Friday, January 15, 2016

For the Love of a Girl.


I wish I could reduce the gaps between my posts writing on this blog. It takes me almost a year to write about something, as I strongly believe in expressing my thoughts when the reason to do is of an absolute implosive nature.

What brings me back, to my own bloggers’ abode? Well, when I started my MBA in 2011, I was working full time in addition to going to school in the evenings, five days a week. This hectic routine lasted for 3 more years. My daily routine included going to work in the mornings and then attending university followed by studying in late nights, almost every night.

This chock-a-block routine meant I could not find the time for one of the few things I love about my life the most; reading. I stopped reading titles other than ones recommended by my course as I believed that rummaging through novels and history volumes would distract me from my goal of attaining wisdom lying in the financial management sphere.

So, three years, no make it four, went by without me reading a single book other than what curriculum recommended.  This also led me to believe or false-believe that I had lost my skill, my appetite and my ability to appreciate good literature (definition of ‘good’ is totally relative here). I thought I was now deprived of and unarmed with the precision and focus that a good reader possesses, given such a long hiatus from reading.

I visited book fairs, literary festivals like Karachi Literary Festival in between my work hours, sneaking half an hour in between and managing to meet, briefly though Mr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, one of the few people I idolize for his persistent love for logic and humanity. I even managed to attend Sharjah Book Festival this year. I kept glancing at and reading a few pages of titles on shelves, but never could I muster the courage of actually buying a book and devouring it completely. For I believed that reading, titles other than those of one’s own profession is a habit entertained by two types of people; one who have achieved everything in their lives and hence are now at liberty to do the wildest things in life, like reading books. And the other types are those who lack focus and cannot care less about their goals and aims in lives.

But love, be it for a woman or a book is a tempestuous phenomenon, one knows it will likely cause harm in the shape of loosing focus from one’s goal(s) or aims, and yet one keeps tugging at its coattails for some stimulus.

My love for that girl and for reading was reawakened and re-invoked when a friend passed onto me an e-copy of a coming of age novel about an modern, urban Indian couple. I kept the book saved in my phone for more than a month, without caring to open the File, until yesterday morning.

I had an interview scheduled for me for a position I was least bothered about, yet I moved on in the morning in an effort to give myself evidence of my own professionalism and work-ethic. I took the train to UAE Exchange, formerly known as Jebel Ali at Burjuman Metrostation, my stop was at Jumeirah Lake Towers or JLT, which even using the fast paced metro, takes around 2/3rds of an hour. Now in the morning hours, one needs the luck of a Leprechaun to get a place to sit in the train.

Resigned to my fate, I stood clutching onto my shoulder bag waiting for any seated passenger to get off at the next station: didn’t happen. By what stroke of luck or fate I decided to unlock my phone and open the File containing the e-book I will never know. But it has changed at least a tiny portion of my life, which in turn has brought me back to this blog space to write about it.

I had been a fan of Chetan Bhagat without having read any of his fast paced novels about semi urban, urban or rural youth of India. I became his fan because his work was the source behind 3-idiots, a very intelligent film in its depiction of university life in South Asia.

The book in consideration is ‘Half-Girlfriend’. It is the latest by Mr. Bhagat if I am not being incorrect. It tells the story of a boy from Bihar getting a place to study in a posh college in Delhi. It is a testament to the Writer’s ability for crafting interesting characters and even more intriguing situations when I say that I consumed half of the almost 300 page novel on my way to the interview and back, in totality, a journey lasting less than 1 hour and 10 minutes.

I will not disclose the story for I wish people to go and read this wonderfully urban and modern reading, which many of the highbrow pseudo literati among us will most likely dismiss as a cheap shot at genuine literature.

I have always believed that any conversation that hits straight to your mind, in crystal clear manner is more convincing and powerful than one laced with vague ornamental words belittling the importance of the very topic it is supposed to discuss. Prose that is composed in a manner that helps you relate to it, think about it and forbids you to let go of it is far more esteemed in my view than the self-important pretences we deem as ‘Classics'.

The writer of Half-Girlfriend does exactly that, he delivers what the youth want, a clear cut storytelling technique which is direct and easy to grasp. But that’s the technical side of my story. What really prompted me to write about this Book is the story which I am self-bound not to reveal. It reminds me of my failed attempt at seeking accomplishment at a project called Love during my MBA days, reminding me of my failure, which surprisingly seems more engaging and pleasant in its memory in comparison to, if I had won the heart of that Girl instead. So, until the next time, go buy the Book, read it, cherish it and thank me and Mr. Bhagat for the deed.

Adios.

(TBC)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Gotham City Realized


The reason that compelled me to take up my laptop and start writing is what sounds like an unending stream of gun shots outside my streets with people shouting, cursing, abusing and then firing back. Just another day in the city that is always trigger- happy.

This is perhaps the coldest night of winter this year. And this is a Saturday. Saturday or any other weekend - day means a time to replenish  your burnt out batteries that are spent working and /or studying if you are in any part of the world except Pakistan in general and Karachi in particular.

Of course for the vast ‘minority’ of well meaning people who work hard throughout the week do consider as their lawful right that they get enough time to settle down, relax at home or enjoy an evening out with their families and friends. But things that stop them from doing so in an unhindered manner here in Karachi roam about without any apprehension of a backlash from the law and order authorities. This is a Gotham City without her Batman.

If we draw a comparison of Karachi and fictional town of Gotham, we do see certain similarities that would make one believe that film takes its inspiration from reality. Gotham has a political and industrial base that keeps it from staying calm and peaceful, so does Karachi. Corruption is rampant in the city that plays a key role in Batman’s comic, Karachi too it seems has corruption embedded in its culture. The living conditions of both the cities, one fictional and other I wish was fictional in part are downtrodden for majority of its populace.  

But the comparisons end here for stories always have a hero, realities do not. Karachi has been a violent city for most of the last 20/30 years and to say that a particular regime or a government has a role to play in the mess that we see all around the city is either a case of naivety or wilful amnesia.

The state in which Karachi survives is because this is the way people who run the city actually want it to be. Extortion will remain a major exercise in collection of money for the not-so-petty criminals who hand over their bounty to their masters sitting in places unknown.  The goons that conduct such acts are youth of the city that age in their late teens and early twenties, you will find a mass that is diverted, disillusioned and involved in activities that it should not be.  Daily we witness immature kids claiming to be ‘party-workers’ wreak havoc in the peace of people living in their vicinity.

I said a vast ‘minority’ believes in peaceful existence of life in Karachi as the people who openly condemn and resist to adoption of violent, corrupt and inhuman ways of living number to very few.  A good majority of the city is semi or uneducated, with low paying jobs or none at all; expecting them to pay heed to all things moral and virtuous is tantamount to asking for a free lunch.

To their credit, mafias and political parties (shouldn’t they be used interchangeably?) do keep their employees happy with hefty pay -bills and toys (read guns) to play with. These are organizations that sincerely believe in training their employees with latest soft and technical skill programs and rewarding them for outstanding performances. What youth would disengage itself from an employer that fulfils most of its monetary needs when conventional companies can’t even measure up to the pay scales offered by their unconventional counterparts?

Our city will go down a path and reach a place where it will cease to exist as a cohesive working unit unless we start having ‘good’ people working in the government, ruling the government rather.  It is our misfortune, perhaps our own doing that we have always had established criminals in the guise of rulers;  a phenomenon that is present in all the backward societies in the world, a case that is reflected in all places where education is not given it’s due place on the societal pedestal.

Unless we kill the demons that exist within us and start believing that by making education accessible to all and sundry in the society we are not going to lose our precious money-minting institutions, this city will not change, neither will this country.  Educating the youth of today that at present, stands vulnerable in the streets with nothing worthwhile to occupy their brains will ensure that in the decades ahead they will cut a collective figure of a responsible citizenry.

We have to stand up and start working on things we feel will correct the wrongs we keep committing every single day. We have to, because we don’t have a hero that we deserve, or the one we need as Gotham City did.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Marvi 'the mesmerizing' Memon

Personally I only followed her because she's cute :P who cares what and whom she joins :P :P She wouldn't make a difference in an individual capacity anyway . Peace out & enjoy her lovely narration of all things Rai -wind.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

ERIN BROCKOVICH (2000)



Cast: Julia Roberts, Albert Finney.
Directed by: Steven Soderbirgh
Screenplay: Susannah Grant



The motion picture titled ‘Erin Brockovich’ is written by Susannah Grant and directed by Steven Soderbirgh and is based on true events between the years 1993 and 1996. Released in the year 2000, this Hollywood movie revolves around two characters: Erin Brockovich an American environmentalist and paralegal official. The other character is the US based power and gas firm ‘Pacific Gas and Electric Company’ (PG & E) which is responsible for providing gas and electricity utilities to almost 2/3rds of the northern Californian population. The events surrounding a much publicized and broadcasted case involving PG & E and residents of Hinkley, California expose a plethora of business and general ethical issues that form a sumptuous academic feast
for any business student.


Before exploring the central characters of this story and inspecting the varied moral and ethical positions adopted by them in the movie, we must engage ourselves in creating a brief background study of the people and the institutions that play a pivotal role in this intriguing drama of business ethics and it’s relation with human psyche and actions.

Main Characters:


a. Erin ‘Patty’ Brockovich: Erin is a thirty three years old - twice divorced single mother of 3 children by the name of Matthew, Katy and Beth who age 8 years, 6 years and 9 months respectively in the beginning of the movie. Erin is a struggling single parent with little or no financial resources and is shown in the initial scenes of the picture trying her level best to acquire a job. Her primary concern at all times in the movie is the well being of her three kids. Whatever actions she takes as the story progresses are stemmed from the emotions that compel her to become what she considers to be a responsible and loving parent. She has an associate college degree and is shown as a onetime beauty queen as claimed by her own character.




b. Edward L. Masry: a lawyer in his mid 60’s, he is a partner in the law firm named ‘Masry & Vititoe.’ Masry is seen as a compassionate and hardworking lawyer but with bouts of self doubt and selfishness commonly perceived as signature signs of character in most old people. ‘Ed’ as he is called by his colleagues also betrays hints of self-importance when he is forced by Erin to hire her in the middle of a racket created by the later in his office. This peculiarity is, however more than compensated for by his actions toward Erin and the Hinkley residents as the movie progresses.

c. Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG & E): PG & E is the second most important character in the movie. It provides for the negative role in the story line. PG & E is depicted by the director as a strong giant in the power and gas sector in the state of California with valuation of US Dollar 28 billion as is quoted by one characters that is shown as its employee in the film. The operations of PG & E Hinkley and its level of concern for the people living in that land forms the back-bone of the content of this story as well as this term paper.

d. Donna Jensen: Donna is one of the residents of Hinkley who lives very close to the PG & E Hinkley plant with her husband and family. A middle aged woman ailing from various diseases, she is the first person to be contacted by Erin and Masry for the purpose of launching a ‘direct action lawsuit’ against PG & E Hinkley to reach a substantial out of court settlement between the power giant and the victimized residents of Hinkley.

e. Charles Embry: an ex employee of PG & E Hinkley, Charles is a character that has a very short yet critical role in the story. It is Charles who contacts Erin and provides her with the much needed details that she needs to establish claims made by Hinkley residents versus PG & E.

f. George: a Harley-Davidson enthusiast, George is the love interest of Erin and delivers some ethical issues in the story that are related to Erin and her kids.


g. Pamela: another victim of the Hinkley contamination, having an unfavourable opinion about lawyers in general and Erin in particular.




ERIN BROCKOVICH & BUSINESS ETHICS.


Now that we are done with the background to the central characters in the story, let us dissect each moment in the movie and the character(s) present in it and find for ethical issues that stand out as worth consideration by the students of Business Ethics.


The first scene of the movie has Erin Brockovich, our heroine giving an interview for the position of an assistant to a doctor. She is shown as being overtly desperate to land this job as she answers every question in the affirmative citing personal interests that range from medicine to public relations to geology and geography. She even appeals to the interviewer to consider her case as she is a mother of three children. At this point, Erin’s words are motivated by the stages 1 and 3 of Kohlberg’s model of moral development i.e. Punishment and Obedience plus Interpersonal Concordance stage. She also displays heavy traces of ‘Ethics of Care’ as she is concerned for her kids.


Cut two: Erin suffers an accident that leads her to Masry & Vititoe law firm; her case is unsuccessfully fought by Ed Masry the firm partner. His assurance of Erin prior to the hearing fills her with the hope that she may just have a case to bank on. Over here Ed may be considered to display level 3 of moral development i.e. Interpersonal Concordance stage. Reason being that being an old timer and a veteran in the field of legislation and law, Ed just might have an attachment to acts that portray him as a truly caring person which in turn is expected to reflect his professional sincerity and commitment to his clients.


The movie now shows Erin hunting jobs ferociously and trying to contact Ed for some help with no success at all in both ventures. She is shown working in the office of Masry & Vititoe without the permission of Ed Masry which irks the later to no end, and as a result he asks Erin to leave the office premises. Erin creates a racket and a brief exhibition of professional shrewdness is depicted by both Erin and Ed. Erin asks for a job at Masry & Vititoe in a belligerent manner while Ed in the midst of efforts to control his temper and his reputation which is being attacked by Erin’s antics agrees to hire but with one final stroke; no benefits! Up till this point in the story, Erin is shown exhibiting traits of a person who is in the stage 1 as well as stage 3 of moral development, while Ed keeps stays in stage 3 i.e. interpersonal concordance.


Erin then meets her new neighbour George, the Harley Davidson enthusiast who immediately finds interest in her. George is shown having qualities of an individual who, for the sake of getting his own goals accomplished goes out of his way to work selflessly for others but only if the ends result of efforts involved is favourably guaranteed to him. George thus, bases his existence in the realm of level 1 of moral development where he performs his acts in accordance with the points related in the 2nd stage i.e. Instrument and Reliability. He continues to behave in exactly the same manner throughout the length of the movie. The main reason of this judgment of George’s character is his eagerness in taking care of Erin’s kids just for the chance of him forming a relationship with her.


As of this point in the timeline of the movie ‘Erin Brockovich’, the characters of Erin, Ed and George are all shown acting in ways that in some manner insure the reaping of their own fruits of labour. They are acting selfishly to reach their own goals of the well being of family, professional stature and personal relationships respectively. The first twist in the story comes at a time when Erin is given a task by Ed to open a pro-bono case of one Donna Jensen and PG & E. The box containing the legal documents contains medical reports of Donna, confusing Erin. She reads the medical reports of Donna that depict loss of white blood cells and increasing rate of lymphocytes in the latter’s blood stream. She also reads the letter by PG & E headquarters offering Donna a fair market value of 66,000 USD for her home in Hinkley near the Hinkley plant.


This is the point where Erin starts developing a concern for people in general and enters the sphere of stage 6 of moral development i.e. Universal Ethical Moral stage. She continues to remain in this stage till the very end. After Ed allows her to study Donna Jensen’s case, Erin meets up with Donna at the latter’s residence in Hinkley. Donna tells her that PG & E have looked after all the medical bills of the Jensen’s while at the same time offering them to purchase their home. Donna also tells Erin about the Chromium III issue involving the power company and Hinkley inhabitants.


Erin meets up with a university professor to acquire information about Chromium. He provides her with the knowledge that Chromium VI used in the cooling water for pistons to prevent corrosion if mixed with ground water can cause serious medical issues that can enter the DNA of those exposed. The scholar also directs Erin to the county water-board for detailed information about the issue at hand. Erin uses her questionable ‘public relation’ skills to get a profound reach to the documents that reveal the presence of Hexavalent Chromium or Chromium VI in the Hinkley ground water coming out from the PG & E plant in the town. But after this, she is fired from her job due to prolonged absence.


However, after some time Ed agrees to hire Erin back with demand made by Erin for a 10 % increase and medical care in return for the documents she now possesses. Erin, at this instance shows self-focused stage of moral development wanting personal benefits alone in the form of a job and for a fleetest of moments shuns level 6 of moral development i.e. Universal Ethical moral principles that she holds dear for a great majority of the story duration.


Once hired back, Erin restarts her investigation into the case, now with full support from Ed Masry. Erin and Masry meet new victims of the Chromium VI contamination by PG & E living in Hinkley. Ed Masry continues to jump back and forth between stages 6 & 1 of moral development. Whenever he finds a reason that he thinks might dent his finances and legal practice, he covers back to Stage 1 of moral development, but with constant motivation from Erin manages to move back to Universal moral ethical principles to support the poor residents of Hinkley.



It is imperative here now to discuss the role played by PG & E, the antagonist in our story. PG & E is a company formed in 1905 and enjoys a monopoly in the gas and power utilities sector in almost two-thirds of northern California. It is shown as a USD 28 billion corporate giant with all the muscles necessary to tighten up its opponents. The company operates a plant in Hinkley California that uses Chromium VI, a deathly chemical used in the cooling water for its pistons in the plant to prevent corrosion. This highly dangerous water is sent to the pools located outside the plant that are lined to prevent contamination in the surrounding area. However circa 1966, some of the pools have broken lining system that cause a consistent and constant mix of this water containing Chromium VI in the area water of Hinkley.


The ethical issues are raised when it is shown that PG & E informs area residents that it uses Chromium III, a relatively benign chemical for its work. It is this lie that compels this scribe to feel (and as rightly depicted by the director) that PG & E stands answerable to ethical and moral questions and authorities. It creates a very complacent image of PG & E burdened with an off-handed attitude towards the safety of the people whose land it utilizes to earn its multi-billion dollar profit every year.
It also establishes that PG & E did not care (at least until 1996, when the settlement was reached) and continued its operations based upon the theory of Utilitarianism that advocates for the maximization of benefits over the costs incurred no matter what means employed. By this measure, PG & E can also be considered working under the umbrella of Herbert Spencer’s theory of Social Darwinism which dictates that only the fittest should be allowed to survive in the world with utter disregard for those lacking the financial strength required to make an attempt at survival.


Another sequence that shows PG & E’s deliberate effort to get rid of the case and non-seriousness towards the safety of the people of Hinkley is the series of monetary offerings it makes to Donna Jensen for her property and the people of Hinkley that range from USD 66,000 to Donna and 20 million to more than 600 plaintiffs on the whole. Whether be its refusal to admit the existence of health concerns created in Hinkley residents by its seepage of Chromium VI in Hinkley’s groundwater or the repetitive messages to the Hinkley station to get the land evacuated and the contamination reports destroyed, the moral and ethical pictures of PG & E management painted in front of this scribe are very grim indeed.


Coming back to the main story line, Erin continues to build up the case of Hinkley versus PG & E and finds many evidences and Hinkley victims willing to become plaintiffs. Ed once again experiences periods of self focused moral development stages as he decides to fight the case for the residents with a condition that he would receive nothing if the case is rejected by the court, a real threat to his finances and business as the costs of fighting a big giant like PG & E are shown as being immensely high as indicated by Ed himself. Erin and Ed continue to follow up the happenings surrounding the case for 18 months, during this time Ed engages ‘Kurt Potter’ in the case as makes him a partner for this as he believes that Potter’s expertise in water-contamination and chemical related cases makes him a very strong person to bank on for the success of Hinkley’s cause. Ed does this, however, without informing Erin, which enrages her and she leaves the office in a fury. During this time period, Ed shows his compassionate side and displays qualities imbibed in ‘Ethics of Care’ by sanctioning Erin a bonus as well as a new vehicle in recognition of her relentless efforts.


It is also during this time that George, Erin’s boyfriend gets tired of the time he has been taking out for Erin and her kids while losing on his own interest of biking and missing his friends as well. He walks out on Erin citing fact that he has not been rewarded by Erin for his commitment towards her and her kids. This shows behaviour of 2nd stage of moral development i.e. Instrument and Reliability on George’s part.
Pamela, another victim of Hinkley’s water contamination refuses to assist Erin and puts a ‘NO-SOLICITOR’ sign on her front door. She writes a letter in a local newspaper blaming Ed and Erin of cheating the residents of Hinkley. The director over here indicates an act of pure selfishness and thus self-focused moral development on Pamela’s part as she is portrayed as someone who may be offered a big amount by Hinkley to tarnish Erin’s image to avoid reaching a huge settlement denting PG & E. However at the end, it is shown, although implicitly that Pamela signs the petition against PG & E by allowing Erin inside her home: a change of heart on her part and a turn to 6th stage of moral development.


George returns to Erin and kids seeing her efforts, although it can be said that he does so acting in accordance with stages 1 and 3 of moral development to prove himself to Erin his love for her and kids as a true family member.
Ed’s new partner in the case, Kurt Potter reveals to him that PG & E Corporate denies any knowledge of the activities of its plant in Hinkley and therefore can deny offering the compensation to the residents of Hinkley. Potter informs Ed unless they manage to find a solution to this problem, their’s is a wild-goose chase.


During her trips to Hinkley to get the petition signed, Erin meets a person named Charles Embry, once a worker at PG & E station at Hinkley. Charles displays qualities of Ethics of Care by confiding in Erin that he lost his cousin due to the life-threatening substances used in the Hinkley station agrees to provide Erin with internal documents of communication between PG & E corporate and Hinkley station in which the corporate ordered Hinkley to bury the case and get the land evacuated. Charles Embry does so because of his character’s actions are in line with the Universal Ethical Moral principles stage of Post-Conventional Morality. He thinks selflessly for the entire Hinkley populace with no regard to his personal safety.
Equipped with this gripping proof of moral embezzlement by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG & E), Erin Brockovich and Edward Masry manage to win a record out of court settlement of USD 330 million for the victims of the Hinkley incident.



CONCLUSION.
Throughout the length of this movie, a few business ethics principles remain constantly in the audience’s view. Utilitarianism on the part of PG & E. Universal moral and ethical principles on the part of Erin Brockovich, Ed Masry, and Charles Embry ; Ethics of care shown by George, Ed Masry and Erin Brockovich herself. PG & E is shown as having some of its acts in line with Herbert Spencer’s theory of Social Darwinism. The conclusion drawn by this scribe concerning the movie ‘Erin Brockovich’ and the business ethics issues that crop up in it is that companies should be honest and answerable to society and society itself must have a fair share of Post –Conventional Moral principles (as displayed by Erin and Ed) structured into its very own psyche, only then can a just, fair and sane social fabric come into existence.





Sunday, January 15, 2012

2012. LOVE IS THE WORD.

At the risk of letting my personality be judged by others and making it vulnerable to opinions that may or not be favourable to myself, I write in this space for the sheer freedom that writing accords me. Many issues have come to public notice in the last few months in Pakistan. But I for some reason am least concerned with what is going around me. There is simply too much going around; memo-gate, military-government tussle, emergence of PTI as an annoying juggernaut in infancy, my own studies, work.

But what really has been concerning me in the last few months is the very troubling need for setting up personal goals for not just my career, but life on the whole. Indeed life is more than attaining a successful career, which is only a segment of a prosperous life. Defining the manner in which you conduct your dealings with the people in your life, and setting up the level to which you want anyone’s thoughts, concerns have an influence over your activities is a very complex question, one whose answer I have been trying to determine for the very first time in my life.


Dale Carnegie, Deepak Chopra, Dr. Phil, Stephen Covey all these people have been talking something closer to sense, only I took them as a joke when my brother used to read them. Like I said in the beginning, by confessing to people that I am looking for a more concrete meaning to lead my life, I am opening myself to a lot of judgements, criticisms and sympathy combined in a cob-web of concern.


Should other people be considered as an important factor in deciding how one’s supposed to lead one's life? Before, I was of the opinion that my friends, family didn’t really matter in the decisions that I made for myself. Now I think I was wrong, grossly wrong. I think that although friends may not be a forceful factor in making you make your own decisions, they somehow end up influencing your life in some way, anyway. No matter how independent or self-reliant you think you are, chances are that devil that resides inside us all craving for appreciation and approval grows up someday and makes us a prisoner of reaction-hungry sentiments.


Ignoring this latent evil altogether may paint your persona as an isolated hunchback, playing totally to the Satan’s gallery is bound to throttle you to the deepest pits of darkness. What should one do in such a situation? Answer? I believe that a balanced approach that listens to the importance of one’s own need for contentment and the care that is so crucial to be given to what others think as well is an answer to my and many people’s question. You can’t make everyone happy and at the same time you can’t pretend to be a social animal while remaining religiously aloof to all the concerns of the society. It is precisely because of such reasons that we find ‘BALANCE’ to be such a balanced word.


Adios.