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Thursday, 24 December 2015

Boycott! Boycott!

At the time of going to the press, the ongoing debate on Intolerance that has seized India has morphed into a never ending debate on intolerance! What started as a mark of protest by returning awards by eminent men of arts and literature dubbed #AwardWapsi, moved on to celebrities reinforcing the views of rise in intolerance during what I call the seminar season fever which grips the lawns and studios of Lutyen’s Delhi. The last on this has not been heard yet and one wonders what will be the next manner of ‘protest’ against rising intolerance will be, and when, and by whom. This has thus far been the narrative from the blue corner of people christened the #AdarshLiberals. A euphemism for Left Liberal thoughts and ideology which has held centre stage in India ever since.......well forever!


The counter narrative coming from the red corner is the rightwing ideology which has supposedly found a robust voice especially since the swearing in of the Narendra Modi led govt. This set of voices collectively answers to the nomenclature bestowed by the people in the Blue Corner on them, #Bhakts. There are synonyms like #HindutvaBrigade, #Sanghis but by consensus among the keyboard warriors, especially the 140 characters based ones, the first mentioned is the overwhelming winner! The popular mode of counter protest from this corner has been to accuse the Blue Corner or in some cases proving the accusations thrown at them wrong!


Where is the money?


I refrain from taking you through the flashback which started a few months ago which featured among others the rival warriors sparring over Church attacks, Beef Consumption, Bihar Elections, Go to Pakistan, Gau Mata etc which is well known to all of us. Where I would like to take you instead is to the latest salvo fired by the #Bhakts brigade. Loosely called the #Boycott Movement wherein the supporters of the RW has targeted the celebrities who they have a difference of opinion with by.........not buying! Or propagating boycott of products/services endorsed by the people who have supported the #AdarshLiberals point of view. Three such instances which grabbed headlines were the Aamir Khan/Snapdeal, Shah Rukh Khan/Dilwale and Barkha Dutt’s book. People were encouraged to uninstall the App of the online retailer Snapdeal who featured Aamir as their brand ambassador. Online and offline forums campaigns asked people not to see the latest Shah Rukh release Dilwale. Last but not the least, protesters logged on to Amazon where Barkha Dutt’s book was on sale and gave it negative reviews. In short the attempt was made by the protesters to hit where it hurt. The wallet, the bank balance!

Not so "quiet" at the Amazon Forum!



While the jury is still out on the outcome of the boycott but what did raise eyebrows was the cry of bloody murder from the blue corner. The protest was branded not only unfair but also suppression of freedom of expression. The rejoinder took me by surprise to say the least. As long as it was peaceful it was absolutely legitimate on the part of the protesters to give voice to their freedom of expression which the campaign to boycott the above celebrities was. If you think I am being unreasonable in my assessment or I am not being fair in judging the protests, then let take you to our middle school history text book. Does Swadeshi Movement or Dandi March ring any bells? In case you joined in late, the Swadeshi Movement was all about boycotting products made by the British companies at the cost of Indian weavers, artisans and ilk. The Dandi March was against the British monopoly of manufacturing and selling Salt in India. While many a protest/demonstrations led by Mahatma Gandhi targeted the political edifice of the Raj, these two were an example of hitting where it hurt. The Wallet, the bank balance!

Boycott!





Those who quote Mahatma Gandhi at the drop of a hat must learn to ‘tolerate’ when a little bit of ‘Gandhigiri’ is directed back at them!

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PS: While at it protesters, don’t ever ever forget the first lesson in ‘Gandhigiri’, non violence. You lose and you lose my support if you exceed this brief however right you may be!

Glossary: 

Gandhigiri : Popular term for Gandhism triggered by a Bollywood film.

      

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Is Media a Sucker?


Or are these lazy moghuls playing the game?

I believe when the majority of the electorates voted in the General Elections in 2014, they voted with a one worried eye on their wallets. I am not referring to cadres or members of political parties but to the general unaffiliated voters. Truth is one can never win elections only on the back of cadres and members, at least not in a fair election, not in India, not yet.

Just to refresh our collective memories, if we remember the primary discourse during the elections was development colourfully described as Achhe Din or Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas mentioned in more details here.




I am is a Salesman trying to earn an honest bread. I equate Achhe Din with receipt of fairly decent and steady orders, growth in my business, faster collection of receivables and customers visiting if not thronging the stores to buy without me having to resort to offering never before discounts. As a result of the above, hopefully an increment and the confidence to invest in long term asset building products. If the above are the benchmarks, then I am sorry the Achhe Din hasn’t arrived for me yet. I expect many to proclaim that it takes much longer time to correct "60 years of misgovernance". However my expectations are not some lofty scenario of customers queuing up at stores but a nominal movement upwards to clear my inventory and a sense of assurance to produce further. Sorry I don't see that happening. Ennui persists.

That brings me to the topic of this note. The primary discourse that I notice if we are to glance at the Media headlines or twitter trends gives me an impression that the media has been given a sucker punch. Beef Ban, communal polarization, reservation have been the focus of its attention. This is just what the Govt would have wanted! I am not discounting any of these issues and should be rightly highlighted and discussed but don't we know every election season from time immemorial in India communal polarization has been attempted and often achieved, political party no bar? Wasn't ban on beef in the rulebooks of most govts for decades? Aren't we aware that no Government worth its salt can do away with Reservation? And yet every statement, every event, every occasion is being projected as a threat to the very Idea of India. Sorry! The Idea of India is not so fragile that a few hotheads can usurp and destroy it.



Instead of debating and asking questions on hard issues like the economy, the media has swallowed the bait thrown by the proponents of disruption. I would like the media to ask the Govt where is the black money that was to have been recovered. Where is the growth that will put more money in my wallet? Where are the jobs? Where are the investments on the ground? What happened to GST? Why isn't the govt able to manage a miniscule opposition and ensure functioning of the parliament? Instead of asking tough and relevant questions, the media is being taken on a ride by disruptive discourse and they are following it like the mice did to Pied piper! And in many cases the media themselves have been digging at molehills in the hope of unearthing a mountain. The focus, instead of being on the Govt's performance or the lack of it, is on social media trolls!

I concede many of the relevant questions mentioned above have been asked and continue to be. But even a lay observer will agree the consistency with which media has chased these issues when compared to the shrill decibels and airtime/newsprint allocated to 'constructive' issue of the escapades of a certain Indrani Mukherjea has been zilch!

The Nation wants to know?


Lastly, if we agree on the above premise, then the question asking to be begged is why is the media so doing? My view is the media is not investing sufficient time, money and mind to research questions which can make the govt uncomfortable while answering in a promise vs delivery debate. And more likely, TRP and Circulation not to forget clicks are easier achieved by airing emotional and divisive issues than hard hitting constructive ones. The media is following the Pied Piper because it wants to. Media is being taken for a sucker because it has allowed itself to be so! 

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PS: After overcoming the tyranny of distance for a case of ‘national’ importance, Indrani Mukherjea, and conveniently forgetting the devastating floods in the vicinity possibly due to it being only of ‘local’ importance, thus spake every media rockstar  “Does Indrani Mukherjea case deserve so much of attention?”

Glossary:
Achhe Din : Happy Days
Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas : Development for all, with all.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Heaven at a Bargain

It was anticipated. I mean for a person who was a virtual vegetable for the past one year or so it was quite expected that the curtains will be drawn anytime now. And as a mark of respect or the pressure to act as per societal norms ensured that a trip was taken to meet him for the last time before the moment overtook us. As expected and dare I say the much awaited moment arrived and the Father-in-law took his leave from the world of the mortals. Surprisingly despite the advance notice of the inevitable, tears were shed by the progenies of the man.

The basic formalities post his demise went with clockwork precision. The death certificates, the ambulance, the electric crematorium were a breeze except for the arrangement of the man who stood between us and the departed soul in search of moksham! The Shastrigal of course! With the ‘family’ Panditji being away from town, a mini hunt was launched to find a substitute who would fill in and one was duly identified. However there was so much ground to be covered before the stand-in-Pundit would take up the responsibility. Firstly came out his ‘menu’. Basic Package @ Rs.X, Special Package @ Rs.X+ and finally the Premium Package @ Rs X++! The various packages were presented with such skills that the salesman in me was impressed. The sales pitch further had punch dialogues (“One must not be miserly when it comes to the last rites of one’s father. Don’t you want him to attain Vaikuntham?” Welcome!) No prizes for guessing that the suckers fell for the sales pitch. It was then left to a senior citizen in the family to negotiate the special ‘End of Season’ discount. Post a back and forth which made sabziwala/behenji scene seem like a child’s play the deal was struck and the swarga yatra began in right earnest post the exchange of crisp currency!

Basic or Premium?

If we thought with that we had reserved a berth for the old man in heaven, we were wrong. As in a discount sale so in life, never ignore the *Conditions Apply written deliberately in so small a font that you need a magnifying glass to comprehend. To cut the story short, the Package amount was only the fees while all the samagri needed to perform the rites were not part of the standard product. They needed to be paid for separately. The Shastrigal gallantly offering to procure them from his ‘regular’ store at an attractive discount! The proceedings moved ahead post the exchange of currency yet again.

*Conditions Apply

Over the next 13 days, the rites were performed as per the direction of this expert. On the last day of the event, the Shastriji proceeded to give us a sermon. The ‘meaning’ of the rites indulged in were explained. Most of us weary folks by then were ready to get on with life. The Shastriji however was in no mood to let go. “What we have just completed are the initial rites which will ensure swargam for the departed soul. However there remains a ‘monthly’ karyam for the first year and then an ‘annual’ do which will ensure a happy stay for the departed soul in heaven!” Thus spake the sagely Panditji. And post this monologue we awaited the inevitable. The Pandit didn’t disappoint us. “Basic Package @ Rs.X, Special Package @ Rs.X+ and finally the Premium Package @ Rs X++!” He said!
 
AMC Available!

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PS: To satisfy your curiosity, the family decided to part with more crisp currency!

Glossary:
Moksham/Vaikuntham/Swargam : Heaven
Sabziwala/Behenji : Vegetable vendor and a homemaker
Yatra : Journey
Karyam : Vedic rites
Samagri : Articles for conducting the rites
Panditji/Shastrigal : The Hindu Priest


Thursday, 27 August 2015

Happy Streets!

Queue for that bargain sale?

Any guesses what the above picture is all about? No, it is not the crowd of Diwali shoppers at Ranganathan St. or Gariahat Junction. No, this is not Ahmedabad either where people have queued up demanding reservation. It is also not those routine ‘Run for…..’ marathons which are dime a dozen these days. What you see is one of the busiest traffic junctions in one of the fastest growing cities in India. It is the Diwan Bahadur Road/Thiruvengada Swamy Road junction in R.S.Puram, Coimbatore. It is a picture of Happy Streets!


An initiative of Times Of India Group and Coimbatore Police, Happy Streets is a programme wherein no vehicular traffic is allowed on the stretch covering the two streets between 7 AM to 10 AM on Sunday! It is an initiative to get citizens to walk that extra mile. An initiative to let people realize what they were missing. A Traffic, noise, stress and parking woes free roads!
A 'normal' Coimbatore street! 

You know the initiative is a hit when your children wake up on their own on a Sunday morning  at 6 AM! As it has been the case with many a household in Coimbatore ever since Happy Streets happened. You know the citizen support the initiative when polite notices and barricades asking people to cooperate by leaving their vehicles behind or take a diversion are adhered to with a smile. You know the programme is a success when the otherwise choc-a-bloc streets are free of honking cars, indisciplined bikers criss crossing or the arguments over parking are missing.

Look Mamma! I am climbing ladders!

You know you are onto a good thing when the above are replaced by a buzz! Buzz of human voices, chirp of children and an occasional ‘thwak’ of bat hitting the ball or a crescendo of a Laughter Club!

Cricket, Football Same Same!


Or showcase struggling art forms!

Silambattam!

Can we ever be away from music and dance? Never!!

Dandia minus the danda!

Or simply give the Taekwando School a miss for a day. Only the school not Takewando!

Hooo Haaa!
Happy Street for us and Happy Street for them too. They would approve of Happy Hours too if it meant this!

Thank You Sir!

I am told this is not so unique an initiative, other cities also have or had such a programme. If such is the case, bravo Coimbatore for having joined the club. And if not, I hope other cities emulate the same. The sheer thrill of letting your hair down on the main roads far removed from the chaos that the streets witness is indeed a unique, relaxing and a refreshing experience.

One sore point though. While the citizen enjoyed the Happy Streets, what they left behind didn't leave a happy feeling. At least not for the folks in the picture below. Don't we owe them a Happy Street too Coimbatore?

Not So Happy Streets for them!

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 PS: How I wish there were some thought provoking street plays too? C'mon Coimbatore! Streets are here, get in the play portion. Make the Happy Streets, Happier Streets!

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

When I grow up, I will.....

“What I want to be when I grow up?” I am sure none of us have escaped from this question. At least those of us who have had the good fortune of going to school and receiving some sort of a formal education.  This is possibly the most popular and oft repeated essay topic in primary schools of India. I was terrorized by it too. And like most of you reading this “I want to become a Doctor!” is possibly the most frightful chestnut, with the Engineers making it to a distant second in the list! (I am yet to see any child wanting to be a Cricketer or a singer or a social worker but then I digress!) However much I tried dodging the above question, I couldn’t. Not when the question carried 10 marks! The tryst with this question ended rather quickly for those lucky souls who didn’t have the ignominy of being selected to represent your school in elocution competition like yours truly was. On these occasions one had to have a loftier ambition as ‘suggested’ by the Class Teacher and I ended up as the Prime Minister on one occasion and a Nelson Mandela on the other! I also was a Soldier wanting to “save Mother India” on a few instances. By the time I was about to pass out from school the teachers after having a good look at me, my essay and my mark sheets, repeat, repeat once more,  ended up doing what the children now-a-days describe  as “lol” and “RoFL”! To cut the comedy short, I had no clue what I wanted to be and what I would eventually become. After meandering aimlessly through the college canteens and ‘cutting-class-to-watch-QSQT’ I suddenly grew up. A mandatory degree and a perfunctory PG later ended up running around like a lost ant ‘bechu da’!  

Those who know me personally and have been sending those “Happy Birthday Mate!” messages on Facebook would be quite surprised to be reading this note. I am sure they would be wondering why should somebody who is already well into his 2nd innings of his life be thinking what I want to be when I grow up? I agree. For those who came in late, I am indeed in that phase of my life where I have graduated from being  a Shahid Afridi (See the ball and Maaro!), moved past being Virendra Sehwag (Method behind the madness) to presently being in the Rahul Dravid Zone (Outside off, don’t take risk, Leave it!) A stage where the time I have already lived is likely to be more than the time I have at my disposal to live. A time when most kids address me as ‘uncle’ rather than the ‘anna’ that I had always been. A time when a dash of philosophy is permitted; nay expected of me.

It is not so much about money alone any more. I mean, of course I need money. Truckloads of it! I still have a long way to secure the future of two Indian citizens I have been blessed with. However I now have a craving for something more than these alone. The above are a chore, a responsibility, must be carried out and will be carried out. What I am now looking forward to is stop being an automaton and for a change live the life too! Today is as good a day to possibly share with you as to what I would like to do with this one life of mine. Believe me it didn’t take me any effort to jot down this list. If I have to think as to what to do and it is not top of my mind then I am most likely to be cheating myself and you. So here goes……..

I promise to myself this day that I will sing. As much as I can. Whenever I can. Whatever #SongPlayingOnMyMind. Whether anyone likes it or not! I will sing. For life. For me!

I promise I will not die till I master reading and writing my mother tongue Tamizh/Tamil. And I refuse to die till I have read every nugget written by Mahakavi Subramania Bharathi and devour Kalki’s epic Ponniyin Selvan.

 I promise to keep myself fit and healthy. As a regular blood donor I owe this to myself and to some needy soul somewhere that I am always in a position to do so till I live. And once the umpire up there raises his dreaded finger on me to signal I am out, I want to my mortal remains to be put to use for the benefit of my fellow travelers I leave behind. Hope my heart will beat in somebody’s bosom and my eyes will continue to see this beautiful world. 

They will continue to see the beautiful world...... 

May be it was planned. Maybe it was just a coincidence. May be it is my destiny. Whatever it may be. For whatever time I have left with me on this earth, I promise to live up to the name given to me by  parents! Anand! I promise to be happy. I promise to spread happiness!

Anand!


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I don’t think I can write the Post Script to this note. One of you would possibly have to do it. Only I am sure you will call it an Obituary whenever it is written, if at all!  

Glossary
Bechu Da : Kolkata slang for Salesmen
Maaro : Hit!
Anna : Brother

Anand : Happy/Happiness

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

The Bad, The Good, The Best


The Bad:

I had written about this earlier in these pages. Despite my intention not to repeat the same I am compelled to. Pilgrimages to holy shrines/sites in India often call for an arduous trek across difficult terrain.  The period of penance before the actual trek is supposedly designed to train you to meet the ordeal. And any discomfort beyond the said training is mitigated by the holy chants that you call out during the trek. For example “Jai Mata Di” at Vaishnao Devi or a series of chants viz, “Swamiye Sharanam Ayyappa” as in this case at Sabarimalai. Since I had undergone the prescribed penance for 41 days I thought I was fairly ready to take in my stride anything the trek threw at me. What transpired however was so difficult that thanks to the handiwork of the Travancore Devaswom Board I just could not get my mind together to chant the Lord’s name beyond a measly few times. Instead the entire trek was made doubly difficult as I could not take my mind away from cursing the Travancore Devaswom Board for reasons best described here!

The Good:

For someone who has spent a substantial period of my life on the banks of the majestic Ganga river in Kolkata and the subsequent experience of seeing mere rivulets masquerading as rivers aka Noyyal in Coimbatore or Thamaraparani in Tirunelveli, to witness with horror what were once rivers being reduced to the status of the world’s largest open sewage lines today viz., Coouam in Chennai, it came as a very very pleasant; nay pleasing experience to take a dip in the Pampa at the foothills of Sabari Hills as is the prescribed practise. The Holy Pampa fed with sumptuous rains rushing and gushing frothily to wash away my sins as is the belief. Whatever the belief, the swelling river with crystal clear water was a sight for sore eyes!

Washing away my sins.....Pampa!


The Best:

Recently I came across a discussion on the microblogging site Twitter about the performance of Indians at the just concluded Wimbledon. A certain Tweep had commented that the three Indian winners at the various events at SW19 Amit Nagal (Boys Doubles), Sania Mirza (Ladies Doubles) and Leander Paes (Mixed Doubles) represented the reiteration of a secular India wherein the three winners represented Hindu, Muslim and Christian faiths. The comment lead to criticism from many, including yours truly, that why should one drag religion into an event where it has absolutely no role to play. Since India’s is a secular society why should one keep harping on the religion of the people/personalities went the argument. The counter posed by many to this was that while the primary DNA pattern of an Indian is Secular, it was however necessary to keep celebrating this element in us as a guard lest complacency set in and this unique but critical feature of the Idea of India be compromised. I remembered the discussion as I stood before Saint Vavar’s Shrine at the Sannidhanam of the Sabarimalai Temple. Vavar was a Muslim warrior from Arabia who went on to become, post his loss in a battle with Lord Ayyappa, a leader in the Lord’s Army and his loyal devotee says the legend. So deep was the love between the Lord and his Muslim devotee that the legend further says that the Lord asked the King of Panthalam, his earthly abode to build a temple for Vavar which duly came up at Erumely, the starting point of the trek to Sabarimalai. A Muslim Shrine in one of the holiest Hindu Temples! If this amazes you, you haven’t heard it all yet! Read on............

A Shrine of a Muslim at one the Holiest Hindu Temples!

Lullaby to the Lord, Only  K J Yesudas!


Among the various rituals that are practised in Hindu temples are the waking up of the God/Goddess as the case may be (Suprabhatam), bathing (Abhishekam), feeding (Neivedhyam) and post the darshan putting the god to sleep (Mangalam). This practise of ritually putting the Lord to sleep at Sabarimalai is done by singing the lullaby called the Harivarasanam. As I stood with thousands of other devotees all around the Ponnambalam to watch the rituals, the air was filled with the melodious and divine singing of the Harivarasanam on the public address system by one of India’s greatest singers, K J Yesudas. As his name suggests, Yesudas, Servant of Jesus, born as and till date a practising Christian! True to this spirit, Sabarimalai is a temple which is run on the principle of religion no bar!

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Glossary:
Sannidhanam : Sanctum Sanctorum

Ponnambalam : Golden Temple

Saturday, 20 June 2015

I Looove Road Trips!

Vajpayee Highways!
My enthusiasm for road trips started only after what I consider is one of the best infrastructure projects in India, the Golden Quadrilateral popularly known as ‘The Vajpayee Highways’ came into being. Driving on these are a pleasure and a peace and a primary reason for the title of this note! I agree the toll rates are steep but then I am a firm believer in the dictum that there are no free meals. I would happily pay if I get world class service. It would have been apt had Tobay Maguire mouthed “With great roads come greater toll tax!”

No free meals!



The primary advantage of Road Trips is the sheer convenience it offers by way of the start time- halt time- end time. Well known is the fact that it saves you the bother of depending on flight and train schedules. You can start the trip from Coimbatore to time your breakfast at Adayar Anandha Bhavan just off Salem and your lunch at home in Bangalore with a tea/smoke break thrown in at Krishnagiri. I am sure you can plan a similar Start-Pit stop-Chequered Flag routine from whichever city you start and propose to end.
Pit Stop at A2B Krishnagiri


Road trips often save you from absurdities too. As someone who often finishes his day in Electronic City, Bangalore and have to go to back to Chennai I find it faster to reach Meenambakkam Airport in Chennai by road than reaching Bangalore International Airport, Devanahalli to catch a flight to Chennai!

Road Trips are cheaper too. For example ticket prices for a family of 4 by 2nd AC from Coimbatore to Bangalore or by flight are likely to be in the vicinity of Rs.2500.00 to Rs.15000.00 respectively. Add to it the taxi fares for Airport/Station pick-up and drops! The same by car including the toll on the way is likely to cost around Rs.3000.00 in a self driven car. Cheaper if your vehicle is fuelled by CNG or Diesel!
Move over Buddh International and F1!


Here is another. Going to Mysore from Coimbatore? Would you prefer to drive down via Satyamangalam directly to Mysore? Or would you prefer a drive to Coimbatore Airport- Flight to Bangalore-Drive to Mysore? The former would take you about 6 hours and the latter almost the same depending of the flight schedules and at possibly 5 times the cost! Now Tell!!!

Then again you can save money by not checking in to a hotel or check in late depending on when your work is completed. I mean start early from Bangalore, hit to work in Chennai straight, if finished on time, return back the same evening/night. If not check in into a hotel late and save on tariffs. And most importantly save yourselves from being under the mercy of the Chennai Autowallahs! Clincher!

Road trips are supposedly not very women friendly especially with reference to ‘PissStop’ is the oft quoted criticism. My own experience while on road trips with family is quite to the contrary. Most highway hotels and eateries nowadays have toilet facilities. In fact for some of these places the presence of toilets is the primary USP and the food subsequent! On most trips we have never been more than 15-20 minutes away from a convenient place for the womenfolk to relieve themselves. And if the womenfolk reading this are blessed with bladders which cannot hold on for even 15-20 minutes then sorry to say they shouldn’t go on any trip let alone road trips. Except maybe the trip from their drawing room to the washroom!

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PS: While most of what is have written above is universally applicable, the part referring to loo breaks for women is based entirely on our experience during road trips in South India, especially Tamilnadu and Karnataka! "Jahan Soch wahan Shauchalay" is still some distance away in many other states I am told!

Only Soch, Where Shauchalay?


Hope  likes my rejoinder. Thanks  

Thursday, 28 May 2015

History!

(Statutory Warning: History wasn't made in a day. Neither can it be written in 400 words. Indulge me!)

Part I

My hands shook. A shiver ran down my spine as I signed the documents without the usual flourish. The deed was done and the company was now my baby. As I shook hands with it erstwhile 'owners' I suddenly remembered Tobay Maguire mouthing "With great power comes great responsibility"! A smile escaped me as I recollected the difficult hand that fate had dealt me, "No power, only great responsibilities"!

My father had started the company a few decades ago. Despite the cliche, it was a story of rags-to-riches. A poverty stricken school dropout who pushed ice candy vehicle to make both ends meet, through hard work, determination and a dose of luck ended up creating one of the largest and well respected ice cream companies in the region. As often is with the mollycoddled children of self made men, I had no enthusiasm to assist him in the business or succeeding him on the same. Despite his objections, I packed locks, stocks and barrels to peruse my heart around the globe promising never to return. As often is with self made men who have achieved whatever they wanted to and retire to sedate life, my father leased out the company to a prominent businessman in the city and entered into a virtual sanyasam.

Nothing enthused me to look back in life or the home I had left behind and nothing could. Or so I thought. Till one day I was summoned back by my frantic cousin upon the unfortunate murder of my recluse father. Even the bohemian in me could not stop me from returning home. A son after all has to perform his father's kriya-karam. At least that's what the religion said so. However what prompted my journey back home more was the intrigue behind the murder of someone who had no enemies; nay couldn't have any enemies. Not my father! As I boarded the flight the only thoughts I had was to lay my father to eternal rest and to get to the bottom of the mystery and bring the culprits to justice.

The first part was easily done albeit among tears that I thought I was incapable of shedding. The second part was however a nightmare. Like a thriller novel or a Bollywood potboiler, the more I learnt about the murder the less I knew about the truth. From corrupt policemen to professional mercenaries. Greed, double-cross, threats, money power, muscle power, political interference. I encountered everything.

The lessees had double crossed my father. The lease of the Ice Cream factory was nothing but an excuse to usurp the prime factory land for profiteering by diversifying into real estate. The existing and thriving business was first drained of its equity. Product quality was sacrificed. Productions was gradually reduced. Payments to suppliers of raw material were delayed leading many to go bankrupt. Customer complaints fell to deaf ears. Even as the once robust business was being bled to death, its workers reduced to penury, the lessors kick started the plans to develop the factory compound into a township. Excellent public relation skills backed with greasing of the palms that mattered ensured them the bragging rights of being knights in shining armour! Till they came face to face with the hitch, my father. He was still the owner of the company! Nothing could progress on the diversification front without his consent. When requests, allurements and threats proved futile, a plan was hatched to murder him and do business instead with his bohemian son, me!

While nothing could finally be pinned on any of the perpetrators or their sponsors, a long and messy legal skirmish later, I rightfully got back the ownership of the company, with its dwindling assets and mounting liabilities, further compounded by the terms of settlement with the lessors to vacate.

Part II

The only overriding theme of the next few month is best summarized in two words: NO MONEY! No money to pay the suppliers, no money to pay the workers, no money to modernize the factory, no money to produce, no money to revamp the brand, no money to win back the customers, no money to fight the competition! Impatient suppliers threatening to sell the company's assets to recover their dues, immature albeit impoverished workers threatening to go on strike for their rights, carpetbaggers hovering around in the vicinity to profit from misery and destructively selfish competition indulging in below the belt warfare to expand their new found turf. As the situation threatened to turn turtle, my cousin dived headlong into the cesspool to bail me out, to assist me, to save me. My Cousin! My partner, my brother-in-arms, my saviour! As I got down to first rescue and then resuscitate the factory, the product, the production, the building blocks of the business, He managed the warring workers, the greedy suppliers and the nasty competition. Together we set about to bring back the company to its pristine glory. Together we invested every minute of our time, every unit of energy and every penny we had as mortgage to raise capital from banks as well as shylocks.

Gradually the wheels started turning. A new plant replaced the earlier ruins. Fancy variants were dumped and the core products which acted as food supplements given a fillip. Impromptu tactics were dumped for long term organized growth. Innate suppliers were given the confidence to invest in the company not for immediate profits but for life long gain. The need for mutual cooperation for immediate survival and a promise of future prosperity rallied the workers around. Responsible and meritorious candidates were identified, promoted and the market was approached with a single minded determination to win back the customers, consumers and market share. However just when things seemed to have turned for the better tragedy struck. My partner, my brother, my right hand died!

If there was a time to cry, this was not that time. Not beyond the two tears shed in private. The world couldn't be allowed to see me in distress, shouldn't be. Not when the dark clouds were still surrounding us. Confidence should not be allowed to deflate. Confidence of the workers, the investors, the customers, the stake holders! I buried my anguish and dived headlong again into troubled waters. I now had to complete the journey that we had started together. Alone! And I must reach the destination. For me and for him, for us!! I tried to double up for him too. I sincerely tried. I was successful sometimes and not so on others. But I kept trying, kept plugging.

As years rolled by things gradually started to improve for the company. Gone were the initial years of self doubts, the fear of failure, the clouds of total disintegration and  demise. Replaced as it was with a confidence of a survivor graduating to that of a winner. Reinforced was the sense of belonging, of ownership. Belts were tightened for the long haul. Temporary setbacks taken into strides and every success cherished and celebrated. New milestones replacing the ones achieved earlier. Though the company still has miles to go, as I bid good bye to this world, I go in peace. I know I have laid the foundation for the generations to follow. To build an impregnable company which will bring prosperity, security and happiness to everyone associated with it. Despite warts and glitches that we will continue to come across, the fundamental values of the company are in safe hands, its stake holders!


Part III

Long years ago we made the tryst with destiny and now the time comes when we will redeem our pledge........... At the stroke of midnight while the world sleep, India will awake to life and freedom!...... My hands shook. A shiver ran down my spine as I signed the documents without the usual flourish. The deed was done and the company was now my baby......

Indian nationalism is the nationalism of an idea of an ever-ever land, emerging from an ancient civilization, shaped by a shared history by pluralistic democracy....... My father had started the company a few decades ago.....

In 1612, James I instructed Sir Thomas Roe to visit Mughal Emperor Jahangir to arrange a commercial treaty that would give the company exclusive rights......The mission was highly successful.......... my father leased out the company to a prominent businessman in the city.......

The Battle of Plassey was a decisive victory of the British East India Company on 23, June, 1757. The Battle established the Company rule in Bengal which expanded over much of India..........The lessees had double crossed my father. The lease of the Ice Cream factory was nothing but an excuse to usurp the prime factory land for profiteering by diversifying into real estate.......


thriving business was first drained of its equity

The Indian Independence Act 1947 received Royal assent on 18 July, 1947 India came into being on 15 August..... a long and messy legal skirmish later, I rightfully got back the ownership of the company.....

The Partition of India led to the creation of Pakistan.......further compounded by the terms of settlement with the lessors to vacate......

On 22 October 1947, Muslim tribal militias and irregular Pakistani forces crossed the border of the state.........carpetbaggers hovering around in the vicinity to profit from misery and destructively selfish competition indulging in below the belt warfare to expand their new found turf.........

Sardar Patel will be remembered as a great captain of our forces as a tower of strength which revived wavering hearts.......And just when things seemed to have turned for the better tragedy struck. My partner, my brother, my right hand died.......

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC. IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION...... I buried my anguish and dived again headlong into troubled waters. I now had to complete the journey that we had started together. Alone! And I must reach the destination. For me and for him, for us........

Since 1947, the Indian economy has been premised on the concept of planning. This has been carried through the Five-Year Plans, developed, executed, and monitored by the Planning Commission.....  Impromptu tactics were dumped for long term organized growth........

      A new plant replaced the earlier ruins!
meritorious candidates were identified!

He spoke to the doctors who attended on him for a brief while and almost immediately Nehru collapsed. He remained unconscious until he passed away. His death was announced to Lok Sabha at 14:00 local time on 27 May 1964......Though the company still has miles to go, as I bid good bye to this world, I go in peace. I know I have laid the foundation for the generations to follow........

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PS:Those were extraordinary times! They were extraordinary men. Extraordinary yes, but men nonetheless!

Glossary:
Sanyasam : Renunciation
Kriya-karam : Last rites.



Monday, 25 May 2015

God's own country?

Yet another road trip to Kerala. And yet again surprised to see the speed with which the Palakkad-Thrissur highway is being completed. And yet again disappointed with the Coimbatore-Palakkad stretch where the work is at a standstill. Suffices to say that while the Walayar-Thrissur stretch (barring a few measly kilometers) is ready enough for the Toll Booths to be under trials, the TN portion is possibly awaiting the post release attention of Amma! Yet again Kerala 1, Tamilnadu 0!

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While it engulfs most of the country can Kerala remain untouched by it? The overstretched Aluva-Kochi highway, thanks to the Kochi Metro Rail under construction, presents a double whammy with what I think is the most successful Mall in India, Lulu Mall. The overcrowded choc-a-bloc Mall on a weekday afternoon suggests not so Achche Din for the friendly neighbourhood mom-n-pop stores!

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At Rs.500.00 for 12 hours, Kochi must be the city with the cheapest Driver-On-Hire rates!

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The Business Hotel I check into in Kochi doesn't subscribe for the channels broadcasting the IPL. The Adidas stores here don't sell RCB jerseys nor do the Reebok stores the CSK ones. God's own football country?

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Hunt for Puttu Kadala Curry!
 My adventures in Kochi included a hunt for puttu-kadala curry breakfast. Most restaurants either don't serve them at all or they make sooooo little quantities leading to stockout before the breakfast hour. No takers for what is the traditional breakfast says the F&B Manager of a leading restaurant on the tony M G Road, Ernakulam. Finally it takes a 'thattukkada' run by Tamils from Tirunelveli, on one of the bye lanes to dish out this divine delicacy!

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Heritage experience @ budget prices!

Next time you are in Thrissur for a stay, check out the Guruprasad Heritage Hotel just off the Swaraj Round. Tastefully done facade and equally ethnic decor of the rooms give you the feeling of living in one of those not so opulent but yet dripping with history palaces of the Kerala Kings. And they subscribe to channels broadcasting IPL too! However be ready to pay cash only. "We have opened this hotel 'just' a few month ago and are yet to sign up with credit card companies informs the front office manager. And he was serious!

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Pooram Festival @ Vadakkumnathan Temple!


A few hundred meters away from the hotel is the ancient and majestic Vadakkumnathan Temple. The same temple, famous world over and not so famous all over India, for the Thrissur Pooram. (For those who came in late, famous world over enough to prompt an uninformed/part informed Pamela Andersson to tweet accusing the temple authorities of causing torture to elephants. Welcome!) The annual festival of the temple renowned for the Chenda Melam/Chenda Vadhyam and the herds of majestic elephants decorated with the wondrous Sriveli! My visit a week post the Pooram celebrations this year suggests that the event was an extremely successful one and the 'Swachch Bharat Abhiyan' is yet to take roots in Thirussur!


Chenda Melam/Vadhyam

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Post clearing up my work for the day by early evening, I decide to take a leisurely walk across to the Temple. And I witness a series of small gatherings in the park that circles the temple. Curiosity makes me take a look. And I see sets of people playing and the circle of crowd making up the spectators. What IPL, even football has severe competition coming its way from people playing rummy under the early evening sky! 

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Queue outside Bevco!

Darshan of the God done, a tremendous downpour stops me from walking back to my hotel. After waiting it out for close to an hour and with the rain showing no signs of easing, I decide to hire an auto for the 500 odd meters distance. Autorickshaw after autorickshaw refused the ride. Even an offer to pay "whatever money you want" doesn't enthuse one person to accept. Finally I decide to risk catching a cold and decide to walk the distance. A few meters done, I notice a queue of autorickshaws sans the drivers lined up. Closer scrutiny shows the drivers are all lined up at the counter of the friendly neighbourhood BEVCO outlet!

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For a state which heavily depends for revenues from tourism (repatriation of petro $ from 'Gelf' apart), striking is the quality or the lack of service. Exceptions of the expensive variety apart Kerala has given 'Athithi Devo Bhava' a miss too! For a state where just getting out of your room/house takes you to a veritable picnic spot, if only its people delivered a service which its tourism development promos promised............sigh!

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And speaking of service, one set of people in Kerala who give you the best-in-the-world variety of it are the lottery ticket vendors. They are everywhere, everytime, anytime. At your throats. Delivering service even when you don't need it!!!

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Move over FritoLays!
One Kerala specialty which has now been usurped and improved upon is the 'Nendranga Chips'. By the people of Coimbatore no less! Kerala 0, TN 1!

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PS: Unlike Kerala and indeed rest of India, the autowallahs of Tamilnadu never refuse a ride. They just quote their price which gives you the pleasure of saying no instead!

Glossary:

Amma : Nickname of the Chief Minister of Tamilnadu
Achche Din : 'Good Days'. A popular electoral slogan of the incumbent Govt of India
puttu-kadala : Traditional breakfast of Kerala of steamed rice cakes and Horse gram gravy
thattukkada: Roadside eatery
Swachch Bharat Abhiyan: Clean India Campaign
Autorickshaw: Three wheeled 'for hire' public transport
BEVCO : Govt of Kerala enterprise who is a monopoly retailer of liquor
Gelf : Malayalese for 'Gulf'
Athithi Devo Bhava : A Guest is God
Nendranga: A popular local variety of banana.
Sriveli : Decorations on and atop the temple elephants

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Money Ratnam!

The year was Circa 2000 AD, what was branded as the Millennium Year. As the new financial year was about to kick in, a time when we salesman types gather to commit to what is known as the 'Budget Meeting/Conference'  Given the fact that the year gone by was fairly successful one for the organization that we worked for the Auditorium in the Corporate Office was ditched and the jamboree was organized at a very well known holiday resort in Ooty. The resort then was a pioneer in the concept of Time-Share properties and was very 'upmarket'. The team gave a massive thumbs up to the management for treating us as something more than just sales data! The resort lived up to the hype. Far removed from the civilization of any type bang in the middle of the majestic Nilgiris range. PEACEFUL!. The rooms were neatly made up exuding comfort and warmth, very welcome in the cold climes. The gardens and landscape giving us paindoo types the feeling of being in ShangriLa! If there is Jannat on earth, it is here, it is here was the unanimous verdict.

Post settling down, the mandatory order for chai-n-pakoras was placed with the room service. And reality check started. Apparently the entire resort was manned by only 5-6 people to serve all the guests! Suffices to say the chai came so late that we assumed it was freshly plucked, processed and brewed exclusively for us. The pakoras we thought were being imported from Coimbatore a measly 60 odd KMs away! I also created a new record by buying packet of cigarettes for a princely  sum of Rs.250.00 while the going price for the same on the rest of the planet was a measly Rs.40.00!

We took the 'service' bravely, as bravely as maybe facing the West Indian fast bowlers on the Barbados pitch. And got on to the 'business' part of the visit. Post the initial 'hip-'hip-hurrahs' it was yours truly's responsibility to make my presentation. Barely was I past the 'Hi! Mates' when the over head projector started behaving as though it were hit by a cyclone. Once the staff were done with the Research & Development, it was decided that I was good enough to continue with the job on hand so what if the audience couldn't see my skills at Power Point. All of us have seen enough and more of these all our lives anyway! I resumed bravely with just audio to support me in my endeavor when the power failed. And the diesel for the generator was still sitting snugly in the gas station 20 kms away. The audience was temporarily denied of their entertainment and  lunch was hastily called. Lunch took a few hours coming and we all boarded the bus, conference aborted midway and resumed a day later at the auditorium at the Corporate office!


Not OK!

I had the same feeling as narrated above as I walked out of the cinema after watching O Kadhal Kanmani (OKK), the latest offering from Mani Ratnam. In business one is often quoted the dictum "Over promise, under deliver". Essentially a situation where you raise the expectations of a consumer for your product or service and then disappoint them with delivering below that benchmark. All the fluff, the window dressing, smart marketing and aggressive sales pitch, attractive offers is of zilch value when breakfast arrives at a time when you are preparing for your evening tea break!

Where are the Nayagan Days?
(For those who came in late, I am no expert on the cinema business, I am not even a Mani Ratnam regular. But I am what I am, a irregular film goer at best but a consumer. I spend my hard earned money and time to watch a film. And hence everything I say goes, for me. You may agree to disagree! Welcome) I have seen Mani Ratnam deliver classy and commercially successful films. Roja on the burning issue of terrorism in Kashmir which Bollywood had not even thought of  attempting then. I also liked Bombay which dealt with the communal couldron of those times. I liked Anjali where Ratnam showed us the trauma of a family with a mentally challenged child and showed us, the society the mirror. And then there was Nayagan, a biopic of giant proportion if there was one. I concede, Ratnam often compromised on certain elements due to commercial reasons, valid in a box office led business like any other. But he was bold, his stories relevant and timely, his scripts breaking new ground despite the compromises, introduced world class technicians and did Tamil cinema; nay Indian cinema proud. And then he made OKK! I might have peacefully sat through the film, maybe even enjoyed it if it were from a newbie filmaker. On the flip side I might not have even gone to watch it had it not been for brand Mani Ratnam. What OKK delivered was a fairly competent work from the actors on screen (Dulquer Salman and Nitya Menen are quite charming as the protagonists), brilliant cinematography by P C Sreeram, decently hummable tunes by A R Rahman. While his team delivered, Mani Ratnam disappoints. I would rather watch the rerun of his breezy Alaipayuthe made a decade+ ago! OKK! Brand Mani Ratnam over promises, under delivers! The film is supposedly delivering golden eggs at the box office.

 Money Ratnam indeed!


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PS: Nothing is heavier than the weight of expectations - Old Jungle Saying

Glossary:
Paindoo : Derogatory terms used to describe the 'villager' types.
Jannat : Heaven

chai-n-pakoras  : Tea & Tidbits

Friday, 3 April 2015

Why am I Secular?

I am an Indian first. As the Constitution of this country assures me we are a Secular country. And as a believer in this holy book, I am Secular. Not just because the constitution insists I should be but by choice. And as you have rightly guessed, I am very perturbed by the recent attacks on the secular fabric of this country by the Govt of the day. To quote just two of the recent attacks on this founding pillar of the Idea of India is the celebration of ‘Good Governance Day’ on 25th December and Eminent Jurists of the country being asked to have conferences on the extended weekend  that is Good Friday-Easter. Blasphemy! I object; nay I condemn these moves. How can this be permitted? It goes against the very grain of Indianness! How can anyone ask me or anyone to work during holy(i)days?? If you disagree with me, please look at the list attached below.

Bura na mano Holiday!

These are the designated list of Holidays for Central Govt employees approximately 25 odd days of  a year. Add to this the weekends ki chutti of 100+ days. Not to forget Casual leave, Sick Leave and leave for other ‘emergency’.  And to imagine someone wants us to work on holidays!


Apart from being a massive proponent of Secularism, I am also a big supporter of the other pillar that founds the Idea of India, Pluralism. Apart from the ‘National’ Holidays, I am also a strong supporter of ‘Regional’ Holidays. Glance at the list attached of the holidays in Tamil Nadu. This list of course is not universal and subject to vary from state to state. I am sure you get the drift!

Idea of India!


However if you are a fence sitter here is my last salvo. Apart from these list there are other ‘occasions’ which demand declaration of Holidays like elections to the municipal corporations, state assembly, Parliament, umpteen by elections etc. Should you be a resident of Bengal or Kerala, it is well within your right to demand 4-5 days of ‘Bandh’ or ‘Strike’.


So don’t dare anyone tamper with my secularism or pluralism. However should the ruling dispensation insist on converting India into a “Hindu Rashtra” the only way they can get me to support the idea is by declaring a holiday dedicated to every god and goddess! For those who came in late there are 'only' 330000000 Gods and Goddesses in the Hindu Pantheon!

When is merawala holiday?
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PS: If you wonder how will we make both ends meet in the Hindu Rashtra,well for starters I suggest the Govt convert my share of the black money which is going to be brought back into a special high yielding fixed deposit and transfer as EMIs into my Jan Dhan Bank Account! Achche Din are here after all!

Glossary:

Bura na mano Holiday : Don't mind it is a holiday!
Chutti : Holiday
Hindu Rashtra : Hindu Nation
Achche Din : Good Days!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Ooo Lala!



When I look back on my career as a gully cricketer eons ago, there are two players who have gone on to play the game in its highest form whom I identify with. I have already written about the

Boom Boom!



Start! 5th Gear! Vrooom!


Maaro!


I am Back!!