Nov 25, 2006

Bigg Boss

Every now and then comes along a new program that I like, and follow every episode of. There were The Pretender and The Practice on Star World quite a while back. Then there was Nach Baliye on Star One more recently. And now there is Bigg Boss on Sony.

Some people who believe the whole thing is staged, with everyone playing a part as they have been instructed to. But I prefer to believe its all genuine, because these people really are capable of outrageous behavior without outside intervention, incentive or infleunce. Rakhi Sawant IS stupid and loud (and I totally understand why she keeps getting into controversies with local authoroties and Mika Singh and suchlike). Kashmera Shah IS a scheming bitch (or, I gleefully correct myself, WAS). All the men ARE egomaniacs.

Come to think of it - these are all showbiz people - which I dont think is a profession for the most intelligent. They dont realize they are making fools of themselves when they behave a certain way, and provide entertainment at the cost of their reputations, on national TV. Its fun to watch.

They are all small-fry, wannabes or have-beens. Each one likes to think of himself or herself as a celeb, but doesnt respect the dubitable achievements of the others. One funny moment was Kash disdainfully calling Rahul Roy a one-movie wonder (though she herself cant claim to have achieved even that much). This lack of mutual respect creates trouble. Its fun to watch.

Some of them think they are really smart and the others are dodos, forgetting the age-old adage 'You can fool some... But you cant fool all the people all the time'. Thats the mistake Kash made - she thought she could manipulate everybody and everything. She ended up being embarassed, and her misplaced pride only prompted her to say things that made her look even sillier. Again, its fun to watch!

So, we have this house with these dumb, egoistic, politicking bunch of 'celebs' facing a lot of the problems we face in our own lives - dealing with idiots, dealing with schemers/back-stabbers, dealing with short-tempered people, dealing with jealousy, dealing with isolation, or simply having to deal with people we are different from and dont like. Its frustrating at times, but we keep our feelings bottled up. Here a situation has been created such that confrontations must happen. And people who are much more 'rich and famous' than most of us can ever hope to be - are suffering much more than we do. Thats probably why its fun to watch.

Moral of the post: Watch Bigg Boss.

Nov 19, 2006

Fraud. James Fraud

Owners of the 'James Bond' franchise have decided to spoof themselves. In a stellar example of brand suicide, ladies and gentleman, they introduce Daniel Craig as James Fraud in Casino Fuck-all.

This is not the first such attempt. Earlier this year, MI:3 was released - with none of the SFX one expects from an MI movie, and with Ethan Hunt favoring marital bliss over adrenaline rush. We also had Batman Begins and Superman returns, where you got to see the humane, confused side of superheroes.

Gimme a freakin break. I dont care about Bond's feelings, or Ethan Hunt's desire to settle into a normal life with a nurse. I have all those issues in my own life. The reason i love these movies is that these are larger-than-life characters, disdainfully above all these 'normal' issues. They are not expected to fall in love and to face personal, emotional crisis. They are just supposed to kick ass in breathtaking, gravity-and-all-physics-defying action. Thats what I paid for - a high-paced, noisy action movie. Not melodrama. I want entertainment, not philosophy. I want to admire and be in awe of these guys, not to empathise with them in their moments of weakness.

Not to say that movies that explore personal dilemmas and emotions should not be made. Go ahead and make them by all means. But position them that way. And let them be seen by people who want to see such stuff. There's a time and place for everything. A Bond movie is NOT where we expect to see people seriously falling in love. And when i pay through my nose and struggle to get a ticket, struggle to finish work early and watch the first day, first show, I want what i expect. No surprises please.

And now for the facts. This Bond introduces himself as 'James Bond', not 'Bond.. James Bond'. He doesnt care if his Martini is shaken or stirred. He falls in love with a girl - for real - and is willing to give up everything for her. And he admits it to her. The Bond tune (most recent version by Moby, I think) - the tune thats played in the background since the first Bond movie - does not accompany the action on the screen at any time. He doesnt flirt with Moneypenny (or whatever the secy's name is). He does not blow up any of Q's inventions. And he actually fights and gets bloodied. Bond is NOT supposed to do that. He's supposed to just screw everyone and walk away straightening his tie. I expected all this and paid to see it. None of it happened. Hence, my disappointment.

Maybe its not such a bad movie. But anyone who wants to see Bond the way they are used to seeing Bond, should avoid this fart.

Nov 15, 2006

But just how much money, honey?

The contrast was shocking. We were talking to a family of 20, that lived in a village, a stone's throw away from our campus. Our campus, for the unfamiliar, was sprawling with trees and pretty plants all around. Air conditioned classrooms. Ethernet-connected hostel rooms. Tennis courts. And people were cribbing about the absence of a swimming pool to chill in.

Here was a family of 20, living in a 2-bedroom house, sustaining itself on a net income of Rs 3000 per month. Thats abt 150 per person per month. Less than what I'm spending on a PVR ticket later today. Most of them were unemployed. When i asked about their entertainment: "Do you own a color TV?" (ok i didnt expect them to, but it was in our questionnaire) "Wat's the point sir? we dont even have power supply" "But i see you have bulbs in the house" "We get power supply for a couple of months before any elections. Otherwise about 2 hours a day. We cant depend on it"

I was rather disturbed by this encounter. My discomfort did not escape the attention of my classmates (who were also on the project i was surveying people for)

Anyway, cut to 2006. Mukesh Ambani has declared his turnover target for "Reliance Retail" is Rs Ninety Thousand Crore (Im writing it in words coz im not even sure how many 0's to place after the 9). I move in with a batchmate from L, who has only one measure for anyone or anything in life - NPV (Net Present Value). I hear my peers discussing salaries they target - "1 lakh per month", "25 lpa within 2 years of starting my career", "Who will be the first from our batch to hit a crore?".

I pause to think - whats the basis for these targets? I mean, has anyone sat down and thought "how much do i really need to be happy?". Like, enough to pay for a house that cheers me up when i return from a tough day at work, enough to afford a Ford Fiesta, and enough to visit PVR and Athena every weekend... all in all maybe 40k per month, maybe 50...

But i dont think thats how it works. People are driven not by rationale, but that basic human tendency - greed. In school, you hope to be secure (20k pm). You make it to a good college and decide you deserve at least 25-30k. If you make it to an IIM, you expect at least 7 lpa ("the campus average you know, I'm an IIM grad after all"). After first year of working, at least 10 lpa, probably much more if you are pursuing a career in Finance. People pursuing careers in finance tend to be more "driven" by financial targets and desire for wealth, and understandably so.

I meet people who aren't happy that they are earning less than 1 lakh pm. I also meet old friends from IIT who are chilling in life and happy with 30k. Tho they'd like to crack the CAT and move up, they arent overly concerned about that. Then there's a family of 20 that has a net income of 3000 and doesnt complain too much.

There's a complete spectrum of salaries, and one's happiness in life doesnt seem to be strongly correlated with their salary. Those who want more money, aren't happy whether they earn 10 thousand or 10 crore a month. Then there are others who are happy whether they earn 20k, 1l or 1cr per month. This leads me to suspect it isn't all about money honey. It's about your attitude to life, and what you make of however much you earn...

Nov 14, 2006

Life worth living. Part 2

Theres a guy in my office. He raps. Everyone knows him coz he composed and rapped a song abt the company at the offsite. Most of us haven't spoken to him ever, still everyone likes him and he's virtually a celebrity.

Theres a girl who's real identity i dont know, except that she calls herself eM and blogs at Again, nobody i know 'knows' her, yet we all talk abt her and admire her blog.

This is leading up to an idea I have, which i will not express explicitly, but give you an analogy. When it comes to products, we talk abt its USP - Unique selling proposition. Companies talk about 'core competency'. In both cases, the idea is of a strength that no one else has, and that can be used as an advantage. Market leaders are known, so are 'niche players' - each does something no one else can do as well as they can - and its their success that everyone admires and talks about. Then there are the also-rans. The Also-rans dont do much, and usually they dont survive very long.

Why is it diferent with people? Most of us are also-rans. The guy who plays cricket, but didnt make the school team. The guy who cleared the Medical colleges' entrance exam in the second attempt, will study and bleed money till he's 30 years old, and eventually become one of the doctors you seem to find every 100 yards away in a city. And the girl who completed her graduation, worked for a year at a decent salary, and then settled into marriage.

I'm an also-ran myself. The guy who entered IIT and finished in the middle of his class. Then entered IIM and again finished in the middle of the class. Not known by many outside my class and my hostel. And now working in Bangalore (like, it would seem, about half of the country's educated young population) with a company 'doing something with IT'.

Yet, the thoughts of mediocrity, ignominy, irrelevance - fill me with an emotion very close to rage. I talk of 'starting my own company someday', 'making some difference to the world i live in', 'accomplishing somethings that lives longer than i can', study the lives and thought processes of admirable achievers - all driven by a desire to break out of this silo of anonymity.

So where is this going, you ask. Frankly, i dont know. I wrote this just to crystallize my thoughts and remind me later someday what everything is all about, where the goal lies and what my motivators are. It is all to easy to fall into the silo of anonymity and watch life pass you by comfortably. Which is why i'm reminding myself what i hav to do.

I wasn't born a talented singer. I never trained in any form of dance, though i may have done well. I never made the school sports teams. Sacrifices and compromises were made to obtain a 'good education'. Now this education has to become the USP, and be used for success in business. Right now, i have neither the idea, nor the money, nor the expertise, nor the experience to take the plunge. 3-5 years from now, I will (have to). Till then, I'll just keep reminding myself.

Nov 11, 2006

Bangalore drift

There are several things I miss about Bhopal. Of course, there were the Black Queen sessions, cricket sessions and general tp with Sarkar, Paaji and the others. But on a more personal note, I had a lot of time for myself. I had time to think about where my life was going, esp. my career. I had time to think ahead, make some plans and identify some priorities. I even had time to realize I’d screwed up with missy and I missed having her in my life.

Since I’ve moved to Bangalore, life has been whizzing past. There are the long days in office (which I don’t mind - as long as the time is spent purposefully). Then there is the eternal question - where to have dinner tonight? Weekends are spent getting drunk, watching at least one movie, catching up on orkut, blogs etc, doing some house chores, and going to a pub/disc at least once. Then the next week begins. Then the next month. Somewhere in between we visit coorg, or kodai or some such place. Sounds very like a very busy, convenient and ‘fun’ life to live.

But somewhere deep down, I’m again starting to have that nagging feeling - that I’m not doing enough with life. These are supposed to be prime years - when one has little responsibility, a lot of energy and a lot of cash. Many of my friends are busy fighting their way up the salary curve. Some of the others have decided to get married and leave the rat race (though they will compete on a different plane with other married guys). I, simply put, am doing nothing. Nothing, that is, to influence the course of my life or my future in a positive way.

In Bhopal, the card games and cricket used to rejuvenate my competitive, sporting spirit. I used to read the economic times and fortune mag to stay abreast with the business world. Blogging and discussions with Sarkar, Paaji and Fatso used to provide some intellectual exercise. Now all that has gone missing - and I need to revive those aspects of my life.

Also I’d earlier posted about what I considered a life worth living. In short, it was all about making a difference to the world - no matter how small - but significant and memorable - in the limited period you have in this world. I don’t think delivering projects or partying contribute to that purpose in any way.

Something needs to be done. Right now I don’t know what. But the first steps are admitting a problem exists, and then trying to understand it. That’s what I'm doing now. I will fix this very soon. Or - as has happened in the past - something will give.