Adaminte Makan Abu : A movie beyond recognitions

Ustad symbolises the hope (or perhaps God) for an entire village, through whom they perceive the past, present and future. Hyder is the tea shop owner who is obsequious to the Ustad so much so that the good man continues to advise him even through his post-mortal spirit until Hyder himself turns into the next Ustad. The ancient theory of meditation which says if you are engaged in spiritual union with someone or something, you shall gradually end up to be them in this birth or the next. Read the story of the King Bharata and the deer.

Hajj is the dream or goal for Abu and Aisumma, the old couple deserted by their son for a rich modern life. In congruence with the famous lines in Bhagavatgita that advice you to toil without thoughts of the result (” Karmanyevadi Karaste Maphaleshu Kadhachana Ma Karma Phalahe Durbo Matesangatsvali Karmani” 2- 48), the Ustad asks Abu to keep the efforts going and let Him take decisions. A Muslim fakir advising explicitly on the lines of a Hindu scripture.

The old couple’s son Sattar who left them for a prospective life in the Gulf with a rich wife recasts the typical Kaliyug character described in Srimad Bhagavatham 12.3.24-42 (“Men will no longer protect their elderly parents, their children or their respectable wives.”)

The tree that the couple planted, nurtured and retained only to fell at times of crisis (which came as financial need for the Hajj trip) is a case of being untrue to yourself and your work i.e. like rearing a being with the intention of killing it. It represents Karma, the true result of your actions. Since Abu’s karma was not clean, the tree reciprocated it similarly by growing unworthy of any money for the couple. In other words, something akin to your bad karma returning bad results.

Thus, the spectacular movie Adaminte Makan Abu (Adam’s son Abu) conveys a much bigger picture of religious harmony and unity. It strongly drives home a point that religions propose fundamentally the same ideals in different forms, and hence any division on religious lines purely artificial and ill-motivated.

The movie is full of beautifully crafted symbolisms, whose meanings go beyond what appears obvious. It undoubtedly deserves much more than the national awards it received this year, and the official entry to this year’s Academy awards. Although it failed to clear for the next shortlisting in Academy awards, do go and watch it if you get a chance!

Happy Birthday Dasetta!

Das-etta means ‘Das elder brother’. Now it would seem stupendously stupid of me to call Yesudas who is almost 50 years elder to me elder brother. But that is what Yesudas is to the entire population of Kerala, and that is what he will be for the next generation also! Dasettan.

Padmabhushan Dr.K.J. Yesudas is a phenomenon; one of the best that has ever happened to this small southern state called Kerala. A career spanning 50 years, Dasettan has sung in over 15 languages. Gods and humans alike, wake up and sleep to his songs. His voice was so omnipresent at one point of time in Kerala that almost everyone replicate it with near perfectness! (Thanks to the fact that there was no other singer’s voice that they had heard besides Dasettan!)

To me, he is an inspiration. Not just the music. His dedication, will-power and unending energy that helped him remain the only winner in his field for 50 long years is simply brilliant and barely imitable.

Last but not the least, for many people (which includes me) his voice is that connects us with our culture, our Gods and our history. It is through his voice that we understand His divine aura. God sent… May God give Dasettan a long life…

Happy Birthday Dasetta!

Unarviyam- A Rising Star on the Stage

>“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.”

-Oscar Wilde

In today’s world where technical developments aggravate audience’s demand for perfection, dramatics is indeed a very risky challenge. Without re-takes, editing from multiple shots, digital effects or mesmerising visual lavishness, it is quite unthinkable of delivering something that appeal to today’s viewers. Not to forget, the enormous amount of time and effort consumed from the time of conceiving the idea to scripting the scenes to making the props to rehearsing to perfection and finally performing on various stages. In spite of all these, there are still ardent fans of the theatre who have pledged to revive this traditional art form, and what’s more important is to make it equally appealing and connecting with the audience as films and music.

It was my pleasure to have attended the first stage performance of one such amateur theatre group calledUnarviyam’ last week. An immensely talented bunch of youngsters who performed an indigenous story of an intelligent thief in their mime play called ‘The Looters Looty’.

For a maiden performance, the actors’ confidence and connect with the audience was definitely commendable. The script was very much Chennai-ish with acts referring to day-to-day life in the city. This along with the fluent ease and casualness with which the main characters in the drama (the part of the play that had dialogues) Vatsan Natarajan who plays Fallu the thief (also the director and script writer of the play) and Prashanth Ramaswamy who plays Tiger the cop (also the head of the production unit of the play) handle their respective roles cleared all airs of reservation one might have for a debutant team. To complement them to near perfection, the mummers who played the respective roles Karthik GJ and Lokeshwaran exhibit a grace of movement and acting unparalleled by even professional artists. Their ability to communicate with the audience without a single word uttered definitely invited a great deal of applause.

The music by Muthukumar Anil was apt, with a distinctive ability to keep the audience excited and at the edge of their seats. The story was about an ‘intelligent’ thief who stole for passion. Though a few of the acts were inspired from popular cop-thief films, most of them were originally thought and adapted to suit the story. The character of Fallu the thief in both the drama and the mime were impeccably executed, always unleashing a flood of laughter in the hall. The script went on to tell us how there were almost ten ways of stealing happening in the society, and why Fallu felt that theft was integral at all strata of the society from politicians to tea-stalls. The policeman Tiger (who reminded me of Asrani from Sholay) also shone well among the audience with his repertoire, although the crowd was keener on pulling his legs with meowing sounds than supporting the character’s rationale.

Although thrilling to the deepest extent, there were some places that stood out amateurish in the execution of the play like the stage not being set before curtains went up and in between scenes, the script falling a bit shallow at times and dragging at a few places here and there. Though theatres have been responsible for creating revolutions in the past, I believe that political anecdotes in an apolitical context do not always add flair to the theme. Dragging the DMK and AIADMK, Anna Hazare, price rise etc. in this play I felt went a bit out of context and didn’t serve any purpose whatsoever in creating an impact or impression.

These minor things apart, I must admit it was a rejuvenating experience. In less than ten minutes since its beginning, the play and its cast were successful in making me shed the idea that I was watching a group’s first on stage performance. Unarviyam, the theatre group is undoubtedly here to stay and if they are able to adapt and improvise with every performance you can definitely look forward to a rising star in the otherwise plain night sky, under the light of whose success I’m sure other aspirants will also be motivated to enter the field and thus elevate theatre arts at par with the established art forms in today’s society.

Good luck Unarviyam!

Why did SRK make RaOne? (The story you didn’t know)

 “Why did he have to do this?! Why, I say!”

I had gone to watch RaOne with a bunch of friends. The show got over and we squeezed ourselves out of the movie hall, and were now recasting ourselves into what we actually looked like and catching some lost breath to regain composure. Some of the kids who had come to watch the movie seemed to go back happy and excited, but many of my friends were asking questions. “Weren’t things going fine for him; why did SRK have to do such a movie?!”

“Why did SRK make RaOne?”

These questions seemed to echo deep within my head, and I felt like some high frequency movement inside my brain. Like small cubes being tossed all around my cerebrum causing a virtual particle wave that translates into a real-time sensation called ‘pain’. This sensation increased steadily to a peak, and I was getting geared up for a black out in case of system collapse, but surprisingly there seemed to be a localised blackout inside my brain and it appeared as if I was staring at a pitch black screen, so grand in size that I could see no other thing. There was a single source of light that looked like one from a movie projector. The story unrolled and I could see it.

Only I could see it.

The year is 2006. The place looked like a very modern robotics research lab. Something intuitively told me that it was located in India. Perhaps it was the whole arrangement of the place or the big ‘Om’ symbol on the wall, but there was not single explicit evidence about its location. The lab and the project that was running there were owned by Mr.K. No one knew the real person behind this masked man wearing robotic overalls and appearing to be around 6-7 inches taller from five feet.He seemed to have been educated in one of India’s top engineering colleges and cut off from the world completely. His identity was a secret more than the project itself.

Mr.K ‘s project was aimed to destroy the self-proclaimed king (or emperor, the person in question was quite confused!) of a virtual kingdom and thus conquer the kingdom of Bolly-wood all to himself. Coming back to the lab, there was a white board on a stand that said- ‘Project Dhan’. Yes, it was planned to destroy the king by attacking his wealth and to accomplish this feat, the team had just successfully devised a super villain robot that was closest to invincible.

The robot was the most advanced one on the planet. It had Advanced Adaptive Learning, Instinctive Strategizing, Well Evolved Lability Level (‘AAL IS WELL’); skills that made it unique and indestructible machine. But the team had not come up with any name for him. It was decided to call him Duryo-Dhan, in short D-Dhan.

D-Dhan could influence anyone into doing anything, but he was meant to influence only one, and he was already on his mission.

Early 2008, SRK was in his Mumbai apartment taking a break after the success of Om Shanti Om. There was a discussion going on about a cricket league centered around Indian cities. The short, round-faced Bengali person who was trying hard to convince SRK dada took his hands in his and reassuringly tried to persuade him to choose the Kolkata team in the league. In a matter of few minutes, like a Midas touch, the obstinate SRK was magically convinced and he signed the franchise for Kolkata. Kolkata, which had another prince who would not bow down to kings and queens of the real world, a prince who revelled in the arrogance and authority of his leadership, a prince who would charge in spite of successes or failures and most importantly a prince who is loved selflessly by the people of Kolkata.

D-Dhan had begun his work thus and SRK immediately put in US$75Mn into the team and called it KKR with the prince being its ‘senapati’. In time, D-Dhan ensured that SRK lost quite a bit of his money, his team flopped and he fell out of favour with the prince whereby falling out of favour with the people of Kolkata. Before he could recover from the fall, D-Dhan returned to him in the form of a friend with a Bollywood science fiction story.

SRK decided to produce and act in this movie, and D-Dhan took the shape of Ms.Pia from Mr.K’s lab and made herself a part of the whole scheme to be in constant touch with its development. Money was pumped into it as continuously as water flows in a waterfall. D-Dhan could instantly make himself look like any person he wanted to, and took various peoples’ forms in these days to ensure the successful execution of his strategies.

He suggested shooting several scenes of the movie in the UK so that the cost of production wentup. He took up the role of an advisor who helped SRK and his friend with the plot. After a really poor opening scene for SRK, they zeroed on having a Tamil character as lead, where it was completely irrelevant. He also scripted the dialogues and shots in such a way that any south Indian who watched the character in action would want to puke on his face for his unbearable representation of a South Indian family man whom they all knew so well. (He also coaxed SRK to eat noodles with curd in this pretext, and now the Chinese government is planning to lodge a formal complaint against him for insulting their cuisine in public!) To rub salt on injury, D-Dhan recommended the inclusion of Rajinikanth in the movie so that the south audience would all make a trip to the theatres to catch a glimpse of their superstar, thus increasing their movie’s collection. Impressed by the idea, it was decided to cast Rajinikanth as his latest successful science fiction character ‘Chitti’. Now, D-Dhan scripted the action of the other characters sharing the screen to be so much overacting and the music too in a way that to many a viewers they appeared to be ridiculing Rajinikanth in that shot. All these ensured that SRK’s fan base in the south dwindled to abysmal levels.

Then came the part of giving the movie a name. D-Dhan made sure that they picked a name that he wanted them to, and managed to pass through the name ‘RaOne’ that sounded very much like ‘Ravan’ the latest Maniratnam movie with Idea mobiles ad star Bachchan Jr. He did this so that this movie did not get a unique identifier and if he could somehow manage to make the movie less impressive than the Maniratnam flick in the long run, SRK’s would NOT go down the annals of history as the original ‘Ra-v-an’ and shall always be referred to as ‘the other ra-one’ or ‘the not-so-good-ravan’. Smart of you, D-Dhan!

Once RaOne was made, and D-Dhan was inching close to the completion of his mission by having made the script weak and easy-to-be-forgotten, sequences mediocre and the whole experience debatable for most audience, he decided to put together his final act in the form of SRK ‘s promotion campaign manager. In this final role he managed to direct SRK to make a big-time predictable fool of himself going around the world like a door-to-door salesman so much so that social media was abuzz with rumours that SRK had turned himself into a domestic help in order to promote ‘the easy-to-handle, user-friendliness and perfect command reception skills’ of his superhero gaming character in the movie. For someone who could lower himself to the level of an annoying salesman (oh c’mon they show up everywhere!) in order to promote his movie, even his staunch fans were now made to wonder if the movie was not good enough to market itself! SRK spent close to US$30Mn on the movie.

While all this was happening, the media had begun to get clues about Duryo Dhan the super villain from the generation after RaOne, and were trying to trace up to his makers. Though no one had established who the primary instigator of the whole mission was, it was believed to be a product of the Khan rivalry. Nothing more could be said now.

Arr—j-j-u—uuu–nn….. Thud! Thud!

(Snapped back to reality) It was my friend who shook me up from … what shall I say, my dream? I was there in the movie theatre, everything was normal. No one knew about D-Dhan or his plots. They were still cursing SRK for making a movie like this, and our friend Deepak for volunteering to reserve tickets for all of us.

Why did I come to know of it? Does Duryo Dhan actually exist? I am confused to say the least.

Then suddenly someone came up to me and started talking. I wasn’t listening, but.

“Arjun, you are dreaming again?”

‘A-R-J-U-N’, it struck me. If there is a Duryo Dhan there must be an Arjun to defeat him in the battle of the next generation. Yes, I am the new superhero who fights the super villain! When the story of RaOne continues, you know where things are leading to and you also know who’s gonna be the super hero in that super movie.

‘Arjun’- Me! Duh!

The Value of Freedom

First appeared in 21 Fools e-magazine

‘The military officer’s is a job which offers you challenge, adventure, excitement, honour, prestige, self respect, wholesome family life, safety and security for the family and to top it all the love, respect and esteem of our great India.’ Brigadier Puneet Rajvardhan Singh cannot forget these words, ever. They are engraved and embossed deep within his self.

From the first time Brig. Singh came across these words, about thirty five years ago, as Puneet-the son of the school master in a remote village in Punjab they have meant more than just another inspiring sentence in the English language. For the twenty one year old in him, they defined his dreams and his strength to fight the uncertainties of life that lay ahead of him. For the seasoned officer in the Indian army looking towards retirement, they mean everything from job satisfaction to life achievement. In essence they present the army man’s life itself.

The history of any country is closely related to its military forces and wars, and in a country as extensive and ancient as ours evolution of the military has been fairly explicit. From the ancient times of Ramayan and Mahabharat to the latest border dispute wars, everything from strategies to the weapons used have changed significantly, but what remain intact is our respect and admiration for these defenders of our borders.

In fact, the corruption and inefficiency of the political systems and politicians post independence has abashed this stratum of the society so much among the countrymen, that today the emotions of ‘freedom’ and ‘patriotism’ are not attributed to these legitimate descendents of our freedom fighters at all. Instead the honour of that remains only with the soldiers of our country.

In his career Brig Singh has seen both the loss of peace and freedom through the lives of the innocent yet affected people living in disputed border villages, as well as the awakening of a whole new nation- Bangladesh to the splendour of independence, but had never appreciated these experiences until that incident occurred in his life.

Then, a Lt.Col commanding a smaller unit, Brig Singh was also an affectionate but strict family man. He brought his children up under the shadow of a strict code of discipline. He was very firm on his lavishly used expression – “A ‘no’ is a NO!” This applied even to his octogenarian father, who was spending the later part of his retired life with his son and family after the demise of his wife. The disciplining of his father was a consequence of the old man’s deteriorating health metrics.

Like many others at his age, Brig Singh’s father was also a store house of bodily imbalances – of insulin, blood pressure, cardiac troubles, cataract etc. The former school teacher’s daily dose of medicines seemed to challenge his food intake, yet the old man still craved for an occasional sweet or spice which his son obstinately denied him. The ritual of the father pleading for some food supplement- be it sugar or salt to his unrelenting son had become so mundane an affair in the household that no one seemed to attach any importance to the elder’s persistent requests, and this made him all the more dejected and despondent over time.

On one of those extremely rare days when there was no one else to oversee him at home, the old man couldn’t resist his temptation to make the most of the opportunity that he had the entire house to his own without even the orderly around to keep a watch. He went into the kitchen, used the chair to get on top of a small plinth and pull out the bottle of pickle from the overhead shelf. Then carefully taking a spoon so as to not leave a traceable mess in the kitchen, he scooped a pickled lime and slurped it instantly, with his twinkling eyes expounding the childlike pleasure and thrill in his heart. After another couple of rounds of the spicy tangy pickle, ensuring that nothing was spilt on the kitchen floor, he placed the bottle back to where it was and replaced the chair to its original position.

But that was not enough. It was after several months that the old man was on his own. How could he allow the freedom to last for such a short period? After the spicy pickle, his heart was then set on the mangoes that the hawkers carried past their house every morning. In spite of his mouth watering at the very smell of it each day, his son had given clear instructions to the hawkers never to stop before their house. So the old man decided to take some time off and go down to the market where he would get some mangoes. He carefully locked the house, and got into an auto rickshaw heading to the marketplace. Once he reached there, he bought two mangoes, quite large in size. The smell was highly alluring. It was then it struck him that he could not carry them home as the smell of the mangoes shall remain in the household and he would be caught. So he started walking back to the house, eating the mangoes on his way one at a time. The extremely sweet mangoes instantly filled his heart with the contentment of having tasted the freedom that he yearned for so long. The juice dripped through his hands spilling quite some yellow on his kurta. But for a man revelling in an ecstasy as his, these yellow marks were the least of concerns. Life was at its best for him at that time, and everything else was behind. “What a bliss! “  , he thought as he walked past those residential compounds completely undisturbed and unnoticed, licking the mango remnants on his hands and smiling of joy at everyone walking by.

Brig Singh who was in his office preparing for a meeting that evening received a call from his neighbour. She informed him that his father had collapsed right outside their house, and that they were in the process of taking him to the military hospital. The military hospital saw Brig Singh face to face with one of those unbearable realities of life- bereavement.

In spite of the macabre gloom in my mind, Brig Singh could not help notice that wide smile on his old man’s face- a smile that seemed to have revisited that face after years. The familiar smile that Brig Singh had long forgotten, though secretly wished for every moment he spent with his father. Then he saw the yellow and red stains all over his father’s kurta and he guessed what could have happened. In his state of senility it was difficult for him to balance a spoonful of pickle or eat a mango clean, but that would not stop him from celebrating the achievement of a long sought freedom.

The value of freedom, Brig Singh learnt from his father, is beyond the mundane considerations of life and death. It is like air trapped in a jar, impatiently looking for the slightest of crevice to gush out into the open. The more you try to restrict it, the greater the urge to break free.  Likewise, it is only when you are denied it that you begin to appreciate the value of freedom, and there is no joy greater than that of achieving this denied freedom so much so that even death seems to be heartily welcomed at that moment.

This lesson learnt from his father played a pivotal role in shaping Brig Singh as a military officer. He has maintained ever since that every soldier must realise the value of freedom and independence, for it is only then that they shall understand and appreciate the value of what he/she is protecting for the motherland and her countless children.

As for Brig Singh to be constantly reminded of and guided by this lesson, his office has two portraits right in front of him. The one on the left has Mahatma Gandhi to symbolise India’s achievement of independence from colonial powers, and then his father’s portrait on the right to constantly remind him of the value of that freedom that as soldiers they were protecting for their countrymen.

The true essence of patriotism lies in appreciation of freedom, and the instilling of this value only can motivate our leaders and followers alike to work collectively towards a stronger nation. The freedom to elect our own rulers, to take our own decisions and solve our problems ourselves, the freedom to voice our opinion on the global stage, the freedom thanks to which foreign military is not forced being upon us, the freedom to not catch a cold when someone on the other half of the globe sneezes, the freedom to stand on our own with heads held high and spirits higher.

Value that freedom, it is precious… and as common as it used to be!

The Show That Stands

Steve Jobs was a phenomenon, much more than just another successful CEO. Heis one among those visionaries who proved time and again that persistence on achosen path can lead to reverential success.

Jobs was a visionary, I said, someone who actually changed the way people perceived somethingviz. Digital media! Years ago, there was another man- Dennis Ritchie who wrote somecodes that laid the foundation for almost everything today including Jobs’ iPhone.
Ritchie isbelieved to be the father of C language and a co-creator of Unix (which laterinspired many other things including Linux). We all knew about him as students.In fact some of us, like me, made it a point to buy the book he had authored onC language (it had a white cover page with a dull blue design on it, andmuch more boring content inside for an average newbie to programming) when westarted learning the language in school. If parallels were to be drawn, therecan be no dispute that Ritchie stood way too ahead of Jobs as the biggervisionary (who actually made deeper impact on the society and our life over the years).
Whywould I draw such parallels? To those who haven’t seen it already on the newsand social media, Jobs and Ritchie passed away around the same time. While oneof them was given a heart wrenching farewell all over the globe, the other was simplyoverlooked. And it should not be a surprise that since we are discussing ithere, it cannot have been the way that appears normal.
Yes,while Jobs was mourned all over the world, Ritchie largely drew no one’s attentionon death. (Here I am reminded of an editorial that I read which said that itwas surprising how Jobs was so popular in India when there was not a singledirect Apple store and the i-products were so expensively priced that anaverage person was very unlikely to be in possession of one)
One of the images going viral on Facebook about this topic
Why didthe world hail Jobs while many never remembered Ritchie beyond their schooldays (though we all still remember/use C or its direct descendent programminglanguages)? Ok, a quick quiz. Who was Dr.Martin Cooper? Who is Steven Sasson?What did Mathew Gray do in 1993 for the first time that changed internetforever? Any answer? Now match mobile phones, digital camera and search enginesto the questions respectively. Do you see that we do not know who created someof the things that we have actually begun using as a part of us?
Rememberthe mega launches that Jobs held for all i-products? The gung ho over what couldbe the new Apple product, his routine jokes (‘there is one more thing…’), stagepresence, drama over his role in Apple corporation etc. Remember the media appearances and booksby Bill Gates at the peak of his success? Remember frequently seeing the face of Jimmy Wales on Wikipedia? The publicitystunts by Richard Branson? We do,of course we do! That could precisely be a major reason.
If youare an exceptionally brilliant inventor your product will become famous. Butif there is a story, a drama, a brand you build around yourself and most importantly continue to create news (good or bad, sometimes futile controversies) until your end, people willinvariably remember you and your contributions. Because the more infrequent your face or name becomesthe sooner you shall be forgotten! Not that we people are a thankless lot, but thingsevolve so fast that even five years mean a lot more than what they used to be.Five years back from today facebook was perhaps just a new idea, twitter was just about launchedand there were no iPhones!
In suchrelative speed of time and technology changes, it should not be very surprisingwhy Ritchie’s achievements and his adieu to the wonderful word he helped inshaping was lost in the smoke cloud created by the departure of this person whobrought digital multimedia so close to the common man (which again was based onRitchie’s codes to begin with)!
After all, it’s your show alone that remains inpeople’s minds and hence only a showman for life shall get a tearful goodbye and boundless gratitude from people for all that he did for them in his life! This perhaps is what the management guys call ‘Personal Branding’.

Five Reasons Why Anna’s Campaign will be a SUPERHIT

Anna Hazare and his team has invigorated a long laid back population of the country beyond any question of doubt. But ever wondered what is it that has made it such a viral success?
Is Anna the superstar of this campaign, or is its success irrelevant of the protagonist?

I gave it a thought, and this is what I found!

Reason # 1

The issue in question touches every individual in the country at the core of his/her day to day problems. You thought corruption? No… I meant MONEY!

I was amazed by the different ways the campaign was being presented- ‘Prices will go down’, ‘Alcohol gets cheaper!’, ‘No tax for next five years’, ‘Low fuel price’ etc.

For our aam admi who is used to working hard through the day as cheap labor and complaining about his woes all through the evening over bottles of local liquor, the prospect of getting rid of his financial troubles is more appealing than anything (perhaps not alcohol!) and if there is a movement for that he will be there... at any ‘cost’!



Reason # 2

The immediate target of the attack is The Government and the wider target are politicians across party lines. Everyone hates politicians… because they are meant to be hated! (Politicians and political parties are probably the most consistent villains in India’s history- even Amrish Puri and Gabbar Amjad Khan did comedy roles at times! )

And the timing could not have come more worse for this valiant ‘Tughlaqi’ government that nailed its own ministers and officials recently on corruption charges and exposed their own world-class scams.

(Psst… Is the affected DMK party supporting Anna Hazare’s campaign to bring down the government? :P)



Reason # 3

An old man threatening a pachydermal institution (you can call it an empire) to fast unto death in Delhi… sounds very familiar eh?

Yes, his Nehru cap (note the irony! It is named after one of Sonia Gandhi’s closest relatives) and Kurta apart, many people consider Anna Hazare as reincarnation of Mahatma Gandhi and needless to say, our parliamentarians as their British counterparts a few decades ago.

And in a style that our dear old Viru Sahastrabuddhe said, ‘ … and this is World War… three!’, Anna goes out to tell the people that this is second freedom struggle. Why would I not want to be a part of it; something that I missed out in its first part and then ended up reading about in big fat textbooks all through my school days?



Reason # 4

The success of the Middle East uprising has set a lucrative precedent for people to come out and protest. A bunch of agitated guys with the help of facebook can bring down an entire government… Wow! And there’s more… You get noticed and quoted in some of the biggest names in media!

And who knows, ‘you’ .. yeah you the reader of my blog, could also be India’s Wael Ghonim and appear in Time magazine’s list of influential people!



Reason # 5

There is some kind of domino effect here.

-First a group of inspired people initiate the ‘crusade’.

-Seeing them, a bigger crowd of people from across the country hop into the wagon (thanks to social media)

-A lot of sensation and buzz is created around the campaign, so the media hops in.

-Media is there and so much of action against the government, the opposition parties hop in.

-So many people, so much of agitation and unrest- time for some international policing and there you have the USA on board! (today they send wishes, tomorrow they send the military- even if that means some more debt!)


Now you know that Anna’s campaign is indeed set to become a blockbuster… chartbuster…. golden jubilee.. blah blah… (I’m lost for words.. i really am!) but we must remember that these are not ‘watch now – forget later’ scenes from movies!

They have consequences, they have repercussions… So we must think broadly, decide wisely and act intelligently.

It is not about Anna, it is about India!

Chintu’s letter to Obama mama ji

[Dedicated to all the Chintus in our society who have nurtured the great American dream since their childhood, and are now at a crossroads.]

‘Hari sona’ gaon

15 August 2011

Supremely revered Obama-mama ji!

Myself Chintu from India. You won’t know me, but I know you and all the previous Presidents of the USA very well. How is aunty ji? Last week in her interview to the Fox News she sounded like she was having a cold and throat infection. Ask her to take some tablet, and more importantly good amount of rest. Convey my regards to Malia and Sasha. Hope they are doing well in studies.

Mama ji though I was born in India I was raised completely American. No I haven’t travelled to the US without even an Indian passport in my name. When I was a child, my mother got American tinned baby food for me and milk powder that American kids (as the advertisements claimed) were being fed. When I went to school, my parents always spoke about Bittu bhaiya because he went to study in the US. They told me right from my infanthood that America was my destination. They drilled into me the great American dream even before I had learnt to construct my own small dreams!

But you know mama ji, it was far too wonderful to shun; at least when compared to the life back in my gaon. I learnt to grow with it. In schooldays, I had my room covered with everything American- the stars and stripes, statue of liberty, White house, the bald eagle and the liberty bell etc. I have watched more American movies than Bollywood ones! I knew everything about Tom Cruise and Leonardo Di Caprio, and felt it unnecessary to follow their Indian counterparts.I grew up listening to Bob Dylan and Micheal Jackson much more than Kishore Kumar or Kumar Sanu. I have sat up countless late nights and sometimes up to the next morning watching episodes of Friends, Two and a Half Men and How I Met Your Mother even when I did not understand most of the humour in them.When many of my friends fantasized girlfriends like Aishwarya Rai, Deepika Padukone and Katrina Kaif, I was dreaming and talking about Lindsay Lohans and Megan Foxes.

I may not know all the states in India (especially after they added a few more) or their Chief Ministers, but I can definitely name each and every state in the US and their capitals, and in many cases their governors as well.I have subscribed to the New York Times and I never fail to catch up with all the NBA action live late in the night (in India) even if that means going late to class next day or not doing my homework. I adore Kobe and will pledge anything I have to meet him in person. When we had to buy a car and we did not have the money for anything but Maruti 800, I was very depressed. At last I forced my father to take a bank loan (at high rate of interest) so that we could afford the latest Ford in the market. Now I drive it on the highways assuming I am driving down the countryside in the US, with loud American music blaring out of my stereo.

You know my list of most important things to do in the US have recently gone beyond 75 and are expected to touch a century very soon? I can’t wait to get there in a year or two!

But recently I read in the newspaper- whether it was in the Wall Street Journal or NY Times I don’t remember now, that the US is slipping into a double depression and that you are neck (or perhaps, head-) deep in debt. The people around me tell that the US and the great American dream will soon turn into a big fat myth from the past! Tears swell up in my eyes and I can feel the knot in my stomach, at the mere thought of such a thing. Do you know what it means for me mama ji?

It means that my twenty odd years in this world have been utterly futile! My one and only dream in life is shattered, and I will end up being a ludicrous loser in front of my friends and relatives. It could mean that I will remain unemployed forever, or take up farming in my gaon. I will never be able to visit those places I grew up dreaming about. It will be a very rude awakening from a pleasant dream that I have been living all these years!

Mama ji, I fall at your feet. Do not deprive me of my future. Save America! Don’t let it slip off. Shield it with all your might, for you know now that it is not just the American citizens who are Americans- there are a lot many of us across the globe whose dreams, aspirations, hopes and ambitions are pinned to the United States of America. So please bacha lo mama ji!

Pranams to aunty ji, and love to the kids.

Always indebted to you,


An Incomplete Attitude Shift

There would be no businessman in today’s world who does not appreciate the role of social media in customer engagement, be it for promotion or feedback. If there is someone like that, all that I’ve got to say to him is ‘The world is watching and talking about you even if you to close your eyes and ears!’

Of late I have seen a lot of cases in India where frustrated customers who are not redressed for their concerns approach the wider world to announce the dissatisfaction. Like I read somewhere, gone are the days when your discontent customer complained to his ten close friends. Today he voices it out to thousands and thousands of people on twitter or facebook! And worse still, even if you address the complaint the scar remains in the virtual world for years to come, available to anyone by just keying in your product’s name! If someone out there still questions the power of social media in brand building and developing a loyal clientele, I ‘m afraid you need to open your eyes!

But that is just one side. This attitude of free expression and uncommitted (yet valuable) opinions has evolved with the cyber world and open sourcing. The concept of such synergistic development through sharing has been further promoted extensively by social media network. Reluctant users in India who preferred to stand by the side and observe have at last begun diving into it, and the virtual world created by these networks is precariously threatening the real world which we are so familiar with. Common conversations seem to be dominated by terms like ‘online’, ‘facebook’, ‘wall’, ‘comment’, ‘friend request’, ‘tweet’, ‘post’, ‘network’, ‘follow’ etc. Like every other thing in the past that has been welcomed with apprehension, I am sure social media is also here to stay and it would be only wise to put your thinking hats and ensure that you don’t lose out to competition in making use of this new tool.

Looking at it from the customer’s side, social media networks are very powerful tools to grab the attention of those customer care agents who have been evasive for perhaps months together! I have myself had experiences in this respect. I contacted HDFC Bank and British Airways through twitter for complaints that were being ignored for months and I got immediate response, at least in terms of a reply which indicates that someone has gone through my case and I have a record for it now. The other instance that happened with me is regarding Vodafone. After having spent an entire day in the hassle of listening to IVRS and talking to countless customer care agents with their standard scripts I was annoyed to the extent that I wrote an open letter detailing the issue on my blog and sent the link to the Vodafone customer care ID and twitter account. You won’t believe me, what could not be done in one entire day of telephonic conversations was resolved in half an hour after I got a call from one of their senior executives who read my post! Now that’s the power of social media.

But the attitude shift remains incomplete. If social media is to evolve as the complete marketing and branding space, we must feed all kinds of reviews to the world. As of now it has become the place for companies to promote and customers to complaint. The wider meaning of customer engagement must germinate through these social media platforms. People on their part, must come up with all forms of review. Express your opinions and reviews- bad as well as GOOD! Make the most out of the ‘Like’ and ‘promote’ options if you liked something. It is only then that we realise the true power of social media. Otherwise it would end up as just another vestige once some other new marketing tool is introduced and companies shift their focus to that.

Companies and brands on their part must exploit the opportunities presented by social media to the maximum. They can interact with their existing and prospective customers on a one to one basis through these mediums, and what better way to make each one of them feel important? A customer who feels respected and taken care of, is definitely a success story for your brand loyalty building exercise. She is a promoter of your products through her channel of social networks, and in this new age there is nothing more dependable than network marketing!

Borrowing Victor Hugo’s words- ‘No one can stop an idea whose time has come’ there is no doubt that social media engagement is that new idea for businesses to thrive, and both brands as well as customers have a role to play in shaping it. The process has begun, but still incomplete and awaiting participation…


Appeared first in 21Fools e-magazine


Mukesh Ambani is indeed worried. For a change it is not about the Reliance industries this time, but about his highly coveted pinnacle of being one of India’s richest persons. He is rumoured to have had a sleepless week and seriously contemplating a sojourn to the backwaters of Kerala to cool himself off. But what is it that is worrying him?

A week ago Mr.P was just another one among the millions of his kind in India but today he is giving some of India’s most powerful people insomniac days and nights. Let us compare and contrast the two people in question to know the real reasons for Ambani’s concerns. Laid back in a lifelong siesta in one of the most beautiful places in the country (surprisingly a communist state!), Mr.P is not unlikely to be the last person you’d associate with wealth given a choice of guess. While Mr.Ambani works hard round the clock to build an enormous business empire flying from one part of the globe to the other, trying to strike the smartest of business deals, spending a lavish portion of his fortune to build his house and what not! Mr.P on the other hand resting near the seacoast of Kanyakumari does not spend a dime and has an entire city named after him (without giving any bribe!) and not just a grand house. But the biggest worry for Ambani is the simple fact that his empire is built up on a bunch of depreciating assets whereas that of Mr. P is well founded on a massive bed of everlasting appreciating assets!

So who is Mr.P?

He is none other than the chief deity in the 9th century temple of Lord Vishnu in Thiruvananthapuram (mostly referred to as ‘TVM’ or ‘TVPM’ to avoid stress on the typist’s fingers) – Sri Padmanabha. His wealth is a whooping US$22Bn and still counting. In fact with one more vault (last of the six) yet to be opened and inventoried, he is predicted to become the richest person in our country very soon. In fact in the Forbe’s list of ‘World’s Richest Gods 2011’, our man surpasses even the biggest of names in the field by a distinctly convincing margin. His US$22Bn is way too ahead of Vatican’s US$15Bn and Tirupati’s US$11Bn.

But as the universal logic goes- ‘With every case of overnight richness comes countless pairs of greedy eyes and hands’! Several of Mr.P‘s religiously loyal well wishers over the last few decades have now turned up with the 22 Billion Dollar question –Why does God need Gold?

Mr.P has been looked after by a family of kings, who lost their power to the invading British traders who later went on to rule the entire country for centuries. In spite of losing their own base, they continued to support Mr.P and even managed his finance. In fact the treasure that makes Mr.P suddenly rich and famous is nothing but a savings-cum-insurance plan that one of the kings had purchased in the name of Mr.P years ago, and was held back from being recorded in the annals of the family accounts.

The folklore of invading Persians – Mahnud of Ghazni and Muhmad of Ghor were popular even down south in the kingdoms of Travancore, and it could probably be for the need to protect Mr.P from such plunderers that the wise king decided to keep his investment a secret. But today Mr.P is in a much bigger trouble. The plunderers are not coming on horsebacks from distant lands of Persia or China, but simply walking across the street to attack him! This time around it is not an individual’s conquest but that of a legion of money and power hungry, influential people. The very kings who handled smaller fortunes belonging to Mr.P are now being questioned for staking claim to Mr.P’s newfound treasure. Talking in the Panchatantra style, ‘Of course there is wisdom in the saying- With fortunes come plunderers!’

But let me look at it this way. On one side we have our very own elected mob that creates a pandemonium in our sacred sanctum of democracy, misappropriates the tax payer’s money, abuses national treasures to build their own and produces (and reproduces) scams after scams. Also taking into consideration the fact that our country that is today in shambles of poverty and corruption, was prosperous and happy during its pre-colonial period of regional monarchy to the point of being called a ‘golden bird’; why not give it another shot?

Bring back the royals and let them take over from these scamsters. And this time, I don’t mind being ‘A Raja’!