Wednesday, August 6, 2008

From The Land Of A Billion Sparks...

I usually do not prefer stacking others' words in my 'blah-blah' corner. But for once, I decided to shut-up and listen. I don't say the following is brilliant as a piece of grand and worded literature. But yes, what the words strike since they are true. Kudos to Mr. Bhagat for putting it out so straight and simply.

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Keep the Spark Alive
Inaugural Speech for the new batch at the Symbiosis BBA program, Pune 23rd June, 2008

By Chetan Bhagat

Good Morning everyone and thank you for giving me this chance to speak to you. This day is about you. You, who have come to this college, leaving the comfort of your homes (or in some cases discomfort), to become something in your life. I am sure you are excited. There are few days in human life when one is truly elated. The first day in college is one of them. When you were getting ready today, you felt a tingling in your stomach. What would the auditorium be like, what would the teachers be like, who are my new classmates - there is so much to be curious about. I call this excitement, the spark within you that makes you feel truly alive today. Today I am going to talk about keeping the spark shining. Or to put it another way, how to be happy most, if not all the time.

Where do these sparks start? I think we are born with them. My 3-year old twin boys have a million sparks. A little Spiderman toy can make them jump on the bed. They get thrills from creaky swings in the park. A story from daddy gets them excited. They do a daily countdown for birthday party – several months in advance – just for the day they will cut their own birthday cake.

I see students like you, and I still see some sparks. But when I see older people, the spark is difficult to find. That means as we age, the spark fades. People whose spark has faded too much are dull, dejected, aimless and bitter. Remember Kareena in the first half of Jab We Met vs the second half? That is what happens when the spark is lost. So how to save the spark?

Imagine the spark to be a lamp's flame. The first aspect is nurturing - to give your spark the fuel, continuously. The second is to guard against storms.

To nurture, always have goals. It is human nature to strive, improve and achieve full potential. In fact, that is success. It is what is possible for you. It isn't any external measure - a certain cost to company pay package, a particular car or house.

Most of us are from middle class families. To us, having material landmarks is success and rightly so. When you have grown up where money constraints force everyday choices, financial freedom is a big achievement. But it isn't the purpose of life. If that was the case, Mr. Ambani would not show up for work. Shah Rukh Khan would stay at home and not dance anymore. Steve Jobs won't be working hard to make a better iPhone, as he sold Pixar for billions of dollars already. Why do they do it? What makes them come to work everyday? They do it because it makes them happy. They do it because it makes them feel alive. Just getting better from current levels feels good. If you study hard, you can improve your rank. If you make an effort to interact with people, you will do better in interviews. If you practice, your cricket will get better. You may also know that you cannot become Tendulkar, yet. But you can get to the next level. Striving for that next level is important.

Nature designed with a random set of genes and circumstances in which we were born. To be happy, we have to accept it and make the most of nature's design. Are you? Goals will help you do that.

I must add, don't just have career or academic goals. Set goals to give you a balanced, successful life. I use the word balanced before successful. Balanced means ensuring your health, relationships, mental peace are all in good order.

There is no point of getting a promotion on the day of your breakup. There is no fun in driving a car if your back hurts. Shopping is not enjoyable if your mind is full of tensions.

You must have read some quotes - Life is a tough race, it is a marathon or whatever. No, from what I have seen so far, life is one of those races in nursery school, where you have to run with a marble in a spoon kept in your mouth. If the marble falls, there is no point coming first. Same with life, where health and relationships are the marble. Your striving is only worth it if there is harmony in your life. Else, you may achieve the success, but this spark, this feeling of being excited and alive, will start to die.

One last thing about nurturing the spark - don't take life seriously. One of my yoga teachers used to make students laugh during classes. One student asked him if these jokes would take away something from the yoga practice. The teacher said - don't be serious, be sincere. This quote has defined my work ever since. Whether its my writing, my job, my relationships or any of my goals. I get thousands of opinions on my writing everyday. There is heaps of praise, there is intense criticism. If I take it all seriously, how will I write? Or rather, how will I live? Life is not to be taken seriously, as we are really temporary here. We are like a pre-paid card with limited validity. If we are lucky, we may last another 50 years. And 50 years is just 2,500 weekends. Do we really need to get so worked up? It's ok, bunk a few classes, goof up a few interviews, fall in love. We are people, not programmed devices.

I've told you three things - reasonable goals, balance and not taking it too seriously that will nurture the spark. However, there are four storms in life that will threaten to completely put out the flame. These must be guarded against. These are disappointment, frustration, unfairness and loneliness of purpose.

Disappointment will come when your effort does not give you the expected return. If things don't go as planned or if you face failure. Failure is extremely difficult to handle, but those that do come out stronger. What did this failure teach me? is the question you will need to ask. You will feel miserable. You will want to quit, like I wanted to when nine publishers rejected my first book. Some IITians kill themselves over low grades – how silly is that? But that is how much failure can hurt you. But it's life. If challenges could always be overcome, they would cease to be a challenge. And remember - if you are failing at something, that means you are at your limit or potential. And that's where you want to be.

Disappointment's cousin is frustration, the second storm. Have you ever been frustrated? It happens when things are stuck. This is especially relevant in India. >From traffic jams to getting that job you deserve, sometimes things take so long that you don't know if you chose the right goal. After books, I set the goal of writing for Bollywood, as I thought they needed writers. I am called extremely lucky, but it took me five years to get close to a release. Frustration saps excitement, and turns your initial energy into something negative, making you a bitter person. How did I deal with it? A realistic assessment of the time involved – movies take a long time to make even though they are watched quickly, seeking a certain enjoyment in the process rather than the end result – at least I was learning how to write scripts, having a side plan – I had my third book to write and even something as simple as pleasurable distractions in your life - friends, food, travel can help you overcome it. Remember, nothing is to be taken seriously. Frustration is a sign somewhere, you took it too seriously.

Unfairness - this is hardest to deal with, but unfortunately that is how our country works. People with connections, rich dads, beautiful faces, pedigree find it easier to make it – not just in Bollywood, but everywhere. And sometimes it is just plain luck. There are so few opportunities in India, so many stars need to be aligned for you to make it happen. Merit and hard work is not always linked to achievement in the short term, but the long term correlation is high, and ultimately things do work out. But realize, there will be some people luckier than you. In fact, to have an opportunity to go to college and understand this speech in English means you are pretty damm lucky by Indian standards.. Let's be grateful for what we have and get the strength to accept what we don't. I have so much love from my readers that other writers cannot even imagine it. However, I don't get literary praise. It's ok. I don't look like Aishwarya Rai, but I have two boys who I think are more beautiful than her.. It's ok. Don't let unfairness kill your spark.

Finally, the last point that can kill your spark is isolation. As you grow older you will realize you are unique. When you are little, all kids want Ice cream and Spiderman. As you grow older to college, you still are a lot like your friends. But ten years later and you realize you are unique. What you want, what you believe in, what makes you feel, may be different from even the people closest to you. This can create conflict as your goals may not match with others. . And you may drop some of them. Basketball captains in college invariably stop playing basketball by the time they have their second child. They give up something that meant so much to them. They do it for their family. But in doing that, the spark dies. Never, ever make that compromise. Love yourself first, and then others.

There you go. I've told you the four thunderstorms - disappointment, frustration, unfairness and isolation. You cannot avoid them, as like the monsoon they will come into your life at regular intervals. You just need to keep the raincoat handy to not let the spark die.

I welcome you again to the most wonderful years of your life. If someone gave me the choice to go back in time, I will surely choose college. But I also hope that ten years later as well, your eyes will shine the same way as they do today. That you will Keep the Spark alive, not only through college, but through the next 2,500 weekends. And I hope not just you, but my whole country will keep that spark alive, as we really need it now more than any moment in history. And there is something cool about saying - I come from the land of a billion sparks.

Thank You.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Experience of ‘NOT’ Meeting A Man

This is a story that I must share. As Editor-in-Chief of this year’s edition of my college magazine ‘Sourabh’ which has a unique theme of ‘Lives Inspiring Lives’, I had to contact many achievers and ‘big’ persons. One of them was former President of India, respected Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. The experience when I tried to contact him remains fresh in my mind. Here goes.

(In picture [L-R] Harshal, Myself,Dr.Kalam, Shahid & Kulkarni Ma'am)

This happened sometime in late February, I think. I was talking on phone with one of his assistants, Mr. Sharma. I explained to him the magazine, the idea behind it and requested him to coordinate a meeting with Dr. Kalam. He heard me out and then asked, ‘When are you exams?’ That was odd. Now what had my exams got to do with my requesting an appointment with Dr. Kalam. Well, I said they are in May-June and enquired why did it matter? Inside, I was wondering humorously whether he’d ask my marks next to qualify for meeting Dr. Kalam (after all, Dr. Kalam is a very intelligent man and so maybe, he met only top scorers). Well, Mr. Sharma then clarified that Dr. Kalam had given strict orders that students’ minds should not be diverted during the exam season of February and March, especially in the keenness of meeting him. Wow! That was a great thought. I was speechless for a second. Then next question followed was ‘Are you going to come to Delhi only to meet Dr. Kalam?’ and I answered in affirmative. He probed further saying. ‘You have nothing else to do here? Meeting someone or some other work in Delhi?’ I said ‘no’.

That’s when a bouncer came when Mr. Sharma asked if I would like Dr. Kalam to visit me. ‘What?’ I yiked. For a moment, I was too dazed to think of anything. ‘Dr. Kalam?...Visit me?...I mean how?...I mean...’ I just couldn’t talk. Perhaps, Mr. Sharma had been through this before, and I guess he was smiling on the other side. He then lucidly explained, ‘Dr. Kalam doesn’t like students spending money to just come and see him. He wouldn’t mind meeting if you were here for some work or meeting your relatives or something like that. He would prefer to meet you when he is in your city. And surely he would. Will that do? Can you wait for him? He will meet you.’ That was it. I was floored. I just didn’t know what to answer. Imagine such a big personality coming to meet me. The very thought was so alluring.

Indeed, if this was the humbleness of Dr. Kalam that was reflected in his assistant, Mr. Sharma, then what must be Dr. Kalam in person? The thought that his modest persona must have passed on to all his people was so difficult to contemplate, but yet so remarkable and true. It inspired me. In all my endeavors to meet so many people this particular one remains as the experience of ‘NOT’ meeting a man. That is the iconic Dr. Kalam for you who even inspires without meeting in flesh and bone.

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P.S. Of course, the next time he was in Pune, he did meet me (and some of my colleagues too), true to the last word as promised. And then what is the experience of meeting this man? Though clich├ęd as it may sound, it’s a memory for a lifetime. Simply awe-inspiring, isn’t it?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ha! Ha! I just couldn't stop laffin...

Ha! Ha! Ha!

Here is a dash of creativity. Maybe those hundreds of slimming centers and gyms could use this for advertising themselves. Taste this and see if it makes you rollick with laughter. I, for once, can't stop lafffin...hahahaha!!

AFTER ----------------- BEFORE

BTW, I MUST PUT THIS LINE HERE: (courtesy: my dost - Akshay)
"They really resemble a lot. One has six pack and one has six packed in one pack."

Super cool na? Thanks Aks :-)

I dunno how many times I'll have to edit this post. Here's another caption from another friend (again real cool. Sorry McD's! This one's against you!!!). Here it is:
"
McDonald's : Turning people from chickna to chubby"

Thanks Salil :-)

Here's more (now this is getting way too funny...haha!). Keep laffin...

"
SRK: Tum chubby kaise bane?
Fat Guy: French fries khao..khud jaan jaao."


"Turn your 'luggage' into 'package' - Talwalkar's gym"


Salil ka fir se shukriya!



Well, now here's the source. Actually, this is the Ad I saw today in the Mid-Day, Mumbai....What a rip-off!!! I said simply 'wow' and could stop rolling on the floor.
And it's from there that I created the above.

The ORIGINAL ad...
Have a great time! Cheers!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

HAPPY GANESHA!!!


Please Click Image To Get a Clear View And Read The Message!!!



Saturday, September 15, 2007

What Tourism Means To Me?

Tourism is Aishwariya Rai who through thick and thin, whether in or out of the country is always promoting herself on the world map. Tourism is a Sania Mirza cut-out standing outside the stadium in France asking soccer fans ‘How about visiting Hyderabad to see me play after this exciting game of soccer?’ Tourism is a Shahrukh Khan poster at Heathrow Airport asking a couple ‘Heading to Spain? Next time try the exotic Taj Mahal in Agra?’ Tourism is Manmohan Singh in the United States declaring ‘Salaam Namaste. India invites you.’ Yes, ultimately we must accept a fact that we visit places when people invite us. We hardly venture into uninviting terrains. If India needs people to visit it then people of India must invite them to India. It is to come out and let the world know that a rocking civilization and a world class genre of people exist here in India. So it all begins with people and ends with people.

Tourism is not simply travel from one place to another. It is an experience that mesmerizes the first time and creates a longing for a second return. Tourism begins at home and should be realized at various hierarchal levels. It is high time that locks between various states are broken. It is when Harbhajan Singh calls out ‘Try Punjab – India’s Asli Tadka’ or Mohan Lal exclaims ‘Kool Bole To Kerala!’ States cutting ice to actually promote themselves within the country, with the inherent idea of people inviting people to their state, boosts domestic tourism. This generates new ideas and events that may become perennial attractions, not only at local, but also at national and international levels. Kerala aptly serves as the best example of this as it ceaselessly promotes itself as ‘God’s Own Country’, eventually becoming a noted tourist spot beyond the realm of the country.

At local level, within states, there should be awareness and maintenance of worth-visiting places. Encouraging local tour operators to organize schemes with tempting offers to travel to people is a need. Enhanced tourism requires impeccable service and indiscrimination. Tourist spot maintainers, thus, should be well-equipped with information, first-aid, etc. knowledgeable guides. Only then people recommend places to friends and relatives that in turn boost popularity of places.

I would visit a place if I have information and recommendation. Government at various levels must send our famous lot across the globe inviting people to our country via available mediums. Tourism, not just as another business, is beyond words extending to actions interconnected with preserving our culture, promoting it earnestly and simply keeping our standards high.

If Malaysia is ‘truly Asia’ and Singapore ‘roars’ and when Dubai offers an opportunity to ‘shop till you drop’, they actually mean it. When India calls herself ‘incredible’, she has to mean it. For tourism is not just another –ism; it’s creating curiosity in things as common as tandoor and surely, tourists will be no longer door (far).

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

One Instance Of Online Social Networks Weakening Our Physical & Emotional Attachments

I usually do not remember birthdays. Well, not beyond my own family members at least. Also I find it particularly non-interesting (read, I feel lazy!!) to note and refer my diary for birthdays. Besides, I highly detest online birthday reminder services that clog the email inbox and I also don't appreciate pesky computer desktop reminder softwares. And that's why I must say a 'thank you' to social networking sites for coming to the rescue.

Like thousands of Indians, I am a member of Orkut.com - a social networking site and I like the 'upcoming birthdays' so conveniently stated when you log in. Even if, as is my case, you're too lazy to read the birth dates, or even are likely to forget it after reading, Orkut highlights the friend's name and birth date in bold on the b-day. And with the convenience of just clicking and scrapping a 'happy-wappy b'day 2 u!!', I instantly do it and it's as if I have done my duty. Indeed, I feel nice and it sure seems 'a great way to maintain relationships!'. Even the birthday boy or gal feels good that they've been remembered on their birthday or appreciates the fact that I've taken pain to send a greeting.

Well, that what I felt until now. Pondering, I realized that in the first place 'real' contact with many of these friends on my Online Social Network (OSN) may not necessarily happen. Besides, many of the friends who got lost for a while and are united now due to the OSN, are people whom maybe I really wouldn't have missed even if I hadn't interacted with them ever. But then that is the good part of OSN that help you maintain AFFILIATIONS even though it may be under a cloak of 'FRIENDSHIP'. Indeed, you may not even regularly interact with the person in you social network of 100, 200 or even 1000 people, but you do wish a 'happy birthday'. Fine that is good. But that I feel is not inspired due to friendship but only due to the relative ease of communicating messages across. Otherwise would you have ever taken trouble to meet in person or even call up to wish? Not so, I feel. This is where social networks have weakened bonds.

Though, OSNs have increased the circle of affiliations and interactions, they have not really helped in building very strong bonds in the physical and emotional sense. It's kind of mechanical. Like you send greeting to all people whose birthday you see on your screen, but there really may be no feeling. It may just be an involuntary action. While business-wise, professionally, socially, this may be a good way just to remind each other that we know each other, on a physical platform, emotional bridges never get build. Even good friends and family may just be wished via a scrap. The good 'ol days of personally making a greeting or spending hours to select a gift and card in gift stores seem to be entering into oblivion. The meetings on the birthdays over dinner or a sippa hot cappuccino may be only rarely.

While many might oppose my thought strongly, and with me also accepting that I have stated my idea in a hazy manner (indicating that I am open to debate), I am pretty confident that social networks are structures for having cartloads of people as 'friends' but very few real relationships. And in view of the trend (this being one among many) to wish each other just via a 'scrap' or simply by 'writing on the wall' will 100% result in the meltdown of the sense of being physically and emotionally attached to people. Or simply, I believe that 'Online Social Networks Are Weakening Our Physical & Emotional Attachments'. Let's see, what technology develops as solution to this, if at all.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bollywood and sports, any equations?

Shahrukh Bhaiya’s Chak De India has once again brought about union of two diverse, yet equally popular, fields - films and sports. But here’s where one would like to critically asses how well do the two gel together – like bread and butter or like milk and lemon? Especially when we speak of mainstream Bollywood movies, this question gains importance as there are only a handful of films that have been centered on sports or have at least, a remote backdrop of sports. Lagaan, Iqbaal, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander and of course, Chak De India are notable amongst examples of films belonging to the genre of sports films.

Indeed, Bollywood doesn’t have a history of producing grand amalgamations of cinema and sports. This is so even though tales of sports and sports personalities can make profound impact on mindsets of people. Of course, Bollywood tries to explain by giving twin reasons of failure at box office and the faint sounds of cash registers. Well, that is true as traditionally Indians have never seen too much beyond cricket and at best, some hockey and tennis. Also, cycling, swimming, skating, chess, gymnastics and athletics were usually not seen in same light as the sports which require teams.

In fact, it is fairly recent (about ten years only) that people are waking up to other western sports like football, basketball, auto racing, horse racing, ice hockey and even, bull fighting (animal lovers may flay me for calling this a sport!!). People are now growing open to understand and enjoying portrayal of ‘unconventional’ or newer sports on the silver screen. Moreover, innovative marketing strategies based on regional population and/or non-promotion of movies as specifically as ‘sports movie’ in spite of central focus on sport in the film are helping people enter cinema halls without pre-conceived notions, and absorb the contents more liberally.

But then after all, most sports tales are all about triumph and saga of struggle that went into the making of that triumph. And almost every human mind is appreciative of this. And there isn’t a better medium as yet than Bollywood to take them to the masses. Of course, in turn the cycle continues to push up the number of people who understand the values of getting into sports and appreciating as well as understanding them. And it is undeniable that Bollywood has moved ahead of mere lip-service to games i.e. of showing actors playing rugby or badminton or swimming or ice-skating during brief sequences in films. As proof, besides wholesome sports-based entertainers like Lagaan and the other films mentioned in the beginning, Tara Rum Pum and Apne too have tried to focus on sports of F1 racing and boxing respectively. Yet-to-be released Goal will see John Abraham and Arshad Warsi pull up their socks on the football ground.

However, production of a memorable full fledged film akin to Hollywood flicks like Rocky or Karate Kid is still a faraway dream in Bollywood, considering there is still some fear among producers to dedicate a whole movie, say to narrate the story of PT Usha or maybe, Dhyaan Chand. This is why until sports and games in general becomes a part of the national ethos; films based on any sport will be viewed as ‘distinct’, ‘different’ and ‘path-breaking’. Speaking of sports becoming a part of national ethos, one may like to pinpoint here that we really lack efficient players even though there are sufficient number of them. The reasons are many – poverty, bias, nepotism, favoritism to other sports, no trainers, facilities and their costs, less media hype, lack of sponsors, etc. Once this changes Bollywood will rise more confidently to showcase India’s prowess in sports to the world unlike today. At the same time, Bollywood must realize that blind attempts to cash in on some momentary trends do not pay off. Look at the fate of Stumped and Hattrick that failed miserably.

As conclusion, as of now, we have to be satisfied with the few, but brilliantly crafted movies like Lagaan and Chak De India. And as for the question of Bollywood and sports going together, we hope it only to grow stronger in coming times.

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P.S. Before you start wondering why is Bend it Like Beckham not mentioned anywhere in the above piece, it surely isn’t a product from the Bollywood stable, is it? :-)