Now, That’s Incredible!

and tide
wait for no man; that sounds so trite, doesn’t
it? But what I am more interested in is what awaits the man left on
the shore? What is his reaction to the next tide, the events that
have occurred since his twiddling fingers and playing with sea
shells? Is his reaction so mundane , it matches the non-events that
have happened since? Or is his reaction to the earth-shaking events
since a more exclamation filled one, like say, “Now, That’s

ToastMasters and Guests, so what would you and I term incredible?
Incredible is an overused term; I say overused with no disrespect to
the ad line used by the Tourism Board of India, “Incredible
India is truly incredible and that is wonderful

dictionary defines incredible as too extraordinary and improbable
to be believed
. However, it is an accepted axiom that what seems
incredible now is so passe post the event.

example, if you had told the Europeans at the beginning of the 20th
century, that there would occur a war between half the European
nations that would last 5 years from 1914 to 1918, with the most
destruction to life and property until then, you would have been
labeled a crackpot, even a warmonger! But the Great War –
The War To End All Wars – did occur , and to compound folly ,
barely 20 years later, another great war on a larger scale, with even
more destruction to life and property, with the only ever explosions
of nuclear bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, followed. They are both
part of world history in the first half of the 20th
century. We now recognize those 2 wars as World Wars 1 and 2. Now,
that’s incredible, if only at the same time, they weren’t so
terrifyingly terrible!

incredible and terrible synonymous? Some would say so! Yet, did
anyone ever imagine that the very nations that bore the brunt of
World War 2 , the losing nations, Japan and Germany would by the end
of the 20th century be among the most economically
prosperous nations in the world? If anyone has seen pictures of the
carnage the war wrought and believe me with some of the
visuals you can actually feel the acrid taste of gunpowder and
, you would have to say “Now, That’s Incredible!”

I was
born in an era when the Cold War was at its peak; you could cut
the frigidity with a knife; it was that palpable!
The world was
firmly divided into 2 halves, you were either Red or Free.
And for non-aligned nations such as India, navigating the treacherous
diplomatic waters was like treading a path littered with
The arms race was at its peak; and yet by the end of
the 20th century , communism was in its death throes. The
Soviet Union no longer exists, not because of any conventional war
but simply because the arms race bankrupted it; Russia now
marches to a different beat; the Berlin wall has fallen and the
European map has reverted back to what it looked like at the
beginning of the 20th century. I cannot even start to name
all the newish old Central and Eastern European nations! Now,
that’s incredible!

I was a
young man of 19 when Dr. Manmohan Singh as finance minister of the
Narasimha Rao government, flung open India’s gates to foreign
investment and jump-started the economic reforms program.
Since then India has grown steadily and at an increasing pace, and
the prosperity we now enjoy is the result of those initially
vilified reforms
. Now the changes we’ve made are incredible! So
if you had told me 16 years ago, these changes would have occurred so
quickly and all in my lifetime, I would have said ‘No, that’s
improbable, even impossible!” Today, I say, “What an
incredible journey! Bless the IMF! Now, That’s Incredible!”

The shift
in the priority from being a nuclear superpower to an emphasis on
becoming an economic superpower is the greatest change in the mindset
of developing nations, and this includes India and China. China has
truly become an engine of growth and if India can unshackle itself
even further, then by 2025 , India can truly be pushing to be the
No.1 economy in the world. Now, if you were living 30 years ago,
just when China began its economic reforms, such a scenario would
have been considered inconceivable, improbable, even impossible.
And yet, you and I may still be around to say “Now, That’s
Incredible! The Impossible Has Arrived!”

Nicholas Taleb, in his book, The Black Swan, has described such
improbable events as Black Swans. A Black Swan seems highly
improbable to us who have been exposed only to white ones so termed
‘normal’ ones. But a Black Swan event has a dramatic impact both on
history and on people’s lives. The Great Depression of the 1930s, the
Black Friday in 1987 and the current Global Meltdown are all Black
Swan events. They seemed highly unlikely but they did occur. Now
that Taleb wrote a book about such Black Swan events is incredible.
That it is a bestseller is not so incredible.

friends, let’s admit that there is nothing that is truly
impossible, or improbable. They are mostly Black Swans waiting to
happen. So when they do, let’s accept them in all their improbability
and say “Now, That’s Incredible!” and thank you
for listening! You are truly incredible!

Over to
you, ToastMaster!