Wednesday, January 30, 2008


This post is meant for someone whom I lovingly call arbit. If you are not arbit, please do not read this.

Dear arbit,

1. All IITians, like yours truly, are what I call 'socially challenged geniuses'.

2. To understand true love, one should understand true surrender first.

3. We are not as gifted as our lives may suggest unto others - we just happen to be lucky bastards I guess.

4. We should go with the ones for whom we are special, and not the ones who are special to us. It is easy to learn to love someone who loves us, but very difficult to teach someone to love us.

5. Live life by your biases; but don't deride the opinions of others.

6. I like bitching about people - I know they all bitch about me; good to maintain a status quo.

7. Some people are born to be exploited. Use them lest they start manipulating you.

8. Acknowledge that there are people smarter than you - else you shouldn't expect any respect from those dumber than you.

9. Some people are good friends. Some are meant to be tolerated. The others should be ignored. Never make any enemies.

10. Never say I deserve such-and-such-a-thing, only to make a fool out of yourself when you lose it. Snatch it first, and then say I deserved it all along.

11. Let recognition not be a goal. Treat it as a signal.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Away for a week

Tonight I leave for Hong Kong. There's a conference on Information theory and Theoritical Computer Science being organised by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, from 21st Jan '08 to 26th Jan '08. As an effort towards furthering their collaboration with IIT Bombay, they are sponsoring the visit for 4 students for this event, including yours truly.

Frankly speaking, I have never quite appreciated the said topics throughout my brief stint in Electrical Engineering here in IIT (now that I am moving into management consulting, it's Bbye Engineering! for me) I hope this week long conference may help me look at these fields in a more appreciative and open minded manner. Although the main motivation for me still is all the sightseeing and the shopping that awaits me in the coming week, I hope I can somehow fit in some enthusiasm and have a good learning experience this time.

Only catch - a vegetarian usually has a tough time fooding in Hong Kong; and to top that, one of my molars died a strange death last week (read last post)! I hope I don't have a miserable time on the edible side of the trip; pray for me!

Adios for a week!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Fraction of a tooth

Today I lost half a tooth. Again. Well, I had lost that very half about four years ago, courtesy some tooth decay or something, and today I happened to lose the filling that was very well concealing this gateway into my oral cavity. It was a soft dismissal, considering that the said debacle happened over a measly banana, that I was munching on happily until my tongue noticed hitherto unexplored territory in my upper jaw. A few minutes later, the missing filling was found lodged in a tricky corner in my lower jaw, which I suppose should have been occupied by some tooth that never was. I called up my dentist, whence I came to know that he was just out of the white thing used for filling such holes, and said I could have been lucky had I called about an hour earlier. Perfect timing!

As such, I now have to live a day (night actually, as I shall get this fixed first thing tomorrow) with 31.5 teeth. Well, make that 29.5 actually; I never got all of my wisdom teeth. :P That would be those in the lower jaw. :|

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Senseless competition

I recently belled the CAT. Well, at least that's what my folks tell me. But did I actually do it? I don't recall a single minute spent towards preparing for this test, nor do I remember having solved a single question for practice. What then, should I attribute my 'roaring success' (as a friend puts it) to? Sheer luck? Inherent skills? High level of confidence?

I remember the 18th of November last year, the day of my CAT exam. I reached my centre quite early, and was chatting merrily with some old friends whom I met after quite a while. All the while though, I couldn't help noticing some students and their parents and other well wishers huddled together, discussing strategies to conquer the looming test. Most of these conquistadors came out weeping though, tears in their eyes, sad faces, some beautiful smiles lost amidst the 75 questions and the 2 and a half hours that make up the CAT. Some parents looked even more lost; as if the very ground they were standing on couldn't live up to the weight of their expectations. The results that came out 2 months later were no different. Some of these competitors of mine that I had seen there had done miserably, with no chance of getting into the IIMs this year.

As I have said before, neither do these scores matter to me, nor had I put in efforts to achieve this. There have been a few things that I have been thinking about for the last few days. One of them happens to be the competition that we see everywhere, well almost everywhere today. I have faced enough - during my school and college days, for getting into IIT, living through IIT, the recent placement season, the CAT and so on. Although I never faced serious setbacks, I have seen many deserving and enthusiastic aspirants lose out along the way. This May, I shall celebrate my 22nd birthday, and I cannot recall a single year in my life when I didn't have to compete with others. But does competition make sense?

Although I am not a big believer and fan of Darwin, one of his aphorisms is very dear to me - 'survival of the fittest'. This is something that has beaconed me towards success ever since I first came across this in my school days. Competition seems to be a natural order, quite logical actually, given the limited number of available resources, and the innumerable needs and desires of each one of us. Then what exactly do I mean when I address competition as senseless? Let me give you a scenario which would help me bring out my point better.

Consider 2 farmers, A and B, who have options of sowing either of crops C or D on their respective farmlands. Suppose seeds for C are in short supply, whereas those of D are available in plenty. Now let us suppose that C yields a high quality harvest, whereas the yield from D is pretty much average, similar to that obtained by other farmers. Now let us assume, that A and B, like most of us, have bloated egos, and only seek the best of the best. Naturally, both aim at crop C. This would drive the prices of C seeds even higher, and could result in A buying them, while B would have to be satisfied with D. Now, consider this - A had to pay a higher price for getting C seeds, whereas, although B would have got a good deal on D, he would nevertheless be unhappy at not having got C. Whom would you call the winner here?

Doesn't this hold true for the academic competition (I have not had much exposure to other competitions :P) that we see everywhere? Well, partly at least. Are all parties better off with the current scenario? I certainly believe that we can have a more fair and just system that would ensure that no one suffers as a result of competition. Competition is something that should motivate us to do better, to perform to our potential, to live up to our desires and expectations. It should egg us on to dream higher and think bigger and put in sustained and planned efforts to achieve all that. Only then can we call such competition as healthy. What we need is to educate people that certain exams/jobs/colleges/ranks/money/etc. isn't the end of the world. We need to be aware of all possible options on an average, and should try and co ordinate amongst ourselves to ensure betterment for all. I have seen some students here in the placement season who applied to every Tom, Dick and Harry company that came on campus, just for the sake of getting some senseless relief in what they call 'backup' or 'security'. What they fail to realise is that such decisions on their part can adversely affect the careers and dreams of many others, who may not be as privileged as themselves. Only with strong people awareness and mutual co operation and understanding, do I feel that we can make the world a better place (by exploiting our true strengths and bringing out our true potentials). Only then can competition make sense.

P.S. As Bryan Adams says in one of my favourite songs -

Don't lose yourself,
Your courage soon will follow.
So be strong tonight,
Remember who you are.

A friendly advice - Never lose your self confidence, come what may. Remember who you are.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A fine balance : continued

Coming back to the question of good friends, let me now focus on the type that I mentioned looks upon friendship as merely a business deal.

These are the people who believe in the following formula:

Friendship = treats + running errands + occasional sms/mail/call

For the time being, let me call such people as 'personalities'.

The last term on the right hand side of the above equation is not mandatory, according to most people belonging to this category. Not keeping in touch is attributed to many other causes - namely, carelessness, low balance on cellphone, too stretched for time to send a 2 line email etc. That they may not be interested in actually pursuing an active friendship is never mentioned. Running errands forms a major part of this pseudo friendship though. If you fail to help out such personalities, they follow up with the usual senti - can't you do this for a friend? and so on. Treats form a mandatory part of such a friendship - as though it is the foundation for the very existence of this relation.

What would you call such a friendship? I call this 'putting up with people who think they are your friends'.

A fine balance

I am sure you, like me, have been taking your family for granted all these years. I realised this a few days back, when the CAT results were announced. I was competing with my sister for a seat in one of the 6 IIMs for pursuing a management degree. This too, when I knew beforehand that I can easily nail the CAT whereas for her, it was not going to be a cakewalk. This, when I already knew that I will, under no circumstances, accept an admission offer, whereas for her, something like this would be living her dream. No wonder then that now that I have belled the CAT and she just missed out, I feel guilty as hell.

I have been thinking ever since if I was right in knowingly competing with her, whether this competition was justified. Competing with one's own makes no sense now, does it? There is no such thing as friendly competition, if you ask me. I find that to be as ridiculous as wars fought to uphold peace. Isn't a family supposed to be a tightly knit unit, linked together by blood ties, and sticking together come what may? But I can't help it now, can I? There are no provisions in our society for brothers and sisters competing together as a pair.

What about friends then? Are we justified in competing with our friends? There were also plenty of my friends who couldn't make it happen in the CAT this year. I feel bad for them too. But then, I was always aware that such a day will surely come. It wasn't unlikely according to me. Should I feel guilty about competing with them as well? Are they like family to me? Life in IIT teaches you that teamwork is the most important thing in your life. Companionship is the most essential element in any endeavour. Why this farce focus on individual excellence then? Let me hold on to that thought for another post. Here, I shall focus on the fine balance in my life between my family and my friends.

Who exactly are friends? My four years at IIT have brought out the difference between friends and mere acquaintances as never before. I have met people who are good to hang around with, but who suck at sharing my experience of this life, as a friend should. I have met people, for whom friendship translated to a 'business deal' - a mere give and take and 'i scratch your back, you scratch mine' relationship. I have come across those, who look upon friends as mere objects to vent their anger and frustration, who take delight in arguing with me, who I feel take pleasure in opposing all my points of view, and when I complain, those who claim that such behaviour is common between the best of friends, and that I am over reacting to all this and so on. And then I have met some wonderful people, who have gone on to become good, and some the best of my friends.

However close my friends be to me though, they shall never take the place in my life, that spot in my heart, which is reserved for my family. These are people who have loved me, endured me, accepted me for all my life. They never complained about my shortcomings, nor did they exploit my merits. They have truly respected and loved me as a person, as what I truly am. Although they have at times complained and hinted that certain aspects of my person are unacceptable to them, and that I should try and reconcile accordingly, they have never shown disapproval whenever I didn't comply. Sad though it may seem, none of the other people I have met in my life have been so understanding, not even the best of my friends. I have never met a single other person in my whole life, who even comes close.

For the last few days, I have been getting this feeling that perhaps it is something that I lack, that prevents me from making really good friends. I have never had best friends lasting for more than a couple of years, at best. Over time, it seems everyone that I meet fails to meet my expectations for whom I can call my best pal - perhaps my expectations may be too high, or perhaps I am yet to meet the right people. Till then, it remains up to me to maintain this fine balance in my life - this balance between family and friends.