Archive for March, 2012

Right to Leakage

Friday, March 30th, 2012 March 30th, 2012 Jyoti MukulJyoti Mukul

It may not be anybody’s case to hide information these days. Many make business out of information and interpretation of information is even bigger business. Naturally, just like any product that carries a value, the tendency of those who have the information is to hoard it especially if the release of information could work to someone’s disadvantage.

Those with firsthand experience of corporate rivalry and diplomatic manoeuvring probably realise the importance of information even more than media. Often media is just a conduit to reach the larger audience and cause a larger impact. No wonder, leakage of information and reports have been at the centre of upheavals globally as well as in India since last year.

Leakage of information has assumed such importance that findings of an auditor report take a backseat to the question of how did the cat get out of the bag. So we have the Comptroller and Auditor General writing to the Prime Minister an elaborate letter dwelling on the embarrassment caused due to the leakage without really thinking twice about why should it matter whether the report is out even before it was suppose to be? And lo and behold, the letter too gets leaked.

It took years for the country to realise the need for a Right to Information Act. The use or misuse of this right is a subject of much debate in government offices, but the dangers of not knowing far outweigh the dangers of knowing or not knowing fully. Keeping away information probably gives its officers a sense of power. In fact, from a government perspective, most of the things that it announces “formally” have already been in public domain. Take the case of recent Budget. The decision to increase excise and service tax and many other proposals were already known. Someone somewhere didn’t give a damn about secrecy.

The only person in recent days who seems to have held on to the oath of secrecy is Dinesh Trivedi. He kept away probably the biggest decision of his life from his “leader” Mamata Banerjee, who asserted her right to know as a coalition partner. In the end, Trivedi lost his job, Banerjee her credibility and the Railway Budget its relevance.

Sometimes, the plea for not revealing information is that it is in formative stage—a proposal and not a decision, an idea so delicate that if revealed can be lost completely. While that may be true, why should any proposal that matures to change the course for some people or company should not be discussed? Revealing information is all about exposing it to public debate. And in hiding it, the only intention is to quell protest and prevent lobbying. But if a decision or a decision maker succumbs to criticism and lobbyists then obviously the fault lies not in the revelation but in the system’s resilience. Such a system that does not live the test of criticism needs further strengthening and so, hail the Right to Leakage and down with iron curtains.

Now Logically Priced

Thursday, March 29th, 2012 March 29th, 2012 Praveen Bose

The Friendly man at Friendly ice cream is happier with his business today than he was about a month ago. The outlet better known for its softy ice creams, has seen the business from softy doubling since the last time he hiked the price of the ice cream!

A student of Economics would perhaps be left befuddled. But, the Friendly man, who’s run the business for over 25 years, has a clientele who more often are from the cream of the society. The cream, not just in terms of money, but also in terms of intellect, actually are not so price sensitive.

He counts a school in the neighbourhood being a captive source of clientele. But, the students do not favour the softy. It’s too cheap for the students who many a time come with a Rs 500 note.

But, the grown-ups who come to him for ice cream don’t seem price sensitive in any way. Perhaps it is now not necessary for the buyer to have the right change. Earlier it cost Rs 18 and now it costs Rs 20. Perhaps, there’s some economic formula to measure the elasticity of demand of the product.

So, now he’s been advised to keep the price of his ice creams as a rounded figure and not ones that would require one to fish out Rs 2 or Rs 3 coins.

The state of Bengal: Ma, Mati, Morbidity

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 March 28th, 2012 Devjyot Ghoshal

There was no lack of prophecies when Mamata Banerjee stormed Writers Building, West Bengal’s administrative centre, last year. Yet, few of those soothsayers would have been able to predict the reign of randomness that Ms Banerjee has unleashed upon the state (and the nation) since taking office.

True, it may be far too early to conclusively decide whether Ms Banerjee’s turn at helming a state that was run to the ground by over three decades of Communist rule is going to end badly. Indeed, when it comes to the Knockout Lady from Kalighat, there is little that is ever conclusive.

But the way in which events in the past few weeks — let’s take just three issues: the staunch denial of the rape on Park Street and subsequently putting the blame on the Left, the fascinating series of incidents leading up to the dismissal of Dinesh Trivedi as Railway Minister and now, the absurd decision to provide a list of newspaper that the state’s 2,482 libraries are allowed to keep — have panned out, evoke a feeling of fear and delight in equal proportions.

After all, such incidents are unprecedented, even in the wildly subjective annals of Indian democracy. No Railway Minister has been asked to resign just days after delivering what was widely thought to have been a realistic budget after many years; not in the recent history of liberal West Bengal has the government decided what patrons of its libraries must read; and rarely has a chief minister told a rape victim that she wasn’t actually raped, while a junior minister simultaneously questioned why the lady in question was at a night club by herself.

And that is precisely where the mirth ends and the trepidation takes over. During her term as Railway Minister, Ms Banerjee promised much but delivered little, except that even after leaving office she has ensured that passenger fares remain illogically suppressed.

Despite that unenviable track record, she was greeted with much enthusiasm after a landslide electoral victory, a result that she had assiduously fought for through her political career. But all that goodwill, especially concerning Bengal’s industry and industrialists, now stands eroded. The miserable handling of the AMRI fire episode merely added to the slide.

In the heartland, where the Trinamool Congress (TMC) was able to dislodged a deeply entrenched CPI(M) party machinery, some of Mamata’s magic may be eroding, too. Her complete denial of farmer suicides was a case in point, and the decision now to limit library newspapers is unlikely to go down well is the many bhadraloks that frequent these institutions. There are also reports of infighting within the TMC ranks.

The middleclass, which swung away from the Left, is disillusioned with how nothing has really progressed. If anything, having the state’s governor come out and talk about how West Bengal was once safe for women is instructive. The intelligentsia, once ardent supporters of Ms Banerjee, are now having second thoughts. The IT industry is in limbo since the TMC’s manifesto expressly states that it isn’t against any SEZs, but the government of course is willing to provide SEZ-like benefits, only that it can’t be called a SEZ.

But the most scathing indictment that I have come across was from a taxi driver —one of the many thousand immigrants from Bihar who drive Kolkata’s iconic yellow cabs —on a recent visit to the city.

“We used to come here for jobs back then,” he said, taking a turn near the massive Eden Garden stadium, “but now, it seems that Nitish has made Bihar better than Bengal. What can Didi do for you now?” For a man from Bihar who moved to Kolkata to make a living some two decades ago, that’s saying a lot. And for West Bengal’s chief minister, that’s a tall order to meet.

The Artist? Really?

Sunday, March 25th, 2012 March 25th, 2012 J Jagannath

I pursed my lips quite tightly when Micheal Douglas presented the Best Director Oscar 2012 to Michael Hazanavicius, the man who made The Artist, a supposed paean to the era of silent cinema. Now, trust me, I have no problems over who wins Oscars. And I’m not being a contrarian for the sake of being contrarian. I watched it much earlier at a film festival and ever since I’ve been whistling in the wind about its non-existent brilliance. What really gets my goat is the way The Artist is being celebrated as a work of auteur.

Look at two of the other nominations for best director, Terence Malick and Martin Scorsese, and if celebration of cinema was really on top of the Academy’s agenda they should have gone for either of these two. Malick’s Tree Of Life combines Darwinism and coming-of-the-age American movie ethic to produce something that’s absolutely splendid. Scorsese, who directed Hugo, paid a bigger tribute to cinema through his cinematic homage to Georges Méliès, a forgotten filmmaker of the silent era.

I can see why The Artist won such wide recognition. At a time when death of irony is a foregone conclusion and cynicism reigns supreme, The Artist is the most uncynical movie of the recent times. It poses questions that are not uncomfortable. Yes, technology killed the romance of cinema and we are all guilty. But, hey, no one’s neck is on the guillotine. After all, as that cliche goes, change is the only constant in life. Pardon the digression and let’s look at the paint-by-numbers premise of the film. A successful silent-film hyphenate (Jean Dujardin) finds himself at sea once the industry transitions into the talkies and he is stuck in a rut. An ingenue (Berenice Bejo) who solicits his affection is suddenly sought after but not unlike a hooker in the movies, she too has a golden heart and still pines for Dujardin, who lost everything except a poodle and a chauffeur.

It still beats me how such a prosciutto-thin plot wasn’t strangled at the time of conception itself. Keeping in line with this slush is the pouting and one-dimensional acting of Dujardin, who apart from tilting his head, does nothing. Buster Keaton, the George Clooney of silent cinema with more talent, will roll in his grave looking at the way Hazanavicius distilled silent cinema into juiceless technicolor condescending garbage. Here’s what The Economist had to say about Dujardin’s pouting, “He mugs on screen, he mugs at the breakfast table. He operates in only one highly stylised mode of performance, making it impossible to tell the artist from his art.”

It still beats me how the Academy never gave two hoots about India’s Harischandrachi Factory, a far more nuanced look at silent cinema through the prism of that genius called Dadasaheb Phalke. This year, the Academy safely ignored the best movies, which I know is a relative term, like Drive, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Take Shelter etc., In this entire fracas, here’s what takes the cake: Cesar Awards are the French equivalent of Oscars and they gave the best actor award to Omar Sy for his relentlessly charming role in Intouchables.

The career and comfort pickle

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 March 20th, 2012 Shibangi DasShibangi Das

My cousin is studying to be an architect in one of Mumbai’s premier institutes. All I see the girl of 20 doing is slouch over huge sheets of sketches, sit amid a pile of instruments to make models of her building designs and, if time permits, sleep. Over the last one month, she has barely managed to sleep for more than four hours every 24 hours on an average. She cannot pursue a hobby. She does not go out with friends.

We may try suggesting ideas like efficient time management and smart work, but all that serves nothing really. I have seen upfront how most of these students sit night after night working on their assignments and travel intimidating distances (typical of Mumbai) to college and back.

What is worse, is this is likely to continue for another couple of years before she can be on the job. There is no guarantee that things will be any easier then.

An acquaintance of my cousin, suffering the same deal in college, recently dozed off while riding his bike to college, and suffered a fatal accident. He had not slept a wink in two days. His mother continues to blame the rigours of the course for what happened to her son.

The institutes say that professional courses such as these mould students into growing up into sharp individuals, willing to work hard and seamlessly to produce quality results. They say it prepares the students to cruise through the difficulties of a competitive professional life and pile on as much work as they can.

Parents, caught between their children’s aspirations, concern for their health and wellness, but worried about a secure career, are torn and helpless.

Where are we headed towards with this brand of “professionalism”?

We are all training ourselves to become rats, running after the proverbial cheese. What we don’t realise is, it is just within reach, only if we change our manner of approaching it.

We want a career to make money - to be able to buy the things that make us happy - so that we can go on vacations and spend time with loved ones - to be able to pursue hobbies that are thrilling, and so on and so forth. We just want too many things to make us happy.

Very well. But we are so busy pursuing a career that we are forgetting to live. We buy things that we barely get to use - because we are too busy. We sleep through holidays and vacations - because we are too tired. And hobbies? No! That’s for kids anyway.

We may be in that positions in our careers where we live in 5-star hotels and travel business class in flights while travelling for work. That sure counts as “comfort”. But how long has it been since you haven’t lived out of a suitcase or ate a meal cooked by your mother or wife? Do you know the names of your children’s friends? When was the last time you spent a good two hours, doing just what you wanted to without being interrupted by an official call?

So, in effect, we study to get a job, to earn money and live a comfortable life. But where is the comfort?

Look under that long list of wants that you have begun to label as your needs. Maybe you will find it there.

Why this 24/7 tele-shoppingveri di?

Thursday, March 15th, 2012 March 15th, 2012 M Saraswathy

A sofa that makes you feel like you’re sleeping on air, a machine that multi-tasks as a vacuum cleaner, iron and a wiper, a home spa that helps detoxify cum reduce acne/extra kilos — these are just some of the products among the array of products available on your very own 24/7 tele-shopping channel. If the 24/7 news channels that keep screaming throughout the day haven’t irritated you enough, try watching these tele-shopping channels.

The whole phenomenon started off as harmless half-hour programmes on Indian television channels. It essentially had a ‘non-Indian’ host with a funny Hindi accent, with products priced at an amount which is a rupee lesser than a whole number.
With 24-hour news channels taking control of television, why would these tele-shopping guys stay behind? That is when they too came into the picture.

One has a variety of tele-shopping channels to choose from. It is good news for regulars to these channels that there are Indian hosts too, in some of them. The format is simple. Mornings to evening to night, useless products are on display. Each product is advertised atleast 7-8 times everyday, accompanied by irritating faces and loud voices.

The best part of the ads is the user testimonial. Their failure to fame story after usage of the product is totally entertaining. Consider this: “I could never fit into my old clothes and hence couldn’t be a part of my hubby’s social circle by wearing those sexy dresses. That is when my friend suggested XXX fitness belt to me.  After using the product, I lost 8 kgs in a week. Thank you XXX fitness belt,” proudly says a middle-aged American woman in anglicised Hindi. To add to this, there is also a funny looking doctor to testify the statement.

This doctor is talented for sure, because he switches between being a dietician, gynaecologist and an ophthalmologist, depending on the type of the product. The products themselves aren’t anywhere behind, having medicinal and cosmetic properties at the same time. Reviews of the products are below average most of the time.

Consumers needn’t be disheartened. Apart from these ‘magic products’, there are other items too. You may purchase 20 saris for 4K, or 500 pieces of jewellery for 2K. Do you actually need them? This is a question that must not be answered.

If you are wondering why I even chose this topic to blog on, it is simply because I was/am a victim of them. I was lured to spend 3K on a worthless vegetable dicer that was supposed to work like a wonder by chopping in seconds.

As I recuperate from my monetary losses, just a piece of advice: ‘Watch these channels purely for entertainment purposes’. Coz, it hurts when their products don’t work.

Will the real regulator please stand up?

Monday, March 12th, 2012 March 12th, 2012 Kalpana PathakKalpana Pathak

Last month, a Mumbai-based B-school shut shop. The students, when they turned up for classes one morning, were asked to leave and told they would be informed about when to attend classes next. That information, obviously, never came their way.

They have lost their time and money in studying at a B-school which, despite its impressive line of promoters, could not survive.  While some students are mulling legal action, the promoters are drawing another business plan to give wings to their education ambition.

This and over another 99 B-schools have shut shops in the past two years, but no one—State or Center—is ready to own up to this mess.

The regulatory body for B-schools says its the state’s responsibility to look into such matters. The state says, it is the Centre’s responsibilty to take care of such issues.

So while both keep passing the buck, the student is left high and dry with no option but legal recourse, another lenghty process.

The regulatory body for B-schools lists 340 unapproved institutions on its website. But what is interesting is that this list of institutions has been there ever since.

Even more interesting is the fact that these institutions have expanded, with branches in various other states. But State and Centre again are happy with their inaction.

Many B-schools indulge in practices that by no means can be called ethical. Cheating students, striking deals with test preparing centres, pocketing the salaries of faculty members and bribing HR officials are only a few examples that you will hear the fraternity talk about in the open.

Here again, the state and Central government officials will tell you its not in their jurisdiction.

Then who’s jurisdiction is it? Worse, it surprises me to see that many other education streams, still  do not have regulation. If you wish to start a training school tomorrow, you certainly can. Besides, given the huge demand for vocational programmes, you can fleece students and then fold-up one night.  No questions asked.

Two years ago, the Advertising Standards Council of India came up with advertising guidelines for the education sector. But we all know how much of it has been followed.  Advertisements have remained as they were before the guidelines came up.

Instead of making new rules and regulations, there is a lot of room to tinker with the old ones. While new institutions should be allowed to come up, reputed ones shouldn’t be stopped from expanding. Because education for them, is serious business.

Economic reforms: consensus the only way forward

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012 March 7th, 2012 Tarun Chaturvedi

At around 1pm on Monday, large parts of north India experienced tremors as the earth underneath shook for around 10 to 15 seconds. Little did the people realise that is was just a precursor to the earthquake the country was to witness on Tuesday (election results). As the results were announced it was clear that the elephants (BSP’s poll symbol) had started to fall from Monday itself.

Well, let us not waste time and come to our topic of economic reforms. The general perception is that since the results have not given the desired leverage to the ruling UPA, the possibility of economic reforms being speeded up by the ruling coalition at the centre receeds. The fall in the Sensex post results is being attributed to this. Another general perception doing the rounds is that the voters have voted for a development agenda and have not been swayed by the equations of caste, creed, religion etc. The third general perception is that the voters have cast their vote in favour of a young leadership (read Sukhbir in Punjab and Akhilesh in UP).

Given the last two perceptions to be true, they directly contradict the first perception. The young leaders, who now have a decisive say in the policy matters of their party will surely realise the need to support the right kind of policies at all levels be it economic or otherwise. This should be utilised by the ruling UPA at the Centre to start a new set of consensus policy making involving all the political parties including the opposition. If the nation needs the reforms and the UPA is able to articulate and present its case in a strong manner, there appears no reason why the opposition parties will not accept them. Infact after the results, merely opposing a policy for the sake of it will not throw good light on the opposition parties. The newly coronated state leaders will realise that they have come to power on the promise delivering development and this is what the electorate will be evaluating them on.

The one thing that is needed, is for the UPA to shed its arrogant, know all attitude and include all stakeholders in the decision making process. A tough call for a party used to take decisions without consulting its own constituents but nonetheless a must call.

How to make friends with influential people

Monday, March 5th, 2012 March 5th, 2012 Pablo ChaterjiPablo Chaterji

Here’s a word of advice - make friends in high places, and make them fast. Without them, you stand a snowball’s chance in hell in this country. Allow me to explain.

I have a friend who is an avid biker, and he’s also been fortunate enough to be able to afford his two-wheeled indulgences. He and his cousins are all keen motorcyclists and, along with other friends, are part of a biking club. Every Sunday morning, the club sets out early in the morning for a ride. Most of the club’s members are in their 40s or more, and a lot of them are respected members of the business community. They all share a passion for big, fast bikes, and they’re all very disciplined riders - nobody is allowed to ride without protective gear, and no irresponsible riding is tolerated.

One Sunday, while out on their weekly ride, there was an accident - a bad one. A person died and another rider was very badly injured and is probably still in hospital, as I write this. My friend and his cousins were among the first people on the accident spot, and they were the ones who called in the police and an ambulance. Everyone in the group was obviously very shaken, but things were about to get much worse.

A local TV channel got wind of the accident and ran a story on prime time news, where virtually every single minute broadcast was a fabrication. Using footage of other people doing stunts on completely different motorcycles (Indian ones, not the imported machines that the members of the group ride), the channel painted a picture of irresponsible, rich young boys with no regard for the law or human life, boys who indulged in ’stunting and illegal racing’ and who bet large amounts of money on it. A very senior police official saw the news piece, picked up the phone, called the concerned police station and ordered that four members of the group (any four, random, members) were to be arrested, charged with rash riding and sent to jail. These are the TV channels that people watch on a daily basis, by the way, and on whom they rely to get unbiased news, so that they can stay informed.

As a result, my friend and his cousins were called to the police station, on the pretext of them having to give evidence, and were then presented with a fabricated, pre-signed confession. The confession stated that they had been stunting in a completely different part of the city from where the accident had occured, and that they had additionally threatened to kill someone (a non-bailable offence). With a dismissive shrug, they were told that ‘orders have come from above, there’s nothing to be done, you’re all going to jail’. My flabbergasted friends protested their innocence as vehemently as they could, but to no avail - things had been set in motion and could not be stopped.

They all spent the night at the police station. Phone calls were made, to people who knew people who knew other people. It turned out that a member of the group knew the police officer who had given the order, and he phoned the cop to vouch for my friends. The cop said that it was too late to take his order back, but he would see what he could do. Finally, the charge of threatening to kill someone was dropped, and they were all charged with rash riding and had to make a court appearance, like convicted criminals. They all paid fines, for no fault of theirs, and were then allowed to go.

In the middle of all this, at the police station, they witnessed cops drinking on duty and rampant corruption. One moment, they were treated as criminals. The next moment, when the call came in to modify the charge, the cops fawned all over them, offered to buy them dinner and, bizarrely, asked for jobs in the companies that my friends run. In the morning, when the sweepers came in, my friend saw them sweeping up and throwing away case files that had fallen on the floor. These are the same cops who we’re expected to trust, to uphold the law and to watch our backs.

Like I said, make friends in high places, and make them fast. Without them…

 

Where have all the DVDs gone?

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012 March 3rd, 2012 Reetesh Anand

There can hardly be anything as frustrating as going hunting for a household item you think is easily available in every fifth shop in the market and yet not being able to find any of it.

I experienced a series of events that had me exposed to a frustration of that kind. Let’s start from the beginning.

My landlord recently decided he needed to dispose of his old DVD player to buy a new and jazzier one, and, as always, mine was the first name that popped into his head as a prospective buyer. I don’t blame him; after having bought so many outdated and unwanted items from him, I easily qualify to be the proud owner of a curiosity store, if I decide to open one.

Only a few days before, I had, quite painstakingly, dragged home a bulky TV set, when he wanted to buy a swanky LCD one. And, the antique piece had given me more pain than fun. First, to watch cartoon shows — the only programmes that I can bear on television — I had to buy a 100-channel pack, even as I required just two full-time kids’ channels. Then, there were so many technical problems that, for the next few days, I had to — reluctantly — have a TV mechanic as the most frequent vistor to my place. And, when all these issues had been resolved, the power button on the remote refused to work; and the refusal was so stiff that I had to eventually give up and buy a new one.

The TV, thankfully, had sobered down now. But, the numerous troubles with gadgets had, perhaps, become such an important part of my life that I decided to bring home another nuisance — the DVD player.

The good landlord — I don’t know how he managed it — ran it in front of me and there visibly wasn’t anything wrong with it. Assured, I brought home the three-year-old as the newest part of a family of antiques — of which I, too, am a member.

The first challenge I faced with this latest apple of my eye was in connecting it to the TV set. The too many inlets and outlets baffled me, maybe because I was never known to be a tech wizard. But that was just the initial hiccup. What followed was worse.

Having connected the two great devices, when I tried to test run an old DVD on it, the most I could see was a dot on the blank screen. I kept heart, thinking there must be some problem with the poor old disk I was trying to run. I tried another one and then another one. One after the other, I tested the might of all the eight or nine disks I had in my beloved CD bag since my college days. None could saddle the unruly brute of that player.

Tired, I decided to have the good landlord’s expertise brought to use. I immediately rang him up with my SOS and he — who lives on the third floor of the same building — was kind enough to rush to my fourth-floor madhouse.

Surprisingly, he also struggled with it and concluded I had not handled it properly. He asked if I had dropped it while bringing and instructed me to handle it with some tenderness. Not that I had wrestled with it, or used the gadget to fan away flies, or as a mat to sit on, or as a dining table — but I took his instruction calmly with a nod of my head.

By this time, I had gathered there was some snag in the player that neither a gadget-unfriendly I nor an expert landlord could fix. So, wisdom now was in sending it to a mechanic and getting it repaired. That I did, only to realise that the amount I had paid for this very old DVD player + the repair charge = more than the price of a new player.

But that’s another issue. I never crib about having paid more for a thing than it’s right price because that only puts the stamp of genuineness on the ‘money-wise unwise’ tag I have walked with all my life. The good part was that the device was now working and I was sure of that after having tried a few disks on it.

Now, the difficult work had been done and all I had to do was get some good movies and enjoy those. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It surely wasn’t!

I thought I would start my hunt for disks with a neighbourhood Planet M store. Hunt it was — not for DVDs, but the store itself. I went to the place where I had last seen it. It was no longer there. Some said it had been moved to a new location… some said it had been permanently shut down. I understood their compulsions because the last time I had been there, the store had few movies and the buyers it attracted were fewer still.

I rang up a few friends who had stayed in the locality for longer than me to find out if there were more stores in the vicinity. All were good enough to not only tell me about a store but also the way to reach it. I patiently listened to all of them, only to conclude that all their pointers reached just one store — the one that I had just found to have been closed down.

By this time, I had begun to lose my patience, so I put off my hunt for another day and returned rubbing my empty hands.

The irritation had had the better of me and the whim of buying DVDs did not descend upon me for the next few days. One evening a week later, when it did, I decided I would buy some movies the same day after work, come what may!

I called one of my friends again and asked if there was any other store in the locality. She said there was, and gave me directions too. But I wanted to be doubly sure. So I called another friend and assigned him the job of finding a store in my locality. Now, I wanted to be triply sure. So I called yet another friend, who stays in Noida, and asked her to buy a DVD for me. The idea was, if I am still not able to get hold of one, I would drive down to Noida and collect it from her.

After finishing my day’s work, I set out on my mission. Following the directions given by my first friend, I drove right into an overcrowded vegetable mandi, barely keeping from hitting some stalls. After wondering for a bit why the market was unusually crowded that day, I recalled it was Monday — the day of the weekly veggie market in my locality, and also the day when the regular guys keep their shops shut.

The first friend’s idea went for a toss! Now, I switched to Plan B and called my second friend, who was to give me an address. He indeed had done his job and got the address, but, to add to my frustration, it was the same shop that I had been hunting down in the crowded veggie market. Plan B also flopped!

It was the turn of Plan C now and I rang up my third friend, who was to buy a DVD for me from Noida. I had thought this was one plan that would never fail. But, no! The store she had gone to had many movies, but not the one I had asked her to get. So she didn’t buy and now she was home.

All the three plans bombed, but not my resolve. I retreated for the night but made up my mind that the next day I would go to Connaught Place, where I surely would get a DVD.

Next afternoon, I went to three previously visited stores there, but found all of those shut — either for remodelling, reconstruction, re-stocking or because of some construction activity being undertaken by the municipal corporation. I visited a couple of more stores in that super-hit area and that entailed some more ordeal. But let’s not get into the details of those. The outcome was that the jinx continued. And, tired, I postponed my hunt till Friday, my off day.

On Friday, I decided I would go back to the market that had been occupied by vegetable sellers on Friday and look for the store that had caused the failure of my Plan A and Plan B. After some hard work, I managed to find the shop but was alarmed to see the alarm on the shopkeeper’s face when I sought to see some DVDs. Even as the store was called ‘Target CD/DVD Parlour’, it seemed to have completely missed the target of living up to its name. It dealt in railway and air ticket bookings and had no relation, even remotely, with movies or DVDs.

Quite agitated, I asked the shop guy why the name of the shop had in it ‘CD/DVD’ parlour if it didn’t sell movie disks? To this, he innocently said he used to sell CDs until as late as the previous month but now he was fully into ticket-booking business. The name, apparently, was yet to be changed.

Even my last hope stood dashed and, disheartened, I was returning home when the jinx broke — and I got reprieve in the most unlikely and unthinkable way.

On my way, I remembered I had to buy a pair of bathroom slippers and entered a very small shoe store. To my surprise, I gathered that the shoe seller sold videos too, even as his stock was quite thin. I was so happy that I bought over a dozen movies and placed an order for another few.

Since then, whenever I have had to watch a movie, I have given a call to the shoe seller. He gets it for me. Besides, some of my friends have also gifted me quite a few nice DVDs.

Today, I have a decent collection and, sitting with my antique in my madhouse, I watch a film every night!
Reetesh