Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Business of Cricket

We eat cricket, we drink cricket, we even sleep cricket - in short, we Indians are fanatics when the game of cricket is concerned just like our neighbors Pakistan. When I say fanatic, it is because we put up our cricketers on high pedestals when they win matches, but when the same people lose any match only God can save them and their families from the wrath of their so called fans.

One good example of this treatment is the ongoing Cricket World Cup। When the World Cup started, the Indian team was praised to the sky and people expected them to win all matches or at least enough matches to bring home the cup. Songs were made in their honor and programmes launched to cover all aspects of the game. Mandira Bedi was once again called and there was a special coverage given to her and a lot of speculations were made as to what kind of dresses would she be wearing this time round. In short, a lot of advertising money was at stake.

So when India made an exit in the first round, it came as a big blow now only to these advertising companies who were doomed but the country as such went into the shock mode। People started their usual procedure of pelting stones on to the houses of the cricketing greats. The same players who were praised no end and who in people's eyes could do no wrong. But now suddenly people found fault with everything, especially the amount of money these players were making with their endorsements. And decisions have been made to curb these with rules like players can't do more than three advertisements and all the deals had to go through the already ultra rich BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India). This decision I feel is funny and surprising since unless these players play well none of the companies would be interested in making them their brand ambassadors.

Why do we take this game so personally, probably because most of the male species play cricket at some point or the other in their lives? And they tend to idealize these players when they are playing well। But can we expect them to win all the matches? Don't the players themselves know the out come of a loss and want to win these matches? The game is so full of uncertainty that any team can win or loose on a given day.

No matter what some fans have to say, I really believe that no matter how much money these players make, the players go into the field to win। The first and foremost priority of these players is to be in form, since if they are out of form or not playing well it is their primary career at stake. The career that not only gives them these endorsement deals but also brings in fame, respect and adulation just like the Bollywood stars and in some cases even more than the movie stars.

The only saving grace for the Indians players this time round I guess was the fact that Pakistan team went out of the tournament before them। I am terrified to think what would have happened if Pakistan had gone further into the next round. For that matter if India had gone ahead while Pakistan went out in the first round, would have spelled a fate worse than anything the Pakistani players have faced so far. The reaction from their fans back home would have been worse than what was meted out to them.

All said and done given time these volatile fans all forget the blow to their dreams and go back to loving these cricketers। To appease the fans this time round, BCCI not only brought in the new rule of curbing their income but pretended to sacrificed couple of senior players in the form of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly in the upcoming one dayers against Bangladesh। Pretend because they have been retained in the test side. The captain continues without any repercussions just like the coach who has stepped aside on the completion of his term.

So in the end I guess the real losers were the corporate world who invested a whole lot of their money in promoting the team and advertising in the matches and the advertising media too especially bore the brunt with India's world cup departure. But for the rest the janatha (public) life goes back to normal even though the curtain for the world cup is just coming down.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Matrimony or Matri-Money?

The world is full of people in awe of movie stars and who dream to be in their shoes। Then there are those kinds of people who try to live their lives through these celebrities. People all dream of making it big in the world of showbiz and for other people to recognize them and love them. With stardom, the interest of people grows as does their curiosity to know everything about them, but how much of peeping into their lives is really appropriate?

The celebrities are made to live under microscopes for satisfying curiosities of such people। The media jumps right in to this to make their dough out of these common people. Especially where the love lives of these celebrities are concerned, this curiosity of the people and media seems to take a life of its own. One such over exposed couple is Abhishek and Aishwarya.

"Abhiash" or "Abhiwaria" are some of the names the media have come up for this couple। Just because the foreign media have a habit of combining the names of two celebrities who come together, such as "Brangelina" or "TomKat." Is that reason enough for the India media to jump into this arena? The media circus is at its crescendo with the couple's upcoming nuptials on April 20, 2007.

Fair enough, Abhishek is claimed to be the most eligible bachelor in Bollywood, what with lineage like Amitabh Bachan and Jaya Bhaduri। Aishwarya is supposed to be one of the most beautiful women in the world so some interest in them is reasonable, but is this reason enough to fill up the newspapers, magazines, and television channels so frequently?

The more the couple tries to keep their celebration under wraps, the crazier the media interest becomes। Every minute detail is being dug up in the name of entertainment. The details go to such heights that one has to wonder, is this really entertainment? The world is full of people who want to know about them, but is this really what the public wants to know about a celebrity on a daily basis? It feels more like media-created hype.

Every day the media is trying to create sensation by predicting who will be invited to the wedding. Speculations are rife as to who is designing the bride's wedding dress. Where is the wedding taking place? Worse, who is going to be standing where for the ceremonies or following them around during their temple visits?

Discussions on various websites are asking people if the couple is the right match for each other। Should Aishwarya work after marriage? There are polls conducted by magazines to find out whether they should have a large or small wedding or small. There are articles asking whether or not Aishwarya will take the Bachan surname, or how fifteen kilos of henna has been ordered for her henna ceremony from the state of Rajasthan - the same place Liz Hurley ordered hers. Pick up any magazine or flip through any Indian news channel and almost everyday you will get to see this so-called entertainment news!

The funny thing is though celebrities in Hollywood can afford to have very lavish weddings, they make money selling their so-called exclusive photographs to make enough money to organize these extravagant weddings। Technically, who ends up paying for these dream weddings in the west are not the people who are getting married, but the ones who buy the magazines to get the preview into their lives.

In a way, they do get the last laugh। Thankfully, this trend hasn't reached India, but they are definitely trying by creating the news that the Bachans have given the exclusive rights to the wedding photos to some foreign magazine or channel. Contrary to the expectations of many people, they are having a very private ceremony with little more than a dozen guests.

Hopefully the media will respect their wishes and not turn into paparazzi. People please give them a break. Let them enjoy their day in peace - leave them alone

Monday, March 12, 2007

4 2 ka 1 Love Story*

Destiny plays a very important role in our lives and I think destiny is what happened in my case with love and marriage. What started as a prank to tease my mom changed my life and brought me my soul mate. My mother said I couldn’t even find a guy on my own in so many years and so just to put a bee in her bonnet I went and registered myself at the site. My dad had been trying his best to find me a guy, but all the guys that came through this method were not the kind of people I could see myself spending the rest of my life with.

After I registered with the site, I sent off mails to people whose profiles I felt loosely fitted my idea of my future partner. Of the people I mailed, Rajesh was the last to respond after almost a month. And at that point I never even dreamt that it was one mail that was going to change my life or that it was from the person who would finally steal my heart. But after a couple of mails I felt something different about him. He was not like usual guys who look at the physical beauty first and then check if the rest matches. Communication for me is the most important aspect of a relationship and without good communication I do not think any relationship can sustain much. So we decided at the onset that we will not exchange snaps till we got to know each other better and felt everything else was to our liking. Unless you go in for an arranged marriage it is very rare that one doesn’t see the face to decide the fate. But then we felt seeing each other’s snap before we got along will only prejudice our judgment. After three months of chats and emails we fell in love and only after that did we exchanged our snaps. The best thing was by then it really didn’t matter how the other one looked. Now looking back at that decision I am really proud of myself for being that strong a person. Recently I heard someone say love is blind only when people see the outer beauty and fall for that before looking on the inside and I can’t agree more with the person since I feel outside beauty only will last you some years but the inner one is what you will be left with for the rest of your lives.

Anyway when we did see each other’s snaps it only made us like each other more and so at this point we brought our parents into the picture and “arranged” for our marriage. Everything just fell into place. It was however decided since he couldn’t make two trips before the wedding we would see each other face to face only two days before the wedding. This was one decision which was sort of alien to all the people we know and for some women folks it was a romantic thing to happen. Everyone advised my parents against it since they were going to give away their only daughter to a guy they had never laid an eye on. His family teased me at my choice since all his family and friends and some relatives got to see me before he did! There were so many people who thought we were making a big mistake by getting into marriage this way. Here I will have to say hats off to my parents for having the faith in my decision and being strong.

When I went to pick him up at the airport with my brother, inspite of the huge crowd outside the airport and the distance I knew it was he for my heart gave a skip. And there was such a big smile on my face. I couldn’t really believe it was my future walking towards me. My family interacted with him like they have known him for ages. At no point there was any feeling for any of us that this was the first time we met face to face. It was very important for me from the beginning that the guy I should marry should be at home in my family and vice versa. So when I did see this happening it was one of my happiest moments.

Finally the D-Day arrived and it was very different experience for people who came for our marriage, they felt they had not seen a wedding like ours since throughout the ceremonies instead of being sober, like people usually are in our orthodox state. We were talking dime a dozen and laughing during the most pious ceremonies and a lot of people wanted to know what we could think of joking about during the ceremony. Now six wonderful years and a lovely daughter later what started as a virtual experiment of our “love cum arranged” marriage can be termed as a very happy and successful marriage.

p.s.: a shorter version of this article was published in Gulf News Tabloid on 14th Feb 2007 in its valentine special.

* 4 2 ka 1 Love story - because I got married on 4th Feb 2001

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Customer a king or a pest!

Customer is always right! Customer is the King! These are some of the catch lines that businesses all over the world say to their clients but do these catch phrases really mean what it says? For some businesses these are true and for some they are just means to an end i.e. getting more customers.

First impressions are most of the time very important especially in regards to business concerns. The way you are treated at a firm or even at the first point of contact always make a lasting impression. This impression always stays with you much beyond your particular business at that time and the service definitely stays on mind whether you get a great service or you are treated as a nuisance who came to disturb them. This means it is not only the person with customer care tag in their designation who leaves this impression but any individual of a company who comes in contact with a customer. And this holds true for any business whether it is a restaurant, a bank or even a clinic. In fact in a place like clinic it is utmost important for the person working there to make a individual feel at home. Most of the people who go to clinics are apprehensive and need assurance in any form and mostly a smile will go a long way to do so.

Customer care is one of the most important aspects of any business that its owner wants to do well. It is the best form of advertising. A word of mouth advertising, which is free in terms of money but asks for a different kind of input from these businesses that of good service.

Let us take a look at one such sector, that of banking in India. Banking has become an integral part of the modern life but it is very difficult to find ‘the ideal bank’. In fact in today’s cutthroat world where everyone is trying to lure customers by offering various add services. Giving a good customer service becomes quite important. Even one man can make a lot of difference to our perceptions of the company. One man’s service made me think the bank I was using was a great one but when he left the bank I found to my dismay that it was all in my idealist mind that thought the best of the situation. Someone I know had taken a home loan and submitted all the necessary papers along with the post dated cheques, the employee of the bank looses the whole set of cheques and paper and didn’t even bother to let the customer know for a week! In India buying or making your own home is still considered one of the most important and biggest investments in a person’s life, so when a bank gives inadequate service it really is disheartening.

Some businesses provide good service when they are just setting up and after they get established and get regular clientele the standard of service just falls. But while this is from the side of the customers, the other side also has to be taken into consideration. There are customers who tend to take the service for granted and become over demanding. They forget that employees have limits and expect the earth for whatever money they are spending. So really may be there is very thin line between a customer becoming a pest and being pleasant.

Good marketing does get you the initial customers but to keep them there and keep them happy one needs to provide them with reasonably good service. So no matter how often over bearing customers comes their way, they still have to give the benefit of the doubt to the new customer. A simple way to handle this might be for each representative of a company treat their customers the way they expect to be treated as a customer.

Baby a boon or a bane??

Children bring fulfillment in a marriage that can’t be filled by any other aspect. They are your lineage that lives beyond your death. Usually the arrival of a child also brings a new world of expectations, joy and lots of love for the parents. The birth of a child is considered to be the second birth for the mother, the exertion that the mother goes through to bring the new life into this world is finally worth the trouble. Or so I feel. The marvel of childbirth and seeing your creation for the first time is amazing and full of wonder. The child makes its arrival after nine months of care and love. The months of carriage are full of dreamz and hopes for the mother. The thought of how the child will look and how your life will be after the addition into the family runs through the mind constantly. But seldom can you even visualize just how much your life would exactly change. For some the life will revolve around the kid and the kids become their entire universe.

On the flip side, the expectancy for the general public starts immediately after a couple gets married. The very next time people run into you or talk to you the question “any good news?” is sure to come. This expectancy and sheer nosiness by some is little amusing and a lot annoying. But it is not just restricted to people one knows but even a total stranger deems it right to ask “is it planned or otherwise?” or comes up with advises like “don’t wait for too long otherwise it will be difficult later” or “if there is any problem please see a doctor for treatment”. I find such behavior rather appalling. The couple who have planned to take time in continuing their bloodline might not feel hurt. But if it is not the case the sentiments of the couple being asked such questions is never in the thoughts of the person asking them. There is not even the slightest of hesitation for such possibility before popping the question. There are people who will say this is how the society works but I would say if this how it works it is not a refined one to do so. A couple has every right to choose when and if they want any progeny. In fact, I feel couples should take the time in getting to know one another first. Only after that when they feel they are ready for the added responsibility that they should go in for a child. Just because the society asks such crass questions is no reason to go in for a child in a hurry. Because at the end of it once you conceived, it is totally your responsibility. And you have to make the right choices before birth and after its birth. At that point of time all these people who ask such questions will never be around to lend you a hand. And unlike in computers there is no undo button after the child is born. I found it really funny that the people who highlighted the contentment, peace and love for their child before I got pregnant never said even a single good word after I became pregnant. Though now after having experienced motherhood I have no regrets what so ever. In fact, I feel my love for my daughter increases each day and my wonder of having given birth to her has not ceased yet. The amazing feeling that she came from my flesh and bones I guess will stay with me for the rest of my life. But I am definitely glad at the same time that I took time in bringing her into this world. That I didn’t fall prey to these questions but had her when I was ready for her. It is not that there is no downside to this but in the end the happiness always outweighs.

So now I have only one thing to tell the people who are hesitant to dive into this, it really is an experience worth the trouble it comes with. The contentment you feel to hold you child or protective feeling that wells up in you is something that can only be experienced, never understood seeing someone else. But of course I stand by what I said earlier one must always be ready for it fully. And by that I do not mean just the mother being ready but the man has to be equally ready to take on the responsibility. It is never easy to later on make the sacrifices and compromises that are needed to bring up a child alone; the man has to be an equal partner.

All the very best to who ever intend to bring in a new life into this world and the general public please hold your tongues on such a sensitive issue…

Sri Chitra Art Gallery

India is a country of immense heritage and rich history. And the lush green southern state of Kerala is no different, infact the vast cultural heritage that we have in store in this God’s Own Country never ceases to amaze me. Kerala is one of the top 50 destinations of the world according to the National Geographic and I feel rightly so. But I think sometimes we tend to overlook these riches.

One such place is the Sri Chitra Art Gallery in the capital city, Thiruvananthapuram nee Trivandrum. This art gallery is housed in the famous museum compound, one of the major landmarks of the city. The museum compound has the famous Napier’s Museum, another jewel in the capital’s crown, the reptile museum and is also a part of the Trivandrum zoo. And eventhough this art gallery which houses the paintings of the great artist Raja Ravi Varma is in the heart of the city not many locals come to take a peek at it. The art gallery is viewed more by tourists than the locals but for me it is one of the favourite places in the city.

In this God’s own country, a prince was born in Kilimanoor Palace as the son of Umamba Thampuratty and Neelakantan Bhattathiripad on April 29th 1848. He later grew up to become the greatest artist of all times, Raja Ravi Varma. This prince as a young boy of seven started painting using charcoal and I am sure no one at the time would have realized just how famous he would become or how a must have his paintings would become in the modern world. During his time it was not a profession chosen by the royals, but seeing the young talent his uncle Raja Raja Varma brought him to the capital city and arranged a teacher for him at the age of fourteen to learn oil painting. He honed his skills in the later years in Mysore, Baroda and other parts of the country. He learned the traditional art of Thanjavoor and then the European art. His paintings can be broadly classified into portraits, portrait based compositions and compositions based on legends and mythology. But whatever kind they are he has really excelled in his art.

Usually art is a subject loved by an artist or an art lover. But I feel you need to be neither to enjoy the Ravi Varma paintings. As a casual visitor or tourist you can never envision the treasure you will find inside the Sri Chitra Art Gallery. But as soon as you enter the art gallery, you are transported into an ethereal world. It is a world of old world charm and of ancient characters. His paintings are full of life and you would feel they are just going to speak to you. Sometimes I feel if I look close enough I can see beyond the point in the painting. All the characters in his paintings are so simple; some are portraits and some are based on the Hindu mythology. But I always feel so amazed at the minute details in his paintings whether it is the expression on their faces, their clothes or their jewellery.

The beauty of the female characters in his paintings became the models for today’s cinematic beauties. They were painted both as seductresses and also like pure untouched beauties. His famous “Milk Maid” painting is my all time favourite and this milk maid comes in the later category of ethereal beauty. At the same time his “Gypsies of South India” brings so much of tenderness in you that you feel like touching those children to just encourage them to carry on in life. His paintings on mythology all bring to life the stories I have read as a child and now his characters have taken shapes of all those mythological characters in my mind.

Today for the people of Kerala these paintings are a heritage proud to be and if possible a must have in your homes. He is an artist surpassed by none in the Indian art history. So I hope we will treasure these gems for the generations to enjoy them in the centuries to come because he is a link between the traditional and the modern India.

Mom and me

God created woman in such a fashion that she carries the future in her womb. She is the world to the seed that becomes you from her flesh and blood. Her womb is your home for the first nine months of your lives. She is a safe haven where you are nurtured and developed. In short you owe your life to her. One can’t have a deeper or a closer relationship with anyone else. For a mother her baby is the most precious aspect in her life sometimes even more than her own soul mate. She does everything in her power for the happiness of her kids. Inspite of all this, my relationship with my mother has been a journey of ups and downs.

As a child I had always been a ‘papa’s girl’ as most girls are I guess. And since mom was the one in charge of our day to day development, she was always the bad cop for being strict with us. Then came adolescence where both sets of parent were just people who were your caretakers and who stopped you from doing things you liked. But even then dad got away with being good cop because he was the one who gave into our requests and bought us goodies. Or so was scene in the prejudiced mind at that time.

Then came the time when I started working and something in life shifted and from necessary evil in life they became best friends that I had failed to see so far. They became the confidants I could trust and depend on. The highlights of the day was narrated to them without missing a single beat and they too listened as if they were hearing manna from heaven. But even at that time dad took the centre stage in my life and mom never got her due for all what she had done. What ever she was doing too was going unnoticed and I can only remorsefully say I took her for granted. I failed to see the silent strength that was behind me cent percent. Failed to see how much care and love she showered on me, how much in pain she was when I was in any sort of pain. Failed to see how my actions affected her. I am sure coming from your own flesh it must have been more hurtful. Until we become parents we generally tend to not notice the sacrifices they make to bring us up or for our happiness. The changes in their lives they make for our dreams and aspirations. We fail to see our selfishness in this relationship till something happens in your life.

However, I am happy to say that this stage finally did change. The upward swing came after I got married and set up my own home. That is the time the realization of what I had done and what all I had taken for granted come into mind. I can’t express enough anguish in all the missed years of camaraderie and having behaved in the manner I did. But I guess I should feel happy that it is better late than never situation. I am thankful for this time where I have the chance to make up for my past mistakes. And I hope I am able to express adequately to her my love for her and my appreciation for all her concern and love that she has showered on me.

With the arrival of my daughter I can now clearly understand what she feels for me and what all she does for me. I do not think I will be as good a mom to my daughter as my mother is to me but I hope one day I will come close to it. I can only aspire and work to become so. I can also only hope to become as good a friend to my daughter as a mother should be. And I wish I will share the unique bond I have with my mom with my daughter. This spectacular relationship is so precious and special bond which we all must treasure.


Getting started......

I had never thought of starting this spot but I guess there is a time for everything and sometimes you just need some push to do the things you should be doing happily anyway [:d].... I have never felt I am a good writer but I do love to write and of late Rajesh my hubby dearest and couple of my very good friends have been podding and pushing me to do this. And I finally decided to do something about the idea mooted by my dear friend Dona to start this blog and post the stuff I have written either for my writers bureau assignments or gulf news or just for the heck of it hehehhe.... so folks here it goes enjoy and let me know your comments so that I get this right [:)]..... finally I would like to dedicate this site to my soul mate Rajesh who not only encourages me to write but also sponsored my writer's course [;)]