Saturday, February 24, 2007

Black Friday- A Review

I saw Black Friday, last Thursday, on my birthday. I mentally prepared myself for a lot of blood and gory details, chappals strewn all over the road, limbs, wailing men and women, lonely child- kind of images. I was carrying a tissue with me to keep the tears in check. I had even taken a few deep breaths before the film began. BUT…I was speechless through the entire length of the film. It did not evoke any pity or pathos. The film told the facts as they were. It did not take sides, rather it said so much of both the sides. The best thing about the film is that it said much without speaking. I am not talking about messages. The message is loud and clear and in the very first frame- ‘An eye for an eye makes the entire world blind.’ I am talking about the way the scenes were constructed. Inspector Marya’s angst, Badshah’s distress and disgust with running from place to place, the hotelier who kills his family and commits suicide after witnessing the harassment meted out to two Muslim women. They are all human emotions portrayed in just that way. The dirty words on the walls of the interrogation room- there are no exaggerations and you can actually believe that all that must have happened.Another point that I loved was the music. You can not imagine the pace that the background score by Indian Ocean adds to the story. I, at least, can’t imagine the film without the same score. The music has also been used as a tool to convey a gamut of emotions- the fear, the anxiety, the impact- the very first scene when the blasts take place, you are on the edge of your seat in anticipation of what is about to happen, thanks to the marvelous background score.Last but not the least the film would not have had this impact without the powerful performances of each actor. Something, may be, could have done about the length, but then I am not complaining at all.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The dance floor and 180 beats per minute

Saif Ali Khan is doing it now and that too for potato chips but Anubhav has been earning his bread, butter and more by teaching people salsa for more than five years. It’s been three years since he has been boarding Shatabdi in the mornings to come down to Chandigarh on weekends for… “just dancing some more.”
“All you need to learn salsa is high heeled shoes and a single piece of clothing,” says Anubhav, who was just your regular lad before salsa took over his life. Salsa in Spanish means sauce and in this context, Anubhav explains, it refers to the flavour or the style. Some more gyan comes our way. “Salsa patterns typically use three steps during each four beats, one beat being skipped. However, this skipped beat is often marked by a tap, a kick, a flick, etc. Typically the music involves complicated percussion rhythms and is fast with around 180 beats per minute,” says Anubhav.
Anubhav went to learn dancing as a hobby after finishing college in 1997. He joined Fitness Planet in Panchseel Park in South Delhi and then began to teach there. “Opposition, yes that came my way rather keeps coming my way even now. People ask me what will I do when I turn 35,” says the Delhite who started out by earning Rs 40 per hour and now has graduated to Rs 5,000 n one day for seven hours.
But isn’t that too taxing? Does not seem so to Anubhav who simply shrugs off the question with a “Nah!!”
Well, Anubhav also teaches kickboxing, five days a week for four hours each so may be he does not find it taxing rather relaxing.
He has taught housewives, held workshops for MNCs and BPOs, college students come to him regularly and but has been unsuccesful in getting his family hooked. “I am trying,” he says. As a parting note Anubhav says, “Life is very much like salsa. Not always fast and intense, it can also be slow and romantic or somewhere in between.”


Neena Singh, Senior VP, Head Branch Banking (North), HDFC Bank
Right now, on her table, you will find Jack Welsh’s Winning, Amartya Sen’s Identity and Violence; Bimal Jalan’s The Indian Economy and Undercover Economist by Cim Harford. She is reading them all. Well, she is also reading Bachchan’s Madhushala and keeps sprinkling couplets during our conversation. Neena Singh is the only female regional head in the HDFC Bank. A senior vice president, she has been in banking past 28 years. We stole some time out of her busy schedule to give us an insight into banking.
What is the current scenario in the banking sector? The kind of banking that is gaining ground is retail branch banking. Because it is broad-based as a customer gets all kinds of products under one roof, it is being largely preferred.
HDFC Bank is among companies with the lowest attrition rate. How do you manage that?Our objective is to become a world class bank. That can happen only when our efficiency level is very high, we have superior products in our bouquet, we provide excellent services and look after our people. All these things can not happen until and unless we have the right people in the right place. So we ensure that we hire a person for all the right reasons for a certain post, so that we limit the number of reasons for which he may want to quit.
What role does inter communication play in that?We have a very open system. There are many communication channels within our organisation. I am just a mail away for my team. They can share their problems with me in the same way that they would want to share their success. If that happens, everyone communicates freely, then there would be no misunderstandings and no need for anyone to leave an organisation for wrong reasons.
In the times of immense pressures of meeting targets and deadlines do ends matter or the means?Means are very important. I would not like it if you would go to any lengths just to achieve a target because when the process isn’t correct, there are chances of error in the output but when the process is correct or right than there is no scope of an error.
What are the requirements to join this field?An academic degree like an MBA from a good institute is a must. It also depends on the kind of vacancy but the most important condition that one should be fulfilling is respect for values and ethics. We are not selling anything tangible, so you have to win a customer’s trust. So, you have to be trustworthy and honest. Then there are many attributes like aptitude, background etc.
What are your strengths as a leader?You should ask that from my team. I am a team player and I believe that the kind of synergy a team creates is more than any individual. I am also very approachable, my outlook is very positive and I think I am a good leader. Any shortcomings?I am very strict, on myself as well as my team. I believe that one can strive for excellence and it does not come easily. You have to enforce some discipline to achieve it.

Jyoti need notbecome Jenny

The point which I was always had against a job with a BPO was that you have to compromise on your nationality. But the good news is that this is changing or rather has already changed. Now that outsourcing is being accepted as a global phenomenon, call centres have decided to drop the aliases and accented English has given way to global English. Says Akhtar of Vision Unlimited, “Handling sdervices for clients from different voice cultures is tough. Everyone understands the need for global English. With time American as well as the British clients have accepted the fact that India can provide quality services, so they do not mind speaking to an Indian.”“Now everyone knows that they are speaking to an Indian. Companies abroad realise that it is more important that the message reaches across to a client rather than stress on developing an accent,” feels Sanjay Bhartiya, who has been involved with training people for BPOs for past four years.And just what is global English? Says, Sona a trainer at Hero Mindmine, “Global English is nothing more than neutralised and spoken English, with neither a put-on accent nor the influence of mother tongue or the inherent native accent. Nobody wants to hear a fake accent.” And what about the aliases Akhtar say, “ Largely the aliases are no longer being used. We have proven our mettle in the field of, say, IT so Kiran now need not become Jenny or Kenny for troubleshooting expertise in that area. In many outbound call centres aliases are being used because there is a 50 per cent possibility that an American would not like an Indian selling him something.” Sona says, “Different processes have different requirements. Using an alias is fine if the firm feels that the client will be more comfortable using a familiar name, other than that someone may have a problem pronouncing your name and it might become embarrassing for you as well as him.” Irndeep Kaur, as trainer at Mohali, says, “The emphasis is on decreasing MTI (Mother Tongue Influence) and training youngsters to use colloquial words or slang and commonly used words that would make the person on the end feel comfortable while communicating with a BPO executive. The stress is on correct pronunciation.” Akhtar and Sona agree. Sona says, “ We still use a lot of old-fashioned words, use ings, which may be correct in the Indian context, but the need is to teach them correct grammar, structuring a sentence. An acquired accent is revealed if the grammar is not wrong. The need is to teach them neutral, comfortable, easy to comprehend language.”

Branded for life

Aanandika Sood
What are winners made of, what is the secret of their success and what sets them apart? We spoke to a few of those who had made it to the IIMs and to our surprise, they were very much human, like us but their determination, realisation of their own potential, their hard work and their faith in their abilities were what made them stand out.Kenny Heish who got a call from all six IIMs says, “I had this somewhere at the back of my mind but I got serious about it only a couple of years back.” Others also pitch in. Says Shipra who is doing engineering in Telecommunication and IT from UIET, “I always wanted to take up a managerial job. For me the biggest inspiration was that I did not want to end up as a programmer.” Kiranjyot, who is pursuing engineering in Electronics and Communication, had also known her mind forever. She says, “Look at the current market scenario. If I am able to combine my technological know-how with an MBA, it is a lethal combination.”Yagneshwar NV from PEC adds, “I was interested in management. My friends were preparing and they also motivated me, rest all was my hard work and dedication.” Namit Goel attributes his success to the inspiration and legacy from his seniors at the college, “At PEC there is right atmosphere that helps you in concentrating single-mindedly on your chosen goal.” Akash Singla says he was not very sure after the written exam but was pretty confident after the interview. Hridesh Madan of Bull’s Eye, where Akash went for coaching, remembers the absolute dazed look on the boy’s face when he came to tell him about his selection.So do those who guide and coach batches and batches of aspirants every year, recognise the winners at sight? Madan says, “ On an average we have 30 students in a batch. After conducting a few mock tests, we get a very clear picture of those who are going to make it through.” Regional Manger, IMS, Sanmeet Sandhu says, “ We counsel the children, interact with them frequently and the confidence level that a student projects is a sure indicator of his success rate.”Says psychologist Ashupriya Arya, “Of course you can spot a winner from far away. His entire demeanor, the way s/he conducts herself/himself, the confidence that s/he exudes all represent the winning streak.” Kunal Jindal, from PEC says he realised his potential to manage people and take initiative when he started to indulge in lot of extra-curricular activities in college.” Ashupriya says, “Parent should encourage their children to go beyond books to realise their qualities. Had Kunal’s parent told him not to participate openly, he would not have realised his talent for taking charge.”

Grabs your heart and convinces your brain

John Tulloch is professor of journalism and director of the School of Journalism, University of Lincoln. He is also involved with the Chevening Scholarship’s ‘The Young Indian Print Journalists Programme’. Aanandika Sood spoke to him about good journalism and all that is new and happening on his campus

What is a good journalism school about?
A good journalism school has to have a definite approach to journalism. It has to believe that journalism has more to do than just acquire a skill-set. Our philosophy at the School of Journalism, University of Lincoln is based somewhere in the middle of English and Humanities. We are interested in the links between journalism and writing. We are interested in finding out how has journalism changed, its future, its role in the world.
A good journalist reaches out to the people. Good journalism embraces issues that people are concerned with. In our School the visiting faculty is a source of that. We have links with the BBC and the regional press and invite speakers. Students not only learn valuable lessons from such guest speakers but can also network after the talk itself.

Journalism in India. Comment.
India is on a growth curve right now. The universities here are out of touch with the real world. A lot of our teachers are working and they combine this work experience to teaching and research.
Good journalism should look after the range of needs of a reader. Over here, lifestyle journalism is looked at with contempt but services that provide good information to the reader such as information that will help him in his child’s education, planning his retirement etc. A newspaper should consider the social public interest dimension. It just has to be sophisticated in the way it is delivered.

What is new and happening on your campus?
We have just acquired a franchisee for five years for a 24X7 station. It will be staffed by the students and faculty of the media school. It will be a news station and transmitting to the city and 30-40 miles around the city. We have appointed a manager from the BBC and plan to involve various communities of the region with it.
Next we want to start a TV station, so that we have an active role in the community that we are staying in.

Last word on good journalism.
Good journalism is the one that grabs your heart and convinces your brain.

Until recently John Tulloch was chair of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Westminster. He has written widely on numerous topics including popular journalism, official news management, the development of ‘spin’ and press regulation. He is currently working on a study of popular journalism in the UK.

Diplomatically yours

I have been thinking of ways to save my articles with me and thought who not post them on my blog!!! I know it is not the greatest idea bu goes the latest se pehle wala

The North India Programmes Officer, Embassy of the USA, Clayton A. Bond will soon be taking over from Robin D Dallio, whose tenure in India as the First Secretary, Cultural Affairs, Embassy of the USA is coming to a close. Clayton says, “I went to the University of Hampton and studied Political Science and Environmental Studies. I was always interested in travelling all over the world and meeting new people, so I thought of taking up a career in the Foreign Service.”For Robin, who has been working as a diplomat for the US government for the past 12 years, the decision to join the Foreign Service just happened by chance. She says, “I always wanted to become a veterinarian. I was also very interested in learning languages. I joined the Peace Corps and on various assignments went to various countries as an English teacher. I absolutely loved teaching. When I came back, someone said why don’t you take the Foreign Service exam and I said ‘nah’ I am not going to get through. But I did and here I am.”Clayton, who has worked on various assignments for the past five years as a diplomat including serving as a recruiter for the State Department, says, “We are here to safeguard and promote the interests of our country. As a diplomat I think that it is a good idea to find some common ground to do that and take things from there.”For an enthusiastic Robin no two days are the same and that is what she loves the most about her job. “I don’t ever have to get up in my bed and think ‘what am I doing with my life’ or ‘where am I headed.’ I am proud of the fact that I am serving my country. Communicating people to people is what my job is all about.”Travelling and meeting new people has been the highlight of the careers for both of them. Clayton who has been here for about five months, has utilised his time well, having visited Allahabad, Jaipur and witnessed an early morning on the banks of the Ganges. Organising cultural evenings and talks has taken Robin around the length and breadth of the country and she too has thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. The last word on their jobs and both of them agree that it is hectic and keep them on their feet, but then that is what they absolutely love about it.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Full Blast

Yesterday night the real meaning of the phrase generation gap dawned on me.
For the first time ever I accompanied Sachin to one of his bank meets. It had been organised in a disco and I did not know that. Now the prospect of an outing, that too in a disco should have sounded purrrffeeeeeeeeecccccct to me because the tv had broken down and all the guests who had been staying with us for quite some time now had left. The house would be unusually quite. So you would think that an evening out would have been a good change.
But it happened so that I had a very usual day at work and was very hungry. All I wanted to do was go to an empty house make a basic dal-chawal kind of meal and play Ludo afterwards. The only good thing was that I would not have to cook and so I agreed to going with Sachin.
When we reached the place we were guided to a disco. DISCO!! I should have been happy about the music and the lights and the works but it just managed to put me off in a big way and that is when I realised that I had become old. I yearned so much to go home. Had I been my young self, I would have lovvvvved the idea of being out of doors till wee hours.
I did not like the music that the DJ had put and honestly in the first fifteen minutes I had rated the food mediocre, the music bad and the service low grade.
I could see the boys and girls moving to the beat of the console and the party spirit getting high and high while I was getting more and more irritated with the loud sounds and bright lights being dimmed and then turned on again.
I realised that when I will have grown up children they will like the music loud, may be louder, and I won't be able to stand that. I realised that there might be a time when I am unable to convinve myself to like the disco ball throwing off light and the dhaddam-dhadddm of a music system. That would be what my children will refer to as the generation gap and though I understand it now, I wondered whether or not zi will remember it then, and not yell at them.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Crimes against stories

The writer in me does not want to write news stories. It wants to write something to which I an lend 'my' touch. Now I have often been criticised for being obsessed with 'my' self but well, there are some things we can't do anything about. So, now when I look at people who are happy with getting a byline and their salary, the halo of my happiness gets disturbed.
I can't fathom how can they be happy about their stories being brutally mangled and changed. The fault is not with the people at the desk. Ok may be to an extent. And that too of only those who think of themselves belonging to a superior breed. Reporters don not know how to write. Largely they are not concerned about writing a story. They simply get the facts and like a postman deliver them at the doorsteps of the subbies.
I have been a sub and was very unhappy in the job because of my obsession with 'my'. While editing those copies I could not get myself to feel proud of the improvements I would make. The fact that one teacher at the university I studied from kept referring to subs as the unsung heroes would come to haunt me more often than I liked. I did not much like the fact that I would also be reminded of the teacher.
Well, so I had to quit and I did just that as soon as an opportunity presented itself. Yes it did. I don't think I can attribute it to anything else but my luck
So then I became an editor; I would have hated it as well (I mean if I disliked being a sub-ed, how could i like being an ed!). The saving grace are the two words before editor in my designation - in charge.
To cut a long story short, as the in charge editor of Quest, I have done stories and edited many more, some by free-lancers and some by my staff. I tried to teach them all to lend their 'my' to their work but the know-alls are not bothered. I was bugged by it for a while when I realised that I can't be unforgiving as the in charge editor. To those poor stories that comprise of smart sentences copy pasted from the Internet I lend 'my' touch.
I forgive all those who commit crimes against stories of all sorts and don't handle them with care.