Thursday, January 31, 2008

Jassuben Jayantilal Joshi ki Joint Family

Finally, someone has realised the true potential of the Great Indian Joint Family on television.

JJJJF is everything Kyunki Saas Bhi promised to be, until it embraced the evil-vamp-with-designer-bindi vs sweet-sweet-bahu-with-sizable-sindoor formmula. I've seen 3-4 episodes of Jassuben so far and it's as Indian as a drama can get, yet fresh and different.

Haven't figured out exactly how who is related to whom but there's a lady called Jassuben (a younger and less dukhi version of Baa) and her half a dozen sons, their wives and kids.

The characters are unique and have certain recurring dialogues and mannerisms, but they aren't caricatures. For example Chandu, the eldest son, keeps sneaking off to smoke on the terrace and thinks that's his little secret. The real secret is that everyone knows but pretends not to. Meanwhile young Chirag's problem in life is,"Mujh se to koi poochta hi nahin" - no one asks my opinion on anything!

It's soapy yet humorous at the same time, which is an amazing feat. And only Aatish Kapadia and Jamnadas Mathejia of Hats Off productions could have pulled it off. In case you can't place them, they're the guys behind the best comedy show on TV in recent times 'Sarabhai vs Sarabhai' . And the loud but watchable 'Instant Khichdi'.

This production team's khaasiyat is that the characters always come across as slightly exaggerated but real. You know for sure there is someone like that in this world - possibly even in your family.

All their shows feature some 'bhola bhaala duffer' type - Roshesh in Sarabhai, Supriya Pathak in the Khichdi series. And there is always a strong woman at the helm of things.

JJJJF is set in Junagadh and the series kicked off with grandson Pinakin eloping with the neighbourhood farsanwala's daughter Nandini. The fun part is they are really so young and innocent. At one point they stand on a bridge and shout with glee, "Hum bhaag gaye.. hum sachmuch bhaag gaye".

Of course they are tracked down to a hotel and taken home before anything 'anarth' could happen. But there's no moral science dialogue. Logic, reason and gentle persuasion are the weapons of choice. And the result is tragi-comic.

When Jassuben asks Pinakin how he was planning to support Nandini he says,"Main apna jacket bech deta".

"Magar usse to ek hafte ka hi kaam hota - phir?" she presses.

"Mere paas teen teen jackets hain," he replies confidently. Even his plaintive main uske bina jee nahin sakta does not sound filmi.

There is conflict between family members but it is not the drumrolls. camera pans back and forth three times variety.

So as Pinakin finger-combs his hair in front of the mirror his dad Chandu growls:"Yeh baal banaa rahe ho ya bigaad rahe ho?". In defiance he messes it up even more.

Pinakin's mother Pushpa is a long suffering soul who is well meaning but can never be perfect enough for her overbearing husband. She actually wears mismatched polka dot blouses with dowdy, downmarket saris, quite unlike the perfectly togged out women in Balaji soaps.

I think the show will definitely catch on and knock out a saas-bahu serial or two out of the market. That's strike two for NDTV Imagine. The other show on their channel which I think really stands out is Saroj Khan's Nachle Ve.

Promos for 'Ek Packet Ummeed' and 'Radha ki betiyaan kuch kar dikhaengee' also seem promising. They have that 'solid stories about real people' appeal, and visibly superior acting talent.

It remains to be seen whether all this will persuade people to pay extra for NDTV Imagine as and when they decide to encrypt the channel... But I do appreciate they are trying to be different and succeeding to some extent.

The other unknown: are viewers truly ready to move on from the Ekta Kapoor era? Only time and TRPs will tell...!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Congratulations, ISB

ISB Hyderabad has been ranked # 20 among top 100 bschools in the world by the Financial Times.

Naturally, ISB students and alumni are elated while all iim egroups have been buzzing since the news broke last night with the question: "Why are we missing??"

Before I answer that question let me put down a few things about the ISB campus which impressed me when I visited it last month:

a) A high degree of enthusiasm, efficiency and commitment among the faculty and the administration. At IIMs you notice these traits among individuals, not the institute as a whole.

b) Impeccable and international standards in terms of infrastructure and maintenance. Everything is shiny, new and working!

I have already mentioned what I thought of IIM Calcutta. On a recent visit to IIM A I took a quick round of the campus and it's in need of a lot of repair and overhaul.

Of course those buildings are 40 years old so wear and tear is inevitable. But what's the excuse for general untidiness? This junk lying underneath my old dorm D5 has been there quite a while. I remember it from my visit a year before! Maybe this kind of thing has no impact on rankings but it reflects a chalta hai attitude and that translates elsewhere...

c) Amazing facilities for the MDP participants. The catering and housekeeping for the MDP centre as well as student housing and cafetarias is handled by Sarovar hotels.

The experience of staying in KLMDC at IIM A by contrast is.. sad. No reason why they cannot outsource the same! PGP students of course can't ask for the same pampering, given the far lower fee structure.

d) The international faculty ISB attracts is mind blowing. I would love to take courses with some of those profs!

Many of the ISB visiting faculty is ex-IIM. Would they be open to teaching for a few weeks at our institute? I am sure they would. But we can never sort our the whole issue of how much to pay, who will pay and most importantly convince the profs on campus this is not an indictment of their abilities. That truly, there is much for both sides to gain from each other!

e) There is a very organised effort on the part of ISB to keep in touch with its alumni, in the way an HBS or Wharton does.

No doubt IIMs also keep in touch but the effort is not spearheaded by full fledged professionals and treated as a revenue centre.

And well, I could go on but coming back to the FT ranking. I say: Well done ISB! I hold the institute in very high regard. The really commendable thing is the speed at which they've got here - it's been just 6 years!

But to get back and answer the original question: where are the IIMs? Let's first take a closer look at the FT ranking.

FT's ranking is based on:
- Weighted salary
- % salary increased before and after MBA
- Employment (% of students who found employment within 3 months of graduating)
- Research

There are other parameters but that's over 50% of the weightage.

Now open this webpage and click on each column. You will find that:

Weighted salary: ISB has the HIGHEST weighted salary among ALL bschools in the world: $169,355. The figure is calculated taking purchasing power parity into account and I surmise it's extrapolated from the average salary which ISB grads got in 2007.

Incidentally, the use of PPP salaries by FT is the main reason why 11 of the top 20 are now from outside the US.

% increase: ISB students got a 129% salary increase after graduating placing them at # 14 on this parameter.

Employment: ISB ranks # 1 on the 'employment' parameter with 100% of its students getting jobs within 3 months of graduating

Research: ISB ranks # 88 our of 100 bschools when it comes to research (calculated as the no of papers faculty published in 40 odd international academic and practicioner journals).

Wonderful. I am not sure if IIMs participated in this exercise at all. But if they were to, let's see how an IIM Ahmedabad would score on all these points
- The average Indian salary @ IIM A in 2007 was Rs 13.6 lakhs. Using the ISB formula (their average domestic salary was Rs 15 lakhs in 2007), the PPP weighted salary of IIM A grads translates into around $154,627.

Taking into account the average US dollar salary at IIM A in 2007 was $115,300 (accepted by 63 students out of the total 224 who took placement) the combined average PPP weighted salary would be in the region of $143,000. Placing IIM A at a respectable # 14 out of 100 on the salary front.

And so on. IIMs would rank equally high on 'employment' and salary increase, and possibly around the same in research.

It's just that nobody at IIM probably took the trouble to submit the info in the required format... Wonder if we even track data like % increase in salary before and after the MBA!

I feel a sense of deja vu, because I noted this exactly 2 years ago, when the Economist rated IIMA # 69 our of 100 bschools. With a more careful submission of data we could have ranked far higher.

The point I am making is not about who's superior. ISB is likely score higher than IIMs in areas like diversity, for example while IIMs will rate higher on the 'value for money' parameter.

It's not about 'winning' or 'losing' but making an honest attempt to compete at the highest level of the game.

The folks at ISB are obviously far more motivated to make the best efforts to score well in ranking exercises, especially by reputed agencies and publications. Whereas the IIMs are full of people who cannot even decide if rankings are important or not.

When we get ranked high, everyone is happy. When we don't, we say rankings don't matter instead of:
a) taking it as constructive criticism
b) examining the fine print in rankings and creating a strategy to improve our performance.

And that sums up the difference between IIMs and the ISB. Why we need to take the FT ranking seriously, whether we believe in rankings or do not.

We need the spirit of private enterprise at the IIMs - the desire to be the best, and be seen as the best. It's a classic case of the 'boiling frog' except the water is not yet so hot that we can't summon all our strength and jump out.

Update: As I was posting this a student @ the IIMA campus tells me the reason we don't feature at all is that we did not meet FT's qualifying criteria. Only bschools accredited by AACSB, Amba or Equis were considered.

IIM A is currently being reviewed by Equis and all I can say is: abhi tak hum kyun so rahe thhe? Well, better late than never. Hope we take it up as a challenge and make it to the top 10 next year!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Jobwise - I

Some recent posts by me on the JobOkplease blog which you may have missed:

Civil Engineers in demand

Dr Nivedita's HR solutions

Making grads employment ready

BPOs hire counsellors

P.S. If you have jobs for students/ fresh grads - whether part time, full time or for summer, you can post them at jobokplease free of cost!

Update on NDTV Imagine

I saw NDTV Imagine last night - it's available as part of the existing package on Tata Sky for now. But it is a huge, huge disappointment.

The 'Shava shava' show being advertised all over town is faltu. A bunch of semi-known TV stars are competing as singers. Kind of like a Nach Baliye with vocal chords. Karan Johar and Simi Garewal are the judges.

Even my 8 year old daughter, who loves all singing related shows is unwilling to watch. She thinks they are all besura.

As for Ramayana... it makes me shudder. First of all the show seems to be shot with yellow filter paper on the camera lens. The TV screen looks an orangey-yellow throughout.

The actors are the usual can-barely-act types stolen from K serial sets. The characterisation is weird. Kaikeyi is giggling like a schoolgirl as Manthara fills her ears with poison... The idea is to show she wasn't all that 'evil' but surely she could do it with more dignity.

All three queens are overly dressed, overly made-up. There is no power in the dialogue or presentation. It's melodrama and song sequences all the way.

Reviving the Ramayan was a great idea but the execution totally sucks.

The one silver lining in this cloud is Nachle Ve - a show where Saroj Khan teaches absolute novices how to dance. This, I think, will find an audience. Saroj ji is practical but makes the show interesting with her comments and observations - mostly on mistakes students are making on the show. But from time to time she addreses the home audience and even throws in asides on the stars who cannot dance to save their life - like Sunny paaji and Sanjay Dutt.

The show I caught, Saroj ji was teaching you how to do the 'Choli ke peechche' dance. And with her instructions it actually seems doable... :)

Chalo, ek show mein NDTV Imagine ne kuch imagination to dikhayi!

Monday, January 21, 2008

NDTV Imagine

A remake of Ramayan is a better flagship show to have than yet another K soap. (Although the actors playing Ram and Sita look like they escaped from one of those sets...)

But the big question is: who is going to call their cable operator - or Tata Sky - and beg for this new channel?

And that goes for all other channels which are asking us to pay extra. NDTV Good Times, for example. It was ok to watch when free to air. But certainly not compelling enough to get me to pick up the phone and command Tata Sky: "I want this!"

And it's not the money - we spend 40 bucks for a coffee at CCD - but inertia. A book I'd reviewed for Businessworld a couple of months ago clearly demonstrated the power of the 'default' option.

The US has a perennial shortage of organ donors while the French have no such problem. Are the French more generous, or more moral? No, the simple explanation is that in France, Austria and Hungary everyone is a potential donor unless they opt out. In the US you have to opt to be a donor.

Similarly to expect us to opt in to watch your channel is not going to work... Unless it's for cricket!

Imagine what will happen when the TRPs come in...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Bollywood 'rocks' India

What happens when a Bollywood star picks up a guitar? He becomes a 'rock star'.

Saif Ali Khan plays with Parikrama and Strings tonight in Mumbai. This is part of a series of concerts sponsored by Seagram's Royal Stag (a brand which Saif endorses).

Now Saif claims the guitar has always been his passion - with some practice I am sure he can pull off a few numbers on stage. Whatever he lacks in guitar technique he'll make up in histrionics and stage presence. Aur poora band bhi to hai back up ke liye.

But undoubtedly there will be a bigger crowd than what you generally see at rock shows. For two reasons:

a) Far greater PR & publicity. The 'Saif is a rockstar' story is splashed across every Sunday paper.

b) Aam junta which has no interest in rock music will land up to see a Bollywood star in action. Of course how much of loud English music, drums and bass guitar they can actually take is a big question mark.

'Rock' has had a pretty rocky existence in India. It's perceived to be a cool thing to do in college - form a band with a few friends. Buy expensive equipment (if your folks can afford it), else spend time moaning about your lack of it. Spend your evenings disturbing numbers ofIron Maiden/ Sepultura/ 'Whatever Metal Band Is In Fashion'.

The more ambitious ones play at a few college festivals. The most ambitious continue to play even as they move out of college. But it's tough. Band members come and go. Rock may be a 'passion' but it's not a livelihood. There just aren't enough folks who will pay to come and listen to you.

The college festival circuit is your only steady source of income. But 80% of the junta sits at fests these days is comfortably numb to rock. They're present because hamare college mein koi show ho raha hai. The question on their minds half an hour into the concert: "Yaar koi film song bajega ya nahin?"

Rock music and musicians still stand for something cool. It's just their noisy and unmelodious music we can't stand.

Most of the talented bands realised they were fighting a losing battle and simply switched - to Bollywood. But in doing so they brought fresh life and energy into the medium. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Vishal-Shekhar are two examples of rock-bred musicians impacting Bollywood with their unique style and sound.

Parikrama remained the Last Man Standing. Of all the bands born in the early to mid 90s they are the only ones who resisted and persisted with 'pure rock'. Forget ollywood, unlike Euphoria they refused to sing even in Hindi. And not for lack of offers. It was just against their principles.

Ironically, the same band is now elevating its crowd pulling capacity with the help of a Bollywood star...

The fact is Bollywood sells but 'rock' is cool. Marrying the two is a master stunt and good for all concerned: bands, star, sponsor. But will it leave any long-term effect on the popularity of rock as a genre? I doubt it.

The future lies elsewhere. I attended a Sonu Nigam concert last week and was surprised at his energy and stage presence. Maine socha tha aath dus aache gaane gayega, what we experienced however was an electrifying concert.

Sonu belted out most of his popular songs, but each zara hat ke from the recorded version. He jumped up and down the stage, charging up the audience to sing, scream, clap along (had it been an open air ground there would have been dancing as well!)

Along with Sonu, eight very talented musicians played live on stage. There was also a bunch of back up dancers. But the overall effect was not 'Bollywood nite'.

If rock is about energy, about passion and complete audience involvement - this was it!

Of course Sonu has tried - and failed - at becoming a star (independent of playback singing) in the past. His non film albums just did not click, the videos in particular were laughable. He came across as a wannabe in a leather jacket. But he has got his act together (in more ways than one) and I think guys like him are going to be the real 'rock stars' of India.

However it will be a long time before they are larger-than-life enough to have roadside taporis wearing their t shirts!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Bill mein kuch kaala hai

My latest Vodafone bill says I need topay 25 bucks for 2 downloads:

a) Callertune from Onmobile - Rs 15

b) Wallpaper from Hungama - Rs 10

Exact download dates and times have been given. Which is great except that I have not made these downloads. I've had the same caller tune - 'California Dreaming' for many months now. And neither am I into wallpapers!

Did I accidentally click on a link in one of the many spam messages sent by the operator? Nope..I simply delete those messages.

Now I can call Vodafone and waste 10 minutes complaining about this, no guarantee they will agree it's an error

So I leave it. And if millions of subscribers like me do the same, imagine how much the cellphone company, and these other companies make? 'Value added service' - to them, for sure!

P.S. This is not the first time it's happened and I'm sure it won't be the last...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mayawati ke mukh se

In a new spiffy hairdo and pink salwar kameez Mayawati celebrated her heppi budday yesterday. And she declared that U.P. should actually be divided into 3 smaller states - Poorvanchal, Bundelkhand and western UP.

I am quite impressed. Dekhiye teen states honge to Mayawatiji can only be CM of any one, right? So it's a very farsighted and statesman (or stateswoman) like thing to say.

Actually matlab clear hai. Mayawati aims to be India's Prime Minister someday soon... And when she does fulfil that dream (I suspect she will!), Jan 15 will definitely be dclared a national holiday!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Resolve and it will happen!

It's the 16th day of the New Year and by now you've definitely broken those New Year resolutions. If you've made any in the first place..

What is it about new year resolutions anyway? Why are they something we undertake with teeth gritted. A burden to be lifted, against our will.

Lose weight
Give up smoking
Study harder

Wahi ghise pite resolutions which we know won't last beyond a day and a half. Because in our heart we we really don't want to see them come true.

Making these resolutions work involves pain and sacrifice. By making a resolution - only to quickly break it - we play a little game with ourselves. "See I tried... It's just too hard. Heh heh." And your neighbour nods, in agreement. Chalo effort to kiya. Agle saal dekhte hain.

Well, here's what I propose instead. Resolve to do something, one thing, you really really have always wanted. Let it be something outlandish. Or something small but significant. The important thing is, it should be a heartfelt desire.

Here's what I told myself I would do in 2007: visit 20 'new' places.
As in places I had never been to before.

The thought just popped into my head and somehow it seemed significant. I said, "Chalo dekhte hain". It's not like I specifically plotted and planned to achieve my target. Much of it just happened.

Here's my list (in order of visit)
1. Kodaikanal: This was on New Year day 2007. The decision to visit was an impulsive one. People moan about how commercialised 'hill stations' are these days but we really enjoyed Kodai. Cycling around the periphery of the lake on rented bikes was the most memorable part of the trip. Some other impressions captured here.

2. Bhubaneshwar: This was on the invitation of XIM Bhubaneshwar. That XIMB makes it to the 'top ranking schools list' is impressive considering the locational disadvantage. The ticket I travelled on (Indian) was apallingly expensive - close to 20,000 bucks. Utne mein to aadmi Singapore return aa jata hai!

Several IT companies seemed to be setting up training and work centres in the city. But given its small town feel I wonder how many imports would like to live there - in the long term.

3. Puri was... an experience in itself. We happened to visit on Makar Sankranti day and it felt like being in a rush hour local. While it is a temple of great significance, you can't help feeling its upkeep could be far better!

4. Konark - magnificent, marvellous, many many other superlatives. Like Ellora, makes you proud to be part of this ancient civilisation.

5. Kharagpur - was on the invitation of IIT KGP. The oldest IIT in India, it's also the most quaint in the sense that Kharagpur remains a one-horse town. The 'restaurant' the workshop organisers took us to in the evening does not even have a name... It's just called 'The restaurant'!

6. Jamshedpur - This was just an impulse trip - my cousin lives here. Jamshedpur is truly a utopia. A city which spoils you for life, if you happen to stay in the TISCO part of it (where my jijaji works).

Also popped by to have a quick look at XLRI. The convocation had just concluded the day before and first years were busy with exams. But I did manage to meet Prof Madhukar Shukla who is as interesting as his blog :)

7. Roorkee - was invited to IIT Roorkee as judge of a Mock Parliament. The Roorkee campus, built during British times is certainly the most beautiful of all IITs I have seen so far (and I have seen all except for Kanpur and Gauhati). The 'main building' distinctly reminds you of the White House.

The less said about Mock Parliament the better . Poor speaking ability, cut and paste powerpoint presentations and terrible, absolutely juvenile cooked-up-the-night-before ideas on how to build the 'India of my dreams'. With a couple of honourable exceptions. The organisers made a sincere effort but... participants ne aisi ki taisi kar di.

8. Rishikesh - But happily, the IIT Roorkee trip led me to visit this amazing town which is only 2 hours away by road. I landed up in the hippie part of Rishikesh (Laxman jhoola) since I referred to the internet and most travel reviews online are written by foreign visitors.

Anyhow I stayed at a very clean and hospitable ashram type place for 200 bucks a day. I felt a bit uncomfortable as a single woman traveller when I checked in but no problems at all after that.

On the first nite I walked down to the Ram jhoola side where they have a very uplifting evening aarti on the banks of the Ganga. While walking back to the Laxman jhoola side there was this long maybe half a km stretch where there were no street lights. And I had no torch. For a few minutes my dil went dhak dhak, especially when someone would approach from the other side.

But then something happened. There was a sense of calm. Navigating my way only by moonlight seemed natural and I felt at that moment there are only good people in this world. Mujhe kuch nahin ho sakta.

9. Shivpuri - This is where you go from Rishikesh, to begin the river rafting adventure. Which I wrote about in detail at the time!

10. Hardwar - A city with its own unique character. A lot cleaner than I expected. But nothing to beat Rishikesh.

11. Hoshiarpur - this was to visit a cousin. Nothing noteworthy about the town except that as you drive down you realise how prosperous Punjab is. Like most parts of semi urban India I have observed through the window of a car there are tons of signboards for coaching classes ('learn English', 'crack JEE'). But here you'll also see lots of signs proclaiming 'visa', 'passport', 'immigration'.

The NRI heart may long for Yash Chopra style sarson ke khet but the Punjab da puttar will trade in his lassi for yoghurt thank you!

12. Naldehra - Simla - overcommercialised and overrun by tourists from the Punjab and saddi Dilli. But it remains one of my favourite places. This time, we went some kms outside Simla to Naldehra, which is known for its high altitude gold course - the oldest in India. It was built in the days of the British, by Lord Curzon who literally fell in love with the location.

We stayed in a stunning Himachal Tourism log hut ('hut' is the wrong word, it had 2 bedrooms, a kitchen and a spacious living room :) Really comfortable and great value for money. Walking down to the restaurant 1/2 a km away was quite an expedition - they provide room service and come huffing and puffing up there with all the food you can eat and then some.

You can also stay at 'Chalets' but it is way way more expensive and does not give u that 'living in a jungle' feeling.

13. However if I were to recall the single most memorable place I visited in the last year, it was Tattapani. This is a 2 hr drive from Naldehra and famous for its hot springs. You drive down from Naldehra - which is at a height - into a valley. The landscape is quite surreal and there's hardly any traffic.

Few tourists go there anymore. The HP tourism bath houses were washed away in floods a few years ago. And since a dam is coming up here in the near future they are not being rebuilt.

Driving down to Tattapani I saw this most amazing butterfly! And the springs were also an experience. They gush out from the riverbank but the water is so hot it can scald you. So you have to position yourself carefully at a place where the springwater mixes with the ice cold waters from the raging Sutlej river.

The whole place has that typical sulphur smell. Sit there for a while, you definitely feel relaxed and healthier. Kuch to hai paani mein!
We also ate the most amazing alu-gobi at this tiny hotel and were amused to see so many of these plants freely growing on the roadside...

14. Srirangpatna - This was a trip we took to Bangalore on a supposedly cheap ticket. After the ticket had to be rescheduled twice it turned out to be damn expensive! But the fun Nivedita had on this visit made it worth it.

After some 25 years I visited Lalbagh and was amazed at how beautiful it is. Some of the trees there are simply amazing. Whatever Bangaloreans might feel, they really do live in a Garden City! Just that they probably never take out the time to visit such places :)

We also went to Mysore and on the way stopped at Srirangpatna, the former capital of Tipu Sultan. There is a very interesting temple here called Ranganathswamy - if you do visit, hire a guide as he would explain the significance of various things.

And there is the Ranganthittu bird sanctuary nearby which is also worth visiting. Although we didn't see any notable birds (that requires time and patience!) it is very serene and just the variety of trees is amazing.

15. Surat - was on the invitation of NIT students. It's a peculiar town, obviously a lot of money here. So you see bizarre sights like a mini Eiffel tower and ads for dandiya in 'comfort of air conditioned stadium'. I tell you! The speed and efficiency with which the city recovered from the manmade flood of 2006 is also worth noting.

Another thing I learnt on this trip is that Mumbai to Surat can take upto 6 hours.. if you happen to book yourself on the wrong train :(

16. Aurangabad & 17. Ellora, I've already written about.

18. Varanasi - I went for my niece's wedding but saath saath mein punya bhi kamaya. With a bunch of my uncles and aunts I took a dip in the holy Ganges (when I smsed my friend Piyul she was aghast!) But no, there were no dead bodies floating by and the water was very very clean. Of course we hired a boat and took our dip quite far away from the official bathing ghats.

But I realised that this holy dip is all about the piety in your heart. Mujh mein pehle nahi thi, ab kuch jagi hai. At a younger age I would have found Varanasi ghastly. Now, when I see the chaos, the flowersellers, teawallahs, beggars there seems to be a message. Yeh sab maya hai. There is something more, something beyond.

Some of us have to experience life in this way, in this lifetime...

19. Hyderabad & 20. Secunderabad. You may say it's cheating to put these as 2 separate cities but hey. On the one hand I visited the TIFR Balloon facility on the outskirts of Secunderabad (and by outskirts I really mean outskirts!).

My dad has spent about a month of his life for the past 40 years sending up experimental hot air balloons from this very place. So it was wonderful to see it (not an actual balloon take-off but the process of the balloon being designed, the labs and so on). The ingenuity of Indian science is truly amazing and deserves a series of separate posts!

On the other side I visited ISB in Gachibowli - that too I will write about in greater detail shortly. Nivedita accompanied me on this trip so we did all the touristy stuff as well - Charminar, Salarjung museum, Golconda fort.

The museum is the most interesting one I have seen in India, you can spend several hours there though we had only two. The sound & light show @ Golconda was impressive but the dhakka mukki at the ticket counter for tickets had to be seen to be believed. Complete and utter mismanagement!

So there you have it: 20 'new' places in 1 year. I learnt a few things about myself. I used to think I was a 'beach' person but I realise that mountains make me feel at peace.

I was never a temple person. But I visited more temples in the last 1 year (four in Varanasi alone!) and I with a new awakening and interest. In fact, in Rishikesh I decided I am going to do the char dham yatra... this year!

And I think many short trips are as much - or more fun - than one long vacation.

So that's the saga of 2007. 2008? Another year, another desire, another story... Why don't you script one for yourself and at the end of the year, we compare notes?

Monday, January 14, 2008

"We all change for the one we love"

A dad shares his teenager's love of music by sharing her headphone

A wife is seen holding a pair of golf clubs...

And an elderly South Indian lady is learning Punjabi to welcome her daughter in law.

"We all change for the people we love" is quite an endearing campaign (esp the TV spot). "Wahi muskuraaate chehre aur kuch nayi technology" is the promise of Canara bank and I like both the message and the execution. Much more relevant than SBI.

Now let's just hope they deliver on the hi-tech bit. Wonder if every branch really looks as glitzy as the one they show in the advert!

Actually the ad set me thinking on the whole premise of 'changing for the people we love'. The key thing is it has to come from within. But even then...

The dad wants to get closer to his daughter, the wife wishes to share her husband's world. It's one thing to make a gesture to show hey, I care about what's going on with you. And another to change the core of your being.

Would the mom in law throw away her saris and wear only salwar kameez? Or the wife accompany the husband to every game of golf? Imagine the dad scrapping his daughter every day on orkut..

Ridiculous, extreme and unnecessary, isn't it?

Except that we end up doing this in real life, especially when the loved one is a romantic partner/ spouse.

I hang out with his friends.

We only cook what he likes.

I don't wear pink because he says it does not suit me.

We change little by little but it all adds up. You make a million small changes or 'adjustments' as they say and poof! Your own identity gets completely lost.

Now I am sure that men who also make a lot of changes but I still think women make more. In fact, many women believe that it is their primary role and responsibility to 'keep the peace' in the house. And if keeping that peace means I have to 'change myself' to theek hai na. Usme kaun si badi baat hai?

Take the case of Kristin Richard, Lance Armstrong's ex wife. She related a story on the Oprah Winfrey show that struck a chord with women all over the world.

You and Lance looked like you had it all," said Winfrey, noting that Richard was swept off her feet by the stellar athlete, married him, had three children quickly and moved to the French Riviera. Richard, however, said that her role was strictly to cheer on Armstrong, prompting Winfrey to advise women not to make the same mistake.

Of course Kristin chose to adopt this role...

"It wasn't Lance saying, 'You should be like this' or 'Do this.' It wasn't him making a mandate and me being a mouse. It was me trying to emulate whatever I thought would be the perfect wife or the perfect mother," said Richard, promoting an article she's written for the April Glamour magazine titled "What I Wish I Had Known About Marriage."

"We think we're trying to please somebody for the sake of our marriage, but then if you ask Lance today if he appreciated that, I think he would probably say, 'Well, that wasn't the woman that I fell in love with,'" added Richard.

Although what Kristin says is true, many of us expect do our partners to change and don't hesitate to say so. 'If you love me why can't you blah blah blah?' So it's not always heartfelt and voluntary...

Kristin adds that she surrendered her job, her dog, as well as her independence when she married Lance. She also admitted to being blinded by the huge diamond ring he gave her when they got engaged...

The moral of the story is if you are really turned on by golf, sure - take up those clubs. Otherwise just don't nag and spoil the pleasure he gets in playing the sport. Use that time to pursue something that you really like.

You gotta spend time together but also give each other some space! And this applies to all you boyfriend-girlfriend types as well.

Fevicol ka jod wood ke liye chalta hai, human beings ke liye nahin.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Halla Bol - 4 stars

Everything in this movie is something you've seen before. Yet the way it's all come together is so powerful that you don't really mind it.

Yep, I just saw the late nite show. Read the rest of my review here (scroll down a bit!)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Do you lust after your bai?

I haven't been blogging much and it's not because of journeys within or around the place (which I shall post about shortly!)

The thing is I am working on this book project and it takes a lot of energy, both mental and physical. Writing a book is different from writing a blog, or a magazine piece. A book has to have cohesion of thought and attitude.

It's taken quite a few drafts for me to reach a point where I feel satisfied with the way it's shaping up. And oh, that's just chapter one.

Result of all this maatha pachchi is: no blogging. Not because there weren't things I'd like to write about but because I need to take a break from the screen and keyboard...

And yes, since I am working from home for this month this break generally means I swicth on the television. Which is how I came across this incredible new song with a great beat: "Aye Hip Hopper". The video instantly catches your attention - there's a guy sitting in a bathtub while a girl who is a bit oddly dressed in a t-shirt and bindi is washing his hair.

The lyrics go like this:
Aye heep hopper mujhe pyaar to aye heep hopper
Meri pyaar ki duniya mein ... meri love ki duniya mein, ek pappi do na sir

Then the hip hopper goes..
Kya tu pak rahi hai
Kaise tap rahi hai
Khopdi pak rahi hai
Ruk ruk ruk
Baksheesh bhi diya hai
Bonus bhi diya hai
chahiye tujhko kya hai
Phut phut phut

In case you haven't guessed by now, the girl is a servant in the house ('tere ghar mein bartan shartan maanjti hu barabar') and I guess that bathtub scene is a censored version of the fantasies many guys play out in their minds.

The 'heep hopper' now despairs:
Maybe but she's hot like Rekha..
But she ain't gonna find my favour...
How can I'm a star hip hopper..
She's my bai, just a part time naukar

I think some folks will find the whole song, lyrics and especially the picturisation 'offensive'. But I think here's a very original and perceptive artist. And this is what hip-hop is all about isn't it? A class struggle.

Now had the guy been groping the girl it would really have been gross. But here it's the girl who's trying to seduce the guy. And that turns the maalik exploiting naukraani scenario totally on its head!

The 'heep hop' singer is Ishq Bector and I think he will go far. Listen to the song here. The female voice is Sunidhi Chauhan.

According to his website, Ishq is born & raised in Winnipeg, Canada, but has made Mumbai his second home. Certified in Chinese Medicine with his forte in Acupuncture, this multi-talented Gemini followed his first passion in life, music. And lots more blah blah blah.

I think he's talented and the music is spunky. Another single 'Daaku Daddy' is about a girl who is grounded by her dad because he finds out about her boyfriend. And so he's the 'daaku daddy', like Gabbar Singh.

The album 'Daaku Daddy' has been released in India by Times Music. I don't know how much it will sell in this age of free downloads but maybe he'll make money giving concerts and scoring Bollywood music!

Disqus for Youth Curry - Insight on Indian Youth