Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Losing Sight

"What you've lost sight of is what you are, and what you are is what you hate. You're the 10-time WWE Champion! You're the man! You, like the Red Sox, like Boston, are no longer the underdog! You're a dynasty. You are what you hate. You have become the New York Yankees!" - C M Punk to John Cena. 

In June 2011, the WWE pulled off one of the greatest storylines ever told on television with their famous "Summer of Punk", a fascinating angle which had viewers excited like never before. On one hand you had C M Punk, the favourite of knowledgeable wrestling fans, a man who made it big in the little leagues and rose up the ranks the hard way after paying his dues over the years. This thing was he didn’t fit into the big muscular prototype that the company wanted and as a result, in the eyes of the system, he always played second fiddle to the reigning champion, and this perceived lack of respect was something that fuelled his bitterness. 

And then you had the champion John Cena. The chosen one. The face of the company and hero to millions of kids across the world. He was the guy who always, always overcame the odds and yet ironically his success lay in people watching him struggle to overcome adversity. The storyline had many more layers (see the excellent video below) which made even the casual fan sit up and take notice but in a feud marked by epic promos (wrestling parlance for speeches), massive repercussions and surprisingly little deep rooted hatred, the above lines from C M Punk stood out. 


To a non-wrestling fan, it was arguably the equivalent of Ricky Ponting telling Sachin Tendulkar to wake up and smell the reality that the latter was the best batsman in cricket history. Of Evander Holyfield telling the same thing to ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson when it came to the boxing ring. Sachin and Tyson were never the underdogs even if they (and the fans) liked to believe that they were fighting the odds. But is it just sports persons or celebrities that lose sight of what they become? In the real world, aren’t we like them in many respects? 

6 years ago when I first set foot in the corporate world, I noticed that a lot of our mid and upper management were glued to their Blackberry phones when they weren’t working on their laptops. They would often not even look at a person while talking to them but would instead be typing away furiously on their little phones. I for one, found this to be pretty rude and have often cut down on what I intended to say to someone senior if they were replying to an email on their phone at the same time. At that time I used to wonder how the world would change if they didn’t reply to that email at that very moment and how much better it would have been if they instead paid attention to the newbie talking to them. 

Things are different now. My friends and I have worked our way up the ladder and the heavy burden of the workload we bear means that most of us have our office email accounts configured on our phones. Thus we invariably check for new emails while having lunch or during a movie break or (and this is the worst one) the moment we wake up in the morning. We will never end up cold shouldering the person talking to us in our quest to save the company but we certainly are getting close to turning into what we thought we would never ever become. 

I look outside the corporate world and all I see are more real life examples. I know of so many people who used to be enthusiastic regulars on the Sunday morning biking scene but now they have completely disappeared off the face of the earth. Well it’s been forever since I went for a nice ride as well so it might sound like the pot calling the kettle black (double standards much?). But at least I am still active on the online forums whereas marriage and the responsibilities of parenthood have meant that my only chance of meeting these guys is to accidentally bump into them on the mean streets of Bangalore. These were the very same guys who used to scoff at the idea of settling down and over numerous cups of tea used to talk passionately about how biking was their passage to freedom and how the few hours on two wheels was their escape from the monotony and drudgery of life. 

Take the case of the guy in Delhi who used to get so frustrated by the lack of patience and common sense displayed by other motorists and used to frequently wish aloud that things were better. Unsurprisingly he in turn started behaving just like the very same people he used to look down on after driving in our national capital over the next few months. The list of examples runs long and I can honestly say I am in that line as well. 

In the real world, you and I might be pretty similar to each other and the sports persons we look up to. There is one difference between John Cena and some of us, myself included, though. I haven’t lost sight of what I am. Have you? 

Monday, March 10, 2014

The great Indian Music Concert Experience

Regular readers will know that I have always been a bit of a music buff and have thoroughly enjoyed the  concerts that I have had the fortune of attending over the past few years. So when I heard that the very talented screenwriter, director, actor, producer, lyricist, television host and singer (phew, that's quite the resume!) Farhan Akhtar had a concert in Bangalore, I wasted no time in reaching out to all and sundry to see if they wanted to join me for the event at one of India's premier B schools. 

As luck would have it, none of my friends were able to make it for the show but I decided to go alone as I am a big fan of his music and was on a music performance attending spree. I didn’t realize it at that time but flying solo also meant that I had the added advantage of being able to observe the rest of the audience (without the distraction of my charming / talkative friends) that fell into the familiar pattern that I was used to seeing at similar concerts. So what people can you expect to find if you attend a concert in India, you ask?

 1. The Party Poopers 
There are always a few such groups that want to prove that they don’t need to attend a concert to have a good time (hey, I haven’t understood it either…). They are usually the college going people who think that starting a random chant in between songs is cool or that cracking lame jokes loudly, much to the chagrin of everyone else, makes them the most happening people around. I would recommend you maintain more than an arm's length distance.

2. The Section Jumpers 
There are always a whole lot of people who think that because they have paid for entry into a particular section, they are entitled to jump the fence into the more expensive (and poorly cordoned off) areas to move closer to the stage. Those who saw it will never forget the Nehru Cup international football match in Cochin where people kept jumping sections until they were all crowded on the boundary lines of the pitch and did not give the players room to kick the ball in for corners. 

3. The Crazy Dancers  
OK, so you find crazy dancers everywhere but something makes people go bonkers at concerts. A top Indian DJ was playing before Farhan came on stage (seriously, who ever heard of a DJ spinning tracks before a rock concert?!) and the crowd went bananas as they pulled off crazy dance moves that would put a person having a fit to shame. Maybe it’s the anonymity that a starry sky offers you. Maybe they were just crazy. Who knows? 

4. The What The Hell Am I Doing Here People 
I often feel bad for this section of the audience. You have elderly folk who just stand there wondering how they can locate a seat cause their legs hurt. You have young mothers wondering how they let their husbands talk them into attending a rock concert that has left their kid bawling continuously. You have people who haven’t heard a single song from the artist but have been dragged to the event by their friends who were keen on making it there and could lip sync to every single track. All of them sport the eyes wide open and spaced out look though. 

5. The I’m No Waiting In Line-ers  
Despite most people reaching much before the supposed start time of 18:00, the organizers finally opened the gates at around 19:30. The chart below shows you what actually happens when Indians have to wait in line along with the time stamps. The green dots represent the people who came on time and were in line along with me. The purple dots are those who came in later and crept into the line and created offshoots of the four queues. The grey dots are those who were fashionably late and started taking up any empty spot they could take at the end of the queues by around 19:00. After the gates opened, it was mayhem and it's a miracle that I made it through the gates unscathed. Oh and I’m the red dot who moved forward 20 feet in an hour and forty minutes!

Friday, January 03, 2014

The Zero Hero

A country of 1.2 billion people certainly needs its heroes. The frustrated housewife in Trivandrum who was sick and tired of the road blockade by the opposition party workers that had laid siege to the Chief Minister's residence and let loose a verbal volley that had the party workers reeling and hiding behind our men in khaki and forced them to open the road for movement of the common man. An act that resulted in a leading industrialist awarding her Rs 5,00,000 as a reward but also made her the voice of the voiceless. The former Joint Commissioner from the Revenue Services who fought for the Right to Information Act, the massive underdog who took on the incumbent Chief Minister in Delhi and defeated her by a margin of over 25 thousand votes. An act that resulted in him becoming the brightest ray of hope in a country filled with cynicism and accustomed to decades of corruption, nepotism and abuse of power by those we elect. The man who most fans regard as the greatest cricketer of all time. But did his exploits off the field invite the admiration that his cricket career did? 

They certainly come in all shapes and sizes

Outside of his much publicized automotive misadventure, there are stories that never make it to the front pages of our national media and thus leave us with untainted and consequentially deluded perceptions of our icon. Few people know the story of how around a decade or so ago, the cricketer wanted to get one of his cars fitted with a top notch sound system and when the installer returned the car, the missus calmly told them that he should be proud that he was getting the opportunity to work for one of cricket's greatest batsmen and that he should not expect to be paid. After saying that he needed to be paid for the cost of the components and that he could give a discount on the installation charges he was also told his business would boom because he could boast about the fact that he had worked on the car of our nation's greatest sports star. Ticked off, the installer asked for the keys to the car so that he could remove the speakers if he was not going to get paid by the wife of our cricketer in question which is when she finally caved in and decided to pay up. 

After his much publicized retirement, the cricket maestro decided to apply for membership to a prestigious club next to his large bungalow in Bombay and despite the massive waiting period for people trying to become members (think small multiples of 10 years for an idea of how long) the club decided to go ahead and allow him to jump to the head of the line. As per their policy they sent him a letter informing him of the acceptance of his application and asked him to proceed with the payment of the membership fee (think small multiples of Rs 10 lacs / 1 million for an idea of how much) which is when our star batsman replies back to them stating that he has never paid for a club membership in his life and he being who he is was of the opinion that the club should waive off the joining fee. The elected representatives of the club then proceeded to unanimously cancel his application (much to my delight) and told him to take a hike. 

This ladies and gentlemen, is a man who by virtue of being the first really big name in Indian cricket (no offence to those greats who preceded him), helped changed the rules of sponsorship and ensured that sportspersons make a pretty penny from endorsements. This is the man who has inspired countless youngsters over the last few decades with his performances on the cricketing field. As part of the fabulous four of Indian batting, he was the hero the nation wanted. He was the hero the nation needed. Outside of the cricketing grounds and away from the spotlight, it’s a shame that he probably isn’t the hero that we thought he was.