Saturday, October 30, 2010

Unlimited drinks and starters @ Radha Regent, Bengaluru



“Unlimited Indian drinks and starters @ 550 onwards”, screamed the poster inside Radha Regent. I have been here once. It was for a lunch buffet. If you work for any of the companies adjacent to this hotel, then you are most likely to get a discount for the buffet. So, the price wasn’t high. At the same time, the spread wasn’t great! But, the ambience made up for it.

This time, my friends were staying here. We were evaluating our options for the evening. We could go out to a local bar or drink in the room with food delivered by room service when the poster caught our attention. The hotel staff explained the offer to us. The offer is valid for 2 hours. Unlike the happy hours adopted by many restaurants, here the happy hours aka the 2 hours start after you have placed your first order! There are additional attractions. You can sit near the poolside. Two artists from Romania will be performing from 7 pm. All this sounded enticing enough to zero on the combination of pool, live band and alcohol.

After walking into the bar, we realized two things. Although the lobby was empty, the scene in the bar was different. It was crowded! The tables near the pool were occupied. The pool was a disappointment. It resembled a gigantic water tank built above the ground. The band was already performing. They were facing the crowd by the pool side. There were tables directly behind the artists. We sat there. Then the waiter showed us our options - Rs 550 for unlimited Indian liquors and unlimited starters, Rs 700 for unlimited Indian premium liquors and unlimited starters and Rs 900 for unlimited Scotch and unlimited starters. For a beer aficionado, there are only two options – either the Rs 700 package or the Rs 900 package!

We chose Rs 700 package! As there was a shortage for man power, I waited for a while after finishing my first drink! I had to request the waiter to take a stock of the situation more often. The starters turned out to be another disappointment. The starters depended on the chef’s choice. We do not get to choose. There will be a vegetarian and a non vegetarian entree. All this sounded reasonable. But, the chef’s choice for the non vegetarian entree was badly cooked greasy chicken wings! The most unfortunate part was the adamant nature of the chef. Once the chef made up his mind, he did not change the choice for the rest of the day!

Picture Courtesy: http://www.radhahotels.com


View Larger Map

Tags: Restaurants,Bangalore,Travel,Radha Regent,Unlimited

Movie Review: Four Friends



Amir(Jayasurya) earns his living by scalping movie tickets and using muscle power for anyone with the right price. On one such occasion, he is involved in minor scuffle with Soorya(Kunchacko Boban). Soorya is seeing a girl in his college and her brother does not approve of this relationship. So, her brother pays Amir to roughen up Soorya. After being attacked, Soorya is throw off balance and hits the ground. Then, his nose starts bleeding. When the bleeding does not stop later during the day, Soorya’s parents are worried. When they consult the doctor, Soorya is referred to Dr Nandakumar(K B Ganeshkumar). When Soorya is diagnosed, Nandakumar identifies blood cancer.

Soorya is admitted into Dr Nandakumar’s hospital. In the hospital, he comes across Gouri(Meera Jasmine). She is also a cancer patient who harbors hatred towards the world. At an early age, Gouri lost her mother. Her step mother and step brother have always ill treated her with her father as a helpless bystander. Soorya also meets Amir in the hospital. Amir is also a cancer patient. Very soon, Roy(Jayaram), another cancer patient, is also admitted in the hospital. Roy, a multimillionaire, has a different outlook of life. Slowly, Roy forges a bond between Amir, Soorya, Gowri and himself. They decide to live life to the fullest. The rest of the movie shows the changes in their life.

Saji Surendran directs this movie which is inspired by “The Bucket List”. The movie fails to impress as it ineffectively focuses on the melodrama and reduces the movie to a badly made stage drama. The only thrilling moment in the movie is Kamal Hassan who appears as himself during the interval and stays onscreen after the interval for a very brief time. The background music is too loud even though there are glimpses of promise. The comedy track by Salimkumar and Suraj Venjaramoodu evoke giggles but fails to give a hearty laugh.

None of the actors have risen above the script to deliver a great performance. There is only one sequence when the lead actors perform very well. That is in the presence of Kamal Hassan. The long speech by Kamal Hassan, urging the protagonists to fight against cancer is inspiring. It inspires because the speech contains snippets from his real life – about Satyan, Srividya and Gouthami. Also, Kamal dramatically pauses his sentences, eagerly looks for affirmation from the other actors, modulates his voice in his characteristic style and effectively plays with his eyes and eyebrows. All this topped with his flawed Malayalam makes the sequence enjoyable.

There is nothing in this other than Kamal Hassan. Watch the “Kamal” sequence in youtube and avoid this movie.

Language: Malayalam

Genre: Drama

Rating: *

Picture Courtesy: http://www.fourfriendsmovie.com

Tags: Movies,Jayaram,Kunchacko Boban,Jayasurya,Meera Jasmine,Kamal Hassan,Saji Surendran,Drama

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Broadband @ home



“We are changing the policy of broadband at home. Going forward, the broadband bills for home will not be reimbursed.”, so announced the “big guy” at the all-hands meetings.

Any reimbursement is a sensitive subject. So, there were concerns which were voiced immediately.

Using the broadband at home is beneficial for the company too. Then why are you taking away the benefit?”. This was the general concern.

The big guy responded. “Using broadband, you are accomplishing your work too. It is a convenience. Your computer consumes power! Tomorrow, you might want the company to share your electricity bill.”

He continued. “While working, you get a coffee during the break for the relaxing your nerves. Tomorrow, you might want the company to pay for the coffee because this happened while you were working!”.

Finally, he concluded. “Somewhere, a line has to be drawn. So, we are drawing a line. The broadband connection is very cheap and we pay our employees well to afford a broadband connection.”

With the above concluding argument, the matter was put to rest!

Only big guys can talk like this and get away too!

Picture Courtesy: http://www.usaid.gov

Tags: Movies,All-hands,Broadband

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Don’t give me cash!



A mother always worry about her kids. No matter how grown up her kids are, she still is concerned. I was talking to one such mother yesterday. Her son is visiting Bengaluru as part of the school trip. When the son informed about the trip, the mother tried in vain to dissuade her son from this venture! The focus was on him staying away from home for 3 days in a strange city! The fact he will be in the company of his classmates and teachers were conveniently overlooked. With help from the dad, the son finally managed to go on the school trip.

The anxious and worried mother shared my phone number with her son and instructed him to call me in case of a need arises! Then, the topic meandered into money; pocket money to be specific. The mom and the son had a discussion on this! After all, Bengaluru is a big city and it is good place to shop! After long winding arguments, the mom forbid the son on “big” shopping and agreed on a sum that was mutually acceptable. The mom said, “I will give the money in cash just before you leave”.

“No”, said the son and then elaborated on how the cash should be handed over to the surprised mom. “Please get a debit card in my name and transfer the money to the card! I am not going to walk around with cash in hand!”.

Picture Courtesy: http://www.endorsedcards.co.uk

Tags: Musings,cash,Debit Card,School Trip

Monday, October 25, 2010

The relevance of a tracker in a project



While engaged in the execution of a project, it is natural to have many critical actions to be carried out. While most of these actions may fall within the team, some of them need interaction with other teams – both internal and external. These actions that require clarity by interaction are similar to time bombs. They have a definite expiry date before it explodes and derails progress. A responsible person – the project manager or the team leader or the star developer – tracks these actions to closure. The responsible person also writes it down somewhere where these can be easily accessed and are least likely to be lost.

Such a location varies between people and teams. Some use the whiteboard. These whiteboard have a warning in capital letters. “DO NOT ERASE THIS”. There are smartasses who erase everything else other than the “DO NOT ERASE THIS” warning and indulge in a semantic analysis of your instructions. Others note down these action in a Word document or an Excel worksheet. These are then either hosted on the intranet or circulated using emails. The Excel worksheet is my preferred method because of the columnar format and the options available to filter the data.

This excel sheet is given a fancy name which is usually derived out of the project name or project code. The name will contain the word “Action Tracker” and it will be called so in the local parlance. The word “tracker” invokes memories of Wilbur Smith novels. The tracker in those novel is an extremely gifted person who can track down a man or animal by looking at the imprints made on the earth. Unlike the Wilbur Smith one, this tracker does not perform anything remotely fancy. It only holds a snapshot of the status associated with various actions.

At a bare minimum, the Action tracker should contain the following

  1. Recorded on: The date on which the action was identified and recorded.
  2. Action: A short description of what needs to be done
  3. Owner: The responsible person
  4. Status: Contains two values – Open or Closed
  5. Remarks: A short description on the progress or the next steps.
  6. Closed on: Contains a date if the status is closed.

The fifth and the sixth are the trickiest. If the actions are closed quickly, then the remarks are short. In my personal experience, there are actions which took months to close. In such cases, I enter remarks preceded with date of entry. Eventually, this column grows gradually to occupy the entire screen. “Closed on” is also tricky as it is easy to deduce how long did it take to close an action, for anyone adept in arithmetic and interested in analysis. Some even forget to update this column probably due to the joy experienced after closing the action.

The Action tracker is an effective way to track. The “Remarks” column reveal the final decision and the names of the key decision makers. Anyone, interested in the details, can look into the minutes of the meeting or the emails circulated. One person can update this document on a periodic basis.

Today, I came across an excel workbook used for reviewing the project status on a weekly basis. The excel workbook contains 11 sheets. The three of the sheets contained the name “tracker”. They are Action Tracker, Discussion Tracker and Decision Tracker. I’m still figuring out the big picture. Do actions generate discussions that culminate in decisions? But, there is no traceability matrix provided for linking action to discussion to decision. So, I’m betting this to be a special project where there are many actions, many discussions and many decisions. All of these are unrelated and hence needs to be recorded in separate sheets. The actions, the discussions and decisions also reveal the fun in the project. There won’t be any work!

Picture Courtesy: http://www.magnatag.com/

Tags: Musings,Project,Tracker

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Movie Review: Anwar



A bomb blast rocks the city of Kovai. The target is a famous clothing store. A lot of innocent people are killed. ATS officer-in-charge of the investigation, Stalin Manimaran(Prakashraj), orders for rounding the suspects. The Muslim suspects are arrested. The chief ingredient of the bomb was transported from a chemical company based in Kovai. As a result, Ayesha(Mamta Mohandas), the engineer who signed the out pass for this consignment is also arrested. The final arrest is made in Kochi where Babu Sait(Lal), a prominent Muslim leader of dubious background, is taken into custody.

An year later, Anwar(Prithviraj) is arrested by the cops for hawala dealings. He is taken into the same jail where Babu Sait is imprisoned. Anwar is heckled by the Hindu gang inside the jail. On provocation, Anwar beats them up singlehandedly. Since these guys have the support of the jail officials, Anwar is tortured by the jail authorities. Babu Sait is impressed by Anwar’s courage and ferociousness. Babu Sait slowly takes Anwar under his wings. The rest of the movie tells us the motive behind Babu Sait.

This movie is written and directed by Amal Neerad. There is nothing new to offer story wise. You can figure out the mystery from miles away. On the technical front, the movie is excellent. During fist fights, people do not get thrown back after getting punched. But, Amal’s villains get thrown back like as if they sprouted wings and started flying. The entire sequence is shown in slow motion in such a way that there is a suspension of disbelief and you are in awe of the way in which the scene is shot. Amal is ably supported by the Satheesh Kurup(camera) and Vivek Harshan(editing). There are plenty of scenes in the movie which are picture perfect. The background score by Gopi Sundar is good but tends to get too loud at times. The weak story and the pace works against the movie. The best scenes of the movie are the fight with Pork Shaji and the final fight in the beach. The fight in the beach is akin to a poem being recited slowly yet clearly by the poet.

Prithviraj suits the character as Anwar is young. Moreover, he is also comfortable in doing action. On top of it, Amal has a penchant of portraying heros in a glamorous way. So, Prithviraj has everything going for him. He also leaves a mark in the second half of the movie during the flashback and after the flashback. Prakashraj rises above the script to deliver Stalin Manimaran. The rest of the cast is okay.

Wait for the DVD.

Language: Malayalam

Genre: Action

Rating: **

Picture Courtesy: http://www.anwarthemovie.com/

Tags: Movies,Prithviraj,Mamta Mohandas,Prakashraj,Lal,Amal Neerad,Action

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Project planning in it’s best form!



A manager approached his manager to discuss the resourcing requirements for a potential project!

Manager (M): Looks like this project will come through. It is a critical one for the customer. But, in order to execute this project, we will need additional people in the team.

Manager’s Manager (M’s M): Until the customer signs on the dotted line, there will not be any additional resources!

M: But… That will not go down with the customer well. Instead, we should at least let them know the time it takes for us to bring in additional people into the team. Say like 2 weeks or a month. This way, we can put pressure on the customer to sign on the dotted line at the earliest.

M’s M: (silent)

M: Now, tell me how long does it take you to give me resources if I get the customer to sign on the dotted line today?

M’s M: Why are you talking about “how long”? You have so many resources assign to you. (goes into how to extract work out of the existing team by breaking into smaller pieces)

M: (after listening to the ramblings for a few minutes) If I hear you correctly, this is what you are saying. Commit to the customer that work will be done. Get them to sign on the dotted line. Then, we will figure out how to execute the project.

M’s M: Absolutely!…

Tags: Musings,Project,Resources

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hinjewadi Chowk, Pune



HinjewadiChowk The 2 km stretch around the Hinjewadi Chowk is the painful stretch. The traffic here does not come to a standstill. But it always moves at a snail’s pace. The road is used by the commuters in the IT industry to reach Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the Hinjewadi InfoPark. The traffic moves swiftly when you get into this section of the road from NH 4 bypass or from Wakad. As the traffic approach the chowk, the speed is reduced to a crawl. In spite of having cops on duty during the office rush hours, it is pathetic.

While waiting for the traffic to move fast, I always wondered why? If there are cops at the chowk directing traffic, there should be a complete stop before the cars move. But it is never the case. All the vehicles are moving but very slowly. It is because some of them are going towards Phase I which is left turn from chowk. At the intersection, the roads are laden with potholes resulting in a stop-and-go traffic!

 Picture 143 Picture 145

Tags: Travel,Hinjewadi,Traffic

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Burger King, Pune for yummylicious burgers



Picture 131 The name “Burger King” is equated to the global chain of fast food restaurants. But in Pune, there is a shop which specializes in serving burgers to the locals which goes under the same name. As far as I know, they have outlets only in Pune. What will happen to them when the giant comes into the town? Will they be forced to change the name? This is a question to ponder. Like they say, what is in a name? Regarding Burger King(Pune version), I alter the sentence to say “What is in a name when you serve yummylicious burgers?”. Under the new name, they will still serve delicious burgers.

I was in their restaurant in Koregoan Park last Sunday. I ordered a Chicken Salami burger and a rose milk. You can get rose milk in other parts of India. But the burgers are a class of it’s own! My first tryst with burgers happened when I moved to Manipal to pursue a bachelors degree. It is in this sleepy little town that I took my first bite into a burger. In that sleepy little town, burgers are available in numerous shops with names ending with shack. To call these joints shack is sacrilegious! They do not resemble a shack in any way. Nevertheless, these names carried a rustic charm.

Picture 132 Burger King delivers burgers that reminds the ones that were served in Manipal “shacks”! They stand apart for two reasons – the mayonnaise and the patties. The mayonnaise is sin incarnated! It is so delicious that after the first bite, you forget about the calories and health hazards. Who wants to be a spoilsport when you are devouring pleasure? The patties are soft that it gets stuck to your palate! The bread, patty and the mayonnaise create an unique experience. The bread was also freshly baked. The smell reminded me of the bakeries in Kerala where the boys run around to replenish the rapidly depleting loaves of bread in the display with the fresh ones out of the oven.

Burger King reacquaints me with different slices of my younger years. So, Sunday was the Anton Ego moment for me!

See below for the exact location of Burger King, Pune.


View Larger Map

Tags: Travel,Restaurants,Pune,Burger King,Burgers

Monday, October 18, 2010

Inspiration or Plagiarism and what Hollywood should do!



Aakrosh” and “Knock off” were released last Friday. They bore striking similarities. It is neither the genre or the story line that made these two films similar. Both were inspired or plagiarized from successful Hollywood movies. While “Aakrosh” took it’s origins from “Mississippi Burning”, “Knock Out” owed it’s roots to “Phone Booth”.

Looking at the technical team behind "Knock Out”, I had little desire to watch this one! The trailers showed a Irfan Khan trapped inside a phone booth that I have never come across during my existence in India! It is roomier than the bedrooms in a 1BHK apartment! The floors are so clean that you could sleep on the floor! I will stop at that. You will find zillion small things like this to laugh about while watching these trailers. The scale was titled towards “Aakrosh” for Priyadarshan, Ajay Devgn and Paresh Rawal. If worse comes to worse, I will still be able to see some picture perfect shots on the screen. Priyadarshan has a knack to turn a mundane location into a breathtaking visual.

“Aakrosh” turned out to be an okay fare. The effects of the movie was far reaching. I kept wondering whether it was a scene-to-scene copy of “Mississippi Burning”. Since I saw the source of inspiration years back, there was a renewed interest to watch it again. I’m sure there are many like me!

In a country like India, the inspired or the plagiarized movies offer a good market for Hollywood. Instead of getting into a legal battle with the makers, the Hollywood studios should do the following to combat plagiarism.

  1. They should re-release the originals along with these inspired or plagiarized movies in theaters.
  2. They should dub it into as many languages as possible for reaching out to more people.
  3. They should sponsor bad reviews of the inspired or plagiarized movies.
  4. They should release the DVD of the originals (and dubbed) in a short while after the theatrical release.

With the kind of insane budgets and also their representatives in India, this should be easy to do. I’m sure they can recover their investment if they consider the kind of viewers India has to offer.

Picture Courtesy: http://www.pharmainfo.net

Tags: Musings,Inspiration,Plagiarism,Hollywood

Books: Darkness, Take My Hand



Set almost an year after A Drink Before War, this book narrates how Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro solves an interesting case. Eric Gault contacts Patrick for Diandra Warren, a psychiatrist. Recently, during the counseling session with a walk-in patient Moira Kenzie, she is aware of the murder committed by Kevin Hurlihy. Following this incident, Diandra receives an photograph her son on mail which she interprets as a death threat.

Kevin grew up in Patrick’s and Angela’s neighborhood. Now, he is working as the muscleman for the local Mafia boss named Jack Rouse. With the help of Bubba, Patrick and Angela sets up a meeting with Kevin and Jack through Fat Freddy Constantine, the godfather of Boston Mafia. During the meeting, Kevin and Jack are ruled out as suspects.

Patrick is intrigued by the Kenzie surname used by Moira as he does not have any relative fitting Moira’s description. To add to the mystery, Moira has disappeared and all the contact information provided by her leads to a dead end. When Patrick and Angela get involved, dead bodies pop up all over the place indicating the work of deranged mind. Is a serial killer on the lurk?

Dennis Lehane follows up the Kenzie-Gennaro saga with a gripping novel which is hard to put down. The best part of the book is how Patrick and Angela stumbles on clues. While reading the book, you constantly wonder how this book falls in the premise of the previous novel. If the villain is a serial killer, then it could be a separate novel and should not belong in the Kenzie-Gennaro series. The answers are right there in the novel. Like the earlier works, this novel is dark and deals with gruesome murders. If you have trouble reading these on paper, then stay away.

Tags: Books,Dennis Lehance,Patrick Kenzie,Angela Gennaro

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Books: Confessions of a Public Speaker



Scott Berkun is an accomplished public speaker. Keeping himself as the central character and adopting a first person narrative, he provides insights for people who are likely to either take up this profession or address a large group as part of the daily professional life.

Scott debunks the myths and emphasizes what is required to be successful in this profession. He stresses on practicing your talk before appearing in front of the audience. He also provides valuable tips on how the material should be structured to have the maximum impact. Although there is a big money for eminent personalities in this circuit, others earn lesser. But as a public speaker, Scott gets a lot of personal time at his disposal. He also shares his experience with the TV camera while filming “The Business of Innovation” for NBC. He had interacted with many of the CEOs of major companies. He shares the lessons learnt from these interactions.

A lot of photographs are used in most of the chapters to deliver Scott’s point to the reader. This helps the reader immensely to understand the ethos of a public speaker while onstage. Through the diagrams, he also illustrates better seating arrangements that enables the speaker to spread positive energy. Some of the pictures are for fun to give a insight into the life of the author while travelling for speaking engagements.

The real treasure of the book is the material in the appendix. This is in fact a concise “How to” steps that cross references the chapters in his book. Reading this material appendix is quick way to prepare yourself in case you have to address a large audience.

Picture Courtesy: http://www.scottberkun.com/

Tags: Books,Scott Berkun,Public Speaking

Movie Review: Aakrosh



During the Dussera festivities of 2005 in Jhanjhar, a village in Bihar, an young girl moves away from her family and gets into a car with three young men. When she sets outs on this journey, she stumbles upon the temple priest. The temple priest alerts her family immediately. The men in her family chases them. Two months after this incident, three men are still missing. As they belong to a  medical college in Delhi, the students agitate. As a result, the case of missing students is handed over to CBI.

Siddhant Chaturvedi(Akshaye Khanna) and Pratap Kumar(Ajay Devgn) arrive in Jhanjhar to investigate this case. Siddhant is the lead investigator who has worked on two high profile cases in the past and successfully convicted the criminals whereas Pratap is deputed from the army to CBI. Their first visit is to the police station. Siddhant is in for a shock to see how the local police operate. SP Ajatshatru Singh(Paresh Rawal) is a corrupt and laidback officer. After meeting with Ajatshatru’s boss, they try vainly to find the uncle of one of the missing men. The missing man’s family and neighbors do not co-operate with the Siddhant and Pratap. How they go about solving the case in an overly hostile environment forms the rest of the story.

“Filmed” by Priyadarshan, this movie offers thrilling moments but fails to give an overall thrilling experience. The movie borrows the premise of three missing men, bigotry in men and difficulty faced by the investigators from the popular Hollywood movie “Mississippi Burning”. The screenplay is the culprit wherein the pace of the movie dips by the introduction of songs and the way in which the crucial witness comes around in a convenient way. Also, Shool Sena which is a take off on the KKK from the original movie was childish. Luckily, this track is not explored further. Priyadarshan and his technical team – DOP Thiru, Editor Arun Kumar, Art Director Sabu Cyril and Background Score provider Ouseppachan – shows their brilliance in many parts of the movie. The action scenes – parkour inspired chase sequence, the escape on cycle(inspired again from Malayalam movie Meesha Madahavan) and the vehicle chase with Akshaye driving and Ajay standing on top of the jeep - stand out.

Ajay Devgn underplays his role in his characteristic style. Akshaye Khanna is perfect as the officer who will do things by the book. Paresh Rawal goes back to his roots, playing the villain and humoring us throughout the movie. Bipasha Basu and Reema Sen has miniscule roles.

Watch it on DVD.

Language: Hindi

Genre: Thriller

Rating: **

Picture Courtesy: Bollywood Hungama

Tags: Movies,Ajay Devgn,Akshaye Khanna,Paresh Rawal,Priyadarshan,Thriller

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cooking woes – A bachelor edition



A few years back, a friend was making sambhar. He was half way through when he realized one ingredient was missing. Unfortunately, it was the sambhar powder. Being resourceful, he did not abandon hope. He searched through what was in the kitchen and found a replacement for sambhar powder quickly. He chose tea masala instead of sambhar powder. He tried  serving his sambhar to others unsuccessfully. As he was naive and honest enough to announce the ingredients upfront, his roommates was turned off immediately.

Yesterday, the topic cooking came up during conversation with a friend. I shared the above story with my friend who is also a bachelor. On hearing this, my friend laughed heartily. When the laughter settled, he shared his experience. He and his roommates were moving into a new apartment. So the entire day was spent in moving their stuff. In the evening, they were too exhausted to go out for dinner. Since one of roommates had promised to cook, they forced him to deliver his commitment. As a result, the poor guy dumped all the  ingredients for the curry into the pressure cooker and initiated the cooking process. Being tired, he was careless. After a few whistles, the pressure cooker exploded!

At this point, my friend paused. Unsure of where it was leading to, I did not break the silence. I looked at him expectantly. So he continued, “The curry was splashed all over the wall. Luckily, none of us were in the kitchen”. I pitched in, “Bad experience…??”.

He said, “We were very hungry. That night, we ended up eating from the wall”.

Picture Courtesy: http://www.hotdishes.com

Tags: Musings,Cooking,Bachelor

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cloth collectors of Pune



In Bengaluru near my neighborhood, there is a man who operates out of a makeshift table made out of discarded construction material. He uses this table for ironing clothes. His clientele is mainly the residents in the “small”rises in the neighborhood. He collects clothes from our house during Saturdays. During the rest of the week, we go to him with our clothes. In the case of a township like sprawling apartment complexes, these men set their shop in the basement of one of the buildings. So is the case where my sister lives.

But, it is different in Pune. Although I lived in the city for an year, the memories are pleasant but distant. When I watched the whole process being played out in front my old apartment in Pune, I revisited the old memories. Here, you will neither see a makeshift table nor the person who iron the clothes. Instead, there are people who collect the clothes. They come in either a motorcycle or an auto rickshaw. They visit their the apartments, collect the bundles and load them on their mode of transport. Then, these are taken to a central location for ironing. Often, when this collector comes for the rounds, he carry bundles of finished work with him. The collector is also accessible on his mobile.

This system is also plagued with the universal bane. Sometime, you have lesser clothes when the bundle is returned. If you are lucky, you might get a replacement for the lost piece. The replacement depends on your luck. You might get a better piece in return!

But what amazes me was that their palm sized notebooks where they meticulously record the number of clothes and amount owed. For a casual observer, the pages are scribbled with numbers. But for the collector, it makes sense!

Picture Courtesy: http://www.urbanmoms.ca

Tags: Musings,Travel,Pune,Collector,Ironing,Cloth

Monday, October 11, 2010

Movie Review: The Town



Doug MacRay(Ben Affleck) is a bank robber who has lived  all his life in Charlestown, Boston. He is assisted in these robberies by his longtime friends – James “Jem” Coughlin(Jeremy Renner), Albert “Gloansy” Magloan and Desmond “Dez” Elden. A part of proceeds from these robberies goes for “Fergie” Colm(Pete Postlethwaite), who is the kingpin of the area. Fergie runs a florist shop as a cover for his illegal activities.

During one of the robberies, Doug takes a bank manager Claire Keesey(Rebecca Hall) as a hostage to bargain with the police. After finding themselves safe, Doug and his friends drop Claire near the sea while fleeing. Later, the edgy and dangerous Jem discovers the address of Claire from her driving license. Claire lives a few blocks away from them in Charlestown. Now, the group is afraid she might give them away to the cops.

In order to prevent his friend from committing any irrational acts, Doug agrees to follow Claire. But, soon their lives get entwined and they start seeing each other. Eventually, Doug falls in love in Rebecca. As a result, Doug wants a different life. He wants to reconcile with his mother’s disappearance and his imprisoned father(Chris Cooper). But, the FBI is on Doug’s tracks in the form of Agent Adam Frawley(Jon Hamm).

Ben Affleck directs this thriller based on the novel Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan. The variant of this story is witnessed in the past movies of the same genre. It is the location, and the direction that sets this movie apart. The story is set in Boston. The heist scenes do not degenerate into action pieces. Instead it focuses on the desperate measures taken by the gang of robbers to escape. In between the heists, Ben also effectively builds drama. While we know the men are dirty, we are left to wonder how deep does it run. The women are victims as can be seen from Claire’s trauma and also the questions raised by Jem’s sister. The conversation between Doug and his dad in the jail and the confrontation between Jem and Doug stands out for the brilliant execution.

Ben Affleck delivers an excellent performance as Doug. Doug is a private person with a disturbing past. He wants to get out of Boston away from the life of crime. The way Ben underplays this complex character is fun to watch. The two scenes that stand out is when Ben opens up with Claire in the garden and when Ben unapologetically tells Jem that he wants out!

Jeremy Renner plays a easily excited Jem perfectly. Although Jeremy has played similar roles in the past, it is still a pleasure to watch him enact it on screen. Rebecca Hall as Claire portrays vulnerability and trauma endearingly on screen.

The movie is entertaining. But if you are watching this in the Indian multiplexes, the censors have massacred the movie by muting the four letter words. This results in frustration during the early stages of the movie where the audience keep guessing a piece of the conversation! The DVDs are not out in India. So, it is too early to comment on the DVD experience.

Language: English

Genre: Thriller

Rating: ***

Tags: Movies,Ben Affleck,Jeremy Renner,Rebecca Hall,Chris Cooper,Chuck Hogan,Pete Postlethwaite,Thriller

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Towel Elephant



Picture 115 Hotel staff are courteous. But, do they go out of their way to create a different experience for you? Beaming a buoyant smile, they greet you and wishes you day after day on the way in and way out. Barring this, there have not been anything different! Yesterday was unusual.

When I entered the room after a grueling day, I was surprised to find this unique piece of towel art sitting on my bed. The hotel staff created an elephant using the towel and left a note so that I’m not shocked.

I’m staying at Lemon Tree hotels in Pune. The rooms are smaller. You wake up disoriented as there is no light coming into the room if the curtains are closed! All this is forgiven now!

Tags: Travel,Lemon Tree,Towel,Pune

Friday, October 8, 2010

Belt that shifted the balance of power



Yesterday, the balance of power between me and my boss tilted towards my side. It was a seemingly innocent device which caused the shift in balance; a belt. Before you get your creative juices working overtime, let me assure you, I was not holding the belt with an intention to whip him. In fact, my boss had the belt in his possession. It was holding his trousers in place. But, it was my belt!

You either forget something at home or at hotel. This has been one of the flipsides of travelling. Likewise, my boss had forgotten to take his belt. He was getting ready in full regalia for an important customer meeting when he realized his folly. He had forgotten to pack an appropriate belt for the occasion. We were staying in the same hotel. As I had two belts, I lent him mine. If you are thinking why do I carry two belts while travelling, I have a simple answer. One for the casual wear (read jeans) and the other for the formal wear. Both are black in color. Stop thinking now and don’t ask me why I have two in the same color.

I was engulfed in optimism for the entire day. Today, my boss can’t put me in a spot. The reverse can happen. This gave me a boost of confidence and an air of superiority. Today, he cannot find any fault with my work. If I am plagued with faults, who is he to criticize? After all, he could not even remember a simple thing as a belt! If things were getting out of hand, I could always ask him to return the belt then and there. When he returns belts, how long will his trousers hold?

There can be consequences for this line of logic. He may get extremely pissed off. This will eventually result in me frantically searching for a new job. But isn’t the joy of humiliating the boss worth it?

Finally, better sense prevailed. I decided to keep quiet and played out these fantasies in my mind. Today, he returned the belt.

Picture Courtesy: http://image.made-in-china.com

Tags: Musings,Boss,Belt

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Roadstar brought to you by Pune Traffic Police



Picture 108 Do the law abiding citizens get any respect from the police? They do! This is what I realized today on seeing the tiny (in size) certificate from the traffic police lying on my friend’s desk.The certificate was awarded by the Pune traffic police to thank my friend for wearing helmet while riding a bike.

On the day it was awarded, he was pulled over by the traffic police. He showed them his papers. In return, they handed over the certificate that resembles a visiting card. My friend was agitated after receiving the paper. He did not examine it and assumed it to be a fine. “I had all my papers”, he exclaimed. The cop requested him to look at it again!

You can’t blame my friend! You never expect niceties from the traffic police!

Tags: Musings,Pune,Traffic,Helmet

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Diversity is a risky business



Embracing diversity is the right thing to do in Indian atmosphere for a corporate. “Unity in Diversity” is what is taught to us in an early stage. As with everything in life, the ramifications of the simple sentence became clear many years after I stepped into adulthood. Call it late blooming.

Whenever diversity is talked in a corporate forum, it eventually translates gender bias. After the topic is raised, both the speaker and the attendees are at a loss. So was my experience in a gender sensitization session. Some of the eloquent in the audience stopped on their tracks for fear of saying something politically incorrect.

At the same time, everyone is confused about how to achieve this. Will this ultimately turn out to a “reservation” exercise? For me, a “reservation” game is counterproductive. But it is in fact the easiest way out. Ensure an equal mix of genders – 50% male and 50% female! Instead of adopting the easy way out, the best fit or the right fit should be chosen for any position. If there is anything lacking in any gender to qualify for a particular position, it should be identified as the gap and the gap published. The gaps, when known, are easy to bridge for a willing soul.

While the focus is on gender bias, there are other burning issues raised by diversity. This was raised by a soft voice in the same session I attended. I term the voice as soft since it did not travel beyond our table. The voice gently questioned, “Why are we addressing gender bias? We have bigger problems. Our teams are comprises of people coming from different parts of the country. Have you noticed how these people from the same region become a group within group? Shouldn’t we address this first?”.

Sadly, the soft voice was right. Tragically, his voice was drowned in the cacophony.

Picture Courtesy: http://www.fgsc.net

Tags: Musings,Gender,Bias,Sensitization

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Contracts and Penalty



A couple of years back, I was given a contract to read, understand and memorize if possible. The contracts that I came across till then were simple. It was as simple as “an email would be sent in 4 hours for a major issue which will be followed up with regular updates”. How stressful can that be? But this contract was not as simple as the earlier ones! The contract was to govern the outsourcing of a mission critical application to the vendor. In this case, the vendor was my employer who was in the software services sphere and the customer was a major player in Europe.

As I read through the contract, panic besieged me. At the same time, I was in awe. There are many pitfalls while shipping a piece of software. The creators of the contract had taken most of these pitfalls into consideration while drawing up this contract.

  • Delivery slippage, the bane of the services industry. There is a penalty that will be levied per day of the slippage.
  • Failure to installation, another bane which results in finger pointing. There is a penalty clause for this too. From the third unsuccessful attempt onwards, you are charged a penalty per attempt!
  • High number of defects in the deliverable. If you are pressed for time, releasing software with defects is an easy way out. But, here The defect density is calculated based on the efforts behind the deliverable. If the defects goes beyond this number, you pay penalty per additional defect.
  • High turnaround time for fixing defects. So if you cleared all of the above hurdles, you can still fail if you do not give a defect fix within the prescribed time. For this category, the penalty is calculated per day of slippage.

The penalties were calculated per day of delay. This will put all of us under tremendous pressure to turn around. Turning things around was not enough. There should be a proper closure lest these open up days later; raising the total amount of penalty.

After reading the contract carefully, I finally found a loop hole.  I went back to my colleagues with my grandiose plan. “There is a 20% cap on the penalty. So, if the deal is worth 100 Euros, the penalty cannot exceed 20 Euros.”, I said. Everybody nodded. There were already aware of this clause. Then, I suggested, “Simple. Set aside 20% for penalty every time we embark on a new project under this customer. This way, we can at least work in peace!”.

Picture Courtesy: http://www.acuitydesigns.net

Tags: Musings,Contract,Penalty

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Movie Review: Enthiran



Dr Vaseegaran aka Vasee(Rajnikant) works hard on creating a humanoid robot for the military. He is assisted by Siva(Santhanam) and Ravi(Karnuas). He is so immersed in his work for days at a stretch that he is unavailable for his family and his girlfriend Sana(Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan). All his hard work pays off and he is successful in creating a humanoid robot who is a look-alike of Vasee. The robot is christened as Chitti(Rajnikant) by Vasee’s mother.

Chitti amazes everyone with his ability to behave like a human and assimilate knowledge like a machine. He reads through the telephone directory in seconds. Then, he is not only able to recollect the telephone given a name but also a name given a telephone number. Chitti is presented to the a group of eminent scientists wherein he wins over the audience with his knowledge in multiple subjects. Only one person is unimpressed. He is Bohra(Danny Denzongpa), Vasee’s teacher.

Amazed by Chitti’s abilities, Sana takes him to her house with Vasee’s permission. Sana lives in a mansion which also serves as an abode for war widows, mothers who has lost their sons to war and war orphans. Chitti helps Sana prepare for her exams. He also impresses the inmates of the mansion with his culinary skills and saves Sana from the local ruffians. While spending time with Sana, Chitti also learns about the lying nature of humans. The rest of the movie deals with the transformation of Chitti because of Vasee and Bohra.

Shankar directs this movie based on the story and screenplay by him. In this movie, Shankar moves away from his familiar territory of anti-establishment. Instead, he examines the two sides of science; it’s usefulness and dangers. In spite of having a colorful imagination, Shankar falls flat because of a lackluster script. The story takes forever to move forward and in fact gathers steam when Chitti fights on the train. But within no time, the steam is lost. The placement of songs are flawed and hampers the pace of the movie. The abilities of Chitti – before and after transformation – are shown during the fight scenes. Here, the abilities are shown to the audience so fast that they get no time to enjoy what unfolds on the screen. The VFX used in the climax is excellent. But most of these scenes confuses the viewer. The best scenes, which shows the brilliance of Shankar, loses impact because there are too many things happening fast. AR Rahman’s background score is nowhere near the Sivaji one. The makeup is excellent as Rajnikant looks young! The action on the train is excellent.

Rajnikant puts in his best efforts in the two roles which are different from his usual set of roles. As Chitti, there is nothing much to do. The dialogues are funny and he needs to look impassive. Here, he mostly plays to the gallery with even a getup that is similar to one which he sport in one of his yesteryear hit. But it is Vasee who impresses. Vasee is brilliant but with human failings. He is a workaholic. But, towards the later stage of the movie, he is insecure with Chitti. He also gets flustered when Chitti responds. It is in this part where Rajni is superb.

Aishwarya has a lengthy role but without any substance. The rest of the cast are neglected by the script.

Colossal waste of money! Skip it!

Language: Tamil

Genre: Action

Rating: **

Picture Courtesy: http://www.robotthefilm.com

Tags: Movies,Rajnikant,Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan,Shankar,Action

Friday, October 1, 2010

Don’t mess with Texas



“Don’t mess with Texas”. So said the signposts along the Texan highway! It was circa 2000. I was visiting Texas for the first time with a friend to meet friends! We doubled up with laughter after reading the warning. Our reaction was, “No Boss! We would more than happy to be back in California! Honestly, we do not want to be here for longer. Forget about messing with you!”.

The slogan “Don’t mess with Texas” was designed to combat littering; evident from what was written below this warning. But what stuck me was the audacity of the statement. By this time, I had travelled on the tri-state highways, Californian (and adjoining state) highways. Never ever have I encountered anything so cocky. The highways in other states had an unemotional appeal to refrain from littering. Probably, Texans needed an authoritative tone. That was our conclusion!

In one of the chapters of Made to Stick, the genesis of this slogan is explained in detail. At the time when Texan was struggling with littering, a detailed study was conducted to classify the perpetrators. The study revealed majority belonged to the 18-35 year group who indulges in drunken merrymaking. The slogan was devised as an appeal to this community. The launch of this slogan was also coincided carefully engineered TV spots where famous Texans mouthed this slogan. The issue of littering fell steeply in the succeeding years.

Ingenious!

Picture Courtesy: http://johntedesco.net

Tags: Musings,Travel,Texas

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 India License.