Sunday, November 19, 2006

Savings is Sin , Spending is Virtue

A friend of mine, from walchand yahoo group site posted this interesting article written by an Indian Economist.

I found it very amusing yet apt and releavant in many situations.

Japanese save a lot. They do not spend much. Also Japan exports far more than it imports. Has an annual trade surplus of over 100 billions. Yet Japanese economy is considered weak, even collapsing. Americans spend, save little. Also US imports is more than it exports. It has an annual trade deficit of over$400 billion. Yet, the American economy is considered strong and trusted to get stronger.
But where from do Americans get money to spend?
They borrow from Japan, China and even India.Virtually others save for the US to spend. Global savings are mostly invested in US, in dollars. India itself keeps its foreign currency assets of over$50 billions in US securities. China has sunk over$160 billion in US securities. Japan's stakes in US securities is in trillions.
Result : The US has taken over $5 trillion from the world. So, as the world saves for the US, Americans spend freely.Today, to keep the US consumption going, that is for the US economy to work, other countries have to remit $180 billion every quarter, which is $2 billion a day,to the US! Otherwise the US economy would go for a six. So will the global economy.The result will be no different if US consumers beginconsuming less.
A Chinese economist asked a neat question. Who has invested more, US in China, or China in US? The US has invested in China less than half of what China has invested in US. The same is the case with India. India has invested inUS over $50 billion. But the US has invested less than$20 billion in India.
Why the world is after US?
The secret lies in the American spending, that they hardly save. In fact they use their credit cards to spend their future income. That the US spends is whatmakes it attractive to export to the US. So US imports more than what it exports year after year.
The result : The world is dependent on US consumption for itsgrowth. By its deepening culture of consumption, theUS has habituated the world to feed on US consumption.But as the US needs money to finance its consumption,the world provides the money.
It's like a shopkeeper providing the money to a customer so that the customer keeps buying from the shop. If the customer will not buy, the shop won't have business, unless the shopkeeper funds him. The US is like the lucky customer. And the world is like thehelpless shopkeeper financier. Who is America's biggest shopkeeper financier? Japan of course. Yet it's Japan which is regarded as weak.Modern economists complain that Japanese do not spend, so they do not grow.
To force the Japanese to spend,the Japanese government exerted it self, reduced the savings rates, even charged the savers. Even then the Japanese did not spend (habits don't change, even with taxes, do they?). Their traditional postal savings alone is over $1.2 trillions, about three times the Indian GDP. Thus, savings, far from being the strength of Japan, has become its pain. Hence, what is the lesson?That is, a nation cannot grow unless the people spend,not save. Not just spend, but borrow and spend.
Dr.Jagdish Bhagwati, the famous Indian-born economist inthe US, told Manmohan Singh that Indians wastefully save. Ask them to spend, on imported cars and, seriously, even on cosmetics! This will put India on a growth curve. "Saving is sin, and spending is virtue."
But before you follow this neo economics, get some fools to save so that you can borrow from them and spend!!!
p. s : I see many young Indians follow US example. They spend through credit cards, when limit of one credit card gets over, they switch to another. As they get defaulted, credit company cancels the card and files a suit in the court. They hope to get the due setlled or wait years for settlement. Most white good sellers offer defereed payement for all expensive gadgets, Banks offer instant loan without any scrutiny. Are we following US way ? If so, with 1 Billion population, our spending curve would be more steeper than US. But would the world pour money in Reserve Bank securities ? Else, we would be another latin american company who spend, enjoy by borrowing money from world bank. When time comes to repay, they default!! Then they devaluate their currency to make exports attractive and borrow more money to fund . Cycle goes on. Spending continues, merry making never stops.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Traffic and Bribe

Around the same week, when President A P J Abdul Kalam was inaugurating a two-day conference of senior officials and heads of anti corruption wings , I was witnessing traffic policemen collecting his ‘hafta’ (share of bribe!) at the traffic signal opposite President Kalam’s official residence.

This traffic signal stands at cross roads of Vijay Path (a road the leads from Presidents’ palace to India Gate) and road that lead to Parliament. This is no ordinary traffic signal or pole but a singular small light that it put on the top on the dome of the permanent stand kept in the middle of this large intersection. This funny, obscure signal light is known only to regular delhites but those who are visitors to Delhi become a victim of the traffic violation. On weekday, visitor is protected by cars ahead that stop seeing the signal but on weekend or holiday, the place is barren- visitors come to see the grandeur of President Palace, Vijay Path and India Gate. Traffic Policeman sets his bait hiding behind the back of the yellow barricades that are lined on the one side of the street- looking for gullible drivers that violate the signal.

I had watched this incident many times- when I was in Delhi. This time, poor driver of rent car became a victim. I am amazed by the change of verbal tone and delivery of the policeman once he accepts his bribe. Initially, he is all upright, demanding licenses, car registration papers, admonishing the driver of reckless driving and threatening him of importance of driving in VIP area but once he collects his bribe – his tone becomes conciliatory. He sympathizes with driver, asks him to be careful next time and even wishes him a warm goodbye.

Delhi Traffic Police website http://www.delhitrafficpolice.nic.in and
Indian driving schools website http://www.indiandrivingschools.com both mention the violation fines for jumping the signal is Rs 100. But I am told that if driver were not to offer a bribe –he would have to surrender the license to traffic policeman and then report to the court at appointed date, pay the fine and recover his license from the department. All this is nothing but waste of time, money and peace of mind. In the end, violator puts the same money in the pocket of policeman at the expense of national exchequer.

President Kalam in his keynote address advocated use of e governance to root out the corruption menace and cited the Delhi metro rail system and online railway reservation system as examples of good governance. Delhi Traffic police too can implement something similar ways to collect the fines in simpler way.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Birth Anniversary of Pu La - Marathi legend

Today is Pu La's birth anniversary. I accidently happened to notice it while surfing the site
पु. ल. देशपांडे a site dedicated to Pu La Deshpande.

I reproduce below one his speech 'sujan ho' taken from मराठी साहित्य that reflects his philosophy towards life in succinct manner.

'सुजनहो' या त्यांच्या भाषणांच्या संग्रहातून घेतलेला हा एक उतारा --भारतीय संस्कृती म्हणा किंवा माणसाची संस्कृती म्हणा, दोन गोष्टींवर अधिष्ठित आहे, असं मला वाटतं. एक म्हणजे आठवड्याचा बाजार आणि एक वर्षाचा उत्सव. आठवड्याचा बाजार हा तुमच्या शरीराच्या ज्या गरजा आहेत, त्या पुरवण्यासाठी असतो; आणि वर्षाचा उत्सव तुमच्या मनाच्या ज्या गरजा आहेत, त्या पुरवण्यासाठी असतो. एक फार सुंदर चिनी म्हण आहे. त्यांनी म्हटलेलं आहे की, 'तुम्हांला दोन पैसे मिळाले, तर एका पैशाचे धान्य आणा, आणि एक पैशाचं फूल आणा. एक पैशाचं धान्य तुम्हांला जगवेल आणि फूल तुम्हांला कशासाठी जगायचं हे कारण सांगेल.' संगीत तुम्हांला, का जगायचं याचं कारण सांगतं. तुम्हांला जगायचं आहे कशासाठी? मला मोगूबाई ऐकायच्या आहेत, मला भीमसेन ऐकायचे आहेत, मला किशोरीबाई ऐकायच्या आहेत, मला दीनानाथांचं गाणं ऐकायचं आहे. याच्यासाठी जगायचंय. सगळ्या कलांचा आनंद घ्यायचाय. मराठीमध्ये, आपल्या भाषेमध्ये, तो शब्दसुद्धा तसाच हवा. आपण पोटासाठी जे काही करतो, त्याला 'उपजीविका' म्हणतात. ती 'जीविका' नाही. जीविका कशासाठी? तर चित्रकलेसाठी, आनंदासाठी, अभिनयासाठी, नर्तनसाठी. यासाठी जगणं ही खरी जीविका आहे आणि ती जीविका कलावंत माणसं देत असतात, म्हणून त्यांचे हे उपकार.
You may call it an Indian Culture or Humanity. I feel, it is based on two premises. First – weekely mundane grocery purchase and second annual festivities. Weekly groceries fulfills body needs and Yeraly festivities satiate mind needs.There is a nice proverb in chinese : It says, if you have two penny , buy foodgrain from one and flower from another. Foodgrain purchased from the first penny will make you survive and flower will teach you the reason for your existance. For me, Music guides me the reason to live. I want to listen to great singers Mogubai Kurdikar, Kishori Amonkar, Dinanath Mangeshkar. For their music, I want to live. I want to enjoy the beauty of the creative arts. Whatever we do to fulfill the hunger pangs is existance and not living –for me, living means appreciation of paintings, acting, dancing and joyful happiness. Living a life means embodiment of happiness within oneself and this is real life living and all creative artists have enabled me to enjoy this life. I shall always remain indebted to them

Brabourn Stadium



Seeing Brabourn stadium in Champions trophy brought memories of my early days of seeing live cricket matches. My first experience was Mumbai v/s Baroda. Mumbai team had Ajit Wadekar, Dilip Sardesai, Ajit Pai, Saeed Hathia. On that day, Baroda opted to bat and Vijay Bhosle scored a century. My second match was West Zone v/s South Zone Duleep trophy final. West Zone started with Niranjan Shah, Madhu Gupte followed by Ajit Wadekar, Dilip Sardesai, Vijay Bhosle, Ashok Mankad, Ajit Pai. South had Jayantilal, Govindraj, Krishnamurthi etc. Ajit Wadekar would get the rousing welcome he would enter to bat one down. In later years, Sunil Gavaskar, Sandip Patil and Sachin Tendulkar got similar applause. I remember a catch of the bowling of Govindraj. Second slip fielder dived and scooped the ball up, first slip fielder lifted it up and the ball was caught by the wicketkeeper. Kulkarni brothers – Vijay and Sunil, our second floor neighbour in Govt colony – both ardent cricket fans and players took me both times to Brabourn stadium.

My first experience of watching test match was India v/s England, not from Brabourn Stadium but from office balcony that was behind the East stand. The funny part was we could only see half the ground – thankfully pitch was included. So when bowler bowled from Churchgate end, we could see only off side. From Pavilion end, it would be on side that was visible. I think that was the match – when Captain of MCC cricket team – Tony Lewis got out on the first ball of the innings by Abid Ali. The whole stadium stood out in eruption. Salim Durani was another batsman who would host sixes on public demand. Those were also the days if Chandrasekhar could survive one ball while batting, everyone would applause.

Vijay Merchant, Suresh Sariyya and Anant Setalwad were one of the finest commentators that I have heard alongwith Bobby Talyarkhan as an expert commentator. My grandfather would eulogise Booby Talyarkhan. He would also appear on TV on weekend but with my primitive English skills, I hardly understood what he said with his thick eyeglasses while scratching his beard. But he sounded someone real great. He would always address Kapil as Nikhanj. Somehow, Nikhanj sounded aggressive than Kapil. Raju Bharatan came later but he was too fast for to me comprehend. I liked the trio of merchant, Sariyya and Setalwad. They had charming voice and sounded very sweet. There would always be Anandji Dosa who would provide statistics. In Marathi, it was Bal Pandit.

Those days, cricket spectators would comprise mainly Marathi guys from middle and lower middle class locality and old retired Parsee men. Parsee’s would possess binoculars but would not hesitate to give to small Marathi kids who would be accompanied by their dads. Everyone would spread newspaper on those wooden benches that would run from one gate to another. As soon as people would enter stadium, everyone would run to be at the west stand – right above the pitch to get a glimpse of swinging ball. When a fielder would stop the ball in covers or throw the ball over stumps, appreciative spectators would applause. That was the time I could hear dads telling their kids that this fielding was nothing compared to Tiger Patuadi and Rusi Surti- yester year cricketers. Parsee on the other side would nod and chuckle. I would also hear about folklore of CK Naidu hitting the square clock on the pavilion with six. When game would get uninteresting, section of crowd would float balloon from white condoms and when they would reach the ground, it would create wholesome laughter. During the afternoon, when place would get warm, I would walk right on the top edge of the stadium and see Marine Drive and expensive apartments. I remember crowding around hawkers who would keep crispy small triangular samosa with onion vegetable fillings on wooden stand in the shape of sand timer; those would cost 5 paisa each. Afternoon hours, peeled cucumber filled with red chilli and salt alongwith Popsicles of frozen orange ice sealed in plastic – they would call Pepsi – would be in demand. Couple of Ranji, Duleep trophy matches and one Test match from office building gave me real baptism of cricket education and its nuances. These days , watching the match on TV may be comfortable but doesn’t have same charm and passion as that of witnessing it live.

After the match, invariably everyone would get into discussion and analysis of the match and narrate their experience of Brabourn Stadium. My father would reminisce of his going early morning just to see the event of ‘toss’ but never managed to see one. My uncle would talk about Bapu Nadkarni’s reputation of bowling continuous maiden overs. When Bapu would come to bowl they would go for a walk around Marine Drive and even after half an hour of their return, scoreboard would have hardly moved and Bapu Nadkarni’s maiden overs would still be continuing. They would talk fondly about Polly Umrigar (sad he passed away today), Vijay Manjarekar, Chandu Sarvate and also about Quadrangular matches among Hindu, Muslim and Parsee gymkhana clubs. Those were the days, when Bombay would have hold on the Ranji Trophy- year after year and for almost 20 plus years. Players changed but Bombay spirit remained same. In later years, when half of the Bombay team would be on tour abroad playing for India, Ajit Naik, Milind Rege, Abdul Ismail, Rakesh Tandon, Padmakar Shivalkar would swung matches in seemingly hopeless situation and snatch win for Bombay. Sunil Gavaskar, Ashok Mankad, Ajit Wadekar, Dilip Sardesai, Eknath Solkar, Farookh Engineer from Bombay would form the top six batsmen of India. I think emergence of Karnataka, Bengal and Delhi broke the Bombay tradition of being an undisputed cricket king. By then, venue shifted from Brabourn to Wankhede stadium and Brabourn stadium was left with Nani Palkhiwala budget speech and Garba dance. Slowly, the gutsy spirit of Bombay cricket team too declined.

Last week, I read the review about a book that talk about sport stadiums and their captivating ambience. Eden Garden, Calcutta and Wanderers stadium in Johannesburg figure on top for cricket events. But for me, Brabourn stadium would always be associated with great cricket.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Stellenbosch – Cape Town’s wine heritage


In my first visit to Cape Town, I was tied down to the downtown with a distant view of Table Mountain. Naturally, when I saw expansive terrain of Johannesburg – I was little generous in elevating this city over Cape Town – much to the chagrin of South Africans. This time, I stayed at the Somerset west - the country side of the Cape Town – and toured along the vineyards at Stellenbosch, had dinner in African settings at Moyo.

I was quick to realize my earlier folly. First Impression is definitely not the lasting impression; Cape Town can match any other spectacular place on Mediterranean. No wonder Europeans who arrived decided to stay put!!!

I was being driven along Stellenbosch Wine Routes, one of the biggest tourist attractions in the Western Cape. It has more than 200 wine and grape producers and considered as the second oldest town in South Africa with most winery façade as Cape Dutch buildings. All around Stellenbosch lies in a fertile green valley surrounded by vineyards, orchards with a backdrop of range of mountains. Stellenbosch is also known as "Eikestad" - town of oaks. One of the winery posters made me realize why in certain areas wineries are found. This is a belt above and below the equator that has this mild Mediterranean climate with hot summer’s rainy winters. California, France, Greece, Cyprus. Italy and Cape Town falls into the zone. (I was disappointed to see Nasik not being part of it!!). The Stellenbosch valley offers superb scenic views over mountains, vineyards and orchards covered with wild flowers in spring. The magnificent mountains peaks ranges reach heights of 1600 meters and form a spectacular backdrop to the town. Stellenbosch is very international place full of tourists who stroll along oak lined streets soak in the atmosphere of and enjoy relishing seafood with wine in Open-air restaurants amidst African settings. During one such dinner, I became enchanted with Raka red wine. Visiting Stellenbosch reminded me of Frieberg close to Black forest in Germany. Both have famous university.

Moyo restaurant at Spier – close to Stellenbosch is a magical dining experience under a starlit sky in the company of African dancers and musicians. Main restaurant is inside huge Bedouin tent with face-painters decorate guests' faces with traditional white dots. Buffet is a huge spread many African dishes ranging from variety of breads to ostrich kebabs. It was biting cold and I had to spend all my time next to bonfire to enjoy the ambience.

Unfortunately, weather being cloudy and rainy, I couldn’t visit the top of table mountain by cable car. But next time, it’s definitely on the agenda alongwith a visit to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Agulhas where the Indian and the Atlantic 'meet'. Driving along the garden route to Port Elizabeth is also another dream.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Being with Peacock


India had just completed their innings against Australia in the Champions trophy. I watched it in my hotel resort ‘Straightway Head’ at Somerset west in Cape Town. It was lunch time and I decided to have a bite in an open area outside the restaurant facing lush green gardens of the resort.

The next table family party was getting over and I was all by myself reading about Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Garden route while basking in the sun on a cool day. As I finished my Mushroom soup and started with vegetable sandwiches, unexpected companion arrived. Beautiful iridescent blue-green coloured highly elongated plumage – tail – captivated me as he squezzed between wrough iron chairs. I had never seen peacock so close but I wasn’t sure if I should shoo him away or safeguard myself by pulling up my legs to prevent him coming clsoer. He solved my fear – he was more shy and more scared than I was. He went behind my chair in an open space and started looking for titbits of food that my predecessors may have left for him. It didn’t take me long to realize that he was extremly fussy and shy but his beauty was spectacular.

I threw some bread crumbs of the sandwich. He moved elegantly and started eating. I was more keen to watch him from all sides, so started spreading my brown bread morsels in different directions. He must be aware of the restrictions his long tail would pose. Since he couldn’t turn in the narrow passage between the chair and the wall. He would snuggle out on the other side and then would make 180 degree turn so as not to get his plumage hit or get trapped. I was getting curious to see what all things he could eat . I threw potato chips. His first reaction was to backtrack with fear and later slowly turn towards it , but size of the chip was too big for his mouth. Trying unsuccessfully to lift with his diminutive beak, he used his intelligence. He used his beak to break it in small parts – and started picking all small pieces. Slowly he was getting comfortable of my presence. But he sure was still shy – every time I would turn myself to pick up food, he would crouch himself backwards only to wait for a while and turn towrds food. Slowly bread crumbs, chips led to cucumbers,capsicum and chesse. By now, everyone had left me and my exotic friend was there to share my lunch. I was already heavy with castel beer and decided to carry my sandwich to my room.

I was hoping to see early australian wickets getting snapped up by Pathan and company. But when I came,aussie was tearing Indian attack with score at 100 for 1 before 15th over. I cursed myself of leaving my friend alone. Few overs may have passed when I heard the pecking noise on my glass door. And there he was, right next to my door watching me through the glass front. The exercise of feeding him and watching natures most amazing creation continued. I would open the door and he would shy away only to pick up the stuff.

By now, I was becoming familiar with his behavioural charachteristics. He is very much like a hen family, even his excreta was similar to the hen. As he was busy eating, I could see a small brown bird in the background watching with great tinge of jealousy. I saw similar birds later on at the street. They could be peahen – a female version but they sure looked ugly. Slowly a fat rabbit too turned up but he couldn’t advance further with my friend’s plumage swirling all around the floor. I was little guarded to throw away my expensive sandwich for my friend but I would have spend hours feeding him and watching his magnificant blue neck. A call from my colleague to join at the conference venue made me leave my friend suddenly without saying him proper ‘Totsiens ‘ – Good bye in afrikaans langauge.When I returned to the room late night , my leftover sandwich was disappeared from the table. I felt bad for not giving all of it to my friend who gave me some of the finest pleasures of watching nature's creation at such a short distance.

I am still intrigued of his coming down to my room which was quite a distance from where I met him initially at the restaurant. Is he that intelligent ? God has been generous with my friend to make him so graceful, beautiful and elegant but I wonder why my friend has to work out a raindance with his gorgeous tail feathers to attract the attention of ugly looking peahen.