Sunday, May 22, 2011

Songs for Japan - Listen and Contribute

I wish to draw your attention, friends, to an audio CD and to online music download, of an album called ‘Songs for Japan’ released by Sony Music. By buying this CD from a music store, or by buying this music online, you would be supporting a worthy cause; because SONY is donating 100% of the net proceeds to Japan’s Red Cross for the reconstruction of Japan, after the devastating tsunami two months ago.

Available on the iTunes store for just $.9.9 (about BD 3.700, or AED 37 or INR 400), you will get to hear 38 amazing music tracks by various artists. The 38 artists, who lent songs to the album, include legends like Bob Dylan, U2, Bruce Springsteen and the late John Lennon; country acts like Keith Urban and Lady Antebellum; rock artists like the Foo Fighters, R.E.M. and Bon Jovi; pop icons like Madonna and Pink; and top hit makers like Bruno Mars and David Guetta.

Also there are Lady Gaga, Eminem, Beyoncé, the Kings of Leon, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna.

What more can you ask for as little as BD 3.700? Listen to this collection of legal music, and help Japan. Be a better music lover and a bigger philanthropist at the same time, by buying many CDs and by gifting it to your friends.

You can gift-mail them through too. Your friends will never get a compilation like this. And you can never get an opportunity to serve, like this. Little drops of water can make a mighty ocean. Let us buy and let us help.



Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Can't the new IMF chief be Montek from India?

After the International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested in New York this week, on charges of sexual assault on a maid in Manhattan, the important question that governments want an answer for is, who will be the next IMF Chief?

This has been a question looming in the global financial circles for long because Strauss-Kahn was anyway expected to leave IMF and contest for the post of President of France. Of course, from his cell in the notorious prison on Rikers Island - which itself is a giant leap backwards from the $3,000-a-night hotel suite he stayed in, two days earlier – the French presidency may seem to him, now, like a remote and distant dream, if not a completely shattered one.

For me and for many others, however, the question was whether the new IMF chief would be from the rising economies like India or China, or whether it would continue to be from one of the European countries. Because, Europeans have held all 10 managing director positions since the fund was created in 1945, and four of them have been Frenchmen. So, isn’t it time that one of the rising powers like say, India or China is given a chance?

I was thinking that India’s Montek Singh Ahluwalia would be a good choice. Apart from being a Rhodes Scholar from Oxford, his long stint in India’s Planning Commission, in India’s Finance Ministry, and in the Washington-based financial advisory body, the Group of Thirty, have given him the knowledge, experience and skill, I am sure, that an IMF chief’s post deserves.

But I was surprised to hear Ahluwalia’s announcement that he is not in the fray for the post. I suspect he said it because he knows Europeans will never allow that in the current economic scenario. With the austerity measures and financial cuts by governments of many countries across Europe, they would want the post themselves.

At least, I hope that, in future, the EU and other countries will try to encourage the emerging economies to play a more significant role in the management of the International Monetary Fund.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Indian Elections - Conquests and Upsets

The results of India’s general elections to legislative assemblies of several states have surprised many of us; expats, in Bahrain. Being away from India, we have completely missed the hustle-bustle of the election fever which India, the world’s largest democracy, usually offers; but could only grab the news bites from Satellite television channels, watching from here.

The states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam, Pondicherry and parts of Andhra Pradesh have all had some startling results with interesting upsets. And here is a quick short look on the election results, state by state.

In Kerala, the UDF victory had a margin that is wafer thin. Not a very good way to win for UDF. But Congress-led UDF alliance won 72 of the 140 seats, while CPI-controlled LDF got the remaining 68. And, it is interesting to note here that – with a difference of just 4 seats - the outgoing Kerala chief minister VS Achutanandan says that he would not try to garner a majority using disgruntled members from other parties and would choose to sit in the opposition. This win is a big improvement for UDF, from the 2006 assembly polls when UDF had won 42 seats while LDF had won 98. Now, in 2011, even with his hat-trick win in his constituency, it looks like VS Achutanandan cannot stop UDF’s new rule over Kerala; probably under the leadership of Oomen Chandy, the Chief Minister probable.

In Tamil Nadu, we see that, with her allies, the former Chief Minister Jayalalitha has victoriously gained 199 of the state's 234 assembly seats, trouncing the DMK-Congress alliance which did not even manage to garner 40 seats together. Obviously, the 2G telecom corruption scandal - in which DMK’s first family of Karunanidhi and daughter Kanimozhi, along with another DMK leader A Raja are seriously involved - could not have come at a better time for Jayalalitha. From what I understand, at every meeting, she kept reminding her electorate, based on the allegations, what a corrupt party DMK was. And the people could not have agreed with her better! Now, seeing the massive mandate she received the Congress party leaders who openly supported DMK must be, I am sure, privately slamming their foreheads, and cursing themselves, for siding with DMK.

In West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress and the Congress Party alliance, with a huge win, ended the long 34-year control of the state by CPI-M. Her party bagged 184 out of 294 Assembly seats in the state and made the communists bite the dust. But is this really her success? Or the communists’ failure? The journalist Anirban Roy, of India Today, blames the now outgoing chief minister Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee himself for this debacle for CPI-M. Unlike his predecessor Jyoti Basu, Bhattacharjee could not emerge as the patriarch of the Left Front, mainly because of his soft image and his failure to reign in "corrupt and oppressive" leaders in the grassroots level. Roy added in his article that : “after the death of Anil Biswas, the state CPM chief and a deft strategist, in 2006, a large section of the party cadre deviated from the party's principles, weakening the party's base”. Bhattacharjee had himself lost in his Jadavpur constituency with 16,000 votes; that is his very sorry state in the West Bengal state. But what we need to see is, if Mamata Banerjee becomes the Chief Minister, will she - who gave a dismal performance as the Union Railway Minister - give a greater performance in West Bengal after Jyothi Basu and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee? Let’s see.

In Assam, Congress Party’s excellent performance, I am sure, was able to give some great sighs of relief to its leaders. Sweeping the polls with 78 out of the 126 seats, which are near two-thirds of the total seats, Tarun Gogoi is all set to be the Chief Minister for the third time.

In Puducherry, a union territory, AIADMK led coalition of NRC (N Rangaswamy Congress) Party has won 20 out of total 30, trouncing the DMK-lead Congress coalition. So, hopes that Congress will retain this little Old French territory are all now gone.

In Andhra Pradesh, there were by-elections in two constituencies – Kadapa and Pulivendula. Results from these two places were expected have a great impact on the overall Andhra Pradesh political scenario because, for the first time, a new party ‘YSR Congress’ was fighting with the traditional Indian National Congress. One particular seat to the legislative assembly had the focus of the entire nation, the Kadapa constituency, where Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, the son of late chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, who died in a helicopter crash, contested and won with over 545,000 votes, a stunning performance. Mr Ravindra Reddy, currently the State Health Minister, and Congress candidate lost his security deposit. And in Pulivendula constituency too, ‘YSR Congress’ won, with the window of the former chief minister winning over her brother-in-law who represented congress, with a record 81,343 votes! Congress has been making major mistakes in its dealings with the Andhra Pradesh popular sentiment.

So, it is a major setback to Congress in some places, while they got some relief from others, but with the political scene is changing like it never did before, if congress doesn’t work harder in the coming months, it could be the beginning of the end.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Manhattan without the Twin Towers

Though I was raised in a city, my parents had come from a small village in India. They had struggled to give us the best. And for giving that, we children would always remain grateful.

Whenever I shared my dream of visiting USA, with my friends and relatives, they often looked at me with disbelief and derision.

All places aside, for me, USA meant the 'Statue of Liberty' and the 'Manhattan skyline'. And during my childhood, one of the pictures that got seared into my memory - from a New York City tourist-booklet that an uncle of mine, who returned from USA, gave me - was that of the Manhattan skyline with the twin towers of the World Trade Centre looming over it. And I have always desired and dreamed to see that skyline. In that way.

But following that fateful, tragic day, 11 September 2001, when I heard that the towers were attacked by two planes, my television was continuously on for two days as I was glued to the news. My heart was broken, like those of many; not only at the thousands who perished in the attacks, but also at the sight of the two beautiful buildings crumbling to dust in billows of smoke, in those news clips that were replayed again and again.

I was unable to understand how anyone would attack and destroy such beautiful towers. But the Al Qaeda, with its leader Osama bin Laden, seemed to only see destruction, and not beauty, in it.

Last year, I was able to finally visit the New York City. And standing at Ground Zero, with my wife and two little children, the flood of emotions that overpowered me, are not easy to express. In fact, they cannot be expressed. And if I can feel that way, I can understand how much harder it is for the New Yorkers, the Americans, and especially for those who lost their loved ones in the 9/11 attacks.

I was able to talk to a Ground Zero construction site supervisor, who himself was a New Yorker but had been visiting Canada when the attacks occurred, expressing his sorrow. I was able to listen to the tourist guide explaining the new design of the tower coming up at Ground Zero.

I was able to explain to my bewildered children, one of whom was born around the same time that the attacks occurred, on why this particular place had become so important.

The 9/11 attacks have changed the course of history. And the death of this terrorist, Osama bin Laden, who led the attacks must now be consigned to history books.

Somehow, it is very strange; and against my normal temperament, but I just do not seem to have any pity for him.