Thursday, January 10, 2013

Heal the World, Read Times of India..

If you want to know all that is wrong in India, all you need to do is pay the newspaper vendor 2 bucks and get a copy of the Times of India.

Like the other day, as part of its new found aura of social responsibility it had a wonderfully long article on the front page of the Pune Times on the evils of ragging. Needless to say, since Pune Times is an “Advertorial and Promotional feature” and the article was bloody long (at least longer than what I normally get the chance to read”, there was no way for me to know whether it wanted to advertise & promote ragging in colleges or dissuade people from ragging in colleges.

This article had all the standard Pune Times “glamour”. It had some Bollywood photo depicting ragging (3 Idiots, but of course). It had some two-pence celebrities telling their experiences of ragging in colleges. One smart ass actually told the story of how his cousin was ragged in college, and how that was an emotionally traumatic experience for him. For some reason he also mentioned in the same quote that his cousin has forgotten that incident, but this dude was traumatised enough to make a movie about it. 

I skipped through most of it, (I mean, who reads Pune Times for its journalistic excellence?) till I came to very the end, in a bright red box with bold white font was my absolute favourite TOI section.

Times View.

In case you have not heard about it, Times View is where the editors of ToI decide that they should show off their vast and superior knowledge of all that is just and fair in this world, and you know, for the benefit of the reader guide him through what is an absolute horror that this world has now become. This applies to politics, sports, civics and everything else where the ToI believes that the nation has a right to know. (It is another matter that with a circulation of approx. 7.65 million in a country of 1.2 billion, TOI has the eyes of roughly 0.58% of India’s population, or as a wise Parsi man once told me – “A dimple on the arse of an ant that sits on the arse of an elephant”)

Anyway, such insignificant details should not bother us.

This beautiful piece of socially relevant journalism had this fabulous insight.
Those found ragging should be punished severely, so it acts as a deterrent. We need stricter laws, applicable nationwide. Institutions should be vigilant and take immediate disciplinary action against senior students who rag.
Now, raise your hands all those who think that what we need in India is stricter laws.

Seriously?? We waste 7 million trees every day on tripe like this??

We have laws made from the 1860’s still in place.

We have laws where you can face serious jail time for a speech.

We have laws where a Facebook post can cause you to be booked for sedition (it’s never been done 
before, but it’s possible. Look it up).

We have laws which still allow the death penalty.

That’s how strict our laws are.  

Our problem is not that we don’t have enough strict laws. Our problem is that we have too many strict laws.

In case you haven’t figured out yet, I have serious issues with this state of affairs. Two serious issues, at least.

One, given the strictness of the laws, the system always has to decide whether a. a crime was committed and if it was, then b. whether the crime merits the strictest possible punishment. This takes up a lot of time, (especially since we have 1.2 billion people, so the possible permutations are beyond the standard excel sheet). This, delays the entire judicial process and the justice is served at times when it is completely irrelevant.

And that is not taking into account frivolous charges, for which there is no penalty on someone placing frivolous charges.

Two, when someone is caught for the crime, everyone involved (investigator, investigated, support resources) takes all this into account and then individually determines whether it is worth going through this rigmarole or negotiate a suitable punishment among all concerned instead of going through the entire judicial system. Some people call this corruption, but in essence it is a bargaining tool for not having to go through years of litigation.  

All this nonsense about the government needing to be a stricter school principal is hogwash and cynical.

School principals need to be better at being school principals.

The world will then be a better place.. 

Friday, January 04, 2013

The Burden of Proof...

At this point, this late in the day, I am a little ashamed to say that I have not paid much attention to the Delhi Gang Rape case.

More so, because there really is nothing I can say about the entire sordid affair..

And also, being male, anything I say really has no meaning to what has happened, nor can I in any way even comprehend the brutality of the entire episode.

But now that I have decided to write on a daily basis, I decided to do a basic Google check on the entire affair.

And based on the aforementioned Google check, have come to the conclusion that there is no drop of sympathy and outrage that has not been oozed out at whatever forum there exists. Since the victim cannot be identified publicly, she has been given about 7 different names, by my count. I am not a sociologist by any means to have any treatise on why this happened, and what it means for society in general, and how it depicts how women are treated etc., so I really cannot comment, but everything (including the media coverage) just gave me the creeps and made me even more convinced that the criminals who did this should get the maximum possible sentence that a crime like this can get.

Other than one bit, which seemed a little odd to me.. And it is something that we seem to do, every time a sensational criminal case comes up in public hearing.

So, I am going to be asking this, and please don't kill me for asking this.

Why does the victim get full confidentiality, but the accused do not?? 

The case might be watertight, and DNA might prove it, and the fingerprints might exist, and there might be a dying declaration and all that.

But at the end of the day, the 5 men arrested are as yet accused, and not convicted of this crime. And here I know about how 30-year old Ram Singh, a bus driver, his brother Mukesh, a Pawan Gupta and a Vinay Sharma, did all this.. Not just that, I know that Ram Singh's mother says that if he did it, he should be hanged, his house where he lives with his parents in Delhi was shown on national TV, his wife died in 2010, and he once eloped with a girl. He was also thrashed by the inmates of Tihar Jail.

Rape is evil. We protect the victim's identity to avoid the victim from having to undergo further social stigma. However, we are accusing 5 men of having perpetrated this evil act, and have no qualms freely discussing their entire life history in public domain? What if it turns out that even 1 of them has been falsely accused and is acquitted? Who washes off this stigma off of that man? Will even a single one of all those protesting at Jantar Mantar and elsewhere asking for the 5 to be publicly hanged  come forward to offer such a man a livelihood?

Are they being flogged in public just because they cannot afford the PR campaign to defend themselves?

Or is it our CID / Adaalat viewing TV voyeurs who are just watching another show, where cases are cracked and justice is delivered inside 1 hour including commercial breaks? 

This has nothing to do with the attitude of men towards women in India, which is probably worthy of another post. My point is just that if we truly believe that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and that even 100 guilty parties can go free as long as an innocent is not falsely convicted, then the accused should have the same rights to confidentiality as the victim, as the repercussions of the accusations are probably longer lasting than the actual crime.

What am I missing?

Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat  
(the burden of proof lies with who declares, not who denies)

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Healthy, Wealthy & Wise

Ever so often, completely unrelated things in your day to day life come together to create a larger meaning.

I have one such event over the last four days.

On Monday, I came in to work and had the opportunity to listen to an address made by Jim Collins made to some of the leadership at our company. No comments (good or bad) about the address, but the basic focus of the address was to emphasize on having setting goals which are so large that it takes special dedication to getting these accomplished. Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals (B-HAGs, as he called it). These need to be structured, with a clear focus and with a greater purpose and meaning. These seem so outlandish that at first gasp the enormity of the exercise is beyond belief, borderline stupid. But when you do get there, it seems like the goal was so easy, and what got you there was the blood thirsty dedication that you displayed to getting there. Also, the discipline has to be relentless and no excuses should be given or taken.

Now, I am not the type who gets inspiration through someone’s address or talk nor am I disciplined, dedicated or any of those jazzy things, that a lot of the people keep preaching to me about. But something about that address did resonate at a personal level.

Monday was also the last day of 2012, or in other words, when I woke up on Tuesday I was saying hello to a new year and new beginnings. Somewhere I feel like this year is going to be more meaningful and the start of something amazing. Jim Collins’ address may have had something to do with it, but for the first time in my 34 years, I have actually had the urge to come up with new year resolutions.

However, since it was my first time around, I really didn’t know where to look. On Tuesday night, I had a feeling that my 2013 resolutions were going to go the way of 99.9% of all New Year resolutions in recorded history.

Which is when Wednesday came along, with a wonderful surprise.

And some clarity..  

Turns out, this blog has been quoted in the Financial Times. Not as a stupid, know-it-all, comment trolling someone, not as a question to an agony aunt or any of the standard stuff. Was actually quoted for my opinion aboutCricinfo being acquired by ESPN.

Gideon Rachmann, Tim Harford, Chirag Panjikar!!!! Needless to say, I’m feeling proud today about something that happened in 2007.

What does this have with New Year resolutions, you may ask?? What about that Collins guy??

Well, the FT incident cleared my head about the fact that blogging gives me some peace of mind and makes me look a little wiser. (And determined that the next time something like this happens will not be 6 years too late)

So here are my Big Hairy Audacious Goals for 2013, structured with catchy titles that I came up with, since everything these days needs to have a catchy title for association and maintaining easy narratives.

Top line, Bottom line, Waistline

Top line –

Now that we know that this blog gives me some peace of mind and some me-time, it is not acceptable that I get this peace of mind once every 100 days, or every 30 days, or every 7 days. I want it every day, 

B-HAG #1 - Every day, this blog shall feature at least one, newly written 500 word post.
Not on an average for a year, not once in a blue moon, no specific topics or anything like. I shall not blog about work and preferably not specific instances in my personal life (this is not a bloody diary, it’s my blog). But every day, I shall write (not attempt to write, not try to write, but WRITE).

If I don’t write one, you as a reader are free to ridicule me on any forum you so desire, regardless of whether you like the crap that I spew out, and will be spewing on a daily basis.

Bottom line -   
As the phrase goes, you cannot live on love and fresh air alone. I don’t know crap about investing and like to tell myself that I am not a financially driven person. However, there is income and there is wealth, and I’ve had enough of this income business, it’s time to start creating some wealth. Inflation is at 8%, and I need returns that are not just beyond this inflation, but also balanced and bloody sustainable. So keeping in line with this, here is:
B-HAG #2 – My overall investment portfolio for 2013 shall result in a return of at least 20%. All this without the help of a professional portfolio manager.
Don’t ask me how I can do that, since I don’t know the basics of this either. But I figure there shouldn’t be much to it, since most people from all these banks and shadow banks that approach me seem to be getting by by flashing clich├ęs at me.

Waistline –
At the latest visit to the pediatrician, I found out that I weigh 95 kilograms. I have weighed 95 kgs for a long time now, and I am bloody sick of this. All this portfolio and peace of mind is of no use if my health is not with me. 7 years ago, I went from 97 kgs to about 85 but that was then, and this is now. All the excuses I give are the lies I tell myself to make the reality sound palatable. So with all this in mind,
B-HAG #3 – As of December 31, 2013 I shall weigh less than 85.5 kgs. (A reduction of 9.5 kgs, i.e. 10% of current weight, seems fair).
As my good friends, I invite suggestions from you for what “punishment” should be bestowed on me should I fail to meet this particular goal, since there is a defined end date and a quantifiable deliverable. You can comment on this blog, or through Facebook / Twitter where this post will be posted.   

That’s it. These are my goals for 2013. 

Discipline is the key.

Please don’t pray for me.

Help me wherever possible through comments, suggestions, ideas, tips, encouragement and ridicule.

And welcome to a window to what promises to be wonderful personal journey!!!!