Saturday, December 31, 2011

The TCS Decoded

At the evening of year 2011,its hard to say whether the whole year should be considered splendid or squalor,but reasons are yet ample to redeem few harshness and rising to normalcy.Ofcourse, there we will found the best way for humanity; I am not over cheering but also not less than sanguine for new sure,many thing will be up to the mark this year.Best wishes to you and for yours in 2012.. :)

Book Review: Non-fiction/Memoir,The TCS Story by S.Ramadorai, Penguin/2011, 287 pp; Rs699 (Hardback)
The humble admittance of S.Ramadorai for being less expressive and an unplanned writer augurs well. Like an efficient professional and unintended writer, he keeps progressing with neutrality in the initial pages of his autobiography, The TCS Story. Henceforth, the narration drives in rhythm once the TCS story enters in his present cognition. When someone’s occupation started routing the fore, things take place in different resolution. Author himself being one of the catalysts of India’s new economy could easily relate his own progress across the ladder with the changing developmental landscape of this nation. His rise or TATA’s rise simply reminds the progress, India has made over the years. But neither this book, nor any other inserted views from outside would falsify, that the progress of nation is below the potential?

TATA is a big brand or even more than only a brand tag, it’s the height of India’s entrepreneurial drive. India’s largest business conglomerates so motto, “leadership with trust “is justified throughout its long course of existence in the diverse domains. The nationalist legacy of the two great business leaders, Jamshetjee Tata and J.R.D Tata’s has still not come to halt in different companies of TATA group. Much before the philanthropy stuck western world, first as fashion and later as profitable holy business, founder of TATA used to return the two third of his earnings to the nation. Numbers of the institutions made by TATA like, TIFR, TISS, IISc or the city of Jamshedpur simply reminds the essentiality and scope of sustainable business in longer course. Author of this book, as the founding member of TCS has lived those ideals and that’s easily evident through his honest conviction in writing and undoubtedly through his professional ethics, which have been shaping this company very well in decades.

This alumnus of Delhi University, IISc and University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) had sailed against the stream to join TATA at much lower compensation, and then the USA used to be the dream place for every technical aspirant. But as he admits, that was a conscious decision for making not only a career but a purposeful career. Like a typical Tambramh, his Civil Servant father entrusted within him the importance of frugality and keeping ones greed at toe, which made a perfect metamorphosis possible. The TCS Story, is not merely confined with the success sagas of India’s biggest IT Company but it in parallel, encompasses the nuanced views on external factors that have been influencing the growth of this enterprise. Reading this book enables a reader, to know the functional intricacies of software business and in particular, the successful journey of India in this domain.

TCS was founded in 1968 and it touched the $1billion mark only after thirty five years of long struggle in 2003, next year it went for IPO and rest is the history, how this company has maximized its worth to six fold in last seven years. Fortunately, more or less, same remained the case with other Indian IT companies as well. Despite facing the ire of recessions and consequently the major alteration in services demand from the offshore client, they have somehow managed to keep the growth momentum intact. Reason is obvious of comparatively stable doing of Indian IT companies, till now; they have been indeed running by the ethical business leaders barring exception of Satyam. But it’s also possibly the best case of scam management anywhere in the world; once a beleaguered company is again in the sound race; all credit should goes to the finest infusion of corporate governance and timely interference of government!

The business leaders in IT domain have emerged through the scratches and the way once TCS/Infosys have started were not very much different from the startup in SMEs. There were all hurdles and few respite for working in relax for the early IT guys. Regulatory interference was the major killing force for its genuine bloom till 1990’s;second major blockades were coming from the slow technical advancement and especially the snail’s pace of its sharing from the western innovators. Under S.Ramadorai, first TCS and later other Indian companies acquired the basic transfer of tools, expertise and services demand from major western economies. Today, a company like TCS works in many areas including consultancy, date centers etc but never to forget, the rise of this industry is one of the satisfying outcome India’s ushering into reform era. N.Narayanmurthy always says this and Ramadorai has also referred this, though implicitly throughout the book.

Those who also know, S.Ramadorai outside of the scenic TCS house, equally give him fine credit for his humane gesture and extraordinary zeal for pursuing ethical business. He has been living a simple life but rose to uncommonness; similarly he remained under promised but ended high delivered. What else could be more rewarding for a gentle professional? This book will inspire the aspirants of different profession and also those, who have entrepreneurial leaning. In short, this work is a full proof of excellence and India’s different realities!
Atul Kumar Thakur
December 31, 2011, Saturday, New Delhi

Friday, December 30, 2011

Jobs,was up to the mark?

Book Review: Biography/Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, Hachette India/2011, 630 pp; Rs799 (Hardback)
The biography by Walter Isaacson on Steve Jobs is indeed a work of details. Departure of Steve was painful, including for those who never ever used any of APPLE products but have bearing with the innovation of control and perfect design for that Steve was popular and hyped. Steve spent fifty-five years on earth, of which fourty-two years of working life across the ladders and boards. Walter Isaacson’s biography carries almost all the mentionable things related to his personal life and unprecedented success in the world of technological innovation. For passive reading, this biography stands fine and fulfills the basic curiosity of readers who want to know the story of a successful man, who was once deserted by his own parents, brought up by foster parents but more caring than real one, a drop out, a humble starter from garage but rose to rank where sometime his company’s fortune in the American banks was ahead of U.S government!

It’s also true that a biography can’t be totally free from good or bad preoccupations. That intrinsic weakness also very much inflicts this book and Walter Isaacson, seems alienated from his author’s profile for persuading readers to acknowledge every functional characteristics of Steve’ as acts of virtue. That leaves extraneous and flawed impression, is probably not very distinct from the friendly American media which always projected Steve as evangelist and his products as symbol of successful life. Those all claims if accumulated and judged, would be come up as classis bunch of exaggeration, with little or no merits. In proper assessment, Steve could be recalled as an extraordinary technical mind with amazing quality of learning, copying and then its untemprable execution barring exception.

He learned lot about the electronic circuits from his father and later during internship in Hewitt-Packard at the age of thirteen which ahead proved fateful. The best thing was with him, he could catch workable ideas even from the trash. Instead spending time on listening stodgy lectures at university, he opted to search precious books and electronic equipments from second hand and grey markets, all those bonhomie played formidable role in his shaping which were humane and fallible, against the popular myths about him. Search for commandable ideas had remained his keen pastime, and his visit to India as teenager was one among the early assertions of those incessant quest. Much before he felt the influence of Gandhi on his leaning for peace and simplicity, he spent few months in Haridwar and other calm Himalayan townships for knowing the essence of frugality and ofcourse his efforts were not for knowing the core of Indian spiritualism. In this book, Walter Isaacson should have recalled Haridwar as north Indian town instead what written on the pages as “west India town”, besides he could stop hyperbole views regarding Steve’s over attachment to an unknown Yogi, about him there is even feeble trace among Indians!

In late 1970’s, an ordinary garage of his father was chosen by Steve and cofounder Wozoniak as the birthplace of APPLE. Idea of name was not generated from the namesake fruit, with Steve remained faithful throughout life but from APPLE Corp, for which, he had to fight a long battle which he succeeded to command at last. The major breakthrough came with APPLE, once it awarded collaboration with XEROX, and then this company was getting closer to produce world’s first personal computer without the hassled essentiality of complex operating system. The bright brains of APPLE stolen those noble concept and also the competent engineers from XEROX and further left the company off from computer manufacturing. Today, we all know XEROX as manufacturer of photocopy machine, hadn’t Steve dealt with them, today the technical scene would have much nobler and decent for XEROX and mass consumers. APPLE used those expertises for making its first computer, LISA; which was named after Steve’s daughter from his girl friend, whom he never treated properly except in the evening of life. APPLE’s next product, Macintosh in 1984 generated huge attention worldwide, but this time stolen expertise of Steve was unethically drained by Microsoft and since then, Operating System became synonymous with Windows and hostility in business between APPLE-Microsoft. Book gives subtler explanation of these events and how the Steve’s downfall started tinkling around 1986.

He had to leave apple this year, after falling in row with his once confident turned super rival, John Sculley. That was wrong happened with the founder of APPLE, but similar happened with his core team members as well by his decisions in past, so it’s better if his forced ousting understood as manifestation of existing subhuman work culture in APPLE and other corporate. He left the company after retaining only one share to attend the shareholders meeting. Henceforth, he relied on Nietzsche’s quotation “The spirit now wills his own will, and he who had been lost to the world now conquers the world” and these lines were completely justified when Steve was back at APPLE in 1997 to revive its fortune. In the meantime, his original entrepreneurship grew up with his ventures, NeXT and Pixer; these ten years should be considered as peak of Steve’s genuine instinctive merit.

Once back at APPLE, he not only regained his lost position but he overachieved the command in second stint. In product innovation too, the last fifteen years were satisfactory for him; he came out with Ipod, Ibook, Iphone etc, which are one among the best gadgets if not the best itself. Steve was essentially a man for class, his product reveals it; he always disliked journeys through commercial flights though it’s also true he was a perfectionist who didn’t have any furniture in his room, because he couldn’t found a proper match. The good thing with him, he stood with high quality products, bad side remained his aversion to make APPLE products peoples friendly. This biography could be essential read for tech enthusiasts and also for those stands with business as creative profession. Steve’s consciousness was never determined through his material beingness, same he thought for his targeted consumers…he was up to the mark or not, rests on us to decide!
Atul Kumar Thakur
December 30, 2011, Friday, New Delhi

MSMEs financing bottlenecks!

The markets are in jittery, and for valid reasons. The rupee has hit an all-time low of 53 and macroeconomic indicators of the economy are sagging. Industrial production is on a downward spiral. Policymaking is ground to an apparent halt, and the rollback of the decision to open up multi-brand retail has sapped investor confidence. The negative growth registered in industrial production in October, a sharp 5.1% decline, and shows that industrial productivity is slowing far more rapidly than expected.

All these pose greater risks for overall economic growth in 2011-12, already watered down to 7.6%, with further downward revision on the cards. For now, slowdown worries take their toll on capital goods and companies stocks. Its impact is going to be more severe on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which have been already running through bad time a rough patch, affected with huge financing gap and consistent decline in global demand for their products.

Despite being hamstrung by these, MSMEs rely on open market for their business finance, as internal mobilisation through informal sources makes the business more vulnerable. Though the socioeconomic importance of MSMEs is well recognised in academic and policy circles, they are starved of funds, with little interest shown by institutional investors. The priority sector lending policy outlines that 40%of net bank credit of public and private sector banks must be earmarked for those sectors, which include MSMEs. The policy stipulates 32%of net bank credit of foreign banks for the priority sectors, of which 10%is allocated to MSMEs. But barring regional rural banks, how many banks comply with this criterion? In the absence of proper channelisation, the mandated allocation hardly makes a difference to the business of the firms get financed by them.

Here, it’s imperative to keep in mind that the MSME sector is not homogenous, but is constituted by three different sub-sectors. These sub-sectors need to be serviced separately. For micro enterprises, access to credit is priority. For small enterprises, access to credit is relatively easy, though limited, and therefore remains important along with cost. For medium enterprises, access to institutional finance is easy though the cost incurred on credit is quite high. Collateral based lending offered by banks and financing companies is normally made up of a combination of asset-based finance, contribution-based finance and factoring-based finance using reliable debtors and guarantors. Substantial numbers of MSMEs are falling short on collateralised security needed for bank loans, and lack the prospect of high returns to attract formal venture capitalists and other risk investors like private equity funds. Moreover, market is also suffering from deficient information, diluting the effectiveness of financial statement based lending and credit scoring.

The sector expects that the government will take the decision to earmark 20%share in public procurement (wherein it will procure 25-30%of its needs from MSMEs), a proposal which is hanging fire for quite some time. Anil Bhardwaj, secretary-general of Federation on Indian Small and Medium Enterprises (FISME), observes that “this will work as lifeline in ongoing slowdown. To ramp exports, FISME has suggested the need to take up export promotion in urgency to enhance MSME participation in export from 0.5% to 5% in next 10 years”. For this to happen, the prevailing support mechanism, which heavily rely on Export Promotion Council for exposing MSME s to export market, has to be discarded. FISME also has valid reasons to criticise the RBI’s indifferent approach on MSME finance, but their demand for separate financial regulator for MSME seems not practical. Because, it alone wouldn’t ensure the micro centric approaches of new regulator on these small businesses, also after a certain point, policy must be shaped with optmising the interests of industries involved and its end consumers. So, basic idea should be at the ground to address the odds, which restraining the finances of this segment of industries.

James Carville, who advised US President Bill Clinton, once remarked that for being ecstatic on bond markets, “I used to think that if there was reincarnation, I wanted to comeback as President or the Pope or as a 400 baseball hitter. But now I would like to come as bond market, you can intimidate anybody.” Such is the negativism about the bond market even in western economies, but surprisingly that hardly directs the saving towards financing MSMEs worldwide.

Venture capital, as financial intermediary, also not providing viability to MSMEs for better engagement; the basic proposition could be found through their working model, that being able to secure finance is critical and most difficult for any business. It’s applicable to startups seeking venture fund or mid-size companies that need cash to grow up. So venture capital is most suitable for business with large up-front capital requirements which can’t be financed by cheaper alternative such as debt. Another financing option, private equity shows explicit interest s in typical leveraged transaction, where it buys majority control of a growing or mature firm. This works different from a venture capital or growth capital investment fund in which the investors invest in young business and rarely bids for decisive control. Beyond these lesser suitable options, bank remains the most appropriate route for bridging the gap of financing for MSMEs. So, it’s essential, bank come forward for effective partnership with MSMEs which is the engine of growth.
Atul Kumar Thakur
December 15, 2011, Wednesday, New Delhi

A Route Less Travelled

Book Review: Creating Risk Capital by Ian Whalley,Vision Books/Business , 222 pp; Rs495 (Paperback)

Peter Drucker said "Because of its purpose is to create a customer, the business has two and only two functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results. All the rest are costs". The idea holds true, once we think on the potential risk capital; investment funds allocated to startup firms with potential is primarily procured through the combined strategies of marketing and innovation.

In Creating Risk Capital, Ian Whalley strengthens the case for royalty funding as a financial solution for the ownership of an enterprise. The idea of the royalty fund however remains an elusive even after one has read the book. To postulate an explanation, the royalty fund exists as an alternative to traditional systems of borrowing — bank loans, venture capital, private equity — that allows risk finance to be raised without compromising on ownership or control of the firm/startup. This method of funding is grounded in licensing wherein enterprises pay for the invested risk capital by means of royalties on the sales revenues they achieve, instead of becoming debtors or partners to those who provide funds. The author's arguments offer an unclear explanation on the functioning and benefits of this innovative model of risk capital formation. Whalley declares that, "Licensing will be the cornerstone of the royalty funding system...It involves the granting of permission by the owner of a property to another party, allowing the later to make use it "again appears too much formal and further this quote "royalty funding is a form of risk capital, but it is not the equity or owner ship capital which is risk capital in its classic form," which only adds to the ambiguity.

The next complication arises from the fund's narrow focus on areas of business; the royalty fund essentially targets specialised businesses and also follows a very technical line of project hunt. Hence, its suitability for small and medium business as an option for risk capital option dwindles. Moreover, big businesses hardly need the royalty fund, so is the case with mid size ventures that have easy access to reasonable debt or the option of going for public listing. It is important to realise that unlike the saturated markets of Europe, businesses in emerging markets will certainly opt for other routes of financing risk capital rather than falling into the vicious trap of permanent sharing their earning owing to royalty funds. Royalty funds function with the motive of acquiring maximum, stable earnings throughout the span of any business. Where the market is dynamic, there would be feeble chances of this untested innovative model to succeed. In this context, the book fails to explain the diversities of business and the specificities of various markets accordingly.

There have been very few books that address the issue of risk capital, thus the basic contention of the book is important. The first two parts of the book, however, reproduce textual basics of financial management, which can generally expected of management students to who are necessarily acquainted with the world of finance. Even for the general enthusiast, this book creates little value with its excessive emphasis on conceptual details as opposed to context specific examples which would have proven to be more useful. The other big impediment lies in the author's point of view where he (somewhat erroneously) uses the UK business model as a universal system of business planning and ownership. It is only in the third and final section of the book that Whalley provides some workable insights on the subject of royalty capital much to the reader's solace.

With regard to the Indian economy, it is imperative to keep in mind that the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector not homogenous, but comprises three different sub-sectors. These sub-sectors need to be serviced separately. For micro enterprises, access to credit is priority. For small enterprises, access to credit is relatively easy, though limited, and therefore remains important along with cost. For medium enterprises, access to institutional finance is easy though the cost incurred on credit is quite high. In the present scenario, collateral based lending offered by banks and financing companies is normally made up of a combination of asset-based finance, contribution-based finance and factoring-based finance using reliable debtors and guarantors. Substantial numbers of MSMEs are falling short on collateralised security needed for bank loans, and lack the prospect of high returns to attract formal venture capitalists and other risk investors like private equity funds. So, there is potential for experimentation from banks in order to find a niche as the source of risk capital.

Beyond banking sources, there are only a few options left for funding small and medium businesses. Venture capital, as financial intermediary, does not providing viability to SMEs. The process of securing finance is critical and most difficult for any business. It’s applicable to startups seeking VC funds or mid-size companies that need cash to grow. So venture capital is most suitable for business with large up-front capital requirements which can’t be financed by cheaper alternative such as debt. Another financing option, private equity shows explicit interest s in typical leveraged transaction, where it buys majority control of a growing or mature firm. This works differently from a venture capital or growth capital investment fund where investors invest in young business and rarely bid for decisive control. Therefore, this is equally afflicted by the syndrome of permanent sharing of profits like royalty fund, and hence stood little chances for sustainable business, if taking things straight. Beyond these lesser suitable options, banks remain the most viable option but though a lot of change is required in their procedures and composition of providing futuristic risk capital products. While the right kind of financial innovation is needed, following the route of the royalty fund, a somewhat exotic source of risk capital seems like chasing a will-of-the-wisp and that ends up nowhere.
Atul Kumar Thakur
December 29, 2011, Thursday
(Published in Business World,January 31, 2012/ )

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Editor's First Draft!

Book Review: Non-fiction/Memoir, Lucknow Boy by Vinod Mehta, Penguin/2011, 325 pp; Rs499 (Hardback)
The first generic view comes with reading Lucknow Boys is like passing through an unedited first draft. But the moment we realised, it’s written by India’s most charismatic editor, Vinod Mehta who always ran against the stream and set his own benchmark in journalism, the respect for author’s candidness grows manifold. A child born in the fateful decades of 1940’s, graduated from Lucknow University in third class and touched the land of UK, not for being the part of elitist Ox-Bridge but to sustain on menial industrial occupation. When the world was troubled in 1960’s, young Mehta was solemnly adjoining with cosmopolitanism…after difficult eight years in London (including break up with Swiss girlfriend), he came to India with added personal qualities but notwithstanding any big accomplishments.

After spending time with making Rogan josh at home and roving with dear friends, which were retrieval exercises of old routine, he moved to Bombay for editing a skin or nefarious magazine at that time, Debonair. In the dry and unhappening world of journalism, even this chance was a serious offer…here the life of an editor begun and rest we know today, how this man shaped the publications like Sunday Observer, The Indian Post, Independent, The Pioneer and lastly Outlook-all standard journalism. In the initial days, he filled the pages of Debonair with all sincerity before engaging the doyens in pseudo appearance as contributor. Today, it will shock many to know Kuldip Nayyar writing north Indian reports incognito in Debonair or Saeed Mirza’s intellectual tussle with the India’s all time best cinema director, Satyajit Ray. In the later days, his pastime for hosting rigorous intellectual confrontation remained hallmark…in Outlook; readers can easily recall the few among many rows, like between Ramchandra Guha-William Dalrymple, Pankaj Mishra-Premshankar Jha, Ramchandra Guha-Arundhati Roy. V.S.Naipual and Salman Rushdie too had mix time in Outlook despite their proximity with editor, he always let maximum chances of open debate instead of synchronizing it with narrow technicalities…and that’s the best quality with Mr.Mehta as an editor.

The early part of book opens Vinod Mehta’s fond memories of Lucknow as a child and teenager, which are lucid and frank. Portrayal of his family is equally honest and shows his own leaning for a good family life. But the characteristic sketches of his uncle-in-law Mohit Sen, his grandfather, renowned poet Raghubir Sahay “Firaq” and versatile actor Sanjeev Kumar are better if seen as an individual observation of author. He also presented the controversial stances as personal observation on Firaq and Sanjeev Kumar…so, here closes a quintessential drive of moralistic inquisition. Iconic journalist, Nikhil Chakravorty, about whom the author has high regards, has appeared in serendipity. That’s associated with the row over publication of excerpts of P.V.Narsimha Rao’s unpublished novel in Outlook…that created huge unease and surprisingly he sourced it through Nikhil Da over a lunch in Delhi’s Taj Man Singh hotel.

There are also many instances where the author has maintained love and hate relationship with the same person but mostly those ties were for journalistic compulsions rather for seeking any personal favour. Duality of his relations with NDA government and Atal Bihari Vajpayee rose to the level of income tax raid on Outlook office in Mumbai…but it took place only after the series of sting on the ministers which left maligning affects on Vajpayee government and lately pioneered the investigative journalism in India. In his career, he shattered many age old impressions about the people holding high offices and also inside the journalism; he stood high with spontaneous impulses. He made many journalists, founded and developed many institutions of repute and today naturally qualifies to stand as living legend in the Indian journalism. But all this came not without the rough patches in his career; it was not without reasons, why he still possesses the record of India’s most sacked editor of all time?

He is among those rare editors, who stood with principles while negotiating the shrewd terms-conditions of management. He left The Indian Post, Sunday Observer, Independent and lastly Pioneer for defending his rights as an editor. Those know his works are well acquainted with his zeal to produce unaltered story on any issue…he never let down himself before any political or management pressures. Ofcourse, he paid the price for it but at the evening of his career, today he has little to remorse about past. Sharad Pawar and Lalit Mohan Thapar’s combo could not lessen his flame for the right kind of journalism…still he is carrying daring stories in Outlook and his own impressions are far from being shifted as people’s editor. His autobiography is as much memorable as his time in journalism. Lucknow Boy will inspire aspiring journalists living in the nook and crannies of country, who really want to be change agents but will lend little hope for those tempting for a managerial kind of journalism. Personally, I strongly recommend this work and would count it among my best read in 2011.
Atul Kumar Thakur
December 28, 2011, Wednesday, New Delhi

Nepal's Dooming Transition!

Book Review: Non-fiction/The Lives we have Lost by Manjushree Thapa, Penguin/2011, 266 pp; Rs350 (Paperback)
It’s completely puzzling to observe Nepal, till few years back, the only Hindu kingdom in the world still carrying the tracts of mysticism and secretive overplay within its public space. Since the wind of change directed for democracy in 1990, public information means got the much needed professionalisation but alas those were proved inadequate as the large chunk of population kept relying on the feudalistic attributes like “rumour”. But what the protests of 1990 importantly strengthened, the complete disillusion of masses from the continuing Panchayati system, a pseudo model of democracy. Then the monarch, King Birendra sensed the rising aspiration and affluence of the new educated intelligentsias and wisely absorbed the contemporary political demands in the mainframe of statecraft. This was indeed a commendable survival strategy for both the Monarchy and democratic movement.

Manjushree Thapa, writer and journalist of substance and international reach, represents that informed class with series of remarkable works on Nepal’s painful democratic transition and beyond. The author of very much unforgettable, Forget Kathmandu: An Elegy of Democracy, The Country is Yours, A Boy from Siklis: The life and Times of Chandra Gurung, Mushatang Bhot,The Tutor of History, Seasons of Flight, Tilled Earth and now with an anthology of her essays, “The lives we have lost” exudes the concern she possessed for her native Himalayan state. Most of the twenty-nine essays in this collection were already appeared in the different newspapers/magazines across the world but its compilation allows now a greater sense to read all them in sequence. Its naturally appears enabling in confronting and understanding the complex political dynamicism inside the Nepal, until the end of monarchy in 2008.

Manjushree deserves all admiration for maintaining a principled stand against the institution of monarchy, which until the royal massacre in April 2001, used to be seen as the permanent holy manifestation. Manjushree hails from a top military family and her father was a serving minister and close rank to the King Gyanendra, but she stood with the time that was leading a different fateful course. In such circumstances, her resistance to the unnatural royal successor, following the mysterious royal massacre is the solid proof of Nepal’s growing impulses for democracy. Indeed that’s a positive sign amidst the ongoing flux in political circle. She has beautifully presented the parallel developments in democratic movement since 1990 along with inconsistent responses from monarchy over the changing times. Her focus on insincerity of Gyanendra in controlling the situation post 2001 reveals the self destroying elements within monarchy, which certainly grew only after the takeover of throne by the most notorious and unworthy successor of Shah Dynasty!

Throughout the rich histories of South Asia, Nepal remained cornered except actively reciprocating in the two base areas-religion and ideologies. Rest, its diverse ethnic and caste communities are still unexplored and normally throw bewilderment for an enthusiast while being in search of perfect knowledge about the antiquities of these communities. This is partly because of non-interference from Western imperialists in the 19th and 20th centuries. By its effect, while the new genre of English educated middle class emerged in India and stepped ahead for self rule, Nepal remained a feudal country under the canopy of superficially commanded “quintessential monarchy”. Anyhow, Nepal did catch the modernisation in 1950’s through the effects of new educated class who were in close touch with the changes inside India and even participated in the India’s struggle for independence against the tyrannical British rule. Ofcourse Koirala’s were the prime mover of those new trends but millions others too joined the league soon, which paved the way for essential radicalization that finally lead to the limited democracy in terms of Panchayati system executed by the King Mahendra.

Subsequently, in the 1990’s, India ushered towards the liberalisation regime but not without the acute antagonism from the substantial ultra left forces. Infact, those were the gulfs of chronic socio-economic disparities, failed to found the new way around in democracy. Although on Indian scale, Nepal couldn’t integrate itself with the global economy but its middle class started to be denounced by the Maoists as “comprador capitalists” after the phenomenon rise of Maoists in mid 1990’s as ultra and later as democratic force in Nepal’s politics. That added a new twist in the hitherto bipolar power division in the nation...barring Maoists, there were feeble ideological contradictions among the major Nepali political parties. The top leadership of these parties was mostly constituted through the upper castes but the sudden claim of Maoists in the power circle, originated a different discourse for democracy that was stricter and poised to dethrone the most explicit class enemy-“the institution of Monarchy”. The sudden shift in national politics tolled high on the lives of ordinary citizens, most of them were died cold blooded and without being the part of activism.

The initial years of Maoists were full with the outrageous crimes. The rule of Gyanendra further supplemented the violence, and rest political parties spoiled their time in mutely staring the open failure of civic life for a decade. The twists and turns also compelled India to follow a much nuanced approach in Nepal’s internal matters…at the time of transition; a constructive and non-interfering role from India should be seen in proper light and without getting it stretched in awkward zone. By locating herself in centre, Manjushree provides the candid picture of those uncertain times where to form a stable stand against the Monarchy was not without inviting grave risks. But among those who succeeded in this way, author was one among them. Her consistent anti-Monarchy stand remained continue from both the Kathmandu and Delhi…as always, Delhi given the ample space of expression for the restoration of peace and normalcy in Nepal. Manjushree’s nostalgic recalling of her Delhi’s days and the supports she got from her journalists friends simply reminds the unaltered concern of Indian’s for their most confidant neighbour.

The last essay of book “In our House “, is written with great sense of attachment for legacies left by the Monarchy. Few pages found caliber in meticulously recalling the Nepal’s Monarchy in flashback. There is also sign of certain losses felt by a big population of Nepal and the question simply can’t be ruled out, whether King Birendra could met with the similar fate like of undeserving Gyanendra? Ofcourse situation would have different today, even the most overt critic of Monarchy, realizing now the merits of King Birendra. It’s essential however to not confuse his popularity with any other man of royal family. After a long row of power tussle, none the other than Maoist chief Pushpa Kumar Dahal “Prachanda” admitted the scope of symbolic Monarchy but the time is passed now as the real Monarchy ended with the massacre of 2001 and King Birendra. This book would be worthwhile for every enthusiast on Nepal and like before, they may find the well intentioned writings of Manjushree streamlining the memories and emotions to a right end. As Nepal is now on a steady but stable path of complete multi-party democracy, so looking back towards history will be vital…”The Lives we have Lost” is a step forward in this way…!
Atul Kumar Thakur
December 27, 2011, Tuesday, New Delhi

Monday, December 26, 2011

Junkable Jihads!

Book Review: Non-fiction/Jihad on two fronts by Dilip Hiro, Harper Collins/2011, 443 pp; Rs699 (Hardback)
The Cambridge economist Joan Robinson’s remarkable quote on India “whatever you can rightly say about India, the opposite is also true” is worth of amplification in the context of south Asia as well which exudes the wider political/historical shadow of India’s influence in the past and substantially of present. This book closely justifies this timeless observation, equally after putting it into strategic domain. Like many recent accounts of the south Asia’s strategic scenario, Dilip Hiro’s book is overwhelmed with the mythical faith over the much chronicled details of twin disturbing fronts, Pakistan and Afghanistan and their umpteenth adverse marks on India. Thus, extraneous primary details leave here the reasons of bliss for occasional enthusiast on India’s strategic standing in the neighbourhood, but mostly deject the readers with eagle eyes on strategic dynamics.

There is something very retro and repetitive about his over emphasised themes that over the years have shattered the chances of peace in India. Certainly he didn’t need a different angle for reaching to the derivation, blossoming and crest status of Jihad, but in narration, he must have tried to differ from the newspapers honchos who are on daily basis feeding not only the instant curiosity but also the sound inquisitors. Incessant meticulous research of Praveen Swami, C.Rajamohan and few others gives easy access to firsthand expert observation on the entire construct, function and proliferation of Jihad powerhouses in India’s historically maligned North West frontiers and in its greater spread. So, the stories of General Zia, India-Israel relations, Cold war nostalgia or dangerously rising wave of fundamentalism inside India’s territory not simply could be the proud possession for concerned readers without adding something noticeable or subtracting even the tints of irrationalities and misconceived observations!

In plain terms, it’s essential for every south Asia expert to realise the absence of steady pleasures and narrowness of crystalline vision while getting fixed with the crucial issues of this region. Expressions are better if they are weak in pedagogy and attached with the subjects, which indeed assist author to concentrate on geopolitical sagas rather keep falling in the waves of unrealistic reprisals. Exposure to raw actuality rather the paper bounded wisdom gives better leeway to align with an absorbing and purposeful work. Here, this gain is nowhere in the sight, that would make many remorseful after spending hours reading hundreds of pages. Fresh way of looking at people, landscape and architecture of terror are more vital today than a conceited effort based only on surpassable details and its over stretching to the level of desperation. A plank to confide on interlude for regenerating appropriate intellectual impulses is very much desirable at this time, when strategic policy debates are increasingly being threatened with the saturation from “awkward running commentary “where no end appears visible in parallel sight.

Not estrangement or preoccupied perspective could be the driving force in reckoning the existing happenings that severely affecting India’s strategic normalcy…an engaging, if not an insider’s frame of mind is an unspecified prerequisite in this regard. An engaging visit to troubled regions like, Kashmir bring face-to-face with the brutality of Jihad and reach of dangerous nasty plots. Equally, it enables in knowing India’s response against the Pakistan sponsored terror network in its territory. The basic point arises here, whether India should continue the traumatic status quo in Kashmir or come with the conclusive steps without acknowledging the roles of wicked third party/Pakistan? Dilip Hiro falls short in taking into account, the basic bone of contentions. With his long journalistic experiences, he would have appealing, had he could elaborate India’s rising position in the world, which is simply unmatchable with its counterpart, Pakistan or the forces engaged in proxy and direct war-game of Jihad.

The wider look allows sorting out few misgivings regarding the view that “Jihad is politically motivated fundamentalism rather merely a fundamentalist assertion”. The political aim of fundamentalism could be understood with its potential tantamount on the normal humanity, where history resides in the minds for few strict purposes and ofcourse not for inserting any unrealistic antagonism among the living communities. There is dearth of constructive works on this particular malady, above journalistic production that could streamline the missing links. This book too appears on backfoot in this regard but still could enlighten many who are perceptively short with the historical background of violence in Indian sub-continent and its perpetual growth over the decades. Experts will miss their chronic searches of any constructive model of solution within the book, though elementary readers would be benefitted by Dilip Hiro’s labour of love for details. Moreover, Junkable Jihads have short lives and few takers beyond the rogue state’s compulsions and bewildering bookaohlic debates, which are lucid from the recent developments and this scenario, would be strengthened more in the days to come!

Atul Kumar Thakur
December 26, 2011, Monday, New Delhi

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The war of water!

Book Review: Diplomacy/Water: Asia’s new battleground by Brahma Chellaney, Harper Collins/2011, 386 pp; Rs699 (Hardback)
Water in ambit of serious diplomacy is a new arrival. As part of many international disputes, including of west Asia, water holds an inescapable centrality. Though in proper intellectual debates, mostly the concerned issues have been harshly marginalized. Brahma Chellaney, an strategist of repute with deep concern for flawed water management has come out with a very sensible work. He has succeed well to present the center as China and periphery as south Asian nations while leading the debate on water issues that largely shapes the international relations of these participants.

The deep search on the historical transformation of China from a shy water conserver to an overgrown infrastructure builder on water management leads the debate to a broader scale. At the beginning of Mao’s rule, China had only twenty five dams which grew one thousand times in last six decades. Its political/economic gain in Tibetan region keeping China more proactive, even the persisting discomfiture from India seems hardly making any impact on China. That is indeed a blunt assertion of denying any meaningful bilateral or regional co-operation and pursuing opportunist planks which are leaving extraneous negative effects on key environmental issues including water.

The title of book exactly justifies the apprehensions that have directed after reckoning the odds lying in future. Further, the sharp edge of analysis gives reader of this book a clear understanding, how artificially India and Pakistan are maintaining the deficiency of water consumption. Case was entirely different before the surge of heavy industrialization in mid twentieth century which altered the contemporary scene and replaces further it with a wayward dynamicism. India, along with Nepal and Pakistan have been forced for victimization by the obstinate stand of China and chances are still feeble that China would ever stop its claim for extra water sharing from the rivers originates in its command areas and flows in the south Asian nations.

Water is one among crucial factors that could have been the basis of unflinching support among the Asian countries but alas, the continuances of irrational choices are blurring the possibility of well woven and durable Asian fraternity. Central and south Asia are grappling with their own technical complexities and keeping aside any streamlining procedures in neighborhood. Same blockades are going on here; Mr. Chellaney has tried skillfully here to decipher some of the main constituents of disputes.

Book also covers the India’s bilateral position in water sharing with Pakistan and Bangladesh quite meticulously though on Nepal, more concentration would have a perfect boon. The perennial destruction through floods that India has been sharing for long with Nepal has lot to do with the denial of reformed water sharing between two nations in diplomatic relations. Here, the need is for closer examination, why India-Nepal is lacking co-operation on a pragmatic water sharing model which could assist millions of lives in north Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh and in Terain region of Nepal out of slapped misery. Overall, this book is an essential read for serious readers with expanded interests of environmental diplomacy.
Atul Kumar Thakur
December 11, 2011, Sunday, New Delhi

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lost American dreams!

Book Review: Current affairs/That used to be US by Thomas.L.Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum, Hachette India/2011, 380 pp; Rs599 (Hardback)
World is still not noticing the fading shine of U.S, this is being realised and expressed only through the growing anxiety of insecure future among the mass people and policy makers of U.S. In its idea and shape, this book seems a prolonging exercise of similar mental state, in which Barack Obama saw Bangalore as “buffalo” and Indian youth amazingly competitive over the lazy generation of his own country. He feared, new generation lacks the very strong “U.S exceptionalism” that once made this nation a dreaming land full with unprecedented potential.

In the last six years, since Thomas Friedman had written the bestselling book “The world is flat”, one and half recession (one complete, other is in progress…) and two ultra damaging wars has badly trembled the strong core of nation-materialism. If co-author, Michael Mandelbaum is a man with academic temperament, Friedman stands opposite with his natural flamboyance that has been shaping over the years his hyperbole views in New York Times columns. Though, as a sensitive man, he could sense the shrinking confidence of mass countryman for plethora of innovation which is good for nothing and is in process to endanger the leadership edge of U.S at major global platform. So, book look over the issues of concern without falling in the trap of popular sensationalism which earlier was the case with Friedman. Honest revelations of ground realities are the basic things that readers would enjoy reading throughout the book but only with patient mind and their own labour in decoding casual intents of the authors!

Within the civilised state, U.S has a very short history that can leave the themes for constructive discourses…until few years back, it was not a matter of concern but the same is not true now. The last lines of this book crave for history where the thinking mind of U.S could trace the lost dreams and an unwounded America. The subtle details of the book suggest that the way U.S is moving will be unsustainable in the medium or long term. Hence, both the leadership and its followers must have to be ready for action with well thought models instead luring by structured solutions bound to be doomed.

For the sake of U.S, it’s good if the world is still unaware of the crude facts, how much its artificial supremacy is under the strain and its hard struggle for retrieving its old edge on policy matters. Modesty of observation from outside remains something which U.S has been thoroughly enjoying and still appears its withering away a distant reality. With erotic opulence, it may be likely that U.S would continue its unjustified lead at the decisive global platform for some more years. Another positive factor for U.S is the failure of political of political polarization from the emerging economies and old power blocks including Russia. So, even in deep troubled water, U.S can sail its boat with shrewd skills its conscious applications.

Hope simply can’t be forced to out from normal affairs through reasons are ample to believe that unflat world is still intact and full with the frills. Time has indeed moved up and so are the discourses. Nice to see, with this book a new humble Friedman which he was certainly not during the high time when his world was irrationally flat and friendly!
Atul Kumar Thakur
December10,2011,Saturday,New Delhi

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A diary details

Book Review: Non-fiction/PORIBORTON by Ruchir Joshi, Harper Collins/2011, 162 pp; Rs199 (Paperback)
Those who read Telegraph know Ruchir as a column writer. But for others, his election diary/ PORIBORTON let a chance to read his casually written details of recently held Bengal assemble election.Ironically, this book captures more the subtle aspects of election days, rather producing anything practical about the political change recently happened in West Bengal that ended the historic dominance of the left front government from the state. Substantial chunk of the book has spent on notifying its readers how the permanent faces of TV talk show displayed their elitist background and illusionary command over Queen’s language. Why the empirical studies were not considered as base of this book is surprising…even in field trip, non-issues have prioritized over the vital public opinion. At first instance, this is disappointing and seems like a chance lost of reading something remarkable on West Bengal politics.

North Bengal is full with scenic beauties though also hold toughness inside it when it comes to politics. The winds blow there with unsatisfied gesture towards the politics from Calcutta where many chronic demands have piled up over the years. Among the many blunders, left front government did, was its inaction over the north Bengal proved fateful in its gradual receding of supports from this region. Second half of the book is little bit interesting but hardly insightful. Normally, what we could expect from a travelogue should not necessarily be part of a political reporting like this. But here, again political issues are in backyard and description of British made bungalows and defunct local leadership found premier attention. A scribe too has right to be naturalist but when working on an assignment of political nature, it’s desirable to have better say on original subjects.

Election reporting is quite established in India but its formalisation is still in nascent phase. Effort of Harper Collins is commendable; also relevant was the occasion but lack of sound field studies and failure to eternalise the actual scenario proves a major bottleneck. Though this innovative initiative has promising future indeed…in the days ahead, expert pshephologist as well as the journalist too will be enthusiastic in carrying out and prolonging of their election experiences into physical shape of book. As the most successful democracy, Indians genuinely enjoys the exercises of politics and it’s always full with responses, especially when someone writes over the related stories in authentic capacity.

Diary writing used to be an act of historiography, case of Anne Frank on German holocaust, Franz Kafka’s literary/political doubts or Nehru’s elegant political narration are some of the most living examples. These all peoples were remarkable in their own way and their elucidation of universal events added the much needed insights for knowing the contemporary time. Compilations of diary details or jottings have enough potential and collaboration with electoral experiences may be helpful in shaping it as a new discipline of writing.

As new arrival on this fresh theme, PORIBORTON will sure generate good readership for it and will also usher a culture of publishing the political reporting more active. This lead must be come from a democracy like ours…reckoning political processes will be always a boon!
Atul Kumar Thakur
December 06, 2011, Tuesday, New Delhi

Monday, December 5, 2011

Unbankable realities!

Book Review: Fiction/The Suicide Banker by Puneet Gupta, Rupa Publications/2011, 279 pp; Rs195 {Paperback}
The modern corporate runs with uncertainty and asymmetrical rewards. Here, mind is bound to be in fear and counted on top from the bottom-line positions. In such unnatural scenarios, Marx again appears as wisest man with his immortal quote, “Material position determines ones being and not vice-versa”… that he referred for the peak of capitalism, there he could figure out the self destructing elements within this very unfair system. No doubt, we are living in a high time of capitalist supremacy where moral justification of any act considered as awkward tuning of moralistic running commentary.

This book is written by a person, who as insider of top shot banking knows the maligning corporate culture from close angles. His writing is shaped through realistic understanding and a self imposed ethical that makes his fictional debut a complete success. The Suicide Banker is endowed with the quality of flowing narratives and without subscribing any extra-curricular hitches of lingual over display. As the book has more closer affiliation to the realities rather with the aesthetics of puritan literature, so it seems good that both targeted and general readers will read this book with high proportional delight.

Fortunately, Puneet never went to any of Ivy League institutions, not even to IIMs itself though he burnt his midnight oil for a mythical MBA at less hyped academic place like Jammu, which made him a tough man rather a virulently mechanized manager with all greed and no senses. To an extent, his protagonist, Sumit resembles him with modest beginning but remarkable achievements ahead despite remaining at odd with fraudulent mass culture in his organisation. Within organisational limits, he follows the much essential conservatism with maintaining a righteous virtue that gathers a plethora of impulses finally destined to expose the fraudulent practices of banking sector and counter action in terms of empty policy follow-up. The inside gamut of frugal innovation that promotes the half-measured “Microfinance& Agribusiness banking” among the reckless private sector banks leaves nothing but horrific end for genuine stakeholders. Moreover, a stint with multilateral organisations often considered perfect for leadership position, which is simply a dangerous and unsustainable trend. For the nonsense flashes of power point slides, ambiguous model of Muhammad Yunus may be an easy available choice but lastly results imperfect in a not so wretched economy like India. Except Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) and few Co-operative/Public Sector banks, Indian banks have to still learn the basic rural banking and compliance of constitutionally mandated Priority Sector Lending as very humane welfare gesture.

This novel also unconsciously carries the sociological investigations on family which is passing under the consistent stress amidst very unhygienic imbalance of work and family life. A short interlude of distraction and its ramification over protagonist’s familiar life shows the sinful lure of extended professional engagements and here finally ousting toward normalcy juxtaposes the prevailing practices but not totally uncalled off.

Lot of inferences could be drawn from The Suicide Banker, which will be of immense help for the aspiring and established finance professionals to find proper ground beneath their feet. This will be best out of this book, if few baseless macro policies too will be corrected out of sentimental overtures, though it sounds not less than hyperbole as the shackles of misdeeds are globally integrated and induce its all participant for a homogenous puppet living, without even a tint of remorse for their ethical winding up. Spirits of reform must be channelizing an atmosphere of sustainable business; unfortunately regulations are not properly addressing the challenges which are indeed very compelling and needed cure. Until that will happen, bad guys with altered professional dreams will be continuing with wining, dining and marrying Mary’s…only for few, it will be unbankable proposition!
Atul Kumar Thakur
December 05, 2011, Monday, New Delhi

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fragility of Reluctant Reform

Dichotomy of reform and progressivism represents the India’s policy maneuvering since 1991. Long way back, then Indian sensed a “déjà vu” to move for a “remodeled tryst with destiny” which was essentially bounded to delinking Nehruvian ties and ushering herself into a new world of unrestricted and aligned competency. Its first major impact on macro economy was felt in terms of multipolar evolution of economic interests…no longer, prioritization of national economy remained a trend. The inbound competency that came with the reluctant liberalisation programme didn’t create niche for the healthy operation of government, public and private sectors. Instead it given leeway for mushrooming of “clicks supremacy “and forced a “Democratic, Secular, Socialist” state as hub of crony capitalism. Underneath the swift processing of forward capitalist agenda, India produced the record numbers of billionaires {both in rupees and dollar terms} and worst positional status in Human Development Index {HDI}, which is ofcourse any longer averses a thinking mind to be in good humour!

The second big casualty after the misplaced wave of reform is the, state of reform? Until few years back, India’s regulatory institutions with their cautions approaches were doing great services by maintaining normalcy in business. Its effects led India to avoid the bubble burst like scenario during the peak of traumatic recession and when banks were falling on Wall Street, our Mint Street was still keeping jubilant mood. Alas, same friendly atmosphere is no longer persists now…RBI, which holds the pulses of Indian economy seemingly losing its earlier touch in market intervention and taking forward the growth of Indian financial sector.

In last few quarters, RBI has failed to control the spiraling inflation and its policy responses as interest hikes leaving extra adverseness on the anticipated growth agenda. Here, contradiction between market sentiment which is naturally consumerist now and policy stances are looming large and enforcing uncertainty. Sidelining the ideological convictions and routing through the same reform debates, it disappoints to note that the gulf between finance ministry and nation’s central bank was never so wide. In the last Union Budget, declaration was made by the finance minister for further opening of Indian banking that was a long due since 2003 but under the new unwarranted redtapism of RBI-licensing of few new banks are taking too long and perilously injuring the sentiments of near about stagnant financial market. Under the uniform set of regulations, RBI must shoe its trust to allow atleast six new banks to join the fray besides focusing more on compliance to the nuanced recommendations of Basel-III norms.

It appears a paradox that new Indian corporate private sector banks, Regional Rural Banks {RRBs} are in better shape with their standard quality of assets than the peers of leading Public Sector banks, turmoil Co-operative banks and narrowly motivated foreign banks. In such case, policy framing must enable these existing banks and prospective banks for pursuing the advanced banking in the days ahead. Withstanding the truth of global financial condition, RBI must lend unwavering support to the prospective banks and should keep the profile of global integration on equilibrium. Today, another haunting challenge is of financial inclusion, still majority of Indians are not banking…here, strict adherence to compliances shall be streamlined for making rural and untapped area as priority zone for every banks operating in India.

Capital markets in India often cited as dynamic and sound out of confused euphoria, which is completely false as Indian equity market is one of the most crisis ridden in the world. Insider trading is frequent here and still surprises to not get a Galleon type case like in U.S or finding few spoiled icons like Raj Rajaratnam or Raj Gupta. Years back, Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parikh rocked the party here and got bad tip from regulators but since then SEBI seized to be angry and moralistic institution. SEBI’s second hammering fallen on rapidly growing Indian mutual fund industry which through bad regulatory step {scrapping of entry load etc.}, left it in hibernated state and in comparison of the past, we find it only as shadow. The weak confidence among the top management of SEBI is another matter of grave concern…things have still little changed with its new chief, U.K.Sinha. Finance ministry and RBI must end their slumbering and India’s capital market is on the verge being a show piece.

It remains a silent convention to priorities Public Sector entities by the regulators but recent stances of IRDA is awkwardly mimicking on those soft forgone traditions. Atleast two Chairmen of Public Sector insurers have recently expressed their anguish over the partiality of IRDA-that’s shocking and henceforth unsustainable as well. Questions arises, in last twenty years what made regulation a stodgy business? And do the true spirits of reform could ever touch the Indian commerce and trade?

The only conclusion could be drawn from the last two decades that the shape of Indian economy has indeed grown up in mid years with making selective few obscene rich, few crores of population as empowered consuming/middle class and rest the paupers. And big dilemma is, we even today can’t figure out the exact numbers of poors in India, leave alone any over expectation of level playing approaches from authorities.

More or less, similar are the cases of regulatory mismanagement in every sector. The last and most vicious happened with the opening of single brand retail for hundred percent FDI and multi brand retail to 51%from existing 26% without making any strict clause which could assured the certain percentage of procurement from Indian domestic market. That could have helped better to farmers, SMEs by cutting their overhead cost and appropriate inventory management. Unfortunately in present frame, it’s unreliable to expect anything positive from this legislation and chances would be likely of Indian market as the junk box of cheap Chinese manufacturing. Opposition is doing series of ridiculous acts by logjamming Parliament instead channelizing proper debate to alter this horrific FDI arrival in retail. At this juncture, regulation is maintaining its fragility and people will be forced to lead a Walmartian life with deep holes and no money in their market..!
Atul Kumar Thakur
Wednesday, November 30, 2011, New Delhi

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mumbai dreams!

Mumbai dreams!
Book Review: Non-fiction/Mumbai Fables by Gyan Prakash , Harper Collins/2011, 396 pp; Rs425 {Paperback}
Name changing of cities, institutions or edifices can be hardly correlated with any sort of positive sense in Indian contexts. Transition of a dialectic city, called Bombay into Mumbai was less resilient and opposite of its long preserved character. We can accept or refute Mumbai as maxim city, the way Suketu Mehta has conceived but it will be seemingly tough writing an adverse note on Mumbai Fables of Gyan Prakash. This Princeton Guru of politics has lived up his limited time in this city with keeping his eyes open on the events that matters. If Salman Rushdie with his Midnight Childrens and Imaginary Homeland or Amit Chaudhuri through his memorable piece-From the Malabar Hills could established their personal belongingness to this city even with an outsider tag. Gyan Prakash too found the similar way with originally hailing from the distant Hazaribagh. This it marks, Bombay is still not a closed urban jargon.

Spread over the nice parts, Mumbai Fables recall and streamline the characteristics of the city with amazing vigour. The defining fundamentals, like-myths, colonial legacies and relative losses, scenic beauties, cosmopolitanism, iconic tales of Tabloid {Blitz}, political changes, urban planning, streets and most importantly the city’s dreams have presented in a order that gives the book a long-lasting impressive stature. The detailed portrayal of Nanavati case and the journalistic charisma of Mr.Karanzia as Editor, Blitz vividly reminding the Bombay of late fifties and sixties that was bustling with plethora of high profile activities.

Besides cinema and commerce, once this city was the centrepoint of progressive movement and then red flags of CPI and trade union movement was as much prevalent as today is the saffron flags with hate-mongering premium of million tridents. Mumbai Fables delves deep into search how Bombay lost its progressive space by maligning hate driven politics of narrow identities. The presence and affluence of crime was always consistent in this city but nevertheless the spoiled form of “Son of soil movement” led by fireband of Shivsena infused extra awkwardness in its social scène-that was ofcourse the one among of big causalities. In the course of time, incessant malfunctioning of governance has been giving substantial edge to the newly formed communal forces a safe passage to spread their virulent practices. Collective psyche was degenerated by its influence and city keep turning from cosmic to parochial. Now the badness of city was much worse from the immortals messages of cult cinema “Jaane bhi do Yaron”, where protagonists {Nasiruddin Shah and Ravi Baswani} atleast could heard their heartfelt “Hum honge kamyab ek din” even in the peak of distress.

Book have succeeded well to notice the changing class hierarchy of city…though the city always had elitecentric orientation but the new divide among classes are being strongly felt and that scale was hitherto unknown to the memory. Overgrown maturity of the city have eclipsed with the phases of unending uncertainty. Once the hub of entrepreneurial dreams, now Bombay witnesses the letting down of its position to an uncomfortable level.

Mumbai Fables also devote few pages for unleashing the distinctness of Bombay’s lifestyle which is still liberal and open but running under the huge distress by influence of bad nexus from politics, business and unrestricted ambitions of close clicks. To the core, this amazing city is in distress and that’s not hidden from anyone having vision to see that decline. Somehow, the dreams of Mumbai are still not distinct and separated from what Bombay once used to have. But in the meantime, this matured city is standing on the threshold of unique adverseness that is much acute and painful than even before. Timing and depth of this book is apt and that makes it as essential read on lost dreaming city, Bombay..!
Atul Kumar Thakur
Monday, November 28, 2011, New Delhi

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Coming of Age

Book Review: Non-fiction/Of a Certain Age by Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Penguin/2011, 234 pp; Rs499 {Hardback}
Compilation of modern Indian social history had maintained for long a feeble pace until few years back, Ramchandra Guha’s India after Gandhi came into existence. The sidelined events of recent past suddenly started getting attention of both the writers and readers and this amalgamation quintessentially seems a quest to know modern India and who influenced it. Gopalkrishna Gandhi, a seasoned administrator, columnist and among the most remarkable “Gandhi “has come out with an anthology of his earlier published essays in Of a Certain Age. Last winter, Ramchandra Guha published his much awaited Makers of Modern India with aim to theorise some of the most original thinker/writer’s work that made overarching effects on India in making. On the contrary, Gopalkrishna Gandhi had chosen to write his essays, as life sketches and with liberal selection of twenty personalities-from Mahatma Gandhi to J.N.Dixit.

Between these two unmatchable figures, Acharya Kriplani, Hiralal Gandhi, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Salim Ali, Pyarelal, Jayaprakash Narayan, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Hiren Mukherjee, R.Venkatraman, M.Krishnen, Jyoti Basu, Pupul Jaykar, Srimavo Bhandarnaike, M.S.Subbulakshami, R.K.Narayan, Somnath Hore, S.Guhan and Dalai Lama have covered through the personal angle of author. Though the book has no fundamental choices of narration and looking after on the works of these formidable personalities but it has also never cease to be formal at any point and that makes overall delineation substantial enough.

What’s the strength of these essays is its different timeframe in which they have been written and their universal expression. Contemporariness in closed order often hampers the much essential interest and understanding in longer terms. This is particularly true with the journalistic writings. In academic writings, monotony through abrupt reprisal of wrong context and explanation have its own severe affects that without doubt kept historiography on low standard over the years besides making the slices of past terribly vulnerable through cynical interpretations. Of a Certain Age kind of book is a welcome continuance of new urge for constructive history writing and within the rational constructs.

Post-independence, India witnessed the consolidation of newly build institutions and spread of modernism as single most decisive virtue which in the course of time let assembling the intelligentsia to the forefront. Numbers of home grown intellectuals indeed played the pivotal roles in subsequent phases and India with afflictions to odds never distracted from the basic goals of its Constitution. That remains consistent even today; atleast in high legislative order but it’s also true that the flaws of policy executions are undermining those beauties of India as a well grown nation.

Shades of opinions are infact not bad if it comes with the purpose. Moreover, we need to know more about the work and worldviews of peoples from different domains whom we consider high on stature. This book has keen focus on twenty such remarkable lives without any preoccupations and gives readers a pleasant opportunity of experience sharing. Maturisation of this drive will realise more if history writing will come closer to the very recent past which simply stands on fringe in the lieu of ongoing contemporariness. Knowing history will be only possible through applying proper perspectives in research on history writing. Hope this work will make positive binding in this regard and help paving the way for a culture of knowledge driven discourse..!
Atul Kumar Thakur
November 27, 2011, Sunday, New Delhi

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Unclinching dreams..!

Book Review: Fiction/The Mysterious Dreams by Nandita Chakraborty Banerjji, Cedar books/2011, 263 pp; Rs175 {Paperback}
The free spirits pressed opposite the humdrum living. They choose their own basis of beingness, which often overpowers the prevailing social norms. In the twentieth century, hippies’ movement in west surpassed the overall foundation of modernism through a unique model that was unconventional and unacceptable to a great extant. The idea of modernism rests on the supremacy of state which bounds it with many cohesive structures that essentially restrict the spirits to get sat uncontrolled. Hippies were never out of grip from violence in action and their opposition towards the state led violence was a classical case of dichotomy.

The debutant author, Nandita has tried well to grasp the vast plots though couldn’t stop her writing from falling in the complex orgy. The first and foremost specialty of her novel is its protagonist Shibani, and second and last, her relying upon the Bangla culture and family in imagination and on little bit action. Careful reading of book enables reader to three subset within this book, first and last matches in order though the middle or backbone paralyses with the loaded analysis and umpteenth reprisal of unworthy emotions. It would have been much better, if the author could choose the Baul tradition in better length in place of reckless cult like, hippies. Chris, who is betrayer and absconder amidst the consistent romantic advances of Shibani reveals the pathos of choices which at any level can be easily cured instead getting down with its harmful discomfiture. Geographical spread between Bombay and Calcutta would have an ideal position for normally culture driven Shibani to think freely within a very special sphere of Baul tradition or on simply trusting herself more and surrounding.

Notwithstanding the technical lapses, author promises better in her next part of sequel. She gives easy readability through her writing with an incessant mark of serious literary narrative. Here, the categorization of her work deserves all serious consideration. In the drive of new less-serious writing where the tracing of literature are increasingly being tough, it’s solace here that The Mysterious Dreams optimizes the basic literary puts. Indeed, its serious concerns now, whether to fix such new writing, literary or not? On this account, this work finding a new feet, that’s somewhere between the popular literature and original work of high literary caliber.

Now the writing is not being done essentially by the class of writers rather it’s also coming through the new legion of professionals. Not denying the fact that social media has played tremendous role in shaping the creativity of a sizable young writers though the quality of contents remains a big loopholes. If the arrivals of writers are good, in the same way it’s expected from the readers to get maximized and more pro-active. Addressal on infusing the basic qualities of domain theme is the need of this hour…here; the tasks of partial purification have to be completed with the better assessment of works from reviewers, writers and most pertinently by the readers.

For now, readers are not finding themselves as scapegoat of over supplied writings. That still presents a benign scenario with overarching effects by which myth of” better time in Indian literature” can be processed for medium to long term. Further ahead, new shows will be in action..!
Atul Kumar Thakur
Saturday, November 19th 2011, New Delhi
Special thanks to Castle of Books/ ,for consistently reminding me about this book review...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Indian women’s movement!

Book Review: Non-fiction/The Indian women’s movement by Maitrayee Chaudhuri, Palm Leaf Publications/2011, 219 pp; Rs895 (Hardback)

This is a purposeful book—meticulously researched and lucidly written. It comes as a welcome addition to the burgeoning narrative on women’s movements in India. Tapping historical sources in the context of a focused theme endows this book with authenticity. With rational utilisation of social history in the colonial and post-colonial period, the book underlines the major breakthroughs and adverse occurrences related to the women’s movement in the past and ongoing odds that are choking its overall growth.

The beginning of the book, with elucidating four major social reform movements in prominent provinces—Bengal, Bombay, Madras and Punjab—makes beautiful sense, since knowing the women’s side during the 19th-century Hindu middle class reform is crucial before taking further compelling strides. Chapter three, Reform, Revival and the Women’s Question at the turn of the Century, captures the resistances like Revivalism, Nationalism and Communalism against the repression of colonialism and existing hierarchy besides taking into account the women’s reform in Hinduism and Islam. This paragraph makes complete sense to the wider concern of reform:

The most characteristic sign of the development of capitalism in India was the growth of towns. The dual nature of capitalism in India, where there were both British and Indian enterprises, had left their imprint on the towns, particularly over Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. The town represented the dynamic changes that taking place in Indian society with the composition of bourgeoisie, a working class, a mass of small producer, craftsmen and the administrative staffs. The educated sections were sensitive to both the misery and poverty of the large mass of Indian people and the degradation and humiliation of even those Indians who were not in poverty. They became increasingly conscious of the burden of colonial oppression and the need for a change. (p. 72)

Chapter four, The Rise of Women’s Organisations and the Beginning of Women’s Participation in Politics, 1914–27 links to the institutionalisation and growth of Indian women’s movement, following the epoch-making First World War period. Side by side, the peak of the national movement and its influence over the women’s movement are highlighted very well in this book. The non-cooperation movement led by Gandhi strongly emphasised on the greater inclusion of all sections, including women. This political movement indeed proved a catalyst in the independence movement and later in the shaping of women’s movement. The scale of struggle against British colonialism could not be shot up to such high mark had
not the broader inclusiveness been grounded as the top-tier agenda of Congress and left leaderships. This paragraph delineates it more lucidly under the present contexts:

This participation of women in the active political life of country, and the formation of women’s organisation at all-India level were two landmarks in the evolution of the women’s movement. The ideas which governed women’s organisation and women’s participation in politics however did not make a break with the earlier reform, revival framework. A conflict between new needs and old perceptions was inevitable. Women’s organisations reveal the tension between confining women’s issues to social reform efforts and the compulsions from the wider society to link national liberation to the women’s movement. Participation of women in politics was a new step, yet ideologically the act was appropriated as an extension of traditional roles. (p. 113)

Chapter five, The Expanding Scope of the Women’s Movement and Communalisation of Women’s Issues, aptly revolves around the maturisation phase (1927–37) of women’s movement and its interwoven terms with the anti-colonial movement. This movement drew women’s organisations into its orbit and paved the way for an inevitable radicalisation. That development was very timely and encouraging, though the larger question of communal harmony remained unanswered in spite of few dedicated leadership interventions. Anti spirits were flamboyant and politically, too, they had virulent conceptions that finally deterred the healthy development of social movements and, in the longer course, whose losses
tolled much higher than ever anticipated. The author makes her scintillating point very absorbingly through these lines:

These trends within the women’s movement in a way sum up the entire trajectory of modern India. A professed commitment to western democratic institutions, to liberalism and nationalism was accompanied by a deep rooted desire to argue that these modern nations were actually traditional indigenous ones. In defining the “modern”, therefore a redefinition of the “traditional” was going on. The trend was present amongst both Hindus and Muslims. (p. 144)

The concluding chapter of this book—Radical Blueprints and Communal Politics: The Women’s Question, 1937–47—highlights the complex phase of modern Indian history with astute vigour. These ten years could be counted as most formative for the entire Indian sub-continent. In an organised way, India had to be a nation but, alas, its broad geography, cultural antiquities, social diversities and common past were compromised by the politics of communalism. The author’s note is quite worthwhile to mention here in this respect:

This may seem to contradict the obvious fact that there was a frequent convergence of reform and revival within both nineteenth century Hindu and Islamic reform. Traditions were reinterpreted and the past recast legitimizes women’s reform. The historical situation in the third and fourth decades of the twentieth century had bower altered dramatically.

The two communities were defining themselves increasingly vis-a’-vis the “other”. The sorry state of the “self” was entirely the fault of the other. The occident no doubt still continued to dominate the idiom within which dominant discourses were constructed. But the imminent possibility of independence from colonialism made the question of hegemony of one or the other religious community over the new state more urgent than ever. (p. 181)

Throughout this book, intricacies of the Indian women’s movement are presented in distinct ways that appear candid and appropriate. Maitrayee Chaudhuri’s writing stands without any stodgy academic load or preoccupations—which otherwise has been rampant and overgrown over the years through the damaging complacency among Indian higher academic circles. Her remarkable work is a solace in this regard. Unfortunately, the burden of confused legacy is so enormous that its curtailment would need an attitude shift among the academic authors. Barring a few, most undeserving and horribly conceited writers have earned bad impressions and remarks for academic writing. At least now, a trend must be set
for original and insightful writings that can add some values to the broad world of knowledge. Palm Leaf
Publications as a start-up deserve all accolades for commissioning such a relevant book on a very crucial theme—here, too, the act is path-breaking to an extent.

The Indian women’s movement has been shaped and grown through the sociopolitical changes starting back in the late 19th century to the present date, but it remains a major loophole that economic aspects were never given the proper consideration even after the high time of capitalist movement in Indian economy 1991 onward. Here, the women’s movement should be properly aligned with the changing times, where challenges are multidimensional and complex. Interface among major academic disciplines with rational approaches are the need of hour, though in the present scenario the chances of which are minimal, considering the prevailing static appetite on Research and Development in the stream of humanities. Even more pathetically, there is no longer a mass women’s movement in India or abroad.

There are many organisations working for women’s equality in the public and private arena. But, where there were once women’s organisations with large participatory memberships, there are now bureaucratic structures run by the closed groups. Feminist theory, once provocative and freewheeling, has lost concern with the conditions of women’s lives and has become pretentious and tired. This raises two questions—why is there so little discussion of the near disappearance of a movement that not so long ago was strong enough to bring about major changes in the social and cultural landscape?; what are the causes of
the movement’s decline?

The causes of the decline of these movements are more complicated than can be dealt with by circling the wagons. Neo-theocratic attacks have played a role in damaging some feminist projects, such as abortion rights, but the overall decline of the women’s movement has much more to do with a loss of a sense of urgency to cope with such maliciously inserted mandates.

Over the past few decades, progress has been felt for Indian women’s movements, but the overall actual state of affairs is far from desirable results. Mostly, women’s organisations are dominated by the power-groomed elites, and normally keep it away from bottom-level complications, which the vast majority in
India faces in day-to-day life. This book has specialties in this regard—historical interpretation of women’s movements along with aiming the further constructive course makes the work worthwhile for reading and getting noticed as the reference for introducing new policy measures. Maitrayee Chaudhuri has followed the events very cautiously and equally delineated them with care and precision that gives a valuable edge in favour of her deserving book. This book is worthy for readers and equally for bright book stakes…such things happen rarely in academic writing!
Atul Kumar Thakur
November 5, 2011, Saturday, New Delhi
(Published in Social Change-A journal of Council for Social Development and Sage Publications, June 2012)

Shades of Globalisation!

Book Review: Non-fiction/Understanding Globalisation and Emerging India by Anand Kumar, Palm Leaf Publications/2011, 276 pp; Rs995 {Hardback}
There are countless views on global dissemination of ideas which aims for uniformisation of trade, services etc. The much celebrated term “Globalisation” is still acquiring attention and it’s not without some valid reasons. Initial and foremost, the South Asian region as big market is catching the attention of strong global capital that’s altering many home grown wisdom in the region practiced through the ages. India, with its market friendly democracy and a sizable consuming population is the prime mover of consumerist aspirations. A close look on these changes easily enables to see the huge mismatch that’s being consolidated in the name of constructive “market reform”. Both China and India has its own lapses in their original framework while dealing with the moves of global trade integration. So on policy front, arrival and mushrooming of modern globalisation is still not less than enigma.

This book is spread into three parts. First part deals with the general aspects of globalisation though ends up without adding anything substantial in the contemporary discourse over pros and cons of free trade/uniform lifestyle. Second part that co-incidentally also justifies the title of book revolves around India’s involvement with globalisation and its implications. Prof. Anand Kumar has presented his views in academic fashion and slipped on many occasions to cover this very important issue with much needed distinctness. Third part is little bit promising with heavily inserting “Gandhism” in the greedy globalisation debate; unfortunately reprisal of fundamentals from Gandhism hardly gives readers the joy anticipated with this book. Ironical to see, an academic from institution of repute chasing hyped and already covered observations like the real gains. This rejects the predominant beliefs that were in favour of academic intellectuals. Every year, a large number of serious works being done on various subjects and remarkably most of the authors have not even had the remote affiliation with the universities. This notion will be soon agreeable, if the academic masters will not start writing books for people…absolutely, dark corner of book stakes only should be the secondary target!

On the similar theme, there is need for indepth works with analyzing India’s own position vis-à-vis free trade and its viability under the basic mainline of democratic polity. As a nation, India has moved up in last six decades albeit it would be rash observation if believe that India’s “tryst with destiny” can be halted now. Idea of India must be in rock solid state, by which this nation will catch its making sound.

In last two decades, Indian economy has scaled up high through its consistent alignment with the market led reform. It’s also true that in some areas, regulation have worked well-financial sector is one of the case but not completely. There is no reason, why India should not follow its own model of regulated reform in the time ahead, the stress on regulated economic model in crisis ridden Europe further strengthening India’s indigenous model of economic policy.

Globalisation leads to multifaceted changes in economy/society/culture/politics etc, so reckoning its nuances is very essential for the concerned participants and enthusiasts. India as rising power is in need to understand the globalisation in proper way-China has done significantly in this regard, though without openness. The debate on globalisation should be in balanced pace, it’s not surpassable in any manner and lackluster academic works will make no sense in further cases!
Atul Kumar Thakur
November 5, 2011, Saturday, New Delhi

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Incorrigible Impressions!

Book Review: Non-fiction/Beyond the Crisis State,Edited by Maleeha Lodhi, Rupa Publications/2011, 391 pp; Rs495 {Hardback}
Maleeha Lodhi, a seasoned diplomat and journalist from Pakistan has presented an out of box thinking on her crisis ridden nation. Barring few, the total seventeen essays of this book introduces the readers to an alternative side of Pakistan, which is more humane and less skewed. In the beginning, Ayesha Jalal gives a very fair historical narration of Pakistan through her piece/ The Past as Present…she on her level best proved again that free voices are mean for free flow. Next essay/ Why Jinnah Matters by Akber Ahmed is the single biggest blunder of this book…his relying on Jinnah’s virulent ideas stands against the idea of this anthology. Feroze Hassan Khan’s Pakistan as a nuclear State, Munir Akram’s Reversing Strategic ‘Shrinkage’ and The India Factor by Syed Rifaat Hussain disappoints with the surprising assertion of stereo typed misconceptions that have been dampening factors for Pakistan as a modern nation state.

The lead essay written by Maleeha succeeded to form a new kind of overview on Pakistan where emphasis have accorded to the areas hitherto been neglected in the realm of social research and even literature. Rest essays are routes through similar conceptions and highlight another face of Pakistan, beyond its notorious feudal structure and undefined democracy. Stress on the untapped or under tapped potential of Pakistan’s economy and its elite educated middle class reminds that all the Pakistani’s are not in romance with “enigma of terror”, rather they are closer to the reality and aspiring for a life based on well searched trajectories. This optimism is incorrigible, even though it manifests the will of a chunk of Pakistan’s population that’s sophisticated and knows the plight of living in anti-modern political/military climax!

Sixty-four years back, Lord Mountbatten accomplished the India’s brutal division on communal line and placing the contemporary political action in the desired cage of hibernation and reactionism. The immediate fallouts came with a toll of life around half million people and civilisations most traumatic human displacement that permanently fixed the hatredness as a central locale in South Asia. An ill conceived nation, Pakistan, even damned its self more in the further course with consistent military misrules and inconsistent democratic interventions. Idea of economy and human developments were backyarded for engaging India in strategic race…all that have been happening at the cost of undermining India’s vibrant fundamentals and its voyage as a nation in making with impressive economies of scale.

This book atleast shows the way, where to make changes that can reestablished the confidence of those citizens who weighs normally more than the cacophony of rulers with no moral ground. Most of the contributors of this work have international recognition in their own sphere, so sharing of candid ideas will be sure proliferate rational understanding on Pakistan. Ahead, the discourse should be lead to a point, where apart from middle class, the will of higher and bottom classes could be judged through an optimum standard-democracy or destabilization? Pakistan must have to follow a normal path instead being a wayward wayfarer of China, as U.S has already started displaying its maximum apathy to Pakistan’s perilous dualism on terrorism…also noticeably, China should not be expected to eclipse the strategic dominance of U.S in short or medium run. This time, Pakistan is at the crossroad and has no pathfinder that could show it the way of course correction…like a nasty teenager, unwillingly but finally Pakistan has to be fit with a universally acceptable character. Integrated worlds demand it and Pakistan can’t show any more hitches on behavioural side.

Though implicitly, voices heard from this book streamlines the Pakistan’s potential ideal agenda by following the path of progress and targeting the goal of human development over the foolish programming of bomb and weaponry maximization. Besides, there is also no reason, why Pakistan can’t engage India as the most essential ally…alone a progress on this particular issue will solve the sizable adversities of Pakistan. Delinking from Kashmir and trustable partnership with the neighbours will give Pakistan a prominent position in the subcontinent and that will be millionth time better than the parasiteness on U.S dollars. Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State, is a forceful intervention for much needed change to the betterment of ongoing suffering prospects in the backdrop of Pakistan’s incessant misadventures with its basic existence. Pakistan and the world together, should admit that the incubation of terror always pays dividend and obviously in very bad and high scale. Optimism for ones nation is fine enough, so shall be the following actions…ahead of lip services!
Atul Kumar Thakur
October 25, 2011, New Delhi