Thursday, 25 September 2008

To My Friends

Over the last few days I have tried to define friendship and have always fallen short of words. Many a great writers and poets have written about this unique relationship, however, no one has been able to render it the requisite justice. I am not sure if it can ever be expressed in entirety, what this beautiful equation brings to each person’s life.

They say that chance makes families while choice makes friends. I am not sure if that is true, as it were not my conscious selections that bloomed into my most precious friendships. In fact I think I have been uniquely lucky in the fact that kind and gentle souls crossed my life path and decided to grant me the honour of their companionship.

It has not always been camaraderie in proximity. My closest friends, in fact, are on continents other than mine. I do not see them more than once or maximum twice in a year. But it is these individuals who I count on in times of need and who have cherished my successes more than I myself. Similarly it is enough for me to read an email, a text message or hear their voice on the phone and I can tell what is their state of mind is. It is their agony which hurts me more and their troubles can make me forget mine. And it is the thought of their absence from my life that troubles me the most.

It is not months or years that have created the bonds that are so very special to me today; it is a unique connection, an appreciative understanding of the actual person behind the name. It is the implicit faith on either side that a truthful opinion or an honest emotion will not be spurned or snapped at. I am humbled by the gift that I have received from these absolutely fantastic human beings. It does not matter whether they reside in America, Europe, Africa or India. They know who they are and they know I am indebted to them. God bless them all.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Colour Blindness

We see the white, the black and the brown. And then we judge.

God must then be colour blind. He sees no colour and judges no one......

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Cain and Able?

The current economic crisis has prompted US Presidential candidate John McCain to make some very powerful statements. My favourite is the following:

"I warned two years ago that this situation was deteriorating and unacceptable," McCain said. "And the old-boy network and the corruption in Washington is directly involved and one of the causes of this financial crisis that we're in today. And I know how to fix it and I know how to get things done."

My question is, Sir if you do know how to fix it, what is stopping you from sharing the wisdom with the senior echelons of the global financial industry. Mr. Bernanke and Paulson notwithstanding, I am sure that the average American worker who you so vociferously proclaim to be the best in the world will be eternally grateful!

Now if you, the Americans were thinking if you could indeed vote for him, read the following:

"We need to set up a 9/11 Commission in order to get to the bottom of this and get it fixed, and act to clean up this corruption… They've violated the social contract that capitalism and the citizen have, and we can't ever let this happen again. I'll make sure it never happens again."

I am beginning to think that this guy might be a bigger entertainer than George Bush. Does capitalism have a social contract? And as far as his promise to ensure that this catastrophe is not repeated goes, well Sir, with all due respect I am sure you are not the only one with that vow. Global regulators have already started working towards that. Oops! You came with that wish a day too late!

Anything other trick that you can pull out of your hat today?

Beginning of the End

The City was not the same today. There was somber silence all around. Market forces had prevailed, the Fed had retreated and Lehman Brothers was laid to rest. Merrill Lynch, the largest US broker, agreed to forsake its independence in order to survive; albeit never again to be the same bull it used to be. AIG is on life support systems and Washington Mutual is fighting to live.

Two days and the world has changed. All the global financial innovation, the seemingly cavernous balance sheets and an opportunity of a life time to gain assets at deep discounts could not prevent this disaster. A look within and everyone saw their own domestic mess. It was too daunting a task to then take on an entity whose transactions cannot be understood or valued. Smug bankers who love to gloat about their deals and paychecks were left speechless and pay less. Some ironic justice on a rare bright, beautiful and sunny September morning in London.

While the US financial industry is licking its wounds, Europe should be ready for the coming onslaught and be prepared. It is not going to be fun ride from here on and there are a lot of hard lessons to be learnt. I only hope that unlike LTCM, Russian crisis and the dot com bust this tragedy is not short lived in the memory of the world. I hope it teaches bankers, corporates and the wider financial industry to control greed and the unnecessary aggression.

Canary Wharf is not the same tonight. There are no waiting cars outside the buildings that house the bulge bracket survivors. More floors are in darkness than usual and there is no one walking home late at night. The tube station is eerily quiet. It seems as if everyone and everything is pensive, except for the Reuters screen showcasing the tanking share market – a mocking reminder of what we have brought upon ourselves. Will we ever learn?

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The Unsatiated Hunger

It happened once again yesterday. A middle aged corporate executive met me for an official meeting but did not see a professional, instead saw a woman who his manhood had given the birthright to hit on. I am not sure at what point in the meeting did I realize what was really happening but I do know that the discomfort had set in early on. His mere gaze was making me feel creepy. His smirks were sending unpleasant vibes. His handshake at the end did it all. The pervert refused to let go of my hand. With four other people in the room, he had the guts to be so blatant while I on the other hand was meek enough to wiggle out my hand, walk out of that office and not utter a word.

I was seething with anger, was frustrated with my own reaction and to some extent felt exploited. I had to talk to let the steam out with someone who would understand, someone who I trust. So I called baloo. “Not all of them are swines. Sorry you have to meet them but keep going on”, said my friend and I decided to bury the episode. While on the face of it I have buried the episode I am still thinking about it and wondering if I did something to elicit that behavior. Rationality tells me that I am a complete idiot to hold myself even remotely responsible and yet the violated me feels maybe I do need to partake some of the blame. Just the thought of it makes me feel sick in the pit of my stomach. I also know that it is my word against that of this hungry man and hence there is not much I can do. So maybe I should just forget it all like a nightmare.

What happened with me was minor and trivial compared to the agony of molested and/or raped women. Their trauma is not easily assuaged. Yet the society (eastern and western) often neglects their suffering and deems them partially accountable. Take the case of the 25-year old rape victim in the UK who was told that her compensation would be reduced 25% as she had been drinking before the assault. It took a lawyer to point out that drinking was in no form or fashion an invitation for exploitation. The girl ultimately received the compensation in entirety, however, the intermediate verdict did the work of salt in the wounds; ensuring that any healing of the scars would be more aggravating.

In a number of countries sexual assault is considered an offense only if penetration happens or in case the physical association occurs without consent. What about the cases where there is no intercourse but the forced foreplay itself inhibits the woman from seeking sexual intimacy in the future? What about marital rape or instances where the woman gives in to physical intimacy only to save her own life? And why is it that the woman who is the victim needs to answer all the difficult questions, face the embarrassment and further expose her humiliation for evidence?

The feeling of being victimized, extended emotional and physical exposure, insensitive dealings of the law enforcement authorities and the attitude of the society prevents majority of the women from speaking out about sexual abuse that they have been subjected to. The ordeal ferments within causing confidence issues and emotional imbalances. With time the anguish only worsens and the woman suffers in silence while the perpetrator goes about leading a normal life probably inflicting pain on more innocent women who cross his path.

What can satisfy this hunger of men? Is it unlimited flow of the female body in varied shapes and sizes at their beck and call? Is it easy access to anything and everything that can be associated with sex? Or is it the other extreme of starving men completely of any female association? Or should every accused be simply castrated to set an example for the others of his kind? There needs to be a solution and there needs to be more sympathy. In a society where we fight for the rights of animals, we need to find some way to restore respect for the gender responsible for sustaining human life.