Nov 28, 2008

My 2 cents on the Mumbai Attack

Part 1

Last night, I was watching a discussion on Times Now. Though I do not think much of the Times Group's capabilities when it comes to serious news-reporting, and think even less of their Chief Editor Arnab Goswami, some of the guests they pulled in yesterday were quite interesting. In this particular discussion, they had a former ISI chief, a British journo, and some bureaucrat from Israel.

Arnab initiated the debate with the usual noises - Pak link, support from the international community for India etc. etc. ... The Israeli chappie had an interesting take on it all.

About the media - 'These people's aim is to strike terror in the hearts of ordinary citizens, and to spread their hateful propaganda. You guys are playing right into their hands by giving them so much of airtime. They have no other ways of doing it. And this is all for free' 
Clearly, he felt the terrorits had been successful in achieving what they wanted to, however perverse the end and the means. While one can't fault the media for covering all the events and keeping us informed, this is surely something to think about - are we playing right into the enemy's hands?

About the 'international community support' - 'The responsibility lies first on India and India's government. You must display a sense of purpose, a strong will, and act in a way that serves as a deterrent to your enemies - whatever it takes. The international community can support your efforts, but as long as you are not doing much yourselves, it is unreasonable to expect any more from the international community.' 
Perfectly valid point. Our government always points fingers across the borders, and whines about lack of support from America and others. Are we expecting others to come in, and set our house in order, while we sit on our bums and bicker over caste, religion, language? Do we want to be the next Iraq? Or would we like to be more like Israel - a small nation surrounded by rich and hostile neighbors, yet tough enough to hold it's own? It's time to decide.

Part 2

We've heard a lot, in the past, about the 'spirit of Mumbai', and Indians' resilience. I, for one, always believed it was all a load of crap. 'Resilience', in this case, is nothing more than a euphemism for indifference, and in some cases, a feeling of helplessness. I mean - people going to work and carrying on with their lives as if nothing happened - a day after scores of people died in bomb blasts - was NOT a symbolic display of strong will, or steely resolve to remain undeterred - and NOT something to be proud of - not in the present Indian context, at least. It was a shameless statement that 'we don't really care'. At best, you could say people were 'resigned to their fate' and carried on with their lives because they felt there was nothing else to do - which, again, is shameful. So, let's not fool ourselves.

That's the grim reality. Bombs went off in some places. Some people died. Others didn't really care. It was just a case of some other people being in the wrong place at a certain hour. Yes, they offered helping hands, and the usual platitudes were said and heard. But the next day, nobody really cared enough to try changing anything.

That might just be the one good thing to come out of this whole episode. Our thick skins may finally have been penetrated. We might actually acknowledge the seriousness of the threats we all face, and might make a united, concerted effort to change some things for the better, even at a personal cost. It's about time. And it's sad that it took a terrible, 60-hour-long siege of Bombay 'town' for us to finally get the message.

Part 3

Why are we so indifferent to all this? Terror attacks, loss of lives, the Singur shutdown caused by one mindless politican, goonda-giri in UP, hit-and-run accidents, molestation of women outside 5-star hotels on New years' eve, scams, lynchings, epidemics, bad roads, teacher absenteeism, appaling quality, or total absence, of public goods and services... nothing seems to bother us unless we are personally affected. We have no sense of being a nation, no faith in the political establishment, little respect for the law, no sense of 'larger public interest'. With so much to achieve, and such eminent external threats, we continue fighting petty battles among ourselves, and continue voting for parties to form state/central governments (rather than a competent, local representative) that promise to cater to the interests of our own small groups vs. the rest of the population. Why?

There's a philosophy often used by business organizations during their strategic planning process. 'An organization is perfectly designed for the results it is achieving'. If you want better results, you need to identify and overhaul the parts of the system that are preventing them. Realities might sometimes be difficult to accept, but the rationale here is irrefutible.

So, drawing parallels, our society and establishment - are perfectly designed today - to keep us in the mess we are in. And here are, parhaps, some of the overhauls we need:
- As a people, we need to shift focus from petty disputes to greater issues that affect everyone. This means there is NO PLACE for vote-bank politics. NO PLACE for reservations. NO PLACE for communalism or linguism.
- We have to start demanding better laws and effective administration from our elected leaders. NOT parties. NOT just central/state governments. But the very chaps we vote in as our reps on the local municipal council, local bodies, state assemblies, as well as the parliament. Accountability MUST be established at the grass-root level, and built from the ground up. THIS is how things work in more developed countries, and it makes sense.
- We need to stop complaining about the quality of politicians. If they fail to deliver, some of us need to stand up and take on the responsibility ourselves. India is one of the greatest sources of 'talent' for organizations world-wide. Some CEOs of Fortune 100 companies, today, are Indian. Our domestic private sector companies boast of high quality leadership and managerial talent. Some of these 'talented leaders' need to take charge of governance and administration also. I know this will be difficult in the current party-based, government-focused election system. But, if the people vote for local reps on merit (as discussed in the previous point), quality leaders would be encouraged to come forth.

For a change, the terrorists targeted the upper classes this time. The class that, presumably, has the intelligence, education, information and resources - to change things if it really wants to. The people who know enough to form educated opinions, and disseminate them. People who are socially and financially secure enough to ask tough questions of the establishment, and take matters in their own hands if need be. I hope they respond to the call.

Part 4

No commentary on this episode can be complete, without a tribute to the brave men - the Fire brigade, the Police, the ATS, the Army, the NSG, the Navy - and even the staff of the hotels, especially the Taj Mahal - who selflessly flung themselves in harm's way - to save people like us, and give these terrorists the treatment they deserve. I was watching the funerals of Maj. Sandeep Unnikrishnan, Gajendra Singh and Hemant Karkare on TV earlier this morning, and could not bear to watch it beyond a point - I think it was a visual of Sandeep's mother crying next to his body, in a wheelchair herself. Having grown up in an Army environment, I relate to these situations, people and emotions more strongly and personally than most of you would.

Needless to say, we owe these people a lot. But a grand show of respect at funerals, and tributes through the media, are NOT enough. It is NOT enough to harp on about the lack of training, equipment and resources that limit the effectiveness of these few, courageous men. We must not stop screaming about these issues, till these men get all the support they need to do their jobs as well as they want to, and without having to compensate for lack of resources or support with their courage and their lives.

More importantly, we need to stop passing on all the responsibility for maintenance of law, order and harmony to these few men. Their selfless devotion can not, and should not, be the balancing force for our own recklessness and indifference. The feeling I'm trying to communicate, was well-described by someone through a message to CNN-IBN:

'Where is Raj Thackeray today? Someone please ask him to note - it is Commandos from all over the country - including a North Indian Gajendra singh, and a South Indian Maj. Sandeep from the Bihar Regiment - who have saved Mumbai and the Marathi Manoos today'

If we are to become the great nation we can be, we need to shut out people like Raj Thackeray, and learn a lesson from the Indian Army - which is Indian, and not divided among Hindus or Mulsims, North Indians or South Indians.

Jai Hind!

Nov 25, 2008


In the last couple of months, the readership of this blog has increased from near-zero to statistically significantly non-zero on a consistent basis. While that pleases me no end, I've been irked lately by several people complaining about various posts not living up to their expectations. 'What was the point?', 'Why was it so long?', 'This post didn't have your usual depth and emotion'... the list goes on.

It's as if people expect to find answers to life, the universe and everything... on this blog. I shall oblige. It's 42.

Now, let me re-iterate what this blog is really about. It's about ME. It's where I have every right to express myself - whatever's on my mind - in any manner I wish - and in as much unnecessary detail as I wish. I like for people to read it, and express their own views. But only for two reasons - I want big numbers on my hit counter, and I like being appreciated. I do NOT like being told that people's expectations are not being met, and any post (which I would've taken a lot of time and effort to think up, and then publish) is not good.

Tomorrow, we shall return to regular programming (episode 9). Multilateral Musings. Unnecessary Ramblings. Call it whatever, but that's how it is, and that's how it will be.

Got it? Peace.

Nov 20, 2008

Tough. 5.

Hota hai. Chalta hai. Duniya hai.
I can do MUCH better than this.

Remember, remember 
The Sixteenth of November

The efforts put in
On premises so thin

Learn your lessons
A better future beckons

Nov 19, 2008

An argument against marriage...

I don't wanna ruffle any feathers and get into unnecessary arguments, so here's a bunch of caveats:

1. This is just ONE argument. A good decision requires all relevant arguments to be taken into consideration and weighed against each other. So, this argument alone does not conclusively answer the marriage question.
2. There are a lot of tacit assumptions in the philosophy proposed, and they may not apply to everyone. E.g., priorities in life are not the same for everyone. So, even as I write a piece that sounds like it is generally and broadly applicable to everyone, I realize it isn't really.

Now, go on - read it. If you wanna argue even after taking the caveats into account, I'm not one to ever shy away :)

Part 1 - Regression to mediocrity

Let's first understand a phenomenon called 'regression to mediocrity'. Lots of research has been done on measurables like height, income etc., and has usually compared across generations. I'm interpreting it a little differently.

When you begin your life, the possibilities are virtually limitless. As you progress through the years, the possibilities - what you could achieve in this lifetime - begin to shrink. We, by nature, seek security and comfort. We do not seek to take on challenges which we do not believe we will overcome. We do not like to take risks where the potential downside is as bad or worse than the likely upside. Through the choices we make, which are usually the easier ones, we eliminate some possibilities for ourselves - possibilities which may be grand, but are perceived to be remote.

As the years go by, external responsibilities increase. Past failures make us increasingly wary and risk-averse. We get increasingly fortified within our comfort zones. All this is natural, and has become 'the way of the world' over centuries. And nearly everyone around us, and everything around us, reinforces our risk-averse, comfort-seeking tendencies.

While all this is good, and leaves everyone happy for the most part - this is not how great things are achieved, or great progress is fuelled. That, is usually accomplished by a few great men who go against the tide. The ones who question conventional wisdom. The ones who challenge constraints. The ones take great risks. The ones who dare to dream big, settling not for the 'good' and 'comfortable', but going after the 'possible'.

Consider this. Barack Obama was one of many kids born in the US in a certain period. There were many who had comparable or better means available to them, and Barack had the disadvantage of being black. He became the most powerful man in the world. I'm sure he was outnumbered by those who peddled crack and died on the street. The others had regressed.

Part 2 - Breaking the Regression tendency - the who, what and how

The above principle suggests that humans would naturally do as little as possible - just enough to obtain certain levels of income, satisfaction with life and comfort. But all of us achieve more than the bare minimum, don't we? Let's examine why that happens.

From an early age, we are challenged by external expectations, and motivated to each by external influences. Parents teach you langauage, manners, physical function etc. Then teachers make you learn stuff you may not be too interested in. Your peers set standards, and you compete with them. Anyone who doesn't compete and chills - ends up being ignored, humiliated, or punished. Achievements are rewarded. All of this serves to stimulate your growth, and prevent you from settling in a comfort zone.

Even on the job, later in life - you may not really care how many cartons of biscuits are sold in Thakeshwar town. But your boss sets expectations, and your peers define standards. The possibility of being shown up as incompetent or insincere, motivates you to achieve those targets.

The point is basically  this - throughout our lives, it is mainly standards set by others, that motivate us to go out of our way to achieve and learn.

Beyond a certain age, these agents become fewer in number, and also limited in influence. You no longer have teachers. Parents leave you mostly to yourself, beyond a certain age. It's mainly your peers, who set challenges later in life. Peers at work - will only set challenges within the career path you've already defined. Friends are typically people who like you for who you are, and unlikely to set great challenges. Family - similar argument as friends. They want to see you happy and comfortable, and not suffering in your chase of impossible dreams.

There is one source of challenge that sticks, though...

Part 3 - Linkin' it to marriage

That 'source' is the opposite sex. Nature has designed us to feel attracted to the opposite sex. And chances are - every now and then - you will feel attracted to, and consequently desire the love and respect of someone of the opposite sex. This person, however, may not care a hell of a lot for your past achievements and the trophies you already have in your cabinet. Even if they do, they will probably want to see something that you don't have yet. This is the biggest motivation, to grow as a person later in life. And these are the people who'll shake you out of your comfort zone, and motivate you to change direction from 'mediocrity' to 'maximum'.

To prove the point, I'll take up my own case :)

I was born into a middle-class Army family. Because of my dad's frequent transfers, I kept getting shaken out of my comfort zone every couple of years, and competed with different people at different schools everywhere. An Army life also equips you to deal with social and inter-personal situations quite well, since the environemnt around you is not only very dynamic, but also very strict. Anyway, by class 11, I'd become this fairly well-behaved, independent, and extremely geeky teen. The parents were proud, and the teachers and other students were almost intimidated. I was the guy who'd announce the answer to a tough physics problem, without putting pen to paper, even before the teacher had finished reading the question out to the class.

Then, I went through the first of several life-changing experiences, courtesy a girl in class I had a massive crush on. I'd written a 3-page long letter, to tell her how I felt, just as she was about to leave for another city. Then, I found out, through a common friend, that she didn't like me at all. While she respected my acad abilities, she thought I was a one-dimensional person with little 'life'. She liked, of all people my best friend at the time, who was much more popular with many more people, because he used to participate in a much wider range of activities, and had far superior social skills. I was shattered, and did a lot of soul-searching over the next couple of weeks. And decided, thereon, to focus less on acads, and more on my relationships with people and image.

(Incidentally, I got in touch with her nearly a decade later, and we are good friends today. In fact, I'm fairly sure she's gonna read this - and realize for the first time how big a role she once played in my life. To Miss N - You know I'm talking about you. Please don't try and deny it. And thank you very much!)

Then, in the 2nd year at IITM, I made my first girlfriend. Before meeting her, I'd developed a high degree of confidence dealing with the male-kind, but none whatsoever in dealing with the fairer sex. For a year - I watched her. Watched her cry, and then get over her ex. Then, watched her fall for a dude-types at her comp class. Watched her realize she actually liked me, dump him, and wait for 3 months, sitting 3 feet away on the beach, while I gathered the courage to take a little step. Of course, there's been no looking back since that first step, though the cast has kept changing with increasing frequency ;)

She challenged my value system and priorities in life. What's wrong with a little social drinking? What's wrong with holding hands in a place where others can see? What's wrong with doing what you want to, and feel 'right' about, even if it goes against traditions? Is being the best in one field and making a lot of money, enough to be really happy with life? Who's going to cry at your funeral, and what will they say about you, when you leave this world decades later? If people with ability don't try and change the world, how will it become a better place? How can they look themselves in the mirror and feel proud, when so much more could have been done?

There were also situations I wasn't equipped to deal with. Here's a snapshot

Me: Where are you?
She:  I'm with Niyanta at the hospital.
Me: Oh.
She: You wanna talk to her? (NOT in a questioning tone, but as if she was repeating what I said)
Me: (hang on, when did I suggest that?! I don't even know her! Your friend - you talk to her! I mean, I feel bad and all - but why should I talk to her) No.
(Pause, as she's passing her phone to Niyanta. I quickly realize it was not a question for me to answer, but just a little drama she was playing out for her friend. And I had the responsibility to keep it up)
Niyanta: Hell-yoo...
Me: Hi. How're you feeling now?

I'm sure you get the picture. Call me thick - but it took me time to realize that people are supposed to behave this way. My then-girlfriend taught me the first lesson, and I picked it up from there. She is possibly the only reason that this blog, today, is NOT about some obscure server-authentication java code, and you are reading it!

(That relationship ended in 2006. We kept in touch, but not for long. The way it ended, and the fact that we aren't friends today, is a major regret for me. I wish we were still in touch, and she would read this - but it wasn't to be.)

There's nothing specific to share between then and now, but I think I've had another defining-moment sort of experience recently, with someone I was calling Ritegal in a few posts published here.

Since early this year, I'd been feeling very comfortable, almost smug, about how my life was going, especially on the professional front. I thought my whole 'bachelor wishlist' had been ticked off, and I wanted to get married. And I thought I'd get anyone I selected. I mean, I didn't think I could get Katrina Kaif. But I thought anyone I felt was 'right' for me - anyone who met all my (ambitious, but realistic) criteria - would gladly agree to settle down with me. The illusion was shattered on the 16th of November.

'All my friends are in the fashion or film industries.'
'I know 60-70% of the people in Bangalore. (clarification: people her age, people who matter)'
'I don't hang with such people (about an acquaintance of mine, whose stories I found amusing. He isn't one of my favorite people. But, well, I do 'hang' with him. And, no dirty jokes about the last line, pliss)'

And the shattering of the illusion was re-affirmed through an e-mail a couple of days later.

'We're very separate people... I don't think we'd gel... let's not waste each other's time... let's not fool ourselves... that's all I have to say. Ciao'

I don't think this whole episode was 'fair treatment', but it did happen to me, didn't it? Comfort zone vaporized. New challenges to be answered. Time for change. Positive change!

Part 4 - In case you didn't get it...

Marriage is a major facilitator of regression to mediocrity. You no longer need to accept challenges and grow to impress women (or men, whichever way you swing!).

Of course, your spouse would also challenge you and spur you on to achievements. If you find the 'right' person, marriage could be the right choice. But it's far more likely that your spouse will NOT be your greatest critic and challenger. Even if they want to be, practical constraints - like EMI's, relatives, social norms, children - will hinder some of your growth as an individual.

So, if you do want to achieve a helluva lot in this lifetime (refer my posts titled 'A life worth living', linked on the left, to understand how I see it), and chase dreams that most consider impossible, marriage would certainly be a trepidation.

Most of us will get married, anyway. And should too - because there are a lot of lessons to be learnt in the course of that journey. But it is still important to delay it till you are ready, and crucial to find someone who will challenge you and help you grow - rather than someone who will assist you in regressing towards mediocrity!

Opinions welcome!

Nov 18, 2008

Maximum City vs. 'Just about enough'

I've been to Mumbai several times in the past, and had a very low opinion of the city - bordering on disdain. Before I'd ever been there, I'd heard monikers such as 'Maximum City', 'City of Dreams' etc., and everyone who'd been there for a bit, seemed to hold a firm belief that the city was 'unbeatable' within India. So, there was the weight of expectation - I expected to see fantastic things I'd never seen before, I expected not to see the problems I've seen elsewhere, and I expected to be awed.

What I saw disappointed me big-time! The quality of public goods and services was apalling. Getting from any one part of town to another usually took an hour at least. The alternative - the 'local' - wasn't particularly pleasant, and in fact, intimidating for newbies. Prices were high for anything remotely aspirational. There were way too many people, and I didn't understand why they were living in Mumbai, while they could live in much better condition in another city. Most of all, everybody was constantly in a rush, and I couldn't see the purpose. People - while somewhat helpful if asked - were in general very cold and detached. As an example, if I bumped into someone in any other city, reactions varied from unjustified anger to touchingly polite apologies.  In Mumbai, they didn't react at all. I bumped into someone on the Andheri Station overbridge, and turned to apologize. He was already gone. I didn't think it was a suitable environment for a social animal.

I visited Mumbai this past weekend. While this was one of my briefest stays in Mumbai, it changed my opinion of the city, thanks largely to 2 people I met and spent time with. It's reputation is well deserved, and at some level, I'd like to be there too!

To understand what makes Mumbai special, you have to look beneath the surface, and see the spirit. Mumbai is the jungle. It's not easy. The weak can't survive for long. But, the possibilities are limitless. Whatever your profession, your lifestyle preferences, your needs and wants - Mumbai offers you much more than any place else. It represents the zenith. It's the place you can realize dreams that you can't, anywhere else.

If you are into the arts - Mumbai is the film and fashion capital of India. If you are into commerce - Mumbai is the financial and business capital of India. If you are into science - well, you probably aren't the dreamy sorts, and your dreams have nothing to do with the city anyway. And it's important to understand that whatever your dreams, there's basically just one thing you need to achieve them - Money. And there is no other place in India that offers the same opportunities to earn money.

People who've been in Mumbai for sometime - understand and internalize all this. They might have a tough time dealing with the challenges early on - and challenges there are aplenty! But, they learn to handle the challenges, and toughen up. This helps immeasurably in every aspect of life. Then, they go in chase of their dreams. The environment forces them to identify what's really important, and focus all their energy and effort in that direction. This is why they reach farther than others, and also why they reach milestones quicker. This is also why terror attacks fail to shake them badly. 

Armed with money, clarity of purpose, mental toughness, and facing a paucity of time - they work harder than everyone else, and also party harder than everyone else. They live their lives to the fullest. Nowhere else can they do this. And this is why they can't leave. Ever.

Now, let me contrast this with the city I call home at this moment. Bangalore. (No, Bengaluru sounds retarded and regressive - and I refuse to accept it)

Bangalore is like a womb. It's a gigantic comfort zone. The work culture is 8-hours-5-days, with a liberal sprinkling of tea/coffee breaks. Fun at work is valued. Work-life balance is given importance. While all this sounds good, the fact is - you are not stretched to your limits. As a result, you don't achieve as much as you possibly could. You achieve 'just about enough'. You earn 'just about enough', and with the money you have, you can do 'just about enough' outside the office. The party scene is: all-shut by 1130, and no dancing permitted - 'just about enough'. Any 'good' club doesn't allow stag entry. So, if you want to meet new people (of the opposite sex), you don't have a lot of opportunities - 'just about enough'. There are 'just about enough' multiplexes, but you can't just get-up-and-go anytime, and expect tickets to be available. Almost everything is available, but only in 'just about enough' places - you have to go there and deal with crowds everywhere.

It's definitely a good place to live in, if your expectations and aspirations are limited - because you can get 'just about enough' of everything. Whether you want 'just about enough' of everything with relative comfort, or you want to realize impossible dreams and are prepared for life in the jungle - will determine which city is the best for you. 

I'd like to believe the cliche: if better is possible, good is not enough.

Nov 9, 2008

About Marriage...

There was a time I used to blog frequently about relationships, love and marriage. In fact, this post was (and probably still is) considered by some (strong female skew) to be the best on this blog. Even though I don't personally consider it my best work, it was the only post that made somebody cry, and some strangers reach out to me for advice! A lot of water has passed under the bridge, and it's about time I returned to the subject, with a new perspective!

The post linked above, was about relationships, heartbreak and moving on. It was relevant two years back. Now, I'm at an age where most people get married. So, I'm gonna take up the complex subject of marriage for dissection in this post! Here goes...

Question 1. Why?

Any life worth living, is tough at times.  If you really wanna make your years count, so that you can look back down memory lane some 40 years later, and smile with pride - you probably would've had your moments of pure joy, as well as some gut-wrenching moments of failuire in the face of tough challenges, and if not failures - at least some really difficult times. Can you get through all of that alone? Maybe. But it'd definitely be much better to have a partner-in-crime - who shared your moments of joy, who stood by you in times that were most trying, and could put an arm around you and smile with you 40 years later! A life worth living - is much easier and happier with a companion.

Secondly, while it is good to cater to your own whims&fancies, dreams&desires, plans&problems, it is somehow a whole lot more satisfying if you can make another person happy. Such is human nature. This is where your 'better half' comes in.

And you need to always grow as a person. Till a point, you can do it alone. Beyond that point, you need someone who can challenge you - intellectually, emotionally, financially (wink) and physically (wink wink). But someone who really cares about you - so that they challenge you in a way you can grow, and offer a helping hand when you stumble. Not someone who sets impossible targets and dispassionately watches you break down (you boss can do this!)

Finally, you need a family. A home. Kids. A pet. 2 cars. A budget. A large refrigerator. And a romantic holiday in Paris once in a while. People you want to go back to, once you've done whatever you need to do in office (or suchlike). People who make you happy, and define a purpose for your life.

If you go it alone, sooner or later, you will end up with that hollow feeling of no purpose, and nothing to really look forward to, and nothing really that you're gonna leave behind.

Me? I look forward to all of the above, plus:
  • A memorable wedding + reception ceremony
  • A Eurpoean (Paris+Rome+Benelux) honeymoon
  • Joining a dance class (Salsa or Hip-hop or whatever). And being 'the cute couple that did an awesome dance item at so-and-so's wedding' :)
  • Hosting parties where my friends' wives DON'T feel left out
  • Developing patience for - maybe even genuine interest in - shopping
  • a 5th or 10th anniversary celebration at Bora Bora (whenever we can afford it!)

Question 2. When?

I see several people struggling with this one. I personally believe life is a journey of sorts, and you should make the most of each stretch. And once you've done whatever you had to do in a particular phase, you ought to move on to the next one.

Specifically, most of us finish college education and get our first jobs in early-20s. This phase is marked by seperation from parents, never-before freedom, and more cash-in-the-pocket than ever before. Better still, there are usualy lotsa friends going through the same. This is the best time to realize all your dreams, and also do things you'd never dreamt of!

On the other hand, this phase is also marked by challenges of a new city, demands of a new job, and general volatility. You have so much going on in your life, there really isn't enough time or space to accommodate another person.

Some people get married right after finishing college. I don't think this is a great idea, as they end up missing an important 'bachelorhood' phase, where they could've done some things they wanted to, learnt a lot, and become better, stronger persons.

However, this phase should really last 2-3 years. Beyond that, the novelty - of the new-found freedom and means - begins to wear off. 2-3 years is enough time to do whatever you had on your bachelorhood wishlist. Also, after 2-3 years - you will inevitably find most of your best friends already married and 'not quite at the same place' as you. On the job, you'd probably have demonstrated your worth, and settled into a role where you can deliver what's expected of you - without killing yourself. This, according to me, is the time people should get married. The best of the 'bachelorhood' phase is already gone, and you're ready for new challenges, new responsibilities, and also need new, more meaningful sources of joy.

By this time, you'd - hopefully - have found the right person for you to spend the rest of your life with, and spent enough time together to be certain of this. More about 'the right person' later.

One other phenomenon I've noticed - some people are not profesionally settled even 2-3 years after they start working. This, to me, is silly. I believe these people aren't completely clear in the head about what they want to do, what they're good at. It's not very difficult to find such a niche if you do some hard soul-searching, ask the right questions, and face realities. If you are one such person - connect with me offline, and I'll help you!

Another thing I've noticed - people who don't get married between age 24-28 (maybe a little less for women) - end up staying single much longer than they'd like to/should have. This is probably because they get so deeply entrenched in their comfort zones, or so deeply engrossed in their challenges - in the 'bachelorhood' phase -  that they can't imagine letting another person into their own lives. Again, I don't quite agree with this. I feel they're missing the big picture, and they should have a 'better half' enriching their lives. They'll either end up living a life with little purpose, or settling down late with someone who isn't quite the best they might've had.

Me? Well, I've ticked off nearly the whole 'bachelor whislist', and am well settled into my job. I'm already looking forward to marriage. I've not found a partner yet, and hopefully that'll work out in the next few months. I don't wanna rush it (that'd be stupid and risky), but I sure would like to get married before I turn 29 (I turn 27 in Feb :) ).

Question 3. Who?

This is the toughest of all the questions, because it is very individual-dependant, and therefore,  personal. I'll try anyway.

Let's reconsider 'why' and 'when'. You need someone who fits in your life, who understand and appreciates you for who you are, who will stick by your side through your lows, and enjoy your highs as passionately as you do. At the same time, relationships are about growth. So, you don't need a mirror-image of yourself, you need someone to complement and supplement you as a person. This means, along with all the great things listed earlier - someone who can challenge you emotionally, intellectually, financially and physically - so that you grow and become the best person you can be.

More actionably, this means:
  • someone with a family background similar to yours - so that they understand your value system, and fit in easily with your extended clan.
  • I said similar, not identical. Identical backgrounds would mean you've both had the same exposures and experiences, and don't have much to learn from each other
  • same funda applies to education and occupation. A Doctor and an IT professional aren't a great combination - because they wouldn't understand each others' professional lives well enough. At the same, there needs to be some little difference - so that they offer each other something to learn!
  • i quoted an example for professions above. Similar logic is applicable to schools and colleges you attended. Because those were your formative years, and defined your basic disposition and behavior patterns. Places you attended should've been similar, but not identical
  • physical attraction is a must. Mother nature designed us to feel attracted to the opposite sex. If you're not attracted to your better half, or not 'satisfied' - there's a recipe for disaster
  • common interests. Shared dreams. Similar plans and priorities. So that both of you can live together and move in the same direction. Without this, there'd be a lot of friction and frequent quarrel. With this, you can be happy together
  • similar lifestyles. Imagine constanly fighting over time, effort and money spent on jewellery, clothes, travel, food, drinks, temple visits, family visits, pub trips, dance classes... that doesn't make a happy couple
  • temperament/wavelength match. Marriage means spending an awfully helluva-lot-of time with each other. You must enjoy each others company and be able to talk about anything, anytime, anywhere. Some friends of mine suggested two rules-of-thumb: your spouse must be your best friend - the one person you can discuss anything with, and prefer being with over anyone and everyone else. The second rule - would you be OK waking up next to the same person every day - for decades? Without these two criteria being met, you're up against an endless mountain to climb
Me? I've been close to finding 'the who' a couple of times, but it wasn't perfect either time (may have had to do with the timing also - both were too early - but I prefer to believe time wouldn't have changed the end-result in either case).
Right now, there's Ritegal - everything about her seems good - but I've never really met her, and am FAR from sure, 'coz I don't know her nearly as well as I'd need, to get married. Nor does she know me. Let's see. 
What I do know, for sure, is that whoever I get married to - would be someone I can't live without, as opposed to someone I can live with (subtle, yet all-important difference). And we will live happily ever after!

Nov 5, 2008

Stacion Matrimonia - 2008 Express

I'd posted this sometime last year, and told readers to 'watch this space'. It's time for an update!

Episode 1: Don Captured
I was wrong about this one. Don ko pakadna sach-much namunkin hai. He somehow managed to escape everytime his capture looked 'fully arranged'. An effort is still on, and he's relented to a large extent (he's even written poems. really!) But having learnt our lesson, let's not make any assumptions till he's tied in a knot.
What happens next? Watch this space!

Episode 2: Cash-man in Catch 22
Married. Period. Nothing to watch in this, or any space.

Episode 3: Matrimony fairy turns LilShininLight into a puppy
Married. Period. Nothing to watch in this, or any space.

New Episode: Dandy-boy and Daddy
Dandy-boy struck a deal with Dandy-boy's daddy.
Dandy-boy could choose either the Who or the When, and daddy would decide the other.
Dandy-boy found his Who. 
Dandy-boy was also given a concession - Dandy-boy's daddy would not select a When, before Dandy-boy had turned at least two dozen.
Dandy-boy turns two dozen soon.
Dandy-boy's daddy wants to get Dandy-boy married the day after Dandy-boy turns two dozen.
Dandy-boy still doesn't wanna get married. Well, not yet anyway. Why? Well, no reason, really.
What happens next? Watch this space!

Episode 4 (old series): Yours truly is truly confused
Yours truly wasn't prepared for commitment. Confusion claimed the old case. Sad story, but over.

BUT - now Yours truly truly finds himself in a spot. Yours truly is ready, and yours truly has Ritegal in mind. But Ritegal is sorta where LilShininLight was, last season. And no fairies have appeared on the horizon to help Yours truly. And Yours truly does not believe in 'push' or 'rush' methods, having strongly resented them himself, till a few months back.
What happens next? No idea. Don't even bother watching this space.

Last season, we were all 'getting there'. Well, some reached Stacion Matrimonia 'on time'. The others, now, either dont wanna get there for a while, or feel they're already running late. As Rahul Dravid has often said, after scoring like 7 runs off 89 balls, the timing feels "off".

What happens next? Watch this space!

Nov 3, 2008

F1 2008 Season - Endnote

Watching sport, you often hear some cliches done to death: 'this is going down to the wire', 'it isn't over till the fat lady sings (or 'the last ball', or 'the chequered flag', or 'the final whistle' - depending), 'he needs a miracle', 'it'll boil down to who holds their nerve'...

If you watched what went down yesterday, you'd know what all these phrases really mean. A championship spanning 18 races over 8+ months, was finally decided in it's dying seconds! The distance between agony and ecstasy, triumph and disappointment - was just 1 (final) corner. Neither the drivers, nor the commentators, and definitely not the viewers - were sure who was Champion till some time after it was really decided. A fitting end to a season where no one really dominated, and 4 different drivers held the lead at different points. For perspective, the top 2 constructors (had McLaren not been disq.) had a tally of ~420 in 2007. This season, their cumulative tally was down ~100 points.

I've been following F1 for more than 10 years now, and had completely lost interest when Schumi was challenging the 'theoretically quickest season win'. Ya, we like watching wonderful, dominant displays by great sportsmen, but there HAS to be a contest to truly enjoy. Those seasons were like Ali punching a bag, or Tendulkar scoring 400 against Bermuda. The last couple of seasons have witnessed real contests, and not surprisingly, revived F1 passions! I'd kinda expected this when Schumi retired, with Kimi and Alonso set to occupy the red and the silver arrows respectively, but was definitely not prepared for Lewis Phenomenon!

First, lemme address the conspiracy theorists:
1. Glock edged out Lewis in the pits once. If he wanted to let Lewis win, all he had to do was spend another tenth or two during his pit stop. He didn't.
2. The rain returned with 7 laps to go. Lewis was comfortably running 4th, and Glock was well behind in 6th. Lewis went in, along with the rest of the top 5, for wet tyres. Glock didn't. He tried to steal a few positions, and almost pulled it off. If he didn't really want to get ahead of Lewis, he'd have pitted for wets just like all the others in front of him. He didn't.

The fact is: Lewis was always set to finish 4th or 5th (which was all he needed). Glock's late gamble made it very exciting, way more dramatic than it really should've been. But in the end, his gamble just didn't pay off and the 'normal' result was registered. And Lewis won the Championship. Fair and square. Having done just enough, in a difficult car with a tired engine. Mind you, this is the same guy who tried many stupid stunts earlier this season. Running 4-5th, driving conservatively, and waiting for the last corner to seal it - are not things that come naturally to him. But he did the job he had to do. I hope some of you try and appreciate that.

Some of my friends don't like the fact that I switched loyalties from Ferrari to McLaren. Well, actually, I didn't. I was, along with the rest of you - a Schumi fan. Tell me honestly - if Schumi had switched to, say, Red Bull for his last season or two - where'd your loyalties lie? Alonso fans - did you ditch him when he left Renault for McLaren? 

My loyalties lie with the driver. I don't really give a damn which logo the car carries. And among the drivers -  Lewis is the one I chose to back, for he is bloody good and destined for greatness (more on this a little later). Raikkonen - was always too 'dry' for my liking. He has the talent, but not the head (as he demonstrated this season - somnabulating through most of it). Alonso - as a driver, I admire him a helluva lot. But when he speaks, I don't like the foul smell. Massa - was bested by his team-mates (Schumi, then Kimi) several times, and that's just not good enough. Yes, I respect him a lot for his showing this season, but he'll have to sustain this for at least another season or two to truly be considered a contender for greatness. The jury's still out on this one.

Now, back to Lewis. Let's consider what marked the greats before him - Senna and Schumi.

1. They won lotsa races and titles. Ya, sure. So did many others. Lewis is doing this too, and will continue to. But there's a lot more to it.
2. They were not popular on the track. Brilliant, but brash and ruthless. When questionable rules got in the way to victory, they happily broke them - and were penalized. They did whatever it took to stamp their authority on the track. Lewis does this too.
3. They pulled out the rabbits during qualifying, flattering inferior cars, and out-doing their team-mates. Lewis does this too.
4. Schumi was called the Regenmeister. And Senna, in a wet race, lapped Schumi despite a weaker car. In wet conditions, they showed their true class. Lewis does this too.
5. They consistently out-performed their team-mates, who had the same cars. Lewis does this too (he matched his 2-time world champion team-mate in his rookie year, and scored almost TWICE as many points as his team-mate this year)
6. They energized teams. They won races in cars that were far from the best, and somehow managed to ensure everyone around them rose to the challenge. Lewis does this too, and I'm sure it will become more evident in the future.

Among the current lot, Alonso is probably the only one who fits all the above criteria. But, he settles for risk-free points rather than going all-out for a win. He doesn't handle failures with grace, and doesn't always say the 'right thing'. Still, I believe this will be remembered as the era of Alonso and Hamilton. It's only begun.

Next year, we should have at least 3 competitive Ferraris/McLarens. We should have a competitive Alonso, probably in a Renault. We may see Kubica mount a serious challenge in his BMW. And Vettel - in a Red Bull designed by Newey with bottomless Red Bull cash reserves - may just be the joker in the pack. And of course, there might be a rookie somewhere - ready to challenge the established order from the word go (long shot, this one, though).

The last few seasons - the guy who won the first race in Melbourne - went on to take the title at the end! With KERS, and all the other changes lined up, and with so many drivers in with a real chance - I can hardly wait for March 26, 2009!

The Champ.. is... HERE!!!

Yeah, cheesy image, I know. But it is such a perfect symbol for the whole Lewis Hamilton she-bang (pun intended!)

And this is Lewis with his bro, dad, stepmum and Nicole. His mum, who was also at the race, is not in the frame. (Is it just me, or is that a weird bunch to have in such a snap!)

Detailed review of this race, and the whole season, will be up later today on this blog. I can't wait already!