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Showing posts from May, 2012

Why a Bandh is Socially Relevant

Rather provocative thought, eh? Well, I gave it a thought, and the conclusion was inescapable- that bandhs are socially relevant in our country. Not only that, they take you forward. Now for the people unfamiliar with this concept, it is this. Bandh means closed. The entire nation decides that it will shut down. This achieves many things. It brings into sharp focus that you were not doing anything useful on all the other days when you were ostensibly working- and getting paid. So now the employers can take a call on whether to retain you. And reduce their (corporate India's) losses.

Politically, it is like a jam session in the boxing rink. It separates the men from the boys. The number of buses burnt can be tallied like a cricket batsman's score, or maybe the older head hunter's score (we are not talking human resources here, but the old sword tricks). And the top scorers can hope to win the next election, unless there are better scores from others.

For the normal, harrie…

General Knowledge Gets Tough

In the old days (as in my school or college days), I used to be a quizzer. One had to be thorough with the number of states India had, their Governors, Chief Ministers, locations of all UN Head Offices, and a few sundry country names and capitals, and you were OK for about 80% of the questions. But it can be quite a trauma for today's G.K. quizzers, I can see.

You need to still know all the above (which gets tougher with more states and wannabe states getting added on), and what's more, you need to know all the major goings on in the EPL, the IPL, and everything in between. Who got charged with molesting X, Y, Z, could be the question, and more likely than not, it would be an IPL player. So you have to be in the know, you see. Or, who got into a brawl at Wan-khede? The answer to that would be the Khan without a hit- what a 'misfit' for a brawl! Being used to hits, this was the only way to get a sure thing. Gotta excuse him his minor fracas.

Or, take the latest. You al…

Innovations To Kill Boredom

Here are some neat ideas (95 on a 100 point neatness index) for innovations that can kill boredom in common situations we face.

1. A nodding puppet which nods metronomically, to sit in front of an old relative repeating his/her tales of the past for the nth time, so you can slink away, do your own thing and come back in a while.

2. A smoke-generating toy which can be used to scare people and make a long line disappear in a crowded place - can be used in a bank, amusement park, or in a booking counter for IPL. Just for long enough to give you enough time to get to the front of the line.

3. A joke-telling device- the J-app, which you switch on in the most morose situations- like an airline journey, the most humourless of all. Will tell a joke at the click of a button, but only when electronic devices are allowed to be switched on, by the morose air host. Will make passengers jealous if you laugh too much, though. Use carefully.

4. An animated dancer that performs a dance of your choice…

Transport Trauma

Now that petrol is quite expensive, I believe we must have a national innovation reality show to replace the current ones which involve dancing, singing, and emotional atyaachar at various levels. This is the likely scenario of the contestants.

The Garib Rath presented by Laloo. Will run on chaara eaten by the horses, and supplied by an un-ending supply appearing out of nowhere on demand.

The Amir rath presented by Mr. Laksmi Mittal or any other billionaire. This will be a Merc which does not use fuel, but will be borne by four or more people like a paalki and will run on voice control. A in, you tell them where to go, and they will.

The middle class rath, which RK Lakshman's Common Man will present, and will combine whatever jugaad these guys can put together after paying all the taxes on their hard-earned money. Maybe it will have an old bull, a goat or a dog pulling a sled. But the problem would be to make it snow, to make this work. Maybe another jugaad can do the needful.

Th…

Ruskin Bond- A Nice Man to Know

I happened to watch an interview with the man on national TV the other day. I was really impressed. I am not easily impressed by people (usually celebrities) most of whom I find faking things, looking to promote themselves or their immediate work (normally films).

Self-effacing must be his second name. I confess I have not read any of his work, and may do so now, because of my interest in him as a person. Loveable is a term that comes to mind. He has a gentle humour which comes through in this interview. A couple of observations he made were really heart-warming. A couple of his young readers told him that he should put more action in his stories.-that they are slow-moving.

He is also the writer of ghost stories, apparently. He wrote the story that was converted into Saat Khoon Maaf, about a wife serially murdering seven husbands- so he is not as innocent as he looks. He confessed he had a few more ways of killing them he had thought about but did not use in the story!

On living in I…

Skyrocketing Becomes Expensive

Those who used to be high-fliers will soon be grounded. The price of petrol will actually be the only thing which can go skyrocketing, not the people who use the stuff as fuel to get themselves going. So you are not going anywhere anytime soon.

Environmentally, this may not be such a bad thing. There may be less vehicular pollution, and there may be a few more people who walk to save money. Breathing petrol fumes is not much fun anyway. Hopefully, it will stir people into researching alternative fuels and ways of going from place A to Place B. A good joke I read on Facebook the other day says poor people walk miles to find food and rich people walk miles to digest food.

All in all, a good move that might save us from bankruptcy, and bad health. Cheers!

Castle and Suspense Serials

Over the years, I have watched some suspense serials on TV, starting with the classic Sherlock Holmes which Indian TV Doordarshan used to telecast on Sundays many decades ago.

After that, I watched several episodes of Murder, She Wrote, Tehkikaat starring Vijay Anand, Bomkesh Bakshi ( a very good one), a few episodes of CID, Remington Steele which I like a lot, and now some episodes of Castle last year. Castle has been now revived on Star World, both old and new season episodes.

X- files is of the same type, with Gillian Anderson and Mark Duchovny (hope the names are right) playing the investigators. That reminds me, I saw Gillian Anderson recently in a movie starring Mr. 'Bean" Atkinson (a hilarious Bond spoof called Johny English Reborn).

All these in their own way are good, engaging serials if you like the genre of murder or other mysteries. Some better than others. I also loved the black and white Perry Mason series (starring Raymond Burr) that I watched on American TV m…

Raving and Ranting

There is a rave party going on, with everyone raving about how cool (not temperature-related coolness, but fitting-in type) it is. No global warming warnings can affect them. But all of a sudden, a police squad swoops down on this group of cool dudes, and they end up in the cooler. How cool can you get? Now, you feel pretty cool (not temperature, but feelings-related) towards the organiser, and everything to do with the rave.

Now, blowing hot or cold about it is not really my cup of (hot) tea, but what I would really like to know if the amount of time and effort that law-enforcers spend on turning on the heat on these raving lunatics (according to the enforcers) cannot be spent on something more worthwhile, like reducing petty crime from the streets of whichever city. Burglary, Chain snatching, petrol-stealing (that's a new one) or even not following stop signs on traffic lights, can actually harm common citizenry far more, and may be worth doing more of. Particularly when resour…

Charming Ladakh

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No words are required when the scenes are so majestic. Remembering the visit to these fantastic places last summer. Nice thing to do when the temperatures are 40 plus celsius. The river is Indus, which gave India its name.

TV Programs and Social Change

Finally, there is a program on TV that challenges us intellectually and morally, forcing us to view why we exist, and why social evils persist in society, if we as a race of intelligent beings have worked on this so long. Yes, Aamir Khan has made a signal contribution to what was called the idiot box  (and rightly so). The muck that passes for programming on most channels shows the intellectual and creative laziness of all involved.

Anyway, coming to the bright spot, in just three weeks, Aamir and his team (Satyamev Jayate) have forced us to think about female foeticide, child abuse and this week, the greed of people disguised as the malignant dowry system. We read in history books that reformers like Raja Rammohan Roy and many others worked to remove social evils like dowry from the Indian society.

What I liked about this show which I watched completely, is its no-nonsense and direct format, which brought tears to everyone's eyes, including Aamir himself. There were 3 or 4 inter…

Delhi Ruminations

We had the Delhi alumni meet, traditionally the biggest in number of alums, at Paschim Vihar's Radisson Blu. Funnily, there was some singing and one of the songs sung had this line, Purab ho Paschim, Uttar ho Dakshin, tu har jagah muskuraye (from the song, Phholon ke rang se). Apt!

Around 250 alumni of Nagpur turned up, and it was a pleasure digging up their old memories, and updating the older batches about some happenings. The hall was big enough fortunately, and a good time was had by all. Earlier in the day, I had a round of Netaji Subhash Park, an office complex with some restaurants. and so on, a bit like Nehru Place, only bigger and newer. Not having been in that part of Delhi, I found it has a tall TV tower nearby, and a metro station called Netaji Subhash park. Had lunch at Pind Balluchi, a pretty good northie restaurant. Keema mutter was very good.

Stayed in a hotel in Pitampura, which I had only heard about. The road to Rohtak was crossed on the way there, and I was re…

Solving the World's Problems

I think we look up to celebrities for a good reason. We think they are who we want to be. Don't we all fantasize about living like a rock star, a film star, a sports star? Don't we crib about how fate did us a wrong turn and did not put a silver spoon in our mouth like it did for some of them?

Now, the celebs are doing us a return favour. They are showing us how to solve the world's (and our) problems. The similarity of the solutions provided by different celebs to a variety of problems is uncanny. And daring. And so simple.

Someone complains that you are loud and raucous in a restaurant? Someone asks you to behave in a sports stadium? Someone criticises the stupid film you starred in? Someone makes snide remarks about your girlfriend?

Well, the Mahatma might roll in his grave, but what the heck? We are made of sterner stuff, right? So, we have the simple solution, namely- ka-boom, spiff, dishum or whatever sound you associate with this single point solution. Use your fis…

Ishaqzaade- A Review

The tale has elements of a Laila Majnu or Romeo Juliet, the differences being that it is small town India instead of Italy, and there is no balcony scene- just kidding. The story has its dark side, that of inter-religious (or even inter caste) marriages being taboo in most of our country. I suppose the ultra-urban folks are excluded, though I am not so sure they are always progressive enough. My wife had done a survey among Indians abroad (the U.S.) in the late 80s, and found caste mentioned in about 95% of the matrimonial ads then.

Anyway, the dark underbelly of politics and its impact on love between unlikely suitors is explored reasonably well. But in this day and age, that two young people cannot simply elope and get married is a bit hard to digest. Maybe, coming as they do from privileged families, they are not used to working for a living. But still, they seem pretty good at tapori (illegal, a loose translation) activities themselves, including wielding a gun, and it should not…

Real Estate Advertising

Why is it called 'Real' Estate by the way? Its prices are unreal. The process of buying it is extremely testing. Building something real takes unreal amounts of energy, enthusiasm out of anyone attempting it. But best of all, is the advertising for it. Sample some real and some imaginary sales spiels for it.

1. Your dream home. Only 5 kms. from x, the farthest point on the outskirts of the city.

2. Why go to Venice? Venice can come to you. A canal in front of your bedroom window. (what would I do with a canal?)

3. Verdant meadows, ravishing scenery, clubhouse with gym (assuming you are obese enough to need one),  and shopping within reach (finally, something that makes sense).

4. Live among the elite in the city, with envious looks from everyone (who cannot look at you, because of the tight security and tall gates that prevent everyone from taking a peek). By the way, the elite don't know anything about you coming to live with them yet, or they would be running.

5. Views …

After Dark- Intriguing Murakami

Read a slim Murakami novel called After Dark. It is the most intriguing yet, because it involves a sort of overarching camera as one of the ' observers' of the goings on in the life of a 'sleeping beauty' who has been at it for two months or more. She is a model and also a delicate person with a lot of medical problems. Her teenaged sister is the other major actor, very much awake and aware of the stark differences between herself and her sister- in looks and likes.

Many truths about life and living appear as part of the dialogue between the sister who is awake and a casual acquaintance (male) she meets in a coffee shop, and another (female) she meets in a love hotel (where people go on a short date). It emerges that the siblings are not very close, and suffer from guilt/confusion in their own ways. Like many of his stories, this one also leaves the reader guessing, with the stories of the characters left unresolved.

Very interesting novel indeed, in his trademark sty…

If I Ever Start A Business

If I ever start a business, these would be my top choices-

1. A retail store at Pune. Do nothing all the time, turn customers away half the time, a siesta from 1 pm to 4 pm. And still make enough sales to make a living. Marketing theory can go to hell.

2. A real estate agent. Do nothing most of the time, show a couple of houses to a customer once in a while, and make money because the guys are desperate to live somewhere, so they have to rent/buy

3. A sharebroker. This is my top choice, because there is greed all over the world, and it will make me (the share broker) rich. I would have said a dealer in fancy derivatives, but that game has now been overdone, and I might go to jail. Guys ahead of me on the curve got away with it.

4. Sell biryani (and kababs on the side) with a fail-safe recipe, preferably Hyderabadi or Lucknowi, in a place where they eat tons of it, like Hyderabad, or Lucknow. Having your cake and eating it too. I would enjoy dying with the aroma surrounding me. The st…

Hyderabad Blues

Actually, there aren't any blues, just that the title sounds catchy, coming as it does from a popular debut movie made by Nagesh Kukunoor, a Hyderabadi with a stint in the U.S.

We were celebrating our annual IMT alumni meet as we do every year, and this was at The Green park hotel. A good number of our alums work here, in companies such as Ramco, Deloitte, ICICI Bank, Asian paints, Dr. Reddy's Labs and so on. Some are venturing out on their own too. It was a pleasure talking to some of the young minds and trying to understand their views about life and career. And get some feedback on how to do things better back home.

About five of us faculty from IMT Nagpur came here for the meet, and made the necessary pilgrimage to Paradise restaurant for the mandatory Biryani and kababs. They tasted wonderful as ever. As if to welcome us, the skies opened up in the evening too, bringing us some coolness- not that we lacked in it ourselves (ha, ha).

The next two weekends will see us in De…

Supply Chain for the After Sales Market

We know the supply chain concept, pretty much. And it is discussed usually in the context of the purchasing and inventory management for manufacturing or retailing organizations. But there is also a niche area of supply chain management for spare parts, or the after market as it is known in the jargon. I met a company which specialises in just this. They provide solutions to companies that have a lot of spares to market through dealers and distributors. The problem is huge, because thousands of spare part types may arise due to different models of say, cars or two-wheelers, over the years, all requiring quick availability at the consumer touch-points for fast service.

There is a lot of potential for large companies to save on costs by optimising their inventory of spare parts (the service supply chain), while keeping their customers (dealers, or distributors) happy and stock-out free. This company, Entercoms, Pune, employs a band of young people who act as the company's consultan…

Silent Movie- Revisiting a Classic

Mel Brooks made a comedy called Silent Movie in 1977 or thereabout. Saw it again last night. I like his brand of humour, with lots of one-liners, and intelligent commentary about various quirks of life. Here, it is about a down and out studio chief called Mel Funn, who is trying to make a comeback. Among the odds he faces are convincing a studio chief about making a silent movie to revive its fortunes, and battling the villain - a company called Engulf and Devour which is trying to engulf (take over) the studio in question.

Full of one-liners and gags (one of which, of the trailer van careening from one side to another was shamelessly copied in Housefull 2) which make you laugh non-stop, it is great fun to watch. A classic line is the motto of Engulf and Devour- We have our fingers in everything. And their daily prayer to the Dollar sign.

The scene in which Mel Brooks and his two funny sidekicks persuade Burt Reynolds to sign up for their film is really hilarious. While taking a show…

Intergalactic Incoherence

Usually our thoughts are limited to global happenings. What if we expand it to include other planets, or even galaxies? After all, the universe is so large, there are bound to be a lot of things we can only imagine- or maybe not even that. But it doesn't hurt to try and imagine an intergalactic conversation between beings from say, the Silky Way galaxy. Rhyming with the Milky Way is purely coincidental.

If two beings from the Silky Way came across our species, the homo sapiens, they may go as follows (translated from their language for the convenience of readers)-

Being 1: There are millions of these critters around here.
Being 2: More, maybe zillions. But there are a few stretches of sand and sea where nothing appears to be living- at least on the surface.

B1: Let's observe them for a while.
B2: Yeah. That handsome sadhu with flowing robes, what is he saying to the multitudes listening to him?
B1: He is teaching them to ride a bicycle, it looks like.
B2: He is also doing som…

Khushwant Singh on Happiness

Khushwant Singh, one of India's most entertaining writers, has written about almost everything in his long years as a journalist, editor, column writer (with Malice Towards All) etc. His light bulb logo was designed by Mario Miranda, the famous cartoonist. The Illustrated Weekly was very lively in his days as the editor. I respect him because he made a living from writing- a tough thing to do.

His take on happiness (or what I remember of it) is somewhat like this-

Earn enough to help yourself. Mendicants may or may not be happy.

Learn to live in solitude. Not in the Himalayas necessarily, but have significant time for yourself.

Make use of the time you have. Mostly, we spend a lot of time cribbing about (the time and much else) we don't have.

Don't waste time on parties and celebrities (and IPL- which might be fixed anyway).

Reduce the irritants in life-we may have lots of them, like unwanted phone calls, visits from people who have nothing positive to share or teach us, …

Kolkata, Ambassadors and Kenilworth

Had a nice alumni meet at Kenilworth, Kolkata, on Saturday evening. There are a lot of positives about Kolkata. One, the food is usually good. At Kenilworth, it was very good. At Peerless Inn where we stayed, the breakfast spread was equally good.

There is a sense of being in a historic place whenever I visit Kolkata. The British-era buildings and the Victoria Memorial have a charm of their own. The quaint Ambassador taxis all around you are actually comfortable to sit in, though mostly without air-conditioning.

Also met an alumna who is on her way to getting an FPM (PhD equivalent) from IIM Calcutta. Good conversations, with lots of corporate alumni, and some entrepreneurs into Jute and other businesses. As usual, closed around midnight.

Read a recent Khushwant Singh book on the flight back. He has a simple,direct style free of too many complicated words, which is quite appealing and has made him a popular writer. His views about life and its major constituent- the quest for happine…

Baby's Day Out

No, I haven't regressed into a baby or a child. But happened to spend an evening out with my niece. We went in a small group of the young and the slightly older to the well-known Saras Baug in Pune. The idea was to run/walk around a little and enjoy the evening breeze. Turned out it was a lot of fun- even though we all were not too young, except the four-year-old niece.

The park led me to think about how Indian park experiences are different. We used to visit a few parks near Clemson, South Carolina while I lived there. One was Table Rock, which had a nice green environment, a Putt-putt golf course, and some picnic benches for us to eat stuff which we had brought along. No food was sold inside. The Pune park, in contrast, had all kinds of food stuff sold inside, ranging from roasted peanuts-delicious, by the way, to sliced cucumbers, to the very typical vada-pav- bread stuffed with a potato spiced pattie. Outside the park of course, this explodes into a variety of things from pav…

Puns

Some puns from a friendly forward.

I don't enjoy computer jokes; not one byt. 

I changed my iPod's name to Titanic.  It's syncing now. 

When a chemist dies, they barium. 

Jokes about German sausage are the wurst. 

I know a guy who's addicted to brake fluid. He says he can stop any time. 

How does Moses make his tea? Hebrews it. 

I stayed up all night to see where the sun went. Then it dawned on me. 

This girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I'd never met herbivore. 

I'm reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can't put it down. 

I did a theatrical performance about puns. It was a play on words. 

They told me I had type-A blood, but it was a Type-O. 

PMS jokes aren't funny; period. 

Why were the Indians here first? They had reservations. 

We’re going on a class trip to the Coca-Cola factory. I hope there's no pop quiz. 

I didn't like my beard at first. Then it grew on me. 

Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher who lost her job because …