Wednesday, June 27, 2007

8 Random Facts/Habits.

Don't you feel that there is a wealth of variety and ingenuity to be discovered in our day to day life. Many of these that cross our eyes daily, few are a part and parcel of our routine life yet no one ever asked us to speak about it. If you read a few of these random facts across blogs, you would realise that what links them all is a joyous unpredictability and miscellany. Yesterday, I got one such message from Amrita, that she has tagged me, guess for what ? To share eight random facts about myself.

Yep, it follows a set of simple simple rules as below.
1. Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged, write a blog post about their own 8 random things, and post these rules.
3. At the end of your post you need to tag 8 people and include their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment and tell them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.
4. If you fail to do this within eight hours, you will not reach Third Series or attain your most precious goals for at least two more lifetimes.
So what are you waiting for, Bindaas Bol Na. Here goes mine.......

1. I am a voracious reader ever since I started with Tinkle comics, Enid Blyton series of the Famous Five, etc. I make sure that I read one book a week, but most of the time these days, it ends up taking double the set time frame. The topics that interest me are sociology, Indian literature and business. At present I am reading Verghese Kurien's memoir, "I Too Had A Dream" and another book called "Portraits of White Racism". Books apart, blogs, magazines and news sites are my regular appetite. I like reading a book while traveling be it on air, by train, bus, car, auto rickshaw, etc

2. I am a die-hard shutterbug and the charm of capturing a moment as that I had conceived in terms of its composition, color and light gives me great satisfaction. I try to capture the fine things, things which even though simple miss normal attention like a small chime, a tattoo, etc. I own a few cameras both digital and analog but prefer analog photography even if it is a bit operose as compared to digital photography. My best choice is black and white photographs.

3. I don't take too much time in the shower, the time spent is same as the time spent to make a serving of 'Maggi'. So few have termed it as 'Maggi' bath but when I am in the bathroom, I need the morning newspaper for sure. Two odours that make my day early morning are the smell of my cologne [Aspen] and the steam of hot tea or coffee.

4. Any kind of food goes with me, Ok if I share it with percentage, am 80% vegetarian and 20% sea-food freak. I am not a bon vivant, just need something to survive. But sometimes, I feel like going to a nice restaurant and try all sorts of cuisines. I am not a foodie but still I invite a couple of my friends, on a crazy evening when it is raining heavily cats and dogs. Why ? Even I don't know, just that I liked it that moment and I did it.

5. I have lots of nicknames, a new one gets added to the existing list every now and then. Few of these are rattlingly techie, few very girlie, few whacko, few with no connections just for the heck of it, blah blah blah.

6. I never bought or buy too many clothes for myself but somehow my closet is always full. I just buy my pair of jeans, don’t call me brand conscious but stick to my trade names [Levis/Wrangler/Gap/Calvin Klein]. Most of my t-shirts and shirts are shades of blue, cement ash, white, etc which are simple and bland in terms of design and pattern. It is for this reason that my friends and others often identify my taste with an old man's taste.

7. There are few things, I like that way it is and wish not to be tampered by the winds of change. I like calling my mother, 'maa', my elder brother, 'bhai', my sister Su, 'maachi', my best friends, 'kutti', 'phodhax' and 'cooltz'. Just can’t adjust to words like 'mom', 'mama', etc. I don't have any qualms about these words, just that I don't like those. To me my old acoustic gramophone is as dear to me as my iPod.

8. I don't like watching the idiot box, though sometimes sit in front of it to check whether the remote control is working fine, switching 60 channels in 60 seconds. But but but have followed the entire series of Friends and Simpsons. Instead I like dabbling with my paintbrush or charcoal with a few strokes, traveling anywhere and everywhere and meeting new people across age groups. After all everyone has something to offer.

Yes, yes, yes you got me right; each one has something to offer. Like Amrita, offered me this opportunity to scribble something on '8 Random Facts', I am tagging 8 more to the list. So Anou, Aaman, Anita, Sanchapanzo, Nik, Sur and Kutti, its your turn now. Jump in and pen down anything you feel.

I thought of including Amrita, Kishore and Deepti in my list but later didn't as they are already in the tag-loop, [ Kishore has a new word for it, 'bi-tag', check the comment part of Amrita's, post ]and so their inclusion again was redundant. There are many others I know who follow blogs but don't have a blogsite/webpage of their own. In that case, don't be hesitant to use that comments button on this post to share some random facts about yourself. C'mon, it's fun !!!!

Keep reading and remain connected.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Yeh 'Father's Day' Kya Hai ?

That was an age when premium time daily was spent with someone, time before life coursed itself thorough some tracks and transformed everyday stuff like coffee or old black and white photographs into artificial tenuities. Yesterday morning I spoke to my father over phone and he told me that my brother had called him from the US and wished him 'Father's Day'. I could feel the warm smile on his face when he was expressing me this, and it was more than a morning sun on a clear day.

I am aware of this day, 'Father's Day' and the various theories regarding its genesis but never thought beyond this. Though it is not celebrated in India with great fervor and doesn't reach the media wires unlike the Valentine's Day when windows of shops are shattered by stones. But the concept seems to be catching up and gradually taking roots mostly pioneered by Indians/Indian children broadly called 'desis' living abroad.

Now, the question that many would raise is, do we need a separate day to accredit one's own father? Do we need to earmark another day in our calendar when we know that the inter personal relationship between fathers and children is inseparable. Well disparate ideas and views would surface, some claiming that like everything material and celebratory shipped to India, these days from the western world, 'Father's Day' is the latest addition. But my take is what is in-correct in this concept?

With the emergence of nuclear families and i-generation in Indian cities and metros, people do not have the time for others in their over-crowded schedule of activities. How I see this day is, that it's like any other day but you make that someone 'your father' or 'your dad' feel something special. Something similar to stark simplicity and the un-spoken sentiments held in the 'Raymond's Complete Man' advertisement shown in Indian television arrests the spirit of the day. The advertisement shows a father and young son duo moseying along the track into the woods, lost in an absorbing conversation and all these small moments coming to life like bioscope slides as the son grows up.

A father is a person capable of every folly after all but permeated with that divine spark that allows him to make unimaginable sacrifices for his children, extending the meaning of parenthood in the process. Indian history has it how the first Mughal emperor Babur, was ready to give his life, when he was advised that the sacrifice of 'the dearest possession' was the only way out to save his son, Humayan from the dark hands of death. This attribute has been passed on for generations and can be traced and tracked if we fan the embers of history of any nation.

Fathers are heroes in the eyes of their children. I guess this would be unanimous answer for any child in any part of the globe, be it India, the US or France or for that matter any country. Fathers may have flaws, their thought process may be different because of the generation gap, but the affection bestowed on them by most children is enviable. The warm and protective relationship is something that I can't exactly put in words.
[The pic is by S Paul, an eminent photographer from India.]

Not allowing for any exaggeration that accompanies strong feeling, I feel that what we learn as children in our kinder garten, school and graduation days from our parents, be it father or mother somehow leaves a deep imprint in our lives. I have immense respect for my father, who even though hailing from a very poor and humble family by the dint of his hard work and determination has a very satisfying life. From a village school to obtaining a degree in mechanical engineering from IIT Delhi, his entire education journey was completed through scholarships like the Govt of India Merit Scholarship, IIT Scholarship, etc.

Later on he worked in various positions at steel conglomerates in India, traveled a fair bit around the globe, before retiring as the General Manager in Steel Authority of India last year. His code of discipline, hard work, ideals, and a broad vision of the world are few attributes that I wish to inherit by osmosis. He has lived in an era when it was not easy to resist societal pressures, when society while very demanding on certain points was quite limp in others. He is cautious and has retained many of his generation's values and notions of Indian society, though when he could not agree with those notions, he considered it prudent not to push for it. His affection and caring was never demonstrative and explicit as is common in Hindi movies with oodles of melodrama, but somehow in an implicit way he inculcated in me, the ethos of a sheltered middle class family. He is not a preaching papa, always showed by example and held my fingers when I needed it but let me independent when he was sure that I was ready to fly.

He is a man whose love in unselfish, directed towards all people and not just immediate family, an ardent reader, a man who would help others in need but who in his own adversity would not seek anyone's help. To fortify my point, I know that since my knicker days, he runs a small library in my house, the sole purpose of which is to circulate books, journals, technical papers to poor and needy students from engineering schools in my hometown because those chaps can't afford costly books. He is also a guide and a referee to many projects executed by the poor post graduate students from all over India, especially from IIT Kharagpur. A couple of years back, when I joined work and drew my first salary, I presented him a book, Siddhartha by Herman Hesse and his reply was 'Lagta hai, tu baada ho gaya hai' [It seems you have grown up].

There was an interesting post on 'Father's Day' at Blogcritics and another one at Newsweek.
Fathers and Families Executive Director Don Hogan says the discrepancy is just more proof that dads are overworked and under appreciated. "It seems that society places a greater value on mothers than fathers," he says. "I think it's because there really is a value placed on the role of nurturing and bringing up children and that role has been assigned to mothers. Although you're seeing dads playing a greater and greater role, I don't think it has been reflected in how society views fathers."

The modern day father is an expert multi-tasker; he is a manager or a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer, a chef, a diaper changer and a pillow for his children. That's the new music played by the new age father, but beneath it all he is as concerned as is any mother. In the changing society, fathers logged into the real world are juggling between work life and family life, still trying to offer the very best to their kids.
[The pic is from American magazine, Esquire.]

As aptly said by Denzel Washington at the Harvard University Address in the movie 'Malcolm X'.
He would wanna earn a living and take care of his family, and his family would respect him.

His son will say, "I'm proud that that's my father."

His wife will say, "I'm proud that that's my husband."

"Father" only means that you're taking care of your children -- that's what it is to be a father. "Father" doesn't mean that you're havin' some babies. Anybody can have a baby. Havin' a baby does not make you father. Anybody can go out and get a woman. But not anybody can take care of that woman.

There's another word for it: It's called "responsibility."

Life goes on and I am lost in my daily activities, but every year I wait for the squeezed warm hug and the healthy solid handshake that are sufficient to beef up my sense of security and warmth when this person comes to see off me in the airport or in the railway station. 'It's better than nice, it's just wonderful.' Even as the child becomes a man or a woman, the father himself wished to be, the father continues to worry about him or her, understanding his/her temperament the best way in any relationship.

Whatever may be the case, lets make our papas, dads, baujis, appas, pitajis, abbus, etc feel special this day for all that they done to our lives and the way they prepared us to face the changed world.

Keep reading and remain connected.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

It Happened In India.

Kishore Biyani, the poster boy of Indian Retail industry is considered a maverick. An unconventional and unorthodox player when it comes to his playground, in charting and executing a retailing model without aping the West. 'It Happened in India' is KB's autobiography with assistance from Dipayan Baishya. I enjoyed reading the homespun narrative of a gutsy businessman who started his initial days of struggle as a trader of stonewash fabric, founding makeshift fabric stalls outside hotels and hosting textile expos, all these before completely revolutionizing the retail landscape in India. KB also addresses accusations against him of driving the competition out of kirana’s earlier pockets of business and affecting their livelihood in a negative way.

One of the interesting features of the book are the point-blank and frank testimonials from family members, associates, business partners and consultants who thought KB's ideas were sometimes silly, sometimes forward-looking and sometimes just-straight-from-the-heart. The book is written in an easy flowing and conversational mode with an aim to appeal to the widest possible audience and not just for those in business and management. The topic of the book though business centric is written in a storytelling format, the author conveying the message perspicuously and in prose that has great verve and vivacity. It speaks of the roadblocks and initial upsets, the achievements and accomplishments, the trials and tribulations of India’s most flourishing retail company. The journey that started with 'Pantaloon' [derives it's name from the Urdu word for trousers patloon] in the early 1990's, today has established its presence across the entire consumption space covering six verticals: Retail, Capital, Brands, Media, Space and Logistics.

This book is the success story of an iconoclast and irreverent Indian entrepreneur for whom commerce is never the raison d’ etre of Indian bazaars, they are rather more of a social mélange. KB points out that the consumers in today's burgeoning India can be classified into three groups: India One, India Two and India Three. These groups can be understood as the consuming class, the serving class and the struggling class respectively. The India One (14% of India’s population) class uses modern retail formats like Big Bazaar but even with this small percentage the retail sector is fascinating. It has grown because Indians are earning more, spending more, consuming more and thereby creating more jobs across other industries.

A flip through the book exposes the philosophy underlying, India's first hypermarket, Big Bazaar. Unlike the hypermarkets in the west, which are typically big-box format, with long, narrow aisles suitable for individuals shopping alone with carts, the Big Bazaars are created with multiple clusters. This compact and clustered format encourages 'butt and brush' effect and 'an organized chaos' as Indians like bumping into people, chat, gossip and eat while they shop. It would come as a surprise to many that the Big Bazaar is a totally desi concept, and the format is inspired by and modeled after the Sarvana Stores on the Ranganthan Street in Chennai.

The book also uncovers a very interesting facet, the colorful entrepreneur in KB. KB made forays into Bollywood with two movies to promote the ‘Pantaloons’ store brand. One of the movies was Na Tum Jano Na Hum but both the movies flopped at the box-office. For a brief period he was the marketing agent for foreign cricketers in India as if retail wasn't just enough for him. Ideas, imagination, memetics and creativity are the key drivers of his business and in the book he explains the emergence of a new era, the Creative Economy.

To cite an example KB has now roped in the Rockwell Group as architecture partners to design the next generation malls, the new landmarks of Indian cities. Rockwell Group, among many of its finest designs world wide, is best known for the design of the Kodak Theatre where the Academy Awards are held. Apart from this KB is also involved with the functioning of Idiom, an independent design and consultancy firm based in Bangalore whose quality of work is comparable to the San Francisco based design powerhouse, IDEO.

Does organized chaos and disorderliness play a role in business? How can designers’ devise business strategy and why the fancy MBA-types won’t fit into his organization, [Suit boot pahen ke baith jayenge par product nahi bikega as KB writes in the book]? Why should Indian companies not ape the overseas retail model at all? Will the advent of the frictionless, boundary less economy comprising the global multi-nations dampen his desi way of doing business? KB answers to many such questions and more in the book.

Few nuggets of information, to fortify my point that KB follows a paaka desi style of doing business.

1. In wired world of today, branding, advertising and marketing plays a more pivotal role that it used to be in earlier days. Most of the advertising and marketing professionals are educated in convent schools in large metros and are attuned to western ideas, speak and think in English. But KB wanted to communicate and spread his Big Bazaar message through one-liners in the local languages. He pulled in Gopi Kukde [famous for his Pan Pasand one-liner, 'shadi aur tumse kabhi nahin'], a relatively unknown advertising professional to coin famous and catchy one-liners such as 'chane ke bhaw kaaju’ [cashew nuts at the price of chickpeas], etc.

2. On occasion of Diwali '2005, the chief of Human Resources Department, Plantaloon floated the idea of offering gift vouchers, bags, T-shirts, etc as incentives to the store staff. KB instead of following the general trend advised his manager to get the employees' houses painted and the clutter removed. The idea was to offer something really authentic, desi and what better than the social occasion of Diwali.

Enough, enough, there are lots more fascinating episodes, such as KB’s signature Time Pass Theory, the man who runs business for some of the biggest apparel brands in India, still wears the same set of trousers for years and many such middle class ethos: respect, strong relationship, humility and simplicity that still forms an integral part of his lifestyle. So pick your copy and enjoy reading it.

Kishore Biyani with Dipayan Baishya
Rupa & Co
Pages: 269

Keep reading and remain connected.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Am a shadow of a man.....

that was memory of another day,
seated deep in my heart.

the skies were still overcast,
not the Bangalore ways
the evenings' calm hadn't
allowed the dust to settle
after the torrential downpour.

the airs were eerie,
not very characteristic in years,
the heavens had never poured so intemperately,
as though they can't feign their comfort.

circling in the comfort pool of a dhaba,
an especial kind of darkness
called light, shrouds us.
and another clear, not dark or bright,
the pensive and smiling Bangalore night skyline
amidst the full light and empty light

on the street as I look down,
there is state of war,
someone strolling arm in arm,
through the shower
staring into each other's soul,
as the world bustled about outside the coffeehouse.
with the wind whistling outside,
and the rain starting to beat again.
my eyes coups d'oeil over a family
drenched more in penury
than in the rain driblets.

down there reality and life unfolds,
lost in the bubbles of my self indulgence
relishing the vegetable sheek kabab
the light reflects, yet still absorbs each other
the ink called spirit leaves no trace on water.

i am a shadow of a man.

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