Thursday, July 12, 2007

Leaving Blogspot for Wordpress!

Like a lot of people, me too moving to Wordpress for greener pastures of blogging.. better interface, better themes and ease of blogging.. more so, coz i want to get regular with my blogging from now on.
See me at http://phanimitra.wordpress.com

Monday, June 11, 2007

You are only as strong as your opponent!

"You are only as strong as your opponent"

Choose a strong opponent and your body and mind stretch themselves to match the wits with your opponent. Try competing with minnows and the bar is lowered and mind assumes success is just to beat that bar. It is this quote manifested in multiple forms like "Raising the bar" that motivates a lot of people and corporates to do better in varied fields. Even parents teach +2 kids, Aim for IIT you will atleast make it to a good REC :)

A slightly different manifestation of this is "You are as big as the one who you compete with". A statement wonderfully utilized in Bollywood by Mr.Shahrukh Khan for his brand makeover. SRK (Who incidentally I hate as an actor!) is the best when it comes to building a brand and managing career and image like a business. (It IS a business!) SRK, while individually, has always been a big star on Bollywood bourses. However, an interesting manouver, made him much bigger than what he is. It is when he started comparing himself with Mr. Bacchan. What a lovely strategy! Big B has always been THE MAN on bollywood avenues. Suddenly a 40 year old SRK has started competing and comparing himself with Mr. B. Media talked about it - Rivals in the big game, vieled attacks and counter attacks on the PR scene. Unfortunately, Mr. B fell for it. He started commenting on SRK and pulled himself down. Now Mr B and SRK are on similar platforms when they get compared. Awesome! I think that is a lesson for everyone to take. As mentioned in Sun Tzu's Art of War - SRK won before the war started.

That reminds me of a totally different context where China competes with USA. China is NOWHERE close to US's military might. US is a giant when it comes to military technology and China a new comer. It was not till recently that China could successfully use a lot of missile technologies that US developed and deployed in late '80s. But interestingly, China is the only country whose nuclear weapons target the United States! China does not compare or compete with India or neighbouring countries like Korea/Taiwan. In the world press, they are a country challenging United States, none lesser. That makes China much bigger than what it really is. (Ofcourse, the way China is using Art of War Tactics, tactic to tactic, requires a dedicated discussion - their multi-pronged attack - economic, political, information warfare on US.) So another lesson from the world of politics - Compete with some bigger/better and people will start perceiving that you too are as good.

Now coming into a more common everyday instances, where people compete or compare themselves with someone bigger better. I had an old boss who had this fetish of comparing himself with the Management Guru CK Prahlad. You know, I had a dot com venture in 2000 that went dud but even CK Prahlad had a venture that went dud. Ya, that roughly puts both these guys in the same league. My foot! While I am strong believer in the statement - 'What one man can do, the other can do', I see a problem when these kinda instances happen or an amateur tennis player next door compares himself with Roger Federer :) Ofcourse, I am NOT DENYING that you CAN be him but it takes a LONG and DEDICATED effort before you can actually be him. There was a long road they traversed before they reached there and for one standing at the beginning of a road, it is only a theoretical possibility until you reach the end. And by definition, theoretical possibilities are axiomatic, tautological statements holding no value except for self-titillation.

And similarly another example from blogosphere, in discussions of spirituality, people make statements like "Vivekananda or Jiddu or UG were also human beings and so am I." So I am as good or as bad as them or they were no better than me. Without a sufficient reading, understanding or analysis, when someone makes a comment like that - I see it as an 'effort' to improve their image to be perceived as a better or more evolved soul eliciting responses like - "They like you are dis-illusioned with anything accepted by anyone…you would find a lot of similarities in the way you think and they do..:-)" And that was precisely what the statement was intended to achieve and it did. It is sometimes really annoying that people make statements or get compared/compare themselves to UG - without realizing that before rejecting what was accepted, UG learnt what was accepted for twelve long years. He understood, analyzed and then out of his own intution, analysis and intellect - Rejected - as any free-willed human being can.

One statement in the title and its many manifestations - people use it in clever ways either to really succeed or self-gratify, but the truth lives on.

Friday, May 04, 2007

What 'Drives' the world

While we can endlessly debate if the machine that changed the world is an Automobile or a Computer - the machine that is driving the world, literally, is a Car - in its various forms of existence. While a car drives people of the world, what drives a car drives the world politics - Fuel, my dear :) For every era of human history, some fundamental 'need' is responsible for the paradigm shifts in world politics and power structure. Age old days it was Food Wars, then it was Metal Wars - for Steel, Gold, Copper, then there were Opium Wars and now the Oil Wars. While wars of yester years were very physical, lot happens off the battlefield these days. Ok, I would be dumb to deny that bombing does not occur - Iraqis and Afghans would kill me if I say so - but there is lot more to what you bomb and when!

What happens off the battlefields becomes very important and in my opinion is driving world politics and in turn the lives of millions of people living in those countries. And not surprisingly, Nations have acquired faces and personalities - a friendly one, a meek one, a big brother and a sychophant - so on. (I leave it to your imagination to associate countries to those personalities :) Understanding the economics behind politics, Resources are consumed to produce Goods and Services, which are Consumed by the Market for Money. So logically he who has more resources should be rich, Right? - WRONG.

There is a slightly different road to riches -->
Approach 1: Acquire resources by tact, create goods out of them in your industrialized country and sell them into the same markets that gave you resources and make money - This is what is the famed East India Strategy or Colonial Strategy.
Approach 2: Now that you have money from colonial ages and colonialism is not right, use that money to create weapons, use weapons and acquire resources. Take resources, call it development and send these resources to another nation to create goods, brand it with your name, sell it in markets and make money --> Neo-colonial Strategy applied mostly in African and South American country
Approach 3: Act as if you are the best country in the world, Raise debt in international market, Consume so much that rest of the world becomes your manufacturing shop and you a market, create dependency on your market for survival and use money generated to enjoy and improve this circle --> American Strategy

And so on. So any educated reader can thus make up his own versions of multiple roads to riches. When this consumption levels go beyond control, as a nation you fight for resources with weaker ones. Now the case in point, Oil for American Cars and the wars and politico-economic strategies. Can any country satisfy the American need for Oil? For data, United States consumes 25% of the world oil. China is a distant second with 8% consumption of total world oil. But can someone calculate the per-capital oil consumption? United States ranks 17 and China ranks 138.(Source CIA FactBook 15th March, 2007: http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/ene_oil_con_percap-energy-oil-consumption-per-capita

World knows how the Gulf has been transformed with the advent of the magic fluid called 'Oil'. A wonderful must-read I should quote here is the novel called 'Cities of Salt by Abdelrahman Munif. Read the review to know what it is all about here : http://www.rambles.net/munif_cities85.html) . Now of late, United states has recently made an agreement with Brazil for SugarCane/Corn-based Ethanol production. Read what Fidel Castro has to say on this: http://mathaba.net/news/?x=553874 and this: http://www.pww.org/article/view/10982/ Don’t read it as a communist mouthpiece against US. Read it for the hard numbers quoted. How much more oil, how many more 3rd world lives to drive cars on the massive roads of United States?

I am not a communist, neither am I anti-US. But I vehemently reject the recklessness with which United States consumes resources. And how for the strange connection of economics with politics, US shows agression against 'target' states. Is US working towards removing world problems or are they fuelling more? Unwanted agression to satisfy consumption needs under various names from :democracy" and "threat to the world" - all in the end to satisfy the greed of one nation? May be the war is cheaper than investment in public transport in the US or convincing the American consumers to pool their cars!!!

It feels great to drive a wonderful car but I hope someone tries to know what 'drives' them, FUEL? Really???? Think deeper!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

What's in a name?

Shakespeare said - "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Boy! Was he wrong or was he wrong!? In the modern world of globalization name is everything. Because names stand for something. Name, more methodically, has transformed to a brand. And look around yourself and everything is a brand. There was a time in this third world country where brands didn’t mean much. So much so that I don’t remember asking for Asheerwad atta ever before in my life except for asking Wheat Flour in the neighbourhood grocery store. But things changed, for better or for worse. Now, test of success in life is measured by how much your name has become a brand - Like Brand Bacchan, Brand SRK, Brand Sachin and so on.

I was made to believe that if I do good work, my 'name' would be recognized across schools/towns/states or whatsover. And working hard and well was the ONLY way to it. Not so anymore. Is there a Brand Kumble popular in Indian society - not much - even though he worked hard for Indian cricket. Then on the other extreme is Sachin, a brand from the day he walked in to bat. And then there is a middle path, where people work and brand gets built - Dravid, the Wall brand, for instance. So it is no longer enough to be good at what you do but also consciously work towards building a brand for yourself. And this is the secret to success in office workspaces too. If your name does not represent something like a brand does, then you have serious career growth issues at work. And I suggest that when you work, keep that brand in mind and work towards highlighting your brand personality. (That's my tip and if you are using it in office from tomorrow, send out a cheque towards royalty!)

My observation of brand popularity is based on the amount of consumerism in an economy. Consumerism in India is becoming popular only for the last 5-8 years. Previously, we just bought a shirt - now people buy a Louis Phillipe or an Allen Solly. People used to buy from a grocery store, now we shop at Food World or a Big Bazaar. And we, as a country, have become conscious of what we buy and where we buy. So much so that you cannot buy commodities any more, only brands. And worldwide businesses have long realized the premiums brands can charge over commodities - be it people or goods. So you pay more for a McKinsey consultant or HP Computer. So what if businesses grow bigger and have multiple products in diverse domains? How do we handle branding across diverse product groups from a same company?

I personally believe, there is no better guy than Steve Jobs, to understand the importance of design and branding. He has 'pioneered' successfully/unsuccessfully a lot of new products for the new economy and tech environment. However, one thing that spans across the offerings is a consistent focus on design and simplicity with huge emphasis on branding. The 'i-series' of products is a genius idea, I believe. So much so that anything with a name that starts with an 'i-' should be from Apple. i-Mac, i-Pod to the latest i-Phone. But how many people know that Cisco has the copyrights for the name i-Phone? Legal stuff apart, it is unwise on part of cisco to hold a name that starts with an i- and sell it. It would never be associated with Cisco anyway!!!!!

To summarize the moral of the story: There is a lot to a name than meets the eye, err ear! So create a brand for yourself, consistently meet your brand expectations and never flick anyone's brand proposition cuz you would be charged with 'trying to be like someone'.

Anyway, my inspiration for starting out to write this piece was a surprise name on my google page - it now reads 'iGoogle'. WHATTTT…?? I always thought Google is doing a great job of popularizing the 'g-brand' with g-talk, g-mail and so on. Why iGoogle now? Is it because "Google CEO Dr. Eric Schmidt Joins Apple’s Board of Directors" :))

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

On the other side of 'unity in diversity'

I have always been a vehement opposer of one of the skewed Tamilian perspectives of language and Indianness. A part of Tam society and their attitude towards Hindi and anything associated with that language is nothing short of pure hatred, so much so that they would rather wait for a day more to know the news of the nation than listen to it in Hindi. I thought that was parochial - too narrow minded, too mean. I consider, my state of this great nation, a little more tolerant and accomodative. Where probably people don’t know Hindi but feel guilty that they don’t do. People make a genuine effort to patch up some words and strike a conversation with a neighbour in Hindi, even though most of the words are those used in the movies and news from Doordarshan. I too joined my voice to the saying - "Hindi is the national language - Rashtra Bhasha. And everyone should know it".

True, but why is it the Rashtra Bhasha? Because a majority of people speak it! Simple! So what about the minority? I never thought of what it means to be a minority, genuinely. I have never experienced it. Didn't I? I questioned myself. I tried to put myself in positions where I am in the minority. My 20-day trip to Thailand, where for more than 10hours of a day, I was the only one with eyes bigger than the 'usual'. My first trip to Delhi where I somehow am different from the people around. My first trip to chennai. You can probably put it under the category - xenophobia - but it does not take away the merit of my argument. Minority or majority, every person and race has an identity. An identity unique to themselves, an identity that represents who I am. An identity that is a sum total of my upbringing, my values, my habits and my beliefs. This identity is what differentiates me from the guy next to me. This identity differentiates an Indian and an American. While people have varied degrees of self glory in terms of which culture is great, which is not - which race is intelligent and who are fools etc - I personally think that it is a collective responsibility of humanity to protect the diversity of cultures- To preserve the diversity of thoughts and existences - human, animal or plant.

However, while accepting to be accommodative of various cultures, can someone ask me to give up an identity just because it is a minority? Probably not. The counter argument is that there is a difference between being accomodative and giving up your identity. I would restrict this argument to India and not generalize it to the world for this piece of writing.

Courtesy IT boom , I see that there is a lot of skepticism and hatred brewing within the local population in many of the south indian cities against the "intruders". In this era of globalization, even within India there is a lot more cultural friction than it was in the past. And along with it the problems of cultural stereotyping and associated issues. And in all this, the majority thinks there is an intrusion into their culture and way of life while the majority thinks people are just being parochial. The friction comes out in multiple ways - I was a victim in a lot of cases and I felt that those guys were ruthless and racial!

As one of my Tam friends put it - "You cannot force a south Indian to learn Hindi if a north Indian cares no two hoots for South’s unique culture and language." That got me thinking. Cursing myself for thinking in a way that increases the divide within India - "Are the south indians giving up too much?" Seriously, why does not a North Indian learn kannada, telugu or tamil even after living in a place for a decade in some instances. While I have seen Tam junta living in Mumbai speaking Hindi, even knowing that they are mocked at their accent. They know that its important to speak the language of the land to be accepted. Another learned Kannadiga friend of mine said - "I am surprised that a guy going to France on a project for an year, takes french classes for 3 months. And the same guy lives in bangalore for 5 years and cannot even say anything beyond kannada gottilla and enjoy maadi! - even they have one english word in both"

Let us put the parochial argument aside and see if the majority (for instance kannadigas in Bangalore!) have a point. I am trying to see a point. A point, just like in my previous post, (I don’t know how many read it!) is to take away the reason for hatred. I am starting to believe this is the panacea for all acts of hatred - take away the reason for hatred or atleast try to take it away and add a smile on the way. That is how I deal with it now, speak in Kannada and smile to say that I am Work In Progress :)

India is a melange of multiple worlds and that is something we keep forgetting. We cover ourselves with an illusion of One India, One great Bharat etc. While ideally, all of it is true - we are a million worlds. I personally feel that we are a mini-Europe. Every place/state has its share of culture, traditions and values. As long as you don’t appreciate and blend in, you remain an outsider living in India. In the same tone, I should however condemn the extremes - wherever they are. A great race/state is one which accepts everyone and grows on to retain its uniqueness.

'Gult' Thoughts:

Btw, I think Andhra overdoes the being accomodative part unlike our neighbours in chennai. We give up a little too much in our quest to be acceptable by the rest of India and rest of the world. While the entire Tam Brahm community from California flies down to Chennai for the Tyagaraja Aaradhanotsavas, we have totally forgotten the fact that Tyagaraja was a Telugu. And we have to make do with listening to Unni Krishnans of the world singing exquisitely written Telugu songs like "Bantu reeti koluveeyavayya Rama" in some really odd accents and lack of understanding of the meaning. (Note: I totally admire Unni for his carnatic vocal prowess!)

We have given up our culture and traditions so much so that we have forgotten our cultural heroes - Annamayya, Tyagaraju etc. An interesting fact came out the other day in my research that it is only Andhra Pradesh, that has accepted the name suggested by Mr. Nehru. You can notice how Hindi it sounds - is there a word called pradesh that is in telugu colloquial use - is there any other southern state that has such hindi-sounding ending? :) However, I think its our problem - not a problem with someone forcing it on us :))

Lighter Note:

Without the diversity I talked about, I sometimes think that, the world would be like US retailing experience :) Wherever you go, you will always buy from Walmart, Albertsons, Krogers all looking boringly similar and big .... ;-) That way, without the Indian and Mexican flea markets, US would have totally sucked for a shopper from a country like mine :)) And sadly, India too has started to move towards that with Food Worlds and BigBazaars!

Whose war are they fighting?

Whose war are they fighting?

3600 Coalition forces personnel and 25170 Iraqi Military and Civilians are killed since the beginning of the Iraq war. And these are just the official figures (http://icasualties.org/oif/ and http://www.antiwar.com/casualties/) and does not include the people killed every evening in the Iraqi market places by some car bomb or a suicide bomber. Does anyone count still? Does anyone in the rest of the world even vaguely remember that there is an active war on in Iraq? I read these news and it throws up a zillion questions on life - Do I understand how happy I should be to be alive and not limping. Do I appreciate how lucky I am to come to office, work in a secure air-conditioned workplace and drive back home to my wife and kid? I feel overwhelmed by the sheer power of the thought that there are places in this world where people lack this basic comfort of a normal human life!

I am not talking logic here; because rationale ceases to exist where the war starts. People talk reason only till the first shot is fired. After that it is an eye for an eye. After that every other shot is either reasoned with one of the two: Vengeance or a fear that a second shot 'might' be fired. Analyze it and you see that it's a very simple closed loop algorithm with no 'break'. And not surprisingly, both sides use the same algorithm. So a war can never be won forever and history vouches for it. Nations remember defeat, groups of people brew the grudge. So its only a temporary stop - positive steps can only lengthen the time period between wars.

After I realized that wars are a never ending phenomenon embedded into the history of human civilizations, I started thinking of ways to increase the 'calm' period between wars. Was there ever a period when no wars were fought and the entire mankind lived peacefully together? Perhaps not. In no Yug or eon of time, did it happen. A time of complete peace - There is always a war between the Gods and the demons. Definitions are just a matter of which side you are standing. From the vedic periods (Rig Veda!), when some Devatas of the post ice-age were mastering the sciences of engineering and anatomy, the other bunch of Devatas were fighting a war with Dasyas. While the vedic rishis were mastering science and spirituality in the tough yet peaceful Himalayan heights, there were a bunch of their countrymen (!!?) fighting war. Removing the 'allusive' symbolisms of vedas (as beautifully decoded by Aurobindo in his 'The Secret of Vedas'), the dasyas were fighting the aryans to steal their cattle and food. Cause while Devatas have plenty of riches and foods, Dasyas were suffering from hunger and weather. (I know this is a WRONG WRONG example - The Vedic kings of the yore were extremely responsible citizens of the planet!!)

The reason I wrote so much about a vedic age war is to just bring out the similarities of reason. Now it is very easy to see why Iraqis are fighting back or why Somalians are fighting in Mogadishu - they are not fighting for a religion, they are not fighting for a cause. They are fighting because of their 'lack' while a whole new world on the other side suffers from 'excess'. They hate a country, a land of free will and of million opportunities because of the thought (??) that The Nation is dancing over their poverty and their cadavers. They hate the problems of obesity and 'fashion'-induced anorexia while their kids die of hunger everyday infront of their eyes. They hate it when 'The Nation' spends millions on advanced research to convert edible corn into fuel. Put the religion aside for a while and think of what Iraqis, Somalians and millions of Africans go through when they realize that the sugarcane and corn that they grow in their fields would be used to fuel "The Nation's" cars. It throws me, a well educated comfortably living Indian, into an abyss of deep thought - How many more cars on those vast roads, how many more fuel guzzling monsters with one person driving inside?
How long will a nation justify its greed with its capabilities? How long can one nation use up so many resources of the planet with a faint sense of respect and responsibility?

Is it not surprising that many people who are fighting war in Iraq from Iraq's side are first timers to terrorist activities? (http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0718/dailyUpdate.html) What is pushing them to this? You can read the biographies of hundreds of popular terrorists like Khalid Sheik Mohammed etc and see that these guys are well read and more so studied in the US before becoming terrorists. What drove them to it? I used to link it to the religion they followed, like a whole lot of us who directly/indirectly, openly/covertly do. But there must be more than just the religion. They must have found a symbolism to a 'demon' or a 'satan' in the opposition that they are fighting. An apparition, part of it true and part of it created.

All soldiers of war need to be shown the 'bad' side of opposition to create a strong reason to fight. Be it the crusades or the jihad or just a plain simple War against a dictator! It's time for us to question, is there some thing more than the religion that is inciting this? A war cannot be won with more troops. Its an age-old war tactic that a war has to be won psychologically - first by draining the soldiers of their energy and then by draining the soldiers of their 'motivation' or reason. If you take away the reason, the soldiers see nothing but bloodshed. When you take away the principle, its becomes just plain carnage. Its no longer a crusade or a jihad. Think of it yourself, no sane human mind can justify violence without reason. You can analyze any crime and check it yourself.

In Iraq, now a lot of US soldiers are losing that reason to fight! They don't see a reason to bomb a civilian home. All the reasons of Saddam being a dictator, a person who kept Iraq in shackles, a person who held weapons of world destruction, all have gone flat. Then whose war are these innocent troops fighting, dying away from their families, butchered by a mass of people taking out all their vengeance against an entire nation on a bunch of individuals? Defending what and whom are these innocent soldiers dying? Atleast the other side has a reason for death - the need to take revenge, the need to die for a religious cause etc etc. They are atleast dying a valiant death , "thinking" that they would be martyrs. What are these coalition troops dying for? The other side might lose more people, but this side is dying a more painful one. This side is paying a price for a nation's mistakes. So psychologically, US troops are fighting a lost war.

Can all the nations with a will for peace repeat the tactic on the other side? Can they take away the reason for these poor, illiterate foot soldiers and jihadis of Africa/Kashmir/MiddleEast to fight against US and the developed world? I believe there is an end to this massacre only if the solution is in that direction. Only if the countries show more responsibility to the planet and by reaching out to the fellow citizens - it might require tougher choices. It might require sacrifices -starting from leaving your car back at home and using public transport!!! :)

NOTE: Have written this piece to induce thought and as often happening with my latest writings, it is more emotional and less rational. So there can be infinite logical loopholes and pick them for your own intellectual curiosity :)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Getting lost is always an enriching experience!

Life has a wierd way to throw surprises at you. Sometimes you stand and wonder if there is a grand plan according to which every event in our life happens. I created a blog page on MSN spaces on the 18th of August. I was thinking of a nice line to sum up what would be in this blog and what is my outlook towards life. Thought about it and came up with this one - yes, the title of this blog- Anywhere, Getting lost is a highly enriching experience!.

And lo, on 20th August I am lost. In the most silliest of places, easiest of journeys - Bangalore to Chennai. All I had to do was just get on to shatabdi at 6AM, reach Chennai at 11AM. Reach, I did, but at 4PM :) The day started with a wierd sense of irrationality - I went to a station where Shatabdi does not stop; After trying vehemently to get on to a running train and being almost thrashed for that attempt, I was advised by an wise, old man that I can always take the next train. Yet another philosophical revelation - 'Koi baat nahin, next train le lena'. That one statement sums up the entire Indian attitude to life - 'Nothing is more important in life than being happy'. Anyway, concepts apart, I had to run out of the railway station to get an open ticket to chennai. Yet another wise man asked me to hurry up lest I should miss the next train too. So hurry up, I did - and probably a little too much than what is required.

I pounced on the opportunity to get on to the train as soon as it entered the platform. Commendable performance needs to be rewarded. And so I treated myself to a plate of hot idli-vada with Tam sambar poured all over it. I am on the right train to the heart of tam land and so I started to nap peacefully. Ticket collectors in our trains have the most impeccable timing - they wake you up to check your ticket just when you think you are going to sleep well, atleast in this journey on train. I somehow think this breed, with a black jacket white shirt and red tie, is here on earth on a mission - to wake up sleeping souls to the rude realities of life. It was true to a T. He woke up and he did wake me up to a rude reality that my 'achievement' was at best, midgety. Coz, I got into the train and found a seat, but on a WRONG Train. I was smiling when he told me that. Today is going to be great.

Courtesy, all the movies I watched in general and tamil movies in particular, I made up a really surprised, 'Oh Shit, What Do I do now' expression and asked him in my broken Tamil, 'Where the hell do I get down?' Like Mahatma Gandhi got chucked out of a running train, the messenger from God, almost threw me out rightaway. However, his kindness or my Tamil, something made him let me sit there till the next station. Time has this wonderful characteristic of moving on and mind a greater virtue to not see it. For me, time stopped and but the train didn't. Amidst all this helpful co-passengers started giving me sympathetic looks and unsolicited advice on how I can reach chennai from here. Space constraints stop me from listing them but the classic one was - 'Tiripi Bangalore Ponga Saar, Anginda Volvo editeringa. Supraa oru anja, aaru ganta le Chennai povum nee'..!! For me, it seemed like forever before the elusive 'next station' came. DHARMAPURI.

I decided not to trust the collective intelligence of my co-passengers and stuck to asking the simple question 'Chennai ponnum enaku, Train enge catch pannanum'. Broken tamil, but it got the point across to the STD Booth owner in the Dharampuri station. 'Saar you go to bus stand from here. Ange Aruvoor povu bus la, Morappore ani kelinga. Anga erangilunamina Rly Tation opposittaa irrukum' - I understood as much as you did - only that I had problem remembering the strange sounding names. It was test of my management skills and my ability to smile. Smile I did, Management skills require no comment. Got onto a bus and a 30minutes journey on an illusory road for a driver who doesnt need one to drive his bus on led me to village after village. Which one is Morappore? I have never thought so deeply even about my existence on earth as much as I did about this one! WHERE IS MORAPPORE?

Finally, tamil and smile helped me get down infront of a single chai-cum-pan shop? But where is the station, I wondered! Carefully worded enquiries got fingers pointed towards a bunch of tamarind bushes? You must be kidding - there can be no railway station in there? Even if there is, no train can stop there! Walking through the bushes, reminded me of my old +2 days at JC. Couple of steps in one direction and three people stood up out of nowhere. I dodged and walked the other way - another two stood up! Welcome to the real India - I told myself. Finally, I managed to get out of the bushes and into the open where I saw a building, on the verge of collapse. Man, I missed my camera. Folks back home will not believe that I am doing this :) But if heavens ever have doors, they must not look better than these. This is my 'stairway to heaven' and there will I get my 'Ticket to the moon' (Earth, actually!)

My two hours before the train that takes me into civilization again are worth a different blog at a later point. So it finally did arrive, like an angel. Trains never looked so beautiful. Yesterday, that train was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Checking with four more people, that it is my angel, I got into her arms and fell asleep. Black and White messenger of God- the TC- this time didnt interrupt my dreams, for a change. And the last thing I remember was telling myself - 'Whatever they do, geniuses do things with some inimitable alacrity'.

Monday, February 13, 2006

IIPM - Expose'

Long time that I have written anything on my blog. Didnt have time to write. But as an avid blog follower, I saw that there is one issue on blogosphere that no one can miss - The IIPM Fraud.IIPM as people in India know is Indian Institute of Planning & Management. More known than the name of the institute is the catch phrase which reads 'Dare to think beyond IIMs'. (For starters, IIM is Indian Institute of Management are a string of six institutes arguably compared to the Ivy league colleges of the US in terms of academic standard!). As an IIM-Bangalore graduate, I remember very well laughing away at that catch phrase with a touch of mockery and nonchalance. Never did I bother, like any other indian, how good that institute is and how many people are trapped by that outrageous marketing claim. However, its only when an ex-IIMA grad, Rashmi Bansal, who runs popular youth magazine JAM has reported about IIPM that I got interested yet again. (You can read it here).The story took yet another interesting turn when a unsuspecting, serious blogger who believes in minor things like Freedom of Speech and Right to Opinion, Gaurav Sabnis, linked up to Rashmi's article in his blog. And with great show of grit and belief in personal freedom, Gaurav had to resign from his job in IBM due to cheap mafia-tic tactics by IIPM. (Incidentally, IBM has IIPM as its big customer. Why not, when IIPM provides free laptops to its students :-). The entire episode is wonderfully covered here by DesiPundit, a Indian blog site.As much for the story, three key things stand out from this episode.1. The importance of free speech, right to expression and standing by your opinion.2. How education in India has become more and more like a business - with an objective of minting money and how easily the institutes can be sold - I dont see any difference now between a 'New Improved Surf Excel with Active Oxygen' and 'IIPM - We teach today and rest adopt tomorrow'. All this coming from a guy with this profile (Note: Everything from IIPM - his dad's institute!)*Professor Chaudhuri did his B.A. with Honours in Economics, Honours Diploma in Industrial *Engineering, M.A with Honours in Economics, Post Graduate Diploma in Planning and *Management (MBA) and Fellowship of I.I.P.M. Professor Chaudhuri has been amongst the *toppers during his B.A. Economics, M.A. Economics and MBA. He was the recipient of the *Academic Gold Medal while completing his Post Graduate Diploma in Planning and *Management from IIPM.3. When the blogosphere is reverberating with the screams and shouts of self-respecting enthusiastic bloggers, no mainstream print or TV channel has picked up the story for a complete coverage. Reason is obviouis - IIPM spent Rs 5.1 crores on advertising in May 2005 alone, making it the highest advertiser in print for that month, according to the Economic Times. So, shall I sit down and wonder why they did not pick it up??However, this issue on the blogspots has revealed some curious and very analytical bloggers who used just the internet to dig out lot of fishy and shady details about IIPM. These are what should get more footage. Gawker brought out really fishy details about IIPM degree here. (For starters, read details abt IIPM academic programs here) and Transmogrified unravels more at http://constructal.blogspot.com/2005/10/web-of-deception.html#linksOverall, a really interesting fight on the blog net. I would love to see IIPM get bashed up for all the marketing gimmicks and intellectual atrocities on the unsuspecting students of India. May the truth win.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

King Kong - Ding Dong :)

Right from the release of Merian Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack's first King Kong movie in 1933, monster of beasts have raked in a lot of enthusiasm and dollars in hollywood. For people who have not seen the latest king kong flick, the plot is neither too complex nor different from the 1933 King Kong (Afterall, it’s a remake of the magic!)

A film crew headed by Carl Denham arrives at the mysterious Skull Island to do some location shooting for a new picture. However, the dark-skinned natives take a liking to Denham's leading lady, Ann Darrow and kidnap her as an offering to their god, Kong. Just as the cavalry, led by Denham and a play writer named Jack Driscoll rushes in to save Ann, Kong - a 25-foot high ape - makes his appearance, snatching his prize from the altar and heading off into the jungle. Kong from that moment is in love with the beauty of Ann. Denham, Driscoll, and a search party set off in pursuit. Various encounters with Kong and a series of prehistoric relics decimate the group. In the meantime, we get to see battles between the giant ape and several dinosaurs. Eventually, Driscoll sneaks Ann away from Kong and, when the beast arrives at the natives' village to retrieve her, Denham uses sleep inducing chloroform to capture him. Weeks later, a live show opens in New York City's Radio City Music Hall, with a chained Kong as the main attraction. He is, as the marquee proclaims, "The Eighth Wonder of the World." Despite Denham's best precautions, Kong breaks free on opening night, grabs Ann, wreaks havoc in the city, then climbs to the top of the Empire State Building. There, high atop New York Kong fights a duel to the death with a group of biplanes. The scene with Kong grasping the top of the Empire State Building with one hand while swiping futilely at the attacking bi-planes in a last resort attempt to protect the beauty and the dream of a home with that beauty. However, Kong was king of Skull Island, but, on Manhattan Island, he is a rampaging nuisance to be dealt with. So eventually he is dealt with and that is the end of a dramatic series of events from adventure, awe, emotions of a beast and the touching end of a beasty miracle and a dream.

Oops, I have given away the whole story there. So where is the review? The review can simply read "It’s a huge monkey kickin’ ass and if you’re looking for that sort of entertainment value" but here you go with what I thought of it! In one line, Jack Peterson disappointed me big time. After Lord of the Rings, may be my expectations were not rightly set. In terms of graphics, I think Peter Jackson's king kong pales in comparison to Spielberg's magic in Jurassic Park. But I think we have to appreciate the use of bigatures (A technique to show small models as big buildings etc, probably as opposite of miniatures termed by Weta Workshop!)

Other than that, I have to confess that I am one of those really few people who didn’t like the movie much. Stained with the over-exposure to giant beasts (starting from dinosaurs, snakes, spiders.. What did hollywood leave out, I wonder?!) and slithering, slimy hemipterous insects of all sizes pushing me to the limits of nausea (wonder what the director expected of me, if it was revulsion yes he succeeded!!), I felt watching King Kong today is useless if you want to be awed. Yes, if I am living in 1933 or even if I am watching the original king kong today, I would have really appreciated the creative imagination of the director for thinking up of a place like that. But no thanks, not today! And there is this usual horror stuff in the form of native tribal people using words that you, logically, don’t understand. Just for the fact that they too like the beast are drawn to Ann. There are parts of the movie where it feels good to watch king kong - mainly the animal emotions of love, wonder and fury. I like that 20mins of the movie. And before I really started appreciating it, its all gone. There is a wild sequence where the hero sneaks heroine away from Mr. Kong and wonder what, to escape holds on to the leg of a giant bird which drops them safely close to the ship of their voyage. And then there are a few more emotions that are left out - 'Feeling sorry, feeling tensed and feeling relieved and happy'. That is taken care of in the last sequence of scenes where the Kong is captured, tortured and where HE searches for his beauty and love, and unfortunately tramples on the city cars before the military bi-planes chase him and take him down. Ok enough. I am a reasonably sensitive person but this is not touching. Even though I couldn’t put my finger on the reason for my petrified emotions! The worst part of the movie is the last sentence that appears out of nowhere - "Its not the planes that killed the beast, it’s the beauty!" It sounded so out of place…!!

So, I left with a feeling of being cheated. What are you supposed to appreciate in the movie? It's for each one of us to decide. There are way too many things in the movie to appreciate - so you can pick your part and love it. For me, the only best part is the representation of how a classic old movie can be made to look better with the new techniques of story-telling. It certainly looks better, is it a better movie - I beg to differ. I might sound curmudgeonly and repitititve, but I really appreciate and envy the ppl of '30s for being able to watch such a movie at that time and those directors, I salute them. But sorry Mr. Jack Peterson, Not today and certainly not you for this flick!

Ok, anyway for more information on the film and the differences between the 1933 version and 2005 version, read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Kong_(2005_film)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Sitcom about Nothing!

This time my trip to US ranged from uneventful to enlightening, all at the same time. Houston, a city where you drag your life along, is quite a turn off after my first trip to California last year. But interesting it has introduced me to a new perspective to watching television. I love the comedy timing of a lot of Americans. Particularly, the one sitcom that rocks is Sienfeld. I dont know how many of you have already seen it before -but its the most hilarious yet so subtle sitcom I have ever seen. It makes 'Friends' look like an overkill - (except for Joey :))

What's the sitcom about? As put in the words of George Costanza in one of the episodes - "It's a sitcom about NOTHING. Everyone is making sitcom about something and we would just create one with a refreshingly new idea - NOTHING". To get into details when asked who the characters would be in that Sitcom, as the 'Lord of Idiots' George Costanza would say "I can be a character. Dont laugh. Seriously, I can be a character. Lot of people told me that I am quite a character". And now that explains it. This George Costanza is a friend of the protagonist, Jerry Sienfeld, a NY city stand-up comedian. Subtlety is the word for this guy. No making faces or stressed consonants to make the dialogue sound funny - just a plain witty retort. Elaine, is a female that Jerry once dates but is now some really close friend. She takes Jerry for granted and has a knack of getting into some really trivial and sometime dangerously hilarious relationships. Stealing the show with his characteristic entrance and a confused soul is Kramer (No one knows his first name for long time only to find out later that it is Cosmo!!!). He doesnt believe in knocking doors when entering, asking people before eating at their place, infact any conceivable etiquette for friendly interactions!

As his friend George Costanza puts it "Kramer wants to go to a fantasy camp ? His whole life is a fantasy campm ! People should plunk down two-thousand dollars to live like him for a week. Do nothing, fall ass-backwards into money, mooch food off your neighbors, and have sex without dating. *That's* a fantasy camp!"

I love George in the sitcom - thanks to this sitcom I could bear this dull and otherwise really boring city of Houston. It made me realize the essence of life.

"The most unfair thing about life is the way it ends. I mean, life is tough. It takes up a lot of your time. What do you get at the end of it? A death! What's that, a bonus? I think the life cycle is all backwards. You should die first, get it out of the way. Then you live in an old age home. You get kicked out when you're too young, you get a gold watch, you go to work. You work forty years until you're young enough to enjoy retirement. You drink alcohol, you party, and you get ready for high school. You go to grade school, you become a kid, you play, you have no reponsibilities, you become a little baby, you go back into the womb, you spend your last 9 months floating... then you finish of as an o*$^%sm !!!Amen"

The Forbidden Apple (24th March, 05)

The Forbidden Apple (24th March, 05)
-Written as a parody targeted at people getting married :)



God said to Adam:
How many times will you enter the grapple?
Miss the snake for the lure of the apple
Advised not to, you thought it was just being prissy
Raring to jump into the same old fancy!!

Wake up Adam! I have created you on purpose
And it is that foxy Eve or the evil Satan, I suppose
That taught you all this “Importance of Yin and Yang”,
And made you forget how to enjoy, dance and sing a song!!!


I guess that was a story from the yore
When someone tells you “Don’t”, you want it even more
My grandpa told my dad and my dad told me
But I just got married, and there was my dad to see!!

Smiling, there He was – who created the apple and the snake
All for an enigmatic cosmic plan’s sake
For in the first place, the apple is there to be eaten and a snake to bite
And knows well, poor Adam, you can barely resist an Eve with all your might!!

Monday, January 03, 2005

Excruciating Silence

Excruciating Silence

I was surprisingly silent that day. Sitting in an auto-rick, listening to the continuous screeching turns, the banging of loud honks, hollering lorries wrenching the guts of their age-old engines, ringing bells of hawkers on the road, shouting kids – inspite of all I was silent. Or for the first time in my life, was it BECAUSE of all??

Lost in an awkward quietness of thoughts, I suddenly bumped onto the idea of how much I am used to this noise. How much I am attached to this noise and how much do I inherently love it. I am used to those loud voices with loud expressions of love and hatred. In all this as I grew up, I became a part of the sounds around me, of nature and of people. Without that noise, I feel lost. I feel left out. I am used to equating silence with death and the noise with life so much so that I started to think silence as a word that succeeds ‘crematory’.

I started to count the number of times that this has happened to me. I sit in a loud environment and I hear nothing - Just the stillness and me. The calmness of thoughts shutting me in and I feel one with life. How many times have I encountered this feeling before! When it doesn’t matter what is around me and all I see is what I was looking for an answer for. Such alacrity of thought in a place where you least expect it to see.

As a kid, I always used to wonder if I am not living the life as I should be. Should I not be allowed to be myself? Should I not be allowed to sit in my house, in quietness secluded from the rest of the world? Why should the neighboring aunty care to ask at the top of her voice, if my upset stomach is alright now, with the cute-looking girl who I had crush on, overhearing it? I thought we in our country don’t value privacy. ‘Loud people, intrusive neighbors and relatives’ – I used to curse to myself. However, I had no choice. As a kid, living in a semi-urban locality, we had some painfully friendly neighbors, who wanted to know where I stood in my class in my half-yearly examinations, why I got such less marks in social studies and why wearing short pants even in your ninth grade is a symbol of humility and no humiliation. And on numerous occasions, I cried out loud with my voice muted, “Why do you care?”

As time passed, I got used to this noise- the loudness and complete lack of silence and privacy. Concentrating inspite of all the noise is a skill that the kids in India develop. I was no different. I was glad that I can complete my math homework and physics assignment inspite of the loud whistles from mom’s pressure cooker in the kitchen and wailing dialogues of soaps from my neighboring aunty’s TV. Incidentally, after my education I had to fly abroad on a business trip. I have reached my childhood’s ideal place, though a little late – the place where there is little noise, no intrusion and your privacy is respected.

I had to enjoy every moment of it – silent reading of my favorite novels, a calm drive down the road and a complete stillness all around. That was what I always dreamt of. But strangely, how much ever I told myself that I am enjoying it, my heart was breaking with pain. The silence is too heavy for me to bear - the stillness unnerving me. I had to talk to someone; I had to laugh out loud. I switched on to listening rock music – I had to admit that till then my love for rock music was fleeting. My ideal environment for good and clear thinking turned out to be wrong. I couldn’t think when everything around me is so calm and I couldn’t concentrate. However, rock music wasn’t filling in for that missing feeling in me.

That was the point when I realized what is the difference between noise back home and the noise of rock music? Thoughts flew back home and I realized how everyone cares for you back home - The loudness of care and warmth; the noise of emotion not of a boom box. I realized that I remembered that aunty humiliating me before my childhood crush and forgot how she got me that medicine later. I wanted to get back to the mad-rush back at home. I could not fit in to that structure of quiet culture and an un-intruded private life. I wanted to belong, loudly so, with every moment.

I was rocked back to life when the auto-driver switched on to the song - “Naatho pettukunte ……!!” from a Telugu movie. The glimpses of that song I watched a while before on TV flew over my mind – hero dressed in a yellow shirt and white trousers, with a maroon hanky around his neck, dancing heavily to that beat, whistles strewn all over the song, drums blowing at full volume. Just for a minute, I thought it was loud and awful. When I inadvertently started tapping my feet to that rhythmic beat, I just smiled to myself. I indeed am a loud guy and I love to remain so, forever!

Swades - Review

Swades: We the people

A movie from Ashutosh Gowariker and I knew even before I landed in the theater that it’s not going to be ‘yet another Bollywood movie’. Swades, as a movie, I would say is certainly different. However, if you are reading this review, to find out if you should go watch the movie or not, the verdict is – “You should go see it”.

Swades – is the story of a NASA engineer coming back to India is search of his childhood nanny, Kaveri Ma, and then being touched by his experiences in a small village - Charanpur - which gets him to think. At some level, probably Ashutosh Gowariker believes and drives home the message - that we, the as citizens of India, have to do something as our part about this country to make things happen. However, I felt Gowariker has lost track of his message, entangled in the sheer numbers and astronimity of the issues gripping India today – Illiteracy, caste system, poor power infrastructure, corruption and the (clich├ęd) brain-drain. To handle a myriad of these issues, and to logically drive home a point I felt Swades could have done with a lot more intelligent editing. Coz, the movie is too long, a little flat at times, and when songs break out in the second half out of the blue, you can hear people in the hall sigh, yawn and hoot.

However, the Gowariker magic of the protagonist cajoling the ignorant/adamant villagers to be motivated to help themselves and better their village still worked as well as it did in Lagaan. The emotional scenes where Mohan Bharagava is moved by what is the state of rural India was very well handled. And the dilemma of Mohan Bhargava is something a lot of educated Indians can associate with. Gowariker should be appreciated for his refreshing subtlety in narration.

Gowariker once again proved that casting is as important to the movie as the script. Shahrukh Khan (as Mohan Bhargava) has acted extremely well - no hamming, no over acting, just the regular intelligent thoughtful educated Indian guy - the idealism of Mohan Bhargava shows through. Gayatri Joshi is brilliant in her debut too. She looks very much the part she is playing. Actually, all characters have acted extremely well. In that sense it feels very real.

Music is just above average. I felt the charm in the music is lost mainly due to the misplaced because of some poor editing. However, I liked "Chala Chal Rahi" and "Yeah tara, woh tara...", and background score by A. R. Rehman ranged from being good to excellent in some scenes. Javed Akhtar as ever has written some enchanting lyrics. Cinematography is good too; it is a good looking movie without making you awkwardly feel that too much of effort has gone into to making it look good. (Like the movie “Devdas”!!!) On the whole, Swades could have been a lot better. That was my first reaction when I left the hall. And yet, somehow, I can't stop thinking about it. It stirs the Mohan Bhargava inside you because sometimes the Honesty of the expression is more important than the Polish in expression.