Four Stray Thoughts : October 28, 2009

Here are my Four Stray Thoughts for the day:

1. Diwali dry fruit / biscuit Gift Pack scam : I have often wondered why during Diwali, you have all these gift packs of dry fruits, biscuits, chocolates. Come to think of it, even Kurkure gift packs are available. I normally find them overpriced and most likely think that the dry fruits are typically of poor quality and maybe even stale. But what tops the list is my recent experience with a Gift Pack. My neighbour was kind enough to gift a Brittania Biscuit Gift Pack to my two sons. The package looked quite big and was shaped nicely as a triangle. The MRP on the pack stated Rs. 50. When we opened the pack, we found that it contained i) 3 Packs of Rs. 10 Bourbon biscuits and ii) 1 Pack of Rs. 10 Little Hearts biscuit. So in all, the MRP of the contents was Rs. 40/- but the company was charging Rs. 50/- for it. I wonder why. The packaging is not worth Rs. 10. Or I wonder if the company has calculated that Diwali Greetings are worth Rs. 10/- and hence the additional cost. I think this proves that the times when these Gift packs had real value and made a good gift are gone by. As with everything else in our world, companies use almost every opportunity to slip one under the customer. Diwali packages are nothing but an excellent way to deplete its stale inventory and earn a handsome margin too! Happy Diwali!

2. State of Railway Platforms: A couple of weeks back, I went on my annual vacation. I travelled to Rajasthan and took the train from Borivali station in Mumbai to Falna in Rajasthan. Most of you might not even have heard of this town called Falna. In fact there is almost nothing to it and it is most likely just a rail junction. But it beats the pants down out of Borivali Railway station in many respects. I will simply focus on one aspect i.e. the state of the platform. The Borivali Railway station platform for outbound trains resembles a platform that has been carved out of the Moon’s surface. There are potholes, uneven paver blocks, litter and what not. I had a tough time rolling my bag along the platform since the wheels kept getting stuck with stones and in certain sections I had to literally lift the bag up with my two hands since the platform was nothing but lose gravel. 15 hrs later, I had to descend at Falna. And what do we have there. A smooth platform and even a thoughtful slope to allow for the bags to be rolled easily off the platform and move outside the station. When a small town like this can get some simple basics right, what ails the biggest metropolis in our country. It is apathy both of the people and the Railways administration. They simply do not care and we carry on. As for myself, I was thankful that I was not the bag being hauled across at Borivali station.

3. Chetan Bhagat’s at it again: Chetan Bhagat is back with his 4th book. A lot of people ask me what I think of Chetan Bhagat. Some of them even despise him and say that his writing is crap at best. I tell you what. I like all his books. And the reason that I like all his books is because I do not compare him to anyone else and simply read his books based on what he has written in his own unique style. Chetan Bhagat has not taken it upon himself to prove to anyone that he is an Orwell or an Archer or even Dostoevsky. He is Chetan Bhagat. I have personally found his books enjoyable and often compare them to a Hindi movie that one can watch in a few hours. There is a something of everything in his books, his style is simple, his jokes find resonance with most of us and many more things. I have not yet taken up his latest book but will do in the next month or so. I am sure Chetan Bhagat might get pulled down again by people who think they are some great literary critics. But allow me to quote William Falkner here, “The artist doesn’t have time to listen to the critics. The ones who want to be writers read the reviews, the ones who want to write don’t have the time to read reviews.”

4. Video killed the Radio Star: Remember the great English song “Video killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles. Check it out here. In short, it is an excellent song that laments how the emergence of the Video cut short the popularity of the stars that sang only on Radio. In the last 20 years or so, MTV and other music networks proved it that the music videos were indeed the norm and relegated the radio songs to a poor cousin that fell off the popularity charts. Radio picked up a little and still has its followers but nothing compares to a Video from a presentation point of view. However the point I am trying to make next is that the same thing is being quietly played out in many other mediums. Articles, How To Notes, Presentations, Trip Report, etc which were faithfully written by folks are being slowly replaced by the Video. The emergence of YouTube and other video sharing networks is enough to prove to anyone that more and more material is now being recorded live and explained by the participants in the video itself rather than explaining it via some other medium. Folks who make a living out of such material will survive only if they make the cut to using video in their presentations. Sometimes I write articles that are 50-60 pages long (I did that twice in this year) and found that if I had instead recorded a video, it might have been around 30-60 minutes and I might have conveyed myself much better. Take a look at some of the material that you create — see if Video could honestly make a difference. Or just give it a shot. You don’t want the Buggles to make a comeback and mention you in the latest version “Video killed _____” … replace it with yourself. If you are writing any material today .. think in 3 words : “Lights, Camera, Action”.

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