Saturday, August 1, 2009

Random Thoughts:

Saturday, August 1, 2009: Is MJ really dead?

I woke up in the morning and switched on the radio and what do I hear, Micheal Jackson’s song, Billie Jean. MJ died in June end and ever since then each day his songs are played at least 10 times on the radio channels. All RJs and hosts describe him as the greatest music icon ever etc etc. I wish to ask these RJs if he really was great why his songs were not played to this extent earlier on when he was alive. I wonder if for listeners he has really died. His songs will keep playing on and on. He will be alive for us forever. So for whom has he really died? For the marketers; for the event managers; for his close family and friends who knew him as MJ, the person.

I have enjoyed MJ music and have grown up with it. My first music cassette was a MJ thriller and I was very sad at the tragic end he met. However this overdose of his songs and his appreciation is getting a bit too much to handle.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009: 3 hours of Rain bring the city to standstill.

As I came out in the balcony with my cup of tea and took a look at the morning paper, the headline said “69mm of rain brings the city to standstill”. The news all over told about people’s horror stories of the night gone by. I sat down and wondered I was so happy on Monday evening when it rained and so were many others. So many people had been cribbing about the heat and humidity and rain had brought cheer to all of us. However I realized that all those who were stuck in hour long jams, a night before would rather handle the heat than the rains. Neglect of the administration deprived these people from enjoying the beautiful rainy season. At least these people will not wish that it rains again. The capital city of a “to be powerful nation”, can’t sustain 3 hours of rain. So many people have written about it. The news channels and their anchors have on air gone and bashed all officials; people are talking about the preparedness for common wealth games et al. I have a slightly different view or maybe another view. In December 2008, Sheila dixit won the elections with a sweeping majority because it was perceived that she and her administration is working for the people and its city. I need to ask Ms Dixit, what we will do of the flyovers, if you can’t give us stable roads? If the roads can’t hold on to 2 hours of rain, if the drains are all blocked and the city floods, if the construction work never seems to be concluded in a fair amount of time, what good will the flyovers, expressways and BRT corridors be for the people who live here. The officials were all passing the buck but I feel as the person responsible for the city, Ms. Dixit should stand up and take the responsibility for this debacle. We deserve a better city.

We want to be able to walk on the streets and enjoy the rains and not be stuck in a jam for 5 hours..

Tuesday, July 21, 2009:
Landmark Forum- Shameless Selling

I had a chance to attend a 3 hour session of Landmark Forum on
Tuesday, 21st July, 2009. What an evening it was. It left me so angry and exhausted that, I could have actually done something to someone there.

To give a background Landmark is an organization which trains and works towards imparting positive strokes to the lives of people. Very noble thought and much needed in these times of stress, competition, heart burn etc. Through this session their idea was to introduce people to landmark’s way of imparting the training, the thought process and a taste of impact it had on people who went through it. Again a very noble idea, for why would anyone register for their course till they know what it has for them.

So now you would wonder what went wrong. Well what Landmark did was, 45 mins into the programme, the trainer actually started selling the programme to the guests that were sitting and forgot about the participants who had come for their concluding session. Not only that, 10-12 people came in front and set up desks, for registration. Credit card machines were there and all arrangements were done to just take the initial money from you. They thought that 45 mins of gyan and some stories (which to my mind were planted) would be enough for people to come over and give them the registration money. Those who did not leap forward to register then became the focus of the volunteers. These volunteers went to various groups of people and subtly asked them if they were registering. If the answer was no, they would stick to them to tell them how it was necessary and what one is missing out by not registering. That was not all, when the session resumed, it was not for some more gyan, but to be further divided into groups on the basis of whether one has registered or not. We were taken to a class room and there were as many volunteers in a room as there were guests. The speaker again a volunteer, spoke about how landmark helped him and what landmark focuses on. Ironically, though Landmark proposed that everything is all about listening and communicating but the speaker himself refused to listen to anyone who appeared not convinced about landmark. At the end each volunteer was sent to each guest, so that registration would be facilitated. They were sure that now people would register. To their surprise there still were few who didn’t and what do the great Landmark volunteers do… They play on the psychology of the person, the person is induced with guilt that he is doing wrong by not registering, that this is an opportunity lost etc etc. The whole experience was so suffocating. I could have got an asthma attack if I had been forced to sit there for 10 more mins.

I have never seen more shameless attempt at marketing and selling of a behavioral training programme. They had the cheek to work on two different planes. On one hand they were helping people know what they don’t know and thus enabling them to transform their lives and on the other hand they themselves were not listening, breathing down the person’s neck to register, throwing guilt and other such emotions on the person and in all not giving any space to the person to decide. Organizational greed can make you do anything. I was aghast at all that happened that evening. I was more surprised that so many people fell for their tactics.

For me I was happy I stood my ground and I did not allow my mind to cave into their pressure tricks.

Shubhra, August 1, 2009

Monday, May 11, 2009

Letter to L K Advani: Voice of your vote bank

Dear Advaniji,

I am a young and independent woman working for a large Media House, in the corporate function. I am 36years old and have been exercising my right to vote since 1996.

To start with let me tell you I have so far always voted for BJP and so you could take this letter as the voice of your own vote bank.

I must give you the background. My family had largely BJP supporters and I grew up being influenced by them. However as I grew up in the 90s I made my own opinions and I believed that I must vote for BJP whenever I get the chance to exercise my right. To be honest, my reasons were more out of seeking an alternate to congress. My dislike for congress was more than my like for any other party. I was an ardent fan of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and influenced by his leadership I was convinced that I voted for the right people.

In 2004 when your party lost, I was heart broken. I remember being so much at unease the day the results were announced. I was depressed that I will never have Bajpayeeji as my PM. Moreover the thought that Sonia Gandhi could be my new PM was very disturbing. I was ashamed to see the congress party and all its veterans begging her to be the PM. I was relieved to see that finally it was Dr. Manmohan Singh who was to be the PM. I had huge respect for the man and I feel that he was unnecessarily made the pawn in this game of which he hardly knew the rules.

However my greater disappointment was with the way BJP handled its defeat. I watched closely whatever happened in these 5 years with you as leader of opposition. Every time BJP was in the news for all the wrong reasons my heart sank. 5 years went past and the elections were announced. I looked forward to casting my vote again but more than that I wanted to see what is it that you as my leader and BJP as my party were going to offer in the coming 5 years for my valuable vote. I was in for a surprise and a huge one.

Advanji, I voted on 7th May and let me tell you for you, but for the 1st time I was ashamed to tell people I voted for BJP. In 1999 and in 2004 I knew so many of my friends, family and the circle in which I move, who voted for you and your party. This year majority of them have voted for Congress.

Respected sir, can you guess why people have moved away from you and why I felt ashamed? There are two primary reasons.

One, people have changed and their thinking has changed from 1996/1999 to now. It is not so much as Hinduism and the mandir about which people are bothered. Those were issues which charged us then, right or wrong they did but not any more. In these 10 years we have seen so much of communalism, riots, terrorist attacks that now we realize it is all politics of parties, of nations etc and nothing to do with religion or common people like us. The sad part is that it’s the common man who suffers in all these issues.

Two, to my mind people largely voted for BJP not so much because of the Hinduism but for being an alternative to Congress. However we do not want a party to do moral policing, to tell us right or wrong or to tell us what our culture is and what it is not. We imbibe these from our family values and that’s a personal domain. We do not want to represent a party whose chief minister has a major role in one of the worst communal riots. We do not want to represent a party whose workers burn, priests and nuns alive and destroy the places of worship. Hindu religion does not teach us to be intolerant of other practices. While all this was happening, you as the leader never really opposed these acts thereby alienating many others. The last straw in the hat was the campaign and remarks of Varun Gandhi and Prem. While BJP may have said politically correct things to media to appease the secular forces, it did not do what was the thing to do, alienate itself from such people.

Earlier anyone voting for BJP was seen as someone wanting to give a new party a chance, someone wanting a change from congress, today its seen as a person supporting communalism. Sir, India is inherently a secular country and alienating the common man from the other on the basis of religion may not always work.

Advanji, people do not want to know if you will build the temple or not if voted to power. They do not want to know what you will do with Afzal or if you will bring POTA back. It really does not affect our tomorrow. We have voted for you for our next 5 years.

We want to know the following:

-How are you going to ensure a better and a more coordinated security system, where the intelligence, state forces and central forces work together so that terrorist attacks do not happen? Whether you have a POTA or not, the judicial system is such that a person caught will be brought to justice if at all after donkey’s years. We want a government who does not allow these security lapses to happen at all.

-Your campaign said, by your effective policies you will ensure that there is job security for the young. We want to know what exactly these policies are. How in times of recession will you ensure that the market will pick again and young people are not rendered homeless and jobless?

-What your policies are about global warming and climate change. These are the things that affect the future generations.

-How are you going to make sure that the in the process of development, the rural poor do not get the short end of the stick.

-How are we going to save our resources or explore alternative means of energy and other resources?

-How can we revamp our education and health system?

-How can we weed out corruption from our lives?

Sir, these may sound to you as ideal list, but believe me people are concerned about these aspects. When we choose our leaders we expect them to show us the way in these critical areas. What happens instead is Varun Gandhi, Gujrat, Karnatka church burning, walk outs from the parliament etc.

I really do not know what will happen on 16th May. In case you come to power I will be happy that Congress is not there. This letter could then be considered by you as the expectations of the people from the new government. In case you do not come to power, you could take it as the feedback for what to pitch for in next election.

I voted for the BJP this time but I saw a lot of your voters shifting gear to the other side. If your party does not really understand what we people want than I am not sure if I can vote for you next time. I have to see which of the two will be the deciding factor for me when I vote next time; my dislike for congress or my shame for being associated with a largely communal party.

I wish I could talk to you or meet you in person someday but till then I wish you good luck, good health and hope that this letter reaches you.


Shubhra Chaturvedi

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Trying Times

I have been in Media all through. Started with niche area and then joined a main stream media organization, but its only in last 1 year or so that I have actually understood what this profession is all about. Being an HR person, earlier I use to treat all people alike and for me they were employees… but now I can see a difference, they are foremost journalist and then an employee…

Being in HR I have also got a chance to interact and observe all kinds of people and from all genre. The veterans and the trainees on one side, those who have worked hard and made their name and place in the new media on the other side and also those who couldn’t care less about anything…

Therefore today I pen down what I feel about today’s time and manner. I feel that the time that one is exposed to today is the most difficult for anyone in this field. This time is the real test of a person’s desire, ambition, ethics and all those values that brought him or her into this field. The men will be separated from the boys… whose way it is going to be is to be seen then…

Let me give some background. Today, TV is a medium largely for entertainment. Therefore news on TV has also become a means of entertainment and it is viewed mostly for that. There seem to be very few takers for serious news. This has been revealed by the various viewer ship analysis done by our research team and also from various articles published in leading national dailies. The result is that the serious journalist gets very very frustrated. He/she does a good story but the same is not watched by masses and a freak entertainment program relating to bollywood gets the desired numbers… Slowly the motivation levels start going down. These are people who have contacts, who wish to take up issues, which are socially and politically relevant. They work on those lines and at the end of the day realize that these issue no longer matter to the public. People are not bothered. This is the hard reality and this is what all people in this profession are facing…

As per my observations there are three categories of people… One the veterans who are now channel heads, editors and hold responsible positions in media houses and take the decision of what will go on air or get published. The second category is those people who are the middle generation. These people got into this field inspired by our first category of people, who have seen the boom in media, who have seen the actual transition and who have through hard work made a name for themselves. The third and the last category of people are fresher, trainees, who have studied this medium after the boom, who decided to get into this, not out of any inspiration or any social cause but because they think it is glamorous because glamour is all that they have seen on TV, in print on net etc…

So what is it that makes times difficult for the journalist or those associated with these journalist. So what does this changed scenario do to the various kinds of people.The veterans are faced with anguish, confusion and sometimes inability to take a correct decision. They are the ones who need adapting the most. They are the ones who take decisions and their decisions weigh on those below them… Though they may often wonder what is this that they are into but they are the ones who have the maturity to understand that this is the way ahead… To my mind, those in the business may often be facing pangs of frustration and my heart goes out to them because they can’t even complain… to whom will they go and complain anyway… they are the leaders…

Then comes the second category. These people are faced with a turmoil day in day out… they have hope that times will change. Serious news business will be back again. They have invested the former years of their career in learning the ways of journalism. The veterans from print and electronic media have been their mentors. To now suddenly accept that what they believed was journalism is not what people want to see or read, their entire existence seems to be in a state of confusion. They curse their seniors, the management, the media houses, they change jobs in the hope that the new place would do things differently and they still try to attempt stories, which are socially and politically relevant. When they succeed in their attempt, they get a ray of hope that things are not all that bad… The good thing is that they never give up. They fight day in and day out. They are carving out a path for the next generation, they still keep their networks alive, and they still break a story with the same passion… All they find difficult to do is to accept that the old days are gone forever.

However the saddest state of affairs is of the third category, the new entrants. Their foundation is the new age journalism, the world of glamour, hype and entertainment. Journalism that is shallow and that is based on quantity than quality. They are not to be blamed. This is all they can see all around them. This is what they learn, they practice and this is what they imbibe. In terms of work, they are the most productive and the happiest lot. There are no confusions in their mind and no turmoil. They never question the ethics of a story. They work on it because they have been taught that the people want to view/read these kinds of stories. Why would they then be in sad state of affairs? The reason is simple. They do not know and will never know what true journalism is all about. (If we were to believe that times ahead will remain like these). They have not worked as closely with the leaders and veterans of yesteryears. They have not seen the power of pen which can change the country opinion or which can dismantle governments. They have heard of these things, as those were the days… This does not imply in anyway that these people are not working or are a failure. In the times when they have joined the profession they are contributing in which ever way they can. However their shelf life will be shorter. People may not remember the journo of today after a couple of years. The monetary boom in the industry has got into the heads of most of the people and therefore the time most people are willing to invest in learning and establishing themselves has drastically come down. In effect a very sad state of affairs for this profession.

Whether the times prevalent are good or bad, are in the interest of this industry, this profession or not, we will have to wait and see. Which one of the three category (similar to three generations) of professionals will be the happier lot will also have to be seen. There is a lot to be seen and experienced in this industry. I have spent endless hours talking to people from all the three categories of people and I can be one with their anguish, their confusion and their dreams and their hopes. I am sure even if professionally I don’t remain in this industry, I will continue to be part of that society which craves for decent and relevant news. News we can use. Therefore either as an HR professional or as a viewer/reader, I will continue to track the changing mood of this industry. As of today I know for sure the mood is grim and the times are trying.

Shubhra Chaturvedi

Just a passing thought...

Last night it was very cold and slightly foggy. It must have been about 11.30 pm or so and I was on my way back from office. On the signal near my house, I saw a beggar. I always see him. A frail old guy, grey, almost white hair, wearing glasses that were thick and one could hardly see what his eyes were like. He was clad in a light green dhoti or what we in UP call angocha, and a kurta which had almost gone black with all the smoke from the vehicles. He had an aluminum bowl in his hand and he was begging. Shivering and shaking, going from one car to another. He was bare feet and upto his thighs his legs were all bare.

All the cars waiting had their windows up, mostly must have had their heaters on and hardly bothered about him. Some didn't even notice him, their attention was focused on the signal, waiting for it to turn green.

I was farther off in my car, windows down, enjoying the feel of the winter and watching this old beggar go from one car to another... Before he came to me the signal turned green and I too like others sped away.This beggar however left me unsettled and triggered some questions:

  • What would I have done if he had come to me?
  • I generally don't give money to beggars but what would I have done to this one who was shivering in cold?
  • He genuinely was shivering out of cold or was pretending?
  • Would a rupee or two have been of any use to him or should I have taken off my warm sweater and given to him?
  • Would he have survived yet another day to be back at night begging again?
  • Is it right to not help beggars by way of giving them a rupee today and then letting them be like this forever?
  • Does a one rupee clear my conscious and can I still go to bed and sleep well?
  • Does that beggar think of all these things or is it that for him its a business...

As I write this I remember a joke told to me by my grandmother, long back. She once scolded a beggar begging on the traffic signal,"Why are you begging, why don't you do some work?" He replied, "that's what I am doing, can you beg on the crossing in this heat? Try it" My grand mother did not know where to look.
Just a passing thought...

Shubhra, January, 12, 2007

Whose loss is it anyway?

Recently a close aunt of mine passed away. I would say close because the families were very close till we were in Kanpur. Later as we moved away distance did affect everyone. My childhood had fond memories of visit to her house and playing in their vast lawns. I somehow always liked her presence.

When one Sunday evening I heard of her death, I remembered her for a moment and then carried on with whatever else I was doing. It was then it struck me, death after all affects who? I questioned and answered and then argued within my head. Finally I did get my answer. Its always a loss only to the immediate family or friends.

Now one would think what a profound answer that is. To my mind it is. For me it is. What is death, absence of the person in his/her physical form. Now the real loss or pain of that life long absence is felt only by those who are in the absolute daily contact of the person. A father, a son, a daughter, a mother, a grand mother, a grand father, a long associated servant, the dearest friend.... Who else can one think of? The others are anyway not in everyday touch with the person. They will indeed miss the person, but I doubt if its the same loss as a person whose immediate family member dies and suddenly when the life comes to normalcy he/she realises that the person so always present in their life is no where to be found.

I can explain it better with my experience. When my cousin in Gwalior passed away I was in 11th standard. I obviously was heart broken but soon life was normal. I did not have to go through her absence in my life each day. When I did visit Gwalior, there was a void but there were others paying attention and life seemed normal. I felt as if she is just out of town and will be back. However when my grandmother, with whom I lived all my life, passed away in Kanpur, many many years later, the loss seemed irreparable. When I reached Kanpur after her death, in that big mighty house she was no where to be seen. It didn't feel as if she is out there somewhere and will be back. It was evident that she is no more and she will never be back. The loss of my grand parents in my life has ever since been irreparable.

I do not in anyway, wish to lessen the loss of people whenever death takes them away. However what I do realise is that with times as they are today... life is taken for granted for everyone and death is just another loss. And unless you are directly affected by the absence of the person one wonders whose loss is it anyway. So you hear about so and so passing away and then another passing away and then another. You pay your homage, your condolences and sometimes shed a tear or two but you never really get affected in your normal life by such losses or do you?

Shubhra 4th February 2007

Can you stop life?

Once a broad shady road it was. The outer ring road. Pipal and Neem trees on the sides, the dividers with flowery shrubs like bougainvillea and madhumalti. It was a lovely drive. Red signals were a pain but they gave time to admire the beauty of these age-old wonders.

Then they thought of development. Building some more flyovers and subways and some high capacity bus service too. They ruthlessly chopped the trees, some of which were older than their own existence. The once shady beauty was now only lifeless brown trunk fenced by a tin enclosure. Each time one passed the heart went out to these trees. The question lurking large was, is this the price for development?

Then one fine March morning, as I passed the same road and what do we see? There are these tiny light green shoots, leaves, and saplings shooting out from the brown trunks. Life had sprung again. These tiny little things were shining, dancing with the wind and whispering their music in the spring breeze. As if they were shouting and saying who can stop life?

Shubhra, 17th March 2008, 2.30 pm