Sunday, June 27, 2004


US$ 60 million - Amount spent by steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal on his daughter's wedding
US$ 60 million - Amount spent by Sathya Sai Baba to bring water to an estimated 1.2 million people in the parched area of Rayalseema in southern India

US$ 12,000 - Amount spent by a friend of mine on a basement home theater system
US$ 12,000 - Cost to provide for the education and living expenses for 40 children in an orphanage from kindergarten till the end of high school

1 - The smallest positive integer
1 - The number of people needed to make a difference

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Secret of Success

I was reading about the Ambanis, who run the Reliance Group, India's largest private conglomerate, whose revenues account for 3.5% of India's GDP ... so valued that one in four stock-owning citizens of India own this company. Much has been written about Dhirubai, son of a school-teacher who created the empire, and even his elder son Mukesh who took over as CEO. However, a story about younger son and present vice-chairman Anil highlighted one important attribute for success.

Anil finished his last exam for his MBA at Wharton, and four hours later, caught a flight back to India. After the lengthy travel (easily over 20 hrs), he came home, showered and shaved, and went to work! No vacation, no time off, nothing!! Talk about dedication!!

Dress Your Family ...

I was at the bookstore yesterday, and read part of David Sedaris' 'Dress your Family in Jeans and Courdroy'. Quite hilariousand charming ... a definite must-read!! Incidentally you can read his interview on NPR at

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Caste System makes India an IT Superpower??

I am read an interesting book by Gurucharan Das called 'India Unbound'. He is the former CEO of Proctor & Gamble India. One of his theories for why Indian manufacturing has historically been so shoddy is that India's caste system placed the Brahmins, and their pursuit of knowledge in all its abstractness, on a pedestal, while it undervalued the skilled trades that required dexterity. Interestingly, he argues that's precisely the reason why we are good at Information Technology (IT) ... because we've been weaned on a dietary craving for abstractness for centuries!!!

Overall, the book's worth a read!!!

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Check the Fine Print!

I received a newsletter from what seemed to be an investment magazine yesterday. Not too unsual ... the usual bevy of advisors trying to get you to part with your hard-earned $$ for their hot stock tip. They were aggressively recommending an energy stock, which they prophesized was bound to skyrocket. Hmm, unfortunately for them, I love details and have developed a habit for reading fine print, so I scrolled down to their mandatory disclosures, only to discover that a) they have received tons of advertising dollars from that very company, b) they will continue to receive money for promoting the stock :-0, and c) the "advisor" personally owns 25,000 shares of stock in that company. Talk about conflict of interest ... actually, this wasn't one - the verbage made it pretty clear the firm that put out the newsletter was essentially an advertising firm. We can whine about what the heck are those folks at the SEC are doing, but I'd rather we just take matters into our own hands and stop getting conned. READ THE FINE PRINT, FOLKS!!

Friday, June 18, 2004

The Tree-Climber and Diamond Earrings

While I am often bothered by the nature of disparity, I was particularly moved by something that happened this week. I went to bed reading the story of a panaiyeri nadar, a tree-climber in my home state of Tamil Nadu, a story typical for many in his profession. His job is to extract date palm jaggery from the trees, for which purpose he has to climb the tree, extract the juice with a knife, and on to the next tree. He has no safety harness or other protective gear, and a fall guarantees death, or worse serious injury that could spiral his family into serious debt. He often has to climb upto 150 trees, each at least 15 to 20 feet in height. That's about the same as climbing 250 floors up a staircase, except he has no staircase or even ladder - just his bare palms and legs. He starts working at 3 am in the morning, and gets done about 6 in the evening. The fruits of his labor? About Rs. 5-8 (under US 20 cents!) a day ... oh and muscle pains, asthma and a host of other ailments!!

I woke up the next morning, and turned on my TV to discover it was National Splurge Day - and we were being shown how we could splurge (if we had the money!) ranging from caviar to $200,000 diamond earrings to a Merc wheels that set you back close to 400 grand! Sure, spend, revel in luxury ...

This bothers me a whole deal, and I'm no commie or leftie! I don't believe the Government should necessarily be a constant presence in our lives. But I do believe that we are humans, and humanity is what distinguishes us from the beasts of the jungle. How can people not be bothered by the extreme poverty that besets so many in the world? And I don't mean just the rich. How far would the $2000 you spent on a home theater system gone in those parts? How many palaiyeri nadars would have had access to a more supportive system?

Yes, governments are supposed to do that, but it's obvious that for many in the Third World, governments have failed them. But ask yourself, if a loved one where in need of medical attention, and the state-sponsored medical system (Medicare in the US) refused to provide any assistance, would you turn a blind eye to their plight?

Religions love to talk about the great attributes of their leaders. And yet, how is it that so many who tout the virtues of Christ, Mohammed, Rama, Buddha fail to attempt to replicate their compassion?

How about envisioning a year, nay a day as a panaiyeri nadar?

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Wake Up, You're Just a Pretty Doll!

As I turn on my TV, I see that the Miss Universe pageant is on. Women who obsess about maintaining an unhealthy body shape by starvation and strut around in miniscule clothing is supposed to represent the progress we've made in this country and in the world. You see, guys no longer dictate what these women can do.

Ok, I for one think this is BOGUS! I certainly hate to think of the days when women had little say in their lives or destinies, and were married off to some rich (often old) lord or the other, but substituting one flawed system for another is not the answer. All the Miss Universe pageants represent are human dolls, made for the sensual excitation of men and for the highlighting of feelings of inadequacy in normal women ... many of whom will then go out and come under the knife or subject themselves with painful toxins or other torture, seeking that perfect body image, rather than recognizing how smart or charming they are.

But God forbid someone think this is not a worthwhile exercise. Protestors are narrow-minded, fundamentalist (especially if they are Muslim), whackos and the like. I mean, after all, this is what our forefathers wanted. We should be allowed to celebrate our right to be shallow and stupid. After all, it is in pursuit of this freedom that we have our young sons and daughters giving their lives ...

The pageant organizers ask stupid questions on what you would do if you win, and the trained dolls expound on how they would help the sick or the hungry or the poor children. I guess I'm naive in not realizing that it takes so many years in changing your God-given bodies and mannerisms to be prepared for a life of service. And all this time, I thought all you needed was love and compassion ... silly me!