Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Commentary on the First Quarter 2009.

Events unfolding within financial services and its implications on the company I work for and myself, sought of, kept me occupied. This period was quite happening though for India from both national and international perspective. Most of these events evoked very strong and mixed reactions from the Indians with emotions ranging from awe to aversion and antipathy leading to very interesting debates. This post is more in the nature of commentary and my stand on some of the events. Not that my position is of any consequence or matters to anyone but could be read as views of common man.

Let me quickly capture some of the epochal events. I begin with the positives. The opening of Taj, Mumbai for business on 6th Jan was triumph of good over evil. The intensity of damage it had suffered and the quick rebound is a great testimony of our determination and only reinforces the belief that bad times don’t last. Unfortunately its five months since 26/11 and the trial has only just began, God knows when will the justice be given? My worst fear is that Kasab becomes another Afzal after years and years of trials due to political compulsions! Will be great travesty of justice and insult to Indians and should be severely censured. This is something we should reform asap led by both administration and society. Cannot led perpetrators of crime against India escape punishment?


Then came the Satyam saga, which quickly eclipsed the euphoria of Taj’s opening. I was disgusted to see some guys taking pride in the fact that it’s India’s answer to Enron. We don’t need to answer scam with a scam. This one episode had the potential to bring down India’s value proposition and investments in Indian businesses in general and did dent our credibility. For a change, the government managed this piece well and contained the magnitude of damage it could cause. As I write, it has found a new owner, a very respectable Indian name - Mahindras. The way transition has been managed, I would say is surprising and remarkable, well done on this one but what will do long term good, is to use this opportunity and cleanse the system thoroughly.


My third pick would be two landmark films - Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire and Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D. Well, both films had their share of controversies, while Slumdog Millionaire was caught in the argument whether its poverty porn or not, Dev D got mired into whether it too loud and bold. I believe that Slumdog M was a visual treat and did get to showcase India’s vibrancy and positivity in the midst of poverty, but Dev D was a better storyline and more hard-hitting within the Indian context. Slumdog M went on to create history by winning all major Golden Globes and Oscars and Dev D redefined the female sexuality by presenting an entirely new paradigm. I personally loved watching Dev D more than Slumdog M. Infact, I have taken liking to what some of the Indian filmmakers have attempted with Shakespearean literature, with innovative and creative remakes. Vishal’s Maqbool and Omkara based on Macbeth and Othello respectively were pathbreaking and deserve honorable mention. And now, Dev D based on Sarat’s Devdas. What an adaptation! I think it was an extremely creative piece of work, pushing the boundaries, keeping the themes and characterizations intact. I am sure Devdas will continue to intrigue the Indian filmmakers and we will see many more versions.


Some events, which didn’t occur in India but affects us (you could list Slumdog M in that category as well as it is a British Film) would be Obama’s installation and bloodcurdling events in the neighbourhood. Obama got it right the very first day by acknowledging that Pakistan is turning out to be a dangerous place and asked them to get things right. Most notable was the attack on SriLankan cricketers (read this was supposed to be India tour) and Taliban taking over parts of Pakistan. Pakistan increasingly looks like a failed state. Taliban now looks strikingly close to Indian borders. Stable and prosperous Pakistan is in our interest, period. As a policy, we should no longer be passive observers and should get actively involved in the geo-political affairs of the region, flex muscles, roll-up sleeves and get our hands dirty. Our neighbourhood is getting increasingly volatile with disturbances in Pakistan, SriLanka, Nepal, Burma and the high-handedness of China. That leaves only the Kingdom (now a democracy) state as an ally. Can’t take the approach that it’s their internal matter. We may have to suffer some short-term consequences but is very important from long-term stability, unity and growth of India and therefore the world. Fail to understand why we are shy of taking an active role in world affairs.
And finally, the most important event, the mammoth election for the lower house - the biggest democratic tamasha. Spread over two months, India goes to polls and the world watches. The whole process acts like a botox and makes our democracy young vibrant and beautiful. For all its ills, nothing can beat the enthusiasm of exercising the franchise. This time we have seen increased awareness and eagerness and the first phase has been encouraging with 62% participation. Hail the elections, Hail the democracy and of course Hail the Indians.


In midst of all this, we took another landmark step to launch RISAT-II, propelling us in the elite league of countries with their earth-facing observation satellites (more popularly known as spy satellites) and won Azlan Shah ( can't remember, its hockey stupid, our national game!).


So, 2009 looks to be interesting for India.