Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kolaveri, i-fads, Salem witch trials, INSANITY!!!

For starters, I can't believe I am writing about this. After all this hype, it just looks as though I want a piece of the action too, and that is why I am 'kolaveri-ing' away. Honestly, that is not the case. What is the case, is that this song is infectiously catchy! And oddly enough, not in an 'Oh my God! Get this song out of my head way'! so seriously, why this kolaveri???

Well, there hasn't been any shortage of inexplicable fads of late. Why, the very i-phenomenon leads the pack. How else can you explain people staying up all night to order the i-phone 4s, on a continuously crashing site? How else can you explain someone (read me) spending a whole day fighting with errors trying to install iOS 5, the day it was released, when the very next day installation on a phone proceeded like a dream? How else can you explain the phone being a huge grosser at the outset, when there were much better phones, available for lesser in the market? How else can one explain the very smartphone market? Honestly I wouldn't need to be perennially stuck to my email if I am just someone sitting at home all day, doing nothing, and no one needs an immediate response from me, whatsoever!

So, when this song caught on, I was surprised. Well, it really isn't a very bad song, given that songs like Altaf Raja's 'tum toh thehre pardesi' has had longer standing fan following. Just because it is that bad. Or for that matter, even the fame of a certain Mika falls in the same category. So good, because it is sooooooo bad. Gunda, the legendary cult movie, which even I have seen several times, just because of the terrible dialogues, or maybe just to appreciate a man who had such faith in his own work that he went ahead and made such a terrible movie. While on the topic of SGBSB (So Good Because So Bad), all new fans of Kollywood, must watch a movie called Yaarukku Yaaro Stepnee. It is on YouTube, and yes, Stepnee is the right spelling. It has awesome lines that translate into stuff like 'You think I treat you like a stepny, when in reality, I want you with me in every step... ovvoru stepu nee, in Tam'. If someone found a link and put in on FB, I am sure even this movie would get the Oscar equivalent of bad movies!

The whole Kolaveri phenomenon, the way it was covered in the news, or spoken about, or shared and tweeted on, really flashes back images of the Salem witch trials. Rajnikant's son-in-law might just hunt me down for likening his song to being burnt at a stake, but think about it. Such a massive herd following, many even 'Facebook liking' the video because it is cool to know Kolaveri. I guess, in the current age, give any thought to FB, be it an Egyptian overhaul or a scrawny guy singing a silly song with outrageous lyrics, it will end up becoming a phenomenon.

What's next then? The Bacchan granddaughter won the Miss World pageant already, or got an Oscar for future estimated sterling performance? FB like anyone???

Friday, November 04, 2011

Money at all costs.... Consultants, hedge funds and insiders

Spartacus, Rocky, Cinderella, Obama every Amitabh Bachhan movie.... What do all of these have in common? The story of the underdog. For some reason, everyone likes a good underdog story. And that is perhaps why there is such a huge surge in the number of stories and articles on Rajat Gupta and Raj Rajaratnam of late!

Insider trading is not a new construct. Martha Stewart was perhaps the biggest name a few years ago and everyone knows that insider trading is not unknown in India. But when big names and billionaire hedge funds are involved, the scale of the events just hits gargantuan proportions. Media has a lot more to talk about, and the stories look a lot more psychedelic. Imagine saying ," richest Sri Lankan born American on the planet caught in insider trading". given the current mood of 'if jobless, occupy a city square', the whole 'down with greed' theme seems to get its perfect frontpage story. And unfortunately we Indians and our 'money at all costs a.k.a greed' attitude provide the perfect gasoline steeped firewood for this fire!

I happened to read a couple of articles on these gentlemen the other day. Each written in an attempt to project the humane side of each of these supposed Wall Street manipulators. So, I learnt that Rajaratnam belonged to the Sinhalese minority (LTTE, anyone?) and that he had been physically assaulted when he was studying in the UK. Furthermore he wasn't privy to the so-called Jewish clique when he was graduating from Wharton! His father had been an upright 'head ASPAC' of Singer Sewing Machines, the largest selling brand of sewing machines in the East! He got to study in UK, and made it to prestigious Wharton, where B school education is one of the most expensive in the world! Anyone heard of Richie Rich (Poor little rich man indeed!) and as for Mr. Gupta, he was an academically brilliant young man, and a professor at Harvard made a personal call to the CEO of McKinsey to make them recruit Rajat, and not turn him down for want of experience. Here was someone who advised large companies and told them how to conduct business, solve their problems and amassed enormous wealth in the process. But there always is a gap between the cup and the lip and no matter how wealthy one gets, someone else is always richer! And looking at the South Asian community success stories in the west, a pattern emerges. A pattern of flimsy ethics and a goal described by only money!

But the story throws up a ton of unanswerable questions. Like why does a hedge fund manager educated at Wharton need to pay a million dollars a year to a consultant to tell him what is and isn't insider information? Wouldn't anyone know that discussing outcomes of board meetings with directors is material nonpublic information? How could a Wharton educated billionaire hedge fund manager whose wiretaps are public domain information plead not guilty based on a soothsayer's prediction? (There is a story that says that an ola leaf soothsayer said that such calamities would befall Rajaratnam and that he would finally prevail). And then, consultants, are known to advise clients how to solve their problems by sometimes exploiting loopholes, all the while ensuring they followed the laws to the letter, not always in spirit. But can this tactic be a process one employs in one's own life? Can knowing how to twist the rules be a noble safeguard against penalty for breaking the rules? One then wonders whether it makes any sense for someone to sully one's reputation built over a 40 year period in a quest for more and more money! One of those articles had a ridiculous line that went on to say that one needn't denigrate Mr Gupta, because everyone has twisted the laws at some time or the other! But in all honesty, if he is guilty of what he did, his fault is bigger, as he betrayed the trust of all such big corporations and their shareholders all for personal gain and also provided a dead blow to the reputation of all Indians who have tried to make it big in the world!

But the worst plaguing question is one line I read in an article that said that all non Indians had entered into a plea bargain without a wiretap while all the Indians who were accused, plea bargained with a wiretap. In other words, just the Indians had no issues making money off of someone only to turn on him ones times soured! Money at all costs, use people and throw them away and have really flimsy ethics and scant regard for human relationships? That Indian success story is better best forgotten!  

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Indian GP and Metallica - do not mean India has arrived.....

'Master of Puppets' and whizzing cars on a racetrack - integral parts of every young person's life! A perfect juxtaposition then, that a Metallica concert and the inaugural Indian Grand Prix was scheduled for last weekend. The only problem, though, was that all this was happening in India! And for some weird, random reason, everyone wants to scream out loud that 'India has arrived'. As certified by Metallica and Bernie Ecclestone????

So, Bryan Adams, Michael Jackson, Enrique Iglesias have all come here and performed. And we've always had tamashas with these performances! What with Bal Thackeray's Patel Shot with MJ, Enrique's risqué stage performance being blasted by our very own moral police! So when the greatest band of all time (Rolling Stones and Iron Maiden fans, please excuse) was coming to town, some 'locha' was expected. But no one knew, or expected 'Shining India' Indians to turn into hooligans. Now if someone had seen those village shows that featured folk art with rural, cheap liquor swigging bumpkins as audience, they might have had a glimpse of what real Indian audiences can be like! So when crowds got unruly, noisy, restless, nonsense was expected. And honestly, when 'sophisticated' audiences started breaking up equipment, the mind brought out the image of the village bumpkin! India shone, didn't it?

And now comes F1. When news of the race started appearing on TV, other news that aired at the same time, was that of 12 infants dying in Calcutta in a span of 24 hours! When India is unable to provide for healthcare in even the metros, can we really say that India is shining, because a handful of affluent Indians who know of no better use of 40,000 rupees, choose to go see a race for Facebook update purposes? When I said this to someone, they said," go see a race and you would know why it really is such a big deal". Well, honestly, having been to one, the experience is akin to climbing a nondescript mountain. You yearn to climb it, but once you do, you don't want to climb it again. So at a time, 25000 Indians blow off freshly earned excess money on a race. Does India churn out 25000 new moneyed yuppies each year? NO! So what happens in 2012? Will the same guys go and see the race again and post 'part of history.... Watched the Indian GP (pronounced as gro pri)....' on Facebook? Again?

And why should such an overpriced sport get tax rebates? A sport that even the participants find overpriced. And why should billionaire Ecclestone be subsidized by the Emerging Indian? Why do we yearn for certification by outsiders? Someone hyphenated India and China and so we Indians wannabe China! China conducted the Olympics and so we conducted the Commonwealth Games and gobbled up a lot of money! China has a F1 race, so we should too! Why? Why aren't we proud of who we are? We respect human rights more than the Chinese do. Gandhiji refused to dress up in a dinner jacket to meet the king, and he was ok with not meeting the king. But today, we're too much of the wannabe type!

Ask any European, American or Canadian whether he would blow off a 1000 dollars on a Formula 1 race. I did ask, and I was looked upon with derision, when I told them that the cost of the best tickets in India was 1000 bucks. "You Indians are like the Japanese of the Eighties," someone said. But India can never lose a decade like the Japs did, just because such blatant shows of moneyness comes from just a handful of Indians.

And 25000 Indians do not make 900 million Indians shine! So till we can provide food and healthcare to every Indian, WE HAVE NOT ARRIVED!