Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hey DABBA!!!

"Sirf daal chawal sabzee ka nahi, Paneer mushroom gobi ka nahi, Aare Methi Mutter malai ka nahi, Balke itni saari mamta aur dher saare pyar se bhara… hey Dabba!!!"

This song from ‘Stanley ka Dabba’, was one good time I was having seeing all the food going around and filling up containers to be taken by kids to school. Apart from the fact that the visuals did build an appetite, the movie and the song- both captured the spirit of relations that a dabba can build.

I never really carried a dabba to school or college or work till 2008 as my school was a few buildings away, college was a walk and later got adapted to canteen food. From KG to PG, the only place I remember carrying a dabba on a regular basis was to my coaching classes in 12th. It was a big event then. We used to be in the class from 7 am to almost 1:30 pm and breakfast had to be a feast. In fact, the thing was so big that one of our classmates who stayed in the same building made it a point to carry a dabba and join in the feast. Bottom line, carrying a dabba and having cold food; both are seemingly impossible for me.

The flash point for me was when I completed my PG and started work again- only to avoid a relapse of Hepatitis (aka Jaundice), I started carrying a Dabba. But soon I realized that having lunch together was much of an office social behavior. It was one place where the office boy to the CEO could share one table and food as well. A place for informal chats, discussion, jokes and leg-pulling- lunch rooms served it all.

‘Har dabba yeh kehta hai: ke isse kaun aur kahan se lata hai…’- Yes this is a fact. You really can learn a hell lot from the food and the type of dabba about a person than a market research will yield.

The family man has a dabba service from a dabbawala and has simple meal. The ones who carry food are either a working couple or just stays too far for a dabba service. Bachelors who carry food are the maa ka laadla’s- you can expect fancy food every day. So paneer and pratha is staple diet. Of course chicken, Chinese rice or biryani is served from the left over of last evening- no wonder they have the spices all well absorbed and hence tastier. The ones who help themselves to the canteen or nearby eateries are usually the ones on a outdoors job.

Gujratis in this regard are a unique case. A gujju bhai; no matter from which part of Mumbai, will have a 3 course meal, no compromise. Now if he was from Charni Road, Ghatkopar or any Western Suburb he will have a Farsan, main course and a sweet at the end. If it was a up market Gujju from Walkeshwar you can expect a soup, some fancy snack/ fast food and to finish off a sweet.

Contents of a dabba are also a reflection of an individual’s background. How do I make this statement- well recently I was sharing a table with 4 other friends and the containers before us gave up the story. One had a regular tiffin service since his wife also worked. One had a premium tiffin service as he stayed alone and this was one meal he enjoyed. Another had sabudana khichadi thanks to a fast enforced by his wife. The next one had a pulao from his newlywed wife (his expression gave away a lot about the end result) and last was me- left over chicken and paratha. Finally, after loads of debate if it was right day or not, all had the chicken and the rest was shunted off.

So finally, my mind goes back to that real old Doordarshan filler (saw it as a kid) of a School master trying to discipline students making noise in the recess- we are at times hammered with the idea that we are unified in diversity; a living example is the lunch room and ; the Dabba…

Friday, June 10, 2011

System Files Corrupted

We all rise in unison the moment we wish to file a testimony to claim; India- the largest democracy in the world. A machinery of where a secret ballot helps a billion choose a few amongst themselves by making a choice and entrusting them a responsibility to run the country for a period of five years.

We also the ones who feel at times that this machinery has gone corrupt and the system is now full of people who cut corners, lack ethics and act irresponsible. Well the words of a Lincoln resounded in my mind recently when I saw how the ‘for people’ were being manipulated ‘by the people’- it was a case of witnessing how a system was being corrupted before my eyes.

I recently went in to a local Municipal school and file my registration for Aadhar (Unique Identification Number) - the single largest human database with names, addresses, education, government document registrations, biometric information and photograph. This is a system that will overshadow the Social Security code from the US when completed with all data accessible with one number for every one for this billion strong country.

I was excited for sure, as I had read about it in Forbes a few months ago and knew the scale this project was going to be. I also had seen the form, the degree of details it was collating and was impressed for sure. For once, I was convinced that India has planned something really well and was driving things into a new dimension. I mean how often you come across a government procedure where you are given an appointment in prior.

The D-day arrived and we reached the assigned venue- a municipal school and as we entered the cookie began to crumble. The scene resembled any government office with a big herd of people flocking around a table, loud noises and flaring tempers. But as I spent more time to comprehend the issues, I realized it was the people around who had caused the commotion out of their own doings. For once, it was the inefficiency of people rather than that of government machinery which was causing trouble to people themselves.

A notice clearly read- ‘Forms available on Thursday 10:30 to 11:30’; and on a Friday, a lady was negotiating with the concerned people to give her one form. When refused, she came out with an expression saying- the government agencies are just to harass. On a token given to one person was a family of 20. Kids of all ages to crippled and aged; this family had them all. This group was celebrating the event as if it was a holiday. Every photograph was being cheered. Paperwork was shabby and objection to it were being taken with zero seriousness.

I was amazed at the way the staff doing the job was working. The charge was led by a bunch of 5 people in their twenties who possibly carried the pride of being a part of a massive operation. It was disappointing to see the work being done in a small class room with 2 fans which made circulation a joke. They were not served tea or water- let alone a break. Fighting off the heat and arrogance of people, they were most calm and dedicated to their work.

When I came back home, I was a little more than upset with all I saw. A well oiled system challenged the decades of public opinion and attitude for a government system. It was then it dawned on to me, governments and the system are people at the end of the day.

We say the system is corrupt- people cut corners and behave irresponsible. That is more a reflection of us and all who cut corners and have given rise to the ‘inefficient’ systems we are living with.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Unreality TV

Cable TV came into India in 1991 and caught the frenzy of the Indian masses. Till that point, the four Indian metros had a choice of two channels while most of India had only one- all state owned. The programming was more of a monarchy run from Mandi House and content was what the head at Doordarshan wanted to show rather than what people wanted to see. I remember the days went from bad to worse in case of a state mourning- a day full of shehnai, veena and sitars echoing a sad tone.

This has changed over the last 20 years and now I am not even sure of all the channels I get on TV. Being a part of media, I do track developments, but with the kind of choices available, it is impossible to know every small change or addition. But in all this, I do have one point that I am upset about. The biggest attraction that came to me as a transition point between the Doordarshan and Satellite TV has got diluted- music channels.

Okay, I agree that music is my weakness. No wonder MTV was like a major attraction in my early impressionable years.(Well a part of the reason for writing this is I hate what comes on it over a weekend) Yes it was a certain amount of cultural change in terms of attitude, clothing and vocabulary that were coming into our lives from a five minute video on MTV. No amount of blurring or smart edits kept us away from realizing where there was possibly a passionate moment or nudity in a video.(at times the blurring made it more obvious that it was something forbidden that was happening here)

One of the changes in the Music Channels that I certainly am not comfortable with is their shift away from music into a domain of reality shows. I would say that I was comfortable when Channel V came up with shows like super singer; it was an organic shift; a music channel hunts talents and put them up on a stage, cuts an album. Viva made it big, Asma did not. But this was a much better platform than Sa Re Ga Ma at that time- the latter has become a popular breeding ground for talent now.

MTV made it big with Roadies. Raghuram always says he is what he is because of a troubled childhood (he said that on stage in my college but it might be just sarcasm) - well his brain child definitely attracts people I believe certainly have been through some trauma. The success opened the flood gates and out came a whole avalanche of shows that had only one motive- be different, even if it meant weird or fake or staged. A channel called ‘Real’ was launched. A GEC like Colors launched with a reality show. 24 hours surveillance camera’s made Big Boss and mega hit.

What pains me is the fact that if this is entertainment as demanded by audiences today, we have become sadists. I want to see a certain person undergo an agony, some embarrassment or witness a catfight and feel good about it. Firstly I am completely aware that it is staged- don’t believe me… well how else does someone who faced pranks in “Axe ur Ex” feature on “Dare2 Date” within three months? Most of the participants are on these show for cheap fame- I mean why else would a guy go the full monty before a packed auditorium on a reality show as a task??? (does anyone recall a case against Channel V where 2 girls striped on a street???)

What is very much disturbing is the way these unreal incidents are portrayed. Take revenge on your Ex- pure sadist behavior to feel good. Plotting against people to eliminate them, playing the honey trap, acting the seductress and tons of beeps on being voted out- no wonder Dolly Bindra was once most Googled by Indians. (Until Poonam Pandey came in)

I know this debate is going be endless, more so; not have any kind of resolution. But if the generation before me felt that MTV was the cause of social changes and rebellions on the rise in Gen X; I really am not sure how the Unreality of TV today will play its role in shaping Gen Y.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Social Network and Happiness

Whenever a person is let free of their basic chores of survival, more often than not, they start thinking of individual goals of their own life. Some crave for fame, money; some see satisfaction in places that cannot be equated to a monetary amount. A very recent set of incidents took me down the thinking alley searching if there was an exit or was it blind.

Over a couple of drinks, my friends got into a discussion seemingly headed nowhere. The reason was primarily due to disconnect in understanding what need was the key in their pursuit of happiness. My getting involved contributed little to get to any consensus, but sure did entangle me in a web of thoughts. Also it got me back to the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs- the gospel truth that every marketing man starts life with.

Amongst the two, one guy was up in arms about the opportunities lost along the way by him and his father in an effort to live a life well within the norms and expectations of people. Like most others, his father had missed out on rising higher in a high rated PSU in India due to reservations. He had suffered similar instances in getting good education. His idea of being happy in life was rising to a level where his name is attached to something so mammoth that the achievement makes him immortal.

Contrary to him was the other friend involved in the discussion. This one had let go of more lucrative opportunities in his career since his happiness was time with family. Working for an airline company, he was known in the office to come in at 9 am and leave at 5:30pm, ensure he used his 32 annual leaves and free tickets to spend time with his family. His thought came from a very simple source- I want my family hold me in high regards for giving them the small joys of life everyday.

While both my friends were not in appreciation of each other’s needs, one thing was for sure- with physiological, safety and belongingness to a family was in place, they were both aiming for raising their self esteem. While one wanted his self esteem raised on a larger stage, one was happier playing his act on the settings in his own home and family surroundings.

Just as I was about to close the case, another instance added a new twist. Driving my grand mom back from her friends place, she told me of a certain lady now immobile due to age. Even though the household was full of people, she called the group on phone occasionally candidly reminding that she was still around.

What were all these people seeking? What do people on facebook seek? The answer was the same- the need to raise Self Esteem. Whatever your Social Network; family, friends, professional circles, internet or anything bigger- it is that applause, appreciation, just a causal visit of number of ‘Likes’ that we all crave for, strive for- and derive happiness from.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dress me up

It was just a few weeks ago, I decided to have my occasion based clothes shopping expedition. Not that I’m Jewish or sorts, but the whole ordeal of buying clothes sometimes seems like a daunting task. The prime cause being I’m a little fussy when it comes to colours, patterns or styles. Not that I want to be a brat, but well- let’s just say I won’t be giving a mannequin a run for it buck. Besides, the places I work won’t allow me a Red T-shirt on any day.

Now walking into a store to buy clothes is not as easy as it may seem. Unless you are damn sure of what you want, you are entering a world of ciaos. You want to buy everything- just about everything looks appealing; except for the shirts with monster designs. Brands, styles, fittings are all seemingly similar, but still are to be taken as different. Add to it the confusion the sales guys contribute with half knowledge. I mean there was one sales guy who was debating if gabardine was a type of cloth or trouser style.

I shall confess that I have an army of blue shirts. That’s natural. It’s as logical as to why every girl has played with pink dolls. Also that’s one colour that goes well with trousers Navy, Black, Grey, Khakis or Brown. So I was determined to look beyond with something that would still make me feel good and knew it will take some kind of serious hunting.

One of the ironies in shopping for clothes is that whatever you find to your taste never fits you. Ask for a fresh piece in something and there never is one. Trial pieces never match up to the packed ones. So when I ultimately landed with a shirt with some fine non-blue pin stripes and not in my size, the salesman promptly said, “I’ll check it up in the back”.

Now why does this happen- 4 shirts of size 38 and not one in 44 on the rack? I mean do they have something called as the ‘Reserve store’, with stock in the back. Sadly the back yielded nothing and the hunt continued and I finally picked 3 shirts to add to the wardrobe. The selection was simple, I only ensure it made me look confident to face myself in the mirror.

The next mission was trousers; which got in a new element called matching. I really don’t like this at times. I mean I seriously feel this is going to disappear someday, life comes a full circle and becomes simple- we all shall wear a common uniform across the world. I’m not joking- They do so in Star Trek or Wall-E; so that’s definitely the future. Unlike shirts (unless u buying Arrow for its marking on the cuffs), trousers also have a brand name that shows up on the hips and plays an important role.

Every combination I tried with various brands got only one response- “Sir, this one is you”. I mean you don’t even tip the sales guys, but they seem to have been trained to say stuff. I gave up after 4 combinations and just stuck to basics of Navy blue in a brand I’m comfortable carrying off and walked away.

All those two hours in a shop ensured was I can stay at peace for the next 4 months; or until something else comes up that requires me in new clothes.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


This won’t be the first occasion I’m talking about expected behavior patterns. I have been vocal about how people can come up with almost no efforts and call it their best and place failures against it. This one comes on the background of my understanding on of a certain market- this time around; it is about the holy matrimony and how this is functioning.

Now I have been observing behaviour of people for close to a year now; six months of which I can say in complete seriousness from my side. Rightfully so, this event commands the maximum involvement from prospects and their parents alike. This is one buy where compromise is not on the cards. Everything has to be as per expectation- perfection in every possible quarter.

I have nothing against the intricate level of detailing that people like to go through… even exploring my family descends- but what is amazing and disturbing is a very different point.

I guess there is no doubt you need to check for compatibility. This can be clinical (blood groups) or social behavior; but also what is important is how well you can communicate between and understand each other. What in fact seems to be the dependence is on things like horoscopes – which people candidly accept they know nothing of in detail.

My biggest problem is how can an entity that is beyond understanding of normal people and usually deduced by a 3rd party decide my fate? Of a million perceivable and visible parameters, how does this factor determine the life for people?

Recently I got one revert saying ‘our rashis are mrityu shadashtak’- I know, the words are a killer in itself. Considering my ignorance and lack of understanding of the topic, I tried to enlighten myself by “Guru Google”. I found it turned out that it simply meant the possibility of misunderstanding was high. Strangely this is an aspect that can be easily worked around with having good faith and trust in a relation.

But what makes me really upset is the fact that horoscopes are used as a crutch to safe guard against any possibly failure in a relationship. Even if everything else is in shape, horoscopes must match. If its not, sorry- its time to move on.

Another element is dependence on parent to take a call. Now even with a very transparent relation with my parents, I can still say I am an unknown to my parents in many ways. They never have seen me at work, or my temperament under pressure. They only know few of my friends and my unsupervised behavior staying alone in Pune (though they know much of it). But taking all this into consideration, they have cut me free to take calls, decide on whom I want or would like to meet and appreciate my decisions.

Now for people who have been much closer, it’s a strange thing to see the level of dependence on parents to take calls. “Do u feel we can go ahead and meet…”- “I need to ask Mom if I can….” (Wow, so how often and where all is my life likely to be subject to permissions from mother superior?)

I believe the reason is ownership. I take my decisions- so I’m responsible and have to own up to my acts. For others, I’m coming to believe that parents and horoscopes are like a safety net to act as the scrape goat and saviors in any eventuality.

How can you call yourself independent and free thinking individual if your actions and the ownership for them is missing?

I guess over protection at home and work is now showing up. Wards was parents or bosses to cover up- who in turn are looking at horoscopes or company policy to save their skin.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Logical tragedy

This is one topic I have discussed with a lot of people on different forums and was reignited recently after I had a talk with one of my good old pals from engineering. We realized we are a rare breed of non committed bachelors in this city who seem to be approaching closer to 30 with every passing day. Also it is making our parents cranky for reasons we don’t understand.

Now I was just a step ahead than my friend as I had something called a Matrimonial Profile, and had some experience of navigating sites for the same. He was more on a denial mode as yet. So for him, I was something we always look up to in an Engineering college; a senior who has the magic key to get 40 marks and pass the exam.

So as the conversation went, the first part was an enquiry about what site is good. Now that’s a tricky one, a good site need not have good registrations. Site searches show recent visitors and higher payers on priority- mostly it is people you don’t want to be seen around with. So in the crudest fashion (typical of me) saw an answer saying, “It’s like shopping in a sale; if you missed Day 1, you going to have to dig deep into the pile, ignore the bigger discount signs and still look if you find a good shirt”.

The reason I say it was a crude reply was since it was only one sided. In a mutual selection scenario, the process is much tougher. I introduced him to a new equation which beats the Theory of Natural Selection hands down. So if ‘The beautiful mind’ people said no one wants to be second choice, the choice variable also had additional bearings.

I am yet to find a scale for relative terms like, ‘Smart, Tall, Handsome, Well Mannered, Funny, Highly Educated, Friendly and Simple’, which seem to be prime requirements. If they were contents of a milkshake, I’m sure it would have a life of 3 minutes before the something would curdle the milk making it unfit for consumption. Not even a juice vendor would mix apple, oranges, sweet limes, grapes, pineapple, water melon all at once and give a mega cocktail- coz they all just don’t go together.

But my PhD topic is a research study called Salary Equation of Matrimonial success. Considering my last PhD topic was ‘The analogical correlations between Employee-Employer & Life Partners’, I am pretty sure it must be some HR who has brought this equation into the wedding scene. (How I hate these HR people). As in corporate life, this one does not take inflation into consideration, nor offers you a chance for explanations. It also dumps equality for gender, fair treatment at work place and all those things seem Utopian.

The equation says, ‘the possibility of an arranged alliance- P (A) =1, if and only if salary of the groom S(G) is at least three times the salary of the bride S(B)’

Numerically, P (A) =1 | S (G)> = 3 S (B)is satisfied

Yes, I see you already want to challenge it- but let face it, somewhere down we know it’s a fact. And worst of all, it has no logic-except rejection from the other side. I know people say that money is not all that matters, but then this is one area where it makes a huge difference. It is a primary selection criteria- one with a scale attached to it.

I really wish to sit down and publish this someday and expose the hypocrisy in all this. Say I started working in 2003 at an annual pay of 2 lacs (which was pretty good then), if every year I had a 30% compounded growth, at the end of 5 years, I will end up with close to 6 lacs in my pocket. In 2007, a similar person was normally offered 3 lacs starting considering inflation.

So end of the day, I ask- how do I make 9 lacs even in the most ideal conditions? (I am deliberately ignoring 08-09 as it will add to complications)

Sure I understand that girls see matrimony as a big change for them, they would perceive moving into an environment totally unknowns. But even when Alice was going down a rabbit hole, she was ready to make best of what came. It not easy for men as well (including me) The ‘I-me’, have to change to ‘we-us’.

What is surprising is I have realized this- but most of the world has not. If the future for ‘me’ is ‘we’, so have to be the dreams and so has to be the world ‘we’ can build. Somehow people still want to know what ‘I’ alone will build.

Anyways- If anyone is aware, please tell me a better place to put this logic across- as this is a Logical tragedy which I am not happy with and am prepared to fight for….