Showing posts from August, 2014

Dry State of Kerala-Its After-effects

This is bigger than an earthquake, and its after-shocks will be felt for decades, and not just in Kerala. I am talking of prohibition in Kerala, just announced by the state. This is a look (you know where the tongue is) at those mammoth consequences.

1. The Kerala State Beverages Corporation, the biggest money-making (or the only?) enterprise, will go ka-boom, as they eloquently say in comics.

2. The entertainment that common citizens have, of standing in long lines to buy liquor from the KSBC counters will be taken away. This is actually more fun than what happens after consuming the liquor- nothing.

3. Bootleggers will have a new territory to expand their business. How long can you survive on just one (state, not peg)? (sorry, Lays campaigners)

4. Dubai duty-free will go out of business, and that will have global repercussions.

5. Foreign (and domestic) tourists will abandon God's Own Country and go to Hell, or Satanic places where they have the freedom to drink.

6. Border area…

Before Midnight- Film Review

This is the third one in the series of offbeat films, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset being the first two. My admiration grew for all the people associated with the movie. There are few films in which the hero and heroine are both involved in the script. This is one of those- along with director Richard Linklater, they are in good form. Like the two earlier films, this is centred around conversations between the hero and heroine.

In this one, one of the long conversations/fights starts during lovemaking. Surprising? Well, they are married in this one, and many interesting things happen when two people are married. The fights, as I always maintained, are some of those interesting things. And the film tries to prove me right.

The difference is that there is also a great conversation around a Greek dining table (they are visiting a Greek writer and his family), which is extremely stimulating, in which three generations discuss the man-woman romantic relationship and its possible future…

Book Review- The Sceptical Patriot

This book by Sidin Vadukut is about the great country that India is/was (mostly in the past tense). He examines several India 'facts' to the best of his ability, and concludes that there are wildly inaccurate half-truths or less, circulating as truths on the social media and through email chains.

Some of these include "India never attacked a foreign country." True only to the North of India. The Cholas actually ruled over vast parts of East Asia. "India invented the zero." is partially true, as in it invented the use of zero as a full-fledged digit, but there were symbols used earlier to indicate 'place' where nothing was between digits.

"World's first plastic surgery was done by Indians." Could be true, but as usual, there are grey areas about when and who actually did this. There is a description of how to do a nose job in some ancient texts.

Finding documents about anything Indian is a Herculean task, and some temple inscriptions a…

Now You See Me- Film Review

This film is pure magic. Literally and figuratively. It is so engrossing that I did not want to miss a scene. A car chase that seems pointless and stereotyped also turns out to be more than the eye can detect. In fact, the entire movie is full of deception that is hard to catch.

The story is of four magicians who hit the big time with shows in Las Vegas etc., thanks to a billionaire benefactor (played well by Michael Caine). They come up with a jaw-dropping illusion- looting the bank mentioned by an audience member- in Paris! This turns out to be a real robbery, but the magicians have a perfect alibi. They were in Las Vegas at the time! So they can't be booked for the crime.

They go on to perform two more stunts in live shows, one that empties their benefactor's bank account in favour of audience members. The benefator then turns to another magician who has exposed tricks of a guy called Shrike earlier (Morgan Freeman, excellent as always) to stop the Four Horsemen (the magic…

Planning Commission Decommissioned

I am just trying to imagine what the Planning Commission must have done in their sixty years of existence.

Year 1-20

Have annual meetings to understand how to plan. Make a quarterly trip to Russia to educate themselves.

Year 21-30

Implement that learning. Keep everything (including bread, rice, sugar) in short supply, just like the Russians did. Make a government office unreachable, according to 'plan'. Fortunately, outings in Siberia for dissenters were not implemented. Must have been an oversight. Well, nobody is perfect.

Year 31-40

Change gears. Go on quarterly trips to the USA to learn how they could beat the s**t out of Russia economically, and make so many models of cars.

Year 41-60

Start making cars with power windows in India. Send IT guys to sabotage the US systems so they would be brought down to our Hindu growth rates. Lehmann Bros beat them to this in 2008, with innovative thinking.

And now there's no Planning Commission. Job well done!

How To Guides

There should be a How to Guide to help us negotiate important tasks that we need to perform in our life. I have customised this (potential wish) list for India. Anyone interested? You could be a millionaire.

1. How to fill up water to last you a day.
2. How to get a cooking gas connection.
3. How to Get an Address Proof.
4. How to Get a Driving License- with and without knowledge of driving anything, except driving people nuts.
5. How to Find a Suitable Match without using
6. How to Negotiate your way through the ceremony.
7. How to Get Your Kid Admission into Kindergarten.
8. How to Get Through the maze of 'Type 1, Type 2' instructions and get hold of a Customer Care executive (why do they call them that?) with service of any kind.
9. How to Read a text book without falling asleep.
10. How to Play with a Straight Bat- this is for our test cricketers.

Meeting Old Friends

I have realised that I have a major hobby. That is to talk about old times. I guess all old guys have this one. But there is a twist in the tale. I like to talk about old times with new people. And I have a huge stock of people with whom I can talk. That includes my 3000-odd students from around 9 places I have been in. The most recent ex-students are from IMT Nagpur/Ghaziabad.

So it was when I met Nikita at Pune. She is from IMT Nagpur, and now working. It was great catching up on old times, with of course, new perspective. She had been in the student placecom (committee) and that was one thing to talk about. Because this was the first time that IMT achieved record placements. It took years of effort, but it paid off. Nice to learn such things.

There was a lot of other gossip too, which will remain undisclosed, but it was great fun catching up. I recently met with lots of alumni at Bangalore too (Madhulika, Abhinav, Anupriya and Gowri-Sreeram from IMT and Sowmyashree from PESIT). An…

Facebook, Whatsapp and Me

First there was Orkut. It stormed the world with what it enabled people to do. Share comments, pics and what not. There might have been others, but Orkut was the king. And then FB happened, sweeping away everything in its path.

Now, Whatsapp seems much more popular, particularly for smartphone users. I am a dumb user of smartphones, doing nothing much on mine except making some calls and sending SMSes (remember Short Messaging Service?)- I know, oh- so- outdated.

There's something called Tumblr too, I think, but the only one I know is the one used to have coffee from in the southern part of India.

I am on the list of endangered species like the dinosaurs once were and almost all large mammals except dictators and war-mongers today are, I fear. But I wonder how long facebook will last, particularly because I am told it's more about ads and promos of all kinds (many undesirable to the average Joe on fb) these days.

I think blogs will last forever, though, coz they are not easi…

Cynicism and Optimism

The reactions to PM Modi's speeches are bipolar- you either love them or hate them. The unfortunate part of our history for the last decade has been that cynicism has replaced optimism. Actually, everyone knows the problems we have as a nation AND the solutions to these. In 1991, they were articulated well by Manmohan Singh in his historic budget speech.

It is indeed ironic that it took the (once-in-opposition) BJP PM to re-articulate them for us. And that the same Dr. Singh allowed things to drift in the other direction-away from reform- when he had the chance. Anyway, the lost decade apart, one can still solve most problems by working at them, bit by bit. No one has a magic wand, not the US, not Russia, nor some messiah from above. We need to work on the agenda we set ourselves.

The sooner we start, the sooner we get there. And we have to learn to understand what is good for us as a people- a country, indeed, the world (but after we set ourselves straight). That we need product…

Independence Day

For me, this should mean independence from

1. Exploitation
2. Ignorance, Fear
3. War and war-mongering
4. Want
5. Fanaticism of any kind- ethnic, linguistic and so on.
6. False pride in anything (lacking corresponding achievement)
7. False gods (or people posing as gods).
8. Our many weaknesses.
9. Unfulfilling Pursuits
10. Crappy films/music/books

How to Worry Less About Money- Book Review

This book is excellent in its approach to the subject-pragmatic. It discusses threadbare money's hidden hold on every one of us, its role in giving us status, happiness, a better married life, dalliances, and opportunities to do good, for us or others, or whatever we choose to make of it. Especially the last. Without using it for something, it remains a pile of bricks. You could make a nice house out of it, but money does not tell you how to do that. That is up to you.

It is important to have a view about it, and a relationship with it, according to John Armstrong, the author. He quotes from or illustrates the lives of Goethe, Aristotle and also some mythical people to elaborate on his ideas. How much do I Need? analyses in a matter-of-fact way, needs, wants and absolute fantasy for each category of things you will use money for, in three columns. You can get by on the first, be comfortable with the second and luxuriate in the (mostly unattainable for an average person, but also …

Kevdeshwar Temple

There is an ancient temple I discovered on a short road-trip out of Indore yesterday. We had gone out hunting for a river (actually two) - Kshipra- at the closest possible site from the campus, due to a friend's time limitation.

Recently, the govt. has set up a meeting place for the Kshipra and the Narmada- two important rivers in the region, at a sangam (meeting point) near here. There is already a temple dedicated to Kshipra (deified version of the river) there. Pipelines bring in water from the two rivers and it flows through a ghat and out again.

On the way there, we found this ancient temple, Kevdeshwar, surrounded by huge banyan trees. A nice find. The green drive was also very enjoyable. Many of our attractions are hidden from the public, and one only discovers them serendipitously.

Why Kishore Kumar is Kishore Kumar

I am now close to his birthplace- Khandwa. So I thought I should once more pay this incredible guy a tribute. I have heard all singers who sang for Hindi films from about 1950 to date, one way or another, male and female, and also like many of them. But I still think Kishore Kumar was different-for me at least.

We used to joke among friends that even if he sang a sad song, he came out sounding upbeat. An example is 'Dukhi man mere, sun mera kehna, jahan nahin chaina wahan nahin rehna'..though a sad song, his singing somehow gives it a soothing quality.

Another quality of his singing was clear articulation. I never was a fan of western music, mainly because I could not figure out the lyrics. Some country music was an exception, but that was it. With Kishore Kumar, his words came out crystal clear, unlike a few of his predecessors. Understanding the song made it more pleasurable. Whether it was a solo or a duet. I think an extreme case of the music taking a complete backseat is…

Book Review- Lady, You are not a Man

This is a book by Apurva Purohit, CEO of Radio City and an alumna of IIM Bangalore. I picked it up at the Hyderabad airport recently, and since I had heard of it from the alumni, decided to read it at once.

It has a semi-feminist  and humorous look at the positives and negatives of the workplace. Its tone and language are not feminist in its aggressive sense, and men would enjoy reading it as much as women. I did. The take-offs on men/husbands and their egos are particularly good. How a subordinate (man) needs to be cajoled into doing something after planting the seed in him and making him think it was his idea, has invaluable lessons for women bosses.

There are summaries of the sections at the end of each, which make it a little didactic (hope that is the right word), but you can skip those portions. The case studies of real people sprinkled throughout are very nice, adding to the 'theories of the workplace' coming from Apurva's own experiences.

The importance of Indian …

Woody Allen's The Front

This is a movie about a dark chapter in American history- the persecution of anyone remotely linked to the left. I mean with communist leanings. American people have seen slavery, a civil war, and this mindless persecution which probably ended in the sixties, but not before taking a heavy toll of reputations and people with reputations.

Anyway, trust Wood to make a black comedy about this. Made in 1976, this is the story of an ordinary American who fronts as a writer for a "left-leaning' friend who is on the dreaded blacklist, and therefore does not get any work under his own name. This leads to naturally comic situations, such as Woody pretending to know a lot of authors, and his being asked to rewrite a scene on the sets of a hit TV show because the sponsor has a gas company and wants the reference to gas chambers deleted from a Nazi story episode. He also finds a girl who is in love with the 'writer' in him, and throws a fit when she discovers he is not.

A delight…

Customer Service- Good and Bad

We live and learn. I learnt a lot from two instances of customer service today.

First, we were out trying to fix a punctured tubefull (for lack of a better descriptor) tyre. The first couple of guys were either not at their station or ignored us. The third guy condescended, but after he learnt it was not a tubeless one, nochalantly asked us to get the tube removed at "a showroom" and get the tube to be worked on. He would only work on the puncture, but not remove the tube. Amazed, we moved on to try our luck at the fourth. After giving us dire warnings about the tube quality (trying to sell a new one), he fixed the puncture and we moved on in life.

Immediately therafter, we had a delightful experience of some great service. At the restaurant called Haveli, we asked for food, and we asked him to make it quick as we had something to do in 45 minutes (he must have heard that from our talk too). We were literally out of the restaurant, bill included, in less than 30 minutes! Am…