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Growth & Corruption

April 25, 2015

“The only way to peace is through war” a quote read in one of the prescribed books in university.

As I read one of the biographies about one of the companies in India, which is generally touted as a massive success story, I wonder if the only way to success is through corruption.

India is a country that suffers from a massive dynastic hangover. Be it a political party, the movie industry or the corporate world, it is filled with people who are ‘connected’. Apparently, who your father is or who you know makes a difference to your success or failure.

Despite, or due to, such dynastic philosophies, corruption has become an embedded part of our culture.

The only way a newbie can probably succeed is by bribing a few people. Yes, there is much being said about the new start-ups and their success stories. But watch closely and you can probably hear the tremors of them navigating the red tape.

I recently read the biography of the Ambanis, which had once been banned in India, or at least tried to. A few pages down, I realised why they tried to get the book banned. It paints a very ugly picture of the way the company was built, how it promoted corruption and the deep corruption embedded in some parties of the country.

Of course, nobody can ever prove what was and what is. Many of the participants of this story are long dead and gone, leaving behind legacies that are probably too massive to dig into. But you flip through the pages of media stories on them and you can read between the lines.

The Indian media today is in the worst possible situation today, with almost nil autonomy. If they were once coralled by the need for advertisement revenue, today they are directly held back by their owners and deep party loyalties.

The days of Khuswant Singh and Goenka are long gone, who put the truth of journalism before friendships and families. Today, we have reporters angling for a plum retirement plan, inciting NRIs to their own benefit.

The Social Media Wave is truly that… it builds up with one little news item, crests and then builds up again as a follow up, till there is that big 7th wave and it cools down for the next wave.

Surviving the 20s

April 9, 2015

Why is it such a big deal when a woman turns 30? It definitely isn’t because she survived the 20s. It definitely isn’t because of an achievement. It is spoken more with a tragic air that we’ve crossed into the grey time from which there is no return.

I’d been looking forward to turning 30 for a while, so I could say that I survived my 20s. The 20s are horrible… full of big, important decisions made by naïve people that actually affect the rest of your life, stubbornness or pig-headedness that makes you stick by those decisions, even when you realize that you are probably being dumb.

So it should probably be a time of celebration that you made to it the other side without too many war wounds.

Turning 30 should be a sign of success, a time for reflection, a time for cheering.

When I was 10, someone said that by the time one hits 30, we are more firm in our opinions and less open to other things. I had vehemently denied or laughed about this, stating that I would never be that person. Today, I am a little shamefaced to say that I am rather firm in my opinions and a little less open to things than I should be.

But perhaps realizing that is key and I will be more open to things again. Regarding the opinions part though, you develop a clear idea of what you like and what you don’t. You develop a routine and you are either the kind of person that is ready to kill if the routine is changed or the kind who enjoys that change every once in a while. I’m glad to think I’m still in the second category.

Your patience runs thinner when you head towards the other side of 30. People can be incredibly dumb and for those of us who were born with little or no patience, this can be a trial. Everytime I think I’ve learnt to be patient, I am taught another lesson that I have not really learnt much. So the learning is constant and hopefully, the lessons will catch better than the algebra in school.

30 is a nice age to be because you are just appreciating the balances, beginning to learn about balances actually. You enjoy the quiet, you enjoy the hard work. You probably have a vision of the future, or least how you don’t want the future to be. You are wise enough to know when you are being shitty (or most of the times when you are being shitty). You’ve learned to suck up and apologize. You’ve learned the dangers of ego. You’ve learned that you have learned nothing and you need to start afresh.

There is an air of challenge, of racing against time and you begin honing your priorities. The bucket list is honed down to things that are really important. The frustrations perhaps don’t go away. You probably haven’t become the person you thought you would be. Which might be good or bad. But you realize these things. You realize that you are not the best person in the world and you might or might not be okay with it. You accept some things and you strive to work on some things. You’ve reached a balance and you are keenly aware, every single moment, that you might be brought to your knees.

Yoda, you are not. But least you’ve accepted your role, as vague as it still is.

Turning 30 seems to have erased some of the discontentment that was plaguing me for a while. Maybe it will return. But for now, I look forward to what can be and not all the opportunities missed. No, that’s not entire accurate. I do feel like an ass but then I realize that I have done a substantial amount for a 30-year old. Or nothing at all. It depends on which way you look at it.

Perspectives. That is what you keenly become aware about.

Strangely, I still don’t have an idea of that ‘goal’ but right now, that doesn’t seem as keenly, painfully frustrating as it was a few weeks ago. I guess that’s what surviving the 20s brings you.

Baazigar 2015

March 16, 2015

I was watching Baazigar on TV the other day and I thought – Shit, this movie would have ended before it even begun if they had done it today.

Imagine this:

Girl, shopping with her boyfriend, runs into an old family friend at a mall. Friend thinks boyfriend looks familiar. Pulls up Facebook on her phone and starts looking through 5-year old photograph (cue in obligatory song here in the time it takes to go through 1 lakh photos).

She finds the photo, memory flash. Share the image through Whatsapp with the girl and ask “Yo… wasn’t your sister dating the guy”. Boom!


Bollywood movies wouldn’t have really survived if they had followed technology. Of course, being Bollywood, they would probably put in instances like “Facebook account hacked” and unable to access photos just to prolong the movie.

2014 in review

January 2, 2015

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,200 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 53 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Who Could Do This?

December 17, 2014

Who can kill a child? What sort of mind can look past the deep eyes, the laughter, the simple love, the tears and put a bullet into a head, a knife across the throat?

The past few days, there were a few photographs being shared on social media platforms about missing children. Despite the barrage of useless posts on these sites, this is one post that I do share, regardless of the number of people who might see it. Regardless of the little voice inside me that says that these children might never be found. It is hard to scroll past the smiling faces and dimpled cheeks.

Children are valued in ALL cultures, regardless of how barbarian the rest of the traditions might be. They represent the possibilities of the future. They represent all that is good in the world, which is diminishing by the minute.

You do not need to be a parent to know that a child’s smile can make you smile. It could be when you are stuck in crazy traffic, cursing and swearing. You see that little face popping up in the rear window of a car, probably smeared with chocolate making silly faces at you. And you cannot help but smile.

Politically, the slaughter of children always grabs the headline, no matter how jaded the society is. The slaughter of hope has been done in so many forms that nothing else might get the same kind of attention.

But it makes me wonder how do you get your hands to commit murder of a child, whatever might be your cause. We read about it everyday… in small doses… parents who kill their own children… And perhaps you can convince yourself that some of these were acts of desperation… a jerk of a hand before you could control it… But how many times can you look past this? How many times can you convince yourself that these monsters do not exist in our society?

We ignore the abuse… even as we talk about it on social media and about how horrendous it is. But have you ever tried to imagine the pain, the confusion that the little child faces?

All the study of psychology and whatever else, I still cannot understand how one can do that to a child. What kind of person can convince themselves to pull the trigger? Not once. Not twice. A hundred and thirty two times. Aim at that little forehead, covered by silky hair, shiny and smelling sweet from the shampoo mommy did in the morning. Studiously ignore that two little eyes that are questioning you, filled with fear… perhaps they were filled with laughter a few minutes ago as they sniggered at something their teacher said. Block your senses of the smell that is no innately a child.

What possible religion allows such an act? What possible belief leads people to think that this will assure them a place in heaven? That they are fighting for a cause? Who made these people? Where did they come from? Have they seen no children? Do they have no children? Is it the same perversion that forces some to push themselves on children to fulfill their sexual need? Is it power? Is it authority? What is it? What could possibly be the answer for such abhorring decadence.

The questions come back to haunt me each time I read about a horrific act on a child. The mind shies away from graphically imagining the little snippets of news that pass your way.

Were we always a barbaric society, who wore the veneer of civilization for a short while? Were we always the raiders and looters?

A Letter to The Cab Guy

December 7, 2014

Dear Taxi Guy,

I’ve been a loyal customer since you were a mere company, not a brand. Despite various people complaining about the company and their ‘pathetic’ service, I had no reason to complain and I hung around. You have been with me through late night parties, emergency cabs to work, trips to the airport and more for the past 3-4 years.

And then you became a ‘brand’. I started seeing your logo on movie promo posters, at concerts and whatnot. It was kind of cool to see a company from my hometown grow up and compete with the biggies out there and able to keep pace.

Then we started seeing hoardings all around the city, screaming about cab rides at 49 bucks. You were trying to take on the biggest public transport service providers – the auto rickshaws. I wondered about how you were going to sustain your operational costs. It wasn’t like the fuel had gotten considerably cheaper, for starters.

But I had your app installed on my phone, and I loved the interface as well. Except, almost everytime I booked a cab in the past few months… pretty much since September-Oct, the booking would get confirmed and then the cab would not turn up. Your Customer Care would apologise profusely and then the same thing would be repeated. Once. Twice. Thrice. Four Times. Five Times. And that’s when I decided to say to hell with you.

I had to scramble to find another cab service to head to a college reunion. I had to sit on the sidewalk and wait for an hour for another cab to come and pick us up after a concert because your ‘confirmed’ cab did not turn up. I had to scramble to get home at 10.00 in the night because your cab wouldn’t turn up. I nearly missed a flight because your cab did not turn up.

And I had to speak to your rude, annoying customer care at 1.00 in the morning who called me 3 hours after my booking time asking if I wanted to take the cab now, since one was available.

And through all of this, the only thing that was consistent were your apologies and that ‘you will try to serve us better’.

I booked a cab again yesterday afternoon, buoyed by the news that you had launched this new ‘mini car’ cab service. I was curious, and perhaps a glutton for punishment. The mini car was not available yet, so I booked a Mini and true to your brand – you did not disappoint me. The Cab Did Not Turn Up.

This time, thanks to your new updates on the app, I could call the driver directly. And the guy says “Well, I did get a message about the booking and then another one saying it was canceled”.

So I booked another cab – and this time a cab did turn up and imagine my surprise – it was a Renault Duster.

I wondered how you had classified a Renault Duster, a car that costs at least 10 lakhs, on par with the ‘Mini’ class, which was typically a Tata Indica. And then I realised – this is what you’ve come down to – you are scrambling to keep up with your promises and promos.

You have a shortage of good drivers. You are losing control over your drivers, who have gone back to choosing (like always) rides to the airport, which are longer and have less traffic. Have you resorted to desperately hiring anyone who is willing to drive for you, which perhaps accounts for the untoward incidents being reported all around?

Your drivers are pissed off with you because they are barely able to make ends meet when you’ve chopped their revenue share to a bare minimum. As I heard one of your drivers say, he would rather go back to driving an auto because he would be in control.

Now, with 1000 new cabs on the road, this time funded by your own money, how do you intend to really keep up the brand? Because after all the ads and the articles, you do need to keep your customer happy.

This was a tale of great potential, which has now become a big question mark. True, the Indian loves a good deal but we are also growing up to appreciate quality and service.

Perhaps it is time that you realised that.


A Customer

I Am Pilgrim

November 15, 2014

I haven’t reviewed a book in a LONG time. I’ve not particularly been reading books that I’d want to review… Thrillers, chicklit etc that I don’t think need a mention.

And then I discovered I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes.

I could summarize the book but it’d be so… little. It is about espionage, the pre 9/11 and a spy and a terrorist. It sounds so banal and everyday, doesn’t it?

It is the magic of Hayes’ writing that turns this plot into magic. The loner who is a spy, who is quite imperfect. The winding path of the plot that takes you through several elements, which are all enjoyable independently and makes you wonder what relevance they could possibly have for the plot. Hell, you don’t see the plot till you are smack in the middle of it.

There is a sense of urgency, wonder and anticipation that builds beautifully. I am not particularly a fan of the ending. It was a little too abrupt and… philosophical. It would be challenging to find a fitting ending for the other hero of the book, I guess. But I wish it was better.

I like the way Hayes’ build the main character, without really describing him straight out. I am trying to recall if the book was narrated in first person because that is how it felt. He doesn’t come out and say outright “I am ex-spy, friends with a cop who I met xx number of years ago at this particular place. I am a loner with a drug habit and this has helped me.” But he lets you discover him, like you would discover a normal person and it is up to you to like him or hate him.

Not since John Le Carre and Len Deighton have I found such an imperfect hero that you would actually like to hear more about.

Looking forward to the next book, because I am pretty sure there is going to be one.


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