Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Catching Up

After a long gap I got sometime today, to write. Also it is the first time in this year, when I am lagging on my reading goals. I should have completed reading my 22nd book this year by now, but I just completed the 21st.  Truly speaking, I am not unhappy about it for two reasons. One, I had a well deserved vacation with my family and I didn't feel like reading during that period. Second, the last book I finished made me think about my life and thus I wanted to stay with the thoughts expressed in that book for a little longer before picking something else up. So I believe December would be all about catching up. 

The three books I am going to write about today are totally different from each other. They belong to different genres, have varied writing styles and cater to sensibilities across the spectrum. 

But there was a commonality I believe. Each book talks about Search. Search for meaning. Search for purpose. Search for your true calling. Search for the killer. Okay! Last one is about a really bad thriller.

Man's Search for Meaning comes highly recommended. And I had huge expectations from it. It is part biopic and part treatise. In the first part Viktor talks about his horrific experiences at a concentration camp and how he survived by focusing on the meaning of his life. In the second part he talks about his takeaways from the time he spent in those camps and gives a theoretical framework of his seminal work in logotherapy. Truth is that the second part of this book was way too technical for me to appreciate it. Also as I have not read much about psychology or psychotherapy in general, I would not like to comment on this part of the book. The first part is fast paced and the author paints a vivid account of his experiences. There are few points in this part which forced me to think about the importance of meaning in life. I have seen the film Life is Beautiful on a similar subject. In comparison the book comes across as tad underwhelming when describing the
horrors of being held captive.

So while the book is touted as highly profound, I would say that it is rather a well chronicled account of life at concentration camps and, as a reader, there is lot to learn from this part of world history. The book ends with following lines which exhort the readers to do their best.

"So, let us be alert - alert in a twofold sense:

Since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of.
And since Hiroshima we know what is at stake."

Chetan Bhagat's latest book is a huge disappointment and I am not one of those readers who dismisses him as an author. I have always believed that he is a good story-teller despite his limitations. He mostly writes about youth and slice of life experiences which are narrated with a light touch and a typical sense of humor. The conflicts in his books are very middle-class and thus as a reader you identify with them. But in his latest book The Girl in Room 105, he tries to switch genres. He attempts a thriller and fails miserably at that. In portions, where he talks about college experiences, conflicts between the girl and the boy and career choices, he does well. But as a thriller he fails to create any tension. The reveal at the climax is not satisfying. And while the book is fast paced, as a thriller it is repetitive and slow. 

Tuesdays with Morrie was an interesting read for me because: 

1. It doesn't belong to any conventional genre of books. It is a true account of two lives but not really a biopic. It is that rare self-help book that doesn't get prescriptive. It is a motivational book but without the standard tropes
2. It deals with intense subjects of illness and death and still remains light and breezy
3. The book is not only about what it says but also about what you think after you read something in it.

While many readers claim that it has helped them re-look at their lives and set their priorities right, I believe that at least I am more aware about the same, even if I am yet to make a change. So the book succeeds in stirring something inside you. It helps you understand life and death better. It makes you more accepting of the inevitable. Out of the three books I read in last few weeks, this one was the best. 

Do share your Search experiences with me in the comments space. 

Which book you would recommend for me next?

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Fast September

September of 2018, already feels like eons away. And it went by in the blink of an eye. All its memories  will soon become hazy and melt into the monolith of the time gone by. It makes me wonder about all the years, months, weeks, days and hours which were exactly the same. Nothing stands out. Yes, there are some milestones and memories, which I remember vividly. The memories, which actually define my life. Our lives. But then what is life? The moments and milestones which define it or the time you spend in between those memorable moments. 

There is so much of the same happening to all of us, that our memories now play with us. I generally remember key dates - like birthdays of my close friends and colleagues - very well. But if you ask me after few weeks of reading a book, about that book, I may not be able to recall all the details. So does reading help? I think it does. Because just like our lives, the narrative itself isn't the key. It is all the same. There is a set-up, followed by a conflict and then the resolution. What stays back from any book, is not the narrative, but the addition it makes to your perspective and the way you see your world.

The two books I read last month were as different as chalk and cheese. One was Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood, which is essentially a love story written like a thriller. The other one was Salil Desai's 3 and a Half Murders, which is a whodunit but it works better as a police procedural.

In my earlier posts on Murakami's books, I had mentioned that he becomes inaccessible as an author at times. So people recommended Norwegian Wood, because they thought it is a straight-forward story. But I liked it for very different reasons. 

The key protagonists of this book - Toru and Naoko, whose love story, the author wants you to believe is epic, are the most boring and painful characters in this book. Both let things happen to them. They are just living their lives in between the key moments brought upon them by others. The other characters in this book - like Midori, who brings liveliness to the proceedings or Reiko who lends gravitas and mystique to the entire issue of mental illness  and loneliness explored in this story - are the ones who really move things forward. They catalyze things. They trigger events. They cause conflicts. These characters are so well fleshed out, that they make this book a great read. 

While the author doesn't get into the surreal zone - but his ability to make me think about memories of our lives (That explains my personal reflections in first two paragraphs of this post) and hide and seek these memories play with our minds - he creates a world equivalent to the world of magical realism he creates in his other books. So while the narrative is straight-forward, the reading of this book still leaves you with some twisted questions which you will keep chewing upon days after you have finished it. 

Lastly, the author uses sex liberally in the book, not to tantalize, but as a metaphor for the escape we seek from our mundane lives, the lives we spend between two milestones or two vivid memories. I think this aspect makes this book epic. Not its love story. 

I got 3 and a Half Murders as a gift on my birthday. I haven't read any of Salil Desai's books in past. And it was after a long time, I was reading a crime fiction. So I was really excited about it. It partially lives up to the expectations you have from such novels. It has a fast paced story, with characters that you encounter in daily lives or have heard about them. It is set in a very real world. It keeps you engaged throughout. The lead police officer / investigator has a sharp mind but is often weighed down by his physical ailments. That makes him standout in the world full of James Bond kind of operatives. The book works really well as a police procedural and thus makes you enjoy the details of an investigation. But as a whodunit, it disappoints. By the end of it, you really don't care who is the killer. Though you may not be able to guess who it is. Also the conclusion seems far from satisfactory and rushed. If you are looking for a rank page turner to spend time in a long flight, this one is a safe bet. 

September was like any other non-memorable month. I had been really busy with office work and travel. So the books really helped. Oh! I almost forgot that I shifted from one apartment to another on 1st of September. Staying in rental places is a pain. You don't feel rooted. That event of shifting though, itself feels like eons away. 

Monday, September 17, 2018

A classic and a drag - Two Books in August

In August, both the books I read were gifted to me by someone. It is good at times to jump genres, given the fact that I wouldn't have picked these ones myself. The possibility of a pleasant surprise makes it worth it. 

I am still on track vis-à-vis my reading goals for the year. I have read 16 books (two a month) this year and have posted about them on this blog. Here are my views on the August reads.

Book 1: Better Than Good by Zig Ziglar (Non Fiction)

This one was a drag. I resist reading the books that fall under the genre of self help and motivation. Because I feel if getting motivation from books was so easy, everyone would be successful. Reading this one, reinforced the perception. It was my first Zig Ziglar book gifted to me at an office event, so I was also under the false impression, that it is a management or business book. But the book turned out to be the gospel in the garb of self-help. 

While I was staying with the book, when it was talking about Passion, as I identify with this aspect; it was saying all things we already know are right. So from the point of view of learning new things I wasn't sure, if this book was helpful. May be it would have impacted me subconsciously or spiritually, but I am unaware of that yet.

As the book moved to aspects related to Peak Performance it almost went into the zone of what we call in India as Global Gyaan. But it was still tolerable. In the third part, about Purpose of Life, the book went into religion and Christianity and its spread. I felt alienated here as I hadn't expected a book so explicit in its religious leanings and brazen in its attempt to establish superiority of one religion. 

The only chapter in the whole book that made sense to me was on Habits. It was practical and useful. I can read that one again. I believe if you have to lead a Better than Good life, there are better books than this one. Your chequebook is one of them!!!

Book 2: Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne (Fiction)

It is a fast paced and interesting travelogue. I can safely say, it is one of the greatest adventure books I have read. Given that it was written in 1873, I was surprised by the detailing of each scene and place. The writing is rich with sounds, smells and colors of each place, the lead protagonist travels to. I was constantly wondering what kind of research author would have done to write this book. The readers of that era would have felt exhilarated reading this one, as the book really makes you travel across the world. 

Another interesting thing was distinct characterization of each player in this book . Each protagonist has his or her own quirks which makes them endearing. The lead player goes by the name of Fogg and he emerges as an unlikely hero by the end. The insights the book gives us about the life of English during those times are funny, especially knowing that these guys ruled us for centuries.

It could have been a great thriller too had the stakes been really high. As a reader you enjoy it but there is nothing that provides you that edge of the seat thrill and also the ending is a little too soft.

Looking forward to September reads, where I go back to my favorite genres.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Wish-list Books

In July, I picked up two books which were on my wish-list for years. The first one took a long time to finish and the second one was really fast paced. But both consumed me, while I was reading them. This year has been great in terms of my reading goals - 14 books so far and lot of genres. Also I was committed to write about each book I read this year. So, here are my views on the two books I read in July.

Book 1: Maximum City - Bombay lost & found by Suketu Mehta (Non Fiction)

I think I was quite late in reading this one. It was originally published in 2004. I stayed in Mumbai for 12 years from 2005 to 2017. I share with the author certain traits - flirting with the edgy and shady parts of Mumbai; and an eye for detail. The author here describes Bombay the way a foreigner sees it. Its politics, its depravity, its poverty, its crime and its hypocrisy. The book spends some time and few pages on the resilience and spirit of the city and its inhabitants as well. But I felt there is a deliberate attempt to make it appealing to foreign audiences who love certain stereotypes about India. There is an overt Hindu bashing and justification of atrocities committed by minorities; while both sides are equally to be blamed for everything communal. 

Also some aspects described in vivid detail are now dated. 

The underworld and its nature has changed. I have read few Hussain Zaidi books and watched Anurag Kashyap's Black Friday in last few years, which give  far more nuanced accounts of riots, underworld and bomb-blasts. These are the subjects which Suketu spends a lot of time on, though from a human psyche perspective, but I was constantly getting the 'been there done that' feel. The extreme politics of hatred in Mumbai has failed to take off in last few years, which the author explores and the dance bars and associated social fabric has disintegrated since this book was written. Also if one has seen Madhur Bhandarkar's Chandni Bar, one would realize that while the film was poignant, the author in this book largely tries to titillate. 

The author shines in the parts where he describes immigrants and their dreams or where he mocks the film industry and its style of operations. This book is surely a good compilation on the city of dreams but it falls short of being a definite and defining chronicle of Bombay / Mumbai, as it ignores the large working middle class and its struggle. 

Book 2: Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh (Fiction)

Though originally published in 1956 it is highly relevant even today, because nothing has changed. This book looks at the partition of India and Pakistan not from political point of view (local village politics described in the book exactly mirrors the national politics of that time though) but from human and social point of view. Khushwant Singh localizes the issue to one village and builds a heart breaking tale of love, betrayal and redemption of one of its key protagonists. The book delves deep into frailties of human beings and describes the levels of moral corruption and wickedness we are capable of. 

As an author Khushwant Singh has an excellent writing style. Brevity and right choice of words are hallmark of this book. He is incisive, displays great sense of dark humor and his economy with words, makes this book a fast read. Also by the end of the book, your ideas about bravery and heroism; idealism and action will be tested. You would think about these things days after you would have put the book back onto the bookshelf.

Interestingly, Maximum City takes sides while describing riots and Train to Pakistan doesn't. The former is non-fiction which doesn't always ring true and the latter is fiction which feels like a true account. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Fun things that never happen to me...

I have been meaning to write something meaningful for last few days. But I was not able to work around my thoughts in a coherent manner. The meaningful thoughts, I mean. The thoughts that have a definite sense of purpose. I had almost decided to write about 'Corporate Etiquette'. But I didn't want to offend anyone. At least in July. I also was thinking about 'Life Goals' as a great topic for a blog post. But I can't write about something, I have a poor idea about. After all this struggle, I have succumbed to a click-bait title for my post. 'Fun things that never happen to me...'

But let me confess that I have no idea why I got attracted to this post title. I have really not much to say on this. I am not even sure if your idea of 'fun things', is same as my idea of 'fun things'. I am almost certain you didn't find the previous sentence fun. But I did! Hope you find things I am going to write about in next few paragraphs fun. I can assure you they never happen to me, keeping my side of the deal.

People around me are just losing weight by willing for it to happen. On the other hand, I am constantly being advised by my well-wishers (read total strangers) to join a group of runners or adopt the caveman diet. Do they realize that cavemen never had to sit in office late, scrolling through large datasheets?

My friends regularly post their encounters with celebrities on social media. Ok! Not regularly, but fairly consistently! When I used to stay in Mumbai, I often frequented the places, which are known for celebrity appearances. But I never saw or met any film actor worth his or her salt. I once attended an event in Delhi, where Boman Irani and Shahrukh Khan were on stage. But that doesn't count. Also if I pay for tickets to attend a play or a concert, that is not really an encounter. Once when we saw Govinda at Singapore airport, everyone ambushed him and I got cropped out of a probable memorable picture. I can still see my half desperate face in the one that actually got clicked. Once we were at Shoppers Stop, Juhu. My wife and my mother-in-law were the ones actually shopping. I spotted an obese man in a pink T-Shirt and brown shorts. He had a shabby stubble and uncombed hair. And wearing man-sandals. David Dhawan, the director of several hit Govinda films, was standing right in front of me performing a non-celebrity chore. My mother-in-law was enamored. He is not really the kind of celebrity, my friends post about on social media. Neither is Paresh Rawal, whom I spotted drinking at OnToes, Juhu once. Or Manoj Joshi who was eating a Vada Pav outside my college. Or Aftab Shivdasani, who was standing alone under a dark tree, in the night, waiting for someone outside a multiplex. Do my friends realize that when they put their pictures with a popular hot actress on facebook, I feel like killing them?

I always put a lot of thought when it comes to gifting someone. Sadly, I rarely receive gifts. People just have this special ability to forget me on my birthday or anniversary. But, whenever I receive a gift, I find it funny, that people know so little about me. I must have received 3-5 dinner sets over last few years. People bring sad souvenirs for me from their travels abroad or over-sized shirts from discount stores. Why I never get things I love? Just putting it out through this forum, that I like Liquor Bottles, Holiday Vouchers, Good Books, Music, Movies and Eating out. And if you are the cheap one and still want to be thoughtful, share your Amazon Prime Video password with me.

Lots of people value their work-life balance. I know this guy, who switches off his phone when he is on leave. There is no way you can reach out to him. It is a good thing actually. But he is such a brute, that he always finds it fine to call you late in the night or message you on a Sunday. Ironically, he works in Human Resources function. Once a girl, reached out to me on facebook for office work. I was on a holiday abroad and was unable to check my phone for few hours, so she found this route perfectly fine. She left her job few months later citing work-life balance issues. I envy both these people. 

I am sure there are many other fun things that never happen to me, but there is one funny thing, which happens to me every year once. My pay hike. Peanuts!

Friday, June 29, 2018

My Takeaways - CMOs at Work

CMOs at Work by Josh Steimle is not really a book. It is a compilation of 29 interviews conducted by him with 29 of the best marketing brains in the world. Some of the CMOs interviewed are really inspiring like Patrick Adams, PayPal and Jeff Jones, Target. Most of the interviews have some insights which are incisive and useful. 

The author here has done a good job of meeting so many CMOs from diverse industries. But I wish he had covered CMOs from across the world. That would have been a great comparative study for a person like me who is a student as well as a practitioner of marketing for years. Also Josh Steimle used, more or less, the same set of questions for different CMOs. I felt that was limiting. There should have been questions specific to the industry, each CMO is operating in and a focus on relevant cases / stories. That would have added a lot of depth to the responses of the interviewees. 

Nevertheless, here are some of my takeaways from this book, which will hold the test of the time. 

1. The role of CMO has moved beyond the classic brand building and advertising. It has evolved into a much more holistic role that straddles technology, customer service and CRM. Digitization and Automation have played an important role in this. 

I personally have felt these changes happening in the way my role and goals have shaped over the years. Reading this book assured me that I am on the right path and the marketer's role will evolve even further in ways not imagined in the past. I have also seen an integration happening across some verticals like PR, Internal Communication and Employer Brand with the Consumer Brand. No longer we can afford to see them in silos. In my current organization, the CEO is supportive of this approach and it helps in breaking down the silos faster. 

2. Data Science is assuming a higher importance & ROI for marketing is becoming much more sharply defined. 

I have witnessed this in digital marketing in India over last decade. But I still see a lot of digital quacks and charlatans peddling their substandard stuff around, because CMOs have not kept pace with changes here. These agencies and practitioners are very comfortable with likes, shares and other such engagement metrics, but they find it difficult to establish business metrics. As a marketer it is very important to be able to separate wheat from chaff. Also, the ROI for marketing will move beyond digital marketing, to traditional marketing as well, and we need to be ready for that. 

3. Team Building and Leadership Skills are two areas which CMOs need to look at more creatively. As marketing becomes more dynamic, content oriented and ROI driven, it is important to add diversity in your team rather than just running after MBAs. Also the team structures can't be as simple as Traditional Marketing and Digital Marketing. There is no differentiation at all between these things. 

I feel marketing teams have to be structured around skill sets rather than functions. Example a creative person has to support both branding and digital marketing initiatives. 

4. A new age marketer has to be a combination of a data analyst, creative designer and process engineer who can execute fast.

My direct reports who have done any of the above two right have generally grown faster than others. But I feel comfort with data, is something more marketing managers in India should develop. And soon.

5. Few things in marketing will never change

  • Brands should have a purpose
  • Focus on consumer understanding has to be always there
  • Data should supplement a marketer's judgement not replace it
  • Story-telling is always going to be a key skill
In the world of so much information and data, marketers should not feel that 'creative'  has become a bad word. I see that happening very often around me. Marketing has always been a whole brain function. We need to embrace the fact that more information is now available so our methods have to undergo a change. 

6. The book also warns CMOs against too much internal focus. One should never forget that marketing serves the customers and not different departments.

Many times, marketers face this dilemma. I think strict focus is required to know what to do. It is not easy, but that should be the goal. Customer should be at the center of everything you do. Sales will follow. 

It would be difficult to summarize everything from the book. But the 6 points above really nestled in my mind. One of the interviews though had a perfect answer to what really marketing is - Marketing has 3 focus areas: Data and Analytics; Marketing Technology; and Content and Thought Leadership.

As far as my reading targets go, I am on track so far. 12 books read and reviewed within 6 months of the year. 12 more to go...

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Third Room

The house I stay in right now, has this small extra room, which we rarely use. We have partially converted it into a storage place. But my toddler often visits that room out of curiosity and explores the stuff lying there. Also as my parents and my niece were here recently, I used that room more often in last two weeks. One particular morning, when I was in that Third Room, I felt this strange sense of calm. Also I felt, I have been to such Third Rooms in past. Like that store room, in my grandparents' place which felt cold and haunted at times, but it had those large metal trunks, the ones that held blankets and rajais (bed quilts/duvets) and may be some secrets too. 

As a child did you ever escape into the world of your imagination while hiding in that metal trunk in the Third Room?

There was this cemented water tank on the second floor of the house I grew up in. Everyone stayed in that house - parents, brother, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. The space below that tank was a great way to hide from others and still enjoy the cold there in hot summers. The cold which might have frightened someone weaker than me. 

As a child did you ever think of yourself as a master strategist planning your next battle move lying on your back in a damp space of the Third Room?

The annual grains' supply for the entire joint family used to come in large gunny bags. For few days before the grains were transferred to the steel silos, the bags lied there in a corner in a bulwark formation. The evenings were really exciting. The cops chased all the robbers with their toy guns. The games we played revealed who were on the dark side.

As a child did you ever wait endlessly in the Third Room, behind a wall of gunny bags, to spring a surprise?

The Third Room is not really a physical space. It exists somewhere in our minds. As we grow up, we lock it up and forget about it. It is a place which is a great escape from our routine. It is a place to reflect upon the next move in your life. It is a place which might spring a pleasant surprise. The first two rooms are all about your family and your work. This Third Room is about you. It is time you find it and open it. The key is right there. There in your own hands.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Men Without Women : Book Review

Earlier this year I had read, Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami. (Read review here) It was the first time I had read a book by this author. While I had enjoyed reading it, I hadn't fully understood it. So I picked up this collection of 7 short stories titled, Men Without Women, by the same author with trepidation. I knew beforehand, that I will not be fully able to grasp everything, but I took the plunge anyways. I have reached a conclusion that Murakami's writings might enlighten you few times, but mostly they leave you feeling incomplete, incompetent and irritated. But as you try to find answers, you get addicted. Addicted in a bad way, like mind altering substance abuse! I must still confess, that some stories in this collection were highly accessible and enjoyable. 

As the title suggests, each of the seven stories, is about lonely men. Loneliness which may not necessary stem from lack of the company of women. Each story also has some twisted or broken relationship between a man and a woman. While in Kafka on the Shore, there were undercurrents of  Oedipal Complex and Incest, this collection of stories rely heavily on cuckolded men, promiscuity, sadism, fetish etc. But mind it, the stories are not actually about these issues. They are just triggers for a protagonist's journey or for his or her search for answers. The stories are about the emotions or lack of them that emerge out of these triggers. 

The first story, Drive My Car,  is a pleasantly accessible story. The main act in this story is a conversation between Kafuku (a middle aged actor and a widower) and Misaki (a young adroit female driver, he has recently hired and who rarely speaks). During that conversation Kafuku talks about his now dead wife and a question that bothers him. He also talks about a co-actor of his wife whom he befriended after her death. At the end, the usually reticent Misaki says something, that is simple and profound at the same time, which provides a sense of closure both to the reader and Kafuku. For me that is a great reward in a short story. 

A line that stayed back with me from this story - "There's no logic involved. All I can do is accept what they did and try to get on with my life."

Yesterday, is the title of the second story. It was surprisingly underwhelming and felt incomplete. But not incomplete in the sense of wanting more of it. By now a pattern also emerges in the stories. These are stories about men who may not be with women at this point of time, but their presence still looms large in their lives. Also Murakami isn't going for a conclusion or resolution by the end of the story. He just stops at a point, where some resonance happens or a reconciliation appears. This is a story about two boys in their twenties - Kitaru and Tanimura and Kitaru's girlfriend Erik. The story itself is about how Kitaru finds it difficult to take his relationship with Erik to next level and how it impacts others. This simple short, for a non-Japanese like me, gives me an insight into how the haves and have nots are divided in their society. It highlights how your dialect and address can impact your social stature.  

I don't want to give any spoilers, but a quote from the story really resonated with me - "As time passes, memory, inevitably, reconstitutes itself."

One of the weakest stories in the collection, An Independent Organ, has a very laborious narration to make a point which sounds profound but is really not. The story is about a cosmetic surgeon Dr. Tokai who is in his 50s, never married, but is highly promiscuous. So in physical sense he is never without a woman. He finally falls in love at the ripe age and also experiences his first betrayal, which leads him to question his being - "Who am I?"

Despite its obvious trappings, I really like the following extract from the book. It is such a cliche though. "With something like that (love) there's  no such thing as too soon or too late, I told him. Your understanding may have, come a little late in life, but that's better than never realizing it at all."

Scheherzade is highly enjoyable and intriguing account of love. It may be because in this story the male view point of Habara is limited. As a reader, we don't even know who really Habara is and why is he confined to his home or whether it is really his home or why he can't go out. It doesn't matter after a certain point in the story. Because that is not what this story is about. The story is also about Habara's nurse or house-help whose real name is never told, but Habara in his own mind has named her Scheherzade. He names her so because, she narrates strange stories to Habara every time she sleeps with him. The story of her almost debilitating, teenage crush on a boy in her class is told like a thriller. The thrill of doing something taboo is so palpable in this sad account of one sided love. Is Murakami indicating here, that though her love was never reciprocated and she married someone else, but the memories of her early years never make her feel lonely? That she will never be a Woman without Men! The last story she narrates is left unfinished and here I wanted it more. My curiosity kills me here, but no answers are revealed. 

It is in the fifth story, Kino, where Murakami gets surreal. The elements like snakes, rain (and metaphors thereof) and cats make appearance, that reminded me of Kafka on the Shore. Almost till the end I thought I understood everything about this story. The story of a bartender who is going through a divorce. But by the end I lost it. Or may be I think I lost it. Because the core thought of confronting your inner hurt and pain stayed back with me. If you don't confront your inner feelings, they will gnaw at you.

"But there are times in this world when it's not enough just not to do the wrong thing,"a character in this story says so aptly. 

Samsa in Love does it for me. This is the story I loved the most. This is the story which will make me read more of Murakami. A bug turns into a human. It doesn't enjoy being one. It falls in love and it doesn't want to be anything but human. By now I realize that loneliness is not necessarily physical absence of someone.

He thinks to himself , "Yet had he been a fish or sunflower, and not a human being, he might never have experienced this emotion."

The last story, Men without Women, is the story which gives the book its title. Here the narrator is not actually lonely. He has a wife, about whom we don't come to know anything. We also don't know about how is their marriage. It might be actually a happy one. One night he receives a call about the news of the death of one of his earlier lovers. That makes him feel lonely There is lot of rumination after that. Many metaphors are used to drive home the point that she was the kind of love, everyone looks for. But I didn't connect with those allegories at all. I thought this one didn't require more than a page, but the author says this story in about 15 of them.

I also didn't connect with the central thought of this one - "That's what it's like to lose a woman. And at a certain time, losing one woman means losing all women."

Yes! There are few rewarding moments and stories in this one. As I said earlier, the highs are addictive and thus those lows really leave you vacant. Just like I have heard drugs do!!!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Book Review: A Whole New Mind

After a long time, I picked up a book in the genre loosely termed as management / self-help books. My experience with this genre in past has been less than satisfying, mostly. This book, which is pompously titled - A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers will rule the future - is also less than a satisfying read. 

The author, Daniel H. Pink, tries to hammer in the fact that jobs moving to Asia, Abundance and Automation have created a scenario in America (or developed countries) where Right Brained jobs will become more lucrative and R - Directed Thinking will become a desired skill. And he reproduces this fact in thousands of ways in his book. If I am that bad a reader, that I need same thing to be repeated for me so many times, I really don't deserve to understand this simple postulation.

After introducing the reasons for Right Brainers ruling the future, the author explains the six senses / tools that are required to develop or nurture R - Directed Thinking. (R - Directed Thinking doesn't mean that left side of the brain is not required. It just means that senses which are dominantly right brained will have to play a larger role) These six senses are - Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning. These six senses put together highlight the importance of creativity and innovation as key business differentiators. 

No doubt that the author brings to fore an important change happening as of today, but as an Indian reader, I found the book lacking in several aspects. The book divides the world between developed countries and Asia. So L - Directed thinking jobs moving to Asia (including India), is one of the key reasons, why Americans should incorporate R - Directed thinking in their armor. As a reader, while I can apply the lessons in India specific scenarios as well, the book essentially alienates Asian readers. There is no effort to discuss what these changes mean for Asians. It feels like the issue at hand is not that hot for knowledge workers here in India.

Each chapter on the six senses, is followed by a portfolio of resources, which one can use or visit, to sharpen these senses. This feature is excellent, but I so wished, that the author had kept in mind an Asian context here as well. Indians have a particular way of learning things and sharpening their skills. By focusing on US context here the author misses the fact that some senses / values like Meaning and Empathy are deeply ingrained in our culture. Story-telling is also a key skill which Indian leaders have used since ages. Indian leaders, in my experience, generally have R-directed thinking. I hope in the next edition, author takes this diversity of work cultures and leadership styles into account.

While the set up for the need of R - Directed thinking is done beautifully, I felt there were not enough examples or compelling cases shared in the book, which make it evident how people are really nurturing these senses at their workplaces. May be the book was only meant to scratch the surface so that Pink gets lot of consulting assignments to really reveal the nuts and bolts of the subject at hand.

Out of the six senses, I felt that in the chapters on Meaning and Play, I found things which were great thought starters. These two chapters made this book worthy of an average rating. 

Friday, May 04, 2018

Milestones - Post No. 100

Milestones are exciting. And the number 100 is super exciting. This is my hundredth post on this blog and I thought it is a great opportunity to write about milestones in general and this blog in particular. 

When we are watching a cricket match, and the batsman goes from the score of 99 to 100, there is this infectious celebration, that spreads the cheer all around. If we look at this objectively, it is just addition of one run. Just the way the batsman went from 98 to 99 runs, he went from 99 to 100. In the context of the match, most probably the contribution of this additional run is immaterial. But a batsman who mostly gets out in 90s is less celebrated than the one who mostly gets out at 100 or more. Their strike rates, averages, and all other parameters might be exactly the same. But one has scored more centuries than the other. 

Who really decides, what is a milestone? Or is it just a mathematical thing, as one moves from 2 digits to 3 digits? But then in cricket, even 50 is a milestone score.

Let us look at something personal. Marriage anniversaries! I have been married for more than 9 years. In November this year, I will be celebrating my 10th anniversary. 1st, 10th, 25th and 50th wedding anniversaries are considered important milestones in a married couple's life. But then for me, the 9th one was equally a happy moment and so would be the 24th one. In cricket, higher the score, more physically drained you are. So scoring a 100 is a physical achievement as well. But in marriage the more number of years you are married, more comfortable you become with your partner. It is in the initial years, when you discover many new things about each other and you make difficult choices and changes to ensure your marriage works. So shouldn't the first few anniversaries be celebrated more than the later ones?

But then may be milestones are there to remind you that one should not stop putting efforts. 

I believe milestones should be celebrated because of the following reasons:
  • Celebration of a milestone is not about the point you have reached. It is the celebration of the journey to that point, the struggles on the way and the lessons learned. It is the point of celebration as well as reflection.
  • Celebration of a milestone, also is an opportunity to savor the moment and gather your energies to move to the next milestone with even more vigor and enthusiasm.
  • There are certain milestones in life, which help you reach closer to the ultimate goal of your life. Like if you want to retire early in life, then lot of milestones have to be hit faster than usual. So milestones should be celebrated because they take you closer to your life's ultimate goal.
  • Nothing in life is possible without others. As you reach any milestone in life, there are people who have supported you to reach there. Celebration of a milestone is also a moment to thank those who were there with you in the journey.
This 100th post is a personal milestone, but not towards any ultimate goal. I like writing. I am happy that I was able to write these many posts. I had recently written about my reasons for writing and about the title of my blog, Free Spirit. Here are few nuggets of information about my blog. These help me reflect on this milestone better. 
  • My first post on this blog was on April 27, 2005. It was about my travel in Delhi Metro. It took me a little over 13 years to write 100 posts. But that is not the complete story. 
  • I didn't write a single post in years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015. I am sure I have many excuses for this. But I feel in these 6 vacant years, I pursued something else which didn't give me as much happiness as writing gives.
  • Out of the 100 posts including this one, I had written only 18 posts till 2015. Even if I exclude the 6 years when I didn't write anything, it is still just 2.2 posts a year on an average. Pathetic number, given the fact that I have so much to say.
  • In 2016, I wrote 15 posts, with each post having 3 short stories. I was part of a group, where one had to write something around the "Word of the Day". I had actually written hundreds of such really short stories in 2016, but published only 45 out of them. But thanks to this group, I started writing again. Also I think I had improved, a little, as a writer.
  • In 2017, I wrote 35 posts, largely due to my participation in A-Z Challenge. I wrote 26 posts in April 2017 and 9 posts in rest of the year. But this challenge has helped me write regularly since then. 
  • In 2018, so far I have written 32 posts (including the one you are reading). I wrote 26 posts in April 2018 as well as part of the A-Z Challenge again. I am sure this is going to be my best year in terms of number of posts. 
So a big thanks to the group (Owlery) I had joined in 2016 and the fellow bloggers, who motivated me to take up the A-Z Challenge. Let us now look at some numbers, which give me insights about my readers over last 13 years.
  • Most of the page views on my blog are from United States, followed by India. That is a surprise. Seemingly, I am writing things about India, which are unique for people in US. 
  • The top 10 countries on my blog as per page views are US, India, Canada, Germany, Russia, Poland, France, UK, Singapore and UAE, in the same order. Australia and South America are big misses. I need to read blogs from those countries and find out why. 
  • 52% of my readers are Windows users, 16 % are iPhone OS users and 14% are Android users. In last 2 years, % of iPhone OS users is going up. Clearly rich people among my readers are going up. 🤣
  • My top 10 posts by readership so far are listed below. 5 are from 2017, 4 from 2018 and 1 is from 2007. As I have written more posts recently, the skew is because of obvious reasons. Also I didn't really use to share my earlier posts with anyone as I felt that I would be judged. Now, I write for pleasure and don't seek anyone's approval. Now I feel confident of sharing, what I write. I thank all my readers for sparing their time and sharing their feedback with me. 
I am sure, with encouragement from you all, I will write the next 100 posts at a better pace.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Z : Zoom in #AtoZchallenge

There was a time, not so long ago, when there were no digital cameras and no mobile phone cameras. For taking still photographs, we used to have that prized Kodak film roll camera. The film roll had a  limited capacity. We could only click 36 photos on one roll. The process of converting them to actual pictures was painful and often disappointing. Painful, because it was a long process and involved a photo studio. Disappointing, because often we would discover that some photos haven't turned out great and there was no way to capture that moment ever again. 

Compare that with today's scenario, when digital / mobile cameras rule the roost. One you don't need a roll, so you can go click-happy and click as many pictures as you want. Second, the output is right there in front of you. So if you are not happy, you can click another picture. Third, as digital / mobile camera also is your storage and retrieval device, there is neither any hassle of storage nor any chance of photos or your negatives getting damaged. You can also now share pictures with the click of a button. 

But there is a down side as well. There are so many pictures now on our phones and we are so busy in creating new ones, that we have lost the sense of wonder associated with browsing through our old albums and photographs. I have always believed that the key purpose of photos is to provide us with the ability to look back. To feel nostalgic about the times gone by. Sadly, that purpose has been muddled in the race to get more likes on Facebook. 

We had gone for a college trip to Goa during my engineering. When I browse through the photo album of one particular day from that trip, there I see a picture where one of my friends is standing besides me on a rock by the sea shore. There are 5 photos with us standing exactly in the same pose at the same place. 4 out 36 photos in that roll were wasted. Because we all were wasted that day. We had been drinking beer for hours. Had it been a mobile camera, we would have deleted those 4 additional pictures and may be that memory as well.

But I am digressing. I am fascinated by one particular feature of digital cameras. Zoom in feature. Once you have clicked a picture on a digital camera, at any later time, you can zoom in and find surprising details which you may not have noticed while clicking the picture. That is not possible with pictures clicked on film roll cameras. You can look as long as you want at the pictures in your photo albums (physical ones), but you won't be able to zoom in. 

I just imagined, what are the kind of things you would discover, if you had the ability to Zoom-in on your older pictures. 

1. Would you find out in your school's group picture whether that girl is smiling at you or not?

2. Would you find out the beer brand you had 15 years ago, because the bottle you had thrown carelessly around is still in the bottom left corner of the picture?

3. Would you find out who really was clapping for you standing by the wings of the stage, when you were receiving the award at your school's annual function?

4. Would you find out who borrowed your favorite Enid Blyton book during the bus ride to Ludhiana, while returning from that school picnic?

5. Would you find out whether your best friend was digging his nose or just scratching it?

6. Would you finally find out who was the one who was wearing spikes while giving you birthday bumps?

7. Would you find out who all had tears in their eyes at the farewell party?

If you had the ability to Zoom-in, you would definitely find things in your old pictures, that would surprise you or may be even shock you. You may find answers to some questions that have always bothered you or you might feel cheated, because you had always thought something transpired otherwise. The possibilities are infinite and tantalizing. But the moot point is if you had this ability would you really Zoom-in or would you just let it be!

You can't go back in the past and change anything. That Enid Blyton book is lost forever. The girl who clapped for you from the wings may have married someone else, completely oblivious to the feelings you had for her then. You have memories - some strong, some faded - of the events in past, the way you thought they happened. What is more precious? To know the details? To know the truth? Or to just keep your memories the way they are? Isn't life less burdened when you don't Zoom in? Sometimes it is not the specifics that matter; what matters is, the larger picture!!!

Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future ~ Corrie ten Boom

My last year's challenge post from letter Z was about linguistic jokes. It was about my mother-in-law pronouncing Zebra as Jebra. That led me to a discovery about Zebra / Jebra. Read it here.

My theme for this year's #AtoZchallenge is all about writing stories, anecdotes and observations from my life in form of easy to read listicles. You can read the theme reveal post here

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Y : Yes and No - The success mantra #AtoZchallenge

I once knew a man, who was strange, in one particular aspect. Let us call him "The Boss"

When posed with a categorical question, a normal person would respond with a specific answer. Especially if the categorical question is the classic Yes or No question

Example Question: Would you visit my blog again? (It is categorical and a Yes or No question)
Possible Answer 1: Yes
Possible Answer 2: No

Agreed, the world became more crazy when Market Research was invented and a third possible answer got added to the list.

Possible Answer 3: Maybe

But "The Boss" was special. He manufactured a Possible Answer 4 and used it very often. And you, my dear reader, can easily guess, who was at the receiving end. Every time he spouted the Possible Answer 4, I was left scratching my head. I had to make sense of it fast, so as not to look like a fool. And I failed miserably. Every time. Every awful time. And here is his invention - 

Possible Answer 4 : Yes and No

Do you realize the futility of it all? It is not a 'Maybe'. It is not a 'It depends'. It is a 'Yes and No.'

Example Question I posed to "The Boss"Are you delusional?
Answer: Yes and No. 
My interpretation: Yes, he is, in office. No, he isn't, in front of his wife.

Real Question I posed to "The Boss": Do you approve of the creative?
Real Answer by him: Yes and No.
My interpretation: Yes, he approves it now. His opinion will surely change after some time. Let me work on more options.

Real Question I posed to "The Boss" : Do you agree customers are getting more demanding? (In context of changing a particular course of action)
Real Answer by him: Yes and No.
My interpretation: Yes they are. But he doesn't really give a damn and wants me to do what he thinks is right. 

But the thing is that "The Boss" was immensely successful. And I believe Possible Answer 4 was the reason behind this success. And I want to be the smart one. And definitely, I want to be successful. So I have decided to use Possible Answer 4 in the following situations.

1. Whenever my direct reports want me to take a decision but I don't want to take one. At the same time I don't want to look indecisive. 

Example Question by my direct report: Can I take a leave tomorrow?
My Answer: Yes and No.
What should my direct report think about my response and me : Yes, I can take a leave. But not tomorrow. My boss is so cool.

2. Whenever I am in a meeting with two powerful people who differ on an issue and they ask me to break the stalemate. And I don't want to offend either of them.

Example Question by them: Person 1 - Should we give a pay hike to the employees this year given company's bad performance? (Person 2 wants the pay hike given his body language, while Person 1 is responsible for cost cutting)
My Answer : Yes and No.
What should they think about my response and me: Yes, hike should be given. But only to the people in this room. This guy is really smart and cares for everyone. 

3. When I am asked my opinion on a subject that I lack knowledge in. And I don't want to sound dumb.

Example Question by a colleague: Do you think government should introduce tax breaks on bosses farting in front of their colleagues?
My Answer : Yes and No
What should the colleague think about my response and me : Yes, tax breaks for me. Not for my smelly boss. My colleague is such a sorted person. 

4. When during my appraisal I am asked a tricky question. And I don't want to sound boorish and risk a fat paycheck. 

Example Question by boss: Is money more important than a challenging responsibility for you?
My Answer : Yes and No
What should my boss think about me : Yes money is important for him. No challenge scares him though. He is the best resource I have.

I should write a management book titled "Replace your OR with AND : Make your path to the corner office rosy." 

Do you think I should write this book?
a. Yes
b. No
c. May be
d. a. and b. 

My last year's challenge post from letter Y was about my food memories. The post was titled after my Zomato handle Yumdude. Read it here.

My theme for this year's #AtoZchallenge is all about writing stories, anecdotes and observations from my life in form of easy to read listicles. You can read the theme reveal post here.

Friday, April 27, 2018

X : X words and other tough things #AtoZchallenge

Do you know that Oxford English Dictionary (OED) contains over 1.7 lakh words currently in use? If we add obsolete and derivative words to this number, the number of words go up to around 2.3 lakhs.

Now, guess how many words among these 2.3 lakh words begin with letter X! 400!

Read slowly - F O U R - H U N D R E D. Yes, a paltry number. 0.17% of the words that are there in OED start with the letter X. And then these words beginning with the letter X, are so esoteric. To write a topic on these esoteric words seemed like an e(X)tremley difficult task.

And you now how letter X compensates for it?

By coming at the end of the most important 3 letter word in this world. The mere mention of that word, shakes us to the core.

TAX.  What did you think?

In India, it comes at the end of a three letter word, that starts with the letter S and the word that every Indian shouts every evening with excitement, over and over again.

(Hint : A Google Fact - S is the letter from which most words in English begin, E is the letter which is midway and X comes last in the pecking order)

SIX! SIX! while watching the IPL cricket match. What did you think you single track mind?

But I am no pushover. I am not a person who gives up easily. I believe in the cheesy maxim that even the word "Impossible" says that "I M Possible". But did you notice that the person who coined this maxim has made an error? "M" and "am" are not really the same. By the way, show me where is the letter "X" in the word "Impossible"!

So I thought of writing on the following topics starting with the letter X and rejected them for the reasons mentioned.

  • X - Factor - I didn't want to write on something which is intangible.
  • X - Men / other movies that start with letter X - I didn't want to confound my Indian readers. I didn't want them to think that this is an adult blog.
  • X - Chromosome - I was almost sure that I would write on female foeticide. But I was not in the frame of mind to write about a serious social ill today.
  • Xenophobia - I didn't want to offend some of my close friends.
  • XAT / other entrance exams I sat in for MBA admissions - Everything I have to say on this subject is already on pagalguy.com. 
  • Xtreme / Xcel / words which actually start with Ex, but phonetically with X - I didn't want to cheat on you, my dear readers. By the way E(x)es itself could have been an eXplosive topic!
  • Xenon - The only periodic table element that starts with X - I was weak in Chemistry in school. 
  • .XLS (Excel Sheets) - I deal with this data shit the whole day. I didn't want to pollute my blog.
  • Xerox - I already had covered it in last year's challenge. (Read it here)
  • XL size clothes - I didn't want to write about my personal struggles today.
You get the drift? Right! I wanted to write on a topic starting from letter X. But I found it tough. So I am going to list some of the other things I find tough in life.

I. I find it tough to say "No", especially to girls. 

II. I find it tough to say "No", if am offered a dessert. Cheesecake anyone?

III. I find it tough to resist popcorn, while watching a film.

IV. I find it tough to wake up early in the mornings.

V. I find it tough to talk to someone with bad breath. I am tolerant of bad body odour though, surprisingly. 

VI. I find it tough to smile (with my teeth showing) for a group picture.  I am all for candid pictures.

VII. I find it tough to talk to strangers. I need time to warm up

VIII. I find it tough to shed the e(X)cess baggage that I carry. I am not talking about the emotional one. And here was one more lost opportunity for the letter X.

IX. I find it tough to ask for a raise. I hope my boss reads this one and gets the message.

X. I just realized, there was the letter "X" in point 9. I should have used the letter X as in Roman numerals and could have written any random list of 10 things. Silly me! Now I find it tough to write another list of 10 items.

Did you realize, I actually wrote two lists with 10 items in each?

Did you realize, I have listed so many topics from letter X today, that you can participate in this challenge next year without worrying about the X?

My last year's challenge post from letter X was about my college notes getting xeroxed and how. Read it here.

My theme for this year's #AtoZchallenge is all about writing stories, anecdotes and observations from my life in form of easy to read listicles. You can read the theme reveal post here.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

W : WhatsApp Groups - Types and Management Techniques #AtoZchallenge

You must be aware of Frankenstein's monster. If you are upset with proliferation of WhatsApp groups, just like me, I am sure you have a high IQ. And I assume you are aware of this monster. While there are several metaphorical interpretations of this monster, the one which is most commonly understood is about scary results of science and technology gone rogue. The intention of science is to help the humanity, but the monster finds its way out. Always. So while WhatsApp is a marvel, WhatsApp groups feature is a real deal-breaker. 

Elon Musk (Tesla) recently warned that A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) could create an immoral dictator from which we could never escape. I think the movie The Matrix already warned us almost two decades ago, about a similar apocalypse. But did we learn? No Sir. No Madam. We created WhatsApp groups, which today dictate our life choices. There is no escaping these groups.

Had the developers of WhatsApp read the book Sapiens (which I reviewed few weeks back here), may be better sense would have prevailed. In one of the chapters in the group, the author of the book, Yuval Noah Harari introduces us to Dunbar's Number. Here the author explains, that before Cognitive Revolution, the maximum group size Homo Sapiens could organize to was the Dunbar's Number of 150. Any group size beyond 150 was not conducive for stable and meaningful relationships. So as population exploded, shared myths, like religion, nation etc. were created to manage and discipline larger groups. The developers of WhatsApp committed a cardinal sin. They increased the group size from 100 to 256 in 2016. But they never created any shared myth or set of rules to manage the change. Plus, you can be part of many such groups at the same time. Even Robin Dunbar (British Anthropologist ) couldn't have envisaged that. 

This post is an effort to further the studies done by such stalwarts and identify major types of WhatsApp groups and methods to deal with the tyranny. 

The WhatsApp groups can be divided broadly based on three criteria:

1. Gender based Groups
2. Interest Groups
3. Association based Groups

Gender based groups

There are two types here:

a. Same Gender Groups

b. Mixed Gender Groups

In same gender groups, all kinds of shit is shared. There are days, when you would like to deal with that shit and then there would be days when you would like to mute this 'always buzzing' group. I have never been part of an all girls / women group, obviously. So I can only hazard a guess, what goes on in those kind of groups. But, in all men groups, it becomes pretty obvious that all men are sexist, though degrees may vary. Yes, there are some silent ones too who don't participate in this slug-fest of sharing crass jokes and videos. But being silent and by being part of the group, they in a way approve of the content shared. Men on these kinds of  groups are always in one of these three modes: Horny / Drunk / Cricket Obsessed. 

How to Manage Same Gender groups?
  • The group's name shouldn't call for attention like Stud-Boys, Boys Having Fun, Well-hung Boys, Alcoholics Anonymous, Liquor Barons etc. The names should be on the lines of Meditation Group, School Group etc.
  • The icon / picture of the group should be something abstract, not the picture of a female actor or genitalia or your favorite bottle of scotch
  • The group should be kept on mute most of the times and should only be accessed during early mornings / late evenings
  • Never download the content of these groups when your spouse or boss is near
Mixed Gender groups are not always buzzing. They are only active on members' birthdays, anniversaries, promotions etc. The most commonly used words here are : Congratulations, Happy, Birthday, Anniversary, Best Wishes. They also become active on the days, when any girl on the group says 'Hi'. It almost feels like a dam has opened up, with all the boys on the group vying for that girl's attention. 

How to Manage Mixed Gender groups?
  • If you are a girl, never say 'Hi' on this group
  • If you are a boy, never do drunk messaging on this group, never flirt on this group, and never share content meant for same gender groups on this group
  • Keep the group's name starting with a number followed by Z's, like 123ZZZSchool Group. This is the only way to avoid confusing this group with some other group. You will never share anything wrong on this group by using this technique
Interest Groups

There are two types here:

a. Interest Groups you are interested in, like a group of readers who are interested in discussing books. (This is just an example, where you are interested in books)

b. Interest Groups you are not interested in, like a group of runners who are interested in sharing their fitness goals and marathon pictures, while you are jealous of them. You are forced to be part of this group because your boss has asked you to do so. (This is just an example, where you don't give a damn about fitness, but you care about your job. The interests and compulsions may vary across such groups)

As per the book Sapiens these groups' membership can exceed 150, as the interests here act as shared myths. So managing large groups become easier.

How to Manage these groups?

a. Interest Groups you are interested in
  • Ensure there are rules on this group which are strictly adhered to like:
    • Don't share forwards
    • Don't wish anyone on any occasion
    • Only discuss about the interest(s)
    • Discussion itself should be structured and done only on certain days and during specific hours convenient to most of the members
    • Remove the person breaking any rule immediately
  • Choose that person as the admin who has an autocratic style of working
b. Interest Groups you are not interested in
  • Ensure that you don't follow any rules of the group - share forwards, send Good Morning messages, discuss everything under the sun etc. Do this till the time, admin removes you from the group
  • If the group admin is not doing his job right, go silent. But every time your boss (any other compulsion) says something, send a LOL smiley or a thumbs up.
  • Share fake pictures of your progress on the interest (lets say fitness) of the group, like six pack abs and make others jealous. This will make the fence-sitters leave the group. Culling is an important tool for a group's evolution. 
  • If the group is a highly political group, and you want to avoid the negativity, share the fact that the local legislator is your friend. People will be careful, broaching the subject of politics.
Association based Groups

There are many types of association based groups like alumni groups, corporate / workplace groups, neighborhood groups etc. All of these groups barring one, will fall under any of the above mentioned categories. So for managing these groups, the rules explained earlier are enough. But there is one specific Association based Group, which you should be really wary of. It is called Family's WhatsApp Group. The name of the group itself explains that it is a mixed gender; interest group you are not really interested in, but there is a compulsion of the societal norms you have been conditioned with since your childhood.

No rules apply on this group. Depending on the food cooked at home, the dispersion of the family members across the planet, and issues like "aaj paani nahi aa raha" (Taps running dry today) can impact the tonality and content shared on the group. One can never be sure how to deal with this kind of group. You can't ask your mother to not share forwards, which propagate a fake news. You can't ask your father to not share a political video. You can't tell your sisters not to discuss latest fashion and share pictures of random dresses. You can't leave the group to avoid the jibe that Ab tu bahut bada ho gaya hai, ab tu maa baap ki kadr nahi karta (Now you have grown up and you don't care about your parents anymore). I am not sure how to manage this group. But there is always one thing you can do. Follow the flowchart given below daily and you would keep most of them happy most of the times.

8 am - Send a Good Morning Message (On Sundays 8 am send a Good Morning message which also includes random praise about parents in general)

1 pm - Send a picture of your lunch with a message that you are really busy at work

10 pm - Send a Good Night Message. Don't fail to mention that it was a tiring day and you are off to sleep

10:01 pm - Mute the group and hit the button on your TV remote

Neo just sent a WhatsApp message from The Matrix. The message read, "I will show you the world where anything is possible." He then deleted the message for everyone on the group and left. There is hope. This monster can be tamed. 

My last year's challenge post from letter W was about the role I play in my spouse's life i.e. Wikipedia. Read it here.

My theme for this year's #AtoZchallenge is all about writing stories, anecdotes and observations from my life in form of easy to read listicles. You can read the theme reveal post here.