Friday, January 31, 2014

Masks From The Corporate World
My decade long career in IT was a fairly interesting ride. Yes, at times it was grueling and the workaholic in me worked 24X7 without any idea of time. There were days when it frustrated beyond measure, making me question the time and effort I had invested in the field. And then there were times when I felt simply ridiculous about the work I would do. But there were also moments that would make me smile… a simple presentation that went well or the immense faith the boss would place in me, sometimes beyond rationale… but most precious were those moments spent with friends who emerged from colleagues over cups and cups of coffee, Maggi and late night presentation making sessions.

The waters were turbulent at times, making my boat rock through confusion, ambiguity, monotony, frustration and ridicule but then they would turn calm, making it sail smoothly through eureka moments, appreciations, recognition and glorious moments of fun and friendship.  Yes, it was an adventurous ride, no doubt.

But today, almost a year after I decided to take a break from the corporate world, what makes me miss that journey is not just those moments, but the personalities I came across through the sojourn. Sometimes perfect but more often than not tilted, the scale tried to maintain a balance between sense and sensibility on one end and the complete lack of it on the other. No guesses for which side it would mostly tilt towards.

If there was anything I learnt beyond presentation, excel and Visio skills, it was the different shades each person brought into the organization through their behaviour and persona. So here it is; my learning beyond the job description, the one I probably cherish the most from ten years of being just another brick in the corporate wall.

Mr. or Miss Sensible –Always looks for logic and rationale, be it to execute an allotted task or come up with a solution/idea. This one does not believe in working for the heck of it and questions initiatives that do not make sense. The only one of its kind, this is a personality that is usually scattered around the organization and never found in abundance.

The Obedient – “Yes”, “Sure”, “Right now”, “Anytime”, only these words and their synonyms exists in their dictionary. The boss’s word is their command. Whether it makes sense or not is a different matter. If the Boss says it has to be done, it has to be done. Period. No questions asked. Almost every Manager has one following them around. In fact, many managers go out of the way to identify such personalities to be a part of their team.

The Trumpet– As the name suggests, this personality loves to brag. Whether they are really good at their work or not, brag they will. For every small task done, they will ensure the entire office hears about it. It might have been something as trivial as formatting a document. Hell, who cares, I’ll blow my trumpet for anything and everything- That’s the motto.

The Free Rider – You thought you saw the last of them in school? You couldn't be any more mistaken. They swarm around in offices looking extremely busy. Always on the prowl for preys who can do their work, so they can scoot off for a game or two of table tennis. Sometimes it could be arriving for a meeting just as it was closed or feigning excuses of other deliverable's to get away. They work hard to not work and almost always manage to get away with it.

The Chameleon –Sometimes you feel they are your closest friends at work, who understand you and sympathize. The next day you find them contradicting themselves behind your back. They might be good natured and friendly otherwise but in pressing times will resort to anything to avoid a conflict. Backstabbing is a term they are all familiar with. Both, having them as a colleague or as a Boss can be equally daunting. If it is the latter, my best wishes are with you.

Mr. or Miss Gullible - They believe everything they are told. Whoever the source might be, however wrong they may be it doesn't matter. Every word they hear is carved in stone, of course until they hear something else next. Perceptions are formed and firmed based on this acquired knowledge and can go a long way… as far as performance management and R&R as well. Now that’s far isn't it?

The Femme Fatale – Don’t go by the looks, she spells danger wherever she goes. A smooth talker who always knows how to get her way around. Gossip and more gossip is her modus operandi; many a times you will find her seeking out Gullibles to cause maximum damage and create juicer gossip.  Mind you, not all carry the beware sign, the art lies in figuring out the ones who do.

The Whiners–Usually frustrated with almost everything, their work, their boss, their team… name it and you will be greeted with a frown and thousands of lines etched on their forehead. They can crib continuously about their problems, but you will never see them do anything about it. Yes, whining seems to be the preferred solution for all their problems.

The Lazy bums–Smartness and a sound grasping power is their forte but they need a lot more than just that to sit up straight and take notice of what is going on. Unless a challenging situation is thrown at them, they will just laze around. But when you have their attention, work gets done in the blink of an eye.

The Jingoists –Probably a strong term to use but no other word could describe this lot. Always sticking to their own clan, they befriend only those who speak their language; quite literally. Work and abilities really do not matter. Patriotism redefined I say.

The Jargon Guru- They really know it, they really know it not. Nobody really knows. But they sure do know how to create an impression that they do. Using words that will make you run to the management section of the library and weaving “gyaan” around every topic under the Sun, they sure do seem to know it all.Really.

The Directionless Beacons- This lot is confused. They do not know what they are doing in the organization – completely clueless about their work, communication skills and their abilities in general. Despite the naivety, they manage their way up the ladder. I am still figuring out how.

The Postman- This type is found in abundance esp. in the managerial roles. Regardless of what the work is, they forward it to the first name that comes to mind and then conveniently forget about it until the bosses start breathing down their necks. In junior roles, you will find this category overlapping with the free riders.

The Paranoid- Firm believers in Andrew Grove’s philosophy, so much so that they tweak it to meet their needs, these folks are engulfed with suspicion and insecurity; about their jobs and perceptions about them. Often you will find them either busy comparing themselves with every other in the team or worrying about what rating they would get in their appraisals.

The Innocent – Usually the newbies in the team, who are yet to learn the tricks of the trade. They come in eager to learn, only to get confused by the various personalities around them. Some filter well and fit into the shoes of Mr. Sensible while the rest choose the garbs based on the personality they prefer. Nonetheless, none stay innocent for long.

The Adapters- The most versatile of all personalities, this group knows how to not only survive but also grow. Depending on whom they interact, they adapt thus getting along with almost all at the workplace. Street smartness is the trump card hidden up their sleeve. They are quick to recognize different types and work their way around them.

This list is an ever growing one, the more you spend time at your workplace, the more categories you will identify. Often times you will be frustrated; esp. when you see how Mr. Sensible finally gives up when Mr. Gullible and the Femme Fatale get the better of him. Or when the Free riders and Directionless Beacons climb up the ladder faster than you do. Yes, frustrating it shall be.

But years down, when you look back at those days, you will realize that all of them were much needed. To give you those lifelong experiences which would mould your being and help you make the right choices. To learn and to adapt to what is best for you. After all it takes all sorts to make the world.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

The Choice that wasn't…

“It’s the time to Disco”… I could hear the notes fading away as I pushed my way out of the over crowded pub to breathe in some fresh air. As I leaned against the balcony railing I could hear the crowd exclaim as the notes of “Pour Some Sugar on Me” filled the air. I was busy watching the crowd gyrate to the music when a figure in blue caught my eye...

She looked familiar; the long flowy hair, almond shaped eyes, the dimple cheeked smile… I exercised my limited grey cells but could not place a finger on her identity.

“Arti it’s high time you picked up one of those memory booster tonics from Mehta Uncle’s Pharmacy” I was just reminding myself when I heard a voice shout “Priya, can you spare a minute??” The mystery girl in blue instantly turned and I slapped my forehead... ‘Oh that’s Priya Malhotra from St. Xaviers!” Memories of our college days flooded through me as I watched Priya talk to a petite girl, the owner of the voice I guessed.

Bold and Beautiful was how I remembered Priya, the “cutest guy” of our batch, she was known for to be a tomboy. I distinctly remember envying her for the kind of freedom she got, discotheques, late night partying, weekend trips to Mahabaleshwar and Khandala, she did it all while we strove real hard to make it home by the 9 o’clock curfew. The last I heard about her was that she was into a “Till death do us apart” relationship with Raunak, another of my classmates.

“Arti?? Is that you Arti??? Oh Goodness Me!! I cannot believe this” wailed someone in what seemed to be an honest attempt to imitate Bianca Castafiore, bringing me out of the world of oblivion. I turned back just in time to see that same petite girl walk towards me with Priya following closely behind. "Hey it’s me Radhika, Does the name ring a bell? From Xaviers…remember me and Priya?”

“Of course I do!!” I said. “Fancy meeting you guys here” I added smilingly. We spent the next 15 minutes reviving our college days. Radhika was still the same but Priya had changed drastically.  She seemed to have turned from a wild “I give this world a damn” tomboy to a subdued, sober girl from next door.

As we exchanged phone numbers I casually remarked ‘So wedding bells ringing for any of you?” Radhika murmured a few inaudible words while Priya maintained a stoic silence. The very next moment she glanced at her watch and said “Hey Radhika it is almost midnight, I think we should get going”, without waiting for a response they bade me a quick goodbye and made their way to the exit.“It was really nice meeting you Arti” was all that Radhika could manage saying as she followed Priya out of the main door.

I couldn't get this meeting out of my mind while I drove back home. What was it that had brought about such a distinct change in Priya...? Why did the mere mention of the word “Marriage” make them leave so abruptly...” I wondered.

“Trillll Trillll” The alarm clock rang at 8:00 A.M the next morning rudely awakening me from my deep slumber. The strong smell of freshly brewed coffee filled my room waking my senses.. “Lord bless my roommate for being such a sweetheart” I silently whispered a prayer.

I tottered towards the kitchen, memories of the previous night still afresh in my mind. Impulsively I picked the phone and dialed a friend of mine from college, Reema. I couldn't contain myself when she picked the phone on the fourth ring; I narrated to her the entire meeting episode, especially what had been bothering me. “Didn't you know?” Reema sounded surprised, “Poor soull, her parents were against her relationship with Raunak since he did not belong to their caste nor was as financially well off as them. They were too worried about what would happen to their position in society if they gave their consent for the marriage. Her wedding has now been fixed with a man 10 years her senior who runs his family business”

“No wonder” I thought. This explained Priya’s behavior the night before…we chatted for a few minutes before I kept the phone down.

How Ironical could life be?” I thought as I listlessly flipped through the paper lying next to me. Here was me, a person who had lived most of her life by the 9 o’clock curfew, no discos, late night beach parties, obeying and respecting the rules set by my parents. Yet today when it came to serious issues in my life such as my marriage or my career I was given the freedom of choice for the simple reason that my parents placed endless amount of faith in me knowing that I would never take the wrong decision, would never let them down. On the other hand was Priya; a person who has lived most of her life partying into the wee hours of the morning, with no one to question her when she returned home or for that matter when she didn't… This was the kind of freedom she got from her family, yet today she was helplessly tied down. That very family which let her soar high and fly wherever she wanted to, had today cut her wings down. They were taking one of the most important decisions of her life for her. She was being told to take on life’s interminable journey with a person she didn't want as a companion. There used to be a time when I would envy Priya.. Today I could only pity her.

The pretty woman ring tone I had assigned to my home number rang making me break away from my thoughts, “Hello Mamma” I happily greeted my mom. “What’s up beta, you sound very happy today” She said. If only she knew that she and dad were the reason for my unbound happiness… for having known when to hold me back and when to set me free…

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

When The Milk Boiled Over…


What happens when a black cat crosses your path? Do you hesitate for that fraction of a second or continue as if nothing had happened? Whichever reaction it might be, I am sure the age old superstition does make its presence felt. Because like it or not, this poor four legged creature and many such beliefs have been entrenched in our subconscious minds for years together. 

It was a Friday when my maid had me stop in my tracks and stare at her with my jaws wide open. Snatching the worn out broom and mop out of my hand as I was about to throw them out, she exclaimed “Medam, aaj Shukravaar hai, aaj nahi fekte!” With glaring eyes she gave me a stare that haunted me even after she left. 

Superstitions have been an integral part of Indian culture since generations. While the logic is questioned all the time, many are said to have taken birth from a sound and scientific reasoning. Cutting nails at night is a strict no in most households, the logic behind this system stems from the lack of lighting back in the old days. Using that nail cutter in relative darkness increased your chances of cutting more than just the nail so night time could not be called auspicious for the activity now could it? Despite the abundance of lights in our houses today, this belief has continued like so many others.

A rare sighting, an eclipse attracts all for a peek whenever they make an appearance. But pregnant women in India are always disappointed. The saying goes that rays emitted during an eclipse are harmful for the fetus. Without any backing of scientific evidence, one would incline towards calling this one a myth; however I wonder how many would actually take the risk of challenging it, hmmm!

While leaving home, the person should never be asked where they are going or their work doesn't get done. Maybe it would have gotten done but now that we believe it can’t, we really cannot expect it to work can we? The same goes for another common belief, the cawing of crows. For the last thirty odd years of my existence I have craned my neck out of the window each time a crow cawed, to look out for those unexpected visitors. Each and every time, the doorbell has remained silent and the crows have earned a glare from me. 

If these aren't enough, there are more to keep us busy. Seeing an elephant is considered auspicious as it is meant to signify Lord Ganesh, if this were to be true, many of us Bangloreans would shift closer to Bannerghatta National Park without a second thought. About us, I don’t know, but real estate tycoons will surely benefit from the elephant sighting. 

Did you know? With your childhood habit of licking off your plate and the bottom of utensils you would be turning into a weatherman (woman) from the future? Doing that would mean the rain gods would bless you with their showers the day you tie the knot. Because a wet knot is difficult to “untie”, no rocket science here. However unbelievable this might seem, a dear childhood friend of mine had to endure a rather wet wedding, no prizes to guess what he did as a child! 

I don’t know about the rest of you but this one has a firm believer in me. Red underwear is meant to bring good luck. Now why would anybody not believe that? Superman wears red underwear period. I rest my case. Well err… we can ignore how he wears it though.

Even Hiccups are not ignored. How often do you hiccup? Not much? Sad, I say! Not too many people think of you. Imagine if you were Arvind Kejriwal right now, you would be hiccuping all day! 

While most superstitions deal with luck, prosperity and health, food is not one to be left behind. Having curd with sugar before an examination is meant to bring luck while a sack full of rice gets spoilt if touched by a woman during her periods. Much powers she has I say, such magic could put Harry Potter to shame.

Speaking of women and menstruation, there could be no other event ridden with superstitions as much as this. Regarded as “impure”, women who are menstruating are not allowed to enter temples and kitchens during “those days”. Pickles turn rotten by her touch, clothes she wears are polluted and the list goes on. Seems like a witch doesn't she? Definitely doesn't sound like the life giving woman that she actually is.

In all of these how can I forget Vaastu. While the directions in which each door of your house should point always depend on Vaastu; imagine eagerly approaching your future-to-be landlord to sign the rental agreement. What could that have to do with Vaastu you think? Everything.  Right from the direction in which we, the brightly eyed tenants were to seat while signing the agreement to which day we should move our luggage based on our birth star…. It was everything about Vaastu. Sigh.

They amuse; well at least most of them. Sometimes they sound downright weird. You wish you could just shake them off and move along… but some of them never let you go. Like the one about “Raahu Kaal”. That time of the day that is considered inauspicious to start anything new or do anything important. Oh, if there is one that I cannot stand it is this. Why you ask? Because I would be its target every time I made an official trip out of town. I would come home to an extremely messy and chaotic house only to be told by the “supposedly” better half that “Raahu Kaal” had been on all throughout the time I wasn't there.  Some people do know how to put superstitions to good use… don’t they?

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Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Last Promise


“There is a serial killer around”, she fearfully whispered. Switching off the TV, he held her close.
“Don’t worry darling, I’ll always be there with you” he hugged her tightly. 
“Where could he be?” she wondered in his arms.
His knife glistened in red, little did she know, she would be next.

This post is my first attempt at 55 fiction, written as a part of the Write Tribe prompt.

 55 Fiction,  is a form of microfiction that refers to the works of fiction that are either limited to a maximum of fifty-five words or have a requirement of exactly 55 words. The origin of 55 Fiction can be traced to a short story writing contest organized by New Times, an independent alternative weekly in San Luis Obispo, California, in 1987.The idea was proposed by New Times founder and publisher Steve Moss.

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hunt For The Winning Horse

Sometimes it takes a sword dangling around your neck to remember that soldier from your army who has been pushed to the sidelines in the ever changing battlefield. When your knight in the shining armor turns a shade dull in front of that underdog who has suddenly changed the rules of the war, is when you scratch your head and wonder if there was any understated knight that you had overlooked. You look around; beyond the hullabaloo you have created around your mascot Knight, and realize that it wasn't enough. You had overlooked what the common man really wants and the basic premise of the war gets questioned. 

Opening their eyes to the virtues of a certain leader that lay gathering dust amidst the beaches and swaying palms of Goa, BJP finally woke up. It did not take the party long to realize that a Modi v/s Kejriwal campaign would be like comparing Khakras with the humble roti, but maybe just maybe the Goan pav could give the roti a run for its money? Seeing how popular Kejirwal has been getting with his common man behaviour, it was time to flaunt pictures of Parrikar’s humble two wheeler; his ride to office every day. 

Two chief ministers, one rather experienced and the other a fresher on the scene. Both Alma Maters of one of India’s most prestigious institutions – the IITs. Both, firm believers in simplicity and walking the talk. Both on a campaign against corruption, having reduced Congress to a negligible number in their resp. states. And that is where the similarity bids good bye, but not before leaving behind enough for the Lotus to mull over. After all, Politics is a lot like chess, your move depends on your opponent’s; but there is a difference. In politics, a loyal soldier can suddenly be made the king, and the king, a…..

So, unexpectedly out of nowhere, headlines make way onto the papers and feeds go viral on Facebook. “Parrikar v/s Kejiral” ,” Parrikar for PM”.  BJP and AAP supporters need no reason to indulge in debates and arguments over what they think is right and what is not, but when a reason is thrown at them, they devour it down. While the PM candidate from BJP lost no time in slamming Kejriwal and AAP, Parrikar appreciated his intent. The coat of one knight turned a bit dusty while that of the other shone, making simplicity the new “in“thing as far as the Lotus was concerned. Simple, however it might have sounded, the word created a Tsunami for them; AAP responded to their simplistic revelation by questioning the PM candidate, shouldn't it be Parrikar over Modi? After all Simplicity is the new mantra right? 

The game will keep changing, and the pawns moving up and down the squares; the noise that might have had little meaning will probably die down without creating much uproar but the thought might just linger on in the minds of many… If it was all about simplicity, would Parrikar have been a better candidate than Modi? Wasn't it a similar set of circumstances like those in Delhi that brought him to power in Goa? Weren't Goans done with the Congress governance (or the lack of it) that made them opt for a change? A Déjà Vu of sorts it is if you try and draw parallels between Parrikar’s win in Goa to that of AAP’s in Delhi.  
Having observed Parrikar govern the tiny state of Goa twice during his career, there is no doubt the man is clean and a crusader against corruption. Over two decades in this industry called politics and the humbleness and simplicity has never dithered, nor has he given in to the rat race for filling up pockets and building hangers to park a growing fleet of cars. A preacher of good administration and governance, his intent has always been right but unfortunately the delivery has failed, weakening the hope placed in him by his followers and supporters who had eagerly been waiting for change. What makes him fail at the nth hour? While this is not an analysis of his (un)doings; two aspects silently standout. Despite being a personality to look up to, Parrikar has always displayed traits of a follower but not as much of a leader. The reason for this partly could stem from the second aspect – the extent of entrenchment into a mature yet traditional political party.  While he might want to bring in a lot of change, the environment in which he exists might not be conducive enough for it. 

Kejriwal on the other hand belongs to the same feather but with a difference. Rather than just be a part, he leads the party. The ability of bringing about a change lies in his hands. In the short time that he has been around, he has exhibited a trait for aggression when required and assertiveness when appropriate – both traits attributed to leadership abilities. However, he has a long way to go, whether he is able to stay consistent in his intent and behaviour is yet to be seen. Parrikar is far ahead as far as this aspect is concerned.

So, would Parrikar be the right PM candidate? Probably not; at least not right now. But nor is Kejriwal. While the former is seasoned enough to play the game, the aggression required is still missing. The latter on the other hand is well conversed with that quality but is relatively new on the political scene.

Yes, Parrikar could have been the change; Kejriwal just might be the change. But is the time right for him yet? AAP is but a year old and a country cannot be governed through reaching out to the public for opinions and views. They are on the right path but need to gain enough experience to take the matters of the world’s largest democracy in their hands. The good news is they are here, hopefully to stay and start making their presence felt with enough seats in the Lok Sabha. 

While they might not be ready for the biggest job of all, the Lotus and Hand better beware, the weeding process has begun, and the winds of change have set in. 

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Monday, January 13, 2014

Hoping for Hope

Life is beautiful. What with the 46” LED screens and surround sound home theatre systems we own and the snazzy gadgets that adorn our kitchens. Not to forget those premium four wheelers that we cozy ourselves into on our way to give in to the gastronomical delights that the city’s finest has to offer. 

Oh yes, life is beautiful – for you and me.

But amidst all the luxury and the cushioning we have around us, sometimes, just sometimes it becomes necessary to take a small peek outside the window and into what life truly has to offer to those other than us. Not just to make us value and appreciate what we have, but to know that we can make a difference. 

I ended 2013 with that peek; a peek that opened my eyes to the life some women in our country face each day. A peek that made me look beyond my “beautiful” world into one those women are trying to make livable...let alone beautiful. A peek into how they are rising against all odds to live a normal life, to look into the mirror and not hang their heads in shame. A peek into the lives of Devadasis who had decided to look up and move on.

Many of you might wonder who these Devadasis are. It’s not your fault if you are not aware; I blame the society that we co-exist in, the one that conveniently shields us away from anything out of the ordinary. 

Mahadevi runs a goat rearing business in Shegunshi, Belgaum, KA
Devadasis. As the name suggests, they are but servants of God. Young girls are “married” to the temple goddess and are expected to serve the temple through their lifetime.  What began as a religious practice generations ago is now engulfed by prostitution. Yes, you read it right. Today, the practice has been banned and termed illegal. However, young girls continue to be forced into being Devadasis in smaller towns and villages across the country.

While violating the law and pursuing abolished practices is a norm in India, what is a little known fact as far as this practice is concerned is the ordeal these women and girls are put through. More often than not, it is family members who force these hapless women into the trade. Yes, I call it a trade because it has little to do with Temples and more to do with prostitution today.  A dire living and a social stigma to carry on for life; there is really not much left for them to go by. Most get bogged down by this generosity bestowed by society. Most. But there are some who dare to defy, dare to look up with their head held high and make a choice. They choose to be a Kaplana Chawla or a Kiran Bedi in their own way, in their own right.

I took a peek into the lives of these brave women through the window called Milaap

In today’s world when we give up on the slightest setback, imagine these women who have only known of a life full of failures. When we turn desolate and pessimist over career moves and failed romances, imagines these women who have never known focus or love in their lives. All they have seen is lust and the commoditization of their bodies in society.

Milaap, a micro lending organization has begun an initiative called the Hope Project to wipe away the myths that surround Devadasis and help these women build their lives. To truly abolish this practice and prevent young girls from falling prey to it again.

If the grit shown by these women is not enough, their method of bringing about a change in their lives definitely is admirable. Charity and donations for finances are not words that exist in their dictionaries. They take loans, through organizations like Milaap. Loans; which they repay with full interest.

Take for example the story of Mahananda. She was married off to the temple at 12, and sold to a trader from Sangli by her Uncles in the greed for money. At the tender age of 15, Mahananda became a “Temple Prostitute”. When she was 5 months into her first pregnancy she was made to abort her child and return to her “Devadasi” duties. Only when she was able to pay off the trader did she get a chance to escape. Instead of resigning to fate, Mahananda met an activist and began her life afresh. She took up stitching and ensured her daughters don’t get caught into the trap like she did.

Many like Mahananda have vowed to make a difference to their and their children’s lives. Roopa made a new beginning with a pan and photocopy shop, Mahadevi began a goat rearing business while Housabai sells Bananas. There are many such Mahananda’s and Housabai’s across villages in India who want to stand up on their own feet and become resilient. All they need is help, our help. With loans as minimum as Rs 500, we can help change lives. This is not charity; it is what we call empowerment.

To eradicate a social stigma is no mean task, esp. in the Indian society that is built on a foundation of rigid mindsets and strict beliefs. Who better to help uproot it than us? We; the urban and educated strata of the society who have the intelligence and understanding to know the difference between right and wrong. To empower the needy and develop the nation. Because development does not only mean building nuclear weapons and infrastructure, it also means giving each individual in India the right to live with dignity, respect and in a manner they choose to.

Empowering these women would mean helping them build a beautiful life. Maybe not like the one you and I have... but one that allows their children to inherit respect, education, independence and self reliance from them and not victimization, despair, loss and shame.

To fund people and projects of your choice please visit The Hope Project

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Thursday, January 09, 2014

Book Review: Sirens spell danger

Sirens Spell DangerSirens Spell Danger by Suresh Chandrasekaran

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked up Sirens spell danger today and couldn't put it down (figuratively) till I had completed the book. A collection of three novellas based on the theme “Sirens spell danger”, this book keeps you engrossed till the very last page.

The first of the series “Femme Fatale” by C. Suresh revolves around Vikram aka Vicky who finds himself attracted to Tanya whom he meets at a Pub. Allowing his attraction to get the better of him, Vicky lands himself in the midst of a triple murder and potential bombings in Bangalore. How he manages to escape and the twists and turns the events take before eventually evading a terror attack is what forms the crux of this story. Suresh does a fine job of engaging the reader through what would otherwise be termed as a fairly straightforward plot. His descriptions help the reader sketch vivid images of the story thus making it seem more real and life-like. Readers in India, especially from Bangalore, will be able to associate well with the story given the premise it is based on and the real life possibility of such an incident actually taking place. At times the writing seems to get a repetitive tone but overall it was a wonderful read.

“Bella Donna” by Radha Sawana is anything but a giveaway. An industrialist gets murdered with the murderer leaving no clue behind save for a calling card that signifies “Atropos”. Already flummoxed, the investigating team led by Detective Inspector Shardul Reham gets pulled further into the investigation with the discovery that this could possibly be a serial killer at large. With not many clues to go by, the team work out the ones left behind by the calling card to relate the three murders that have taken place. Their investigation leads them to a point where they realize there could potentially be two more murders in the offing. Does the killer succeed? Or does Shardul manage to bring an end to the serial killings forms the crux of this story. Radha brings in a final twist towards the end which makes the journey through this novella all the more interesting and reveals the meaning of the title. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter give the novella a different touch however at a few places they could have probably been kept concise. They tend to distract the reader while they are in the flow of reading what happens next. All in all Bella Donna was thoroughly engaging and a gripping read.

While the first two novellas focus on investigative plots, the final piece “Bellary” by Karthik L tackles a vastly different topic. The story starts with Jay an IB stalwart being deputed to check on a missing CBI agent with suspicions revolving around ISI involvement. Right from the word go he gets engulfed in unexpected attacks and a trip to the prison. What starts of as a case of a missing CBI agent and murky wars between two mining barons goes down a twisted road to an unexpected finish. With well crafted words, Karthik brings in a thrilling flow to the story. The plot however would have earned more depth had threads such as how Jay is identified to be a descendant of Krishna Deva Raya and “children of the light” had been fleshed out a bit more. All said and done, the story keeps you engaged all throughout.

On reaching the last page of this excellent collection of Novellas, I was left asking for more. Each story was as promising as the next, were delivered at a very good pace and lived up to expectations. For a self published book, the effort put in is phenomenal, the only area where it could have done with more would probably be editing however that does not play a spoil sport in the overall experience. This is a collection that ought to be read by all, especially aspiring authors who I am sure can learn quite a bit from these three.

I rate this as a 5/5 due to the sheer talent, creativity and skills displayed by these three bloggers who otherwise have no professional qualification in the field of writing. This book is well worth the price and deserves a read. You can purchase the book at Sirens spell danger

View all my reviews

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This post is also written for Write Tribe's initiative on Book Reviews

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Bhaag "Aaji" Bhaag

I think I am growing old. No, I don’t just think, I am sure I am growing old. What else can explain those aching bones and a waist that refuses to bend? Every morning I look for those tell tale signs; that graying strand of hair and the almost invisible wrinkle under the eye. Sighs of relief escape me each time I notice their absence. Oh! It gives such a glorious start to my day. 

If only I would stop at that. But no, I love pulverizing whatever is left of my self confidence; I exercise. Ram Dev ji would be so pleased to see how earnestly I roll out the yoga mat and begin the warm ups. I sail through those mind you; it would make Babaji’s chest puff up with pride. But my happiness is short-lived. Always.  If only exercise was about warm ups, life would have been so much simpler don’t you think? But no, the gods have to conspire and make me remember them all through the ordeal they put me through in the name of exercise. 

I began the regime today, like I do every day. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out; I told myself and took the plunge, bending forward with my squealing arms only to topple over. Oh, it was a plunge alright. Next I targeted the back which was behaving as stubborn as ever; I didn't have to spend too long ignoring its screams, before I knew it my legs gave up and I came crashing down.  The body had rebelled, like it did every day. Yeah, I was growing old. 

But the eternal optimist in me wouldn't give up. Today would be different. What is it that old people do to stay healthy and fit? Walk! I pulled on the sneakers and walked around the park next door. Briskly at that. Overtaking each grey haired soul I met. Oh was I happy and gay, the glorious start to my day was back! Should I run next? I wondered rather smugly. But some long lost sense woke up in me and made the head vigorously shake a No. Maybe some other day...

It was time to get home, time to take this wonderful start to the day to an even more beautiful end. I switched on the laptop and had just begun relax when I clicked on this video that brought my world crashing down. This “Aaji” had just come along in her “Navvari” to run over my dreams. 

I slammed back in my seat, hearing a stiff muscle let out a spasm in the process. Stifling a groan; I told myself that it was nothing but age catch… Damn! My favourite excuse had just died a sudden death. There went my track suit and running shoes waiting for next year’s resolution. Err… I mean 2015.

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Friday, January 03, 2014

Jaago Re

As the holiday mood had set in and fervor for revelry had begun to grow, the cheeriness that began with the jingling bells and red nosed reindeer's spread beyond Christmas, taking the festive spirit along. In all this excitement, everyone remembered – to make those “almost never to be kept” resolutions. Resolutions that are made with zeal and forgotten once everyone wakes up on New Year morning; all dreary eyes and puffed up with a bad hangover. Three days into the New Year and resolutions are already being broken. But this time a resolution needs to be made and kept. Not by one, nor by two. By everyone who calls themselves Indians. Because 2014 is different; from the year that has gone by and symbolizes the fate of the country for the time that will follow. 

2014 is the year India goes to polls. To elect its representatives, those who will be its face to the rest of the world, help it grow and protect it from the dangers that lie ahead. This is also a year that sets in on the brinks of change.  A change that took birth towards the end of 2013 and stays poised to grow well into next year; a change that mobilized India’s most crucial yet dormant population to vote – The Indian Youth. 

The Delhi assembly elections in December 2013 saw the common man pour out on the streets to vote. For what could possibly be the first time, the youth and “urbanized” population stepped out of their cozy homes and stood in the voting lines. These were votes that used to never see the light of day, these were the votes that made things matter and brought about a change. 

While the change was momentous, there was an open secret behind its success.  The presence of a medium that was relatively new for the Indian Political System, but one that had fast taken residence across Indian homes - Social Media.

What the Delhi elections proved was that Social Media was here to stay as a crucial enabler to raise awareness amongst the voters and motivate them to vote.  It also signaled the critical role social media apps would play in the case of the larger monster lurking in the corner… The Lok Sabha Elections. 

The Indian Youth has woken up, but four months are a long enough period to make some yawn. There is still a lot more that needs to be done to further the cause and keep the youth motivated to vote for the larger pie and if there is any mean of doing it, it would be through social media and social mobile apps. 

Campaigning: Creating dedicated pages on popular social networking sites such as Facebook to publish areas of concern and a manifesto that details out the roadmap when and if the party comes to power.

Creating awareness: Publishing statistics around how voting is crucial and current state of affairs across instant messaging apps such as Twitter, WeChat and WhatsApp. 

Conferences: Bringing the youth from different parts of the country onto a common medium such as WeChat video calls and others to interact, brainstorm and exchange ideas.

Volunteering: Introducing the youth to the activities that go into an election process and motivating them to volunteer in any way possible.

Information Localization: Using custom publishing techniques to push relevant and localized content to the youth on the election news in their constituency along with the national level data onto mobile phones

Video chats: Facilitate video chats with candidates in the concerned constituency to give prospective voters more clarity on who they should vote for.

“Mobile” word of mouth: Using instant messaging apps such as WeChat, introduce recommendations by friends on news and information that has inspired them to consider voting. In addition create “friendship groups” for friends to discuss and exchange views.

Surveys: conduct surveys using social mobile apps to understand the pulse of the youth. Spread survey results across groups to encourage participation and motivate them to vote.

Sentiment reporting: Conducting sentiment analysis to analyze the response of readers and voters from across social mobile apps and sharing the views expressed back to the readers. 

Live reporting: Using features of social mobile apps such as “Moments” from WeChat, ground work data and live feeds of election news/campaigns can be shared with the votes.

With these, only the surface would have been scratched. Social Media and Social Mobile Apps have an infinite potential that can be leveraIged in myriad number of ways. From developing new mobile apps to target certain segments to inventing on demand content, there is a long way to go in using this versatile medium to mobilize Indian youth and ensure a historic change as far as elections are concerned. 

The country has been through a lot since independence. Non-qualified leaders, inefficient governments, toothless administration and corruption across all offices and systems… each and every facet has consistently pecked into the very core, rendering it hollow and weak. It is but a matter of time, before the nation’s backbone comes crumbling down, never to rise again. If there is anyone who can help it survive, it is the Indian Youth – the future of this country, the pillars on which it hopes to base its new foundation.

The means are within reach, all that is needed is to take the step in the right direction. It is time not just to hope for change but to BE the change. It is time to take matters in our own hands.

Jai Hind!

This post is written for Indian General Elections using Social Mobile Apps contest hosted by Indiblogger in association with WeChat

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Remembering 2013

A year has gone by leaving behind moments and memories of a lifetime.  Like any other year, 2013 had its share of highs and lows. But unlike its predecessors, it also had the opportunity to witness events that were momentous enough to leave a mark on history. Some that brought tears to the eye and made the heart cry while others that brought in smiles and made the chest puff up in pride. Few of those come to mind as I type this, moments that made a difference, changed a few perceptions and confirmed age old beliefs.

Rest in Peace Nirbhaya – Crime against women had never been a stranger to our country but what Nirbhaya did  was awaken the average Indian and make them stand up for what is right. 2013 began with protests all around, signaling the coming together of the common man.

Uttarakhand Floods – Having visited the place weeks before it got flooded this event held a special place in my heart. The land of the holy, the abode of Shiva and Vishnu was savaged through by nature’s fury. Stranding pilgrims and damaging temples, the darker side of nature was exposed, as it washed away villages and eroded mountainsides, damaging the spirituality of the place permanently.

Bollywood makeover – Known mainly for “masala” and item numbers, Bollywood surprised many with movies such as Lunchbox and The Ship of Thesus. 2013 was a year where small budget movies not only survived the box office but went on to be declared as hits thus bringing in a new wave of Indian cinema.

The Little Master’s retirement – While I have always been a Rahul Dravid fan (for more reasons than just cricket ahem ahem); the emotion behind Tendulkar’s retirement could not escape me. No form of cricket was known to exist without him… at least as far as my generation was concerned. Millions across the globe watched him leave the ground, never to come back knowing that Cricket would no longer be the same.

The fall of Indian Media – While behaviour exhibited by the Media confounded me all through the year, two incidents marred its power for me. The Tejpal sexual harassment case and the Goa Writers Group scandal painted a gory picture, with one facet exposing the façade most media persons carry and the other depicting how influential writers can make news vanish into thin air. It was a show that made a mockery of what we have always known writing and journalism to be.

The revival of Sec. 377 – The verdict of the Supreme Court has been beaten to death, but what made a difference to me was not the decision but the unanimous reaction that came against it from all corners of the country. Indians proved how much they have progressed with that one sentiment. They proved that all was not lost with India. While the authorities were stepping back in time, Indians had their eyes set on the future.

Winds of Change – AAP’s historic victory in Delhi proved yet again the sentiments of the Indian people. Having had to live with two of India’s oldest parties and their prejudices and cynical beliefs for decades together, the possibility of an option that could improve the dilapidated state of the country was enough to make the people sit up and take notice. Taking matters in their own hands, they took a decision to herald a change and take the first step towards progress. It was a true tribute to democracy.

The launch of Mangalyaan – India successfully launched its very own Mars orbiter. It made my chest puff up with pride. I am sure yours did too.

The Jan Lokpal Bill – Anna Hazare’s efforts finally paid off. A bill that was tabled in the Parliament since 1968 was finally passed. While it might not address all points from the original draft, it sure did show a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

The loss of eminent personalities like Shankuntala Devi and Tarla Dalal and the terror attacks in Hyderabad and Gaya brought in some of the lows while the hanging of Afzal Guru and IAF’s purchase of its biggest aircraft added to the highs. 2013 saw all of this and a lot more.

Personally speaking, 2013 was the year of change for me. After months and months of self debate, I took the decision to do what I loved the most – Write. I took a break from the corporate world and returned to the life I had been missing all these years. The year gave me moments of peace and joy that will forever stay close to my heart.

Now when I look back, at my life and around, 2013 was a wonderful teacher. It taught me to appreciate the little things in life, value the people around me, do what I love and to look for those silver linings that are bound to be there in every low that we come across. 

As the New Year sets in, I raise my glass in celebration of what 2013 was and in anticipation of what 2014 has in store for me…. Amen.
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