Monday, December 28, 2015

A Christmas whimsy

The last bell jingled and he climbed off wearily wiping the sweat from his brow (in the North Pole!). He had no breath left even for one 'HoHoHo!'

Being stuck with distributing toys to children, and going 'HoHoHo' while doing so, had seemed so much fun when it all started. But, then, those had been times when children actually hung up socks at night and eagerly opened them in the morning; and were actually joyous to see a top or a wooden horse in the morning. Ever since they started saying, "Eeew! I wanted a clockwork train not this nasty old horse", the fun had started draining out of his life. What was the point in being Santa Claus if he could not make children happy?

If things had, at least, been easier to do, it would not pinch so much. Earlier, all he had to do was to squeeze himself through various sizes of chimneys. Now...with mortals having dispensed with all chimneys, except where they kept them on for ornamentation, he had had to squeeze himself to the tiniest of shapes in order to do his delivery job. Yes...it had just become a job now. It was no more fun.

How could it be fun, anyway? The time was when what he delivered were toys...bits and pieces of fancy and fantasy with which a wonder-struck child could create its own worlds; its own games and its own fun. Now, though, what he was handing out was cookie-cutter fantasies into which a child would lose itself, without ever knowing the multitude of unknown fancies that had died still-born. What he now gave were no longer toys for children. They were the sort of games that adults played, except that, when adults played, real people suffered and/or died.

He sighed again, his mood quite at odds with the festiveness of the season that he represented. He really should not be brooding like this. It was just the thought of all his artisans now lying idle. With the sort of toys that now spread happiness, it was no longer possible for him to be making any of it here. Bulk orders on Amazon and FlipKart had replaced the busy toy factories of Santa Claus. Learning to place these orders on what the mortals called the Internet had occupied all his time during the rest of the year.

He pulled out a toy from his pockets. The mortals called it a Smartphone. He looked at it gloomily. This year he would have to spend learning to use this toy. It seemed likely that, some time soon, he could not place orders without using what they called Apps on these Smartphones. It was hard, hard and so uncaring of the elderly, for these chaps to keep making changes that made him have to strain himself every year.

Then his face brightened. Anyway, the children of these times played with adult toys; did not really care much for bells or reindeer. So, why not just ask these Amazon/Flipkart blokes to directly deliver the toys, appropriately packed in socks? Santa smiled...that would make it worth having to learn all this App gobbledygook.

Now...to figure out what to do with the sled and the reindeer...

Before that...time for one last...

HOHOHO

Monday, December 21, 2015

Obsessive

"You know this odd-and-even rule that is getting applied in Delhi..."
"That 'odd' reminds me. You know the odd thing is that even though I have a book published..."

Giving up the esoteric ways of Delhi traffic as a topic, my friend plunged into the next.

"Really, the way the media dealt with the Chennai rains..."
"I know. My promo messages of my book just got flooded out on Social media"

As a last ditch attempt to get me off the subject of MY book and assuming, rather idiotically, that he could wean me off my book by talking of someone else's book, "This trolling of Barkha Dutt's book.."
"I know. People like my book but are too shy to write a review to say so. HER book they even take the trouble of going and saying they did not like it."

By now, like my friend, you would have got the point. I AM obsessive. Once my mind is on one subject, it refuses to pay attention to other insignificant things like flooded-out cities.

Ah! It is not THAT. When I look into the mirror, I do not see the ONLY important thing in the Universe staring back at me. The most handsome, the most alluring, the one with the inbuilt Axe-effect...all that, yes, but NOT the sole thing of relevance to me in the Universe. This obsession works equally as well, if not a shade better, with other things too.

Like the time my mother sent me out to get some sugar from a neighbor. On other days, when things are casual, I would spend a couple of hours chatting with her since she was about the only adult who did not think that conversation with a child should constitute exclusively of how he was doing at school. So, where with the others the conversation would be wound up with one disgruntled grunt, I could spend a couple of hours with this 'auntie'. Not when I was there for sugar, though.

"How are you, Suresh?" (Kaise ho, Suresh?"
"In a hurry. Can I have some sugar?" (Jaldi mein hoon")

There. The moment this borrowing sugar thingy entered the equation, she had ceased to be a person and become a mere sugar-vending machine. Such is the nature of obsession.

Which is why working life was so bad for my soul. I would meet my boss in a party and, by way of light conversation, say,"We still need to receive data from the marketing guys for our performance report". Starting from a glazed look in the eyes, he would, by stages, be converted into such a close replica of an Egyptian Mummy that he could have been mistaken for Tutankhamen. It never crossed my mind that the chap may prefer scotch to vodka, be proud of his daughter's kung-fu skills, prefer Baldacci to Bhagat...in short, that he could have a life outside of being employed in my office.

Or take this friend of mine, for example. He had a torrid time at his office and used to discuss it with me (Poor chap. Little did he know what he had let himself in for). You know what, as far as I was concerned the only topic of conversation that springs to my lips when I see him is those problems at office. AND, then,

"So, I hope your problems are sorted out now?"
"What problems?'

AND, know what, I had to go in great detail telling him what HIS problems were and he seemed to have no recollection of them. Merely because it had been a decade since we last met, they seemed to have vanished into the distant past, while he had seemed stuck like a fly in amber in that time, as far as I was concerned. Obsessive...

Ah! Well! Now that we are all agreed that I am obsessive there is this little matter of a book...

Oh! ALL RIGHT! No need to run way just because I mention it every now and then.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Learning social media lingo

"You know that smiley - the colon-bracket one.."
"Yes!" I said proudly. "I have mastered its use."
"Actually, you know, it is not meant to be used as a period. You do not need to put it in after every sentence."
"I don't put it in after every sentence", I said indignantly. "I also use that colon-P thing every now and then."
"Exactly what I mean. It is perfectly OK to write sentences in Social media interactions without putting in ANY emoticon at the end."

Am I rushing ahead of myself? The chap who was offering helpful advice about punctuation in Social media is a nephew who was teaching me the basics of social media lingo. Being tutored by the old in your youth and by the young in your dotage is a peculiar fate reserved for my generation, as I have had reason to lament before.

Having just learned about emoticons, I was happily proud of my mastery of these two when this 'tutor' of mine comes and punctures my balloon. Well...I am afraid that his advice fell on deaf ears, since I am still not convinced that they are NOT the social media equivalents of what we used to call the full-stop (even though no-one ever bothered to tell us what a half-stop was.) What he did manage, though, was to abruptly truncate my interest in learning more emoticons. If people will keep poking their noses in and making rude comments about the extent of your learning, is it a wonder that you lose interest in education?

There were some other things that I learned all by myself. For one, it is best to see what opinion everyone is holding about anything and agree with it wholeheartedly. Otherwise, you will get stomped on, vilified and may even face the fate worse than death - being unfriended or, horror of horrors, blocked.

It is all right for you to think that clicking 'Like' is the equivalent of 'I have seen this status message from you' on Facebook but use it with caution. You could end up clicking a 'Like' on someone's lament for a pet dog and be thought of as a heartless brute, who was probably throwing a party to rejoice in the death of the poor beast. (God know what new lessons would need to be learned if and when that 'Dislike' button goes live. You could end up clicking the 'Dislike' on the same lament, intending to express how deeply you dislike the death of the canine and the other person may feel that you are a heartless brute who dislikes someone lamenting the death of a pet.)

Never fail to 'Like' any pic put up by any of your friends - it is a given that the person thinks she looks great in it, else she would not be wanting the world to look at it. If you fail to 'Like', it is clear evidence that you do not LIKE the person, or so it shall be construed. What I am yet to understand is exactly what am I supposed to do for all these videos that everyone and his uncle is sharing these days. Is my not 'Liking' them losing me all my friends? Alack and Alas! My ignorance will end up losing me good friends and lose me all MY 'Likes' on my status messages!

Useful though these lessons are, they only constitute social media behavior and NOT lingo. Lingo does need a tutor and, having dispensed with my previous one on account of the aforementioned disagreement on the use of emoticons, I am hamstrung. I realized the depths of my problems when I discovered, by the use of deep ratiocination, that 'hv' stands for 'have' and 'gr8' stands for 'great'. As usual, filled with enthusiasm, I used these liberally in a chat - with someone who was carefully using English till then with me - and ended up with this conversation.

"Hv you got the book I wanted? It would be gr8 if you can send it to me like last time."

'ws nt d bst way. cud u send sum1 2 me fr dis?"

Huh! Was that some cross-talk on Facebook? Had I perchance tapped into some coded message for the CIA or whatever? Chills ran up and down my spine. In these days of paranoia, such inadvertent eavesdropping could cost me dear.

Now...who can I trust to check this out and tell me if this was merely the new lingo or some code that will require a supercomputer to break?

God save me! I wish I had never ventured into Social media!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Flooded out

After a hectic meeting on deciding what the Nation ought to know and who were to be on the panel so that they could be shushed by the host, it was time for some relaxation. The Editor let his hair down, just to let people know he did have hair to let down (Unlike me? Yes. So?)

Eager-beaver 1: Sir, there is something amusing on social media. Everyone is talking of some Chennai which is supposedly getting rained on. They claim it is in India.

Editor: Social media! Don't get me started on it. Those people will believe anything. Just because it is raining somewhere in the world, we cannot be using up prime time on it.

Eager-beaver 2: Sir, everyone in media must be seeing that. What if someone telecasts it tomorrow and, by some strange coincidence, Chennai happens to be in India? We might just check it out.

Editor: Hmm! You guys might as well waste your time doing that as on something else.

EB1, EB2 and the hitherto silent EB3 rush out to waste their time. After some time is duly wasted...

EB1: Just as I told you, Sir! No other major channel seems to be carrying the news. Proof positive that Chennai cannot be in India.

EB3: Sir, no state ruled by either the BJP or the Congress has any place called Chennai in it. I am sure it cannot be in India.

Editor: Just as I thought...

EB2 comes in with a young chap.

EB2: Sir. This boy says Chennai is in India.

Boy (stutters, overwhelmed to be in the august presence) : Yes, Sir! You may have heard of Sir C.V. Raman, C. Rajagopalachari...

EB2 (in an aside): Idiot! You will never make a news-person. What is the use of mentioning ancient history in a news channel?

Boy (stuttering even more): Sundar Pichai...

EB2 (whispering fiercely): Idiot! Haven't you learned anything about what is news and what is not? Don't you know anything good is just not newsworthy enough? Surely there must be some lynching, some scam....

Boy (excitedly): Sir! The 2G scam...

Editor (brightly): NOW you are talking. You mean Chennai is there...that Raja came from there?

Boy: Yes, Sir!

Editor: Where is this boy from? Does he really know what he is talking about?

EB2: He is a Madrasi, Sir!

Boy (just a shade underwhelmed now): Yes Sir! THAT word, Madrasi, which you use so tolerantly...that is based on Madras, which was the original name of Chennai.

Editor: These South Indian people and their penchant for changing names. How is one supposed to remember that this...Chennai...is in India, if they keep changing names?

Boy (totally underwhelmed and, probably, having decided to take up something more useful like plumbing instead): Everyone out there seems to manage to keep track, as witness the Social Media. They find it no more difficult than remembering Mumbai for Bombay and Varanasi for Benaras, I suppose.

Editor: Enough of that, young man! I do not even allow guests on my talk-show to speak and you dare speak back to me?

EB2: Sir, forget the idiot. I suppose we shall need to cover this, then?

Editor: Yes...we cannot let the other guys steal a march on us.

EB1: By the fifth day we can claim that it is our coverage that made the government take action to help the population.

Editor: Good idea! Make a note to put that on my teleprompter. No need to wait till the fifth day. Weather is so unpredictable and we cannot take a chance on the rains stopping before we say that.

* * *

WHAT?? It did not happen this way? The news media knew all along that Chennai IS in India? Are you sure? Oh! You mean that the news of the devastation in Chennai, unlike the Uttaranchal disaster and all, just got flooded out by more important things like Aamir Khan's supposed imminent departure from India. How was I to know that? I always did lack a sense of priorities.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Much ado about intolerance

Call me stupid, if you will (WHAT? You do not need an invitation? You would do it anyway?), but I really did not understand what this brouhaha about intolerance was all about. I mean, humanity has always been intolerant. Comes of climbing down from trees but not leaving all the animal instincts behind, I suppose (that one, specifically, of fearing strangers). Anyone, who is not one of 'us', has always been an 'outsider' with his every action, that does not conform, an affront. Anywhere in the world, the polite people refrain from voicing it, the less polite express it and the fringe elements express it with physical violence. Truly tolerant people are an insignificant minority, or that is what I believed. It was a rude shock to me to wake up one day and find that the world was, actually, an ocean of tolerance with India the lone outpost of intolerance.

Even more shocking was the discovery that we had not always been intolerant. True, the adherents of every religion have, at some time or the other, been massacred by the adherent of some other religion (in modern times) and, to vary the monotony, castes have clashed with castes and communities with communities but, apparently, we were a lot more tolerant in those days than we are now. Everyone says so - intolerance in increasing, I believe. (Ah! Puhleeze! I am NOT, I repeat, NOT political and I speak not of who spreads intolerance and who does not. Those you can discuss elsewhere on social media, thank you).

BUT...there is a bit of confusion there. Everyone makes a lot of noise about increasing intolerance in India. And, then, says that if one complains about the PM and his governance, it should not be given the color of insulting India. I am easily confused and this confuses me all the more. I mean, is it increasing intolerance in India that is the problem here (which means you are effectively calling Indians intolerant and increasingly so) OR is it the behavior of government that is the point at issue here (which means that you are saying that the government is, by its silence or actions, encouraging the fanatic fringe)? On the one hand, you may claim that Indians are no more or less tolerant than the rest of the world BUT the government is ending up giving a free hand to the fanatic fringe to impose its will on Society. On the other hand, you claim that Indians are more intolerant than the rest of the world. Which is it? If the former, what is all this 'increasing intolerance in India' crap, which paints Indians as more intolerant than the rest of the world? If it is the latter, then why give the false impression that changing governments will suddenly convert this country into a haven of tolerance?

Yeah! I know - you will jump in saying 'Both', though how THAT fact gets established by a few criminals acting violently in some incidents, I cannot fathom. It is not as though such has not happened elsewhere in the world. Whatever statistics are out there do not seem sufficient to prove that the incidents of intolerance must be a consequence of both the government encouraging the fanatic fringe as well as an increasing number of intolerant Indians. If your argument that the government is, in some way, responsible for such incidents happening frequently (and I have yet to see convincing statistical evidence to prove such is the case. Yeah, I agree that Dadri and other such heinous crimes are unforgivable but if you will insist on 'increasing' intolerance, you automatically invite mathematics to the party), then isn't it obvious that the same percentage of fanatics can lead to more incidents and it is not necessary for Indians to be more intolerant as a people than anyone else? Sweeping generalizations based on insufficient data is rhetoric, not analysis, and when intellectuals take recourse to rhetoric, they cease to use intelligence.

Then I am informed that when the Khans of Bollywood made comments about intolerance, the reactions were intolerant; that people just did not seem to respect their freedom of speech. This freedom of speech is yet another thing that escapes my feeble comprehension. The chaps who retaliated against the Khans with the risible 'Go to Pakistan' sort of comments get called 'morons' and 'assholes' by those who opposed their opinion. Which would probably result in the former (the tourist agents for Pakistan) accusing the latter of not respecting THEIR freedom of expression and so on and so forth. After a point, all that I can glean is that everyone who agrees with my opinion, regardless of how he expresses it, should have his freedom of expression respected, and anyone who disagrees better be VERY polite about it, indeed, lest he be accused of being against freedom of expression.

Ah! No! I am NOT in favor of rude people in general. The point I am trying to make is that, as long as all these expressions are verbal and the original speaker is not legally constrained, freedom of expression is safe. In a social media where "What an imbecilic idea" seems to be the most polite version of what used to be "I disagree", I have learned to parse most of these things to "I am opposed to that statement". Strangely, though, the ones who are accustomed to disagreeing in more unrestrained phrases are the ones who read intolerance into every such utterance by others. True, there IS always a fanatic fringe which really does mean to be intolerant (AND, where such utterances have been made and the person known, does anyone really believe that THAT person is representative of Indian society?). If, say in the USA, someone makes a statement that can even remotely be construed to be anti-American, does anyone seriously think that the social media responses will not have a similar dose of high-decibel nonsense? So, whence comes this nonsense of 'intolerant India' based on the reactions to the Khans?

There has, most certainly, been increasing TALK about intolerance. AND the worst of it is that it is all said in an intolerable manner. I am reminded of that cruel childhood game where one gets after the other saying, "Do not be angry." The chap, who was not angry, says, "No, I am not angry." The instigator says, "Then why are you glaring? You are angry." Again the victim demurs. The other than says, "See. You are shouting." The victim then screams, "No! I AM NOT." THAT, in effect, is what we seem to be doing to ourselves now. Keep talking about intolerance, and in this sort of high decibel manner, and you will ensure that even the people, who felt secure here, will start feeling victimized AND the others get angry with the 'victims' for being unjustly accused (Such, indeed, are the vagaries of human nature. The ones who mouth off for their sixty seconds of fame are seldom blamed). What, in psychology, is called a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Are there intolerant people, intolerant organizations in India? Certainly, yes. Do I wish India were a more tolerant nation, as tolerant as it has been reputed to be throughout ancient and medieval history? Certainly, yes. Is India today intolerant, any more than the average nation in the world? Maybe but, as yet, I have not seen any rational evidence establishing it one way or the other, unless I should count screaming loudly about it in media and sweeping generalizations as rational evidence.

Yes - there IS increasing intolerance. Intolerance to differing opinions, intolerance to being rational - to the extent that we prefer seeing the facts in only the manner that buttresses our opinion - and, above all, an intolerant and outright rude manner of expressing our opinions, which shrieks, "You dare not oppose me." When intellectuals take recourse to this sort of behavior it shall not be long before even the most tolerant of societies turns intolerant. And THAT seems to apply to ALL the world, not just India.

When you want a tolerant society, you preach tolerance and act tolerant. You do not bring about a tolerant society merely by agitating against perceived intolerance and acting intolerant yourself.

Monday, November 23, 2015

My 400th post: Thank You

This is my 400th blog post. The trouble is to get people, who know me in person, to believe that I have written 400 posts.

"You mean you really know how to string words together to form a coherent sentence?", asks one, as surprised as though I had claimed to walk on water.

"Well! He is over 50. He must have learned something, I suppose", says the other, sounding not particularly convinced that I could have learned anything.

"Still!" says a third, "400 posts?"

"Hahaha! Yes, sounds a bit like that monkey tapping arbitrary keys on a typewriter and churning out the complete works of Shakespeare" is the contribution of a fourth to this flow of reason.

There you have it. There are some people who, when seen, impress as founts of wisdom and stand-ins for Solomon in the modern world. And then there is me, who so inspires people that they look on in slack-jawed amazement if I even demonstrate a capability to tie-up my boot-laces and, thereafter, refuse to accept the evidence of their eyes.

So, it came as no surprise when I first started blogging in 2009 and found each one of my 21 posts receiving precisely one reader - Me. Well , I did not actually realize it then. Since I used to pop into my blog and read my own words with admiration some twenty times a day, I did see stats about some 20 page-views every day and had pleasant dreams of twenty unknown chappies popping in every day to enjoy my pearls of wisdom. Till some spoilsport told me of this 'Don't track your page-views' option. THAT brought down my daily page-views to precisely zero, thereby killing all my interest in pursuing blogging for the nonce.

I had realized, of course, that the only way I would be getting someone to read my blog is if that person hadn't met me before. Then he/she would not be affected by this peculiar charisma, that I seemed to have, of convincing people about my utter incompetence in anything that I set my hand to doing. Which would give a fair chance of making him/her assess the writing for whatever it was worth. The problem was how to lure unwary strangers into my blog.

Then, in 2012, someone told me of blog aggregators - specifically Indiblogger - and off I went to brush the dust off my blog and started writing all over again. If, over these nearly four years, my blog has been selected among the 'Top Five Blogs' by Blogadda in 2014 AND 2015 AND among the Top Humor blogs by Baggout, it is largely thanks to a lot of people, who were previously strangers and are now friends. People, who knew me first from my writing, and most who still know me only from the writing. Even the few who have now met me in person seem to have been immunized to my peculiar personal charisma. My thanks to all the people who have been reading my blog over the years and to those who allowed me to scribble on your blogs. Some of you lost interest after a few months, some are now at the door waving goodbye, and some have stuck with me all the while. Thanks to all of you for making this blog what it is today.

Then I get ambitious. I write a book published by Fablery (Thanks Nethra) - 'A dog eat dog-food world' available in print here in India alone; as an ebook for Indian customers here and for others here. Imagine people, infected by my charms, and absolutely convinced that there is more sense in the scribbling of their five year old child/grandchild, actually buying a book written by me. Your mind boggles? Mine did, too, but whoever said that optimism is sane? What was very heartening, though, is the fact that they loved me and wished me well in making the book a bestseller. 'You may have a skull full of clay instead of brains, but nevertheless we love you' was probably the message. Thank you for caring about me and for being interested in my success, if success there is to be.

Honestly, it is heart-warming to have earned so much goodwill. But, since the post is more about gratitude for people who helped me on a writing journey, I will devote a shade more time on the people who put in efforts into making that wish for me come true. For, after all, for a book to become a bestseller, it must first sell.

My thanks, first, to all those who believed in my writing and actually plonked down the cash to buy the book.

My thanks to Kevan Dinn, Ramesh Grandhi, Saikumar Yerubandi, Chandru, Shashi Kadapa for not only buying the book but also giving reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. To realize the nervousness of a debuting author about how well his book will be received and to prioritize a response was amazing. And all without being egged on by me to do so.

My thanks to Percy and Shubhangi for buying the book, reviewing it on Amazon and Goodreads as well as on their blogs. And for supporting me all through by sharing the book links in their circles, as indeed did Ramesh Grandhi. All three of them have made my aims for the book their own and supported me. As, indeed, has Mahesh.

My personal friends (Yeah! I know! They have MET me and still remain uninfected by my 'He can do nothing worthwhile' charisma) - Venkatesh and Sudhakar - who are imperiling their personal friendship with people by spamming them about my book. (Yes, indeed! They did buy the book, too!)

My thanks to my co-authors on a previous venture - Karthik and Radha - for supporting me all through. To buy multiple copies so that they could gift their friends the book in order to spread the word of the book; to actively spread word of the book both in Social media and email AND to talk to me about what to do with the book, as though it was THEIR success they were planning for as much as it would be mine - I have no words to say all that it meant to me.

My thanks also to all those who will be supporting me in my writing endeavors in future.

AND, yes, Life is not all about writing, though I must confess that, with a new book out, it currently seems like it is all about it. There are a lot of people around me, who are not much for reading, but stand by me through the vicissitudes of life. To all of them, my thanks.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The inimitable Oscar Wilde

The moment I think of Oscar Wilde I think of that scene in "The importance of being Ernest" where the prospective son-in-law tells the girl's mother that he has lost both his parents. The response is priceless - "To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness".

Oscar Wilde is one of the top humorists of all time. Otherwise, though, it is difficult to define the man. If you want to consider him an optimist, then he comes out with "The basis of optimism is sheer terror" so, unless you consider him a man living in perpetual terror, you decide he cannot be one. Consider him a pessimist and he goes, "Pessimist: One who, when he has the choice of two evils, chooses both." That, then, puts paid to the idea of a Wilde pessimist.

Again, when you think of his quote 'What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing' and decide he cannot be a cynic, he also says 'I sometimes think that God in creating man somewhat overestimated his ability'. If you can beat that for cynicism about mankind, you are welcome to try. Add to that the fact that he also holds that 'True friends stab you in the front', it is difficult to see him as anything but a cynic. You may disagree with him about friends but, when he said 'Always forgive your enemies - nothing annoys them so much', he was spot on.

Whatever else he was, modest he was not. Whether apocryphal or not, the story is that when the US Customs asked him if he had anything to declare, he is supposed to have said, 'I have nothing to declare except my genius'. But then, that is par for the course for the man who said, 'Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess'.

He probably really did believe that 'Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about'. Something that you wish more people did, even if it meant that most of human conversation would get cut out if they did. But then, it is true that 'Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation'. Which, in effect, means that nothing much is going to be said that will shake the world. So, there would be no need to lament, 'I can stand brute force, but brute reason is quite unbearable. There is something unfair about its use. It is hitting below the intellect', because reason, brute or otherwise, is very seldom brought to bear on any issue being discussed.

In times where people are willing to die (and kill) for their beliefs one can only wish that someone convinced them that 'A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it'. The problem, though, is that when people die or kill for what they call their 'cause', they have this pleasant sensation of doing something selfless, when the truth is that 'Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live'. But, then, most people tend to believe that 'In all matters of opinion, our adversaries are insane'.

Maybe the issue is also that 'The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything'. AND, consequently, '...the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience'. It is not that the young are necessarily incorrect or that the old are necessarily wise, but it is a fact that, on the average, the old have more experience to weigh their opinions with. Yes, true, there are foolish old men but, then, it is mainly because they started out as even more foolish young men and not because age made them foolish - which, in effect, means that the young are not immune to being foolish either. So, it would not be true to brush all of the experience of the old aside with the view that 'Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes'.

When the world around you has changed, though, experience may prove an ineffective guide but the trick is to know where it is, and where it isn't, when you get advice. Unless you believe that 'The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself'.

Oscar Wilde makes me happy, though, with his advice that 'The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it... I can resist everything but temptation.' THAT has been the guiding light of my life, even if it so happens that 'There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it' and, consequently, one suffers the pangs of indulging while on a quest to avoid the pangs of deprivation.

AND, if you feel tempted to say 'Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go' and classify me among those who you would wish gone, all I have to say is 'To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance' and I AM a romantic that way.

After all, when 'The world is a stage but the play is badly cast' one can only be happy when he loves himself.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Tolerance

There are those days when you sit at the laptop and find nothing funny to say (Not all the time, thank you.) Then you see a friend's status about tolerance and what he says strikes a chord in you. The sort of things people want you to be tolerant about is, indeed, amazing.

I mean, suppose you hit your new school for the first day and your classmates say, "You are skinny and black while we are well-built and fair. Never mind. We will tolerate you", do you really feel all warm and fuzzy, and friendly with the lot of them? Or you move cities to take up a new job and your boss says, "Well - your English accent is kind of funny. But we will tolerate you, nevertheless", do you feel that THIS is the place where you want to work for the rest of your life?

The word 'tolerant' somehow gives me a feeling of a person holding his nose and swallowing his bile, while manfully trying not to scream out his dislike. The very word 'tolerance' gives me to understand that there is something to be 'tolerated' - as if it were something obnoxious and the other person is generously putting up with it. If someone did show 'tolerance' to me, I rather think that he will not endear himself to me.

But, surprisingly, it seems that the best that we humans can do, when it comes to interacting with people who are in some way different from us, is to be 'tolerant'. There is this quality of 'open-mindedness' - of being able to look on differences and embrace them, unless they are immoral, illegal or both, that seems to have been relegated only to the dictionary as being unfit for practical use. Hence, we all need liberal doses of tolerance to even deal with different dietary preferences and sartorial inclinations. So, it is not surprising that our 'tolerance' gets tested to the limits when skin color differs or, horror of horrors, the other person calls on the Divine by a different name.

I have always felt that the very word 'tolerance' holds within it the seeds of intolerance. The moment you talk of tolerance, someone or the other pops up and says, "How long and how much are we supposed to tolerate?", sooner or later. THEN, even a Rip Van Winkle, who had been in a coma for the last twenty years, realizes that he has been gritting his teeth and swallowing his bile, in addition to being in a coma. The fact that you were not even aware of all the suffering that you put up with adds insult to injury and you start looking around for the nearest cudgel to bash up these sly people who so troubled you.

The world can do with more understanding - and, above all else, the understanding that people, who are different in some way from you, are not merely to be tolerated but accepted. Tolerance, I suppose, is much better than intolerance but, if tolerance is the best that Humanity can aspire to achieve, it does not exactly say volumes about the goodness of human beings. I mean you are not really held up as an example of goodness if all you can do is weakly protest, "But I never did anything bad".

But, then, are we still living in times when human beings thought that they had it in them to be or become noble?

Monday, November 2, 2015

Of a book and reviews

Every time I put up words anywhere I, of course, assume that what I am writing is deathless prose. Since I also presume that I am a humorist, I also assume that I make people smile, if not laugh. (WHAT? You laugh at the thought that I could even think that what I write is humorous? You will get your comeuppance soon!) There is an additional idiosyncrasy that is, possibly, peculiar to me. I also think that I make people think. Aided and abetted in that illusion by a few people who comment on my blog saying that I really do.

There is no need to mention what I think of my writing when I put in the effort to write a full novella, which is meant as a parody of marketing management and its influence on Society. I had earlier shared the book link to the print book published by Fablery but, just so you feel too lazy to navigate back to that post (as you inevitably do), the link is here


The problem, though, is that there is this little guy inside who keeps murmuring,"Was it not you who also thought you were Kamal Hassan and Rajnikant rolled into one, while looking at the mirror in your teens?" THAT is a problem. What you think of what you have done and what the world thinks of it varies so much, sometimes, that it is difficult to believe that we are all talking about the same object.

It is a pleasure, then, to see that you are not so far off the mark when other people express not too divergent opinions about your work. For example, this opinion by Kevan Dinn


Nifty little piece of work. Hilarious. A refreshing change from what often passes for humour.
Or, maybe, this one by Karthik

This is one of the most humorous books I have read in recent times. I guess people who read Dilbert might have found some similarity in the cover design. The idea of the book is also similar - a corporate parody. While Dilbert consists of individual standalone comic strips, in this book Suresh has knitted it all together in one complete story line. The story is set in an imaginary world that Suresh calls the alternate history and gives funny explanations on the origin of various management concepts such as market segmentation, pricing, brand recall, market research, management consulting et al as the reader is taken through the fascinating tale of the business battle between the tycoons Tom and Spike. 


Suresh, a management professional himself complete demystifies all the complex management jargon in his totally irreverential take. The book has variety of humor that works at various levels - one obviously is the slapstick kind one can come to expect in a story that has something to do with animals. Then we have the ludicrous explanation for origin of management concepts that actually might be a reflection of the real origins. We also have funny situations in the story that any one who works in the corporate world can directly relate to based on personal experience. Then there are some aspects that along with making one laugh makes one reflects on one's motivations, professional choices and broader purpose in life. This is not all - there is further humor hidden in terms of the choice of names for characters and some of the throw away lines in the dialogue for the more perceptive reader. 

Overall I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is associated with the corporate world.
Or, Ramesh Grandhi here

A Dog eat Dog food world is no run of the mill book, and for readers starved for genuine humor and satire—I would recommend it without a moment’s hesitation. Blurbs claim a lot of things, promise even more, but more often than not a reader will feel cheated. In this case, the claim that this is a hilarious take on marketing management is amply justified. 

The way the characters are introduced and developed (keeping in mind that this is a novella) is remarkable. You begin to feel you are on a rollercoaster of subtle humor and for a change you don’t want to get off, you want the roller to coast along. Mrs. Fortune hoping that Death would stop hovering around and for a change do its darned job, Fortune’s reactions to the various options placed before him to escape from ennui, and the way he does a remarkable Don Quixote tilting at ‘tread’mills keeps you smiling. 
I have been and always will be a huge fan of PG Wodehouse, and I have long lamented the fact that there has been no one who has taken up his mantle. PG had a unique style of writing and he had the ability to make you smile and chuckle without trying too hard. I know comparisons are odious and will refrain from doing so, but I can’t stop myself from saying that Suresh Chandrasekharan in his own inimitable style brings back memories of the Master. The way he has melded different marketing concepts in a satirical way into a story that is gripping in and of itself is remarkable indeed.
Though knowing that this was a satire, a witty one, on marketing, I found myself rooting for Spike. I saw his transformation from a laidback hypochondriac to a raging trump’esque tycoon. How the mighty are fallen?! This transformation aided along most unwillingly by his nephew, Jerry, and provoked by his arch rival, Tom Rich is written with such skill and droll humor that it makes it almost impossible for you to put down the book. Fact—I read it in one go, and wasn’t really happy when it ended—book lovers will agree with me that a good book should go on and on! 
My sincere appreciation to this talented gentleman for his incisive wit, his admirable command over the language, his ability to marry humor with marketing strategies, which is by no means an easy thing to do -- Mark Antony wouldn’t have minded making the last speech.
It would indeed be a pleasure to recommend this book and I am pretty certain that readers in the corporate world and out of it too will find it quite an engaging read. 


Just so you know that I am not making all these up, you can check for yourself in the Goodreads link here

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27249073-a-dog-eat-dog-food-world

Those of you who prefer reading on a screen instead of from paper can now find the ebook available at the following links

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B017FSC28C

http://www.amazon.in/dp/B017FSC28C

I hope that the book lives up to these reviews.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Fantasy

You sit in office, laboring for 16 hours a day for the third straight day, and finish the Annual Budget in less time than it has ever been done before. You proudly go to your boss and present it, expecting him to say, "Fine job! However did you manage to do it so fast?" And he comes out with, "At last! I thought this would be ready only in time for the next year's budget." Wounded, you stagger home expecting a sympathetic shoulder to cry on. You are welcomed with the words, "Late again! Who have you been drinking with today?" (Even she does not think it possible that any other woman would care to look at you, otherwise the question may have been "Who is SHE?")

After all those shocks to the system, inflicted by reality, you sink into your sofa, open a book and start reading to lose yourself in a world where bosses are fair, wives are sympathetic, friends are helpful and the world, in general, seems not totally bereft of the promise of goodness. A balm to the soul, telling you of the possibility that mankind may, one day, arrive at that ideal state as long as the ideals are still alive as a mark to shoot at, in fiction at least. That, at least, used to be the case.

Reality, like the Black Plague, is so infectious that it seems to have started afflicting all literature. Now, you open a book and read about people who seem much the same as those you meet in real life. Exactly why that is supposed to be entertaining I have never been able to understand. I mean, if reality were entertaining, why would I even need to spend money on buying and reading books? And then my literati friend tells me, it is not supposed to entertain; it is supposed to educate.

I know that the people around me think that, when God made me, he sighed with ecstasy and said, "Perfection, at last! So what if I have only managed perfection in creating an idiot." But even I know better than to think that, if I took a manuscript of my writing to a friend, he would say, "Wow! What wonderful writing!" I know that 99.99% of the time the said friend would only give me a disbelieving look and say,"You intend to put THAT out for public view? Very...err...brave of you." I mean, there is the fiction that I was used to, where I read of people who behave as they ought to behave, and there is real life, where people will behave as they want to behave, which normally means that they will behave as they ought not to behave. God must rethink his ideas of perfection - even I am not so pure and distilled an idiot as to think that what I read in books is true of real life. So, if realism in fiction is meant to educate, the intended audience must be pure distilled idiots, if any such exist, since the less perfect ones already know about reality by living it.

Anyway, when the doors to escape to a better world became closed in regular fiction, I turned to fantasy. Here at least good was good and bad was bad; people really loved and not on a 'till divorce do us part' basis; friends were friends and did not operate on a 'as long as your friendship does not cost me my castle' basis; even foes were foes, and not merely masquerading as friends and measuring your back for the stiletto. Thank God that this genre of fiction, at least, had proved immune to the black plague of reality.

I spoke too fast. The plague HAS infected fantasy, too. Now the heroes of fantasy are much like you and me.(Must be gratifying to me to know that I need not feel bad about not being a better person, since even heroes are as bad as me? Nonsense. Like everyone else, I never applied those yardsticks to myself - only to the people around me) AND, just so you do not miss the point that they are ordinary men and women, the authors speak in great detail about their urination, defecation and every passing carnal urge. There used to be a time when, in the USA, the phrase, "What does it matter who he is? He also puts on his pants one leg at a time like me" and, somehow, that fact apparently made Abraham Lincoln equal to the chap who says that gem. Now, that is passe. Now it is more like "He also urinates, defecates, eats, barfs...."

I had never thought that the heroes of my myths - Arjun, Ram, whoever - did not have to do all that. It so happened that, since Arjun's pissing of a morning was not what made him a great bowman or caused him to kill Bhishma, the authors of those days did not see any pressing need to push my face into his shit. NOW, apparently, it is de rigeur. Distilled idiots among the reading populace must have increased rather drastically, if readers will assume that the heroes are above these needs unless they are repeatedly told about it.

So, anyway, my last refuge is also gone. Reality - or what passes for reality - is pervasive everywhere. And I am possibly the lone voice crying out that 'Realism is over-rated.'

Thank God, though, that I am not young. Otherwise, I may live till the time when realism infects my dreams as well!

Monday, October 19, 2015

The perils of a modern writer

You possibly think that these classical writers of the past were real geniuses. They had it easy, I tell you. All they had to do was to concentrate on their story and, presto, they were done and lauded. If they had been born in this connected world, life may not have been all that easy for them.

There you are, sitting and writing a nice little humorous piece and you introduce a character called the "Bishop of Bongo-Wongo" and put in a couple of quips into his conversation. If you are lucky, someone will only find that there is no Bongo-Wongo anywhere in the world, and tell everyone over social media that your geography is more fictitious than your story. If the fates really have it in for you, there will be a Bongo-Wongo; someone will put up the detailed statistics about its population; a pie-chart showing the percentage of people following each religion; and the fact that the lone Christian in the place has to trudge some twenty miles to Pongo-Longo to even see a church, leave alone one that requires a Bishop. Worse still would be the other guy, who picks up your quips and finds them against the cultural mores of Bongo-Wongo and, in no time, you will be pilloried from Twitter to Whatsapp as a racist, second only to Hitler. I bet P.G.Wodehouse never had to think of these things.

Or, maybe, you have been writing a nice little spy thriller. Your protagonist has traveled to some exotic locale - like, say, Bulandshahar - to get some information about the nuclear bomb that someone is smuggling in a suitcase to set off under the White House. You write something like "Jack whizzed past the Shivaji roundabout and turned left towards his hotel". Nice bit of local color, just to show it was not happening in the good old US of A. What ensues? There is someone on twitter who quips "Was Jack riding Pegasus? The only way to whiz past that roundabout is to fly, because of a flyover that has been 15 years in the making." And, with your luck, that will be the chap whose every word is a witticism to his followers and every sentence sends half the world into paroxysms of laughter. So, just because of some local color (Local color! Bah!) your edge-of-the-seat spy thriller becomes the laughing stock of the world. Do you really think Ian Fleming had to suffer this?

Then there is that other thing. Do you really think that, when Shakespeare wrote the love story of a boy from one warring family and a girl from the other in 'Romeo and Juliet', he was met with a chorus of 'cliched story'? Of course not. Those guys were happily operating in virgin territory and could write anything. And they did. Now that they have rung every change on the 'Boy meets girl' theme, there is hardly anything left to write that does not evoke the ridicule of its being cliched. The only way to avoid it would probably be to write a 'Boy AND girl love hermaphroditic alien' story.

Do not get me started on the English. If a writer were to spell 'humor', the English want to send him back to kindergarten to learn his spelling. If he spelled it as 'humour', the Americans think it is odd. If he uses 'lorry' in one place and 'truck' in the other, everyone thinks his English is quaint. It is getting so difficult that you are never sure which is an acceptable synonym and which will dub your English incorrect. I soon anticipate a situation where writers will be pilloried for misspelling 'hv' as 'have' and 'gr8' as 'great'. Bill Shakespeare had it easy - he practically made up words on the spot on quite a few occasions and got away with it.

So, now there is so much research that the author has to do - "Is that dress that I mention on page 20, worn by a walk-on character, appropriate to that time and place? Is the make of car that the protagonist sees as he is crossing the road something that was brought out later?....." AND so much political correctness to check for - "Did my protagonist, by any chance, say or do something that may be seen as disrespectful of a cow? Does any character, in any way, sound racist...as in saying that white people prefer their curry milder?...." that it is a wonder that he eventually gets around to actually plotting a story. (Or, should it be 'She'?)

AND you people seem to think modern writers have it easy!

P.S : In my humorous pseudo-history of marketing management - A dog eat dog-food world, I neatly got around the population stats issue and the flyover issue by setting my tale in an imaginary, unnamed but not fantasy land. As for the English, it is certain that, at least one half of the world will find it quaint or...what's that catch-phrase...'written by someone who is not a native speaker of English'. I cannot gainsay that, anyway, since I really am not a native speaker of English. And, the one thing I am sure about is that it will take a long search through the annals of world literature to be able to call it cliched. So there, I too belong to the foolhardy clan of writers.

P.P.S: If there is no Shivaji roundabout in Bulandshahar OR no flyover in the Shivaji roundabout, I do not want to know. I belong to the Isaac Asimov school of thought - "If you find anything wrong in what I have written, you can keep it. I do not want it." :)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Mirror! Mirror! On the wall!

I had an endless fascination for mirrors in my teens. I knew I had a heartbreaking handsome face but, of course, it helps if you can see it for yourself and confirm its existence. (Why are you grimacing like that and what do you mean by twirling your finger near your forehead? I do not get that at all.) The problem, though, was that I never could find the right mirror. (Manufacturing quality, these days! Uff!) Instead of reflecting the chiseled good looks of my real face, I could only see this doughy pudding, that masqueraded as a face, on mirrors. No wonder I used to keep checking in each mirror that I came across, merely to see if I had, at last, found one mirror that was of good quality. Needless to say, I failed since this country seems to have lost the art of maintaining manufacturing quality in anything.

This thing of looking for a decent reflection of myself was a long-abandoned idea...or so I thought. Then I found that I was doing it all along. The only thing that had changed was what I used instead of mirrors. What had also changed was what reflection I was looking for. But for that, I was still peering into 'mirrors' with the hope that I would see what I wanted to see and, need I say, still finding the doughy pudding instead of that chiseled Greek hero.

Through college, I was looking eagerly into the words of my professors to see a reflection of what I thought would be my ability. All I could find in the mirror was more a misty reflection, filtered through what, for want of a better word, can only be called my handwriting. This was a great help, of course. I could always assume that it would have been an Einstein that looked out of the mirror but for the fact that the handwriting obscured the fact like a coat of dust. I pity those with great hand-writings, now, since they had no such handy excuse for bad grades. In those days, though, I was burning with envy at the thought of my scintillating brightness put to the shade by lesser gems, merely because of this coat of dust.

Working life, ensued, and, unfortunately for me, I lost my handy excuse...since most of my work was typewritten. (The typist, though, found my handwriting a very handy excuse indeed!) I discovered, though, that, for my ability to be reflected back to me, those typewritten pages were the least important thing. People find it too difficult to analyse work - especially when it is not of the kind where you can say 'OK! The leak has stopped. Good Job" - and, therefore, prefer to judge its worth by the person doing it. To be THAT sort of person involved, from what I understood, being the sort who could reflect exactly the sort of image that the other person wanted to see of himself. I made the shocking discovery that not only was I the sort, whom mirrors refused to reflect properly, but I was also inept at adjusting MY reflecting surfaces so that I could reflect back the proper images. In other words, I was too prone to let honesty - and, quite often, tactless honesty - get in the way of telling people what they wanted to hear and, thus, reflecting back a flattering image of themselves. Ergo - what reflected back to me, from their words, was no good to bolster my self-esteem, either. In the whole damn process, the work itself seemed to have no relevance.

Through this journey of life, I seem to have kept looking into the mirror of other people's words every single day. I look to see if I am good at analysis - and get to know I am not attractive to people. I look to verify if my financial concepts are sound - and get to know that I am not a charmer. I check to see what people think of my mastery over spreadsheets - and get to know that I am not popular nor am I likely to ever be. (Fictional, any of my former colleagues reading this, if you are...purely fictional. You others - NO, the abilities are not fictional. Trust you to think of the worst.) In short, it is like always seeing your bottom reflected whether you look for your nose, your ears or your chin.

Eventually, I did give up on looking into mirrors. You know that fox with the grapes out of reach? He had the right idea. If, by chance, I do look at the mirror these days, I wonder why I was using the same ideas of judging myself like everyone else.

Doughy puddings ARE handsome. You can keep those ugly chiseled faces to yourself.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The importance of Bollywood songs

It is such a pity that I learn most of the important lessons of life too late. Story of my life, in general. There is no real point in me, at age fifty or so, suddenly going 'Eureka' and finding out that I should have done this, instead of that, at age twenty-five but, invariably, that is what happens. If only my realizations would come a shade less tardily...

Recently, I saw 'Yaadon ki baaraat' on TV and the seminal importance of a proper choice of family song struck me. (You do not HAVE a family song? There is no hope for you then). We all know that a family song is an important contingency measure to bring a family together in case the family split up due to some calamity. But...just consider. If that family in the movie had opted for "Sare jahaan se accha..." as their family song, instead of a carefully crafted exclusive song for the family, what would have been the consequence? The youngest brother would have been hugging every Indian and claiming him for a brother, merely because the other could complete the song, thereby living up to the school pledge, "All Indians are my brothers and sisters.." The problem, though, would be that the other guy may have forgotten his school pledge. (Family song redundant in the interconnected world? Not really...it is just that the youngest brother would not need to go around hotels singing it. He would put it out on Youtube and, if the choice is "Saare....", he may end up claiming the entire Indian diaspora for siblings).

Then there was that important lesson on running an international criminal gang that I learned from the Amitabh Bacchan 'Don'. If you are an impostor - not in Blandings Castle - trying to carry yourself off as the Don in front of the creme de la creme of world crime, how do you comport yourself? You take recourse to the power of music, of course. Break into a dance and start singing "...Main hoon Don..." and people would line up to kiss your ring and swear allegiance. It is a lack of this knowledge that landed Al Pacino in a lot of trouble in the Godfather series. If, after Marlon Brando's death, he had only called a meeting of all the dons and broken into a song and dance, he would have been universally acclaimed as the 'Capo di tutti capi", and there would have been much lesser bloodshed going forth.

I may have concluded that the importance of music was fading in the modern world but Mani Ratnam revived my belief in its importance. There is this chap in 'Guru', who marries a girl,  having decided to do so - without ever having seen her  - for her dowry and her brother tells her that what attracted the chap was her dowry and not her. She goes off, hurt, back to her father and the man goes to woo her back. Exactly what does he say? "Not that I loved you less, but I loved your father's money more"? Mani Ratnam neatly avoids this troublesome scene with a song at the end of which they reconcile, without the chap having to prove how he could have loved her at all, when her very existence was mere hearsay to him at that time. Talk about the power of music!

There...you see. All of you who think that a song is a nice time to take a break (or fast forward), think again. More often than not, the only good thing about a movie are the songs, so you may consider taking a break (or fast forwarding) when the rest of the movie is playing and rush back in for the songs.

P.S: There is this Facebook Page for my humor novella which is about to be published next month. If you need information about the book (Allow me my illusions :) ) the previous post on this blog gives details. If there is someone insane enough to want to be updated on its release and all, he may consider liking the page here A Dog eat Dog-food World

Monday, September 28, 2015

My humor book - A dog eat dog-food world

Once upon a time, I was content writing blog posts and waiting forlornly for readers to come around and read them. Then comes a short story competition and I, the bachelor, get one story into a romance anthology (Really!) called "Uff Ye Emotions". Being sort of unaccustomed to the modern world and its ways, I was embarrassed about calling it 'my book' since mine was but one story out of twelve.

Then I get wilder notions and participate with Karthik and Radha to put out a ebook anthology of crime called "Sirens Spell Danger" on Amazon. I suppose I could have called that 'my book', even by my fossilized standards, since it was, at least, edited by me but it seemed too selfish to lay claims to all the stories in the book.

Now, at last, I have a book all to myself. My humor novella, which parodies marketing management and satirizes some aspects of the world of commerce, is being published by Fablery. Advance copies are available at a 10% discount currently and the book is expected to be out by Oct 20.

A short introduction to what is in the book is here

A hilarious pseudo-history of marketing management, which explicitly denies resemblance to any actual history, and which will be horrified if some semblance be found. The story of a man who discovered that the path of life is strewn with treadmills and, if you get on one by mistake, you could keep running all your life to stay in the same place. The story of how a businessman may just be minding his…err…business and the ‘Invisible Hand’ can cause unexpected consequences to arise out of his innocent actions. There is no point blaming the tale for being exaggerated because that is precisely what it seeks to be – an ‘exaggeratio ad absurdum’ of some facets of the world. Anything you learn from the book – be it the basics of marketing management or a satirical view of Society – you do at your own risk.
The tale only dogs the doings of
Spike Fortune who only sought to feed dogs and, later, sought more dogs to feed.
Jerry Fortune who, being fortuneless, gets dragged helter-skelter behind his uncle Spike in the latter’s careening pursuit of commercial success and gets sandwiched between Spike and
Tyke who was Spike’s resident genius on enticing dogs with their wares. He also has to help Spike in his rivalry with
Tom Rich, who is unwillingly dragged into upstaging Spike and tries to do it by teasing the palates of cats, helped by the bumbling efforts of
Jasper Rich who would rather be partying than chasing cats with cat-foods.

The pre-order link where you can place your orders (if you feel so inclined) is


What has not changed, though, is the fact that - as for the other books - I am trundling my hand-cart through the streets crying, "My books for sale". An ironical thing to be doing - marketing a book that spoofs marketing management!

The other thing is that, as with the blog posts, I am waiting for readers to come and read this book!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Manage-Men-T

"Manage-Men-T"

It was my first day at IIM-Bangalore and the first thing that the Prof, who was giving the orientation lecture, wrote on the Board was this. To clarify, this was in 1988 and blackboards were still in use, even in the IIMs. AND, yes, because it WAS still the eighties, one could sort of work around a conversation about even the weather to how you are now a student at IIM, with the audience only smiling indulgently, as they would when they heard anyone being proud of any achievement (like getting a story published, say). It helped, I suppose, that the salaries of IIM guys were still somewhere around comparable levels and, thus, this simple pride did not get any connotations of someone boasting of being royalty.

"Management means to Manage Men and T(ime)"

I stiffened with fear. Did I hear that right? Managing Men and Time? (Ah! To clarify again, technology had not yet laid its claim on that 'T' of management, nor indeed had information technology usurped and ousted all other contenders to the word 'technology') Managing men? A trickle of sweat ran down my spine and my mouth went dry. Ever seen a wee lamb stray into a den of lions. The poor thing wants just to run away, bleating pathetically, but is frozen in fear with mouth too dry to even utter the smallest 'baa'. THAT was how I felt. Managing men? What had I got myself into?

If ever there was an inherently unmanageable, outright cussed species it must be Homo Sapiens. God must have had an off-day when He created mankind. And, here I was, in this institution which wanted to make me a manager of men? Eeeps! I had applied and joined the place only because of what I would get as a salary once I had passed out. I should have spared a thought to what I would have to do to earn that salary. (Yeah, I know, it has always vexed me that people thought that I needed to actually DO something to earn a salary, but this is not a post about that).

Imagine a bus careening down the mountainside about to fall off the click into the ravine below, because the driver has had a heart attack. Imagine a busload of passengers, screaming in fear and imagine that I am to manage these people (I know! It will really STRETCH your imagination to do it but TRY, will you?) into working together at stopping the bus before we flew into the wide blue yonder.

"You always pick on me to do the heavy lifting. Why should I shift the driver? Why not your blue-eyed boy there?"

"I think that we should form a committee to determine how this driver was allowed to drive today. There is something seriously wrong with the procedure to check on the fitness of drivers."

"Do you really think that, even if the driver is shifted, the brakes will work? Who knows what is the condition of the bus, when the travel agency has not even checked on the condition of the driver?"

"I really think that these winding roads are a hazard. The government should never permit winding roads in such terrain and put people in danger. This NDA government..."

"This road was put up in the UPA..."

"Say, how do you have a straight road on a mountain?"

"Do not digress from the point. Why did the NDA government not set it right? AAP is...."

And, soon, it would evolve into a highly spiritual discussion of whether at all there is a mountain, or a road or a bus or what we could call 'We'. THAT last, of course, would prove right - for soon, there would be no 'We'!

Exaggeration? Perhaps. But when death or disaster is much less imminent - say a day later, for example - what are the odds of this happening? You have any doubts about it, you can always take recourse to Donald Trump and his wisdom on climate change.

So, that was managing men for me. (You say that I am inept at managing men and that is why I say all this? What, then, do you think I was trying to establish all this while?)

As for managing Time, I had always thought that it got along pretty well without my supervision. I mean the seconds ticked and the minutes tocked whether or not I had an eagle eye on the clock. So, what's the big deal about managing Time? You go your way and Time goes its way without either interfering with the other.

Soon, though, I realized that the problem was NOT Time. The problem was all about those who tried to manage YOUR time. As in, people who wanted you to do this; others who wanted you to do that; and yet others who wanted you to do the third thing. Effectively, Manage men meant that you had to ensure that you made it a problem for them to manage THEIR time and managing Time meant that you had to manage the people who were trying to manage what you did with YOUR time. Of course, we are all very good at giving names to things and, so, the former is called 'leadership' and the latter is called 'work-life balance'. (And THAT proves my point. THAT phrase effectively says that work is NOT life, so the time you take out for working is the time you have not lived!)

It was all too confusing and scaring for me. And, then, a happy thought struck me. The trick was to stay where I was more the managed than the manager. Then, ALL I had to be was what Homo Sapiens was programmed to be - unmanageable.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Standing on tiptoe

I had an amused smile on my face as I entered my home, after waving my school-friend off. It had been a long while since we had met and meeting him had revived memories of childishness from the past. We were of a height still but neither of us had felt the pressing need to measure up against each other or stand on tiptoe to prove that the other person was shorter. At school, though, it had been a daily competition.

It, invariably, happened when we were standing in line for the morning prayers. Why the prayer lines had to be from the shortest to the tallest is a mystery that I had then dismissed as one of those idiocies that adults perpetrate merely to prove that they had the power to do so. It could not have been to enable everyone to see what was happening in the middle, since nothing much happens in the empty space within a hollow square. Nor, indeed, to be able to see the flag staff since it was not all that much of a pygmy version to be hidden by a couple of inches of height in the fellow standing before you. As for the Principal, he avoided making eye-contact with any of us with the same passion with which we avoided making eye-contact with him. So…

Anyway, shortest to the tallest it was and, being of the shorter variety of humans, Ravi and I were at the forefront of all happenings. And never has anyone, vying for entry as the tallest man in the Guinness Book of World Records, fought with the fury that equal that of two short kids trying to prove that the other person was shorter than them.

There I used to stand, right shoulder hunched up higher than Ravi’s left, showing that I was an inch taller. In the next Nano-second, his left shoulder was above my right – a miracle of growth that happens only when the said person stands up on tiptoe. Up went my heels and I was again the taller. Up hunched his left shoulder and there was confusion. I knew that I was still taller by a Nano-meter but, you know what, Ravi had the gall to claim that it was he who beat me by the same margin. We called in the next guy to referee, he made us stand normally and handed the verdict in favour of Ravi. I sulked, because any idiot could see Ravi seemed taller only because the soles of Ravi’s shoe were thicker than mine.

I laughed out aloud as I closed the door behind me and my wife looked up startled.

“What was that for?”

I told her my memories and said, “How childish we were, then. If I had been mature, I would have known that, if I had won that tussle, all it would have ensured is that I competed with Shiv, who was next in line. If I had become taller than Shiv, then…”

This is the problem with my wife. She never lets me complete my arguments. She says that there are only 24 hours in a day and, if she used up all of them in listening to me wax eloquent on one subject, she would get nothing done. What does she mean by that? I don’t get it at all.

Anyway, she said, “Shiv? Was that not the topper of your batch? The one who invariably beat you to number one?”

“That’s the guy. But what is the point being academically brilliant? He is working in some obscure department of the government. He has not achieved what he could have. He has not even managed to buy a house of his own.”

I looked around my three bedroom apartment with pride. Hardly 45 and I had bought this, free and clear of loans now, in one of the prime locations of the city.

“Ravi seems to have done better, though. Look at his car…”

“Money-wise, maybe. But he works in this itty-bitty company. I hobnob with the who-is-who of the city. I am a respected figure in international conferences. Newspapers interview me…”

“Still…maybe Shiv can claim all this, though he does not have as much money.”

“Look. Ravi’s father was rich. Otherwise, I daresay…”

“He looks taller only because he is standing on tiptoe. Or, maybe the soles of his shoes are thicker. Ask him not to hunch up his shoulders…” my wife went on in a sing-song tone.

Oops! How does she do this to me every time? Needle in hand, she encourages me to puff up, then pokes the needle in and lets out all the air.

Why was I competing with people who were not even aware that they were running any race against me? All that maturity that I had thought I had acquired over the years – was it all illusion after all? 

Because, the reality was that here I was…still standing on tiptoe.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Humorous Still? Top 10 Humor blogs in BlogAdda's #WIN15 AWARDS

Make My Blog WIN for BlogAdda Awards

Ever told a joke and went "Hahaha' about it with sepulchral silence in the audience? You must have felt that creeping red on the face and the uncomfortable feeling that someone has set your ears on fire, even if the audience is not exactly dialing the number of the nearest mental hospital urgently? THAT is exactly why someone blogging on humor keeps looking eagerly for comments. No 'LOL's; no "ROFL"s and he is left with no choice but to quip, "I make people laugh - either because they think what I write is humorous or because they find it funny that I think what I write is humorous."

Well, that quip can be kept in cold storage for the time being. I may need to pick it up, dust it and use it later but, right now, I can always say that the judges for BlogAdda's #Win15 feel my blog is humorous, so it must be. Coming on the heels of being considered among the top 13 humor blogs by Baggout maybe I can venture a small "Haha" when next I tell what I think is a joke.

The fly in the ointment, though, is the fact that, beyond this point, votes is what will count. This quaint notion that being popular equals being good has always been my bane. I have a very good chance of getting a million votes, if those who vote can be assured that they will be freed of any vestige of my presence if they do so. THAT is how I seem to affect people. The moment I arrive in the vicinity of any large number of people, I jog their memories about all the important things they have to do...elsewhere. (NO! I did NOT visit Syria, thank you! THAT is not why people risked their lives to move away.)

Anyway, BlogAdda insists that votes is the way to go. The icon below takes you to where you are supposed to Like, share on FB, tweet, comment or whatever you please. I make no promises about leaving you alone, though.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Trek to Valley of Flowers with GIO - To Badrinath, Mana and back

First Part : To AuliSecond Part: To Ghangaria; Third Part: To Valley of FlowersFourth Part: To Hemkund Sahib; Fifth Part: To Badrinath, Mana and Back

It rained all night again but, needless to say, we were much less perturbed this time since we had sort of assumed that the trek was ended. The only worry was whether the weather would cause the Uttaranchal government to stop people from traveling to Badrinath.

The next day's trek back to Govindghat was, as usual, not all that much of a cakewalk since descents have a way of testing knees and ankles. There still was some cavalry with us but a much attenuated one. Most of us did do the trek back. Thankfully, the day was sunny and the Badrinath trip was still on.

We hit Badrinath when the temple was closed, as was expected by our guides. Mahaveer was the only one of the three GIO Adventures guides to accompany us, since Yashpal and Hari had left from Govindghat to Auli to prepare for our nights stay there. The cooking staff, who had provided such great food at the camp stayed back in the same GIO camp for the next group.

Lunch was at the Sardeswari restaurant at Badrinath and we spent the time remaining in taking group pics.


The vehicle used by the other group had some fan-belt problems and, while it was being repaired, we walked down to the Badrinath temple. Necessarily in an unwashed condition, we visited the temple and had a darshan of Lord Vishnu.


After the darshan, we chose to also do the optional visit to Mana. This is the last Indian village before the border of Tibet/China. The place has the mythological significance of being the place where Ved Vyas is reputed to have dictated the Mahabharat to Lord Ganesh, who acted as his scribe. The Vyas Gufa and the Ganesh Gufa were the caves wherein the duo are reputed to have seated themselves during the composition of the Mahabharat. The day was when, apparently, the locals held a festival to worship the Pandavas and we witnessed the ceremonies for a while before we went on towards the scenic delights of the place.

The path to the caves of Vyas and Lord Ganesh forks upwards towards the caves. The other path leads to what the locals call the origin point of the mythical river Saraswati, which is then supposed to mingle with the Alaknanda. The roaring flow of the waters through the mountains was a sight to behold.

The gorge carved by the river was, apparently, impassable for the Pandavas when they sought to ascend to Heaven. The mighty second son of Kunti, Bhim, then uprooted a huge rock and made a bridge for the rest to cross. This Bhimpul still stands tribute to the tremendous strength of the son of Vayu.

A temple to the river goddess, Saraswati, is close by the gushing waters. As, also, is the 'last Indian tea-shop'!

After having soaked in the beauty of the place we reluctantly returned to our vehicle to what we fondly hoped would be a night's halt at the comfortable rest-house in Auli. We hit Badrinath and were stopped by the Police.

The Lord had, apparently, decided to wash the place clean of our unwashed presence with rains and the consequence was a landslide that had blocked the road some three kilometers further down. After the usual couple of hours of dithering, we stayed at Badrinath with a lot of nervousness about when and whether the road-block would be cleared. People with flights to board on the next day were busy with their calculations of how much the road-block could eventually cost them.




video

Thanks to the efficiency of the BRO, the road was cleared by 9 AM and we were happily motoring down (ME??? I am never happy on road journeys, particularly on mountains). Yashpal and Hari hired a vehicle to ferry the luggage we had left behind at Auli - which they shifted to our vehicle en route, so that we would not lose time in detouring to Auli to pick them up. We had a brief halt for tea at another of GIO's campsites, just ahead of Deva Prayag, After we left the place, we hit another unexpected problem at Devaprayag.

Apparently, some large piece of equipment had fallen there quite a few days back and the owners had picked this day to try and remove it. The stupendous logic of picking on a weekend day to block a pilgrimage route for hours on end beats me but that was the reality we had to live with then. Vehicles were piled up for a couple of kilometers. People sat on the roads playing cards; others were frantically calling up people changing travel plans; Chandru and I gave up on our 11.10 PM train back to Delhi and were discussing alternatives (Trek back? THAT was not one of the options, thank you).

At around 8 PM the road cleared. With just 3 hours to go, it was impossible to hit Haridwar in time for our train. Or so it seemed to us but our driver Kuldip, like Dhoni, had other ideas. So skilfully did he drive at speed to Haridwar that we never seemed in any danger and, yet, reached the Haridwar station with some 15 minutes to spare.

After rushed farewells, we boarded our train. Yet another wonderful Himalayan experience was ended.

Pics: Jaya and Chandru
Video: Chandru