Friday, June 15, 2007

A tribute to P.V. Narasimha Raoji

One of my family friend’s daughter wrote to me last week that she got 4 jobs in top IT companies in India and asked me if she should take any of them or go for higher studies. This girl has just reached final year of engineering and she has 4 high paying jobs to choose from. This is India of the 21st century. Majority of the students studying for engineering have multiple offers even before completing their course work.

Who was the main architect who “designed” this change? Have we given enough recognition to that man who had the courage to dream about the benefits of economic liberalization and took concrete steps to make that dream a reality? The man I am talking about is P V Narasimha Rao, former Prime Minister of India whose birthday falls in the month of June. This post is a tribute to this great politician who according to me was a true visionary a rare breed in Indian politics these days.

When Narasimha Rao took over as the 12th Prime Minister of India heading a minority Government, he was facing the worst economic crisis since independence. India was about to default in her international commitment to pay back the debts, the previous Government led by S Chandrasekhar had to pledge gold to pay the debts and inflation was going out of control. Narasimha Rao was about to retire from politics when fate – in the tragic form of assassination of Rajiv Gandhi – made him the Prime Minister of India.

Once he was elected the Prime Minister of India what was the first thing he did – having been part of the Government for more than two decades he could understand the gravity of the economic crisis facing the nation and appointed a bureaucrat Dr Manmohan Singh as his Finance Minister. He had an option to choose from a long list of senior Congress leaders as Finance Minister – Sharad Pawar, Arjun Singh, Madhav Rao Scindia, N D Tiwari to name a few. But he selected a non politician at the crucial juncture of Indian history. For me this one decision by Rao changed the face of the country. All of us – the generation in the early 20’s to mid 30’s - who are enjoying the fruits of economic liberalization like a very good job, with a fat pay check or so many job offers from different countries – we should be thankful to this great man. If Rao had appointed another politician and did not do anything to open up the economy we may not have seen all these economic growth happening in India now.

Rao not only appointed Dr Singh as the Finance Minister but also gave him all the political support he needed to push his reforms. This political support from Rao was very important for Dr Singh as that Government was in a minority for most of its term. The importance of political support from Rao (who was the Prime Minister as well as AICC President at that time) can be gauged by the fact that Dr Singh as Prime Minister now is struggling to push the economic reforms as he is not getting enough political support from his party bosses and Left parties.

Rao has excelled in other fields also as the Prime Minister. His Government is instrumental in bringing peace back in Punjab. In the defense front he made all the ground work to make India a nuclear power – even though credit of actual nuclear test went to his successor Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The only real black spot in Rao’s tenure according to me happened on December 6th 1992, when Hindu fundamentalists (read RSS and BJP) demolished the Babri Masjid mosque in Ayodhya. This incident will always remain as a black mark in the secular credentials of India. Rao failed to foresee that demolition was going to happen. I believe we can forgive him for this mistake he committed after considering all the good things he had done for our country.

At the fag end of his term, Rao was subjected to cruel media witch hunt. I remember reading in newspapers, pages and pages of stories about the various corruption and omissions committed by Rao (St Kitts forgery scandal, Lakhubhai Pathak cheating scandal, JMM bribery scandal to name few). He was painted a villain by the print and visual media. Even though he was cleared of all the charges by the highest court of the land he had to live with these allegations for the rest of his life.

Considering all the contributions Narasimha Rao has given to India’s development, especially to its growth as a major economic force in the world, I believe his name should be on par with great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. If Nehru and Gandhiji fought for India’s freedom from British I believe Rao fought and won the “economic freedom” – fruits of which we all are enjoying. So let us all pay a glowing tribute to him and remember this great man especially on this birthday which falls on June 28th.


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Friday, June 08, 2007

Bollywood ya "Bakwas"wood?

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Few months back one of my friends and his family was going to watch the movie “Umrao Jaan” at the theatre. I was telling him that the review of that movie was not that good. For that he replied. "I know the movie is bad. But my wife wants to see the dance and costumes of Aishwarya Rai in that movie and that is why we are going.” This statement sums up the mentality with which most people go for Hindi movies. They know the final product is bad but still go in the name of entertainment. For my friend’s wife seeing Aishwariya’s costume is the best form of entertainment. My friend (a Tamilian) won’t be going for this movie if it was made in Tamil with the same costumes and same dress and most probably he might have told “Why waste money on such a crappy movie”.

If you are a bachelor you go to a Hindi movie to watch the heroine who always reveals more than she covers and to increase your blood circulation to some parts of the body. For a teenage girl she goes to the movie to see the bare chest of the hero and gets satisfaction from that. These girls are also interested to see the latest fashion represented by the costumes of heroines. Very few go to watch a good movie. If they get what they want everyone is satisfied. They don’t care if the movie in totality is good or bad.

I always used to think. What are the qualifications needed to become a Bollywood hero or heroine. To be a hero you should be chocolate faced, should be able to dance well, have a well built body and more important should be in the middle of one or more controversy. The controversy can be created by having links with terrorists or killing people by driving under influence or by changing girl friends every other day. To be a heroine it is easier – be lean, should be willing to show all your assets, should be a passionate kisser and again every other day should stir up some controversy or other. Did I mention you need to know acting to become a Bollywood hero or heroine? The least acting you know the better hero or heroine you become in Bollywood. To understand the dearth of acting talent in Bollywood just see all the movies remade by Priyadarshan in Hindi from Malayalam and compare it with the acting of Malayalam actors in the original version. Then you will understand what I am talking about.

Now coming to the quality of Hindi movies – I agree a “Black” here or an “Omkara” there come once in a blue moon. But majority of the Hindi movies are just old wine in a new bottle. Now the latest trend is shooting all the movies abroad. If one sees all the Hindi movies that are getting released these days and get the false impression that all the Indians have migrated to Western countries he cannot be blamed.

Now why are Hindi movies moving from reality? People who defend Hindi movies argue that movies are a form of entertainment and no one wants to pay and see a movie full of tragedy. They want to enjoy every moment they spend in the theatre and also want the hero and heroine to do stuff which they fantasize every day but can’t do.

I feel to make people enjoy and get the worth of the money you don’t have to move away from reality or shoot the entire movie abroad. Just see the South Indian movies especially Tamil movies. Most of the stories are based on the people/story we can easily identify. You can easily identify with most of the characters in the movies. I recently saw a hit movie “Chennai 600028”. Each and every scene I could identify with my childhood days. If such a movie gets released in Hindi it will be a great flop (remember movie Iqbal). Another movie that comes to my mind is “Autograph”. No price for guessing it correct – if this great movie was ever to be taken in Hindi it will be a great flop. The reason – Hindi cinema audience don’t know what a good movie is, for them more the masala the better the movie.

Nanditha Das, the award winning actress has beautifully summed up about the state of Hindi movies in one of her interviews –
In fact, if you see the Hindi films, which we call Bollywood films, they represent not even one per cent of the Indian population because it is all about South Bombay. Even within that, everything is abroad.
Thanks to my friend Jai Mayil for his inputs for this post.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Finally I Have My PhD.

I completed my PhD in Environmental Engineering this week and I am now Dr Brijesh Nair. Almost six years, lots of ups and downs and finally I am happy that I could make it. I remember the day I landed in the US, the hardships in the first few semesters, as if it happened yesterday and I am glad that all my hard work paid off. Now I will have a lot of time for my family and for persuading my hobbies.

I know the credit for my PhD doesn’t belong to me alone. Yes, I have done a lot of hard work in the form of hours and hours of endless research and sleepless nights to prepare for exams and finishing assignments. But I owe my PhD to so many other people also. I don’t want this post to look like an acknowledgement page of my dissertation. But from the teacher who taught me Malayalam alphabets to my parents who taught me the values and principles of life, to my loving wife who had put up with me during all these days when I spend most of the time in lab than in the house and to all my friends – many have helped me. Big thanks to all.

One of my happiest moments came when I called my alma mater after I passed my PhD dissertation defense. One of the teachers told me “Brijesh, if you come back as a professor in some college in India I will do PhD under you”. I was so happy that one of my teachers in my undergraduate school told me like that.


Many people keep asking me what my plans are now after getting PhD. I have a very good job and I am happy with it. But is this my dream job? Answer is NO. I would like to work for the United Nations as an Environmental Engineer and work for a few years in the remote places of Africa and help those people to get one of the basic necessities of life – pure drinking water. These are the kind of jobs that will stimulate me and I am hoping to get that kind of a job in the near future.

My close friends know that politics is a passion for me. I read and think a lot about various political events and I dream of becoming a politician in the later part of my life – Yes a full time politician in India. That is my ultimate goal in life – become a successful politician in India. I know, with no Godfather or right political connections the road ahead is tough. But I know one thing for sure. If I have the same determination, if I do the same kind of hard work and if I work with same sincerity that I showed during my PhD, I am sure I can excel in Indian politics and fulfill my ambition.

Once again,


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