Lyrics: The Call of the Journeyman

2013 has been snooze time, so far. Breaking the lull, here is yet another comeback to the WordPress world.

Yours truly has been rather busy of late, doing little more precious than precious little. In the interim, your friendly blogger penned lyrics for a soon-to-be-composed number, for a band.

Stanza excerpts from the song are shared below.

Thundering whispers,                                                 
Echo of a silent breath.                                                          
Jungle reflects all,                                                      
A ripple across the breadth.                                       
Atop the earth’s throne,                                                          
A flyspeck of nothingness,                                                      
Liberated soul.                                                                       
‘Who am I?’, I ask,                                                     
Peeping within the abyss                                            
A place that is mine.                                                   
Of words that remain wordless,                                              
Of fun and of strife,                                                     
A journey is, after all,
Making peace with life.


Lift spirits. Not lyrics.




A Socialistic Plutocracy

Numbers are sometimes useful in clearing a cynic’s attic. Here goes. A quick comparison of UK and India:

Entry car price / average graduate starting salaries: UK = 35-40%. India = 75-80%.

Petrol prices are about equal, so are personal income tax rates, so are real-estate rentals/capital values  (in Tier 1 cities). I could go on…

…so I will.

So are cappuccino prices, so are typical eat-out prices, so are F1 ticket prices (sans mongrel performances)…

The NHS in the UK, though battered and bruised, does its job decently well, generally. So does Social Security. (St. Paul’s Cathedral tent-bearers and Occupy Wall Street notwithstanding).

Indians are self-governing NHSes, each individual relying on instant outlays from one’s already tax-lightened wallets to ensure continued healthy existence. Health Insurance claims? They discharge their wallet weight reduction responsibilities reasonably well; while taking great care to ensure their own coffers are well-inventoried.

Probably it makes sense to peer at the Gini Index (a measure of income inequality. 0 being no inequality, 100% being maximum inequality). India figures at about the same levels as UK but below China.

However, it is important to zone in on how the things that count are counted.

Scratch the surface a bit and it turns out that the Indian measure has historically considered consumption expenditure and not incomes in measuring inequality. Given the each-to-his-own Social Security situation, saving rates are higher than the West. When income is taken into account, India races ahead of China on inequality.

So, we have a situation where prices of common consumption goods are generally on par with UK, income inequality is higher than its self-confessed economic competitor, China; service levels leave much to be desired…and yet, prices keep inching up.

While this grand entertainer is underway, the economists powers-that-be claim inflation is 10-11%. A few trips to the countryside will quickly puncture this hypothesis. A burger in a rural town costs only slightly lower than in a Tier 1 city. Considering that store rentals are a fraction of a city outlet, not to mention income levels, it is intriguing to see outlets prospering with such pricing.

Many will be quick to pounce on me, alleging that I have presented only a rudimentary picture of reality. It is probably a good idea (for the pouncers) that I stick to rudimentaries. When one pencils in the chasm in service quality levels, the divergences in consumption versus incomes become stark.

We are moving towards a picture of reality that points to the following:

  • Indian consumption patterns are evolving. And, rapidly. An increasing share of an individual’s wallet is being directed towards consumption. As a result, prices are galloping ahead of income growth and is likely to continue to do so. I can hear the dusty debt clock ticking
  • The parallel economy continues to exert a major influence on prices. A thorn named Anna Hazare could prick this bubble. While one remains skeptical, sustained momentum on this anti-corruption/black money front could trigger a reflexive correction in prices

The above scenarios point to two divergent implications for investing. If the first dominates, consumption appears to be an enticing story. If the latter gains ascendancy, the opposite positioning is called for.

More importantly, on the humour front, the contradictions are noteworthy. The supposedly capitalistic UK (and West, in general), debt-drowning problems notwithstanding, has a socialistic character; while the economic plutocracy known as India masquerades as a socialism!

The supposedly poor live in ornately constructed mansions in the countryside, deriving incomes from farming and land-leasing that generally do not disturb the tax coffers. But (un)surprisingly, they continue to appear poor. The wealthy, on the other hand, live in cities but do their best to re-emphasize their roots to poverty and/or farming at every possible opportunity. The incentive system goads the poor to continue remaining poor, or at least project an illusion of poverty; while the  wealthy are heavily incentivized to continue in their state of inertia.

What about the unwearying middle-class, tax-paying common man?

Source: Unknown

Jungle Nights

A misty morning chill gently awakens the senses. As time marches on, the fog perishes to the arrows of the sun, which assumes ferocity as the day progresses. Dark clouds take over as evening approaches; this time it is the sun’s turn to accept defeat, which calls it a day ahead of schedule. The scent of wet earth wafts through the air, as the scorched ground gratefully welcomes the rain. The crimson twilight transitions into the blackness of the night, with the moon nowhere in sight.

The combined assault of the rain and blustery winds perturbs the otherwise peace-loving trees. Where they towered motionless in the stillness of the morning air, they now morph into enraged giants sparring with the forces of nature. In the darkness, the trees seem to draw closer and appear larger. As the night advances and fatigue sets in, the torrential downpour recedes into a steady drizzle and the trees slip into a drenched slumber.

The groovy flicker of a candle penetrates the darkness, imparting a melancholic eeriness to things. Lifeless objects come to life through their shadows, which dance upon the walls in merriment. In the spartan cottage from where I write, electricity and time are expendable luxuries.

For I am in jungle territory.

A family of frogs come to life. Their sonorously rhythmic croaking breaks the tranquil night. Beginning sporadically, other members of the croaking brotherhood soon join in, drowning the chirping of the night cricket. A few of these little beauties, youngsters from their appearance, saunter next to me, contemplating a leap. I watch riveted for the eventuality. The prospect of a body less than an inch tall taking on a hurdle several times its height is captivating.

The leap is successful and the frogs are relieved.

The ride has transported them from the alien confines of my dwelling to the familiar vastness of the jungle.

I hear sounds amid the din of rainfall. A bat announces its arrival. My eyes catch a glimpse of the striking silhouette of its outstretched wings. The sighting is brief, for the bat dissolves into the darkness as quickly as it arrives, leaving no trace of its existence.

The candle drowns in its own waxy muddle. Time ticks by.

Screeches originate from a branch less than ten feet from me. My torch follows the sound and discovers the piercing eyes of an owl, staring at me inquiringly. The light stays focused. So do the eyes. I move the torch momentarily to prevent discomfiting the night watchman. When the torch swings back to its earlier position, it discovers emptiness.

The owl has disappeared.

A voice in my head reflexively recites an old verse.

We see what you see not,

Your visions murky, eyes rot.

When you turn, we shall be gone,

Whispering our hidden song.

Then you see what may not be,

Shadows move where light should be.

In the darkness, all but blind,

A restive silence befriends the mind.