Sweetness and Light

Just want to bring a smile to the reader's lips - and an occasional thought. Will try to stay away from controversial topics - rather create my own! And would definitely welcome comments. :-)

Friday, March 24, 2006

Minding my Q's

There are few things in life that I am more confident about than my ability to pick up the slowest moving queue in any environment - railway bookings, ATM, airline check-in counter....even security check. There is no formula to it - at least none that I am conscious of. I guess I am just a natural.

Over the years, the skill has been honed to near-perfection. When I first stepped into the world of decision-making under uncertainty over which queue will move at which pace, I applied
what seemed to me extreme common sense - pick the shortest one. After all, if the first queue has 5 people and the second has 10, I have a better chance being the 6th person than being the 11th, isn't it? However, life is a cruel teacher, and I did slowly learn that school time / distance arithmetic is not as applicable to real life situations as it seemed then. With my appreciation of Six Sigma principles, I realized that there might be several X factors that influence the output variable Y, in this case, the time taken for me to get it over with.

One of the first changes I made in my strategy was to choose queues with the least number of members of a particular gender. At the risk of being politically incorrect, being branded a MCP, and losing some valuable visitors to my blog, I must confess that I started practising gender discrimination against the fairer sex. This was based on a simple observation that typically
the document of interest to the person on the other side of the counter was safely ensconced in the inner cavity of the wallet inside a hand bag that usually had a complicated operating system - at least for opening it. So while I would be holding the document (bill, ticket, ATM card...) in my hand and almost raising it with the same enthusiasm that the most studious pupil in the class displays when a question is asked to the class at large, the person in front of me would be
spilling every thing from her bag - except the document.

Alas, this strategy just proved to be the old dictum - necessary but not sufficient. Somehow I still managed to end up with the slowest moving queue. Now I started paying attention to the number of units that seemed to require the service - say, the number of luggage pieces at the time of check-in, or the number of shopping bags at the billing counter...you get the idea.
Surely this, when combined with the first avoidance strategy, would be a winner? Alas, no! People may not have any check-in baggage, but they may get very emotional about how their name is spelt on the boarding pass, and insist that it's a Chakraborty with a y and not an i. They may forget their debit card pin number three times in a row...and then create a row. If nothing else, there can always be an urgent request that has to get processed while I stand at the counter and see the queues around me move faster than a Churchgate-Virar fast train.

Basically, life is uncertain, but what is more or less certain is that the queue I stand in moves the slowest. Call it Pankaj's law, if you will, and avoid standing in the same queue as yours truly. It is not as if I have not tried to benefit from my talent. Since I know the queue I stand in will move the slowest, I have tried to change queues myself midway through the waiting. All it has done is confirm the base hypothesis. So Pankaj's law may even be modified to include the following
clause - no matter how many queues do I change, I will still end up with the slowest moving queue.

It is not as if picking the right queue would make me feel like a winner in life, but picking the wrong one does make me feel like a loser. Especially in this bonus and increments season!! Or am I being paranoid?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Long Time...Ghulam Ali saab

It's been some time since my last post, and my big ego got bigger when I found that at least one visitor was disappointed enough to remind me to get on with blogging again! Was busy at work, plus was a little down with the normal viral, and of course, there wasn't anything stirring to write about. Or may be, the last bit is not entirely true. I did attend a concert by Ghulam Ali - my second in two years, and I also discovered (courtesy a friend) a place in Bangalore that serves Calcutta style "club kachoris" and "hot" jalebis. You can't expect more from life in the happiness department in one week. :-)

I enjoy ghazals, though I wish I could improve my knowledge of urdu from the current abysmal to at least pathetic (don't know why but that seems an improvement). And I love Ghulam Ali, even though he is irritatingly difficult to hum along with, for the way in which he goes off on his own raags and aalaaps after every second line. But I find his voice mesmerizing, and his stage manners exquisitely cultured, even when he is playing to the audience. And I feel lucky that within a short span of one year, I was fortunate to witness him perform live twice. The first time, honestly I could not "witness" much, given the galactic distance of the stage from my seat and the flat (instead of slope) surface. But this time it was much better. I could observe his expressions, his gentle nudges to his accompanists when he wanted them to showcase their nuances, and his mild displeasure when, even after three hours, new requests kept pouring from the audience. It was good.

There were the usual treats - "Bheed mein ek ajnabi ka saamna achchha laga", "Humko kis ke gham ne maaraa", "Kal Chaudhvin ki raat thi, shab bhar raha charchaa tera" - along with some that I hadn't heard before, like "Hum tere shahar mein aaye hain musafir ki tarah, sirf ek baar mulaqat ka mauqa de de" or "Zindagi se yahi gila hai mujhe, tu bahut der se mila hai mujhe". Then of course, his famous "act", for lack of a better word, with "lehar" - in "Dil mein ik lehar se uthi hai abhi...". Every time, he seems to go on and on with his variations on lehar - I cannot explain it, you have to hear it to love / hate it. And of course, my favorite three - "Chupke Chupke raat din, aansoo bahaana yaad hai", "Yeh dil yeh paagal dil mera, kyun bujh gaya, aawaargi" and "Hungama hain kyun barpaa, thodi si jo pi li hai". What more could I ask for in one evening? :-)

My introduction to ghazals started in 1982, courtsey Doordarshan's year-end special, which featured Ghulam Ali and his "hungama". I was an impressionable 9 year old already in love with the songs of Rafi, Kishore and Mukesh, and this didn't seem all that alien, though the language was a bit tough. The logic of the ghazal itself was impeccable - get a perspective man, whats the big deal about drinking? :-) 23 years later, sitting in the auditorium, I was reminded of that yet again, not in the context of drinking...but in the context of artificial, man-made boundaries. Did it matter to me, or to anyone else enjoying the evening, that the person wowing us for over 3 hours was a Pakistani, a muslim? I realized, not for the first time, that art and artistes have no nationality, no religion. I always used to be cynical about the "power" of these events, or cricket matches, bringing people closer. I find my cynicism on the decline these days. May be I am getting old. Enemity and hatred do have a longer shelf life than artistes.