Infy needs a break

October 25, 2017 - Leave a Response

The one-time IT bellwether Infosys (Infy) deserves a cool-off from the glaring media headlines to refurbish its teflon veneer. Remember, this is a company which its founders built on their personal metal and less of public scrutiny in its hey days.

Infy co-founder and the comeback chairman Nandan Nilekani wants to make the company “boring” once again. The charismatic technocrat, adept in flying below the radar, has acknowledged the biggest worry: too much negativity, and too many probing eyes.

The ‘iconic’ founders steered Infy in far more genteel times when growth in IT offshoring was secular (constant growth rates over a period of time) and there was less of media. These wise men, who were flag bearers of new governance standards, controlled information flow pragmatically.

We were in awe, unquestioning. Infy minted millionaire employees who rode the early wave of stock option plans. But did it really foster corporate heroes outside the founders club?

The first professional CEO Vishal Sikka’s arrival changed that spirit, pumping up adrenaline and a new cultural vibrancy. Sikka wasn’t one of the hallowed co-founders and believed Infy deserved a sugar rush. He rendered it more attention seeking.

Nilekani is rightly calling time-out after Sikka’s hurried exit. Infy needs a break and be left alone now, probably the best prescription for its second coming.




Directing a golden era

October 24, 2017 - Leave a Response

The best of Malayali living ebbed away in the early 1990s. Around the time of my adulthood.

The preceding two decades or more of political churn, artistic verve and social leap was one of the best renaissance stories in any Indian mileu.

It wouldn’t be just obituary hype to suggest that film director IV Sasi was an influential protagonist in the crowded Malayali mindscape of that era. His passing away, as a fragile stalwart, offers reinvigorating throwback to a certain rawness and rusticity of the Mallu living as it evolved.

Sasi directed 150 odd films — both multi-starrer big canvas as well as quaint, simple stories. He was arguably the first director brand in Malayalam filmdom, giving decisive breaks to talented actors Mammootty and Mohanlal.

During the early 1980s, in my middle-school years, Sasi’s name on the film posters mattered more than the actors. I remember gaping at some of those posters and returning home late from school much to the chagrin of my parents.

“He must be studying IV Sasi film posters,” they cribbed.

Sasi’s film repertoire touched new highs while directing the screenplays of T Damodaran, MT Vasudean Nair and P Padmarajan — a  portfolio that embellished the vividness of his mind.

Sasi wasn’t an iconic film maker but one who grasped nuances of living. Films like Aalkoothathil Thaniyae and Aksharangal, scripted by MT, were essential portrayals of diffident, incomplete Malayali emotions. Where glimpses of love struggled with daily human frailties.

His films with Damodaran were usually social potboilers with a heavy starcast, touching the nerves of mainstream society and its underbelly. It carried the frustrations, struggles, and romance of a fast changing Malayali who refused to believe the change.

Films like Eenadu, Vaartha and Aavanaazhi potrayed how wily politicians could polarize Kerala’s social mosaic. How hawala money, gold and drug trafficking would play havoc. And how the deep social moorings of the Malayali would prevail over such foreboding events.

As Kerala desperately clings to social amity, one only hopes for the replay of IV Sasi films.


Replaying 1930s? 

November 9, 2016 - Leave a Response

Is liberalism distasteful of popular choices? That’s the fateful question I faced after expressing disappointment at Donald Trump winning US presidential elections.

Don’t heed the fear mongering, the world will be just fine, said another comforting advise.

As the humanity turns to adventurous political choices once again, we have a pantheon of savy demagogues strutting on the world stage. And many more aspirants are waiting in the wings.

The identity politics feeding virulent nationalism has re-established its sway after a rout following the last big war. Suddenly, the liberals are typecast as contrarians, and pushed hard for explanations which looked obvious till recently. 

Why am I cagey about popular choices? 

The concern is about a world looking increasingly frustrated. The disappearing lustre of living in the developed markets and the timidity of progress in the developing ones are tearing up hard won social comforts. But when globalism is cruel, parochialism has to return.

Peering into the school history textbooks, I had wondered how Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini became who they were. An ageing white man or a woman in the Rust Belt of Trump’s America has spend a lifetime watching globalisation pass by shuttered factories and closed mines.

An innately wise humanity is a truant ideal, often seeking escapades in troubled times. The brittleness of a descending life brings the mob to the gates of a stubborn hero.

Are we swinging back to the dystopian fix of the 1930s? 

Mythical majority in a land of billion tyrannies

August 16, 2016 - Leave a Response

Minority (n)

1. The smaller part or number; a number, part or amount forming less than half of the whole.

2. A radical, ethnic, religious, or social subdivision of a society that is subordinate to the dominant group in political, financial or social power without regard to the size of these groups.

The paradox of Indian living has found expressions in ‘millions’ and ‘billions’. That too from outsiders who are often bewildered and enchanted — not in that order nor in equal parts — by the numerified subcontinental existence.

VS Naipul called it ‘the land of million mutinies’. MNC marketers standing on the fringes shout out to the ‘billion people’ market. For some economists, India’s ‘billion’ is a tremendous demographic dividend (though we hear less about it in these times of jobless growth).

As we live in the midst of some hectic social engineering, let’s also call it the land of a million minorities. Why?

Indians have existed in an unequal, conflict driven society for ages. Those inequities and conflicts are now magnified in our daily living. Don’t mistake it as an ugly religious portend.

We are increasingly conflicted on social, economic and cultural mobility, often minorities battling inequities in individual living. Each one of us are at war with prejudices and tyrannies, pumped up by hormonal changes in our national consciousness. 

The unnerving social mores of the past, which managed to cast away individual transgressions, isn’t a cohesive balm any longer. Individuals are boldly talking (and negotiating) with each other and with the State.

It’s probably gentrification of the resistance, which was so uncool. The young are rebelling and mobilizing against swelling tyrannies of households, castes, campuses and politics. They are up against a perceived majority, never numbered but always foisted on us as ‘a way of living’. The single most abused expression in the Indian narrative. 

The boys and girls in Una or in Imphal want a new social covenant. They are a million minorities, who are defiled in everyday living, but challenging the tyrannies of an invisible, mythologized majority.

The day of miracle

August 10, 2016 - Leave a Response

Miracles. What are they?

A Jesuit priest who sermoned some weeks ago said miracles are just natural happenstances in unnatural settings.

He pointed to the despairing life in a chaotic metro. Where living summons unnatural ethos. Do we realize how a ravaging life leaves us faithless?

Faith is a basic tenet to good life. On ordinary days and during uncomplicated times. In our otherwise living, miracles are a throwback to faithfulness, to our trusting ways. 

Maybe, miracles are just natural beings we ignored down the life. Only to embrace them in sheer wonder someday.

That day. 

Dystopian ideal

July 9, 2016 - Leave a Response

I am holding back reactions these days. I don’t know if life is any better for it. The days of ‘determined consensus’ are here.

The world around me has been fractious more than ever. There’s something in the wind that makes opinions and attitudes divisive. A dystopian ideal, truly.

Reactions and outbursts have given us friends and foes, making life more real. My history professor, a grey bearded man with emotional roller coasters, said life (and marriages) were a tussle between reflexes and reflections.

So what if we are in echo chambers now? We don’t live any longer.

Living in times of Nationalism

January 26, 2016 - Leave a Response

In 1995, the interview board of Asian College of Journalism, asked me whether I thought nationalism was dead as a political force. At 24, I just saw Soviet Union and Cold War being buried under the Siberian snow. Berlin Wall had fallen and the promise of universalism was gaining hold of our lives.

My reply that nationalism was alive and kicking met with guffaws but won attention. I can’t recollect the immediate trigger for that answer in favour of nationalism.

The Balkans and Central Asia in the post Soviet era had become playground for identity politics and gruesome ethnic wars. The ‘rogue’ states and its leaders — playing on etnic, religious and cultural identities — wouldn’t take the world to an utopian village. Two decades later, and tired of journalism, I am swamped by some riveting talk on nationalism now.

Right wing politics is running guilt free again. Economic slump and badly managed free world ideals have pushed societies to an uncertain setting. The antediluvian forces are roaring back.

Nationalism, in dark places, is a bad construct. It’s an immersive belief taking swathes of ordinary folks to the brink of history.

Are we entering a phase of unbridled nationalism in India, seeking glory at any cost? When political marketing holds the joy of patriotism under seige.

The fervour is self consuming and the varied mind is fast becoming a misfit. Then I am calling it depravity, a national disease.


October 27, 2015 - Leave a Response

Apologists of economic triumphalism walk on water. Their narrative often hides troubling realities.

We are in the midst of one such act, in India.

Many Indians voted for a national government which they argued would herald unbridled progress. It was majoritarian wish in a democracy.

I wasn’t surprised to read this column from a successful entrepreneur lambasting critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s economic thinking marked by its out-sized ambitions. Manish Sabharwal, chairman of staffing company Teamlease, argues that India needs unrealistic ambitions to put behind the current sedate state of affairs.

No arguments on it.

He then suggests that nations are narratives, made by stories of their own. That’s where I have serious beef with him. Should economic narrative sidetrack deeper societal turmoils?

Sabharwal makes passing mention about the crazy right wing fringe threatening a mandate for progress. What he calls fringe activity is a revisionist plan upsetting the idea of India — as a diverse, secular state.

The fringe hijacks democracy when the majority drifts on indifference. When a national discourse fixated on economic wellbeing lacks empathy.

Embittered societies burdened with unrealistic ambitions have faced grevious accidents. History shows it doesn’t work.


September 19, 2015 - Leave a Response

Just read a good, long narrative on Jorge Mario Bergoglio or Pope Francis, possibly the most written about head of Catholics in living memory.

It struck me for exploring how Francis defies ideological categorizations. Because ideologies hide and defame reality. We don’t serve ideas, we serve people, he aruged.

In my networking life these days I come across people talking up nationalistic fervour. “We are interested in what is good for India, nothing else,” said one gentleman who runs a real estate brokerage recently.

Without doubting their good intentions to fix a nation on the peripheries of global glory, let’s say that a billion people are in search of better living. Nothing more.

Will the rethoric of nationalism take us there? Ideological constructs of political, ethnic, economic and religious making have heaped human tragedies over the centuries. Nations appeared naked after frenzied high tides.

Nationalism and the proxy of economic progress worked well — for some. It never was large hearted and excluded swathes of people who didn’t toe the narrative. Nationalistic stirrings invariably trampled on human decency.

The refugee boats to Europe — and men, women and children lost in high seas — reminded us how ideologies discarded so many lives. How our journeys were shipwrecked.


September 9, 2015 - 3 Responses

“Let’s face it, technology has made us lazy. It turns us into the equivalent of that guy hanging out at the bar who thinks it takes too long and is just too bloody difficult to chat up the pretty girl standing next to him, and would rather rifle through the countless Tinder profiles on his phone, hoping to get lucky. Worse, he probably hasn’t even looked up long enough from his obsessive swiping to notice her”

This is an excerpt from a remarkable blog by a friend which made me worry about conversations drying up in my life. About my loneliness in a wireless social world. Good, long conversations are self-discovering. It stems from pauses, reflections and leisure. Things I have dropped in the mundane rush.

Can we rekindle real conversations?  Let’s talk our way to a better living. Loneliness is silent killer in a hyperlinked world

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