Monday, August 31, 2009

Desi English?

Heard today - "He is my co-brother".

What is a co-brother? Is it a shortened version of cousin brother? In that case why no co-bro? Or is it colleague who is thick as a brother? I was bursting to ask, but politely nodded in sage understanding instead.

Ah, the eternal mystery of life!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

To no purpose...

Bored and missing the wife (she is off to her parents for a few days), I sit brooding about the general direction of my life. Office occupies roughly 70% of my weekdays, but I find work and office trivial and trite - it strikes me as funny to see other people make the same mistakes as I did and not get penalized even a tenth. I no longer feel rage at the unfairness of it all. I just look at it as a chore that I must finish - the results do not interest me.

Movies and entertainment bore me. Of the dozen or so movie channels that I see on my overpriced DTH satellite service, I can find exactly zero that are playing movies of any interest. The less I say about the trash broadcast on the general entertainment channels the better - if I were dictator for a day I would just ban the whole lot of them (and throw their content directors into dungeons to boot). Ekta Kapoor would be tortured and then exiled forever.

I have finished reading the Perry Mason that I've put off for close to a week, and I dont feel like getting started on George Soros' new book. It looks ponderous and preachy, and I'm not in the mood for that.

I dont feel like researching any stocks. I have run out of money to bung into the market.

I cannot do household chores - it is not efficient for me to do so now. I cannot run the washing machine since the clothes line is full of wet clothes. I cannot run the dishwasher since it does not have a 100% load. I have heated and eaten dinner, made and drunk tea. I have had a couple of chocolates. Nothing more for me to do.

I dont feel like browsing the internet. I will visit the same sites again and again.

I feel like speaking to a few friends - but they are probably asleep at this hour.

Life certainly seems pretty empty right now! I need a hobby.

(I enjoy writing this blog though! Finally!!)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

You scratch my back I'll scratch yours

The Business Standard carried this op-ed piece yesterday. It brought to the fore what one already feels in one's bones - we are a nation of insidious insiders. We operate on the philosophy of you-scratch-my-back-i'll-scratch-yours; justice, national interest and fair play be damned. Sample this
- we have 55 billionaires for every trillion $ of gdp (more than the US, approx. 3 times Germany and approximately 3.5 times Brazil). The only country that exceeds us is Russia, and we all know that that country is run by crooks.
- the fact that most (27, to be exact) of our elected 'youth' politicians are the sons / daughters / nephews or brothers-in-law of other politicos.

The article in question raises some probing questions into the national soap opera being played out right now - the ugly saga of the 2 brothers - and its repercussions on national energy security. Had it not been for the younger brother being peeved (and rightfully so, in my opinion!) with not getting what was promised to him, no one would have raised some pertinent questions on the way the gas - a national resource - is being priced.

The way the contract works is quite simple - the gas belongs to India, and the contractor (RIL in this case) is compensated for the capital expenditure incurred and operating expenses in extracting the gas via a revenue share on the gas sold. Obviously, the contractor has an incentive to pad capital costs, since this enables recovery of more revenues from the government. This conflict is supposed to be contained via a review mechanism where a 4 member committee approves the capex. Now, the fact is that the capex per cc of gas DOUBLED in 2 years (from 2004 to 2006) . The 4 wise men who stamped this were found to be related (indirectly, of course) to RIL and sister concerns. The government's independent verifying arm, the CAG, has publicly said that it has not been given access to the contractor's data for the last 18 months, despite asking for it repeatedly!

If this is not bad enough, the oil ministry is siding quite openly in the legal process with one side of the litigants. While there is nothing wrong in this, the rub comes here - it is also openly hurting the interests of NTPC, another national company and our largest power producer. The country’s top law officials, the Attorney General and the Solicitor General have openly criticised Deora’s ministry for having hobbled the public NTPC from pursuing its legal battle against RIL.

It is not my case to take sides in the gas dispute - legality aside, it seems to me that the national interest would be served better by NOT honouring the contract between RIL and RNRL. However, I do think that we need a lot more scrutiny and a lot more transparency to prevent India from turning into another oligarchic banana republic.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ferozeshah Kotla

Early one morning, a few of us landed up at the ruins of the citadel of Ferozeshah in New Delhi. Some pics (courtesy Anjaani Manzil):

The Khooni Darwaza!! Aurangzeb hung the head of his brother Dara Shikoh here. The Brits also killed Bahadur Shah Zafar's 2 sons and grandson here after the Mutiny of 1857
Empire building??
Ruins of the day
the still functioning mosque
the Baoli or the stepwell