February 18, 2006


If Sania deserves Padma Shree...

... then which civilian award do these sports-persons deserve?
Isn't it suprising that Govt is selectively generous to some pepole while handing out the awards, but does not find a single person worthy of Bharat Ratna? For two consecutive years?

February 16, 2006


Some blood is more equal than other

Sanjay Rathi, Chief Accounts Officer of Akola Municipal Corporation, committed suicide as he could not bear the corruption in the civic body.

Praveen Gedam, the young commissioner of Jalgaon, takes on a large number of members of local civic body in the mega housing scam. He single-handedly prepares a 850-page report to nail the culprits.

Sujan Saha, an engineer working for GAIL, and two labourers are killed by militants in Tripura.

One common thread which runs in all of the above events is that they get almost no attention in the media. Most of the time a PTI report is published faithfully by all - just like any other story from PTI. I am fine with these stories being printed in the corner as fillers, since majority of space needs to be given to celebrity gossips and sensex.

Now, the words IIT and/or IIM to the resume of above people. Will these stories still occupy the most inconspicuous space of the newspaper? No way! "IITian shot down by militants" makes far more catchy headline than "GAIL engineer shot down by militants." The blogsphere (or whatever illusionary thing bloggers call) is full of self-righteous people who are quite eloquant about the rot in the "System." Google's blogsearch tells me even they are fairly selective on highlighting the topics. (Please don't argue that Google's blogsearch is relatively poor.)

Everybody - in MSM and blogsphere - just can't stop gushing about the reel life heroes (street gundas for me!) from Rang De Basanti, real life heroes have no takers. What is the word for this behaviour... yeah... hypocrisy. Politicians are not only species infected with this virus.

This brings me to the question - does one's blood need the plasma of ivy league degree for it to be counted?

I hate to put this disclaimer, but I must do it as a matter of decency. This post, by no means, belittles the Manjunaths and Satyendras of India.

February 13, 2006


Noise and Signal

In the evening, I got to browse a slightly torn copy of Business India dated October 1999. Celebration of Sensex crossing 5000 mark was the lead story. The directors of BSE, brokers and other other BSE employees gathered on the terrace of Jeejeebhoy Tower and released 5000 balloons in the air celebrating the landmark. NDA Govt was just sworn in.

Then there was a fairly detailed article littered with the omnipresent factors - fundamentals, growth, consumer spending, interest rate, inflation, FII inflows and the holy market PE ratio. I didn't had much time so I just stole a quick look at some of the tables, graphs, pie-charts, and, of course, quotable quotes. One of the CEO of Mutual Fund was quoted, "This rally is for real and will continue." There was a usual ritual of differentiating how this rally is different from the one in 1994. I believe, such comparisons make people look smarter. Majority of the print space was occupied by the then darling of everybody - tech sector. Stories were fairly amusing - how a venture capital fund is hunting for companies to invest $500+ M and how they were getting a business plan a day; how a company with annual revenue of Rs 40 Crores was eyeing the NASDAQ listing in by 2001; a 20-something entrepreneur with his dot-com.

The fund house does not exist anymore. I haven't heard about the VC firm, NASDAQ listing or the name of the dotcom. Not then, not now!

By all this I mean no offence to anybody featured in the stories listed above. I fully understand, it is a no-brainer to comment with hindsight bias. In fact, it amounts to total baloney. But I believe there is some gyan to be acquired.

Now as Sensex crossed 10k, there were no balloons on BSE tower. The wound is recovered but the scar is still there. The media is, to say the least, hysterical about this figure.

I again hear the reasons - from different people, most probably those who did not burn their fingers. But just a few notes of caution.

At stratospheric levels of 10k, nobody wants to give a bearish comment. The ones who gave it at 7k are ridiculed by half-literate journos routinely. Everybody says, this is fair valuation reflecting confidence in future growth. One dude, who writes in the personal finance supplement of a daily, says in the long term he is bullish. And by long term he means, 10-15 years! How come people take solace in making such simplistic statements? May be stupidity has numbed all the senses. In an era, where Infosys gets a drubbing for not-so-great 30% growth on the next day, long term is talked in number of months, not years. Anybody holding, say HLL, from last 10-15 years deserves a mention in Limca book of records.

Budget gets undue importance. "Will Budget 2006 make or break the Indian dream?" - an ad of tipsters' favourite business channel screams. With very little knowledge of finance sector, I dare to say, budget is irrelevant. Do read the comments like "The budget is good as it is pro-poor, pro-growthl; but the FM could have done it better." Promoter of companies such as Mauje-Sawantwadi Group of Industries will then rate the budget on the scale of 10, with the average hovering around 7.

I am not a bull or bear - definitely not a pig. (Remember, in stock markets, bulls make money, bears make money and pigs get slaughtered?) This is just an observation. Few months down the time when market snaps its momentum, correction in Dalal Street parlance, all the pundits will say "I told you so."

Sorry for the broken sentences, if any. I am too lazy to proof-read it. Mr Bojangles will do that for me in the morning.

February 06, 2006


But, why me?

Two years back, when a colleague showed his shining new Gmail account, I was terribly jealous. I read its reviews on slashdot and zdnet and built a castle of thoughts on how I will use every feature. But it just added to the trauma.

Within few days, finally, the invitation arrived in my mailbox. With the price tag, I must mention, set by the benefactor. Since those were still the early days, I got the login name same as my first name. Although I would have liked just "shashi", since people (especially from South) tend to replace "t" with a "th". Nevertheless, I was in the "I am feeling lucky" state for getting good ID in spite of not-so-uncommon name. Finally, I had an ID which people could easily remember. Within an year, the box of "50 invitations left" started appearing and almost every person in my address book had a gmail Id. Cool, I said.

But, few months back I started noticing a peculiar problem. I started getting mails which were probably meant for shashikant[0-n].

Till the date, I have received prices of winter wear from an export company, lots and lots of forwards from a dude working in ...where else?... a software company, furniture designs for an office in Pune, invitation meant for an ONGC employee to a conference in Hyderabad, account statement of mutual fund investment from CAMS. Most of the time, I have been a good netizen and replied politely in a "i-am-not-the-shashikant-you-are-looking-for" fashion. Except that software bozo, who just spammed me to hell even after repeated reminders!

But today, I was in for a surprise. I received two mails - both of which were in response to a matrimonial ad published somewhere on this planet. One from the wanna-be-bride and one from the father of WBB. Again, I had to wear that online politeness mask and reply.

In snail mail, you can get away with multiple typos without even worrying about wrong delivery. But in online world, the best thing would be a bounced mail. But, if it goes to wrong mailbox.... Well, then one has to pray to God for recipients like me. Apparently, people don't seem to care much about this. Till the date, I have received only one single mail (CAMS case) thanking me for the civilized behaviour. I suspect, that was also because it was in the job description of the customer service agent. Swamy Something says, Bhalai ka jamaana hi nahi raha...

Update: As expected, none of the two replied. Now, today I received one more. With a pic.
With reference to your advertisement in the newspaper, I hereby send the biodata and a photograph of my daughter. If you find it suitable then kindly respond at my email address with a photograph of your son.
Hmm... Some clues, finally.

This time, if I don't receive a "thank-you" note, I am planning to play an ugly prank. I am running out of patience.

February 01, 2006


Cabinet expansion - hypocrisy and irony

In the recent Cabinet expansion, Mr Shibu Soren was again inducted as Coal Minister. Six months back he was a fugitive, wanted in a 30-year old mass murder case. This is the same Govt and the same party which expelled MPs in the cash-for-question scam.

Mr Sushil Kumar Shinde is awarded with Power portfolio for his loyal service to the party. I should be really happy to know a politician from hometown, Solapur, has climbed to a very important position. But I am far from that chauvinistic and boastful thought. He is the same man who pushed Maharashtra in the darkness by announcing utterly populist sops like free power for the farmers in the state. Before announcing free power, he should have checked the abnormally high Transmission and Distribution losses of the electricity board. Worldwide these losses are between 6% (USA) to 13%(Russia, China). In Maharashtra (and country), these losses are as high as 35-40%. Everybody is aware that "T&D losses" is an euphemism for daylight robbery. Maharashtra is expected to have power problem for next, at least, 5 years!

One of very few (only?) admirable personalities from Shiv Sena, Mr Suresh Prabhu was Power Minister in NDA government. But his rising popularity as an honest and efficient minister didn't go down well with party supremo. He was called back.

Power Ministry will remain one more portfolio which is craving for good leadership.

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