Jul 262009


Take some data. it could be any data. Add a bit of correlation, stir in a bit of causality, simmer with coincidence and garnish with a leap of faith – package well with a chatty narrative style -and bingo – you have Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, which looks at what makes people successful.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book immensely. I finished it in two days. I found it entertaining and his take on the world, as always, is engaging. But, there was nothing new. Nothing that made you look up from the book and say “oh, wow – why didn’t i think of that’ . Nor is there the kind of insight that there was in “Tipping Point

But, as always, with his books – i did like the construction of each hypothesis and the way he draws together various, diverse, distinct and seemingly antithetical strands – and builds cohesive and plausible argument.

As I said earlier, Gladwell looks at what makes successful people. And, the answer is Hard Work (10k + hours before success), when you were born, Historical conditions, ethnicity – the Chinese work harder because of their history as paddy growers; Language – kids who learn in their more precise mother tongue do better ; and social class. Definitely not rocket science. Nor piercing insight. But, well written, nonetheless.

Would I recommend this book – yes. it is a lesson in non linear thinking. So long as you don’t expect any great insights – its a good book.

Jul 242009

What did he expect ?

Abhinav Bhatt, a law student based in Pune, filed a complaint with the magistrate’s court in June 2000, saying that Rediff has committed offence under section 292 of IPC (selling, distributing obscene material).

His contention was that if one was to type words such as “sexual intercourse” in the search window on rediff’s home-page, it threw up links of pornographic websites.

Maybe, he expected to find two birds tweeting, or two flowers coming together, like in the old Hindi films – but if you enter a search term like that – expect to get p*rn.

Maybe, Rediff should file a complaint that Mr.Bhatt was seeking p*rn – which is illegal in this country 🙂

Jul 232009

Sach Ka Samna on Star Plus has created a storm in a tea cup.

It’s a show that is a format adaptation – based on the ‘Moment of Truth’.

I saw it last week. I liked the way that it has been adapted for India. The family issues brought out, are done in a manner that strikes a chord. Very desi in nature. I am not in a minority when it comes to liking the show – a sizable chunk tuned into the show last week – giving Star Plus ratings.

The show that had a one-hour run on its first day (15 July) has managed to fare well for Star Plus with a debut rating of 4.59. The 10.30 pm half-hour show has also averaged the week ended 18 July with a TVR of 4.3, reveals the latest Tam data (HSM, C&S 4+).

It’s a show that reflects the changing nature of Indian society. Middle class Indians have agreed to come on the show and talk about their deepest, darkest secrets. For money. Lots of it.

Audiences are enjoying watching it – and are coming back for more. Both, people who are on the show & their families and friends, as well as those who tune in are mainly Indians. Ergo, they follow ‘Indian culture’ .  But, the politicians have got their knickers langots in a twist.

Imagine being a politician and saying ‘hum such ka samna’ ka virrudh kartein hai ! Must be the first time that they ever told the truth. What are they afraid of ? that the people will strap them to a polygraph and ask them” is project  mein aapne cut liya” or “aapne section 377 toda tha, when it was illegal” or “aapki naukrani 13 saal ki hai ” or what ever . That would definitely be interesting to watch !

Their contention is, that it is against our culture and borders on the obscene and vulgar ! Seriously, who are they to say that 4.5% of the viewing audience (the top show rates around 5.3 TVR) aren’t a part of Indian culture or don’t follow it

And, it’s not as though we are in silly season. In a week :

  • When there was an incomprehensible agreement with Pakistan in Egypt.
  • When Kasab named names
  • When there were serious safety concerns on how the metro is being built
  • There were issues on the moon mission – Chandrayaan
  • When Mumbai’s preparedness against rain came to naught
  • When inflation went down and prices went up
  • When teachers in Maharashtra are on strike because this is the only state in which the 6th Pay Commission has not been implemented
  • When incomprehensible deals were being signed with the USA

What is the most important issue that you think that the opposition – SP & BJP – found to raise  in Parliament. Sach ka Samna ???  Why ????

No. Walking out of Parliament is not Opposition. It is not turing up to do your job.  It’s bunking !

Jul 172009

“Hi, would you like to come and see our flick”
An innocuous line, you would think, but one which got K fuming I could see the fumes coming out of her ear.

“That stupid child doesn’t know how to handle the client.” Said K, “ I should sack him and get a secretary’ she added.
“Kya Hua ?” I asked. And she let loose a litany of gaali’s gaalis. (Thank you shefaly )
Her fully qualified MBA MT (management trainee) had written a mail to their company’s leading client asking them if they wanted to invest monies in their film after watching it – hence the line “would you like to come and see our flick”. K has now issued a directive that no mail will leave the company to a client unless vetted by her. She is also wondering whether to replace her well paid MBA with a secretary who will take dictation and type out a letter.

This is not the first time I have heard that. My client RR asked me to find him an intern. I teach – and interact with students in the BMM programme run by the University of Mumbai. But, RR is from my father’s generation; a perfectionist who will not put up with shoddy work – and I have been hesitant to recommend people to him. Rightly So.
He called me up two days ago.
“I need a new EA” he boomed.
“What happened to the old one” I asked.
“Kya bolon, don’t you teach them how to send and receive mails” – he asked ?. His principals are in the USA and they don’t appreciate mails that go “v hv recd yr mail. Ta”

And, if you think that I am exaggerating, here’s a letter I received from a student:
“Hello mam ther’s a personal query nt on behalf of clas. V wanted to know if v can reduce d number of ad agencies bt tak many ads as examples. Like from 1 ad agency we can give 3-4 examples. Will that be fine? Waiting 4 ur reply.”

You don’t even want to know my response. There is only one line that can be used to explain what happens when I read stuff like this – “mera dimag satakta hai ”

I have been in the media for 15 years, and each subsequent year – I lose a bit of my vocabulary and more of my grammar. And, each year I see the level of language declining.

Part of the problem is SMS and the fact that if I send a message such as “whr r u” – most people will understand. However, when I send that kind of a message as a part of a formal letter, then it looks shoddy. The other part of the problem is that in a world dominated by the visual medium – reading skills are non existent. Therefore, writing skills become more problematic. If you haven’t read enough – and don’t know good style from bad – then its’ not really your fault. It’s the problem of a system that brings up students – from the KG level to be functionally illiterate .So maybe two things that people ought to inculcate to write better is to turn on the dictionary function on their mobiles and write full sentences – and the other is to read. Also, check on the net for letter formats – the net is not just about hanging out, it has a fair bit of useful information.

Most colleges in this city don’t stress on language skills or on syntax. They don’t want the risk of someone taking them to court for failing their exams. Our instructions are do not cut marks for poor language skills. But remember that those who make the rules have full time jobs, very often they are confirmed employees of the state with a pension. You aren’t. Nor am I 🙂

The world is not Orkut. Nor is it Facebook. In this world people don’t poke you. They fire you.. And, the worse your language skills, the greater the chances of you not getting ahead.

Jul 132009

I have met Sushma Swaraj once. She was in brief political exile, and had agreed to inaugurate my television channel. I say mine, as though i owned it – I didn’t 🙂 but, it was mine in that a whole lot of my dreams and aspirations were tied up with it ! But,  I digress. We had requested her to symbolically launch the channel. She agreed – very graciously. She was witty, intelligent, fun, classily dressed – without intimidating you, warm, and decent.  – just the kind of person you would want your favourite periamma to be :). She cut the proverbial red ribbon – and declared the channel launched & she left.  A nice lady.

But, then i saw her political avtaar. Just post the BJP defeat last time around, she sort of lost it. Kaikeyi rather than kaki 🙁 threatening to shave her hair and sleep on the ground in white. My grandmother – was appalled. How can a sumangali behave like that she asked – emphasizing the disconnect between Hinduism & Hindutva.

In the fallout post the last elections, she has been flip flopping around like a gold fish out of water – trying to provide a voice of reason to the outside world – when the men in her party disappeared to wallow in self pity and self indulgence – instead of acting like an Opposition. But, she has still not got the hang of things :

“Congress first plasters a city with posters and hoardings of its leaders. Then it takes these chocolate faces to the city. Obviously, glamour has its own attraction among the youth and they join the party.” Swaraj, who became a minister in the Haryana government at 25 years of age, said BJP had always encouraged young leaders. “But we did not sing about it. We treated it as natural. Congress flaunts these chocolate faces while our young leaders are not even noticed by the media,”

Auntyji – your young leaders are ignored by your own system. Where are your young spokespeople (unless you include yourself – after all you are younger than Mr.Advani & Mr.Joshi). Maybe, you need to appoint young BJP spokespeople to shadow each of the main ministries and get them to come and debate policies in the public space. There is no point in having these leaders, and get us the public to see the same worn, tired, defeated faces.

When 70% of your Target Audience is below 35 – pray why will you not make a song and dance about young politicians. Age may have virtue in our tradition – but after a certain age, the elderly leave it to the youngsters and enter vanaprasthna . Besides with the elderly of the BJP behaving like peas porridge in the pot, 9 days old – its is hardly surprising that the youth prefers chocolate.

An advice to Mrs. Swaraj – Shrillness & sarcasm don’t really suit you. Go back to being nice and warm and decent. That may actually attract more votes !