Monday, 30 July 2012

Rail Diaries #5: Serendipity: Blog # 44

Rail Diaries #5: Serendipity

29th July 2012 – Onboard Aleppey Express J
                          Remember this character from the olden days TV soap, ‘Chandrakantha’? And how does Kroor Singh feature in a rail diary? Read on to find out J.

rail diaries                      Every Friday evening, the Chennai sky holds a false promise – of a torrential rain. Due to this, I have to get in to a worrisome rush to the Tambaram station and then further to Chennai Central. This week too was no different. This journey was full of chance meetings and that’s why the name, Serendipity.   
                        I took an auto to the suburban station from the place where I stay. Being fully aware that the driver will ask for 60 bucks, I tried my luck giving him a 50 rupees note. He said “What sir, last time also you gave me 50 and I asked for 60!” Then I realized it’s the same auto which I took last time and it’s the same person.

                        I made it in to the train parked on platform no.2, just in time. Searching for a window seat, I saw a familiar face. He is Devassy Uncle, the person whom I asked about the stations, route et al the previous week. He looks exactly like Kroor Singh J , complete with the thickest of eyebrows and a military style moustache and yes, not to forget the mean look. We had a chit chat and much to my friends’ glee, he asked me as to why do I go home every weekend! J . He got down at Nungambakkam and I got down at Park station.

                        After the usual Sharavana bhavan dinner, I was walking towards my compartment and there he was, my RAC friend. He is Girish, a PhD in Micro biology and working for Central government's Epidemic control and study department .Chances are I won’t see another person with the same profession in my lifetime – it is that niche!. We had a nice chat the last time. He said his family is also there this week. Having kept my baggage in s4, I went to s7 to meet Girish’s family. 

                   Coming back to S4, I met my cousin’s friend in S5!. This sort of serendipity was beginning to get a bit weird – it almost seemed like I was living in the past week. Not wanting to risk any more chance meetings, I hit the bed (berth) fast. J  .

Arun Babu.  

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

A Memoir that is Life...: Blog # 43

A Memoir that is Life...             

                   Do you remember the first time you balanced a cycle or drove a car without steering it away from the road? Have you forgotten the first time you stayed away from home or when you went on a second show with friends?

                    Life is a potpourri of memories, don’t you think? Its very essence is a string of memories – good, bad and ugly. The good ones keep us going, the bad ones humbles us and the ugly ones, just makes us wish if they were just not there.

    It is these memories which sail us through the voyage of life. Haven’t you seen people going through a low phase in life reminiscing about their hay days? It gives them the hope that things will change for good.

    Our likes and dislikes too are governed by our memories. Everyone love the city where they graduated as the memories associated with that city will be all sweet and good.

               You might like a film, not because the script is good but may be you might have watched it with a loved one. The memory of those happy times makes you like the movie.

      So it’s not exactly the entity which we dislike. Quite often, it’s the memories which define that object or person which make us love or loathe it. Even when someone close to us passes away, we do not grieve for that person per se, the memories which that person gifted make us miss them.

     The conscience acts as the custodian of memories – reminding us time and again of the pros and cons – making us think of the deeds and outcomes.

                 Our very existence is rooted in memories. They have made our yesterdays and they will mould our tomorrows. So let your life weave a fabric of memories which can be fondly reminisced about – for you and for those you hold close.

Arun Babu.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Rail Diaries #4 : Grinning from ear to ear: Blog # 42

Rail Diaries #4 : Grinning from ear to ear

22nd July 2012, 7:00 PM, Onboard our own Aleppey Express J : Travelling in RAC ticket!

rail diaries,kindness,A coffee vendor came by. An elderly person sitting beside me waved at him. When he gave a 10 rupee note, the vendor told he doesn’t have change and left. I gave a judgemental smile (shaking my head in disapproval and all) to the elderly person. In a while, the vendor came by, gave back the 5 rupees change and he looked at me and smiled. He might have seen my disapproving smile et al. I flinched! May be my friend Sudarshan is right – I judge a tad bit too fast J.

I haven’t stopped smiling since I boarded – For no reason at all. I am not just happy, Ecstatic is more like it J. I am too distracted with happiness that I kept back the ‘Aleph’ I was beginning to read.   
Was it the afternoon meeting with Raghu and Vivek Or is it the last minute hug from Amma before leaving home? May be it was the small chat I had with dad about his Gulf days before I boarded. My sister’s sweet gesture of buying a biriyani and surprising her friend, Anju at the station also made me happy.  

         But come to think of it, there is a more valid reason – One of pride and humility.

There is this scene in the Malayalam film, ‘Ustad hotel’. The grandfather is hospitalised and the grandson (who is the protagonist) who loves him dearly says “I just hope he doesn’t ask me to stay back.”.The grandson was about to go on a much longed for job assignment abroad. I found myself in his shoes recently – well almost.

            My Grandfather has a younger brother who is unmarried. He is now 92 and he stays in an old age home. He refuses to come and stay with any of his relatives. I am close to him owing to my dad being his favourite. Earlier, there were times when dad used to suggest bringing him home. I was not in favour of this idea – don’t judge me –I am fairly good person ;) . There are certain handicaps for us as a family which makes it difficult for us to think of such a solution.

            But this time around, when dad brought up this suggestion again, I found myself absolutely quite. I couldn’t object. Have I become more mature or did I put myself in his shoes? Inspite of all our handicaps, I wanted to give it a try.

Being the quick fixer that he is, dad went ahead and called up all his cousins and found a solution which was in utmost consideration of his uncle’s preference and convenience. He also suggested all his cousins visit their uncle without fail and I know he will be the one who will be there first.  

When life throws such challenges at us, we need to think and act from within. My father did exactly that and I feel extremely proud of him and love him for what he did. 

           I realized watching ‘Satyameva Jayate’ , teary eyed and with a lump in my throat doesn’t solve the problems. Neither does the post show - intellectually and emotionally stimulated conversations pitying the current state of affairs of our society help.

            I pray and hope all of us feel and act with all heart and soul whenever we are faced with a situation like this.

Arun Babu. 

Monday, 16 July 2012

Rail Diaries#3 - WL...RAC...And CNF !!!: Blog # 41

Rail Diaries#3 - WL...RAC... & CNF!!!

                  Anyone who has travelled by train would have gone through this painstaking process of their ticket going through the stages of Waiting list, Reservation against cancellation and Confirmation. I did too, last Sunday.

               IRCTC shamelessly ditched, as always. With great difficulty, I got a tatkal ticket (thanx to Vivek’s chalakudy clout ;) ). And here I was, on board Aleppey express on 15th July 2012 yet again.
Rail diaries          
     In our compartment, there was this person who got transferred from Delhi to Chennai. He said he is working in AAI and is going to work for a while in Chennai Airport. He said “Here, no one understands what I say. Neither can I make out what they are saying. There should be only one language in the country”.

          Being the language zealot that I am, I would never agree to that. The beauty of languages is in their diversity and little similarities. For instance, Bengali is one of the sweetest languages. It is similar to Malayalam in the sense that it doesn’t consider gender as much as in Hindi. Hence for mallus and bongs, “Gaadi aaya and Gaadi aayi” are one and the same J .

             I like the melodious ring of tamil as much as I like the buoyant spirit of Gujarati. And who doesn’t love the most vivacious of all languages, Urdu? Hindi gives a head start and acts as a talking point in itself with almost anyone from any part of our country.

           I think languages in themselves are a paradox. In spite of all their differences, these languages hold this great nation of ours together. People teach and learn each others’ languages and a camaraderie evolves from that.

The similarity in languages acts as a binding thread and the differences facilitates a melting pot of varied cultures.

          But having said that, I read somewhere that there are two nations of the world which are divided by a single language – US and UK by English!. Strange!
                                                                                                                                            Arun Babu.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

A Thousand Wind chimes: Blog # 40

     A Thousand Wind chimes              

                  Anyone who has ever listened to a Wind chime cannot NOT love it. Moreover, if they are made of wood or clay, you can get lost in their symphony for an eternity .Such is the power of Music. So imagine the ecstatic feel of it when tens of thousands of people produce the same music.  That is exactly what is going to happen when the London city ushers in Olympics 2012.

              It is said whenever a grand event of the scale of Olympics takes place, a large population of the country feels left out - It is called London Olympics and Not Olympics of Britain.

There is nothing which has the power of inclusion like music. It resonates amongst one and all and creates a common thread.

Considering the above two sponsoring thoughts, this might be the reason for the authorities to think on the lines of such a musical theme. That is nothing short of brilliance.

          And the artist behind this idea is Scottish Turner prize winner, Martin Creed. Across Britain, bells of all sorts – of churches, cycles, ships and even mobiles will ring for three minutes creating a cacophonous amazing (in their own words) sound.

        I wish if I were there to lend my ears to that magnificent musical moment which will definitely find its place in history. May be for next Olympics J.

                                                                                                                               Arun Babu.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Rail Diaries#2 - A journey to remember.... : Blog # 39

Rail Diaries#2 - A journey to remember....

*A birthday blog for my Professor

               Now that DG Sir has immortalised this breath taking scenery through his lens, I miss Planet E even more. A couple of months back, to witness this lush green landscape with the elephant mountains chalking out the horizon, all we had to do was  look out of the wagons.

Rail diaries               This B-E-A-utiful pic reminds me of the numerous train journeys to and from Planet Etti! Of those, one was with DG sir J. As always, it was fun having a tete-a-tete with him. Let me try and recollect what it was all about. 

          We were sitting on the platform waiting for the train to chug in. Sir walked towards us with a Cola (Believe it or not) in his hand – may be Planet E was too sunny that day. We had a deal that we won’t tell Mam about this J. But now, Mam being in a different continent altogether, let me take that risk J.

          We stood by the train’s door. Sir talked about his student days. How he got in to Ponds and how preoccupied he was during those two years at IIM, yet so gleeful. Then we talked about Saanidhya, their summer getaway and how they love to come back by bus and only bus J.He reminisced about his Berkeley days and Mam’s globetrotting days.

How he loves to see a city waking up. What great fun it is to take an early morning walk through the by lanes of Palakkad. His liking for Kanji, the Kerala dish and the mangoes of Delhi.

           My point here is, through light hearted conversations like these and through the class room sessions, the learning that you have instilled in us is immense. From the comment that you made “Even I want to wish dg sir a happy birthday”, I sense an element of surprise and of being overwhelmed - Surprised, may be because how exceedingly wonderful the years at ASB turned out to be and Overwhelmed, of course by our affectionJ.

          I know I speak for many many of your students when I say you have earned every bit of that affection. So here’s wishing many many more Decades of Goodness J. Happy Birthday!

                                                                                                                                            Arun Babu         

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Lure of the Limelight?: Blog # 38

Lure of the Limelight?

                    I was watching Ustad hotel, a (must watch) Malayalam movie. Then this very popular song came up and people went beserk. People were screaming. It was sheer madness. Akhila, my sister sitting next to me told “Imagine how those actors will feel when they see this kind of appreciation! What a high it must be!” That got me thinking.

                 Getting in to a creative field is risky – in every sense. To begin with, it is a very niche sector – it’s like opting for extreme specialization. The chances of success are miniscule. Shelf life is shorter than that of a milk carton. Yes, there is a monetary aspect to it. But again, the cash flow from this kind of profession is anything but constant.  Then why do some people get in to the creative stream of work?

               Is it the thunderous applause that drives them? Is it the hoots and whistles of appreciation? Is it the roaring welcome of the crowd that they enjoy? Is it the lure of  lime light and the attention? Let’s delve deeper.

              I was going through a film magazine and found this interview of an debutant heroine. She said, shortly after her film was released, people were walking up to her at the airport striking up conversations and complete strangers were smiling at her. Initially, she found it strange and then it dawned on her that it is the image that people are connecting with. So is it this image that allures them? Is it the identity that this image brings along which people enjoy?

           Is it the small doses of reaffirmations which keep these people going? For instance, people walking up to an actor/actress and saying they liked their performance or saying the same to a musician or a writer?            

           Our society finds it extremely difficult to accept a person who doesn’t fit the mould. But, there are certain exceptions. Being in a creative channel is the easiest way of getting that. It gives the luxury of being different and still being accepted.

            Also, people always look up to others who can do something which they themselves cannot. This translates in to affection and then acceptance. It is this acceptance that urges the creative people to take these risks. And when this acceptance happens, all the risk taken is worth it.

             I think it’s a little bit about all of the above things which boils down to acceptance.
        Have you seen the recent Ad of Maggi noodles? It is exactly this concept of acceptance that they have banked on. Watch it closely the next time you see it on TV.
Arun Babu

Monday, 2 July 2012

The Month that was… June 2012 : Blog # 37

The Month that was…June 2012

*A monthly column on Business

          It was during an FB chat that Bala and I discussed about the idea of a column for the ASB magazine, 'Kaleidoscope'. We both agreed on this topic which gives an aerial view of previous month’s happenings. It is not a formal list down in the chronological order, but a look back at the events which are of interest, mostly from the world of business. Hope you enjoy the read.

                 The first week of June saw the television screens being inundated with Ads of Randstad. They have taken over India’s premier HR consultancy firm, Mafoi. The first Sunday’s ‘Satyamevjayate’ was discussing inter-caste marriages and the atrocities of Khap panchayats. If we continue to turn a blind eye towards these barbaric practices, vision 2020 will remain confined to cricketing format alone! Even now, the policy paralysis and the indifference that has inflicted our nation have brought down the growth rate from a 9% to a measly 5.3%. The rating agency, Fitch has followed S&P and downgraded us from Standard to Poor.

     Rajat Gupta, the poster boy of Indian Diaspora in the US and in a way, the world over stands tainted convicted of insider trading.

               Adding to the list of Global M&As by Indian conglomerates, Sahara group is buying out New York’s plaza hotel. In this time of a rumoured slowdown, IT behemoths are vying for the second phase of MCA21(Ministry of Corporate Affairs) project.

            It was interesting to know that a cola drink got the much sought after ‘Foshu’ label of Japan’s food regulatory authority. It is ‘Kirin mets’ cola that bagged this highly stringent certification.

   In a bid to increase the reach of ATMs in non-urban areas, Government is going to allow White Label ATMs (licensed for private sector ownership) as against the existing Brown label ones (licensed in the name of a commercial bank).

  Retailers are targeting loyal customers big time in order to beat the slump. Some operators like Shoppers stop derive as much as 75% of their revenue from loyal customers. The decision as to whether or not to allow or FDI in multi brand retail still hangs in thin air.

 Reliance Industries seems to be looking for a suitor for their much acclaimed brand, ‘Only Vimal’. It is also said that it might be the beginning of the end of the company’s presence in textile sector.

 Amidst all the negativity, there is a ray of hope. The Swedish retailer, Ikea is entering the Indian market in a big way.

           After much mudslinging, there seem to be a consensus on the candidature for country’s highest civilian post. But what needs to be watched is how things are going to change in the north block.
Arun Babu.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Where is the ‘Experience’? : Blog # 36

Customer Experience?

During many of our retail marketing classes, I have heard our Professor, Kulkarni sir saying “Experience plays a very important role for the customer’s delight/despair”. I also think on the same lines. But here is one place where I found a contradiction.

It was Friday evening and I was all geared up to come home (as always ;) ). As I was to set foot outside, it started raining or pouring rather. With great difficulty I reached the suburban station of Tambaram and got in to the Chennai beach bound local (I find the announcement funny when they say “Kadalkarai” J ).Luckily it was not raining at Central. Having decided to indulge, (fresh from my salary) I went to this restaurant inside central station.

There are a minimum of 50 people almost blocking the entrance to the hotel. They are waiting for their parcel of food/sweets. I made way through them to reach the stairs leading to the dining place, which should have a sign that reads ”Make way for upward traffic” like in hill stations. The stairs are that steep and narrow!

I reached the dining place and pushing and shoving with my bag, I got in. It’s a small hall that has a seating capacity of may be 50 or so people which is filled with a 100 people, half of them standing. While you are standing, you need to make way for the people leaving after having had their food, the waiters serving food and the managers taking order. Although the tables are clean, there is chaos everywhere. The hand wash place is just two basins and one was clogged.

I stood firmly behind an elderly couple who were waiting for their coffee (which means they are about to leave). I smiled at them sweetly indirectly hinting I am waiting for them to get up and being the sweet people they were, they got up soon.

As soon as they got up, I sprang on the seat. There was this couple sitting opposite to me. Both were holding hands. Sweet J. They were lost in their own world. The waiter came thrice and asked them if they were intending to have anything else. The first two times, subtly and then almost asking them to get the hell out of there! When will they understand this is not a place to be lost among themselves and whisper sweet nothings. This is SBH People!. Have your Idli and VANISH!

So getting back to our question, it seems if the product is exceedingly good, people are willing to compromise on the experience part.
Arun Babu