Saturday, June 4, 2011
Bankers or Bonkers???
First, the pictures: Check out the 5 Kings of Bhutan ( pin-ups, all!) proudly presented on a billboard at the airport.And those wonderful monk-musicians. But please, please, please look carefully at the picture with the rainbows - there are TWO of them! Let's call it a double whammy! And yes, there is a pot of gold at the end of both! And that lovely lady is the Socialite Supreme of Bhutan. Khendum rules! She was our host at a chic luncheon held in the Aman Kora, up in the hills. Great chef ( what amazing black cod fishcakes!). But otherwise, a lifeless location.
I am getting ready to watch 'Ready' this evening, before heading for the airport.... first stop London, followed by Barcelona. May go missing from this space for a while... indulge me!
This appeared in the Asian Age today....
There was a time, long, long ago, when my parents were naïve enough to go in search of a suitable boy for their youngest daughter (me!). First preference? A Saraswat Brahmin, IAS officer. Second? A Saraswat Brahmin doctor or engineer. There was no third option. Clearly, their misguided attempts failed totally. And they reconciled themselves to supporting a wicked, no-good beti who refused to ‘obey’, and insisted on cutting her own hair (the famous ‘Sadhana Fringe’- a rage at the time). But even in their desperation and through those long months of utter despair (“our daughter, the spinster”), one thing they were completely clear about : no bankers for their fourth child. I guess my parents were a whole lot smarter than I gave them credit for. I mean… look at what’s going on. From Rajat Gupta ( and wait till you hear juicier stories about this player – they are out there and about to go public), to DKS and now this Egyptian chap, Mahmoud Abdel Salam Omar, who was arrested after assaulting – you’ve guessed it – a maid, during his stay at the posh ‘Pierre’ in New York. Oofff! What’s with this ‘Bonk and be damned’ brigade ? Makes me sigh: Achcha bhai, parents ke objection mein kuch toh logic tha. One can’t say about the bad behaviour displayed by these banker types - it’s only about the money, honey. Money… especially other people’s money, is indeed super sexy. But a few of these horny toads obviously equate money with absolute power – the kind that says you can jump on the first female you find, and she should feel honoured to be “sexually abused, assaulted, touched, imprisoned and harassed” ( these are the charges against the man from Alexandria, who was the chairman of the Egyptian American Bank) by such a creature. There are several similar sleaze balls in Indian banking as well… and God help us if some of our five star hotel employees decide to squeal and tell all some day. Vat laga dengey!
For one, most people do not know the distinction between running a bank and owning one. Sure, both jobs require fiscal astuteness, but come on, guys, it’s just another job. Someone’s got to do it! For years and years, bankers were seen as big, fat bores. Especially by women. Dull, discreet and deadly. A good banker was meant to be seen but not heard. Talking about cracking deals and other equally crass issues was considered totally infra dig if not outright embarrassing. Good bankers stayed below the radar, were determinedly low profile and certainly didn’t party with the swish set ( yup, the same set they discreetly financed). Top bankers were shadowy figures who went about their wheeling and dealing with the stealth of ace robbers. It was a vital part of their job description to confuse everybody into thinking they were doing something impossibly profound and hard to fathom, when in fact, they were doing exactly what Shylock did – scalping everybody. Taking money from this one and passing it on to that one, while making a whopping commission for the bank. In the process, they also gave themselves humungous bonuses and generally lived like Kings. Often, far better than the impoverished maharajahs whose palaces they happily attached for non-payment of dues. As numbers ( and ambition) grew, our extra-smart , homegrown bankers were poached by Monster Banks worldwide. And those same fellows who used to sneak around corners clad in boring brown ( yes, brown!) polyester suits and synthetic striped ties, were suddenly all over the place dressed by Armani\ Tom Ford, posing and preening away on the covers of global business magazines, thinking they were Gordon Gekko himself. As a creed, ‘Greed is Good’ worked for most of them. Till a few were caught with their hands in the cookie jar, or worse, with their pants down.
The World Bankwallahs were in a league of their own. They formed the super elite Big Boys’ Club, and believed they actually held the keys of the kingdom in their hot little paws. These guys had the power! They knew it. They flaunted it. They used it. And still do. Nobody knows their asli agenda. The World Bank operates like an ancient secret society where the only thing that matters is the CYA mantra – Cover Your Ass. The people who work for the WB are like the commandos we saw in action during the Mumbai terror attacks. Their identities are not always revealed. Nor are their agendas. But we know they are out there ‘doing something important.” What that is, does not matter. It’s just one of those reassuring illusions we hang on to when most of us don’t know any better The WB gang has the best time of all. They live like royalty wherever they are posted. Their spouses specialize in swiping credit cards. Their kids enjoy amazing privileges and get into Ivy League schools effortlessly. Scandals associated with this bunch, are managed with minimum collateral damage. As lifestyles go, theirs are deluxe. Check this out - they jet around the globe traveling first class, attending power events, seated at the high table with Presidents and Prime Ministers. Errr, it is said they buy and sell countries, too.Their pampered partners talk in lofty terms about acquiring havelis in Rajasthan, the way others talk about buying a Hyundai. Why then would anybody be foolish enough to throw away such astonishing perks … all because of an uncontrollable pecker? It’s a question worth asking some of our smarty pants. Same fellows who have given Indian business and Indian banking such a bad name internationally.
One only hopes ( izzat ke vaastey) their bonking prowess remains far superior to their banking skills!