Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Chhota Bheem...

In the old days, especially in my early years, I would always look forward to Mickey and Donald, Tom n Jerry to lighten my mood. It was a fun occasion, a cartoon with no tension and just pure entertainment. The good thing about those 2 cartoons above were their culture neutrality, which made them easy favourites across cultures. In those days, the only Indian cartoons would be beginners stuff served by Doordarshan, which were liked more because they were a novelty than anything else! It was always a given that Indian Cartoons were no good...

Cut to today, and the scenario has changed quite remarkably. Chhota Bheem seems to have caught the imagination of the nation - at least the majority of kids. Even a good number of adults are getting enamored with the cartoon character of Chhota Bheem!. What was once deemed impossible has been converted into a reality thanks to Rajiv Chilaka (above). The show now has almost a cult following among the kids - it plays nearly all day long on Pogo channel. I know since nothing else is allowed at my home - IPL included. Had to fight my kid for TV time! 

Personally, what I like the best about the series is the undercurrent of moral education and the gentle not-so-subtle emphasis on values, morals, right and wrong. This is something that is noticeably absent from western cartoons - Tom'n'Jerry, Mickey & Donald, Bugs Bunny et al. These were all about fun pranks etc. In fact, some of the pranks shown on a few of the episodes are quite frankly a bit too "wise" for my taste! In marked contrast, the Chhota Bheem series is not only fun, it adhers to Indian Values, emphasises right vs wrong. One cannot say with certainty that it builds character - (if cartoons could build character, then all kids would be saints by now!) - but at least it emphasises the right virtues in a manner that kids can relate to. That is the biggest achievement of the series. Every episode has a clear message - forgiveness or honesty etc. The kids learn a little from these episodes - which places the series head and shoulders above any and all animations that have been attempted. There has not been a single episode of the Chhota Bheem series in which I can find anything that is rough, or unacceptable or "wise-guy"ish. The adherence to the underlying values of the series is to be praised!

The other aspect is a no-brainer: the setting is Indian; which makes it relatively easy for us to relate to the cast and get involved in them. The looks, the settings are so close to home that we accept them almost naturally. The background is normally so well done and scenic, with lots of greenery etc being depicted that it adds to the overall beauty. Since the base is a village setting, it seems very natural and comfortable... Each episode has a clear story & message that goes beyond just pranks and fun. That lifts the entire series into a different level entirely! It is this double combination that makes it a cut above most others of its genre...

The movie version has also been deemed a success, which is very heartening. I have seen the movie, and liked it a lot- as did my family, who also enjoyed the experience. I had not expected much of a turnout for a cartoon, but was surprised by the attendance. Obviously, being in a new genre for Indian Cinema, it cannot be expected to run full house for weeks - but the encouraging response bodes well for the Indian Animation industry. The movie was a great one- I rate it beyond any other animation movie for the reasons outlined above - and we can only expect the team to get better from here onwards. The best part of it was the fact that it had a clearly defined storyline, great voice-acting, a message and superb animation. For those who have criticized it, I can only say that having watched most animations I found nothing that was present in them that was not present in Chhota Bheem. The background music was class, and gelled very well with the storyline. If any suggestion can be made, then it is only that I wish the director would make the next Chhota Bheem movie a bit longer, more involved, as we are left wanting for more. That apart, it was a perfect movie. Better than I have seen till date in its genre...

Only feed back for the Director: please dont change the voice-over actors for as long as is humanly possible - we identify the characters as much by their physical appearance as by the voices in a cartoon setting. That is absolutely vital! A definable message, a clear storyline, great voice-characterizations and a lovable cast of cartoon characters are what has made the series a tremendous success... let us hope that it continues to do so.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Crisis times bring an opportunity... esp for the government!

  • Current Account Deficit nearly 4%... (or more than 4 now)
  • High Fiscal Deficit
  • High Inflation
  • Policy Paralysis...
  • Eurozone brouhaha
I could go on and on several real and imagined parameters...  but the above should be good enough to underline that we are currently passing through rather tough times. The newspapers are, on a daily basis, full of doomsday predictions, blaming ruling alliance and so on and so forth! Policy paralysis has almost become the buzzword! And it is precisely these thoughts running through my mind - especially the tough times bit - that reminded me of an age-old idiom "Every black cloud has a silver lining". 

I dont want - or intend - to sermonize; so let me get straight to the point: there is a clearly definable silver line that has now appeared for the ruling party. From the UPA-II point of view, the important points are:
  • Indian Economy in trouble
  • Public up in arms against just about every move the government makes
  • All time low confidence levels in government
  • World Economy teetering
  • Political equations in a fluid state
  • Mulayam Factor
  • BJP in disarray as well
It is an environment that is fraught with challenges, dangers for anyone in the seat. And that means, it will take a very brave person indeed to take the risk of sitting on the seat in such times - and run the inadvertant risk of  sharing the blame... 

The second point is the fluidity in the overall political scenario and the Mulayam factor, which gives a bit of breathing space for the UPA government. The 3rd factor is the problems in the opposition. Put all these together, and the result is a very high degree of certainty that UPA-II might just last the full term. And that brings me to the silver lining!

The silver lining in quite simply the freedom it can afford the powers that be to take some badly needed structural corrections in the systems - as no one is in a situation to take advantage of it. Secondly, even if the opposition sort their house, the chances are very high indeed that they will let UPA-II handle this mess, and wait for 2014! That being the case, the reforms - if they are pushed through - can just turn things around. They have just taken one courageous decision in petrol - they can do more, if only they show the will and the attitude. They have been placed in a unique position - one which affords them the leeway to take tough calls. Yes, it is a 2-edged sword, no doubt, the risk is there that some partner might jerk the rug - but the opportunity is there. and the chances are the allies will scream and shout, but actually do nothing. I agree that Petrol is perhaps the simplest of the decisions to take, as vested interests are not stoked  - or identified party positions are not challenged; vote banks are not threatened too much. So everyone makes a hue and cry, but does nothing! 

The other steps might not be so simple... but the UPA-II is now undeniably in a position to take some calls... now if only it does do precisely that!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Is it a crime to be honest?

This post is in memory of all those who have paid the highest penalty in the fight against corruption... 

This case was highlighted by CRIME PATROL DASTAK on May 19th, 2012

"Satyendra Kumar Dubey could have chosen to keep quiet, like the majority of young professionals of this country. He could have continued doing his job as a deputy general manager in the Centre’s National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and shut his eyes to the variegated ways in which a prestigious project - Instead Dubey opted to do the right thing by alerting the PMO to these developments because he believed the project was of “unparalleled importance to the nation”. He paid with his life for having done so”  - Indian Express "

Most of us would have chosen to keep quiet in similar circumstances - and that is what makes the courage of people like Mr Dubey awe-inspriring, and exemplary. Yes, his murder did spark countrywide - and even international protest. But why must it always be so? Why must we, the people of India, be reactive rather than proactive? 

In his complaint addressed to the then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee in confidence, Satyendra Dubey, an IIT Kanpur product working as an engineer in the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), pointed out instances of corruption in the project. He also requested anonymity, that his name not be revealed. In complete disregard to the safety of this principled man, the government revealed his name, with the result that he ultimately paid for his life. He could have kept silent, but he didnt. He was a qualified -  a highly qualified engineer, a BTech - MTech from the IIT. He could have opted for a cushy corporate life, which he spurned. Instead, he opted to serve the nation - and paid for his life!

There are any number of cases of whisteblowers being victimised - and even killed. This is basic common sense - how can you reveal the name? Are our politicians concerned with the interest of the whistleblower - and by extension - the interest of the nation? Or are they concerned with self-preservation? In this prevailing atmosphere, little wonder then that people do not speak out in any sphere of life, government or private. We are emasculating our own population! We are teaching them that silence is golden even in the face of oppression! Brilliant, great thinking! 

And we, the people, are silent. 

We have always remained silent - until we scream after the event - this screaming lasts for a few days...

And Then, We The People, Fall Silent Yet Again.

Is it a crime to be honest? There are any number of cases of honest people paying for doing their duty. Why should it be so? What is the lesson that we are giving our children? What kind of India are we bequeathing to our children? What example are we setting our children? 

Corruption is the single largest drain on our resources - and not just in terms of monetary and/or capital resources. We are losing our top people- either to the system (as they get converted to the style of functioning), or to other countries - or even to the jaws of death. In either case, it is a loss to the nation... an irreparable loss....

Jago Sonewaalon...

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Book Review: The Devotion of Suspect X

The Devotion of Suspect X by Heigo Hashimo - Translation by Alexander G smith with Elye Alexander

The Characters
1. Yasuko Hanaoka - A divorcee, mother of a teenaged daughter - hard working lady whose entire life is about bringing up the daughter; simple, honest and decent
2. Misato - The daughter; active, simple and tough
3. Ishigami - Highly qualified mathematician; an idealist who loves the purity of the subject; a man to whom life has been extraordinarily tough; a sensitive, intelligent, devoted and totally selfless man...
4. Yukawa - Ex-classmate of Ishigami; equally gifted; assistant professor at a top university and advisor / friend to the police officer Kusanagi
5. Kusanagi - Police officer; doughty; methodic; logical bent of mind; a man who just doesn't give up...
6. Togashi - Ex-husband of Yasuko; wily, rough, uncouth, untrustworthy

The Plot
The story starts in a very slow tempo - so slow, that you wonder how did this book ever garner the fame that it has managed to? At about the 3rd or 4th page, you begin to want to skip words and move on. This lasts all of 8 pages or so... thereafter the book increases its pace - till about the 15-20th page -when it simply explodes into uncharted territory. Hereafter, you forget everything about skipping pages and are glued to the story...for here it becomes a "murder" story in which the victim gets murdered in first chapter; the murderer is known to the reader - and nothing is hidden from the reader!
This unique concept then develops into a battle of wits between the police and the planners... because the evidence is irreconcilable with the physical facts. The evidence is so convoluted that it does not fit any theory; the cover-up by the hapless murderer and the accomplice is so complex in nature that no one is able to crack through the subterfuge. The beauty of the plot is in the fact that you - the reader knows exactly how the murder is committed; you are aware that the body has been disposed off; you are equally aware that every bit of evidence found is fabricated; you are aware that the fabricator of the evidence is extraordinarily intelligent as also aware of police methods, technology and tactics; and yet you (the reader) are up against the inexplicable approach that leaves the police totally confounded; you yourself get confounded since you are unable to explain the evidence despite knowing almost everything that has transpired. Saying anymore will spoil the fun, so read the book to find out more

The Analysis
An eminently readable, unputdownable book that maintains superb speed from about the 10th page till the last page. It is the first book since the Perry Mason series that I have unable to put down after starting it. The pace is relentless; the plot is confounding with several superb and totally unexpected twists towards the end of the book. The story does not resort to the usual tactics of whodunit writers - police chases; constant investigations and interrogations; hunting new evidence; running around from pillar to post etc etc - and yet, it maintains both pace and interest. Instead, the approach used is intense, with frequent indicators and allusions that pique your interest. At every turn, the inexplicability of the evidence is highlighted in sequentially greater detail... I regret not being able to say more, since that will spoil your fun!
 The story is intense, as is the translation which is also intense. The translation deserves a special mention - it is rare to find a translation which is so good; having said that I regret deeply my inability to read Japanese script- I would love to read the original. If the translation is so intense, then the real thing must be doubly so. All in all, an excellent book... 5 stars in my opinion

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

NCTC Meet: A Sad Day For Our Beloved India...

1. Chidambaram's speech:
2. Manmohan Singh:

Why are we thinking of states and a federal setup? Cant any of the geniuses in politics see that terrorism is an external threat? And what is the next step? Localisation of the Army: A seperate Army in UP, Bihar etc etc?

What is most ludicrous that every single non-congress state is shouting without suggesting any credible alternative. Not one person in that list has added anything worthwhile to combat this problem... while the common man continues to suffer. Little wonder then that an increasing number of people are shunning politicians! Shouting is easy, folks... how about some concrete suggestions instead? At least the center has done some brainwork,. while the states are squealing without giving a solution. Fine - NCTC is bad. Then give a solution instead of screaming! This is leading me- and others like me, no doubt- to suspect that this is nothing but mere political posturing.

First of all, let us get one thing straight: The constitution refers to India as a Union of States, NOT a Federation. There is a considerable difference between the two.
Dont Believe Me? Read it in the constitution:

From the states list: "Public order (but not including the use of any naval, military or air force or any other armed force of the Union or of any other force subject to the control of the Union or of any contingent or unit thereof in aid of the civil power)"

First. the Army has been quite regularly called into action against terrorism. Second, we are not a federation. Third, common sense tells us that terrorism has to be a central issue. So why this ruckus?

History tells us that whenever the center is weak.....

Pains me to say this, but there it is!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Book Review: Kargil - From Surprise To Victory

A definitive account of the Kargil War by the then Chief Of Army Staff General V. P. Malik... 

The Indian Army (or rather, The Armed Forces) occupies a special place in India... and this, in my opinion, is unique to our India. The Armed Forces are considered special, inviolate, upright, decent, relatively corruption free - in fact, the last bastion against corruption. Anything that involves the Armed Forces immediately captures the national attention - especially news relating to unsavory happenings, be it war preparedness, military corruption, ex-soldiers etc. The incident of the anonymous leakage of the Army Chief's letter is still fresh in the public memory... which is why this book in particular holds special relevance in the current context. 

I am not implicating that the Kargil War is not of central importance - it is, and always will be - but more of that later. The book is not just about the Kargil War - it has a very vast scope. It is an analysis of how the intrusion by Pakistan happened, how it was planned, what were the Pakistani compulsions and strategic objectives behind the plan, the historical perspective of Siachen and its relevance to Kargil & roles of various military and political personnel in Pakistan in the planning and execution. The book  details failures on the Indian side- Army, Intelligence, Political, Bureaucratic, Procurement and Planning failures - why were we not able to detect the intrusions. Thereafter, the book describes the war and its implications in terms of strategic and military challenges, improvements, implications for Indo-Pakistani Dialogue & implications of South East Asian security. It examines the Nuclear question in some detail and looks at both sides of the coin. 

The author is pretty much brutal, contemptuous and merciless on the bureaucratic and political class when it comes to defence planning and procurement. The disgust is apparent, and the Chief has made no bones about deficiencies as they existed in the Army. No only that, he has also expressed dissatisfaction with the progress on a number of fronts of cooperation with the civilian authorities. "Besides lack of funds, our procedures are unresponsive, cost escalatory, frustrating and demoralizing." "March 1999: Major acquisitions get stymied, a feeling of cynicism is creeping in, the prevailing situation is that nothing much can be done about the existing hollowness in the Army""23 June 1999: We shall fight with whatever we have" The total lack of awareness (as it existed at that point in time) among civilian officials in the Ministry of Defence has been brutally exposed - "The Army does not fight on rifles alone" - in response to a MoD question as to requirement of weapons, noting the thousands of rifles!!!!!!!!!!! 

While the prompt political reaction (as can be seen today as well) has been noted, appreciated and highlighted by the General - who seems to be a fair man -the question remains as to the role of the Ministry of Defence officials in procurement. The plain fact is that they are simply not prepared for, have no idea of and no knowledge of a defence setup and its genuine needs. The current problem that the Army is facing is not a new one - it is a very old one! A telling comment by the author: "From then onwards, I found them  -Cabinet Committee On Security CCS - and the secretaties of various ministries spending more and more time discussing elections rather than the War Situation" All in all, a blunt, brutal and merciless account that spares no one - Army or otherwise. Yes, where praise is due it has been effusively given -even on MoD or political leadership. But faults - whether systemic or otherwise - have also been equally harshly dealt with .And a no holds-barred approach is precisely what an Indian expects from an Army Chief!

The best part about the book is its transparent approach and blunt statements of facts - even where the Indian side is wrong, The author, in true Indian Military fashion, has not minced words in criticizing anyone- Army or otherwise. Similarly, he has been profuse in terms of praise. It is this balanced, transparent and fair approach - one that gels well with the average Indians' perception of an Officer - that is the hallmark of this book. The book examines Indian shortcomings with brutal frankness. In the same sequence, the author deftly changes the tenor of the prose to detail how the shortcomings were catered to and overcome. The compromises and decisions made as to men, weapons and ammunition; the adjustments made and the decisions taken are so well laid out that the layman reader appreciates both, the problems as well as the decisions taken. The prose almost gives you a ringside seat as decisions are taken - all in a few short pages.  

The section on the Armed Forces failures in monitoring has been equally bluntly written, and the decisions taken have also been laid out alongwith relevant reasoning. There is a bit of defensiveness that is detectable, but that is justified in the overall scenario as it plays out. The General has been merciless on everyone in this part, with no one being spared - all in a very few selected words. Similarly, intelligence failures have also been pointed out mercilessly. The General has taken pains to point out that there was no actionable information given at any point of time by anyone to the Armed Forces. 

The part on the War.... no comments. Read it for yourself. I can only say one thing, the entire War has been strategically explained with adequate references and maps, reasons of strategic importance of various features, tactics employed and units participating. For those of us for whom Kargil was only about 4-5 Battalions picturised in the movie "LOC Kargil" this part will be a revelation. Further, the narrative is taught and well formed, and does not slacken at any point. The entire war has been covered in majestic detail in about 100 - 120 pages (one third of the book). You can see the situation unfurling right in front of your eyes, which enables a deep understanding of the entire sad episode. You are left breathless with the descriptions of bravery, at times with a lump in your throat...

The second great part of the book is the part covering the diplomatic maneuvers undertaken by various nations culminating in the Pakistani withdrawal, and the reactions of Pakistani Illuminati - both civilian as well as ex-military. The reader gets a ringside seat as the story plays out - you realise that you are getting an inside view of the momentous episode. The China chapter is a classic as it dissects China, its reactions and reasons in detail, enabling a fundamental understanding of the China angle. The Nuclear angle -the threat that Pakistan was preparing its Nuclear arsenal - has also been covered, as also the deterrence factor of the Bomb. This finds space throughout the book, and is a central theme, although covered in a very few short pages. Of interest is the section regarding the Indian Army and Political reaction to the Pakistani Sabre-rattling. 

The book concludes with an examination of the India-Pakistan relationship after Kargil. The Agra episode has been well covered, and you have to appreciate the General's far-sightedness as he notes before the Agra Summit "we could expect him to be courteous, apparently honest, and like all of them, good in the art of military and political deception. However, Pakistan's military and Political history tells us that Military Presidents tend to be politically shortsighted" "Would his own mindset, his militray colleagues and jihadi elements allow him flexibility on the J&K issue?"

"There is no alternative to a gradual incremental peace process though political, economic and military confidence building" These are the words of a General of the Army! What more can anyone say? It is only one para in the book, but the closing makes a powerful pitch for peace, and states that building economic bridges will go a long way towards negating the possibility of another confrontation alongwith the normal dialogue... However, in the same tone, the essentiality of dismantling the terror mechanism has also been made... 

Samsung Galaxy SIII

  1. Android 4.0
  2. Default User Interface - Custom Skin By Samsung
  3. 4.8-inch touchscreen with an HD Super Amoled display at 1280 x 720 pixels
  4. 8-megapixel rear-facing camera with a zero-lag shutter speed to provide instant image-capturing. There's also a 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera
  5. Voice Command Feature S Voice
  6. Eye Movement Tracking
  7. 2100mAH battery
  8. 16GB internal, 1GB RAM
  9. 1.4 GHz Quad Core Chip
  10. Samsung has announced that every user of Galaxy SIII smartphone will get free 50GB cloud storage from Dropbox
  11. Samsung Galaxy SIII is expected to launch in India in June at a price tag of Rs 38,000 approximately.

Turn off an alarm with a voice command.... phone that tracks eye movement while you are reading ebook etc - and adjusts screen brightness when you fall asleep... 2100mAH.... Quad Core... 8 MP Camera.... 


Thursday, 3 May 2012

Are our Political Parties listening to us?

Are our political leaders listening to us? A survey by a national daily (the first link above) shows the following preferences by the internet audiences as president of India: (Figures as of 06:40 am IST 3rd May)

1) Sam Pitroda - 39%
2) APJ Abdul Kalam - 35%
3) NR Narayan Murthy - 16%
4) Pranab Mukherjee - 9%
5) Hamid Ansari - 1%

Admittedly, this survey cannot be said to be a representative survey as it is a random survey of the internet population. Further, demographic checking of respondents is not done, so we have no idea as to the composition of the resultant sample. Even so, one critical factor that is evident here is that the top-3 choices are all non-political, with political names not finding even a 10% choice among the population. Based on the morning updates, it is quite evident that neither the ruling alliance nor the opposition wants a non-political person- despite the choice of the people being so clearly tilted towards an apolitical person.

First, A simple persusal of the data shows that 90% of the respondents are not in favour of a political appointee. This heavy percentage leads to a simple conclusion: when a representative sample is taken, the net result is still likely to be a majority in favour of an apolitical person. There cannot be a completely opposite view taken by the non-internet-connected people of India. This simple truth can also be checked by the extremely simple expedient of talking to people around you! 

Second, the nature of the internet population comprise Professionals, Businessmen, Salaried Individuals, Housewifes, Students and Surfers at common access points like digital libraries, cyber cafes, colleges, offices etc. From this setup, we can readily see that the list represents most of the educated strata of society. The point is that these figures tell a story - a story of disenchantment with the political rulers. While this may be evident to all of us, what is most worrisome - or should be most worrisome for the political parties - is the extent of the disenchantment. Furthermore, if these figures are verified by a survey that accounts for all strata, I do not think that the figures will be too different!

I wish some business or current affairs publication does a nation-wide survey on this parameter: presidential candidate. That would put some serious pressure on the political class! While the president is determined by the political class only, the choice of the people should not be ignored by the parties - which is exactly what seems to be happening on any number of issues nowadays. That is why I rate this survey as highly pertinent - for the first time, I have seen a quantified data on the disenchantment among the people of India!

Is anyone in the political class listening? Yes, I think so - judging from the fact that it was a politician that first floated the name of Dr Kalam. The winds of change seem to have started flowing. Now all that is needed is an increase in the velocity of the wind! So maybe there is still hope...  this is the first indication I have seen of change, serious change in the powers that be. Maybe I am hoping for too much; maybe I am getting carried away in enthusiasm; maybe I am just plain wrong.... But I hope not... for India' sake!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Book Review: The Monster

"It was a killer sales pitch - it fooled borrowers into thinking they would actually save money if they paid higher rates. The loan officers called it The Monster...

Michael W Hudson is a staff writer at the Center for Public Integrity, and has also written for the Wall Street Journal. The subject of the book is a true expose of the Subprime Causes - told in breathtaking forceful  detail, told at the street level, with customer names, sales managers' names, companies strategies. That is perhaps biggest punch of this book - almost every chapter has interleaved stories of real people, and how they were taken in by the unethical sales practices they were exposed to...The book deals extensively with customer stories, vividly told in painstaking detail, stories that highlight how unsuspecting and trusting customers were taken in by the unethical and sometime downright illegal practices that were adopted by the staff of the companies.  That approach elevates the book from one that is a study of why the crisis occurred; instead the book becomes one that offers a human side to the story, and enables the reader to remain connected with the ground realities. This refreshing approach also offers relief from the constant investigations, strategems, growth and fall of the subprime lenders which form the meat of the book. 

For that is precisely the main theme of the book: The rise, sustenance and fall of the subprime lenders. Here you will understand in detail specifically what a subprime loan is, who is a subprime customer and did this industry bring about the downfall of the world markets. The story starts with the Saving and Loan industry in the USA, and focusses on Ameriquest Mortgage and its rise and fall... as you can see in the ads given in its heydeys, the settlement it had to offer customers after the crash and the LA Times article - links below (Links provided so that Indian readers, who might never have heard of Ameriquest, can get a feel of the company in the ads, the wikipedia article, the settlement website and the LA Times article; also, on seeing the ads the story becomes less bookish as you establish a connection with the central company of the book)

The story evolves, and explains how wall street was taken in, how Lehman Brothers got involved, and the subsequent crash of Lehman Brothers that brought down the Wall Markets. While it also covers the other companies involved in the Suprime Mortgage Industry that was the cause of the crisis, these two companies are the ones that that form the focus of the book. The book also interviews ex-employees of various companies - who explain in vivid painstaking detail the tactics used in selling, the falsification of documents, the pressure sales pitches, the fleecing of customers by salespeople who knew that they were doing the customer a huge disservice. The candid admission of salespersons that they did it to keep their jobs, or to grow, or since everyone was doing it; the near-brutal atmosphere of the sales offices, the pressures under which they operated will enable even the most uninformed of readers to understand the scenario. 

But most of all, the simple approach used to cover securitsation, its basics and its impact has been very nicely put together; the reader gets a complete picture in his/her mind of exactly how the various forces played out. And when read before (or after, for that matter) Fault Lines, enables a deep understanding of the crisis. But even on its own, the book will enable a fundamental clarity of exactly what transpired to bring about the crash of the markets - and that is its biggest take-away from a business or economic perspective. 

The slow buildup of lawsuits against predatory lending, the official investigations; how they were stalled by government, or by big business; the painstakingly slow progress and the frustrations of the investigators and the lawyers; the settlements that served to embolden the companies; and the final collapse have been covered in painstaking detail - here you will find the meat of the book as the author slowly but surely builds up the questions in your mind bit-by-bit. The various compromises made, the mistakes and the plaudits find equal mention... But at the end, the one point, the one single question that sticks out is that brutal fact that the small guy ultimately lost... the big guys moved on, they had limited personal liability as per the law. But the small guy had no recourse - or limited recourse at the most. This is the most powerful question that pops up in your mind. 

The book maintains a good pace, with its approach of interleaving human interest stories, corporate moves and investigations - which makes it an enthralling read from start to finish. It also raises questions in your mind: whatever happened to ethics and morality? How can one explain away the falsification of any document for the closure of a sale on a wholesale scale? How did it become a rampant practice to falsify even income documents? How is it that a non-productive asset like land became the center of investment? How far did the diligence processes of various companies fall that they were unable to detect the same? Conversely, in cases where the practice was known to the top guys - whatever happened to plain old common business sense? What is it about Fear and Greed that make them overpowering emotions?

Fear and Greed... the only 2 answers to whatever happened. Fear of a loss of a job made people cooperate; the inability the see the damage to the public as something unacceptable and amoral completed the circle in the salespersons mind. And Greed... well, that term is self-explanatory! Greed, over-reaching ambition, and an attendant lack of morals made for a deadly combination.  And this occurs in an atmosphere with macro factors like governmental and societal focus on affordable housing for all....