Thursday, October 30, 2008

Vishy and VVS - simple champions!

We have a new world champion in chess. And I feel so proud that the title is in the hands of a fantastic champion. Viswanathan Anand has single-handedly put India on the world map of chess. I cannot forget the number of times his name has hogged the headlines for his wins around the globe. He has taken on the best of them in every corner of the globe for 25 years! Imagine, 25 years of concentration!Most people cannot get past 25 months! Hats off to this champion player and making India so proud. Imagine, WORLD CHAMPION. Wow! This great achievement sends inspirational goosebumps down my spine!

Of course, the other genius - VVS Laxman. MY GOD! That's my reaction to the man's displays of genius on a cricket field. Yes, the game of cricket has a far greater fan following in India, compared to chess. But, the number of genius' in the game, is rather small. VVS for me, is sheer genius. He makes the game look so ridiculously easy. I mean, how can somebody be so calm, completely assured, and still play some strokes that are nothing short of magical? It is beyond me as to how this man is able to lift his game to such levels, especially when people have written his epitaph for the millionth time and, when he plays against the Aussies. There must be something about the Aussies that he likes - it just can't be the pace of their bowling or their fear towards him. He just takes them on, in a way, that belies aggression, but is still merciless. I can never forget that 281 that he scored at the Eden Gardens against the Aussies in 2001. That was a seminal innings for me and taught us (not just cricketers, but Indians at large), that we are capable of routing the best in the world.

And today, 200 not out in Delhi by VVS! Same class, same magic, same genius, just getting better with age - something like old wine I guess.

What intrigues me is the similarity between a Viswanathan Anand and a VVS. Both are genius material in their respective spheres. Both hail from normal, middle-class backgrounds in India. Both have nurtured their talents over many years of training and exposure to world arenas. Both have won against the very best in the world, in the most trying of circumstances. Both of them are the best to watch when on song - irrespective of other champions & other people's records, these 2 are sublime to watch. When both of them play their game, I don't feel like doing anything else, simply because, I don't want to miss their magical contributions. It is like sitting on a Saturday afternoon on a hammock, listening to your favourite music, reading your favourite book, and getting merged with nature (assume for a second, that you are on the countryside) - natural, free-flowing, complete & uninhibited talent on song! Classical, too!

Most of all, they are simple south Indians. I am not making any regional statement here (I am all for uniformity); but, at the end of the day, if they get their normal idly or sambar, that is enough for them. But, how many simple south Indians borde such magic?:). That in itself, should be a theme for another blog.

Hats off Vishy! You make me proud as an Indian -world champion! I hope to get your autograph someday in life & a photograph with you, so that I can tell future generations about the first world chess champion that India produced - say it with pride.

And VVS, when you retire, I will get hold of a DVD of all your famous centuries against the Aussies. I just need to relive the word genius, again and again.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Of Diwali and television anchors

I couldn't stop myself from writing this. It just caught my attention! The television anchors over the last 3 days have been a revelation. The female anchors are usually clad in western clothes, with low cut tops, skirts, coats, long hair, high heeled sandals and so on. And the guys live up to the reputation of the pin-stripe community; you know, coats, ties, trousers, shoes et al!

But the last 3 days have seen Indian dressing at its best on new channels. I have been mesmerised by the choice of fantastic sarees by the female anchors - red, cream, ivory, green, olive green, brown, maroon, orange - every discernible resplendent colour possible. More importantly, I found that these female anchors were able to balance their presence on stage as well as, if not better than, what they normally manage during the rest of the year. Their colourful presence on stage was not at all a distraction, which might be the case at other times!

What I particularly liked was the energy of these anchors. They remained focused on their jobs, spoke with the same level of conviction that they had on other days, and did not make a mess of the paraphernalia that they had brought on to stage - earrings, flowers, nose rings, dupattas, and what have you! The guys were resplendent too - with sherwanis, or kurtas, pyjamas, big red tikas on their foreheads, and so on.

Just reinforced what I have long believed - Indian dressing, is one of the finest fashion statements to make. And increasingly, it is getting blended with some terrific sex appeal! You just need to take a look at Shireen Bahn on CNBC TV 18 on the Diwali night, and you will realise what I mean. Class journalist, who looked astonishingly beautiful, in a red saree. Her smile, just added to the beauty!

Cheers to Indian journalism and Indian anchors, who are seeing value in bringing world news to our doorways, with a very Indian look!

Diwali 2008. Is it really a festival of lights?

Its that time of the year in India, where every citizen is in a happy frame of mind. All previous harrowing experiences in life are pushed to the backburner and a new beginning is made. In some parts of the country and indeed, some religions, it is actually the start of a New Year - the business new year. New businesses are started on this day, big dreams are conceptualised and laid out on this day, pivotal changes in professional lives are made on Diwali, crackers, lamps and flowers light up the average household. There is a sense of immense cheer and happiness right around the country. The sense of having the biggest Indian festival with its fair share of pomp and show, steeped in genuine happiness, is at its ripest best at this time of the year.

But, this year, I just want to stop and take a reality check on whether it really is a very Happy Diwali. I mean, look at the trials and tribulations that we have been through this year - the Sensex eroded by over half its value, nearly 10 terrorists strikes in every part of India, global slowdown, rupee-dollar equation getting expensive, FIIs selling off billions of dollars and repatriating cash to their motherlands, the big Indo-US nuclear deal was the big headline till it was finally inked, the erosion in sentiment and dollar dreams seen with the demise of the mammoth investment banks on Wall Street thus leading to a revolutionary government intervention in capitalism, etc. There have been just too many bad things happening around.

BUT, I am an optimist and have seen a lot of positives in these trying times as well. India's first individual gold medal at the Olympics and its best ever performance at the great event, Tendulkar scaling the peak of Test match batsmanship, the actual inking of the nuclear deal that will hopefully help India in times to come, Chandrayaan, Aravinda Adiga's Booker Prize putting India again on the world map, Tata -Corus, Reliance and its global plans, HCL - Axon ( 3 M & A deals that laid perspective to Indian corporate ambition!) et al.

I am hopeful on this Diwali day. I have not heard too many crackers near my house this Diwali - but am guessing that it is more a function of people playing their cards of not wanting to pollute the environment. And there is a quiet resilience, even in these trying times, that we will emerge from this fiasco, stronger, bigger and much, much better off than we can possibly imagine

Monday, October 27, 2008

National Anthem and the theatres

Jana Gana Mana Adhinayaka Jaye He Bharata Bhagya Vidhaata.....lines that make the hair on my wrists stand straight, every time I listen to it. The national anthem - a sign of immense pride of being an Indian. I have sung it in school, college, valedictory functions, inter-school, inter-college cultural competitions, what have you.

But, never did I imagine the same spirit of nationalism run through my system at the start of a movie, inside a theatre. That's been the trend in Bangalore theatres for a few years now. And I see a transformation happening in the manner in which one regales being an Indian - the theatre owners have secured a fantastic music album consisting of very seasoned vocalists to sing the national anthem with a renewed vigour and spirit. SPB, Lata Mangeshkar, Jagjit Singh, Balamurali Krishna, Asha Bhonsle, Pandit Jasraj etc - names that have stood the test of time in Indian classical music; names that have shaped Indian music worldwide. It was a terrific experience to be witness to the national anthem sung with such passion and national spirit by these legends.

As I listened to the national anthem over the last weekend at Lido theatre, just before the movie Road Romeo began, I felt so nice. And I began to appreciate (for the zillionth time!), what a beautiful composion and tune our national anthem has. Terrific lyrics, just add to the fantastic spell that this great attribute of Indian-ness has, covering various states, rivers, regions, religions etc. Pretty much, the diversity of India, enconsced in this terrific form of Indian spirit!

I also think that it is actually not such a bad idea to play the national anthem in such an interesting manner at the start of a movie. We see it on TV when India takes on different countries in various sports. We see it on Republic Day and Independence Day every year. But, given that all of us are so caught up with our busy lives at all other times, it is good once-in-a-while, to recall our Indian-ness, by listening to one of the greatest assertions of Indian nationality, the national anthem.

Jai Hind!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bangalore cop- with a soft touch

This happened right near my office today. The red light near my office had rather less traffic this morning, which made it easier to get to the office. As I turned at the junction near my office, there was a cop who put up his hand and indicated STOP to me. It was the usual stuff I thought - you know, cops checking your license and documents and finding an excuse to make some money. But, I was stumped at what I saw a few seconds after that STOP signal.

The cop started moving away from my car towards the middle of the road. Behind him was a lady who was trying to cross the road but was unable to do so (given the chaos at the signal where I was trying to take a right turn). The cop kept stopping different vehicles that were trying to avoid the signal and with a firm hand, helped the lady cross the street. Very impressive!

We are unforgiving in "chargesheeting" the policeman in India, at their inefficiency etc. But, this was a moment for me to cherish. And a moment that taught me that there is a human side to these cops that is quite never noticed.

Good to see such a cop, in the heat and dust of Indian roads and noisy, restless traffic.

India thrash the Aussies by 320 runs at Mohali!

Yippee!! Celebration time! We thrashed the Aussies at Mohali!!! And this time, pretty much nailed them hard! A record victory by 320 runs at Mohali. Kudos to MS Dhoni for leading a team that provided us with a great all round performance.

For me, this match was not just about the convincing win over the Aussies. It was about the sense of occasion i.e. Tendulkar's 12000 runs (record breaking effort by the genius!), Saurav's milestone of 7000 Test match runs, et al. But, the moment in the match was Amit Mishra's debut match - what a dream come true for the 25 year old leg spinner. A five wicket haul on debut, against the world's toughest and most formidable team! Brilliant effort and I just hope the Indian selectors give him a long haul and help him build a career.

And the other moments - getting Mathew Hayden when he was merciless on the Indian bowling attack; Zaheer Khan's magical spell on the last day of the match; Tendulkar's diving catch at point and showing us what spirit he has even after 20 years of international cricket;Ganguly's expression of punching the air hard and giving his biggest smile possible on reaching a magnificent 102; Dhoni's super aggressive 92; Gambhir's century coupled with his sublime partnership with Sehwag oof 182 runs for the opening wicket in the second innings etc. Not to mention, the spirit of victory with which they marched ahead into the match and gave Australia no chance whatsoever.

I just hope the ICC can be a little less racist, what with its fine on Zaheer Khan for alleged violation of the spirit of the game. Just because he ran around Hayden and fired a salvo or two, in his spirit of celebration? Crappy ICC!

Great day overall- I just hope we bag the Border-Gavaskar trophy in Delhi on the Diwali weekend. Like Harsha Bhogle wrote in his blog today, India has a Diwali one week in advance! Cheers!!!

The Aditi song in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na

I love it! Every time I listen to this song, my heart dances. Its a scintillating song. I mean, there have been innumerable songs in Bollywood over the last few decades, where the hero of the movie is in the mode of "Sorry, babe. I will make it up to you", or, in the mode of, "Oops! What happened? What can I do to cheer you up?", etc. These songs have usually been immensely lively, shot in very natural environs such as beaches, gardens, and other public places (yet another option for heroes and heroines to run around trees!). But, this Aditi song is incredibly different.

And I love it! Its got energy; purpose; sense of occasion;fantastic sense of humour;easy on the heart;and it makes me feel so nice at the end of it all. Especially that one line, "Aditi, hans de, hans de.....tu zara" - that is so typical of a guy trying to cheer up his girl, in every discernible way that he can think of. It is also possibly the expression that would account for the fact that a guy will do anything to see his babe happy & even a frown on her face propels him deep into depression!

Infact, I love this song so much, that my tired legs begin to automatically move whenever I listen to this song, irrespective of where I am (which is usually in a car or a shuttle from/to office, when I hear this song). Every time I listen to this song, it energises me and makes my heart dance. I don't know why, but maybe, because it gives me so much happiness that, in this world of materialism, there are some old world charms still alive & kicking. One such divine charm, is to see your babe happy. Or, even any dear friend of the opposite sex who you get along with famously, happy.

Kabhi Aditi....terrific song! I plan to download this into my iPod, rather than wait for only FM radio to play it!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Financial crisis - Economics at its best!

The world has seen this meltdown happening in front of its eyes. Scores of print and prime time have been consumed, talking about the drama unfolding in Wall Street and Dalal Street. Experts, analyts, commentators, market observers, investors, brokers and numerous other participants in the financial markets have seen their personal portfolios nosedive. Hence, I am not going to write about all that, as it is public knowledge.

But what I definitely feel is that, this market meltdown is a fantastic lesson in the subject of economics. All that I ever studied about markets being imperfect, of artificial prices, of inflation impacting various things, of price elasticity, of stock market movements, of demand and supply et al have seen visual expression for the first time in my life. I always loved economics as a subject - I remember, I turned in the longest answer paper in that subject (10 pages!), back in b-school. And I never ever felt that it was a subject. Every time I studied economics, I felt as if I was reading up on things that happen in day-to-day life (minus the financial crisis, of course).

This meltdown has made me recall all those lessons that I had studied in college. I always used to wonder how a market movement can actually paralyse an economy. In hindsight, I think I was left wondering a bit about the theories (no offence to economists, I admire them!) - in terms of how those big graphs and charts actually panned out in real life. I understood the principle behind the theories very well, but hardly had an idea about the real impact of those intriguing theories. Make no mistake about it - I am talking about folks like Samuelson, Keynes, and the other in economics who I truly admire and respect, and who had penned down some legendary thoughts on economics all those centuries back. The fact that what they wrote all those eons ago hold true, actually seen various cycles - 1929 Depression, 1991 crisis, 2001 recession and many others come to my mind - are testament to the longevity and universal application of this fantastic subject.

I am glad that I studied Economics. It was one of my favourite subjects and I strongly recommend it for students of all streams of academics. I also liked Accounting and Income Tax. But, I found Economics sublime. Almost, a dream subject. I am tempted to do an M.A. in it now and reinforce what I am learning in real life, as it were. I just wish, I had the time!!:(

Rice is fattening!

I am convinced now. I had no clue about it earlier, I must admit. But, after having lived in the north of India over the last 2 years (before returning home in Bangalore), I see distinct patterns of food habits in the two regions.As different and distinct these 2 parts of India are - north and south - so are their cuisines.

A recent experience highlighted this difference. My uncle in Delhi made a flying visit to Bangalore and stayed over at our place. And his opening line to me was, " looks like home food suits you!". Clear signs of fattening - as against my dad's claim that I am only 'looking' healthier!! Now, this is the uncle whose house I used to frequent on many a weekend whilst n Delhi. We spent many evenings watching some engaging cricket - be it the flamboyant IPL or test match cricket. Of course, the other commonality was our common passion for chapatis and daal, over rice - despite our being authentic south Indians! Even my aunt held the same beliefs - I guess, they have grown to be more north Indian than I ever did, given that they have lived in Delhi for the last 35 years!

But, coming back to the point of this piece. I think the type of food that I had in Delhi and indeed, all over north India ,never made me put on weight (or, LOOK healthy!). Ok, I was living out of a suitcase and hardly had home food. Of course, I wasn't complaining one bit, except for the work timings! But, all the same, with all that ghee and butter and other exotic toppings in even an average meal there (replete with chapatis, more often than not), I never put on weight. Again, I may have been burning it off, what with some obscene work timings and client pressure. But, still the human body has its own "digestive" capabilities and ability to retain fat. And despite my so many different types of food there, I never put on weight. A sublime dinner of hot phulkas, or chapatis with daal and curry was enough to bring a smile to my face and fill my tummy.

Not that I did not miss home food. Of course, I did! But, I never realised that I was actually eating food that suited my structure and body much better than what I was traditionally accustomed to, in all my growing years in Bangalore. I knew that I loved north Indian food, but I never realised that it suited me more than south Indian food. I have learnt that lesson only after getting back home. And it is showing in the fact that I have actually started feeling heavier every time I eat rice now. The thrill of eating a hot chapati with a tasty curry is a compelling thought! Especially, during this time of the year, when the weather is at its best.

Anyway, north or south, food is food. Yet, rice may not be the dish for me!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Radio, and its new lease of life through RJs

It is amazing how the role of a radio jockey is changing. From what I know, it used to be a hobby for people; or a pastime, at best. But, look at the transformation now. There are folks in Bangalore who do it full-time, or more than part-time at least! That's not all - they are counted amongst the glitterati of the city, get accorded VIP status at major events in the city, get invited to inaugurate various things in the city as a chiefguest et al. It sure has caught on. Which is good - at least a new variety and breed of professionals are getting recognised by the dint of their contributions!

Today was quite special as a major retail store, The Weekender was setting up a new branch in Commercial Street, Bangalore. This is a place where most shopaholics in the city flock on any given day, and more so on a Saturday. And 4 of the most famous and popular RJ's in town - Prithvi, Pallavi, Lakshmi and Anjaan were there for the inauguration. They were busy interviewing people at the store, taking requests for various songs and dedications, playing with kids and giving out goodies and gifts. It was a great thing to see, such a simple and uncomplicated set of people connecting with the larger audience. What appealed even more was the degree of connect that the citizens of the city had with these radio jockeys, whose voices are heard across vehicles in the city every single day. Their humour, sense of occasion, history, ability to call out key events related to national interest, constant updates of scores during cricket matches and other sports of national importance, etc have caught on to people's imagination for sure.

I, for one, enjoy the shows on 94.3 FM. Pallavi, that bubbly and incredibly exuberant and "chatter-boxy" type of individual who keeps me hooked onto the radio during my 1.5 hour drives from office back home! And Prithvi, who with his jest and fine ability to do new things such as crack jokes on birthday boys & girls, play the role of a detective etc, are engaging stuff!

Great to see the radio get this wake up call through these RJs. The last time I was hooked on to the radio was in school and college- that too, on Vividh Bharati, and Man Chahe Geet in the afternoons at 1.30 pm. And before that, Amin Sayani and his legendary voice & sense of humour. The Prithvis, Pallavis, Anjaans and the Lakshmis, are giving radio a new lease of life. And to borrow from McDonald, "I'm loving it"!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Politics of the Nano

We have all heard of leveraging market opportunities that will propel India into the next phase of its economic growth. Pundits have opined that India will be one of the superpowers of the world sometime during this century. And I strongly believe, that the Tata Nano project, at the start of this century is one of those key market opportunities that reinforce our presence on the global map. However, the politics of the Nano has ensured that this massive economic opportunity be stunted in its intent even before it takes off.

The likes of Ms. Mamta Banerjee have tried to justify the social stigma that the Nano project would create, in terms of depriving farmers of their land. Nobody is disputing that claim. Her voice alone, not to mention her highly dramatised hunger strike, have been definitive ways of telling Mr. Ratan Tata that the Singur plant will never see the light of the day in the state of Bengal. However, what I fail to understand is, where was this protest when the approvals for the Nano were on? Why is it that no other state in the country has a problem in hosting the Tatas for this prestigious project? Why is it that Bengal digs its own hole by holding up one of India’s most ardent projects? Why are we not able to identify the potential or even catch a glimpse of more forward-looking Bengalis like their current Chief Minister?

If one is to read the context of the Singur project in the light of Bengal’s history with industrialization, there possibly isn’t anything bigger than the Nano project that has crossed the drawing board in the state. However, the conservatives and the socialists of Bengal are far too concerned about the poor farmers (and only them, as it were) who would be deprived of their land, at the cost of the Nano. Fair point. But, what they fail to see is the larger possibility of a Nano being able to accommodate these very deprived souls at a future date. This would provide these farmers far greater economic prosperity than a one-off settlement against their lands would. This politicization of the Nano does not have the larger picture in its view i.e. the Tata is one of India’s largest conglomerates and is one of the most socially affable companies ever seen in the country.

I find it hard to digest that these politicians are so disconnected on the singular theme of a dream car from India, hitting global markets - an future Indian brand that has caught the attention of every discernible automobile consumer, manufacturer and government in the world. It is so tragic to see the Bengal Chief Minister trying to pacify the likes of Mamta Banerjee and Ratan Tata – the former being the root cause of this obstacle to the Nano dream, and the latter, a visionary who has given the country the chance to catapult India on the global automobile map. Not only that, scores of suppliers and other stakeholders related to this project will reap the benefits of this dream. Kinetic Engineering is a case in point and there will be numerous other companies and other establishments that can build strong business plans for their future growth, based on the Nano rollout. There are other benefits too – employment, industrialization of a state that hardly anyone takes seriously, opportunity for exports, development financing and so on.

In all this, I strongly believe that its time that the communist approach of some of the key influencers in Bengal, take a leaf out of their Chief Minister’s book. Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattarcharya. He was fighting a lone battle in balancing Ratan Tata’s vision in Singur and Mamta Banerjee’s firm resolve to boot out the Nano from Bengal. I am not Bengali, but I am an educated Indian. And I strongly feel that the educated folks in Bengal are possibly not able to rake in a collective voice that would drive some wisdom into the politics of the Nano. People opposing the Nano have not been able to gauge the message that future investors in Bengal would have – Bengal has eventually paid the price for its narrow-mindedness. I just hope, as a forward-looking Indian, that this the last time they falter. Else, Bengal will have to reconcile with the fact that the rest of the country will power ahead in the modern era – far beyond what the current Bengalis can even fathom.

The assignment of the project to Gujarat, should have hopefully sent out the message to the conservatives of Bengal, that India is a progressing nation. And the likes of Ratan Tata, have alternatives and will not (and I dare say, need not) succumb to the conservative & antiquated views in Bengal.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Credibility matters

I have been thinking a lot about this lately. And the more I think about it, the more I am convinced about it. It has got to do with credibility of an individual. I am increasingly beginning to believe that this is the one attribute of a human being's personality that can make or break a large part of his life.

All of us work exceptionally hard to make a career and try and reach out highest aspirations. Dreams are no longer just dreams as people have begun to find ways to realise those dreams. A vast majority of our pursuits in life have tended to become extremely materialistic. That, is more a function of the opportunities that our generation is providing us with, more than anything else.

But, in between all this, I am quite convinced that the few who go far in life are folks who are not only self-driven, but are people with a high sense of self-esteem and credibility. Why is it that a Bjorn Borg, despite going bankrupt after his tennis career, returned to Centre Court Wimbledon and handed out the trophy to Federer (when the latter equalled Borg's record?). Why and how is an Amitabh Bachann revered even in the twilight of his career? Why are folks such as Dr. Singh and the like looked upon so highly? Why is Kotler the last word in marketing? Why is Peter Drucker still the guru of management? How is it that we have only one Warren Buffet? And surprise, surprise, why have we never managed to create more Tendulkars?

Maybe, I am getting biased by the famous people that all of us know. However, if I were to stop for a minute and think of people who would make more sense in the context of my life - I find many such people. You know, people with courage of conviction, sticking their neck out, being respected for their achievements, and people with immense credibility. And I know quite a few senior citizens, who once held positions of power, and are STILL sought after for the expert opinion etc. Their pedigree is not a function of their age or of the Indian tradition of respecting older folks. These are people who genuinely have credibility. I know a chartered accountant with 25 years experience, who still calls up a retired corporate banker from a public sector bank asking for his opinion on valuation, finance. I know a very, very, senior MP who once told this same corporate banker that his word is good enough if the bank cannot give his firm a loan. I also know a GM of a public sector bank who once told the MD of the same bank, that if this gentleman had refused a loan, he would not override that decision. IF that is not credibility, what else is!

Look at the new found respect for Ratan Tata - the Nano is just the ammunition or the tool. The bigger picture is his vision, his credibility, his courage of conviction, his dream for all of us and his dream that might inspire many of us to dream bigger. Also, why is it that people do not ever associate any unethical behaviour by the Tata group? Credibility, is my humble guess!

And the point is, we have many such people - bankers, industrialists, consultants, accountants, lawyers etc. But, not too many of them enjoy credibility. If a person makes a name for himself, that might be the easier part of his journey; the toughest part is to systematically reinforce it to himself & stakeholders concerned, that he did not make it to his position/place, just like that. That needs serious credibility. People do get found out in no time; the one big differentiator and key ingredient that can help a person (even if he is not financially well 0ff - say Borg after his retirement!), is keeping his/her name intact. The value of a person’s credibility and goodwill is beyond measurement. I am happy that I have learnt this so early in my life! Might as well be remembered as a good human being who stood for his/her own values in life (rather than as a poor, middle-class or rich guy or whatever – with all the transient materialistic bliss).

As they say in cricket, take care of the runs; the dollars will take care of themselves. I might just risk saying, take care of your beliefs and self-esteem; everything else follows. Nothing else is more important – losing one’s name is more damaging than going bankrupt.

A visit to the KSCA India vs Australia Day 4

It was my customary visit to a test match being played at home (Blore!). And for once, it was in the stand right next to the pavilion stand(as against the usual top floor above the Pavilion that I have been going to) - which means, I had a 70-degree view of the proceedings. Good fun though!

What added to the flavour was the nostalgia of going to watch test match cricket at the ground with dad - since he is a die-hard sports fanatic! I felt so happy to have managed 2 tickets in a very good stand with a great view, and bring some serious happiness to him in his retired life! I felt so happy!

Anyway, back to the day at the ground. It was actually a day that had riveting test match cricket - not the usual slam-bang masala of the shorter versions of the game. Possibly, for the first time in my various visits to the KSCA, today was a gripping day of hard fought equations, with no team ready to give the edge to the other.

The day started with Zaheer Khan completing his second test match 50 (much to the delight of the crowds here). And, I for one, was particularly fascinated to see the famous Brett Lee action in person - sure is exciting to see that gigantic structure steam down his run-up, hurl bouncers, fume at batsmen, and add to the drama by bending down on his knees and appealing at the top of his voice!

The Indian team folded up for 360, falling 70 short of the Aussie first innings total, with Zaheer Khan the highest scorer (55 not out). The Aussies came out to face a fiery Zaheer and it wasn't long before Hayden was back in the tent. But the biggest roar was for Ricky Ponting (in terms of booing him out of the ground!). And the time that Ponting was at the crease was possibly the time I enjoyed one of the most beautiful days of test match cricket. Reason -that classical battle between a young rookie (Ishant Sharma) trying to prove his point yet again, against at veteran of 10000 test match runs (Ponting). The seamers, in-dippers, the swingers, the ones going away, the dot balls, the various appeals for LBW - were sights to behold i.e. a famous batsman struggling in the cauldron of test match cricket, against a bowler who is increasingly getting the better of him. The standout was the manner of Punter’s dismissal: well articulated, brilliantly planned and magnificently executed, courtesy, a quick catch by the special VVS at mid-wicket. Ponting's dismissal, brought a thunderous roar in the stadium, and I was out of my seat in a jiffy, cheering the Indian team on!

Things settled down a wee bit after that, with the Aussies scoring runs. But, they lost Clarke (after he hit a cover drive in his first ball - great shot!). And, the Aussie nemesis, Harbhajan Singh, got into his elements - terrific off spin bowling, capitalising on the spite in the pitch, putting pressure on the Aussies with close-in fielders et al. He possibly did not get the adequate returns, in terms of number of wickets, for the brilliance he displayed in his art today.

And then, that proud cricketer - Anil Kumble. It was hard to believe that this gigantic, yet gentle legend is playing his last test match at home. He has become a bit of a role model for me - with his conduct, poise, ability to answer all critics with his performance, and immense dignity and pride of playing for India. I will never forget a moment in this test match, in fact, right at the toss - Ravi Shastri was doing the usual TV stint of covering the toss. Once the toss was done and he had finished speaking to Ponting, it was Kumble's turn. And I distinctly noticed a tremendous amount of respect and regard in Ravi's eyes for Kumble at this particular toss. Maybe I am reading too much into it, but I really sensed a tremendous amount of "Wow, Anil. You are in your last match at home. You have been a great servant for your state and country. All the best for your final game at home". I think, I have watched enough cricket in my life to see that much of regard, even if momentary (at a toss!). Such is the pedigree of Anil. I zoomed my binoculars time and again, to get a final glimpse of this legend in action - be it while he was setting the field, or while he was bowling (albeit with an injury).

Anyway, the match is brilliantly poised. I enjoyed my day at the stadium with daddy. Especially since, it was replete with good, old-fashioned, battle for dominance and with both teams still in the hunt. And, a draw, is still a possibility. I just wish tomorrow were a holiday since it is going to be a fascinating final day at the KSCA.

There were some terrific moments during the day, where I was almost left wondering about the kind of life these sport stars live. The number of times Ganguly, Harbhajan and Tendulkar were cheered every time they took their positions near the boundary lines was something else. I mean, imagine turning around and walking to you position on the field and at least 5000 people roaring your name in unison, and about 200 people clamouring for space near the boundary line to get your autograph. This happened all day. And I dare say, that is just a shade of the lives that these guys live - perennially in the limelight. Possibly, that one comment in the newspapers, where kids were flocking around the Sunny Gavaskar - though he had retired by the time these kids were even born, was testament to the man's contribution to Indian cricket and the fan following that he enjoys, 22 years after he retired.

I guess I will sign off by saying that I saw another member of the 10000 runs club today - Allan Border. And I will just say, wow!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Saurav Ganguly - a lesson in faith!

I always end up writing something when a famous cricketer retires. I wrote on my blog when Shane Warne hung up his boots and I am doing just that today, right after Ganguly has announced his retirement. I don't know why I do this, but these guys send a non-stop message of inspiration in life to me. I am sure, I will write more when Sachin, VVS, Dravid and Kumble retire as well. If there was blogging in the 1980s' and 1990s, with such high-speed internet, I am pretty sure I would have made my blog an "inspiration blog" on some truly phenomenal sportsmen(not just cricketers).

Anyway, getting back to the moment - its the last month of international cricket for Dada. Gosh, that man is somebody I have just admired ever since I saw him play first in 1996! What a spirited fella! Ever ready to take on the system head on and be so confident than come what may, he is good enough to pound the best in the business. Australia, England, Pakistan, Sri Lanka - all the cricketing nations in the world, who did not fear him so much for his smashing hits as much as they did for his attitude. Very few Indian cricketers have been able to look at their international counterparts in the eye and let them know that they are not there for gardening or just facing chin music! Dada was different for me - he taught me aggression; incredible self-confidence; a deep passion for the game(that was so sadly abused by the powers-that-be). I don't know him personally, but I strongly feel that he only meant business and was not there in the game for just the adulation(he deserved it though!).

And that super-arrogant, straight talking Greg Chappell, unfortunately had the powers; else, I am pretty sure, Dada would have ensure that Chappell never enters our country again. Alright, he may have been a great Aussie cricketer in his heyday; but remember, he was one of the meanest and cheapest players(figuratively), by devising the under-arm bowling option in an ODI against New Zealand. Dada never resorted to such trivial measures - he played the games by the rule, and played it hard(eye to eye with the opposition). Go home, Greg Chappell - we don't need you!

What about the inspiration Dada gave to newcomers? Half of the current talent in the best 16 in the country - Harbhajan, Yuvraj, etc etc, owe it to Dada's unrelenting encouragement for the youth/new players. I strongly feel that Dada's captaincy is a lesson in management - how to lead in the most adverse and severe conditions. Look at the balancing act he had to do i.e. get his career going when the selectors were out to nail him, let the opposition know that he was no pushover, and stand like a man of steel for rookies who had no clue about the pressures of international cricket. That sort of a balancing act, in a situation where Dada's head was always on the line, is not easy. And it comes to great leaders;people with gumption, courage of conviction and immense concentration and passion. Those are my biggest learnings from this great Bengali.

It is not a joke to score nearly 20,000 international runs in an era that had some of India's batting stalwarts - the Fab Four as people call them. And to be counted amongst that elite and inordinately superior crowd is a special thing in itself. Hats off to you, Saurav! You taught Indian sportsman (across genres) and people like me at the start of their professional careers, what it means to win. And win, against all odds!

Wish you a very, very, very happy retired life, Dada! If ever I see you as a commentator, I'd be glued in to listen to the brain behind that aggressive attitude. All the best!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

My first month at SAP

I just finished one month of working life in SAP. And its been something else. I had only heard of software companies being places of immense employee pampering. After having seen traces of this pampering, I now know why people flock into this industry. And absolutely no regrets, I am so happy to be in this truly legendary company!

The people in the office seem to be quite relaxed, without the pressure of finishing things in a hurry. There is always a consensus to everything; everybody's opinion is taken. And I have distinctly noticed that things are questioned in the realm of what works for a customer, rather than sitting and making counterpoints. Quite a constructive environment to work in, and something that challenges the intellectual capacity.

Of course, the free food and the free shuttle service from home to office & back are the added luxuries. I have also seen a bunker room of sorts, where people literally draw up big blankets and go to sleep! And I am told that this room needs advance reservation, as its perennially choc-a-bloc!. Not to mention the salsa dance that happens in the evening, or the table tennis room that is full all the time. Plus, in addressing the needs of the extreme fitness freaks, SAP has a full-fledged gymnasium - what with tread mills, state-of-the-art equipment etc. And people ensure that they make use of it - every time I cross the gym, its full (with some interesting faces around too!).

Talking of interesting faces, there is no dearth of them in the company. The advantage of being a truly great MNC and such a top brand is that it attracts a wide variety of people from all over the world. That can only add to the colour around the office, you see!

Good place, I must say- has a happy feel about it.

New shuttle and food vendor in the office

Two major changes in life today - one to do with transport to office & back, and the other, related to food. We have two new vendors managing these 2 aspects of our lives in the office today.

It was an interesting debut with the transport vendor this morning. To begin with, he arrived at our regular Malleswaram 18th cross bus stop, 10 minutes late. There were about 7 of us waiting in the early morning, half-sleepy mode; waiting to grab a quick 45 min/1 hour nap on the way to office. But all such dreams were down the drain the minute the bus arrived - we were more people than the number of seats available to sit! So much for planning, estimation of headcount on our route and all other sophisticated systems & procedures of having an RFID etc in the bus, when the basics went wrong. Anyway, I managed to squeeze into the seat right next to the bus driver, only to be greeted by a bright sun staring down the big glass window, and into my face. Groan - all dreams of my quick nap, gone out of the window!:(

Finally, some sense was restored when the 20 people who were standing for part of the route to office hopped onto another mini van mid-way near Ulsoor.

The other highlight of the day was this new food vendor. I reached office and ran up to the canteen for my regular breakfast, only to be greeted by an empty counter at the billing machine. There is usually a billing guy in charge of things, and he was nowhere. Suddenly, a man dressed in a new uniform(not in the attire of the usual vendor) came up to me and pointed to another counter. Only then, did I realise that there was a new vendor in place for food from today, and that there were already new systems in place - so much for lack of communication about this change. Groan, again!

Anyway, the rest of the day went off the usual way- meetings, calls, deliverables et al. The good thing is, tomorrow is a public holiday - I have never loved Mahatma Gandhi more, thanks to him, we definitely have a holiday in the middle of the week; a much needed one!

Of terror strikes, falling i-banks and India

A number of epitaphs of leading i-banks have been doing the rounds in the press over the last couple of weeks. The US economy and the debacle on Wall Street in particular, are front page headlines for the wrong reasons. Job losses, impending recession, depleting business confidence, lower spend, changes in sales forecasts of various companies/industries, pall of gloom and what have you is all that one gets to see in these times. As if this wasn't enough, the endless terror strikes all over India are yet another area for the media to feast upon.

In all this, I am wondering if there is any room for hope at all for anyone. The more I try to think about it and see if there is anything left to look forward to, the harder I find it to narrow down to. Maybe, I am getting influenced by all this a wee bit too much- after all, I am human! But, no. The fact that I am human means that I am different. It means that the single biggest differentiating factor as a homo sapien is my ability to rationalise, hope and look forward to a better tomorrow.

So what if the financial crisis is eroding my net worth? So what if the terrorists have decided to kill ever discernible Indian in every corner of the country? So what if the government of the day is busy negotiating nuclear deals, and not doing too much to safeguard its people?So what if the stock markets hit new lows at the end of every trading session? So what if every other thing happening around me is negative. I think, there has never been a more opportune time to be positive than now.

If courage of conviction is ever needed in life, I think it is now. The famous Indian resilience of getting out of the house and going to the same spot where a bomb exploded the next day after such an event made headlines is enough cause to celebrate. The fact that Indian banking insitutions and financial systems have not been hit as severely as that of the their global counterparts is yet another reason to be happy about. More than anything else, the vision of our public policy planners of the 1950s need to be commended for coming up with the concept of the public sector in the country- had it not been for that system, we might have yet had a collapse like none other. So, that's another reason to celebrate. And beyond all these tangibles, we are still the biggest hope on this planet - of being the future superpower of this world. Why let up on that dream because of such events, that are bound to happen again and again in our journey to success? Somebody out there (read, terrorist), does not like our growth. I am also quite confident that he does not like the good things happening to us. But, I think the best way to answer him is to be resilient and happy in our minds and look at how we can build a greater nation than what we already have.

Hell, its the spirit of being a human being that is more important than succumbing to these extremely powerful forces that beckon us. I am going to be positive and happy; let me see if there is anybody there who can stop me from being so. Its ONE life, and nobody - be it i-banks or terrorists or anyone else - has a right to damage it.