Dec 23, 2007

General Weekend TP

1. Came across this blog - Destination Infinity. Only 3-4 posts, so read the whole thing in one sitting. Its a refreshingly different an interesting read. Take a look.

2. Saw 'Jab we met'. Nice movie. Almost-believable story, good music, good acting, and good punjabi touches ;) No one could have done the good-boy role better than Shahid. No one could have done the loud-gal better than Kareena. And no one could have done dar-ji better than Dara Singh! But i still dont like Kareena (too loud, and unconventional looks)

3. Finished Season 3 of Boston Legal. It's not an easily likeable program. But it gets you hooked once you get 'into' the plot and characters. Smart, funny and serious - all in good measures.

4. Went to Fuga. Now even Fuga's crowded - like all other discs in Blore (save, perhaps, Taika). Sheesh

Dec 19, 2007

Goa 2.0



If you are one of the types who work long stressful hours all the time, and sleep away half of your weekends, it is a good idea to get away from it all once in a while and recharge. Live a simpler life for a couple of days, in a simpler town, leaving your usual world far behind. It works much better than anything you do on a holiday in the same city where you work.

Last year, I'd gone to Goa and had a wonderful time. I resolved i'd do it every year. And I'm glad I stuck to that resolution in spite of the mayhem in the office.

Tush and I went from Blore and Jo joined us from Mumbai. We had an absolutely awesome time. Water sports, beer on the beach, shirt-less drive thru the city, excellent sea food, swim in the sea as well as the hotel pool, soaking in the scenic beauty from atop a fort, partying at a Cliffhanger nightclub, racing like kids on the beach, playing cards in the hotel. It's tough to believe how much fun can be had in a single weekend, unless you've been to Goa with a bunch of good pals.



The other striking thing was the change in the town's character. Now, Im sure many readers would have seen or heard about the foreigners-loaded, anything-goes, rave-partying, Hare-Rama-Hare-Krishna-(smoke-it-up) scene that existed in Goa till recently. It's all gone. The Govt has cracked down on behavior unbecoming of our 'Indian culture' - they've denied visas to the hippies and shut down all the rave parties and most of the clubs that used to be the centers of free-fun in Goa.

The starkest change was noticed by Tush at Paradiso. The last time he'd been there - it was a completely charsi place, with firangs lying on the floor completely zoned out, lesbians openly making out, and Vedic chants playing in the background. Now its like any other disc in B'lore - commercial and desi music, lotsa desi crowd, hell they even have a CCD in there now. So, if you were planning on having a wild time in Goa, the option's been taken away by the Govt.

But it's still a lovely, laidback, friendly place - now less crowded and cheaper than earlier. And I, for one, am surely going again next year!

Sidenote: This post is entirely about North Goa - the Candolim, Calangute, Vagator, Anjuna region. South Goa - with all its 5-star hotels, resorts and casinos - is an entirely different place.

Dec 2, 2007

Learning from HK

I always believed that one of major causes, if not the root cause, of our relatively poor infrastructure and low standard of living (compared to cities in more developed countries) is our population. 'Itne logon ko kaise manage kiya ja sakta hai? Problem to honi hi hai.'

But this misbelief was shattered on my recent trip to Hong Kong. All the buildings there seemed at least 20-storeys-high, and weren't far apart. So I knew, instinctively, that the population density couldn't be significantly lower than Bangalore, if at all. And I've confirmed it. (HK is in Shenzen, which comes in at no. 5)

The roads are as narrow as Bangalore, yet I saw people drive at 70 kmph in the peak business hours. The local train was almost as crowded as they are in Mumbai, yet it wasn't difficult to board or alight, nor uncomfortable. The bars were small, the showrooms were small, yet they made a good impression.

I've come to the conclusion that population as such isn't an unmanageable problem. The need is for a good, strong-willed administration and disciplined behavior from people. People have to start believing that forming queues makes waiting easier and shorter. That traffic signals and rules are for their own safety, and following them will actually speed up transit. That the little effort required to use a dust-bin will keep the city clean, and a clean city is a lot easier on the eyes and lungs. They should realize that their selfish, impatient, reckless behavior creates disorder, and disorder actually makes life much more difficult, beating the selfish motive they had in the first place.

But to change the way people behave, they need to be disciplined with a stick for some time, till they see the benefits for themselves. And so the real problem is the governments and administration we have - they simply dont have the will to use the stick. I hope this problem, like population, is also one that we can deal with. But for now, I don't think so.

Angrez humein angrezi sikha gaye, aur aaj hum angrezi bhasha ke dum pe badh rahe hain. Kaash, unhone humein, Hong Kong ki tarah, tameez bhi sikhayee hoti.

Dec 1, 2007

Review: Joker in the Pack

Just finished reading the book by Pandu and his friend. If you've studied at one of the B-schools where 24 hours in a day just didn't seem like enough, the book is a great route to re-visit those days and refresh enjoyable memories. And if you are considering going to an IIM or such-like for an MBA, or generally curious about what goes on there, the book paints a remarkably accurate picture.

It is difficult for me to really evaluate this as a novel, because I knew most of the characters and the story. So it felt more like a session with friends, reminiscing about the good old days over a couple of beers or coffee, than reading a book where a story gradually unfolds with unexpected twists and turns. But I'm sure people will enjoy it - because it has a smooth and engaging narrative that will not let you put it down. Also, the candor with which some of tougher realities have been described is admirable.

An honest review must also include criticism where it's due. I felt the narrative was too focused and presented a slightly narrowed view. Sure, life - in general, and particularly at an IIM - is tough. And we all worked harder to achieve ambitious goals there, than we've done elsewhere. But there were also times spent at Kebab shops, getting drunk at insti parties, playning comp games, or generally chilling with friends with Fauji's 'country' butter chicken and Romanov - which are some of the more pleasant memories, which we all will look back at and smile when our hair turns grey. If some of these had been included in the book, it would painted a more complete picture and been less intimidating to future Jokers in the pack. Perhaps they chose not to include such stuff for better commercial/creative reasons than I know, but that's my opinion.

Overall, it is a great effort, and I would recommend it to everyone who ever has any thoughts related to an MBA.

Sidenote to people who were on campus with Pandu - MUST read this. Chances are you'll find people you know in the book, and it feels nice!

Nov 8, 2007

Nightmare on GM Street

Imagine all of these events co-inciding:

1. You return home after midnight - after a long, bad day at work
2. Your flat-mate is out of town
3. You've lost your house key!
4. No one has a duplicate key
5. No doors or windows are open

Sheesh! What a mother-freakin day. (In case you are wondering how I'm blogging with all this going on... I got the building security guy to break into my house with a wire, a screw driver and an hour-long, uncertain effort. The ironies of life!)

Oct 16, 2007

The Great Indian Beer Review



First up, the ranking:

1. Foster's
2. Kingfisher
3. Royal Challenge
4. Budweiser

OK, now some random explanatory notes:

Consideration set:
The Bud and Fosters included here are brewed and bottled in India, and probably aren't identical to what you would get outside India. Secondly, they sell at the same price as other Indian beers. So, they qualify for comparison with Indian beers.
Castle Lager and Haywards - I know some of you drink those. We don't. So they aren't included

Methodlogy:
We performed blind tests to see if we could really tell the brands apart. I could. (Tushi couldn't!)
The blind test also allowed us to do an objective, unbiased comparison. The proof of fair treatment lies in the fact that KF is rated no. 2 above. I'd always rate it no. 4 of 4, if I knew it was KF.

Detailed results:
In a blind test - with the mood being very serious and sombre compared to normal beer-drinking situations - all beers taste awful. (Which is why you should never try replicating the above exercise at home!) We ranked the beers from 'most disagreeable' to 'least disagreeable' in this situation. That's the order I'm going to follow for the post.

4. Budweiser
Summary - Potent, but extremely bland

This beer has no smell, no flavor and no fizz. (And you can see in the ic above - no color either). For it's insipid lack of character, we rate it 4th.

However, this lack of character makes it very suitable for certain situations:
1. F1 races, or situations where people wanna get really drunk. Bud goes down real easy and hits hard
2. Women in the group who usually dilute their beer with 7-up coz they dont like the taste (whats wrong with women?!)
3. Mixing with other spirits. You must have real guts to try a cocktail with beer and whiskey - but if you do, Bud works best coz it doesnt mask the taste of the other spirits

3. Royal Challenge
Summary - Frothy, with body, but bitter/stale taste

The makers claim to have brewed it longer and better. They probably have. This beer tastes very mature, smooth and full-bodied. But it could use some aromas of oak or fruit or something, to give it a more pleasant taste.
Irrespective of the poor performance in this test, it remains one of my favorites.

1 & 2. Foster's and Kingfisher
To be honest, Fosters is one of my favorites and KF is the one I like the least. But it's virtually impossible to tell them apart in a blind test!

Similarities - strong flavor, similar color and body. Both are pleasant to taste and have a lot of character.

Reason why Fosters is 1st. If you have a Foster's first and then a KF, you can't really tell the difference. However, if you have KF first and then the Foster's - you can clearly tell the second beer is better. It has more fizz, and a more pleasant, refreshing taste.

Moral of the story: The Aussies don't just know how to play Cricket, they also know how to brew a good beer. Cheers, Mate!

Though I don't really respect other opinions in a field where I consider myself an authority (i.e. beer guzzling), you are welcome to have your say in the comments section.

Oct 8, 2007

General shit

Too tired to sort my thoughts out, or to bother about writing style. Just noting some random things i wanted to write about:

1. Politics. First, some sad behen-ji was elected as President of the country. Now the JD(S) and Gowda renege on their power-sharing pact with the BJP. It's just disgusting. With options like these, it's best to never bother voting.

2. F1. Though I support Ferrari, I have grudging respect for McLaren. But I've never seen McLaren screw up on pit strategy as they did with Lewis today. Even though I want him to win the Championship, the prospect of a final race with 3 guys in the fray for the Championship is simply mouth-watering.

3. De-Stress. This was the first weekend in more than a month when i did NOT have my mind cluttered with thoughts of office and work. The first real party we've had since Jo left. Nice.

4. Pandu's book. Though I haven't got my hands of a copy of Joker in the pack as yet, I'm really happy for Pandu and looking forward to read his work.

More later.

Aug 16, 2007

Of CEO salaries and Capitalism

In recent times, the high salaries drawn by CEOs in India have been questioned by some. Even the PM has suggested that they should be lowered. This post presents a counter-opinion, and a lot of other thoughts.

First of all, let us correctly identify the problem. The situation is that a few people in this country are earning a lot, while many continue to live below the poverty line.

Let us, for the sake of discussion, take income as a proxy for happiness. I know this is a very narrow and materialistic view of life and happiness, but it is a simple and valid approximation (find me someone who is NOT happy to earn more, and I'll take that back).

Now, some people have a lot of 'happiness' (to the extent of living in a noxiously lavish manner), while some have little or no happiness (being driven to the extent of suicide). Reducing CEO salaries makes CEOs less happy, and does not make the poor any happier.

One scenario in which the poorest could benefit, was if they got the money that the CEOs had to forego. However, this scenario does not play out in real life. Any reduction in CEO salaries will only add to the company's bottomline, and eventually be distributed to the shareholders. The shareholders are definitely upper and upper-middle class people, who already have enough cash to risk investing it in the stock market. So, all that the CEO salary cut will accomplish is some re-distribution of wealth among more or less affluent people, while being singularly severe on one sub-group (CEOs).

This surely does not sound like a real problem has been correctly solved. So, I conclude that the CEO salaries are not the problem at all!

The problem is clearly with the poorest lot, and the solution is to enable them to earn more. To draw an analogy, if you have a traffic jam due to a bottleneck junction, you construct a flyover in place of the bottleneck. You do not pass a law forbidding people from driving at speeds above 20 kmph.

But if high CEO salaries are not the problem, why are people protesting against them? The answer is - the stark disparity between income levels draws attention to the real problem (poverty) which is difficult for the administrators and polity to solve. Their defensive response is to divert attention from the real problem (poverty) and make the public believe that the symptoms (disparity) are the problem. This works incredibly well in a country where, historically, denial was respected, and profit was considered a dirty word.

Regarding the re-distribution of wealth mentioned earlier, I believe that no one has any right to decide how wealth is distributed, other than it's creators. This is a fundamental concept of Capitalism. People receive rewards for what they accomplish, and are not obligated to share with others who had no contribution. Many of my fellow-countrymen find this idea difficult to accept. "One can not be so selfish. We have to take some responsibility for the weaker". This line of thought is probably a product of our education system - which drills into our heads that pure capitalism is evil, and socialism is noble.

However, socialism, as nice and humane as it may sound in theory, simply does not work. Consider these cases:
1. USSR and USA - both became superpowers after the first World War. USSR did not survive the 20th century.
2. East and West Germany. One country split into two after the second World War. At the time of re-unification, West Germany's per capita income was about 4 times higher than the Communist East.
3. North and South Korea. Separated after the Second World War. Today, South Korea is on par with the Developed nations, while the Communist North has a GDP per capita only 1/13 (yes, one by thirteen) that of the South.

I could argue that the Capitalist system is the most efficient and practical, but I'm sure someone would produce some ideological argument in favor of Socialism. So I just cite historical, empirical evidence (above) in support of Capitalism, and rest my case.

I believe our Constitution still proclaims India as a 'sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic', and we are taught in school to be proud of all these. But later, objective education at good institutions has made me (and probably many others) realize that the 'socialist' there was a mistake our previous generations made, and it's high time we corrected it. India will not realize her potential at the World stage, unless we break free of the socialist legacy, and genuinely embrace Capitalism.

Another thought I feel I should include in this post. CEOs salaries, unlike any other income levels in the country, are determined by International supply-and-demand. Indian companies will be run by the best, only if they are paid the amounts that some people find obscenely high. If these guys are offered less, they will simply go and ply their trade elsewhere. This is exactly how the infamous 'brain drain' had started. If India wants to be counted as a World Power in the 21st century, we can not repeat the same mistakes.

Aug 12, 2007

Wats wrong with Dravid?

This post refers to this Test match. India bowled England out, and had a lead of 319 at the end of the first innings. By enforcing the follow-on, India would have absolutely eliminated the possibility of losing this match (and allowing England to tie the series). This would also be the best strategy for actually winning the match.

In stead, Dravid chose NOT to enforce the follow on. The problem with this - England will have a definite target to chase for victory. As difficult as it could possibly be, at least they would know exactly what they'd need to do. And - India would have less time to bowl England out for a win. Especially if there are any rain delays. This scenario is EXACTLY what ENgland would want, and is definitely the worst choice India could make. I can see no reason to support Dravid's decision, except possibly the desire to give the bowlers some rest.

Now, the bowlers have only been in the field for less than 4 sessions, which India have dominated. If India squanders the best opportunity they've had to win an Away series in decades, because they chose to let the bowlers rest, rather than doing what was required to win, this bunch should be lynched and hanged at a public place.

This post explains how and why a true fan is supposed to support his team through tough times, and I agree with the author. But a line has to be drawn. If the team is making an honest effort against good opposition or in difficult circumstances, you support them. There is no sense in supporting fools commiting harakiri.

For the record, India is 13/3 as I finish writing this. For the first time in weeks, it is beginning to look like they may (just may) not win this series. DAMN!

Cheated

I had to shift to a new apartment a short while back. Unable to find a decent place on my own, I decided to use the services of a broker. During and after the search, I realized just how dishonest these people are. Consider these cases:

My first broker (liar no 1) had told me any house i selected would be finished (woodwork, elec fittings etc.) within a week. However, owner-chappie was honest enough to tell me it would take 3 weeks for the house i liked, but i could move to another one (which was ready) anytime. He was also quite honest about the amount of time it would take for the swimming pool etc. to be fully functional. However, when i tried to negotiate the rent, he tried to explain the finances to me, and to prove that he would lose money at the rate i was asking for. He's liar no 2 - smart, subtle, and clever. If i hadn't been formally trained in finance, I'd never realize he was being utterly dishonest in the last negotiation.

I eventually took another house, through another broker (liar no 3). I liked the house as such, but i needed some other info, regarding availability of power backup, 24 hrs water supply, and needed some minor repairs here-and-there. This f%&^er told me all the facilities were available (when they are NOT) and made a million false promises about the repairs etc. I've moved into the house, and like it overall, but the experience was so bad, my blood boils every time i see him

So we've come across 3 different kinds of dealers, with varying degrees of scruple:
1. A guy who does not lie about anything which i can later find out. He does mislead customers, but 99% of the time, they will never find out, nor suffer in any respect. I feel we can let this pass - given that the guy is in a business to make profits

2. Another guy, who makes some promises which he knows he probably wont be able to
fulfil. He knows the customer will probably suffer later. But he could argue that he assumed the best case scenario, and told the customer what he genuinely beleived. This is questionable, but i guess we can just about let it pass, 'cause he may not survive in a higly competitive market otherwise.

3. The bas%^&* liar. He cheats his customer, giving them false information, and reneging on all promises once he receives his payment. I can not think of any possible argument is this fella's defense.

What bothers me is the omnipresence of type 3. They clearly cheat customers, and get away with it with no problems at all. And people like us accept this. Grudgingly, but without any real resistance. We've come to accept such malpractices as 'the way things work' in this country. I'm trying to understand why, and to figure out if there is some way to change this.

Let's examine the 'whys' through the process, and possible solutions:

1. Slackness and carelessness. When we are paying for a service, we should insist the conditions and deliverables be defined and documented before commiting a payment. We usually do this at our workplace, for our employers. However, we do not display the same diligence in our personal transactions.

2. Avoiding confrontation. This is a typically 'Indian' behavior. When we are being suckered, we give in with a 'Chalta hai. Chhodo.' We are satisfied if only some or most expectations are met (usually the most basic). We shouldn't be satisfied so easily, and insist on getting the full value for our hard-earned money

3. Lack of awareness. Ok, I feel suckered and angry. What can I do? No idea. The Govt and NGOs should spread awareness. The best way to do this would be sharing some success stories. It would motivate other aggrieved customers to fight. We have so many media now - with news channels having enough airtime available to cover a lot of trivial shit in mind-numbing detail (such as the Abhi-Ash wedding, Brangelina and their kids et al). Devoting some time to spreading awareness about consumer rights and possible recourses against malpractice, would do a lot of social good. A TV program called 'India's most wanted' comes to mind. That was constructive usage of airtime. There should be more.

4. Fear. I can take this guy to court. But what if he has connections with thugs, and gives me a real tough time? Well, to tackle this problem, we'd first of all need balls. But more importantly, we'd need to have a lot of faith in our police and the administration - whose job is to protect the interest of good, law-abiding citizens. This is perhaps a deeper problem than the main subject of this post. We can only hope

5. Effective grivenace redressal forums. I know there are consumer courts and all in India, and have heard of the rare success story. But I've also heard that it usually takes 1-2 years to resolve a case, and it is difficult to win unless you have documented proof. This may be OK for physical product transactions, but its definitely not suitable for service transactions - where most evidence would be circumstantial and verbal. Is it realistic to expect a cheat to provide you a properly documented record of the swindle he pulled? Nope. For this, WE need to be more stringent (as outlined in points 1 and 2 above). AND we also need laws and courts that can actually solve real-world problems, and not pose more problems of their own.

A lot of social commentary from me, but no action. Trust me - I am going to try. If anyone can guide me - where to begin and how - I'd do it.

I dont know if anyone will ever bother reading this whole post - but i do hope some do, and at least learn from some of my mistakes. Ideally, I'd like to meet more people who've had such problems, and get together with them to do something. Not likely to happen, but there's always hope...

Jul 10, 2007

Finally - the Bungee post

I'd said I'd write more about the Bungee jumping experience 'soon', but as usual, its taken a while for me to get off my lazy ass and actually write about it (before I forgot what it was like!)

Before the details, here are some key numbers:
Free fall - 3 seconds
Total time suspended upside down - 35 seconds
Total time spent waiting for my turn - 8 hours, 30 minutes

Nothing, not even an amazingly fun bungee jump, is worth that long and frustrating a wait. Anyway, here goes the story.

We arrived at the venue and felt like heading back immediately. Watching one poor chappy shitting bricks at an incredible height, in an insanely risky-looking apparatus, did nothing to motivate us. The first thoughts we had were 'Shit! It'd take a mircale for anyone to survive this. What's wrong with all these people? Do they really hate their lives so much? I'm never going to be able to go up there! Totally forget about takin a dive. Who the hell came up with this idea anyway?!'

But then we got closer, and saw chappy after chappy take the dive and not just survive, but even enjoy the crazy activity. First, you realize that it is safe after all. People can do it, and live to tell the tale. But no way am I going to do that!

After half an hour or more, you also realize that ordinary people are doing it. Kids. Girls. And other overweight, well-paid, long-hours-working young adults. Thats when your ego, self-esteem or whatever kicks in, and you decide you have to try.

I'll skip the 8 hours we spent waiting (this post is about the 'fun' bungee experience. I'll crib about Blore crowds some other time)

Eventually, you reconcile yourself to the fact that you ARE gonna jump from 150 feet up, with nothing but a rope tied to your ankles. And it will probably be fun.

Then they call your lot, and start to strap you up. You look up. All confidence disappears. Back to 'I'm never gonna be able to do this. Who's bright idea was this anyway?!'

Finally, you get on that platform because of peer pressure and I swear - nothing else. If one of our group chickened out, he'd never hear the end of it. Until he was shamed enough to end it all with a jump off a high roof without even a rope. This bungee seemed like the safer option.

(Note: in case you cant visualize the platform etc, look at the pic in the next post!)

Then the crane start pulling the platform up. Note that I'm not calling it a lift or anything. Its just a platform with some chains pulling it up. It's freakin scary, coz u feel u r rising in open air, and can fall off any time. And if you fall before you reach 150 ft, the rope wont save you. Its right about this point that people start closing their eyes and thinkin 'I wish i had not forgotten my gf's bday. Or at least apologized later. I've been such an ass. God, I'm sorry now. Please be nice to me when i arrive.'

Finally the moment of truth. You are at the 'high point' and the instructor is tellin you 'dont worry saar. dont look down. just look straight ahead and jump'

Easy for you to say, freako. Why dont you jump off? And how can i not look down? I'm used to having the ground right below my feet. not down there.

The moment of truth passes. Several moments pass. You can't believe u r standing up there thinkin of just... just... jumping off.

Finally - peer pressure, the constant bicker of the instructor, the pain in your ankles, adrenaline - I dunno what, something just snaps and off you go.

The fall itself is incredibly enjoyable. For all the hype, it is actually quite comfortable. The rope itself is just 30 feet, so the free fall ends before you even regain your senses after jumping. By the time 'sensation' returns, you are comfortably slowing down (the rope is elastic - it extends to about 100 ft, but really really eases your fall). The last few feet before you 'bounce back', are actually the most fun. You are close to the crowd, comfortable physically as well as emotionally ('I did it! Wow! How?!')

But then you bounce up and down for a bit, and this part is actually the most painful. Gravity is pulling you down, and the rope tied to your ankles is pulling you up. It feels like your feet are about to be yanked apart from the rest of your body by that brute force. The only thoughts you have are 'someone grab me. get me down and get this darn thing off my legs!!

Note that the last part has been described as my roomie told me. I have done a lot of jumping and diving off high boards at swimming pools, so i wasn't scared of the height. I didn't wait before jumping, and actually quite enjoyed my jump in all my senses (merrily yelling on my way down). But I'm sure it would have been a lot more fun if i was scared out of my wits.

And that's the bungee story.

May 24, 2007

General gyan on leading people

I've recently read some books about people I admire - Branson, Semler, Dhirubhai... I was hoping to learn something from their experiences.

If you expect these people to have written about decision-making, finances, deals and learn some 'rules' about successfully running a business, you will be disappointed. I was surprised to find that many of their major decisions had been based on gut feeling rather than reason, and against widely respected 'business sense'. The common threads were passion ('I really have to do this'), vision (dreaming of the 'considered-impossible'), and their faith in their people. I guess this is what differentiates the 'explosively-successful' entrepreneurs from the also-rans. You need to really want to do something, believe you can, and trust other people to do it.

The last part is probably the hardest. If you have a big dream, you can't achieve it alone. You have to depend on others. And when you are dependant, you cant have have everything your way. A much better approach is to get others to believe in your dream, motivate them to give it their best, accept their failures and be honest with them.

I can personally vouch for the last. At work, there were a few times I was given a target which I didnt consider realistic. My subordinates also questioned me when I told them what they had to do. At this point, I've tried two approaches.

The common one - is to give people a load of crap about what is good for the business, and why the problems foreseen won't actually come up, and insisting they'd better do it or face your wrath. This will always fail and they will later say 'we told you so. Now do whatever you want. And I feel I'm under-paid.'

The other - and the one I prefer - is to honestly admit you are doing something stupid but you dont really have a choice. And to tell them you'll try your best, and hope they will too. You'll be surprised what your people can achieve when you actually trust them with responsibility.

A couple of quotations I remember from my time at P&G, which I consider golden truths:

- An organization is perfectly designed for the results it achieves. (Corollary for bosses: your team's results reflect how much they trust you. If the results aren't good enough...)

- People spend more than half of the time they are awake, in their office. They should be happy in office.

Choices Choices Choices

Well, I've bought a new car. Why don't I sound thrilled? You see, I have a bit of a maverick image, and buying the most common and popular car doesn't quite go with it. A Santro is too commonplace.

Anyway, as i didnt originally want a Santro, i set about selecting a car. What bothered me in this whole process of car selection, was the mind-boggling choices. In the glorious days not so long ago, the only car i could have bought was the Maruti 800. The only decision to be made was - could I afford the one with an AC? Even color choices were limited. 'Loan' was a bad word. And if some low-life wanted to buy a car he couldn't afford with his savings, he'd have to go to his PSU bank branch, and face as arduous a task as performing an elaborate Hindu religious ceremony.

Cut to 2007. There are at least 4 serious small car manufacturers. Most of them have multiple models (If you want to buy good-ol' Maruti, they offer you the 800, Zen, Wagon R and Swift - and this is only in the small-car segment!) Each model has several variants. You have to decide whether you want body-colored bumpers? Do you really need an under-seat ash-tray and suchlike. Then you receive SMS offers from multiple dealers. Each has tie-ups with at least 3 banks that offer you various loan rates and deals. At the end of weeks I still have to decide between Sony, JBL, Pioneer and Blaupunkt speakers for my car audio system. I still have to decide whether spending another 4.5k for Tubless tyres, and 3k for leather seat covers, are prudent decisions.

One can argue that having so much choice is a good thing, but I'm not too sure. I mean - if I install the 245-watt Blaupunkt rather than the 260-watt Sony, will it change my life significantly? Will i even notice a difference at all? The problem is not having choices. The problem is - there are no clearly 'good' or 'bad' choices. Everything has its pros-and-cons and it all evens out in the long run. And a huge amount of time and energy is wasted evaluating the pluses-and-minus of all the choices available. Life was so much easier a decade back...

(Psst - by the way, I chose a 'Deep pearl blue' Santro XO, and am planning to buy Blaupunkt speakers. Do u think its the right choice? And leather seat covers? Tubless tyres?)

Apr 22, 2007

I'd mentioned in an earlier post that this F1 season may see a good contest between Kimi and Alonso, so much so that Schumi's absence may not hurt so much.

However' I'd not expected such a thrilling start. In most of the recent seasons, 1 driver has sat on 30 points after the first three races, though others have mounted a challenge later in the season. This time, we've actually had 3 different winners in the first 3 races, and a fourth driver - a rookie at that! - is tied for the Championship lead. Sweet!

It's impossible for even the wisest pundit, one with many grey hairs, to call this one. It really could go any way from here. I'd be cheering for Kimi though. Here's why.

Hamilton's start seems too good to last, and I'd be surprised if he got the better of Kimi and Alonso - in equally good or better cars - in his very first season. Massa also seems to lack that 'special something' that is the hallmark of a Champion.

The reason I dislike Alonso was re-affirmed in the last race at Bahrain. He tried to bottle Kimi up, and I'm sure he allowed Heidfeld to catch up with the pair so that Kimi would come under pressure himself, and give Alonso some breathing space. The move back-fired badly, and Alonso was taken by both of them. The thing i dislike about him the most - he settled for fifth. Hardly the inspiring stuff you expect of a Champion.

Contrast this with Kimi. Now here's a true-blood racer who always goes all out, and never seems happy with anything less than a win. He was clearly disappointed with 3rd place. My best memory from the last season was Kimi being taken by Schumi in the last race. You saw two men going all out - stretching their machines to the limit - wheels scraping and the drive edging on madness - and Schumi finally got ahead coz he had the better car. But it's Kimi's spirit and burning desire to win that makes him such a pleasure to watch.

I hope Kimi can win this one with the prancing horse, and bring the smiles back to faces of fans like myself. And prove to the world - Schumi IS replaceable.

Apr 6, 2007

World Cup Cricket. Post 2

Here's something to think about...

There was a time India used to beat Sri Lanka convincingly even with a half-ass team. In 1996, they beat India twice, the second defeat ending India's campaign. And they ended India's campaign again this time.

Till very recently, India would beat Bangladesh 9 times out of 10. The two teams' meeting at this World cup wasn't expected to be a real contest. It wasn't eventually, but the winner was not the one people had presumed.

The two instances create a strong sense of deja vu. Other Asian nations - which should also suffer from the ostensibly 'Asian' handicaps of fitness and temperament - and which have a population less than one of India's many States - have produced teams more competitive than ours. Nearly all other teams have improved. Still, Australia only seem to have increased their lead at the head of the pack.

Meanwhile, the only team that India has beaten consistently in World Cup contests, is Pakistan. And the state of their cricket isn't even worth starting about. The rivalry remains, but is now one between two very ordinary teams. With so many India-Pak series in the recent past, these two teams may have got lost in the game of one-upsmanship, missing the bigger picture of self-improvement.

While all others are moving ahead, Indian cricket seems to be going in circles. 4 years back, we had the makings of a formidable force. But the establishment, led by a certain businessman of questionable scruple, was focused on promoting the frenzy and making money off the team's successful streak, rather than figuring out ways to sustain performance. And the consequences of the BCCI's negligence of basic priortities have hit Indian cricket lovers in the face.

In light of all this, Subhash Chandra's ICL may be a good idea. He's emitted the right sound bytes about talent scouting, fitness, and exposure for the youth. These are the directions in which Indian cricket needs to move. The circle needs to be broken, to avoid more heartbreaks in the future. And Chandra might be the man to do it.

On a different note, Sambit Bal in his post at Cricinfo writes:

"Money is not a concern and if the board is sincere about it, they can find the best professionals from the global pool of talent. This team can then work with a manager of stature and proven integrity, an Indian who can help them negotiate the system. Someone who can be both link and a shield. Someone tough and uncompromising. Someone who can relate to Indian players, who is above petty politics and regionalism, and wholly committed to the idea of winning.

Step forward Ravi Shastri."


It took me by surprise, but I really like the last line. Shastri may not have been a popular cricketer, and may not be as charismatic or respected a commentator as, say, Gavaskar, but I like the way he identifies issues and the strength with which he presents his views. He has the ability to hit the nail on the head, has an aggresive mindset, and is respected by current players, former players and the establishment. He may actually be the man for the job. Don't see it happening though.

Well, whatever happens, let's hope the current situation is dealt with in the right manner - with vision, patience, discipline, honesty and professionalism.

Mar 26, 2007

Cricket World Cup 2007. Post 1

I'd expected to write some posts analyzing India's performances in the World Cup, how the others were doing, and so on, as I'd done with Italy (my favorites in that tournament) during the Football World Cup last year. The past week I was busy with work, and before I could start writing, India's campaign has prematurely ended!

So here goes a series of posts about what went wrong, and maybe one or two about what actually happens in the WC this point on.

First thing - in the press conferences that followed India's loss to Sri Lanka, both Dravid and Chappell asserted that the planning was fine, the players just didn't play well enough. There's no arguing about the players' poor performance, but to say the planning was fine, is turning a blind eye to obvious mistakes.

Error no 1 - choosing to bat against Bangladesh. It's well accepted now that the team batting first has a major disadvantage in these conditions. India's opening match was the 6th or 7th in the tournament, on the 4th matchday. The B'desh captain later said that they'd arrived early in the Carribean and knew that the ball does a bit in the first hour. India still chose to bat first, ignorant of the conditions, and over-confident about their chances against their opposition. This unnecessarily made things tougher for the players, and the team mgmt, thinktank or whatever, should accept this and learn their lesson.

Error no 2 - The playing 11. Ajit Agarkar has been around for more than a decade and it is well known that he is erratic. He was played in all the matches inspite of poor performance in the first, ahead of Sreeanth and Pathan. Sreesanth may be erratic as well, but he is young, and has shown enough promise and passion to be given a chance. Pathan, even bowling poorly, as probably as good a bowler as Agarkar and as useful a batsman as Uthappa. He could have replaced both alone, bringing more balance to the team, and allowing the captain to play both Kumble and Bhajji, or any other additional player.

Error no 3 - Munaf not taking the new ball. What all good teams seem to be doing, is starting with two good bowlers who give nothing away, creating pressure, and forcing the batsmen to make mistakes. India had one bowler capable of providng tight starts in Munaf, but he bowled first change. Agarkar was given the new ball alongside Zaheer, and he allowed all pressure to dissipate.

Error no 4 - Yuvraj at no 6?! I dont know how many would agree, but I'm convinced Yuvraj is the best bat in this team. Look at his record in the last year or so. Even against Bermuda, Sehwag worked his way back into form, but the guy who shepherded the innings and took India to a position to cross 400, was Yuvraj - who came in at no 4. An accepted principle in ODI cricket is 'Best Batsman First'. Aus has Gilchrist and Ponting in the first 3, SA has Smith and Kallis, WI have Gayle. India - in their best times - had 3 of Sachin, Sehwag, Gangualy or Dravid in peak form. In the current tem, Yuvraj has to be among the first 3.

This is not to say we had a great team done in by a few bad decisions. India didnt have the wherewithal to go far in this tournament - that will be taken up in another post. But they could have done better than this, if they'd got some basic choices right. More later

Mar 2, 2007

Stacion Matrimonia

Disclaimer: All people is this blog ARE REAL. Any resemblance to people living (and people you think you know) are completely intentional, and not co-incidental at all.

Episode 1: Don Captured

Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahi, namunkin hai.
Don went home innocently to enjoy holi.
Don thought he'd have some banaras-wala paan, consume loads of bhang, and do some sing-song.
Don was captured in the web of matrimony by his parents.
Baat shuru hui, aage badhi aur pakki-si ho gayee.
Don pakda hi nahi, poori tarah phas sa gaya.
What happens next? Watch this space...

Episode 2: CashMan in Catch 22

CashMan wants to get married.
CashMan meets a gal who doesnt fit his 'list of desired factors' perfectly, but he sorta likes her.
CashMan wants to meet her a few more times, to be sure.
But if CashMan meets her, its taken as a certain 'signal of intent to marry'.
To meet or not to meet?
What happens next? Watch this space...

Epsiode 3: Matrimony fairy turns LilShininLight into a puppy

LilShininLight was enjoying single life in Traffic City.
LilShininLight was going for treks, rafting, Goa trips, rave parties and generally enjoying herself.
LilShininLight had no plans to marry for a year at least, and was having a good time with her large circle of friends, including quite a few guys.
LilShininLight was also trapped by her parents, and couldn't resist the charms of a certain seedha-aur-samajhdhar Nawab, and got transformed into a lovesick puppy.
What happens next? Watch this space...

Episode 4: Yours truly is truly confused

Yours truly had no matrimonial plans.
Yours truly was busy gettin drunk and organizing fabulous parties for all his friends.
Yours truly was also makin some new friends, mostly from the fairer sex.
Yours truly is too damn confused now to write any further.
What happens next? Watch this space...

To repeat one of my favorite cliches, life is a journey. And now everyone is at Stacion Matrimonia (like Hotel California). Everyone seems to have gotten here sooner than they were expecting to. There are some apprehensions, but also a lot of excitement and hope.

What happens next? Watch this space...

Distance

Friend of mine wrote about distance in relationships a short while back. I shall take it forward.

Before we discuss distance, lets see what relationships are ideally like. Quoting from my earlier post about arranged marriage:
Whatever route you choose, it is a tough journey with lots of ups and downs. You need emotional support through your lows, and someone to share your joys with.

And from 'A closed chapter':
people who will like and admire every thing you do, and want to be a part of it, no matter how stupid it seems to the rest of the world?

Basically, two lives are supposed to be inter-twined. Thats probably where the phrase 'better half' comes from - someone who shares your life, bringing more joy and sharing your sorrows.

Now what happens when there's distance. The two lives are no longer shared. You are in a different town, among different people, doing different things, and your erstwhile partner has no role left to play in your life. He/she becomes an unnecessary and useless piece of baggage. You cling on, unable to let go of the memories - of great times spent together, and the hope - that those times will return. They never do. The spark dies down, then patience runs out, and finally its all over.

(A common, misplaced belief is that such problems shouldn't arise because people have phones. No. Phones only allow you to talk and keep in touch. They dont allow you to actually play parts in each others lives. And no matter how many hours you spend on the phone, the de-linking of lives and breakdown of the relationship will happen. Its only a matter of time)

Friend-of-mine also wrote about 'mental distance', and I guess he's right. You dont necessarily have to be in different cities for things to deteriorate. You can just as easily drift apart, in the same town, maybe even in the same house - if you dont nurture the relationship and invest the time, effort and emotions it requires.

This usually happens when you dont realize the value of what you have, and take it for granted. It's only after its over, that you realize the value of what you once had, and what you've lost.

Ending with another quote from an old post:
if u r genuinely in love, dont let little things mess it up. cherish it - a few bumps on the road are fine, if the journey of life is better on that path. u dont want to end up lost, just because you wanted to avoid a few bumps. Add to that - just because you didnt make the effort when it was required. The effort that it worth.

Feb 6, 2007

Tough. 2.

Some times test the strength of your basic fabric. You wonder what you are really made of.

I've been here before. I refuse to fuckin crack. Bring it on!

Feb 3, 2007

Truly, deeply, madly...

(This was supposed to be a cryptic post titled 'Four seasons', so the message wasn't understood by many. But I've been challenged to make an open statement. And I could never let that pass, could I? ;) )

There are times when nothing is right. Your work is not appreciated in office, and people doubt your competence. Your family doesnt seem to understand, and isnt really there for you. Your friends take you for granted, and don't seem to care much for how you feel. Your schedule is messed up, and you are a tired zombie sleep-walking through everything. The good clubs dont allow you in coz you are single. Expenses hit the roof and you still aren't satisfied with life. You drink and smoke yourself till you are wasted, but still dont get high. Life, basically, sucks.

And then - suddenly - none of the above matter. Its the season of blooming roses, and all is good with the world. You are happy, unconditioally, with everything.

Coz you are in love.

And that's that.

Cheers!

Jan 29, 2007

Sporty Posty

It's been a while since i wrote about sports. This HAD to happen after watching Fed's demolition of A-Rod.

I'd bet money on Roddick beating Federer on current form. WTF was i thinking? This is Roger Federer we are talking about. A-Rod would be introspecting now. "Mommy, why, WHY did u tell me to take up tennis for a living? Someone shoulda warned me I'd run into Him!"

I used to wonder - what is the big deal about this guy? He seems to play fairly normal stuff, the opponents just give up and the commentators seem to make a big deal out of it. It was only when Fed had an off-day, and both he and his opponent made mistakes, did i realize tennis is difficult. And it's his greatness - that he makes it look so elegantly simple.

This year has been sad. Lotsa legends i've been admiring since time immemorial faded into sunset this year. Schumi, Zidane, Agassi, Warne... all my favorites from every sport i watch

However, I'm sure the new order beckons. Kimi, Federer... the fan within me shall be re-born soon

Jan 24, 2007

Some things never change - contd

Earlier post here.

Was goin thru my old blog last night. And it struck me:
- I still haven't written about some of the things I'd resolved to!
- I still write pretty much the same way. I thought of myself as a grey-haired-blogger, and assumed my style, subjects of interest etc would have evolved over the two years I've been bloggin. But no sir, I dont think they have!

Wonder if that is a good thing!?!

Jan 17, 2007

Spirit of the Man! - Review of Guru

First up, I loved this movie. The first time I've actually liked a Mani Ratnam movie. Had completely missed the 'message' in Yuva etc. But in this one - the story, the screenplay and the acting is superb! the only downer is the music - the songs are like speed-breakers on an expresway - totally unnecessary and annoying in the middle of an otherwise tight narrative!

Guru, to me, is all about the man. He may not be the most ethical, and his naked ambition may not be appreciated by the socialists in the country - who still believe self-denial is virtuous. But to the generation of free-thinkers and dreamers who will lead this country's march into double-digit GDP growth, he is an unquestionable role model. His clarity of thought, his humongous dreams, and his drive to realize them, all with a smile and simplistic demeanor, are endearing to say the least. Even the other characters - the failure father who's always discouraging, the rustic mother, the egoistic partner who forsakes wealth for pride, the socialist media moghul who must oppose, the self-destrutive incompetent bourgeoisie - are so real. And to see our man conquer them all - pleases just like Howard Roark does in the Fountainhead. And of course, all the actors are GOOD!

Another interesting charater is Guru's wife - the independent woman, who is willing to elope with a man who has less balls than she. Who throws a few tantrums when she finds out he married her for the dowry, but still comes back and supports him like a rock. The proverbial woman behind the successful man. Inspirational!

If you've not seen this movie yet, watch it. And thats a life worth living

Jan 14, 2007

Defending the Media

Roomie and I were discussing the attitude of the media while reporting the Nithari serial killings case. His contention was - the media has already made up it's mind and convicted the suspect. He felt they should've been unbiased and stuck to reporting the facts, and leave people to form their own opinions.

I have a different viewpoint. I feel the media should be offering an opinion - creating and leading the public opinion if you will. I know the 'freedom brigade' will disagree with me on this, but I feel the media is required to take up this responsibility here. Because people on their own simply dont care enough to form an opinion. They are busy dealing with the tangles in their own little cocoons, and unsure if they need to take any stands at all. If the media passivly reports 'such and such shit happened', people will passively forget it and move on. However, if the media says 'This is WRONG!', they might sit up, take notice and maybe even try doing something to adress the issue. Even if they don't, they might at least support the cause of someone who IS doing the right thing.

An exmaple of this in the US was the 'War on freedom'. The Govt has an agenda, it needs public opinion in its favor. The media does the job by harping on the threat posed to US security by Saddam and Al-Qaeda. The man on the street does not know who was responsible for 9/11 and how. Most Americans dont even know what or where Iraq is, and what Saddam really did. Yet US troops have to go and fight there, and they need the country behind them. I'm not saying the opinion formed was correct, but it is certain that the public opinion has been created consciously by the media. The point is - to draw attention and support for a cause, the media has to go beyond a black-and-white, dry reporting of facts.

Of course, the other question is raised about the credibility of the media. Given the power to lead public opinion, where is the certainty that they will not misuse it? I admit there is no answer to that, but power and responsibility always go hand-in-hand. And so do responsibility and trust. There are laws to prevent and punish deliberately dishonest reporting. But more than that, we'll have to trust them to get it right more often than not. I know they often seem to create too much of a fuss over trivial issues and create some unnecessary controversies in the war for TRPs. I will not defend that - it is wrong. But that's a fair price.

I'm very happy when things like these happen:
- A team of IAS officer is embarassed into canceling their plans, when the media tells everyone they were going for a govt-sponsored holiday on the pretext of 'studying monorail technology in other countries where it's successful', 10 days before they retire! The media ensured people form and voice an opinion against such blatant misuse of the taxes they pay.
- A couple elopes. The girl's politican-cum-industrialist father uses his contacts, and the boy is thrown into jail without justification. The media reports it, and questions are asked of the policemen misusing their authority and being influenced by outsiders.

The good work done by the media in exposing abuse of power by the authorities alone outweighs all the cons of creating some unnecessary controversies. It keeps the balance of power from tilting too far from the common man. You and I should be thankful for that.

Jan 12, 2007

New Blog

I've also joined Hypermetropia. Less 'inspired' posts will go there now. Doesn't offer great stuff to read, but the idea is cool (read the stuff on the right-side panel there).
If you like Hypermetropia and wanna join, lemme know!

Jan 7, 2007

Nice post on Stupidity

One of the best I've come across in a WHILE. Read this

Jan 6, 2007

Arranged Marriage

" One should marry
Not someone you can live with
But someone you cant live without"
-Anonymous
(Ok maybe not, but i dont know who said it)


I am vehemantly opposed to the concept of arranged marriages. I know these are very popular and well-accepted in Indian society, and I'm not going to try to change that, nor advise anyone for or against these. But here's what I feel about the practice, and the ideas are applicable to myself, if no one else.

First, lets look at the importance of the decision 'who one marries'. Till we turn 20-something, we are kids being guided in life. Targets are set by others (90% in class 10, ability to play piano etc), and do-and-donts are also dictated largely by family and peers. One really doesnt have to think, just follow instructions.

Then you reach a point where you finish your education and are on your own. Most guys take up jobs. Now you have to set your own targets (retire a millionaire at 40, become the most respected in your field, or simply make sure your kid grows up well and does well in life). You have to decide how you want to live your life. You have a lot of freedom, as well as a lot of responsibility, because now you are in charge of your life - for the first time, and for the rest of your life.

Whatever route you choose, it is a tough journey with lots of ups and downs. You need emotional support through your lows, and someone to share your joys with. To build a happy family, well, you need to start with a spouse. You need a partner for this journey. Thats why you get married.

Now, what if you dont choose the right partner? Your priority is family, theirs is career. You like spending and living for the moment, you partner likes to live quietly and save for a secure future. Anything can go wrong. And if it does, you are so screwed. For your whole life. And your life is really just beginning. Thats why this is the most important decision of your life.

My opposition to the concept of arranged marriage stems from a belief that the process doesn't allow you to make a well-informed decision. And what i consider worse - its NOT an independent decision. It should be - coz its ur whole life at stake - and you are the person who bears the main consequences of this decision.

In this process,the choice is made largely by parents/relatives, who tend to prioritize attributes they want in a family member. And they surely have an incomplete, perhaps somewhat distorted view of you as a person. Do they know about all your crushes? Do they know how many cigarettes you smoke? Do they know if you aren't a virgin? Do they fully agree with your value system? The specifics could vary, but the point is - they dont know exactly who you are and what you want in life. So the match is made between an image of a boy and an image of a girl, and neither is entirely accurate.

Yes, you could argue that you get some time to interact with the prospect, and have a say in the decision. But really how meaningful is that? For one, there isn't enough time to know a person inside out, all their plans/desires from life, and their qualms. Plus there is so much pressure. You know you have to decide fast, you know your families are 'watching' in a way, there is fear of rejection and you know everyone really wants to hear a 'yes'. This is not a suitable setting for good decision-making.

I've been in a deep relationship, and it took me 3 years to realize it wasn't going to work. People who 'fall in love' and are able to spend honest time together, do not decide quickly. And the decision isnt always 'yes'. So how can people who've just met twice, decide? This is one decision you have a whole lifetime to regret, if it goes wrong.

Anyway, thats all i had to say. A few pinches of salt
- there hasnt been a single arranged marriage in my clan for more than two decades. So there is an inevitable bias in my views.
- these are my opinions and my doubts. they may not be relevant to anyone else.
- there really is no evidence to suggest arranged marriages work better or worse than love marriages

If one cant find that elusive gem called 'true love', this is a good practical solution. And for all i know, i might end up in an arranged marriage myself. Tho it seems no more likely than an Iraqi victory over the Allied forces.

Lotsa my pals are prospecting right now. Lemme clarify that this isn't personally directed at ANY of you in any way. Jus food for thought, i dont wanna poison any minds.

Arguments/opinions are welcome