Villainy


Just imagine a world filled with heroes and no anti-heroes, filled with only the good guys with the bad guys nowhere in the picture, filled with angels and no demons at all.

Theoretically, would that even be possible.

No, the very premise of good relies on bad, and consequently you will not have heroes unless you have villains, the angels will not fly unless the demons wreak havoc upon us.

  • If Harry Potter were a normal teenage wizard without being The Chosen One, and Lord Voldemort didn’t exist, would the series be as interesting?
  • Would Batman be as interesting without the presence of The Joker, The Penguin, The Scarecrow, Poison Ivy?
  • Would Sherlock Holmes even have to exercise his brain cells if Prof Moriarty didn’t have his devious plans in place?
  • Closer home, would Vishnu have had to take his various avatars if demons like Hiranyakasipu, Kamsa, Ravana and all the other asuras weren’t around having their devilish fun on earth?
  • Even closer, would Padayappa be as heroic if Neelambari didn’t resort to her antics to trouble him every now and then?

To me, who has devoured more than his fair share of comics as a youngster, has enjoyed (and continues to enjoy) his cinema and still manages to retain a voracious appetite for novels, it goes without saying that any hero is defined by the villain that he faces and how much of a ‘fight’ is put up by the villain while confronting the hero.

The concept of the hero being defined by his arch-enemy was something that was ingrained in me after I saw Manoj Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable [Link to Wikipedia article]. The main premise of this movie was the fact that the villain of this movie goes to the extent of orchestrating fatal disasters just because his purpose in life was to find his arch-enemy, the hero. This movie in more than one way left a lasting impact on me, to the extent that I suddenly had a newfound respect for writers (of scripts, comics, books, etc) for having created such memorable villains over the course of all the books I had read and movies I had watched till then.

And what better way to celebrate villainy than to dedicate October 16th to them and christen it “The Fictional Villain” day.

So go ahead, sit back and try and see some of the above villainish clips from YouTube or elsewhere. And oh yes, don’t forget to tell me about your favorite villains over the years in the Comments section.

Villains

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This post has been written for Project 365: A post a day where the idea is to publish at least one post everyday based on the prompts provided. Today’s prompt was to declare a Person X day where I get to pick Person X and I picked “The Fictional Villain” to honor today.

Murphy and his law … or maybe not


Pineapple-CakePadmini, or Puppy as she was called by all her friends was a nervous wreck today. October 7th this year was quite unlike any of the other years.

Vaishnav, or Vy, as her eight yr. old son was called by everybody had insisted that they celebrate his birthday outdoors in the lawns of the residential complex they stayed in. Puppy was quite surprised at the fact that Vy put his foot down and insisted that his birthday be celebrated the way he wanted to. The silver lining in this whole situation was that for some reason Vy wanted his birthday to be celebrated with very little pomp and preparations, spending as little money as possible and he even volunteered to help his parents with the entire preparations including setting up the table and decorations on the lawns, and he had also promised to help out with serving food to the guests who turned up at the party. His only condition was that Puppy would bake the birthday cake herself.

While Puppy loved the fact that her little one was growing up to be money conscious and loved cakes baked by her, the fact remained that she had never dared to bake a cake as big as was required to feed at least twenty five hungry guests that the invitees would make up. Despite her misgivings, she gave in to Vy’s demands and geared up for a tough baking day on Oct 7th.

However, fate, the universe, the stars and all planetary alignments ended up conspiring against her on that day and despite following the instructions of YouTube chef Sanjay Thumma to the ‘t’, her cake ended up a sorry soggy mess which was barely able to stand upright. The party invite began at 5 in the evening, and here she was at 4.30, ready to burst out into tears. She didn’t have the heart to tell a hyper-excited Vy that she had ended up ruining his favorite pineapple cake, but she didn’t have a choice. She knew that for kids in their ‘tweens’, prestige and their image in front of their peers meant more than anything else, and she didn’t want Vy to cut a sorry figure in front of all his friends at his own birthday party.

Everything seemed to be going wrong today, of all the days…

Surprisingly Vy took it quite sportingly when she showed him the 4 Kilo mangled mess that she tried to pass off as his birthday cake. He looked at it thoughtfully for a while, just dipped a finger in the whipped cream on the top and licked it, and then turned around Amma, don’t worry. You have done more than enough to ensure that I have an awesome birthday. Just wait and watch.

He then took her smartphone and started typing away furiously while walking back into his room. Puppy assumed that he was probably messaging his friends on Whatsapp telling them not to expect any cake in the party. But five minutes later, he came out of his room, wearing an old white sweatshirt and his boxer shorts.

Puppy knew that he probably was disappointed and was trying to hide the same earlier, but she didn’t quite expect him to cancel the party itself. Just as she began to apologize and asked for her phone to call up the nearest French Loaf outlet to order a new cake, he looked up at her Amma, I suggest you get into clothes which you don’t mind being dirtied. I have a surprise planned at today’s party.

The entire situation was getting more and more mysterious for Puppy and she wondered what Vy was talking about. In any case, by now, she had decided that she would do anything to compensate for the bad cake and dutifully changed into an old sweatshirt and track pants. In the meantime, JP, her husband had arrived home from office and had also been instructed by Vy to change into something that he didn’t mind dirtying. Being the sport that he was, JP, went ahead and did exactly what his son asked him to.

When the trio went down the elevator, they sure made up for a funny sight in their old clothes with an ‘almost ready to collapse’ soggy cake in hand. And in five minutes when they reached the Events Area where Vy and his friends had decked up a small table and the thirty odd chairs with various streamers and balloons, they saw that all of Vy’s friends and the parents who had accompanied them had all turned up in similar attire. Puppy’s questioning look to Vy was answered only by an all knowing smile.

This was just getting crazier and crazier…

Vy then put the cake on the table and stood in front of it. Friends, aunties and uncles, first of all thank you so much for coming to my birthday party. I will ensure that all of you will remember this party for a long time to come.

As you can see, Amma managed to bake up a storm, quite literally, in the form of this pineapple cake, which by the way has the tastiest whipped cream I have tasted in quite a while. But then, unknowingly, she has given me a wonderful idea to make this party the most memorable one I have ever had.

Saying so, he put his right hand into the cake, scooped up the cream and went up to Puppy

What are you guys waiting for? Attack!!!!

He took the fistful of cream and pasted it all over Puppy’s face, and all his friends followed suit with each of them grabbing fistfuls of cake and pasting it on their parents and on each other. Before the parents could figure out what was happening, they were all doused with the soggy cake. The next three odd minutes saw mayhem with kids, parents and even pet dogs attacking each other with cake in their hands, and as Vy mentioned, it turned out to be the funniest, most memorable birthday party their apartment complex had ever seen.

Puppy couldn’t control her tears; tears of joy which streamed down her cheeks for her wonderful smart little son had managed to convert an unmitigated disaster that her cake was into a fun, laugh riot of a birthday party.

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This post has been written for Project 365: A post a day where the idea is to publish at least one post a day based on the prompts provided. Today’s prompt was Tell us about a time when everything seemed to be going wrong – and then suddenly, you knew it would be alright.

Idiots’ guide to life with toddlers


Once the initial euphoria of becoming a parent (father or mother) wears out and the entire extended family and friend circle has shared their wishes over SMSes, phone calls and Facebook likes for your status updates, all parents are faced with the true-blue grim realities of parenting. So, this post shall strive to make you a little more aware of toddlers and all the ‘baggage’ they bring with them when they arrive.

1. Your time is not ‘your time’ anymore. All sleeping hours and hours spent awake will now be spent fretting and fuming about why your toddler is not sleeping for more than two-three hours at a stretch. How is it that he/she manages to wake up at the slightest hint of a paper swishing due to the fan running in the room. And once the toddler is up, he/she needs to be fed and nursed to sleep which will take at least an hour or so and the cycle repeats itself over and over and over.

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2. Food doesn’t quite mean food as you have understood and consumed all these years. It refers primarily to milk, water and other liquid forms of nourishment only. And if new age parenting is anything to go by, then it means liquids without any artificial sweeteners in any form or fashion in them. As parents of toddlers, you’d better have food (of the classification mentioned above) ready for consumption at any point of time in the 24 hr time-frame that the rest of the world calls a day.

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3. It has been medically proven that you aren’t supposed to be using any strong odors around the baby. So all those fancy deodorants that you bought at a good price (courtesy the box set of three cans or online shopping portals selling them for peanuts or simply because the femme fatale in the ad tempted you) have to pretty much be thrown out or gifted to younger friends or cousins. For the next year or so, you have no choice but to sweat it out and not just that be seen and smelt as sweating it out. Pity the poor parents during the sweltering Chennai summers.

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4. If you thought how tough can it be to wash a small baby, wait until you have your first darshan of a diaper with baby poop in it. Trust me when I say this, no amount of preparation can prepare you for the experience of cleaning a baby’s bottom, more so when it has poop all over it. Lesser said the better about this particular point.

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5. If you are a parent who likes dressing up in the newest Marks & Spencers shirt or the latest Ritu Beri salwar suit bought at Biba or Manyavaar, you just have to end up gifting these to friends or relatives. Babies like dribbling, they think it is a good way not only to communicate with its handlers but also believe that is therapeutic as well. If not for anything else, this trait of theirs will reduce your expenditure on fancy expensive clothes at least until the time they are two years old.

'He'll be a great basketball player someday -- he already dribbles all over the place.

6. Attending family functions will mean only one thing for you – sitting in a silent corner of the mandapam where the function is happening and putting the baby to sleep despite the noise and hullabaloo that is created at the spot. There is absolutely no way that you can participate actively in any function in the near future.

'Friend of the bride or the groom?'

Now, while all you readers who are parents yourselves are probably nodding your heads in fond reminiscences of these days yourself, let me clarify that this post is NOT in any form or fashion intended to put off wannabe parents at all. If anything, this is just a tongue-in-cheek attempt at trying to infuse some much needed humor into these early fun days of the entire ‘parenting experience’. After all, we all need to smile every now and then, don’t we?

Let me be the first to confess that I personally have experienced all of the above mentioned points and truly have fond memories of all of them. What makes these experiences ‘fond’ and worth is all the joy, warmth and fulfillment that being a parent brings along with it.

Lead Kindly Light


Image

 

“Lead, Kindly Light, amidst th’encircling gloom,

Lead Thou me on!

The night is dark, and I am far from home,

Lead Thou me on!

Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see

The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou

Shouldst lead me on;

I loved to choose and see my path; but now

Lead Thou me on!

I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,

Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still

Will lead me on.

O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till

The night is gone,

And with the morn those angel faces smile,

Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!

Meantime, along the narrow rugged path,

Thyself hast trod,

Lead, Saviour, lead me home in childlike faith,

Home to my God.

To rest forever after earthly strife

In the calm light of everlasting life.”

The above is a wonderful hymn written by John Henry Newman in 1833 [Link to Wikipedia article]. But this post is not about the hymn itself nor have I suddenly turned all religious and holy that I go around publishing posts about lovely hymns asking the Almighty to lead me out of darkness. Instead, this is about the wonderful little Android app – Tiny Flashlight [Link to Google Play Store] 😀 😀

Now this app was one of the first that I installed on my Android phone when I first bought it two years ago. And believe me, this has helped me in more than one sticky situation in that time.

Some of the places where it has been of use are –

  1. All those nasty unscheduled power-cuts that we used to have in Chennai whenever there was a torrential downpour and the inverter would run out of charge
  2. During those nocturnal walks down the staircase of the Chennai apartment during many of these power-cuts
  3. To search for things which have fallen under a cot/table in a remote dark corner of the room where the tubelight fails to illuminate
  4. In the labor room when my wife was delivering my daughter
  5. Ok, the one above was added just for ‘dramatic effect’, but I actually used the Flashlight in the Ward where my wife and daughter were kept and there was a power-cut for almost 2 minutes when the entire Ward was engulfed in darkness
  6. In the rest room when I was happily doing my ‘duties’ on the ‘pot’ and the lights went off leaving me in complete darkness (in fact this happened just a few minutes ago, which inspired me to write this post to honor this wonderful little app)

So, there you go, a free app created by some anonymous Russian goes on to literally ‘illuminate’ my life, and that I believe deserves a post on my blog. After all I have praised more than a few random people and random occurrences on this blog and something like this app deserves more than a honorary mention, don’t you think.

I would love to hear more about some of the apps you use on your phone or what would be even better was if  you could narrate some instances where you have used a flashlight (not necessarily on your phone, but in your regular offline life).

Image courtesy: http://www.zazzle.com

Gearing up for P.A.D season – A ready reckoner for subordinates


dilbert

 

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time of the year again. It’s that time when all of us have to prepare for that inevitable ritual of our professional lives. It’s that time of the year when all of us have to brace ourselves to hear the truth, the absolute truth and nothing but the unavoidable, unadulterated, unbiased truth. It is Performance Appraisal Discussion (P.A.D) time!!!

While we are all aware that most PAD are just a formality which are undertaken by managers and subordinates to fulfill system requirements that mandate that an Appraisal Document has to be prepared, agreed upon and finalized on a random ERP tool (PeopleSoft in Cognizant’s case), we all allow ourselves to be kidded into believing that PADs can actually make any sort of difference in our professional lives and careers. All of us, managers and subordinates like to believe that meaningful PADs will result in cohesive relationships, meaningful goals, employee empowerment, enhanced sense of ownership of tasks, and all those various other wonderful things that the HR brochures, mailers and posters would have us believe. In our heart of hearts, all of us know that PADs are nothing more than just a mandatory requirement which in most cases results in managers buying subordinates a cup of coffee (some samosas or other snacks, if they are really in a good mood), a simple pat on the back and heartburn (ulcers as well in some cases) for all the parties involved.

Subordinates prepare their Appraisal Documents with all earnestness, seriousness, truthfulness (at least their version of the truth) truly believing that this is the one real chance that they get to put their point of view across to their managers and convince them of their ‘true worth’ to the team, project, the company and the world-at-large. Managers on the other hand read and review these Appraisal Documents with a pinch of salt (more like a bottle of salt) knowing fully well that subordinates tend to color the facts with a varied hue of adjectives and expressions such as “value added”, “extremely hard”, “beyond normal limits”, “over and above”, “above and beyond” to highlight their ‘achievements’ during the year.

While all readers of this blog are smart enough to figure out the results of the entire Performance Appraisal process, this post is more like a Ready Reckoner to all subordinates for all the necessary preparations that need to be done for a P.A.D itself.

1  – In the fortnight (or even the month) before the PAD is scheduled, subordinates must make it a point to come to office at least a good 5 mins before the manager arrives (enough time to visit the rest room, ruffle your hair to look like you have been in office since early morning or even overnight if you can manage to get that look).

2  – In addition to Point 1 above, make it a point not to iron your shirts and wear the same shirt more than once in a week. This adds to the ‘stayed overnight at office’ look.

3  – Ensure that your participation in team events, project events and company events is at an all time high. Even if you don’t do anything meaningful, volunteer to send out the mailers for all events. That way your manager’s mailbox will be flooded with mails from you for these events. Remember, you don’t have to do any actual work yourself, but you just need to copy/paste somebody else’s lovely mailer and send it from your mailbox, that’s all.

4  – Ensure that you get at least 2 people a day search for you in the office bay by calling out your name loud enough for your manager to hear. You might need to bribe your friends with some money to do this, or you might even need to steal their phone and leave a Post-It note asking them to scream out your name. This technique will leave the impression that you are somebody who is critical to the project and your absence from the bay can cause issues for the project.

5  – Ensure that you leave random print outs of important project related documents and other arbitrary papers in the printer every day before you leave office. This way when your manager makes his way to the printer, he will believe that you are working so hard that you don’t even have time to pick up important documents.

6  – Ensure that you have your lunch breaks and coffee breaks all sitting at your desk. This way your manager will believe that you are so busy that you are deigned to have a ‘working lunch’.

7  – Ensure that you stop travelling by personal vehicles and book the late night cabs back home every day. This will ensure that your manager has no doubts regarding what time you leave office every day. After all, he is not going to know that you have been busy playing ‘Angry Birds’ on your phone (versions available for Apple iOS and Android 2.2 upwards).

8  – Keep staring at items for so long that your eyes water and are red all the time. This gives the impression that you are sleep deprived and work really hard. In fact, this can also be achieved if you sleep so much that you look jaded all the time, but the trick is not to get caught sleeping in office.

In case none of the above points work out well for you, well you have no other choice but to pull your socks up and actually start performing well at your work in 2013 so that when the next PAD comes up, you have real talking points to make your case.

Image Courtesy: http://www.dilbert.com