The beaming smile that dazzles all
And hides the hurt deep in her eyes
The eyes that tell a unique tale
Of one so young and yet so wise
She runs she sells she works she laughs
The strays find comfort in her arms
Her two wheeled steed will come at once
Whenever there’s a call for arms
All and sundry bank on her
But who will hold her when she cries
Category Archives: RELATIONSHIPS
The beaming smile that dazzles all
Outsider by Shirish K Singh — A review
There are plenty of books out there giving us the inside story of a particular segment of our corporate world, be it banking, stock broking, fashion, law, media, jails, music, hospitals, airports, name it and it’s there. But this is the first book that I have come across that gives you the dirt on the Health Insurance industry.
Health Insurance is something that is touching all our lives, for we are covered through personal policies, corporate covers or government schemes. And we all have different experiences, often grievances with the system. Here is a insider’s view point, made interesting for the lay reader, as gripping fiction.
But this just isn’t about Health Insurance, although it touches upon all the players in the game, the insurers, the TPAs, the providers, the corporate, the regulator and the beneficiaries. This is about running a corporation, how it is done, and how it ought to be done. It is also about relationships, about love, about motivation, about finding peace. Briefly, it is about life.
The author has deep insider knowledge not only about the health insurance industry, but also about advertising, the corporate world, and the armed forces, which gives authenticity to his characters and his plot.
The story is about a corporate tycoon who hires an inmate of an ashram to turn around one of his ventures, a health insurance company, which is floundering.
The new comer is an enigma, and is an outsider to the industry, hence the title.
He interacts with the various key players, all of whom have their own agenda, and a power play unfolds which one sees in any corporate boardroom across the globe. Industry insiders might find startling similarities with some prominent figures in the business.
During these maneuverings our protagonist, Satyakam, the outsider, inevitably comes close to some of the other characters, and his mysterious past begins to unravel, creating upheavals in many of their lives, ultimately leading to a catharsis.
This indeed is a turnaround story, a turnaround not only for the company, but also the lives of their protagonists.
There are management lessons to be learnt here, for the insurance industry, especially health, and also for any corporate in general, as well as lessons to be learnt about life itself, on how to deal with love, loss, and learn to live in peace with oneself in this difficult business called life.
I recommend that you give it a try
Balancing the books
I had been battling the auditors these last few days, a real challenge for me, given that my understanding of the subject was, if possible, negative. I could not acquire the highest professional qualification in my field as I could never better the financial management paper. It has been my responsibility to sign the final accounts of the unit I had been heading for more years than I remember, and I merely signed where I was told to, and depended on the professional accountants in my team to decipher what it all meant.
My domestic finances are managed by a professional, who handles my tax, budget, expenses, savings, investments and everything without charging anything, as she is married to me, and manages all aspects of my life as well.
But this was not always the case. This is a story of my early struggles with managing the budget.
I had to manage my own funds for the first time when I left home for the hostel. The first skill we learnt in college was writing home for money. In those days money arrived by money orders. When this arrived, a notice was put up outside the hostel administration office. Expenses were always on credit. The canteen, cigarette shop, chai wala, dhobi, laundry, everyone extended credit. The arrival of the notice brought them all to the door of their debtor, and chaperoned by all, I would claim the money, clear my accounts, and be left with nothing. So I would pick up the pen and start writing home for money afresh. How the money disappeared was a mystery I could never fathom, and the vicious cycle continued.
When I was gainfully employed by the benevolent government, I thought the problem would be solved. Four friends shared a flat for economy, and it was decided that everyone would record whatever they spent, and accounts would be cleared on month end, or whenever everyone was solvent.
Initially this worked fine, but as expenses continued to surpass incomes by a distressing margin, an analysis was done.
Immediately various objections were raised.
“How does auto fare get included in the common expenses?”
“How would I carry back the weekly groceries without a rickshaw?” was the retort.”And the nearest wine shop is miles away”
It was agreed that reasonable costs incurred towards procurement of shared commodities would be part of the common budget.
“When did you get toothpaste?”
“I brought it from home and all you guys were using it, so I added it to the costs “the cleverest roommate explained.
“But it was already half used “someone protested.
“All right, I will add a depreciated amount” this brilliant economist conceded.
Incidentally, this enterprising economist is currently a millionaire merchant banker running his empire from an international financial hub.
“The kitchen and bar expenses are way too high; four of us can’t spend so much”
“It’s all the partying! We have too many guests eating and drinking us to bankruptcy”
“From now on whoever invites a guest pays for him. We will add an extra man day per guest to him” the smart economist decreed.
“Not fair!”protested the popular guy from the fashion industry “You guys hang around flirting with all the girls who come to see me while I slave away in the kitchen! You guys can’t talk to the girls in that case!”
The economist found the solution. Male guests will be debited to the host member, while ladies were common guests and could be entertained from the common fund.
A while later I acquired a life mate; and my roommates moved out to make space for her in our tiny flat.
This time it was truly a common fund and neither of us cared who spent how much on what. However, one aspect continued; we still could not make the funds last till the next salary, and were clueless where the money went.
We therefore decided to keep an account of all that we spend under various headings. At the month end an analysis would show where the cash disappeared.
On auditing the accounts we found the two heads of accounts that were the guilty parties.
One was GN or God Knows. It was the money spent without the slightest recollection as to where it went, or the inexplicable gaps between cash drawn from the bank and pittance left after accounting for all the expenditures we could recollect. This mysterious Bermuda Triangle that swallows up our hard earned moolah continues to plague us to this day and we have agreed that this is one of the mysteries that are too complex for the human intellect to solve.
The other was Experience. Any absurd, unproductive investment or expenditure we made, like buying gadgets that did not work, or trying money saving methods that ended up guzzling our spare change, which we swore that we would not repeat again, we debited to experience.
Over the years we have learnt that experience is a black hole, it will swallow every penny we don’t keep tied down, but give nothing back in return.
We finally decided to give up trying to balance the budget, and follow the national economy in deficit financing. This was made possible by two brilliant inventions, the credit card and the EMI. Now we do not have to live within our income, but earn just enough to cover the interest, as all major economies do.
Thus I have progressed way beyond those stony broke days in the hostel. Now there is no needing spend keeping these short term earnings in mind, but the hope of all possible future earnings. So I continue to live happily ever after in ever mounting cycle of debt, certain of being remembered when I am gone.
My Dream Man, by Aditi Bose, a review
The stewardess scrutinised the book in my hand and gave me an amused look, or so I thought. My co passengers too seemed to share her views. Maybe I was oversensitive, having been ribbed earlier by my harshest life critics, my two daughters, who also suggested that I would enjoy Desperate Housewives and Sex and the City. Gender stereotyping of the worst kind maybe, but a middle aged man cannot be seen reading a book with shocking pink cover, called My Dream Man, with a modernist rendition of some Kama sutra illustration on the cover. Fifty Shades of Gray may have been more indulgently accepted, but a Mills and Boones would have crucified me similarly.
Having read an earlier book by the Author, Aditi Bose, called Hamaguri goes to School, which had impressed me, I bravely plunged on.
A word here, Hamaguri was purported to be a children’s book, but was really a parenting guide. I was meant to review. But I dared not, as going by the reviews of my offspring on my parenting style; parenting is one job I am least qualified to comment on. This is by way of an explanation and apology to the author.
Dream Man soon had me chuckling and nodding in agreement. Disguised as mush, probably as per the dictates of the agent or publisher, this is a sort of autobiography of a young intelligent girl who wants to be a writer. She talks to her readers, meanders around, comments on diverse subjects that occupy the mind of someone like her, from food cravings to boring lectures; from drooling over men to writers block; from intrusive parents to interfering relatives. This builds a rapport with the reader.
The language is free flowing, easy, chatty and witty. This is a bright young writer, and even in an m&b kind romance, the brightness and wit shine through, often tongue in cheek.
This also works as a guide to wannabe writers like yours truly, and the pitfalls that come in the way, like copying styles we think may sell, and pressures from the agent to write in a certain way. Maybe that’s where the pink came from.
The plot is in standard romance format, which, judging by the other titles by the publisher, Authors Ink Publications seem to specialise in. This is about the romance between a gorgeous teacher and a bright young PYT; A bit of wishful thinking by the author perhaps? I will not disclose any more of the plot so that the little twists in the tale come as a surprise to the reader.
I wish the pink cover gets the desired readers, and others are not scared off by it, so that the book is a hit, and we see more coming from this talented youngster, whether erotica as hinted in the book, or more sensitive stories.
I for one am looking forward for more titles in all colours of the rainbow.
Happily Ever After? Chapter 28 of Memory a Novella
Written for Nanowrimo extended
Copyright (c) Soumya Mukherjee
Recently at a friend’s house Boy met a stand-up comic, who strongly resembled the laughing Buddha figurines. He was brilliant in his repartees and had everyone in tears with his quips. He was accompanied by a very attractive young woman, obviously in love with him, and Boy learnt that she was defying family pressures to be his muse and life mate.
Boy offered them a piece of unasked advice, sharing a warning that his wife has been giving his daughters.
To explain this shared wisdom, I have to tell a story.
In his teens Boy was a dark skinny bespectacled gangly boy, shy and nerdy, enthusiastic but indifferent at games, and absolutely addicted to reading. This did not make him popular among the boys of his peer group, and the girls he liked were all fictional.
For self preservation amongst the denizens of the jungle that is the teenage world, Boy used his facility with words as a substitute for brawn. Sharp repartee, wisecracks, ridicule and satire were his defensive and offensive weapons. This gave him a small measure of popularity and the school bullies kept a wary distance. But with adolescence, his soul cried for the company of feminine creatures outside the pages of books.
Boy’s prayers were heard by some bibliophile god, and a neighbourhood kid he had played with as a child metamorphosed from a gangly awkward girl into someone who could be every teenager’s dream girl. To the combined shock and resentment of the entire young manhood of the area, she adopted Boy as her official boyfriend.
Basking in the glory and warming in the heat of jealousy of his peers, an emotion that was novel to him, Boy still could not quite believe in this miracle. What could the prettiest girl see in the ugly bookworm ignoring the hunks, sportsmen and the Richie rich kids who usually monopolized all such girls?
To unravel the mystery, Boy asked her.
‘You make me laugh” was her honest reply.
The secret unveiled, Boy blossomed into the class comedian.
Later they moved into different cities and drifted apart, but the mantra she taught him served Boy well. This message was later validated by his Guru, Graham Greene, in whose ‘Travels with my Aunt’ the unprincipled uncle teaches the protagonist the secret of his successful serial liaisons as ‘YOU HAVE TO MAKE THEM LAUGH”
This so became a habit with Boy that he could not be serious when required and poems he tried to write turned out to be limericks. No one sought serious advice from him, job interviews provided entertainment to the interviewers but resulted in no jobs, and offering condolences in his flippant style would replace the grief of the grieving into rage, which could potentially get him killed.
By now Boy was looking for long term commitment in life, and was stuck by the fact that no one would take him seriously. The bright and personable young ladies would enjoy his company but would choose the serious young academics, budding bureaucrats or corporate cutthroats, when it came to long term liaisons.
Thus when Boy met the lady he could not live without, she would not believe that Boy could be serious, and took his impassioned entireties as more attempts at comedy. It did not help that she had been seeking relationship advice and Boy’s solution was to replace her current flame with him. Boy resorted to another Guru, Wodehouse, and presented her with ‘Leave it to Psmith’ to convince her of serious intent behind flippant content.
Finally, the argument that clinched the deal was that the advantage of marrying anyone so obviously crazy is that you can never get bored. Ignoring saner counsel from all concerned, parental bans, cultural differences, she banked on a wisecracking clown and potential entertainment on long winter evenings for her future happiness.
As the decades that rolled by, Boy was blissfully happy, and presumed that he had kept up my side of the bargain, as he heard no complaints on that ground.
But then Boy heard her advice to his daughters as they reached the dating age.
“Never marry a guy just because he can make you laugh, he might be fun, but jokes tend to pall after 25 years and get rather stale. One can bear to hear the same jokes only so many times. You may live to regret it.”
This was the statutory warning that Boy shared with the couple at the party, who were giving him such a strong sense of déjà vu.
He hopes they ignore it.
Is there a happy ending outside of fiction?
Is Happily ever after only a Fairy Tale?