Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Earful! : The runaway Baba – Learning for those planning a political marathon

It is not often that scandals of substance come by. My last post in the Earful! series was on IPL gate. Since then, there has not been a single scandal worth digging the nose into. Until now.
Baba Ramdev's actions in recent times have definitely left even the believers dumbstruck. Baba meant good, yet his "camp"aign earned only lathi charges, tears and borrowed clothes. Where did he go wrong? (Aspiring campaigners, this one is for you).
  1. There are Babas aplenty but there can only be one Anna:     Get a cool name that is easy to pronounce and understand across India. Ram is sensitive in Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh political circles. Dev becomes Deb in the Odisha-West Bengal belt and "Dave" in the North East… Anna on the other hand is tamper-proof (even using software). Its 4 letters and a palindrome.
  2. White is timeless, Saffron is seasonal:     Aspiring news makers need to keep track of fashion but blindly copying it will see you experience several baba moments.  Baba gathered intel on color trends this spring and seemed happy that Orange was in. (So is white incidentally). What he forgot to note was that saffron needs to be offset with accessories of a different color.  And that is precisely where Anna got the better of him. By topping the clean cut white outfit with a humble white Topi, he reinstated the timelessness and relevance of white and earned many cheers.
  3. You can no longer be taken seriously if you are half clothed:     This is why one must peer at the fine print in every fashion photo. Flowing and fluid outfits are in. The modified underwear that covers more than you butt is OUT. Also, if you decide to strip, do so only if you have a movie star body and a full body wax. There are enough of us worrying about our pudginess and hair to take note of your nasties.
  4. Desi is cool but Phoren maal is a necessity:     Classic case of misplaced priorities. While the fight was against corruption, why do a recap of the Swadeshi movement?  If we banned all phoren maal, our manufacturing units would shut down. We would neither have a charkha nor cotton to spin our own orange robes… And no TV to watch Baba either. On another note try making a 5 year old put on a robe. He'd rather go nude than be caught wearing that.
  5. Empty your pockets before passing the blame:     In the fight against phoren corrupting influences, did Baba check his bank balance? What proportion of it was greenbacks and other phoren paisa? Was it all white money? – this was the reporter fraternity tearing baba to bits.  Anna on the other hand declared publicly before his fast began that he owned nothing and lived on the charity extended by his fellow villagers.  Looks like Baba missed a technicality there.
  6. You are what you project:     Anna looked calm and acted calm. He dressed for the part with old fashioned cheap glasses, the white ensemble and chappals.  He could have been anyone's grandfather. Endearingly he refused to budge from his stand and won over the government. Baba on the other hand was dressed to kill – hair and make-up included. Instead what he did was flee and that too by attempting to change character by doing a Birdcage. Looks like baba's role model was Riteish Deshmukh.
  7. Fasting and feasting don't go together:     Ever seen rich people fasting? They end the 4 hour fast with Gatorade, laddu and some home cooked French fries. Intelligently they don't like to test their limits. Baba is a man of affluence and should have tested his fasting abilities in his Scottish island villa. Perhaps he did not get time away from all the phoren maal and good quality dairy products. The result - Not only did his followers outfast him, they are now trying to figure out if the marble at the Haridwar ashram is of Italian origin.
  8. Don't race if you are not confident of winning:     Baba's campaign started after Anna's was over. He assumed he would be running a solo race and emerge winner irrespective of time and other brouhaha.  He should have instead spent time in studying the geography and short cut exit routes from the Ram Lila Maidan. That way he could have looked smart even with a duppatta flying behind him.
Hmm..what can baba do now you ask? Take the first flight out of India and do a world tour propagating yoga and slipping in his corruption agenda every now and then. After all Anna didn't tap our overseas Diaspora for support. It might also be a good idea to shake hands with the Sri Sri Ravishankars and Mata Amritanandamayis of the world.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Office– Office: Leave

If you ever had a boss went red when he/she saw anything more than 2 days leave approval, then you need to read this. 
A recent survey revealed that Singaporeans can't take time off from work due to professional pressures. My better half says this is true for India as well. Look around your office and you will seldom find well rested, genuinely enthusiastic, straight talking, non-bitching colleagues. The reason – No leave.  A colleague in the HR department says the company pays people for all the leave they are eligible to encash and apparently it is a very significant amount.
Not availing leave impacts physical and mental health, does not make business sense, and is not cool. Why then do bosses hate to give or take leave?
It stems from the fact that traditionally, taking leave made you a sissy. Don't you remember that "Weak" kid in school who kept taking leave due to ill health? (Never mind that he joined IIT and then Harvard and now lives in a funky mansion in Silicon Valley with a good looking wife and all rounder -kids).  What did your daddy say about that "hen-pecked" husband who took leave because he had to do the laundry and occasionally cooking too? (Never mind the scourge your daddy has is because he can't even make his own coffee leave alone iron his shirts). And that lady in the office, who keeps "making excuses" saying "I need time off to spend with my child?" What a joke! If she wanted to spend time, then why come to office? She's better off staying home permanently….
Leave is associated with being frivolous and unimpressively so.  Work shirker, lazy, incompetent, irresponsible, timid, are other adjectives associated with leave. No one wants a subordinate, or boss with such a reputation.
Conversely, if you want to build up a reputation in corporate India, you start with a "no leave or leave for good" policy. That way you are on top of the mind recall, even if it is a negative association (after all any publicity is good publicity).  The minute you start rejecting those 3 day leave applications, you become legendary.  When you cut short a 2 day leave, you become revered. When you scoff at that one day leave, your subordinate feels embarrassed. And when you raise your eye brows at that half a day leave, your subordinate ends up working overtime for a while week in penance.
The only instance where a longish leave is tolerated is when someone is either getting married or a parent has died or if you are having a baby (sadly, many men and many companies do not know what paternity is. One even asked me if that was a kind of law suit). That is promptly rewarded with increased work once you return. Little wonder then why most women do not come back post marriage or child birth and many men move jobs around the same time.
How to retain your sanity? But a smart phone and stay connected with the happening crowd. Put the ring tones on high volume during meetings and let the phone scream in glee. Keep a ready set of jokes on your browser and laugh/ cry/ weep aloud in your seat. When others look at you, put your head down in remorse.  Have your lunch in solitude and pretend to speak to yourself. Very soon the boss will conclude that you indeed deserve a leave.