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Tamizh vaathiyaars (teachers) are great management gurus. Today, all of us may be in various parts of the world, building sound careers for ourselves. But one should never forget the contribution of those great men, who instilled precious lessons early in the learning process and made us better in what we do.

My 6th standard tamizh vaathiyaar known for his doctrines in life was in full form that day when he was evaluating one of my katturais (essays).

“This is wonderful stuff. Though you think you are a human being, you transform into a bull when asked to write in tamizh. And what you write is, well, just bullshit. Bullshit is priceless!”

To top the insult, he gestured with both his hands on his head, imitating the horns of a bull. Though fuming from inside, a  ‘Nanri ayya’ (Thank you sir) is all that I could muster then.

My 8th standard Tamizh vaathiyaar was a true-blue tamizhian, he used to dress only in veshti (dhothi) and his abuse list mostly consisted of words which were too pure for us to understand. How else could one explain ‘Karuvaattu mundam’? No, ‘Dry fish duffer’ will not do.

One day, he was teaching a lesson on cows, when he suddenly had an Arindam Chaudhari-esque transformation.

Sometimes life presents you with situations, when you are forced to come up with cowdung. What differentiates the good from the great is the fact that the greats do not hesitate to “bite the bullshit”, whereas the self-righteous good-s languish by their ideals.

Back then, I had reacted to these statements with expressions of yuck. I had even jumped at the first opportunity to escape from Tamizh and the Tamizh vaathiyaars and switched to French(!?!) in my 11th standard. I had to start working and experience a few years of bullshit to recognise the profundity of their arguments. Management lessons, all.

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A suit-able cliche

“Please wear suits when you visit customers” was the boss’s instruction to Ritesh, who had joined us recently. Ritesh was supposed to travel with me for an assignment where we had to solve a few critical problems for the client. The day before we left, I accompanied him to this upmarket mall, where he got himself a brand new suit. Though it burnt a royal hole in his pocket, he was extremely proud of his latest acquisition.

We reached the client’s location and pored over their processes for the initial couple of days. On the third day, we were supposed to give a presentation with our findings to the client. Ritesh thought that it would be an ideal day to unveil his new suit. “Your suit looks great” I remarked. Eager to give him an opportunity and also because I was lazy, I offered him the chance to present our solution to the client. Ritesh was very happy with that and thanked me profusely.

He began the presentation very well. I was impressed with the way he was saying “We need to identify the root cause of the problem.” This sentence is a cliche that needs to be a part of every consultant’s vocabulary and I was glad that he was up to speed quickly. After 45 minutes, we broke for coffee. I appreciated Ritesh when we met at the loo and he seemed quite eager to wrap it up well. After the break, everyone assembled at the conference room, but Ritesh was nowhere to be found. After a full 10 minutes, he came rushing into the room. He apologized for the delay and completed the presentation. Afterwards, I asked him what was wrong.

“You know what” he said “In the loo, my zipper got stuck. I was not able to open it.”

“What!” I exclaimed “Its a brand new suit, right, that too the premium brand in town.”

“Yes man. It took me some time to figure out that the cloth lining had got stuck in the zipper. Initially it seemed funny. But later on, I started fearing for my future generations. You need to experience it to believe it. Frustrating, you know!”

“Probably, you needed to identify the root cause of the problem faster” quipped a person from the client’s team. It took quite a while for the guffaws all around to subside.

But Ritesh was not impressed, neither with the joke nor with his new suit. Then, as a good team mate, I had to quote the incident of my jeans getting badly torn at the wrong place while I tried jumping the railway tracks at Bangalore Cantonment station to liven him up again. Suitable, no!

I have been a human being and a computer since times when computers were human beings. Today, most computers are machines. Some human beings are machines too. So am I.

Deacon blues

This is the night
Of the expanding the man
I take one last drag
As I approach the stand

Its one of those days…

Change…

…, they say, is inevitable. But the bus conductor and coffee machine do not think so!

The Aubergine Lesson

Location and laziness combined with ‘Oor kannu’ resulting from me having a good time travelling around the world, conspired against me and forced me to survive on Pizza, Pasta, their cousin brothers and onnu vitta chittappas every time I come to Italy. Usually, tomato does a Kamalagaasan and takes various forms to accompany the pasta. I was sick and tired of tomato, till yesterday happened.

I decided to try out a new restaurant near my hotel. They had a vegetable accompaniment for pasta and it was not tomato. Aubergine is what they called it. I did not know what it was, but I was assured that it was not tomato. So I ordered pasta with aubergine and basil sauce and while waiting for the dish to make its appearance, I ran a flashback in italics.

When it came to leaves and vegetables, I was pretty much a cow. There are tales in my family about how I would pilfer the ‘Tulasi’ (basil) offered as ‘prasadam’ in temples from everyone else. In my ‘iruvathu anju varusha’ (25 years) service as a vegertarian from the southern part of India, I have been exposed to a variety of edible seeds, roots, stems and tubers and have unashamedly devoured most of them. But there is one vegetable I hate. Brinjal. Yes, that devil in dark purple attire, with a star twig attached to its brainless head. Best efforts of mom have failed to make me eat it. My dad almost succeeded once when he made an exemplary ‘Kathirikkaai deep fry’, oozing with ghee, oil and spices. But even he had to accept defeat when I rejected it after the first two pieces. So in a fit of unbound rage mixed with limitless paasam, my mom made a prediction 

“One day you will eat brinjal willingly, my son

And for neglecting our advice, you will feel like a bison”

Inspite of the gargantuan struggles that I have encountered with food while travelling outside India, I have always been thankful that the damn vegetable is not very popular outside the subcontinent. I was ready to live on tomato for months, but cannot eat brinjal for even a day.  

The pasta with aubergine arrived like the Tamizh Cinema Police, after the flashback was over. I cleaned up the plate within minutes. Today I checked what aubergine was. I am a tomato and Mom is God.

Subramaniapuram…

… is the tamizh film of the year. No movie this year has been this good and nothing in sight is going to beat this.