Had the most annoying conversation with a Tata Sky call centre rep. First some background information. Since around two years, I have cut the cord. Although I have a Tata Sky HD box (with recording feature, no less) installed at my home, I no longer watch TV. Whenever relatives visit, I activate it by recharging it for a couple of days. But for the most part of every month, the account stays inactive. And apparently my DTH operator does not like that.

I get a lot of calls from them reminding me of the inactive status and asking me to recharge. This, in spite of me having told them not to bother calling me. Today I got yet another call from Tata Sky. This is how the conversation went.

Rep: Sir, I’m calling from Tata Sky, I want to share some information regarding your account. Right now…

Me (interrupting): Yes, I’m aware that my account is inactive. I’ll recharge my account when I want to. Right now I do not want to.

Rep: Sir, may I know why you do not want to recharge?

Me: Because I do not watch TV.

Now, wait for it. I thought the rep would end the conversation here. I’m not sure what kind of sales playbook has been given to Tata Sky reps, but this is what she asked me instead.

Rep: Sir, but there would be others in your family who would want to watch TV, na?

Part of me wanted to say, “Yes, too bad I don’t ever let them out of the dungeon…” and then let out a Frankensteinish laugh. But I recalled that “all calls to our customer care centre will be recorded for quality and service purpose”, and for that reason, I gave the more politically correct answer,

Me: Whenever they want to watch TV, they’ll let me know. And then I’ll recharge my account.

Never thought that I’d have to prove myself to my DTH operator that I’m not a heartless husband, for the most part.

What’s with the sudden increase in the incidents of shoes being thrown at politicians all around the world? Recently India has witnessed a rapid rise in such incidents, most of the targets being politicians. The latest incident is that of a school teacher throwing his shoe at Congress MP Naveen Jindal. Has it now become the choice of protest for us? Has burning effigies gone out of fashion? Why the hell am I posing so many questions?

What started out as a moment of boldness by Muntadhar al-Zaidi, the journalist who threw his size 10 shoes at George dubya Bush as a farewell gift is all set to metamorphosis into a national phenomenon. And luckily the targets have been well-chosen. Politicians. Now that is a group disliked and hated by members of all communities. And with the general elections coming up, the emotions of the public are likely to be on the edge. And that is why I fear we could have a tipping point very soon. Iraq is already training the next generation of shoe throwers who can aim better and harder. If the politicians don’t get their act right, the day is not far when the audience will let out a shower of dirty muddy shoes on the local neta when he comes out the next time promising bijli, sadak, and pani or asking for votes.

And as usual the MBA part of my mind strategises how I can make money out of it. I’m wondering whether it would be a good idea to buy shares in footwear companies. If the demand for such shoe hurling increases, then companies will have to ramp up production and I will make some serious capital gains. Or should I start a shoe polishing shack near the venues of election rallies. I can encourage people to shine their shoes before they let their anger out on the netas. For 5 Rs more, you can get a premium shine with extra polish to get some extra shine (on the neta‘s face).

However you can count on the cunning politician to convert even this ridicule into a thing of pride. They’re most likely to say, “People have thrown shoes at me and at my opponents too. I respect them for that. But what I am here to proclaim is that I have been hit by your shoes for the most number of times. That shoes shows how much you love me. If you elect me, I promise to open new shoe shops in your town. We can have annual shoe flinging competitions where the best thrower will get a chance to campaign for me in the next election. So I ask you to please vote for me.”  Remember to press the right button. Our election symbol is shoe polish. You provide the shoe, we provide the polish.”

To paraphrase the whole trend, I will borrow a dialogue from Frank Miller’s 300

Common Man – A thousand billion citizens of the Indian Republic descend upon you. Our shoes will blot out the sun
Politician – Then we will fight with your soles (souls?)

or 7 ways to cut corners and trim costs during your marriage

As with any kind of investment, marriages have also taken a hit during the recent financial crisis. Couples are likely to postpone their wedding plans more than ever. Big fat weddings are gradually turning into tiny anorexic affairs. Although I’ve also read conflicting reports about marriages actually being on the rise in some places. Maybe that joke doing the rounds that “the situation is so bad that women are actually marrying for love nowadays” has some truth in it. Whatever be the case, for people willing to walk the plank tie the knot I’ve devised a few tips for saving money during and after the marriage. And yeah, these tips are more suitable for an Indian style wedding.

With apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez for plagiarizing the title, here is the collection of best practices. I do not claim a copyright on these techniques, but just in case you plan to implement any of them, do invite me to your marriage. I promise I won’t hog.

Tips for a recessionary marriage

  1. Invite all your guests using email. It will save a lot on effort and resources while designing, printing and distributing wedding cards. And if you have a friend like me who can use Photoshop, you can probably pay him, or give him a invite him to the wedding as well. This “email shaadi card” trend is already gaining popularity with the IT crowd, what with every one sending one with the post script, “consider this mail as a personal invitation.” What do you want me to do? Print it out and show it at the entrance when I come to your wedding?
  2. If the pundit has agreed to agreed to a unit rate contract, then you can make do with 3-4 pheras. Of course, value for money is paramount in a recession so if you can convince the pundit to go for a fixed price contract, it will work out in your favour. Be sure to extract maximum value by running around the holy fire a couple of times more to strengthen the bond with your better half all the better.
  3. If if doesn’t hurt your ego too much, get rid of the white horse for your baaraat. Hire a mule, get it painted white and jump on it. The mule will be able to handle your weight for a longer duration and you can probably make it go round the wedding hall a couple of times before entering.
  4. Serve limited meals during the reception. Consider a choice between a couple of rotis, or a handful of rice. Prominently display Gandhiji’s famous saying – “Eat to live, do not live to eat” near the food counters. People wanting to eat more can buy an unlimited meal coupon by paying Rs 50 at the gift counter.
  5. Skip the sweets. Lifestyle based diseases are on the rise in the middle and upper class Indian households, according to a recent report by KPMG. Why should you add to the guests’ medical bill by spoiling their sweet tooth?
  6. Go for a combo engagement-wedding. Saves time on rent for the wedding hall and people, food, transportation etc. Even your guests will be impressed by this innovative double-bill feature.
  7. The Indian tourism industry is in tatters. Cancel your flight tickets to that exotic travel destination and book a ticket to that lonely ignored hill station within the country. Must I remind you to go for the Sleeper compartment in the train?

December is the month of marriages in India. Although it is still some time way, if the economy doesn’t stabilize, one may really need to cut back on spending. Like these, they can be many more ways to cut corners and save some more bucks. Maybe you the reader can contribute more of such tips and help a few adventurous couples take the next logical(?) step in their life together. So until the next recessionary cycle, here’s wishing all such souls a happily married life.

I’ve written in the past about unwanted email forwards and how they are more hilarious than irritating. Recently I received an email about ‘Do not open this mail, it contains a dangerous virus.’ The one thing that comes to my mind is that people who actually need such instructions would have already opened such mails and downloaded the virus, and people who do not need such warnings would be well off even without the forwards.

The surprising thing about email forwards is that no one is immune to sending them, even if the person has decades of experience in an IT company. Indeed most of the forwards are sent by techies having nothing better to do than to keep checking their inbox every 10 minutes. If only they would be so proactive in their coding.

The logic used by the people who chain-forward is that it is better to be safe than sorry, or why take chances when it is free of cost. Agreed, that forwarding an email doesn’t cost a dime, but no one keeps track of the time wasted on forwards and checking such emails. But the problem is that people (at least here in India) are gullible about most things on the Internet and most of them fail to do a simple background check before clicking that Forward button and spamming contacts with unwanted emails. Combine that by inserting a religious theme – Lord Ganesha will be furious, or Shani maharaj will do unwanted stuff to you in the future etc. and you have all the elements of a blockbuster chain email. I have yet to see what the situation is in more ‘developed’ countries. Still I’ve seen such chain messages even in YouTube comments so I’m not too confident about the situation being otherwise there too.

I divide email forwards into three categories:-

1) Totally useless/harmful – These are the kind of mails which do not provide any value add whatsoever. Most of them include a scary warning about relatives dying, or god cursing the receiver of the email if he or she doesn’t forward the email to 25 people in the next 4 hours or so.

2) Well intentioned but inaccurate – Out of the three types, these seem to be the largest group of email forwards which make the rounds. They consist of a seemingly useful piece of information which has been twisted, turned, exaggerated to make it seem more dangerous and urgent to act upon. Most of the time, it is all the handiwork of an idle person. These would include the rumours of plastics in Kurkure (read the clarification here), or the Coke-mentos story. Probably the Kurkure email was started by some over enthusiastic parent wanting to dissuade children from eating junk food. One of the most famous series of this category is the ones where Microsoft or Yahoo claims to donate 1$ every time a particular email is forwarded. Agreed, Bill Gates is philantrophic but if he decides to donate his money based on chain emails, his net worth would plummet to zero before you can say sub-prime.

3) Useful forwards – These are the very rare emails which pop up in your inbox once in a blue moon. One such example I saw was the ICE campaign where people were encouraged to store a particular contact number under the universal name ICE (In Case of Emergency). If nothing else, this could prove useful at times. Another types would include email forwards exhorting people to vote etc. But such forwards are very rare and you would consider yourself lucky if your contacts send you forwards of this category more than others.

I’ve purposely excluded spam mails from this classification because they are sent directly by the spammers and to a certain extent you can block them from sending such mails again. Email forwards on the other hand are sent by people in your contact books and there is no foolproof way to block such emails from them without affecting the flow of normal mails (if they send any)

All in all, chain mails are a source of humour for me and a quick test of the sender’s intelligence and common sense. Previously I used to reply to such mails and indirectly let the sender know that all he is doing is clogging other people’s inbox. But I realized that this won’t stop people from sending chain mails anyway, so why try. Now I just smile and delete such emails while praying for the sender to get some more self-control in sending such mails.

PS. Forward this link to 25 people in the next 30 minutes or else the following will happen:-

1) The ghost of the sub-prime crisis will haunt you forever

2) Your gmail account will be deleted as Google’s servers are getting very slow

3) There will be an attack of aliens from outerspace who will get into your brain and eat all your grey matter (if they find any left).

4) North Korea will attack South Korea which will prove to be the precursor to WW III.

Useful links

The following one-liners are inspired from an in-classroom conversation…

People who use humour consistently about any topic are trying to hide some guilt in the past. By using humour, they are trying to lessen their guilt in that topic.
– Psychology 101

People who have a good grasp of psychology are more likely to have been diagnosed by a shrink before.
– Psychology 102 (retort directed at the above statement)

Finding humour in seemingly unimportant daily occurrences is the key to living a stress-free life.
– Spirituality 101

Finding awakenness in a sleepy morning is the key to classroom decorum.
– Classroom Etiquette 101

Sleeping in class with eyes open is winning half the battle; the rest is won by just not caring when you’re actually awake.
– Classroom Etiquette 102

A lot of things have been written about the power of body language. But the funniest instance of it was when I read a very useful application of it in the classroom. While a teacher was giving a lecture in a particular classroom, all the students decided to  respond together. The professor had the habit of moving around in the class. When he went in a particular direction where the classroom heater was located, all the students gave very positive cues as if they were listening attentively. When he stood at the other end, the students looked apparently bored. They continued this conditioning every time he moved around. The story, as it goes, says that by the end of the class, all this collective effort by the students ensured that the professor was literally sitting on the hot radiator!

Here of course, we don’t have heaters in the classroom. So what could be the places we could send the professor? Outside the door? Or under the AC vent? Or in front of the fan? Its too late for me to try this out. So if someone ever tries this, let me know how it turned out.

Before one year – Hum jahaan khade hote hein, day-0 wahin sey shuru hota hai

Before placements – Bhagwan mainey tumse aaj tak kuch nahin maanga…..

During the interview,

Me – Main is resume per haath rakhkar yeh saugandh leta hoon ki jo bhi kahoonga sach kahoonga, aur sach ke siva kuch nahin kahoonga.

Interviewer – I-Bankers ke bayaanat aur sub-prime ko madde nazar rakhtey Taz-e-raat-e-hind, dafaa 302 ke tahet , muzrim ko 5 lakh ki pagaar di jaati hai

Me – Maa, me 5 lakh ka MBA banne wala hu

Mom – Yahi din dekhne ke liye maine tujhe paal pos ke bada kiya tha? Ab hum kisi ko muh dikhaane ke layak nahin rahe

(Prospective) Father in Law – Haraamzaadey! Teri itni himmat! Meri beti par dorey daalta hai! Teri haesiyat he kya hai? Is ghar ke darwaaze, tumhare liye hamesha ke liye band hein

Dost (IIM waley) – Maine tumhe kya samjha, Aur tum kya nikley!

Girl friend
– Mai kahti hoon, Door ho jaa meri nazron sey

Doctor – I’m sorry, hum kuch nahin kar saktey. Ab Sab oopar waale key haath mein hai

Faculty – Bhagwaan pe bharosa rakho. Sab thik ho jaiye ga

It’s official now. Alternative career options are coming back with a big banng. After the recent foray of Jawed Habib into hair-cutting schools, Sanjay B. Jumaani (did I get the number of as right?) is planning to open a numerology school where he plans to teach eeager students the art of adding, twisting and dropping letters from the nnames of celebrities and movies to supposedly turn around their fortunes. He was the ‘engineer’ behind the naming of the hugely popular movie ‘Singh is Kinng’, though it remains to be seeeen whether that was the reason why the movie was actually successful. Like a true businessman he says that currently this market is largely unorganized and thus there is a huge potential for such business.

In my opinion, it was ok when you changed the spellings of names of movies or actors. It’s their personal choice on how they want to spell their name. My English teacher in school used to tell me that you can pronounce proper nouns any way you like. But what gets to me is the uninhibited way they change the spellings of English words to suit their numerological beliefs. Isn’t there any such thing as good grammar? Thus we have names like Singh is Kinng, Heyy Babyy and C Kkompany. Well, Bbollywood cannot be bothered with such petty issues. As long as the film doesn’t have any content, the sstrange sounding name won’t worsen it anyhow.

One more business opportunityy I missssed. Dammnn.