Tuesday, March 03, 2009

India v/s NZ ODI series...my prediction

A throwback to my old programming days!

if(Umpire != Bucknor)
if(weather != rain)
India = max(0, # of scheduled matches)
NZ = min(0, # of scheduled matches)
India = average(0, # of scheduled matches)
NZ = min(0, average(0, # of scheduled matches))
/* ... India threaten to pull out. NZ dont get their USD25 million ... * /
India = 0
NZ = 0

Monday, February 23, 2009

Slumdog OSCAR-naire...and the paradox of Rahman!!!

So, Slumdog eventually won 8/10 Oscar awards it was nominated for. Most pleasing to me was AR Rahman winning 2 Oscar awards. Due recognition for a true musical genius!

Several of my friends back home are puzzled by all the fuss about this particular work of Rahman's. He has done far better work in the past they say: Bombay, Dil Se, Rangeela. Yet this recognition for Slumdog where his composition has been top-class as usual; but admittedly not his best work.

I explain this apparent paradox using a loose cricketing analogy. Its the classic difference between a beautiful, attractive innings and an effective one.

In 1999, Sachin Tendular made that famous, magnificent hundred against Pakistan in a test-match in Chennai. It remains one of the most memorable innings I have ever seen by anyone at any point in time. He played the pace of Waqar, the swing of Wasim Akram and the spinning guile of Saqlain with aplomb...all the while battling crippling back pain.

But he got out with India 16 runs from the target and the tailenders just collapsed. Pak went onto win and did a victory lap on an Indian ground. Tendulkar received the Man of the Match award but did not come out to collect it...an accepted belief is that he was just too emotional and could not leave the dressing room. A decade later, Tendy says that match still haunts him.

His next best hundred is probably the one he scored in 1992 on a scorcher of a wicket in Perth when he was just 18. India lost that match too...by 300 runs!

In contrast, the 100 he scored again England in Chennai in December 2008 to chase down nearly 400 was a steady, relatively subdued effort. But it won us a test match...and more importantly, proved that Sachin could score on a wearing 5th day pitch and chase to win test matches. It was nowhere near as brilliant as his 1992 and 1999 efforts. Not even close. But eventually, it will count for more.

Because...it was more effective at fulfilling a cricketer's basic aim: to win and to entertain.

To me, thats the difference between Rahman's better work in Rangeela, Bombay and that of Slumdog. The first set of movies targeted a purely Indian audience and frankly, only an Indian audience could have related to these movies.

Everyone can relate to Slumdog. Whatever the reason may be...lets not intellectualize that part too much...cuz frankly I dont think we really know. But one has to admit that the movie does have a global appeal: we all love a story about the underdog who braves it all and comes out on top...wins the money, wins the girl...wins it all!

And this provided Rahman with the platform that everyone keeps talking about to showcae himself. Is it ideal? No. Is it even fair? Probably not. Point is: it is.

Congratulation AR! You've made us so very proud!

Friday, October 31, 2008

The festival of lights...

Diwali (or Deepavali) is probably the most important festival in Hinduism. Celebreated as the 'Festival of Lights' in Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism and even Buddhism, Deepavali essentially marks the triumph of good over evil.

Deepavali comes from the Sanskrit words "Deepa" (meaning lamps) and "aawaLi" (meaning a row or line) and translates literally to a row of lamps. In Hindu mythology, Diwali marks the return of Lord Ram to his kingdom of Ayodhya after a 14-year exile in Lanka (Sri Lanka today), his exile culminating in the victory over the evil-figure Ravana. Legend has it that the people of Ayodhya greeted Lord Ram with a row of lamps and the tradition has since survived centuries.

I think its fair to say that as with most religious festivals, the true meaning has been diluted along the way. Its also fair to say that if anything, its been replaced by something far more important. Diwali has always been about family ever since I have come to know if it. A time for parents, siblings, cousins and loved ones to come together and appreciate the one thing in life we tend not to: family.

I've beeen living away from home for well over a decade now but come Diwali, I've always endeavoured to make it back home. An opportune time to get back, reflect and hope for an even better year to come...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A not-so-brief hiatus...

Its been a while since I penned anything. Thoughts have been ephemeral lately...work's been life. So little contemplation...so little substance...

But so much is happening in the world...and so fast.

Oil prices are falling again...huh, so it never was the speculators all along. I for one, always felt that the booming commodity futures markets could never account for this maniacal rise in the price of the 'black stuff'. What is it then? Hoarding...little evidence of that either. Oil companies profiteering? Perhaps...but only partially...

So could it be simple demand and supply? The Middle East still has plenty of the stuff..but production has scarcely risen in the last few years, while demand has sky-rocketed. Meanwhile, precious few alternate sources for oil have been found/developed. This story is yet to play itself out...

India, my home country, is burning. Bomb blasts have hit 2 major cities in successive days. Home-grown terrorist outfits such as SIMI are the chief suspects...while Pakistan's name is never far from being mentioned in such incidents. Meanwhile, our whore-hungry media is crying hoarse...salivating its way to high heaven at the 'deplorable' security set-up in the country. We need an MS Gill again...catch anyone remotely connected and burn their murderous asses in one big bonfire. MS Gill...where are thou?

Finally...first the football Euro championship, then Wimbledon and now the Tour de France. Viva Espana!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Lord's...oh beautiful Lord's!

Well, thanks to a good friend, I've been playing at the nets at Lord's Cricket Ground for the past 3 weeks. For those who dont know, Lord's is commonly referred to as the home of international cricket.

I'm not really sure why...the first ever test match was played in Melbourne...and to be fair, while cricket was invented by the English, they've never really been the best at it...and this part of the world has ceased to be the center of the game for a long time now.

Still, ask any cricket fan and he/she will (albeit grudgingly) admit that there is something about the place...an X-factor...that does make Lord's special. Of course, until 3 weeks ago, I'd never been to Lord's. And I have to say, my first visit on a cold, snowy London morning did not disappoint. I've seen bigger gounds, bigger stadiums, grander settings...alright, St. John's Wood is a nice little township on its own, but Lord's sort of creeps up on you...located in the midst of dense suburbia. There's no approach...no far-away sighting to the ground as you approach it.

But the ground is steeped in history...and I guess thats what makes it so special now. You feel it...step on the ground and it consumes your entire being...the sound of the crowds, Kapil Dev lifting the '83 World Cup in that beautiful, beautiful but tiny little balcony...Harmison charging into bowl and nailing Ponting (and perhaps the rest of the Australian team in the now infamous 2005 Ashes) against all odds.
You stand there...breathe deep, close your eyes and its like you've been through it all...I was there!

And today...the sight of all sights. Lord's covered by the white virgin. Snow alas is rare in London...but she embraced the ground today. Timely I'd think...cuz if I could, I would...

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Well, its been nearly 4 weeks since I hit London and the time has gone by so quickly! Between settling in at work, househunting and catching up with old friends and new, I haven't had the time to pause, breathe and take it all in.

Its been a lot of fun so far though. I quite like the city so far...thats been aided by the fact that there hasn't been a single day of rain in nearly a month...that in a city where it always rains. Its been sunny, not too cold and generally very nice.

Few differences between London and some of the big American cities I lived in. Chicago was almost as welcoming, but NYC certainly wasn't. Life is quick, but distances small...getting around is largely a breeze, which helps.

Love my office and enjoying my work. Now lets see if I can convince the band to get ack to jamming again. Till later...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Rupee appreciation: whats the alternative?

There's been a lot of noise in the Indian economy recently about the seemingly unstoppable appreciation of the rupee (INR). The IT Services sector has been particularly hard-hit, with every USD of revenue earned realising ever-smaller amounts of INR earnings. The fledgling manufacturing sector is hard-hit as well...as is the textile industry.

India is not as export-earnings dependent for the health of its economy as say, China...yet, exports do contribute significantly to our GDP. As a result, there have been vociferous calls by the industry as a whole, for the country's central bank (RBI) to intervene in the currency markets to stem this rise of the Rupee. To do this, the RBI has been buying $$$ by the drumfuls to offset the increased demand for its own currency.

The trade-off is that the Central Bank has been printing extra currency to buy the foreign currency. This has introduced extra Money supply into the economy, fueling inflation. Inflation is then typically controlled by selling “sterilization bonds” to the government, thereby draining the economy of excess liquidity.

Now, this all works seemingly well theoretically but there are significant disadvantages to taking such intervention too far. For one, by buying these bonds, the government ends up investing its capital sub-optimally since it earns very poor returns. This capital could be more efficiently utilized by investing in the private sector, which has consistently shown higher returns than govt. bonds. Alternatively, the money could be invested in infrastructure, alleviating the ever-growing supply constraints of our economy.

Second, these $$$ purchased now need to be invested somewhere and this is typically done in US Treasury bills. Interest rates in the US have been lower than that in India for a long time now, resulting in lower returns on these investments.

Finally, higher interest rates in India and higher returns from Indian equity markets will continue to attract foreign capital inflow. This will continually push the rupee higher, leaving us in an infinite intervention loop! Where is the end?

Rather than fighting this appreciation full-on, we need to utilise these incoming funds to improve the supply-side of our economy. This means infrastructure, education, health services. In addition, access to extra capital must be provided to the private sector to leverage its ability to operate efficiently and squeeze out maximum returns.

An appreciating currency is simply a macroeconomic reality of a growing, open economy such as India's. Eventually, this cannot be fought away. Its upto us whether to pander to domestic fears and continually intervene OR to follow a more balanced approach by investing in the future.