The United States is Helping China Buy Gold


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The gold game’s afoot in China.

Easy Money


In June 2015, China declared having bought 604.34 tonnes of gold. It’s last declaration before this had come in April 2009, when it had declared to having bought 454 tonnes of gold.

It couldn’t have bought such a huge amount of gold all at once given the limited supply of the yellow metal. Between April 2009 and June 2015, China regularly bought gold. It only declared it all at once in June 2015. The country had followed a similar strategy before April 2009, as well. It had last declared having bought 99.5 tonnes of gold in December 2002.

Hence, even though China has been buying gold all along, it has chosen to do so quietly, instead of going public with it. The reason for this was fairly straightforward. Gold is a thinly traded commodity, and hence, it makes sense for China to keep accumulating gold at a slow and regular…

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[Fiction] The Quiet Man


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He was a quiet man. He sat there, stroking the rim of his nose absent-mindedly, his face modestly contorted in a frown which lent his personality an air of concentrated disgust. His face was scarred from the battles of youth: acne. The angry boils of his teenage years had cleared, but that had made no difference, they had merely settled, made themselves at home.

His clothes were unremarkable, a brown checked shirt, neatly pressed black trousers and recently polished cheap black shoes. He looked no different from everyone around him. It characterized the bourgeois. He didn’t know that. But he knew that was no measure of him. There was a difference. He knew it.

“Buddy, I’ll mail you the terms and conditions of our company. Go through it and intimate me of your acceptance. We’ll love to have you on our team.” the loud-mouthed HR representative, Manu negotiated with the new joinee on the adjacent table.

He looked up to see Manu, who had been looking in his general direction, smiling at him. He smiled back quickly. He hoped the smile had reached his eyes, he didn’t know. He went back to staring at his computer screen.

“One, two, three, four, five , six, seven, can you believe it?”, the pretty girl behind him chimed.

“What? What?”, her friend asked, excited.

“There are seven people wearing green today. Awesome no?”

“Just like that day with all those pink dresses. I think there were more pinkys though.”, said the guy sitting on the opposite computer, the one who was always surreptitiously stealing glances at her. The girls started giggling.

At lunch, that day, no one solicited his company. He bought ice cream to feel better. He proceeded to sit on an empty table in the cafeteria, the cone in hand. Sweet, quiet, purposeless contemplation.

“Aur Dubeyji, having lunch alone today?”, a voice interrupted him. It was the IT guy.

He merely smiled, not because it had been a rhetorical question, but because that was all he could do. The perfunctory and the frivolous held no interest for him, so he thought. His perpetual nervousness had cost him the hearty spontaneity which familiarity and proximity engender.

On the way back, in the empty elevator, he had time to look at himself in the mirror. He didn’t like it. He noticed an older body which wasn’t representative enough of his potential. He didn’t feel too good.

He had a report to give the boss in half an hour. He felt confident about that. He had nothing to report, with all the right reasons. His boss was always undecided on what he wanted, whether this was part of a larger scheme, he didn’t know. He had a nagging suspicion that information was held from him, that he was a mere pawn, another cog in the wheel. The larger picture was hazy and all he happened to desire was clarity.

After reaching his seat, he took a long sip from the water bottle carrying the sticker of his name. He had once gone through half the bottle in a hurry, only to realize that it wasn’t his name on the sticker. He had then emptied half his bottle into it to make it seem undisturbed. He had been careful ever since.

He went through what he was going to say in his mind. He knew he had to sell it well, otherwise it would just mean more pointless toiling, another day to kill. After he had done all he could, he picked his large notebook and set off. He had a purpose, at last.

“May I come in sir?” he knocked on the door.

“Yes, yes, come on in.” He entered, his notebook held across his chest.

“So, what have you got for me?”, the boss swivelled around from his computer to meet his eyes with a piercing gaze that had seen him through to the top.

“Nothing much, sir.” He realized he had gotten off on the wrong footing.

“What I mean, sir, is that there doesn’t seem to exist a reasonable degree of correlation between inflation, money supply and IIP.” The boss held the tips of his finger together and closed his eyes. That was not a good sign. This was his listening position. He was a incisive reasoner and a practiced listener. Right now, he wanted to hear a good reason. Fortunately, he had one prepared.

“Sir, the predictive nature of our model hangs on our ability to predict the change in the trend of inflation. Now, autocorrelation can give us that, but only with a lag. It has no predictive quality. The prediction of the change in the trend has to be accounted for by external factors like IIP and money supply, which simply do not provide us with enough information to make a reasonable estimate.” He had stated his case. He was satisfied. He had been succint and sensible, much suited to the boss’ taste. “The model is doomed to failure.” he wanted to add, to deliver the finishing blow.

The cabin was deathly quiet.

“Have you tried the seasonally adjusted values?” the boss inquired, his eyes still closed.

“Yes, sir.” he said hurriedly. He had not. He thought there wasn’t much value in that. Seasonally adjusted values merely smoothened the variations arising due to the seasons, but the inherent lack of correlation was nagging him.

“Okay, so what do you want to work on?”, the boss got out of his reverie.

He did not know what to say. This had been too easy. The haze returned. He couldn’t see clearly. He could not comprehend why all his hard work of months was going to be led to waste. Suddenly, he didn’t want what he had wanted. He wanted some form of resistance, something to tell him that he had not been a fool. He didn’t understand the pawn had the king under check. It was a victory, albeit minor. He would, eventually. Right then, he despised being a pawn.

“Sir, I wanted to work on the debt market, understand the contribution of the major participants and how the market works in the real world.” he said.

The boss nodded his head, his eyes closed again. He stood there, the notebook held close, hopeful and perplexed.

“I’ll think of a project appropriate for you and let you know by tomorrow. Till then I want a neat report of what you’ve been doing.” He nodded. He did not feel as glad as he had imagined. He realized he hadn’t been doing much all these days.

He walked back to his seat. The feeling began to sink in. He had been released from the anguish accompanying the feeling of being on a wild goose chase, the hopelessness which is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You don’t find the goose because somewhere inside you don’t want to.

He thought he had seen the slightest hint of a smile on the boss’ face when he was leaving. He drank some more water, a faint smile playing on his face.

When he reached home, his wife noticed and complimented his good mood, said that he should be more like this. He rolled his eyes and told her it wasn’t that simple.

The next day, he smiled confidently at the receptionist and wished her a very good morning. He reached his desk and noticed the new face in the usual crowd. He sat and got down to making the report. Soon, Manu arrived, the new guy in tow, making all the introductions, doing his job.

“Ashish, this is Pratik.” Manu began. He awkwardly turned his head away from them, his face slightly lopsided, one of his eyes slightly smaller than the other. Manu went on, “He works with the fund accounting team. He’s been here with us for around a year. This is Ashish, he is a project trainee who has joined us for an intern lasting, what two months?” he asked offhandedly.

“Yes, sir.” Ashish replied dutifully. They looked at each other and smiled.

“Manu, it’s Alok, not Pratik,” Manu’s assistant reminded him. She looked awfully embarrassed.

“Oh, I am so sorry.” Manu was suave as always. “Ashish, meet Alok.”

He forced himself to meet eyes with Ashish.

“Hi. Have a good time here.” He shook hands with the newcomer and smiled. It took an effort.

After they had gone along to make further introductions, he sunk his head and closed his eyes. He knew he was different. He was better than them.

The Age of Rockstars


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The old gods are dead. The new idols of liberal, democratic techno-capitalism are ‘rockstars’, to use a tellingly overused term.

They are aspirational deities, Schrodinger’s cats who’re simultaneously anti-establishment and of the establishment: people elevated by the (social) media into perfect, endearingly flawed demigods to fulfill our Enlightenment-era tendency to venerate individual genius.

Rockstars can now be found in almost every conceivable field (except those involving manual labour): Justin Trudeau, the rockstar politician; Elon Musk, the rockstar technologist; Steve Jobs, the rockstar businessman & visionary; Neil Gaiman, the literary rockstar.

We have start-ups falling over each other to hire rockstar software developers. Hell, we even have a rockstar RBI governor, arguably one of the most unsexiest jobs around before the advent of the articulate, stylishly bespectacled Raghuram Rajan.

If anything, the fact that ‘rockstar’ is now used to deify politicians, technologists, entrepreneurs, programmers and writers, everybody but musicians, is proof that while rock music may be commercially dead, its erstwhile practitioners still set the benchmark for fanatic devotion.

Trucking on NH39: India’s most dangerous highway


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A soldier keeps watch as trucks pass through NH39

A soldier keeps watch as trucks pass through NH39

By no stretch of imagination is Dimapur, the commercial hub of Nagaland, a pleasant place to live in. On a damp Sunday morning, it feels like I have walked into a tropical war zone — there is a strange uneasiness in the air and the roads have been chiselled away by passing trucks and frequent downpours into an uneven slush of concrete and mud: a consequence of frictional forces and persistent civic indifference. Continue reading

Witnessing the ancient migration of Kashmiri Gujjar nomads


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Home » Enterprise » Trend » A season of exodus A Season Of Exodus A truck ride through J&K in our special series, The Highway Economy Rajat UbhaykarAUG 25 , 2015 Photographs by Ozzie Hoppe A Gujjar family has finally found a ride and are loading their belongings, which include cloth bags bound by coir, and bundles of wood to keep them warm in the mountain pastures

A Gujjar family has finally found a ride and are loading their belongings, which include cloth bags bound by coir, and bundles of wood to keep them warm in the mountain pastures

The sun is high up in the sky and a column of dilapidated trucks trundling past kick up an opaque cloud of dust, enveloping everything in a fine layer of golden brown grime. I discover the muddy imprint of a dust-sweat admixture when I wipe my forehead with a handkerchief. The mercury has easily crossed 40 degrees Celsius here at the Transport Nagar along the NH44 in Jammu — a vast unpaved transitory home for trucks — much to everybody’s discomfort, and the ferocious sun beating down mercilessly is making my head throb. This must be the forewarnings of a sunstroke, I think, and plod to the nearest watermelon stand. Continue reading

Tracxn: Accelerating Start-Up Discovery For Venture Capitalists


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Tracxn founders Neha Singh & Abhishek Goyal

Tracxn founders Neha Singh & Abhishek Goyal

There is a start-up boom underway. Each day, a few budding start-ups founded by enthusiastic young students and college graduates open shop. According to Nasscom data, more than 3,100 tech start-ups were registered by the end of 2014 and the number is expected to rise to 11,500 by 2020. Many of them will down shutters in some time, while a handful will go on to become behemoths in their niche space, backed by big investor money. Continue reading

The Ustad Truck Decorators of Sirhind


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Photos by Ozzie Hoppe. Truck cabins have an underlying exoskeleton made of sal wood, which is why one can often see them crushed beyond recognition in grisly accidents.

Photos by Ozzie Hoppe. Truck cabins have an underlying exoskeleton made of sal wood, which is why one can often see them crushed beyond recognition in grisly accidents.

Barring an inconspicuous rectangular piece of metal engraved with ‘Mewa Singh & Co’ nailed to the side of the cabin door, in no way does Jorawar Singh’s truck betray the fact that it has been fashioned entirely by the human hand in a cacophonous karkhana and not assembled en masse out of a sterile company facility. Nor could anybody gather the truck body is wooden in its basic composition. To the lay eye, the truck body appears to be but a mere extension of the engine — a forbidding mass of metal you wouldn’t want to overtake on the wrong side of the highway. The reality, however, is much more fascinating. Continue reading

Book Review: India After Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha


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India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest DemocracyIndia After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy by Ramachandra Guha
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lest we begin taking the existence of India for granted. In this book, Ramachandra Guha takes on the difficult job of instilling a reasonable degree of patriotism in your average armchair skeptic without resorting to India-Pakistan jingoism or sanctimoniously reminding us of our glorious ancient history. He succeeds magnificently by furnishing an insightful post-independence (albeit Nehruvian) narrative history of India that sheds light on the unprecedented miracle that is the nation-state of India. This book is essential reading for every Indian who’s interested in understanding how we’ve come to be the way we are and where we might be going. After all, why must history end where India’s tryst with destiny begins?

View all my reviews

Book Review: A Bad Character by Deepti Kapoor


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A Bad CharacterA Bad Character by Deepti Kapoor

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Breathlessly narrated memoir posing as fiction. Has superb impressionistic prose with some of the best descriptions of Delhi I’ve read (and I’m counting City of Djinns and Capital here). Female sexual awakening & the perils of living in Delhi are the central themes of A Bad Character; how a 20-year-old college girl discovers life beyond classes and staid middle-class existence, aided by an ‘ugly’, dark, animal-like man (who looks like a servant, if not for his New York accent) whom she picks up at a cafe in Khan Market, because it turns her on, him being ugly and her being beautiful. He takes her to places in the city she would have never known, woos her vigorously and with considerable charm, before both of them latch on to the customary fate of rich, entitled Delhi boys who don’t need to work a day in their lives: the high road of alcohol, drugs, sex and ennui. Yes, the risque Indian novel is finally here. Continue reading

Book Review: Serious Men by Manu Joseph


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Serious MenSerious Men by Manu Joseph
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If cynicism is what passes for wisdom among the mediocre, Manu Joseph is terrific at being mediocre. India has found its Tom Wolfe in him. Joseph is a contemporary master of satire who writes eminently readable novels about losers who make bitingly funny observations about an inquitous world built and inherited by the accidental victors of history. He is unsparing and delightful in his politically incorrect barbs and no one escapes his scrutiny, not even the poor, whom Indian writers usually describe with a touch of obligatory compassion. His humour derives its force from a strange truth. That everything becomes absurd if observed closely enough, like a word loses its meaning if you stare at it long and hard, and breaks down into the assemblage of letters it is. Basically, if there’s one Indian writer whom I’d gladly have a drink with, it’s Manu Joseph.

Serious Men covers diverse ground in its 300-odd pages: caste in urban India, the scientific pursuit of truth, politics in academia, the exhilaration of illicit love, and of course, the bloodless war of the Brahmins. I won’t spoil it any further. You must discover it for yourself.

View all my reviews


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