• One of the great delights of Indian newspapers is that they often report seriously news that is insanely, rotfl-ly funny. Take the following news headline: 'Dhoni Keeps Promise, Adopts a Tiger'. On reading this story, you find that India's cricket captain, MS Dhoni, has adopted a tiger called Agsthya in the Mysore Zoo. Javagal Srinath persuaded him to do so, and Dhoni isn't the only early adopter: Zaheer Khan has adopted a leopard, Anil Kumble has adopted a giraffe and Virat Kohli has adopted a rabbit. (Incredibly, I'm making up only the bit about Kohli.) The tiger is 9 years old, so any questions about whether it will be nursed by his wife are out of place here. In any case, young Sakshi Dhoni would no doubt not want her Masaba saris to be peed on by a baby tiger, and I'm safely assuming that young Agsthya Dhoni will remain a resident of Mysore Zoo.

    As you would guess, this reminds me of MF Husain. The celebrated painter died last week, and the media has been full of tributes to him.

    Read More »from The Tiger, the Painter and the Celebrity Machine
  • The Right Sort Of Company

    "Good Morning, Sehgal sa'ab". It wasn't a reference to Mr. Sehgal's car. "Sa'ab" was short for Sahib, the equivalent of "boss" or "sir". In any case, Mr. Sehgal had a Honda.

    "Hello, Sudhir. Good to see you after all this time. Don't tell me you have a tax problem", said Sehgal, in a worried tone, wondering why a chartered accountant was always the guinea pig during tax return time.

    "Not really, Mr. Sehgal. This is Rakesh Mannan. We want to start a company together. Tell us how. We're going to make software for solar cars, and make loads of money. "

    Good luck with that, thought Sehgal. Great ideas, and very little operational knowledge — however, crazier ideas have succeeded and you can't let an opportunity go. So he started.

    "So you have many choices — a partnership, an LLP or a private limited. A partnership is the least cumbersome, but you do have the issue that each of you as a partner has full liability".

    "What does that mean?", asked Rakesh.

    "Rakesh, if your partnership takes a

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  • It all started because the Indian government, reeling from the Great Fiscal Crisis of 2014, decided to tax the  foreign income of Indian nationals. All Indian citizens--from the rich taxi driver in Sydney to the poor investment banker on Wall Street--were told to get their PAN numbers forthwith and start paying taxes. The Non-Resident Indian income tax rate was set at 15% and to increase to 22% over the next five years. It was decided to impose severe penalties on non-payment, at the time of passport renewal. Passports would be valid for no more than five years. The legislation effecting this change sailed through parliament, without any debate, within seconds, surprising and infuriating the global community of pravasi bharatiyas and their deshvasi families.

    It was  Jagmohan Mehta, a bright spark from Navi Pune (then called Boston) who first raised the famous slogan, "No Taxation Without Representation!" If the Indian government wanted to tax NRIs, he argued, it must also give them the

    Read More »from The sun doesn’t set on the Indian Republic
  • ‘Make Believe’ Policy

    In accounting and government

    One of the corner-stones of accounting is "mark-to-market". Meaning, a company must tell its shareholders the value its financial assets would fetch in the open-market. When these prices fall, the real worth of the company takes a hit, which must be reflected in its quarterly accounting.

    When the crisis hit Western banks last decade, sharp losses in the value of financial instruments set off a chain reaction — huge book profits turned to losses; to cover these losses, banks sold assets; the selling pressure forced market prices down; this required banks to sell more assets, etc. To prevent a total melt-down, governments stepped in with emergency loans, which created some breathing room.

    However, this borrowed cash did not make the assets —especially derivatives - any more saleable or valuable. To allow banks to repair their balance sheets, a magic wand was required. Governments, acting through financial regulatory boards, wished away Mark to Market (MTM)

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  • Reading Yoga

    Practitioners of yoga have been much in the news these days — sadly, not because of the practice of yoga. Such a practice, as we should all know by now, has been firmly established as a discipline that's Good For You.  Another such activity, clearly, is reading. (Remember reading? Making sense of a page filled with letters organized into words and sentences?)

    Given our frantic urban lifestyle — with little room for life, leave alone style — finding the time to pursue both disciplines for a sustained period has always been difficult.  No longer. It's time to take heart: in a dazzling breakthrough, this column presents a series of poses that combines yoga with reading.

    Each one has been tried and tested by your faithful, fatigued columnist. Fasting is optional, but make sure your tongue is firmly in cheek before commencing.

    The Upside-down Turtle: A good pose for the beginner. Lie on your back on any firm surface with your hands by your sides, palms facing upward.  Slide one of your

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  • We complain about black money. For most of us, black money is money in suitcases, printed notes of currency. We imagine that there are huge stashes of currency in politicians' houses, that industrialists are, quite literally, rolling in the stuff. Our new-age yoga enhanced civil society members even demand that we should stop the use of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes because they help corruption.

    And I say that at a macro level, we should be more worried about white money.

    Because RBI's statistics — they release this every week — say that the total amount of rupees in notes printed is about Rs. 10 lakh crores. Our GDP is about 80 lakh crores. Even if 30% of the total money printed was being hoarded as black money, it's about 4% of GDP. This is not small; but I argue that this is not big enough. I mean there is much more illegal money out there than 4% of GDP. And that also means the black money is being laundered into white money quite easily.

    From doctors to lawyers to small hotels to

    Read More »from Dirty Money Is Not Just Black


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