Thursday, April 24, 2014

God of Big Things

Have you ever wondered why cricket enjoys the status of the most sought after game in the country despite the fact that our national game is hockey? What is the first thing that strikes your mind when you hear the word cricket? What is the one popular name that had been unblemished and glorious right from the first time you'd heard it? Who is the one person whose achievements seem as important and make you as proud as your own would? No points for guessing, the answer to all the above questions is the little master, Sachin Tendulkar. The name that fills the heart of each and every Indian with pride that is unprecedented.

Well, I won't be boring you with stats and figures that adorn the scintillating track record of the greatest cricketing legend ever in the cricketing history. But instead, I would like to bring out what he means to us - Indians - by relating to you reminiscence from my childhood.

As far as my childhood goes, I remember that before every cricket match where India played, I, with the help of my friends, would go to the market and bring three to four big bottles of Pepsi (the brand he used to endorse) and my mother used to make pop-corn for each one of us, who would be glued to the TV until our hero, our idol, stylishly played his master-strokes. At each and every shot that our hero played, all of us would raise our glasses of pepsi in air and shout 'cheers', with our glass tumblers hugging each other, making sharp sounds which always used to worry my mom that we would break them, because there occurred a glass-banging once almost every over and sometimes even twice or thrice during the same over. A boy amongst us would take note of the scores at every ten overs so that we could compare the scores when the other team batted and revel at the chances of our winning. In fact, I maintained a cricket copy scoring every match Sachin played in and batted in. At every lbw appeal or run out appeal to the third umpire that the opponent side made against Sachin, we would inwardly pray to God to save our god on the pitch. Such was the fever not to miss even one shot by the little master and we made sure to pump up our inverter batteries, even had a radio on just in case the battery failed, and if nothing worked, run all the way up to the main market and find a shop that streamed the match live thanks to the generator they had. People, like bees, would buzz across their TV screen blocking their customers, but no one cared, since the shopkeeper himself would be busy watching the TV.

And if by any chance, the pride of the nation lost his wicket, the sheer delight of the match would go in vain, and without wasting a single moment we would turn the TV off and go out and practice Tendulkarship with our tiny bats carrying the little hand-made MRF signs and a tattoo of the signature of the little master stuck at the back. Interestingly, courtesy to the man with the MRF bat, in those days none of us wanted to be a bowler because when it came to being a cricketer, which was our evident dream, it meant being like Sachin Tendulkar. Almost all of us, no matter how lousy a cricketer we were in the childhood, tried to imitate the star batsman when we were with the bat - right from affixing a stressed Sachin-like smile on our face to bending our knees intermittently while the bowler was taking a long run-up, from proudly lifting our bats parallel to our right hand when we hit a century and then thanking the Almighty by looking at the sky to hammering the pitch near our crease of no reason just because our idol did the same. Sachin lived in our very blood.

My father being a great fan of Sachin himself used to take us to restaurants for dinner every time he hit a century, most of which were already jam-packed by people celebrating the little master's success. Such was his fever, which remains unexampled even today. 

As I grew up, many more stars came into the picture, but none of them could leave an equal impression on my mind as our master blaster did. Some lacked consistency, others lacked elegance and style of batting and the remaining ones lacked modesty. No-one could replace Sachin as my hero, and I doubt anybody ever will be able to. Though I stopped following the game of cricket so keenly as time passed, but the assurance that Sachin was still going on with great splendour kept my heart satisfied.

But the most spectacular moment in the cricketing history was when Sachin achieved the most stupendous feat for any batsman. 200 runs in an ODI. Perhaps, it was the only record that was not in his name. I saw some amazing things that day. Thanks to Sachin, people who never knew that there was a space for status message in facebook or people who haven't changed their gtalk status messages since ages, had got a status message to praise his genius! From children to uncles, from our hostel's guard saheb to celebrities on TV, Sachin was on everybody's mind. Even the rift between political parties could not stop the unanimous praise coming for the maestro. It was the only day when Cricinfo's traffic trounced IRCTC. It reminds me that I've to ask my Dad to take me to a restaurant 'two times' for his 200.

If only we had the essential TV features that now offer which would save me up on all those minutes invested into gathering information into my cricket copies.'s INFOGRAFIX provides snippets of information with visual twist, making caricatures and funny cartoons of the players, animating the field but at the same time offering information digging up the history of the player, his country and world records across. I wish Sachin played to this day, so that I could use's infografix to explore his uncountable records that could turn even the best of the world's talent green with envy.

P.S. This post is a part of Cricket just got better! Activity by in association with

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Fired before Hired!

This story is about December 1 - the first day of placements of IIT Delhi.

For the first time in the year, I had woken up before 7 am. For the first time in my four years of engineering, I had taken a bath so early. Other than occasional shivers, slight panting and feeble 'I-am-so-cool' feeling, I experienced numbness all over. It was the day of interview. Job interview. My interview with a major consulting company was scheduled at 8 o' clock in the morning. In such a cold weather, it sounded pretty insane, but my arse was willing to go through any torture as long as it promised me enough money to buy bread, butter and a BMW at the end of the day. The company was reputed having many credentials and worldwide standings by which I was completely wooed. Besides, it offered the highest package in the campus - a whopping 19 lacs. So, at 7.00 am sharp, I baffled myself by being completely suited-up, much like Barney, except for the awesomeness. I rushed to the interview room, after having completed three circles of agarbatti in front the miniature Saibaba sculpture in my room praying for success.

Other interviewees, some of them my batch-mates, were waiting already. All of them smelt quite good, most of them, who otherwise wouldn't bathe for weeks, didn't seem to belong to an IIT, but rather a model hunt. Envy greeted me before the interviewer. After ten minutes, I was allotted an interviewer, a Sardarji whose name I don't exactly remember. His seemed quite scary. No, not by the face or voice, but by his serious walk. He advanced towards me as if he was gonna give me a pugaree-butt, making me retrace my steps at first. But soon sense hit me back. If I run away, I'd lose the job. In absolute cold and lull, I tried to make some noise with my newly bought Hush-Puppies and advanced towards him. Soon, a firm hand-shake took place under the shadow of the cloudy sky. Firmer from my side, just to let him know that I was not scared. Or rather let me know that I wasn't.

'Hello, I'm Harsh,' I said, in a crisp and soft voice.

'Hi.' I waited for him to continue, while we advanced towards the slaughter house. He didn't.

'Your good name please,' I asked. Being curious is considered good, isn't it?

'Hmmm.' That was all that he said.

At this point of time, three separate thoughts swayed in my head simultaneously.
1. Either he had not heard my question. Quite possible.
2. He could have forgotten his name. He might be trying to recollect.
3. He didn't like me asking his good name. Stern interviewer, you see?

Okay, so I was lost in my mind and in his 'hmmm', when he opened the door to the torture room. What I saw left me parched. Those three thoughts merged with each other and brought me at my most confused state.

'Harsh, have a seat,' Hmmm said. Let's call him Hmmm, for ease. I was glad to know that he could actually frame sentences.

'Thanks a lot.' I grabbed the opposite chair, which was as cold as ice. With my butts frozen, I felt like a scapegoat in the making. I was wearing cotton trousers for the first time in my college life. I tried to make myself comfortable, but soon his serious face espoused its sadistic course.

'So, you're?' Hmmm shot the trigger straightaway. I was startled.

'I am... I am Harsh Snehanshu, student of Engineering Physics, 4th year...'

'No, no, don't go ahead. I just forgot your name. So Harsh, what do you like?' Hmmm asked.

'Definitely not a creepy Sardar in the chilly morning!' I thought.

'Hmmm...' I said and began thinking in a similar manner to Hmmm. Despite my liking for Hmmm, he didn't seem pleased. I continued, 'I like writing. I like business. And, I like people.'

'What's the order of liking?' He asked.

'The reverse. People, business and writing.' I said. The first big mistake.

'When it's your first choice, then why did it come at last?'

'I saved the best for the last,' I tried to please him with my wit. He didn't know appreciation.

'Hmmm.' He said. I think he liked his name too much. His eyes were deadly.

'Okay, so tell me about this the-witty's-hit dot com that you've mentioned in your resume?' Hmmm asked. He wanted more wit. No problem, I had plenty.

'So, is my start-up, which I co-founded around 6 months ago. It caters to people who are good with one-liners. As a writer, I realized that there was no platform which promotes common-man's basic creativity of crafting quotable one-liners and no way to popularize or gain incentives for the grassroot level of creativity that every common man possesses...In this...'

'Interesting? You're a writer too...what have you written?' Hmmm developed some interest. His scary eyes turned a bit green.

'I've written a novel, titled "Oops! 'I' fell in love!" which I got published in Aug, 2009. Besides that, my stories have been published in various books of the Chicken Soup for the soul series,' I said, rather proudly.

'Is your novel autobiographical?'

'No, it's fictitious. Autobiographies tend to be boring, you know.' My confidence was sky-rocketing. A day 1 job was on the cards.

'Why are you interested in consulting?' Hmmm asked. He was good at changing topics.

The rocket encountered a sudden drag. 'Hmmm, consulting is a field which would offer me great insight into the field of business and people, which I'm really passionate about. It would give me a chance to....blah blah blah ... tell me to stop licking your boot, you sucker...blah blah blah. Or at least smile. Your serious face is killing me...blah blah.'

He looked convinced. Boot-licking, who doesn't like that - that too at the start of the day?

'You're a writer as well as an entrepreneur. And you're making money as well from both the places. If I'd been at your place, I would have pursued the venture full-time. Why don't you go full-time?'

'I am going to go full-time. I am sitting here just to please my Mom.' I uttered, irritably. The second mistake. That turned out to be quite heavy.

'Thanks for the interview. Great to meet you.'

'Hmmm,' I said, in a contemplative tone. I stood up and said, 'It's the-witty-shit dot com, by the way.' For the first time, his serious face broke into a smile. It reeked of sarcasm. The serious face was much better. I banged the door in frustration before leaving and didn't sit for the subsequent job interviews.

My Mom couldn't have been more pleased. She did not talk to me for a month after December 1. #ConditionSeriousHai

P.S. If this story seems boring, it's autobiographical. If not, then it's fictitious. You know what it is.

Written for Indiblogger's contest #ConditionSeriousHai by Cadbury 5 Star 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Ishiguro, please call me home

The first time I read Kazuo Ishiguro's novel Never Let Me Go, I couldn't let go of the novel. Its limpid prose weaved a literary world that I had never experienced in my life before. I wanted to meet Ishiguro, to learn from him in person, to write like him someday. Little did I know that his book's influence would soon prod me to follow his footsteps, by aspiring to become a part of the programme that nurtured him as a writer.

I am 24 now, having been writing for over six years. In the past six years, I have published four books. Three of them have been in the genre of light fiction, and the fourth one, a serious fiction. Over the years, my reading has exposed me to many such masters, from Amis to Barnes to Rushdie. The more I read them and about them, the more I understood that honing the craft of writing can best happen in the company of good writers, something that all of them had access to.

Last year, while travelling across India, I attended the Delhi launch of the book Calcutta by the acclaimed writer Amit Chaudhari. Chaudhari mentioned, during his conversation, that he taught prose writing at the Creative Writing programme at the University of East Anglia, the same programme that polished the craft of my favorite writer, Kazuo Ishiguro. I came back home and read about the UEA's school of literature and drama in detail. Reported to be one of the most reputed writing programmes in the world, having renowned faculties and alumni, it sent me into an aspirational frenzy. I wanted to be a part of it.

The entire 2012 and half 2013, I travelled across India with the motive to grow as a writer. It was a conscious step to broaden my experiences of life, to understand which stories are worth telling by discovering India and a little bit of myself. This journey had a life-changing impact on me. It made me realize how little I knew, and gave me the time to read more. Two years later, last December, as I was weaving those strands of my journey into a travel book, I felt a dire need of a mentor, of a circle of writer friends who could critique my writings, give me suggestions to polish it. And there was just one such programme in my mind, the one which bred my idol Ishiguro. For a Japanese writer now living in the UK, Ishiguro is a living testimony to how welcoming Great Britain is in promoting literature, arts and drama. I checked the website of the University of East Anglia. To my surprise there was a fellowship offering for the South Asian writers.

That I have already applied to the Creative Writing programme for writers, the Charles Pick Fellowship, by the University of East Anglia shouldn't come as a surprise to you. Holding my favorite novel Never Let Me Go, expectantly waiting for the results of the programme, I am just wishing: Ishiguro, please call me home.

Written for indiblogger's contest: Knowledge is Great

Friday, January 3, 2014

VOTES APP: What say?

How would you inspire and mobilize India's youth to vote in the Indian General Elections 2014 using social mobile apps?

A year ago, if the same question were posed, I would have deemed it to be impossible. But over the past one year, the kind of response and social media mobilization the Indian politics has been seeing is unprecedented. Not only did people discuss, criticize and put forward their ideas in relation to the government, but also campaigned their favorite political parties and lead them to surprisingly good results. A good case in point has been Aam Aadmi Party, which initially mobilized the masses through its social media handles and thereon through mobile apps and cloud telephony using VoiceTree.

India has already reached a billion mark for the mobile phone users and right from the rickshaw driver to the CEOs, everyone has an access to mobile phones. With cheap internet packs and offline mobile apps, it would be a landmark move to see the voting process be undertaken via this medium. To mobilize India's youth to go a further step so as to vote in the Indian General Elections 2014 using social mobile apps, I think some of the following creative ways could help. This can be done by an app appropriately named Votes App, which has the following features:

Prerequisite: Aadhar integration: Each person while buying the sim of his or her mobile phone should give his aadhar number for the integration.

1. It's SMS based - Since we are talking about the General Elections, we should keep in mind that unlike urban areas, in the majority of India it is mainly the poor people who come out to vote. If we assume the voters among them to have a phone, it's unfair to assume them having an internet connection to use such an app. In such a case an SMS based app works the best. Through the census, we can already assess the number of voters under one family mobile number. Each voter can add the aadhar code through which he could send in an SMS to register his vote.

2. Has finger print scanning feature: One touchphone can be installed to cast votes in villages across India. Such an app can reach out to many people who otherwise are not accessible. Under the observation of one Election Commission member, this can have wide reaching effect, since finger prints are unique and thanks to Aadhar card, these are ingrained in the computer system as well.

3. Face recognition: For urban places, this can definitely work well.  Having a camera phone where face could be scanned and matched with Aadhar cards, this can enable people to cast their vote privately.

4. Simulating Democracy: Voting game apps: The best way to mobilize youth is to generate more interest about politics. The best way for that is to create apps which simulate democracy and include a campaigning method of online voting in that simulation, so that their minds can relate to the idea on a more personal level.

5. Tying up with news sites: Political news sites with heavy traction could be approached on a barter deal to create a quizzing app based on current affairs which mobilizes interest of people along with makes them lead into a technologically sound election system in near future - by giving them hypothetical questions about online voting.

6. A movement in favor of technology needs to created now: With brands like We-Chat thinking on these lines, they should utilize their gigantic userbase to popularize this idea. Also, by incentivizing the government to pilot run such an idea over the next few months is bound to create a sound result.

Frankly, it's quite difficult to make it a reality by 2014 since it requires both technological and policy changes, but I'm sure that by the end of 2019, both the advances in technology and the strengthening of government's technological prowess will enable this dream a reality.