November 25th, 2011

The Cabinet decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retailing may have caused dismay among many across the country. There is no dearth of people who are critical of the central government’s move.

An HR head, who’s a good friend, from an organised Indian retail player was all happy and gay today. I thought she would be feeling a little anxious now that there may be too many players trying to take away her human resources who she spent so much training and that she may have to find freshers who will again have to be trained at a great cost of time and money.

No, she was not pretending to be delighted over the decision of the central government. She was happy that now there would be many more jobs offering big fat salaries in the retail sector. She’s also not worried about retaining her staff.

“Yessssss daarllinnnggg. It means big…, big fat salaries are on their way. I have to bide my time to make the most of it. I wonder how long I may need to wait,” was her rhetoric to my query: “Are you not worried?”

I was sure she must be losing sleep over losing people at the stores who are well-trained. She probably would have to recruit people, and train them. And, this I believed, should be worrying her. Alas!

Perhaps I need to change the way I think. I must train myself to look at the tumbler being half full or rather three quarters full rather than look at it as three quarters empty when it may be half empty.

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20 Years Hence

November 23rd, 2011

It’s been over 20 years since Professor HRR conducted his last class for the academic year when I was in the first year of my college life. The Physics professor had the ability to draw students’ interest so much that he was like the Pied Piper of Hamlin.  He had the knack of drawing the students into the subject.

For me his classes were no less than a concert that enthralled me for the whole one hour, even if it was a class at 2 pm, just after lunch. It was immersion for me, in the software parlance. Many of us would sit there in the concert hall (classroom), watching him, listening to him and trying to grab each note… rather each word he uttered.

I had never had a science teacher like him all through school. I was probably blessed to have Prof. HRR who taught what he loved to teach and always hoped his students will turn out to be those who will remain curious and have questions in their minds, always.
Ah, but if you asked him too many questions, you would get a whole list of journals and books to read so that the scientific temper is awakened. So, many who had questions, felt it was better to keep quiet and forget the questions if any in their minds. After all, studies are for just the marks, and not for gaining knowledge through ‘Scientific American’ or any other journal he could suggest. The guides were a strict ‘no-no’. “They do not allow you to think.”
The condition of most science teachers and students reminds me of the Hero Honda ad: ‘Fill it, shut it and forget it’. In case of the professor it was definitely ‘hear it, digest it and think (over) it’. Or, you get lost in the race to becoming the richest man in the world (in money terms!) with curiosity being laid to rest at the altar of mammon and the baton of the race being passed on from generation to generation.

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Chuk, chuk, chuk…!

November 4th, 2011

It was not the Toofan Express of the yesteryears. But, it fascinated me. Having been hearing about such systems running in Kolkata, Delhi, and in 158 other cities and how they make travel convenient, I decided to test out the not so useful line (don’t want to offend sensibilities calling it useless, at least for me).

The aluminum seats were functional. Hey, but for a traveller who would sometimes take 25 minutes to go from point A to B, now takes not more than 2 minutes perhaps!? That’s all the distance I travelled the first time I tested it out.
Namma Metro, which means Our Metro in Kannada (they forgot to figure out a word for Metro in Kannada!), is now 6.7 km long and is a major tourist attraction for those from the parts of the city that may never get a metro line. I am no exception.

The project first conceived sometime in the early ’80s, has been a victim of dilly-dallying on the part of the democratically elected leaders and all those who wanted to profit from the backwash effect of the metro, with places that have been bypassed losing out. The rich and the influential initially not wanting the construction in their backyard saw the line taking some sharp curves at a few places.

But, these very people have parked their money in the localities that will see the multiplier effect of the metro once the trains begin thundering down the overground tracks (yes, we Bangaloreans want to be in the Garden City where the metro lines will look like concrete paths from far above, adding to the new-age look of being a true concrete jungle).
One group that’s been attracted to it are the children. Instead of riding the toy train in Cubbon Park amidst the greenery, it’s Namma Metro they want to ride now.

We don’t want to compete with Beijing anyway. Beijing will have 561 kms of undertround lines by 2020. We will work democratically. Go slow and as unsteady as possible. Not like the Chinese, who have been so brash in building the high-speed rail networks.

Yes, we have arrived. Go Bangalore. Watch out Beijing.. we will catch up,… in a 100 years, come 2112.

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I Have Been Blacklisted

October 7th, 2011

I have found some recognition. Nonetheless, it comes from the cobbler who runs his trade quite close to my house.

The cobbler, who I have known since the year 1990, does not consider me a stranger. Not that he smiles when he meets my eye. But, we recognise each other.

Over the years, he has gone from running his trade on the footpath, under the open sky and just the tree for shade, now has a tin shed or what can be called a cabin. He would definitely call it a cabin. So also has he graduated from mending shoes and ‘chappals’ to mending bags and travel bags and suitcases.

Not that he has given up on footwear altogether. He prefers to build shoes from a flat piece of leather and design footwear that he likes to see on people’s feet. He doesn’t like to even look at what others may have stitched together into a shoe.

“I have black-listed you,” he said the other day day when I went to get a shoe of mine mended.

Gone are the days when it was “cobbler, cobbler mend my shoes. I will come by half past two. Stitch it up and stitch it down. Then I will give you half a crown.”

Our man probably teaches his kids “client, client buy your shoe. You better come half past two. You open your mouth, and, you be sure I will break your crown”.

“You don’t tell me what to do or what a footwear needs. Am I the shoemaker or you?”

“I don’t want to see you again. Take what I give and at the price I give you. I don’t like people who bargain.”

Now I am left dragging my shoe whose sole has come off for over a kilometre just to get get it repaired. I have to find a cobbler now who doesn’t recognise me.

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Chaos Theory in Practice

September 30th, 2011

It’s Chaos Theory in practice. The demand for Telangana, not so small an event though, has ensured that I lose sleep at night as there’s no power to run the fan and lull me to sleep with its slow irritating whirr. The irritating noise that is now like a lullaby is probably due to the worn-out bearings.

An expert in Chaos Theory will definitely smirk. But, I see it working so beautifully in my case. It’s the demand for Telangana (which is no more than an idea) that taken on such monstrous proportions that all transport and to and from the Telangana region has remained hit

Then how’s my sleep affected? One, I could not be with my brother-in-law when he had to undergo a surgery. Two, the thermal power station at Raichur in Karnataka is not getting a proper supply of coal as the trains with coal has to come through Telangana from the colleries.
Now, some of my friends in Hyderabad with their own business or those working there are very unsure about their future. Alas, not one of them traces their ancestry to Telangana. They are all from other parts of the state. Now, they are all wondering if they should cut down their exposure to business from the region or not.

Whether Telangana region gets the status that the protesters are demanding or not, I am hoping against hope that it will be resolved soon so that I can go to sleep well on time or that my body to get used to a quieter and warmer room!

I probably am considering myself as an all important being. But, give it a thought. When you are very sleepy, is anything in the world more important than your sleep?

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Cheapest LLB

August 21st, 2011

Plain Economics says if supply is more than the demand, then price tends to fall. Fortunately, this law of Economics is catching up with the education system in the country, but at a very slow pace.
With law schools a dime a dozen in some parts of the country, they are facing severe competition in attracting students. It doesn’t seem very different from a vegetable market at times.

Most colleges make no bones of their character. They are not shy of saying how profit-minded they are. A friend, who secured admission to a law college got a first-hand feel of the real world of education when he went to secure admission to a private college.

As he had not taken the admission test conducted by the university, he had to go in for a “paid seat”. On approaching the college and meeting the principal, the treatment he got was that befitting a customer going to a shop. “Customer is king” seems to be the motto of many these colleges.

He was offered a seat by the principal and told: “You don’t worry about anything. We will take care. Now that you are working, you need not worry about attendance. I have to sign on the attendance register. So, don’t worry.”

About the coursework to be done “I will give you a well-written project of one of the students. You can copy it and submit it. And, if you don’t have time to copy that, I will get it done for you.”
While he was leaving, the principal went in for the kill: “We offer the cheapest LLB in the city. Nobody can get you a cheaper one.”

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Long Wait…

July 11th, 2011

We Indians are so good at waiting. But, we don’t seem to learn to be patient, including me…

Probably being in a job that sees one having to meet daily deadlines makes one less patient perhaps. That has a cascading effect. It gets into your blood. You expect everyone to work like that.

Imagine when dealing with a government employee who is an expert in lengthening the red tape. Can you get the information from him for your story that has a deadline to meet?

In fact, often we can. That too without being corrupt. But, often your personal equation with the person dictates how soon you manage to get the information that you want.

I have had to call on a distant relative, a retired official. If it was a stranger perhaps I could have been less considerate. But, on account of his being a relative I am worried about stressing him out. I got to be considerate about his age too.

Meanwhile, I sit… patiently… in a ‘Great Indian Wait’. I have been waiting in queues all my life… Thankfully, there’s no queue here… Just my relative’s queue of thoughts.

But, being an old man, the queue must be long.

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Windies Cricket RIP

June 14th, 2011

I had stopped watching cricket since the match fixing scandals broke out a few years ago. You can’t escape a fleeting glance of it once in a while when you pass by a TV.

There’s no dearth of those who swear by cricket, though they can’t tell if late cut and upper cut can be seen in the same sporting arena.

But then TV channels want only eyeballs, so what if the eyeballs are controlled by a brain that has been left incapable of differentiating the good, bad and the ugly side of the sport.

Perhaps the people living in the West Indies have decided to keep cricket off their minds. I chanced to get a glance of a one-day match being played, at 11 pm. It’s got to be the Carribeans. Yes, it indeed was. But I was put into doubt. There were advertisements in Hindi in the ground.

I was too proud to ask where the match was going on. Only a few days ago did a never-ending domestic series of cricket end. With those matches going on up to midnight (I think!), I took it for granted that this match too was happening here. Where else would anyone notice a Hindi ad?

I could not make out why the stands were all empty. Then I realised it must be a stadium in the Carribeans. The stadium was small wiih very low seating capacity.

Perhaps the Hindi ads in the stadium stood testimony to how the Indians have conquered cricket. And, perhaps how the West Indians have given up cricket. After all, barely a few miles off their coast they have a very lucrative sport, which is faster and less time consuming one than cricket — basketball. No more Viv Richards and Malcolm Marshal.

Now what? Just as we have redefined Democracy… it’s time we redefined cricket, Indianised it. After all, it’s now an Indian sport.

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My alma mater?

May 7th, 2011

It was with a lot of trepidation that walked into the campus of my ‘alma mater’. For once my heart was aflutter. I was not going there as an ex-student, but as a journalist to interview a very senior person in the college.

But, where was it? I was in the right location… but, what happened to the college where I studied? The classrooms where I had irritated my teachers? The corridors I trampled on for five years?

They had been overwhelmed by the new building… a shiny 13-storey tower of stone and concrete and glass. It was not just the exterior that was all shiny… The floors were too shiny to scare me into being extra-careful while stepping into the corridors of the shiny building.

It had overwhelmed the original building of three floors, where I studied for five years. The new one is a celebration of globalisation. Its corridors don’t look very different from that of any 5-star hotel. It’s a zero-waste building… boast the creators! But, I wondered what about the energy costs of that building with the high-speed elevators and the numerous air conditioners to ensure that the students get to study in an optimum temperature to maximise their absorption capacity! Zero-waste indeed.

When you are optimising resources, then waste is minimal.

And, it’s got two levels of parking!! Is it a mall? Not very different, I thought, when I saw a store at the parking level. It had Adidas T-shirts, Nike sports wear. And, whatever else that are the favourite of souvenir hunters.

“Pick up a souvenir,” said my guide. He was none other than the head of the management education departments. The canteen was no college canteen as far an Indian student was concerned. It seems to be modeled on American college campuses. “It now reeks of all the trappings of an American college,” is what a teacher who had been a great influence on many a student’s idea of life says.

The shiny building came at a price. It cost only Rs 80 lakh, my ‘guide’ exclaimed. In the normal course it would have cost over Rs 1 crore. Much of the designing was done in-house as it now offers a course in architecture. But, would such huge spends ensure quality to the students who pay Rs 5 lakh to Rs 20 lakh to get an MBA degree?  Not a paise more or not a paise less.

Perhaps it does! Now there’s no dearth of people from the corporate sector ready to share their wisdom on ways to unravel the secrets of “the market”. It has managed to buy name and fame, and has stayed ahead of the game.

What about the job I went there to do? It skidded on the shiny floor and was temporarily lost in the humongous structure.

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For My Eyes Only

April 12th, 2011

Wearing contact lens is no big deal for me. I have been doing so for about 17 years. I, though, took two weeks to master the art of removing the lens, the semi-soft type.

Though I have been wearing it for all these years, I am not comfotable with them thanks to some peculiar conditions that I have. The naive say, its because I wear the semi-soft type. “The soft lens are much more comfortable.”

I listen, and nod… “Yes. I have been a fool not to have gone in for the softer ones.”

In reality, it was a choice between seeing or not… not the soft vs. semi-soft debate.

Now, a firm has acquired the company that manufactures the lens I wear. Their product was considered very good.

The product of the lens maker was so good, it was acquired by a company for a good price and they just jacked up the price. They seem to have figured out that the demand for contact lens is inelastic.

No matter what the price, people will anyway buy them. 

The Rs 1,800 a pair of lens (2010 prices) now costs Rs 5,100 a pair. What happened? The raw material costs have shot up, alright. Yes, input copst inflation.

But, its more a case of goodwill pricing coming into play, which was not realised by the erstwhile owners of the lens manufacturing firm.

Now, when a lens wearer can afford a Rs 5,100 a pair… the optometrist can always push a little more and get me more comfortable pair… an imported pair of lens. A patented technology has been brought in by a Western firm. It’s specifically meant for my peculiar condition. But, the catch! It costs Rs 9,100 per piece of lens. That’s compared to what I wear which is Rs 1,800 a pair.

Now, it seems, people are just switching to the soft lens. Hopefully the previous owners will have the last lauch.

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