Friday, December 26, 2008

My 1st Blogger Awards!

I have been reading blogs for almost 4 years now and I used to keep seeing some exceptional blogs being awarded blogger awards for best layout, best content etc.

And it made me wonder if someone would ever think me good enough to give me an award in any category at all. Pixie has been kind enough to pass on 2 awards to me:


While this may seem funny, but it sure is a tough thing to live up to reputations and a reputation (good or bad) is one thing you do build when you maintain a blog with any kind of readership (in my case, a miniscule but precious one!). So all I can say is that I'll do my best to be more active on here. I've suddenly realized what a powerful medium this of getting my thoughts across and inviting thoughts from others.

And of course I want to pass this award on to a few bloggers I think deserve these and many more:

Shruthi (I really don't need to say why, her blog says it all)
Galadriel (hers is a extremely thoughtful blog)
Lemonade (I was never as articulate when I was her age)
Pixie (just for giving me the awards - lol, am joking, she has a amazing way of using the most simple language of getting her points across with force)
Uber-T (extremely clued in guy - his posts are really classy; be it technology or general, I like the way his opinion seems to carry a lot of weight)

Compliments of the season to all! :-)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

When I was out for my usual morning walk today, I saw the usual Christmas stars and festoons all around my colony. That is certainly not a surprise seeing the colony I stay in has pre-dominantly people of the Christian faith.

While I continued my walk / jog, my mind flew back to the days when I was in school. Mine was a convent school and for boys only at that. Christmas was a big deal in the school and since the Christmas vacation was usually given from Dec 24th to Jan 1st, the Christmas celebration was held either on the 23rd or the last school day prior to the 24th.

I remember that day with fond memories. We all used to wait for that day with bated breath. It did not matter that my school comprised of as many non Catholics as Catholics. The spirit of the day got to us all in equal measure.

The day used to start with a couple of periods which noone really minded as we all knew what was to follow. At around 9 am there would be an announcement on the PA system asking us to assemble in the school's open air auditorium at sharp 9.20. Before we left the class however, we were given a goodie bag each; this usually contained a samosa, a pattice, a Monginis Slice Cake, some sweets, a Mango Frooti tetrapack and a small Christmas present.simple stuff but we still loved it - goes to show that even then we appreciated the spirit of the occassion. Lugging this bag and / or munching on the snacks, we would file into the auditorium with our class teachers making sure we behaved ourselves.

In the audi, which was really open air with a big covered stage at one end, we would be seated on rugs on the ground itself. On such days, the lucky ones were those whose classes were led out first and so got the front rows. In about 5 mins time, when all of us were settled, the curtain would go up. The first item on the agenda was always the principal's address. It was always based on some element of Christmas be it goodness, piety, kindness etc. He sure held our attention for those 15 to 20 mins!

The speech was followed by the traditional Cristmas play depicting the birth of Jesus Christ. All the works were there, cows, goats, sheep, donkeys, the 3 wise men, some people of different nationalities etc etc. All the props used in the play were made by the students themselves.

An interesting (I hope) aside: yours truly made his stage debut (and exit as well) in one of these productions when in the 6th standard. This role of a lifetime had me essay the character of a donkey, yes you read right, in the play. The specifics of the part required me wear this huge face fask (again, made by me at home and yes, it did look like a donkey's face), kneel on all fours in the manger, next to Christ's crib along with a cow, a sheep and some goats and sway my head from left to right throughout the duration of the play. To top it all, I actually enjoyed myself though my knees were sore at the end of it. :)

In any case, the play was always well received and was the highlight of the morning. We watched the same sequence every year but never got tired of it. It was always a joy to watch Christ come into the world.

Post the play, there would be some musical performances by some gifted pupils. I particularly remember a tabla performance by one of my batchmates as being exceptionally brilliant! Usually after these, the principal and the headmistress would would wish us a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year signifying the end of the day and the start of the vacation. And we would rush home to spread the cheer.

Nothing extravagant but even then it filled our young hearts with joy. I guess it is that very same joy which persists in my heart even today. That very same joy which still warms my being every Christmas, that makes Christmas special! Merry Christmas! Peace and love be with you!

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Over the years, I have seen quite a few couples arguing about who has it easier - a man or a woman. Both have their own views about the matter and there argument never ends.

Off late, I've realized that there is yet another angle to this story. Something a guy can only ever imagine but never really be a part of (unless he goes way out to make it happen). Motherhood! The actual experience of carrying a real living being inside your body for 9 months.

Off late, I've started wondering what it would feel like to feel those little movements within yourself - movements not controlled or made by you. Movements that keep reminding you that you are never really alone. There is someone with you who depends entirely on you. Someone who is created completely from you and yet completely separate from you. Someone living, someone who in about a year's time would have a distinct identity in our world, who would leave his or her mark wherever they go.

We, as men, can only be part of this life altering experience second hand. Maybe feel the movements by placing a gentle hand against our wives' womb. But we can never get that feeling of astonishment, glee, exhilaration, warmth and the bond of privacy that a mother can with her unborn child. It is something we can imagine, maybe yearn for but never achieve. Unless, as I've pointed out before, you go the way where maybe only one man has gone before (we read recently about a gay guy pregnant for the second time). And that is something which is open for speculation - as to how many men, given the opportunity would even want to think of doing something of that kind.

This post is dedicated to all those women who have or will give birth! I at least, think you're privileged.

Recent Acquisitions

  • The latest from J. K. Rowling's stable - The Tales of Beedle The Bard
  • Free with the above - Magnificient Beasts & Where To Find Them (this is an abridged version of the text book with the same name prescribed at Hogwarts for Care of Magical Creatures class)
  • A Suitable Boy - by Vikram Seth
  • All 3 books in the Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud viz. The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem's Eye & Ptolemy's Gate
  • Lashkar - by Mukul Deva
  • Duma Key - by Stephen King

Am sure there are some more that I'm missing out now seeing am awfully sleepy! So many books to read and so little time... sigh! :-)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A city under ransom!

Anguish! Horror! Anger! Sadness! Impotence! Sorrow!

All these feelings and more. Once more, terror has jolted us out of our existence and made its presence felt. A miniscule group of heavily armed militants are holding a city of more than 3 million to ransom.

No one knows to what end. Television channels keep reporting about 100 people held hostage at the Taj and Trident hotels. But what about the families of those inside. What of the lakhs of Mumbaikars as also the countless Indians who are so affected by this? All of our lives are at a standstill until this issue goes to its logical conclusion.

A feeling of helplessness pervades. Numbness to how close this has been.

Last night around 8.45 pm I drove from my office in Vakola to my home in Borivli passing along the Western Express Highway. Exactly 50 minutes after I'd passed the spot, a taxi exploded with a bomb of immense proportions there. The remains if one could call them remains shown on TV were so gruesome I can only imagine the intentions of the perpetrators.

About 10 months back, my previous organzation had organized its annual sales convention on board the Superstar Libra cruiseliner. We were in total a group of 1600 in number and were to board the ship from the Green Gate at Mumbai docks. Since the boarding was to happen only at 6 pm, we were in the interim all waiting in the Grand Ballroom at the very Oberoi which since yesterday has been stormed by terrorists. Likewise the Taj has been something we've always looked upto, aspired to enter someday on our own steam, a landmark of sorts.

And now this, the unbelievable but unshakeable truth about all 3 locations.

We've spent the whole day at home glued to the TV seeing the horror unfold, hoping and praying a semblance of normalcy returns. My folks are wary about my going to work even tomorrow. What kind of lives are we leading when even our day to day life is so affected on such a regular basis.

So many lives lost, so many injured and so many affected. Will all this ever end? I don't know. I guess noone really answer this for me. All I can think of is what we can do to mitigate risks as these. Is there a permenant solution? Again I don't know, but I would surely like to know what you feel about all this.

Let's hope the brave men and women battling even as I type this emerge the victors without any further losses.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I, Me, Myself

I picked this one up from Anumita's blog:
I am: too naive for my liking
I think: and remember lost times and places and people long gone by
I know: when someone close is down without them needing to tell me
I want: to meet my close friends more often, wherever they may be in the world
I have: a beautiful family!
I wish: to lose more weight and get into my ideal weight range
I hate: loudmouths, liars, harsh lights while driving, insincerity and people spitting on streets
I miss: my childhood
I fear: losing my loved ones
I feel: the need to indulge more time into my hobbies
I hear: too many abuses on the roads these days
I smell: the scent of freshly brewed coffee right now
I crave: for mom's prawn curry which unfortunately I am supposed to avoid at present
I search: for happiness in all the small things of the world
I wonder: what it would have been like if I had been a doctor, as was my original ambition as a kid
I regret: about misunderstandings I have had and the angst that it created
I love: my family and everything they mean to me
I ache: when I see a wizened old lady or man begging on the street. How can we do this to them?
I care: about the words I say, lest they prove to be hurtful to someone
I am not: as outgoing as I'm made out to be
I believe: that there are good things still in the world we live in and that they are worth fighting for (quote from LOTR - The Two Towers)
I dance: with abandon not caring who's seeing me
I sing: and get breathless very fast
I cry: very easily when I'm watching touching moments either in reel or real life
I don’t always: feel like talking to the dozen
I fight: whenever I know I am right
I write: because it feels right and gives me a lot of confidence
I win: seldom but with a lot of feeling
I lose: my temper rarely
I never: take anyone for granted, and by that I mean ANYONE
I always: pray before leaving my house in the morning
I confuse: verses of popular songs while I sing them
I listen: more than I speak
I can usually be found: with a book in my hand
I am scared: when I begin anything new, be it a job, relationship or a journey
I need: to know that my efforts are making a difference
I am happy about: what life has given me till now
I imagine: how our country would have been if we did not have so many varying political factions
I tag: anyone who wants to do it - trust me, its fun!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Things I love!

The easiest way to get out of what I call "writing lethargy" is to do a list - it could be any kind of list; things you hate, memories, odd things about you, best / worst foods....anything at all. It gives you an opportunity to think and write and voila, a post is ready!

Since am still indulging myself in the Diwali atmosphere and there is a general feeling of happiness and contentment in me, this list is of things I love. Ok, I'll even admit, I got inspired seeing a similar post on Pixie's blog.

1. A baby's toothless grin;

2. Someone you care for and miss calling out of the blue;

3. Being part of a Mexican wave in a cricket match at Mumbai's Wankhede stadium;

4. The Friday before a long weekend filled with nice things to do;

5. Leaving office on a weekday evening and finding the roads mysteriously free of traffic;

6. Lying to S about my ETA home from work, beating it by a huge margin and seeing her smile;

7. Receiving a gift; even better, giving a gift; :-)

8. Playing cricket with ollllddddd building friends after ages and still experiencing the same thrill;

9. Discovering a old, much loved but forgotten book somewhere at home & reading it again;

10. The smell of freshly brewed coffee & tea;

11. Tiny little puppies, blind but very much alive!!!;

12. Going to my college campus and sitting on the same bench in the ground where we used to sit after bunking classes;

13. Sitting in the Siddhivinayak temple close to my house in the afternoons; it is so peaceful that all troubles seem to dissolve;

14. The feeling just before going on a long vacation;

15. The feeling just before reaching "home-sweet-home" after the vacation;

16. Holding S's finger while walking in our colony or even crossing the road;

17. Knowing my parents are proud of what their sons are doing;

18. Feeling the sand under my feet on a Goan beach;

19. A night of Pictionary with close friends with a lot of cheating thrown in;

20. Waking early on a holiday, waiting for the others to wake up with a good book in hand;

21. Entering the house and smell the aromas of cooking food and guessing the name of the delicacy;

22. Sitting in a train with loved ones on my way to a destination I have never been to before;

This is not a tag but its always good to read this kind of list for different people. You realize that you actually love so many more things which may not have come to the fore in your own list. So go for it and let me know when you write yours! Wishing everyone a very Happy Diwali (belated) and a great year to follow!!!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Is It Worth it????

"There is some good in this world.......and its worth fighting for!!!"

This is one of the closing dialogues in one of my favourite movies: The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers, spoken by Sam Gamgee to Frodo Baggins. And it never fails to touch me, however many times I hear it.

In today's world, everyday one hears mostly about terrorist acts in some place on the globe. There are everyday acts of crime taking place in broad daylight. Administration is going to the dogs. Politics is supposed to be one of the most corrupt professions in the country. And corruption has not spared any other professions too, be it sport, medicine, industry, cinema etc. Most of our cities wallow in filth, bad roads, bad infrastructure; you name it and you will find it. Rural India and in some cases urban as well is still rife with instances of dowry burnings, female infanticide, child marriages. In our metros, youngsters are going the way of rave parties, drugs, underage sex and every such vice which is considered "hip" and "cool". Citizens complain of lack of basic amenities, crowded roads & public transport, of how the government is not doing anything at all to better the situation. In short, its chaos everywhere you look.

In the midst of such times, it is so very easy to get disillusioned. Its very easy to get cynical and go with the flow. The feeling of "does it really matter what I think, what difference does it make anyway" supercedes everything else. And one more brain, one more heart falls into the trap of so-called civilization as we know it.

And even then you find a few people who do not take things at face value. People who are affected by the same issues as the rest but who have chosen to handle them differently. Are these individuals made of a different mettle than most? Do they have some special powers that help them think differently?

The answer is NO. They are the same as all of us. They are no different in any possible way you can think of. Its only that they believe in the fact that there is still a chance to make a difference, to bring about a positive change in the system. That small things go on to contribute to the larger whole. That we are still not beyond redemption. Which is where the line I started with comes in.

This is the line I get reminded of when:

1. I see a baby's toothless grin

2. A completely unknown person gives me a hand to pull me into a running train

3. Destitute children burning the midnight lamp (literally) to study after a day long job

4. A brash collegian driving a vehicle at 90 kmph stopping to allow a old lady to cross the street

5. Seeing a little girl sell flowers or some such thing at a traffic signal & still have a dazzling smile reminiscent of a Bollywood beauty.

6. The way Mumbaikar's reached out to help stranded people during the recent and not so recent catastrophes like the July 26th floods and the Mumbai serial blasts.

7. How one can always find 2-3 helping hands ready to help you push your stranded vehicle.

8. The motive for the umpteen number of individuals who have devoted their lives solely to make this world a better place to live in.

All these and many more splashes of bright colours in an otherwise drab and flawed world make it worth the effort! Because every little deed contributes to the larger good.

Let us also make an attempt to add some colour in whatever way possible. While on its own, it may not be something significant enough to be noticed by the whole world, at least within our own self we would know that it was all worth it and someplace someone would have a smile on their face! :-)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

National Integration at its Yummiest!

One thing most people have in common is the love for good food. Some have it in more degree and some have it in a lesser degree but it’s always there. Having said that, how many of us can actually boast of having tried delicacies from all over the length and breadth of our country? Not many, I am sure.

In any case, it would be great to know what the “must eat” dishes from different states are because if in case you do get the chance to visit sometime, you should be able to ask for those yourself.

The list below is dedicated to all those foodies who do not mind seeking out the most obscure places in order to sample the local cuisine. J For easier reference, it has been categorized state-wise.

Kashmir – Gustaba, Tabak Maz, Dum Aloo, Haak or Karam ka Saag

Punjab – Dal Makhani, Makki di Roti – Sarson da Saag, Chana – Bhatura, Amritsari Macchi and Kulcha

Chandigarh – Butter Chicken, Tandoori Chicken, Mutton Pulao

Haryana – Kachri ki Sabzi, Cholia (Green gram), Chaach – Lassi, Bajre ki Khichdi

Delhi – Chaat, Tandoori Chicken, Paranthe, Naugauri-Halwa, Chole Bhature

Rajasthan – Dal-Baati-Churma, Her-Sangari, Lal Maas Gatte, Pyaaz ki Kachori

Gujarat – Thepla, Dhokla, Khandvi, Handvo, Panki

Madhya Pradesh – Lapsi, Bafla, Bhutte ki Khees, Bhopali kababs

Maharashtra – Shrikhand, Thalipeeth, Vada Pao, Modak

Goa – Vindaloo, Xacuti, Bibinca, Prawn Balchao

Karnataka – Bisi Bele Bhaat, Kesari Bhaat, Mysore Pak, Dharwad Pedha, Chiroti

Kerala – Sadya meal, Avial, Malabar Parotha, Payasam, Irachi Stew

Tamil Nadu – Appam, Dosai, Idli, Sambhar, Rasam, Chettinad chicken, Pongal

Pondicherry – Kadugu Yerra, Vendakkai Patchaddy

Andhra Pradesh
– Hyderabadi Biryani, Mirchi ka Salan, Ghongura Pickle, Korikoora

Chattisgarh – Bafauri (a sweet made with chana dal), Kusli (a sweet made with flour and semolina), Red Ant chutney

Orissa – Fish Orly, Khirmohan, Rasabali, Chhenapodapitha

West Bengal – Bhapa Illish, Rosogulla, Mishti Doi

Himachal Pradesh
– Sidu, Aktori and Dham (a vegetarian mid-day meal cooked by Boti Brahmins)

Uttarakhand – Aloo ke Gutke, Kaapa, Jhangora (millets) ki Kheer, Chainsoo

Uttar Pradesh – Kababs, Biryanis, Bedmi Aloo Kachori, Halwa, Benarasi Chaat

Jharkhand – Thekua, Pittha, Marua-ka-Roti

Bihar – Litti (baked balls of wheat), Sattu (ground gram), Khaja, Khubi ka Lai, Anarasa, Tilkut

Sikkim – Momos, Thukpa, Gundruk, Phagshapa and Sael Roti

Manipur – Iromba, Kabok, Chakkouba

Nagaland – Momos, Rice Beer and Cherry Wine

Assam – Maasor Tenga, Pitha

Arunachal Pradesh – Apong (local beer)

Meghalaya – Jadoh, kyat (local beer)

Tripura – Chakhwi, Mwkhwi, Muitri

Mizoram – Zu (a special tea)

I know some of the names do not mean anything right now but am sure enthusiasts would take the trouble to find out what each means.

Disclaimer: This data was NOT painstakingly compiled by yours truly. This was sent to me by someone who knows me well. :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

7 Things I Abhor!

This is not really a tag I picked up from someone. This is just a summing up of certain things that get on my nerves; some things that make me want to do what some bratty kids do, i.e. lie down on the floor in the middle of some shop and cry loudly along with beating their arms and legs just because they want something which their parents may not necessarily want to buy them.

1. People in big, luxurious cars like Mercedes, BMW, Volkswagen and others rolling down their windows and throwing litter out on the roads. You would have thought that with the kind of money they have, they’d be able to buy a little civic sense as well.

2. Someone pushing past you and getting in front of you in a buffet queue. Come on, it’s a buffet. Its not as if the food is going to get over and the last person to eat is the person in front of you.

3. Guys (and some girls too!) in those abnormally low waist jeans that look as if they are going to land around their ankles any minute now. I agree good underwear is expensive but that does not mean you need to flaunt it all around the place especially in public. As long as you know its there, its good.

4. When in a movie theatre and the National Anthem is being played, some people have the habit of taking their own sweet time to get up, some of them yawn, some talk amongst themselves or laugh and there are some who HAVE to talk on their mobile phones at that very moment. At this I can only go grrrrrrrr……………

5. Someone walking past your stationary vehicle (either at a traffic light or in parked position) and running a sharp object along it or knocking against the sides with fingers covered with rings or even knocking the rear-view mirror awry! Meri jaan jalti hai yaar!!! :(

6. Gropers – one of the worst menaces that exist in every modern society ever. These sickos don’t even spare teenaged girls, they perpetrate their acts in broad daylight and then walk away with innocent faces leaving behind a young girl / lady feeling humiliated all the way to the depth of her soul. It is positively hateful to see that only Indian girls / women walk in public with their bag / book / file / purse held against their chest as a form of protection. They say that in Arab countries and in medieval times, cutting off the offending organ was a common punishment. Wish that could be the case here as well.

7. Imagine this – there is a humungous traffic snarl ahead of you on the express highway; you are frustrated as your car literally inches forward; it takes you exactly 1 hour and 15 minutes to cover the 200 meters after which the traffic suddenly lets up. And all this for what reason? Just one, mind you, ONE car broken down and already pushed to the left of the road and every driver passing it has to slow down and see what has actually happened. And this is not seeing with the objective of wanting to help, just plain curiosity!

While this was not a tag for me, let me be mean and make it a tag for others! I tag Shruthi, Triya, Lak and my new blog mates Smi, Pixie & Lemonade. And of course anyone who wants to take it up of their own free will is welcome as well.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Being Indian

Yesterday we celebrated our 61st Independence Day, the 61st occasion when we celebrate our so called "independence". Why do I use the qualifier (or rather dis-qualifier) of "so called"? Do I seek to dampen the whole idea of Independence Day, one of the most important days in the year? No, actually thats not the idea at all.

But having said that, today there are so many thoughts that come to mind as August 15th approaches us. Instead of the usual good feelings that used to fill my heart when I was at school, now the topmost thing is whether this year would see some terror attacks before and around Aug 15th. Every time I travel in the local train, my eyes automatically look at the racks above and scan the space under the seats. Every time we enter a shopping mall, movie theatre or even parking lots, there are long queues waiting to get in one by one post a metal detector scan or car search. People live bordering on the edge of paranoia - they leave their house in the morning not knowing what could happen during the day.

Even this year was not much too different - the approach to Independence Day saw serial blasts in Bangalore and Ahmedabad with large quantities of explosives being seized at Baroda and even at some key entry points into Mumbai city that gave the idea that much worse things had been planned. With such things brewing all around, there is a part of our freedom being taken away from us. It is as if some vile forces are holding us hostage with our own freedom as ransom.

And in spite of all of this, we time and time again prove what it is to be Indian. Ignoring all of the above happenings, people still flocked to all the malls dressed in their best representation of the Indian flag. Yesterday I was waiting in the crowded market area at Jogeshwari - one of the most heavily Muslim dominated area in Mumbai for a friend. People were crossing the railway crossing there in droves. About 3 in every 5 people who passed me were proudly (and I say proudly because of the way they walked) sporting a miniature "tiranga" on their clothes. Some people even smiled at me which I later realized was because I too was wearing one on my shirt, one which also had the words "I love my India".

All over the city, I saw the common man, including hundreds of rickshaw and taxiwaalas had at least 1 small tri-colour fluttering from their vehicles. Such people, I am sure would not think about this being a style statement - they do it only because of their love for their country. It was really heartening to see so many instances of saffron, white and green everywhere around me.

When I was younger, I-day used to be a fun day for me, just another holiday. But now I realize what it signifies; I realize what it means to have this country left to our care by those people about whom and about whose deeds we have only read or heard about; what it means to be a free and sovereign republic; how when at the Olympics or the Cricket World Cup, the national anthem is played, it manages to bring a lump in my throat; how I feel when I hear about how our armed forces exist in sub zero conditions in far flung border areas like Kargil and still manage to get the kind of strength and determination required to carry out their duties; how promising things seem when I see the kind of attitude today's youth carry, forward looking and yet steeped in Indianism; how people today are more prone to reacting to injustice of any kind.

Whew, I suddenly realized this list is endless and that makes me very happy! Congratulations on being one of my most favourite persons: an Indian! Jai Hind!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Can Telephones Help You See????

Yesterday, I attended a training program where one of my colleagues, who is also a close friend, was conducting a session on “Selling Skills”. My colleague is a great trainer and I decided to take this opportunity to pick up some tips from his session.


During the course of this session, there was a discussion on making phone calls to the prospective customer to gain appointments. An interesting point arose when telephone etiquette was being discussed. Does the way you are sitting or the condition you are in at the moment influence the way the person you have called perceives you? Is it really that important to mind the way you are dressed or your posture when you are just talking on a phone call, where the recipient of the call cannot actually see you? Or, is there a hidden camera in your telephone instrument which transmits images of you across the telephone line?


The simple answer to this question for most people would be, “No, obviously the person on the other side cannot see me. So why even bother about all of this? If I can’t be the way I want to even when I am calling someone from home, then it’s a real shame!” But to all us discerning people, the answer is mightily different from what it seems. A few examples of this were quoted in the session which I will put down here:


1.      Imagine a call center employee (lets call him Sharath) in an inbound calling unit in India catering to customers of a popular US mobile service provider. It is 3 minutes to 6 am, the time the shift changes. Sharath has had a long night and some tough customers to handle. He feels he has done a good job in solving their problems and is looking forward to some hot breakfast and then sleepytime! He stretches and wishes he could get up but knows that rules say that he cannot get up from his seat till 6. At that instant, his headphones buzz signifying a call. “Damn!”, says Sharath, “Not now, not when I am about to leave!”. He knows that he has to take the call and it may stretch another 5 mins after the close of his shift. Reluctantly he presses the “receive” switch and drawls out a lazy “Hello, this is Saaaammmm, how may I help you?” The customer states his problem and Sharath replies in terse short sentences. He closes the call at 6:01 am and finally leaves. During all this, lets imagine what the customer might have been thinking. When we call a call center, we are used to and expect a certain level of courtesy and service. Most call centers set store for a high level of both and this is the reason why even the most irate customers are pacified after speaking to a good executive. What Sharath did here was not at all what the customer expected. What he or she must have seen (in their mind) would be someone somewhere who is not really interested in helping them, someone who just wants to finish their call as quickly as possible, someone who is really casual about what they are doing. All the good work Sharath did in that night could go waste with just that last call.

2.      Let us take another situation. Ramesh is a sales executive with a multinational bank and has been assisting customers with their financial needs. One Saturday morning, around 10 am he calls a prospective client to get an appointment for selling a long term investment plan, a lead that was referred to him by another of his customers. Ramesh has just risen from bed so he is still in his night clothes. His wife is watching Baba Ramdev’s pravachan on Aastha channel and his 2 small children are playing in the room. The call goes something like this:

Ramesh: Good morning, am I speaking to Mr. Sharma! This is Ramesh Sawant (am using fictional names; do not mean anyone in particular) from so-and-so bank. You were referred to me by Mr. XYZ. Is the right time to speak to you?

Customer: Yes, tell me Mr. Sawant. XYZ did tell me about you.

Ramesh: Well sir, I had wished to meet you regarding a long investment plan. As you are yourself aware, life is very unpredictable and we all need to plan for our family’s future in the event of anything happening to us. Financial security is of paramount importance.

(At that very instant, Baba Ramdev intones in the background: Bhakto, jeevan moh maaya hai aur paisa hamare haath ka mail. Aadmi jo lekar aaya tha wahi lekar jaayega!)

Ramesh continues: Sir, in this regard sir…………..a brief shout from Ramesh…..and then…sorry sir, dropped some hot tea on myself.

(At that moment, Ramesh’s son comes running and playfully pulls Ramesh’s hair)

Ramesh: CHINTU, I WILL SLAP YOU! Sorry sir, that was not for you, my son, sir!

Customer (by now a little irritated): Well Mr. Sawant, what do you want from me?

Ramesh: An appointment, sir. When could I come over to your house to meet you sir?

Customer: I think Monday, that is the 23rd of May would suit me – say around 8 pm.

Ramesh (fumbling for and not finding his date diary which is in his bag in his bedroom; now grabs a pencil and tries to note on the newspaper in his lap): Huh sir, could you please repeat?

What happened here? If Ramesh had followed the accepted practice of calling customers from his office, where he would be professionally dressed, with no TV to disturb him or kids to distract him and with all his essentials like a pen, appointment diary next to him, he would have definitely stood a much better chance of closing this call.


While more examples were dissected, I suppose that these two convey the essence of what I wanted to say. That you are definitely seen by the person you are calling. It is just that this is not literal “seeing” but in the mind’s eye, we do develop a picture of someone we are speaking to from their tone, their nuances of speech, their voice modulation and ultimately their state of mind. How often have we called a close friend and when he / she has replied “Haan bol?” in an abrupt fashion and deduced that they were in a meeting or with their boss? Or on the other hand been greeted with an expansive “Boooooooolllllllllllll....wassup?” and inferred from their tone as well as background sounds that they were in a club / pub / disco enjoying themselves?


While these are small things that all of us already knew, most people give these signs a miss and neglect to give them the importance they deserve. One good part about my writing this post is that I, on my part at least, have decided to imbibe these learnings and put them into practical use. And obviously all the credit goes to my friend!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My Favourite Literary Characters!

Picked this really interesting tag from Shruthi. I have the feeling any book lover would love this one. The simple thing to do is "List your ten favourite characters from literature." Or is it really that simple; seeing the number of books I've read and loved over the years, I don't think it is going to be that east to list down just 10.

Anyway, here they are!

Aragorn (The Lord of the Rings; Author: J.R.R. Tolkien) - An apt character for the splendour of Middle Earth. Equipped with all the qualities any man would like to possess - Intelligent, sensitive, caring, handsome, rugged, strong, always on the right side, romantic. The way he conducts himself anywhere he goes is something to emulate. Unforgettable character from an unforgettable book.

Dirk Pitt (Many books; Author: Clive Cussler) - I read Clive Cussler's books only recently but this hero of his became a quick favourite of mine simply for his daring and presence of mind under the most fantastic and worst possible situations.

Rhett Butler (Gone with the Wind; Author: Margaret Mitchell) - Rhett Butler provided the perfect foil to Scarlett's feistiness, he was the spice to her sweet, he was the Devil to her Angel, he was the reason to her silliness and ultimately he was the right to her wrong. This "gentleman" was the first ever heroic villain or villainic hero, what have you. I remember feeling frustrated with Scarlett's waywardness and then when Rhett arrived on the scene, feeling that he would take care of the situation.

Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice; Author: Jane Austen) - An exemplary lady; one who made a very strong impression on my then teenaged mind. I clearly remember thinking it would have been great to have a elder sister like Lizzie who could stand up to anything for the people she loved. Her love for her sisters and parents, the way she carried herself in the presence of others, her sense of propriety and fairplay, her indignation at the "wrongs" inflicted by Mr. Darcy on her family are all qualities that stand out in this book. One girl from the literary world I can never forget in my life!

Sherlock Holmes (The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes; Author: Arthur Conan Doyle) - Arguably my most favourite literary character of all, this gentleman, who has made a name for himself as the most sought after private detective, has fascinated me for years with his sheer intellect, wit, determination and panache. One characteristic of Holmes which made me look up to him was his critical attitude towards the foibles of society, especially the law enforcement machine as it existed in his time; he never used rose tinted glasses and most of his observations were spot on. Even the most obscure problems turn out to have the most simplest of explanations - this was one statement which was proved time and time again by Sherlock Holmes in association with his friend and associate Dr. Watson.

Tally (The Painted House; Author: John Grisham) - The author went off the beaten track when he wrote this book (which was loosely based on his own childhood in rural Arkansas) which was refreshingly different from his usual legal thrillers. Tally Spruill, the teenaged girl from the Spruill family who have been classified as "hill people" who come down to the plains to look for work with farmers harvesting cotton. She stood out from the rest of her family in that she was civilized, well mannered and was fond of Luke Chandler, the 9-10 year old protagonist of the book. Even though she belonged to a wandering poor family, she carried herself with a lot of poise and inner confidence. Dressed in the most simple of clothes, she still manager to retain an aura of beauty around her. She managed to win Luke's heart in the bargain; that she broke it when she ran off with the Mexican worked Cowboy is another matter altogether.

Captain Haddock (Tintin series; Author: Herge) - My most loved characters ever; the Captain provides so much colour to the Tintin series that you can see a marked difference in the Tintin episodes before The Crab With The Golden Claws (Captain Haddock first made an appreance in this one) and the ones later. He creates a complete laugh riot with whatever he does. I remember actually rolling on the floor hooting with uncontrollable laughter at his antics. In fact, I'd still do the same. He manages to get himself into some sort of trouble in every episode but at the same time he is a loyal and ever-dependable friend to the young boy-reporter. Along with Snowy the dog, he has become an icon in the world of comic series!

Tom Sawyer (Adventures of Tom Sawyer; Author: Mark Twain) - This was a cult character in my childhood. I must have read this book umpteen number of times without ever getting bored. Following Tom and his other friends as they went about their adventurous lives; getting extremely frightened when Tom witnessed a murder is something I can never forget.

Long John Silver (Treasure Island; Author: Robert L. Stevenson) - This earlier quartermaster on Captain Flint's ship and later on leader of the mutineers on board the "Hispaniola" was a real engima. Could not really fathom his psyche totally, he seemed totally evil and friendly all at the same time. He brought a lot of colour into an anyway very colourful book.

Ari Ben Canaan (Exodus; Author: Leon Uris) - Anyone who has read this book would not fail to be impressed by Ari Ben Canaan who forms one of the central characters in this really inspiring and touching book about the conception of Israel and of the the struggles borne by them in keeping out intruders from her hostile neighbours. Tall, rugged, mentally and physically strong, Ari projects the image of an intelligent, ruthless but sensitive freedon fighter, one who would do anything for the land he loves. His dedication to the cause of Israel is absolute without any parallels!

As Shruthi said, this was one of the most enjoyable tags I have ever had the chance to write. The only point being that there are many other characters I'd have loved to include. I will not tag anyone in particular. Have already mentioned at the start of this post that any book lover would really love to do this one. So just pick this up and go for it!

Attitude...To Carry or Not To Carry

There are many people who say attitude is everything - that it is the one differentiator between a successful and unsuccessful person. While this is very good to hear and even say, how many of us have actually seen it in action? Or maybe seen the difference for ourselves? Maybe we have had the chance to observe it but for the most it gets submerged in the walk of life.
Today I read a forwarded email which set me thinking - it gave me a fresh perspective on how attitude can do the trick in the most impossible situations. It is definitely worth sharing here so here goes:
"An old widower in his eighties lived alone in his cottage in a small town. A meagre pension being his only source of money, he lived a frugal life. His only son was in prison for committing some crime.
The cottage had a small plot of land attached to it in which the old man's wife used to grow the best potatoes in town when she was alive. The old man wished to continue the tradition in the memory of his loving wife as also to supplement his income. But he himself was not capable enough to do the digging of soil that was essential to plant the seedlings. One evening, he wrote a gloomy letter to his son in prison.
Dear Son,
Hope you are well. I think of you everyday. As you know I loved your mother very much. I want to grow potatoes in our land just as she used to as I know She would not like this land she loved to be wasted. But it is no longer possible for me to dig the soil the way it is supposed to be done. I know that if you were with me, you would have done this bit for me. But since you are not here, all I can do is sit and wish for the impossible. Hope I see you before I die.
Your loving Father.
The son read this letter in prison and dashed off an immediate reply.
Do not think of doing ANY DIGGING on our land. That was where I'd buried the RIFLES I'd stolen!
This abrupt letter was intercepted by the authorities before it reached his father and then sent on. The poor confused old man woke the next morning to see a big host of policemen marking off his land and ravaging his land with drillers and other machines. They overran the whole plot before evening but could not find a single rifle. The harassed father wrote his son asking him to explain this charade and the son again sent a reply.
Dear Father,
Am sorry I can't be there to dig the land for you. Our friends from the right side of the law have done us a great help. The land has now been dug up well enough for you to plant as many seedlings as you want. This was the only way I could think of helping you out from inside this prison! Look after yourself.
Your loving son."
While this was just a fictional and simplistic "feel-good" story, it suddenly hit me how important this word "attitude" is. Even when stuck in a seemingly impossible situation, if one has the right attitude, it is possible to get on top of it. Ways and means miraculously (well, not really!) emerge and provide, if not a perfect solution, some solution to the problem.
In organizations today, we usually find 2 kinds of people:
1. The gloomy faced pessimist - this person has the capability (sic) to being down any idea being proposed; to find reasons why most things CANNOT be done and if anything is actually being done, to find small niggling errors or faults in the solution.
2. The proverbial sun like optimist - this is someone who refuses to understand the meaning of "impossible"; one who can see the positive in every situation; who can work out a solution for the most twisted conundrums; one who infuses brightness and enthusiasm into every room he / she enters or forum he / she is part of.
What is the basic difference between both these kinds of people? Yes thats right, ATTITUDE!
While there is no sure fire method to get the correct attitude going for you, I believe it is ultimately within every individual to choose the right frame of mind with which to face the world. To conclude, all I can say is let yourself not be bogged down by anything in life; just run with the conviction that you want to and will get over it.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A New Year!

Another year gone by.....another new year begins......

So many thoughts and dreams......some fulfilled and many still to go.....

Am suddenly thinking about why we give so much importance to what is essentially just another day.....why can't every day treated as a Happy New Day? I mean, good things happen to all of us everyday, maybe more for some and less for others but they do happen..... Why can't we celebrate each day for what it is? Is there really a need for venerating this particular day so much? There are so many things in life that make us happy, aren't there?

I agree, from time to time, we need to stop, take a stock of what we are doing, where we are in life and where we want to be....a time for quiet introspection, some "me" time and some time to re-acquaint yourself with the people you love and acknowledge what they mean to you. But does it have to be done at the turn of the year?

Reading what I have just typed above, it makes me realize I am sounding like a cynic who does not subscribe to the idea of a fun-filled, gregarious New Year celebration but honestly, its not that. I am definitely on for a evening with lots of dancing with friends, good food and generally good times......but somehow, the whole commercialization of the "New Year" saga leaves me gagging..... Questions like "So, where are you booked for New Years?", "Which 5-star are you going to?", "Do you know I got couple passes for so and so place for Rs. 10,000?" Rs. 10,000, I ask you? Is it really worth spending that much on a night of revelry when you might have very well done the same things at a small gathering with a few friends and family, the people you really care about? I think we should really get down to grass roots and ask ourselves what really makes us sure most of us would agree that its not necessary to spend so much money and generate so much hype to have real fun..

After that whole diatribe, let me get down to what I intended to write this post for - "Wish you and all your near and dear ones a very Happy and Prosperous 2008!!! May this year be all that you hope for and may a lot of your dreams come true this year!"