Prof Mani Sundaram

Prof PS Mani Sundaram (PSM), the first Principal of REC Trichy, passed away late last week at the age of 87 and I, like several RECTians/NITTians, experience a significant loss. My voice might appear extremely frail amidst the sorrow of a whole junta of his students who have had the good luck of interacting with him personally. Like in the case with most passing, PSM’s as well pushed me into a trip through the memory lane.


PSM was a phenomenon in NITT even several decades after he retired from the institution, so it was quite an event looked forward to when he was announced to be its chief guest. His presence was a typical Veni Vidi Vici thing. When I learnt The Rime of the Ancient Mariner ‘He holds him with his glittering eye— ‘, never did I realise that I would experience it one day. I distinctly remember my response when someone asked me after that event ‘how is he (PSM)?’. I said ‘Have you seen that shine in Sivaji  Ganesan’s eyes? He’s a man who carries that glint without any lights or camera.’ That sparkle was something I always loved about this man every time I got a chance to meet him, the last being at the Golden Jubilee Celebration inauguration a few months back.

I said he passed away at the age of 87 but whenever he was in NITT, he missed no opportunity to prove through his quick thinking and sharp memory that he was never older than the 18 and 20 year olds around him. I wonder if there was anyone ever who has interacted with him and hasn’t been a victim of his high order wit and jest, which turned him into a perfect showman whenever the occasion demanded of him.  And what’s the best thing – he could distinctly place you even if you have met him only once in the eight long decades! I am envious today when I hear veteran RECTians remembering how he would recall and narrate personal incidents about their college days even until the recent past.

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But all these are not what PSM is for me, they are only superficial observations. A deeper impact was created when I met him, heard him and spoke to him the very first time. He instilled in me a strong belief in the importance of having a vision, and the boldness and perseverance that go into achieving it. I shall highlight a few incidents about him that are very close to me.

  1. In a war-stricken India when PSM felt as a young Indian that his service was needed in fighting the Chinese, he wrote to the Prime Minister of India Pt.  Nehru about his willingness to serve in the Indian Army’s infantry wing! (That letter did receive a reply from the Defence Ministry with an offer in the Engineering division, but due to some other turn of events back home PSM did not go to the border). What inspired me here was his willingness to actually go and surrender himself to national service despite being a qualified engineer who could easily recline into being an armchair critic. Also, his boldness in writing to the Prime Minister of the country! Come on, how many of us would do that despite having much more advanced means of communication today? That needs guts and extreme passion.
  2. He was given the task of starting a state-of-art engineering institution in the outskirts of Trichy in the early 1960s (which is what he left the Defence opportunity for). PSM was in his mid 30s then. Many of us will turn 35 in another few years or so, and I know many who are already there. Forget starting an institution as supreme as REC T, many find it difficult to manage our work-life balance! The amount of responsibility that was on him and the brilliance with which he executed it and sustained for the next two decades is immensely inspiring, and challenging!
  3. His genuine interest in his students’ overall development. I have been there in the same NITT several years after PSM left. Here was a man who loved his students and did everything in his rights to make them responsible citizens of this country. He knew them, each and every one, by name and also sometimes their parents! If I were to believe what all I have heard about his administration, he even went to the extent of allowing one cigarette in the mess menu every night (to limit and control the smoking habits in his students!) The transparency he had for the students was very deep and that was naturally reciprocated by his students. Today, the culture is not even imaginable. Teachers who teach us for three years cannot recall our names in the very next year! Deans and Directors were inaccessible VIPs who showed up to give boring monologues on the infrastructure developments in the institute every now and then. Sometimes when I hear alumni talk fondly of PSM, I wonder how life would have been if he had never retired from NITT!
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There are several other incidents with him that are both entertaining and inspiring, but to write them all would not be possible.

When I met him last for the Golden Jubilee Celebration inaugurations, PSM looked very weak but the shine in his eyes was more prominent than ever. When he took the stage and started speaking into the mic, there was a surge of reassurance. This man was still at his best, humorously taking everyone in the audience into his fold! We all looked forward to seeing him as the patriarch of our vast family celebrating 50 years in 2014 and also, on a personal level to start a venture and see through its fifty years of glory is no small feat.  But that was not to be.

When we get together next year, this vacuum created by the passing of PSM will be intensely felt. But he has lived a rich life and leaves behind a supreme legacy through his students and others (like me) whom he has inspired to be a go-getter and chase one’s vision. I am not in Chennai today when there is a condolence meeting taking place for his departed soul but I know that like many of his fans across the world, I shall too forever remember this great man who shaped the institution that shaped me.

RIP Prof Mani Sundaram, it pains to think that we won’t get to hear you one more time…


(To read some more tributes for Prof Mani Sundaram, please visit the newly created Facebook fan page –

Some old photographs of PSM – Photo Link)

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14 Things that I learnt in the last 14 months

It has been 14 months since the last post here. During this time, a constant chain of activities including consulting for a foreign firm about brand establishment in India, helping organize and doing sales for a pioneering event in Kerala, starting up and working with about 10-15 wonderful clients, meeting people, reading up and a few other things kept me occupied.

A roller coaster ride with an exciting series of ups and downs experienced first hand. Here is a list of 14 lessons that I picked up in the course of this journey.

On Leadership and Management
1. To change any system you’ve got to first walk a mile or two in the existing one.
2. As a manager, you would see them as teams or groups or subordinates but to each one of them you are his/her boss. They are two (and too) different things.
3. Creating a healthy organizational culture is very difficult but sustaining it through difficult times is much more difficult.
4. It is good to identify the core value you’re looking to gain from every association and maintain your expectations accordingly, be it monetary, networking and relationship, mentoring etc.

On Sales
5. Sales = Science + Art + lots of Luck + extreme Efforts + Shrewdness
6. ‘Yeh I like it’ has ZERO value. It lies entirely in the next ‘Here’s my money’ line.
7. The money you make out of something and your motivation to do / sign up for it are very closely related.
8. The contract/agreement is an extremely powerful tool you wield. Handle it unwisely and you’re bound to doom.

On Starting Up
9. The best thing about being unemployed is the freedom that you have, to welcome new opportunities that come your way and chase them.
10. To let go of a well settled life and a good paycheck to start up is a challenging decision and it is not something everyone can, or should, make.
11. Entrepreneurship/ Starting up is an over glorified thing especially considering the extremely high ratio of strugglers to successful ones in that breed.
12. Ideas are aplenty but successful businesses out of them are few and far between.
13. Products facilitate services, and service sells.
14. It goes a long way to have an understanding family and a bunch of close friends who discuss ideas and do so with candidness

Things have changed… A nostalgic sojourn

Before I sat down at my work-desk this morning, I had already made a mental list of things to be completed by the end of the day. It was a long list, and I braced myself for the long day ahead. I switched on my system, and as was customary with me opened my gmail and facebook accounts to check for any updates.

Same set of emails from some of the biggest newspapers, magazines and websites in the world. God knows when I subscribe to these! And no matter whatever filter I apply they still continue to dominate my inbox every morning. Sigh! I meticulously checked all of them, and click – Deleted!

I moved to the Facebook tab. ‘This person posted in that group’, ‘that person posted in this group’. Another bunch of spam notifications. I carefully went through them to look for any relevant notification, from friends I have not met for long. Not really any to say. So I went to the home page.

As I was casually browsing through them, I couldn’t help wonder how things have changed in the last 5-6 years for me. I saw the facebook updates of a few old friends and my thought fastened itself unto me for a while as I sat staring at them forgetful of my commitments for the day.  A nostalgic sojourn.

Six years back, I was in one of the grandiose classrooms in the Anna University Chennai, nervously pacing around looking for the sight of at least one familiar face. I was there to appear for the IIT-JEE 2006 exam. For many of those nervous students around me, it was the culmination of two years of their undivided hard work and unworldly existence almost meeting sainthood. The air was filled with our nervousness and there existed a chillness inside that room completely uncharacteristic of Chennai’s weather in April-May.  Some of them were anxiously going through their notes for one last time, not wasting a moment before the all-important exam while several others were meditating with closed eyes and chanting all those good words that they had come across since birth. Some of them were so engrossed in it that I felt that they had begun to radiate an aura of scholarship around them. Phew! I tried hard to concentrate on the piece of paper I was holding. It contained some important formulas that I had written down – my only revision strategy.

After looking around a lot, I finally managed to meet this friend of mine. We were together in IIT classes. (I always believed that I was pushed into it by circumstances around me but this friend, he was very passionate about engineering entrance examination, always working his way through assignments and tests and most importantly raising questions in the class which obviously disturbed the sleeping back-benchers like me. Finding the familiar person in that hall kinda made up for all that he did, such was the direness of my situation. ) He was silently meditating too, with an imperfectly made streak of holy ash on his forehead and a long plain-green shirt with unfolded sleeves, that had become a characteristic feature of his appearance in the two years I had known him.

I went up to him, and waving away all thoughts of disturbing a meditating pseudo-saint, patted on his back with a friendly ‘Hey!’

The goodness and virtuousness that was demanded by the situation perhaps, he was kind enough to not show the displeasure for being interrupted by me. A friendly chat with the regular “You prepared well?” “Ready to go?” Sometimes, I wonder if even soldiers share such empathetic understanding of nervousness before going for a war as we did before an examination, such was the fraternity brought about by academic adversities like these. Anyway, he told me that his mother was waiting outside and I perfunctorily glanced at her (she was also in closed-eye prayers for her son). Very soon, with friendly good wishes, we parted ways to our respective tables as the examiner showed up.

Results of the JEE exam were published, and both of us did not make it! I felt sad for him and several others with us in our IIT class who were genuinely keen on making it into one of those 7 prestigious IITs.  But we moved on and graduated from different colleges. He was enrolled into the same campus of Anna University where we wrote our IIT-JEE test while I was selected at the National Institute of Technology Trichy. Its been two years since we graduated from our respective universities with engineering degrees.

Somewhere down the line, we found each other on facebook. Not that I talk to many of them regularly, I do keep a tab on what my friends have been up to. My work and the commitments it brings with it keep me busy and their’s them.

As I glanced through my feeds today, I saw an update from this friend. It was a photograph of him in a black graduation robe with the same imperfectly made streak of holy ash on his forehead, standing with his proud mother after graduating from a prestigious university in the US.

I was touched. He had pursued and persisted beyond that IIT-JEE exam hall where we last met, and so did his mother. She was there then praying for him and she was here today, basking in the glory of her son’s achievement. Quite a priceless moment, I stood hypnotised by the beauty of it!

Time was frozen, or so I thought. But a shrill sound from my phone brought me back to my senses. It was half past ten. Gosh! And I had a long list of things to be done. But before all those,  I felt that I must blog this moment.

The nostalgic sojourn that it was, the photograph spoke to me of all those wonderful changes that have happened around me in the last few years. I would have loved to put that pic here but it would be a violation of his privacy. The photograph was meant only for his friends, like me, who would be delighted to participate in the happy moments of his life, like this one.

My friend here is only a representative of many of our friends. Friends that we all left behind at some point of time in our journey called life and earnestly long to get back in their company and those hassle-free days of school and college. But we know that things have changed and those are just nostalgic moments from the past worth cherishing till death 🙂


Dedicated to all those wonderful friends I made through my life… Cheers to our bright future and those unforgettable magical days of the past! 🙂



Eight Things To Do With Your Car Now

With another hike in petrol prices (more than 10%!), here are eight things that you can do with your car to save/make money. Of course none of it involves (considerable) use of fuel! 😀

1. Thattukadas/Roadsideeateries

Car Thattukada

Car Thattukada in Trivandrum (

Thattukadas are Kerala’s definition of roadside eating / Street food.

2. Boot fairs/Flea Markets

Car Boot Fair

Car Boot Fair

Boot fairs is selling items from the trunk/boot of your car. I saw a boot fair happening in Kent.

3. Interior Decoration

Car Interior Decor

Car for Interior Decoration


4.  Car Garden

With your car not moving out of your garage here is a nice way to convert your garage into your private garden.

Car Garden

Car Garden (


5. Extra Bedroom… ‘Non-AC’ of course!

Car Bedroom

Car Bedroom


6. Storeroom

Car Storeroom

Car Storeroom


7. Personal Gym

Car Gym

Car Gym

Car Gym



8. Petrol Savings Account

Petrol Savings Account

Petrol Savings Account

Gone are the days of saving money and gold. Here is a simple trick. Fill your tank to the full capacity and hold on to it until the next fuel price hike (which will be very soon) and then siphon off the petrol and sell it away at the higher price!

In a few months, you could end up with more than 10% returns!

President Bano Foreign Ghoomo Offer

Foreign Travel

A lot of taxpayers money goes into foreign travels of public servants and elected representatives in India

With the oncoming of an era of transparency, the run up to the 13th presidential polls throws some light on what was otherwise dark and spooky corners of the room. The process of getting a new president was historically a close door affair to the common man, more of a mutually agreed understanding between the major political parties to find a ‘harmless’ person among them who would not disturb the government or poke his nose. But things have changed today. Thanks to the widespread reach of media and television, bachcha-bachcha of the country is aware of the candidates, the political preferences and bias, partisian ideologies emerging from various political units etc. So when I was going through some related news articles about some of these candidates, I felt they had a bigger picture to present than what they would put together.

Before we move on to the new presidential candidates, let us for a moment reflect on what I would call the futile presidential tenure of Mrs. Pratibha Patil. It is well known, thanks to media again, that she was herself a compromise candidate for the UPA (after pitching for former minister Mr. Shivraj Patil and Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, whose name seems to go around this time too) standing out for her loyalty to the Nehru-Gandhi family and the UPA’s deep interest in doing something different to bolster its image among the people by nominating India’s first woman President. Multiple demands and ambitions caved the way for Mrs. Patil from Jaipur to Delhi, and the loyalty that powered her to the highest office was also showing no signs of bowing to presidential prudence.

As her tenure is coming to an end, like it always happens in India, Mrs. Patil also came under the scanner for all the wrong reasons. Her palatial post-retirement home in the military area became a serious issue before it was amicably settled before the people of the country.

But what, according to me, is more serious an observation is that she

President's Personal Staff

President Patil is accompanied by her personal staff which includes armed soldiers on these trips

has undertaken thirteen (an ominous number?) foreign trips in her tenure and spent over Rs.200,00,00,000 (just to show the magnitude of that figure) on it! What makes it more alarming and embarassing is that these were family outings, with anywhere from 3 to 11 family members accompanying her on these trips!

While we were still mulling over these numbers (rather, coming out of its shock), here comes another one. Meira Kumar, our soft-spoken speaker, who reminds each one of us of our kindergarten teachers in her inimitable style of aap baith jayie, kripya baith jaiye… aap shaant rahen… emerges as a potential candidate for the post of President. And with such announcement, comes the shocker that I mentioned earlier. Madam Speaker has also made almost 30 ‘official’ foreign trips in her 35 month tenure, and more importantly spent over  Rs.10,00,00,000 on it! According to news revelations, the maximum number of visits she has visited abroad was in Switzerland. (Hmmm…)

Well now that we know how our Madam President has indeed outplayed Madam Speaker in the foreign travel expenses game (Rs. 200,00,00,000 vs Rs. 10,00,00,000) it is quite justified of Ms. Kumar to wish to perform better, from a better (read: more advantageous) position. Good luck to her for that! (and that translates as bad luck to the taxpayer. Sigh! )

We move on to the next person, Mr. P. A. Sangma. Actually, he is a familiar name from my childhood. In those days of GK and quiz competitions, it was indeed important to know him well. However, in retrospect, I can see that he was the speaker for barely 2 years! A congressman, who parted from the party over Mrs. Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin alongwith Mr. Sharad Pawar to form NCP and subsequently left him to join Ms. Mamta Banerjee over NCP’s reconcilation with Mrs.Gandhi. Impressive, you might feel, as a tall politician sticking to his ideologies and convictions.

When Mr. Pawar returned to be a UPA minister, Mr. Sangma’s daughter (a second time MP) became the youngest Minister of State in the UPA goverment. Oops! I am sure he is now trusting the ‘Foreigner (Italian) Mrs. Gandhi’s’ Hindi skills to understand and appreciate the old saying Subah ka bhoola shaam ko ghar aa jaye to usey bhoola nahin kahte! Never mind, like they say in Tamil ‘arasiyal-la ithellam sahajam appa‘ (These things are common in politics).

But wait, we are not done with Mr. Sangma yet. Recently there were articles that Ex-Speakers were about to be granted post-retirement benefits similiar to that of retired Presidents, Vice-presidents and Prime Ministers. ‘Who’ took the initiative to ‘whom’ about the state of Ex-Speakers? Voila! What a coincidence? Mr. Sangma to Ms. Meira Kumar!

So Mr. Sangma, who abdicated his constituency seat to make a minister out of his daughter and presently functioning in the Meghalaya State Assembly of which his son is the Leader of Opposition, is fighting for the post-retirement benefits of a position he held for less than two years. Not bad, but don’t you see another happy-retirement plan in the making after happily seeing off his children in good positions?

Sad! But we all know what humiliation does the President have to face when he decides to go against the ruling party in favour of his conscience. No?  Please ask Dr. Kalam about the Office of Profit Bill. At this juncture, where do we stand?

President no doubt, like Ms. India and Ms. World, is an ambassadorial position. But an ambassador must be a messenger of the good and bad of the entire country and not just its population explosion or joint-family system! 😛 People look up to the President as the kulapati of this rashtra and it is needless to remind that opulence is certainly not a tolerated trait in this country of aam admis. Again, ask our youth icon NRI MP Dr. Tharoor and his tennis-loving senior Mr. S. M. Krishna for their hotel bills and you know what I mean!

I am not a fan of austerity myself (Hehe!) and believe foreign trips of Presidents are justified, but they MUST achieve the objectives of the country. Treating the highest civilian office in the country as a paid family vacation or post-retirement fun time would be an insult to the people of the country and the hard-earned taxpayer’s money.

Anyways, this attitude of ‘Post pe aao aur phoren foriegn ghoomo‘ (Get a position of responsibility and immediately go on foreign tour)  is certainly not a healthy, morale-boosting one for public offices in our country; And with citizens becoming more powerful (literally) by the day and the goverment weaker, I believe there is something here for the candidates for Indian Presidency to make a note of.


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!

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…