Sunday, November 30, 2008

26/11: Beyond the statistics...

My mind is now nothing but a quagmire of emotions. Revenge tempered with a feeling of mercy, anger allayed by peace, sadness battling with a worn-out happiness that it is all over, growing insecurity versus a heave of relief for the moment named ‘now’. Contradictions galore. But, for the first time, an edition of the ‘Times of India’ set me thinking. For once, publicity seems not the choice of the paper, and the opinions and the comments within its folds have content, to the extent of spurring off a few thoughts within me, that I think deserve an echoing. This article is a spontaneous elaboration and hence a representation of the feeling of many an Indian. Hence, it is only proper that editing need not hinder the flow of thoughts.

This is for those politicians who tried to gain leverage by flaunting the regional flavour, till-date. It required people from the whole of INDIA, read INDIA (that’s our country’s name, just in case you forgot it while hyperventilating over issues of regionalism), to control the situation. The NSG commandos who rushed in were natives of states as distant and geographically spread out as Haryana, Bihar and Kerala. Now, these people might have been dumb enough to think beyond the states. They could have simply resisted, saying, “But we do not have permission from the local leader there, to set foot on Mumbai soil.” They didn’t. That could be because they have this virtue called patriotism (what does that mean to you, anyway?!) burning within them, full-throttle. I am not quoting your name here, sir (I am sceptical as to whether you deserve that title), but petty politicians like you will live counting votes, and die counting votes. It’s a waste of a life if you can’t feel for your country. It’s mere existence. Routine pumping of blood within your heart, coupled with synchronized functioning of all biological systems. You may have your men, money and muscle power. It takes only a bullet to murder, we know, but it takes a lot to think before pulling the trigger. Peace and a longing for it. There is nothing more shameful than having to eat one’s own words in front of a nation. My heart goes out to the gullible millions who will still pay heed to your parochial advice.

Arm the police personnel with better equipments. C K Prahalad’s “Bottom of the Pyramid” theory is not only for the FMCG sector and related industries. It is for everyone, to take a cue from. Ignore the basics at your own peril. Continue buying Sukhois, and do push to purchase even better fighter aircrafts. Purchase an aircraft-carrier more, yes, but please do spare a thought for the “bottom of the pyramid” officials. Arm them better. The days of the pistol are long gone...

This is for the people. Please stop blaming the police personnel, and the commandos. I overheard a group of friends cynically ridiculing the police personnel and the commandos shown on TV. Comments varied from their physical stature to their not taking guard right after getting out of the van. Please remember that they have had their share of training and previous experience, however small. They know better than you and I do. Give specialists the respect they deserve. It is not as part of leisure that they come armed with minimal equipment, barge into a warzone, and risk their lives to save ours. It’s all so plain and obvious when you sit in the cosy cocoons of comfort at home, and criticize people literally working their heads off at Ground Zero. Dare to at least imagine being one of them.

Coastguards... The country needs to work on that, for it now seems the easiest way anyone can intrude into the country.

Please stop praising the “resilience” and the people’s ability to “get back to business”. THIS IS NOT OUT OF ONE’S VOLITION, BUT RATHER OUT OF COMPULSION. COMPULSION TO EARN, SUSTAIN AND SURVIVE. The Mumbai floods did see people exhibiting resilience, but continuing to work amidst blasts and attacks is a necessity. It’s HELPLESSNESS. It’s LACK OF AN ALTERNATIVE.

To conclude, I salute the Personnel who have laid down Their lives for the country, fighting, killing and capturing terrorists. The united resolve to fight terror, if any, can manifest only through brave Officers like You, Sirs.

“Thanks a million, our lives are in your hands” is all we can say to the thousands of personnel involved in restoring peace in the city. We residents are but people of words. We are incapable of anything more than standing by you, Sirs.

The Tricolour will continue to fly high.

Unconquered dreams (the true and peaceful ones) shall reach their desired end.

The Taj will be rebuilt...


Friday, November 14, 2008

IT, ITES and the Iron Man

The "Iron Man" refers not to the relatively new Hollywood movie, or to Sardar Vallabhai Patel, or to Ozzy Osbourne's song. Rather, it speaks about 'The Man with the Iron'. The 'Iron' being the heavy cast-iron box of yesteryears with burning coal in it, used to press clothes, and the 'Iron Man' being its operator without whom life would never have been the same in residential colonies, for he is the first facilitator of every official meeting.

Come to think of it. If our shirt stays wrinkled, where then arises the question of going to work?!

Normally, society today doesn't pause to think of such people, for time doesn't allow it to, and if it does, thought doesn't allow it to. If both do, most of society consciously ignores such people, for interacting with them affects and reduces this quality called 'Social Status'.

To illustrate this further, let's sample a bit of a conversation I happened to hear. Let's name the customer a Socially Over-conscious Person (SOP), and the Iron Man as IM.

SOP: Marches towards IM, a dozen (markedly expensive) clothes in hand, and yells a standing instruction:
Description: The above words were purposely typed in block letters, for that's how offensive SOP sounded. Instructions in every sentence flavoured with impoliteness, restricting IM's right to move around, imposing conditions on paying him for his work, and always slamming an IMPOSSIBLE deadline. To top it all, inherent dissatisfaction with the quality of work he did.

IM: "Sir, it is Sunday today, and I already have many clothes marked URGENT. It may take three hours, sir."

A rude stamp of the foot, and a ruder last-glance at IM, which meant to say, "A person so low in the society speaking to me like that, and I am supposed to tolerate it!! I will show him who I am."

SOP was a Project Manager in the IT sector. The purpose of explicitly quoting the designation and the sector is not to belittle either. It's for a purpose which will gain clarity as the story progresses.

I was a silent witness to the above incident, for I was at the nearby tea-shack. I went home and the same evening, my roommate and I marched to IM's shop with our clothes. We told him we would collect one pair that night (while returning from dinner), and the rest later. We had dinner, and realising that we did not have drinking water in store, bought a couple of Bisleri bottles. We were soon back at IM's shop, where we were told to wait, for he was not yet done. My friend went back to our house, and I took a seat on one of those cement sacks filled with rags, placed by the side of the shop.

The first pair of formal pants had a glossy surface, was manufactured by one of the leading brands in the country and WAS expensive, MRP-wise. I had purchased it at a 50% discount, though, for it was bought during stock-taking season, and moreover, I was to attend a string of Group Discussions and Interviews, to secure admission for an MBA.

IM spoke to me in a gruff voice, and looked at me with scorn written all over his face. I was quite conscious of this, but decided that mum's the word, till he spoke. He did, though, and flung more of scorn at me. The entire conversation has been written in English, for universality's sake.

IM: "Expensive pair of trousers, aint it?"
Me: "Not really, I bought it at half the price, from a discount sale. I wouldn't have dreamt of buying it at MRP."
IM: "And what's that in your hand? You people drink only bottled water? Won't you people use tap water that the municipality provides?"
Me: "We usually buy 20 litre water bottles from the nearby Kirana (Hindi for a departmental store). The Kirana was closed today, and our work schedule does not allow us to boil tap water and wait for it to cool, hence the mineral water!"
IM: "Aha!! So you work in software too, don't you?"

I now understood him. Anyone who wore seemingly expensive trousers and drank mineral water was an SOP, for IM! I had to clear this misconception, and though I didn't usually pick up arguments with people, I was adamant on debating out this one.

I continued the conversation. I said, "I saw what happened today morning. But not everyone who drinks mineral water ought to behave like an SOP. Moreover, drinking from a Bisleri bottle once never means that our motor pumps mineral water to the overhead tank!"

"I know and understand that there exist people within this very colony, who feel that earning money is the be all and end all of life. For them, you may connect glossy pants and mineral water to sheer arrogance, and ignorance of everything simple and cheap. By including us in the same category, you are only inviting more of the customer's wrath. This neighbourhood has around fifty people of our age group, and if your aim is to test the level of arrogance of every software employee, I am afraid you are digging your own grave. All I can assure you is that not EVERYONE is as angry and arrogant as that lone customer you met this morning."

Our pal realised his mistake, but the crux of the matter lies elsewhere. "Spending power" is a boon that the IT & ITES sector has bestowed on this age group of people. Fat paychecks unheard of in the past suddenly became a reality, for a generation that had barely completed its graduation. This sudden spurt of income caused a macroeconomic upward shift of purchasing power that enabled people to indulge more in luxuries. On the flip side, it ushered in arrogance. The I-have-money-means-I-am-lord-of-the-world attitude. The Associate Software Engineer quarrels with the Team Lead, because of his arrogance. His thought reads, "I graduated from this reputed institute, and this company has recruited me for what I am. With so high an IQ, I can't possibly let someone boss over me, even if he is the Team Lead." The latter being as arrogant, if not more, thinks, "Yesterday's kid, now a toddler, with all of half-an-year of work experience, dares to point a finger at me!" This arrogance reaches permanence, and is exhibited as and when the opportunity arises, or the need to create one does. The waiter at the hotel, the IM, the watchman at the office gate, etc. are but victims of such behaviour.

The consequence is this: the common man scoffs at any person who is dressed in glossy pants, and/or carries bottled water with him. The common man has started ignoring and/or hating the IT employee. When I talk to auto drivers, they look surprised that someone working in the IT sector actually talked to them! We people in the IT sector are now looked down upon as people who "know the price of everything and the value of nothing", to borrow Oscar Wilde's quote, though he used it in a slightly different context.

Someone recently expanded IT-ITES as:
Inconsiderate Techies - Immensely Talented at Exhibiting Surliness!!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Yesteryears' Sunday, truly a DD day...

The television has dieted a lot over the years, and become a lot slimmer. Anorexic, rather. Subjected to a zero-fat diet, it looks frighteningly slimmer than the Bollywood heroine who dieted so much that even her dietician lost weight! A TV does not require space now, in that it has almost lost its third dimension.
Now that the context is set, this article is a tribute to yesterday's obese television, the one idiot box which could keep us greater idiots within its grip.

Reminescences from childhood, both remembered and reminded (and constant orders from other bloggers, that I continue blogging - thanks due to the person/s who compelled me to continue writing), forced me to write this article.

The television was most exploited on a Sunday, for there was "Dada ka, Dadi ka, Papa ka, Mummy ka favourites, aur Duck Tales mera!!!!" For those who recollected the Ajanta Toothbrush ad, commendable, read on. Others, please realize that the above line was adapted from the toothbrush's ad, and read on, too!

My Sunday used to start at 7:00 am, with toothbrush-in-mouth, and Rangoli-on-Doordarshan. Sunday was the one day mom could afford to wage a war with cobwebs at home. And, since this was a repetitive chore, she preferred to do it with Rangoli in the background. I would manage to seat myself among the remains, amidst the spiders' dwellings being demolished like buildings were in Delhi. Almost always, mom had a double chore of cleaning our house first, and then cleaning me of all the debris that I so laboriously gathered upon myself. A wash, a rinse and a couple of spins later, I used to emerge clean, all prepared for the two most awaited (and the only) cartoons on DD, Duck Tales and Tale Spin.

DETOUR: Readers, I put the next few sentences in Uppercase, for I want to emphasize the 'peace and quiet' of yesteryears. Jargon added, it is just a glimpse of the extent of the then trivial tranquility we have managed to sacrifice, for as bugging a concept as infra-red radiations carrying packets of 'voice and data' through the air, under the ground, and beyond the skies!!! Rewind, readers![<<]

7) HOT CHAPATHIS IN THE MAKING, IN THE KITCHEN (Sunday was the 'chapathi day' at home.)

I dream to go back into such an era, where getting bugged took a backseat, and you needed to be one of those niche people to get irritated, by purchasing appropriate equipment like the telephone.

Flying back to Duck Tales, it was the one cartoon I longed to be a part of. I even wondered whether my one forceful entry into the picture tube would enable me become part of all the action!

9:00 am was Nirja Guleri ki peshkash - CHANDRAKANTHA. Believe me, I used to like Kroor Singh for his leadership qualities. OOPS!!! Did I say LEADERSHIP?! Little knowledge: part of an MBA course. Forgive me, dudes and dudettes (if any)!

Come 10:00 am, and I was shooed away with a menacing stick, the one tool which could enable me run to the North Pole, fast enough to actually beat Amundsen's flight!

12:00pm, and out came little Sarma from his study room, frustrated at the number of apples they had printed in his Maths book to depict the number 27!!

Meanwhile, the older generation sat glued, for their share of the News, and News was what DD gave, without worrying about whether an actress managed to chargesheet her ex-boyfriend for having... oh, leave it!

And if ever there was a sense of national integration, it was when DD showed regional films on Sunday afternoons, with subtitles, which enabled people to comprehend the essence of the film, irrespective of the region they hailed from. For a bit of trivia, they followed the alphabetical order in telecasting regional films. The order ran from Assamese to Tamil.

This was followed by a delink to the regional DD channels, to give regional programs their due.

An hour of news, in both Hindi and English, followed.

As a member of the Orkut DD Community pointed out, the 'good night' uttered at the end of the English News actually meant the end of the day for us kids (barring a Sunday, for there was Surabhi)! We were instructed to sleep, or dumped into bed if need be, but 10:00pm was the limit.

9:30pm: The one-of-its-kind travel program called Surabhi - the name says it all.

As I zip forward to the moment called NOW, it's already 10:30pm, but feels like evening, with a couple of glasses of tea in waiting, and sleep far from sight. This is a quote I have oft quoted, to many a person, in speech and in writing. BREVITY IS THE SOUL OF WIT. DD had time-slices for every "kind" of program telecast and so, had its brevity intact. The brevity is no more now, for we have an excess of every "kind" of program, manifesting itself as a "television channel". Barring a few quality programmes spaced far apart and strewn among various channels, we have but junk to fill the space.

The fragmented remains of DD's marvels can be found in YouTube. The small screen just turned smaller...

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Creativity choke!

First-hand advice to bloggers who plan to write long stories, especially ones which are wound around themselves, and portray their emerging victorious at the end of a struggle-so-straining! Please don't embark on such a mission on your primary blog. You may as well create a second account and continue writing it at your own pace.
Else, creativity chokes you. A brilliant idea flashes only to die out in the next second, for your conscience does not allow you to stop your novel mid-way. After all, who would want self-praise to abruptly terminate?!

Heard melodies are sweet, those unheard are sweeter. - John Keats.
Heard blogs are sweet. Those unheard are the sweetest. - Me!

Having said that, I am done with my mission of meandering around managing meetings, money, music and musicians. That attempt stalled my blogging, for an year and a half. Somehow, the shame of leaving a story incomplete for a couple of years made me publish the last two acts. What I lost in the process was a truckload of creative ideas. So, no more new novels in this blog. Short and sweet posts shall reign.
Playing music for the audience and penning words for the reader alone is a crime, and goes against the very purpose of art and its glory. I am borrowing this story from my dad, to illustrate how a sincere artist thinks and feels.
Ammannur Madhava Chakyar, an expert in Kootiyaattam and Chaakyaar koothu (both traditional art-forms of Kerala, earlier performed in temple precincts), used to render the Chaakyaar Koothu at the temple. Some days attracted a large audience, for he was a thorough master at what he did. There was a rare occasion when no one was present to lend an ear. The Melshanthi(the prime person who performs all Pooja at a temple) had retired for a bath, too. The sincere artist that Ammannur was, he continued his recital in its most elaborate and sublime form, only to attract the Melshanti's attention when he returned. The latter advised him to cut his recital short, for there was not an ear that paid attention. Ammannur's reply was quick and pointed:
"This divine lamp lit in front of me is both audience and inspiration. Art is divine, and transcends the earthly listener's presence, or absence."
Likewise, this blog of mine has been targeted at a blind audience to-date. What keeps it going is a pure passion for writing, independent of the presence (or absence) of a reader. I wish to extend my special thanks to Rohon Kuddus, my batchmate at NITC, for having taken time to read my blogs and for having considered to publish it in his webmag(
Though I have not been able to gain access to the URL from this cafe, I promise to contribute to the webmag in every possible manner, for art is divine.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Act VII: The end...

Thus ended a musical journey. A journey of trouble. Trouble everywhere, every minute, for twenty long hours! Crimson Chords packed up, with Bearded Schumi back at the wheels to take us back to Cct. The band was tired; the cash meant nothing to us, for it was after fights of sorts that we got it.
An “n-star hotel”; a term of luxury it normally is. Greater the value of "n", greater the luxury. Or so goes the normal perception. Inside, though, it’s empty. Get ready for a bout of special treatment, if you visit an n-star as a performing band. The following, in part or in whole, is what you will face:
1) Cash flows, but never reaches you.
2) Quality suffers, and no effort from your part to better it is welcome.
3) Event managers rob. Some rob even more.
4) Hotel managers criticize. But, they never know you. They never called you to perform. The Event Manager is the bridge, and a loose one at that.
5) As for idlis, they are but left-overs!

Act VI: Music, musicians and money

It’s more than a couple of years since we played at Kkm, and it’s really bad on my part to keep this story going unfinished for beyond two years. This drama, for the information of its readers (if any!), is declared completed as on 19th January, 2008.
We arranged for an urgent meeting with the katcheri group, wherein we were instructed to support the flow of the song, rather than try our own adventure. They roped in our drummer (that’s me!) and our keyboardist (let’s call him TJ). We set our instruments on the stage.
The stage was made of planks, and was set above a lake. It shook all the while, and the last thing I wanted was to drown while drumming! The sound was as bad as it could get. This was when I concluded: money is what makes an n-star worth its “n”! Money flowed all around us, be it beneath the plank, or above it. Quality never did. They never allowed it to flow, but rather kicked it out through the back-door.
Crimson Chords finally began its performance, forgetting all bygones, putting up with all torture they were subjected to. We began with a couple of western songs as the katcheri group wasn’t ready by then, and time wasn’t to be wasted. Crimson chords did err, in that it chose the wrong genre of songs to be played. But, no one ever told us. The only sensible guy was the hotel manager who came running to us, and reminded us that our songs were a tad too heavy to welcome a new-year. We agreed, but this was like telling a person halfway through his journey that he had boarded the wrong ship. What would he do with water all around?! We agreed to play the ‘lighter’ songs and then wind it up. By then, the manager had over-ridden the play list we had so skillfully re-scheduled. He wanted a dance program in between. Dance with acrobatics, which meant a great danger to our instruments. We pushed the instruments on to one side of the plank. The people in charge of sounds removed all the microphones we had so laboriously placed. Now, that called for a re-sound-check! I was getting tired of this and for a moment, I even hated performing.
When you undertake a task, your mind always tells you where it’s heading to. My mind always warned me of something fishy, though I tried to push it off as part of empty fear. Every fear of mine materialized. We played with the katcheri group, and that went on well. We gave room for a couple of other performances, and then played again. The audience was worth a mention, though. Never an applause, never a reaction. They just stared at us, as if in a trance. It was a pathetic crowd we were playing to. There weren’t many Indians in there, and the very few that were there had come for non-musical trivialities.
We covered three-fourths of our play list, before it began drizzling, and we made up our minds to call it quits. So disorganized the entire event was, that I longed to get back to Cct, without having any more devils crossing our path. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any dearth of devils, as everyone we came across was one. The instruments took shelter. Soon, it was 12, and Kkm welcomed 2006 with an assortment of fire-crackers costing beyond a lakh. We gazed at the spectacle and wished everyone including EM, a very happy new year.
Superstition so says, that what you do at the dawn of a new year will be what you would be hooked up on, for most of that year. To make it crisp, let us say that I spent all of 2006 arguing!! The “first hour-new year theory”!
The simmering fear I always had surfaced. I could see it coming, and it came at the very nasty moment it had to. On a very nasty topic called money. Oh! The country does but little justice to the poor Mahatma’s face printed on our currency! He is placed as a still, silent, sorrowful witness to the umpteen scams and scandals that happen in his name. Crimson Chords was not spared too, to say the least.
EM, inebriated to celebrate, came across to settle our cash. Clauses were changed, words were swallowed, and our WAGE read “Rs. 8000 including transport” instead of “Rs. 8000 plus transport”! The seemingly innocent replacement of a word meant a difference of Rs. 6000, to a group of poor church-mice like us! EM refused to budge, alcohol reinforcing his obstinacy, and kleptomania cementing it. The crackers in the background symbolically seemed to fizzle out. So did the spirit of the New Year. The time was 00:05, and Crimson Chords was all thumbs down.
The whole team was about to accept the muffled alcoholic verdict given by EM. I almost did the same, before I saw light at the end of the tunnel. The light of truth. Crimson Chords had committed the initial blunder of performing at such a low rate. But the option was a “take it or leave it” one. We thought that Rs. 8000 is better than no bread at all. The time was right to intrude, flare up, and do anything just and true, to get the money we deserved. Gathering all my courage, and borrowing more of it (I am not used to getting angry, and I had to ACT as if I was flaring up!!), I marched up to EM.
People reading the next couple of sentences would do well to accuse me of plagiarism! This wasn’t inspired, but blindly lifted from any regional action-film made to-date, to save the situation, to get the precious cash we deserved! “You have seen just one face of ours, the happy and smiling one, the one without any vengeance and vice towards anyone. The other, the more dangerous one, is one you wouldn’t want to see, for you would never tolerate it. It would do you better to give us the cash we deserve. Not a penny less, not a penny more. Learn to be true to your words. Else, it is the rage of a band of fifteen that you will face.”
I then turned back, only to hide my laughter! That should work, I thought, and it did. EM stood still for a minute, talked to his companion, shook his head again, muttered philosophy of sorts but this time, he paid up. “Rs. 8000 plus transport” is what we got, finally. Truth was, after all, with us.