Monthly Archives: May 2005

A Holiday Afternoon

A holiday afternoon I describe,
Its lazy quiet time warp.
Boredom to TV I ascribe
TV talk shows cause me to harp.

Much I prefer the comfort
Of this super-foamy bouncy bed.
As I wipe from an old tome its dirt
To discover secrets so long held.

Two lines and I have entered
The created universe of another man,
Told carefully with passion undeterred
Like this, only a wily raconteur can.

Eons later, I look up from the tome
My truthful watch the time it tells
And reminds of time(warped)zone – home
Been only a minute under fictive spells?!

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Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi – A Review

A thousand dreams like this – thats what the title of the movie translates into. This one’s about broken dreams and ideals. HKA tells the story of 3 characters – Siddharth, Vikram and Geeta who are college students in the late 60s when the movie begins. Those were the days of student activism of the kind that present-day India lacks. Siddharth is the idealist who believes he can transform the nation of its social and political evils through his group, that he calls a ‘party’ and the government calls ‘naxalites’. Gita loves him and seemingly believes in his ideals. Vikram is more like the modern day Indian youth who couldnt care less about the country as long has he is successful professionally.

Siddharth is a character who largely comes out to be uni-dimensional. KK Menon does all he can with the rather simplistic character that the director has created. Perhaps the director could have tried to let us know him better. All we understand of him is that he wants to change the nation. He also has occasional pangs of guilt about being the cause of all the problems in Gita’s life. Gita, played admirably by Chitrangada Singh is the Kerry-esque flip-flopper. Forever in a conflict – first about choosing Siddharth’s radical path of nation-transformation and then about leaving her husband Arun. Once we find her in a party with her new husband – an IAS officer and once we find her in some village as a teacher and so on it goes – she is never quite sure what she really stands for – a fence sitter like most of us! Her love for Siddharth, whose child she manages to bear somewhere in the midst of all the confusion, often over-powers her rational judgement and often it does so at the wrong time. But the movie really belongs to Vikram, played to absolute perfection by Shiney Ahuja. This is a man who has loved Gita from the beginning and who seems to have a keen desire to be around Gita all the time, perhaps in the hope that she will change her mind one day and that he should be around when that happens. A scene where he barges into a circuit house in Bihar where Siddharth and Gita have a secret rendezvous after her marriage belongs completely to him. It is also a defining scene in the film where the cynical Vikram and the idealistic Siddharth have a little confrontation that summarizes what the characters stand for [except Gita, the half-hearted idealist].

As we peek into the trials of the 3 protagonists, we also learn more about the period that the film is set in and about the emergency. As the plot winds itself to its conclusion, the director throws in a bit of a surprise ending too, which kind of goes well with the overall tragic-comedy-irony theme of the whole film. After a really long time comes an Indian film that is so good that never do you find yourself saying aloud “that makes no sense” , the way you do with most mainstream bollywood trash. Perhaps the best way to support such cinema is to go to a theatre and buy the tickets! To top the cake with Siddhu’s cherry, you also have some really soulful music in this film that stays with you for a long while after the film…
PS: I thought the film was better than Black, which i found to be an over-rated piece of un-intentional magic realism where Bachchan hams so much, you wonder if senility has hit him hard.

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Who is your customer?

As this blog begins to take shape – atleast in quantity if not quality – I realize the challenge that is blogging. All other forms of writing are targeted to a specific audience demographic. Not so with blogging because you never know who in which country will chance upon your online graffiti board as it were. So, one tends to try and write about things that are either universally appealing or universally understood. Reminds me of Indian writers in English, who when they describe something uniquely Indian in their books tend to oversimplify and over-explain.. keeping in mind the western reader much to the annoyance of an Indian reader.

Some may argue that the lack of a unique ‘target audience’ shouldn’t be an issue because blogs were originally meant to be online journals – not written for anyone specific except the writer himself. However, if one looks at the way blogging has evolved, it no longer remains a public-journal through which one can peek into the lives of people that one wouldn’t normally get the chance to do. Today, blogs are increasingly used by people to ‘market’ themselves. Companies are sitting up and taking notice of the potential of blogging as a marketing tool. This could be because blogs are always maintained by individuals and for a customer it is easier to believe the testimony of an individual user of a product/service rather than the advertising spiel of a company.

Thus, it seems that blogging can mean different things to different people – ranging from an intensely personal online diary to a website-substitute to an ego boosting presence on the web. I’m not sure which space I should try to occupy. [ Marketing law : you cannot be all things to all people. Focus is the key..]

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Free-riding : the art of finding time to do the things that really matter??

As part of my MBA, I had to do a whole lot of ‘group projects’ in pretty much every course I took. The rationale behind this is that on your job, the skill that will perhaps help you more than the countless courses you took is the ability to work in groups.

One of the things one learns very quickly at a b-school is that not all people have the same threshold of panic. While some are easily petrified at the thought of a (group) project deadline, others awaken just the night before submission day. But b-school offers yet another unique species – one that we call a Free-rider.

A free-rider is an individual who though considered intelligent and normal in most respects, suddenly turns into detached yogi at the merest hint of contributing to a group project. Indian philosophers would be impressed with this kind of renunciation!

Free-riders find new and innovative ways to express their personality. I had interesting experience in the first term with a particular project group. One problem that I faced with this group was the group’s collective (!) ignorance of the existence of a certain Microsoft product called PowerPoint. Being the only computer engineer in the group, I was always entrusted with the job of designing the project presentation. I have no clue how being a computer engineer has anything to do with PowerPoint skills. After all, PowerPoint was designed for executives – people who are good at nothing but know a bit of everything! But try telling that to a group of free-riders. Of course, once you design the ppt, you have to give the presentation as well. And guess what, you would have to do most of the report as well. After all, you designed the presentation, so only you understand its contents. (For the uninitiated, projects at business schools often work in the reverse way. Making the presentation is the first step of the project as opposed to being the last step.)

How to become a successful free-rider?

A successful free-rider is one who does nothing for a group project, yet the group members feel powerless to do anything about it. Follow these steps to become a successful free-rider:

Create an illusion of ignorance – Pretend not to know anything about the subject on hand, thereby excusing your lack of contribution.

Add negative value to a project whenever you actually work. This will ensure that group members won’t approach you for anything except the most risk-free part of the project such as collecting the printouts!

Smile like an angel – yes it helps! Develop a personality that is so charming that people actually feel bad about asking you to work.

Pretend to be working on other projects. This can be accomplished by opening an excel sheet and pretending to do something for a Finance elective project whenever a group member calls you for a meeting.

Sleep – Yes, sometimes it helps to just sleep. Most people hesitate to wake up a sleeping person and would rather do a project by themselves.

Become a perfectionist – This is accomplished by becoming disproportionately interested in the nitty-gritty issues such as font choice, font sizes, margins etc of the project report. This will ensure that group members won’t approach you for fear that you would waste time on useless things resulting in a late submission.

Free-riders are an important part of society at b-school. They are usually liked and popular too except when they have to work on a group project. Some of them have this unique ability to not appear to be free-riders. Such individuals are specialists in the art of looking busy and doing nothing. Interestingly, free-riders are not necessarily people who aren’t interested in academic pursuits. Far from it, quite a few of them I know are did really well on the grades front. I guess free-riders might someday become better managers – after all what is management but the ability to get others to do your work!

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