Sunday, 3 September 2017

Ruler vs Governor – Dera Sacha Sauda’s Travails of the Day

Dera Sacha Sauda is filthy rich, has massive political influence and has got a tremendous popular following. In spite of that, it is on the brink of collapse due to a scandal, a scandal which is not at all potent enough to topple an empire. And it’s not as if the charges are unique. Cardinal Muller was recently removed from power as there is too much noise being made over the sex scandals in the Roman Catholic Church. So, what exactly is different here? Both the crimes are equally abhorrent. And, is it that easy to topple something such big? Or, is there a chink in Dera’s armour which is helping in it’s collapse?
Interestingly, there is another parallel in the world history, the lessons of which we are loathe to learn – the chaos in the Middle East. Let’s take two names two centuries apart – Mustafa Agha Barbar and Bashar al Assad. Both approximately did the same thing, according to their opponents – massacre a select set of people. Barbar, it’s Alawites and Assad, whomsoever it is. While Assad is struggling for his existence, Ottoman Empire of whom Barbar was a part of, never faced any existential threat because of Barbar’s actions. This lets us ask, in spite of the fact that Ottoman Empire faced rebellions after rebellions, why wasn’t anyone able to do anything to the Ottomans while it’s almost a cakewalk to take down Assad?
All four, Gurmeet Ram Rahim, Muller, Barbar and Assad are guilty. But, while Muller and Barbar are governors, GRR and Assad are the rulers. When there is a trouble, simply, replace the governor and make him personally accountable. The anger against the institution will be channelled towards the individual and the threat is staved off. But, what happens when the ruler is targeted? He is ready to bring down the institution with him, instead of accepting the reality. So, this raises another question – why is it that Hinduism is this decentralized while the Abrahamics are not? Is it a deliberate attempt to weaken the religion there by chipping off institution after institution? Or, may be, is it time for us to create a sort of central institution for Hinduism and bring every godman under this umbrella and then replace this ruler with a governor?

Monday, 7 August 2017

Gold Prices in India - Did they ever Increase?

I was looking at some old data to see if there is any correlation between gold prices and per capita income in India. There are two graphs which I made over this. The first is the increase in gold price and per capita income having the value for both in 1970 as 1. Both of them follow the same path, with gold slightly above the income graph. But, one important thing, the pay commissions (1973, 1983, 1994, 2006, 2016) gave a sudden spike in the take home income and we see gold prices dipping around the same period.

The second one is the quantity of gold a person can buy based on his monthly wages. It looks as if this range is boxed between 2 grams and 4 grams, with the economic chaos of 1970s creating a steeper dip.

The inference is, at least with respect to gold, a person’s salary didn’t change much. May be, it’ll be the same with house rent or CPI index?

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Heights of Nepotism?

As an actor, I am not sure, but as a human, I liked Saif. Not the word liked. But, well, as time progresses, I feel the hang of royalty is creeping in. Just have a look at this article. The arrogance, the sense of superiority…Is this what we encourage in the society? Sorry guys, these sort of people should be shown their place. First goes the letter which he wrote and then the counter given by Kangana Ranaut.

To whomsoever it may concern,
Over the last few days, a lot has been said and written about the skit on the IIFA stage by Karan Johar, Varun Dhawan and yours truly. Let’s first see what happened here. “Nepotism Rocks” was a joke on stage. It’s not something that I wrote or something I believe in. It was a joke on ourselves, between Varun (Dhawan), Karan (Johar) and me. It was not supposed to be a big deal, but I realised at some point, that it might have offended Kangana (Ranaut). I called her and apologised personally. That should be the end of it. Everybody needs to take a chill pill and back off.
However, in today’s world, apologies are made through Twitter or though some other social media platform. That, is basically apologising to your fans and the world in general, instead of apologising to the person concerned, because you don’t want to lose support. These are the times we live in. We wish each other happy birthday or offer condolences on social media. This is another reason I don’t want to be on any social media platform — it feels fake. As far as the issue of saying something stupid on stage goes, I’m sure it’s not the first or the last time I’m going to say something stupid in an attempt to be funny. And I apologised to Kangana, so I don’t owe anybody else an explanation. The issue is over.
What I can’t seem to understand are some of the media reactions to this. While most people have been sensible, three reporters from the websites BollywoodLife, The Quint and Elle India, made a point of saying that all I did was use big words like eugenics and genetics. I think it’s extremely relevant in a conversation on nepotism, which means family favouritism, to talk about genetics and eugenics. Eugenics means well born and in a movie context, the genes (the DNA we’re born with, not the blue trousers we wear) of, let’s say Dharmendra’s son or Amitabh Bachchan’s son or for that matter, Sharmila Tagore’s son come into play.
Because people are interested in what their children will be like and whether they will have the genes of their parents, in terms of their talent. If you need another example, then take race horses. We take a derby winner, mate him with the right mate and see if we can create another grand national winner. So, in that sense, this is the relationship between genetics and star kids. Hope that’s clear? As for the girl from Elle: I’m sorry you found words like eugenics in a conversation about nepotism misplaced. Perhaps if you got your head out of the hemline of the actress of the month and read a book, your vocabulary might improve.
The real flag bearer of nepotism, I’d say is the media. Look at how they treat Taimur, Shahid’s daughter Misha or even Shah Rukh’s son AbRam. They photograph them and hype them up to be the next big thing and the child has no choice. From a young age they have to deal with being celebrities, which they don’t really deserve, before they can even speak or talk, leave alone understand what is happening.
So, what is nepotism? I think nepotism means when you give somebody from your family a job that somebody else is better suited for. But, is that what happens in movies? Is that what people mean when they say that there is lot of nepotism in film industry? I think perhaps what Kangana means (and again I’m only assuming here) by nepotism is that people from Dharma or Yashraj are against people like her, who have come up the hard way without their support and that they only support their own people. Whether that is true or not I have no idea and it’s none of my business.
Nepotism is probably least prevalent in the movie industry and rampant in politics and business. Nepotism in dynastic politics is a well-known and unspoken truth. It’s the same in business. But nobody talks about that.Nepotism is Donald Trump putting his daughter in the White House rather than someone who is better qualified. Actors are the soft targets. So if you say star kids have an advantage, of course, they do. It’s an advantage created by the press because people are interested in them. There is a curiosity to see Taimur, Sara or Ibrahim. It’s supply and demand. People want it, media serves it. So we’re all part of the same vicious circle in that sense.
What’s at play here are three systems. Aristocracy, the rule of the best, which is what this industry is. Ruled by the best. Also, meritocracy. It is ruled by the people with the most talent and it’s also ultimately tempered by democracy, which is people power. Nepotism cannot work in the film industry because it is a democracy. The film industry is the most fair line of work. So yes, maybe I got a chance because of my mother, but that is more genetics than nepotism. It’s a genetic investment that the producer was making.
Compared to an outsider, maybe I had a better chance of meeting people, but Akshay is also an outsider. When people saw him, they gave him a chance rather than give me one because they are businessmen who can spot talent. And when a hero walks in, they know. They want to imagine me as a privileged prince and so, it’s nice to pull me down once in a while, I imagine. For every star kid, there are many guys and girls from total non-filmi backgrounds. Take Shah Rukh Khan, Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit-Nene, Jackie Shroff… it’s an endless list. Everyone knows this is the only industry where a spotboy can become a superstar. And to the idiot who gave the example of Arjun Kapoor for nepotism, I would just like to say that every film he has done, has worked. He should be an inspiration as an unlikely hero, not pulled down for nepotism. And that is the reason he is here. Not because of his father or uncle. It’s the audience that makes a film a hit, not the family members, otherwise all kinds of people would be ruling the roost.
Lastly, Johnny Depp once told Kate Moss — and I have forgotten his advice and I’m never going to forget it again — Never complain and never explain. That’s good advice, I think.
Saif Ali Khan

And Kangana Ranaut’s response
All the debate and exchange of thoughts on nepotism is exasperating, but healthy. While I enjoyed some of the perspectives on this subject, I did find a few disturbing ones. This morning, I woke up to one such open letter (circulating online), written by Saif Ali Khan.
The last time I was deeply pained and upset about this issue was when Mr Karan Johar wrote a blog on it, and even once declared in an interview that there are many criteria for excelling in film business. Talent is not one of them.
I don’t know if he was being misinformed, or simply na├»ve, but to discredit the likes of Mr Dilip Kumar, Mr K Asif, Mr Bimal Roy, Mr Satyajit Ray, Mr Guru Dutt, and many more, whose talent and exceptional abilities have formed the spine of our contemporary film business, is absolutely bizarre.
Even in today’s times, there are plenty of examples where it has repeatedly been proven that beyond the superficiality of branded clothes, polished accents, and a sanitised upbringing, exists grit, genuine hard-work, diligence, eagerness to learn, and the gigantic power of the human spirit. Many examples, all over the world, in every field, are a testimony to that. My dear friend Saif has written a letter on this topic and I would like to share my perspective. My request is that people must not misconstrue this and pit us against each other.
This is just a healthy exchange of ideas, and not a clash between individuals.
Saif, in your letter you mentioned that, “I apologized to Kangana, and I don’t owe anyone any explanation, and this issue is over.” But this is not my issue alone.
Nepotism is a practice where people tend to act upon temperamental human emotions, rather than intellectual tendencies.
Businesses that are run by human emotions and not by great value-systems, might gain superficial profits.
However, they cannot be truly productive and tap into the true potential of a nation of more than 1.3 billion people.
Nepotism, on many levels, fails the test of objectivity and rationale. I have acquired these values from the ones who have found great success and discovered a higher truth, much before me. These values are in the public domain, and no one has a copyright on them.
Greats like Vivekananda, Einstein and Shakespeare didn’t belong to a select few. They belonged to collective humanity. Their work has shaped our future, and our work will shape the future of the coming generations.
Today, I can afford to have the willpower to stand for these values, but tomorrow, I might fail, and help my own children realise their dreams of stardom. In that case, I believe that I would have failed as an individual. But the values will never fail. They will continue to stand tall and strong, long after we are gone.
So, we owe an explanation to everyone who either owns, or wants to own these values. Like I said, we are the ones who will shape the future of the coming generations.
In another part of your letter, you talked about the relationship between genetics and star kids, where you emphasised on nepotism being an investment on tried and tested genes. I have spent a significant part of my life studying genetics. But, I fail to understand how you can compare genetically hybrid racehorses to artists!
Are you implying that artistic skills, hard-work, experience, concentration spans, enthusiasm, eagerness, discipline and love, can be inherited through family genes? If your point was true, I would be a farmer back home. I wonder which gene from my gene-pool gave me the keenness to observe my environment, and the dedication to interpret and pursue my interests.
You also spoke of eugenics — which means controlled breeding of the human race. So far, I believe that the human race hasn’t found the DNA that can pass on greatness and excellence. If it had, we would’ve loved to repeat the greatness of Einstein, Da Vinci, Shakespeare, Vivekananda, Stephen Hawking, Terence Tao, Daniel Day-Lewis, or Gerhard Richter.
You also said that the media is to be blamed since it is the real flag-bearer of nepotism. That makes it sound like a crime, which is far from the truth. Nepotism is merely a weakness of the human nature; it takes great deal of will-power and strength to rise above our intrinsic nature — sometimes we excel, sometimes we don’t. No one is putting a gun to anyone’s head to hire talent they don’t believe in. So, there is no need to get defensive about one’s choices.
In fact, the subtext of all my talk on this subject has been to encourage outsiders to take the path less traveled. Bullying, jealousy, nepotism and territorial human tendencies are all part of the entertainment industry, much like any other. If you don’t find acceptance in the mainstream, go off beat — there are so many ways of doing the same thing.
I think the privileged are the least to be blamed in this debate, since they are part of the system, which is set around chain reactions. Change can only be caused by those who want it. It is the prerogative of the dreamer who learns to take his or her due, and not ask for it.
You are absolutely right — there is a lot of excitement and admiration for the lives of the rich and famous. But at the same time, our creative industry gets this love from our countrymen, because we are like a mirror to them — whether it’s Langda Tyagi from Omkara or Rani from Queen, we are loved for the extraordinary portrayal of the ordinary.
So, should we make peace with nepotism? The ones who think it works for them can make peace with it. In my opinion, that is an extremely pessimistic attitude for a Third World country, where many people don’t have access to food, shelter, clothing, and education. The world is not an ideal place, and it might never be. That is why we have the industry of arts. In a way, we are the flag-bearers of hope.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Vulture Politics

Vultures vultures vultures everywhere,
Waiting for the carcasses to feed upon
We wait for an opportunity and gloat on it
And then feast upon the bodies with glee

Is it of a Hindu killed in a terror attack,
Is it of a mercenary raiding our lands,
Is it of an aggressive and noisy neighbor,
Is it of a government flexing strong arms

It doesn’t matter us, what the carcass is,
Till we have a carcass to feast and enjoy
We will feed noisily, we won’t let dispose –

Where is relevance without vulture politics?

Monday, 19 June 2017

Fireworks for India's Loss - Seriously?

In one word, ASHAMED. My housemaid was asking today morning, why are they celebrating? Who won the match. And when she got to know that the celebrations are for India's loss against Pakistan, she was very sad.
In such a tense situation, first of all, India shouldn’t play the match. But it played. India being trashed, is it a matter of pride for Indians? Or is it that the celebrations are for Pakistan defeating India? Is that the level of patriotism we have got? Or, does this mean people are not happy that India is cutting down Pakistan to size?
Golwalkar quoted
The law-abiding citizens are told to restrict themselves, and those who are out to indulge in violence are given a free hand to do what they like. This is in a way admitting, though indirectly, that within the country there are so many Muslim pockets, i.e., so many 'miniature Pakistans', where the general law of the land is to be enforced only with certain modifications and the whims of the miscreants have to be given the final say. This acceptance, indirect though it may be, implies a very dangerous theory fraught with possibilities of destruction of our national life altogether. Such 'pockets' have verily become centres of a widespread network of pro-Pakistani elements in this land. 
That was a different age and that was a different social scenario. Even after 70 long years, why are those comments still relevant? I am not passing any judgements. My question is simple. Why are we in such a situation? Below tweets are a glimpse of what happened after the match. It's time for us to seriously introspect what is the mistake we are doing.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Major Gogoi Case - Why are we taking a back foot?

This debate over Major Gogoi, I am not at all happy. Is this what we patriotic Indians are supposed to indulge in? The most important thing we are missing in this is, those who are questioning the Major are angry that the Major hasn’t opened fire, killing at least 500. Had the 500 been killed, the outrage would have been massive and they will, finally, succeed in diverting the attention of the world towards the funded movement in the state of Jammu and Ladakh. The Chief of Army’s personal intention in this case is an indication how precarious the Major’s position has turned. What exactly did we do wrong here? What are the open issues regarding this?
1. No one is questioning those questioning the acts of the Major why they are interested in the deaths of at least 500 Kashmiris. How exactly are they getting benefitted?
2. Why was a voice given to the yob forced to grace the bonnet? Army should have taken him to Delhi and forced a medal around his neck, in gratitude for the service he provided to Indian Army in saving the lives of many. Punishment will come, say, like a government job in Abujmad or Nagaland.
3. This happened, fine. Why are we giving the mercenaries a voice in mainstream media? Why are we allowing them, first of all, to present their views? All those who are spewing venom on mainstream media should be voluntarily boycotted by everyone.
4. What sort of action is being taken on those people spewing venom online, on mainstream media and elsewhere? These are recorded statements and should be used to charge them.
5. The biggest question is not even that. An FIR is filed against the Major and J&L govt is humming and hawing to take back the case. If he is a soldier and if he is under the jurisdiction of Indian Army, why is the power to file FIR given to a state government? The case should have been filed by the Army police and investigated. As a byproduct, does this also mean J&L govt can order his presence under his jurisdiction till the case is not settled? Is this not against the national interests?
At least now, I think we need to come up with a concerted attempt to sort this issue out. We need the government to be creative like this Army Officer. This is a festering wound which needs to be urgently taken down.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Economic Offenders - What’s the Solution?

SBI was supposed to file detention orders on Monday. Vijay Mallya escaped the country on Saturday and rejected all summons. ED & CBI raids are going on against Karthi Chidambaram. He scooted away out of the country while the raids were going on. These are but names. There are many such - some relative of Adani, the one who bought Peerless(he was caught fleeing, relieveingly), Lalit Modi and many such.
There are a few serious issues regarding this.
1. How did they get the opportunity to run away from the country?
2. Why are the charges that strong enough for them to have a second thought before committing the escape act?
Let’s forget why they turned as economic offenders - whoever may be responsible for the situation to turn such, the bottomline is that they are guilty by absconding.
There are two aspects for this - prevention and containment.
Economic offences are a consequence of auditing - in the case of Ramalinga Raju, someone didn’t notice the transfer of money to Maytas. In the case of Vijay Mallya, someone didn’t bother to look at the loan repayment potential of the business.
The first act is to set up something like CAG which audits the books of every entity having a total value of, say, more than 1000 crores. The auditor should also be responsible if the books are cooked up and things go kaput.
Next is to set up a ten point scale, the outcome of which tells whether a loan should be given or not. Let it have a 1000 parameters and let it take a month to fill all the parameters, but the outcome should be binding. It should cover everything from loan amount to the health of business to domestic/global health of the field to number of employees to annual turnover to everything. If the number is above 7, loan should be given. If it is between 5 and 7, loan will be given against a collateral, unrelated to the business in question. If it is between 3 and 5, government intervenes and if it is less than 3, no loan should be given. There should be an annual review of the formula involved to keep it updated. By attempting to standardize the loan issue potential, we can, to a maximum extent, nullify the effect of issuing loans to caustic entities.
Coming to absconders. What exactly can we do? First thing is, if you are planning to initiate proceedings, the first act is to block the passport and put it on a watch list.
If he has already escaped the country, issue him, say, three summons to turn back. He doesn’t heed. First block his passport. Then seize all the property in India, both movable and immovable. And that includes all his shares in a joint venture. If need be, give a permission to all foreign governments to seize his assets in their territories. This will deincentivize them from granting the person asylum. Give him one year to stand trial in lieu of getting the title for his Indian properties back. And if he is capable enough, let him fight his case with foreign governments - India won’t involve. Else, there will no turning back - the assets will become the property of government of India with no scope for judicial recourse.
Is this extreme? Is this a good deterrent? Well, I won’t hazard a guess. But, I will tell one thing. The bill we are going to get is going to be insipid because the father of one such offender who has escaped is going to lobby with opposition to dilute it as much as possible.