Call Flow

A few days back my mobile-phone rang.

Voice on phone (VOP): Hello, am I talking to AM?

Me: Yes you are.

VOP: May I know your Date of Birth (DOB) please?

Me: Is that why you have called? Are you writing up my horoscope?

VOP: No sir. I am calling from TownBank. You called in a few days back and lodged a complaint about a transaction on your Card.

Me: Look, I have gone through the Terms and Conditions listed on your website. Nowhere is it stated that a customer needs to provide his DOB while lodging a complaint about a transaction on the Card.

VOP: No, sir, you don’t need to provide your DOB while lodging a complaint.

Me: But you just asked me for it, didn’t you?

VOP: I did, sir, but that is not because you lodged a complaint.

Me: But you just said you are calling because I lodged a complaint. If that is not the reason, then why have you called me?

VOP: I did sir. I have called about the complaint you have lodged with the bank.

Me: There, I already told you so. In fact, you said so yourself not a minute back. Then why were you denying it?

VOP: I was not sir.

Me: Not what?

VOP: Not denying it.

Me: Not denying what?

VOP: Not denying that I called about the complaint you have lodged.

Me: Now that that is clear, I trust you don’t need my DOB.

VOP: I do, sir.

In an almost imploring voice, VOP said: Can you now please tell me your DOB?

I resisted the temptation to rush back to the “Look, I have gone through the Terms…” part of the loop. Instead, in a conciliatory tone, I asked: But, why do you want my DOB?

VOP: That is our process sir. For security purpose we need to verify we are talking to the right person.

Me: But you called me, didn’t you?

VOP: Yes sir.

Me: Why did you call me on this number?

VOP: Because that is your number available on our records.

Me: If that is the case, why do you need to verify?

VOP: That is our process sir. It has been honed over years of frustrating and unproductive customer interactions in over a hundred countries. (The second sentence I heard but he did not say).

Me: But no other bank asks me for this information when they call.

VOP: We cannot be responsible for weak security practices of other banks.

Me: What if I don’t give you my DOB?

VOP: I am afraid I will not be able to share an update regarding your complaint.

Now, I am a reasonable man. When in a situation where I have no way out, I promptly climb down from the high moral ground, which is what I did in this case. After all, what was the point in preventing the caller from doing his job.

I gave him my DOB, my anniversary date , my home address, the make of my car, my dog’s name and the number of clubs in my golf-set, in rapid succession.

VOP: Thank you, sir. This call is to update you that we are looking into the issue and will respond soon.

Good thing I shared my personal information when I did. I would have been deprived of the update otherwise.

Big Billion Day

The country finally celebrated the success of its maiden mission to Mars, more than two weeks after the event. And how. One of the world’s largest e-commerce sites, that recently started operating in India, showed the way by launching its “Mission to Mars Celebration Dhamaka” (Dhamaka, for the Hindi unfamiliar readers, is equivalent to “blast”, in the celebration sense).

I received an email announcing the celebration, with a “Start here” button prominently displayed to convince the unconvinced. Call me a space nut if you will, but I wasted no time in joining the celebration. I clicked on the “Start here” button without wasting any time.

It was a revelation. Truly “out of the world”.

I could buy books to celebrate the success of the Mars mission or I could buy watches. I could buy Kindles to celebrate the success of the Mars mission or I could buy iPads. I could buy luggage to celebrate the success of the Mars mission or I could buy mobiles. I could buy T-shirts to celebrate the success of the Mars mission or I could buy toys. There was nothing that could not be bought. Brought tears to my eyes. I would never have imagined that the country’s maiden mission to Mars would enable me to buy so many things that I did not need for routine discounts. I am only now beginning to grasp the enormity of the achievement of the Mars mission. I had taken it as a routine scientific mission to Mars to discover new things, validate theories and generally look for ways to further man’s knowledge and frontiers. But it was, clearly, much bigger. Thank you aaaaaa.in.

I placed my order for the shoes and T-shirts that I did not need. I was not going to hold back from celebrating this important milestone in the country’s space endeavours. But before clicking the “Buy” button, I carefully scanned the site for any hints of support for the Mars mission or for future endeavours of the Indian Space Reasearch Organisation (ISRO). There were none. I heaved a sigh of relief. I could buy without fear of paying extra. Don’t get me wrong. I am a strong supporter of the Mars mission. But paying extra for stuff I don’t need? No way.

Expectedly, many others have started walking down the path so selflessly blazed by aaaaaa.in, and launched their own celebrations to mark the historic achievement.

Builders have started asking people to buy property to celebrate the Mars mission. Car-dealers have started asking people to buy cars to celebrate the Mars mission. Restaurants have started asking people to eat more at their establishment to celebrate the Mars mission. TV manufacturers have started asking people to buy TVs to celebrate the Mars mission. There is no stopping the patriotic fervour now.

In fact, in tune with their global aspirations, businesses are understood to be looking for global events to celebrate.

Expect builders to ask people to buy property to celebrate Marin Cilic’s first US Open (tennis) win. Expect car-dealers to ask people to buy cars to celebrate Chelsea’s victory over Arsenal in the English Premier League football. Expect restaurants to ask people to eat more at their establishment to celebrate Stefan W. Hell, Eric Betzig and William E. Moerner being awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Expect TV manufacturers to ask people to buy more TVS to celebrate the reduction in the US fiscal deficit.

Ffffffff.com, India’s homegrown e-tailing behemoth, and the main competition to aaaaaa.in, went a step further. It launched its own celebration, “The Big Billion Day”.

Billion Day? Rings a bell?

Could they be celebrating the country’s population crossing a billion? Perhaps, but that happened several years back.

Could they be celebrating the presence of more than a billion stars in the firmament? Perhaps, but that has always been the case, even though no e-tailer may have celebrated it.

The distance between Earth and Mars? Possible, given the current flavour, but factually incorrect as the distance is less than a billion.

What else could it be?

It was reported that the company has recently raised a billion dollars for their expansion. Could it be that? Nah, too obvious.

Satisfied that there was no logical explanation for calling it the “Big Billion Day”, I eagerly logged in. It was bound to be fun. With lots of stuff to buy and lots of discounts, what else could it be?

Unfortunately, soon after the “Big Billion Day” dawned, the site crashed. The collective anguish of a billion shoppers could be heard on Mars. The promoters have sent out an email apologising for depriving folks of the joy of shopping for stuff they don’t need and for failing to add to their own wealth.

It was not enough. It could never be. The government has been forced to step in to investigate. They have promised to include the right to shop for stuff that I don’t need, at discounted rates, in the Fundamental rights of citizens enshrined in the Constitution, and protect it through suitable legislation.

The right to shop for stuff that I do not need, at discounted rates.

One of the greatest discoveries of the modern world. Worth protecting.

Driving Skills – 4; Traffic Signs

In Hindi movies, cops dutifully arrive after the hero has thrashed the villain black and blue and rescued the damsel in distress, basically to put the villain away and tie up the loose ends like towing away vehicles damaged in the car-chase at the end, apologising to the people wrongly charged earlier, and other key events in the narrative.

After much of the traffic rules have been rewritten (see Driving Skills – 2 and Driving Skills – 3) by yours truly, the Surface Transport Authority has gotten into the act and finally updated archaic traffic signs to reflect the current reality and ensure that their interpretation is aligned with the understanding people have of a particular sign or signal.

Well, better late than never, we say!

 

Drive at 50 Or under 50 Or over 50

Drive at 50
Or under 50
Or over 50

 

Free Parking

Free Parking

 

Short-cut to destination

Short-cut to destination

All vehicles prohibited Except yours

All vehicles prohibited
Except yours

Check for cop If not visible, GO If visible, STOP

Check for cop
If not visible, GO
If visible, STOP

 

Prepare to speed up and cross before the light turns red

Prepare to speed up and cross before the light turns red

 

Stop. Wait for cross-traffic to move on Red light.

Stop. Wait for cross-traffic to move on Red light.

 

Stop, Wait or Idle

Stop, Wait or Idle

Stop. Do not cross at this point. Jaywalk on any other part of road.

Stop. Walk at your own risk.

 

Prevent pedestrians from crossing here

Prevent pedestrians from crossing here

Keep moving

Keep moving

 

In the unlikely event you took your hand off the horn…

In the unlikely event you forgot

Speed up and reach the narrow passage before the other vehicle

Speed up and reach the narrow passage before the other vehicle

Overtake from left Overtake from right

Overtake from left
Overtake from right

Expect other vehicles to give way to you

Take way here

This sign has been taken out of circulation

This sign has been moved to the museum

 

These are the signs of our times. Look forward to a smooth ride on Indian roads…

Good Food Guide

As soon as I sat down to read the morning paper my stomach started growling. Straining my olfactory senses to understand the reason for this insouciance and not finding any, I picked up the morning paper once again, disappointed. I soon discovered the reason for the grumbling.

On the last page, which is where I start, and gradually work my way towards the murders, rapes, political somersaults and bombings on the front page, was a small item about a popular Mediterranean restaurant that was celebrating authentic Nepolitano pizza through the Nepolitano pizza festival. My stomach had apparently reached the item before my eyes had.

Now, any Bollywood movie will tell you that any word in English with an “o” sound at the end is Italian.

What? Haven’t you heard of Al Pacino? Or Robert De Niro? Even Shahrukh Khan knows them. Don’t tell me you haven’t seen “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge” in which, to save the heroine from the clutches of Italian police, he stops his flaming red Ferrari and says Al Pacino and Robert De Niro again and again?

What? How do I know they were Italian police? Because they understood Shahrukh Khan’s Italian.

The festival, according to the paper, promised to be a culinary delight with authentic Italian recipes and freshest ingredients.

This restaurant was worth a visit, I promised myself. They seem to be quick learners and are pressing the right switches, I thought. They would have obviously seen food festivals which promised culinary delights with un-authentic Italian recipes and stale ingredients coming to grief and were ensuring they do not repeat the mistake.

Call me fussy it you will, and you may put it down on my banking days where I spent many years double and triple-checking small transactions while missing out the big ones, but I always do a thorough verification before I commit myself.

I looked up the Oxford dictionary. Online of course. There it was. Neapolitaine. Calmed me down, Confirmed that the cuisine on offer was authentic.

How did I know?

Because, in the restaurant’s offer, Nepolitano was how it was spelt, which was incorrect. Surely you would have noticed that. Self-respecting Italians cannot spell in English. It was spelt incorrectly, so the cuisine must be authentic. Any more questions?

We Indians are fussy eaters. We enjoy a variety of cuisines from around the world with the same “garam masala” and “haldi” (spices), softened in the same mix of onions and tomatoes and cooked in the same vegetable or mustard oil. But we know our authentic cuisine from the unauthentic. We can read after all. We studiously avoid any restaurant which says unauthentic cuisine, be it Kashmiri, Italian, Lebanese, or any other. It is a principled stand.

But one thing I must say. Cuisine is increasingly becoming uni-dimensional. While one has the choices of many cuisines, all you see around is restaurants offering authentic cuisine. It is always “authentic Andhra coastal cuisine” or “authentic Hyderabadi biryani” or “authentic Gujarati thali”.

I wonder if I will ever get to eat at a restaurant offering authentic unauthentic cuisine??

For now, I made my way to the Italian restaurant offering authentic Italian cuisine. To make it as authentic Italian as it could get, I had even decided what I was going to order. I would go for leg of lambo and dal makhnio with naano.

Eat your hearts out!

Driving Skills – 3

This is the second set of guidelines I have put together for promoting equal opportunity and experience on our roads, the motivation for which came out of my experience of driving my son to school one morning, which is captured in my post titled “Driving Skills – 1”, a few days back. The first set was published last week and can be accessed on “Driving Skills – 2”.

I will begin this set addressing an issue that vexes a lot of road-veterans, that of basic courtesies being lost; like giving way to traffic on the right, dipping your headlights at night on an undivided stretch of road when you see an oncoming vehicle, giving way to traffic coming uphill, slowing down when driving through puddles, etc.. Not only are they not practiced, the drivers of today do not even seem to be aware that such courtesies exist.

As I do ever so often, I disagree.

Not only are these courtesies known to the drivers of today, they are actively practiced. To set the record straight, and to ensure that there is no ambiguity, the basic guidelines are:

  • give way to traffic on the right, when I am on the right; give way to traffic on the left, when I am on the left
  • dip your headlights at night on an undivided stretch of road when you see an oncoming vehicle which is mine
  • give way to traffic coming uphill, when I am coming uphill; give way to traffic going downhill, when I am going downhill.
  • when approaching a puddle of water on the road close to pedestrians or cyclists, slow down at first, then, without warning, speed up and drive through the puddle such that most of the collected water gets splashed on the pedestrians and cyclists in close proximity; if, at first attempt, the strategy yields limited results, drive around, comes back to the spot, and repeat until the puddle vanishes and becomes safe for future pedestrians and cyclists

A related courtesy is to give way to an ambulance that is in a hurry and is sounding its siren. While some of you may do this out of consideration for the injured and the sick, at all times, whatever be your motivation, be alert and step into the lane created in the ‘wake” of the speeding ambulance so that you can move as fast as the ambulance. Whether the ambulance is going in your direction or not hardly matters.

In addition to using seat-belts, that we covered in the last edition, drunk driving is another area where traffic policemen are trying to become safe by insisting on your driving only when sober. Resist efforts to drive sober. Keep handy “paan”, cardamom, mint and other aromatic condiments to disguise the smell of liquor.

Do you still eat while driving? Are you still texting while threading your way through a crowded, narrow street? If you do, you need to seriously consider if you should still be driving at your age? This is 2014. And almost the start of the last calendar quarter. If you don’t have a TV in the car for the driver to view while driving, you will, henceforth, not be eligible for getting a driving licence. Get one today.

“No Parking” signs discourage parking alongside kerbs. There are no signs discouraging double and triple-parking alongside illegal single-parked vehicles alongside kerbs. If other people can park alongside “No Parking” kerbs, surely you can double-park and triple-park. How do you think Call Centres operate transport for employees in our country and keep costs low at the same time?

If you had pulled over and stopped on the side of the road, and now need to get back into the moving traffic lane, pull out suddenly, without checking if someone is coming and without any prior indication. This can be done whether you are single or double or triple-parked. Only if you suddenly pull out into the busy traffic lane will you be able to ensure that the other drivers are vigilant and minimise future traffic incidents. We all have to shoulder these responsibilities from time to time. We cannot expect the authorities to handle everything.

Opening the driver’s side door into the moving traffic lane, without checking for oncoming traffic, could be used as an alternative to driving out, in case you do not wish to leave your hard-earned, illegally-parked spot.

It is unlikely that you don’t already know this, but all footpaths (sidewalks / pedestrian paths) have been converted into Free Parking zones, even though no notification has been issued for the same. If you still find any in existence, use them. For free parking. In most cases you will be assisted by illegal touts who would be available for renting out the public space of the footpath.

If the society has enable you to earn the money to buy a car, it needs to provide for parking it as well. You do not need to have a place to park before you buy a car. Of course, society does not give out brains and good sense. The government is mulling over a bill that will make selling a car to anyone who has the space to park it, illegal. If, perchance, you happen to possess a parking space for your car, ensure that it is utilised for another more important purpose like installing a generator, making flower-beds, or illegal extension of your house, leaving you no choice but to park on public space.

Drive like a banshee. If you don’t know what banshee means, don’t worry. Chances are that you drive like one anyway.

If all else fails,

  • hire goons with no self-esteem to shoo people out of the way of your car (while you sit inside wearing a white kurta-pyjama and a Gandhi cap)
  • buy a red beacon and a siren from Khan Market and instal it on top of your car

And, lastly, never ever follow a traffic rule because it makes sense and is the right thing to do and will make for a safer and more wholesome driving environment. Do so only if there if danger of being caught. You will never go wrong.

Driving Skills – 2

Stirred into action on seeing two accidents in a short ten kilometre stretch from home to my son’s school (click Driving Skills – 1 for full story), I have started compiling a list of easy-to-follow guidelines designed to bring equality and democracy to our roads. I am conscious that some of the guidelines set out below are more applicable to male drivers, and some to drivers in the Delhi/Gurgaon/NCR region, but that is more on account of a) more drivers being male and b) I have lived in the Delhi/Gurgaon/NCR area for over ten years, rather than a desire to give these two constituencies a competitive edge over others.

In order that benefit to society is neither delayed nor denied, I am not waiting to complete the document and, instead, will publish it, as I progress, in instalments. This is the first instalment. 

While going the wrong way on a one-way street (“is there any other way to go?” you might be tempted to ask if you live in Gurgaon), if oncoming traffic honks at you, flash your high beam. We all know the magical properties of the high beam. When aimed correctly, it should make the errant vehicle vanish. Especially in India, a generally hot country with long hours of bright sunshine, where, particularly in the daytime, the beam’s magical properties make it invisible to the naked eye.

If they don’t get out of the way when you flash the high beam which they could not see, roll down your window, make a tight fist and wave it randomly in the air. If the oncoming car still does not get the message, stop your car and get out. If you can’t go the wrong way, nobody goes nowhere mister. At this point roll up your shirt sleeve for the trading of punches which is likely to follow shortly.

If you need to turn right at an intersection, ensure you are in the left-most lane at the moment you need to begin the turn to the right. The right turn must be made in a graceful arc sweeping across the rushing vehicles in the centre and right lanes in a manner that brings them to a screeching halt mid-stride. This strategy is even more effective when you have to make a U-turn to the right. The simple beauty of this strategy can be judged by the fact that it is equally effective the other way round; while turning left from the right-most lane.

Never, ever, stop on the left side of the road where it is prohibited to either stop or wait. Stopping on the left side of the road, next to the kerb, will only cause a minor disruption. For maximum impact, stop right in the middle of the road. Purpose of stopping is irrelevant. It can be to let a pedestrian jaywalk across, or to ask the driver of the taxi next to you for directions. Experienced drivers will know that the second reason listed above has been found to be most effective for maximum disruption as two cars will be stopped in the middle of the road side by side while others try to navigate around them.

In any condition of stopping in the middle of the road, never forget to turn on the blinkers (the flashing lights that are meant to be a “caution” signal for others) to gain the moral high ground in any ensuing confrontation, should you encounter outraged fellow-travellers or even a rare cop trying to enforce rules.

If you see a traffic signal turning amber in the distance, what do you do? Even young children know the answer to this. It is obvious really. You must speed up in order to ensure that you are able to reach and cross the signal before the light turns to red. Distance to the signal is irrelevant. If you can see it, you can cross it.

A corollary of the above rule is that you should never, ever, be the first to stop at a traffic signal. Doing so is bound to lead to an immediate and irrevocable deterioration in your social status, if an acquaintance were to notice this act of weakness, especially if you happen to belong to Delhi or its surroundings. As we know, acquaintances of people living in Delhi hang around at traffic signals waiting to spot you being the first to stop at the signal.

The other outcome of this unnatural behaviour, should to choose to indulge in it, is that everyone behind you will need to stop. Can you imagine the chaos a moment’s irresponsibility on your part will create for the city? Choose to act in a responsible manner today. Never be the first to stop at a red light.

Always drive with your child, preferably an infant, in your lap. Borrow one if you don’t have one of your own. In order to create the right environment it should be done without the child wearing a seat-belt. In any run-in, either with infuriated fellow-commuters, or with the law, blame the other guy for not being sensitive to the child. An unintended benefit will be that the child will imbibe these driving habits early.

Please understand that the law asking you to wear a seat-belt while driving has been introduced for the safety of the cops trying to enforce it. Never, ever, wear a seat-belt while driving. Make sincere efforts to avoid detection by holding the buckle end of the belt and stretching it as far as the point where it could be buckled, without actually doing so. Not only will this permit you to cock a snook at the efforts of the traffic policemen to become safe by getting you to wear a seat-belt, you will also be able to engage one hand with the belt buckle, leaving only one hand to drive, shift gears, etc. The situation, as you can guess, is pregnant with possibilities.

In order that you are not overloaded, we will stop this instalment here. We hope you will find these guidelines useful in bringing order to our increasingly chaotic roads.

Driving Skills – 1

I drove my son to school today morning because he had to reach earlier than the regular school time.

Almost as soon as we had started we heard the siren of an ambulance behind us. We gave way. A few hundred metres down we found the ambulance waiting by the side of the road, with its staff trying to evacuate an injured person, lying on the side of the road, with a damaged two-wheeler lying flat on the road, and a car standing near it, facing the wrong direction (opposite to the direction in which traffic is supposed to flow). It appeared to be a case of a car, travelling in the wrong direction on a one-way street, having hit a two-wheeler travelling in the right direction. The one-way street I am referring to, if you are familiar with Gurgaon, is the one that stretches from Fortis hospital and ends at the intersection with the Golf Course Road. Thank God for the alert common man. Many cases of hit-and-run become hit-and-be forced to stay, thanks to his alertness and willingness to get involved.

A few kilometres further, on a road that has been cut through the Aravali hills in the last few years, and on the side of the DLF Golf Course, at the only intersection on that road, we found two big, expensive cars, lying upside down in various stages of damage. It appeared to be a fairly recent event from the shards of glass lying all over the road and the road still wet from the various bodily juices that may have oozed out from the two vehicles. It might have happened in the wee hours as we did not see any bodies. Even the alert common man crowd had thinned out. James Bond would have struggled to engineer a more spectacular crash. A few beggars who perhaps ply their trade on that intersection were seen telling interested passers-by of what, according to them, had happened. If I can say it without sounding judgmental, it seemed to be a case of, plain and simple, rash and negligent driving fuelled by an assumption that I (the driver) can do no wrong and since everyone else is a sissy and will drive carefully, I can get my way on the road. Apparently, in this case, there were two such un-sissies, who probably ended up in a tie at that intersection. And, this is one of those cases of a tie in which both combatants lose.

If you are familiar with Gurgaon in particular and the Delhi / NCR area in general, you can be excused for saying “so?”.

But some of the more vigilant readers might notice something amiss. “You are not telling us the full story” they would say. “Only two accidents? On almost ten kilometres of road? And you expect us to believe that?” is what they will confront you with.

They have nailed it, as usual. On a good day one might see three fist-fights in parking lots, a couple of traffic jams on account of illegal obstruction caused by triple-parked vehicles, a two-wheeler mowed down by a speeding car, a couple of trucks in a no-truck zone, and a couple of fatal accidents, all on the same ten kilometre stretch. There could also be some bad days. Like the one I had today and that I described earlier.

The world keeps changing all the time. Cities have changed. Cars have changed. Drivers have changed. Driving habits have changed. “Courtesy”, “caution” and ”yield” are some of the words that have been deleted from the modern driver’s lexicon.

Unfortunately, our traffic rules and their meanings have failed to keep pace with the changing times. An unfortunate outcome is that some people still insist on following traffic rules. Some people still express anguish at the chaos on the roads.

Perhaps today morning’s drive was the last straw. Instead of merely complaining at the turn of events, and with a view to doing my bit at conditioning the modern driver to feel at ease in today’s conditions, I have taken upon myself the task of compiling an updated set of traffic guidelines and recommendations which I will be sharing in the next few days.

Here’s to equality on the road and effective and stress-free driving for all.

 

Rich culture

Stopping his motorcade by the side of the road and hurriedly stepping out to ease himself, per established cultural traditions of the country, the Minister for Tourism has stated in Goa that Pub culture will not be tolerated in the state and the government will only support trends that fit into the Indian culture.

Relieved at having watered the wall of a private home under a sign saying “This is not a urinal”, he got back into the car and his motorcade passed through the crowded thoroughfare with well-fed, well-armed security guards hanging out of the minister’s car, at state expense, threatening the common man on the street, as per our rich culture, to get them to move out of the important minister’s way.

He was a self-avowed culture buff and never let pass an opportunity for practicing it in real life. Such was his dedication to the cause.

Afraid of his efforts at protecting the nation’s culture being misconstrued, he made it a point to clarify to the media that our culture requires us to drink in private so that we can proudly proclaim we don’t drink. “If we drink in pubs how would we be able to hold ourselves up as role models to the young?” he queried a media left dumbstruck by the simplicity of his logic. “Do you have any idea how many young people this country has? Who will the youth look up to? Our country will be bereft of leadership and vision. Drinking in private, away from the eyes of the world, also allows us the liberty of abusing our near and dear ones, both mentally and physically. It is an onerous responsibility shouldered almost exclusively by males in this country, such is our culture”, he said, puffing out his chest, to express solidarity will suffering fellow-males, tortured by the responsibility of upholding cultural traditions of the country.

“Moreover, drinking in pubs brings upon drinking adults the responsibility to behave, well, for want of a better word, responsibly, in public. Responsible behaviour has never been a part of our culture. When we have bigger problems to solve, like changing the education system of the country without any reason, deciding whether people living in the country should be called Indians or Hindus because people living in Germany are called Germans, and many others, why needlessly open up another front and ask the already suffering males to start behaving responsibly?”

One could feel the powerful logic seeping down into the consciousness of the gathered media representatives. One could almost sense mental notes being made by people in the room, especially those given to drinking in pubs, to henceforth only drink in private, to honour and uphold tradition. The minister moved in for the kill.

“In any case, even where, because of cultural traditions, liquor is banned totally, as it is in some states, our culture enables us to bribe officials and create a supply situation that states which don’t ban liquor would be proud of. How do you think this is possible?”

“Because of our rich culture” the media responded in unison.

“How do you think government officials responsible for enforcement of laws are able to make end meet on their meagre government salaries?”

He had made his point. The last question was rhetorical. The gathered media personnel filed out of the room with their heads hung in shame.

The Minister’s bold initiative of restoring cultural traditions has, predictably, created a powerful multiplier effect throughout the country.

The armed forces, always alert for opportunities to improve their capability and preparedness to handle exigent situations, have started training in the use of culturally superior weapons like bows and arrows and maces, with which our ancestors fought invaders valiantly and lost repeatedly. Soldiers are being trained on new techniques of reverentially touching the arrow to their forehead, with eyes closed, to invoke divine powers, which will convert the arrow into a nuclear missile, and launch it in slow motion, for maximum destruction. TV serials are testimony to the destructive power of these weapons.

Multinational corporations, always on the lookout for local traditions in the markets they operate in that they can cater to without doing anything, especially ones that allow them to not spend any money, have started raising Purchase Orders for bullock carts for transporting their senior employees. Some have gone a step further and suspended their email services. Pigeons are being brought back for communication between offices in different locations. Experienced people say this is only the tip of the iceberg. They expect a total revolution in the way business is done in the country.

Meanwhile, the Minister, after the meeting, checked the time on his Swiss-made watch, stepped into his car, made by a Japanese company, wearing clothes made of Egyptian cotton, sporting an Italian designer label, with his retinue of guards carrying Russian automatic weapons, and reached home to recline in his favourite chair, made by a Swedish furniture-maker, open his bottle of whiskey made in Scotland, mix some of the whisky with blackish sugar-water made in the US, and quaff it down in a glass made in Belgium.

He soon fell asleep. Tomorrow was going to be another busy day. Lots still to be done to protect the rich culture.

FIFA World Cup 2014

Determination is a key ingredient for success.

One needs to be flexible to be successful.

Keeping your goal in sight helps in reaching it.

Past success means nothing.

Talent does not always win.

Strategy is important. In fact, it is the ultimate weapon.

Never stop. Even when you are ahead.

An Action Plan will win against No Action plan.

An underdog can spring surprises.

Isn’t it is amazing what the FIFA World Cup 2014 has done?

So many things we would never have known but for the World Cup.

Whichever way you turn, you come across “What the FIFA World Cup taught me” stories. About winning. About goals. About strategy. About success. And the pitch has become even higher since the mauling of Brazil by Germany. The world has been learning even more things after that.

There are lessons for senior executives. There are lessons for HR Managers. There are lessons for entrepreneurs. There are lessons for Sales people. Even for startups, which is where I currently count myself, there are learnings. Who would ever have thought startups can learn anything?

I have been unable to look my friends in the eye ever since the start of the Cup. After the Brazil-Germany game I have even been unable to look people in the street in the eye. How could I look into the eyes of people shining bright with knowledge gained from watching matches in the FIFA World Cup 2014? I have enjoyed watching some matches. Got bored watching a few others. But never did I learn anything from these games. Whenever I am out on the streets, I feel like the only person in the world who did not learn anything.

But it was not always so bad. I have been a quick learner in the past. In fact, regular readers of this blog might recollect the insightful sessions I had in front of the TV watching advertisements in Educating Ankur.

Deep inside, I knew I had it in me. I knew I could do it again. I shook myself out of the funk I had got myself into by watching FIFA World Cup matches merely for the pleasure of watching fine young athletes compete, and sat down with a pen and paper and started to reflect upon the learnings I had received.

In case Benjamin Franklin did not, someone may well have said, “you can do anything you set your mind to”.

This is what I learnt…

There are numerous knowledgeable people who know how a match was going to turn out, but choose to reveal their knowledge only after the match has finished.

There are World Cup tournaments where participating teams are from more than one nation.

Strategy plays an important part. It is important to have a winning strategy. With a winning strategy you could end up winning. With a losing strategy also you could end up winning. You could also end up losing.

After the discovery that there is human life outside the country, said to have happened over a hundred years back and that took a century to be verified and accepted, the discovery that there is a sporting event more popular than the Superbowl and World Series has again set the dovecotes aflutter.

I have not been able to establish if people still watch sport for the joy and emotional high of watching fine young athletes in action. It is rumoured that there are, but has not been conclusively confirmed.

I know the learnings are few and I have only the final and the third place game before that to redeem myself. Though I promise to try, a big challenge lies ahead for me.

I have been an ardent Argentine fan since I saw Maradona create magic in 1986 with his weaving, solo runs. It is great they have made the finals, though not in the prettiest manner. The problem is that they face Germany in the final. No, not because Germany destroyed Brazil in the semis. But because both my teenage sons are long-time fans of German football. And they have planned to invite an army of supporters over to watch with them. And we will probably be watching the match together.

At least for the duration of the match I must learn to keep my emotions in check.

Groundhog Day

With the raucous general elections finally over and a new government, armed with an overall majority, installed at the Centre, the largest democracy in the world can now go back to the business of living and look forward expectantly to a watershed period of untrammelled all-round development and progress.

While leaders and economists understand terms like “Inflation”, “Recession”, “GDP”, “economy is looking up”, “in real terms”, etc., which they use with great effect to convince the common man that they are doing a good job, what can the common man really look forward to in this eagerly awaited period? We hazard a guess…

The common man can look forward to a period during which stock prices will go up on some days. Not only will they go up on some days they will also come down on some other days. He can expect the value of the Rupee to go up on certain days during this period. He can also look forward to the value of the Rupee going down on certain other days. And, believe it or not, he can also look forward to prices of daily-use commodities going up on some days and down on others. In an even more unprecedented development arising out of the change of government, he can expect the price of gold to go up on some days and down on others. And, in case you thought it could get no better, he can even expect oil prices to go up on some days and down on others. It never rains, does it? It always pours.

In this period, he can look forward to unknown socialites occupying centrefold (oops centrestage) in newspapers and magazines of national importance, including social media, needlessly occupied by politics and existentialist debates for the last few months, with their frequent marriages, break-ups, getting back together for the sake of children, wardrobe malfunctions, bare-all pictures to support a charitable cause, and other patriotic acts that the rest of the country has been deprived of. He can also look forward to people in show-business beginning a new cycle of breaking-up, patching-up, breaking-up, patching-up, breaking-up…with this cyclical occurrence speeding-up just before major releases. From the pairing of forty plus heroes with twenty plus heroines, he can look forward to Bollywood progressing to the pairing of fifty plus heroes with teenage heroines, as most heroes with the surname of Khan get into the fifties, and most heroines in their twenties, with any surname, prepare for a life in supporting roles as they get into their thirties.

As always, he can expect big business, ably supported by the government, to systematically develop the nation by uprooting trees, drying-up or polluting water sources and exponentially increasing demand for energy by building bigger SUVs and structures of glass and concrete, while competing for “Green” awards. He can look forward to big business to expect him to be beholden to them for being developed in a manner that he can be the proud owner of all the problems of the western world at such a rapid pace, without any of the benefits. More and more people can look forward to reaping the benefits of development by foregoing education and hard-work to build a livelihood and taking-up jobs as Customer Service agents in Contact Centres and Shelf-stackers in Supermarkets.

Sports fans can expect to celebrate the bright prospects of national teams and leading players prior to all major event. Sports fans can also look forward to lamenting the poor performance of national teams and leading players immediately after the major events, blaming it on poor preparation, lack of dedication, official apathy, inadequate infrastructure and lack of a sporting culture. We know that in order to change culture at the grassroots level for all sports, the government, alongwith the Board of Control for one still-popular sport, had gotten business houses to invite top international stars, at astronomical salaries, to play for teams with grassroot-culture changing names like Devils, Riders and Kings. As this key initiative has had the desired effect, of making no difference to performance in any sport, sports fans can look forward to an expansion of the franchise. Sports administrators can be expected to make firm, realistic commitments to change the sad state of affairs overnight and lead the nation to victory at future events, like winning Wimbledon in 2093, World Cup Football in 2116 and Olympics in 2240. In the shorter term, they will make a pledge to climb to 137 in global football rankings. What more can sports fans ask for?

He can expect the new government to blame all man-made problems, like earthquakes, cyclones and tsunamis, on the last government. The remnants of the last government can be expected to contend that all man-made problems like earthquakes, tsunamis and cyclones are due to the divisive and pro-rich policies of the new government. To usher in an era of unprecedented economic prosperity promised before the elections, the common man can look forward to the new government unfurling a slew of measures that will enable people to undergo extreme economic depravation and hardship in order to usher in an era of unprecedented economic prosperity just before the next elections. He can expect an expansion of the nation’s sphere of influence in the region with the already announced “Look East” policy unravelled by the new government. At a suitable time, he can expect an expansion of the policy itself to “Sometimes Look East, Sometimes West, Sometimes North and Sometimes South”.

He can expect leaders in India and China to vow to settle the boundary and water-sharing disputes through dialogue and mutual respect for each other’s views. After dialogue breaks down when one party is not able to accept and respect the other’s view, he can expect them to accuse each other of vitiating the process and move armoured columns closer to the claimed boundary. He can also expect India and Pakistan, in a bid to deflect attention from the internecine disputes plaguing the two nations, to vow to increase cross-border trade. Since trains and buses have already been started and stopped by previous governments, he can expect a camel-cart route between the two nations to be opened up that can be stopped soon after. After a terror strike in India, he can expect the cross-border trade to come to a standstill as Pakistan will blame India for the almost daily terror attacks taking place in most of its major cities. He can also expect India and Pakistan to attempt to settle the Kashmir issue through dialogue and acceptance of each other’s non-negotiable points of view.

He can look forward to the opposition trashing all new proposals of the government. He can also expect the government to ignore all trashings of the Opposition with perfect nonchalance.

He can expect authorities to discover reliable information of a major strike on the eve of Independence Day and Republic Day by extremist elements, leading to an unprecedented security clampdown in major cities.

He can expect economists to warn of a looming recession. He can also expect other economists to warn of looming inflation. What’s more, he can expect yet other economists to warn of a stagflation. And it doesn’t end here. He can expect yet other economists to invent another term that he will not be able to understand and figure out whether he is in a better position or worse.

He can expect a concerted efforts to be made towards abuse of women, a national pastime that has unfortunately lagged during the elections, as most elements normally actively involved in this activity have been involved in either standing for elections or supporting those standing for elections. Surprised by the increasing reports of abuse of women, he can expect the government to renew its efforts for emancipation of women. After launching pink autos, he can expect the government to launch pink taxis. After a women’s bank staffed by men and women and with customers as men and women, he can expect a women’s call centre to be launched staffed by men and women and serving men and women.

A revolution is about to be unleashed. With bated breath we wait.

He can expect some people, who, with their hard-work, skill and commitment, had been able to achieve success in their own defined ways, during the dark days gone by, with their hard-work, skill and commitment, to achieve success in their own defined ways, thanks to the climate ushered in by the new government. Strangely, he can also expect some people, who, with their lack of hard-work, skill and commitment, and reliance on short-cuts, had not been able to achieve any measure of success as defined by others for them, with their lack of hard-work, skill and commitment, and reliance on short-cuts, to not achieve any measure of success as defined by others for them, despite the climate ushered in by the new government.

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