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.

Early days post retirement

Today is 31st of July and it’s been exactly two months that I last attended office on 31st May, the day I superannuated. It’s been a bit of dilemma – while on one hand the time seems to be flying, especially as I am currently spending some quality family time in Johannesburg, on the other hand it appears ages since my superannuation.

And though I have consciously avoided keeping myself updated with what’s happening at my erstwhile office place, one can choose to be deaf and blind but the same is not completely possible in today’s age of information. I highlight a few facts that have surreptitiously crept into my knowledge:

(1) The department that I headed for many years now bears a new look consequent to a major restructuring. In fact, from an important department, it’s now become a behemoth with number of people more than doubling. My successor seems at least twice as powerful as I ever was!

(2) Axis Bank posted excellent Q1 results for the quarter ended 30th June and the Bank seems to be on its way to regaining its past glory after a series of rather lackadaisical quarters.

(3) Axis share price is creeping back to the past levels of Rs800+ and many of the beneficiaries of the Bank’s ESOP scheme seem to have added considerable value since I left.

For me as a person, it’s been rather a prolonged enjoyable period, as aforesaid and a matter of great satisfaction at the organisation’s improved performance, as how one can totally detach oneself from an organisation with which one had had the association lasting almost 28 years and that was just a start up when one joined it!

Hopefully, it will not be one off joy and my personal affairs as also affairs concerning my erstwhile organisation, in which I continue to have extremely high stakes as customer, depositor and investor will continue to provide me a sustained happiness. I solicit good wishes of my readers.

Organisations and individuals

Axis Bank has posted excellent results for the Q1 ended 30/06/2022. The only point to be highlighted here is that I was with the organisation for only part of this quarter as I retired on 31/05/2022.

When I left my erstwhile organisation to join UTI Bank, as the Axis Bank was then known as in 1994, there was a sort of efflux from that organisation with many of those leaving it forming creme de la crème ( not me of course who was quite junior to be part of such an elite category). However, quarter after quarter after the exit of such talent, that organisation continued with its sterling run!

The above two instances relating to me go on to re-emphasising the fact that organisations are much bigger than individuals. Individuals come and go – sometimes seeking greener pastures, at other times out of sheer frustration and grievance and of course on account of superannuation or retirement- but organisations built on solid foundations continue their run for decades ( some organisations are in centenarian league), facing various ups and downs with resilience.

We should all be seized of the reality that we leave organisations on our own accord for the reasons stated above and in the process, we neither do any obligation or disservice to the organisation. Organisations continue as it is as new replacements come and fill the gap caused by an exit. I realised this much earlier in my career and probably, the clarity of this reality was at least partly responsible for my longevity.

Bye bye Ford; welcome Jimny

Being in South Africa, two news items relating to automobile sector caught my attention. The first one very positive and exhilarating and the second a bit sad.

Here in Johannesburg, Suzuki is garnering volumes by aggressively pricing its blockbuster SWIFT. However, the model that has caught my fancy is Jimny. It’s very cute, small yet spacious and should do wonderfully well in Indian conditions. As I was contemplating why Suzuki was not launching what could be a game changer for it in India, where it held more than 50% market share, came the news of Jimny’s launch in India. It’s positive, exciting and matter of great pleasure. Hope Suzuki prices it right and we do seem to be having a blockbuster in the offing.

The second news was about Ford rolling out its last car from its Chennai plant consequent to its decision to wind up its India operations. Ford seems to be a some sort of market leader, especially in big SUVs and off roaders in South Africa. It’s Everest ( seems to be same that’s sold as Endeavour in India) and it’s 4X4 beast Ranger are big hits in the local market. I also come across quite a few Ecosports, Figos and Fiestas. In fact, first Fiesta and then Ecosports, when launched, took Indian markets by storm. I fancied buying Ecosports but it had a waiting period of 16 to 18 weeks. It’s Figo also attained quite a bit of popularity and acceptance and Endeavour was really matchless in its class. I don’t know why first Chevrolet ( I enjoyed their Aveo and Spark) and now Ford have called it a day in India, depriving Indians of solid, strong, albeit low on fuel economy American cars.

South Africa boasts of lovely road network, with plenty of off road driving options. Hence, we see lots of big cars on its roads. But sharp hike in fuel prices seems to be pinching folks here and we see lately fuel efficient cars such as Swift doing exceedingly well. Each country will have cars that suit its palate and geography, but India will miss Fords and Chevrolets.

Bye bye Ford! Welcome Jimny!

Role Model

When the politics, economics, current affairs etc fail to provide any provocation or inspiration, thoughts from Mahatria are always there to spark your imagination for a blog. His recent utterance says:

“In the history of the world there has been nobody like you.

To the infinite of times to come there will be nobody like you.

You are unique, rare, original.

You are a master piece, Master“s piece.”

It’s true that most of us have role models whom we want to emulate. I think our first role model are our parents then teachers and then come our colleagues, bosses, sportspersons, actors, politicians etc not necessarily in that order. While we can definitely pick up some virtues from people we come in contact with and get inspired by, the fact is that each one of us is unique, as created by God. God uses a mould for his creation only once and destroys it after that and therefore, there’s no point to be yearning to become someone else.

I was not born very strong or rich

Nor did I excel in my studies;

I didn’t reach the peak in my career

Nor was I always free from worries.

Yet when I reconciled to be myself

A sense of calm and peace prevailed upon me

Now I live each day as it comes

And enjoy the nature’s freebie!

Thanks Mahatria for continuing to help us in improving our lives.

Pragati Sehgal nee Buche

My memories are faint and distributed as I was very young when my Mama went to US for higher studies. I just recall a few random scenes at Delhi airport. I also very vaguely remember him having married his Co-student, also an Indian from Nagpur and my Nani, my grandmother, hosting a small kirtan at her residence celebrating his simple church wedding in US. He actually married Pragati Buche, a Maharashtrian from Nagpur on 12th July 1968 after a brief courtship and exactly after 54 years, he lost his life partner on 12th July 2022. Pragati, my aunt, lost her battle to cancer and left this world, more importantly her children and her beloved husband, my Mama, her companion of more than five and half decades.

In a sense, they were a made for each other couple- so different- he a Punjabi Khatri and she a Maharashtrian Brahmin – and yet so much aligned and in love. His subtle sense of humour never provoked or upset her, though she’d pretend to be angry at his leg pulling. And they traveled the world over and yet remained simple all their lives – in their lifestyle, food habits and everything else.

While Nagpur was her home, her special love for everything Maharashtrian made their Mumbai visits very special. She loved Panshikar’s food, Waman Hari Pethe’s Jewellery and so many other of such ilk. I personally learnt so much about Marathi language, food and culture from her.
I and my wife looked forward to hosting them at our new residence in Mumbai, but this dream of ours will now remain unfulfilled. We pray for long and healthy life for our Mama, but without his Pragati, our Mami, neither he nor his visits will be same.

We pray for her peaceful rest in God’s abode and her repeated rebirths to be my Mama’s life partner.

Is rupee’s slide against USD natural?

Came across a tweet that shared the editorial by redoubtable Ashok H Advani, Editor Business India, regarding the slide of INR vis-a-vis USD. The article very powerfully argues how the outdated Exchange Control is being used to artificial determine rupee’s real value, leading to its great slide versus USD. It suggests that by abolishing exchange control and treating foreign exchange as just another commodity, rupee can be allowed to realise its real inherent value.

It’s a bit of a mystery that for all the openness and democracy, why we still have great secrecy around the functioning of bureaucracy and why even the most powerfully mandated governments, like the one currently in power, are not able to follow the best global policies and practices, the ones that have made much smaller and naturally constrained countries such as UAE and Singapore economic superpowers.

I had once earlier suggested that why in India, post elections, we can’t cut across the party lines to build a super think tank. What if erudite economists such as P Chidambaram are in opposition, Yashwant Sinha is out of favour with the government, Montek Singh advised the previous governments and above all the former PM and architect of economic reforms Dr Manmohan Singh headed Congress led coalition government for two terms? Can’t their inputs and experience be pooled in to devise ways and means of stopping rupee’s slide? Is political agenda in this country above everything? Even national agenda?

We have the wherewithal, capacity and know how. We only need to pool it all together by overcoming our narrow and myopic established positions.

Guru Purnima- an intimate part of our culture

Guru Purnima assumes special significance in our culture and ethos where Guru is kept at a pedestal even higher than God. As a Doha by Kabirdas goes, “ When the Guru and the almighty both appear simultaneously, I will go and bow in respect to the Guru first for I would have never realised God without Guru’s guidance.”

But in a time when spiritual Gurus have paved way for professional teachers, the concept of Guru- Shishya parampara is almost extinct. It’s more so in the professional world, where each new individual at the place of work is either expected to be a domain expert from day 1 itself or is to fend for himself to learn the tricks of the trade. No senior or boss has the time or inclination to invest in the career development or learning path of youngsters. 

I, of course, belonged to an era when the new recruits were given space and time to learn the work and seniors were patient with us. So we had the sense of gratitude towards those who invested in grooming us. But when today’s youngsters pay their obeisance to me for their progress and prosperity, it beats me no end and I can only attribute this to our culture that ingrains such values in us. 

I don’t consider myself worthy of all these tributes paid to me by my several ex colleagues , but would exhort upon all the managers and bosses to carry forward this important legacy of our culture and country and invest at least some time and effort in the youngsters starting their career as part of our teams. No amount of professional success will be as satisfying as a word of gratitude from a young colleague who gains something from such an intervention. This will give us the status of that of a Guru, considered superior even to God almighty, as aforesaid.

#Happygurupurnima

Sent from my iPhone