Saturday, December 22, 2007


I have been doing stupid things of late, but today I really crossed all limits when I decided to ride pillion with my dear friend (whom I shall not name :P) to wangle our way into H 13's laundry room to collect his clothes, 20 minutes past closing time. I was amazed at how we did manage to reach H 13, unharmed and unscathed (a distance of about a km from our hostel - too much to demand for a safe ride, with our dear friend being the driver in question and with IIT roads being the stage for his whole driving dramatics) and I did indeed compliment him on his driving, and even foolishly hinted that I would like him to teach me to ride a bike (Haa Haa, okay so I don't know how to ride a bike......... 'yet'...... big deal!)

I don't know if it was fate which intended to pull a nasty practical joke on me, but the moment I said this, it happened. Skid, slip, slide, 'Abey', and a 'Kya faart hai!' later, the bike came crashing down. The mighty pulsar, fell to the ground with my rider friend still holding on to it. Luckily, my common sense came to its senses when it mattered most and I jumped away to avoid landing below the bike. The H 13 watchman saw us thus collapsing, and came running to us. He was pleased to find that no one was hurt, and we were relieved to see that the Pulsar too was 'unhurt' (or else we pay the compensation to the owner you see) He then looked at my friend and said - 'Arey baba, tum to parso bhi yahin isi jagah bike se gire the, aise hi style mein!' (You had fallen off from your bike in the same manner a couple of days back). This remark hit us, and we felt it is important to determine the cause of such a snafu, which always goes wrong the same way! Turned out that the culprit was a frickin tazo. Such a small and insignificant toy could prove to be such a huge problem - well, all credit to fate and my dear driver friend. No more bike rides for me for the time being please! :)

P.S. 20 mins past closing time + 10 mins drama with the tazo = shop closed = all efforts in vain. Also, it is yet to be known if the tazo was the miscreant a couple of days ago as well.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


I was really fortunate to have done an internship at Cornell University this summer. Very often though, I wonder how it would have been had I not bagged any offer from any university. I believe I would be really pissed off and I would have surely replied to some professor in this manner:

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your reply. After going through your email, I regret to inform you that I cannot accept your rejection.

My projects and courses keep me quite busy now-a-days and I receive hundreds of emails from lots of professors each day; as such, I am unable to accept all rejections. After going through your group's research work cited on your website and the reputation of your university, I am sorry at being compelled to reject your rejection.

As such, I hereby assume the position of a summer intern in your lab for the coming summers (May-July '07). Please let me know about the stipend that you can offer me asap so that we can go ahead with the paperwork at the earliest.

Thanks and regards,
Yours sincerely.

Now let's talk about my B.Tech project (BTP). Had my professor not shown interest in my work, I would have surely written him the following mail:

Dear Sir,

This is to inquire about the status of my B.Tech project. I have noticed that you haven't been showing much interest in my work for the past few weeks and you have become very irregular in scheduling meetings to discuss the same. I have to warn you that if this state of affairs continues, then I may be forced to lodge a complaint with the HOD on charges of academic negligence.

Take care,
Yours sincerely.

P.S. Please meet me at the earliest after you read this email.

Finally, the best of them all: (got it from some site... can't remember which; had it saved as a text doc)

To: All employees

From: Management
RE: Restroom Policy

In the past, employees were permitted to make trips to the restroom under information guidelines. Effective Feb. 1, 1995, a Restroom TripPolicy (RTP) will be established to provide a consistent method of accounting for each employee's restroom time.

Under this policy, a "Restroom Trip Bank" will be established for each employee. The first day of each month, employees will be given aRestroom Trip Credit of 20. Restroom Trip Credits can be accumulated from month to month.

Within two weeks, the entrances to all restrooms are being equipped with personnel identification stations and computer linked voice recognition devices. Before January 31, each employee must provide two copies of voice prints (one normal and one under stress) to Management. The voice print recognition will be in operation, but not connected to restrooms until the end of the month. Employees should acquaint themselves with these stations during that period.

If an employee's Restroom Trip Bank balance reaches zero, the doors to the restroom will not unlock for that employee's voice until the first of the month. In addition, any restroom stalls that are occupied for more than three minutes, an alarm will sound. Thirty seconds after the alarm sounds, the roll of paper will retract, the toilet will flush and the stall door will open. If the stall still remains occupied, your picture will be taken.

The picture will then be posted on the wall in the main office. This is being done to eliminate dilly-dallying in the restrooms. Anyone's picture showing up three times will immediately be terminated.

If you have any questions about the RTP, please ask your supervisor.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The triumph of the Underdog

Underdog. Someone who enters a competition supposedly just as a filler, someone without any hopes of making it beyond the opening round. Wikipedia says an underdog is a person or group in a competition, frequently in electoral politics, sports, and creative works, who is popularly expected to lose. Yes that's what an underdog is - a supposed no hoper.

There are times though when the underdog decides to snatch away some of the limelight from his more illustrious counterparts, leaving behind utter shock and surprise and awe in his wake. It's at these times that they realise how much they underestimated that underdog. The victory is never seen coming. It takes on everyone by surprise. Everyone, but the underdog. He always believed he would win some day. He never lost hope, ever so perseverant, no matter how hostile his status quo may seem. He always respected his failures, learning more from them than the joy that he derives from his victories.

There are occasions though, when the underdog has an added onus of taking his one off win forward towards reaching the pinnacle. He has to some how sustain his confidence and his will power to take him that one step forward, where lady luck may not always be at his side. It's time for him to humble the champions. He knows he has had a bit of good fortune in getting to where he is now. Few are such chances that he gets, rather this may be the only chance he'll ever get, and it is upon him to make this a memorable moment for him to cherish forever.

And so the underdog decides to fight on. He has nothing to lose anyway. Rather there's an incentive here to enjoy the war, the competition. The result of defeat shall be no different from what his situation is now - he'll still be the underdog. But victory will bring a respect, an admiration, a sense of wonder from his contemporaries, hitherto unimaginable. His little known skills make him an intimidating adversary. He knows he doesn't have what it takes to be a champion. But he damn well knows how to create an upset.

Behold the underdog.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


I was recently at my cousin's place for a family get together and was relaxing in their patio after a sumptuous dinner party. The stars were out and were pulsating, blinking as if they were warming up for a grandiose exhibition eventually. The scattered cirrus couldn't dampen the tenor of the hour. The moon was in a playful mood, peeping through whatever clouds that subsisted on an otherwise clear winter night, and hurriedly rushing for cover when beheld.

My cousin happened to spot me reposing thus. "So, what is my bro thinking about?" She asked.

"Oh nothing, just appreciating the tranquility after dark. Isn't it apt that the moon is associated with calmness and peace of mind?"

"Yes, that's right. And so too with lunatics and the like. Is this the reason why you are thinking about this?", she quipped.

"Well, perhaps. Jokes apart, do you think man ever landed on the moon?"

"Of course I do. Don't you believe so? Or do you uphold all those conspiracy theories and what not?"

"Well, I don't mean to be a sceptic here, nor do I wish to spoil the mood; but the moon looks to be such a serene place, an embodiment of peace itself; a tranquil world if I may. Doesn't it seem weird that humankind, which is these days so bereft of all these qualities, could reach such a place?"

"And what seems to be the point here?"

"None. It is just that we should perhaps focus more on the symbolism associated with the moon and take inspiration to improve matters down here, than trying to complicate matters up there."

"And how is this related to man's landing on the moon?"

"I don't know. I somehow believe we should focus on more pressing matters than concentrating on mere facades to humour ourselves. Of course the vox populi seems to disagree with me on this."

"You and your stupid thoughts! Anyway, I'll catch you in a moment; have to give these keys to father," and she left.

Left alone was I to my stars, the moon and the looming darkness. The lights in the hall were switched off and the darkness seemed to be getting even closer. I happened to take a quick glance at the moon as it again sought cover behind a sparse cloud. And that happened to be the hallmark of the evening for me - no matter how dense the darkness approaching me, no matter how dark the lining be, the clouds shall always be silver for me.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Back from Hiatus

Been busy for a long while now, with lots of things actually, reading some wonderful books, preparing for the inevitable placement interviews, strumming my guitar and a host of other activities. A pity that I neglected my blog all this long. Nevertheless, I think I have rediscovered my blogging passion, now rejuvenated with a new vigour.

Before I start penning down words on more tangible issues, I felt I should present this wonderful poem I came across, introduced to it by a friend, when I was once brooding over my chances of cracking a job in one of the top companies coming to campus this year. The poem is titled 'Ithaca' (not the Cornell Ithaca, this refers to the island near Greece). I know not of the origin of this poem, so I am sad I cannot give due credit to its author here. I will appreciate it if someone could furnish me that information :)


When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon -- do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.

Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what these Ithacas mean.

As my dear friend Sasik tells me, "Enjoy the process and not the destination........ It's not where you start, but how you start that's more important."

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Ignited minds

Just finished reading this wonderful book by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, who, as a matter of fact, is going to deliver a speech tomorrow at IIT Bombay, as a part of the Teacher's day celebrations here, and also to kick off our Golden Jubilee event! It's an excellent book, and good that I read it after reading 'Against the tide'; as it supplemented the thoughts provided therein really well. I had received this book back in 2004 as a gift from my teacher, Arun Roy Sir, to whom I am really grateful to having introduced me to such a wonderful book.

I would like to present here the story that the honourable writer chose to end his book with, one that he says he got from the internet. It's a conversation between two babies - ego and spirit - and goes somewhat as follows: (The dialogue is while both are still in the womb)

Spirit: I know you are going to find this hard to accept, but I believe there is life after birth.

Ego: Don't be foolish. Look around you. This is all there is. Why must you always be thinking about something beyond this reality? Accept your lot in life.

Spirit: (quietens down for a while, but not for long) Ego, now don't get angry, but I also believe that there is a Mother.

Ego: (Laughing) A Mother! How can you say that? You've never seen a Mother, you don't know what Mother is. Why can't you accept that this is all there is? You are here alone with me. This is your reality.

Spirit: (Begs) Ego, please listen. What about those constant pressures we both feel, those movements that make us so uncomfortable sometimes, the feeling that we are being squeezed in as we grow? I think we shall soon have a new life, that we shall see light.

Ego: You have never seen light. How do you know what it is? These pressures and darkness is what life is all about.

Spirit: (one last try to put in some sense into Ego) Ego, I will not bother you again. But I do believe that after all this discomfort not only shall we see light but also experience the bliss of meeting Mother.

Ego: You are mad Spirit.

Friday, August 31, 2007


Mc Kinsey, Merill Lynch, BCG, J. P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley... or any other big name that is coming to IIT for recruitments this year - ask for one thing from the candidates in their 'What we look for in you' section - Leadership. I was intrigued by this demand of theirs'; maybe because I don't know what they mean by leadership. What then is leadership? I thought instead of looking at this from their perspective, let me analyse 'leadership' from my own perspective.

Arnold Toynbee once said these famous lines (courtesy 'Against the tide') "If a democratic regime is to work satisfactorily, it needs a leader... who is a person of such manifest ethical and intellectual worth that his fellow citizens will follow his lead without having to be either coerced or emotionally excited." But is this what leadership implies today? In IIT, the student community looks upon leadership to be something related wholly to holding an office as a student; be it a Councilor post in one's hostel, or the Department General Secretary post, or the posts of organizational heads for IIT's festivals - Mood Indigo and Techfest. Is this what Toynbee meant by leadership? Did he say, that leadership merely signifies leading a group of people towards achieving a common goal? Well, he didn't; but leadership does signify that. But the term holds in itself a hidden purport as well.

It isn't just about leading a bunch of people to do some task. It is far more than that. We happen to focus more on only the role of a leader these days. We tend to forget the whole process of functioning of leadership. Besides, the concept of leader is baseless without the concept of a follower; which again is grossly misunderstood today. Every one of us is a leader. We are really poor followers. The result - the collapse of the very values that our culture has been founded upon. A poor follower cannot become a great leader. How can a leader cause 'his fellow citizens to follow his lead without having to be either coerced or emotionally excited' when he was a bad follower himself?

In the Bhagavad Gita, the Lord (Krishna) tells his follower (Arjuna), after having imparted him with all the knowledge there is in the Gita, to reflect over it fully, and act in the way he pleases to. In response, Arjuna says that his delusion is destroyed, that he is firm and that all his doubts are gone. And he says 'Lord, I'll do thy word'. In my view, this is the highest level of the leader-follower relationship that can be seen. The manipulative, ego-centric, supremely powerful image of a leader that we harbour today is replaced in here by one of a powerful yet humble, noble, and progressive personality. Sadly, today we take our stand based on what the lord said. We never turn to what his follower had to say.

And that is what bothers me - the image of a leader we students have at IIT. Is it also shared by the companies who will come to our institute for campus recruitments? Well, we'll come to know soon.

Monday, August 27, 2007

This will pass

There is commotion all around me. I am sure that all this is just a dream, a bad nightmare rather. 'Life can never be so cruel, this can't be the world that I live in...' Yet somewhere deep in my heart I know I could be wrong. I have always heard of things like this happening to others, but had never given it a thought, probably because I never was directly in the line of fire. 'I cannot die in my dream'. I know for sure, that one does not die in one's dreams. It is this mysterious programming of the human mind that prevents us from experiencing death in dreams. Is it because we have never experienced death in life before, and that our dreams are based just on our experiences in life hitherto? But then, I wondered about all the dreams about her, things I wanted badly, but had never experienced, at least in this life.

I am surprised at how my mind could wander amidst all the horror. There was blood all around me. I don't know if it is mine or someone else's. Is this the blood of that child who was sitting next to me a while ago? No! It can't be... I cannot even imagine something so horrible happening to that beautiful thing. Such gore cannot belong to such beauty. Surely this is a dream, a product of my vile thoughts perhaps. Pinch me! I pinched myself. There is something wrong now... By now I should have woken up, perplexed and sweating perhaps, and mightily relieved. But I am still here. I am still covered with this blood.

I see a man crying out from a distance away. Hey wait! I am not able to hear him... oh no... I am unable to hear anything... I never noticed this until now. Can we listen to others speaking in our dreams? Or does our mind pretend it is listening, all the while aware unconsciously of what the next chain of events and thoughts is going to be? I try to listen to his cries. I can see that he is in great pain, but I cannot listen to his pain. However odd this may seem, I thank God for not allowing me to listen to him... I just couldn't have taken it. All I can hear is a deafening silence.. I notice he is covered in blood too. Everything around us is black and red. I am reminded of the movie 300. Blood everywhere. The demonic side of humankind. Blood... death.

I remember I wasn't sleeping. This is not a dream. Sadly, this is all happening. And this time, it happens to me. A Saturday evening gone horribly wrong. What started out with joy, and children cheering to a laser show ends in this gore. Why? Why me? Why us? Why that kid who sat next to me? Why this man who I can't listen to? Why do this at all? I don't want to live through this. I cannot take this pain. I cannot accept such a life, which doesn't distinguish between beauty and gore. I don't want this. I want to die. I should have been killed too. I weep. I cry.

Then I hear a voice. Oh how calm it is! How very soothing, yet so authoritative, so dignified. Is this what they call the voice of the mind? The voice of God? The voice calms me. Just listening to it is sufficient to drive away the pain, the agony, the misery. This can't be a mortal speaking out. This isn't merely a voice, this is knowledge in all its glory, making itself heard at a time I need it most. The voice tells me to calm down and accept what has happened. It tells me all that happens, happens for the best. I can see no sense in what it tells me. What good is there in this? Clearly it's rubbish. But somehow, I am drawn towards it and I listen to it intently. It tells me that this will pass. The world was not this cruel at a time not too long ago, and this cruelty cannot last long as well. It tells me that the world is going to change. It asks me to trust it on this. 'The world will change. Trust me. All this will pass. I will not tolerate such terror in my creation. I wish as much as you do that this ends. But giving up and submitting to such terror won't help. Stand up. Fight against this. It is then that I can see the change that I know will eventually dawn. If you cannot fight, at least don't give up. Don't let your spirit die. These people, these elements, they can take your body, your happiness, all the beauty and peace there is; but they cannot take your spirit. Your spirit is under your control. It is upto you to defend it, or to surrender it. Listen wisely, and choose with care. Never give up.'

No, it still doesn't make sense. The world will change? Can it then bring back the little girl in whose blood I am covered? Can it give me back my hearing power? Can it give that man the peace of mind he lost? No. It surely can't. It told me that all this is for good. It happened for good. Where is this good? I don't see any good here. There can be no good where there is such horror. But now I don't want to die. It told me never to give up. I have to live on to change things. I don't like this. I hate all that just happened. I shall fight against this. I choose not to submit my spirit.

- Dedicated to the victims of the recent Hyderabad twin blasts. Let us vow to change the world. Let us vow that there shall be a day when such horror is done away with. And that day I shall realise what the human spirit is all about.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Against the tide

A nice read this book. I haven't yet finished reading the whole text, but from whatever I have read, this seems to be an excellent compilation of thoughts by S. K. Chakraborthy on the East-West distinction on world views. He presents the thoughts of 8 great thinkers on these aspects, 4 from the East (Gandhi, Tagore, Vivekanand and Aurobindo) and 4 from the west (Griffiths, Toynbee, Rolland and Frawley).

Laying aside the thoughts and the impressionistic words which conveyed them, the thing I liked more about this book was the insights it offered into the current situation of the world in light of these views, some of which are more than 100 years old. The other day I was asked to write an essay picturing myself at the age of 50 and that seemed an uphill task to me. And here were thoughts on the human condition after a century, by some of the most intellectually superior minds we have ever known. Given the author's professional background (Convener, Management Centre for Human values and Professor, IIM Calcutta) in the domains of management and ethics, this book affords both flavours in ample measure to the open minded reader. I feel really lucky to have been introduced to some really good books over the last couple of weeks (this and 'The Life of Pi' by Yann Martel, 'Business @ the speed of thought' by Bill Gates, 'Rich Dad Poor Dad' by Robert Kiyosaki) which have rekindled the passion I once had for substantial reading before I got hitched on to Grisham.

I would recommend each one of us to read this book once. The name is quite profound itself - it is a text that claims to help one realise that there is a way against the tide too; it isn't always imperative to drift like a straw with the tide. Before I sign off, here is a memorable quote from the book, originally by Tagore:

"... When things go wrong, the peoples brought up in the spirit of modern culture furiously seek for some change in organization and system, as if the human world were a mere intellectual game of chess where winning and losing depended upon the placing of pawns. They forget that for a man, winning a game may be the greatest of his losses."

Think about this. You are welcome to share your views here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

On my 50th birthday

Had to write this essay for the O. P. Jindal Scholarship application. The topic was what would I want the critical stakeholders in my life to say about me on my 50th birthday. This is what I had to say:

Well, that’s an interesting question. More so considering that I haven’t yet lived to even half that age! So where do I see myself on my 50th birthday, and what do the most important people in my life perceive me as? Well, for one I can be sure that I’ll be living in a totally different world then from what I am living in right now. So I think I’ll focus more on what kind of a person would I like to be rather than what I would have achieved by then and the like, which would be pure speculation, to say the least.

The quintessential characteristic of my personality then, and always at that, should be that I be known as a good human being. What purports does this epithet encompass from my point of view? Well, there are several aspects to this, and let me focus on some of the key ones for now. I would like to be known as a friendly, responsible and a diligent personality to all persons whose life I touch, directly or indirectly. For my children, who would have grown up to be fine young adults by then, I would be a good father, ever so loving and encouraging and supportive and also critical about their views and thoughts. They should know and be proud of the fact that I will always be there for them whenever they may need me. I would be a good husband to my wife, always beside her through thick and thin. She should also look upon me as a loving spouse and be as much my strength as I would be to her. At 50 years young, I would love her as much as I always did, if not more! My friends and my colleagues should consider me a good team player and a very supportive companion. I should also be looked upon as a good listener, and even though I might be opinionated on most issues, I should not be derisive of the opinions of others. I should have a wide and a happy social network, and be looked upon as an influential person among the circles of which I would be a part.

I should also be looked upon as a dynamic personality and a significant agent of change. At the age of 50, I believe that I would have reached the autumn of my active professional life, which is a fair assumption I guess, as I certainly wouldn’t like to be striving to earn for my daily bread at that age! As such, I should be looked upon as a good mentor by my younger generations, and they should trust in my advice on issues that they think are critical for them and for others. I should have lived to have contributed my fair bit to the development of the world in general and my country in particular. The development and progress we long for today should have been achieved by then and I should have played an important part in getting there. My activities, both in my social and professional life should inspire other people towards achieving the highest strata of excellence. I shall live to have my critics, who would always push me on to do even better at whatever I do. I would like to have lived up to their criticism by then.

I am not sure of what the life expectancies would be 30 years down the line, though I am pretty much sure that I would still go on to live on for quite a few more years! So what should my goals be then? What should I aspire for? As of now, I would like to have achieved all that I want to in my life by then. So what would the future hold for me, and what would I have to offer? For a start, I can then retire from my professional life and become a lobbyist for the issues that I always would have supported. That would be a good way to dedicate my wealth and time to everything that I respect and love. For instance, I can travel around spreading goodwill and the message of love and peace, which I am quite sure, would be far from achieved even by then! For my grandchildren, I would be everything that we picture in a nice grandpa; a loving playmate to a faithful protector. Essentially, I should not so much desire wealth and power in my life then, as the love and respect of the people who I care for.

Well, it really is tough picturing myself at such a distant stage in the future, though I feel I have presented a fair picture of how I would like to be then; all that ranging from being an achiever to being a noble human being. To put everything in a nutshell, I would like to have lived to have created a greater impact and brought more smiles to faces than I could have ever possibly imagined.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


If I ask you where do you see yourself on your 50th birthday, what would you have to say? Well, for one you cannot comment on what/where you will be (given you are about my age now), as 29 years is a long way into the future. I will share my views on this soon, but meanwhile I will like you to think on this for yourself, and maybe share your views with us all here.

Good bye.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lasting trends (?)

Came upon this great way of optimising your living costs and saving your time. Wow! I mean, what's new? Such things are pretty common in govt hospitals out here I believe. One thing concerns me though - who caught this shabbiness habit from whom - the Brits from us, or we from the Brits?

How would it be like to turn over your dirty bedsheet, that has been there for probably a month or so, and pretend its all washed up and lie down on it. Well, you could also go to the extent of imagining the fresh scent of the soap used to wash that sheet emanating from that thing while you try smell it. What would you do if someone comes over and is ignorant of this new cost cutting scheme of yours and passes an awkward comment that spurs up giggles in those who happen to be there at that destined moment. Well, if I were you, I would pretend as if the commentator passed a dumb comment of which even he isn't sure of. To avoid suspicion you could probably spray some deo or something on that sheet to simulate that fragrance we talked of earlier.

What would you do if your Mom were to walk into your hostel room suddenly, presenting you one of her 'surprise visits', maybe a trend she has recently adopted, after finally realising the nature of the life hostelites live. What do you do then? For one, you could pretend that this isn't your room and walk into that wing's-good-boy's room where all is calm and well. But what if that fails? What contingency plan do you probably employ? Well, you could explain this new cost cutting trend to your mom, and pray she appreciates it (Trust me you don't want her trying out that back home).

Think about the sweat and dust creases that form on sheets that are not washed for a long time. No, they are not disgusting. As a matter of fact, (few people know this) the creases can be copied and pasted to other parts of the sheet. All you have to do is to hold the two portions in contact for a fairly long time (even rub them together to help matters). Don't you see it? You have your very own graffiti board; pardon me, graffiti sheet for yourself. Trust me on this too - no one else would want to claim ownership to this either.

What we looked at were some pros and cons(?) of the habit of turning over used sheets and reusing them instead of dismissing them off to a nice wash. Coming back to the topic, this is one trend I don't see would last long.

Monday, August 13, 2007


What do we mean by knowledge? Is it just a collection of facts? Or is it just an awareness of some ideas? I feel that a more correct description of knowledge could be that it is the absence of ignorance. Knowledge reigns where ignorance ceases to exist. Knowledge is not just born out of nothing; all the knowledge possessed by mankind today is a result of accumulation over ages; accumulation of experience, facts, theories, ideas, beliefs and all that we regard today as knowledge.

What exactly again is ignorance? A quantitative way of describing it would be to say that it is the failure to understand something in its actuality; in the way it actually exists. When do we say that we understand something as it is? Well, one could say that we do so when there is a common agreement that it is this way; when we have no contradictions to it. For example, 2+2=4 is an axiomatic statement in mathematics; we believe that it is this way, as we have been told so, and we don’t seem to find any established idea contradicting this. Thus, it seems as if our knowledge is based commonly on our agreement on certain facts and ideas.

Agreement upon something universally is not an easy thing. When a new idea or fact is presented, we do not accept it without reasoning. There are counter arguments and theories. This is the way it has always been to a large extent. Most of western scientific knowledge was founded when a few ambitious men challenged the statements of the Church, which the laity had till then accepted as the supreme truth, unthinkable of being challenged. Had it not been for the daring of these courageous few, the world would have been drastically different from the way it is today. Why, there are always those who disagree upon any new idea upon its introduction.

Disagreements don’t imply an end in themselves; they pave the way for further enquiry into the topic and lead to a deeper understanding of the same. If all of us choose to agree upon something, there would be hardly any need for further study into the intrigue of the idea under consideration. Better put, we may not be exaggerating in saying that disagreements lead to more concrete agreements.

But is disagreement always justified? Is it necessary that there should always be a section of mankind opposed to common agreement upon an issue? Rather, is knowledge founded solely on the basis of disagreements alone? Consider this – We reassure ourselves of our knowledge by disproving those who oppose it. What if all of us agree upon something, without anyone questioning it? Would we ever bother to test the authenticity of our belief? Even if it be this way, what about the generations who follow our own? Will they blindly accept whatever is laid in front of them? Certainly not, as it just makes a mockery of knowledge. The example of the church’s beliefs and the enquiry of scientists mentioned earlier fits aptly here.

It thus seems that for a certain knowledge to pass on to generations and to survive through the ages, it has to be questioned time and again, and it should come out shining each time. Such enquiry based upon disagreements would certainly strengthen it. I certainly believe that most of our knowledge is due to those who disagreed rather than those who agreed. Because, if it weren’t so, we would have no right to differentiate between what we call our knowledge, and what we call blind faith.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Adventures of Sam

I have been away from blogging for a long while now, thanks to more pressing matters in my life. But now that I have become busy with my routine at IIT, I finally find myself left with enough time to spare for my blog. It's this thing with being kept busy that amuses me; I always feel that I have lots of free time to kill then. Give me nothing to do and I become preoccupied with boredom.

Most of you may know Sam from a previous post. Sam is our typical personality who has the not so uncommon knack of making me laugh with his quotidian colloquialism. The other day he told me that he was tired of wasting time in bathing. I asked him what other options did he have, to which he happily told me he would dry clean himself. He has these clear cut solutions to simple issues in life that intrigue him as hell. If you want to see the height of stupidity, you just have to ask Sam how tall he is. Sam tells me he wants to become a doctor, so that he can help humankind. I feel that he is helping more humans than he can ever do by becoming a doctor the way he is now; at least no lives are endangered due to his stupidity. He once stumbled upon a fortune cookie that said "Seek your fortune in another cookie". And he did.

Sam I believe, was born only with a single brain cell, that has now been reduced to half following repeated usage over all these years. He was trying a guitar in the store the other day.

Sam: Hey it's been so long since I played a guitar.
Me: Sam dear, you have never played a guitar.
Sam: Exactly.
(Plays around with it for a while. Then, )
Sam: Hey how do you play this chord again? I forgot.
Me: I thought you don't know how to play the guitar.
Sam: Ah! That's why I keep forgetting.

Yesterday he came to me holding a cool Federer-autographed tennis ball in his hand, and asked me

Sam: Ain't this cool?
Me: Good, but whose is it?
Sam: It was lost. I found it.
Me: How do you know?
Sam: Well, the kid next door is still looking around for it.

Sam owns a car that he says has never had a wreck since 5 years. I don't want to disappoint him by telling him the truth - that he owned a wreck and has never had a car. Sam is also quite good at a dance called the elevator; he avoids the steps. Lately, he feels that everyone has been ignoring him due to his stupidity. So he went to see a counselor.

Sam: Everyone ignores me. What should I do?
Counselor: Next please!

Ha ha.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


My only encounter with this martial art was way back when I was in second grade, and it lasted just three months. As far as I can remember, I quit before I got a belt (That's right; I quit). But I did learn a bit of Karate while I was at it back then. I learnt how to punch and how to kick. Well, that isn't much to speak of, but at least I can say this when I see anyone fighting - 'Hey, I know that! I had paid to learn that!'

I don't get the thing with Karate. Most of my friends who are black belts in Karate tell me that it is more an art to them than a fighting technique. Well, I wonder whatever happened to dancing, singing, painting that we now have to visualize fights as art too. People who have never done Karate in their life tell me it is necessary for self defense. I fail to appreciate this. I don't expect to have the House-of-flying-daggers type killers trying to kill me for which I may have to learn Karate to put up an impressive fight, pun intended. The most likely ways in which ordinary folks like you and me can be killed are by accident. Now don't tell me you are going to kick the heck out of a car when it's about to hit you. Others tell me that it is a way of maintaining your body, balance and improving concentration and focus. Whatever happened to less violent methods like gymming and dancing?

What bugs me most is to see old people practising martial arts after retirement. Taekwondo, Karate and the like. I have a theory here. I believe the old people are short of money after their retirement. And they plan to attack us able bodied fellows one fine day and run away with our money. Quite obviously the senior citizens are waiting their time patiently to stuff our money in their bags and make a dash. And I pity most of you who are wasting their time working hard to earn money while the uncles and aunties are silently preparing for the war. And I pity myself more for knowing this, but still not getting the hang of Karate. I wonder which group is Sam in.

It isn't long before the people who are learning Karate instead of working hard to live good lives will attack us and run away with our money. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Staying ahead of idiots

Frankly speaking, there are two types of people in this world - smart people like us, and tens of billions of idiots who get in our way often. Idiots are difficult to handle, especially those who consider themselves to be smart like us. For now, let's stick to calling their stupidity as 'personality'. This has its own good reasons. For one, you can get away with an idiot easily without provoking him.

Me: That's quite a personality that you have Sam.
Sam: Thanks man.

If you are not yet surrounded by idiots, you soon will. They are everywhere, taking over mankind without the slightest hint of such an invasion. If the above mentioned way to tackle them fails to keep them away, I can suggest you three options to deal with them:

1. Kill them.
2. Accept them as they are and respect them for the way they are.
3. Use them.

Option 1 is not a realistic prospect, considering that killing one idiot will provoke hundred others. Option 2 again is absurd, simply because that guy is an idiot and you aren't. Option 3 looks the best if you ask me. Use idiots for your own gain. That is what they are born for. It's like this cow from the restaurant at the end of the universe in the 'Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy' - it says it's made to be eaten. Same goes with our personalities; their very nature begs us to use them. To do this though, you have to predict the behaviour of these idiots, which is difficult, considering the fact that an average idiot cannot predict his own behaviour. For one, you can try hurting the idiots' ego into working for you.

Sam: Hey you were supposed to complete this project long back. Are you ever going to get done with this?
Me: Look I am trying ok.
Sam: I have to face troubles coz of you, you know.
Me: That is quite unbecoming of your personality Sam.
Sam: (pause) I am sorry man. I don't know what came over me. Don't you worry, I'll do it myself.

Most idiots are also god fearing. You can exploit that weakness too to harness it for your own good.

Me: Sam, where are you off to?
Sam: To do your girlfriend. She invited me over.
Me: You can't do that Sam.
Sam: Says who?
Me: Says God. You will burn in hell if you do that.
Sam: Oh thanks man. I never knew. Now that was close. Hey, what if I kill you first?
Me: (pause) Sorry, that isn't any good either.
Sam: Shit.

The most irritating idiots aren't the ones you meet in person. They are the ones who call you on your phone and hold you up from doing your important work for hours talking non sense. If you hang up, their ego is hurt and they may get provoked, which is not what you want. It is best to use an answering machine on your phone with a recorded message that goes like this:

Idiot answering machine: Hello. Before speaking to Tallur, please let me know if this phone call is going to benefit him in any way whatsoever.
Sam: Uh.. umm... yes, I guess so.
Idiot answering machine: Lying son of a gun! (click)

The phone can also be used to insult idiots without provoking them. Go into a room with a cellphone held up to your ear.

Me: You are the most stupid duffer I have ever known.
Sam: Excuse me, what was that? (angry)
Me: Sshhh... I am on the phone. Can't you see?
Sam: Oh, sorry.

Well, I believe I have told you some things that you need to know about idiots. Let me tell you this: you can identify an idiot by the symptoms of stupidity. Watch out for these and you will be easily able to predict whether the person you are thinking about is an idiot or not. Some of them are quite easy to notice:
  • Idiots like growing ear hair.
  • Idiots will vote a cucumber for President, saying that it was time for a change.
  • Idiots will make stupid decisions and call them investments.
No matter how much you try to change idiots, always realise that you can never strip them off their stupidity and selfishness. You may be wondering why I am letting out my secrets about idiots, won't some idiots be provoked by this. Well, I don't care. No matter how much you try, I shall always be two steps ahead of you.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Evolutionary U-turn

Ever since I can recall, I have this what I call a 'healthy' built. I never worked for this, which I believe somehow explains how I got it. I never played any game for my school back in my childhood, primarily because my school didn't have a team at all, nor I think would they have considered me in case they might have made one back then. Some fellow humans have long since confused my healthy lifestyle for lethargy and obesity. How can I convice them that it isn't about laziness nor excessive fat, but about trying to master the art of a healthy, easy and inconspicious solution to emerging as the survivor in Nature's scheme of things?

Some curious folks ask me why I have such a 'healthy built' (if I may use that term), to which I reply that I have a hollow body with huge air pockets, which enable me to fly if I choose to. Keep an eye out on the horizon, and if you spot a floating balloon, observe closely, you may just have the rare privilege of seeing me in flight. Some cynics argue though that I do have huge air pockets; not in my belly though, but between my ears. Guess that explains my occasional light headed behaviour whenever I am not flying around.

The more you grow, the more is the trouble. Besides, if your lateral growth rate exceeds your central growth, you are doomed. I am not sure why, but the 'society' that I live in labels me as 'fat'. I, for sure, am not fat, because I can easily see my toes whenever I want to, even when I stand. But most people prefer to knowingly ignore me, more so the opposite sex. I think that the heavy inertia of my belly somehow bends their gaze around it, much like heavy objects bend the path of light. This I believe is why many people fail to make eye contact with me. Eureka!

Couple this drum of mine with my, let's call it a relaxed spine, and you have someone who doesn't get flattered a lot. I feel this is another reason why people fail to make eye contact with me; my relaxed spine sort of makes my eye level a bit lower than theirs'. The fact that I am tall doesn't help either. Those of you who haven't seen me may picture a tall, hunchback fatso in their minds, and chances are that the first time we meet, you will say, "Hey, I know you! I had imagined you!" Stranger than fiction? Certainly not. I have always tried to maintain a low profile, and a low center of gravity, which may explain both traits I guess.

I guess the oddity with my posture is the fact that it may seem as if I am traveling on the path of evolution in the other direction for most others. Not too long ago, our forefathers were very much like what many of you would have just visualised, primates with huge bellies and bent spines, struggling to walk on two feet as against the other animals who were content on making optimal use of all the feet they were endowed with. But I think I have to change now. Maybe become a bit slimmer and walk straighter. I guess it's high time to take a U-turn on the evolutionary highway, and let civilisation take its chances, along with everyone else.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A notion of gravity

Here is one more in that series of seemingly strange perception of the universe. I am pretty sure I read this in some Scott Adams' book sometime.

Gravity. Ever since seventh grade we have been taught to consider gravity as a force that causes masses to be attracted towards each other. The magnitude of that force is proportional to the product of the masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. I guess ever since Newton discovered this fact due to a bump on his head caused by a falling apple, no one has debated this understanding firmly.

Einstein came up with another notion of gravity. As most of us know, Einstein never accepted the commonly known perception of the universe, and tried to understand it in his own way. He was a school dropout, which is why I wonder he turned out to be so successful. Newtonian classical forces cause a force acting upon a mass to accelerate, where the force is independent of the mass of the body on which it acts. Gravitational force isn't independent of that mass, which set Einstein thinking. And he went on to propose his general theory of relativity, where he describes gravity as something that causes a bump in space-time (Geek stuff here). This was a revolutionary breakthrough in the understanding of space and time and gravity. I will write another post on my perception of space and time in another post, but right now let's concentrate on gravity.

Before I give you my interpretation (rather the one I read somewhere and which set me thinking), let me give you a simple scenario to visualise. Consider a room inside which things double in size every second. Let us not worry about whether the room expands too right now. Suppose I keep you inside this room along with a pen. Now you will never realise that you are doubling in size every instant, because you can compare your size only with that of the pen, which is also growing in size at the same rate as you are. Hold on to this room for the time being.

Now suppose we have a big room like this, and there is a huge globe inside that room. Say you are standing on the globe. Now you feel like doing something funny and try jumping upwards. Let us consider what happens here. You and the globe, both are doubling in size constantly. When you jump up, both of you expand. But the globe is much larger than you, so you will feel it expands faster than you. Notice that I didn't say 'more' but 'faster'. As such, the globe will eventually catch up with you after you 'jumped'. Makes sense?

So what is gravity? Is it a way in which we perceive an ever expanding universe? Consider the other case where say objects would be shrinking in size constantly. In this space, once you jump upwards, the globe will seem to be going further away all the while, instead of catching up with you. I guess this is simple enough to be understood. So are we truly held to the earth by a force, or is it just that the earth is expanding faster than us, and so we never realise that?

One more line of thought. Newton's gravity fails to explain the bending of light around massive objects. Einstein's does; as gravity curves space time, thus reducing the shortest distance between two points, and also light always takes the shortest path from one point to another. How about our expansion theory? It can also explain the bending of light; the faster expansion of a 'massive' object can make us feel as if light is indeed following a bent path. So how do we really understand what gravity is? We cannot approve of this expansion theory unless we leave the system (universe; or if you go by my last post, a multiverse), which I am not sure is quite possible. I guess until we find a solution to do that, we should be content hypothesising such strange, but interesting theories.


Universe. Not long ago, people held the conception that the sun revolves the Earth, and that we live on a flat planet, a disc to be precise. The stars were only known as little dots of light spread out on the mosaic called sky. I guess before that time, living on a globe was only a fragment of one's imagination. One could have only imagined a universe where the earth wasn't in the centre, and the stars are huge balls of gas, way much larger than the puny earth. Imagination thrives on ideas. Ideas thrive on imagination. This intermingling of ideas and imagination is what makes them special, and not everybody's ball game.

I had read this somewhere before, but I am not sure who the author is; otherwise I would have given him due credit. To the best of my knowledge, it should be Scott Adams, but I am not sure. Anyway, I am not the type of writer who research their sources and ideas. I am the type who simply write down their ideas. I was reading about this new way to perceive the universe. Before stating that, I will like to ask you if you know how motion pictures work? Well, let me tell you again for the sake of clarity. Motion pictures consist of still images, called frames, arranged sequentially, where each frame differs from the last only by a slight measure. These frames are flashed upon a screen at a very fast rate (24 per second). Due to the human eye's perception of vision (an image seen by the eye creates an impression on our eye that lasts there for 1/10th of a second approximately), we cannot distinguish between the successive images, and confuse that to be a continuous motion picture. You see, the way we perceive the thing is wrong, not the way we know it. Now that I have told you, the next time you see a motion picture you are not going to see separate frames; just a continuous movie.

This brings me to my point. We perceive our life as something continuous - always changing, ever so slightly from the last instant. Could it be that our life too is like the motion picture? I mean, maybe there isn't just one universe, but infinitely many of those (let's call that a multiverse), arranged sequentially and each one differing from the last one ever so slightly. Of course, there are many variables to be considered in an universe - starting from the various living beings to the various inanimate objects and also the behavioural moods of the living beings etc. So for each universe in this multiverse, there will be infinitely many universes at the next instant. And for each of the next, there will be infinitely more later on too. So you see, I propose a system of infinite universes, that is ever growing. Which brings me to my next point.

Assuming this model of a multiverse holds, why do we traverse through these universes in a particular way. I mean while I am sitting at my desk and typing this document, why am I always here? Why can't I keep switching places throughout the process of writing this article. Or for that matter, why are we the way we are, generically speaking. Assuming my notion of the multiverse is valid, is there some force controlling our travel through the universes? Or is it that we are instinctively programmed to function in a certain particular way, that this multiverse has an order, which is difficult to overcome; or for that matter, can it really be overcome?

Could it really be possible for us to traverse through the universes the way we choose to? And what would we call the entity which traverses through these universes? A soul? Is that soul truly separate from this body then, as many people have said over and over again? Do we have a control over the way we live, partially, if not fully. When one of our forefathers said 'You make your own future', did he mean it?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


I remember when I was a kid, my mother always told me to beware of strangers. Somehow I developed this strange notion of strangers being bad men with nice chocolates. Now that I have grown up though, I seem to notice that most helpful and generous people are strangers, as I see here in Cornell. In fact, I believe I am yet to meet the most insightful and helpful people in my life, as they are all strangers for me now. Pun intended.

It isn't a surprise at all therefore, that most companies across the world have also realised the importance of strangers and are relying upon them for a major chunk of their work. Besides, strangers always seem to have our best interests in their mind, unlike our own people, who surprisingly, sometimes do care for our good. Companies don't always have to look out for the best quality of work output when it comes to outsourcing. Any low paid employee in India who will be more than glad to accept a sandwich as a reward is sufficient for the job. The fact that we chaps come out to be talented and speak good English is an added bonus. For other countries where people might be talented but suckers at English, the employer can always learn swear words in the native language and make threatening phone calls late at night to scare them to extract better work at lower pays.

Scott Adams goes a step further in suggesting the USA should outsource its governing work to India for its own good. I shall not be surprised if this happens soon in the near future. Italy has already outsourced its government to India. You may pull out an argument by saying, "But hey, Italy practically has no government at all; the crime rates and all are so high - it isn't a stable government that is in power there." And I would say, "Exactly."

Considering the rate at which outsourcing to India is increasing, I don't think the day is far where India shall be doing the entire work in the world, and other countries will be either fishing or lying on the armchair in their front porch. What this means is that I am both benefiting and losing out by deciding to settle in India for the rest of my life. Of course, since I do most of the work of the world, I will be paid a obscenely high salary. But if things go wrong, the whole world would know who to put the blame upon. But there are other advantages too. When I am in the mood, I can always call in ill and skip work for the day. The consequence of this could be a massive global depression, as I shall be a major part of the workforce throughout the world. Won't that be fun?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Soaring over petrol prices

If there could be one good reason that the rising oil prices don't bother me as much as they bug my sister is that I don't drive while she does. It's her scooterette that I gifted her on her birthday this year that concerns her about the rising petrol prices. "Hey, it went up by 2 bucks so quickly!" she says. But I don't care all that. As long as the train and bus fares don't hop around this way, I am quite content with whatever happens to petrol.

And so it so happens that whenever I am not using public transport, I am either walking or enjoying a ride in a friend's car. Not more than a month back, I was traveling with a friend on our road trip from Ithaca to Dallas. It was a 3 day trip where he drove all along, while I relaxed in the passenger's seat. On the first day, we got held up in a traffic jam near Cleaveland. My friend, who was quite intent on getting to Cincinnati for our halt for the night was getting frustrated with the time being wasted in the bumper-to-bumper traffic.

"You know what? The world burns up more gas waiting in jams than while driving. If we cut down on this wastage, maybe we can bring down gas prices by half," he said.

"I think there's an accident ahead," I said, trying to change topics. I didn't want him to know that I am as ignorant as a stone when it comes to gas prices and the like.

"No, if there were an accident, there would be cops around here and there would be go slow signs flashing around."

"Hmm, good one. Go slow while you wait at one spot for 5 minutes."

"All this is Bush's fault. He starts the war in Iraq and takes control of the oil, and due to all the disputes they have afterwards, the oil prices go up."

"Don't blame that chap," I said. "Sure he wants control of the major oil reserves in the world, but I am sure he doesn't want the prices to go up. I believe he is happy as long as all the money enters his pocket, no matter if it's what it is now, or half that."

"Ok, so whom should I blame? The oil marketing companies?"

"No, don't blame them. They are good sponsors."

Listening to the traffic report on the radio, we discovered it was a lock between two SUVs on the narrow lane that was the culprit. It would be another long wait till the lane could be cleared and normal traffic resumed.

I asked, "Why can't they just push them to the side like they do in India?"

"The insurance companies won't let them. Things run differently in this country."

"Hey, we will have to stand at this very spot for another 5 minutes. Why don't we get out for a stroll? You can kill that engine and help the world save some gas," I said as I opened my door.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you. Not that anyone can take the car away in this jam, but I prefer sitting in the AC instead of in the heat outside."

Sure, I thought. It's you who pays for the gas so you can enjoy the AC all you want. I don't mind the open air as long as I don't pay for the petrol.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Phone(y) calls and the like

2pm on a typical sultry Mumbai Wednesday afternoon. I have just returned from my hostel mess after a not-so-good-but-okay-nevertheless lunch. Wednesday afternoon is something I always look forward to, because IIT policies typically allow no lectures and labs on Wednesday afternoons, which paves the path for a nice brief siesta. I close the curtains to keep out the sun, pull out the soft music folder and enqueue it in Winamp, and set an alarm for 3 hours on my cell phone and lay down happily, awaiting the ever so sweet and lovely sleep. And then arrives the unseen.

It makes its presence felt with a loud ring, which on my phone is the monophonic Rang de Basanti Bhangra score. I agree that the tune is good, but you don't want to hear that when you are trying to catch a few winks in the middle of a busy week. I wake up groaning only to see an unkown number on the screen. I pick up the phone and go,

"Hello?" (in a sad, grudging tone)

"Hello sir, I am calling from ICICI bank and we would like to tell you about our new credit card which has many features such as..."

Click! I don't want to hear any more of this crap. These call centre people working on behalf of the banks, the mutual funds and other what nots catch you always at the wrong time, wrong for both you and them. Neither do you want to talk to them nor do they want to inform you about the latest in their what not scheme of things. Now that my sweet siesta was mercilessly snatched away, I sat down and dreamt of some way the call centre girl would meet her match.

A few days later, I was at my cousin's place and playing with my one and a half year old nephew, Raju. Then, Ring, ring. I answered the call.


"Hello sir. I am calling for Mr. Rajesh from ICICI bank."

"(confused) Uh ok. Hang on,"

I now hand over the phone to Raju. He is very happy that someone is offering him the phone by himself; normally he is driven away the moment that thing rings. I turn on the speaker phone just to watch the fun.


"Hello sir, I am calling from ICICI bank and we.,"

"Da.. um... (giggle)"

"(confused) I am sorry sir, I didn't get you on that. Were you saying something?"

A pause. Raju is now unsure of what he should do. Well, I don't blame the kid, probably this was the very first time that anyone called him. Maybe the call centre girl is happy that she found the one in a millionth caller who hasn't hung up on her as yet, and goes on with her rote message. Raju has nothing to say anyway, except his 'da's and 'ugh's and his giggles, so he stays glued to the phone and listens attentively, all the while fiddling with his favourite toy truck, while I take a break from all the playing, turning off the speaker phone. Raju was smiling all the while he was on the line, and maybe wanted to tell me to take his pic or something; you know he had that gleam in his eyes and the desperately pleading smile that most people offer you when they want you to take their snap. Anyway, I wasn't in the mood for the paparazzi role and called it quits. I guess after a while the call centre employee realised that either she didn't have the right fish on the hook, or probably someone was playing games with her and so she hung up.

Raju suddenly became sad. Maybe he thought he had done something wrong and that is why the nice aunty on the other end cut the call. He gave me that sad little look that he usually gives when he knows he has wronged and started crying. Hearing the loud cries, my cousin sister came rushing out from the kitchen and asked me what happened. I told her all that she wanted to know.

"Don't tell me they had Raju's name on their list. I wonder where they get all this information from!"

I said, "They have their ways. You know, the list of names from the hospital where he was born. Maybe they thought he's some patient or something over there and called. Could be anything you know. Maybe they have many lists of such people out there. Who knows how many Rajus are on their lists."

"Can't they make a list of do-not-call-these-people and put our phone number in there. All this looks scary to me - this prying and snooping around business on the call centre's part."

"If they do that, then Raju would never get another phone call for many years,"

"I don't care. Besides, how would he know?"

"Well, he wouldn't. But now that no one stopped him from playing around with the phone, he will rush to pick it up each time it rings."

"At this rate, maybe he will start receiving junk mail next year onwards!" and she went back to manage the kitchen.

Probably yes, I wondered. The next few months will be full of I-will-get-it's and how-many-times-do-I-have-to-tell-you-to-stay-away's and the accompanying beatings and the cries. Tough times sure lie ahead. But I was happy the call centre girl met her match. Someone with more spare time than her's to actually make her feel she was wasting time.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Foreign investments and India

I have been in the USA for about 2 and a half months now, and am eagerly looking forward to returning to India, which will be in another fortnight. My stay here has benefited me in many ways, but more importantly I got to see India in the light of a foreign culture. Many people here have a very wrong image of India in their minds. For some, India is just another developing country which supplies cheap labour to theirs'. There is no doubt, a hint of truth in this statement, but such statements coming from ignorant fellows makes no sense. Such facts are somehow instilled into their minds and they cannot notice India's position in the world today. Let me focus on something that is of relevance both to them and us Indians - foreign investments in India, which are a major factor in India turning global.

As is not surprising, the news about India that an average learned American gets here is all the bad stuff - the bomb blasts, communal riots, crime, political confusion and a bite of the Indo-US nuclear deal. Sometimes I feel a major people of this country inherits its views on a country, or for that any other matter, from their President, who is probably the worst-informed among all those I know. They should not mix Mumbai's train blasts and its communal riots with the successful financial condition of the city. The Naxal attacks in AP shouldn't be jumbled up with Hyderabad's success in the IT industry. Most Indians never mix up the goofy Bush administration with USA's successful industrial growth and high standard of living. Things ought to be looked at in their right places.

Coming back to our topic of foreign investments, one may notice that most investors are willing to invest in India's southern states, and not so many in the North and north-east part of the country. One reason could be the successful lineage that people from South India have managed to establish abroad, and also that the southern states are more stable politically and economically than their northern counterparts. Another concern for investors is the Leftist rule in India, which slows down economic growth. With a leftist rule in India, investors look at the government falling near to the point of collapse on numerous occasions. But if one thinks more carefully, India has better off having the Left in power, rather than in the opposition, where it can create more problems for India's progress, including strikes and agitations across the country, resulting in deterring foreign investments.

Another problem that investors face I think is the bureaucracy in India. Information about security of their investments in India also is not easily available to the investors, and whatever is available is also not all that reliable. India should not rely on the media to provide this information, but the government should take up this matter and establish good communication and law and order for investors. Besides this, I think India also needs to improve its policing system to draw in more investments. The New York police has witnessed lots of changes in the late 19th century because of the needs and efforts of a small group of citizens who were frustrated with the level of corruption and politics in the department, and the department has fused well with the industrial and community needs of the city, contributing to its progress. It is important that India also takes some steps in this regard. The police should be given more operational freedom without compromising on their accountability. We need more policemen like Julius Ribeiro and KPS Gill who being good servicemen, are also quite active in community service. A good rapport between the police and the industrialists in India is necessary to convince foreign investors to invest in India.

Let us now focus on the current scene of foreign investment in India. Almost 17% of the top 200 stocks in Indian markets are owned by foreign investors. In most top companies in India, foriegn investments have either reached the maximum limit or are almost about there. This is causing concerns, both on a patriotic and strategic level; it is sad to see foreign domination in Indian markets, and also to know that Indian players have not much of a control on the market, that control lying in the hands of few persons sitting in London, Montreal or New York. Besides, when there is a case of such an over investment in a firm, domestic players are also noticed to lose interest, resulting in a waning sensex over a period of time. Such over investment also has had good effects. Now India's domestic assets in equity are a mere 2% compared to 7% when the liberalisation policy was newly announced in 1993. This simply means that industrialists in India now have more capital available than before. This has not discouraged foreign investors too, who believe that retail ownership will still see a rise in India.

Besides, Hedge funds have been showing interest in India in recent times. India offers money making opportunities to them, that have become rare in USA and Europe. Hedge funds are looking at huge investments in Asia, primarily in India, as the market here is more fertile than in China, due to the growth of the derivatives market in India. This is seen as something that might hugely contribute to India's growth in the coming few years.

Thus, India is no longer a mere little developing country in the eyes of most industrialists throughout the world. Indian markets have never had so much diversity in the opinions and addresses of foreign investors. It's high time that people across the world start taking notice of India's role in the global market, lest it be too late.

'Nothing' much of an article

This is an article I wrote long ago on my very first blog. On MaMu's request, I am transferring it to this blog. This one was published in the May '07 issue of the 'Kanara Saraswat' Magazine, and from what I know was received quite well.

On nothing...

Today, I have nothing to write about. So I've decided to write about nothing. It's not easy writing about nothing because something usually comes up. But I think if I try hard, I can come up with something on nothing. So far so good. Cool. Nothing... ok?! Ok.

I feel like I've probably run out of things not to talk about. It's not easy talking about nothing. As usual, I'm tempted to bring up something; and then pretend it was nothing just to have something to say - but that seems a little cheaty (which would be something in and of and by itself). I think if I want to write about nothing, I have to keep it strictly about nothing and not something that has something to do with nothing. It should be something that ain't got anything to do with anything else except nothing. Just nothing at all.

Nevertheless, I still am not sure why I have nothing to write about. Nothing has been going on I guess. Not actually; I mean there have been some things going on, yes; but nothing really worth mentioning which works out fine for what I'm talking about now. But ain't I talking about nothing? Or is it so that there is nothing that I have to write about nothing? What else can I not write about? I guess I could write about this and that- and by this and that, I mean this here nothing and none of that. There. That works. Is this annoying yet? This whole nothing writing? I don't know about you, but it surely is annoying me 'cause I can't think of things that aren't about something or at least slightly more than nothing.

You might say that me writing about nothing does in fact mean that I am indeed writing about something - 'that something' being 'nothing'. Maybe nothing becomes something just by referring to it as nothing. The discussion of talking about what is nothing may even qualify as something more than nothing - even if that discussion turns out to be nothing - the discussion itself might be something anyway. I guess that's already happened maybe. Maybe all this nothing has been about something. But I can easily cancel that out by saying any ideas you may have that this has actually been about something isn't true. This whole thing is indeed about absolutely nothing.

That's all I have to say for now. Nothing more, nothing less :D

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel

This was a quote made by Dr. Samuel Johnson, one of England's most famous literary figures on the evening of April 7th, 1775. It is said that the reason why he said this is still pretty unclear, as it is not clear as to what or who he was referring to with this quote. Well, here's my own analysis of quote, and I shall view this in light of the administration of the President of USA, Mr. George W. Bush. Again, my main source for this and my reference shall be Wikipedia.

September 10th, 2001. It has been 8 months since Mr. Bush has been in office, and his popularity ratings among the American public have fallen down to a low of 50%, which is really shameful for a President of such a developed country. The next day, all that changes. The people who felt they were the safest on the planet are made conscious of an enemy hiding from them but ever watching them - the terrorists. The Bush administration left no stone unturned in raising the feeling of Patriotism in the country. From books to clothes to bags, even diapers (Wal-Mart) adorned the stripes and the stars. When Bush aimed his guns on Afghanistan, his approval ratings leaped up to almost 90%. In the cloudy atmosphere created by the 9/11 attacks, Americans took an increasing liking to their commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

On October 26th 2001, the Congress passed an act called the 'USA Patriot Act', which basically empowers the Government to do anything with anyone they feel is making them afraid - the terrorists; without allowing them to consult a lawyer, or by invading any country that they feel is threatening them, or has links to the al-Qaeida. I guess my smart readers would have realised by now that I am moving on to Iraq.

In October 2002, many leaders of the Christian right sent an open letter to Mr. Bush outlining a just war on Iraq since Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear and biochemical weapons. There was a decreasing support for this invasion in the first few months of 2003, less than 31% in support as per a New York Times poll. Bush's State of the union speech in January that year and Collin Powell's presentation in UN in February that year changed all this. The support percentage jumped up by 7 points to 38. USA invaded Iraq in March. The nation was now triggered into madness, with more than half the population supporting the war even if weapons of mass destruction never be found there. Bush got reelected as the President in 2004, with his campaign focusing on the war against terrorism. By 2005, the military had sort of become the image of the US, with about 3 quarters of the population looking upon it as the most important institution. On July 4th 2005, the Council of Churches took a stand against the war calling it dishonourable. Ever since the support for the war is decreasing rapidly, and Bush's popularity ratings are dropping ever more, with only 32% supporting him.

As of today, USA is still to withdraw from Iraq. I personally believe the invasion was for oil and nothing else, and more innocent Iraqi lives were lost in this battle than American soldiers. There have also been reports of American soldiers harassing and assaulting Iraqi prisoners. Well, I think it wouldn't be wrong to summarise that America has invaded the freedom of two countries under the Bush administration. Educated Americans are able to see this easily and criticise the government, but their strength is too little. I believe America is slowly turning into a police state and the Americans are kept in the dark by the administration. If this goes on like this I think slowly we will have a government that makes decisions against the will of the people but the people can't do much about it. Slowly we may have a country where patriotism shall be the only refuge of the scoundrel.

Friday, July 6, 2007


I have been reading Cosentino's 'Case in Point' lately and yesterday I came upon this observation by the author - Cosentino presented an excerpt from an article that talked about pricing methods. Two main methods were enlisted - cost based pricing, and price based costing. In the former method, the company calculates all costs incurred in developing the particular product or service, and attaches its profit margin to that before selling it at the new price. In the latter, a company first calculates how much would a consumer be willing to pay for the particular product or service, and fixes that price while judiciously allocating resources to keep the costs in check below the price. He talked about why you see so many Japanese companies leading the Consumer electronics industry today as compared to American companies, which are quite few, as many of us would know. The reason presented in his analysis is that the Japanese companies practised price based costing while their American counterparts concentrated on cost based pricing.

Isn't it remarkable that such a seemingly trivial business strategy can either spell out to be a triumph or a catastrophe? Most of us are comfortable with the notion of cost based pricing. So let me focus on a pricing method called 'Activity based costing' for now, based on what I learn from Wikipedia. This method arose and became popular in the 1980s, primarily in the manufacturing sector in USA. The traditional cost accounting methods were designed somewhere around the 1870s and in those days the industry was labor intensive, devoid of automation, with a limited product variety and the overhead costs in companies were generally very low. Such costing methods began spelling trouble for companies in the 80s owing to their irrelevance to that time. Activity based costing came to the rescue of many companies during those times.

The main differentiating aspect about Activity based costing is that this method assumes that costs do not consume resources, but activities. Besides, this is a process oriented method, as against the traditional methods of pricing which were structure oriented. In the traditional methods, cost allocation held more importance. In the activity based costing scheme, it is assumed that costs cannot be managed; one can manage the processes and the costs will respond automatically. This affords a greater scope to companies to increase productivity, by proper supervision of production capacity in each process. Besides, traditional costing methods were labour intensive. Now-a-days in countries like USA and other European countries where labour is expensive, such costing schemes are inefficient for this reason too. In the new scheme, drivers are used to assign costs (Drivers are cost estimates at each process level - unit level, batch level, product level and facility level). There are two main types of drivers - activity drivers (which track how cost object behaviour effects activity levels) and resource drivers (which track how the activity levels influence resource consumption). the notion of fixed and variable costs is different too - a fixed activity cost is something that exists because of the sheer existence of an activity, and a variable activity cost is something that varies with the output of the activity. These notions of the costs make more sense than the traditional ones in modern day business.

Thus, account based costing can point towards the causes of costs by focusing on processes, which are critical success factors for any company. This makes the costing scheme a powerful tool towards a company's growth and success. Rather, it is a must-have these days.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Challenging complexity

One has different ways of looking at complexity. While some take delight in its sheer intricacy and the inherent puzzling aspect that it presents, others look upon it as a problem and try to simplify it, attempting to create a simpler version of the otherwise complex problem, so as to derive more benefits more easily from that former.

I like my life to be simple, and hence abhor complexity. But there are things that cannot be simplified beyond a limit - take for instance the current project I am working on with Xiao. It is a very complex system (the nature of which I cannot disclose due to an NDA that I have signed, all I can say is we are working on a low power UWB radio), and hence something that irks me. Now however hard I may try, I cannot strip the circuit off its complexity. Yet I am supposed to lay it out for fabrication. So I felt that it would be more worthwhile investing time in simplifying my notion of complexity rather than avoiding all things complex, large and small.

I feel that any complex thing can be analysed as a simple mix of 2 complex parts - what I prefer to call individual complexity and system level complexity. You can always break a complex system, or for that matter anything complex, say a complex problem, or a complex issue, into a simple combination of various blocks that may or may not be complex. The complexities of each of the individual blocks in turn contributes to the system level complexity, which is what one encounters when one looks at the complex phenomenon superficially. Although the two levels of complexity are very closely related to each other, I feel that it's very important to analyse them separately. More often than not one fails to make breakthroughs because one becomes more obsessed with the system level complexity while he may be better off attacking each complex block separately.

Also I believe some issues are adaptive in nature; their complexity increases with each failed attempt to simplify them. Consider a case where you want to recover from a failed venture, say a failed startup, with little backing from others. For such issues, it becomes necessary to tackle the individual complexities one by one, rather than focusing on the system level complexity, which may result in one inadvertently aggravating the individual complexities, probably resulting in a bad impact on the complexity of the system.

How should one then approach the issue of individual complexity? Most often, people look for a good strategy to deal with complexity. This is describing the situation in a broad way; I shall not narrow down to any specific case. This is a good approach and will pay off most times. But poor strategic choices may have a negative impact on solving the problem at hand. I think it would be much more helpful to solve this problem through well-sequenced activities. While aiming to simplify a complex system, it is also important to manage the complexity along the way. One should first identify the parameters determining the complexity in the block under consideration and fix the kind of simplification that one is looking for. Then make attempts to solve that while at the same time seeing to it that one doesn't affect the complexity of the other blocks adversely.

A certain degree of complexity may be unavoidable, but then the answer is not to pare back and simplify at all costs. Managing complexity is equally if not more important than simplifying it.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

I am a worm, hear me roar

Boyhood - they say you should be done away with this at an early age, or it causes a catastrophe if it surfaces when you grow up. At times, adult life can seem a bit difficult, especially when you pass through such childish phases along the way, much like a worm (caterpillar, say) who leaves the cocoon and spreads out its wings. You leave your own little universe and enter a very complex system, where things aren't being started from scratch, but an art whose elements play well defined roles to create the bigger picture. Most often such ambitious new entrants into the system fill in cracks and niches in the same - ending up doing something believing they and the role were meant for each other.

I don't quite know what I am - a worm or a fly; maybe I am one wing out of my cocoon yet, alternating between re-entering the cocoon and trying to spread my wings out of it and explore all those things that I can never find inside there. We live in a world where we look upon change in the same way Houdini would have looked upon at his padlocked boxes - first try to wiggle free from it, and surrender only if you cannot escape. I believe we all share a strength - of taking control of our own story than succumbing to one scripted by others. I take it from whatever little I have seen of life so far, that each one of us realises this strength in our own capacity and benefits from the same accordingly; to each his own success.

Brainstorming, debates, chitchatting, talks, sermons, advice - how many ways do we seek to reconcile our past, our life with what we aim to be, with what we should be. We seek information and review our life in the light of the same and ever more try to improve upon it. But all this that we do, everything we think of, isn't this all biased? Don't we all inherit biases when we interact with new acquaintances? No matter how original one may think one is, the very fact that you are thinking so might be inherited after all. Being original isn't about doing something out of the way - I say it is more about defying what others think you are. The introvert person may become more outgoing, the screw up would become more careful, the fickle minded may learn focus. Isn't this what self definition is all about? - making your own story? A willful and a well-informed way of living that has its roots in our past, is nourished by out present, and seeks to reach out to the bright sun of future?

Maybe I have come far enough where I know what I am doing and the world should appreciate what I do. I am here to shake off the chains of whatever labels the world may have assigned me -I don't want to be identified as Mr. Achieve-all, or Mr. Studious or Mr. Dreamer and the like - maybe I want to leave these behind me yet never forget them. Maybe I do not need to follow the path that thousands of souls have been following all along; maybe I am made for something big, something never thought of before, something of my own. I may be a worm, but hear me roar.

Friday, June 29, 2007

iPhone iN iNdia

The iPhone takes on USA today. The newest member of the Apple family is publicised as the coolest gadget on this planet, and no wonder thousands have queued up outside shops since Monday for this product that shall be launched today. The fact that this baby comes with a price tag of 599$ (for which you may get a PS3 easily), and a two year contract with AT&T (that's another 60$ per month) hasn't detered this nation of gizmo fans.

I was debating with Vivek the other night on how would India react to the iPhone. I said that this might do quite well, as we have taken the iPod very well, and other phones like the Nokia N-series (which I may call multimedia phones) are quite a success. Besides, I believe that most people are tired of the Motorazor now and need something sleeker and cooler. I am not much of a gizmo fan myself, so I have no idea about the market for these things; I am quite content with my good ol' Nokia 2300, which boasts of just a radio besides the usual features you would expect a phone to have.

Vivek differed though. He said the iPhone is being hyped for its wireless internet capbilities (some 3G thing he told me, I didn't grasp most of the technical part) - and he doesn't see a huge market in India for this 'coz of this reason. In India, we may just look at the iPhone as an enhanced iPod, and nothing more. And maybe it won't be all that worth to spend so much on such a gadget if it offers little gain in the place where you live. And the cellular industry in India is just coming out of the traditional cell phones to the new multimedia phones, as I call them. It hasn't been long since we have had such phones out there, and he feels Apple may not consider investing in India any time soon, given the small size and the diversity of the market out there. Besides, given the high cost of the iPhone, only the affluent ones will be able to buy it, which makes the market size even smaller.

I beg to differ though. The iPhone is surely costly, and more of a luxury than a fancy phone if you ask me, but then India is slowly learning to take in new fancy products over traditional ones. The obstacles that I see that Apple might face in India is stiff competition and a tough exit if the market fails. I think the stiff competition part is justified, so let me focus on the tough exit part. Considering the small market size and the novelty of the iPhone, I think huge sales early on after launching will be like Apple canibalising its future sales. I don't see the market for a gadget like iPhone to rise in India hugely after the product is launched. So the iPhone market in India may stagnate in quite a short time, say few years. Considering the amount of corruption in the country and the amount of market regulations, I think exiting the market won't be all that easy. I feel Apple should enter India with a different business strategy, otherwise I don't see a good scope for the iPhone in India. True, people will like it and many will buy it - it might be a huge success when it's launched. But I am not sure of how it will fare in the long run. And considering that a piece sells for 599$ in USA, Apple has surely put in a fortune on this one, and is talking big money - so long run sales do matter, I feel.

I feel it would make more sense for Apple to buy either an existing player(s) in the market, or to collaborate with one/few, so that they minimise the risk involved. Or maybe they can come in with some other fancy idea; like focus on something that's hotter and more accessible in India, than Wifi, say something like TV streaming/Cable TV or something; maybe partner up with some player in the Cable TV market and launch something new. Or maybe they could try an iPhone that is also a useful office tool, or a good help in college or something. You know, some modifications here and there may have a huge impact on their success in the market.

So that's it then. The iPhone hits USA today. Let's see if I get the privilege of actually holding one in my hand while I am here :)