Thursday, March 29, 2007

El Aura - Argentinian film

I saw this film directed by Argentinian director Fabian Bielinsky.
It is the story of a taxidermist who gets bored with his drab work and life and fantasies about robbing a bank or museum. He has a phenomenal memory for details with which he plans imaginative robberies. When he accepts the invitation of his coworker to go for hunting, he gets a chance to put into action his fantasy.

A film different from the normal latino films. of course it is Argentinian.. it has to be.

I liked it though.. the characters are unusual and ..interesting.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Auto da Compadecida - Brazilian film

I saw this comedy at the Brazilian embassy, who have revived their friday movie evenings.

The story is about two poor guys João Grilo, the compulsive liar and Chicó, the crook. They make a living by bluffing and cheating in a small Northeast Brazil town. Joao the liar uses his smartness even in his encounter with Christ, the Devil and the Virgin Mary. The art of Joao is called as " jeitinho" a term which the Brazilians use for smartness to get things done through shortcuts.

The story reminded me of the many jeitinho characters of Jorge Amado, my all time favourite Brazilian writer.

The movie, made in 2000, is based on the play by the Pernambucano writer Ariano Suassuna.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Talk at the JNU on " Latin Americans - a sociological perspective"

The talk was at the Latin America studies centre of Jawaharlal Nehru University at 1100 hrs today

Highlights of the talk:

- While creating the world, God distributed the wealth and resources between regions unequally because he did not have the benefit of JNU education !
-God had endowed Latin America with beautiful beaches,perfect climate and abundant mineral, land and water resources. When other regions complained, God said" wait till you see the Latin Americans! ". They made a mess.
-part of the reason is the colonial heritage. while north america was colonised by non-conformists seeking a new life and familes and trademen went to settle down there, latin america was colonised by the royalists and catholics of spain at the high point of their military spirit and militant faith. The soldiers and bachelors of Spain went there for a quick fortune and establish a status quo.
-Latin American priorities are different from those of Indians. For them night is more important than day, weekend more important than weekday and today has priority over tomorrow. Even in love they sing
no te prometo amor eterno
porque no puedo
soy un casador de mariposas
y tripulante de navio


i dont promise you etrnal love
because I cannot
I am a hunter of butterflies
and crew of ship

.. ships go from port to port !

- Political power has irreversibly shifted from Caudillos to Colonels to Oligarchs and now finally to the masses, who drive the political and economic agenda of the region.
-Extremism and radicalism which had polarised the societies have now given way to Moderation and pragmatism as the guiding forces of politics and societies these days.
-Businessmen who made quick fortunes on the misery of hyperinflation and exchange and currency crises of the past have also undergone a change in their mindset.
-Diplomats of the region have succeeded in regional integration and and diversification and gained collective clout.
- Intellectuals and writers were initially oriented towards madrid and paris. Later they looked upto Machu Pichu for pride and inspiration. There was the culture of exile during military dictatorship. Magical Realism is their contribution to world literature.
- The Latin Americans of the new and emerging region are looking to the future with a new mindset, confidence, pride and optimism. And they sing,..

No me preguntas mas
dejanos imaginar
que no existe el pasado
que nacimos en el mismo instante en que conocimos


dont ask me more
let us imagine
that there was no past
that we were born
at the time we met

I join the latin Americans in singing this song.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

An Argentinian who has become amigo through email

I am reproducing below the mail from Jose Agote from Argentina, with his permission.
The mail is self-explanatory
seems we are like-minded souls

Dear Rengaraj,

I read Andres Oppenheimer`s article in the Argentine La Nacion newspaper (mid January 2007).

Fully agree with his view regarding India’s projected growth on an ordered manner (rather than China’s boom), and drew my attention (reading the article) your profile, especially regarding your "Latin America passion", which made me feel friendly to you.

I am a 52 year old Argentinean, who lived for 12 years in Brazil (1978/90), thereafter moved back to Buenos Aires where I spent about 6/7 years traveling all around Latin-American, Mexico, Venezuela, Central America, Ecuador, Brazil, etc.etc. I have both Argentinean and Brazilian citizenships, I was raised in a traditional home (well not so traditional because of the fact that we are twelve brothers and sisters) in the northern neighbors of Buenos Aires, went to an English boarding school (even played cricket....!!), and worked for the Bunge Group in Brazil and Argentina, thereafter I was employed for some time in the software business, and I`m actually in the agribusiness industry, developing some projects in Argentina and Brazil.

I apologize for this kind of “blablabla” presentation, but I read your profile in and believe that we could do some kind of brainstorming regarding developing Indian businesses in Latin America and viceversa, having fun at the same time.

By the way, Frida was an excellent film, I play golf (although most of the time I hate it), love skiing, love Latin music (especially Bossa Nova and Samba).

Hoping you write to me soon.
Best Regards
Jose Agote

Dear Rengaraj,
Yes sir, you can put my mail in your blog, it’s a great honor to me.
Whenever you come to Argentina or Brazil, let me know, I spend half of my time in each country. I love both countries. By the way, in Argentina I live in the “Argentino Golf Club” a kind of “clube de campo” with a lovely golf course where we can have some fun.
In Brazil, we can have lots of fun drinking caipirinhas, eating feijoada, listening bossa nova and samba, sharing (may be) these pleasures with nice Brazilian women.
My background and experience both are related to agribusiness, therefore I am sure we will find opportunities for business for Latin America and India.
Hope to meet you soon.
Best regards
Jose Agote

Monday, March 19, 2007

Speech on IBSA at the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi on 19 March

I was invited to give the inagural address at the two-day seminar on " IBSA and the human security challenges" at the Institute of Social Sciences New Delhi. This "cafe com laite ( coffee with milk) alliance" of India, Brazil and South Africa fascinates me.
I gave an overview of the experience and experiments and success and failures of India, Brazil and South Africa in dealing with various human security issues.
political security- India's democracy is vibrant and mature and . South African democracy, the youngest, has the luxury of a kind of one party rule, while coalition governments and politics has come to stay in India and Brazil. While India is a role model for success of democracy amidst the linguistic, religious and other diversities it has to pay a price in terms of separatist and insurgent tendencies and terrorism. But the other two dont have this problem.
security of life- better in india, while South Africa witnesses crime and violence. Brazil has the worst problem, aggravated by drugs and guns.
Economic security-Indians and South Africans have enjoyed macroeconomic stabilty but Brazilians had to face uncertainty because of hyper inflation, change of currencies and volatile exchange rates. But now Brazil has also become economically stable, secure and predictable.
Poverty- India's poverty in terms of scale and depth is the worst.
food security - Brazil, with its vast fertile land and water resources could be useful for India's food security.
energy security- Brazil's ethanol initiative should be emulated by india for energy security.
health security- all three countries face HIV/AIDS crisis. They can collaborate in the search for new medicines and make use of the core competence of India in pharma industry and technology.
cultural and mental security- Indians had to carry excess baggage of 5000 yr old civilisation, caste and the complex created by foreign invasions, conquests and colonisation. Indians are now becoming confident, proud and assertive. South Africa is also emerging from its apartheid past. Brazilians are free spirited and fun loving and proud people.
regional security- India is surrounded by instability but the other two have no regional problems. Brazil has succeded in neutralising Argentina through mercosur.
global security- The three countries have been successful in G-20 issues and are aspiring to become UNSC permanent members and contribute to global security.
Prof George Mathew Director of the Institue welcomed the guests and Prof Ash Narain Roy conducted the proceedings. The building of the Institute is impressive. The Instt is planning to do more IBSA related activities.
Delegates from Brazil and South Africa had come for the seminar.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Article on Dominican Republic in Business Line of 13 March 07

Opinion - Foreign TradeDominican Republic: The business-pleasure tango

R. Viswanathan

For those Indian businessmen who raise their eyebrows at the mention of business with the Dominican Republic, here is a fact that should make them take notice. At $11 billion in 2006, the Dominican Republic is the largest importer among the 21 countries in the Central American and Caribbean region. Even a one per cent share of this $11 billion amounts to $110 million, and Indian exporters can easily exceed this target if they take this market seriously.
DR, as the Dominicans call their country, has a population of 9 million and a GDP of $30 billion. The country's macro-economic fundamentals are strong and healthy. The economy has been growing at over 8 per cent in the last two years — among the highest in the entire Latin American and Caribbean region.
The Government has put in place an investor-friendly policy framework and is keen to attract foreign investment. The economy, which was earlier dependent on sugar, coffee and tobacco exports, has now diversified with the growth of industries and tourism.
Light engineering goods and textiles exports from the free trade zones have surpassed traditional exports of primary commodities. The DR's total exports in 2006 were $6 billion. Tourism revenue accounted for $4 billion and remittances from the Dominicans settled in the US accounted for $3 billion.
Access to US market
DR offers a port of entry to the US market because of its free trade agreement (FTA) with the latter and its closeness and good connectivity. There are 13 daily flights to US cities and Miami is just 90 minutes away. DR is an associate member of SICA, the Central American Regional Economic Group, which is moving towards a Customs union. The strategic location of DR — bridging the Caribbean and Central American regions — makes it an ideal hub for doing business in the two regions.
The Government of DR has been bitten by the IT bug. It is keen to develop DR as a near-shore IT service and delivery centre. It has set up a large cyberpark complex, which offers infrastructure and world-class telecom facilities. BPOs and call-centres in English and Spanish have started operating from there.
The demography of DR is perfect for IT business, since much of the population is young with an average age of 24. Although Spanish is the official language, English is popular, thanks to the influence of the large Dominican community in the US. Dominicans have come to work in India too! There are 30 of them working in a BPO in Hyderabad.
Stable polity
What about political stability? After having gone through military dictatorship and instability, like many other Latin American countries, DR is now a stable democracy with established institutions and practices. DR is free from the crime and violence that characterise some of the countries in the region.
The Government of DR is seriously courting Indian business. The IT and Investment Minister, Mr Eddy Martinez, visited India four times in the last two years. The DR's Foreign Minister was in India in 2006 with a large business delegation. DR has had an embassy in Delhi since 2006. The embassy issues one-year multiple-entry business visas on the same day of application and is proactively promoting business between the countries.
In the last two years, many Indian companies have started entering the DR market.
A pharmaceutical delegation visited DR in 2006 and has come back with several orders and optimism. Some IT companies are exploring the possibility of setting up BPOs and delivery centres.
Looking beyond business
Besides business opportunities, DR offers other attractions too. Golf is the first among them. Some of the golf courses in the country are among the best in the world. For instance, the `Teeth of the Dog' golf course at the La Romana resort is among the top 50 in the world. Six fairways curve into the Caribbean Sea with the greens guarded by waves, wind and rocks. While this could be intimidating for beginners, good golfers enjoy the thrill of these challenges. The other three top courses are the Dye Fore, Capcana and Playa Grande, considered the Pebble Beach of the Caribbean.
La Romana, Punta Cana and Puerta Plata are the popular beach resorts. Also on the islands are the holiday homes of celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Shakira. Another luxury resort for the rich and famous is being developed by Donald Trump.
DR is a favourite destination for honeymooners, who are drawn by the romantic and invigorating ambience of shining silver beaches, greenish blue Caribbean waters, lush tropical greenery, delicious sea-food and the hospitality of the local people.
DR is where Merengue music and dance, a vigorous variation of Salsa, was born. The Dominicans drop everything and start dancing when they hear this lively and joyful music. Juan Luis Guerra and Mily Quezada are famous Merengue singers.
For those interested in literature, writer Julia Alvarez gives a vivid description and flavour of Dominican society in her novels, essays, children's books and poems. Her philosophy sums up the DR way of life: "You go where your life takes you and the song comes out of that adventure".
The Dominican Republic was one of the countries where Columbus landed on his first voyage in 1492. He christened it Hispaniola and promptly claimed it for the Spanish crown. He returned to the island the following year and established a European settlement, the first-ever in the Americas. Hispaniola became the springboard for the subsequent Spanish conquest of Caribbean and the Americas. Just the inspiration for Indian business?
(The author is with the Ministry of External Affairs. The views are personal. E-mail:
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