Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Short Film script

Theme : "A boy goes on a date with a girl of about the same age for the first time. The boy is a gizmo geek and he gets busy with his blackberry........


Scene : At a park outside a coffee shop, the GIRL is already waiting at the entrance. All around, people are jogging, couples are walking together and chit-chatting. She glances at her watch and purses her lips nervously.

GIRL (looking around slowly) : Kahin galat spot par to nahin aa gayee na ? I guess we had decided on the park gate opposite Cafe Coffee Day.

She carefully examines some boys, but decides they are not whom she has a date with.

Then an autorickshaw halts right in front of the park gate, and the BOY exits quickly after paying the fare. He spots the girl at the park gate. He checks his BlackBerry and looks at her Facebook photo to confirm. She's the same girl.

BOY : (To himself) There she is.

He walks briskly towards her. Now the girl too spots the boy walking quickly towards her. She determines he's her date and raises her hand to wave at him. Boy waves back and finally reaches her.

BOY : (Smiling nervously) Hi. You're Sheetal right ?

GIRL : (Smiles back) Yes. Hi Rajiv.

BOY : Sorry, I'm a bit late. There was a morcha near SV road....so..the auto

GIRL : Its OK, no problem. Mujhe bhi sirf 5 minutes hue yahaan.

BOY : (Relieved) OK fine (looks to the cafe). What do you say we do ? Shall we walk around the park, or go to the cafe directly ?

GIRL : Umm...kuch bhi....Er...let's have a walk first ?


They start to walk slowly. Since they're a bit shy, they look here and there but not at each other for 8 to 10 seconds.

BOY : (Speaks finally after a few tense moments) You look the same as in your Facebook profile. Not a change at all.

GIRL : (A bit shyly) Oh...thanks. You look the same too, except for the hairstyle.

Boy struggles a little to take out his Blackberry from his tight jeans. Girl tries to hide her excitement, while anticipating a small gift like a chocolate bar, or momento.

BOY : (After taking out his Blackberry) See your Facebook profile ? I actually spotted you immediately when I got down from the autorickshaw.

GIRL : Oh...yes, you're right. Maine waisi hi dress pehnee hai.

BOY : Shall I show you my status update ? (quickly pushes some buttons. Then shows the screen of his Blackberry to the girl.)

GIRL : Nice....That's sweet. (She gets more shy, as his status update reads : "On my first date with Sheetal. At the Joggers park in the evening".

Boy glances a look at the girl, and senses her shyness.

BOY : Oh...nothing much. I actually updated it just now in the autorickshaw. This Blackberry has a good internet connectivity and is quite fast.

GIRL : Yes.

Both continue walking. Boy now keys in something on the phone before sliding it onto his pocket. Due to that, he gently bumps into the girl.

BOY : (straightening himself) Oh I'm sorry. Tum theek ho ?

GIRL : (almost blushing) No problem. I saw you were logging out of Facebook, so you probably missed.

BOY : (smiles nervously and looks at her) Heh heh....yeah.

GIRL : Yes....So umm....what do you do ?

BOY : I'm in my final year at JJ college. What about you ?

GIRL : I'm in my final year at Xaviers.

BOY : Oh, good college.

GIRL : (shyly) Yeah.

By now they've completed a round of the park.

GIRL : Chalo, shall we go to the cafe ?

BOY : Sure.

They walk up to the restaurant and halt at the entrance.

GIRL : We can get a seat facing the park....(scans the seats). How about that one ?

BOY : Sure. Its good.

Girl proceeds to the seat, hoping that the Boy will help her get seated. But when she turns around, the Boy is busy taking snaps of the park on his Blackberry. She just continues standing a bit sheepishly for a few seconds.

After a few seconds, the Boy spots her standing near the seat, and rushes to her.

BOY : Oh Sorry. I just thought I'd take a few snaps of the park where we first met.

GIRL : (smiles awkwardly) No problem....ahem.

Boy helps the girl get seated. But when he proceeds to his own seat, he bumps into a waiter, and his Blackbery falls down.

BOY : (in a loud voice) Oh no !

Waiter : Sorry sir.

GIRL : (anxiously) Kya hua ?

Boy hurriedly picks up his phone, and punches a few keys. Heaves a sigh of relief.

BOY : (To waiter) Arey, no problem. (To girl) I thought mera phone was ruined.....I..

GIRL : I hope nothing happened.

BOY : Thankfully nothing.

Girl is now impressed that he did not shout at the waiter, as she'd read somewhere that this is a sign of a good nature.

GIRL : That's good. Shall we order ?

BOY : Yes. Tum choose karo.

Girl scans the menu, a bit pleased that the Boy offered her to choose.

GIRL : How about a Mexican Pizza ? (looks up from the menu to the boy).

She sees the boy thumbing on his Blackberry again. He doesn't respond.

GIRL : Er....Rajiv, did you choose already ?

BOY : (As if startled) Uh...no. I thought tumne kuch chose kiya, right ?

Girl tilts her neck and glances at his Blackberry for a second. Then she looks at him with a confused expression, a bit disappointed that he didn't listen to what she said just now. Then she looks at her menu again and speaks.

GIRL : Ahem....Actually, I said how about a Mexican pizza ?

BOY : (Now looks up) Great. I'll have that too.

GIRL : Waiter ?

Waiter comes and takes the order.

Waiter : Any juice or soft drinks madam ?

Girl looks at boy with an inquisitive look on her face.

BOY : Pepsi for me. How about you ?

GIRL : Sure.

(To waiter) Two Pepsis also please.

Waiter goes away.

GIRL : Phone par koi important message tha kya ?

BOY : No. Not at all ! Just checking some SMSs, that's all.

Girl now thinks that the boy is fidgeting with his Blackberry, because he is probably nervous. She now decides to cut the ice and diffuse the tenson.

GIRL : Well, so how's life at JJ ? I've heard your college festival was very good.

BOY : Yes. It was quite good. Xaviers ke muquable ka hai.

GIRL : Hmmmm....I've heard that too.

BOY : So, can you tell me about your hobbies ?

GIRL : (A bit relaxed. Tosses her hair shyly.) Umm....I like reading fiction, swimming......

She hasn't completed her sentence, and the Blackberry rings loudly. The ringtone is a loud rock-song by Rihanna. Some other people in restaurant too glance in their direction because of its loudness.

GIRL : (A bit startled) Oh....I...er… like that song.

But the boy has already picked it up and started chatting. He lunges back on his chair a bit stylishly, and talks for a few seconds. The girl meanwhile looks around silently, scratches her hair, taps the table with the fork and then looks on the table, waiting for his conversation to finish.

BOY : (Disconnects and hunches forward on the table) Oh I'm sorry. That was a friend from college.

Then his forehead develops creases, and he furiously punches something on it. Then he looks up.

BOY : Ok. You were saying something ?

GIRL : (Sighing, and gives a weak smile) Main keh rahi thi, that my hobbies were reading fiction, swimming, and even blogging.

BOY : I like blogging too. I blog from my Blackberry to express myself. (He chuckles and beams a smile)

Boy now puts his Blackberry forward to the girl and opens his blog. Girl scrolls down the blog to read something. Now the Boy suddenly develops an excited expression on his face, and snatches the phone from her.

BOY : Wait, just a second. You can even make a voice comment on my blog through this (punches a few keys and passes the phone to her)

GIRL : (now feeling awkward) Uhh..? Yes, I can see that.

BOY : Toh...kuch bolo.

GIRL (on the phone speaker. Expression is blank) : Err....Hi Rajiv. This is Sheetal. Nice blog, keep it up.

BOY : (shyly, looks on the table and glances at her) Thanks for your comment.

Their pizza and soft drink arrive. Both take a slice each, and start eating.

Now the Boy eats with only one hand, while he holds his Blackberry with the other. The girl now concludes that he is a techno-holic. She nevertheless likes him.

GIRL : (To Herself) Yaar, the guy's fine but yeh to phone par hi chipak gaya hai. Is he nervous ? Mujh par dhyaan detaa hai, lekin baar baar phone mein ghus jaata hai. How do I divert his attention from the phone to me ?

While eating, the Boy occasionally looks up to the GIRL from his BlackBerry and smiles very shyly. She too smiles back shyly, but awkwardly. Then she has a glance at his BlackBerry and gets an idea. She smiles to herself.

GIRL : (hinging forward towards Rajiv) Achha, you're from JJ college right ?

BOY : (munching his pizza and looks up from his BlackBerry) Yes.

GIRL : Do you know Sushmita....Lalwani...Mangwani ....something ?

BOY : (munches slowly, and jogs his memory) Sushmitaaaa.....yes I think so. She's in second year, right ?

GIRL : Well, I can't remember. (Now eyes brighten up) But I have her photo on my phone !

She slowly takes out her phone from her bag. It is an iPhone-4, which is the latest iPhone model. As she casually scrolls though the pics, the Boy is a bit stunned and stops chewing.

GIRL : Haan, yeh rahi. See ? (Passes her phone to the Boy).

BOY : (Sheepishly and awkwardly) Oh...yes,yes...that's Sushmita...heh heh....sh...she..she's in ssecond year.

Boy wipes his face.

GIRL : Thank God the phone's photo is visible. That's what is good about it. Iss phone mein photos ka background etc. can be changed, you know ? 12 megapixel camera. So photos are crystal clear. Baaki toh its just okaaaay. Theek-thaak phone hai. (makes a bored face. Rolls eyes).

BOY : (Still staring at the phone) Huh ?...yeah, right!

Girl then slowly slides the phone into her hand-bag. Boy looks up to her. Then girl's eyes and boy's eyes meet. They stare at each other for 2 seconds, and an unsaid communication happens.

BOY : Er...heh..heh..Hey did I tell you my hobbies ? (Quietly slides his BlackBerry into his pocket, for good now. Hands on table and looks fixed on his date).

GIRL : (excitedly) No. Tell me, na ?

BOY : Well, I like reading books, movies, even Harry Potter..........

GIRL : I love Harry Potter !

BOY : Have you seen all the movies ? I missed the last one....

They have a good date thereafter, without distraction from phones and other gadgets.

--- The End. ---

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Dominance of the US Dollar - 2

This post is the second and final one in this series. In the previous post, we observed the history of how the US dollar came to dominate world trade, and how it became the global reserve currency. In this post, we shall see how the US dollar is instrumental in America's supremacy as a global powerhouse, and how the US struggles to keep it as the world's preferred reserve currency. Most importantly, we shall also see why the US dollar cannot be replaced by any other currency, as the global reserve currency.

We may summarize the points made thus far :-

1) A currency note is an IOU (I Owe You), and acts as a receipt of debt.

2) Under normal circumstances, i.e. between individuals and businesses WITHIN a country, a currency note cannot be redeemed later for hard goods and services. So, your milkman cannot come your house and demand your cricket bat in lieu of the very Rs. 100 note that you handed him last evening. He will instead circulate the same note to buy some goods elsewhere --- essentially, he is circulating debt.

3) However between nations, this does not happen. Currency obtained after trading internationally used to be sent back to the country of its origin in lieu of gold. How much gold a unit of currency of a particular nation could buy was settled by international consensus.

4) After World War-II ended, the economies of many countries had collapsed. But the US was far less affected and emerged as the only strong "survivor". So, many nations including the UK, France and Germany agreed to borrow US dollar debt and circulate it internationally. The debt would be returned in gold to the US Federal reserve.

5) Also, newly formed oil-rich nations like Saudi Arabia and Iran decide to accept dollar circulation. They wanted American exports and technology from firms like Boeing, GE and DuPont. So, they were sure that if they presented them with dollar notes that fell into their accounts, they could be redeemed for imports from the US.

6) Other countries that wanted oil from these middle east nations, too started accumulating US dollars. These were India, China, Malaysia, etc. Besides, whenever a nation had any dollars left after all their import (like oil) were met, they could -- in principle -- get those dollars exchanged for gold from the US Federal Reserve (equivalent to our RBI).

7) However, the US dollar was backed by gold. In effect, as mentioned in point 6) any nation which had a surplus reserve of dollars in its possession, could redeem them for gold from the US Federal Reserve. This was in accordance with the principle that every medium of exchange must be a universal and valuable commodity. The price of gold was also fixed at $35 an ounce.

As we saw earlier, after WW2 only the US seemed to be in a position to lend to the world in order to revive the economies of other countries. We may recall from our last discussion that after WW2, the US was the kind of "last man standing". Its finances were still robust and industry was the most mature. This was unlike UK, France and Germany, which were ravaged in the war's aftermath and financially almost bankrupt. Japan was on the brink of being a failed state after two nuclear weapons were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So these countries lent heavily from the US (in dollars), and later had to repay the US back their debt in gold (or even dollars accumulated from favourable trading elsewhere).

Now the question arises, that as the economies of the world grew and trade grew, how was the supply of dollars maintained ? Now the world economy could not actually grow on the fixed dollar supply that the US had "let loose" globally. Economies must (and do) grow over the long term, and a growing economy must have a growing money supply to facilitate the growing exchange of goods & services. Here the US consumer -- relatively unscathed after WW2 -- came in. The American consumer started demanding cheap goods and commodities. So, crude oil was imported from the middle-east, textiles from Asia and cheap electronics from Japan and Taiwan (Later cars also. Toyota, Honda et al). In this way more dollars entered into circulation in the global economy.

Now we may recall our discussion from Part-1 of this series on how exchange rates between any 2 nations are determined. After WW2, most nations needed imports from the US of heavy machinery, power plants and technology to rebuild their nations. In return, they "clamoured" to export cheap commodities like oil, textiles and electronic items to the US consumer. This led to the US dollar strengthening against almost all currencies globally. In effect, the US was actually taxing the world for rebuilding it after the war. This was very beneficial for the American economy, as it could import commodities at cheaper rates for its consumers, and export hi-value goods at the prices that the US fixed. This led to not only windfall profits, but in accelerating the development of industry and consumer behaviour in the US. This phenomenon is in play even today. In fact, since most nations competed amongst themselves to export to the US, this exacerbated in the US imports becoming even more cheaper.

Now an important sequence of events occurred in the late 1960s. The US was running huge losses in maintaining the Vietnam war. The expenses were so huge that the US actually printed hundreds of millions of currency notes (simply IOUs as we saw earlier) to finance its loss-making operations in Vietnam. Simultaneously, the American consumer who was proverbially "spoilt for choice" for cheap imports, was consuming much more than any past precedents. The US imports now outstripped its exports by a wide margin; or in other words, it began to run trade deficits.

At this juncture, nations (after seeing this worsening financial situation) began demanding gold from the US Federal Reserve in exchange for the excess dollar reserves that they'd accumulated. In 1971, the then US administration under President Richard Nixon decided that there are not enough gold reserves to pay the nations, which were presenting them with excess accumulated dollars. So he declared that the US dollar was no longer convertible to gold. Hence, in an unprecedented move the basic principle of a medium of exchange was broken :- there was absolutely NO central commodity like gold, which remained a medium of exchange, or against which, all trade between nations could be determined.

Hence, in a de facto manner, the US in 1971 pledged the rest of the world that instead of physical gold, the US dollar was a literal IOU. Recall our example from Part-1 of the milkman, who would later come back to you with the very Rs. 100 that you gave him to demand ANY physical good in your possession, such as your old cellphone. Similarly, after 1971 the nations who possessed dollars did so with the understanding that these dollars could be redeemed for US exports that they'd need. The US being a world-leader in technology, would almost always have hi-tech exports to provide any developing (or even developed) nation. However, much unlike the reassurance of the dollar being backed by gold, this requires a reassurance --- rather, a huge leap of faith --- amongst all nations that choose to hold US dollar reserves, which is that the US is, and will continue to be an economic 'powerhouse', and would be the global "engine" in terms of hi-tech exports, goods and services, in return for commodities and other cheap produces (natural or artificial) that these nations may offer the US. It must be noted that since 1971, this has held to be true largely. The reader may appreciate the magnanimity and sheer accuracy of this trust that has held steadfast amongst most nations, like India, China, Malaysia, the middle-east, the Africas and Latin America since 1971.

To see the above from another viewpoint, we may hypothetically suppose that all nations decide that the currency of Fiji become the world's global reserve currency. Now the Fijian government will print currency notes to import all the imports that it has ever "dreamed". However, leave aside any gold, Fiji would have absolutely nothing to provide in return in hard exports to the nations that would've accumulated its currency to a "glut". Political pressure may force Fiji to sell or mortgage all its islands and the resources under them (if any) for the next few centuries, in return for the super-extreme trade deficit that it may incur. This example enforces the explanation of the preceding paragraph that a nation whose currency is used as a reserve currency, must not only have robust hi-tech exports to offer in massive quanta, but also generate good faith in the rest of the world, that it can indeed shoulder such a responsibility.

The above also answers why NO other nation's currency can actually be used as a reserve currency. It was suggested that the Chinese Yuan be an alternative to the dollar. However, this country's exports consist mostly of textiles, cheap toys, home appliances and electronic items. In sharp contrast, the US exports passenger aircraft, Google, hi-tech construction machinery, nuclear power plants, Coca Cola, and Walmart. It is thus clear as to which country is clearly the global engine, nay, the engine of most of the civilization, and which country's exports are just meant to service the lower-priced segments of the global populace. {However of late, the Euro is indeed emerging as a strong contender to replace the dollar, because as a block the European Union too can provide a good faith investment in terms of hi-tech exports and other goods & services. Also, the oft-repeated conspiracy theory that the US simply prints paper dollar notes to pay for its export deficits, and thus cunningly "fools" the world, is not correct. The Central Banks of all countries which keep dollar reserves, do so on the good faith mentioned above. Most importantly as discussed above, the currency of just any country can't be used as the global reserve currency.}

This as we note, may be termed as the power of the US dollar. A dollar note is thus not just an IOU. It is a "promise" of value to be returned in the future, on the good faith that the US will keep advancing and will definitely have tangible value, in the form of goods & services, to provide in the future. This forces most countries to export a significant portion of their exports to the US. The US in turn, produces high-tech exports like aircraft, nearly all drugs and defence hardware for the global market. India for example, exports cheap software services, call-center services, textiles, iron ore and generic drugs to the US. In return, we purchase millions of Apple products, Intel products, aircraft for our airlines and McDonalds to name just a few. In the next 5 years, this list will include an estimated $50 billion worth of nuclear power plants, and $20 billion of cutting-edge defence hardware.

However, despite the above comfort of the US dollar, since 1971 the US has been running enormous trade deficits year after year, because of almost "binge" consumption exercised by American consumers. Hence, there are limits to how much, or rather, how quickly the US can service its external trade deficits. Besides, Airbus of France too sells as many planes as does Boeing, and Nokia is a Finnish company. Japan is the largest seller of vehicles, and the UK and Germany make the most luxury cars. Thus, competition further impedes the speed at which the US can service its external deficits by way of its hi-tech exports.

In order to do so, the US uses political means and its military strength. It is here that OPEC countries come into picture. We have noted, that all OPEC countries began accepting (and continue to do so till today) the US dollar against their oil exports. So countries like India, China and Japan are forced to keep a significant reserve of US dollars and even American treasury bonds to finance their "voracious" oil imports. China for example, holds a record $2.5 trillion in dollar reserves and US treasury bonds. China also spends its dollars in financing mineral and oil explorations in poor African countries.

Now OPEC countries are usually autocratic dictatorships, like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, and former Iraq under Saddam Hussein. These were nearly all propped up by help from covert US intelligence agencies, and even today the US is known to maintain their (rogue) regimes. Now the dollars in the possession of OPEC countries are channeled to the US --- often on American discretion--- to buy expensive weapons, ski-resorts in the middle of deserts, and numerous other such wasteful indulgences. They are also instructed by the US to hold their dollar reserves with them and only release them under guidelines.

The strategy of the preceding two paras keeps trillions of dollars in circulation outside American soil, on hold within Central Banks in order to pay these OPEC nations (and even many other autocratic banana republics described in Part-1) so that the rate at which the US services its trade deficits, can be managed. Otherwise in literally informal terms, the US surely would not want to be "harrangued" by the Central Banks of China, India, Russia and many others who may collectively demand the resolution of the trillions of dollars that they hold.

The above also answers the question posed in Part-1 :- Why does the Indian rupee have a disfavour against the US dollar, despite India having a favourable trade balance against the US ? Its because India is in a severe trade deficit with the countries it imports oil from, and these nations are severely dependent on the US for their imports and other political ends. Hence, they demand payments in the US dollar, and India ends up partly financing their deficit vis-a-vis the US. In fact, it is an economically brilliant tactic :- Should the US dollar start falling against other currencies, the corresponding rise in the price of oil pulls the dollar back to a favourable position vis-a-vis those currencies. The prices of oil rise when the US economy falters, because OPEC nations are militarily and politically "hamstrung" by US imports and military power. When the US economy comes under a cloud, their position and purchasing power from the US reduces, thus forcing them to raise oil prices.

This may also provide for a plausible explanation for the fact that the US invaded Iraq under Saddam Hussein in 2003, soon after he declared that he was switching to the Euro while abandoning the dollar as the currency against Iraq's oil exports. The greatest opposition came from France & Germany in particular (both powerful members of the EU) and most EU nations. It is not a surprise that the so-called "coalition of the willing" who sent troops to Iraq, consists of banana republics or theocracies that hopelessly support the US dollar, like Tonga, Mongolia, Honduras, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Philippines, Thailand, etc. Australia and UK are the non-EU developed countries of note. Spain and Italy are the notable exceptions from EU-zone that also use the Euro, but have since withdrawn their troops (half a decade back in 2005).

In 2005 Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad also opened an Iran Oil Bourse, where its petrochemical products are open to export against non-Dollar currencies, like the Euro and Yen. It may thus not be a surprise that the US is vehemently opposed to Iran in most matters, whereas France and other Eurozone nations prefer dialogue with Iran.

This ends the discussion on the dominance of the US dollar as the world's global currency. Any comments and suggestions are welcome.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Observation of the New Symbol of the Indian Rupee.

Note : The part 2 of the post on The Dominance of the US Dollar shall be posted after this post.

In this post, we shall examine the new symbol accorded to the Indian rupee. We shall observe its significance, its important purpose, its artistic design and finally, we shall also detail a small critique on it.

A background : In November 2009, the Government of India declared open a contest to design a new symbol (or logo) to denote the Indian Rupee on the lines of symbols for other international currencies such as the US Dollar, the Euro, the Yen and the Pound Sterling.

On July 16, India's Information & Broadcasting ministry revealed the design submitted by Udaya Kumar as the winning entry, and which is shown in the above figure. Its designer, Dr. Kumar is a professor of design at India's premier Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai.

Now, the reason most reported by newspapers, for the decision to design a logo for the Indian rupee is that it "heralds a new era in India's growing economic status in the global financial system." It must be noted that this is probably the least important purpose of having symbols for major currencies. More than this reason, a logo of a currency actually meets a few practical purposes :-

1) A symbol increased available space in the account ledgers and business sheets to "squeeze in" a few more digits before, or after the decimal in any amount figure. So, greater amounts could be represented and stored in the same space. This was especially true in the times before the industrial era. It actually holds true even in computer generated amounts today.

2) Arguably the most important reason is that major currencies needed to be recognized instantly by traders and brokers --- especially currency traders and hedgers who work in a very hectic environment on the trading floor at stock markets. On the floors of currency bourses and stock markets, symbols are recognized instantly, rather than decoding Roman alphabet (like USD for $, or (I)Rs. for the Indian rupee and (N)Rs for the Nepali rupee). This helps a trader save a few crucial seconds in the cut-throat atmosphere of placing trade calls or bets.

3) Related to point 2), a symbol distinguishes between the currencies of other nations that also use the same denomination. For example, the pure $ stands for the United States Dollar only. This distinguishes it from the Canadian and Singaporean dollars to name just two. The same held for the British Pound Sterling from the Irish Pound (before Ireland adopted the Euro). A symbol thus removes ambiguity and facilitates quick account reads and trading judgement.

4) The final reason is that it makes for an easy abbreviation to physically draw and represent in tax books, financial records and statement (especially those of international traders and fund managers). For example, writing "USD" is more tedious than just $. Or, 'Ero' than just the symbol for Euro.

With the Indian economy on a high growth trajectory, the Indian rupee is increasingly being traded for, and hedged against, in many major currency markets worldwide. Recently, the Central Bank of Japan (RBI's counterpart) decided to hold a reserve of the Indian rupee too, which would also undoubtedly be traded, given the strong confidence in India's economy.

Thus, it became imperative for the Indian Rupee to have its own distinguishing symbol at par with other major currencies of powerful economies like the US dollar, pound sterling, the euro and the Japanese Yen. It would not only meet points 1) and 2) highlighted above, but also distinguish it from the Pakistani rupee, the Nepali rupee and the Sri-Lankan rupee (all of which are incidentally quite moribund economies in sharp contrast to the Indian economy). Hence, we see that the reason most highlighted by Indian newspapers viz. "it reflects India's growing clout on the world-stage", is not the motivation for choosing to design the rupee symbol at all.

Design : The design is also very creative, in that it combines the '' of India's ancient Devanagari script, with the letter 'R' from the Latin transcription. The vertical line of the 'R' stands removed and a horizontal bar is added to reflect the Indian flag. It definitely symbolizes India's rootedness with its ancient and powerful tradition, while heralding the modern. It is not a surprise that Dr. Udaya Kumar is a Ph.D in phoenetics and symbology (a very good combination).

On a side note, it may be noted that Sanskrit is a branch of an ancient European family of languages, which is why some symbols and even many words share commonality in figure or pronounciation. I note that just like and the Latin 'R', the Devanagari '' and the Latin 'J' too are not only phoenetically similar, but symbolically similar too.

Now having discussed the new rupee symbol in context of points 1 to 3, we may also observe how it adheres to point 4) i.e. ease of drawing by hand.

Here, we may first note that a stroke of a pen is such that it can be drawn without lifting the pen AND without retracing any portion of the figure.

The reader may observe (or even practice) that the US dollar, the Yen and the Pound can be drawn in only 2 strokes. Let's take the $. The first stroke is the 'S', and the next one is the vertical line. Similarly, for the pound its an 'L' in the first stroke and the horizontal line in the next. The same can be said of the Yen, the euro, as well as the symbol for the cent (a 'c' cut with a vertical line).

However, the rupee symbol takes 3 strokes to draw by hand. The first stroke is the devanagari 'Ra' without the horizontal bar that tops it. The next two strokes are the 2 horizontal bars. Now this would be a first amongst currencies that have a symbol. Though it wouldn't make a difference on the keyboard, it would definitely do so on the handwritten word.

But it is reasonable, that a slight tedium on the hand is far overshadowed by its excellent design, which showcases India's tradition on a global economic platform. I don't think any other design could have done it better.

This ends the observation of the design of the new symbol of the Indian rupee. Any views and suggestions are welcome.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Dominance of the US dollar - 1

In this first of a 2-part series, we shall study the reasons for the dominance of the US dollar as the global reserve currency, and its impact on economy and trade. In the next part, we shall see its impact on the USA being an economic superpower, and why the US dollar cannot be replaced as the world's global currency.

Note : We use the term "Central Bank" and "Reserve Bank" interchangebly. Both mean the apex bank in a country that prints currency notes, and regulates the currency. In India, we have the RBI, and its counterpart in the US is the Federal Reserve.

Presently, the currency used in transacting almost all global trade is the US dollar. Thus, trade between, say, Russia and India as well as between Japan and Venezuela is conducted in the US dollar. This prompts the Reserve Banks of all countries to keep a physical reserve of dollar notes, ranging from a few tens of billions of dollars, to over $2 trillion that China has. This is done so that the exporters and importers of the country are able to convert their monetary transactions in the US dollar. Of course, a reserve of other important currencies is kept too, such as the Euro and Yen. But the size of the dollar reserves usually far exceeds these currencies.

First, we shall understand the basics of how the exchange rates of currencies are decided, by undertaking a hypothetical example. Let us assume 2 countries namely, A and B. Country A is technologically advanced, and exports fighter jets, tanks, machine guns etc. Country B is ruled by a theocratic party, is poor and technologically backward, but which has a good produce of bananas. Bananas are not grown at A. So, both nations trade technology and bananas with each other.

Assume that at normal trading sessions, a fixed quantity of bananas is traded for a fixed number of weapons hardware. However in a particular festive season in A, since the market demand for bananas at A becomes much more than the market demand for technologies at B, A has to part with a higher proportion of its goods in return (than usual) for the same quantity of bananas from B. Vice-versa, during times of war with its neighbouring despotic states, the demand for hi-tech weaponry at B increases. So, it has to part with more ship-loads of bananas to get the same quantum of hi-tech weaponry.

In economic parlance, countries such as B are called banana-republics, whose economies depend solely on the export of an abundant natural resource to fuel their economy. Examples are Saudi Arabia (oil), Kuwait (oil), Ivory Coast (coffee and cocoa), and Cameroon (timber).

Now, the above simplistic example shows that a fluctuation in demand for the exports of a country, brings it to a better negotiating position :- it can import a greater value of goods, for the same quantum of exports. Now replace the simplistic (barter) trading system in the hypothetical example above, with currency, and we can see clearly how do currency fluctuations take place.

When the exports of a country find high demand abroad, it brings in a lot of US dollars to the Central bank (or Reserve bank) of that country. Thus, the value of that country's currency rises with respect to the dollar (and so, its exports become more expensive). Conversely, when the exports of a nation find less acceptance abroad, that country's Central Bank finds lesser and lesser dollars in its "vaults". This leads to its currency falling with respect to the dollar (and so, its goods sell cheaper abroad). {Actually in the short term this may have a sort of "yo-yo" effect, i.e. when a currency of a country falls, its exports become cheaper, which in turn results in a demand for its exports --- and this strengthens its currency, only to make its exports costlier once again. But the point is, that the long-term rate of any country really hovers around a range. Example : the Rupee hovers around 45-50 per US dollar).

Now, as per various US government websites, India currently enjoys a trade surplus with respect to the US. In other words, India is a net exporter to the US, which means that the US needs more of India's goods & services, than does India from the US. The trade surplus with respect to the US was over $600 million last year. But despite that, the Indian rupee remains at 45 to the US dollar. But as per our discussion above, this should not happen and theoretically, the rupee must be stronger than the dollar ! So, how may we explain this anomaly ? The reader is requested to keep this question in mind, as it shall be answered in the next post.

We must note that since there are over 200 nations globally, there cannot be an exchange rate of each currency with all other 199 odd currencies. It has been precisely the impracticality of the barter system that has long led to a currency system being adopted. Currencies have been used since the ancient Greek, Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations, because as the economy grew and lives became more complex than those of nomads, they all realized that the barter system would no longer be practical.

A currency note is nothing but an IOU (I Owe You), or in other words, a receipt of debt. You promise to pay the bearer a sum of (or value of) X rupees, when he theoretically presents the receipt back to you. Though this is not in practice at the individual level, it IS in practice at the international scale. As an example :- when you pay your milkman Rs. 100, he won't come back to you later to demand hard goods and services worth Rs. 100, saying, "This is only a receipt of debt issued by the RBI that says "Rs. 100". I want your knife set worth this much to redeem this receipt".

Now here it is very important to mention that currencies did NOT come into play as soon as the barter system ended. Traders and merchants decided that all goods and services must be exchanged not against barter, but against one universal commodity, whose value is ascertained by the forces of all round demand and supply. This commodity was gold (sometimes other precious metals also), which was universally accepted even across civilizations --- like when the Greeks traded with the Egyptians or the Indians. Gradually, a more "subtler" form of currency came into being, and which is the ones in use today, like ordinary coins and paper notes.

Throughout the 19th century and up to World War -2, gold bullion was used as a standard medium of exchange that facilitated international trade amongst countries, which had different currencies and purchasing powers. This was known as the gold standard, and which allowed the currencies of all participating nations to be pegged to a standard weight of gold. So, if country A wanted to trade with country B, it would trade in gold bullion and its Central Bank would have to release gold from its vaults to country B. Every nation's currency was fixed to command different weights of gold. So, a British pound could buy more gold, than, say, the Saudi dinar.

Now the important thing is this :- if a foreign trader somehow got hold of a nation's currency, he could redeem it ONLY for gold --- when he just went and presented it to that nation's Central Bank. This is the exact antithesis of the example we gave of the milkman : he can't come back to you with the very Rs. 100 note you gave him to demand your collection of cricket T-shirts. This has much wider implications, because ultimately no matter where a currency may be anywhere in the world, it had to ultimately find its way back to its country of origin in return for hard goods & services. We very conveniently forget this BASIC fact, after being used to seeing the US dollar as the international currency for so long.

On a side note, we may observe the barter system does indeed form the basis of all transactions --- currencies simply facilitate it.

Now after World War -2, Britain, France, Japan, Russia and other nations reported a near-bankruptcy in their reserves of gold bullion. The US was the sole surviver of the war, with a thriving industrial base and a lower impact on its finances including its gold reserves. Japan, UK and Germany were eager to start trading again and like many other countries, needed a quicker medium of exchange instead of going through the time-consuming route of building gold reserves. So they took loans from the US --- in US dollars only, and not gold. They would use these dollars to buy goods, technology and services from American companies like Pfizer, DuPont and IBM, to help rebuild their countries, which were devastated by the war. Of course, the borrowers also had to ultimately repay their debt to the US Federal Reserve, in gold. The dollars were temporary mediums of exchange only.

But the "catch" for US was this :- the borrowing countries could use those very dollars to trade with other nations too most notably, oil-exporting Saudi Arabia and Iran.

This was especially attractive to the newly formed "Oil-republics" in the middle-east like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran and Iraq. They were technologically quite backward. But they had one commodity called crude oil, which was needed globally to run vehicles, power, roads, chemicals, etc. It practically fueled the human civilization. Besides, they knew that after World War-2, the US was the "last man standing". In other words, if they presented dollars to American exporters like General Electric (to build power plants), to GM (to export cars) and to Boeing (to sell aeroplanes and fighter jets), they would readily oblige.

Also, once they got whatever goods they wanted from the US, the excess dollars could always be redeemed for gold, if they simply presented them to the American Central Bank (the US Federal Reserve). Add to this, that all countries (like India and China) needed oil from these middle-eastern nations. So, they too started accumulating dollars to pay Saudi Arabia and other oil republics. They did this simply by exchanging their gold reserves for dollars. So, if the Indian RBI wanted dollar notes to finance its oil imports from Saudi Arabia, it would exchange its gold reserves with the US Federal Reserve for fresh dollars.

Here, the view of a dollar note being an IOU issued by the US Federal Reserve is clear. So now, the US dollar became the global de-facto reserve currency. But the most important thing to note here is that it was backed by gold, which meant that outside US soil, a dollar note wasn't only a piece of paper.

This concludes the first part of this series. We saw how after World War-2, the US dollar came about to be the global reserve currency. In the next part, we shall answer the question we posed earlier :- why is the India rupee still quote 45 to the US dollar, even though India has a trade surplus with the US ? A hint has already been given.

We shall also see how has this arrangement helped the US be a global economic superpower, and why the US dollar CANNOT be replaced by the Chinese yuan as the global reserve currency.

Any comments and suggestions are welcome.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Emergent trends amongst some female bloggers in India.

In this post, we shall examine a phenomenon that has become a trend amongst some female bloggers in India. We shall take up 4 such blogs as case-studies, and examine common patterns exhibited in these blogs (although there are literally hundreds of blogs with similar themes).

Since the past few years, blogs written by females claiming to be working professionals. Their location is almost always a metro like Mumbai, Bangalore or New Delhi. Their blogs have gained significant popularity since the past few years and have acquired significant readership. Also, the expressive and (seemingly) creative posts by them are almost to the point of being professional novellas. In some cases, they have been so successful, that their blogs have been compiled / adapted into books and their authors have been offered regular columns at leading national dailies.

We shall now see the patterns in the content of these blogs, the motivations behind writing them, as also why they have gained such widespread popularity. In the end, we shall also see briefly why such blogs written by males don't succeed in getting as much popularity.

The blogs that we shall study as case-studies are as follows :-

1) Watching the world Go By
2) Confessions of a Stoner Chick.
3) That Only
4) the Restless Quill

To an extent, we may also study these blogs in the context of The Compulsive Confessor, arguably one of India's most widely read blogs, and whose author Ms. Mahadevan besides being a columnist, has also written a book.

Now, before we discuss the above blogs separately, we may bring to attention two definitive characteristics, that are shared commonly across all the above blogs. It is these two characteristics that, to a varying degree are used by the authors to attract readership.

1) One thing must be mentioned about what we may term as "Subliminal Communiques". These are defined as the purposeful insertion of a fact that one really wants to communicate, into a totally different and often irrelevant piece of information. For example :- "As I blew smoke rings ahead of me, I was unable to decide about....." The purposeful point being subliminally communicated here, is that the person in question is a smoker, and who ostensibly likes doing so, whereas the presented point is some decision that the person is confused about. Its as though the presented point is wrapped as a "veneer" around the purposeful point.

Even if not in exact sentences, many of the posts are such that they bring up different ideas, but which revolve around the same "explicit" themes. As an example, a post discussing, say, "relationships and love" will invariably discuss unprotected "flings" with male colleagues etc. And a post discussing, say, "Lost in translation", would also discuss about how a "one night encounter" was misinterpreted as the beginning of a relationship. So, they pretend to discuss one idea after another in different posts, but the true intent seems to be to repeatedly report of their various "affairs".

2) They all go good lengths to claim how "intelligent" they are in terms of intellect, academic records, employment history etc.

3) They all have atleast one post dedicated to smoking, and why they do it. They make it clear that despite knowing the hazards of smoking, they have no intention to quit, or sometimes they recount making fun of those people, who ask them to quit.

Let us examine these blogs one at a time :-

1) Watching the world Go By : This blog is authored by one "Searcher", who is "Searching for answers, for questions..." and for "peace". Ms. Searcher is a single female in Mumbai and claims to have worked in the media and advertising industry. She has had a tumultuous childhood (parents separated at an early age), which often finds mention in her posts. The long-term theme of her blog is that she is incapable of "loving much" and "being desired" and so she's seeking "answers" to these questions.

She also makes it a point to mention that her and her family's IQ is in the "high 140s". Her supposed Facebook profile also mentions that her IQ "used to be in the high 140s", but has dropped due to "age".

Now, so far it can be understood. But what may be intriguing, is that a number of her blog posts recount her multiple affairs with different men (often in quite articulate detail), and they summarize with the new lesson that she learnt from each experience --- like what went wrong, over-commitment, incapability to love his family, etc. If not recount, then nearly all her posts have atleast one mention of the fact that she has had "many boyfriends" (and these mentions are not passing mentions; they form an important point in the post).

In fact, the long-term crux of this blog is the multiple (mostly failed) physical relationships that the author has had, and the analysis of her inability to be consistent with any one of them. It looks like a very seemingly innocent and philosophical effort at finding out her "problems", but always under the overarching backdrop of her many past and present affairs.

Some posts are bizzare, like this one, which seem a contrived attempt at literary creativity. But like always, it too finds an important mention about her "many past boyfriends". Others simply discuss relationships between men and women, the "purpose of marriage", etc. again with the above standard references and mentions of her multiple past affairs. Also, like the Compulsive Confessor, it too has atleast one post dedicated to recounting a conversation with a colleague, who asked her to quit smoking and how she had a bit of fun at the colleague's expense.

Now it is unclear why the "answers to life's questions..." are centered around relationships with the "many boyfriends" (and affairs, night encounters etc.) that the author claims to have had. This, from someone who claims to have an IQ in the "high 140s". Why can't a visit to, say, an orphanage answer why she is "incapable of loving", is not quite clear.

2) Confessions of a Stoner Chick. This blog is purposefully an X rated reading material (blogspot first takes your permission before opening this page). The author of the blog is a Ms. "Stoner Chick", who is a 4.0 GPA grad student, and is "only 21 years old". Moreover, she is "hot" and not fat or ugly. She says that even though she enjoys taking narcotics, she is not a female of ill-repute who is forced to finance her drug habit that way.

Also, she emphasizes that she is an "Indian Indian", and not an "American Indian", lest we think that she's probably like any other spoilt American girl, instead of the "cultured" Indian woman who have 4.0 GPAs. The introduction itself can potentially be a major titillation for some male Indians who visit this blog.

The content of her blog tries to be as philosophical and contemplative as possible, about life and relationships, musical and artistic excellence, etc. However, it is a thinly veiled attempt at mentioning the real meat of the blog :- the author's pot sessions and drinking sessions after attending college fests and rock-concerts --- in precise detail. The author even celebrates the fact that she finds life to be enjoyable with her substance abuse.

The purpose of this blog is unclear, except to ostensibly attract readership from people, who are bound to be shocked at a 4.0 GPA girl, who admits to enjoying smoking pot and binge drinking. It is a clear case of attempting to attract readers through titillation.

3) That Only : This blog is written by a 28 year old female called "Rat". Unlike the previous two blogs, this blog does make a genuine attempt in logging the diary accounts of the author. This author's blog has been featured thrice in national dailies. The author is a psychology graduate, and enjoys Sting concerts.

However, the definitive feature of her blog is something like this (though not exact) : "I went to Bangalore and Ooty. Had a whale of a time......and in the evening I got so drunk, that I enjoyed it thoroughly"......"I went to my friend's after a long time.....and oh, was the Vodka so great.." In fact, it appears that her blog came into major prominence, after a national daily ran an article on such type of blogs (in the same vein as this article).

The article was titled, "Bimbodom's new Bridgets" by Kanika Gahlaut in Mumbai. Ms. Mahadevan, the author of The Compulsive Confessor", posted a "rebuttal" to it, which was not quite convincing as one. The same article discusses this article from That Only, which is about the author's appreciation of alcohol and why she has a "blast while drinking it".

It is not to say that some of Ms Rat's posts don't make for genuinely relatable and appreciable reads. But often, the blog cannot discuss things without the "lift" obtained by mentions about her long drinking sessions, and how the experience was exacerbated by doing so.

4) the Restless Quill : For the most part, this blog is genuinely honest in discussing whatever it discusses, completely unlike the blogs discussed above, whose real intent appears to be something else altogether (mostly to attract readership by titillation).

Some posts cannot be disagreed to easily, like this post on eve-teasing , as well as this brilliant post on the visible irresponsibility of popular Indian TV anchors like Arnab Goswami and Barkha Dutt.

However, it seems that like the blogs above it, the author also dedicated a post on why she smokes, has no intention to quit, and a critique to those whom she thinks are "preaching down her throat to quit" (though she advocates dissuading children to smoke). The post makes the fundamental mistake in opining that smokers have "a right to smoke", whereas the actuality is that smoking is no more than a privilege, and is NOT a right. The first right belongs to all people who have the right to fresh air, and last in the priority of offices, society and governments is to provide zones to smoke --- provided all other priorities before it are met, and space can be spared, if any.

All the above may also form a pattern witnessed in Compulsive Confessor and Watching-the-world-go-by as well. The authors are probably aware that as young, educated female Indians , who are consciously aware of the hazards of smoking, but who still admit to smoking publicly --- are bound to attract reader traffic to their blogs. It appears to be a deliberate attempt to attract readership from Indian males.

In fact, many female bloggers (like IT engineer Tamanna Mishra) too make it point to list their 'list of vices' atleast once. The rest of their posts (like those of Ms. Mishra and "the Restless Quill") are indeed genuine diary accounts of their experiences and viewpoints, but once a while they appear to "religiously" subscribe to such kind of posts.

This completes the study of this phenomenon observed amongst a section of female Indian bloggers. Any suggestions or comments would be welcome.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Why do girls outperform boys in Board Exams ?

In this post, we shall examine a recurring phenomenon. We shall also attempt to find reasons for its occurrence.

It must have been noted by Indian readers, that every year as the results of 10th std. and 12th std. board exams are released, it is reported by the media that the overall pass percentage of girls is found to be higher than that of boys. Note that this holds true regardless of the education board, i.e. CBSE, ICSE or the 15 odd state boards. It also holds true of both, the 10th as well as the 12th standards,

In fact, so annually recurrent and definitive has this trend become, that the year that boys have a higher pass percentage than girls, it would make "breaking" news across all media.

It was recently reported that in cognizance of this trend, colleges in Bangalore have stipulated a higher cut-off percentage for girls in order to seek admissions. This has been termed extremely unfair, and rightly so. For, constitutionally there must not be any distinction in gender (least of all in education), and this decision by Bangalore colleges speaks of a clear gender-bias. This puts the efforts invested by the girls at a disadvantage, thus effectively stymieing their well-deserved fruits of their hard work.

The motive behind this practice by Bangalore colleges apparently is this : girls are somehow "automagically" at an advantage in terms of pass percentage. Hence, they must be put at a disadvantage while seeking admissions, in order to put them at par with boys.

We shall now show, that not only is this reasoning inherently flawed and unjustifiably imposed on the girls of Bangalore, we shall also show that the cause of why the pass percentage of girls is more than boys in the 10th and 12th std. board exams --- has nothing to do with the supposed hard work or genius of the girls. It has a totally different cause.

Now, at some point of time, all of us must have definitely come across advertisements of IIT coaching classes. They display the faces and names of students who have secured high All-India ranks. Newspapers and even TV channels run interviews of the All India toppers, ranked 1,2, and 3.

However, the important thing to note here is that never in the history of the IITs, has any girl topped the country in the IIT-JEE entrance exam. In fact, in the entire history of the IITs, girls are not known to have cracked even the top 10 ranks of the IIT-JEE . Even today --- after 50 years of the IITs being set up --- the number of girls in the top 200 ranks number only in single digits. Needless to say, boys fully dominate the IIT-JEE entrance exam.

Similarly, the teams comprising the International Olympiads for Physics, Mathematics and Chemistry, almost always comprise of boys only. Only twice in 20 years, has a girl been sent to the Physics Olympiad (in 2010, it was Akanksha Sarda, who made headlines in newspapers).

Note that girls are equally visible at the number of IIT-JEE coaching "factories" all across India. There is no statistical bias there.

Thus, from the above two examples, it is clear that the argument of girls being more "intelligent" or "hard-working" than boys is an invalid one. Hence, there must be another reason as to why their pass-percentage in the 10th and 12th std board exams, is always higher than boys, year after after. It can thus only be statistical.

Now, we may note that in urban areas there is almost no distinction in the pass-percentages of boys and girls (and neither in the top ranks). So they are evenly matched in urban areas. However, it must be noted that in rural areas, the percentage of failure of students is more. The reasons are immediately obvious : poor schools and colleges, absentee teachers, dearth of coaching classes, and little income to be able to afford good books or access to urban coaching centres.

Now even amongst the failures at rural and semi-urban areas, the majority are boys. Why not girls ? Because social stigmas don't allow girls to study as far as the 10th std. itself. Hence, when a majority of the rural girls don't appear itself in the 10th (and 12th) board exams, they naturally improve the All India girl pass-percentage --- unlike most of the rural boys who appear only to fail, thus dragging down the All India boys pass percentage.

This is infact true of the 10th std. & 12th std exams and cutting across ICSE, CBSE as well as all State Boards (like the Karnataka state board, which is subscribed to by many Bangalore colleges). Obviously, because the gender discrimination against girls at rural areas is independent of the education board or whether it is 10th or 12th.

It is thus unfortunate that colleges in Bangalore have used the statistical bias of the high girl pass percentage, to further the gender bias against girls at the time of seeking admission. It is a fundamental violation of the right to education of all girls, who studied hard to obtain the marks --- only to be told to once again to stand behind boys. In 21st century "rising" India, this discriminatory practice and that too by educational institutions which themselves teach equality, is unfortunate.

This concludes the study of this recurrent phenomenon. Any comments and suggestions would be welcome.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Understanding Fate & Destiny - II

In the last post, we observed the definition of fate in the conventional sense. We also saw how the reactions of a subject toward his surrounding circumstances determine his "destined path" later in life, by bringing new circumstances and choices. The choices / decisions made in turn, "chalk-out" a new destiny for him, as well as those surrounding him. Thus, we concluded that it is a self-feeding cycle.

Now, we shall see how every event or occurrence is pre-determined. We use the term pre-determined because here we attempt to subscribe to a scientific and plausible explanation, rather than subjective terms, "fate" or "destiny".

We first see how computer simulations work. While predicting the weather, super computers take the current weather condition as input, and calculate the movement of winds and clouds, or storms over a period of the next few days. They are able to do this, because wind /cloud patterns follow the basic laws of motion. These can be deployed by school-level students to calculate the speed and position of very simple particles after a period of time, as also by supercomputers, which can predict the results of simulated car crashes, typhoons, and nuclear explosions.

From the above, it is clear that be it car crashes, or weather patterns, a multitude of forces acting from many directions on many objects results in what may be termed as a chain-reaction of events, which in turn create the new forces and new directions that act on the same set of particles. For example, in a simulated real car crash, some shards of broken glass may fly and hit the dummy passenger, which in turn may halt their backward advance --- while triggering a new sequence of events in the passenger's body, like fracturing his skull, or stopping blood flow to some body organ and so on and such forth.

Here it must be observed that the above is very analogous to the conclusion of the previous discussion i.e. of the surrounding circumstances and the subsequent re-actions to them being a self-feeding cycle. We saw how the re-action of the 10th std. results of a student in India can impact his future career, which in turn impacts himself and his family members. With a small difference, this is similar to the calculated path of a single shard of glass that impacts other objects in its way, depending on where/how it flies. The difference is, that while the shard's path of flight (as also its re-actions to other objects that it hits) is determined by simple laws of motion, the student's path is determined by the choices he consciously makes --- a 'luxury', that the inanimate shard does not have. Yet in both examples, the similarity in the interplay of surrounding circumstances vis-a-vis re-action to them is apparent.

Now, we shall see that even the choices that we supposedly make after due deliberation, are actually no different than the completely physical path of an inanimate object in motion.

As per a scientific research, I quote, "..... study by German researchers, published two years ago, found a gap of up to 10 seconds between the brain activity that indicates that a decision is being made and the direction in which it is tending, and the awareness of the decision that has been made. In other words, researchers can guess what the subject is about to do even before he himself knows...."

The implications of the above scientific research are immediately obvious and profound. It is simply this : when confronted with a situation, a series of neurological and neurochemical occurrences in the brain act together over a period of time, to produce an output. This output, is the decision or choice taken by the person ! This is exactly the same as the final resting place of a shard of glass in a car crash (could be the road or the passenger's body as determined by the laws of motion), or as an even better example : the final resting place of a billiards ball after acting, and being acted upon by a multitude of forces.

So we see that like a billiards ball in motion, whose final resting place is pre-determined, our choices and decisions too are pre-determined. This over-rules the concept of fate or destiny in the conventional sense.

In fact, without "raising the heckles" of environmentalists, animals can be seen as nothing but instinctively reactionary "toys". Their simple predictable reactions to their surroundings begin right from the moment they are born, till they die. In between, they continuously re-act to their surrounding circumstances, and their instinctive choices are nothing but this : totally predictable reactionary instincts. In fact, mathematicians have already succeeded in modelling the behaviour patterns of birds and small animals like mice, without the need to examine the neurochemical reactions (unlike in humans), mentioned earlier. In case of humans, it is simply more complex, as they are more intelligentand are also guided by complex emotions.

We shall now move on from the pre-decidedness of human decisions, to macro events. We claim, that every occurrence --- from minute ones (like the falling of a leaf), to major ones (like the Bhopal gas tragedy, which killed thousands in a single day) --- are actually pre-determined since the "beginning".

For this, we just have to extrapolate and "elongate" our previous discussion. Since the Big Bang, all laws of physics have governed the formation of our planet Earth. The same purely reactionary forces, formed life and then intelligent life, as we know it. Every tree crushed under the feet of a T-Rex dinosaur --- which also simply acted per its totally predictable neurochemical interplay --- was also pre-determined since the Big Bang. Then a comet collided with Earth, due to which dinosaurs became extinct, and much later, humans evolved.

Like the clash of the comet, whose formation and motion since 4 billion years too has purely been governed by the laws of "galactic" Physics, humans too evolved by purely by the laws of predictable biochemistry. So, the formation and evolution of simpler organisms, to amphibians, to more complex ones to finally apes and Homo Erectus to Homo Sapiens was pre-determined --- since the Big Bang (for, had the comet not crashed into earth, the biochemical evolution of humans wouldn't have kicked in).

We may fastforward to modern times, and extrapolate thus, that the same neurochemical reactions of our daily decisions and the inputs to our situations --- have been pre-decided since the Big Bang.

For, if an infinitely powerful supercomputer were built that simulated the exact conditions of the Big Bang, its occurrence and the formation of the Earth, the dinosaurs, the human evolution, the building of the Pyramids, the Battle of Plassey, the World Wars and how the great-great great great grand uncle of President Obama was killed by a freak tripping on a gorge in Kenya --- each and every "tid-bit" of every incident that has occurred since then, would be simulated exactly as it has occurred. The reader of this blog would see himself born and see his exam paper of the 10th standard snatched by the invigilator in exactly the same way as occurred to him actually.

He would also see himself reading this blog and scratching his head, in exactly the same way, as he did in actuality. It has of course, all been pre-determined since the BiG Bang.

So, that's what we may consider "Destiny" or "Fate" to be : A sequence of events that have occurred, as also that are to come, all of which pre-determined by the interplay of laws of the Universe (from Physics to neurochemistry). And all of which were DESTINED from the BiG Bang.

This ends our discussion on the meaning of Fate and Destiny. Comments and suggestions would be greatly welcome and appreciated.