The Beggar Outside the Temple

He didn’t know how long it had been since he took up that permanent seat outside the famed temple. Nor did he know how or why he got there. All that he knew was that the temple was his sole refuge for as long as he could remember.

“Do you believe in God?” I asked him. “Of Course I do, how else would you explain my existence and livelihood over the last sixty years outside his doors?” he said smiling mockingly at me. I had no answer to that and chose to smile back.

His hands were deeply scarred. Ghastly wounds were visible on his legs. All he had was a torn and faded Dhoti and a shawl which by the looks of it had been bitten through by many rats. As my eyes took in all this, he looked at me and said “Sixty years is a long time. Especially outside a single temple. These scars bear testimony to them”. “I don’t quite follow, what are you trying to say Sir?” I asked him with a quizzical expression on my face.

They told him that he was a toddler when he entered the temple premises. The man who left him there was never to be seen again. Pitying the abandoned toddler, the ones outside the temple seeking alms took him in. For a long time, he did nothing but sit on the lap of a woman he didn’t recognize as she spread her hands out, asking for alms from all those who visited the temple. Being the child that he was, he began imitating her and soon enough it caught the attention of all the visitors and a steady source of alms followed. The temple was generous enough with the food that it distributed to them, though more often than not, a scuffle would break out on who got the larger share. However he wasn’t denied anything as he was still a toddler and his survival was essential for their existence.

As years passed, he observed the changing natures of the people around him. Now that he had grown considerably, he no longer sat on her lap but next to her. Yet what surprised him was that he had to now fight for his food. Even if the meal consisted of a meagre banana, he had to be a part of the scuffle and win it to earn his meal. His ‘surrogate mother’ as he liked to call her no longer looked out for him. She had another toddler on her lap doing the honors. So that’s what it was he thought. He had served his purpose in her life and now they were equals. Equals in a practice where they had to compete for the greater share of alms.

It depressed him. Even disgusted him. But there was nothing he could do. The one time he had tried to sneak out of the temple for an alternative means of livelihood, he had been subjected to a terrible thrashing by the police who mistook him to be a miscreant in the regional riots that had made news all over the country. He was carried back to the temple premises on a stretcher of sorts. The thrashing would render him immobile. His body and his spirit, both lay broken.

A few years later, he would know what death was. As his ‘surrogate mother’ collapsed one afternoon, he realized that she would no longer comfort him nor compete with him. Her body was cleared off and the temple premises were cleaned to avoid any malefaction arising due to her untimely death. For all the competition and all the reasons that she had spurned him, her alms lay under the sack on which she used to sit. Only to be fought over by all of them later. Incapable of any of those heroics any more, he watched silently. Even as the ‘value’ of a human life was being divided among all those chose to contest for it.

Food and shelter were the least of his worries he revealed. The temple and its devotees provided enough to keep him alive if not more. More often than not, there seemed to be one or the other occasion which warranted a mass feeding resulting in his stomach getting its fill.

As I listened to him, I couldn’t help myself from asking him “You have been outside this temple for so long, didn’t you ever get a chance to go inside?”

“I did. But it made no difference to me” he said disinterestedly.

“Maybe you lack faith?” I said in an attempt to convince him and myself of my belief in god.

Listening to which, he burst into peals of laughter.

Not knowing what to do or how to respond, I stood up suddenly and walked into the temple premises trying hard to decipher the reason behind that mirthless laughter.

A good forty five minutes later, as I made my way out of the temple, I took out my wallet to give this curious gentleman some money.

“Did you finish your rounds Sir?” he asked. Still with the same mocking expression.

“What are you talking about?” I replied now irritated with his demeanor.

“You didn’t understand what I meant when I said that going inside the temple made no difference to me. While staying outside the doors of the temple for years, I was surrounded by people deemed ‘lesser fortunate’ by the likes of you begging for alms. Yet the one time I did walk into the temple premises, I realized how many more people were ‘lesser fortunate’ judging by their deepest pleas to the God who sits there. We do it outside the premises, you do it inside the premises. Which is why I asked you if you finished your rounds of begging for alms Sir” he said with the same smile.

Too embarrassed by the reality of what he had just expounded, I stood there with my hands now firmly back into my pocket clutching my wallet tightly. In a quandary wondering what kind of alms would this man ever accept? With a half-baked attempt to smile at him, I began walking away, careful not to turn back.

“Don’t clutch on to that wallet too hard Sir, it didn’t do any good to my ‘Surrogate Mother’ ”  he had remarked.

His parting words still ring in my ears every time I visit a temple to plead with the Almighty for something or offer alms to anyone we deem ‘Lesser Fortunate’.

As for him, I am sure he sits there and expounds such parables to all who cared to listen.

‘Dear LiMe’

Dear LiMe,

Subject: The ‘Art’ of a Good Farewell

So for the last few weeks or so, my timeline’s been flooded with the ‘number of days left’ and ‘people who matter’ posts. Something similar to what we did last year, though I am sensing a greater ‘sigh’ of relief from your batch (for obvious reasons).

Having said that, I thought I’d probably spend some time composing this letter to you folks here at LiMe. The last time I wrote a love letter to her ( LiMe) was when I was given a writing task as a part of my selection process for the committee.  The reason I am writing quite bravely now is to do with the fact that she’s been the only lady who’s accepted my proposal.

So technically I was supposed to be your senior, however factually I was just a few months elder to you folks in LiMe(having joined only at the end of first year), so for practical purposes let’s just say this is a letter from one of your batch mates.

Farewells can be really hard. Harder when you know that there are going to be some aspects of life which you would never get to see again. One of those aspects that I would want to touch upon here is the liberty that you guys had to ‘create’ things through the committee.

To a sizeable portion of your batch, my batch, our seniors or even the general world out there, a ‘committee’ could seem to be something very mundane. In fact once you are out here in the corporate world, you’d wonder how insignificant it looks in the face of bigger issues. Issues that seem to be more pressing…and perhaps even depressing.

Yet for most of it, if you were to look back at it, joining a group like this was an act of volition. An act which I would want to deem as a selfish one, for a committee of this sort was a conduit to your ‘freedom of expression’ (for once freedom and TAPMI go hand in hand in this case). A conduit which I believe all of you chose for your own selfish reasons.

Some of us have been snubbed for being introverts. Some of us for being crazy. Some of us for having indulged in poetry and prose while the world marched on with Science and Maths. Yet I believe that the sum total of all those experiences culminated into what we did with this curious little committee that we call ‘LiMe’.

In a year from now, I daresay that some of you might be faced with nights like the one today where you’d probably want to reminisce on the best aspects of your life over the past two years. It doesn’t have to necessarily involve the committee; it could be some people, some moments or events that stand out in your fondest memories (however few they might be).

Taking a cue from PM Manmohan Singh, I am saying this ‘ In the long run, we are all just going to be memories’. This is a fact. It might dawn on you sooner or later. So when faced with this, I’d say we’ve got to try and do all that we can to be a happy memory.

Which brings me to an aspect that we call ‘committee work’ but truth be told, it’s just each of us doing what we enjoy the most.  Some of us have showcased the institute in different light, some of us have converted words of guests into ‘TED’like speeches while reporting them, some of us have captured memories through photographs- photographs which bear true testimony to the fact that a picture is worth a 1000 words.

So what’s the big deal??

The big deal is…we never die. For having being given the gift of creation, our work chooses to stay on for ages from now. Fancy this, a guest who is on the verge of retirement is being asked to interact with the student fraternity. Years later, when he sits on the cosy armchair next to the fire reminiscing about his last address to the students, what we transcribed during that address serves as a soothing balm to an aged mind(also the accompanying photograph making him look more handsome than he actually is).

While I believe, I might have ‘just’ pushed the limits with the above depiction, all that I am trying to say in reality is that at this juncture of bidding farewell to a lot of things, think about these moments which have given you more pride and satisfaction than a 8 point GPA or a high paying job. I’m not demeaning them as useless achievements, yet all that I am saying is do not belittle the work that you have done as a team over the two years here.

Creativity is a gift. To say that we are solely gifted would be a blunder. Yet to say that we dapple in those arts which are widely considered creative (writing,photography,branding) is more palatable according to me.

From having interacted with a lot of you on the ‘Converts Page’ to ‘LiMe’ to ‘this day in history’…life’s come a long way. At this junction, just spend that infinitesimal second and ask yourself why you chose to be part of something like this(This is even as I break into an involuntary smile thinking about what you guys said during your interviews)

That would answer your question on whether this is the ‘ Beginning of the End’ and if farewells are really farewells, or if this is yet another chance for LiMe to help create fond memories so that a year later, one of you could sit in front of his/her laptop and type a similar love letter to her…much the same way that I am doing tonight.

Adios

Specter

Keywords: LiMe, WorDict,aMuse,Lemon Tea,Hootsuite, ‘For the Love of LiMe’,Gramaphone,Alt-t,Cine Nights,Inceptum  

 

 

 

 

The ‘Eligible’ but ‘Single’ Conundrum:

With Valentine’s Day around the corner giving people all the more a reason to be depressed than they already have, I thought I could add to their woes with another post of mine which perhaps aims to address the rather unique conundrum of singletons at this stage of life…

Before the advent of WhatsApp and Facebook, a lot of relationships and budding romances hinged on the magical number of ’150’. If I have my facts right, most of the service providers provided 150 free messages to best express one’s love. Not to mention their extra rates on special days such as ‘Valentine’s Day’ forcing people to finally call each other….

It was a time when the entire ‘facade’ (assuming that people at home didn’t know) had to be hush-hush. After all you didn’t want your ‘single mode’ of communication to be discovered by anyone back at home.

Six years hence, a lot has changed…

While the core that people want to term as ‘true love’ might remain the same, the expression surely has changed. We’ve grown up and we’ve perhaps discovered better ways to express our love and hate. From ‘liking’ posts to blatantly ‘ignoring’ them or using the dreaded trio of words and emoticons ( ‘K, Hmmm, 🙂 )….love has come a long way from being emotional to suddenly being digital.

So when Narendra Modi spoke about Digital India and the need to empower everyone on the digital platforms, I am sure he meant a lot more than what was broadly outlined. For going by the number of ‘eligible’ but ‘single’ people out there…the fact remains that they haven’t been touched by the ‘digital’ bug as yet.

Yet somewhere there is a deeper conundrum than just fancy WhatsApp and Facebook messages. For one, my Facebook Timeline is filled ‘Save the Date’ requests and ‘Together Forever’ posts. Well it’s kind of ironic that a ‘Single’ guy who couldn’t save his own date is being asked to ‘Save the Date’ for his friend’s wedding. Add to that, a series of comments on the post which say ’You guys look awesome together. A match made in heaven…blah blah’ well that list is never-ending.

The truth however depends on the nature of the union. An arranged marriage makes you question how your friend managed to say ‘yes’ or how the girl managed to say yes to him? A love marriage however gets you all philosophical and nostalgic about your friend’s puppy love and how long it had taken for this union to blossom as opposed to your woeful single existence.

Either way you save the date. For free food. For a chance to catch up with old similar ‘single’ friends and well scout for other opportunities at the wedding.

A singleton’s relationship with such occasions is essentially a ‘love-hate’ one. Either you are going to be loving the prospects of finding someone there, or well you are going to hate being subjected to the dreaded question…’ So are you getting married next?’… I mean how do you answer such a question??

It is here that we introduce other characters into the plot. They would technically be called ‘supporting actors’ in a movie but well here in life, they do little but support the hero’s pursuit. Firstly we have astrologers who are willing to write on a stamp paper that there is no chance of finding a prospect within the next two years. Your incompetence and reason for being single is being validated by the planets themselves.

You then have your friends. Friends who have finally embraced marital bliss and mouth words of wisdom about the expectations during the entire process. ‘Machan, post-graduation is a must da. You have a Visa? What about a flat? Invest in one now machi, I was asked all this da, start at the earliest….’…well you listen to all of this with bated breath and mentally create a checklist.

With half of us not figuring out how to utilize our MBA at work, I still wonder how it would play a role in our married lives. Visa…well the last I checked I didn’t need one while roaming South India…because frankly I haven’t thought of anything beyond that!!!

When the messages on your WhatsApp group change from expletives to ‘My kid is not well so I can’t come today’…you realize that it is high time you come to terms with reality. As you look at yourself in the mirror you consciously comb your hair to hide those silver lines which have begun to show and take a deep breath to hide that paunch of yours.

Meanwhile back at work…as that pretty girl sits across the table and asks you…’ Why don’t you say yes to me?’…you look at her and sheepishly say ‘Well I thought if I waited for some more time, I’d get someone prettier than you’

Whack!! That slap from her explains a lot about the conundrum doesn’t it?

However there is a silver lining to all of this. Beyond all this, there is some solace to be found that you no longer need to be conscious while checking out prospects. Having your full family already doing that for you at weddings and social gatherings, you just have to pretend…that you never saw the girl at all…and pretend to be surprised when you are asked for an opinion…

With your Mom proving to be more adept at marketing than you in spite of your PGDM in Marketing…you realize that this stage of life needs to be celebrated. Celebrated for the reason that you are ‘needed’ but not ‘wanted’.

A stage called ‘Eligible but Single’!

A stage akin to the appraisal at office where you know you deserve that promotion…but well you are being sidelined.

Cheers and Good luck for the 14th !!

Why did Specter Surmise?

A lot has changed from Dec 31st 2015 to Dec 31st 2016.

While the last New Year was celebrated amidst 600 others in the greens of my B-school, this New Year has been a family affair after a quiet dinner with friends. To say 2016 was a year of contradictions with the scales of fame and fortune tilting on either side of the balance is merely touching the tip of the iceberg.

Twelve months have passed by. A lot has transpired. Some lessons forgotten. Some lessons learnt. Some lessons reinforced. Old people made way for new ones. Adulation was replaced by isolation. Well you get the flow don’t you?

Ideally this was supposed to be my last post for 2016, looks like it might be my first post of 2017.

What started as a seemingly harmless indulgence with tiny tales back in college eventually transformed into posts. More posts. Blogs.A half baked attempt at a novel. Quite a bit. These twelve months have led to the creation of tonnes of materials. Published and unpublished. Some of them which were received well. Some which were slammed. So with so much of content filling half your timelines over the last one year,one might probably wonder…Why does Specter surmise so much?

Well that is not a question I am going to answer tonight. What I however will say is that twelve months back I never knew that someday I would be dappling in the fine art of writing or even think that my posts would be this well-received. Is this a post about self-glorification? No…wait for it…

Time is a curious thing. Often it brings you in touch with things you never sought. Yet again it hoodwinks you and snatches that very thing which you now dearly cherish. Which was what 2016 was all about.

Adulation has the distinct quality of isolation. You are isolated because people see something in you which they do not see in others. The problem with this is that the subject of adulation needs to understand when to ‘stop’ being so accessible ,else this very isolation could turn into inclusion. What’s wrong with that?

What’s wrong with that is the fact that you are now Haley’s Comet which doesn’t keep its fans waiting for 75 years.You appear every year. Slowly you are just another comet. Which is why it is important to understand that familiarity breeds contempt.

Which is what 2016 showed me.The fact that I’d no longer score brownie points and would be merely treated with a politeness that one associates with societal obligations was something I had to wrap my head around. The cycle is simple.

Curiosity>Acquaintance>Adulation>Familiarity>Inclusion>Contempt

The truth is I’d probably never write or express my feelings ever again as much as I have in this last year. It probably helped me forge an identity. An identity which was as transient as the character an actor plays on stage. The same identity which I question at the end of this year. The question being…Am I staying relevant?

When the year began, all I wanted to do was to get ahead in this race. An imaginary race which I had begun running. A race toward adulation. A race towards those imaginary flash bulbs and phony praises. I ran. Sometimes carrying people with me. Sometimes throwing them down. But I never stopped running…

I felt the cloud of victory loom over me. Yet I never felt it drench me. It seemed like a light drizzle. A drizzle that satisfied my ‘need’ and not my ‘want’. What I wanted was permanence. But clouds seldom stay in a single place…they moved on. Leaving me with nothing but the comprehension that the race was imaginary.

Which is why as the year ends, I neither look left. Nor right. I no longer muse over the ‘why’ behind people’s actions. I no longer lose my sleep over who is returning my love or giving me the importance ‘I’ believed I deserved in their life. I no longer profess ‘self-discovery’ or ‘finding your passion’ anymore. More so because I realise that ‘self-discovery’ is a continuous process and not something which starts and ends overnight.Maybe this is why I believe I am more self-assured now than I was when I began this year.

The strings for all of this is pulled by Time…because Time realises that the definition of things change over time and the importance one associates with the thing gradually waxes or wanes. That applies to people as well.

With these words, I choose to end what I started out one year back. Perhaps for the first time ever I can go to bed in peace that I wrote what I felt like without worrying about the burden of acceptance. So when I say this is my final post..I say it in the complete knowledge that I am done and dusted.

I’d like to thank 2016 for this lesson…a lesson that I’d probably apply to the other aspects of my life…that with ‘Time’….even special can turn into normal and it is perhaps crucial not to overestimate our importance in the greater scheme of things.

Adios 2016.Welcome 2017.

Specter Is Done Surmising.

 

 

 

Dear SRK-Who are You?

Dear SRK,

Who are you?

For the last twenty five years, I have kept asking myself this question. Who is this person who is able to effortlessly make my mother smile? She doesn’t know Hindi but she knows you. She doesn’t understand the lyrics but she sings your songs. What is this irresistible charm of yours which has captured the hearts of so many others like her?

As a kid, I just knew you as the ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ actor. I envied your hairstyle then and I still do. Countless visits to the salon did no good to my hair though. I have been lucky to be part of the generation which not only grew up watching your songs on National television, but slowly graduated to watching them trend on YouTube,Facebook and other media. Thereby giving us the illusion that you are more accessible now than you were a decade back.

Tracing your journey across the years is in a way like trying to trace our growth and evolution as individuals. Through you, we’ve been able to understand ourselves better, but we are still unable to decipher the paradox that you are.

Common Man or Superstar? Actor or Star? Hero or Villain? Jehangir Khan or Kabir Khan?

Your journey to stardom has been the topic of discussion in countless articles,interviews and books. However to me, the lyrics of two songs perfectly summarize them. The common man in Yes Boss singing ‘Bas itna sa khwab hai’ and the Baadshah in ‘Baadshah’ singing ‘ Main Baadshahon ka Baadshah’. One talks about a dream, while the other talks about the perks of ‘owning the entire world’ after achieving that dream.

Right so. So as we sit glued to the screens, we wonder. You have transgressed from a common man to a superstar. We have however only moved from Cathode ray-televisions to LCD-televisions. What has remained consistent is the content that we watch. Your movies.

Seen from outside, your life is synchronous with our ambitions of a lavish lifestyle of power, fame and love. Yet when we watch your interviews, your references to family, kids, upbringing, struggles and success seem to be as grounded and as real as our lives. This puts us in the quandary of deciding on what we need to aspire for and if your true success has been in becoming a global icon or still being a family man after all this stardom.

Box office hits. Critically acclaimed movies. Plenty of both in your closet. Not that we are complaining, because as an actor you would probably be approaching both the categories with the same dedication. Just that as audience, when asked about which movie of yours we like, we are unable to zero in on movie and say this was his best! For every movie of yours has touched us in one or the other way.

The vulnerability of Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, the surrealism of Don, the hard hitting reality of Swades, the mystical virtual world of Ra.One, the mustache in Paheli, the beard in Chak De,the sophistication in Dil Se, the buffoonery in Happy New Year, well…the list is endless. One minute you are making love to the heroine, the next minute you are throwing her off the building.

I believe as a fan, your movies are also a bundle of contradictions and dichotomous like the very person that you are.One minute you talk about being the greatest actor in the world. The next moment you talk about waiting for your best act to come. You are always surrounded by people yet there is this unmistakable air of loneliness surrounding you. You capture many of our own inherent fears and insecurities perfectly. Maybe this why your stardom has been unrivaled and palatable for the last twenty five years. For you are relatable.

In many ways, I think your act in ‘Dear Zindagi’ reflects the kind of person you really are in life. It was an act which taught a lot of us to get in touch with our imperfections as individuals and still be happy about life.Kudos to Gauri Shinde for this master stroke in casting you as a therapist in this absolute gem of a movie. Anyone who has seen you over the last twenty five years would readily admit that you aren’t perfect. But those infinitesimal imperfections in your personality reinforce our belief that you do not need to be perfect to be great or to be loved. Which gives us hope and panache.

I know that ten years from now, my questions on who you are and why you do what you do would still remain unanswered. Maybe it is meant to be that way. All that I know is, irrespective of how many years pass, my mother is still going to smile watching you on screen the same way she does now.

I would be at peace maybe then in abandoning my quest for your identity. For a half-open door is always more enticing than an open door. These small peeks into your personality every now and then would satiate me and keep me thinking of plausible explanations for understanding the phenomenon that you are.

Let the mystery deepen. For in trying to find you, we might end up finding ourselves….

Yours Sincerely

A Fan.

Donald Trump- The First Day at the Oval Office

Date: January 20th 2017

The White House waited in silence. Waited for its 45th president. Donald Trump.

The walls echoed with the Chief Justice reciting the presidential oath which was to be repeated by the new president.

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States…“. However the rest of his words were drowned by a series of expletives from the new President. The gathered crowd gasped in disbelief. The Chief Justice looked mildly curious and gave the President an enquiring look.

“What? I was told that this was a swearing in ceremony. Am I going to be ridiculed for swearing in a ‘swearing in’ ceremony now?” thundered President Trump. The Chief Justice gave the crowd a condescending look and continued reciting the oath with particular emphasis on ‘ So help me god’.

President Trump heaved  a sigh of relief. These formalities always irritated him. He had to now indulge in pleasantry with that ‘nasty woman’ who he had struggled to throw off his back over the last eighteen months.

“All the best President Trump” said her voice at the other end of the telephone.

“Thank you, well fought Mam” he said distractedly. ” We will be following the news closely ” she said with a hint of contempt. ” You nasty woman, you better watch the news so that you can get your affairs in order before I come after you. You and your smug faced husband…” he screamed. ” I merely hinted at following your term at the office Donald”she said, a little taken aback by the sudden outburst. ” I will make America great again by obliterating the likes of you. You better watch your E-Mails.” he said and hung up. This was trouble he thought.

Sure enough. In a few minutes Twitter was abuzz with tweets about how disrespectful the new president had been with his competitor who had merely wished to congratulate him. ” I didn’t say anything of that sort.I was merely suggesting that she get her affairs in order now that the elections are finally over” he blatantly tweeted. Life was a lot like the objective tests administered to him in his high school. He would keep marking the wrong answers until he was left with nothing but the right answer. He could keep rescinding his comments until he sounded politically correct.

His reverie of thoughts was however disturbed as his predecessor at the Oval Office Barrack Obama called him next. ” Hope you are having a great day mate. I just called to tell you that whatever be your past, you have the power to obliterate it with the vision for America’s future. Don’t let the past weigh you down” he said cheerily. ” I wish I could say the same for you Barrack. I am going to prove that you and your partner in crime Hillary founded the ISIS to shake the very foundation of America. As a symbolic gesture of this my first step is to shove your Obamacare down the drain. You think America needs this? You think this is your Africa where we have naked black kids running around the country? ” he replied disdainfully.

No answer. Obama had hung up on him. Strange for a man who was so voluble.

As he gathered his thoughts, his phone beeped with requests for a date from all those beautiful models who were now dying to throw themselves at him. His body gave an involuntary twitch and his hands fidgeted restlessly in his pockets. Old habits die hard.

The rest of his team were looking at him intently.Some directions. Some advise. Well that was going to be tough. ” Catch them young” he said still fantasising about those beautiful nymphs. “Sorry Sir? We didn’t get that” said his team looking quite clueless. ” I meant talent. Talent is what makes America great. Recognise talent at an early age” he said looking visibly flustered. He didn’t realise he was thinking out aloud.

Vice-president Mike Pence offered some solace as he steered the topic towards lunch.However lunch wasn’t going to be peaceful as well. As the chef served them the ‘burritos’, the President gave him one nasty look. ” When I meant a wall, it was a wall to not just stop people, it was also to stop nonsense like this. This is my two-pence on this Pence. No Mexicans. No burritos. Let’ s leave” he said sardonically and walked out.

A surprise awaited him however back in office. President Putin had sent him a delicately wrapped basket whose contents were yet to be revealed. The President ripped apart the wrapping. Ripping the wrapping reminded him of many an escapade of the past where he had ripped apart the clothes of countless women.

Lying docilely in the basket were tiny pussy-cats. As if on cue, the telephone in the office shrilly rang. ” Hope you liked my gift Donald. Heard you really liked to grab them and kiss them.Now that you are a star, they might not even object. A great start to our relationship” he said. Muttering under his breath, he hastily thanked the Russian President and hung up. Symbolic gifts.

Day one was a lot tougher than he thought. ” Sir, our foreign policy. We need to make a start somewhere. People need to know” interjected Mike Pence. ” Yeah. Ban those Muslims. Tell the Chinese that they better be ready to pay what I demand for their imports.As far as Israel is concerned let me make a deal for peace. Rip that Iranian nuclear deal. Anything else? he said. ” Do we make statements this blatant? Would you like to re-frame them?” quipped Pence nervously.

” As a President let me make my intent clear to the people first.They knew what they were getting into when they voted for me. Grammar and vocabulary will eventually follow. I still have no clue why I need 5 whole years to make decisions.” he said as he marched out of the Oval office.

End of Day 1 at the office. He had survived. The butchery would eventually begin.

God save America.

A change in Outlook after TAPMI

 

Disclaimer: The following post is a culmination of a series of unpublished thoughts that have occurred to me randomly over the last few months. At no point of time am I projecting this to be a collection of wistful memories or drawing your imagination to a boy who types this post with red eyes as he is still unable to get over the fact that he is done with his MBA and terribly misses his college.

So when I said change in Outlook, I meant there is a big change in the kind of mails that we receive now on our MS Outlook. Mails must lead to actions. Actions will have consequences.  The degree is what ultimately makes the difference.

Now when I say degree, I am not talking about the PGDM degree because once you enter the corporate world, your degree is immaterial. The degree I’m referring to is the degree of severity of a consequence pertaining to a particular action. Okay I am veering off-course.  Moving on!

 

  • A mail with the subject ‘Examination Rules’ was a reminder to all of us that our mid/end term examinations were around the corner. So we had to decide if we wanted to study now or not. In the corporate world, a mail with the subject ‘Timesheet Defaulters’ is a reminder to fill those timesheets with numbers that justify our bloated salaries/egos. Decide if you want your full month’s salary or settle for a loss of pay.

 

  • A mail with the subject ‘ Timetable for the Month XXXX’ was a sneak peek into the horrors of the next month. Particular focus was on days which had just one or no classes even as plans were made for outings. These plans were in full knowledge that such days were ideal days for Guest Lectures and Conclaves and these plans were merely verbal fetish. In the corporate world, mails with the subject “Tasks for the Week” start as Monday morning motivators (when we feel nothing is impossible) to transforming into a mid-week crisis on a Wednesday. By Friday we know that the tasks are surely insurmountable as we make plans towards a rave party on a Friday/Saturday night.

 

  • A mail with the subject ‘ Registration for Term X on xx-xx-xxxx from 9.00 am to 12.00 pm’ usually arrived during the term break ( even a one day off is considered a term break). This mail usually arrived when I used to board the bus back to Manipal leading me to fantasize an unhealthy interest bordering on obsession with the new course-packs and textbooks. The reality however used to be in the form of a sore shoulder after a long walk to the hostel.Such days really added to the’burdens’ that we were already carrying. In the corporate world, mails which contain the word ‘Registration’ are clearly filtered and deleted. For more often than not, these are registrations to webinars and seminars and contests and what not. What’s the worse that would happen if you don’t register? The organization would do it automatically for you after repeated reminders.

 

  • A mail with the subject ‘Moodle’ was essentially an implied warning to you that you would any way not fare well in the mid-term or the end-term examination, so these twenty minute ‘quickies’ would give you, your best shot at a decent grade. Your success in a ‘Moodle’ was based on your ‘position’ in the lab. Now by position I am referring to where you are seated during the moodle and not how you are seated in the lab at 3.00 AM in the night. In the corporate world, these mails generally arrived in the form of Requests for a Meeting with your supervisor to discuss your performance. What was there to discuss when you knew that the Bell Curve originated with you right there at the bottom?

 

  • A mail with the subject ‘Research Seminar’ was probably the only mail which we could afford to ignore in TAPMI. For the ‘Research and Publication Committee’ did not hold us students accountable for any efforts towards faculty’s research efforts. If anything, we could only be guilty of sabotaging their efforts, not assisting them in it. In the corporate world, the mails we ignore are the ones which carry the subject as ‘Application downtime due to maintenance’. Truth be told, we wouldn’t even know unless someone told us specifically because there are so many applications on the portal, most of which are not even in use by us.

 

  • The months of February, July, August and September fill your inbox with the biggest scam that we as students indulged in. A scam that we call as ‘surveys’. I scratch your back, you scratch my back. You fill my survey, I fill yours. At times these operating principles were given an exception when the mail was from an unusually pretty girl in your batch. In addition to filling the survey with more diligence than filling the answers in your moodle, you would add a personal reply to the survey request (Filled the survey, let me know if you need anything else ). In the corporate world, such mails arrive in the form of ‘Refer your friends-Exciting Opportunities Await’. As you look at the listing of such jobs in the firm you wonder if these postings are in the same firm that you are working for. At times you reply to these mails shamelessly asking if these requirements could be met internally as well (no harm in trying right?).

 

  • All through the year, you are a recipient to ‘Birthday Mailers’ in TAPMI. Sometimes you know the person, sometimes you don’t. But all that is irrelevant in the face of free cake and a chance to perhaps ‘feed’ that person the same cake. Now ‘feeding’ is extremely subjective. For the nature of the crowd determined if you would feed the person with the cake or feed the cake with the person.   In the corporate world, birthday mailers do not contain rhymes. Your birthday is highlighted as a solemn event in the mail, so much so that you expect people in the surrounding cubicles to observe 2 minutes for silence for your birthday (Okay I’m being a little harsh here, but well there is no revelry here).False promises for a treat are made akin to the false promises of a promotion.

 

  • There is one mail that you dread though in TAPMI. A mail which reads as ‘Night Canteen will remain closed’ from the ‘Welfare Committee’. For the night was dark and full of secrets, but without the night canteen, there really wasn’t enough motivation to be out there on the slope. In the corporate world there is a similar mail that you dread. A mail which says ‘Our Offices will be Open on Saturday and Sunday’. Associates with critical deliverables are required to clock in the mandatory hours. Oppressed.Suppressed. Depressed.

 

  • Last but not the least, a good portion of your mailbox contained a lot of mails with the subject ‘MIP/Final Placements‘. Yeah you are right. These very mails kick started your journey into the current job/position that you hold in your current firm. You remember how jealous you felt when you saw that your dream firm was visiting the campus after you got placed?  In the corporate world, such mails with job offers that make you feel jealous are generally from various job portals. They aren’t directed to your official mail for obvious reasons.  Yet all you do is apply on the link they send and wait patiently. Your only consolation being that blazers and ties aren’t compulsory any more. Your absence no longer needs to be condoned. You would never know even if you were rejected.

 

So this is a peek into a world where our ‘Outlook’ has changed post our MBA. The essence I believe is still the same. Perhaps only the presentation has changed.

Oh Yeah..and the Money!

 

 

‘About Last Night’

The three of them sat at a bar. Drinking in silence.

The bartender gave them one look as he wiped his glasses. ” Shouldn’t you be leaving?” he barked.

“One more round” their voices said in unison unexpectedly.

Not complaining about the extra business these three weird men were giving him, the bartender poured them their drinks and went back to scrubbing the glasses clean.

Silence. Nothing could be heard except their slurping of the drinks.

The silence didn’t last long as one of their phones buzzed out of nowhere.

” Yes I know, I know it is an early affair tomorrow. I will be there” he said and hung up.

He looked around to see the other two men who seemed lost in their own worlds.

For the purpose of the prospective readers, we shall refer to these men now as M1,M2 and M3. 

M1: My family is out celebrating while I am here in the middle of the night. Drinking. A drunk groom for tomorrow’s wedding!!

M2: Congrats! Shouldn’t you be happy about it?

M3: Congrats! You are drinking? Forced into marriage Bro?

M1: Not forced. We have been together for the last one year. We are deeply in love. Just that, this is the last night I can probably do all this. She hates seeing me drunk.

M2: Well you were lucky enough to fall in love at least. I am being advertised on all the leading matrimony portals. Feel like the brand ambassador of arranged marriages.

M1: Is that why you are drinking? And we haven’t heard anything from you (nodding at M3)

M3: My sister is getting married.

M2: What’s worse than an arranged marriage? Getting rejected by a prospective bride after several rounds of snacks at each other’s place. And what is so depressing about your sister’s wedding?

M1: Well that can be depressing, pretty much why I do not believe in the entire arranged marriage scam. I am lucky that she shares my views on this as well. And yeah, don’t you approve of your sister’s choice of a partner?

M3: Naah..he is really qualified. A great bank balance too, she was smart to choose him.I was a fool to believe otherwise.

M2: Well a bank balance doesn’t really qualify as an option. I pampered this arranged marriage prospect for several months before she called it off. ” We want different things from life” she said.

M1: I am sorry but I do find all of this a little hilarious! You guys actually went on dates and stuff, pretty progressive! My brother wasn’t even allowed to see the girl after his engagement.

M2: Well we sneaked out obviously. I had to prove my manhood didn’t I? Besides she too hated all these blind beliefs.So it was an escape for both of us.

M3: Prove your manhood? Don’t get me thinking otherwise, but I find it strange that after all that she actually left you.

M2: Well she didn’t ‘leave’ me. We are good friends. Or so she says. I accept it too. Yet the chauvinist in me can’t believe that a woman could say ‘no’ to me after all that.

M1: Well well, women are humans too. No lesser than men. She exercised her choice bro. Stuff like this is above genders. Which is why I”m not even going to say ‘Be a man!’ to you.

M2: Easy for you to say, getting married ain’t you?

M3: To each one, his own. What do women want from men like us ultimately? This question would go down in history as one of nature’s biggest mysteries.

M1: Yeah and isn’t this mystery what makes a life with them worthwhile? You better cheer up, your sister seems to have made the right choice from what you say. You will have your day too.

M2: My parents are now asking me to edit my photographs on the website. They firmly believe that the photographs depict me as a very short person and this could be a reason for all this. I am short. But I believe I’m kind of tall where it matters you know?

M3: Hahaha well ignorance is bliss my friend! Stop bragging to men about your manhood now!

M1: Trust me on this, when it is meant to happen it would. I never thought that I would land up with her, one year back.But here I am, a night before my wedding. Drinking with two strangers. Cheers!! One more round on me guys!

M2 and M3: Cheers!!

The clock struck 2 am. The bartender had no option. He had make these men leave. As he made his way towards them, the doors of the pub opened to let in a new visitor.

The rest of the night remained a blur to the bartender. For he never thought that he would have to resort to drinking that late in the night because of his customers.

The newspapers however carried an article headlined ‘ About Last Night’ which briefly said that a bride had called off her wedding as the groom had chauvinistically criticised her late night drinking habits, a night prior to their wedding.

The newspapers didn’t know what the bartender knew and they would never.

One night later.

The three men sat together. In muted silence.

The bartender approached them and said ” I might have been drunk last night, so I am asking you again. Was it the same girl?”

They nodded in unison.

M1: She called off the wedding.

M2: You can still be friends with her the way I am. Maybe you both ‘want different things from life’.

M3: Well you could also be her ‘brother’ the way I am. So much for you talking about being ‘above genders’? Chauvinistic Pig!

Bartender: Men will be men!! This round is on me! And you guys better clear the pub early tonight, I am not entertaining three depressed souls who are in love with the same girl again ever in my pub!

The doors of the pub opened again……

This time four hearts skipped a beat.

Three for the woman, and one for the impending horror of yet another night.

 

 

The ‘Pseudo’ MBA

‘Traitor’!!!!

Their voices screamed out from the shadows. He ignored them and quickened his pace. The last thing he wanted was an altercation in the middle of the street. He rushed to the waiting cab and heaved a sigh of relief.

As the cab made its way out of the IT park, he opened his laptop. There were a few changes to be made to the Excel file that he was working on. It had to be sent to the client for approval. While the company fancifully called it analysis, it was mere entry of data and an extra dose of formatting to the cells in the spreadsheet.

By now he could do this in his sleep, and his attention slowly wandered. As he stared out of the window, he saw an array of billboards displaying a large number of products. The sight of them gave him the creeps. For he was now sure that there was no escape. He couldn’t run away forever. His body shook violently and his eyes involuntarily closed.He knew the voices would reach out to him now.

He did not know for how long he had kept his eyes shut. As he opened them, he realised that it was pitch dark. His eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness and he tried to figure out where the hell he was.

It seemed like a giant establishment with people constantly hustling. They seemed like people but what were they doing in the dark? The entire structure seemed to be built on a graveyard. For he could still read the names of some of them, though the gravestones had begun to crack and fade into nothingness.

His own movements seemed almost mechanical. His feet just seemed to be taking him somewhere and his head felt strangely empty. It was as though the brain had stopped functioning or had been plugged elsewhere. A mechanical beep signalled that he was now authorised to enter this establishment.

As he walked down the path, voices from the underground hissed…’Traiiiitorrrrr’……!

He ignored them and walked on.

Eventually he settled down on what was supposedly his workstation.  The drill for the night had begun.

His first task for the night demanded that he analyse the competition in his domain. He meticulously began with a 5 point agenda for the same.

A voice whispered to him “Skip all this, we will tell the client that you can be billed for $2 per hour. No other company would stoop so low. This would seal the deal and render any other competition insignificant “

The deal was won. Somewhere the gravestone of Michael Porter cracked.

The next task involved interviewing a candidate for a position in the establishment. On being asked why he wanted to be part of the establishment, the interviewee expressed his desire to feel respected and to be given a chance to explore his full potential.

“You mean Esteem and Self- Actualisation? Sorry, our establishment doesn’t cater to those needs of an individual. We ensure that these kind of needs are rendered useless in this establishment. Sorry you are rejected” he said.

The candidate left with a sunken face. Somewhere the gravestone of Maslow cracked.

The third task for the day involved mapping an individual to a project. As the expectations of the role were being discussed and the competencies were being mapped to the needs, he raised his hand and said “ But surely we aren’t doing this. Achievement arises from affiliation with those in power. Competency is irrelevant in the face of all this. That ought to be enough motivation. Stop treating people as individuals. They are mere ‘resources’.

Somewhere else the gravestone of David McCllelland cracked.

The final task for the day involved a review meeting with his superior. They were to discuss the team performance and suggest ways to increase the operational efficiency . As he began his presentation with graphs and charts, his manager blatantly ignored his analysis and asked him to come up with something else. “But why??I am right with my analysis” he said indignantly. The manager looked at him condescendingly and said “ You are our biggest constraint. I am merely exploiting you.”

The gravestone of Goldratt burst into a million fragments.

Done.

He had spent the nine mandated hours in office. Another electronic beep signalled that he could now leave the establishment. Strangely his head felt heavy. As though the brain had been plugged back in.

Was all of this a dream? Was it a nightmare? Was he merely hallucinating? He now knew the source of those voices that shrieked at him every now and then.

He would never know.

As he alighted from his cab and turned to pay the driver the fare, the driver remarked “You corporates keep our business going.  Are you a software engineer Sir?”

He smiled. His conscience pricked him. Yet he unabashedly said “ I am a B-School graduate working as a consultant here. I finished my engineering and pursued my MBA.”

“All the same” said the driver.

For the corporate world believed that anyone could be anything irrespective of their backgrounds. You would earn the tag of being ‘flexible’ then.

The 4Ps of marketing were reduced to a single P.The P which represented a ‘Project’ and rendered anything and everything else related to an individual’s competency useless.

The farce would continue.

A farce that promised a hefty pay cheque at the end of every month for selling your soul ‘flexibly’.

 

 

 

100% Placements- Yet Again!

100% Placements:

 

99 out of 100 times, the above two words are all it takes for an institute to ensure that their admissions for the next year doesn’t take a hit. So what is it about the seemingly magical ‘100%’ that entices students into opting for an institute or an institute using these words to ensure that their brand remains relevant?

Now before I dissert my opinion on that, let’s focus on two words in the above lines. ‘Seemingly magical’.  I will justify the use of the above words with a lengthy dissertation that would probably resonate with some of you.

Let us first consider the various entities involved in the ‘placement’ process. We have:

  • Students
  • Faculty
  • A Placement Committee
  • The Institute
  • The Industry

So these entities together interact in a given institutional setting to ‘facilitate’ the placement process.

Now akin to the 4Ps of Marketing, let us now talk about the 4Ps of a job:

  • Profile
  • Package
  • Place of Work
  • People ( Colleagues)

So this broadly is the setting for a typical placement process. The above entities interact to facilitate the fulfillment of ‘at least’ one of the above ‘P’s of a job. Everything looks well-structured and smooth right?

Yes it does.

Except for the fact that as an institute you are dealing with the dreams and aspirations of 600-800 students under your tutelage.

It is pragmatic that given the capability of a particular institute, it would not be possible to nurture and fulfill the dream of every student. However what is not pragmatic is coercing students to share an institute’s vision of 100% placements and hence give up on his/her dream or competency.

Picked from the same batch are a select set of students who constitute a committee which acts like an interface between the students and the corporate. From engaging corporates in guest lectures and various conclaves to acting as SPOCs during placements,contacting and convincing firms to visit the campus, these members are part of the team called the Placement Committee.

Now with the idea of ‘student driven placements’, we infer that this committee has its own targets to meet. They are accountable to a placement chair who is in turn accountable to the management and so on. So now weigh the scales again.

800 Unique Dreams Vs 100% Placements

So if Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs were to be used to explain this process, the dream job of a student could lie somewhere at the bottom while the ‘100% Placements’ objective reinforced by the placement committee and the institute would be right at the top.

It is my understanding that great academics doesn’t translate into great jobs. Vice versa.

Having said that, there are going to be students in every batch who might need an extra push towards the placement process. A push only because sometimes there is a sense of complacency that a student undergoes as he feels he is entitled to a job because the institute promised ‘100% placements’. This push is often a classic tale of a carrot versus a stick. This can be remedied only by faculty for it is they who would need to mentor a student on the choices that he makes. Something that makes him come out of that feeling of ‘entitlement’ towards a job.

For students are humans. The marketing act of a ‘push or pull’ strategy isn’t going to work here.

The success of an institute has been perceived largely based on its ability to fulfill this ‘100% placement’ criterion. However behind this veil of success lie stories of shattered dreams, coerced jobs, meek servility and a lot more. It is a classic example of ‘The Ends justify The Means’.

The efforts that institutes are taking towards reaching out to corporates is fantastic. With guest lectures, alumni meets, panel discussions and what not, they surely do seem to be having a healthy engagement with the corporates. However in this process, they seem to be losing out their engagement with their students. Quite possibly even not understanding what is it that students expect at the end of their placement season.

All along students are tutored to take their own decisions. Yet in the face of something as important as this, they are to trust the ‘facilitators’ that this was the best they could get and that the decision was made keeping in mind their best interests at heart.

Limiting the number of offers a student has is yet another tool that facilitates 100% placements. Companies who visit the campus early walk away with the cream while the latter ones are forced to contend with the leftovers. Severely hurting the chances of them visiting the campus again.’One Student One Offer’. This is not a government scheme that is supposed to guarantee employment.

So in this rather long ‘supply-chain’ of jobs, whom do we blame? It would be tough to pick one person and say he or she is responsible for it. For each of them seem to be driven by their own demands of the positions that they hold. Right from the HR who walks into the campus knowing that a Marketing student isn’t going to be able to write codes in an IT industry to the student who sits or is forced to sit for the process, there is some trace of blood on everyone’s hands.

We probably need to take a leaf out of the West’s book and look at job booths where a candidate is in a position to sell himself and his competency without the burden of being a brick in a rather detrimental wall called ‘100% placements’. For more than anything it reinforces confidence in students that they are ‘competent’ for a particular role rather than waiting for someone else to ‘fit’ them in a role that they may not be competent at.

All in all, the system needs to understand if their education and the associated benefit called ‘placements’ is going to give students a ‘job’ or a ‘career’.

 

P.S:

These rants of mine are possibly a reflection of the dissatisfaction that a lot of my friends seem to be faced with in their current roles in their respective firms. It is also a reflection of my brief stint in the education sector which helped me understand how institutes perceive placements as the end result towards enhancing their brand.