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The Last Maggi

A few days back I consumed the last packet of Maggi noodles, allegedly infused with lead and MSG, as per tests conducted  by our food authorities, many of whom we hear are quite serious about their work. Given their diligence, maybe, someday in the distant future poor and underfed children across India will not die or be frequently hospitalised due to acute food poisoning in school Mid Day meals that is managed by the government.

Maybe, someday in the distant future the street food I often consume off the streets of Delhi and anywhere else in India will be free of faecal matter, pesticides, insecticides, contaminated water, bacteria. My guess is that such acche din will not be witnessed either by me or Narendra Modi in our lifetime, unless we decide to settle down in Europe.

Given all the dirty food circulating around us, it was a bit of shock, as it must have been for countless others, when Maggi was banned. After all, Maggi can easily be added to the list of Bollywood, cricket and politics that Indians, rich and poor, are habituated to obsess about, for the good or bad. It has a cultural, historical, traditional zing to it.

I recall my college days, more than two decades ago: I owned a second hand scooter and ate Maggi. I could afford both without begging my parents for more pocket money. The contamination issue was a shocker too. It was unexpected.  It would perhaps have been more apt to ban the noodles and also Cola, French Fries, potato chips, MacDonald burgers for causing obesity among countless children addicted to junk.

And the supposedly healthy zero version of such junk causing obesity among countless adults. Instead Maggi has been banned as it supposedly contains MSG and lead. I do not recall reading anything about anybody being hospitalised after eating Maggie.

Bit like, prohibiting cigarettes, alcohol or tobacco, not because they are a health hazard or social evil, but because they smell and taste bad, with the added warning that all actors and actresses who have ever smoked and drunk on screen could be accused of committing a crime.

Instead of digging for past greats who deserve the Bharat Ratna, the authorities would start sending notices to families of dead stalwarts who smoked. In India anything in possible, though some things will never change, like potholed roads, power cuts and crony capitalists such as Lalit Modi who party hop from Italy to Ibiza with impunity.

Getting back to the last packet of Maggi in my house. It was the last in my area too. I cross-checked. There are no more available in the super markets in the vicinity. As a matter of fact all instant noodles seem to have disappeared from the shelves. I wonder why our authorities are unable to impact other aspects of our daily living that desperately need to be acted upon, like removing potholed roads, power cuts, malnourishment, hunger, farmer suicides.

I asked a couple of shop keepers about Maggi packets. Even though I am a frequent visitor, they looked away, shaking and nodding their heads, as if I had requested for a contraband item, condom or maybe they thought I was a food inspector in my real life. It was disappointing to boil the last of the Maggie noodles in my kitchen.

My culinary skills do not count for much, except for boiled egg and the perfect Maggi, soft strands and very tasty. Sometimes I just microwave, between seven to eight minutes; very simple. And, in normal circumstances I would not have dared to eat the Maggie, especially if it was the last packet available in Mother India. The instant noodles in the house are strictly reserved for my two daughters.

Rest assured, there are never any leftovers, unlike green vegetables, dal and milk. Until the controversy broke, the children were assigned a quota of two packets of Maggi each per month by their very health conscious mom, given the high salt and calorie intake. The kids thus count their noodles before they eat.

Until the supercharged and hysterical scenario centred around Maggi is fully cleared I guess it was a tad risky to offer them to the kids, who were clearly not very happy with the double standards. “What is not good for us is not good for him,” they argued. But, I overruled, for once, exercising my authority as a father. As I relished the last dish of instant noodles, I debated the controversy in my mind yet again.

The matter is not settled yet. There are too many grey areas and unanswered questions. It is for the Mumbai court to decide now. Whatever be the final denouement, there is no doubt that India’s food standards are among the worst in the world. We owe it to the future generation to set things right. It has to be now or never.

One year of Modi sarkar

Narendra Modi has completed one year in office and traveled to more locations around the world than most Indians would in a lifetime. A robust foreign policy no doubt is a big plus of his tenure so far. Does India need a foreign minister with Modi at the helm, is one question?

Also, judging by his high pitched acche din electoral rhetoric prior to assuming power, India should have been heaven on earth by now. That was never possible. I am writing this piece sitting by the window of a swanky hotel that I frequently stay for work. Across the potholed road is a slum cluster where an army of kids, babies, pigs and piglets happily wallow in the filth and dirt. Pigs will be pigs, kids will be kids.

The view was the same a year back though the road has thankfully been repaired which has nothing to with Modi.

I believe the local residents took up the matter strongly with the authorities. Going by Modi’s cleverly worded electoral promises, the broader landscape from my hotel window should have also changed. It has not. And will probably not alter anytime soon, unless a mall or a hotel is built and the slum cluster demolished overnight. The pigs and the kids will find another unoccupied space to survive, die or play. Lets be realistic. India cannot change overnight or a Salman Khan blockbuster movie unexpectedly start making sense.

Many apprehensions about Modi have been proved untrue though it was a bit of a shocker when he turned out in an expensive monogrammed suit to meet Barack Obama.

Till then, most sartorial comments about Modi centred around his resplendent pugree’s, trademark half jacket and refusal to wear a skull cap. Modi is not a fascist, as some loudly feared, who would destroy Indian democracy and jail every leftist liberal that has dared to take him on from his or her cosy office in South Delhi. Judiciary, media, Parliament, CAG, defence forces, continue to play their role. Thankfully, pseudo secularism is dead for now and has not been substituted by hounding of minorities as some predicted; building the Ram temple at Ayodhya is not every Hindu’s, who may otherwise be starving, without a job or money, manna. Hindutva oddballs exist and spew their gibberish about state-orchestrated Ghar Wapasi or Love Jihad but are clearly unwanted.

There is instead a subtle and perhaps more acceptable emphasis on emblems of Hindu culture and traditions such as Yoga, Gita or Ayurveda. Baba Ramdev has never been so politically relevant, though it would be nicer if he stuck to just Yoga and promoting his popular Patanjali products.

Modi and his creative team’s clever play of catchwords and slogans persists:  Swachh Bharat, Make in India, Nari Shakti, smart city, fastest train, to name some. Honestly, creating such consciousness does help change mindsets. Recently, my elder daughter, in class IX, spoke passionately about the practical measures that can be undertaken by individual households to make our neighbourhood clean. She is presenting a paper on it for a school debate. A healthy mix of ideas in a young mind can only be for the good. Too many events impinging imaginations are far removed from reality, such as Zayn Malik quitting the boy band One Direction or Taylor Swift’s latest hairdo.

Ultimately, Modi will be judged by his promise to deliver on development. The change has to be real and not a mishmash like Bombay Velvet that only satisfies the director Anurag Kashyap’s creative side, whatever that may mean. He needs to think of the paying audience as well. In the last one year, Modi has underlined his growth strategy — push infrastructure, cut down or target via direct cash transfers often wasteful welfarist expenditure, reform power, help business and hope that the resulting economic recovery benefits the people of India.

No doubt there is a sense of purpose in the government that wants to deliver, whether it is proposed tax reforms or land bill that balances interests of both industry and farmers.

Modi slogs and he makes sure others under him do too during holidays and weekends. Such is the work pressure that some bureaucrats, usually inclined towards honing golfing skills at Delhi Golf Club, have reportedly installed beds in their office. This can only be good for the country.

Consider also for a moment, Modi’s potential competitors — Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal. The Delhi government headed by Kejriwal really needs to introspect and reassess its future course of action, rather than entangle in issues that are irrelevant, like a dog trying to bite its own tail. Gandhi disappeared on a holiday for two months. He has reappeared and looks refreshed, no doubt, but woefully inadequate to take on a wily, street-smart, driven, contender Modi. Holidays cannot make a person intelligent, working hard can.

Its World Cup Fever Again

World Cup cricket is underway and India has had a good start beating South Africa and Pakistan, both dangerous opponents capable of winning the tournament provided Shahid Afridi connects with the bat. And South Africa learn how not to choke.

I believe the African team has appointed an anti-choke specialist to guard the big moments. At the time of writing the piece, the big news is that Chris Gayle has scored the fastest double century in one day internationals and the first ever at the World Cup.

Gayle has it mentally sorted. Approach a one day match like a two and half T-20 IPL match being played in Mohali. Need to check out Gayle’s latest dance moves post Gangnam. I believe it is Zumba. Replicating the immensely successful T-20 IPL format, based on the principle that Indians will never tire of watching too much cricket, Salman Khan without a shirt and Aamir Khan speaking about social matters, the WC too will feature a surfeit of matches at the league stage.

The idea is to ensure the Indian team, the main commercial mainstay of WC on TV where the big bucks are made, have a whole lot of matches to win or lose so that the people who need to book profits, are guaranteed their returns, given the crazed eyeballs. And as greed knows no bounds, some will also try their luck via the illegal betting circuit.

Should the Indian team make it to the quarter finals, as seems quite likely now as Virat Kolhi is no longer the only guy scoring on and off the field, there will be even more money to be made, based on the principle that after watching too much of cricket early morning till afternoon, Indians will never miss a cricket match when suffixed with a final, whether quarter, semi or the actual grand finale featuring heroes Virat and Dhoni who won India the last WC with a six. The country went crazy. Dhoni may have mellowed, but there are others now willing to don the mantle. Personally, I have moved on from cricket.

I have the auto refresh scorecard running on my laptop but do not make it a point to watch the matches on TV, unless I happen to be in front of a wall mounted telly which can be quite unavoidable at times.

When India is playing any TV set anywhere in the country, airport, coffee shop, dhaba, railway station, feature the cricket. And, there is usually an assembly of watchers following the game, dropping work, meetings, wives, family, girlfriends and sometimes a flight. I have really not been able to pin down why I do not go out of my way watch a cricket match anymore.  I am in my forties now.

But, that does not mean that I have given up too many of the activities of the past like watching Bollywood movies, reading Chetan Bhagat or trying out very cheap oily roadside channa bhatura. As a matter of fact I do not mind listening to some of the music followed by my teenage daughter such as One Direction, Maroon-5, even Taylor Swift.  I do not think this is about cynicism.

Indian cricket has had its share of problems no doubt due to matters concerning conflict of interest in BCCI involving the stubborn  Srinivasan, political, business intrigue and role of the bookie mafia.

However, nobody doubts that our boys (most of them that is), when they play the game believe they are doing so for the country in every emotional and cricketing sense. I do not think this has changed since the time I closely followed cricket, the actual ball by ball action, initially on radio then on TV. Looking back, it was actually also an enormous amount of time wasted, the way today’s kids idle on gadgets.

I do, however, believe that Indians my generation grew up following cricket as more than just a game. It was the one way of proving to the world that India too counted in the global platform. The 1983 WC victory symbolised just that emotional connect. So did the movie Lagaan, some years later. However, India today is different. Who wants to make a point about colonialism by beating England anymore? Cricket is not our only global forte; there are many more in diverse sectors ranging from software to medicine to exploring the moon and Mars.

For the new generation, cricket is a game, hard fought, pulsating and competitive, encapsulated in the T-20 format. But then, there are other sports too that offer similar thrills if not more. World soccer, for example, beamed live from Europe and other parts of the world; car racing. But, that does not mean that cricket is out my system. Quarter Finals onwards I am going to be incommunicado. Hope India makes it to the final and Dhoni or maybe Virat seals it with another six against the domineering Aussies. That will be simply fantastic. GO INDIA.

India needs both Modi, Kejriwal to succeed

Suppose the contest was between Arvind Kejriwal and Narendra Modi to be Delhi’s chief minister. For argument sake and to complete the picture, if Rahul Gandhi was in the fray too.

Any direct Modi-Kejriwal fixture would surely have much been closer, though it is risky to make such assessments before hand as the exit polls demonstrated by getting it wrong yet again. There should be some mechanism to ensure the pollsters refund their fees due to selling products so badly off the mark. They should be made to apologise, at the least.

It is, however, safe to assume without seeking opinions, that Gandhi would have lost badly, and probably brushed aside the defeat with a beatific smile as he did following the general elections that angers his party cadres no end nowadays. The latest to lose her patience is Jayanti Natarajan, a veteran Congress leader.

The advent of Kiran Bedi, probably, queered it for the BJP during the recently concluded Delhi elections. Her powerful persona and I will set things right my way whether you like it or not as I am a Magsaysay winner, towed Indira Gandhi’s car and restructured Tihar Jail, resulted in Modi being obliterated from the consciousness of Delhi voters. That did not help the BJP.

It helped Kejriwal. Of course, it is very easy to arrive at such conclusions given the benefit of hindsight once the results are out.

This is what BJP chief Amit Shah, who has lost just one electoral matchup so far and that too to Kejriwal who turned out to be no minnow, would probably have us believe. No doubt, India needs both Kejriwal and Modi to succeed, just as India cannot win matches with only Virat Kohli scoring hundreds at a faster rate than Sachin and rest, whether Dhawan, Raina or Dhoni failing.

Competition is healthy. Both Modi and Kejriwal mean business and have been voted to power due to clearly defined promises.

Kejriwal will need to take on corruption at lower levels of government functioning that affects everybody. The poor are the biggest victims while the rich and middle classes need to pay bribes to get their work done. The one index to measure the happiness of Delhi is the mood of the auto rickshaw drivers, the most harassed due to forced inducements to multiple agencies, beginning at the level of a traffic constable. If Kejriwal can make them content, it will be a sure shot indication that corruption has been checked.

The Aaam Aadmi party head, meanwhile, is clearly a mellowed and matured person following his short 49-day stint as chief minister of Delhi earlier and comprehensively losing the general elections last summer to Modi. Thankfully, in the first few days of his second tenure the pre-dominant images have been Kejriwal and his wife out on a leisurely morning walk. He hugged her in front of the cameras following the astonishing victory of his party, though not as passionately as Modi grabbed Obama at the Palam airport tarmac in a show of outright bro-mance. Not sure whether Modi would have appreciated Obama’s parting speech at Siri Fort about respecting all religions. Like any relationship, Modi-Obama, India-USA also has its share of undercurrents.

Kejriwal does look a winner, not an anarchist any more, which is the way it should be. He has set himself a five year time frame to deliver. Changing any system with vested interests and a super efficient delivery paradigm that thrives on bribes, whether to procure driving license or register property, cannot be an overnight process. Kejriwal will need to show results or else the voters of Delhi and perhaps the rest of the country will shunt him out. If he succeeds, he can be a legitimate challenge to Modi in 2019.

Kejriwal has hurt Modi. But, there is a long battle ahead. Modi is no pushover. His government is pushing for growth and sorting out India’s woeful power supply scenario by promoting clean energy like no Prime Minister has done before.

He has evolved from the days as chief minister of Gujarat when an underlying communal machinery was at work to ply Hindutva as a vote gathering strategy. Modi knows too well the people of India have overwhelmingly backed him to deliver on his promises of development, growth and good governance.

One can sense that the Prime Minister’s Office is at work, silently, frenetically and efficiently to ensure that Make in India does not remain a mere slogan like Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, that the country’s natural resources, whether the sun, wind, coal, oil and gas, spectrum, are efficiently managed; that industry and manufacturing prospers. This is not about crony capitalism.

This is about changing the overall picture and the way India is viewed by global investors. The impact of these changes take some time to trickle to the common man; pursued with earnest they will sooner or later take the form of greater income for all. It will be good for India if either Kejriwal or Modi succeed. Given their positive agendas, it will be even better if both do well.

Sorry, PK does not work for me

PK has reportedly earned Rs 600 crore and still going strong. Unfortunately, the movie does not work for me despite the efforts of Rajkumar Hirani and the great Aamir Khan, who have delivered blockbusters and laugh riots such as Munnabhai MBBS and Three Idiots in the past that I, and most others I am sure, have thoroughly enjoyed. As is his manner, Hirani tries to mix up the serious with the comic. In my opinion, both attempts fail. The initial portions of PK I liked.

To begin with, there are sequences where Anushka Sharma cycles in a short skirt along a river in spic and span Europe in summer, which can only be pleasing to the eye. As I realised this was actually going to be one of my high points of the movie. Perhaps the cycling scene could have been much longer. I say this in hindsight, obviously.

I also liked the track Char Kadam, though I am not so sure Virat Kohli did, given the chemistry between Sushant Singh Rajput and Anushka, which actually does not matter as long as the present and future Indian cricket captain continues to hit centuries.

I liked the Aamir, Sanjay Dutt Rajasthani number. That was peppy and groovy. These are opening portions of the movie. The closely guarded mystery of an almost naked Aamir in the promo’s with just an outdated music cassette player for cover, is also solved quickly. As Aamir is an alien, that everybody knows by now, he disembarks from a huge space ship that could have passed off as a computer generated Titanic as well. The ship, incidentally, operates via a remote that I think looks a bit like the pendant that Late Lady Diana wore during her wedding or some such occasion.

Makes one also wonder why an army of ISRO scientists are needed to manage one satellite launch. Of course, we are talking about Bollywood here, so the discerning viewers have over the years learnt to ignore such nuances. Sadly, just as I was feeling comfortable and beginning to forget about the Rs 2000 I spent on multiplex tickets, popcorn, coffee, cola, parking and fuel, the movie progressively deteriorated. Was there a need for Aamir to be an extraterrestrial in the first place?

He looked human in every way, with or without clothes and seemingly endowed with very low IQ. Given that Aamir’s character is on an important mission to earth, one would expect him to be among the bright ones, maybe cleared the alien world equivalent of an IIT exam. PK could well have been an innocent 8-year old boy getting to know the world and its ways.

It would have been believable and cute. Knowing Aamir he would have pulled that off too with élan, like he did as the adult PK. Unfortunately, even Aamir can do so much to a script that falls woefully short. The comedy barely works.

Poking fun at insolent and rustic Delhi policemen has been done a million times before. So has Boman Irani appeared in a formal jacket, track pant or shorts combo. The “dancing cars” in the village scenario is anachronistic. Such making out happens in cities.  Unless I have missed something, fields and rooftops are locations of most action in villages.

Remember, expectations from a Hirani movie are high unlike say a Salman Khan film where the humour is bound to be non cerebral and one accordingly makes the mental adjustment. Getting on to the serious parts: ignoring other aspects, the fundamental problem with PK is that the sensitive and profound matters of religion and faith are overplayed, simplistic, cliched, repetitive and just too preachy, bordering on a shoddy documentary produced by Doordarshan past and present, irrespective of existence of competing TV channels.

Only imbeciles can take offence to the events portrayed in the movie and surely the infamous right wing goons in our country always on the lookout for some violence-backed cheap publicity, have done so. Matters of faith, as we know, are not so simple. They can make people kill as happened in Paris recently; at the same time they can be the calming influence that keeps individuals and communities sane and bonded. One needs to delve further to understand the nuances.

Sadly, Anushka returns from Europe to become a TV journalist and essays her role mostly in faded jeans. I would have been in a much better frame of mind if Hirani managed to make her character go back to Europe and cycle in shorts again. Still, PK has reportedly made more than Rs 600 crore. That is no doubt mind-boggling, a record unmatched, which goes to prove what might sell due to powerful branding, marketing, sheer expectations and simultaneous release in multiplexes across the world may just be very average content. That’s the way I see it.

(Check out my novel An Offbeat Story)

Indian youth kiss for freedom

Over the recent past I have been following the Kiss of Love protests that have spread from Kochi to Kolkata, Delhi and recently to Bangalore and everywhere else on social media. There are different stages of a human being’s life. For those such as me hitting  middle age, intimacy with the wife or girlfriend in public areas undisturbed by cops or right and left wing elements is either not priority or not possible.

I mostly go out with my wife now, accompanied by her mother, my kids and maid. Otherwise, too, India continues to grapple with too many graver problems such as corruption, safety of women, open defecation, hunger and lack of health, education facilities and Arnab Goswami screaming on TV.

Elsewhere, in Hong Kong students are fighting for democracy, while China continues to grow. Yet, the matter of hormonally-charged young couples being victimized in parks or pubs by the so called moral police in India has resulted in large sections of disenchanted Indian youth to take to the streets.

Some bravely lip locked to register their protest despite hordes of anti-skirt, jeans, Valentine Day, new year’s party, boys accompanying girls or vice versa, desperate looking thugs watching closely. Most I noticed on TV news also desperately needed to brush their teeth, get a haircut and shave.

I do not think any political party or politicians who have eagerly joined the Swachh Bharat bandwagon have cared to support the kiss of love campaign.  They are okay to be symbolically seen with a broom for a few minutes following which they head back to their usual ultra-luxurious cocooned existence. There is considerable evidence that some of the sweeping by netas has been carefully orchestrated for news cameras by littering an already clean area. These leaders need to clean their conscience first.

In a culturally diverse and essentially conservative country such as India, a politician supporting public kissing is not on. Promoting concepts such as Love Jihad to fan communal tensions can of course be considered sound electoral strategy.  The kiss of love demonstrations have not been as widespread or virulent as anti-corruption or anti-rape protests of the recent past, but do have their relevance.

The campaign needs to be supported. I believe the protests are not just about sexual freedom in urban pockets of affluence or about young people gone astray due to watching too many international soccer matches on TV, where the action is focused as much on the stands as on the field. There is no way these youngsters need to be set right by cops wielding batons or thugs assaulting them.

I believe the protests are about infringement of privacy, high handedness of the state and uncouth and regressive elements in our society telling us how to behave or not to behave. Unfortunately, the desensitized state tends to side with the inflictors of aggression that only emboldens them further.

Yet, the somewhat radical outpourings by the youth are about resisting uncalled attacks on freedom of expression and liberty, art, literature that can easily extend to innocuous comments on Facebook and other social media. It is about giving give it back to all those who have self-appointed themselves as the custodians of Indian culture that they violently try to defend, which itself defeats the basic tenets of tolerance and live and let live.

The other day cricketer Virat Kohli blew kisses to his girlfriend Anushka Sharma after scoring a fifty. I am surprised nobody has filed a case yet against the cricketer for promoting obscenity. In the past, Shilpa Shetty has not been so lucky when Richard Gere planted a kiss on her cheeks at a public event. The fringe elements have targeted MF Husain, Sania Mirza, Sachin Tendulkar and others.

Unfortunately, India’s political class prefers to remain silent on the subject as the urban kissing in public class is seen as  electorally insignificant and perhaps do not even enjoy the support of their parents. Can symbolic actions make a difference? It did in the past when Mahatma Gandhi famously broke the oppressive salt law and embarked on the Dandi march. The nation followed.

Following Narendra Modi’s cue several well-meaning individuals have joined the Swachh Bharat campaign that can only help create more awareness about the subject even if a clean India is a dream that will probably need a few more lifetimes as the Indian affliction of littering and generally spreading garbage is worse than chain smoking. I do, however, have a piece of advice for the kiss of love campaigners.

Some of the visuals are not exactly fit for family viewing given equally aroused TV crews opting for close ups which can only look aesthetically pleasing if shot by trained film directors. Maybe the protests should evolve to convey the same message, perhaps in a more fitting manner: how about kissing a destitute, homeless or stray animal.

(Check our my novel An Offbeat Story)

More than a few Rupees less

Presently in India, the buzz is about e-retailers such as Flipkart, Amazon.in, Snapdeal, Jabong, Infibeam and many more backed by funders who believe the sure shot route to making more money in the future is by making more losses right now. A few years back there was a similar buzz about airlines in the country. A ticket to Goa was cheaper than taxi fare to the airport.

Most airlines, except Indigo that sells sandwiches at 500% profit mid air, continue to make massive losses. Kingfisher has gone bust. The e-retail mantra is simple, followed by a host of others who have not survived in business — sell cheap, whatever may be the cost, even if the seller goes bust and sinks in a heap of too many goods sold at a discount.

Ultimately, profits will be made as others hopefully will sink earlier. Try to peddle the concept to an Indian housewife, for centuries the most efficient and thrifty global money managers, without splurging on a MBA degree. She will tell you to take an early morning walk in the park to clear your head.

Or assume you have watched Hrithik Roshan’s Bang Bang to momentarily lose your mental bearings after watching such gibberish. The Indian housewife deserves respect — remember she has never gone bust like Lehman Brothers or Vijay Mallya. Until most e-retailers collapse, merge, are acquired or in the very unlikely event of the Indian housewife model of money management being proved wrong, the consumers are having a ball.

Acche Din has already arrived for online buyers, without being promised by the Modi government that is trying hard to deliver similar utopia for the rest of India by creating smart cities with the help of people such as Mark Zukerberg. I Like that.

The list of essentials I buy online has grown manifold over time – from clothes, CD’s, books, shoes to TV, printer, computer, furniture, mobile phone and more. Apart from the money saved, several hassles of usual urban Indian living are conveniently avoided – pollution, road rage, potholed roads, no parking space, traffic jams, fuel costs, among other encumbrances.

I have to drop my kids to school though. No way to e-scape that process. Given the current e-brouhaha, including the Flipkart Big Billon Day sale that crashed before it could be launched resulting in an apology from the bright promoters that sounded like another marketing gimmick, my current state can be described as couch potato cum online purchaser. I watch TV as I e-shop, just as I watch NDTV news on the tread mill, Whatsapp while I work and SMS as I drive.

The future generation is doing better or worse, depending on the way you look at it. My elder daughter, chats, Whatsapps, FB’s, SMS’s and watches Youtube videos while doing her Math homework. Her mom is obviously hysterically paranoid by the developments. No doubt, e-retail is spreading and percolating. The other day our maid told me to order a new cell phone online for her, selling a thousand bucks cheaper than the local market rate.

Adept at using her mobile phone, she is saving up to buy a computer so she can shop on her own, plus listen to music and watch movies. TV serials are passé. Everybody wants to join the e-party except offline retailers, a very powerful and influential group, who are predictably very upset due to loss of business. They have earned their unhappiness the hard way.

After winning a long and bitter battle to prevent international multi-brand majors such as Walmart and Tesco setting up shop in India, the e-retail Tsunami threatens to sweep them away. I believe some of them have complained to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that his “Swachh Bharat” campaign will quickly turn murky if they are not saved from the e-carnage.

“What is the use of cleaning our shops when nobody is going to be visiting us,” some have Tweeted and e-mailed to the PM. Modi, as the country knows by now, reads mails and Tweets in the morning, unlike earlier PM’s like Nehru who read newspapers. I have heard that Manmohan Singh read the papers till late afternoon as there was nothing else to do.

The Indian Kirana store owners are smart though, which is expected. There is no bigger MBA lesson than negotiating with hard-bargaining to the last lemon or onion housewife. The mom & pop store keepers have been quick to sense the price arbitrage opportunity.

Many, I believe are ordering online to stock up their stores. Nobody doubts that the e-commerce boom is here to stay. Competition will weed the right business model I am sure. In the meantime, while shopping and watching TV I have been contemplating an e-start up. First up, I need to find a garage, preferably online. Then, I will hire a housewife. That way, I will never go bust.

(Check out my novel An Offbeat Story)

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