Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The "balancing" act

The hot summer continues to melt tar outside. The predictable “it has never ever been so hot before” conversations have also started petering out, as bleary eyes and fiery winds have put a dampener to social meetings of enlightened souls where one discusses the weather.

The government wants to increase prices of diesel cars to “balance” out the distribution of "pain" between Petrol and Diesel car owners .Aren’t we forever caught in this balancing game ? Balancing one injustice with another, balancing one stupidity with another ? I guess we are a nation of balancers –"balancing"  being perhaps a polished, sophisticated version of our DNA term ,"Jugaad”, or “adjustment” . No attempt to look at the obvious, no attempt the treat the cause, no attempt to set right the  basics. It is ,always,“Jugaad all the way !

S&P is predicting our fall from “angel” status. Angel, huh ? . The various  “unkels”  “Daddus” and the “great aunt” running our sarkar have vehemently derided the non transparent and “poor” methodology adopted by "S & Poor"  to sound out our impending doom. “Shob kooch theek hain”- is what you hear them say by way of a constructive panacea to the perils in front of anyone without their blinkers on .Ours is a disaster milestone based polity- of one impending confounding milestone following the next. The “sarkar” is thus forever negotiating the  milestones , jumping from one to the next, and to the next ; and all hopes of some action is always promised after the “next” milestone. Of course, nothing is done in between the milestones in deference to the aam( mango) Janata’s voting powers and an insatiable desire to maintain status quo, at any cost ! Endless list of milestones- where you don’t upset the apple cart-UP Elections, Presidential Elections, next assembly elections, next panchayat elections …… And some milestones are also constants, appearing as an "austere " sari with sinusoidal  regularity, screaming "Cholbe Na " at every instance !

IPL is over and I can breathe easy now ! Moral discussions about cheer girls and their dangers to our sensitive social fabric  are put on hold till next year. SRK  has promised to behave well till next year and Dada has built up ample stock of hair gel to last the next five years where he will continue to lead by example! All others are laughing their way to the bank and I have also decided to put on hold the raging debate within me- whom to support ? And meanwhile, the “boys” are by now presumably fed, watered and rested enough to  win the next few matches in India and to lose the other remaining matches out of India.

 Did I mention somewhere earlier about a great “balancing” game – you win some, you lose some !

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The World of "solutions"

As any management Guru worth his salt will tell you, this is the age of "solutions". These days, you do not simply buy a product-you are offered "solutions". The companies, or rather ,solution providers, are now capable of understanding your "pain points" and they then weave a “solution” to end your pains. Pretty straightforward, and makes sense . The world is getting complicated and so are the needs and demands. Thus, days of buying off the shelf products that could satisfy your needs are practically over. Your needs have evolved, your pains have increased and thus there is less scope for a one-size-fit-all product. Enter the world of solutions and lo and behold, your pains shall disappear !

This phenomenon is perfectly understandable in a technical world ,and with ever-changing market dynamics, changing demands and cut throat competition, a solution centric approach is what the good doctor would prescribe. So no issues on that score,whatsoever !

However, of late, the "solutions approach" seems to have transgressed the heady world of technology and related business and  permeated into  trades,even the most basic,  all of which claim to offer "solutions".

I was intrigued the other day when I came across an advertisement for taps and bathroom accessories. But no, you would not find the words tap written anywhere in the copy. It was, you guessed it, "bathing solutions "!

The good old barber has stopped writing “hair dresser” on his signboard. Instead, I  have increasingly seen boards proclaiming “hair solutions” to their customers. The local gym in my neighborhood has also come up with a signboard that proudly displays “health solutions” ! And next to him is an outlet which arranges birthday parties and sells return gifts for kids. Yes, you guessed it, it was called “Birthday Solutions” ! Pens are "writing solutions" and of course you don’t go to a bank simply to deposit money- you purchase "banking solutions" ! Your  insurance agent will take affront if you refuse to accept that what he sells are anything other than "financial solutions" !

Car rental agencies are no longer car rental agencies. They are “travel and transport “ solutions. And you will be aptly put in place if perchance you happen to refer to a video rental store as anything other than “entertainment solutions”. Many grocery stores have already stated that they are "home solutions" and restaurants are but of course "food solutions".

I guess it is but a question of time before your toothpaste is not known as anything else other than “tooth  solutions “and flip flops are but “walking solutions”. What would you call your tailor if not a “coverage solution” and your plumber if not as a  “water solution”? Soaps will sell as "cleaning solutions" and deodorants are of course, "body odor solutions" !  I guess you get the gist now- and you can thank me for reprogramming your thoughts in a solution centric world.

And now that the temperature is hovering on the wrong side of 45 degrees Celsius, can we have some  chilled beer- oops..some "heat relief solutions" ?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Summer Cynic

Summer is upon us and this is the time I start rambling aimlessly, more than I do normally. I attribute this to an attack of summer depression that befalls  me with unflinching regularity ,without fail, every year. I am more miserable and abundantly cranky when the heat is turned on. I have read all the self help books which says that you should simply carry the weather with you, and thus , by that logic, I ought to  be feeling snug and warm as if it was the winter. But I realize that summer simply does not work for me ; I grumble and groan and moan ,and somehow drag myself wearily through the hot summer months. I can manage the cold winters much better- I can always wear more clothes !  But summers are different, there is always a limit to the clothing one can shed, beyond a point ! In the midst of all the grime and sultriness, the grey cells ( and aging one at that !) simply fail to register the sparkle of life.

It is in this bleak state of mind that I start looking around for spots of excitement which can lift the spirits up and extort the mind to sing tra-la-la. Only to draw a blank ,mostly.

As a starter, I  contemplated spicing up my blogs with some cartoons. But then I realized that a certain powerful lady and her cohorts might proclaim “Cholbe Na” and I might find myself entertaining jailbirds, a task fraught with the risk of being rather unpleasant ! Definitely not an activity that might be classified as exciting, by any means ,especially when there is a realization that my own EQ, or “Entertainment” Quotient, is not at an all time high now .

I then turned towards the idiot box then for some much needed excitement. The loony anchors and their loonier panelists continue to thump the tables at all sort of grave issues, but somehow, they failed to excite the sleeping dud within me.IPL posed a peculiarly uncomfortable situation in that I simply could not figure out, even halfway down the tournament, whom to support ! And I was quite aghast at the dress code imposed by the moral brigade on the cheerleaders of some of the teams, and they ceased to provide any further sources of entertainment. After all,how on earth do you watch dancers dancing in the hot humid sultry summer of Kolkata wearing about 5kg of Jewellery each ? And then  to top it all, they then went about adjudging that it is simply an affront to our pristine and vulnerable society to see an  award winning movie on prime time TV as we are simply incapable of handling sex and erotica without governmental supervision.

I turned towards the newspapers for some possible excitement. All I can see are the daily relentless doses of rapes, road rages, murders, abduction by Maoists, abduction by classmates, honour killings , etc,etc. Reforms are on hold as the government is constantly busy repairing the legs of its “Kursi”, routinely  cut off with impunity by its rag tag, motley group of “supporters” who have no idea what a mess they are making of this country. Or maybe they have, but who cares, anyway ! With investments dwindling, and its coffers empty, the “sarkar” is  now trying to bring excitement in its policies by modifying  tax laws with retrospective ambit so that the “evil” investor is further spooked away from the country and we all can live happily ever after !

I realize-nothing has changed. Nothing is new !

Why is it that the summer brings out the cynic in me ?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Cross Connection

It was a call like countless other phone calls that you receive in a day. “One more telemarketer”, I thought wearily.

The voice on the other hand was clipped, polished and indeed very polite. “Not the regular telemarketer type” , I said to myself.

“Sir, I am calling from the Jaguar Land Rover showroom in Gurgaon” she identified herself.  “I hope this is a convenient time to talk, Mr. Chowdhury ?”

Normally, I deal with pesky telemarketers in two different methods. One approach I adopt most frequently is to go silent-yes completely silent! A complete state of being incommunicado ! It is only after a while that the person realizes that perhaps this is no longer sounding anything like a duplex communication. The usual pattern is that the telemarketer disconnects the call, thinking that perhaps the line is bad, and dials in again, only to find that indeed it has become a one way communication ! To make matters interesting, I sometimes substitute the silence with chuckles and snortles. This method works like a charm, mostly.

The other approach which also works is to listen in to the whole proposition from the other end and then to reply with questions like “can you please let me know what is the cricket score”, or “is it going to rain tomorrow ?” This method, while it works most of the time, sometimes is fraught with the real risk that the telemarketer actually provides me the cricket score too , while trying to sell me the policy which I vehemently refuse to buy. It does put me off guard, but thankfully , such instances are not that common.

So, coming back to the call from the Car Showroom, I was just about to slip into one of the two modes mentioned above, when it struck me that I never ever got a call from a Jaguar showroom, ever !Curiosity got the better of me and I answered, “ Yes, this is Chowdhury speaking”!

“Sir, Thank you ! Actually I had called up to fix an appointment for you to come and visit our showroom. We would like to show you the entire range of Jaguar and Land Rover Cars to you .Could you please let me know when you could come by so that I can arrange a salesman to explain our offerings to you ? “

By now, I had already slipped into the silent mode referred above, but this time not at my own insistence ! It took a while to realize that the lady was asking me again, very politely, when I could make the visit.

“Er, ahem, gee ! Right away… hell no ! Wait.. what ho , what ho ! Ten thousand Thundering Typhoons. I mean , you are actually asking me to come and visit your showroom “, I managed to blurt out, eventually .

“ Yes Sir, indeed I am “, the reply was ever so polite, the tone perfectly polished .

“But why ?”

“Well, of course, so that we can help you to decide on the car you wanted to buy . Our sales manager will explain everything right down to the smallest detail. We will help to make your choice very easy “.

I was gulping air like a fish out of water by now.”But why” , I repeat the question and then do a slight course correction.” I mean why me ? “ I manage with a final air of, well, almost despair !

“Why do you want me to come and see Jaguars in your showroom “ I emphasized the “me” in the question prominently now.

"Well , we understand that you want to buy a Jaguar, and we wanted to make the experience extremely smooth for you".

I had by then finished my feats of jumping twice from my seat and having  turned around three times around the chair, I managed to find some ounce of strength in my tone,and whimpered, “but no, I don’t. I mean of course I would love to buy a Jaguar. Absolutely positive about that . Not an iota of doubt there, mind you. But you see, I cannot afford  a Jaguar. So, I am sure there is a mistake- I am not the person you want to speak to. I said ,triumphantly, by now, having made my point.

I then continued ” You see, I am sure you have your database of rich Chowdhury’s wrong there. There is a mix up, I assure you.”

“Sir, I am positive that you are the correct person I am speaking to”. But by now, I could sense that the polite voice was slightly shaken. Why don't you still come around this weekend, just to have a look , in any case ?

With that, the phone was politely disconnected. I meanwhile continued to stare at my own set, for a long, long time !

Friday, March 30, 2012

Micro Moisture Serum !

Once upon a time when the world was simpler, buying a product was a simple event, almost bordering on the boring. If you  wanted to buy a soap, you looked in the stores for different brands and they all said that they were soaps. Or if you wanted to buy a pair of blades, you did not have to bother if they were Teflon coated or if they had an “active edge”. One assumed that the blade was just that- a blade.

With passage of time, science and its various wonderful inventions and discoveries made its way to the products you buy, and suddenly you had to put on your thinking hat more often while buying , say, a toothpaste, or a shaving cream, or a pair of shoes, which suddenly started giving you options of going in for one with a “transition bridge” or otherwise.

And then clever marketeers took over, and before you could say “what Ho!”, you are now suddenly faced with products which claimed to contain the most esoteric and desirable components one can wish for.

I was confronted with the complexity of making a simple trip to the neighborhood hyper market the other day, when I decided to look at the products on the shelves beyond the customary brand name or the manufacturer.

“Contains Micro Moisture Serum”-declared the bottle of Shampoo as it stared at me, urging me to try this, perhaps the latest panacea for my fast receding hairline. The text sounded technical enough to awaken the techie in me, and I decided to ignore the nagging question of “just what the hell is a micro moisture serum “ ? With a flourish, I picked up the shampoo and ceremoniously placed it in my shopping basket.

Feeling rather smug with my attainment of the micro moisture serum, I went on to the section selling toothpastes. I found one with “Denta X”. Another claimed it contained “Fluro Y”. And then there was “Active crystal W”, “Whitex Z”  and “Titanium T” .Now this is no longer that simple- I realized. I closed my eyes in silent meditation, and images of white haired, bespectacled and bearded  scientists started dancing around  ! I also saw professor calculus with his invention- he was the one who had seemingly invented Active Crystal W.I decided to settle for that one- the one with “Active Crystal W”.It promised that the revolutionary new crystals would effectively give me a new pair of bright shiny teeth. My eyes sparked at the prospect of Active Crystal W getting about its business of solving mankind’s problems with yellow teeth .

The washing powder then presented some of the most esoteric inventions hitherto unknown to mankind. There was "Stain busters", "grime busters", "Active Whitening Agents", "Passive Coloring Agents", "Xylo- X", "Formula White" and "Zeta Zones" as some of the marvelous inventions tucked away in the boxes and packets of washing powders. I was now extremely happy that the fruits of scientific research is indeed a pick away, and gratefully acknowledged the swirling images of beared professors in their explosive labs concocting up the goodies so that we mortals can live a life cleaner, whiter and  better !

I left the store wondering what the wonderful professor Calculus would come up with, next !

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bang for the Buck !

Things  seems to be plodding on uneventfully  for a long time, and I find  this disturbing . Uncle Sibal seems to be hibernating  somewhere and  blogger still seems to work. So he hasn’t banned it yet. Uncle Mani I suppose continues to froth in his mouth but is somehow unseen for a while and correspondingly un appreciated. Uncle Kalmadi oscillates between being an Alzheimer’s patient and being the head of the Indian Olympics association .And all other aunts and uncles seem to be busy going around their business of being aunts and uncles. Thus, in this rather placid and thereby grim scenario, the only  uncle who can now be looked forward to provide some entertainment in the near future is “Unkel Pronob” .

“Unkel Pronob” will be the man of the season very soon, as he goes about presenting the budget . Not being a student of economics myself, I will refrain from passing technically apt comments about the exercise and it’s outcome. But don’t you worry about not getting enough intellectual insights on this exercise, for there will be enough junta on the television , banging their hands on the table , bringing forth all the intricate feature of the budget. And while they bang their hands on the tables, we, the “mango people”( err.. the aam Janta ! ) , will be busy banging our heads against the wall.

Banging our heads in utter despair, again and again, to see our hard earned money going down the drain that passes as roads and infrastructure in this country. In despair against a rotten medical system where new born babies are rubbed with acid, (unless of course you earn well enough to afford a private medical system, where you get rubbed differently). In despair against a system where you are systematically conned, duped, abused ,swindled and ill treated, all with your own money !!

Notwithstanding the above mentioned acts of banging, do lookout for the annual ritual of “Unkel Pronob” declaring how he plans to tax us more. And then watch out for hilarious acts of defense and offence by the intellectuals on TV, moderated by  shrill ,hysterical and clueless anchors, all banging their hands on  the table with thingies flying around; well, almost !  And by the time the jamboree ends, most of us “mango people” would have got enough bang for our bucks !

And while all this banging goes around, it might be worthwhile to see the banging which our famed cricketers have received, off late. Have a heart for the poor sods ! You subject them to an abject torture of playing in a bouncy wicket  against some marauding speedsters. Then you ask them to play 50 over games and then, can you believe it, a 5 day, two innings test match ! In this age of instant nirvana, instant fame and instant money ? And then you expect the “boys” to win those matches ? Insane, I tell you !

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A question of answers

A great part of a man’s life is spent trying to master the delicate art of answering women’s questions with a straight face so as not to invoke her wrath, laughter, derision,scorn or tears.

The "questions" can be as varied as cloud patterns on alternate days, so nobody has yet got around to writing a “wikihow” on the said topic. Many a gallant attempts have been made, I am told, to try to organize and classify the questions into recognizable formats for which stock answers could be made available. However, such attempts have merely multiplied manifold the nature , timbre, pitch and variety of the queries which might be asked of a man, in “questionable” times !

Take for instance, “ how does my haircut look “ ? An innocent query of the aforesaid variety begs a multitude of responses, depending on who you  are responding to, what time of the day( or night) the said query is posed, the surrounding environment, and countless other factors.

The toughest element of the aforesaid question, in my opinion, would be  to decipher if the said hair has been cut at all. I have been privy to an instance where the hair dresser ( you don’t call them barbers, by the way), was visited by my wife, desirous of a haircut, or at least, such was the stated intent. It took about 30 minutes to determine and agree between them the desired end look. The exercise was conducted with numerous references to some sort of “hair style Menu” , which looked quite  like an encyclopedia to me, sitting as I was ,far away ,at a respectable distance. After what seemed like ages of planning, the hair dresser and his customer seemed to converge on to a common point of view.

The hair dresser then decided to proceed to the execution phase of the said project. He gathered an impressive arsenal of tools – scissors and combs were the only ones I could recognize. They were all tucked away at numerous pockets of his rather impressive apron. And then the action started.

I had now warmed up to the idea that now  serious action was to unfold , and was all ears and eyes. But even before my eyes could adjust their focal lengths , the hairdresser seemed to indulge in an elaborate ritual after which a few, yes, just a few, strands of hair, were cut, following which the instruments were put away ceremoniously ! I seriously thought that this must be a precursor to more action packed wielding of the instruments I alluded to earlier. However, it so turned out that the deed  was indeed over !

I mean, all he did was to trim a wee little bit- I gathered even I could have done that ! My thoughts swirled about trying to understand the nuances of his profession where 3 minutes of actual cutting was preceded by 30 minutes of planning and negotiations. Amidst that swirling cloud of abstract theories  came the question “ How does my haircut look ?” .

“What haircut ?” I blurted out ?” I mean was that really  a haircut ?” Could you not have trusted me to do that myself ?

I soon realized that one should never respond to a lady’s question with a counter question. And never ,ever, with more than  one !