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Too Big to Fail … by Andrew Ross Sorkin

8 Oct

Too big to fail is a inside take on the wall street crisis of 2008.  It is about alpha male egos gambling with super high stakes consisting of somebody else’s money and finally being rescue again by taxpayers money.  This book was a little difficult for me to read since I am not familiar with the world of finance, and the plethora of names made it still difficult.  However, for somebody who is reasonable acquainted with wall street this will be a racy read.

The book starts with Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan prophetically announcing ” We need to prepare right now for Lehman Brothers filing.  And for Merrill Lynch filing.  And for AIG filing.  And for Morgan Stanley filing.  And potentially Goldman Sachs filing”.  The financial crisis is some hollywoodian alien which is devouring the financial institutions one link at a time.

Further the book clearly points fingers towards the Fed “… it cannot be denied that the federal officials – includig Paulson, Bernanke, Geithner – contributed to the market turmoil through a series of inconsistent decisions.  They offered a safety net to Bear Stearns and backstopped Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac but allowed Lehman to fall into Chapter 11, only to rescue AIG soon after….”.
Dick Fuld initially appears as an arrogant *(^$*&^$ initially, strutting in hubris in the face of imminent problems, declining the Korean deal when (definitely in hindsight … pretty clearly in foresight as well) it seems to be the only way out.  But then when Lehman is the only firm to fail rather allowed (or forced?) to fail he seems like a victim!

The summary by Buffet is very apt – “… its a little bit like Cinderella at the ball.  People may have some feeling that midnight it’s going to turn to pumpkin and mice, but it’s so darn much fun, you now, when the wine is flowing and the guys get better looking all the time and the music sounds better and you think you’ll leave at fine of twelve and all of a sudden you look up and you see there are no clocks on the wall and – bingo, you know?  It does turn to pumpkins and mice.  It’s hard to blame the band.  It’s hard to blame the guy you’re dancing with.  There’s plenty of blame to go around.  There’s no villain.”

A good book – must read.


All copyrights respected.

Rahul Dravid … by Vedam Jayashankar

22 Aug

Since Rahul Dravid has recently retired it is a good moment to salute his genius and more importantly his public image.  It cannot get better than this … hats off we are all proud of you.

Now coming to the book review – The book is a fairly easy read with simple language and the pages fly.  However, the book fails to weave a match in front of the readers eyes.  I would rate the book extremely readable but not a must-read.

Some of my favourite parts of the book –

* Sanjay Manjrekar (I presume 😉 ) has been mentioned directly and covertly at many places … and ohhh boy I liked it.  ” … there were biased elements in the media who wrote nasty things about him.  There was a television commentator who probably believed that Rahul edged him out of the Indian team and hence struggled to say anything good about him … ”

* Rahul would catch the early morning BTS bus from Indiranagar to KSCA and work in the nets from 6:15am till 9am.  He would then change into school uniform on the deserted stairs of the Western Stand, for in those days there was no changing room facility in the outside practice ground.  He would wolf down the breakfast he has brought from home on the same stairs and then, with cricket kit and school bag thrown over his shoulders, he would run the couple of kilometers to school.  Armed with his favourite fruit, apple, which he would devour while jogging to school, Rahul would reach late; at times a couple of hours would have lapsed.  Further he would skip the last period of the day to attend nets in the evening and would once again go home in a crowded BTS”

* Also there is a mention of how he would have different friends for play (i.e., cricket) and for work (i.e., exams).  Though this fact does not cast a good light on him … defines how he could be successful in both academics and sports.

* A quote from Dravid himself “… the problem would be keeping to Sri (J. Srinath).  He gets tremendous movement off the seam, even with the new ball.  The problem is that most of the time the tilt is into the right-hand batsman – the unnatural side for me as wicket-keeper.  And the angle of the ball keeps passing the batsman, keeps going away on the leg side.  This at his genuine pace, would not only test the wicketkeeper, but end up bruising the fingers of his left hand, i.e., the right-hand batsman’s top hand.  Unless a wicket-keeper can collect Sri’s delivery cleanly all the time, he would end up with broken or bruised fingers…”

* A quote from TE Srinivasan “… Kiri was mad or absolutely brilliant to stand upto Chandra …”

* The origins of the Dravid name is very interesting; and also the side note of Iyers in Tamilnadu are not considered Dravidians in the first place 😉

Some nit picking –

* Eulogizing of Pushpa Dravid.  I am sure that Rahul and all the Dravid’s are very proud of Mrs.Pushpa.  Mrs.Pushpa is successful and all the accolades and respect are well deserved.  However, the extempore used to describe her in a book meant for her son seems out of place.  I would rather have liked to know how she influenced her son rather than how she became successful.  The detail of her struggle and achievements belongs to a biography of her own.

* More attention should be paid to spell check – Thimmappiah has been spelt as  Thimmappaih 😦 South Indian names are not to be spelt in any which way.   However this may be a mistake of the proof readers and not the author.


Profile of Rahul Dravid.

The Associate by John Grisham

21 Aug

There are companies at war; war in the courtroom that is.  The deep pockets hire the best lawyers and spies.  Industrial espionage by siphoning information from where ever possible is the motto.

One of the methods is to screen all the people working at the opponents law firm and find somebody who has a past that is best kept a secret.  Enter blackmail and get information by threatening to go public with the shaming details of the victims past deeds.

Kyle McAvoy, the brilliant Yale Law Student, is forced to accept a position in a prestigious law firm by his blackmailers who know what he did as a callow youth in the distant past.  The objective is to steal information from the firm and provide it to his “handler”.  Kyle knows that stealing of confidential and privileged information is only the beginning and such acts set him up for getting debarred and sacked but also for further blackmail.  He know he is staring at a horrible future as an asset wherein he is damned if he does and damned if he doesnt.  Does Kyle manage to hold onto his profession, ethics, marbles?  Does he get sucked in by the blackmailers or does he manage to beat them at their own game?  Read the book for the twists and turns.  However the ending is lame 😦 but the journey is worthwhile.  Good paperback read o a lazy weekend or during travel.  Recommended.

The Devil Wears Prada

15 Aug

This book has been written in a very readable style.  But I wonder why this made it to the best sellers list for such a long time.  [spoiler alert] It is a book about a girl taking up a job with a hope that this job will be the key to future success.  The job doesn’t turn out to be what she expected – rather it turns out to be a lot of things that rob her of her life and outright demeaning at times.  She finally gathers the courage to quit – without actually having another job.

This may be every employees dream – quitting on the boss after showing the middle finger; however it is not a good action for anybody.  Having source of income is very important as long as one has a hollow called stomach …

Good fairy tale though …………

Controversially Yours By Shoaib Akthar

15 Jul

Recently read the autobiography of the cricketer Shoaib Akthar.  The book is popular, I guess, based on the long waiting period in my library.

The book is well written and eminently readable.  This statement is also a comment on the life of Shoaib Akthar 😉 very interesting to read.  Shoaib takes this opportunity to call himself a “good boy” and all the unsavory events in his life were due to the many villains in his life; the enemies he made in his refusal to kiss-a**.  Conforming, a large part of life, most importantly adult life is lost of Shoaib; though it is true that there is no dearth of pointy-haired-bosses (aka Dilbert‘s boss) who make life difficult for non-suckers.  Sorry Shoaib, though I feel sorry for you at times, like the leaked (untrue as per Shoaib) personal medical reports, seniors considering juniors as competitors, etc., there are a lot of times where you do not come across as a “good boy”.    Shoaib goes out of his way to pull-down Sachin Tendulkarnon-conformist again.

However it is a good read … as long as you are not in an impressionable age where you believe everything you read.

Perry Mason #1: Case of the deadly toy

27 Apr

Nora Allison sees the coldness in the eyes of her fiancee when he slaps his young son, recognizes the man for what he is and calls of the wedding.  This is followed by receiving threats by mail and being roped by the ex-wife of her ex-fiancee in the custody battle of their son.  This bimbette is stupid enough to be framed in a murder case.  Enter the suave Perry Mason with his intelligent secretary Della Street and the dependable sleuth Paul Drake – the real culprits are caught in court, the police are made to look stupid and the client goes scot-free.

Read the book to find out how it all happens.

Tour of Perry Mason’s books

27 Apr

Perry Mason – one of my favorite characters.  I was introduced to him during my adolescence by my Father (yes, the man who has taught me everything – and continues to teach me every day).  Having briefly lived in Los Angeles I understand the locale and am old enough to remember an age without mobiles.  I plan to update this post with book reads as and when it happens.  Keep watching.

Perry Mason the smarty smart lawyer specializes in tricky cases where his client is usually an innocent bimbette but occasionally an innocent bumbler.  He outwits the police who are framing his innocent client at times skating on thin ice legally.  All this is with the help of his pretty secretary Della Street who loves the action.  Perry Mason is ably supported by Paul Drake the very efficient and effective detective.

1. Case of the Deadly Toy

The Litigators by John Grisham

22 Apr

Finished reading my nth John Grisham book in record time.  This is one of his best books.

Congrats to David Zinc (the protagonist) … he had the guts to run away from a sweat shop and branch out on his own AND the tenacity to succeed.  Anybody who holds a job will love this guy.

The story is about two loser lawyers who chance upon a cholesterol lowering drug which supposedly causes severe unexpected side-effects.  The lawyers dream about suing the bad-drug company with a long rap sheet of bad drugs and settlement in order to have a multimillion dollar settlement (read retirement).  David Zinc, our hero, walks out of his sweat-shop / high-profile law firm and walks into these two losers.

Do the loser lawyers manage to screw the drug company or do they get screwed themselves?  How does the lovable David succeed?  Read the book – it is worth the ride 🙂

Tour of Chetan Bhagat’s books

1 Apr

I seem to be one of the many followers of Chetan Bhagat’s books and I think I have read all his books.   Though I would not describe myself as a fan (his writing needs more); I would like to call my self as an enjoyer of his works.  His books are an easy read and serve as a good stress buster.  Ideal for a journey or for a weekend that is followed by a week full of stress.

Five point someone:

A story about three students at IIT who do not succeed at IIT on IITs terms.  Getting into IIT definitely proves that they have brains; not getting out of IIT proves that they do not have the smarts ;-).  As the subtitle “What not to do at IIT” suggests, the protagonists do everything that is taboo at IIT.

Though this book is well written, it leaves a lot to be desired and the plot could have been better.  I read this book after watching the movie 3 Idiots and the movie is much better written than the book.  Though I concur with Mr.Bhagat that quite a bit of the movie is based on the book.

One night @ the call center:

A book about six friends / colleagues who work in a call center.  Working from India to suit US timings is one of the worst jobs that one could take up; it is sad if one is forced to take this kind job to put bread on the table; but it is really sorry if somebody takes this kind of work just for money.  The six protagonists work together, socialize together and have generally screwed-up lives (who doesn’t)  and when everything comes to a boil one night including a near death experience they come of age and resolve to work towards a rewarding future wherein rewards are counted not only in terms of money.

This is the best book by Chetan Bhagat in my opinion.  The events are plausible; though a little curious that so much happens during one night!!  The train journey though is a little forced and could have been avoided.

Three mistakes of my life:

The protagonist makes three big mistakes in his life.  Some how romance, hindu-muslim riots, cricket, australia, et al, are woven into a one story.  The author seems to have written a few opinions / short stories and decided to merge all of them into one novel.  Don’t read this one.

2 states of my marriage:

The lovers, IIM students who belong to Punjab and Tamilnadu try hard to convince their families about their choice of spouse and the ride is hilarious.  The behavior of the families seems true and this part may be autobiographical 😉 (my guess!!!).  However, the counselor could have been left out of the picture.  Some caricatures like a tradition TamBram girl eating chicken seems forced.  I wonder why the Punjabi guy has not been similarly bad mouthed!!

A very good read and if you or your loved-ones are in a north/south relationship then this is a must read

Revolution 2020:

This book is about two friends and a girl.  Both of them love the girl one is poor and the other is rich.  At the end of the story the poor guy is really rich and the rich guy is not exactly rich!  After various turns and twists the girl marries only on of the boys (Thank God for small mercies).

Don’t read this book.  If you are a die hard Bhagat fan – still don’t read it.


One general aspect I dislike  about Chetan Bhagat’s books is how sex is described as casual and all young Indian’s are described as wanton.  Pre-marital sex is depicted as a norm – even in small town India.  This in my opinion is not true.  Mr. Bhagat is this closer to your experiences in life??

Pundits from Pakistan … by Rahul Bhattacharya

28 Jan

I rented this book with high hopes.  I had read glowing reviews from his peer sports writers.  Sorry to say that all the applause from the peerage seems to be a case of I-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine!  More than the book I am disappointed by the guys (Prem Panicker?) for applauding this sad book!!!

The book itself has some good anecdotes – but as a whole disappoints.  The matches are not well described – it does not spin the match in front of ones eyes.  The stuff in between matches is mostly unremarkable.  Overall only a devout cricket fan like me can read this.

One example of bad writing – tape ball.  Reading the text in the book the only thing I understood that insulation tape was used on a ball with a seam.  How about a photograph – or better description.  The tape ball concept is still far from clear after reading the text.  Oh yes there are many more.

However a few interesting anecdotes –

  • Sonny an editorial writer for Dawn quips “You know, the only culture shock I got on my first visit to India was the absence of security measures…”.
  • Shoaib Akthar’s credentials.  He is born with pancake flat feet and motor mouth, able to bend his elbows back by forty fie degress, he can bend his fingers till they touch his wrist. He has been banned for ball-tampering, for calling a tailender a twat, twice  for chucking.  He has been fined for making obscene gestures at spectators.  He has infuriated his team and administrators by dancing in the discos of South Africa after pulling out of a Test match with an injured knee and by jet skiing after pulling out of a one day match with an injured groin.  He has attracted a PIL by slagging off former Pakistani greats and by attending a fashion show on a holy night on the eve of a big match.  He has felled a top batsmen and held their bleeding bodies in his benevolent arms.   He has bowled the fastest spells that have ever been bowled.   He has turned matches around frequently and has missed more matches than he has played.
  • Ganguly on Dravid’s controversial declaration with Sachin at 194.n.o – “…Whoever it is made a mistake it’s for the team to accept it – for Rahul to accept it, for Sachin to accept it, us to accept it and go ahead … let’s finish this off as an issue …” profound and wise!!!! I see Ganguly in new light.
  • Abdul Qadir and his vision.  “Complete thought of live by Abdul Qadir – Discipline, Truth, Unity and Faith”!  Profound!!!!!! LOL!  Anyways – what Abdul Qadir offers “I can give some zabardast prograams, hot rograams, biknewali probrams to TV radio whoever.  Match fixing ho ya ball tampering – pehle, ab, sab”.
  • PILs –
  1. Fayaz Ahmed v/s Wasim Akram.  For appearing in the Royal Stag advertisement.  Status: Rs.24,000/- in damages awarded to the plaintiff.
  2. Najmal Abbas v/s Wasim Akram.  For applying for the post of Indian bowling coach.  Status: case withdrawn after it was established that this was untrue.
  3. Najmal Abbas v/s Taquir Zia, chariman of the PCB for the early exit from the 2003 World Cup.  Stauts:  case withdrawn after the team’s success in the next tournament at Sharjah.
  4. Syed Muzzamal Hussain v/s Shoaib Akthar, Ramiz Raja and Aamir Sohail.  Fr attending a fashion show on the holy night of Shab-e-Barat, and that with a key one-day match slated for the following day.  Status: case withdrawn towards the start of the series, to prevent distraction.
  5. Najmal Abbas v/s Shoaib Akthar.  For demeaning Pakistani cricket greats in an interview to the Guardian.  Status: case withdrawn towards the start of the series to prevent distraction.
  6. Najmal Abbas v/s Wasim Akram.  For statements from Irfan Pathan and Zaheer Khan that his coaching had helped them.  Status: case dismissed by a Lahore court.
  • And finally my favourite – match fixing
  • Karachi, 1955, Lala Amarnath, the Indian team manager , is seated in the room of Abdul Hafeez Kardar, the Pakistan captain.  The two gents have, among other things, recently taken the unusual step of slapping each other in the hotel lobby.  This is a reconcilaiton tea meeting onthe eve of the last Test of the series.  Lala’s back is to the door, and so the man who enters the room with the words, “Any instruction for tomorrow’s game, skipper?” has his guard down.  This man is umpire Idris Beg.
  • Bombay, 1960, Pakistan’s captain, Fazal Mahmood, clean bowls his counterpart, Nari Contractor, in the opening Test of the series at Braboune.  Contractor is on his way back to the pavilion  when the umpire S.K.Ganguly sticks out his arm to signal a no-ball.  Why, enquires Fazal, has not the call come earlier?  Replies Ganguly “chewing gum got struck in my throat”.


All copyrights respected.  The anecdotes are mostly verbatim with minor alterations.  The spirit is 100% same as in the book.

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