Monday, February 27, 2012

The {uro crisis, and realities

It has been a long time since we have been hearing of Greece and all. Just when people start to think it is gonna be the end of the day for the Eurozone, suddenly the warcries die and one presumes that a solution has been achieved. This is the kind of sentiment that arose - specially in faraway countries like India- after the big congress of the Eurozone leaders happened a couple of months back. We all heard that David Cameron and Mr. Sarkozy did not shake hands once when they crossed each other and eventually Dave left the meeting without signing the MOUs (well, the treaty is yet to be signed). This sparked speculations about the future of Britain inspite of the Eurozone and the Financial Services industry that thrived in Britain and all. But on the other hand, there was muffled praise at having saved the Eurozone and all and if memory serves right, the markets gained a couple pennies. Then there was the lull and now since the last fortnight, the Greek demons raised their heads yet again. I for one got interested to know the real facts and numbers. So it turned out that there was a principal payment due coming March on the Greek debt and the Eurozone leaders along with the Euro Central Bank(ECB), uncle Sam's IMF and all were fighting yet again to resolve and voila looks like they have again pulled the strings or so they clim. There are proposals of another bail-out fund from the nexus and if the parliaments of the zone ratify it, Greece would get the funds before they need to shelve out the money to its creditors albeit in some Escrow accounts. And on the other side, is the minor issue of the harsh austerity measures that lady Merkel and her team would impose on the Greek sheep (read people really).
But is it such a bad thing this austerity. Thats the whole point of this writeup, I dont know. How am I supposed to know when the greatest of the Economists and political leaders with tonnes of experience and age backing them are everyday mincing words and have not been able to speak coherently. Ofcourse some of them say austerity means less spending and brings down the growth rate and doesnt help in any way. Makes sense. But then hey, my inexperienced mind's common sense says who is stopping you from increasing the GDP. Just produce goods and export them. Oh well, I dont understand how exports work but this doesnt look like too complex. But hey, then one Economist educates that this is the real problem with Greece. They are part of the Eurozone and have a common currency. So the exports happen in Euros and it might be the difficulty they would have. A highly values currency discourages exports we have heard. Anyway this is a base argument and outside the main reasoning. The Economist tells that the real reason for the Greek crisis is something called a balance of payments. He shows how the much professed welfare state is not the reason for the problems by demostrating how Germany, Austria, Belgium and France, closely run by Finland have a higher % of GDP in their public spending by governments. Then he shows how even budget deficit does not account for the issue by depicting how Portugal, Spain and Ireland lag far behind in such deficits to the above mentioned states. Then he goes on toshow how a surplus money and consequent inflation, some kind of an overvaluation of the southern states (this is again noteworthy, all the affected states are generally southern) in the early noughties led to a decreased competitiveness of the now troubled states. But still the policies that are being built are built around the budget deficit and welfare state concerns. So whats the point here really. The simple point is that the more you read into the arguments and facts, the more you are baffled as some of the generally professed and accepted bytes of wisdom when dug deeper, do not comply with good old plain common sense and then you can find some source corroborating your understanding. Consider this.
The latest plan to save Greece is really an exercise in anticipation. The debt sustainability assessment which is drawn for a long term as much as till 2030 is clearly pretty ambitious. If everything goes well which includes a very generous private sector involvement, great political stability within states and among Eurozone, and a multitude of such factors, then by 2030 the Debt-GDP ratio would come down to something like 110%. That assumes a average 50%-70% haircut in principal balance on the bonds to private investors. That it is a highly leveraged curve is a truth and a slight discord in balancing factors may cause it to tumble is a real possibility.
Still, some tabloids may paint the picture as much more rosy and inspire a greater confidence in the situation and its ultimate solvability. Make no mistake, the situation may still be solvable and I hope forthe best. But I also worry for the fact that are elections looming large over the Euro landscape. And my fear is that the current measures of pushing the real scene under the carpet to just buy some time may well be to find the way to the power corridors first. And it makes perfect sense as well. How are you anyway going to solve a problem if you loose your own crown. But I am afraid that the problem may still not be solved even after the current breed of leaders make it to the power chambers again. And then, they would have no incentive in hiding the real grim political-economic situation and all of us, being so accustomed to the sugar coated headlines might find it harshly indigestible to confront those news bytes. But then, it might just be a figment of imagination and we may well and truly reach a solution later in the day. Heres hoping for it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Buddhism in mainstream Indian household

The middle path was introduced in the land of the Hindus by the enlightened one around the 5th century BC. It was a welcome respite from the mindless ritual that had become the part of Hindu life. The faith and its practice had been reduced to just mechanically conducting those rituals and effectively controlled in a large part by the priest class which there is no evidence to suggest that was not corrupt and pushed its own agenda in the name of worship. Buddha was a refreshing change, the zephyr from the eastern floodlands of India. His ideas were potent and his cult was that of compassion. He was himself a burning light to the seeker much impressive in thought, ideas and practice. And by virtue of this force, his doctrine spread through the vastness of India with much regard. Ofcourse it had political overtones which have always been present to adulterate any spiritual movement throughout the recorded annals of human history. The patronage of kings like Ashoka led to its propagation in foreign lands as well. There is an allegation - like there is always an allegation in everything - on Ashoka that his conversion to Buddhism and eventual adoption was non-violence was not sincere and a political gimmick. Ofcourse he had no more conquests to be made and would have liked to have a stable and thriving empire. Peace and non-violence were necessary to maintain a stable empire.
But eventuall Buddhism eloped from India. Today it thrives as a faith in the mainland ofChina, Jpan, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Burma. But it has long gone from the mainstream of the Indian society at least outside the expanse of the sister states of the north east. It is a curious case for me. I mean even if it was just a case of a marked decrease in the number of followers, it would have been understandable. But it is completely wiped off and it calls for an analysis. Especially in the light of the fact that the Hindus have never been aggressive in history to have effected the downfall of the Buddhism by force. There just seems to be a natural cycle in action in the curious case which we have at hand in this exercise. There are suggestions that there were some uprisings from the Hindu fold during even the times of Ashoka, but they were not prominent.
The ideals of Buddha were noble and high grounded. He was an enlightened one and with a compassionate heart urged his fellow men to apply themselves to break from the fetters of their mental captivity and realise their true nature - glimpses of the original Hindu or for that matter any other spiritual faith. But Buddhism was still largely cult following. He had propagated his faith by sheer force of his personality. Once he was gone, the natural cycle resumed. Buddhism would have inevitably been corrupted by its own powerful people and their politics. Then the Hindu revival happened during the periodof the Guptas and followed into the later centuries when various discrete events augmented the rise of the original Hindu thought and practice - the Bhakti movement, Sankaracharya, Vaishnavites, later in the day Sri Chaitanya mahaprabhu. They all were learned scholars and practitioners and passionate about reviving the old school. So we can see that the original thought reemerged. But the main point here is, notwithstanding the natural cycle, why did the faith got completely wiped off from the face of India even as there is a history of peaceful coexistence among faiths and spiritual movements in this land. Jains, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians have always been a part of the fabric once they were assimilated into the mainstream society. Buddhism seems to be an aberration in this trend.
The ideals of Buddhism are noble and filled with compassion, are very powerful to lead a society forward. They ofcourse do not believe in a universal godhead which is again an exception from all other mainstream faith. Mind is all that is to Buddhists - the individual and the universal. There were once large congresses organised in India for the gathering of the Buddhist scholars to contemplate on the thoughts of the Tathagata and further the ideas of the Tripitika. The kings patronised them then. There were followersof the Buddha in the average Indian household. And then for some mysterious reason, it all vanished!

On Hritik Roshan in Agneepath

I watched the new age Agneepath starring Hritik and Priyanka Chopra. It was definitely not a waste of time. The cinematography was good as one of my colleagues had pointed out earlier, like the grey and sombre backdrop abound whenever Kaancha was on screen. The poem was rendered with just enough tempo and passion to sound stimulating than loud. And there were a few songs thrown in as well including the guest appearance by Katrina. But then let us talk about performances. Hritik as we all know suits the role of the quintessential suave professional or a metro man effortlessly. But here he had to deliver in a different avatar. His makeover was just fine and the body aesthetics and muscle in the climax scene was just ok. But the point is that when I returned, the first question I was asked was, "Hritik ne overacting kari hogi na". And my answer was "well, no". I thought he did overact in a few flicks like Mein Prem Ki and stuff but I did not feel that way in Agneepath. He is no Amitabh Bachchan in dialogue delivery agreed but he did not sound bad either. I have always thought the one thing that fails him is his dialogue delivery in various portrayals apart from the suave ones like in ZNMD. But he looked well in Agneepath. His expression and eye intensity was fine and he delivered in a measured tone. There were moments when I thought Ajay would have done a better job but then comparisons are hindsight science and are not holistic anyway. When he delivered the poem in the climax scene, he did not sound over the top at all and I thought he had improved. Priyanka did a character which she should be at ease portraying, bubly and all..Sanjay Dutt was fine and looked like a villain but I thought Danny's dialogue punches were better. Rest all the crew fared good. All in all, it was just fine.

Attributes for Batsmen!

The other day I heard someone say that Sachin's batting was all class. I beg to differ. He is definitely in a class of his own, but class is not the defining element of his batsmanship or the cricketer he is. The word I like to use for him is Genius. That is the attribute his entire being is impregnated with. What with the paddle sweeps, upper-cuts, compact strokeplay, all the engineered repertoire of shots or even spin bowling turning miles together for that matter. He can do things with a cricket bat that few others could dare venture into. He can play 5 shots in a space of 15 minutes that will leave you gasping in awe and just make facial expressions without saying much. But he is a Genius in my book. The word Class fits easier on some other batsman.
Now if you are really interested you may ask what is the adjective i'd use for say KP. He is no class (remember I dont mean to say he is not classy, just that he is not described bythis word) and not even a genius. His switch hit does not quite fall under that category. People use the word unorthodox for him but what would you then se for say a Gilchrist. KP is more than just unorthodox. He is a maverick. He just wants to do it his way. Thats about it. Now what would you call Jacques Kallis. I would give him the sobriquet "The Stylish Workman". Workman, huh? Blasphemy. The guy with the best aggregate all round numbers in the game (runs/wickets/catches) is called a workman and thats not even considering his awesomely elegant stand-and-deliver cover drive. But did you quite miss the word stylish there. He does not look ungainly - not my a mile. But he is an honorable workman. He will keep on stealing those singles and suddenly look like 45 n.o. I hear a few murmurs that Rahul Dravid is slow too. The thing is, I did not say Kallis was slow. I said he liked to accumulate. Dravid would rather leave it alone while Kallis might nudge it though the off side field forthe single. While they have scored almost equal number of runs, Dravid has hit 1654 boundaries(4) to Kallis' 1359. Thats about it. Dravid has hit about 300 more boundaries (4s) than Kallis in Tests. He is expected to leave a few on the trot and suddenly unleash a flurry of boundaries quickly. Kallis on the other hand would give you a feel for every boundary. If he hits 3 boundaries in 2 overs, I would get a feeling of much more drama. He looks good at the crease definitely. Then there is his teammate ABD. All flair and exuberance. The bend of the knees in his cover drive and lofted strikes with the handkerchief(spello?) tucked in his trousers, makes you feel just that. The same is with his catching. But then what would I say for Ricky Ponting. He definitely has flair and exuberance but so do ABD and also did Lara (well Lara had a lot much more than just that agreed and is the greatest). But Ponting is in my book an electric champion. He is electric quick in whatever he does - talk, walk, run, catch, field, initial bat speed, swift pulls, cover drives and he scores at a quick clip as well. But what I mean by electric here is that he that fraction quicker than the rest which matters all. He is likely to effect a quick run out or take that out-of-nowhere game changing catch or play a quick long innings to demoralise the opposition like in the 2003 WC finals. Then he is very tough mentally and does not give an inch on the field but is quick to praise the opposition if they deserve. He plays it hard and fair and is a leader of men. And he wins matches too. All the attributes of a champion. But the post had started on the note of Genius vs Class and I remarked then that there is a batsman on whom the word Class finds its meaning like it was ever brought into language for just that. And that cricketer in my opinion is Rahul Dravid. I can write an essay on his class, but its some other day's job.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cricket Endures

Mock at me, take the cheap jibe, question my capability to cultivate fine interests or call me a Cricket tragic or whatever, but I will write more on Cricket now and will write still more in days and years to come. Ever heard of the stock ball you mean hearted Cricket basher? How would you? I will still forgive you and explain to you what it is. A bowler can have thousand variations in his repertoire with which he can baffle the best of the batsmen. And batsmen will abhorr the idea of facing him. He would bowl those for the best part of his career and days of the year. But, but and but, that will not make him an all time great. He has to have the stock ball. The best of the practitioners in bowling will have off days or rather they will have more average days than brilliant days. But there is something which sets them apart from the rest. Among others, it is the stock ball. Wake them in the middle of the night and they can bowl that stock ball then, half-asleep. It is that guarantee they bring with their name in the sheet. And that is the difference. In their off days, they will make comebacks. They will stop bowling any variations, bide their time and bowl their stock ball. The ball which they have natural control on and which keeps them in stead in those difficult days. They will survive by virtue of the stock ball and almost inspite of the variations. That is there is to them. Longevity and survival, a change of gears and something which comes too natural to them. Crciket is like the stock ball to us diehard fans. I might be too bored to write, too lazy to write, too dull to wrte, too out of ideas to write and too busy to write. But for other disciplines and subjects and issues. If I love my piece of writing, I will write on things Cricket. That will keep the proverbial ink flowing. The other variations will fill in sporadically. But Cricket will endure.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

On the spirit of Cricket

Nawroz Mangal and Taj Malik make a happy unit along with other members of the Afghanistan cricket squad in a youtube video featuring their upbeat mood as they traverse through various echelons of international associate cricket. The coach proclaims that amidst the war and vitriol in the world, cricket holds a promise to resurrect peace and impart normalcy/hope to the mad rush which is so much the harrowing reality of their everyday life.
That certainly looked the case thus far the spirit in which the all important semi-final was played between India and Pakistan. While disappointing the fan expecting to witness some drama-laden skirmishes to enliven the humour, the rather congenial conduct among the members of the two outfits presented a fresh perspective. And the captain of the Pak outfit certainly won a heart or two in his generous display of cricketing chivalry - did he not pat Sachin in a friendly manner each time his catch was dropped and was in fulsome praise of the opposite team in the press conference. The doubters/cynics may sniff manufactured gamesmanship befitting the occasion and the diplomatic overtones in the atmosphere at the PCA stadium. But is not even this possible worst case scenario a first step towards a more real appreciation for each other's capabilities and empathy. If the odd heat would have entertained, the lack of it did surprise affirmatively. Indians would not mind playing hosts to the Pak team for a few more days now that Mumbai has been obliterated from their itinerary. Every one in India is anyway busy picturing in their mind's eye, the hero's 100th ton while lifting the cup in his home turf. And despite the obvious disappointment in losing to the arch rivals and keeping it aside, many a Pakistani would feel a sense of vindication in the way the WC campaign progressed for a most unheralded (at start of tournament) Pakistan WC outfit ever. There is expectation, jubilation and euphoria in the air in the country hosting the final. For the moment, they live in a much realistic hope of winning the coveted prize. On the other side of the fence, the fan while rueing on what might have been, may just fleetingly hearten on what the future may hold, that which looked a far cry just a month ago. Sport after all they say like life, always presents that one more shot at redemption.

( Written earlier, only published now)