Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ice cream to thwart competition

Ice cream! Don’t we all love it? Have you ever used ice cream to thwart competition? Have you used this as a tool to lure fellow classmates away from your rivals in school?

I have never used this as a mechanism to eliminate foes. But, someone has!

My friend belongs to a family who runs a chain of restaurants, spread across Tamil Nadu and Kerala, catering to the in transit population. Their restaurants are located near the busy and popular bus stations because of the clientele, right in the face of hungry traveler but inconspicuous for a casual passerby.  These restaurants are not flashy. Yet, appealing to the hungry. There are no franchisees and the chains of hotels do not belong to a single registered company. The commonality is the family (or the bloodline) and being in the family, you can adopt the name while setting up a hotel in a new town.

In one of the towns blessed with their presence, a competitor started a new restaurant very near to my friend’s family establishment. Since the competitor had similar menu and also was catering to similar clientele, his family feared a substantial loss of customers. So, what did they do? They came up with a simple and effective way to undermine the competitor. For every sale above a certain amount, they gave out a free ice cream! The amount was set at such a level, you can easily achieve it by making barely minimum purchases.

Do I need to say more? The competitor shut down his shop in two months!

Picture Courtesy: http://www.orgs.bucknell.edu

Tags: Musings,Ice Cream,Competition

Monday, November 23, 2009

Celebrity Spotting

Over the weekend, I went to my home in Ernakulam. On the first day in the city, I saw three celebrities – may be not national celebrities but celebrities in this part of India.

Shobhana: I saw Shobhana as I was stepping inside the CIAL airport. She was standing by the door, waiting for someone. I did not recognize her at first. I noticed a long leg, a face hidden behind a big shades and the lips, in that order! Her famous lips gave her away. The shocker was her face – the part that was not hidden by the big shades! In movies, the uneven face is covered up in layers of makeup. Next time, you wonder why she has oodles of makeup on her face, remember her face is not smooth! She sounds like actress Sukumari! Imagine Shobhana devoid of the voice of dubbing queen, Bhagyalakshmi. Imagine Shobhana talking like Sukumari. Quiet a turn off?

Ajmal: Before you ask who, he played the younger of brother of Mohanlal in Madambi. He has also acted in successful Tamil films! He hails from Alwaye. I saw him in Padma theater watching the late nite show of Kurbaan on Saturday. He was doing the same thing that he excels in the movie – smiling and expressionless when not smiling! He was accompanied by his wife and his child! Yes, he is married.

Nadir Shah: The king of mimicry! I saw him in Padma theater when I came out of the movie. He has consistently put on weight after being famous! I have spotted him many times in Ernakulam in the past as he also hails from here! During his struggling days, he was accompanying someone or the other. Now, he is accompanied by someone or other.

“Three celebrities in a day. Although I lived in Chennai for an year, I was not able to see 3 celebrities in a day ever!” exclaimed my sister. I nodded. The right answer would have been what Mohanlal says in Baba Kalyani when talking about Kochi, “Kochi is getting hot!”. So is Ernakulam!

Picture Courtesy:http://www.kumbhamela.org, http://im.in.com

Tags: Musings,people,Shobhana,Ajmal,Nadir Shah,Ernakulam

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Don’t let him go!

Everyone is fighting a war against attrition. While some strive to lure new employees into their organization, the other tries to convince their “high risk” employees against a possible resignation. At times, the employees are miraculously persuaded to take back their resignation. Recently, a manager and a manger to manager were discussing about an “high risk” candidate.

Manager To Manager(MTM): So, did he put his papers?

Manager(M): Nope. Looks like there is one more round for him.

MTM: Really? Which one?

M: The “HR” round wherein the actual offering letter is handed over if he is selected.

MTM: Oh! *After a pause* Don’t let him go!

M: *gufffaw* But, they are good pay masters

MTM: Don’t let him go!

M: *puzzled* How? What do I have to offer him?

MTM: *irritated* You moron! Wake him early in the morning. Ask him to report before office hours. Make him stay till late in the night. Don’t let him go to meet the HR!

M: *wide eyed at the MTM’s brilliant and simple solution*

Picture Courtesy: http://static.guim.co.uk

Tags: Musings,Manager,Employee,Resignation,Risk

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fancy Dress

IMG00140 “Fancy Dress on Thursday”, said my wife in her characteristic style of stating the obvious! We were back from Pune after holidaying for almost 4 days during which we met our good friends, stuffed ourselves with home-made Maharashtrian food and squeezed in a Mahabaleshwar trip with a Dev Anand encounter thrown in as a bonus! Going by my wife’s statement, she sounded completely rejuvenated while I was still recuperating from the holiday! Does she want a costume drama at home? I smiled imagining it! As my imagination took flight, my lips curled upwards into a smile. But, as my lips curled upwards, my wife’s lips curled downwards to form a frown! Then I noticed it. She was holding up my daughter’s school diary in her hands. Then, the bubble broke!

All of a sudden, I was all ears like an good husband. My daughter’s pre-school is organizing a fancy dress event on Thursday. They had announced it on Friday. As my daughter had skipped school on Friday, we got to know it only on Monday evening. We have spent precious days holidaying in Pune, Now, we had hardly two days to plan and execute! In two days, we had to decide on the costume and also buy or rent it! The thought of accomplishing all this in two days was taking my blood pressure to new heights! To make matters simple, I thought of suggesting the Kerala traditional wear our daughter has. The all-knowing look on my wife’s face prevented me from voicing my brilliant idea out in the open for discussion.

On further thought, the easiest way out was dressing our daughter as a princess. Being a girl, there were a lot of flashy pink dresses readily available in her wardrobe. We needed only a head gear and a wand! We overlooked a minor detail here. A wand is associated with a witch and witches are not dressed up in pink! After procrastination, I visited a kid’s shop on the previous day of the event. Instead of asking for an headgear and wand, I asked them for a “fancy dress” costume. I was presented with variety of choices - Micky Mouse, Tiger, Elephant and Spiderman.

When a problem is solved, the solution brings to a light a hidden problem. What size should I choose? There was only one available size – 4 to 5 years size - for these costumes. My daughter is hardly 4. What if the size is too big? So, I looked around and found a mom-son duo. The son was as tall as my daughter. I enquired his age to the mom. She, with a sympathetic smile, told me her son’s age so that I could make an informed decision.

Finally I decided on the elephant costume! My daughter was excited to see the costume. She insisted on wearing it immediately. After wearing it, she started walking on her knees imitating an elephant. I felt relieved watching her. I thanked my stars that this happens only once an year! Compare this to my friend’s plight! He has three daughters!

Tags: Musings,Wife,Daughter

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Movie: Chaos

Detective Quentin Conners(Jason Statham) is suspended from duty when a mishap occurs during a hostage situation. Months later, three men led by Lorenz(Wesley Snipes) attack a bank to rob it. They hold around 40 people hostages. But, one of the security personnels manage to trip off the alarm. When the cops arrive on the scene, Lorenz asks for Conners specifically. As a result, Captain Martin Jenkins(Henry Czerny) reinstates Conners and also assigns Detective Shane Drekker(Ryan Phillippe) as his partner.

Conners arrive on the scene and talks to Lorenz. Then, he instructs the SWAT team to cut off the power supply and then break into the bank through the front door. But, before SWAT team breaks into the bank, Conners realizes they have been tricked. But, it is too late and there is an explosion resulting in harming the SWAT team members. In the ensuing confusion, all the hostages run outside the building and the three robbers escape in the crowd.

The Feds arrive on the scene and relate this robbery to a previous robbery at a different bank as both these banks contained the deposits of a Saudi prince. Meanwhile, Drekker listens carefully to the conversation between Conners and Lorenz. On running through the conversation several times, Drekker is able to deduce clues about the motives.

Drekker is convinced that Lorenz is a pseudonym and the message is related to the Chaos theory. According to the chaos theory, the events that seem random and chaotic at first instance may actually be linked together. So, how these are events linked together forms the rest of the story.

Tony Giglio directs this thriller. But, the suspense is predictable.

This is strictly for Jason Statham fans.

Language: English

Genre: Thriller

Rating: *

Picture Courtesy: Wikipedia

Tags: Movies,Jason Statham,Ryan Phillippe,Wesley Snipes,Henry Czerny,Tony Giglio,Thriller

Movie: 2 Days in Paris

Marion(Julie Delpy) and Jack(Adam Goldberg) are a couple who is stopping in Paris for two days before returning to their home in New York. Marion is a French citizen while Jack is an American citizen. Both of them have been in a relationship for a while now.

Jack is like a fish out of water in an alien city and he does not even know to converse in French fluently. Marion and Jack stays with Marion’s parents. Jack has trouble adjusting to the ways of her parents and also the Parisian way of life. The couple also runs into Marion’s ex-boyfriend, Manu. Jack is surprised that Marion has kept in touch with his ex-boyfriend.

Soon, Jack becomes suspicious about Marion. Initially, they were planning to spend two days in Paris to rekindle their love. But, will they be able to salvage their relationship? The answer forms the rest of the story.

Julie Delpy directs and acts in this movie. Julie unfolds the story through conversations. She uses the camera effectively to show the energetic life in Paris by shooting in constrictive spaces and also placing camera very close to the actors but without doing a lot of close-ups.

See this if you are interested in movies where the lead actors are constantly talking and moving.

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Rating: ***

Picture Courtesy: Yahoo! Movies

Tags: Movies,Julie Delpy,Adam Goldberg,Drama

Friday, November 13, 2009

Movie: Eastern Promises

A pregnant 14 year old girl, Tatiana is rushed into a hospital in London for delivery. At the hospital, she is attended by Anna Khitrova(Naomi Watts). Tatiana dies giving birth to a girl. While searching for clues about Tatiana, Anna stumbles upon her diary. The diary is written in Russian and she wants to translate it in order to find the relatives of Tatiana. Anna intends to contact Tatiana’s relatives for handing over the baby girl. At the her home, her mother Helen and her uncle Stefan, discourages her.

Tracking a business card placed inside the diary, she reaches a Russian restaurant owned by Semyon(Armin Mueller-Stahl). Listening to Anna, Semyon agrees to translate the diary. As he is busy with the Christmas celebrations, he asks Anna to visit him another day. Uneasy with Semyon, Anna does not disclose her address. Anna also meets Semyon’s son Kirill(Vincent Cassel) and also Kirill’s driver Nikolai(Viggo Mortensen). Unknown to Anna, Semyon is a boss in the Russian Mafia named vory v zakone and Nikolai is the undertaker, the one who disposes of the murdered victims.

Tatiana was an immigrant. Who brought her into the country? What happened to her? How are the lives of Semyon, Kirill, Nikolai and Anna connected? These questions are answered in the rest of the movie.

David Cronenberg directs this movie. He tells the story of crime and violence, a familiar theme for him. He slowly unravels the mystery and the characters are not what they seem to be at first sight. He intrigues the viewer with the motives behind each character and surprises the viewer all the time.

Armin Mueller-Stahl steals the show with his restrained yet different portrayal of a crime boss. Viggo Mortensen and Vincent Cassel are good.

The Indian version of the movie does not have the love making scene and also the fight in the bath! These have been edited out for the censor certification. Even without these scenes, this is a very violent movie. This is not recommended just after a dinner/lunch.

Watch it for the performances, a bit of mystery and also violent portrayal of the Russian mafia.

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Rating: ***

Picture Courtesy: Yahoo! Movies

Tags: Movies,Viggo Mortensen,Naomi Watts,Vincent Cassel,Armin Mueller-Stahl,David Cronenberg,Drama

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dev Anand

DevAnand For a man his age, I expected wrinkles on his face. Surprisingly, there was none. But his face was darker than in the movies. The skin on his face appeared stretched at places while sunken elsewhere. So, it resembled a semi-deflated football.

His eyes were tired. I stared deep into them searching for the twinkle. It was evident in the movies when he nods his head sideways for impressing beautiful women on screen. I didn’t find it. The eyes appeared unfocussed when he was talking and instructing with his hands. His hands moved slowly and effortlessly.

He carried a cane in his hand. The cane barely touched the ground. It reminded me of the old English teacher who taught me in Std IV. My English teacher used the cane for terrifying us although he never used it on us.

He was dressed in his trademark style. He wore a jacket on top of his shirt. The jacket was buttoned up at the bottom and opened at the top to reveal the knotted shawl hanging around his neck.

His head was adorned by his trademark cap. There were strands of hair sticking outside the cap. I strained my eyes to identify texture of the hair. I was curious if it was a wig. I could not spot the difference.

The crowd was busy clicking his pictures using their cameras – traditional, digital and mobile. He obliged everyone who was eager to be photographed with him. Very soon, his assistants interfered. They requested to clear the way for him. He nodded at the crowd before walking to the next location.

I watched him walk away. Now, the crowd had dispersed. Two aides walked by his side talking to him. He looked down at the earth and walked forward with the help of his long cane.

He was tall. But his shoulders stooped into an hunch. The weight of old age has changed his appearance while the grace remained intact.

That was Dev Anand, shooting his new movie at Mahabaleshwar.

But there are still mysteries. How does he find energy to do this? And most importantly, where does he find money to do this?

Tags: People,Dev Anand

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Book: The Jungle

Jurgis Rudkis, an young man, migrates to America from Lithuania in search of a better life along with his family. His family comprises of his father Antanas, his fiancée Ona, Ona’s stepmother Teta Elzbieta, Teta Elzbieta’s brother Jonas, Teta Elzbieta’s six children and Ona’s cousin Marija. They decide to settle down in the Meat Packing district of Chicago.

Initially, Jurgis is confident on working hard to keep the family happy and alive. Slowly, each member of the family is forced to take a job in order to survive. To add to the woes, accidents at work place lead to ill health of various family members. In order to survive, they have to force even the small children to work in inhumane conditions. Soon, their morality is at stake for survival.

Upton Sinclair is the author of this book. Sinclair tells the story of Jurgis, an young innocent Lithuanian who comes to America to pursue a dream. He gradually descends into hopelessness while trying to survive in a capitalist society. Sinclair writes the story from Jurgis’s perspective.

This is a protest novel, where in the protagonist faces hardships throughout the novel and finally, he comes across a key character who provides a solution. Sinclair is a proponent of socialism as evident in the concluding chapters. Sinclair uses the meat packing industry as a symbolism for American capitalism.

If you are a non-vegetarian, you will view the food differently after reading this novel. This is an intensive and emotional read. So, please do not pick this one for light reading!

Picture Courtesy: http://library.syr.edu

Tags: Books,Upton Sinclair

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Encountering the Breathalyzer

I have never seen one so far! Although I have been stopped by police after returning from a late movie or a marathon working session that lasted longer than the usual hours, those were routine checks. The policeman usually asked for the license, insurance or even on occasions ticket of the movie.

A week back, two of my friends had a brief but an high impact encounter with the breathalyzer. They were returning after a joyous meeting in one of the local waterholes when there were greeted by a policemen. After taking the breathalyzer test, they immediately came to know how hitech the police force in Bangalore were! The breathalyzer denoted both were driving under influence. A printer spitted out the charges and the fine while a case was registered in the court.

This encounter taught them the following valuable lessons

  1. Do not drink and drive! This is easiest solution. If you follow this rule, there are no worries and no fines!
  2. Do not drink heavily if you are driving! The breathalyzer has a threshold before it registers a case! If you do not cross this threshold, you are safe!
  3. Cheat the breathalyzer. Both my friends had to blow twice into the breathalyzer. The first time, they cheated the machine! The alcohol rates were shown as the below threshold. But when they blew for the second time under the careful observation of the policemen, the machine told the truth!
  4. Do not touch the breathalyzer! When everything else fails, this can come in handy! But how do you escape from the breathalyzer test? Any guesses?
  5. Flee! As soon as you see the police, flee the scene! One of my friends tried it. He did not stop when the policemen signaled him to. He was chased and subsequently caught by the cops. He was charged with reckless driving! Do you still want to try this?

Picture Courtesy: http://movementarian.com

Tags: Musings,Bangalore,Police,Breathalyzer

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bad Girl!

My wife, my sister and my brother-in-law brings in reference to good and bad in their persuasive conversations with my daughter and my niece . Even I do. But I really can’t recollect the date and time when I first started going that route! But, does my daughter realize the meaning of these words? Today, I came to know she does!

Her playschool starts at 9 am. When she started in the playschool in July, I was there at the door with her around 8:55 am. At 9:05 am, the teachers rushed into the building. They smiled sheepishly at the parents, who were waiting outside. Then, they opened the door and ushered in the children.

For the next couple of days, I still went early to the playschool giving a benefit of doubt to the teachers! When the same incident repeated consistently, I decided to change my routine instead of hoping for the situation to change. So, I started dropping my daughter to playschool after 9:15 am.

Today, after a very long time, we reached the playschool early at 8:55 am. It was déjà vu. The doors were closed and we waited outside. While waiting, my daughter initiated a conversation.

She: No school today? Can we go home?

Me: There is school today.

She: Then, why can’t we go in?

Me: We have to wait.

She: Why?

Me: Because, they have to open the door.

She: Monica ma’am bad girl. She is late for school!

Monica ma’am is my daughter’s teacher. I was smiling ear to ear. My daughter knows the difference between good and bad.

Picture Courtesy: http://i238.photobucket.com

Tags: Musings,Daughter,Good and Bad

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