Yahi hai zindagi

In the year 1977, a Hindi movie attracted the attention of cinema lovers due to its unique content. The main protagonist, Sanjeev Kumar, had sakshatkar (realisation in person) of Lord Krishna and the movie had some very interesting conversations between the lord and his subject. While Sanjeev Kumar had already established himself as a thespian by then, cinema goers, in particular, loved this slim, soft spoken actor, who essayed the role of Lord Krishna, with the perpetual look of divinity on his face. He was none other than Vikram Gokhale,

As per newspapers, his first Hindi movie was Parwana, a thriller starring Amitabh in his early days. And he continued his long innings in Hindi as well as Marathi cinema by playing number of characters, all with aplomb and conviction. He was also associated with Marathi theatre.

He breathed his last in Pune on Friday, but he’d be remembered by cinema lovers for his contribution that was varied and significant.

Rest in peace Vikram Gokhale.

Renunciation is not as we understand and practice

When one feels short on inspiration, Mahatria’s thoughts come handy. Received today morning the following:

Renunciation is metaphorically similar to that of a man climbing a ladder.

He steps off the lower rungs of the ladder because of his inclination to step into the higher rungs.

He is not giving up the lower rungs.

He is, as a matter of fact, going up to the higher rungs.

And we shamelessly preach renunciation to our elders as giving up of all worldly things and indulgence in prayers and kirtans. Why our septuagenarian, octogenarian and even nonagenarian parents can’t enjoy a movie at multiplex, a dinner at a sit in restaurant or a drink, if they so desire? Why renunciation is confused with leaving all worldly things rather than enjoying everything albeit without attachment to such things.

I like Mahatria because his thoughts are evolved and not cliched.

England is the new T20 world champion

So we have a new T20 cricket world champion in England, who lost their league match to lowly ranked Ireland. Other finalist Pakistan started even more pathetically losing the first two close games to arch rival India and Zimbabwe. Favourites India lost to South Africa and just about managed to scrape through Bangladesh. Cricketing minnows such as Netherlands, Afghanistan, Ireland troubled the big teams.

One thing is clear from the World Cup fixtures this year that there’s no first among equals and on their day, any team can defeat any other team. Some look strong on paper, other appears tough mentally. Some bat deep, while some other has deadly bowling attack. But there’s no clear favourite in this clamour and while some of the established cricketing nations like Srilanka and West Indies have already apparently hit a nadir, many of the emerging teams are going to throw their gauntlet as serious contenders.

European nations such as Germany, Holland, Spain, Poland started playing hockey much later but along with Australia, these countries seem to be lording over hockey supremacy that was once the domain of Asian countries India, Pakistan and Malaysia. Let’s strategise and work harder to protect our cricketing domain. 130 crore cricket loving Indians deserve a better show by their beloved Team India that needs to be more predictable and consistent. While they played superlatively well against Pakistan, their meek surrender to England in semis was rather heart wrenching!

Till the next edition, let’s plug our loopholes!

Jahan char yaar

The above is the opening phrase from a song from a popular Bollywood blockbuster, Sharabi, in which the star of the century, Amitabh Bachchan glorifies the virtues of friendship, especially when four of them get together to have fun! ( four is only symbolic to give poetic twist)

The above song comes to mind as I reminisce the gathering of old friends last night. I had a rather lonesome and dreary week and to top up it, it happened to be my wife’s birthday, who for some important reasons had to be in Delhi, thereby breaking an age old tradition of two of us spending our birthdays together. I didn’t want the gloom to overwhelm me on an auspicious day and so I thought of arranging a quick get together of old friends and making some simple yet tasty food for them with my own hands.

And all these friends, who incidentally happened to be my ex office colleagues to, were a revelation that was quite contrary to their personality in office! Their latent talent of singing, dancing, joking, witticism was all at display in what turned out to be a memorable evening that celebrated my wife’s birthday in her absence. And for a moment, we all forgot our worries, concerns, apprehensions, frustrations to became gay abandon.

A special mention must be made of a friend who recently underwent an elaborate cardiac procedure and was not on my original invite list, fearing he might get carried away seeing others indulging in food and drinks. It was a pleasant surprise to see him to be back in his earlier best as he celebrated the “all clear” given to him by his attending doctor.

To quote the opening lines of the song from which title of this write up is taken, which are:

जहाँ चार यार मिल जायें ,वहीं रात हो गुलज़ार
जहाँ चार यार
महफ़िल रँगीन जमे ...
महफ़िल रँगीन जमे, दौर चले धूम मचे
नज़र देखे नये चमतकार, जहाँ चार यार...

The above is loosely translatable as:

When and wherever friends meet

The place becomes a garden full of sweet roses

It’s indeed a great party time

Everyone drinks but no one forces!

Instead of individually responding to their thanks messages for the evening, I thought of penning this blog to put on record my gratitude to their esteemed presence at my place.

Are banks the new FMCGs?

Today’s banking has radically changed from what we used to do when we joined banking sector in 80s. Banks have not only automated their accounting and processes, but they are also using advanced tools such as artificial intelligence, robotics and business intelligence by using complex algorithms on big data available to them.

Many young bankers. who join banks expecting to be sitting on counters and executing transactions are sorely disenchanted when they observe that all the activities and transactions such as account opening, issuance of cheque books, updating of passbooks, addition/deletion of names of the account holders, handling of instruments such as demand drafts, letters of credit, bank guarantees etc are handled from the back end by back offices and that their primary activity is business development and cross selling. Many join banks in non sales roles because selling is not their forte but very soon they learn that there’s no escaping from selling!

However, the word cross selling needs further elaboration as it entails three parts – selling of the bank’s own products such as credit card, debit card, travel card, fixed deposit, recurring deposit, home loan, auto loan, personal loan etc, up selling like offering higher variant of Savings account, debit card, credit card to an existing customer and selling of third party products mainly insurance and mutual funds.

The first form of selling is eminently understandable and it must be encouraged. Banks should deepen their engagement with their customers by offering other products that they have in their bouquet lest the customer may go elsewhere and the customer may be lost to a competitor. The second form viz. Up selling is also not totally undesirable, if the up sell is offered to the right customer and not to just let an undeserving customer use freebies that generally come tagged with higher variants. Later on when the customer is charged for having availed of freebies without matching conduct, there’s noise, commotion and complaint.

The advantage of the above two forms of selling is that banks offer their own products and the staff is well seized of their adjunct features. The chances of mis selling are zero in the first form and stray in the second form.

The problem arises when the banks try and aggressively push third party products under bancassurance arrangement with insurance companies and and also mutual funds to their customers. First of all, the Bank staff have very basic and sometimes absolutely no knowledge of these products , but they are under pressure to generate leads. Although, banks have robust processes of seeking customer’s feedback on the insurance product before actual issuance of the policy, many a time these processes are shortchanged, especially when the customer is home maker, geriatric or inadequately qualified. Also, return on MFs are linked to market and when returns on these investments are not what the customer was assured of by bank staff, there’s noise and complaint.

My take is that banks should have full suite of all the products in their bouquet, but exercise discretion and caution in the third form of selling. Instead of front life staff, virtual RMs, RAs ( insurance company staff deputed to the bancassurance partner ) and dedicated specialised RMs should be encouraged and all necessary disclosures and information be shared with potential customers on their registered mail ids and banks’ websites. Staff will be relieved of undue pressure of incessantly pushing products of which they have scant knowledge or aptitude to sell and customer will buy the product required in his/ her own discretion, killing all the noise around this glaring problem of mis selling.

Happy Prakash Utsav

On the auspicious occasion of Gurupurub, I received the above message on social media that beautifully sums the gist of Guru Nanak’s teaching – try your best, remember almighty’s name and take care of the needs of the deprived!

Indeed we all know that nothing can be achieved without hard work and not withstanding any rituals, there is a creator of this universe. The teaching of Guru Nanak on sharing with needy persons is seen everywhere every day – in Covid times so many homeless and jobless could survive due to langars and it’s not one off phenomenon! It’s happening in war torn Ukraine ( a restaurateur is distributing free meals every day like a langar), and across the world, where workers, labourers and other poor people can have their daily two meals in a nearby Gurudwara. Just opposite my Andheri residence, Four Bungalows Gurudwara is running langars twice a day, feeding hundreds hungry folks every day!

I bow in obeisance to Guru Nanak on this Prakash Utsav.

Happy Gurupurub to everyone!

Charity begins at home

In our lives, getting a job is an important event as many other milestones follow this. After job comes marriage, children, dream home, vehicle, education and marriage of children and acquisition of other necessities and luxuries. All the aforesaid is spread over one’s career spanning over 35 years or so.

In today’s world, when opportunities for career advancement are manifold, one seldom sticks to the same company that one joins first till superannuation. This is more so in private sector than in public or government sector, as the jobs in public or government sector are considered secured jobs and given the importance of job security in our milieu, this is quite understandable.

However, switching jobs is not the same as losing job or reaching an early end to the career. As aforesaid, there are lots of events that take place during one’s career span and these require proper financial planning. Howsoever good one’s salary may be, for big time expenses such as property purchase, luxury car, study abroad or marriage of children, personal savings are inadequate and one needs to raise big loans, EMIs of which can be sustainably serviced by  the monthly cash flows . Similarly, there are long term commitments in the form of insurance premiums, SIPs, exercise of ESOPs etc.

Now there can always be an unforeseen tragedy of the company employing one folding up! Howsoever, meticulous be one’s planning, it’s difficult to plan for accidents! However, what happens when one’s career is brought to a premature termination either through a forced or “voluntary” exit? Here again we need to segregate cases of forced exits on account of disciplinary issues and those under any early retirement scheme!

It’s true that VRS related exits are today’s harsh reality of life and many who get impacted by this reality could already be past their prime. In early or middle 50s and with a reputation of having been laid off by an organisation, rehabilitation or resuscitation becomes very difficult, if not outright impossible.

Actually, organisations show a largesse by arranging an honourable exit to those who are low performers or redundant due to changing skills and environment. After all, a VRS, however frugal be its benefit, is infinitely better than sacking of an employee by an organisation. However, low performance and redundancy have an element of subjectively around them and can be interpreted in different ways depending on the appraiser. The fact is that no organisation has all top performers and workforce comprises people of all hues, colours and capabilities. Those performing below expectation can always be redeployed in a mundane activity, several of which are there in any organisation. They can be offered lower or no increments and minimal career advancement opportunities. But outright exit when an individual could be saddled with liabilities and responsibilities is slightly harsh. While organisations have commercial goals and objectives, the fact is that they also undertake so many social initiatives as their gratitude and responsibility towards society. Employees can also be covered under such initiatives, because as an old adage goes- “ Charity begins at home.”

Talent Pool – views and counter views

Most of the organisations are going out of way to nurture and retain talent. Many have created elitist talent pools and assign ratings. The higher rated in this pool are beneficiaries of several exclusive offerings such as specialised training, including programmes at premier institutes here as well as abroad, opportunity to work in the department of choice and fast track promotions.

Talent pools or merit pools have all along being in existence and earlier these existed in a more informal manner, bereft of management jargons. So if organisations are bestowing so much importance to these pools today, it’s not surprising. The moot point, however, remains the modus operandi behind the selection of candidate into such pools and benefit to the organisation. Has any organisation undertaken a study whether the beneficiaries of such pools deliver adequately, if not over deliver, to the organisation, reckoning the investment made in them? How the other staff, who are not part of these pools and therefore, have to suffer the agony of being second rung citizens in the organisation cope up with the situation emanating from no or delayed promotions, low annual hikes and bonuses and no ESOPs? 

Is one selling most aggressively the most talented or one expert in execution falls in that category? Or do the alumni of premier institutions automatically land up in talent pool? 

This, in fact, is the next in the series that I have started on LinkedIn relating to the problem of attrition. I would like to know that who is attriting at higher rate – those who constitute talent pool or those who don’t and are therefore, disgruntled? Is it worth creating such a divide when the system of annual appraisal already exists in all the organisations? 

Needless controversy, needless discussion

Rishi Sunak having been named Prime Minister of Britain has generated unprecedented interest in all forms of media, more so in social media. His Indian roots, his marriage to Akshata Murthy, his Hindu faith – every aspect of his life is being discussed. And it’s but natural that if there are views, their ought to be counter views too! While the views run as far and wide as the triumph of Hinduism and fate taking a complete 360 degree with the empire that ruled over India once, now getting ruled over by an Indian, the contra views are equally extreme with a very senior congress leader advising India to learn from Britain as to promoting the interests of minority instead of majority centric fascist mentality!

All the above discussions and controversies are needless. Rishi is a Britisher first and then a very able politician and a very erudite scholar, who’s got the job on absolute merit. His minority and Hindu background matter the least. Similarly, India has always given equal opportunities to all its minorities and 10 years long reign of Manmohan Singh bears testimony to it ( I wonder how this senior congress leader forgot this glaring fact) .

We should admire British system of openness and fair play and should try to imbibe it in our milieu, wherever it could be lacking. Beyond this, rest all is immaterial. Rishi is Britain’s PM and the interest of Britain and British people will be paramount in his heart.

And why Indians should need any affirmation of their achievements from such an event? Based on their capabilities, Indians are doing very well across the globe and their contribution is acknowledged by one and all!

I think we need to develop the temperament to take the news in a balanced manner with objectivity – whether it’s Rishi Sunak becoming English premier or India edging out Pakistan in nail biting finish. Giving colour to every event – in the extant case, one a pure development in a foreign country and another a mere sporting event- does not gel well with our reputation if being a tolerant and all encompassing community and nation.

Jai Hind !

Diwali 2022 greetings

As the popular mantra goes:

ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः
सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः ।
सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु
मा कश्चिद्दुःखभाग्भवेत् ।
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

The relevance of this age old and very often chanted mantra couldn’t be felt more acutely than its being done today, when we are just seemingly recovering from more than two years of pandemic that turned our lives upside down, resulting in loss of business, jobs and nears and dears for several of us. Each line of the mantra holds so much importance in the context of what we just witnessed and what we continue to witness in the world around us.

The first line says, “ May all be happy”, which is a fervent wish in the hearts of each one of us today.

The second line wishes all of us to be healthy, free from all the ailments. The importance of this can’t be overemphasised when we are just trying to erase horrific memories of oxygen level, ICU, RT-PCR etc.

The third line yearns that all may see and witness only auspicious sights and not the sights entailing suffering from epidemics, wars, poverty, hatred, extremism etc.

The fourth line is a fervent plea to let no one in this world suffer, which becomes so appropriate when we see the suffering of the victims of war in in Ukraine and unprecedented floods in Pakistan apart from others.

Last line is a prayer for peace, which seems to be the most valuable possession today with virtually everyone seeking it irrespective of one’s financial or social status.

What else can one wish on this Diwali day! To sum it up in my own lines:

Diwali is symbolic of the bright overwhelming the dark,

And the evil being killed by the good ;

This Diwali let’s pray and wish each other to be,

Healthy, peaceful, happy and generally good!

Happy Diwali to all!