Memory and Discourse: Budget Beyond Numbers

My memory of the Indian Budget Day during growing up years whether in Mumbai or in Muscat was spent in front of the TV waiting for a middle aged man, with a black briefcase to orate the nations vision in an economic sense. Yashwant Sinha and Jaswant Singh were very good, crisp and to the T. P Chidambaram was fluent with Thirukkal quotes punctuating the speech. The last day of February was the day to calculate tax slabs. The middle class wage earner is a genius in saving her/his tax rupee in all sorts of strange nomenclatures 80 A, 80 D and what not. The salary earning middle class is complaining all the time.

Now a days, the budget day is February 1st. Jaitley ji is a veteran presenter, with the obvious verbal precision of a lawyer. The first of the lot, in terms of being a technocrat, Jaitley ji will hope to present a few more budgets in the future.

With digital mediating our discourse, tomorrow will be a day when everyone will have an opinion and a hashtag to boot. #budget2018 will trend on Twitter, and smart phones not people will buzz with stock market updates all the time. During my teens, the stock market direction was a validation of the Street sentiment. The same is true now a days as well. Some things never change, although the Sensex is not a particularly democratic barometer to gauge perceptions. May the bull run continue. I hope for a populist budget prior to the general election next year.

Economic Survey 2018: Climate Change Focus

The economic survey 2018 is wonderful at first glance with intersectionalities in big data, intriguing questions and cross tie in’s. Last years survey was amazing read with GIS data and heat mapping visualisation. I personally thanked Dr Arvind Subramanian after the survey last year at Alliance Francaise Delhi at Milan Vaishnav’s book launch, when I incidentally sat beside him. The focus on Climate Change is refreshing, with a linking with agriculture. The focus on science and technology research is fantastic is volume one of the report.

A work of practical scholarship, a must read.

Be Art.

It is the thought process behind the writing which is priceless. The aesthetic moulds the thought, as a scaffold waiting to be seeded. But, where is the perfection, the full bloom. Is perfect, brilliant? Do we have to cage art in the metrics of neoliberal KPI’s?

The outcome is often the thought, fully expressed, in response to the probe, the world around us. Let work be art. Be creative, push envelopes. Be beyond click bait work. There is a difference between an artiste and a hustler. May be, be both. Be comfortable in the skin? Does running around help?

Build the Plane on the Fly

The journey matters, and the CV is only the byproduct. In the AI era, what one builds as a solution is the performance metric. New methodologies, new pedagogies to tackle real time issues in trouble shooting, project turnarounds and crisis management is the real deal. Value is delivered at the intersections of theory, praxis and reality. Be a tri sectoral athlete in the words of IR scholar Joseph Nye.

Too many people expect organisations to deliver when individuals don’t deliver on expectations themselves. It is like the common citizen in the Global South expecting the world out of the public sector institutions when capacity and finances are missing. Institutions are reflections of market realities, and do not operate in a separate universe.

Organisations are a sum of people and their conversations. We have to focus on the little wins, which make the big picture; delivering projects on time and budget, writing the winning proposal and making a better workplace where we spend most of our waking up hours.

Outcomes (we desire) converge when the little things are done well. To young graduates who pass on resumes to me for internships and jobs, I tell them; please understand what you want, as everything adds up. But I often see a desire not to learn but to have a slot filled in the resume. The hiring manager knows when a cv is designed, versus a skills based paper. Don’t gold plate your resume by fancy student government titles. Designation inflation is a malaise. Lead without a title, sounds familiar?

People survive and win in the market by knowing and learning on the go. Accept feedback graciously and learn. Make time for quality interactions and me time. Travel, not for Instagram but to understand a place. The sense of place is lost in the midst of the update. These are things I have gathered amongst the journey.

Travel far and wide, but most importantly within.

Understand the self, understand the world.

#sermonfrommysofa #pravachan #bhaktjano


The current dispensation is turning Jinnah’s two nation theory right. It’s natural they are from the right. On a day where we celebrate our inclusive constitutional rights. The margins get more distant by the day in Aurangabad to Una to Gurgaon, the commercial and administrative heart of India. I have not even mentioned Kupwara and Kohima yet. And non high school educated migrant workers get a discriminatory orange passport. So much for equal citizenship. Happy Republic Day.

Republic of Failed Dreams

The positive about Republic Day 2018, is the deepening of our relationship with the Nusantara. The negative is the marginalisation of many configurations on a day that we celebrate our flawed democracy. In 1950, granting voting rights to all citizens in a post colonial nation state scarred by partition, was audacious. A thought ahead of its time. Democracy though is not only about elections. It is not a chore. Rituals are moments to reassess and reflect on the journey. We are a nation where a group stalls discourse. This is democracy too. RK Nagar elections is also democracy.

Cow, Caste and Capitalism

Are totems

Of everyday life

Republic Day is an extended weekend

We hoist the flag

Sing the Anthem

Flutter flags

Purchased at the traffic signal

Haggled down to the paisa

With the homeless Street hawker

This is our democracy

Democracy is a packet of Biryani

We digest it easily

Debates are harder


All The Money In The World: A Movie on Global Capitalism

All the money in the world is a period classic ( early 1970’s again as the spotlight) on the attitude and dynamics of wealth with an oil billionaire Getty, and the kidnapping of his grandson in Rome. It has all the trappings of the times; 1948 Saudi Arabia and the Hejaz Railway, Playboy interviews, the heady leftist feel of Italy and ex CIA agent speaking Arabic to cut deals with Tribesmen. The volatility of the 1973 oil embargo features well here. The backdrop of gulf oil capitalism reaching San Francisco boardrooms via cobbled Rome and the English Countryside has a terrific sweep of Globalisation. The scenes capturing the smoking on the flights, which are not allowed now a days, is the symbolic vain of the 1970’s.

The political economy of artistic patronage with roots in tax evasion, with formation of charitable trusts is a highlight, with the Getty Family Museum in LA a remainder of the family wealth. Art and Artefacts don’t change like people, make them reliable, is what the dirty old man quipped in the movie, while cutting deals and corners to not pay his favourite grandson’s ransom even after one ear was chopped off as a warning by the kidnappers.

The actor who played billionaire Getty is brilliant with cocky confidence who washes his inner wear in a star hotel suite to save a tenner. The movie captures the zeitgeist of the era well, with the non aggressive cinematography, and the dialogue writing/screenplay winning the day. Historical context is the hero of the movie. A strong star cast with solid acting throughout the movie.

A must watch of a movie. The talented Mr. Ridley Scott has a winner.

Meditation on Writing

Writing is a bodily action. The moment one focuses on the subject with the black document in front of oneself, it’s a communication between the writers thoughts and the voice trying to explain in the best possible manner. The flow is there sometimes, attempting to gush out at a ferocious velocity, screaming to express. Those are the good days.

The days when the mind, soul and body are not in sync, muscle memory and stock sentences take over the jog. It is like attending an early morning conference call on an empty stomach, fueled by a cuppa of americano. The deliverable or the report has to go to the client, and all creative juices are missing for the day. This is the usual status quo, when the aspirational writer dies, and the pragmatic scribe takes over.

The back, the head and the fingers all play a part in writing. Writing is not only cerebral, it is physical. Almost all writers including Murakami run, to keep fit or to clear the head.

Writing is a messy negotiation in the head; part indulgence, part content, part art and full performance of a textual kind, pleading to be read and appreciated. The format varies from a research paper to a consulting report to a mundane mail, but the mechanics of writing as a performance is consistent. Writing is the heart of intellectual life and it takes years of hard labor to write well, with flair and impact in equal measure. I have read my way to writing well to have been published in many arenas of note.

As you can observe, writing is a performance when you read the last line. It’s a sales pitch, of the soul.

#autoethnography #writing

2019 has begun in Davos

Modi ji started his re election campaign for 2019 today in Hindi with Sanskrit chanting and quotes from Rabindranath Tagore, and Buddha. The only difference was, it was in Davos. The annual celebration of the Global neoliberal elite, Davos is the space of the movers and shakers of the A players.

As SRK and Mukesh Ambani listened to Modi ji speak, while everyone else was plugged in to the translation headphones, there was a sense that the audience was the Hindi Heartland rather than the quaint ski town in Switzerland.

Jai Maharashtra.