badge

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Top 10 Bollywood Movies of 2016

10. Neerja


9. Dear Zindagi


8. Udta Punjab


7. Aligarh


6. Raman Raghav 2.0


5. Kapoor & Sons


4. Parched


3. Pink


2. Nil Battey Sannata


1. Dangal


Honourable Mentions: Airlift, Dhanak

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Just Writer Problems

I sometimes fall into the trap of believing that no other writer has struggled with the issues I struggle with, when, in fact, every one of them has. Logically I know this. Yet emotionally I imagine that my life is brutally crowded with too many things to do, while others relax on their verandas with glasses of iced tea and secretaries. It’s telling that when I picture other writers, they are never writing. They are never sitting at their desks under the weight of producing p...rose. They are never seen sitting at their desks with words brilliantly flying from their fingers onto the page. When I picture other writers, I always see them with their writing behind them, as if I am the only writer that has to actually write. I envy others, no matter how good I am or how good others perceive me to be. Poor me.
I forget that a writer can struggle with his prose and then go off to clean a toilet. Or a writer can struggle with his prose and then go off to face a Quant class. Or a writer can struggle with his prose and then relax on the veranda with a glass of iced tea and a secretary.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Over and Out

The voices stopped talking. Only happy thoughts occurred. Unable to find the darkness, my days as a writer ended. I'm just a normal guy now.

Rest in Peace

I'm at peace. Clutching her hand, I intertwine my fingers with hers. It fits like a jigsaw puzzle. I put it with the rest, in the freezer.

Till Death Do Us Part

She kissed his cheek as he smiled back. Nothing had changed much since two decades.
Her husband called her.
She hid the photo in the closet.

Bulls Eye

Her boss was straight ahead. She pressed the gun’s trigger. The bullet hit the target. No blood. Soon it won't be just a dummy with a hole.

Role Reversal

He was busy cooking while she lit the last cigarette.
The viewers stared at the alluring painting; unable to comprehend the role reversal.

Liberation

He writes code in his workstation. He's tired of his life, just like his colleagues.
Soon he'll liberate them with the thing in his pockets.

Fake Advertising

Tired of paying money for fake advertisements? We will GET BACK AT THEM for you. Completely anonymous. Service guaranteed for Rs 420/- only.

Helpless

The one-year-old baby screamed loudly as the man held her.
Her parents stared helplessly at her tears while he advanced to pierce her ears.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Mother's Love

The old age home attendants find her waiting for her son daily.
They smile knowing the Alzheimer erased the memory of her son deserting her.

Such is Life

Woke in a maze. Alone. Met people along the way. Slowly I wiggled my way out of the maze. Exhausted but free I fell asleep.
Woke in a maze.

Time for Celebration

Valentines Day. Left office early. Found you in the Jacuzzi.
Observed the half- eaten strawberries and the two wine glasses, already empty.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Birthday Special

Today is special. It's her birthday. I'll take her out and reminisce about old times. Then like every year, I'll return her to her coffin.

Monday Blues

"I can't work on Mondays. I'm boycotting them." I informed my boss.
The word spread worldwide. Nobody came to work.
Now I hate Tuesdays.

Breaking Stereotypes

She threw the lit match at the pile of money and joined me in bed as I strained against the handcuffs.
She did love me more than my money.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Cast Away

After being stranded on the island for a week, he came across cannibals and people in cages. He fled.
That night the film crew flew away

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Message in a Bottle


Barren

"Kids just cry, poop and puke." She cried.
"You're going to love them. You'll see." Her family retorted.
Deep down she knew she never would.

Monsoon is Coming

The farmers gaped under the hot summer sun, while their crops withered. The impending black clouds made them believe in miracles again.

Trapped

The commotion jolted me out of slumber. I tried to sit up, but my head hit the ceiling. I was confined. Damn! It was my funeral.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Eagle Eye

"OMG! A DSLR?" She exclaimed in awe.
"Now, you can finally capture all your memories vividly."
The diary, hidden in her closet, took offence

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Old is Gold

I woke up to the cries of an old rickshaw driver. Two passengers, about my age or maybe younger, were arguing with him about the fare while continuously calling him a 'buddha'. The rickshaw guy could do nothing but just take the money offered and go away. I don't know what the deal was or who was at fault, but those guys shouldn't have called the rickshaw driver 'old'.
 When the elderly, who have seen it all before, are not respected, then it is time for them to pass gently into that good night, and leave the darkness to the fallen. Fear for a future without the past, because without the past there is no future.

Why I love X-Men

X Men is my favourite comics. The concept of black, white and grey is explored in depth (Read: Magneto). I doubt there's any storyline that has so many important female characters or a beautiful love story (Read: Rogue and Gambit) or for that matter addressed so many social issues (Racism, Religion, Gay Marriages etc.). It has laid a lot of emphasis on the concept of equality but to me equality is not a concept; it's not something we should be striving for but it's a necessity. The imbalance that is in every culture is sucking something out of the soul of every person who's confronted with it. We need equality and it can happen only if we start treating others as our equals.

Six Word Stories


“I’ve a headache.”

That’s her excuse.



"Friends Forever!"
"Your words hurt me."




Even in light, he found darkness.



“I just wanted to…”

“Please leave!”



‘We’re together’ just became ‘were together’




"Congratulations! It's a girl."
"Again? Damn!"




Time is the measurement of decay.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Management

Kids threw paper balls at him and he used them to practice sums. Poverty had taught him resource management even before he knew its meaning.

Doctor Doctor

'We were inseparable once. What changed?' The doctor asked his indifferent wife.
 Little did he know she'd started eating an apple a day.

The Good Boy

“He's such a good boy with his shirt all buttoned up,” his colleagues crooned.
 The hickies underneath were proof of how good he really was.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Happy Birthday to Me

Birthday is a great day, when we enjoy growing older and people enjoy our sheer existence in this world. I've grown up to be twenty five today, and it has been nothing less than an event with so many wishes pouring in every few minutes (I’m sorry many of you got call waiting and I couldn’t respond to your calls). I am overwhelmed by the love and I will always treasure it.

I have learnt a lot in these twenty five years. I gained friends. I lost friends. I found love. I lost love. I had my ups. I had my downs. I looked at others and wished I was them. I learnt their reality and was glad who I was. When I was broken and my pillow was soaked in tears, I told myself that it was okay to be flawed, sensitive and have demons in my head. I realized I didn’t have to live their version of life or conform to their realities. I had to make my own reality, my own truth, accept my shortcomings, along with my admirable qualities and wear every scar with pride. In the end, I am happy to be living life, irrespective of what is thrown at me and I will ensure to give back, in some way, to the world whose impressions have shaped my past and present and shall affect my future.

P.S. Captain America- Civil War is the best Marvel movie till date. You must definitely view it on the big screen. And yes, watch out for our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Soulmates are Forever!


When we meet our soulmate, we fall in love, and just keep falling like it’s our first week in Paris. But what happens when the love dies? When we see the same thing, again and again, we lose interest. And we do the only thing we know best, we run. We try to fall in love with strangers and it works, for a while; we fall in love with the moments and the thing that attracted us about them in the start also becomes the reason we drift away from them.

We keep running until our cold feet can, only to realize we’ve been bleeding and that’s when we feel the pain. It’s the heartache we have avoided for so long. We are still in love with our soulmate. We try to find out how they’re doing and it just adds up to the guilt trip. We turned our back to the most amazing thing that ever happened to us and left without looking back. We made them this way. Nobody prepares us for the guilt of breaking someone’s heart. Nobody teaches us how to heal something we broke. But it’s only when we decide that we have to stay and fight for our love, will good things happen.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Hangman

"You're a darling," she cajoled as she ruffled his hair.
His heart raced faster.
"Hang on," she muttered as she got a text from her boyfriend.
He spent an eternity hanging on.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Dysfunctional Tetrapods

Mumbai! A city where dreams cost you, but space still costs you more. There's no one denying the fact that the cost isn't justified. It never is justified, anywhere you go. Things always are out of reach, and the flame lives hence, thriving on an urge to achieve the unachievable and afford the unaffordable.

The sea watched over me, when I was alone. The sea taught me to push my problems under the sand carpet, and sit near the shore, watching the worries get washed away by the tidal waves, quivering with the crabs and unsettled by the sun. The sand touched me like a lover in hints of love and possessiveness, holding me, pulling me with every tide, inside, deep inside. The sun dried my wetted feet and left beautifully glistening sand on my bare skin, teaching me that time makes beautiful everything wetted by tears. The sky had birds hovering overhead, gliding like planes, at altitudes close enough to jump and reach to. It left me with the biggest lesson; that you may climb up high, hovering above everyone, but you can still be within reach, a phone call away, a touch away when you meet, a voice away when you whisper.

Photo Credit: Arundhati Chatterjee

At the sea after long, I walked its length, letting the rain wet me with stories. I was disturbed by a couple who requested me to capture a photograph of theirs, while they decided how to hug. I captured them through the camera looking at me, as expectant as a child receiving a prize from the principal, and I coiled up on my favourite tetrapod. It was my spot. I gulped down hot tea, while water from the last wave trickled down my legs.

Tetrapods. They never arrest what flows against their mind. When was the last time we completely followed our mind? There's always a moment when we give up, we adjust, we compromise, just for the sake of compromise. I wished to write into a book, of pages and hardbound. But the phone sufficed, or so I convinced myself. We, the unrelentingly relenting, dysfunctional tetrapods.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Information Overload

On route to Delhi in Duronto Express, I was awake at 5.30am without an alarm. I've always marveled at this, how our bodies know about our timetables subconsciously.

I was seated next to this man and his 6-7 year old son. Sleepy that I was, I had dozed off for an hour, only to regain consciousness when the train halted.

The father-son duo got down to grab a snack while I munched on the peanut butter sandwich that I had packed the previous night. They walked back to the seat with a not-so-healthy happy meal and the child mumbled 'Is it Tirana, Dad?' His father nodded in denial and the child continued scrolling through his iPhone.

Obese, with more fat than features visible, the child was a living example of all that's going wrong in today's world. They continued some quizzing, talking about facts and figures that he checked from the screen that sat blinding him. It made me thank my parents in a whisper. As a child, I was always active, playing cricket throughout my childhood days. There were books that my father would buy on a regular basis, to stimulate the brain, making sure I knew the world through stories. Mom was always a working woman who juggled home, parenting us and cooking us healthy food and never ever relied upon fried and unhealthy fast food to fill our stomachs. Her hard work had paid off and I could only sigh at the child's predicament.

There was still a good one hour to reach my destination and the child turned to me for answers. I was so lost in memories of my healthy and happy childhood that I had missed his question. I looked at him inquisitively and he repeated the question for me. 'Do you know where Mt. Elbrus is?'

I failed to understand how it mattered to him or me. I smiled and told him I didn't know the answer. The kid spat out the answer and the father looked on proudly.

This was exactly what was wrong with the generation I realized. Utilizing time and energies over mugging up information instead of gaining real experiences, learning about nature by playing in sand, getting swollen knees and knowing more about the universe through enriching books with lucid language; these kids were missing a big deal. What about acquiring skills and pursuing hobbies and growing as an individual with talents and determination! All this kid had access to was information. And information can only take you so far.

I wanted to ask the kid, 'Have you seen a sunrise from across the sea shore? Have you experienced the sheer joy that music gives you? How do you spend time with your friends, and give me answers other than gaming and watching movies on the couch in the living room snacking on popcorn!'

Such information overload and yet they get bored. Sigh.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Let the night live on

Why do you ask my name, or for my skin to tell its tale?
My face is your only cue, my hands are the roadmap.
So trace down the lines and learn the roadblocks of skin,
I've combed the skin tight, no creases of fate you shall find.
Let's die together in this liveliness, and let the night live on.

Youth is our only license to live this night that allows but one
Moment of pleasure and a hundred guilt trips down moral lane.
The spirits flow and the night evaporates into a cloud
Of what happened in our minds, of how the heart dreamt.
Let's die together in this liveliness, and let the night live on.

Scorching heat of tomorrow, and its shade of temporary rest,
We'll rest in arms of one another, with alien arms to cling.
And let's undress our bare selves to uncover our dressed lies
To the skin and to the bone, to where the lies have seeped.
Let's die together in the liveliness, and let the night live on.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

88th Annual Academy Awards (OSCARS 2016) Predictions



ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

The nominees:

The Big Short- Charles Randolph and Adam McKay
Brooklyn- Nick Hornby
Carol-  Phyllis Nagy
The Martian- Drew Goddard
Room- Emma Donoghue

Major Contenders- The Big Short and The Matian

Winner: The Big Short




ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

The nominees:

Bridge of Spies- Matt Charman, Joel & Ethan Coen
Inside Out- Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley
Spotlight- Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer
Ex Machina- Alex Garland
Straight Outta Compton-  Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge and Alan Wenkus

Major Contenders- Inside Out and Spotlight

Winner: Spotlight


Spotlight Movie 2015 HD Picture Download


ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

The nominees:

Anomalisa
Boy and the World
Inside Out
When Marnie Was There
Shaun the Sheep
Winner: Inside Out




SUPPORTING ACTRESS

The nominees:

Jennifer Jason Leigh- The Hateful Eight 
Rooney Mara- Carol
Rachel McAdams- Spotlight
Alicia Vikander- The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet- Steve Jobs

Major Contenders- Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rooney Mara, Alicia Vikander and Kate Winslet

Winner- Alicia Vikander




SUPPORTING ACTOR

The nominees:

Christian Bale- The Big Short
Tom Hardy- The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo- Spotlight
Mark Rylance- Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone- Creed
Major Contenders- Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance and Sylvester Stallone

Winner- Sylvester Stallone




LEAD ACTRESS

The nominees:

Cate Blanchett- Carol
Brie Larson- Room
Jennifer Lawrence- Joy 
Charlotte Rampling- 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan- Brooklyn

Winner- Brie Larson




LEAD ACTOR

The nominees:

Bryan Cranston- Trumbo
Matt Damon- The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio- The Revenant
Michael Fassbender- Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne- The Danish Girl

Winner- Leonardo DiCaprio




DIRECTOR

The nominees:

Tom McCarthy- Spotlight
Adam McKay- The Big Short
George Miller- Mad Max: Fury Road
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu- The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson- Room

Major Contenders- Alejandro G. Iñárritu and George Miller

Winner: Alejandro G. Iñárritu





BEST PICTURE

The nominees:

Spotlight
The Big Short
The Revenant
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Room

Major Contenders- Spotlight, The Big Short and The Revenant

Winner: The Revenant


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Goodness Confirmed


There are times when your goodness is tested the most, when you are required to do something for someone against your will or desire.
You need to do it out of love, respect or merely for the sake of the relationship you have with them.
During such times, do not give a second thought to act upon your goodness. It may or may not make the other person realize your worth but will definitely raise yourself in your own eyes and in the eyes of your Almighty, who matters the most. 
You will feel relieved from the chains of ego and arrogance, and will get a stamp on your heart which would say "goodness confirmed".

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

You

You stirred madness into a life so sane,
And I dwelled in the mess you made.
But I never gave up believing we were meant to be.
You were a poem I forgot to rhyme.

You filled me with awe, you struck me like thunder.
Not a clue of the damage you brought to my land.
And priestly, you'd say it was meant to be.
You were a storm I forgave too soon.

You crouched in the sun and you roared in the rain.
It was only my eyes that could capture you still.
Restless and painful, you were a childhood fever.
You were a void I couldn't fill.

You stumbled over vast nothingness,
Often skating smooth over boulders crude.
All that couldn't be measured or gauged,
You were a riddle I couldn't solve.

You skinned my characters down to the nude,
Challenging my force and killing choices of habit.
I was often led to a reality I wanted to live.
You were the story I had no fight in me to write.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Better Late Than Never

I had come to Mumbai, from Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), in 2009.  I lived with my elder brother while my parents stayed in Riyadh. I used to have heart-to-heart telephonic conversations, every two-three days, with my mother and a one minute telephonic conversation with my dad on weekends. I was never close to my dad. Maybe it was because I was just too close to my mom or maybe it was because my father was indifferent towards me in my childhood; I still can’t pen down the exact reason for this aloofness.
I completed my Automobile Engineering in May 2013. My parents returned home, the day my exam got over. Needless to say I was exhilarated to see my mom; not so much on seeing my dad. Mind you, I hadn’t met him in over four years, and there I was, giving him the silent treatment.
It was about the same time, the ICC Champions Trophy tournament commenced. Having won the ICC Cricket World Cup, India were the hot favourites to lift the Champions Trophy. As expected, India faced no major hurdles in reaching the ICC finals. Meanwhile, another team, that was at par with India in all departments (batting, bowling and fielding) as the tournament progressed, had made into the finals. Beating England in England was no child’s play.
The day was 23rd of June, 2013. India vs England in the finals of ICC Champions Trophy. Since it was a Sunday, my dad and I were watching the match together. Well, honestly, we weren’t interacting much. He kept making observations and I kept nodding, without paying much attention to what he was saying. The day couldn’t have started on a more disastrous note- Birmingham was surrounded with black clouds and it was raining non-stop. After several hours (felt like an eternity to me), it was announced that the game would start but it would be a 20-20 sprint match rather than a 50-overs spectacle.
England won the toss and elected to field. They wanted to exploit the rainy conditions and that’s exactly what they did. India lost Rohit Sharma soon. The in-form Dhawan and Kohli steadied the Indian innings but as soon as they lost their wickets, India fell like a pack of cards. Ravindra Jadeja then managed to take India to a fighting total. India set a target of 130 for England to chase.
During the Indian innings, I kept losing my cool as India lost wickets. My dad kept pacifying me by telling that England, too, would find it difficult to bat. Obviously, this didn’t calm me. Instead, I kept wondering what if he’s wrong. I must not have prayed as much during the 2011 World Cup finals as I prayed at that moment.
To my surprise, India started their fielding on a high note, picked up 4 wickets for 45 runs and put England on the back pedestal. It was at that time, my Dad started reliving the memories of the famous 1983 Indian victory at the 1983 World Cup finals against the mammoth West Indies. Unexpectedly, I started paying more attention to what my dad had to say than on the game. I was surprised at his knowledge of cricket anecdotes and trivia, and it was then I realized that my dad was as big a cricket fan as I was. It was just that we never openly shared our passion for cricket with each other.
We lost track of the time but one look at the scorecard brought us back to reality. England needed 24 runs in 18 balls with 6 wickets in hands. My dad and I glued ourselves to the TV screen, not even blinking an eye, as Ishant Sharma bowled the 18th over. He was immediately hit for a four. The English batsmen had a partnership of over 60 runs for the fifth wicket and looked like they were eager to end the game and bring the trophy home. And then the miracle happened. I’ll never forget what I witnessed. As Ishant took his run-up, my dad predicted that he would take two wickets in this over. Lo and behold, Ishant dismissed the two in-form batsmen in successive deliveries and the match turned around in favour of India. India defeated England by 5 runs and won the ICC Champions Trophy.
I was elated that India won. But more importantly, from that day onward, my dad and I have watched all the cricket matches together, and I’ve started enjoying his company. I’ll always relish the moment when I bonded with my dad over cricket and it is forever etched in my mind.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Too Long

I've been loud for too long, I've seen
That you notice me when I'm gone.
It's now that I shall recede into my 
Own skull, I need to live there too.

I've been there for you for too long,
Now you be there for my moods,
They'll swing, the rope might break,
But you need to be headstrong.

I've been noisy for too long, I can 
See it from the curtains that draw
Away from me, when I reach
My window, they need me no more.

I've been colorful for too long, I feel
That the world needs some grey,
It couldn't always take grey they say
Like I've grown so used by its ways.

I've been in notice for too long,
Now miss me a little, ask for me.
Take that scarf I left, and sniff it
Like that pet that doesn't recognize your smell.

I've been singing for too long, and
I won't allow you another moment
Of my voice ringing in your ears.
Let your ears yearn for my breath.

I've been around for too long, always
Like that little kid you call out to
When you need help with pushing
Your car, go start with ignition now.

I've been roaming the nights too long,
The night needed a companion one night,
So I gave a hand, it never left me.
Now I need to sleep, night is now an insomniac.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

It is sensational, him and her.

It is sensational, him and her. And he likes it this way.

The very first thing he noticed about her was her love for chocolates. She had chocolate paste on her toast every morning, ate chocolate ice creams and drank chocolate milkshake. The very first time they kissed, he expected her to taste like chocolate but she didn't. Instead, she tasted like herself. It was different and a combination of more flavours and feelings than he could ever attempt to name. It was then he realised that she will be the hardest person he would have to figure out, but she will also be the only person he would put the effort in for.

She is a pretty crier. There is something poetic about her vulnerability, something intoxicating in her hazel brown eyes. He loves that.

She is rarely shy. So rarely, in fact, that he counts the instances on his fingers. She has the world at her disposal. Girls like her have no need to blush and stumble over their words or cast their eyes downward. But sometimes when he looks at her in a certain way he can see the blood rush up, colouring her cheeks red. He loves it most when she wears one of his shirts with the first few buttons undone and he can see the way his gaze can change every inch of her skin. He can't deny the fact that he loves having this effect on her.

As he got to know her even better, he learnt that she loved Biolage Matrix shampoo and he grew to associate it with her. He loves the way it invades his nostrils when he kisses her cheeks and neck.

He loves it when she holds his hand and leans on him as they roam around. He loves the way her hair glows in the moonlight and the way she can match his smirk with one of her own.

She has a million moves that can make men and boys go weak in their knees in an instant. She is a goddess and everything about her just begs to be fallen in love with.

The breeziest day he could remember, they went to a beach. Glowing in the sunlight, she hugged him tightly and was playfully teasing him about his self obsessed daydreams when out of the blue, she quietly but confidently said, I love you.

It was at this exact moment that all possibilities of conversation died. He was rendered speechless and could only look at her. After maybe a lifetime, when he tried to speak, she interrupted him, rambling about how she was sorry to have caught him off guard and how she just couldn't hold it in any longer and he doesn't have to say anything back because it's a hard thing to say.

He cut her off with a slow but steady I love you too and enjoyed the way redness crept into her cheeks as she bit her lower lip shyly and he passionately kissed her.

It is sensational, him and her. And he likes it this way.


“This post is a part of #LoveAndLaughter activity at BlogAdda in association with Caratlane.”

Friday, January 29, 2016

My Perennial Disappointment

Every now and then, I’d meet a stranger, in the cafeteria or standing beside me in the train, and I’d want him to believe every strange thing I say. I remember, back in school, my brother holding my hand and helping me walk up the staircase with my tiny feet. I remember my father lifting me off the ground and holding me till his arms ached. I remember my mother wiping off my tears with her fingers and healing my wounds with a kiss on my forehead. I remember the doctor examining me with a cold stethoscope. I remember her hand through my hair and her whispering in my ears while we sat under a tree, watching the stars. I remember being tickled by my friends till I cried. I remember washing myself clean of the wrongs. Years of being touched by hands, voices, sights and the sun, and still having a million touchpoints undiscovered! There's so much more to feel, so much more to touch, but still the need to be accepted will always be my perennial disappointment.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Ethical Impact of Scandals of Volkswagen and Theranos

In the recent past, two major instances of unethical conduct that make an interesting study are the Theranos and Volkswagen scandal. These scandals expose a) deliberate deception of public, investor and government b) concealment and misrepresentation of facts c) greed  d) legal violations.

Therenos Scandal

Theranos is an American health technology and medical laboratory services startup in Palo Alto, California, that was founded by Elizabeth Holmes, a Stanford dropout, in 2003. It was started with a bridge loan from a venture capitalist and by 2010 it had received more than $70 million in funding. It raised more than $400 million in seed money for developing cheaper and less invasive technology for blood testing.

Its aim was to make blood testing standardized and easy by using a hand held device. Theranos engineered a technology to make blood tests so much simpler that even local pharmacies could house it. It partnered Walgreens to put Theranos labs in their pharmacies.  An innovation such as this has the potential to take the industry by storm. But the technical details of an innovation as important as this has been kept totally under wraps. No information has been shared and neither has any comparison been made with existing technologies. Despite calls from scholars for peer tested experiments to prove that Theranos tests work as well as claimed, Holmes has consistently declined to share and continued with what her critics call ‘stealth research.’ 

On October 15, The Wall Street Journal reported that Holmes has misled the public and even the government about her products. It cheated on proficiency tests and its Laboratory Developed tests (LDTs) were inconsistent and inaccurate.  The report quoting four former Theranos employees stated that tests conducted on its Edison machines showed faulty values when tested on traditional equipment.

These alleged discrepancies led to a formal complaint being filed at the New York State Department of Health which were then forwarded to the Centres of Medicare and Medicaid services. It was also revealed that majority of the tests were being performed on traditional machines of competitor companies like Siemens and not on their Edison machines.

Volkswagen Scandal

The Volkswagen emission scandal, also called the ‘diesel dupe,’ rocked the world about the same time in September 2015, when the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) charged the Volkswagen group of deception. It discovered that the engines of its diesel vehicles had a ‘defeat device’ or software that could detect they were being tested and could activate certain emission controls for perfect values when the vehicles went for emission testing. The low emission levels of Volkswagen vehicles tested with the defeat device enabled the company to secure the green car subsidies and tax exemption in the U.S. The company had planned a major marketing push for its diesel cars showcasing its cars’ low emission rates as a big winner.

The EPA investigated 482,000 cars in the U.S. alone, including Audi A3, Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Passat. However, the company admitted that more than 11 million cars, including 8 million in Europe were fitted with the ‘defeat device.’

The Volkswagen scandal exposes the rot in corporate leadership that fails to make good judgements. It is absolutely clear that this scandal did not arise out of a mistake or error in judgement or a minor ethical lapse. It was much more than that. The ‘defeat device’ was purposely designed and fitted into the cars. It was a legal as well as ethical violation of the highest order.

Volkswagen brazenly duped millions to whom it owed a good product for the price it was charging. It was a fraudulent misrepresentation of its vehicles, promising it to be what they were not. What made it worse was that it purposely committed the wrong for business gains.

The ‘diesel dupe’ was a cleverly engineered technical operation that taught the emission system of the car whether it was on the road or idle or idle while emission testing.  This scandal exposed corporate malfeasance at the highest level. The now, former CEO of Volkswagen, Martin Winterkorn, admitted his failure of leadership and his inability to abort this disaster.

These scandals point to broad business realities that force companies to indulge in unethical behaviour, particularly the perception that the value and worth of a company can only be determined by money.

Analysis of Ethical impacts of the scandals

Analysing the unethical aspects of the Theranos and Volkswagen scandal, what comes to light is that in both cases there was deliberate deception of the public, investor and government.
The Wall Street Journal accused Holmes of misleading the public and perhaps even the government about the effectiveness and capabilities of its products. Holmes, who was till some months ago ‘the darling of the media,’ now became its target. Hailed as the next “Steve Jobs,” she suddenly became the face of deceit.

The company has defied the call of the scholars for peer tested experiments to prove that Therenos tests are as good as they claim to be. The company is poised at a critical juncture to decide medical care to millions of Americans as well as people all over the globe. The investigation initiated against the company will decide the level of deception involved. In defence of Therenos practices, Holmes denounced the Journal article. It claimed that it was willing to submit its tests for FDA approval.

The Volkswagen scandal has rightly been called the ‘diesel dupe’ as it was a well - orchestrated plan of the company to fool millions of buyers about the actual worth of the Volkswagen cars, as well as the government officials who issued green permits. The level of technical expertise that was needed to execute the plan was phenomenal. It was well thought out and cleverly executed. However, unlike the Therenos scandal in which holmes denied deception, in the Volkswagen scandal, the then CEO Winterkorn publicly apologised for public deception and breaking the trust of its customers. He resigned immediately after the scandal and was succeeded by Matthias Mueller. Mueller admitted that his primary task was to win back the confidence of his customers. An internal enquiry was initiated into the scandal as well.

Volkswagen recalled millions of cars worldwide and kept aside 4.8 billion pounds for these costs. For the first time in 15 years it recorded its first loss. These costs could rise significantly when faced by lawsuits from car owners and shareholders.

Concealment and misrepresentation of facts is also clearly evident in the two scandals, though the degree of concealment differs.

The Wall Street Journal article exposed that the Therenos technology wasn’t equipped to the task of doing the 30 or more tests in a single drop of blood that it claimed.  Rather it accused the company of diluting the blood and then running the tests on machines of other companies. It was also alleged that for the tests that were run on their own Edison machines, very different results were obtained. Internal emails revealed that these inconsistencies were prevented from becoming public knowledge. And Mr. Sunny Balwani, President and chief Operating Officer of Therenos, copying Holmes stated, “This must stop..samples should never have run on Edisons to begin with. ”

The real fact is that the company could be hiding major inconsistencies in testing. As a Therenos patient, quoted by the Journal, put it, ‘trial and error on people, that’s not ok.’ The former employees said they merely followed instructions but they were concerned that federal rules were being violated which state that “a lab must handle proficiency testing samples in the same manner as it tests patient’s specimens.”

The Volkswagen vehicles of the model year 2009-2015 concealed the installation of the ‘defeat device’ which gave lower emission ratings during testing. In reality, on the road, they emitted 40 times more of nitrogen oxide than what was claimed. Admitting this major concealment of the installation of the ‘defeat device’ to tamper with emission ratings, the German automaker announced it was withdrawing the application for regulators to certify emission controls for 2016 model and it chief claimed full responsibility of the act of concealment. This response is in variance with the response of the Therenos owner, Elizabeth Holmes, who claimed that the testing of her machines was accurate. She denied the Journal’s allegations of concealment and misrepresentation of facts.  At the Wall Street Journal’s annual conference 2015, Holmes said that the Journal’s claim that only 15 of more than 200 tests were being done on Edison machines, was ‘irrelevant’ as that was only a codename for machines that were outdated and not being used anymore. She accused the Journal for placing the ‘finger stick ‘blood tests out of context. The Journal claimed that under pressure from regulators, Therenos had ‘dialled back its finger prick testing.’ However, Holmes claimed that the company was only taking a break to gear up for the new technology and a stricter approval process. In her own words, Holmes said, ‘If you have cars driving on the right side of the road to the left side of the road, the only way to do that is to pause.’

Holmes’ defended her company against the Journal’s sources, saying that one of the former employees had worked only for 2 months and the others were ‘clearly confused.’ She also criticised the journal for quoting a Therenos researcher’s widow who committed suicide after telling his wife that the company’s technology was not working. 

Whatever the rhetoric of Holmes, the Journal claims authenticity of its accusations and Walgreens that houses 41 Theranos test centres announced in the end of October that it will not open up anymore test centres until the technology issue was resolved. The FDA has hauled up the company for failure ‘to respond to customer complaints, for problems with lab protocols and for using unapproved devices.’

Clearly,  12 years is a long period for a company like Therenos, that has received seed funding in millions of dollars to have not filed for intellectual property protection rights through patents for its novel technology and publish data generated by Edison in peer reviewed scientific journals.
Insatiable desire for business growth fuelling unethical business conduct is apparent in both the scandals. 

The Theranos story is a scandal of greed and hunger that paved the way for unethical business. It is an example of what happens when a ‘semi informed technophile’ who has not even completed her education, has a revolutionary healthcare idea that starts making huge business news and suddenly appears hugely profitable to both owner and investor alike. Scientific scrutiny and peer reviewed testing not only take the backseat, they are not even considered important enough to be addressed seriously. Billions of investor dollars are the quick rich formula for the healthcare start up to take the healthcare industry by storm. What has been forgotten in this buzz is the plight of innocent patients whose testing and diagnosis went awry.

The Volkswagen scandal also had a huge greed factor that propelled the automaker to install the ‘deficit devices’ in the vehicles. However, unlike the healthcare start up, Volkswagen did not need a ‘quick rich formula.’ It was in search of a formula by which it could get a stranglehold on the automobile market, in the times when the governments of the developed countries were insisting on ‘green’ emissions for securing permits.

Major legal violations have surfaced as the Therenos and Volkswagen scandals have shaken the business world.

John Carreyrou of the Wall Street Journal alleged that Therenos’ Edison technology did not perform on par with proficiency testing. According to the law, the labs are required to prove to the federal centres for Medicare and Medicaid services that they can give accurate results whether their machines are bought or internally developed. This process of proficiency testing is done by accredited organizations that send samples to the labs several times a year. The labs need to test the samples and report the results. These results are confidential and are not disclosed to the public. If these results are close to average of those in the peer group, the lab receives a pass grade.
In early 2014, Therenos split the proficiency testing samples into two. One was tested with Edison machines and the other was tested on the machines of other companies. The results thus obtained were at variance according to internal mails. And the employees were asked to stop Edison testing. This is in clear violation of federal law which states that proficiency testing and blood sample testing must follow the same procedure.

In the Volkswagen emission scandal, the United States Environment Protection Agency (EPA), issued a notice of violation of the Clean Air Act, on September 18, 2015, to VolkswagenAG, Audi AG and Volkswagen Group of America Inc., alleging that they were fitted with a ‘defeat device’ that masked actual emission standards for nitogen oxides.

On November 2, the EPA issued a second notice of violation. It stated that when the vehicles were being normally driven on the road, the installed software suppressed the emission controls, giving better mileage but emitting upto 40 times more nitrogen oxides than legally permissible.


A study of the Therenos and Volkswagen scandals of 2015 reiterate that unethical business conduct has far reaching and devastating consequences. The Theranos scandal is a bubble waiting to explode if the allegations against the company are proved right. It is a reflection of what happens when greed and lure creep in to the psyche and claim foreground. Rapid growth can be difficult to handle for any start up but when it is a healthcare startup, the results are far more dangerous. The life and health of the population is put in jeopardy.

Similarly, the unethical installation of the ‘defeat device’ has been a huge blow to the Volkswagen brand and its cars. The ‘clean diesel’ engine image of Volkswagen has been left badly tarnished. While brands like Honda and Toyota have installed hybrid engines, Volkswagen is left struggling with millions spent on recall of vehicles and convincing customers of their good intentions of supplying vehicles fitted with clean and powerful engines. 

In addition, the public outrage will take long to subside. The company may end up paying $18 billion in fines. By adopting unethical practices, the company has not only lost money but it has also lost the trust of its customers, its good reputation and a large segment of the automobile market. From being the world’s biggest carmaker in the first half of the year,  it has seen its sales crash after the outbreak of the emission scandal and its stock price fall by 20% in the European morning .

Though unethical shortcuts may seem lucrative in the short run, they are never profitable for businesses in the long run. They make the company vulnerable to scrutiny by investors, law makers and the consumers. Temporary financial gain translates into cascading financial loss when the unethical bubble bursts.

Failure to comply with ethical standards is costly in terms time, resources, brand image and consumer loyalty. As companies grow and expand operations, it is important to stress on ethical practices that can bind the company together. ‘Ethical decisions ensure that everyone’s best interests are protected’ at all times.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can  apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.