Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Morning News (Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo): September 30, 2009

A tsunami with about 15-foot waves and an earthquake measuring around 8.0 on the Richter scale have hit Samoa islands. More than 100 people have been killed.

Elsewhere, there is talk about climate control; about creating a world body to monitor and reduce risk/greed; and, about trying to figure how if not when to reduce fiscal stimulus assuming foreclosures or defaults or unemployment will not escalate.

The tsunami and the earthquake have happened and the rest are on paper.

In the last two days, the government (Centre) has posted in the local paper notices from the Ministry of Commerce to placate the people of Kerala concerning ASEAN FTA. Yesterday, the government (State) called it “eyewash” and raised issues regarding the same. Tomorrow, one political party will blockade the AG’s office. The day after tomorrow, another party will form a human chain across the state to protest against the issue and not to show the strength of the party.

Meanwhile, in the last week or so, magazines and newspapers have wasted precious space wondering about the state of the Indian funny bone, and in particular, pertaining to Tharoor’s tweet/joke. Some claim that it would have been understood only in the common room of St. Stephen’s. Is there anyone who has not got the joke the journalist played on Tharoor? As for the masses, it is just embarrassing when a minister allows a scribe to put words into one’s mouth. It is also embarrassing for the same masses when their representative has to start explaining about the source of income for one’s expenses – whether he, his boss and his underling paid out of their pocket, whether the government paid, whether a private party sponsored or whether the hotel gave special rates. Quite seriously, the masses want ministers who do not get caught on the wrong foot most of the time. Do we expect ministers to be one of the masses – surely, you are joking!

The holiday season brought a few new movies. New movies typically get released on Friday; and by Saturday, decent newspapers are supposed to have an independent movie review. If the system had worked properly, these movies would not have lasted till the end of the long weekend. To be fair, the second was not bad – when compared to the first (names are not required – just pick any two running in the theatres). Frustrated, I visited a movie store and Lady Luck gave me the DVD of “The Verdict” for INR 299 – Paul Newman, Charlotte Rampling, Sidney Lumet. The evening and the month came to a fine close after reading Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery”.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Reading news a week old,
with old music stirring the stifled air;

having supper of coffee, salami
and dead bread with no spots of green;

fresh and free of yesterday’s phlegm –
I am here, with you, safely with you.

There’s time to tell stories, to listen.
There’s no race, no desires, no needs.

Nothing that death can remove.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Trying company (1999-2001)

I watch the clouds, and fit company they are.
Hesitant, wondering whether to part, to yield to that above,
Or, to remain, in a sullen pout with dark cheeks just a little wet.

But there is the whole world to see, I have been told,
And so I watch.
Like the clouds above me,
But no, not in that vein again.
At first, I try out the reflections but I see myself and I do not wish to, not even I.
It is no crime to look, I am told,
But one never knows when it will be.

Across the aisle, in my row, is a blonde whose tresses cover her study.
When she came, relaxed, letting go of the load, sighing,
Her legs stretched and apart, fingers strumming her knees, eyes closed.
But she had to sit up, cross her legs, and from a black bag came notes to save.

Before me, by the door, stand a couple, close but closer they can be.
Whispers, kisses and looks well-known. They even give zwei marks to a beggar.
She has a dark line carefully drawn on her lips, thin they are but enough for him.
The station arrives, he pats her bottom, to push off to another scene.

A bunch of kids block my view. With earphones on, before they try louder giggles.
A petite nymph for a boy, pimple in one hand, the other lunging for her flesh.

There is the usual company, a lady in a brown coat, hair in careless girlish scatter,
Forty or fifty, who cares, she could be twenty for me, but wait a moment,
I wonder why she stares out, blank to the world, hurt and licking her wounds.

I am tired with company, for they make my loneliness pain even more.
No, I am told, try for a little longer.
It gets better with time.

A woman, grey-specked hair, but with no wrinkle upon her face, a mother,
I suppose, with a bag but nowhere to go, and there is a smile on her face. So peaceful.

And how did I miss him? A lad, little jerky, munching on a grey sandwich,
Glancing at me, others, everyone, interested, amused, and with a smile on his face.

I am scared. I turn to my clouds. Scared to smile. Or cry. Scared to be crazy.

Love to murder (1996)

Look at him –
The little bird that’s fallen off the nest:
do I gather him and care,
do I let him be,
and walk away?

Let me watch him grow
under my eyes – proud and a little selfish:
how he shall glance at me,
how he shall love
in helplessness!

He and I shall part for a moment
as it needs to be in natural ways –
will he stumble and starve,
will he fall prey
to the unloving?

Let him be in young abandon –
orphan, senselessly dying –
let him slip away unknowing,
let him know not
future despair!

Oddity I (1992)

I am bound to act by another’s whim –
A little puppet! But who is Master – a mortal or Him?
Or Mistress – if it is laconic Lady Luck?

Ever in silence – but with with fanciful and secret touch
Coyly nudge me on from joy to pain with not even a hunch,
And leave me with not a mutter uttered!

A gentle caress and a soft whisper: “Life! Awaken!” her only call,
With a vision splendid, a hopeful heart, an unfettered soul:
Azure deep, blossoming fringe and chirpy clime.

And with not a dark cloud the glory fades,
The day creeping ahead in unnatural shades –
Waxing and waning till midnight chimes.

But that be a rarity – for Sleep stealthily shies
From the tortured depths that beg – be fair, only till it dies –
Much like a maiden well-versed in life’s chicaneries.

Teased with little joys and taunted by endless nightmares –
“Life! Are you awake?” What a state of affairs!
Fit for a mortal – creatures of paradox – born unasked to die unasked.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What happened to the postman?

A few days back, I was at my friend’s place watching an old Malayalam movie called ‘Midhunam’. In one scene, the hero who is trying to cope with grave problems concerning business and family is exasperated with his wife-cum-childhood-sweetheart who reminds him of his promises mentioned in old letters all of which she has saved.

My friend and I exchanged guilty glances. No, we were not thinking about any promises made to old sweethearts or anything embarrassing, and definitely not scandalous. No, we were not in the habit of going through those searching for nuggets from the past knowing that most of them were less than flattering. No, though those letters are not lost, we do not remember touching them in the last ten to twenty years. But yes, we still kept old letters.

I studied in an obscure college in an equally obscure village hidden in the innards of this country. It took two to three days to reach that place from my hometown. It took a letter a little more than that. We got access to telephone in the final year but it was not a viable option since a call was as expensive as a cassette of Doors or Jethro Tull.

I used to know how many sheets of paper I could stuff in an envelope without requiring extra stamps. Life was usually boring then but some transient selfish desire for attention with a modicum of affection and care managed to fill up those pages in that age before cynicism - with music in the background along with the rustling of paper and the scratching of an ink pen. Then, the agonizing wait and close scrutiny of the reply - reading between the lines and trying to decipher those words which were blackened or crossed; finding more meaning than there ever was in those letters. In the course of a semester or a few semesters, one could see the ebb and flow of each relationship in those letters. With some, the letter degenerated to a compilation of tweets written at various places and times, just fillers; some who erased or were erased without reply; and, there were those which were special and will remain so.

The postman used to come to the hostel around one o’clock. These days, the postman delivers tattered annual reports and pristine monthly bills. But, even though my inkpot is nearly empty, when the postman does not turn up I still ask “What happened to the postman?”

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Morning News (Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo): September 17, 2009

Kerala has always lamented on being the Johnny-come-lately in IT in the company of the other southern states. But now, they have Mister (oops, sorry) Minister Twitter. Can anyone predict the ending of this Twittergate scandal which started with the question “Can a minister pay from his own pocket for a room in a five-star hotel?” and might end with “Can you call a holy cow in the party holy cow?” If the people who voted for him in Trivandrum are not complaining (please do remember that they have been quite busy with quotation gangs recently), why should anyone else complain? Unfortunately, India might face problems due to the bad monsoon; there are lots of people below the poverty line; there are other elections to think about; and, it is not only those taxpayers there who pay for the various government guest houses and his salary in the Ministry for External Affairs. And, I always thought that that Ministry taught “a weapon lost from your hands or a word (tweet) from your mouth (fingers) cannot be taken back”.

Twitter reminds me of the other networking wonder, Facebook, which has managed 300 million users in 5 years. It is now supposed to be profitable and there could be an IPO in the very near future. Please refer this for some statistics. Roughly 300 million active users (50% using Facebook every day); fastest growing demographic is those 35 years old or older; average user has 130 friends; 2 billion photos are uploaded to the site each month; 6 billion minutes spent worldwide each day. Thus, each friend could get about 2 hours a year. I suppose that is enough.

Sticking to financial news, the equity markets everywhere seem to be doing quite well – though noone is really sure why. People seem to think that the recession is probably over and that we might have hit the plateau at the bottom with no reason to expect a double dip recession. Please refer to “Macro situation notes” from Paul Krugman which states “…There’s a tendency to treat worries about a double dip as outlandish, as something only crazy people like the people who, um, predicted the current crisis worry about…”

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lehman Brothers: Reporting to Work on Monday, September 15

This evening, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. announced it intends to file a petition under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code with the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. None of the broker-dealer subsidiaries or other subsidiaries of LBHI will be included in the Chapter 11 filing and all of the broker-dealers will continue to operate. Customers of Lehman Brothers, including customers of its wholly owned subsidiary, Neuberger Berman Holdings, LLC, may continue to trade or take other actions with respect to their accounts.

We will be open for business on Monday, September 15 and we will have more information to communicate at that time.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Morning News (Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo): September 3, 2009

Is it the same ‘to be just’ and ‘to prevent injustice’? Does justice have any meaning if it is not absolute/perfect but relative/comparative (at least, at any point of time)? To wake up with these thoughts is to get out on the wrong side of the bed. Like most bad dreams, it is a result of recent reading and to top that list would be Amartya Sen’s The Idea Of Justice (I have stopped after chapter one – I need to breathe and assimilate). What else?

Today, there is an article in the Hindu titled “Divorce can be granted even if consent is withdrawn: court”. It says:

Writing the judgment, Justice Kabir cited Supreme Court judgments and said no purpose would be served by prolonging the agony of the parties to a marriage which had broken down irretrievably, and the curtain had to be rung down at some stage.

I do not understand how the court works and recently I asked a few questions in a blog concerned with “prolonging the agony” and “the curtain had to be rung down at some stage”. I wanted to suggest that divorce should be made as easy as marriage – probably the number of cases in court might actually come down when people cannot use the judicial system to trouble and torture others.

For those laypersons like me, I did a Google search for Article 142 and came up with the following article (if you have other useful references, please do let me know).

On the global stage, there was the Lockerbie case (refer the Guardian’s page). One, I am totally against capital punishment and therefore, the culprit should be incarcerated till the day he is of no harm to society. If a person is a mass-murderer or Hannibal Lecter, when would that day be? Two, if the culprit is terminally ill, should he be shown compassion? What do we gain by keeping him in person – some sense of revenge or justice? Another tough one, right?

Then, there is Jaycee Dugard (now 29 years old) who was held captive for 18 years. How did a society allow that to happen? What failed? It is interesting to read a related article in the Economist titled “Sex laws: unjust and ineffective”.

On a lighter note, we have a head-hunting firm’s dispute with an investment bank (refer Times Online for details regarding this ‘David and Goliath’ fight). And, what kind of stakes are we talking about? Approximately, 90 million pounds only. There is something in the air which tells me that someone is going to get really rich soon.

An article in the Financial Express about the ASEAN FTA agreement suggests that Kerala should:

“…wake up to the global context from the present home market insularity and recognise the wider national and international economic imperatives.”

And I thought it was because people in Kerala ‘woke up’ that it is nearly impossible for a medium/small-scale farmer to harvest paddy or tap rubber due to shortage of feasible labour. With the cost of coconut picking rising (in the cities, it is about Rs 30 per coconut tree), I hear that people are looking forward to the coconut tree climbing robot. Of course, it might be sufficient if the farmers learned how to tap rubber, climb coconut trees and harvest paddy (if you know about training institutes, please do let me know).

Finally, there is the case of the Mashelkar report on patent law issues. Please read the article in the Business Standard (of course, if you have other useful references, please do let me know). The experts’ report seems to have quoted another expert to support their contention but unfortunately, the latter says that his views have been misinterpreted.

I still keep searching for news/columns that I want to read.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Tweet A Face A Blog

Can I:

tweet a tweet
with 140
when all I
want to say
are just 4?

face a book
with x
friendly pals
when all I
want to see
are with me?

mail or blog
with too many
when all I
want to write
are to you?

Fare Thee Well.