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Showing posts from 2009

Significant Happenings

Asterix turned 50 recently. Millions of people across the world have enjoyed his adventures along with Obelix, the maker of the magic potion, Druid Getafix and so on. The names of the characters are great entertainment in themselves. I still carry around a particular one called Obelix and Co. which is a great take off on management- in particular, advertising and marketing. There is a smart alec who gets the Gauls addicted to making money by selling menhirs (he buys them himself)and succeeds in corrupting them. Great read for an MBA.

The bard Cacophonix is another briliant creation. We come across equivalent characters in real life so often, that he is easy to relate to. The caricature of Romans (particularly Julius Caesar)is hilarious, and should be compulsory reading for all would-be dictators.

Paul Samuelson, author of a great text book on Economics, passed away. I read his book during my MBA and it was the first one on Economics that I enjoyed reading.

The Telangana crisis set me th…

Idlis and Orchids

Read a book called Idlis, Orchids and Willpower, written by Mr. Vithal Kamat who started the eco-friendly Orchid Hotel close to Mumbai airport. He is also from the family that runs Samrat and a couple of other restaurants in Mumbai. What I found interesting is that it is a service business (because I teach Services marketing), and a non-IT service business (because we have seen a lot written about them. Also, he has won several global awards for the environment-friendly ideas he has used in The Orchid.

In doing all this, he has drawn inspiration from a very traditional father and a home-maker mother. Also, he does not mince words about his siblings, and how family squabbles erupted at some points. Interesting style of writing too, not very sophisticated but appears to be straight from the heart. Interesting read for someone interested in biographies of entrepreneurs.

Coincidences

I happened to meet a student I had taught in 1991 while I worked at XIM. He came to the IMT Nagpur campus for recruiting our students. I do run into people from the past most unexpectedly. Another coincidence happened at a relative's place. I was trying to explain to a visitor about what IMT is and what I do there. To my surprise, he turned out to be a vendor of some services to our institute. A couple of days later, he was in my office discussing business.

An important visitor, the global head of TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) visited the campus today. He lives in Silicon Valley, USA, and shared lots of experiences with students. He said from personal experience that India is now much more entrepreneur-friendly than it was in the days of Infosys starting up. We are hoping to do some joint events with TiE in future, through a student group called Kushagra, formed specifically by people who want to become entrepreneurs at some point.

Kolkata

Visited Kolkata for work over the weekend and was amazed at the unchanging nature of this city. I have been there off and on for the last 10 years, and the more everything else changes, the more Kolkata remains the same. It also remains relatively inexpensive, which is good for the less fortunate, stung by inflation in recent times.

Whether it will follow other cities in India with an IT boom, and consequent changes in lifestyle, only time will tell. I also find the old ambassador taxis a refreshing change from all the modern cars, which look and feel the same. Have I lost it completely? I hope not.

A new Metro line seems to be coming up between Salt Lake and Howrah. Compared to the brouhaha over the Bangalore Metro (as of now non-existent), things seem to be proceeding quietly and smoothly on the project.

IMT Nagpur

Joined IMT Nagpur last week, as the director. An intake of 300 MBA students each year makes it one of the bigger B schools in India, though Harvards of the world are much bigger. IMT Nagpur is the second campus, about 5 years old, while Dubai is the latest. Hyderabad is slated to open in 2011, giving IMT a wide presence.

Driving from Bangalore to Nagpur, about 1050 kms, was an experience in itself. Roads have improved, barring stretches under construction. I made it to Hyderabad in 11 hours, and from there to Nagpur in around ten.

Placement season is on, with the usual hectic interview schedules for students. A nice ambience pervades the campus, reminding me of the IIM campuses, on a slightly smaller scale. I was at Lucknow and Calicut earlier.

Earlier, on my last day in Bangalore, I visited the Book Fair at Palace Grounds, where my autobiography was also on view at the stall of my publisher, pothi.com. Met the entrepreneurs who set it up. Jaya Jha, an IIML alumna and Abhaya, her partner…

Karnataka Politics

Yeddy, steady, go seems to be the rallying cry. Only, it is not towards progress, but towards suicide. A party that takes several years to come to power is able to destroy its own government in less than 2 years. Have our parties lost all sense of propriety, shame, and even the will to survive? Reminds me of the time when the Janata Party came to power in Delhi after the infamous emergency in the 1970s. The new government did not even last 3 years. All the common causes evaporated as soon as power got into their hands. Surprise, surprise, Indira Gandhi came back, strong as ever.

Like other organisations (corporate), political parties need to infuse a certain amount of discipline, and at least some common sense into their members, to ensure that at least they complete a term before frittering away a mandate which is earned after a lot of effort, and expense. People deserve a good government.

Modern Diseases

Just some random thoughts about Modern Diseases and their treatment.

1. Don’t Check Ur Mailitis: Strikes many a healthy emailer without notice. Can induce long stays in the real world. Patient recalls only physical world, and tends to forget the unreal, or virtual world. Starts living his first life, to the complete exclusion of his second life.
Treatment: Earlier treatments included mails to the patient announcing he had won 200,000 pounds (the currency, not the weight) in a lottery. This treatment no longer works. A whack on the side of his head (a physical one, actually delivered on the side of his head) sometimes works. A kick in the right place may also be tried as an alternative line of treatment.
Note: A golf club should not be used to administer the treatment. It can land the do-gooder in the cooler for life.

2. Realityshowtitis: This shows up in symptoms like saying to your children after they have brushed their teeth, "your score is...thirty", with a flour…

Girish Karnad's Play

Saw a brilliant performance of Bikhre Bimb, a Hindi adaptation of Girish Karnad's work. In a one act, solo performance, Arundhati Nag conveyed a range of emotions, from ecstacy to jealousy to helplessness. It's about a surprising twist to an acclaimed author's life story. The props used are very intelligent- a TV that carries a spitting image of the actor on stage, talking to her out of the idiot box.

Having seen a play after quite some time, I felt the impact was even better. A sidelight was the presence of Shabana Azmi at the theatre (Ranga Shankara). Bangalore seems to be picking up again as a 'playful' place, judging by audience number and reactions. Long live drama!

English Language

Reading a fascinating book called Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson, who usually writes travelogues. What strikes me about him is his meticulous research into facts and anecdotes about diverse people. Reminiscent of Arthur Hailey who in the past wrote about airports, hotels, finance industry etc. in great detail. This book has a lot of interesting observations about English language, its history, evolution, and reasons why it became the force that it is, compared to many other languages.

One important reason for its rapid development in tune with the times is that there is no single custodian of the language, and the second is that English is open to influences and new words from many other languages. The stories of the people who wrote the first few dictionaries of the language (Webster being one of them)are also quite fascinating. One dictionary took almost forty years to compile!

Diwali

I hit a record of sorts by meeting 3 different friends, two old and one new, in the three days this Diwali. I usually shudder to drive in Bangalore (a phobia of sorts) due to the sorry state of the roads and even sorrier driving habits of Bangaloreans. Which is why this is a record.

The feelings evoked by Diwali are however, unique. It brings about the urge to splurge on everything- food, sweets in particular, sparkling diyas, or lights of any kind, consumer goods, etc. I restricted myself to a new music system cum many other things, made by an unheard of Japanese brand. But I am sure I would have bought something else if the holiday had been longer.

Also saw Blue, India's first movie with underwater action occupying a lot of screen time. I thought it was a good attempt at this, and action on the road. Only a flimsy story to take it forward, but the, which Bond movie has a great story? Lara Dutta makes a good Bond-style heroine, though that can't be said about Sanjay Dutt and …

Bangalore Book Fair

The Bangalore Book Fair is an annual event that hosts publishers from all over. This year's edition is special, however, because pothi.com will have a stall there. What is pothi.com? It is a Print-on-demand (or POD) publisher based in Bangalore. So what, you may ask. They are also the publisher of my autobiography called "My Experiments with Half-truths". That's what makes this year's event special for me. It's from November 6th to 15th.

What makes the POD so attractive to fiction/poetry/non-fiction authors is that the content is entirely under the author's control. So a Michael Moore (whose Stupid White Men had some problems getting published) could use this form of publishing, and so could you or I, unknown authors to begin with, who may never get published any other way. Sales are usually slow, because it is sold online against an order, and the author needs to promote his book (as I am doing now), but there is no pressure on an author to buy a minimum …

Paulo Coelho and Michael Moore

A brief review of two books I read last weekend.

Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho is an interesting book. It looks at inmates of a mental asylum in Slovenia (where is that?) and delves into our inhibitions, need to conform to societal norms, and inability to let go. Also, it leaves you wondering if everyone is 'mad' in their own way.

Michael Moore's Stupid White Men is a typical takeoff on George W. Bush, Gore, and all the white men in the U.S. and the world, in general. Very persuasively, Moore argues that the bomb was made by a white man, the internal combustion engine which pollutes our air was made by a white man, people who chucked him out of his jobs were all white men, and ...so on. But the media always portrays the villain as being black men or other non-white men. It's hilariously funny, and also scathing in attacking many holy cows...if Tharoor had done it, he would have been exiled. Rupert Murdoch's company (his US publisher) did try to stop it, bu…

Two Film Reviews

I saw two movies, the last two days. A quick review.

Quick Gun Murugan is a really nonsensical and enjoyable take on cowboys, Tamil films, corporate shenanigans, and mamis of Mylapore (that's in Chennai), among other things. It's funny by design, and to look for too much logic, structure, and cinematic greatness as in a Shyam Benegal movie would be futile. But for me, it worked. From the lipstick worn by Murugan, to the Zimbly wonderful Locket girl (Lola Kutty in another avatar), Mango Dolly whose item number is better than any of Rakhi Sawant's, to Gunpowder, and Rice Plate Reddy (the villain), it's a bunch of imaginative characters, and the "Mind it"s and "I say"s enhance the masala mix. A great way to entertain yourself, if you dig this sort of stuff. Potential for many sequels too, I think.

The Kite Runner is a good adaptation of the book. Sensitively told tale of cold war politics, meaningless wars, and the bizarre roles of the so-called relig…

Reality Shows

Somehow the reality shows have not caught my fancy. What could be the reason? That I am unreal? I cannot vouch for that, and there is a seeming contradiction. If I am unreal, then my vouching for it is as unreal, so it may not matter.

But look at the reality shows that are being lapped up as much as the saas bahu serials were. I look at it this way. If your life is "really" good, then you would be too busy living it, rather than watching TV- real or otherwise. If your life is not really good, then you need to spice it up with entertainment that is far removed from your not-so-good reality. In either case, my analysis shows that reality shows should not have a market. But why do they get watched? Secondly, are they really real? Or is it all a rehearsed drama for the benefit of the producer?

What do I like to watch? Mostly, Travel and Living, the odd comedy show, and the news that sounds a lot like entertainment, what with Advani (sounds like a cousin of Akashvani) looking sad…

Beauty with Brains

This is triggered by an interview I watched on a TV channel. It featured the actress and director Nandita Das. Not sure how many people have seen her films, but she has starred in a few. I was struck by two things- the impact an upbringing (mainly parents)can have on a person's worldview. Secondly, that beauty and brains can go together, in spite of the dumb blonde jokes that we are all used to. Anyway, she is not blonde, nor fair, but still, beautiful to those who are not "fair-minded", or blinded by fair skin.

She spoke on a range of issues, including live-in relationships, her choice of films and her non-career mindedness as per Bollywood norms. I thought she came across as a balanced, Live-and-let-live kind of person, and more than that, as a genuinely nice person, compared to the many "naatakbaaz" (fake-sounding) people one comes across in large numbers on TV (maybe I have been watching too many financial analysts).

The interview was on DD, so I must also …

Unconventional Wisdom

It has become a trend for economists to write mainstream books like Freakonomics. The latest that I read in this genre is one with a misleading title. I will come to the title later, but the book puts forth a lot of unconventional arguments. One is that patents are bad, another is that firemen should keep the assets that they save from a fire, and yet another is that a high population is good for all of humanity. I will not get into the details (I am not sure that I can!), but it is an engaging way to spend your afternoon, or evening, or night to read this book. In general, his argument is that the law of Karma should be applied to situations to decide who gets the incentives and pays for costs of his actions- the doer!

There are some real gems, like "the Labour minister steals from the farmers and business, the Commerce minister steals from the workers and farmers, and the Agricultural minister steals from the workers and business, to benefit their own constituencies- the worke…

Long lost friends

Suddenly these past two weeks, I have had friends from school and college catching up through mail or Facebook. It is really great to catch up after say, twenty years or thirty years. One schoolmate is a chef, another a businessman, and so on. We are now going to try and revive a school batchmates group from Hyderabad Public School, Ramanthapur.
In any case, we are already planning a 25th reunion of our IIMB batch this year. So the reunion fever is stronger than Swine flu, as far as we are concerned. With most of us having children who are grown up, and very little to occupy the time at the "empty nests", this is one thing we are looking forward to.
Disgruntlement with high pressure corporate life is what I find increasingly among friends and acquaintances, and many are taking ways out by teaching, retiring, or finding other pursuits. Not bad, I would think. At least 25 years later (or Quarter ke baad, as our reunion is teasingly titled), people have figured out what is impo…

The Long weekend

The long weekend started off well, with us going to Harihar, a place I worked in for seven years. Thanks to the bungling of the highway construction on NH 4, it takes longer to reach there than it used to seven years ago. But roads in town have improved. With some friends from Kirloskar Institute, we revisited some of our old haunts like Kondajji (a hill with a lake and a camping site), Raj Bhavan restaurant at Davangere nearby, a nice garden restaurant where many weekends were spent. The colony surrounding the institute (of a Kirloskar company called Mysore Kirloskar) has been bought over by an investor, and is in bad shape, though it may be restored or sold off in smaller lots.
Tried a hookah which a friend had brought from Qatar, and enjoyed the fruit flavoured "smoke". The journey back was marred by a blind (not literally) auto driver ramming his auto with us in the back into a mini-truck. Luckily we got away with minor bruises. Came back to a lot of rain in Bangalore.

Pics from Singapore KL and Pattaya

I have finished added captions to my recent Singapore trip album, which you can visit at-

http://picasaweb.google.co.in/rnargundkar/Singapore#

I am new to Picasa and digital photography in general, having grown up on the "grandfatherly" analog cameras using which I was comfortable, but when it comes to instant sharing, I am now a convert to the digital variety. Happy viewing. The same site also contains a couple of older albums from the trips to Udaipur/Jaipur/Amritsar and to Amsterdam.

Ladyboys of Thailand

An entire 90 minute show performed by beautiful (actually better than beautiful, gorgeous-looking) transvestites (ladyboys in local parlance)? I am not joking. You can see it in Pattaya, and unless they tell you, you can't even make out they are transgendered performers. What a brilliant idea to give them dignity in a world that normally forces them to live in disgusting and undignified ways. Hats off! This show, called Alcazar, was a highlight of our two day Pattaya romp. Another was an undersea walk in the shallow sea water on way to Coral Island, an island reached through a thrilling 30 minute ride on a Bond-style speedboat that cuts through the water, front end up at an angle after take-off. The undersea walk needs no training, just wear a helmet (a BIG helmet) that lets you breathe, and a guide takes you for a walk, feeding fish and touching some coral, watching other sea animals floating past you. It beats the Singapore Undersea World any day, though the fish in Singapore a…

Pintu goes to Malaysia

The best part of Malaysia is its language. Or words. I was fascinated from the moment I landed in Kuala Lumpur. Salamat Datang is a greeting. Dilarang.....something.. is No Smoking. Teri maa kais hai, or something similar sounding, means 'Thank you'. But the best of them all...a gate is called Pintu. What a fabulous word. Pintu... all the Indian visitors at the airport kept on saying, Pintu this, Pintu that...I am reminded of something that happened in Clemson University a long time ago. I was a student in some course during my Ph.D. My American professor had a habit of asking us a question, and if he got the correct answer, he would shout "Bingo!". One of my classmates, Masoud, was so fascinated, that he would read up before class so he could answer the questions, just to hear the prof. say Bingo! How's that for motivation?

The fascinating words don't stop there. We went to an upmarket commercial and residential are called Bahsong Baru, a Las Vegas and Disn…

Singha in Singapore

No, actually that is wrong! No Singha beer in Singapore. That's in Thailand. And Tiger beer is from Singapore. Confused? You bet. Price of beer in Thailand? 50 baht-around 70 rupees. Price of coke in Thailand? More than that.

Indian food? No problem. On a banana leaf? No problem. In a restaurant called The Banana Leaf? Again, no problem. Tiger prawn or Chili crab in a Tamil restaurant? Absolutely. A mall like an Octopus spreading its tentacles across three blocks of Singapore? That's Mustapha, a heady combo of an Indian kirana store and the western mall-mania filling eight streets and four or five levels. Big bazaar was (is?) trying to do this in India.

Disciplined or scared of big brother? I could not figure out what Singaporeans really feel. The discipline is awesome, but scary to someone as used to indiscipline (not just from students) as I am. No doubt, Singapore has a lot of man-made beauty and a stupid combo of a lion and fish- wouldn't a mermaid have been more beauti…

The King of Bad Times

I thought I should give some competition to Mr. Vijay Mallya. This is not about beer, but the villains I have watched in Bollywood movies. Who is the best of them all? My vote for the king of bad times is for Ajit, with Pran a close second. Ajit, because he looked so cool, always under control, with a fun element even in the most brutal villainy. Like boiling people in acid baths or electrocuting them or whatever. He also generated jokes that will live with us for a lifetime, some real dialogues and some made up by his fans. Mona and Michael are also immortal, thanks to him.
Pran also was a gentleman villain, usually suave, well-dressed and mostly, well- behaved too. Prem Chopra was a baddie who looked like a leach, Amrish Puri was too loud for my taste, and Manmohan, Sujit Kumar etc. made no impact. Of course, Gabbar's career as a villain was short-lived, though he made a powerful debut in Sholay. Vinod Khanna also played villain in his early days, and so did Shotgun Sinha. I reme…

Cars I Drove Over the Years

Since I am not a zillionaire, these are quite modest and do not include the Ferraris, Mercs and the like, but I just realised that it is an interesting list nevertheless. For example, I started driving at age 18 on a vintage Ford Prefect 1955, which has that old world look, complete with a cranking "handle" to start it like the Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi car, and a floor gear. It also had a footboard on both sides, and we as children used to enjoy standing on it on the drive from the gate to the garage while my father or mother was driving. Great fun!

The next car was a humdrum "Fiat" which was an official car (parents'), which I did not drive much, as it came with a driver. My next one in the US was a giveaway from Alok, my friend who had finished his PhD and bought a new Totota Celica in 1986. His old Datsun (from Nissan)1976 I think, was what I drove for a year. It was a zippy car, by Indian standards, though it had a leaky cylinder which meant one spark plug const…

My Top Ten List

This is Chapter 22 from my autobiography.

My List of Top Tens

Without a list of top tens, anybody’s life would be incomplete. So would mine. To make sure I feel complete, I have made up many top ten lists. Now, I really feel I have achieved something in life. So here we go-

Top Ten Movies (Foreign)

1. The Sound of Music is probably the best movie in this category. I particularly like it for its upbeat ending.

2. In a different genre, I liked The Omen, for its terrifying but understated portrayal of the satanic plans. Even non-believers in Satan were probably scared while watching it.

3. My Fair Lady is a delightful movie, particularly if you like language.

4. Romancing the Stone is a very good movie of its kind, pure fun. Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner were superb. So was Danny DeVito.

5. The Pink Panther series was hilarious, period. Peter Sellers, the music, the inspector, the French, everything was simply great.

6. Generally I don’t like war movies, but Where Eagles Dare s…

Singapore

Singapore, here I come. I never went East, for some reason. Though I have travelled to Europe and the US, somehow an opportunity never came to travel in Asia. I will make up next week with a trip to Malaysia and Singapore with our students who go on a foreign study program as part of their course. Classes at MDI Singapore are clubbed with some sightseeing and cultural exposure. Should be nice to see how people live in other parts of Asia. Unfortunately, we only focus on negatives around, like terror in Pakistan (or from there), fights with China, strife in Lanka and so on. But these and other neighbours must be doing good things occasionally, I am sure. Particularly East Asia and its 'tigers'. Hopefully, will learn a bit about how they did it. Singapore is like a Mumbai suburb, I am told, but its progress has been astounding, to say the least. And the same Bristishers had left their legacy there too. Only, Singapore was smart enough to shake it off and start doing their own th…

Hunger for Water

Almost all reservoirs in Karnataka seem to be running dry. Whether it is El Nino or some other culprit, can we be so dependent on the vagaries of rain? Can we not develop other energy sources for power at least? What use is the millions of engineers we produce if we cannot break out of the clutches of a few mega power plants? In the olden days, we survived reasonably well on firewood and other stuff easily available for our energy needs. It now looks like we need to generate our own power and maybe use our own wells (like we did hundreds of years ago), in spite of a municipality and power company existing to ostensibly do the needful. Why can't we do something about the basic human condition-urban and rural?

I read a book called The Black Swan, which was very interesting, about the effect of major random events and random discoveries on our lives. Basically the author argues that life is highly unpredictable (so is business, and everything else). I am reminded of some quote which s…

My days at IIMK

Further excerpts from my biography on autopilot- sorry,autobiography.

Chapter 11: Calicut: Lola Kutty Land

There is an old joke about why mallus don’t get the time to work in Kerala. The explanation (according to the joke) is that they are too busy tying and untying their lungi. I presume it refers to the male mallus. But I think it is really unfair. I think the real explanation is that they are too busy teaching people the correct way to pronounce everything. Take the example of Calicut. Such a simple and uncomplicated name. But that would generate major unemployment in the state, because everyone can pronounce it. So, there is an official name change to Kozhikode. Even Vasco Da Gama would have lost his way, had this been done in 1498.

Many people now happily spend hours, or maybe days, educating ignorant foreigners (non- mallus) on how to pronounce Kozhikode. Come to think of it, if a movie can be made about this education, it may beat “My Fair Lady” at the box office.

Jokes apart, o…

My IIMB Student Years

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The Bangalore Years (1982-84) at IIMB

What happens to anyone who goes to an IIM is that his life changes forever. It is a unique environment, where you are forced to do many new things. The residential setup with a cosmopolitan crowd-urban, rural, northern, eastern, western, southern, young, old and so on …the diversity is amazing. The only other place I got to see this kind of diversity was in the U.S. university I went to later on. All the assumptions that you have about yourself have to be re-evaluated, in general, when you land up at such a place.

To balance the cosmopolitan students and faculty, we had a totally rural ambience of Bilekahalli where IIMB was located. We were the first inhabitants of this new campus, and faced the music in many ways. No street lights-actually, no streets in the beginning, a makeshift mess of a dining room in a shed, no computers (that was not the IIM’s fault, there weren’t any in India then), no sports facilities except open spaces, and so on. Loo…

My Encounters with Anopheles

The following is some stuff I wrote and won an award for-

My Encounters with Anopheles


I have tried to explore the meaning of what I do in my own way. Part of that exploration was through this series in which I converse with Anopheles, the female mosquito who bites.


A mosquito buzzed into my bedroom. I was sleepless anyway, so I started a conversation.

“Where are you from?” I asked.
“From the drain on Street No. 6,” the mosquito replied.

"Do you always have to travel this far for dinner?"
"Not really, but I go for quality food. So I don't really mind."

"Tell me something. Is it necessary for you to suck the blood of human beings to survive? Can't you find some other food?"

The mosquito looked surprised. "The human body has 6 litres of blood on an average. What's a drop or two for you?"

I replied, "Our sleep is disturbed, for one. And, of course, your bite is, quite literally, A PAIN."

"Do you really need so much sleep…

Autobiography Chapter 14

Chapter 14: Relatives UnlimitedI started believing in God after counting the number of relatives I had. Like him, they are omnipresent, and infinite. Unlike him, they are visible. I have benefited from this plethora of relations in many ways. Wherever I went, I would have an aunt or a cousin or a nephew to stay with. For example, I stayed with a nephew, Suren, at IIT Delhi’s Aravalli hostel when I went for an interview with the India Today group in 1984. Countless times, I stayed with various cousins and aunts in Mumbai, Pune, Baroda, Indore, Nagpur and so on. This continued even in the U.S., where we visited New York and stayed with a cousin. Niagara Falls, yet another cousin. And so on. Right now, I have relatives (and friends) in so many places in the U.S. that it seems like a second home, though I have been away for almost two decades.Excess of relatives in one place can be a bit of a problem, though. I remember when I got married, both our families were in Pune. It was a competit…