Thursday, 31 May 2018

Sorry Buzzfeed. Failing at School is not cool! : Blog # 331

Sorry Buzzfeed. Failing at School is not cool!

            Before I start, let me tell you that I was never a topper at school. I was an average student who struggled with some subjects, was moderately good at a few and may be was good at one or two. I happened to see the below video from Buzzfeed. I felt the video tries to misguide school/college goers a great deal. Below are the aspects I feel the video has got horribly wrong:

1.      The video tries to glorify being an under achiever at school: One of the parameters at doing well in school is getting good marks. Other parameters being good at arts, craft, sports and the works. Most of the people who are featured in the video have nothing to boast about regarding academic scores. They even sound a bit proud about it. What is the glory in getting bad scores?

2.      Getting good marks at school involves hard work: Anyone who has scored good marks in school will tell you that it did not come easy to them. There is a lot of work that goes in to scoring good grades. It is an indication of the consistency of hard work that a person can put in over a period of time. Come to think of it, it is this consistent hard work that helps people become achievers in life -  be it in the field of art, sports or corporate.

3.      Is the video promoting the culture of being dumb? In 100 meters race, the parameter that is used to judge the winner is time that is taken to cover the 100 meters. One can argue that it should be the poise with which a person runs which should be made the criteria. Similarly, marks indicate a person is bright. Marks alone doesn’t indicate intellect. But it is one of the parameters. The video tries to say that marks doesn’t matter at all. It is evident from the video that except Sonia (the lady in blue) no one else had good marks in school and they are quite proud about it!

4.      What have these people achieved in life? I don’t mean to be mean or judgemental. I am just asking an objective question. Other than making 5 minute videos that people watch and forget forever, what contribution have these people made to the real world? Also, these 5 minute videos are a fad which aren’t going to last forever. If these people are going to focus their energies on doing just this, how will they have a career? More importantly, if they don’t have the discipline to get decent marks in school, will they be able to consistently deliver good scripts for videos like these?

5.      Not everything is easy or enjoyable in life: Gaining knowledge, landing a job from tens of thousands of competitors, reading books, making money are all difficult aspects of life. The video somewhere sends out the message that the difficult things in life can be done away with. It hints at the fact that rigour is not needed.

I understand the fact that the video is trying to point out flaws in our education system (I hope so, at least). But this is not the way to go about it. This video is just being populist and lazily appealing to a bunch of people who don’t work to work hard in life at all. Then how do we show flaws in the education system? I do not know! Then why do I criticise them? Because I do not sit with multiple social media platforms with the sole aim of making videos and listicles. It is not my day job. But it is the day/night and full-time job of people at Buzzfeed! Hence the criticism.

So guys and girls at Buzzfeed, there are people who have given their blood and sweat to achieve the marks they got in school and college. There are people who work 9 hours a day in a corporate job trying to make meaningful contributions to the economy and the society that they live in. They are as cool as you guys who make fun videos. Do not dumb down life.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Blog on Dulquer Salman’s Filmography #7 : Blog # 330

Blog on Dulquer Salman’s Filmography #7


Mahanati / Nadigaiyar Thilagam is one of those movies that will be cherished and looked back at fondly when the history of Cinema is written. Dulquer has been receiving rave reviews for his portrayal of Gemini Ganesan in this movie. Infact, the whole cast and crew deserve a  good loud round of applause for the heart they have put in to create the magic that is Mahanati.

In Mahanati, Dulquer essays the role of Gemini Ganesan. What a treat it is to watch! The character is so well written. There is this unapologetic streak about his being. He know his flaws and he owns them. Depiction of Gemini Ganesan is a quintessential today's hero depiction - an image that is not white washed by the moralities of the society. 

There are beautiful moments between Gemini Ganesan and Savitri (played brilliantly well by Gayatri Suresh). Some that stand out in my memory is one when he tells her that he is already married and has 2 kids. Another one is when they get married. There are many scenes where the behavior of Gemini Ganesan is not something we expect. For instance, in the bar. He gets angry but he is gentle with Savitri. There is no negativity in that anger. What those scenes portray is that the anger that Ganesan feels is towards himself and he is careful to let Savitri know that it is not directed towards her. Such was their love.  Dulquer has enacted them with quite some panache. I am sure this movie will endear him towards the welcoming Telugu audience. It will be a crime if I don't acknowledge Gayatri Suresh's acting prowess. Not even for a moment could I see her on screen. All I saw was Savitri. How wonderfully she has essayed the role and with such sensitivity!

Dulquer has come a long way in a time span of just about 6 years. Think about this – 1.6 Million followers on Twitter, 5.1 Million on Facebook, 2.2 Million on Instagram, 72K subscribers on YouTube.  How more popular can you get? By now, his movies have garnered both commercial and critical acclaim across the states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh/Telangana as well. If OK Kanmani and Mahanati wasn’t enough, coming soon is the romcom, KKK (Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal)

One was thinking if he will ever make a Bollywood debut. That is when the announcements of Karwaan and Zoya factor came along!

            Apart from movies, he is making some meaningful interventions as well. There was a Facebook post about him meeting the inspiring lady called Dhanya who is a significant part of an NGO called which creates awareness regarding Osteogenesis Imperfecta. It is good to see a movie star doing his bit to add to the goodness of society.

            He has endorsements raining left, right and center be it Otto, Malabar Developers, Club FM or many more. Would he have thought while doing the below Ad of Funskool, this was going to be a way of life for him? I don’t think so :) 

Once in a while, comes along some advertisements that stand apart from the crowd. His new ad for Malayala Manorama is one such. And the red Merc, the poetry of a car and the number board - astute move!

Earlier blogs on Dulquer’s Filmography:

Blog 1 : The rise of a new star

Thursday, 3 May 2018

How I published a book on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and earned nothing! : Blog # 329

How I published a book on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and earned nothing!

I have always dreamt of being a published author. The whole idea of having a book to my name and it being there for posterity felt very romantic to me, just like it does to any aspiring author.

I did not rush in to publishing my book, 'Growling Tales'. I wrote continually on this blog for about 6 years before I gathered the courage to write a book. Finally, the idea struck me to write a book from the perspective of animals. 'Growling tales' is a collection of very short stories which talks about how our deeds affect the lives of animals. I have tried to pen some moving stories trying not to be preachy.

Now, coming to the title of this blog. Below is a list of best practices suggested by experts which I did and did not work in my favour.

1.      Research: I spent a good 2 weeks to understand how publishing on Amazon works. I read through blogs, forums, amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) website, twitter handles and anything I could get my hands on.

2.      Cover: I designed a decent enough cover for the book. Look at the picture here. Not too bad, right?

3.      Reviews: There are close to 25 reviews on Kindle store. Of them most of the reviews are 4.5+ on a scale of 5. My net rating is 4.7

4.      KDP Select Enrollment: I enrolled in the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select program which gives the book access to a far wider audience for a period of 5 days for the enrollment period. I positioned these 5 days around a weekend as was suggested in one of the blogs.

5.      Number of downloads: To be fair to KDP select program, there was a decent number of downloads of the book when it was available for free – 88 Copies to be precise.

6.      Number of people who bought the book: All of 6 people bought my book by paying money. Of these 6, I know for sure that 3 people are my dear friends. This means my net effective book buys is just 3!

7.      Marketing: I would say I did a decent amount of Marketing for the book on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Kindly search using the hashtag #GrowlingTales and you may see the creative I made using beautiful pictures for different social media channels.

8.      Promotional campaign on Amazon: I must admit that I am very stringent on my budgets here. I have hardly spent anything on this. Let’s just say my total spend is way less than 5$ 😊.

Inspite of doing all the above, I did not make any money at all from the book. You can guess the amount from the figures I have mentioned above. Let’s just say that at best, the amount of money I made from the book might buy you a meal from a fine dining restaurant for a maximum of 2 people.

An argument against my lament could be that my book sucks! It is so bad that no one wants to buy. I am not ruling out this possibility. But, the number of free downloads I got in the 5 days period and about close to 25 reviews makes me want to believe that the book is not all that bad.

Also, the book ranked consistently high in its category for quite a lot of time. Even today, if you go to the kindle app and search ‘Animal Stories’, ‘Growling Tales’ shows up at number 21 on page 2 among the 33,629 titles. Better still, if you search ‘Animal Rights’, the book shows up on page 1 at position 6 among the 2259 titles. There were a few days when the book was ranking #1 too in some categories( See the pic below).

There is an expert opinion that one should publish multiple books to get a stream of income from KDP. I am not too convinced about that argument. Reason being all of the above best practices that I did were also expert opinions 😊.

I am immensely grateful to Amazon for realizing my dream. If not for Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, my book might not have seen light of the day.

The purpose of writing this blog is to inform the aspiring authors that they should publish a book for the love of writing and not for money. Ofcourse, if the book makes money, great! Consider it as a great windfall. I would have loved it if my book had made a lot of money. But from my experience, looking at publishing book as a source of income might be being a tad bit too optimistic unless you are a known public figure/celebrity/established author.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

One day for Love on Social Media: Blog # 328

One day for Love on Social Media

        Often, Social media is looked up on as a fertile ground for hate. Be it Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, people choose to unleash nastiest version of themselves on these channels. People say the kind of things to each other which they would never tell another person to their face.

There are times when posts on social media channels have caused riots, racially motivated attacks and heinous crimes. These deplorable, mindless deeds lead to many people quitting social media and staying away from these channels which if we used in a good, positive way can do a great deal of good for humanity.

So why not start off by choosing one day to share only positivity on social media? This May 1st, let us decide to not share anything negative on any platform. We won’t tweet mean comments, share hate invoking posts or vent anger at someone’s picture.
Here are some ways to spread love and positivity on the social media channels on 1st of May.

Thank your family for all that they have done for you.
Tell your loved one how much you love them.
Tell your friends how they have a special place in your heart.
Tell your colleagues how grateful you are for their support.

It really is very simple. On May 1st, let us share Love, Appreciation, Gratitude, Care and everything positive. Feel free to download and use the below cards 😊.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Wild Wild Country ,a Netflix Documentary on Bhagwan Osho Rajneesh : Blog # 327

Wild Wild Country , a Netflix Documentary on Bhagwan Osho Rajneesh

Was Bhagwan Osho Rajneesh an enlightened spiritual guru or was he a conman turned criminal? The beauty of the Netflix documentary, Wild Wild Country directed by Mclain Way & Chapman Way is that it doesn’t confirm either of those suspicions. Rarely does one get to see a documentary that is so balanced and honest. It talks about Osho from the perspective of his disciples, the residents of Oregon as well as the government authorities.

As the film progresses, one can’t stop wondering as to how one individual can have so many people under his spell. The residents of Oregon describe the citizens of Rajaneeshpuram as having a ‘look’. When one sees the visuals of sanyasins, one can’t not notice the strange  look in their eyes – of joy, of bewilderment, of having known the unknown. All of them were under Osho’s magical spell. Seeing them, one wonders what it would have felt like to be in that commune as a believer. Did they truly enjoy joy and liberation?

Although the documentary leaves one thinking about thousands of believers who became sanyasins, their lives, beliefs and doubts, here are a few principal characters from the documentary who have a haunting effect on you.

Ma Anand Sheela – For me, Sheela’s character is the most captivating, may be more than Osho’s himself. Osho was a spiritual being or he claimed to be so. Sheela was human -like you and I. Her journey from meeting Osho for the first time as a teenager to becoming his personal secretary to being the all-powerful Ma Anand Sheela is nothing sort of fascinating. What stands out is her conviction and will. Her conviction of feeling absolutely correct in whatever she did and the will to achieve her goals. The interview clippings from her earlier days shows her as someone who is arrogant, power hungry, wealthy and blunt. But what surprised me was that the Sheela of current day isn’t far too different from her earlier self. Her spirit remains the same. What is disturbing though is an absence of guilt and remorse. She seemed to think only about herself. Not even once does she mention anyone else. One expects Sheela to have changed over time. One expects Sheela to have had an evolved and dispassionate thought process by now. But No. She remains unchanged. One wonders if one should admire or despise Sheela.  

Residents of Oregon & Antelope – As the documentary begins, one identifies a lot with the residents of the tiny town of Antelope. No one likes a bunch of strangers taking over one’s town. The smaller the town, the stronger this feeling. Rajneeshes, as the followers of Osho were known also gave the people of Antelope reasons to be worried knowingly and at times, unknowingly. Repeatedly, the residents say they feared the unknown. Somewhere half way through the documentary, one feels a bit swayed towards the sanyasins. One wonders if the residents of Antleope were being unreasonable with the residents of Rajneeshpuram asking them to leave. But then again, one can’t help but feel bad for the tiny elderly population of Antelope.

Swami Prem Niren – He is a lawyer and a bright one at that. He talks about being disenchanted with life and turning to Osho and his way of being to find solace. I couldn’t help but wonder if startups are today’s Osho. There are so many youngsters who are getting disenchanted with corporate life and turning to startups. Swami Prem is the kind of character who lends a bit of humane-ness to Osho. One tends to believe what Prem is saying. He looks and speaks like a sensible person. Unlike Ma Sheela, there was no arrogance in him. Much in the documentary, he almost speaks in a matter of fact manner about Osho making one wonder if it is the same person who defended Osho in the courts so very vigorously. Later in to the film, one can see that the embers of worship are still burning. He believes strongly that the world missed a chance to lead the Osho way of life.

Ma Shanti B – Of the characters in the documentary, it is easier to relate to this lady. She goes through the familiar cycle of getting spell bound, committing acts that are objectionable, regretting them and now having reconciled with her past. Although she talks about the experiences she has had and cherishes them, she also looks at a moment when she got out of the ‘spell’. The moment in court that she describes when she goes to see her son is quite poignant. Her character is testimony to the fact that ordinary people like you and I will do outrageous deeds under extra ordinary circumstances. Surround yourself with unusual people, put yourself in an uncommon situation and you will surprise yourself with your ability to do commit unbelievable actions!

Osho Rajneesh – Somewhere along the documentary, I felt that maybe I should read his books. I wondered if he was really the spiritual being he was made out to be. The smiles and constant laughter displayed by the sanyasins make one want to gravitate towards the promise land. Something I found strange about him was how less he blinked. Through out the documentary, his eyes blinked for very very few times. To me, those eyes did not seem like luminous wells of mercy and generosity. To me, they felt a bit threatening. I lost the wish to read up about him when he behaved like a mere human towards Sheela. If he were indeed the benevolent being he claimed to be, he would have never talked about Sheela the way he did – dripping with vengeance. I admire his courage to have shown his want for material things. Unlike many other sages, he did not denounce worldly pleasures. Instead, he embraced them.

Ma Anand Sheela – Yes, I am aware that I wrote about Sheela in one of the paragraphs above. But don’t you feel she is one of a kind? I have not seen a character like that in my life! Neither in stories nor in life. What makes her unique? Is it her complete lack of care for others? Is it her deep conviction that she is right in whatever she did? Is it her unwavering devotion to Osho, the Bhagwan? Is it her way of leaving Osho on one fine day without as much as a good bye? Is it the way she faced the court, the officers, the press and people? How does she appear to you? Like a body without a soul OR a heart made of steel? 

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Justice for Charlie, the dog: Blog # 326

Justice for Charlie, the dog

For those of you who don’t know, Charlie is a 6 year old dog. Bubba Atkinson is her human. Earlier in the day, Bubba accused Charlie of having got in the trash. Bubba also has apparent video evidence to prove this on Twitter. You may watch it here.

Now, myself and thousands of people all over internet have decided to stand with Charlie. Primary reason being what proves that Charlie has got in the trash? Nothing. Charlie was acting guilty just for fun. She wanted to humour her human. That’s all.

Now, let us assume for a second that Charlie did go in the trash. The human should have been more careful! She was bored at home and had nothing else to do. Trash was right there and Charlie thought why not explore it a bit.

Also, below are the reasons why we should stand to get #Justice4Charlie

1.      How can a dog be so ADORABLE!!!
2.      The first 15 seconds of the video make our eyes well up.
3.      Charlie deserved a hug in the first 15 seconds.
4.      Charlie remained silent although she had a chance to defend herself
5.      Charlie can give Meryl Streep a run for her money
6.      Charlie can’t even make eye contact
7.      Charlie can teach humans a thing or two about guilt
8.      Charlie can give a damn TED speech on penance
9.      Charlie made the internet explode with LOVE. How many humans can do that?
10. Human Race owes a collective apology to Animals for all that we have done to them.

If you believe Charlie deserves justice, please tweet using #Justice4Charlie and #FreeCharlie!

p.s. Having said all of the above, we know that Charlie’s human loves her to death. He took her swimming, got her toy and even played fetch at the park. Here is to more humans like Bubba and more doggos like Charlie!

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Is Elon Musk a cowboy CEO to delete Facebook?: Blog #325

Is Elon Musk a cowboy CEO to delete Facebook?

Elon Musk of Tesla deletes the Facebook pages of himself, Tesla and SpaceX. I think it is a tad bit foolish of him to do that. If he wanted to show that he is taking a stand, he could have deleted the Facebook profile that belonged to himself. Deleting the Facebook pages of both the firms is impulse and drama without any reason.

I feel this is a classic case of a CEO thinking he knows everything to know about anything there is. I am sure there is a team that manages the social media account of Tesla and Space X. He should have consulted them. It doesn’t look like that consultation happened. Reason being the FB pages were deleted in 20 minutes after Elon Musk’s Tweet. Any social media team worth its salt would have resisted this move. The resistance wouldn’t have come to an agreement in 20 minutes if there was a constructive discussion unless Musk is surrounded by Yes men.

Anyone who knows something about managing a Facebook page will know that having a corporate page is a huge advantage. In any firm, sooner or later things go a bit unright. I am not saying wrong, but unright (somewhere between right and wrong). In such instances, you need all the avenues at your disposal to clarify where you stand as a firm and what your explanation about the situation is. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIN and other social media channels come handy in situations like this.

Tesla and SpaceX are much loved and admired firms. There is considerable interest among the general public about both the organizations. People like to know what the firms are up to and the media of the day is social media. If you expect everyone to visit the firms’ websites and understand what they are up to, that is a bit foolish and presumptuous.

Add to that the fact that Tesla and SpaceX are both commercial firms. They don’t exist just for furthering research and science. There is a business aspect to both the firms. In such a situation, why would you take such a reckless step that risks your connect with your potential customers?

May the light of ‘Social’ wisdom shine on Elon Musk soon!

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

A letter to Shashi Tharoor: Blog # 324

A Letter to Shashi Tharoor

Dear Shashi Tharoor,

            The intent of this letter is to thank you for more reasons than one. I feel I speak for many Indians if not most.

To begin with, thank you for adding new words to our collective vocabulary. Ideally, our English teachers should have done that during our school days. Some of the teachers did and most of them didn’t. Please continue introducing us to new words so that we all can express ourselves more eloquently.

As a curious kid in school, I remember some of my friends wondering aloud “Thank God! The British came to India. If not, what would have happened to our country”. I did not know how to respond to that statement. I remember feeling slightly ashamed. The tragedy is that for much of the later part of my growing up years, I continued being confused with that perspective. Thank you for writing the thoroughly researched, well detailed and supremely engaging book, ‘An Era of Darkness’. It made me realize how rich (not only in monetary terms) my country was. Now I can confidently say that the only party who benefited by colonising my great country and its people was the British.

Many a time, I have seen many highly accomplished scholars/intellectuals/influencers from India going on to international platforms and being apologetic about India. At times, it is the about crime rate or the situation of educational infrastructure or rising intolerance or poverty or many such issues. Very rarely have I seen many Indians going on an international platform or on social media channels and owning up the spirit of India. Of course, there are issues what we face and we must strive to improve the conditions of this country and its citizens. But at the same time, we must also recognize the progress we have made over the years. Thank you for being that voice on an international platform. We appreciate the fact that you represent yourself as a proud unapologetic Indian with a balanced and realistic perspective about the country and its people.

Lastly, thank you for continually setting higher benchmarks for the youth of this country. To be excellent at academics while being a student, a widely respected and regarded international civil servant at the UN, a successful political leader, a prolific writer and an orator par excellence is many lives and many goals rolled in to one which many of us would like to aspire for and emulate.

Arun Babu

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Pictories #5 ~ Of Pictures & their Stories: Blog #323

Pictories #5 ~ Of Pictures & their Stories

How bland would our lives have been without pictures, isn’t it? More so, in this day and age of cell phones and social media! Some of us click great pictures. Some of us click moderately awesome ones, like I do. Here are a few pictures that I took and what was going through my mind when I clicked them.

I couldn’t stop wondering how beautiful a festival Christmas is. I love both the colors around Christmas – Green and Red. The reindeers, the sleigh, the Santa and all the other paraphernalia around the festival are so warm and endearing. 

Fascination with food doesn't look like it is going to stop any time soon. Look at the variety! I am sure the tastes will also be as varied as the colors here. I felt like grabbing a handful and running away. I even asked my wife if I should do it. Luckily, we decided against it. 

Yet again, I chance up on a lone tree. Standing majestically amidst all the greenery. I did not know how to perceive it. I was wondering if it was being untouched by the thriving ecosystem around or if it was being different inspite of the much liked and loved lushness.

I have always wanted to go to a literary festival. And I did. The first session I went to was happening under this vibrant roof. I looked up and saw this bright, beautiful and happy canopy. It was so in sync with the spirit of the festival and I was glad that the fest lived up to the first impression and the expectation. 

Look at those tender leaves. And the tree that allows them to climb on. It reminded me of a lovely embrace. If only as much love remained between humans, the world would have been a much better place.

Like the above pics? Want to be bombarded with such images on a regular basis? ;). Please follow me on Instagram. My Insta handle is roamdworld .

Check out the earlier Pictories:

Find Pictory#1 here
Find Pictory#2 here
Find Pictory#3 here
Find Pictory#4 here