Sunday, February 06, 2011

Top of the World...

I have visited few cities in my life so far. None of those cities created any remarkable impression in my mind. But the city of Udaipur, which has sobriquets like ‘ city of Lakes’ , ‘Venice of the East’ and ‘ Kashmir of Rajasthan’, stole my heart on the very first day of my visit. Unlike many crowded cities in our country Udaipur stands out as a city with manageable traffic on the road and it gives a feeling that you have landed yourself in the middle of a hill station. The sight of Aravalli ranges deceives you with that notion too. Though Udaipur is not boastfully large it does hold most of the romance and flavor of Rajasthan. It hosts the largest palace complexes on the banks of Lake Pichola, one of the cities four lakes. This afternoon we had planned our trip to Lake Pichola and Doodh Talai , a hill with an attraction of cable car connecting Karni Mata Mandir atop another hill, that is Machhala Hills.

Doodh Talai hills has a garden and also houses a restaurant which serves the tourist while they wait for their turn to move onto the cable car. The distance traveled in the cable car is about 400 meters only. But the breathtaking view on either side will keep you spellbound. On your right side you can have the panoramic view of the Lake Pichola and on the right side one can see the valley between the ranges through which a structure like fortress runs through. The fortress wall reminds you of the Great Wall of China. As you set your foot on the Machhala hill the view engulfs you for a minute. You will decide to stay there for as long as you can. If you have passion for photography just consider yourself to be on the right place. The spectacular view of the city from the hill would give you a great joy. While the structure Jag Mandir and Taj Lake palace that rises from the Waters of Lake Pichhola would really amuse you as they are world famous luxury heritage hotels. And to top it all to view the scenic beauty of city palace which has the state’s largest palace complexes from top of the hill are royally pulsating. This place is also called the Sunset point. To watch the sun go down from behind the Aravalli ranges painting a crimson shade on the waters of the lake is indeed a gift that gets unwrapped everyday.

No matter how much we have advanced scientifically the nature has a way of telling us that nothing gives us joy and pleasure as much as it does. A sense of serenity and satisfaction overwhelms as you slowly start to walk down the hill.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dhobi Ghat

Dhobi Ghat is a movie directed by Kiran Rao, wife of Aamir khan. Not a typical Aamir Khan type movie. The secondary title of the movie “Mumbai Diaries” reveals vividly the theme of the film. The plot is not a leaf picked from the life of any single individual. But a story of Mumbai, known as Maximum City, that is churning out dreams of everyone who has made it their home. Each one of its dweller stands apart from the rest of the crowd in more than one ways. And yet the city connects one to the other in a bizarre way. This is exactly what happens to the protagonists of this flick.

Munna , a dhobi in the neighborhood meets Shai a well-educated Indian investment banker in USA who is on a visit to Mumbai. And Shai also meets up with Arun an introvert painter. Here’s another a character , Yasmin Noor, who do not make a on-screen appearance or so to say but makes a reverberating effect on Arun, the painter played by Aamir Khan. All four of them are poles apart in all aspects of their lives. What connects them to each other emotionally is love, loneliness, passion and survival.

Mumbai Diaries as the movie is called does not picturize the globalized part of the city but that face of the city which Bollywood had forgotten long time ago. There are neither sheening bungalows nor the gleaming sports cars. May be this is why it is titled Dhobi Ghat. The video tapes of Yasmin Noor are a real depiction of loneliness with no tears shed. It was completely moving. Munna , a lanky lad carries a heavy weight on his shoulder and big dream in his eyes with a heart willing to accept the paradoxes in his love for Shai. He is sure a star in the making. And shai is on the search for love that had possessed her during a one-night stand. Arun comes as a passionate painter with the hope of fixing his botched up marital life.

The movie by and large is a interesting watch. But I must say it is not entertaining but engaging though.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Penning down Success

Well, we all look forward to a change in our lives. We seek this change from the past, as we slowly tread in to the future which is far from certainty. You yearn for it whether you are displeased or contented with your present. But whatever, I don’t think its clichéd to say change is the most constant thing on earth. Yes, it is inevitable. But wouldn’t this change be a celebrated one if it could take you to a new future that you always wanted for yourself. Right now my position is such that I am on the verge of dissolving into that much sought-after change. A change from a past that was once inescapable and overflowing with monotony and the macabre of failure.

I owe this change to my success in civil service exams which has taken four grueling years of my life. They say aim for the sky so at least you’ll land on roof-top. That is exactly the kind of success I have attained at this juncture of my journey to which I bought a ticket way back at a time when I was a little boy. I do not want to drive in to you a feeling that I unwelcome this success though I was unsatisfied to see my name at the back-end of the rank list. Yes , I was placed at 700th rank out of the total selection of 875. It took me a while to realize that I have not lost it altogether. It gave me more strength when I gathered that I could make into a service which was only my fourth preference after IAS, IFS and IPS. The aura of success was slowly starting to envelop me.

This is indeed a change for me. Success, instead of failure. Though the change is not going to be a sudden one like it always is. Because I am not ushered into the new future in a blink of an eye but I am only crawling into it. The reason is I have an unfinished agenda and my destination is still to go. The journey will have to go on. Yes, I need to give the exams again to realize my long cherished ambition. Reach the sky I must. Of course, the change is sure to occur though I may have to carry the burden of my past in to the new future. But I just feel that the burden has shed some of its weight. And the change has definitely brought lot of joy into my life and the lives of my loved ones. Hey Change!! I welcome you with open arms and embrace you. And I kiss the success gently with a heart wanting more.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Yet another chance...

Well, I have taken a long leave of absence as far as IAS interview is concerned. Last time I appeared in 2007. Of course , its not an annual festival you pay visit to every year. But rather, in a more clichéd term, a life time opportunity. Here I was, at it again. My interview was dated 31st of March, 2010.

In a band o f five candidates to be interviewed by a board, I was the first to be let in. It was an hot afternoon, around 2.45. The board was Prof. Purushottam Agarwal.

Here goes the transcript:…

Entered the hall and wished everyone. There was a lady member in the panel.

: (CM) You are Guganesan?
Me: Yes Sir.
CM: You have a very interesting hobby. Watching Hollywood movies and noting down memorable dialogues. Not many people would have that hobby. Can you give me one dialogue?
Me: Yes Sir. This is from a movie called “The Bucket List” .You measure yourself by the people who measure themselves by you. ( . There is instant laughter from one of the panel members. I started explaining by saying, What I learn from this is….then chairman gestured no need for that)
CM: The movie is Bucket list? Is it a new movie?
Me: Yes Sir. It was released in the year 2007.
CM: Do you watch classical movies?
Me: No Sir. I don’t watch Classical movies. I only watch movies released in 1980s and 90s. But I would include Godfather.
CM: But Godfather is not classical. It was released sometime in 70s.
Me: Yes Sir. It was released in 1972.
CM: Can you give me one dialogue from Godfather? ( He mentioned a dialogue which he felt is widely quoted and asked me to say anything other than that. But I could not quite get what he said)
Me: A man is no man when he does not spend time with his family. I learn some family values from this, sir. It is important for one to spend time with their family.
CM: Oh, You learn family values from Godfather?
Me: Yes Sir. It depends on how one takes it. It talks about how we should relate in a family. It shows relationship between father and son.
CM: (as he kept laughing) Yes it tells you how to deal with your Son-in-law. When Michael’s sister cries , he goes beats him up.
Me: Yes that is true. But it depends on how we see it.
CM: Of Course, it is very much a family value. It means you take good care of your sister.
Me: Yes sir ( and smiled at him)
CM: Now talking about family values. It is all changing now. Joint family has become nuclear family now. Personally, which one do you prefer?
Me: Sir , I prefer Nuclear family. Because I would want my Son and Daughter to grow with their grandparents and learn good values from them. (Without realizing my mistake)
CM: You mean you prefer Joint family.
Me: (realizing my mistake and got little disturbed) Sorry Sir. What I meant is Joint Family.
CM: Its ok. Be relaxed. But in a joint family you have chachas and chahis and Tau..You understand Chacha and Tau…(I nodded my head saying I Understand Hindi, Sir)You have to listen to them also. You lose your personal space. What do you think?
Me: Sir here Uncle Should know that it is not good to interfere in the personal affairs of his nephew or niece. Everyone should have some family values.
CM: You know these days you have pension schemes and retirement plans. You must have seem HDFC plan ad. I don’t know what they say in tamil. In hind it says, “ Sar utake jiyo” …raise your head and live. Father does not want to depend on son. They want to take care of themselves. What do you think?
Me: Yes sir. Those plans are for ensuring regular income in the future. But parents get old. They can not take care themselves. Children should take care of them. And it is father’s value that he should not be dependent on son. But a son should have a value that he would take good care of this parents.
CM: Talking about this issue, recently there was a law passed regarding this. Do you know that law?
Me: Yes sir. It was 2 or 3 years back. It is called Old age Protection Act.
CM: What does it say?
Me: It makes it a duty on the part of the children to take care of their parents. And parents feel that they are not being taken care of by their children, it can be legally enforced. They can deny property rights to children. Law of inheritance do not apply by default here.
CM: Why should government regulate that? It is a personal affair in a family.
Me: Yes it is a personal affair. But government has to enact such laws. The concept of geriatric care is important. Children should take care of their parents. Government has to control population. This is one such measure. Many family would have to take care of their parents. So in order to cut down expenditure they will have one child instead of two children. It is good for the country, Sir.
CM: Is there any other law that deals with such family issues? Like laws protecting women.
Me: Yes sir. We have Dowry prohibition Act and there is a recent law passed. I am not able to recollect the title of the law. It gives protection to women against members within the family.
CM: Domestic Violence Act.
Me: Yes sir. Domestic Violence Act.
CM: State is enacting so many laws. Listen to this carefully. It is a serious issue. There is an observation made by the sociologist. State would only become too powerful by enacting too many laws. What is your view?
Me: Yes it is true. But State should enact such laws to inculcate values in society. At the same time they have to balance between state’s responsibility and one’s personal affairs.
CM: Recently Supreme Court made an observation that there is one law that is being used too much. Supreme Court pulled up some police officials and there was a lady involved in a case. Are you aware of any such thing?
Me: I’m sorry Sir. I have not come across any such thing .
Chairman now pointed to the member to his left. He Started asking questions.
Member 1(M1) : So you are a chartered Accountant . From the Balance sheet, how do you judge the values of a company?
Me: We can ascertain that from the networth of the company. And if the company is listed we can also make use of EPS i.e earning per share and P/E ratio. i.e Price earnings ratio.
M1: How do you find out P/E ratio?
Me: The formula for P/E ratio is MPS divided by EPS. MPS market price can be readily available. EPS is calculated by taking profit from the P & L account and dividing it by Number of shares.
M1: Suppose you are my financial advisor. There is a company with a P/E ratio of 7 and there is a company with a P/E ratio of 20. which is a good company?
Me: The company with a P/E ratio of 20 is a good company.
M1: Are you saying a company in which I have to pay twenty times more to earn Re.1 is a good company.?
Me: No Sir. We should not see it that way. High P/E ratio indicates the confidence that investors have placed on the company. It also conveys the future growth potential of the company. Also we should not see the returns in terms of dividend alone. We should also look at the capital appreciation that the company is providing.
M1: Ok. Now suppose there is a company with a P/E ratio of 20 and another company with 40. which is a better company?
Me: Sir, company with P/E ratio of 20 is still a better company. Because very high P/E ratio also could mean that shares are overvalued. So we should balance between low P/E ratio of 7 and high ratio of 40.
M1: Suppose instead of 40 if I give you 15. Between 15 and 20, which one you will choose?
Me: In that case we will have to look into other parameters also. We should compare the growth potential of the companies.
M1:Okay now, considering one economy as a company, like they say India Inc., what are the basis which you can use to judge?
Me: Sir, the first one would be GDP, Tax-GDP ratio , Fiscal deficit, Debt-GDP ratio. These are the parameters to judge the economy.
M1: But going by you parameters, and taking USA. There is nothing good except GDP. It has got highest amount of debt and very high Fiscal deficit.
Me: I was taking from India’s point of view. But as far as USA is concerned the debt and fiscal deficit is largely due to economic recession.
M1: No no….leave this last two years. Even for the last 20-25 years USA has been having huge debt. (Chairman also joined in Supporting him and the said M1 is economist)
Me: I’m sorry I was under the impression that USA’s deficit is largely due to recession.
M1: Now in spite of so much of debt why USA is considered as the powerful economy?
Me: Sir, this is largely due to their high GDP. USA’s dollar is almost considered as the world currency. And their companies are performing well and they have their presence all over the world.
M1: Now tell me broadly what should the economy focus on ?
Me: Sir , an economy should focus on increasing its tax revenue and at the same time it should focus on the social sector needs of the economy. ( Chairman reacted to this positively)
M1: Can the economy have a very high tax rate and very low spending?
Me: No Sir. Too much of high tax rate and low spending is not good for the economy . it should balance between the two. It is very important that social sector needs are fulfilled
M1: Now consider Tata-corrus. And Bharti is buying assets in Africa. Leaving out whats in it for Tatas and Bharti, tell me what is in it for the Indian economy.
Me: Sir, it will bring in new technologies for India.
M1: What is the technology involved in mobile company and there is nothing we can learn from Africa?
Me: Sir, Mobile services are picking up. Selling mobile services needs lot of marketing strategies. We can learn marketing strategies from them.
M1: But don’t you think $10 billion is little costly for marketing strategies.
(Chairman interrupted by saying Bharti can very well send some research team to learn the marketing strategy) Other than that what else is good for the economy.
Me: (I was thinking hard) Sir, It will enhance the tax revenue for the country.
M1: Yor are also a tax expert (he said that since I was a CA). Tell me how it will increase tax revenue. Bharti is in India. The other company is Africa.
Me: Sir, Under Income tax law the taxation is based on residential status. Bharti is a Resident company. And if the African company is controlled and managed from India, it will also be considered as resident. In this case the control lies in India. So it will be taxed in India.
(Member 1 nodded to that and passed on to the next member)

Member 2: Tell me is India a oil producing company or oil recipient company?
Me: Sir, India is oil receiving company. India imports 75% of its oil requirements from abroad.
M2: Yeah, that’s what I wanted to know. Now tell me how we can reduce this dependence on foreign countries?
Me: Sir. Many Indian oil companies like ONGC are investing in oil well abroad. We should invest more in oil-rich countries. We should also focus on non-conventional energy resources like solar energy and wind energy.
M2: But non-conventional is a long term measure.
Me: Yes Sir. But India is already making progress. India has become the third largest wind energy producer.
M2: But suggest some short term measure.
Me: Sir, recently many oil companies like ONGC and others demanded RBI for Forex reserves for buying assets abroad. That is a good measure. We can follow that.
(M2 signaled that he is done. Chairman pointed to the lady member to proceed)

Member 3: Guganesan, tell me you have done your, and then C.A. Chartered Accountants are paid well and they are all well off. Why do you want to join civil service?
Me: Madam, I had the desire to join civil service even before I decided to do CA. It started as a childhood ambition and later I was inspired by an IAS officer. She always told me that civil service is a good career and is all about to public service and one can cater to the needs of the society. That’s why I chose civil service.
CM: What is that officer’s name?
Me: Sir, her name is Mrs. Sabitha IAS.
M3: Where is she now?
Me: She is posted as Managing Director in Tansia in Chennai.
M3: Ok. Now tell me what is in it for India , in case of Bharti buying assets in Africa?
( I had no ideas why she was asking a same question asked by Member 2)
Me: Madam, It will bring new technology and tax revenue.
M3: Tell me something other than that.
Me: Sorry Madam. I can not think of any other benefits at the moment.
M3: You are from Kanchipuram. Tell me what kanchipuram famous for.
Me: It is famous for silk sarees and temples.
M3: What is the major crop in your district?
Me: It is paddy and sugarcane.
( Now she had finished with her questions. Chairman asked the last member to continue.)

Member 4: Looking at SSI it is doing very poorly. It can not survive amidst large industries. What is your view on that?
Me: Yes Sir. That is very much true. Government has taken many measures. It has passed a MSME development act. Now government has to take steps in skill development. Many people are unemployed in rural areas. They can be trained and employed in SSI.
M4: Take partnership firms. They are charged at a very high rate of 40%. But many big companies evade tax. ( Then he mentioned something which I could not understand. Later chairman said he is talking about Direct tax code. Are you aware of that? )
Me: Yes sir. I am aware of DTC. Government is trying to bring down tax rates . In case of companies it is planning to reduce tax rate to 25% from 30 %. I think it will benefit SSI also.
M4: Government is proposing tax agricultural income. What is your view on that?
Me: Sir, presently tax on agricultural income falls in the state list. Now government planning to introduce GST which is Goods and sales tax. GST would subsume many taxes. In such case it will become possible to bring tax on agricultural income under that.
( Then Chairman takes over.)

CM: Now one last question. Tell me five freedom fighters from U.P and Bihar. Other than two Nehrus.
( I was thinking very hard. Then chairman said oh! Come on there are so many freedom fighter from the two states)
Me: I am not able to get the right names. There are too many names coming to my mind.
(After some time,)
I said…. Sir, Rani Lakshmi Bai. ( Everybody laughed)
CM: Ok. That’s one. I thought you will say someone from modern era. Someone in 1920s.
Me: ( after another few seconds of thinking) Sir, Bhagat Singh. But I am not sure about it.
CM: Though he spent most of his time in U.P he is from Punjab. So I will not include him. Ok. There is one from U.P he went on to become the President of India.
Me: (after thinking hard) I’m sorry Sir . I am not able to get the name. ( Later Chairman said he is Rajendra Prasad.)
CM: Now tell me, where did Gandhiji start his first start his mass struggle in India. In India. Not South Africa.
Me: Sir, it is Gujrat.
CM: No it is Bihar. In Champaram district. Ok. Your interview is over. You can leave.

Then I thanked the chairman and others and left the room.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Lost and Found...

Well, I’m not sure if my creativity is at its peak nor I wonder if there is anything left in me. The reason being the four large shots of signature I had tonight are really reaching my head and stopping the flow of my words. But I bet I can beat that to death and express myself, though not in a much lucid way, of the sickening ordeal I had gone through to get to where I am today. In the last three years of my life I have been a helpless witness to the devastation caused by failure which I am not yet sure if its been really beyond my control. But one thing that offers me solace is the fact that there are people, here in the field of civil service exams, who have gone through pain much beyond one’s imagination. And do not judge me here. It is not that, I have no sympathies for them. It’s just that life has been real bitch to some. Only these thoughts that help me remain grounded to the realities of life despite the random happiness that fills my life.

Oh yeah., I have just found some joy, at this moment, which can evade me anytime like a flashing light. But I earnestly pray that it does not. For, I only believe that I have already been through my share of pain. I have found the long-waited-for joy right now by having able to get through the civil service main exams. Though, its not the end. I have to appear at the interview which is only another way of elimination of nearly two-third of the people who have been selected. Ok, now putting all those pessimistic premonitions behind I have nearly a month to look forward to spending the time, in a arduous fashion, for my interview. And it is only this new found joy that is going to keep me working.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Lift me up....

Indian economy, it appears, is recovering from the grueling financial crisis witnessed by the whole world prodding the government of the day to defuse the mayhem and chaos that accompanied it. The outcome has yielded results and has fuelled the debate about withdrawal of stimulus package. For, many economists feel its time for fiscal consolidation- an euphemism to warn ourselves of the ballooning fiscal deficit which touched a 15-year high last year. One measure that is suggested is to curtail our huge subsidy bill which no doubt fills the ballot boxes in favor of the government,

Well, when it comes to subsidy the first thing that comes to my mind is fuel subsidy though it is only a off-budget item and does not reflect in the revenue or fiscal deficit of the government. Fuel subsidy – everybody gets it. From the fuel- guzzling SUV owners, millionaire owners of the luxury cars to a moped owner who has no idea what to do with that moped that has 30km/h top speed. The point in case is the recent recommendations made by the Kirith Parekh committee on fuel pricing. Among all other things, the committee has recommended the free pricing of petrol and diesel. And not to be forgotten that the same measure has been recommended by committees formed previously.

But this time government is seriously mulling over it. Though, it definitely has kicked up a lot of smoke in the air. If this is implemented it would be an audacious reform that would make India get closer to being a truly free market economy. One reason this is hugely protested is for the apprehension that this might throw the Fuel price vulnerable to fluctuations in global fuel price. This fear of inflation has been the restraint so far. In my opinion, this is only an ill-informed conclusion. Its only the existing system of subsidy will lead to generalized price rise. As government has to bear the loss of Oil marketing companies by way of borrowing it has the impact on borrowing cost for the manufacturing sector which will pass on the cost only to the consumer. But by having a free pricing RBI can have a better control over controlling inflation through its monetary measure.

And as such the free pricing would not have great impact on the spending pattern of the vehicle owners. But one thing is for sure if this is implemented fuel pricing can no more be a political decision in the future to come. Rest assured for ruling party that opposition parties would have one ammo less in the artillery.

Of course, the decision of decontrolling fuel pricing takes lot of political will and takes lot of work convincing the people of its long term benefits. Till then its just wait and watch.

Here’s good write-up on the issue by Kirit.S.parikh

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Life,that is...

It’s that time of the year again
Vacuum has set in, which I frown upon with disdain
Not that I cannot overcome that in defiance
But we all indulge in moments of indolence
Nor I acquit myself of this disobedience

Resentment, retreat, reticent and restraint
It’s all a repetition
Well, its that time of the year again.

Looking beyond this phase of rejection
There could be a festivity of celebration
Though no certitude.