Blow My Mind, Ma’am…

Friday, June 17, 2016

“Do you have your mind between your legs or what…?”

When you are vertically challenged and anybody a few inches taller than you, cannot see your 5ft-2in frame from a distance of more than 5ft-2in… trust me… you are walking with a distinguished dominance…

And when you carry, on your squarish shoulders… a roundish head… in which is housed a wise and witty mind that is ever ready with repartees to such statements as the one about the mind and the legs here…

Now… if such a proclaimed reference to mind and legs were to come from a stunningly gorgeous leggy lass… whom you had accidentally brushed your arms with, while walking in an equally mind-blowing neighbourhood at Basant Lok in Delhi in the late 90’s… you would either be downright dumbfounded… or would come up with a repartee that Aaveg had… on that bright sunny winter afternoon… early 1998…

Aaveg Anand… my 5ft 2in friend and colleague from my life at American Express… had an incendiary mind about him… not because his mind was combustible or he himself was a supporter of combustion… but Aaveg’s upbringing in an all boys residential school in Dehradun with an excessive access to all that is prohibited and short supplied in an otherwise mortal world – like Playboy and Penthouse – helped develop a mind beyond human engineering…

As he would often say… he was designed for Indianapolis… but the stork dropped him in India…

Destiny… has its own design…

——————-

Like it normally has… with a good part of my Team members in the Learning and Training space who are destined to be a part of my team… but who often need reminding… of the demands that this space has…

For example… in all the 20 odd years that I have been in Training, I always made it a practice to reach the Training Rooms, at least a half hour before the program start… a Gen-X orientation – you would say… but I have often struggled to cement this behaviour in many of the younger people in my team… who would walk in just about when things are to start…

Some years ago… I had one of my Gen-Y team members lead a series of Training programs all packed into one busy week dedicated to learning…

For kicking off a particular program at an unearthly 0800 in the morning, I had half expected her to have reached the venue at 0730 and set the place up…

At just about 10 minutes to the start when I did not find her around in the Training Room, I called her at her home… only to discover she had a strong trace of sleepiness about her…

I asked her about this sleepy tone of hers… her repartee blew my mind away…

“The program is called “Why Sleep Matters”, Ravi… so, I thought I should start putting into play – what you might learn through the program…”

I clutched my belly… rolled on the floor… laughed my guts out… and let her be… for that day, though…

My mind raced back to one of the earliest repartees I had used on my Physics Professor in my senior school… well – in school we were normally used to TEACHERS… but here was a septuagenarian, Einsteinian look-alike, who would forget the simplest of the concepts mid-sentence and would remind us 11th graders of how he has been a Professor in college all his life… and now teaching in a senior school… and how Professors are often…

He had stalled himself mid-sentence… most obviously, he had forgotten what Professors are… often… and it took a young Kodukula, to complete the inevitable…

“… absent-minded, Sir…”

Much to the chagrin of the Professor… and to the much-awaited amusement of a 50-student class… young Kodukula spent the rest of the term, outside the classroom… as that was the only corporal reward Einstein could mete out to an 11th grader…

… To the more recent repartee earlier this week… when I was the Professor in my own class full of senior managers… discussing chaos and confusion in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world… and deliberating what causes this chaos…

I had asked… “so what do you think, causes this VUCA…?”

25 senior managers… aged an average 35 years… were unanimous in their repartee…

“Management…”, they said…

Oh-oh… how we universally love to hate our bosses…

——————–

And on that bright sunny winter afternoon… early 1998… Aaveg and I were out on a leisurely post lunch walk…

It looked like the entire Basant Lok offices were suddenly on a fire evacuation drill… almost everybody had come out to the central boulevard for a stroll… the newly opened TGIF was brimming with as many people waiting outside to get in… as many as those inside that had no plans to get out… Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet were lip-locked at the bow of the Titanic in a gigantic poster at the entrance of the Priya theatre… teeming cine-goers were rushing into the cinema hall… almost short of running into each other…

And that’s when… Aaveg brushed his arms into this stunningly gorgeous leggy lass… accidentally…

“Do you have your mind between your legs or what…?”

She had turned around and almost screamed… and she was red in her face – angry…

“Wow – you look MIND-BLOWING… would you want to BLOW MY MIND… Ma’am…?”

Aaveg had looked her straight in the eye… she was crimson in her face… embarrassed…

FREEZE… did Leo and Kate part their lips in that instant…?

Hmmm…

Happy Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

Commitment Device…

Friday, June 10, 2016…

“So, did you take a vacation this summer? Where did you folks go…?” asked my good friend Laxman – over lunch when we met after a very long time earlier this week…

Laxman has tween-age children… just like mine… and when we are chrono-spatially suspended in the months of May and June as we are, it becomes relevant for us to compare notes – particularly since the kids have holidays… and as it is celestially ordained in my case – Smee – my wife – also has holidays…

For the record… my wife and my kids go to the same school – or at least until the last academic year – albeit for different reasons… my wife tries teaching kids… and my kids are trying to learn what their school tries teaching them…

For keeping the record round and spinning… the academic institution that they go to, has long ensured that in this process of education – all the 3 actors in the play never get to be on the stage at the same time… their scripts are different… written in different languages and curricula… Smee taught in the CIE – Cambridge International curriculum…my son is in the ICSE for all the intelligence that the curriculum demands – ancient Indian “make-life-tough-and-teach-them-all-jacked-up-trades” curriculum… my daughter is in the CBSE so that she could be one of the last bastions to champion the cause of education for the lesser mortals… because I am made to understand by the technical experts in the education space… that this is a curriculum that sucks the least…!

I guess I can vouch for that… I went through a CBSE curriculum too… but my schooling was primarily owing to two reasons… 1, neither of my parents had any political connections and… 2, I figured early in my life that driving a car on the Delhi roads needed one to be purposefully educated – otherwise you merely ended up ‘thinking in Punjabi’ and behaving like a ‘Gurugramee Tau’…!

But the best part of my growing up in my school – despite its best efforts that the school put in – was that I NEVER LET MY SCHOOL INTERFERE WITH MY EDUCATION…!

As such… Laxman’s question earlier in the week got me thinking of my “COMMITMENT DEVICE…”

Now… that’s what a lot of Behavioural Economists substitute for a simple phrase in life called – ‘the daily questions that we ask ourselves’.

Whether my family and I took the customary Summer Vacation or not, is definitely NOT a daily question that I ask myself… but it set me thinking on a more vital dilemma – particularly since the time I took Smee to be my wife 20 years ago… and eventually we both added two more souls to our lives a few years ago… and eventfully voted Mody into power two years ago…

Consider this…

  • (Raghuram) Rajan has kept the repo rate unchanged this week…
  • Mody has added another half a percentage earlier this month, to the Service Tax that I pay…
  • My Boss gave me an increment earlier this year but never told me that it would be just sufficient for paying Mody more than what I had paid him and his Govt. last year…
  • Tomatoes have started looking Crimson and Bloody Red ever since they have shot up to 80 rupees a kilo earlier this week…
  • Jaitley is touted to exit the Finance Ministry…
  • … and Priyanca Gandhi is finally going to enter the political fray, left void and null since eternity by her super talented brother…

Well – what does that have to do with my Summer Vacation…?

My good friend Marshall Goldsmith – well I had met him on two occasions in life and we did commit to a friendship for a foreseeable future… at least his office thinks so, as they keep sending me his weekly articles, his book releases and videos and a host of marketing matter to my email id… matter that can neither be created… nor destroyed… looks like Goldsmith has kept his side of the bargain on the friendship… I am seriously thinking of sending him my Fursat Friday blog spots every week…

Goldsmith’s interpretation of the “COMMITMENT DEVICE” set me thinking on some of the parameters around the daily questions that we ask ourselves… and so, my questions around my Summer Vacation with my family…

One of the parameters on Commitment Device – is the distinction, dilemma and the dichotomy between “Self-Discipline…” and “Self-Control…”

Now… you might ask what the hell is the difference?

Well… Self-Discipline is about ACHIEVING “Desirable Behaviours”… in this case, committing to go for a vacation and keeping that commitment… and Self Control is about AVOIDING “Undesirable Behaviours”… how do I control my desire of going on a vacation owing to… and despite… the “geo-socio-econo-politico-cultural” changes around me… and be left a pauper after the uncontrolled spend… on Crimson-Red tomatoes in the Indigo flights…

Well this dilemma wasn’t as mind-numbing as many of the oxymorons that I see around me… flabby personal fitness trainers… or Bollywood song and dance choreographers… or absolute pure vegetarians who smoke two dozen cigarettes a day… but the daily questions that I asked myself during these last 2 months of my family’s summer holidays are…

“So, did I do my best to help my kids do a variety of things that they could do and enjoyed doing and those that my money could buy during these holidays…” and… “did I do my best to say no to that expensive holiday…”

While I rationalised my Commitment Device in the best possible way my money and my mind could respond…

… could I have struck a balance somewhere…? do I want to put my family on a footloose, fancy-free, backpacked, shoestring-budget summer vacations that I used to have when I was younger…?

Hmmm…

Happy Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

The Old Guilt Road…

Friday, June 03, 2016

“Sir, why are you sweating so much?” asked Sanju Udhasi, my friendly neighbourhood liquor storekeeper…

I was checking out at the till and paying for the beers that I had bought last Sunday… and was soaked in sweat that I worked up on my 2 km walk up to the liquor store from my home… and… of course… I would work up more sweat on the same stretch on my walk back home…

“Sanju Bhai… Maine socha Paap se pehle Prayaschit kar loon (I thought I must ATONE… before I SIN)…” I said…

While his name is Udhasi (sadness)… Sanju has a hearty laugh about him… he let that out… without guilt…

With his big hearted laugh… Sanju drew me into a deep-seated heart-searching trip… netting in an immediate, positive, feel-good, spirited disposition of sorts, about the walk that I took… but for that walk and burning off some calories… I would have gone on a long brick road guilt trip… for having my beers…

—–

“Throw that pencil now… you can barely hold it between your fingers anymore…” Lucky would often chide me in school…

My childhood friend and a close confidante as we were growing up… Lucky had often seen me saving things that I used, till that one last time that I could use them… pencils, for instance, would often cause a verbal duel between Lucky and I… and on occasions, a healthy battle too, to see who outlasts whom on the length of the pencil and its usage till the last functional lead that allowed us to write…

I would often win…

Call it middle-class upbringing but adversity of most sorts draws me into long-winding guilt trips… whether it was people, hearts or things… my attitude towards frugality irked many of them…

The most traumatised of the lot was my SOAP… the soap in the bathroom had to be used till the last possible point till the innards of the cake and the oils used have most conveniently dried up… I had this habit of then pressing the last part of the remaining soap into the new cake of soap so that both are an integrated lot… and none of it is wasted…

And what with my father’s fetish to try out newer soaps that hit the market every now and then… and as the buying decision making in the family was always volunteered upon him… over a period of time, the soap in my bathroom had many smells and flavours… because of all the integration that used to happen over months…

Until one fine day… my father decided he had enough of this integration business… and brought home LIFEBUOY… the world’s leading health soap… which took weeks before I could say I couldn’t use it anymore… and lo and behold… Lifebuoy was made of oils that would make it impossible for it to stick to any other soap…

So… a natural next life for the last piece of Lifebuoy was its use as a hand-wash at the washbasin… at least till the time it resembled the length of my pencil that I could not use any more…

And… Lucky would win this time…

The toothpaste and the talcum powder were not far behind… my pestiest pet peeve as a kid was when somebody squeezed the toothpaste from the middle of the tube… come on… if you wanted to use the toothpaste squeeze it from the bottom and locomote it to the top… and if more-than-you-need paste dropped out… force it back into the tube… fold the tube as it finishes by the day until it can’t be squeezed no more… then cut it with a pair of scissors and extract the last molecule of paste from the tube before you consign it to garbage…

Don’t recall the last time I did that… the plastic tubes do not allow me to do what I used to do with my tin toothpaste tubes as a kid…

My tailor bore the biggest brunt as I grew from adolescence to an adult… my custom made clothes… particularly trousers… always had margins enough to last me a lifetime of growing… up and wide… a customary annual visit to the tailor with the same pair of trousers… and he using his scissors and scalpels to open them up and stitch them back to suit my new height and new waist… till he refused to perform any further surgery on my trousers…

Because it was surgically impossible…

Till most recently when my travels take me into hotel rooms where I use the hotel bath and toilet supplies… half of which are whisked away by the hotel staff because I just opened them and used only a half of the bottle… often send me down the guilt road… till I started leaving hand written notes for the housekeeping staff to let the used stuff be… because I would use them the next day…

And my incorrigible friends… who give me all kinds of scrawny advice on my scrimping and saving… particularly when I last wanted to carry a few left over drops of my aftershave from my Bengaluru hotel…

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1263021073738713&set=a.142808862426612.17062.100000924962483&type=3&theater

—–

And last Sunday… a few good friends and I had a good binge over the IPL finals… the beers added to the fun and excitement… a good part of that without guilt because of some walking, that weekend…

My HEALTH GUILT taken care of…

As years of growing up socio-economically has lessened the guilt around my conscious frugality… spending my own hard earned money the way I want to is a new conscientious guilt that I have been living with…

Well… should I…?

My WEALTH GUILT… Hmmm…

Happy Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

The Colonial Fetish…

Friday, May 27, 2016

Sekhar Olympus… Sai World Empire… Lodha Casa Bella… Raheja Exotica… Tanna Mangeshi Elite… Ekta Terraces… Fairmont La Paradiso… Hiranandani Gardens… Poonam HeightsKingston Annexe… God’s Gift Towerz… Ittina Soupernika… Arihant Explodus… Mahagun Depend-On-Us

Just a few names if you scout around for exotic, semantically sublime, neo-classical living in most of our cities today… doesn’t matter whether it is Gurgaon, NOIDA, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai or Hyderabadu…

——————–

When most of my friends and colleagues who come visiting me through multiple airports criss-crossing half the world… the first thing I tell them about what they would see… is an India – a Country of Contrasts… a strange mix of tolerant co-existence of exoticities…

  • temples with scented walls, sandalwood doors and gold adorned idols… yet uncouth young and old spitting and urinating not too far away from it…
  • tall Manhattan-esque towers with glitzy glass facades where you cannot know what happens inside… and blue tarpaulined shanties right next to them where everything is visible to the naked eye in microscopic precision…
  • crowds of people all around… yet myriads of lonely lives…
  • chaos rules the order of things… yet people crowd temples and mosques to find peace…
  • and the most contrasting… the Government is on a name changing spree of cities, towns and streets with names and no names… to anything that might sound extravagantly Indian… and the average Indian finds supreme saintliness through a festooned fetish for anything that remotely sounds voguish French, Italian, Spanish, or an equally anachronistic Greco-Roman…

It’s chic… it’s kicky…!

——————–

“Why do you want to rent an apartment here… look at the name… “Mahavir Pratishtha”… it doesn’t go with your multinational job and a lifestyle… the courier guys can never get the name right… moreover, you cannot even call your dog Mufasa any more here… you have to give him an Indian name…” my realtor friend Bansal had advised me when I was changing cities… and jobs… a few years ago…

While I eventually settled on “Ganga Satellite” (GS) in Pune… owing largely to the fact that being from Gurgaon… I was used to spaces and the GS provided for that space for starters… but over the next 2 years and a half that I lived in GS, I could neither find Ganga flowing past my housing complex… nor did the Satellite help in alleviation of any pain caused by an oft breaking down wifi… and the perennially defunct Satellite TV broadcasting…

Instead… I spent 3 monsoon seasons full of a foul stenched, mosquito infested nullah that ran just outside the campus… so much for the Ganga… and so much for a Satellite…

Over an era of living in Apartment complexes of all sizes, shapes and forms… and names… I tried getting under the skin of the ‘nomenclaturing’ in our housing sector in India… particularly of the colonial connect…

Until the springing up of Ramdev Baba’s multi-million cottage industry… “Make In India” seems to have acquired a peculiar distaste… particularly of quality, dubious as it always was… none of the Indian brands… more so if Indian sounding… never seemed to have instilled the confidence in the first fifty years of our so called independence…

Add to it the Gandhian (of the Bapu variety) generations always cribbing about the “Country going to the Dobermans and the Chihuahuas”… and how life would have been great if the Queen continued to rule the country… albeit from London… and everything superlative was associated with continental Europe… or Amreeka… and later Kanedda… and still later, Oz land… and how privileged, HS (High Society) up-man-ship usually manifested when the shopping bags were from Harrods; H&M or YSL…

With the world getting flatter… what with glitzy malls… world schools… hi-tech hospitals… and Bittoo Meat Wala renaming himself and his khandaani (ancestral) business in Pritam Pura, Delhi as BMW… the only industry that was left behind and crying hoarse was the housing industry…

With privatisation… communities of “builders and developers” as most of them liked calling themselves… started usurping acres and hectares of land to “colonise” the Indian in us – to provide that “sar pe chhat” (a roof above the head) – a quintessential Indian middle class dream…

Now, how can you have “colonisation” without an umbilical “colonial connect”… especially with English… and anything else “phoren” (except Chinese)… being the lingua-franca that binds a Subramaniam… and a Subroto… and a Sukhwinder…

You cannot expect a Subroto, who sends his children to Global World School… and on Sunday evenings has his dinner at “Mashima’s Kitchen” at Phoenix Market City mall… to live in “Mahavir Kutir” all measuring 4 floors without elevators… how uncouth…

So… for Subroto and Subroto alone… Mahavir builders have “Mahavir Icon”… the latest razzmatazz in Suburban Mumbai…

Well… while Mahavir gets iconic… mom and pop bucket builders are equally having a field day… “Rohan Vasanta” at Whitefield in Namma Bengaluru has taken the double barreling of naming residential projects to a new high… of 14 floors – so to say…

——————–

Meanwhile… my friend Monty Manocha is getting busy to launch a Solar Energy project in Hissar and Rohtak… he tried doing that 10 years ago when he was in India… the Haryana Government had spurned him away at that time… this time he has come through to the same Government as a businessman based in London… introducing latest in German technology… to produce power at 3 times the cost of what he had proposed 10 years ago…

Nothing has changed in his project proposition… except that now, he is a London based businessman… with vested interests in his home country… wanting to put his finger in the Great Indian “Make In India” pie…

“Brown Colonisation” – it’s time, you might say… and the last I heard, his project has sailed through…

And Bansal, my realtor friend… had gotten Manocha to live in the Great Indian “Saini Sky Villas” in Gurgaon…

Happy Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

The Loyalty Program…

Friday, May 20, 2016

“Sir – have you stayed at any other Shangri-La property in the past? That will help me add points from your current stay to your existing membership,” Robin offered…

I was checking in at the Makati Shangri-La, Manila, last Sunday… and like every other hotel that I had checked into in the past… and never cared about the rewards points that my business to the hotel would bring me… on this occasion too, I shook my head…

Robin looked at me… head to toe… literally falling over the reception counter in the process of doing so… and looked back at the information that he had about me on the Registration Card that he had pre-filled… all the information that my travel agent had provided at the time of booking… and everything Robin and Shangri-La were able to extract from Google owing to the tons of electronic dust that I leave through my Fursat Friday…

I may not be a celebrity… nor a SPATT (Special Attention) category that hotels normally put you in… like in all such cases when you have either given them shit loads of business… or you have given them assloads of pain in the wrong part of the anatomy, through an unrelenting demand on the hotel’s ‘service libido’ that it prides itself in… or on its nervous system, which is most perennially fragile to ‘pesty’ guests…

But I definitely know that the information that Robin had… qualified me as a high profile traveler… an inescapable hotel hopper… a pure-play cargo hold passenger in airlines… and who rents a Hertz Tuktuk upon landing in Bangkok… and a Bajaj Auto-rickshaw to go back home in Navi Mumbai…

Well… Mumbai for now, till the Navi Mumbai airport comes up in the next 30 years…

——————–

“It’s high time you retired these Sahara / Jet-lite / (now operated by Etihad) aircraft,” I said to Sahil…

Sahil was my cabin attendant in the Bangkok-Mumbai mid afternoon flight yesterday on my way back from Manila… and together we tried pulling out the food tray from the side of the seat…

Loyalty has its privileges… being a Jet Privilege member for years, saw to it that I was comfortably perched in 1A right at the front of the aircraft… just that, this was the same aircraft Jet Airways uses in the India domestic sectors… where 1A means you are elbowing your neighbour in Seat 1C…

However, loyalty could not help me pull the right strings… er… the food tray out of its hold… it had to be inhumanly extracted with a wrench… and then the rest of the flight was full of apologies that one lives with… and suddenly how you turn a darling of a SPATT for the entire cabin crew…

Conversations ensue… it is always good witnessing the pride, profusion and pomp with which the hospitality industry continuously keeps striving to make you feel the King… and Sahil wasn’t far behind…

After all… Loyalty must have an albatross of Royalty in it…    

Sahil is a Hotel School graduate from Anjuman-i-Islam, Mumbai… has been all over the Emirates with the finest in the hospitality world… Ritz-Carlton… Hyatt Worldwide… Marriott International… before landing into… er… flying into his current job with Jet Airways…

Sahil wanted to be a Sommelier… an interest that he had to bury because he was moved into HR at the Ritz-Carlton… against his volition… but because he was good at wines…

“I was a Trainer… I hated it… I had to read a lot… Books… Standard Operating Procedures… and most tiringly, People… can you imagine, Sir, I had to read people…!”

As matter of fact-ly as I could, I told Sahil… I am a Trainer… and I have been one for many years now and how I value the profession… how I have invested in it for a lifetime… and how meaningful it has been… how noble it is to be able to teach someone what you know… how fulfilling it is when someone spots you in a mall and runs over to you with reverence and thanks you for all that you have taught them…

“Loyalty has its Rewards, Sahil… I now lead organisation wide efforts in this part of Human Resources with my current employer… a loyalty towards my profession…!”

Sahil almost fell off his feet… and onto mine… he was apologetic – profusely again… albeit, this time it wasn’t for the un-pullable food tray… but for having denigrated the Training function…

I assured him that I would not feel bad for what he thought about Training… or the experience that he had had… and that we all make choices in life that we best like… and what we can best do…

I shared with Sahil that I wasn’t born in HR… I started off in Hotel Operations myself and then in Financial Services Operations… till I found my passion in the Training, Development space…

——————–

“So, did you get to be a Sommelier at all then?” I asked Sahil… after about an hour in the Service Area just behind the cockpit… when I caught up with him looking for a cup of coffee for myself…

Sahil got thoughtful…

“I have been thinking after our conversation, Mr. Kodukula… I am toying with 2 options in my life right now… I have a job with Qatar Airways… very similar to what I am doing but with more money and the base location will be Doha… and another, where, with all the money that I have saved, I want to study to be a Master Sommelier at the International Culinary Centre, New York City… what do you suggest?”

“You are not quitting your current job because the food tray is not in its place – I hope” I winked at Sahil…

We had a hearty laugh…

“I have made up my mind, Sir… I want to be loyal to my Passion…” were Sahil’s parting words, when he waved me a Good Bye at the door when we landed in Mumbai…

———————

Meanwhile… earlier this week… Sunday… Robin at the Shangri-La reception looked back at me with intrigue… till he could not resist it any longer…

“Sir, I will enrol you in the Shangri-La loyalty program… I am sure you will like it when you gain the rewards for your stay with us…”

“I would love that, Robin… and you will be the 37th Hotel Rewards program that I shall pledge my loyalty to…” I said with a smile…

While I count my blessings… and my rewards points…

Happy Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

DWIJA… and the Conscience Creepers…

Friday May 13, 2016

This week, I dug out all testimonials of my professional qualifications acquired over a life time… most of these were in a digital state… secure in more than one storage source viz., my iMac, iPhone, MacBook Air, 2 (Wireless) Seagate 1TB External Hard Disks and 2 (Wired) Western Digital 2TB External Hard Disks…

And two paper copies of each of the testimonials… one in a laminated state for ‘aesthetics’ for myself… and the other – ATTESTED TRUE COPIES

I heard Kejriwal is coming to check me out and confirm my testicles… er… testimonials are True… Attested… Copied… or otherwise…

——————–

This entire week, I spent countless hours figuring out which other country on this worthy earth of ours, do we have such ‘conscientious levels of an educational caste system’… where an IITian, at the highest self-styled echelon of a grossly self-warped educational system… questions (educational and professional) qualifications of a tea vendor turned Premier of a country…

Quite akin to a BRAHMIN asking a SHUDRA if he qualifies to serve the community… and a country…  

Well, in the contemporary… and available history of the spoken or the written word… I haven’t been able to unearth any such verbal impeachment… except on 2 occasions in the last 22 years…

The first… was my own ‘UPANAYANAM’ or the ‘Sacred Thread Ceremony’ in June 1994… and now 2 weeks ago, Krtin, my son’s ‘UPANAYANAM’

(Upanayana (Sanskrit: उपनयन) literally means “the act of leading to or near”… it is the rite of passage symbolizing a ceremony in which a Guru (teacher) accepts and draws a child towards knowledge and initiates the ‘DWIJA’ (the second birth)… that is of the young mind and spirit… the Upanayana can be performed at the age of 7 or 14 depending upon when the ‘Teacher’ thought he could accept the ‘Pupil’)

On both occasions, I had questioned the sanctity of a ceremony like this one… and more appropriately… the ‘relevance’ of the ceremony and most importantly wearing the ‘YAGNOPAVEETHAM’ (the sacred thread) itself… looping over your left shoulder and the loop crossing your torso and falling on to your right hip…

(‘Yagnopaveetham’ is a triple stranded sacrificial filament joined by a knot that is worn by those initiated into the ‘Upanayanam’. Yagnopaveetham is a Sanskrit word; Yagna means sacred ritual and Upaveetham means a covering. Yagnopaveetham means a sacred covering on the body without which a Yagna or a sacred ritual cannot be performed) 

——————–

Long years ago… say about 2,000 years… the written word has it… that all the pregnant women in the Aryan world in the north of India… were transported to an astounding ‘reserve’… which could well be geographically ‘Pakistan’ today…

The ‘reserve’ was self-serving in all ways… the prospect mothers were well cared for in all respects… and with so many prospect mothers under the same roof, the environment was very conducive for coming together of all the necessary ingredients for making the mind, body and the soul of the new born astonishingly sound… and laying the perfect ground for the child to be a bright, excitable citizen of a progressive society…

And the mothers were sent back after the child-birth to where they came from… while that may be heart rending for many… for many more, it laid a faultless foundation for a society where nobody knew the parentage nor the genetic make-up of any citizen in the society… when the adolescents – both boys and girls – went back to the larger society when they were 14…

But before they went back… they were put through various tests… qualifying and certifying them to be fit for purpose of serving the larger society…

These tests were based on what the children went through in their formative years at the ‘reserve’… the education prepared them for TEACHING and TRAINING the society – the art and science of life… for PROTECTING the society and the citizens against foreign invasions and keeping internal peace… for CARRYING OUT the craft and practice of TRADE… and lastly and equally importantly SERVING the larger society in its administrative setups…

Everybody at the ‘reserve’ had equal access to the learning and the training methodologies and the available knowledge sources… but growing up to 14 years of age… and based on mental and physical faculties and the interest that they had in one art, science or craft over the other… each child mastered what s/he wanted to…

The society needed them all… and this was one of the most enviable frameworks in governance for many centuries that the ancient Aryan society had modelled hundreds of years ago…

At the time when the adolescents were put through these ‘tests’ and were certified to go back to the larger society… they were put through ‘DWIJA’ (to be twice born)… where in an ‘UPANAYANAM’ ceremony… they wore ‘YAGNOPAVEETHAMs’ of differing folds to signify a ‘second life’ that they would live…

This second birth would seamlessly integrate them to do what they are good at… for the larger Benefit and Service of the society…

—–

Just as Modi, the OBC (Modi’s family belonged to the Modh-Ghanchi-Teli (oil-presser) community, which is categorised as an Other Backward Class by the Indian government)… and Modi, the Tea Vendor at the Vadnagar Railway Station… could become the Prime Minister of the country…

Modi completed his higher secondary education in Vadnagar, Dist. Mehsana, Gujarat, in 1967, where a teacher described him as an average student… yet, a keen debater, with an interest in theatre… unlike Kejriwal who was always a top-of-the-class academically-endowed student who weaved his way into IIT Kharagpur…

Modi had an early gift for rhetoric in debates, and this was noted by his teachers and fellow students… Modi preferred playing larger-than-life characters in theatrical productions, which has influenced his political image… Kejriwal with his social skills has won many awards including ‘Ramon Magsaysay’ and ‘Mahan Lodu Award’ (I am not saying this – Wiki is)…

——————–

As unfortunately as the monumental work-class model paved way to the world-class caste system in our country… slowly and gradually, the Kejriwals of the world, through times, became self-serving CONSCIENCE CREEPERS of the society…

The ‘reserves’ vanished and ‘reservations’ took over…

Shudras or the ‘SERVING’ class… lost that equal right to ‘DWIJA’ and ‘UPANAYANAM’ and the ‘YAGNOPAVEETHAM’

Till Modi became the Prime Minister… this is the true relevance of DWIJA for me in current times…  

Happy weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

The Holdall…

Friday May 06, 2016

“You push all the kids in one by one… 4 of them… then the big steel trunk… and the two suitcases with the canvas covers… that small bag that you needed to deliver for Neeta Aunty in Delhi, given by her brother who is your neighbour… those two sizeable bags with home food to last for 2 days… that ‘Surahi’ – the earthen water pot… and the big, burly HOLDALL…” said Rajat, my good friend, in an off the cuff, innocuous soliloquy at the lunch table this week…

“And suddenly you discover after the train moves… the holdall is in… but Munnu, your third child… is lost somewhere in between the food bags and the HOLDALL…”

Rajat lived many years in the same small government owned, ‘Locomotive Town’, Chittaranjan, in West Bengal, where I spent the first 7 years of my life… the dainty, brick painted, flat-floored town of the 60’s and 70’s… where you could get into your neighbour’s house in a neighbouring street considering it to be your own… no fault of yours… they look the same exact as your house… and most of the time, waft out the same smells of a quintessential middle class living…

I haven’t been to Chittaranjan in the last 30 years but I am told it still is quite the quaint town the way I had last left it… no brick turned out of place and no smell altered… and still flat floored, for two reasons… one – the government is wary of the creaky concrete on the floor above the ground floor as the Railways contractors are infamous using any cement but the best… and two – if the locomotives suddenly started flying they would not take any substantial runway through the small town before they are airborne…

But something has changed…

With all the renaming drama in the country and the zeal and enthusiasm with which we have added more and more trains to the already burgeoning network… the ‘7-up Toofan Express’ that I used to take to travel across the south east of the town to Howrah (Calcutta – OK – Kolkata) and north west of Chittaranjan to Delhi… is now called ‘13008 Udyaan Abha Toofan Express’…

Now… for the LANGUAGE enthusiasts like me… the ‘Udyaan Abha Toofan’ could be a blasting blooper of all times… in my own humble leanings towards Hindi as a language I would interpret that as a “Splendorous (Abha) Garden (Udyaan) caught in a malefic Storm (Toofan)…

And… for the LUGGAGE enthusiasts like Rajat… the ‘HOLDALL’ has disappeared, not just from the family’s entourage… but the dictionary too…

——————–

“Leave that alone… we will put that in the HOLDALL…” shouted my father… “and that one as well… that can definitely go into the HOLDALL…”

Come May… and the sweltering heat… and the impending summer vacations… the plan in urban-middle-class-nuclear-familied India was plain and simple… take to the numerous trans-state trains that criss-cross the largest railway network in the world… and get to your ‘native’ place…

Now… ‘native’ was a very convoluted word in my mind in my growing up years… till I read of American Indians and Aborigines much later in life… I was convinced I had a much better place value in my own country…

For an Odisha-born, Telugu-speaking, 7 years in West Bengal and living in Delhi ever since… my parents kept it amply clear… native was where their parents lived… where their siblings lived… a definitive connect that way, miles away… my parents ensured we had a good reunion every summer with our roots…

A good part of the plan was to start the banter at the dining table weeks in advance… being employed in the Railways it was routine for my father to contour our dinner time conversations to a 7-up delayed that day by 7 minutes… or the AC Deluxe train that started from Howrah lost its way and ended up at New Jalpaiguri… or those 250 odd people caught at the railway station exit gate without valid tickets…

“This country is going to the dogs, I say…” my father would say… that was a good 40 years ago… well… he has since stopped commenting about the state of the country and that of the Indian Railways… he has run out of vocabulary…

With a week in the looming for the journey… my mother would pick up the energy from the heavy smoky air in the kitchen… the sweet meats for us during those 2 days of the journey… and some with added preservatives for our relatives when we reach our native place… and enough other foods with varied levels of preservation duly stamped for taste, texture… and trademarked for the 8 odd meals that we would have during the journey… before we again had home made food cooked by maternal and paternal aunts when we reached our destination…

And the biggest celebration was always packing the luggage… the clothes for a month long vacation… dumped into the VIP or Aristocrat polycarbonate suitcases… and the suitcases themselves covered with freshly washed canvas covers, often made from the army fatigues… that were stitched by the neighbourhood tailor… you see… while the polycarbonate protects and carries your clothes… but for a life-lasting polycarbonate… you need to protect it with an oft washable canvas clothing…

Trust me… I still have that VIP polycarbonate suitcase at home… 40 years old… has lasted a lifetime… still going strong as a relic in my attic… all because of the canvas cover custom-stitched by my neighbourhood tailor… 40 years ago…

A day before the trip… everything is in place…

All except the HOLDALL… that is always the last to be packed…

“We need to pack those 4 bedsheets… bedcovers… inflatable pillows… some newspaper… those slippers… ah… ok… those wet towels that we can dry on the window… when the train moves they dry fast… what… some clothes that cannot go into the suitcase… ok… shove them in here… what else… ok… those steel chains to lock the luggage to the seat corners so that the luggage will not be stolen…”

For my father, who was the self-appointed director of packing the luggage… the HOLDALL was the command centre… the 5 ft by 2 ft canvas discernibly spread and open… with all sorts of travel items conspicuously spewing out from all ends of the HOLDALL…

“Where do we put these toothbrushes and toiletries and all, Nannagaru (father)…?” I would ask just before we left home…

Well… I knew the answer… but I just want the affirmation… for the austerity of the HOLDALL…

I don’t have the HOLDALL at home anymore… but my travels today are conveniently upgraded to wheeled luggage… Brooks Brothers cached in as the latest…

Rajat’s mention of the holdall this week though… brought back memories of many Mays of my life… Thank you Rajat…

Happy weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

Dependence… To Interdependence…

Friday April 29, 2016

4 Sundays ago…

7am… DEPENDENCE…

He knew these were the last moments in the nest… his father brought the seed, the berries, the fruit and the nectar home… his mother kept his nest warm and protected him from the weather, at times taking him under her wing… his younger sister provided for playing the occasional bully that she allowed him to be…

7am to 11am… INDEPENDENCE…

A thousand revolutions blowing in his mind… away from Mummy and her tantrums when he does not complete his homework… away from Papa – at least he will not be forced to watch that stupid sport called Cricket anymore on TV, he can share the TV in the common room with friends, and cheer Messi… do things that he wants to do in all the spare time between 0540 to 2200…

iGovern… iControl…

11.04am…

“Hi… I am Krtin…” my son extends his big palm… factually yes – he is as tall as I am at 14, and his palm is bigger…

“Hi… I am Parth… I am Kshitij… I am Jitesh…”

4 adolescents… 4 different sizes… 4 different backgrounds… 4 different cities… yet, it takes 4 minutes for them to walk up, stand tall and short… shake hands… and meet their eyes for a lifetime…

… Because… some of these relationships that you forged early in life at the hostel… do last… a lifetime…

——————-

“Hey you… Pharst Year…” roared Pradeep Sinha’s (name changed) voice from the corridors of the Pharst (first) floor of the hostel… almost 30 years ago when I stepped into one at the Institute of Hotel Management in Bhubaneswar…

Sinha sounded like God and the Devil welded into one… Yama… far from benign… and you could just imagine two horns jutting out of the top of his head and a couple of teeth hanging out of the upper lip… and with all the air of whip-handedness that he could muster, Sinha stopped us in our tracks…

Thank Yama for small mercies… we were on the ground floor… fairly grounded… else we would have been bumbled away by the boom and the rumble…

My newfound friends of about an hour – Rakesh, my roommate in Room No 3, for the next 3 supposed years… and Sanjeev from Room No 6… almost took to a flight to hide in some yet-to-be-discovered corner in the open corridor… you see… they were in hostels before… and all of 19 years of age that I was, I hadn’t been in any…

To my friends, Sinha’s call tolled a death knell… a clear call that was expected to bring in the charms of a much-loved and sure-to-unfold process called… RAGGING…

The next thing I was doing… was peeling and chopping onions in the hostel kitchen… now that’s something that I had done at home before… except here I was… with a sack of 20 kilos of onions… and with Sinha supervising me…

Sinha was a second year ‘student’ for the last 3 years… from Jamshedpur (Tatanagar, Bihar of those times)… balding… potbellied… smelly… with the best of public mannerisms that they do not bother to teach you even in a Hotel school… and those that many of us envy deep down our hearts… like drumming your nose… or scratching your private parts… all this with an air of nonchalance…in public…

And for all that I know, Sinha would not be reading this… not because he is incapable, which he truly was these many years ago… but the very fact that he was still making Pharst Year students peel and chop sacks of onions in the Bhubaneswar Hostel when I had graduated 3 years later… was testimony to the premise that he was gifted to humankind to turn the art of peeling onions into a cognitive and a psychomotored science…

Trust me… I have ‘Facebooked’ Sinha… he isn’t there… the onions must have got him eventually…

The onions would not leave me during all those years at the hostel… and in the ‘Industrial Training’ – a 6 month mandatory deployment of troops into various hotels that the Hotel School did during the second year of the scholastic curriculum… when I slogged in a hotel doing the onions in… a sure sign in the hotel kitchens that thaws the ice between the Chef and you when the Chef deposits the sack in front of you…

Till the onions did me in… one of the early warning signs that I did not belong here…

After all… in 1990, I could not presuppose my Facebook Profile Picture with a Chef’s Cap on my head… a knife in my small palm and a sack of onions on the table…

I am told one of my Great-Grand-Uncles used to run a restaurant… till the Economic Depression of 1930s in the west did his restaurant in… in Bobbili in Andhra Pradesh… well… that was the most plausible postulate that my father had for an explanation…

——————–

Krtin is in his Pharst Year of his hostel life… he hasn’t met the ‘Sinha’ of his life yet… yet, he wants to be a Chef… is it genetic…?

And since he wanted to be a Filmmaker last month… an Actor last year… and an Astronaut the year before… I would not run the microscope on his DNA…

He started good though… Krtin, Parth, Kshitij and Jitesh… from Navi Mumbai, Nai Dilli, Hyderabadu and Amdavad… quickly figured out the best way to arrange their cupboards and the suitcases that they brought along with them…

“Let’s arrange Jitesh’s cupboard first… all of us… and then we could go to Parth… Kshitij… and finally we could do my cupboard… what do you say”

Krtin’s natural leadership was palpable… after all he has a ‘Trainer’ father… and there was a definite pre-orientation to the first 10 minutes of his hostel time that I had trained him on…

But what he said and did in the next half hour… I had not trained him on…

Krtin was the tallest… they used him to place the empty suitcases in the top shelf… Jitesh, the shorty… helped them all with arranging the bottom most… they were done in the next half hour…

From DEPENDENCE… to INDEPENDENCE… to INTERDEPENDENCE…

A short journey that took Krtin through an experience that will stay with him for many lives that he will live…

Happy Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

Emily…

Friday April 15, 2016

“The moment you start recognizing the faces and remembering the names of the air hostesses… it’s time you realized you are spending too much time in the air…” said my Cousin Krishna Kodukula…

“It’s Scary…” he added…

I had met Cousin Krishna after some years this Saturday morning… at his sprawling 1 acre country home in Princeton, New Jersey…

Since he did not give me express permission to talk more about him… his scientist life… and his scientist wife… and his 27 year long relationship with Uncle Sam… I take here, the liberty of talking about Emily…

——————–

Emily…

Walks into her workplace at the start of an 18 hour work day… meets and greets, shakes hands with 29 other colleagues of hers whom she has never met in her life despite her being employed with her firm for more than 4 years… has to spend the next 18 hours with them as each of their lives depends on each orher…

Emily symbolises for me life at work… for most of us… when we walk through those doors each morning, afternoon, evening… depending when we start our workday… some of us walking up with a sordid frown on our faces… and with the deplorable thought in our tummies – What the f***… got to meet the same Boss again…

Or for some of us who punch our fist in the air and when that last dream wakes us up with a twinkle in our half shut eyes… Yeah Yeah… got to meet the Boss today… what a wonderful day…

Emily has a Boss too… except she does not know who it is going to be today… it was Charlie… last Sunday… and Natalie, the Tuesday before… and Sameer, two weeks ago… and today, it is Murtaza…

Emily is from Scotland… her colleagues today come from 21 different countries… speak 17 different languages… walk about 8-10km every day at work in a physically and emotionally pressured enclosure… serve 500 odd customers 36,000 feet above the ground… in the A380 from Dubai to New York… today…

For Emily, it’s a regular day… all the 14 hours of the flight… and before and after managing the turbulence all the time… turbulence in the air… and turbulence largely in the minds and lives of the customers that she serves…

Two of Emily’s customers today are happy… new fathers travelling across to meet their newborns in New York and Chicago… it’s a long haul flight for both of them… one mid staged couple going across to spend the next one month in New York before they join their daughter at her convocation in Philadelphia… one white haired man is travelling from Hong Kong via Dubai into New York… his mother is no more… he is travelling to attend her funeral…

Emily knows about them all… she has these conversations with complete strangers knowing well that she may not meet them ever again… and they may not recognise or remember her when they meet her the next time… but for those 14 hours, Emily is with each one of them… in their joys… their happiness… their sorrows… maintaining a professional, cheerful demeanour of having done a great job for another hard day…

Emily strikes a bond with her colleagues… those that form part of the 20,000 cabin crew workforce… all base stationed out of Dubai… but all of whom, most of the time, are either in the air or some other destination in the world… all come together as a team for that day… for a singular purpose and mission… to hold aloft the brand promise of Emirates… serve the customers that they do… and yet – never to meet the same colleagues again for many months to come…

Last Sunday… chatting with Emily for 15 minutes at the A380 Lounge up in the air… brought in many reflections… going back to the same Boss and colleagues days, months and years together… forming those bonds for a life that depends on each other… with all the similarities and differences… attitudes and idiosyncrasies… common successes and failures… the living in and breathing together for that common purpose…

Life is not too different on the ground… amazing as it is… except…

Is it SCARY to meet the same faces again each day and every day… as Cousin Krishna puts it… even as colleagues…?

Hmmm… he may never have meant it this way… but…

Happy Week Ahead…

From the Dubai International Airport – on my way back home…

Ravi Kodukula

C.R.A.P

Friday, April 8, 2016

C.R.A.P – Cold… Rolled… Annealed… Pickled…

RELEASED… 

——————–

 

C.R.A.P

COLD

On the contrary… Warm… VERY WARM towards my 2 young children who are my biggest teachers in life; my parents; my friends… in real life where I can touch, hug, feel and kiss them… on Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter – the SIXTH ESTATE – where I can poke, calm, hurl my compliments and abuses… my colleagues; my bosses at school, college and my workplace… and the world in general…

Most specifically, Smee – my wife and my significant partner in all that I do… and all that she warns and cautions me from doing… the umpteen sermons that she serves me each time before we step out for the next life… always assured that I have this uncanny knack of making an ass of myself…

ROLLED

The emotions in this book do not make any sense whatsoever when written with a straight head… so, I rolled them straight from my heart…

ANNEALED

Have emerged absolutely tough as steel after each of my life experiences… have been cooled slowly after the heat in each situation… so that I could reflect into the past and find some meaning…

PICKLED

Written DRUNK… edited SOBER… the pickling has been somewhere in between…

 

C.R.A.P … Happens…

PS. I could have called this book W.R.A.P… Warm instead of Cold… but my editor told me C.R.A.P is catchier… Trust me… what you would read is Warm…

Available at :

amazon.in

http://www.amazon.in/C-R-P-Cold-Rolled-Anneale/dp/1482872668?ie=UTF8&keywords=c.r.a.p&qid=1460138383&ref_=sr_1_2&s=books&sr=1-2

amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/C-R-P-Ravi-Kodukula/dp/1482872668/ref=sr_1_22?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1460138802&sr=1-22&keywords=c.r.a.p

amazon.co.uk

http://www.amazon.co.uk/C-R-P-Ravi-Kodukula/dp/1482872668/ref=sr_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1460138871&sr=1-11&keywords=c.r.a.p

amazon.ca

https://www.amazon.ca/C-R-P-Rolled-Annealed-Pickled-ebook/dp/B01DYKF6UG/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1460138717&sr=1-2&keywords=c.r.a.p

barnesandnoble.com

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/crap-ravi-kodukula/1123620332?ean=9781482872668

 

Thanks for Dealing with this CRAP!

Happy Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

 

Venky Needs Some Space…

Friday, April 01, 2016

“Papa – why is everybody pushing each other here? Why can’t they simply walk one after the other and everybody gets to see the Bhagwan (Lord Venkateswara)…”

Kavya… my daughter and the youngest of the 6-member entourage – my parents, my only wife, my son, my daughter and I… had entered the Sanctum Sanctorum at Tirumala, the abode of the Lord… had asked herself loud… amidst and above the din of “Govinda Govinda”… chanted with hysterical fierceness by half a million voices around us…

Actually… a 50,000 of those voices in front of me – in a space that was hardly 100 metres between the idol of the Lord and I… and the rest of the half a million was snaking itself through the endless, serpentine, multi-filed queues that were behind me… next to me on my left and right… some above and below me… some hovering and sortieing in unimaginable space out there… in nowhere…

Tirumala… atop the 7 hills above the quaint old town called Tirupati in Chittoor district in Andhra Pradesh… has now grown into a bustling city… with all visible symptoms and symbols that signify a commercialised pilgrimage… where basic conveniences come at a cost… where human life is noticeably a level below the Lord… and where the Lord means Business at every stage of the journey…

Like any of the busiest airports in the world… where flights coming in from different parts of the world converge… into that one runway when all others are suddenly shut down for repair… and there is an unanticipated scramble on the tarmac, the taxiway and the runway…

Except… this busiest airport for pilgrimage in the world continues to have a single, broken runway for years now… where basic tenets of a concept called Space, symbolise the way the larger Indian Humanity… succumbs everyday at the most opportune moment to be human…

After all… it was ordained by the Lord to be this way…

——————–

“Sir – we have a new project coming up in Kharghar (Navi Mumbai)… with all the modern luxury amenities… yet styled to reflect how Caesar and Cleopatra used to live (till Brutus did them part)… and how the Greeks and more importantly Alexander lived… and a few other Roman and Victorian kings and queens lived… Coliseum sized gymnasium… Olympic sized swimming pool… Spartan war-field sized podium garden… a Nile shaped water body running through the 8 acre complex… 6 residential towers of 30 floors each… each tower named after the kings and queens… the ambience of the entire 8 acres will symbolise a lifestyle of a king like you… Sir…”

Solanki… my realtor friend for many years… who keeps calling me now and then… specifically in February, just to test whether I got my bonus and that increment… which he believes I would pump into real estate investment… had called me 3 weeks ago…

“And Sir… the best part… we will have a spacious Ganesh Mandir right in the middle of the complex… Smita Madam will be very happy…” he added my wife’s name… for all that he thought about an inclusion that ordinarily brings Godly austerity in my life…

I thought of all the Victorian and the Roman and the Spartan kings and queens… their soldiers and their wives… the harems and the concubines… and their lavish lifestyles all packed in an 8 Acre complex that Solanki was building (sorry developing)… and with the Ganesh Mandir added with a good intent…

For the East must meet West… and Time must meet Space…

I was curious… I put the Lord’s (Ganesh) comfort before mine…

“How spacious is the Ganesh Mandir, Solanki…?”

“Sir… very big… 2,000 square feet…” Solanki said in all earnestness and respect for the Elephant God… I am sure he would have stood up from where he was sitting in all his reverence for Him…

“And how spacious are the flats…?” I wanted to check for some human comfort now…

“Sir… we have options… 1RK (Room Kitchen)… 1-2-3BHK apartments; and 3.5BHK Penthouses…”

Solanki clearly steered around the word “flats” and called them “apartments”… when I had first met him a few years ago, he had asked me what my Room Number was… that’s what they call apartments here in Mumbai… Rooms…

I pressed for the apartment sizes… knowing very well that if the Lord’s agents have allotted Him 2,000 sq.ft. for his elephantine proportions… I would not get more than anything that Alexander’s concubines would have got… neither in reverence for their beauty… nor for mercy for serving his carnal interests in between his conquests for world space…

Solanki told me… the most lavish space in town… the 12’ by 10’ Master Bedroom in the Penthouse was the most attractive proposition for me… at least this would ensure I do not wake up with my feet on the window sill… in the Top Deck… and drop into the Olympic sized swimming pool down below if a pigeon were to drag me down from the window… feet first…

I don’t know about Solanki… but Alexander occupied only 6’ by 2’ feet when he went away from the world… so my guess is, his chamber in the Alexander tower will not require much space either…

——————–

Macrocosmically, no wonder then… Venky did not demand much space for Himself at Tirumala… nor did his agents give him much either… neither to him… nor to the millions of devotees that throng Him every day…

And no wonder this time then… last weekend when Kavya and I went visiting Him… the agents had moved Venky back, away by another 100 ft. from the nearest human touch or sight… on the previous occasions a few years ago, He was 10 ft. away from me…

“But that’s what will happen na, Papa… the way people are pushing each other… no surprise they will fall on to the Lord too and push Him as well one of these days… so, it’s good the agents have moved Him to safety…”  

Space… the primal posterior… at least by the way Kavya and I were pushed and punched on our backs and backsides… 

As time passes by… a sea of Humanity floods the Lord’s Tirumala every day… in and out… for a glimpse that lasts 10 seconds… of the Lord of faith… of belief… of hope…

Except… Kavya thought it was a sea of Inhumanity…

Happy Weekend…

Ravi Venkat Kodukula

Google Maps… and RMLB

Friday, March 25, 2016

“In 50 metres – take a left towards Borivali Station Annexe…”

Google Margadarshini… the Indian woman’s lithe voice on Google Maps… waxed eloquent… this Wednesday evening…

I was on my way to pick up my parents at the Borivali railway station… I was going about in circles for the last 5 minutes and I looked forward to the Annexe in 50 metres… amongst all the humdrum of 20 auto rickshaws lined up ahead of me in 4 haphazard lanes… when there was space only for a lane and a half available…

About 500 people and a BEST bus that loomed large in front of me… blocked all visibility of this left turn that I needed to take… towards the Annexe…

“In 10 metres – take a left towards Borivali Station Annexe…”

I was inching closer… Yesss… I could see the left turn now… and I almost turned…

…Into a lane in which there were two fat buffaloes walking in a single file… as they would not fit into the lane if they walked next to each other tail in tail… and a young man on a motorbike right behind the second buffalo…

I am sure the buffalos and the bikeman were going to receive their kin at the Borivali railway station… and they were definitely being guided by Google Margadarshini too…

——————–

“You tell me what needs to be done… and I will blindly follow the instructions… I have to get into this role as a Trainer into your team”…

I had said to Apurva Sharma… my first Boss in the Training, Learning, Development line of work – almost 19 years ago…

Apurva had rejected me the first time the role came up in his team… and after 6 months again when he was expanding his team… I was relentless in throwing my hat into the ring…

Perseverance… you may say… I guess, a dogged wanting to be in the Training zone kept pushing me to pester Apurva… I had already served Card customers for 2 years at the American Express Telephone Service Centre… and then 2 years in the Amex Travel Service… I was good to give back to the communities that I worked with…

After all… when you can’t DO… you TRAIN…

Gifted with some passable gab… this time around, I could convince Apurva… who put me through a half hour walk through explaining a Cardmember system screen… that was the easier part… but this was to a bunch of 10 seasoned Card Operations professionals who knew the system inside out… now that called for some preparation…

I passed the muster… got into Amex Cards Training… July 27, 1997…  

I had promised Apurva… I would be diligent in crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s… he just needs to tell me what, where, when and how…

There were occasions when I did not believe in what Apurva thought or did… at least, initially… and as my Boss he always had these two options – one, that of bullying me into doing without believing… and the other – which was so unique to Apurva… demonstrate what needed to be done and create that unflinching belief…

Apurva called that RMLB – “Role Model Leadership Behaviour”…

That was Apurva’s very early version of Google Maps… when Google was just about born and was walking its baby steps…

RMLB has stuck with me ever since… what was worth doing… was always worth doing well… but of course, I could never get closer to the way Apurva exemplified this through his own behaviour…

I recall I was very reluctant to go to Rishikesh on the first TeamExpress – the Team Building workshop which Apurva conceived… which eventually became a legend at Amex… I did not believe – primarily because I wasn’t sure taking people out for 3 days into wilderness would most likely feed them on weed but will never really bring them back transformed…

And in all his humility Apurva claimed he conceived this along with the team (of which I was an antipathetic part)… but the truth was… much of the thinking and the fundamental building blocks of TeamExpress were laid by Apurva…

The first workshop that he led in March 1999, was a complete eye opener for me… Apurva was a magician and he created what was expected of him… magic… and one of the magic potions that he used, converted me… into a believer and a doer…

If you are a principled taskmaster… you would train your Maps on yourself first… and Apurva was one who would always be willing to be in the test environment… and most importantly, as the creator of the Maps… he needed to know the lanes and the by-lanes… every nook and corner of RMLB…

Apurva was my Boss for 4 years… and in all those years we created a bond between us… a deep understanding of human emotions and behaviours… and as they say… familiarity breeds contempt… there were occasions when I did not follow the Maps… maybe took him for granted…

Like on this occasion… that Wednesday…

(Almost) every Wednesday we used to go to the venue of the TeamExpress in a bus… 2 trainers and 20 participants… Wednesdays were formal dressing for us and I would change into comfort casuals for the bus journey in the afternoon just before boarding the bus…

It has been some Wednesdays now… all of us knew the drill and the dress code… and it was a sacrilege that I turned up on a Wednesday into work, dressed in comfort clothing straight from home…

Maybe familiarity with Apurva meant – in my own mind – a blessing… a hope… a possible pardon for that offence…

Apurva looked at me toe to top as I entered our work area… that one glance had RMLB etched clean on it… a clear disapproval of the Maps that he had not written… the Maps that were not to be… the t’s were not crossed on this occasion… and the i’s were far from dotted…

I went to the nearest shop at Basant Lok and got myself some clothes that the Maps prescribed… saved some grace for myself… but equally importantly, upheld a workplace practice that Apurva approved…

After all… to me, my Organisation has always been my Boss… to start with…

——————–

Apurva celebrates another Birthday this week… a disciplined life… with Maps charted for many lives that he touches… like mine…

I did not take that left turn suggested by Google Margadarshini this Wednesday evening… it was another Wednesday in my life… but this time… I thought I would follow the Maps that Apurva Sharma had taught me to create for myself if Google fails me… chuck your male ego and ask people around for directions…

To one of the best cartographers in my life… and my mentor in life for 19 years…

Happy Birthday Apurva…

Happy Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

Hyderabadu…

Friday, March 18, 2016

“Papa – when I grow up, I will build a house on this plot…”

I was walking my son, Krtin, to the bus stop to go to school… so that he could get a decent education and realise all those dreams that he had started sharing with me…

We had just passed by a vacant plot in Palam Vihar, Gurgaon where I had lived ten years of my life… a plot, which was 6 slots away from my own… in the same row of houses…

Krtin… all of 7 years of age had started dreaming early… wanted to be Shahrukh Khan… a limousine – which he fancied he would drive himself… and a bungalow big enough for him, his wife and his two children… a boy and a girl…

But… he does not want to be a Software Engineer… sob…

——————–

“Softuwaeraaaa”…? (Are you in the Software Technology world?)

A typical first question that you get if you are from the hinterlands of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh… and where the hinterlands converge into the megapolis called Hyderabadu… and where the embryo in any womb is deemed to be a Software Engineer when the sperm meets the egg…

And where 4 questions are invariably asked at any public gathering… like a private wedding of your cousin where the person asking the questions is remotely… yet celestially connected to you…

In the Hyderabadu scheme of things… a private wedding is a public gathering primarily because you end up meeting hordes of your uncles, aunts, their cousins and their kids… half of who descend into Hyderabadu in a wedding season that cosmically coincides with the vacation time for schools in California… and where weddings are grounds to juxtapose the dollar lives in the Bay Area… over those that are lived by lesser mortals who got it all wrong right at the embryo stage…

If you answered Question 1 in the positive, the next obvious question does not stupefy you…

“Statesaaaa”…? (Are you living in Uncle Sam land?)

Well, if you are not… then you are computed toe to top in half a glance… and dismissed as a denigrated vermin… worthy of a wayward life no worse than a weasel’s…

Well, if you are… then let’s go to Question 3…

“Caru Emiti… Corolla aena”…? (What’s the car that you drive? Is it the Toyota Corolla?)

Now, that is a very intelligent question… the word has travelled fast… on the States-side, statistically… Toyota has sold more Corollas to the engineers from India… than any other virtuous holders of a Green Card or a Green Lantern… and in the hierarchy of the oft-compared dollar lives… much more than what Pinky Kapoor or a Sweety Khanna would compare in Delhi… you are firmly established as either a starter or a struggler… if you are on a Corolla…

And then the final probe…

“Ownu Housaaaa”…? (Do you own your house in the States?)

With this set of 4 linear questions duly dealt with… you may now go ahead and bless the bride and the groom… who are prepping to go to the Bay Area after the wedding… after their honeymoon in their parents’ Himayatnagar home in their very own Hyderabadu…

I normally do not find this Uncle or the Aunt who asked me these questions after the dinner… as their sole purpose of attending the wedding is to figure out how many amongst the gathering live a dollar life… and how their daughter – in particular – can find a prospect groom from the US of A…

And my children… now both in their teens… come out blessed and confused in equal measure after each of such occasions… they had some early introduction and orientation to the American accent in some of these weddings… where my cousins and their kids would talk in the accent… the first thing that they pick up when they land in San Jose… and the accent lingers on for a good few weeks after the wedding is done…

These days I find myself more in weddings of my cousins’ kids… a definite sign of me growing up… but the accents are stronger… as now it’s not just my cousins… but their kids who want to come back to their parent-land and experience a Hyderabadu wedding… the honeymoon destination has changed from Himayatnagar to Hitech City… and my children have now grown indifferent to the American accent…

Very early on in life… both of us having grown up and away from the most happening lives of our cousins in Hyderabadu… my wife and I had decided against Hyderabadu as a place where we would like to build our nest… solely relying on the statistics published in our family chronicles… categorically 75% of my wife’s and 50% of my cousins live there… and the rest of them get continually Californicated… moving on and living in the Bay Area…

Well… we have nothing against our cousins… we have enough love between us as long as we are seven rivers apart… and despite most survey results that keep pushing Hyderabadu as the most liveable city in the country… we just cannot seem to muster enough courage to think of the city for our probable current living… or even a retired existence…

——————–

“And why would you want to build a house away from our own house just 6 plots away, Krtin…?” I had asked my 7-year old son that morning…

“When I grow up, I would like to live by myself and my wife and 2 children… one boy and a girl…”, he replied immediately…

“But we already have our house here… you can always live with me when you grow up… and your family as well…”, I had said…

“But you do not live with Taatu (grandfather)… and Nannamma (grandmother)… they live separately…”, Krtin had looked into my eyes when he said this…

And he saw some mist… undeniably…

I thought of giving a justification… I have a job in Gurgaon… my father still works after retirement in Delhi and he finds it convenient to travel by the Delhi Metro and how Gurgaon would be inconvenient for him… how my mother’s life is entwined with my father’s… etc… etc… etc…

My parents went nuclear after they had 3 children… wholly owing to better job and career prospects… when they moved from a small town called Chittaranjan in West Bengal to New Delhi…

I went nuclear after I married Smee, my wife for 19 years now…

Is Krtin flying away too young as he goes to his residential school in 2 weeks from now… will he come back to the nest and live with Smee and I more permanently at any time in the future… will his life be around us… will our lives be around his… and his sister’s…?

“But don’t worry Papa… you can always come to my house sometimes and stay with me on Saturday and Sunday… like Taatu and Nannamma…”

Krtin had said… just before he boarded the bus… that morning…

Happy Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

Allah Hoo…

Friday, February 26, 2016

“Sisurvetti… Pasurvetti… Vetti Gana… Rasam… Phanihi…”

The Child, the Beast, the Serpent… all enjoy music…

——————–

Art knows no single language… no single religion… no single God… no single faith… knows no beginning… knows no end…

Mythili Prakash, Bharatanatyam danseuse (and Wife of Pi, in Life of Pi)… Aditya Prakash, of the Aditya Prakash Ensemble fame (and brother of Mythili Prakash)… and Mahesha Swamy, an ensemble by himself (plays all imaginable musical instruments humankind has known to date… and sings Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan with equal aplomb)… are my three new Gods… one new religion… one new faith…

Mythili Prakash, Aditya Prakash and Mahesha Swamy

Have you heard of or seen Bharatanatyam choreographed to a Sufiya Kalaam? Or someone with all the splendour of ‘Vibhooti’ (paste made from ash) smeared on his forehead rendering “Allah Hu” with effortless ease in Urdu and Arabic with no trace of an accent? And a Bharatanatyam number choreographed in total tandem to go with it?

I have…

Intolerance… Anyone?

It’s not every day that you see a 76 year old (my father)… a 65 year old (my mother)… and 14 and 12 year olds (my son – in the photos here with the artists, and my daughter)… get into a trance…

Of course, my wife Smee and I are perennially in a trance when it comes to music… 

At the Chinmaya Naada Bindu (CNB)… a 3-day residential Music and Dance Fest at Chinmaya Vibhooti 2 weekends ago (Feb 12-14)… some of the best days of my life…

Pt. Rajan and Sajan Mishra… Priya Sisters… Kala Ramnath… Ustad Shahid Parvez… Anita Guha’s Bharatanjali Trust, Chennai… and ensemble of CNB’s very own Himanshu Nanda (flute)… Ramaa Bharadvaj (Bharatanatyam)… Pramodini Rao (vocals)…

http://chinmayanaadabindu.org/event/6th-naada-bindu-festival-residential-arts-retreat/

Words literally cannot describe the experience…

As Ramaa Bharadvaj puts it… the Purpose of Art is not to begin… nor to end… the Purpose of Art is to “Provoke Thinking”

Yeh zameen jab na thii yeh jahaan jab na thaa
Chaand suraj na thay aasman jab na tha
Raaz-e-haq bhi kisi per ayaan jab na tha
Tab na tha kuch yahaan tha magar tu hee tu… Allah Hu…

(When this Earth and the World did not exist… When there was no Moon, Sun and no Sky… When the secret of the Truth was still not known… When there was Nothing, there was You…)

Allah Hu… Allah Hu… Allah Hu… Haqq… (God is… God is… God is… the Truth)…

Happy Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

Hi… I am Aishwarya (Rai)…

Friday, February 12, 2016

“Hi Guys… I am Aishwarya… Good to meet you all…”

Sanju (Sanjana – Aishwarya Rai nee Bachhan) just stopped short of asking for Pepsi… because half the men in the room had swivelled out of their swivelling chairs… the other half had their tongues lolling out, salivating for the snickerdoodles that were never served… the third half had flailed their arms in the air to catch those eyeballs that had just shot out of their sockets to put them back where they belonged…

With (Lehar) Pepsi coming into the market in 1993, it would only have been the right choice, had she said… “Hi… I am Sanjana… Got another Pepsi”?

…The Lehar Pepsi ad 1993 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aptaw0QgcsA

——————–

One of the most prolific customer oriented brands in an emerging Indian Economy of the early 1990s… American Express, one of my first employers, had started putting together some delightful dudes and dolls to serve the customers of a new era…

Short of just an army that was being assembled for a war that would fore-write history… some of us fresh hires used to flock into our Basant Lok office in (New) Delhi on foot (physically living out of the basement at our B-Lok offices 24/7)… some came in the Maruti 800s (a sign of ‘arrival in life’ of those times)… but many of us, on bikes… and I… on my BC (Bajaj Chetak)…

For the more affluent – the Blue Box customers… the American Express Card, billed in Indian Rupees, was one of the first (credit) cards launched in the country… and flaunting it in your wallet – even today – is signalling “having arrived in life”

But for the wannabes with a panache for upward mobility… Ogilvy and Mather, the advertising partner provided an absolute high level titillation – with advertisements that read – “Quite Frankly, the American Express Card is not for Everyone…”

What unfolded was history… for the newly set up American Express TSC – Telephone Service Centre – of which I was a part… receiving calls from the wannabes was ever eventful… and in a fairly “English” driven Economy of the times, a credit card from a multinational brand meant you, as a customer, needed to measure up to the “English” of the brand…

And we were ready… our Marketing proposition for the product was clearly spelt out in each word that we used… particularly in Delhi where a Khanna wanted a card because Kapoor got an “invitation” to become an Amex Cardmember…

From – so, why the hell didn’t Khanna get “invited”…

To… why is this a “Cardmembership” – after all, I will put a piece of plastic in my wallet…?

To… and if this is a Membership – are you a Club…?

To… and what is a Charge card and why is this not a Credit card…?

To… and how are you different than “Indian Express”…?

To… and why was my card application declined…?

To… and what do you want Ravi – tell me your price – I want the Card…?

And… to… don’t tell Khosla that my card application got declined – otherwise he would tell the entire neighbourhood…

From questions… to pleas… to qualms… to plaints… and plaudits in between… we braced them all… after all, being a part of the industry even before the industry is born… is like “Barkhuddaar – tum jis school mein padhte ho… hum us school ke Principal reh chuke hain…” (I have been there much before you, buddy… and have been a pro at it)…

The “Call Centres” were yet to be born later in mid 90s in a big way… but Sachin Bountra, William Rikh and I, Ravi Kodukula formed the 3 member team of one of the first Call Centres in the country… and reporting to Joby Joseph, this formidable team started serving customers 18/5 to start with… taking it to 18/7 later… and 24/7 eventually…

For both my BC and I… it was sheer serendipity that we were a part of the spectacle…

Every day was eventful… I had dealt with customers across the spectrum…  and when we launched the “Welcome Call” to the new Cardmembers… it was a dream come true… my conversations with Dev Anand, Gulzar Saab, Boski (Meghna Gulzar – Gulzar’s daughter) and Rishi Kapoor welcoming them to the American Express family… stand out in my memory…

Alongside the Telephone Service Centre – ran the other 24/7 customer interface unit – the unit that dealt with Merchants (Service Establishments as Amex calls them)… and Travellers Cheque (TC) customers – typically those who lost their TCs… or the banks and FSIs which needed TC authorisations…

This was a male bastion for years to come… and for India, the American Express Card Authorisations (Auths) at B-Lok, was the Sanctum Sanctorum of all that had to do with the Mind, Body and Soul of the firm… and the Telex Machine was called the “GOD”…

Entry to this longish room on the ground floor was by “invitation”… and any entry by any living being other than male… was prohibited by law of the Auths land… and the inhabitants inside the room had to be forewarned at least a half hour in advance so that they get into propriety… of language… of sitting, standing or snoring postures… and of general human behaviours that are acceptable in an otherwise civil society…

And when Aishwarya Rai entered the room… that evening in November 1993, just a couple of months before she was crowned “Miss India World”… and unannounced at that… the behaviours were far from proper…

Who cares for propriety anyway… when one of the most gorgeous women in the world comes calling…

Aishwarya Rai was a celebrity as an upcoming model at that time, and was in Delhi and in Amex Auths… brought in along by none other than John Smith (name changed to protect John’s sanity… John is still with Amex today and is a celebrity himself)…

John himself was a model at that time, and was still hobnobbing in the modelling world after he had recently joined Amex… John’s most lucid commercial that I recall, was “Clinic Plus” in 1993… now, that’s a hint…

There were no mobile phones at that time… none whatsoever with cameras on them… the only memory that you could save was to walk up to Aishwarya… shake hands with her… and not wash your hands for the rest of your life…

The Aishwarya Rai, Ritu (Mahima) Chaudhary, Aamir Khan Pepsi ad had just hit the market… and I had just shaken hands with Sanju (Sanjana – Aishwarya Rai)…

November 1993…

By the Way… Got another Pepsi?

Have a Great Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

 

——————–

The above expression is in response, to put up a post in the Facebook – “Becoming American Express” – share your memorable experience as an employee… this came up in Facebook this week of February 08…
What I shared are my personal, anecdotal experiences and I have no malice towards any individual or brand – loved or hated… what I wrote is history, and will go down into the future as recording electronically, something that happened in a pre-electronic era…

 

Step Back Smith

Friday, June 24, 2011

Finally… some Fursat…

Whosoever said that you have all the time in the world when you are shaking your alliances, hasn’t really been through a multitude of corporate divorces as I have.

I mean – imagine when you are just about getting divorced. You are battling for empowerment to take a call on your worldly possessions and who gets to possess them after the split; you are so full of energy and constructive engagement towards all things called life so that you could complete all that you have to in this life and walk into the next alliance with no burden of a backlog; and of course – most appropriately – the book-keeping has to be impeccable.

So, where do you have the time – the Fursat?

As the Learning and Development Head in many corporate organisations in the last few years – in fact more than what my infatuation with these alliances would have allowed – the worldly possessions have been more in the mind, than any storage devices in the Dells or the Lenovos. The 103 sign-offs that you would need to ensure that you walk out of the organisation with no encumbrances (read penniless and head held high) are a pain in the wrong side of the human anatomy and as such keep you constructively engaged for the last 20 days of your employment anyway.

And then you discover, there are more people in the Company to autograph your exit that you ever knew existed or you thought you ever needed them! And, of course, the fervour with which your employer would love for you to finish off everything at hand would put all Project Leaders of the likes of E. Sridharan (Delhi Metro) to sheer shame. And your employer knows that given the grey hair that you brought to the role and the sheer marketplace dynamics, your replacement cannot show his or her dirty face while you are still alive in the company. So, you better complete what you have chartered for the company, so that your replacement can undo all the great work you believe you have done!

It amazes your own wits when you walk into your new life – a role that is worth the company’s while – is, how quickly you become a “Step Back Smith”. You are God’s gift to humankind! You exist because corporate organisations are impoverished of wisdom – or at least the wisdom the previous guy in the role lacked. You have been hired because there was nothing – read nothing – that was ever going right when the previous guy was on, courtesy who, the role had become stale, the environment sultry and the organisation was slowly sweating into sluggishness, a state of near decay.

So, lo and behold, enter you – SB Smith. Tooled with a fashionable effervescence, you would like everybody to step back and take a fresh perspective of things – so that you could step on and stamp over the entire place and bring in the “much needed change” that the organisation has been craving for. “We need to re-strategize”, you would say. In the first few months of a rampage that you are on, when you are not expected to deliver anyway, you meet with all the key “Customers” – the “Stakeholders” – that your role is expected to impact; ask them painful questions that you have so painstakingly coined and paint-worthily articulated to elicit their pain-points. Step aside – the Lord has come. The Lord shall alleviate all worldly pain!

The discerning Stakeholders are visibly excited – or at least that’s what you assume – and welcome you as part of their own indulgent responsibility to “indoctrinate, integrate and ingrain” the new leader into their scheme of things. They do not want to be seen seeing your arrival a pain in itself, because then they are not seen as leaders who can embrace change! Well – what if you have been the sixth change in as many years of the organisation’s own dismay at “filling, shutting and forgiving” this strategic role that you have stepped in!

You observe some “fundamental challenges” in the way the Company has been operating – in your absence. You ask all the “intelligent” questions – of course stepping back on most occasions. How can the Company be running without these basic “hygiene” establishments in place, you ask. You are lauded as the messiah by your boss and everyone around – because they do not want to deflate you before you hit the road. Because they paid so much to get you in. Because they don’t want to tell you the truth which seems to stare everyone in their face. Because, honestly, they are afraid to tell you the truth.

So, the SB Smith in you soon starts living another life – a life full of inquest rediscovering the truth, a life causing a difference with a newfound vigour and energy till you become “Jumping Jack (JJ) Jones”

Till you all discover the JJ Joneses in you…

Have a Great Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

Uncle Sam… And I

Friday, December 24, 2010…

Is it Friday… Or is it Saturday?

Never Mind… it’s Fursat– finally in my dear Uncle’s land…

Visiting Uncle Sam always brings back evidence after excruciating evidence of how things are so disparately different in our world. I mean, the different parts that Uncle and I inhabit. The cows or the cars, the smoldering sun or the shiver in the snow, the packed balconies or the picket fences, the chaotic organisation or the organised chaos – Uncle’s home always seems to give me a contra-distinct yet a cold welcome!

Well – weather will ever continue to haunt most that live in the west of the world – as it right now does! Whether those that that are out there in the cold comfort of Christmas and seek alms that would make it warm for them, or those in the Gucci’s and the Armani’s in the countless TV and radio studios in America that continuously dole the dope out for you by the hour on how the clouds have moved or the vapour has condensed in the skies above the scrapers – weather finds itself in the centre of discussions around here.

They are freezing down there in Florida – they say! Well that’s news for sure!

And they ask me – how is weather back home. I wonder which part of my home. Like everything else, my home is so diverse. My parents in Delhi are freezing – partly because they are old now. Down south the Deccan plateau, my country cousins are dressed up – in loin cloth (read lungi) and the fairer sex (well – fair, as much as the Dravidian descent allows) in Kanjeevaram, Bhimavaram, Dharmavaram, Nungambakkam, Meenambakkam pattu (silk) sarees welcome Christmas in abject humidity and humility.

As for my folk from Mumbai where I live now, the weather is quite diverse through the year anyway. It is hot and humid some months, it is hotter and more humid at other times of the year.

But coming back to the US of A always rekindles the comparators in the mind. Of course, we are so different. And I thought this time, I would love to closely experience the Top 5 and try make some meaningful sense of this diversity.

SPACE

While US Starship Enterprise had pronounced it as the final frontier years ago, you would love to believe everybody here in the US would want to clamour for it. However, you look around. Everybody always seems to be so relaxed. There is so much of it that Space seems to be a non-issue. And for once, it seems you are amongst untouchables – there is always so much of a spatial distance between you and the guy in the front, that you dare imagining what Gandhi would have done to abolish this concept of untouchability in Uncle Sam’s land.

And look at us Hindustani bhaai log! There is never enough of an expression of love and humanity as long as we do not step over each other, shove the person in the front with all parts of our anatomy, feel and grope her, stomp her out of her wits, smell the sweat and Shakira (that will be Shakira’s new range of perfumes soon – if not already), grab every inch of space and anything else that is within reach and announce the finality of our arrival in life. Final frontier – hah – no doubt. What would we do if it was any less exciting?

TIME

Since there is space, there is chronology. I will serve you, Mr. Customer, when I am done with this one that I am serving. You may wait. It may take me a minute. Or it may take me ten. I will not leave this customer till the time this transaction is over. I will spend a half hour with you when it is your turn. But you will have to wait! Till your turn!

Ah ah – so many customers? I can serve them all at one go. I am the Goddess Durga in her mortal avatar on earth. I have many limbs and simultaneous minds that work. And yes – I will attend to that irritating phone while I am serving Customers. Well – my boy friend is calling. And my mother. And her neighbour. How exciting!

CLEAN

You step out in the US and everything seems to be so spic and span – well almost always. All around you, you see a place for everything and everything in its place. You touch something and you fear you might leave an imprint that the FBI might come seeking you for an inglorious crime that you committed of disturbing the peace in the glossy neighbourhood. How cold, impersonal and intimidating

Back home, you treat the entire world as your home! Sunny Paaji, extending his already ugly balcony into an uglier one, has to dump his concrete excreta in front of your home, your neighbour’s home, or anywhere else – as long as his real estate looks glitzy. In shops, we have to touch everything – we love the personal touch. Our roads are our homes too. We use them to throw everything – make the clutter look great – glitterally! How endearing!

RESPECT

I respect you. Not because I fear the law, or you would sue me – and yes you may – some sucker of a lawyer has to make money. My self-respect and esteem may go take a walk – if you are a walker on the street, I respect you. I am in a car, there are other cars and come to think of it, there are only cars on the road. As the lowest in the hierarchy of road users – between cars and walkers, I allow you the right of being first.

Back home, if I allowed you the space, I have to allow the space to everyone who keeps crossing the road after you, before you, along with you, on top of you, below you, on the left of you and on the right too. And to the cows and dogs that also want to cross the road. Or simply that want to squat on the road and exert their rightfulness of the place they were born. The cyclist and the bullock cart too. And then the auto rickshaws. Ah – the bus driver – who belongs to a mafia of bus driver unions. And the trucker – his truck is already battered and he would not mind battering my car if I did not respect him. How do I figure out the hierarchy? Forget it – I am first! Respect yourself. And the world will respect you!

SERVICE.

Hey I want to shop in peace. I want to eat in peace. I want to do my own thing. Leave me alone. But no – you would not. You would pop up from somewhere – and ask me that stupid question – Can I be of help, Sir? Do I look so dumb like one of those IT nerds in your fatherland, who does not anything but binary. I know more than 0’s and 1’s man. Hey, if I need help, I will ask you. Just because you get paid to serve your customers in the store and you believe that to be your personal ethic, DND – Do Not Disturb me! Period.

Customers? Who are Customers? Why are they here? Isn’t it my siesta time? Why are they disturbing me? And why do I have to serve them? What do I get paid to do it anyway? Peanuts? These buggers do not even know what peanuts are. They would have never had them. They come in glossy cars and glitzy outfits. I live in slums and I have to serve them. Where’s justice? And equality? This is not America!!!

The last one week has been a revisit to some of these disparities the way we are wired in different worlds. And many more.

While I spend a cold Christmas here at Manhattan…

Merry Christmas…

Ravi Kodukula

Happy & Lucky’s New Cars

Friday, May 14, 2010…

My friends Obama and Ambani (senior) have a thing in common. They are both intelligent and make earth-shattering predictions that Nostradamus would have shuddered making.

Earlier this week, they had figured out – much before anyone else could – that the oil and gas prices are going to rise in the near future and will remain high for a good amount of time till the sailboat industry is back on its rails or humanlings developed this innate hang-up about under-water habitats for themselves and for all other humanlings of the future.

And Fursat Friday predicts – if that were to happen, the tail and the fins will be back on humanlings.

But, of course, that transformation will take another million years and no recorded history – including Nostradamus, Obama, Ambani or Fursat Friday – unless preserved in liquid crystal chemically amenable to co-exist with water, may actually be available for underwater humanlings!

While these predictions are astounding, Ambani is factual. He has a number in mind – both for the gas price and his company’s stock price by this year end. Backed by research and his recent victory in the courts over his younger sibling, Ambani eyes the bourses and sets a bullish trend for the oil producers.

Obama’s philosophical outpouring at Buffalo (the same exact place where he had made his infamous ‘Buffalo to Bengaluru’ statement last May) is to do with more and more cars being bought outside of America – in China and in India.

Worried about a challenge to America’s four wheeler supremacy especially with oil getting produced elsewhere and now increasingly consumed elsewhere in Asia and other geographies, Obama may inject more of those stimulus greenbacks into Detroit and provide excise incentives to the end consumer all across the 49 states barring Alaska.

Not that we are exact contemporaries, but it’s beyond the obvious that Alaska will soon be underwater in Obama’s and my lifetime.

Post his Buffalo brooding, Obama has given a fresh vent to the sagging car sales in the US. And this, backed by an absolutely whackier-than-thou legislation to support car sales.

Consider this. If you buy a 4th car for your family – living under the same roof or otherwise – the state will give you a similar car or lower for free. If you buy a fifth car, the state will take care of 3 Mexican immigrants’ social security. If you buy your second MUV, the state will pull back 10 sergeants, 12 Black Hawks and 40 air-to-cave missile bombers from Afghanistan. If you get a Geo-psychic-track-your-spouse Tormenting System installed in your car, the state will sponsor 20,000 more H1B visas for Indian Green Card wannabes from Telangana – who would actually customise that system for you. The mortgaging will happen through state run loan sharks as even otherwise, the banks and financial institutions are now state run.

On the Eastside of the world though, the legislation has been lot more cautious, conventional, singularly focused on Sailboats and Skywalks and is undeniably future looking. After a long deliberation in the Parliament, the Indian Government has released its first set of legislations through its official mouthpiece – ‘Picchwaada’

All the gutters – that resembled the look of rivers sometime ago – will now be cleaned to give them a real ‘rivery’ look, feel and a functional purpose. In a complete redefinition to the Mass Rapid Transport System, the state will sponsor the set up and development of the Sailboat industry, with an objective to ferry millions of Indians as the rivers flow through the length and breadth of the country.

The Sailboats will have a naming convention – 2344 Down (Kalka to Kolkata ‘Ganga Maiyya Express’) and the same sailboat comes back as 2343 Up. This will be augmented by a fine surface transport infrastructure that will combine horses, mules and bullocks specially imported from Pandora.

As a consequence, the state will provide tax holiday to Bollywood movies that promote the usage of Sailboats and the Pandora Polypeds. The almost defunct river-song industry which was once made famous by SD Burman and his son RDB, will now see a revival. Further, movies that show the Delhi Metro and other such backward modes of rapid transport will be heavily taxed and censored.

Once the rivers dry up due to the much touted Global Warming as a result of increased car sales in the Westside of the world, the state plans to construct ‘over-the-river’ Skywalks. The skywalks would take the same naming convention as the sailboats.

Meanwhile, my friend, Happy and his brother Lucky who were planning to buy 2 more new cars for the family in Delhi – for Happy’s wife Jassi’s trips to the ‘Buuty Pallur’ and Lucky’s under-graduate daughter Pinky’s ‘Paltian Shaltian’ will have to wait.

While they do that…

Have a Great Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula.

What The Beep… Beep

Friday, April 23, 2010

An SMS bang in the middle of the night. My friend “Tonia Sehan” knows I am on Vodafone and follows me as the pug would – always ‘Happy To Yelp’!

‘Beep… Beep’. Congratulations – Jai Ho – Mumbai Indians won!

Was Tonia confirming to me her geo-psychic affiliation to the Mumbai Indians? Or was she testing my terrestrial allegiance to the IPL Teams, especially since I have wandered and drew dispassionate breath in many cities that I have lived over the last few years? Or was she exploring which Team I thought, should finally adopt the Dr. DY Patil Stadium? Particularly since the Deccan Chargers have been toppled out of Telangana and had a brief dalliance with DY Patil, before they settled on the Orange County (Nagpur).

While I was still lost in deep thought who is religiously devoted to whom in this entire IPL conundrum, my friend Amit Muley shared with me a more precarious predicament as it showed up in his tarot cards mumbo jumbo. This, provided, we lived through the next 5 years despite all the hype and hoopla around the beleaguered League.

Fast Forward – IPL 2015. As Napoleon Nayudu prepared to face another ball, several thoughts raced through his mind. After being bought by the Gummidipandu Gumboils from Guntur, for an astronomical $5 million in the 2015 Indian Premier League (IPL) auction, he knew he had a reputation to keep.

Nayudu’s mind raced like the Tata Photon data card. Should he try a Fanta Front Foot Drive, or should he aim for a Coca Cola Cover Drive? Or perhaps, a straightforward Sprite Square Cut would be a better idea. He realised he needed to hit an IBM Boundary soon. Ever since IBM had announced they would pay Rs 1 lakh per boundary and Rs 5 lakh for a six, he had been trying to run less and hit more. Unfortunately, he hadn’t been doing either in this match, because the Begusarai Bandits from Bhagalpur, had some very good bowlers.

The next ball, he played a Pepsi Inside Edge onto his Maggi middle stump and trudged wearily off the field to the accompaniment of boos from the Vodafone Zoo-zoo stand at the Kellogg’s Special KCReal stadium in Guntur.

Relaxing in the Parle Glucose commentary box Saurav Ganguly ruminated on the momentous changes in the game that had occurred since the IPL came into being. In 2010, he remembered, the game started to really grow, with huge sums of money being paid for the Pune and Kochi teams. Teams soon started springing up like frogs in the monsoon. And when the Gorakhpur Gorillas won the IPL in 2012, every district town in the country wanted its own side. The IPL season was extended to six months in the year, then to 12 months and soon, once the villages started having their own sides, you had matches on all 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Industrialists sold off their old companies and bought IPL teams. Advertisers fought with each other to sponsor matches, stadia, sixes, fours, shots, balls, no balls, wickets, wides and what not. Each of the field placing positions was sponsored too, including the Castrol Cover and Sleep-in Silly Point. Every patch of the player’s clothing, his arm guard, helmet, and pads was smeared in advertisements.

Tendulkar Itch Guard Crotch Guards started a new trend in merchandising, selling like hot cakes.

After waging a war over a year with the Income Tax officials and a host of anti-IPL lobbies in 2010, Finance Minister Lalit Modi had called for a plebiscite and had Indians from all over India and abroad vote in favour of the continuance of the IPL in its original avatar with all the betting, bungling and the beguiling deals.

In the parliament today, Modi mooted a radical proposal for nationalising the Board of Control for Cricket in India, pointing out that its profits would wipe out the government’s fiscal deficit. Food production had suffered, he said, as villagers refused to till their fields and spent their time playing cricket instead. A law prohibiting the transformation of arable land into cricket pitches was swiftly passed. A resolution to install a statue of Lalit Modi in Parliament was also adopted unanimously.

As the money flowed in, players’ salaries zoomed. Everybody wanted to be a cricketer. Engineering and medical colleges were deserted and Indian Institutes of Management converted themselves into Institutes of Cricketing Management. Keiron Pollard, who retired from T20 cricket 2 years ago after having made some obscenely undisclosed wealth at the ripe old age of 25, is the newly appointed Dean of the Dr. Sachin Tendulkar University.

Immediately upon his appointment, he prescribed the legendary C.K. Prahalad’s ‘Pot of Gold at the Bottom of the Leg Stump’ as the official text book at the University. The Shane Warne College for Cricketing Excellence in Australia promptly followed up with a similar move for the 20 thousand odd students enrolled in its campus – 80% of whom continued to be immigrant Indian students. This was particularly facilitated by the Australian Government’s resolve to clamp down heavily on racial violence to protect its commercial interest in the IPL, profits from which, were funding ‘Protect The Kangaroo’ mission.

With IPL 6 being a huge hit in North America two years ago, Harvard Cricket School institutionalised the now prominent Sir Saurabh Tiwary chair for T20 research and development. Wharton and Kellog followed suit despite protests from the American Football, Baseball and Basketball lobbies.

Back in the commentary box, Ganguly did a rapid mental calculation and told his listeners that Napoleon Nayudu was now being paid the equivalent of Rs 10 lakh per run. He regretted that during the IPL season in 2010, he had been paid only about Rs 1.8 lakh per run. He needed to make more money, he thought. Maybe he would join Navjot Sidhu in The Great Indian Laughter Challenge and be paid lakhs and lakhs for laughing. For the rest of the match, he practised laughing hysterically at each ball.

While neither Amit nor I know the origins of this crystal ball gaze and would like to acknowledge the unknown author, we are sure of one thing though. Tonia would be terribly confused whom to send the congratulatory messages in IPL 2015 and for what wins. Which village would I be in and who would I support?

I will let you know in the Fursat Friday 260 episodes from now.

While I do that…

Have a Great Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

Facebook… And I

Friday, April 16, 2010

4 weeks ago, my soul stirred 4 inches closer to salvation. I gave Facebook a big bear hug!

Ever since human-lings developed this dying desire to share with other human-lings exactly what’s happening in their bedrooms while they pretend to sleep with their eyes wide shut – preferably next to someone they are legally designed to be sleeping with – and how they brave the snores and the smells of togetherness, the one thing that has come to salvage the smouldered soul is Facebook.

Now I know what you did – not just last summer – even last night. How? Because you put that up on your “Wall”!

For the last many years, I have remained practically uninitiated and have thwarted the temptation of being on Facebook, the Tummybook, the Feetbook or the Bumpybook. For the more uninitiated, my 6 year old daughter argues – and logically enough – that if Facebook is a virtual reality, so should be a book endowed to every other part of the anatomy – the rear (bumpy) included.

My resistance was short-lived though. I saw everybody “tweeting” around me. When I was a kid, I always thought birds tweeted early in the morning on the lush green branches of the trees in my backyard or in the park nearby. The tweets sounded pleasant to the ear – especially when you could decipher that the birds have the same worldly worries as human-lings when it came to reproduction – albeit, asexual in their case.

Well, the tweets, at least in my backyard were not about how to go about the act (that has never been the issue in India), but more to do with where to lay the eggs and how to rear the future bird-springs.

Some friends chided me that getting on to Facebook is like going back in time. “Twitter” is the in-thing, they said. And that I should have post-graduated without going through the rigmarole of graduation. It sounded like the higher education advertisements that I could recall when I was in my teens. The ones that were ubiquitous in all the DTC (Delhi Transport Corporation) buses. “Dasvi Fail – Baaravi Pass karein. Baarvi Fail – PhD karein” (If you have failed in your 10th grade – don’t you worry – complete your 12th grade. Likewise, if you failed 12th grade – get a kick out of doing your PhD., etc.)

Having been a dismal failure in my “Dasvi” of Social Networking, I thought it best to go the whole hog. I wanted to do the Baarvi and then the PhD.. So, Facebook was a convenient start.

The first thing that hit me in the face on Facebook was the enormity of how people get down to the task of editing their private lives. Whether it’s a headache early in the morning or late in the night, it’s up on the “Wall” (or something similar) on their pages. Well – I can understand headache as one of the impending evils that human-lings have faced since this fruit and the seed thing happened to us – especially when you have to eat the forbidden fruit – especially late in the night, or when you have eaten the fruit and now bear the seed of consequence – especially early in the morning.

But the knowledge of the fruit and the seed and how you want to avoid or embrace them, is absolutely exclusive and classified to you or your gynaecologist.

Or if you were a celebrity, the news would be most appropriate for rumour mills and gossip mongering celebrity paparazzi. For all that you know, your announcement of the headache might land you in a million dollar deal of an “exclusive story and photographs first ever published in any gossip magazine ever”.

But why on earth on Facebook?

And then of course, the most compelling feature (at least for those who stoutly advise you to rub your nose into) is the various groups, societies, bodies, circles and syndicates. For e.g. 17 of my 219 friends have enrolled into a Group called “If 1,000,000 people join this Group, Facebook will delete the Group called ‘F*** India’

Now, what about all the effort and energy that the administrators from (assumingly) Pakistan who have created such a worthy Group  and who have no choice now, but wait with bated breath till 1,000,000 people actually go to this Page and sign up for deleting it. The poor fellas didn’t have an iota of an inkling when they started this love-hate Page with passion, that one day, it will become the scourge of a billion passionate Indians – with a few million on the Facebook who would actually post comments on this Page.

With comments ranging anywhere between “I hate Sania Mirza for the obvious reasons” and the regular and innovative expletives including Sania Mirza’s tennis racquet put to appropriate use, this Facebook Group and the spat on it is nowhere close to what I signed up on Facebook for.

For connecting back with friends and really knowing what’s happening in their private lives and in the private lives of their friends, who, for the good or better of the way the networking world works, are now my friends too – and whose Private lives are up for scrutiny on Fursat Friday!

While I discover more of Facebook and muster courage to bare and dare all of my Private Life…

Have a Great Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula