Hope is a good thing

Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. - The Shawshank Redemption

This is one of the most memorable quotes from one of the most memorable Hollywood movies. The movie is long and the pace is slow; signifying the pace of time in a prison. Things don't move fast, yet over a period of time, the small things done by Andy created a whole new world for himself outside and a way to get to it.

Rich or poor, we all live with the hope of something, looking forward to something. And I think to be able to do that is the right of everyone and to be able to enable that for someone else is our privilege. There are a lot of children in our country who don't know hope so well, because it is hard when you are hungry. What they need is, a sign, a ray of hope, that things can get better and that hope lies with people like us. And trust me it won't be hard to do.

What I am trying to tell you here is basically two things - hope and the power of small contributions done by many over time.

When trying to do something you feel right about, don't go by how big or significant it is, but how soon you can do it. I am sure there were times in life when you promised to do something for underprivileged. Here is a chance for you to feed a child for one full year and all it will cost you is a little over 500 bucks. I am sure most of you will be able to make that contribution without changing any significant digit in your bank balance. "Akshay Patra" is trying to ensure that no child goes hungry. You can make your contribution by clicking this (And believe me this is not going to my account, not this time :)

Make sure you don't belittle your contribution by weighing it in terms of the amount of money. Its not just the money, what you are giving is - Hope.

Subversion at will

There is a lot of uproar about wikileaks and I don't think I have taken a side yet, or at least clearly so. If I have to lean, I will follow the diktat, when in doubt more is good and support the leaks over censorship. However, what struck me while reading one of the articles was the following excerpt (courtesy rediff)

A group of hackers took down the sites of Internet payment service Paypal and Mastercard and Visa after they froze the flow of funds to Assange's accounts

Looking at the tone of the comment, it looks (and I am sure they did) as if they could do it at will without a long process of planning and execution. And that is the scary part given so much of business and life is moving online. If there is a group of people around us capable enough to cause severe damage, and the scarier part, without jeopardizing their identity (mostly) and with possibly nothing but their moral rectitude stopping them from doing it.

Pizza Hut vs. My Dhaba

These are the two most common places from where I order food and I like both of them. However, I noticed the huge difference in the time taken to order stuff from these places. To be fair to both, I never get into any long discussions during ordering. It is always a fixed directive order and that will be all kind of message. For pizza hut, it used to be less than a minute but now it has gone somewhere close to 2 minutes with all the questions and promotions thrown in. And for my dhaba, I timed it and found out that it took an incredible 6 seconds!

the social network: Retribution of the geek?

This is not a movie review because I am not sure how I felt about "the social network" as a movie. It in fact didn't seem a lot like movie to me. While watching it, I was reminded of the documentary "The pirates of silicon valley" and a book I read on Steve Jobs (iCon). I always thought Steve Jobs as the (relatively) non technical guy (Wozniak being the tech muscle) who by virtue of his other qualities got to run the company as his own. I am talking of the beginnings and not about his eventual departure before he was called back again. Facebook had the tech guy holding the reins whereas the business guy was sidelined neatly though with help from dubious avenues. So, it seems, the tables are turned for better or worse.

A little more clarification on Jobs vs. the business guy comparison. Honestly there is none. I think Jobs was way too hands on to be compared with Saverin who in all earnestness said he didn't know how to change his relationship status. Also, Jobs has far redeemed his image in last decade or so and needs no more justification to his value add.

Now, I don't intend to pass any judgment on any of the guys as I am a believer in Karma and I think "over a period of time" you will get what you deserve. I don't deny the presence of outliers to this rule, but like I have many times said earlier, if you are out of luck, you are just fucked. So no rules apply to you any more.

One thing is for sure, the aura of Mark Z will grow enormously with the movie, possibly an almost facebook-like expansion. It might actually give a big boost to the eventual IPO if it happens soon. On that front, I am of the opinion that they should do that within next one year. With the rapidly changing world of internet, it doesn't take a lot of time for things to go downhill and faster will the reaction of investors who tend to anticipate these things. It is the time that they en-cash their "equity" literally. It is already valued at $25b and I am not sure if their growth trajectory is steep enough to make the risk worth it. I can come back a year later and check on how my analysis fared. I have a terrible record at it, but thankfully most of it is undocumented.

I love reality

(relatively long post)

As promised earlier, I am going to talk about my fascination with trashy reality shows. I will start with my lack of fascination for reality shows dealing with talent. I tried watching KBC, but failed to continue for long because I thought I was trying to see a quiz show. However, KBC tries and is actually a lot more than that. It is supposed to be about thrills, emotions, travails and what not. I get a feeling that most of the folks who watch it, don't even care about the question, except whether the contestant got it right or wrong. Whether the contestant, who is  a farmer, looking to repay his loan with the 25 lac he might win, will win or not. That's the start of my disconnect with talent based reality shows. Whenever I watch them, I end up watching for the talent part, but realize there is way too much dilution of the talent part due to emotions, drama and all the circus around. It just seems too much for me to look at these disparate aspects.

I would like to focus on a few things at a time rather than looking at too many things superficially. Most of the reality shows try to cover so many dimensions that they lose my interest. In fact, more than the talent, most of them focus on drama. All they want to show is drama, a peak into how people behave in different situations. The key is situations. They amplify and accelerate their reactions by virtue of making the stakes higher and platform bigger. To enable that, they need a backdrop, 3 months of house arrest, or a life in wild.

My point is, why dilute the backdrop by having a talent layer in it. If I watch a talent show, I would like the most talented one to win and not someone else for reasons other than his/her talent. And I am not sure if that always happens. So, if we are in for drama, then let there be drama, totally undiluted.

In talent less reality show, the winner like in real life doesn't have to be the best one. It is a combination of chance, talent, personality and so many other factors contributing in equal measures. It is so damn uncertain, just like real life. The two reality shows that came closest to achieve total undiluted life like simulation were "iss jungle se mujhe bachao" and big boss. Jungle.. not so much because winning a task also played its part in elimination unlike big boss which is totally unadulterated. The show also works at creating those situations, but a lot of times that isn’t even required.

The trashy part of every one's behavior goes on to show what Joker said and I always believed (the cynic in me :)). It couldn't have been put better, so reproducing his quote here verbatim:

Don’t talk like one of them, you’re not! Even if you’d like to be. To them, you’re just a freak–like me. They need you right now. When they don’t…they’ll cast you out. Like a leper. See, their morals, their code: it’s a bad joke. They’re dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. You’ll see, when the chips are down these civilized people will eat each other

This may be true of each one of us yet we don't see enough of this simply because life is kind. And a lot of people pretty much go through all the life without many situations that threaten to tear off their mask. Reality TV does everything in its capacity to force that mask off.

I have been an avid follower of reality TV, but it seems even from my standards it has gone to new levels of depravity and somehow what Rakhi Sawant does in front of camera has a very direct correlation to it. She is the sensex of deparvity of reality TV in India. Fresh off the press is the death of a poor guy who came looking for justice (really? Dear justice seeker, I think your destiny was decided the moment you thought of this) in Rakhi's show where she plays judge and doles out verdicts like "arre tum to namarad ho" (Translation: you are impotent).

One other show which I found repulsive was Emotional Atyachar which I couldn't see more than one episode. Looking at the trend, not sure how long will I be able to enjoy these shows. But till the point I can, I am eagerly waiting for Pamela Anderson to enter the Bigg Boss house :)

Planning, Improvisation and A bit of Luck

Having labeled myself a life long planner, I believe in the credo - "Failing to plan is planning to fail". A lot of people actually think it's better to not plan at all than plan and fail. I don't agree and I would like to clarify why. Doing something well is not a function of just your planning, a lot comes after that, but I consider it as the first and perhaps the most important step. So, here is what I define as different steps to accomplishment big or small.

Planning: Let's start by clarifying the misconception about planning. You plan with the understanding that your plan may (make it will) fail. When planning you think about the objective and what it will take to reach it. However, you just don't get too hung up on it. Having planned through things, you will have a better idea of what you are going to do and what will help. In any case, have a plan B if you can else look at the next step in the process.

Improvisation: Getting too rigid about the plan is going to hurt you, may be more than not having a plan at all. This may well be the reason a lot of times no planning is better. However, if you can be open about changing your actions if things don't get your way, rest assured you will improvise better. Having thought through things you will be better at deciding the change in course than a totally unplanned person. Having said that, a lot of times with the first two steps going absolutely right, people tend to fail and that brings us to the third and the most important part.

Luck: Luck alone doesn't guarantee anything, but if you are out of luck, to put it mildly, you are screwed

Spectacular beginning of an exceptional end

Harry Potter is back, with an added dimension in more ways than one. Even without seeing it, I am pretty sure it is going to be excellent. It is hard to go wrong with the script.

Here is the trailer

Bigg Boss Season 4 - So far

(This post was written right after the first episode but due to editing delays ;) wasn't posted till now)

Big boss has been living up to my expectations so far. TRPs are not so flattering which means it isn't meeting everyone's expectations.

However, the way it started was better than I imagined. Bunty, the thief with a lot of cases on his name and who has spent 13 years in jail didn't take longer than a day to break down. In the process the biggest victim was the camera that he chose to cover with his, hold your breath, ...sock.

While he was evicted the same day, he deeply disappointed Abbas bhai, why? Well, because he went without shaking hands with anyone. I am sure with this kind of logic, he must have done a helluva job a defending Kasab. Poetic justice for a killer who should have been hanged a while back, not only because I would like to have no more of him, but because we shouldn't be spending a penny more on keep that **** alive. Mr Kazmi's issue to me seems akin to our censor board policy of not showing people smoking on screen because that would be a bad influence as if stealing, murder, rape, cheating are all acceptable in normal human behavior.

The following episodes were not as exciting but they did a good job in putting Khali in at the right time, just when things started going a little downhill. And then later, the firebrand, Bindra.

Soon to follow a post on my fascination with non talent based trashy reality shows.

‘Peepli Live’ Live

This was one of the movies that I knew I would like even before I saw it and I did. The trailer showed glimpses that the backdrop of the movie was somewhere in the Hindi heartland of India, the area where I come from. The movie turned out to be shot in Raisen, even closer and the state is called Mukhya Pradesh, a not so subtle reference to the state. Well, this post is not about the movie but about my experiences here which I always wanted to publish.

Every once in a while I make journeys in buses and trains there, more specifically these are non ac buses (the only ones we have there)  and general compartments of trains. I do it with minimum of liabilities (i.e. no luggage, no company) because I believe I can’t do it peacefully anymore with luggage. Every single time I do it, I feel fortunate that I don’t have to do it as a need or as a regular part of life.

MP is unique in the sense that there is as much poverty as most other popular poor states i.e. Orissa, Bihar etc. but it never makes any news for it. The invisibility is what defines it; nobody knows about it and doesn’t care about it either.

Peepli live paints a very real picture of how majority of the villages are. Abject poverty, overfilled tempos (locally called bhatsuars), a real huge market for desi thurra, an abundance of time and acute lack of work. Now at the verge of labeling folks here a total loser, a comfort is there in their own condition and no real effort to get out of it. Highlighted by the fact that Nattha’s plan out of his misery was not to try harder but to give up and die, the only possible state more laidback than his current one.

A major part of the state is immune to shining India’s GDP growth of post liberalization era. The state is somehow against emigration to other places (mostly true for unskilled labor which forms the major part of the population) in search of jobs unlike Bihar which is accused of spiraling out everywhere. In fact one of their pet peeve is people coming from outside and spoiling their state of being (if that is indeed possible).

It is stuck in some kind of treadmill time, it keeps slipping by your feet, yet everything stays as it were.

Every time they enter a queue to buy a train ticket, I think they are prepared to have a fight; the next one would be when they enter their compartments. Classic case of scarcity of resources! It is easy for me to be patient since it’s not a daily routine for me but for them showing any kindness is damn too difficult if not impossible and yet you see them doing that quite often.

The buses here still play the music of 90s like the songs of “Dilwale” or Altaf Raza. I found this similar to the fascination a few friends and I share for the songs popular during my college years. May be it is indicative of our desire to be in that time, like my state’s desire to still remain in 90s, a time they are comfortable to live in.

While a lot of places have issues due to increased traffic, we are facing the same. Only difference is that we have it because of lack of roads and not due to any increase in traffic which would be a nicer problem to have.

In one sweeping analysis, I am inclined to label the problem is a lack of vigor/life. Indifference, idyllic drinking, drugs and endless and mindless discussions about everything around yet without any desire to ‘do’ anything even for their own good.

Like every time you cite a problem you should have a solution, I don’t think I would like to do that because the problem seems to be more basic than systemic. At the bottom of it is probably laziness or some such silly reason. The morose attitude once replaced by a little enthusiasm can take care of most of the issues in due time.

Bigg Boss Season 4

The line up seems promising. They have a thief, bandit, hermaphrodite, someone who appeared in an explicit mms, a lawyer who seems to be taking the wrong side in many high profile cases (kasab being one of them). I am sure the rest are no less but they don't have stuff like this to boast of.

He's got balls

Federer in an ad shoot

Found few links questioning whether its real or not, to me it looks real

Movie review: Inglorious Basterds

Alright, I know I am late, can we please get further now. So, after everybody has watched, raved and forgotten about this movie, I finally watched it accidentally today. I came home dead tired and like everyday before I did anything else I switched on my TV and threw away the remote and then threw myself on the couch. Usually a few minutes of relaxation give me enough energy to pick up the remote and start surfing, but today was different and by the time I could get to that point, it came. It was on my watching list for quite some time, so there I go. The fact that I didn't untie my shoe laces for next half hour is evidence enough for me that the movie was gripping. Now on to the actual review.

Like every other movie, book or comic series, I liked it because of the characters not as much for the story. This movie had pretty interesting and impressive characters. It doesn't take them long to establish themselves which makes the later part more enjoyable and less of figuring out. The two characters in particular that I felt were excellent were Hans Landa and Shosanna. It doesn't take Hans more than 5 minutes in his first scene to showcase his incisive intellect. Every scene where he is investigating (in most of his scenes he is) something, you can feel the chill of the knowledge that he knows it and is just playing till he opens it up. The only disappointing part would be the ending, was too lame for his character but  I guess they also wanted Brad Pitt to look better.

As for Shosanna, the super pretty chic, who seemed to have made peace with her misfortune, the transformation (for the viewer) was quick and edgy. These were the two characters that carried the movie for me and of course I liked the climax. In a lot of movies I feel letting a disaster happen would have had more impact than averting it, this one actually lets it, even though it turns the history on its head.

While we are on the subject, Kurbaan was one such movie where this disappointed me more than any other recent one. From the beginning I thought, the movie will end with Kareena dying and Saif living with guilt, a deserved punishment for his deeds.  But sadly, they kill Saif and let Kareena take all the pain of living through her life.

Time Warp

These are two pictures taken five years apart, the recent one was taken this independence day. Something tells me, I will have another one like this in 2015 :)

For those who are not steeped in New York culture (its really hard to find you guys nowadays), this is the famous bronze bull in Wall Street.

Yet another desi rant

I was planning a really cantankerous (my word list mugga session acting up after may years) post after reading the following articles. But I think I let some of the steam off by writing comments on them. On second thoughts, I might have ended up writing a self flagellating post, but then, what the hell. But hopefully what follows at the end doesn't have that much of a sting.

Someone ashamed of her Indian identity
If you do click on the link and read the article, look at the extreme reactions of all sorts. The last one (first one to show up in the comment list) is definitely not the least. My relatively moderate comment is hard to find in the sea of comments.

Few more
A little more balanced one
This one takes the cake simply because of the popularity of the medium - Time magazine

and here is my little classification of Indians abroad

When in doubt choose people

While selecting a job or work, if there are many competing factors (within reason) and people is one of them, I would say choose people over anything. Go to place where you think people are good, whatever your definition of good is. The chances are you will do well. The more work experience I gain (really?) I think the work at some point will become a fucking pain. So, the chances are you will enjoy doing shit if you are doing it with good (again whatever your definition of good is) people.

I apply the same theory to relatively smaller decisions like attending sessions, apart from the topic, if I know the speaker is good, I usually go irrespective of the topic.

This is how I had theorized this at some point, being a cynic, it was about avoiding stuff rather than choosing.

Main chutiya kaam kar sakta hoon lekin chutiyon ke saath kaam nahi kar sakta

(For my non Hindi speaking readers, if there are any - it translates to: " I can do shit work, but I can't work with shit people").

Text limit for google search

Out of curiosity I was trying to see what is the maximum number of characters that google would allow you to enter in your search box. I thought there would be some limit on it. There is no limit on entering the text but it fails beyond a point while searching because the url becomes too large. Google being google, my initial expectation was that they must be capable of handling practically any size (which may still be true).

Pakistan: A nation on self destruct

The following link confirms the title of this post.

Pakistan 10th most failed state of the world
Finns are happiest, Indians 45th, Pakistan last

Look at what Pakistan has done for herself giving in to temptation of being more fundamental than it needs to. This is perhaps one reason why they seem so eager to inflict pain on others. It is the desperation of a falling guy who wants to taken down with it everyone else possible. Icing on the cake would be if that someone turns out to be your sworn enemy. For all its soft stance India has been doing fairly well comparatively given that they came out of the same shell at the same time. We had bigger diversity issues owing to the size and heterogeneous nature of our state. At the end, with all that, we haven't become the best we could, but have done at least reasonable for ourselves. A case to continue living with high level of tolerance in every aspect.

As for managing our neighbor, there are only two possibilities if you will. Either pull them out of the rut and get them on the path of accelerated growth, leaving them motivated to live rather than having a morbid fasciantion to kill or die. This is far easier said than done, the other option is to 'stay away' just watching out to minimize our losses in these conflicts. A full blown engagement would only lead to them getting a purpose for their fascination and their millitary leaders would be prompt in putting a garb of martyrdom or something like that to mislead their directionless masses.

This is not an anti Pakistan post even though it may sound so. I am trying to put to attention the benefits of being a tolerant nation to the zealots amongst us. While I cannot say that is 'the reason' why we are doing how we are, but I am very certain that it has some part to play in it. I would be happy if our neighbors recognize the same and take care of themselves rather than snowballing themselves to a ditch. If we can't help break their fall, the best we could do is to avoid getting sucked into it leading us down with them.

Book Review: The Greatest Trade Ever


Buy it

This is one book I wouldn't pick up if I want to understand how the financial crisis unfolded over years. You would do well for yourself if you pick just about anything from net about it. However, I would recommend this book for it's human element. It is a book about the could have beens ultimately achieving something they always deserved or thought they deserved. I must warn you though, the numbers in the book will drive you crazy. I have thought a lot about what would be a good amount for me before I call it quits to active money making and the numbers in this book just drove me fuzzy.

Paulson has made $4 billion in two years. If he decides to retire in India with this money, a savings interest would fetch him 9 billion INR a year for his expenses while keeping his principle safe. The other fringe 'successful' players made few hundred million dollars.

Barring a few like Greg Lippman, who was a hotshot banker then and now, most others who benefited especially the ones on Paulson's team were exceptionally smart underachievers. It also goes on to show how, there are many moderate successes for every single luminous success in this industry. And then so much of it depends on chance apart from a lot of other great qualities in those individuals least of them is exceptional smarts which is a given just to get an entry anyway. It also shows, what can happen to people despite their brilliance if they are not in the right place at the right time with right people. The two key architects of Paulson show, he and Paulo Pellegrini were kind of past their sell by dates for their calibre. Paulo almost a failure and Paulson a moderate success, who had his share of brilliant bursts but was never acknowledged overall to a status he thought he deserved.  It wasn't like he just entered in the business, he has been around for may decades and yet it took this latest crisis to get to a place where he always wanted to be. And there must be thousands (if not tens of thousands) like him who never got their chance and faded away in twilight.

Paulson isn't retired yet and still talking about future as far as four years forward, shows he still has a lot of hunger left in him.

Overall it is an engaging read at most times and turned out to be a far easier read than I thought, the initial apprehension which caused me to delay my reading of this book for so long.

Indians Abroad

Every time I come to the US, I am in for a sense of surprise at how common we are here. I found that US has 0.6% of Indians, and then I stayed in Jersey. Jersey has one of the highest concentration of Indians, the number is at ~6% and these were the numbers from my past visit. This time I get a little more parochial and I look around in my weekly meeting to see 6 out of the 9 folks being of Indian origin, a whopping 66.6%. And the last bit, I share a cube block with three other folks, 2 of them are Indians and the next cube block is all Indian. I don’t feel particularly sad or happy about it but I do feel amused.

The purposeful walk

It's like Batman would say,
It's not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me

Joe (click the link to know more about Joe) would say it's not what i do at my desk, it's what I do while fetching my coffee that defines me.

I have seen Joe walking intently to fetch his coffee peering down at the cup or just to the restroom. It is no ordinary walk. To an untrained eye it may look like he is studying the coffee like a lot of people who read tea leaves. In reality his mind is busy doing calculations of unimaginable complexity. He probably is working out the price of his next multi-billion dollar acquisition

I have been told, however, that may be this isn't what Joe thinks during his walk. May be he is thinking about the expansion of the company. Like admiring the new chick he sees on his way to pantry. Or at times, he might be thinking about his next strategic move like whether he should go to pee on his way to pantry after all restroom won't be a really big detour. Well, he could do that but then where does he keep the cup? Oh, here comes Senior Joe, so that makes his decision easy. He decides to keep his line and say hello to him. OK, so its final, Joe decides to have the coffee and come back to pee, the coffee would add to the pressure making it a more fulfilling release.

Joe is great at keeping up appearances, in fact that's one of the few things he is good at. If not careful enough, he might create a first impression on you that you will live to regret.

Can NDTV Imagine do it again?

Every year post IPL I go through withdrawal symptoms as far as my TV viewing is concerned. Last year it was Rakhi Ka Swayamwar that got me back to TV. Will it be "Desi Girl" this year. The promos and the first episode show a lot of promise. With all the delectable bitches in the mix pitted against rustic folks and each other, it can make for an edgy 2 months on TV. Let's see if it lives up to the promise it has generated.

For starters, one of the girls comments looking at cow dung - "hauuu, kya yeh gai ka gobar hai?" (Is this cow dung?) as if she just spotted a unicorn. Boy in the house where Anmol (one of the contenders) is staying has taken a liking to her and is planning to convince her to marry him during the show. Two other contestants have already gotten a lashing from their keepers for their dressing.

Initial signs are good like every other talent-less reality show (the only ones I see), let's see how far this one goes.

Why blog?

The question keeps coming back again and again. The last time I publicly thought about it was around 2 years ago. Some of the comment-ers suggested the following two blogs to inspire me to keep writing.

An article on Scientific American and Steve Yegge on why you should blog

Well what prompted me to write it this time is some constructive feedback I received from a regular reader. And mind it, given the number of readers I have, each one counts for a huge percentage. The exact comment he made was "You have trivialized your blog" owing to the presence of many posts that didn't need a lot (or any) thinking at all. Now, there is no way I can say he is wrong, because that's his viewpoint and no logic can prove that wrong, so I won't be trying to do that. What I will however try is to have enough thoughtful posts along with everything else.

While I will do that later, for now, I will try to write why I think I blog. I guess, more than anyone else it is for me to know why I do what I do.

So, here I present my reasons for writing and I am blatantly using content from my chat transcript (perhaps a case of another post that doesn't need a lot of thinking)

I need to balance between what I want and what my readers (I know they are already limited) want but the fact is as much as I write for them, I write for myself no less. So, what I need is probably a middle ground because it's neither a personal diary, nor a newspaper. Actually before I started blogging, I had a diary and recently I read something I wrote 4 years ago and I could relive stuff and realize which parts of my life were more formative than others. Now this chronicling of my life on my blog will also tell me what I had in my mind at certain points. How I changed/evolved (for better/worse). Like last year I was crazy about IPL, so wrote a lot of posts.

I agree blog can't be totally personal, so as I said earlier I need a middle ground. And there are some readers who read these light posts and avoid heavier stuff.

See, I write what I think people will like and something I definitely want to write. Now obviously it won't be palatable to everyone even though I try to make it so. But I won't know until I post it. I don't publish anything knowing that nobody will like it. It's just that I don't get it right in cases when nobody likes it.

So, the transcript ends here.

As a side note, I know of unknown readers (the ones I know now are no longer unknown) also who would never comment, haven't ever met me and I may never about them yet they are there. So, you never know who is reading your blog and what out of it until you actually try which in this case is by posting things whenever you see some value in doing that.

So, as long as I have it in me, I will keep posting for all of you, my known readers, my unknown readers and myself.


Spotted on Bhopal Vidisha road.

The biggest celebrity I have ever seen live

is in the news, though many would say not enough. For them, here is something they might like

So, while on topic, of all the celebrities I have ever seen live (being within 5 feet distance is my definition of live here), Anand has to be the biggest. The others in my short list are Digvijay Singh, Kamini Kaushal and Nandan Nilekani (shook hands with him!).

Recently a friend of mine went up close and personal with Amir Khan. That's the biggest celebrity link I have via my first degree contacts unless I am mistaken and there is someone in you, my readers (yea, I mean the four of you !) who has met someone bigger.

Please welcome Joe Don

Recently while I was attending a conference call I heard a name John Doe a couple of times. Same evening I was watching a movie where the name came up again. Coincidence? That's what I thought until a friend enlightened me the practice of referring unknown people (usually suspects) as John Doe or Jane Doe for reference.

I have been meaning to create a character for my blog especially the ones where I rant. My pet peeve all my life has been shitty Managers. It is always easy to deal with shitty developers since they can do limited damage. I was looking for a name for the guy (hope females won't be looking to be treated equally here) and I came up with Joe, an average manager just like an average Joe and then the first paragraph happened.

Combining the two of them, without any further ado, please welcome Joe Don, our average manager who by definition would be crappy. All things you dream of not becoming while you are growing up.

* This sounds like a real name though I don't know anyone by this name. I don't intend to mean any disrespect if a person with this name exists. If you are the one, and chance upon this blog and have objection, feel free to drop me a line and I can make amends.

why always seek?

Multiple conversations about reading fiction vs. non fiction led me to the conclusion that we are always seeking something. I started my reading in childhood with whatever was available like champak, chandamama, all in hindi. During my engineering I discovered my love for fiction and I went on reading as much as I could. And then I started reading non fiction. The ratio of fiction to non fiction has been going down recently. A couple of friends also claimed a similar pattern and they said they have stopped reading fiction because they realized they weren't 'gaining' anything by reading fiction.

I share the pattern, but not necessarily the reasoning. One of the points I brought up was you can see new ways of thinking and seeing things by looking at fictional characters. Now, I don't know how that would be useful and may be it's not. But, claiming that you know what would be useful knowledge (or not) for you in future considering life is so diverse, would be rather too presumptuous. It's like one of the learning from Steve Jobs commencement speech at Stanford, where he talks about connecting the dots. You don't always know the immediate benefit of something you are doing. But the fact that you like doing it should be reason enough to keep you going. I would be quick to add a disclaimer here to rule out habits like doing drugs from this category.

So, even if overall our lives are about seeking things, why make it rule every part of our being. Especially when it comes to things like reading which most of us classify as hobby and not work. Also, in large number of cases not reading fiction may not translate in reading non fiction. It probably translates into doing something else, perhaps not as worthwhile or nothing. There I go seeking again !

The artist in me

Here are some fruits of my multitasking efforts at office while listening intently to conference calls :)


after a month long break from any activity on this blog owing to endless stuff to be taken care off on personal and professional front. Just when the monotony of it all was killing me, I am getting a whiff of the changes (welcome!) to come soon now. I am finishing my longest ever stint with a team and a system and a city at a stretch. Very soon all the three parameters will change at least for a short duration and that is definitely welcome. To make it happen was no mean task and drained me off a lot of energy (which I so value!). While I think of last few months and more specifically, the last month, it was a blur. Apart from other things there was IPL, and all the stuff related to me moving out of my project and then in one insane moment I enrolled for a morning yoga class with a really sincere and demanding trainer who ensured that every absence was well explained. And then one day, suddenly it all ends like the climax of a Godfather movie, where last 10 minutes would see the end of pretty much everyone who ever messed with the Corleone family. So, with this new found emptiness, I decided to get back here. Before I get too optimistic, I should remind myself that this is probably a matter of a week or so, for next few months promise to be at least as relentless if not more.

I have always been a proponent of change, but this time around I am yearning more for constants. I always had the tendency to feel happy when I would struggle with something, once I get a hang of it, I would get bored and restless. However, this time even though I am pretty happy about the changes (at least till the anticipation phase), I would like this one to last longer. Sort of in a steady state and comfortable mode. Perhaps that is my old age catching up with me.

Cast your vote

Let's honor Time magazine by having Sachin Tendulkar in its 100 poll :)
Times 100 2010 poll

Chinese love me

and/or perhaps they love Virat Kohli. Here is the proof

Partial Marks Syndrome

Social Studies used to be the most difficult subject to score really good marks but the easiest to score average marks. This peculiarity is attributed to a phenomenon known as partial marks. You can study a very limited portion which can most easily be plugged into any question. Irrespective of the question asked, you can put some general stuff and your teacher would willingly give you a few marks helping you get passing marks overall.

This probably gets so entrenched in our minds that I see the application of this principle so often at work. As always, its hard for people to say I don't know. To respond to something they don't know, they would tell whatever they know without really caring about the question. Often times, they would go on explaining that what they are telling is more important than what is being asked. Well, of course, it may be true in some cases, but not when the partial marks guys are the ones explaining.

Why do IITians fail?

For the same reason why a lot of attractive girls are not smart or funny or creative. Now this will sound like a gladwell-esque statement but unlike him I have no stats to prove this right or wrong.

But, being attractive sometimes can cause people to not focus on trying to be smart or funny because they don't need to. In case of IITians, they are usually smarter than the average folks and all they need to or want to rely on is their intelligence. In their over reliance, they tend to ignore a lot of other qualities that make up for a successful career. The big bucket of which is Inter-personal skills and soft skills.

Now, I don't mean they fail, but rather underachieve their potential a lot of times. Granted that the entrance exam is meant to test raw intelligence but the students should have the good sense on build on their raw intelligence.

Contrast two people who do similar in their academics, one brighter than the other. The bright one scores without much effort and the other one does the same but as a result of lot of diligence and hard work i.e attending classes, being nice to the professor, participating it the class by asking questions and may be even dressing well in vivas and classroom. Now, assuming the output is usually same for both of them, the latter would be much more successful in a professional setting. The diligent one is used to being nice to professor and can do the same for his/her superiors. They focus on forming relationships, socializing and in extreme cases just plain old sucking up.

Also, doing something easily some times undermines the value of the work done, so again, the diligent ones score better. Overall, there is more sympathy towards them and they have the right 'look' and usually there are more of them as compared to the brighter ones.

On the other hand, the bright guys don't stop at being careless, some times they develop contempt for lesser able folks (sometimes their bosses) and that is a true recipe for disaster in a team setting. Part of it comes from the culture propagated at IITs. Hard working people are not often seen very kindly there even if they do well. Worse is someone trying to suck up to make up for it. If I have to draw a quadrant, this is how it would look.
Now, even though I have generalized it for IITians, I have seen enough non IITians who's over reliance on performance and complete disregard for everything else has been disastrous for them. This argument may not be valid in all the settings. More or less all the jobs need easy to average problems to be solved and hence other things become more relevant.

However, if you can get to a place where the problems are genuinely tough and there is a clear case of some people doing it clearly better than others, the 'non performance' things may become less relevant. So, for someone with this issue, choosing the right environment may be the easiest and most sustainable solution.

Most Eligible Bachelor

Stayed in draft a bit too long

Its highly unlikely that you didn't recognize him, but if you really didn't, two things - 1) Work on your gk. 2) He is Rahul Mahajan

Another Sachin quote

I have been seen a lot of forwards with quotes on Sachin from various greats. Recently came across one after his 200, that I think should get added to the list.

The old Sachin radiated heat. The new Sachin gives light.
But he still remains the sun.

Courtesy: Greatbong

Easy Accessibility

There are people who are easily accessible and then there are those who are not. The ones who are easily accessible are always helping others (foremost condition is they should be capable). Most of the times they get their due, but do they always? They become like pee pots in the corner of a restroom, used most often but not necessarily designed/rewarded for that.

The point is, the pot has hardly anything to gain from being the most popular to be picked up for the dirty job. It happens in an environment where there is no good work. If you are good (like the strategically located pot is for "pee-rs" - pun intended), you will end up doing the dirty work more often than others (for yourself and others) and a lot of times to no end.

Mobile Photography

Rediscovered my love for photography after I realized my mobile camera could click decent pictures in daylight.

Animals starting their day at a location near Bhopal

Most fearless duck I have ever seen

Keep playing Sachin

In a crazy world where you see 16 hot chicks running after a loser like Rahul Mahajan in front of an audience of a billion, some things always make sense. Today Sachin reasserted his status as God. Glad to be born in an era where I could watch him play since he started.

Tendulkar hits first 200 in ODIs

Cat Attack

This cat has been a regular visitor whenever it finds an open window. Never has it been as persistent as this Friday when it just refused to go away. I ended up playing a benign host. Here are some snapshots:

OK, that's a pose for a passport size photo

Getting comfortable, feeling at home

On being dragged out

A nation of Limited Hobbies

This blog is about hobbies, so let me start with the first one that caused me to write this blog - Self flagellation. I hate to be part of this brigade, but I will anyway knowing fully well that I am part of what I am criticizing.

In my pretty long life so far, I think 99% of the folks I ever met would have one or more of the following hobbies
- Stamp collection: Seriously, do they really mean it
- Coin collection
- 'Listening' to music
- Watching TV
- Reading books
- Playing: A lot of people claim this but a very few continue to play after a certain age.

Most of the ones that survive are passive hobbies whereas in my travels outside I came across people who would brew their own beer, a guy who had a server 'farm' in his garage and a guy who would select a historical site, read it up and visit it. Now, it may not sound really outstanding till you know that these are three guys out of a 6 member team and the other three were Indians.

This topic came up because one of my friends who is in US right now told me about a guy who designs and builds furniture in his free time. Now that, you are all red and violet with anger, this guy is actually an Indian staying in US for last 8 years. I wonder if he would be doing the same had he been staying in India. For, I don't see too many people here doing such things.

Cricket this year

Here you go up to world cup 2011

David Blaine on TED

David Blaine: How I held my breath for 17 min

3 Movies of this weekend

Finally after everyone else in the world I managed to watch Avataar and 3 idiots this weekend along with the much low key Rocket Singh.

Its interesting to see Hollywood and Bollywood's all time biggest grossers running at the same time. The other movies in the top two are again by the same set of people (James Cameron - Titanic and Ghajini by Aamir Khan).

I was thoroughly impressed by Avataar and not just because of the 3d circus. My experience with these kind of things have been that you are amazed for a while and then it all becomes ordinary. So, to say that it worked purely due to effects might be injustice to the overall movie. In any case I wouldn't have minded sitting another hour had they made it longer.

The much hyped "3 idiots" that managed to go beyond that hype was also a good watch. What struck me was the black and whiteness added to the grey shades of the story in the novel. Not in his wildest dreams Chetan Bhagat would have written a script like this where a God-like student is twisting everyone around him much like Krishna in Mahabharat. It was the filmy brain of the other guys that introduced the caricatured characters of Suhas, Chatur and Virus. A more subtle show would have left everyone disappointed. Who would be interested in watching how "Venkatraman Ramakrishnan" managed to get a noble while he could not qualify in JEE to get into IITs.

Rocket Singh was an honest effort to make a realistic movie. I liked it, not sure why others didn't. To end this, I will leave you with this quote from Rocket Singh

"Hum aise office me kaam karte hai jahan hamari speciality koi nahi dekhta. Aur jis cheez ka kaam se koi lena dena nahi wo sab dekhte hain and hum bhi wahi ban gaye hain - main ek joker sardar aur tu ek item girl"

Lucky charm for World Cup?

I am probably going too far with this and possibly jinxing it, but the way Virat Kohli has been playing recently makes me wonder if he is the lucky charm India was waiting for before we could win another cricket world cup. For those of you who don't know, here is what I am talking about:

Youngsters spice up dull tournament
Kohli comes of age
Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli tons hand India series

He was the captain of U19 Indian team that won the world cup in 2008. I wonder if 2011 world cup would be known for Kohli making merry in the field and India winning the cup (irrespective!). Here's to a long shot :)