Monday, December 31, 2012

The year gone by ...

Caught in between a year when I got admitted into IIMA, got placed a couple of times (once at IIMA and once at MANIT); and the year when I would get to know my career path for life, 2012 for me would've felt like Rahul Dravid. Though it promised to be unsung, it turned out to be dependable with not many shocks and a few surprises that garnished it all through. 

Sport, something that drives my life day-in day-out, but for the fact that I don't play any of them except the armchair versions of them like Football Manager. The year was a major disappointment in the sporting sense. Nothing can match the heart wrenching feeling when you spend 600 bucks out of your own pocket to recharge the common TV in the PG, and then watch Aguero scoring deep into injury time to win the league for City.  On the other hand, Rafael Nadal gave me a few moments of joy, when he won the French Open title yet again, but watching him struggle for his fitness in the later part of the season was sad to say the least. Sadly, 2013 doesn't look to be much better for Rafa as he ruled himself out of the Australian Open as well. 

2012 also saw a personal favourite and role model hang up his boots. Will definitely miss the impeccably tucked in and sparkling clean white flannels walking (more often than not) within the first few overs of an Indian Innings. Those safe hands in the slip cordon. One of the most articulate persons Indian Cricket has ever had. The solidity and reliability that he provided when the chips were down and the team was stuttering. Will miss Jammy, my role model and hero since I can remember. If there was a brand ambassador for sheer hardwork and work ethic, it has to be Rahul Dravid. A person whom I literally worship for the amount he has achieved. 

On the personal front, 2012 gave me a lot that would make it memorable for I started taking my writing more seriously than ever before. While 2011 for me, was about getting back to writing, my 2012 resolution went on the lines of taking in more seriously. PaGaLGuY (and thus kicked it off for me I guess.  "Are you sure you want to do an MBA?" lead to India Today inviting me to write a column for them on similar lines which ended up being the "Rags to Riches or Riches to Rags" story. I finally beat my laziness to join Sportskeeda and penned 4 articles for them as well.

The internship at HT Media was a nice experience - both in terms of work and the experience, though the life at Gurgaon was sad, to say the least. With nearly 8 hours of power cuts, it was a torturous experience to even catch some sleep. And the one experience of going in an Auto with two drivers on the street-light-less roads of Gurgaon close to midnight, scared the daylights out of me! 

Receiving my first salary cheque after roaming around the streets of Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida for a month; has to rank among the most satisfying moments of my life. PGP1 at IIMA also came to an end, and quite a memorable year that was. Ended up in 4 clubs that I loved working for. Confluence happened, and that was one of the most memorable weekends of my life at IIMA. A football based project for a NGO co-founded by a former Indian football captain, a project on Indian Cinema; another on the Indian Railways; a course on Sports Marketing and suddenly even academics seemed so interesting and welcome! 

2013 looks as challenging as ever, and here's ending with the note that it brings a lot of happy memories of its own! Happy New Year to everyone who managed to reach as far as this! Hope you have a great year ahead as well! :)

Happy Birthday Sir Alex Ferguson!

This article was first published on Sportskeeda here:

While most of us lose our drive after a couple of successes, here’s a man who has retained it for decades now, after winning about 48 trophies as a football manager. A man who, even today, jumps around the touchline after a last minute goal as passionately and enthusiastically as a 12-year-old watching his first game of football. A man who is still the first to work at Old Trafford even after 26 years of remarkable service. A man who motivates me every time I watch him or read about him.

 Sir Alex is a man who has built and re-built team after team at United, and has faced every challenge one could possibly think of for a manager – a team that wasn’t doing exactly well when he took over; challengers who sprouted overnight as a result of sugar daddies; rebellious players; a bunch of kids with whom critics reckoned he could win nothing with; transitions, and multiple transitions at that; scandals that involved players; players who could start fights in an empty house; owners who weren’t possibly the best around; fan rebellions; players who wanted to walk out; players who were getting bigger than the team. And here’s someone who handled everything with the kind of treatment it exactly needed.

He is a man who hates losing and wants to win all the time irrespective of what he is involved in. Alex McLeish recalled an incident involving Sir Alex at Aberdeen, when they were playing cricket in pre-season. Ferguson wanted to bat first but was dismissed right in the first over, but refused to accept defeat and overruled the decision to keep playing.

A man whose dedication to United, and the family atmosphere he has cultivated at United is unmatched. Giggs and Beckham both have recalled having Sir Alex Ferguson came down to their home to get them to sign their schoolboy forms for Manchester United on their birthdays. His level of dedication is exemplified in one incident where he called up David Moyes to enquire about a 14-year-old Everton youngster who David Moyes had no clue about. On the other hand, Sir Alex knew everything about the lad.

An unmatched motivator, his players recall his half time ‘hair-dryer treatments’ particularly. “Just make sure you give it your all, because at the end of the game you’ll have to walk past that trophy and you won’t be able touch it,” he told his players during the half time team talk at Nou Camp in the 1999 Champions League final, that saw United pull off a historic comeback and complete an unprecedented treble. Critics see only the man who furiously points at his watch during the game, and the Ferguson who keeps talking to the fourth official on the sidelines. But they tend to ignore the winning attitude that he has that makes him want to win, whatever it may take.

A man who wants to keep going on forever at Manchester United, who famously said “You’ll be gone before I am gone, don’t you worry!” to a press person when asked about his retirement. But time will have its say, and he will probably call it a day sooner or later, a thought that haunts me and surely any Manchester United fan. But the meticulous planner that he is, he would have surely thought of the way the club will be taken forward.

Like the popular Facebook post doing the rounds; “For 26 years now, Manchester United has been a one man team. Sir Alex Ferguson.

Here’s wishing one of the greatest managers of all time, Sir Alex, a wonderful birthday and a many more years of success at Manchester United. Happy Birthday, Sir Alex Ferguson!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The machinery or our mindset: The rape blame game

    Heroine wearing a sleeveless top and shorts gets groped in public by a random guy, and hits back at him in public. Hero is informed by a minion that something like this is happening, and walks into the scene. Hero rubs the hand of the guy and the heroine and then gives a 5 second lecture to the guy about how you should not hunt for 'flesh', and then turns to the heroine.

    Hero: "Your saree is missing, so is your in-skirt. You are standing just in your undergarments."
    Heroine: "These are  shorts"
    Hero: "Aei. These are shorts for you. For us (guys), this is an undergarment. Oh yeah, where is your blouse .. You are standing just in your bra"
    Heroine: "This is a sleeveless top"
    Hero: "For you this is a sleeveless. For us (guys), it is a bra. You expose your underarms, wear navel rings and have body art on your thighs. Is this an exhibition?"
     **Heroes friends who are watching cheer**
    Hero: "You wear clothes that enable other people to count the number of moles on your body. And then, you thrash the guy with your sandals when he gropes you. Off late, this has become your (girls') latest pasttime no? God created man for women, and women for man. They are there to satisfy each others' needs. He (God) created everything, but it is up to us to live rightfully. One guy for a girl and one girl for a guy. If you want to live as the one girl for a guy, then expose your body like this, just to him. If you show it to everyone, then all the guys on the road will want to sleep with you. "

    **Heroes friends who are watching cheer again**

    Hero: "Look here, be a proper girl, and wear a saree and cover yourself properly. Then guys will not look at you as a girl but as God. Go!"

     ... and  like a friend on Facebook pointed out, the hero goes on to dance in a 'exotic' location with the heroine, in the same movie with the heroine wearing skimpy clothes.

    This is definitely not a single case. There have been movies where our popular stars have used 'Rape as a tool to prove their manhood', when the heroine doubted the same. There have been instances of similar lectures where the women folk are expected to dress up in a certain way, if they are to be respected. And the scenes get cheered and the hero is wolf whistled for putting the heroine in her place. There has always been a tendency to use heroines in movies just for the glam factor. A popular heroine once said she was surprised that a director asked her to cover her hip when it was getting exposed while shooting for a movie; as it is generally the other way around.

    When your mainstream idols reiterate such stereotypes, it is hard for people to grow out of it. Perversion is something that is encouraged by cinema today, and in my opinion is one of the major influences on people today. If only our directors could come out of the same and give an equal footing to women ...

    Today the problem of sexual harassment, abuse, molestation and rape is so widespread that not a day passes without my Twitter timeline seeing a Retweet by someone about a rape case somewhere in the country. And to think these are only the cases that are reported, horrifies me. Not a single day passes without my parents worrying when my sister is out with her friends in the evenings/night; that too in a relatively safer city for women like Chennai. (Again, my opinion. May not necessarily be factual)

    An India Today article in 2009 estimated that nearly 90% of rape cases in India go unreported. There are shocking news items about kids as young as 3, being molested or raped etc. Given the level of crime that already goes unreported due to the 'shame' that will be brought upon the family or the girl having to go through her trauma once again, and for a variety of other reasons; I am not sure if capital punishment is the solution to reducing these instances. It would only increase the pressure (Self, family and external) on the girl who went through all the trauma in the first place. Given the magnitude of the punishment, the reluctance to report the same would only increase.


    "It was a close relative of ours, how could I let my parents or someone else know. It would have snowballed into a major problem," she said as she narrated her story of going through the trauma to me. Most such cases where the perpetrator of the crime is someone known, go unreported. "I have been followed on bikes by guys at night when I was walking on the road as well, quite a few times." But when asked she didn't do anything about it, she said "It is counter productive. I am even reluctant to let my parents know, lest they start worrying even more. I've learnt to ignore it these days."

    We cry out loud for capital punishment, but when people don't even come forward to complain, capital punishments wont solve anything. That said, a discussion here at the campus, made a valid point. Aren't we, in the society, a major cause for this as well? "How many guys are willing to accept a girl who has come out in the open about having gone through something like this, for marriage? At the same time, if the girl hides it, we are perfectly fine about the marriage," asked the moderator for the discussion. Isn't this attitude, of sidelining girls who have gone through the trauma, more traumatic for them? The discussion made me think twice, about what stops us from accepting girls who have been through something for no fault of theirs.

    When a girl goes through this, the society frowns upon her; and doubts her integrity. Whether she was properly clothed, whether she was inebriated, whether she has a boy friend etc. Our society, is quite archaic and sexist that way; and our 'culture' looks down upon girls who drink and says that a girl shouldn't be doing something like that. When a girl goes through this, she is said to have destroyed the 'honour' of her family. Even in the Delhi Case, an Indian Express article pointed out how relatives of the girl wanted to know whether the girl would be able to get married and have children; at a point when the entire country was worried about her surviving this ordeal alive, in the first place!

    At the end of the day, people resort to the easier alternative and the general human tendency of shifting the blame else where, and who easier than the government in this case. While the government, can indeed be said to have mismanaged this case at various levels, preventing the crime at large, cannot be something that the government alone can do. All of us, in the society will have to take a step towards it.

    It cannot be just the government only at the end of the day, as this is more of a societal problem, than a political one. Unless people realise the gravity of the crime and the pain that a girl goes through during and after the crime, it will be hard to put an end to this as a whole. The change, as always, will have to come from within.

    Instead of being "ashamed" of being in a country that cannot "protect" its women folk, why don't we all start doing our bit first? By standing up and questioning, if a girl is eve-teased in public transport, for a start?

    Disclaimer: Quite a few of the views expressed in this are not my own. I have used some of the views that friends or people whom I know, expressed, on social media and otherwise. The credits definitely belong to them.

    Tuesday, December 11, 2012

    Focaloid - Photography Unleashed!

    As a budding photographer, have you ever felt the need for a platform where you can get together with fellow shutterbugs from around the globe, where you can share your masterpieces (or atleast the ones that you think are masterpieces) and talk to them about how you could have made them better? If you’ve felt that a Flickr, which stops with photo-hosting and Facebook, that has only people liking all ‘good-looking’ photographs is inadequate to get some critical feedback on how you can improve or how good you actually are, that’s where Focaloid fills the gap. 

    Conceived as a social media platform to get photographers to discuss and share their photographs, Focaloid was launched on 19th August – incidentally World Photography Day - by a group of photography enthusiasts when they figured out that there was no place for them to discuss with their fellow aficionados from around the world. The team consisting of 5 founding partners – a NITIE alumnus, a former Infoscion, two IIM Ahmedabad students and web developer – has put together a website that has caught the eye of photographers across the world given the 200,000 page visits they have clocked up within 4 months of their launch and the average visit length of 12 minutes where the users gaze at their ‘Photoboard.’

    A key feature of Focaloid, the Photoboard is envisioned as a place where a user can get snaps and updates from all his (or her) favourite photographers in one place. The interface is built to initiate and encourage discussions among the community, given the ease of following and commenting on photographs. 

    The Editor’s Choice page focuses on the best photographs that are part of Focaloid. Voted for by a select group of expert photographers from the Focaloid community, these photographs are presented in an aesthetically pleasing way that puts the focus on the photographs, than the photographer or advertisements. One scroll across the Editor’s Choice page shows the impression that Focaloid has created amongst the photographing community, given the quality of the shots that one can admire out there. 

    For a photography enthusiast, Focaloid acts not only as a place where he can share clicks and talk to fellow photographers but also get to see the best clicks of like-minded people from around the globe which gives one a great indication on the kind of clicks you can attempt next time around when you go photo-hunting & inspires you to get started with your DSLRs. 

    With a robust and fast-growing community of over 1500 photographers from across the globe, the discussions are more pertinent for a photography enthusiast rather than the wows of a ‘layman’ on social networking sites and helps a photographer work towards improving himself! 

    The attention of the founding team is currently on creating a product that will wow its users than focussing on revenue, the major stumbling block for entrepreneurial ventures today. The team also appears guarded on its future plans for photo-exhibitions, photography tutorials and other possible streams of business that could also generate revenue. 

    Recently incubated through the iAccelarator program in CIIE – IIM Ahmedabad, Focaloid was also selected to the Microsoft BizSpark plus program, which identifies the top start-ups in the technology domain. Given that Focaloid has not just caught the eye of the shutterbug community but also the business world, Focaloid could be the next big thing in the fast evolving world of e-business tomorrow.