Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Taare Zameen Par - Definitely Watchable

Last night I watched Aamir Khan’s directorial debut “Taare Zameen Par”, and I can’t stop gushing about it. Easily, it is one of the best movies made in recent times. And kudos to Aamir for letting the kid walk away with all the credit, and underplaying his superstar status very carefully. It takes a lit of humility to rise beyond one’s superstardom and let someone else shine in the spotlight, and Aamir, through TZP, has done just that.

TZP is a very sensitively made movie that highlights the plight of kids who are constantly under pressure to achieve their parents’ ambitions. Darsheel Safary, the kid who essays the role of the dyslexic Ishan, is truly a revelation, and is easily, as Aamir Khan himself claimed, one of the best actors to have graced Bollywood. A lot of reviewers have, while appreciating the overall effort, tried to find faults in Aamir’s direction and editing. The flipbook, which has been repeatedly used in the movie to great effect, has been criticized by some reviewers as being too blatant and overused. However, I personally feel that Aamir has used it perfectly since it illustrates Ishan’s feelings of being separated from his family beautifully, while also highlighting his innate artistic creativity. It almost seems like reviewers want to find faults in a movie just for the heck of it, and to justify their position as “Film Critics”.

Some have also criticized the fairy tale ending where Ishan overcomes his problem with learning alphabets and becomes the darling of the school. However, I feel that, within the constraints of mainstream Bollywood, any ending other than a happy one, would have failed to deliver the message that Aamir was trying to convey; that Dyslexia is curable, with a little bit of patience and a lot of love. Tisca Chopra as Ishan’s mother also deserves a mention for her realistic portrayal of a mother caught between her love for her child and the expectations of a demanding society. All in all, TZP is definitely a movie that is worth watching, and more.

Digressing slightly from TZP, and speaking of Aamir, the movie reinforces my opinion of Aamir as one of the best actors in Bollywood. His command over the medium is truly fantastic, and he has proved time and again that he is a thinking man’s actor, and now, director. Aamir makes movies that make you sit up and think, and if any Indian actor has a serious chance of winning the Oscar, it has to be Aamir. Interestingly though, the tag of King Khan still rests with SRK despite Aamir’s fantastic track record.

Again, personally, I feel Aamir’s movies move you and get you thinking, while Shah Rukh plays to your emotions. Since they come from such different schools of filmmaking, comparing the two and deciding which one is better is unfair to both of them. Aamir is definitely the better actor, while SRK is the better entertainer. And in a country where people have enough problems of their own, an SRK movie that simply entertains them and lets them leave their realities behind will obviously be a bigger draw at the box office. To put the comparison in perspective, Aamir Khan’s forte is his ability to be real, while SRK captures your imagination and lets u dream.

And in a purely commercial sense, dreams are more attractive than reality.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Life and Times of Leon

It has been a while since I visited this place, and this blog is close to becoming defunct, just like several of my previous blogs. But I am determined not to let my readers down. Yes, the 3 of you who have kept faith in my blog, and continue to visit this site despite my inactivity.

Since I have nothing really to write about, let me just post an update on the way my life has shaped up since my last post. On the professional front, it has been close to 4 months since I moved to Singapore in a sales role with my company. In these 4 months, I have contributed zilch to the company’s top line, and have really nothing to feel proud about. But I am told this is the norm, and so I continue to motivate myself everyday at work, hoping that good things will happen to those who wait. I have waited 4 months, and it’s about time that some good things start to happen.

On the personal front, however, there is something to smile about. Junior is due in a month’s time, and I am both excited and tense at the same time. That apart, however, living alone is not too much fun. Unlike the old days, this pseudo-bachelorhood comes with only the cons, if you know what I mean. Add to that the fact that Singapore is not a very interesting place, after the first couple of months when you have seen almost everything that there is to see in this small city/country, and whatever else is left is not worth seeing unless you are a willing bachelor. And of course, you can’t drive here since cars are simply unaffordable. Especially if you work for an Indian IT company in a sales role sans the bonus.

In short, life after ISB has been chugging along really slowly, and my career has been posing me a few questions. I have decided to adopt a wait-and-watch approach for now, but it is only a matter of time till my patience runs out, and desperation sets in. Hopefully, as the saying goes, every dog has its day, and this dog is really hungry right now.
Will someone toss me a bone please?

Before I sign off, a hearty congrats to Maverick, one my 3 loyal audience, for making it to the hallowed campus of IIMA. You rock man!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Destiny or Coincidence?

It is believed among the Hindus that the Himalayas are the abode of the Gods. In fact, Mount Kailash is believed to be the mythological Kailasa where Lord Shiva resides. Accordingly, the Hindus also believe that these mountains are the resting place for the spirits of their dead ancestors. The Hindu association with the mysticism of the Himalayas doesn’t stop at that. It is also believed that one cannot go to the Himalayas until their destined time.
Of course, a pragmatist would dismiss these beliefs as just mumbo-jumbo.

And I set out to do the same as well, when some of us friends went on a Himalayan trek a few months ago. We planned to start our trek from Solang, and go all the way to the Beas Kund, the source of the Beas River, where, as the legend goes, the great Hindu sage Veda Vyas (also known as Beas) wrote the epic Mahabharata. What followed, however, was a series of events that seemed to warn us to not proceed on our expedition. Call it coincidences, or omens. But they did occur.

The first incident happened a day before we were scheduled to start our trek. Right next to our hotel in Solang valley, a new house had been constructed and the house warming rituals were being performed. At about 9PM in the night, 3 of us were sitting on the hotel lawns and observing the rituals in the adjacent house. The Himachali ceremony included a “Spirit Invoking” ritual where a big, burly man in traditional Himachali attire and long, unkempt hair had offered his body for invoking the spirit. We watched the big man gradually become possessed and get into a trance, followed by the customary goat sacrifice. As the possessed man circled the house to ward off the evil spirits from all directions, he suddenly looked up and saw us at a distance. Immediately, he started screaming at us, and began to run in our direction. Although we were initially dismissive of his reaction, when he came almost within striking distance of us, our instincts led us to run and lock ourselves in our room. As much as we hate to admit it, we were all scared. It took us by surprise, and we simply couldn’t understand why the spirit chose to target only us, and not anyone else around.

After calming our nerves, we finally got back to our partying. However, the coincidences just didn’t seem to end. As soon as I raised my scotch glass for a toast, the glass broke in my hand without any provocation. As per Indian traditions, breaking of glass or mirror is considered a bad omen.

Despite knowing that these could be warnings, we didn’t let it deter us from our trek the next day. After braving the sudden rain on our trek up, we finally reached our overnight camping site. Even as we slept after a tiring day in the cold, several of us could hear weird sounds of things moving outside our tents.

The next morning, when we were about to start again on our journey to the Beas Kund, Rach suddenly started feeling dizzy, and had a stinging pain in her stomach. Again, it seemed as if we were being warned not to proceed further. However, Rach decided to brave the pain and continue the climb. After an hour, Rach finally had to give in when she couldn’t continue anymore. After convincing the others to continue, the two of us returned to the base camp. The return journey was also not uneventful. We lost our way a bit, and ended up climbing a real steep hill before realizing that we were on the wrong trail. Surprisingly though, Rach had fully recovered from her illness by the time we reached the foothills.

Finally, when we managed to reach the road and hitch-hike a ride to the town, the local guide who helped us find our way back mentioned that the mountains are guarded by holy spirits, and that the spirits will not allow anyone up the hills unless they are destined to.

In our case, it turned out that we were not. Destiny or coincidence, the fact remains that we encountered a series of obstacles on our way to the Himalayas, and finally, we had to give up. To fight another day*.

Although one can still dismiss this episode as just a series of coincidences, the suddenness and the frequency of these incidents have baffled me. As a pragmatist, I don’t completely subscribe to the concept of destiny yet, but a few more such episodes and I could be convinced to cross-over.

* I might have been turned away this time, but I still harbor hopes of someday scaling the sacred Mt. Kailash and the mystic Manas Sarovar.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

India Ahead - The Roadmap for the next 60 years

Continuing with the Independence Day fervor, my good friend Maverick has an interesting list of things that will make India an icon in the next 60 years. Click here to read the article. While I agree on all of those, I also have a few other points that I think are equally, if not more, important in curing India of its ills.

1. Ban Caste/Religion based politics and policy making

This has been the bane of our system ever since independence. The country has not been able to overcome the strong caste/religion divide, and politicians, in their vote-bank appeasement policies, have exploited this to the hilt. Minority appeasement, for example, has reached such sick proportions that one wonders if it is a crime to be born in the majority community. Further, the lack of a uniform civil code has reduced our secular credentials to a farce. The so-called intelligentsia has always turned a blind eye to such critical issues as these, but pounces upon irrelevant issues to garner press and mileage rather than for any genuine concern for the nation.

2. Mandate based politics, and a move-away from nepotism and dynastic rule

For years, we have been ruled by dynastic leaders who, despite not having done anything to prove their mettle, are allowed to “inherit” power. In a democratic set-up, this is not just an insult to the system, but also a reflection of the lack of political awareness among the voting public. Although we are no longer a kingdom, we still have several fiefdoms thriving in our system. Unless, politics is fought based on progress-oriented mandates, along with a certain minimum accountability to this mandate, India will continue to degenerate in the hands of nepotism and corruption.

3. An honest attempt to weed out corruption

Corruption in public life is no longer scorned at anymore in India because we have grown so used to it. The public has now resigned to the fact that every politician is corrupt and ends up amassing huge wealth for himself/herself. The only expectation from these politicians is that, amidst their personal wealth-amassing spree, they should also ensure some minimum development for the constituencies that they represent. It is sad to see how our expectations of morality and ethics from our leaders have deteriorated. It is sadder to see that our leaders do not meet even these low expectations. In order for a better country, an honest attempt has to be made to eliminate corruption. Corrupt officers and politicians should be punished so severely that it should set an example for others. Yes, it might seem cruel and draw a lot of criticism from our intelligentsia but in the interest of the country, some compromises have to be made. Further, our education system needs to be revamped to instill the right moral and ethical values in our future generations to ensure that our future leaders are governed by a strong sense of ethics.

4. Revamp the Education System in the country

This might seem trivial and out of context, but a country which has such low standards of morality and ethics should start rebuilding from the roots. As a rule, the NCERT has been told not to depict the medieval periods of Indian history as a period of conflict between Hindus and Muslims. Further, the directive also mandates that our history books depict all our leaders/politicians as honest and noble people. In the process, our education system completely defaces our history. And it is a proven fact that nations learn from their history. Evidence of this is in the fact that Germany mandates that its Nazi history must be taught to all its students so that they know about the mistakes that were committed in the past. As a result, future generations can learn from their past, and also develop a sense of moral and ethical righteousness. Unfortunately, our education system has been built on denial, and as a result, our kids are denied the precious opportunity of learning from our past mistakes. A total revamp of the History textbooks is required, and for a change, let the communists and pseudo-secularists not write it this time around.

5. Check the Population menace

As a country, we do not have unlimited resources, and therefore, scarcity is an inevitable truth. The only way to ensure we optimally utilize the scarce resources available is by checking our population growth, both organic and inorganic. Organic growth should be controlled by a combination of education and incentive/disincentive based policies. Education on birth-control and the need for it is critical. The disincentive based population control policies have not been very successful the world over, but China has been fairly successful, and therefore, India should look at some similar policy to curb the population growth. But the key here is that a disincentive based policy will fall flat on its face if it is not complimented by a strong emphasis on education. Inorganic population growth in India is largely due to the illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, Nepal, Tibet etc. A citizen identification number/ social security number system may have to be introduced in India to enable tracing and identifying illegal immigrants.

6. Social Security System

A social security system should be introduced in India to administer state-sponsored welfare benefits. Currently, we read about millions of rupees sanctioned as welfare for victims of floods etc, but it is common knowledge that very little of it actually reaches the victims. This is because there is no traceability of these funds to the victims. A SSN system should alleviate these problems. In addition, this will also help in a gradual elimination of the reservation system that is so rampantly abused in India. To move away from a caste-based reservation to an economic status based reservation system, the SSN system would be ideal to trace and administer the benefits to the economically poor sections. Of course, the implementation of such a system would, in itself, pose a huge challenge.

Most of these points might seem far-fetched in the current times, but these are surely achievable over a 60 year window. After all, how many people in 1947 would have believed that impoverished, Socialist India would become the capitalist, market-driven, billionaire-studded India in 2007?

Change, however improbable it might seem now, will happen. After all, change is the only constant!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ten Things that make me see “RED”

As Independent India is about to turn 60, here is a list of 10 things about our country that I absolutely hate, and desperately wish I could change.

10. People who make an appointment, and then forget about it (Some of us are lousy about our punctuality and professionalism).
9. The Bangalore Auto-rickshaw drivers (everything about them makes me see red)
8. People who park their vehicles in front of garages/street corners/congested lanes with no regard to the inconvenience caused to others.
7. People who argue without even attempting to use their brains.
6. The Right Wing Politicians who forget their basic ideology, and put "Jai Maharashtra" above "Jai Hind".
5. The Congress leaders who claim to love their mothers, and yet, at the slightest opportunity, sell their motherland.
4. Communists who live in India and worship China.
3. The ignorant Islamic Fundamentalists, the ones that are taught in the Madarasas that killing non-believers is their path to salvation.
2. The educated Islamic Fundamentalists, the ones that become Doctors and Engineers in our society, and yet behave like barbarians for their blind faith
1. Islamic Modernists like Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi who hijack Prime Time television to complain of “Hindu Fundamentalism” when pro-hindu activists raise a voice against MF Hussain painting Hindu Gods in the nude, but conveniently prefer answering Karan Johar’s irrelevant questions when Muslim Fundamentalists openly attack Taslima Nasreen for exercising her freedom of expression, and even issue a Fatwa against her.

After giving it a lot of thought, I resign to the fact that none of these will change in my lifetime. And maybe my future generations will see not only "RED" but also a lot of "GREEN", thanks to our two friendly neighbours. And so I go back to seeking solace in the cliched "Mera Bharat Mahan".

Somethings about us are simply impossible to change. Nevertheless, "Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani".

Get Off "The Wall"

The Crumbling Wall, The Gaping Hole in the Wall, the Sycophant, Traitor, Toy-Captain, BCCI agent – These are all the names that are being used to describe Rahul Dravid in recent times. You can find these and many more abusive nicknames for Rahul on the Rediff forums where people, especially those hailing from the eastern corner of the country, take it upon themselves to blame Rahul for everything wrong about Indian cricket, and sometimes, about everything wrong about everything in the world.

As an ardent admirer of Rahul Dravid, both for his cricketing talent and his unerring composure and decency, it is appalling to read those abusive comments about our captain. But in a country where each and every one of the one billion plus population thinks he/she is then only authority on Indian cricket, it becomes impossible to please everyone. And just as true is the fact that it is the unhappy lot that makes the most noise, and therefore, it is this abusive section of our cricket fans that make their presence felt everywhere.

It is alleged that Rahul stabbed Saurav in the back by siding with Greg Chappell when Saurav was, not undeservingly, dropped from the team. Our Eastern countrymen very articulately remind the readers that it was Saurav who brought Rahul into the ODI team by making him the wicket-keeper during the 2002-2003 period. In return, they expected Rahul to also have backed Saurav during his time of crisis. When Rahul did not, all hell broke loose. Note that the words “all hell” and “Bengal” can be used interchangeably in this context.

However, these same people seem to forget that Saurav couldn’t have been half as good a skipper if he didn’t have the services of Rahul Dravid. Luckily for Saurav, his captaincy coincided with the best year of some of the stalwarts of the Indian team such as Sachin, Rahul and Laxman. Remember that epic series win over Australia in India, and then the drawn series away to Aussies? Take Rahul’s contribution out, and both those series would have been disastrous. It’s a pity that the same people who revered “The Wall” during Ganguly’s time at the helm have turned so completely against him just because he continued to play well while Saurav lost his form.

Rahul is also solely blamed for the bad performances of the rest of the team, and his ability to motivate players into performing are compared unfavorably to Saurav’s. Frankly, this is Professional International Cricket we are talking about, and not some “gully” cricket that a captain has to motivate and inspire the players to go out there and perform. If Sachin has aged and lost his reflexes, is Dravid to blame?

When Greg Chappell decided to expose Saurav’s “unprofessional behavior” to the BCCI, some people expected Rahul to intervene in Saurav’s support. But Rahul, typical to his character, didn’t. This is where the difference in the personalities of Rahul and Saurav need to be highlighted. Saurav was the proverbial “Maharaja”, a rebel who would make his own rules if he felt the existing ones were not right. Rahul, on the other hand, was the conventional middle-class youth who always played by the rules, and respected authority. Expectedly, Rahul decided not to intervene in the board’s decisions, especially when he knew, just like most non-fanatics, that Saurav’s performances had been abysmal for the past couple of years. Unfortunately, our Bengali brothers do not seem to be able to forgive him for that, and therefore, continue to lambaste Rahul whenever India loses. Interestingly, Rahul gets the blame not only if India plays bad, but also if Saurav plays well. It’s almost a case of “Guilty till proven innocent”.

Personally, I do think Saurav was a better captain than Rahul or Sachin, but his personal form had declined to a point where he was a liability to the team. And it is for this reason that Saurav deserved to be dropped from the team. Now that he is back and also performing decently, there is no reason for anyone to continue harboring ill-feelings towards Rahul for taking over the captaincy from Saurav. The fact remains that the period from 2000 to 2003 was the best period of Indian cricket because all the players were at their peak, and the current team is still some way off that mark. But to blame any one player for that is not just unfair, but plain stupid.

And as a closing shot to all those Ganguly fans who claim that Rahul owes Saurav his career, I think, on the contrary, Saurav owes Rahul all his successes as a captain. And in that same vein, I think it is time now for Saurav to repay the favor by actually starting to help India win some matches under Rahul Dravid.

After all, even “The Wall” could use some reinforcements.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Himesh ka Surroor

Ooooooooh Ooooooh………

If you have lived in India during the last couple of years, you’d recognize that nasal humming instantly. The capped-crusader has been everywhere since early 2005 when Aashiq Banaya Aapne (ABA) was released. That was the first appearance of Himesh, the star.

For those of you who were following Zee’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2005, you’d know the startling image makeover in Himesh before and after ABA. The shoddy wig gave way to a hep cap. The dumb gujju look had been smartly replaced with a grunge stubble look. The soft, shy Himesh had metamorphosised into an aggressive, confident, vociferous personality. HR had arrived!

Since then, he has gone from strength to strength, churning innumerable hits, as a composer and as a singer. The nasal twang in his voice is very pronounced, but the masses simply loved it, and lapped it up with open arms. The so-called connoisseurs of classic music dismissed HR’s singing as cacophony, and sniggered at his success. But that didn’t deter HR who continued playing to the galleries, and in the process, even notched up a Filmfare Award for best male singer, much to the chagrin of the Bollywood elite.

With so much success, HR had to change, and his arrogance and overtly melodramatic outbursts on the new SRGMP series is rather irritating. Especially when he berates a Pakistani Sufi singer in his Gharana for trying to sing other genres, and screams at the top of his voice “Mujhe tumhare ghar mein roti chahiye”. If that isn’t proof enough of success having gone to his head, he boosts his ego further by carefully promoting his “mystery man” image, that “HR never smiles because of some mysterious reason”, and “HR always wears the cap because of some deeply shrouded secret” etc.

When the suspense and the hype reach proverbial proportions, the egomaniac in HR decides to encash on it by actually making a movie “loosely based on his life”. And yes, he stars in it, composes music, and croons too. What else? And the cap doesn’t come off, contrary to the pre-release hype that HR’s publicity team created about “Watch the movie to find out why HR always has his cap on”.

And so “Aap Ka Surroor- The Moviie. The real luv story” releases to a packed audience. Within a couple of days, all the trade pundits unanimously declare HR’s debut to be a massive hit. The music had already been declared a chart-buster anyways. In short, for HR, the dream just doesn’t seem to end.

The Bollywood hotshots continue to snigger, and bitch about HR’s success as a flash in the pan. They even liken him to Altaf Raja who, a decade ago, churned out one of the biggest hits in Indian music with the interestingly worded “Tum to Tehre Pardesi” and created a rage among the masses only to disappear in a couple of years. The critics simply panned the movie, and dismissed it as trash. In fact, it became fashionable among the sophisticated elite to actually catch a scene from “that ghastly HR movie” and talk about the nightmares that followed since.

With every intention to shred the movie to pieces, and with a deep desire to finally be accepted among the elite, I embarked on the torturous mission of watching “Aap ka Surroor” last weekend. As I waited for those ghastly scenes to haunt me, I realized I actually started liking the movie. HR is not a great actor by any stretch of imagination. But he has done such a fabulous job in creating and nurturing his brooding, eccentric, arrogant, egotistic image that when he does the same act on screen, you don’t find it unnatural anymore. In that sense, HR was definitely decent. The movie had some great locales and the music was very good. All his songs anyway grow on you after you’ve heard them a few times. There are some pretty faces thrown in, and the movie is really slick at just over 2 hours. In short, “Aap Ka Surroor” is definitely watchable.

If you are surprised that I am recommending it after my tirade against HR, let me assure you that I am equally surprised for having recommended it. However, if you are expecting to know why HR wears his cap, the movie doesn’t reveal it. Instead, just watch HR on the “Koffee with Karan” show where he very candidly confesses that the cap is intended to hide is baldness, and nothing else. In fact, the chat show also portrayed HR in a very different light, and HR actually came across as a humble person.

Despite all his eccentric outbursts and odd mannerisms, one cannot deny the man his due. He is the only composer, singer, hero in Bollywood who has been successful at all three at the same time. Not even the great Kishore Kumar can match that.

Ooooooooh Ooooooh………

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Psychic Cat

A cat named Oscar is reported to have the “psychic” ability to sense within hours when someone is about to die at a nursing home in Rhode Island. The cat, apparently, visits the residents of the nursing home regularly, but when it curls up near a particular patient’s bed, the hospital staff and the doctors know that it’s time for them to let the patient’s family know about the impending death.

The doctors at the nursing home acknowledge this unique phenomenon, but refuse to attribute it to psychic powers. Instead, they claim that there must be some biochemical explanation for the cat to be able to detect signals that humans can’t. More details available here.

This episode reminds me of all the horror flicks on TV where the witch/ wizard/ tantrik/ messiah is usually shown to be surrounded by cats because of their ability to sense the supernatural and communicate with a world that is beyond the human realm. In many ways, this cat episode is actually scary because it has blurred the fine line that separates the real world from the world of horror movies.

On a more scientific note, if cats can really communicate with the supernatural forces, then maybe there is a tremendous opportunity for a science or technology to decipher this unique feline ability and translate it into signals or warnings that can help the human world.

The spiritual connotation to this episode cannot be discounted either. The propagators of the “Karma” theory will find new fillip to their argument that the soul is an ethereal entity that is over and above the mortal body. The fact that a cat can sense death could be interpreted as a sighting of the soul (the supernatural) that is about to leave the body (the natural). Innumerable experiments have been conducted in the past to prove the existence of the soul, although nothing conclusive has yet been found. This could trigger the debate all over again.

It’s amazing how a tiny little cat in one corner of the world can potentially impact the way the world thinks. It sure is a weird world.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Indian Idle

It’s funny the things I do to appear busy at work. Not that anybody cares what I do. Heck, it doesn’t even matter if someone notices because anyways I am going to be evaluated on my sales targets, and not on my utilization levels. But yet, that 6 and half year stint in a delivery role has affected me much more than I give it credit for.

Whenever somebody walks past my cubicle, I feel guilty about not doing any “work”, and immediately open some sales presentation and start staring at it blindly. A couple of minutes later, I am back to my browsing ways when sanity returns to tell me that I don’t have to show to anyone that I am working. But this episode has been repeating so many times over the past couple of weeks that I am sure most of my colleagues have branded me the "Indian Idle".

It’s not that I am not trying to work. I am. I have read through tomes of collaterals, and presentations. I have met quite a few people within the organization to understand the practices, and continue to set up meetings with more. I was also on a 3 day residential training program, where I was one of the most active and vociferous participants. In between all this, I was also running around to get my travel documents in place. So clearly, I have done all that I could to earn my pay package, although it doesn’t seem all that obvious.

And that’s not all. I have even interviewed with a professor from Penn State for his Organizational Theory research paper on MindTree. The interview experience was quite interesting. The professor, after promising confidentiality and seeking my consent, recorded the interview for future consumption. The content of the interview was a colorful mix of my take on the organization’s strategy, about what it has done right and what it can do better, and how it should position itself for the future. Of course, all this heavy duty content was carefully packaged in a good bit of b-school jargon, although not with any intention to show-off but purely in the interest of conciseness and brevity. At the end of it, he also spoke to me about ISB and the faculty that came to teach our batch. All in all, it felt good to talk to a B-school professor again, and hopefully, I convinced him enough to accept the offer to teach at ISB the next time ISB approaches him.

Coming back to the original topic of this post, I know I am definitely under-worked, and thanks to my “utilization” oriented conditioning, I can’t help feeling guilty about it. But it is also true that I have been over-worked several times in my career, but never over-compensated. Considering the overall picture, I guess I can afford to sleep peacefully with the knowledge that, although I may not be generating any operating revenues right away, I am a “real option” for the future.

Till such time that the organization exercises this real option, I might as well enjoy my charmed life. I love "Options Thinking".

Monday, July 23, 2007

Crossing another milestone. Grudgingly.

There was a time, not too long ago, when I would read Archie comics and think, “Someday, I’m gonna be doing the exact same things”. I was really looking forward to the teenage years, and all the rebellion and fun that came along. One fine day, I woke up and found myself having grown past the teens, without really passing through it. The rebellious streak, the fun and frolic, the dangerous lifestyle- I never saw that in my teens.

As I was struggling to come to terms with the situation, I started empathizing with the “20 something” characters, usually portrayed as a combination of a career-oriented professional and a social butterfly. For a brief while, I thought I was living that character. But, something always seemed amiss. The experience was good, but it never seemed complete. The proverbial “20 somethings” were always more successful, had better social skills, were in more interesting professions etc.

By the time I decided that my life needed a serious revamp, I was almost running on empty tank. My membership in the exclusive “20 something” club had almost expired. But mentally, I wouldn’t give up, or give in. I would invariably relate to every youth story, be it in the movies or the books. I would always count myself in the “20 something” club, as one of its most ardent and active members. I desperately tried to hold on to it, but it simply kept slipping away.

In a couple of days’ time, my membership will come up for review. Unfortunately for me, there is no policy of renewal. As I count my last couple of days among the elite company, I reminisce some of the most memorable days of my youth. I am also trying to come to terms with the fact that in a country that boasts of a majority youth population, I will be relegated to the minority.

The spirit is definitely willing, but the flesh is surely weaker. And it shows. Of course, in my defense, age is, afterall, a question of mind over matter.
As long as I don’t mind, it shouldn’t matter.
On that happy note, signing off.

18 till I Die, Gonna be 18 till I Die,
Feels so good, to be alive, 18 till I Die,
Someday I’ll be 18, going on 65,
18 till I Die, Gonna be 18 till I Die

God bless Bryan Adams for giving me my song. Amen.

B-school Interview Tips

Location: Interview Room at ISB, Hyderabad
Scene: Top IT MNC (Firm X) conducting placement interviews
Characters: Top honcho (code name Wolf) from Strategy Consulting Division at Firm X, prospective candidate (code name Leo)

Wolf: Good Morning Leo, I see you have a very impressive CV
Leo: Good Morning, and thanks
Wolf: First up, let me clarify that we don’t really do pure-play strategy consulting. We only do the IT strategy. So don’t expect us to do what a McK or BCG would do.
Leo: (thinking to himself “tell me something I don’t know”) Yes, I understand
Wolf: Leo, I see you have worked with Firm X before you came to B-school. And you have been there longer than I have. That’s good to know

Leo: (Beaming with pride) Well, yes. I have had a really good stint at Firm X, and look forward to getting back real soon.
Wolf: Well, since you’re an ex-employee, I won’t have to explain how we work as an organization. That’s good. But at the same time, I can’t sell you the organization as I would for other candidates because you know us too well. That’s not too good.
Leo: (confused and muttering to himself “WTF”)
Wolf: I don’t think an interview is needed here. Let me quickly make you an offer. I am willing to pay you Rs.## per annum. How does that sound?
Leo: (Too shocked to respond) Umm, was that per annum? Or are you sure?
Wolf: Since you are an ex-employee, I wanted to give you a better deal. So yes, it is per annum. You must be surprised!
Leo: (Slowly recovering from the shock) Well, I am surprised, yes. Shocked, however, would be a more apt word.
Wolf: (muttering to himself)
Leo: My peers in the organization, even without an MBA, are earning more than what you just offered me. If I had simply stayed back, I am sure I would have got an offer higher than Rs.##
Wolf: (Clearly offended at Leo’s impudence) Well, your past experience doesn’t really match the job that you have applied for. So I don’t see why I should pay you any more that what I offered.
Leo: Well, the MBA is exactly intended for that. So that I could get into different roles than what I was previously doing. Anyways, during the PPT, the minimum salary announced was higher than what you just offered. And that was for a fresher.
Wolf: (Irritated and agitated) Whoever did that PPT has no idea about my division. He can say what he wants, but this is my offer. For someone with no ERP experience, I don’t see why I should pay you for your experience.
Leo: Because I haven’t applied for the role of an ERP Consultant. That interview is happening in the adjacent room. This was supposed to be for Strategy Consulting, and I am here for you to interview me on my Strategy Consulting skills. So why don’t you go ahead and interview me instead?
Wolf: I don’t need to interview you. I know there are dozens of people who have worked in companies like TCS, Wipro, Infy etc who’d give an arm and more to work with us, just to get the Firm X brand on the CVs.
Leo: Well, all I can say is, all the best to you.
Wolf: So what’s your final decision?
Leo: Thanks but no thanks.
Wolf: Wait, let me add an extra 1 lakh joining bonus. Now, you can’t refuse.
Leo: I am flattered, but I don’t want to keep you from those “dozens of eager people”. So the answer is NO.
Wolf: Alright, I know I will loose a few good guys, but I am ok with it because I know there are a lot of people out there waiting to join us. And it’s still early in the day.
Leo: Goodbye

Moral of the story: Loyalty is for the dogs. Especially in IT.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What Kind Of Intelligence Do You Have?

I took the quiz and found that my intelligence type doesnt suit the job I have taken up. Time for a career change?

Your Dominant Intelligence is Linguistic Intelligence

You are excellent with words and language. You explain yourself well.

An elegant speaker, you can converse well with anyone on the fly.

You are also good at remembering information and convicing someone of your point of view.

A master of creative phrasing and unique words, you enjoy expanding your vocabulary.

You would make a fantastic poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, or translator.

Sonu Nigam Vs Subhash K Jha

I have always been an ardent advocate of free press. And consequently, I have always loathed the fact that all our so-called top media houses use their well-entrenched network to promote their affiliates (for want of a better word), and vilify their opposition. Some of our most revered newspapers are believed to be unofficial mouthpieces of various political parties. With the advent of 24/7 news channels, the use of media as a tool to promote one's self has only increased several folds. Amidst all these developments, the neutral observer has been left in the dark. The dream of Free and Fair Press seems to remain just that. A dream.

On another tangent, the power of “free press” has been conveniently abused by certain journalists to the extent that they even resort to threatening their victims of a public vilification if the victims don’t comply with their demands. In many ways, this is tantamount to the extortion business that the D-company and the likes have been running for so long, except that the impending damages in this case are more social than physical.

The recent incident of popular singer Sonu Nigam openly accusing reputed film journalist Subhash K Jha of harassment is a classic case in point. Sonu accused Jha of using national press to vilify and criticize him for not complying with Jha’s “homosexual” overtures. Read the whole letter here and here.

Subhash Jha is a very well known journalist in the film industry, and claims to have close personal equations with several top Bollywood personalities, most notably the Bacchan clan, including Aishwarya Rai Bacchan who he cites as his favorite in several of his columns. He is known to promote the people that he personally is friends with, and lambaste everyone else. Among his hate list are top stars such as Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan etc. He is also widely believed to wield significant clout in the industry, and is therefore, considered to be a “Godfather” for budding heroines and, more specifically, heroes.

Sonu claims to have saved the various lewd SMSs that Jha had sent him, expressing his love for the singer, and has appealed to the national media house that employs Jha’s services to take appropriate action against the vengeful scribe. The choice of words in the letter seemed really crafty, where Sonu has carefully ensured that he doesn’t distance his homosexual fans but at the same time he has put his point across that he is not one among them.

As I googled a bit more, I found that Jha is not new to controversies. He was recently found guilty by a film forum of plagiarizing an interview with Quentin Tarantino from a non-commercial blog without giving due credit to the original publisher. When caught, Jha responded with an abusive letter mentioning that he did not know that the interview was published previously on the blog. Interestingly, he didn’t mention where he got the interview transcript from if he didn’t look it up from the blog whose owner actually conducted the interview. Read the entire episode here and here.

To further add credibility to Sonu’s allegations, several other members from the film fraternity have also come out with statements against Jha. Music director Ismail Darbar, who is known to shoot his mouth indiscreetly, called Jha a “third rate journalist” while singer Abhijeet has also come out in open support of Sonu.

It will be interesting to watch how this episode pans out in the days to come. Jha is believed to be considering filing a defamation suit against Sonu, and has even questioned Sonu’s audacity in writing such a letter to him. Interestingly, just a couple of years ago, Jha was known to wax eloquent about Sonu Nigam’s singing and, believe it or not, his acting prowess. Such unabashed praise for Sonu’s acting skills is a dead giveaway about Jha’s ulterior motives. And when Sonu didn’t reciprocate, Jha became a smitten lover, and started to use his pen to abuse the same Sonu that he almost revered till then.

With such irresponsible journalists ruling the roost, freedom of press might seem a very dangerous tool. It gives these power-hungry scribes the right to abuse anyone without any consequences. As it is, our country’s press is run mostly by political parties. If several such incidents occur repeatedly, even the fictitious perception of free press might be revoked.
To ensure such an eventuality does not occur, the online blogger communities and forums should come together actively, and ensure that press, while being free, is also regulated, not by a government body or by an act of law, but by the people who consume the news themselves.

Monday, July 16, 2007

An ode to a friend

This little poem is inspired by a close friend who is currently trying to shake off some old debris, and looking to settle down at last. If he ever reads this, I am sure he'll know it was for him.

The Casanova

He walks with a swagger, and smiles with a pout,
He wants you to know what it’s really all about,
He shows you all his messages, and makes you read his mails,
He tries to talk in riddles, but gives away his trails.

He calls you at odd times, and begs you to help arrest the damage,
When the women in his life, start to suggest marriage,
All he wants to do, is have a little fun,
But before he even knows it, his life is on the run.

The girls have got his number, they’ve wisened up to his game,
He knows his time is over, that things won’t ever be the same,
He’s looking for your help, to get rid of the grime,
Trying to absolve himself, although guilty of the crime.

He wants to start afresh now, and find the perfect wife,
He is counting on the family, to help resurrect his life,
A girl that isn’t too bright, but doesn’t look bad,
One that hasn’t been through the kind of life he’s had.

Any suggestions on how I can help this good friend would be very welcome :)

The Resurrection

I am back!
After a really long time, I am attempting to write again. My last post was way back in December last year. Since then, I have tried writing a couple of articles, but decided not to post them on the blog due to certain privacy needs.
Anyways, here is a quick update on how life has shaped up since December 2006.

  • Got placed at MindTree Consulting in Feb 2007. The placement week at ISB was “interesting”. I have a lot that I want to write about regarding the placement season, but will refrain from elaborating in the interest of the school.
  • Graduated from ISB in April 2007, and drove back to Bangalore. Embarked on a Himalayan Expedition with a group of ISBians, and spent a good 2 weeks in the Delhi-Punjab-Himachal Pradesh-UP belt. The high-point of the trip was the trek up the Himalayas, including an overnight camp in a cold valley amidst the beautiful snow capped mountains. We also indulged in a lot of adventure sports such as skiing, rock climbing, rappling, river crossing, Paragliding, Whitewater rafting etc. But nothing compares to the adventure of being separated from the group, and lost in the midst of the Himalayas. Whew, that was all the adventure and fun that I can digest for a while!
  • After returning to Bangalore, spent a good 45 days discovering myself, and just chilling at home. Surprisingly, all my friends claim to have been bored with all the free time on their hands while I always seem to have so much to do and so little free time, despite having almost 2 whole months between graduating and joining work.
  • Joined MindTree on June 4th, and was put through a fairly rigorous Business Analyst Bootcamp. Made more presentations in 3 weeks than I did during my year at ISB. Was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable I was in addressing audiences. Surely, I have changed.
  • Right now, I am close to being jobless, waiting for my travel documentation to come through before I can assume my position in the assigned territory. And start delivering. Business Development is a whole new ball game, and I am betting on me to make it a successful career. Any takers?

Hopefully, from now on, I will be more regular with the blogging bit. And have something more interesting to write about than a boring account of my life’s insipid happenings.

Till then, ciao!