Monthly Archives: December 2016

2016 was the Best of Times, and the Worst of Times

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techielobang.com

Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor

For revelers in India, the United States, and elsewhere in the world, I don’t want to make this retrospective look at 2016 too long.  I figured a few key thoughts in bullet points would suffice.  And then, carry on with your champagne!  Party like it’s the last time you’ll party, ever!

  • The United States is not only in decline, but in accelerating decline.  The real danger to Americans is not any external threat, but how much Americans hate one another.  This hatred is being openly exploited.  The new enemy is the enemy within.  Facts are rarely agreed upon any more.  This has made it exceedingly easy for external threats to damage the United States with minimal effort.  Then they sit back and laugh without firing a single shot.
  • 2016 was the best year ever in US-India government to government relations.  This relationship will only improve in 2017 regardless of the changes to be made under a new US administration.
  • We are heading closer toward the new world order of three fighters left in the ring: the United States, China, and India.  Europe has folded and is no longer in the game.  The United States is now the aging boxer who has gotten hit in the head one too many times (Rocky) who will hopefully train the young dark-skinned prodigy India (Creed) for the coming bouts of the future with another, stronger up-and-coming boxer named China.  Leadership of the mid-21st century world is now at stake.
  • India’s biggest 2016 paradigm-shifting event, demonetization happened on the same day as the 2016 US election, November 8.  DeMo is unquestionably an unmitigated and cruel short-term disaster, though this aggressive and authoritarian move may prove to have some benefits in the long-term, especially on the forced transition toward a cashless economy, and a steady increase in tax receipts.  Time should tell.
  • Despite the angry nationalistic tendencies sweeping across practically every white-majority country in the world with a vengeance, power is fast devolving from the nation-state to the city-state.  This massive devolution of power from national capitals towards cities such as Shanghai, Mumbai, Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Rio, San Francisco, and New York means that there is still hope for peace, inclusion, and climate change reversal on this earth despite bumbling national governments.

And with that usindiamonitor will leave you to your devices, on that relatively high note.  Happy new year, dear reader.  I would be pleased to see you back here in 2017.

 

 

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MOVIE REVIEW: One in a Billion, the Satnam Singh Documentary

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via ESPN

Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor

Imagine the extraordinarily low odds for any poor American rural kid to be able to make it to the NBA.  Those odds need to be multiplied many times over for a rural kid- even a gigantic one- from the state of Punjab in India to achieve the same goal.  And yet Satnam Singh Bhamara now stands on the cusp of finding a roster spot in the National Basketball Association.  The 7-foot-2 gentle giant was drafted in the second round of the 2015 NBA draft by the Dallas Mavericks, and currently plays in the Developmental League.  His epic rise, and the massive challenges he has had to overcome, are well-documented in the documentary film, One in a Billion, available as of this month on Netflix.  By no coincidence, Netflix is making major inroads into India.

One in a Billion does a fantastic job of laying out this story of someone who most basketball fans in the United States have not even heard of yet, a story whose ending is not yet written as Singh is just 21 years old.   The filmmakers gained access to a diverse bunch of people, including Singh’s family members, youth coaches, trainers, and teammates in both India and the United States, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, and Indian hoops journalist Karan Madhok.

The hero of the story could not possibly be easier to root for, regardless of your interest level in basketball.  Satnam’s relentless focus on improvement and positive energy in the face of obstacles, coupled with his desire to make family and country proud above all else is nothing short of inspiring.  He had to learn not only basketball but also English at a late age, which caused him major academic troubles in America.  The gym where he learned to play the game in India had a leaky roof and pigeons interrupting practices.

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via sportskeeda.com

Satnam also faced inordinate amounts of homesickness and culture shock coming from a remote North Indian village to Florida for high school, leaving all of his friends and family far behind.  In the film even the NBA, which is a giant profit-making machine, shows that it has a bit of heart despite the fact that high-level institutional support for Satnam is very much about tapping the 1.25 billion person India market for money.

There are moments that I really loved.  The Indian farm scenes are poignant and sad, despite the upward trajectory of one of the village’s favorite sons.  At one point Satnam’s black high school teammates at IMG Academy in Florida joked around with Satnam about dancing and impressing girls, and probed him about what India was like.  There are moments where Satnam’s high school coach praises him, and others where he yells at him.  Satnam’s workouts, drills, and game footage are also interspersed into the documentary and show his progression.  Satnam gets fitted for his first suit and then the draft-day hijinks are very intense, and well-shot.  I got chills in the scene where Satnam shook hands with Larry Bird, who runs basketball operations for the Indiana Pacers, my favorite team.  Satnam in a Pacers uniform would be My. Dream. Come. True.

“People may look back on that date, and say that was the tipping point for basketball in India,” says Silver about Satnam’s drafting in the film.  I tend to agree.  India is too big to have just one major sport.  It’s possible that at some future date, basketball might one day give cricket a run for its money in India.  Personally, I can’t wait for that day to come, and for Singh, the Bhullar brothers, and others to pave the way for more Indians in pro basketball in the NBA and around the world.

In the meanwhile, this movie is the definitive account of how it all started.  Credit director Roman Gackowski and the whole crew for that.

MoNa Ki Baat: Cash Ka Kasht. Bundles of Black Hidden, DeMo Happened. What Now?

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EDITOR’S NOTE:

About MoNa:

I am a real human.  I live in India.  I love India and Narendra Modi (NaMo) for his vision for a clean, developed and economically vibrant India. I also love beef, pork, sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling and rock’ n roll (in no specific order).

MoNa will now take your questions!!!  Today, we have the second-ever installment of the MoNa series known as MoNa Ki Baat.  Stay tuned for more from MoNa in the near future.

***

Dear MoNa,

My late grandfather, who started my family’s business over 60 years ago, said to never show our net worth publicly, or we would be bankrupted.  So, in spite of being able to afford to drive a new BMW every year, I choose to ride a scooter around town. Myself and my cousins all work in the family business of jewellery and we are well known in our temple town. We never cheat a paying customer out of the goods purchased and our gold is the purest in a 50 KM radius. God has been kind, Gold has been Gold and our family business has flourished.

Like many, our store deals in mostly cash.  Nearly all customers pay in cash. Separately, we must pay government officials, the local Hindu temple, and an assortment of cops and “goondas” for permits, licenses, delivery rights, physical bodily protection, smooth flow of utilities, and to avoid sham investigations and inspections into our property. In fact, I have retained a broker on staff whose job is to handle these negotiations and payments, along with debt collections.  You may not be surprised to hear, he is a non-vegetarian and also black belt in karate and Silambam.

DeMo has come as a shock to the family. Our family dark room contains briefcases full of cash and an assortment of other valuables.  One of the reasons we have survived in business so long is by hiding our stockpiles of cash from the bankers, who are all sharing the bed with politicians, bureaucrats, and the assortment of cops and “goondas” in my town who would expect my payments to increase to unsustainable levels beyond the legal taxes.

B.Com is not preparing us for this!  Please provide the needful guidance, whatever you think is best.

– Satya Satyanarayanan, Undisclosed location, SOUTH INDIA

***

Dear Satya,

Your dad should have named you Suppandi. You have done everything wrong other than being in the business of Gold, but, since that was your grandfather’s doing, you can’t even take credit for that, Suppandi.

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via Tinkleonline.com

Here’s what you do –

  1. Throw a party with non-vegetarian food, dancing girls and alcohol – invite the assortment of goondas, bureaucrats, cops, politicians and bankers from your town. You will be surprised at the solutions that will emerge in the presence of permissive girls and alcohol. Your current problems will vanish and your business will flourish to greater heights than your grandfather ever dreamed of. Word of caution though – keep away from taking too many loans from your new found banker friends. I will connect you with my friend Vijay Mallya for advice on how to navigate that maze whenever you feel overwhelmed.

  2. Once your new found friends get you out of your current pickle, change your lifestyle. Buy things, get girlfriends, make assorted chinna veedus, go on foreign vacations and spend your money. You might be right about not spending on that BMW, though. Dipa Karmakar can vouch for the parking and driving problems with a 5 series in small towns

  3. If all else fails, have your Silambam fellow secretly take photos and videos at the parties, using great precautions to keep the camera hidden, so that your “black” problem can conveniently become someone else’s “black-mail” problem.

Word of caution on your new life and a new set of creatures you will see called MBAs who will try to sell you on a concept called “cashless”. Make them believe that you are in awe of their brilliance and maybe even invest in their businesses which they call “fintech”. But, you keep your business the way it is. You can tell who your real friends, customers and associates are when they say – “Cash only, please”. Your real real friends will say – “US Dollars or Swiss Francs only, please”.

All the best, my dear Suppandi. I am available for that party and will collect my attendance fee in gold only, please.  The hidden cameras are only active up until I arrive, fashionably late of course. 😉

—MoNa

MoNa Ki Baat: Confused & Concerned Indian Patriot Stoner Movie Buff

EDITOR’S NOTE:

About MoNa:

I am a real human.  I live in India.  I love India and Narendra Modi (NaMo) for his vision for a clean, developed and economically vibrant India. I also love beef, pork, sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling and rock’n’roll (in no specific order).

MoNa will now take your questions!!!  Today, we have the first installment of the MoNa series known as MoNa Ki Baat.  Stay tuned for more from MoNa in the near future.

pic via economictimes.com

Dear MoNa:

The Honorable Supreme Court has decreed that every patriotic Indian has to stand for the National Anthem before every movie. I support the notion of national symbols and ritualistic following of these symbols in public gatherings to inculcate a feeling of one-ness among fellow citizens. However, I am struggling with a conundrum and I need your advice.

I have begun to enjoy movie while high since I have found through rigorous experimentation i.e. watching several movies while sober, drunk and after stoned (and also alcohol/weed combos), that the experience of the movie is the most superior when watched after smoking half a joint (and no alcohol). I found the experience to be so uniquely good that I am now not interested in enjoying the movies any other way. I must go on to add that at no point in time, have I ever been a nuisance to anybody in the theatre nor have I ever damaged any public property unlike many people walking the streets under the influence of alcohol. But, that’s beside the point and a topic for a future debate.

I also sing the National Anthem with fervour at any opportunity I get.  Each time I sing the National Anthem in the company of my fellow Indians, it has renewed my wish to see India and Indians prosper and be happy. Each time I have sung the National Anthem, I have also been acutely reminded of the challenges facing our great nation which has almost always caused an onset of a sombre mood.

Now, my conundrum. So, here I am – a patriotic Indian, love my country, will sing and stand erect for the National Anthem at the drop of a hat and I am stoned in anticipation of a good movie experience. I am afraid that post the mandatory Anthem, which I will surely sing aloud, I will fail to enjoy the movie because of the inevitable tinge of sadness that I will feel. I am also paranoid that I might turn into one of the patriots who ask people that don’t stand for the Anthem to leave the theatre.

What should I do? Unfortunately for me, while I believe that I am as much as a patriot as anyone, I cannot/will not sacrifice my pleasures for the sake of my country like our Honourable Prime Minister has.

Signed,

Mahri Jann, Ootakamandalam, Tamil Nadu, INDIA

***

Dear Mahri Jann:

pic via National Geographic

I must say that your problem seems to be caused by extreme patriotism and you don’t seem to be the demography which the Honourable Supreme Court was talking about while framing this judgement. Surely you agree with me that people who are Indian citizens should never forget their Indian-ness and what better way than to make them hear the National Anthem frequently. The Honourable Court must be aware that people have stopped attending public events organized by schools, colleges and government organizations in favour of spending their time in pursuing frivolous pastimes like watching movies. Hence, playing the National Anthem in the theatres would be a good way to achieve the goal.

The easiest solution to your problem would be for you to leave and find another place where you can enjoy the movies without having to hear/sing the Anthem. I hear California has good weather and will also have the added benefit from next year of legal marijuana. However, this would be the same as the solution for beef-eaters to go to Pakistan. Though, I wonder why Pakistan and not Argentina or Australia which has the best beef available. I guess because the non-beef eaters who suggested that the beef-eaters go to Pakistan suffered from the same affliction that Modiji suffered from when he forgot about all those weddings in the demonetization announcement. Also, the same affliction suffered by the bureaucrats who allowed 2.5Lac for weddings, albeit in a lesser degree.

I digress. Leaving the country is never an option since no country is perfect as the election of Donald Trump has proven. Give it time for our government, our judiciary and our police to all understand that achieving “one-ness” at the cost of “uniqueness/diversity” is not the right way forward. Till that time, I have the following suggestions:

  1. Tone down your patriotism – Stand up for the Anthem as directed by the Supreme Court, but, skip the singing and definitely skip the kicking sitting people out of the theatre bit. Kicking a person out of the theatre for not standing during the Anthem is in the same realm of vigilantism as killing someone for eating beef
  2. Walk in a bit late into the movie hall – Since the Honourable Supreme Court has said that the anthem has to be exactly 52 seconds in length, this should be possible to do without missing the start of the movie
  3. Stop watching movies in the theatre – I understand Mukesh Ambani has a movie theatre in his house. Maybe you can become his roommate? Also, I wonder if the Honourable Supreme Court’s decision is applicable to movies played in privately owned movie theatres. Alternatively, if Mukesh Ambani (or Nita Ambani) gets a restraining order on you, build your own theatre.

—MoNa

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