Friday, January 29, 2010

Melody and lyric

"…I went to Sammy's house which was very near the Beverley Hills Hotel. He was a slim man, with a salt-and-pepper moustache, glasses and, at around sixty years of age, still as bouncy as a jack rabbit. He had a wife half his age; that could have been the reason for his bounce."

"Anyway, we met, and like most Americans, he had that friendly and extrovert take on life; so within minutes we were like buddies who'd spent time in 'Nam."

"'Hello Mr Cahn,' I said, on meeting him."

"'Call me Sammy,' he countered enthusiastically. 'All my friends do.'"

"We sat in his office. He behind an aged typewriter, probably older than him, a sheaf of yellow A4 paper by his side and a cupful of pencils, sharpened to a point like arrows from the quiver of a tribe of headhunters in Borneo. I sat across the little table in reverence, guitar in hand."

"'Hum me the melody, Biddu,' he said, his fingers suspended over the typewriter keyboard like a concert pianist about to bang out Beethoven's Fifth."

"As I hummed the melody, he hit the keys and began typing almost in sync to the lines I was humming. When I had finished humming the tune, he stopped and ripped the paper away from the typewriter and showed it to me. I read it slowly, scanning the phrasing."

"'I'm not sure about this word June,' I said, perusing the lyrics. 'The rhyme with moon is a bit old-fashioned. Don't you think?'"

"I said this nervously, not totally sure if my candour came across as rude and impolite."

"He looked at me, and then grabbed the paper from my hand."

"'Okay,' he said. 'Let's start again. I'll get something fresh.'"

"He wrinkled up the sheet and threw the paper in a little wicker basket by his side and off we went again. I kept humming the song and he kept typing away furiously. A mini mountain of screwed-up A4 papers piled up in the basket, till finally we both felt the lyrics had the meaning, depth and originality befitting a film called The Bitch."

(Biddu in 'Made in India: Adventures of a lifetime,' p. 201 Harper)

Normal figure

"Vic, I might need some help. I am now consumed with the thought of what to pack for my training. The dress code says business casuals. I can't figure out what that means. And I wish I had taken swimming lessons as a kid. Now I shall not be able to frolic in the Arabian Sea, on a beach that does not double up as a public park."

"I suppose it is good in a way, since my body cannot be seen in public in a swimsuit. Not that I am fat. Curvaceous will be best word to describe my hips and generous will be apt for my bosom. I would have been a contender for a Tamil film heroine had we lived in another era. These days, I am overweight. It wouldn't be so bad if I am not confronted by perfect specimens of femininity every time I open a magazine or switch on the TV. Lithe teenagers with IQs that match their waist size, prancing about in clothes that would adequately cover only a two-year-old. Model mothers talking proudly about how they got back their perfectly toned thighs before you could say 'Liposuction.' It seems that there is no longer any normal figure. Our beauty ideal today has been influenced by western norms and everyone wants to look like a toothpick and have less body fat than a bell pin. The message is clear – if you don't look like a beauty pageant contestant, you should be prepared to live the life a social outcast with a paper bag (XXL) over your head."

"On top of it all, I have a probably beauty pageant contestant for a flatmate, who flaunts her ribcage in my face all the time. I shall skip dinner tonight to prepare my body."

(Nirupama Subramanian in 'Keep the Change,' p. 159 Harper)

Lotus Temple

"Salim Dhar brought the US President into focus with the telescopic sights of his semi-automatic Russian rifle. He seemed smaller than on election night, when Dhar had watched him on TV milking the adoring American public. A large group of suited Security Service personnel were bunched around him as he walked down the tree-lined avenue towards the Lotus Temple. They were scanning the crowd with the worried urgency of parents in search of a lost child. A clean shot was impossible, the President's head partially obscured all the time. For a moment Dhar began to doubt the plan."

"He and the woman had synchronised their watches in Old Delhi, close to Chandni Chowk's clock market, the biggest in Asia. Most of them were fakes, unlike his own, a Rolex Milgauss, given to him by Stephen Marchant as he left the jail. Made in 1958, it had been designed to withstand strong magnetic fields, Marchant had explained…"

"It was 5.33 pm. The President was moving at a steady pace, waving at the crowds, but equally concerned that the TV cameras were getting a clear view of him. Dhar had similar worries. He was one thousand yards to the north, lying on the flat roof of a two-storey building that formed part of a small housing estate near a large school. The owner, a brother who worked for India's Forest and Wildlife Department, was away on leave, but he had hidden the Dragunov sniper rifle before he went, just as the woman had said he would…"

(Jon Stock in 'Dead Spy Running,' p. 295 Harper)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Compassionate capitalism

"I wrote this book in the grip of one of the worst economic crises the world has faced in living memory. There have been countless doomsday predictions of the collapse of capitalism as we know it."

"Maybe that is where Narayana Murthy's extraordinary theory of 'compassionate capitalism' becomes all the more important. That India is better placed to tackle the global economic crash may be a sign of the resilience of its business leaders, who built their empires against a backdrop of grave challenges and social deprivation."

"Grant Thornton's India Watch series points out that the culture of India is 'value for money' oriented, which is a direct result of a large population underserved in many of the essentials of life. At the same time, it is also increasingly affected by changes in the developed world in a variety of fields. India may need basic sanitation and may lack cold storage for food produce, but at the same time it is the fastest-growing mobile market in the world. India embraces old and new ideas with equal fervour."

"Hence companies that focus on delivering value at attractive price points are a more scalable proposition than those that seek to charge a premium for better quality."

(Vikas Pota in 'India Inc.: How India's top ten entrepreneurs are winning globally,' p. 214 Research Press)

Whale shark

"Instead of killing the vulnerable whale shark, fishermen on the Gujarat coast now protect it, thanks to an innovative campaign initiated by Tata Chemicals. The company supported the whale shark conservation programme by offering funds, logistical support and through active volunteering by its employees."

"For years, any whale shark that was sighted off the coast of Gujarat met with a bloody end, as fishermen killed the creature for the oil in its liver, its meat and its prized fin. The fish was false-hooked (which means that hooks were flung at its body) with barrels tied to ropes to keep the injured creature afloat. It was then brought ashore for the ritual carving out of valuable body parts."

"More than 1,200 whale sharks used to be killed in this manner every year before the Indian government, in 2001, banned the fishing of this breed and trade in its meat. Making the whale shark a protected species under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act of India – the highest-ever protection to a species – gave the whale shark a new lease of life."

"Today, fisherfolk from these parts nurture the creature, thanks to the initiatives of a dedicated group of people from Tata Chemicals and organisations such as the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Gujarat Forest Department."

"The whale shark – Rhincodon Typus – is the largest fish on earth, growing to over 12 metres or 40 feet in length. This solitary, slow-swimming, gentle giant, classified as a vulnerable species, is no killer. In fact, it is mostly vegetarian, surviving on phytoplankton, macro-algae, small squid and tiny aquatic creatures. The fish visits the coast of Gujarat from September to May each year, traversing thousands of miles along the coasts of Australia and South East Asia, only to encounter death at the hands of ruthless hunters."

"The 'Save the whale shark' campaign, which kicked off in September 2003, was conceptualised to end the whale shark trade in Gujarat and ensure the long-term survival of the species. It involved all the stakeholders in the whale shark's universe, including hunters, boatmen, coastal communities, the forest department, the coast guard, school children and conservation NGOs."

"The collective effort was so successful that it elicited positive sentiments towards this gentle creature in the minds of the people of the state, encouraging them to take pride in its protection and preservation. The locals who earlier called the whale shark 'barrel,' with which they used to hunt it, now call it vhali (dear one in Gujarati)."

"To make this happen, a 40-foot-long inflatable model of the whale shark, perched on a camel cart, was paraded through coastal towns and villages. Greeted with tilak (a vermilion dot) and garlands, it made an impressive backdrop as a troupe of actors enacted a street play inspired by a sermon delivered by popular preacher Morari Bapu. In this sermon, Bapu, who came onboard as an ambassador for the cause, likened the whale shark to a married daughter who returns to her parent's house to deliver her child, as per Indian tradition. He also spoke about the Indian tradition of honouring guests."

"Street plays and exhibitions highlighting the plight of the species were staged along the Gujarat coast, in port towns such as Okha, Beyt Dwarka, Porbandar and Veraval, and children were involved through painting competitions."

"The whale shark was adopted as a mascot by the towns of Porbandar, Diu, Dwarka, Okha, Ahmedabad and Verawal-Patan. Additionally, the Gujarat government designated the day of the new moon of the first month in the Hindu calendar as Whale Shark Day. The day marks the official celebration of the arrival of the shark into Indian waters."

(Ed: Chistabelle Noronha in 'Code of Honour: Nurturing people, enriching life,' p. 83 Westland)

Hukou system

"If the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) decides to apply different work and pay rules in a particular province, sector, industry or type of enterprise (e.g. foreign invested) from those applied to general domestic enterprises, neither the (so-called) labour unions nor the employees can do anything about it. They can either like it or lump it."

"In addition, in China the labour market is also controlled through the Hukou system that determines where a person is entitled to live and work and receive State-provided social benefits. If people move without formal CCP permission they are in effect illegal migrants with no rights. Chinese government's restrictions on rural-urban mobility primarily operate through the Hukou system – a system of household registration – which establishes a person's place of legal residence (where a child's residence is established initially at the mother's place of legal residence). Legal residence in an area entitles one to access public schooling and health care, housing and job opportunities and/or land for farming. Legal change of residence is possible if either a person succeeds in getting a place at a senior middle school and then at a city college by clearing competitive exams for the same, or if the state allows it, say allowing firms in a city to hire permanent workers from nearby rural areas. A worker may live legally in an urban area, without acquiring an urban hukou as a permanent resident on a long term permit or as a contract worker. Permits for legal residence are neither easy nor cheap to come by, and illegal migration has been increasing throughout the reform period."

(Arvind Virmani in 'From Unipolar to Tripolar World: Multipolar transition paradox,' p. 163 Academic)

Not hare and tortoise, but bear and porpoise

"We were like two vehicles speeding down a dark highway, overtaking each other again and again. He was better fuelled and so enabled with a freaky speed that threatened to do him in. I was battered and overworked, like a bus fighting to hit the terminus."

"We weren't hare and tortoise, but bear and porpoise. He staggered around wildly; I nosed around at ground level. Not much of a difference, really, except for the extent of our desperation."

"Fritz was on his fourth beer and I was nursing my second glass of water. He ate like a glutton. I had abused his hospitality by picking fussily at the little that I'd ordered. He didn't know that a slimy finger of mushroom had already caused me to retch discreetly. Now I sat back as if separate from all this, watching dispassionately. The ache in my head had slowed to a dull throb. Snatches of conversation floated across the room."

(Shreekumar Varma in 'Maria's Room,' p. 105 Harper)

Culture of philanthropy

"If we add up the philanthropy activity both in quantum and diversity, it will be much less than societal expectations. Why has the culture of philanthropy therefore not taken deep roots in India?"

"First high wealth creation is comparatively a recent phenomenon. The overall profitability of Indian industry could scarcely have produced a Warren Buffett or a Gates Foundation. Things have changed very significantly and so should our approach. Earlier it was compassion, which must now be replaced by social corporate obligations. Second, in the Western world, particularly the United States, it is normally understood that prosperity implies an obligation to pay back to society, particularly to educational institutions. The regulatory structures in India, particularly in the educational sphere remain unduly cumbersome. Private investment in education, health are mired with too many restrictions. The education sector remains unreformed and riddled with corruption. In other areas like safe drinking water, recycling urban waste, the issue of appropriate user charges is never easy to resolve."

"Foreign contributions, which could incentivise domestic action, are still discouraged. I remember that in a meeting between successful Silicon Valley Venture Capitalists and former Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee at Blair House, they argued that it was easy to take money out of India, almost impossible to send money to India."

"Encouragement for enabling a philanthropic culture to take deeper roots entails revisiting the multiplicity of our roles, regulations and regulatory framework. At the same time individuals and corporates need to look beyond tax planning and the advantage of tax breaks in deciding their activity pattern even while the tax rules themselves remain unduly cumbersome."

"Trade and industry should produce a blueprint on what the government and the private sector can do in partnership to strengthen the culture of philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility. While many prefer anonymity, greater dissemination of information will build social trust and dilute suspicions about private wealth… It is time to articulate a programme on Corporate Social Responsibility which reflects both contemporary needs and capacity of the private sector."

(N. K. Singh in 'Not by Reason Alone: The politics of change,' p. 102 Penguin)

Readers demand solid facts

"A story is only as good as the information it is based on. Every journalist knows that. 'Ideas are cheap,' says one journalist. 'It is how – and whether – you follow them up that matters.' What differentiates a good story from an average one or a bad one is the depth of information it contains. The wider and deeper the range of facts and views represented, the better is the analysis, and the more value it has for the reader. If it were not for hard facts, journalism would be no different from fiction, a product of the writer's mind."

"We are all familiar with the caricature of the hard-nosed reporter hunting for facts, digging the dirt on the famous politician or celebrity, looking through reams of old records and documents for evidence of some kind to back up the story. Without these facts, a reporter's claims remain mere supposition. First-hand observation does count for something when describing an event, but when the story is about an issue that demands more than a visual narration, readers demand solid facts."

(Usha Raman in 'Writing for the Media,' p. 71 OUP)

Waiting time

"Delay in the delivery of service is a perennial feature of retailing and other services. Indeed, it is an inherent liability of a product that is produced and consumed in an interval of time. Consumers wait for counter service in post offices, for train tickets in booking offices and at the checkout in supermarkets they also wait for public transport and get held up in traffic jams; they may have to wait to talk to someone on the telephone. For the individual, delay is frustrating and for the economy it is wasteful because people waiting in line are neither producing nor consuming. Pruyn and Smidts (1993) found that Dutch consumers waited, on average, over half an hour per day and that supermarket checkout delay was the most irritating hold-up. In Britain, 70 per cent of respondents in a Consumers' Association report on supermarkets (Which?, February 1990) mentioned 'a lot of staffed checkouts' as desirable, placing it fourth in importance compared with other store features and another report on post offices (Which?, September 1989) put cutting queuing time at the top of service improvements suggested by respondents even though the research recorded an average wait of only 3½ minutes. Bitner, Booms and Tetreault (1990) noted that delay was a major feature of incidence causing dissatisfaction."

(Robert East, Malcolm Wright, and Marc Vanhuele in 'Consumer Behaviour: Applications in marketing,' p. 185 Sage)

Embedded GPS locator

"Iqbal go up silently and went across to the cupboard where he kept his clothes. He was careful not to make any noise as he slid open the well-oiled door and reaching inside, pulled out a slim black and brown leather belt from the back of the top shelf. The belt had one of those rotating buckles that are fixed on reversible two-colour belts. Iqbal rotated the buckle twice in a clockwise direction and then thrice counter-clockwise, activating the GPS locator embedded in it."

"'Activate this at the last possible moment, Iqbal,' Tiwathia had warned when he gave him the belt. 'The battery backup is minimal.'"

"'What happens when I do that?'"

"'Well, if you leave the signal on, then we know the emergency response has been activated, and we come in and get both of you out. However, if you move to intermittent mode, which you can do simply by waiting for a minute or so and then turning the buckle back counter-clockwise three times,' Tiwathia demonstrate on the belt he was holding, 'then we get the message that there is a problem and we need to initiate contact with you right away, but your cover is intact and the operation is still alive.'"

(Mukul Deva in 'Blowback,' p. 227 Harper)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Business vs Balance

"The global society fractal is in such a stage that all its institutions are currently judged by their ability to prop up and feed the engines of business. We seem to have forgotten knowledge for its own sake, but judge its value in its ability to create more money. We seem to have forgotten the promise of freedom contained in beautiful art and music, and have in a miserly deal, revalued these in terms of the money they can generate. Love is sold in the marketplace, and when a child is educated, it is often with the goal of churning out another asset that can at the end of the day benefit the bottom-line of business. Today, we talk of the triple bottom-line, and while this represents a progressive step away from the depravities of business, it is still the bottom-line and the institution of business that drives our meaning and our worth. At the end of the day, we have even forgotten that we can be something other than cogs or even fountains in the game of business. We have forgotten that there are other drivers of progress that if pursued along their own paths of development may result in a balance of creation necessary for truer sustainability. The sense of business has pervaded our lives so strongly that the meaning of societies and their very progress has become synonymous with the progress of business. This state of being indicates that the global society fractal too is in the vital phase. But again, why should we expect anything different, if in our basic stance as individuals we view life from a vital perspective."

(Pravir Malik in 'Connecting Inner Power with Global Change: The fractal ladder,' p. 154 Response)

Energy efficiency

"The concept of energy efficiency (EE) varies depending on the person who is defining it. Economists, politicians and sociologists have very different views of EE. Often, the concept of EE is defined either in a technical sense or in a more broad and subjective sense. People with a social view of EE might consider energy savings to be a gain in welfare, while those with a more technical view of efficiency would classify the savings as resources saved. Many a time, the term 'energy efficiency' is used to describe what actually can be termed as energy conservation."

"In general, EE describes the relation of an activity or service and the energy used for this purpose. The precise definition of EE varies according to its field of application. The different meanings of efficiency in economy, ecology, and technology contribute to this diversity. In their taxonomy of efficiency terms, Diekman et al. distinguish nine definitions and areas of application. An economic approach to EE, for instance, aims at the optimal resource allocation and minimal overall costs. EE in a more subjective sense may refer to the relative thrift or extravagance with which energy inputs are used to provide services such as powering a vehicle, firing a boiler, cooling an office or lighting a house. EE can be an economic concept – similar to that of productivity, a political concept – the result of EE policy, as well as a sociological concept – reflecting lifestyles of different groups."

(B. Sudhakara Reddy et al. in 'Energy Efficiency and Climate Change,' p. 77 Sage)

Task conflict is necessary for a safe environment

"Most of us avoid conflict as much as we can. The problem in groups, as in life, is that conflict is inevitable. Each group has to define its goals, clarify how it will function, and determine the various roles that members will play. Group members should expect disagreements about the content of the group's goal and how to solve specific problems related to that goal. Task conflict is a necessary part of this process because, from divergent points of view, a more unified direction must be agreed upon if group members are to work together in a productive way."

"On a more psychological level, task conflict is necessary for the establishment of a safe environment. Although at first glance this may seem paradoxical, task conflict promotes the development of trust. We all know from our own experience that it is easier to develop trust in another person or in a group if we believe that we can disagree and we won't be abandoned or hurt because we have a different perspective. It is difficult to trust those who deny us the right to hold different views. To engage in a task conflict with others and to work it out is an exhilarating experience. It provides energy, a shared experience, and a sense of safety and authenticity and allows deeper trust levels and collaboration."

"From the task perspective, if people are not free to express their points of view, the group's product is likely to be inferior. If everyone just goes along with the first idea that's expressed, the outcome is unlikely to be of high quality. Task conflict is a normal, natural, and necessary part of group life. Keeping that in mind will make things much easier."

(Susan A. Wheelan in 'Creating Effective Teams: A guide for members and leaders,' 3e p. 34 Sage)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Friendship first, competition second

"I hope it is not true that we have lost our humanity where teaching our children is concerned. We need to maintain love as the foundation of education. On a playing field, a team that cannot love its opponent is not a complete team. This does not mean that you don't do your best to beat them. It just means you never lose your love, respect and compassion for the opposing players. The best part of the game of rugby union, which I took up after my college days were over, was sitting around drinking beer with the opposing team after the game. My love and respect for those men was immense, yet it did not preclude me warning them that I would be back next Saturday to teach them a lesson… especially if I had lost the game. In sports, ideally, you may lose the game, yet you should never lose the love of the other team's players."

"In China during the Cultural Revolution, hundreds of thousands of people had to receive new training all at the same time. There was new farm machinery to master. People had to learn about building new homes and farm buildings. Others had to learn folk medicine, teaching, and even parenting skills. The pressure was so great to rebuild the culture that every single person had to make a contribution – tiny children, teenagers, young adults, and even the very old. If a group of people came together to learn, for example, how to drive a tractor, the class wasn't over until every person had mastered the skill. The students who learned fast helped those who needed more time. Although there is much I might criticise about the Cultural Revolution, the slogan for this period of China's history was 'Friendship first, competition second.'"

"In modern academia everyone competes for the top grades. When the class ends, scores are totalled up and people receive either passing or failing grades. Some learn from the experience, others don't. The 'losers' suffer alone in defeat… the victorious ones celebrate. You may have noticed that oftentimes the very best of academia are social introverts, brilliant within the academic system but socially lacking. They stick to themselves or with others of their kind. They are the ideal smart people that schools praise. Students like these conform well and abide by the rules. They learn early that to love and help your classmate is not allowed; it's called cheating. They avoid forming close relationships where helping a friend could mean losing their own position as the 'smartest' in the class."

"It is not a coincidence that many people who staunchly defend the educational system are both elitist and lonely. They seem to have a need to prove to everyone around them how smart they were in school or how many degrees they have. Having completely bought into the system, they perceive education as little more than a game of one-upmanship."

(Robert T. Kiyosaki in 'Be Rich & Happy,' p. 59 Jaico)

Meditation, at three levels

"Meditation does not mean chanting mantras, which one may enjoy doing, nor does it mean thinking or mental reflection. Neither is it concentration or focusing, nor is it practising various yoga postures. Essentially, meditation is a knack – the knack of non-judgmental observation, witnessing. Witnessing needs to work basically on three levels: the body, the mind, and the emotions. The body is the easiest part to witness. It is the gross part of our personality. While involved in various activities, one may watch the body – its motions and movements, but without any judgment or interpretation. Simply observe every movement as if the body were somebody else's. Suddenly we can become aware of how we normally make the same movements, but in a robotic way, mechanically and habitually. By simply watching, however, we become conscious, aware, alert and decisive in making the same body movements."

"The mind is more difficult to watch. It is not as gross as the body is; rather, it is subtle. It is more 'inside,' and trickier to see. Thinking, mostly random and incoherent thinking, occupies the mind predominantly. The difficulty in watching the endless trail of thoughts is because each thought simultaneously brings in judgment, evaluation, preference, and identification. Thinking is a non-voluntary activity, which, the experts say, drains our energy. The frequency and intensity of fleeting thoughts is such that there is no gap between one thought and another. Hence, witnessing thoughts is a challenge for one whose mind is constantly buzzing and leaving no room to experience silence."

"Emotions too can be watched, but they are even more subtle a phenomenon than are the thoughts. We often face strong emotions such as anger. In a tense situation, for example, someone hurls an abusive word. At that moment, rather than expressing the swelled up anger provoked by the other individual, one can just acknowledge that anger is there, inside."

"Without choosing to do anything about the swelling anger and by just passively watching its presence, immediately the anger loses its power; a gap between the person and the anger is created and that brings about a new situation – the person is no longer controlled by that emotion; instead he becomes the master of it. Simply by watching with a non-judgmental observing mind, the thoughts begin to recede and disappear; the emotional energy begins to lose its intensity and gets dissolved."

(Vasant Joshi in 'If It Could Happen To Buddha, Why Not You?' p. 132 Wisdom Tree)

How to be a better television host

"The best Oprah moment for me was when she came to New York for a board meeting. We all expected her to stop by the studios only briefly, but any visit was better than no visit. But then Roni told us that Oprah wanted to meet with the core staff of Pure Oxygen for a chat. I was thrilled at the thought of sitting with Oprah and a handful of other people."

"We all waited in the conference room, nearly combusting from excitement. And then, she came strolling in with that incredible aura that always surrounds her. Even though I had met her twice before, I still couldn't help but be awestruck, nervous, and thrilled."

"Oprah casually said, 'Hi, there! How's everyone doing today?' We all gave the same, goofy giggles and said we were fine."

"The purpose of the meeting was for Oprah to get a better sense of what our show was doing, and to consider with us ways to improve it. It was a chance for us to get advice from the best in the business – really, a once-in-a-lifetime chance – so I wasn't going to squander it."

"I said that there were times when I felt conflicted as a host, because of the way the producers approached a topic versus what I thought was more appropriate. I asked Oprah how a host can reconcile these two things and make the approach work."

"She replied that it's all about intention. 'You should always ask yourself, 'What is the intention of this story or interview?' What do you want to get out of it? What do you want the audience to get from it? If the right intention is there, then the story will be what it should be and will somehow make a difference, an impact.'"

"As I sat listening to Oprah, who was looking at speaking directly at me, for a moment everything sort of froze. It was surreal. Here I was getting personal advice from Oprah Winfrey on how to be a better television host. I couldn't really believe my good fortune. Her advice has always stayed with me and, to this day, I think about intention before, during, and after anything I do both on and off television. It's a great philosophy to live by, because it keeps things focused and true."

(May Lee in 'May Lee Live and in Person,' p. 84 Wiley)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Newer gods

"I had always noticed that my father treated persons of the legal profession with extra respect. From my childhood, I had been aware that these dignitaries had to be propitiated with gifts of coins, rupees, fish and vegetables on various pretexts. For this reason, even the junior officials of the courts, including the peons, had begun to occupy a position of high regard in my eyes. These were the gods we in Bengal worshipped now, newer and smaller editions of our thirty-three crore deities. In matters of property and material life, people depended much more on them for solutions to problems than even on Lord Ganesha, the god of success. Naturally, therefore, these men received all the offerings previously reserved for Lord Ganesha."

(Rabindranath Tagore in 'The Return of Khokababu,' Tr: Sipra Bhattacharya, p. 43 Harper)


"She had not told Raakha yet, since nothing was fixed, nothing may come of it yet."

"Of late he had taken to speaking about life in the big cities. In Dilli and Lahore, he said, men and women talked freely to each other and no one made much of it. And in London and Paris, men and women went out together and even decided whom they would marry on their own. No one there, he said, knew he word 'gotra' or what it meant and yet the sun rose and set there every day just the same. They had water in their houses and food on their tables and laughter and children in their homes, just the same as everywhere else."

"God didn't care about gotra, Raakha said."

"But Raakha cared about gotra, she could tell. He cared more and more each passing day. Though the word had not passed between them recently, she could hear it in the sudden, unexplained exhalations of breath, see it in the shadows that passed across his face, touch it in the furrows that formed on his forehead. Because Raakha knew they didn't live in London or Paris and never would. And in Kala Saand gotra rules were written in stone."

"She knew the moment she told him about her prospective groom, everything would change irrevocably between them."

(ord 'gotra' or what it meant and yet the sun rose and set there every day just the same. They had water in their houses and food on their tables and laughter and children in their homes, just the same as everywhere else."

"God didn't care about gotra, Raakha said."

"But Raakha cared about gotra, she could tell. He cared more and more each passing day. Though the word had not passed between them recently, she could hear it in the sudden, unexplained exhalations of breath, see it in the shadows that passed across his face, touch it in the furrows that formed on his forehead. Because Raakha knew they didn't live in London or Paris and never would. And in Kala Saand gotra rules were written in stone."

"She knew the moment she told him about her prospective groom, everything would change irrevocably between them."

(Manjul Bajaj in 'Come, Before Evening Falls,' p. 159 Hachette)

Security levels

"Security level 1: Afghanistan is a cool place. You can even go out in the streets and buy cigarettes."

"Security level 2: Yikes, the situation in the country isn't great. I'd do better to stay at home and send the guard to get cigarettes."

"Security level 3: We all stay at home and pray to God that no one has touched the stock of level 3 cigarettes. The worse thing about all this is that the higher the security level gets, the less you feel like quitting smoking."

"Security level 4: In theory, you should all have been repatriated back to France. The tobacco place has been bombed out anyway and the guard is now unemployed."

(Nicolas Wild in 'Kabul Disco,' p. 103 Harper)

One last sip of sap

"I have never seen the star jasmine.


so bright

as in this early spring:


it buds fiercely against the tough boughs.


Even withered, it clings to them,

as if craving

one last sip of sap.


So certain old people are,

with their eyes still as bright as stars;

their gnarled fingers still milking



from the smallest of pleasures."

(Tanya Mendonsa in 'The Dreaming House,' p. 117 Harper)

Herd, the heart of Nandgaon

"The herd also represented in concrete and quite indisputable terms, the wealth of Nandgaon. Cut off as it was from the road, what little cash income Nandgaon earned came entirely from its herd, whose offspring were sold each year at the Dussehra Mela in Mahendragiri. Since Nandgaon's bulls were famous, they commanded good prices. In addition, extra milk from the cows was collected by the headman, transported by his cousin Vilas Rao to the nearest town and sold to the government cooperative. The money from the milk was not distributed like the milk was, but was kept to pay for maintaining the village, its pond, the temple, to pay for festivals, pujas, the local schoolteacher, and the medical expenses of any villager who fell seriously ill and had to be taken to the town. No one went hungry in Nandgaon, the villagers were proud of saying."

"The cattle of the village were nearly all related, for the headman generously loaned Nandini's male offspring to the other villagers whenever their cows came on heat. Through them, the entire village was related to one another. But the cattle, Laxmi soon realised, were only the physical representation of something far more powerful that tied Nandgaon together, something that made it very different from her own village, and every other village she had known. This was the love that bound the villagers to their cattle and since the cattle were all related, to the headman and to each other. It was as if all of Nandgaon had a single heart and that heart was the herd."

(Radhika Jha in 'Lanterns On Their Horns,' p. 148 Harper)

Ustad Imdad Khan (1848-1920)

"The founder of the Etawah gharana of sitar playing, Ustad Imdad Khan was one of the greatest sitar and surbahar players of his time. He was a pioneering artiste who performed widely all over the Indian subcontinent and it is said that he even played for Queen Victoria during her visit to India."

"Imdad Khan sahib learnt from his father Sahabdad Khan, a trained vocalist and sitar player. As Imdad Khan's musical journey progressed, he developed a technique and style that were very unique. Imdad Khan was also trained by the legendary beenkar Bande Ali Khan, a disciple and son-in-law of Ustad Haddu Khan (of the brothers Haddu-Hassu Khan). He had two sons who became central figures in the world of Indian instrumental music, Ustad Enayet Khan and Ustad Wahid Khan."

"The most famous story we have heard of Ustad Imdad Khan was that he was a fanatic as far as practising was concerned, to the point that when he travelled by train he would get off at the next station when it was time for him to practise. We also heard from our father and Ustad Vilayat Khan that since they did not have watches back then, they timed the level of an artiste's practice with large, thick candles. An artiste would play until the candle burned out. So they would say that Ustad Imdad Khan is 'a four candle practised artiste'!"

(Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan in '50 Maestros, 50 Recordings,' p. 79 Harper)

Codes of conduct

"How did communities govern themselves? All stable professional relationships demand a dispute-settlement system carrying legitimacy. In the case of Indian merchants we see the play of two intermeshed systems – the formal panchayat or personal court, and a moral code."

"Historical scholarship on medieval south India (twelfth to fourteenth centuries) shows that trading communities like the Ayyavole and Nailadesi displayed a great deal of unity and organisation. The presence of a samaya, or conventions about code of conduct and regulatory rules, has been noted. Merchants distinguished by locality, kin group, and community followed their own codes of conduct, known in the scriptures as achara or practices, which differed according to particular groups…"

(Tirthankar Roy in 'Company of Kinsmen,' p. 93 OUP)

Congruence of interests with Korea

"India's cost-effective human resources could complement the growing labour scarcity and rising wages in Korea. Korean companies are already looking at India as an ideal location for global outsourcing. Hyundai India, for example, is a regional manufacturing hub for its parent company in Korea. Other opportunities for expanding business linkages exist in engineering, design engineering, and construction services. As the Indian economy continues to expand, even at the lower projected 7-8 per cent range for 2009, there will be a continuing demand for high technology products from Korea. In services, Korea has a competitive edge in hardware while India has the advantage of cutting-edge software. Korean construction firms are already heavily engaged in India's ambitious highway construction programme. This gives Korean construction firms an added advantage in bidding for other infrastructure development projects. India over the next decade will likely invest several hundred billion dollars for development of its ports, railroads, airports, electrical generating facilities/ transmission lines, and utilities. Still another area where Korea has an advantage in India is naval construction. As India expands its navy, the technologically advanced Korean shipbuilding industry stands out as a potential supplier. India has already expressed interest in this Korean technology, particularly as a source to replace the now out-of-date warships from the Soviet Union/ Russia."

('India's Foreign Policy,' Ed: Sumit Ganguly, p. 187 OUP)

Social media

"The customer is the writer: History has taught business owners a lesson on the importance of blogging. It is no secret that Barack Obama won his presidential election on the power of his blog, among other Internet tools. The influential command that these have over audiences is only growing with every passing day. Businesses that offer storefronts and static pages full of corporate and sales gibberish will be sunk – by none other than the consumer herself."

"Buddy, I'm sick of you: Here's a contradictory take on the digital scene. Social networks are over-saturated. New sites have appeared – and vanished. One reason could be user fatigue. People are getting tired of being repeatedly asked, 'What's up?' Conversations are hardly meaningful on social sites and after a point, get mechanical too. No wonder user numbers on some networks have stagnated."

('Honey, I Shrunk the World: The essential global digital media handbook,' p. 323 Om)

Fears of Chinese asset price bubbles

"China's economic stimulus has been financed by an explosion of bank credit. Worries in 2008 about a Chinese economic implosion following the collapse in Western demand for Chinese exports have been replaced by fears of Chinese asset price bubbles and overheating. While the gap between potential and actual Chinese economic output remains wide enough and the monetary control of the Chinese Government currently remains active enough to allay these fears, there still is an underlying problem here which arises from the lack of Chinese monetary controls. A government can choose to control either the level of its currency's exchange rate, or the level of domestic interest rates, but not both. By fixing the yuan against a basket of major currencies, of which the US dollar is the most important, China has yielded sovereignty over its domestic interest rate policy to the US Federal Reserve. China needs to regain control of its monetary policy, in order to increase the margin of safety around its economic management. This comprises a strong argument for an end to China's fix of the yuan against the currencies of its major importers in the US and Europe, particularly as US interest rates look likely to remain very low for a long time. A genuinely floating Chinese currency would allow the proactive use of Chinese domestic interest rates to ration credit and manage inflationary expectations. This would greatly reduce the likelihood of a Chinese asset price bubble resulting from continued economic stimulus."

(Giles Chance in 'China and the Credit Crisis,' p. 67 Wiley)

Sweat equity share

"The term 'sweat equity share' is defined clause (b) of the Explanation below section 17(2)(vi). Accordingly, 'sweat equity shares' means equity shares issued by a company to its employees or directors at a discount or for consideration other than cash for providing know-how or making available rights in the nature of intellectual property rights or value additions, by whatever name called. Section 17(2)(vi) refers to sweat equity shares being issued or allotted by the employer free of cost or at concessional rates to his employees. However, this definition of 'sweat equity shares' refers to shares being issued to employees or directors at a discount. Harmoniously reconciling section 17(2)(vi) and the said clause (b), it can be said that sweat equity shares issued to directors will fall within the ambit of section 17(2)(vi) only when the directors are also employees, i.e., employee-cum-director or whole-time director."

('Employees – How to save income tax with new rules governing valuation of perquisites,' p. 152 Taxmann)

Meaning of ‘personal attendant’

"The term 'personal attendant' should not be confused with 'personal assistant.' The dictionary meaning of the word 'attendant' as a noun is one who owes a duty or service to another, or in some sort depends upon him. One who follows and waits upon another (Black's law Dictionary). In conjunction with the adjective 'personal,' the term 'personal attendant' in the present context can refer only to a servant who attends to the personal needs of the employee, as opposed to official needs. A 'personal attendant' should also not be confused with a 'helper' as contemplated in rule 2BB(1)(d). There, the 'helper' is one who assists the employee in the performance of his duties. On the contrary, a personal attendant will have no official chores, and his duty is restricted to 'attending' on the employee and looking after his domestic chores, like supervising the work of other domestic staff, attending to bank work, escorting children of employee to school, etc."

('New Rules Governing Taxation of Perquisites,' p. 47 Taxmann)