Blog

Six money resolutions you can take today

2017 is here! I hope 2016 was great for you and 2017 ends up being even better. It is the dawn of a new era and as is tradition, it is time to begin the new year with resolutions.

Often, the problem with New Year Resolutions is that they are easy to procrastinate. There’s an entire year ahead to fulfill them, after all. Most of us start out enthusiastically, but our enthusiasm towards the resolutions wanes as January turns into February and March and the year keeps trickling on.

This is why, I decided to bring to you money resolutions that you can take and implement in January itself. These are actionable resolutions that will help you improve your personal finances right away. And since taking care of your personal finances should be an ongoing affair, I have also elaborated on how you can keep reaping the benefits of these resolutions all through the year as well.

So, without further ado, let’s go right to the money resolutions that you can fulfill today.

Buy insurance online

This may seem obvious, but a lot of people in their 20s and 30s don’t have insurance–life or health. Traditional financial wisdom says you should buy insurance even before you begin investing. Insurance can stop your finances from derailing due to unexpected circumstances. What’s more, insurance premiums get costlier the older you get. Hence, the sooner you buy insurance, the better off you will be in the long run.

To do: Head to a portal like PolicyBazaar.com or CoverFox.com where you can easily compare different insurance products and purchase a policy that fits your needs. Insurance bought online is much cheaper. Check the insurer’s claim settlement ratio and compare the premium with other policies before you make the final decision.

Next steps: Claim income tax benefits at the time of filing returns on the insurance premiums you pay. Life insurance premiums are tax deductible up to ₹1.5 lakh under Section 80C and health insurance premiums up to ₹25,000 under Section 80D.

Book that summer holiday

Most people with families head out on a vacation during the summer or Diwali holidays. Most of these vacations are planned at the last minute in a rush. So obviously, you end up spending a lot and probably even compromise on the bookings you end up making. And that is if you’re lucky. Most of the times you will have to dump the idea of going on a vacation because everything good is either booked or too expensive to consider.

To do: Sit down with your family and pick a place you want to visit. Check out the calendar to figure out the holidays you would have and make the bookings right away. Flights are usually cheaper when you book in advance and you will be able to get the hotels of your choice as well.

Next steps: Depending on where you’re going, you will need money to spend on the vacation. Plan for that from now itself by setting aside a little money every month. This way you’ll have the money to spend without having to dig into a single month’s savings.

Delete shopping apps

How often have you found yourself surfing through shopping apps on your phone out of sheer boredom? Quite often, right? And invariably, you will like something that you don’t really need. So you go ahead and splurge on it. That’s fine as long as this happens once in awhile. But in reality, we end up spending a lot of money on purchases that we don’t really need.

To do: Delete the shopping apps from your phone. When you need to buy something, you can log-in from a computer. Even if you don’t want to delete the apps, you can at least remove the saved cards from the apps. Having to enter in your card details will make you think twice about whether you really need to make that purchase or not.

Next steps: Make a note of the things you need to buy and if you can, wait till the discount and sales seasons. Offline as well as online vendors periodically have sales that you can take advantage of to get things cheaper.

Open a new bank account for emergency funds

Having an emergency fund for exigencies is a sound financial decision. This is the amount you have set aside for unexpected occurrences like medical emergencies, loss of job, natural disasters,etc. But when this money is kept in the bank account you use on a regular basis, you run the risk of using it for anything other than an emergency. If it is easily and readily accessible, it invariably gets spent.

To do: Open a new savings bank account and park the emergency money there. Make sure this account is not linked to any of your regular spendings. Don’t carry the account’s debit card with you either; leave it in a drawer at home and take it out only in case of an emergency.

Next steps: As your income increases or a member is added to your family, top up the emergency fund. Once or twice a year, you can even make a small transaction from the account to ensure it doesn’t become dormant.

Stop automating bill payments

Giving your credit card a mandate to pay your card, phone and utility bills automatically every month is convenient. But automating payments can mean you are not able to keep a tab on how much of your money is getting spent on these items. Credit card bills typically have different kinds of charges and interests as well, which people end up paying without being aware of.

To do: Pay the bills by yourself every month. It will take up a bit of your time but you will be able to figure out if you’re spending more than you need to on any of the items. This will help you keep your monthly budgets in check and control expenses. Your phone bill, for example, might have services that you don’t actually use.

Next steps: Keep a track of your bills and see if your spends increase in any particular month. Paying the bills yourself will also allow you to immediately notice a wrongful charge and have it reverted as soon as possible.

Learn to cook

If you think cooking doesn’t have anything to do with money, just go through the long list of taxes and charges that make up your restaurant bills. It is estimated that we pay around 30% over the cost of the food we order when we eat out. The various taxes and charges often outnumber the items we order. This makes eating out not only unhealthy but expensive as well.

To do: Learn how to cook so that you eat out less. You can begin with the basic types of dishes that are easy to prepare. The next time you feel the urge to eat out or order in from outside, just head over to the kitchen and cook something that will be easy on your stomach as well as wallet.

Next steps: As you get better at cooking, you can turn it into a hobby and start experimenting with different kinds of dishes. This will make a big difference to your savings as well as health,

Happy new year. 🙂

Advertisements
Blog

Working in a tech company made me a better customer

Once upon a time, I didn’t work in a tech company. I didn’t work in a company that’s product was a service it offered through the internet. This is the type of company that doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar presence; it is present in whatever gadget you’re using. This is the type of company that doesn’t have actual face-to-face interactions with its customers; its interactions happen through emails, web-based chats and sometimes, phone calls. And because this type of a company doesn’t have an outlet where people can go and complain, they complain about it on the company’s social media channels.

Now, complaining isn’t wrong. If you’re not happy with a company’s product or service, you should complain. But complaining too quickly and too easily isn’t always right. I used to do that. I have a Twitter account, which made it very easy for me to simply go to it and send out an unforgiving tweet about a company that failed to impressme. I could even go to the company’s Facebook page and post my disgruntlement on their wall. It hardly takes a lot of time and even though the company’s service might not improve immediately, the gratification of having done something to get myself heard is definitely instant.

All of us do this all the time. A tech company will delay the shipment of something we ordered and we’ll take to Twitter to “teach them a lesson”. Another tech company will fail to deliver a promise they’ve made and we’ll go to Facebook to teach another lesson. But amongst all of this teaching and preaching, we’ll not bother to learn anything about why the screw-up happened.

And we don’t bother because we forget that even though the company is a tech company, it is being run by humans only. The processes are tech-driven, but they’re being driven by humans. It is not actually the computers that are doing all of the work.

When we deal with a brick-and-mortar business, we let go of mistakes and screw-ups because we see a human committing them. We relate to the feeling of it being a human error. With a tech company, we don’t see that happening behind our gadgets. Computers are not supposed to commit errors and so are not tech companies.

This was the way I saw things as well, till I started to work in a tech company. I have worked in a team that has put emphasis on automating processes, but even then, the processes have to be put in place by humans. And there are so many ways in which things can potentially go wrong. There are various hurdles we face on a day-to-day basis. People fall fill, vendors don’t deliver, different teams don’t sync as well as expected. And yes, sometimes, a tech company tries to bite off more than it can chew. But that can be learned only in retrospect.

This doesn’t mean the tech company isn’t trying or it doesn’t care. Screw-ups hurt the company more than a customer can ever imagine. A screw-up means going back to the drawing board and trying to figure out what went wrong. A screw-up means heartbreakfor the people behind that particular process. A screw-up means putting things back in place from scratch. A tech company doesn’t want to screw-up as much as its customers don’t want it to screw-up. The company doesn’t want to run away with a customer’s money nor does it want to disappoint the customers. The company just wants to do something good enough to bring the customer back to it.

These are things I didn’t ever think of before I started working in a tech company. But once I did, once I saw that a screw-up can happen because of myriad reasons that cannot be controlled, I understood what it meant for the company itself.

Now, I’m more patient. I’m more accepting. I’m more understanding. I accept the fact that a tech company, like any other company, will not be immune to errors. I understand that there are humans behind the technology that I expect to run flawlessly. And I’m patient enough to give them the time they require to make things right without needing to lambast them on social media or anywhere else.

Yes, working in a tech company has turned me into a better customer.

I wrote this first on Linkedin Pulse.

Blog

Life Lessons from Serial Killer Ted Bundy

Ted Bundy died on the electric chair in a Florida prison in 1989, because he was convicted for murdering 3 women. He confessed to killing around 30, while he’s suspected of having murdered close to a 100.

What is there then to learn from such an evil being, you’d ask. Anyone who’s read even the slightest about Bundy would know about the gruesome nature of his crimes. He bludgeoned most of his victims, raped many of them, and had repeatedly bitten one of the girls, which eventually turned out to be telling proof that lead to his conviction. By no stretch of imagination was he a good person, but he was a sort of a genius. Ted Bundy was sharp, articulate and self-respectful. He could have gotten away from the electric chair if he had pleaded insanity, but he was too proud to show himself as mentally incapable. He would rather be dead.

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann RuleThat said, this post isn’t about Ted Bundy’s personality traits. This is about the 6 life goals he listed when undergoing psychological evaluation in prison. I’ve recently been obsessed with Bundy’s story, thanks to Ann Rule’s book on his life, The Stranger Beside Me, in which she writes that when he was given a life goals evaluation test, he listed the following goals:

  • To have freedom from want
  • To control the actions of others
  • To guide others with their consent
  • To avoid boredom
  • To be self-fulfilled
  • To live one’s life one’s own way

Apart from the second goal, the other 5 are goals that each and every one of us should have. I’ll elaborate why.

To have freedom from want

Even though the dictionary lists ‘desire’ and ‘need’ as synonyms, there’s a thin line between the two. Here, the ‘want’ that Bundy refers to is ‘desire’. We should seek freedom from want because we tend to desire a lot of things that we don’t really need. This is the widely-known principle of minimalism. There are a very few things that we need to live our lives, having those is more than enough. Desiring or wanting more things only leads to higher expenses, more complications and unnecessary hoarding. When we’re able to suppress our desires, we’re able to simplify our life and enjoy the things we already have rather than running after more and more of them.

To guide others with their consent

Many of us tend to think we’re lost souls; it’s almost fashionable to do so. But each one of us has some guiding light within ourselves that we end up ignoring. You may not be good at many things, but there would be something that sets you apart from others. Quite often, this something is recognised by those around you, even when you’re unaware of it. I’ve experienced this; I’ve become aware of it when someone I know sought me out to guide them with a particular thing. And when I did, it was a helping hand for them and a revelation for me. To guide someone is extremely gratifying, more so when it is with their consent. Do that, but refrain from giving unsolicited advice. Only jerks do that.

To avoid boredom

Boredom is a mind-killer. Boredom is like quicksand, once you set foot in it, it pulls you in deeper and deeper, making it nearly impossible for you to get out of. Do whatever you have to, do whatever you can, but avoid boredom at all costs. It numbs you. Thankfully, with the internet and gadgets we have today, it is fairly easy to not get bored. There’s always something to read, music to listen to, social network to visit, games to play, movies or videos to watch, websites to surf, et al. There are enough options available today to do something constructive with your time. And if you don’t feel motivated or inspired, there are also enough time-wasting activities you can do to avoid boredom. Boredom is a crime you’d commit on yourself. If nothing else, just go for a walk.

To be self-fulfilled

Ted Bundy was immensely self-fulfilled. His goal was to get out of prison, and when he wasn’t satisfied with the lawyers the court appointed for him, he fought his case himself. He made the required efforts himself, without waiting for someone whom he thought was worthy enough to rely upon. Of course, he wasn’t above the law, so he failed. But there is something to be said about how self-fulfilled he was. Unlike so many people today. We rely on others to do our work for us, and of course, we end up deeply disappointed. And whose fault is that? No one in this world cares as much about your ambitions and goals as much as you. Why would you expect someone else to realise them for you? Do it yourself, be it a small task or a big ask. No one will do it as well as you anyway.

To live one’s life one’s own way

This is probably the easiest thing to say, but the toughest thing to do. As I write this, I can think of so many people I personally know who’re never going to live their life their own way. It’s disheartening that only a few can. I’m trying. And it’s tough, largely because those of us who don’t live isolated lives would end up hurting our loved ones if we decided to relentlessly pursue this goal. But even if we can’t live our whole life our way, we should be able to live at least parts of it the way we want to. Not every part of our life should be influenced, advocated and scrutinised by someone else. Nor should it be answerable to anyone. And it is our duty to our own self to make sure that that doesn’t happen. It’s your life, live it your way, even if only a part of it.

I’m not going to elaborate on the second goal written by Bundy, because one shouldn’t be guiding the actions of others. That goal goes against all of his other goals, which is what turned him into a criminal. This is also what differentiates the good guys from the bad. And it brings me to the caveat of the other 5 goals – one shouldn’t cause any sort of harm to anyone else. This is the line that shouldn’t be crossed.

When I first came upon Ted Bundy’s goals in Ann Rule’s book, I was dumbfounded by how much I could relate to them. These were things I believed in, things I practiced. How could my philosophies be so similar to those of a mass murderer, I wondered. But then I realised that Bundy was also a human being, just that he went astray. He ruined his life and the lives of an uncountable number of people, because he kept doing the wrong things. I don’t know whether he could recognise his wrongdoings or not, but only if he hadn’t done them, I’m sure he would be just as famous as he is today, albeit for better and positive reasons.

Blog

When to Stop Being Embarrassed of Your Child!

(This column was first published on yowoto.)

Question: Does a kid ever stop misbehaving?

Answer: Even adults don’t.

Kids don’t stop misbehaving; they don’t stop doing the things that embarrass their parents. Of course, they don’t keep doing the same things through their growing years. They simply stop one thing that is bugging you and start doing something else that will bug you just as much—you have to give them marks for consistency.

Until recently, my son was answering everything he was asked with ‘Potty’. Ask him his name and he’d say ‘potty’. Ask him my name and he’d say ‘potty’. Ask him what he did at school and he’d say ‘potty’. He might be speaking the truth there, but I’m sure you get my point. This was becoming really embarrassing for us because he’d say ‘potty’ in front of friends and strangers alike. At first, we scolded him for saying the word so much. But it didn’t stop him from saying it. Scolding just made him say ‘sorry’ quickly after he’d said ‘potty’. Then, seeing that scolding wasn’t working, we started to feign ignorance. We’d pretend he hadn’t said the word. I’m not sure if this strategy worked or not, but he did eventually stop replying to everything with ‘potty’.

But it wasn’t long before he found a new way to misbehave. He started spitting as a sign or annoyance and anger. He’d spit on us if we didn’t give him what he wanted. Of course, this was more embarrassing than the whole potty thing, especially when we were with other people, but there was nothing we could do except wait it out. We knew from experience that scolding wasn’t going to work, so we went back to the ignorance strategy. In between, we’d keep telling him he was a bad boy for spitting on us and that bad boys didn’t get good stuff; but that only made him spit on us with even more enthusiasm. However, eventually, he did stop spitting.

And then, he started kicking.

Look, kids are kids. We love them because they’re kids and we have to take some misbehaviour in our stride. This doesn’t mean that you stop telling them to not misbehave. No. You have to keep telling them, no matter how much it feels like ramming your head against a wall. But you shouldn’t expect the results to be instantaneous. Scolding might work on some kids, ignoring might work on others, nothing might work on some. What option do you have except waiting it out anyway?

So just take it easy. Don’t let yourself get annoyed by it. Don’t get embarrassed either, because the people you socialise with also know that they’re children. And children misbehave. No, period. All of them do, all the time.

Just remember, you’ve done your job as a parent fairly well if they stop misbehaving by the time they’re adults!

Blog

The Good Cop – Bad Cop Routine

(This column was first published on Yowoto.)

I’m sure you’ve heard of the good cop-bad cop routine. You need to watch a few crime movies if you haven’t. This is an integral part of parenting that you’re going to fail at if you don’t know how to correctly use this routine with your children.

The most important thing about the good cop – bad cop routine is that it requires the involvement of both parents. You’re the cops; your kid is the criminal. Or, suspected criminal. That’s up to you to decide. In the movies, there are always two cops who grill a suspected criminal. They want valuable information out of him that will help them break a case. To do this, they’ve to be aggressive as well as smart. The bad cop is the one who shows the aggression, he threatens to hurt or harm the person being grilled. The good cop, on the other hand, plays it smart by trying to show the criminal that they’re on his side. He promises to let the criminal off easy if he cooperates with them. This is how, between the good and the bad, the criminal breaks down and reveals all.

Your child has not committed any crime, probably, but he or she is most probably not listening to what is being said. There’s something that the kid should be doing, but is not doing. And this is where the good cop – bad cop routine can come to your help. We use this routine to great effect when your son doesn’t want to eat. Normally, my wife is the one who plays the bad cop. She’ll threaten to cut off his TV time, give away his favourite toys to some other kid, or not speak to him, if he doesn’t finish his meals. This is where I have to play to good cop and tell him how he was able to beat me at some game the other day because he had finished his meal. I have to tell him how good his rice tastes, even though I had pizza for dinner, to coax him into eating it.

From my experience as a parent and a fan of crime movies, I can say that the routine works a lot better for the cops in the movies. This is not because they’re grilling actual criminals while parents are grilling their children, it’s because the criminals are actually scared. Children, on the other hand, fear nothing. Least of all, their parents. They don’t know what they’re doing is right or wrong, they’re just doing it because that is what they want to do. The criminals will eventually break, but the children will break you.

Most often than not, our good cop – bad cop routines have ended in something like, “Ah, leave it, let him do what he wants to do. He’s not listening anyway.” But on the rare occasions when it does work, we are not shy of high-fiving each other till our son realises he’s been had.

Blog

Say No to Saying No

I don’t know if there’s ever been a survey about the one word that parents from around the world use the most, but I know there’s no need for any such survey. The word is ‘No’, and no, there’s no arguing that.

We say ‘no’ all the time, every time. ‘No’ is like a default reaction that comes out each time our kids open their mouth. It doesn’t even matter what they’re asking for, or even if they’re asking for something, the answer is ‘No.’

Frankly, if you ask me, I don’t think it’s entirely the parents’ fault. Kids are pretty dumb and they ask some pretty daft things. My son asks if he can jump down from the top stair, he often wants to touch the cup of hot tea to make sure we’re not lying to him about it being hot, there are times when he wants to run behind a car, but we’re pretty sure we’re not raising a cute puppy so we have to tell him no. We don’t want him to hurt himself, after all.

Parents are a concerned lot, we can’t help but be. We’re responsible for these small human beings that don’t even seem human. They’re cute little monsters who have no idea what they’re doing most of the times. They’re just having fun, and as parents, we can’t help but spoil it a little bit by saying no.

But this is where we need to control ourselves a bit. I’m not saying I let my son jump down from the top stair or run behind a car, but I did let him touch a cup of warm tea to make him understand about heat. Now he knows that he shouldn’t be touching things randomly in the kitchen. Of course, this is just one example, but I’m sure you get my point.

There’s nothing wrong with a kid picking up a stone and throwing it at a tree, we don’t need to say no to that. So what if your kid picks up a show-piece at your relatives house where you’re visiting? Don’t tell him or her to not do that. Let him or her pick something up and look at it. And if he or she breaks it, there’s an upside to that as well – you won’t get called over to visit those relatives again.

Saying no to most of the things that our kids ask for or want to do just kills their curiosity. Children need to explore; they’re curious beings who’re seeing and experiencing most things for the first time. They’re not born knowing what a handful of sand feels like, they don’t know that nothing will happen to a tree if a stone is thrown at it, they’ve no clue that daddy’s laptop will break if the lid is shut down with a bang. I’ve said no to the last example, but I don’t see a need to say no to things like the first two.

If they don’t explore, they don’t learn. If they don’t experience, they don’t understand. So why say no when we know it’s not going to cause them harm? Let them fool around a little bit, let them break a couple of harmless things, let them have a little fun. Say no to saying no all the time.

Blog

Nostalgia – Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

Recent psychology studies have suggested that nostalgia boosts optimism. They’re now saying that most nostalgic events are social events, which remind us about people, instances and things that we care about. In effect, this means that being nostalgic is good for you.

However, that’s not how I’ve looked at nostalgia.

The dictionary definition of ‘nostalgia’ is ‘longing for something past’, which is also how I’ve always thought of it – with a negative connotation. When one is nostalgic about something – a person, a relationship, a job, a time in life – you’re living in the past. And haven’t we been told numerous times that one shouldn’t live in the past? Being nostalgic means you’re thinking of something that’s happened before, and you’re wishing it’d happen again. You’re missing that something, you either want things to be like that again or you’re sad in the knowledge that things won’t ever be the same again. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not being positive.

Nostalgia makes you look back, when you should be living life looking at the present with an eye on the future. If your present is not better than your past, your future won’t be better than your present. And if you’re not getting better, you’re not living right.

This is how I look at things, which I realised a while ago when I was at a party with some of my college buddies. Between drinks, we were reminiscing our college days. We were having a big laugh about the things we used to do, the pranks we played, the classes we bunked, the impromptu trips we made, et al. Between talking about these times, someone or the would say, “Man, those were the times!”

Yes, they were. I love reminiscing over those days, but unlike a couple of my pals, I don’t get nostalgic about them. Those days were a hell of a lot of fun, but do I want to do that again? No. I don’t want to spend my nights getting drunk and wake up late in the afternoon, without a care in the world. I want to work hard and make enough money to let my son have the freedom to do that when he’s in college.

My life has changed, my priorities are different. I loved those days, but I love the life I’m living right now just as much. I like the work I do, I love spending time with my family. I have a loving wife and a naughty son; I like getting beaten up by the both of them. I do have my night-outs with my college pals, but once a month or so is now enough for me. I don’t miss doing that every other day.

And that is why I don’t get nostalgic. We evolve as we grow older, we change. Our life becomes different. And not being happy with the changes, hoping for things to be the way they were before, means that you haven’t made the right choices. This is true more often than not. I don’t think nostalgia boosts positivity, it just makes you feel sadder about your current situation.

Things are never going to be the way they were in the past, that’s why the past is the past. Today has to be better than yesterday. And the choices you make today have to be such that they make tomorrow better than today. Sure, you had a lot of good times, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is if you’re having a good time right now or not. If you’re not, the last thing you should do is be nostalgic. What you should do is try to make sure that even if you’re not having a ball right now, you’ll have one tomorrow.

Blog

No Wonder Film Piracy is Rampant

Recently, I read somewhere that the Indian film industry lost a bundle of millions in the last couple of years because of piracy. A few thousand jobs are said to have been lost because of filmi pirates (not the kind who appear on-screen) as well. The article that disclosed these figures failed to mention how exactly piracy accounted for all of these loses, but it did say that piracy is a grave problem that was eating into the coffers of Bollywood. Piracy is also said to be funding terrorist operations.

Now, that made me ponder the reasons behind piracy. We all know that piracy is rampant, but why? The most obvious answer is that because we buy pirated CDs and DVDs that are easily available at every corner. The supply is definitely meeting the demand, but the demand is there because there is no way around it. The fact is that Bollywood doesn’t give two hoots about the viewing audience.

Every year, hundreds of movies are made. Billions are spent behind making movies, the producers and directors go to unprecedented lengths while making the film, the actors do the same while enacting and promoting the movie. But after all the dust settles down, the end product invariably turns out to be a disappointment. The really good movies that come out in a year are so few that you can count them on your hands, without using up all your fingers. And I’m not even exaggerating. Sometimes I wonder why Bollywood doesn’t devote the same amount of time to the film’s story as it does to its pre-release publicity. In fact, I am sure more time is spent on cooking up box office figures to earn the ‘hit’ tag than on genuinely trying to make a genuine hit. Invariably, the movies with the biggest stars turn out to be the biggest duds. And the really good stories get pushed into obscurity.

At this point, you could argue with me saying that no filmmaker can preempt whether a film will succeed or not. True, no one can predict what will work and what won’t. But what they can do is do the right things the right way to give success a realistic chance. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that stories with loopholes, poor acting performances, done-to-death sequences, forced comedies, et al are not going to be welcomed with both hands. Why do Bollywood movies have the same stories rehashed again and again, with each new version being worse than the previous ones? For ages, Bollywood has aped Hollywood movies, now they can’t even do that properly.

The primary point of this argument is that these nitty-gritties don’t concern the average moviegoer. He is more concerned about making ends meet; he goes to the movies to get refreshed. He never asked any filmmaker to make a movie; he just asks to be sufficiently entertained. But when he comes back after having spent his hard-earned money on some lackluster film, he is bound to wonder why he just didn’t buy a pirated disc and save himself a lot of money and a whole lot of agony. A family of four would have to dish out anywhere between Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500 to watch a film in a multiplex. Compare that to the Rs 50 to Rs 100 price of a pirated disc and you can see why piracy is rampant.

Film piracy is an evil, but it has become a necessary evil. To curb the problem, Bollywood needs to first look within itself. The movies are a multi-crore business; films are made because everyone involved wants to earn crores from it. Make no mistake about it, no one is in this industry for any other greater cause. It’s all about the money. And the greed is palpable. Actors ask for crores to do one movie, producers invest crores and make more via multiple avenues and marketing gimmicks… this is the kind of money that most moviegoers don’t even make in one lifetime. And yet you expect them to spend on a film that is plain ordinary and leaves a foul taste in their mouths? Not all films disappoint, but most do and why would someone spend a thousand bucks to take that chance?

To really curb piracy, the first thing that Bollywood should really do is make better movies, with stronger stories, on different subjects and with genuine intentions. The other things that could be done are things like getting into some kind of agreement with multiplex owners to ensure that a trip to the theatres costs less to moviegoers, or officially releasing a movie on DVD the same week (or even a week later) it comes out in theatres. Sure, this’ll make recovering the making costs a bit harder, but they can cut down on the making costs as well. Actor fees can be cut down by a few crores, foreign locations can be replaced by national ones, etcetera. The whole film fraternity needs to tackle this problem together, which they probably will never do. And which is why piracy will never go away.

The simple truth is that people like watching movies, but what they want is a good experience. No one likes coming out of a theatre in a foul mood, and that is what happens more often than not. A good movie will always find more takers; a bad one will find the gutters. Last year, Kaminey was the most downloaded Bollywood movie, downloaded close to 70 lakh times. How many times do you think Blue was downloaded? On a similar vein, 3 Idiots had record box office collections (it is still running in a few places), but why didn’t Kambakht Ishq do similar business? Is quality over quantity so hard to understand?

The film industry has blamed everyone from the public to the government to the pirates for the high amount of piracy, but the root of the problem is within them. They need to address that first.

Blog

Book Review – ‘Sycamore Row’ by John Grisham

Title: Sycamore Row

Author: John Grisham

Publisher: Hachette India

ISBN: 978-1-444-77955-4

Genre: Thriller

Pages: 550

Source: Personal Copy

Rating: 3.5/5

Sycamore Row - John GrishamOne of the reasons why I look forward to Diwali every year is because it is around this time of the year that a John Grisham novel usually comes out. Apart from the Theodore Boone novelettes, Grisham usually writes and publishes one novel a year. His 2013 offering is Sycamore Row.

Grisham’s first novel – A Time to Kill – had come out in 1989. The cover of Sycamore Row says that it’s a sequel to A Time to Kill, a novel that got Grisham instant fame and accolades. However, this new novel is hardly a sequel; it is merely a new story in the life of the old characters.

The past couple of years have been the ‘age of sequels’, so to say. We’ve seen numerous movies that are actually new stories, but are called sequels of blockbusters. It’s just a fad that has come out to cash in on the popularity of a previously successful offering. Like in the case of most sequel movies, especially the ones from Bollywood, the story of Sycamore Row has nothing to do with the story of A Time to Kill. I’m glad Sycamore Row isn’t called A Time to Kill -2.

That apart, as a standalone novel, Sycamore Row is Grisham at his brilliant best. Our hero – Jake Brigance – won a case for a black man in rural Mississippi in Grisham’s first novel. This time, in the same race-driven setting, he’s defending the will of a white millionaire, who’s left a major part of his estate to his black housekeeper.

Seth Hubbard is eccentric, but why would he still leave 90 per cent of his assets to Lettie Lang, a black housekeeper who has worked for him for only 3 years? Why would Seth completely cut out his kids from his will? Why would he hire Brigance, a lawyer he’s never met, as the attorney of his handwritten will that he’s written just a day before he commits suicide? These are the questions that the story answers. And thrown in the mix of things is Ancil Hubbard, Seth’s younger brother who hasn’t been around for ages. There’s a history behind Seth Hubbard’s will, and Grisham keeps the reader hooked till we find out what it is at the very end.

Sycamore Row has a plethora of characters that we know Grisham for. From the hard-nosed judge to the villainous lawyer on the other side, from the arrogant, white city-dwellers to the humble, black townies, Sycamore Row has everything you’d expect from a Grisham novel. Of course, there are the tiny satirical bits that I love, little pieces of insights that make you laugh.

On the whole, Sycamore Row is a good read, albeit nothing exceptional. It is predictable in a way, but interesting enough to keep you curiously riveted. Among Grisham’s newer works, it’s still not as good as The Confession (2010). But, it’s a very good story and you won’t like to put it down till you know what happened at sycamore row.

Blog

The Book that Inspires Me Every Day

For someone who hails from a creative field, and is an atheist, this book is my Geeta, Quran and Bible, all rolled into one. The book I refer to is The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.

The FountainheadI am sure The Fountainhead needs no introduction, but for those who have come in late in life, here’s a laconic précis of its storyline. The Fountainhead is the story of Howard Roark, an architect. Roark is the quintessential man; he is how every man should be. He fights conventional standards, the system, the society and the woman he loves. From the sound of it, the story’s premise might seem hackneyed, but The Fountainhead is more than just one man’s fight against everything that is wrong. The book teaches you how to live, what to follow, what not to follow, why your individualistic thoughts are your prerogative, and why upholding them is so important. In a way, The Fountainhead is the finest self-help book. There are very few guideposts to find, this book is one of them.

The other protagonist of the book is Peter Keating. A complete opposite of Roark, Keating is what man shouldn’t be. And ironically, for most part of the story, you will relate to Keating more than you relate to Roark. And this why The Fountainhead should be read by everyone, especially the younger generation. The transformation from Keating to Roark is an essential exercise in self-evaluation, self-discovery and self-belief.

As I read The Fountainhead, I could fathom the things that Keating did. On the other hand, Roark’s character left me in wow. I wondered if I could really be like Roark. I could feel that I was majorly like Keating (a parasite, selfless, unprincipled egoistic, unethical) and as the story unfolded, I realised that I had to be like Roark (a creator, self-sufficient, self-confident, an end of ends). And thus started my journey from Keating to Roark. Of course, being completely like Roark might not be possible, but every day, I try to be a little less like Keating and a little more like Roark.

For me, the best part about The Fountainhead is that it doesn’t preach. The book makes you realise things by yourself, without having to tell you directly. The fact could be that someone might not be able to extract a deeper meaning from the story like I did, and even without that, the story by itself is fascinating. Ayn Rand has weaved the story in such a way that you itch to read the next page. It’s a story that won’t let you leave it alone.

The Fountainhead, the story of the quintessential man, is by itself the quintessential novel. A true classic, this is how a novel should be. Its longevity – still published after over seven decades – vindicates its power and brilliance.

Ayn Rand once wrote: ‘A spirit, too, needs fuel. It can run dry.’ Well, The Fountainhead is the fuel of the spirit that is me. And all I can say is: make it yours as well.