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Thursday, March 30

One night @ call center is not for me !

"One night @ call center" is the kind of book that deserves a review by Akshaya. However I see little hope of ever being able to make him read it, so I will have to do the honor.

It is easily the most pedestrian and useless piece of work that I have put my hands on. Let's not even try to get into the literary merits of book, since it has none and since, author accepts that in the first few pages itself, but the sheer nonsense of the plot is itself unbearable. So you have this call center and the call traffic is low and jobs are being cut and you have to save it. So what do you do? Just call up Americans saying they have been attacked by a virus and ask to call back and voila! The traffic is up and jobs are saved. And supposedly the author, Chetan Bhagat, went to two of India's most premiere institutions, IIT Delhi and IIM Ahmedabad! At least I expected something better from him, something that was not so downright nonsense.

But even before all this drama begins to unfold, Bhagat manages to irritate hell out of you with his stereotypes, clichés and totally one dimensional characterization. So all the Americans are "dumb ass", the bad boss is bad in every sense you can think of and out of the six main characters, one has an abusive mother-in-law, one has a emotionally blackmailing mother, one has been kicked out by his son and daughter-in-law and so on. He hardly assigns any individuality to his characters, projecting any attribute of one character on the whole category. So after every 2-3 pages you find a statement like "girls are like this..", "only girls can do this...", "all girls can do this.." blah blah... you get the drift. Emotions come and go like passengers on a metro stations, 12 second and gone !

Interestingly, almost every review that I read on the net for the book claimed that the book is not for "high brow" literature fans and should not be judged by those standards and that Chetan Bhagat is a good story teller. All I can say is that Chetan Bhagat is not a good story teller, not by any standards as shown by his two works till now, although the first books as slightly better as compared to this one. And about the book not being for "high brow" literature fans, I think that is a mild way of putting that the book is mediocre. It is the same mentality that prompts book titles like "xxx for dummies" and nobody feels offended by them. The bad, downright pathetic things are packaged up as "being for the masses" and are taken up enthusiastically by "masses". I do not wish to be a part of the circus however.

Incidentally, Bhagat's website proclaims him to be the author of two "contemporary classics! Should we roll the drums?

Wednesday, March 22

With language we lose !

This post is in response to the comment by Ankur on the last post.

I am not at all saying that the people asking those question are superficial. But all this redundant communication doesn't even ring a bell anymore and the instances on which it leads to further things, are going down sharply. After throwing that trendy question and getting the trendy reply, half of the time none of the persons involved have any idea what to say next. I believe that many times it is not the lack of things to talk but our decreasing powers of engaging in a meaningful interaction.

And partial blame for this goes to the language. Why do people learn English? For money, for wealth. The biggest "economic" power of modern India is its army of English speaking graduates. English is valuable to people not because they find it very apt for their expressions, but because it represents status, it represents whatever is modern, whatever is chic and because it brings in money. And before we realize, we start living according to the language. The close relationship between language and society works both ways. Suddenly words like Holi and Diwali find themselves in alien lands often tagged with phrases like "festival of colors" and "festival of lights". And while the most frontline things are able to push their way into the new language, a lot more just drops out and we don't realize. The customs are mapped to the words in the new language and first they lose their context and then the meaning.

And this lack in the medium of expression seeps back and becomes the lack of things to be expressed eventually. Of course all this is much more complex than this simple explanation.

May be I am being too paranoid but if you see around yourself, you will find your language representing not you but a projection of you on an alien culture.

Tuesday, March 21

Trip to home !

All those who read the last post and thought "What the hell?", please count me in. I would have removed that post but I am keeping it as reminder of how bad and incoherent can writing get when moods dwindle. And the lovely poem at the end that bore the burnt, I wish I could give it better context.

However, I am back, to Bangalore, on the track. The journey home was journey home. I don't want to tag it with adjectives like good, excellent, wonderful or the more desi, fandoo. In fact, if I could, I would not have anybody ask me this question, "How was the trip home?". Everytime I am asked that question, I feel like a loser. One who cannot think of one word in which to pour in all his heart and memories and show the other person how exactly was it and I just dish out a "good" or a little more trendy "mast". Soemhow, it occurs to nobody how ironic our questions and answers have become. "trip to home" ?? "mast"?? Some more enlightened souls ask about "trip to native place" instead. Politically correct, emotionally bankdrupt. I have at times used "trip to my parents" when talking to foreigners और हर बार जैसे मुंह कसकसा गया है। But I have learned to stop thinking about all this. I have learned to live with my inability to express myself. Language after all is no longer a vehicle of expression but a vehicle of prosperity and wealth.

And as always, money stinks !

Wednesday, March 15

अंतहीन यात्री

Thoughts come and thoughts go and everytime I think of all the lost thoughts that never made it to this blog, a sense of meloncholy comes over me. For quite sometime now, I have a feeling of existing in a vaccume, a vaccume that sucks up all the thoughts, all the deleberations. And as a result I find myself a man without conviction. In fact everytime I am making a strong pitch for or against something, I can read in my voice the voice of others and I feel like cheating.

Somedays ago a school friend left a scrap for me on orkut - "Hi Abhaya, belated happy new year. I just went thru your blog (read it whole from 2004 onwards). quite interesting thoughts (since it is not coherent there is no other comment i can make)". And I thought, may be he is right. One reason might be that there is a lot in my life that is not reflected here but then I don't want that too anyway. Isn't it even worse? To not like how it is and yet don't know how to change it or what is wrong anyway? A fractured existance and not even knowing how else it can be?

May be a lot of it has to do with the images that I see all around me. I go to blogs and I find consistent images, intriguing images, clean images. You read a blog and you get an image. May be true, may be projected, doesn't matter. What matters is that power to be able to project an image. A power that I seek, endlessly, restlessly...

Last week that I spent in office was just so bad. All the time I wanted to write and I couldn't. Office is not the place where you sit down and write your mind out. I just wonder how I ever composed some of those early poems of mine sitting in office. Guess I must had been pretty inspired. Now a days, I can't go beyond first few lines. The effort seems too much and after a while it becomes meaningless all together. So I hoped I will go home and I will write. I dreamed of it, I waited for it, I pined for it.

Today is my third day at home.

अंतहीन यात्री

विदा देती एक दुबली बांह सी ये मेढ,
अंधेरे मे छूटते चुपचाप बूढे पेड ।

खत्म होने को न आयेगी कभी क्या,
एक उजडी मांग सी ये धूल धूसर राह ?
एक दिन क्या मुझी को पी जायेगी,
यह सफ़र की प्यास अबुझ अथाह ?

क्या यही सब साथ मेरे जायेंगे ,
ऊंघते कस्बे , पुराने पुल ?
पांव मे लिपटी हुई ये धनुष सी दुहरी नदी,
बींध देगी क्या मुझे बिल्कुल ?

- डा धर्म वीर भारती

Tuesday, March 7

Made in Japan in 1 year, 2 months

Finally after a year and 2 moths, I managed to finish Made in Japan by Akio Morita. There are 2 ways of interpreting that long duration. One is that the book is so uninteresting/difficult/ that it took me so long. The other is that there has to be something really exciting/engaging/ that I held on to it all this time. The answer, as usual is something in between.

The book is not and is not meant to be a weekend reading, those spurts of reading energy that let people pick up books like LOTR and actually finish them. It won't mesmerize you so much that you can't even put it down and once you put it down, it won't keep haunting you either. But there is plenty to be taken if you do come back, those small nuggets of wisdom, those small insights into things that turn dreams into reality.

For someone like me who doesn't understand the technicalities of world business, it is an interesting glimpse in to that complex and often daunting world. The important point that comes through the book is that it is not always about the money but more about the kind of value you bring to the people's life, both your customers and your employees. As you read the book, at many places, Morita comes across as a really tough person, somebody who won't relent but that has to do more with sticking to his principles and work ethics than making some quick money. He is an out and out capitalist as far as economic policies are concerned, he argues for a completely open market, pushes for monetary reforms, opposes protectionism but still abhors the idea of firing employees when company is on a down. He is not a apologist just for the sake of it, you can see that his experiences back his ideologies and not the other way round.

How the traditional businesses in Japan have been able to transform themselves into global players drawing upon their basic strong points made me thinking how all that applies to India? Contrary to Japan the major business successes of India has come from software and services industry which do not draw a lot from traditional business practices (Although I don't quite agree with this, there have been some excellent successes in other more traditional fields).

However it is difficult to draw the parallel. Japanese are known for their love for gadgets and hence the strong domestic market for these goods. In India, the domestic market has only started growing since last 1-2 decades. Moreover the sheer size and variety of customers in India is staggering. Japan is a very consolidated market, where all the customers read the same national newspaper, are in the same timezone and live within a very small piece of land. Indian markets are more comparable to US markets and in some sense, not even to them (Sometime ago I read a nice article about the India, US relationship. I will try to dig it up and put it up here). This will probably require different strategies and nurturing.

Well I can go on rambling as one thing links to other. But so much for now. Made in Japan gets added to the list of recommended readings, may be not to the favorites.

Currently I am reading some great stories by Jaya Shankar Prasad.