Thursday, October 17, 2013

Of Many, Many Things...

It has actually been long time no see. The last one month has been full of events. I was actually missing writing a lot but kept on waiting for the exams to get over. There was one take-home exam and it took me almost ten days to complete it. Take-home exams are longer and more difficult than in-class exams. The course was a marketing one, which is very subjective and abstract. I had no idea that the twenty-pages of answers that I wrote, did it make sense or not. I am glad it is over. Apart from it, I have many things to talk about and a lot of self praise to be showered upon in this post. You see, I am  a bit of a show-off.

In the Ethics class in this semester, there was discussion on sexual harassment. The professor, who has done a lot of research on sexual harassment, told us some of the most bizarre cases. I think there was one when I heard I was flabbergasted. What happens is that there is a top executive at a firm who has an eye for women. He had been making some sexual remarks to one of the women who worked for him. One particular day, he sees the women looking ravishing in a white blouse. He, also, has the habit of popping M&Ms into the air and putting them in his mouth. He is walking by the lady, popping M&Ms into his mouth. One M&M lands in the woman's blouse. So, given the gentleman he is - he puts his hand in the woman's blouse and takes that M&M out and not only this, he admits this in court that he did that and he says to the judge that he was concerned that the lady's white blouse might get dirty and he did not want that to happen, that is why he put his hand in the woman's breasts. Seriously. How ridiculous can people be? I could not stop laughing when the professor told this. She told another case. This guy works with a beautiful lady in his office. He thinks she is the love of his life. He gets flowers for her, keeps on staring at her, and stalks her because he cannot take his eyes off her. He says to the judge that he could not live with out her. Did I tell you that he is also married to another woman? People are unintentionally funny. Apart from this case, there is a case that made global headlines last year. It was related to Iowa Supreme Court. Iowa Supreme Court Rules Firing Of Woman For Being Too Attractive Was Legal. That is why I am fascinated by law. It is brilliantly subjective and objective at the same time. I wish I had done Political Science honors. But I would have made a terrible lawyer like Vanraj in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Interestingly, Devdutt Pattanaik posted an article on sexual harassment that he wrote earlier. Devdutt, as we know, is India's most famous writer on mythology and is adept at incorporating mythological references to our daily lives. He wrote this article: Predator on the Prowl. Devdutt has just come out with his new book, Sita, a story of Ramayana through Sita's eyes. Back to the Ethics class, our professor who had been teaching for thirty years retired this year. We were her last class. During the last class, she started crying. I mean you have given thirty years of your life teaching students and now you won't do that any more. Perhaps that is why people are afraid to retire and move one. Be it sports, be it politics. The University is going to start a scholarship in her name. Isn't it such an accomplishing feeling? Talking of accomplishments, this week Nobel prizes were announced. After years of hard work, you get awarded the Nobel. Which also remind me of Phoebe winning a Nobel for massage. Oh! I love you Phoebe.

Not only the Nobel, a few days ago Man Booker prize was announced. I was strongly rooting for Jhumpa Lahiri's The Lowland but Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries won it. Eleanor is only 28. Winning one of the highest prizes in the literary world at only 28. I wish I was smart enough to accomplish something like this. I want to win a Booker prize too. If only, I had even the smallest bit of literary sense. I am awed by all the people who write fiction. If I will write something, it will be mainly autobiographical. I cannot imagine a new world far away from my reality, such as Rushdie's Midnight's Children, Tolkein's The Lord of The Rings, or Jhumpa Lahiri's The Lowland. If I stretch myself, I will only have one book in me. I love these authors who can transport us to an altogether new world. Maybe that is why Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi in an interview said he does not have any more books in him. This is an old interview of Siddharth when his first book, The Last Song of Dusk, came out and he talks about how he became a writer. He says to be a writer you have to experience solitude.
Q&A with Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi
That I was left alone as a child was the most crucial gift my parents gave me. I shacked up in a tree house until I was 12 or 13 – reading books or just being alone. There’s a lot you can learn from that space, stuff you cannot always use in a practical way – but it’s the stuff that makes you who you are, it’s what adds fibre to your character, nuance to your personality. Today, when I see my nephews rush from some kind of a tuition to some other equally annoying music-class-type activity, I wonder where they’ll find the time to look at the monsoon puddles or fly kites for unstructured slots of time. That kind of time is far more instructional than any class you can go to. I am grateful that my mother always allowed me to run away from school almost on a regular basis (which, incidentally, I found mind numbingly boring.) I was allowed the space to not become anyone in particular but my own self.

Even if I write a book, I am sure no body is going to read it. 

Amitav Ghosh posted a very beautiful poem by Salil Chautrvedi on malls called The Grave of Two Friends.   
It’s an awfully large tombstone,
for a tree so small, and the little bird’s call, so big, this mall.

For the last few days, a Facebook page has been posting very deep words. Words we never thought that could exist.

I think sillage is one of the most erotic words that I know now. Beautiful.

There is a big stone right outside my house. Two weeks ago, while I was throwing out the trash at night, I didn't see the stone and fell down. I had also not turned on the light. It was so sudden that I didn't realize what happened to me. There were bruises all over the two legs. I think that is why they say mistakes are so important in life because they teach you a  lot. I now make a point to switch on the light. I will always remember that there is a stone outside my place. In this context, Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, wrote a very thought provoking piece on failure. Scott Adams' Secret of Success: Failure. I am sure my Organizational Theory professor would dis this article because Scott doesn't believe in goals. Setting SMART goals is one of the first lessons in organizational theory class. He says, 

To put it bluntly, goals are for losers. That's literally true most of the time. For example, if your goal is to lose 10 pounds, you will spend every moment until you reach the goal—if you reach it at all—feeling as if you were short of your goal. In other words, goal-oriented people exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that they hope will be temporary.

If you achieve your goal, you celebrate and feel terrific, but only until you realize that you just lost the thing that gave you purpose and direction. Your options are to feel empty and useless, perhaps enjoying the spoils of your success until they bore you, or to set new goals and re-enter the cycle of permanent presuccess failure.

Becoming stronger is obviously a good thing, but it's only barely optimistic. I do want my failures to make me stronger, of course, but I also want to become smarter, more talented, better networked, healthier and more energized. If I find a cow turd on my front steps, I'm not satisfied knowing that I'll be mentally prepared to find some future cow turd. I want to shovel that turd onto my garden and hope the cow returns every week so I never have to buy fertilizer again. Failure is a resource that can be managed.

Basically, Scott disparages the management theory of motivation by goals. The ever-so-brilliant Sidin Vadukut had also mentioned a similar point in Cubiclenama: The Leadership Canard, talking about problems in the leadership style of the CEO of HTC. 

Earlier this week Reuters published a long profile of the company’s totemic CEO, Peter Chou, and suggested that HTC’s decline may be down to Chou’s “leadership style”. From my reading of the Reuters profile this is a list of problems people have pointed out with Chou’s management style:

• Abrasive management style
• No clear succession plan
• Perfectionist with an obsessive eye for materials and design
• Takes decisions on the fly
• Control freak who openly berated managers
• Does not delegate

So I reached the end of the profile. And then it suddenly struck me. I knew one other manager who possessed these exact same qualities. To the letter. He also used to work in the exact same sector. Making the exact same products. Steve Jobs. Jobs was one of the most abrasive, secretive, obsessive man ever to run a major company. I think most of this punditry about leadership styles and management theories is BS. This is the bottom line: the leadership style that works is…ta da…the one that actually works. Go big or go bust. Full on profit, or full and final.

Very true. Cubiclenama is a great read for people in office. There was another article where he talks about how people are constantly thinking of changing jobs.
Each time I moved to a new job I’d have the exact same parting conversations with colleagues at my old one. First of all, without fail, they’d say how fortunate I was. “Boss, you are lucky yaar. You are escaping from this horrible place.” Every. Single. Time. Not once has anyone asked me to stay back because the new job sounded inferior in comparison. It was as if the only thing on people’s minds as soon as they got into company…was to figure how to get out.

But I would definitely agree with one leadership attribute mentioned by Sanjay Baru, former media advisor to PM Dr. Manmohan Singh. He wrote an excellent article in the Indian Express on the nonsense ordinance controversy involving Rahul Gandhi. He says, "It requires great sophistication and maturity to provide leadership to a transition without undermining the image of the predecessor."

For the last few weeks, I have been feeling something weird. The feeling when you realize that your friends are your friends because they are using you. It happened at least four times with me when I felt that some of my friends acted in ways so that I can be influenced. I felt irritated at first but then I tried to understand their perspective. The thing that I don't like is that they think I am not smart enough, but I understand everything. Say it to me on my face rather than using puns. It is all right. After all, they are my friends, no?

A few days Forbes magazine rated Tippie College of Business as number 20 on the best business schools in America. The rating criterion is based solely on the return on investment. Honestly, 20 is not a number one should be really proud of, right?  And I typically do not like to talk much about MBA rankings which are very subjective. But somehow I felt good about it. A lot of my friends used to make fun of me that I am living in Iowa - middle of nowhere. I do not understand what their problem is. I have been to many cities in the US - each one more rude than the other - go to Houston and then realize what I am talking about. The Midwest has a totally different culture than the rest of the US. As much it was my dream to study some day in Harvard or Yale, I realized I am not smart enough for these prestigious institutions. More importantly, I did not have money for these. Even if I got through, I am not a very confident person that I could have survived these places. People say, you have got scholarship and keep on repeating this. I have got scholarship, that is why I am here else I would not have been here. Even after scholarship, I am spending around Rs. 25 Lakhs here. If I was in California or New York, living expenses would shoot up astronomically and I do not have that much money. So, I chose 'middle of nowhere' because it was the only option for me. When this ranking came, it was as if it validated some of my belief. I felt reassured by it. And I was in NSIT, supposedly one of India's best engineering colleges. Did I do something great there? No. But my friends did great things there. And they are very smart. And maybe that is why they are in top schools now and they deserve it. I am not a very talented person. I have hardly any talents. People call me defeatist. Yes, I am. But I have learnt to live with whatever I have.

I went to Seattle last month. Ever since I have watched Grey's Anatomy which is shot in Seattle, I always had a fascination to go there. I went to the Space Needle. I was so happy. Seattle looks beautiful from the top. I was all the while thinking of Derek who had said to Meredith, "Seattle has ferry boats. I have a thing for ferry boats." Grey's Season 10 has started and somehow, Derek has now become my favorite character. I mean I always liked his role but of late he has become my favorite. He is one of the nicest characters on the show. He is a perfect person - a great doctor, a great husband, a great father, a great friend, a great teacher, and a great human being. He is brilliant and no wonder he is called McDreamy. One of my college friends, K, stays in Seattle. I met her after four years. Her boyfriend was also there. We gossiped so much. Made fun of people. Somehow, I never felt like I met her after four years. She also said the same. Maybe because we were in touch more or less. But four years ago, who would have thought that the next time we will meet in Seattle?!?! Life changes so much no? When I went to Space Needle, they click a picture for free with a background of Seattle. I should give lessons to people on how to ruin a picture. This is what they gave me.

How to ruin a picture :|

Some more Seattle pictures:

I did not tell the purpose of why I went to Seattle. I had a job interview. And by the grace of God, I got through. The company is this online retailer. I had six interviews. One hour each. Two on the phone and four on the final day. I was very sure that they will not take me. But they accepted. I am simply relieved that I have a job and won't be asked to go back. I have told only a few friends because my mom says not to spread it. And after I got it, I called my friend J in Des Moines. She is like 50 years old but was my gossip and lunch partner during the internship. We used to discuss about TV shows (Downton Abbey, House of Cards) and US politics. She felt really happy because she knew how worried I was. But somehow, I am not feeling happy because again, I am having doubts whether I will be able to survive their culture or not. I will keep on hoping that I am able to. I have struggled a lot to reach where I am and I still have to fight to reach where I want to be. As they say, keep on hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. My mom is now calling me to come home in December. She is adamant that I come since it is going to be 1.5 years and then next June, there will visa problems till I start working and then it will become next December. 

And now for some self praise. In the Ethics class, there was a very difficult assignment. We had to write up a solution in which there are eight people who require a kidney and we had to select only one person to whom we will give the kidney. It was just so hard to decide to whom we should give the kidney because all of them were equally deserving. There was no right or wrong answer. I read a lot on how we should allocate resources and then wrote this. The Kidney Case. The professor called it a 'fabulous paper'. Nothing gives me more happiness if someone praises my writing because it is very close to me. And then she called me for a meeting and she told me that I should go in for a PhD because she said, "you have a very different way of thinking that stands out from your peers and you think very deeply about issues, and you will be suited for an academic career". As if she read my mind because I have thought a lot about PhD. But I don't think I can do it right now. I wish I had thought about it five years earlier. I will always regret this.

You know, F on his Twitter posted this,

I was stumped for a minute that am I reading it right?  It has been probably the very few times that someone waits for my opinion on movies. I have such a funny way of analyzing movies. I remember when I went for my interview at the second company I worked for, my manager made so much fun of me because I told him I really loved Sonam Kapoor in Mausam, I Hate Luv Storys and Saawariya - all three box office duds :\ He was just so critical of my choice that I felt terrible after it. He then said since you do not think logically, I am not sure if I can trust you with business :( But then later he gave me the job. I have a very naive understanding of cinema and emotions and most of it is my own interpretation. People try to see logic in movies which I do not have. So when F posted this, I felt good as if my opinion mattered :) Thank you so much. Y also told me to watch The Lunchbox and she will wait for my review about how I felt about it. I wish I could do this job full time :( I have a simple philosophy - watch movies with a heart because each scene is there for a purpose and we have to interpret that purpose.

Finally, some thing about movies - any blog post feels incomplete with out them.
A few days ago, this made headlines. Woody Allen Cancels 'Blue Jasmine' Release in India Over Anti-Tobacco Ads. It is such a shame because The Blue Jasmine is getting excellent reviews and a lot of people wait for his films. Yes, India is not a big market for him but the government's policy is really stupid. In this context, I remembered a very funny line. Have you seen Manorama Six Feet Under? It is an excellent murder mystery starring Abhay Deol, Gul Panag and Sarika and directed by Navdeep Singh. During that time, A. Ramadoss who was the Union Health Minister started his campaign for no smoking in films. At one point in the film, Abhay Deol's character purchases a cigarette and says to the shopkeeper, "Ek Ramadoss dena". Brilliant satire. Naming the cigarette after the minister. It was really funny. That is called creativity and making a point through films.

A few days ago, Beth asked this question on Twitter, 

One person replied this,

I would include exactly the same list of people. And Aiyyaa too. This made me want to watch Bhansali's films again, trying to deconstruct his grandeur vision. I re-watched the second half of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. And I am right now watching Saawariya. Saawariya is a paradise of references and I am loving it even more now because I think I understand it better now. I found such fascinating details about it which I will write later. But for now, I am writing about some new things about Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, which I had not thought about it before. Beth actually hates Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam as she felt that the biggest problem with the film was that all the three male characters kept throwing Nandini away. But I unabashedly love that movie. So here it goes.

After Nandini's father finds out about her relationship with Sameer, she is seen sitting on a swing. I found it very interesting that Bhansali shows her on a swing which in some ways reflected her state of mind. At one side is her father and at the other side is Sameer and she is left swinging between those two people. 

When she says to her mom that, "Sameer ne meri aaatma ko chua hai, maa", her upper body is on one side and her legs are on the other side reflecting that her heart is with Sameer but she cannot move her legs to this side because her father will not her and she is left at the cusp of the two. When she says, "mujhe do hisso me mat baanto, maa", I became sure that was the very purpose of Bhansali.

The Swinging State?

The chandelier played another important role in the picture. Nandini and Sameer meet for the very first time at the chandelier. Nandini is shown lighting the chandelier with a candle and that was actually a symbol of starting of their love.  When Sameer is leaving, Nandini runs, her dupatta catches fire and the chandelier shakes and later eventually Nandini breaks the chandelier as if their love has ended. Chandelier was the symbol of their love.

Chandelier - Delicate Love

Now, when she finally gets married to Vanraj and they both travel to Italy, there is another scene where Bhansali uses inanimate objects to refer to the something related to the film. Nandini is not able to open the blue suitcase and she refuses to take Vanraj's help. Vanraj, watching her struggle, offers to open it but she refuses. He grabs the suitcase from her and opens it. He has to apply a lot of force to open it. I think that blue suitcase was referring to Nandini's closeness. She would not open her heart to Vanraj and he will have to force her to accept his help in finding Sameer, just like the closed suitcase which would not open.

Blue Suitcase -  Nandini's Closeness

Again, in the cafe scene if you see Vanraj is wearing a blue sweater over his shoulders. He is not wearing it but only keeping it over his shoulders. There were some metaphorical references to Nandini and Vanraj's blue sweater (like the blue suitcase). He won't wear the sweater but he will keep it with him like he would not force Nandini to love him but he will keep her with him. When they come back after Nandini falls in front of the tram and she says to Vanraj, "aaj aapki vajah se maine Sameer ko kho diya". He then says,"tum kya jano pyaar kya hota hai", and then he storms out of the room but still makes a point to grab that blue sweater like he would not let her go. And when he goes out of the room, he is seen roaming in the streets. Now he accidentally bumps into Sameer, who is also wearing blue! The evening colors are blue too. I think it meant due to some cosmic connections of blue light referring to Nandini's love, Sameer's love for Nandini will be transferred to Vanraj (signified by their bumping) and then Vanraj is shown wearing that sweater as if Nandini is going to accept him now. I was just stunned by Bhansali's deep thoughtfulness here. He is a genius.

Blue - Nandini's Love?

There is an excellent trivia in the cafeteria scene as well. When they both are sitting in the background, an Italian song is being played. When I heard it, I thought I had listened to the tune before. And then after some thinking I found out. The song that was being played was:

And this famous Italian song was copied in the film Mann in the song Nasha Yeh Pyaar Ka Nasha Hai!

Both Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Mann released in 1999. Make it a point to listen to the song in cafeteria next time you watch Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Or listen this if you can.

And one more reference. Vanraj and Nandini start their friendship on a train. Now, immediately after that there is the scene of Sameer and his mother talking in the cemetery. Again, I felt that the cemetery was a signal by Bhansali that as soon as the friendship of Vanraj started, Sameer's relationship was effectively dead, signified by the cemetery. Each scene is there for a purpose and I think Bhansali meant that there, else why would he show Sameer and his mother joking in a cemetery.

End of Sameer and Nandini in the Cemetery

Bhansali is a master at creating deeply aching moments (meri awaaz pehchanogi na tum?) and uses camera beautifully (the tango dance scene - brilliant!).

Seriously, I am addicted to Dholi Taaro song. I used to like this song before but for the past few days, I am stunned at its brilliance. Vaibhavi Merchant has excellently choreographed this song and she deservedly got the National Award for it. Kavita Krishnamurthy's voice is perfect. The melange of colors, the dance moves, the voice, the actors - it's poetry in motion. I love it.

I am sure I missed on many other references that Bhansali is trying to show. But without a doubt, given a chance to live in a film, I would without thinking go into any Bhansali film. I will try to understand more of Bhansali in the coming weeks. 

Wrote a lot today. More later. Comments welcome :)

Dialogue of the Day:

"Beete hue waqt ko haathon me jakad kar raha hai tumne, Nandini. Jaane do ise. Jis din tum yeh haath khologi, tumhare hathon me kuch nahi rahega. Zindagi har waqt badalti hai, Nandini. Badalte hue waqt ko apnao."
 - Nandini's Mom, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam


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