About the Blog

This is my diary....what I make sense of, around me. You'll find short prose on contemporary topics that interest me. What can you expect - Best adjectives? …. hmm occasionally, tossed around flowery verbs ?…. Nope, haiku-like super-brevity? … I try to. Thanks for dropping by & hope to see you again

May 24, 2010

A disaster waiting in the wings

It was 1999 - 2000 and I was posted in mangalore with a pvt sector bank. The bank had made initial forays into the personal finance business and I was heading the area’s business & credit function . A probable reason that i found myself frequenting to Mumbai, a period in which I must have taken about 40 flights in and out of Mangalore. Located on top of a Hill surrounded by the greenery of the western Ghats, Bajpe airport is picturesque as well as unnerving.

Every time i walked on the tarmac towards the plane, the sight of this airstrip made my heart skip a beat, you could only see the distant horizon at the end of the runway. And the whole world now knows that its a table top airstrip that contributed in a large part to the disaster that unfolded last week. 

Anxiety levels were usually high every time the plane landed or took off.  Imagine 15-20 seconds into the flight and WHAM! the ground beneath has disappeared and you are hovering above the MRPL refineries. But that's a routine experience one gets used to and to my good fortune and luck nothing serious happened except for one untoward incident in this period.

This particular (and eventful flight) happened by accident, I was to take a Indian Airlines flight to mangalore but missed the flight as the cab driver unwittingly dropped me at the mumbai international terminal. You ought to specifically tell the cab/auto fellows in Mumbai, otherwise they automatically drop you at the Int'l airport which incidentally is on a farther side if you traveling from South Bombay. So by the time I had finished my fracas with the cab guy and managed to land at the domestic terminal, the flight had taken off.

I went to the airlines office and explained them my plight, a very discerning official went out of the way and converted that ticket to a seat in ‘Alliance Air’ which was supposed to board that noon. I thanked him profusely little realizing that this was anyway a cheaper airline and a part of the Indian airlines network to service goddamned places in the country . The Alliance fleet contained all used and discarded aging planes from the alliance fleet in US and generally used as feeder airline in India . The interiors of this plane & its service were equally appalling, could even put a state road transport services to shame.

This was an almost empty flight and I was seated about two rows behind the fuselage (center). The flight mercifully took off on time and the inflight magazine (it was provided then) helped me take my mind off the dreary condition of the plane and its inflight experience. 

As the pilot made his announcement and the plane started to descent towards mangalore, the peculiarity of this airport combined with the impression of this flight heightened by anxiety levels. I had my heart in my mouth when the plane landed with a resounding THUD and it was so forceful that all the empty seats behind me folded up like reclining chairs (those chairs were very different what you see now-a-days). I immediately bent forward bracing for some kind of impact which thankfully dint happen. I guess the pilot panicked and force landed this plane when it might have overshot the touching down point on this 8000 feet runway. And unlike the ill fated IX 812 it some how managed to pull back from the precipice.

The location of mangalore’s Bajpe airport,  locals say was more because of political expediency than other factors. The local politician and; his clout ensured that the airport that was originally earmarked in Mulki/Padubidri (a town 27 Kms from Mangalore) was shifted to this plateau. And everybody thereafter just prayed that such an incident never happened.

My condolences and prayers for the bereaved.

May 21, 2010

Can I have an extra serving of these lovely balls?

Grey has never been so appealing while eating. People who gulp down small nuggets of these with mutton Curry or with Soppina Saaru (
leafy vegetables curry) swear by its taste. It may look like an awkward blob sitting like a mini boulder in the middle of a Thali but down here in Bangalore, its a standard staple. I am talking of Ragi ‘Balls’(no misplaced swear word but that which describes anything spherical or circular in shape) that is a staple diet in many of the old styled eateries in Bangalore and surrounding region.

Go to any of the downtown ‘Military’ Hotels if you are the types intent on exploring tasty food mindless of the ambiance and you will find this staple as regular as the ‘barood’ in military barracks. Why the word ‘Military’ is associated with these hotels is something that still beats me, there is noting remotely connected with the green beret though. In many cases the word is spelt as ‘Miltry’ just like the local neighborhood pull cart guy claiming his specialty on ‘Chinase’ . The vague explanation I get to hear is that the word signifies to what is generally called ‘going Dutch’ in English.

Coming to the brass-tacks that is the eating part, a word of caution though. If you are the type new to this ‘food gulping business’, a bit of practice or mental preparation is needed before you take the plunge. The subconscious mind orders the Premolars to masticate but you are attempting to send it down the oesophagus like a ball rolling down the bowling alley. And you hope it succeeds as the ball of ragi is sufficiently lubricated in the accompanying gravy (soppina saaru or Mutton curry as the case may be). If there is a mixup of voluntary & involuntary muscular actions , as may happen often for the faint hearted, then the experience is similar to a paper stuck in a printer jam.

Nonetheless it is worth an effort , and what would you tell the waiter if you pass the test in flying colors and repeat the feat ?

May 15, 2010


The Brazilian way of life is well known, and its very thought brings in images of samba dances, colorful & lively carnivals and the yellow jerseys symphonising with the white ball on the football field. So a book on a relatively unknown company called ‘Semco’ and its unusal workplace would rather stick out like a odd man out in this common perception of this part of the world. And Ricardo Semler makes a valiant effort to change the perception through this book- ‘Maverick : The success story behind the world’s most unusual workplace’.

Its very unusual to hear of companies that allows its employees to set the rules of engagement at the workplace. And it will sound almost weird if a company does not have any reception desk, follows no standard policies, and a worker decides how much to work; when and where all determined by his discretion and also practically has a say in every aspect of its functioning. But that’s how Semco is and Ricardo Semler , its promoter & chief decodes its success story in this book.

‘A company where traditional corporate dogma was being discarded and unpredictability was a way of life’ says Semler in chapter 13 of the book and that pretty much sums it up. It all begins with Semler taking over the reins of the company from his father and his effort to address the moribund company . He says ‘ there was a lifelessness , a lack of enthusiasm, a malaise at Semco that i had to change ’. So he sets out with a change agenda and what does he do? He strips away all the ‘managerial mumbo jumbo’ and brings in a culture where business is done in a simpler way, a more natural way. A company with a philososphy akin to socialism , in the old eastern European sense; Nonsenseskaya.

A very readable book for someone interested in understanding how the nuts & bolts of running a business could be rearranged and yet successfully managed by dumping the Peters, Porters and Kanters, of the traditional business world.

May 12, 2010

T20, Caribbean, and Dhoni & Co’s Swansong

The Caribbean world T20 world cup campaign ending in a whimper , the Indian cricket team will be back in India soon doing what it does best – brand endorsements and commercials! So when someone asked the Indian cricketers the reason for the debacle, each of them answered in their own characteristic style (I suspect much of it had to do with their endorsement scripts)

M S Dhoni – See.... I told my guys to keep cool (like Orient PSPO fans) but they lost it at crucial times, what can I do? i also tried telling my opposition bowlers “Eh! Yemm Yesss Dhooooni from Chennaiii. All you fast bowlers, I have the bat, do you have the ball... Mind it!” but they dint mind knocking off my bails.

Yuvarj Singh – People said I was not fit and in shape but thats crap....you see I take ‘Revital’ every day and do the treadmill, if you don’t believe me ? you can check my advts!

Ravindra Jadeja – Everybody believed that my form & performance had sunk but the captain had faith in me & we all sank together....because we all believe ‘My Pepsi My way’.....

Yusuf Pathan – I did not hear the captains call for the catch (crucial dropped catch of Chris Gayle in the west Indies match that tanked India) b’coz i said to myself ‘Suno dil ki Awaz’(listen to your heart – Vodafone pre paid calling card)

Coach Gary Kirsten – I gave them plenty of ‘Boost’ in the dressing room but there was no energy (after the IPL)

And finally with all the cricket over, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s teammates wonder if they can organize a trip at short notice. Dhoni manages all the information on Aircel, and they’re set. Suresh Raina wonders if he’s made it to the team. Aircel again comes to the rescue; Dhoni finds out he has and he will be leading the team to Zimbabwe . The Advt tag line: It’s time to move on (for Dhoni).

May 8, 2010

The Ambani Saga continues...

The supreme court made its verdict in the Ambani Gas dispute yesterday. It was no ordinary dispute but the kind of media attention it got was amazing. No other corporate group would even come close to the kind of drama that was played out. The 2 dramatis personae of this saga, Mukesh & Anil have been at each others throats for a long time,and the family story has been the kind of stuff or rather fluff that the Bollywood mills churn out regularly. There is this patriarch (Dhirubhai) who starts out as a petrol bunk attendant but goes on to successfully flourish in the license raj era and create an industrial empire with his typical Gujju way of working around obstacles . He excels in the art of covert operations and wherever possible uses the cloak & dagger technique to hit out at competitors. But then the father never expected that the same techniques would be used by his 2 sons against each other.

The supreme court episode has been one of the important turning point of this drama (power struggle) that probably began after Dhirubhais death in July 2002. The father died telling the world “ My sons are never going to fight over family assets. They’ll always be together”. He probably underestimated that the 2 brothers (with a 2 year gap between them) were poles apart right from their childhood and deeply distrusted each other. So when he went ahead & made Mukesh the vice chairman, Anil raised the hackles because he felt Mukesh was treating the Reliance group like his personal fiefdom and alienating him from the decision making process. On the other hand Mukesh saw his younger brother as a non serious businessman; one who had time to go to parties, rub shoulders with politicians and middlemen and move around with celebrities.

However somewhere down the line Mukesh seemed to have made his mark especially by commissioning the Jamnagar petrochemical plan (which was touted as one of the world’s largest and most complex project) and claimed his father’s legacy from the Investors and the Business world. That has only fuelled Anils ambition & his angst to outdo him . And the ensuing war , in the truest of Ambani tradition, has been fierce , murky and no holds barred. The 2 brothers have hurled mud at each other that is still stuck, they have ripped each other’s credibility as entrepreneurs, they exposed the unprofessional manner in which each ran his companies, they exposed the alleged dishonesty of senior most managers in the group. All this & probably it’s still not over , like Shahrukh khan In Om Shanti Om Anil might be still saying “ Abhi Kahani baki hai, mere dost”.

P.S: I Recommend the book ‘Storms in the Sea Wind’ by Alam Srinivas for readers interested in the blow-by-blow account of the war between Mukesh & Anil.

May 1, 2010

Joy Gurudev

The beleaguered Swami Nithyananda got arrested at the Bangalore International airport last week and was jeered by the crowd gathered there. Maybe the swami from Thiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu could have been better off had he heeded to this story;

During a gathering a swami found himself cornered by a talkative woman who demanded to know his opinion on celibacy for the attainment of Sanyasa. The Swami said it would take a long time to explain and he would rather not do so at that occasion. But she wouldn’t let him go.
“All right, I’ll tell you how i feel about celibacy” said the badgered swami eventually. “ When I go to bed at night , I’m sorry. And when I get up in the morning, I’m glad.”

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