Eid Al Adha and Kashmir

Ibrahim (Abraham) took it upon himself to face the command of God to sacrifice his dearest possession, his son. During his preparation to do so, shaitan (the devil) tried to dissuade Ibrahim and his family, but the devil was driven away by throwing pebbles at him ( another ritual performed during Hadj). When Ibrahim attempted to cut the throat of his son on Mount Arafat, he was astonished to see his son unharmed and instead, an animal slaughtered. Thus Ibrahim passed the test by his willingness to surrender to God’s command.

Hope this great festival that’s an embodiment of selflessness and sacrifice, brings peace upon the entire humanity, our country and especially Kashmir that has suffered as a result of years of strife and restlessness. The inclusiveness of Indian culture that’s replete with the examples of people from all over making India their permanent home, should also be extended to our Kashmiri brethren. Abrogation of Articles 370 and 35(a) is not a victory or defeat of certain sections of society, but first step towards assimilating Kashmiris into Indian mainstream and making them reap fruits of India’s growth story. Kashmiris also should not feel any sense of insecurity as it’s not as if the entire country is rushing to Kashmir to set up business there or own real estate and disturb the demography. These fears have been found to be untrue in most of the cases as opening up largely brings in prosperity and very few ills.

There cannot be a better occasion to share love and empathy with the people of Kashmir than wishing them a happy, prosperous and peaceful Eid. If they accept, we can all start planning our next vacation to be spent in this paradise on earth, as tourism is Kashmir’s mainstay and restoration of tourist traffic is a sure shot boost to Kashmir’s economic prosperity.

Happy Eid Al Adha to all my readers.

Kashmir – Facts and fiction

There’s a popular news channel whose anchor’s staple line, “the nation wants to know”, caught the imagination of the nation, till the boisterousness and noise of this channel was replicated by almost all other news channels and the novelty wore off. But a nation that boasts of a fiercely independent media, especially press, it beats me as to why the issues don’t get discussed and clarified on merits ? Why important issues concerning the nation get lost in rabble rousing and unnecessary political/philosophical alignments? Why each issue has either a BJP or a Congress view point and not a National view point?

If congress is seen opposing, does it imply that they preferred continuance of Articles 370 and 35(a). Don’t think so! Congress is opposing because what it couldn’t do in 70 years , could be done by a Government in its second term only! Congress is just opposed to the manner in which this abrogation of these articles has been brought about and not to the very philosophy behind it. I think same is true for some other political parties opposing this action.

In spite of fact that this year we are celebrating 73rd Independence Day and that Indian electorate has matured over all these years, we continue to feel the need for appeasement of vote banks. BJP feels that this act could appease right wing ideology as furthering the cause of hindutva, while opposition parties feel that by supporting this act they may lose favour with minorities, especially Muslims! It’s most unfortunate that a great move towards integration of Kashmir into Indian mainstream is being looked at as a narrow political agenda rather than a national agenda! Why do we still presume that Muslims are not happy with this act by BJP Government? By this presumption, we are alienating majority of Muslims outside Kashmir from this important issue of national importance. In the process we are polarising communities also.

I have come across some interesting historical facts about the genesis of Kashmir issue. That Articles 370 and 35(b) were not the part of original accession document signed by Maharajah Hari Singh, but agreed later on through a pact between Shaikh Abdullah and Nehru. That fleeing Kabailis and Pakistani forces could have been thrown completely out of Kashmir leading to the accession of the entire Kashmir with India, instead of POK and IOK! But my view is that placing ourselves today in the shoes of Nehru is impossible and therefore instead of painting him as villain, let’s live with the history as it is and instead see the facts on their current merits! After all it’s not only India’s or Kashmir’s history but the histories of world around that are replete with errors, blunders, indecisions, wrong decisions, ifs and buts and there’s no point in panning these historical characters and murdering their characters as some of these have done several other good deeds earning them the status of national icons! Nehru is definitely a national icon, maligning whom post his demise is futile for he would not be able to explain his view now.

Let’s now spread love and compassion instead of claiming victory, downing people with other perspectives and painting social media with hatred and expletives.

Kashmir- Articles 370 and 35 (a)

An issue as big as the captioned matter deserves more than one blog. In this blog, I am just giving some random thoughts:

(1) When it comes to the position of India on the International forum or its prestige, we should keep aside our political differences and project one face. Certain political parties have needlessly taken a contrary position, though thanks to a very strong government, the damage caused has been arrested to being minimum. Some of these parties and their representatives will have to stand the test of scrutiny for their myopic stance till eternity.

(2) What has changed for Pakistan that it is behaving like having an internal emergency or a serious international crisis affecting it? India was neither offering Kashmir to it earlier nor is it going to do now! How internal restructuring of states impacts our neighbour is beyond comprehension?

(3) I read somewhere that eminent and respected journalist Shobha Dey has belittled the issue by asking Amit Shah to fix traffic problem in a certain area of Mumbai now that Kashmir issue is fixed! It only belittles her own reputation in the eyes of her thousands of admirers and readers!

(4) While I am sure that Governments of India and Pakistan and their armies have enough sagacity to decide when to start a war and use nukes, if the conversations on Twitter are to be perused and believed, the war seems to have already started with at least one of the countries going to get obliterated from the world map. In fact one Pakistani twitterati has even gone to the extent of saying that while the use of nukes will destroy both the countries, Muslim race will survive as this race exists in several countries. On the contrary Hindus exist only in India and obliteration of India would mean extermination of Hindu race from this world! Very imaginative I must confess!

(5) People are largely happy; this includes people of Jammu as well as Ladakh. But what’s in it for Kashmiris? It’s incumbent upon all of us, the people of India to ensure that we welcome them into the mainstream with open arms rather than playing it as victory and defeat! This also need not be compared to efflux of Kashmiri Pandits, which is now being sought to be neutralised through influx of non- Kashmiris into Kashmir! We should not forget that all the states resist too much influx of outsiders, especially if it impacts job prospects and Kashmiris need not be treated differently. Let the Government and industrialists and entrepreneurs create new infrastructure, skills and jobs leading to the overall economic prosperity of Kashmiris!

(6) Government should not play to the gallery by raising the issues of POK and Aksai Chin at this stage! As aforesaid, on ground nothing has changed for either of India, Pakistan and China and while we must ask all third parties not to poke their noses into India’s internal matter, passions of public should not be aroused by fanning such sentiments!

(7) Though I am no expert on international diplomacy and I am sure Government’s PRO machinery must have been galvanised, we must veer the world’s opinion around this fact that a historical wrong has been set right and that we have no other evil design behind this! Pakistan is playing Islamic card and Trump’s unpredictability we all know!

It’s a big moment but the matter deserves to be handled with utmost care and sensitivity. Secondly, it’s for the people of the two countries to build bridges rather than demeaning each other and flexing nuclear muscles! Let’s see how the “heaven on the earth” that’s God’s own creation Kashmir is, can be made a true heaven to be enjoyed in one’s lifetime and not after!

Let the heaven on earth be a real heaven for all

J&K is currently cut off as Government has promulgated section 144 there and internet has been disabled. Also, most of the prominent leaders have been placed under house arrest. Under the circumstances, it’s difficult to gauge the mood there aftermath abrogation of Article 370 following the ordinance approved by President. However, going by the social media, the mood of the country appears to be euphoric as at last complete integration of the state into Republic of India has been made possible.

I am no political commentator or a historian of great eminence to judge merits or demerits of this. Integration of princely states into sovereign India was itself a big challenge and J&K has been a vexed issue since independence. Apart from the cross border fuelled dissidence ( which was a precursor to full fledged militancy for the last 20 years or so), the situation in the “heaven on the earth” has remained quite hellish! Repeated elected governments have not been able to complete their tenors and the state has largely remained under Central rule.

As peaceful gestures, development agenda of the state and all the efforts to bring the state and its people into the mainstream didn’t work, a strong Government with a strong people’s mandate had to have gumption to take this step and Modi 2 has bitten the bullet.

We will have to await the reaction of the world at large and Pakistan in particular. We also have to await reaction in Kashmir. But how does it matter to a sovereign and powerful state like India? As a generalist, I can only say that if India is one country, no part of India should enjoy any special status and Indians must have the liberty of living, buying property or doing business in any of its states – of course, this action reduces number of states by 1 and increases UTs by 2. Let’s embrace Kashmiris by providing jobs to the youth, up-skilling them for their economic progress and applying salve on their wounds ! If last 20 years were filled with strife, let next 20 years be filled with love so as to emotionally amalgamate Kashmir into ourselves now that physical and constitutional amalgamation is complete!

Stop worrying start living

Had another occasion of listening to discourse by the Head Priest of ISKCON, Juhu His Grace Swami Ramkrupa Prabhuji.

Addressing the congregation in his inimitable, humour laden but deeply effective style, he says that one of biggest evils of the modern days affecting mankind is worry. He uses beautiful context of the Internet acronym www by saying that a student worries about www i.e writing writing written ( test papers, assignments, projects) that converts into wealth wealth wealth in young age before becoming worry worry worry in the old age for all the time wasted! He adds that hurry ( young age), worry (middle age) and sorry (old age) can be overcome if we bring Hari (the lord) in our lives. Research has proven that 60% of the incidents we worry are not worth worrying and in real life only 8% events should cause us to worry!

He cites a beautiful example of a leaking boat, that requires someone to constantly drain water using a bucket as worry enters us in a similar fashion through a hole in our minds that needs to be plugged. Another example he gives is of a brick, which is very easy to lift for a few minutes, but becomes increasingly weighty and burdensome if held in hand for a prolonged period. Similarly, a small worry if clung on to for a long period can become a big mental problem affecting the very survival. He says that the main cause of worry is gap between the expectation and reality.

Thereafter, he also crisply provides the solution to get over the worries:

(1) Mind the mind. Our mind has the power to make a mountain out of molehill or vice versa as far as our problems and worries are concerned.

(2) Power of interaction, participation and non-intervention are three powerful tools as these help us clear our mind and thoughts.

(3) Chant the name of the lord. He cites some beautiful examples of how worry leads to depression and depression leads to suicidal tendencies. But all this could be overcome if the company of the lord is solicited.

Like always, he ends his discourse with the simple yet holy chant:

Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare

Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

This discourse by Swamiji coming immediately aftermath the tragic suicide by CCD owner V G Siddhartha couldn’t have been timed more appropriately. I place on record thanks to the hosts Vidhi and Sushil and heartfelt gratitude to Swamiji for liberating the audience from worries and teaching them the art to live life!

Friendship Day

Friends are forever,

But the Friendship day is one,

There’s no normal human being,

Who has none!

One, two, three of four,

Friends are dear and take care,

In grief and happiness,

Not only present, they’re there!

Relatives move away in life,

And colleagues are just office friends,

True Friends last a long long time,

Till eternity ends!

Folklores are full of tales

Of lasting friendship and pure love,

But Krishna and Sudama take the cake

For their unique relationship as above!

I am not Krishna or Sudama,

Nor I my friends for that was yore,

However, all my friends are loveable,

Having a heart of gold that’s pure!

Happy friendship day to all my friends – not the girl friends or boy friends or fair weather friends or friends in need either, but just plain and simple friends who do not need any specific designated day to be remembered and are there in my heart irrespective of the day or purpose. Don’t want to write more about it for such days have become a fad with origin unknown and this is just a relationship that doesn’t require any eulogy.

V G Siddhartha – A great story that ended prematurely

The rise of V G Siddhartha from a young Masters in computers, who came to Mumbai to make a fortune, to being the undisputed coffee king of India is the stuff folklores are made of. How he borrowed a small sum from his father, invested in coffee plantation, made money on bourses and finally felt inspired to start Coffee Cafe Day (CCD) will be an unputdownable read should some decide to write this story.

Somewhere his ambition got better of him and though still not conclusively evidenced, him having indulged in some sort of financial jugglery through balance sheet management cannot be ruled out. But it’s also true that he was an extremely conscientious person and being unable to beat the burden of all the expectations and demands, he chose the softer option of ending his life.

Some very serious systemic issues have been raised in the aftermath of VGS’s death and let’s sincerely hope that like several other matters, his death doesn’t go waste and these systemic fault lines are erased from public memory. What are the issues highlighted by this tragic incident that require immediate fixing? To my mind, these are:

(1) Internal governance. Company’s must improve internal governance , especially for related party transactions and diversion of funds. We could be sitting on another time bomb with one promoter having raised grave issues against the other in Indigo.

(2) Sanctity of balance sheet- Promoter, directors, auditors, bankers need to collaborate and ensure that balance sheet reveals true state of affairs sans any artificially manufactured facts or figures.

(3) More friendly ecosystem- Not every default may be wilful and definitely not a fraud. Even the investigating agencies viz. CBI, SFIO, ED may not have bandwidth to handle so many cases ! To treat every case of default as fraud and nexus between borrower and financier may not be conducive to the economic growth of the country.

(4) Tax demands and attachment of accounts by the authorities for prolonged period of time can choke the company to death by blocking its working capital. In the event of doubt, further investigation must be undertaken but it should be unobtrusive.

(5) Bankers and promoters should build mutual trust and confidence so that in the times of emergency, company can get some relief and leeway instead of funds getting recalled.

We must make India an investor friendly, business friendly and preferred place of doing business and the tax, banking and investigative regimes must be made more sensitive. This will be a fitting tribute to a great visionary, who almost succeeded in building a chain that had the capability of becoming the first Multi country brand, till his heroic journey was cut short by cruel destiny. For now, let’s hope CCD and other businesses that VGS built survive and thrive. He might have died young and so did Steve Jobs – but like Apple acquired iconic status after his death, do should CCD after VGS’s death, which the managers/other directors running CCD and other companies must ensure!

RIP VGS!