Apology Not Accepted!

The subscribers of The Hindu woke up to an apology note from the Editor yesterday. The note expressed regret in publishing a report which “failed to adhere to journalistic norms in both reporting and editorial supervision”. They also withdrew the story from all online platforms on The Hindu. Such a note is a rarity in current times not because journalists no longer make mistakes but because they do not have the mettle to own their mistakes. Yet, when I read the apology note from the Hindu, I was reminded of what Ken Poirot said – “By the time most people say ‘I’m sorry’, it is already too late”.

 

Rupert_Murdoch_apology_letter
Rupert Murdoch’s ‘full-page’ apology letter in the aftermath of the phone-hacking scandal.

Few days ago, I returned exhausted from work and decided to order dinner through Zomato. I had placed the order at half past seven and was promised a delivery in forty five minutes. An hour went by without a sign of food. I called the Zomato customer support and they called the restaurant in turn to check the status. Thirty minutes later, a delivery agent was at my door and with the wrong order. I called Zomato again and they called the restaurant again. This time I was added to a conference call with Zomato and the restaurant. The restaurant apologized for the mistake and agreed to deliver the correct order in 15 minutes but the Zomato support agent intervened and said that they won’t be providing a delivery agent for this order since it was the restaurant’s fault. She asked the restaurant to use their own delivery options. The restaurant had collaborated with Zomato for delivery and did not have alternate options for delivering. I disconnected the call asking them to sort things among themselves and send me the dinner at the earliest. Ten minutes later, I receive a call from the Zomato staff stating that the order has been cancelled by the restaurant. She also mentioned that Zomato regrets the inconvenience caused to me and promised to reimburse the payment I had made in full. It would take 4 – 7 days for this money to be credited back to my bank account which she conveniently forgot to mention. She also suggested that I should make another order through Zomato. I looked at the time and it was already half past nine.

I asked her how long would it take for the next order to reach me. She said that would depend on the restaurant. What she meant was that it would take at least another forty five minutes. At this point, I asked for the manager. The manager came on the line after few minutes and repeated the same rehearsed apologies, except he tried to sound  sincerer only to fail miserably at it. He also added that I should rate the restaurant poorly for their service. The mention of ‘poor service’ unleashed the rightful wrath that was simmering in me all this while. The restaurant would have delivered the order as promised in fifteen minutes had Zomato not refused to provide a delivery agent. It was indeed the restaurant who faltered with the order and I agree that they must bear the cost of the repeat delivery. However, in this case, I, the customer was penalized with hunger for having availed the services of Zomato and the restaurant.

What the Zomato staff did not understand was that I was availing the service of Zomato in the first place and not the restaurant’s. When they say they will reimburse the payment, they sound like they are doing me a favor by returning the money. After all, it was my money and they must refund it. I had only two questions to the Zomato manager.

  • Can you arrange for my dinner to be delivered in the next 15 minutes?
  • In scenarios like this, how do you compensate a customer for the inconvenience?

The answer to both the questions were “We are sorry, Ma’am”. I thanked them, disconnected the call, and went out to the food stall nearby my place to have my dinner.

Few months back, I along with a friend ordered a Kindle e-reader from Amazon as a gift for another friend. Two days after the gift was delivered, Amazon announced a sale and the e-reader got cheaper by ₹2000. My friend wrote an email to the Amazon Customer care team explaining how he had been a longtime customer of Amazon and how it feels to have paid ₹2000 more. Amazon was very well within their legal and moral rights to ignore such an email. Instead they chose to do something different. They went ahead and reimbursed ₹2000 rupees as Amazon credits as a ‘one-time’ goodwill gesture. How wonderful can that be!

These three cases are hardly comparable especially because the stakes involved are entirely different. The services that The Hindu or Zomato provide involve a lot more significant aspects of lives and they certainly cannot afford to make mistakes, but when they do, they need to have more than a mere apology. The same media which mercilessly rips apart wrongdoers should stick to the same standards if not better when it comes to their own misdeeds. Having personally been a victim of unethical journalism, I can only imagine the plight of the person who was wrongly accused and the emotional trauma that his entire family might have gone through. If an e-commerce service provider like Amazon who is not legally bound to address a certain grievance can walk the extra mile and do what they need not, only to keep a customer delighted, then the Hindu and Zomato must have a better way to address a grievance especially when they are legally, morally, and ethically bound.

Expressing regret is only the first step to an apology and not the end to it. An apology is complete only when you take responsibility for what happened and make amends.  As Kevin Hancock says, “Apologies aren’t meant to change the past, they are meant to change the future”.  While I have no high hopes for Zomato, I must laud the Hindu for their courage to step up and own their mistake. The Hindu withdrawing the story from online platforms is just like Zomato reimbursing the payment. I as a subscriber to the Hindu am interested to know how the Hindu is going to make amends for the future.

Siamese Compassion Cover Art

‘Reviewing’ Poetry with Siamese Compassion

Is it possible to ‘review’ poetry? Every time I sit to write about poems or stand to speak about poetry, this question confounds me. A friend sent a poem of his about 4-5 years ago and asked for my opinions. I read it, a critic would have perhaps trashed it owing to its form. I asked my poet friend if he had written what he thought of and what he thought like. He said yes. I told him it was good. With poems as with any other form of writing, I try to see through the feelings and the honesty in expressing them. If there is a match, I am up for more from you. However, if I find a mismatch or if I feel that the work has become a matter of form over emotions, I am turned off.

The category where form dominates feelings – I call it ‘attempt to poetry’. Attempt to poetry and poetry stand so close at times that it is often impossible to distinguish between the two. Most often attempt to poetry passes off as poetry and readers end up spending time either reading structures, rhymes, rhythms, cadences, and meters or bore themselves to dislike poetry once and for ever. Like for any other form of creativity, it is sad but it is true. I have never attended a poetry workshop, so I keep wondering what they teach there. Teaching to read and write your feelings? Must be an arduous task.

Now, to ‘review’ poetry is in a way reviewing emotions. ‘Reviewing’ poetry is ‘reviewing’ the innermost expressions whispered from the communion of mind and the heart – technically possible but spiritually speaking, it can only be an ‘attempt to review’. To review what the poet views is not plausible unless you become one with the expressions of his poems. One may decide for himself how easy or difficult that is.

I wrote a reply to the poet singing his songs inside the pages of the book that I have on my monitor at present. It is I believe the final draft of the book in a pdf form and has been published in kindle and paperback versions on amazon. The paperback version is a tad heavy on your wallet. The kindle version is sweetly priced and you may want to own it at the earliest. The reply was an answer to the poet on his enquiry on the status of the review that I had committed myself to. The ‘review’ comes much delayed than expected on a ‘conventional scale’ of time as I was reading the poems slow. While Kafka turned into a vermin while writing Metamorphosis, I turned into a snail while reading Kaushal’s poems. I was hit by the strongest of forces ever known to humanity – the force of reality – the nice, the ugly, and the vulgar. I withdrew like a snail each time on being hit, I came out again after some time until at last, the repetition of the lyrical attack found a pattern and I became used to the world of Siamese Compassion. Kaushal Suvarna wanted to check on the progress of review. I offered him my thoughts on ‘reviewing’ as excuse to buy more time and continue with my withdrawal-perseverance game with his creations.

The poems make you think about a lot of things, about a lot of people, about a lot of lives, and about a lot of hypocrisies we exhibit while living this life. From the cover to back and back, the reader never feels left at the mercy of an idealist. You are on a journey of reality and the poet puts you in the zone and leaves you alone there by the end of every poem. You have two options in that room – you either say this is enough and quit or you decide that you want to continue. If you quit, the stage of realism is auto-saved in your mind and you can always come later to resume from where you left. You will find the poet with his arsenal of realism-devices standing there, waiting for you. In case you choose to continue in the world of stark realities, you find the poet standing there nevertheless. However, he doesn’t make a promise to stay with you in between the pauses of two creations. He leaves again by the end, leaving you alone with your thoughts. Now, you have the same two options again. Either way, you will have to come back and continue. If you are not prepared to die today, you will come back to die tomorrow.

If you ask for my suggestion on where to start, start with the title-poem ‘Siamese Compassion’ and then spread your wings toward other pages in the book.

“Sure, one man’s martyr
Is another one’s terrorist
And horses must be shod
And bulls castrated for their own benefit
For society’s a venomous centipede
Whose legs can’t be knocked off the stool
Lest we all tumble in mindless anarchy

 You may have suffered greater tortures than I
Your degree of fortitude may be greater than mine
But I felt your cuts deeper
While you endured in silence
Are we not both brothers in pain?”

(Siamese Compassion, reproduced from Siamese Compassion by Kaushal Suvarna)

These thoughts must have matured through myriads of experiences of life and the shape they have taken in the poems of Siamese Compassion, make Kaushal one of my favorite contemporary poets of the present time. He is honest with his feelings and hence naturally, feelings gain primacy over form, not that I have any complaints against the form. It is also a sad commentary over our system that promotes a superstar culture where mediocre works are making millions through traditional publishing while such work of finesse has to be self-published. I don’t want this book to get lost in oblivion. The poems are to be read on loop until we see through our sins and take the first step towards washing them away. Once more, that brings me to a question. Is it possible to wash away our sins? Is there a hope somewhere to live a life untainted by the artificial idealism that we are born in and taught about but keep violating all our lives? You might have to turn to this book to find that out.

 

Books – The Used and the Abused!

Barely a minute after the gift books had reached the recipients, I got an email from Junglee, an Amazon subsidiary, saying something to the effect of – ‘Now that you have bought books from amazon, how about selling some on Junglee?’ Though this was a routine pitch, it got me into wondering about a lot of things of recent past. Just a day earlier I had told a friend in jest that I was going to sell all my books, take note – it was not a serious statement!

I don’t own a lot of things. My friends who know me well are completely sick of my wardrobe and at times have to take me hostage to get me to buy stuffs. This is not because I am on some money-saving mission, I don’t save either. So where does the money go? I don’t claim to have some sort of library for myself, but I have a respectable number of books with me and the number increases at a staggering rate. In fact, our Government could define BPL (Below Poverty Line) mark by just contrasting between my wardrobe and the bookshelf.  Rich gets richer, the poor gets poorer.

Capitalism-Socialism-Communism all sleep in the same bed here. I had read somewhere that the day you own more than single pair of clothes to cover yourself, you cease to be a communist. Now, most of the present day communists would certainly fail this test in today’s age and I don’t blame them. The condition itself is too stringent and suffocating. However, if for a few considerations, I am allowed to take it as the benchmark, then the beggar who just had a garbage box to comfort his spine in and almost no rag on his body,  just outside my workplace in Chennai would perhaps make the greatest Communist on earth. Marx and Lenin would miserably fail this test. Taking heart from this, my wardrobe stands a much better chance to be regarded as at least a reluctant communist, reluctant because perhaps it wants to get a few more clothes for itself, but its master is lazy as a dead bone in such matters. This opens up two new ways to become a communist –

1. Have a very bad master!
2. Become lazy, lazy like a dead bone.

Sitting on an antipodal citadel, my bookshelf is a shelf-ish enchantress. If there ever was a true capitalist, it is her. The master is possessed by her beauty and she makes him do all that she desires. When much of what the master earns goes into her wishes and fancies every month, it is not very difficult to understand how enslaved and smitten by her the master is!

There is no end to her desires. I have never left my bookshelf alone, but perhaps on one occasion when I was moving to a new city and all her possessions had to be transported beforehand. For about a month, I couldn’t see her due to delays in courier service. That was the only time we were separated. A thing to note here is that this Capitalist monster owns a lot of anti-communism books, and since sits just beside my reluctantly communist wardrobe, leaves no opportunity to jeer at him and show him how communism failed the day master’s friends bought him a second pair of clothes. I can’t tell you any method here to become a capitalist. It can’t be done. Capitalize is a verb, but capitalism is a noun. So, you might think you can capitalize to become a Capitalist but Capitalize in turn depends on some noun, say in this case – situation! That situation comes by itself, you just have to be greedy enough. Like I said, the day you work your ass off for another pair of clothes in your wardrobe, you have embarked yourself onto the voyage of Capitalism.

To let myself wander for some more time, I would want to touch upon capitalism in books-industry and what’s going wrong there. I remember my boyhood days when books containing spiritual or religious messages used to be distributed for free and if I talk particularly about a few organizations, they used to encourage their first readers to pass on the books to somebody who hadn’t read them and continue the relay so that someday in distant future, entire planet would know about these organizations. Backed up by huge grants and charity money, this was their way of marketing. To be candid about it, I used to collect all of them just to sniff the fresh-from-print pages. Not that I didn’t try reading them but failed to make any sense of the content matter then. Interestingly, many customers stood benefited as even if they never opened these books, never turned over a single page; they could always keep them on their study tables and shelves to show off.

This still continues with the Quran and the Bible. You get them for free most of the times and the people who throng on the stores to get these books for free, generally don’t belong to Islam or Christianity. However once they rack up these books in their house, it helps to prove their broad-mindedness and establish a secular image to their guests without having read a word. That notwithstanding, let us think from the perspective of an involved reader. For him, these socio-religious books still come at nominal costs. Additionally, most of the dedicated readers share these books on their own after having read them. While he can get a Bible or a Quran, or a Gita for almost nothing, Das Kapital will cost him somewhere between Rs 500 to Rs 1500 on Amazon.

The socio-religious book segment is more communist than the segment that sells the works of Karl Marx. Marx would perhaps say today – ‘Socio-religious book is the new opiate of the masses!’
Think of all the socio-religious books as public owned and the fact that anyone can read them easily, re-interpret, comment, criticize, and burn them amidst a few fatwas from selected communities – not very difficult to fathom! Unwittingly and ironically, the bible of communism can’t be bought by the segment of the society that needs to read it more than anyone else. They have to be content with mind-numbing tall tales of leaders and impostors, not that the leaders and impostors have much of a difference in today’s age.

The article continues in its second part.

The problems of Vishu Mishra!

Vishu Mishra is out in the world with his second book, named as Beauty, Youth & A Beautiful Mind: An insight into the urban blights of our age. A short, swift read that this book is, I couldn’t take my eyes off until the last drop of words had been assimilated. However, this book is not a fiction, the swiftness is the high point of the narrator and not necessarily the subject’s. The subject matter runs risks of getting prosy-dry and preachy-wry if not dealt deftly. To mull on some of the most in-our-face problems of present times powered with his skills of a master storyteller is what the author does Continue reading “The problems of Vishu Mishra!”