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 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.
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
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
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
Some of us Old Lawrencians, alumni of The Lawrence School, Lovedale have hit upon an exciting idea. To write an informal history of the School. Of course, there have been books about the School before. “Never Give In: A History of One Hundred and Twenty Five Years of The Lawrence School, Lovedale” by Hugh and Colleen Gantzer, published in 1984 and Max Cocker’s reminiscences in “Lawrence Memorial Royal Military School, Lovedale: A Personal Account” published in 1988, come readily to mind. We plan to do something different.
The eight edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is on. Probably the richest cricket tournaments in the world, this T20 tournament has 8 franchisees vying for the prestigious cup. The Chennai Super Kings and the Kolkata Knight Riders have both won this twice in past years. It has been galling for faithful fans of the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) the team that I support, as I live in Bengaluru, that we have never won the trophy even once, despite the rich talent we had. We have been losing finalists twice.
Today is the birth anniversary of one of India’s greatest sons, sadly one who was never fully given his due, Babasaheb Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, independent India’s first Law Minister. We can never forget that he was the principal architect of our Constitution, and one who wanted an uniform civil code apart from his phenomenal efforts to eradicate untouchability and the evils of the caste system. In this article, the eminent journalist, the late Mr. B. G. Verghese writes about some of Dr. Ambedkar’s contributions and how we as a country went wrong through blind hero worship.
A few news items that grabbed my attention in the past few days feature in today’s blog post. I found them interesting- and amusing. Perhaps reflective of today’s day and age. Doctors, at least a few of them, seem to take pride in uploading pictures of their surgeries, with or without the consent of their patients says this article in the Times of India. As usual, Facebook is a target for such ‘bragging rights”. Imagine one doctor telling another, ” The tumor I took out is bigger then the one you did” and watching with glee the increasing number of number of shares, likes and so on!
Mr. Narendra Modi, our new Prime Minister, has raised issues such as “Swacch Bharat” his drive for “A Clean India”in a manner never done before by any of his predecessors. He has given utmost importance to cleanliness in our country which sadly has for many decades now a poor reputation for being full of filth and dirt. Continue reading