Merci Arsene

I love sports, especially football. Arsenal is the only club I can say am a true fan of. It all started in the late 90s, in those days not like now when you have a lot of live sport on TV but World cup football was a still big deal, everyone would tune in and watch it. In one the matches, I remember one particular goal by Bergkamp goal  in the world cup that fascinated me. It was just sublime skill, from there on I became a fan of Bergkamp, of course, he went on to score many more beautiful goals. Since I was a fan and he came to Arsenal I started following Arsenal.

It was a great time to follow the gunners, they use to regularly win trophies or at least be challenging for the top prize. Then there was the unbelievable invincible team. Most of all I love Arsenal because of how they played. They played the beautiful game beautifully. The main reason was that they had a manager in Arsene Wenger, whose philosophy was simple. He believed that football has to be played in a certain way, and that way was beautiful passing attacking football. Under him, Arsenal became from being called ‘Boring, boring’ to one most of the most entertaining club. You just have to see some of the team goals they have scored to see that.

He was responsible for bringing numerous exciting footballers we got to see, Bergkamp, Pires, Henry, Fabregas, Ozil and so on. He had enormous faith in his brand of football. His belief in that philosophy was so strong that, the second decade of his career though there was plenty of criticism he never wavered. Many argue, including me that he was too set in his way. Arsenal needed a change and in his last few years, most people could see that we were not really challenging for the major trophies, worse we were probably degrading.

So the club even when it did not want to, had to let him go. I am happy it went this way, and unlike other clubs which fires managers so easily. Arsenal showed patience and did it the dignified way. There are many qualities I admire about him when you hear him speak there is always a dignity to it. He is a man of top quality, his conduct has always been top class.

He might not have won as many trophies as I would have liked. But I would not trade watching wonderful football for it. Thank you, Arsene for all the entertainment. Merci Arsene.

Mandarmani

One of my favorite short vacation destination is a place called Mandarmani. It is a seaside resort village. To travel to it, you can take a bus/car ride from Calcutta which will take you 4 hours.

I like it because the beach is nice and there are generally not many people. It is very different to the more famous Digha beach, there are just too many people around there. The hotels are all close to the beach itself, so you will get a great view and good breeze. The food served is very tasty if you like Bengali cuisine. One downside though is for what the hotel provides its a bit expensive.

There is nothing for sightseeing, it’s just beach, you can see some crabs but that’s it. If you just want to chill it’s an ideal place.

https://500px.com/hsushenon/galleries/mandarmani

Who do i read

 

Vir Sanghvi

He is probably the oldest writer I still follow now regularly. I started to read him when an article came in Hindustan Times on Sunday. He writes on varied topics mostly related to India. He is also a very good food critic.

 

Paul Thurrott

He was mentioned to me by my brother, from then on I have been following his posts. I have a keen interest in all thing Microsoft, and he writes very well about them. I also like the fact that he is very critical in his writings, you can’t call him a fanboy. If you read many tech writers, sometimes it feels like there is a bias.

 

Om Malik

One of my regular podcast watches is twit, he comes sometimes and I found his thoughts interesting.  His blog is mostly tech and related stuff, he writes very well, worth a read.Additionally, his photography skill is pretty good.

 

Bijan Sabet

One of Om’s post mentioned him, he is an amazing photographer. I love his work, especially the very interesting one he did on taking one photo per day for a whole year.

 

Seema Goswami

I started reading her short article in the Sunday magazine which came with Hindustan Times newspaper. Her sharp and witty take on different topics make her article very interesting to read.

Look up

Of late I have noticed that whenever I am traveling I spent a lot of time staring at my mobile. This is probably true for most people these days who have a smartphone. Whenever a moment arrives that you are not doing anything, your automatic tendency is to fetch your phone and start going through the messages, social sites, games etc. One of the things I enjoy to do is travel, even for short trip as I like to see new things. When you look out of the window of the vehicle even for the same journey there is always something new and interesting happening. So when I started to stick to my phone longer and longer, it was a cause of some alarm.

The other day when a lift arrived at the ground floor we saw a guy still busy with his phone and did not step out till someone told him to. Obviously later the people around started complaining how the newer generation are completely addicted to their phone these days. We all have noticed that even in a social gathering where people are expected to interact, you will see some just look down and play with their phone.

I agree more and more it seems like this has become an addiction for a lot of people. They just can’t live without their phone even for a short period. There is a term coined for this FOMO (Fear of missing out) “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent”

I now have put a rule on myself, where I make sure I do not spend too much time on the phone. I call it 50%, so basically if I am on a bus and if it takes 40 minutes to arrive at the destination, I will try and not spend more than 20 minutes on the phone.

My problem with Aadhaar

“Aadhaar is the world’s largest biometric ID system, with over 1.19 billion enrolled members as of 30 Nov 2017, representing over 99% of Indians aged 18 and above. World Bank Chief Economist Paul Romer described Aadhaar as ‘the most sophisticated ID programme in the world’”

Let me start by saying I totally like the idea of Aadhaar. The idea that almost everyone in India would have an ID that would work as proof of identity in the most scenario and it would be impossible to fake. For a country like India with its complexity and population, to get this done properly has huge benefits. Not only for the individual but also for the government and corporations. The whole identification process would become seamless.

My concern is right now it has become more than what it was plan for. Aadhaar is not just an ID card now, it is becoming a monster with all data linked to it. The government has done a fabulous job in getting most Indian to make one. Now it is forcing everyone to link it to all his other data like bank account/phone/tax etc. In itself if you think about it, it is fine if government wants to have everything under one umbrella, the concern is data breach. Once Aadhaar becomes all powerful then if there is a data breach that would be a huge disaster.

Recently I read an article where Bill Gates talks about Aadhaar a bit, very interesting what he says. Here are some quotes “Aadhaar is just a 12-digit lie detector. You may claim to be someone and Aadhaar can tell if you’re speaking the truth or lying. Yes, there are many applications linked to Aadhaar and there are records related to them. Privacy issues can come up with the applications that get built on top of Aadhaar. But none of the records reside on the Aadhaar system itself. The irony is that I often tell Nandan (Nilekani) that if I had built Aadhaar, I would have created it with many more inbuilt capabilities, but Nandan was very careful about not intruding on privacy.”

So the chief architect of Aadhaar Nandan Nilekani, who I respect because of what he has done with Infosys, had the idea from the very beginning of what it should be, at the core a lie detector. Problem is he is no longer in charge, the people now may be modifying the code as we speak and including all sorts of data in it. Another big issue is transparency, information flow has always been a big problem in India, many people say many different things and common people just do not understand fully. Most of the time they just do as told. So there is less clarity on the scope of Aadhaar and many doubts.

There are currently multiple cases being fought in the courts right now regarding this. Fundamental to them is the right to privacy, people are arguing that the government cannot force them to link their other data to it. They fear that their data are going to be misused. We will see what the court says, but people’s opinion is split now about Aadhaar. Many people legitimately fear(including me) and there are equally many sound people who argue that these are fears are baseless.

There have already been few data breaches mainly due to mischievous people who had access to the data and who leak them. The fear is there will be lot more and at larger scale, these are not good signs especially when the people in charge refuse to acknowledge that there are some problems.

I had a personal issue with it which raises my doubt. My dad had linked the gas subsidy to his bank in Canara bank long time back, he was getting the subsidy in that bank every time no issue. Then we open an ICICI account for him and connected the Aadhaar to it also(as is needed). The subsidy money started going to ICICI instead of Canara! This happened without our permission! and if I had not checked I would never have known as there was no notification. This kind of things creates doubt about how the system was developed and how its getting implemented now.

In my opinion, Aadhaar is a great concept but currently, it feels like something is broken with it. It is too important to not be near perfect. The government has to get this right. I hope they take security issue seriously and fix the loopholes.

Two is better than one

There are few things I have learned along the way which are worth sharing. Here are few which are club together with a general theme being multiple options are always better than having only one.

Bank account

There was a financial article I read sometimes back, basically, it suggested to create accounts for a specific purpose and use it for that purpose only. The idea being that money saved for a particular purpose is not mixed with others, this way it easier to focus and you do not end up over spending. It gave an example of a holiday trip abroad, for some people this might mean a saving for few years. I would not create too many accounts but I like the idea. In general, a person should have at least two.  I have an account for saving and an account for spending. I would put a particular amount from the saving one at some time to the other when it crosses a limit but this way I have more control over my expenditure. Let me explain it like this I have one big bucket of water and one small bucket of water, if I have to take water I almost always take it from the smaller bucket. Knowing it is a smaller bucket you will generally tend to take lesser water. Once you have set your virtual limit, you will be more aware when you spend. Additionally, when you calculate at the year end how it went, the financial statement is easier to read.

 

Browser

If you want to buy stuff online, like on Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal. You will notice that whenever you visit other sites like Facebook etc, there is a small section which reminds you of that stuff or similar stuff. This is because whenever you go to Amazon etc and look for a stuff to buy, it ‘remembers’ it in the browser, then feeds it as an ad when you visit other sites. At least for me, this is very annoying. One simple hack I found of dealing with it is, if I need to buy things I use another browser to do it, not my regular one. Like I regularly use Firefox, it’s my default but If I need to buy anything online, I will use IE or Chrome.

 

Email

Current email clients are pretty good at segregating emails to a category and prioritizing important emails. But this does not work perfectly, and If you are someone who gets a lot of emails, you will soon have a mess. What I do is create separate accounts for the separate purpose. So I have one mail id I use only for my family and close friend. Another for banks and other such related stuff. Yet another for public purposes. I have even one which is basically for junk, sometimes you require to give the email to try stuff. That is probably one too many but you get the idea.

Demonetization

Last year this time, the Prime minister announced demonetization with immediate effect. At that time I thought that the drastic step was a game changer. It all depended on how well the government was going to implement it. It soon became clear they had not done their homework, they had not done proper planning to take such a huge step which upset such a large part of the economy. They obviously did not fully understand the enormity of the task, did not understand the obvious problems which will come out. To be fair this kind of step, one cannot be fully prepared and some surprises were expected, but continuous missteps which caused innumerable pains for the common man were inexcusable.

The cash drought dragged on from days to weeks, only after a couple of months things started to get back to normal. In the meantime, many businesses slow down, some even shut down.The ripple effect was huge, workers were not paid or started to find that they were out of a job. Farmers had no cash to put into their crops and had to sell existing crops at a much more lower rate, marriages were postponed or severely scaled down. Numerous deaths were accounted for which directly/indirectly related to demonetization. Most people were not willing to spend, so economy came to a grinding halt. At that point, I was increasingly getting frustrated at the state of affair but I also noted that it was not the right time to judge if this exercise was worth it. We needed to wait for probably 6 more months before we see the full effect.

A year now, my opinion is that by most accounts economy has been hit badly, it has still not recovered yet, not sure it will anytime soon. Growth had slowed down. The push to get people to be less dependent on cash and more on the digital transactions worked initially but once people had cash again, most still prefer cash. There is still a long way before we become a mostly cashless society(note less cash means less likelihood of black money). The initial opinion was that a good portion of the black money which people stored in the banned 500 and 1000 notes would not be allowed back in the system as these were ill-gotten/unaccounted money so those people would be reluctant to expose themselves, so a loss for black money hoarders. Recently RBI has said more than 98% of the demonetized cash had come back to the system that means people were able to dupe the system and convert their black money. There is a famous word in Hindi, which is one of my favorite called ‘jugaad’, the government underestimated the people, they always find some way out.

Though my opinion is mostly negative, there were some positives, more people have started to use banks and other digital options. There was a surge in tax filings, the government was able to collect a lot. (The more the people get into the tax system the better it is for the whole country.) I have to give it to the government also, though there were many negatives, in many ways this was a loss for the economy but they were able to score high politically. They won the perception battle. People like me are in the minority, most people still view this exercise as a positive. For any politician that is what eventually matters most, if people agree with your policy then they will vote for you.