Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Ballad Of Half-Ass

As a small child, Half-Ass didn't like colouring books. There were too many rules and too many lines for him to stay within. He hated that numbers told him which colours to use. So, he took out his crayons and went wild, with utter disdain for boundaries and recommended colour spaces. In fact, many times, he even left his picture incomplete, with nothing more than a few scratches of orange or green to suggest that he had given his artistic attention to the picture. Half-Ass went through a lot of colouring books, and his parents encouraged him, dreaming that they were nurturing the next Half-Asso.

Through his growing years, Half-Ass brought with him truckloads of energy and a fleeting attention span. Sports was an ideal playground for him to expend that energy. He started with cricket because, well, everyone did. But the long periods of inactivity between his short batting sessions bored him and his cricket kit was pushed to a corner, gathering dust. He picked up badminton but lost interest while waiting to grow taller than the net. He entered the tennis court but it turned out to be too small for his sixer-like shots. He played table tennis for a little longer but after a day when every shot failed to touch the table, he flung his racquet into a corner where it lay waiting to be discovered in a future archaeological dig.

Half-Ass was lucky with women, but not in love. He managed the courtship well enough, with flowers and gifts and poetry, but the hard work required to sustain and develop a relationship eluded his understanding. Bright, eloquent sparks might grab her attention and a little more, but finally it is the candle that provides illumination for the longest period of time. Half-Ass was more the sparkly cracker that makes people turn and say, "Wow!" and then, spent, is pushed into a pile to be dumped.

However, Half-Ass really hit pay-dirt at work. In his very first project, even though he was a lowly intern, there was a magical quality about him that endeared people to him. He quickly rose the ranks from bringing tea to sitting in on meetings to heading them. It was an indescribable quality, but it made his colleagues feel warm and confident and stress-free. With Half-Ass on the team, there was nothing that they could not find the answer to; with him leading the team, it was rock 'n roll all night and party everyday. He was like a sedative and an invigorant, an actioner and a planner, attack and defense, alcohol and Red Bull. And his charm worked. Clients loved him; he made them feel like everything was under control and his team had answers to everything.

Half-Ass's success didn't go unnoticed. Entire books were dedicated to dissecting his management approach; some criticised it saying it would lead to the downfall and corruption of industry, while others welcomed it as a breath of fresh air in the otherwise staid manner of functioning. His style even got its own name: 'The Half-Assed Approach'. The name and practice spread like wildfire across popular culture.

Soon, sports-persons' achievements were being credited to their Half-Assed Approach and the ones who insisted it was actually due to hard work and dedication rather than persona and charisma were snickered at for being 'old-school'. Government contracts were believed to be given out to the more Half-Assed Party, honesty and the tender process be damned. The worst-hit was mass media. News channels, TV shows, films and music were all flooded by the Half-Assed Approach. Reality show franchises and 'inspired' film remakes and popular tunes were all mindlessly imported and rehashed, with importance given to turn-around time and marketing budget. Stars and celebrities unscrupulously whored themselves, while operatic news anchors flogged every itsy-bitsy-yellow-polka-dot news item till it became a dead horse, was reincarnated and died again, taking its memory with it too.

The Half-Assed Approach brought with it the 'feel-good factor', an initial euphoria that had been instrumental in Half-Ass's short-lived successes with women. Everyone who utilised the Half-Assed Approach and was exposed to it somehow felt fortified, as if they had just downed a shot of brandy on a cold night. Suddenly, nobody seemed to have patience any more for the long arduous struggle; everyone wanted instant salvation instead. Success and entertainment could be had with a snap of the fingers, never mind how shallow and fleeting it is.

Who needs to work for over 20 years to earn 30,000 runs and 100 centuries and become the greatest cricketer ever? Just one good outing on the cricket pitch and we can garner advertising contracts worth crores for a couple of years. It doesn't matter if we can't build clean stadiums and hygienic athletes' quarters and bridges that don't collapse in a week; we'll just put up a dazzling event that'll hoodwink the public and then declare smugly, "'That's the way we are". If the government totters, we're not going to work our entire asses off for the people so that larger numbers will vote for us in the next election. Instead, the Half-Assed Approach dictates that we avert the immediate crisis and ensure survival by flying around the country in private aircraft, staying in luxurious villa resorts and dumping taxpayers' money by employing astrologers, soothsayers, temples, black magic and voodoo practitioners.

Where else do you see the Half-Assed Approach? Where else do you find inane practices being employed to achieve instant fame, success and stardom, only to find it collapsing in the long run like a paper tower built on a tonne of sugar floating on water? Who are the 'old-school, entire-ass' practitioners that we need to give a shout-out to and emulate?

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