Thursday, 19 May 2011

Ctrl + a + Del: A guide to making small new beginnings daily

Computers were invented and developed by humans and are a sort of miniature versions of human brain.
We humans have the tendency to imitate ourselves in whatever we invent or build.
So computers are no exceptions. A computer works the same way most human brains do.
Simply put, it stores the information it is fed and retrieves that information on command.
Obviously, the computers are not as sophisticated an information storing and retrieving machine as a human brain.
Computers have limitations on how much data they can store. And depending on their configuration, the time taken in retrieval of that data also varies.
On the other hand, the human brain has no limitation on information storage capacity and of course it all comes back to us faster than the speed of thought.
In fact, more often than not, humans are not able to set limits to the amount of information stored in their brain or choose that information.
Ironically, in the computers that limitation is set by humans according to their needs.
But we are unfortunately not able to do that for ourselves most of the time.
We tend to store unnecessary data or information in our brains and it affects us the same way it does a computer. It slows us down.
So as you all know very well that it is quite easy to get rid of unwanted and redundant information from a computer, resulting in a fast machine.
BUT, it seems almost impossible to remove any information from our brain. No matter what we do or where we go the old information just keeps coming back like a nightmare and with a lightning fast speed.

It is common that we forget things which are important. We have Things To Do Today  lists, alarms on our mobile phones, pop ups in our e-mail accounts and still we forget "important things" to do.
Then why is it so that we are not able to get rid of the unwanted, unpleasant, unnecessary information from our brains?
Do we have a choice in that?
Have we already exercised that choice?
Are we deliberately choosing to forget the important things and keeping the redundant things stored in our brain?
The answers to these questions are also there with all the other unused information in our brains. Just need to dig up those files and use that information.

Wait for the book………….its coming up……………..this centenary.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Witness to Life

I have this thing about watching a movie alone in a theatre, i.e. without company, or a play or going to a concert alone. I just can’t. I have tried it several times and that has spoiled the most wonderful movies/plays/concerts for me.
It is silly really. I have almost hoped that the movie is not too good if I am watching it alone in a theatre. What would I do if there is a great joke and I want to laugh my guts out. If there is a song so melodious that I am tempted to hum it along. I just can’t do it if I am alone. Nobody can. It just feels insane to me, not to mention to the people sitting at the seats beside you.
It seems so trivial but it isn’t. Really what would you do?
Imagine yourself sitting in a dark theatre without any company and watching a movie and enjoying it, laughing uncontrollably, getting to the edge of your seat if it's a thriller and for that matter crying at an emotional scene (a form of entertainment for a big population) with a hoard of strangers sitting beside you. Can you imagine that? Well, I can’t.
The choice of seat plays a very important role in this business of watching a movie alone. I usually book my tickets online and it gives me the opportunity to select my own seat. And if you are to watch a movie alone, it is but natural that you would try to pick an aisle seat.
Beside the fact that you are alone, you do not wish to spoil seating arrangements for some family but more importantly for the reason of some stranger coming up to you and while asking/reminding you of being alone, asks you to move a seat or two and “adjust”.
There is a flip side to it though (I mean the aisle seat). Because then person or a party sitting beside you knows for a fact that you are watching the movie alone. And God forbid if you are too fast or too slow to understand a joke and you laugh a bit too soon or wee bit late, the whispers and giggles will be very suggestive.
There can be several reasons why you have to watch a show alone. Let’s see: You are single for one (due to number of reasons), you have had enough of the dating scene, and all your friends are married.
So basically you are watching the movie alone due to lack of company. And even if you are so lucky to have single “friends” like yourself (Facebook friends not included), it is quite a task to choose one for the movies.  
Gender is an important factor while choosing someone to take along. It is very complex choice to make.
Take my example, I am a heterosexual male and if I am to ask one of my heterosexual female friends to a movie/play/concert it can very easily be misconstrued as a date. Not only in your social circle at large but by the female friend in question itself.
So what’s wrong with a date? Nothing. It's just too big a word for a damn movie.
And as it happened recently, I asked one of my friends to join me for a show of my favorite writer and she buzzed me off. Can’t exactly say why but may be because the show was very expensive for her and she was not ready for me to buy a ticket for her because as we say it in India “Hum Aapke Hain Kaun.?” (rough translation : What am I to you). Buzzed me off sounds better though and probably she had other plans, who knows.
See? Very complex.
On the other hand if I were to call one of my male buddies to watch a movie, it would just be two losers watching a movie together. Not only we would be misconstrued as two loners looking for some action but most importantly there is a big chance that we may be mistaken for a Gay couple. As liberal as I am about the sexual orientation of people, I am not ready for this.
Besides all the points made above, the real reason for my phobia of watching movies alone is that it's FUN. And you do not wish to have fun alone. You do not wish to do anything that is fun if you are alone and for that matter even if it is not fun you do not wish to be alone anyways. You need someone to share everything in your life.
You need a witness to your life.  Everybody does. Otherwise it would just be series of small incidents went unnoticed.
So get up and find a witness for your life or a movie whatever releases first.
See you at the movies.

Friday, 13 May 2011

गुलज़ार साहब के लिए

आपसे मिल सका तो ये कहूँगा

अच्छा हुआ के आपसे दिल्ली में मुलाक़ात हुई
दिल्ली से आपका-हमारा कोई वास्ता तो है
वैसे तो कोई ज़ाती पहचान नहीं है फिर भी
पुरानी सब्ज़ी मंडी से गुज़रता मेरा रास्ता तो है

उस रास्ते से गुज़रने के बहाने ढूंढ लेता हूँ
सीधे रस्ते से ना आने के बहाने ढूंढ लेता हूँ
गुलज़ार साहब यहीं रहते थे बेटा
अपनी बेटी को ये बतलाने के बहाने ढूंढ लेता हूँ

जहां से आई थी सदा के काबे से पर्दा ना उठाया जाए
वहीं ग़ालिब का बुत लगा था और आप आए थे  
वैसे तो वजह कुछ खास नहीं थी लेकिन
मैंने सोचा कि चश्मा इस बार बल्लीमारान से बनवाया जाए

ऐसी पहचान तो नहीं के पुराने दोस्त हों फिर भी
दिल्ली और हमारा ये रिश्ता अजीब सा तो है
"वो हैं ना अपने गुलज़ार साहब" कहता हूँ जब दोस्तों से
ये झूठ झूठ सही सच के करीब सा तो है

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Judging a Book

How can you judge a book if not by its cover? I have been involved with publishing and bookselling industry for too long to come to terms with "Do not judge a book by its cover."
If it was not for my skill of judging the book by its cover, I would have actually never bought a book in my life let alone sold any.
I can appreciate the metaphorical connotation of this quote (with some reservations to be discussed later) but when it comes to real books, I am afraid there is no other way to judge a book but by its cover. 
As a publisher and a bookseller for a good part of my life I have been a keen observer of the book buying behavior at the bookstores. And believe me it's both funny and frustrating knowing the reasons for buying a book by the public at large.
I have seen people selecting the books for most bizarre of reasons. One of them has been during the World Book Fair at New Delhi when a gentleman picked up a book, tried judging its weight by bouncing it at his palm and then asked the bookstall attendant with a street smart look in his eye, "How much for this one."
And there is one friend of mine who recently bought some books from her favorite vendor asking him if they were any good. With "if they are bad there will be consequences" look in her eyes. It was hilarious. As if he was going to say, "No, don't buy them, they are no good."
Try buying a book when you go to a bookshop next time with these simple conditions:
You can't buy your favorite/well known author's book,
You can't buy a pre-defined "classic,"
You can't buy a book that says "A million copies sold worldwide," and
You certainly can't buy a book if the author is sitting at the bookshop signing autographs.
So how do you select a book to buy? First you go to a section of your choice, let's say Fiction and then go to a shelf marked new authors (well there is never a shelf marked new authors in any bookshop but I need to make it easier to prove my point).  
You do not know any of the authors as they all are first time published authors. There have not been any raving reviews about them in tabloids either and even if there were, that too would itself be pre-judging the book.
So you do the
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe,
Catch the baby by the toe.
If it hollers let him go,
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, you are it!

in your head and pick out one.  Don't like the cheesy illustration on the cover and instantly put it back. Pick one again. Nicely done graphics with solid fonts. With a Hmmmm….. you turn it around, read the blurb and shove it in the shelf in frustration where it belongs.

The fortunes of the books and the authors heavily depend on the skills of graphic designers and blurb writers. So I learnt and accepted with reluctance much later in my career as a publisher.

One unsuccessful pick after the other, changing your criteria of selection from color of the title to Gender and then age of the author you are so disheartened by the laziness of the bookshop owners not pointing at the right book to buy.
There is another way of judging a book and that is selecting a book by one particular publisher. That is like trusting the commissioning editors of that publisher more than your taste.
Which is judging the book, again, by its cover. At bookshops, there are certain readers of this species who are more interested in the Logo printed at the spine of the book more than anything. It is rather easier for them to select a book actually.
At the end of last aisle here is a stack of assorted books which is marked 70% off. And you give in to the calculation of number of pages versus price after discount.
That is actually a very practical way of selecting a book. You do not regret it too much as you were not expecting too much out of this lot at the first place.
And maybe who knows you might get lucky and find the book of your dreams in that lot.
The truth is that the books have always been and always will be judged by their covers. So you be the judge of that.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Circle of Life: Anti-Clockwise

One can tell by the way God has designed human life that HE is a fusspot. There are ways to improve human life that even low-ranked Gods like me can come up with. Speaking of low ranks, I need a promotion and I deserve a promotion and it's high time that HE gives to me what I deserve. I have worked ranks through God of small things, God of not so small things and now as a God of slightly bigger things and…..well enough about me.  
I would totally re-do the human life if given a chance to be the God of Big Things. Actually I would turn the whole cycle around (anti-clockwise).

Imagine this:

You start your life at 70 (on a hospital bed still).
Can't see or hear properly. Your heart is fragile. You do not remember anything. Your have many risks to your life.

So till this time, nothing much is different from the existing life cycle at the time of birth.


As the time passes, your hearing improves and your sight starts clearing up. Your heart rate becomes normal and you start remembering everything one by one. All your chronic diseases start going into remission and your health miraculously starts improving.

More time passes:

At the age of 60 you start your career by receiving a Gold watch. Just 10 years after your life starts you have a steady income. You are the Boss so have less work to do at the beginning of your career.

At 50 you start growing hair on your head; first white then turning grey and eventually turning black.

At 45 your teeth start growing strong and day by day your digestion keeps improving.

At 40 your wrinkles start disappearing and glow on your face starts coming back.

You are 35 now and as your life progresses you feel adventurous and have the body accordingly. You get married. (Don't expect too much of me I am just a low-ranked God. I am not paid THAT much. Nobody can improve your married life.)

Your life progresses further and now you are 25, young and optimistic towards life and you have already spent 45 years of your life. You stop working.

You are fit as a fiddle and feel everything as if it is happening in your life for the first time. Well, it is actually.

Now you are 15 and a new chapter unfolds, you get your innocence back. You become an idealist, truthful, straight forward person. You become a better friend and totally love your friends more than anything.

As your life progresses, you become more truthful, enthusiastic and honest about your feelings (contrary to the existing regime).

Now you are 10. You are growing cuter day by day. You do not have a worry in the world and are much more interested in playing than other things in the last decade of your life.

You are 5 now and apple of every body's eye. Everything looks like a miracle to you: water, fire, rain, animals everything.

At the end of your life, you are the cutest, most pure thing anybody can imagine and you just stop existing (you don't die).

Am I right or am I right. Compare this to your miserable life so far and you will see my point. This proposal is for GOD's perusal and I will understand if HIS ego does not allow him to implement this in action.

PS: I Love you God.