Monday, September 30, 2013

Pappettan teaches how to shorten a schedule

If you are wondering who Pappettan is, click on this link and find out.

You must have heard about people complaining about impossible schedules. In a modern day project scenario, there is always pressure to deliver in very less time with each successive project receiving lesser time to deliver than the previous one. I have many people ranting about this. To be truthful, I have also complained about this to many of my friends and colleagues. Recently, I was talking to Pappettan about this dilemma and it was interesting to note his take on this issue.

Me: They want me to deliver this project in 2 months.

Pappettan: *listening*

Me: How is it possible? They are asking me to do an impossible task.

Pappettan: *with a smile* What did Napolean teach us? I thought you wrote about it in your blog long back.

Me: *with a defensive tone* Well, he said... Impossible n'est pas français. But, I am not French!

Pappettan: *chuckling* Are you sure it is impossible?

Me: *quickly seizes the opportunity to lecture Pappettan* Don't you know it takes 9 months to deliver a child. If you put three people, the baby won't come out in 3 months. *sports a victorious smile after the grand speech*

Pappettan: *chuckling more*

Me: *confused*

Pappettan: *calmly* It is possible to deliver a baby in 3 months with one person.

Me: *about to say he has gone mad and then has second thoughts*

Pappettan: *smiles for an eternity, takes a brief pause before talking* You need to start with 6 month pregnant woman. Then it is possible to deliver in 3 months.



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Photos: London, the First Look



Picture Courtesy: http://www.facebook.com/photokkaran
Please visit the page of Photokkaran. Don't forget to "Like" the page if you enjoy the pictures.

Tags: Photos

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pappettan forgets to pay the restaurant bill

If you are wondering who Pappettan is, click on this link and find out.

Have you ever walked out of a restaurant without paying the bill? I have done it a couple of time in my life. Luckily during all such instances, I remembered my forgetfulness before it is too late. As soon as I realized my mistake, I walked back to the restaurant, apologized with a red face and paid the bill. Recently, Pappettan was in the same predicament. But the man reacted differently.

Both us went to an Indian restaurant. This is the kind of restaurant where they serve you quickly in order to turn the table fast. This is also the kind of restaurant where they serve delicious food in affordable prices. We were animatedly engaged in an interesting conversation that as soon as we washed our hands, we walked out of the restaurant without even bothering to pay the bill. As luck would have it, Pappettan remembered this folly before we were very far from the restaurant. We decided to go back to the restaurant to pay our dues. As usual, I took the back seat, curious to see how Pappettan will handle this situation.

We retraced our path and entered the restaurant. Pappettan went directly to the counter.

Pappettan: Hello.

The Guy at the Counter (TG@TC): *suspiciously*Hi

Pappettan: I had food here.

TG@TC: *unsure where this is leading to*

Pappettan: When I came in, I knew this was a restaurant. Then you served the food I ordered.

TG@TC: *anxious*

Pappettan: When I started eating your food, I forgot it was a restaurant. It tasted like food cooked in home.

TG@TC: *smiling at the compliment*

Pappettan: I finished what I ordered. Like home, I got up, washed my hands and moved on.

TG@TC: *confused*

Pappettan: I walked out without paying the bill.

TG@TC: *surprised and also embarrassed he or his staff couldn't catch this little anomaly*

Pappettan paid the bill. But like always, he cast an everlasting impression on me. I wouldn't have thought of presenting it like the way he did. 

Tags: Pappettan Says,Restaurant,Bill,Forget


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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

London 0 Paris 1

All cities are unique. That is what you may say. But that is not going to stop me from comparing them. Not a long time has elapsed since I moved from Paris to Bangalore and then from Bangalore to London. So I keep comparing both my temporarily adopted homes namely Paris and London. You may have heard about the English weather. Weather takes a back seat as far as I am concerned. Forget it, everyone everywhere are complaining about it. In my private scorecard, Paris has won the initial match. The bone of contention was public transport. To be more precise, Underground versus Métropolitain.

Compare the prices of the tickets. "I can get to Paris from Sceaux in 3 Euros. They charged me 20 Pounds for a ticket to Reading". This is the first complaint I heard from my friend who was visiting. If you use size as the measuring stick, London is much bigger than Paris. But then Euros and Pounds do not have the same value. Sceaux is not as from Paris when compared to the distance from Reading to London. Even then, the price is unreasonable. I have a question for London. Don't you want to encourage people to use the public transport, burn less gas and support less you-know-what?. Then there is the question of ticket validity. A ticket in Metro is a ticket in Metro for longer than a day. You buy it today, I can use it tomorrow, day after and then some more days. Here in London, your tickets are either for today or valid for one month. The pricing structure is also different.

Now that you have termed me as cheapo, let me compare the Underground and Metropolitan in terms of simplicity. While Paris has Ligne, London has Line. Essentially, they mean the same. Paris prefers to use the number system while London prefers to name the lines. The confusion starts when you arrive at a platform. In Paris, a platform is only for a Ligne. So if you are standing in one platform, you are either waiting for Ligne 1 or Ligne 13 (Although there are 14 Lignes, I prefer 13 and my Parisian friends know exactly why!). Here in London, you can either get Hammersmith or Circle or something else. Are there any clear distinction between these except in the "tube map" for an untrained eye? Well, the writer himself is an untrained eye. If I am cribbing, you know there was no clear distinction. That is why I ended up boarding the Circle Line while I wanted to board the Hammersmith Line! While talking simplicity, let's say you arrive at Saint-Lazare. You can get to all your platforms by taking one entrance into the Metropolitan. Now let's say you arrive at Paddington. Depending on the lines, you take different entrances. God help you if you arrive at one end of the station. Sometimes, you have to walk through the station, then get outside and finally get into the station from the other side!

The most essential thing you will miss in the Underground train is the intimacy with the fellow passengers. The seats, in an Underground train, are arranged along the edges facing inwards. This is a good arrangement when you want to carry more people without changing the dimensions of a train. It gives more space for standing and hence you can pack more people this way. But I have not been in the Underground train during the rush hour. Whenever I  used the Underground, it was not grounded. The seats in a Metro are in such a way that you are sitting closer to the fellow passengers whether it is rush hour or not. For some, it might be claustrophobic. When you have overcome this condition, you will notice an intimacy forming with the fellow passengers. You are watching what others are doing on the mobile, be it messaging or playing games. You are part of their conversations on the phone even if they are talking in low tones. If none of the above is true, then you are staring into the faces of others noticing every little details be it a mole or a wrinkle or a nose ring....

Tags: Travel,London,Paris,Underground,Metro


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Saturday, September 21, 2013

A project in South Africa

I have never been to South Africa before. But I have seen the pictures taken by a friend who is a globetrotter. From those pictures, I have only one thing to say. South Africa is beautiful. The other day, this country came into the focus of one of the conversations with a newly acquired friend. My friend was assigned a project where he had to work from the client office in South Africa for a short duration.

As the first step, my friend applied for a visa. South Africa seems to be very sensitive about immigration policies. This is when he came across a simple regulation while applying for a visa to South Africa. While submitting the application, he is also supposed to get a clearance certificate from all the countries where he had visited in the past. This is a simple regulation to ensure the applicants were not involved in any kind of criminal activities in those countries.

My friend has traveled to many countries as part of his work. So, he did a tour of the consulates of all those countries. There, he discovered the way of working in the consulates when it comes to giving a clearance. Some of the countries are quick by checking the visa details and giving him what was needed. Some countries sends the information back to their home where the request gets processed. Anybody who has been tangled in the web of diplomatic procedures know how tedious this process can be.

What happened in the end? When he got all the clearances, the project was over. This is not the weird part in this tale. Since his assignment was to be carried out in the client location, there was no working place arranged for him at his office to execute this project. So, he was asked to work from home and connect remotely to the client network. To sum up, he executed the project by working from home, never visiting South Africa and doing a tour of all the consulates. Isn't that a lot of fun while accomplishing quite a lot?

Tags: Musings,Consulate,South Africa,Visa,Work

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Monday, September 16, 2013

The Effect of Success and Failure

Cricket. The whole of India is gung-ho about this sport. I have never been, except listening to the scores occasionally by chance. A couple of weeks back, I was with a small crowd cheering a group of my friends who were playing cricket. I do not know anything about this game. So this post is not about the game. Instead this is about what happened after the game.

After the game, everyone targetted a person who scored a duck. Everyone was teasing him to the point he exclaimed in desperation. "I took 4 wickets. Nobody is talking about it. I miscalculated and got out. You guys are only talking about this part. Why are you ignoring my achievements?". I silently agreed with him.

Call it déjà vu. A couple of days later, I heard a similar statement from another friend. It was not about cricket this time but about work. At work, my friend had implemented many positive changes. But the only thing that gets highlighted is the bad things like the customer escalations!

To think about it, isn't it true? The coldness of failure last longer than warmth of success.

Tags: Musings,Cricket,Success,Failure,Work

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Something to learn from the Germans

No matter how hard we try to drive in the message about humans everywhere are equal, the truth is we are all different. How different is a German? If you are wondering why I am talking about German, this is because I was in Frankfurt airport recently. I was there in transit. So that makes me technically in German soil while in reality I never stepped in the German soil. Even the three hours spent inside the airport was itself was an eye-opener.

To be truthful, this is not the first tryst with Germans. A few months back, I was going from one station to another in Paris with a German friend. We were in a hurry and was on an escalator which was blocked by the passengers ahead of us. I told my friend we could just say "Pardon" which will make people make way for us. She looked back at me and said "It is not like this in Germany". When I look questioningly at her, she replied. "In Germany, we wait till they get off from the escalator". I nodded and exercised self control in order not to roll my eyes. So we stood there till the elevator slowly took us to the other end. Of course, I silently cursed the people in front.

Now here I am trying to get to the gate of my connection flight from Frankfurt. I have to go through the security screening. Like always, I rushed to the conveyor belt queuing up behind the person who was loading all his stuff on to a tray. Then, I grabbed a tray to load my stuff. At this point, the security told me to wait till the person in front has finished loading his tray. In unspoken words, he told me to go further behind, wait till everything is cleared for the person in front as they will only process one person at a time. I ate a big piece of the humble pie and waited.

Like me, you may also have traveled to different parts of the world and seen many airports during transit. Have you noticed the mad rush to catch the connecting flight? Everyone is running and they are impatient to clear the security screening. In fact, it doesn't take much to process one person and these guys can be efficient without creating a claustrophobic environment by people pressing against each other. In order to do that, either security personnel can direct you or you can develop discipline yourself. In either way, this is a good lesson from the Germans.

Tags: Travel,Frankfurt,Germany


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Monday, September 9, 2013

Photos: A happy batsman



Picture Courtesy: http://www.facebook.com/photokkaran
Please visit the page of Photokkaran. Don't forget to "Like" the page if you enjoy the pictures.

Tags: Photos

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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Don't be indifferent... to mourners

Two days back, I visited a unit in my organization which handles all travel related work. They have set up counters to help employees as a lot of people are traveling at any given point in time. When you are a big organization, such things are normal. I went there in the morning. There was already a queue, thankfully not a serpentine one. While I waited for my turn, the people sit in the counter stopped abruptly, apologized for the stopping work and requested us to wait for a couple of minutes. A colleague, working in their unit, had passed away. So all the people working in that floor in that office were gathering in an adjacent conference room to observe two minutes of silence.

The gesture by the rest of the colleague was decent and appropriate. All of us decided waited while they observed silence in the room next to us. The doors to the room were open. The next two minutes was a revelation for me. It was a lesson on how insensitive and indifferent we can be. A group of people are mourning in the next room. Here people are sitting comfortably on the sofa and carrying on a decently loud conversation on cellphone. And it is the same people who were told the reason for the interruption. In my opinion, they could have stepped out for the conversation. This is least they could have done. The one who passed away is also our colleague. Forget about standing. We could have observed two minutes of silence together with the mourners. This is the least we could have done.

Tags: Musings,Mourn,Silence

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Pappettan helps a distraught batsman

If you are wondering who Pappettan is, click on this link and find out.

Sometimes, we get disillusioned in a second. This mostly happens when our best laid plans do not work the way we planned it in our minds. Even though that plan might not have turned out the way the script was written in our mind, there might still be another way to turn things around. This is also referred as improvisation, playing by the ear etc.

Recently, I went along with Pappettan to watch a cricket match. As usual, we arrived there late. There we found one of our young friends sitting in a corner, sporting a dejected look. He was sad and was not talking to anyone. This might have turned an ordinary person. But Pappettan is a different breed.

Pappettan: Howdy?

Young Friend: *looks up and replied with no enthusiasm* Hi.

Pappettan: *cheerfully* Hey! Isn't this your team who is batting now? When is your turn to bat?

Young Friend: *with a flood of emotions* My turn is over. I scored a duck.

Pappettan: *realizing the reason behind the gloomy face* Well...it is not the end of the world.

Young Friend: *having trouble holding back now* This was my chance to impress that girl. I have blown it.

Pappettan: *trying hard to suppress the mischief in his eyes and also the smiles on his lips. slyly looks at me* Hmmm. There will be other chances.

Young Friend: *having found a sympathetic ear in Pappettan* You know what? They were passing my cap around. When my turn came, she was wearing my hat. I went to her, asked for the cap and put on a show there saying... 

Pappettan: *listens attentively and also glances at me occasionally*

Young Friend: *now recreating the scene in his mind and mimics the gentle way in which he talked to her* ...You are wearing my lucky cap. I am going to bat now. Can you please give it back to me?

Pappettan: *listening*

Young Friend: She belongs to the rival team. She gave me the cap and said "Come back soon".

Pappettan: *suppresses his smile since the mystery is already solved*

Young Friend: Then I went to bat. And I was clean bowled in the first ball itself.

Pappettan: *agitated* Is this the reason why you are sad?

Young Friend: *confused and irritated* Yes!

Pappettan: *pauses and then talks like a guru who knows everything* You still can turn things around. Go back to her. Give her the cap. Tell her you returned back soon because she asked you to. Then ask her out for coffee.

Thinking further, it isn't a bad plan. I hope this time the plan works for my young friend.

Tags: Pappettan Says,Young Friend,Girl,Cricket


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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Movie Review: Madras Cafe



First of all, a standing ovation for John Abraham. No, he has not matured as an actor over night. In my personal opinion, it is too much to expect from him even at this stage in his career. At this point of time, John Abraham has become a sensible producer who is willing to invest on a well written script, believing there are audience out there who will put money to see a well made movie devoid of melodrama. which makes them pause and think. Moreover, we are all aware about the strong arm techniques before the release of this movie. John, as one of the producers, didn't back down under pressure. At the end of the movie, Major Vikram Singh, the character played by John Abraham, says which is in fact a fitting reply to all the detractors. The message sums up as follows. A revolutionary for some is a terrorist for others...whatever be it, I lost my prime minister.

Then you should applaud the real heroes of the movie, the director Shoojit Sircar and the writers, Somnath Dey, Shubendu Bhattacharya and Juhi Chaturvedi. Shoojit Sircar had earlier directed the immensely likeable comedy Vicky Donor last year. From comedy, this is a giant leap. Moreover, thrillers are a genre which has never been effectively explored in Hindi movies. With this movie, Shoojit not only proves he can handle movie with varying canvases but also effortlessly switch genres. While doing so, he also give Hindi movies a thriller which all of us can be proud of. The perfect recipe for a thriller is weaving a story, inspired by newspaper articles and imagination. This is where the writers comes into play. They have focused on the Sri Lankan civil war, Indian intervention and subsequent assassination of a former prime minister. The names of people and organization are different. To that matter, even the shoes worn by the former prime minister is different. But veils are so thin that you can easily figure out who and what is being referred to.

Through an efficient use of background music, photography, editing and locations, Shoojit Sircar and his team glues us to our seats eagerly waiting for the next scene. Although the director and his team has not used real locations, they have found suitable locations elsewhere in the world. The pathos and the wastefulness of the war driven areas are poignantly captured using black and white still photography. I am not sure if there are real war photographs or not. But it is impossible for us to be detached while seeing those on the screen. The first half of the movie is the build up to the conspiracy and the second half is the conspiracy. Despite knowing the outcome, we are still hooked to the proceedings mainly because of the impotency we feel. To assassinate a political figure is no ordinary matter. This means the conspiracy takes part in different part of the world. The director, the producer and the writers do not compromise in shifting locations across different parts of the world. This is one movie which may not be shot in multiple locations but the story constantly shifts between Jaffna and other parts of Sri Lanka, New Delhi, Cochin, Chennai(or was it Madras then?) and coastal Tamil Nadu, Singapore, Bangkok and London. You better be attentive while watching the movie.

The movie unfolds as a voice over of Major Vikram Singh narrating the events from a few years before the assassination. This in fact works for John Abraham. He isn't bad in this movie as an actor. At the same time, he isn't great either. The voice over mostly helps in covering up his act. As for the performances, there are two people who stands out. Siddharth Basu surprises us with his no-nonsense portrayal of RAW chief Robin Dutt. Be it advising the superior about "the island" or inspring Vikram to forget the tragedy in his life, he is the RAW chief we would love to see and hope to have. Check out how he effortlessly cuts an apple for Vikram while discussing the political situation when the latter is recovering in the safe house. The feather in his crown is the scene when he tries hard to control his feelings while telling his wife he tried everything to save the ex-PM. That is the good guy. To balance the good guy, we need a bad guy. That is Bala played by Prakash Belawadi. Heading the operations in Sri Lanka and opposing Vikram in many ways, Prakash's Bala spits venom with his dialogue delivery and mannerisms. The way he accuses Vikram of going behind his back and also gets angry at his wife in Malayalam are the two scenes which Prakash Belawadi displays his calibre.

I am not an expert on current affairs. But I know a great deal about good cinema. This is definitely one. And you know what my recommendation is. Don't wait for the DVD. Go see it today itself on the big screen.

Language: Hindi

Genre: Thriller

Rating: ****

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Monday, September 2, 2013

She takes charge

When men become lazy, then women takes charge to get the best out of the men. Read the transcript of the conversation between a couple to find out more.

He: Let's go for a movie.

She: Fine. Check out if there are tickets available.

He: *after checking in bookmyshow* The nearest theater is not listing any tickets. There seems a problem connecting to their servers.

She: *silently listening*

He: There are tickets available in the movie hall which is 15 minutes drive away.

She: *raises her eyebrows* You really want to spend money on gas to see that movie?

He: *looks at her innocently with an unsaid YES as answer*

She: Why don't you drive to the nearest cinema hall, park outside, check for tickets and let me know. I will walk over. After all, it is not far away.

He: No no no. I will walk to the cinema hall, check if tickets are available and let you know. You take the car to reach there on time.

Now, he is ready to leave the home.

She: Did you take your keys?

He: *confused* Don't you need it?

She: I have the spare keys to the car. You can take the keys.

After 20 minutes, he gets the ticket and calls back.

He: I have the tickets. You can start now.

She: When is the movie?

He: In an hour.

She: So you can come back and drive me there.

He: *surprised and controlling his emotions* What!!???.... You have the keys!

She: *as a matter of fact*The spare keys does not work. It takes only 15 minutes for you to come back home.

He: *going through multiple emotions*

She: Well, you skipped your workout in the morning. This will compensate for that.

Tags: Musings,He,She

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Movie Review: Memories



A man is kidnapped, tortured, killed and then hung in a public place. The cops arrest an young man who confesses as the perpetrator. Before long, another murder takes place in the same manner. One of the top cop then asks Sam Alex(Prithviraj) to aid the investigation. But there is a problem. After a personal tragedy, Sam has taken to the bottle and doesn't want to come back into the police force. How Sam changes this decision, comes back to battle his personal demons and finally nail the culprit forms the rest of the story.

Scripted and directed by Jeethu Joseph, this film also marks the director's return to the genre he debuted as a director. I personally like Jeethu Joseph as he is only 4 films old and he has already experimented in 3 genres. The second reason is the pace set of his movies. He is never in a hurry to tell a story. He wants to make sure the audience is with him and do not want to confuse them, giving them enough time to catch up with him. You can see this while Sam Alex deciphers a crime scene or while Sam is arriving at a conclusion based on his deduction. When everyone finally find out the identity of the killer, the first thing Sam tries to do is match the killer's missing dates with that of the dates of the murder. The director is not ready make his characters jump into conclusion without proper reasoning. Despite a pace which is unhurried, the director successfully keeps us hooked to our seats with his style of storytelling.

You can treat the movie as a murder mystery. You can also treat the movie as a one man's attempt to take control of his life which is spiraling out of control fast. Many of the scenes have many subtexts which make the viewing more interesting and fun. One of the most evident scene is when Sam picks up the book titled "Holy Bible, the solutions to all your problems" when the investigation team is blocked by the password screen on a computer. The script is written in a rhyming fashion. The movie starts in a shootout and ends also with a shootout. In the final scene, Sam has a hostage situation in hand. Earlier in the movie, he has failed miserably in such a situation. The script writing is heavily inspired by Hollywood style of writing. But Jeethu Joseph infuses drama very intelligently especially the final confrontation with the killer.  Also, the background music has been used very effectively. When Sam is about to deduce something critical from the surroundings, the background score reaches a crescendo.

The film is not entirely devoid of drawbacks. Luckily the positives outweigh these drawbacks. One of the drawbacks is the long tracking shots implemented with the help of VFX. Sometimes the camera tracks a moving vehicle from a distance. In one shot, the camera pulls back from the conversation and goes through many places which includes buildings, forests, roads to finally end up in a roadside cart where the next scene starts. The VFX is evident thereby rendering the scene very cheesy. The other point is the interval between the murders. The murders happen between a span of many months. This does not come very evident while watching except during a conversation towards the second half of the movie.

Prithviraj excels in the role of a cop who has lost the interest to live taking refuge in the bottle. As an star, he has taken care of his physique keeping it in shape in the recent years. This also poses the biggest challenge for him. It is impossible to hide a good physique. How Prithviraj and Jeethu Joseph finally manages it is by clothing the lead actor in shirts which a size or two too big for him. This conceals the physique to a certain extent. Then Prithviraj transforms himself into a drunkard. I am not only talking about the stubble, puffed up cheeks and watery eyes. The way he crouches, the way he walks, the slow reactions. All these add up on the screen to give us a drunken cop who still has not lost his touch. Some of the scenes are played brilliantly especially the sarcasm while mentioning "common sense" as the source of deduction and also how he casually shakes the flask to mix the alcohol with the soda while interrogating the shopkeeper.

This is a good thriller. The investigation does not start immediately. There are emotional blackmails necessary to make Sam accept the case. But even with the heavy duty drama, this is an engaging thriller. If you have not seen it yet, go get a ticket as films like these needs our encouragement.

Language: Malayalam

Genre: Thriller

Rating: ****

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