Forex trading in India

forextradingForex trading is one of the most popular forms of trading around the world, with a daily turnover of an average $5.1 trillion per day. This makes it the forex market extremely attractive for investors in India, as it is extremely liquid, it trades 24/hr a day 5 days a week thus allowing Indians to easily get in and out of the market without any major risk. All this has come to a standstill in India when the THE FOREIGN EXCHANGE MANAGEMENT ACT, 1999 was introduced as the the RESERVE BANK OF INDIA (RBI) decided to put a limit to Forex trading in India. They did not stop it completely, they allowed the trading of foreign currencies for business purposes and private purposes, but put a curb on speculating in the Forex Market. You can read the THE FOREIGN EXCHANGE MANAGEMENT ACT, 1999 here.

The RBI allowed trading only in pairs that have the Indian Rupee (INR) in one of the sides:

USDINR – Dollar vs Indian Rupee
JPYINR – Japanese Yen vs Indian Rupee
GBPINR – Brittish Pund vs Indian Rupee
EURINR – The Euro vs Indian Rupee

This ACT did not stop people from trading the foreign exchange markets, as Firms were setting up wash companies abroad where investors could send Rupees, and these were then converted to tradable currencies, to then be remitted back to the Indian investor. Thus later on in April 07, 2011, the RBI sent out the Circular No. 53, putting pressure on the banks to be more vigilant of these wash companies, further reading here on RBI/2010-11/472 – A.P. (DIR Series) Circular No. 53

The main question is why did the Government restrict foreign Exchange trading? As per RBI/2011-12/262 A.P. (DIR Series) Circular No. 46 we understand that the Forex industry has become extremely aggressive in india, with money managers trying to lure in ordinary people promising high returns, “Some companies have reportedly engaged agents who personally contact people to undertake forex trading/ investment schemes and entice them with promises of disproportionate / exorbitant returns”

Foreign exchange trading can help people in rural areas earn money online, but due to rogue aggressive agents, the whole industry has been curbed. How can the RBI protect the Indian investor that would like to trade forex without limiting the currency pairs allowed to trade.

1. Education in Forex – one of the most effective and safe options is to run wide campaigns nation wide educating the Indian Forex trader on Forex trading. There are many brokers that offer excellent Forex trading courses on what is Forex, and how to safely manage your risk.

2. Helpline to denounce rogue agents – have a national toll free helpline for those that feel that they are being hussled or promissed disproportionate / exorbitant returns.

The NYSE has introduced Forex Trading in Indian Rupee (INR) Cross Currency Pairs, to help regulate the market away and protect investors.

Women and Economy: Before and After Islamic Revolution

WomeninIranI would like to use this opportunity to salute the oppressed women of Iran, who for the past 28 years have been abused, humiliated and treated in the most inhuman manner by a barbaric and criminal regime.

One cannot but feel the immense weight of moral indignation at the plight of Iranian women who are putting up a heroic fight to gain back their plundered rights and freedoms. They have been plucked from the arms of human civilization and thrown back to the dark ages of repression and persecution.

Iran whose ancient rulers are honored like saints by the Bible for protecting Jews and religious minorities from persecution, in the advanced democratic age of the twenty-first century has been taken over by a regime that stands at the top of the international list of human rights violators.

The deadly virus of Middle Eastern terrorism received a great boost in the triumph of the anti-Western fanatical revolutionaries in Iran. The events that followed the 1979 triumph of Khomeini’s religious obscurantism had a ripple effect in the whole Islamic world. The poisoned propaganda of the rabble rousing mullahs appealed to that intolerant segment of the population in the Islamic world who preferred to get high on blind hatred of imagined enemies rather than work hard at the arduous task of development of their countries.

There are several ways to demonstrate the massive failure of the Islamic regime in Iran. But nowhere has this failure been more obvious and pervasive than in the realm of economics and the performance of the national economy.

An ‘analytical declaration’ signed by 565 prominent Iranian intellectuals, professionals, university professors and student leaders, issued in Tehran on March 1, 2005, reminds us of the most shocking fact that after 26 years and hundreds of billions of dollars in oil revenue, today the $1,677 per capita income of Iranians is 30% less than what it was in 1978 – the year preceding the revolution. In contrast, according to a resource-based analysis of economic performance, Iran has the potential of being the world’s 20th strongest economy. Its rich reserves of hydrocarbons and other natural resources, coupled with its geo-strategic position, make it a unique economy.

The Islamic revolution of 1979 and its consequences have shared many similarities with the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 in Russia. Both have been ideological, brutal and economically counterproductive. Political, social and economic devastation followed by destructive wars are among other common features of these two human disasters of the twentieth century. In spite of immeasurable human cost, neither of the two succeeded in achieving their stated goals.

Most of today’s economic and social ills can easily be traced to the government’s domination of the national economy. Specifically, Articles 43 and 44 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic were copied from those of former Communist states of Russia and Eastern Europe. In accordance with these articles, the government confiscated practically all aspects of the national economy and placed it under central planning. Since then, the state continues to dominate at least 80% percent of the economy. Today, in spite of significant annual oil income, totaling more than 500 billion dollars in 26 years, there are more than ten million of my compatriots living under the regime’s own poverty line.

In terms of comparative purchasing power, the value of our national currency – the Rial – has been reduced to less than 1% of its value in 1978. The best illustration of that can be manifested in the foreign exchange rate of the country. Before the disastrous revolution of 1979, it was 76 Rials to one US dollar. Today it is nearly 9250 Rials to one dollar.

Widespread and chronic unemployment is another manifestation of the regime’s economic record. While Iran had a labor shortage before the revolution and hosted millions of ‘guest-workers’ from abroad, today unofficial sources put unemployment at over 20%; the official government-acknowledged rate is 16%. There is very little credibility for government statistics among the Iranian people.

It is essential to note that unemployment among the youth is as high as 30%. As far as women are concerned, there are so many obstacles raised against their full social participation that many have given up looking for work, have thus left the labor market and are therefore not officially counted among the unemployed. One estimate places the potential rate of unemployment among women as high as 50%. Widespread and officially sanctioned discrimination against women has led to severe economic deprivation causing serious social problems, amongst them an astonishingly high rate of suicide, addiction, crime and prostitution.

The nature of the world economy has changed. The revolutionary changes in the field of Information-Communication Technology have opened new horizons for all nations. The advent of global economy has made it possible for countries like China and India to jump start their economies and make more progress in ten years than others have made in a century. Yet, under the clerical regime’s tenure, Iran has in fact regressed and has further fallen behind from a fast paced global economy.

However, Iran’s highly motivated population, particularly the youth, will overcome these years of deprivation and stagnation upon successfully putting an end to the rule of theocrats. Recent events in Lebanon and what is being referred to, as the ‘Cedar Revolution,’ is a clear example of the Winds of Change sweeping throughout the Middle East. It shows that democracy is eventually reaching the Islamic world and people of that region are learning to employ people’s power to achieve their political aspirations. People of Iran and Lebanon share many common characteristics. Both countries are culturally sophisticated and have a highly educated population.

It is only a matter of time before uniting Iranians find their moment in history to overcome their repressive clerical regime and regain their freedom and self-determination. It is in this light that I once again appeal on their behalf to the international community with this simple message:

We expect moral support from and solidarity with free societies and democratic governments, and we want their assurance that they will not compromise Iranian’s human rights and political freedom by cutting deals with our oppressors in the name of commerce and economic interests.

The American Civil War-II: A Satire

CivilWarWith the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War coming up in five years time, I let my imagination run riot. Could it happen again, how different would it be from the last time? Impossible, you say! Pure whimsy! Probably, but indulge me for a moment.

Consider the last two Presidential elections. Remember those coloured maps the television networks are so fond of displaying after the results are announced. In 2000 and particularly in 2004, the map of USA showed an almost unbroken blue on the East and West coasts and a solid mass of red in between. To an outsider like me – and possibly many Americans too – it seemed like two separate nations.

For me, personally, this impression has been continually bolstered by the comments I receive on some of my articles. Even if the subject matter is only vaguely political, the views expressed are radically divergent. Almost everything seems to degenerate into a pro-Bush vs. anti-Bush, liberal vs. conservative diatribe. And it is not a polite discourse by any means, none of that “we agree to disagree” sophistication. The attacks and counter-attacks are often vehement, vicious and vituperative.

USA has always been a two-party democracy, of course, but I cannot recall the country ever being so polarized; the warring factions so in-you-face. It’s not a shooting war yet, but the battle lines are being subtly drawn. And if open conflict does break out, it won’t be fought with tanks and missiles. The weapons of choice will be guile, slander and money power – and there is going to be a lot of collateral damage. Too cynical, you think? Welcome to the brave new world of the 21st Century.

The outward difference between a new civil war and the previous one would be that it is no longer North vs. South. Slavery would still be an issue, but of the economic rather than the physical kind. The red hordes of Middle Earth would be pitted against the blue armies of coastal Gandor, the Conservative States of America (CSA) against the Liberal ones (LSA).

In my imaginary war, the spark that would ignite the conflict would be the election of either a woman President with a fornicating spouse (their words, not mine); or a black bomber with a sinister name. The pent up indignation of God-fearing WASPs would reach boiling point and explode. The CAS would secede from the Union.

The Conservative armies would sally forth, singing hymns and with the staff of Jesus going on before, secure in the conviction that they had God on their side. They, after all, were the righteous ones; pro-life, church-going; the cohorts of Jesus, if you will. Moreover, they alone were the true descendants of the American Founding Fathers; and defenders of the Constitution – the right to bear arms and other such goodies. They came from steadfast Anglo-Saxon stock. George Washington did not kick out the British just to make their country a haven for Hispanics, Asians and other folk with funny-sounding names.

The Red states were not bigots, of course. Hadn’t they allowed the blacks into their work places; their diners and their homes? Well, maybe not their homes. One can only go so far. And there was no Babel of strange, unintelligible tongues in God’s own country; just chaste English; the language of Jesus and Matthew and Luke and John. One could point out that the sainted ones actually spoke Aramaic, but that would be splitting hairs. Finally, the good Lord, in his bounty, had amply provided for his chosen people: corn as high as an elephant’s eye and all that lovely oil. They could buy what they needed and starve those liberal pagans into submission.

The LSA, meanwhile, would look on with bemused superiority. Sure, the rednecks had the oil but they had many of the refineries. What would you do with the gooey mess, except maybe smear it on your faces while fighting one of your ludicrous Aryan nation mock battles? The true blues may not have an abundance of wheat and corn, but they had sushi and Kung Pow chicken and pork vindaloo – delicacies that untrained Middle-America palates could not appreciate. And they controlled the oceans; they could ship in whatever they needed. Finally, the blue armies possessed the ultimate weapon – Bill Gates. With one peremptory command, he could disable select Windows and have the Middles scurrying around like chickens that had just had their heads cut out and dispatch them back to the Stone Age they had recently emerged from.

Racial discrimination, a known fact

ShilpaRacThe famous Hindi proverb (Naam bade aur darshan chote: meaning high promises, low output) is apt to describe the whole Shilpa Shetty episode in the hit British reality celebrity show, Big Brother. What Shilpa had to face was not at all shocking, for we all know that racial discrimination is common in the European countries – be it in the field of sports, politics or showbiz.

It seems that Western countries, who boast of themselves as the most civilized countries and took a pledge to civilize the world in the late medieval and early modern historical period, are yet to come out of their feeling of superiority. They still take great pleasure to announce themselves as the superior beings.

Shilpa’s case is not the first one of racial discrimination. Ask any NRI and you will find that every one of them would have faced similar problems sometime during their stay abroad, be it at the workplace or in the neighbourhood. The West needs to be pulled out of their cliché feeling of superior hood.

For Shilpa the whole episode has turned out to be a nightmare. She is no more the heart-throb of Bollywood. The uncertainty of her future in Bollywood compelled her to grab with both hands, the appearance on such a hit celebrity reality show. She has done what anyone would have done, but she just made a little mistake. As they say, things are not always what they seem to be and popularity or success does not come that easy. She failed to understand this.

Perhaps the controversy might just be a publicity stunt, a calculated jealousy by the show to raise more eyeballs. But this whole episode has surely held the mirror to the western society.

Can the haves share the burden of the have not?

PovertyIndiaQuote: “Dictionary meaning of filthy is disgustingly dirty and is therefore ‘Filthy Poor’ is an appropriate description of the extremely poor, who cannot afford the means which could enable them to be clean.” Unquote

It is an irony that the filthy riches do contribute to lot of filth to the environment by way of carbons exhausts from their vehicles and industries and senseless waste of earthly resources like fossil fuels, wood, forests and minerals, which has an adverse effect to the climate change, global worming and the destruction of the natural environment and threatening the existence of the basic life in this planet.

What people do not understand is that a lot of people who are very poor in the society are because of the flawed social system and exploitation of the rich and the powerful. To elaborate on that, Gandhi was once taunted by an elegantly dressed British Lord that as saviour of the people of India how come he couldn’t manage to have a little more than a loin of cloth to cover himself, to which he replied: “Simply because the Lord have managed to loot all the cloth from the Indian people.”

Its an irony that despite India’s ancient civilization and glorious past, an average Indian has to face a lot of uncomfortable insinuations from the students and teachers of medieval and modern history about the caste, dowry and other atrocities on women, child marriage and  exploitation and total neglect of the poor and the handicapped and a big hypocrisy on the part of the affluent class of society for conveniently brushing aside these burning issues which has been plaguing our society for a long time and still comfortably ignoring as if we are the most civilized and cultured people on this planet. 

On the other hand, most literate and educated people in the West, when asked about their family background make it a point not to boast about their riches or wealth. Rather, on many occasions, I have found a western dignitary cutting in the middle of the lengthy accolades showered by the Indian or Asian organizers of a social event before he or she is asked to preside.

The question here is that what is the fault of the children (economically destitute) born to a homeless or to a so called filthy poor? Why in the world, he should not have the basic right to education, upbringing, normal childhood, adolescence and later right to work, earn and a decent living, which is what is available to most Western European (Holland, England, Germany etc.) and North America (Canada, US etc.) countries, where government agencies take up education and upbringing of an destitute child or assuring basic right to food, health, education, shelter and work (in absence social welfare).

Actually, we Indians are, like it or not, a bunch of ‘hypocrites’ or liars. Meaning we profess to believe something very idealistic and moralistic outside but do something opposite, or in the contrary, which is just fooling ourselves and no one else. 

It’s time for the haves to share the burden of the have not and the government to take immediate cognitive measures to help uplift the poor.

Nisha Sharma: The guiding force

Nisha SharmaWhat is “Heroism?” Centuries ago, all the priests and the Church, the lords and kings, declared the earth flat. Only one man protested – Galileo! He challenged the idea! He stood all alone, he fought all alone.

Heroism means the guts to challenge present and fight for the right. Heroes are those who stand alone and become torch bearers to the society leading them towards future. Heroes are those who dream and store the glimpse of future in their strong hearts and determined and committed minds!

For the tale of such an extraordinary heroic act amidst our ordinary life, I have chosen an incident and the heroine whom I can relate to.

“Glitter of jewellery, sari clad ladies, aroma from the kitchen filled the drawing room in the Noida residence of the Sharmas on 11th May 2003. Something else also occupied the room – two washing machines, two refrigerators, two home theatre systems, and an electric oven besides and a golden Maruti Esteem parked outside the house. All this was the dowry – oh sorry the “gifts” – Mr Sharma had to give his daughter to have her well accepted in her new home!

It was Nisha’s wedding day! Her father had toiled all his life for this day. There as she sat in her bridal attire, waiting for her mother to come in and take her, when she heard voices from the drawing room! She ran outside only to see the most dreadful sight of her life, which changed Nisha forever! Mrs Dalal (her would be mother-in-law) was abusing her father, threatening to call the marriage off because she wanted 12 lakh more for dowry. She then slapped Mr Sharma and spat on his face. The entire family stood stunned and clueless!

Nisha on the other hand, was not clueless. The circumstances had now surpassed the threshold limit of her dignity and endurance. She knew what had to be done. Minutes before the “muhurt” of a 15 lakh wedding, when 2,500 guests were busy with dinner, Nisha Sharma called the police!

She called off the wedding and Mrs. Dalal and Manish were arrested for demanding dowry and harassing her father!

Such was Nisha’s act that she became the voice, an inspiration, and a message to the entire womankind. And her voice was heard! Infact, a few days later, twenty-three years old Farzana denied rukhsati from her parent’s house in the face of a demand for Rs 50, 000 and a motorcycle. Afew days later, on May 17th, Anupama of Delhi refused to accompany her husband whose family demanded Rs 8 lakh!

Nisha Sharma’s incident clearly proves that only those who have the courage to sacrifice and determination to go ahead against the wind are enshrined in history. Only those who have stood against the tide, who have challenged outdated beliefs and who have questioned accepted norms have become torch-bearer for others.

Today every woman who strives for justice, equality and individuality will always look upon Nisha as a North Star forever.

Shilpa controversy: A win situation for all

ParliamentThere is a sublimely ludicrous flap going on about a television show, currently being broadcast in England. It has become a feature story on CNN, BBC and several Indian news channels. It even merited a question in the British Parliament; and has almost started a race war.

No, it has nothing to do with Iraq, or Christianity vs Islam, or any of the usual suspects. It’s a show called Big Brother, which is threatening to reach the outer limits of banality. Essentially, it is about a group of distinctly minor celebrities, whose ego is in inverse proportion to their talent. These non-entities have been locked up in a house and are spied on 24×7 by strategically placed cameras. The idea is to observe them as they go about their normal lives. “Normal”- now there’s a misnomer, for a start. The supreme irony is that this voyeuristic intrusion into the infantile antics of a bunch of fakes is called “Reality TV.”

So what’s all the fuss about? Last week, a second-rung Indian actress named Shilpa Shetty was ‘inserted’ into this dysfunctional household; and promptly proceeded to get on the nerves of the other inmates, all Brits. One could not pronounce her name and kept referring to her as “the Indian”. Another called her a ‘f**** Paki’ and told her to ‘f*** off’. Shetty cleverly did her bit, goading them on with her snotty, holier-than-thou attitude; and by playing the offended martyr to perfection.

For the one and a half million British Asians, such taunts are routine occurrences; and most have learnt to take it in their stride. But, for some reason, they chose to anoint the bemused and secretly delighted Shetty as their cause. The television station was bombarded with 38 thousand outraged calls, deploring the racism that was being meted out to the ‘defenseless’ victim – who, incidentally, is being paid three-quarter of a million dollars – and demanded retribution.

British politicians, like their peers all over the world, are never the one to lose an opportunity to score brownie points. Some raised a question in Parliament, forcing Tony Blair to pronounce sanctimoniously that “Britain deplores and condemns racism in any form.” The TV producers pretended to be suitably shocked, while raking in all those extra millions due to the free publicity.

It would be simplistic to dismiss this hoopla hyperbole as a pathetically hilarious publicity coup of epic proportions. The show producers probably would not have minded paying the 38,000 disgruntled viewers who transformed a garden variety voyeuristic cheapie into an international blockbuster; but they didn’t have to.

Britain has been a so-called multi-cultural society, but the migrant Asians, Africans and folks from the Caribbean have never really been assimilated into the mainstream – as in America. It is partly their fault. They tend to ensconce themselves in exclusive ghettoes, where they feel more comfortable and secure. In doing so, they cling to their ethnic identities. Not surprisingly, these groups – who, less than a hundred years ago were subjects of the British Empire – are treated with a certain amount of contempt; particularly from the lower strata of British society.

Most of the ethnic groups accept this attitude stoically, as a small price to pay for the materialistically superior lifestyle they enjoy in their adopted country. But the discontent and frustration has been simmering under the surface – and this stupid television show provided an opportunity to vent their anger. I don’t think they expected it to snowball into what it has become – it got onto CNN, for Pete’s sake – but I’m sure they are delighted.

For the cynically inclined, this brouhaha has all the trappings of an Andy Warhol spectacular. The obscure participants in Big brother have become international celebrities: the producers have watched their ratings reach stratospheric levels; and the usually tolerated British Asians have achieved near-cult status. Everybody wins. Everybody, that is, except those of us who still retain a modicum of intellectual integrity.

Legacy of india’ s bureaucracy

This article was written in 2001, when our Prime Minister was Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee. But the contents of this article are as relevant today as they were at that time. Unfortunately it will remain relevant for another fifty years or till such time that a governing party has the political guts to tackle the problems of ‘licence permit raj’ and the corruption so rampant in India, thanks to the nexus between politicians, bureaucrats, industrialists and the underworld. As such, the author would like readers to take note of this article in that light and requests that we see to it that both the ruling party as well as the opposition are made aware of the need for a positive solution to the eradication of “Suvidha Shulk”.

When your speech at Bakshi Talab, Lucknow was reported in detail under the title: “P.M. lashes out at corruption, red-tapism”, I was reminded of one of our great ex-Prime Ministers who described corruption as a universal phenomenon, and later on another former PM pledging to make the country corruption-free before it enters the 21st century. Fifty years after India attained freedom, its ranking in the list of most corrupt nations is regrettably very high. It’s unfortunate that we had to appear in the top rankings in the “sport” of corruption, as we rarely appear in any other.

Poetic as you are, your description of corruption and red-tapism had a poetic touch. What amused me most was the description of the system as “Suvidha Shulk” (convenience money). It is true that for normal operation of their legitimate business of manufacturing and exporting, all entrepreneurs have to pay this Suvidha Shulk on countless occasions to all the departments, be it labour, P.F., E.S.I., M.C.D., D.D.A., D.E.S.U. (now D.V.B.), S.Tax, I.Tax, Excise and Customs. And among the Suvidha Shulk collectors from these departments, one could draw a list as long as the one now appearing at the website of our friend Vittal, except that their list would not include high officers as his has, but lower and middle ranked inspectors, enforcement officers etc.

Whereas Sales Tax is collected on quarterly basis and Income Tax on annual basis, collection of Suvidha Shulk has no fixed timing. Hoards of these collectors are doing their rounds at will throughout the year, targeting all classes of entrepreneurs, irrespective of whether honest or otherwise. And after they have been able to convince their target that he is violating one or the other provision of an act concerning their department, they put up a direct proposal “either pay up the Suvidha Shulk or else!”

Acts and laws relating to trade and industry in our country, particularly those relating to labour, industrial disputes and factory act, were mostly enacted during the British Raj in the nineteenth century, and as such can never be complied with under today’s conditions. Government has time and again assured us that they are fully committed to review, amend simplify and if necessary reform these antiquated laws, but like reviewing the Constitution one can forget about any action taking place. As the saying goes, “why make things easier, when it is so easy to make them difficult?” And the Suvidha Shulk collection continues to be indulged in openly and with gusto.
The best part of the whole system is that these Suvidha Shulk collectors are fully convinced about the incompatibility of the existing acts and laws with the ground realities, and they show no inclination to enforce the same or insist on compliance by their targets, so long their small as well as big shulk demands are taken care of. Having said all this, I come back to a question that is the hot topic of the day.

The decision of the Finance Minister to phase out tax exemptions under 80HHC has made the entire export community to cry foul and for once unitedly (this being a rare phenomenon) raise a hue and cry. It is in this context that I would like to make a humble suggestion. Tax the profit making exporters – if you must – whether actually prompted by WTO directive or otherwise to meet the revenue demands, but call it the “EXPORT SUVIDHA SHULK”. By this I mean that the exporters should deposit this shulk in a special fund, which should be used by the Government exclusively to fight corruption and red-tapism at all levels. Against voluntary compliance by the exporting community, he should be issued a special Green Card, which should entitle him immunity from the so-called Suvidha Shulk collectors as described above.

I have no intention to give them a free hand to indulge in unlawful activities, as many of them are expert at, but what I mean is that dictum “you are innocent unless proven guilty” should be applied to these exporters. Their self-assessment should normally be accepted at its face value, unless serious lapses on their part are alleged with proper evidence. This arrangement, I am sure, will be most welcome by exporters, who will not feel the pinch of this phasing out of exemption under 80HHC, as most of their gradually increasing tax liability will be amply covered by their savings from the normal Suvidha Shulk.

This may sound like a dream, but how I wish it became a reality.

If only you and I could turn back time

backintimeHow many times has it happened that you have been walking down a quiet street and a smell wafts into your nose, and you suddenly find yourself mentally transported back in time? Things around become oblivious to your senses, and you find yourself not walking on the street at that moment, but in some by-lanes of your past.

Probably you are in your neighbor’s backyard where you used to play hide and seek as a child. Hidden behind an empty drum, pulling yourself into a pole, you kept your ears open to any rustling of leaves which gave idea about the movements of the seeker. And then came drifting to your nose a smell which maybe you liked or you hated, but still couldn’t help but inhale it. A sudden flood of names from your childhood rushes to your mind as you come back to the present, of those who were your childhood pals. You cannot help but smile, thinking of those charmingly innocent moments of pure exhilaration which came to you as a child – you proudly walk back home after achieving temporary hero status after having been the best one in the game that evening. You inhale deeply and consciously make yourself aware of where you are going, and muster up some intent to finish the job at hand. If only you and I could turn back time.

Probably you are in your mother’s kitchen, peeping at the dishes, of which generous helpings would soon be in you plate for you to gorge upon. She is shouting at you for not having washed your hands, and you think why that should be considered necessary. You sit at the table, and arrives the plate in which you have been interested for quite long now. Comes rising to your nose the smell of mother’s cooking and then you get busy, probably with both hands. A sudden assortment of dishes starts dancing in front of your eyes as you come back to the present, thinking of those royal days when even god would have smiled looking at the care bestowed upon you. Your eyes go moist and maybe a droplet of tear escapes from the far corner of your eye, looking presently at where this street is leading you, and what job you have to finish before the day ends. If only you and I could turn back time.

Probably you are in your classroom in the elementary school at recess with the whole room reverberating with tremendous noise as all those around you open their lunch-boxes. You treat your lunch-box as a prized possession, making sure not many are there around you, so that you get to eat your fill at least. You know your mother has stuffed enough in it to take care of a few others. You open it, and rushes to your nose the smell of sandwiches packed early in the morning, and you force large chunks of it down your throat before someone else gets at it. A sudden clamour, the clamour of your classroom, starts whirring in your mind, thinking of the days when losing your notebook was equivalent to having lost a lifetime’s savings. Looking at the street in front of you, you compare yourself today, with who your classmates are, either feeling left behind, or superior, or maybe satisfied. You anyways smile, wishing to walk out of class, content, to get a view of the pretty girl in the next section. The time machine vanishes, and you realize you should be home before dinner time. If only you and I could turn back time.

Probably you are walking again, but a few years back in time, on a similar pavement late in the evening. The leather end of your dog’s leash is in your hand, with him pulling at it with strength you never thought would be in him when you held him for the first time as a pup. He is pulling you to the next tree, furiously intent at finding out who wetted the bark before him, and desperate to leave stamp of his arrival as well. You take hurried steps over the concrete block pavement, trying to keep a count of how many cement blocks you stepped on. When you realize that he is spending too much time fine-tuning his olfactory senses, you bark ‘Casper!!!’ – which is his name – and pull him away from the tree, moving forward on your evening walk. You look at your watch in the present, and realize you are far away from that footpath you trod as a teenager, walking proudly with your Alsatian. You want to pat him on his head that moment, and feel the deep cushion of his coat in you palms. You let out a sigh, smiling broadly at the idea that the ‘walk with the dog’ presented a perfect environ for you to gape at pretty girls of a posh South Delhi colony walking past you. If only I, and not you, could turn back time.

The intrusive Indian Government

IndiGovThe Indian government is renowned for messing up – or, at least, ignoring – issues that directly impact the lives of citizens and making populist mountains out of irrelevant molehills. However, in the past ten days, our politicians have surpassed themselves – no mean feat.

First, there came the absurd ban on a television channel, AXN, for broadcasting an allegedly indecent program. Next, we were treated to the ludicrous spectacle of a minister acting as a self-appointed champion of a second-rung actress, Shilpa Shetty, for the alleged racial taunts on a mediocre television show. And finally, there was this threat to a private sports channel to share – for free – feed from cricket broadcasts for which the channel had paid a small fortune.
Let me try to dissect these illustrations of knee-jerk, thought-free high handedness of those who sanctimoniously claim to have the public’s best interests at heart. That is why we elected them, after all; to safeguard our delicate sensibilities, protect our ‘glorious culture’ and generally treat us like dimwitted children.

First the so-called ‘indecent’ program for which AXN was banned. The program was called ‘World’s Sexiest Videos’ and – like most television shows, they promise much more than they could deliver. Granted, the title is suggestive and openly provocative, but have any of our moral police actually bothered to watch the program? I have. It consists of actual advertisements, most of them in unintelligible European language, which rely heavily on innuendos and the imaginations of its viewers. There is definitely no overt sexual content and no frontal nudity. I wonder whether even half of those who watched the program were smart enough to fully comprehend the content. Besides, it was telecast at 11 pm. The real irony is that this program has been on the air, off and on, for over a year. It was deservedly ignored by sensible viewers until the government, in its usual ham handed manner, made it a cause celebre.

Reams of newsprint have been profligately expended on the Shilpa Shetty-Big Brother farce, so I do not need to go into details. It will suffice to say that this brouhaha has transformed the obscure participants in Big brother into international celebrities: the producers have watched their ratings reach stratospheric levels; and the usually tolerated British Asians have achieved near-cult status. Everybody wins. Everybody, that is, except us who still retain a modicum of intellectual integrity.

The two examples of government intrusion mentioned above are, at best, worthy of scorn and ridicule. However, threatening to pass legislation to compel Neo Sports to share its cricket coverage feed with the state owned television network – and that too, free of cost – could have sinister implications. Neo Sports has paid crores of rupees to secure exclusive rights to broadcast cricket matches and the demand for a share of the pie, without paying for the privilege, negates the very concept of exclusivity. Today, when India is trying to hold itself up to the world as an economic superpower and a champion of the free market, this kind of knee-jerk reaction sends out the worst possible signal. This is the sort of thing one would expect in China; certainly not in a so-called functional democracy.

It is no secret that our politicians thrive on attention. They demand their 15 minutes of fame – indeed, they would prefer 15 hours of it – and the media is only too happy to oblige. The amount on newsprint expended on the above nonsense would fill a dozen newspapers. At least, the media has an excuse. It is their business to boost up circulation and ratings any way they can. The only excuse our ‘rulers’ have is that it is far easier to use stunts like these to divert the attention of a gullible public, than to do the job they were elected to do.