The light isn’t flashy. It doesn’t blink either. Nor does it light up the darkness. Literally and figuratively; you can take my word for it. Unless you opt to turn on the flashlight. Which you would invariably do when looking for something under your bed or the settee or inside the bonnet, and not in many places else. But there’s no escaping it. Not a chance. For it contains those precious packets of potion to get your life going. But of course, I’m talking about your dear old latest smartphone, silly!


The Internet is that potion which you, I and all the denizens of this goddamn planet have crowded under a giant tap to drink greedily from. And the very same potion is now available right by your bedside, in packets. Those little colorful apps without which your life refuses to budge. Right from the word go, right from daybreak! Apps to get you out of bed, to help you exercise, to monitor your pulse, to give you company while you take a dump, to jerk off on, to fix a better meal and snack than yesterday, to give you the headlines of the day, to get you to your office as quickly as possible, to remind you to pick up that gift for the family friend on your way  home, to play a flick you could never catch at the movies, to tell you which cinema is playing the latest blockbuster, to relive memories, and among many other Man Friday roles, to even help you drift off to sleep! And did I mention, to communicate with people? Man Friday is a misnomer, man. Man, woman, and the entire cosmos Sunday through Saturday!

A life in the mercy of those little square packets beckoning you from behind that glossy screen, sitting smugly in the reassuring illumination of the backlight. Which is effectively turning into one measurable in packets.  One hour of ‘me time’, measured praises, contained laughter, love separated from marriage, politically correct humility. Random occurrences but connected by packets. Little ones that lead you to believe  you’re leading a sane life.

Technology does inspire metaphors, sure! And these don’t come in packets, do they?


Happy, but lucky?

What is it like when you feel exhilarated, but the world around you goes about in blissful oblivion? Remember the bowler who sent the stumps flying, only to realize she had stepped over the crease? No madam, I’m not once questioning the validity of your excitement. If anything, the crease is probably an accomplice in conspiracy. No, I meant the feeling of having to swallow your pride along with all that booze, after your invitees do a no-show at your party. The world just doesn’t give a damn about you, does it?

Just in case you thought this little essay is about the virtue of being happy for others, it is not. Of course, one needs to be happy, all the time! If you are of the multitasking kind, as most of us are, you make space for happiness for others while stealing those moments of glee for yourself. Happiness here being, a state of being! It’s more about, shall we say, people syncing to your state of exuberance.

‘But how can you expect that? The world isn’t programmed that way!’ would probably be a standard response. Sure, they got the keyword right. Programmed. Imagine a charade at work where you go about giving hi-fives and back-slaps to every second chap you bumped into. (And please, can we keep Karan Johar out of this?) An observer of slightly higher refinement would whisper to their friend, ‘she must have smoked up some real good shit’ or ‘this is what comes of smoking cheap weed’. The masses would probably mutter among themselves, ‘bhai, bachke rehna usse! She is probably putting on an act’! Bad programming, maybe.

How is it then, that we end up talking zestfully to some people, keeping up with their demeanor? One would think we have a great party coming up, that our lives are a bouquet of pleasant surprises, and that we are perhaps well endowed. They may well be forgiven for assuming that we belong to similar worlds. How lucky! Step back a little and you’ll see that the people whose bearing we match will likely have many such circles of friends or connections. Positive vibes they give, we would like to attribute. Heck, they don’t even need a cause to celebrate. It is they who should be high on something.

So, the next time you got that award at work, or picked up a sexy new car, or even got your book published, make sure some serious overhaul of your facial expression precedes that event. But who’s to say when something big will come your way?



An image too precious

Can you pick out three individuals from your life and think about  your image of them? Now then, I’m unsure whether you are going to share your list with me or not, so let me pull up a fairly generic selection from our collective experiences. Does that work?

The chap who knows that you – and countless others – have a crush on him

Your man, the dude, has caught you fawning over him. And you, like your other similarly smitten classmates/colleagues, haven’t mustered the courage to tell him that he looks like a billion dollars. So, what does the dude do? Raise the bar. Not for you to jump over, but to outdo himself. He brings on more enigma. A clever line here, a smirk there, and of course, making himself a little scarcer than he already is.  You end up convinced that he deserves all the adulation no doubt. But if there’s even a hint of curiosity inside you, you have to know more about him at any cost. You try to dig out more. If your dude is happily settled (not necessarily married, mind you), he’ll probably insulate his personal life from work; if he’s foraging about, he may likely play hide and seek. He will only present to you that side of himself that you first fell for. You finally decide to get closer to him and try to chat up a little more. Not much comes out of him. You gradually start wondering if you are really talking to a human. If you are not persistent enough, you let go and wash down your consternation with, wine probably? If you are of the other type, you take him head on, and say “hey, is this how you are all the time?” For which, the dude may say, “how?” You know he’s up to his evasive tricks when you say, “hell, I wonder if there’s anything more to you than just show off”. If that ticks him off, he will say, “bhenchod, dimaag ka dahi ho raha hai mera! Just what do you want?”

Whatever happened to the suave and smashing young man you salivated over? He still may be one, for all you know. But didn’t fit your image of him, right? Did we hear a burst??

Your sarcastic bossimgmgmt

So you have this manager who can never spare a sweet word for you. Even if he’s approving of your work, it will be with a sneer. Hard to say if he has complimented you. Like, “this is wonderful! Some precious talent you have, huh?” Now you don’t know if means that your talent is really precious, or if you have been hiding it all these days that nobody has noticed it.  But the same chap talks very cordially with others at his level. He’s probably nasty with juniors then. Maybe he has some soft corner for you after all. You think he will look out for you if you continue to deliver. You are cruising along, when one day by a stroke of bad luck you goof up in your work. And he has a go at you. With a vengeance. You then feel that you shouldn’t have given him the benefit of doubt at all. A few days later, you are at a dinner do with him, among others. The wound has healed. You think he might socialize with you and talk general things. But not a peep from him. You then walk up to the group he’s talking to amidst laughter and quietly blend in, whisky glass in hand. And in no time you hear him say, looking your way, “guys you need to involve our buddy here a little more in the strategy meetings. We need more people who can think. But hey, tell your wife you may get home late in the days to come huh? Let her not get worried” You are like, “really? Did he just show some concern, and also appreciate my work?” You try to catch him when he’s alone a few minutes later. He throws half a glance your way and moves away, appearing to responding to someone

Your favourite movie star

She’s vivacious, intelligent and dignified. She sounds just so right in all her interviews. You catch her at the inauguration ceremony of a huge store. She certainly all that she is known to be. You manage to shake hands with her. She is all smiles, but did she meet your eye for half a second even? Of course she has to satisfy a hundred other fans. But hell, what’s a handshake without proper eye contact? Do you mean anything at all to her? You wonder, what if you write to her. Would she respond? Yes, you should try that. You go home and turn on your iPad. Your fingers are raring to tap the keypad. But you just aren’t getting the words. And then something dawns upon you. How’s a fucking email gonna help when she gave herself away in real time!

Nice, the new mean?

How does a writer go from good to popular? Write better, of course – something you and I would agree readily. But most often than not, one would have ended up writing very well, only to end up as a ‘good’ writer, and not necessarily a popular one at that! Who then gets the ‘popular’ ‘vote’ or ‘like’, if you will? Let’s guess: a. someone who has done monumental deeds – lot of them, a lot more than they could finish writing about. They can spend the rest of their glorious lives cherry picking delicious episodes from their adventures and serve them up hot and spicy to drooling readers;b. Someone who has clout, and can have the parliament ducking for cover when the individual sneezes. They will have a cohort of faithful who will drum up enough noise about their idol’s writing, that the world is gifted with real-time updates of the said individual’s literary pursuits;, c. Someone in whom resides the most deadly triumvirate of an illusionist, a hypnotist and a tantric. They need no one to endorse their writing, but only need to have the air of a conscience keeper of the masses, with a grave tone and a graver promotional line. In short they are all set to become the next messiah in their part of the world; and finally, d. someone who had a swell marketing career and then decided to take a stab at creativity.

What about the writers who aren’t attracted by any of these categories and those who choose to repel from them? They’ll probably be eagerly joining up fraternities that deride and ridicule members of the aforementioned classes of individuals aka writers.

Naturally, because they are mostly at the mercy of people who are ‘nice’ to them. The ‘nice’ brigade. Make no mistake, this is a dragon rapidly growing in size, and will start treading mindlessly over our magnificent structures. This is very much akin to the massive army of sentinels that awed us in ‘The Matrix’ trilogy. What do the nice ones do? They want peace on earth, which we all do too of course. But, while it’s unclear if they are doing any bit for the peace that’s eluding the geopolitical hotspots in this world, they will certainly praise our writers to the skies and avoid the remotest possibility of conflict. Here’s a poor chap who has lost sleep over a critique of the growing popularity of visuals in social media, and goes about urging people to read his piece. The first chap who comes along – just our writer-critic’s luck – is from the nice brigade. The latter, as he begins reading, has a benign smile plastered on his face, which remains static till the last line of the essay. He looks up at our writer and says it was absolutely fantastic and his vocabulary was exquisite, and that he has style. Keep writing, you’ll do great, he says. Er, what about the critique? Oh, he just remembered he had to rush for a meeting. See you around buddy, keep up the good writing. Never the one to give up, our writer continues hawking his thoughts to other likely buyers.


The nice guys, if one were to think, are probably striving to grow their social network (including the virtual one). Their elating feedback is bound to lift anyone’s spirits up, and bingo, they have collected another ‘friend’. The next time the writer comes out with a piece, they’d have chosen to ignore, as the writing would do anything but boost their social status. So our writer waits up for a while – their readership has remained as low as their toddler’s age-, and decides to knock on Nicey’s door. Nicey is at their effervescent best. Hi there, how do you do? But of course I will read your stuff. I thought you had stopped writing these days. Do show me no, quick. Nicey does a quick scan through. There you go, brilliant as always. Writer says, ‘c’mon you are being nice’. Nicey says, naah, you know I never believe in complimenting people for the sake of it. Wish I could write like you. This is followed by an abrupt silence. Our writer, being the sensitive sort, decides to change the topic, and Nicey all but hugs the opportunity tight.

Our writer by now knows better than to expect any real connect between the world and their writing. People, he reckons, will make time for ideas, but only from certain people, a privileged lot at that!


The Admirable 10


  1. MK Gandhi – Forget non-violence, truth, the freedom struggle and the other points of reference associated with the Mahatma, it is just that at the time of extreme moral decadence as this, we can always hark back to our history and feel blessed that a great soul who lived very much in our midst walked the earth. Its nigh impossible to get another Gandhi, because people will have realized by now that, as GB Shaw says, ‘it is dangerous to be too good’!


  1. John le Carre – A book critic had once wondered in one of Le Carre’s book reviews, as to why he hasn’t received a Nobel Prize for literature. The critic’s rumination is not unfounded, at least for me. Le Carre is at once a spy master and a high priest of language. His plots are apposite to the state of the world, and never miss the human element which we do with such abandon in our real lives.


  1. Rajinikanth – The first individual, and the only one so far, whose autobiography I cannot wait to read, whenever it comes. So great is this personality, that I lie in perennial doubt if he’ll ever let the story of his life be trapped within covers. He should though, for this world is always full of inspirations, but never full with.


  1. AR Rahman – My appreciation of his music will probably do injustice to his divine talent, as I am aware that it requires an extremely discerning ear, even for ovation. But I also know that beyond his music lies love, which really is the sum of his life’s achievements. A true saint he is.


  1. Alan Moore – A comics  writer, Moore has beaten hollow some of the greatest practitioners of non-graphic fiction of our time. V for Vendetta and Watchmen are more than testimonials to his literary genius. His writing leaves me amazed at the unfathomable depths the human mind can go to, in unravelling the complexities of the its own psyche. Little wonder then that he is regarded the greatest graphic novel writer of all time.


  1. Jimmy Wales – He founded Wikipedia. I don’t need any other reason to celebrate him. He was on Time magazine’s 2006 list of 100 most influential people in the world. When knowledge is offered free, spare a moment for the giver before grabbing it with both hands. I will take this opportunity to urge you all to contribute to Wikimedia, and do your bit to make Earth more accessible to its own denizens.


  1. Sir Tim Berners-Lee – One can’t mention Wikipedia without mentioning the Internet. If there’s a Briton I have consciously reminded myself to start admiring, it is most certainly Berners-Lee. Hell, he invented the World Wide Web. I can bet my bottom dollar that many of you know me because of what this individual came up with in the summer of ’89.


  1. Robert Maitland Bereton – The Indian rail route from Bombay to Calcutta is touted to be a part of the inspiration for Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. This line was the result of the rapid expansion of the Indian Railways from 1857. And the Robert Bereton was the gentleman who was primarily responsible for building the complex network of railroads in our country. Can we doff our hats for the Brits this once?


  1. David Gilmour and Roger Waters – The soul of Pink Floyd. Their regime on the rock stage was colossal. Their sound to this day is most distinct, as are their lyrics. Waters and his profound lyrics, and his equally plangent, resonant, deep-toned and silken voice, Gilmour with his amazing dexterity on the guitar, Gilmour with ‘his’ guitar, and a ‘feathery’ voice, along with steadfastness that saw him till disbanding (never in spirit though). Pink Floyd and its stalwarts had to be on this list, no two ways about it!

Who are your admirable 10?

e-Governance – times with a collective for progress

ImageThe inherence of pay-it-back in the human heart has always been a reassuring factor. Tap into the conscience of any bloke you happen to talk to and you’ll learn that he would like to do something for the society in any way possible. We are discounting chronic ingrates and the utterly spiteful and factoring in the inhabitants of your regular republican societies. However most of us are inert in altruism as it happens and ever ready to ascribe the said state of being to lack of opportunities or worse, financial stringency.  There will be a good number of exceptions of course but I’m certainly not one of them. It was however my first brush with eGovernance that actually got me thinking about India’s potential to be a truly inclusive and techno-enabled system that delivers, and gave me an opportunity to redeem myself.

So, did I get to tour the country’s hinterland, set up communication towers and demonstrate to suspicious villagers how cool it is to use computers to pay their utility bills or update land records? No sir. Did I build some software that saves the Government thousands of man-hours and a lot of cash? Wish I did. So what has got me all gung ho about e-Governance?  My role per se is very miniscule. My employer in his renowned prescience and foresight, realized more than a decade ago that information and communications technology (ICT) was no greater a reality than e-Governance would be in the years to come. With such conviction to back, he decided to sponsor a very high profile awards program initiated by the Computer Society of India (CSI). Into its twelfth year, the CSI Nihilent eGov Awards (CNEA) is now regarded as the gold standard for evaluating Government or quasi-Government projects that leverage ICT. Back to my role, I am tasked with ensuring some people tell a lot more people that the awards were given away to certain projects, and more importantly, arranging for the winners to carry home a testament to their victory.

It is the whole process running up to the awards ceremony that left me humbled. Right from getting introduced to the convener, who parted with his family and financial consulting outfit at Singapore for a greater part of the year, to the final distribution of the certificates and plaques, to receive which the winners had traveled from the farthest corners of the country at their own expense, the entire exercise could have only been seen through by the singular dint of passion.  To put things in perspective, there were more than two hundred entries from across the country, all of which had to be evaluated against several parameters. The evaluation included field visits to all the centers where the projects were implemented, several of them not so well connected to the base. I was fortunate to be part of one such visit, but I’ll come to that in a bit. The team that evaluated the projects comprised distinguished individuals from the Government as well as private corporations, with several decades of experience in IT implementation of public projects. At the same time, there were scores of people who did a lot more physically daunting work to make things move in clockwork precision. It was heartening to work with Sekhar, an individual who has remained with the CNEA cause for the last 10 years, even if it means doing PR and other outreach activities, while his education and prior experience are aligned to software design. He has incidentally co-authored the annual compendium of selected case studies this year. Also meet Rao, a short, bespectacled, soft-spoken gentleman in his mid-fifties, coordinating logistics, typically emerging out of nowhere whenever needed. But does he do this because he has to? He says it’s because he wants to, because he believes in eGovernance, even without understanding a single strain of technology associated with it. It is with such people working at the grassroots level that the story of concerted efforts for promoting better governance strikes a chord.

The winners of the awards may please take a bow! If not for their conviction in their initiatives, their projects would likely have not seen the light of the day. Some of the projects mean business – no, not profit-making – but have singular straightforward objectives like integrated customer services in a portal, or process automation, while some have ostensibly loftier ones like inclusivity, as in the case of the official website for Dudu Basantgarh, a remote subdivision in J&K, or transparency and visibility, as in the case of the State Excise Department of Maharashtra.  I was invited be part of the field visit of a whisky manufactory on the outskirts of Pune followed by a meeting with the commissioner of the state excise. Their efforts to bring effect a comprehensive transformation of the department is the first of its kind in the country. Right from procuring molasses to bottling, the excise department will now have greater visibility into all the stages of the manufacturing processes and the accounts thereof. State excise by nature is notorious for courting controversies, and a portal based system is definitely a vigilant measure to control any kind of skullduggery.  Similarly MeeSeva and Karnataka One (modeled on the super successful Bangalore One) from AP and Karnataka, Missing Child Tracking System Gujarat, Professional colleges entrance counseling metrics software by National Informatics Center (NIC)  are some of the other leading lights in the latest edition of the awards.


When you bear witness to a lot of such endeavors for progress in the country, you can’t help but take heart to the thought that the doomsday is still some time away. And trust me, there’s every chance that you’ll go home inspired. I take up extra curricular white papers and case studies for e-Governance consulting projects, though a larger propaganda mechanism would be in order today.

What’s your cause then? Or do you think an apocalypse is awaiting you round the corner?

City its people maketh

Where in India do you think you would do well and feel good about it?

One of this year’s urban thrillers, Powerplay by Parinda Joshi has its key protagonist, a high flying investment banker mulling over his ill luck in getting a companion for himself, having been on the lookout in all the cities he’s travelled to. However he deals with cognitive dissonance by attributing his failure to a variety of reasons.  His usual grouse against women from Bengaluru is that they are pretentious. Now, one would want to say it’s just a figment of our man’s imagination. I’d say, wish to.

Pop quiz. Quickly list out the three most famous epithets earned by Bengaluru.  Garden city, pub-city, hi-tech city? The latter two seem to be quite an inviting proposition for the uninitiated.  But then, who really is? The city has indeed witnessed a gold rush of sorts, with IT and BPO jobs opening up by the day. And so you have millions of ‘tech’ jobs, with millions of takers and a few more millions at the brink of landing that job. Bengaluru is no California, though the techies would have us believe that the comparison can’t be more appropriate. More on this in a bit. Revisiting the epithets, what’s the idea that you conjure up? A city with countless watering holes, which lets you party hard (but not so hard either), without a care in the world? And going by similar logic, a city that offers a varied choice of dope and women? The October arrest of the gang of six that included internationals , indicates a steady market for stuff. While flesh trade is not institutionalized unlike some other metros, that women are baited and more shockingly, harassed and assaulted is for everyone to feel. Yes, this is the Bengaluru that much of humanity is making a beeline for.

The reaction of the average Bangalore woman to accusations of pretentiousness would surely be militant and defensive.  ‘What the f*c* does he know about Bangalore?’ ‘We make the silicon valley of the east’ ‘We are the most cosmopolitan’  ‘Dude, get a life’ and so on. Mind you, the aforesaid reactions would most likely be in English and not in the vernacular. She’s a fraud analyst for a Canadian outfit, and has seen all of the country but on a map. She’s a mind counsellor who’s at wits end for having to contend with three other counsellors down the same lane she lives in. She’s a fashion designer and crafts clothing for the slim and sickly while praying for some magic cure to her obesity.  She’s a wedding planner, and insists that sangeet and mehndi are the way forward, even for the most conservative South Indian families.  Single and confident, she struts out of her flat that would be happier with some natural light, flags a rickshaw and lands up at the nearest mall. Levi’s jeans, tops from Marks and Spencers, Sketchers sneakers, you get the idea. She talks English, a very beautiful Indian one customized for the woman on the move. ‘He’s so cool and you know he’s a bike freak?’ ‘There’s this guy who comes up and says “you seem to be lost, can i drop you somewhere?” He’s sooo faake you know!’ Quiz them  on news and books, and pat comes ‘ooo, you’re the stud types haan?’

The men are those of substance. Yes, they do consume a lot of it. For the less adventurous, pub hopping with double bellies of suppressed barley water as in a cannon,  wading their fancy motorcycles through the sea of traffic, taking off on ‘long rides’ to Nandi hills, and screaming all over the social network may be the extent of living up the urban life. I used to think of it as a factor of age, but there appears to be this sense of vanity and supposedly urban character across generations.


One may wonder if all this is indeed peculiar to Bengaluru or a matter of urban Indian preferences today. Yes and no. As the city has progressed from the sleepy old town of yore to a bustling metropolis, there definitely has remained a residue of the classic past. Bangalore has been trying  valiantly to stand its own against the bigger metros like Delhi, Bombay and Chennai with its distinct scientific temperament, and a culture of moderation. Other than the Indian Institute of Science, you have the National Centre for Biological Sciences, the University of Agricultural Sciences and the very popular IIM and IIIT-B. With a truly cosmopolitan DNA, the city is a perennial favourite for international pop and rock acts, and has a vibrant literary circuit. So much of coolth associated with Bengaluru is a derivative of just these things, complemented by a pleasant weather. But a diehard Bangalorean would see that, this is in many ways the very undoing of a beautiful city. IT and ITeS opened the floodgates of employment to scores of hopefuls from across the country. For many of the millions who have now made the city their home, this breeziness attracted them from far. Once in, they mostly found it difficult to blend in with the suave and global outlook and started a subconscious movement of asserting their cultural identity. Here’s how you can see that the average Bangalorean of today wants to be associated with the western urban identity of the city but refuses to acknowledge the real ethos which Bengaluru stood for. And here’s how you  have people who appear more knowledgeable than they are, people who have heard about more music than they have heard to, and who speak English neither for love of the language nor life, but as an adhesive that holds their facilities from coming apart.

As the city has thus metamorphosed, there is little now that sets the city apart from its counterparts across the country. Trade and employment takes people to the farthest reaches of the world. Urban life is now pretty much indistinguishable from city to another. What was said of Bangalore may well be the case with Bombay or Delhi or Pune. It’s an India thing then. This is a veritable indicator of lifestyle priorities of the generation Y. As lifestyle takes precedence over living, there will be a lot more clamour to land a job that pays, be it brain-dead or morally compromising. Shallowness will prevail in the guise of depth, love will continue to go on sale, and many such seemingly unwelcome developments will take centre stage. Funnily enough, my neighbour will probably be ruing the state of the nation, as would his neighbour be too. But then, it is self above nation today. One can only spare time for a thought.