Book Review – A Promised Land by Barack Obama


It’s been a while since I posted a book review here. It’s not that I did not start reading one, but it took time to finish the one I picked. I had chosen a humongous book named “A promised land” by Barack Obama. Its 800 pages of written content as a hardcover or 29 hours as an audible audiobook requires real dedication from you. For me, it took my reading schedule the entire March to finish!

Naturally, the first thought came to my mind when I heard the title the God’s promise on the land to Abraham and his decedents. Although Obama covers the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a chapter, the book is not about that promised land in the middle east.

Anyways, my verdict is – this is a must-read and an excellent addition to your personal library. Despite its length, it does not warrant laborious reading; it literally reads on its own – very beautifully written and well narrated. You will like it depending on how much you are interested in world politics and economics. Additionally, if you are a democrat, you might get goosebumps going through few specific chapters. It’s an understatement if I say Obama is a fantastic orator. He will never let get you bored while you are at it.

I personally loved it and would reread it sometime in future.

The book covers Obama’s political career leading up to the mid-term election. I believe the subsequent topics will be covered in his next book. That is the reason you would not hear him talk about Modi, but you would about Manmohan, Sonia and Rahul.

Image from Goodreads

Also, the book covers his political and economic part of his precedency rather than his personal life. Michelle, Melia, and Sasha appear very infrequently, just about a few paragraphs, not more than he was absolutely obligated to write. Or perhaps he wanted us to buy Michelle’s book to learn the other side of the story. I am not falling for that – that’s another 19 hours right there. Even though the first couple of chapters cover his childhood leading up to his political career, it seems it was inserted for the benefit of one Donald Trump, who had challenged Obama’s birth origin and Americanness.

Overall, the content takes a frank tone, superbly detailed (29 hours, duh!!), leading you to wonder how he could remember all these details with such vivid description.

Anyways, these are the chapter resonated well with me.

  • The visits to the middle east and their ever-complicated politics. Obama calls a spade a spade without having an obligation to ignore the elephant in the room.
  • Fascinating topic on Nuclear disarmament and Iran.
  • The climate bill and carbon cuts and how he blackmailed BRIC leaders into Paris agreement (A little American hypocrisy here)
  • The Greek Euro crisis
  • BP deep-sea oil leak crisis
  • The Birth-er debate and how he handled the Donald trump campaign against him.
  • The middle eastern conflict – Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt etc.

There are several topics were failed to convince me.

  • How picking up a fight across the world may be wrong, including bombing them.
  • What a liberal democratic support to the repressive regime, including the autocracies, is still OK.
  • How Hilary is correct, and Palin is an idiot.
  • Subprime crises and his defiance on bailing out the Banks and why no banks have been brought to justice.

The books end with a very well narrated story on the manhunt of Osama bin Laden. Probably, Obama considered this as the singularly most significant important achievement of his career as president, hence, all the emphasis on the almost-fiction-like chapter.

I will be waiting for the next book and work love to hear from the horse’s mouth on:

  • Obama care – his view on socializing the medicine.
  • Trump – election and transition
  • Modi wave in India
  • China & the tariff war
  • Diminishing free speech in American University campuses
  • Charlie Hebdo – maybe?
  • Raise of Antifa and PC culture.

Let’s see. Meanwhile, please go buy this book, and it is worth every penny.

The 5 AM Club & Alibaba – reviews


This is a rapid review of a book named the 5 AM Club that I recently abandoned after tolerating for about three-fourths of its length. Now, I have no intention of finishing it.

I was never a fan of Robin Sharma to start with. I disliked his most famous one, “The monk who sold his Ferrari”. For the same reason, I was skeptical about this one as well. I blame my purchase on some of my overenthusiastic friends for having recommended it to me. Definitely not for me.

Those who are planning to buy it, please be informed:

  1. It’s written as fiction, a rather boring one. The author is a lousy fiction writer.
  2. The fiction is a multilogue between a few people from various walks of life. What irritated me the most is that these people regularly and continuously spitting out motivational quotes as if it’s some sort of rap battle. I did not buy this book for infinite list quotes.
  3. I yawned through a few chapters, then FOMO kicked in. Did the book cover the 5 AM topic? Is it yet to be discussed? or are they gonna discuss world affairs first? Now that I have suspended the book, this will remain a mystery to me.
  4. A few like-minded people suggested that I should finish the book with few tricks. One advised that I skip a few specific chapters and jump into particular ones directly. Another told me that I should read only the italicized paragraphs and only visit the pages with images and their description. But I can’t do any of those through audible. 😦

I do not recommend it. Please take the good reviews on the internet with a pinch of salt. In my opinion, it’s a dull, badly fictionalized book. That’s it.

Another book I just finished is Alibaba – the house that Jack Ma built. It’s a biography. The book narrates chronicles and adventures on how he reached the place where he is. What makes it more interesting is that the book runs Jack’s rise to wealth in parallel with the evolution of Chinese free-market economics and regression in social communism. A good read. Go for it if this is the kind of book interests you.

One of the exciting wisdoms he provides is about the approach of catching a rabbit. Suppose, if there are nine rabbits on the ground, and you wish to capture one -Just focus on one. These rabbits obviously will run, skip, change course and even might hide in a hole. You should try things differently and change the strategy and tactic but never change the rabbit you earmarked. Good stuff. On a lighter note, I would never want to catch a rabbit. They belong in meadows and leave them there. Don’t bring rabies home.

Here is why I support the farmers protest!!!


Ever since once supposed India against corruption movement was hijacked by a future political party in making, I do not trust the motive behind most protests happened or happening in India. I had fallen for it once, and I am not gonna repeat the mistake. On the surface, it would appear as a genuine instrument and orchestrate by aggrieved parties. Still, sooner or later it would get hijacked by elements with their interest to blackmail the decisions of the democratically elected government, that too in consultation with constitutional artefacts.

I would not have penned it better than a fellow blogger Anant who is spot on with the current discussion and more… Please read through his complete article in his blog.

Starting with the agriculture income. As per section 10(1) of Income Tax Act 1961, agriculture income is exempt from tax. As per the section 2(1A), any income generated from farmhouses, or any rent or revenue derived from land which is situated in India and is used for agricultural purposes is counted as agriculture income. As an example, if I have 25 acres of land available and I rent it to a farmer at INR 50,000 (average market rent in Punjab) per acre to him, the total 12.5 lacs that I receive as total rent would be tax free. However, if I would have rented it for something else (other than for farming) I would have paid INR 2,00,000 as tax on the exact same income. So, it is quite possible that my knowledge about agriculture says that potato is a fruit and grows on a tree but I will still be counted as a “farmer” because I make agriculture income by renting the property to farmers. That’s why India has more than 55% of the population involved in agricultural and yet agriculture contributes to just 15% of the GDP. Point to be noted here is that I am not even talking about money laundering in the name of agriculture income. You must have heard some politician growing cauliflower in pots on the terrace and making millions out of that. Every other politician is a farmer these days. Some day I will write a separate article, how, people are washing money from black to white using agriculture income. But for now it also gives a hint as to who might be protesting and why. First thing first, define a farmer!

Here is why I support the farmers protest!!!

Scam 1992 and OTT platform debate


Online streaming platforms (OTT) had a good run of generating quality products, which is almost over now. After producing gems of original content for about half a decade, they are giving up now. They, inevitably have opened the doors to production houses of both Hollywood and Bollywood to crap all over them. To be brutally honest, we saw this coming. Why wouldn’t powerful and nepotistic mafias, which are fueled by political propaganda, not claim of the pie of profit? They certainly would not want to sit behind and watch the lockdown to be lifted and the cinemas to open again.

Take these for example; we get to see Bobby Deol on Netflix, Yay ! remember him? The actor with three wholesome expressions in total!. Abhishekh Bachchan is coming in Series called ‘Scam’; calling him an actor itself is a scam! Netflix thought that we are missing them. The Princess Sonam Kapoor is also making a comeback. We all have seen this trailer of AK vs AK. She is apparently a hostage to Anurag Kashyap in some parallel universe. Her father, with his evolutionary advantage that is only relevant for a 15th-century pirate, runs around the city badmouthing which has already spilt over on my Twitter feed!. Soon we will have rest of the Kapoors and Khans and adopted families of Johar unloading buttload of stuff on an unsuspecting audience. In fact, We already have a show by king Karan based on mundane life events of Bollywood wives of yesteryear non-actors.

Hollywood is not much behind. During this December the Disney spoiled your childhood favorite movie ‘Mulan’ for good. What a BS reproduction of 90’s gem!. The Borat sequel was probably the most disappointing one. Borat was one of my favorite characters in this century. They’ve spent an entire move on political propaganda with the sole intention to contribute to the US election. Now, we’ll see Netflix and Amazon prime religiously bending over backwards to fulfil the socio-political fantasies and ideologies of a spectrum. E.g. Jack Ryan saves Venezuela from capitalism

This is very depressing. Many of TV viewers, such as me, had cancelled their DTH connection with the hope of weekend entertainment needs by OTT, only to find the history repeating itself.

While all these, few exceptions like Sony LIV are operating slightly differently. That, at least for now. They have released a couple of guiltfree, binge-worthy original content. One of such I am a big fan of is the “Scam 1992 – the Harshad Mehta story”. It’s a 10 episode short series, based on the book of Sucheta Dalal & Debashis Basu and directed by Jay and Hansal Mehta and steaming on Sony live.

I would recommend you stop doing whatever you are doing this Sunday afternoon and grab a popcorn bucket and binge this show. It’s that worth your time. This, especially if you have watched and loved two great movies, “the wolf of wall street” and “the big short”, although they are not prerequisites. This has a flavour of the game of throne as well, a pinch of it.

I will not spoil the plot for you. Still, the basic premise of the Series is a ‘rags to riches’ of Harshad Meta who was famously known as the Amitabh Bachchan of the stock market. He goes on to manipulating the equity market through the money market if India. The story covers a wide array of topics, including but not limited to: the loopholes of markets, regulatory shortcomings, political corruption, monopoly of big foreign players and in short ‘way things ran’ back then.

Trust me, you will enjoy it thoroughly. It’s probably the best OTT series since Chernobyl on Disney platform.

What went well

  1. The Story. If you did not live under the rock during the ’90s, you already know what the story is. If you were tasked by your parent to go through specific stock prices and business news of the dailies, you will 100% relate to this. Even if you did not know the back story, Series is presented in a manner that anyone can comprehend it without the knowhow of the stock or money market.
  2. The Casting. “Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.” – Food critic Anton Ego, Ratatouille. Most actors who cast in this Series came from a modest background but known to put heart into their performance. Let me take an example, Anjali Barot, who plays Mrs. Mehta, was known for the advertisement of vacuum cleaner, mattresses. I am not undermining them. It’s just that Hansal did cast her here, the nepotism infested industry would continue to cast her in the advertisements of 30 sec. There are 100s such characters in the Series, all of them have brought A level artistry as actors.
  3. Pratik Gandhi is the star of the show, I do now know anyone else could pull this off. I must confess that I do not have sufficient words to explain him.
  4. Direction, attention of details, narrations, period part of period drama, the design of characters. All spot on!
  5. Historical accuracy. The story had sent shock waves across the nation, was talk of the town and it even shattered glasses all the way till Delhi. The historical events, the depiction of big shots, characterization all depicted spectacularly. BTW, I still remember some of the scams authored by then government, the Hawala scam, St Kitts scam and this, are its myriad achievements. In fact, you must wait to fit another two decades for UPA2 to come back to power to have such a list of scams.
  6. The Script: the dialogues are so excellent and witty you will continue to think about it for a while. The dialogue delivery is even brilliant. Written brilliantly, delivered even more spectacularly.

They have designed an almost perfect OTT series – a hands-down winner.

As you know me, I cannot help but nit-pick some of the shortcomings. There were few.

  1. Due to the obligation to dumbing down the technicalities of the scan, Sucheta role takes a hit. For or most episodes Sucheta Dalal is portrayed as a glorified stenographer. For most of the discoveries, all she has to do is wait for that phone call or wait for a file to fall into her laps. I do not think that was the case in reality.
  2. One of the critical indicators of period drama is the altitude of the belt buckle and side slit of salwar kameez. If you get that right, you do not even need to indicate the era/year you are narrating. In 80s belt buckle was on diaphragm and slit of sales was on a knee. Over the decades, one descended and other ascended. I think the movie got it wrong.
  3. Mrs Mehta and Sucheta and few more characters did not age through the episodes.
  4. One of the most concerning fact is, did this Series whitewash the scam-ster? Agree that the show does call the spade as a spade for political, regulatory and banks and other government bodies. But when it comes to Harshad, they are a little less harsh.

Here’s the trailer for you.

India unInc vs India Inc


We, humans, have an irritating tendency to stress on relative differences to an argument to appreciate something they like. For Example – Did you know the exciting fact that the statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel apparently can hold 6 Blue Wales inside it. Also, status is as tall as 2 Airbuses placed vertically (?!?), and a twice as large as status liberty. Tell me now, does this comparison generates any insights at any corner of your mind? Are they of any use at all?

The other tendency is to obsessively criticize someone, generally unrelated, to stress the importance of their topic in discussion. Generally unnecessarily and sarcastically. You can never argue what a beautiful job Liver does as against kidneys. Can you.?

One of such arguments I came across was a video sent across by my good friend. Thanks to my Baader-Meinhof’ it has been posted everywhere, including linked-in and Facebook feeds.

It’s about the talk given by a Retired Army Captain (thanks for your services) about India unInc (read India Un-incorporated), i.e. the unorganized sector. It’s an impressive 35 min long video, and it covers a set of management lessons supposedly to be learned from the street India. Please watch.

The presentation itself is impressive and well-curated, and that’s the end of it. The argument is filled with both logical-fallacies we discussed above and more. For example, Speaker repeatedly criticizes MBA Grads because he met a few street beggars who earned a few bucks without a degree. He compares a Khakra shop on a highway with Microsoft cause she refused to cross-sell a tea!

He force-fits management principles. And of course, all these, with taking cheap shots at India Inc. I do not intend to write a point by point rebuttals, but let me point out a couple of glaring holes in this argument.

Return on investment: His example was book shops on pavements generates more profit. He misses revenue. Of course, their ROI is high. 100% of those street books are pirated, and so are the DVDs. Why wouldn’t your ROI be on the rooftop all you need a photocopier to print your own books?

Equitable distribution of profit. Really? Tell me, Captain, What per cent of that profit, do you estimate, goes to the author? Zero. This is a crime against intellectual property, and no lessons learned on the street can justify that.

He goes on with his cherry-picking, ignoring all the rotten apples. He forgets to inform the unorganized sector is massive giant evils in our society. Pirating books and DVDs are the least of our worries. There are Forced begging, spamming and scamming, drugs peddling, trafficking and so on. Also, Even though India moved away from socialism, It’s a tradition of this sector to hold government at ransom, blackmail the hell out of them for benefits and then suicide. All these just avoid getting into an organized, regulated industry?

Btw. I am not denying the vital role the unorganized sector plays for India’ economy and keeps the blood flowing in her veins. Also, not undermining the importance of entrepreneurship to build this nation. But how would an economy thrive without using other limbs evolved? We need regulation, process maturity, governance, contingency planning, and most importantly, passion for improving and changing. And no sobbing story from highway dabha can change my opinion on that.

P.S1. Internet repeatedly reminds you of Few school dropouts made big in silicon valley. Hence, schools must be limiting the imagination of pupil. What they never tell you that these blokes did it despite dropping the school not because of dropping out. There is a significant difference.

P.S2. Another friend of mine indicated the striking resemblance of the Speaker with Rajdeep Sardesai, and that’s a red flag. And also, there is a possibility that Speaker may be a fan of red flag himself. You know what I mean?