India: Everything to Play For

October 17, 2007

All the business newspapers (links: Mint, Business Standard) are shagging over the Lehman Brothers report titled India: Everything to Play For. The report says that India’s GDP can grow at 10% a year for the next ten years, given the right reforms.

I’m about halfway through the report, and I have to say this: it’s awful.

The report reminds me of the draft Strategy term papers we submitted for the midterm review back in first year at IIMB. Our profs then abused each and every group for doing nothing but pulling in factoids and graphs from every analyst report we could lay our hands on, and not doing any analysis or linking of concepts of our own.

This report is very similar. The people who wrote it don’t seem to have met a factoid or a graph they don’t love. They’ve dumped in stuff from Pavan K Varma’s Being Indian, other stuff from the Tarapore Committee report, and even quoted a Hindustan Times real estate supplement. They have done some statistical analysis of their own, but that particular analysis seems to just float in space. It doesn’t serve as either a premise, or a conclusion or an intermediate step.

This has just gone on and on for seventy pages (I have a hundred more to get through). Each page contains a diagram or fact which is very interesting by itself, but there seems to be no actual analysis which shows how that fact or diagram supports the assertion made in the first chapter that the Indian economy can grow beyond 10% on a sustained basis.

There are also appalling non-sequiturs. Like the claim that the growth of the Indian telecom industry is illustrated by Nokia putting up its handset factory near Chennai in only five months. Completing a factory in five months can be taken as evidence of better construction techniques, or project management, or even the virtues of prefabricated sheds. But how does it demonstrate telecom growth? And why talk about Nokia’s factory when you could just show subscriber numbers (actually, they have shown those also. Which just increases my suspicion that they’ve thrown in every factoid they could find.)?

I suspect I’m particularly irritated by this report because I already know most of the factoids they’ve thrown in. Unlike the Percy Mistry report, there are no explosive new and big ideas. Hell, even Goldman Sachs’ BRICs report pointed out that India could push up its GDP growth rate by 2.5% over the existing rate with a set of five key reform measures (can’t recall the exact details now, might update the post with links later). This feeling will probably be shared by everyone who watches the Indian economy regularly. On the other hand, the CEOs and Heads of Strategy who aren’t familiar about the ‘India story’ and who get their fundaes on it from this report will probably go orgasmic over it.

A final point: The report is stored in a section of Lehman’s website called ‘Our Intellectual Capital’. Given how there’s so little original research and so many borrowed factoids in the report, Lehman’s intellectual capital seems to be more debt than equity. The investment banking strategy of high leverage seems to have spread over to their research divisions as well.


October 16, 2007

The UPA has blamed the BJP for not doing enough to prevent terrorist attacks in the states it rules.

This explains it. The Hyderabad blasts took place because the BJP is in power in Andhra Pradesh. Likewise, Mumbai-July-11 took place under the BJP’s watch. Sheila Dixit was out of power on October 26 in Delhi.

(This shouldn’t be taken as an endorsement of BJP governments, which bloody well should have been doing more. But adages about pots and kettles, and motes in eyes come to mind.)

On Commentary

October 10, 2007

I’m busy these days making November’s Open Quiz, writing an article for Pragati, house-hunting, putting scissors, and yes, working. So I don’t have the time to write serious, funda-based posts. What you get instead is me mocking young Shivam Vij.

Young Shivam Vij has started a series of posts called ‘Self Fashioning‘ where he copy-pastes what people have written about themselves without offering any commentary.

Given that when he does comment, he says things like:

To speak what few dare to, to continuously be the madman in the accidents deaths of anarchists – that’s why I so religiously follow Arundhati Roy’s polemics.

the lack of commentary is probably for the best.

And he follows her polemics religiously? But wait! Wasn’t he an atheist? Oh, I get it now. It’s a metaphor only when he uses it.

CPI (M): Learning is Bad

September 5, 2007

According to Prakash Karat, the joint naval exercise with the US harms India’s sovereignity.

The opportunity to learn from the world’s most powerful navy harms our sovereignity.

The insights we get into naval warfare harm our sovereignity.

The goodwill we will build with major world powers harms our sovereignity.

The recognition of India as a regional power with a stake in ensuring the security of shipping lanes harms our sovereignity.

The only way to preserve our sovereignity is to hand our domestic and foreign policy over to a bunch of traitors who’re hellbent on stalling economic progress and who have a track record of supporting the country we’re at war with.

If you repeat a divine argument enough, it becomes true.

About Composite Culture

May 14, 2007

Jaffna has a post on the Left and it’s role in Indian history education (link via Varnam).

This reminds me of my experience in Class 7, where we used the NCERT textbook on medieval India. History classes mostly consisted of reading the textbook aloud. So eventually we got to a point where my teacher was reading aloud about how the Islamic invasions of India had led to cultural interchange as India absorbed Turkish and Persian influences in architecture and culture.

So I lifted my hand and pointed out that interchange meant that the other culture also absorbed influences, so what did India contribute to Persia and Turkey? At which my history teacher looked flummoxed and gave a confused reply.

I was twelve years old, so I wasn’t really trying to put Hindutva fundaes in the classroom. And it doesn’t even prove that whoever was writing the textbook (I think it was Bipin Das) had an Islamic bias- just that he (or the NCERT editor) was sloppy with language.

Ahem. But there’s still a sin of omission we have to deal with.

Let’s  accept the Leftist position that the Persian and Turkish invasions eventually led to a Muslim-Hindu composite culture. Yes, it may have come only after the invaders destroyed major existing cultural centres. and it may have been restricted to the nobility, but it was created and it was a good thing.

But if composite culture is such a good thing, why do the NCERT textbooks maintain such a deafening silence on composite culture created through peaceful processes?

From Class 6 to Class 10, the NCERT textbooks never mentioned the spread of a Buddhist-Hindu composite culture in South East Asia and Indochina through the Srivjayan Empire, driven more by traders and missionaries than by armies and navies. We get to know that there was a Roman trading outpost near Pondicherry, but we never learn that the outpost was there to trade spices, and the impact of the spice trade on the kingdoms of Kerala. Or about how Indian and Arabic shipbuilding techniques were exchanged across the Arabian sea along with Indian teakwood and how that contributed to the development of seafaring. And if I recall correctly, Bodhidharma’s journey to China, which is the origin of such rich seams of folklore, was never mentioned at all. I had to learn about all these things ten years later in quizzes and books (including this wonderful one by John Keay).

The Class VIII textbook (Modern India) was positively shy about the composite culture created by British colonisation (okay, to be fair, it was written by someone else). No mention of how Indian words swamped English, how Indian haircare and cuisine entered Great Britain, and on the long term cultural impacts of British technology transfers.

And in all this discussion, there’s no mention of composite culture in the current context- and how technology, trade and globalisation create new composite cultures faster than ever before – and do so without military campaigns or vandalising existing cultural structures. Nothing demonstrates that concept better, really, than the YouTube video below:

It’s almost as if our eminent historians prefer invasions and plunder to trade.

Why I Hate Children’s Theatre Groups

April 14, 2007

Because they are pretentious arseholes who take themselves too seriously.

Look at this.


I ask you, is it possible for anybody to look more earnest and meaningful and yet completely clueless without being a cow? Not that there’s anything wrong with that. What really gets my goat is this: Chilsag In Education.

Puke. Puke. Puke. And let me just say this:

Chilsag in Education! Yeah right! Ooh, we’re so good with kids! Ooh, we build self-confidence! Ooh, we help kids become expressive! Faak you! Your constant meddling is the cause of all suffering. If you left them alone, kids would become quizzers, and attain merit in this life, and be reincarnated as Aiyars. When you corral them into theatre, it’s the exact opposite. They become gay hippies in this life and regress to Bongs in the next.

(Note: Evam is an exception for two reasons: they are Sista’s juniors, and they have Karuna Amarnath)

Managing Contradictions

January 28, 2007

If there is one thing that has to be said for Indian Communists, it is this: they know how to deal with internal contradictions that would make other peoples’ heads explode.

I’m not taking about ‘privatization is good for Bengal but not for India’. That’s just administration, and is hardly important. Contradictions in that hardly make a difference. No, I’m talking about the important stuff. Ideological contradictions.

Do you remember the APJ Abdul Kalam election? The Communists had opposed Kalam at that time, saying that it would be a bad idea diplomatically to have a President who had run India’s nucear program. Then, with stunning irony-deficiency, they put up their own candidate: Captain Lakshmi Sahgal, formerly of the Indian National Army, a guerilla group which had fought against the British Indian Army alongside the Japanese Army during World War II- which was legally treason and effectively terrorism. Chew on how that would go down diplomatically.

But the stunner is not just in the irony deficiency. It’s that the Communists, who normally shag over China and all its doings, and plea for China to be given a special status are hand-in-glove with the remnants of the All-India Forward Bloc, the remnants of the Indian National Army- the ally of the Japanese army which conducted the Rape of Nanjing, used the Chinese as slaves, and conducted human rights abuses which make the Gujrat riots look like a pleasant day trip. So much so that the Chinese are still using them to whip up nationalistic fervour.

In a rational world, you’d expect the Indian Communists to be at least embarassed about the association with the AIFB. But no, they’ve had them in the Left Front coalition for years now. You have to applaud the way they deal with contradictions.


January 22, 2007

What the fuck is wrong people who spend a Sunday in Bangalore going to a Virat Hindu Samaj Utsav of all things. This, when they could be shopping. Or going to Lalbagh. Or even staying at home wanking. Eejits.

The Lighter Side of Linguistic Chauvinism

January 16, 2007

Oh, this is hilarious. A couple of months ago, when I first landed up in Bangalore, some bugger had been putting up Tamil nationalist graffiti all over Bangalore. The two main graffiti were ‘Read sacred Thirukural first and then Da Vinci Code’ and ‘India recognise Tamil Eelam – an Hindu country’. Nobody knew who the hell was doing it, and the local Tamil Sabha or suchlike said that they wern’t behind it, but that they were in full agreement and sympathy with the mysterious graffitist. Actually when it comes to reading the Thirukural before ‘The Da Vinci Code’ even I am in agreement with the chap. But I digress.

The twist in the tale came today when I went for lunch. One of the graffitos was actually right opposite the Adigas I go to. And some enterprising KT1 had altered it to his own purposes- by scraping off ‘Tamil’ and writing ‘Kannada’ in its place.

Meme Hack!

I’m still trying to decide whether this is unmitigated brilliance or unmitigated cheapness. On the one hand, making your regional and linguistic rivals2 do all the dirty work, and then making only the bare minimum changes so that your pet political cause is advertised instead should be applauded for its audacity. On the other hand, if you’re serious about your own nation state, resorting to such half measures is not the done thing. You should be whitewashing the first offending graffito and then writing your own. Especially because in this case the scraping hasn’t been done perfectly, and the ‘L’ of ‘Tamil’ is still visible, making the whole thing look like ‘Kannal Nation’. Which actually puts me in mind of ‘Kannalanae‘.

1‘Kannada Types’, for the uninitiated.
2The KT-Tam conflict is over too many issues to mention, but the most prominent ones are the distribution of Cauvery river water, the proper size of a coffee tumbler, whether Bangalore or Chennai is the quizzing capital of India3, and whether Rajnikanth is KT or Tam.
In their hearts, the Tams know that it is Bangalore. Which is why they want to annex it.

A Sad and Pathetic Man

October 17, 2006

Dilip D’Souza has given me some advice. He says that making snide remarks leads to your own argument losing credibility, not the other person’s argument.

Well, I am glad to see that DDD has finally realised this. I suppose the realisation came to him after he was thulped all around for making snide comments and mocking Ravikiran’s post on incest. True, there were no comments about anatomy in specific, but trying to lampoon a post without even reading it or understanding the context it came from is pretty snide. DDD didn’t even notice the first paragraph in which Ravikiran mentioned he was responding to a question. He just had his bitchy little response up within twenty four hours. Yes, a clear case of responding to arguments rather than to people.

Oh, DDD defended himself. He said it was so pompous that it just cried out to be mocked. But this was the same man who a few months earlier had written that he would advise his friends to avoid mockery and insults if they ever came up with something like the Danish Mohammed cartoons. Our man evidently has different standards for his friends and for himself. Or different standards for prophets and bloggers. And if it’s printed in the Hindustan Times or Mid-Day, it’s always fair game for mockery.

You’d think that a fifty year old man would be mature enough to realise when he’s being inconsistent. To ‘learn from doubt’. But DDD is far too engrossed in persecution complexes and paranoia for that. Let’s not forget that this is a man who finds it bizarre when people ask him which magazines publish what he writes.

Dilip, before you start spewing homilies about learning from doubt, look in the mirror. Have you learnt anything from being unanimously criticised for calling a rant ‘fine journalism’? Have you learnt anything from being criticised all around for making emotional arguments that fly in the face of the facts? Have you learnt anything from all the commenters who complain that nine times out of ten you’ll answer questions with other questions or answers that bear no rellation? That’s not even learning from doubt, that’s learning from in-your-face feedback.

You’re a sad and pathetic man, Dilip. Don’t lecture me.