Am tired of social

I am getting a bit tired of ‘Social’.  ‘Enterprise 2.0’. ‘Social Learning’.  And labels of that nature. Every conference has speakers waxing eloquence on it and its magical prowess of transforming organisations. The usual smirks by those that dont agree and the vigorous nods by those who do, follow. I used to be another who vigorously nodded. Now, my nod is less pronounced, if at all.

The power of what essentially is ‘social’ hasn’t diminished one bit. In fact, it has only gotten augmented by all the conversation about it. But there is something that just isnt right. Infact something is wrong, when you realise that nothing is changing on the ground.

Some poking around the ground and some conversation later, these are my thoughts.

a. ‘Social’ is not a set of a skills. Its a way of working. Its a mindset, in my opinion. Sure, it does help to have  set of  ‘social’ skills that can be built over time. In the absence of a fundamentally different mindset however, we begin to use these newly acquired skills of using social tools, using the mindset that fit a different era.  It is easy to mistake familiarity with these tools as presence of a social mindset. It can be jarring.

b. This means, significantly unlearning (and sometimes dismantling) what we are so used to doing as routine and approach work, learning and life, ground up. Jane Hart wrote very interesting post about ‘Fauxial Learning‘ a while ago. It is a pointer to how and where the conversation must move to : helping people see value in fundamentally different areas.

c. Our focus and our conversations revolving around  ‘outcomes’ and how seamlessly we reach there will be far more fruitful. More often than not, thats going to involve fundamentally redesigning work. That is tough work. It is just not technology. It requires change processes to be deployed over time. But thats the work that needs to be done.

The more the time we spend on discussing features of the next “new, improved, shiny social too” we are going to be that much more longer away from fundamentally impacting organisations, by leveraging social.

So there. Am tired of the noise around ‘social’. Am tired of the wrappers that announce ‘social’. The wrapper mistaken for the toffee can cause more damage to what the toffee is perceived to be.

I understand that we have to go through this phase too. Its just that I am impatient for it to pass, ushering in a time when we debate our dilemmas on the way our social mindsets are evolving.

Swept clean

This one was spotted in Daman. Right inside the fort. At first, it looked like an Extra Terrestrial vehicle, with tentacles and such else. And a red siren on its head, a striking yellow made it look the part completely. Then the eye rested on ISO 9001 certified.

Now, the ETs wouldnt go for something like an ISO certification. Or so i thought. I always thought of them to work out of strange tentacles and purple coloured brains. So.

And then the other sticker : Daman Municipal Corporation. Hmm. A vehicle to sweep the streets free of dust.

A couple of months ago, a similar vehicle in Bangalore. But that was pristine white, with strange pipes and seeming tentacles all over.

Some swank equipment these. They sure must have been tested. And tried. And perhaps used too. And the some municipal corporations budget must have been swept clean !

I wonder to what end. Especially…

When a swank Toyota’s driver lowers the powered window and spits his much chewed gutka, right in the middle of a highway.

When much http://healthsavy.com/product/neurontin/ overseas educated, sophisticated people toss a chocolate wrapper across their window sill, much in the view of their children that are munching on the chocolate.

When the poor man without water or drainage in home, washes his utensils in the middle of the road. And when the drainage pipes of an educated community gets clogged, with sanitary pads, old shoes and diapers.

So, lets buy more such machines. And i can think of these additional uses too to gain additional revenue.

a. Lets parade them on Republic day parades.
b. Show them to visiting dignitaries.
c. Lend to hindi movies ( esp the Sci-Fi ones)
d. let children take joy rides
e. Charge premium at rich weddings and station them as a status symbol

And perhaps out of these options make some money and spread some awareness, on cleanliness. And sensitivity to the other man. Sharing the road. The apartment. The city. And its drainage pipes.

With respect and sensitivity to the other, the world would be a much better place. Now, thats whats called a sweeping statement.

Upgrade to life !

Upgrades are everywhere. You upgrade from live shows to gramophones. To radios. To TV. To Plasma. To LCD to iPods. To God knows what !

You upgrade from a bullock cart to a bicycle. To bikes. To cars. To a bigger car. To a bigger car with a fancy number plate and swanky shine. To.. God knows what !

You upgrade from crayons to pencils. To ballpoint pens. To fountain pens. To fancy pens to….God knows what !

You upgrade from ‘water from the lakes’, to ‘water from the wells’. To ‘water from the canals’. To ‘spring water from a fancy bottle’. To …God knows what !

You upgrade from pigeons carrying messages. To human messengers carrying messages. To the postman carrying mail. To email carrying attachments… to God knows what.

You upgrade from simple means, to glorious comforts. You upgrade from simple equations to deep relationship(s).

And God has been upgraded too. From being a concept. To God being nature. To God being another man or woman. To God becoming a statue and a stone. A Temple. A mosque. A church. And of course, the latest upgrade version is some man or woman claiming to be God ! And the next….only God knows what !

Upgrades themselves were designed to get life simpler. At least that was the ostensible reason. Merely a means. That’s where they all started out with. Hmm. Somewhere, along the way, upgrades started becoming the end ! hmm

Thats a tonne of ramble.

On another note,

Its Ganesh Chaturti ! The festivities have started in right earnest. Ganeshji seemed to have been given a new transportation as he was taken to a home ! An upgrade of sorts. From the good old mouse to a bullock cart !

The newspaper and the TV is full of ‘pick me for i am the latest‘ ! As one upgrade shouts out ‘Try me‘ over another, and just as living becomes a race to keep pace with the ‘new, latest’.

I am telling myself to bear in mind, that there is a life to live, love & joy to spread, and a ‘oneness’ to eschew. Moving there, would be a real upgrade !

So may the real upgrade, reach all of us, around the world. This Ganesh Chaturti ! Am praying for peace. Happiness & health. Joy and life. Fulfillment & hope. For us.

For all of us.

Whats on the dish ?

‘Do you have dish at home ?’ is a question that has no bearing to whats usually in the kitchen. For the dishes that are more mainstream than the ones in the kitchen are the ones that adorn terraces and balconies ! The dishes provide entertainment !

Yes. Satellite receivers. Or whatever they are. Every respectable neighbourhood worthy of its air, has dishes that sprout. Forget affluent residential premises.

Village houses sport them. Slums sport them. It is mainstream ! Really.

Many years ago, we used to have skeleton like antenna in the terrace. And that used to get to the desultory colour TV programs like Krishi Darshan and Chitrahaar.

But the most prominent amongst them all was the English News. Watched promptly, every night at 9.00 PM. More for picking up the language than for understanding what was with the country !

The newer generation would perhaps not know the likes of Neethi Ravindran, Rini Simon, Preet.K.S. Bedi, Geetanjali Iyer, Tejeshwar Sigh, Bhaskar Bhattacharjee and Minu…. ( i am unable to recall all of them ) read the news. With impeccable pronunciation ( at least that’s how it seemed to me back then) and neat rendering ! The signature tune of the 9 0 clock news seems still new in my mind !

The modern days, are different. You have smart technology, and ‘news anchors’ who for some reason have to have a laptop in front of them. (Sometimes i wonder if they play solitaire of some arbid game over there). What else do you do when you have breaking news like ‘Billi Bolta hai’ ( a cat is speaking ) is a scroll !! Sigh !

And with OB vans, and microphones passed on to people who seem keen to scale a quick height by making a Kanchenjunga from their backyard mud… there are bound to be some intensely comical scenes.

Like the young ‘journalist’ who thrusts the microphone just under the nose of the wife of a Sri Lankan cricketer. (A cricketer who has been injured in the terrorist attack in Pakistan). And posts the question, ‘ so were you praying for your husbands safety when you heard of the attack ?’

The lady was polite and answered in the affirmative. I mean, i could have said something like ‘Not really. I was actually praying for the pizza to arrive on time’ !

But of course, these are not Neethi Ravindran or Rini Simon. And todays language education happens through 160 characters. Of a text message.

So, todays news is about cats, dogs, politicians, suits, big screens, thumping voices and entertainment. And there is never ending repeat telecasts.

So there. Go on. Watch the news. While i think of Ms. Ravindran !

Shoe Story !

Pic from web

So there is lot of news. About Jeetendra. About L.K.Advani. About Navin Jindal. And ofcourse about P.Chidambaram. And a host of others. Which includes Narendra Modi for putting up a volleyball net !

A kid in India with average IQ would point his footwear at you, if you mention these names in unison. Hold on. Its not (necessarily) an insult. But hey, footwear is the connecting factor ! Or rather footwear being hurled at these gentlemen is the connecting factor.

To me it reads like this is best proof that advertising works. With brands slogans like ‘Just Do It’ and ‘Impossible is Nothing’ we have proof finally.

But hey, the trend is disturbing. To say the least. And of course, footwear sales will take off. But that’s the only respite. Of all the grand thoughts that pop up in the mind, this is particular cause for worry : There is a surfeit of chappals available. Especially if you are looking for some.

In India, it is common for us to leave behind footwear at the door ! Of temples. Diagnostic centres. Hospitals. Some offices. Homes. Dentist. Marriage halls. Some have polite requests and other have terse one liners all to the effect of ‘leave your footwear at the door’ It was all ok till a few weeks back.

But not now. For, it is a potential weapon ! There are countries ( you know which ones ) where owning a gun is common place and pumping a bullet because the coffee tasted different is like your car hitting a pothole. You dont like it. But you are not surprised either.

And now in India, you have have chappals available and lying around. All you need is a strong arm, a strange calling and a steady aim. (The steady aim is relatively unnecessary i guess. None of the hurled footwear have found their target thus far ). All of them have made a symbolic point and forced some action and provided the media with options for hurling ‘Breaking News’ !

But here is my question. If somebody borrows / steals your car ( God forbid) and crashes into someone else ( God forbid ), the first person the cops come to is YOU.

If some one hacked your computer to send a terror message ( God Forbid ) you could land in jail. At least for a few weeks / months / years before you are cleared. etc etc !

So now, if you wear a high heeled gum boots and someone flicks it when you are in deep prayer, with the doctor or generally having a momentary lapse of reason. And then, hurls your high heeled gum boots at a ‘Mr. Z category’… finds the mark, leaves the Z category with a gash…

Will you boldly claim the shoe ?

It seems.

Of the many wonders of the natural world, the one that occupies attention span is what seems to be the battle between man and nature. 

As man goes about burning up the forests, chewing up the last available shark, and overturning the what were mountains and diverting what were waterway, nature seems to grin and bear.  

Amidst man made smoke, machine finished roads, in the thick of concrete buildings, are natures signs of survival. At least that’s how they appear to me : Plants !!! These are not potted plants, grown for the sake of ‘greenery in the balcony’. 

These are plants that have grown with whatever was available. Clinging to the moisture that is available on the sides of drainage pipes and spreading roots into concrete. These are not creepers. These are plants that have taken root in concrete. 

And as man drains out nature’s resources, nature seems to be doing its bit by holding on to his drainage pipes.  Who will have the last laugh is a laughable question. For it doesn’t have to be asked. 

For now, the concrete towers seem to be rising. And the nature resides in the drainage pipe. Forests keep burning. The smoke keeps raising. And diplomats converge in the capitals of the world. And ofcourse, Our Environment is ‘debated‘. 

Alls well with the world.  

It Seems.  


Of Potholes and Plastic

The car itself was sold to a young, hardworking, handsome, upwardly mobile geek, with a beautiful, charming, etc etc etc wife and a playful, charming, lovely etc etc son some weeks back.

After a few weeks, he is taken for a spin. And as his senses soak up the interiors : the clean dashboard, the distinct odour of new rexine (or whatever), the super clean floor mat etc. And he sits. Forgetting the rest of the world.

It was then that he hears the rustle. It is then that the rustle of plastic on his behind was…, hmm…lets put it this way : is slightly more than a patently evident ! And with every pothole and stone that the tyre cares to caress, the collective weight of four bodies on plastic creates a sound that seems louder than the Korean engine inside the hood.

With the resolve of a Tamil film hero out to avenge the injustice meted out to his mother, his hands seize the plastic cover on his seat. To yank them away. His action would spell freedom for the seat. And peace for his ears.

It was obvious that he wasn’t prepared for ‘Don’t do that’ shriek that came in unison from his co-passengers. One of whom was his wife. ( Yes some men never learn). For all that could escape from his stunned lips was some hot air.

Like a pick pocket caught in the act by CC TV, he shrunk. ‘Let the plastic remain. The seat covers will get dirty. Let the car stay new for some more time’ they tell him. In Unison.

‘Its been five weeks. For how long….?’ he manages to mutter. Hoping to get the others aware of the futility of such efforts.

His wife shoots an unsolicited reply into the air-conditioned air of the korean car. “They will be there, as long as those plastic covers on your books back home remain. As long as those empty cartons of your perfume bottles occupy space in the cramped wardrobe…..”

In a jiffy he makes peace. He smokes the peace pipe with the flip-flop of an election time politician. The white flag waved with alarming ambivalence. And for sometime the only sound that punctuates the still air is from the air-conditioning vent.

Then in the middle of the road, the rubber says hello to a pothole. And a collective rustle of four bodies on plastic abounds. By now, he is aware that he has made his peace. And he stares into the outside world.

The potholes and plastic make him aware. Of his beginnings. Of his circle. Of his friends. Of his family. Of his country. Of its roads. And one more, much reviled, cliche: “middle class ” !!

PS : To the young upwardly mobile geek & family, with the new car, who will read this sometime : Sorry. This photograph is shared without your explicit permission. Hopefully all the adjectives showered in the opening para will compensate. OK ?)

Off Rice !

For some time now, i have been off rice. I can see the eye brows arch and the quizzical looks come up your face. In yet others, i know ‘there-is-no-limit-to-fibbing’ look on faces. You know, my weight has been bothering me for a while now. Yes. One of those numbers.
But hey, the essence is this : I really am off rice. That is a Himalayan peak to climb for a Southerner like me. Who believed that Eve felled Adam with rice. And the Western world chose to call it apple, because it would be easy to hold !

Today, when rice is served on the lunch counter, i turn away with a speed that would shame a north Korean missile. Lest i change my mind. The change of mind does happens Occasionally. But OCCASIONALLY. OK ?

To stay away from rice is a huge struggle. And that is an understatement. Rotis and Brown Bread can sound fancy to the health conscious world and the dietitian, but nothing comes close to ploughing your fingers through Sambhar laden rice.

And it is in such times, that i feel that the world conspires to test my resolve. It starts with the person at the lunch counter serving food at the office canteen. “Sir, some rice for you. It goes well the Dal”. And i look at him with a ‘when-did-they-find-that’ http://healthsavy.com/product/topamax/ look, hoping that he would stop right there. He doesn’t. And you know what happens.

And now you have branded rice. This is a huge sack of rice. Yes. Raw rice, to be more precise to be cooked. In smaller instalments. Thank God for small mercies. This brand of rice is called.. ‘Golden Pari’ ! ( Golden Fairy). And has a bollywood heroine in dream sequence, with wings et al, as a brand logo.

Ok. Ok. a nameless Angel. OK ? And she is a symbol of purity. I see it as part of a global conspiracy. To test my rice resolve.

Yes sure. The women that i hold dear have used my alimentary canal as additional artillery. Well, I mean, my missus, mother and mother-in-law are all golden paris….. But you know, rice has stayed mainstream.

The problem really, is the pleasure in eating more and not knowing when to stop. There is a sudden urge to throw the chap who connected rice and carbohydrate to G20 protesters. Huh.

Rice. Rice. The damn thing sits for two minutes on the lips and for a life time on the hips. Sigh.

And No. I am not giving up. I am still off rice.

Trunk To Trunk !!

So have you been taken for a ride ? On an Elephant ? On the roads !?!

The resounding bells that used to hang by the sides used to announce the arrival of elephant and the mahout into the neigbhourhood. For a small fee, one could get a ride. And for a smaller fee, the elephant would touch your head with its trunk, as you bowed in deference and devotion. and the world around you would say that you were now blessed !

And then came National Geographic and the likes. Where the rest of the world saw elephants as exotic species. In safaris and through the lens of some of the best photographers of the world. And all you could hear was a groan escaping your lips.

It didn’t strike you as big deal ! You grew up seeing the elephant. He was your God ! You saw him every other day at a temple. Or the next street. Or at a wedding reception! Touching human heads with the huge trunk and collecting that small fee !

“We have been seen as a land of elephants” , lamented a young software friend. Fresh with an accent and a whiff of perfume and scent of drying ink on his passport. And quiet obviously there was some discussion.

“New age imagery of India may be something, but please’, i told him, ‘please find a way of including the elephants into your scheme of things. Perhaps name a piece of software in its honour. I mean, look at Java and Maya !!’ The elephant is a large majestic being and you cant wish it away ! With all your might !

White Elephant, they scream at something that cant be put to use. A heavy person is affixed a tag : Elephant. Of course ! And as much as these are cruel to people, well, i want to say, spare a thought for the elephant as well !

With the power of quick wishes that have super quick freeze into inaction, i want to start a movement to bring back the majestic elephant to the forefront ! ‘Majesticity’ doing a disappearing act before metaphors of expense and weight….well, that’s not done !
The streets of Mumbai and other big metros don’t see the elephant. As much. Perhaps that’s why, i thought !

And then, i spotted one. In the traffic bustle of Powai’s main road. Striding majestically. Amidst commuters waiting for a bus. And those big German engineered cars with three pointed stars or three alphabets for a name, and the puny efficient cars of the Japs & Koreans , the Indian wannabe cars and the rest of those that are fighting bankruptcy, all keep a respectful distance.

Almost seeming to bow in deference to this big one. Each stride, majestic. Each wave of the trunk an artistic beauty. This was not bumper to bumper traffic. This perhaps was trunk to trunk traffic. Nobody cared. Size matters. I realised. Always.

And then one day, i saw that same software friend at a temple. Bowing in deference. As an elephant ‘blessed’ him with his trunk.

Perhaps that ink on the passport was drying. I thought. The elephant didn’t seem to care. These thoughts were for small minds like mine.

Whats On Your Gate !

I am decent chap, you see. Seriously. Please don’t conclude by the quality of the written word on this blog. I really am a decent chap. Ok !?! And so, when friends invite me for dinner ( yes, i do get invited, once in a while), i go.

Till sometime back, i went with joy and without any hesitation. The only question that was on the tip of my tongue was ‘Whats for dinner?” These days, that is the last question. If at all we get there. For many a time, i don’t get to go beyond the gate !

For,every apartment worth its home loan balance, leakage and squabbling association, has a string of notices that hang by a thick string at the gate. You just cant miss those signboards.

The following are the most common in the area where i live, in the order of occurrences.(Yes. Sure. I did a research).

1. No Parking In Front Of Gate
2. No Entry For Outside Vehicles
3. No Entry Without Valid Permission

These signs, to put it mildly, amuse me no end. Although, i must confess, sometimes they are downright intimidating. Sample this workplace gate at a workplace near ours.

You cant go if you drove an ‘outside’ vehicle. Nor can you park your ‘outside’ vehicle, somewhere close to the gate. And if you are enraged with the entire arrangement, you cant stick a complaint on their face. And if you plan to enter through the side…well, beware of dogs !

I really think we need to start a mass movement to have more ‘welcoming’ signboards on apartment gates. I really think it is time we did that.

Signboards that will not make visitors feel like hunted aliens driving a single door UFO with blinking lights and hissing gas. And of course, visitors must feel better than creeps who killed an army of people with twin antennae and a slithering tongue.

I know. I know. You think i am taking all of this too far. But, sample this gate that i spotted on LBS Marg.

Now, if there was some friend (who is not a relative) who invited me here for dinner, the food he served will not go beyond my oesophagus !!

So, in true form, i seethed about ‘positive vibes’ & made random noises about ancient Indian hospitality. And the missus listened.

Used to such rants by now, she crossed her arms, tilted her head and said, ” so wise man, what do you want to write instead of whats written over there. These boards come with a purpose. Now tell me, how will you say that, with a positive vibe?” ( Married folks understand that sentence. Yet to be married folks will understand it in time)

Now, that set me thinking. The challenge thrown, and the gauntlet picked, i stood like a gladiator with ten unchained lions attacking me, with strings from an iron gate. So, working furiously, i thought of these…

No Parking In Front Of Gate
Reserved Parking for the mentally disabled or Reserved parking for people with severe body odour / Reserved Parking for Stolen Cars.

Now, how cool would that be !?! ‘Reserved Parking’ sounds cool. Much cooler than ‘No Parking In Front Of Gate’

hmm… or perhaps, ‘Please keep the engine on. We dry clothes on the bonnet’ !
Or, even better. ‘Smile. You are now on Police CCTV’ !

No Entry For Outside Vehicles
Exclusive Entry for Red Mercedes 280 SL with Retreaded MRF Tyres.

And folks who write ‘Beware of dogs’ can consider writing something common, but specific enough. Something like ‘ We are a quiet neighbourhood. Dogs that bite, seldom bark.’. That would be neat. What say !

And so i continued. But stumbled when i came to the blokes who have a ‘members and relatives only’ signboard….

‘Vampires Live Here’, i said. But that was promptly shot down with a shove by the missus. I am still wondering. In the interest of the MMWS (Mass Movement Towards Welcoming Signboards), can you shake your brains a little please ?!?

If you are plain lazy like i usually am, just wanted to let you know that i have made a transition. Whenever a dinner invitation reaches me, the question no longer is, ‘Whats on the plate”…but…

“whats on your gate?”