Monday, July 4, 2011

The “Angry Old Man” Rocks

Prelude:
For those of you who do not enjoy Indian Cinema, I would suggest you skip this post…

The highlight of the weekend was watching the onscreen antics of Amitabh Bachchan (AB) in the movie Bbuddah Hoga Tera Baap. I walked in to the movie hall with mediocre expectations but walked out with a large grin that is yet to wear off 24 hours later. AB has proven yet again as to why he is considered an icon in the Indian film industry.


If you look at the movie as a whole, it is not well written, jerky and even the acting by the rest of the cast is not worth mentioning. One can argue that apart from Prakash Raj (Who plays the main baddie) and Sonu Sood (the cop) the rest do not have enough screen time in a movie that is solely focused on AB.

I bow before you Mr. Bachchan because only you could have done justice this role of Viju that has shades of Rajinikanth, Chiranjeevi, Mithun, Govinda and your own “Angry Young Man” all rolled into one. The frames of your sunshades and costumes in the movie were an assault on my retina but you still managed to carry them with panache! Some of the one-liners in the movie will definitely continue to be heard at many auditoriums, cafes, corridors and classrooms for a few years at the least.

Side Story:
My wife and I were mischievously involved in some verbally sparring on our way to the movie. We kept saying  “Bbuddah Hoga Tera Baap” to each other. Then it occurred to me that I had a defense.  You see my mother’s name is Sheela and a recent song about her youth (Jawani) has just been doing the rounds and by association, my father cannot be considered old.  Ha ha ha!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

At the right place at the right time…

Very often, I hear people talking about successful individuals owing his or her success to the fact that they were at the right place at the right time. Sometimes one feels like the people who are attributing the success solely to the timing of the events and the persons place in the sequence; obviously hides the role played by the person’s capability and effort to be there in the first place. I have spoken about this with many people and I get different views. There are people who believe that it’s all about luck; some argue that you make your own luck and some fence sitters make a case for the combination of skill, effort and luck. Like always when I listen to such debates, I enjoy the shades of grey….

The Business Standard on Monday, 20 June 2011 carried a editorial by Sanjaya Baru titled “Greece in India” (http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/sanjaya-baru-greece-in-india/439670/). The article is a very interesting read and it talks about India being perilously close to default in 1991. I suggest that if you have the time, please read it. If you don’t really have the time, please make some…

Well, my take on this is completely different from what Mr. Baru is making because he is looking at the economics aspect of it and I am exploring the concept of being at the right place at the right time. So let’s see the story that unfolded...

In November 1990 the V P Singh government falls and Chandra Shekar takes over as the Prime Minister. He then appoints Dr. Manmohan Singh as Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister’s Office. The then Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha who had advisors like C Rangarajan ( Then Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India) and Deepak Nayyar ( The Chief Economic Advisor to the Government of India) had prepared a plan for liberalization by December 1990 and days before the budget could be presented by him, the Chandra Shekar government fell. P V Narasimha Rao becomes the new PM and he made Dr. Singh his Finance Minister. The new liberalization policy is rolled out via the Budget Speech by Dr. Singh on 24 July 1991 and the growth story of the new India begins. Today, the same Dr. Singh is the Prime Minister of this country and he has not really contested in any election to be in this position.

Now, one has to wonder what would have happened what if Yashwanth Sinha had taken the proposal to parliament… Was Dr. Singh at the right place at the right time? The conclusions that you  draw is up to you… I just like the fact that it neither black nor white… it remains grey.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Nothing Civil About It!

Like most citizens in India, I have been closely watching the recent developments. The Anna Hazare movement and the Baba Ramdev fast have highlighted the fact that corruption and black money are large national issues. Let me say that at one level I am overjoyed by the sudden awakening and mass movement that this has generated, while I am equally concerned with this new brand of civil movement. Let me explain....

The Anna Hazare movement first .....In a democracy we have the right to agitate in order to get the government and our elected representatives to take note of an issue and act on it. We also have the right to call for like minded people to join in for a show of solidarity. We can also intensify the agitation to a level where it is inevitable for us to be taken note of. We can seek the government to give us assurances even in writing if required and reassess our stance at a later date. I am sure all of you agree.

Now for the part that I find difficult to digest. When the "civil society" insists that they have to be a part of the panel that frames the law, I wonder if we are  eroding the basic tenet of our constitution. We elect representatives to be legislators but suddenly some people are insisting that certain people from the civil society will play this role. What makes these people better than you or me? What kind of accountability do they have to the society at large? How are we sure that they don't have an agenda of their own? Putting pressure on our elected representatives and the government formed by them is one thing but lobbying to become a proxy legislator is another.

The Yoga Guru now... When a yoga teacher uses his wide network of students/ followers / disciples to launch a "satyagraha" to bring black money back into the country just weeks after the Anna Hazare movement we have to wonder about the timing. Wouldn't it have been wonderful if the two sets of people had joined forces?

I don't really think the entire midnight eviction methodology was the right one in any way though. I can understand how the government may have begun to have palpitations and decided to take that risk. Now they are looking like desperate people and I am happy because it will only add fuel to the movement. The thing is that I would love to stand up, be heard and join a movement the opposes corruption and brings back black money but I don't agree completely with the current approaches. Does it matter?

Well, I am not just complaining about this without a suggestion. My plan is that we launch a nationwide campaign to agitate before our local MPs in their constituency. Put them on house arrest in their own homes so to speak until they undertake in writing that they will facilitate the passing of the Lokpal and Black Money bill in the next session of the parliament. It's not only the government that needs to be pressurized but our money hungry, no good bunch of liars who like to get elected through spurious means and call themselves parliamentarians. I did say right in the title that there is"nothing civil" about this post, didn't I?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Laid... Screwed... Re-laid!

Hold on to your horses...


I am not blogging about anything here that is remotely "suggestive"...

If you are still interested in reading, please proceed!



I am sure all of us who have been using the roads in India have seen this happen. A road is laid and just a few hours later someone comes up with a “need” to dig them up. It almost feels like they were waiting for the road work to be done so that they can dig it up.



I wonder why the different departments of the government cannot synchronize their activity. Am I asking for too much, even in our small workplace itself that there often is a clear lack of coordination? I don’t know the answer….



At the same time I have to mention a step taken by the Bangalore city administration of painting the parapet walls and underpass walls. The paintings add color to the city and has also ensured that the defacing has stopped.




Some of the painting are great and some of them are not so good but overall they do the job of making the city a cleaner place. My sincere thanks to the person who championed this idea and made this a reality. I have a feeling that the same person must know of a way of saving our roads from the cycle of being laid, screwed and re-laid.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hit by the volcano!

Sitting at Brussels airport and wondering when my onward journey will commence is extremely frustrating. The airport is full of harried passengers and the lounge looks feels like a market with each seat filled and people standing at each and every corner available.


We are being told that the aircraft will be airborne in a couple of hours maximum and then may take a slightly longer route to Newark. Despite the fact that all passengers know the problem and realize that the airlines will be trying their best, there are scenes of passengers taking out their frustrations on the airline staff who seem to have learnt the art of calming them down.

The kids at the airport are being a handful for their mom’s and one really tired mom is sitting right across to me. The look on her face tells me that if she had a hose she would just get to the mouth of the volcano and douse it herself because that would be easier than reigning in her son who is currently running amok. A few minutes ago that kid managed to drop a advertising standee and almost tripped a passenger.

This whole episode highlights to me the fragile world we live in. A volcanic eruption in far away Iceland can paralyze half of the world... wonder what’s next!

Good news as I type, the airline has just announced that our flight will be leaving in 2 hours time. It has been rerouted and I am going to stop typing and keep my fingers crossed!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Teflon Coated Customer Service?

I am sure that most of us who keep watching commercials on television in India have seen the advertisement for a high end paint which has “Teflon” coating. Saif Ali Khan does a great job of being the brand ambassador for them.



This morning I decided to call them and avail their "Home Solutions" offering which is positioned as a turnkey solution for home painting. After locating their contact number for customer queries on their well designed website, I called them. It was then that it dawned upon me that while their products and solutions appear to be world class their customer service at the contact centre needs an urgent upgrade.


Moment of Truth – Act 1
A rather curt sounding lady answered the phone and when I explained my need she put me on hold by just mumbling “Hold please”. A few seconds later she came back online and gave me 3 local numbers of the Bangalore office and told me to call them.


Moment of Truth – Act 2
The lady who answered the telephone in Bangalore was courteous and when I told her my requirement and that the Mumbai office had given me the contact details, she paused for a minute and gave me another set of numbers to call on. I asked her if that was a different office but she was honest enough to tell me that it was the direct number of her colleague who sat in the same office. She also added that she could not transfer the call.


Moment of truth – Act 3
I make my third telephone call to the company and I speak to the gentleman at the other end of the line. He is truly professional in his approach and is able to answer all my queries. He then tells me that someone from his team would get back to me and set up an appointment. I am almost relieved that I was not given another number to call and set up the appointment.


Moment of truth – Act 4
About an hour later, I receive a call from a local partner of the company and he sets up an appointment for a meeting. He too is courteous and professional in approach. I expect to meet him tomorrow.


The bottom line is that I am still going ahead with them unless something changes drastically. Yet, I am not delighted by them as a prospective customer. If the person who answered my first call had taken my contact details and ensured that the right person had called me it would have been ideal.


As service providers do we sometimes forget the importance of the moment of truth or do we chose to just bury our heads like an ostrich and ignore it? I am sure the companies’ value their customers and would like to delight them but the actual conversion of a prospect into a customer does not always happen because of just your product or service delivery but based on the initial moment of truth.


It is insufficient to have a “Teflon” coated product… you need the same finesse in your customer interaction!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Married Happily Ever After?

My cousin is slated to be married next weekend and I am expected to play the equivalent role of the “best-man”. My wife who is undoubtedly my “better half” was busy using the weekend to sort things out and recheck if all the outfits are in an appropriate condition. As I sat in the aircraft on the way to Hyderabad for a business trip later that day I was thinking back to 2005. This was the year that I finally tied the knot and settled down. The experience of being the groom was a test of my patience, the whole set of ceremonies were too long and sometimes I wonder how I got through the whole gamut of rituals and relatives unscathed; well almost unscathed!
Before I write any further let me admit that I sure hope my wife reads the “better half” reference in the earlier paragraph and I get some brownie points. In the last few years I have come to understand that it helps to keep collecting a few brownie points because very often they bail you out of some tricky or sticky situations. I also know that as you read it you might feel that by just stating this I have lost the chance of accruing some brownie points, but let me tell you that I believe otherwise. I think our spouses are fully aware when we are making a bid for some extra points and it’s not really something one should try to camouflage. Well that my view, to each his own!
Since both my wife and me are from Kodagu (also known as Coorg), a beautiful hilly coffee growing area nestled in the western ghats of Karnataka in South India, our set of rituals are totally different from any other Indian Wedding. Some key differentiators are that we have no agni (fire), we do not adhere to the concept of Mangala Sutra (a sacred thread tied around the brides neck) and the bit that I love the most is the fact that there is no place for a priest at the wedding. The rituals are actually conducted by the elders of the family. That said one of the common factors is the fact that the event spans over 2 full days but can easily spill into day three as mine did.
Please note that our wedding rituals on day one and first half of day two were held simultaneously in two different cities: Mysore and Bangalore. Hold on to your imaginations there, we did not clone ourselves to make that happen. Traditionally, the wedding is held in the local area of the bride and groom which normally means in two different locations. This was appropriate more than a few decades ago because travel between villages in the hilly countryside was a huge task and hence it was easy for the locals to wish the bride or groom as the case may be at their village only. Now if I have managed to confuse you sufficiently I will proceed!
On day one I was quite upbeat. It was more like a gathering of close family and friends and the rituals were quite few and far between. I was not confined to a place and could walk around freely and chat up. A few friends insisted that I was spending my last day of freedom that day and a few “senior” relatives thought it was alright to joke about the trials of married man, now that I was at the verge of becoming one. All in all, day one was quite simple.
Day two started early and after being literally draped in a traditional outfit that looks great but can be quite a task to wear during a hot day in late April. The groom wears a white tunic and a colorful waist wrap, that wrap was so tight that after a few minutes I was gasping for breath and my lower ribs screamed out, threatening to crack or at the least be deformed for life. The most arduous part was not living in those clothes for over 26 hours but was travelling close to 300 kilometers along with the wedding party between the two cities.
At around 8 am on day 3 three when everything was wrapped up and we were headed home, I can safely say that my wife and I were happy that the whole thing was over and we could get some reprieve from the uncomfortable clothes that we had been thrust into almost 26 hours ago. But as I helped my equally tired wife remove the elaborate embellishments adorning her hair, I realized that the testing time was far from over. When we finished extracting all of the “extra fittings” an hour later, we just crashed out; numb to the world!
I can’t help but wonder if this whole elaborate set of rituals were deliberately planned by our ancestors to torment the bride and groom so much that they would dismiss all thoughts of marrying again; thus setting a foundation for a long lasting marriage… As I always say, things are not always black or white!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Brands Last - Conflicts Don’t!



Recently, I was at the receiving end of the flash strike called by the pilots of Jet Airways. I had reached Hyderabad the previous evening and was to return to Bangalore. By noon when it was clear to me that they may not be able to resume services I booked myself on another airline.


On arriving at the airport I went up to the Jet Airways counter where a tired looking young lady managed to put a smile on her face and ask me how she could help. I told her that I was slated to take the flight and had a boarding card issued and wanted to return it. She was quick to apologize for the problem I was facing and asked if I wanted her to get me seats on an alternate flight. I smiled and told her that I had arranged for that already. She had a look of relief on her face and I was thinking how difficult the day must have been for the staff who would have faced numerous irate customers that day.


The next day I shot out this message to Jet Airways though their sales manager in Bangalore.


In all my years of association with your airline I have appreciated your customer service immensely. The recent developments are indeed unfortunate and quite inconvenient for the passengers to say the least.

For example I am still holding a ticket for myself and 4 co-passengers dated 12th September and feeling slightly worried wondering if the problem will be sorted out by then. As a well wisher and a customer of Jet Airways I will continue to hold on to the booking for as long as possible.

This is my way of expressing support to the entire staff of Jet Airways because I don’t think I ever flew Jet because they had great pilots but because they had the best staff who made us feel welcome and comfortable. I wish all the employees the best and hope that this crisis tides past as soon as possible.

As I update my blog, the crisis has blown past and I have flown them once again. The consistent service of the airline and the goodwill that they have built with customers like me should ensure that the trying few days was just a minor turbulence in the overall journey of the Airline!

Like any other customer I still crib about a few things about Jet. The main one these days is regarding their Konnect initiative. The no frills service has not gone down well with me a few of the other Jet regulars that I stay in touch with. However, we still remain loyal to the brand!

Friday, July 24, 2009

In News We Trust

Like me, I am sure each one of you has a favorite source for reading, listening or watching the happening around us. We are so hooked on to it that we tend to turn to this source instinctively and over a period of time we begin to trust what we read, hear and see via this media.

Do most of us ever give it a thought if we can trust everything that is being fed to us? Recently while watching a program on one of my favorite television channels some views mentioned by the presenter were a little shocking to me. From then on, I have been critically evaluating them and my feeling is that though they are quite fair in most of what they showcase, there are some places where they are clearly biased. As I continued to view them critically, I am slowly becoming more aware of their inherent bias which they themselves may have chosen to turn a blind eye to.

We live in a connected world and the flow of information is constant. While one may argue that we have access to multiple sources of information and hence the effect of these biases may be minimal, I would like to disagree by saying that these biases are powerful because we become addicted to these sources and forget that there is a need to evaluate it critically.

There is this particular television channel that I have been watching for a long time now. In their quest to be “holier than thou” they seem to be pushing the envelope constantly. This is happening to such an extent that I am now wondering if I should tune off from them completely but like any other addict I still keep going back to them. Their view points on fundamentalism or coverage of their expert “Pseudo – fundamentalists” is appallingly one sided. Their ruthlessness in attempting to influence public opinion on under-trial court cases makes me wonder if they have crossed the boundaries of ethical journalism. Off late some of their promos for the debate shows themselves are heavily biased.

Maybe they were always biased and the gullible viewer in me did not care too much about it. Now that I am aware I am expressing my view with a simple hope that some of you may begin to critically evaluate your favored source of news. Beware of one thing though…. My views may be biased too!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sorry for the interruption!




As a school going kid I remember sitting at home with the television switched on waiting for the Doordarshan broadcast to begin. The screen would have colored lines screen saver like this.
We would wait eagerly for the transmission to begin and watch even the most boring programs with interest. The tall antennae towering over the house would help us see images that were quite distorted most often than not. Very often there would be a problem at the broadcasting end as we would immediately get a sign on our screens that said “Sorry for the interruption”.

Well, the advent of cable TV and then Direct To Home (DTH) services had reduced this problem. The cable services are sometimes very moody and the DTH signals disappear at the slightest hint of a cloudy sky. While we used to get a “sorry” message before; we just get a no-signal message these days.

While I can live with both these interruptions today, the one that really gets my goat is the interruption of the mobile networks. It’s impossible to have a decently long conversation without glitches in the transmission of sound bytes. In most cases the signal just drops off forcing us to redial. Here we are forced to apologize for the service provider’s failure. It used to be embarrassing before but these days everybody seems to understand that signal drops happen!

In most residences the signals are so weak that we can see people stepping out on to the road or precariously balancing themselves on balconies to talk. I wonder if the next insurance policy in the market will be tailored to cover for injuries arising out of long tern posture related stress injuries or accidents (may not include vehicular accidents) occurring due to weak mobile signals. But then the insurance company will make it your responsibility to prove that the mobile signal was weak and will not take ownership for any interruptions in their service as well.

Any written request addressed to the service provider regarding signal strength goes unanswered and a call to the helpline also is useless. At the same time it is surprising to see them advertise about their network reach. I just read a friends blog where he expresses that maybe we should take mobile calls only in remote locations like the ones shown in the advertisement as the quality of signal will be better.

Finally to add to our woes we have the constant telemarketer who makes it a point to call you at the most inconvenient moment. He does not even care that your number is listed on the “national do not disturb registry”. When you tell them that your mobile is DND registered, they just bang the phone on you without even saying “Sorry for the interruption”!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lives in the hands of the cheapest bidder?

A news article in the papers a couple of days ago stated that the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Fali Homi Major, on Saturday assured that the MiG-29 aircraft used by the IAF were safe, amidst media reports that Russia had grounded a large number of its MiG-29 fleet because of structural defects.

The MIGs (I think its the MIG 21 and not the MIG 29) have been consistently called the ‘flying coffins’ because they are so accident prone. It scares me to think that some of our country’s best young minds are joining the forces and relying on these machines. I am sure a lot of us would have been ready to do anything to be a combat pilot. Time for a rethink among the top brass who need to put a higher value on the lives of those pilots who stake their lives for the country.

In the movie, Armageddon (1998) the character, Rockhound, played by Steve Buscemi brings to the notice of the rest of his crew that the space shuttle that they are flying in is actually built by parts supplied by the lowest bidder! It is a startling fact, isn’t it?

Maybe now we will look at our vehicles that we drive or aircrafts that we fly in differently…. As I always say, its not always black or white…

Monday, March 16, 2009

Rolling around in Bed and Grave!

As I post this on a Monday morning, I am overcome by a combination of insomnia, jetlag and frustration of the power failure that lasted all through the night. Not a great combination by any stretch of the imagination. All that one could do is really to roll around in bed hoping to catch some sleep.

Well, so much for Gandhi’s and India’s pride, the ‘great’ Dr. Mallya has managed to win the bid for his items that were up for auction. One has to appreciate him for his flamboyant style in whatever he does. However, I was wondering what Gandhi’s reaction to this would be.

Mallya is the antithesis of Gandhi is every sense of the word. The liquor baron, the flashy businessman who goes over the top in all the things that he does now owns the items of a man who was pro prohibition and a minimalist. Something tells me that Gandhi must have been rolling in his grave!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Much Ado about nothing!

Never did I imagine that my first ever post on my blog would have anything to do with Mahatma Gandhi. However, the fact is that oddly enough he has spurred me to begin blogging after years of procrastination!

Well, I have always believed that slotting things as black or white is impractical and one needs to appreciate the grey shades. The more shades of grey that I began to acknowledge, the more sense things in life started to make. So thank you for bothering to explore the shades with me!

This whole deal of the country's pride being at stake because some collector in the US is auctioning Gandhi's items makes me wonder if we are truly a xenophobic country or are we using this as an escape from our current "real" problems.

As far as my knowledge goes, the items being auctioned have not been stolen or acquired by the current owner by any illegal means. If that is the case, how will someone buying it insult "Bapu" or his countrymen? I certainly don't think there are any grey shades to this auction but as i said earlier perspectives vary.

Hearing his Great-Grandson speak about it on the Telly makes me laugh. I know that he may have his reason for the outbursts but it still makes me laugh.

That's all for now... I will be back when something else grey pulls me back to this page!