7 Jun 2014

The Worst Kept Secrets about the Art of Writing



I love typing! I just do! The sound of keys being pressed and letters appearing as if by magic on the screen have a soothing effect. Suddenly everything seems okay. The mind is cleared of all clutter and the focus shifts to speed and accuracy.

A couple of typing tools are installed on my computer – Typing Master and Typing Test. They’re useful in improving accuracy and speed. While my accuracy hovers consistently around the 97% mark, my speed has shot up from 35 words per minute (wpm) to 71. This means I can type more than 1 word per second! Isn’t that awesome?

I love writing even more. Scribbling ideas on a notepad, striking out the irrelevant ones, making a final work out of everything compiled; it makes me feel like an artist. If only it wasn’t for the moral guilt of wasting paper.

Writing is one of the most gratifying feelings (I can already see writers nodding fervently) in the world. You create a piece of art and, if you love it, post it online for people to see. Then seeing the number of hits on your website increasing, readers commenting on your post and sharing it, satiate you. The ability to make readers consider your point of view, to make them ponder, get inspired or take action; they make you feel like a demigod! And if you’ve published a book, you’ve gone that 1 step further than most. The sheer sight of your book on stands in bookstores must be an unmatched feeling, probably only eclipsed by seeing someone buy it.

There are 3 secrets to writing well:
1.      Clarity of thought
2.      Lots of reading
3.      The ability to evoke an emotional response.

Clarity of thought comes by constant pondering and keeping an open mind. Reading broadens your perspective and allows you to achieve point number 1. The ability to evoke emotion comes with passion; a genuine liking for readers and wanting them to know something very important.

I lag way behind in each of these aspects. The strife to improve at them will never end. And it shouldn’t! Because the day you’re through with this struggle, you’re through. And the day you’re through writing, you have given up on your voice, on everything you stand for; you will have given up on life itself.

This is my attempt at musing. I had nothing better to do. This post is a result of 20 minutes of time and effort. What are your thoughts, dear reader, about writers and writing? Would love to hear from you in the comments section.

Your sincere wannabe writer,
Vishal

30 May 2014

A Verdict on the AAP v/s BJP v/s Congress Debate

The AAP v/s BJP v/s Congress debate has taken the country by storm! It's like Sri Lanka v/s India v/s Zimbabwe (where the Congress is Zimbabwe). Well, it doesn't matter. The country has given its verdict. While most are overjoyed with the result, a lot of us are sour. Some call it the 'death of democracy', yet others are claiming that it's a bubble waiting to burst, and then there are those who believe that the most controversial party would've done a much better job at the helm.

This post is not for bragging about the BJP's victory. It offers insights into what transpired. It is an analysis (without statistics) of each party's actions and their repercussions.


A friend said that his relatives in Ahmednagar were happy with the Congress. The Congress had waived off farmers’ loans and electricity bills. These subsidies are what has kept them in power for 55 out of the 67 years, and will continue to do so. You see, the Congress has spoiled people below the middle class so much that they don’t want to work hard anymore. The MGNREGA has given the lower strata the easier choice of being paid without working. As a result, labour for agriculture has become expensive, indirectly impacting the price of food grains. The PDS has, as usual, led to hoarding of food grains by middlemen creating an artificial shortage. Again, prices rise. This time, the middlemen make money. Policy paralysis, countless scams and almost 0% accountability has frustrated almost everyone.

Most of India (including me) was delighted with AAP’s dominating victory in Delhi. I must admit, however, that I was sceptical of AK ever since Anna Hazare claimed that his Jan Lokpal proposition was being diluted by Kejriwal and used for selfish reasons. After forming a government over much brouhaha, the repeated U-turns made by AK and company, mindless dharnas and unfeasible economic decisions left Delhi worse off than it was. Water tankers earlier would charge 800 bucks per round. After Kejriwal’s resignation, ungoverned, they started charging 1,500 bucks per round. Imagine the plight of common man who believed in AK. Plus the number of resignations from party members and mud being slung them, the vehement abuse of all politicians by AAP members; these left a lot of people disillusioned.

It is true that most people support AAP for its cause – wiping out corruption. But in a country like India, where corruption has penetrated every aspect of our lives, it will take a mammoth effort. A mere resignation within 50 days and blaming other parties for it won’t suffice. Hell, office politics is tough because of colleagues. What gave Kejriwal the feeling that running India’s capital would be any easier?

Corruption is a major issue for the middle class and bourgeoisie, not for the lower economic classes. Their concerns are jobs, wages and prices – primarily of food items. While we were crying about Salman Khan mistreating Gauhar in Big Boss, the poor man barely had food to eat because of job losses and food prices shooting through the roof. He was left exasperated. Consequently, he turned to the only man who talked the language he wanted to hear – Narendra Modi. More than the media, immigrant workers in Gujarat carried word of his good work around. Labourers would let their friends and family in Bihar, MP, UP and other places know about how efficient the governance in Gujarat is. Lower strata people (including Delhi’s slum dwellers) then decided to vote for Modi. “Wo tarakki laayega” was their reasoning. They are hoping Modi will bring more jobs and empower them to live a better life. They’re hoping this will make them earn more so that they can live in better houses, eat better and send their children to English medium schools.

The Congress’s definition of inclusive growth is flawed. Imagine an organization paying money to its employees for years regardless of shoddy jobs being done (or none at all). How long will it survive? Apply that concept to a whole country. Now imagine an organization providing its employees a conducive environment, giving them the necessary tools to perform well, bringing in business to ensure they have work, rewarding them accordingly and expanding consistently. Now apply that concept to a whole country. Which model will succeed?

The BJP has its flaws too – lots of them. No government is clean.  Nor will they make all of India’s issues disappear. For all we know, Modi’s model might fail miserably because other states don’t have the same entrepreneurial DNA as Gujarat. But the man deserves a chance. Narendra Modi comes with a proven track record – that of 12 years. He already has made the cabinet leaner, which will hopefully lead to project approvals faster.

Indian citizens are not in favour of the BJP; they’re in favour of growth and development, which currently only 1 man seems capable of delivering. Narendra Modi has sold us Indians the only feeling which is stronger than fear – Hope! It is this emotion that has led to BJP’s landslide victory. This is a humble request to put aside all bad blood and get behind the current Prime Minister of your country. He needs your support to help you live a better life. And I think he deserves it.

23 May 2014

What is the Purpose of Your Life?


Sisyphus had betrayed Zeus. As a result, he was cursed by the God of Lightning to push a rock up a hill all day only to see it roll down at night. This, Sisyphus was to do till the end of eternity.

While this may be a fable in Greek’s mythological books, it is quite similar to the lives most of us are living today. Get up at the same time, catch the same transport, do the same work, come home and sleep. Eating lunch at the same time with the same people, watching the same TV shows, using the same Whatsapp all day… how are our lives any different from Sisyphus? Well, for one, we won’t live till the end of eternity. Thank God for that!

Which gets me to the question – why do we do this? Follow the same routine till even monotony starts feeling monotonous? It’s probably because this is our only understanding of life now. We’re searching for a purpose, a reassurance. We’re chasing money today so that we can secure our future tomorrow. Thing is though, the money we have is never enough to own the things we want. So what should we do?

Dalai Lama provides an enlightening insight – The main purpose of life is to seek happiness. Yes, we need food, clothing and shelter. But you don’t need more money, more fame or more success. Money will be enough when we learn to control our wants and desires. Easier said than done, eh? Well, here are some things you can try. Let me know if they work.

First understand the law of causality. This law states that your state of mind is dependent upon the actions you take. Your mindset is bad when you do things which you dislike and good when you do things you like. So you must do more of what you like and less of what you don’t. Don’t stagnate in that job if you don’t wake up in the morning looking forward to it. Switch to something which lets you do what you’re good at. Mind you, you are creative; let nobody tell you otherwise. And until you get the job you want, cultivate a hobby. Read books, learn musical instruments and languages, write, play sports, attend musical concerts… let go of the god damn TV and mobile phone. Try it and see the difference in your mindset in 21 days.

Yet another thing is revising your perception. Stop looking at things as either very good or very bad. Remember that incidents today are a result of what occurred in the past. And it is not necessary that things will stay bad. If things are bad today, they will get better tomorrow. Also, look at people less fortunate than you instead of the wealthier ones. Someone I know regularly distributes drinking water bottles to traffic policemen. And he says, “They politely decline if I offer 2 bottles to 3 of them, saying 1 will suffice. And each time I've offered a bottle, they offer me water from it despite standing in the searing heat for hours. Their attitude of sharing is touching.” So you see. Interacting with people who less fortunate than you will make you feel grateful for your life and improve your Happiness Quotient (HQ?).

Remember, happiness doesn't lie in the TV set, social media, lavish parties or lunches. It lies within you. To be happy, you must tap into your inner good and be compassionate toward others. As Audrey Hepburn said, “For beautiful eyes, see the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.”

There are many ways to achieve inner happiness. I have listed just 2. Looking forward to your additions in the comments section J

image Courtesy: Google Images

20 Apr 2014

Why You Must Read Geoffrey Moore 'Crossing The Chasm'

Blanket marketing is dead, according to renowned author Geoffrey Moore. One can no longer approach the entire market at once and expect their product(s) to fly off the shelf. In his insightful book ‘Crossing the Chasm’, Geoff Moore explains what it takes for a product to be successful – or viral, in today’s world. While the book talks about high tech products, the concepts can be applied to new products in established categories as well.

I laid hands on this book because a few authors I revere gave its reference in theirs. Malcolm Gladwell and Carmine Gallo are 2 of them. Both authors have built upon Geoff Moore’s concept of 5 types of consumers. They are:

  • Innovators – Who like to be associated with a product in its conceptualisation & early development.
  • Early Adopters – Visionaries who see the potential in a product and work on ensuring it matches their vision.
  • Early Majority – Pragmatists who see the value proposition and offerings of a product and then adopt it.
  • Late Majority – Who use the early majority for references and testimonials and adopt a product once its offerings encapsulate everything they use.
  • Laggards – Who adopt a product when they have no choice i.e. when what they use becomes obsolete forcing them to change their consumption pattern.
The 5 Consumer Groups
This concept is now calls for a mandatory mention in all business management textbooks. In fact, it provides a better understanding of how the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Matrix works and how it can be leveraged.
Geoffrey Moore states that most firms commit the cardinal sin of trying to take their product (tested or untested) to the whole market. He further points out some more mistakes firms make when trying to launch new products. Some include:

  • Hiring inexperienced sales and marketing people to promote their product. This leads to promotion at the wrong places and the response turns out to be a damp squib.
  • Vaporware. This is a situation where a product is preannounced and premarketed without overcoming significant hurdles. One example that comes to mind is the Notion Ink Adam.
A firm should look to address each consumer group (innovators, early adopters, etc.) when launching a new product. The concepts in this book are more applicable to products which spark discontinuous innovations i.e. leapfrog innovation which make users change their buying and usage patterns.

The author examines in detail how a firm should market its product to each group to achieve success. He rightly points out that product and marketing should be tied at the hip i.e. the marketing team should be involved in the product’s conceptualization and development. Also, there should be no let up in marketing and promotion efforts when the product transitions from one consumer group to another. These transition phases, in the author’s words, are chasms which have to be monitored closely. Otherwise the product ends up like Tarzan swinging from vine to vine in the forest and ultimately coming upon a vine which has no momentum. Tarzan is then in the unenviable position of trying embarrassing methods to get the vine in motion, while the other animals wait and watch him fail miserably and invariably fall into the abyss below.
This book is a must have for every person who is part of a product, design, marketing or sales team. Though it was written in 1991 and revised in 2001, the concepts of the book hold true even today, and will continue to hold true until the end of time. One can read about the mistakes made by most organizations today and choose to avoid them. As Robert Clay says “95% companies survive despite appalling marketing because their competitors share their marketing ineptitude.” If you read, absorb and implement the notions in this book, you’re well on your way to building a successful product which stands the chance of going viral.

image Courtesy: Google Images

12 Apr 2014

Castrol Biking Brings John Abraham Even Closer to Bikers


“Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul.”

This is probably the most renowned quote among bikers. Biking is a religion, and members of the brotherhood are fanatic followers. Faithfuls of a religion go to temples, mosques, churches, gurdwaras, etc. Likewise, hardcore bikers head out on rides and attend events which enable them to meet people of the same faith.

One such event was organized by Castrol Biking on 9th April, 2013 at Taj Land’s End, Bandra. They wanted to showcase the new PowerBiking app launched by Castrol for the benefit of us bikers. The celebrity who would unveil it and walk us through it was John Abraham.

I reached the venue at the allotted time. The 1st thing that immediately impressed was that Castrol Biking had reserved a parking lot inside Taj Land’s End’s campus for us bikers. A bike is not allowed to park in the hotel’s campus. But I’m probably one of the few who did. So yeah, +1!
Bikers Posing before Parking

We got a chance to interact with other bikers during the event. It was delightful to meet Sigmund, Sharvari, Vikram, Amandeep, Tanmay, Urvashi, Saurabh, Sanket, Nikhil, Pratik (bikers must follow each and every one of them) and others. I was blown away on hearing that the event’s main compere Nikhil Kashyap owns 28 bikes! I had a good chat with him after the event. 1 hell of a warm and generous guy!
Popular bikers who attended the event

John Abraham displayed the app on a phone, showcasing various features in it. Some include:
John Abraham having a blast with fellow bikers

  1. Logging in with your social media account
  2. Listing your ride, finding friends and connecting with them
  3. Best routes + maps for a ride depending upon your preference
  4. Castrol Bike Zones at locations across India
  5. DIY tips for your bike


The app is currently available only on the Google Play store. Castrol is working on launching it for iOS too.

Answering fan questions with his 'Rambo'
The usual Q&A session followed, with John answering questions from the audience as well as those posted on Facebook. He was patient and his answers were well thought through, showing clarity in thought. John was asked whether there should be separate schools for teaching women to ride. He responded saying that schools to teach better riding were essential, not just for women but for men also. He exuded passion when he spoke about biking, and regrets not having ridden his new Aprilia RSV4. He keenly wants to promote biking in India, along from football and hockey. His biking tales and experiences were awesome, despite him declaring upfront that he doesn't travel as much as some of the resident tourers. The event ended with the celeb posing with all bikers – individually and in a group.

My respect for John Abraham has gone up manifold. He hasn't just heard of John McGuiness, he reveres him. John is trying to shoot climax of his upcoming movie on bikes at the Isle of Mann. He doesn't follow only MotoGP; he tried to co own the Kawasaki team in World SBK. He knows about Evo bikes and Formula E. He has ridden on roads I haven’t even heard of. And he believes riding a bike is not about merely going fast; it is about being part of a ballad. John Abraham is not a Bollywood celebrity who rides fast bikes. He is a biker who acts and produces movies.

Selfies with individual bikers and with the group

Thank you Castrol Biking for letting me be part of this event. Regarding the goodies, Castrol can replace 1 item among them with a litre of their best 4-stroke biking oil. Once a rider uses it and likes it, s/he will stick to that oil for her/his bike for a long time and also refer it to others. That will help increase sales. After all, we bikers treat our bikes better than we treat humans, don’t we?

31 Mar 2014

Dhoni's Silence - Why We Must Care!

Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s silence has intrigued us, piqued us. The match fixing allegations in the IPL, his association with some big shots, stake in Rhiti sports, India Cements and other firms – we’ve become increasingly inquisitive about the off-field life of arguably India’s most prolific cricket captain. After all, Indian cricket fans deserve answers, right? Answers to questions about how he is making money; whether he was indeed involved in match fixing during the IPL... the media and common man want his silence broken. We deserve answers, right? Do we?

Dhoni has always maintained a low profile in front of the media, be it his private life or on field strategies. He has channelized his energy towards more productive aspects – like having a major say in the team’s selection, motivating his player and developing a messianic sense of purpose in them, and chalking out elaborate game plans to surprise opponents. Ever wondered why his seemingly lucky moves pay off brilliantly? Those ‘lucky’ gambles have been thought through in his head over and over again. Leaders make Plans A and B. Dhoni says “I don’t stop at just plan B. I go on to make plans C, D and E.” True mastermind. Real genius. And the best finisher in cricket today.

MSD is the only captain to have won every tournament which has the ICC label. He has marshalled his troops to victory in Australia, England, Pakistan, West Indies, Sri Lanka, South Africa – everywhere. Yuvraj, Gambhir, Ashwin, Jadeja, the Sharmas, Dhawan, Raina, Kohli, Shami, Bhuvaneshvar Kumar and others have flourished under his wings. They’re all match winners on their own.

Why is Dhoni's silence so important?
And yet we choose to dismiss all that. We chastise his money making methods through business. We accuse him of being guilty because, as always, he has maintained a stoic silence on the match fixing allegations. Does his being silent indicate he is guilty? And what is wrong in him using his genius mind in business to make money? Is it wrong to insure your future? Have we also forgotten that we have never demanded that Sonia and Rahul Gandhi come clean on terrible allegations made against them? Why this appalling treatment towards Dhoni?

As a country which loves cricket, our job is to support the Indian Cricket Team. That is the logical thing to do. But it’s well known how good we Indians are at applying logic. This unity in diversity hogwash has fucked things up for us. We care more about a player’s performance in the IPL (for our cities) than his performance at the international level. That’s why we swarm to stadiums in herds to watch the IPL. We abuse them if they underperform in these inconsequential matches. And if they perform well but are exhausted due to the gruelling schedule, we accuse them of caring only about money. Yes, we Indians are really smart indeed!

The media and common man should rally around Dhoni and his boys to win the World T20 championship right now. Calling for the captain’s head while he carries the expectations of 100 crore Indians is nothing short of retarded. It’s a shame that we accuse him without proof while he marches on to conquer let another milestone for us. It’s time to ensure that the most important thing is to let the important things stay important and to stop sweating about matters of no consequence. The IPL is nothing but a money making scheme for some people. Dhoni hasn't been bought by us neither do we pay him a salary. He has made the Indian cricket team one of the most powerful forces to reckon with in the world today. He owes us nothing. Not the truth, not the lies and definitely not the finer aspects of his life.

So please go and find yourselves something else to rant about. Like maybe who should be in the next Big Boss episode, who’s performance was awesome at some Cine Star awards, etc. And if you can’t appreciate Dhoni’s talent, at least leave him alone.

image Courtesy: Google Images

14 Feb 2014

What the IPL is Doing For Indian Cricket


The IPL auction is over. Yuvraj Singh received the highest bid worth 14 crores. We are delighted with some players’ addition to our IPL teams. Lalit Modi is still screaming hoarse about match fixing. The media (and most na├»ve people) are busy accusing Dhoni of match fixing allegations. Amidst all this, we gear up for the biggest entertainment bonanza of the year while the Indian cricket team continues to perform dismally abroad.

Accept it! The Indian Premier League (IPL) has ruined Indian cricket. Players don’t care how they perform at the international level anymore as long as they earn big bucks while playing for the IPL. They lack patience to ply test cricket, the resilience to slug it out with tough teams abroad and the strategy to come up trumps after 5 grueling days.

Who can blame them? Even they have mouths to feed. A secure future (one with lots of money) is always preferred to an insecure one. But this secure future is also killing uncapped players’ drive to play for the country.

Well, what about us? What about common man? We spend hours watching the IPL auction live (perhaps even reruns of it), tweet frantically, spend hours discussing it and calling the team owners all sorts of things for paying too much to pick a player or losing out on a good one. And then we complain about the amount of money being splurged. Hypocrisy! And we argue about how a player from CSK is involved in match fixing, regardless of no evidence present. Who gives a damn about him being the captain of the Indian cricket team, right?

Then the IPL begins. We claim that the IPL is not real cricket, a waste of time, a display of money by the rich and everything that is evil about society. Yet we are hooked. We watch matches on the tube, internet and in stadiums as if life depended upon it. We boo Virat Kohli when he plays for Bangalore while forgetting, as he said, that “apart from playing for RCB, I play for India.” Mumbaikars support Kieron Pollard over MSD because the former plays for Mumbai Indians. Awesome!

All this while the Indian cricket team continues to underperform. Obviously fatigue sets in. We will keep saying that the players’ motivation is just money, but it is because we are paying them… we hype the IPL to unimaginable heights. Manoranjan ka baap, right? And we completely expose our players to cricketers from across the globe, exposing their strengths and weaknesses. And then we wonder why other teams are so effective and India is not.

So before blaming Indian cricketers for not performing, look at the reasons. You are just as responsible for our international team’s dismal performance. If you care about India like you claim, stop caring about which player plays for your IPL team. Support him if he plays for India instead of snubbing him if he’s performed well against your city’s IPL team. Y’all are not children. So act your age. Think like a mature person instead of happily feeding on the media and being fooled. It’s time you stopped deciding players’ capabilities based on their IPL performances. It’s time our players stop wasting time and energy training for and playing in the IPL. They are humans just like you and me. I've given up on the IPL 3 seasons ago. Time for you to see the light too... and no, it's not a freight train coming your way.
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