Sunday, August 22, 2010

Becker Incorporated

"I had my first anger management class and I was pissed as hell". This very antithetical rhetoric rings clearly in my head. Different folks interpret life differently. Some keep prognosticating about the times ahead, some keep thinking about some dreary past events and others are whining about the present. And then there is Becker. "Becker" is a sitcom which ran for a couple of seasons on TV.
Becker is one man who never ceases to amaze me. His philosophy about life is as simple as it gets- "Don't say YES when you want to say NO". In everyday life, people try to keep their serenity and work their way through problems, keeping their head down. On the other hand,Becker is one guy who is a straight shooter. His vociferous comments about everything and everyone around him make him look like a jerk. But he is actually being blatantly honest about the people around him. The reason? He seems to connect with everyone in his own way, thus trying to make them look at the world through his eyes.
Be it the diner owner Regie or his apartment super, Bob. Regie is an ex-super model whose father bequeathed her just one gift before dying- an old derelict diner located in Bronx - a place with no rules and where there is little respect for authority. Regie keeps complaining about the lack of customers and Becker responds with his comments about lack of quality food! Bob, his super is a narcissistic guy who is a pucca-moocher. Whenever Becker asks Bob if he could fix his apartment, he replies with - "You are on the list!". In one of the episodes, Becker actually corners Bob and asks him about the list. Bob responds "You got me!! There is no list!". Jake is another one of Becker's "buddies", who sells magazines and cigarettes for a living. Despite losing his eyesight, Jake has a surprisingly positive attitude towards life and does not miss a chance to pull Becker's legs.
Becker is a kind of egomaniac with a heart. He went to Harvard and believes that none of the other colleges stand up to that kind of repute. He is quite nonchalant about other medical practitioners like chiropractors. As luck would have it, once he ends up with a sore back and finds himself in a Chinese Massage Parlor for treatment! His colleagues at the clinic seem to like him despite his egocentric behavior. Margaret, does a lot of bookkeeping for Becker and almost acts like his private nanny. Linda, who doubles up as a store keeper and receptionist does...well..nothing! The essence of this sitcom is about a man who likes to say "I told you so!" almost all the time. Becker has a few friends whom he trusts completely and its this set of loyal friends that help him overcome his problems.
IF folks like Becker ended up in a corporate environment, they would run havoc. As Chanakya said, "Straight trees are cut first". Becker is affirmative when he calls a spade, a spade. But conventional wisdom suggests that being politically naive won't really help to survive in the corporate world. Not everyone can be a friend and not everyone can be trusted. Getting the job done is more important, rather than focus sing on the minutiae. Becker can be a good individual contributor, but not a good team player. Becker's philosophy of playing it straight might not be liked by some of the guys in the board room. To conclude, I recall an anecdote about two corporate whiz kids working at Nike. These blokes were enjoying a nice sunny day somewhere in Africa, trotting down a trail with green meadows and thick grass around them. Suddenly, a lion appeared from nowhere, right in the middle of the trail. Both were shit-scared. One of them, for some strange reason started to unpack his bag, taking out a pair of Nike shoes. He started wearing them and tying the laces at a frenetic pace. The other guy asked him, "What good is that going to do? Do you really think that with those Nike shoes you are going to run any faster than that Lion?". The other guy gave back a quick repartee - "Who said anything about the Lion? I just want to make sure I run faster than you!!".

Thursday, August 20, 2009

SAW tooth :(

The stage is set for an of its kind. A clash of the titans would best describe this combat. 32 soldiers, and just one enemy. Seems easy, but it's complex, with the enemy armed to the...err...TEETH. His weapons are drills, cotton bandits and a whole set of sharpnels. Well, this is the way I felt after a visit to my old friend and "foe", the dentist.
The term "dentist" brings back some really bad memories for most of us who have been on the next worst thing to the electric chair. Your jaws ache, your cheeks start to show cramps and you are literally "moved" to tears!! One of my earliest visits were for a root canal, for one of my molars. It all started when I felt a sharp pain when trying to chew a sandwich. After setting up the appointment, I went on the D-day to the clinic. After entering, the lady at the counter explained to me the course of treatment etc. When it came to fees, the transaction seemed to be expensive. Nevertheless, I took the plunge and went ahead with what was to be a "memorable" evening.
"Hi, My name is Asia, I would be assisting the doc for the rest of the evening." Trying to confirm if I had heard correctly, I asked her for her name. "Asia, like the continent", came the reply. She indeed did live upto her name (esp. in terms of size).She was the male version of the incredible hulk, sans the green skin. This afro-american amazon shook my hand and the next moment I was trying to escape this vice-like grip. "GOD! If this is the start, I would rather take off..",I said to myself. As I tried to make myself comfortable, the doctor arrived. She seemed to have the look of a kindergarten teacher who is mad at her students' throwing paper planes at her. The procedure began with me getting a nice prick with the needle of the size of my palm. Gradually, the numbness crept in surreptitiously into my cheeks and the cleaning began. Before that, Asia assumed her "missionary" position alongside the doctor to help with instruments. For some weird reason, she had a huge set of goggles on her eyes. To me she appeared like one of the villains from the 1980's who had their lines like "Saara shehar mujhe Loin ke naam se jaanta hai". My head was already a bit dizzy. The doc said,"Hey Asia, can you shift his head towards you? I need a better view of the teeth". Well, i was expecting a gentle nudge or maybe a tender push to shift my almost-numb head. The next few seconds was an experience I would never forget for my lifetime. Asia thrust her powerful hand into my cheek, held it firm and just pulled the same towards her. The momentum of this action was so much that it shifted the rest of my body towards her!!! It was raw power at it's best.The checkup after the root canal was the last step. The doc asked me whether I had any wisdom teeth removed etc. And even before I could respond, she said "Never mind..". This kinda was outrageous in a way. Do I belong to the type who donot or rather cannot have a wisdom tooth? Taking it a level further, is it a rule that only people who are wise have wisdom teeth? Well, we can leave that area for another post or a debate.Finally, the operation ended with water jet sprays and a pat on my back for being so brave.
While watching "Seinfeld", Jerry says that the top two fears humans have are Public Speaking and Death. Public Speaking, apparently has a higher rating than death! Personally, I would say that a visit to the dentist is the worst of all. It's like you go in, get hammered, people dig holes and bury them in your mouth. Worst of all, you have to pay for this torture and at the end of it, after an year or so, you go for a checkup to find the same tooth's neighbour now has started shaking. There you go! Another round of water jets, smelly substances and long hours of keeping your mouth open.To conclude, I would say that at the final frontier,the Lord would send good people to heaven and those you have sinned, be sent to the dentist!!

Friday, December 12, 2008


"A caring and family oriented girl with simple living and high thinking"..."I got a first class throughout my career with 99% in tenth standard"..."Looking for and handsome". All these headlines certainly made my head spin. As you might have guessed, I was skimming through "desi" matrimonial sites. The sole reason being curiousity, to learn about how exactly do these portals work and do business. Well, it was certainly entertaining to look at people selling themselves in any and every way possible!The photos looked fake (the expressions i mean) and the profile essays were shameless ripoffs of samples from some of the online essay sites :P
Well, this is one way "desi"(s) look to find "soulmate"(s) and try to make their life easier. "Easier" because it's certainly convenient to find someone online, unlike going through the rigmarole of understanding the other person. Some of the sites might be doing well, given the fact that Indians are fond of a closed system, when it comes to marriage and man-woman relationships. The most famous remark (somewhat caustic) on this system was in our very own desi flick "Pardes". One of the actors remarks that "you guys tether boys and girls separately like they were some kinda animals".
The movie, although made with an honest intention, highlighted the parochial attitude of people from some parts of India. In the flick, just as in real life, the girl goes through the "arranged marriage" process and ends up getting screwed (almost! thanks to King Khan :)). Also the fact that Indians are suckers for the America based "NRI boy with indian cultural values" is quite evident. In fact, my research on these sites took me to one which had a roster of "H1-B approved candidates" (No jokes guys! this is for real!)
Taking a step back, we could really do an analysis on why these sites are so popular. The west does not have such a thing, although they do have lots of online dating sites. India is evolving and has been adopting values from the west. Yet, somehow we seem to be a closed society when it comes to these matters. Still, many communities, indulge in "horoscopes" and "manglik" etc. Apparently, these folks seem to have forgotten the premises on which a marriage ought to be built. The foundation has to be strong committment and understanding and not some celestial bodies whose positions dictate whether or not a marriage can succeed. The west has its own shortcomings, since it has a open society which encourages a "no holds barred" approach. But, its a different society in terms of concepts like "live in" relationship etc, some of which might not find approval in "modern" india as well.
Digressing a bit, "love marriage" is another concept in Indian culture where in two people seem to have found true marital bliss. There are differences between the "arranged" and "love" marriage(s). One advocates understanding a person before entering wedlock while the other has vice versa. The "risk" factor or "instability quotient" is equal on either side. The "love"d one might be a good date, may or may not turn out to be a good spouse. Same is the case with the "arranged" marriage gang. They are ready to move ahead with compromises, to make their marriage work. But, then what is the point if the relationship is based entirely on compromise?
All said and done, there seems to be no magical formula as to why relationships work. If someone could find the panacea to all the relationship based issues, this world would be a better place to live. No hurling of vessels from the kitchen, no heated arguments, no heart burns and no two timing partners......well..that's it.. apparently there seems to be a good lookin dame on gotta rush... cya!!

Friday, October 10, 2008

A hunting we will go..

Picture this – You are standing in the middle of the most brutal battle ever fought. The enemy is a ….well…suit-clad ,smart, bald man in his mid 40’s. His weapons are more penetrating than the tip of a sharpened knife. They are questions which make your head spin! The baldy is hell bent on making you tap out with his volley of queries and make you leave the battle field, hurt and disgraced. Well, that is how a job interview goes ….BAD!.

One fine day, my friend Kris (An MS grad in NYC who was day dreaming about the “American Dream”) got a call. A very sweet voice said “Hi, my name is Kristen Davis and I am calling from ABB Associates”. “A-B-B”, screamed Kris. Quite obvious, given this was his dream company. “I have a job opening for a Software Developer Intern at ABB..blah..blah..blah”. Kris was quite thrilled (partly because he was already imagining about the Kristen gal!) since this was an excellent prospect for an MS grad, to get “experience” and rake in some moolah as well. All said and done, Kris agreed for an interview at ABB’s office in California. He started making plans for California (CA), made calls to all the folks he knew in various parts of CA and started dreaming about the photo he would take against HP and Gates buildings at Stanford University. The day arrived, and this dude boarded the flight to CA, tuned in to a song he had chosen for this “special” occasion (first trip to California!) which was “Hotel California”. One the day of the interview, ensuring that he looked spiffy, Kris called a cab (being a desi, he would never have called one…. but this was being reimbursed!). Kris arrived at ABB’s plush office, and was astounded by the architecture around, the glass design and also the hot blonde receptionist who noticed his ogling (man’s favorite pastime) and asked him “What can I do for you?”. Kris muttered the details and was escorted for the first of his 4 rounds of interviews that day.

Round One- A well dressed gentleman came into the room and shook hands with our friend. Confidence personified, Kris was all set to nail this one (after all, he had a GPA of 4+). The gentleman looked to be someone higher up as he introduced himself, “Hi, my name is Kenneth and I am the hiring manager for the Quality Assurance (QA) position which you applied for”. ‘What the hell?”, thought Kris as he was sure this was an interview for a Developer position. But, then he thought, “Let’s take this one as it comes”. The first round was quite pleasant with Kenneth doing all the talking and Kris listening with rapt attention.

Round Two- After a pleasant first round, in came a man who looked a bit like the villain in old Kungfu movies. A tall guy with a long beard who came in and introduced himself
as “Chang”. “I have been in Quality Ass. for a decade and this is what I do for a living”.
This guy gave Kris some goosebumps! Man, for a person who knew nothing about QA to be interviewed by someone with so much experience was nothing less than a duel between David and Goliath. The questions flew left,right and center. Terms like “bugs list”, “white box testing” and “black box testing”. For Kris, this was just like those german war movies his roomie watched which Kris did not understand one bit. “Pardon” and “Excuse Me” alongwith “Can you elaborate a bit?” were the only phrases he would use to respond to the questions which seemed to be making no sense to him.

Round Three- After the bloodbath in the previous round, Kris wanted to go to the restroom and relieve himself from all the tension. As he got up and walked towards the door,in came the next guy armed with a whole bunch of sheets and a laptop. Our friend wanted to ask permission to leave when a voice boomed “We are kinda running behind schedule, so can you fill up this questionnaire before leaving for a break?”. Alas! Kris slouched into the chair and began ploughing through the barrage of questions. Kris spoke “The code on each of these pages is written in a strange format can you please explain?”.
“Well, we use Java here and this is all Java stuff” came the reply from the bloke who was hooked onto the laptop. “J-A-V-A? My skill set includes C# and .NET technologies, that is what I was told over the phone would be asked!” Kris thought. The night mare of an interview continued….

For years together, people have written tomes about how-to-prepare-for-interviews, cracking em’ and how to impress the interviewers. Albeit, there are still distressed souls who do struggle with interviews. As per experts, the best way to start an interview is to take a deep breath and calm down before starting the process. All said and done, there is still an element of luck involved at times which can swing the decision either ways – you might be hired or might not be. All said and done, its an interesting game where the real foe is pressure and the only friend is confidence!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

An obituary for my inspiration..

Any artiste is always blessed with a unique ability to entertain-be it his or her singing,dancing or acting. Historically, there have been very few who could prove their mettle in more than one area. To be specific, there are even fewer who can feel the pulse of their audience, make the audience laugh or cry as per their will. पु. ल. देशपांडे (P.L.Deshpande) was one man who was able to identify the "literary" needs of the common man with great ease. "P.L." as he was fondly called,was admired by the Marathi speaking population because of the subtle way of his writings and plays. The middle class population, esp., found his style of writing suited to their taste.

His style of writing were often influenced by P.G.Wodehouse, the great writer whose comical genius is well-known. The characters immortalized by P.L. include "Sakharam Gatne" the fumbling kid who often amazed everyone with his knowledge of Marathi literature. The narrative explains the journey of Sakharam from being a clumsy bookworm to a mature man who realizes that the world has more to it than just a few words in print. P.L.'s keen sense of observation is evident from all of his works. Just like "Sakharam", P.L. has caricatured the life of a rather average middle class person in his "Asa Mi Asa Mi" which literally means "How I am..". This work of his brings out the everyday troubles of a middle class person piqued by his family-related issues. An interesting aspect of this fable is the transformation brought about in P.L.'s protagonist owing to his children and their new-age values. Each of these characters have left an indelible mark on the minds of the Maharashtrian community, the reason being they are very real, have shortcomings and have a unique persona. Right from the very lovable "Haritatya", a bumbling old man who entertains children with his stories of Shivaji to "Antubarwa" , a person whose wit and sarcasm leave you dumb-founded.

P.L. not only wrote, but he was a great musical genius and gave Marathi Cinema a new lease of life, with classics like "Gulacha Ganpati". His favorite instrument was the harmonium which he played and also performed live concerts. Ably assisted by his wife, Sunita, P.L. had a great journey, travelling all over the world and even wrote travelogues with his own comical touch.

12th June 2000 was the fateful day when the lord ended P.L.'s journey in the mortal world. And it reminded me of one of his short plays- "Sangtwan" (Condolences). The drama is a wonderful take on those people who gather at condolence meetings, but instead have apathy towards the bereaved. In case of P.L., the city of Pune itself had an air of sadness on the day P.L. passed away.I took a taxi to P.L.'s home that day, i alighted from the cab and paid the driver his fare. The man, looking a bit sad, and politlely returned the money, and said "P.L. was one of our own, I won't accept the money".

Hopefully, the Marathi community ,globally can unearth talent which if not equivalent ,but can live upto the name of Purshottam Laxman Deshpande.

May P.L. rest in peace....:)

Monday, June 30, 2008


In countries like India, cable television brought about a huge revolution. The reach of Doordarshan and its limited programs underwent a landmark transformation. Villages and cities started watching newer channels and thus begins my story for this post. In a country where sex is treated like a skeleton in a closet, Sun TV decided to take a huge plunge by offering....wait for it...PORN! Lo and behold, it was the entry of the plump women and portly men in the drawing room of every household. Kids like myself tuned to Sun late nights on weekends with the volume turned off. But much to the dismay of the teen population (and some adults!) the I&B mafia (they ought to have Italian origins!) boycotted these screenings. Late night movies vanished into thin air. It was like, there was no "juice" left in the TV programs except the regular stuff. But, where there is a will, there is a way. People found out that the internet was a rich anthology of porn. Desi hubs were flocked by millions of cyber space enthusiasts to download the latest "clips". It was amusing to know of the exchange of "CD"s containing adult content in every nook and corner of every campus. It was just one big "CD Mafia" which had internet as its core strength. Some of the accounts chronicled mention of students picking up fights for the ownership of these CDs ;).

One infamous account which I remember was when my friend accidentally popped a CD into our college workstation thinking that it contained MATLAB. This incident reportedly happened when my learned friend was trying to demonstrate the use of MATLAB to a group of good looking teenage "chicks". The CD started playing the "MATLAB" component and the display was filled with -men and women shedding clothes...and ...well u got the point rite? One of the "chicks" remarked..."Dude, grow up!" We all laughed till my stomach began aching!

Another of my friends was an enthusiast when it came to porno stuff. As the grapevine has it, he compiled a "Mr.Skin" kinda CD from all the DVDs he had and rented it to people in his colony. I had the privilege to view this CD and was astounded by his astute work!! (aesthetics i meant)

Well, coming to America, porn and the concept of nudity underwent a radical change for the Yankee loving desi folks. Here, porn shops were there right across the street. CDs and DVDs were hitherto either pirated or ripped from the net while I was in India. Here, one could order stuff from sites like E-Bay. It was a surprise to know that the Occident didnot really make a brouhaha when it came to these adult oriented materials. A jolt from the blue kind of thing was when I turned on the TV once to find this- "Katie Morgan's pornography 101". The damsel sans clothing was vividly explaining the history of pornography and its repercussions on American Culture. It meant a journey from black and white movies to the current day HD.America in fact hosts one of the biggest conventions with the theme -"Adult movie stars and their appearances" (Source: "The Girl Next Door" movie).

The essence of writing this apparently "meaningless" essay was to highlight the distinct treatment given to this age old "art" on either side of the globe. It is looked down upon in a country with the largest population density and embraced openly by one with the least density.

FYI, it is a meaningless post....if you reached till here...your patience is admirable ;)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

"A journey to the other side...."

A movie so unique that it defines a genre of its own! Thats my take on the widely acclaimed marathi movie "Uttarayan". The tale of "Durgi" adapted by director Bipin Nadkarni is about a man who meets his childhood love in his twilight years. It is a poignant story of love and affection revolving around the two protagonists- one a widower and the other a woman "Durgi" with a broken marriage. Adding to Durgi's woes are the constant taunts from the society about her character and place in society. The movie begins circa 1960 in Pune where she gets married to a rich barrister who turns out to be a drunkard. Her father-in-law tries to make advances towards her. Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, she braves her way through life.
Enter "Raghu" the widower who now has the sole purpose ensuring that his son's life in firmly ensconced in comfort and happiness. Blessed with a picture perfect happy family, Raghu meets his old friend and that's when the topic of "Durgi" comes up. "Raghu" vividly remembers his fond memories from teenage years, his doting love for the girl and the pain of seeing her married to some one else but himself. He returns to meet her , only to find her in a state of apathy.
Contemporary marathi movies are pioneering a new trend- adapting a story to fit the settings of the bourgeois who are hard working people with a set of values in life. A touch of realism makes these movies more appealing to the average cinema goer. It makes "Uttarayan" easy to identify with, as it is with other marathi movies. This journey to the other side hits a road block once word gets out about a sexagenarian's "Raghu" wanting to marry "Durgi" a woman with a questionable past.
It is the ease with which the narrative takes its course,which captivates the audience. "Dhund Hote.." in both male and female versions, has been a rendition with a lot of poise. The other songs too are good and allows the user to sink in the emotions experienced by the two protagonists in the movie.
Personally, I hope the Marathi movie makers invest more time and energy to come up with such great storylines to take Marathi cinema to new pedestal,of glory and fame.