September 30, 2005

Oil, Oil, We Say...

It was a year before when my manager told me, during my appraisal meeting, that I have to improve my oral communication skills. And yesterday my new manager in my new company gave the first positive feedback as "you have got good written and oral communication skills". If you are wondering what I have done within one year to improve my English, I would have to admit that I have not done anything except that I was more conscious about my Mallu accent. In the appraisal meeting with my first manager in my first company, though there were many things that I had disagreed regarding his feedback, some of them which ultimately lead to me quitting the company later, this one about my bad oral communication was one I whole heartedly agreed. (Even he had opined that I was good in written, so no issues there)

Till I left Kerala for my first job in Chennai, my notion was that Mallus had the best accent in the world. The widespread belief in Kerala that Malayalam is the most difficult language to speak when compared to other languages and thus Mallus can easily speak any language in the world made me proud for being a Mallu and for knowing Malayalam. In fact I still find this statement true, but with an exception, Mallus can speak any language easily but with a Mallu accent.

My pride for being both a Mallu and a linguist was shattered soon after I came to Chennai. My training batch in my new company consisted of three Mallus, all from my college, and others from Tamil Nadu. We were trained on many subjects, being from non-computer background and these classes were handled by different people. A self introduction was a usual routine in these classes. I realised that there is something wrong with how we Mallus introduced that we are from College of Engineering Trivandrum, because our fellow Tamilians started repeating this as if we were singing some song or something. But I could not really make out what is wrong? Many of our seniors had joined this company earlier, and once we did the intro, some of these trainers would say "Ya, I guessed it by the time you said "College"!" What??

The real problem became clear when we had our Personal Development Training towards end of our whole training schedule. This was handled by a lady who was a consultant and had much experience in the field. Part of the training class was about accent, and she began to discuss about typical Indian accents starting from north India. I did agree with her and did laugh with others when she told how people in north won't say "Z" in zero and all that. Atlast, when she came to Mallus I must admit I was surprised, more so when other students were laughing as if this was the funniest of them all. When she told Mallus pronounce "O" as "Oo", I really did not get it! Then she told about a previous incident when she was teaching the same stuff for the managers of a reputed company in Chennai. And when she said Mallus pronounce "O" in Oil etc wrong, one fellow Mallu in the audience asked angrily "What Madam, we say Ooil, Ooil...What is the problem?” I was pacified when she admitted that Chennaites are worse as they pronounce it as aail.

I have been trying for the past one year to get rid of my Mallu accent for English, which I think has become successful. But I must admit, after two years of living outside Kerala and after getting all these positive feedbacks about my communication in English being good, I am still afraid when I pronounce "O". Am I saying it right?

September 26, 2005


Brilliant! That is the word I would like to use to describe the film Black directed by Sanjay Leela Bansali. I hadn’t seen the film yet until its TV premier in Star Gold yesterday. I do regret now that I did not see the film in theatre. Black is definitely a bold attempt from the director, it challenges all the conventions of a contemporary Indian film be it art or commercial. I have seen only one Bollywood film that made watching a film a treat to all my senses, and that is Sholay, but these two films are of extremely different categories. I do not think this as a reason that makes Black special?

The uniqueness of the film lies in the fact that it is difficult to classify the film as commercial or art, based on the conventions we usually use for the purpose. I have always liked the art films by internationally acclaimed directors like Adoor Gopalakrishnan. But these films are always made within low budgets, and usually are made for film festival audiences. At times you have to wait for these films to be shown on TV, the producers know that this film will not be appealing to masses and they refrain from spending money in releasing these films in theatres. The net result is that these films are devoid of the modern filming techniques which combined with the mood of the film, makes it dull for watching. But in Black, Bansali has made the settings look like those of a big budget commercial Bollywood film (or even better than that), and created an aura that you would feel watching a classic academy award winning English movie. Also the characters use English as lavishly as Hindi.

The director has made the best out of his actors, all of whom have performed well. The story is about a girl Michelle McNally who is blind, deaf and dumb, and her teacher Debraj Sahai who tries to give her a normal life. The roles are played by Rani Mukherjee and Amitabh Bachan respectively. The little girl Ayesha Kapoor who enacted the childhood of Michelle McNally did a great job. I liked many scenes in the film, the one in which the little Michelle says her first word "water", the one in which the teacher looses his memory due to Alzheimer’s disease while he was at an ice cream shop and the last scene in which he realises that his student has graduated, are some of them.

J. P Sippy has quit film making, so I cannot expect another Sholay. But I am eager to watch next film by Bansali, and am sure it will be on a theatre screen!

September 22, 2005

War of the Worlds: Internet Version

Bill Gates must be a bewildered man!

I am sure he is very busy now-a-days pondering on how to crack down Google! Not only because MSN search has not become popular, also because his company Microsoft is losing employees who are leaving to join Google.

Meanwhile Google has launched two new products within the last one month. Google talk is a messaging service similar to MSN or Yahoo messengers. But its edge is in the VoIP integration and the simple interface. I have not used it, but those who used the voice messaging told the clarity is very good. Meanwhile, Yahoo has released version 7.0 of its messenger which is voice enabled. Buzz is that Microsoft is trying to buy some VoIP or P2P company; meanwhile eBay has bought Skype, the premier company in this segment.

Blogsearch is an add-on to Google's search service, which is dedicated only for searching blogs. It is anticipated that the tool will make blogs more popular, as it will be easier to find blogs of an individual’s interest.

Meanwhile Yahoo is trying to popularize Yahoo360, its blogging and networking service, through Yahoo messenger. It is also trying to integrate Flickr with rest of its services by enabling login with a yahoo id. Flickr, which was bought recently by Yahoo, is a photo sharing service. User can add friends or family as contacts and set privileges for the photos to decide who should see them and who should not. There is a provision to create groups similar to yahoogroups, but only to share photos. I think it should be integrated with yahoogroups so that all the existing members can use it without registering again to the groups in Flickr, I believe they have plans to do this. Most of these services are also provided by Orkut, similar service from Google, which has recently started integrating it with Gmail login. But Orkut site has always some problem or the other. Yes, it’s still in "beta" version, like most other services from Google, but then beta is not an excuse which can be used for years.

As end users, all we need is some patience and the curiosity to try out these new products. By the time all this predictions of popularity and success in between the product wars of these companies consolidate, we shall have a better cyber world. Till then we shall wait keeping our fingers crossed.

September 19, 2005

Sensor the sensual surveys.

Yuk! That’s what I felt while going through this week's edition of Outlook and India Today. It’s quite sometime since these journals have endorsed the art of surveying to increase their circulation. And the subjects selected had been as sensational as they could make it, those related to sex and city being the most preferred. But this week's editions are the most vulgar of them all. India today has created some survey questions while Outlook has printed pictures akin to those which would be seen on a porn magazine.

I do not believe in the conclusions of any of these surveys, I doubt if too many people take it seriously. But the magazines have made it a habit to conduct surveys on subjects varying from sexology to technology and print them with large pictorial illustrations on maximum pages of an issue, leaving not many pages for news and articles. No body except these magazines can vouch for the authenticity of these surveys, though the results give an impression that these are largely conducted in metros. But then, they need some unorthodox opinions to make it interesting for the readers, opinions which may not always be obtained by actually conducting the survey. So you can't guess what is actually happening behind the scenes.

One thing is for sure, whether you as a person like it or not, these magazines are going to roll-out too many issues on related subjects in the past also, because “they do not running a charity organization” to ignore the increase in circulation by to these surveys and the related content they print. We need to have some sort of censoring mechanism to decide what can and cannot be printed on these journals. Introducing a rating mechanism for these magazines based on their content can also be considered, like how we do for the films currently. Otherwise it would not be long, when these so called journals would roll-out with surveys on subjects you wouldn't have dreamt in your wildest imaginations with contents that would give a stiff competition to porn magazines, I doubt if that is already happening. Also in place should be an authority to check and validate the methodology of conducting these surveys and conclusion of the final results.