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Monday, March 29, 2010


Authored by Mohsin Hamid, this book is in the form of a monologue by a US educated Pakistani youth with an undisclosed American in a Lahore restaurant where he recounts his experience of immigrant life in New York. At 21, Changez was an Ivy league graduate, working as an analyst with one of the most revered of valuation firms. He was in love with an appealing and elegant Greek classmate Erika, who did not mind welcoming him into her thoughts. Accolades after accolades, Changez proved himself to be the smartest among his batchmates. He loved his newfound status that his business card unfolded for him. He loved the social life that Erika introduced him into. Personal life could not have been better for a successful Princeton educated Pakistani youth who was beginning to consider New York his home.

Then 9/11 followed and the identity of Changez turned upside down. Elements like suspicion and confusion challenged his American identity and he seemed to plunge into an abyss of despair. To make things worse, the past of Erika started haunting her. She had lost her childhood sweetheart when she was a student and the trauma she had survived then returned to haunt her to almost schizophrenic levels. Further the mounting political turmoil between India and Pakistan that threatened to blow into a full scale war added to the trauma of Changez and he desperately wanted to move close to his family in Lahore.

Soon, Changez’s admiration for America transformed into antipathy towards the political role she plays in world diplomacy. He began to identify America as a regime which was destroying the fabric of Asia. He left his valuation job in New York and headed towards Lahore. In his new role as a university lecturer, he endeavored to influence the mindset of young Pakistani students against, what he considered, the political dictatorship of America.

This book was a nominated for 2007 bookers and is widely read in American universities to shape cultural perspectives. In the contemporary global political scenario, this book is a wonderful read about how personal lives are shaped by political decisions. Nothing innovative in this novel with respect to the theme (piles of reads and movies are already based on the 9/11 impacts), yet the tone of the book is what makes this book different from the herd.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Soaked with free flow of electrified emotions and the beauty of the Japanese culture during the early decades of the last century, this book “Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden, is a fictional depiction of the life of a “geisha” based out of Kyoto during the pre/post Second World War.
Geisha”, in Japanese, means a woman whose job is to entertain as dancers and singers and sometimes more depending on the situation. The story is revealed through the voice of Sayuri Natta, the female protagonist of the story. The medium of depiction is a systematic flash back commencing with a tragic and difficult childhood of a young girl whose destiny transformed her into one of the most famous “geishas” of Japan. The world war followed and once again transformed the life of Sayuri.

During these cycles of transformations, the book reveals several instances revolving around the life of Sayuri set amid the Japanese canvas. Her tragic childhood, early admiration for a man which transformed into passionate love with age, her tutelage with a senior geisha, her outperformance of her rivals and elevation to the ranks of the most successful geishas, her survival means during the world war and other themes are very sensitively lineated.

I loved this book for its sheer eloquence and more so because I have spent reasonable time in the oriental world. In 2005, this book was translated into an Oscar winning movie, directed by Rob Marshall. No wonder, the richness of the book which was aptly pictured in the movie won Oscars for art direction, cinematography and costume design.

But latter realization that the author of this book was sued by a retired geisha (Mineko Iwasaki) whom he had interviewed for the purpose of the novel was disappointing. It seems Arthur Golden had broken the traditional vow of silence by acknowledging Mineko Iwasaki as a source of the novel. Things that transpired were never pleasant.

Monday, March 15, 2010


My current profile has decent exposure to legal aspects of business. Every contract is in itself a legal document. Law, I feel is the most open ended topics where interpretation of a single phrase or line can run into pages and in some instant into books. People into law have invented wonderful phrases which can completely turn the meaning of something upside down. For instance, consider the following phrases, which one can trace out in almost any contract, sitting reclusively away from the uniform tempo of the rest of contract.

Notwithstanding anything mentioned anywhere in the contract, this section will hold precedence over any other clause. “

The whole contract might read like a decorated love letter between two parties but the inclusion of the phrase “notwithstanding anything…….”, line and the attached clause can include some of the most draconian conditions of the contract. If someone is not savvy enough not to understand the significance of this statement, he can land up in something really unpleasant later.
Similarly consider another phrase:

Subject to clause xx.xx, this section confirms that all the liabilities will be shared between the two parties in proportion of their investments”

The presence of the phrase “subject to …” drives home all those situations (referred in clause xx.xx) where the liability will not be shared. And this clause will be hidden somewhere in the end of the contract.

Consider yet another:

“……. Shall not be unreasonably withheld”

Now, who defines the limits and boundaries of being reasonable? Some really nasty stuff can be attached with this phrase and if the intervention of this phrase is required during the course of the contract, it all depends on lawyers again to fix the problems.

For someone like me who would rather prefer to maintain simplicity in everything, law seems to be an inevitable mate.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


One interesting aspect of spending fourteen hours a day awake in a place like Mumbai is getting introduced to a variety of breeds of people. Imagine, you meet hundreds of people with whom you interact on a daily basis....

Now, there is one class of people whose typical traits have irritated me in the past but have impressed me with time. Come whatever may, these people so easily swim through their daily rituals without any exterior influence. Their emotions hold zero correlation with the judgment of their critics. They are happy creatures with limited capability to empathize with lesser mortals. They are well versed with the rules of mortal success.

I don’t know if it’s a compliment….but I do feel it makes sense to develop this special trait of a “thick-skinned pachyderm”…at least on a case-by-case basis. A colleague of mine from my previous workplace used this term frequently to target certain people who were just intolerable by being what they were. Today, I hold these individuals with higher respect.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Often wonder what made their founders give them the following names -

Apple (ultramodern gadgets)
Orange (telecom service)
Mango (apparel)
Pears (soap)
Red Hat (OS)
20th Century Fox (Film studio)
Caterpillar (Construction equipment)
Jeep (vehicle)

Monday, March 08, 2010


Things change….or should I say they evolve….

When I was a teenager, there came a bollywood song by the lyrics “Hello sexy…hi sexy…”. The whole concept was no less than a revolution of a sort. Elderly men and women claimed that Indian culture is doomed….parents tried their best to veil their kids from hearing such songs. Cultural ideologists threatened to destroy movie halls screening that movie. Teenagers mumbling these songs were severely rebuked…The list is endless. Such was the effect of this outburst that finally the word “sexy” in the song was replaced by the word “baby” and the world moved on.

Today….”sexy” is perhaps the most glamorous word, well appreciated and respected by every silo of the society. It’s the word which truly defines beauty in all its versions. In the business world, every high potential idea, every new thought is so respectfully named “sexy”. Any idea which is platonically stimulating to the mind (I repeat “mind”, forget others…) cannot be defined more articulately than being coined sexy. Even elderly people don’t mind using this word. And cultural ideologists…I believe they are not so unhappy about the usage of this word….From beauty to vehicles, from ideas to business plans is there any other word which is so pervasive in its usage.

So what happened….is this just a generation change.

Thursday, March 04, 2010


One of the most visible aspects of corporate life is to understand and appreciate the significance of information. Especially in the Indian context, people love to restrict disclosure of facts and acts.

The culture of an organization is greatly shaped by its information management policies. If critical information trickles down into different levels of an organization like free flow of water, the organization cannot survive. As against this, if information just remains within the closely guarded veil of a few people, the organization becomes highly centralized and the majority of the employees will soon lose interest in the affairs of the organization.

Where should the balance lie between transparency and secrecy? What should be the optimum level of organizational trust that can guide towards a healthy balance between employee motivation and company disclosure restriction policy? Not easy to answer...I guess.