Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Watch Your Words : Blog # 185

Watch Your Words

        I walked in to one of the Toastmasters meetings where my friend Akanksha spoke about her dreams which failed to live through their destiny. During the course of her speech, she said that one unintended passing comment from someone whom she looked up to crushed her dream of becoming a journalist. I could completely relate to what she said and I am sure many of you can too.

There is power in the words. This holds doubly true for people in positions of power or in capacities of influence.  I am sure we all know that adage but thanks to Spiderman’s grandfather; we are reminded of it time and again “With great power, come great responsibility”. One might argue that a person holding a position is also a human being and he/she is bound to make some remarks which are off the mark. Although there is merit to this argument, the problem here is that for a mistake of one’s own, the price is paid by those who listen to him/her too. One can afford to make mistakes if it doesn't have any bearing on other people. But when it does, one has to take that extra ounce of care.

I have heard many great people urging the youngsters to tread the path less traversed. But how many of these people will be comfortable when their own dear and near ones choose those paths? Haven’t you frowned when a well to do relative of yours decided to join politics? Haven’t you gone skeptical when a cousin of yours who has impeccable academic track record decided to venture in to his own start up? Knowingly or unknowingly, I have at times! Chasing one’s dreams in itself is a herculean task. The least we can do is provide some words of encouragement. For all you know, your unintended words might become the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back!

There are enough naysayers in our world. Many a time, people don’t even realize that they are bringing the morale down for someone else. It is good to be a cheerer for a change. I don’t think there are even 1411 left in this endangered community. It is interesting to note that very few people cause damage by being positive to a fellow being. For instance, if you are instilling confidence for a friend’s initiative of any sort, that person has his/her own reasoning to ensure that he doesn't go wrong. But if you were to criticize his/her effort, chances of that person letting go of that effort completely is quite high. So let’s come together to ensure there is enough optimism in this world clogged with cynicism.

Like everything in life, there is a choice for us too, for the listener I mean. We can’t help hearing what people say but we can make a choice as to what needs to be listened to.

                                                                                                            Arun Babu.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

A guide on how to Use Twitter ! : Blog # 184

To Kill a Mocking Sparrow ~ How to Use Twitter ?

        Twitter is among those things which appear to be frivolous at first but which are in fact a treasure trove of a value add. A surprising majority of us are blissfully unaware of how Twitter works including many who are present on Twitter!

            To begin with, Twitter is no Facebook. There is a sea of a difference. If FB is a friendly neighbourhood in a small town, Twitter is an upmarket gated community in a Metropolitan city. The element of personal attachment is lesser when it comes to the people who you come in to contact with on Twitter. It is more a group of people who share their views on various topics of mutual interests on Twitter whereas on FB, it is a group of friends indulging in random chit chat.

            Twitter works like this – You ‘tweet’ something and it appears on your timeline. The beauty of it is that your posts can be a maximum of 140 characters long(just got changed to 280 characters on 27th of September, 2017) and not a syllable more. People who ‘Follow’ you can see what you tweet or
post. So if you keep on tweeting mundane details of your day to day life, very soon your ‘followers’ will start ‘unfollow’-ing you. Only celebrities can afford to do that on the pretext of sharing their personal lives with their fans and thereby becoming closer to them! As mango people or as people who has no celebrity status attached to us, we should use twitter to obtain and disseminate information that interests us. Only this will want people to ‘follow’ you. Tweeting “Woke up to a sleepy morning” is of no use to any one but Tweeting “Went to bed late reading ‘A song of ice and fire’. A must read!” is acceptable. The idea is to write something which is of use to the person reading your tweet.

            Speaking of followers, there are celebrities who have millions of followers. Mr.Bachchan has over 9 Mn followers and Katy Perry has the highest number of followers at 54Mn. People like you and I will have hardly 100s of followers. Learning who all to follow in twitter is of prime importance. The idea is to follow those ‘handles’ which will tweet ideas/posts which is of interest and is informative to you. Mostly only celebrities make financial gains from twitter. So don’t get in to the business of getting more followers. It is near to futile.

            Now, some technicalities of how to use a twitter account. Your username is your twitter handle. Try to make it interesting. You can use ‘@’ to bring a person’s attention to your tweet. If you want to bring the attention of say, Shahrukh Khan to your tweet, you may use @iamsrk “Your message in 140 characters or less”.  Hashtags are used to indicate a common thread or topic of discussion. For instance, #Indiabudget or #Newyearseve. If more and more people start using the same hashtag, it starts’ trending’.

            If a person ‘Retweets’ your tweet, then your tweet is visible to that person’s followers. It is the e-version of word of mouth publicity. There is an option to ‘favourite’ a tweet also where in only you will come to know that another person has liked your tweet. Then there is the question of how to know if the person you are following is a genuine profile or not. Watch out for a blue tick mark along with the twitter handle of that person. The presence of blue tick mark indicates a verified profile and it is the real person be it Barkhadutt or Shashi Tharoor.

              Although twitter is all about public conversations, there is an option to have a  private conversation too. There is a 'DM' or a Direct Message option. But this works only if the person you want to talk to 'follow's you.
            Benefits of being on twitter include access to information on real time basis. It has become a medium where news spreads like wild fire. The tsunami that swept across South Asia was reported first on twitter. There is also the advantage of news and information given being unbiased. Add to that,the opportunity to get exposed to multitudes of opinions on diverse topics.On a lighter note, you are privy to the friendly banters and conversations of the people you admire too.

            One should know how self indulgent one should be on twitter. The key is to package information in a way that is appealing yet not preachy. If you select the people you want to follow astutely, twitter can be an incessant source of intelligent conversations that you can be part of.

Arun Babu

Monday, 14 July 2014

An Ode to Bangalore days, the movie! :Blog # 183

An Ode to Bangalore days, the movie!

Very rarely comes along a film which touches quite a few hearts. Bangalore days is one such movie. It captures the cosmopolitan appeal of the city that is Bangalore in a subtle yet charming way.

It is primarily a story of three friends/cousins. Friends who grow up together to become different individuals; yet wise enough to celebrate their differences and respect their individualities. There are moments which remind you of dear friends you once had or still have.

What makes this Malayalam movie beautiful is how effortlessly it sifts through the lives of these three friends. The story of Aju played by Dulquer takes you through a roller coaster ride of emotions. His having to lead the life of an Orphan in spite of having parents is quite heart wrenching. There are scenes where he could have played the part in the tried and tested conventional ways. The fact that he did not appeal for pity is what makes his acting brilliant. What I loved the most is the relationship he has with RJ Sarah (portrayed beautifully by Parvathy Menon). There is not even one scene where she is looked up on with sympathy. Her character is an ode to the spirit of will power in spite of her handicap. It is quite interesting to see that Aju draws his strength from Sarah in one of the pivotal scenes. Their story is also one of chasing the dreams which are not spun of a familiar thread, the tribulations involved and of eventual success.

Nazriya Nazim plays the character of Divya, who appears to be a happy go lucky girl in the first couple of scenes. The way in which she matures as demanded by the character is praise worthy. There are glimpses of brilliance in scenes between her and her emotionally detached husband played by Fahad Faasil. What is more interesting is to see that she retains her bubbly nature and likeability throughout the movie without going over the top. The character is consistent yet displays more shades to her than one. Not even in one frame has Fahad Faasil missed out on portraying the role of Shivadas. He has performed the role with the discipline that it demanded.

The usually reticent Nivin Pauly has proved that he can handle a comic role with as much ease as he portrays a serious role. He has played the role of a small town youngster without stereotyping it. The earnestness with which he played the role of Kuttan evoked many a cheer in the cinema hall.

Nitya Menen plays Natasha, the love interest from the past of Shivadas. Within the limited screen time she has, she makes a place for herself in the audiences' hearts. The father and mother of Natasha played by Prathap Pothen and Vinaya Prasad linger on much longer even after one leaves the Cinema hall. The pain that they endure as a father and mother who lost an only child makes the toughest among us wipe a tear.

The two roles with the distinct Anjali Menon (the gifted writer and director of the movie) twist were that of Kuttan’s father and mother played by veteran actors Vijaya raghavan and Kalpana. There is a scene where Kuttan's father leaves their home and writes a letter to him. With a difference in the voice over, it is conveyed that his father is having a ball of a time which again was quite novel. Kuttan’s mother is quite different from a usual selfless filmy mother. She still has a zest for life and wants to live it to the fullest and she finds ways to do it. Actor Kalpana’s portrayal of this character is a testimony to her immense range as an actor. There is also a passing portrayal of the short lived and shallow modern day relationships of today without being preachy about it.

This is one movie all of us should give a chance to. It is like one of those books you pick up randomly from a shelf only to fall in love with it endlessly.

Arun Babu

Keywords: Dulquer,Dulquer Salman,Malayalam films,Malayalam,Films,Actors,Malayalam Actors, Bangalore days, Bangaloredays movie,Bangaloredays film, Fahad fasil,Nazriya Nazim,Anjali Menon, Anjali Menon director

Monday, 7 July 2014

Over a Cup of Coffee : Blog # 182

Over a Cup of Coffee...

Sunny had not called a city, home for more than three years, thanks to his father’s ever transferable job. Very early in life, he learned not to get too attached to anything or anyone. Even if he did get attached, he knew how to move on soon. He knew which button to press to bring the pain of attachment to a screeching halt.

Sarah’s earliest memories are tied to the charming city that is Bombay. She was born here, went to school here and graduated from the very same city that is home to her. For her, this city is like a person with whom she has grown up with.

Sarah and Sunny met during the first day’s induction at work. Not wanting to come across as timid, Sarah extended a handshake. They had similar interests but as people, they couldn’t be more different, thanks to the circumstances they grew up in. But they grew fond of each other. Sarah found it quite materialistic of Sunny to look at Life so objectively. She thought of Life without attachments to be mere existence. Sunny told Sarah that she exerts her heart too much and at times, one should approach life with the head.

Over a tea, Sunny told Sarah how limiting attachments can get. How much a short leash they can keep a person in! Sarah said “Even the Eagle which soars high above the rest of the birds and the clouds has to come back to its nest”.

On a Sunday morning, Sarah called up Sunny to tell him that she is getting married. Sunny was happy for her. Sarah couldn’t hold back her tears when she bid adieu to Sunny and left for Bangalore. She lamented about having to leave Bombay and to go to a place full of strangers. Sunny did not understand what was there to be so emotional about and neither did Sarah expect him to understand.

Over the years, they stayed in touch in spite of their hectic schedules and respective families to take care of. It was some day in the middle of the week that his phone rang. Sunny couldn’t recognize her voice initially. Then he broke in to a broad smile and a hearty laugh. The decided to meet up at the Dorabjee’s coffee shop over the weekend.

Sarah had changed completely – to the extent that Sunny wouldn’t have recognized her on a chance meeting. Sarah got up and hugged Sunny. “Someone has put on weight and added a bit of salt and pepper too”, exclaimed Sarah. Having ordered a coffee, Sarah said “Over the past 12 years, I have lived in 5 cities! Can you believe that? At times for his job and at times for mine. Now, you are my only friend from Bombay! I must give you credit for keeping in touch. You tell, how have you been?”

“I have fallen for Bombay, Sarah. I have neighbours whom I have known from our early days in Bombay. Shopkeepers around know my preferences. My kids went to the same school that they attended primary school in. My wife and I have lived in the same apartment since marriage. Bombay is home to me! So you have finally come back to Bombay for good. Is it Sarah?”

“Not at all! I can’t stay in Bombay for more than 2 weeks now. I am on a small stopover before my husband and I move to Delhi”, said Sarah.

Sunny smiled looking at the window which over looked a busy street. On the window, was etched “Time Changes, Waves Change and So do People”

Arun Babu.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Death knell to Orkut : Blog # 181

Death knell to Orkut

I was reading through an article which elucidated Google’s decision to log out of Orkut permanently.  Isn’t it the largest example of someone missing the bus in recent times? What is more surprising is that an Innovative giant like Google could not identify such a humongous opportunity!

A blog about Orkut, Goodbye to OrkutMany of us began our parallel lives on the social media through Orkut. It still evokes nostalgia when you see that purple circle and a bunch of faces. The scrapbooks,  the albums and the testimonials are soon going to be a  thing of the past. As you login to Orkut one last time, let us look back to see what went wrong.

Orkut was an idea which was ahead of its times. But what is painful for Google is the fact that it was not decades ahead. It came prematurely only a couple of years earlier. We all know about first mover’s advantage but Orkut is the classic case of a first mover’s curse. No one expected Social media to bloom on this large a scale. Google was also caught napping on this new phase of growth that they were gifted with.

There are lessons to be learned from this debacle. To begin with, I think Google as an organization did not nurture this sprouting sapling well. They might have been busy tending to the Sequoias in their garden of innovation. What they failed to understand was the fact that the existing technologies which have grown to become giant sequoias have scaled their heights already. It was in the sapling that is Social media where the potential for enormous growth lay.

Also, when the portfolio becomes large as in the case of Google; it becomes quite a task to devote equal attention to all the tracks. De-risking by putting the eggs in different baskets is one thing and being able to nurture all the baskets equally, quite another thing. It doesn’t matter how huge a corporation you are. There are always competitors waiting in the wings to take off just when you slow down to take a breather.

The spectacular emergence of a competitor is what makes this missed opportunity so conspicuous. Facebook grew by multitudes of leaps and bounds during this time. The organization invested time and dedicated effort to the extent that it has almost attained network externality. Network externality in this context means a state where in a technology becomes so ubiquitous that the popularity of it drives its growth.

All these point towards the necessity of organizations to be agile and alert about the business environment. In the last few years, the rapidness with which defining changes occur around us has become quite frequent. These days, an enterprise might think it is off to take a short siesta but chances of it waking up as a Rip van winkle is quite high.

Having said that, even though we move on to better things, one can’t help but feel some fondness for Orkut. Log in one last time, go through your testimonials, archive your albums, read through the scrap book and give it a fitting adieu. As with other things in Life, let us retain the best memories from that time of life and move on.

Arun Babu