Friday, September 22, 2006

Sustaining success

I'm not sure if it happens everywhere in the world, but we Indians seem to have a pretty shortsighted view of appreciating and rewarding talent. It seems almost myopic when our government and other agencies shower praises and presents on achievers in any field, especially sports, when they recognize success at short stints as exemplary performance. Look at the way heros and superheros are made out of sportspersons like cricketers. There's no doubt that these people have slogged their lives out to reach where they are. They also deserve all the praise for their remarkable achievements. But there's a flip side to this kind of patronage. Often, as time passes, we notice that the performance of these achievers goes down while their name and fame attracts them to commercial activities like product endorsements and other non-core stuff. Unfortunately when they fail to deliver, their poor peformance is often attributed to lack of commitment to the game, failure to innovate or failure to be consistent in performance.

Similar seems to be the fate of the young tennis 'sensation' Sania. Promoted by media and government as a youth icon who should be emulated, she seems to have got much more than what an average person wishes for at her age. As we all know, it takes indomitable courage, perseverance, and conviction to excel in whatever we do. Most of us give in when challenges thrown at us get too demanding to endure and 'enjoy' its inherent duress. But, Sania's ardour for the game, combined with her gutsy and gritty persona her got her laurels initially. Soon we started building expectations...we expected her to outperform herself. She has always been in the spotlight for various non-sporty reasons. What seems to have got overlooked is the fact that she's the most privileged to be supported and backed by sponsors and well-wishers. To read more check out this story:

In a country of billion plus population how many talented people get the necessary encouragement to nurture their talent? There could be many more Sanias among our crores of girl children waiting to be picked, groomed and presented to the world. It's time we tap abundance of talent that it available in plenty in towns and small cities. Take a cue from Iqbal, the movie. Sure, exceptional peformance can catapult people to the pinnacle of fame, but it takes tremendous effort to continue to remain at the top.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

B-School learns Laloo's lingo

He's someone who never ceases to fascinate me. A crafty politician , an admirable leader of one of the most backward states of our country, Laloo has always had something 'mystic' about his meteoric rise to political stardom. Whatever be his pros and cons he's someone who cannot be ignored.

This time he was in the limelight for his visit to IIM Ahmedabad. Apparently, this was his first tete-a-tete with the elite crowd at this prestigious institution. For media, this was an invitation to demystify the 'aura' of being Laloo from a very different aspect of his personality. Not a single TV channel or newspaper missed this opportunity to cover the event when he would address the future business leaders, entrepreneurs and managers of urban India. It must be quite a contrast, imagine Laloo representing the rustic and rural 'Bharat' generously giving his fundas on managing Bharatiya Rail to these sophisticated, suave, albeit supercilious group who are smugly convinced about lessons from their management gurus.

What struck me in this whole episode is that Laloo as a phenomenon is grossly underestimated about his vision and potential, of course his charisma can get his crowds but it takes sheer conviction and grit and to sustain it for long. Only Laloo can aptly extend the metaphor of milking a cow as a management mantra for getting the best out of railway insfrastructure. It's time for all b-school grads to watch out for more from this biz savvy cowboy. For more details visit:

Monday, September 18, 2006

Random rhapsodies
Music Mania

If technology has invaded all facets of our lives, can the realm of music be left behind? Thanks to techies today we can listen to music anywhere, anytime through any device. I can enjoy my favorite song as a ring tone of my mobile. I can listen to my choice of music as I work, play, drive, shop, eat…music and I have become inseparable. Thanks to technology old music can be saved for posterity. Thanks to all kinds of wizardry music is certainly going to enjoy the patronage that was never seen earlier.

But, pause that button and think! What is the kind of music we would be listening to? Sure, the golden voices of the past are always there for us to enjoy. What about the present? Truly democratic I should say. The monopoly of a few selected singers has given way to scores of voices who prove that the ‘unheard melodies are sweeter’. This is certainly a positive signal for a nation with multi-crore population. It’s good to see fresh talent getting recognition.

One of the trends that catches my imagination is the use of SMS to rate the singers. With so many talent shows being beamed on all the TV channels I get a feeling that music and singing has been reduced to a mere game of mammon where each channel is competing on the basis of SMS its singers/contestants receive. Joining this bandwagon is the host of music directors who have their personal favorites as their contestants. Not to mention the music production companies who support these programs.

Take Indian Idol for instance (modeled on American Idol) the talent show is quite entertaining as the rounds begin. It’s a good launching pad for talented singers. However, as the competition gets tougher, there’s intense heat among the rivals. Recently I got to see something that was absolutely sordid to say the least. The amount that would have gone into making publicity for this aspirant ‘idol’ would have easily been used for a better cause in promoting music.

Let me not be judgemental. Today anything can be passed off as music. If I say something against a particular singer or his or her style of singing then I may be expressing my intolerance at abundant variety of music. The classical ‘gharanas’ have their modern day equivalents in the style of the music director. The ‘riyaz’ is reduced to a few hours of practice. And performance can always be edited to get the desired effect. Hence a singer need not be right the first time. The lyrics can be anything…I leave it to your imagination.

Change is certainly necessary in whatever we do. This applies to music lovers as well. I don’t crib like I used to earlier when I heard a remix of my favorite Kishore or Lata number. I don’t sound prudish when the ‘music videos’ go on. I’m certainly more open to new interpretations of delivering and presenting music that was made in studios with latest techie gadgets. I don’t complain if the lyrics hurt my sensibility. This is because I have a lot to choose from: I can still fall back on evergreen oldies from films or modern classics from Swades, RDB or Parineeta. And of course, when I need food for my soul I have my collection from Times devotional music. When I’m in mood for country/romantic numbers there are a whole lot of English numbers to choose from.

Nevertheless, my worry continues… what about my little nieces listen to when they grow up? Will they croon along with the soulless numbers that are dished out by the TV channels. Well, they might. That’s ok. Perhaps my parents would have had similar thought about my choice of music when I was a teenager.

Reminiscing the Mahatma*

Sometimes I wonder how MKG would have reacted to the present day scourge of terrorism. Would he have gone on an unending fast till the Mumbai or Malegaon blast suspects were remanded to justice. What would his mantra be, if he was living today? Truth, non-violence, non-cooperation ...these tenets of Gandhian philosophy seemed perfectly relevant when we were fighting oppression and racial discrimation. During British Raj, Indians were faced with a different kind of terror - that of the British government. What about 21st century terrorism? How do we prevent the attacks carried out by the misled extremists? Attacks that disrupt normal life worldwide causing fear and anxiety at public places of worship, public transport and shopping malls.

Does it help if we think and try to understand what circumstances, historical events create and breed terrorists ? What is their goal in life? Are they convinced about the cause they are 'fighting for' or 'dying for'? If supremacy of religion is the primary cause of proliferating terror, then I would say that the terrorists are anything but religious, for no religion propagates killing of innocent to fulfil the 'dubious' agenda.

Is there a Gandhian solution to modern day problems such as terrorism? How is the social transformation possible in a globalized, flattened world? Or, is this nemesis going to get worse in the coming years?

*My thoughts after re-reading 'Gandhi - his life and thought' by J B Kriplani.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Terror - the new face of inhumanity

Every minute brings in apprehension. There's a vague feeling of vigilant anticipation that somewhere, something is being hatched out to disturb the unsettling sense of peace we are used to in today's world. Perpetual life on tenterhooks has made us comfortably numb in reacting to these heart-wrenching incidents - bomb explosions killing innocent people, most sophisticated weapons being used to carry out mass murders in select destinations of the world. The discomfort grows by leaps and bounds as we hear of an explosion in a distant town or city. The only sense of relief is when you know that none of your kith and kin are injured/killed in the incident. But what about those who continue to lose their lives for no fault of theirs? Mourning the victims and carrying on with our lives as if nothing ever happened...this seems to be a dangerous trend, an apparent sense of irresponsibility to our 'present' could make us pay double the price in future (forgetting these incidents is a hint of passive submission).

Are we getting used to 'adjusting' with such macabre acts of disloyalty to humankind, accepting them as just another kind of unavoidable banes of present socio-political set up? Terrorism is a modern day evil that can be countered only by condemning, controlling and preventing any potential act of planned annihilation. Otherwise, daily news of death, destruction and other devastating incidents will make us more immune to the unending agonies inflicted by the professional destroyers of social peace. I'm sure none of us would like our future generations to remember their past only in terms of dates: 9/11 or 22/7 or 7/7 and so on...