Life during Lockdown : Super Sundays – Weekly Blog

The Covid-19 pandemic has literally brought life to a standstill. The simple things we took for granted , as part of our everyday life, are now suddenly  non-existential.  For example – maids, cooks and nannies, a lifeline for most working couples. The list can be endless – going to the gym for a workout, a stroll in a park, a movie at a cinema hall, a dinner at a restaurant, live sports, trekking.  It also makes one pause and realize the value of what we are missing and more importantly, the value of the people associated with our support system.

I was not born during the emergency of 1975, but when I spoke to a few people who have witnessed the Emergency, the current lockdown has quite a few similarities in terms of the external environment. There is mass restriction of people movement, only essential services are allowed to operate, hoarding of essential items etc. To me, the most humbling experience has been to appreciate the value of freedom. If a lockdown is making me feel so restless and confined, imagine the plight of our forefathers who had to endure this and much more trying to fight for a free country.

While everyone has the same twenty four hours, different people have reacted differently. On the one extreme, there are a few Whatsapp experts, who spend majority of their time,  forwarding/commenting about every link they receive (verified/unverified, true/fake) about the situation and unknowingly, continue to widen the net of creating a “socially depressing digital environment”. The talk is primarily about the increasing deaths, recession, job cuts, stock market crashes etc. Yes, it is important to be pragmatic and be in touch with current reality and be aware of what’s happening around you. But to make that the majority part of your daily social media conversations is altogether different. The boundaries between pessimism and pragmatism become blurred for this category of people.

On the other hand, there are quite a few passionate people with a bias for positive action. These folks are using this opportunity to try and find ways of helping out others in whatever way they can – mobilize resources, funds , set up helplines or spread awareness  , help create parallel supply chains so that the poorest of the poor can survive this crisis. Let’s call them the “Hustlers”.

In the middle, there is a large segment which doesn’t fit in either of the two scenarios and has been caught off-guard with this storm that they are just about managing their day-to-day life. Let’s call them the “Task-executors”. Daily chores, piled up work, kids at home, businesses to manage, teams to handle, ensure that these folks do not have much space to brood about the macro-economic scenario or actively participate in relief activities.

For a few, life is “Business as Usual”. These folks have made alternate arrangements to ensure that there is minimal disruption and the job continues to get done as usual.

There is another category of people, who are using this time to positively recharge themselves. I will call them “Being alternately productive”. For these folks, life traditionally has been hectic due to commutes and long working hours. Some of these folks are using this time to get back to activities/hobbies like cooking, reading, sketching.writing etc. Some are learning new skills online

A few belong to the “Just chill” category. They have converted the lockdown as a golden opportunity to binge watch some or the other shows , movies or play online games – anything that takes them away and transport them to a different universe.

Depending on where a majority of your time goes, you can self-categorize yourself into any of the above categories. A lot of people actually end up doing everything mentioned above in different proportions. Also, there will be overlaps amongst categories. Depending on your age, income, kind of work you do, whether you are an employee , employer or policy maker and your frame of mind, the anxiety, happiness and stress levels differ.

Keep in mind that these categories are applicable only to middle-class folks who are in a position to read this blog. There’s a significant majority of our population in the “struggle for survival” category.

There is another unique category of people – all those whose occupations come under the essential services category (directly or indirectly). For these “superheroes”, the job has to be done – pandemic or otherwise – because their actions have a bearing on the basic survival of the larger population. These are the healthcare professionals, people working in police, logistics, security, groceries, banks, etc. These superheroes don’t have the luxury of “Work from Home”. These folks are working for the greater good without a choice.

These are unprecedented times and little did anyone imagine that the entire world could be caught off-guard not by a world war but by an invisible virus. Amidst all this, one suddenly realizes that nature is a great leveller. The birds seem to be happy now. The rivers look cleaner. Air quality has improved across the world. Everything is not as gloomy as it seems.

Which category do you belong to? How are you keeping yourself occupied? How are you trying to stay positive? Let me know your thoughts. I oscillate between few of the categories and can see superheroes all around me.

Birthday Specials – Prince Augustin – Freaky Fridays – Weekly Blog

I first heard of Prince Augustin in my Group HR days at the Mahindra Group 8 years ago.  Prince would be taking over as the Executive Vice President – Group Human Resources in two months’ time then. In those days, Prince was the HR Head for the Automotive Sector in Mahindra. Prince’s mother had passed away then and we had all gone to attend the funeral in Chembur. I was amazed to see the entire Mahindra auto sector leadership fraternity in attendance for the funeral. There were about 150 senior leaders present for something which was not mandatory and more of a personal gesture. I was awestruck by the way this man had a personal connect with so many people. Outside of corporate success, this is the kind of respect one aspires for in a career. That was my first memory of Prince.

Before Prince joined Group HR, we were told that Prince was one of the most difficult bosses to work with and only a few people could survive under him. There was a distinct aura about him and also a sense of fear. Allen Sequeira, the earlier head of Group HR was retiring after having crafted a spectacular journey over more than 10 years and had set very high standards with respect to various initiatives and programs. Change management , in a diversified conglomerate like Mahindra, which is a mix of old school and young professionals is a complex challenge purely due to the diversity of various stakeholders involved. The baton had been passed over to Prince and some of the critical initiatives like the GMC program ( hiring students from India’s top B schools) , the leadership development program and talent management for senior leaders needed a booster dose and were in danger of decaying. It was a difficult job at hand and all of us in Group HR were nervous about the leadership style. We were told by a few that he was extremely aggressive, and we needed to be very careful. Some people even compared his style to Hitler.

But all those fears were proved wrong in our team’s first interaction. Prince was anything but Hitler-esque. Instead of meeting only the team leader, he called the entire team. And this was not a one-off. Prince never used to believe in the age-old hierarchical school of only meeting and interacting majorly with the direct reports. His level of detailing is amazing. He started getting into the details of the last T. Some of the questions he would ask us in our meetings would make us dumbfounded as to why such a senior leader should be so involved in execution. In my experience, he was the first leader at a very senior level who actually spoke about execution of initiatives and got involved as well. The other thing about Prince was he would always be curious to learn and if he didn’t know something, he would openly admit and get his answers from the team. This is in contrast with a leadership style where certain leaders want to put up a “know-it-all” façade of an image in front of their team.

I spent only 12 months working with Prince but the learnings under him will be carried for life. The best part about Prince is he is not afraid to call a spade a spade. I have seen a lot of HR leaders become politically diplomatic and side with the popular choice or the business head’s choice when it comes to opinions and decisions. Prince is anything but this. If he strongly believed in something basis his logical deduction and opinion, he would not hesitate to call it out vocally to the senior most of leaders. I have seen him get into tough discussions and voicing out his opinion during calls with the likes of Anand Mahindra and other senior leaders. These leaders are above him in hierarchy and designation, but Prince is someone who doesn’t mince words when he feels so and he wants to convey his opinion.  I guess this is why a lot of leaders at that level love Prince for his ability to be honest , straightforward and expressive nature.

Despite this ability to speak his mind, Prince has built an amazing relationship amongst his peers, superiors and subordinates. I have seen a lot of people in the corporate world who have high networking skills but also have a diplomacy and a selfish give and take attitude. Prince invests a lot in building relationships but never changes his core personality.  With Prince, you can be frank and honest and tell your problems and he will try to close the problem himself. He doesn’t believe in postponing or delegating problems. He would ask us –“who is to be called?” Instantly, he would pick up the phone, call the respective stakeholder, talk it out and move on. As a leader, if you can solve the problems of your sub-ordinates quickly, then the respect increases multi-fold. Prince was that go-to-man for all problems during my stint with him. He also would not tolerate mediocrity at work. If a presentation was shoddy, he would call it out and ask us to come back with a better output. Only if he was completely convinced, he would go ahead. Else, he would make us go through the iterations. Working with such a leader also improves your own quality of thinking and raises the bar.  There were quite a few presentations where we were blasted and would go out dejected. But Prince would always come out of the meeting and tell us not to take this to heart and reassure us.

Prince’s career has spanned over 35 years but he has worked only in a handful of companies. He has been with the Mahindra Group since 2003. The thing about great leaders is they are able to build great teams. Prince has been able to keep his long-serving P.A/E.A Kirsten motivated enough to work under him for more than a decade. Prince’s loyal team not only includes his P.As and E.As but also his driver. Whenever he goes to any event or conference, he ensures that his driver Irfan also gets to eat something. He doesn’t need to do this but such noble acts ensure the likes of Irfan also swear by him. He also believes in instant rewards for excellent work. I remember having worked extremely hard for pulling off the Mahindra War Room Grand Finale event and the very next day, he personally handed over a 2 nights/3 days Club Mahindra voucher inclusive of flight for 2 people and a handwritten note for putting all the hard work. I wasn’t expecting anything as there was no such policy but Prince wanted to ensure that we were instantly gratified for our hard work. He did not care about looking at any budget or policy. He just wished well. People everywhere work hard, but very few people get instant appreciation and recognition. Prince was truly princely when it came to rewards and recognition.

Prince also is a gem of a person at heart, and he believes that people should prosper in their careers. Unlike many, he does not believe in holding resources close to him forever. He ensures that people who have worked under him get roles which they like. It was because of his push that I moved from HR to Sales, a drastically different career choice, but he convinced a lot of senior folks about my potential. Later, in 6 months’ time, when I thought I will quit sales, he backed me urging me to see a full year’s cycle and if required, he said he would talk to the Zonal Manager to ensure that I succeed. That was his way of giving confidence to people. I took his advice and by God’s grace, there has been no looking back. My classmate Udit, who worked as his E.A, moved to China after two years. Prince was selfless in more ways than one as he has fought for a lot of people, if he felt he was right.

After moving to Sales, I wasn’t in very regular touch with him but would try to consult him whenever things were not going ok. I invited him to my wedding. He could not make it but he sent a greeting card, a note and a cheque of a substantial amount. I wasn’t expecting this. He had nothing to do with me but still such genuinely selfless acts ensure you connect with a person at a much deeper level.

A work-o-holic who jokes that “work is life, life is work and hence they balance out” , Prince is lucky to have an understanding wife like Carol who has stood by him by a rock and allowed to him to become a HR Rockstar. He has practiced what he preaches “do the things that help you visibly differentiate yourself. Have an abundance mindset, not a scarcely competitive mindset. The world has place for everyone.” No wonder that his alma mater, SIBM Pune, conferred upon him the “Alumnus of the year” in 2011 and “ Lifetime Achievement Award for Contribution to HR”.

In a corporate world dominated by servility, self-centered, politically correct “yes-ministers”, Dr. Prince Augustin stands tall as a selfless, straight-speaking , fearless HR stalwart . Prince not only by name, but by heart and deeds.

Happy Birthday Prince.

May you continue to inspire people around you. Fortunate to have worked with you.

Jai Hind

Birthday Specials – Rahul Subramanian

I am grateful to God that I know one celebrity as a friend before he became one. My first memory of Rahul Subramanian was at IMT Ghaziabad in June 2011 where me ( in my role as Group HR Campus Connect Manager) and him ( IMT Ghaziabad campus stud alumni who had bagged a Pre-Placement Offer) spoke for about 20 minutes about why the students should join our organization. Since then, our lives have taken different turns. In those days, Rahul was the “sharaarati ladka” of our batch of campus recruits. He used to crack a lot of “sasta” jokes and play TT late until midnight. He also had an uncanny knack of “mimicking” company folks and in the process entertaining us.

Rahul spent the first two of his corporate career in Bangalore and was trying hard to get a transfer to Mumbai , his hometown. He was loved by his Bangalore bosses and initially they were reluctant to leave him. But after two years, Rahul’s wish of getting transferred got fulfilled and he landed up with a role in the Corporate Brand Council as part of the Group Strategy Office. After completing 2 years in our first roles, like every Management Trainee, we were a confused lot trying to find meaning in our lives. We had a lot of heart-to-heart conversations regarding the various corporate career options available. Rahul in those days had complete clarity that he loved marketing and wouldn’t want to do any other thing. He did not care about theories that a sales stint was essential for being a successful marketer. For him, he wanted to do a job he loved and he advised me the same thing – do what you love and it will take you places. I was amazed by his simplicity of thinking and the fact that he did not bother too much about the so-called career experts. The role offered to him was not the most glamorous role in the organization (there were far more creamy roles like Brand Manager of one of the iconic powerbrands) but Rahul never cribbed about what he didn’t have. He had got a marketing role and he would do a good job at it. Rahul’s simplicity of thoughts was one of the factors which convinced me to take a plunge from HR to Sales as I wanted to do it irrespective of what others thought. After Rahul moved to Mumbai, our paths didn’t cross much. Then one day, I met Rahul and heard him drop a bomb-shell. Rahul told me had got tired of working in the corporate world and he was moving out to pursue his dream of being a stand-up comedian.

Rahul had already started doing a few shows in a few comedy clubs in Mumbai and within a few months, I guess he had assessed that this was what he was good at and he loved doing it. Rahul’s big break came when he partnered with Kumar Varun and the duo’s show “ Random Chikibum ” deservedly won the best series award in a YouTube competition with the highest number of views. Rahul was our own Gully Boy – albeit a B school Gully Boy. Naam banta hai risk sey and Rahul had showed it to the world that if you believe in something and pursue it unwaveringly, destiny will be forced to look at you with a different lens. After the YouTube victory, there was no stopping Rahul and today, Rahul makes every Indian proud when his performances are loved by people in cities like Melbourne and L.A. Rahul has now moved to a global stage. Passion and self-belief can take you places and there is no better real-life example than Rahul.

While success seems easy on the outside, there is a lot of hard work behind the scenes which not many people can comprehend. The difference between the also-rans and the greats is that the greats keep working on the simple things day in and day out. A profession like stand-up comedy is not as easy as it looks. To stand out from the crowd, one needs to keep coming up with new scripts every alternate day and keep innovating. While critics of stand-up may argue that being cynical and sarcastic is not the way to go, what they fail to notice is that doing that and yet bringing smiles on people’s faces consistently is no mean feat. Rahul’s hilarious takes on HR, IT, Bangalore traffic and his namesake RaGa are unforgettable. Rahul’s immense respect for ethics is what makes him stand-out.

Behind every successful man is a woman and a supportive family. I think the biggest support for Rahul is his wife Sonica , who has allowed him to pursue his passion without any filters. A profession like stand-up requires huge sacrifices on the family front – you need to travel constantly, most weekends are reserved for shows away from the family and it takes exceptional maturity for a woman to accept all this as part of the game for the sake of seeing her loved one be happy. Matches are made in heaven and both these gentle souls deserve each other. Rahul has also inspired people like me to take a shot and doing the things we like instead of maintaining the status quo.

Rahul’s inspiring success story of a middle -class Tam-Brahm boy leaving  a highly paying corporate job to pursue his passion and making it big without any influence or backdoor entry has made me pick up the pen and start writing my first book. The best part about Rahul is that despite being such a big star in the stand-up world, Rahul continues to remain in touch with all of us pld friends and asks us to come for his shows, see his videos. He doesn’t need to do this now as his name commands a premium but for us, he’s always been the Rahul we knew. He hasn’t changed a bit. I was overjoyed when he accepted my request to come for my upcoming book launch. He could have easily turned down such a request citing busy schedules etc, but Rahul will always be the old Rahul – simple, humble, cheerful , cheeky and happy-go-lucky TamBram boy.

Rahul Subramanian – Happy Birthday. May you continue to fly high and achieve all your dreams. Your journey has been an inspiration and I am sure will inspire loads of people to follow their passion and strike it big. Whenever somebody asks me if I know any celebrity at a non-superficial level, my answer will be “I know Rahul. Naam toh sunah hi hoga 😊”

Jai Hind

Zuckerberg ki Aulaat : Freaky Fridays – Weekly Blog

Last week, my photographer friend had posted a picture of a train on Instagram and asked a question “Are train journeys passe now? What are your views?” I loved the picture, so I clicked the like button and shared my thoughts. My friend is an Instagram celebrity with more than 20k followers. Little did I realize that I had made the biggest mistake of my life by commenting. Because I liked and commented on the thread, I got a notification on my mobile every time some random person liked or commented on the photo. XYZ says “great click” ABC – “awesome click” JFK -” well done chick” SRK – “screw you witch” The list was endless. The sheer volume of her fan base meant that every picture of hers gets at least 6k likes and 1k comments. I got notified on my mobile 1347 times in the next week for a single comment. Why did I have to go through this torture?

As it is, there are a zillion notifications I get on FB. When someone posts a pic of a marriage, child birth, vacation etc I try hard to resist my temptation not to comment on the pic. In case the pic has gone viral, the same story repeats. FB is worse than Insta. Every comment by everyone is also sent as an email notification. Which means daily I get about 690 notification emails only for FB. Waah Zuckerberg waah. Hume aur koi kaam dhandha nahi hai na. First these emails, then the credit card emails, then the “Hey Hari, this is Trisha…Will you marry me” emails, then the Amazon Flipkart “Great Indian Slapping Festival emails “. It’s literally a slap on my face as the sale happens every month. What’s so great and what’s so Indian about these monthly Big Billion Days? A Billion get fooled every month. The price is marked up. We think we are getting 60% discount and buy up stuff every month. Even if you unsubscribe, these Big Billion days continue to stalk you.

The misery doesn’t end here. The God of small things, Twitter is next. I have posted my last tweet 4 years ago, when I joined Twitter “#HelloWorld”. That was enough. Every day, I get an email “Hari, we are missing you on Twitter” Same here – I miss you my love. Without you, my life is empty Twittu. Sometimes, there’s an active-passive voice innovation “Hari, you are missing us on Twitter”. I continued to ignore until one day Twitter really spiked my curiosity and sent an email “Hey Hari, here’s what people are saying about #Raga”. The first time, Raga was trolled on Twitter, it was funny. But now, even this has become irritatingly predictable as he always ends up becoming a joke. Nowadays, its “Hey Hari, you are missing #Chowkidaar, #Hawaldaar, #Wafaadar, #Arey-O-Sardar.” Why do I have to be sent emails on every hashtag? Unlike FB or Insta, where notifications are sent in the threads you have commented, Twitter is a free for all whorehouse. Irrespective of whether you have a Twitter account or not, you keep getting notifications. The challenge with all this daily spam is that the genuinely important mails get missed. Thankfully, my FB has been linked to my old yahoo account therefore all my FB activity emails go there and I don’t use that email anymore. Else, add another 250 emails per day.

I wish there was a campaign “#me-chu” in protest of all this social media spam. Everyone who has been a chu and become a victim of this should just tag #me-chu. I want to garner 1 billion online petitions and send it to Zuckerberg and Twitterberg to do something about this online harassment. Ban gaye pagle. Rula bhi diya. Abh bacha kya Ghanta!!

The harassment goes to a different level on Instagram. I keep posting inspirational quotes daily on my Insta handle. Daily a few random unknown people follow me. From about 120 followers, my fan base went to about 250 followers in about 60 days. I was happy. I started following back many of these random folks as a token of gratitude. After 30 days, I suddenly realize that my followers have gone down to 220. Then, I got to know the latest Insta-con game “First they follow you, You follow them back, Then they unfollow you, Aur Tum ban gaye chu.. “ I have sent nasty messages like “Thanks for the follow. Bigger thanks for the unfollow. Balls to you” to a few of them. I wish Insta published a notification every time somebody unfollowed us.

The last type of online harassment is the random discussions on politics and cricket controversies. Friends go to the extent of beating each other trying to take sides for Namo and Raga, Ashwin and Butler, Kejriwal and Didi-bawaal. Why get animated on social media? The best part is none of these opinions are going to make an iota of impact on the concerned individuals. People think they are change agents by doing this. Chillar hai nahi jeb mey, change agent banne chale. Bas karo yaar.

Whatsapp is the icing on the cake. Thanks to Whatsapp group birthday wishes, a birthday wish has become a formality. “Happy birthday bro raised to the power of 257. Thanks all for your bland wishes” Something personal and treasured like a Birthday, has been realized to a message. Once, my colleague in office was wished Happy Birthday by about 50 people in the office Whatsapp group. Poor guy in the afternoon sent a message in the same group “Folks it’s not my birthday. Its my 3 year work anniversary”. I thought people would be sane enough and stop wishing him. In the evening, one joker who I guess was too lazy to read the barrage of messages typed “Happy birthday mate”. Twenty jokers again followed. Hum nahi sudhrenge!!

If there’s any one on the tech or marketing side in these social media organizations, below is my humble and sincere request to them

“Aey mere Zuckerberg ki aulaat

Laga dimag technology ke saath

Irritating features sey mat badha spam

Action nahi logey to hoga social traffic jam

Feature banana koi badhi baat nahi

Users sey feedback lena toh sahi

Aur karna bandh sabki dimaag ka dahi

Sun ley mere dil ki baat

Bandh kar harassment mere saath

Aey mere Zuckerberg ki aulaat

Aey mere Zuckerberg ki aulaat”

Jai Hind

La-La-Land votes for Pappu: Super Sundays – weekly blog

Disclaimer: The below blog is a work of imagination and any reference to any real-world person/organization/entity/place  is purely coincidental. Not to be taken seriously and not meant to hurt anyone’s sentiments.

______________________________________________________________________________

Yesterday, in a historic national election, La-La-Land unanimously voted for Pappu. Excerpts from his interview with a news reporter from The Rhymes of India  – Curry Subramanian.

Curry: “Pappu ji, congratulations on a landslide victory. What is your first message to the nation?”

Pappu: “Thank you. The nation has given a clear mandate. I am humbled. I am also grateful to my mother for everything. Without her support , this could not have been possible.”

Curry: “What is your first focus area of work?”

Pappu: “Women empowerment!”

Curry: “Second focus area?”

Pappu: “Women empowerment!!”

Curry: “Sir?? Second focus area??”

Pappu takes out a paper from his pocket, fumbles for a second- “ I am sorry I thought you wanted me to repeat it”. He looks at the paper – “Reducing farmer suicides and improving their quality of life”

Curry: “Very noble thought Pappu ji. What are some of the initiatives which your Government is planning to take in this regard?”

Pappu again looks at his paper.. thinks for a minute. Curry hears him muttering “Yeh toh syllabus key baahar hai!!” .Pappu gathers himself back and says “I am not in a position to divulge confidential details.  Finance Minister and Home Minister are working on this.”

Curry: “Why should the home minister work on farmer suicides? Isn’t it the job of Ministry of Rural Development”?

Pappu: “Yes, yes… you are right. I am going to give both these portfolios to the Home Minister.. hence you know….”

Curry: “We saw two separate ministers taking oath for these two departments!! Are there going to be any further changes?”

Pappu : “No no.. the Rural minister just had a collapse, which many of you are not aware. Hence, I meant Home Minister. In fact, as we speak, I am in touch with his team over Whatsapp. Give me  a second ..”

Curry overlooks Pappu typing  – “Mom, what the hell is happening? This jerk is asking me uncomfortable questions. You never helped me memorize the answers to these….  In the next 10 minutes, either you come here or you fire this guy. Aur haan… Rural Minister ko collapse karwa do.. I have just told that he has collapsed.”

Pappu: “Curry ji, we need to wrap this interview quickly. The Rural Affairs Minister is in ICU and I need to see him immediately. I can take only a couple of questions.”

Curry: “Sure. Pappu ji, who inspires you and why?’

Pappu : “ Mr. Grump – the President of the DSA (Divided States of Hagey-rica). I like his ideas. I also want to build a wall around the nation’s border. The wall will be longer than the Great Wall of Hyena. Because of the wall issue, the Divided States had a Government shutdown. Building a wall here will ensure a full shutdown. Right now, we operate at 50% shutdown as half the days are lost due to strikes/walkouts. If we do a full shutdown, which will happen if I build a wall, then everyone can work peacefully without disturbance”.

Curry: “Pappu ji, your views on the Falafel deal ?”

Pappu:” We have discussed Falafel issues at length. No more Falafel discussion”

Curry:“Pappu ji.. since you had won the election on the Falafel deal issue, what next on this?”

Pappu : “ Correction !!!  The Falafel deal was not the only issue with the previous Government. It was a disaster on all fronts. I had a problem with everything. The previous leader was only a good poet, a very good marketer. He was good at filling containers with gas. Gas, Gas and Gas. All his policies were flawed. He tried to take certain bold moves but the bold cannot survive in this nation. Only the beautiful can survive. That’s why the TV series Bold & Beautiful didn’t do well in India !!!

The previous leader screwed the work-life balance of the bureaucrats. He insisted on Powerpoint presentations during Department reviews. He equated  bureaucrats to MBAs. MBAs can kill by powerpoint- bureaucrats can’t. Like a Sales Head.. Humesha number ka hi baat karta tha…. He was an inefficient Marketeer, who only gave fancy names to new initiatives with minimum execution and zero results… This nation likes status quo which is what I am going to do in the next 5 years… Maintain status quo… Do nothing !! Also, since the bureaucrats were busy working for last 5 years, I am going to give them a 1 year break. ..one last question please”

Pappu frantically sends another sms – “Mom, I told you I know nothing about the Falafel deal but still this joker keeps probing me. Please ensure he loses his job and gets deported !”

Curry:”Pappu ji, your final words for today”.

Pappu takes out another piece of paper : “ I want to dedicate this poem to the nation. Mom has written for me –

Pappu ki gadi tez hai, Pappu kudiyon mein craze hai.

Pappu ki aankein light blue….Pappu dikhta  angrezzz hai

Falafel haathon mein… Perfume Gussey wala…

Per Pappu cant dance saala..

……..

……..

Mitron ….. Khao aur Khaane Do….

Jai Hind”

Japan’s Iconic Commode: Freaky Fridays – Weekly Blog

About a year ago, last April,7 of us went on a memorable 7 day family trip to Japan. Japan is an enigma and a must-see for travel enthusiasts. An extremely kid friendly country with huge parks and family size toilet rooms in every nook and corner of the country. Train is the cheapest mode of transport (cheap means 18,000 rupees for a one-week Japan Rail Pass !!!). The rail stations resemble malls, many having a Louis Vitton or a Gucci store. Experience Sumo wrestling live , gobble up Sushi and miso soup, stare at the Shin-juku crossing where lakhs of people cross a zebra-crossing in a minute, catch the famed Cherry blossoms in March and whiz from Tokyo to Kyoto in the famed Shinkansen ( bullet trains with speeds touching 320 km/hr). Further ahead from Kyoto is the inspirational city of Hiroshima. Hiroshima can give any world city a run for its money in terms of world-class infrastructure. As you travel around , amazed by its beauty, you will forget that this city had an atom bomb dropped … until you see the Genbaku Dome ( one of the few buildings that was left standing near ground zero). Here, you will realize why killing innocent civilians in the name of war is so grossly unfair on the affected families. The way they have quickly re-built this city makes you salute every Japanese you come across…

Japan and Germany have been most devastated by the World War 2, but the way they have leveraged technology to become the world leaders in electronics and automobiles is truly inspirational. The world’s best electronic brands – Sony, Canon, Toshiba.. along with household automobile names – Toyota, Honda, Mitsubishi all have been built after World War 2. Ruthless focus and amazing execution excellence!! Same goes with Germany – BMW, Volkswagen, Audi, SAP, Daimler, Siemens, Adidas …

However, all this technological advancement has come at a cost for the Japanese. Most Japanese are intense work-a-holics. This explains high suicide rates and an ageing population. I felt that many people here do not have time for childbirth. Therefore, Japan has a very strong family policy with child benefits. Japan also houses “cat cafes”- where people pay money and talk to cats… Yes you heard it right !!! People pour their daily lives to cats. They talk to cats as if they are talking to children.. Have you heard about this in any other country??

The Japanese are very devout by nature. All through the year, you will find the “Inaris ” filled with devotees. This part of their culture resembles India. The fox is highly revered. You see a lot of threads tied on trees-a prayer, a hope,a feeling of gratitude for a fulfilled wish..

My best memory of Japan, which will remain forever , is the Japanese commode. The Japanese commode symbolizes technological prowess.The commode has various push-buttons, each having a different functionality. My first visit to the commode was awe-inspiring. For 20 minutes, I was just zapped by the push-buttons. I tried flirting with the various push-buttons. On pressing one button, cold water started gushing out. It was quite cold in April, so in panic I pressed the next button. The water suddenly turned hot; red-hot that my skin started to burn.

In panic, I pressed the knob next to the buttons. I turned it clockwise and lo.. the water’s temperature started to change. Temperature control , like an AC; only difference is the AC is used to control the temperature of a room.. in this case the knob controls the temperature of your bum. Zapped!!!

I was looking for the sprinkler but I couldn’t find one; I hate tissue paper and I was cursing myself… until I saw two more buttons!!!

These buttons were the icing on the cake. For the first time in my life, I have compared a commode to a cake !! That’s the experience it gave me. I pressed one button and. the water hit my buttocks from the sides. I was impressed. But wait.. I pressed the second and.. Boom Boom Boom… the water gushed out from nowhere and hit my buttocks from underneath! The Japanese have used amazing technology to eliminate use of both sprinkler and  tissue paper. Pure Genius !!!

And this commode was not in a 5 star hotel. It was in a homestay in the suburbs. I saw this commode everywhere in Japan- in a train, mall, park, 5 star hotel, ferry..

The Americans and Europeans should take a leaf out of the Japanese book. These so-called innovation hubs still use tissue paper, despite knowing that 70% of the earth is water and it depletes less quickly than trees. Cannot fathom why they are stuck in the Old Stone Age and still use tissue paper when we have the amazing Japanese sprinkler-free technology. After the Japan visit, I stopped staying in all “Park” brand hotels in India as they don’t have sprinklers. I hope an Indian brand of hotels sets shop in US, Europe and uses this technology as a USP to woo guests.

If the legendary Raj Kapoor was sitting in place of me in the iconic Japanese commode last April, he would be singing..

“Mera Commode Hai Japani..Yeh Patlun English-taani,

Meri Lal TV Sony.. Phir bhi Dil hai Hindustani….”

Jai Hind

Kavi Shastri vs Dhanmohan Singh : Wicked Wednesdays – weekly blog

Disclaimer: The below blog is a work of imagination and any reference to any real-world person/organization/entity is purely coincidental. Not to be taken seriously and not meant to hurt anyone’s sentiments.

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Centuries ago, in La-La-Land, two legends, a poet – Kavi Shastri, and a statesman – Dhanmohan Singh, won the hearts of their nation.

Kavi cemented his place in cricket history as one of the great all-rounders of his times. He became a famous cricket poet post his playing days. In his last avatar, he coached the national cricket team. He had taken over this role in difficult times as his predecessor AK-47 had huge differences of opinion with then captain Irate Bohli. Kavi had a huge responsibility on his ferociously broad shoulders which he handled well.

Dhanmohan earned his name by leading economic reforms for his country post liberalization. He was an economist par excellence. Under his stewardship, La-La-Land regained its rightful place as one of the Chamakta Taaras of the world. Dhanmohan was liked by one and all for his financial acumen and was entrusted the responsibility of leading the nation. He led the nation for 10 years. Though he officially was the leader, there were strong rumours that he was just a rubber stamp in the hands of a lady – Ammonia Gandhi.

A journalist by the name Curry Subramanian stalked them all through their life and decided to compare these legends.

Both Kavi and Dhanmohan never used to say “No” to their respective masters – Bohli and Ammonia. They acted like loyal Labradors. They did not pee unless their masters permitted them to. Their loyalty to their masters was so strong that their spouses got jealous and hired private detectives to check for infidelity. Their marriages almost collapsed due to this…

Favorite TV series –“Yes Minister”

Favorite song – “Aey Malik tere bande hum…”

Only 2 rules in life:

  1. Never take a decision without approval from your boss.
  2. When in doubt, follow rule 1.

Favorite rap lyrics – “ Hum dono hai alag alag… hum dono hai juda juda…Oh-ho-ho-ho….Main anadi ..mera boss khiladi”’

Favorite movie dialogue – “Rishtey mey aap humare baap lagte hain… Aap ho shahenshah… aur hum pussycat”

Favorite hobby – puppet shows

Favorite drink – Teagram’s Royal Tag… Its your Life… Make it Large*

*subject to boss’ approval

Kavi and Dhanmohan also featured as a case study in La-La-Land’s best B school – Pee Pee M Meh-meh-dabad. The brainy geeks there analyzed their decision-making styles in great detail and concluded that they followed a very unique approach – MBRC (Management by Remote Control). The students there took pride in masturbating their way out of B school by quoting case studies in every possible corporate discussion. Even if Ammonia G’s dog pooped, then Pee Pee M Meh-meh-dabad would turn this episode into a case study and analyze the process-oriented approach used by Ammonia in cleaning the dog’s poop.

Kavi and Dhanmohan had quite a few differences…

Kavi liked minimal clothing. He always used to hang around in his boxers, even during media interactions. He was a True Rangeela. In each media interaction, the color of his boxers varied. Dhanmohan, on the other hand, was usually wrapped from head to toe and could only afford a single white kurta with a buttoned coat. Rarely have the countrymen seen him in a different attire.

Kavi spoke a lot and his recitals as a cricket poet became the stuff of legend. Once, while reciting poems during the final of a close cricket match, Kavi yelled “Slashed…..slashed hard”. The recital was so brutal that all the folks listening on TV were immediately rushed to the nearest hospital. Tons of blood had oozed out from their ears. Kavi was temporarily banned from reciting. “When you slash,..slash hard” became a legendary corporate success mantra. In Hindi, it translated to “ Kaatna hai kisi ka…toh acche sey kaato. #Cutgaya”.

Dhanmohan rarely spoke. His continued silence at times used to become so unnerving that people thought he had lost his voice. “Speech is silver, silence is gold” was his mantra , unlike Kavi  who believed that “his voice” was mightier than both “the pen and the sword”.

Kavi was allegedly a serial womanizer. Dhanmohan was rumored to have spoken to only one woman, apart from his wife, all his life.

Kavi had the most obvious responses to any question asked. Once, with 5 overs left in a close match, Kavi was asked by the media to predict the outcome. Kavi’s obviously obvious lines “The match is too close to call. All 3 results are possible” made it to the Wall of Shame.

Dhanmohan had a weird and standard response to any question asked. As the leader of the nation, he was once asked his opinion on the nuclear deal. His response – “ Iska uttar sirf Ammonia G hi bata sakte hain. I am not allowed to speak on this” stunned the nation. This inspired Warnab Go-Tommy to start a successful show – “ The Nation Wants to Know”…..

Curry Subramanian felt there was some divine connection between Kavi and Dhanmohan. He stalked them till their grave. At the graveyard, he couldn’t believe his eyes. On both their graves – the following cryptic words were engraved …

“Bohli kya, Ammonia kya…..  Sab Katputli hain.. Bhagwaan key katputli…

Jab Tak hai Jaan… Hum hain desh ki shaan… Katputli hai naam…

Jai Hind”