Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Chariot - An account from the mast

The place looked festive for the celebration of the Chariot festival. There were kids prancing with brightly coloured helium filled balloons – their parents, dressed in new clothes, engrossed in bargaining with the vendors. For festivals, especially for the traditionally oriented, new clothes are mandatory. The Chariot festival transformed the place – for 3 days, the duration of the festival - every year.

I have been watching this festival every year only because I find myself in its midst, each year. The place transforms miraculously. Overnight, make-shift stalls and festoons come up. Vendors set up stalls for almost anything you can think of for a village like fair - descending on the place from apparently nowhere. So do people who throng the fair. These are people who do not live here. They are, perhaps, from nearby villages and small towns.

So happy, cheerful and carefree they look that they make the city folks and local residents look decidedly forlorn. City folks are not known to let their kids loose, the way the children who come to the fair are. I wondered if the kid with the helium balloon knew where his parents where or how he could locate them when the balloon finally bored him. Did the couple – who were furiously bargaining with the vendor for trinkets – know that their kid, if the child was theirs, was several metres away from them in a swirl of people – blissfully lost in his balloon?

As dusk set in, darkness descended sooner than usual. Power supply was cut off for the locality. The tall chariot would soon make its appearance – pulled by devotees. Since the mast of the chariots could get entangled with the overhead power lines, power was disconnected as a precautionary measure. Nevertheless, the place was soon brightly lit by Petromax lamps without causing any disruption to the festivities.

The arrival of the chariot, pulled by over 50 men, was announced with frenzied drumbeats. Shopping stopped as people rushed to see the splendidly decorated chariot. There was no sign of the boy with the balloon. But, there were so many kids – most of them looked alike. The chariot seemed to plough into the crowds as it trundled its way past to the beating of drums and blaring devotional music.

Tomorrow, the place would revert to normalcy or at least a semblance of it. Local residents would, perhaps, breathe more easily. The bursting of fire crackers had vitiated the atmosphere in the last few days. No wonder the local residents did not seem as excited at the visitors.

Each year, the main thoroughfare of the locality was converted into a makeshift fair ground. Vehicles and pedestrians alike had to wade through hordes and unfamiliar faces to get to their homes, offices or even the next road. The local residents had to contend with loud music blaring till late at night and the power supply cut off when the chariot passed by.

This is an age old festival. It raison d’etre is lost in antiquity. The inconveniences it brought was not lost on the local residents. Like each year, they would petition to the local authorities to shift the festival to a location more suitable for the convenors and the convened.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The postman just delivered gold

Bullion by post! It sounds incredible that you can order gold bars or bullion have have it delivered by post.Gold dealers like Bullion by Post are offering this facility of ordering gold bullion online and arranging for delivery the next day.

Gold,as many are aware, is becoming an important part of the asset profile of an investor. In the coming months, inflation is likely to become an important concern. There is no better hedge to inflation than gold.The currency of every country is backed by gold. The central bank of the country needs to have gold in in its vaults to maintain the value of its currency. In 1930 the value of 1 ounce of gold was set at $35. That is, for every $ 35 in circulation there was 1 oz of gold with the Central Bank (The Federal Reserve in case of the USA).

Later, the value of currency was changed to make $70 = 1 oz of gold. While the gold standard was abandoned by the USA in 1971, even today currency is backed by physical gold reserves. Just like it is necessary for the Central Bank to keep a physical quantity of gold (gold bars) in in vaults, it is also necessary for individuals to have physical reserves of gold stored securely in a bank vault.

In case of severe inflation, currency and bank deposits will rapidly lose value. Investments in gold bonds and other similar instruments, where gold is underlying commodity, is not as good as gold in its physical form. Gold bonds and other market traded forms (ETF or Exchange Traded Funds) of gold may lose their value due to the vagaries of market conditions. Besides entry load and fund managements cost affects the return from ETF gold.In times of hyperinflation, there may not be enough buyers in the exchange to buy ETF gold.Therefore, physical gold (bullion) of a high purity level is essential for a well balanced investment portfolio. Gold dealers like Bullion by Post play an important role in delivering physical gold or gold bars to investors.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Dr. Venkatakrishnan & Bovine Mastitis

Dr.R.Venkatakrishnan retired as a professor from the Veterinary College, Chennai, India. Upon retirement,he developed numerous products for animal health and welfare. Recently, he developed a way to detect Bovine Mastitis much before the clinical symptoms of the disease showed up.Bovine Mastitis is a bacterial disease which affects dairy cows and significantly affects milk production.It has a negative financial impact on dairy farmers.

By developing a simple and inexpensive kit for the early detection and treatment of Bovine Mastitis, Dr. Venkatakrishnan has provided an simple way for farmers to preserve the health of their cows and minimize their financial losses from this disease.

This Bovine Mastitis kit is one among the many inventions of Dr.Venkatakrishnan - several of which are patented. Some of these are also acknowledged by the Lemelson Foundation, USA.

Dr.Venkatakrishnan's forte in in formulating and inventing unique products for Bovine and Equine creatures. Marketing is not his forte. If the market for veterinary products was as well developed in India, as in the USA, or if there was a well developed chain of stores for veterinary supplies he would have retired, by now, from his post retirement activities.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Power Dressing - A gentle riposte

Kalpana Sharma,in the Hindu Magazine of the 9th August,2009, says that " commenting on the dress sense and looks of women in power is only one aspect of the tendency to run down their success. She goes on to ask, " does anyone care or comment on the colour of Prime Minster Manmohan Singh's turban when he appears in public?"

Here's a collage. Just look at the photos. Can you comment on Dr. Singh's turban? It has been blue for as long as I can remember, unless of course you have seen this photograph.

Even here, you would be hard pressed to comment on Dr.Singh sartorial style. Though natty, even Rahul Gandhi's style is becoming, well, Gandhian. Try filling in a newspaper column with it. Even if you can, you still won't be able to get anyone to read it. Can you say the same about Priyanka Vadra's style. Certainly not.

If the Prime Minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, comes calling to India and if newspapers don't cover her sartorial style they would,perhaps, see a drop in readership compared to other newspapers which do.

The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has featured on the cover of Vogue - a fashion and lifestyle magazine. Michelle Obama was on the cover of Vogue very recently. Women are fashion conscious in a way men are usually not.They spend time and money on looking good.

Kalpana Sharma asks with reference to the comments in newspapers about Hillary Clinton's sartorial style " when the foreign minister of any other foreign country comes visiting, do we observe the clothes these gentlemen wear?"

Well, Condoleezza Rice dressed like this,sometimes.

Her predecessor Colin Powell attired well but looked like this at his best. Which Secretary of State's attire would you comment on?

Commenting on a lady politicians style is no different than commenting on a film stars style. You can write reams on Priyanka Chopra's style. Try doing the same for SRK. Your wife, mother or daughter will,in most cases, be better than attired than you, your father or your son. Women, no matter what their profession, attire well. In many cases, they even seek an approval,comment or a compliment on their style.

Commenting on Hillary Clinton style does not, in any way, diminish her capabilities or her role in global politics. Similarly,Meira Kumar's style is a welcome change from Somnath Chatterjee's missing style.

Somnath Chatterjee

Comments on her style is only accretive to her performance as the Speaker of the 15th Lok Sabha.

In the times to come, women will play an increasingly important role in public life. Their dress sense and looks will be as extensively chronicled as their work.India's most ordinarily dressed politician, Mamata Banerjee, has not been able to avoid comments on her sartorial style. If she can't no one else can.

Perhaps no one else also wants to, too.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Must India be self-sufficient in sugar?

The Economic Times of the 30th July,2009 (Bangalore Edition page 17) asks : Can India be self sufficient in sugar? The Times of India of the 30th July,2009 (Bangalore Edition page 18) says : India heading towards a diabetes explosion.

According to the Times of India, India is already the diabetes capital of the world. It is estimated that, by 2015, India will have 70 million diabetics (2007 figure: 41 million cf China 40 million) - reaching this figure a decade earlier than expected.

Changing lifestyles is leading to metabolic disorders which is turn is leading to diabetes. The per capita demand for sugar, in India, is about 23 kgs per person. A high retail price of Rs.30/kg , which on account of improving incomes, is not a deterrent to sugar consumption. We are consuming a large quantity of sugar without being aware of it. Colas, juices, ice-creams, biscuits, confectionery and other ready to eat foods have sugar embedded in them.

The production of sugarcane is water and labour intensive. Moreover, increasing water shortage and increasing soil salinity is making it difficult to increase sugar production.

The need of the hour is not to meet the increasing demand for sugar but to educate the population about the drawbacks of high sugar consumption. Ready to eat foods must have an advisory on the recommended maximum daily sugar intake and how much that pack contributes to that daily maximum.

According to research, that people at risk for developing diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes by:
* losing a modest amount of weight
* through diet and exercise
* restricting sugar consumption

Diabetes is a lifestyle altering and life threatening insidious disease. Changing lifestyles is wearing off even the genetic protection that one may have against the disease. The sooner one recognizes this the better ones chances for preventing and controlling it.

So,don't have chocolates seeking refuge under "Kuch Meetha Ho Jaye" - every time a Pappu passes by.

Don't contribute to the demand for sugar every "pehli tarikh".