Thursday, December 27, 2007


Benazir Bhutto is dead.

She has been shot dead [most probably] in Rawalpindi, the garrison town of Pakistan.

The world's leaders are shocked. They should not be - there was enough forewarning of this coming.

Nawaz Sharif said - this is a sad day for Pakistan. Good of him. Prez Musharraf so far said nothing. It happened under his watch, in his city. Probably he knew it all along anyway.

This is a sad day for Pakistan, indeed. But I fear - it is a sad day for the entire South Asia. May be, this will have an impact in shaping the world history. This makes the hopes of democracy and stability in Pakistan even more remote. This gives the madcap dictator Musharraf even more time. With a nuclear arsenal under his command, he is the most dangerous man in the world today.

So, jail for the Justice Chowdhury, and bullets for Benazir. Sharif possibly does not count as he will do a deal. The present American administration indeed has a Pakistan policy, which is working no better than its Iraq or Afghanistan policy. Yes, President Bush will leave a lasting legacy - of making the world a more dangerous place than the Cold War era.

One parting word for Benazir: She was the great hope of our generation. She failed it when power came to her. Perhaps now, she has done her duty in her death - by sending out a wake up call to the confused world caught in its own lies.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


2007 is over, well, almost. We are left with a few more days. Those can still be the defining few more days. Something truely momentus can still happen, which defines the year - for me, for you or may even be for the world. But as Christmas sets in and offices close, my work-year is over and time for reflection has started.

So, how was it overall? For me, it was not a bad year. Remember, 2006 was terrible for me, everything went wrong. It got better in 2007. Some wounds healed, some new grounds were broken. Professionally, a new opportunity opened up. Life became a lot less secure, but a lot more certain. A lot more fulfilling.

So, another year less to count, and one more to remember. Yes, I guess that's defining - I finally got old. My thoughts changed from aspirations to legacy, from profits to property. I thought about money, and realised how careless I have been so far. I regretted buying so many books and not one 'company paper' in my life. It showed me I am no entrepreneur; only a hopeless optimist.

Overall, I lived a boring busy life. Kept low profile, kept my patience, and counted days. Kept promising to myself that someday I shall make it big. In 2007, I also realised that the time is running out.

I saw lots of movies, and read a lot of books. Travelled a lot, clocked up airmiles and wasted lots of time on airport lounges. Most movies I saw are on inflight small screens, and most books I read in the hotel rooms. Did not take a single holiday, and did not drink much. Well, altogether, I lived like a good boy.

Waiting for the recession

Holidays! For me, nothing changes though. No special visits, no special shopping agenda, not many social engagements. This is what the last two crazy years done to my social presence - I was never there, and so I was struck off from many lists. Pity! But there goes my first New Year resolution.

Anyway, it is fairly cold outside. Let's be honest - it is very cold. Colder than the last season, perhaps, though no one talks about these things with any certainty. It is breezy and cold, and I noticed black ice on Thursday afternoon. One of my colleagues explained to me that global warming is not just about warming, it is about making weathers more extreme. So, a warmer July and a colder February is what we are bracing for. Almighty God, why have we forgotten you?

The shops are busy. I took a lot longer than usual to buy some of those last minute gift items. I was expecting a lot less crowd, given the recent headlines about recession. Did I think that there were less number of shoppers than last year? Yes, I did - but more like weather, one can't be certain about these things.

To update those who do not care to read the newspapers, the following is happening: The house prices are not going up. This is because people are fearful that they will not go up, and therefore not investing money in buying houses. The house prices are not going up because at this time, there is a credit squeeze, banks have a lot less loose money which they can lend to anyone. This is again because they actually gave a lot of money to lots of people who should not have borrowed so much, and that led to higher interest rates to keep the inflation down [as all those people were spending money buying things which they should not have in the first place] and this meant these people who could not afford the loans now needed to pay more to keep servicing it. So, yes, I would leave talking about this circular logic as long as you got the sense - we have got into a hole we dug for ourselves.

Funnily, I picked up a book yesterday - Boom Bust: House Prices, Banking and The Recession of 2010, by Fred Harrison. This book is published in 2005, so obviously we knew this all along. Also, almost all leading economists were warning that the debts are going too far. But the recession failed to arrive - almost like those environmental catastrophes everyone talks about and we kept doing whatever we were doing. Mr. Harrison blames two individuals - Alan Greenspan and Gordon Brown - for leading everyone down the path when they knew what lies ahead, at the same time making the point that the real flaw lies in the obsessive faith on one tool of economic management - the Interest Rate - to cure all evils.

Hopefully, this Christmas will pass happily. I am stepping out for some more last minute gifts, and I shall spend as long as I expect on the M&S queue today. So will everyone, and we shall contribute however much we can to keep the recession away [Mike observed, after noticing that I am reading Fred Harrison, that we would talk ourselves into recession]. However, the fears are unlikely to go away. This is primarily because we have an economy, which is not strong on fundamentals. The houses are bought by not those who need it for staying, but those who wants to make a profit on these. Those who need it for staying can't afford it anymore. So, we have a bubble economy - when it goes up, it goes up, but when it goes down, it goes down.

So, is this the end of the era of Globalisation? Will this bust destroy the emerging economies, turn America xenophobic, and push China down the path of military desparatism? Possibly no, but the problem is - this will make it more likely. While I shall not dig myself into a cave and wait for the end of the world, I shall head off for my shopping with this thought - the question of equality is no longer a moral question, but a pragmatic one. If the monetarist regimes across the world fails to control the economic see-saw again, this will tell us that generating economic activity without equitable distribution will make those see-saws only more violent, and they will eventually manage to throw us from our seat. I shall pray that it is not going to be this time around.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fashion Babylon

I am back from India - yes, yet again - and all ready for Christmas. The lovely weather is helping, the phones have become less busy and work hours less gruelling. Not shopped much this year - a bit down as my brother cancelled his visit to England rather last minute and since I have made no other plans, I am in for a rather boring christmas sitting at home. However, I recovered my reading habits, and made a pre-mature new year pledge not to lose it again.

What I just read is 'Fashion Babylon' - a story by Imogen Edward-Jones about a woman fashion designer based in London. Well, whatever the critics say about it, I found it engrossing - not just because I read it cover to cover in two days after such a long time. Not also because it has lots of stories, gossips, about the Fashion Industry and the assorted celebrities [I must admit that one take-away for me is a kinder view of Kate Moss], which probably is the reason lots of people will read it. I liked the human story, the entrepreneur's story, which is embedded into it.

The book starts with a London Fashion Week and ends with New York Fashion Week next year. It describes Paris but skips Milan - and takes the tale through a successful period in the narrator's life. It describes the pressures, the aspirations and the disappointments of the narrator. Also, this is a very London tale - with its pubs, streets, people and lingo wrapped all around, which is fascinating. The gays, the nudity, the drugs are all around - as expected - and this is the sweat-and-dirt view of fashion, as against the glossiness of the more successful 'The Devil Wears Prada' variety.

Overall, a good book to read. And, I am on the next one.

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"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt

Last Words

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

- T S Eliot

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