Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My dear customer care...

Somehow, I have not been able to understand the mentality of people working in services industry. Vodafone's customer care keeps calling me to get the details of bill payment. “Sir, when did you pay the bill?” “Cheque or cash?” Bizarre isn’t it? Don’t they have systems to record all this. If you are yet to make the payment, they expect you to tell them when and where you will drop the cheque? Few of such customer-care representatives have gone to the extent of asking the cheque number. Do they expect me to run and find my chequebook and tell them the number knowing well that I have not written the cheque? What is the sanctity of my information in this case? I might say that I will pay on Saturday. They don’t even bother to ask this or next. I have figured out that Vodafone has outsourced some part of its back-office operations. And the back-office guys want information just to pretend that they are actually working. Whether it matters or not, does not matter to them.

Banks have an equally hopeless back-office operations. And it can get worse if it’s an old styled bank like HDFC Bank. They work only from 9 am to 5 pm. Well, I feel like saying "thanks" to these guys for their service. Calling them "buffoons" will be injustice to the level of their stupidity. They don’t seem to realize that even their branches are open in this time frame and people actually need call-centers at odd hours. When you ask them, they reply that it is our bank "policy". Of course, it has to be. (Thanks again for telling) But what is the logic? Again, it is the bank's "policy". I curse the guy, who invented words like policy and sorry, for he could not have foreseen how much they are prone to mis-utlisation.

Certain breeds are harmful to all kinds of commercial endeavors. And I am sorry to say "marathis" are one such breed. I went to a resort in Maharashtra. The manager did not let me check in. The reason: Guests could check in only after 10 am and I had reached at 8:30 am. One would assume that, there was no spare room. No… Please throw logic out of window, as more than 50% of his rooms were un-occupied. When I asked, he came with a rulebook. Damn! I said "Do you get salary for getting business, or for following a completely bizarre set of rules?" He pretended as if he did not know (more of this pretense strategy later). The sales guy had promised me that upon reaching, I would be served sumptuous breakfast. When I entered their cafeteria, they had vada-pav, poha and tea. Sumptuous? It’s like saying, have as much as you want, anyways it did not cost much to us to get these “cuisines” for our guests. I complained. The manager said “Fine, I will get some sand-wiches for you guys” Then he said “I am doing a great favor to you guys by getting you extra stuff in breakfast” Great Favor??? I tried hard not to yell, but that was one of the several tests of characters, where I failed miserably. I lost control and I yelled, screamed and shouted at him. I have found out that at least it works in India, because most of us lack self-respect. Where logic fails, arrogance can work.

Now lets go back to “pretense” strategy. This is the most irritating part, when these guys are called, they pretend as if they don’t know how can there be a problem in the first place. Take the example of the guy, who is supposedly responsible for hardware and software at my office. So there was some problem with my monitor. I called him up. He arrived only to reciprocate my disbelief at having faced the problem. A clever guy would have a kind of re-assurance on his face. When I asked, “By when, I would be able to work at my system”. He said, “It will take lot of time”. I was on the verge of getting heart attack as I had a deadline in half an hour. I asked, “It will take a day or two?” He said, “No, it will take 30 minutes” That was lot of time for him?? Not because he is super-efficient, but because he is a handicap at English.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


We do lack a sense of aesthetics. Take, for instance, the latest decision of Maharashtra Government to get statues of ‘Shivaji’ constructed next to Gateway of India. Or, several of such statues of Mayawati, which came into being, as she came to power. Lets leave aside the logic behind them; for there is hardly any behind the narcissism of power obsessed politicians. But are these guys blind? Haven’t they seen hundreds of such statues of Ambedkar in cities, towns and villages? They were so hopelessly built that no child feels any curiosity to ask his parents about the credentials of that bald, bespectacled man. In fact, in small towns, when they don’t have red light at the crossing, they make sure that Ambedkar statue is there. Its raised hand and pointed finger is there as if to discipline the traffic. Crows and pigeons are the only living creatures, which have got some value out of these statues for they don’t have to think twice before to defecate. Scared of crows humans built it, so that they can defecate on its top and save the earth from their gracious presence.

Now lets talk about Shivaji's statue. Marine Drive and this part of South Bombay is perhaps the only place in India, where you feel foreign. I have put it very bluntly. But have you seen cafes like Leopold and Mondegar, structures like VT and Gateway of India in any other part of this tradition obsessed country. I am from Delhi and no matter how elite a residential area is, religious folks never leave it without a temple, where they can congregate and make life miserable for those outside their gathering. Ironically, they have transformed dustbins into temples at many places. Hygiene can suffer but religion should not. You would come across nothing like this in South Bombay – where people keep their value systems inside their homes and don’t harm the beauty of roads by carrying out religious processions (save one or two instances of Ganpati visarjan). But where pandits and mullahs failed, politicians succeeded. And they will have a statue of Shivaji among the structures and the vibrancy, which have nothing Indian in it. Not that they don’t have the right to. But they should have seen how many commuters even take note of the Shivaji statue at VT station. No one cleans it. It is as earthly as the earth. I mean as dirty as VT station.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My constant cribbings...

I was walking on the… (Read it carefully)...ON THE MARINE DRIVE yday in evening. The "THE" is used to convey the idea that Marine Drive is the most aspirational residential address in urban India. So there I was. It rained, I was drenched but it did not matter much. The shoes got soiled, water seeped in, but the feeling was divine in that breeze and the showers. Fitness freaks were running with their dogs. Ha...Their dogs were cozy inside raincoat.

Half an hour of walk and I reached Charni Road station. Entered the train, obviously there was no place to sit. There was a place to stand, so I took off the raincoat. My shirt was wet. The fan was teasing me. Despite my 6 feet height, I couldn’t get any air from it. The windows were shut as rains had wreaked havoc. In minutes, I was off the best-ventilated part of Bombay and I was on to the worst. And, it was so bad that after few minutes, I couldn’t figure out if the drops on my brow were thanks to rain or my sweat glands. And, there was continuous pressure to adjust co-passengers. There was a passenger comfortably sitting and reading newspaper. Bastard was giving me a disdained look, when I happened to touch him. Motherfucker, if you want so much of comfort, tell your wife to turn whores and spend their money on a Merc. I couldn’t say anything to him. I was sure that with my size, it was easy to figure out that I am from north India. It would have been easier for that bastard to abuse me in marathi and also invoke the sympathy of his state brethen. I kept mum.

Came Dadar and it was like sea of humanity desperate to get on to train. I wonder why filmmakers work so hard on the screenplay of movies made on the subject of partition. For them, it’s much easier to visit Dadar Station, where the stage is set for another round of division. There wasn’t enough space for my two arms to hang around my big belly. So, I had to raise my hands and I cant tell how envious I was of a man who was sitting and playing games on his mobile. From behind, an old man kept cribbing "aage ho jayo" (please move ahead). I told him "agar aapko jagah milta hai, toh aap jaao na" (why don’t you go, if there is enough space for that).

Came Santacruz, I was still two stations away from Andheri. But, I started gathering my stuff - a polythene bag and a raincoat. I told the guy standing next to me that I had to get down at Andheri. That was to check if he was kind enough to exchange places so that I move few steps ahead. He smiled awkwardly. What was his smile for? Was he empathizing with me? Was it the kind of smile, you give, when you hear something impossible? Who knows...But another man did exchange his place with mine. May be my innocent face did the trick. I had just four passengers standing in front and it was certain that the mission was achievable. There was a surd, who perhaps wanted to get down at Andheri. But he was late and of course was uncertain if he would be able to get down or not. This is what I hate most. When you know that you are in Mumbai Local, isn’t it your duty to plan your exit well in advance. But few of us keep on shagging on our seats and expect the crowd to make way for us as if we are monarchs. A bloody monarch in a public transport, Fuck it. The surd's bag touched my ass twice. I had to tell him in unequivocal terms of his misconduct, else his bag would have touched other parts of my body too. I told him "even I have to get down at Andheri with a kind of angry look". He said, "did I say anything". As if he had not said it, I would have let him shove his back up my ass. My foot. I ignored him. There was a lapse in my concentration for few seconds and I realized my one leg would be in train and the other on platform, for a deluge of desperate passengers were eagerly waiting to board the train at Andheri. One wave of passengers desperate to get down and another wave desperate to get in. As with other things, this might seem beautiful from air. It would seem like union of two rivers. While this union produces music, the union of human waves at train stations brings cries, screams along with it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Matrix

In any press conference, the first person to greet you is a PR lady. What better use, you can put a woman to? She gives you a welcoming smile and introduces herself. No matter how obscure a journalist you are, she would’ve read your articles. Needless to say, she must’ve liked them too!

You enter the hall, which is the venue of press conference. The hall with its high roof and chandeliers is reminiscent of British Raj days. We, Indians, still seem to be obsessed with our maharajas. Perhaps, it is due to reinforcements by our elders and never forgetting media. Everything about the setting of the press conference is hell bent upon making you feel important in overall scheme of things. It is ironical that often journalists, who are guests at such conferences, do not even afford a 2-bedroom hall flat. What a contrast! You wake up every morning and while you are yawning, you have to be careful else your hand will reach the fan and you will be behanded (what atrocious use of language, but I think it gets the message straight). You go to a conference rubbing shoulders with who and who’s of industry. Journalists surely live in illusion. A delusion that they matter, a delusion that without them the society cant stand on itself. Well, I dint intend to write for journalistic illusions, but this matter is too important to be left untouched.

Right in front of you stands a man wearing a black coat and a pensive look. Many men, who are also in black coat, surround him. They nod on every word he utters, and every expression he gives. They seem to be discussing something important. There are few deputies of CEO, who behave in most sophisticated manner and make sure that they are within his gaze. What else can be the motivation behind such an inspirational acting. They act like a club of elites with their handshakes, pleasantries, mannerisms and dressings. And, they are careful of the impression their acting has on journalists, who are looking at them with a kind of awe a subject look up to his master. There is another breed of journalist too. They act like police with their piercing eyes and sharp questions. The only difference is that this time, the police is much weaker and the criminal more powerful. (A disclaimer is required. I did not intend to say the corporates are criminals. In fact, you should blame those headstrong journos, who ask offensive questions without getting their basics right and often forget the difference between a conference and a lock-up).

Now coming to the point. At every step of this press conference, I realized that the media and corporate world is nothing but a big show-off. Everyone is an actor. The girl, who greeted me, must have been bored of smiling tirelessly at people. She knows that most of the journalists, she is giving the press release to, are not going to read it. So, why doesn’t she show a middle finger to them? The elderly CEO of PR company told me that I dint need to introduce myself. Ha ha ha. He thought that I am a fool, who would believe him. I, a common man, who stays in a small flat, does not need to introduce myself to those, who have spent their life in corporate world. It might be true, but I pity them. I would not have been comfortable to acknowledge that, if I were in their place. But their job requires that.

The CEO and his men don’t need to be so formal. They can be normal. They don’t need to discuss in mild tone. They can crack jokes and laugh. But they don’t. They are afraid that they will not be taken seriously. Seriously by whom? By someone, who has nothing but a faint idea of his business.

I think we don’t think seriously about such things. We are programmed like the watchman who bows endlessly all his life. May be, few of us get richer doing it, but at what cost? At the cost of our freedom, at the cost of giving up the choice of being what we want to be. If this is true, we are all in a Matrix, where we spend most of our lives in doing what we are expected to do and not what we want to do. There is hardly any difference between robot and us. In fact, robot is better as he does not pretend he is human.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Black Umbrellas

As I waited for an auto, I could see only black umbrellas on the road. Reaching office wasn’t going to be easy. The black umbrellas had reduced the wide road to a labyrinth. And they seemed to enjoy absolute power on the traffic. The buses, cars and autos had to stop, change their lane as per the whims and fancies of black umbrellas.

The policeman too wasn’t untouched by its influence, as he halted the traffic despite green light to let pass the black umbrellas. I was seeing it all sitting in an auto and waiting for it to reach Andheri Station. Close to the station, the black umbrellas seemed to have wrecked havoc on humanity. They did not let autos pass easily; they let a bus pass only after fifteen minutes of struggle. Perhaps, they were angry with those enjoying the comforts of a bus, car or an auto. It seemed as if they were ordering others to stop acting like armchair critics and come out of their shell and lend a helping hand in their daily struggle to earn a living.

It occurred to me that I would not be able to bear the heat of their fury and I alighted from the auto. And, I opened my own black umbrella…

Monday, July 6, 2009

East of Eden - John Steinbeck

So we know that we are all children of Adam & Eve. They had twins - Cain and Abel. They wanted to please the God by the fruits of their hard labour (I am not quite sure if they wanted to please God or their parents, but I know they wanted to please, so assuming it was God that they wanted to please). God liked what Abel had done. Out of jealous, Cain killed him and he spent rest of his life repenting his act. Killing a man is a sin and killing one's own brother might have been the greatest sin.

We are all children of Cain and we are also caught in the web of good and ugly, guilt and regret. Cain was enslaved by the idea that he must win over his own. And then God told him "thou mayest" - which means, he may win over his sin. In other words, he may not win over his sin and its all too human. However, the spiritual leaders, the mullahs, the fathers did some operation with the bible and changed it to "you should win over your sin". By doing it, they had taken back the choice given by the God to mankind. The choice that winning over one's sin may not be possible. But these religious gurus wanted to control the world around them. So how could they have given the choice? Aint it sound so similar to those babas who appear every day on TV and guide (or prod) their followers. Shameless bastards they all are, they have committed the worst sin by cheating the world for so long.

Well I am not writing on Bible. I just finished reading the book "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck. I started reading only 2 years back and havent read much but of all I have read this is the best book that I have come across. Steinbeck sets the story in California. Tsark has two sons - Charles and Adam. Charles was always guilty of being too agressive with his brother. Adam gets married and his wife gives birth to twins - Cal and Aaron, who are nothing but the replica of Charles and Adam. Cal thinks he is made of all bad things, he thinks bad, goes to bad places. Aaron is a nice looking sweet guy and everyone likes him more than Cal. Cal is jealous, which drives him to cause the death of Aaron. His guilt does not leave him and then the book closes with his father telling him "Timshel - Thous Mayest". In a way, his father forgives him, for committing a sin is all too human. Moreover, by giving the choice (the word "may" stands for choice unlike "should" which stands for order), he had set Cal free of his guilt.

In hindsight, it seems too obvious that this book has come from an American, for this country stands for freedom of all kinds. Freedom from Church, freedom from King. And this is what Steinbeck implies when he says "we might have been living in caves if human spirit wasnt free"

Friday, July 3, 2009

On mockery known as popular awards

I have been cribbing a lot off late in my previous posts. So if you are tired of reading, I warn you to not read this post. Ha ha ha I am writing as if millions read my blog. Whatever....
There is nothing more irritating than the popular awards. Zee Cine Awards, Sony Awards, Filmfare and IIFA. The idea of this blog came to me as I just glanced at TV and saw Abhishek Bachchan holding a trophy at IIFA and Amitabh Bachchan looking at him full of pride, with tears in eyes. My mind raced through the films released last year. Why did Abhishek get the award? Obviously for Dostana - a mediocre attempt at making a gay comedy. Though the fim was paisa vasool, but does Abhi deserve an award for it?
Then came the scene - Sonam Kapoor was dancing and Sushmita Sen was clapping like mad, as if she gave birth to Sonam. I think Sushmita can easily become the next Nirupa Roy. She has publicly declared that she does not mind being Angelina Jolie of India. The way she was clapping, it seemed obvious that Sonam had told her before the performance to behave crazily when Sonam appears on the stage so that people, who are otherwise staring at the revealing dresses, notice that something is happening. The same trick was used by Imran Khan and Ranbir Kapoor when they hosted Fimfare - the only difference is that at that time the encouragement came from Abhishek. I think that was genuinely a smart move as their jokes were worse than PJs.
Doesnt Abhishek Bachchan get bored of receiving award for third class trash year after year? If it is being popular, then I think he is more popular for his parents than for himself. His inner self doesnt curse him. If I construct this argument logically it seems that perhaps Abhishek is not even intelligent to understand all this. It has been 10 years that he made his debut. Why does he need these cheap tricks?
And what does Big B think? After spending 40 years in cinema, having worked with best of directors, actors and technicians, he has to sit among idiots who are self proclaimed actors. I agree that these awards serve an important platform for new comers to show their face and half baked talent to who and whos of film industry. But, shouldn't they be choosy in selecting the guest list? What kind of encouragement can come from Sushmita Sen who has not given one decent performance in 15 years of cinematic career. She was reduced to performing dance numbers. Later she adopted a girl and created so much hype around it that her image was propelled to a certain extent. Can she actually provide any encouragement?
Dont audience understand the sheer travesty behind these awards? I mean how can we have Zee Cine Awards? What has Zee done to become an authority to give awards to artists? There should be some association of artists or some academy after which the awards should be named. Forget it. Any asshole, tom, dick, harry who can book Bandra Kurla Complex for one evening, pay the actors to dance on the stage and arrange for drinks and food can easily start giving awards.
What do these awards mean after all? Nothing... It is not surprising to note that none of the serious guys appear in these awards. Mani Ratnam, Aamir Khan, Gulzar - they dont care. Om Puri came for life time achievement award. Am sure that an actor like him would have come just to prevent the masses to think that he is arrogant or may be he was in dire need of money. Who knows what it was? But these awards are not worth a pig's shit.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Why Rafa is important for tennis?

It is sad to see a game, you love, becoming a sort of comedy. This is very much the case with lawn tennis today. Before Nadal emerged, there was hardly any player, man or woman, whose name you could recall but for Roger Federer. And when Nadal pulls out of a tournament, it becomes a cake walk for Roger. Not that it is his fault, but there is hardly any reason to watch tennis when you know, at the start of the match itself, that Roger will come out with an assuring smile of a guy who has won all and proved it to all.

There are surprises but they are definitely not good enough to set your pulse racing. So, what if Lleyton Hewitt managed to reach the quarters, why should someone give a fuck knowing that this erratic and inconsistent player may pull out of US open because his baby is not well. Same is the case with Andy Roddick, who is known for changing coaches faster than anyone but that does not help him in going past the semis. I dont like Lleyton and Andy generally, but I respect them for their motivation.

A year back, Novak Djokovic had shown promise when he had beaten Federer in the semis of Aus Open. The loss meant a lot to Roger. He is known to be the most consistent player because he has reached 21 consecutive grand slam semi finals. Of the few semis that Federer has lost, the one is this Djokivic one and the other, which I can remember, is against Nadal in 2005 French Open. But, for these losses, Roger might have made the most number of consecutive appearances in finals of Grand Slam. But, Joker was too erratic after that win. He just cant handle his frustation when he is down. And, it was all too apparent yday, when he just dint know how to balance himself against Hass.

The scene is worse with women's tennis. Most of men watch it for the short skirts and nice figure these players have. Else, there is hardly anything to watch or stare. It is so open that the Number 1 woman tennis player has not won a single Grand Slam. Thanks to Russia, that the audience still have some interest in this game. Russia has produced players consistently and often their names sound very similar. Their records too. So, you have a 19 year old Sharapova winning wimbledon few years back. Some other 'ova' or 'eva' won the French. Consistenly, all 'evas' and 'ovas' lost their way after winning one grand slam. It is impossible to have the rivarly once we saw between Steffi Graf and Sanchez. When the younger ones are hopeless, the only ray of light comes from the William sisters. For some strange reason, tennis lovers dont give a fuck about them. I was surprised to know that Venus has won wimbledon 5 times, still her name is not taken in the same breath as of other legendary women tennis players.

Tennis became an interesting sport, as Nadal came up and challenged Federer's dominance. Their matches are as much a test of character as of skills. I think it is very important for lawn tennis that Rafa recovers and plays like earlier else it will become one of those least contested and may be least watched sports in the world.