Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Hemantha Kalam - 19 'It's all Money, Honey!'

‘Dhanam Moolam Idam Jagath’ goes the old Sanskrit adage. It means ‘the root of this world's existence is but money’.

And how? ‘The Hindu’ Newspaper dated the 1st May, 2014, published 3 unconnected news items which resulted in amusement to annoyance.

The first one was where a pet cat was stolen, yes stolen, in Chennai, and the emotional pet keeper went to the police station to give a complaint on his loss only to be ridiculed by the police. The pet keeper, out of his emotional attachment mustered the support of all his friends and searched everywhere in vain. Finally they correctly guessed that the chances of the cat being sold at the weekly pet market called the ‘Sunday Animal Market’ are high and lo, as rightly surmised, his cat was offered for a sale of Rs.5,000. When called by its name, ‘Bholi’, the Persian cat responded, confirming the identity.

The pet keeper and his friends overpowered the ‘seller’ who turned out to be the thief too and handed him over to the police. While the thief stole the cat for some small monetary benefit, the police apparently were reluctant initially to take any action as the loss was only emotional and not ‘monetary’. What happens if a person is ‘stolen’ (kidnapped) instead of a pet-cat?

The second incident was where an amount of Rs.25,000,000 (Rs.2.5 crore or about US $ 413,000) was burnt in a car, ostensibly belonging to the company again ostensibly promoted by a sitting MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly) belonging to the ruling party in the state and the country. It, apparently, was not an accident, in the normal sense of it.

In the wake of the elections on 30th April, 2014 in the state of Andhra Pradesh and elsewhere in the country, it has become a (woefully) practice, to use money power for ‘buying’ votes. Hence, the Chief Election Commission (CEC), that takes the responsibility of conducting fair elections, has given a diktat that searches would be intensified for unaccounted money in the country, and especially that is being transported, would be seized by the government. Hence a serious search operation is mounted across the country in all state and district borders and vehicles were being subjected to ‘complete’ searches.

Ever since the politicians, with great uniformity-belonging to all political parties, with a rare exception here and there, have been following multi-various methods of transporting the much needed lolly (mostly money and liquour) for enticing votes.

In this case, apparently, the money was ingeniously hidden in the engine compartment itself under the bonnet of the car. As, in almost all the cases, when a vehicle is searched, only the passenger and boot compartments are checked.

But what the master-minds have not bargained for was this amount being paper currency and packed in paper bundles catching fire due to combustion and burnt, as happened in this case. When the smoke and flames were seen, the driver and the attendant abandoned the car and fled.   

So what exactly happened and what the money is for and why it was concealed under the bonnet are some of the questions which might be answered, eventually, as time passes and more developments take place in this amusing case.

Instead of trying to make a one-time payment to buy votes, if the burnt amount could have been used in the constituency of the politicians, towards some beneficiary programme for the people in general, probably the people would have voted him to power again? Now the amount is wasted and as it looks clandestine, there is no hope of recovering it by insurance either. But over a period, the burden will be on the people again, when replenishments would be sought, for what has been lost.

Now the third news made it to the headlines. A matinee idol, with a huge fanfare and who entered into politics, has now become a Union Minister. While trying to use his franchise on the 30th April in Hyderabad, he and his family members apparently tried to skip the queue for voting. 

This is no news in India, as the ordinary man in the country is always at the mercy of the Important Persons (IPs), Very Important Persons (VIPs) and Very Very Important Persons (VVIPs), their whimsical programmes and protocols. But the reason why it made headlines was that a young man found courage in stopping the minister and in giving him a piece of his mind, making the minister humble in acquiescing to stand in the queue and vote, thus now robbing the peace of mind for the Union Minister, who, for sure, must be fretting and fuming for the incident, that questions his and his family’s privileges.

At the beginning of his film career, some three decades ago, when he probably would not have thought of becoming a politician, this minister was quite humble while searching for opportunities in the film world. The father of a cousin of ‘yours faithfully’ was a film financier and as such could wield quite a good amount of influence on the film world in India and persons such as this current minister, but then searching for a foothold, also were meeting him and requesting for his favours. On one such occasion, the gentleman was coming down on a flight of stairs of the cousin’s house and 'yours faithfully' was climbing on to meet the cousin. The gentleman was so humble that he bent backwards to allow space on the narrow staircase.

Such a person went on to become a Mega Matinee Idol, probably earning so much money that could not be counted easily and to protect the same and for enhancing his image, took to politics and succeeded in becoming a Minister to wield enough power to get easy and quick entrances and work done.

Coming back to money, what is money if not a medium of purchase? Now the word purchase is not all that innocuous.  It gives power to the people and many a time, to acquire this power, people in turn bargain for losing humility, love and affection.

I just wonder the role of care, love and affection in all these three cases.

In the two cases of the politicians, how nice it would have been, if the money and power were used to become closer to people emotionally by gaining their natural love and affection instead of making everything so conditional and inanimate?

Is not the case, where the love for a cat made the person search on his own to retrieve his love even at the cost being ridiculed, proving that?

What do you think? You tell me! 

Till then, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Thanks (English), Dhonyabaad (Bangla), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai) and Asante (Kiswahili).

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy
Chennai, India

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Hemantha Kalam - 18 'Sweet Talk'

This one is for ‘Sweet’ people like Mohan G. Gurjale, Jagadish Yamijala, Deena Prasad, Sheen Stanley, Mrs. Sharan, Late P. Leela Krishna Reddy, and many more, whose names are not mentioned for fear of making such a long list that could obscure the main blog itself J

“Logon Ka dil agar haan
Jeet na tumko hain tho
Bus meetha meetha bolo…”

(If you wish to conquer the hearts of the people, just speak sweetly)

…Amit Khanna, Hindi Film ‘Man Pasand’

This, in essence, is the important ingredient for a good sales pitch.

My rambling on ‘sweet talk’ comes with a caveat that what I am going to write further here may short change a few of my colleagues and friends who had been close to me and knew me differently.

But like every coin has three dimensions, I too have multi-faces that I now can safely qualify to be called multi-faceted. J

Personally I have been blessed with a moderate temper (?), and with my fuse being relatively shorter and with no ability to tolerate ‘nonsense’ for long, I could quickly turn acerbic.

However, over the years, I found ‘sweet talking’ helps in negotiations, marketing efforts and results in good non-returnable sales.

It was on Kempe Gowda Road, Bangalore that I was enlightened about the value of ‘Sweet talking.’ When one day I was riding my motorbike and as is wont of many an Indian rider / driver, suddenly veered to the left at a turning nearer to Hudson Circle. Another scooterist following me closely stopped me and said very softly in Kannada, “Devaru eradu kai kottidare, aa mele Gaadiyannu maadidavaru indicators kottidaare. Thaavu yavado ondannu thorasa bahudaayithu’ (God has given you two hands and the vehicle manufacturer has given two indicators. You could have shown one of them) and without waiting for my apologies, he left off. I was ashamed and after that incident, my attitude started changing and certainly my driving habits, I can say.

In my profession, I continuously ‘sweet talk’, but never zipped any person or organisation in buying an inferior product. If my product was inferior to competitors’ I used to explain ‘sweetly’ how my client can still benefit by buying my product, but never conned ‘em.

When you ‘talk’ convincingly and ‘sweetly’, with the client, staying firmly on the ground, the client may not mind going that extra mile with you.

I remember the times (about a quarter century ago) when I was selling cattle and poultry feed in India. Being nearer to my factory in Bangalore, I ventured into Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh-the neighbouring state, along with my colleague D. Ramesh Kumar and approached small and medium sized farmers first and on the outskirts of the town. At that point of time, our brand was not heard upon there and either the large farmers were manufacturing their own feed or buying from Lipton, Komarla, Mysore and Godrej Feeds (all large companies and brands).

The field was mixed - with some farmers going in for Layer farms (for eggs) and some for Broiler farms (for meat). Our feed was good and cheap, but was not considered to stand up to the hi-performance feeds of the established brands there. If the hi-performance feed was ensuring 94% egg production rate ours used to hover between 86-88% or at the maximum, some 90%. Yet relatively, our feed price was also lower. Similarly, the meat yield also lagged by a few days if they used our feed.

So our pitch was asking the farmers whether they wished to wait for profits after investing money borrowed on high interest rates or start raking in profits from the beginning itself by investing lesser amounts of money, as our feed was cheaper and saved on investment and also on interest rates.

Initially one or two small farmers, who found it not very easy to mobilise the adequate capital, came forward to try our feed, especially for broilers with a size of about 500 chicks, to start with. Quickly the results were seen and found to be satisfactory. It was sheer economics ‘sweet talked’ into. Soon these farmers became our ambassadors.

We promised them service. We helped them in procuring chicks – even for tiny farmers – using our contacts. We helped them market their final products. We promised them that we would be there when they needed us. And, we were there. Most importantly, while none of the sales managers of our competitors were regularly interfacing with the farmers, we did. While Ramesh visited them every month, I visited them once every two months, at the least. When we visited them, we used to squat on the floor / ground in the farms, along with the farmers. We listened to them and heard their problems, as one of them.

We ‘talked sweet’, but unlike many politicians, we also walked our talk. We started with nothing in the area but within soon we were ensuring a sale of at least about 200 MTs of feed to that area alone (an average of at least one truck to that place every day) and by the time I resigned the job, for another one, in about two years, we were the second leading feed sellers in the area, of course, after Lipton. Not only small farmers, but even big farmers and dealers started taking in our feed. Even today, if I go to Chittoor, I can walk into their houses or businesses.

But I have met a more than my match in Kuldip Moity. When we were travelling in Pretoria, South Africa, he was haggling with a woman handicraft seller on the pavement and trying to convincing her by saying, ‘Can’t you see that I came all the way to your land and all I am asking is a small memento. I know your costs and so I don’t want to take it free, but offer a small price for it.’ In the bargain, he got it at the price he wanted, almost effortlessly-Good old Kuldip.

On seeing his success, I tried the same in Rosebank, Johannesburg, when the shop keeper, again a lady, said ‘Darling, don’t you see that we are poorer than you Indians and that if I could give it at that price, wouldn’t I have given it free as a token of my love?’ Well, she turned out to be ‘sweeter’ than us. 

When I started working for the development sector, this ability of mixing with the people at the grassroots helped me so much that I could find motivating people relatively easier.

The crowning glory was when, after going through a short presentation, of less than 7 minutes, by me, Her Excellency, the President of Finland had apparently observed that I should have been given more time to be listened to. I could have retired on that, if it was not for my continuous need of money to sustain my family needs.

Now, despite my diabetes, ‘sweet’ talking has become a habitJ. The other day, I was standing in the queue, most unruly, at the Egmore Railway Station, to buy my platform ticket. Being festive days, the railway station was like a battle field. Even hard core saints and sages would have found it difficult to remain calm in and sustain such circumstances. The person at the counter issuing the tickets was an old man nearing his retirement time and when I said ‘Good evening, can I have two tickets please,’ he was all smiles while replying that he has not heard anybody asking for a ticket like that in a long time.

Even when we ask directions to find way with a road side passerby, in a polite tone, we get lot of help. There have been instances that cops helped me find way out of the most difficult traffic snarls, just for being polite.

We are used to criticizing everybody and everything. How about being equally nice, polite and ‘sweet’ when we are talking too, especially to the ‘underdogs’ whose lives, anyway, have been more convoluted than ours.

It can change the world for them and for us.

What do you think? You tell me! 

Till then, 

With continued Prayers for the travellers on the Malaysian Airlines MH 370, missing since about 40 days now L

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Thanks (English), Dhonyabaad (Bangla), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai) and Asante (Kiswahili).

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy

Chennai, India

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Hemantha Kalam - 17 - 'The Big Brother is NOT Watching'

Yes, Sir!

Andhra Pradesh nowadays is being in the news for all the wrong reasons. The latest is the scam of unfair practices in the admissions to Post Graduate Medical Colleges.

A hue and cry and a lot of dust has been raised on the admissions, this year, resulting in the unearthing of suspected ongoing mal-practices and the arrest of a few ‘consultants’ (middlemen/brokers) and over 9 aspiring students.

As it has become increasingly difficult to get admitted into Medical seats, anywhere in the country, several ‘influential’ consultants, who form the bridges between the Institutes’ Management and aspiring students, have been facilitating (brokering) admissions at such costs that range between Rs. 5 million to 15 million (US $ 85,000 to 245,000 approximately).

If such huge amounts of money are being ‘invested’ the aspirants naturally would seek to recover the same as soon as possible (ASAP) and no wonder medical expenses in the country are increasingly becoming astronomical.

This incredible situation is the result of acute shortage in the supply of demand for medicine seats. In some states, it has become virtually impossible for the so called 'forward caste' candidates to enter into medicine unless they get 100% marks or are willing to pay huge ‘consideration’ money. In such cases, either the aspirant is under tremendous pressure to score the 100% or the parents to provide the huge money needed to ‘buy’ an admission.

This year, apparently, the consultants, as always, wanted to ensure their economic future, even at the cost of the future of the health of the citizens of the nation by encouraging aspirants to appear / sit for entrance examinations – but with a catch. The aspirants will be given the question paper and also the answers much in advance of the qualifying examination. The question paper which is supposed to be kept secret till the date of the examination has been ‘bought’ and supplied.

The aspirants were lodged in the houses of the consultants to ensure that no untoward ‘leakage’ of the leaking of the question paper takes place. It is alleged that a couple of students have actually been lodged in Mumbai and had to fly in to take their admission / entrance examination.

Several of the consultants from different states have syndicated together to form a cartel. The investigation is still taking place trying to delve in deeper (of course, only to the extent allowed by the ‘big brothers’ who also might have been involved in this-after all it is election time and all candidates need money for canvassing votes) and find out the depth and width of this ‘enterprising enterprise’.

So far it has been identified that 9 male candidates and 2 female candidates, who made payments ranging from Rs.7 to 13 million, have benefited by this scheme and out of these about 8 males and one female have been arrested along with a few consultants.
Whether any of the members of the management of the medical institutions would be booked is anybody’s guess. That would, of course, depend on who is behind the institutions and how connected / powerful they are. And connected / powerful they would be, for without connections one cannot even think of starting a Medical College. The printing press which printed the question paper naturally is fully suspected and news is awaited on the course of action to be initiated against it.

Now that in India such scams have become routine, I am not unduly worried about the legal outcome.

But what worries me is

     1. If this is going to be the course of medical studies in India, how safe are the ill / sick of the future generation in the country?

     2. Is it better to suffer and die at home rather than paying huge amounts of money only to suffer physically as well as economically and after all, only to die an inevitable painful (on several scores) and incredibly expensive death?                              
     But on an immediate aspect,
     3. What is going to be the fate of the arrested students who are already ‘qualified’ doctors / physicians?

I wonder whether the students have been forced by the parents to undertake this step so that the parents can plan for building up more corporate hospitals in the country which can continue to suck the blood of the people as leeches or demand unbelievable amounts of dowry (only in the case of boys)?

If not and only the students cajoled / coerced their parents to shell out the huge money, why did the parents agree?

In my humble opinion, even the parents should be arrested for their abetting / compliance role in the crime.

Apparently all the arrested aspirants were never bright students and quite a few of them had to sit in 4-5 times to clear several of their subjects while doing their M. B., B. S. It was their dismal performance earlier and the sudden star performance now in the admission / entrance examination that raked the mud and gave the game away.

Interestingly it was not the Government agencies that got the wind of this. No sir, the Big Brother was not watching or pretending as not watching.

It was the kid brothers (classmates) of these arrested aspirants who got the whiff of the episode when they suspected the ranks obtained by the select aspirants which were in the top 30s and when they themselves, despite their best of ‘natural’ efforts to perform, were relegated to much lower ranks as a result of this messy enterprise.

If all agencies concerned do not quell the issue credibly, and bring in serious and far reaching reforms along with implementation, most importantly, India will stand to lose much more as, today, India is considered as a ‘Health Tourist Destination’. But please, India cannot afford to be its usual complacent and procrastinating self, as neighbouring countries such as Singapore and Thailand, with their much better medical facilities and services are watching and we would stand to lose over to them sooner than expected.

But now the big questions before us are;

How will we know the quality of the future doctors / physicians?

How safe would it be for us to approach them?

Should we start practicing alternate medicines?

If so, how safe are such courses from this type of maladies?

What do you think? You tell me! 

Till then, 

With continued Prayers for the travellers on the Malaysian Airlines MH 370, missing since about 24 days L

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Thanks (English), Dhonyabaad (Bangla), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai) and Asante (Kiswahili).

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy

Chennai, India