Times of India

What to Believe?

The past month has been the saddest in memory as the communal violence in Gujarat has not only diminished us all but has brought home the truth that Hannah Arendt uttered forty years ago, that evil, in the end, is banal. Some Indians have persistently asked, what let us down? Others wonder what do we dare to believe in now?

Wake Up Call

Every Indian seems to have one impossibly romantic railway memory, and mine is of a journey from Kalka to Simla as a five year old when I feasted for the first time on the snow tipped crests of the Himalayas, and I later recounted it in “A Fine Family”. But these memories are rapidly dying, as are the railways. Today, the Indian Railways are in financial crisis, and if something drastic is not done, they will wither away like the state in Bihar.

Train to Nowhere

Like many Indians I was stupefied to read that the railways plan to bottle water. In that case, I thought, why don't they also grow tea (and wheat and rice) for their catering department? And cotton for their conductor's uniforms, and make shoes for the drivers while they are at it? Perhaps then we can get someone to run the trains safely. The issue is not bottled water but the astounding mindset of the railway board that is ignorant of the basic managerial concept of “core competence” and thinks that the railways with its inefficient, high cost labour can do it cheaper.

Turn on the Lights

Nothing in our country diminishes us more than our power situation. It reminds us everyday that we are a Third World country. We have lost ten years since we began electricity reforms, and had we made the same progress as we have in telecom, we would have been able to say proudly what a Chinese woman said to me in Shanghai recently, “I feel I am living in a different country.”

Ignore Pakistan, Heed China

A few years ago the respected head of a multinational company observed the unreal quality of our public discourse. He said that he had read our newspapers voraciously for two weeks and for every report on China he had counted eight on Pakistan. “To the world at large only China and India matter in Asia,” he said. “When people say that the 21st century will belong to Asia, they have China in mind, and then India. Japan doesn't count, because its demographics are wrong. Pakistan doesn't even exist in the big picture.

Playing to Win

The stubborn persistence of our software exports is a source of some embarrassment to our armchair intellectuals who have been regularly predicting their crash. Instead, they have kept growing by an amazing 50 per cent a year for more than a decade, and even in this worst year in the industry's history they will grow 30 per cent. Any other industry would die for this sort of constancy, and so would our cricket team.