Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Book Review: Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul At Work

AUTHOR:  Jack Canfield. Mark Victor Hansen and Juhi Rai Farmania
Genre:  Inspirational / Non-fiction
ISBN:  978-93081626-45-0
NO. OF PAGES:  382
PRICE:  INR 295 (I got this from Blogadda)

“Work is not man’s punishment. It’s his reward and his strength and his pleasure.” – George Sand

Sam says: While I am all for motivation, I personally enjoy happy stories more. As a teen, I have read a lot of “Chicken Soup” books and each story would lead me with a tug in my heart and tears in my eyes. 

Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul – At Work is a compilation of 101 stories about people’s struggles and successes at the work place. Work and career are important parts of one's life, whether one is it’s someone owning a startup, a BPO employee, a private sector employee or someone from the medical profession. This book has gathered a rich treasure chest of experiences and inspiring tales that share the daily courage, compassion and creativity that occur in workplaces everywhere. Most of the stories here will encourage you with tales of heartwarming camaraderie and inspirational breakthroughs. The 101 inspirational stories are divided into 13 sections.

However, what did disturb in a few stories was that they sounded like a report. A problem is mentioned, followed by a brief struggle and then the person comes out as a winner. These being true stories, if the reader could know exactly how the person came about solving some problems, would have been so much more better!

Having said that, this book is definitely a winner.  The stories are inspirational and for me this is not a one- time read.  It’s a kind of an inspirational bible which can be referred to whenever one needs that extra push form real life success stories. Be it for taking crucial decisions, or be it for putting everything at stake for one dream, these 101 stories are a combination of just the punch and courage that we need, at times. So much so, that if you turn to the last few pages of the book, you have a brief bio of all those whose success stories have made it to the collection, and their mail ids. I hope no one bombards them with unnecessary mails, but knowing this, feel that those stories are not concocted. They are REAL! And if they could overcome obstacles at their work places, SO CAN WE!!

Of all the 101 stories, one that stands out for me is “Obstacles and Opportunities”  by Manisha Velankar. Manisha was given a huge work responsibility which involved long hours, travelling and living in another country for a while, just when she was pregnant. Defying common decision taken by most women, to quit and sit at home, she juggled both, succeeding in her work as well as her pregnancy. We don’t get to know about such strong women, a lot. But now, we have Manisha for inspiration!

My rating ****/5

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kahaani: A review

Am not really a fan of Vidya Balan's, yet was eagerly awaiting the launch of Kahaani. Of course, the main reason was that it was based in Kolkata, but the promos seemed very intriguing too! Err... and I have always had a huuuge crush on Parambrata ... since like for-e-ver!


Vidya Balan as V(B)idya Bagchi.
Parambrata Chatterjee as Rana / Satyaki
Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Khan, IB Officer
Saswata Chatterjee as Bob Biswas
Indraneil Sengupta as Milan Damji
Abir Chatterjee as Vidya's Husband (Guest Appearance)
Dhritiman Chattopadhyay as IB Chief (Guest Appearance)

Directed by Sujoy Ghosh
Story by Sujoy Ghosh and Advaita Kala

The Plot:

The story begins with a scientist trying to create a disastrous chemical fume, and succeeding in it. Next, it’s a crowded metro rail compartment where all  the commuters inhale the poisonous gas and are killed instantly. For a moment, I thought the film would be about a chemical warfare.

Two years later, Vidya Bagchi (Balan), a pregnant woman lands at Netaji Subhash Airport in search of her husband, Arnab Bagchi who has been missing. She reaches Kalighat Police Station where she meets two police inspectors, once of them being Rana (Parambrata). The inspectors are courteous but not very helpful. The instant assumption to her story, was that her husband had knocked her up and fled. 

Rana was a bit baffled by her pregnant condition and decided to help her by driving her around, first. The exchange where Rana tells Vidya his real name and Vidya says, "Satyaki, Arjun's sarathi," .. leaves you thinking. And rightly so, you hear it again in the end of the movie .. and suddenly it will make so much more sense! 

All the clues to the case are being eliminated one by one. The Intelligence Bureau is involved and the hunt is on. Vidya and Rana are warned by the Intelligence Bureau to stay away but how long can they continue their search? Why was Arnab missing? What is his real identity? Who was Milan Damji? Will Arnab be found? These are, but a few questions that the story will answer you. Be ready to be taken on a roller-coaster ride. The story is not very very complex, but if put into words, you will actually miss out on the punch. Here, a picture is actually more interesting than a thousand words.

The scary angle:

Forget the plot for a second here, but Saswata Chatterjee as Bob Biswas scared the shit out of me. A smiling face that kills, is extremely sinister. He has been shown as an undercover LIC agent, who actually is a contract killer. He is sent a pic of his next victim via MMS and he tracks them out, shoots, and leaves with a smile. The moment when he pushes Vidya on to the metro rail track is super scary, if you look at it. In another instance, Vidya and Rana have gone to an old shut-down government office to retrieve a file in the darkness of the night, and Bob too was sent there. Exaggeration it might sound now, but I was seriously clutching my husband's hand with fear and anticipation. Having grown up seeing him as a comedy actor, this was new to me.

Instances which kept nagging me:
  • She was shown as six months pregnant. I've never been pregnant, but I know if I was in my sixth month, I wouldn't be walking around so much and so fast, however fit I might be.
  • Rana explains to Vidya that Bengalis have two names, one nick name and one good name, to which she says, "Two names, two personalities." Err...what about the pappus, and sonus and monus of the rest of India? Nick names are common all over India, Mr Ghosh, didn't you know?
  • She was there to look for her husband. She was in a strange city, pregnant and all alone. Her own life was at risk. However strong a person might be, I cannot fathom HOW she can joke around even for a minute. She must have been unnaturally strong willed.
The whistle-blowing moment:

The climax. Don't want to spoil it for you, but seriously, it was applause worthy!! Respect -  for the actors, for the screenplay and for the director. Seriously speaking, if Sujoy Ghosh can churn out more films like this, at a steady rate, he's going to be counted amongst the top Bengali directors of the yesteryears.

Just before the climax, when Vidya meets mystery man/villain Milan Gamji, they have a short altercation. and he kicks her on her tummy. Direct, hard kick. There were shrieks heard from all over the theatre, but what happened next brought the house down with claps.

I had serious doubts Parambrata will be recognised for his acting, by Bollywood. He has wonderfully underplayed his role and has been a really strong supporter. He's always been an above average actor, but in Kahaani, he has shown mature acting expected from someone much elder to him. 

You simply have to see this film, in the theatre. One funny thing that happened last night at the theatre was, we were surrounded by all Marwaaris. Only Marwaaris.How sweet and predictable! :) What was sweeter, was that during the intermission, they started discussing all the Bengali actors in the film amongst themselves, in pure Bangla!!

And yes, even 24 hours after watching the movie, I get shivers thinking what if I was in a strange land and I couldn't find Sankalp. Maybe, I'd be strong to find him, maybe not - but for now, I have turned into an extremely paranoid wife!

My rating: ****

Thursday, March 1, 2012

We have fought corruption. What about you?

This post was selected for Blogadda's Saturday Spicy Pick.

Since the very beginning, I have been vocal about the fact that I am against the "India against corruption" movement. Wait! Hold it! Read further, first.

I don't know Annaji, Kejriwal or any of the ppl behind the movement. But I know myself, I know the people around me, I know the situations we face, and, I know how righteous we, as Indians are. My qualm is, against the thousands of Indians, who blindly joined hands to fight against corruption, not many of whom are sans corruption themselves. One would say I am generalising, but that would be an argument just for the sake of one.

Look around. If you don't want to accept that you yourself have resorted to some kind of corruption at some point of time, what about the people around you? Be truthful. How many times have family members not paid parking ticket, or bribed the traffic police/ticket collector, purchased rail tickets via touts or resorted to school/college admissions through 'source'?

'Source' is a big thing in our country. Everyone has some political connection and it is very conveniently used for admissions. Now, I cannot possible go shake everyone around me and give them a gyan on anti-corruption, unless I get rid of it from within myself. 

My question across all public forums had been - Have you removed corruption from within yourself, to point a finger at the government and others? NOT a single person came up and answered this, all they kept repeating was, how wrong I was in not supporting such a great revolution. Television coverage of Azad Maidan during those days was seriously funny! Thousands of people ignoring their daily chores/appointments, loads of donations pouring in, and all that was desired was media attention. A handful of people might be doing it for the right reasons but what were the rest of the thousands doing there on the ground? Rendering support? I say, your support would be more valuable if you clean your own neighborhood off corruption. Each neighborhood adds up and we have a corruption free country. Instead, what did you do? You piled up in thousands, caused traffic jams, didn’t turn up at your work places and vied for camera attention?

When the time for ‘jail bharo’ came up, television channels showed parents with children at the venues. What were these parents thinking? Bringing toddlers along and putting them to jails will make this country a better place to be?

Yes, we are neck deep in corruption. Yes, it needs to start somewhere. And, yes, I am no one to decide how it needs to start. All I am saying is make your own world corruption free and make it grow. Teach your child it’s NOT ok to break signals. Don’t take them to jails or mass morchas, teach them to value others in their lives. Teach them the difference between the right and the wrong, but first, you learn it yourself!

There was a lot of noise made about how NOT to vote for Congress. Fair enough. So WHO do we vote for? No answer.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I went to Puri for the weekend. It was our first trip to Odisha, and it was via rail. The overnight journey was mostly uneventful, except for when the TC came to check our tickets.

On the electronic ticket, next to my details, instead of Female, it showed Male. Now the TC didn’t point it to us directly. He twisted it a bit and asked us, “Samarpita is a boy?”. [Ok Sir, my name is rare, but YOU are dumb!] It took us a while to understand what the smart ass meant. I showed the return ticket (which thankfully said, female) and tried to reason with the TC. Husband took charge and said, “Yes, this is a mistake on our side, how can we rectify it?”

By now, the TC had moved ahead, so my husband followed him. It was evident the guy wanted to speak to him away from the other passengers. Once at the outer end of the compartment, he said, “I am not ticking next to your names right now. I will be getting down in the next station, I won’t be penalizing you.”

My husband found this strange. “If you are not ticking next to our names, the next TC will ask to check our tickets and will go through the same conversation. I realize this was a mistake during computer booking, and we are ready to pay the fine. Please give us a receipt.”

The guy just walked away.

The next morning, 3 TCs came and crowded over us. Before coming to us, they were asking for new passengers who had boarded, but when they came and stood next to us, they knew who we were. Fair enough. We gauged they had already been informed and had a plan between them. When they asked to see our ticket, while taking it out, my husband said, “We need you to reissue my wife’s ticket. We’ve made a mistake in it.”

The expression changed on all 3 faces before us. The main guy, at the center, said, “You will have to pay the ticket's charge and a fine.”

Husband, “Yes, I am aware of the rules. Please tell me the amount and give me a receipt.”

TC, “Your fine will be doubled because you have almost reached your destination.”

Husband, “Not our fault. We had asked to be fined last night, when the other TC detected this problem in the ticket. Why didn’t he?”

TC, “No, still you will have to pay double fine.”

Husband, “Fine. Show me you rule book and make me a receipt of the entire amount.”

TC, “Why do you want to pay so much? You pay us a little instead.”

Husband, “So that another one of you catches us at the station and demands more money. No, we accept we are wrong. We wish to pay the fine and follow the required process.”

TC, “No one will catch you in the station.”

Husband, “Still. We will pay in full.”

TC, “We shall escort you to the exit, you pay us.”

Husband, “You follow the entire process now, or if I am caught at the station, I shall lodge a complaint questioning why I wasn’t fined the first time my ticket was checked.”

The three TCs got up and left. They didn’t come back to ask for fine or bribe, neither did anyone stop us at the station. We wish someone had, because the whole incident deserved to be reported. Rarely does it happen that someone is ready to pay the penalty, but it was not accepted. We did think of complaining, but if you have been to Puri station, you will understand why we didn’t.

It felt good to stand up against corruption. It felt good to ask for their rulebook when asked for double penalty, and see the colour drain from the faces of govt servants. Corrupt people need to know that we are educated and we know our rights as well as duties very well. Many a times, we pay a small bribe to get out of bigger problems. Instead, I would say, face the problem then and there and end it. If you follow the correct procedure, it will never grow big.

If there is a license to be made, go stand in queue instead of getting done via a driving school. Just like you are getting your license w/o giving a test, remember, someone else is too. This person might not know how to drive at all, but tomorrow, armed with a license obtained by the wrong way, he does have the right to drive. And hit, or kill. If you get your license the right way, others too will follow.

Khud ko sudharo, aapke aas paas ki duniya khud hi saaf ho jaayegi.

Ek baar try karke toh dekho.

Disclaimer: I started this entry with the IAC movement. While my views are different, I do respect the extent to which Annaji and team have tried to fight against corruption. It would have been nicer if he and his aide Kejriwal had cast their votes, like other ideal citizens did. To have faith in someone, we need to see them doing the right things, don’t we?

Story for kiddies

Last January, I wrote my first story for children. It was for a newsletter of a Pune/Baroda based NGO.

It cane be read here. My story is on the left page, 2nd column.

#BookReview : The Shrine of Death by Divya Kumar

On the jacket:  Prabha Sinha, an IT professional in Chennai, is plunged into a murky world of idol theft, murder, and betrayal aft...