Saturday, October 25, 2008

Global Economic Meltdown – Don’t Blame it on Bad Data, Blame it on Common Sense

Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of US Federal Reserve yesterday on a hearing by the US House Committee on Oversight and Government blamed the current economic meltdown on bad data that was used to develop various computer models. According to him the data fed into developing various financial models were often “garbage-in, garbage-out”. 

Why blame it on bad data now? If you have something called “common sense” you would have predicted this. The main cause for this economic downfall is the crash of US housing market. What was happening in the housing market for the last few years before the crash? House prices were increasing exponentially; the banks were giving loans to any tom, dick and harry who applied for a loan without seeing if he/she is capable of paying it back. Everything worked on the assumption that housing price is going to rise exponentially but if you use your “common sense’ you can easily understand that this cannot go on increasing like this. Somewhere in the future, increase has to flatten out and a market built just on the assumption that housing market will never go down, is going to crash like a bundle of cards. This is exactly what we have seen. The key here was every time in the history of US the housing prices were rising but was never rising exponentially and when something rises exponentially you can always expect a fall. 

History is full of examples and we don’t even learn from history. There was a dot com boom in late nineties. Start-ups were mushrooming like anything, stock market was booming and again every other man you meet in the street either wanted to work in a dot com company or wanted to own one. The growth flattened after some point of time and lot of them lost their job and so much of their money. 

Similarly another boom that is going on – it may have already started the negative journey – construction industry in Middle East. My friends working in Middle East tell me that construction industry is booming there, thanks to the record oil prices. It is no-brainer to predict that it can end anytime now with the oil prices in the downward spiral. No system can absorb an unprecedented growth and even if the oil prices don’t go down some other factors will come up and correct this growth. 

Take the case of IT industry in India. For a few years now, India is going through an IT boom. Half way through your college, you get placed through campus recruitment. The salaries of IT employees are increasing at an unprecedented rate. Students, irrespective of their area of specialization want to join as a software engineer.  They think this boom will go on for ever and they will be getting these salary hikes for ever. When this exponential growth in IT goes the other way (I fear it’s already started) lot of people are going to loose their job and they won’t have a clue what to do next. The big mistake people and institutions make is – assumption that this growth will go one for ever which has never been true. 

It is good to “Make Hay while Sun Shines” but is better to know that Sun never shines always and a period of darkness will also come in between. You need just your common sense to understand that, you need to have a plan B to implement when the sun stops shining and the darkness is about to come in. No computer model is ever going to tell you when the sun stops shining and you need to use your plan B, but your common sense can do so. 

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Meet Sreenivasan – The Master Craftsman of Malayalam Movie

Malayalam actor Sreenivasan is a phenomenon. He is a great actor, has written screen play for so many great movies and directed a couple of them which were super hits. He has been the part and parcel of the Malayalam movie industry from 1977 when he acted in his first movie Manimuzhakkam. From then on there was no looking back for this great personality.

Sreenivasan’s movies depict the common man’s woes in the most comical way possible. See any of his movies and each character in his movie will depict someone we know. That is the greatness of this man.

Malayalis love this guy. Like Jagathy Sreekumar, very few recognize this great man outside Kerala. Very few of my movie crazy friends from outside Kerala know there is a versatile actor cum script writer cum director called Sreenivasan. Even after Kuselan was released very few Tamilians knew who Sreenivasan was. So this post is mainly intended for those people who don’t know this guys talent. For ardent Sreenivasan fans this post is to sit back and enjoy some of his great acting and well thought out scenes.

Let me start with first of his two directorial ventures – Vadakunokki Yantram. In that movie he depicts the role of a husband who always doubts his wife. This super hit movie got the Kerala state government award for the best movie of the year 1989. The scene below shows the first night of the character “Thalathil Dineshan”. He approaches a writer to help him frame some sentences to tell his wife during his first night. He memorized all the dialogues the writer told him and is repeating it before his wife comes to the room. Without his knowledge his wife comes to the room and hears everything. If you can understand Malayalam you can never stop laughing seeing this scene.

Whenever Sreenivasan and Mohanlal have teamed together it has resulted in great movies. Keralites just love watching them together. They have given so many super hits. See one of their greatest hits – Sanmanasullavarkku Samadhanam (Yei Thera Ghar Yei Mera Ghar in Hindi).

Another super hit from Mohanlal Sreenivasan combo – Nadodikattu – that in the first part depicts the life of unemployed youths in our state. Here Mohanlal and Sreenivasan, two unemployed youth are trying various ways to make both ends meet. More than his acting it is the script of Sreenivasan that is commendable in this movie.

We all know Malayalis are very politically conscience people. Assume if two brothers (enacted by Jayaram and Sreenivasan) in same house are followers of different parties? The problem the family faces is depicted the most humorous way possible in the movie Sandesham that got state award for Sreenivasan for the best story in the year 1991. Here is a scene from that movie. A perfect morning when both brothers are in the house – one of the Sreenivasan’s best script.

Priyadarshan and Mohanlal owe a lot to Sreenivasan to their rise to stardom. Sreenivasan penned the script for most of the initial hits of Mohanlal’s and Priyadarshan’s career. Most of the remakes Priyadarshan made in Hindi were the movies originally written by Sreenivasan (Saat Rang Ke Sapne, Yeh Tera Ghar Yeh Mera Ghar, Hungama, Garam Masala, Billo Barber to name a few). Here is a master piece of the quadruple – Mohanlal, Priyadarshan, Sreenivasan and Jagathy – every Malayali has seen this scene and love to see it again and again – from the movie “Mazha Peyunnu Madalam Kottunnu” – “In the house of my wife and daughter, you will not see any minute of the today, erangipodaaa. GET OUT HOUSE.”

If you think Sreenivasan can only act in comedy roles you are fully mistaken. Give him any role and he will enact it to perfection. Here is a clip from the movie “Thakarachenda’ for which he got special mention from the film jury in the year 2006. In this movie he enacts the role of a one legged beggar Chakrapani to perfection. Here is a glimpse of that movie.

Another great movie by Sreenivasan – Arabikatha directed by Lal Jose, written and main role played by Sreenivasan. Another example of a movie that shows Sreenivasan’s ability to depict real life problems in a very simple way.

The journey Sreenivasan started in 1977 in Malayalam movie industry is going places with this great man giving us hits after hits. Let us pray to almighty to give him strength and health to give us all more and more great movies.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Latest Indian Political Dramas

It is the age of dramas and soap operas and reality shows in India. The visual media cannot survive without these dramas nor reality shows. Same is the case with political parties. They put out some well directed dramas to fool the people. Here are few political dramas going on in India this week. 

The government of Sri Lanka is fighting a war against the terrorist organization, Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelam (LTTE) and the political parties in Tamil Nadu are directing political dramas to project who loves the Sri Lankan Tamils most. To make their dramas attractive they are adding so many spices to it! It was the turn of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi yesterday to release his political drama based on Sri Lankan crisis. He made his daughter and parliament member Kanimozhi to resign her Rajya Sabha seat. In this drama she handed over the resignation letter to her father and not to the Rajya Sabha chairman. With this single episode of political drama Karunanidhi achieved what he wanted – to project himself as the savior of Tamilians throughout the world. Whatever the next episode is he, can’t lose for her. Once he gets the political mileage out of this he can reject the resignation letter or send the resignation letter to the Rajyasabha chairman. If the second one happens by-election to that Rajyasabha seat will come up and since DMK is the majority party in assembly, it can easily have its candidate win that seat.

Now a soap opera from Kerala – have you ever heard in the history of independent India about a Chief Minister and the entire council of Ministers staging a Satyagraha in front of Indian Parliament to protest against the so called “cruel neglect” of the State by Union Government. If you have not, it is going to happen this Friday morning in front of the Parliament. Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthanandhan, his council of ministers, MPs, MLA’s of the ruling front is participating in the Satyagraha. Now who is the producer of this political drama? This drama is produced by the tax paying common man of Kerala as the Chief Minister and his council of ministers are “officially” going to Delhi to protest against the central government. It is estimated that for this drama to be enacted successfully the producer - common man of Kerala might have to spend about three crore Indian rupees. 

Third drama is being enacted in North India – to be exact in Rae Bareli, in the state of Uttar Pradesh. In this drama you could see spicy and juicy dialogues coming from all parties involved. Like a typical masala movie, threats and counter-threats are a major part of this drama. Who will emerge winner at the end of the drama? We may have to wait till the next Lok Sabha election to know the winner in this political thriller. 

This week another political drama came to an end for the time being. When this drama was being enacted, the Communist – Marxist party that was ruling in Bengal for over three decades got the taste of its own medicine. In this drama anti-heroine Mamta Banerjee forced an “imperialist” (borrowed from comrades of Kerala- for them TATA, Birla, Reliance etc. are imperialists) who enjoyed the support of the hero (powerful communist party of Bengal). At least the story ended in a happy note with TATA finding a much better industrially friendly state to manufacture much awaited Nano cars. 

The general election to the Loksabha is less than a year to go. To increase their political base and hence the seats in general elections, the political parties will bring out more and more dramas in the coming months of which majority of them stinks. 

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Science behind “Arranged Marriages”


For us Indians, arranged marriages are the order of the day. Things are slowly changing in India but arranged marriages far out number love marriages in India. You tell an American about the concept of an arranged marriage and they just wouldn’t understand that. They are like “How can that work?” “Are they crazy?” “Man, I cannot believe this” so on and so forth. For them how can two people who have rarely/never met, on a fine morning start living like husband and wife?
Here Americans date for few months/years and then live as boy friend/girl friend for another few months/years before they marry. They are supposed to know each other very well at the time of marriage and still after marriage lot of differences come up and quiet a few of them end up in divorce. So how can two people who have never shared their thoughts, dreams and ideas together marry obeying their parents and lead a life together afterwards? 
Americans hear with shock and awe the stories of arranged marriages. So what makes an arranged marriage work? Most of my friends and I found our partners through arranged marriage. I saw my “would be wife” for the first time only on the day of engagement. Our marriage was 19 days after engagement but never had a chance to meet her between the engagement and marriage as both of us were in two different states. 
If you closely observe the concept of arranged marriage don’t you think the girl and the boy who gets “arranged married” understand each other better even though they haven’t seen or talked a lot earlier? Let me explain this with an example. Let us take a typical arranged marriage in India. By typical I mean all the various equations like caste, culture, language, age, sub caste, family status, educational qualifications etc are taken considered. Assume the parents of a Brahmin boy from one of the South Indian states is looking for a bride. The boy knows that the girl whom his parents will find for him is “supposed” to be vegetarian, celebrate the same kind of festivals, go to same places of worship etc. He knows for sure that since the girl whom his parents are going to find is brought up in almost the same culture as his they may share a lot of things in common. So now even before he talks to the “would be girl” he has some idea about her likes and dislikes. 
Now assume a hypothetical situation – an arranged marriage between a Brahmin boy from South India and a Muslim girl from Kashmir. Same as the above case, they have never met, talked only for a couple of times. Now you have a problem. Neither the boy nor the girl knows what to expect. The boy doesn’t know the culture in the girl’s house in Kashmir nor she the South Indian culture. They don’t even know each other’s mother tongue. There food habits are totally different. The boy most probably won’t like the smell of the non vegetarian food but the staple food in the girl’s house may be red meat. The girl won’t have a clue of the religious functions in the boy’s house. So in this case it will always be better to talk, date and understand each other’s likes and dislikes before deciding to marry. 
Doesn’t the second example hold true in America? Most often 2 people from entirely 2 different backgrounds brought up in entirely different cultures meet, then date and then decide to marry. They don’t know each others like and dislikes and hence it is important that they talk and go out a lot before marriage. 
Coming back to the arranged marriages in India – things are fast changing in India. Love marriages are fast catching up with arranged marriages in India. Earlier the chances of 2 people from two different castes, religion, language and culture, freely interacting were very rare. With the changing world a Muslim girl sitting in Kashmir can easily communicate her feelings to a Brahmin boy in the Southern most part of India and they can decide for themselves if they want to marry or not. Earlier they didn’t have a chance but to go with arranged marriage. So I believe that with the world becoming so flat with no boundaries, you may see less number of arranged marriages but arranged marriages never will die as it has a strong history of success behind them.

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