Wednesday, February 18, 2009

President's Day

Every year third Monday of February is celebrated as the President's Day, in the US, in honor of 2 of their greatest President's, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln (February born's). Both these president's have set themselves apart from the rest to be wisely called as all-time greats. Abraham Lincoln has a special reference in US history as the president who saved the union from collapse during the first civil war and for freeing the slaves in that process.

In a country that right now has its 44th president in the White House, always its presidents have been looked upon as the leader of the world rather than just US. Time and again the world has looked up to US presidents for visionary and thoughtful leadership as is the case right now with the world watching every step of what the president of US of A is doing to fix its economy which every other world leader believes will fix the global recession. Rightfully, not many of US president's have made themselves go down in the history books for setting really a bad example of world leadership. I sincerely believe and hope that after the debacle of last 8 years of Bush administration, Obama's administration sets the right foot forward.

The point I want to make here is if one tries compare the two greatest democracies of the world, India and USA, in US, a country with just around 300 million people, there has been no dearth for leaders rising to the occasion to motivate and energize the population time and again. Almost every other US president had the potential to be able to bring people together through their speeches and interactions with the public. In India, a country with 1 billion plus population, there has hardly been a leader (President/Prime Minister) who had that kind of charisma and energy to be able to motivate and energize people and bring them together. The only national leader I can think of in India of such great personality is "The Mahatma" who without a doubt had a global impact which still continues. Don't tell me about Nehru's birthday being celebrated as Children's Day. Excuse me, I am talking about visionary leadership here.

Unfortunately, there is still no day in India where a deceased national leader is remembered for his deeds other than for "The Mahatma". I really cannot think of any Indian President making an electrifying speech that will motivate the people to bring about a change of immense proportion in the country. Sad but true that I have not seen any Indian President or Prime Minister making a speech without looking into a written script. Can't they even make an impromptu speech without looking into a written script? SAD. The Indian President who came close to energizing and motivating the public to some extent was Dr. Abdul Kalam and as expected the politicians did not let him continue for long.

Why cannot India have a President/Prime Minister who can be looked upon by the nation as a source of inspiration and motivation? Is it because of the nature of Indian coalition party politics that one cannot be a great leader or is it due to the selfish nature of Indian politicians who hardly care for the betterment of the people of the nation but are more focused in swindling money just for his/her family.

I believe that things will change in India only when the politicians contest elections with the true intention of serving for the people who elected them and not think about how to make money for their own future generations from the day they get elected. In other words, elections should be contested with a vision for improving living standards for future generations in order to leave behind an improved country than the one that they inherited and not with an intention to make money for personal benefit and start thinking about how to win the next election from day one. In terms of issues facing the country, the list is long and I some day intend to start blogging about India's national issues and my thoughts about the same. But first there needs to be a leader who can lead country with the right vision and energy.

I see a lot of articles being written about Rahul Gandhi being the next national leader and that he has lot of charisma and energy to make people like him. I frankly do not know much about him so I cannot comment on the authenticity of these reports. But if he is really good to be able to bring the kind of inspiration and motivation to the people of India and for the betterment of the country then it's good for the country.

I sincerely dream of seeing an Indian national leader being praised at the global stage and the country start celebrating his birthday as a national holiday. I hope that my dream becomes reality within my life time. Will wait and watch.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New Year's resolution contd...

As I had mentioned in my first blog that I will write another blog about one of my other new year resolution that I took only to break it the very next year by taking a resolution to break the same, here I am to write about it. I think I took this resolution in 2004 only to take the opposite of this resolution the next year (2005) i.e., to break it.

Ever since my college days I have been drinking Coke and over the years I started liking it a lot. The reason I probably started liking Coke in the first place is because my dad likes Coke a lot and I probably picked it up from him. In India we used to get Coke, I believe, in 300ml bottles. This was too much for my dad to drink as part of his dinner and most of the time, if not all of the time, he and I used to end up sharing the Coke bottle, half-and-half. This was the case until 1997 when I moved out to Bombay for work.

In Bombay, I was away from home for the first time in my life and whenever I used to drink Coke I used to think of sharing Coke with my father and realized that 300ml of Coke is too much for any one person to finish at one time. Trust me, I drank my first full bottle of Coke in Bombay...!!! In 1998, as part of my work I had to travel to USA, the land of opportunities, for the very first time. It was here that I first saw Coke being sooo popular that it was being treated as equivalent to water. Having soda with meals was common in US as compared to India. During my 6 months stay in the US I also slowly started getting used to having soda with my meals.

Subsequently after returning back to India I again started having water with my meals rather than Coke. But I still liked Coke and continued having Coke whenever I felt like. After that I worked in different cities within India and made 2 more trips to the US (2000, 2002) as part of my job. After my trip to the US in 2000, I felt that I am having more Coke than I normally have but still did not feel anything bad about it as there was not much of a negative campaign going on for Coke back then. Coke had become quiet popular by then in India and the ad campaigns for Coke and Pepsi were all around the country.

But after my 2002 trip to the US I started having Coke with my meals instead of water, that was an alarming change in me, even for me. I, by default, went for Coke with my meals instead of water. My friends used to make fun of me. I realized that its not good that I am having more Coke than I normally have and I am not doing any good to my health by that, after all it is a carbonated drink that is not good for health. Even when I went to the UK in 2002-2003 for a year as a student I could not resist myself when it came to drinking Coke.

Somewhere in the middle of 2003 (Jul/Aug), I remember that there was a finding in India that Coke was using pesticides as one of the ingredients in its drink. This led to a lot of negative publicity for the drink and lot of non-profit organizations and political parties called for a ban on Coke. I came back to India, from UK, in Oct 2003 when this scandal was at its peak. I really did not pay much attention to the scandal and was going about as normal as ever about drinking Coke. But I questioned myself, what if its true that Coke does contain pesticides. In that case, the amount of coke that I drink is definitely not good considering the amount of pesticides that might be getting into my system.So towards the end of 2003 I started thinking about reducing my intake of Coke.

As it was end of the year, it was normal for people to ask what is your New Year Resolution?. Since I have not really take any resolution ever since my childhood, apart from the one resolution that I wrote about, I decided to make my 2004 New Year Resolution as "Quit Coke". Yes, I decided to stop drinking Coke once and for all and wanted to test and see how much I can control myself when it came to drinking Coke given my craving for Coke.

Not bad that I was able to control it for a year. Yes, really I did not drink a single Coke during the entire year of 2004. Yeahhhhhh...!!!

In June 2004 I got married and said to my wife about this resolution that I had taken to "Quit Coke", for good, she was like... hhhmmm... let's see how long you can keep it up. Slowly, she made me realize that Coke is bad for health when you have too much of it and that it is ok to have it once in a while. It is like to say too much of anything is not good. But still me being me was adamant about sticking to my resolution. But over the course of rest of 2004, I felt that may be I am being too harsh to myself by not having even a single Coke.

By that time it was towards the end of 2004 and as usual people started asking what is your New Year Resolution?. Since, I had successfully controlled myself by not having even a single Coke through out 2004 and got rid of the bad craving that I had for Coke I convinced myself that it is ok to have Coke once in a while rather than to just quit for ever. So I decided that my 2005 New Year Resolution would be to break my 2004 New Year Resolution i.e., to start drinking Coke again but only once in a while. I still agree that Coke is definitely not good for health and I totally understand the feeling of people who are still against Coke or any other carbonated drinks but, for me, little bit of it does less damage than more of it... :)

So this is my story of taking a resolution only to take another resolution the following year to break the original one. See ya later... POP... (Sound of opening a Coke can...!!! :) )

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Who is the real Tennis champion?

For the last two weeks despite my hectic work schedule I was glued to the television everyday evening from 7 - 11/12pm watching Australian Open 2009. It was a good tournament with lots of ups and downs both in men's and women's section. Eventually the No.1 men's player stood up to his ranking. In the women's section it was as usual a topsy-turvy run with the No.2 player regaining the No.1 spot.

I had always felt that it is the men's tennis that stands out as compared to women's tennis. In men's tennis there is always a fierce battle for moving up the rankings and the battle in the court is far more interesting than women's tennis. In women’s tennis ever since Steffi Graf retirement there has not been a consistent player who could hold on to the No. 1 slot long enough to be called a "Great" player. Unfortunately, the quality of women's tennis has slipped and the rankings table change too often that there is hardly a "Great" player in this category to be called as a champion. The reason being, to be called as a champion you need to be consistent and I do not see that in women’s tennis.

Let's talk more about men’s tennis. Though I have not taken the tennis racket even once in my hand and played this game, I have been following the game right from my childhood. I remember the days when I used to watch tennis matches involving Stefan Edberg, Ivan Lendl, Boris Becker and other great player of yesteryear's on TV with my dad and him explaining the rules. Somehow the sport fascinated me just enough to watch it but not even attempt to play it.

There have been so many tennis players who have played the sport to their best ability and proved their mettle in the court. Each player has left a name for himself, may be as the best player of just one type of court or for possessing a good serve or excellent baseline game. But until Roger Federer (FedEx) came, I believe every player was playing the same genre of tennis in terms of what their predecessors were playing. I strongly feel, may be not everybody feels that way, that it was Fed who raised the standards of playing tennis to whole new level both mentally and physically.

When Pete Sampras was around, Pete did play a better game than his predecessors but I personally feel that it was Fed who took the game to greater heights. What Fed has done to the game in terms of setting such high standards has reflected in him being able to retain the No. 1 spot for 4 and 1/2 years straight and how hard Rafael Nadal (Rafa) had to work to dethrone him. Though Rafa has won, I believe, 6 grand slam titles at the young age of 22 he has been made to push himself too hard so as to be able to cross Fed. How long can he retain his No.1 ranking, let's wait and see.

There is a debate as to whether Fed is the greatest player to have ever played this sport. The reason for every one to ask that question is again because of the high standards that Fed has set for himself to be worthy enough for this question. As an ardent tennis fan to me if you are the greatest tennis player in the world then you should have proved your mettle in all types of courts which unfortunately Fed could not do as he is yet to win his first clay court (French Open) grand slam title. Fed has been consistently beaten by Rafa in clay court. As a matter of fact, before this year's Australian open finals, in head-to-head matches between Rafa and Fed, Rafa led 12-6 and out of those 12 matches that Rafa had won against Fed, 9 were in clay court. This clearly exposes Fed's weakness in clay court.

The rivalry, on-court, between Fed and Rafa has grown immensely that nowadays it has become easy to predict that the finals of any major grand slam tournament will be between these two. But still every match between the two gets more interesting. I cannot remember a fierce rivalry between two opponents in an individual sport. Team sport is different. Off late Rafa has improved his game a lot and has been more consistent in his service and baseline games. All the more importantly he has been able to make Fed run around the court to earn his money and Rafa has also shown his desire to be the No. 1 more aggressively. Rafa is still young and he definitely has at least another 5 - 6 years of tennis left in him before he hangs his boots.

Now that Rafa has been able to defeat Fed in Fed's favorite Grass court tournament (Wimbledon 2008) and also in hard court (Australian 2009) combined with the fact that Fed is 27 and getting older by the day succumbing to the hits that his muscles have taken over the years, can Rafa expect to win in all types of courts easily. I think so as I do not see Novak Djokovic (No. 3) or Andy Murray (No.4) or anybody else in today's men’s tennis being able to overcome Rafa the way they are playing today as compared to the way Rafa is playing. At the most I can see only Fed rising one last time in this year's Wimbledon or US open before he decides to hang his boots. Else I do not see Rafa's dominance of the sport being questioned by any other player.

So this raises the question "Can Rafa become the best tennis player ever". I guess we will to have to wait for another couple of years to see how Rafa performs. But can Fed be the greatest player ever to have played the sport. My answer is yes and no. Yes, because he took the benchmark to be a No.1 player to such heights that he needs to be appreciated for raising the standard of the game for generations to follow. No, because he is yet to prove his strength in clay court.

For me, the real tennis champion is Andre Agassi, for he is the only player of my generation, to have won grand slams in all types of tennis court surfaces. So my real tennis champion is Andre Agassi. But definitely Fed has a special mention in my tennis books. I will wait and see if I can add Rafa to that list.


Monday, February 2, 2009

Take what you need...

Oh boy... it's been hectic three weeks at work and no time to blog... Anyway, now things have settled down a bit at work and so here I am to blog. During the three weeks I have been following the news around the world and came across so many incidents about which I want to write but the list was too big that I decided to write about one issue that is affecting the globe as a whole and the root cause of that.

I recently went to my doctor's office for my annual health check up. While I was waiting in the doctor's office I saw few posters posted/nailed in the office wall. Since this being the flu season here most of them were related to information about flu and what are the symptoms and ways to prevent them. One of the posters caught my attention. It had the title "Take what you need...". I went through it and it was primarily focusing on getting the patient's attention to know that flu is caused by virus and so if you take antibiotics no purpose is served as antibiotics are meant to kill bacterial infections and not viral. I thought that the title was apt in terms of making people realize that you take what you need i.e., flu shots (injections) and not antibiotics.

Isn't it that the title is simple, straight forward and obvious to the point that they want to convey! At this time, my mind decided to compare this statement to what has been going on with the global economic crisis. Had a few men in Wall Street realized what they need as compared what they took, in terms of dollars, today we would not be facing this global economic crisis. It's just that a few men thought that they need to feed their own greed as opposed to try and weed out the greed form the organization, that we are facing the economic crisis that is affecting every hard working family across the globe.

Is it sooo difficult for one to decide how much money does one need or is it just that the open ended nature of the statement that people take greed as what they need to survive. I understand that everybody needs some extra cash in their savings account for those rainy days but the way these Wall Street executives gave bonuses to themselves in millions and billions of dollars while the regular employee is left with just his salary is ridiculous. Recently president Obama blasted these executives for shamelessly giving bonuses worth $18 Billion while they begged the govt to bail them out with tax payer's money. Isn't it that the behavior of these thick skinned executives atrocious... I don't know if there is a better word to describe these guys.

To top it all came, pretty much in close heels, the Bernie Madoff $50 Billion "Ponzi scheme" scandal in US and the Satyam fiasco in India. Both being the largest one's in their respective categories. First one being the largest investment related fraud in US history and second one being the largest corporate fraud in India's history. Both Bernie and Raju (Satyam) had betrayed the trust and confidence that people had in them.

When it came to investments, Bernie essentially misled and cheated people who trusted him and other to whom they passed on that trust and so on. When Bernie confessed about his Ponzi scheme he not only let down people close to him but a huge network of people who all thought that since their friends whom they trust are the ones who are recommending Bernie it should be a safe investment. And this network includes everyday people like you and me who sweat it out daily to make ends meet and pay bills. There was a finding by FBI sleuths that when they went to Bernie's office after his arrest there were checks worth $170 million in his office desk all written out to his family members. Bernie confessed that he has been running his ponzi scheme for nearly 2 decades and that he OWNS 5 houses including a penthouse in New York city. Essentially all these years he has been running a big time/high end BEGGING business by cheating millions of people and what he claims as he owns is not really his but purchased with other people's money. I really do not see much of a difference between this guy and the guy on the street who mugs for money. To me cheating a person who trusted you with life's savings is a bigger crime than mugging. Greed for money has eaten this guy and along with him others who trusted him.

Raju from Satyam Computer Services in India went about his greed by misrepresenting the company facts in audit books and thereby fooling an entire nation into believing that Satyam was the fourth largest software exporter in India. In reality, it looks like it was not. Raju on top of playing with the audit books channeled and re-routed the money earned thru Satyam to namesake companies started by his family members and got it into his pocket. Here again, Raju has fooled all Satyam shareholders for his personal gain though he claims he did not have any financial gain out of this fraud. But investigations so far seem to be pointing the other way.

The point here is when does one realize that he has what he needs and there is no need to be greed or is it that always greed is the need of the hour. I have always preferred a capitalist economy than a socialist one. But capitalism by cheating millions of people is not good. If you have a good idea and you make millions legally and in that process you help a few thousand people that's great. But claiming that you are a capitalist and cheat others to feed your greed for money, then to me you do not even deserve to be called a human.

I know no matter what one may think or write about all the financial scams that have been repeatedly hitting the headlines globally man's greed for money will never cease to exist as the need for greed has probably been around ever since man's existence. Take what you need but know what you need in the first place.


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