Sunday, August 31, 2008

'Rock on' - the movie and beyond

"Do not download the music"
Buy the CD

That message from the creators of 'Rock On' in the closing credits clearly struck a chord as the entire hall burst into nervous laughter. I bet ek ek ke computer mein hazaaron mp3s bhare huye hain.

But the makers of 'Rock On' need not worry too much because, sadly, these songs are not going to live on too long. For a film which revolves around music, I thought the music was actually the weakest aspect.

The lyrics and the tunes are like a plump woman squeezing herself into a pair of skinny jeans - ekdum force-fit. But you know what, it does not really matter. Not even the fact that music apart, a band this squeaky clean gives a bad name to 'rock'.

Because a rock band is just a metaphor for being passionate about life. And 'Rock on' is not just an exhortation to make music but for each and every one of us to rock on, instead of surrendering and accepting that as we get older, we must compromise.

You can clearly see how alive each member of Magik was when performing. And how dead they looked later, whether 'successful' in the conventional sense, or not. The message this film sends out is that you CAN re-ignite that spark.

Coming back to the movie, I think all the actors were good but Purab Kohli and Shahana Goswami (who played Jo's wife) stood out the most. The film is also very well shot.

The trouble actors took to learn how to play instruments was worth the effort. They don't look fake or wannabe at all.

But the reason for the band breaking up was not big enough. One moment they're all the best of friends and the next boom! sab khatam. The rivalry between Joe and Adi was not really built up.

However, the fact remains that whether a band, a start-up company, a romantic relationship or just a gang of friends, these bust-ups happen. And although we think ki we don't care and have 'moved on', the truth is we actually have not.

You can move on, but only when you express - not suppress.
You have to forgive and THEN forget.
Or the memory is buried, but andar se it eats your insides.

'Rock on' gets 3.5 on 5 from me as a film. But 5 on 5 for sending out the message that you and I are more than the rent that must be paid. The deadline to meet. And 'what's for dinner tonight'.

Look within and yourself and discover - or rediscover - what it is that makes YOU feel alive. Old friends, old hobbies, old dreams. It is never too late to start living a fuller life.

Read the JAM review of 'Rock On'here. And another good one here.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Social relevance & soap operas

First of all, Colors TV must be pleased to know so many of you watch Ballika Vadhu. And jumped up to defend it.

I believe it is one of the channel's highest rated shows.

I watched another episode and I stand by what I wrote. It may well be a true story and end on an inspirational note. It may be sponsored by the Ministry of Women & Child Welfare. It may carry some kind of disclaimer.

As a casual viewer none of this came across.

The trademark Balaji sound effects and multiple camera angles are missing. But it seems like a bahu pe atyachaar kind of story, the novel part being the fact that she is a kid. And that sasuma is on her side, while dadi is the villain.

Can soaps entertain as well as educate at the same time? Sure! The most famous examples of this genre in India are Hum Log (aired in the '80s) and Humraahi (early '90s).

An edutainment soap is conceived and presented in a special way. The team which produced Humraahi actually went to Mexico and received training from Miguel Sabido, a pioneer in the use of producing serialised drama on radio and TV while imparting social values.

An important element of such show is the use of an epilogue to reiterate the main messages of the program and link these to viewer's lives. Ashok Kumar delivered these epilogues on Hum Log with great style (and they were as popular as the show itself!).

Tanuja did the honours for Humraahi and this time the show even set up a system to respond to all the mail it received from viewers, referring them to agencies in their localities that offered relevant services.

If Ballika Vadhu is really serious about 'educating' viewers on the evils of child marriage, they should set up a helpline. Or the Ministry supporting the show can take up the mantle.

A 10 second disclaimer at the beginning or end of the show is not enough. Except to absolve the makers from all responsibility for propogating something completely unacceptable in the India of 2008.

And I am no fan of the other soaps on air. Or the ideas they propogate. But while extra marital affairs may be 'illegal', they take place in the world of consenting adults. In the case of child marriage, it's adults committing a crime against someone who is helpless and has no say in the matter.

And that is why the subject needs to be handled with a LOT more care.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


The latest Axe commercial (an edited version of the international one) has been axed.. Although as of yesterday it was still on air.

Is it indecent and vulgar? Well, a girl biting a piece of a boy's bum (even if he is made of chocolate) is juvenile humour, IMHO. And I don't especially like the boy (looks like Archie fell into a vat of Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate). Bhai dark chocolate hota to I might have accepted that bumbite :)

Then again...

There are several more 'offensive' commercials on air. If you wish to take offense, that is.

What is far more damaging, derogatory and what have you are full-fledged serials like Ballika Vadhu. This is a show which airs Viacom 18's Colors.

The show is essential about Anandi, an 8 year old girl who is married (yes, MARRIED) and enters her sasural. The episode I caught was all about how her 'husband' (a little boy called Jagdish) wants to send her back home because his mother and everyone else seems to love her more than him now.

While sasuma puts Anandi to sleep by telling her stories about rajkumars, Jagdish goes to his terrace in search of a falling star. Because he has heard that if you see one, your wish comes true. And his wish is ki woh chuhiya ghar wapas chali jaaye.

It is cute, but in a very sick kind of way. First of all, child marriage is ILLEGAL in India. Period. Hence it should be illegal to promote the idea of a ballika vadhu in the first place.

Neither does the story seem to be set a hundred years ago. The furniture and clothes look pretty modern. The channel claims it is set in rural Rajasthan but it's hardly evident. As you know, in TV serial land adding a 'sa' when you address someone makes it Rajasthani (bhaisa, dadisa and so on).

The final scene on the show last night was truly revolting. Anandi and her mother-in-law can eat only after the men and the dadi have finished. What's more, Anandi must eat from her husband's jhootha plate. She refuses and starts crying... but ultimately relents as the alternative is to stay hungry the whole day.

And by the way, the family eats on a proper, Western style dining table. On white crockery. If this is rural, then I'm a village belle!

I am never in favour of bans and censorship. But I make an exception in this case. NGOs and the government are working hard to eradicate child marriage, although it is an uphill task.

In such a scenario, surely we can do without a Ballika Vadhu where the idea is being flaunted. Unless they have a track in the near future where the police arrest both sets of parents, I think the show should be taken off the air!

The I & B ministry recently issued a notice to MTV for 'denigrating women' on Splitsvilla. I have no view on that coz I have never seen the show.

But someone needs to note that it's not just MNC advertisers and music channels that might be 'corrupting' influences. What passes off in the name of Indian culture can be far worse!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Olympics - closing thoughts

So anothers Olympics come to an end, and here are some final musings:

* Rights for telecast (at least in countries like India) should be given to as many television networks as possible. DD Sports did absolutely no justice to this spectacle of spectacles.

And neither did the few minutes spent by TV news channels, on the most saleable sportsperson of the day. We will remember nothing of this Olympics beyond Mark Phelps, Usain Bolt and Abhinav Bindra!

* It's really a chicken and egg syndrome. If you want Olympics to catch the imagination you need to give it that kind of importance. You need to put EVERYTHING else on the backburner for those 17 days.

That means giving prime time coverage even to 'obscure' sports. How else will they NOT be obscure?

* National pride and India winning medals cannot be the only peg for the media. And we need to see more of the PEOPLE behind the performances.

For example, the fact that Mark Phelps was diagnosed with ADHD as a child and told by his teachers that he would never be able to focus on anything.

I think that is as big or even bigger a story than his actual achievements. This is the behind-the-scenes which will inspire hundreds of parents to believe in their children - whether in the pool or outside of it.

* I would like to see more medal winners from India too. But let us not forget the very high price that has to be paid by these atheletes and their families. And I am not talking about money alone.

In the Communist bloc, superstars are created in state-sponsored sweatshops. In countries like America, champions are produced by parents who give it their ALL.

I'm not saying that means you don't invest your time, money and effort if you believe your child has potential (and there is an experienced coach or player who backs up that assessment).

But let's also recognise sport for the sake of sport alone. Yes, it does offer a higher purpose or career path for a few supremely talented and committed young people. But it can and must be seen as an important and productive pastime for ALL kids.

Even the ones aiming to 'do well in life' by scaling entrance exams.

* Lastly, the theme of the Beijing Olympics became more than a slogan for me on the very last day. In the women's gymnastics (all round competition), a team from Israel was performing its routine. And the music they has chosen to choregraph it on was the Bollywood number Dhoom tana from 'Om Shanti Om'.

One World, One Dream...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

'Fast' food nation

I'm typing this because I'm hungry. But I need to wait till 12 midnight before I can eat. Coz I was 'fasting' for Janmashtami and this fast is always broken at 12 midnight when Lord Krishna is believed to have been born.

Krishna being a fun God, the one meal you do have on his birthday is actually more of a feast than a deprivation. This afternoon the dining table was groaning under the weight of all the goodies my mother had cooked up.

On the meetha side: kheer, halwa, two kind of barfis
On the namkeen: puri, wadas, finger chips and pakoras

So why is this a fast at all? Because all this stuff is made not from the usual foodgrains like rice and wheat but special ones like: sabudana, singhare ka atta and rajgira. You can also use nuts, potato, coconut and of course milk in any and all forms.

And well, that's what makes it a fast AND a feast. I don't know who decided on this list of ingredients. Is it just an arbit selection ki koi medical reason hai. Ya phir were these actually Lord Krishna's favourite foods?

But you have to admire how imaginative our ancestors were. For example, you're not allowed regular salt but you can use rock salt or sendha namak. I think these were ways they thought up of adding some colour, some novelty to their lives.

And yeah, they did not worry about extra calories back then since most of these goodies are fried :)

While I observe only 2 fasts/feasts a year, there is a large number of people out there who do so every week. The practice is to eat 'fasting food' once in the day and only fruits/ milk for the other two meals.

So there could be a huge potential market for a 'fast food' chain. Many Udipi type hotels in Mumbai offer fasting food, especially on Mondays. But I can see a counter offering only 'upwaas items' doing pretty well even in food courts.

After all, there are as many fasting people in India as there are gods and godesses. And for those who aren't into fasting, the food still comes as a welcome novelty.

Besides which potato chips which are actually 'upwaas approved' could be a good brand extension. Such chips are actually sold in Indore - some local brand - maine dekha hai!

And yeah, speaking of 'fast food', if you ever visit the famous sarafa in Indore, do check out the stall of one Sawariya seth who operates a handcart selling sabudana khichdi. It's so popular, the stock may run out before you get there...

Talk about 'fast' selling items!

Okay, about 10 minutes to go for my bread slice. I generally do not top off with butter but it is Janmashtami... Will make an exception :)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Why do I need to go to school - II

Last night my daughter told me that I should tell her when my lipstick runs out. "We will make it at home".


"See, first you take some oil. Then you add beetroot juice. And then some wax."

Ah. And where did she learn this cool formula? Backyard Science on Disney TV. This is one of the shows she watches religiously, even the repeats. It airs every weekday at 4.30 pm, right after she gets home from school.

The show features a lot of simple experiments which kids can do at home to understand basic principles of science. Apart from making lipstick!

I share this story in connection with Ambuj commenting that:

If your kid drops out of school now, she runs the risk on not knowing the importance of Bal Gangadhar Tilak in Indian History, our Fundamental Rights, the monsoon phenomenon, and even her own body!

School syllabus does give you all of the above but so do many other sources. Including television.

However most parents including me have mixed feelings about TV. When I was working full time the only thing I was paranoid about was:"Is my child watching too much TV?"

I do have the option of not having cable TV at all but I think anything you deny becomes more attractive to kids. And they will simply go to the neighnour's house and indulge.

Neither do I think we can force kids to watch only Discovery channel and History Channel because they are 'educational'.

Of late I have watched some of her favourite shows with her (Shararat, Suite Life of Zack & Cody) and I think they are very imaginative. And in their own way teach kids how to deal with a variety of social and emotional situations.

The one show I don't know what to make of is Shin Chan. But then it is a phase I guess she will grow out of (I hope :)

The point is that we label certain things as 'educational' (school) and others as recreational (TV, video games). Whereas all these things really make up the dots Steve Jobs refers to (and which not one but two of you brought up in comments to my last post).

Most of what I remember of history and almost all of my Indian mythology is courtesy Amar Chitra Katha. Not what I was taught in school!

The issue is, when school takes so much of our children's time and energy, is there enough time to paint more dots on the canvas of their minds? And is school itself really adding enough dots or just a dry paintbrush which leaves no mark?

Well, the debate can go on an on. One thing I do know is we as parents can do our bit. The question is, after a hard day @ work, do we really have any bright and happy paint in our own palettes?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Why do I need to go to school?

A day after her ninth birthday my daughter has posed a fundamental question:"If I want to become a fashion designer or singer why do I need to go to school?"

I don't really have a good answer.

As the participants on 'Paanchvi Paas' have demonstrated, most of us don't remember anything we actually studied in those classrooms. Forget the advanced stuff like trigonometry, basics bhi gul hain.

Looking at the class IV CBSE textbooks I would say that by the end of this year Nivedita would have learnt all the stuff we really need to know in life. ie

Reading & writing: English, Hindi
Basic maths: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division
Basic science & social studies: what is photosynthesis, different regions of India and so on.

But no, she will have to plod on to higher classes and study more. 10th, 12th and then some form of college.

Why? Well, these are the reasons I could think of:

* Because I did it, he did it, she did it, they all did it. You gotta do it to be known as 'educated'.

* Because any document you apply for - passport, visa, bank account - you will be asked for educational qualification.

* Because without a formal certificate/ diploma/ degree you will be counted in the 'illiterate' category even if you are more street smart and excel at at your profession.

Besides, I said. what if you change your mind and want to do something other than fashion design when you are 14? You can't go back and rejoin class V.

She doesn't buy it.

In my heart I know the answer. It is me as a parent who is afraid to make my child an exception to the rule. Even if I know that part of this creative little soul is dying everyday on that wooden bench, copying Q & A from the blackboard.

It is me as a parent who is also unwilling to take the responsibility of bringing her up, 'educating' her, alone. Although there are brilliant examples of parents who are choosing home schooling.

Like Cdr T R A Narayanan who withdrew his two sons from formal schooling. One of them is now a wildlife photographer and the other, an origami artist.

Our decision to pull them out came when Shivaram returned from Mumbai after wrapping up an Origami programme where over 3000 children participated. He had missed his half yearly exams and wrote them on returning. Quite predictably he did not do well as he had no time to prepare.

But, the school authorities said that we had our priorities all wrong and that his talents in this little known art would get him nowhere. Studies and marks was all that mattered to them.

So, we decided that we would not allow the system to drown our children's talents - whatever the field may be.

The Narayanans enrolled the boys in the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) which gave them ample time to develop other interests. Well, hats off to them, but I don't have the energy or the devotion to go down that path.

At the end of the day, I rationalise, Nivedita is an only child and school is where she is learning valuable social skills. And the System is also teaching her that life means buckling down and doing things you don't really want to do or like to do. Because, they have to be done.

She may want to spend the evening exploring her many birthday gifts. But that will have to wait until after she completes her workbook.

And as she does that, I continue to ponder on that question... Unable to frame an answer that will make sense to her.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Get a personal expert for CAT prep

If you're taking CAT this year and live either in Mumbai or Delhi, you're invited to participate in 'Countdown to CAT' on Cracking Careers (UTVi).

You will be profiled and then connected to an expert for a chat on your problem areas - whether in DI, Quanti or Verbal. Or any other prep related issues.

Drop me a line at rashmi_b at with your name, educational background, CAT history and any prep issues you have right now. Also your contact details.

Last week we had Maulik Chandarana, an engineering grad who's taken the year off for CAT and is struggling with Quanti. This week, we help Anupreet Dhody, a BMS graduate with 2 years work ex, tackle her weak section - Verbal.

You can catch the show at these times:
Saturday 16 Aug: 330 pm, 6 pm
Sunday 17 Aug: 12 noon, 5 pm

A few of you are uncomfortable about being in front of a camera. Let me assure you it ain't all that scary. You will just need to be yourself :)

P.S. Those of you who cracked the CAT and made it your dream schools last year, do also get in touch. We would like to interview you guys as well!

Bachna ae Haseeno - 3.5 stars

As I walked out of the paid preview show of Bachna ae Haseeno, I messaged a friend who was watching the same show in Bangalore: 3.5 stars

He replied back: Ur a suckr for romance to give such a high rating!

Well, maybe. As readers of this blog would know I am a tad generous with ratings simply because I review films not for their artistic appeal but for three hours of time well-whiled-away.

If a film does not make me squirm in my seat, make me wish I was elsewhere it will get a 3 on 5 from me. The .5 extra is for Deepika and well, more on that in a bit.

Bachna ae Haseeno is the story of Raj (Ranbir Kapoor), a guy who believes in hamesha but woh hamesha hamesha kind of hamesha nahin. The first half of the film is about the many hearts he breaks.

The first is Mahi, a kudi from Amritsar (Minissha Lamba), who he meets on the Eurail train (a spoof of sorts on the Raj & Simran saga of DDLJ). The second is Radhika, a babe who roams around Mumbai only in tiny shorts (Bipasha Basu) who just happens to be his next door neighbour.

The first dumping is sad, the second truly bad (He fails to show up for the wedding!).

Scene shifts to Australia where Raj lives it up with foreign mems until he meets Gayatri (Deepika Padukone). Taxi driver by night, bschool student by day. And in between she even works at the supermarket checkout. Yeah it is a bit much to swallow except Deepika is SO classy. So convincing.

Raj proposes, Gayatri disposes:"Sorry, maine shuru se hi tumhe kaha tha. I don't believe in marriage".

The second half of the film shifts gears and gets into emosional mode, as Raj decides he should go back and say sorry to the two girls he treated so badly. Because he now knows what it's like to be rejected.

So we have maafi-maafi, shaava-shaava in Punjab and then waiter-waiter, dance-for-me in Italy The climax features a taxi, and an airplane (but only in the background). And well, we walk out of the theatre feeling mildly happy.

The thing is, this could have been a rollicking film. Unfortunately Ranbir spoils it. He is supposed to be a lovable cad but actually comes across as simply, a cad. Neither is his comic timing anything to speak about. There are witty lines (the one about 9 cows in Switzerland for every 1 human being for example!) but most of the laughs are evoked by his friend 'Sachin'.

I think Saif would have been much better for this role but then he is way too old now.

Of the girls, Minissha is fine, Bipasha is trying too hard to look hot and of course both pale in front of Deepika who is simply outstanding. She has looks, style, acting ability, screen presence - everything.

Baaki well, I have something to say on the theme of the film, but will make a separate post on Monday. By which time most of you who want to watch the film would have done so. And we can get into details :)

P.S. With this, my personal blogathon ends. Have a great Independence Day weekend. And girls, do not tie rakhis to anyone for whom you do not truly have brotherly feelings!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Adsense in feeds

Yup, the subscribers to my feed are now getting ads from Google.

I noticed this option when I checked in with Feedburner a couple of days ago and thought, let me try it.

Tell me, if you find it irritating!

Actually, at times I find the ads thrown up by Google in Gmail or on blogs quite interesting.

I will also let you know how much my Adsense earnings are boosted :)

I think that this was a long overdue option because more and more people are turning to feeds (although I remain one of the unconverted). My blog, for example, has 900-1000 direct visitors a day and 3000 + feed readers.

So thank you, Google, for buying out Thank you for a better blogworld.

Abhinav bete, drink some Horlicks

An amusing post on the comatose condition in which Abhinav is giving media interviews.

Considering the kind of questions he is being asked, over and over and over... Can't blame the chap :)

'How does it feel'?
'How did you feel when you pulled the trigger'??
And of course, the 'marriage plan'.

I'm sure he is a great catch for any girl. But ladka-ladki jab milein to meri advice hai, please tickle him. Just to confirm ki laughter and smile mechanism works!

We all have dreams

But what we dream depends on who we are.
Where we were born.

So many of you write to me asking for career advice. Which engineering college to join. MBA karoon ya na karoon... The usual middle class dilemmas.

This afternoon I happened to chat with Vijay. The chap who does manicures at the Lakme salon near my home.

It started by me asking where he lived.
"So roz Sewri to Vashi..."
Why travel so far?
He shrugs, as if to say job hai, karna padta hai.

But there is a Lakme salon in Dadar, close to your house, I told him.
Yes, but apparently the company will not transfer him on request.
He would have to quit, join another salon and then rejoin Lakme.

I asked him how he got into the manicure business.
"Pehle main air conditioning line mein tha," he said wistfully."Woh bhi accha line hai."

But his dream was to be a mechanic. Then?

"Kuch nahin. Hamare pados mein ek hairdresser tha. Usne kaha jab tak woh set nahin hota, yeh try kar..."

Apparently Vijay was dead against becoming a hajaam. And he got a further shock when he found it was a ladies beauty parlour.

But seth was nice to him, and urged him to learn something. If not hairdressing, why not manicure-pedicure. And that is how he got into it, gradually adjusting and even liking the work.

"Mujhe accha train kiya.. phir dheere dheere kaam accha lagne laga."

However, now he regrets not becoming a hairdresser, 'cause they get paid a lot more. And he would have been an 'all-rounder'.

But can't you switch to hairdressing now? Ask Lakme to train you??

"Actually mujhe sab aata hai... sirf naye cuts practice karne padenge. Par aisa lagta hai phir yeh kaam chhoot jaayega."

Vijay is afraid to let go.

He is really good at his current job. Fast, efficient, affable yet not irritatingly intrusive. But there's not much prospect of growth.

The hairdressing opportunity is right there, staring him in the face. If nothing else, he should leave and join a salon closer to his home. Right now he spends Rs 1000 a month of his Rs 6000 salary on travelling up and down.

However what Vijay enjoys here is familiarity and comfort.
He fears the untested and unknown.

"Mere bahut clients hain...," he adds. "Mera bahut demand hai." Which means he can even set out on his own. Home visits would make for a good business, certainly he would be able to work less and earn more.

But again he is full of doubts. "Pata nahin, kaam regular milega ki nahin."

"Thoda to risk lena padega life mein," I tell him as he escorts me out.

And that applies to us all. Whether Vijay the manicurist, or Vijay the IIT engineer.

But maybe we should think that way long before we take up manicures over mechanic work. Although it's never too late to exit the comfort zone...

Saina shines!

18 year old Saina Nehwal came this close to winning an Olynpic medal in badminton. After a dream run upto the quarter finals., she finally bowed out.

Playing in her first Olympics, Saina lost to Indonesian Maria Kristin Yulianti. It was a thrilling contest, the final scores tell you just how close it was: 28-26, 14-21, 15-21.

I know winning IS everything, especially in a contest like the Olympics. Still, I salute this young girl who got so close. Like Abhinav, she may well get us a medal next time. But the important thing is she tried her best.

Unlike the other girl whose name sounds so similar to hers.

Agreed, Sania Mirza is not to blame for having a wrist injury. But right the match there she was, grinning on TV, posing for an Adidas promotional event... I am happy for her fame and the money she is earning but surely she must think about getting back into form and winning tournaments?

Wish we could see more of a Saina in Sania. A passion for the sport, determination and spirit.

iPhone: the price is Ouch

Apparently the iphone is going the bling bling way. According to Sidin (who got it from Tech2):

The 8 GB version of the iPhone 3G will cost Rs. 31,000, while the 16 GB version will cost between Rs. 36,000 and Rs. 37,000.

These prices are not inclusive of the plan these phones will come bundled with.

Nokia management team must be breathing a huge sigh of relief. And I'm happy I did NOT wait for the iPhone.

Thanks to reader Reema Shetty for sending in this info, in aid of the blogathon :)

CRM, my foot!

The other day I visited Westside at Kala Ghoda. As always, the guy at the cash counter asked, "Do you have a Club West card?"

I do.

But then, he said,"Sorry ma'am, it's expired".

The loyalty card has expired although the customer is standing in your shop - hence obviously loyal.

No communication was sent by the company about this sad demise. Although mailers regarding the annual sale continue to arrive at my doorstep.

What's more, three months ago the Westside in Andheri actually added points to my card (the one which expired 2 years ago). Like one of those pensions being credited to dead men's accounts.

If I had cared to kick up a fuss with the manager he would have renewed the card and given me the 160 points on it, I'm sure.

That's not the issue.

For long years I've heard phrases like CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and it's apparently driven by sophisticated software. Yet in most companies there seems to be no relationship with me, no linking of various activities or databases.

Here is another case in point. At the local Food Bazar, I am offered a Future Group & ICICI credit card. I say 'no thanks', I already have enough credit cards.

But they persist and dangle two baits:
- A bunch of coupons and discounts @ Future group outlets
- The fact that I am an ICICI Bank account holder, and hence will get the card after 'just two phone calls'.

Several calls and two unannounced visits from a verification agency there is no sign of the card. Which is ok because I don't need it. But here is what I want to know:

If I have an account with you, you know my credit history, bank balance, PAN card no. You have verified me in the first place! So why this endless farce?

The irony is that ICICI Bank called the other day and offered me a pre-approved Titanium card. So one department in the bank thinks I am a premium customer, the other thinks it needs to 'inspect the goods' more thoroughly.

I know much of this verification process is handled by outside agencies. But that does not absolve the bank! Someone somewhere needs to create a robust system so that information is shared efficiently.

And all you marketers who conceive of loyalty programs please note: Loyalty with an expiry date is an oxymoron!

Mood ki baat hai

After sitting on them for weeks, CNN IBN finally telecast the 'cash for votes' tape.

But look at the master stroke. They did it on the very same day that Abhinav Bindra won India's first ever Olympic gold medal. The day we had no eyes or ears for anything else!

The result was that CNN IBN absolved itself of the paap of organising a sting operation and then 'suppressing' it.

None of the news channels cared to cover anything apart from the Golden Boy.

The newspapers dutifully carried the 'cash for votes' story the next morning but hardly any people read it and felt outraged.

CNN , of course, clarified to Business Standard that 'it waited to telecast the tape because they did not want to influence the committee until they had testified before it. It said it did not want to air an incomplete investigation'. Yeah right!

The moral of the story is that timing is everything. Had the tapes been aired right after the trust vote, they would have rocked the nation for several days. Regardless of how clear or unclear the link between the cash and the votes was.

We have moved on. And we don't want to look back.

What's more, we are feeling good about Abhinav's victory.
His victory is our victory.

On the other hand, 'cash for votes' reminds us for all that is ugly and shameful about being an Indian. We'd rather not go there - again.

Net: net, justice delayed is justice denied. Telecast delayed is impact denied.
But such is life, and surely this must be a strategic manouevre that would have made Chanakya proud!

I want you to want me

HT reports: Niketa Mehta, who had approached the Bombay High Court for aborting her first child due to a heart anomaly in the foetus, on Thursday said she had a miscarriage.

When I read the news in the morning paper, I felt this is no coincidence. The debate on whether the Mehtas were entitled to abort or not is not something I wish to get into. But after the court ruled against the abortion, the only question I had was, "How will it feel to be this child?"

Given the media circus around the issue, at some stage he or she would have come to know that 'my parents wanted to end my life before I came into this world'.

After the court verdict Niketa said: "I didn't want a nationwide discussion on abortion laws. I wanted a decision on my abortion. But now I will try to be happy and bring my child to this world.”

I do not doubt the parents would have loved this child had he/ she been born but I think somewhere the foetus could sense what was going on. That it was, in a sense, an 'unwanted child'.

So one might blame the stress of the case for the miscarriage, but I think there was Divine intervention. As the father said,"If not the court, at least God was on our side."

And the child's side.

iPhone: are you waiting for it?

The iPhone is all set to launch in India (officially) on August 22. Or wait, it's the new Apple iPhone 3G.

Seems like the world and their uncle is waiting for it. Many folks planning to change their phone have postponed the purchase, wanting to check out this baby first.

Well, I might have been one of those except my trusty old Nokia 6670 absolutely gave up in the month of May. So I bought a Nokia N82. Having used it for two months I must say, it is a great phone.

And here is where I think N82 scores over iPhone:
- Amazing camera. 5 megapixel, with excellent picture quality
iPhone has a relatively lallu camera of 2 megapixels and no video recording function.

- Sturdy and durable like all Nokia products. You need to drop it ten times to get one crack. Same cannot be said about Apple products. I own an ipod Touch and it is a beautiful but delicate piece of work!

- iPhone is supposed to be great for using email. Well, the N82 also offers a great experience. You can log into any email account or website with ease.

- IPod Touch does not have a great battery life. Maybe the iPhone is better? N82, I am satisfied.

- N82 features Nokia maps. I haven't explored the feature much but it seems promising. IPhone also has maps with GPS, maybe it's better. But I don't see maps as a 'killer application'.

Where iPhone scores is beauty. You look at it and fall in love.
N82, like most Nokia products is dowdy. Brick-like.

iPhone dekh kar kuch kuch hota hai.
And for that reason - despite technical shorfalls - it will sell.

How much it sells depends upon hardware pricing and airtime plans offered (you have to buy the phone and the plan in a bundle). N82 costs Rs 19,000 odd. Price of iPhone in India not known yet!

I am a huge Nokia fan but can't fathom WHY their phones are so.. bad looking. Forget design., the N82 is offered only in two colours - silver and black. I would have been much happier with a red, pink, blue or whatever. Some choice.

It's not about producing fashion phones and smart phones.. Every phone you put out must be smart AND fashionable.

Until then, Nokia will remain 'ugly' and iPhone will drive customers pagli. May the customer fall in love and not live to regret it... May the best phone experience win!

Personal blogathon, starting 11 am

Many people complain they don't know what to blog about. With me, at times, it is the opposite. There is so much I want to write about... but then there are other pressing matters. The moment passes and the energy dissipates.

But today is one of those days. Koi khaas kaam nahin, koi deadline nahin, so here I am. Embarking on a personal blogathon.

The idea is to
* post as often as the desire to do so pops up in my head
* post raw and uncut, without too much polishing up
* post even about things which might be relatively insignificant


There is no particular reason, objective or goal.
So here goes... I declare the Blogathon open!

May the Force be with me and the postings begin!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Abhinav Bindra: Hanging on to a dream

Every time I watch Abhinav Bindra on television I get goosebumps.

What an achievement!
And what a guy!!

First, the way he won the medal. Standing fourth when he qualified for the final round, Abhinav cracked a 10.7 out of 10.9 in the deciding shot, to win gold.

Second, the way he's handled the victory. No "Miss World' gasp. No whoop of joy. Just a contented half-smile.

What's more, he doesn't even look the role. With his quiet demeanour and spectacles and he could be the boy next door, preparing for an entrance exam.

You think of sportsmen as brawny heros. But Bindra's victory tells you, it's all in the mind.

Abhinav said he was not thinking about making history. Indeed, he said, he was "not thinking about anything". "I was just trying to concentrate on shooting."

That's what they call, being 'in the zone'. The Arjuna and the Eye of the Fish zone. Fark bas yeh hai idhar Draupadi ke bajay mila Olympic gold!

What a journey
Abhinav hopes his victory will change Indian sport. And the system, which atheletes struggle with in India, to reach heights in their chosen sport.

So how did Abhinav do it? I felt compelled to find out a bit more and some intensive google (re)search threw up this fascinating story...

First of all, how he got into the sport:

It was a slightly modified version of the William Tell Story. When barely seven Years of age, Abhinav Bindra asked one of his many domestic maids to place a bottle on her head. Then, from a distance of 10 meters, the lad too-young to know the portentous implication-took aim and fired his air gun. No harm was done to though. As in 14th century Swiss folklore, the shot found its target.

Father A S Bindra is the one who spotted this natural talent. Mr Bindra told ET: "His aim was so perfect that I couldn't think about anything else but make him a pro."

Luckily Mr Bindra not only had the belief in his son's talent but the resources to put into producing a champion. On NDTV tonight, we took a peep at the private shooting range in his home. Besides, the family invested in the best equipment, training, and international exposure.

And yet, it did not come easy. In 2001, in a poignant piece on Rohit Brijnath noted:

If all goes well, and God lends a steadying hand, who knows, perhaps, maybe, one day down the line the kid could come home with an Olympic medal.

... It's not that the kid doesn't know his art. Ask him about shooting, and he'll give you a lecture about muscle tension, breathing control and trigger pressure...

It's not that the kid's a dreamer...

It's not that the kid's lazy...

It's just that the kid ( and his team, he emphasises) doesn't have a coach.

And needs to ask Dad to pay for most of his expenses. And has to travel everywhere alone, doing his own ticketing, and hotel bookings, and practise times, while remaining concentrated enough to shoot..

...The team's Hungarian coach Laszlo Szucsak, it is said, has gone to coach Japan because India couldn't afford to pay him US$500 or whatever more a month. But they can spend Rs 50 crore on hospitality for foreign athletes at the Afro-Asian Games!!!!

In response to this piece, an NRI actually put up an appeal to support Bindra. The total amount Bindra needed at the time to make it to the Athens Olympics was estimated to be Rs 1.2 crores. PER YEAR. (scroll down to see the break up).

Government support being a mere Rs 15 lakhs, the rest had to be raised by the athelete. At the time his father noted:

"Today, international sporting fraternity is pressing upon him, rather trying to take advantage of the fact that there is no full support to him from India and want him to shoot and represent countries like Germany, Holland or Denmark, but as a true nationalistic Indian, I have told Abhinav that behind every victory will be the Indian tricolour" and as such we have declined financial offer from these countries."

Abhinav did make it to Athens so I guess somehow that money was put together. After all, his father is the promoter of the Chandigarh-based Rs 300-crore Hitech Group which has interests in agro- and meat-processing, computer gaming, livestock genetics and pharmaceuticals. So maybe it wasn't whether he could cough up the money for his own training, but the principle of the thing.

Aside: Luckily, apart from the government (which has supported shooting far more than many other sports) we now have the LN Mittal Champions Trust and the Olympic Gold Quest.

Giving hope to those who don't have daddies with the crores.

Hanging on to the dream
But getting back to Abhinav, the chap was a child prodigy. At the Sydney Olympics, he was the youngest member of the Indian contingent and the youngest shooter to be ever present at the Games.

But again, despite so much potential, so many impressive victories at other forums, in Athens, which should have been his moment of glory, he crashed out.

BBC notes: He strolled into the final at Athens with a score of 597 out of 600 and was third. He was shooting like a dream and looked cool as a cucumber. But in the final, things didn't go his way. He shot his worst series of the day and crashed to seventh position. Questions arose about his ability to take the pressure of a final.

Then, he had a back injury. Despite that, and in pain, he went for the World Championships in Zagreb in 2006. And won gold. But the injury kept him out of the Asian Games.

A glimpse of his training schedule tells you it may look effortless. But it's backbreaking work...

Abhinav looks at the bull’s eye - a dark 5 millimeter spot on a brown piece of paper, at the other end of the hall, as predator looks on at it’s prey. As the finger softly presses the trigger, there is a crackle of sound. The sharpshooter tugs at the pulley and examines the target. Time for another spot.

This routine is followed with rigor seven hours a daily plus another few hours for physical training: jogging and stretching exercise. Thus there is complete dedication of body and soul ten hours a day, 365 days a year. "I may not like it but at the end of the day, I am pretty exhausted," says he.

Shooting requires a different kind of stamina. The stamina to concentrate hard and retain balance for couple hours while holding a rifle weighing over five kilograms. And a synchronicity of mind, eyes and finger, a slight variance in any of these and you risk losing all...

Keeping the Olympic dream alive, Bindra spent the last four months training in South Africa and Germany. Apparently, before heading towards Beijing, Abhinav had even taken a commando course to build up his physical endurance and a mental training session to calm the nerves.

And it certainly seems to have worked!

Sadly, it was not Gagan Narang's day. Gagan who? Well, we'll have to wait for another day for his nerves of steel to play out.

And I am sure they will. Olympics mein account khul gaya hai, ab isey band nahin hone denge. As Abhinav says, a billion people deserve not one but 40 gold medals...

Till yesterday, even a single one looked impossible, didn't it? It takes a single success story to inspire a hundred new hopes.

AB Trivia
Abhinav's grandfather Late Colonel Bir Singh was an excellent hockey player and had played alongside Dhyanchand in pre-Partition days.

As a 10 year old, when Abhinav first went to the shooting ranges the more experienced shooters pushed him back. He came back home without even getting to fire a single shot.

Abhinav is the CEO of Abhinav Futuristics, which many have reported is the sole agent of German-made Walther weapons in India. The company actually seems to be more into gaming devices and peripherals.

He completed an undergraduate business management course from IILM, Delhi an affiliate of the prestigious Bradford University, UK.

1126 comments there... as I post this :) But do go ahead and add yours!

photo: Jeff Gross/ Getty Images

Monday, August 11, 2008

The worm turns

HT reports: IT firms are hiring less and offering less as they pick up talent from campuses. In some cases, companies are even refusing to go through with offers they've already made.

The report goes on to cite stats from specific colleges:
* 15% drop in hiring at Army Institute of Technology (AIT). 194 students picked up compared to 232 last year.

And of course the drop is much worse at less prestigious colleges such as:
* Pune Vidyarthi Griha (PVG) where 131 students were picked up as against 260 last year
* Amity University, where Tech Mahindra offered jobs to just 20 students, as against 111 last year.

What's more, IBM has actually withdrawn offer letters and is not even visiting IIT Chennai, where it had picked up 66 students last year.

Where the report falters is when the writer states,"This is the first time since the outsourcing boom began a decade ago that IT companies are dragging their feer on campus hiring.".

Is our memory really so short? The exact same thing happened in 2001-3 after the dotcom bust.

Those graduating in those years had a tough time getting jobs and Infosys had famously withdrawn offer letters made at IIT Bombay. However it created so much bad press that IIT B alum Nandan Nilekani intervened and made sure no students with offers were left high and dry.

In fact even when I wrote this piece for in June 2004, it was relatively tough to get an IT job. But a year later the situation had changed and jobs were raining down.

So in a sense we have come full circle.

Moral of the story? First of all, we have way too many engineering colleges (1600 plus). And students join them, regardless of quality, because they think it will get them an IT job.

On the other side, in boom time IT companies were hiring as if picking out alu and pyaaz in the sabzi mandi - because they had so much work at hand. Now, all of a sudden, they are 'quality conscious'.

I think companies are merely the consumers of talent - the responsibility for quality lies with the colleges. This is the time for colleges and students to introspect. And strive to be more than glorified IT placement agencies. Are they up to the challenge? Or will everyone simply wait it out??

Coz this year and next year's batches may suffer. But ultimately the good times will return and we can go back to a world where people spend 4 years studying civil engineering. Only to become IT jocks.

And we can all forget about quality and offer letters being withdrawn - until the next slowdown.

Olympics: Dil maange more

I know there are a huge number of sports in the Olympics. But the one that I always watch out for is gymnastics.

To my mind, gymnastics is the ultimate 'sport for sport's sake'. You have to train really hard for it, from a very young age. There is no team to fall back on, you are all alone out there. You, your body, and more importantly, your mind.

Of course many other sports fall in this category - most athletics events, weight-lifting and archery to name just a few. But I feel these sports are grounded in something practical. Human beings have raised their bows, and lifted loads and run to catch prey since the beginning of time.

Gymnastics is not natural, it's man-made. It's pushing the human body to a level beyond.

And no matter how good you are, and how hard you train, there is no knowing how you will land after that triple cartwheel. Every move you make, I have my heart in my mouth.

Lastly it is such a good-looking sport. In the grace, the beauty and the strength with which it is performed. And the good looks of the performers themselves.

I will never forget the contest between Mary Lou Retton and Ecaterina Szabo ([pic alongside) in the 1984 LA Olympics. She was the first American to win the overall gold, although we must remember that was the year the Soviet bloc had boycotted the Games.

Back then the Americans were competent, yet the Russians and Romanians definitely had more style!

Of course now we also have the Chinese. Like the East Europeans, they put up Factories to Produce Champions. The formula being 'spot talent young', ragdo them, ferret out the one diamond for every 99 pieces of coal.

The Chinese are no doubt super-talented - rubber ki gudiya types - but it's difficult to cheer for them. They all look the same to me :)

Speaking of looks I was a bit surprised to see the amount of make up the females gymnasts are sporting these days. I mean eye shadow in the Olympics?? Takes some getting used to.

I guess today's gymnastics champs won't be satisfied with endorsing Wheaties ... In fact the US women's gymnastics team is actually sponsored by Cover Girl cosmetics.

Well, as long as it does not affect their performance, who am I to complain?

My bigger grouse is that you hardly get to watch much of any one sport. With only DD Sports covering the Games and so many events happening simultaneously.

And honestly it does not matter if India does not win any medals. Or just the odd bronze. Instead of the usual and endless debates on why we can't do better, let's just celebrate those who are.

Because some kid out there is going to see it and go 'Wow'! "That's what I want to be". Like Mary Lou Retton did, when she saw champion gymnasts on television.

Her first pining for Olympic Gold came at the age of four when watching Olga Korbut during the 1972 Olympics...When Retton was seven she watched Nadia Comaneci compete in the Olympics and enchant the world with her skill and force. Retton knew she wanted to one day stand on the podium and receive a gold medal.

Yes of course we need more facilities, funds and all that jazz. But every Long Journey begins at a signpost called Inspiration.


Update: Abhinav Bindra has just won a gold medal in the men's 10 metre air rifle event :).

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Eco points

Amrit is worried about me being eco-unfriendly coz I might soon have a digital photo-frame. I jokingly refer to him as an eco-terrorist. Coz printing a photograph on paper consumes energy as well.

The point, however, is that we are becoming more eco-conscious and that is always a good thing.

Today, I noticed the annual reports lovingly couriered to me by various leading companies - Indian Hotels, BASF, Cipla and Punjab National Bank to name just a few. I actually weighed the lot and found it was 2.2 kgs!

The reason I get these reports is I am a shareholder, although a teeny-weeny, micro-mini type. The kind who holds anything between 50-200 shares. By law, these companies must send me their reports, and I appreciate the sentiment. A small fry like me is treated with as much importance as the Big Fish. But in truth, all I do is dump these reports in the raddi.

A better way, I think, would be for the Chairman to send a personal letter to all shareholders and direct them to the company website for the detailed annual report available in pdf format.

As a one time exercise every company could ask its shareholders to opt in for the printed reports, instead of doing it the other way round. But of course it's the regulatory authority which needs to say,'Let's do it!'

Speaking of a paperless world, I just renewed my medical insurance online and it was such a wonderful zip-zap-zoom experience that I felt I must thank the folks at ICICI Lombard (HDFC Standard Life is also good). I don't know how eco-friendly the method is but it is certainly bheja-friendly.

And speaking of eco-consciousness, someone should institute a special award for Malaika Arora Khan... Tonight she turned up on Zara Nach ke dikha in a tiny blue tablecloth. Or was it a towel, coz it was draped like one.

On the other hand, some feel that it's clothes like these that contribute to global warming... :)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The CAT Survey: Result

Thank you to all those of you who filled in my CAT questionnaire (just - because I asked you to!) The exercise was not 'scientific' but I am sharing with you the results, coz some of it has been an eyeopener!

8 out of 9 people who responded were male and engineering students/ graduates.
Don't know if this reflects the readership of my blog or the general skew in the CAT-taking population (esp the male bit). But weirdly enough, it reflects the approximate class profile at India's top business schools!

Of these 9 people all are currently working:
Two were taking CAT for the first time (both are final year students - but doing their internships and hence technically, 'working')
One for the second time
And six for the third time!

Wow. The reason, I deduce, is that all the engineers are in good jobs and hence aiming only for a top 10 school. So they would rather attempt the exam again and again than settle for the school they got the first time.

The question is, does one's performance improve by taking the exam multiple times?
Well, this came as a revelation to me - YES! One guy's performance has jumped as much as 18 percentile while the average jump from one year to the next appears to be 10 percentile.

As regards classes:
One person has taken absolutely no classes.
Of the rest, TIME appears to be most popular (5 of the respondents were from South India).
Second most mentioned classes were IMS.
Since most were CAT veterans test series/ AIMCATs/ SIMCATs were more popular than classroom coaching. 2 of the 9 had taken a TIME + IMS combo while one had take Time + a local classe (Byju's) for Mock CATs (in Pune).

Problem areas:
While some fit the mythical 'engineer' profile and are struggling with verbal ("I had problems with RCs and am looking to improve by reading books"), others are finding quant to be challenging.

Says one such banda, "English: 98-99 percentile, consistent; Quantis poor, DI is poor.". So, one cannot generalise :)

In fact DI seems to be an even bigger pain in the butt than quant. As one aspirant notes: "My quant is improving, but I am a slow starter. I go in this order: DI, Verbal, Quant. The Verbal section relaxes me. I am a bit rusty when I start. So I underperform in DI. Let's hope I start scoring in DI".

As far as study schedules go here is a typical response:
"On an average I manage around 2 hours everyday, 3 hours on a good day and 1-1.5 hours on a bad day. On Saturdays I manage around 2-3 hours excluding classes (4 hours)".

Only 1 out of 9 claims to put in 5.5 hrs a day. The average study period is about 2 hours. Surprisingly, half the people prefer to study in the morning, before leaving for work!

While all are somehow juggling work and prep, a few are making adjustments in their career to make it happen.

"I used to work in a startup earlier. I was there for 6 months just after graduation. But the work was gruelling, and since it was affecting my CAT prep, I left it to work at a Big Software Company (I was already placed here through campus placements)".

What is your strategy is going to be to improve over next 3 months?
Most plan to just 'read more' and take more Mock CATs. Here is a sample:
"Practice 2 RC and 2 DI sets daily. Honestly, just RCs will be good enough. The DI sets are thrown in just to do well in AIMCATs and increase the feel-good. I feel the real CAT will not have totally difficult DIs like TIME has. This is my idealistic strategy, which I may or may not follow, depending on mood. Weekly AIMCATs should do it for me".

Bschools they are aiming for:
The two freshers are interested 'only in IIMs'.

The repeater junta is a bit more pragmatic and includes a wider range of top bschools. Besides IIMs, they mentioned the following:
SP Jain - 4
IIFT - 2
others - 1

Was a bit surprised to see S P Jain not in the XLRI/ FMS / MDI category in the minds of prospective MBAs. Average no of schools applied to seems to be 10 (some have counted all IIMs are 'one school' in which case that no is closer to 15!)

Which b-schools do you think you will get?

I asked this question, just. Maybe to see how confident people are... Three out of nine said they are expecting at least one IIM call. The rest had 'no idea' and one actually said 'none'.

He added,"My nondescript verbal communication and my excessive belief in my intelligence, coupled with lack of seriousness should stop me in the interviews. Last year I did not utter a word at the GDs, and later tried to justify this in the interviews".

Finally, a couple of the respondents shared the fact that they're confused. CAT karna bhi chahiye ya nahin?

The lone non-engineer says:

"I find the math section really hard to score on. Sometimes I think that may be I should do a course in Mass Media or Literature as I work in media. But then I'm told that MBA is more lucrative and also because my background is from a different faculty I am not eligible for the full time MA at Mumbai University.

Also I'm not sure how much weight a Mass Media degree really holds, in term of growth in my job. From I can see, it is mostly freshers who do the course at XIC or Sophias".

And one of the engineers is even more ruthless in his assessment:
"I pity those (including me), who have no idea why they are pursuing MBA. There's a vague incentive of money, but what will I do with the money if I have no time to use it?

And still we keep crowding the place, maybe because we are not smart/ brave enough to find anything better to do, or maybe because everybody else is also doing it".

Baat sahi hai but I say now that you are giving CAT, give it your best. Beyond that, que sera sera. What will be will be. Thanks to all of you for sharing and I'll be in touch!

P.S. 'Cracking careers' kicks off a special series called 'Countdown to CAT' from next week. If you are a CAT aspirant who'd like to be mentored by our experts in your weak areas, or have any questions regarding preparation and applications, I'd love to hear from you. As always, drop me a line at rashmi_b at

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Phoren se kya laayen?

My parents are on their annual trip to Singapore (coz my brother lives there) and every time we speak the question is:"Bete, kya laayen tumhare liye yahaan se?"

And honestly there is nothing that comes to mind immediately... I know electronics are much cooler (and cheaper) there but I am happy with my 6 megapixel camera, 20 month old laptop, iPods in two sizes (nano and Touch). If I get something shinier, newer and latesht, what do I do with this barely-used stuff?

Rehne do!

But finally, after much thought, I have come up with an object of desire: a digital photo frame. You do get them in India but the one I saw in Croma was some 7000 bucks. I'm sure there are more options in Singapore (and better prices :) If have a brand you recommend (or any other advice on what/ how to buy) pls do share!

On a separate note, the whole globalisation phenomenon makes the excitement of 'phoren return' a thing of the distant past. My childhood is chequered with milestones based on my dad's phoren trips...

* The doll whose blue eyes opened and shut (1977 - Israel)

* Pink and white polka dot dress with lace collar (1980 - US)

* VCR! (1984 - Japan)

And well, you get the picture. Every time he returned from some astrophysics conference, opening the suitcase was a sacred ritual. A jadoo ka pitara from which all kinds of wonderful goodies emerged.

No, I don't crave that we go back to that era. But it would be nice to have that suitcase-opening ritual to look forward to. Actually, there are amazing things you get at specific places. You just have to look harder for them.

I recently discovered the pleasures of 'smoked cheese'. Thanks to my daughter who got a chubby slab of it from a cheese factory in Belgium (she went on a Thomas Cook tour to Europe with her cousins this summer).

And dark chocolate - you still don't get really sinful stuff here in India. Or maybe you do, but I love it if someone gets it for me from phoren.

Ab India mein sab kich milta hai... But iska yeh matlab nahin ki aap khaali haath vaapas aayen. We still loooooove gifts. Just avoid the sasta-sundar-tikau perfumes, please!

Friday, August 01, 2008

A lighter look at careers

Here's a guest piece I wrote for DNA's Anniversary issue

On roaming

'Always on the move' is the caller tune of a new generation when it comes to careers, says Rashmi Bansal

Once upon a time, careers were like fixed line telephones. You were lucky to get one and grateful for the connection, despite the hiss. Now, careers are like cellphones. You have many to choose from, keep upgrading your handset and changing the ringtone.

Depending on your socio-economic status you have the following talk time plans:

* The Swami plan: This plan is basically aimed at India's vast and furious middle class. It involves spending some of the best years of your life studying for entrance exams like IIT JEE, AIEEE, CET, CAT, XAT and so on.

If you manage to crack these, you will be rewarded with a lifetime prepaid card which entitles you to a good job, house, car and someone to marry. Either from campus or based on how cool your qualifications and salary look in the classifieds.

Those who don't qualify under Swami plan can opt for the 'mini Swami' where they at least get the degree, if not the IIT-IIM branding. Hence it is always safer to opt for engineering over Physics, History or Home Science; and MBA above all else.

The network coverage is poor if you graduate from a bschool in Jhumritalaiyya but it's better than 'no signal'. Which is how ordinary BAs or BScs feel today, despite the love and affection showered on them by call centres.

* The Bunty plan: Yeh world hai na world, isme yeh woh log hain jo kuch kar ke dikhaana chahte hain. Magar lack of angrezi skills and general spit and polish impede their progress. While cellphones may now display smses in Hindi and Gujarati, jobs which offer the chance of rapid growth require people who think in English.

The Bunty plan however does offer some hope. There are a slew of jobs, from mall security guard to radio taxi driver that now employ 10th or 12th pass youngsters at decent salaries, in better working environments.

These jobs are like lower end handsets with VGA cameras compared to the Swami plan which comes with 5 megapixels and a Carl Zeiss lens. But it is still, a step up in life.

* The Pappu plan: He can't dance, saala, and he does not need to work either. Pappus are the new rich kids of India who we see in the movies, and all around us. They don't have the zeal of a Swami but compensate by forking out the cash for the most bling bling of handsets. Degrees from foreign colleges or in local colleges through the backdoor ('donation').

Many Pappus have the easy option of joining the family business. Others do need to get jobs but will do so in due time, after 'discovering themselves'. The trouble is, there is always a newer, shinier model out there which makes it difficult to appreciate what you have in hand.

* The Babli plan: In a country where 'boyfriend' is a person you never bring home, the cellphone is a girl's best friend. And 'further studies' is the magic mantra which opens every locked door. Parents who never allowed their daughters to stay out late lovingly pack up and pack off their kids to hostels and PGs in distant locations. Because after all, 'career ka sawaal hai'.

Cellphones have made remote areas more accessible.

Careers have made life for small town girls more aspirational.

How many will switch their careers off after marriage remains the question.

The bottomline is, zamaana mobility ka hai. It's ok to experiment with jobs, and even with life, because like the shops at every streetcorner selling connections, there is no shortage anymore.

Koi na koi job mil jayega, the important thing - for Swami, for Pappu, for Bunty and Babli - is finding the one that gets them out of bed all charged up and ready to go. Each morning!

Disqus for Youth Curry - Insight on Indian Youth