Monday, December 26, 2005

Got tagged (finally!)

Got tagged by Mukta on the five things & people that I was wrong about in life. I wanted to aim for five but I didn't get beyond one. It really wasn't due to vanity but because the one thing that I have been wrong about has had a profound impact in my life the rest pale in comparison so they don't find a place here.

Two years ago my younger sister was presented two options in her career, one was to work for a large foriegn Bank and the other was a job as a lecturer in a local college. I told her to go with the Bank and she chose the college, which disappointed me since I felt that she was not doing justice to her potential. You see both my parents were in the teaching line, I have seen their frustration at all the red tape and politics that they faced every day. On the other hand, I felt that a bank meant more freedom plus a big salary, big bonuses and big promotions. Honestly I thought that my sister wasn't taking the chances in life that she should be.

Now, for a long time my own goal in life was to head a company. I worked hard at this all through my 20s and now that I am in my early 30s, I have a realistic scope of reaching my goal.

But I met
Anouradha Bakshi of ProjectWhy , (you can read about that here)& then I visited them earlier this year, since that time my corporate goals have steadily started to fade out, work started looking colourless (you can read about a disillsioned corporate month-end here). Infact after for a week of visiting PWhy, I just was so disillusioned about my job that I just couldn't do anything. I kept thinking about how important a job it was to teach children, to shape minds and to create a opportunities in life for people who didn't get that by birth. The satisfaction that I saw in this was far more than anything else. Compared to that, banking appears shallow and it seems to be a world of small men living in a small world and thinking that everything revolves around them.

Now I see my Sister's choice in a different light, in the two years she has made an impact in her workplace in her own quiet way. Though she is five years younger to me she has proved to be decades wiser.

I would always want to be the best performer in any job that I undertake but there is also a new deep need for doing something more meaningful in my life. Maybe I'd even follow in my kid sister's footsteps someday.
(After this, If I had listed out stuff like Boxer Shorts & Vodka Martini, as things that I have been wrong about, the post really wouldn't have made sense.
Btw now, I tag you to write about the things that you were wrong about in life ).
The waves came one year ago today and changed everyone's lives forever....

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Another airport story..

Another evening, another airport and another delayed flight. It's 11 pm and all I can think of is crawling into bed. Seated in the lobby either side of me were two gentlemen, both of whom were were stood out from the usual crowd in their own way. The guy on my right was wearing a fresh business suit, a power tie & more than a dash of expensive perfume. He carried a cool cellphone, a mont blanc and had way too much of energy for that time of the night, obviously had to be a corporate bigwig. The other was the absolute contrast, wearing a simple dhoti, shirt, a titan watch & an old leather chappal. Equally obvious that this was a villager visiting the big city.

The corporate type, received one phone call after the other, he would scream or schmooze depending on was calling. All the while, the village type would look around the airport with what could be described as wonderment in his face.

Finally, boarding was announced. We queued up, the corporate type with his boarding pass carelessly fluttering from his suit pocket made some last minute calls and angled into the line right ahead of me. The village type collected his small fake leather bag and clutching his boarding pass like his life depended on it, shuffled right behind me in the queue.

We got on the shuttle, the corporate type checked the time in his expensive watch & continued screaming on the telephone & the village type sat in a quiet dark corner clutching his worn out bag. We got off the shuttle & started boarding the flight, the corporate type seemed to be stuck with me & the village type had gone ahead.
The Corporate type walked ahead of me inside the flight and as we walked through the business class (me closing my eyes and following his cologne) I could sense him pause for a second, I saw him look at the Village type who was sitting there in the plush leather seat & reading a paper. I couldn't see the corporate type's face but I knew that his mouth must have been agape. I couldn't help but break into a smile & shake my head as we, Corporate & I, shuffled past & found our way to our cheap seats at the economy class.


Ok. Here's the deal, Life & other such events like quite a number of important blogs, takes a tough stand on comments. Be advised that after you type your comment, the site would verify your great grandmother's maiden name then ask you to chant 'Moses supposes his poses are roses but Moses supposes erroneously' 20 times in 15 seconds and you may have to spell "Supercalifragelisticexpialidocious" with your eyes close and standing on one leg (no cheating, no peeking).
This blog also would have 'Spams are Welcome' policy going forward. Some of the best reviews for this blog have come from spams like job opportunitya, who has called my posts, Exhilarating, Excellent, Wonderful, Fantastic etc.
In a totally unconnected tangent, for those involved in the libertarians, arguments/discussions, I would like to say that we seem to have enough libertarians but whats the use since we don't have enough libraries for them to work in!! (Again the problem with India, too many people doing too little work!)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

And wierder things have happened..

Another storm is expected to cross the storm ravaged east coast of India, Iraq just had it's general elections, George W has managed to swing back in opinion polls (can you believe it????), Celine Dion or Brittany Spears haven't come out with another music video this year (Hallelujah!). With such wierd yet interesting events happening around the world, the fact that my blog has crossed 50 posts isn't actually a big deal.

Unlike most of my ventures, this one has stood the test of time or it has till date and I'm not sure how or why.

I'd like to thank a few people. I would like to thank my family for having nothing to do with this blog. I'd like to thank my lil dog Belle who has tried very hard to save mankind from my posts by doing her best to distract me. I would like to thank a few colleagues who tap their forehead whenever they see me update this blog, for if they had found it cool, I probably wouldn't do it. I'd like to thank my pal U, who probably would count the number of posts just to keep me in the straight. In the end, I thank dear Claudia (Schiffer) for being born.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Dilip D'Souza's post titled Back to the future

Let me tell you something, I'm a big fan of Dilip D'Souza's blog. I've never seen a blog that courts more arguments or discussions nor have I seen a writer take more personal attacks and still come out swinging. Not only are his posts thought provoking but they also make you want to do participate, even if you don't agree with him. Oh before you read further, for all those who wandered here to this blog by mistake ( thats is about 98.45% of my readership currently, after months of blog inactivity ) and don't prefer stuff on economics, there are a 3 new posts (Fear , One night in an airport & A trip to Singapore) that have been put up right below this one.

In his newspaper column (& subsequent Blog post), titled Back to the future, Dilip laments that the telecom companies and indeed most private service providers have been found lacking in the quality of service that they provide. Agreed. My view is that Privatisation is one thing and the quality of private companies is a whole different kettle of fish. Confused? Let me explain using the same example that Dilip used. His parents having been tired of the Government owned MTNL telephone service, decided to use the services of a private service provider. After the intial promises by the new service provider they found that the new guy himself was lacking in service & quality.

Now, to the point as to why I seek to differentiate the benefits of Privatisation/Liberalisation & service quality of private companies.

a) The D'Souza family in the 1980s would have got their landline thanks to the OYT (Own Your Telephone) scheme for Rs. 8000 with a delay of 'just', 16 months (yes that was the waiting time for an OYT telephone then). Now a telephone line is available for a fraction of that cost within a week (on the outside). This is the effect of privatisation/liberalisation. (Also remember that Rs. 8000 in the 1980s would be worth more than double that now)

b) In the early 1990s, the D'Souza family would have had to shell out Rs. 11000 per annum for getting a 8 kbps internet line. Now thanks to privatisation/liberalisation, they can get a 512 kbps line for Rs. 6000 per annum.

So it is clear that privatisation/liberalisatoin has brought in welcome changes already. Now for the most important benefit that privatisation/liberalisation has bought in

c) In the early 1990s, if the D'Souza family were dissatisfied with the telecom service provider, too bad, nothing could have been done about that. But now in 2005, they can kick out a service provider and bring in a new one. Simple.

Today if an MTNL or an BSNL or an VSNL or an SBI is shaping up, it is because of the competition that they are facing. If not, trust me nothing much would have changed. Organisations like Indian Airlines & Doordarshan have reacted to change very late and hence have seen a big depletion of their market share. Their services have been found lacking and their survival has mainly been due to monopolistic practices, which is their last bastion of resistance.

In a free market it is quality that sustains eventually. Currently the telecom industry is evolving, now there are more prospective customers than actual customers. So telecom companies target new customers disregarding existing customers (and hence not bothering about service quality). The market for a telecom company now can even be called infinite, I don't think that there is any service provider who can even give a ball park figure of the total consumers in a city, they don't even need to, that is the sheer size of the market. This is true for most retail businesses in India today. You would find that just as soon as a retailer takes your money, his interest in you wanes rapidly. Once the trend changes then there will be a time when existence of companies is heavily dependant on service parameters and cost reductions. This trend would change with the coverage of the market (the shrinking of the number of potential customers & by the entry of newer players). You can look at most of the western world to understand this.

Actually the western model of free market sometimes doesn't look free anymore. A free market in my opinion is a market where the entry barriers for any product or any company is low enough to allow for new entrants every year. This would mean that new, innovative & quality products reach the consumers every year. With the growing branding & advertising costs in the western world, there has been an automatic imposition of entry barriers for new companies.

Simply put, you have to be really big to play with the big boys.

Back to the issue on hand, so till the market trend reverses and the market becomes finite for service providers, does one have to put up & shut up? The answer is a resounding No. Opting for newer service providers & newer products give life to these companies & products, giving them the opportunity to be quality players in the industry. It also weeds out bad companies and bad products.

What you see is an economy in transition. Sit back, grab buckle up, grab your remote & enjoy the ride.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

One night in an airport...

Hyderabad Airport

21:05, I swagger over to the Deccan Airways counter to check-in. I get a blank stare from the guy behind the counter. Finally words tumble out of his mouth "But, the flight has left...". I looked at him sternly, there must be some mistake "Are you sure the Chennai flight has left?", he nodded sheepishly. I checked my ticket, damn! I had gotten the timings wrong, the ETD was 21:00. Since the flight is always two hours late, my mind had somehow assumed that the departure time was around 22:30. Booze was wrecking my memory. I knew why counter guy was sheepish though, it was one of those rare days when that bloody flight had actually taken off on time. Murphy's law, right? I was the living example that Murphy's laws work. Shift happens.

21:15, I walked out of the lobby and check with other airliners, Kingfisher had a plane the next day evening. Not Good. Air Sahara, whoa! Cute smile. But sadly, no flight till noon next day. Passing the Jet Airways & Indian Airlines counter (these would be the last resorts), I thought I'd check one of these low cost airliners. I reached the SpiceJet counter. Bingo! There was a flight at 23:45 PM. The tickets were cheap too. I collected my tickets after some chit chat at the counter and headed towards an ice cream stall. The night was nice and chilly, just the right time for an ice cream.

21:41, I walk into the lobby and to the check-in counter. Seated there was this portly gentleman with a big smile. I give him my ticket. He smiles and looks at it and then tells me that check in starts at 21:45. I looked at the clock, it was a few minutes to go. I shake my head, walk away and make some calls.

21:55, I walk back to the check in counter. There is a small queue. I settle behind this rather sweet looking old lady. I started sensing that she was very uncomfortable and was looking around furtively, had to be a first timer, I've seen that haunted look before . Now the portly gentleman from before was walking around near us, being uncle like, chatting up to people, putting the hand baggage tag on everyone's back. He was also saying in a loud voice that we had to make sure that there was no knives, sharp objects, scissors & nail clippers in our bags. Nail Clippers??????? How in heavens was that a threat? I had crazy visions of a wanna be terrorist threatening the air hostess with a manicure! Ve can be very cruel & give ze pedicure too! (Ok, I've seen too many trashy old movies!)

22:04, I was laughing at the mental picture of a terrorist giving a manicure when Uncle came around to me and tagged my laptop & bag. After he moved on, suddenly the lady in front of me, started rifling inside her bag. After a bit of digging, she came up with a pair of gold nail clippers. She looked around more desperately. The clipper looked like it was made of gold and looked pretty old, she must have had it for a very long time. She had it in her hand, shielding it from people around and I could see that she was kicking a few ideas around in her mind about handling the situation.

Finally, with a firm resolve, she stuck the nail clipper deep inside her bag. A rebel was born.

She zipped up her bag and looked around hoping no one had seen her when she caught my eye.

I smiled conspiratorially, she blushed and turned around.

22:12, I checked in & headed towards the bookshop to browse.

Monday, December 12, 2005

A trip to Singapore

It's been a long time since I wrote and I'm sure half my readers, which is about 2.45 to 3.12 people, have forgotten that this blog exists (I arrive at my readership numbers the same way I do for quoting any official figure, by picking up arbitrary numbers from the air and adding decimals to it them to make them sound genuine, if this method sounds familiar, there is a 56.45% chance that you've read this in a Dilbert strip, so is this plagarism? The answer is No, coz, I thought of this concept on my own but have later realised that I may have read this in that cartoon strip too. You see 98.71% of all original ideas have been used already!).

The lack of posts has primarily been because of my work. I travel a lot and life has been hectic. It's time though that I wrote something before I loose the other half of my readers. I ain't gonna be artsy fartsy and say I write for myself! Heck I write so that I'd be read.

I just got back from a 2 1/2 day offsite in Singapore. For the uninitiated, an Offsite is a trip sponsored by the company, to the location of the boss's choice, where apart from shopping, site seeing, nightclubbing, drinking etc, you also spend a few hours in front of your boss, discussing meaningless future revenue projections, all the while trying to hide the dismal current year's peformance.

The onward journey late thursday night was a minor fiasco. My flight was at 00:20 hours on Friday morning, and we had to check in 3 hours before, which was 21:50 hrs. Thanks to a delay in our visa processing at Delhi. The Visas landed at 22:00 hrs in a Delhi flight and with some swift talking, I had it in my hand at 22:10 & a colleague whose passports & tickets I had landed up from another city only at 22:40. Thanks to these delays we had to rush through most things and barely managed to board the plane. Around 02:54 (random again, just incase you thought otherwise), we woke up to pandemonium, the flight was in what I felt was a free fall, I opened my eyes to see my two colleagues hit the top of the plane and bounce back down. Later I was told that the plane had entered a vacuum. Those few seconds, I think all of us had come to a quick realisation that we would be dead in a few seconds, it was a totally irrational fear but all I can remember from that time was how calm I was and the seatbelt was a big help (Wear them all the kids! It saved me from bouncing off the walls of the plane!). Whatever it was, I was the calmest of the three in that row.

Fear is a funny thing, there I was, thinking I'd be dead in a few seconds but was calm about it and just the entire week before, I had been walking scared stiff in anticipation of a presentation I was going give in Singapore to my new bosses. It's a fair assessment to say that I was more afraid of public speaking than of dying. Coming from a family where three of it's members earn a living by teaching and also considering the fact that I'm into sales, it's strange. I've always been good at meetings where I can sit down for a discussion so, give me a guy or gal across a table and I can nail the meeting but give me a bunch of people in chairs and I'm a log of wood.

A friend suggested that I should imagine that everyone sitting in front of me were wearing skimpy lavender coloured lingerie, I thought this might work. The only hitch was that I kept imagining that I was wearing skimpy lavender coloured lingerie, instead of my audience. Not a nice thought, I can tell you. I could feel a draft of cold wind creep through. I barely managed to maintain sanity and not throw up or piss in my pants or say something like "I think ya'll would look good in a lavender lingerie". Considering all this, my presentation had the best reviews. Go figure.

There were a lot of nice things to see in Singapore, which thanks to a crooked tour operator & a bad plan, we couldn't see any. I did what I do in most cities, I walked a few kilometers down their roads, observing people, watching them lead their lives. You can tell a lot about a city by that. What I realised immediately was that this was a city for couples. They were there everywhere, holding hands, kissing, walking, talking, smoking etc etc. I almost felt an intruder in their private space. There were hardly any single folk anywhere. I've travelled alone and had fun in a lot of new cities, this one was different. I didn't like being a stranger in a crowd here. There were some moments when I wish I had someone with me. Those moments disappeared soon after they came and I was thirsty for beer again.

(Talking about beer, I had one called the Dutch Royal Stout, which was thick and red and tasted like turpentine and toilet cleaner mixed at the ratio of 73:27 and left in a tin drum for 3 days. Trust me, avoid that one like the plague or better still, use em for your Christmas gifts. On the other hand a Corona with a slice of lime is awesome!)

People here in Singapore do two things a LOT, they eat and they shop. If you've visited Singapore, you would agree with me. I don't think any restaurant, was empty anytime of the day or night. People just kept eating and the worse part is that none of that eating showed on them! I mean, how can that be?

And as far as shopping goes, any wrong turn of the street, magically got you inside a shopping mall. Any subway actually ended up being a shopping mall too. Malls have a sublimal way of entering your path, yes, the mall finds you, rather than you finding it. Before you are out of the trance, you have a shopping bag full of stuff and you are on your way. Like what a local Singaporean of chinese origin would say...Shopping? Can, can!

Every one of these malls was FULL through the day. I guess Christmas, the festival that celebrates the rising revenues of retail stores, was just around the corner and everyone around was doing their bit. But even then, shopping malls running full at 4 am??? Crazy! One thing I was advised was to ask for a discount wherever I go. I'm used to bargaining in a small shop but to do that in a mall? Well, I took my tentative steps when I bought a T shirt at a New Balance store. As the clerk was getting the bill ready, I cleared my throat, he looked up. I smiled, and said " there a disc.", before I could finish, he smiled wide and said "Ofcourse Sir, I'm give you a 15% discount" and bowed too. Wow! I mean how cool was that? Soon after, I even bargained down an Sony Handicam from $899 to $750. I was an expert in no time. (After all I'm a part of the scum sucking bottom feeding profession of banking aren't I?)

From the nice lady at the American Express counter who changed my money and sold me a local simcard (She very patiently tried to explain how it worked, eventually gave up and wrote the directions down for me) to the taxi driver who talked to himself as he drove, the experience with people was awesome. That says something about the city. It was great that people bow when they take money from you or give money to you coz I;ve seen way too much of disrespect for money here in India. In Singapore, every transaction happened with a smile or aleast a small nod of appreciation. I think I would have an attack of I get that kind of treatment from an autodriver here in Chennai, leave alone anyone else.

Another thing that I appreciated was that anytime I asked a person who looked Indian, if they were Indian, the answer was a standard, No, I'm Singaporean. The pride that these words carried was great. Considering that Tamils are 12.53% of the population, this showed their effort in maintaining homogenity. We Indians are a homogeneous group only when it comes to Cricket (I think Greg Chappell has changed that too), I guess we have to learn from our folks out there .

All in all, it was a fantastic place to visit, but too clean for the likes of me, I like my city nice and dirty. What is life without a walk past an overflowing garbage dump? Imagine eating a vada pao in the sanitised environs of Singapore instead of a dirty pushcart near a ditch in Mumbai ? Imagine driving to work without worrying about the traffic jam or the pollution or the potholes or about not hitting the guy jaywalking in the road? Or Imagine having to wait in line to get a taxi? No way!

It's been a while since I wrote, this isn't exactly the best I've written but I've liked writing this. Unlike some earlier posts were forced. I hope to write more regularly again. Thanks for visiting & reading :-)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Confessions of a wanna be technology junkie

I've had it all. Atleast as far as mobile phones go (rest of my life is a whole different ball game). Over the last five years I have bought just about every type of cellphone possible. You name it, I've got it, Small ones, big ones, wide ones, coloured ones, wiith camera, with WAP, with Bluetooth, with Infrared, with interactive games, with detachable shells of 7 different colours, with an inflatable doll named Amy. Umm. Well, most of those things listed anyways.

All this time that I've been trying to be on the forefront of technological change (or the backside of a technological change, your choice, it's all the same), this has been rather tough on me. My random decision making in phones have reached a stage where my brain just freezes with the choices that it is presented with. Heck I've got a phone simply coz it had an old telephone ring tone in it. After all of this I've got a cellphone that does something incredibly unique, it just helps me make and receive phone calls. No gimmicks at all, no Bluetooth, which I haven't realised what it was for (always thought the name sounded cool though!!), no infrared port, isn't that what is used in television remotes?? (Heck I if know) No cool games, no polyphonic sounds, no cameras, nothing.

The funny part is that I'm loving it. Here is a phone that promises me nothing. No cool photos, when in reality camera photographs are grainy and dark at best, (the only picture that I ever took in a year of owning a high end camera phone was that of my dog, one picture, thats it), nor are there any promises of internet connectivity when it takes you half a life time to load a page, no video options that promises me live pictures, when all you get is a 10 second clip that takes years to download. It's a simple phone where I can make and receive calls. It has taken me five years, 8-9 phones and more money than I'd care to count to realise what I wanted.

Now if I can only resist the temptation for a Blackberry phone to check my 2 emails a day....

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Life so far...

The new job has been the challenge of my life. In the past few days, I've had lots of new things to learn, new people to get used to and I'm horrible at remembering names. Around me are a half a dozen people who greet me cheerfully time they see me and I don't remember their names, so I resort to a friendly "heeey", which unfortunately makes them more cheerful when they greet me the next time.

The change though hasn't been without it's plusses, I've a new workstation where I can stretch my hands without seriously injuring someone, I've a boss who lives in the other side of the country, he is a great guy but only really lazy people like me will know the worth of a never-present boss.

My new office is less that half a kilometer away from my old school, the Madras Christian College Higher Secondary School. Yes, the same place where Leander Paes learnt his tennis (in the BAT Tennis academy) and the same place where cricket greats like Glenn McGrath, Chaminda Vaas, Venkatesh Prasad honed their fast bowling skills (in the MRF Pace Foundation).

I've realised through practical reality that life comes a full circle. Till about 1985-86, my dad would drop me off at the school, give me my lunch box and send me on my way. Now twenty years hence he drops me off at office again, since we are to share a car for a short period atleast. He gives me my lunch box and sends me on my way.

20 years and my life is back to square one. Sometimes I have to check if I am wearing my old school uniform.

There are differences between 1985 and 2005 ofcourse, Dad used to ride and motorbike (A Rajdoot, if any of you remember it) in 1985 and would be rather harassed all the time since I always took my time in getting ready, my mom would have had a disaster in the kitchen etc (I remember we used to have a lot of kitchen disasters in those days, it used to resemble a war zone between 7 am and 8:30 am everyday). In those days Dad would have to drop me and dash off to his college within 10 minutes. Now though, he is retired and has just about all the time in the world, he is more patient, more measured and even has conversations that have full sentences, a rarity between the two of us.

One practice that has sadly discontinued between these two periods is that when he dropped me in school he would give me a few rupees to buy a rocket shaped ice cream and a Bovonto cool drink, nowadays though the old man has shown more resistence to parting with the dubloons.

As I write this post, it's raining cats and dogs, only a Chennaiite would truly relish such moments. My friends in Mumbai would shudder to think of rains but not us Chennaiites. We love the rains, even if it means that a 9 cm rainfall can flood almost all roads, flood basements and some cases even ground floors. We don't mind the long traffic jams caused by flooding in the shallow parts of the road or the powercuts that are sure to accompany the rains. Infact in a radio poll we love the rains so much that it was rated higher than even the release of Rajnikanth movie, now that's something! A part of me wants to take a walk in the rains, the other part wants to tag along as well. It's a crazy happy feeling that only monsoon rains and cricket victorys brings.

Now I know that moments of true happiness is very limited but this moment in time I can truly say, life is good.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Just a little note to say...ME TOO ME TOO

Dear Reader,

I haven't blogged in a long time, blame it on a period of transition, new job with lots of new things to learn etc. Life has been too hectic to even stop and think. But during this time, thanks to my friend's I have come across an incident thats taking the indian blog world by storm. So this is a small little note to show my support to Gaurav Sabnis & Rashmi Bansal, for having the guts that they have had.

You can read more about this on most of my favourite Indian Bloggers, Dilip , Annie, Lubu, Amit Varma. This issue has been tracked at the DesiPundit blog as well. Just have a dekko at the array of bloggers who have stood up to be counted (listing is available on the Desi Pundit site). I just can't let em go along alone now, can I?

Please take your time to read through this issue. This needs your attention.

I shall blog more about this over the weekend when I have a bit of time to collect my thoughts.


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A Bad Tamil Movie

The last 40 minutes of a movie I saw last night. (OK, if this post has repeated words or letters or has joined words and the whole thing is big and scary, it's the puter's fault! )
Scene 1: In the Court

The Hero's sister is falsely implicated in a prostitution racket by the Evil Minister and she stands before a Judge. The girl cries, she says she is innocent! And what more she is getting married that day and requests the judge to let her go. The judge says "No way babe!!! Everyone who comes here says the same thing". The prosecution promptly provides a medical certificate that the good lady was inebriated (no one says when). The Judge peruses this vital piece of information, nods wisely and says this is clinching proof that she was indulging in prostitution (Of course!). STAWP EET!!!!!!! Enter the Hero (an aging has-been star). He beats his chest, does a Tarzan routine then starts on a public service announcement on fairness, equality and the suffering of the common man and is promptly grabbed by 10 policemen.

HOLD EET!!!!!!!! Enter the Good Cop (Another aging has-been star), who walks in and says that he wants to bring in a few more prostitutes for the case, more the merrier, right? In come half a dozen women. Among them is the Judge's wife. The judge gapes. The good cop even has a doctor's certificate that the Judge's wife was inebriated and hence a proof of her being a prostitute. The judge says "NO! Anyone knows that you can get a doctor's certificate for 50 rupees", the Good Cop just laughs and says, Exactly Bro! The judge cries. The Good Cop whips out a Thali ( Mangal Sutra or the wedding chain) from his pocket, which he ties around Hero's sister's neck and announces that he has given her 'life'. The Hero's sister looks gratefully at the savior who gave her 'life', promptly forgetting the dude she had an appointment to marry that day.

The Hero, Hero's mom and Hero's dad cry and fall at the good cop's feet. They all walk away. On his way out the Good Cop with a smirk, looks at the Judge and says "Stop me if you can. I know you can't, legally". The Judge was silent, how could he say anything? The Good Cop seemed to know something about the law that he didn't!
Scene 2: Hero's Foils the Minister's Evil Plan.
The Evil Minister has fixed a wedding on the 10th (10 AM) for his daughter,the Heroine. A hanger-on asks the Evil Minister as to who was ready to marry the heroine when the Hero had already slept with her (Too bad I missed that!), the Evil Minister's ever present flunky says "Ha! We gave the guy two houses, some land and all the money he wanted, now the groom has given permission for the Heroine to have sex with the Hero as many times as she likes".

The Hero gets word of the wedding and in a peremptory strike goes around town giving wedding invitations for the same day himself (proclaiming himself as the groom, instead of the groom selected by the Minister). The evil minister is foiled everywhere he goes. Of course the Minister is now desperate and so he kidnaps his own daughter and puts her on a Tempo Traveler van, with the registration number 3366, which was to drive around the entire city till the it's time for the wedding (which was roughly about 72 hours). All this time the Heroine sits there struggling as she held by two goons (This vaguely looks like an orgy).

Hero gets information from the Heroine's mother and runs to the corner of the road. Voila! There is the Van (number 3366). Hero chases the van, his hairpiece almost flying off, yet the van is somehow faster. He can't catch it, so he thinks out of the box and slowly scales a nearby building like an overfed cat burglar. And somehow, the van which was already ahead of him now is suddenly parallel to the building (Moral: Climbing buildings brings Vans closer). In the meanwhile somehow the top of the van catches fire (sorry had go get some water so I missed the part of how the van caught fire). Hero runs, jumping from one roof top to another (by which time he had magically traveled from one area, Mount Road to the other, Beach road). He finally jumps down on to a convenient tent which comes crashing conveniently on the van thereby extinguishing the fire and then he gracefully floats down to the ground. The Hero chucks the tent cloth at the van as he rolls on the ground, this magically attaches itself to the back of the van and the hero is dragged through the city for awhile (Moral: Watch Indiana Jones before you make corny movie).

The van careens into marriage party on the road, that groom who is on a horse is soon de-horsed. Our Hero jumps on it Phantom style and the chase is on!

Suddenly the Hero jumps from the horse on to a passing jeep and is now following the van in the jeep (Sorry, don't ask me how).He positions the jeep near the van and puts it on auto pilot. He climbs leisurely out of the jeep and proceeds to attach himself to the open door of the van, all this while balanced on a rock steady Jeep (auto pilot effect!). The jeep steadily maintains the position for the few minutes the hero takes to fight his way into the back of the truck. Hero bashes up the bad guys, saves the heroine the van comes to a slow stop on its own.

Scene 3: Hero Gets Married, Villain kills someone

The Hero is sitting with the Heroine at the Pandhal (Wedding stage). The priest is chanting. It's time for the Hero to tie the thali. STAWP EET!!!The Commissionerr of Police, hundred cops and one rabid police dog arrive at the scene. There is a bomb in this building, they say. People stand up (waiting for further instructions). The hero says, Please come later, we will finish the wedding. WAITEES! Screams the Commissioner. The Hero's dad in a rare speaking part says; 'Please catch the guys who made the bomb first before asking us to vacate the building!' The Commissioner is adamant; a bomb was a bomb was a bomb.

The bomb sniffing dog proceeds to do its duty by barking and biting the wedding guests who finally find their feet and rush out to the road. The Hero's mother gets into the act with enigmatic crying. The Commissioner is adamant and everyone rushes out to the road. The Hero, heroine and the entire crowd chucked out. The Hero makes a stand, in the middle of the road and says he will get married there. Everyone smiles. STAWP EET!!!! This from a bunch of traffic cops. Hero's Mother cries again. The Hero gets into another Public service speech, he laments the fate of the road, the potholes, the traveler, how ministers driving on the road stops traffic for five hours etc. By this time the people around, probably to shut him up, tell him to go ahead and tie the thali. He does.

Magically we are transmitted to the reception, the beach. The are people dancing. The hero joins them. Lots of line and formation dancing ensues. The crowd dutifully surrounds the dancers with a respectable distance since there are bursts of colour everywhere. The Heroine joins earns her keep and does a pole dance, sans the pole. As the song finally comes to an end, there is sudden chaos, people hitherto silent start running helter-skelter. Hero's father is stabbed and falls to the ground. The crowd reassembles around the main characters and looks on silently. Hero's father, in the only other speaking scene, grinding his head on his wife's lap and tells the Hero "Son, It's true I haven't done much, I've never even bought a sari for my wife, you have got everything for her, please get her a white sari too and oh by the way, KILL THE BASTARDS WHO KILLED ME I SAY!", (White Sari is symbolism of Widowhood) He then reaches up, wipes the sindoor off his wife's forehead and dies. The Mother looks up at the Hero, and screams "KILL THE BASTARDS WHO KILLED HIM I SAY!". The crowd resumes running helter-skelter. The Hero exits the spot, running in slow motion through the crowd.
Scene 4: Hero gets his revenge and a twist in the tale.

Hero now rushes into Evil Minister's lair. Huge gates don't stop him, machine gun bullets don't stop him, fat policemen don't stop him. He kicks one here, shoots one there. He eyes a samurai sword, uses it to fight his way to the interiors of the house leaving a trail of dead bodies and fake blood. The Evil Minister, who I think was in a sound proof room is lying in bed peacefully. Hero enters, sans the sword but now armed with two shields and the Evil Minister gets a rude shock (to put it mildly). The Evil Minister reaches for a gun. Hero bashes the hand with the shields and the gun flies up settling on the ceiling fan. Hero leisurely starts breaking most bones of the evil minister's body all the while giving his public service speech which we've all come to adore. Finally, he says, I will not kill you. Et Viola! The cops appear from nowhere and surround the hero. The ever present Police Commissioner says he is arresting the Hero for assaulting the Evil Minister (Moral: All the other murders of side actors are not important, remember ONLY if you kill a leading actor in the movie is that murder valid, the rest simply don't matter).

The Heroine enters the scene, switches on the fan, bingo she gets the gun in her hand (Moral: You never know what you might get if you switch on the fan) The Commissioner tells her that no one can protect her from her father since her husband was going to jail. Whoops, wrong thing to say buddy. Heroine with a demonical gleam nails the Commissioner, the other policemen watch on peacefully (sucked into this human drama), the Heroine informs them that she has shot the Commissioner and that they have to put her in jail. They whip into action, cuff her along with her new husband (I think there is a family jail somewhere, Moral: The family that kills together, stays together) and they both are lead along this long road (long enough for the ending song).

Subham-The end

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Let us never forget...


September 1st 2004. School Number One, 1200 Hostages, 338 Dead, 102 Missing. 332 Wounded.

A thousand children learnt what the word 'Terrorist' meant.

A little boy tries to buy his sick mother's freedom with 5 roubles he had.

A wounded girl goes back into a burning building to look for her mother.

A girl is shot because her cellphone rang.

A boy sees his father shot dead and thrown out of the window.

A terrorist who helps people drink water is killed by her leader.

A few children who escape the school building stop at at water tap to drink water, after 3 days of near starvation and they are blown away by a grenade.

So many more stories that break your heart


A little boy says, God saved those he could and the ones he couldn't, he kept with him. A little girl says, God took the best..the very best.

Please read the first person narrative of the children of School Number One on BBC (here and here too).

Katrina Survivor Story: 6-Year-Old Leads Five Toddlers, Baby To Safety

Monday, September 05, 2005

Technology and potato chips

The more I see technology and the ease it brings, the more I see a potato chip conspiracy. Why do I say this? Think about it, today, you could at the friendly confines of your home can do so many things without moving from your couch or your chair. Within easy range of that bowl of chips. Never before has an individual had so much of information and access in his or her fingertips. For instance, in the past, if you had to learn about an ancient civilisation, you either had to travel to the location or enroll in a course or buy a book that deals with the same. Now, you just google it. In five minutes you are an expert. You move on.

Would you like to catch your favourite sport? No problems. (Yesterday, I saw a cricket match in Zimbabwe, a tennis match in New York and a Formula One race in Italy, blardy amazing!) Would you like to check out the world news while you are at it? Absolutely! Would you like to listen to your rockstar in concert? But ofcourse. You've got the best seat in the house. Are you the type that likes a bit of everything as far as music goes, boy have we got the product for you! Your new iPod can carry upto 10,000 songs, don't let a fact like you know only 200 songs stop you, it's all about virtual storage, you see?

Do you feel like a drive? What what would you like to drive? A Ferrari? A Merc? A Humvee? A Monster truck? Where would you like to drive it? On the street? In the country? Would you like sunny condition? Winter condition? A touch of rains? Would you like to steal the car, be chased by the law as you race other goons without breaking out a sweat? Done deal.

You can even pause it all to get a fresh pack of chips.

Are you bored of playing alone? Would you like to meet people? Sure, get on a chat program or a game portal, play games, talk about world matters, get an cool Avatar, meet a girl, take her out for a date or two, do you think you would like to get intimate, go ahead. No problems of sexually transmitted diseases, the worst she can do is nuke your 'puter but you use the protection of a firewall anways.

What if the girl you met was a actually a 300 pound guy? Well, that's the luck of the draw, honestly do you really really know all those people you date anyways? You use video chat to be sure, if you aren't a 300 pound guy pretending to be a girl, that is.

Have you sinned? Not to fret, online prayer groups are available 24 hours. You could log on to a prayer group and play a game of alpine skiing at the same time. Would you like to donate for a good cause, that too is just click away. Instant Karma, you see.

The fun part is that you could do a combination of all these things at the same time. So, at the a given point in time, you could watch your favourite sport on tv, chat with a close friend, listen to music, shop, have sex and polish off a bag of chips too. What more could you ask for? You could even invent a whole new you, no plastic surgery or no personality training courses needed. You could be a fireman or a policeman or an artist or a soccer player, it all depends on what grabs you at the moment.

If you feel that all this couch time is making you put on a bit of weight, not to worry, there are exercise machines that you can strap around your waist or thighs to jiggle all that fat as you stare at the computer or your tv munching chips.

In the future, if you feel like procreation, I'm sure they are just working on technology to get your genetic source code, this would be protected and licensed to you. Just upload your source code with that of your online partner's, it gets matched at an offsite location in Bangalore, which inturn transmits the information to Indonesia, where your baby is born under controlled conditions. Don't bother getting up to take care of your child, that's been outsourcing as well. You would get a daily progress report by email ofcourse. No late night feeding problems, nappy changes etc. Congratulations to the happy couple.

All you need in life is a nice big screen tv, a surround sound system, the lastest computer and ofcourse that ever faithful bag of chips. In the end, you are a giant potato chip crunching machine, completely hooked on to your gadgets and living a life all in your mind. A la the Matrix. All this while, the potato chip manufacturer's bottom line is silently going over the roof.

(If you've come thus far on this post, switch off your computer. Get out of that chair or couch, it's a beautiful day , go smell the fresh air!)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Deepest condolences to all those who have lost their loved ones over the last few days due to the Hurricane Katrina in the US and the stampede in Iraq.

I hope and pray that the rescue and rehabilitation missions are successful and that people can rebuild their lives at the earliest.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The anatomy of a resignation

The time comes for you to move on to greener pastures. So when the green pastures send you their firm offer, you feel elated. There is a part of you that feels like Superman and there is another part of you that feels like a shylock, making you think, I'm so great but is it possible that I can get more out of these guys?

You are on an emotional high. You feel that you've got the recognition you've craved and you walk on air. You feel like kissing babies and patting stray dogs (or vice versa if you are an animal lover). Your boss calls you to review the month end figures and you have a wicked grin when you talk. You drop hints hoping that the guy would pick it up. He doesn't, ofcourse. He never did.

The moment comes; you decide to sock it to The Man (The Company). You think of calling the senior most guy, you see visions of him on the floor and on his knees begging you to stay back, telling you that the state of the company is in your hands. You dial the numbers; your hands sweat with anticipation, he picks up the call and you tell him straight off. He asks you why and righteous indignation flows out of your mouth. He listens awhile and asks you to stay, an idea which you reject. He says he will fly down to meet you the next week. You are filled with glee, you were hoping for this, not for him to convince you but for him to try.

The word spreads like wild fire. People look at you when you walk past, some come to you and ask straight off if it was true. You agree with a solemn face. You see happiness in people since you are leaving, you see happiness in people who are pleased at your growth and you see the vindictive bitch glare at you; the news had just upset her day. Your joy is complete.

They want to know what would be your role, what you would be paid, what perquisites you are eligible for, you answer, you evade. You like the attention, you wallow in it like a pig.

The HR head, the guy who never took the time to meet you calls you up. Wants to know the reason why, righteous indignation flows again. You start to feel a bit drained after it all.

The senior guy calls the next day, the chat was prolonged. In the end you figure out that he was more worried that you were going to take some customers away. You vow not to with your fingers crossed. He tells you what a great guy you are and you nod your head. He wants to meet you later that week in person; you know he has to do it as a duty not out of choice.

It's all set, two weeks notice as The Man says.

You walk in the next day, you see messages from friends telling you how much they'd miss you. You walk up to the coffee machine and bang it on the side to make it work. You feel a lump develop in your throat. You are going miss the people, the machine and all. You meet a few customers and they make you sadder. You've worked hard for 3 years to build this up after all.

By the end of the day, the smallest things increases the gloom. The tea shop outside your office, the gym in the fourth floor, they all feel important now. Your heart fills with apprehension about the new company. Will it be as good? Will I have a decent boss? Do I have the steam to pull it off one more time? Thoughts whiz past and you feel really old. You feel unhinged, nothing excites you, the month end rush leaves you cold and you write a post on your blog, watching the world around you.
You feel like an outsider in the world that was once yours.
(This was inspired by Mukta's post . Do read her blog, she is one awesome writer!)

Friday, August 26, 2005

Steinbeck for a Ciggy

I met this dude, after 10 years. We studied chemical engineering in the same college.

Catching up with friends is a great thing, all of a sudden 30 year old men start talking like teenagers, old nicknames surface and embarrassing moments are relived. That's what you do, when you meet an old college friend after 10 years.

During the course of the evening, he looked at me and asked 'Do you remember, East of Eden?'. I said, "The Steinbeck book? Yeah, I found it too boring". He replied "No, do you remember the time when you sold that book to me for a cigarette back in college?'. I had no recollection. I must have done it being the impulsive guy that I am. He still has that book, carefully bound sitting in a shelf at his home in Norway, a constant reminder of how someone sold him a work of art for a song.

This left me thinking, 'Why did I do it? Was I that desperate?' I was a bit angry with myself..

10 year old reminders in the form of cult fiction is worth atleast 3 or 4 cigarettes and I settled for 1. Short changed!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

It's about bloody time that I wrote something, isn't it?

I have the mother of all writer's block. I pick up a topic, start writing and then trash it after a point because, either its too boring or not funny enough or I've already writen about it. Thank God writing is about the only thing we regularly have blocks. Can you imagine walking up to your car and then saying 'Hmm..I don't think I can quite drive today, I seem to have forgotten how to'. Or inviting your girlfriend for dinner and then ... well, lets just say I've made a point.

Anyway, I have indeed had the pleasure of reading a fair number of things, stumbled on to some interesting blogs as well. Check out the blogger by the name Joe Pope (Joseph Ratzinger, the current Pope), I am hoping that this really isn't the Pope in person. Whoever he is, this guy runs one funny blog!

I intend to start a photoblog one of these days (just as soon as I can get a lot of film developed). Will soon let you know how that goes. If you are interested in some amazing shots taken here in India, I strongly suggest that you visit Tom Pietrasik's website. Observe those pictures closely, look at their quality because then you will know what is missing in my photoblog when I do put it up.

And for all those who left unsavoury comments about my previous post on economics, I promise you another large dose of the same, very soon. Be good little children and read up, will you?

Monday, August 08, 2005


I just bumped into an interesting post in a pretty interesting blog today. You see economics is a favourite topic of mine for discussion. I can hear the in-drawn breaths, 'No way, and I thought he was such a nice guy too', you think. Well, we all have our dark secrets, mine is economics. It feels good to have finally got this off my chest.

Now Michael Higgins very eloquently puts up a case for competition being essential for quality to sustain. He is right. I can hear a few 'humpfs' there, why did you write this post then? you ask, well I've set my mind to play the devil's advocate in this deal and would like to highlight the pitfalls of competition.

We all I'm sure remember the time when we used to sweat it out in a line for over an hour to draw cash or take a demand draft in our neighbourhood bank. Or the time when we were very nice to the bank manager and wait for weeks so that he would give you a housing loan or a car loan. Now those days are gone. Modern competition is in. Cash can be drawn in an ATM under 10 minutes, DDs can be printed on the internet, any kind of a loan is available at your disposal. Now where is the problem?, you ask, the problem lies in the fact that the bank ceases to be a group of people you know and becomes a faceless system. It isn't such a big deal, you say, but when you consider that you are effectively reduced to an account number or a loan application number and cease to be a living breathing human being as far as the bank is concerned, you have to stop and think. You become a sales target for aggressive banks, more and more loans are poured your way and the number of credit cards that you carry in your wallet increase.

After a point you stop paying the entire amount due on your card to the bank and just keep servicing the outstanding by paying the interest. What follows is usually a default or two and the eventual blacklisting by all banks. You are a pariah, not just because you over spent, but because no one told you what a debt trap was. If it had been the old system, the bank manager would probably not have given you the loans (or credit cards) that you now have. You might have even saved a lot more money. Now imagine if an entire country does this. If you think that this is an extreme case, then do read about what happened in South Korea (you can read about it here too). This could very well happen in India as well, till the feeding frenzy of certain banks is held under control and the borrowers are educated. There certainly are some good banks that have a good system of credit appraisal that factors in issues like over spending on part of it's customers while processing loan applications but largely the process followed by most banks is shocking.

Small and profitable banks which quite frequently are able to offer more personalised services, have suffered due to intense competition and are being gobbled up by bigger banks who follow an acquisition route to growth as opposed to a more organic approach. So if you say that your bank is niche and different, the chances that it would soon be consolidated with something bigger is quiet high. For example well run banks like ANZ Grindlays and Times Bank were consolidated into much larger banks and in the end their customers suffered.
I am not going into stuff like phone banking and the machines that we speak to everyday when we call up our banks. These have become urban legends and are crosses that we bear in the name modernisation.

Now lets come to the other stuff. Do you remember the number of aerated drinks that were there before Coke or Pepsi came to India? Where have they all gone? Competition has wiped them out. They either have been bought over or have keeled under intense marketing pressure brought about by these two giants. So this effectively leaves these two biggies out in the middle to slug it out for market share. Like wise you can take a lot of examples in which the smaller players have been beaten out of the game by the larger players, eventually leaving 2-3 companies in serious competition.

This is a system called Oligopoly.

Oligopoly is a market form in which a small number of sellers dominate the market. In effect instead of one big fat company monopolising the market you have two or three big fat companies sharing the spread. Sure, they compete with each other but this competition is not a perfect competition (which a market where no producer or consumer has the power to influence the market and the market would broadly follow the laws of supply and demand). Sometimes, Oligopoly can easily lead to forming of cartels. It can also lead to a scenario where the buyer of goods not being very aware of the pricing mechanism or the quality of goods sold (Remember the contaminated ground water incident involving Coke and Pepsi, when these two giants came together for the first time). Oligopoly is even supported by the government in areas like telecom for reasons best known to them. Now, don't get me wrong, intense competition under Oligopoly means that the customers benefit but in the long term, this competition might have adverse impact on things like quality and product innovation. I can see a few economists shaking their heads to this but let me illustrate.

Now, lets take quality. Competition increases quality levels, yes. But to a point only. To compete, companies often have to cut costs. Cost cutting can come through a few things, increasing operational efficiency, cutting out unnecessary expenses, finding cheaper raw material and laying off staff. Now, there is a limit to how much a company can optimize, it would to a point, then it would study its product and find cheaper methods of producing this product. When they do, there is a good chance that these cheaper options may indeed affect quality. If you doubt that, then tell me how many times have you heard the words "they don't make them like they used to..". At times there is a collusion between companies in Oligopoly and reduction in quality ends up being universal. Even if that doesn't happen then in the least quality differences between brands is highly negligible, often advertising, brand recall and discount offers are reasons for purchase. 'Quality' is often a perception than a reality.

Many companies choose to increase their marketing budgets instead of increasing their infrastructure / product development expenditure as a way of fending off competition. So what you probably get is the same old stuff but in a glitz pack and a star studded ad campaign(eg The new and Improved XYZ detergent!). Companies, especially in the FMCG (or the Fast moving consumer goods) sector often would entirely outsource their product to a third party manufacturer and concentrate on advertising and brand building. This model as you maybe aware is actively followed by most American companies. It's not a bad model per se since it has given a big fillip to the Indian outsourcing and export industries which cater to these large brands. Unfortunately, the experience with these brands is that they loose their edge in product innovation as their primary focus is on marketing, packaging and delivery.

Now, so is competition bad? Not at all. Like I've said earlier competition is great, especially for the consumer, it gives more options often at cheaper cost. But I urge you to realise that competition in its true sense happens only when it beats out elements within that attack its very core.

How would this happen? It would happen if the consumer protection means wide spread consumer education and faster redressal of consumer grievances. It would happen if scenarios like oligopoly or monopoly are avoided and the government along with local authorities actively supports small companies in their growth and hence offering viable competition to the big bullies in the neighbourhood.

(I realise that this post leaves itself wide open for criticism and opposing views, this is by choice, I solicit your views. And my apologies to those I've thoroughly bored in this selfish endeavour. For those who don't know me, I'm a banker by profession and needless to say that these views are mine and not of any organisation )

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Air travel

Ever wonder what’s with all this fuss that surrounds air travel? If you travel by train or by bus, you buy a ticket, you get on and you’re off. But for Air travel, such simplicity would be too passé. If you buy an air ticket, then you need to reach one whole hour before the plane leaves. You walk in and you meet the first of many queues’ for the day, this one for the boarding pass. Then you trudge along to another queue get your luggage checked (and rechecked), they check you thoroughly in the process too and sometimes ask a few questions as to where you are from. Then finally you are put in a gloomy waiting area with a bunch of sleepy stiffs.

I remember the time right after 9/11, when they used to do a body check manually. Which means you raise your hands and stand in front of this guy who would then proceed to grope your body for half a minute and close to the time you feel incredibly violated he would let you go. This was discontinued after a while much to the chagrin of a few passengers who were beginning to look forward to them. Right now, they still do a physical check with a small metal detector, so you are back to raising your hands on the side and the guy would run the machine over you. I always feel sorry for this guy who gets to do this job, if you are wondering why? Think armpits. This has to be the second saddest job in the world, the saddest being that of a Proctologist.

A few seconds before you petrify in the waiting area, they announce that the flight is ready to be boarded and you stand in yet another line, they check your baggage again and take you to see the plane. Have you ever had the doo-doo problem when you get on the plane? I have it all the time. Well, this is my terminology for the feeling that you want to use the restroom the second the boarding announcement is done. Your mind grapples with two options, do you dash off to the restroom and get back? Which would mean that all the choice overhead luggage space would be lost. Or do you hold on till you get on the flight? Which would mean that you'd have to hold on for a good half an hour, till the flight has taken off and the seatbelt sign is switched off. I've never been able to perfect a technique to solve this one as yet.

After all this you find your seat and just as you start relaxing, they start doing the safety drill and your mind starts getting worked up and you start looking at this steel tube that you are sitting in and wondering if it was really worth it all.

Another thing that strikes me as complicated with air travel is all the questions that get thrown at you all the time, Window or Aisle? Front or back? Left or right? Vegetarian or Non vegetarian? South Indian vegetarian or north Indian vegetarian? Orange juice or lemonade? Coffee or tea? Sweets or cotton? Would you like a cold towel? Would you like a backrub? Hehe ok the last one was a figment of my imagination, wouldn't be a bad addition though.

I love flying, trust me I do. I like all kinds of journeys I thrive on them. My favourite moments in flying when the plane is above a sea of clouds, I can never stop to be amazed at the sheer beauty of it all. But there is a lot about flying that strikes me as funny and sometimes down right comical. I've always wondered why they wake up people who are sleeping to serve that stale airline food. Do they think people would think "Oh no..I wasted all my time sleeping when I could have had smelly omlette and weak coffee". It's also hilarious why people rush to grab their luggage and stand in an uncomfortable queue the seconds after the plane lands. What are they thinking? Is there some game like 'the-last-person-to-leave-the-plane-is-a-ninny' that I didn't know about? Talking about landings, don’t you just love the cell phone action that happens the minute the plane lands? Phones get switched on instantly; people look at their little cellphones and willing it to ring. Its a wicked thrill, to be the first person to get a call when you are standing on that cramped line in the aisle and then say "Halloo I've just landed.."

I think flying resembles prison life a lot too. Think about it, they check you to the point of being abused before you get inside. You are made to line up just about anytime they want you to. Your name ceases to be important you are merely alphanumeric character like, 23F. You are forced to strap on the seat belt securing you to the chair, you are not supposed to move till they tell you to move, you have to eat the food that they give and you can't sleep through the meal even if you want to. It's obvious that t
hey don't trust you one bit because, the even remind you in two languages that they have smoke detectors in the toilets. Well honestly they give you an escape hatch but at 30,000 feet, it's more like a dare. When you are finally set free, they give you back your belongings and send you on your way.

Everyone you meet on the way out tells you that they hope you'd fly with them again soon and all you can think of is the lovely smell of free air.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Month End

I walked into office fashionable late as usual, talking on the cell phone.

"F**K YOU!!" screamed a colleague, I cowered, only to realise that this choice epithet wasn't hurled at me but at some poor down the line sales guy on the phone. As I walked past the row of cubicles, I heard a once sweet voice yell "I want ten f**king files approved before lunch, I don't care what you do!", this was a free spirited sales head, who is a nice enough lady on normal days. Somewhere else a whiney voice yells “don’t tell me you guys had f**king rains in Cochin too, I tell you, you are an A*****e! Don't even dream of an incentive this month!”

In another corner a credit officer slams the phone down with a muted curse. Telephones ring everywhere.

As the day goes on, the temperature rises, blood pressures shoot up and the curses get more colourful.

Another normal day like any other during the month end.

People in most sales driven organisations exist from one month end to another. If the month end figures are good, then the review that happens post facto won't be so bad. If the month end figures are below par, then shame and ridicule are things that can be expected. Exceeding targets also comes with its own curse, the target for next month is sure to be revised higher thanks to the good performance. A classic catch-22 situation if ever there was one.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Across years, the screaming voices change but the messages remain the same.

What have we achieved? What have we created? What have we learnt? Seated in my workstation in the middle of all the chaos, I reflected deeply on these questions while I played with my toy cars.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Double oh seventy six

(Everyone feels like James Bond sometime in life. If you haven't, wait on, your moment hasn't arrived yet. Mine happened last week when I had to visit the Tidel Park, a huge common facility for software companies here in Chennai; I think ‘Tech Park’ is the common term for it. So anyway, this was my Bond moment)

As I parked my car in the parking lot I had this disturbing feeling in the pit of my stomach, I knew I looked out of place. Was it my clothes? I glanced down and scratched at the ketchup stain in the tie. I had taken this reconnaissance trip lightly.

I walked down the path to the visitor's entry, I felt that all eyes were on me, my chances of blending in I realized was very slim. I should have got Q to get me one of those dog tags, a T-shirt (one size too small or one size too large), formal trousers, big sneakers and a thick pair of spectacles. Without these I felt vulnerable here in geek land. I told the girl in the counter where I wanted to go, she looked up at me and I winked. After she made sure that I really had an appointment she gave me an entry pass, the twinkle in her eye held promises or was she cross eyed? You can never be too sure.

I walked along the path and passed a few like me, oddly dressed with their formal shirts and ties, none of whom I can recollect having met before. The path went past a swimming pool, I could see half a dozen geeks look at me from their cordoned off pool, like otters in a zoo. I whipped out my to-do list and wrote ‘bring bread crumbs the next time’.

I reached a clearing and found myself staring at two open gates side by side, a big one and a small one. There was a five foot two inch bulldog resembling security guard towered over the area. Being Bond, I walked over to the larger gate and promptly found my path blocked by the bulldog. It was only for vehicles, he said. I pointed out patiently that there were no vehicles around, but this pint sized pain didn't budge. Not wanting to draw more attention to myself I walked over to the smaller gate. If only it had been another day and I was Sean Connery, that guard would have been toast (deep Scottish accent).

I had to blend in. I thought I would have to corner a geek and steal his clothes but the only geek in my size was a large menacing lady. Cold fear ran through my spine and I decided to wing it without the geek costume. I walked into the main building and was promptly searched by the guards, I was clean, I had used a strong soap that morning. As I walked into the lobby, my eyes widened as I saw the sea of activity. There were rows and rows of stores; they had a full fledged mall inside.

This was worse than I had thought, I would have to report to HQ that the geeks have created a living habitat right here in this place. Then it struck me, this was a space ship. They could live here on this ship forever, they had all they wanted, junk food, ATMs, a bookstore with every software book imaginable and loads of internet connections. What could their plans be? Who were their bosses? What do they intend to do with Earth? Why do pretty women like geeks? Will Microsoft bring out another boring version of Windows? Would Saurav Ganguly get his captaincy back? Such thoughts ran in quick succession inside my head. I had to find the answers and quick, a lot depended on it.

These geeks had to be stopped at all costs. I toyed with the idea of finding the ship's power source and disabling it. I immediately discounted such an idea, since I had not carried any gadget to do this. I whipped out my to-do list for the second time and wrote down 'to carry gadget', I would be ready the next time. As I did this, a few beautiful women walk past, completely oblivious of my presence, so I corrected that entry to read ‘to carry a very cool gadget’.

I swiftly moved to the first level and found the office I needed to visit. I was asked to sit in a waiting room. As I walked in I saw a bulky guard shredding paper in a paper shredder. The door slammed shut behind me. I walked over to a chair and sat, keeping my eye on the guard. I was uneasy. I knew then that I shouldn't have bunked my jujitsu classes.

The secretary called me over and I walked into the meeting.

After a while, I walked out a bored man. Meetings bore me. I bore people in meetings, so I had the perfect cover of a boring banker. The exact opposite of my real personality I can assure you.

As I made my way out, I took stock of all the exits and made a specific note of where the toilets were (you don’t know the pain of having search for one of these in a hurry) and was presently checked by the guard again. I walked over to the two gates and saw that the bulldog was distracted. I seized the opportunity and hurried out of the big gate. I could hear the growl of the bulldog. I was gone, long gone.

Relief washed over me as walked over to my car in the parking lot. I looked back at this big monstrous creation I had just left and instantly knew that I would have to go back there sooner than I thought I would.

I had left my car keys inside the meeting room.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A power cut

It was one of those very humid nights, when there was a sudden power cut accompanied by some shouts from outside the house. I walked out of my gate and I could see a congregation of people in the corner of the road. Apparently one of the power lines had broken free from the post and was hanging out in the middle of the road. There was a huge clamor to ensure that no one is less than 10 ft away from the sinister looking cable. Bikes, cycles and aged uncles were placed strategically to block people from treading on the sinister looking cable.

A dozen calls to the local electricity board in a matter of minutes ensured that the power supply for the region was cut till the issue was investigated and resolved. The news percolated among the dozen or so people in the scene of the incident that the power has been cut. Everyone waited around half expecting the cable to suddenly start jumping, spewing sparks (thanks to many wonderful movies we have seen). Nothing happened. Then after a while, the discussion went on as to how could we ascertain if the cable was live or not. Someone suggested that we should get a tester, this was discounted as silly as using a beaker to measure river water. Before they could draw lots on who would touch the cable, which was what the discussion was heading towards, this little boy darted between the elders and grabbed the mangled remains of a kite attached to the cable. The group emitted a collective gasp which could have been heard for miles. The boy was safe, no sparks, the boy walked away. Everyone smiled, relieved, the boy's father, after a kind word and a swift whack, sent the boy on his way home. We edged just a little closer to the cable.

The local corner teashop, ever the entrepreneur, got his stove going despite the late hour and had a brisk business selling tea to the group. The crowd thickened considerably, every new addition to the crowd promptly asking if the line was live, just as soon as he or she walked in. The original attendees to the event, full of solemn self-importance, explained to each new person their version of what happened. After a couple of oohhs and ahhhs, the new person then retired to the teashop to fetch a glass of tea and hence completing joining ritual.

The cable lay there, menacing in its own way, and the occasional brave heart inched a finger or a toe towards it just to check if there was power. Nothing happened much to the chagrin of the crowd.

The silent majority (including the author) hadn't dared to touch the cable and were seated at or hanging around the steps of a closed medical shop, a nice vantage point since it was right opposite to the electric pole.

An Electricity van zoomed in, and out came Batman and his trusty sidekick, Robin. In this case Batman was a portly gentleman who had the look of a telugu movie hero and he spoke only in lazy gestures. Robin, had the flair of true sidekick smartly arranged a ladder for Batman to begin his act. Batman, purposefully picked up the cable walked up the rickety ladder as, certain elements in the crowd guffawed. Bets were laid on when Batman would slip and fall. Much to the collective disappointment, he scaled the ladder, lithe as a cat, well, lithe as an extremely well fed cat in any case, in pitch dark and started attaching the cable to the electric pole. A few of us volunteered to get him a torch but were immediately shushed by Robin, we were interfering with the show.

A wobble here, a muted curse there, and Batman came down the ladder, the cable now firmly attached to the pole. He walked purposefully to the next pole and his next performance. As Robin ran to ensure that the ladder was in place, a truck turned that corner and honked at them, since Batman and the ladder carrying Robin were right in its way.

Batman gave the trucker one glance, very much the way he would have glanced at an errant Joker or a noisy Riddler and with a grunt, moved on to his next task. The trucker had met his match, he switched off his engine and joined the audience.

As this was in progress, a group of boys clamored around the electricity van, mystified by the crackling of the radio but not daring to enter the van. As I learned from one of them, they were afraid that there was a policeman inside, since they associated these radios with only policemen. Till the end they weren't fully convinced about the absence of a khaki clad representative of the force.

Batman's task took him to many other posts, the crowd magically drawn to this performance, followed him in open mouthed awe, talking only in hushed tones. After the job was done, Batman reported to the base through his radio that things were over, in curt tones and obtained instructions on his next port of call. Robin assured us that power would return sometime soon and then got into the van and they sped away. The missing elements probably were that Robin didn't ask us to clap every time Batman walked up that ladder to do his duty nor did he pass a coin bowl for monetary appreciation of a job well done. Like many do-gooders, they vanished in the darkness.

As everyone slowly dispersed and reached their homes, the power came back.

Monday, July 18, 2005

An evening well spent

I'm back.

Back earlier than I thought I would.

You might ask if I ever was gone. Trust me, I was, for a nanosecond I had even contemplated shutting the blog down, something was amiss and I just couldn't put my finger on it. Fuelled by an insomnia induced restlessness I had decided to give writing a break.

There are certain moments in your life when something becomes all too clear for you, I think its called an epiphany in literate circles, I'd rather refer it as a lightbulb moment. I realised that I liked to write. So, write, I shall. The insomnia and the uneasiness, I shall deal with.

There are so many things to write about. Firstly I should write about meeting Anu Bakshi of Project Why during her visit to Chennai (PWhy is an organisation that sets up small teaching facilities in slums with very little infrastructure and a lot of creativity and heart. You could read about their activities here. I've also written about Anu earlier in this post) . It was a fantastic experience for me to have spent a few hours with her and Mr. DV Sridharan, of Good News India, at his residence, talking about their lives , their work etc. Unfortunately due to Mr. Sridharan's bad health I couldn't get to talk to him so much, I hope this would be soon possible.

The fire in Anu's eyes and words, the drive that she has to do what she does is amazing, whether it be running the day to day activities of ProjectWhy, getting a child the right medical treatment he or she needs, mobilising funds for day to day expenses, dealing with local authorities, trying innovative method of teaching children, being a Mom etc. Anu's mind and words race through, often leaving me behind, speechless. I wish everyone of us had this kind of a passion for something in our lives. I think that would make living more worthwhile.

Her direct way of asking questions and the sheer speed, caught me on the wrong foot a few times. "Whats a good place to eat around here", she asked. I thought for a minute and replied. Pat came the next question, "Whats another good place? What do they serve? Indian, Chinese and Continental? all together?" she asks with a quick laugh, then before I could think of a suitable reply, she is off to another topic another issue and another plane of thought. As I was highlighting a problem that she might face with her latest project, she looked me in the eye and asked with interest, "So, what would you do?". Wrong footed again.

Its almost like she has a lot of such little information written in post its stuck in her mind for later day retrieval.

As the conversation moved on from one thing to another, what struck me was that level of thought process that has gone into its teaching effort at Project Why. For instance, children in Project Why were taught about water conservation and told that they need to look out for any tap that leaks as they went about armed with empty half litre bottles. When they spot a leaky tap they need to fill up the bottle from that leak keeping a track of the time it takes to fill up. Once this is done they take it back to their classroom (or in certain cases a tree under which they are taught) and then calculate how much of water is lost due to that leaky tap. As the kids found this effort a lot of fun, they didn't realise that they were learning a few things like water conservation for starters, mathematics and a bit of physics as well. This is just one of the many things that the children do.

Such practical teaching is sadly absent in many modern schools. A pity.

As we took a walk to get a cup of tea and some provisions the conversation moved to food, books, bio-diesel, economics etc. Anu told me that she attributes her 16-20 hour days to her proper diet. This probably was the one area where we differed, since what I prefer eating usually belongs to the junk food category. Before I could realise, it time for me to go. This four hour conversation ended too early. I wish there had been more time.

This is one super person, a proud mom, a good adminstrator, a great teacher and in all someone worth looking up to. From an Indian Ambassador's daughter born abroad to the lady people say makes school teachers out of street sweepers, she has indeed come a long way.

Please visit her website and blog. There is a lot that you can learn about them. Project Why is a lovely little world that needs all the support that it can get. I have deliberately not written a lot about PWhy because I'd rather you visit their sites and read for yourself.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A letter

Dear Reader,

For the last two months, I have had the absolute pleasure of writing about thoughts or events and have them read by you. I have enjoyed your comments and they have made this a terrific experience. I've made great new friends and have even had the pleasure of catching up with one of them over lunch (you can read about that here). I'm a regular reader of almost close to 15-20 blogs and love leaving a note about what I thought about the post that I had just read, as you must have seen in your own blog.

I would advise everyone to take up the habit of blogging, it's a fantastic way of spending time and to know more about themselves. It hasn't always been an easy experience for me though, considering my background.

To be the son of an English Professor is a cross that I will bear all my living years. Don't get me wrong, Mom is an amazing person like all moms are (most of them anyway, I hear Brittney Spears is going to have twins *shudder*). Its just that she has forever been correcting they way I speak or the way I write that I have lost the ability do so myself. Hence , whenever I blog, I re-read the piece a dozen times, make a hundred corrections and still glance at it nervously for days wondering if by chance I've made a glaring error that has escaped my eye. To have mom edit my blog would be, well, not so good for a 31 year old. Majorly uncool, as we would say in college.

Most early posts felt like walk on the main road wearing nothing but a hat on, not a pretty sight I can tell you. If you are someone who knows me in real life and are framing a mental picture, you have just reached the lowest point of the month, cheer up, there is going to be nothing worse that could happen to you here on.

Assuming that you are still reading this piece after the mental trauma that you've just gone through, have you ever had to recheck if you've spelt certain words correctly all your life? My weak points are not tough words but simple ones like 'grammar' or 'coming', see I usually spell the way I pronounce and we South Indians pronounce grammar as gramMER and coming as com-MING, hence the issue. Thankfully, I have gone beyond taLLking (talking) and callage (college). I still haven't figured the advice/advise issue as yet, that one usually has me in knots for days.

If you still would like proof of my spelling skill just check out how the term 'opinionsunlimited' is spelt in my url.

Now you know.

(Thanks to my superior computer skills, I just found out that there was a spell check here too).

I envy anyone who can identify what an adverb or a pronoun when one passes by, I can't. It took me a decade to get comfortable with nouns and verbs as such. But the pleasure of putting up a post makes everything tolerable and fun.

Recently though, I grapple for issues or ideas to write about and end up painting myself in a corner. I feel that blogging is taking it's toll on me, as it occupies too much of mind space, hence I've decided to give this a cooling off period and just write a post on the occasional weekend, when my thoughts are fresh and more heartfelt or when there is something that is really worth writing about. At the request of a dear friend, I do plan to put up some pictures of Chennai sometime in the near future, just as soon as I take them.

Thanks for visiting my blog, I'd still be visiting yours, eager to read your next post. Please do keep writing. Do visit here occasionally, you never know what you might find :-)



Sunday, July 10, 2005

My resume

How do you write about your life in two pages?

I've found that every time I prepare a resume, I always sit back with an unsatisfied feeling that the words don't really convey the journey that my work life has been.

For instance, how could I write about my first and only work crush seven years ago? This girl for whom I would copy a dozen unwanted pages everyday so that I could pass by her cubicle or about the many stolen moments we shared. And not to mention the broken heart that I nursed for a love that went sour only till I found out that it was only my ego that hurt.

The first time I acquired a customer, the sense of elation that made me run 4 blocks to my office, jumping and screaming, being in love with the world at large, are there any formal words that could ever do justice to this moment?

What about Pratap? The best boss I ever will have. The man taught me that there is a life outside work and success is not all about climbing corporate ladders but also about taking time to talking to his little sons in the middle of a busy schedule, just to know that dad was available all the time. He'd fill a good paragraph or two.

Where would I fill in about pain I went through when I was back-stabbed for the first time for reasons I still cannot fathom. And about the friends who helped me through it all as we sat drinking beer in a cheap bar, like countless other days very early in our careers, narrating the day's events and staring ahead into what looked like a bleak future. Being each other's crutch and sharing our thoughts. Wouldn't it be nice to write about such a cameraderie? Or could the pride we have for each other's achievements, small or big, a be testimonial of some kind?

I would just have to mention about the time when a group of people from a religious organisation instantly kneeled down and prayed to God, in my little cubicle, just because I told them that their banking requirements would be met. They had met 6 other banks before and almost had given up. Wouldn't the pride I had that day for my organisation be nice reading?

The long nights spent entering numbers after numbers in a spreadsheet, the countless hours in with thee photocopy machine and the many days of running papers from the bank to the customer's office, all as a fresh trainee, thinking that these very acts would change the world. My mind also wanders to the many thousand cups of coffee that I've drank trying to jump start an idea or start off a day in top gear. These sort of things need a worthy mention too, don't you think?

How about the wonderful friendships developed as I traveled across our beautiful country, the people I've met, the conversations I've had or the many acts of kindness that poeple often do to me. Or about those amazing people who have come and gone in my life and the ones that have stayed. These do crave a word or two.

The collective triumphs, the major losses or the mundane days that filled my life, sadly, there is no column to write about them in my resume. The complex business negotiations, the sweet taste of a winning a deal, the salary days, the many embarrassing birthdays, the days when the boss is not in town, the rainy days, I just could go on! These are wonderful moments but they too find no place in this piece of document.

I would love to write about Srikumar, my dear friend, colleague and smoking buddy, he passed away at the age of 33 on 27th January 2000, due to a severe heart attack, just days after he had seen our organisation through safely after the Y2K problem. He left behind a young wife and a five year old daughter.

Srikumar's unique brand of wisdom and strong point of view always clashed with mine, as we smoked in front of our office everyday. He would explain the benefits of Amway and I would bait him, this became our daily discussion point, often one trying to out wit the other. He was also the second youngest Ham radio licensee in India. He had led a full life and was a very good man, one chilled out dude till the last and a nice friend. Could I write about how my fingers could never light another cigarette at work after he died?

I would rather write about these in my resume, than some boring details about where I worked and what I did.