Sunday, 29 June 2008

Electric Dreams

Technology companies are full of surprises. Some pleasant and others not so pleasant. This time it is an intriguing innovation brought to the public by an Irish start up, Porto Media and the global technology giant, IBM. They have found a way to get movies to people more easily and quickly in a format that makes life simpler for distributors, retailers and viewers alike. No more DVDs or VCDs or even the need for an internet connection. All you need is a flash memory module and a movie dispensing kiosk by your side. Stick in the memory module drive, pay for the download, wait for a moment as the content is transferred and you can walk away with the film in your pocket to be viewed at home, on a train, on a plane, on the laptop, on a television or a desktop. An exciting proposition, the memory module and kiosks are still not available on the high streets but are under implementation. Technology does make life simple once in a while ;-). Hope this one hits the streets soon. On that happy note, have a great week ahead everyone!

PS: This post is dedicated to Hob Gadling who by far is the biggest tech freak and wizard I know and needless to say adore. This is also for my very dear and adorable friend Mr. Schengen Staat Citizen who would love to work in the media industry and has a passion for films like no one else I know.

Money Money Money

India ranks 74th globally in the latest global corruption polls and is deemed less corrupt than Pakistan and more corrupt than China. After the report has been published, what we (or rather our journalists) would like to focus on is not how India’s position has deteriorated but how India is still better than Pakistan.

Let us forget that comparisons should not be made and absolute progress is what should be considered. If we do want to compare ourselves, then why compare ourselves with a nation that is economically and politically still quite a few years behind us. Why can’t we compare ourselves with a Japan or a Singapore or even a Bhutan which is apparently the least corrupt country in Asia? Why do we take solace in the fact that someone is behind us? Why can we not look at adopting the best practices of those doing better than us?

My own opinion is that we should not compare ourselves with anybody but see the actual progress we have made. In this case, in fact, there is no progress - we have only moved two steps behind. For a country that talks about morality and spirituality at every given opportunity this digression is quite ironic.

I believe that each one of us Indians has a role to play in aiding and promoting corruption. Starting with procurement of a personal driving license, to getting government approvals for corporate projects to getting asset managers to invest money in a company, there are people who have resorted to under the table transactions. Then to top it all, we the educated, do not even want to vote in elections stating that each candidate is corrupt and that one less vote will not make a difference. When we do not want to take responsibility for the simplest democratic obligation that we have, how can we hold anyone accountable to carry on their duties responsibly?

A very amusing incident happened with me a few weeks ago. I was meeting a senior professional visiting London. In his view I should be moving back to India as the opportunities there are far more. Could be a valid point. However, his pitch to me was I could make more money because in India I could “manage” my taxes more “efficiently”. In his words “You should give this a very serious thought because money is the only thing that talks and gets you what you want in life!” This is an interesting view indeed. I am not saying that money is not important. I do like my holidays and perfumes and the ability to afford some luxuries. However, I will not accept as true that money gets one what they want in life. Money is essential but not the most vital source of achieving ambitions.

If this attitude and belief of money being supreme is held by the well educated, well traveled and prosperous Indians, I am not sure anyone can blame the less privileged to resort to the available means to “make the most of what little they earn”. With this vicious cycle in place there is very little that can be done to improve India’s position in the global corruption ranking. Is it just economic growth that we Indians want to talk about? Is that the only benchmark to judge if India is shining or not? Or is it the only parameter that we are willing to understand?

PS: Interesting article on this topic sent to me by Mr. Cold Caller (how about trying this is India?)
BEIJING (Reuters) - Anti-graft authorities in a southern Chinese city are questioning mistresses of suspected corrupt officials and finding the information is paying off prettily, state media said on Thursday.

Mistresses and "second wives" are common among government officials and businessmen in China and are often blamed for driving officials to seek money through bribes or other abuses of power.
"At least 80 percent of corrupt officials exposed in Dongguan had mistresses who gave us important information that we did not possess," Zhou Yuefeng, deputy director of the industrial city's anti-graft bureau told the China Daily. He declined to give details.

Besides having mistresses, Zhou said receiving bribes in the form of share dividends was also common among corrupt officials in Dongguan. "Our focus this year will be on the taxation and medical departments." he said. "However, that doesn't mean we won't be looking at corruption in other areas."

A report by China's top prosecutor's office last year said that of 16 provincial-level officials punished for serious graft in the previous five years, most were involved in "trading power for sex," along with gambling, money-laundering and shady land sales to developers.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Second Chances

It is human to err and every human being deserves a second chance. As true as this statement is, it is also true that another very natural human trait is not being able to forget and forgive. And why even go down to forgiving and forgetting, even if someone’s actions have not had an impact on our lives we still would like to have the authority to judge an individual. We all have a right to our own opinions (even those of us who do not live in a democratic set up). however, do we all have the authority and the required evidence to judge another human being? I am not sure.

An eye opening experience on forgiveness and moving on was my recent trip to South Africa. Coming from India, I had always very naively assumed that to some extent I knew about discrimination. Yes we have caste based discrimination in India, we have socio-economic discrimination in India and we even have gender based discrimination in the form of reservation for women in universities, government offices etc. (I find that extremely inane). However, the discrimination that existed in South Africa under the apartheid regime was akin to sentencing an innocent to the electric chair. No amount of pleas or evidence screaming out the innocence of the convicted could change the verdict, simply because once made the decision was final. Over and over again the jury would err on the wrong side and could not care less. Human life held no value unless you had the right skin color. Even as I am typing this I am not sure that my comparison actually brings out the brutality of the regime. If I am being totally honest and maybe politically incorrect, then I would say that apartheid fell just short of the Nazi rule in Europe. It was not that cruel or drastic but was almost there. And now I am wondering if the extent of harsh treatment meted out makes one form of discrimination (caste base, apartheid, religion based, gender based etc.) more pardonable than the other. I don’t think so. The base principle in itself seems to be bigoted and fractured.

Anyway, coming back to apartheid. While in Johannesburg, a very dear friend recommended that I visit the apartheid museum. In his words, at the museum, even as a South African he learnt a lot about the history of his own country and saw reality in its bare form as he had never seen before. I was intrigued and hence decided to spend a couple of hours at the museum. And boy, was that an experience! I was emotionally drained at the end of my three hour tour through the displays and the screenings.

My journey into the museum began in a gradually narrowing corridor, which made me feel as if someone was closing in on me and curtailing my movements. The passage led me through to turnstiles where I was supposed to use a randomly allocated pass at the entrance. This pass would decide if I was designated a white, black or colored and hence I would then need to go through the allocated gangway at the reconstructed railway platform (I was a designate white and hence lucky I guess!). Coming out of the gangway I entered the zone of my new adventure. Slowly I passed exhibits that helped me determine how the Europeans had discovered South Africa and settled there. This initial bit was truly fascinating. Next came how the Afrikaans (naturalized Europeans) had gained control in the country thanks largely to the discovery of gold. Subsequent were descriptions, illustrations and displays of how the Afrikaans power and superiority complex led to one race brutally subjugating another race to inhuman ways of life. Blacks (as the African natives were designated), coloreds (Asians originating from countries other than India) and Indians were required to carry a pass book along with them which listed all the details that a passport today would have and in addition specified the holder’s employer, employment details and the times at which she was required to be on the premises of the employer. On way to work and on way back, there were check points where the legitimacy of the trip would be verified with the pass book. If during the daily duration at work, an employee was found out and about in the streets, she was liable for a fine and would also be imprisoned. While tolerating this inhuman treatment, blacks (and the other non-whites) were paid less than a tenth of what a white person earned doing the same job. Blacks were not allowed to hold jobs senior than the whites. In fact blacks were not allowed access to education that would help them develop skills to be able to rise through the ranks in any organization. English was a prohibited subject in the black schools. Food that was made available to the blacks was rationed and of lower quality. It is enough to say that it was almost as if the blacks should have bowed to the whites for being given a shot at trying to survive. The whites were truly Gods and the blacks had to accept their wish as a holy command. Children died of malnutrition, the sick died due to lack of medical facilities, elderly people had no hope and those who were in their youth had to live by the book to support their families. Even animals in the South African jungles seemed to have more freedom!

None of what I have just said was told to me by any one person. It has all been evidenced by displays of the then existing legislature and screenings of television footage. The final bit of the museum is dedicated to the struggle fought to free the country from the glitches of this merciless governing policy. Here there are MK Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and the likes awakening people to their own beings. It shows a young Mandela talking about the need for an armed struggle despite the African National Congress having been found on the Gandhian principles. This section made me think of the Indian freedom struggle as there are a lot of parallels between the two fights, the most important common factor being Gandhi. Finally when I walked out of the museum I felt as I if I had just lived through severe despair, found hope and then gained freedom. I really was gutted in some senses.

Carrying this experience with me I went to Cape Town, which I have to say is an absolutely gorgeous city. It seems to be God’s own land (more about that in another post maybe). People in Cape Town are more open and relaxed than those in Johannesburg and it is also a safer city. This gave me the opportunity to walk about and befriend the locals. I found myself interacting with blacks, whites and colored from all walks of life. They all had their own family histories and stories from the apartheid era. However, not one of them seemed to be bitter about the past. There was an enthusiasm in every single person I met to make most of the new opportunities and build a new life. They all wanted to forget the past as if it were a bad dream. This holds true even for the man who gave us a tour of Robben Island (the place where Mandela was a prisoner for over 10 years), who before being a tour guide of the place was a political prisoner there for fifteen years.

The most humbling interaction, however, that I had was with one of my hotel drivers. While discussing apartheid he was more factual than emotional. He did speak of the atrocities but did not seem to hold on to them. In fact, in his own words, his attitude towards apartheid is this, “I cannot live life looking at the past. I have to be able to forget what happened and focus on what can happen. My life is half over but my children and grandchildren have all theirs to live. My experiences should not prejudice them but educate them. Hence I am ready to forget and make a new beginning.” This came from a man who lost his grandfather to a heart attack caused by the whites razing the old man’s ancestral home, without any reason or warning, in front of his eyes. This comes from a man who saw his grandfather die in front of his eyes and saw his grandmother reduced to poverty within a matter of hours and being widowed in the next few. This comes from a man who has bought the same plot of land on which his late grandfather’s house stood so that he can construct a new one for his mother. This to me in all sincerity is true forgiveness.

Yes we all do deserve a second chance and we would like to beg for one when in need. But how many of us can be this magnanimous and forgive an entire generation, forget all our sufferings and only focus on how we can improve the future? How many of us can truly forget when we are wronged and move on? When we cannot forget easily, how can we expect others to do the same? The entire nation of South Africa I think is an inspiration in that respect. The people there taught me what it really means to let bygones be bygones. I hope they can really build the success story they have set out to. A country like that deserves to thrive.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Further information - Future of our future

Whilst I was discussing the subject of "attention deficit disorder" with a psychiatrist friend of mine, I was told that in the UK there is a code book which lists out 10 criteria that a patient must meet to be diagnosed with this ailment. It is not four or five but all ten check boxes have to be ticked. There seems to be fair conviction amongst practitioners that there is merit in diagnosing this disorder early and treating it. While all of us have some attention deficiency, it does not affect our daily lives or normal functioning. Apparently the attention deficit order medication that is being developed is targeted to help those who are incapable of leading a normal life (as dictated by the 10 criteria). Maybe there is some merit to this.....

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Its all in the family

On a number of occasions my non-Indian friends have expressed their appreciation towards the Indian family system and respect imparted to elders in Indian society. Moments such as these make me swell with pride. Our culture does impart humility to one’s personality and the close knit families provide a vital support system. It helps us value human relationships. Our traditions and history have caused us to evolve into warm, welcoming and affectionate civilization. And this in my opinion is the biggest differentiating factor of the Indian diaspora.

However, on recent occasions I felt that we have taken our way of life to a different level altogether. Not only do we extend to families for moral support, they fairly effortlessly migrate into all other parts of our lives as well. Take the Indian corporate world for starters. Most Indian businesses are family owned. While family ownership has its own benefits in aligning major shareholders’ interests with interests of the company, it has bred complacency in some of the second generation business leaders (if they can be called leaders at all). Close monitoring of the organisation should have increased prudence and efficiency but in a number of organisations it has given rise to serious corporate governance issues. Professionals have not had much say in important decision making processes. This led to job dis-satisfaction and hence migration of qualified individuals to MNCs. The entire cycle curtailed growth of India Inc with a few exceptions like Infosys and Larsen & Toubro standing out. Indian businesses are slowly realising they need to change and some are making more of an effort to embrace global best practices faster than the others. Overseas Indians or NRIs are finding their way back home with some of these “promoter owned” companies with satisfactory compensation and autonomy packages. With Malvinder Singh selling his stake in Ranbaxy, maybe India will witness an increase in the number of professionally managed corporations.

While the situation for India Inc is changing, Indian political scenario is still languishing. Since independence, India has been governed for most part by the Nehru-Gandhi family (directly or indirectly). With one extreme being family led Congress, we have another extreme in the BJP, which is devoid of any strong leader and of any upcoming younger potential. Then we have the regional parties starting with Shiv Sena being the franchise of the Thackrey family, the Biju Janta Dal being the legacy of Biju Patnaik to hand over to the next generation, the Rashtriya Janta Dal which in a democracy is Lalu Prasad Yadav’s way to dictatorship and the Telegu Desam which actually split over a feud on who was the rightful heir after NTR’s demise. The list does not end here but goes on. Once again there are exceptions to this norm, however, none which are strong on a national level and none with a clean charter. There is a severe dearth of educated, dedicated and motivated young politicians wanting to improve the political, judicial and financial state of the country.

The one strong emerging silver line in the cloud of Indian politics is the Lok Paritran, a party founded by engineering graduates from the most reputed institute on Indian shores – IIT (Indian Institute of Technology). The leaders of this organisation are well educated, travelled and well aware. They focus on raising core issues that matter to an average man’s daily life and impact the working of the nation. They seems to have good intentions and have been prudent in their approach – targeting smaller electoral regions where money power might not obscure them, have refrained from shouting from roof tops and most importantly have established local groups to reach out to the masses. Lok Paritran could fill the gap in Indian politics but it will be a time consuming and arduous journey. One can only hope that the party succeeds in what it has set out to achieve.

We Indians pride ourselves on our entrepreneurial spirit and ability to overcome obstacles. Then why can we not be industrial and stand on our feet on our own merit? Why do we depend on the toils of our fathers and forefathers to determine our future? As a young nation on the brink of a new beginning, let us open our eyes, cherish our values and cultures and alter our traditions where they need change. Today’s India came into existence because of a blend of varied cultures and religions. Let us create tomorrow’s India with a mix of the best of east and west. Let us truly carry our heritage forward into the next decade.

Monday, 16 June 2008

The Essence of Bush

President Bush and his wife graced Europe this week. London had the privilege of their company over the weekend. I just saw the first couple's first ever television interview together for a British television channel. Mr. President quite categorically stated that he would like to be remembered as "a principled man who did not compromise on his core values".

Can someone please elucidate on these "core values". I am just finding it a little difficult to drill the sea of principles and zero in on the oil of essence that the President is referring to.

Have a great week ahead!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Future of our Future

Children are bundles of joy. For the last few days I have spent most of my time with my niece and nephew who are visiting. Every moment has been more precious than the previous. Even when I sense remote harm coming their way, my senses are on full alert. I am certain that I will do everything in my power to keep them out of danger’s way. That is why when I come across articles discussing emotional, medical and physical abuse that children are put through world over, I get goose bumps. What security are we providing for our little angels? How are we abusing their innocence in the name of capitalism? Are we really that low to ruin an entire human life, at a tender age, for our own perverse pleasure?

It might seem that these are the issues for a non-governmental organization to take up and fight for. However, after reading about how even reputed names like Harvard, Johnson & Johnson and Eli Lilly are involved in exploiting our future, I think it boils to down each one of us to remain more vigilant.

Apparently major pharmaceutical companies have been conducting research on “attention deficit disorder” in children. This is the early stage beginning of bipolar disorder in adults according to some scientists. If found thus disabled, a child is subjected to psychiatric medication which in lay man’s terms (as was explained to me by a researcher friend) is on the lines of anti depressants, sedatives and Prozac. Harvard has been conducting research in schools and hospitals without proper disclosures. The university prohibits researchers for working on a particular product of the company if they receive more than USD 20,000 annually from a company. It seems that Harvard researchers working on this particular treatment for children with Eli Lilly, received USD 120,000 or six times the prescribed limit. Question is why would Harvard go ahead without proper disclosures? What can be the motive? Is there anything in this project to hide?

What I cannot understand is that why on earth would we want to subject 4 – 6 year olds or even 8 – 10 year olds to medication which can potentially interfere with their nervous system and be addictive! An A grade student and a successful professional, I have a very short concentration span. Ask my INSEAD colleagues and they will vouch for it – they even nicknamed me “two sugars please” due to my regular coffee sojourns in every second lecture. So how can we demonstrate with “very reasonable conviction” that a child has attention deficit disorder?

In today’s world, we would like to regulate every aspect of life that is capable of being regulated. In the western world, parents do not even have the right to use strict measures to discipline their children as they could be reported for child abuse and imprisoned. Yes in some cases this saves children but in other cases it just means spare he rod and spoil the child. US senate is seemingly looking to pass a legislation to regulate the disclosures performed by physicians of the fee charged for speaking to, consulting and doing research on child related psychiatric issues. Will that really help? Can regulation be the answer to all issues? Can the legal system really provide our children with productive and fulfilling lives?

Children have high energy levels and are restless. They need an environment to channelise this energy in the right direction. Let us send them to parks, encourage them to play, nurture their talents and keep them away from the like of television. Medication at that tender age is no solution. At least not in my opinion and with their future in our hands, the choice is ours.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Tossed in Tosca

I have always loved music. It can safely be said my one true passion in life is music, especially classical music (both Indian and Western). Hence, when a few weeks ago Zoltan emailed asking if I wanted to go to the opera, I was more than delighted. He is one person who enjoys the finer things in life, and if he was recommending Tosca then there was little chance I would regret my decision.

The day of the opera had not been the best. Both Zoltan and I had a stressful day. We were both not in the best of spirits. I was probably worse than he was, when in all honesty he had more reasons to be infuriated and angry. That is what I admire about Zoltan; he is forever looking forward and optimistic. He knows how to take life as it comes or as they say “go with the flow”. Anyway, we decided to go for a quick drink before the opera and I was yawning most of the time. So before we took our seats, Zoltan quietly mentioned “dude go to sleep if you want to. I will wake you up for the best pieces”. I smiled; the probability of me falling asleep was high. This was a melodrama and a tragedy - two lovers conned by fate and a tyrant attain their union only in death. After an awful day an intense opera was not my idea of relaxation.

I braced myself as the conductor approached the orchestra. However, the first strains of melody came filtering through like a cool breeze on a hot day. As the first act progressed there were no indications of heavy grey music. There was a touch of gloom where required but overall the intensity was controlled. The singers and the orchestra seemed to draw out all the negativity from within me, leaving me feeling extremely relaxed. I was not the only one who felt this way. Zoltan shared my perception. In the interval, as we sat on the terrace overlooking Covent Garden, an elderly couple on the next table seemed to echo our views. The gentleman had seen Tosca over half a dozen times and in his view each performance highlighted a different aspect, enabling him to appreciate the opera even more.

After three acts performed over three hours, I left the opera house filled with appreciation for the music, the acting and the production. It had been the perfect antidote to the miserable day and also an insightful initiation into a new world.

Zoltan and I discussed the opera over dinner. Soon the discussion went into a more philosophical direction and Zoltan was at his absolute best. He said some very profound things that evening (and made a point - they need to go on my blog). The first one was that it is not up to us to control everything in life. What we can, however, control is how we react to situations and circumstances. Every individual must have the capacity to take life one day at a time knowing that there is a certain path that the Supreme Being has carved for her. At the same time he said that we while we all have our destinies planned, making an effort towards achieving our aims is up to us. That I do believe is true. There is no point in wanting to be rich without working hard and attempting to be efficient with taxes and savings!

In Zoltan’s opinion the foremost responsibility of every human being is to be honest to oneself. That in his view is what leads to happiness and realization of destinies. In his view, there is no point in relying on external factors to bring emotional stability. I do agree with the view. In the end, if we are not honest with ourselves, there is no way that we can be happy let alone reach our destiny.

While we were discussing this, I was taken back to my days when I was looking for a job in London. There were a lot of people who told me that I would not succeed and I should head back to India. There was one particular day when I was really thinking hard on returning to Bombay when I chanced upon this passage in The Alchemist. “….before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward the dream. That’s the point at which most people give up. It’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the dessert, one ‘dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon’. Every search begins with beginners luck. And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested.” For some reason this made an impact on me and I decided to stick on and fight it out. The rest as they say is history.

I believe this is what Zoltan was also trying to say. Hardships do come our way; however, we should not shy away from them or be demoralized. In the end, if we continue to hold on to our beliefs, take the challenges of life as they come and do our best to reach our aims, then we find the way to our destiny and the universe helps us in our attempt.

The messages from Zoltan and from Tosca have been profound. Do I understand them completely, I am not sure. Do I appreciate my friend and the opera, absolutely. Do I recommend Tosca and the Alchemist, most definitely. And as far as Zoltan is concerned, I guess not everyone is lucky to have a friend like mine! Cheers to Zoltan and to Tosca!

Friday, 6 June 2008

Mumbai Monsoon Mania

I just heard monsoon has hit Bombay. The mere thought of the city drenched in its first showers brings a smile to my face. I love Bombay monsoon despite all the chaos it has created in the last few years. While a little bit of sunshine brings a new aura to London, monsoon completely alters the personality of Bombay. In my mind, during the rains, the city of Bombay transforms from being a giant chugging to a daily routine into an agile serpent slithering through lush green fields.

I am witness to Bombay being anything but nimble during rains. However, what this season does to the city is tremendous (hence my comparison of the two extremes which may not be apt but convey my point). The heat is replaced by cool winds both tender and fierce. Strong rays of the sun give way to soothing and roaring grey clouds that envelope the surroundings in their embrace. Waves of the Arabian Sea caress the shores of the city, sometimes drenching the passersby in sheer wet bliss and on other sad occasions pulling away happy souls into the deep depths of the oceans far away.

There are two sides to every coin and there are two sides to the Bombay monsoon. It has its fury and it has its pleasures. The rage can be tamed if the municipal corporation would pay some attention but there is no substitute for the excitement and elation that the rains bring along. I long for the days when I can walk on Worli Seaface, eat freshly roasted corn, drink coconut water and wait for the waves to hit the road and soak me wet. I would love to roam the by lanes of fishermen’s colonies in the slush as all folk are indoors, giving a true insight into their lives. I cannot wait to wade through the knee high waters to reach my destination. It is all about getting stuck and still finding your way out. It is about seeing the city through a different lens and feeling a new buzz which makes you feel lucky to be there and lucky to be alive.

I have had my days of being stranded for a whole night unable to reach home. I have come across instances when the already clogged traffic has started to move at a pace slower than a snail’s. Frustration, infection and commotion have all been a part of my dozen and odd monsoons in Bombay. However, what has stood out is the intoxicating smell of the soil soaked in rain; it is the feel of the rain drops washing away the heat and bringing new hope; it is the vision of all that is cheerful and beginning to bloom. I remember the waterfalls that spring out of nowhere on the Western Ghats. I can still recall the hills surrounding Lonavala dancing in all their green glory. I miss the singing rain pouring from the heavens above. In short, I miss the rain and especially on the plains of Bombay.

PS: Some advice from the Bombay police. See the following link

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Writing in Wonderland

Writing has suddenly become some sort of a passion. It is as if I have unexpectedly found a new medium of expression which is liberating and exciting. This has become an adventure for me like the Wonderland was for Alice. While Alice found secret doors and passages, I am discovering hidden faces of the world around me and more importantly am beginning to unearth dormant characteristics of my personality. There are so many issues that I now want to write about and so many travels that I want to share. Almost every day I sit at my computer, start to write a piece on a new topic but somewhere in the middle lose traction and cannot finish what I started. So I switch on to the next idea that I have and start to pen that down. In the process I have now amassed a collection of unfinished articles, lying on my hard drive, waiting to be completed. In some ways I wish I could be a journalist or a reporter or a researcher. Somerset and the Little Bugs have started calling me “the geek”.

Am I a geek? I do not think so. It is just that since I have started writing, I have also started to read with a more critical eye. Not that I claim to have the authority to be able to critique authors, but certainly I have points of view which I am now more open to voice. Critical reading has also led me towards establishing frameworks to argue my own beliefs and opinions. It is this process of the last few months which has led me to respect some journalists and their writing. One person who stands out is Andy Mukherjee of Bloomberg. He writes on varied topics ranging from traffic congestion in Mumbai to the lack of debt capital markets in India to the infrastructure development in India. Almost all of his articles are very well written and thoroughly researched. It is a pleasure to read his pieces. At this particular point in time, I really wish I had his job (and maybe even his skills). As they say, grass is always greener on the other side and so I guess I will stick to my bank of the river for now.

For how long can I stick to my end of the river though? The temptation to take the plunge and cross over to the other side is strong. While I might want to give writing (part time) a shot that is not the only plunge I am talking about. For some time now I have been thinking about moving back to India. In all honesty, it is a little daunting when I think of it. In the last five and a half years Bombay has changed completely. I do not even know how to file taxes there anymore or for that matter where to shop for groceries and clothes. Most of my friends have moved to the western world. I am not sure that my patience levels will survive the traffic in the city and the public transport there is not what I am used to. Thinking of a shift is trying to attemot starting a life all over again. The big comforting factor though is that if I do move back, it will be to my own country and to my own people. That reduces the stakes involved. I know a lot of people who have moved back after ten or fifteen years in the UK or the US. The question is about securing the right opportunity.

Well that is the other question. I like my current work place and my job. This is an opportunity which has allowed me to exploit my own abilities to the maximum. I work with some great and experienced colleagues. There is a comfort zone that I have found which does not make me complacent but provides me the support to take on new challenges. And new challenges I have found. Whether I come out with flying colors or not, only time will tell.

Another issue is the work culture, which is still not at par with how firms in the west operate. There is a lot left to be done on that front. On many occasions, I have been frustrated with the work culture in India and as of now I get by as I am not on the ground. After a few days I come back to my comfort zone and to a different environment. However, hazards exist in every aspect of life but opportunities are hard to find. Opportunities in India abound and there is very little chance of making full those of any of those prospects without being physically being present on the ground. The cost benefit analysis is mine to undertake and make a decision.

One thing that has sent me reeling down the path of a serious analysis is a comment a close friend made a few days ago. He has known me for quite some time now and has always been supportive. However, this once while I was talking to him about sticking around for a “while longer” he said, “I think you are done with London! It took me two hours to decide to move from Paris to my home. It is where my heart is. Yes there are dangers and there are limitations in my country. But how much more money can you earn? It will never be enough. The peace of mind you earn, however, is priceless. India is different. It is safer and more stable. You have lived and worked here. You understand that economy and culture. So my suggestion is take the plunge.” All of this was said with his trademark twinkle in the eye. He has been quite an inspiration for me and now that he has said this I am thinking even harder. I am not sure what the outcome will be, however, I do hope that I can stick to a logical framework of decision making and make the right choice.

One door at a time and one passage at a time. With that in mind I am hoping to find my way out just like Alice did!