- My Jet Airways Citbank Card finally came of some use and I used miles accumulated since 2007 to get myself a return ticket to Bombay where I attended the NiTyaGu wedding. Regrettably, Airport Development Fees and Congestion Charges cannot be paid for by miles.
- When introducting Konnect, Jet Airways seems to have forgotten to make provision for it in the frequent flier program. It takes as many miles to redeem a full-service ticket as a Konnect ticket. Naturally I booked full-service tickets.
- Having a full fare ticket allowed me to finally enter the Jet Airways lounge at Chennai. Alas, the lounge has no wifi, is slightly dirty, and while I was there had not only hyperactive kids but a Malaysian couple who fought over the guy tying his shoe instead of listening to the girl. The guy then made the girl cry. Am I the only person who notices these bizarre domestic disputes?
- Having a full-fare ticket also meant I got to watch 30 Rock on the inflight entertainment system (Nishit D and PGK, please note). Also, two episodes of Sarabhai v/s Sarabhai.
- Apropos of inflight entertainment systems, now that K Maran has taken over Spice Jet and is going to rename it Sun Airways, will it start offering Sun TV as inflight entertainment? If this is too expensive for a low cost carrier, will it just play Kalaignar’s poetry on the PA system? Will Azhagiri now buy Go Air in retaliation? These are burning questions.
- Bloomberg UTV has hoardings up all over Mumbai claiming to be blunt, and sharp. It is clearly the Schroedinger’s cat of Indian broadcasting. That means that if anybody actually watches it, it will collapse.
- Speaking of hoardings, I did not see a single hoarding or OOH banner that referred to the football world cup while in Bombay. I fear its obsession with Indian celebrities is now crowding out everything else.
- The banana lassi at Theobroma is awesome.
- Theobroma is now offering to courier its brownies anywhere in India. Unfortunately payment can be made only at Mumbai. This makes it useful as a gifting option where the gifter is in Mumbai, but is pretty useless if you’re in Kanchipuram and want to order. This week I shall call the Colaba outlet and ask if they’ll take payment by EFT.
- Kodhi made me (and others) watch the 90210 season two finale. This led to consequences that are too scandalous to discuss outside a W-File. Unfortunately, I am not going to start writing the next W-File until at least July.
- The grub at the Rajdhani in Oberoi Mall was seriously good. In fact, the khichdi, kadi, and jalebis were themselves worth the price of the whole thali.
- I met PGK at the reception. Like Sreesanth, he is a personable young man. Unlike Sreesanth, he is not Mallu.
- TamBrahm weddings are like ERP implementations.
- Sambhar in Chembur continues to rock.
- My Jet Airways Citibank Card also came in useful at Mumbai airport, where I got complimentary access to the lounge, which didn’t even care what my ticket was. Unfortunately, the lounge is only marginally less noisy than the public seating area, so I shifted there. Oh sigh.
- A lounge that banned children would be quite excellent. To fend of accusations of elitism and child-hatred from mommybloggers, it could accomplish this by serving alcohol and barring entry to anybody less than 18 years old. I am still not sure how it could get rid of other annoying guests, like the ones who loudlly discuss compensation schemes on their blackberries. Tchah.
- The wifi in Mumbai airport was down and didn’t start working until it was almost boarding time. I will have to add the appropriate tags to this post later, when I get home. Also, the wifi is only free for ten minutes. Oh sigh.
Notes From My Bombay TripJune 21, 2010
Subprime BorrowingJune 21, 2009
It all started because the UPA government was embarassed by Sainath blasting them for privatising Neyveli Lignite Corporation while farmers were dying in Vidarbha. They decided to show that they were doing something, so they passed a law making moneylending illegal and imposed stiff penalties on anybody who was collecting debts without a banking or chit fund license.
Unfortunately they didn’t count on Sweety Singh. Sweety Singh was rich, unemployed, always ready to stir up trouble, and enjoyed filing frivolous PILs. Once the bill had passed into law, he appeared before the Hyderabad High Court. In his affidavit to the court, Sweety claimed that he was appearing on behalf of a young man called Balaji Venkateswara who had a few millenia ago taken a loan from a moneylender called Kubera, and that Kubera was harassing Balaji for interest repayments to this day. Sweety claimed that Kubera had used most of the dirty tricks in the subprime lenders’ books – resetting interest rates, taking interest only payments and not letting the principal balance be paid down, and allowing negative equity – the loan had been taken for wedding expenses, and not the purchase of an asset.
To Sweety’s own great surprise, the High Court admitted the case and issued a show cause notice to the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam Trust, asking why it should not be charged with illegal moneylending and harassment of borrowers. Things got complicated because the TTD trustees were actually appointed by the Andhra Pradesh government. YS Reddy immediately announced that the trustees would be sacked and that the hundi collections at Tirupati would be diverted to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund instead of going to pay interest to Kubera.
Naturally, there was a huge uproar. Hindus were aghast at this attack on tradition. Hindutvawadis alleged that YSR was doing this because he was a Christian and that the whole thing was a plot by Sonia Gandhi and the Catholic Church. In his Rediff column, Rajeev Srinivasan announced that the Indian cricket team’s latest series defeat was because of the attempt to seize the hundi collections. Because it was a rediff column, the commenters further suggested that it was a Chinese and Pakistani conspiracy – that is, the ones who weren’t bitching about how smelly Gults were. Murli Manohar Joshi was thrilled and mounted a simultaneous rath yatra and campaign for the BJP leadership. The whole nation was so preoccupied by the crisis that the news channels even stopped running stories about boys who fell down wells.
Finally the crisis was resolved by a young summer intern at Citi called Savitha Sundaram. By this time, the situation at Citi was so bad that senior managers actually had time to read their interns’ reports. When Savitha’s line manager read her report, he realised that it was a work of genius and worked madly to get her plan approved and implemented.
Two weeks later, Citi announced that it would be buying the original debt from Kubera. As a bank, it was entirely legal for it to lend money and collect debts from Balaji Venkateswara. Moreover, since Venkateswara was clearly a subprime borrower who hadn’t repaid the principal for centuries, the debt could be acquired for paise on the rupee. Vikram Pandit presented a cheque for 1 rupee to the Srilakshmi Kuberar temple in Ratnamangalam and so acquired the loan. Citi then created yet another CDO, this one with the hundi collections at Tirupati as the underlying, and sold it back to TTD.
The Tirupati temple kept getting the money from the hundi collections without actually being responsible for collecting on the debt, and the Andhra Pradesh government was no longer in the embarassing position of breaking the moneylending law. Citi also charged the temple a very minute fee on all the cash that poured through. It was less than 0.1%, but Tirupati got so much money that Citi flourished. Moreover, the value of the cash flows was enough to bring its balance sheet back to health, and it started repaying TARP money.
In this way Savitha Sundaram and Sanatan Dharam saved global capitalism.