Sunday, September 10, 2017

Love, life and other impediments - Part-2


Please click here to read part-1

I could not fathom why a police officer would call me on my mobile phone. If it was any official matter, my legal advisor would inform me of the forthcomings. Why would the police have to chase me; that too with an arrest warrant? I sensed something was fishy. But I could not understand what it was.

“Officer, My name is Samarth Irrinjalakuda, I am the…..” Oh Forget it. “I don’t understand all this. What have I done to get arrested?”

An accompanying constable spoke “Saar, you don’t see TV ah? Your girlfriend is there no. She has made all your personal life public saar. Better means you only…”

“Hmmmm…” The police officer gave the constable a blatant look. The constable, with an implicit gaze, stopped talking.

“Officer, can you please tell me what is happening?”

“Mr. Samarth, your girlfriend has taken your extra marital affair to media; the taped call recordings and dirty talk, pillow talk or whatever you call it; your sexist conversations, everything is being aired on Times Today news channel since noon. She has also produced before the media, recordings of your anti-feminist views on sex, your cynical views on women centric society, etc.

WHAT?

Are you really surprised, Mr Samarth? With my experience in cybercrime and CID, I could confidently say that those recordings were not forged. It was not you. Really?

Silence

Mr. Samarth?

Silence

Constable spoke again in a varied tone “Hehehehe.. Saar… in his silence wonly answer is there no saar”

I was totally flabbergasted and couldn’t utter a word. After a long pause, the police officer spoke again.

“Mr. Samarth, there is lot of furor out there. The women welfare associations have gathered demanding your arrest. It is quite a commotion in front of the police station. Since evening, all major national media is reporting your story. Social Media is abuzz with posts against you. The hashtag #HangSamarth is still trending on twitter. There is widespread protest in the national capital too. We have orders from the CMO to nab you. Women and child development minister Monica Gandhi has ordered an inquiry”.

His words terrified me. With a fretting temperament, I opened twitter app on my mobile phone. He was true. I had 6730 notifications and my handle had 4500+ mentions. I did not dare click on the hashtag. Fear crept inside me like the ghost patterns did to a horror movie watcher. For a moment, I thought of the consequences and I was hounded by the fear. I had no idea what to say.

Police officer continued. “As your well-wisher, I can give you a serious advice. Avoid media confrontations completely as much as possible. Talk to your legal advisor immediately and try for an out of court settlement with your girlfriend. If you go to court, media will create sensational news out of nothing, your family will be dragged into this unnecessarily, your wife will come into scene and then it leads to alimony and what not. These will rip you apart Mr. Samarth. I hope you know what happened to film star Rithvick Rohan in Konkona Rounit’s case”.

Oblivious to Tania taking it to television and the chaos that ensued, I tried to connect the dots. But everything seemed like against the odds. I could think of just two things. Was there someone else who was playing the cards from behind? I had no idea. Were Tania and my wife both involved in this? That seemed very unlikely. Probably Anita could be as clueless as I am right now. Suddenly something inside my mind was wide awake. It didn’t take a genius inside me to guess that. Now it was all in place. Oh dear lord! I just couldn’t fathom what mess I was into.

A.N.I.T.A. is T.A.N.I.A.

I recalled all the conversations with Tania. Salman Rushdie, euthanasia, medieval economy, matriarchy – all were topics of my interest! It was a perfectly planned decoy! Anita had executed the plan so flawlessly that I was just wheedling the response tailored to her trap. And I couldn’t realize a wee bit. A chill ran down my spine. As the halogens of the Police patrol shot two separate beams into the road’s slowly settling dust, I was confounded with what had just happened in my life.

When I first met Anita at MIT sailing pavilion, we both were students. I was at the Sloan School of management and she was pursuing her masters at MIT School of engineering. She was an impeccably beautiful girl with a brilliant academic record. After her bachelors from NIT Kurukshetra, she was pursuing her Masters in Structural Engineering, a domain which itself had inclined towards male dominion. She was the perfect concoction of beauty and brains I had ever seen so far, in a girl. I had fallen in love with her instantaneously at our very first meet. After my convocation, I had proposed her and she had accepted it. As soon as we both came to India, we spoke to our parents and they overwhelmingly accepted our love.

Just like me, even she wanted to rise and shine in her domain. Back in India, her project on constructing energy efficient buildings was critically acclaimed. Her design had won ASEAN center of energy green building award for 2016. A white paper “Structures with seismic viscoelastic dampers and energy dissipation devices” published by her had given her international recognition. Many state governments invited her to be the designer of their new construction projects. Her rising fame was recognized by the United Nations and she got a call by the UN Secretary General to serve on the United Nations’ High Level Advisory Group on Sustainable structures (HLAG-SS). For this, she had to be in Belgrade, Serbia for a period of three years.

Anita’s rising career aspiration was countered by my ego and my parents’ social norms. My parents wanted a bahu just to keep the family bloodline from extinction. Nothing more. But Anita always argued that India had the most overeducated wives in India and that if something that had to be changed, it was my parents’ attitude. My parents always saw her as a girl from middle-class family who did not understand the north Indian family dynamics. To be frank, I too was intimidated about her success. I could not get accustomed to the fact that she was professionally more successful than me. This always enraged Anita. She wanted to go to Serbia. But my father believed that daughter-in-law staying away from home for three years was a sort of premonition. And my mother always blamed her for breach of harmony at home.

The existence of this patriarchy in my family was something I had hidden from her even after marriage and this enraged her. She often felt cheated. Owing to patriarchal stress, even though I wanted to help her, I did not. Succumbing to family pressure, I could not keep even a single of the armada of promises I had made her. Whenever this came up to be discussed, I was totally taking my parents’ side and worse, I was always going against her. I tried to convince her; but she refused and was hell bent on going to Serbia.

My father and I discussed a wicked idea of forcefully putting my child in her womb, so that she is left with no options but to stay back. What followed it was obvious. A few months later, she told me that she was gestating. I was so meddled with the plan’s success, that I did not even make an attempt to congratulate her or even feel great about the news. Now, for all three of us, she was just a medium of fulfillment. More than the happy news, we celebrated that we overthrew her; we partied that her professional career was coming to an end. We rejoiced at her helplessness.

By the time the baby was born, her professional career was totally doomed. She came back to my home, only to be ill-treated by me and my parents. Doctors termed it as postnatal depression and told her it was very common after delivery. The more she resisted, the more she was tormented by us. She couldn’t manage without popping 2 anti-depressant pills a day. I made sure that media did an extensive coverage of what had happened to the most famous structural engineer this country had ever seen. Although, no one got close to the reality, every media house ran its own version of her doomed career. Anita’s condition had disrupted her family’s reputation too. Her sabotaged career aspirations were quoted as examples in the TED talks on Women’s career. For outside world, she suffered from postnatal depression of level 3 severity. But in actual, it was something else; something very different and something more intense.

As the jeep entered police station with the siren ON, hundreds of activists pounced on the jeep, screaming and raising slogans against me. One woman I caught my eyes with, took a rotten tomato and threw at my face. From being a lover, being heartbroken to being a felon, I was in a varied mood within last 8 hours. As the police officer escorted me inside, I was falling deep down, preparing myself for the long wait. I wiped off the rotten tomatoes along with the anticipation from my face. I knew my life had slipped very deep to insurmountable levels of despair. I knew my life will never be the same again!

I was charged for sedition, hatred speech and acts intended to outrage the feelings of women. The case was running in court. The same media houses which I had asked to cover Anita’s story, covered my case with specifics of every hearing in detail. One day, out of the blues, Tania had absconded and the hence case was dropped. But the damage had already been done. I could not think of undoing it even in my wildest dreams. The same media which had assisted me to put an end to Anita’s career had branded me the ‘Bad man of the Corporate World’.

Outside the court, the police escorted me to the jeep. I had clear instructions by the police to avoid media. I saw Anita at the far end of the court’s corridor handing over something to another person. As the jeep turned right and approached the corridor, I caught a glimpse of the other person. My eyes instantly recognized her. She was the same woman at the police station, who threw rotten tomatoes at me! As the jeep increased its turbulence and vanished into the traffic, I saw the woman doing a Namaste, with Anita clasping a 2000 Rs note in between her palms. Standing next to the woman, smirking, was my car driver.

Epilogue:

True realization of self in a man’s life arises when he encounters something in his life that staggers him into the need for self-examination and self-explanation. In the conference hall, I was sitting alone, at the far end of the corner, in the last row, which was away from the entrance. On the podium, one of the board of director was reading from the script:

“On behalf of the board of directors of Accel Ventures Inc., I take immense pleasure in announcing that Mrs. Anita Irrinjalakuda, will take over the responsibility of Chairman and Managing director of Accel ventures. The members, the statutory auditors and the shareholders of this fifteen million dollar enterprise have unanimously……”


As she entered the stage with her daughter, she threw an askew glance at me with a malicious grin. She had given me a taste of my own medicine, with a dose I would remember for the rest of my life.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Love, life and other impediments - A short story

Prologue:

“A very lovely welcome to you on our prime dating call services.  Are you trying to find love? Your search for respite ends here. Share everything on your mind, at the comfort of your mobile phone, sitting right there. Our services are available 24/7. Call charges at Rs 7 per minute.”

To continue in English, Press 1
*beep*
If you are looking for a female soul mate, Press 1
*beep*
If you are an unmarried Male, press 1
*beep*
If you are aged between 25 and 30, press 1
*beep*
If your height is above 5 feet, press 1
*beep*
If you have a fair complexion, press 1. If you have a dark complexion, press 2
*beep*

“Thank you for your inputs. Please hold the line. We will now connect you with the love of your life. She will be online with you shortly.”

A sweet girl’s voice replied: "Hello Sid. My name is Tania"
“Hello there”
“Heyyy Hiii… How are you doing today?”
“I’m good. Thanks.. Ummmm. Ummmmmm - How old are you?" I blurted out.
Never ask a man his salary and a woman her age." *congenial giggles from both ends*
I'm sorry. I didn’t mean to...Ummmm..."
It is okay Sid. Let us just say, I will be sixty five in 2050."
I quickly did the math. Impressive! Hey listen.. your.. your voice is very sweet”
“Huh? I take that as a compliment”
“So errr… errr.. are you single”? *congenial giggles from both ends*
I…  
****Honk Honk Honk. Honk****

Arghhh! The cry of goose from a truck behind my Audi Q7 brought me back to my senses. My driver gave me that “not my fault” looks. Damn! I said a quick goodbye to her and unwillingly pressed the RED button on the MMI High 3G rear seat entertainment display. When the 7 inch TFT displayed the call duration of 31.44 minutes, I was surprised that we spoke for more than half an hour on the very first call. It felt like it was just 5 minutes ago that I had handed over my phone to my driver and had asked him to connect Bluetooth and route it only to the rear cabin infotainment system. I was all shaky and nervous for the first time. I spoke in a brattish way that the girl on phone would have thought of me as a contraband thug. But I loved it. The conversation was refreshing. My mood was bear aloft. The evening seemed truly pleasant after a long time. I cherished how technology has become omnipresent with the modern society. The proliferation of the internet, the cell phones and their subsequent integration into everyday commerce and more importantly, our personal lives amazed me.

My presence in the 21st century, the last decade in particular, an era that has perfected the art of annihilation in every walk of life, is weirdly impressive. Perhaps the experiences of my life so far as an entrepreneur, my connections and involvements with start-ups and their success stories, have given me a tremendous amount of real-world success and fame. Today I am one of the most buoyant venture capitalists of south Asia. Majority of my ventures have made it big with a unique product or service with a very strong competitive advantage. Few of them have made it to the S&P 500 list and a few others are merged and acquired by Fortune 500 companies. I am the founder of one of the top venture capital firms of India. I take pride in saying that I have built Accel ventures from nothing to a multi-million empire of start-up incubators. To put things short, today I have an important role in creating new businesses that is capable of fueling the progress of our country and the world.

You may imagine Entrepreneurs to be highly intellectual and resilient people who pounce on problems, determined to find solution. But it is only partially true. In reality, you have to give up a lot of things to get there. My B-school taught me only one thing; that you cannot expect full time results with part time effort. In fact, none of the b-schools enlighten you with old school philosophies like “Work to Live. Don’t live to work”. Consequently, in the quest of my professional success, I joined hands with more and more business partners, but could not find time for my own life partner. I concentrated on husbanding more resources into my ventures, but neglected being husband of a beautiful wife. My relationship was Hit-and-run by my professional self-esteem and ego. Obviously, the consequences were huge!

Coming back to my professional life, after the huge success of Tinder in India, the current venture that I had taken up was funding of an online dating call service, in association with mobile service providers like Airfone and Vodatel, the first of its kind attempted in India. And as a VC for this project, I myself was trying to validate the business operations only to see how this can be invalidated by the users. So I registered myself with an alias only with the intention of exploring business.
After completing all my evening calls and meetings, I went down to my cabin, took out a new bottle of Green Killer IPA, a Belgian Beer, which a dear friend and CEO of a renowned software company had given me. I took a sip and checked my mobile phone for any messages. To my surprise, there were 3 missed calls on my personal number. Very few close friends and business partners had my personal number. I dialed back. And a vaguely familiar sweet voice answered
“Hello Sid”.

It didn’t take me long to realize that it was the same lady from the dating services I had spoken to, earlier today. I cursed myself for dialing from my personal number. Damn these dual sim phones!

“Good time to talk?”
“Umm. Yeah. Of course! I was.. umm. Just watching TV. What are you up to?
I was reading"
Pretty good! Reading what?"
I have 'Shalimar – The Clown' in my hand"
“Heyyy, *excited* By any chance, are you a Rushdie aficionado?”
“Yes! But what do you mean “by any chance”?
“Actually, isn’t it very rare that you come across a Rushdie fanatic?”
*I told myself that last time I heard someone saying I am a Rushdie follower was my wife*
“You know what. Me too! Totally” I am a huge fan of his narration. In fact, I’ve read all of his books, some even more than once! Now I am reading Padma Lakshmi’s autobiography “Love, Loss and what we ate” just to understand why he is such an ass in real life.
“Ha ha ha ha! If Padma Lakshmi is to be believed, he is indeed a maniacal ass”
"You’ve read that too? Impressive!"
“What do you do for a living?”
“I am… ummm.. a businessman”
“That is cool!”
“And you?”
“I am a school teacher”
“Ah! The noble professional”
“Not really a passionate teacher. I do it to keep myself occupied. It is so hard to sit back and do nothing”
“True. Everything passes, but nothing entirely goes away. Isn’t it?”
*Long silence*
*In unison* “Soooo”
*In unison* “Hahahhaahah”
*In unison* “You go first”
“Pretty woman first…”

When I woke up at 8 in the morning, I realized that I had slept on the couch itself. My neck was aching as if it was tightly tied to a yoke for an entire day. I checked my mobile only to realize that I was talking to her until 2:30AM in the midnight. After quickly fortifying myself with a bowl of Cornflakes with milk and a hot shower, I got dressed and left for work. All the way through the drive, I could not stop thinking about my conversation with her. En route to office, I gave my phone to my driver and just nodded. He gave an indicative agreement that he knows what to do. I dialed her number again:

“Hello. Good Morning teacher”
“Hey Sid. Very good morning to you”
“Is the teacher busy?”
“Absolutely not! Today is a holiday”
“Oh wow! What on earth for”?
“Valmeeki Jayanti”
*frowning* Bloody hell. “I wish I was in your school too”
“Businessmen are usually bad teachers”
“You think so?”
“Yeah! Why do you ask?”
“I remember once my professor telling me that I would be the worst businessman ever…”
“Ha ha ha ha. So you proved him wrong?”

We spoke until I reached office. I said bye to her and she wished me a good day. Within days, these phone calls became a routine. I was constantly telling myself that I want to make it absolutely clear we are nothing more than acquaintance. But at once, there was a huge undercurrent of feelings arising inside me for her. I was trying to figure out what it really was!  The more we spoke; more often I wanted to talk to her. She was different. With every subject we discussed, I felt there was an instant connection in the way we spoke. There was something about her that impressed me. I felt it was since long time I was asking myself “what are you searching for” and that all seeking had stopped and I was suddenly become aware of the fact that I have found the right answer.

In between our professional errands, our virtual encounters on WhatsApp and phone calls continued. Day by day we dropped all our defenses and got very close. We spoke for hours together on topics like euthanasia, medieval economy, sex, Gynocentrism etc. At times, she would give me suggestions and sometimes I was concerned about her wrongdoings. On certain topics, we debated so much until we got bored of the topic. There was a sense of caring and compassion in our talks; I could feel it. It was like we both enjoyed with pleasure, the slow, hand in hand revelation of both of our lives, to each other.

As days passed by, the bonding grew even stronger. By now, we both were well aware of our personal stances. One fine day, we decided to end this virtual intimacy and get real. We both were skeptical that our virtual identities were not bona fide and we had discussed this long over. We both promised to each other that when we meet, we’ll reveal our true identities. I invited her to meet up at an informal venue on a pleasant evening and she agreed. I had started talking to her only to explore the business behind the on-call dating services. But this had gone absolutely beyond that. And here I was, exposing my deepest feelings to a woman who I have just started speaking to, a few weeks ago. I had read somewhere that only with love, one’s inner conscious will be eager to accept the peril that lies in front of him. This was my worst fear. I was hit by both apprehension and excitement, a pleasantly baffling experience, which I could not express to anyone.

I was happy that my personal life was getting a second chance and I considered myself very fortunate. On that day, I wore my favorite charcoal gray suit. It is a date. I am not going to discuss business. And the summers were really unbearable of late, thanks to El-Nino. I was sweating even inside my room with air condition running. I changed to a casual wear. It looked simple and courteous. I took out Annick Goutal’s Eau d’Hadrien perfume and dabbed it several times onto my chest and the base of my throat. Then I confirmed that it was not dousing and felt everything was perfect. I picked a random watch from my watch cabinet and wore the Casio Pro Trek PRG600 watch, which was gifted by a friend. I stood in front of mirror, changed orientation and I convinced myself that I looked elegant.  I decided to drive myself and had already asked the driver to take half a day off. 

I couldn’t decide if I wanted to pick a nice gift to her on the way. But in real, I never believed in gifts. I always saw them as a sort of social construct. So I decided against it. I was the first to arrive at the venue. I sat on the table that I had reserved for us. I could not wait to see her and talk to her. A strangely complex apprehension occupied me. A few minutes later I called her. The subscriber you are trying to reach is currently not reachable – I waited for 30 more minutes. She did not turn up.

When she did not turn up even after an hour, I got restless and tried calling her at repeated intervals. But I got the same message.  A couple of hours passed but she did not turn up. I was deeply disappointed. It was hard to accept that she did not show up. I picked up the newspaper that was nearby and started glancing through it. According to some astroswamy’s column, it was an ill-fated day for me today. I turned to the next page. The quote of the day said that when someone disappoints you, there is nothing that can be done but to accept it. *Fuck* It certainly was not helping. I kept it aside. Inside, I was deeply in despair.

With an unwilling mindset, I got up and decided to leave. As I entered the restaurant’s corridor to enter the parking lot, my phone rang. Without even seeing who the caller was, I answered the call and uttered “Tania, where are you. I’ve been waiting for you since 2 hours… I was…” and a callous voice from the other end cut me through;

“Hello! Sub Inspector Surya Narayan speaking”. Before he could finish saying that, he appeared on the other end of the corridor, facing me, with his phone still clung to his ears.

“You are under arrest”


To be continued….

Monday, January 23, 2017

Nuances from my family WhatsApp group


WhatsApp for sure has taken the tech world by storm and has given its users, true power at fingertips. But one thing that the founders did not foresee was the pain and agony that thirty something tech savvy men like me have to go through being part of Indian family WhatsApp groups. Thanks to my aunties and uncles in the group who have just retired and have decided to spend the rest of their lives spreading (spamming) the gyan which they think has the potential to change the world… or our family, at the least.

I can understand their excitement. For people like my uncle who come from the era of post cards, in-land letters and telegrams, the idea of instant messaging itself is a fascinating thing. And even I, a couple of decades ago, have seen a single landline telephone at home being used by the entire neighborhood for emergency purposes. So even after years of using WhatsApp, this “instant messaging” thing has never ceased to excite our senior folks in the family. At times it is good. Those photo quizzes, sharing a few lighter moments, celebrations and wishes are all feel good factors. But there is also another side to it which is very much annoying and frustrating at times!

I am receiving at least 10 Sai baba pics every day of which I am asked to forward at least 5 of them to avoid bad luck, some of them within 7 seconds. Now I am forced to know what breakfast every damn member in my family had; after a family gathering, every member in the group shares all the awkward selfies that they have taken. Impromptu video call from Realiance Jio empowered uncle is cool. But definitely not pleasing when you’re in the loo. Not to forget the often “Oops.. Sorry by mistake sound recordings of 0.2 seconds each. Wait… That is not it!

While one aunt, everyday emphasize the importance of Sudarshana Kriya by Art of Living Ravishankar, the other aunt is always busy preaching about all the 33 crore Hindu gods, one per day. That uncle who forwards the same old RaGa joke thrice doesn’t even realize that it is too cliché. And we have a dedicated public sector members in the mid-40s who are active only when there is change in pay commissions, Dearness Allowance hikes, HRA changes and so on which are non-existent in the corporate world. And one category of people presume they are educating the world by forwarding only  intelligent spams like “the employee who had HIV and his blood has spilled into Frooti”, “Messages sent and certified by CNN/NASA/BBC”, “Some weird math-magic day of a month which appear only once in 821 years”.. Uff! This category is the most irking of all. The excitement reaches heights when there is a new baby born in the family. Every now and then, the aunt promoted to granny starts sending videos of the baby doing everything. I mean “literally everything”! The baby’s first poop video in full HD and what not! Gimme a break.

All my cousins from the younger generation have a separate group so we don’t talk much here. I know there is mute/uninstall and may other tweaks to avoid this. I tried muting it once and to my surprise I started getting calls as to why am I not replying to any of the messages in spite of being online. Smart phones you see! I was caught red handed. So we still have to be a part of the group to answer any unexpected questions which may be directed at us like “Why is your dad not picking calls? Or how is your mother’s sugar levels now?” We all cousins decided on a mass exodus one day only to realize that we were added back to the group by evening. Thanks to the uncle who takes pride being the admin. In the midst of all these, a few good morning messages and thoughts are really genuine and feels good. The only blessed thing is that we are almost an entirely right wing family (no personifications please) and I am only happy to be exempted from the Modi v/s Kejriwal discussions.

I used to get irked in the beginning. It used to bother me a lot! I always wondered if I am taking all this too seriously. But now, for my own good, I have decided to have an air of easy unconcern and take everything that happens in the group on a lighter note. With much thought, I have been able to understand; have been able to grasp and comprehend what is keeping my family WhatsApp group alive and kicking. I guess tolerating such things is a possibility only with people you are comfortable with. 

After all, Love for the family is an excuse to be stupid.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Does Amma deserve sanctity?

My mobile flashed. “She is dead and this time it is irrevocable”; said dad’s pun intended text message. After all the media tantrums about Amma being dead and coming back to life several times, dad finally confirmed that she is really dead. The only little perks of dad being in the press are that I get breaking news a little earlier. Since yesterday evening, the way media is fostering her accomplishments and her life, her path to righteousness and so on, I’m pretty sure she’ll attain sanctity after death. But does she really deserve it?

Even Superman is Amma fan!
I don’t know much about her past and since I grew up in the early and late 90s, I’ve been hearing/following her only from the past decade. If she has done very noble deeds in the pre 90s, by virtue of which she is getting this sainthood, then probably I am off beam. But I don’t believe that is any true. She was never a great admirer of democracy. I have always seen her narcissistic conduct in front of media, in party meetings and many other public forums. Not just common man, she made even the ministers in her own cabinet fall on her feet “literally” and receive blessings. Although my TN friends tried to convince me that they did it out of pure respect for her, I fairly disagree to it. Oh! Come on. In a democracy like India, there are lots of other ways to show benevolence to your superiors. Amma in locket, Amma in wedding ring, Amma’s picture in wedding card instead of bride, I mean that is ridiculous! Above all, Irony committed suicide when O Panneerselvam kept her picture in the Chief Minister’s armchair during her prolonged illness and he sat next to it giving public statements that Amma is still the Chief Minister and that I am just following her orders. Her dictatorship made Tamil Nadu a totalitarian state which in other words is a great blow to democracy.
O Panneerselvam taking blessings from Amma
Coming to her arrogance, the whole world knows about it. It was like she always flaunted arrogance and displayed it, carried it with her in forums where it was totally uncalled for. That stance of her only showed her self-importance. I do not know why people called her voice of aam aadmi and sensationalized the whole interview when she ruthlessly ill-behaved in a TV interview with Karan Thapar. I’m not a Karan Thapar admirer. But according to me that was a premeditated way of winning confidence of certain section of the society; an opening that gave her secured access to votes of particular class of people and nothing more. She was accused of changing ministers in her cabinet who was against her strategies and ideals. I’ve also heard from many that Nepotism was at peak in entire TN State during her tenure as chief minister.
Amma is in supporter's heart!


She openly accused Marans and DMK of corruption but herself had few cases against her. Among them, funds misappropriation and disproportionate asset cases gained national importance. When she was acquitted, she came back with more power and egotism and she used it to further her authority in the state and national politics. My memories of how public life was thrown out of gear whenever she visited Bangalore for case hearings with Z grade security is still afresh in my mind. When Chennai had severe floods and relief material was sent, her supporters stamping every relief bag with stickers of Amma spoke volumes on how much power hungry and autocratic she was. Her conceited image was actually celebrated by many subordinates and followers across her state.

I believe even for the native Tamilians and their economy, she has done more harm than good by giving freebies to secure more votes. Every Amma supporter in the state of Tamil Nadu state today has a color TV, mixer grinder, Laptop and many more things to lead a comfortable life and they even get a sumptuous meal for just 10 bucks, thanks to Amma canteen. But on the other side, in the name of freebies, TN’s debt has increased to more than 2 lakh crore. Currently TN’s fiscal deficit is at 40,000 crore.
Ksheerabhishekam (milk bath) for Amma by her supporters
But why media is sensationalizing her death by calling her “Iron Lady”, “Lady who broke Gender barriers”, Revolutionary leader” and so on? If death can obliterate all the terrible deeds of 60 years of one’s life, what is the difference between a true saint’s life and hers?  Does she really deserve it? It is for us to decide. This whole thing reminds me of a saying which I read somewhere:


Death changes everything… Time changes nothing!

Image courtesy: ThUnrealTimes and Indiatimes

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Please do not throw rotten tomatoes at the judiciary

This has been a year of judicial tragedy for Indian democracy. Or does it look like? Within a year, many celebrity criminals walked free escaping punishment. Court freed a Chief Minister from the clutches of a fund misappropriation case, a famous actor was acquitted of a heinous crime, a rape victim tried in a juvenile court and sent to asylum  and now the Cauvery verdict which is not at all fair for our state. From past few days, social media is abuzz with memes, statements and cartoons making fun of Indian Judicial system. Many of my friends on WhatsApp blamed our judiciary for the Cauvery verdict. Some went ahead and accused even the justice bench to be close aides of TN Chief Minister and hence the verdict is pro TN. I agree that the verdict is unfair for Karnataka, but the blasphemy on our judiciary is not just right. For me, there appeared to be a sense of lawlessness among people. My dear friends, our judiciary is doing its job impeccably and there is no way we can hold our judiciary culpable for someone else’s folly.

If you can recall what we all studied in primary school social science, the three pillars of Indian democracy are the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. It is executive and its representative’s responsibility to maintain law and order in public life. And who are these representatives? The President, The Prime Minister and other appointed officials of Government. It is their duty to make sure that law and order is not overlooked and they are legally made responsible for people’s social and collective well-being. Judges are appointed to interpret and enforce the law. They belong to a different pillar called judiciary. Now good governance lies in the co-operative functioning of these two pillars. I can compare this to a professor-student relationship. Just because two or three students in the class failed, you cannot put the blame on professor when the rest have managed to score well. Just because the student got sick, professor cannot fill in for him in exams, although the professor is aware of the student's capabilities. Just like the professor has a certain decorum of University which he has to follow, the judges are also abided by rules of the constitution. Teaching is his job which he is doing excellently. In other words, the “judiciary” pillar is functioning perfectly. On the other hand, the “student” pillar (executive) cannot blame the other pillar (judiciary) for its own mistake. In fact, the professor is trying to balance by taking that extra load when required.

Now, coming onto emotions of people; it is not that emotion does not play its part during a case hearing. After all judges are human beings, just like you and me. Without that, judges can be replaced by robots. So I strongly deem that emotions definitely have scope in any case hearing. But it is always tempered according to the arguments put forth by the lawyers and prosecutors. This is where the dexterity of the appointed lawyers come into picture. If a lawyer fails to take advantage of this, it is not judiciary’s problem. I believe this is what happened in the Cauvery Verdict. Any justice bench would have given a similar verdict with the way Karnataka's legal team presented the case.

Emotion can never be a strong driver in a legal analysis. In other words, during the entire case hearing, it should never be the bad cop. If this happens, it is a dangerous sign. A judge can never consider the emotions outside the purview of the case in the final judgment. In a practical scenario, deliberation is not as easy to handle as it is read from the verdicts and newspaper write-ups.The logical model of judicial decision-making is very different from that of how we perceive things from outside.    

As a common man, we are indeed emotional and it is okay to protest. But there are lot of other peaceful ways. The least we can do is not to give ears to the rumors that judge was unfaithful, justice bench was surreptitious, judiciary is a failure or other such nonsense. By doing this, we are vexing others and thus spreading hatred. Before coming to conclusion in such occasions, think wise and don’t let your rage blind spot the facts and figures. Instead of instinctively making the judicial system a bad cop, albeit the challenges, for now and for a long time to come, let us appreciate the fact that ours is one of the best judicial systems of the world. 

Image courtesy: maggcom.com, tamilmemes.com and othlananmaklu page on fb

Friday, August 26, 2016

Ragi Mudde and the desi food disinclination propaganda

A friend’s post on Facebook about Ragi Mudde being called as Tarta De Millet Balle in one of the uber restaurants of the city made me furious; even more so after learning that they are selling it for 800₹. Not the 800₹ part; Keep it aside. We all know that those deep pocketed fat-cats who don’t mind paying are in abundance. But I was very much agitated by the fact that restaurant owners are trying to capitalize on regional delicacies by changing their names and without giving due credits to the original recipe. The pro arguments that the taste is still the same; and that fact that authentic local cuisines are taken to widespread audience is all good. But the need to give it a funky name and make it sound trendy and jazzy is just not right. It is a pure marketing gimmick.

Authentic Ragi Mudde

Eating is not about taste alone. It is strongly and intensely a social need. From times immemorial, what people eat never showed class differences to a larger extent. But of late, the social phenomenon of eating has taken shape in such a way that people have started identifying themselves with others by eating what elites and the aristocrats consume. Marooned in the mediocrity of social climbing, the blue collar population has started consuming food they find despicable, but cannot avoid because of social generosity. Pizza is a good example. Gradually this also gave rise to a trend that knowledge of foreign cuisines like French and Italian (even if you can read and pronounce the names of the food items) meant the person is more cool and cosmopolitan. Thus the middle class got attracted to foreign gourmet. In doing all these, somewhere in between the social climbing and overlooking our vernacular food, highly nutritious cuisines like #RagiMudde, which has been the staple food of the south karnataka’s middle class, is branded with lower class association.

Sugar Frosted Flakes changed to Frosted flakes of Corn
Now the frequency of even the middle class eating desi gourmet like #RagiMudde has considerably reduced. Just think of your own example: How often do you eat #RagiMudde vs how often do you eat Gobi Manchurian? There are exceptions, but aren’t the numbers are largely inclined towards the latter? The result is that even the desi cuisines are much in demand and hence have attained the luxury status. Now understanding this change in people’s gourmet preferences have benefitted the restaurants in a big way. And the result is amazingly lucrative. But on the other side, just imagine if the restaurant still sells it with the name #RagiMudde; most of us would be largely offended to pay 800 bucks for an austere #RagiMudde. So the only way out is to bridge this gap. This is exactly what the uber restaurants in the city are trying to capitalize on. Changing names of desi food items and putting a hefty price tag and selling it. Ultimately we are the victims.

KFC advertisement in 1978 said "Kentucky Fried Chicken"

This result of thoughtful menu planning and marketing is pure MBA stuff [which even I have studied to an extent ;)]. They are done by expert gourmet marketing consultants who charge a fortune for the job to be done. Just changing the name of a very healthy desi cuisine which costs only 10 bucks to prepare is fetching them 800 bucks. Imagine the trend. Not only #RagiMudde, There are a number of other examples as well. Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC because the word “fried” freaked out the fitness aficionados. Sugar frosted Flakes became Frosted corn flakes since sugar was not considered welcome ingredient in breakfast, especially for children. People were not comfortable saying “Rapeseed oil” so it got renamed to “Canola oil” to boost sales.

The same KFC advertisement post 2000
Don’t fall for such mega marketing trends and pay a hefty price for just a name changed local gourmet which is disguised as an international cuisine. If the menu does not describe it enough to understand, call the managers and ask them what it is. I always prefer the local fast food joints who prepare good south Indian to restaurants who call themselves specialized in North Indian, South Indian, Chinese, Tandoor and Continental. Next time you go to a restaurant and see “fermented lentil and rice flour crepe with spiced potato filling”, don’t get carried away. It is nothing but Masala Dosa. If your colleague says I prepared “steamed rice breads with spicy vegetable broth stew”, slap her hard and ask her to call it idly.

And for god’s sake, never ever pay 800 bucks for Tarta De Millet Balle. It is an insult to Raagi mudde.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Sorry Rajni saar... I watched Kabali online

I am really sorry Rajni saar. This time with a saddened spirit, I am telling you that I could not be a part of the “Kabali” extravaganza. I tried hard to resist, but in the end I succumbed to the monetary inflation of movie tickets occurring at an alarmingly high rate in Namma Bengaluru. While my Chennai and Hyderabad friends were doing check-ins with “Kabali Da”statuses on facebook on the very first day of its release, I had no other go but to find solace on torrents. I myself am discouraged, but what to do saar? I am a middle class man who cannot afford to spend 1000 bucks for 2 hours of entertainment.
Kabali Da
Saar, I don’t have to tell you that the "The movie aficionado" inside a true native Bangalorean is not confined to just Kannada movies. If you recall your old days in Bangalore circa 1970s; right from then, we have watched Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, English and even good Malayalam movies in theaters. Post 90s, all your movies have run to packed houses with more than 100 shows a day in namma Bengaluru's theaters. Whoa! We are true cosmopolitan that way saar. Kabali was no different. In fact the Kabali craze was something that I have never seen or witnessed for any of your other movies.

But saar, of late, our movie watching experience in theaters too has seen a radical change.  With the demolishing of old individual theaters and advent of malls and multiplexes, the ticket prices have sky rocketed. This is where the problem is. Multiplexes are sucking the pockets of Bangalore's middle class saar! The engrossing growth that namma Bengaluru has witnessed in the past decade has infused a sense of envy among the neighborhood. But it is never a delight when it comes to movie watching experience for us Bangaloreans. Exorbitant movie ticket prices are haunting us, the middle class movie lovers! Bangalore has become neighbors envy, but not owners pride saar!

Kabali ticket price in Bangalore 450Rs and 500 Rs
Even though the advent of malls and multiplexes is seen in Chennai and Hyderabad, the ticket price has remained almost the same. A movie in Prasad's iMax of Hyderabad is never more than 200 Rs. The same movie in a Bangalore's multiplex costs a whopping 800 Rs. I don’t know why this kolaveri saar. I myself have seen movies in Big cinemas of Chennai for as low as 10 bucks. Yes saar, you read it right. 10 jujubi bucks kanna! But Bangaloreans cannot watch the same movie for less than 500 Rs. This is a double standard no saar? Just log onto bookmyshow, PVR or Inox website. Choose Kabali and plainly compare the ticket prices for Bangalore and other cities. You'll be amazed to see that tickets in Bangalore theaters are exorbitantly high compared to other cities.
Kabali ticket price in Chennai - 120 Rs and 10 Rs

Not just power cuts and traffic snarls; political apathy in Karnataka has hit the entertainment too. Unlike AP, Telangana or TN, there is no government intervention in regulating the prices of movie tickets here. So the multiplexes like PVR and Inox are selling the movie tickets at exorbitant prices and naming it "Gold Class". But why the same PVR does not offer "gold class" in Hyderabad or Chennai? No answers from them saar. Why the movie tickets in the neighboring states are not above 250 for any show, any movie? The government is also to be blamed. Our government takes examples of neighboring states while increasing prices of milk and other consumer goods. Why not for movie tickets?
Kabali ticket price in Hyderabad (Prasad iMax) - 150 Rs

When a new movie is released, an average Bangalorean talks about downloading the pirated version than going to theater. Let us consider my own case, which is also the case of lakhs of other Bangaloreans. Being a movie fanatic and considering that I watch Bollywood, Hollywood, Telugu, Tamil and Kannada movies too, I end up watching a minimum of 3-4 movies a month. I spend an average of 2500-3000 Rs a month on movies. The figure is way too high if I include my family. It is of course a burden on my pocket. So I’ve set-up a Raspberry Pi streaming network on my PC so that I can download movies from pirated sites and watch it directly on my home theater TV.

The home entertainment has seen a radical make-over with advent of torrents and file sharing apps. Firstly, it is "almost" theater experience for me. Thanks to HD content availability as soon as a movie is released. Secondly and importantly, savings of 2000 bucks straight. Thirdly, having to pay a hefty surcharge by yenna rascala service providers like bookmyshow (they charge 45-50 Rs as surcharge for 2 tickets) has worn off the hypothetical family of four. They claim to have so many offers. But I have not found even one kanna who has been able to make use of it saar. Lastly, movies at home are advertisement free. So many ads in between a movie are so annoying. People who are little less tech savvy than me are buying the pirated DVDs in open markets. People with smart phones are watching and sharing movies on their mobile and tabs. Things like these are working wonders for middle class family in keeping them away from theaters.

I still remember watching some of your movies saar. I think it was Baba and Padayappa in Nataraj Theater. With your entry, people shouting “Thalaiva, Thalaiva” in unison and doing Abhishekam from Nandini milk packets, throwing coins from back…. Oh! The bliss. It was worth every penny! It is only sad that middle class people like me cannot afford it anymore.

Unless our government wakes up from sleep, nothing happens and also you can’t do much. So forget it saar. I just wanted to tell you that I also can’t do much other than being apologetic only. I wish you reach even greater heights of your stardom. I’m signing off secretly wishing that piracy flourishes until someone does something about it. Good night saar!


Image courtesy – ibtimes.co.in and in.bookmyshow.com