Friday, July 11, 2008

Where the hell is Matt were my ears?

I can't thank Bongo enough. He first brought it to my notice, via The NY Times, and Sepia Mutiny, that the video which had blown my mind away on first watch about ten days ago, and by now has been viewed five million times already, had music set on lyrics from Rabindranath tagore's poem from Gitanjali. Set to haunting music by Gary Schyman, and sung with rare verve by Palbasha Siddique, a Bangladeshi teenager out of Minnesota. Like the NY Times article says,

In many ways “Dancing” is an almost perfect piece of Internet art: it’s short, pleasingly weird and so minimal in its content that it’s open to a multitude of interpretations. It could be a little commercial for one-world feel-goodism. It could be an allegory of American foreign policy: a bumptious foreigner turning up all over the world and answering just to his own inner music. Or it could be about nothing at all — just a guy dancing.However you interpret it, you can’t watch “Dancing” for very long without feeling a little happier.

I was so happy watching the video I couldn't, or didn't bother about lyrics at all. At first watch, it sounded like something in in an obscure language, maybe Maori. The music was appropriate. I even showed it to two Bengali friends last Sunday morning, over beer. They had the same reaction. Nobody caught the words.

Bongo was curious about what the poem actually was, so I thought about looking a little more and found it was from Gitanjali. Utube has even released a version of the music with subtitles here. The number is selling wildly on Amazon too. The lyrics I will Ctrl-C Ctrl-V from here for fellow Bengalis who might be too lazy to read subtitles.

Bhulbona ar shohojete
Shei praan e mon uthbe mete
Mrittu majhe dhaka ache
je ontohin praan

Bojre tomar baje bashi
She ki shohoj gaan
Shei shurete jagbo ami

Shei jhor jeno shoi anonde
Chittobinar taare
Shotto-shundu dosh digonto
Nachao je jhonkare!

Bojre tomar baje bashi
She ki shohoj gaan
Shei shurete jagbo ami
She ki shohoj gaan.

Two things. I'm as true red a Bong as they come, though I don't readily recall that poem. Second, as many Bongs would agree, the work that got Tagore his Nobel was definitely not his best. It was like giving the Coen Brothers the Best Picture Oscar for No Country, and not for Fargo or Oh Brother, where art thou?

Wifey, of course, effortlessly took the cake. Last weekend I once went running some errands while the video was playing on the pc. She was pottering about the house and not watching. She now says she caught the words right then and it sounded vaguely like Rabindranath. I'm like, stop pheko-ing, mama!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My happening lifestyle

Delivered as an insert with the morning paper. Captivating. As adverts go, one hell of a job dun.

In other news, the perfect bloody Mary still proving to be elusive. Do I have a future in food photography? Think not.

With the annual liquor license renewal drama in effect in these parts, practically any kind of booze is elusive in the neighborhood. It's like the tramp said "who do you have to f*** to get a quart of Vodka around here?" We try and get by. The booze shops remain closed. A lacky hangs out nearby. You slow down and peer. The exchange takes place fifty yards away near some shrubberies. So much for law enforcement.

I've devised a drink, which, for some reason I call The Hotshot Russian :

2 1/2 oz Vodka
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
rock salt/kosher salt to taste
1 tsp tabasco
Black pepper powder (optional)

Stirred with lots of ice. Garnished with black olives. We like.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Who will do the work?

I love work. It fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. The idea of getting rid of it nearly breaks my heart.
-Stephen leacock

To : ; cc

This is to bring to your notice the following :

1. I have a savings account at your ****** ***** City Branch; A/c no. ###########
2. Sometime during 2005, I had applied for and obtained internet banking facility for my account.
3. After a few months, during which I had logged on to my account infrequently on a few occasions, the username/ password stopped working. I had informed my Local Branch.
4. After repeated complaints regarding the above, the Local Branch issued me a fresh internet banking kit ( KIT NO. ##########, packet no.#####, circle code .##, Serial no. ##) in April 2008.
I was told the facility will be activated in 48 hours and I will be able to log on.
5. When, however, I was not able to log on even after a week, I contacted the Branch, upon which I was asked to wait a few days more.
6. The situation remaining the same, I went to them again and this time I was assured an e-mail will be sent to the Central Office, Mumbai where these things are handled, and my problem will be solved.
Nothing happened. Another month passed.
7. On the 26th of June, 2008, at my insistence, a reminder mail was sent.
8. As on date, there's still been no action. Today I have spoken to the concerned officer at the Branch, who has promised to talk to Mumbai Office on the phone and get the issue resolved. However, since his assurances didn't account for much in the past, I'm not too optimistic.

I request you to kindly take necessary action on the matter and put an end to my inconvenience.

Needs no elaboration. Another one in my endless series of travails and tribulations. Yes, I'm aware that lately I've been given to writing progressively boring posts. But dear reader, such is my life. If you've read this far, please go on. Might get a tad interesting at the end.

I am an old SBI faithful. I have eaten their salt, so to speak. My father used to work there till the day he retired. That association, and some inertia made me keep my salary account with them till this day. But they've let me down. Badly, and on numerous occasions. I'll give another example. The Branch I bank at is the biggest in the district. It's become what they call a core-banking branch for some time now. Last month, I needed to send a little money to my father's account in Kolkata. Since I still can't e-bank, I had to physically go to my bank. I was asked to fill a slip and drop a check in the box. They said all fund transfers are electronic now, and the money should be there in minutes. Three days and many phone calls to dad later, I went back to ask why it was not. There, I mean. By the time I'd raised a small ruckus so a manager was called in, a peon rummaged through a stack of papers at the back of somebody's desk and came back with my check and slip. It was revealed that the man who does the electronic transfer jobs was on leave for the last few days. Who will do his work? Management was still trying to work it out. In the mean time, individual cases were being processed on the merit of nuisance value. Like mine eventually was.

I believe the issue here is generic as opposed to an isolated example of inefficiency. This is sucking reality as we see it everyday in the big Indian Corporations. Most specifically PSUs. I speak from first hand experience since I work in a Navaratna. Organizations used to move at a leisurely pace for decades have been forced onto the technology expressway in the global marketplace. They now have one-third the manpower. Their best people have jumped ships and more are about to go. Like I was saying, who will do the work? This is the question staring many in the face. The Goliaths of Indian Industry are reeling under its onslaught. They are facing all the circus associated with retrofitting technology in old infrastructure. They are downsizing, they're rightsizing. They are outsourcing. Only, the fact on the ground is different from these gobbledygook. By design these organizations had too many functions and too much work to be done as compared to, say, a new age technology or retail company, where the process is designed to be smooth and hassle-free. The transition from this, to that, is slow, and fraught with excruciating pain.

I could go on and on, but I thought I heard snoring sounds. One last scrap of bakwas, okay? ok.

When Mr. Kumar, the concerned officer at SBI was about to check when had he sent the earlier mail re my e-banking, I peered into his screen. I saw he had used up about 99.98% of his mailbox (a princely 5mb) on the SBImail account he was using. This was on the SBI internal server. I asked him how come his bank gave only 5 mb to its employees while free mail service providers today provide anybody close to 3gb and still counting? In reply, he gave me a sad smile. He needed to delete some old mail in order to clear up space to send mine. He seemed at a loss for which ones to delete, which I thought was unusual (since it was his own mail, no?) He could not find the earlier mail and muttered that somebody else must have deleted it. I asked, "But how would somebody else log on to your mailbox?"

The penny dropped. The 5 mb mailbox was not his personal one. It was meant for the whole Branch. This, the biggest in the district, remember?

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Tao of Ginseng

How does one receive free bars of soap, sachets of shampoo, conditioner, face wash, or fairness potions (eek, the horror!) with one's fortnightly? Not with ecstatic joy, I presume, but pleasant surprise, anyone? Thank you. I guessed as much.

Imagine now, the WTF expression on the countenance of hundreds of post-teens, freshmen and sophomores of Bengal one fine day, when the paper boy delivered their favorite vernacular spread packed with a punch. Two free caps of Revital in a sample pack.

Now, Revital in India is an OTC drug. While Ranbaxy positions it as a daily food supplement that also contains ginseng, which will help you keep sharp and active throughout the day, this med info site from Moldova says it is indicated for assorted dermatological problems. Whatever the fug it is used for, there is an underlying implication that it's got Ginseng and thus, mythical age-defying aphrodisiac properties. It may not be much in this day and age when anybody with a mail ID meets about five peddlers of cheap Viagra in the course of one working day. But old timers will still remember the early eighties when these ginseng concoctions had flooded the Indian market. Whereas these were mostly advertised with scant subtlety and a picture of coital bliss, one brand, 30-plus, had a stand-apart visual of an extremely fit Jeetendra (then 50 plus) enjoying life as a mature (read over-the-hill) gent with Simple Kapadia as arm-candy. The advert had sort of shaped our outlook towards Ginseng products, through the years. That these were meant for old foggies who otherwise can't, ahem...stand up and deliver.

Thus it came as a shock when Ananda Publishers started distributing free samples of Revital with their recent issue of Unish Kuri, a magazine targeted at teenagers and young adults. Frankly, as one Doc friend puts it, the gimmick helps promote none of the two brands. Like a fish needs a bicycle, he said. (Or, is it? Do fishes need bicycles too?)

When an editor of said magazine was contacted, she didn't seem too enthusiastic about the promotion idea herself, saying it was part of a strategic block deal between Ranbaxy and ABP. She encouraged readers' reaction to the issue. Apparently, ABP is also distributing the same sample packs with Desh, their flagship literary mag, and Anandalok, a hugely popular film fortnightly in Bengali. They have their rationale in perfect order. Since the product is a harmless dietary supplement suitable for all adults, there's no reason it should be R-rated.

In their quest to deliver to the younger populace a taste of the sharp, energetic and active life, ABP has not yet extended the offer to Anadamela. We're waiting.