27 Nov 2011

Saurabh... A Salute to Your Courage...

The tea stall is below my office. I visited it at 7 pm one evening. I took a wada pao (Indian burger) and sat down to eat it. The sun had set, the lights had come on and it was reasonably dark outside.

There he sat. In a dark corner, all alone and lost in thought. I recognized him as the new boy who had started working at the tea stall. Then I saw it. The unmistakable imprint of tears on his cheek (even though it was dark). I asked him what happened but he said nothing. Just to give him strength, I told him not to worry as all works out in the end. And then he broke into tears. However, he didn’t cry aloud. I asked him his name, and he said Saurabh. I asked Saurabh if he wanted to drink tea and talk to me. But on the contrary, he immediately drank up his tears and grief and brought me a jug of water and a glass. Asked me and the other people there if we wanted tea... as if nothing had happened. I was awed by his courage and asked for a cup. It came promptly. Then, he retired to the dark corner and was lost in thought again.

The next day, Saurabh was in high spirits. I asked the owner of the stall what happened the previous night. The owner said “Usse maa ki yaad aa rahi thi.” (He was remembering his mother).

We sometimes feel miserable about the lives we lead. But Saurabh’s life is worse. Left his family in UP to come here, work, earn some money and send it back home. He lives with 5 other people in a one room kitchen, works at the stall from 9 in the morning to 8 at night, and then does odd jobs in his spare time. But as I look at him, he’s still smiling; braving all the odds and still dreams of making it big someday (a dream I hope is not shattered). There are many Saurabhs like him out there. They teach us life is a lot simpler if we choose to make it. They teach us to be brave, to face whatever comes our way with courage and bravery. This post is dedicated to the thousands and millions of Saurabhs out there. We are honoured to know you and learn from you. We salute your courage and resilience.

21 Nov 2011

My Yamaha RD 350's Restoration... An Impossible Task... Or Was It?

It all started with the desire to own a new bike. I was going to receive a substantial amount of money as an incentive from my company, and I had zeroed down buying the Hero Honda Karizma to replace my aging TVS Fiero F2 for a thrilling ride. As the time to receive the money drew near, I started looking for a showroom to buy the bike from.

And then it happened... My friend allowed me to spend 5 minutes with the all famous Yamaha RD 350 – the bike I had heard so much about! But I never really had the chance to experience what the ‘fuss’ was all about. I don’t think I need to rave and rant about the exhilarating experience I had – we all remember our first ever RD ride, don’t we! The intoxicating drone of the twin exhausts, the backward thrust felt when I accelerated (mind you, I was literally nursing the RD around; I was nervous and didn’t know what to expect), the respect given by people playing cricket on the road when I approached by voluntarily giving way, the concern evident on the owner’s face when I returned after a good 5 minutes; all were a part of the awesome experience. That was the moment I knew I had to have one.

The hunt for an RD which was not in pristine condition started in January 2007. I did not want to own a spanking machine right from the outset since I had seen many RD owners simply waste the machine away because of the so called ‘troubles’ they suffer at her hands. ‘Troubles’ are only faced if one does not treat her like a high – maintenance mistress and regularly give her what she needs. And one of the most enjoyable parts of having a mistress is the period of courtship; or so I am told. That is why I decided to lay my hands on an RD which needed some work to be done on it along with demanding me to roam around looking for good quality parts which would make their way onto the bike. RDs had started costing anywhere between a good 30,000 – 45,000 rupees and sellers were attributing it to the DHOOM phenomenon. I was prepared to wait it out and ensure I lay my hands on one which would cost below 25k.

Finally, in April 2007, I found her. The RD was not in the best of conditions (quite appalling, actually) and had been standing still for above 5 months. However, 3 kicks and she lazily came to life. My friend who accompanied me is an expert on RDs and told me the bike did not respond the way an RD should under heavy acceleration. However, RD prices were soaring at almost twice the inflation index and I was beginning to get concerned. The owner settled at a figure of 20,000 bucks and encouraged me to get work done on it; of course he would, he had still not gotten the papers transferred onto his name. I still followed my instinct and went through with the deal. I now owned the bike; all I needed to do was to ensure she would end up in the condition she deserved to be in.

17 Nov 2011

India's New Generation Impatient?

India’s economy is growing at a record rate! All business channels are talking about India’s ROBUST CONSUMPTION STORY! The young Indian is unafraid, impatient, knows what she wants and gets it! That’s because Indians have started earning good sums of money. And those Indians want to spend on luxury, enjoyment; on what they deserve. We Indians are living up to our expectations! We’re buying expensive gadgets, going on expensive vacations, compromising on nothing less than elite brands for perfumes, clothes, electronics, mobile phones, laptops...
There are 2 concepts in economics – Conspicuous Consumption & Conscientious Consumption. The former is applicable when brand equity overshadows value for money as buyers want to be seen using snob value goods. This was applicable in developed countries until recently. However, it’s now more applicable in India while the latter (conscientious consumption) is applicable today in developed countries. Conscientious Consumption is when value and functionality of goods have more weightage in consumers’ minds than the brand.
People today are encouraged to buy more than they can afford because of loan schemes being offered on everything. So we buy all we want, keep paying off the loans and live on a paycheck-to-paycheck basis. But what’s the ulterior motive in this?
We shell out dollops of our hard earned money to buy things we want. We seemingly take pleasure in using high quality commodities thinking they provide respite from our mundane work lives. The big guns (politicians, big industrialists, etc.) are covertly having the media drive into us the logic that we can buy expensive iPads, cars, Sony BRAVIA TVs, etc. to enjoy the spoils of our earnings. This, we’re made to believe, will make the frustrations at work feel worthwhile. But whose coffers are these filling? The sellers', loan providers' and invariably - through various taxes - the government's. So who thinks they’re richer? We. But who actually grows richer? Those people suck the money out of us.
This logic gets me to another point. In the desire to own more, we start putting up with all sorts of crap. True, we hop jobs… but we’re still working for others. This yearning for money to buy more ensures we do what the higher ups want us to, the way they want us to, when and how they want us to. Some of us try being entrepreneurs, but how many of us seriously risk all we have for something we’re passionate about? The fear of losing it all has been instilled in us. So we toe in line and do not venture off in directions which might make it hard for corporates to retain talent for less. This is the same reason why the education curriculum does not get revamped either. They (politicians, big industrialists, etc.) want us to retain the mindset of learning all we NEED to for a JOB. We focus on placements, salaries, etc. We continue doing work they have chalked out for us to fatten their pockets. We are exposed to redundant educational curriculum to ensure we learn doing things the way they were and are being done. Innovation is barely ever encouraged, unless it makes money for the big bosses.
We’re being conned gradually, and we don’t even know it. The bigwigs don’t want us to think. They act like they’re offering us a lot of freedom, but it’s all well orchestrated. We spend; we make money for banks, industries, the government. Savings in U.S.A. have come down drastically from 8% of the GDP some years ago to less than 0.5% now. The repercussions are that the average American is $22,000 in debt. All this leads to rallies like Occupy Wall Street. The format is now pilfering down to us. Are we prepared to see the truth the way it is? Or are we going to learn the hard way! I guess only time will tell…

7 Nov 2011

Seems We Humans Are Living On The ANIMAL FARM!

Read the book “Animal Farm” by George Orwell? Animals on Manor Farm can think for themselves and talk. They decide to rebel against the injustice meted out to them by humans. They succeed in taking over the farm and think life will get better. It does, for some time. Enter politics and vested interests. The pig (Snowball) which wants to improve life for animals on the farm is driven away by a tyrant pig (Napoleon). The latter then chastises the former, claiming Snowball was hand – in – glove with the humans. Everything known about Snowball is portrayed as if he was the defector. Napoleon flaunts all the rules laid down by the farm. He makes his own to suit himself, his family and his type (pigs). He exploits animals and cruelly discards them when they’re rendered useless. The world admires the Animal Farm for the way it works, but the animals’ wish for a good life remains a distant dream.

Have we seen instances like in life? George Orwell has magnificently laid out the plot of politics and power struggle in this classic. 2 instances come to my mind. One was in MOTOGP, when Valentino Rossi & Max Biaggi got into a fistfight in the change room. The 2 were reprimanded by DORNA (the governing body of MOTOGP) and requested to stay away from the media. Rossi obeyed, but Biaggi didn’t. He portrayed himself as a victim and Rossi as the problem in front of the media, whilst the scenario was probably vice versa. Biaggi has maintained a bad reputation before and after that incident, which is why most of us give Rossi the benefit of doubt.

badge UA-22264662-1