अस्तु – ( So Be It ) – Movie Review

What a movie! 

‘Asthu’ (अस्तु), a Marathi movie that revolves around an Alzheimer  patient excels in many spheres and takes mainstream cinema to a different level. 

Dr.Chakrapani Sastry, a retired Sanskrit scholar, afflicted with dementia, forgets even his daughter’s names, yet is able to recall relevant verses from ancient texts that suit the occasion. He gets lost, follows an elephant and is taken care of by the mahout’s family for a day. The struggles that Sastry’s daughter Irawati undergoes to find him forms the crux of the story.

astu-so-be-it-marathi-movieSastry’s slow descent into dementia is well captured. The scenes where the mahout’s wife takes care of the scholar have deep philosophical undertones bordering on Karma and the like. These scenes are bound to bring tears to the viewer.

The transitions from one scene to the other, through the eyes of the daughter, are well made , with an object or verse in the preceding scene acting as the connector to the succeeding one. Eg – The miniature elephant souvenir in a scene followed by the one that shows the actual elephant Lakshmi.

Irawati Harshe plays Irawati, daughter of Sastry. Her controlled and graded emotional outbursts are a treat to watch. Milind Soman plays a supporting husband and an understanding son-in-law. 

The mahout and his wife (Amruta Subash) glitter in their performances, the latter stealing all the scenes effortlessly. 

Dr.Mohan Agashe, a real life Psychiatrist, plays Dr.Chakrapani Sastry and anchors the film all the way through. A man that doesn’t remember anything, following an elephant that is supposed to remember everything, is an interesting aspect of the film.

I particularly liked the steady stream of jingling noise made by Irawati’s bangles. The Kannada-Konkani-Marathi lullaby that the mahout’s wife sings is bound to anchor you to the seat. The lullaby makes all the characters sleep, and that includes the elephant.

The mahout’s daughter is a silent performer. She never spoke a word, but captured my heart.

It is an honour to watch the film. I honoured myself twice.

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Are authors any good in contemporary analysis?

Ravi Velloor is the author of ‘India Rising’ – a book on India from a Singapore perspective. It is a well researched book and showed the author’s efforts.

But the author is also an Associate Editor with The Straits Times.

It was Doklan crisis time. Ravi Velloor wrote an extremely below-standard article that said the following:

  1. China would attack India.
  2. Pakistan would join China in attacking India.
  3. Singapore Air Force, that has its training facilities in India’s Kalaigunda Air Base, should look at other options for its training. 

None of the above happened. The article was under-researched, alarmist and lacked details. 

How could the author, who writes a great book, write such an article that reeks of arm-chair analysis and advertises lack of clear thought processes?, I thought.

I got the answer. Arun Shourie, author of many exemplary books, and importantly of a book on China that brought out how and why Nehru prostrated to China and allowed the 1962 disgrace to happen, said during the same Doklam crisis, that India was preparing to get yet another slap on the face. And we know what happened in Doklam.

I got my lesson – Authors are good at hindsight, but, are not pragmatic and not worthy of contemporary analysis.

May be I am wrong. Point me to journalist-authors who are right in both roles at the same time.

Here is the article that I had referred to.

Dear brother from minority community

I am pained beyond belief to have seen a three minute video of two religious heads of a religious denomination spewing venom on Prime Minister Modi and BJP leader Amit Shah.

One has the right to his own opinion. But as a religious leader, one has the responsibility not to fall prey to crowd induced euphoria and (mis)direct followers in a particular direction.
In this case, the two were asking the followers to chant a certain name for the downfall of PM Modi. All this, in a meeting called to ask for a secular item – water.

One preacher even went to the extent of asking how could Kanyakumari have an enemy of the majority community in the constituency, as its MP? He further said that had the community chosen an MP from its own religious denomination, the Inaiyam port would not have happened.

I know that leaders of minority communities (mis)direct gullible followers to vote in a particular pattern. But until now these have happened inside places of worship and congregation. But a preacher spreading such a message in an open forum is an ominous sign.

My appeal to brothers & sisters in the minority community:

Go ahead and don’t vote for Prime Minister Modi, vote for Rahul Gandhi or even Karunanidhi. But, do so on your own volition. Don’t let devious preachers herd you as cattle, for they are acting to fulfil their master’s wishes – this time it is money, foreign governments and mercenaries.

My dear brothers and sisters in the minority community: We have been brothers and sisters until now. Preachers come and preachers go, but we are brothers for ever. Don’t let the chord of trust break.

When your preacher calls your elected representative an enemy of your community, they are not only insulting the member of parliament, but are also deriding the collective wisdom of the people who have voted the person and made him their representative.

Time to get out of the preacher’s spells and think for yourselves. Your preacher has no business directing your secular thought. In fact, it is your right not to be directed, in a particular way, to exercise your constitutionally given right.

Never were P.C.Alexander, K.M.Cherian, Abdul Kalam, George Fernandes, Varghese Kurien et al seen in their religious shades. They were seen as exemplary citizens and role models for every one to emulate. Let us build more of this lot and less of the preacher (c)lot, for the latter are parasites that feast on communal divisions and societal disruptions.

Breaking trust is easy. Tearing down communities is easier. Rebuilding is difficult. Don’t let our pluralistic society become a polarised one. #VandeMaataram.

#Mersal Economics for the stupid stars

#Mersal (whatever language that is), is a Tamil movie in which ‘sound’ economic principles have been mouthed. A newbie revolutionary – read an ageing actor – has found it fit to compare the GST rates in India and Singapore. He has also found, in his profound wisdom, that the hospitals provide free service in Singapore (Father, forgive them, for they know not what they say).

A nation’s income is through taxes. Salaried classes in India can’t cheat on their taxes as the tax component is deducted from their salaries. However, the entrepreneurs, consultants and independent workers, who are in the tax bracket, don’t have a standard tax deduction mechanism. This class tends to cheat, the main culprits being the real estate operators, rich farmers, independent professionals such as Lawyers , Chartered Accountants, Doctors, movie producers, movie actors and financiers. It is normal practice for this group to demand payment by cash for services delivered.

Now that we are in comparison mode, let us do it in full.

Comparison with OECD Countries:(ref: thehansindia.com)

  1. India’s tax to GDP increased from 10.4% in 1965 to 16.6% in 2015-16, the corresponding tax-to-GDP ratio of OECD countries increased from 21% in 1965 to 33% in 2015.
  2. Even compared to OECD nations with lower GDP (Korea, Turkey, Mexico, Chile, Portugal, Greece, Slovenia and Poland) India’s is still lower at 16.6% versus average of 24% of these nations.
  3. Among the G-20 Countries, India had the third lowest tax-base, just above Mexico and Indonesia.
  4. A high tax-to-GDP ratio is also a common feature of countries with high level of social security measures such as Belgium, Denmark etc.
  5. The level of tax compliance in most advanced countries is very high, as high as 90%.

The advanced countries ( in this case Singapore, Denmark) have severe penalties for tax avoidance and evasion. It is not possible to evade tax, especially personal income tax, in Singapore. But, if personal income tax increases, then there would be lesser incentive to earn more. This could cause productivity loss and income generation by individuals and corporates. Hence the Singapore government reduced the personal income tax from 40% to 15%. However, to make good the loss, the govt introduced the GST – Goods and Service Tax. This was a tax at the point of consumption and not at the point of earning.

Taxes

India’s income tax contribution to GDP is very less. This, coupled with an increased fiscal deficit (the difference between country’s revenues and expenditure) makes the government spend less on, say,  health care or education.

On 25-July-2017, Deccan Chronicle published  a report that the number of India’s tax payers has increased – from 4 crore to 6.26 crore. Total population is 120 crores. Just 5.2% pay income tax.

So, people either pay taxes and enjoy benefits in, say, Singapore, or don’t pay taxes yet complain about lack of services – like movie actor Vijay – in India.

Now that this ‘intellectual’ has sought to compare, let us start with other parameters based on which comparison can be made. I have compiled most of these from from world bank data. Hence the data would not be fudged – like the income tax returns of movie actors.

Tax revenue as % of GDP

Tax Revenue as GDP Pct.jpg

Source: Here

Income Tax in Singapore

 

Property Tax in Singapore

SG Property Tax 2016.jpg

 

GST in Singapore

SG GST 2016.jpg

For a population of around 5 million and a GDP of USD 221 Bn, GST alone constitutes S$ 11.1 Bn. The revenue, not realized as income tax, is realized as a consumption tax. As there cannot be any evasion at the point of consumption, the GST in Singapore is serving its purpose and contributing towards nation building.

Source: Here

Health Expenditure ( % of GDP)

Heal Exp GDP %.jpg

Source: Here

Percapita Health Expenditure (USD)

Percapita Health Expenditure.jpg

Source: Here

Let us take this case. GST collection is S$ 11.1 Bn which is approximately US$ 8.2 Bn. Let us extrapolate Singapore’s per capita health care spending as US$ 3000. For her 3.5 million citizens, Singapore would have spent US$ 10.5 Bn only. Thus GST alone would have helped offset the health expenditure for her citizens ( assuming health care is free, while it is not). The remaining 1.5 million people in Singapore are either Permanent Residents or foreigners. There is a differential medical cost for these two categories.

So, when a country introduces a tax regime, it is for a purpose – to serve its citizens.

Military Expenditure as % of GDP

Mil Exp.jpg

Source: Here

A casual look at the percentage spend on military would reveal many facts. Considering the land areas of the two countries, doesn’t this spend disparity strike the eye? Why does India need to spend less or Singapore spend more? Yes, it is true that both the democracies are surrounded by not-so-friendly neighbours. But does that justify Singapore’s spend?

Well, it does. Military spend, however high it might be, is one of technology acquisition. And that translates directly into military superiority. And Singapore needs this military superiority. Not that there is going to be an invasion in the near future, but that a nation should be confident of its military prowess. With a minuscule population, as a nation, Singapore needs to maintain its technical superiority. And that is financed by her taxes, GST being one.

When that is applied to India, ‘intellectuals’ begin their boil. Why?

Armed forces personnel

Armed Forces Personnel.jpg

Source: Here

Armed forces need to be paid. From where does a nation get to pay them, if not for the taxes that she imposes on her citizens? India’s border with Pakistan alone is 2900 KM. To stop infiltration by terrorists, India has built 150,000 flood lights mounted on 50,000 poles. What could be the cost incurred for just the maintenance of these lights? How about the border with China, Myanmar, Nepal and Bangladesh? Any guesses ?

Banks NPA to Total Gross Loans (%)

NPA Banks.jpg

Source: Here

Banks, predominantly state owned in India, have a higher NPA. Various factors such as mismanagement, interference by political forces, subsidy culture, frequent directions to waive loans off for political gains and the like have contributed to this NPA. Not that Singapore banks don’t have NPA. They do. But the banks are professionally managed, and with little political interference, they run as corporate companies that work for a profit while at the same time acting as an extended arm of the state in financing national growth. (Before I forget – How many movie producers and actors are yet to service their loans from state owned banks in India?)

Labour Participation Rate

The proportion of the population ages 15 and older that is economically active: all people who supply labor for the production of goods and services.

Labour Participation Rate.jpg

Source: Here

44% of Singapore residents are economically active while, with such a huge population, less than 25% in India is so.

GDP per Person Employed

GDP per person employed.jpg

Source: Here

The contribution to GDP of each employed person in both Singapore and India paints a clear picture on the disparity of the situation.  On the one hand the non-tax paying groups, hoarders, anti-nationals, foreign funded NGOs that seek to create disturbance combine together to pull the nation down, while on the other, the tax paying salaried class has to bear the burden of thefts, freebies and dole-outs in India.  In this situation, how would the government get the resources necessary to ‘build hospitals instead of temples’ as the actor says?

Share of women employed in non-agricultural sector

Women in non-agri sector.jpg

Source: Here

Who stopped the Indian governments of the past from utilizing the women work force from contributing to nation building? Who was in power for around 60 years after independence? ‘Intellectuals’ should ask this question before questioning GST and advising on Hospitals.

Proportion of seats held by women in Parliament

Women proportion in parliament.jpg

Source: Here

For all tall talk for the last 70 years, dynastic rule, prejudices and discrimination have ensured that women don’t have adequate representation in parliament. Only when women take to politics in large numbers would some balance prevail in the skewed Indian political scheme. And no additional marks for guessing who didn’t promote more women in politics (Clue: Who ruled the country for 60 years?)

Coming to wealth generation for the country: Singapore has two Sovereign Wealth Funds (Temasek Holdings and GIC). These companies invest Singapore citizen’s surplus CPF contribution and other surplus in overseas markets. Eg: Temasek has holdings in SingTel while the latter has a major stake in India’s Air Tel. When Air Tel needs money to expand in, say Africa, DBS Bank, another Singapore bank with connections to Temasek, could lend money. When Air Tel makes money, SingTel smiles its way to the bank while DBS Bank also smiles, which in turn benefits Temasek and in turn, Singapore. And she spends the money on her citizens -health care, road, rail, airport modernization et al. (Recently Temasek has sold its stake in Air Tel to SingTel).

Temasek to contribute to Singapore’s kitty.

Temasek GLobal Spread

It is the combination of state capitalism, better tax realization, professional management of government companies and a corruption free government that has resulted in better facilities for Singapore citizens. Anything else would have resulted in disaster.

India cannot have a sovereign wealth fund, for there is no surplus and there is always a deficit in her budget. And the reasons are as above. Leave alone overseas investments. A mere mention of LIC money getting invested in the domestic stock market leads to so much hue and cry in the Indian media. So forget sovereign wealth funds and overseas investments.

Note to Actor Vijay & his dialogue writer(s):

Before I close, a point to ponder. I hear you have mentioned about building temples instead of hospitals. Well, in Tamil Nadu, the government doesn’t build temples. It destroys them under a new name – HR & CE. Again, you can’t compare with what happens in Singapore. The Hindu Endowments Board, constituted by the Singapore government, owns properties, takes rent and administers temples in Singapore from the funds accrued. And it maintains the temples. Underline the word ‘maintains’. Here is a pointer from a government gazette notification.

Singapore is a country run like a company for the genuine betterment of her citizens. India has been run as  a charity for 70 years, for the betterment of the different dynasties and their sycophants. Now, when a person tries to correct this anomaly, it would definitely be a pain for the history-sheeters, rent seekers, vagabonds, money launderers and communists. Teething pain, you see.

So, Actor Vijay – Before you sign up for the next Coca-Cola ad (after fighting for ‘water conservation’) or begin to mouth dialogues against taxation, read. Or am I asking for the moon?

References:

  1. http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/temasek-investments-in-india-at-10-billion-117071500043_1.html
  2. https://heb.org.sg/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/HEB-Gazette-2016.pdf
  3. https://www.iras.gov.sg/IRASHome/Publications/Statistics-and-Papers/Tax-Statistics/#NewBookmark
  4. http://www.worldbank.org/
  5. http://www.oecd.org/
  6. http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/government-economy/temasek-to-contribute-more-to-govt-coffers

For more on Singapore, its founding and development, visit these:

  1. Sage of Singapore 1
  2. Sage of Singapore 2
  3. Sage of Singapore 3

 

 

Clinton Cash – a review

61r6ec0lc4l-_ac_us327_fmwebp_ql65_The book ‘Clinton Cash’ talks about the not-so-graceful goings on in former President Bill Clinton’s foundation. The author  Peter Schweizer paints a vivid picture of the following :

  1. Why the US State Department opposes a matter
  2. Why Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, opposes a matter
  3. How a large donation finds its way into the Clinton Foundation
  4. Why Bill Clinton gets to deliver talks worth a few hundred thousand dollars
  5. Why the State Department reverses its earlier stand
  6. How Hillary Clinton helps in this reversal
  7. How government contracts are awarded to the donor

The above steps repeat so many times that one begins to anticipate these when a new matter comes up.

The stand, donation, speech, stand-reversal, govt contracts sequence happens in the following:

  1. Haiti Earthquake relief
  2. Rwanda Dictator support
  3. Sudan
  4. India’s Nuclear Deal
  5. Russia getting to own US Uranium mines

The part on the Indian civilian nuclear deal is not dealt with the requisite detail that would be needed for such intensely important items. The piece ignores the nuclear proliferation by China, the clandestine nuclear acquisition by Pakistan and the role played by the republican president George Bush in cementing the Indo-US Civilian nuclear deal – this part gives the book a pro-republican tinge.

The book is a fast read for one who is interested in the decimation of the so-called left liberal school. I am one.

IIT / NIT admission – state board performance

This graph shows IIT / NIT admissions by education board for the year 2016-17.

https://public.tableau.com/profile/amaruvi.devanathan#!/vizhome/shared/7KHCSBNW8

It clearly shows that CBSE students outshine the state board students. Telangana, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh boards do while Tamil Nadu State Board doesn’t appear in the list. Probably TN board students who got admission were so minuscule that they didn’t figure in the data set.

Time the educators make a note of this. ( based on data from india vidya . com)

 

Choices – book review

Shiv Shankar Menon’s book ‘Choices’ details his experiences as a diplomat and as a foreign secretary of India. He talks about his experiences in Chinese diplomacy, the Sri Lankan LTTE end game and the parleys that took place when he was at the helm, the Indo-US Nuclear deal negotiations under the Manmohan Singh government and India’s reaction (or was it restraint?) during the Mumbai terror attack.

516tb1hvcyl-_sx331_bo1204203200_We are treated to instances of statesmanship displayed by former Prime Ministers Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao and Vajpayee. The section where Menon says that whenever he spoke to Vajpayee, even when the latter was in the opposition, the latter had asked just one question -‘Is this good for India?’ – left me in tears. What statesmen have ruled us!

The section on the Sri Lankan episode when Menon says that all Tamil political parties in Tamil Nadu were in agreement to the destruction of the LTTE exposes the double games played by the political parties in the state of Tamil Nadu.

There is a chapter devoted to why India opted for ‘No first use’ of nuclear weapons. What all aspects go into such a decision, the need for such an abdication and the deep calculations that are behind such a major policy are explained in detail.

Why India didn’t retaliate after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks is explained as well. 

A fast paced memoir that touches on an ex-diplomat’s major assignments, ‘Choices’ could have been better written with more details on Sri Lanka and China.

Read this book for a helicopter view of the ‘Whys’ of India’s major foreign policy matters of the last 50 years,

What did #demonetization achieve ?

As an individual, I see the following as the fallout of #demonetization. You won’t find anything economical here, but everything logical. 

Made the local counsellor reach out to my Dad to see if I could transfer some money from Singapore to his business’s current account in India. In turn he would give more than an equivalent from his cash pile. He promised an apartment in addition to more than the value of the money hat he asked me to send. I declined, anyway. 

Made the house maid in Chennai remark,’ So what if Rs 1000 is withdrawn? I don’t have 1000 note anyway. Only hoarders are affected, aren’t they? Well, I wish more of such people are punished.’

Made the Ganges more polluted by having to carry sacks full of dumped cash. 

Made Rahul Gandhi return to India and stand in a queue, for the first time in his life.

As an aside, I saw all the 2G, Coal scam and Sharada scam accused come together, stand in front of parliament and demand justice for themselves. 

For the first time, an income tax assesse felt proud of paying his tax. 

Why do you call Nehru, ‘Panditji’ ?

‘Why do you say ‘Panditji’ while refering to Nehru? Why the honorific ;ji’? Do you concur with his policies?’ asks a reader.

Here is why:

Jawahar Lal Nehru, a Kasmiri Pandit, came into my world as Pandit Nehru. Neyveli, a brainchild of Nehru, Kamaraj, Venkatraman and C.Subramaniam, had Panditji enshrined in every possible space. I am a product of Jawahar School, named after him.

For me, Panditji, like Gandhiji, Netaji, Rajaji and Kamaraj, is a national hero. No doubt, he made mistakes (three costly ones included). So did all others.

A leader doesn’t come to us chiseled in pristine silver, but as a Pancha-Loka – a mixture of several characteristics and attributes. Some characteristics outshine the others. That is all about it.

Gandhiji too made mistakes. But that doesn’t diminish his sacrifice or achievements. So did Netaji. He aligned with Hitler, but for a greater cause. That doesn’t make Netaji a person not worthy of respect and awe.

Rajaji, for all his intellect and impeccable integrity, aligned with the anti-national DMK. I think it was a mistake. He wanted a referendum on Kashmir and later opposed the abolition of privy purse. But his stature doesn’t tumbledown due to that. For me, Rajaji would continue to be the best pragmatist and pro-market realist that India has ever had.

Similarly, despite his blunders on China, Kashmir and the pro-left economics, Panditji would continue to be a hero, albeit a tad lesser than Rajaji or Gandhiji.

Hence, for me, Nehru is Panditji. Period.

P.S.: Don’t expect any kind treatment of Panditji in my upcoming book ‘Our struggle for Truth, Sense and Honour – a Hindutva version of Indian History’. #realnehruhistory

Re-writing India, page by page

When Panditji, in 1963, requested the RSS to take part in the Republic Day parade as a thanksgiving for its services during the 1962 China war, the tide had begun to turn right.

Later, govt after govt, in wholly misplaced and now widely-acknowledged-as-stupid acts of appeasement, ably aided by liberal funding from missionaries and NGOs, continued to paint the RSS in bad light. This ensured that left-centric academic discourse alone hogged limelight and all other streams of thought were painted as backward and retrograde.

Decade after decade, large chunks of tax payer money was spent to write history with a Red tint, Green bias and White symphathy on the one hand, and anti-Saffron on the other. The damage this has done to the psyche of the nation did not deter the rulers and their psychophants who doubled up as gurus of great erudition.

This has resulted in brainwashing generations of Indians into believing that their days of glory didn’t exist, that theirs was a caste and superstition-ridden society and that the new age gurus were the Mughals and the British who brought some semblance of modernity and thought to the teeming millions of beggars, mendicants and snake charmers.

Anything in excess would only turn counter productive. Therefore the hatred-spewing and venom-spitting by the left media, missionary and academia have resulted in the following :

  1. RSS Prime Minister
  2. RSS President
  3. RSS Vice President
  4. RSS Chief Ministers in most states

Now is the time to write a true history of India, that does not care about the multitudes of harems of the Mughal emperors, but looks at the accomplishments of Rajendra Cholan, Travancore Kings, Chatrapathi Shivaji, the Bhosles, the Peshwas and other un-sung patriots.

Now is the time to correctly document the business acumen of the Chettiar community of South India, whose business prowess, even in the then not-so-modern times, were admirable and comparable to the current day Harvard Business grads.

Now is the time to write about our real heroes – Rani Mangamma of Madurai, Rani of Jhansi and the multitude of lady warriors who sacrificed their lives for their honour and for the honour of their states.

Now is the time to look at what happened in Kashi, Mathura and Ayodhya, and explain, without any bias, as to why what happened, happened.

Now is the time to make Indians feel that their ancestors were not stupids and idiots as they have been taught to believe.

Now is the time to re-write India, page by page.