Wednesday, January 16, 2019

फिर कुछ इस दिल को बेकरारी है...

For some days now, I am thinking of starting a poetry vlog.

Yes, yes... I know you remember all those dead, failed, or shut blogs. There were two on economics and public policy but I made those too rigorous and eventually, deleted them. Then there was one with my poetry but it became too popular and I deleted that too. The photo blog ran for, maybe 10 years and although tiresome, I still had a lot to post there. But then, I made a commitment - the next post there would be when we start a proper temple at Ram Janmbhoomi in Ayodhya. There was at least one more blog lost deeper in the memory lane.

But as always, this time, it's different. First of all, there are too many things to say to too many people in too many ways... And as you know, too many bridges are burnt now. So maybe, a bridge here, a step there will do the trick.

Also, it will be a video log (therefore called vlog) this time. There's a lot of my poetry, which I want to recite. And there is a lot of back story and context with each one of those. Somehow, you know, writing has been tedious and perpetually delayed lately. I hope it goes easier in video than writong. Another reason of video instead of writing is that I write mostly in Nazm (equivalent to free verse). While ghazal has a meter and therefore, rhythm of its own, nazm requires a rendition.

So the thought is bubbling and maturing in my head slowly. And as always, I'm running short of time because of all the other nothings I have occupied myself with. But this time, I hope to be vlogging better than blogging earlier.

Friday, December 28, 2018


Had a dream last dawn... or was it the same old nightmare? That I was to meet all the old friends... Old as in friends from primary school days! 3 people particularly - and none of them identifies me, none of them has any recollection of me, none of them is friends with me.

And that may all be true for today but it was a dream... (or was it the same old nightmare?). And that all happened in the past. I am alone today. And I was alone in that past of that dream too.

I was feverish, I sweated, and I woke up. Disoriented. I tried closing my eyes, tried telling those friends that I am me, tried recounting everything, tried recalling others (and perhaps they also evaded my memory).

I don't know why I see the same dream (or was it the same old nightmare?) again and again, where I am so alone in the past also. It's not that that I am any less alone now. But yes, nostalgia and past used to be a safe place. Where I was happy. Where I had friends. Where the time belonged to me.

Now, in that dream (or was it the same old nightmare?), I am alone in the past too.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

You know I have given up!

A.S. - There is no You. There is no Me. This you I am conversing with is me only. I know I am in a lonely place.

You would have noticed that I have not been writing lately. You would know about both the blogs being nearly dead probably but I have not been writing even elsewhere too. I have not written in my diary, I have not completed those morsels of poetry, and I have not even written on Quora or Facebook as such. I have not even written where the expectation was the highest - research papers. I have simply given up on writing, you may think. Maybe yes! But have I given up on writing alone, you may wonder!

I will tell you something today. I have given up on writing and I have given up on poetry. I have given up on photography and I have given up on traveling. I have given up on thinking and I have given up on living. I am just scraping through - counting days, breathing sighs, paying for my sins done or coming, and I am just waiting for the day when it all ends.

Someone reminded me of an old post here - about suicide! Well, suicide is a cowardice and suicide is a bravery. Am I coward or brave, you may wonder. Well, you know I am neither. I am not coward because I loved and fought for it. I am not brave because I loved and couldn't fight for it. Yet, I always fascinated about life, death, suicide, and standing on the peak of the crag of life, waiting to fall in the abyss.

And while I stand there, seeing all my life flash through, and more life passing by as I disinterestedly live on, I never thought it would be so heavy. The weight of one's own existence, the weight of a double life, the weight of living...!!!

Do you feel irritated now?
Do you want more words?
Do you still want to read on?

I am sorry but I can't help. You know I have given up.
Can I interest you in a song instead?
Go listen to Leonard Cohen -

**If I, if I have been unkind,
I hope that you can just let it go by.
If I, if I have been untrue
I hope you know it was never to you.
Like a baby, stillborn,
Like a beast with his horn
I have torn everyone who reached out for me.**

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Interview that made all the difference

Some stories need to be told and retold and remembered and recorded, lest they be forgotten before it is too late... so here it is - a story some 13 years old now... my FPM admission interview experience at IIMA on 3rd March 2005.


So it was in one of the green-rooms at the RJMCEI auditorium in the old campus. I was 6th or 7th in the list of some 13-15 odd candidates called for an interview in economics area. While I qualified on the basis of CAT (Common Admission Test), there were people with CAT, GMAT, GRE, NET-JRF scores as well. The people going in before me were not very upbeat except one guy. Most of them came out with long faces and did not share any details. So when I was called in, I was totally blank. Nonetheless, so this is how it happened. There were four professors in the panel, whose name I could figure out later that evening during the admission dinner. However, for the moment, I'd call them in their seating order (from L-R) as Profs. RB, RD, SC, and SD.


RB: So why are you here?
Me (very enthusiastically and probably a little too quickly): Sir, I want to be a Professor.
RB: Ok, so what area would you want to specialize in?
Me: Sir, I like international trade.
RB: Why?
Me: Sir, I have read that India has no good trade advocates and as a result, we often lose out on the international trade cases.
RB: hmm... so can we ask anything about international trade?
Me: Sure Sir, I will try.

Then RB and I had some long discussion over the Multi-Fibre Agreement (I got one year wrong - 1997 to 1995 - but otherwise, it went well). I knew MFA so well primarily because The Statesman had covered the MFA very extensively with two long Sunday stories. And then, some details of IPRs - that is where SC took over and grilled on TRIPS. The patent regime was in transition and there were some tricky questions to classify product and process patents etc. I remember telling him that in some cases, there is no clarity and WTO is still discussing the same. While I had no clue if it was so or not, SC told me during the evening dinner that I was right and that WTO is discussing the same.

After that, it was RD's turn. RD drew some graphs of a production function, asked about capital intensity vs. labor intensity, and had to cross-check on the last one because we were seeing the same page from opposite directions

Finally, SD started with statistics and econometrics. Although I didn't (and don't) know much there, SD asked me about measures of Central Tendency and dispersion, and thereafter SD (Standard Deviation). I gave him a good definition of SD but when I was asked to write the formula, I offered to derive it for him. The panel was somewhat astonished and probably rejective. I remember telling them precisely that I barely ever remember a formula but I know the principle and I can derive not only SD but also other higher order formulae as well.

So, folks, that is when I think the panel gave up on me - about 17 minutes of disappointments, followed by five more years of the same!

When the interview got over, I was so sure of never being able to come back to IIMA campus that I decided to buy the last remaining tee-shirts as a piece of memorabilia. On March 14, 2005, I got a mail in my spam folder from Raghu in FPM office that I have been selected. I was so sure that it was an actual spam that I did not inform anyone (except my mother) for a whole week, till I received the letter of selection and joining instructions.

When I landed up at IIMA for joining on May 31, 2005, I was the only one for the next two months, who had an IIMA tee-shirt, as the shop was not stocked for a while.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Slogans and realities

Choose to be happy
भीड़ में अकेला आदमी
लड़ो पढ़ाई करने को, पढ़ो लड़ाई करने को
Life is unfair. Get used to it.
तोड़ो कारा तोड़ो

These, and god only knows what, many more slogans covered the walls in my room on the attic in Lucknow. That was some 16 years ago, I guess.

Those were the days of unhindered utopia and untiring optimism. I used to dream and write, sing and talk, plan and dream some more. Now.... now, I survive... I try to survive people, life, plans, and most of all, myself.

All those slogans and dreams and aspirations seem a distant hazy lost past. Jagjit Singh is singing Bashir Badr:

तुम तन्हा दुनिया से लड़ोगे
बच्चों सी बातें करते हो

Monday, March 5, 2018

कहें न तुमसे तो फिर और किससे जाके कहें

आजकल बहुत कुछ घूमता रहता है मन में। कुछ इकोनॉमिक्स, कुछ कविताएं, कुछ ज्ञान की बातें, बहुत सी भड़ास....। बस ये नहीं समझ आता कि कहें किससे!

एक ज़माने में कुछ 5-6 दोस्त थे, जिनके फ़ोन नम्बर ज़ुबानी याद थे। फ़ोन महंगे थे और बातें खत्म होने नहीं आतीं थीं। अब फ़ोन की पूरी मेमोरी भर हज़ार नम्बर हैं, फ़ोन सस्ते हैं, और कोई दोस्त नहीं, जो खाली साथ बैठ कर सन्नाटा सुने।

फेसबुक तो वाहियात, राजनैतिक, और बकवास जगह हो चुकी है। फेसबुक या व्हाट्सएप्प स्टेटस भी बचकाने काम लगते हैं। क्वोरा पर लिखते थे तो उसमें भी सवाल बेहूदे और कमैंट्स पॉलिटिकल हो चुके हैं। ब्लॉग भी अभी तक लैपटॉप खोलने का मोहताज था। अभी अभी बस ब्लॉग का एप्प ढूंढने का ख़याल आ गया तो ये लिखने लगे। वैसे अब इसको भी कोई पढ़ता तो है नहीं, तो यही सही और यहीं सही।

बड़ी लम्बी रात है तन्हाई की...

कहें न तुमसे तो और किससे जा के कहें,
सियाह ज़ुल्फ़ के सायों, बड़ी उदास है रात।

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Budget 2018

I was asked by two different newspapers for my quick opinion on the Budget 2018. Just copying those here:

This budget does not look like an election year budget at all. The fiscal prudence is surprisingly anti-political. I find the focus on health coverage, health insurance, and medical education is commendable. The agricultural sector also gets a lot of attention and money. While there are a lot of sops, efforts of structural reforms are largely missing. MSME getting a respite is also a welcome step, which is in sync with the goals of MUDRA, skill development, and job creation. Another good aspect is the continued emphasis on disinvestment and ease of doing business.

While the salaried class may find the budget dry for them, the government has already benefitted them by pay commission, MSMEs, business and entrepreneurship opportunities, mega spending on infrastructure, and insurance schemes. However, such indirect benefits may easily get overlooked in an election year, posing a political challenge.

Overall, like previous NDA budgets, this one is also an economist's budget, perhaps more on welfare side this time. However, ambitious targets, implementation issues, state elections, and political realities make the budget assumptions fragile.

चुनाव वर्ष में भी इस प्रकार का अर्थशास्त्र उन्मुख बजट निश्चय ही विस्मयकारी है। मेरी राय में स्वास्थ्य सुविधाओं, संरक्षा, और शिक्षा के प्रति यह निष्ठा सराहनीय है और समाज के निम्नतम आय वर्ग के लिए विशेषत: सहायक सिद्ध होगी। बजट का दूसरा केन्द्र कृषि क्षेत्र है, जो सामाजिक न्याय एवं समरसता के लिए आवश्यक है।  हालांकि कृषि हेतु बजटीय प्रावधान तात्कालिक सांत्वना देते प्रतीत होते हैं, इन से किसी भी प्रकार का दीर्घकालिक संरचनात्मक सुधार होता नहीं दिखता। जब तक इस दिशा में ठोस प्रयास न किये जाएँ, कृषि क्षेत्र की परनिर्भरता एवं अस्थिरता बानी रहेगी. लघु उद्योगों के प्रति इस सरकार का रुख पहले की भाँति ही सकारात्मक दीखता है। लघु उद्योगों को बजट की कर - सहायता सरकार की मुद्रा योजना, दक्षता, एवं रोज़गार सृजन से सटीक तालमेल इंगित करता है। विनिवेश, निर्यात, आधारिक संरचना, स्वरोज़गार, और व्यापार सरलीकरण आदि के कारण यह बजट दीर्घकालिक सुधारों की दिशा में एक महत्त्वपूर्ण पग है।  

जहाँ यह बजट समाज के निम्नतम ३० प्रतिशत के लिए अत्यधिक सहानुभूतिपरक लगता है, समाज का मध्यम वर्ग इसे लगभग निराशाजनक मान सकता है। यद्यपि मध्यम वर्ग और वैतनिक वर्ग को कोई सीधा लाभ मिलता नहीं दिखता, इस वर्ग को नवरोज़गार सृजन, उद्यमिता, आधारभूत संरचना, और आर्थिक विकास का सर्वाधिक लाभ होने की आशा है। हालांकि एक चुनावी वर्ष में यह आशावाद और जन-प्रज्ञता सरकार को भारी पड़ सकती है। 

सर्वसमावेशी, मेरी राय में, दीर्घकालिक सुधार के प्रति निष्ठा और राजकोषीय स्थिति के प्रति विवेक बनाये रखना किसी अर्थशास्त्री के लिए भले ही स्वप्न सरीखा हो, सरकार के लिए यह राजनैतिक तौर पर महंगा साबित हो सकता है।


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