Want growth? Focus on women, Mr FM

Every year as Budget season creeps in, familiar discussions on the fiscal deficit, taxes and reforms begin, reach a crescendo as the government tables the Finance Bill and then fade away.

It wasn’t different this year. And, like every year, the most critical priority area that needs structural reform — the economic empowerment of women–was ignored.

This was surprising given Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s stated aim to push growth into double digits. It’s unlikely that India will get there without expanding economic opportunities for women. The allocations to security funds and colleges in Budget 2015 will not be enough.

Read my entire blog for the Huffington Post here: http://www.huffingtonpost.in/ashraf-engineer/want-growth-focus-on-wome_b_6781112.html?utm_hp_ref=india

Do read and share.

Ghalib-level epic-ness on the backs of trucks

As I posted a while ago, the best philosophy in India can be found on the backs of trucks. Here are a few truths I spotted whiled driving on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway a few days ago. Your favourite?

This is pretty much untranslatable (does such a word exist?). No arguments with it - envy is a sin.

This is pretty much untranslatable (does such a word exist?). No arguments with it – envy is a sin.

Sound advice. It roughly translates as: "I know I'm pretty; don't cast an evil eye on me. I'll stay with you forever; just don't drink and drive." Lost in translation, sadly, but it's pretty funny in Hindi.

Sound advice. It roughly translates as: “I know I’m pretty; don’t cast an evil eye on me. I’ll stay with you forever; just don’t drink and drive.”
Lost in translation, sadly, but it’s pretty funny in Hindi.

Ghalib-level epic-ness.  It translates as: "Learn driving; your fate is sealed. You'll be able to earn a meal only sometimes, and gold only in the next birth." Cheesy, I know, but it's meant to be. Glad I know driving.

It translates as: “Learn driving; your fate is sealed. You’ll be able to earn a meal only sometimes, and gold only in the next birth.”
Cheesy, I know, but it’s meant to be.
Glad I know driving.

I know this one's tough to read. It says: 'Ghodon ki race mein gadhe nahi daudte." (Donkeys don't run in horse races.) True that.

I know this one’s tough to read. It says: ‘Ghodon ki race mein gadhe nahi daudte.” (Donkeys don’t run in horse races.) True that.

Kyani and Starbucks – ‘market’ forces at play

Yesterday, I visited two vastly different hangout spots – Kyani near Metro, just before my morning session at XIC, and Starbucks at Phoenix Mills in the evening.

It was a wonderful walk down memory lane at Kyani; I used to visit it often when I was a student at XIC in 1994-95, gorging on the mutton samosas and ‘market’ – a mixture of coffee and tea. Kyani, to me, is Mumbai hanging on by its fingernails to a simpler, slower, charming past. Many other Irani restaurants have either shut or are doing badly. I don’t know how well Kyani is doing – it seemed to be abuzz – but I hope it survives the onslaught of changing tastes.

Most people today prefer places like Starbucks, where you can drink overpriced coffee, get free wi-fi and glue your eyes to a phone screen, not noticing anything around you. In Kyani, on the other hand, you are forced to notice the savouries being fried, the characters employed as waiters and the guy at the counter yelling: “Ae, butter kitna hai?”

Maybe it’ll remain relevant only to people like me. Here’s one thing to think about: Two mutton patties and a coffee at Kyani cost me Rs 80. A couple of coffees at a coffee shop can set you back by Rs 300. Also, only one of them is fun.

I read somewhere that Kyani was established in 1904, which makes it 111 years old. It certainly looks its age. Thankfully, its regulars have not abandoned it. Pack some biscuits and cakes as you leave. You won't regret it.

I read somewhere that Kyani was established in 1904, which makes it 111 years old. It certainly looks its age. Thankfully, its regulars have not abandoned it. Pack some biscuits and cakes as you leave. You won’t regret it.

To most people, coffee shops like Starbucks are more 'refined' and they like being seen there. To me, they are a little impersonal and very commercial. The coffee tastes like it's off an assembly line - which, I guess, it is - and everything is regimented. No waiters walking around in their vests, growling at customers and the proprietor. But give me that any day.

To most people, coffee shops like Starbucks are more ‘refined’ and they like being seen there. To me, they are a little impersonal and very commercial. The coffee tastes like it’s off an assembly line – which, I guess, it is – and everything is regimented. No waiters walking around in their vests, growling at customers and the proprietor. But give me that any day.