Wednesday, December 3, 2008

In the Middle

It’s been a long time – two months and more. There were days I felt overwhelmed by the deluge of thoughts and there were days of blissful vacant meandering. Last evening in search of a recent article by Ajit Balakrishnan, I scoured the internet and chanced upon the convocation speech he had delivered at the Indian Institute of Management – Calcutta in April 2007. In his speech, he briefly talks about his experiences in Calcutta more than three decades back, the period of political unrest in West Bengal, the Naxalite uprising and his small role in the middle of the ongoing social battle. He said that it now all seemed so far away and quaint. As he found himself in the middle of social change and history in the making, I wonder if he realized the weight of the moment in Indian history.

Today, we live in far more tumultuous times. Moments we will undoubtedly recall as pivotal in Indian and world history – the deep financial and economic crisis; the historical presidential win of Barrack Obama and the ruthless terrorist attacks on the Indian soil. Still in our youthful years, we are the fortunate (!!) ones to walk this earth during these frenzied times with the ability to understand their impact and if God intends live to tell the tale in the coming decades.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Such is life!

I can feel it. It’s right here – on the tip of my tongue waiting to be uttered; inside that brain cell that’s connected to that nerve that’s supposed to send me the idea; on my fingertips ready to type away; in that drop of ink waiting to be scrawled into patterns; in my eyes that keep scouring for interesting subjects around me. It’s futile – all of it. I still can’t do it; I still can’t write. My tongue won’t speak; the ideas won’t flash; my fingers won’t move; the ink won’t flow and my eyes won’t stop.

All those things I’ve tried. But, this has to be done; I have to try harder, even hard, as hard as it takes. May be I’m not reading enough – I picked up books after books, rummaged for new blogs, read all the popular literary magazines. Nothing changed. But really, how giddy can I get! The spark needs to come from inside, I told myself. I opened a blank word document. It remained blank after two cups of tea and an hour of staring at it with fingers ready atop the keyboard. It’s the corner; it’s making me sick. I moved, lock stock and barrel, to the balcony. I stared at the sky, the glass pool, the flowers and day dreamed, instead. This is really not working. Why can’t I just write – a story, an opinion, a page, a line or even a question!! May be it’s the laptop – too modern for my conservative style. I picked up my yellow pad; doodled a bit and gave up. I’ll take a walk around campus, may be. The greenery, the architecture, the silence, the children, the swimming pool, the peacocks(!!!), the young faces – should inspire something. An hour of walking around in circles with a yellow pad and a pen didn’t change anything other than burn a few calories. May be I need fresh air (or in my case polluted air) and new people; it’s getting too familiar out here. A pocket notebook and another hour later, I was at a close-by supermarket, biting into a Frankie and sitting at a table all by myself. Perfect – so many different kinds of people, their acts to watch, the busy street on the other side, the entire world going past – and yet not a scribble! Can’t sit in a place; doesn’t work; I need to move; capture the world through moving eyes. The 4 pm shuttle, a window seat and a return ticket. Two hours later I had gone all the way up to the city and back to my village; the paper, no doubt, remained blank; my mind had gone still more blank. I give up – this is not my day; it’s hasn’t been my month or even my year. May be it’s time to hang up my pen after all.

Then, in perfect movie style, the phone rings. Oh, the pleasure of a change. Here I am, after a brief from my office I’m trying to put together this note by EOD, as they call it, and I have five word documents and 22 browser windows open. While three word documents and 10 browser windows relate to work, in the remaining I have two plots that are being developed and on-going research for them. And oh, another flicker from my brain– why things happen when we least want them to happen?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Soul salvations

From time to time, whether work is piling or not, whether you are married or not, whether you have errands to run or not – a girl needs to let her hair down, watch marathon reruns of FRIENDS, go out with girl friends, do some sinful shopping, down a martini, talk and giggle incessantly, knife a chicken, shake a hip and cuss the DJ. That’s exactly what I did last night and for the first time in a good number of months.

With the men nowhere around, shopping once more turned out therapeutic rather than a rushed affair. I had almost forgotten the existence of the trial room runway and the fun in window shopping. We talked like we hadn’t spoken in a century. After a long time Indian politics, world affairs, sports, sports and sports took a back seat and we talked about things so trivial that I can’t even remember what we talked about all day!

End of this week I’m back to good ol’ Hyderabad, back to my work table, back to my favorite window and back to World Movies.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Where democracy has no meaning

There are identities we walk with everyday; beliefs, faith that our life depends on and around which our psychological framework is built. We believe them to be true, whether or not we can prove them, whether or not we bother to find proof.

Like the one that says ‘I’m a part of a secular country’ – Yet we refuse to listen when a muslim woman is raped in Gujrat or when a woman missionary is burnt to death in Orissa. Another one that says ‘India is a peace loving country’ – We refuse to believe that India sponsors terrorism in other countries just like they do in ours.

As Indians, we wear our peace-loving badge so proudly that we shun any show of aggressiveness by another country as atrocity. And yet, we will go ahead and state on record that Tibet is China’s internal issue and India will not interfere. Did that make you cringe? Did you hope – just a tiny tiny bit – that as a country you had, instead, condemned China? On the other hand, we did accept China’s applauds on our stand and continued to wear our peace-loving badge as if nothing really happened.

Oh well, why should we condemn it in the first place? That would expose our double standards now, wouldn’t it? On one hand we have occupied a territory we have no business being in, we have converted a beautiful valley into one of the world’s highly militarized zone, we have destroyed the independence and peace, committed atrocities against three generations of Kashmiris… So much so that the Kashmiris have loud and clearly (or in India’s own words to China – clear and consistently) told us that they would rather be a part of poor and economically under-performing and military ruled (and in our opinion terrorist) Pakistan rather than prosperous, ‘generous’ (the way we believe) and of course ‘peace loving’ secular India. Now - we definitely do not have the right to speak against or condemn another country when right next door we commit the same crimes on an everyday basis.

Arundhati Roy writes very eloquently and in her own landmark style in this cover story for the Sep1, 2008 edition of Outlook. ‘AZADI’ screams the cover page and the sub-title for the article goes thus: ‘It’s the only thing the Kashmiri wants. Denial is delusion.’ The article hits you below the belt, squashing every delusion you’ve had as an Indian. Brace yourself – for we are no less inhuman than the Chinese soldier against the non-violent Tibetan demonstrator or the Nazi follower against an unsuspecting Jew or the Chechen rebels against innocent Russian children.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Being me

I know; it’s been a while. It’s just one of those phases that turn you reclusive, if not anti-social. It’s been more almost two weeks and I haven’t stepped beyond a kilometre from the home. Yesterday, a few girls around the block got together for a movie. I’m usually the one to jump at the opportunity of socializing and getting together; instead, I took a rain check on it. There are umpteen phone calls on my to-do list: friends who are visiting the country, newly made friends, vacations waiting to be planned, friends I left behind and never called, a long lost friend I met on Orkut, brother-in-law, school friends, ex-colleagues... There are books waiting to be renewed: Yes, I'm still stuck with Lynne Truss and her semi-colons; there’s one book I haven’t even opened yet and it’s past its due date; another that seems to serve solely as a sleeping pill. There are mails begging to be replied to: I’ve starred them, red-starred them and exclaimed them too – nothing’s worked. Then there are friends who keep buzzing me on chat. Even visits to the super-market have been sporadic; the campus store, in spite of all its shortcomings, seems just sufficient. I let go of the opportunity to go to (the absolutely amazing!!) Q-Mart over the weekend. I’ve even been putting off those weekly meetings at the professional body that I’m a member of.

It’s not reclusive in a depressing way; I perfectly love it, in fact. Sitting down to work; looking out of the window; and watching the world go past. Standing in the balcony; watching the rain trashing; and sipping a hot cup of tea. Looking at a blank canvas sheet and imaging the colors on it. Cooking up a dish and listening to my ‘200 best songs’ playlist. Watching a movie all by myself; and munching away some ‘chilli-surprise’ popcorn. Taking a walk around the campus; holding hands with M and not saying a word.

Like all good things must come to pass, one of these days I will shake off my reclusiveness; till then… let me be.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Roasted walnut and pesto pasta, anyone?

It's on rare occasions that I find something interesting to write about cooking. Otherwise it's just the humdrum existence of vegetables in a pot of boiling water followed by a dash of spices. Oh no, it's not that food is not interesting, it's just that my cooking is not so interesting. I’m lucky to be married to someone who understands the pains of cooking and hence does not bother too much when my ‘poha’ looks like mashed potatoes and ‘chat’ is anything that I add ‘Everest Chat Masala’ to.

Now people, I’m not such a bad cook. In my personal opinion I believe that one has arrived when it comes to Indian cooking if – one, you can make rotis from scratch. Of course, by scratch I don’t mean sowing wheat in your backyard - you get what I mean. Two – making yogurt at home. Thanks to kind neighbours, my mom and mom-in-law I get by with both these things.

Coming to the point of why I’m writing about cooking today - is this heart-breaking, soul-searching, grief-causing, mentally-anguishing article I read in ‘The Economic Times.’ Now, from when I started cooking the only oil (other than the occasional sesame oil for Chinese cooking) I’ve ever used in my kitchen has been Olive Oil – no, not any olive oil but Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Why? Because it’s healthy, duhhhh! Then – Bang! - Suddenly after a sumptuous Saturday lunch this article stares me in the eye and what’s worse - it has a sequel too that came out this weekend. Now why ‘heart-breaking’, ‘soul-searching’ and all that you may ask – I was almost convinced that I had found the perfection solution to heart disease, trans-fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and all that. There is nothing as perfect as good karma, now, is there?

The underlined statement is – Extra Virgin Olive Oil is not suitable for Indian cooking considering the high temperatures that we cook/ fry in. EVOO breaks down and decomposes and hence losing all the ‘good’ properties and assimilating ‘bad’ properties. Imagine one Indian dish that can be cooked with out heating oil – how do I do ‘thadka’, how do I sauté, how do I make dosa or any of those finger-counting dishes that I know? And then the Indian olive oil consortium or whatever-the-heck-they-call-themselves claims that Olive Pomace Oil is best suited for Indian cooking since the temperature at which this oil starts smoking is much higher than EVOO. Now all of us in our right minds know that olive pomade-pomace-whatever oil is no edible oil at all. How can it be, if it’s industrially extracted from pomace cake that is left after naturally extracting the oil from the olives?

Oh well, while the whole world is screaming foul at the mention of pomace as a cooking oil and when it’s legally not even supposed to be called olive oil, our great sir - the president of the Indian Olive Oil Association who also incidentally (I mean it – just incidentally) owns a company that supplies ‘olive’ pomace oil in India, thinks this is the ideal oil for Indian cooking. Not just that, his company’s website even goes ahead and says that EVOO is a super-deluxe gourmet olive oil and pomace is the main cooking grade [sic] oil. And behold, the pomace oil is even suited for ‘Iyengar Cooking’ according the COO!

All right, so where does that leave us with extra virgin olive oil now? It’s going to remain in my kitchen but its use substantially reduced to the occasional pasta and salads and may be some light sautéing. I’m back to my search for the perfect and least harmful cooking oil. There is an 8:2 blend of rice barn oil and sunflower oil in the market that my mom recommended long time back. May be it’s time to give it a shot.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Why We Are The Way We Are

Over a period of time and after numerous airport visits I have realized that the one thing that doesn’t work is picking up a book at the airport book stall and hoping to finish it by the end of the journey. Nevertheless, after waking up this morning with a stiff neck and realizing that during this travel, I may not be able to carry out my favorite airport pastimes of reading items on my Google reader, watching the news on airport television or talking on the phone since all these activities in a way require some unrestricted neck movement, I decided to pick up a book from the Higginbothams book store at the Chennai airport.

Among the books that caught my attention and displayed well enough to beg being picked up were, ‘The Automatic Millionaire’ – something I have been wanting to read for a very long time, ‘Emotional Intelligence’ – after the rave reviews from my boss and about how it is going to help me on my next assignment and ‘The New Age of Innovation’ – just because I saw some posters on campus!

After long consideration, past experience and an acknowledgment of my own habits I decided to pick up a rather unusual but seemingly interesting book. ‘Games Indians Play’ – Titled close to the old psychological classic and the brief introduction on the back cover of the book was enough to provide a brief of the contents of this book. But would this book do justice to what each one of us felt about India and about ourselves as Indians? I wasn’t yet sure about that.

Not for long did my apprehension remain unanswered. This is what I read on page 7 – the second page of the first chapter.

' Why do I spit with a free will, as if without that one right I would be a citizen of a lesser democracy? Why do I tear off a page from a library book, or write my name on the Taj Mahal?... Why do I run the tap full blast while shaving even when I know of the acute water shortage in the city? Why don't I stop or slow down my car to allow a senior citizen or a child to cross the road? Why do I routinely jump out of seat in a mad rush for the overhead baggage even before the aircraft comes to a halt, despite the repeated entreaties of the cabin crew? Why do I routinely disregard an airline's announcement to board in orderly groups in accordance with seat numbers? Why does it not hurt my national pride that in international terminals abroad extra staff is appointed at gates from which flights to India are to depart? ... Why do I jump red lights with the alacrity of a jackrabbit leaping ahead of a buckshot? Why do I block the left lane, when my intention is to turn right? Or vice versa? Why do I overtake from the left? Why do I drive at night in the city with the high beam on? Why do I jump queues with the zest of an Olympic heptathlon gold hopeful?'

-Excerpt ‘Games Indians Play’ by V. Raghunathan; Chapter 1, Page 7-8

This last statement ‘jumping queues’ – as much as it catches the attention of the author deeply saddens me as I recognize the truth in it. After a fateful twist of events preceded by a goof up by the travel agent, I was forced to take a rather late Indian Airlines (or Air India like the way they call themselves now) flight back home. During the 10 minutes wait to reach the agent at the check-in counter there were three passengers in my own queue who insolently decided to join the queue mid-way (by mid-way, I mean right at the point after the current passenger was being serviced). After being reminded in an increasingly impatient way, they sheepishly walked to their rightful place after admitting that they hadn’t noticed the queue. The scene was worse at the adjoining queue which seemed to move relatively fast and hence attracted more queue oblivious passengers.

This takes us back to the questions that V. Raghunathan rightfully poses. I have some more to add to that list. Why do we tend to go directly to the counter without even bothering to find out if there are others waiting? Why do we peep into the book/ laptop of the stranger next to us? How come we never listen to flight announcements and wait for the stewardess to remind us to not recline our seats during take-off and landing? How come we automatically tend to adhere to rules and regulations when in a foreign country and how come these very rules and regulations become our right to break when in our own country?

A few pages later, the author moves on to more serious issues such as the leaps in economic and infrastructure development made by other countries over short periods of time and how we are still bragging about the invention of the zero and the Harappan civilization. As I read this it doesn’t escape me that the headlines being beamed over all news channels at the airport is about the trust vote that is rocking the parliament and the politics that is playing out at the cost of the country’s development. The front page of today’s ‘Chennai Times’ carries two articles side by side – The shaky UPA government which is split on the issue of the nuclear deal and another about the city plunging into darkness for a few hours every week due to the shortage of power. The scene is worse in the city of Bangalore which already plagued with crumbling infrastructure issues is also being subjected to 4-5 hours power cuts in a day. In the face of crisis like this, you would expect the country’s politicians to consider the trust vote as one that decides whether the nuclear deal is important to India’s development or not. But no my dear sir, our dear Mr. Siddiqui shifted loyalties this morning from the UPA (and hence nuclear deal) supporting SP camp to the ‘Mayawati-will-one-day-become-our-Prime-Minister’ supporting BSP camp. And his reasoning ‘Nuclear deal is anti-muslim’… and how did he come to that conclusion? Because ‘America wants us to sign the nuclear deal’ and ‘America is anti-muslim’. A=B and A=C, hence B=C.

Mr. Siddiqui is just one of those numerous politicians who play these games. The BJP is no less is putting its own party and ideals before that of the country. Its eagerness to see the UPA fail so that it can take the nuclear deal forward when elected to power in the next elections and hence add the feather to its cap is so damn obvious.

I love how the book is going so far. And before you jump to conclusions, V. Raghunathan is the not the ‘I-crib-about-India-thankfully-I-don’t-live-here’ types. While he has traveled and taught abroad, over the past couple of years he has been working in senior management positions in India. Currently he serves the Corporate Social Responsibility wing of a very ‘Indian’ infrastructure major that is weaving magic across airports in India and the world (and for those of you about to grin at that… no, I didn’t know it before I picked up the book).

Right now I am at that juncture in the book where the author beckons the reader to read on only if he/she finds truth is all that is said so far. I don’t know how the book is going to end, but I know it speaks the truth not in a judgmental or haranguing manner but in a logical way with the usage of concepts such as game theory and behavioral economics. While we all acknowledge that a solution cannot be found overnight, whether even a micro-solution is in sight is what I await from this book.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Female for Market Research

I got this mail a few days back.

Greeting from XXXX (XXX solution)

Opening for Market Researcher.

Company Profile: Our clients is one of the largest & India's fastest growing electrical and power distribution equipment company.manufacturing products ranging from Building Circuit Protection, Industrial & Domestic Switchgear, Cables & Wires, Energy Meters, Fans, CFL Lamps, Luminaires for Domestic, Commercial & Industrial application and Modular Switches.Our clients has recorded a turnover of Rs. XXXX crores in the previous financial year and is poised for another quantum growth.

Job Profile:Market Research & Market Development

Required Skills:Initiative & Aggressive Attitude.

Fresh/Exp can apply

Female Candidate with Minimum Graduation is must

CTC:Best in industry

XXXX (contact details of the recruiter)

Female candidate?? If this were the US, the EEOC would have already pounced on this company. Secondly, why on earth am I getting this mail? Because of the 'aggressive attitude' caveat? They must have some filtering system!! But I’m curious, why would they specifically require female candidates for something that looks like a door to door survey / sales job for electrical products? I researched the company and the consulting firm and it does seem legit.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Rakhi Sawant Showz

Now before we launch a torrent, why is everyone so curious what 'showz' in the title means? Come on people, Rakhi Sawant Showz... She showz, we see. We see, so she showz. If she doesn't show we won't see, and if we don't see she won't show. She knows we see that's why she showz. We know she showz that's why we see. Ok ok... you get the drift.

Mid way when you're watching this show, you'll find yourself lifting eye brows, letting out a snort and flinch and wince and even question why you are watching this show. You’ll want to change the channel. You’ll then convince yourself to put the remote down and wait for the next string of pearls from her mouth.

You recall the ‘Rendezvous with Simi Gareval’ - India’s most popular talk show. Now if you are the host of the most popular talk show in town, comparisons are bound to follow. Simi Gareval – flawless white, well set hair, flawless makeup. And then we have Rakhi Sawant – gaudy clothes, garishly decorated sets, not so oblivious make up. Simi’s style and grace, her feigning effort to laugh and smile with her guests. Rakhi on the other hand is cleavage showing, all bawdy in language and style. Make no mistake for she doesn’t make any pretensions of sympathising with her guests. While you’ll find Simi saying - ‘Your girlfriend broke up with you, it must have been soooo hard!’, Rakhi will not battle an eyelid as she tells Amir Khan - ‘I didn’t like it when you divorced your first wife.’ Simi will leave you wide-mouthed with her impeccable British accent and diction. You’ll identify with Rakhi as she struggles to pronounce ‘rendezvous’ and ask her guests to comment on her English after not uttering a single English word in her entire conversation. Simi will make a guests feel like a star, bigger than what they may actually be. You will feel overawed by them. You will laugh when Hrithik and Suzanne act like young lovers on her show and get all emotional when Rekha lets down her guard. But with Rakhi, there is no bigger star on the show than herself. She will try, let me tell you. ‘You are a star, Amir Ji – A superstar. I wanted you to come to my show because I want my show to become popular!’ ‘Do you want me to fall to your feet, because in some shows they fall to people’s feet.’

All in all, the first episode wasn’t even half as entertaining as the episode where Rakhi Sawant meets Karan Johar on Koffee with Karan… But trust me, here’s a lady to watch out for. Karan Thapar and Rajdeep Sardesai beware, for here comes the mother-in-law of tough interviewers!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Revisiting Hot Chocolate

I brought down my old blog a few days back. As I was going through the posts one last time before deleting it, there was this piece that caught my attention. It's one of my favorites and I decided to publish it again. I wrote it about a year and a half back when M was away in Japan and it was so difficult for us to catch up even once a day. Today again, he slogs away at B-School and it still is a Herculean task catching up once a day.

My Hot Chocolate

Eyes closed
Cupped hands
Holding a mug
Every sip
Like the taste of new life
Strings of thought
Whispering secrets
Honest promises
Held close
Unmindful smiles
A lingering feeling
Hazy dreams
Ethereal spaces
An oblivion self

A slight cringe
Loud sneeze
The rude awakening
Abundant work
And a preoccupied mind
The chilly air
A fading illusion
Bleary eyes
Haunting silences
Emerging voices
Quiet eagerness
Long hours of wait
Four thousand miles
Above all – an empty mug

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Still not changed the channel...

After I wrote here about how the media is sensationalizing news and our entertainment quotient, I found two more articles. Here's what 'The Maanga' has to say and through his website I chanced upon Sevanti Ninan's article. To the avid readers of Hindu's Sunday Magazine, Sevanti Ninan is no stranger. Here are some excerpts from her article on how news channels are literally selling crime. This might seem funny, but the irony is that it's true...

  • Times Now tracking her calls from cell phone call records leaked to them. Run numbers and times on the screen of who called Aarushi when, whom she called when.
  • NDTV showing a video of the dead girl doing normal things when she was alive.(No seriously... the clipping included the girl going swimming with her family, in a birthday party, at a school function... etc... all played over and over again!!)
  • Zee News informing us that this is the day when the CBI’s remand over Krishna ended. So? So nothing, just reminding you, that’s the news.
  • Cyrus Broacha being funny on CNN IBN: “The CBI is looking for a khukri. Why look for a khukri when you already have a Talwar?”
  • Aaj Tak showing two presenters going around a flat which they said was exactly similar to the Talwars’ and was in the same complex. They show us the location of Arushi’s room and her parent’s room and Hemraj’s room. There is a model lying on the bed in Aarushi’s “room” placed exactly like it reportedly was, and there are blood stains on the door. (They kept saying this was reconstructed from CBI information) Then build a case for the fact that there was no way her parents could not have heard noises, despite the AC. Ergo, the Talwars’ testimony is fishy.
  • India TV’s amateur sleuthing: Krishna is lying when he says he flushed the khukri down the toilet. But look, we’ll show you how 10 minutes of repeated flushing does not flush a khukri! So a potty was there for 10 minutes on the TV screen, sometimes in the foreground, sometimes in the background, flushing away.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Mundane monday?

I wish for a mundane day. Like a day that just cruises by. No surprises. No procrastination. Just like that. A day that requires no planning, no juggling, no confusions, no crisis management. A day where my mobile phone is not disconnected because I exceeded the credit limit. Clients don’t scream because mails are bouncing. Hubby doesn’t throw last minute lunch plans. The milk doesn’t boil over. Maid doesn’t demand for more money. Boss hasn’t changed her mind since our discussion last night. Mom won’t provide advice. Network doesn’t act up. I don’t forget things on my shopping list. The courier doesn’t go missing. Dad stops asking about Form 16. The color doesn’t run off my new T-Shirt. I don’t have to curse on the road. Client doesn’t demand a report right away. My checking account doesn’t fall short of cash. The beautician doesn’t nip my brow. I’m not asked to travel within a day’s notice. My neighbor doesn’t annoy me. My i-pod won’t hang. The onions don’t get burned up. My data won’t go pufffffhhhhh. Tele-marketers won’t call. I don’t find a lizard in the bathroom. The fat won’t pile on. The AC won’t breakdown. I don’t have to fight with auto-drivers. I don’t forget birthdays.

You get me? Just a normal day…

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The button on your remote

Today, we've reached a different realm in reality shows and entertainment. We started off with the 'Saas bhi kabhi bahu thee' types. We were hooked to it. We wanted to know everything despite the fact that it was so far far fetched from reality. Despite the fact that people never got old, never died, and even if they died they magically returned from the dead. Then came the 'Big brother' types - the reality shows... Oh! We wouldn't budge from the couch, even during commercial breaks. It was all real now. All the heartbreaks, all emotions, the fights, the tears, the fun... all real. We watched them, we patronized them, we glorified them, we laughed for them, we cried for them and of course we voted for them.

What next? Where does the search for new entertainment take us? What are creative minds in the industry brewing now? Reality like you've never seen it before. Reality at its realistic best! 'The Noida Murder Case'... It's been a month since the incident, there hasn't been a single day that either Times Now or Headlines Today or Aaj Tak hasn't covered this news story. They've covered it, alright! Now we have collages, the testimonies, the goof ups... all live and unfolding right in front of us. It makes me wonder about the motivation of these news channels. Tracking the case all the way to justice, one would like to presume. We all are God's children... In the eyes of the media - some more than the others, I guess. Check it out here - Rediff has a page dedicated just to track Arushi's murder. The page lists out all the news that has been reported in a chronological manner. And there is more - there's a wiki dedicated to her and Balaji Telefilms is contemplating making 'Arushi bhi kabhi zindha thi'.

Now, where does this take us as viewers? How far will the media and the industry go to keep feeding our curiosity and entertainment needs? Are we willing to go where the media wants to take us? Are we willing to gobble up all that the media feeds us? Or are we going to pull the plug? Remember... the remote is in your hands, you may very well change the channel now!

Monday, June 16, 2008

'Doc'ing and 'Zoho'ing

This morning I spent a considerable amount of time in solving a seemingly simple problem. We had a meeting with a client to whom we had to make a presentation. The logistics was challenging. The client was located in another continent, my colleague in another city and me here. I set thinking about an online presentation tool. Google Docs was the first obvious choice.

I've been using Google Docs for quite sometime now. Initially it was mostly for personal work - sharing travel plans, check lists and some other random stuff. These days I use it a lot more at work. We are a three member team working on this other assignment and we are located at different locations and worse still, we travel a lot. What do you do? How do you collaborate? How do you exchange notes? How do you keep track of email? Switching to Google Docs provided an instant solution. I had no doubts that this would be simple till I realized that Google Presentations did not have the option of making remote presentation without having to login with your Google account. Now, expecting a client to have a gmail ID and use it to login and access a simple presentation seemed a bit too much to ask for.

My second choice - Zoho. I’ve been dabbling with Zoho Apps on and off. I found their spread of applications interesting, I like their usability and moreover Sridhar’s blog is one of the most interesting ones in Silicon Valley. That was the “on” part; the “off” part comes from the fact that though I can use a Google account to sign in, when I try going offline (yes! the darn airports and the wait times) and logging in to synchronize, it requires a Zoho account only. By now I have too many IDs and passwords; I decided I couldn’t be bothered with another one.

Zoho Show thankfully had the option of remote presenting without having to login. The entire functionality is really cool; you must try it sometime. Apart from the few glitches (which gobbled up a couple of hours this morning) where Zoho Show wouldn’t properly import the formatting from my actual presentation, everything went off smooth and glitch-free (crossing fingers and toes - I have another one coming up next week).

Zoho and Google Docs launched in 2005-2006. Since then they have been pitched as Microsoft Office’s competitors and seen as applications set to replace the office suite. There are even articles that speculate how office will see its end soon and how people and businesses will start using online apps for all practical purposes. After today’s experience with Zoho and my past experience with Google Docs, I don’t see this happening very soon. Unless one of these companies does something drastic to improve the product performance, I don’t see this happening at least for another decade.

Apart from the fact that the applications require a decent internet connection, the functionality of both, in my opinion is still shaky. While use of the word processor generally goes off glitch free, the problem starts while using the spreadsheets and the presentations. A little too many rows and the application starts losing control - shaky screens, brief hanging, slow responses. My experience with Zoho-Show was far worse. My presentation was already there in powerpoint and all Zoho had to do was import it. Spacing and bullets went awry, the paste function stopped working, the way the slides normally looked on the slides was different from the way it looked on the slide show. I spent quite a few hours fixing it, something that would have normally taken me just a few minutes on powerpoint.

All said and done, the fact that they exist makes life a lot easier. But replacing Office, they have a long long way to go!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Values and Beliefs - Their rightful place

I generally hate writing in my personal blog about the clients that I work for. This time I’m going to make a small exception, but then I won’t be mentioning names.

We read about vision, mission and values and how they form the core of the strategic road map for any company. Then there are companies who say something on their website and do something else at their offices. A lot more companies develop values in a vacuum. Stop an employee on his way to the cafeteria and ask him about the vision and values of his company and you’ll find him searching empty gray cells. And then there are these repulsive value statements that are created just to form the perfect acronym.

It’s refreshing to find among a plethora of companies that just have no clue about what to do with their value statements, one Indian company that says it and practices its values with great conviction. One company where every employee nods his head when brought to the topic of values and beliefs. One company that does not need the perfect acronym for its employees to remember the whole list. One company that has shaped the organizational culture around its values & beliefs and year after year measures its employee’s performance on adherence to those values and beliefs.

Apart from their commitment and the fact that they have been able to inculcate a strong culture in the organization quite early on, the one thing that has brought me to write this post is some of their interesting value statements.

Humility – While the statement on their website simply talks about respecting intellect and disliking false pride, the way it is cascaded to employees is more about accepting what you don’t know and learning from the one who knows.

Respect for the Individual – treat people with dignity, sensitivity and honor. Employees are measured on their conduct when they interact with other people on the job.

On the outside these are values you would find on a number of value statements, but if you look at the company legacy you would realize how this suddenly makes sense for them. How do you deal with culture in an organization that has a mix of employees, right from baby-boomers to generation Y? Help the baby-boomers to demonstrate humility and the generation Y to inculcate respect for the individual!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bush and the thing in his mouth

How can one be proud being the citizen of a country where the president… for heaven’s sake not his press secretary, not his vice-president, not his dog, but the president… says things like this about another country?

''There are 350 million people in India who are classified as middle class. Their middle class is larger than our entire population. And when you start getting wealth, you start demanding better nutrition and better food. And so demand is high, and that causes the price to go up.''

Mr. President, during the time that you managed to put your foot in your mouth and also managed to read up that we have around 350 million people (which btw is quite a high estimate, the actual number is 200 million) classified as middle class, didn’t you bother to look up some of the facts about your own country’s eating habits?

“American obesity rates are highest in the world with 64% of adults being overweight or obese, and almost a quarter being obese. Estimates of the number of obese American adults have been rising steadily, from 19.4% in 1997, 24.5% in 2004 to 26.6% in 2007.”

That means that every fourth American you meet is obese and out of every five Americans you meet at least three will be overweight! Well, Mr. President, if you turn to your team of experts they will be able to explain to you the most important cause for obesity - eating too many calories.

While still on the topic of rising food and oil prices, we Indians have something to add. There are 192 million people in the United States who are classified as overweight. Their overweight population is as large as our (Indian) middle class population. When you are overweight, you need more calories to sustain normal energy and maintain daily activities. And so the demand is high and that causes the price to go up. It doesn’t end there. Obese and overweight Americans need more fuel to transport them and the food they eat, hence the increasing energy prices!

PS: Inspired by this and this

Saturday, May 3, 2008

I'm parked here.

I’ve thought for over a year… and I realize that there is no other way to do it other than starting afresh. I couldn’t continue from where I had left as if nothing had changed. A lot has changed – and it’s not just about being in love, getting married, moving out of the country, being out of a job, playing a housewife or eventually coming back. Life and style can no more be just about me. Considering all the ridiculous things I’ve written so far and how my frame of reference has changed both internally and externally, I do need a better parking space.