Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Let the games begin

Disclaimer : A phone call I received a few minutes back prompted me to come up with this post. It is a desperate attempt and a sincere request to people to read this - "Don't follow the herd; follow your heart"

It is that time of the year when there's utter chaos everywhere. Class 12 results are out; there's a mad rush among parents. Students are a confused lot - whether to crib over their poor performance, or come to terms with the fact 'you reap what you sow'. Well, atleast that was the case with me. I came to terms with it rather easily.

More often than not, students are indeed forced into engineering. Damn the IT companies, I would say ! Every single year, I hear of atleast a dozen students say engineering was forced upon them. I ask parents only one question - why?

In my own case, I never wanted to be an engineer in the first place. But I wasn't left with much choice. Given that choice, perhaps the world would have got an excellent journo - who knows? Well, I am an old timer now, so chuck me.

Ten minutes back, I receive a call from my old man's friend. His daughter, who has completed her 12th has secured somewhere around 80%. He came straight to the point - which engineering college in Chennai is the best (read - which college collects reasonable capitation, well within my budget, yet having a decent name). I must admit, I was taken aback. I ask him - "Uncle, are you sure your daughter wants to take up engineering? If not, don't force it on her". Sadly, he didn't seem to hear that. His only concern was the college. Lost, I gave him a bunch of names, cursing myself in the process.

And then comes the geek in the family, who topped IIT (damn you man). Comparisons ensue, fights crop up, parents blame children for not studying well - blah blah blah ! Gimme a break, seriously !

Not every child can become an engineer. It is high time parents and the society-at-large get this straight. I sincerely hope they do.

Hoping for a change !! (And will continue to hope)

PS : Saw a post on the office BB, where an 'agent' gets students admitted to top colleges across the state, at 50% of the expected capitation fee. I sincerely hope I come across this guy so that I can strangle him to death

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Adventures of Nylon Nalini & Polyester Padmini

Sometime around January 2027 - Tirupur

The country was in complete chaos. Everything failed, miserably. Industrial production was down to an all-decade low of -23.4%. Economists and industrialists were making a hue and cry, asking the Government to do something. Yet, the newly formed Central Government (the previous ruling party somehow came back to power once again with the same man in the post of Prime Minister) seemed to be in no-man’s land, not knowing what to do, most of the time. Inflation had crossed  the 150% mark. Adding to all this, the percentage of suicidal deaths posed an impressive number, contrary to that of the industry. The middle class, caught in right in the middle of all the turn of events, was left with no choice but to bid goodbye to their lives, with the other option being a slower death due to the Government’s inaction. As for the lower masses, it was a given that no one cared for them. Yet, people found it very difficult to even die, considering that the traditional option of poison was ruled out, as they could not afford it. They were left with only one option – hanging to death. Yet, even that seemed difficult, as most people had sold most of their sarees in exchange for a meager amount of bread.

In the middle of all this, one person was thriving. This person was indeed minting money by seconds. That was our very own Polyester Padmini, the textile baron.  With people left with no option but sarees to end their lives, Padmini came up with a masterstroke to sell polyester sarees at the cheapest rates possible. Although she suffered some losses during the initial few weeks, profits came her way soon. Even sooner, the profits doubled, tripled and kept rising exponentially. When a reporter asked her how she was happy to make money at other people’s death, she simply replied “All’s fair in love and war”. Indeed, Polyester Padmini considered this a war - a war between life and her. And she intended to win. That’s when the blow came.

Around the same time – somewhere in Kerala

The big blue and green board read “N N Enterprises”. Among other things, this firm majorly dealt with nylon products. The firm, at one point of time, was a big time money maker and a success among women. The nylon ropes proved to be very sturdy even in extreme windy conditions, so proved extremely useful to dry clothes. But trouble started when the economy plunged deep down and people simply stopped buying anything, let alone nylon ropes. At one point, the firm hadn’t sold a single rope in a week. They were in deep trouble. Presiding over a meeting of her executives, the Chairman Nylon Nalini (and hence N N Enterprises) was fuming. Try as they might, the firm couldn’t sell their ropes. Nalini wanted an explanation.

“Madam, you see. There is only one reason behind this. you very well know that suicide rates have risen so much. And people are purchasing the polyester sarees from one particular company, as it is very cheap” – her CIO informed her.

“But Menon Sir, what happened to all the ropes people have been using all these years? Surely, those should help people die?” – Nalini queried.

“Well, they tried madam. But our ropes are sturdy to sustain the winds, but not human weight. In fact, three suits have been filed in court by people who attempted suicide using our ropes and ended up crashing on the floor” – the CIO answered.

“What! But that’s ridiculous. Ok, here is what we do. Make our ropes sturdier. Test it on people. Make some sample posters, calling people for auditions. I am sure they would come. Stick these posters in random places, especially in front of saree shops. Once our test results are successful, make new sets of posters informing people about it. Have the prices exactly half of what a saree costs. If needed, we will cut it down further, later on. I cannot go overboard. Now is a time, when we can make the best deal out of nothing” – Nalini came up with a strategy.

“But Madam, wouldn’t that be unethical?” – her CIO was hesitant.

“Mr Menon, don’t teach me my ethics. If you want to stay in your job, do as I say. Else, you are free to walk out. By the way, who owns that one firm dealing with polyester sarees?” – Nalini wanted to know.

“Madam, it is a lady called Padmini. They call her Polyester Padmini” – the CIO replied.

“Padmini. Lady, you are gone. Good luck. Perhaps, I will offer you and your family our ropes free of cost. Least, I can do” – Nalini said to herself.

Her predictions came true. Exactly five weeks after the meeting, N N Enterprises started making a minor profit. Nalini smiled in happiness.

Thus, the rat race between the two ladies – Nylon Nalini and Polyester Padmini had just begun.

The adventure begins

Fifty two weeks earlier, Padmini would never have thought anyone could shatter her empire. She had been a queen without a crown. She believed she possessed the power to end people’s misery, their passion, their love, their life. She thought of herself even above God. Yet, all that started dwindling and came to a grinding halt, all because of one lady – Nalini. Gosh, how Padmini hated that very name. Her saree business slowly started falling and the losses were unimaginable. She was forced to fire most of her staff, simply because she had not much money to pay them. Yet, Padmini was one lady who never gave up easily. And definitely not this time. She vowed revenge. Wondering what she ought to do, Padmini decided to go for a walk. As she passed the market nearby, she happened to see an old black board that read ‘Buy one chocolate; get one free’. That’s when an idea struck her.

Immediately setting to work, Padmini started out on a small scale, investing most of her private savings in her mission. She set a few aides at work and by way of mouth, spread the news around her locality that the prices of her sarees had now been slashed to half of what a nylon rope costed. What’s more, people could get one saree free for every two sarees they purchased. Padmini believed that her deal was sure to grab attention. Sure enough, slowly, as word spread around, people did start buying her sarees. With time, the numbers sure did increase, so did the money. Padmini wondered how much longer this strategy would work, for she expected Nalini to come up with something to counter this strategy. Sure enough, Nalini did.

Adopting the same idea of word-of-mouth, Nalini made an announcement to no one in particular that her N N Enterprises would offer nylon ropes free of cost for the next three months. She also promoted the idea of re-use, urging people to buy a maximum of two ropes per family, and use re-use them in their noble journey to heaven. People switched loyalties once again. Padmini fumed, again, wondering what she ought to do now. This game, though adventurous it was in one way, was proving to be a menace. She had to come up with something smarter.

The adventure was still on

But what both ladies failed to realize was that, a major chunk of the country’s population did not exist anymore.  The Indian Statistical Institute made a stark observation that the country’s population had dwindled to 30% of what it was, around the same time the previous year. Not once in history had such a spectacle occurred. Filmy though it may appear, this was the situation prevalent in the country. The Prime Minister appealed for calm, promising to take care of his people’s needs, no matter what. Yet, the masses had laughed it off as a well attempted joke, one timed aptly before their death. And the deaths continued.

By the time Nalini and Padmini realized that they had not many buyers left, it was too late. Too late to figure out anything new. From uncrowned queens to street dwellers, the fall of the ladies Nalini and Padmini was as dramatic as their rise. Their finances had dwindled very rapidly, with little left for sustenance. To cap it all, the unexpected happened.

The Government, its cheek swollen by the tight slap given by the UN was desperately trying to cover up the mess it had left the country in. All that the Prime Minister cared now was to save the face of his Government, and he decided to do just about anything that would help him hold on to his chair. That’s when he was intimated of the Adventures of Nylon Nalini and Polyester Padmini. Furious with his staff for not having told him earlier of this, the Prime Minister ordered the immediate arrest of the two ladies. Within six hours, they were traced and arrested. A case was filed in the Supreme Court for the atrocities committed by the two ladies, who were accused of mass murder of the Citizens of the Republic. A trial date was fixed for sometime in three months and the two ladies were lodged in the high security Tihar jail. The Supreme Court had advised them to ponder over their acts of crime and try to seek some remorse within themselves, before the law decided on what should happen next.

End of the adventure

Once within jail, both Nalini and Padmini started pondering over what had happened in their lives over the past few years. Both of them had seen the best in life, with money easily coming their way, to the worst in life, living the life of a pauper. Both had succeeded, and both had failed. Each of them had been the reason behind the other’s fall, and the subsequent rise. Indeed, their lives had been intertwined so much that one had had a direct impact on the other’s life, good and bad. Now, even in prison, they were assigned cells opposite to one another. Although they could see one another from their cells, they seldom did. Yet, around a month and a half after their prison life, one fine evening, both felt the urge to talk to the other. Both spoke the exact same words – “I am sorry”.

The next day, the emergency alarm at the Tihar jail went off loudly around 5:30 AM in the morning. Two ladies had been found hanging within their solitary cells, which were opposite one another. The lady in cell A103 had a polyester saree around her neck. The one in the opposite cell A104 had a nylon rope around her neck. The bodies were immediately removed from the cells and sent for post mortem. The final report of the two ladies read thus:

Nylon Nalini – A103 – death by hanging using a polyester saree
Polyester Padmini – A104 – death by hanging using a nylon rope

Their cases were closed.