Monday, 19 December 2011

Simon, Come back!

On October 30, 1928, a group of protesters led by Lala Lajpat Rai waved black flags and shouted 'Simon, Go Back' to protest the arrival of the Simon Commission. What started then still seems to go on as we blindly shout on the top of our voices to brush aside heavy money investors from the west. FDI in retail has been a hugely debated topic on the news and print media for more than a fortnight now and the age old attitude of sending all Simons back isn't perceived too well in the current scheme of things.

Why don't we have Harrods in Delhi? A simple question for a four year old who asked her dad while they came out of a shopping center in London. Though the question might seem simple, the answer to it is a tough nut for the dad to crack as he gapes for reasons. In my opinion, FDI in retail makes a lot of sense especially with a 51% limit to overseas stake. Here are the reasons:

1. With FDI in retail, we are attempting to organize and put in order one of the most unorganized and deeply corrupted sectors in the country.

2. Against a production of 180 million mt a year of fruits, vegetables and perishables, India has a capacity of storing only 23.6 million mt in 5,386 cold storages across the country. With overseas investment, we are moving towards a regime of optimal cold storage and superior logistic capability.

3. India has 1.2 billion consumers, 600 million farmers and 5 million traders. Should we save the penny for the 1.2 billion consumers and improve lifestyles of 600 million farmers by affecting the margins of 5 million traders? YES

4. Cauliflower is sold at the mandi Rs 5. a kg. After travelling a few miles to the vendor, the price goes up by 400% to Rs 25. per kg and what the farmer gets from the sale at the mandi is a meagre Rs. 3. There is something wrong with this system and it has to be addressed at any cost.

5. Naysayers say that FDI capital in multi brand retail has a tendency to multiply itself and could lead to an unthinkable application of 'capital for profit' and in the process deepen the gap between the rich and the poor. But how flawed is that argument? The government promises to keep an eye on the prices and hypermarkets would be introduced in only those cities which have a population of more than 10 lakhs. As of now only 53 cities qualify the aforementioned criteria. With a rural population of 70%, the 53 cities (a fraction of the remaining 30%) cannot contribute as much to a deep divide.

6. The proposal states – 51% stake in multi-brand retail with a minimum investment of $100 million of which about 50% has to be spent on back-end infrastructure.That translates to a good amount of job generation in unprecedented quarters especially in the supply chain arena. 

With so much to speak for the introduction of this long awaited reform, there is only one thing that is worrisome in my opinion. With the amount of capital and the power of foreign investors, it is possible that the ultimate aim of the game is defeated. The hypermarkets could hypothetically beat all competition from small traders and reach a stage of monopoly. With that they could fix prices for all commodities as they wish and book higher profits as they establish themselves in the long run. But as I have already mentioned, even that possibility arises from a hypothetical standpoint. More importantly, as per the proposal, the government promises to keep an eye on the prices.

What stops the reform from being implemented when it has the capability of addressing one of the biggest problems of our economy viz. food wastage? The reason is two pronged : Politics and Corruption. Opposition parties want to make a clear political issue out of this debate in an attempt to derail a government that is already in shambles. Also, the distance between the mandi and the vendor is filled by a well connected gang of goondas who inflate the prices and make undue profits. These goondas don't standalone, they are strongly backed by a nexus of political heavyweights. These political big names (un names) are not ready to forgo their illogical profits for the good of their voters.

Another reason why we are not able to debate this and enforce the reform is the fact that the people who argue against FDI in retail are a well organized group of traders. According to rough data released by the Ministry of Labor, trade unions had a combined membership of 24,601,589 in 2002. Contrastingly, there are too few organized farmer unions in the country that they are not able to raise their voices and stage successful protests.

All said and done, there is one thing to lift our spirits. Amidst complaints of parliament dysfunction and neglect of responsibility by politicians, our prime minister remains confident and positive about implementing this trend-setter bill. At the time of this writing, the Prime Minister spoke to the media from his private aircraft and expressed strong opinions about FDI in retail. He feels that we need to evolve a broad based consensus and he is committed towards it. His strategy is to wait until the elections to state assemblies (in the offing) get over and I believe that his very intent is a positive sign of things to come. I wish the proposal goes through when the time is right as it would help us lay the platform for many more reforms akin to the 1991 globalization.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

We can sub-sell better

The major difference between a totally developed country like the United States and a country with large number of people below poverty line like India is that, in the former, almost everyone has access to products and services alike including but not restricted to healthcare, education, movies, taxes etc. According to 2007 estimates, India has about 25% population below the dreaded poverty line. Let's label that part of India as the "subsistence category". These people have money only for daily subsistence and not more.

In the recent past, India has been witnessing a swell in the number of people choosing the entrepreneurial path. In contrast to its definition in an empowered economic platform, the term entrepreneurship in the subsistence marketplace has a totally different definition. These entrepreneurs are not the usual literates with sharp business sense and superior technical prowess. They are local vegetable sellers, goods traders and petty shopkeepers. They are the people who can drive business in the aforementioned resource constrained contexts.

Knowing that, what stops these little "enter-preneurs" from growing and creating sustainable businesses? They face a heavy lack of resources that would enable them to sustain and expand. These resources include deep understanding of the market, cognizance of consumer behavior patterns, specialized and unique management techniques required for such scenarios and of course free flowing capital. When they ventured out, micro finance institutions resolved to address one part of this problem. They aimed at making capital easily available to small sellers in villages and towns. But that has not led to a success story of sorts in the few years of their operation. The reason for that is pretty much intuitive. Only one of the problems viz. availability of capital has been addressed and the rest of them still loom at large.In the process, these NBFCs (Non Banking Financial Corporations) have shown creativity and have invented as they increased their presence in various rural parts of the country. They provided highly interlinked and innovative insurance products with their micro loans. But they did not enable the consumers to innovate.

After witnessing repeated failures in the private microfinance sector led by SKC, government has come out with a new credit risk guarantee fund to enable established banks to lend to the poor. This, if implemented is definitely a step towards inclusive growth accompanied by the upliftment of a sizable number of people below poverty line. But, the other problems of market literacy and business strategy for subsistence marketplaces are being overlooked. Helping women to be part of this improvement cycle is a good strategy and many NGOs and microfinance institutions like IFMR have been exploring those options. It has yielded commendable results. But it has not created any sort of revolution per se.

The solution is to make these small businessmen understand the way in which low income households access and use the finances that are available to them. The bottom line is that besides providing capital, it is important to provide the awareness and teach the rural business people strategies and ways to use the capital in the best possible way so as to suit resource constrained markets and societies. Also, bigger businesses need to look at subsistence marketplaces as areas of possible growth. They should not only expand to such areas but also implement and teach selling techniques as they go about expanding. That would be an innovative version of a bottom-up approach in enabling growth and would teach consumers and sellers in the economically challenged geographies to buck up and be at par with the country's growth rate.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Why this Kolaveri Singhji!

Long since I wrote...It has been a hiatus...I have been busy with other things and the usual blah that I start with can now go here....

Once we are on terms, here I am back to writing and it feels good to be back after the long break. I said in one of my previous posts that I might race Sachin and write my 100th post before his ton. To give a status update, I am on track. The man apparently paid homage to all time cricket great Sir Donald Bradman by getting out on 94 after 99 centuries. For people who missed the pun, Don Bradman retired with a test average of 99.94. Today morning was one of sorts. No, actually not. It has been of this sort for the past 8 or so months ever since he scored his 99th against South Africa. I woke up to some cheer and was looking forward to a day when Twitter and Facebook would be loaded with tons of posts about tons. But I was disappointed to say the least.

Ok, after going on tangent from the decided topic of writing, as ever, we get to the matter now. One Mr. Harvinder Singh is making news after he made a super double whammy. He first slapped former Union communications minister Sukhram and now chose the other big portfolio in the Indian cabinet viz. Agriculture and selected Messrs Sharad Pawar for the double. Anna Hazare's reaction to the sequence of events was astounding actually. He first asked "Only one slap??" and later went on to condone the scathing attack. The attacker interestingly said "Sab Chor Hain!" post his second act of bravery after getting past meager security for Mr Pawar. Media is full on about this juicy topic and debates about the ethical aspects of such an act are heatedly progressing.

Amidst so much for just a slap, one of my friends posted on facebook that he is more than willing to offer him a home in Chennai. I find that argument very sound right from its basics. Alexander once said something about home for the poor and Darwin or someone else in that league, (I don't remember) said about the fittest surviving on this planet. Now taking the two together, the chap is poor. Consider that he is a cab driver hailing from Delhi.He is fit and that fact is proven by his demeanor and physical stature while he goes on to extend the right hand on Pawar's angled cheek. Argumentatively, he is both fit and poor. So he should survive and he needs a home. Security guards thrashed him immediately after the incident and took him somewhere. I suspect they would have driven straight to some garage or some dilapidated mill (Like the Binny mill that features in almost all climax sequences of South Indian movies). All odds point to a good round of slaps and kicks and it is just a matter of time before he would be nabbed or shot in an encounter for what he has done. So Harvinder ji (I respect the fellow, forget ethics, he has all the guts in the world.) needs a home and a safe one at that.

At Kasturiba Nagar in Adyar, one such home exists for the area is well protected from all sides. For instance, there is the Buckingham Canal on one side, Fortis Malar hospital on the other and to add to the amenities and facilities, Adyar Fast food is located close to the aforementioned residence. A big hospital is safe and secure as explained and portrayed in movies like Ramana in Tamil and Tagore in Telugu. A patient who gets in never gets out. The other source of security namely the Buckingham canal is home to all kinds of reptiles to be found in South India and taking umbrage of such a large water body would keep searching special investigation teams away from snooping owing to the danger portended by the rich variety of fauna in that kind of terrain.

Choosing a place like Chennai might not work too well for a Punjabi mainly because of the non availability of Parathas. But one can make do with Parottas that we Chennaiites have on offer and talking of Parottas, Adyar Fast food which is located at a stone throw's distance would definitely come in handy. Another plus point about calling Chennai a safe haven for Slapping Singhs is the fact that it is far from Delhi and is a place that induces fear in a majority of North Indians living on the other end of the deccan plateau. (If all south Indians are Madrasis, I wouldn't be too wrong to classify the north of Deccan plateau as North India. Geographically pardonable I would say.). Pawar and Sukhram, or a bunch of yadavs and kapoors who form part of their security teams would find it difficult to reach their target in Chennai. With Chennai and Kasturba Nagar chosen for providing Harvinder with a safe home, what we are offering is nice 3BHK apartment, a good cook in her, a good hearted supporter in him and two fierce dogs in Sussee and Gabbar (3 feet tall and 2 feet wide labradors who have been fed to the brim with all good meat and cereals). A well founded idea. It would help the poor and fit survive in this country.

One may now ask me, "Why this Kolaveri" for writing such a very very kolaveri post. But that's the buzzword folks.

Lastly, I would like to thank Vijay Venkataramanan for triggering this idea behind the post.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Predicting this, that and those

Disclaimer : After long hours of revisiting older posts on this blog, one striking fact caught my livid attention. The first paragraph of any post has never had to do with the title or the topic I intended to cover. Beating around the bush and boring the faithful reader has been my way of causing disappointment (like the Indian team's way at England recently) So what I propose is that I will do away with the first paragraph from this time around (oops! ok...from the next time around) and come to matters straight.

Predicting the future is an art and yours truly has spoken many times earlier about this particular talent and its money making prospects. And like my view on many other forms of art, I am convinced that each of us should try our hands at it some time or the other. Prediction - according to my mobile dictionary, refers to the art of foretelling future events with no precision and all confidence. For example, the next Indian batsman's injury, the result of by elections in our constituency, the next poonam pandey who will rise to fame when England tour India, what scheme implemented/proposed by karunanidhi would Miss Jayalalitha call off and so on and so forth.

Kris Srikanth once called himself a wise predictor when he was interviewing with Rahul on Headlines Today about Indian team's R.I.P performance during the recently concluded England series. I request the reader not to confuse Rahul with one Mr. Arnab of Times Now fame. The latter is like a hot air balloon - full of gas. Rahul talks but he seldom farts. Coming back to Srikanth, Apparently he predicted India's world cup win months before the opening ceremony. My guess is he wanted to be the Paul (Octopus). In comparison, I somehow feel that Paul is a much more informed and prudent predictor than Kris for two reasons:

1. Paul didn't talk shit. He just hugged national flags
2. Kris doesn't have 8 legs

I don't have any prejudice against Kris the predictor, but I have a fair amount of bad experiences when it comes to his interviews on TV. He uses certain cliched phrases like 'Boss don't ask questions to increase your TRP', 'Dude you are joking', 'See, I am not here to talk for BCCI (who else would you talk for??) etc. Those are still ok. He once went to the extent of calling Sreesanth a bowler. I mean, there is a limit to talking non sense and that last one was over and above that limit.

But ironically, what I am going to do now is throw a few random predictions. But I would do my best to try and do the same Non-Krisically

A.) Harris Jeyaraj to become CEO of Microsoft.

Harris Jeyaraj is a successful music director in south Indian film circles. Now don't hit me with that rod. That is not my personal opinion. That's what they say out there. For now, take that as a given and come to analyze his core competencies. He is a maestro when it comes to researching about Latvian, Angolan, Japanese and Ethiopian music. His talents in picking up songs from the aforementioned genres and employing them with no changes whatsoever are immaculate. 'Boss', one cannot tell a HJ song from its Latvian original. So with such precision in lifting others' work/property he is definitely one who is tailor made to run a company like Microsoft. They are masters in that ball game and talk in my part of the town is that they have copyrighted Ctrl+C owing to their contributions in the field.

B.) Shahid Afridi to replace Manmohan Singh

Indian democracy is going through really tough times and people around the country are slowly coming to terms with scams, lies and more with unprecedented pace. Now such a situation is very tough for any government to handle and the work of the moment is for the Prime Minister to talk. This, precisely, is what Manmohan is not ready to do. He just wouldn't budge. Meetings in my office these days start with a mandatory decree that attendees put their phones on 'Manmohan Mode'. So the starkly contrasting personality in Afridi would probably be the panacea to our democracy's various ills at this point. He appears without summon anywhere and everywhere. What's even better? He talks and talks a lot with a superior sense of humor. He recently claimed that he has seen Sachin's right foot tremble when Shoaib Akhtar started taking run ups. How ingenuous. He could be our answer to the war of words in diplomatic matters with Pakistan. For instance, he could go and say He once saw Narendra Modi wear a white linen hat and do namaz at Thousand Lights mosque in Chennai. Gilani would probably call it truce if he hears such words.

Last but not the least,

C.) I would write my 101st post before Sachin gets his 100th ton.
D.) Following up on C, I predict that no one would realize I have littered this web space about hundred times and I still have a reader who doesn't give up on me (Thanks dude!. You make my day)

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Hide and Seek. Where is the catcher?

The game of hide and seek has pretty simple rules. One person stays out at large while the others look for shrubs, shelves and staircases for a hiding. But the basic tenet will be defeated if the catcher himself goes hiding. This, if you come to think of it is like of of those infinite loops that you find in our code at work.

for( int i=0;i>-1:i++{
    till computer crashes.....

If you get my drift, the game extends to infinite time if the catcher goes hiding. This is the way out for an inept catcher to get off the hook and insult the players and that strategy is more often than not employed by street smart catchers who play this version of hide and seek. Now, that particular act is detrimental to the welfare of the game and the people playing it. One cannot keep breathing once every two minutes and hold his sneeze for decades together when under a bush full of mosquitoes. Sooner or later, he has to sneeze and the sound would awaken somebody else in the surroundings who would spot him in a very embarrassing position.

This, to be precise is what is happening with our government's quest for India's most wanted man. To draw the lines and complete my analogy. Our government is more like this catcher who inexplicably goes behind the screen and takes the rest of the country by surprise. Chota Shakeel and Anees Ibrahim are more like this random person who finds the hiding individual in a grotesque corner and blows the horn.

In fact Chota has similarities to my dad and this particular game is much like one I have played before. The sequence of events unfold thus:

1. I tell my dad that my brother is the catcher and that he wouldn't blow my horn as I hide behind his retreating chair.
2. I hide behind the chair and do breathing exercises with less or no sound.
3. My brother finishes counting 100 and opens his eyes (not that he was closing it till then, one corner saw the light after counting 27 actually)
4. He comes straight to dad who is reading the newspaper and signals to him. Of course the signal is understood by all. And like all, my dad understands it. He rolls his eyes to see I am watching and then turns his attention back to his paper.
5. His left finger is inadvertently pointing towards the rear part of his chair and my brother who can more or less put two and two together walks towards me and catches my shirt collar.
6. I resign to defeat, curse my dad and breathe a heavy sigh. Remember, I have been doing breathing exercises all this while. Ironically those exercises involve more of holding breath rather than letting the air go. So it is inevitable that I breathe like a gaping dog as soon as I get caught.

The Dawood story, as I try to meander back to the topic of this writing is strikingly similar to the aforementioned one from my diary until step 5. As with many bollywood movies these days, only the climax is different from the English version which was used as a reference. Chota plays my dad in this scintillating affair and does a favor to TRP hunter Rahul Kanwal of Headlines Today fame. He didn't point his finger in this particular instance but he dialed the number and said it all openly. There is so much talk about death of free speech in Pakistan these days but what is interesting to note is that there is no death of free speech about Pakistan. The don's palatial white house in Karachi hosted a high profile marriage and Chota was unexpectedly the spokesperson for this grand event as he spoke to Headlines Today with all candor.

Excerpts:Headlines Today: Several rumours regarding the wedding have been doing the rounds since April, May...
Chhota Shakeel: That is not correct, the wedding date was fixed and the wedding took place on that date.
Headlines Today: When did the nikaah take place and when was the reception?
Chhota Shakeel: 23rd September, Friday...
Headlines Today: What was the date of the nikaah?
Chhota Shakeel: 25th September, Sunday...
Headlines Today: Sunday was the dawat-e-walima?
Chhota Shakeel: Yes.
Even as the wedding and the reception got over, Dawood now plans to throw a gala reception.
Headlines Today: There are reports that you are planning a big reception?
Chhota Shakeel: We have not decided yet. If we do have one, we will let you know. In fact, we will send you an invitation.
Headlines Today: Will there be a reception or has the reception already taken place?
Anees Ibrahim: Reception is yet to take place.
Headlines Today: Will you hold the reception in London or in Dubai?
Anees Ibrahim: Delhi, Dubai or Nepal.

Possible Reactions

P.Chidambaram : I condemn the marriage. Such marriages are an insult to our relationship with Pakistan. They should have done it in Mumbai.
Pranab:This is a disgrace to Pakistani government's tactics. We told them not to float pictures on the internet.
Renuka Choudhary : Now we have a clue about his whereabouts that have eluded our intelligence bureau hitherto.
Sonia : UPA is determined to arrest the Dawood from Karachi in Gujarat (huh? at least she didn't say italy) in the next twenty four hours. But Mr. Modi is plotting against it and we will do the needful.
Manmohan : ............



Still waiting for a response?

Poda, I won't repeat the rules once again!
He is the catcher. He will go hiding!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

I have a business idea

It has been a boring Thursday afternoon for all of us. Now don't act like a busy bee. You are reading this from your office laptop on a weekday evening and I very well know how you felt when you clicked the link to this page. I saw the smile on your face. Now, for my turn here comes one on mine. Because I have successfully chaffed you, my faithful reader. I don't have any idea actually. I was just fooling around. This is not something like an April prank that we used to play when we wore cotton trousers and canvas shoes. The fact of the matter is that what I call a business idea is an idea in reality but it doesn't have ingredients for a business.

I was skimming through the pages of a decently popular magazine here and one sentence in one of those numerous posts triggered a thought process which I intend to popularize under the banner named "idea". Ok, I see the seething emotion and the urge to hand me a tight slap. No, no haste. I will get to the matter NOW!

Experience and Wisdom suggest that any business idea is worthwhile only when the right combination of people/skill comes together to address an existing social/societal problem in a creative manner. So sticking to those kind of basics, I formulate three different sets of people who form the core of my proposition.

1. Your father and your mother, My father and my mother, All fathers and mothers.
2. HR teams focusing on background checks and those other allied back office chores.
3. Those matrimonial sites with pictures of chicks on their home page such as Rina, 23, MBA and Archana, 25, Software Professional

In the present Indian economic scenario with youth driving growth and average age of working population floating around 25 and 26 (or whatever number it is..I know it's in the 20s) and these young people doing wonders but lacking real experience and what not, I propose to introduce our very experienced fathers and mothers into the equation. Those silky smooth females at the HR front desk and back office of numerous multinational firms in our tier 1 cities are finding it really tough to do background checks on prospective males in the age group of 20-30 during their hiring processes. If the guy is from a state like Andhra for instance, the probability of his degree/experience/both being fake is 1 and if the guy is from Tamil Nadu with an acquired and fake accent, the probability of the person who took the telephonic round and the person who appeared for the face to face meeting being one and the same is closer to the other statistical touchstone - 0. With so many engineers littering Mother Earth as part of modern civilization, the task of verifying identities is becoming a monumental one for those poor HR ladies.

So having described the problem in detail, here is my solution. Consider my neighbour Priya here. She knows her future husband Bharathan’s salary and bank account details down to the last zero, his smoking or drinking habits if any, his past record with girls from school and college, his credit card balance, the amount of petrol in his car's tank at present, whether there is any trace of diabetes or schizophrenia in his family for 6 generations and how much property she is due to inherit in the event of his death and how much property they(as an entity together) will inherit in the event of his father's death. So my point is, there is an information overload with Priya, her father, her mother, her grandmother, her aunty and her sister (the people who did the groundwork to gather the information). Now, here is the proposal.

HR departments should outsource the job of gathering and presenting information about prospective candidates to these well informed set of people. Please don't miss the point. There are two types of jobs created here. 1. Work-from-home contract jobs for retired fathers and mothers and 2. Full-time data entry jobs for their beautiful daughters. Bring in the marriage portals into the picture. They hold the databases for such valuable information. Give them a cutting (say 1% or something for every profile download). These MNCs can happily delegate a part of their work to the aforementioned experts and sit back. Speeds up the process of verification and related activities and streamlines the hiring process with a focus on quality.

P.S : As the idea originated from me, I get royalty on a monthly/yearly basis and readers who seem to like the idea can think of themselves as the next generation Warren Buffets. They turn investors and get a dividend when the company goes public. Anyone with the money can contact me. Others (whose purses are just as light as mine) can like this post and be contented with the dividend they are to receive over time). Works like a charm for all concerned. Doesn't it?

Monday, 29 August 2011

No, it was Boys vs Boys only!

My work timings usually show a canny pattern. Late Monday mornings, early Friday evenings and mid week absconding are clear indications. I have never hit the accelerator anytime before 9:30 AM when it comes to a Monday morning after 2 full days of lazing, typical TGIF, OGIM (Oh God, It's Monday) syndromes, so to speak. But today marked a rather deviating phenomenon. I opened the '',', '' and '' in that order, as early as 9:10 AM. Reason : I couldn't sleep. I missed the massive Man U - Arsenal clash yesterday owing to travel and though I knew the scoreline and other statistics since I was following it live from my Android application, I wanted to take a look at the highlights as soon as possible and my fingers were itching to hit footytube for a quick look at the highlights.

The last time Arsenal conceded 8 goals was back in 1896. We all know that the Arsenal team that played yesterday night was a very weakened one. But nobody is going to remember that night as a hiccup for a weakened Arsenal side. It would rather be remembered as "That great 8-2 mauling by United". And more importantly, it was not Men vs Boys but was an "average age 23" vs "an average age 23" affair.

What strikes me most is the fact that Arsenal are staring at this "not enough players who are fit" problem so early in the season. Usually, they do so towards the end and more often than not use it as an alibi for their shambolic displays from February to May.

I noticed some bizarre transfer market stats somewhere on the internet. It read as follows:

Net spending done by Arsenal over the last 10 years : -4224000 pounds (They've made money if you notice the minus sign)
Net spending done by United over the last 10 years :172651600 pounds
Net spending done by Chelsea over the last 10 years :540095600 pounds.

Competing for the title, winning trophies and other allied pleasures and accomplishments, that Wenger considers trival and pointless, are just not achievable with these kinds of numbers. I remember Arsenal fans calling names at players when they left for money. Ca$hley, Moneybayor and many more. Look at City. They spent, tried, spent more, tried more, spent even more and now have a formidable team, which on paper, looks like the best team in Europe. You can call Ashleys as Cashleys and all that sort of thing but to those players, it is after all work and what's the point when the team doesn't do well on the pitch? We quit our jobs and move on for better money and better prospects. Don't we? So many fans who are already in a state of disarray have started shouting at the top of their voice yet again. Spend some F**kin Cash. But this time, unlike earlier, Wenger cannot turn deaf ears to those cries. Looking at the league table now, with 1 point from 3 games, Arsenal are close to being in the relegation zone. It is now or never for Arsene, Arsenal and their bunch of self proclaimed "learned" fans. Money is money and Sport is sport and all that crap can gaily come to a close. To win, one needs money and success comes with intelligent investment (borrowing from management jargon). So, Hell yeah! Splash some cash or look down the drain.

On a different note, Manchester looks like the new football capital of England and with both the big guns throwing some weight this season, it sure looks as if the trophy shall stay at Manchester. But it'd be interesting to see if Chelsea (or Mata to be exact) can offer something of a fight to the title.

United fans, get the ball rolling and enjoy the moment, for this is one of the best times to be a United supporter.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

To her, the daughter of the mountains, with love!

The morning was fresh and beautiful with the sun peeping out of the clouds and the dew on top of the grass reflecting wonderful colors. He was walking along the footpath to get an auto and go to one of those beautiful catholic churches in God's own country. The autos were the old 80s style. They caught his attention. Much of the place had a serene rural outlook and it looked strikingly similar to those pictures he saw in the museums. The ones from the colonial era. He had always been a victim of those lovely magic potions that Kerala has to offer. The lovely weather, the beautiful backwaters and the stunning girls with their hair flowing free, fresh from the head bath.

Ernakulam is a small town, seen as a part of the larger Cochin, though like most twin cities, there isn't a border or line to separate their facades. It is all in a wonderful blend. The long corridor in the church had an air of peacefulness in it when he entered it for the first time. Many groups of people had gathered and they were chatting incessantly. He was a secret admirer of malayalam and those nasal sounds of chatter acted like magnet to him as he could understand some parts from those discussions. Towards the end of that long corridor stood a girl, who had come in with her parents and the three of them were eagerly looking at a lone lily that stood with all class and charm in the middle of a small artificial pond besides the passage. There was nothing more beautiful than the white lily and the school of fish that swam in the mini pond. But as he moved closer to that small congregation of three, it was not the lily that caught his eye, It was the girl who was admiring the lily. He stood like a statue for a passing moment, stunned by her appearance. The straight, dark hair flowing flamboyantly over her shoulders. Her charismatic eyes. Her mesmerizing lips were a thing of beauty. He felt an unprecedented joy when she suddenly gazed back at him, though only for a fleeting instant. At the moment, he was witnessing one of the most beautiful sights that have ever unfolded in front of him..all his life.

It was barely minutes before the congregation reduced in size from three to one and she was waving her hand at the departing couple. Her parents would come back to pick her up late in the afternoon. She stopped waving as they disappeared and noticed him as he briskly walked past her, back and forth. He never knew the art of breaking wonderful silences and even now it was the girl who just uttered something. He didn't believe what was happening around for an instant and blame the shock for his inability to comprehend those sweet set of syllables in malayalam. He paused to check if it was all real and to his joy, it really was. He said he couldn't speak malayalam and she quickly shifted to English. Conversation kicked in and they spoke animatedly for a few minutes. In the process, he lost himself completely amidst the sea of her charm.

The beautiful morning gave way to a humid afternoon as the function at the church went on without much attention to this romantic sonnet. The only activity he was engaged in was a series of stares at this new apple of his eye. A few of them noticed and many of them unnoticed. Einstein once said "Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute." And the words were so true to their meaning and in no time he was staring at the prospect of leaving the church when the function was over. Her parents were there again to take her back to the small town that she hailed from, a few miles south of Alapuzha.

He couldn't gather anything besides her name in the few minutes of conversation he had with her in the morning and as he saw her getting ready to move, he experienced a gush of blood flowing into his heart. He felt a need for some chivalry and courage at that moment though those aforementioned traits were very uncharacteristic of him. He took a credit card bill from his wallet and tore a small part from one of the rectangular edges. He was groping for words to write on that piece of pulp when his fingers jumped the gun without his cognizance. He looked down to see that he had already written his number and name on one side. The Adam in him wasn't that big a poet like Keats or Wordsworth. But he managed to write half a sentence on the rear side of the paper- "If you think we should be in touch...."

He slipped it under her cute pink bag that lay on a nearby table and started walking back home in quick strides as the function was over and the gathering had already dispersed. He didn't have the courage to look back but his heart started beating faster and faster as he made his way out of the church. He was wondering if she would see the note and pick it up. But he was afraid if it was too small and would go unnoticed. He slandered in whispers for not doing the act a bit more vividly. But the moment had gone and he couldn't get back anyway. He reached home and sat back in the reclining piece of furniture gazing at the fancy chandelier that hung from the ceiling. Minutes felt like hours and the ashtray slowly filled to its brim. But the beep from his mobile that he was so dearly yearning for didn't seem to appear. He woke up from the idyll that was going through his mind as his phone beeped about an hour later and for an instant he had his heart in his mouth. Words fail me as I try to describe his emotions at that moment. But the words on his mobile screen read "Hi. I picked up the note. Didn't expect one there though. How's the day? - " His joy knew no bounds and his fingers floundered as he drafted his reply. He was trying to speak his heart by way of the text message and as he was groping for poetic phrases, he heard yet another beep. But it was not from his phone this time. It was the sound of his alarm clock. He opened his eyes and surprisingly, found his mom with a cup of coffee standing beside his bed indicating something with her finger pointed at the clock. The clock read 14 10 hours. But he was looking at it upside down. So it was 7 40 am and it was time for him to wake up.

P.S : Apologies for the abrupt ending and a badly crafted anticlimax. But sometimes truth is bitter as the old adage goes and it is better hidden than confessed at large.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Yours Fervently, An Ardent Cricket fan

The Saturday meant a start to an amusing long weekend of sorts after quite some time and the self had woken to a rare rooster that crows late generally. Resting on the armchair like an octogenarian, I had breathed a lot of fresh air and was running through my mind the sequence of events that would follow in the next 3 days. That contained the following : read something to lift the spirits, drink a lot of coffee, eat to the stomach full, get the 11 hour sleep that has been evading for a while now and repeat the same in the order stated. Such was the beauty of the thought flow when the mind was particularly disturbed by a wayward sound that arose from somewhere in the neighbourhood. After curious onlooking, I found to my surprise that it was the gigantic wall clock that had caused the upset of the mind as the gong was doing its hourly duty at 3 hours post noon. Half an hour before the proceedings of the 4th day of the third test between India and England at Edgbaston.

It has been quite a while since I got myself deeply interested in a cricket match by and large. The last time such an instance was recorded was way back in March 2003 when Sehwag and Sachin entered the field to chase a mammoth 360 and Glenn McGrath had the shining red piece of leather to start the proceedings. After a considerable hiatus, the same interest started growing in me just before the ongoing series against England. What good parenting and modern pedagogic techniques that exemplify moral high ground have taught the growing youngster is that thing called maturity. As the body expands vertically and horizontally when man wakes up each morning to drink his cup of horlicks or viva or whatever suits him, the mind ought to expand. That, my ancestors used to call "maturity".
It has been well documented by learned people in the scriptures and elsewhere that mental maturity is quintessential for the uplifting of an individual. Though much has been talked about in this regard, what was visibly missing in my self as I got the bunch of potato chips and the plate of ground nuts in a move to gear up for a day of pleasing test cricket was the same thing that I have repeatedly lacked - maturity. To cut a long story short, what my heart ached at that particular juncture was for some legendary batting display from the few legendary batting names we have got on the roster so as to save the match and save our number one status by some hook or crook. This particular thought is a good example of an immature one at that. I call the very idea of the whim to be singularly childish. One cannot expect such a huge turnaround after two devastating performances at Lord's and Trent Bridge. But the heart ached for it in the same way it used to do back in 2002 and 2003 when Indian cricket was one of my highest priorities in life. I used to be an ardent fan way back then. But things have changed ever since and I moved on to other more intellectual addictions namely football, spirit, love and the rest of the things that G.K Chesterton used to talk about at length. So, this cricket fever recurring after such a long while was more of an aberration.

The end result? A big disappointment. Nothing that can be classified under the banner called sport has disappointed me to such a great extent, though I remember one instance when Benfica or some equally infernal force from Portugal knocked Man United out of Champions league and if my memory doesn't fail me, it was in the year 2005.After that one, now this particular disappointment from edgbaston made an impact on me and it was a sore one to say the least. The three matches that have taken England to summit from where India just toppled, were just a vindication of the visible listlessness in the Indian camp. There are cries and shouts inside the minds of the players and fans to abandon these humiliations and get back home, in the same way the Flintoff-led English team did during the 2008 terrorist attacks in Bombay. But we Indians are made of sterner stuff and it is not in our blood to call something off cheaply like that. We can continue to be distrait for ages and eons together but we shall not abandon. That fact being a given in the current scheme of things, the only logical thing to do is to somehow get over the fourth one as quickly as possible and start getting geared up for the five match one day series that is to follow. We could have been a very disheartened lot in the last 3 weeks, but the fact remains that it is not the end of the world and the one day series can help to make up for the shame quite a bit. So, along with the Indian team, I am telling myself after yesterday's horror collapse that all is not lost and that English August could after all culminate in an Indian September.

In Cricket, class is permanent and form is temporary. Let us hope to roar back in the one day series and worry about the test shambles in an introspection later in the year when we go down under.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Mallu 007

Disclaimer : I spoof a lot of things on my blog and elsewhere and this is only one of those which are totally pun intended. So I request my mallu friends to take it like a man with whiskers. I mean, in that rightly valiant spirit that defines a man. I have pieces for other states too. Leaving them for the future, he is this one on Kerala.

We do this annual trip to Sabarimala and I have been doing it for about 20 years or so. It would do injustice to my diary if a page doesn't go towards Kerala and my observations there by and large.

  • Both the CPI and Congress in the state have done nothing whatsoever to make amendments to the rule that men should wear a mustache to get their name on the state census. In fact, babies born with mustaches (One happened in July, 1968) are considered true and patriotic malayalis without any additional levels of screening.
  • Shaving, as a routine or time pass is more or less considered criminal and as people from civilizations like ours do not wish to commit sins by and large, they brush aside the need to shave. Last time they saw a razor is recorded around 1848, when razors were much talked about owing to the period of French Revolution.
  • Talking of razors and the historical bit associated with it, school text books in Kerala have a chapter dedicated to this lethal weapon and it has been gathered from underground channels that that particular chapter is to be marked with a double star and pages highlighted with a permanent marker. The razor subject is a very important question in the state board exams.
  • Jesudas is a guy who non keralites find it tough to identify though he is a famous name and all that in musical circles (not musical chairs, the circles where those oldies talk about Kalyani, Sankarabharanam and the like). Simple reason : The beard. It has triggered an identity crisis in the state.
  • Malayalam is a wonderfully sexy language. My first ever crush was on a malayali girl way back in my 4th grade or something and ever since, the language flows like music in my ear when someone speaks it. I am like, I go cute.... when someone says something like nyaan toylet poyi ippo kazhuvi vannu. The only other language that I classify under the 'sexy' category is bengali. (My second crush was from Calcutta)
  • They don't cook in Kerala. Period. Unless one considers fish, meen, karuvadu and those related things as food, that is. Nothing else is edible, including their rice (The big, thick grains that I have always found heavy to carry from plate to mouth.)
  • The way they put garlic and chilli powder in all and sundry eatables in Andhra, these chicks from the Kerala kitchen like to have their servings with coconut. The dishes may categorize under 'sweet' or 'savory'. Doesn't matter much.
  • The lungi is one thing that is strikingly common between the tamils and keralites. But the color in the latter's is mind boggling. They are artists by birth. I mean, that category of modern arts and the corresponding artists. With all colors and nothing else on the canvas. But there is one stark difference. They don't prefer the pattapatti (striped boxer) under the lungi unlike tamils.
  • Owing to the proximity to Kerala, tamil, which is an otherwise not so beautiful language in my humble opinion, sounds sweet in Kovai and Nellai districts. But no, I have not had girl friends from those areas broadly.
  • The architecture of houses and villas in Kerala are just too good and they give an optical illusion of gulf money on their facade at first look. Glittering outers, just like currency notes.
  • The amount of vegetation in Kerala is second only to the amount of vegetation on the upper lips of protagonists in Wodehouse novels. Bertie's occasional vegetation pips theirs once in a while. But otherwise, Kerala has a clean record of being on the top.
  • One of the many reasons why I respect Kerala as a state is the vast difference in the quality of banana chips. They are not like the ones we get from the Kerala Bakery on Usman Road. Speaking of food, Nairs there, are just too good in their chai recipe. The nairs with shops on street corners in Chennai are mere imposters.
  • Kerala stays close to my heart for one more reason. That is the only other state (first one being tamil nadu) on the map of india where the alphabets 'z' and 'h' make sense in combination. As in Kozhikode and Alapuzha. No one else can say it right. One of my colleagues from Bihar is taking a crash course from me on that, but he is not a bright student and not coping too well, I should say.
  • Last but not least, how can I miss the 'koooffi', 'oomane', and other similar pronunciation patterns, if you get the drift. Sweeeeet! I can give anything for those sweet syllables uttered by that hot Menon babe..I forgot her first name.
P.S : Disclaimer repeat! No offense meant. Pun intended. My malayali friends can sharpen their mustaches and give a scornful look at me if they feel hurt. But not more than that.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Human Capital

I stumbled upon a recent report somewhere on the internet, published by Rutgers University and Tata Institute of Social Sciences which said 53% of Indians, who had gone to the United States to pursue higher studies, want to come back. Or at least, they have said so. The report gave another number that could be of interest. Only 8% of them felt "they wanted to stay back". So the important thing to notice here is that 92% of people are either not happy or they just don't know if they are. This fact is interesting and it triggers a train of thought. Folks like me, who have chosen the alternative route by not opting to take an educational loan and get a Masters Degree from an ivy league university think these guys over there are having some good fun and they are not home-bound any soon. I mean, at least their avatars on social networks hint something of that sort. The trips and fun and frolic and what not.

One possible reason for this popular choice of moving abroad after under graduate studies is definitely explained by the money factor. The other is the plethora of "high-skilled" job opportunities out there as opposed to the situation here, where we still count more low-skilled ones, though we see ourselves as a "maturing economy" by the day. Basic economics suggests that a more educated population will bring prosperity to any economy. And that will also help the betterment of many other social indicators that define a country's growth. I read somewhere that though we can be happy about something like an 80% literacy rate in our country, there are only 4% of people who are "computer-educated".That is alarming.

With "local entrepreneurship" being the buzz word of modern times in our country, I think folks over there, on that side of the Atlantic, have a dilemma to ponder. It is probably one of the best times for them to walk back with their pockets loaded and try to make well advised technology investments in their homeland. Now, coming back to where I started, if 92 percent of them want to come back sooner or later, then what are they waiting for? What with the rumors about a possible second wave of recessionary times in the west, one should probably count one's silver and look up the air fares. What we as a country need right now, to avoid something like the middle east crisis where high rates of unemployment hampers growth, is for some quality people and quality jobs to sustain themselves inclusively as part of our growth story.

One simple reason why a country like ours still has so much more low-skilled opportunities than the high-skilled ones is the fact that most higher management positions in niche sectors are reserved for the advanced markets like the US and the Europe. But that situation is, more likely than not, prone to change because of the stunning increase in the number of quality entrepreneurial ventures emerging each day. One other aspect of this ideal scheme of things that I am defining, is how the government and the the educational system in India can do their part. About 20% percent of our population drop out after primary school, as yet another survey elsewhere points out. So to make people stick to the educational system to complete their studies, the system should mature and evolve. That will in turn apply the brakes on the battalion of under grads who were heading westward hitherto. I know I am not doing justice to practical sphere of politics, so to say, by weaving an extraordinarily ideal growth story for the future, like in those Shankar movie climax sequences. But I think that is the way forward.

P.S : I am not against going abroad and making a career out there. Neither am I claiming to be someone who would not put himself on the next flight if the situation calls for. I am just saying if a good number of people who want to come back, really come back and contribute to our story, then that contribution will definitely be one that will count.

Friday, 8 July 2011

1 Person -1'd this

Man should exercise patience, as the saying goes, and I am one of those men who try and practice such virtues in their day to day life. I restrained myself from expressing views about Google+ on public spaces over the last few days, when an apprehensive article about this new networking platform was the hip thing to do. But as a master of science in chemistry, I stress the importance of the concept called "saturation". Any quantity in this material world has a level or brink above which it will start to show signs of breakage. So is my ability to stop myself from writing a critical note about Google's new social networking platform after patiently trying it for more than a week.

I would definitely not be a fan of this particular product fron Google. Being in the IT industry makes each person a techie, like it or not. So, I have forcefully convinced myself to choose a side when it comes to this banal Google vs Microsoft war of the 2008s and 2009s (Those cubicle mates call you a fool if you can't make a point in an argument like that). I chose to be on the former's side. Still, this product especially doesn't seem to bring home the bacon, in my humble opinion. The argument is many fold. Examining each one in a bit of a detail,

Firstly, I don't seem to like the idea of someone telling me to form circles. I mean, I was that rebellious kind of blighter at school and I used to get pricked instantly when my PT master called the class to form circles for a republic day drill or an aerobics performance. It somehow sounded to me like a girl thing, this forming a circle business. Boys, in general, prefer other shapes, like square (as in four square) or triangle (as in love triangle). Circles are definitely not the preferred ones. Secondly, I have a serious problem with this new parlance that Google is trying to introduce. "Hangout". Sorry? I didn't get that. Hitherto, I have not appreciated this "Tooottaally Rrroocckkinnngg Ddduuuddeee!!!!!!" kinda behavior that is common amongst today's youth. I am not trying to act like that gaffer sitting at the bar parlour, narrating stories from his childhood to poor twenty-somethings. But then, this idea of "Wassup mannnn", "Kewl dood", "Yo maannn" et al. never seemed to give me any sort of high. So this "hangout" thing makes me throw in the towel.

The other major problem is this tendency of assorted scientists from random universities in the United States to barge into this platform instantly after it was labelled as "one for the geeks". I am referring to these PhD pursuing, french beard sporting, wannabe scientists who are by and large not my cup of tea. I have heard from various sources that words like "publish", "research", "nerd", "geek" and the like give orgasmic pleasures to these young gentlemen and that explains why the "Google + for nerds" campaign caught their attention. But, to hell with my wall full of these blokes? Tests my patience, if I choose to euphemise exact facts. What with the XXL size images that Google has chosen to use for pics on walls, it gives me nightmares to see dozens of french beards on one single page. I am not that bravo kind of guy who girls dream about in their dreams, picturing them on black horses and what not. I am that pince nez kinda guy who is afraid of dreadful sights after 11 pm in the night. So this business of scientists' profile pictures does give me nightmares for sure.

This man here has spoken at length about how moms wouldn't like Google +. He says she would have difficulties in having her text bold or italicized while she posts about her latest hair-do or her new piercing. The argument is that it is not as simple as clicking that 'B' button or the 'I' button. That thing pisses me off too. I am not that aunty kinda person, don't mistake me here. Just that I think text editors need to be plain and simple. This business of adding asterisks and hyphens in my text box is not an easy task for me. I prefer the click B fundamentals.

Now, I am running out of points to support my anti Google + stance. But I think it is important to drive home my point before that chick in the green tee yawns for the third time in as many minutes. Heyyy! that guy in the red formals, hold on..just a bit..I am kinda wrapping it up.

For a bachelor like me in his twenties, the one, all important and primary reason to be on FB or any other equivalent social media website is the amount of color and variety he gets to gaze (read as ogle) at. I mean, this "Google + is for the geeks" thing is threatening to drive away those female flies. (I seem to have so few girls on my friends list). In that case, where is our motivation to hold on? The PT master calling for a circle formation?? or the scientist from Purdue uploading his display pic?

Monk! I need a monk!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Of Marguerite St Just, Sir Percy Blackeney and those golden days!

Disclaimer : For those who are uninitiated with "The Scarlet Pimpernel", here's where you can get your copy. The rest of you, here's a piece dedicated to that marvel.

And for those to whom, these names do ring a distant bell, welcome back to the age of English I (Prose) and English II (Non Detail). 'The Scarlet Pimpernal' was among the non detail books that we read during high school. It surely has been one of the best reads for me till date, though I have matured from the school book reader to the regular bed-time reader. I vividly remember the opening scene of the novel portraying the busy guillotine at its ghastly work. The carnage ceasing only at the late hour of the day, so that people could move on to spectating another amusing event of sorts..viz. the massacre and abuse of the aristocrats who have been exercising tyranny hitherto. The Calais to Dover ferry is another thing that comes to mind when one thinks of those 3rd period English classes, where people took turns to step onto the teacher's dais and read their assigned chapter out loud. The ones who gave a lyrical and musical touch to the narration were an instant hit among the girls and our beautiful English teacher who used to test those boys from the back bench frequently for their language skills. Of course, those lucky ones who stood out by way of narrating it musically, became articles of scorn from fellow last benchers. But it never stopped one from trying one's best to catch the eye.

My personal favorite from that beautiful novel has always been this prose that repeatedly appears through the narration.

"We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven?—Is he in hell?
That demmed, elusive Pimpernel."

I still remember the way I used to finish that paragraph stressing the "demmed elusive" with all the fervour and respect for the guy in command of the 20 member secret committee. The war between the secret society of English aristocrats and the conspirators at the guillotine was an enthralling one and the narrative of the spy novel was too good to resist for any high school guy. The eloquent blend of espionage and romance between the Scarlet and his wife makes for a wonderful ending. Chauvelin was probably one of the most successful villain characters of that era and his portrayal brings to mind Col. Hans Landa of Inglourious Basterds fame. Still, the literary character (Scarlet himself) who captured the imagination of many generations of readers from around the world was definitely the hero for many boys in my class and I remember how we used to steal scenes from the novel and enact it with modifications during those interval recesses in between classes. In fact, theories suggest that the twin lives of Zorro, Batman, Superman and the like have been copied from this one time and again since Orczy put pen on paper. Though the celluloid adaptations of the book didn't bring home the bacon, they become known names in the period drama genre as the movies and series captured something as sensitive as the French Revolution and espionage during that period.

All said and done, this one has been and will always be the most convincing book I have ever read and I would do injustice if I write a punch line to finish my lengthy acclaim of this novel.

Baroness Orczy, apparently wrote sequels to this masterpiece later on. But none of them made such an impact as this one. Here we are, talking about it 6 years later, on a fine monsoon afternoon, just because of the impact it has made in the minds of readers. I am sure those who have read the novel aloud in class, along with me, will second my opinion on this stunning book.

Friday, 1 July 2011

The way it felt in 2002

June 29th 2011 is going into the tennis book shelves as a date to remember. But for two completely ironical reasons surrounding one man. Roger Federer. The good part was the record Fed created for the number of continuous grand slam QF appearances. The other : the way Jo Wilfred Tsonga served to outclass class himself. It was definitely a sad visual for those ardent Fed-Ex fans. I am not that big a fan of the Swiss maestro. To say it with candour, I have never been a fan of someone who has ruled a sport for a really long while with very less danger from any opposition. Take for instance Schumacher, I have never convinced myself to back his red Ferrari during his reign as the king of racing. Coming back to the point, Federer's defeat to Tsonga portends something more than what met the eye that evening. It was in 2009 that he last won his dearest slam of all- The Wimbledon. The year before and the year after, Nadal showed him that athleticism and class in combination can outplay skill on a given bright summer morning, be it lawn or clay. The point is Federer's win in 2009 that sandwiches Nadal's wins on either side, was partly because Nadal had pulled out of that year's slam.

I am not trying to take anything away from Federer's trophy chest by downplaying any of his achievements. But I am afraid if 2011 is to him, what 2002 was to the master Pete. Nirmal Shekar pointed out on his column in The Hindu recently that Federer's loss to Tsonga reminded him of Sampras's loss to George Bastl in 2002. Bastl was ranked 145 in the list that year. After that devastating 5 setter, Sampras gave some food for sensation-hungry media by sitting on the pitch and staring at the grass, long after his conqueror left the stadium. But Federer gave nothing of that sort. He sported a composed look but with a blackish mask portraying doom as he waited for Tsonga to pack his kit bag. It was a heart breaking sight for anyone who loves the maestro. It was just a couple of days back that his picture with tendulkar made its rounds on social media and created a furore like never before. Fans doing their salutes and wishing their wishes, confident of another Wimbledon crown to prove his critics wrong. But this one was a sight that spoke louder than words. He went down in a macabre sort of way even after he played a decent game with only half as many unforced errors as his decisive opponent's. In contrast, Sampras played one of the worst games of his career in that loss to Bastl. But just 2 weeks later he went on to win the US Open as he conquered his arch rival Agassi to end his glittering career on a high.

I hope something like that happens to a man like Federer who is undoubtedly a master of this generation. Though, in my opinion, he might not be able to better Sampras's record of 7 titles at The Championships Wimbledon, I wish he gets to equal that number and retire on a high. But age is definitely something that is pitting against him. And Nadal's dominance is reaching new highs year after year. But the man has it in him to pull off something out of the blue and show the world that he is truly a champion. I wish a smooth retirement for a man of his class and I wish he conquers Nadal on that lush green court on the suburbs of London just once before making a bow. A win when Nadal was not in the fixture list was not good enough to make the point. A win in a grand slam final against the world no. 1 himself, would be what is a good show of true class and character.

P.S: I have always wanted Nadal to win whenever I saw him opposite Roger. But the way the latter went down this year is definitely a bad sign for tennis lovers who would like to see a legend pass out like a legend.

P.P.S : I so want Murray to win it this year though! An English winning it after ages!. Poor thing. Give one to them

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Super Human Samurai Mr Ganesh!

All of us have come across history books in our early years at school and have gained a lot of information from those compilations of accounts from the past. One thing that I, as a student, have always felt is  that someone who has lived/is living in a fame-producing or notable lifestyle is 4/5 on odds to make it to one of those history books that we get to read. So, those like Genghis Khan, Adolf Hitler, Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi have lived one such in their times. Likewise, there is going to be one other interesting character (fictitious to atheists of course) to go into the records. He is Mr Ganesh, son of Mr Siva and brother of Mr Murugan. So there we are, our own Lord Ganesha is making it to the shelves. The reason? He has made it to the current affairs book shelf already. What we have been practising for generations since childhood is now packaged by Yale University School of Medicine as Super Brain Yoga. Guess what the aim of that course is? To increase intelligence. Now this kind of thing is getting too banal. So many instances of deja vu for people from India who know about Indian tradition and culture quite a bit. The fight for patenting Turmeric is one that comes from the recent memory cache. The one about inventing zero and the one about lessons in astrology are other instances of this "We know it already" phenomenon.

What amuse me are the terms that we, modern men, employ for such findings that we think we have just invented. For example, this one, Super Brain Yoga, is defined as a technique that is based on ear acupuncture and subtle energy (Pranic Healing and Yoga have already displayed a good number of variations using this technique.) Other interesting factor about these things is the "Pilot studies" that go into such researches. Pilot studies on this one was conducted on school children with disabilities such as ADHD/ADD, developmental and cognitive delays, Down syndrome and specific learning disabilities. Now why do we have to do all this pilot thing and fly aircrafts in the sky? Rather just tell yourself to blindly listen to your aging dad and mom. Time and again they've proved that the lessons and the practices that they try to inculcate are of real value. I am not here for a sermon. Let me narrate what I used to think when my mom told me to do the "Pillayar Thopukaranam" while I was a kid.
I took it as lots of weird ear-rubbing, temple feeling kinda movements and stuff. Never really made sense to me. But then, how right were they after all.

Now to the science behind that thing. Some energy centers in our body are sites or centers for psychic faculties. When activation of certain energy centers occurs, they can even result in the development of certain psychic faculties. The right ear lobe corresponds to the left brain. The left ear lobe corresponds to the right brain. When the right ear lobe is gently squeezed with the left thumb and left index finger with the thumb outside, it produces the necessary energy connection. This connection causes the left brain and pituitary gland to become energized and activated. Similarly, when the left ear lobe is gently squeezed with the right thumb and right index finger with the thumb outside, it produces the necessary energy connection, which causes the right brain and pineal gland to become energized and activated. (Excerpt from the official site of the super brain yoga)

So something there uh! For people who still think all of this is just crap and bull shit, Yale wouldn't be fooling around unless it has something resembling 'substance' to say the least. So here's for people who want to subscribe to some yogi or baba (as they are famous these days) to teach you the "art of super brain yoga" or some such equally oblivious area of study. Just cut the crap, breathe deep and rub your ears on your own, without having to send money to a scammy person.(just like your mom told you to, while at the theru oram pillayar kovil (Ganesha Temple at the street corner)).

Shall we start now ????
No, you don't need to pay me for it.!

Right Hand to left ear, left hand to right ear......
..bend knee.....
I am not a good teacher. take a look at the thing here

P.S : You can spot me at that corner temple more often starting now, as I am on the job already. The job of becoming super intelligent. One like Shaktimaan or Sherlock Holmes anyone?

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

I am going on an indefinite hunger strike!

These are testing times, the ones that we live in..this day, in this age. The uncommon are becoming the common and man is rediscovering his own, true self by doing what his so-called uncivilized ancestors did during the ages of kings and kingdoms. Anna Hazare's fast, it must be said, has created prospects for lively debate and enthralling discussion. His, and his supporters' basic idea is to incorporate extra-constitutional methods into the dynamics of today's politics and democracy. But the question is whether such displays of peaceful revolts and fast-unto-death stunts subvert democracy to any minor extent. The answer IMHO is no.

The one that followed is even more interesting. The emperor of a 1000 crore yoga empire triggered an agitation on lines very similar to the previous one by Anna Hazare. The major difference being the amount of practicality in the demands laid down on the table in either cases. This and such things which are more to come in the years to follow pique me to a very large extent. More so, when they align with the order of the day in this modern world full of Egyptian uproars, Yemeni agitations and Libyan protests. So, to be frank, I am actually amused by this idea of going on fasts and strikes. It is an unnerving display under the holy banner called representational democracy. Prima Facie, the idea is a thought provoking one. When elected representatives cannot act as the voice of their electorate, the representatives (part of the electorate) shall take the sword. Here in one such instance, I have taken the pen, which we all know from the adage, is mightier than the sword. So I am going on an indefinite hunger strike until my demands below are met.

1. I want my boss to give me some peace of mind everyday at work.
2. I want to inherit a non-existing, 100 crore fortune from my dad right here right now.
3. I want a 40% hike in my next performance appraisal cycle.
4. I want a loyalty bonus, amounting to 10% CTC marking every year's completion at my workplace.
5. I want a promotion.
6. I want good weather in Chennai, for 8 out of twelve months in a year.
7. I want to date that hot chick who coos on the phone during those weekly client meetings.
8. I want to work from home 4 days a week. (I'd show up at work on all thursdays, when we have that client call)
9. I don't want someone else to set deadlines for projects that I am involved in.
10. I want my boss's boss's boss to reprimand my boss's boss. He is not behaving like I would expect him to.
11. I want to make a trip to Switzerland in the month of may next year. I would like it to be funded by my company.
12. I don't like the color of my HP Compaq monitor at work. I want a macbook instead.
13. My Sony Ericsson mobile phone fell into a bucket of water recently. Though I got it repaired for 1300 bucks, I want a new IPhone 4. I am not happy with a scarred piece.
14. I want the option to outsource the work I get and get cuttings for them.
15. I want to eat Double Cheese Margherita from Dominos before I go on to write the 16th point on this bucket list.
16a. (I'm still waiting for my pizza. Please revisit the previous point before proceeding)
16b. I saw my neighbor go to work on an Audi Q5. I am not a greedy person. Hence i am asking only for an Audi Q4. Note the difference. Not a 5. 4 would do.
17. I want my company to fund that business idea of mine (the one on that concept coffee shop) as part of their ingenious ideas funding policy.
18. I would like to be relieved from my current job once that business discussed above breaks even.
19. I want my best friend who is getting married sometime soon to visit me every weekend even after his doomsday.
20. I want my company to look into the above 19 points and sign on the dotted line on or before my appraisal date.


Disclaimer : I am going on an indefinite hunger fast, if you had forgotten about that particular fact. As a result, I would not sleep for more than 10 hours a day, will not eat more than 4 times a day, will not visit office/office related people until the fast is called off, will not open Eclipse IDE even on my personal laptop, will uninstall VPN client that enables the work from home option.

In addition, I will have to be paid an inconvenience charge for all that I am enduring in the testing times that are going to follow this full stop here.

P.S : My fast begins. Followers can queue up behind that red sofa which is diagonally opposite that LCD TV in my a/c bedroom. A humble request to prospective followers. Please practice ahimsa. We live in a democratic country fathered by MKG.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Conclusions from Wembley!

Before I go on to say "Congrats Barca" or shower some other adulation to convey that emotion, let me put forward one strong opinion of mine forward. You CANNOT beat a team like Barcelona with a central mid field pair of Michael (inconsistency) Carrick and Ryan (Unlucky) Giggs!. I mean, it is just suicidal to counter Iniesta and Xavi with Carrick and Giggs. It was clear right at the start, when the team charts were out. One of them can't run and press fiercely while the other hasn't gone to a proper soccer school in his formative years. An important disclaimer for readers here : If you cannot read between lines at this particular juncture and understand who's who in the sentence above, please hit red on your top right. This is not your serving of cauliflower.

Coming to the usual rituals that we need to perform after that stunning performance, let us congratulate Barca, Messi, Xavi and Guardiola for some invincible displays overall. Kudos to them. Manchester United have not been mauled at a big stage like this before. To beat the best English team this season, in a manner like that, takes some impeccable class and that is exactly what Barca showed they possess. Now to the conclusions,

1. Michael Carrick can never prove to the footballing audience in England and elsewhere that he actually has some sort of soccer stuff in him.

2. Barcelona proved to the world yet again that they are the best in the world by a really long distance.

3. It would be to state the facts as they are if we said that Manchester United were the better of the worse in the English Premier League this season. They did not play like champions.

4. Xavi is unequal to any other mid fielder of recent times. He is just a class apart.

5. It is nothing wrong if we said Messi is even bigger than Maradona.

6. Alex Ferguson showed some character for the first time in my living memory by way of heartily congratulating Guardiola after the match and by showering praises in plenty, slightly after the match, in the media.

7. We are probably nearing the end of a fantastic era in world football, that has been defined with some managerial class by messrs. SAF.

8. It is definitely not the way a man like VDS should have retired for what he has achieved with the gloves.

9. Manchester United need to buy some top quality players in the summer window to re-instill some confidence in the fans' minds, especially after an abysmal performance like that.

10. That match is definitely a disgrace to English Football and it will take some time to heal the wound. May be years.!!!

Once again, Barcelona won it like champions, clean, smooth, wonderful!

P.S : I am still trying to reason with myself about Valencia not being sent off for a disastrous defensive display, time and again in those 90 minutes.

P.P.S : Wayne Rooney's goal was a good one really, though it came against the run of play and did not come of a properly orchestrated attacking manoeuvre.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Mama Ei Sri Lanka sikuraadaa

Before starting to put pen on paper, when I named the current one, I got reminded of this post from the past and hence decided to do a decent job of clearing the air with angry readers who have been bit by such an oblique title to a personal blog post. I shall not do a Hi-Ye or Hi-Hi kinda thing to confuse one and all and will teach my sinhalese-uninitiated readers their first phrase in sinhalese before proceeding - "I am coming to Sri Lanka this Friday". That is what my title means in sinhalese. So, breathe a heavy sigh, forgive me for the encryption and sit back to digest my pre-travelogue kinda post on my vacation to Sri Lanka starting this friday.

Yes, I am going to Sri Lanka on this year's tour (we do this thing every year) during the summer vacation. And by doing that, we are on track for an amazingly new feat in the country's history by and large. Geographically speaking, Sri Lanka is a small country with a pea-shaped structure sitting merrily beneath India on the world map. Demographically, it is a scarcely populated nation. More so since a good number of inhabitants from the northern side were wiped off from the landscape recently during the war. A debate as to whether that act was right or wrong would best be left to another day. Coming to matter, the country has very few people littering its soil. And now, we are going to be the single largest party walking at large, on sri lankan soil for a good long while. Records from the shelf indicate that the most populous bunch of homo sapiens spotted on a 2 square meter patch of land in Sri Lanka is not in double digits. We are going to beat history by overgrowing the native population by a handful for about 9 days. Yes, we are about 20-25 members on the roster for this tour down south. 

The idea of making trips with such large number of asses on the flight is definitely a questionable idea. Many of my friends and acquaintances have spoken to me about the fact in private. The general consensus is that, it is a really tough job to handle such a large group in the first place and with the members of the fairer sex outnumbering the members of the other in the touring council, the idea of social discipline and community etiquette are flatly defeated. More often than not, people tend to worry about behavioral aspects of men and women in such large companies. But, for me the one single advantage that defeats all the cons of the large group affair in general, is this:

Suppose that a group of two (say husband and wife) go on a vacation. According to the cosmopolitan distribution of the technology of probability in the evolution of mankind, the probability of Person A getting bored with/pissed off with the other party (Person B) in the congregation, during the span of the trip is as high as the himalayas. Hence, when such a situation arises, the poor soul (in most cases, the husband) is left to stare at things, animals and other living beings around, so as to kill time for the rest of the tour.

Now alternatively, consider such a large group of 25 with a camouflage of age, sex, height, weight, character, facade etc, it is as clear as a glass of aquafina water that one has so many options to try out in the event of one getting pissed of with another. For instance, if perima (mom's elder sister) behaves like a flat moron and keeps talking about marriage or some such equally infernal thing day and night, one can go ahead and try to socialize with chithapa (mom's younger sister's husband) who talks about beer, alcohol, whisky, vodka and/or related things incessantly. Or for another instance, if young cousin, who is obsessed with PJ's, as a result of going to school from June to April year after year, bugs one with nasty and stinking jokes from his peers and teachers, one can go for refuge to chithi (mom's younger sister), who talks of youth or love or sex or one of those empowering things in general. One gets the broad idea here, I suppose.

So, getting back to the argument of managing to come unscathed from a tour with 20 odd white-crossed relatives along, the variety of personalities in the gang is a single and sufficient reason to prove my questioning friends and acquaintances wrong.

So many friends and colleagues who are waiting to see me off are praying to God for my safe and secure return with no change whatsoever to my inner self. In the modern and civilized world that we live in, it is an accepted fact that a man's character and inner self are quintessential for harmony and happiness of the human race. And with a tour of sorts like the one I am talking about, it is very highly probably that one loses one's mind and in turn harms one's inner self, in the end leading to the collateral damage of society by and large. So wish me luck for a lengthy ordeal with old flesh and blood which is sure to be filled with socialistic festivities, including but not restricted to 

1. consuming different varieties of species like fish, crab, whale, dolphin etc from the sea shores of colombo

2. secretive hanging out of like-aged cousins ranging from 20 to 25 at the bar parlour or tea kadai

3. late night sessions of seatu kattu (playing cards)

P.S : I shall draft a post once I am back to en iniya tamil nadu (my favorite tamil nadu) and that would be a proper travelogue covering details of places and incidents. Skeptic onlookers from my immediate friends circle who are apprehensive about my returning from the trip as my own holy self, can then evaluate the person in me, post tour! 

Adios till then!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

I've found out how he died!

To start with a few things that we all know, Osama bin Laden was holed up in a two-storey house 100 yards from a Pakistani military academy when four helicopters carrying US anti-terror forces swooped in the early morning hours of last Monday and killed him. So, a rather straight forward inference from that bit of news is the not-so-simple fact that the world's most wanted fugitive died not in a cave, but in a town best known as a garrison for the Pakistani military.

US officials said the helicopter raid in Pakistan was carried out by CIA paramilitaries together with the elite Navy SEAL Team Six. The Pakistan Government first came out and said "Hell Yeah, we knew it. How could they have done it without our help??". That statement became public and suddenly an uproar kicked off in pockets towards the north west. Now after going back to the drawing board and formulating a new plan altogether, the Pakistanis decided to alter things and nod their heads to the US' claims that they were indeed caught unawares. So, the stance that they had remained privy to the whole affair was clean and clear bullshit of sorts.

Coming to the dynamics of the whole operation in general, it is claimed that both helicopters and ground troops were involved in the operations. If that is assumed to be true, I don't see any application of brains from the Pakistani side as they CANNOT rule out their knowledge about the operation (Ground Operations mate!. Wouldn't you know if someone was putting his/her hands inside your shirt and tickling your tummy or some part in that vicinity?). But if we go ahead and assume that even this fact was true, it simply means that Americans have been playing at the Pakistani back gates, at their will. Tamil, as a language, is a very beautiful one to say the least. "Ooran Veetu Neiye, En Pondatti Kaiye" naanam. (Literal translation would get close to something like 'Your wife dipping her hands into your neighbor's ghee vessel'). American military is self's wife in this particular analogy and the neighbor (Pakistan) has been a silent witness to the former's exploits.

So, I think it is pretty much safe to assume that Pakistan's military and intelligence leadership knew of his whereabouts and sheltered him. Now, if Osama was being sheltered by some really smart brains in the business (viz. ISI) (Of course they are smart, for they've successfully masterminded about 100+ attacks in their neighborhood viz. Kashmir), then how the hell did US spot him right behind the back of Pakistan's biggest military area?

Tough question I know, and media all over the world is trying to figure out that particular thing. But one of my friends on the internet seems to have cracked the code. He says it has to be one of the two following things.

1. Osama must have come out on the road for some weekend shopping for self and supporters

2. He must've missed the trick in this fast socializing world of tweets and likes and hit the wrong button.

So, with two hypotheses that are really more logical than what the Pakistan Government is rendering to the world by and large, I think some insider should go and offer one of these for an explanation and thereby aim to put all speculation to rest. They can then call themselves a sovereign nation whose primary agenda includes their resolve against "non state" actors. After all, Osama stayed under their nose for 5 years and later gave himself away. No involvement monsieur! Not a single bit of it!

P.S : Now that, would be a really plausible explanation.Think of it.The thing about one hiding under another one's nose. It is difficult for the eye to find him. Try looking down to find the center of your mustache. No, you can't. It is beyond all technological advancements mate! It is also comparable to the worldly accepted fact about Tamil Nadu Policemen and their difficulty to spot the belly button below one's belly, with one's own eyes. If you know what I mean!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

A Guide to Wembley and after (for Man United, I mean)

Hell Yeah! It is truly fascinating to note that "people" are merrily writing off Manchester United for the final at Wembley on May 28th (After writing off Schalke of course). I request "people" to hold on for a second and listen to a few facts compiled by one fellow reader at Mr. Bean's hometown (should be something to that effect for the kind of humor they produce) viz. F365 (yet again). I have been trying to find out why I am so obsessed with stuff from F365 and not able to avoid mentions or similar analyses or mere lifts from there, in this blog.

Cutting tangent and coming to matter, the compilation that I was referring to goes thus.

Whilst Barcelona play great football, I would suggest that the fact that haven't scored many goals against 11 men in good teams recently means United, if they reach the final, have a good chance, if Ferdinand and Vidic are both fit (and probably also if Darren Fletcher is fit). In the roughly 440 minutes played against 11 men over the recent four El Clásicos and the two matches with Arsenal, Barcelona scored three and conceded five, whilst in the roughly 100 minutes against 10 men, they scored five and conceded one. That's one goal scored per 147 minutes against 11 men and one goal scored per 20 minutes against 10 men. Van Persie's sending off was obviously a mistake, whilst opinion is divided over whether Pepe's offence was a yellow or a red - personally, I think it was an orange at worst. Barcelona also failed to score in 111 minutes against 11 man Holland in the World Cup Final. So the best advice for United? Don't get anyone sent off.

Now, on the contrary, I don't see United winning that game (assuming 11 players keep their feet on the playing field for round about 90 minutes, that is), if they play a tactic like the one in the 2009 final with a 4-5-1 where Rooney plays in the 5s. 

While I was drafting this post and when I reached this point in my writing, I took a break for a cup of tea. And the tea, filled with ginger and elaichi, definitely proved to be a good refresher, like one of those magical, instantaneous Jeeves' refreshers. It sharpened my thinking faculties and gave me an idea instantly after consumption. The idea, as it ran through my mind, is as follows. In a guide to Wembley, given the nature of this year's champions league and the two teams by and large, it is more important to add some valuable points to the smaller goal of playing 11 players for 90 minutes for Manchester United rather than the bigger one of winning it. As facts stated above indicate, all suggestions and inferences point to an underlying assumption of playing 11 players from whistle to whistle. Hence, here below, I've listed down a few ingenious ideas that I contrived while plainly thinking over it.

1. Manchester United players will do well if they are handed an extra weapon (a secret one, to be used only during emergencies, though emergency is a phenomenon that is expected to arrive too often than obvious to the human mind in such encounters), The extra weapon is a 3 x 5 plastic card, painted red. They should probably make efforts to understand situations in the match, when opponent players are down to the ground and performing like in the movies. At these junctures, work of the moment would be to exercise their option of using that weapon and showing it to the referee who is in the near vicinity. By doing that, the referee is sent off at that moment and the probability of him showing a red card at the player involved in the recent tackle becomes zero. (A referee cannot use his power and exercise his options after having been sent off)

2. Quick Learners. That is the order of today's modern civilization. Manchester United players should show some tact in quickly grasping theatre skills from their catalan counterparts as soon as possible in the match. So that, if the first half is won by actors from Spain, the second one can belong to the fraternity from England.

3. In the game of counter strike, if you have noticed, it is important to stay together as a team, in order to clinch a tag team shoot out. That principle holds good in the game of football as well. It is important for the players to support one another in times of distress and grief and exchange soothing words to bring down their collective tempers. For, in a match against Barcelona, temper, taken as an emotion, can only be displayed by two kinds of people by the rule book. a.) People who fall under the category of proctors/referees in general. b.) People who represent the most populous city of Catalonia. 

4. Repeatedly tell Scholes, (when he is on the pitch) that his role on that day is to be an Attacking (with a capital A) Midfielder and any tactless display of defensive skills is suicidal.

A fifth point has been suggested by a faithful reader of this space and I think it will do justice only if i include that most ingenious idea in this list of mine!

5. United management, wait and see which obscure North European country the referee is from. Once you find that out, you can send him a cable with 'From UEFA (shhhh!)' written on top and the contents being, in code language of course, 'Plan change. United win. Messi red. Barca no give 5m and show middle finger'

With such valuable inputs to the people in red, I am signing off with a cliche viz. "May the best team(not in my opinion, but in UEFA's/referee's opinion) on that day win".

Friday, 29 April 2011

Beat the man to it!

"All my life I've wanted to eat strawberries in the middle of winter.Get me a basket of strawberries before the end of the month and we'll take up this matrimonial proposition of yours in a spirit of serious research." said Clarice.
"Strawberries?" said Mervyn.
Mervyn gulped a little.
"But I say dash it! Strawberries?"
"Strawberries" said Clarice.
And then at last Mervyn,reading between the lines,saw that what she wanted was strawberries.
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Thursday, 28 April 2011

Not there yet, Try Again

It was not the first time,
That the thing was close to reach.
The wind pilfered that valuable possession from the trembling hands of mine.
Life, by and large, holds many a lesson, and offers to teach.

Strewn on the path of this journey called 'Life'.
Are the flowers that meet your eye from the face of mother earth.
Wise are those who spot the ones that are fresh among the rife.
But they are aplenty, there is no dearth.

Pick the ones that come your way and keep the stride going,
Never give up if the flowers meant for you are not fragrant.
There are many more for you, waiting.
Try, try, try, because Thee rewards he who is diligent.