Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I am addicted to the rain:

the melancholic intoxication of -
the conspiring air;
the flickering lightning;
the ravening rumbling thunder;
the soft grey sky;
the sweet hard raindrops
on the needy earth;

As I stand by and experience:

the heightened feeling -
of water caressing my body,
soaking my bones,
washing away my problems and
cleansing my soul;
of cold black night;
of dark denial;
of being someone else
in some other world;

I want to be free, I so want to be free...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The real person is dying!

I hate automated customer service. It's alright when I want basic information like account balance, delivery date and things like that.

But more often than not, I call customer service because I have a problem. That is the time when I want to get to someone soon and talk to someone real. But when was the last time you got a real person on the phone? It's mostly about listening to voice messages in three different languages, annoying advertisements, pressing 1,2,3... in several layers. It doesn't seem to have much to do with either customer or service.

Customer service has always been around. Twenty years ago we didn't have call centres and IVR systems. What we had was a phone number where we spoke to a real person or an office address where we could meet people in flesh and blood. Today, all we have are automated choices for a limited set of problems.

When it comes to dealing with customers, it’s all about human psychology. Even where the problem is the same, different customers need to be dealt with differently depending on their mood, state of mind, urgency etc. A computer just doesn't understand human idiosyncrasies.

Despite the importance of involving psychology in customer service practices, why are businesses totally neglecting it? Is it only about cost? What about making the customer feel secure and comfortable? How about taking care of customer anxieties? Especially, in a field where not much is stereotype, why are solutions designed as if they are stereotype. I just don't get it.

I don't mind the idea of self-service but when i am stuck, I want a face and a name. I want a real person!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Did you know? - The Art of Champagne Sabrage!

Sabrage is a technique for opening a champagne bottle with a sabre, used for ceremonial occasions. The saber is slid along the body of the bottle toward the neck. The force of the blade hitting the lip breaks the glass to separate the collar from the neck of the bottle. The cork and collar remain together after separating from the neck

There are several legends of the story of Sabrage or Sabering Champagne. One says that when the officers of Napoleon’s army returned home after a victory, cheering townspeople would hand bottles of Champagne as tokens of their appreciation for their victory and gallantry. Since the soldiers were mounted on horseback it was
difficult to hold the reins of the horse and remove both the foil, wire basket (muselet) around the cork and the cork (bouchon) at the same time, so the soldiers simply took out their sabers and struck it against the lip of the bottle with an upward blow and sabered off the cork. VoilĂ !

Here's a step by step illustration of how its done -

1. A chilled bottle of champagne (45-48°F or 7-8°C) is taken and the the foil on top of the bottle is removed to reveal the cork and wire basket

2. The wire basket around the cork is carefully removed.

3. The bottle is held firmly, neck pointing up about 30 degrees

4. Now, the sabre is held against the seam of the bottle and firmly slid up against the glass ring at the top.

5. The cork and glass ring fly away dramatically

When performed correctly, the cork and glass ring will fly away, spilling little of the precious wine and leaves a neat cut on the neck of the bottle

Go try! Caution: Careful though as we do not want any accidents around or any shards of glass in the champagne!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Khari and chai

The perfect start to my imperfect mornings. This has been my routine for the past few months but it is only of late that i realized how much i need the khari with the chai. Chai is not chai anymore without khari. I hate mornings when i have run out of khari. Tried regular toast, suji toast, soup sticks instead. Nothing compares or even comes close.

Getting the perfect khari is not easy. Some are hard and not quite the melt in your mouth variety. Some khari leave a sticky residue on the palette of the mouth. Some are too powdery (of theres a word like that), some too small and some too big while some come in ridiculous flavors. The best khari is available in the old time bakeries like the ahura bakery. I really can't make a trip all the way there for my regular khari needs. Among the branded ones, my favorite is the Baker Street Traditional Khari in plain maska, jeera and methi flavors. They also have the twist khari. I don't like. Just FYI Bakers Street is an ISO-22000 certified product of India:)

Finding the perfect khari is only half the journey. There is more.

The chai cannot be ignored in this tamasha. It plays an important part. My perfect chai for the khari cannot have too much milk, not too much sugar, got to have generous amount of tea leaves. The perfect chai should be hot but not piping hot.

Now comes the part where the khari has to be dipped into the chai. The dip has got be enough but not too much. Enough for the chai to soak in but the crispness of the khari to be retained. The justenoughdipped khari has to find its way to the mouth almost immediately, leaving as little crumbs in the chai as possible. The point where the chaisoakedbutcrisp khari meets the mouth is when experience begins to get divine. Mmmmmm!

The rest of the day can be, and is more often than not, duckall!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sorry haan, Venky

Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan has expressed disenchantment with people from India "bothering" him "clogging" up his email box and dubbed as "strange" their sudden urge to reach out to him.
What is so strange about the "sudden" urge to reach out to him? Has he not suddenly won the Nobel Prize? It is not like nothing happened and it was just another day and all these kaalu Indians are sending him emails from all the corners of the country. That would be strange....and sudden!!
And it appears, he wants nothing to do with being Indian. He may have spent all his professsional life abroad but with a name like Ventraman Ramakrishnan, he will have to work reeealllly hard to get himself disconnected with the country:)

Venky: "Do these people have no consideration? It is OK to take pride in the event, but why bother me?"
How to take pride without letting anyone know!?! And what does he mean by "why bother 'me' "...who else to bother? Clearly, we can't be sending random mails to random people in India or elswhere who have not won any prize

Venky: "All sorts of people from India have been writing to me, clogging up my email box. It takes me an hour or two to just remove their mails"
Poor guy, i can actually imagine him being harrowed with the deluge of emails. It not easy to sift through the pile. But what is all "sorts' of people? How can all the people be of one sort? And even if they were of one sort, how does it matter to him? He would still spend an hour or two to remove their mails.

Venky: "There are also people who have never bothered to be in touch with me for decades who suddenly feel the urge to connect. I find this strange"

Again, what is this "suddenly" business? For God's sake he just won the Nobel Prize! I can't help imagining that one sunny day people got this internal urge to reach out to a particular Venkatraman Ramakrishnan!!!

For someone who has won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, clearly scientist Venkatraman is sorely lacking chemistry - the chemistry between him and the people of a country who are plain simple happy at his victory.

Sorry haan, Venky...but we Indians are like that only!

PS: Personally, I do understand his agony. In his profession, people tend to be reclusive. Besides he is no media celebrity who is used to handle this kind of attention. Only, he could have been careful in his choice of words. It would have saved him a lot of distress.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Uniquely Singapore....No Durian Please

- It's a country! It's a city! It's an island!

- It's just not funny how well they dress up and how much they eat out!!! The food - it's the best part of Singapore. Plenty, Diverse and Everywhere!

- Somehow, I don't remember being given a napkin in any restaurant.

- And how much they travel!!!....i mean, Singapore is just this big!!!

- Their English is so Singlish lah. Ya!

- It's not that much of a party place...I know, there's Clarke Quay, Boat Quay and all. The govt is pushing but its not enough:) After all its modeled after Switzerland which has never been a party place.

- Its not that much of a creative place either. They could name their food creatively rather than literally. Fish Head Curry, Pig organ soup ...what is THAT!!

- Singapore is so organized. There is the business district, there is the mall area, the residential area....like each is area is separate and specialized.

- Its probably the safest place in the world....Ya!

- Landscaping is a serious profession here..every bit of Singapore is landscaped. Their govt sure must have loads of money.

- If there is something like goodest governance, it's here...it's here...it's here

- Singapore is squeaky clean....like antiseptic!

- Then there is the durian fruit stench...smells like our jackfruit only several times stronger. It's so pungent, it is banned on the subway and at hotels. Even buses have signs that warn: No smoking, No eating or drinking, No flammable goods and No durians! Really!

- Mangosteen, Rambutan, Longaan are some of the fruits you get here.

- There is a part of India wherever you go. Singapore is no different. They have little India and you would know when you're there!

- Ya and there's a rather popular train station called Dhobi Ghaut...i'm not sure of the history of the name though

- Traffic is so well behaved and civil....cars look brand new - not a dent, not even a scratch!

- It's a strict place...no littering, no jaywalking etc etc. Elevators claim there is a urination detection device installed!!! Yes! And as most of us know, it's illegal to chew gum in the country. Prostitution, however, i think is legal. Please don't chew gum while at it:)

- All in all, it's a fine country...it's into laws and fines:)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Iniside The Mind Of the Man In The Mirror

I’ve always been curious about Micheal Jackson’s life. I wondered how long he could go on the way he did. I mean the fall from fame, the fall from grace and the numerous cosmetic surgeries, several ailments, the craving for anonymity, the eccentricities, the loneliness…

At one level, I know, it does sounds like he brought it upon himself but think about it….he was a celebrity who grew to be iconic. He was a child prodigy…a musical genius. His music was catchy and popular. His dance complicated and a treat to the eyes. He was extraordinary and successful - millions of record sales worldwide, the worlds best selling album of all time, thirteen grammy awards, super entertainer, genius artist and quite a business man. Almost everyone everywhere in the world across generations knows who MJ is. In my house everyone from my mother-in-law to my daughter know who Michael Jackson is. My daughter also knows his music. He was at his height of popularity when I was in college. College kids used to practice the moonwalk outside college corridors and just about anywhere. All young boys tried their hands at break dance at the risk of damaging their bones. Popular, he still is! The extent of his fame is unsurpassed. After Elvis, it will have be MJ.
I don’t think MJ ever knew what ordinary was. He was a performer at the tender age of 6 which means it probably took away his childhood. In his growing years and for a long time thereon he was the King of Pop. Think about this - fans almost worshipping you, thousands drawing inspiration, millions and millions of fans from all over the world screaming for you, rooting for you and loving your music, imitating you…the whole nine yards. When celebrity hood reaches these levels, it is extremely difficult to be grounded. You don’t deal with normal everyday people with commonplace problems on a daily basis. You are so far away and disconnected from the ‘real’ world (real here meaning the ordinary life majority of us lead), making so much money that you can’t manage. You deal with people with their own agendas almost all the time - financial advisors wanting a huge share of your money, record labels cashing in your name, producers wanting a sell out album, girlfriends wanting to use your name to make it big, spouses wanting more than half your money and so on and so on. These people will, when you have the money and fame, be prepared to do anything for you, rarely defy you and make you believe you are GOD.

With all the attention and global limelight, it’s easy to get confused by who you are versus the larger than life media image. Think about it enough, and you will realize that the mind and thoughts of these mega super celebrities will alter dramatically. It is perhaps this alteration of the mind that made MJ do things he did - the bizzare personal life, the multiple cosmetic surgeries, huge shopping sprees for toys and antiques, the lavish lifestyle. It also kind of explains his eccentricities – the chimp friend, the child in him, the belief that he is Peter Pan, showing up in a burqa in Bahrain, appearing in LA with his three children, their faces masked, his own covered with a handkerchief. And then the fall…I cannot imagine how his fall from fame must have affected him. When you have all the adulation for years and then suddenly realize that you don’t have any of that, you want to try all it takes to get it back. No one but MJ will know the turmoil that went through in the mind and body when trying to deal with, first the extreme adulation and an equally extreme downfall. MJ perhaps believed that he could get it all back….and he tried. He explored almost every option possible or even impossible - looking like a white man, changing his religion, marrying white women, a reclusive existence, settling someplace faraway in Bahrain, creating a fantasy land, trying to resurrect his career. That mind! It must be some kind of hell to live out that mind and be judged by millions!!!

In death, the mind must have calmed! May it rest in peace!