A Phenomenon Called Rajinikanth

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When a son, Shivaji Rao Gaekwad , the third in the family was born to Police Constable Ramoji Rao Gaekwad and his wife Ramabai in Bangalore on December 12, 1950, they had no idea that he would one day become one of the biggest super stars of Indian cinema. Likewise, those who bought tickets from him when he was a bus conductor in Route 10 A of the Bangalore Transport Service would not have dreamt that one day he would rule the silver screen. They still talk about those days when Rajinikanth (as he later became known as) impressed them so much with his antics that people traveled by his bus routes just to see him perform his duties as a conductor with extraordinary flair and style.  Continue reading

Dr. Raghuram Rajan

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Dr. Raghuram Rajan is, I believe, a modest man. Recently, he must have been embarrassed to be in the  eye of a storm after he announced that he is not open for a second term as Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). When he assumed office, aged 50, he was so refreshingly different from earlier Governors that some in India went so far as to compare the former Chief Economist of the IMF, and Professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business with James Bond!

To re-capitulate, Dr Rajan was earlier the Chief Economic Advisor to the Government of India’s Ministry of Finance and was later appointed the RBI  Governor by Dr Manmohan Singh’s UPA Government in 2013.  Not many recall that Dr Rajan was given a tentative three year term as distinct from the conventional five year term of office given to all his predecessors. Be that as it may, many were pleasantly surprised when the Modi Government on assuming office in May 2014 chose to continue with Dr Rajan at the helm of the country’s central bank, even though it is fairly common for new Governments to appoint people of their own choice to high positions.

There were good contributions made by Dr. Rajan but there were a few incidents which caused acute embarrassment to his employers as well. Being far more outspoken than his predecessors, some of his thoughts expressed in public addresses did not go down well with the Government. His comments were perceived to be open criticism on sensitive issues, way  beyond the purview of his position as RBI Governor. His remark that India was like an one eyed king in the land of the blind came after another suggesting that the country should become more tolerant even as the Government was battling an image crisis, largely fuelled by the Opposition, that it had become totally intolerant.

Some believed the Western media and financial institutions were giving greater credence to Dr Rajan’s comments.  This made the Government wary fearing that Dr Rajan was communicating, even inadvertently, wrong messages which could be exploited by detractors of India, and more specifically of Prime Minister Modi. Can we forget that not too long ago, 65 Members of India’s Parliament had petitioned the Head of another country (in this case the President of the United States) not to issue a visa to Modi, a legally-elected Chief Minister of a State in the Union of India? That 64 of them lost in the 2014 elections and Modi got that US visa is another matter.

The 2014 General Elections in India gave a single party a huge mandate for the first time in decades. People expected the Government to deliver on its promises. It would need all key appointees to rise to the occasion. The Government did support Dr Rajan’s moves to hold down inflation. However, if he believed that he could be impervious to the pulls and pushes of political pressures he was being too naive.

I don’t dispute that Dr Rajan is a highly learned and competent academic and economist. No one can. I am, however, totally against those who speak as if the Indian economy will collapse with his exit. The fears spread in some quarters that a panic-stricken Modi Government hastily announced a slew of far reaching economic reforms as a reaction to Dr Rajan’s decision to leave is far-fetched.

These unprecedented reforms now permit 100 %  Foreign Direct Investment (FDI ) in 10 important sectors including key ones like defence, civil aviation, and pharmaceuticals. They signal the Government’s desire to take bold steps to change the fortunes of a country which for too long was caught in a web of indecision.

I am annoyed by  some people trying to spread fear that Dr Rajan’s exit (which, by the way they called “Rexit”) will spell doom for India. How can it when, compared to most of the global economies, India is poised to grow in 2017 at a much faster rate of 7.6 % as estimated by the World Bank. They would do well to realize that no man, however brilliant he might be, is indispensable to a nation of 1.3 billion people.

To put things in perspective, let’s fast forward to Feb 2018. Will the US economy collapse if the next President of the United States (be it Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump) choose not to extend the four year term of Dr Janet  L. Yellen, current Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System? Just asking.

 

 

 

International Yoga Day

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For the uninitiated, yoga looks so complex. I can imagine my favorite author P G Wodehouse describing it as people tying themselves in knots. Yet kids are taking to it just as their elders. Black, white, brown or any color in between, in nearly 200 countries, big and small, people are taking to what might be, at least in India for sure, the most inexpensive way to managing good health. They are practicing it with vigor and unprecedented enthusiasm from San Francisco, Ca touching the Pacific Ocean,  across the US mainland, Europe, Africa, and Asia to Yokohama in Japan on the other side of the Pacific.  From the capitalist United States to communist China, yoga is taking the world by storm.  Continue reading

My Memories of The Olympics

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The passing away of boxing legend Muhammad Ali a few days ago brought back a flood of memories. I remember him winning the light heavyweight boxing championship at the Rome Olympics in 1960, only though at that time he was still known as Cassius Clay. Later I came to know that he threw away that precious Gold medal in the Ohio River following an incident of racial discrimination. Some years after the Rome Olympics, Clay became what was then called a “Black Muslim” assuming the name of Muhammad Ali. I remember reading about some of his famous fights over the years when he defeated Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman and many others. This article in the Indian Express details ten of his best fights. Reliving those moments brought back memories of the different Olympic Games I read about or saw on television. Continue reading

So Near Yet So Far, Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL 2016

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When Shane Watson fell at 164 in the 16th over, a silence fell upon the 30,000 odd people who thronged the Chinnaswamy Stadium at Bengaluru that day. Could the tail for the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) score 44 in the last 3 overs? Hyderabad had scored over 50 in their last three overs but we didn’t have their fire power. At one stage it had seemed that even 208 the target set by the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) could be chased down. Now it appeared inevitable that RCB would fail in their bid to win the coveted Indian Premier League (IPL). It was not to be third time lucky for them having lost earlier finals in 2009 and 2011. Continue reading

Namma Bengaluru – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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Everything in the world is relative. This summer has been hotter than ever before, or so it seems to us. We often reflect on how Bengaluru famed for its wonderful climate could have become like this. Yet, see the faces of those who deplane at Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport and you will find most have broad smiles when they realize how much better Bengaluru is compared to wherever they came from. Same is the case at the City Railway Station. Namma Bengaluru may be bad in some aspects but it is far better than most cities in India in many other aspects. Continue reading

The New World I Live In

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Let’s face it, I am no chicken. At 64, I find myself scanning news to see what might interest Senior Citizens, obviously looking for schemes which benefit people like me. There have been generous schemes, especially in the Indian Railways which offer considerable benefit to travelling senior citizens. Women aged 58 and above get 50 % concession while men aged 60 and above get 40 % concession on the regular fares.  Continue reading

There’s More To India Than JNU!

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The TV channels and the print media of late have been full of Kanhaiya Kumar of JNU and all that happened in the campus starting with the Poetry Reading event for which permission was sought by Umar Khalid, who is now in jail. My only question to Kanhaiya Kumar and the other office bearers of the JNU Students Union is: even if you did not raise the anti national slogans yourself, what did you do to stop them? Surely, you were more popular on campus than those so-called “outsiders”. How come they hijacked the poetry reading contest? Here’s what the JNU authorities have had to say about the incident on February 9, 2016 that triggered everything that followed. Continue reading

The NDA Govt Has Done More Than Just Be “Intolerant”

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Many people in India, like me, are fed up with the barrage of media coverage in 2015 on the “intolerance” perceived by some. I can write reams about this subject but now it has become old and stale. Suffice it to say that those who didn’t protest for worse tragedies in the past ( read: Sikhs massacre of ’84, many communal riots under the Congress Govt, the forced exodus of Kashmiri Pandits etc) thought it fit to return their awards and generally paint a terrible picture of India, which the country didn’t deserve. I believe much of the flak that followed was based on perceptions not backed by concrete data. Continue reading

Reflections on 2015, The Year Gone By

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In a few days, one more year would have gone by. 2015 will make way for 2016 and I hope the new year brings in peace and happiness for all of us. This made me reflect on the past year and I share these with you today. Firstly, let me cover the matter of my posting regularly in this blog. Largely due to ill-health for three months in the last part of the year, I did not post as frequently as I used to. I hope to do better in the new year.  Continue reading

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