How's my Luck now?

Reflections, views and descriptions during my stay at IIM Lucknow from July 2004 to March 2006

Name:
Location: India

Friday, May 27, 2005

'Heart of Darkness'

I have wanted to read this classic by Joseph Conrad (Penguin, 1994) for some time, and did so this week. First published in 1902, it is more of an extended short story than a novel. It has been pretty influential through the 20th century, including being the inspiration for Coppola's 'Apocalypse Now'.

A seaman called Marlow recounts to his friends on board a ship on the Thames his stay in the
Dark Continent - Africa - when colonisation by Europe had not yet become formal, and was at
the trading (and exploitation) stage. Marlow first moves to a Central Station of his Company, several hundred miles inland in Africa's dense forest, and then, along with the central station manager and several others, sails upstream on a big river right into the heart of darkness - the deepest of African forests. They are in search of a station manager called Kurtz (Marlon Brando's character in the film, name retained), who is their most productive manager, sending the largest quantity of ivory from his post. Moreover, Kurtz is known for his moralizing and his speeches, hearing of which, Marlow is pretty impressed with him.

But it is on approaching and meeting a badly ailing Kurtz that Marlow realizes that Kurtz is actually a tyrannous and cruel man who has set himself up as a God among the local people. Even though on his deathbed, Kurtz is extremely unwilling to go to the central station with his colleagues for treatment, so much does power attract him. Finally, he dies en route to the central station on the wooden vessel, and is buried there. But for his fiancee in Europe and all other people, he becomes a martyr, a noble hero who died in the cause of bringing light to the dark continent. Only Marlow realizes the true nature of Kurtz.

Although only a hundred-odd pages long, one must read each sentence closely and gauge the meaning that Conrad wishes to give to it. If one gives a thought to what Conrad describes, the whole thing is chilling - both the treatment of the native Africans by the whites, and the utter power that nature held in Africa over a stifled, ailing man.

Mealy-mouthed

Every night we friends at YMCA debate on where to have dinner. Chennai's traditional restaurants offer rice-based meals served on banana leaves (of which there seems to be an unlimited supply available), as can well be expected. These can be difficult for a non-South Indian to have every day. Fortunately, I don't have a problem with rice, and of course, there are many other options available in Royapettah. I actually like the rice meals a lot, since there's a lot of variety.

These meals-serving places are mostly called 'Bhavan's - Raj Bhavan, Sri Krishna Bhavan, Vasantha Bhavan, and the most famous, Saravana Bhavan, etc. - similarly to Bangalore's 'Sagar's. However, unlike those Bangalore joints, there is no consistency in the quality and the basic offering across restaurants.

One place here offers full meals and mini-meals. The full meals consist of unlimited rice (a significant attraction to most people here), and a host of preparations to have that rice with - sambar, rasam, vegetables, tarakoLam, curds, buttermilk, etc. (all of them unlimited). The fried papad (appaLam) is also important. The mini-meals consist of limited rice, but has 4 different types of rice dishes - plain rice, curd rice, sambar rice, and masala rice. Soup is offered in a little steel glass, and is plainly artificial. Another category of restaurants is the Chettinadu variety, but not all of them are authentic. Also, one may not be able to make out much difference between Chettinadu and non-Chettinadu food in vegetarian meals.

At one restaurant, a friend ordered chhole-bhature, as he saw people having it. But the waiter did not understand. So he told him it's also known as chana-bhatura. Still, no response. Then, the waiter took initiative and called an emergency meeting of all waiters to find out what my friend was saying. They discussed in rapid Tamil, but were clueless at the end. Finally, my friend went to the manager and asked him. He said chhole-bhature was known here as sola-puri (corruption of chhole-puri). Sola-puri sounds like a Maharashtrian dish :).

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Snakes and ladders

The third term result has seen a big slide in grades for me, leading to a drop in the cumulative GPA as well. It's a good thing that I wasn't expecting much, otherwise I would have ended up like Bharat Bhushan, lip-synching with Rafi's magnificent voice to Sahir's lyrics and N. Dutta's tune (film: Chandrakanta):
maine chaand aur sitaaron kii tamannaa kii thii
mujhako raaton kii siyaahii ke sivaa kuchh na milaa
(Aspir'd tho' I had for the moon and the stars,
The blackness of the night is all I got)

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

'Narcissus and Goldmund'

This is the second Hermann Hesse novel (translated by Ursule Molinaro, Bantam Books, 1971) I read a few days back. First published in 1930, it is regarded by some as Hesse's best novel.

The novel is the story of two men with diametrically opposite natures - Narcissus, the monk and the thinker, who is made for a life in a cloister; and Goldmund, the artist and the dreamer, who, after spending a few years studying in the cloister, escapes to a worldly life full of pleasures as well as hardships. Despite being so unlike each other, they become great friends, each loving his complement in the other. After Narcissus awakens young Goldmund to the fact that a monk's life is not for him, and after Goldmund painfully realizes it, he escapes from the cloister. Almost two-thirds of the book is then about Goldmund's adventures and experiences. Living a wandering life, he alternately indulges in pleasures and endures hardships, including passing through a huge epidemic of plague in Europe. Finally, Narcissus finds him after more than a decade under unusual circumstances, and Goldmund returns to the cloister as an artist, a wood carver - a skill that he learnt while on his wanderings. After constructing one great woodwork for the cloister, he once again leaves, and comes back shattered and ill. The last few pages when Narcissus and Goldmund talk in the latter's last days are very well-written.

The theme of the novel is the different paths by which one can realize oneself, depending on one's basic nature and abilities. Narcissus, who knows only the way of thinking and philosophizing, is made to realize, after seeing Goldmund's life, that dedicating one's life to the fulfilment of one's sensory urges can also lead one to self-realization, provided a person puts all accumulated experience to constructive use. It is a very sensitively written and thought-provoking book.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

'Kaalam'

I read this Kerala Sahitya Akademi award-winning book by the Gnanpith Award-winning Malayalam author M. T. Vasudevan Nair (translated by Gita Krishnankutty, Disha Books, 1998) recently, courtesy a friend. Besides the desire to read a new story, I was also curious to know about the people, the customs and the way of life in Kerala. This book provides an excellent look into this.

The story is about Sethu (Sethumadhavan Nair), and his life from adolescence to adulthood. As one character remarks late in the story, "Sethu is in love with only one person, himself". Thus, at every major stage in life, Sethu takes a very short-term view and acts opportunistically, leaving close relatives and loved ones behind without concern for their feelings. Moreover, he either fails or doesn't succeed as well as expected in each venture. He is an intelligent person, though, and he realizes his failures and tries to analyse himself, but doesn't really take actions based on this thinking.

As the novel progresses, the conditions in Sethu's village continuously deteriorate, almost all people experience great difficulties in earning a livelihood and in maintaining their relationships with others. This makes it a fairly depressing read. However, the novel is not written in a melodramatic way. It is almost a stating of the occurrences, but it is still quite touching. These ravages of time are captured in the title of the novel.

One gets a very good idea of Kerala's way of life and customs here - the matrilineal joint-family (tarawad) system which is disintegrating, the system of contractual marriage (sambandham), the caste system (with namboodiris, nairs, menons, cherumans, etc.), the ceremonies, the day-to-day life and worries, etc. It is also interesting to note that Hindi movies seemed to be very popular in Kerala at least in this period (late 40's - early 50's), as films like 'Badi Bahan' and 'Gul-e-Bakavali' are mentioned, as is the "beautiful song" - 'suhaanii raat dhal chukii' from 'Dulari' (whose story is also touched upon). A very nice read, and the translation too is good, with the liberal use of Malayalam words supported by a glossary.

Chennai demographics

My friend classified the Chennai crowd that visits places like multiplexes and shopping malls like Spencer's Plaza into two categories - the 'Yo!' crowd (the young and the 'happening') and the 'Aiyo!' crowd (the old and the 'happened') :))

'Bose: the Forgotten Hero'

This weekend, I watched this latest Shyam Benegal film. And to my friends' and my own great surprise and consternation, we found it a very badly made film, going by Benegal's standards.

Documenting the life of Subhash Chandra Bose from a 1939 Congress meeting in Tripura to the plane crash over Formosa after which Bose remained untraceable, the film makes Bose look more like a diplomat and a political craftsman than a brave, practical, action-oriented man that I had a view of. It does bring out the major tragedy of Bose's mission - being tossed about amid larger geopolitical interests by the Russians, the Italians, the Germans and then the Japanese. But it does so while carrying a lot of useless baggage (the film is 3.5 hours long, with the intermission coming after 2.5 hours!).

The film starts off quite well, and Bose's escape from Calcutta to Germany through Kabul is engrossing, and brings out Bose's character well. But then onwards, things start to go downhill. His stay in Germany, his marriage (contested in court currently), his escape to Indonesia when Hitler declares war on Russia, his setting up of INA and then leading it into India through Manipur are all filled with scenes which could easily have been cut, dialogues that could have been much more meaty.

The casting for the film is horrid. Only a few people in the cast do well. Sachin Khedekar as Bose puts in his best effort but the situations sought to be depicted (like his marriage with Emilie Schenkl, having khichadi in a German U-Boat, having food at a pathan's dhaba in Kabul in disguise hearing them praise him) and the empty, rhetoric-filled dialogues don't help him. Rajit Kapoor is so-so as Abid Hasan, Bose's lieutenant. Rajeshwari Sachdev just doesn't wash as Captain Laxmi Vishwanathan (who later became Laxmi Sehgal). Actors playing Gandhiji and Hitler for one scene each are unintentionally comic, as is the actress playing Schenkl. Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Ila Arun as the Punjabi couple in Kabul are quite good, but their role gets too much exposure. A. R. Rahman's music is quite good, with a good song developed from the Tagore refrain of 'ekla cholo re', sung well by Sonu Nigam, and a good qawwali sung by Rahman himself.

Overall, one has come to expect a much better job of film-making from Benegal and one is really disappointed in this film.

Friday, May 13, 2005

'The Metamorphosis'

The friend who recommended Hesse to me also recommended Franz Kafka, and so I read this novella of his online (Project Gutenberg link here). As he said, it is only after reading Kafka that one would be able to truly understand what the expression 'Kafkaesque' means. At first glance, this story is bizarre. If one just reads through it as one reads most stories, then one gains nothing at all out of it, and indeed questions the purpose of the author.

But simple as the story is in terms of language, the temptation to read it up quickly should be avoided. The story is about a travelling salesman called Gregor Samsa, based in Prague, who suddenly turns into a big beetle-like creature in his bedroom overnight. And then his travails are described - mainly revolving around the contrast between his behaviour and situation and those of his family, consisting of parents and a younger sister. There is hardly any cheer in the story, it is a depressing tale. But I will not reveal the events in the story, because it is much better to read it oneself.

My friend also suggested to me this excellent link to a lecture by Vladimir Nabokov wherein he analyzes this story. It is a must-read after having read the story.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

'Siddhartha'

My friend recommended Herman Hesse to me a few days ago, and so I decided to read this most famous of his novels. I read it online (the Project Gutenberg link is here). It is a very small book and I completed it in two days.

The book is sub-titled 'An Indian Tale' and is divided into two parts, with the first part dedicated to Romain Rolland. Set in Buddhist times, the book explores the life of Siddhartha (not the one who became the Buddha), the son of a Brahman. Siddhartha's life, moving in cycles of wisdom and worldliness, is depicted.

Siddhartha has a brilliant mind and early on, he develops the longing to search for the key to peace and an end to the suffering and pain of life. His learning of the Vedas at home leaves him unsatisfied. So he leaves his house with a friend called Govinda and becomes a Samana (ascetic), living a nomadic life practising self-denial and learning from older Samanas various yogic practices. He learns to live in extreme conditions, subject to great hunger, thirst, physical pain, etc. After a few years of such a life, he finds that he is as far from his goal as when he started.
At this point, Siddhartha and Govinda decide to visit the Buddha, whose teachings have reached them. They do meet the Buddha and Govinda joins the monastic order there. But Siddhartha has developed an aversion to all teaching. He tells the Buddha, "You teach us to live according to your guidelines and we will live a good life, no doubt. But can you put into words what you went through when you became enlightened? That is the real knowledge I want from you, how can you give me that?"

Thus he leaves his friend and wanders around. He develops a distrust of words and a love for 'things' themselves, as he realises that everything is godly, from the stone to the human beings. But this leads him to reach a town where he sheds his Samana garb and becomes a worldly person conducting business and indulging in all kinds of pleasures. Once again, disenchanted after living such a life for about two decades, he leaves everything and sets out one night and reaches a river, where he realizes some fundamental things from its flow. He stays with a ferryman on the bank of the river and becomes his companion. Living a pure life here, he yet again falls into worldliness when he accidentally finds his son from the time when he was a businessman. But after long and futile efforts to be with his son, he comes back to the river.
In the end, his friend Govinda comes across him and finds that he seems to have the same calm and tranquillity that the Buddha had, while he himself is left searching for his goal still.

Siddhartha's peace is found in the realization that the passage of time is not real, but only a construct of our minds. Each and every thing has its whole essence, its whole 'past' and 'future' embedded in itself at any moment. The book is an easy read in terms of language, but some thought must be expended on its message.

A tale of two cities - II

Bangalore's weak points

Infrastructure
Bangalore's infrastructure is now well-known to have limited scalability. This is due to two reasons: pressure from the demand side - increasing number of companies entering, vehicles plying the roads, people moving in; and that from the supply side - long time taken to develop infrastructure like flyovers, etc. The result is restrictive solutions that create new problems. One example is the increase in the number of one-ways, which has shut out a lot of shorter routes and increased the cost of travel (first-hand experience :( ). Ahmedabad does better mainly by being able to execute infrastructure projects in a defined and quick duration. Of course, if there a thrust by the IT industry, it remains to be seen how well it can scale it up, but I have more confidence in Ahmedabad's municipal authorities than in Bangalore's, particularly after the BATF initiative was closed down. The Bangalore International Airport project suffered even when a supportive government was in place.
Both cities have a good public transport system of buses which needs to be supported and enhanced, but do not have a prevalent public culture of using the system.

Road accidents
A related effect is the frequent incidence of road accidents, particularly involving two-wheelers, in Bangalore. Traffic discipline is probably equally bad in Ahmedabad, but it would be interesting to examine the accident statistics in the two cities.

Electricity
Azim Premji's outburst on frequent KEB power outages and consequent embarrassment caused in front of Wipro's clients is well-known. Ahmedabad and Surat's electricity companies (now Torrent Group companies, as far as I know) are excellent in this respect. Particularly, AEC's power supply drops only a couple of times a year, on an average, and that too for short durations.

Cost of living
Although Ahmedabad is not very cheap in an absolute sense, its cost of living is definitely lower than that of Bangalore. A big contributor to this difference would be the real-estate prices, which are soaring in Bangalore. The last time I heard, Ahmedabad also had a lot of empty apartment space, which could cushion the prices for some time before new investment in real estate occurs. Food might be slightly cheaper, overall, in Bangalore, but there must be a lot of variation in individual categories of food.

Crime
Bangalore's law & order scene has worsened considerably in the last few years. Even as I went there, the last week had been marred by several crimes committed on software engineers, people coming out of ATMs, and even on auto-rickshaw-wallahs. Ahmedabad too, like most other cities, has its share of crimes, but Bangalore's situation seems alarming. One reason might be that people are increasingly falling into two major economic classes there: the very rich (or soon-to-be-very-rich) and the poor. Such a society can be expected to be crime-ridden. So far at least, Ahmedabad has all classes of people in significant proportions so that one of the major root causes of crime is under better control.

All of this, I think (and hope), points to the fact that Ahmedabad deserves a consideration when planning a new investment or setting up a new venture. Of course, all of the above is based on qualitative arguments and not on hard statistics, but I think the argument would still stand if statistics are considered.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

A tale of two cities - I

I went to Bangalore this weekend with a friend. I now have many sets of friends in Bangalore to meet. Unfortunately, I could meet only the people from IIML and a great friend from school. Anyway, the trip was very enjoyable as it felt like visiting a hill station after being in Chennai. I visited Lalbagh, The Forum and a couple of my favourite restaurants. I also got to stay in an IIMB hostel room and a look around the campus.

While talking to my friend from school, who had come there from Ahmedabad to work, we both wondered why Ahmedabad had a very negligible (nearly non-existent) IT industry. Except for some stellar firms like eInfochips, Ahmedabad has nothing to boast about in this sphere. Why is this so? And more importantly, should this be so? One way to answer these questions might be to list the major strengths of Bangalore and see how Ahmedabad fares on those points, and then also, to complete the picture, list areas where Bangalore is weak and see if Ahmedabad is any better in those.

Bangalore's strengths

Climate
There is no doubt that Bangalore beats Ahmedabad and all other Indian cities on this score. It is by far the most pleasant city I have been in. However, is climate really a driver of progress for the IT industry? I don't think so. How else would one explain a thriving software industry in Chennai or Hyderabad, which don't have great climate to boast of?

Good educational institutions
Gujarat doesn't lack good engineering colleges and higher education facilities. I would say that Karnataka does score over Gujarat overall, both in quantity and quality. However, Gujarat's job, at least initially, would be to attract professionals from outside the state, while building new institutes and bettering existing ones. If Bangalore has great scientific institutions, Ahmedabad can also boast of quite a few.

Availability of talent
Bangalore and other places already have quite a few Gujarati engineers and managers, so it is not as if Gujaratis don't do well in this field. Ahmedabad is also quite cosmopolitan, maybe less than Bangalore, but just as receptive to outsiders. Once the seeds of a strong industry are sown, attracting talent should not be impossible. (One disincentive for outsiders to settle in Gujarat is its prohibition law, but then thousands of people from other states do manage to live and enjoy in Gujarat even with prohibition. ) Also, the exodus of fresh engineers to the US would also slow down if they saw the opportunity to do well right there, in their own city. If anything, the commercial mindset of the Gujarati would come in most handy to the industry.

Supportive government
So far, this had been the trump card for Karnataka, really. But with the exit of S. M. Krishna and the advent of Dharam Singh, the government has gone from 'extremely supportive' to 'neutral'. The Gujarat government has always been supportive of industry, as is well known. But none of the governments concentrated on attracting the IT industry, and all efforts have been half-hearted at best. This is where Gujarat has tripped up and needs to pull up its socks badly.

Communal peace
Bangalore does not have a record of communal riots, at least not of the scale of Ahmedabad. And post-Godhra riots have given Ahmedabad a much worse name than it has ever deserved. But
in this, I think it would be safe to say that Amdavadis (and Gujaratis) would ultimately prefer business and prosperity over mindless propagandist religion which disrupts their day-to-day business life.

(continued...)

Friday, May 06, 2005

'It's not Luck'

This is the fourth Eliyahu Goldratt novel (Gower, 1994) that I completed a couple of days ago. It is advertised as "a sequel to 'The Goal'", but it is one only insofar as it retains many of the characters of 'The Goal'. Alex Rogo, the protagonist of 'The Goal' is now executive Vice-president of a diversified group of three companies inside UniCo - a printing company, a pressure-steam equipment company and a cosmetics company. Rogo's companies are once again on the block for sale at a pittance, even though, using TOC techniques, the companies have turned around from big losses to break-even or small profits.

Rogo is not convinced that the companies should be sold and reluctantly accompanies two board members - Trumann and Doughty - to Europe to negotiate with prospective buyers. On the trip, Rogo uses Goldratt-developed Thinking Processes to come up with the reality faced by businesses in today's competitive environment. According to him, the one major cause for all
the problems of businesses and their customers is that: Managers make decisions to achieve
local optima.

So what are these Thinking Processes? These processes use tools using which one can verbalize common sense. Normally, something that is 'common sense' is actually very difficult to express in words. These tools help you do that.

The tools include: the Current Reality Tree (which I've referred to in an earlier post) helps to connect all problems of every stakeholder in an industry (called Undesirable Effects or UDEs) to one or two major causes by a tree of cause-effect relationships; the Cloud, which graphically depicts a conflict encountered in achieving an objective and helps one decide how to break the conflict (which is never by compromise, according to Goldratt); the Future Reality Tree, which maps a desired future scenario and involves generation of negative branches (possible obstacles) which can then be trimmed by appropriate steps; the Transition Tree, which maps the steps to be taken for moving from the Current to the Future Reality Tree; the Prerequisite Tree, which depicts the absolute prerequisites for a particular desired situation to occur.

These tools are used, then, by Rogo and each of his company presidents and people, and they are able to generate breakthrough marketing solutions for their respective companies, which
can help them generate substantially higher profits, and be sold for a much better valuation.

The book ends with Goldratt's view of strategy (verbalized through Rogo): strategy consists in developing a decisive competitive edge (using the Thinking Processes) in a chosen market, and then segmenting the market, entering these segments so as not to penetrate them fully and using these segments as a hedge against market risk. That is, if one market segment goes down, the organizational resources can be diverted to serving the segment that is peaking. Quite intriguing. But what happens if there is a depression and the whole market goes down? This remains unaddressed. Also, one will have to be constantly on the watch for fundamental
market changes which might need us to develop new competitive edges from time to time.

Intriguing as this might seem, actually the concept of developing organizational resources to enter a set of similar markets or segments is the same as the idea of a 'core competency' propounded by Prahalad and Hamel. And also, as the book shows, the real increase in profits for the companies came when they changed their view of the market, their strategic positioning, and not just by the operational improvements carried out earlier. This is consistent with Michael Porter's statement that 'operational effectiveness is not strategy'. So, to me, Goldratt's views on strategy do not seem as unconventional as his views on operational effectiveness. But the way Goldratt has put it, it seems he believes his ideas are very novel. Perhaps I haven't understood his views fully.

Monday, May 02, 2005

'Hazaaron Khwaishen Aisi...'

I watched this film this weekend, spurred by a glowing review in Tehelka. Directed by Sudhir Mishra, it traces the lives of three young people - two men and a woman - through the period of the late 1960's to mid-1970's. In the end, it is a love triangle, but treated very differently. It can definitely not be categorized as mainstream cinema.

I found the film 'bad in parts', as one of my friends called it. That is, I really liked the film overall, but there were certain things that I didn't like. The story goes like this: Vikram (Shiney Ahuja), Siddharth (Kay Kay Menon) and Geetha (Chitrangada Singh) study in the same college. Vikram belongs to a rich family and becomes a typical businessman of the time in Delhi, with numerous political contacts. His father, though, is a staunch Gandhian Congress politician. Siddharth and Geetha belong to middle-class families, Siddharth being the son of a judge. Both are actively involved in the social anti-establishment movement of the time, which had its roots in Naxalbari. The two are also in love with each other, while Vikram is in love with Geetha. After numerous scenes of rioting and escaping the clutches of the police in Delhi, the era abruptly changes from 1969 to 1975. Siddharth goes off to Bhagalpur in Bihar and we see the caste issues and violence over there, while Geetha doesn't accompany him because of familial pressure. A few years later, Vikram and Geetha meet accidentally in a party, where Vikram finds that Geetha has married Arun, a junior bureaucrat in the Finance Ministry, who is 'getting there'. But then again, Vikram accidentally stumbles upon the fact that Geetha still visits Bihar and meets up with Siddharth.

The upshot of all this is that personal and larger social contexts intermingle throughout the film. Eventually, there comes a stage when Vikram has to go off to Bihar to rescue Siddharth and he himself gets beaten badly by the police, and loses his mental balance. We come to an end shortly thereafter, when Siddharth leaves Bihar and goes off to study medicine in London, while Geetha stays in Bihar, with Vikram also there.

The three protagonists play their roles very well. I was most impressed with Shiney Ahuja, who played the savvy Delhi businessman to perfection. Chitrangada Singh (wife of golfer Jyoti Randhawa) has been hailed as the 'next Smita Patil' by people like Ketan Mehta and Shekhar Kapur, and there is a slight resemblance to the late great actress as well. She speaks clipped English (as she is a UK-returned girl in the film), and plays the emotional scenes pretty well. She does have a future in serious cinema. Kay Kay is also good as the social activist, although his English seems artificial.

Sudhir Mishra has done a very good job of directing the film, trying to capture the revolutionary mood of the youth, the flower power influence coming in, the Emergency, and the despair of people torn by casteist violence in Bihar. Diverse characters fill the film - two politicians resembling Sanjay Gandhi and Arun Nehru, brutal policemen in Bihar, an oily socialist political leader changing skins, urban youth, etc. Some of the dialogues are really well-written (as when the Sanjay Gandhi character says: 'Do you think we are the kind of people who will not be here a few years from now?'; and when, hearing a social activist's speech, one villager asks another: 'ye Hitler kauN hai?' and the other replies: 'mhaare gaanv men to naa hai'). One thing that is often used in films set in particular periods is to use the film songs of that period in the background. Here too, we listen as people accompany Mukesh in singing 'vo subah kabhii to aayegii' and as Talat sings 'ae mere dil kahiin aur chal' in the background.

Now about the bad parts. Firstly, the film name is misspelt. 'Khwaishen' should have been 'Khwahishen' (the 'h' is not silent). I think about 75% of the dialogues are in English, which sometimes sounds too artificial. And the language used is more 90's and 00's than 70's. If there is only one theme on which the film is based, that theme is not very clear. One experiences jerks and some lack of coherence in the film's progress. But on the whole, the film easily deserves a viewing, simply because such films are so rare nowadays.

'Jack: Straight from the Gut'

I read this autobiography of the legendary Jack Welch (co-writer: John Byrne, Warner Books, 2001), chairman of GE for 2 decades, recently. It is a large book written in a typically American informal style. It is difficult to note all of the numerous things that are notable in the book, but here's just a quick overview:

The book is divided into five parts. The first part, 'The Early Years', traces Welch's childhood, the great influence of his mother on his personal qualities, the building of his self-confidence, his early years at GE, and then his relatively quick rise to the top position. The section ends with a fascinating description of the elaborate succession process devised by Welch's predecessor - another legend, Reg Jones.
The second part, 'Building a Philosophy', describes his years as CEO, concentrating on his vision for the organization, the famous strategy of being the No. 1 or No. 2 in every business, the difficult years when he was dubbed 'Neutron Jack', the acquisition of RCA, etc. In this section, and indeed throughout the book, one may note that Welch truly based most of his decisions on a few principles and values.
The third part, 'Ups and Downs', describes various businesses that made it big (GE Capital and NBC) while describing failed ventures like the acquisition of the investment bank Kidder, Peabody. Here, he goes into too much detail, and it becomes a bit difficult to share his enthusiasm for the events described. His description of the Kidder scam and its aftermath is fascinating - one of the relatively few brushes with government that he had in his career.
The fourth part, 'Game Changers', describes four big initiatives that GE began in the 1990s, viz. globalization, the services business, Six Sigma and e-business. Here we see how he personally championed each of the initiatives and drove it through the organization.
The fifth part, Looking back, Looking forward', first describes the attempt to buy Honeywell and the frustrating experience with the European Commission antitrust committee. Then he includes a wonderful chapter in which he summarizes all the major principles, values, and practices that he used throughout his career.

Overall, the book is a must-read for any student of management, and a very good read for the layperson as well. We realise how difficult a job it is to manage a behemoth like GE, and yet how, with a few core values and personal attributes, Welch excelled in that job. Here we see that the usually 'global' statement "Our people are our greatest assets" is actually lived in the company. Above all, Welch is a people-leader, and his greatest contribution to GE comes in the form of harnessing great talent from everywhere in the world in GE and inspiring them with his own example to excel in their jobs.