Posts Tagged ‘Kiran Karnik’

Letter From New York 04 04 15 A Delhi afternoon, thinking and writing…

April 4, 2015

It is early in the day for me to be writing but a hole just opened in my schedule so I decided to make use of it and write my blog for the day. My friend Raja was to have come and picked me up and we were to have gone to his wife’s shop. Unfortunately, he was at a shoot late into the night and then up early again working so he cancelled for the afternoon.

It is a greyish day in Delhi and on the cool side as it rained all night while I slept.

My day started with a late breakfast with Kiran Karnik, who was GM of Discovery India when I was here in the 1990’s. He is a small, thin man, very gentle and razor sharp. He is currently doing many things. One of them is being on the Board of the Reserve Bank of India as well as being President of the India Habitat Center, where I am staying.

Service in the restaurant this morning was impeccable, he said smiling.

Sanjay was at the breakfast, too. We were nostalgic for the days when we were launching Discovery India, laughing at some of our adventures. Talk then moved to politics, both here and in the States. Both Sanjay and Kiran are concerned that parts of the fabric of Indian society are becoming worn in the rush toward modernization. Within twenty-five years India will be one of the world’s top four economies and that change will be wrenching, just as it has been in China.

Prime Minister Modi seems to be enormously popular and is, from all accounts, charismatic. “Conventional wisdom” is that he should be Prime Minister and have all his ministers from the Congress Party, his opponents, because they have experience in government. The BJP, which is Modi’s party, has not governed all that often in India and hasn’t had a lot of national experience.

Some large announcement is coming shortly about interest rates though Kiran gave no hint as to what it will be. He did say they [the Reserve Bank] were closely watching the situation in Yemen for what affect it might have on oil prices along with the “rain issue.” This last season was exceptionally rainy, having a negative effect on food production. Every little thing becomes a factor that needs weighing.

It was interesting to hear Kiran’s perspective on the Yemeni situation. He pointed out that this is the first time in memory that Saudi Arabia has used its military in this way. Thinking about, I had to agree.

They intervened in Bahrain but that was minor compared to this.

We all agreed that the world situation is remarkable and deeply fraught. The Kenyan massacre of Christians at Garissa only underscores the situation.

Pope Francis spoke out about it at Holy Friday services in Rome. Christians are being killed for their beliefs in Africa and in the Middle East. Shabab is promising more Kenyan attacks.

In the Middle East, Tikrit has been freed from IS though the once bustling city, hometown of Saddam Hussein, now lies in ruins. The Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abidi, has ordered looters arrested.

As we pass through the Easter weekend, which culminates on Sunday with the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, the world is parsing all the reports on the Iranian Nuclear Deal, attempting to see if there are true threads of hope or mere obfuscation.

Pakistan is walking a tightrope between Iran, with which it shares a border, and Saudi Arabia, which has been a staunch Pakistani ally. Saudi Arabia wants Pakistan’s help in Yemen and Iran is doing its best to make sure that doesn’t happen. So far Pakistan has managed to stay upright on the tightrope but it is going to take some deft diplomacy to continue that if the Yemeni situation continues.

Easter, when I was young, was always a time for new clothes and long hours in our Catholic church. Some of it I remember fondly. Some of it not so much. One year it was unseasonably warm and Visitation Church grew so hot students at Good Friday services were fainting by the dozen.

Those seemed like simpler times. Perhaps that is nostalgia. “The Go-Between” is a novel by L.P. Hartley, adapted for the screen by Harold Pinter. Both book and film begin with the haunting line, “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

I do not think I would want to go back to the days of my youth. There were too many things that were wrong there but sometimes I am nostalgic for the simplicity that seemed to live there.

Letter From New York 04 03 15 Good Friday in Delhi…

April 3, 2015

To my great surprise, I discovered that today, Good Friday, is a national holiday in India, created as such in an effort to secularize India. My friend, Sanjay, thought it was an excellent idea.

Felled late last night by Jaipur’s version of Delhi Belly, I spent an uncomfortable night, waking tired but with the storm having passed. So far, so good today. I’ve been incredible lucky health wise in India, except for last night.

Meeting Sanjay for breakfast, I declined to go with him on a business meeting he had and went back to my room and slept an extra hour, which was good for me. I read a little, did a few emails and then Sanjay and I headed out of Jaipur toward Delhi.

As I have become accustomed to doing, I willed myself into nap mode on the drive back, finding it easier on the system to not watch in real time the continuous close calls that make up a day on the road in India. I popped an eye open to see that we were virtually on top of another vehicle. Closing my eyes again, I went back to my happy place.

On the part of the trip when I was awake, Sanjay commented to me that he is discouraged by how India does not pick up after itself. He said that it was always dusty and dirty but not trashy, now trash lines the roads in some parts. Such is India. Up and coming and down and dirty.

At one point, we drove through Gurgoan, a city within the city of Delhi, skyscrapers swarming the landscape, modern buildings that look like they belong in Phoenix or Des Moines or any other mid-sized American city. It’s where the advertising agencies have settled along with most of the cable networks, like Discovery.

Next time you suspect your customer service call has been directed to India, it may well be to one of the buildings in Gurgoan.

From my long night last night, I am planning to stay in my room and recuperate. I’m still a bit tired.

Tomorrow morning, I am having a late coffee with Kiran Karnik, who was head of Discovery India at the time I was out helping with the launch. He has gone on to do many more things, including leading NASSCOM, the association for the software industry in India.

Following that, my friend Raja is picking me up so he can introduce me to his wife, who has been down in Mumbai, and so I can see at least one of the shops she runs in Delhi.

Sanjay’s wife, Natasha, has been in Thailand and is returning tonight. Hopefully the three of us will have dinner on Saturday, my last night in India this trip. Sunday at 1:05 I should be lifting off for the long flight back to New York, crossing at least nine time zones and ending in New York at 11:00 PM on Sunday. It’s my intention to go straight to the little apartment in New York, line my bags up like good soldiers and dive into sleep.

While I slept, President Obama announced a framework for a deal with Iran in the Rose Garden. Apparently, it is more detailed than expected. Not unexpected is the war of words that will follow, accompanied by some gnashing of teeth, as Kerry and Obama continue to work to a final agreement.

A thirty-seven year old man, Louis Jordan, survived sixty-six days at sea before being rescued by a container ship. During the ordeal, his boat capsized several times, all his equipment was smashed and he learned to harvest fish that found his laundry enticing.

Nearly 150 individuals, mostly students, were killed in a Shabab attack on a Kenyan University in Garissa, in the eastern part of the country. They came in, separated Christian from Muslim and killed the Christians.

For Christians, this is the holiest time of the year, the time when Jesus was crucified, died and rose from the dead.

It is remarkably sad that religious hatred rips this world apart as fiercely as it did when the Christ lived, walked the earth, preached and died.