Happy birthday Lata Didi

Grand old lady of Bollywood music, the nightingale of India, goddess Saraswati personified, Lata Mangeshkar would have turned 93 today. Cruel clutches of death snatched her from amongst us and we lost the most mellifluous voice ever forever.

Her story is well known – how she struggled in her early days as the responsibility of the entire family comprising 4 other siblings fell on her young and frail shoulders following the premature death of the family patriarch Pt Dinanath Mangeshkar, how her voice was initially rejected by music directors as too thin and how she overcame her Marathi background to master finer nuances of Urdu are the facts that now form part of the folklore. But her domination of Hindi playback music scenario from late 40s to early 90s that’s almost 5 decades is unparalleled and legendary. Not that she stopped singing altogether by the turn of the century, but she became particularly selective about the kind of work. She indeed sang some memorable ditties for today’s music makers such as Rahman, Jatin Lalit, Shankar Ehsan Loy but her best of work was spread over the three decades of 50s, 60s and 70s.

There’s no point in listing out specific songs of a songstress who sang thousands of songs in almost all Indian languages. Only thing we can conclude is that Lata was very special and talent like Lata is born once in centuries. She will always remain in the hearts of music lovers through her innumerable unforgettable songs!

Let’s pray for her soul to rest in peace!

Light amongst the gloom

Many of my readers are rather surprised at my reduced output of fresh blogs. The expectation was that having retired from active service, my writing would become more prolific. However, for a considerable period post my retirement, I was with my daughter’s family where the two munchkins kept me busy leaving me with no time or thought for writing. However, of late, in spite of abundant time, I have not felt inspired to pen something new. May be, when I was working, I was coming across people and events that triggered ideas for a blog. Now that I am hardly meeting or interacting with a large set of people, the new ideas seem to have dried up. Current affairs, my other passion, seem to be hitting a new low that’s providing me with a solid reason to stay away from the realm of politics. In fact questions such as are the events in Maharashtra and Bihar similar or while one is virtuous and ethical the other is vicious and unethical? What’s now happening in Jharkhand? News were prophesying imminent and immediate fall of Hemant government! Is RG’s padyatra a hit or a flop? Is it going to reverse sagging fortunes of congress? Now that Ghulam Nabi Azad has severed connections with Congress, what’s going to his next step? And what Captain Amarinder Singh is going to bring on the table for BJP? What’s happening in Canada where Khalistan movement seems to be getting revived? And who were responsible for riots in Manchester? What’s going to be Hon’ble Supreme Court’s last word on Hijab controversy? What’s all this hullabaloo about PFI and why it was proliferating till date?

On top of it, we hear about an uneven monsoon that’s led to shortfall in sowing targets that, in turn, could add to food inflation! And while Russia Ukraine war seems to be unceasing, there are new frontiers being opened in the erstwhile Soviet states!

I must confess, it’s all very negative and very uninspiring for an eternal optimist and a positive thinker like me. I am not sure what could clear these dark clouds hovering above us and bring peace, prosperity and happiness.

May be it could happen from now onwards, today being Mahalaya, the start of Durga Puja celebrations and nine days of fun and frolic beginning with the first Navratri tomorrow.

Happy Mahalaya and Navratri! Let the colours of Navratri paint our lives in the most vibrant colours.

Triumvirate

As per dictionary, triumvirate is referred to a group of three men holding power in Ancient Rome, in particular ( the First Triumvirate ) the unofficial coalition of Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus in 60 BC and ( the Second Triumvirate ) a coalition formed by Antony, Lepidus, and Octavian in 43 BC. In Hindu mythology we have our own triumvirate of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh, more precisely referred to as holy trinity.

The above thoughts came to mind while pondering over the retirement of Roger Federer after a glorious tennis career. Along with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, this triumvirate ruled the tennis world for more than 2 decades splitting a large number of grand slam and other important titles amongst them. In my school days, when I first started following tennis closely, there was a triumvirate that included an Indian prodigy and was popularly known as ABC of world tennis- the abbreviation for Amritraj, Borg and Connors. Unfortunately, Amritraj couldn’t keep pace with other two and later on a brilliant braggart McEnroe completed the triumvirate. Later on we had three brilliant American stars in Sampras, Courier and Agassi forming a triumvirate and dominating world tennis for pretty long period.

And this triumvirate concept is not restricted only to tennis for that matter. Another field where we have witnessed triumvirate repeatedly is our very own Bollywood. The first triumvirate of Dev, Dilip and Raj dominated silver screen for almost two decades till the next set comprising Dharmendra, Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh ( not officially known as triumvirate due to certain periods that did not overlap) and for more than last two decades the Khan triumvirate of Shahrukh, Aamir and Salman have dominated Bollywood almost overshadowing the original triumvirate. And how can we ever forget the male singing triumvirate of Rafi, Mukesh and Kishore who left such a deep imprint that subsequently we had a new singer who’d be clone of one of the aforesaid three!

It would be interesting if my readers can suggest more such triumvirates that could form the basis of another blog on this theme.

A stitch in time can save nine

Two recent news items, both relating to Adani group, caught my attention. The first was of course the joyous news of Gautam Adani having attained the third spot in the Bloomberg Billionaires Index with a net worth of USD 148 Billion ( Rs11.85 lakh crore) The Ahmedabad based businessman with interest in ports, gas, power, real estate etc overtook Amazon’s Jeff Bezos to become the third richest person on the earth. This news added with the news of India displacing Britain as the fifth largest economy in the world speaks well of the India’s economic reforms working out wonders! 

The second news that came on the heels of Gautam Adani’s momentous achievement was something to worry about. It spoke about the debt overhang of the Adani group that at the last count seemingly rested at Rs2.22 lakh crore. 

I interpret the above in the following ways:

(1) Given the nature of industries that Adani group has invested in – gas, power, ports, infrastructure et al – that are all capital intensive, the debt ought to be quite large.

(2) While Rs2.22 lakh crore appears a humongous figure on standalone basis, if compared to Gautam Adani’s personal net worth, it appears rather minuscule.

(3) While the net worth is personal, debt is corporate and debt to equity needs to be evaluated for individual companies that have borrowed the amounts, rather than on the basis of personal net worth. 

Like we have systematically important banks ( SIBs) that are considered too large to be allowed to fail and are therefore, required to comply with certain additional regulations, I feel we should also have similar categorisation for corporates ( preferably groups – if not possible for groups, at least for individual companies). We have seen in the past that whenever a big group went bust, the damage to the banking sector and the economy was very severe. 

A stitch in time can save nine. While I have no reason to doubt the quality of corporate governance, some additional monitoring at Government/RBI level can lead to timely course correction if there are head winds. And this recommendation is not exclusively for Adani but all those group/ corporate where they debt leverage is rather high , say above Rs50000 crore! 

Teachers Day – 5th September

In our parlance, a teacher goes much beyond the literal meaning of someone who teaches in a school or college. In our lifetimes, especially in our growing up years in school and college, we comes across tens of such teachers, teaching us various subjects. But we remember a very few – those who leave deep imprints on our heart and mind. 

Later on, as part of our professional journey, we meet so many of our colleagues and in a sense we learn so much from many of them. In my first job, I was asked to sit on the despatch seat and my manager’s advice was to take help from the office peon, who best knew how to enter inward and outward letters, the stamp duty rates and reconciliation of stamp account. The next advice to me was to have full control of the transaction vouchers and the most appropriate person to learn proper filing and maintenance of vouchers was from the Branch Daftari. And this continued till the very day of my retirement – the first ledger entry, first DD issuance, tallying ledger balances, loan appraisal. Balance sheet analysis, Loan documentation and disbursement, LC/BG issuance, Bill negotiation, booking forward contract and so on. All those who painstakingly spared their time and thought to share knowledge with a youngster or learner were in a sense teacher. And those who influenced our lifestyles, behaviour and conduct were not mere teachers, but gurus in the real sense.

And my professional journey might have ended, but life journey continues and there’s so much to be learnt and done for which quest for new gurus and teachers  continues. 

A few days ago, we also celebrated Guru Purnima and teachers day on 5th September is another opportunity to pay our gratitude to those from whom we learnt so much. It’s besides the point that teachers and gurus, like parents, do not need a dedicated day to be paid respect to, but they deserve respect and gratitude on each day that we live and breathe.

Happy teachers day. 

Ganpati Bappa Morya- An ode to him in his obeisance

Oh the most benevolent Lord Ganesha

On this day we pray to you oh Ganesha

Your beloved devotees seek peace, happiness and love

The problems galore affecting us make them look up to you above

Let there be rains but no floods that destroy everything

No one faces drought to to end his life but live with a zing

Everyone gets enough food

No one starves and be in the wood

There’s love, empathy and trust amongst us

Let nothing, not even religion divide us

Territorial claims and claims of supremacy

May yield way to wisdom ending this lunacy

Corona, monkey pox and such epidemics

May get obliterated from earth by medics

You have created a world most beautiful

And given us everything the most plentiful

If our greed and avarice for more and more

Can be curbed, and be shown the door

You Bappa has provided enough to us

To lead a life with great happiness and zest!

It’s a small prayer, straight from the heart, addressed to our beloved Bappa as while we are celebrating this Ganesh festival with the same gaiety, there seems to be great pain and agony inflicted upon our fellow brethren by floods, droughts, wars, enmities, inflation and of course mutual suspicion and hatred! May Bappa accept our hearty obeisance to him!

Ganpati Bappa Morya!

Grandparents and story time

One of the several experiences that I am currently undergoing as a grandfather to two munchkins- one 5 years and the second 3 years old- is to rediscover the lost art of bedtime story telling. For one, I neither very distinctly recall stories heard by me as a child from my parents and grandparents and secondly whatever vague idea I have had of those stories, the same doesn’t appear to be of much relevance to today’s generation. When the two of them insisted that every night I spent some time with them in their bed telling them a story before retiring to my room, it left me with no option but to scratch my brains to not only to cater to their demand but keep them sufficiently interested in my narrative. I thought it best to concoct stories based on the things that received their utmost attention. This helped me in focusing on two major themes- wildlife, as our recent visit to famous Kruger National Park had aroused their great interest in wild animals and travel, as their aunty ( baby sitter employed to look after the two naughty boys) had to travel on an emergency to her native town in Zimbabwe and this aspect of crossing the border really fuelled their imagination.

Stories may read very naive and preposterous, but isn’t that how tales told to very young children should be? I would like to present these 2-3 concoctions in one of my future blogs, but as I proceed for journey back home after spending quality time spread over a little more than 2 months with them, I can only say that while my muscles and bones ache and physically I feel tired, mentally I feel totally refreshed and energised like I was as a child. Giving them shoulder rides, horse rides etc might have taken toll on my body, but these playful activities and especially the bedtime story telling by creating stories impromptu, surely rekindled childlike spirit in this sexagenarian.

Like always, leaving Johannesburg is an experience tinged with a bit of sadness, which is more pronounced this time as I have never stayed there this long. Every visit is a different experience in tandem with the growth and development of these kids and the next visit may again provide a different experience, but it will never be an encore of the previous visits.

75th year of our independence

This Independence Day, which assumes special significance being the 75th year of independence, I am away from my beloved Nation in a foreign land, but the feeling that’s rather difficult to explain being a mix of pride, happiness and slight anxiety, is very much there in my heart. Pride because as a nation, we seem to be doing well in spite of several constraints, more pronouncedly external threat and certain internal challenges. Happiness because nothing can provide happiness greater than freedom. Anxiety because some of the recent events are unbecoming of the Nation of our stature that has for long assimilated different points of views and lived in great harmony. The general political scenario that’s highlighted not even an iota of common ground, external developments such as protracted Russian Ukraine war, social media’s reaction to something as trivial as movies featuring certain stars or trolling of certain points of views on Twitter, Instagram and FB all such developments do not augur well for a pluralistic country like India.

While certain factors as listed above are beyond our control and we can at best deal with them by reacting to them in a manner that’s most appropriate, certain others are very much within our control. We seem to be on the threshold of putting a great foot forward, but as a Nation we will have to be inclusive. If all sections of society are not taken ahead together, we may show advancement here and there but we may not be able to justify the stamp of greatness that India has all along been flaunting with pride and that our nation truly deserves.

Happy 75th Independence Day and Jai Hind.

Laal Singh Chaddha – what’s all this noise about?

I haven’t seen Laal Singh Chaddha (LSC) and don’t know whether I would see it – not because it’s produced by Aamir Khan who also plays the main protagonist but because the movie hasn’t aroused enough pre release interest in spite of all the controversies surrounding it. 

Frankly speaking, it could be attributed to my ignorance that I am not aware of the reason for these controversies and the grudge that a certain section of audience seems to be holding against Aamir Khan. Is it purportedly due to his character in PK where Hindu gods were rather depicted in slightly distasteful manner or Aamir’s views on certain national issues? In either of the cases, call for boycott of LSC is not justified. A movie is a director’s medium that converts thoughts of a story teller into a visual artistry. An actor is a mere portrayer of these thoughts. PK was a Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Rajkumar Hirani, my favourite director’s, film. The message was, like his previous films, against blind faith and rituals and not per se against any faith. Being a Hindu majority country, may be focus on Hindu gods was probably more than those of other faiths. But in a free country, anyone is allowed to express his/her thoughts as long as these don’t overly hurt the sensitivity of any section. And in any case, all commercial releases in this country go through a very elaborate censor process. I think Hinduism as a religion and faith is resilient enough to have survived over centuries in spite of repeated assaults on it and if there’s a depiction of something that’s considered objectionable by a section, it can certainly not be treated as an insult of this great faith. 

The same applies to Aamir’s personal views, which should be seen in the light of an individual’s freedom to express him or herself rather than views of a superstar who may he following a faith other than that followed by a vast majority! 

The beauty lies in the fact that in spite of all the hate mongers, this country loves its three superstar Khans and notwithstanding increasing polarisation on religious lines, we continue to have a vast majority of populace living in peace and amity. In any case, an artist – be he/her be an actor, author, singer, painter or creator of any sort- should be seen as not only being above any religion or nationality but also as an individual having a point of view. 

Watching LSC will not lead to endangerment to any faith – more so to great faith called Hinduism. Aamir’s personal thoughts cannot lead to break up of this country. Let’s relish his artistic creativity.  Let’s watch LSC if we want to watch it. 

Outdated British policy refuses to die down

History tells us that British empire thrived the world over due to their divide and rule policy. India too got freedom ultimately but a new nation called Pakistan was carved out of it.

We are also told that we should learn from history as it has a tendency to repeat itself. Those who learn from history can avoid repeat of its dark chapters and hours. Unfortunately, a few of the statesmen in this country, who occupy important positions and whose views are heard avidly, seem to be suffering from “ foot in mouth” syndrome and they make such statements that ruffle the calm.

Like all five fingers form a fist, all the communities and states forming this nation provide strength to it. It is absolutely unfair ( I’d rather say foolish) to compare contribution of one community or religion or state. After all those who do business are not doing solely for economic prosperity of the region where they have set up their businesses but for their own prosperity as well! And then there are people engaged in various other chores and professions those who are also contributing significantly. Each community, section, class of people are contributing to the growth and prosperity of our country and there’s nothing to choose amongst them!

Even if my voice is faint and reaches out to a few hundred people, I will continue to exhort the virtues of unity and oneness and spread the happiness instead of acrimony and hatred.