. But hey! who cares?? It will be time for a new election...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Alarming analysis

Something is wrong with my blog posts these days. The quantity is still chugging along, but something seems to be an issue with the quality. The following analysis says it all:

From this graph I can see that (before this post):
  1. On average, I have posted exactly 5 entries per month in calendar year 2008
  2. Each of the 50 posts have received exactly 2.0 comments per post
  3. The quality of the blog (comments per post - right hand axis - used as proxy) has been steadily declining - from a high of almost 5 comments per post in April (with one particular post gathering a relatively massive 14 comments!), the number has come down to a pathetic 1 comment in 5 posts of October. (And if I discount comments from family, this number would total up to zilch!!)

Clearly I am not writing about the right things (or in the right way). Time to put on the thinking cap!!

Unheralded triumph

In the hoopla about India handing out Australia a decisive test loss, popular media almost missed on a greater achievement - Vishwanathan Anand has handed out Vladimir Kramnik 3 defeats in 6 games (out of a total possible of 12) in the playoff for the World Chess Championship.

Amazing feat, given that chess is truly a global sport, played in almost all countries in the world, and that this would be the 3rd time that Anand would be winning the global crown! Anand's win is testimony to the tremendous practice and impeccable preparation he has made for the match. After having defeated Kramnik in the 3rd game, it was always going to be easier for Anand (since Kramnik would have to keep trying to take risks to win a game), but the domination that Anand has shown over his rival has been unprecedented.

More power to Vishwanathan Anand!!
Read all about the exciting game 6 here (courtesy rediff)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Time to go?

I feel a little embarrassed these days every time India plays test cricket. Not because of India winning or losing, but because of the excrutiating focus on the performance of Messrs. Dravid, Ganguly, Tendulkar, Laxman and Kumble. Every failure is dissed and taken apart, while successes (increasingly rare, it must be said!) are overlooked. 

These gentlemen have served their country long and with dignity, passion and purpose. I am sure they feel the pain of failure much more than the contemptible 'critic' who has probably not enough skill to throw a cricket ball 5 feet. Why then do they still face the music? 

Is it possible that their love for the game makes them want to keep playing on? I only need to look at Adam Gilchrist or Shane Warne, who retired at the top of their game. Did they not love cricket? Or is it their belief that they are best suited to help India win. I do not think this notion can be supported by facts. At least in the last few years, I think India has won whenever it has been ready to scrap it out, with aggressive, unafraid young blood. Whether the T20 World Cup, the One Day series in Australia and Sri Lanka, the architects of India's wins have not been these gentlemen. 

Noting another day of test capitulation to Australia by these gents today, I think the time has come for them to make up their minds. I do not mind India losing to Australia or Sri Lanka with an inexperienced team. But I am not ready for it to lose with these towering talents playing. It is time for them to go gracefully.

Return of the plodder

The financial catastrophe that is engulfing us will benefit me (and perhaps the world) in some ways. 

For one, it brings back into focus the value of 'real' things. Real assets vs. ephemeral paper profits, 'real' work vs. jugglery on an excel sheet, 'real' hard work vs. quick and easy money in a few blockbuster years. Think of it, my parents' generation worked long and hard years to achieve something in life. They were loyal to their employers, sincere in their work and willing to postpone immediate gratification for the benefit of their children. They had character. What makes me deserving of much more pelf than they did at my age? Certainly not maturity, not character and not ability. 

For another, it will mark the return of sanity to huge discrepancies in compensation. What does a financial services employee do that is so important and unique that she gets paid 100x the normal Jane in equally (perhaps more) important functions like teaching, administration or manufacturing? Other than spending 23 hours a day, 6 days a week in office? In my humble opinion, not much. A bubble which was assuming gigantic proportions has been pricked. 

Unfortunate that in the next few years a lot of people will pay for the mistakes of a few. People on the verge of retirement who are seeing their investments become worthless, ordinary taxpayers who will face higher tax regimes, ordinary producers who will see consumption drop, and ordinary consumers who will see inability to get leverage. But it will bring back into focus the basics that our parents taught us - save for a rainy day, work hard and do not worry about the fruit of your labour, live within your means. It will build 'real' character, not dollar filled notions of self worth.

It will bring back into focus the worth of the plodder. I look forward to learning my lessons!

Friday, October 10, 2008

In Bruges

Foreword: I seem to be blogging only about movies these days. Perhaps it shows my world view is getting narrow, or that I am not thinking enough!! (Note to self: no more movie reviews for the next 10 posts!)

A quick trip to the US saw me indulge in my favourite activity - watching lots of movies on the plane. While 'The Happening' (M Night Shyamalan's latest) was eerie, 'Wanted' (Angelina Jolie's take on the Matrix) a total waste of time, and 'What Happens in Vegas' (the movie with the highest paid amount to any actor - Cameron Diaz got $$$$50 million for this movie!!) entirely predictable and stupid, there was one movie that made the journey worthwhile. 'In Bruges' (pronounced Bruge) is a fantastic movie.

A dark comedy, it is in the same genre as 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' and 'Snatch'. Stupendous acting from Colin Farell and Ralph Fiennes, a haunting background score, stupendously beautiful settings, a twisted plot and extremely quirky dialogue mark the high points of the movie. Highly recommended!!

It made me want to holiday in Bruges and soak in the surroundings.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A Wednesday to remember

A Wednesday (despite the strange name) is a movie that blew me away. Seldom have I seen a real Bollywood thriller, but this one certainly qualifies as one. An extremely taut screenplay, reality dripping from most situations, with nary a dialogue or scene wasted, and powerful performances from almost all characters (Anupam Kher and Jimmy Shergill should win some awards for this movie, per me) make the movie a pleasure to watch. Watching the movie on my parents' home theatre system, with a nice cold beer, I was actually anxious to find out what happens next. Although the climax is artificially convenient, it makes one think and wish - what if? Highly recommended!

I think movies like this one (low budget, no unnecessary song and dances, author backed characters and strong scripts) herald a new wave of good Indian cinema. Aamir (reviewed earlier, somewhat gushingly :-) and A Wednesday, both coincidentally made by SpotBoy Films (UTV's low budget cinema division) make me lick my chops in anticipation of more of the good stuff.