Of Cyclones and More- Mission Impossible

I was in Great Lakes Institute at Chennai for a conference. Against impossible odds, when Cyclone Thane (a Burmese name) threatened, we still managed a round of Golf at the Gymkhana early morning before it struck. Mission Impossible? Tom Cruise would be proud. Great Lakes justified its name, and looked like all the Lakes had converged on it. Conference went on quite well in spite of that.

One of the bonuses of a conference is you get to meet academic friends and others too. Both missions were fulfilled. Some interesting papers on advertising effectiveness came from presenters. Also squeezed in some movies, including Mission Impossible 4- The Ghost Protocol. Interesting concept, though not new. Tom Cruise is aging, but still watchable. But a better film was a video watch called Hotel Rwanda, about a brave manager at this hotel who saves many guests through his innovative thinking, during one of the usual civil wars/coups that are the bane of many African nations. Moving, with a very good acting quotient. Also had a glimpse of Woody Allen's 2011 film, Midnight in Paris, which has the hero, a budding author (played by Owen Wilson) doing time travel to a Paris of another era and meeting great authors and artists- Hemingway, Picasso, Scott Fitzgerald, Salvadore Dali, and in the process, discovering himself. Fantastic idea!

Airport Blog

A first for me- blogging from an airport internet connection. The first floor on Mumbai airport's domestic terminal. Seems like a damn good terminal, better than the one on the ground floor, which is congested. Making some strides towards an international look and feel, in some areas. The first flight from Nagpur was also surprisingly nice, and almost on time. While I wait for the next to Chennai, these are some musings on life at an airport, as felt first-hand. I am destined to spend a lot of time at airports, so might as well make the most of it.

Nagpur airport also has inaugurated its aerobridge recently, and the number of flights out of Nagpur has gone up too, with added connections to Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Srinagar (via Delhi) etc. Spicejet started flying to Nagpur, but Kingfisher seems to have stopped doing so.

Got to go check the food options.

Wit from Douglas Adams and Mark Twain

Here are some gems from two witty authors.

1. Mark Twain

Cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education.

Familiarity breeds contempt- and children.

2. Douglas Adams (from Salmon of Doubt, a collection of his works)

In the old Soviet Union, they used to say that anything that wasn't forbidden was compulsory, and the trick was to remember which was which.

You can't ignore someone who isn't there, because that's not what ignore means.

...and I discover that the reason why my wife isn't talking to me any more is that she is in fact married to someone else.

Am I alone in finding the expression "it turns out" to be incredibly useful? It allows you to make swift, succint and authoritative connections between otherwise randomly unconnected statements without the trouble of explaining what your source of authority actually is. It's great.

Music Arrangers and the Sound of Music

Times Now had an interesting program yesterday on the men behind the music, apart from the composer, of course. These are called arrangers. They may also play an instrument or two, but they form an integral part of the team that a composer uses, and lead it, so to speak. Some of the innovations in the music one hears are from the arrangers, though they may be behind the scenes, and you may never hear about them.

Maruti Keer, Kersi Lord, Manohari Singh,.. ever heard of them? They were all a part of the R.D. Burman team that produced magical numbers throughout the 70s and some in the 80s (and late 60s). The tinkling sound in the Hum Dono song Main Zindagi ka saath nibhaata chala gaya, was from an innovative instrument brought in by Kersi Lord (for Jaidev, the composer), which was used by church choirs, and brought in an element of novelty that charms you even today.

Similarly, the trumpets (or something similar) in some songs from Teesri Manzil, and the percussion used in 'Saamne ye Kaun Aaya Dil Mein Hui Hulchul' (Jawani Diwani) as also in 'Aaj Kal Tere Mere Pyaar ke Charche Har Zabaan par' (from Brahmachari composed by Shankar Jaikishan) lend a unique touch.

O.P. Nayyar and hoof-beats are almost synonymous with each other. Wonder who thought of those. Maybe it was one of the guys. Dum Maro Dum had a unique instrument that created the atmosphere of a drugged-out scene and became a rage. The tinkle of a glass in Chura Liya Hai Tumne Jo Dil Ko from Yaadon ki Baaraat was sensational. The drums in Laila Main Laila were likewise, superb (Kalyanji Anandji were the composers). Piano beats are part of what makes the song 'Pyaar Diwana hota hai Mastaana Hota Hai' so mesmerising.

There is a Child in Us

There is a child in all of us, peeping out of adulthood. It does not stand a chance when the adult self is dominant, which is most of the time. The compulsive urge of an adult is to not do things, whereas the child wants to do things, experiment and importantly, have fun. Also play hookey and do mischief, of course.

There are some occasions where the child in us adults comes out of its self-imposed seriousness, and lets go. It happens often while playing a game. All the natural instincts of a child are apparent- the joy of doing well, the disappointment of a bad shot, the friendly on-field banter and sometimes, even disagreements over fair play. Particularly so in tean games.

Ovia, a cultural activity team of IMT students, organised a fete last week in the tradition of Christmas school fetes we all had in school days. There were games of skill, chance and lots of food stalls with home-cooked food (there's also a chef in all of us!). Everyone had a lot of fun, and relived their childhood. Some of the games proved tougher than they seemed at first sight.

Viva la childhood! (hope the French is right)

Subliminal Communication

Why do we communicate? My theory is that there are subliminal messages we want to send when we say something/wear something/do something. They could be the following-

1. I need you/I don't need you

2. I want to be noticed.

3. Tell me how smart/beautiful I am.

4. The world should be more like me.

5. The world does not understand my greatness/smartness/wisdom/competence etc...

6. My kameez is whiter than yours- brilliant ad which used it well. Don't understand why everyone in washing ads only wears white though.

7. I own this brand/I shop here/I eat at xyz restaurant. Therefore, I am ....

8. Women don't understand what men want...or its more popular version, men don't understand, period! (which may or may not be true)

9. Like me..(not subliminal any more after Facebook invented the option to 'Like' anything and everything).

10. You don't love me...made popular by Western soap operas in which every other sentence is a reaffirmation of a false premise.

Boxing Day

Why this singling out of one sport to the detriment of others? What crime have they committed to be excluded from having a Day of their own? I hereby modify the List of Holidays to include the following-

1. Match fixing day for cricket. The anniversary of the first match fixed will be celebrated on this day, every year. The movie on match-fixing (Jannat) will be screened to celebrate the event. Speeches from invited celebrities accused of fixing matches will be a highlight.

2. World Hooliganism Day for English Football. Hooligans of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but A FEW TEETH. Knock them out, guys!

3. F-1 Day. This is not a cuss-word, but about the motor-sport where adults drive things that should be logically driven by kids, at speeds that can kill- and do! Celebrations are in order, what?

4. Archery Day. How can we forget the (blood) sport that won so many wars before Mr. Nobel's invention of gunpowder (or was it dynamite?) that put it to shade?

5. Doper's Day for all the athletes who ever took dope to win a sporting (?) event. What a way to compete. Thank you for showing us THE WAY. The coaches who encouraged them would be honoured too.

6. Sailor's Day. Not many know what sailors do, because frequently, they sail into troubled waters and are never seen again. But we must give a chance to those who do return, to have their Day!

7. Golfing Day. Everyone needs to salute the greatest game ever invented (sorry for filching the phrase from Sholay promos). Golf widows should be made chief guests and given a chance to swing a golf club at their so-called husbands. This was so well demonstrated by Tiger's wife, for a different reason. Just do it!

8. Tennis Day. I used to watch Tennis in my younger days. I can at least figure out what's happening, if this day is celebrated, once a year.

9. Badminton Day. This will be exclusive to the countries which subscribe to Michael Jackson's anthem- I'm BAD. Mostly, these are Asian countries, with one shining exception- Denmark.

10. Finally, for patriotic reasons, we MUST have a Gilli-danda Day. Otherwise, what will all the nationalists think? We can't allow FDI (Foreign Dominated Indian) sports, can we?

Fun with English Language

All languages are funny, in different ways. So is English. So I am just having fun with English here.

If you had to find the comparative and superlative for 'I', it would be Iyer and Iyest. I, Iyer and Iyest. Did I hear an I I O?

Why is a dentist called a dentist when he does not repair dents?

Is spice the plural of spouse?

Does everything that starts with the prefix Wiki always leak? Or is it that everything that leaks can be called a Wiki?

Does Waka, Waka have any relation to Wiki, Wiki?

Why does DoCoMo sound a lot like Quasimodo, or an exotic African parrot, by any name?

If Pizza Hut upgrades, will it become a Pizza Palace, or will it only be a Pizza Apartment?

If a government stops governing, what should it be called?

'Anna' means food in many Indian languages. So why is he always fasting?

European governments don't know their differential calculus. That is why, they will never have a "derivatives"-led crisis. Only deficit-driven ones.

If Romanov is not made in Rome, where is Smirnoff not made? In Smurf-land?

What is TGIF (Thank God It's Friday) called in places where the weekend starts on a Thursday?

and a trivia question-

When the glaciers melt, will the coastal communities worldwide get frozen fish home-delivered?

Delicatessen- French Film

Happened to watch a French film by this name. It is a difficult film to make, I think. The reason being that it moves around in just one boarding house with many tenants and the owner, who runs a butcher shop on the ground floor. What does he butcher? Among other things, his servants. One manages to run away by hiding in a garbage can.

But this is not a horror story. Actually, it is a comedy- a different type, to be sure. Some of the scenes are really creative, like various sounds from different homes in the building starting out slowly, and rising to a crescendo- including you-know-what. Brilliantly conceived, it plays out like a musical performance.

A bit of imaginative characterisation is that of the Troglodytes, who live underground (literally!) and dream of getting enough to eat! Grains are in short supply (even in the world above), and people use grain as currency for buying stuff!

The butcher's daughter falls in love with the new man (an ex-Magician)employed by her dad, and they try to save him from being butchered! Lovely sets enhance the mood, and if you like this sort of stuff, it's a treat! I believe it was made in 1991.

If I were Santa Claus...

If I were Santa Claus with the power to gift things to kids of all ages, these are a few things I would gift-

1. A pin to all those powers-that-be who are puffed up with imagined glory, greatness of their selves. All it would take is a tiny prick of this pin, and they'd be normal again.

2. A tape of old songs to all new/budding/upcoming music directors, to remind them that music can be melodious too.

3. An auto-edit machine to Hindi film-makers that will cut their films to (2/3rd) their size.

4. A cut-and-paste software that doesn't work, to students , so that they put on their thinking caps. Caps will be complimentary.

5. A boomerang that will bring back all negative thoughts to the thinker with twice the force. That will usher in positive thinking, better than Dale Carnegie and all the others.

6. Automatically turn all silly TV programs into something meaningful. That might get people to do other things than TV watching, which would benefit humanity, besides keeping everybody healthy.

7. Eliminate 2012 from the calendar, and skip to 2013, so the world need not end- not sure if that's a good thing to do though!

8. Ability to produce flowers at will, so you can't forget them on important occasions. May save a few lives.

9. Auto-reminders of birthdays...no, sorry, Facebook's already done that!

10. Make playing a game/playing with children mandatory for all grown-ups, for an hour a day. This may kill the anti-depressant drug industry.

Staging a Speech

Shakespeare said, "All the World's a Stage, and we are .." but I am not sure if he visualised that the stage would be set for staging several things. When we set the stage for a formal or even informal function, why is it that everyone around who is a somebody has to make a speech? What purpose does it serve? And why do speeches have to eulogise everyone who is in sight?

One could argue that this hones the speaker's speech-making skills. I read a cartoon in today's paper that says "Why is it that all the after-dinner speakers are men?"
The answer is, "Because women can't hold on (without speaking) for so long!" There are even clubs that call themselves Toastmaster's Clubs that encourage members to make speeches regularly. I guess the purpose is to prove that unless you make a good one, 'you are TOAST'.

True or false as it may be, why this urge to speak, usually to an unwilling and disinterested audience? Does it prove that language has its uses, but more of misuses than uses? Or is it trying to prove a point to the Martians in case they are planning to take over our beloved earth, that they will be bored to defeat? One does not know, but the fact remains that at every conceivable occasion, we indulge in this self-flagellation of sorts. At this rate, I wonder if we all haven't run out of things to say already! Or have we?

An Unusual Film - On the Other Side

This is an unusual feature film in many ways. It has more music than dialogue. It stars only amateur actors in lead roles. It is not released in any theatre yet. It is a unique short film, made entirely by IMT students at Nagpur. Shot on a shoestring budget, it is more like an FTII student film- I saw a few tagged on to some World Cinema DVDs by Ingmar Bergman and so on a few times (one of them was made by Kundan Shah of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro fame).

The film is very well-made, focused on its subject of our existence in multiple dimensions, or lives. Starring only two major characters, it effortlessly transcends journeys of multiple lifetimes, through the girl's soul, which does the time traveling (or life-traveling).

The angst of a couple in this multi-life drama is captured very economically and effectively. You wouldn't know it, but almost the entire film is shot in or around the campus, except a sequence at the church. Minimalist in its dialogue, it resembles some good art films. Certainly not for the masses, the classes may find it appealing. Hope they do, at short film festivals and the like.

The director, Abhinav Kamal, an IMT student, and his team of actors and technicians (also students), deserve a few cheers! Youtube has a promo of the film.

Lawrence of Arabia- film review (classic)

Not that the review is classic, the film is! I saw it only once before, way back in high school in the seventies, and it stuck in the mind- I think it was at the Sangeet theatre, Secunderabad- another classic that no longer exists!

Anyway, this movie shows what wonders are possible when a film-maker is uncompromising, single-mindedly focused on telling a great story. It is long by English standards, but that does not affect the viewer one bit- at least, not me. Engrossing, it could be called a film about the birth of Saudi Arabia and a few other Middle Eastern Countries, and the role played by a non-descript and maverick Lieutenant Lawrence of the British Army, in it. He brings together warring Arab tribes and puts the idea of Arabia in their heads, in the process snatching a part of the Turkish empire from the Turks.

Anthony Quinn, Alec Guinness, Omar Sharif and a host of others support the strong central character played by Peter O'Toole. A visual delight for its desert panoramas, and a study in costume design and acting, it's a treat for anyone into this sort of a thing- history, in particular. And how politics of war is about the same, generation after generation. Fascinating, even on DVD.

The Emperor of All Maladies- Book Review

The book (about Cancer) is stunning, in the amount of research it condenses into its pages. Incredibly, it is written like a whodunit. A little long, in this case it's understandably so. To go from a Persian Queen diagnosed with cancer to the most modern treatments and the biology of the cell- which is the cause or at least the promoter of cancer in a human body, is no joke. And immense amount of research seems to have gone into fighting it too.

It reminded me of Bill Bryson's book in which he has recreated the history of nearly everything. Absorbingly told, it is a no-holds-barred tale of politics, biology, chemistry, medicine, despair, hope and everything in between. At least, an understanding of cancer seems to be within grasp, and the fundamental changes that happen in the cell that goes crazy enough to multiply uncontrollably seem to have been mapped.

Complex as the disease and its manifestations are, partly because the gene mutations are constantly evolving themselves, so there could be a new one as soon as you have conquered an old, there is a ray of hope, and some forms of cancer are far less deadly today.

Maladies are of two major types. Lifestyle induced, and genetic. The genetic ones cannot be treated today, except in fits and starts or with lifelong medication and controls. The lifestyle-induced ones can be prevented or cured by changing your lifestyle, naturally. But this is a choice. For me, the old movie 'Anand' with Rajesh Khanna as the patient with incurable lymphosarcoma of the intestine but spreading sunshine in all the lives that touch him, was an incredible way to look at all maladies, and life. Amen!

Kilkari- A Social Initiative by Students

IMT students have an organisation called Kilkari (Hindi word that represents a sound like chirping, I guess), that contributes in a small way to an NGO that runs a school for deaf and dumb or otherwise challenged kids in Katol, a town near us. These kids study up to 10th grade in their school, and also learn other useful crafts which they can use to make a living if required.

Every year, IMT students bring them all for a day of fun and outing to our campus. The kids sing, dance, play on the grounds, and get to enjoy a day out among our students. Today was one such day. The parts that I saw of the cultural program were heart-warming, with a girl dancing with abandon to a hit Tamil song, and another singing flawlessly a Hindi song.

It is indeed a nice thing to do. We started it in 2009, before I got here, thanks to my predecessor and a faculty member, Prof. Ekkirala. Got to know a little bit of the school's struggle in its eighteen year-existence, and that restored my faith in humanity a little. There are so many negatives surrounding us daily, that the positives are like a breath of fresh air. We need more fresh air!

Winter Sets in

Winter has set in at Nagpur, roughly at the time it does every year. I am reminded of some of the winters in my earlier life. Nagpur winters are mild by comparison.

One I will remember vividly for a long time was in Kashmir. I had visited with my parents and sister in 1978, and we stayed on the Dal Lake, in a houseboat. Not a great idea, in retrospect. That night was one hell of a cold night, and two or three rugs were not enough! I think my dad had to save me by lying on top of the quilts for a while to add to their warmth. There were no heaters on the boat!

Another similar night was at The Grand Canyon, USA, one winter. This time, I saved myself with some brandy, I think. There were several cold nights in the US, during my stay of 5 years. One visit to New York during winter holidays, we stayed indoor to beat the cold, the entire time!

Once at the IIM Lucknow campus, it was around zero degrees for almost a week, and gave me the jitters. Wonder how the nawabs coped with it.

A recent visit to Leh also saw us cold, but in summer. Nights were cold as cold can get. But we were prepared, and coped reasonably well.

I shudder to think of the homeless and what they might be enduring at such times. Thank God for our home and hearth!

World's Greatest Inventions- General

This is my list of the world's greatest general inventions.

1. The battery- even if electricity connections fail us, the battery can keep us going. Like the heart, which keeps pumping blood for a few decades. Battery life enhancement will win a million admirers to the guy who does it.

2. Cures for common ills- like the flu. Not sure if there is one, though.

3. Books. My life certainly would have been worse off, for the lack of these. Thank you, whoever thought of it.

4. The train. Magical moments are tied to train journeys undertaken, particularly in childhood. The steam-engined ones were the best, like classic wine. The sounds they make is still music to the ears. Even the song 'Gaadi bula rahi hai, seeti baja rahi hai' gives me the goosebumps.

5. The Single Malts- I am not much of a beer drinker, but single malts are worth celebrating their inventor. Germans will disagree!

6. Parents- you wouldn't survive for too long, if they weren't around to give you unconditional care!

7. Spouses (and marriage)- life would be incredibly dull without them (and it).

8. Children- bundles of joy, for around 364 days, and then, the joy is all theirs. Anyways, what would parents do without them? How long can you fight with each other, after all?

9. Bosses- source of humour for hours on end, with their antics. Scott Adams needs to thank them, more than all others. Mario Miranda too, bless his soul (he died last week).

10. Friends- last but not the least, they are forever. Diamonds don't even come close!

Dropping Names- Benefits of Branding

What would we do for snobbery if there were no brands? They are a great help at all times. Imagine the following snippets of conversation without the brand names and you will immediately agree with me.

I had this urge for a pastry and went to Black Chariot you know....you could substitute this with coffee and Starbucks or other appropriate options.

When I was at the Taj last week,....

I always fly Lufthansa, they are expensive, but their service is great.

I couldn't resist the latest Paco Rabanne/Armani/Dolce and Gabbana/Prada at the Dubai airport while returning from the Shopping Festival, you know...

When I visited my son/daughter in New York/Sydney/Singapore....

McD is the only place I like for my burgers, yaar.

My Blackberry/ipad is so cool. You should get one, you know.

My dream is to drive a Ferrari (in silent mode- actually, I own a Maruti 800).

I lost my Mont Blanc (pen) the other day...I was so sad, but my dad said he'd buy me another one!

When I was at IIM/IIT/Harvard/MIT/,......

You get the point, don't you?

World's Greatest Inventions- Food

There are many foods that qualify to be included in this list. Let me attempt to put down a few.

Avakai- a mango pickle that is delicious and hot! An Andhra speciality.

Rasagolla- needs no description.

Appam- A Kerala version of the dosa, with a puff.

Ice cream. A perennial favourite of all ages.

Chocolate- another favourite over centuries. Can also be combined with ice cream for a double delight.

Prawn/Fish curry in coconut milk. Delicious stuff.

Chicken Chettinad.

Puran poli, a sweet roti which is a staple in Maharashtrian festivals.

Gilawati kabab, also called Tunde kabab. Originated in Lucknow with a melt-in-your-mouth softness.

Hyderabadi Biryani, exemplified by the stuff you get at Paradise (the restaurant).

Noodles- China would not exist without this.

Burger- Americans, and McDonald's would not exist without this.

Tandoori roti- the process of making it is itself fascinating.

Aloo tikki- simple yet great tasting.

Bhel- you can get creative with the ingredients here!

Pan- Banaraswala or any other, its taste and feel is unique.

Delhi Roundabout

In Delhi for some work, I got a chance to meet some engineering batchmates who live here and some who dropped in from Hyderabad for a mini-reunion of alumni. The setting was the Air Force Golf club. Very nice ambience; they have a private party room.

Many of my friends are into infrastructure development companies, electrical energy or otherwise. Nation-building is their everyday business. Nice to see things moving on many fronts, from airports to solar energy.

The Delhi winter and fog has just begun, with its attendant flight and train disruptions. Maybe it's a reminder that man can't control everything, even though he thinks he does. Having lived here a long time ago for about a year, I am familiar with some parts, but the metro has added a new dimension to the city. Traffic is still bad at peak times in the major corridors though.

IIM Bangalore Visit

Had a chance to visit my alma mater, IIM Bangalore, for a conference on Entrpreneurship where my co-authors and I are presenting a case on a Nagpur-based entrepreneur who exports wood-metal figurines made by craftsmen who are ex-Bastar tribals. It has interesting business issues, and could be a good teaching case.

The campus of IIMB is unique in the sense that it looks like a mini-forest, with plants, shrubs and trees of different hues all around. It is pleasant to walk around. Maybe you could call it a B school in the middle of a forest. Like IIMA which is known for its architecture, and might be termed as a B school in the middle of an architectural wonder. As an aside, at one time, ASCI at Hyderabad used to be called a college attached to a bar, as it had an active beverage service!

The crowd at the conference was eclectic, and had a sprinkling of international faces. Since the focus is on BRIC nations, there were a few Chinese and Brazilian paper presenters too. Maybe some Russians as well. All in all, an interesting experience. Nice to see a bit of the metro in operation on MG Road. Hope it reduces some of the moving around blues over time. The lesson is that other cities need to start building it now, instead of waiting to get congested beyond endurance.

Tintin- the Movie

I used to read both Asterix and Tintin, though I liked Asterix a shade better. But Tintin was also a regular read, and his characters like Thomson and Thom(p)son, Professor Calculus, and Captain Haddock were familiar territory. We had even named some of our IIMB classmates after some of these characters, for either their looks or their behavior.

It was fun to see these characters brought to life. Along with their typical traits and dialogues- 'blue blistering barnacles' (Captain Haddock) and 'to be precise' (Thompson). The titles are themselves a work of art, and very enjoyable. The use of the same font as in the comics gave them a very familiar feel.

This one is called the Secret of the Unicorn. I was never too sure what a unicorn was, but that did not reduce the enjoyment one bit. I thought it was an animated film, so it turned out to be a surprise. Not sure if they created masks for all the characters in the movie. Actually, it was running houseful last week, and so I missed seeing it earlier. Incredible, in its third week too.

The characters are all loveable, even the villain. Steven Spielberg has his work cut out for him, with lots more movies to make.

Dev Saab and his Music

I never tire of writing about music and Dev Anand was much more musically minded than most film directors/actors that I know of. Probably includes Vijay Anand, his brother who directed some of his films and had great music too.

Anyway, these are some of his musical numbers that I recall, from his films.

The Hemant Kumar song from Solva Saal, 'Hai apna dil to aawara , na jaane kis pe aayega'. I had once learnt to play this on a harmonium.

'Dil ka bhanwar kare pukar, pyaar ka raag suno' from Tere Ghar Ke Samne, I think. Very melodious, sung (in the movie) inside the Qutab Minar.

'Hey, maine kasam li' and 'Jeevan ki bagiya mehkegi' from the film 'Tere Mere Sapne'.

'Yeh duniya wale poochenge, mulaqat hui, kya baat hui' from Mahal.

'Nafrat karne waalon ke seene mein pyaar bhar doon', 'Pal bhar ke liye koi hamein pyaar kar de', and 'Oooo. mere Raja' from Johny Mera Naam, which I hold to be a classic of the Bollywood masala genre.

'Khwab ho tum ya koi haqeeqat', 'Are yaar meri tum bhi ho ghazab' and 'Likha hai teri aankhon mein' from Teen Deviyan

Almost all the songs from Jewel Thief, though my favourite among these remains 'Yeh Dil Na Hota Bechaara'. 'Aasma ke neeche', 'Hoton pe aisi baat main dabaake chali aayi', 'raat akeli hai', are some others.

'Dil aaj shaayar hai, gham aaj naghma hai', from Gambler. Also, 'chudi nahin yeh mera, dil hai'

Almost all songs from Guide. 'Tere mere sapne ab ek rang hai', 'Din dhal jaaye hai raat na jaaye' and 'Gaata rahe, mera dil', are all great songs with unique emotions , and so is 'Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai', with the lyrics signifying the "rebirth" of a woman trapped in an unhappy marriage.

Dum Maro Dum, from Hare Rama Hare Krishna, which overshadowed all other songs.

'Jab Chhaye Mera Jadoo', a foot tapping number from Loot Maar.

Des Pardes had a few great songs, like 'Nazraana, bheja kisine pyaar ka', 'Tu Pee aur Jee'

Heera Panna- 'Panna ki tamanna hai ke Heera mujhe mil jaaye', 'Main tasveer utaarta hoon'

Bullet- 'Chori chori chupke chupke tere mere bina is kamre mein aur kaun hai?'

Shareef Badmaash- 'Neend churake raton mein , tumne baaton baaton mein, dekho baat badal di hai' and a qawwali sung in a jail, 'Na khidki na jharokha, milte hi magar mauka. de jaaonga main dhokha'

Darling Darling- 'Aise na mujhe tum dekho, seene se laga loonga'

Prem Pujari- 'Phholon ke rang se' and 'Shokhiyon mein ghola jaaye', apart from Rangeela re, tere man mein yun ranga hai, mera man'

Hum Dono-'Main Zindagi ka saath nibhaata chala gaya' and 'Abhi na jao chhod kar, ke dil abhi bhara nahi'

Munimji- 'Jeevan ke safar mein rahi, milte hain bichhad jaane ko, aur de jate hain yadein, tanhai mein tadpaane ko'. How true!

I am sure I have left out a few good ones, thanks to a fading memory, but this is good enough to make a point- that he had an ear for lovely music.

Dev Anand- A Tribute

He made/makes me feel young at all ages- his and mine. He was youth personified. The energy he exuded in his eighties would put a 30 year old to shame. I read his autobiography a couple of years ago, and it is written in the same style he brought to his films. Many of them were classics and dealt with themes which were relevant to the times. Drugs-in Hare Rama Hare Krishna with its unforgettable Dum Maro Dum number, Des Pardes on the theme of migration blues, Tere Mere Sapne on the subject of rural doctors, and of course, the classic Guide with its story of extra-marital love.

Then there were pure entertainers like Johny Mera Naam, Jewel Thief and Hum Dono. Prem Pujari, an unsuccessful movie, also had lovely songs like Phoolon Ke Rang Se, and Shokhiyon Mein Ghola Jaaye. His association with SD Burman and RD Burman resulted in some glorious music over a few decades.

He also introduced a few heroines like Zeenat Aman and Tina Munim to the film industry. His peculiar crinkly neck which bobbed up and down for no apparent reason, and his walking style, imitated well by Ravi Baswani in Chasme Baddoor, only endeared him further to his fans. His films of late were not great, but he loved to do what he liked best, so who are we to complain? He was one of a kind. May he entertain those with whom he is now!

A History of Technology- From my Viewpoint

We did use slates in school and at home, I believe. Not e-slates, the good old ones. This was around 1960 and beyond. Then, we had our blackboards and chalk in school. We had exposure to some technology through the radio, fairly gargantuan in size, through the sixties and seventies, and I remember you needed to renew a licence to operate/use a radio at home.

We heard of a contraption called Skylab which was sent into space and the collapsed back on to the earth around 1977 or 78. There was a story that a Sardar had named his kid Skylab Singh after this lab. Around 1982, the Delhi Asiad, colour TV entered our lives, having given us our fill of the black and white variety for a few years before that. I watched all the early TV shows like Chitahaar and the weekly movie in B&W.

The floppy drive computer with 256k RAM and disks of 5 and 1/4 inch was what I first used in the US in 1986. This was state-of-the-art then. Apple was floundering, though it had a loyal band of followers. The IBM PC changed everything pretty fast. By 1989, we had an early version of the net at Clemson, USA, but India did not have any place connected then.

In 1991, I taught SPSS using DOS at XIMB. Then, a few years later, it changed to WINDOWS, and became a lot simpler to use. I actually wrote my first book in long hand at Kirloskar Institute. Now I can't imagine doing that. The floppy gave way to the hard disk, the DVD and the pen drive. Now my car runs only a USB/pen drive and does not have a CD player of the older type! And my collection of 200 audio cassettes is suddenly redundant. I recently discovered a karaoke system that plays Hindi music and you can sing along to, thanks to cousins at Pune. It's a lot of fun at parties and get-togethers, and saves you the bother of remembering lyrics.

Facebook came along, and I found friends who I did't know existed- or rather, where they existed. Before that were hotmail, yahoo, and google, introduced to me by various friends. I am thankful to them for introducing me to this blogger too,as it is so easy to communicate with the world at large- I am continuously amazed by some of my reader stats, which seem to span the globe from Maryland, USA to Kazakhstan. I would have had no way to reach out to so many people otherwise. And benefit from reading their thoughts online.

Another great experience with technology was when I published my autobiography online with pothi.com a couple of years ago. That's technology in a nutshell, as it affected my life.

Dirty Picture- a Review

Silk Smitha (deliberately using the southern spelling) was apparently quite a character, and lived life mostly on her own terms. I vaguely remember some of her films. Though not much to look at, she made up with a lot of oomph and verve, and the public lapped it up. Though thinly disguised, this film is probably her story.

Vidya Balan is one of my favourite actresses, and she does the role justice. The spirit of a woman who wants to make it big in films, yet who longs for love after having made it, is well captured. The sidelights or commentary on the whole business of films that the movie presents are themselves worth the watch. What are the causes of the movie moghuls churning out trash (the audience, as suspected), the casting couches, the phenomenon of the 60-year old lecherous hero (brilliantly portrayed by Naseeruddin Shah, who, but for the pot-belly, fits the role perfectly), the cronies, the hapless writers who have to twist their tale according to star whims, the fate of the 'different' films (Emraan Hashmi in a nice role), etc. are well brought-out.

The dialogues are sharp, witty and meaningful. They add a lot to the enjoyment. Milan Luthria has directed the movie quite well. I also liked the songs Ooh la, la and Ishq Sufiyana. The takeoff on the Jeetendra films of 70s (white shoes et. al.) is hard to miss.

Norwegian Wood- the film

This is a Japanese film subtitled in English, based on a book of the same name. Had read the book just a week or two earlier, and so was familiar with the storyline. But the movie still amazed me. One, the story itself is full of unexpected events. But more than that, the style of telling it is in tune with the storyteller's- it is slow, lyrical, almost magical.

If there were an adult fairytale (can't think of any better description), this might be it. Emotions of grownups, but the candidness of a child comes through in every frame. The enchanting scenery of a snow-laden Japanscape complements the rhythm, and the result is mesmerising.

I do hope more directors take on the challenge of converting Murakami's other books into celluloid (not sure if celluloid is the right term, given changes in film technology). Poetry in motion is what you would get, if that happens.

FDI in Retail and Education

Let's try and separate the truth from the lies. The lies are everywhere for all of us to see. I feel as if I was back in the 1960s, or 1980s, where licensing was the norm, and supply was artificially constrained, to help a select few- among them were the traders and the license holding manufacturers. All strangled by a massive red tape.

We seem to be back at square one. This time, though, the opposition parties have got it completely wrong. Don't know if they genuinely believe what they are saying- hope not, because it is anti-consumer, and it is utter nonsense.

For instance, this stop Wal-Mart business is ridiculous. Would you be OK if an Indian retailer becomes as big as Wal-Mart with the same effect on the categories of people (small trader, blah, blah...) that are supposedly threatened by it? Because nobody under the current law can stop an Indian Wal-Mart from happening. So what's the big deal about Wal-Mart?

Most importantly, what if the consumer benefits? Does anyone care for him? DR. Manmohan Singh is absolutely right that it is good for the country if competition increases. I would not have dreamed of flying or making 5 phone calls a day in the license Raj those days.

Better choices in education, anyone? Let the foreign universities in. Half the guys won't need to go to the U.S. anymore. And, the Indian Universities will improve-because they won't have a choice.

Golftripz

Golftripz is an Indian company that takes Indian golferto play abroad and provides a complete package with golf course selection, travel and management of your accommodation and so on. All you have to do is relax and play some golf at stunning golf courses with amazing facilities wherever you go. They also do tournaments for amateur golfers, and one such is coming up from February 21st to 25th in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I went with Golftripz to Thailand last year and it was an eye-opener in terms of what India lacks by way of golf facilities. I almost feel like starting one myself. Maybe one day....

If any reader is interested, do check out their website www.golftripz.com or get onto their mailing list. They also do organise inbound golf into India.

Biggest Boss Kaun?

Instead of a moronic congregation of out of work actors and controversial no-gooders, I propose to hold a congregation of the greatest villains of all time, maybe for a week, to find out who is the Biggest Boss of all. Might just be more watchable, and fun.

The list will include A-listers like Jeevan, Prem Chopra, K.N.Singh, Pran, Ajit, Amrish Puri, Anjad Khan, and Anupam Kher. They will all get one dialogue each to stake a claim for the recognition of becoming the Biggest Boss. The conversation may go something like this-

Jeevan- Hain, hain, hain, yeh main kahan aagaya anaadiyon ki basti mein, jahan koi mere kadmon ki dhool ke barabar bhi nahi, hain, hain..

Prem Chopra- Prem naam hai mera, Prem Chopra. Rape, murder aur jaaydaad ki chori mein mera koi muqabla nahin kar saka chaalis saal mein.

K.N. Singh- (with one eye closed, to no one in particular)- In sab ko maar ke nazdeek ke gutter mein phenk do...

Pran (in a suit, chewing on a cigarette)- Is ghalatfehmi mein mat rehna ki tum apne aap ko bacha sakoge.

Ajit- Michael, tum cycle par jao, Raabert, tum ise liquid oxygen mein daal do. Liquid ise jeene nahin dega, oxygen ise marne nahin dega.

Amjad Khan- Are o saambha, kitne aadmi hain yahan? Aadmi itne, aur award ek, ...bahut beinsaafi hai..

Amrish Puri- Mogambo khush hua.

Anupam Kher- Dr. Dang kisi award ka mohtaaj nahin hai, na to use award chaiye, aur na hi yeh ghatiya program..

Guess who wins the award..that is, if you are still awake..

I am Starting an Airline, How About You?

Budding entrepreneurs, I am letting out a secret. This is the business to be in today, in case you are not in it.

Start an airline. I am starting one in a couple of days. Apparently, it takes very little to start one. There are venture capitalists to fund you, fuel companies to give you credit, and others to bail you out. And passengers who book flights in the fond hope that they'll take off. And employees who will work in the fond hope of getting paid.

You can blame everyone and everything but yourself when anything goes wrong. Like the fuel prices, the global slowdown, the Al Qaeda, 9/11, 26/11, anything/11, and their ancestors.

And if the airline fails to take off, you can get into a socially relevant field, say microfinance? If nothing else, you can always sell out, because the urge to own an airline is stronger than the urge to create your own spitting image in humankind, so there is always a buyer.

The Business of Forecasting

What would happen if a financial analyst forecast a big loss in his annual forecast for a company? He might get the boot. Forecasters are typically an optimistic bunch, therefore. Imagine if a King's courtier told him that he thought the neighbouring army is going to defeat his master soon? He would have been fed to the lions, or crocodiles, whichever were available nearby.

But imagine for a moment that the world had turned on its head. That forecasters were suddenly gloomy about everything in sight. The oil prices, the food prices, the environment, the stock markets, the Greek civilisation, the Roman Church, the Irish whisky, the American presidency, and the African wildlife, according to them, are going the wrong way. With no redemption in sight.

Is that a futuristic scenario of forecaster behaviour? I am not so sure. Is the world coming to an end even before the forecast doomsday of 2012? From the forecasters' perspective, maybe.

You've Been an MBA for too Long When...

You've Been an MBA for too Long When....

* You ask the waiter what the restaurant's core
competencies are.

* You decide to re-org your family into a
"team-based organization".

* You refer to dating as test marketing.

* You can spell "paradigm."

* You actually know what a "paradigm" is.

* You understand your airline's fare structure.

* You write executive summaries on your love
letters.

* Your Valentine's Day cards have bullet points.

* You think that it's actually efficient to write a
ten page presentation with six other people you
don't know.

* You celebrate your wedding anniversary by
conducting a performance review.

* You believe you never have any problems in
your life- just "issues" and "improvement
opportunities".

* You end every argument by saying "let's talk
about this off-line".

* You can explain to somebody the difference
between "re-engineering", "down-sizing",
"right-sizing", and "firing people's
asses".

* You actually believe your explanation in the
above point.

* You talk to the waiter about process flow when
dinner arrives late.

* You start to feel sorry for Dilbert's boss.

* You account for your tuition as a capital
expenditure instead of an expense.

* You insist that you do some more market
research before you and your spouse produce
another child.

* At your last family reunion, you wanted to have
an emergency meeting about their brand equity.

* Your "deliverable" for Sunday evening is clean
laundry and paid bills.

* You use the term "value-added" without falling
down laughing.

* You ask the car salesman if the car comes with
a whiteboard and Internet connection.

* You give constructive feedback to your dog.

* You give your boyfriend / girfriend a ‘golden
handshake’ while breaking up.

Lol!

More Murakami

I just finished one more of his books (South of the Border, West of the Sun) and am halfway through another (Norwegian Wood). Don't know where he gets his ideas for the titles, but these and the cover designs of his books are both startling, and attract even a casual browser in a store. That's how I got introduced to him. Not through a book review or a recommendation from anyone.

I am still struggling to find the right adjective for his prose. Dazzling, lyrical, emotional are all possible adjectives. But it's somehow not adequate. Other-worldly, Surrealistic, sound more appropriate. Because even when he is describing physical love (the first book has some of that), it somehow transcends the known. Even his decsription of a mind and thoughts is something unexpected, and so is his description of Tokyo sewers. Or earthquakes. (After the Quake is also a collection of his short stories)

The stories themselves are varied, from the normal growing up angst of a teenager to mid-year crises, broken hearts, and so on, but marvellously put together. I have yet to come across such a languid yet gripping writer (of course, I am reading the translated English versions). Though I don't read much fiction these days, I can't seem to have enough of this guy.

USPs of Countries-Part 2

Continuing from where I left off...

Cuba- The cigar is a lasting symbol, though the economy went up in smoke a long time ago.

China- Their English is funny or music to the years, depending on how you look at it. But their political aggression is not.

Indonesia- Good 'bad'minton players- a paradox? And lots of earth-shakes.

Australia- People of dubious ancestry who managed to spoil the gentleman's game with rough play- and the virus has caught on.

Sub-saharan Africa...where is that exactly? Except in reports on poverty, nobody talks about it.

South Africa-Mandela is absolutely the most forgiving man who ever lived. Hats off!

Kenya- the most famous giraffes in the world live here.

Brazil- The Samba, Pele and the annual jamboree on the streets make a heady combo.

Bhutan- They measure the Gross Happiness Index. Could they be the most sensible country on earth? Possibly.

Norway, Sweden, Finland- There's light at the end of six months here, so everyone who lives there must be an optimist!

Egypt- Barring Hindi films (older ones), the only place where Mummies get the respect they deserve!

USPs of Countries

In marketing, we used to have differentiation, which morphed into Unique Selling Propositions or USPs as I morphed into middle age. Brands are supposed to have or unique attributes so that consumers would prefer them over competing brands. Similarly, countries (they are also brands) can develop unique intangible attributes, so that consumers (tourists) or people at large view them accordingly.

Here is an attempt to view some countries through the lens of a distant and disinterested observer.

England- The guys love to talk about the weather. They invented cricket, and their neighbours invented Golf. Shakespeare continues to give an inferiority complex to writers.

France- They like to think they invented love. But who wrote the Kamasutra is a relevant question to ask.

Italy- The word mafia owes its origin to somewhere in Italy. Lions ate men in their colosseums.

Switzerland- Their Banking is famous like the pirates were at one time in the Caribbean. Clocks are out of fashion.

Greece- They used to have a civilisation...

USA- The world's most gluttonous people seem to live here- McDonald's, Coke, Pizza Hut are all really big brands. Why?

India- The sadhus in their Rolls Royces are ready to take on the world, and their wrong ideas about us.

Sri Lanka- Ravan once ruled here, but he can't rule anywhere today, even after changing his spelling to Ra.One.

Will be continued...

Disappearance

Sometimes, to make a mark, you have to remain silent in a crowd of babblers. Or speak out in a silent majority. Or do something that others aren't doing. Thus, it should be no surprise that some who disappear from the public sight, for whatever reason, become overnight celebrities.

Would the Buddha have had a chance at being the enlightened, had the media those days been as active? or would they have hounded him out of his silent meditation under the tree? Even when he walked away, he could not stop himself becoming famous after being 'found out'. Even hermits who make the Himalayas their home are constantly being accosted by wannabe hermits like Steve Jobs and many other ordinary mortals.

So what does that say for disappearances? Appearances may be deceptive, but disappearances are no less. And effective. They serve a purpose, at least until someone finds you. The stories from childhood always had a magic cloak or coat that would make the wearer invisible, and then he could indulge in many adventures unseen.

The ones that the media keep the spotlight on, are a part of everyday conversation. But ever wonder what happens to the ones that disappear? Are they better off for their disappearance, or worse? I would say, nothing like an occasional disappearance to keep the interest alive. Not too long, just long enough...

Anniversaries

Like my marriage anniversary, I almost forgot my second anniversary of joining IMT Nagpur, which happened on 12th. I instantly celebrated by eating an orange- absolutely delicious! I was very new both to the city (had visited briefly once or twice though), and the institute. What I found here was a pleasant surprise-on both counts. Don't tell anyone, but Nagpur is a heaven in terms of traffic, living conditions, friendly people (though they break traffic rules-but don't they all?), and peaceful life. Even the Vidarbha protests are peaceful. Can you beat that?

I am afraid I shall have withdrawal symptoms if I ever leave this place at some future date. Like our students have, when they leave IMT and go out into the big, bad world. I meet countless alumni who fondly remember their days at Nagpur, and are still in love with IMT years after they moved out. There is magic in the air, and I am sure the people are a large part of it. From profs to staff, the people seem at peace (despite the occasional cribbing), and enjoying life and work- the classic work-life balance.

I am proud of having added a one-hole golf course to the campus, and we occasionally indulge ourselves. The management development centre has seen eager participants from diverse organisations enjoy their learning experience at IMT. Industry visitors are also enamoured by the atmosphere and the greenery when they visit. Student enthusiasm is infectious, and pervades all activities, late into the night. Idyllic?

Lips Don't Lie- Review of Rockstar

This movie (Rockstar) has to be one of a kind. It gives immense scope to the heroine's lips. They dominate the scenes in which she figures, to the exclusion of everything else- by design or accident, one does not know. So much so, that Shakira of the 'Hips Don't Lie' fame could have serious competition. And an aside for those in the weight-reduction business- liposuction does not mean a de-fattening of the lips.

Anyway, coming to the serious stuff, Nargis Fakhri (of whose lips the para earlier speaks) looks gorgeous, though she seems weak in the acting department, a little like Ash in her first film. Her Hindi diction can improve too. Ranbir acts well, looks cool, and convincing for the most part. The songs are good, and may grow on one after multiple listening occasions. The support cast- Aditi Rao Hydari is competent, and could be one to watch out for. The funniest character in the movie is that of the music company tycoon Dhingra, and his 'being-massaged-by-a pehelwan' (a metaphor for an ego-massage, maybe?) scene was an ROFL kind (to me at least). Shammi Kapoor's role is small but endearing.

The comments about the life of a superstar being lonely and frustrating are probably true for many of the ilk, given our intrusive public and media, and a complete lack of sensitivity for the person behind the persona. Some of the anger and outbursts Ranbir's character shows are totally understandable.

The pace of the movie could have been a bit faster, but the idyllic locations in Prague make up for it a little. Thank God, we've had enough of Switzerland in the seventies.

Definitely worth a watch, is my conclusion. Though judging by the audience reactions, it could turn out to be a cult film- the lips notwithstanding.

A to Z of Nuclear Power

I read an intriguing book by Saurav Jha called 'The Upside Down Book of Nuclear Power'. It is the most comprehensive stuff about nuclear power you can find in one place, and is written by an economist who seems to know almost as much as nuclear physicists- at least more than electrical engineers like me- do about nuclear power. Many of the myths associated with this energy form are cleared effectively. I think the govt. could do well to make this compulsory reading for all those involved in policy making AND SELLING THE POLICY to the public.

I found the research fascinating, and some of the gems hidden in it are mind-boggling. Example- nuclear reactors can, as a by-product of their core activity, desalinate sea water! Can you imagine how that would affect future water-warriors of our world? And an unhidden gem is that India can do more than many with Thorium instead of Uranium-at some point in future.

The arguments about renewable versus nuclear power are pretty persuasive, but could change if renewables technology progresses into hitherto uncharted territory. In any case, for a central, large facility, there is no comparison between the nuclear/conventional and the renewables. It is only for smaller, decentralised applications that renewables are pretty good even today.

Environmentalists get the rough end of the stick in this book, and rightly so. In fact, nuclear energy is potentially the cleanest, if waste disposal is properly attended to. Russia seems to have set everybody back by a few years by letting the Chernobyl disaster happen.

A minor grouse is that China's emergence as a nuclear power - how they did it in particular, is not clear to the reader. In general, shenanigans of various other nuclear powers are dealt with very well.

There have been stories about nuclear waste being dumped in cahoots with African dictators in their countries. The truth or otherwise needs a mention. Overall, an interesting, informative read.

An irrelevant aside- should the book have gone from Z to A in its chapters instead of from A to Z, to go with its title?

Goa 2011 edition

Goa conjures up images of the sun, sand and sin. But it is possible to do some sensible work there too. And enjoy yourself in the process. This is exactly what we did at the International Centre there last week. This was a case conference co-hosted by IIM Indore and IMT Nagpur.

Faculty, students and company executives wrote cases on an organization of their choice in a functional area such as Marketing, Strategy, Finance, Operations, and Human Resource Mgt. These were pre-read by people in the session, including a chairperson. Sitting around a table, participants had to present their case to a small group and get feedback from them on various issues.

There was also a plenary session (all participants) discussing their expectations, and feedback at the end of it all. Very stimulating ideas came from people, and learnings were tremendous. This conference will be repeated next year around November at the same venue.

There was also time taken out to go to the beach one evening. Dodging the beach police (you are not supposed to swim after dark) was a pastime some had to choose if they wanted a dip. Others chose to relax at the shacks, or take a walk.

Repositioning the Book - Joke



Recycling a humorous piece which also appears in my autobiography (left, available from pothi.com for free download as an ebook).

Repositioning the Book

Introducing the new Bio-Optic Organized Knowledge device, trade-named B.O.O.K.

B.O.O.K. is a revolutionary breakthrough in technology: no wires, no electric circuits, no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on.
It's so easy to use, even a child can operate it.

Compact and portable, it can be used anywhere - even sitting in an armchair by the fire - yet it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a CD-ROM disc.

Here's how it works:
B.O.O.K. is constructed of sequentially numbered sheets of paper (recyclable), each capable of holding thousands of bits of information. The pages are locked together with a custom - fit device called a binder which keeps the sheets in their correct sequence.

Opaque Paper Technology (OPT) allows manufacturers to use both sides of the sheet, doubling the information density and cutting costs. Experts
are divided on the prospects for further increases in information density; for now, B.O.O.K.S with more information simply use more pages. Each sheet is scanned optically, registering information directly into your brain. A flick of the finger takes you to the next sheet.

B.O.O.K. never crashes or requires rebooting, though, like other devices, it can become damaged if coffee is spilled on it and it becomes unusable if dropped too many times on a hard surface. The "browse" feature allows you to move instantly to any sheet, and move forward or backward as you wish. Many come with an "index" feature, which pinpoints the exact location of any selected information for instant retrieval.

An optional "B.O.O.K.mark" accessory allows you to open B.O.O.K. to the exact place you left it in a previous session- even if the B.O.O.K. has been closed. B.O.O.K.marks fit universal design standards; thus, a single B.O.O.K.mark can be used in B.O.O.K.s by various manufacturers. Conversely, numerous B.O.O.K. markers can be used in a single B.O.O.K. if the user wants to store numerous views at once. The number is limited only by the number of pages in the B.O.O.K.

You can also make personal notes next to B.O.O.K. text entries with optional programming tools, ' Portable Erasable Nib Cryptic Intercommunication Language Styli (PENCILS). Portable, durable, and affordable, B.O.O.K. is being hailed as a precursor of a new entertainment wave. B.O.O.K.'s appeal seems so certain that thousands of content creators have committed to the platform and investors are reportedly flocking to invest. Look for a flood of new titles soon from Dot.B.O.O.K. !

The Music Room by Namita Devidayal

If you have the slightest interest in music, particularly Indian classical, this book is a must read. I enjoy listening to it, and that was enough to keep me engrossed in the story of a young girl pushed by her mom into learning a difficult form-vocal- of Hindustani classical from a reclusive genius who did not get her due during her lifetime, but gave it all to groom this youngster- only to find her going away to the U.S.

The style of narration is such that you identify with the girl and her "modern" views, yet you are curiously drawn to the mysterious world where gurus give their wisdom, a few drops at a time, to deserving shishyas. The system has its minuses in terms of lack of documentation and passing on secrets to anyone who wants to access them, but develops a learner at a different level of commitment.

As an aside, there is social commentary on a variety of issues like the Devadasi system, the Hindu-Muslim issues that started with partition of India or a little before, and the like. I liked it. Tremendously uplifting, and informative as well, even about Mumbai growing up as a city!

Of Sequels, Prequels and Teaquels

Maybe we need more categories to quell the preponderance of sequels...like the pottery related ones with a lot of wizardry, or the blood-sucking vampire tales, or the Dhoom machaoing ones creating a lot of Dhamaal and hoping to be Houseful (!).

Instead of a sequel, some have also tried prequels like Star Trek and some others that I can't remember too well. I hear the Dabangg team is making a sequel too, with hardly any of the originals in it..not even Munni, who apparently jiggled the cash counters at the box office, along with various parts of her anatomy. And shared the status of item girl of the year with the equally illustrious Sheela. She also had a cure (Zandu Balm) in case you had a headache from watching her lightning-fast moves.

A teaquel would be a simple tale told with no resemblance to the original, except that over a cup of tea, one could watch it in about ten minutes. The idea is that you would at least enjoy the tea, if not the head-or-tail-less story, which most of the 'quels' specialise in. An IPL version of films, if you will. It would save the producer a lot of money, and potential watchers, a lot of time. Which they could put to other uses like improving the self, or saving the world. You can't leave the latter to the superheroes/heroines alone, after all.

Suicide Rates in India

Something that I found truly sad in today's newspaper. Reporting about suicides in India by categories of people, there was a mention that Nagpur scores high on girl students' suicides. I find it sad that something (education) that is supposed to elevate a human being leads them into despair and despondency. And for what? Fear that a bad performance in an exam will bring about reprisal from parents, peers or the society. Is that why we want our kids to study? Not for shaping themselves into a better individual? It is obnoxious that a failure in an exam (which is someone else's evaluation of how good you are) should lead to such drastic consequences for some. What is it that we are doing wrong as parents, peers or whoever?

Everyone wants to be "successful", no doubt. But what if you are not? Is it such a big deal if I can't pass an exam in engineering, or the higher secondary or MBA? Why can't I make a second attempt? Or even, drop out and do some other course, maybe a language, or vocation, or anything that I can do successfully? If a degree is so important, there are many ways to get one- a distance program being an accessible method with many open universities around.

There is something seriously wrong somewhere, if suicide is seen as the only alternative to academic success.

Formulas and Controversies

Yeh Formula 1 kya cheez hai bhai? P.T. Usha of Olympics' just-missed-the-bronze fame has criticised Formula 1 in India as a waste of money. But then, except for some roti, kapda , makaan, and admission fees for kids, everything else is- a waste of money.

We as a culture believe in the formula. We have a formula for everything under the sun-and the moon. From suhaag raat to karva chauth, everything has a formula. Even though the grandmas who seem to know the formulas have mostly migrated from homes to Ekta Kapoor serials these days, come the event, they seem to reappear out of the woodwork and start dictating how things should be done. Gaddafi would feel slighted (if he were alive) at the absolute authority they wield at such times. For example, Indian Gods have to be appeased with 5 fruits at each Pooja, it appears. No wonder fruit-sellers make hay every time a Pooja is around the corner- and one always is.

We have a formula for Hindi movies, where a happy ending is a must. No harm in that, because after paying hard earned money to rich multiplex owners, the least you should expect in return is a happy ending, no? Therefore, tearjerkers are out, and it is happiness most of the time. But the art of copying never dies, however much we try. So we must also copy some tried and tested formulas from Hollywood, like Supermen. Krish and Ravan. Rather, Ra.One.

A Book about Books

I am now halfway into "This is not the end of the Book", a conversation between two authors, one of whom is Umberto Eco. I am not familiar with the other, a French writer. But they have a freewheeling conversation about the future of the book. That's what the book is about. Ain't it a novel idea?

Early into the conversation, one of them pokes fun at a futurologist who made a few stupid predictions at a Davos gathering, pointing out that futurology is a dicey business, and the only thing known about it is that it will be a surprise-that's why it is the FUTURE, and not something else.

Anyway, the context of their discussion is ways of preserving learning, history, culture through books, scrolls, digital media, film, etc. They convincingly argue that we have already lost a lot of stuff, such as the work of some excellent Greek playwrights, because someone thought them unworthy of preservation in libraries. This kind of filtered reality of cultures and realities past is all that we will get.

They also persuasively argue that storage media formats keep changing so fast that it is confusing to learn for individuals and institutions, as to which media to use for the long haul- we have had CD ROMs, VCDs and DVDs in a short span of time. They seem relatively unworried about the e-book taking over the normal book, within limits of unpredictability, of course. Many more insights on various things are peppered into the book of conversations. A great read. I have found Umberto Eco an original thinker, though I have only read two or three of his books/essays. Hope to read some more. An aside is that both these gentlemen own something like 30-40,000 books.

Placement Masala IIMB 1984

This is vintage stuff from our wall mag during placement of our batch -circa 1984, but worth a look even today.

Overheard- On The Placement Front

Usha Mohan- Hoechst. What Next?

‘Banker” Sridharan (after Lovelock Lewis’ abortive interview)- With most people, it is Lovelock, then Wedlock and finally Hemlock. With me, it was Wedlock, Lovelock and then Hemlock.

‘Big-Bong Chakki’ (after his 25th interview)- What shit yaa! They did not ask me a single question! (legitimate question. But not after the 25th interview, Chakki.)

‘Monto’ Hemant- Only BEML, Only BEML, Only BEML (what about Only Vimal fans?)

Alka Mehta (after the Ulka interview)- Why didn’t my parents name me Ulka? I could’ve walked in!

‘Big-Bong Chakki’ (before an interview with a Bombay company)- I have visited Calcutta and Delhi. Now I want to visit Bombay.

Usha Mohan (after Usha Microprocesors Interview)- My husband has 50% equity participation. The ‘Usha’ part.

Shobha Iyer (during Godrej & Boyce Interview)- I want to know why it is Godrej and ‘Boys’ mfg. co.

‘Grand Chacha’ Sarma (after offer from HPCL)- I wanted Projects. I got it! I wanted Chemicals. I got it! What about the public sector, chacha?

Thanks to my classmate: G.S. Pai, Author.

Tollywood of the East

I thought Tollywood was a word used for movies from the south- Telugu films. Therefore I was surprised to find a new Tollywood rising in the east. The rising Bengali film industry is referred to as Tollywood in today's newspaper - I suppose it arises from some of it being located in Tollygunge (my assumption).

These various 'woods' gave rise to some pertinent thoughts. What's a new wannabe heroine in one of these film industries likely to be? A babe in the woods? Also, what's an actor who has no expression on his face- like Manoj Kumar of yesteryear or John Abraham of current years, likely to be called? A block of wood?

Given that starlets now debut in one neck of the wood and migrate to others, would we consider these as bridges being built between various woods? And with jingoistic controversies over dubbed films from Hollywood being released in Indian lingo, are we trying now to burn the bridges between the original wood and our various variations?

Maybe our contribution to global afforestation and all the pleasant consequences therefrom will be in the form of the many 'woods' we have created- Kollywood (Kerala), Mollywood (Madras of yore), the two Tollywoods, and the Big Daddy of them all, Bollywood. Not sure if Bhojpuri films and others have the respectability of a 'wooden' tag yet.

What Makes a Good B School?

A slightly different take on this. One, being good. Second, proving you are good. First is equivalent to the "Product" . The second is more like "marketing" of the product. If you are good and no one is the wiser, it does not help the stakeholders. The list of must haves in a good B school, in my view are-

1. Good students. Without them, your glory would be short-lived. By extension, good alumni.

2. Faculty who do more than teach. Contributions, originality, creativity, willingness to contribute to brand-building in some form is a must these days. Anyone can read a text book, or google the 'content'..so a teacher is more like a mentor and a brand ambassador. He may have to do research, or executive training, or other activities, to make a mark. Maybe write a book.

3. Promoters' vision. All top schools of business have a strong vision to be among the best.

4. Intellectual Resources and Atmosphere fostering Innovation. Basic databases and software, simulation, games etc..in addition to Cases are a must. Encouragement of networking activities like international partnerships, conferencing are also a must.

5. Pushing students to excel at both curricular and other skill and conscience building activities. These can set a B School apart.

Maun Vrat- Period of Silence

This is, as far as I know, India's gift to the world. I am inspired to go on one every now and then, like now. Blogging does not count as talking, therefore I can rightfully claim to be on one.

When does one go on a period of silence? When you feel disturbed. I understand in the meditation system called Vipassana, you have to switch your mouth off for a week at a time. If that makes you go weak in the knees, all the better. Children do not understand the need for silence, and can be forgiven their lapses. But adults, with new-found toys such as mobile phones, find it hard to keep shut, even in (or maybe particularly in) public places. By far, the most effective way to shut the males of our species is to get them married - to a female of the species.

Silence is supposed to be golden, and with gold prices being at an all time high, one would imagine that silence would be at a premium, and so it is. Noise is one of the biggest problems mankind faces, and the idiot box contributes much of the idiocy associated with everyday noise. The TV debates are extremely noisy, and so are the ads. That leaves the saas bahu serials. They bring in some rap-style background noises while focusing the camera on all the characters available for the shoot that day, sequentially. Makes you want to force them to go on the longest maun vrat of all. After all, what is the mute button for?

The festivals such as Ganesh Chaturthi now have a regular dose of song and dance playfully adjusted to high decibel levels, so that ENT specialists are assured of good business in the "E" part of their specialisation. Diwali is around the corner, and while I am all for the fun and light, would someone please cut the sound? Community Maun Vrat, anyone?

The Indians by Sudhir and Katharina Kakar

This is a book I am reading, and contains a fascinating portrait of us Indians. Some of the authors' observations are insightful, and ring true from experience. Particularly if you have had a close look at other cultures or people, you may get more out of this.

Their take on leadership and team work are relevant for all students of management. Sample this-

"Among the subordinates, there is a tendency to idealise the leader and look upon him as a repository of all virtues, an almost superhuman figure ...."

"Since Indian institutions are markedly hierarchical, collaborative teamwork across levels of status and power proves to be difficult. Decisions tend to be pushed upward.."

"The absence of a democratic mode of functioning in Indian institutions is not resented as long as leaders develop a close relationship with the led."

They also talk of the family being the cornerstone of an Indian way of life, and not the man-woman couple as in many Western societies. The saas bahu (mother-in-law vs. daughter-in-law) struggle is essentially a means of subjugating the romantic relationship and upholding the primacy of 'the family' and the saas is only an agent of the family in achieving this goal.

Indians are corrupt because corruption, nepotism etc. are secondary when compared to the importance of fulfilling obligations to one's kith and kin or "extended family", according to the authors.

They also have interesting explanations for the Indians' fascination for the fair skin colour and the abhorrence of "lower castes" that pervades even non-Hindus in India in some form, in spite of Mahatma Gandhi.

Fascinating, must read for every Indian. Even if you can't change, it will at least make you aware of what we are.

Two gems from the book, to close with.

Indians are the most undemocratic people living in the biggest democracy.

We are the cleanest people living in a filthy country (refers to public spaces).

Coal, Telangana and the "Power" crisis

Half the country is struggling coz apparently, the coal got wet. Also, the AP govt. undertaking, Singareni Collieries, is on strike. There seem to be two 'power' struggles going on here. One for the yet-to-be formed state of Telangana, and in particular, the Nizam crown jewel, Hyderabad (do I hear the Nizam laughing?) Apparently intractable problem, making Kashmir and Palestine look like a 3 year old's jigsaw puzzle by comparison. What's so intractable about it, I am still not too sure. Maybe the next committee will tell us.

The other struggle is far more interesting, and I believe, presents us with a great opportunity. Why not go all out for renewable energy sources, now that we know what the future looks like- BLACK, or dark, if you prefer, if we continue depending on coal and oil. Actually, the U.S. and Greece could start doing this research too, to bring them out of debts/bankruptcies, etc..might be good for everyone.

A Mighty Heart- movie and reality

Saw the movie with this title last night. It's about the Wall Street Journal reporter (Daniel Pearl) who got kidnapped and then beheaded by terrorists in Pakistan. Reminded me of Roja in some parts- the movie by Mani Ratnam about the kidnapping of a cryptologist. Also the movie that launched A.R. Rahman's music. The similarilty lies in the doggedness with which the wife in both cases fights to get her husband back. In mythology, Savitri did that to get Satyavaan back from Yama, the Hindu god of death.

It's a real story, and keeps you on your edge, with a lot of expected and some unexpected happenings. What it also makes you feel is that the whole world of terrorism is also governed by some Do's and Dont's. For instance, in the confusion of a Pakistani or Indian city, how difficult is to kidnap anyone if someone puts his mind to it? Not very. But does not happen too often, particularly with high profile people, say foreigners. Is it because the terrorists are also aware that repurcussions for some of their actions are likely to be more deadly than others? Also, one more lesson is that today's friend could be an enemy another day in the world of crime and terror.

Back to the movie. I realised that I have seen more of Irfan Khan's films than those of Angelina Jolie. She turns in a good performance, and so do the rest of the cast. I liked the movie.

Pseudonyms and Suffixes

Some people don't like their names. I didn't, for a long time. But got used to being called names- so many, that it ceased to matter after a while. And I am not including the unflattering ones that I may not have heard of. At home, in school, in college, at IIMB, and in the US of A, I always had a re-christening of sorts. But I find the recent news item about a certain Iqbal Mirchi quite intriguing. What makes a gangster tick? A suitable name?

One would assume that to be a gangster, one must be able to throw one's weight around- even if you are a featherweight in real life. As a part of this need, you must have a suitable name which suits you- jo shobha deta hai (as in Shobhraj?). Chhota Shakeel has a ring to it that just Shakeel does not. What if you were confused with the lyricist Shakeel Badayuni? Just think. Al Capone would not be Al Capone with any other name. It has a certain respectable (for a gangster) ring to it. Branding the bootlegger? Maybe.

But it would be a mistake to assume that just any suffix or prefix would do. For example, you can't substitute with gay abandon a tamatar or aloo for 'mirchi' in the aforesaid man's name. Wouldn't be good for the business.

Of course, one could use terse one letter acronyms as in C, D or G. For a long time, Hindi films had a villain named J.K. But this can get confusing if two godfathers with the same initial/s heat up the same turf. Maybe then, just a term of endearment like Bhai would suffice, instead of this apt name rigmarole. Even countries try to play Big Brother at times. Sounds more palatable than Supercop, maybe.

Doing Research- The Basics

Academic research done for the purpose of publishing a paper or presenting it at a conference or for a doctoral thesis is not everyone's cup of tea, and should not be. But if it is, how should one go about it? I get asked this question often, and it's not so difficult to answer. Let me attempt to do so. Sorry if it sounds like gyan from a baba or a baby!

The most important part of any research is not the statistics, but well, ...RESEARCH. Or, in easier to understand jargon, the literature review. Of past work done in the subject area you want to work on. Many researchers start with questionnaire design, do a survey of sorts, and wonder what they did! The reason is, there's no link with theory, no justification for what you did or how (methodology, to use jargon).

A good literature review can be done at your desk with the help of an online journal database like EBSCO or ProQuest these days. It takes only a day to download your readings for a particular keyword or phrase (research topic), but many weeks to read and digest it. Once it floats around in the brain, questions arise, and some of these serve as research questions for your study. Others lead to a possible methodology, after discussions with peers or your research guide. Justification for your work is easier, and linking your findings after your research to existing findings provides a validation or otherwise of work done earlier- and yours.

Questionnaire design is critical if you want to do a survey, but that must follow the literature review. That must result in getting the results in a format you want. If you can visualise blank tables of results, can you get them from the questions you have got on the questionnaire, is a good way to think about it.

Lastly, the results must allude to the hypotheses or questions asked in the beginning, and say what happened to each one of these. All this applies to research with primary data. Conceptual papers can come out of literature review and some projections or hypotheses alone.

Origin of Company Names

Some interesting trivia on how company names came about. Can't vouch for their authenticity, but interesting nevertheless.

Adobe:
This came from the name of the river Adobe Creek that ran behind the house of founder John Warnock.

Apple Computers:
It was the favourite fruit of founder Steve Jobbs. He was three months late for filing a name for the business, and he threatened to call his company Apple Computers if the other colleagues didn't suggest a better name by 5 o'clock.

CISCO:
It is not an acronym as popularly believed. It's short for San Francisco.

Compaq:
This name was formed by using COMp, for computer and PAQ to denote a small integral object.

Corel:
The name was derived from the founder's name Dr. Michael Cowpland. It stands for COwpland Research Laboratory.

Google:
The name started as a joke boasting about the amount of information the search-engine would be able to search. It was originally named 'Googol', a word for the number represented by 1 followed by 100 zeros. After founders - Stanford graduate students Sergey Brin and Larry Page presented their project to an angel investor; they received a cheque made out to 'Google'...

Hotmail:
Founder Jack Smith got the idea of accessing e-mail via the web from a computer anywhere in the world. When Sabeer Bhatia came up with the business plan for the mail service, he tried all kinds of names ending in 'mail' and finally settled for hotmail as it included the letters'html' - the programming language used to write web pages. It was initially referred to as HoTMaiL with selective uppercasing.

Hewlett Packard :
Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard tossed a coin to decide whether the company they founded would be called Hewlett-Packard or Packard-Hewlett.

Intel:
Bob Noyce and Gordon Moore wanted to name their new company 'MooreNoyce' but that was already trademarked by a hotel chain so they had to settle for an acronym of INTegrated ELectronics.

Lotus (Notes) :
Mitch Kapor got the name for his company from 'The Lotus Position' or 'Padmasana'. Kapor used to be a teacher of transcendental Meditation of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Microsoft:
Coined by Bill Gates to represent the company that was devoted to MICROcomputer SOFTware. Originally christened Micro-Soft, the '-' was removed later on.

Motorola:
Founder Paul Galvin came up with this name when his company started manufacturing radios for cars. The popular radio company at the time was called Victrola.

ORACLE:
Larry Ellison and Bob Oats were working on a consulting project for the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency). The code name for the project was called Oracle (the CIA saw this as the system to give answers to all questions or something such). The project was designed to help use the newly written SQL code by IBM. The project eventually was terminated but Larry and Bob decided to finish what they started and bring it to the world. They kept the name Oracle and created the RDBMS engine. Later they kept the same name for the company.

Sony:
It originated from the Latin word 'sonus' meaning sound, and 'sonny' a slang used by Americans to refer to a bright youngster.

SUN:
Founded by 4 Stanford University buddies, SUN is the acronym for Stanford University Network. Andreas Bechtolsheim built a microcomputer; Vinod Khosla recruited him and Scott McNealy to manufacture computers based on it, and Bill Joy to develop a UNIX-based OS for the computer.

Apache:
It got its name because its founders got started by applying patches to code written for NCSA's httpd daemon. The result was 'A PAtCHy'server --thus, the name Apache Jakarta (project from Apache): A project constituted by SUN and Apache to create a web server handling servlets and JSPs. Jakarta was name of the conference room at SUN where most of the meetings between SUN and Apache took place.

Tomcat:
The servlet part of the Jakarta project. Tomcat was the code name for the JSDK 2.1 project inside SUN.

C:
Dennis Ritchie improved on the B programming language and called it 'NewB'. He later called it C. Earlier B was created by Ken Thompson as a revision of the Bon programming language (named after his wife Bonnie).

C++:
Bjarne Stroustrup called his new language 'C with Classes' and then 'newC'. Because of which the original C began to be called 'old C', which was considered insulting to the C community. At this time, Rick Mascitti suggested the name C++ as a successor to C.

GNU:
A species of African antelope. Founder of the GNU project Richard Stallman liked the name because of the humour associated with its pronunciation and was also influenced by the children's song 'The Gnu Song' which is a song sung by a gnu. Also it fitted into the recursive acronym culture with 'GNU's Not Unix'.

Java:
Originally called Oak by creator James Gosling, from the tree that stood outside his window, the programming team had to look for a substitute, as there was no other language with the same name. Java was selected from a list of suggestions. It came from the name of the coffee that the programmers drank.

LG:
Combination of two popular Korean brands Lucky and Goldstar.

Linux:
Linus Torvalds originally used the Minix OS on his system which he replaced by his OS. Hence the working name was Linux (Linus' Minix). He thought the name to be too egotistical and planned to name it Freax (free+ freak + x).His friend Ari Lemmke encouraged Linus to upload it to a network so it could be easily downloaded. Ari gave Linus a directory called Linux on his FTP server, as he did not like the name Freax. (Linus' parents named him after two-time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling).

Mozilla:
When Marc Andreesen, founder of Netscape, created a browser to replace Mosaic (also developed by him), it was named Mozilla (Mosaic-Killer, Godzilla) .The marketing guys didn't like the name however and it was re-christened Netscape Navigator.

Red Hat:
Company founder Marc Ewing was given the Cornell lacrosse team cap (with red and white stripes) while at college by his grandfather. He lost it and had to search for it desperately. The manual of the beta version of Red Hat Linux had an appeal to readers to return his Red Hat if found by anyone!

SAP:
'Systems, Applications, Products in Data Processing', formed by 4 ex-IBM employees who used to work in the 'Systems/ Applications / Projects' group of IBM.

SCO (UNIX):
From Santa Cruz Operation. The company's office was in Santa Cruz.

UNIX:
When Bell Labs pulled out of MULTICS (MULTiplexed Information and Computing System), which was originally a joint Bell/GE/MIT project, Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie of Bell Labs wrote a simpler version of the OS. They needed the OS to run the game Space War which was compiled under MULTICS. It was called

UNICS - UNIplexed operating and Computing System by Brian Kernighan. It was later shortened to UNIX.

Xerox:
the inventor, Chestor Carlson, named his product trying to say `dry' (as it was dry copying, markedly different from the then prevailing wet copying). The Greek root `xer' means dry.

Yahoo!:
The word was invented by Jonathan Swift and used in his book 'Gulliver's Travels'. It represents a person who is repulsive in appearance and action and is barely human. Yahoo! founders Jerry Yang and David Filo selected the name because they considered themselves yahoos.

3M:
Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company started off by mining the material corundum used to make sandpaper.

Jagjit Singh

Ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh has passed away. I, for one have been a fan for about 30 years now, give or take a few. He appealed with his super-smooth voice and touching lyrics (not his, but acquiring a new voice). He had a way with words, playing with them as if they were music.

Whether it was nostalgia for a lost, carefree, golden childhood, or the pining for a beloved, he had amazing grace and a dard in his rendering of the situation, with feeling. At one level, his voice reminded one of Talat Mehmood, another silky voice in filmdom. Though he also sang for films, his best work is non-filmy, and rightly too, because film songs are typically hemmed in by a lot of boundaries- story, and the need to cater to a certain audience- which is limiting. The non-filmy world is much larger and the choices are plenty, from which to pick the ghazals.

I particularly remember a ghazal that was sung by both Jagjit Singh and Ghulam Ali. Both were fantastic. The words are "Kal Chaudhvin ki raat thi, shab bhar raha charcha tera..kuch ne kaha yeh chand hai, kuch ne kaha chehra tera.."

Hamara pyaarbhara salaam to the departed soul.

Glengarry Glen Ross and The Deer Hunter

Saw two old films on DVD. One movie is about selling and salesmen, and the other about the Vietnam war from a humanitarian point of view. Both are terrific in their own way.

Glengarry..is based on a play centred in a real estate firm. A spent old salesman (Jack Lemmon is stupendous), a star salesman (Al Pacino in a very good role), and a blood-sucking boss (Kevin Spacey) make up the main star cast of this movie that takes you through the twists and turns, triumphs and tragedies of a salesman's life through the examples of the first two. Brilliantly scripted, it is riveting drama of the politics of distributing leads among salesmen, incentive systems, intrigue, smooth tongues, beating the system, etc...Keeps you engrossed with some great actors playing their parts well.

The Deer Hunter is a warm human drama about three Pennsylvania steel workers forced to leave their tranquil life behind and go to the gory reality of Vietnam. The barbarism and futility of war is brought out starkly, with one losing his limbs, the other going crazy and only one (Robert De Niro) returning safely, but also deeply affected. The Deer Hunting episode at the beginning and end of the film serves as an analogy for violence, and the hero, a sharp-shooter at first, deliberately misses a targeted deer at the end, after his war experience. Meryl Streep is the heroine, in an endearing character who waits fruitlessly for her hubby to return from Vietnam.

Making Life Interesting

How to make life interesting is a challenge. One can focus on oneself, or you can look outwards. Both have possibilities. You can learn new things, do new things, delve into philosophy or the meaning of life whatever interests you. You can learn to sing, or play an instrument. Or more easy, read. Or travel. Blogging might be an option too, though it is a little harder for some.

I visited a factory set up by an engineering classmate today, and refreshed a few engineering fundas that I had forgotten long ago. This is an engineering niche product sold across the world by only 3-4 companies, his company being one of the elite crowd. We got to discussing competition, and surprisingly, he said there was little of it. In this day and age, I thought it was amazing that there are businesses without much competition. Wouldn't we all love to be in one such? But then, look around and you will find that in each industry, there are some companies that customers love, and others are also-rans. Worth thinking about the reasons. Not all of them are realising their potential. Same with us? Maybe. Maybe interesting to think about it in our own context. That should make life interesting for a while.

Shaw Wallace Placement Process at IIMB

This was a piece written during our MBA placement season after Shaw Wallace had visited campus (IIMB, circa 1984). Enjoy!

Managers 'Pygmalioned'

George Bernard Shaw happened to visit IIMB yesterday, since he was passing through Bangalore. With him had come the irrepressible Eliza Dolittle. The news of their arrival spread like wildfire. In no time at all, a line of twenty-six 'suitors' was ready, asking for her hand. The elite of IIMB were invited, and the rites were to be performed by the placement officer, in the event of Eliza falling for one of the eligibles.


Contrary to tradition, Eliza's creator made a 'proposal'. Said he, "Anyone willing to marry my sweet girl will get Rs. 1,500 a month."

Many eyebrows came up. Mistaking the sentiment behind these, Shaw continued, "Also, you will get Rs. 200 per month..for tiffin."

Now, a few (not less than 15) of the suitors got up from their seats. Bernard Shaw moved forward, to try and contain their glee at the unexpected bonus (200 bucks). He was somewhat surprised when the 'free-wheeling fifteen' made for the door, ignoring his placatory arm.

"Well, to each his own," he said to himself. For, he was a reasonable man.

The rest of the process continued in Room no. 5 in strict confidence. What went on is typified by the following exchange-

SHAW: You see, you are 'experienced'. But we can offer you only 1500 rupees-

SUITOR: Dowry is anti-national.

SHAW: And Rs. 150 for tiffin.

SUITOR: No, I cannot stain the reputation of this institute, our society, our nation.

SHAW: You'll always have Eliza.

SUITOR: What about Tiffin for Eliza?

SHAW: She's on a diet. See her figure!

SUITOR: And lunch....and dinner?

SHAW: Sorry, but my hands are tied. But I can transform you from a country bumpkin into a prince.

SUITOR: Talk sense. Who can afford the lifestyle of a prince? Being a manager is difficult enough.

SHAW: Well, what's your answer?

SUITOR: Only if you pay the dry-cleaning charges for my suit.

SHAW: Actually, Eliza prefers an 'inexperienced' husband. She has her reasons.

SUITOR: Yeah, the chief one being that they come CHEAP. (Walks out in a huff)

Question to ponder: What should Eliza do?

Supplementary: What should (ponderous) Shaw do?

THE (not-so-sweet) END.

Turning 51- Man's Search for Meaning

On the verge of turning 51 in a few days, I read a meaningful book. Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning, by Viktor Frankl. This guy also wrote a book with the 'ultimate' word missing- Man's Search for Meaning. I had read the first book as a part of our recommended reading during MBA at IIMB ages ago, and don't recall the whole story, but it was about retaining sanity in the face of a concentration camp experience. The author went through it, and survived.

This one is more elaborate about schools of thought in psychotherapy, and what the author calls logotherapy- the search for meaning kind of therapy. His basic contention is that man is more than the bone and muscle and brain, and is mainly driven by what he perceives as "meaningful" stuff. He argues fairly convincingly, that a person who finds meaning needs little else- not that other things hurt, but they are not sufficient for people. He cites several people who are well-to-do by their own standards and yet dissatified. When given something to think about regarding their purpose in life, many turn around. Drugs, and similar addictions, he says are due more to a lack of meaning and purpose than any seeking of pleasure per se.

He says the breakdown of tradition and values has confused people, as they no longer know what their reasons for existing are. Suicides are one manifestation of this, even in materially rich countries. He is also very optimistic that given a purpose, people can do wonders in even the most adverse circumstances. He is living proof of a sort.

Obesity and Gross Domestic Product

Most people say obesity is gross. I say, it contributes majorly to the Gross Domestic Product, and therefore, economically at least, it is lovely. Imagine the impact of 'no obesity' on the world. It would be horrid beyond imagination.

All dietary advisors and magazines and TV shows would have to shut down. This includes ayurvedic prescriptors, nutritionists, and the Atkinses of the world. Imagine how much damage it could do to the already slow economy. I say, we can't afford it.

Food production and farmers. What would be the fate of all the poor farmers, middlemen and food retailers if nobody ate the stuff they produce or sell in humongous (and beyond necessary) quantities? Well, they would starve, if not commit suicide, but for reasons different from the present ones. We can't afford that either.

Almost half the "beauty" consultants offer infinite tips on reducing obesity (lately there have been bestsellers in India too), while laughing their way to their respective banks. Do we want to kick their tummy (translation of the Hindi pet par laath marna)? No way!

I say, let's have more obese people, so that no filmy mom can ever say that eternal dialogue again- "Tu kitna dubla/dubli ho gaya/gayi hai". And the world will recover to a 'healthier' GDP.

Force - Movie Review

Finding myself in the vicinity, I decided to walk in and see the movie 'Force'. Not bad, was my reaction at the end. But it could have been very good. Actually, there are elements that are really good. Genelia, for one. She brings in a much-needed breath of fresh air in a chor-police serious drama. She is good at this bubbly stuff, as we found out in her Hindi debut, Jaane Tu...John Abraham can't act, but the director smartly uses that to his advantage, joking about his serous (wooden?)expression through Genelia's character.

There is also some good action. But some loose ends are jarring. For instance, the hero who correctly gauges the maniacal nature of his adversary fails to take precautions, knowing the dangers fully well (having been warned on the phone), to protect himself, and his colleagues. The heroine dying was unnecessary, and it makes the force look stupid. In the scene where the villain escapes from 4-5 cops surrounding him, it makes no sense that the cop does not shoot him in the foot at least.

Anyway, for a Hindi film, it is ok. The music is forgettable, but then, one doesn't expect much in that department these days.

Why I Hate Self-service

Self-service is a non-starter, as far as I am concerned. First of all, the meaning of service is that the service-person is dedicated to ...

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