Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The 5 craziest things that I’ve done!

Starting with,

1> Spending 42 out of 48 hours on the Southern Railways (Bangalore-Mangalore-Goa-Bangalore) to celebrate a friend’s birthday on the train (did I mention 37 hours in a general compartment?).
2> Bungee off a 180 feet crane with no safety measures at the bottom (it seemed funny till I read about a death in the same event a week later).
3> Wrote (and passed) 9 university exams in 8 consecutive days (and 15 in a month).
4> Travel from Noida to New Delhi Railway Station in 15 mins (luckily, I didn’t drive!).
5> Ride 800 kms in 2 days. Bangalore-Wayanad-Bangalore.

     I should be able to follow this up with the craziest things that happened to me list. Not today.

     “Ambiguity of language is philosophy's main source of problems. That is why it is of the utmost importance to examine attentively the very words we use.”

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Time and Tide – Sorry, I’m late

     “Punctuality is the virtue of the bored.” - Evelyn Waugh.

     Someone once remarked that IST was originally an acronym for Indian Stretchable Time. Are we Indians so bad when it comes to respecting (more likely disrespecting) the value of time? Read on to unveil the greatest myth of the new era.
     The discovery of time was the biggest mistake. Why do we need a device to measure (and magnify) our slowness? A large sect of today’s population has the notion that if you're there before it's over, you're well on time. And it’s true to a large extent. The reason being that no one important is ever present to appreciate your punctuality. As a kid, my teachers emphasized on the virtues of character, punctuality, discipline and etiquettes. Strangely enough, I’ve reported to half a dozen people in my corporate life. And only one of them stressed on punctuality (do I have to provide an explanation for the rest of them?).
     My dad is very strict when it comes to punctuality. He wakes up every morning at 6, has breakfast at half-past eight, lunch at 1 and dinner at half-past eight in the night. He goes to sleep at 10 (some days are exceptions). Growing up, I didn’t have much of a choice to deter from this routine. For the simple reason that I wasn’t allowed to skip breakfast and breakfast wasn’t served beyond 9. The same laws (universal laws at home) were applied for lunch and dinner as well. And what do I get for being punctual? A lot of loneliness and more than enough time to spare, time being wasted (it would offend people if I called my time precious; a lot of them think I’m highly jobless). Moreover, my best friends are never on time (Sigh!).
     A couple of years back, I would hate going out on lunches with friends. If lunch was scheduled for 1, most of them would leave the house at quarter to 2. Nevertheless, a friend would chide me always for being punctual (sighs again). The excuses would be endless (reminds me of the new mentos ad on the radio). Traffic (for Bangaloreans, that’s the most convenient one), lost the way (you’d have to find it before losing it), blah.. blah.. Long story cut short, the punch line comes through, “we’re really hungry, let’s order something quickly.” Right! Quickly!!
     And then I fell in love. And on my first date, I realized the value of time. Because I was kept waiting for three-quarters of an hour (ever seen a caged lion?? I would come mighty close to being one). It happened the next time and the third time as well. And finally it dawned on me, If you can’t beat ‘em, might as well join them.

     “The while we keep a man waiting, he reflects on our shortcomings….”

P.S: Barring the last instance, this holds true for everyone else (would hate to lose my #1 reader).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ethics Counts

     "Character does count. For too long we have gotten by in a society that says the only thing right is to get by and the only thing wrong is to get caught. Character is doing what's right when nobody is looking..."
     Whenever I touch upon this subject, it is with total contempt. We all make our share of mistakes (didn’t someone mention about erring as human, and forgiving as divine). Totally acceptable. But what if the act is manipulative and intended towards unwarranted gain. Are Ethics important in today’s competitive world where the sole purpose is to win?
     My observations of the corporate scene have been highly thought provoking. It wouldn’t be surprising if I get a patent for my thoughts. To start off, let’s go back to the classroom definition of Ethics. Ethics (also known as moral philosophy) is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality — that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, justice, virtue, etc. It’s true that we define the boundaries of good and evil, right and wrong. Moreover human psychology flaunts the thought that circumstances make the man. That allows us the freedom to do what we want. Does it stop there? Well, no. Any act wouldn’t be considered worthy enough unless there is potential gain involved. So the loop ends with the quote at the beginning of the discussion. It’s fine to be ethical with reason, as long as you don’t get caught.
     The major reason why I loved my stint at Aditi was because of the company’s core values.The 5 core values focused on being Creative, People Driven, Socially Conscious, Intense and (the most important of all) Ethical. Another value that’s repeatedly missed out in today’s world is the adherence to time. On most occasions, we fail to delve on the importance of time, ours and everyone else’s. That’s how character is molded.
     When I was a kid, I made a mistake. I still remember it well enough because I wasn’t punished for it. And yet, deep down the shame burnt me to withers. It instilled values in me, the importance of being honest, ethical and earnest. Perhaps everyone should be given a second chance. Only a second chance.
     “Give me a chance to redeem myself and I shall sin, no more. “ – The Godfather.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Defining Reality

     “See, there were these two guys in a lunatic asylum...and one night, one night they decide they don't like living in an asylum any more. They decide they're going to escape! So, like, they get up onto the roof and there, just across this narrow gap, they see the rooftops of the town, stretching away in the moonlight...stretching away to freedom. Now, the first guy, he jumps right across with no problem. But his friend, his friend daren’t make the leap. Y'see...y'see, he's afraid of falling. So then, the first guy has an idea...He says 'Hey! I have my flashlight with me! I'll shine it across the gap between the buildings. You can walk along the beam and join me!' B-but the second guy just shakes his head. He suh-says... he says 'What do you think I am? Crazy? You'd turn it off when I was half way across!”

     Do I watch TV? Well, not much. If I do, it’s either cricket (barring Mandy Bedi’s expert comments) or the weekly roundup of the English Premier League. The rest of it (pardon my language) is highly insipid. And it wasn’t really bad about a couple of years back. There were a couple of shows, late in the night that dealt with mocking reality. But, not to the extent that the epidemic has grown. For intellectual authority, the appropriate version of Descartes's cogito would be today: I am talked about, therefore I am.
     For a year, I watched the audition of Roadies where moronic individuals indulged in staging their act in front of a couple of ruthless baldies. Somewhere down the line, the whole pantomime act came tumbling down like a pack of cards. During my stint in the US, I blatantly refused to switch on the tv. I couldn’t figure out American football (5 channels would broadcast 5 different games, 3 times a day), and the rest of the schedule included “I’ve got talent”, “you’ve got talent”, “we’ve got talent”, “maybe he or she’s got talent” blah.. blah.. blah.. (the dictionary in the word processor refuses to recognize blah.. well, blah! humbug).
     After I got back, it was pretty clear that Indian television had changed forever; in short gone to the four-legged domestic animals that are man’s best friends. Every channel had at least 5 reality shows and my native channels weren’t any better. The early part of the last decade had soaps ruling the roost on the mini-screen. It was replaced by a more venomous enterprise that consisted of every 5 year old singing on stage. There’s nothing wrong with the concept if it had something to do with equal opportunity. To desiccate such young talent, and manipulate the whole act in order to raise TRPs is something I’ve found hard to digest. It’s true that Danny Boyle’s Slum Dog Millionaire raised the bar of expectations in a nation that burst out in tears with Ekta Kapoor’s K-series sagas. But to include disabled people in these shows was the height of mockery. Yes, these people do have talent. But for heaven’s sake, showcase their talent; not their deficiencies.
     The image (on your left) should say it all. If it doesn’t convey the whole message, please go ahead and watch Peepli Live. Indian media, especially news channels are below par compared to the rest of the world. Primarily our focus is on what Deepika had for dinner and when Salman chooses to jog. Some others (I didn’t say SRK) have made it a point to get on the news board every day. If we manage to get past that, then it’s about Dhoni’s latest addition to his superbikes or Sania’s (sorry, that one is out of fashion; oversized and married) Saina’s new pink dress. The only impetuses that news channels have provided are sting operations (where those tiny cameras are used and surprisingly people seem to ensure that they’re looking good while speaking in front of it). I’m no longer interested in quiz shows on tv because I’m used to watching Derek O’Brien and Siddharta Basu presenting brain-racking episodes, and I can’t imagine replacing them with some of our celebrities who have to involve a song-and-dance sequence in every episode.
     As of now, there’s no technology that allows the television automatically to switch on, and flip to one of these channels; barring my roommate.

     “I wish there was a knob on the TV so you could turn up the intelligence. They got one marked "brightness" but it doesn’t work, does it?” - Leo Anthony Gallagher.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Inception, Introspection and Deception

     "Lo, you see the man is mad; why then have you brought him to me? Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence?" - Achish, King of Gath

     I finally got to watch the movie that’s been keeping the audience around the world awake; ironically about dreams. After watching the movie a couple of days back, I actually thought it would make sense to read more about it. Like every other movie by Christopher Nolan, the movie capitulates to a certain magic woven by the script. For someone like me, sleep-deprived nocturnal, dreams are a faraway thing. Forget the inception of dreams, I can’t even dream of dreaming.
     It’s a farce that when people can’t figure out a majority of the plot in a movie, they praise the direction, script, background music, Pepsi, popcorn and in some cases the nachos and salsa. I saw people do that with Memento, possibly with “the Butterfly effect” and most certainly with “Inception.” Someone even explained to me that the word “Inception” had something to do with dreams. Ahem.
     Some time back I heard a story, and a paradox that arose from it, namely “Abilene Paradox” (for those who like to hear it from the horse’s mouth; well, wait for it to speak). For the rest, here’s the summarized version of the story. And the phenomenon repeats, with some books and most movies (the majority of the crowd neither read nor watches such movies). It’s such a fad, to talk about books and movies that everyone else talks about. Inception is a good movie, no doubting that. But for some reason, movies are considered to be good for the visual appeal it provides. First Avatar, and now Inception have been drawing the crowds, raking the moolah. And why? Because my friend on facebook thought it was amazing, and his friend liked the comment.
     To be brutally honest, TDK and “The Prestige” were better movies by the same director. Those movies had strong performances from the actors cast in them. Heath Ledger as the Joker is a world apart from DiCaprio’s Cobb. Even Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale reveled as magicians in “The Prestige.” Not that I question Leonardo as an actor. But if movies were all about visual appeal, why is “The Godfather” considered to be one of the greatest movies of all-time?
    And if watching the movie wasn’t enough, a friend of mine forwarded a link which might be of interest to some of you. An in-depth autopsy of the movie can be found here. Strangely enough, as I was about to leave for the movie, a friend remarked that English movies were at times highly unrealistic. The next time you dream, ensure that you have a totem (Skv's definition: Something that you inherited from those board games. Original definition: A totem is any supposed entity that watches over or assists a group of people, such as a family, clan, or tribe. Movie definition: Something that belongs to you and could be a pawn, loaded dice or top). It'll ensure that you're not in a dream, or a dream within a dream or so on and so forth. And kick the person next to you to ensure that when he kicks back you wake up.

P.S: Sarcasm is “a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter jibe or taunt.” Some authorities sharply distinguish sarcasm from irony, however others argue that sarcasm may or often does involve irony. (Wikipedia™)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Yem Bee Yea

     When someone asks you the question with a million dollar smile (the “would you fall in love with me” requires a traumatic constipated look) about your educational qualification/background, rest assured. It’s just another new kid on the block, bloating with pride about his acquisition of management practices. Or, as they portray it to the rest of the world.
     Once upon a time (not in Mumbaai, of course!) even I wanted do an MBA (contrary to common statements, you can’t be an MBA – it’s only a degree). I was just another engineering student, didn’t see a future in software jobs (because my aggregate was like company appraisals, always below expectations), and most importantly didn’t see anything in life beyond the end of the 8th Semester (other than writing arrears/back papers/supplementary exams). It’s quite a farce that my arrears included the number of exams the University posted for the 4 year tenure. I joined TIME – people consider it to be the lamp, rub it and the genie pops out. A month into it, I figured out that the coaching classes (mallus love this word – kids go to tuition coaching classes, adolescents to engineering coaching classes and youth to TIME coaching classes) weren’t as interesting as the actual exams. 6 months later, the exam was complete. And finally, it dawned on me. The MBA didn’t hold any interest for me. It was the aptitude test, and only the aptitude test that had inculcated my interest. I wasn’t going to get myself into another 2 years of school and exams. Not for a million dollars.
     Over the past 4 years, I’ve watched the people who work with me. Especially the ones that have conquered the coveted title (it seems so unfair that only doctors are allowed to put their MBBS next to their names). And sometimes I wonder how those two years changed their lives. Let me provide a few instances which might support my argument.
Q: Do you read books? Ans: Of course I do, I did my MBA.
Q: What’s the capital of Goa? Ans: Hmm, Goa was a Union Territory. So, Pondicherry.
Q: What do u think is the main concept of marketing? Ans: Selling something.
     I do realize that this might be a problem with the majority of the crowd. And yet, it astounds me when I hear people talk like this. So why is there such a large disparity between the IIM graduates and the rest of the crowd?
     One major suggestion in my mind is to rectify the whole screening process. Candidates unaware of India’s history, geography or economic conditions should be filtered out in the initial rounds. The next round should include a real-time scenario related to punctuality. At least 70% of the candidates will have to leave after that round, i.e. if they make it in time for the test. The final round should have them write an essay/email regarding why they want to do an MBA. If it exposes enough spelling/grammatical mistakes, they have to go back and work on it. On the other hand, if there is at least one usage of chat lexicon, the candidate should be made to read the newspaper (not Delhi/Bangalore times supplement) and learn the actual spellings of words. We don’t need our managers to have “lol” and “rofl” in their emails.
     So for all the MBA aspirants, beware of D-day (i.e. when if I come into the board of directors for higher education in India). People fail to understand that in order to be a better manager, a management degree isn’t the primary requisite. Personal discipline coupled with factors such as punctuality, knowledge and inter-person skills validate a person’s role. If When someone reaches to that level, probably a degree to compliment his abilities might be nice-to-have. Till then, you’re just another Yem-Bee-Yea.

     “A fact is a simple statement that everyone believes. It is innocent, unless found guilty. A hypothesis is a novel suggestion that no one wants to believe. It is guilty, until found effective.”
 - Edward Teller

P.S: For more MBA jokes, http://arbitmba.com/

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Decade of Change

     "All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another." ~Anatole France

     10 years back. Seems like yesterday. Even more like a couple of hours back. I just returned from watching a movie at a multiplex for Rs. 300. The pepsi and popcorn weren't free, so had to pay for that as well. During the movie, my mind did a quick arithmetic flashback.
     D Udaya Kumar was just another 21 year old who had just completed his engineering degree. The world will forever remember him as the individual who designed India's money symbol. But, what else  has changed in the last 10 years?
     The beginning of 2000, depicted to be the end of the world and computers (remember Y2K) started off with a lot of expectations. To be a part of a new century, milennium was heralded as something great. It also evoked the dawn of a new era in India. One that echoed with a solitary term "outsourcing."
     For a 15 year old, all this seemed to hardly matter. My routine was pretty consistent. I would wake up in the morning to the sound of the radio broadcasting regional news. It would take me close to an hour to get ready for school. We would either have to walk or cycle 10 mins to the nearest bus stop. There, we would be greeted by a group of villagers out to discuss the newspaper at the local tea stall (there's an age-old joke that when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, he was shocked to see a Malayali tea-stall). The bus trip was pretty merry. Everyone knew everyone else. The student's concession pass would allow us to travel at Re 1/- to our destination.
     In the evening, we would reach the bus stand a little past 4 PM. Our everyday snack included a lime juice and a samosa for Rs 5/-. Once in a while, the vendor would give us an extra samosa as well. Another Rupee would get us home.
Total expenditure for a day = Rs 7/-.
     I could live for a month with what I spent earlier tonight. Not that I regret watching the movie at this cost, but I sometimes wonder the pace at which life travels, and our attempts to outrun it. The best part of my life was for about 10 seconds when we would cross a bridge. The breeze would always be the same, cool and soothing. Now I hardly feel anything. I don't have the time to enjoy life as it was.
Pattambi bridge in summer

Rainy times
P.S: Sand mining in recent times has lead to soil erosion. The water hardly stays during summer time, and there is no respite from the heat.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Fraandship - I

"Character is so largely affected by associations that we cannot afford to be indifferent as to who and what our friends are. They write their names in our albums, but they do more, they help make us what we are. Be therefore careful in selecting them; and when wisely selected, never sacrifice them." -  M. Hulburd
      Initially there was a friend, just one. As time passed by, more people came by and eventually a larger group of friends. With the advent of social networking sites (Orkut, Facebook, Twitter), we were able to classify our friends to various categories, best friends, bestest friends, good friends, acquaintances, neighbours, blah blah blah... It also gave rise to a new breed of friends, namely fraands. I wanted to separate post into two distinct parts, new friends and old ones. Part-II of this blog is intended for the various types of friendships that we maintain. Part- I previews internet induced friendships  fraandships.
     (The following paragraph is a modified extract from a movie. But its purely intended because it saves me a lot of time to find something original :) )
     Like every great magic trick, fraanships have three parts. The first part is called "The Pledge." The fraand sends in a request with an innocent statement. "Hi, I'm xyz. I'd like to be fraands with you." Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course... it probably isn't.
    The second act is called "The Turn". The fraand takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. He sends you wishes for your uncle's birthday. Remarks on each and every facebook status message, at least with a lol (refer to section 4.3.05 on chat terminology). You might even be lucky enough to get a testimonial on your profile praising your beauty, intelligence and compassion, from a person who has never met you, or probably spoken to you.
     Now you're looking for the essence... but you won't find it, because of course you're not really looking. You don't really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn't fall yet. Because you need to wait for your friends to approve. That's why every fraandship has a third act, the hardest part, the part that's called "The Prestige". Sometimes it goes well, everyone ends happy. Otherwise, er... this could be a possibility.
     There's nothing wrong in making a new friend. Just ensure that sure that they have common interests, not just a pretty profile picture and the fraandship request doesn't hit the wrong nerves. To make friendships doesn't take much, but it takes a lot more to keep it in good stead. As another friendship day passes by, I would like to thank my wonderful friends for always being there with me. And to the bunch of people who send me forwards on this day because they have free messaging, "thanks a lot, fraands".

      "And when somebody knows you well, well there's no comfort like that. And when somebody needs you, well there's no drug like that."