Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Becoming One With The World - by Chetan Bhagat

This is another inspiring speech delivered by Chetan Bhagat at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit Organized in Delhi. To me, these are the thoughts that should lead our country stepping onto the global scenario. I sincerely wish for a changeover at the helm of political affairs - from being power mongers to homogenous economic development seekers across the country - thats what I/we want.

The speech.

Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you for the opportunity to speak at the leadership summit – the first of its kind for me.

I am no leader. At best, I am a dreamer with perseverance to make dreams come true. As I have made my own dreams come true already, I am tempted to think we can make my country’s dreams come true. And that is why I am here.

Before we become one with the world we have to become one with ourselves. If we get our own house in order we don’t have to make an effort to be one with the world. The world will want to be one with us. Everyone wants to be friends with happy, rich, thriving neighbors. Nobody wants a family festered with disputes.

A lot is wrong in my country. There are too many differences. The question is not who we blame for this. The question is how do we fix it? Because to do anything great, you have to become one first. Two generations ago, our forefathers came together to win us Independence. It isn’t like we didn’t have disputes then. Religion, caste, community have existed for centuries. But Gandhi brought them all together for a greater cause – to get the country free.

Today, we have another greater cause. To get India its rightful place in the world. To see India the way the younger generation wants to see it. To make India a prosperous, developed country, where not only the spirit of patriotism, but also the standard of living is high. Where anyone with the talent, drive and hard work alone has the ability to make it. Where people don’t ask where you come from, but where you are going. We all know that India, as we have all dreamt of that India.There is a lot required to be done for this, and it doesn’t just start and end by blaming politicians. For in a democracy, we elect the politicians. If our thinking changes, our voting will change and the politicians will change. And since I have made a nation that didn’t read, read, do I believe people’s thinking can be changed.

To me there are 3 main areas where I think we need to change our thinking – leaders included. And I’m not just saying we need to do it because it is morally right/ ethically correct/ or because it sounds nice at a conference. We need to do it as it make sense from an incentives point of view. These three areas are changing the politics of differences to the politics of similarity, looking down on elitism and the role of English.

The first mindset change required is to change the politics of differences to the politics of similarity. I’ve been studying young people in India, not just in big cities but across India for the last five years.They are the bulk of the population – the bulk of our voter bank. Yet, what they are looking for is not what politicians are pitching. It is not too different from the old school Bollywood where they think item numbers, big budgets and tested formulas work while the biggest hits of the year could be Rock On and Jaane Tu. Yes, times have changed.

Here is what the politicians are pitching – old fashioned patriotism, defending traditions, being the torchbearer of communities, caste and religion. Here is what the youth wants – better colleges, better jobs, better role models. Compared to the talent pool, the number of good college seats are very limited. Same for good jobs. These wants are the biggest similarity that we all share. We all want the same things – progress. I see a huge disconnect in the political strategies of existing politicians vs. what could work for the new voters. I think broad based infrastructure and economic development will satisfy the young generation’s needs. It isn’t an easy goal to attain – but it is the great cause that can unite us.

Today a dynamic politician who takes this cause can achieve a far greater success than any regional politician. And the slot is waiting to be taken. Another aspect required to convert the politics of differences to the politics of similarities is a strong moderate voice. When someone tries to divide us, people from the same community as the divider have to stand up against him. If person A is saying Non-Marathis should be attacked, then some Marathis need to stand up and say person A is talking nonsense. If a Muslim commits terrorist attack, other Muslims should stand up and condemn it, as Hindus are going to condemn it anyway. This moderate voice is sorely missing but is critical in keeping the country together. And the youth want to keep it together, as we want to be remembered as the generation who took India forward, not the one that cut India into two dozen pieces.

I hate telling people what to do, but the media does have a role in this. I agree that media is a business and TRPs matter above anything else. However, there are ethics in every business. Doctors make money off sick people, but it doesn’t mean they keep people sick and not heal them. If you find a moderate voice, highlight it as soon as a divisive voice appears. And don’t take sides, argue or debate it. Don’t validate the ridiculous. Focus on the greater cause.

The second mindset we need to change is that of elitism. From my early childhood days, to college, to professional and business life, and now in the publishing and entertainment circles, I have noticed a peculiar Indian habit of elitism. Maybe it is hard to achieve anything in India. But the moment any person becomes even moderately successful, educated, rich, famous, talented or even develops a fine taste, they consider themselves different from the rest. They begin to move in circles where the common people and their tastes are looked down upon. This means a large chunk of our most qualified, experienced, connected and influential people prefer to live air-conditioned lives in their bubble of like minded people. Naive people who elect stupid politicians – that is the bottomline for all Indian problems, and they want nothing to do with it. But tell me, if the thinking of the common people has to be changed, who is going to change it? What is the point of discussing solutions to Indian problems if there is no buy-in from the common man? Just because it feels good to be around like-minded, intelligent people? What is the use of this intelligence?

If you switch on the TV, seventy percent of the time you will see Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. The reason is the media is centered in these cities. However, ninety percent of India is not this. Unless we represent these people properly, how will these people ever come with us? Again, I am not making these points as a moral appeal. I think understanding India and being inclusive makes massive business sense. And trust me, it doesn’t take any coolness or trendiness away from you if you do it right. Look at me, I am the mass-iest English author ever invented in India. My books sell on railway stations and next to atta in Big Bazaar. I have an Indian publisher who operates from the bylanes of Darya Ganj. And yet, on orkut the most common words associated with my name are coolness and awesomeness – tags given by my wonderful readers. I think it is cooler to know how people think in the streets of Indore and Raipur than who’s walking the ramp in South Mumbai. You may have planned your next vacation abroad, but have you visited a small town lately? Have you shown your kids what the real India is like? Don’t you think they will need to know that as they grow up and enter the workforce. Yes, I want people to look down on elitism and develop a culture of inclusiveness. If you are educated, educate others. If you have good taste, improve others taste rather than calling theirs bad.

The last aspect where we need to change our thinking is our attitude to English. We have to embrace English like never before. Not England, but English. This point may sound contradictory to my previous one, but I am not talking about confining English to the classes, but really taking it to the grassroot level. English and Hindi can co-exist. Hindi is the mother and English is the wife. It is possible to love them both. In small towns, districts and even villages – we need to spread English. India already has a headstart as so many Indians speak English and we don’t have to get expat teachers like China does. But we must not confuse patriotism with the skills one needs to compete in the real world. If you are making an effort to start a school where none existed, why not give the people what will help them most. I can teach a villager geometry and physics in Hindi, but frankly when he goes to look for a job he is going to find that education useless. English will get him a job.

Yes, I know some may say what will happen to Hindi and our traditional cultures. I want to ask these people to pull their kids out of English medium schools and then talk. If you go to small towns, English teaching classes are the biggest draw. There is massive demand for something that will improve people’s lives. I have no special soft spot for this language, but the fact is it works in the world of today. And if more English helps spread prosperity evenly across the country, trust me we will preserve our culture a lot better than a nation that can barely feed its people.

We are all passionate about making India better, so we can discuss this forever. But today I wanted to leave you with just three thoughts – politics of similarities, less elitism and more English that we need to build consensus on. If you agree with me, please do whatever you can in your capacity to make the consensus happen. It could be just a discussion with all your friends, or spreading these thoughts in a broader manner, if you have the means and power to do so. For the fact that we are sitting in this wonderful venue means our country has been kind to us. Let’s see what we can give back to our nation.

For more of Chetan Bhagat visit his Official website

Spark - by Chetan Bhagat

With the way things are in the State of Andhra Pradesh, the place where I belong, I feel the below speech by Chetan Bhagat ,given at Symbiosis, Pune, would be some sort of panacea to atleast a certain section of people. It does not have any semblance with the actual state of affairs in the State but it should inspire people to pull their socks and think of remedial actions that will not only heal the wounds but also look at overall improvement.

Good Morning everyone and thank you for giving me this chance to speak to you. This day is about you. You, who have come to this college, leaving the comfort of your homes (or in some cases discomfort), to become something in your life. I am sure you are excited. There are few days in human life when one is truly elated. The first day in college is one of them. When you were getting ready today, you felt a tingling in your stomach. What would the auditorium be like, what would the teachers be like, who are my new classmates – there is so much to be curious about. I call this excitement, the spark within you that makes you feel truly alive today. Today I am going to talk about keeping the spark shining. Or to put it another way, how to be happy most, if not all the time.

Where do these sparks start? I think we are born with them. My 3-year old twin boys have a million sparks. A little Spiderman toy can make them jump on the bed. They get thrills from creaky swings in the park. A story from daddy gets them excited. They do a daily countdown for birthday party – several months in advance – just for the day they will cut their own birthday cake.

I see students like you, and I still see some sparks. But when I see older people, the spark is difficult to find. That means as we age, the spark fades. People whose spark has faded too much are dull, dejected, aimless and bitter. Remember Kareena in the first half of Jab We Met vs the second half? That is what happens when the spark is lost. So how to save the spark?

Imagine the spark to be a lamp’s flame. The first aspect is nurturing – to give your spark the fuel, continuously. The second is to guard against storms. To nurture, always have goals. It is human nature to strive, improve and achieve full potential. In fact, that is success. It is what is possible for you. It isn’t any external measure – a certain cost to company pay package, a particular car or house.

Most of us are from middle class families. To us, having material landmarks is success and rightly so. When you have grown up where money constraints force everyday choices, financial freedom is a big achievement. But it isn’t the purpose of life. If that was the case, Mr. Ambani would not show up for work. Shah Rukh Khan would stay at home and not dance anymore. Steve Jobs won’t be working hard to make a better iPhone, as he sold Pixar for billions of dollars already. Why do they do it? What makes them come to work everyday? They do it because it makes them happy. They do it because it makes them feel alive.

Just getting better from current levels feels good. If you study hard, you can improve your rank. If you make an effort to interact with people, you will do better in interviews. If you practice, your cricket will get better. You may also know that you cannot become Tendulkar, yet. But you can get to the next level. Striving for that next level is important.

Nature designed with a random set of genes and circumstances in which we were born. To be happy, we have to accept it and make the most of nature’s design. Are you? Goals will help you do that. I must add, don’t just have career or academic goals. Set goals to give you a balanced, successful life. I use the word balanced before successful. Balanced means ensuring your health, relationships, mental peace are all in good order.

There is no point of getting a promotion on the day of your breakup. There is no fun in driving a car if your back hurts. Shopping is not enjoyable if your mind is full of tensions. You must have read some quotes – Life is a tough race, it is a marathon or whatever. No, from what I have seen so far, life is one of those races in nursery school, where you have to run with a marble in a spoon kept in your mouth. If the marble falls, there is no point coming first. Same with life, where health and relationships are the marble. Your striving is only worth it if there is harmony in your life. Else, you may achieve the success, but this spark, this feeling of being excited and alive, will start to die.

One last thing about nurturing the spark – don’t take life seriously. One of my yoga teachers used to make students laugh during classes. One student asked him if these jokes would take away something from the yoga practice. The teacher said – don’t be serious, be sincere. This quote has defined my work ever since.

Whether its my writing, my job, my relationships or any of my goals. I get thousands of opinions on my writing everyday. There is heaps of praise, there is intense criticism. If I take it all seriously, how will I write? Or rather, how will I live? Life is not to be taken seriously, as we are really temporary here. We are like a pre-paid card with limited validity. If we are lucky, we may last another 50 years. And 50 years is just 2,500 weekends. Do we really need to get so worked up? It’s ok, bunk a few classes, goof up a few interviews, fall in love. We are people, not programmed devices.

I’ve told you three things – reasonable goals, balance and not taking it too seriously that will nurture the spark. However, there are four storms in life that will threaten to completely put out the flame. These must be guarded against. These are disappointment, frustration, unfairness and loneliness of purpose.

Disappointment will come when your effort does not give you the expected return. If things don’t go as planned or if you face failure. Failure is extremely difficult to handle, but those that do come out stronger. What did this failure teach me? is the question you will need to ask. You will feel miserable. You will want to quit, like I wanted to when nine publishers rejected my first book. Some IITians kill themselves over low grades – how silly is that? But that is how much failure can hurt you. But it’s life. If challenges could always be overcome, they would cease to be a challenge. And remember – if you are failing at something, that means you are at your limit or potential. And that’s where you want to be.

Disappointment’ s cousin is Frustration, the second storm. Have you ever been frustrated? It happens when things are stuck. This is especially relevant in India. From traffic jams to getting that job you deserve, sometimes things take so long that you don’t know if you chose the right goal. After books, I set the goal of writing for Bollywood, as I thought they needed writers. I am called extremely lucky, but it took me five years to get close to a release. Frustration saps excitement, and turns your initial energy into something negative, making you a bitter person. How did I deal with it? A realistic assessment of the time involved – movies take a long time to make even though they are watched quickly, seeking a certain enjoyment in the process rather than the end result – at least I was learning how to write scripts, having a side plan – I had my third book to write and even something as simple as pleasurable distractions in your life – friends, food, travel can help you overcome it. Remember, nothing is to be taken seriously. Frustration is a sign somewhere, you took it too seriously.

Unfairness – this is hardest to deal with, but unfortunately that is how our country works. People with connections, rich dads, beautiful faces, pedigree find it easier to make it – not just in Bollywood, but everywhere. And sometimes it is just plain luck. There are so few opportunities in India, so many stars need to be aligned for you to make it happen. Merit and hard work is not always linked to achievement in the short term, but the long term correlation is high, and ultimately things do work out. But realize, there will be some people luckier than you. In fact, to have an opportunity to go to college and understand this speech in English means you are pretty damm lucky by Indian standards. Let’s be grateful for what we have and get the strength to accept what we don’t. I have so much love from my readers that other writers cannot even imagine it. However, I don’t get literary praise. It’s ok. I don’t look like Aishwarya Rai, but I have two boys who I think are more beautiful than her. It’s ok. Don’t let unfairness kill your spark.

Finally, the last point that can kill your spark is Isolation. As you grow older you will realize you are unique. When you are little, all kids want Ice cream and Spiderman. As you grow older to college, you still are a lot like your friends. But ten years later and you realize you are unique. What you want, what you believe in, what makes you feel, may be different from even the people closest to you. This can create conflict as your goals may not match with others. And you may drop some of them. Basketball captains in college invariably stop playing basketball by the time they have their second child. They give up something that meant so much to them. They do it for their family. But in doing that, the spark dies. Never, ever make that compromise. Love yourself first, and then others.

There you go. I’ve told you the four thunderstorms – disappointment, frustration, unfairness and isolation. You cannot avoid them, as like the monsoon they will come into your life at regular intervals. You just need to keep the raincoat handy to not let the spark die.

I welcome you again to the most wonderful years of your life. If someone gave me the choice to go back in time, I will surely choose college. But I also hope that ten years later as well, your eyes will shine the same way as they do today. That you will Keep the Spark alive, not only through college, but through the next 2,500 weekends. And I hope not just you, but my whole country will keep that spark alive, as we really need it now more than any moment in history. And there is something cool about saying – I come from the land of a billion sparks.

For more of Chetan Bhagat visit his Official website

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cricketing shots are still the strokes giving highs

Everybody might have already read enough about the master innings by the master himself in Hyderabad agains the Aussies. Yes, the innings is a spectacle to watch and worth in gold (am I being miserly?). And yes, it is disappointing that India ended up losing a nail-biter. But to me the most interesting and defining moment during the game came when I saw Tendulkar react the way he did after he hit a cover drive, of the umpteen number of shots on his way to 175 runs, when India needed 69 runs from 55 balls or so.

The shot he hit was as good a stroke coached by all the masters, which you can find in any cricket manual, a cover drive sweetly driven along the ground and all timing no brute power. There was an instant change in his body language - the kind you see when somebody completes a fantastic century, breaks world record in a track and field event, wins a grandslam in tennis and the like. Its a sensational feeling, a kick, a high - a blissful experience of achieving the utmost that takes your confidence levels soaring to a level that nothing else in the world matters to you at that moment because that’s your moment and defining at that.

All the spectators want more of thundering strokes that can go either across or over the boundary line. It’s reasonable for them as they are watching the game to enjoy that exciting stuff. But for batsmen, and I guess even for cricket pandits, cricketing shots are still the strokes giving highs.

A salute to Sachin: Even with that thorn in the flesh aspect of his career, “Not able to see the match through”, Sachin Tendulkar’s career is not less than any immortalized hero’s stories like Achilles and Karna.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Are These Dasavataras Or Human Evolution? continued...

... continued from here

The transition is from the tortoise, an amphibian and a slow walker (with more of a horizontal body posture) on land and a fast swimmer in water, to a boar, a predominantly terrestrial creature that can also venture into water, which stands on all four with a vertical body posture indicating a growth in the physical dimension as well. The attitude slowly changes from being docile and calm to turning aggressive.

The next avatar is the Narasimha avatar. This avatar is symbolic of “all-aggression” - violence and turbulence within and even on the exterior. There is not a hint of any attitude other than being aggressive. The physicality comes closer to a human, half man half lion creature with the head of the lion. Hence the intelligence of the mind hasn’t grown yet in this edition.

The next phase – the Vamana avatar is the form of a human, though a dwarf. The intelligence has grown to be of a typical, astute and righteous human. But there is a slight physical difference when compared to the actual human, which we all are used to picture when thinking of a human.

The next version of Parashurama is a pure human form. By now, the physical evolution to a human is complete. Whatever we observe from here is absolutely the changes in the psyche and how we humans generally tend to change ourselves to become as ideal as we can (ideally speaking, though). Parashurama has all the traits of the ideal human assumedly (because this is my view) exhibited in the Vamana avatar. Additionally, he has the aggressive nature of the Narasimha avatar. In a way, this version of evolution has all the psychological traits that a man should and can possess but the emotional balance is missing.

This led way to the next avatar of Rama - the embodiment of how a righteous and ideal human should be on all counts. But even he missed out on aspects like shrewdness and innovative thinking that are very essential for instant success, happiness and prosperity amidst the growing needs of humankind. The ways of Rama, though provides all these, takes a lot of time to achieve these and the changing human doesn’t have patience for waiting. Hence the updated evolutionary version has taken the form of Krishna.

Krishna, one may consider as the most upgraded version of the human as he knows when, what, how, why and the like for everything and anything. He knows exactly how to be at a given point in time. These are the traits that make a human successful in life and also strike great relationships with everyone, male and female alike (pun intended).

I’d like to stop my evolution here as my common man’s vision of psychological evolution could not find any further improved pattern in the next avatar of Buddha. I am not denying the change in the psychology of Krishna and Buddha. But it is more spiritual than plain psychological. And I’ve no clue or imagination to write about Kalki.

Click here for the complete details of the historical Hindu religion's Dasavatharas.

I’d love to see if anyone has anything to add/contradict/criticize my views on this topic.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Federer's French Open glory in "The Lion King" style

The most awaited and a glorious chapter has been etched. A name not to be easily forgotten for years and generations to come has been permanently chiseled in the annals of tennis history. Roger Federer, the Swiss maestro has clinched the three time eluding Coupe des Mousquetaires (French Open) trophy. In doing so he has equaled Pete Sampras’s record of 14 Grand Slam championships and also becoming only the sixth player in history to achieve a career Grand Slam by winning all the four majors at least once. He also equaled Ivan Lendl’s 19 Grand Slam Finals appearances. He created a record of 20 successive Grand Slam Semi-Finals appearances.

Let us look at Federer’s latest French Open victory in “The Lion King” movie style for a change.

The setting: The night before the finals on Philippe Chatrier while Federer was asleep. In his dreams…

The Past Greats: You’ve forgotten us.
Federer: How could I.
TPG: You’ve forgotten who you are and so you’ve forgotten us. Look inside yourself. You are more than what you’ve become. You must take your rightful place in the history of the game. Remember who you are. You are Federer, the one true king.

Just before entering the dressing room before the finals, the weather was a little cloudy and there was a cool breeze blowing across. And, Federer was with Mirka.

Mirka: What was that? The weather, very peculiar, don’t you think?
Fed: Ya, looks like the winds are changing.
Mirka: Ah! Change is good.
Fed: Ya, but its not easy. I know what I have to do but going into the match means I’ll have to fight the demons in my head and the burden of pressure. I’ve been unable to handle it for so long.
Mirka: It doesn’t matter. The way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it. So, what are you going to do?
Fed starts moving towards the dressing rooms.
Mirka: Hey, where are you going?
Fed (emphatically): On to the court.
Mirka: Good! Go on.

While Mirka was trying to get to her spectator box, she saw a few people talking to her in-laws. By the time she came close…
Media: Hey, have you guys seen Federer?
Fed’s parents: We thought he was with you.
Media: He was. But now we can’t find him. Where is he?
Enters Mirka and responds to that question...
Mirka: You won’t find him here. The king has returned.

Click here for my other articles on Roger Federer in the last one year or so.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Are These Dasavataras Or Human Evolution?

I was always intrigued at the dasavataras of Lord Vishnu in my childhood. Each story, explaining the reason behind the avatars is inspiring. Though I don’t share the same excitement as I used to, I will read it anyway just to keep my memory fresh if ever I get access to this topic.

Recently, while I was browsing through various topics on wikipedia, I came across this “dasavatara” page. I read through the page and started to skim through the other links (for each individual story). In this process of reading through a sudden thought struck me. All the avatars have shown a logical transition of evolution right from the first through to the last (am not really sure of 9th and 10th).

The List

  1. Matsya
  2. Kurma
  3. Varaha
  4. Narasimha
  5. Vamana
  6. Parashurama
  7. Rama
  8. Krishna
  9. Buddha
  10. Kalki

The first avatar shows a simple life form of Matsya, the fish. No complications, no attitudes-basically a very simple form. It followed with Kurma, the tortoise. From here on we can see the process of evolution, “From a simple water living creature to an amphibian”. But the attitude remains the same-docile.

Then came the avatar of Varaha, the boar. The amphibian slowly giving way to a terrestrial creature and the attitude starts turning aggressive. From here on it became very interesting for me. The psychological evolution is highly stimulating when related to the evolution of mankind.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Freudian experience explained, though partly

Today, I saw the actress, Sriya Saran. I was so attracted to her eyes that I started following her. She was getting on board, the same flight as I was, and I was just behind her – almost a touching distance. We were almost at the entrance. I was thrilled at the opportunity of starting a conversation with her and seize the moment to request her to sit next to me. At the same time I heard someone calling me. There were two distinct voices and I instantly recognized both of them. In the fascination of getting a closer look at the enticing eyes I almost forgot that I was with my parents.

The thought of the presence of my parents with whom I should travel made me stop at the doorway of the flight and turn around, though only for a fraction of time. In the next instant she was gone. When I peeped inside to see where she was, I saw that she was already paired with the actor Tarun. They were sitting together side by side and they’d already started a conversation on something. My thoughts were like, “I guess these guys won’t leave them even in real life.”

So, I reluctantly turned round and traced my steps back to my parents to get on board the flight together. Even this time, I was behind them by the time we were about to enter the flight. Once again I heard someone calling me. This time I wasn’t sure of the voice. I’ve never heard that voice before. I turned around to see some officer asking me to stop where I was – destined to be the same spot where I stopped trying to follow the actress.

He said that I cannot board the flight. I was like, “Why and what makes you think that I cannot board?” He told me that I cannot as my Passport has expired. I was perplexed. I thought this man must be crazy. I couldn’t figure out what he was talking. With an air of confidence I waved him away saying, “You must be mistaken. How could I ever reach up to this point of boarding if my passport has expired?” His expression made me unusually uncomfortable. He coolly darted back, “Buddy, during the interim time between check in and entering the flight your passport has expired and our rules don’t allow anyone to get on board this flight without a valid and LIVE passport.” This just put me off. I was sure that this guy must be out of his mind to say something like this. To confirm my eligibility I took out my passport and opened the pages for him to get a clear view of the expiry date and I got a rude shock of my life. It sure was expired.

I was at a loss of words. The officer maintaining the same coolness repeated, “I cannot allow you to enter the flight till you present to us a LIVE passport.” I did not have any other choice. So, I ushered my parents into the flight saying that I’ll join them later and turned back homeward bound at which moment I got up from my dreaming slumber.

The fact that explains the second part of this dream was I’ve applied for a Passport renewal some time back and I am awaiting its dispatch. So, till I get the passport I cannot accompany my parents who are scheduled to leave for the US in a few days from now. I know this pretty much sums up the above description from the third paragraph onwards. But I still need to figure out what the first two paragraphs mean in my dream. Are there any Freuds or people practicing his ways that can solve the puzzle for me? They are most welcome.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Rising patriotism – leading India

I was so pleasantly surprised today that it filled me with a great anticipation for the future of my country, India.

I went to watch a movie in a theatre. There was this short feature on the Indian army specifically placed in the glacier filled areas near the country borders. It lasted a little over four minutes, the time to sing our National Anthem and the background score was the Anthem itself. The Anthem was played solely on instruments to suit the snow-filled visuals.

Now, the best part is, the whole crowd stood up in respect of the Anthem from its first till last note. Honestly, I’ve not expected this sort of reception to our Anthem in a theatre. I could see everyone standing in unison without even a single exception, an overwhelmingly welcome attitude towards the country. With elections round the corner both at the center and state level, this patriotism should induce one and all to put their right to vote to its rightful use.

The current campaigns of various organizations across the country to motivate Indian citizens to utilize their right to vote are also worth a special mention. Personally, I’ve never seen such a unanimous momentum among the country citizens to actively involve themselves in politics. The patriotic fervor shown in the theatre, if taken to be true across the country, along with the intense intention of realizing a corrupt-free working Government in the country hints at a fantastic future outlined for the country. I hope the fire ignited within each soul to ensure brighter days for the future wouldn’t fizzle out... JAI HIND!!!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Customer satisfaction – the key to a company’s success

I never really wanted to do this. But as it turns out that I haven’t had a post for this month till now I am forced to write this. It’s never really my cup of tea to write on software applications and their benefits and blah… blah…blah on them.

The other day I had a discussion with one of my friends that ended with Customer Relationship Management (CRM). The discussion started with Personnel Relationships and branched into CRM (my friend is into Software stuff). He was all technical with his points, which by default went over my head. It took some time for him to understand that I was barely listening to him. Though he was a little cross he pegged back his ire and asked why I have a cold shoulder for technical stuff. I gave him this answer.

I went to Hyderabad to attend a conference. The conference was spread over three days. I was booked into a hotel for the days I need to stay there till the conference gets over.

I am a man of apprehension. It takes some time for me to get comfortable with new surroundings. So, I was hoping to finish the trip at the earliest and reach back home.

But by the end of my stay in this hotel, I was a little reluctant to vacate the hotel, much to my surprise. The enthusiasm of the employees for service and the service itself caught my imagination. The last thought I had at the time of leaving was, “When will I get a chance to stay in this hotel again to enjoy their hospitality?”

I guess a lot of people would have come across such a situation. The gentle alarm call, warm greetings along with the breakfast, a precise time sense, custom culinary skills, an overwhelming hospitality and a natural gift of keeping the customer thoroughly satisfied – all these made me believe that this is the best place on earth to stay. The first impression was made and strong it was.

This is what outstanding customer service can do to anybody. Though there are a hundred and twenty other hotels surrounding the area, I’d still prefer to come and stay in this hotel alone, if ever I get another chance. Additionally, this experience made me recommend to a lot of my friends to book their accommodation in this hotel whenever they visit Hyderabad. I guess a lot of visitors would’ve come to this hotel the same way – through recommendations by people like me. Who wouldn’t love to be pampered – being served with all requirements to your convenience?

This hotel naturally attracts a lot of visitors and in all probability they retain them with their hospitality. People like me bring added business to them. What more would a hotel need to be a market leader? This is exactly what a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) can do to any company in any industry. Is this what you are trying to tell me?

I made my point and he also believed that he made his.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Nadal brought down to tears in Australian Open 2009

Confused??? Everybody knows that it was Roger Federer who was all tears after he lost the Finals to Rafa. And who can forget the now famous words “God… its killing me” by Roger during the presentation ceremony, after which he couldn’t control the stream from within.

The audience on that day witnessed something incredible – the two best tennis athletes on the planet fighting it out till Rafael Nadal ended up victorious. The efforts of both the players who put their heart and soul, and everything else that an athlete could squeeze out, are worth inspiring scores of generations. I would even go to the extent of that becoming “a legend” in the days to come. But unfortunately, the cruel side of sport surfaced. Only one of them can win and the other has to wither down for that moment.

It so happened that Roger had to bite the dust this time as well as Rafa once again proved too superior. It was really heartening, though soul-wrenching, to see Roger break down during the ceremony. It showed how dearly he wanted to get hold of the magical figure of 14 grand slam titles, sharing space with the one and only Pete Sampras and the amount of dedication he put in to achieve. To go with Roger, he hadn’t done much wrong till the fifth and the deciding set. He played a tremendous game and at times he surpassed his own standards. But alas! It wasn’t enough against an inspired Rafa who desperately wants to prove that he is equally supreme on all kinds of surfaces and not clay alone. Who best than Roger to prove that point against? And he did exactly that.

Now, you must be thinking – why in the hell did I use such a title for what I’ve explained above – right? In fact Nadal was brought down to tears, but that happened in his semi-final match against compatriot Verdasco. He confessed with the media after that epic victory saying, “I was crying on the court”. It happened and I stand witness to it. That was the last game of the match and Nadal had three match points on Verdasco’s serve. One point was brilliantly saved and that was the moment when Nadal started to crack. The second point was also saved with another exceptional winner, one of 95, from Verdasco and Rafa cracked. It’s a pity that a double fault brought home victory to Rafa.

It’s the train of thoughts that goes within that makes anybody on the field. Nadal, in the semis, used all his powers to win and Verdasco seemed to have answers to break free and push the match further. Similarly, Roger, in the finals, used all his powers to win and Rafa seemed to have answers to break free and push the match further. The only difference is that Rafa’s effort paid off in the semis and ended up winning – the reason why we haven’t seen physical tears in his eyes and on the other hand Roger’s effort fell short and he ended up losing the match – the reason why he couldn’t control the emotional turbulence.

When somebody puts her/his heart and soul and are prepared to go any distance to achieve something s/he desperately wanted. And if there are hurdles not in their control stopping them time and again from achieving it, the agony is excruciating and if the hurdle is the same each time, the pain is all the more harder. And that’s exactly what happened to Roger and that’s exactly what Rafa meant when he said “I can understand what you are going through” to Roger during the award ceremony on the podium. Because, Rafa too felt the same agony during the semifinals.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Barack's inaugural speech

My fellow citizens,

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during...(for the complete speech)

I just wanted to share this with everyone.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Death Fast Forwarded

Usain Bolt, the fastest man on earth is the Sportsman of the year. Wow!!! He wins both the 100m and 200m Olympics Gold in Beijing in record times and pips out Michael Phelps who had a dream run in the same edition and cracked eight Golds in swimming beating Spitz’s long standing record of maximum Golds in swimming. They promise to better their own records in the coming days and we are waiting for that to happen with abated breaths. We love it when somebody redefines speed in any field.

But how long can anybody keep challenging their own speed? Today, there is an Usain and a Phelps, tomorrow there would be somebody else in their places. Nobody can have permanence in breaking rates of speeds. They could do till such time as their body withstands. What next for them then? Better to remain as legends than pushing the extremes of extremes for too long a time that might turn fatal for their own existence. There has to be an end to any roller coaster ride or for a juggernaut roll and similarly for humans. There is a certain vantage point and it is for us to identify and respect that to maintain sanity in our lives.

The present world trend is quick paced. We want things to be done in a jiffy. The faster the work gets over the better the efficiency is considered. It is true in any field and particularly the corporate sector. Quick deployment of projects brings with it high appreciation and bonus packages and we are game for it. We want to test our own speeds time and again, push limits to whatever extremes we can dare, if not more, till we realize it’s too late to turn back.

The rate at which we see people contracting illnesses or becoming vulnerable to heart attacks is alarming. Every other middle aged guy (30yrs-40yrs) suffers from High Blood Pressure. Stress and office tensions have become the norm of the day. Even though people realize the ill-effects of constant deadline dictated life styles, there is not much reaction in correcting it. Everyone constantly live on medication and that’s the only way we intend to counter it, continuing our race in and for ‘life’. I think we have a heavy debt to pay to doctors living in our locality or is it a supreme confidence in medical science that we leave even our lives in doctors’ hands to reach and satisfy our own money stained ends?
The more we earn, the more we can pay the doctors. Great!!!

In the run to make things faster and achieve bloated profits, humankind has fast forwarded its own life cycle. We give a damn to the consequences of this hub-hub in our lives till death knocks at our door. It’s as though we have fast forwarded death itself. The faster a person dies the better his efficiency in life, I guess. sigh!!!

* Image of Phelps: Courtesy- Associated Press

Monday, January 12, 2009

Yawned… Stunned… Soared… and …and… Landed

This is what happened to me on Jan 11th, 2009, a date that will be etched in my memory for the rest of my life. It was sheer privilege that Music Connoisseurs in Hyderabad had one last opportunity (most probably) to drench in the melody tuned by the one and only Pandit Ravi Shankar along with Anoushka, his daughter. Why would anybody let a chance of that magnitude go by? I might have if thinking only for me, but I wanted desperately to take my parents to that concert as they are totally in love with music. So, I ensured that I get the invitation to attend this one organized by Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC) at Hyderabad International Convention Center (HICC).

On a personal note, I was a little apprehensive right from the beginning as to how the concert would shape up for my own comfort. And boy!!! I was served with divinity.

The way things unfolded initially seemed to make my doubts concrete with lullaby kind aalaap and I found myself violently yawning. I was desperately trying to keep myself awake and fake enthusiastic participation. This inconvenience was only for a very short time though.

What ensued later jolted me from my slumber and I was stunned at the transformation. The lilting solo Sitar music a while ago gave way to a confluence of Sitar and Tabla. There were things I felt, like a brilliant spring day early in the morning with fresh leaves and flowers blossoming, a sprightly drizzle enveloping life with THE LIFE and with peacocks making the most of it, a crimson sun shining on the up and waking from the dullness of the night to spur into the action of the day and the emotion went on. I was a part of all that for a span of over an hour.

If seasons change with the movement of earth and sun, here they changed with the movement of Sitar strings and Tabla. As the concert moved into its climactic stage, there was no dearth in excitement and music was of such high paradigm that I was soaring high into the skies visiting celestial territories of Brahma, the Creator and the Dancing Shiva. I was so taken in by the power of music. I even surprised myself with the way I got myself totally involved with the way I was foot-tapping to the vibrant waves from the hollow wood with strings.

The speed at which the music was flowing made adrenalin pump harder. I was flummoxed at the way they controlled the pace and brought me back on land. The landing was so smooth that I didn’t even feel the touch down. The notes were pitch perfect and timing precise. It was an overwhelming standing ovation at the end and amidst screams of encore Pandit Ravi Shankar and Anoushka along with his entourage made the exit from the stage.

His Entourage:

Tanmay Bose from Calcutta (Tabla)
Ravi Chandra Kollur from Bangalore (Kanjira)
Anshu (Tambura)
Sanjay Sharma (The man behind the making of the two Sitars for the Stars)

Truly, this is a concert worth experiencing and reliving time and again. It gave me and my family immense pleasure to be a part of such a musical journey where the soul was taken for a ride par extravaganza.

It is true as I found out today that “Music is divine and doesn’t have any language”. It appeals directly to ones emotions and that is definitive in its influencing powers. I wish we could have such events organized regularly around places where I live as I am eager to be going through a similar experience over a thousand times.