A question that was asked in the HSS department in the early 80s: Is it possible that if a monkey punches away on a typewriter (yes, typewriter. We’re talking about the 80s, remember?) endlessly, he will eventually type out Shakespeare Hamlet?
Ans: Yes, time is infinite, but number of permutations that lead to the Hamlet are finite. So, the Hamlet will eventually get typed out at some stage. HSS cracked it nano seconds before Maths Dept did, but that’s a different story scheduled for the next issue of Fundamatics.
Guess what! Some 35 years later, a group of monkeys tried to do just that. Rather, they attempted something more difficult and bizarre. They tried to enact the GBF. And they DID enact the GBF, faster than the monkey would have typed out the Hamlet, albeit with a few typos.
I am a fly on the wall that posited itself in meeting rooms listening to conversations amongst these monkeys. I became the bug that eavesdropped on conference calls. I was also the neuron that crept into, and read minds. Here, I tell a tale that can top the charts in Ripley’s Believe-it-or-not. After reading this, you’ll say “Not”, but I’ll still insist that you believe it. I saw. Remember, seeing is believing?
GBF! Baap re baap! Meant to transform India. Started off transforming blood pressures, ulcer levels, and heart rates. And the state of marital bliss. Also transformed some names. Ali Contractor became One-liner-Ali (OLA). Shridhar Shukla became PPT-Shridhar (PPTS). Deepak “Boss” Patil became Excel-Boss (EB). Bakul Desai became Essay-BD (EBD). Damayanti Bhattacharya became Typo-DB (TDB). Ajit Keshav Ranade became AK-56. (though he’s 54). Kiran Shesh became follow-up-Kiran…er… follow-up-Shesh (FUS). Rahul Chaubey became LinkedIn-Rahul (LIR). Raj Nair became take-away-Raj (TAR). Namita Lobo became Hyper-Lobo (HL). Jaya Joshi became copy-paste-Jaya (CPJ). Suresh Shenoy became Super-sonic-Suresh (SSS). Vinay Karle became Whatsapp Vinay (WAV). And so on.
They tried to enact the GBF. And they DID enact the GBF, faster than the monkey would have typed out the Hamlet, albeit with a few typos.
This was a diverse group of multi-lingual primates, masquerading as homogeneous and congenial homo-sapiens. Each communicated in the language of his/her choice. When Shridhar asked fellow apes to join a call, he asked via a PPT slide. Typo-DB asked Shridha what the objecterive of his coll was. Excel-Boss pasted the question in Column A and answered in Column B that the objective was to outline the objectives of GBF in an objective manner. One-liner-Ali answered that he would join the call. After all, he stented his heart and secured an overseas deanship, all in the space of one line. Essay-BD, effusive as ever, greeted all call invitees in 500 words and recollected past instances of the last 32 calls and yes, he did add that he would join the call while driving.
*Abbey saale, you drive us mad anyway. Why don’t you skip a call for a change?*
Ajit Ranade….oops….AK-56 only spoke in bullet points. To him, PPT was like Urdu. Nice, free-flowing and mellifluous like mellow scotch whiskey, but reserved for courtiers, courtesans, and crossword aficionados. Just as the shayars referred to a star as falak mein chingaari, the PPT guy meant tablecloth colour when he slided about a logistics team. Excel was like Sanskrit. Intense and wise. For pundits and purohits. Ethereal shlokas could have been decoded long ago had they been transposed from Row 2 to Column B. And who reads long essays unless they are paid for as some columnists in Mumbai Mirror get paid? For AK-56, there was only one language which the common man understood. The language of bullets. Ergo, his one bullet question was simple and staccato as his AK-56. “What is GBF?” Ouch! Guys tossing an omelette and frying a chicken had forgotten that they were inviting a guest who wanted to ask the proverbial chicken/egg-who-came-first-question.
I’m like the optimistic tramp who walks into the swankiest restaurant in New York and hopes to pay the bill by depositing a pearl that I’ll discover from an oyster that I’ll order.
But a call was a call. Follow-up-Shesh ensured that he hounded everyone via sms-es and not so gentle reminders to join the call. If you’ve read Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, you’ll know that the most profound questions were “Why is Hitler?” and “When was Germany?” So also with GBF. So called JEE crackers asking why, when, where, who is GBF rather than what is GBF. Why was answered by Hyper-Lobo. If GBF could help budding entrepreneurs, they would repay their gratitude via an ad in Fundamatics. She would thus feel not so guilty of drawing a salary from IITBAA. Where was answered by Essay-BD. Daaru in Goa was cheaper than anywhere else. So it was Goa calling out to GBF. Hic!
*Abbey saale! Itna lamba kyu bolta hai? I could have downed 6 fenis in this time.*
When was answered by Typo-DB. Anytime from August to October. Monsoon time in Goa was off-season and since she was a wannabee Gujju trying to shake off her Bongness, she wanted to explore the world of deals and discounts betwixt worships of Goddesses named Durga and Damayanti. Who is GBF? Copy-paste-Jaya took this on. Rather, she tried to. According to her pahari wisdom, GBF was an agenda. Idea. Initiative. Action. Transformation. Ideal. Goal. Metamorphosis. Deliverable. Measurable. Scalable. And above all, a HEADLINE. TRP. Deal maker. The “What-is-GBF?” question was fired again from a bullet-toting gun of the gun-toting-AK-56, but was delayed because a response was awaited from a technologically challenged HSS as to “what is what?”.
As you can see, GBF was launched before it was defined. Reminiscent of the current start-up culture. Float an idea. Measure the reaction. Craft the goal after you’ve started. Just like buying a stadium and then inventing cricket to play in it. How does one make GBF succeed? No, we can define its goal later when we want to fail. Leave it mysterious and an interactive” idea amongst stakeholders.
Who are the stakeholders?
Let’s devise an SIG approach that’ll need mentors and executive leads. (Confession: They started by calling guys as figureheads, but a figurehead told them to designate his ilk as mentors. Aha! Respectability has finally hit the stands.)
Who will appoint and manage the stakeholders?
Let’s set up a steering committee.
Who’ll constitute the steering committee?
First 5 guys who make it to the call. Life is a race, remember?
What will the steering committee do?
It will decide the organisational structure.
What is organisational structure?
Steering committee will decide what it is.
So what will happen when the so called structure is called into action?
We’ll have a program committee, execution committee, resource committee, mobilisation committee, and an over-seeing committee that will meet the review committee to decide how many other committees we need to appoint.
Why don’t we keep it simple and appoint a GBF committee?
We can’t do that dearie! We still haven’t defined “what is GBF”, remember?
OK, assuming we continue to indulge in this madness, where will the money come from?
How much money do you need?
Dunno! Will let the resource committee decide.
So why don’t you set up a resource committee?
Ok! You’re it. I’ve set you up as the resource committee. How will you fund GBF?
Look Man! I’m like the optimistic tramp who walks into the swankiest restaurant in New York and hopes to pay the bill by depositing a pearl that I’ll discover from an oyster that I’ll order.
Assuming, but not admitting, that I’ll believe you, will you size up GBF?
How much do you want me to size it?
Last few conclaves in Goa measured 120 registrants who paid, but 150 guys who had lunch and 200 guys who had dinner and daaru. Can you up this to at least 500 attendees?
Tough! But let’s have another call and figure out how to get 500 guys.
We’ll then go to 1500 guys and tell them that we’re getting 6-7 minister-shinisters. That’ll excite them to come. And we’ll then go to sponsors and tell that 6-7 minster-shinisters and 1500 alumni-shalumni will be in Goa. This will line up all the sponsors.
Look! We’ve had too many calls and we’ve agreed that 500 is a tall order. So why don’t we have a call again and redefine our numbers? I’ll ask this again to everyone via a free-flowing slide from PPT. In fact, let’s all ask. Through PPT, Excel, essays, one liners, and some typos.
I think I’ve got an answer to your question. 500 is difficult. Why don’t we set a more realistic goal?
What is more realistic? 300?
You mean 150?
No, I mean 1500.
*abbey saale, kitna daaru peeta hai!*
You mean that it’s easier to get 1500 than 500?
Yes, if you would’ve attended more HSS and less EE classes, you would’ve understood why.
But how can 1500 be easier than 500?
To explain that, I’ll have to tell you a story. Got it on whatsapp!
*Abbey Saale! Yehi baaki tha kya? Now, GBF attendance will be decided by Whatsapp PJs. Wonder if there’s a way to call this off.*
You see, it’s like this. Let me read this out from whatsapp…..
Dad : I want you to marry a girl of my choice.
Son : I want to choose my own bride.
Dad : But this girl is Ambani’s daughter.
Son : Well, in that case……YES.
Next, the father approaches Mr. Ambani
Dad : I have a husband for your daughter.
Ambani : But my daughter is too young to marry.
Dad : But this young man is the Vice President of the World Bank.
Ambani : Ah, in that case…..YES.
Finally, the father goes to see the President of the World Bank.
Dad : I have a young man to be recommended as a Vice President.
President : But I already have more Vice Presidents than I need.
Dad : But this young man is Ambani’s son-in-law.
President : Ah, in that case…….YES
OK! This is a nice cute PJ. Forward it to my Whatsapp account as well. But let’s get back to work. How is it easier to get 1500 guys than 500 guys?
Oh! I thought you all would have understood. Let’s say we go to some minister-shinister. If we tell him that we’ve got 500 guys spread out in 8 different SIG rooms, he’ll not come. But if we tell him that there are 1500 guys and there’ll be about 200 in each room, he’ll come.
Arre! What is this bak-bak? You’ll tell the minister that there are 1500 guys, but how will you get them?
Elementary my Dear FUSson! We’ll then go to 1500 guys and tell them that we’re getting 6-7 minister-shinisters. That’ll excite them to come. And we’ll then go to sponsors and tell that 6-7 minster-shinisters and 1500 alumni-shalumni will be in Goa. This will line up all the sponsors. From Cadbury sellers to cooling tower merchants, they’ll all flock to Goa.
*Abbey Saale! Whatsapp mein tera share hai kya? Using PJs to design events. BTW, what’s a cooling tower?*
OK, assuming that we go with your plan, how will you achieve all this? Who will speak to the ministers? To 1500 alumni? To the sponsors?
Well! We can round up some eminent folks who can do this for us. Let’s call them patron-shatrons for now.
And why will these so-called patron-shatrons do this for you? And please don’t answer in essay format. Try the one-liner approach. Learn from our multi-vocational friend. One who is Contractor, Professor, Dean, Ali Baba-all rolled into one.
Oh yes! Our friend’s lives are many, though his lines are one. It’s beyond my brief to be brief but I’ll try. These patron-shatrons will do it for us because we’ll ask them to wear ties and blazers, get photographed and we’ll put up their photos on the website, remind them how great they are by digging up their profiles and tell them that Goan glory beckons them. Flashlights, handshakes, podium, wine-glass. All waiting for them in Goa if they reach out to minister-shinisters, alumni-shalumni and sponsor-fonsor.
And who’ll bring in the patron-shatrons to bring the minister-shinisters, alumni-shalumni and sponsor-fonsors?
Kya re! Itna bhi nahin maloom? Super-sonic-Suresh will bring in many patrons and a few shatrons faster than you can memorise their names or order their blazers. And some of them will come in with their own blazers. One-liner-Ali will whistle in one line ad they’ll all come knocking. Essay-BD can promise he’ll stop writing essays if they sign up and they’ll all bite-shite.
*Abbey Saale! I don’t want to break my head-shead by arguing/sharguing with you. Might as well say Yes to you. Wish I could say Shoo!*
OK! Let’s say we go ahead with this. Though it feels like Rajnikanth tossing one gun in the air, and using another gun to shoot the trigger of the tossed gun while it points at the villain during its mid-air rotation. Now how will we organise the venue, logistics, arrangements for the event?
This is a complex task. We should set up a logistics team. The logistics team will find a good event manager and outsource it to him.
Great, so do we get the event manager to start with hotel bookings?
Oh No! These guys have cuts and trade-offs with hotels. Logisctics team will use our network to get best deals from hotels.
OK! Maybe we’ll get them to handle the food and catering?
Arrey! Kya baat karta hai? How does any event manager know that we alumni grew up on a staple diet of aloo at lunch, batata at Tiffin and potatoes at dinner? These guys will freeze palak paneer and gulab jamoon in their menus.
Logistics team will handle the caterer.
OK! This makes sense. So maybe the event manager can handle the press, logos, graphic design, program details?
Nahin yaar! We have a separate PR agency. Copy-paste Jaya will copy one speech snippet and paste it all over Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, mass-mailers and in press releases. We’ve already got a graphic designer and a logo that is being decoded in IDC. And what does an event manager know about our program? We have a program committee to decide what the program will be.
What does the event manager do then?
Oh! We’ll tell him what we’ve done and he’ll take notes and check with us if we’re doing what he’s been hired to do. To unravel our plans and make sense of them, it’s a lot of hard work and we’ll need the best event manager to understand our ambitious agenda.
*Abbey Saale! Why don’t you hire a sweeper who’ll watch you sweep the floor? Hire a minister who’ll listen to your speech? Hire a sun that’ll see you glow. Hire air that’ll watch you blow?*
Though it feels like Rajnikanth tossing one gun in the air, and using another gun to shoot the trigger of the tossed gun while it points at the villain during its mid-air rotation.
I am a fly on the wall. Correction: I was a fly on the wall. The wall is no more. Crumbled down with all the insanity that abounded and resurrected itself into Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Stadium in Goa. The monkeys had punched out the Hamlet after punching out the Macbeth, Illiad, and Ramcharitamanas. (with a few paragraphs from Xaviera Hollander’s “Happy Hooker” punched out for target practice.) GBF was a madness that flew by water, sailed by road and bussed by air. Some also flew by FB, LinkedIn, Twitter and Indigo. Mad molecules that tried to collide in a collider. Minister-shinisters. Alumni-Shalumni. Press-Fress. TV-Shevee. Sponsor-fonsor. Investor-shinvestor. Exhibitor-Shexibitor. Showcaser-fowcaser. Policy-sholicy makers. Wore blazers in the day and shorts at night. Sang and danced at the venue and signed deals at the beach party at night to the background sounds of “O Hansini! Meri Hansini!…..”. Agendas and insights unleashed by something called ideating potential. Erstwhile sceptics and doomsayers opened up their purses (wallets actually) and hearts, they felt at home in this asylum called GBF. Cooling towers guys did not sponsor, but there were couriers and submarine makers who did. Mood was upbeat. Tailenders had walked into the field with table tennis racquets and hit sixers with shot put balls that were hurled at them at the speed of javelins. 3 days. 520+ sessions. 6 plenary keynotes. 16 SIG specific keynotes. 15 panel discussions. 6 Union ministers. 240 technology showcases. 80 global expert speakers. 50 patrons. 25 investment community partners. 100 press attendees. 4 television channels. 1000+ attendees from 700+ locations. 100+ industry partners. 40+ IITB faculty. 100+ handpicked student participants. 100 from external community. 40% younger than Hyper-Lobo. Mission accomplished. Buoyant and victorious war heroes heralded this unprecedented (and incredible too) success and felt emboldened enough to define a more ambitious goal for the next edition of GBF. To define a single point agenda.
WHAT IS GBF?