Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Those carefree days!

The move to Saraswathi Puram when I was about 9 years old was sudden. There had been no prior discussions at home about moving houses and I hadn't even imagined that we will be leaving our familiar surroundings ever. But one day, Anna came home from office and casually announced that he had seen a new house for rent in this new locality and we will be moving there. Within a couple of weeks, we had already moved.

The change in environment couldn't have been starker. In Agrahara, we were used to narrow roads, rows of dilapidated brick and mud houses with tiled roofs, road-side drainage, gallis where mangy dogs and pigs used to roam freely. And suddenly we found ourselves in this modern locality with broad roads, huge playground right opposite our house, beautiful parks, rows of identically designed houses with gardens, modern drainage system, and so on. It virtually opened a new window to the world for the 9-year-old boy in me. Looking back, I can clearly see the mind expanding with the open spaces available everywhere.

Even though we were surrounded by large houses with gardens, and it was a pleasure to just see those houses as we walked past them everyday, the house we had rented ourselves was just an outhouse behind one of those large houses. Sure, it was bright and airy, was spacious enough for us and certainly an improvement over our previous house. But I remember feeling a bit awed initially by the other houses in the neighbourhood.  Oh, look at those spacious study rooms looking out into the garden and their well-equipped study tables with a globe and all! Can I compete with children in those houses? Those doubts were soon put to rest, as I found out that the boys in those houses were not only  friendly and accessible, but I was actually doing better than them - be it in studies or carom or cricket. Initial diffidence soon gave way to confidence and I started enjoying my stay there even more.

Summer holidays were naturally the best times in those days. Our day used to start at around 8:30. Laze around for an hour reading newspaper and magazines, take a shower and have breakfast at around 10. And then, off we went to play with friends. Cricket and lagori were the preferred games. We used to pop in to the house for a quick drink of Rasna around noon and then some more playing in the hot sun. Come home at around 2, quick shower under the backyard tap and then lunch time. Post-lunch used to be mainly indoor games - either carom or short cricket. And then some more cricket in the evening, followed by an hour of 'katte' - just sitting around with friends chatting. Back home at around 8 and we were still not done. Some more indoor games amongst us brothers - handball, short cricket, anything. And then a late dinner around 10. Same routine repeated for entire two months of holidays.

Hindi - yet another window to a new world

Around the same time as we moved to Sarasawthi Puram, I also started learning Hindi outside of school syllabus. Till then, apart from a little bit of English that we used to learn in school, my life was mostly dominated by Kannada. Kannada medium in school, Kannada newspapers and magazines, Kannada movies and music and so on. So when Amma enrolled us to learn Hindi, I was naturally excited. But I had little inkling  of how much joy this new language was going to give me over the next few years. We started off with construction of simple sentences and translating small paragraphs from Hindi to Kannada and vice versa. Pretty soon, within a year or two, we were studying mature essays by some of the best writers in the language, logically constructed argument pieces, beautiful poetry, dohas of Kabir and Rahim and even some Urdu poetry with subtle turn of phrase by the likes of Ghalib and Mir Taqi Mir. There was even a novel about a determined small-town girl (Warija) who goes to a big city to become an actress but ends up being a rich man's mistress. At the age of 12, I wasn't sure whether I should be studying a 'mature' novel like this, but needless to say I quite enjoyed it :-) Again, I probably didn't realize at the time how important learning this new language was, but looking back, I have no doubt that it had a significant role in enriching and expanding my young, adolescent mind at the time.

But even better part about Hindi classes, other than all that literature we had to study, was just going to the class and coming across a remarkable woman, our Hindi teacher. The classes used to be conducted either early in the morning or in the evenings and I used to particularly enjoy the morning classes. Getting up at 6 in the winter months of December/January, walking alone in deserted roads, watching the dew-kissed parijata flowers in full bloom along the way and then listening to the Hindi teacher delivering her lecture in her soothing, cheerful voice was indeed a beautiful experience. A few words about the teacher - Mrs. Indira. She had seen many a hardship in her life. She used to stay in faraway Delhi, but had moved to Mysore with her three children after the death of her husband. In Mysore, she was staying with her spinster sister, a doctor. She had to support herself and her three children on the meager income she used to earn from these Hindi classes. But, despite all these hardships, she always maintained a cheerful and positive attitude. With a book in hand, she used to forget about all her other worries and immerse herself in conveying the beauty of literature to us students. Maybe, that was her way of escaping from her problems for a little while into a world free of worries. Whatever it was, all I can say is that she was a remarkable woman and she left a huge impression on me in those days.

Pretty soon, I completed Hindi studies up to a certain level ('graduation equivalent' we were told in those days - not sure how true it is) and a year later, I also completed my high school uneventfully. We again shifted house around that time, but thankfully this one was in the same area, just a couple of roads away. This new house wasn't as well-lit and airy as the 8th cross one, nor did it have some of the better features like a playground opposite. This could have dampened my spirits a bit, but luckily, there were other vistas opening in my life. I was about to turn 15, started going to college, love was in the air and the beautiful world of mathematics - with trigonometry, calculus, analytical geometry, etc - was opening itself to me. But more than anything else, I was about to discover the joys of old Hindi film music thanks to All India Radio's Vividh Bharati service. Soon, Rafi, Mukesh, Lata and all those countless listeners from Jhumri Talaiya became my constant companions. I used to come home from college, have lunch while listening to aapki farmaish, and go back to college. We used to even record the songs from the radio using an old Sanyo tape recorder. Evenings between 9 to 11, the radio had to be tuned to VB. Soon came the television and it added another dimension to entertainment. But Vividh Bharati continued to entertain in the afternoons and late nights.

From PU college, moved on to engineering, but the routine remained pretty much the same. Most of the friends had also joined the same college, so we didn't feel any change between PUC and Engineering. Attend classes in the morning, back home in the afternoon listening to radio (or even earlier if there is a cricket match on tv), go for a round of cricket and katte with friends in the evening, back home around 7:30 and get glued to either radio or tv. Unless there was a test or exam approaching, I don't remember spending much time studying at all. If I were to draw a pie-chart of my waking hours in those days, it would probably look something like this:

Overall, when I look back, those 12 years I spent in S. Puram between the ages 9 and 21, were some of the happiest days of my life. We had multiple activities to keep ourselves engaged (sports, friends, tv, radio, magazines, discussions and a little bit of studies). We used to interact with so many different people on a daily basis - uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, etc. In a way, each one of those interactions served to enrich us as human beings. There was never any sense of jealousy, envy, bitterness or anger in any of those relationships. What's more, it hardly cost our parents a fortune to maintain this lifestyle. We didn't have to buy expensive gadgets or go on expensive vacations. Just eat simple home-made food (or at most, an occasional panipuri), soak in copious amounts of sunlight, play, talk, be merry and have fun. Wish that life could be as simple for ever. If there is anything to complain about that life, I guess it is that it spoiled us. It provided us with such fun and simple pleasures, it left us not aspiring for anything else and inevitably, anything that life had to offer us later was bound to be a disappointment. Boring meetings when I could have been watching cricket? Getting stuck in traffic instead of cycling down gulmohar tree lined roads? Expensive cars instead of the good old Luna? Who wants these things?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Why Ministers shouldn't tweet

Or anyone in responsible position, for that matter.

Imagine if someone hacks into Shashi Tharoor's twitter account and posts something inflammatory, like say, "India plans to nuke Pakistan" or "All muslims should be killed" or some such thing. It is quite likely that it will be taken at face value by many people, including those in power in other countries. Pretty soon situation may get out of control leading to serious consequences. One could say, "oh it is the others' mistake if they jump to conclusion without verifying the authenticity of the comments", but then, given that he is known to have a Twitter account, you can hardly blame others for taking comments on it seriously. So what it does is to give some engineer sitting in Twitter office the power to change the course of an entire nation. And he has that power, because someone in a responsible position thought it fit to use the services provided by some little American company to communicate his thoughts.

Currency-basket based salaries

One of the issues for Indian IT services companies is that while most of their revenues is earned in foreign currencies (mostly US dollars and Euros), a major portion of their expenses is incurred in Indian rupees. This leaves their margins susceptible to currency fluctuations - if Indian rupee strengthens against dollar, their profits go down and if Indian rupee weakens, profits go up. To offset this effect, they resort to currency hedging.

But, imo, that is a suboptimal solution. There are bound to be losses in hedging and also they end up spending too much time in managing all that. A better solution would be to align their expenses (particularly salary expenses) in terms of the currencies in which they earn their revenue. Let's say a company's revenues are 60% USD, 20% Euro and 20% Yen. Then they should structure their salaries also in the same proportion. So, let's say, they decide to fix an employee's salary at Rs. 1,00,000 per month. Instead of specifying the salary in rupee terms, they can fix the salary in the three main currencies which consitute their revenues. So, it will be (USD 60,000/dollar-rate + Euro 20,000/Euro-rate + Yen 20,000/Yen-rate). And then convert each component to local currency based on prevailing exchange rate and pay the salary. If the currencies fluctuate, salary also varies in terms of local currency, but the profit margin remains unaffected.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

KSCA all set for IPL Opener

Preparations were going on full swing at the KSCA for tomorrow's inauguration of what is being described as watershed event in the history of cricket. It looked more like a giant discotheque than a cricket stadium - what with laser lights flashing, cheerleaders practicing in one corner of the stadium and stage being given final touches. It was a riot of colours and here's hoping that the tournament will be even more colourful and exciting.

Oh, tickets are completely sold out for tomorrow's match, if you are to believe the club functionaries walking around in the stadium.
There were quite a few people standing around hoping to get a ticket somehow.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Don't shed tears for Cricinfo

The editors at Cricinfo are crying themselves hoarse over BCCI's decision to bar websites from getting access to IPL match photographs. Apparently, it is a "denial of their rights as a media organization" , one which according to the editors is "serving" millions of cricket fans. I don't understand this denial of right business. As far as I understand, IPL is an event organized by BCCI, a private club, and as such surely they are well within their rights to decide who they allow to cover their events and who they don't. On what basis does Cricinfo assume that it is their right to be allowed to cover IPL?

What is even more disingenuous is this attempt to project themselves as some sort of charity organization providing a service to the cricket fans and to the game at large. And it is the height of hypocrisy for a website owned by Disney, of all companies, to be crying about another organization trying to protect its copyrights. I mean, Disney is the past master when it comes to copyright protection. Ever heard of Digital Media Copyright Act?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Be Patriotic, Support IPL!

It is amusing to read all this outrage at players being auctioned and bought by IPL franchises. "Cricket has become a business now" goes the refrain. Let's face it. Cricket didn't become a business with the introduction of IPL. It has been a big business for more than a decade now. ICC sold the rights for its World Cups and other tournaments for a whopping billion dollars recently. Was that not a business deal? The reason players play the game is because they get paid by their boards and sponsors. The reason boards organise matches is because they are paid by the broadcasters. The reason broadcasters pay huge sums for rights and show the game on their channels is because they make money from advertisers. And the reason advertisers pay broadcasters is because in between watching cricket we watch their ads too (or vice versa) and then go out and buy those products. As simple as that. It is an ad-driven, eyeball-driven business. Are we clear on that?

ok, good. Now, the only difference in IPL is the way that business is structured and as I am going to argue below, it is better for Indian economy. With the system being followed currently by international cricket, it is the board or entity which organises an event (be it a tournament or a series) that owns all the rights for that event. That means, when Indian team plays a series in Australia, as they have been doing for past two months, it is Cricket Australia which owns the rights for that series and hence they make all the money from that series, including from Indian market. That's right - when we sit in front of our TVs to support our favourite Men in Blue, we are in effect contributing to the coffers of Cricket Australia. And this is true when we watch World Cups too. We are making ICC richer. Or when we tour Pakistan, we fill the coffers of PCB. And so on.

Now one could ask, in that case, when those teams come and play in India, doesn't BCCI make money from those other markets too? Well, they could, but the problem is there is no other country that has a market remotely comparable with India's. Which means, whatever little money BCCI makes from overseas markets is peanuts compared to what other boards make from Indian market. Net effect is, millions of dollars go out of Indian economy to the coffers of various cricket boards around the world every year.

With IPL, that is going to change. Since IPL is completely owned by BCCI, whatever money is generated by those matches will stay within Indian economy. Sure, a few foreign players get paid a few hundred thousand dollars each, but that is nothing compared to how much the boards are making from Indian market at present.

So here's my question to Dasgupta's and Thackeray's who are criticising IPL. Would you prefer that Indian audience continues to watch cricket matches imported from Australia, England, Pakistan, etc. or would you prefer that we watch cricket matches produced in India by an 100% Indian entity, which pays its taxes to Indian government? I can't see how any Communist or a Nationalist can support imported matches over 100% Indian ones.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

India on Tour - memories

Since Test cricket is on its last legs, with cricket going the club way, I thought of going through the various away test series I have followed over the years. For old times' sake.

Tours of England:

1979 - Best remembered for Bharat Reddy being picked over Kirmani and other selection goof-ups.

1982 - Entire theme of the tour for me was Vishy. Glued to the transistor and hoping against hope that he finds his touch. I think he scored a couple of fifties. Don't remember much else.

1986 - Probably one of the best cricketing memories of my life. Having just finished gruelling PU exams and engineering entrance test with flying colours, was enjoying a long break (May to October). So nothing to do all day. Get up very late, have a lazy bath and breakfast, do crossword, read some book or magazine and wait for clock to turn 3:30pm, tune into BBC TMS, enjoy their wonderful coverage. Off to play cricket with friends at 5pm and after a three hour cricket and katte session, come back to watch the highlights of previous day's action on DD and to catch the final session on radio. Abiding memories - Chetan Sharma inducing a collapse with two quick wickets, Maninder's mesmerising spell, Kapil scoring the winning runs early on day 5 of second test sealing the series victory.

1990 - Again mostly on TMS with highlights on DD. Pathetic bowling from India but more than made up by Azhar's batting. Blofeld on Azhar - "Out comes the feather duster again". Tendulkar's hundred to save a test at Old Trafford. Remember listening to Kapil's four sixers and not getting too excited (he was by then on my hit list). Kumble's debut. TMS comms getting all excited to watch two leggies bowling in tandem.

1996 - First time watching a test series from England live. Srinath and Prasad's spells particularly in second test I think against Hussain and Stewart. Ganguly's debut hundred and Dravid missing it by 3 runs. Collapse against Ronnie Irani.

Tours of Australia:

1978 - Chandra's 6-52 & 6-52 at Melbourne. The heroic chase. Remember elders talking about this being a Packer-depleted side, but didn't understand all that then.

1981 - Melbourne win. Being informed by the neighbour as soon as we got up amidst huge cheering and shouting. The Gavaskar incident.

1985 - Rain, Border and Tail frustrating us, not once but twice. Remember Shastri and Yadav running through the aussie batting line-up early one morning. Gavaskar, Srikkanth and Mohinder all getting a hundred.

1991 - Plenty of memories. Mostly sad. Whitney and Hughes running through us. Age finally catching up with Vengsarkar. Manjrekar failing to live up to expectations. Azhar raising hopes in Adelaide, albeit briefly.

1999 - First time watching a test series from Australia live. Sachin shoulder before wicket. Sachin's Melbourne hundred. VVSL Sydney hundred. McGrath showing Dravid his 'aukat' :-) Srinath bowling a good first spell but not able to maintain it longer. Agarkar getting lots of dharma wickets.

Tours of West Indies:

1982 - Mohinder standing tall amidst ruin. Windies chasing 200 after tea. I don't remember listening to any commentary. Mostly newspaper reports.

1989 - We had commentary this time and it was a funny feeling with a Test match starting at 7pm. Insipid Indian bowling. Hirwani in particular disappointing. Shastri and Sidhu's decent batting. Azhar flaying at everything.

1997 - First time watching a tes series from West Indies live. Dravid standing like a rock. Azhar getting out to Hooper. Barbados collapse.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Nuclear deal and Left's position

If you believe the commentary in most Indian media, both mainstream and blogs, the Left parties' opposition to the nuclear deal with US is motivated either by their traditional anti-Americanism or their love of China. It is certainly not driven by India's national interest. Assumption there is that the deal is in India's national interest, but Left parties don't care for that and hence are trying to scuttle the deal.

How valid is that assumption? Is the deal really in India's national interest? Or can one make an argument to the contrary? Let's see.

First of all, the leftists have made it clear that their opposition is not so much to the deal itself but to India's strategic partnership with US. So rather than looking at the nitty-gritties of the deal, let's see if a broad strategic relationship with US is in India's national interest.

Now, USA's relationship with China is lukewarm at best. So it is reasonable to assume that by entering into a strategic relationship with US, we reduce our chances of having a friendly relationship with China. How good will that be for India? No matter how great a relationship we have with US, fact remains that they will always be half way across the world from us whereas China will always be our neighbour. So it is more important for us to have good relations with China than with US. More so, when you consider that China is a growing economy and could well be the largest economy in the world in another 20 years. So we have to choose between China and US. If we go with China, we can be an equal partner with them and along with Russia, Brazil and Arab countries could form an alliance formidable enough to dominate the world in a couple of decades. Or we can go with US and end up having a troubled relationship with many countries in our neighbourhood (China, Iran, Russia, etc) which is going to hamper our own growth.

One could argue that let's have a relationship with US for the time being and we can always switch to China when we find that they are becoming more powerful than US. But the nature of strategic relationship is such that we won't be able to switch sides so easily. Take the 123 agreement for example. We will be expected to shape our foreign policy on the lines of US policy or we will have to not only return all the nuclear fuel supplied to us but also forgo the billions of dollars of investment that we are going to make in building reactors to make use of that fuel. That is, once we enter into a relationship, there will be cost associated with getting out of it. All that the Left parties seem to be doing is asking us to think carefully before deciding to tie the knot with US.

There is an interview with Edward De Bono in today's (9/18) Economic Times and he makes pretty much the same point I have made above:

Q: How can India become one of top three economic super powers?

De Bono: If India can partner China, they can be a real superpower in a short time. Alternately, if India and China form a coalition bringing other developing countries in their fold, it will beat all other world superpowers.