Believe it or not these are all structures made of Bamboo/Cloth/and other recyclable items only for the 4-5 days of the festival:
An art form that has hundred’s of years of experience cannot be wiped out easily, so is the case with classical music that still continues to survive in pockets and with some dedicated patrons. As with any dying art, it’s revival and resurrection largely depends upon infusion of the young to carry the tradition forward and keep it alive. Indian classical music, whether Hindustani or Carnatic is no different, both are fighting their respective battles for the same cause. The survival of an art form also, to some extent, depends on how relevant the current generation finds it to be. A stubborn art form that refuses to change with changing times almost surely set’s itself up for extinction.
Indian classical music has also survived quite well so far, due to more and more youngsters willing to take the mantle from aging practitioners of the art form and also because it is open to experimentation to make it as much palatable to the younger audiences as possible. My interest in Indian Classical music (Hindustani) was inspired by a song that was an fusion of pure classical music and western beats. I also would have to credit for this interest, a friend who had learnt Hindustani Classical on violin and helped me get introduced to newer ragas and it’s nuances. Nonetheless, I wanted to present a chance for all to listen to this beautiful composition set in Raag Durga (Late Evening Raga). The interesting part of this song is that it introduces us to the enchanting sound of Sarangi (stringed musical instrument) another instrument that is fast losing it’s presence. After I heard this song I heard many compositions in the same Raaga and also started exploring many other Raagas. I can only hope you love it just as much as I did when I heard it the first time. Hope classical music continues to reinvent itself and survives and gives us many such tunes to enjoy.
We all know that corruption is not a new phenomenon. documented evidences of corruption have been found in the mythological epics of most of the parts of the world. Corruption continues to be in limelight, probably more in the developing economies of the East than the developed ones of the West.Infact the picture often painted with respect to corruption is, that of a Clean West and a chaotic, murky and Corrupt East.
Corruption, like many other things, is tough to define in definite terms. For the sake of simplicity we would limit the scope here to, offerings of cash and kind in order to gain personal benefits. This is the most widely recognized and experienced form of corruption. I want to point out here that, while the developing countries of the east are seeing rapid increase of corrupt practices, the west cannot claim any moral superiority over the matter. On the contrary West has long been known for finding innovative ways to continue corrupt practices yet make it look clean and transparent on the outside. Also, the results of such corrupt practices are far-reaching and affect millions way beyond the boundaries of country where they are perpetrated.It is a known fact now that, the West at large had almost legalized methods of corruption and conveniently gave it the name of Lobbying. Lobbying as a concept had existed from early 19th century and became more prevalent and popular post The Great Depression of 1938. The so-called Cartels [Oil, Weapon, Pharmaceuticals etc.] appointed lobbyists to influence Senators/Congressmen/Parliamentarians and get favorable legislations passed in the Congress/Parliament. Benefits were mutual, the Cartels got benefits like
- Lower taxes
- Ability to bribe officials to gain contracts in other countries and claim tax benefit on it in their country of origin
- Gain Overseas and Domestic Government Contracts
- Lower interest rates for Loans
- Prevent unfavorable laws from being legislated
Every favor done to the respective Cartels, the legislators got either
- Election Funds
- Party Funds
- An Influential position in Private Sector
One would argue that in the East corruption impacts ordinary people and in the West it is restricted to the upper echelons of the power equation. One could also argue that in the East we have to bribe even if we have to obtain a birth certificate, whereas in the West such hassles don’t exist. Here I would like to present some facts that would indicate how debilitating the corrupt practices of west could be, way beyond the effect of corruption that the East sees from day-to-day.
- The strong lobbying of the rich and influential in the USA has ensured very low taxes for them compared to the middle class, often referred by Warren Buffet as key point to look into. Thus increasing the tax burden on ordinary people to meet the deficit and fund Government expenditure
- Strong lobbying by the Banks ensured near 0% interest rates and almost free supply of money across the world leading to an indiscreet granting of loans starting early 2000. It also ensured removal of regulations on banking and mortgages which led to the bloodbath of 2008, the ripple effects of which are still being felt.
- Strong lobbying by Banks ensured huge bailout packages at the expense of tax payers money leading to huge fiscal deficit, meaning reduced spending by Government on essential health care and other social benefits leading to job losses, reduced family income and expensive health care.
- Strong lobbying by Oil companies allowed BP to construct a reservoir with substandard material that eventually led to the oil spill and vast damage to the ecosystem.
All of the above have had far-reaching effect on not only the common man in the country where it originated but have spread to shores far beyond as a domino effect. The damage done is much more severe than what paying for a birth certificate could be. Doesn’t this smell like the same rotten stuff that one often associates with the East? Why then, do we perceive the West as more cleaner than the East? Aren’t they in the same rut as us? Aren’t we in a way suffering for corrupt practices committed way beyond our own shores?Ofcourse I am not justifying the corrupt practices of the east or indicating that it is better than that of the west. Both are equally condemnable and possibly tough to get rid off. There might be some merit in the thought of legalizing corruption and make it as transparent as possible. This is what the West has done and hence continue to be ranked high up in the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. Ofcourse the East has to deal with other factors, like literacy levels, before it could make any change in how the world perceives it.
- Increase trade collaboration within the EU member countries
- Reduce dependency on US $ to influence the exchange rate fluctuation
- Increased cross border employment opportunity
- Better cost parity across countries
- Opportunity for, the developing economies in the EU to restructure their economic fundamentals and pave way for growth
Euro today is only second to the US $ in terms of net worth and the currency in which global trade is being carried out. Also to a large extent it has managed to make itself immune from the number of $ in circulation, ofcourse a 100% immunity is neither possible nor desired. So all the 17 countries that agreed to convert to Euro soon came to be known as The Euro-Zone. Interestingly though, UK is not among the 17 countries, though Euro is accepted as a currency for trade but the Pound still remains their local currency.
Whatever limited success that Euro has enjoyed till date, it is quite interesting to note that there was one key inherent flaw. The flaw was that, there was a common monetary policy across the Euro-zone countries but there was no common fiscal policy across them. This meant that while it was understood by the Governments what currency they are dealing with and how much of it, there was no understanding about how each Government was spending them. It isn’t like the United States or India where, while each state makes their own independent decision on State Government expenditure but it is still within the framework of the Central Government. With the lack of such over-viewing body, each country had it’s own fiscal policy and went ahead and did whatever they thought was best for their people without realising that how it would affect other countries.
Governments in most countries, tend to spend on infrastructure to generate jobs in public sector, provide unemployment benefits and some of them offer pensions and other social benefits. These expenditures are to be funded.
A. You could print money to fund them (at the risk of inflation)
B. You could increase taxes (income/sales/service/excise/customs) and increase revenue (to the dissatisfaction of people)
C. You could borrow money against Government bonds (with risk of higher fiscal deficit).
All said and done the option that least impacted people immediately was borrowing money, hence lot of countries like Greece were known to have large fiscal deficit and used to borrow heavily to fund their social benefits programs. Individual countries making their own decision to provide benefit to their own people in the Euro Zone was interestingly coming at the expense of every other country also part of the same Euro Zone. Amidst this came the economic slow down of 2008 and what was worse was that banks were failing and falling like dry leaves. Even central banks of some countries lost their stability. There was only two option – allow the banks to fail or recapitalise the banks by injecting genuine (and not speculative) funds into them. The vote was in favor of injecting funds and billions of Euro’s were offered as bail out packages to these banks as they were seen as a the back bone of the economy and their failing or falling could lead to horrible bloodbath.This sort of paved way for more such stimulus funds or packages which has only made the matter worse.
With a linked currency, what it meant now was a country’s exports or imports could become expensive or cheap depending upon the exchange rate of the Euro. Greece suffered the consequences of this and suddenly found themselves in a position where their exports became expensive to buy and imports became expensive to sustain, thus further fueling their debt levels. Most countries like Greece or Spain, in order to raise money sold Government bonds to other countries and borrowed heavily, which meant that all the countries that bought these bonds became dependent directly on the well being of these countries. It is a catch 22 situation all the way. Let me explain.
- Countries like Greece or Spain have borrowed so heavily that they can continue to sustain only if they can still borrow; even if it means that their bonds are of no value. Which means the other countries have to suffer losses to sustain Greece
- There is a need to politically influence countries like Greece or Spain to reduce their respective public spending
- Reduced public spending would mean loss of jobs and incomes for households which would mean either higher unemployment benefit cost again leading to debt or reduced collection of tax and a shrinking GDP
- One could ask why not let Greece drop out of the Euro Zone and revert back to it’s old currency, well what about the bonds they sold to other countries? What worth would they be? What value will they get, indirectly it influences the financial stability of countries who bought these bonds
Not an easy decision to make, however what the Euro-zone Political leaders have agreed upon is inline with the problem we highlighted above
- Write off some part of Debts (non-repayment of loans), especially Greece
- Offer bailout package to sustain the countries
- Resort to AUSTERITY – a move popularised and strongly voiced by German Chancellor Angela Merkel – basically means reduced Government spending on social benefits and other activities to ensure the debts don’t increase dramatically.
It looks to be a fair decision provided, saving the Euro-Zone is a predetermined objective. Hence I said at the beginning it is the gravest battle that Euro-zone is fighting for it’s own survival. The country that could probably be smiling with a ‘ I told you So’ smile is UK, who have remained relatively immune to this turmoil and ofcouse so have been the 9 other EU members who decided to stay out of the Euro-Zone. The Political and Economic big-wigs of Europe are definitely making an all out effort to keep alive their baby (the Euro Zone) however, it is coming at an expense of competitiveness of individual countries to sustain and earn their way out of crisis.
If Greece is allowed to fall out of the Euro Zone they could devalue their currency which would make their exports cheaper and imports sustainable. This would aid them to earn greater returns from exports helping to minimise fiscal deficit. It would give them the opportunity to revive their economic health and rejoin Euro-Zone when in a better shape. Holding other countries contingent to Greece is like telling me that, how much I can spend today is dependent on how much my neighbor already spent yesterday. Because of Greece all other countries which are part of Euro Zone are now in the AUSTERITY mode which means reduced public spending. This has led to public outcry, loss of jobs, emotional turmoil, depression, suicides and many other repercussions of it. If Euro Zone has to be sustained the turmoil and disturbance is inevitable, infact leaders would like us to believe that the turmoil is only a trade-off for a long term benefit. However there are other options that could be explored if so desired.
This is the thing about Globalization, today nobody is entirely immune from what goes on in the other parts of the world. So if global economy has to recover, EU and Euro Zone play a crucial role in it. Hence their well being is as important as any.
Lance Armstrong was among those sporting icons who had managed to get fame beyond the boundaries of his own country and well beyond the followers of the sport that he patronized. He gave hope to people suffering from cancer as he fought against the disease and came back successfully to win series of Tour De France crown. Some of us might remember the yellow Livestrong bracelets that, both in it’s original and counterfeit form, had become widely popular across the world and were symbols of wide spread support for people fighting against cancer. Yet here is the man facing the most severest charges that would make people who trusted in him feel ashamed of. US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) indicates it has more than a strong case against Armstrong. With each passing day more and more of his former team mates are coming out with their own accounts of how they were bullied and coerced to fall in line with the doping practices prescribed by Lance Armstrong.
Whether he would come out of these allegations that are yet to be proved, remains to be seen. However there is no denying his skills as a cyclist that he demonstrated very early in his life though the doping charges threaten to completely obliterate his skills as a cyclist. It is essential to note that the charges against him start from year 1999, by then he was already an established professional cyclist winning many competitions and races in the US and Europe. He won two Tour De Force titles in 1993 (Stage 8) and 1995 (Stage 18). It was in 1996 that he was diagnosed with Testicular cancer. The big blotch though is that his famous wins at Tour De France, post his recovery from cancer, came within the years where he is alleged to have been deep into taking performance enhancement drugs, thus raising credibility about how much of his success could be attributed to his spirit and how much to the performance enhancement drugs. Can personal greed push one to such extreme acts?
Sporting standards have undoubtedly gone many notches higher. While the human body hasn’t evolved in any visible sense yet year over year athletes have improved dramatically and give performances that almost seem nonhuman-like. Most of the athletes and sportsmen (Cricket or Football) seem to play almost all through out the year defying the wear and tear of the body, swimmers and sprinters continue to better the event records. This doping allegation against Lance Armstrong raises fingers against all sporting icons in all fields! It leaves one with a sense of fear who the next sporting great could be, ready to fall from grace? How many of the performances that we have admired in various sports are the result of performance enhancement drugs? Are all the sportsmen adept in knowing how to take drugs and not get caught (less adept do get caught)? How much of a success in an event can be attributed to the athletes skills and how much to the enhancement from drugs?
It is scary to imagine if sports has become like a Daily Soap, playing to the needs of the viewers. What if sports was to be played out with predetermined scripts that get tweaked depending on what viewers want (betting scandal is already known)? Does the sport influence the viewer-ship or is the viewer-ship influencing the sport? Fate of Lance Armstrong would soon be decided, however I hope that it acts as a wake up call for many others in case if any have resorted to similar means. Criminal act of any nature and type never pays; it does come back to haunt the perpetrator one way or the other