Monthly Archives: February 2014

The multiple marvels of the muffler

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The muffler is an extremely clever piece of work. I will go a step further to say it is the cleverest, most versatile things known to man and woman. Admittedly its closest competitor the towel has been given an unfair edge by Douglas Adams eulogies. But a quick research proves that the muffler is a knotch above. Nothing as sophisticated has been knotted around the delicate necks of men and women more since the cobra wrapped around Shivas neck. It can easily transition from one form to another- from a fanda to a jhanda. The variety of colors make it the flag of all flavours. Fly the white muffler when you want a truce and it has the effect of a 1000 pigeons. Immediate peace. And India and Pakistan live happily ever after. In times of war, it becomes a fierce combat weapon. Ideal as a sling shot. Or hand to hand combat. A muffler could help you sail through most valentine days- pun intended. Use the muffler to gag the dog and then as a rope to swing up to your girl’s balcony. Then knot it into a flower to woo her. . In less violent times, a muffler alternately becomes a pillow, a cushion and a handkerchief- helping you hike through the world with a kind of motherly protection. A muffler comes to the rescue in a myriad of tricky situations. Missed the gym? Use the muffler as a skipping rope. Forgot the belt? Tie the muffler around your trousers to keep up your modesty. Have a grudge? Use the muffler to strangle the boss and then innocently gift it to his secretary. The muffler is a talisman against evil. The muffler can be alternately tied around the ears, or the mouth or the eyes so it becomes the true implementor of the See no evil. Hear no evil. Think no evil legacy. Even if it cannot solve all of the nation’s problems, it can at least shield you from them. In its humblest form, the muffler can protect you against the bitter Delhi cold. And stay with you long after you have thrown in the towel. The attachment of the man with the muffler is unmistakably strong.

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Dharna Dozen – The 12 point agenda to save the nation

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While you sent roses and sang songs, I fought. I sprayed. I drank tea. I flew the muffler. I sat on a dharna For the dozen causes. That can deliver our nation. Here is my 12 point agenda:

cartoon 14 point agenda

Legalize khaps – I seriously think we should legalize them. I mean we promote so many of our encounter cops. So what’s wrong with the khops oops khaps? Plus the shameless boys and girls have no business to run away. The Mumbai traffic would have killed them anyway.

Ban valentine day – such a shameless western concept. I mean they could have renamed it to kamasutra or khajuraho day.? But valentine. Down with it.

Against eating chow mein – we hate chow mein. And more so the people who eat them. And go looking for houses in the capital. Of course they are provocative. I mean did you ever look a those slender, size zero things – meaning the chowmeins of course?

Against the rising rupee- All that hard work for a NRI groom is pointless if he cannot buy you the Taj Mahal with his daily wage. Unless he is Satya Nadella.

Against Satya Nadella – where he gets a 112 cr and my genuine windows still hangs, just when irctc was giving me a ticket. At the 112th try. we should launch a pirate soft as a challenge

Against the irctc haters- you loafers. What would you have done with the remain 23 hours 59 minutes if irctc worked in a jiffy. Irctc is the governments way of keeping crimes in check.

Against the 377 baters- what? You want to love another man. Love your ma, silly boy.  That’s the only love we can safely legitimise. And if you still have some love left, give every battered heir coming out of Arnab Goswamis studio a tight hug.

Free Asaram Bapu – and get him on big boss. With so much love in him, he could finally get Salman Khan to marry and save stray deer and people. While finding his third wife on the show.

Legitimise dharnas – especially the ones on busy metro stations. In colourful mufflers. Think how dreary it would be if we went to school, office and hospitals in time everyday. Keep the surprise. Join the dharna.

Free tea on every tap – with all the charcha, I demand free cha. If we can’t have water, let us drink tea. Apologies to Mary Antoniette.

Ban Elections. Have a fair contest – Who can shoot pepper spray the furthest? Who can break maximum tables in 1 minute? Now those are  fair ways to elect our leaders. After all you should judge people on their best talents.

Declare a world muffler day – muffler is the new towel. ( Read Douglas Adams!). It is versatile, it is multi purpose, it is the invention of a sheerly brilliant mind. Use it as a flag, a gag, a combat weapon or a skipping rope. And it is certified to be safer than the pepper spray.

The local teen – beyond the flat McDonald world

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  The mcdonald munching, levis wearing, ipod jiggling global teen. Who marketers have claimed straddle national boundaries. Maybe they are right. Sit in a cafe in upmarket NYC. Or in South Bombay. The language, the expressions, the lingo have startling similarities. And justify the global teen label. But travel a little outside urban limits. Or the fringes of the large city staying not in the 30th floor, but huddled in small, middle class homes. And the myth of global teen starts to disappear. 

Over the last few years, i have had a chance to work with start-ups, NGOs and institutions working in the education sector on the fringes of large cities or in small towns. I have taught children in 24 parganas, the suburban district of Kolkata. Interacted with girls from municipal schools and women homes. Teaching children gives you tremendous insights into their psyche. And it is very different from the uniform global teen persona. Standard assumptions about dealing with teenagers fall apart. During my MBA, I happened to work with a start up which came up with a radical method of delivering education to less privileged. The founder, an ex-Mckenzie consultant, was convinced that his model of sponsored, online education would bridge the gap between the two Indias. His revenue gen model were ads from the Pepsis and the Legos and the Kellogs of the model who would want to target children. An apparently brilliant model. Children, who otherwise do not get the world class education that their richer counterparts get, can fill in their knowledge gaps by spending a few hours online. While Kellogs or Pepsi would sponsor their education in exchange of viewing a few ads. When I started a ‘market research’ with these children, however a different picture emerged. Yes these kids have heard of Facebook, they use the rare go’s at the Internet cafe to upload fancy photos. No, they do not think they need to bridge their knowledge gaps. Infact they are not aware of any. The iit and IIMs are not regular  buzz words. The most extravagant dreams they see are not of the glitzy New York streets but of Bollywood. And of course the Kellogs and the Legos or the Mattels of the world have no business with them. Because these kids do not sit down to fancy breakfasts and play with Barbies. Their world is different. 
I have since then worked in a tribal village near Hyderabad. With the bright boys and girls of Lambada tribe. Some of the older ones had seen the city. For the others the city is a fabled place. Forget the global village. These kids are miles removed from the concept of the universal kid.
This experience has been repeated again and again. In small towns of Karnataka, in the schools adopted by my friends at Teach for India in Mumbai. No hamburgers with salsa sauce. No Levis. No fancy Anglicized accent. Their dreams are moderate. The girls want to do a post graduate degree. For them education is a passport to a life better than their mothers, who spend most of their time in the kitchen. The boys are undecided. Barring a few, most have not figured out a career path leading to the Googles and the Facebooks of the world. Not to say these boys or girls lack talent. Or ambition. Or dreams or priorities. But the boundaries are different. they are not inhabitants of the seamless global highway the universal teen is supposed to belong to. And in India, the numbers are in majority. Refuting flat globalization theories and uniform global strategies. These boys and girls do not go to air conditioned classrooms or watch Nolan movies on high speed internets. They do not come out with the finesse that corporate India is eager to lap up. They are not automatic markets for the Levis and the Nikes. They wear local brands, speak broken English, have catchy Bollywood numbers on their Chinese made smartphones. The local teens. Who we do not need to steamroll them into the global teen. And worry about bringing them to the mainstream. For in a diverse country these Hindi, Bengali, Kannada, Tamil speaking kids are mainstream. We need to take off our global lenses and look at them. Not as the outliers. Not as the unskilled 99percent. But the majority with different skills. Or different dreams. Which are as mainstream in a not so flat world. Unless we recognise this, the majority would keep falling on the wayside of our global superpower pipe dream. When it comes to building the country’s future talent pool, the only things that can work are not fringe programs but empirical grassroots initiatives. Rooted in the local teens. 

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