Thursday, November 22, 2007

Saddlepoint?

Return of April 2006. With a distinct twist.
I hate these situations.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Placement Tips

The placement season is about to begin. And its time for yet another of my ‘help the fellow beings’ post. So be afraid. Be very afraid.

Now we all know Hollywood movies are immensely popular in the campus. Many a day have passed watching the numerous classics in our dark rooms and then brooding for hours over the brilliant performances we had just witnessed. No doubt, it has had an effect on our personas. Hence one isn’t surprised when some one smartly quotes memorable movie lines in the course of a conversation.

But playtime’s over folks. Most of you will be giving you job interviews in a few weeks. These interviews will be crucial and all of you will be trying to make an impression. But we have to ensure that doesn’t end up with you making a fool of yourself.

One very common fallacy is quoting the Hollywood greats during an interview. As long as they are placed well, its fine. If not, then asta-la-vista to the job, baby!

I, very generously took out time from my busy schedule of visiting ATMs and investing in foreign currencies and compiled a list of probable interview gaffes which might occur if one is in his/her Hollywood mode. Here goes.

Catastrophic Starting Lines.

Yippe-ki-yay motherfucker!”

Today, I consider myself the luckiest man in the world”- will not earn brownie points in your first Mckinsey interview

Ever since I remember, I always wanted to be a gangster”- when asked to tell about yourself.

Show me the money.”

Heeere’s Johhny!”- a tad too euphoric a way of entering the interview room.

Do I make you horny baby?”

During the Interview- The Don’ts

Frankly dear, I don’t give a damn”- a reply to the question whether you would like to know about your job profile.

I am big. It’s the courses which got small.”- when asked to explain the low CG.

You can’t handle the truth!”- on asked why you have applied for a finance job inspite of doing no relevant courses.

I will have what she’s having”- pointing to the second lady interviewer when asked what pay package you expect.

I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”- when asked why you expect to get the job.

I am going to make him an offer he cant refuse”- when asked how you will convince a prospective client.

I love the smell of weed in the morning”- when asked to describe your day.

The prof always said that the course was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you gonna get.”- when asked to explain the erratic grades.

I see dead people”- when asked to talk about your talents.

You are trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?”- in reply to a tough core question.

You make me want to be a better metallurgist”- During Tata Steel interview.

They may take my degree but they will never take my freedom”- on why you are a 5/4

Et cetra et cetra et cetra”- second line when speaking about yourself.

GD blunders

Attica!Attica!”- an useless GD tactic.

You talking to me?”- in the middle of a tense GD.

say hello to my little friend”- while waving your resume in front of fellow GD students.

Houston, we have a problem”- the first words out of your mouth in a GD

First rule in this GD, you don’t talk during this GD.”- irrelevant fight club allegory.

Avoidable exit lines:

say goodnight to the bad guy

I will be back!”

May the Force be with you”.

I think this is the beginning of a wonderful friendship.”

Miscellaneos Situations

I knew it was you_______. You broke my heart. You broke my heart”- to a friend who got the job you wanted.

Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.”- after going through the Cap One test paper.

La-dee-da, la-dee-da”- ending you SOP with this phrase isn’t a good idea.

just when I thought I was out they pull me back in”- on making it to an unexpected shortlist.

Hoo-Haa!”- on finally making it to your dream job.

All the best guys!

Ref: http://www.afi.com/Docs/tvevents/pdf/quotes400.pdf

Sunday, November 04, 2007


DOWned Spirits.

The recent issue regarding Dow Chemicals has created sharp divisions in the campus. Actually it would be an exaggeration to say divisions. It has taken shape of a face off between one very small but highly vocal anti-Dow campaigners and the rest of the institute who very unfortunately haven’t bothered to speak up loud enough. I belong to the big group who feel Dow should be allowed in the campus. No, I haven’t sold my soul to the devil. Neither am I a right conservative with no solidarity for the people of Bhopal. But I strongly feel preventing Dow from coming to the campus will be a grossly unfair action and might have unfortunate repercussions.

It all started with the innocuous notice about the proposed presentation regarding placement by Dow. Immediately a host of individuals launched a protest regarding how Dow has a number of liabilities regarding the Bhopal tragedy. It also brought out the fact the huge list of litigations pending against the organization throughout the world. They made a fervent demand for Dow to own up responsibilities for its actions and as an addendum said that it would be a travesty if IIT Madras allowed the company to recruit students for then it would give some semblance of legitimacy to Dow.

A lot of water has passed down the polluted Adyar since then. Petitions have been sent around. Discussions were held and numerous damaging media reports published. I personally spoke to the people involved in this and got a clear picture of the whole issue.

The primary argument is that its time the institute has a screening process for recruiting companies. It should start with Dow with clearly documented evidences of corporate negligence. Then the example should be extended to other companies off ill-repute like Halliburton, Lockheed Martin. Some were even suggesting that Tata Motors and Reliance too shouldn’t be spared.

The route adopted by the protestors had its glaring irregularities. While a coordinated campaign for informing students through films and literature is totally acceptable, there were some steps which the engineering student community found shocking. Let’s start with the signature campaign. A majority of the people who signed the petition were from the humanities department. How much thought the students put behind the signature is questionable. I doubt whether they had conferred with the students whom this petition was going to affect directly. Neither did they make any effort to understand how placement works. They read it, and signed it. An attitude many of us feel extremely irresponsible especially when it was an issue which didn’t concern them directly.

The biggest irony of this skewed and ill-conducted signature campaign was its representation before the media. Students were astonished to find themselves reading on rediff and the Telegraph about the ‘growing consensus’ among students from IIT Madras against Dow. Two IIT alumni hold a press conference in Delhi and implore the institutes to blacklist Dow. They also appreciate the growing support fro the students. In the middle of all this the fact had conveniently disappeared that the campaign was supported by smallest of minorities.

Reflections took it upon itself and organized a panel discussion. The anti-Dow campaign managed to emotionalize the issue brilliantly by bringing in victims from Bhopal and other social activists. The discussion was surprisingly ‘moderated’ by a member of the faculty whose bias against Dow was well known. The whole event was high-jacked by the group with the student representative’s arguments getting sarcastic replies. The whole thing was described as “well rounded discussion” while in actuality it seemed like a discussion on the nuclear treaty moderated by Prakash Karat with the audience comprising acknowledging comrades.

Let’s get to the arguments now. Dow has responsibilities. It’s true. When they bought Union Carbide in 1999 fifteen years after the Bhopal tragedy they did inherent the accompanying legal mess. But the very people who are so virulent against Dow are not seen signing petitions against the highly corruption ridden distribution of the relief funds. They are not seen demonstrating before the Madhya Pradesh government why the whole area hadn’t been cleared up inspite of the Union Carbide campus being in their charge. They didn’t bother to question the out of court settlement the government of India reached with Union Carbide. So why the protest against Dow suddenly? Is it because it’s much easier to send out petitions from the cozy confines of IIT Madras than going to Bhopal and asking the more relevant questions to the right people? And isn’t it easier to attract the media this way cause even if a cow poops in inordinate amounts in IIT, the media will be there to cover it.

Dow is the biggest chemical company in the world. There is hardly any hour when we don’t use an item which might be somehow be related to a Dow innovation. Plastics, paint, Styrofoam and rubber products form a major part of it. If one is that indignant about a company’s practices wouldn’t the logical approach be to boycott its products? But then everyone knows it would make life virtually impossible and we come back to the question of doing what is easy and doing what is right.

Once we ban Dow where does the buck stop? The production of napalm by Dow for the US government during the Vietnam war has been used as yet another example of their destructive practices. Hence we ban all companies and organization which have been associated with the war efforts of their individual countries. The list will read GE, Boeing, Dow, LM and virtually every big company from the US. BP, Shell, Volkswagen, Bayer from Europe. And of course all research institutions including our very own electrical and aerospace departments who have consistently collaborated with the Indian armed forces in developing methods of killing countless poor Pakistani soldiers. Does the irony register?

I have to state that the faculties who have supported this cause have shown poor judgment of the placement process and student sentiments. They have placed the placement team in a huge quandary. This team works throughout the year and spares no effort to get the best and the biggest of multinationals from every corner of the world. It is to the credit of the placement office that we have one of the most well-organized placement sessions in the country. The placement committee and the elected representatives were left stranded after the sudden rush of irresponsible media reports. Dow has already begun to show its reluctance to come to IITM. In view of the total absence of any such protest from most of the IITs and the media scrutiny on IITM, the obvious reaction will be to recruit from the other institutes. Hence inspite of an overwhelming opinion in favor of having Dow in the campus, due to the actions of a very few, our students will most probably miss out on an opportunity to work with the biggest chemical company. The argument that if one is really interested to work for Dow, can apply off campus clearly shows how out of touch the faculty in the HS department is with the career sentiments of the engineering students. They have no inkling of the anxieties through which batches go during the placement week and how the only concern is to get a good job as soon as possible. Applying off campus is an indication that one has been rejected in all the on campus interviews. Which student would like to risk that?

These incidents are terrible PR gaffes. They act like prior warnings to other MNCs who would rather stay away from IITM and avoid probable embarrassment. The only one losing out are our students. Dow is setting up a 100 million dollar R&D facility near Pune. If it doesn’t get researchers for that lab from IITM, it will take them from somewhere else. The Indian government who is supposed to fight for Bhopal is going out of its way to ensure Dow invests millions in India. The company is willing to invest millions in research among the cash strapped labs of India. How aware are the people who are protesting of the current state of research in the country. Do they keep track of the abysmal funding and conditions under which our PhDs and professors strive to produce quality work?

Finally this is what it all boils down to. The campus agrees that informing students about a company and its activities is a fair idea. What is not agreed to by a huge majority is the following.

  • Petitions led by departments who do not have the real stake in the issue.
  • An extremely unfair representation before national media about campus mood.
  • Ignorance about placements procedures and student sentiments but interfering in the whole process.
  • Lack of consultation with elected student representatives and jeopardizing their year long efforts.
  • And the biggest one of them all is judging students from the perspective of their moral high ground.

I was clearly told that the whole thing has come down to whether we choose to show solidarity with the victims from Bhopal or we place our careers above it. Please do not skew the issue by passing such impossible judgments. We are students of science and we keep things in perspective of reality. We know banning Dow from the campus is not going to get any extra relief for the victims. It won’t change anything. We also know that showing true solidarity is not sitting in one’s comfort zone and picking on things which are easy to pick on. Never should one dare doubt our feelings for our countrymen. There are these elements from outside the campus who take this purported moral high ground and mock us for our ‘blind lust after a pay cheque’. I request such negative people to stay on the other side of the main gate. Instead of pontificating before us, please do some actual work which will improve the lives of the affected. And also stop exploiting their miseries.

This is nothing but a throwback to the sixties and seventies where anything associated with the west is evil. The desire for success is considered unnatural. Eyebrows are raised when students vie for the best jobs. Aspiration for a better lifestyle is translated to selfishness and disregard for the fellow being. I would like to request these people to see the real world around them which has drastically changed. We aspire to better our lives. And that means a better India for the future. The world has finally opened its doors to India. We will not miss this opportunity at any cost. And no number of petitions can change that fact.

Monday, October 22, 2007

To the (Honey)Moon & Back



video

It doesn’t happen Everyday.

I think I am going to value this mail for a long time to come.

Dear Sayan
I am really very pleased that you took so much care to make this work. I was very apprehensive as I know it is not like a live performance but it is better than nothing and it can be ca 80% of one as the powerpoint should come down quite well. In these days of serious concern for the environment I am sure that what we have just done together will have important impact and that many more scientific initiatives of this kind will take place. I am keen to do something specially for you in the future. I am now committed to exploring the way the Internet may become a major medium of science communication and I am most concerned that we explore ways that it can help to develop global citizenship at a time when nationalism and other racially divisive dogmas are rampant. The only nationalism I consider acceptable is on the Cricket pitch and I am delighted that India and Pakistan got to the final. I am pleased you recognised that there is a team involved and that nothing would have been possible without my friends and colleagues Davis Simpson, Steve Acquah and Colin Byfleet and of course my wife who ensured that the logistics at this end were kept under control. Once again thanks for making this happen and I look forward to future collaborations
Best wishes
harry

Saturday, October 20, 2007

When Logic Stood Still

Review of the Movie classic Gunda.

Can I review Copolla’s Godfather? Can I re-asses Sgt Pepper? Do I have the audacity to comment on Dali’s later works or give my take on pre-war German expressionist movement? No I cannot. And I wont. There are works of art and then there are works of art. The ones mentioned above fall in the second category. And they are best left untouched by amateurs like me.

So when I was asked to review Gunda, I was in a conundrum. Should I overreach myself and try to accomplish something which hasn’t been ever done before. But I decided to give it a try. Here lies an honest attempt of trying to decipher the most avant garde of bollywood movies which turned film noir on its head and redefined entertainment for ever.

There are two types of people I would put to death the moment dictatorship is handed over to me. The ones who discuss Gunda without having actually seen it. And the ones who have seen and don’t discuss it. But before going to the movie we should begin with the traditional paying of respects to the two stalwarts who have provided solace to the millions of Indians desperate for three hours of escapism. Prabhuji- whom some rascals just call Mithun and Kanti Shah on whom everyone from Tarantino to David Lynch have based their directorial styles. Kantian philosophy is much more profound and populist that that of the highly boring and totally irreverent Immanuel version. It follows a simple path of a congregation of the vilest of men who decide that it would be fun to ravage the life of a guy usually from the lower strata of the society. All goes fine till it is revealed that the protagonist is capable of extraordinary rage and destruction and the movie ends in a cataclysmic showdown. Sounds simple. Doesn’t it? Not when Kanti Shah is in charge and Prabhuji in the lead.

First the facts which separate Gunda from the rest. The movie is in verse. Poetry so insightful and so reflective of our times that one is forced to go back and hear them again just to be sure of what they just heard. A sample,

aaj gundagiri aur netagiri dono eki baap ke do harami aulaad hain.

Har kadam par khoon hai, har kadam par paap, paap karne mein yeh insaan, shaitaan ke bhi baap

I won’t give out the plot. I don’t want fatwas against me. But when you do watch the movie at one point you will realize that things like plot, logic and sense which forms a vital part of normal movies lose their meaning in Gunda. It takes you to a completely different level where you eagerly wait to see to what heights can the screenplay reach and what miracles has the action director have in store for you. The climax is like none other you have ever seen simply for the fact that it consists of countless number of remote controlled auto-rickshaws. Another vital nugget of information I would like to draw your attention to is the way each villain introduces himself. The list goes thus

Lambu Atta – “Deta hoon maut ka chaanta”
Bulla – “Sab karta hoon khullam khulla”
Chutiya “Acche acchon ki khadi karta hoon khatiya”
Pote – “Jo apne baap ke bhi nahi hote”
Ibu Hatela – “Maa meri chudail ki beti, Baap shaitan ka chela, Kyon? Khaayega Kela?”

Many critics have vociferously debated the significance of the reference to bananas in the last quote, but no explanation could conclusively prove anything. But then that’s just one of the numerous references peppering the screenplay.

The acting is top notch. When you have veterans like Shakti Kapoor for whom the role of the hermaphrodite was almost like playing himself in real life. Mukesh Rishi’s portrayal of Bulla is still referred to in the acting schools on the lanes of Byculla. Mohan Joshi, Ishrat Ali and Harish Patel still receive fan mail for their legendary rendering of Pote, Lamboo Ata & Ibu Hatela. And of course I can’t commit blasphemy by trying to comment on Prabhuji’s work. Prabhuji yet again proved that Rajnikanth isn’t the sole authority on logic defying stunts and mind boggling sudden assortments of rocket launchers and hordes of white ambassadors.

Now the final section is for people who have already seen Gunda. My suggestion: Watch it again. This time try to grasp the underlying vivid imagery and only then you will realize the magnitude of Kantian philosophy. Gunda is nothing but a brilliant satire on the turbulent nineties. “Rakhta hoon Khulam Khulla” is nothing but an allusion to the open market economics. Chutiya’s crave for ‘Sex ki Goliya from London’ is a subtle jab at the advent of the MTV-Channel V nexus propagating social immorality. Pote who proudly claims to not care for his father even is a brilliant portrait of the wanton violence carving mobs from Ayodhya. Each and every character is but an image of the various facets of the nineties.

So come on, join the cult. Trust me, you will define your life into two sections, the naïve pre-Gunda years and the significantly illuminated post-Gunda years.

* I am eternally indebted to Arnab Ray(Greatbong) for introducing me to this classic. His analysis of each aspect of the movie has helped me write this review. Please visit his website greatbong.net for a more detailed review of the movie.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


7/10/2007

7 pm


Been there, Done that.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Nearing The Abyss.

Its never too late after its been too late”- Stephen Colbert


3 days to go. I have never been so unruffled before. Something must be wrong somewhere!

Alas, the seven month madness is coming to an end. I will miss it. I will miss sounding important.


PS: In relation to last article I want to make it clear that every thing about I-banking dreams are but mere figments of imagination.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

At some point in the last semester I realized that a course in creative writing is very much required. Creativity comes at a premium these days hence maybe a course could help. Of course with great creativity, comes great redundancy. Nonetheless the boredom was significantly punctured when along came an assignment. To cut to the chase I was asked to write a story titled, “If God came to IIT”.

Now fiction used to be my forte a long time back. But that’s because I used to read. A habit, I have discontinued since the last century. Hence currently my level of expertise in fiction matches that of George bush in quantum theory. Nevertheless, I had to write. And I wrote.

Now I must do issue a statutory warning, the story ahead is so ghastly that it falls in the “it’s so bad, it’s good” category. You may call it the Gunda of short stories. All the best.

*The following is a piece of fiction. As of now there haven’t been a any reports yet of any resemblance to anything factual.


GOD MUST BE CRAZY

You may scoff at what I am about to tell you. I hope you won’t turn up your nose and quip “that’s bullshit. I will have to take this story with a barrel of salt.” Not that it matters what you feel about it. Let me tell you how my name got added to the long list of people like Abraham, Moses, Muhammad, Joan of Arc, Mother Teresa & Keith Richards. Lies before the story of how I met God. In IIT.

After an unpleasant three hours watching the mind-numbing Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag, I was on my way back to the hostel. My friends, who were too unnerved to find their mental balance after the cinematic venture, had gone off to the beach to recuperate. Not being a beach person I decided to return back to the institute. It was like any other serene summer evening in the institute. It was while I was in the parking shed that I noticed him. Standing at the bus-stop with an incredulous look. It was evident that here was a man looking for help. My boy’s scouts instincts took over and I walked over to the gentleman.

Ordinary, commonplace, discreet wouldn’t be the words I would use if I was asked to describe his appearance. Immaculate to the T, the person was one of the most striking figures I have encountered. Judiciously tall and surprisingly well built for his age, the white hair and beard gave him an air of quiet authority. Estimating his age seemed futile. But he was definitely pretty old. He was dressed in a pristine creaseless light brown suit. Must have been an Armani or a Versace. Needlessly to say I was reasonably impressed even before I had spoken to him.

‘Sir, can I help you’? I asked. The man looked up and stared at me for a while thorough his horn-rimmed glasses.

He replied,

‘Actually yes, it seems the buses are not running today. Can you guide me to Gajendra Circle?’

‘No problem sir. I am going the same way. We can walk. It shouldn’t take more than twenty minutes.’

As we started walking, he turned to me and asked, ‘So sayan did you like the movie?’
I thought I misheard him. “Excuse me?” I asked.

“How was aag? The reviews weren’t good.” he queried with a deadpan expression.

“Do I know you sir? How did you know my name? May I know who you are?” I asked totally flabbergasted.

“First of all drop the sir. And if you must know, then the fact is that I am God.”

“What!”

“I am God.”

“God?”


“Yes. God.”

“What God?”

“The God.”

“The god?? You mean the temple one?”


“Well that would be a trifle unfair. Also the mosques, churches et al. the whole deal.”

“Oh in that case I am Luciano Pavarotti. Would you like to hear me serenade?” I blurted out. Realizing that I had been a bit rude, I apologized.

“I understand your conundrum,” he said with a cherubic smile, “But trust me. I am God. Didn’t you pray for Real Madrid’s victory today morning?”

“Holy Shit! How did you know that?”

“And didn’t you promise in Tirupati that incase you got India quiz coord-ship in Saarang, you would come back again the next semester”

“Good Lord! You are God!”

I still was doubtful regarding the person’s identity. Running into the almighty on a Sunday evening was not how I though my day would progress a few minutes back. Nevertheless he did know some freaky details about me which no one did. Especially the fact that I am closet Real Madrid fan. Hence I decided to refrain from asking him to ‘go to hell’ and continued humoring his role-playing.

‘Well if you say so its fine. What do I care? So why this sudden emergence in IIT?’

“Well, it’s an intriguing affair. I have been getting a huge amount of requests from people for quite some years now. It’s seems the young students are desperate to be in this place. Ironically, I also receive request from people within this campus desperate to get out. I just had to check out what the whole thing is about.’

“Ha! That’s crazy! Aren’t you supposed to be omnipresent and all? Know what’s happening everywhere and all that stuff.”

God broke into a devilish grin. “I think my employees have a little over-zealous. I did reprimand Jesus and Muhammad for creating a hyped image. But you know how rookies are. Desperate to prove themselves. But then I think my ego got the better of me. I should have been a little more discreet in my methods. Anyway, I am not present everywhere contrary to popular belief. I do have very efficient staffs who keep me updated with things they feel I should know.”

“You mean like the CEO of a company.”

“Ya, something like that. For example yesterday I was in Iraq.”

Iraq! Well, I must say, you really cupped there.”


“Cupped?”

“I mean failed. Institute Lingo.”

“Oh. Ya, Iraq has been difficult. A really bad day in office if I can put it that way. But as you humans yourselves say, the fool can create more problems than the wise can solve.”

“Actually it’s ‘a fool can ask more questions than the wise can answer’ but I get your point.”

“So tell me how is life here. Why do people spam me like this with endless series of requests to get in and as soon as that happens they want to get out?”

“Spam! As in email spam?”

“Ya, we went electronic a decade back. Ever since the atheism industry took off, Recruitment efforts have taken a hit. We lost some good people there. And of course the religion field has stagnated. Heaven has lost its place has the most prized job perk. It’s all about I-banking now. So we cut down on staff and went electronic.”

“Hmmmm. Interesting. Anyway I feel if you really want to understand what IIT is all about I suggest you come as a student. Only then you can understand the mystifying dichotomy prevalent here. And by a student, I mean a B-tech student. Those half-hearted masters won’t do the trick.”

God grimaced. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”


I retorted, “And why is that?”

An embarrassed look came upon His face. “Well you see, I did give JEE. But…well…actually…to tell the truth….I didn’t pass.” He looked extremely apologetic. Then suddenly turning defensive he exclaimed, ‘It’s needlessly tough!’

I had started guffawing by then. “You couldn’t pass an exam!!! And you call yourself God! The purveyor of all thing living! The One with all the answers! The Creator Himself!”

God stiffened and said somberly “I do know all the answers. Answers to the deepest mysteries of the universe. The answers to life. It’s meaning. Its purpose. Answers to questions which wouldn’t even occur to you or any human on this planet. But yes, I do not now what will happen when you mix ethyl benzoate with phenolphthalein. That’s because it’s extremely insignificant”.

“But the didn’t Einstein say that God is in the details”

“Sayan, for me Creation was Art. Not Science. Science, Knowledge & Intellectual pursuits are creations of man to understand the universe and hence me. Nothing else. And anyway Einstein just wanted to sound profound by mouthing all those inanities. That presumptuous prick. Who’s he to say whether I play dice or not?’’ said God obviously referring to the man’s famous retort to Bohr.

The sermon on creation had left me a little flustered. Trying to bring the light banter back on track I commented, “Well then, do you play dice?”

“As a matter of fact I do! It helps me when I have tough decisions to make. For example when I had to decide on how to wipe off dinosaurs I was torn between an asteroid strike and a gigantic flood. While the former offered an opportunity of tremendous pyrotechnics the later would have been more fun to orchestrate with effective cloud management involved. The dice roll went in favor of the asteroid”

“Well you seem to have a devil may care attitude about your work style”, I quipped slyly.

Spotting the jibe, god smirked. “Its not as easy as you might think it is. With great power comes great responsibility”


“Whoa!! Now you are lifting lines from Spiderman!!”

Visibly unsettled at the fact that his quote source had been revealed he said, “We have digressed too much. We were discussing how I can have a comprehensive overview of life in this campus. Obviously coming as an engineering undergraduate is ruled out. I am surprised you can’t give me an intelligent suggestion and you people are supposed to be the clever ones. What was I thinking when I made you!”

Not willing to enter into an exchange of barbs with God himself, I took a moment to think. And then it struck me! “In view of your leanings towards the Arts, I have a proposition. It seems you are unaware of the fact that since last year the institute has been offering under graduation in humanities. That should be ideal for you. “


“Really??” shouted God with a disbelieving tone. “That would be perfect. How come I wasn’t informed of this? Ever since Confucius took over the petty complaints & miscellaneous Information division, the updates have been deficient. I will have to give him a dressing down tonight. Sayan, thank you for this excellent suggestion. May your I-banking dreams come true”

“How did you know!” I cried out and then immediately realizing how stupid the question was.

“So”, I continued,” now what?”

“Well, I will be getting the details of the humanities thing as you mentioned. Then I am will take a vacation for a week. It’s been quite some time since I took one. The last one was in September, 2001. It was wonderful meeting you. I am sure we will meet again. I guess it will be here itself. Of course I won’t be in a brown suit. And I won’t look this old either.”


“Vacation eh? Where do you intend to go?” I asked curiously.

“Where else but Kerela.” he grinned.

I chuckled and looked up. He had disappeared.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Waltzing with Death: The Brilliance of Pervez

Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount- Winston Churchill

History is replete with examples of ordinary men heroically leading their people in extraordinary times. And extraordinary men falling prey to their vanity when their country needed them the most. It’s too early to say to which group General Pervez Musharaff will be consigned to in the pages of history. But the man has definitely been the pivot around which the events of the twenty-first century have unfolded. This article will make an attempt to review the actions and motives of this enigma who has continued to astound the world not just by staying alive but maintaining a vice like grip on one of the most turbulent nations in modern times.

When Musharaff took over power in 99, not many were surprised. Military coups are but a periodic phenomenon in Pakistan. Exiling Nawaz Sharif followed the bloodless coup hence by ensuring no further opposition to military rule. And then came 9/11. Richard Armitage, the Deputy Secretary of State of the United States government landed in Islamabad and met the general. He had a simple message for him. If Pakistan didn’t cooperate with America then they would be bombed back to the Stone Age. Those were Armitage’s exact words. And Musharaff took the biggest decision of his life. Turning his back on the Taliban. For the last ten years the Taliban and to a huge extent the Al Qaeda had been mollycoddled by the Pakistani secret services leading to their huge influence and power. This abrupt u-turn by musharaff was the biggest shock to the fundamentalists. Those of you who are aware the customs of the Pashtuns will know that there is no greater sin than disloyalty. Loyalty to one’s tribe and people is the only guiding principle in the otherwise lawless ravines of the Hindu Kush.

Musharaff signed his death warrant that day itself when he agreed to play host to the US army’s maneuvers before the final onslaught on Afghanistan. But he did exact his pound of flesh. Musharaff has always proved to be a better businessman than a general. After all the Kargil fiasco was his brainchild. He got billions of dollars of aid in return for becoming a frontline ally in the war against terror. He gambled that an improved economy might divert the nation’s attention away from his duplicitous foreign policy. And this did work wonderfully well till around 2005. And then things started falling apart.

Americans, true to their nature always ensure that their investments show a high degree of return. They coerced the general into making peace with India. He was forced to pull the plug on organizations like the Lashkar-e-Tayabba and Jamaat Ul Dawa. This second betrayal strengthened the resolve of the fundamentalists further. They were extremely incensed for they felt that the general had been using them for his own needs all this while and had discarded them when the purpose was over. It was at this point that Al Qaeda and Ayman Al Zawahiri in particular made it their top priority to get rid of Musharaff. This resolve was evident in the periodic release of the al Qaeda propaganda CDs. Interestingly Musharaff has been able to something that America had failed to do all this while. Create divisions in the Al Qaeda. Many in the organization felt that challenging Musharaff would be a diversion from the primary aim of engaging the Americans. That Musharaff had enough capability to make Al Qaeda presence in Pakistan difficult was well known. Hence reports do mention of a widening chasm between the Libyan and the Arab factions of the Al Qaeda with the former wanting to leave Musharaff alone.

India never had a very amicable relationship with General Musharaff. The disastrous Agra conference was the result of the clash of egos on the either side. But the Indian establishment was quick to realize that musharaff was their best bet. With him gone, Pakistan would be at the mercy of nuclear weapons wielding fundamentalists. The worst possible nightmare. Prime Minister Vajpayee was so concerned about the general’s safety that a couple of assassination attempts were avoided due to the timely tips from RAW to the ISI. For Musharaff the peace process had a downside. In the past the Pakistani leadership in their attempt to hide their incompetence would blame all ills on India. But in this atmosphere of goodwill that escape route had shuts its door on him.

The inception of the peace process with India, the slow and steady crackdown on the terror apparatus and a growing economy kept the general in the good books of the international community who were more than happy to turn a blind eye to his total disinterest in laying down his uniform or his rigging of elections. But the internal turmoil had begun to get out of hand. The unrest at Balochistan was handled terribly by the military junta resulting in a prolonged low intensity conflict which threatened to escalate into a full blown civil war. The troubles in Balochistan were nothing compared to the ones the government faced in Waziristan province. Situated in the lawless tribal lands in the north-west, Waziristan had become a hotbed of militant activity. From sheltering the higher-ups of Al Qaeda to hosting foreign militants from all over the Muslim world, Waziristan had become the biggest thorn in Pakistan’s relation with the Americans. In face of growing accusations of non-cooperation the general was forced to send in forces only to withdraw later with a humiliating ceasefire agreement with the tribal leaders.

The virtual granting of independence to Waziristan was among the first signals of the unraveling of Musharaff’s power. Of course by then the assassination attempts on him had begun. A series of close shaves later, the general decided to take some punitive action against the home grown terrorists. While arrests had been going on since 9/11, the attempts on his life spurred the security apparatus into action. Finally the Pakistan government was seen serious about the promises it had been making for quite some time.

2007 saw a major turn in his fortunes. And it came from the most unexpected of quarters. The judiciary had always played second fiddle to the leadership. Chief justice Iftikar Chowdhury who before 2007 had a very unremarkable career suddenly showed traits of judicial activism. Most of them were directed against Musharaff’s policies. Anticipating complications during his re-election bid he asked the chief justice to fall in line or to step down. The chief justice declined to do either. This standing up to the president enthused the anti-Musharaff groups like never before. Justice Chowdhury became the rallying point for all the anti-government protestors. Yet again the junta showed poor judgement. They tried to divert the nation’s attention and suppress the growing popularity of he protests by creating the Lal Masjid crises. Creating wouldn’t be a fair thing to say actually. Discontent had been simmering in Islamabad for quite some time with the Lal Masjid playing the mascot for the fundamentalists. But it wasn’t a situation which couldn’t be controlled. But Musharaff had begun to show signs of desperation. The Iftikar Chowdhury protests had grown out of control after some deadly rioting in Karachi. Lal Masjid offered the only possible diversion. As a result a week long drama played out before television crews. Musharaff came out as the leader who played tough with terrorist. When Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the militant Imam, wanted to surrender according to the terms presented, by an interesting coincidence his cell phones were found jammed. The ambush followed and scores were killed.

But this just worsened matters. The fundamentalists reaffirmed their faith in destroying the general. Another attempt on his life followed. The battle on the chief justice front too failed. Musharaff was forced to reinstate him hence by showing how much his power had declined. Like vultures over a caracass, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif declared their intent of returning to their home country. The stage was set for the final overthrow.

Musharaff, a commando by training, has stunned the world by his ability to come out of intractable situations. The world waits with bated breath to see whether he has saved his best for the last. The Americans have finally had enough of him. They desperately want a seamless transfer of power to a democratic government. The usual suspects in a general election have started gathering forces. The fundamentalists are still planning their assassination attempts. Musharaff always has the honourable exit option. America will ensure his safety in case he chooses that option. But will he?

A man who has been guided by his huge ego and strong survival instincts finally seems to have reached the end of the road. Very few will disagree that he was the best possible leader Pakistan could have who could have extracted them so brilliantly from a post 9/11 morass. His strong leadership saved the day for Pakistan. But like all dictators he has ultimately become a victim to his own vanity. The next few months will show whether he chooses head over heart and takes a quiet exit hence by avoiding the unfortunate fates of his predecessors. Or does he have a last trick up his sleeve?

* This article was my contribution to FC September, 2007.



Wednesday, July 25, 2007

And now for something completely different.

Well, I have been always a little ignorant of technology. Especially when it has got to do with the computer. When I saw my peers lapping up everything there is to know about softwares and the internet, I made a conscious decision to sit out this revolution. I had to be different you see. Even at the cost of common sense. So that’s the reason why my blog has such a barren look. ( I prefer the word minimalist). No favourite blogs. No counter. No design. No funky stuff at the sides. Why? It’s not that I don’t love counters and funky stuff. And I have a number of favourite blogs. Yes Greatbong, I am talking about you. But I have no frigging idea how to incorporate all these stuff. It seems some thing called HTML is involved somewhere. Whatever.

As a result of this self imposed isolation, I am a loner in the big wide happy family of bloggers. I never get tagged for anything. No one requests me to unleash my creative genius. But I have had enough. So I TAG myself. What do you think about that, you pinheads!

Now that tagging is over, I have decided to write on this curious thing doing the rounds. 8 things which people do not know about you. Well, why 8? I would love to say 80 things if it got me a little more attention( read comments). Again for the sake of being different I will say the top 10 things people do not know about me.

The more perceptive of you might have noticed the subtle tribute I just paid to my good friend the Rt Hon David Letterman.

The list.

1. I don’t believe in reality. As a mater of fact I consider it dangerous and should be done away with at once. I believe everyone has a right to believe what one feels like. How close that is to reality is not a point of concern. Well that’s how I explain the length of my resume to people.

2. I want to die before I turn 45. Among the sighs of relief I notice a few raised eyebrows. Here is the motivation. I don’t want to get through JEE again. I mean obviously my children will be sitting for it. And it’s a worse quandary for parents than the children. FIITJEE, VMC, Brilliants again?? No way. God, I am coming home in 2030.

3. I support the war on Iraq. Without it seeing Bush and his administration’s press conferences wouldn’t be half as fun. I know I am being insensitive to the thousands dead but then they didn’t do much for me anyway.

4. I believe P G Wodehouse is the greatest ever author ever in the history of the universe. Try writing one sentence like him you punk.

5. I strongly disagree with people who say a man must know his alcohol. (Ya, Kini. I am talking to you). I feel too much time is being wasted knowing alcohol instead of drinking it. Academic pursuits should be left behind in the lab. And in some cases in Wikipedia.

6. One of my greatest faux pas was when I was caught eating a double layer chicken burger wearing a PETA t-shirt. It was one of those situations where none of the clever one-liners you mugged from Wiki-quote is of any use. But I did plead ignorance by claiming that I thought it stood for Prevention of Ethical Treatment to Animals. Some political pundits point out that it might have been one of the reasons why I lost the Mandak lit-sec elections in 2006. Psueba is a vegetarian you see.

7. I am very touchy when it comes to my privacy. I think some things should remain private. I don’t believe the people have any right to know that I have a love-life so barren that I am planning to begin hitting on Insti girls.

8. I hate Orkut. Yes I do. I think it’s a travesty of egotistical justice that one cannot write a testimonial for oneself without having a fake account. Why do they think I can write testimonials about people I have never met but not for myself whom I know since…well as long as I remember. And 1024 words?? Are they kidding me? I don’t see word limits on articles praising Brin and Page. Why then have a limit when it comes to us? Me in particular.

9. When it comes to a choice between populism and elitism, I will always choose populism. There is not better place to hide mediocrity than in a large crowd. And of course when the revolution comes it’s the elites who head to the guillotine. Revise your history you psuede buggers.

10. And finally, the most important thing that you all don’t know is something not about me. Its about Shaastra 2007. It gives me great pleasure to let out one of the biggest secrets of this year. Shaastra 2007 is going to be the awesomest, most wonderfullest, greatestest ever spectacle ever seen in the history of mankind since whatever. Even King Leonides spanking Persian asses will not come close to the passion one will witness say in the Shaastra 2007 press conference. And that’s just the mildest part of the 4 day extravaganza.

And now you know.

PS

1. Had to say the last few lines. It was in my core contract.

2. Insti girls have always had my greatest respect.

Monday, July 02, 2007

SELLING NATIONS

Brand Slogans have become such an important part of everyday life. Marketing of anything begins with the search for the appropriate tagline. Brand identification among other things depends hugely on the accompanying catch phrases. ‘Thanda matlab CocaCola’ being one of the most brilliant one to come up in the recent years.

While pondering on this led me to indulge myself in a little bit of fantasizing on how nations could be marketed. While quite a few do already have their commercials inviting tourists, they are not the sort I had in mind. The phrases I had in mind were more general in nature portraying the image a country enjoys in the current world.

And jobless as I am, I came up with a small list.

Pakistan- Creating Tension, Since 1947.

Saudi Arabia- You Drive? High-Five!

Great Britain- Great things come in small packages.

Bangladesh- Where Gratitude is just another Word.

Canada- Prosperity Through Irrelevance.

Israel- Where Rules are Truly made to be Broken.

India- Keeping Order, Through Chaos.

China- The World. Made In China.

Japan- For the smarter things in life.

Sri Lanka- Where Tigers are not endangered.

Russia- I will be Back.

Australia- Does Size Matter?

USA: The Grass is always greener on our side.

Iran: Where Diplomats get their PhDs.

Palestine: The Original Fight Club.

Germany- We make Things. And break them.

Iraq- We have Oil. Take it…. if you can.

Brazil: The Biggest Party in the World.

Sudan: Shortcuts to Population Control

European Union- Miracles do Happen.

United Nations: Redefining Redundancy

Thursday, May 24, 2007

TEUTONS FOR DUMMIES.

The lonely planet is a great thing to have when you are in a new place. It’s very difficult to say what is wrong with the book. It lists basically everything. For example who knew that’s its impolite to ask for tap water in a German restaurant. Or Germans when angry lower their voices. Pearls of wisdom indeed. Information one won’t get in the run-of-the-mill travel guides.

But as I soon discovered in the last few days, LP doesn’t give you everything. There are valuable lessons which one learns only when he is finally in the new place. Most of them are learnt through unfortunate personal experiences. So I thought wouldn’t it be a great philanthropic gesture if I took out time from my insanely busy schedule of checking mails and reading news, and wrote down some Do’s and Don’ts for a novice resident in Deutschland.

So here goes.

  1. Beer is NOT cheaper than water. All of you who plan to save a buck by having Becks or König-Pilsener after your meals instead of Adam’s Ale, kindly go back to your drawing board. Cheap beer is the greatest myth about Germany. If you want cheap beer, stay in India (which by the way is the greatest country in the world as I now realize. I will never complain about the costs there EVER)
  1. Nothing is free here. Nothing. My first visit to the supermarket entailed that I didn’t have any carry-bags. I saw a heap of them lying in one corner of the store apparently there to be taken. True to our great heritage, on spotting something apparently free, I grabbed as many as possible and happily progressed towards the cash counter with my trolley. What followed was the unhappy situation of trying to explain to the lady at the counter why I had 6 bags with me while I had just bough sausages and egg. When I was unable to give a coherent reply thanks to my vintage skills in the German language, an unhappier situation followed. I shelled out 6 cents for each of the polythene bags. From then on, I have never touched anything in this country without looking for the price tag.
  1. Know your football. To be more precise, know your Bundesliga. It’s the easiest way to start a conversation here. First thing I did after I reached here was to mug the current standings of teams. I assure you it will be very helpful. Knowing the players is obviously an added advantage. But be very careful about what you say about teams. Always discreetly find out whom the person you are talking to supports and then base your further statements on that fact. Nothing fuels more passion – and fights than soccer. For example shouting ‘Schalke sucks!’ anywhere near Gelsenkirchen might make things uncomfortable while proclaiming the same thing loudly in Dortmund a few miles away might get you a free beer.
  1. It’s a bad idea to eat in trams. You might get thrown out. Trust me. I know.
  1. It’s a very bad idea to travel ticket less in any public conveyance. German police normally don’t see much action and this is the only instance they can assert some authority. So don’t be surprised when you get surrounded by a mini army the moment you are apprehended. In case one does get caught, best line of defence is ‘I just came from India! I don’t know where to get a ticket.’ It always works. But don’t over-do it. There is a high probability you might be saying the thing to the same person twice.
  1. Always carry your passport. Thanks to out jihadist cousins, there have been too many cases of ‘over-zealous’ officers just doing their ‘job’. This point can be further discussed with Prof V Sundar of the Ocean Dept who had an officer holding a gun to his head.
  1. In the work-place never claim to know something you don’t. Germans verify everything. I will paste a certain conversation which took place.

Prof: Do you know how to use the TEM?

Certain Person we know: of course. I have used it many times before.

Prof: Oh good. Come with me.

Enter a TEM room.

Prof: ok, show me. Use this machine.

Certain Person we know: Hmmmm. Well I meant I have seen people using it many

times before.

  1. I was informed by my well-meaning friends that German girls are supposedly easy to score. At this point of my stay, I may grudgingly agree. But what I have realized is that language forms a very important part of the scoring process. You might be at your Sunday best with your Indian charm (!) oozing out but much advancement will be difficult if you are unacquainted with the intricacies of the Teutonic tongue (I refer to the language here. The literal aspect comes in later in stage 3.) English will not get you anywhere. The whole rendezvous will end up looking like the first lessons of the local Helen Keller Society chapter.

Lot remains to be told. Especially about the all-important Byzantine Factor. I hope these pointers are of some help to some unfortunate fellow traveller who remains perplexed by the bizarre oddities of this nation.

Monday, May 07, 2007



Here Comes The Sun


Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
And I say it’s all right.
Little darling it’s been a long cold lonely winter,
Little darling it feels like years since it’s been here.
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
And I say it’s all right.


Friday, February 16, 2007

OPENING THE DOORS OF PERCEPTION.

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through' narrow chinks of his cavern.” – William Blake.

The future, they say, cannot be predicted. It has never been. Never will be. I started my schooling in the year 1989. The last 17 years of education I received is supposed to be in preparation for my career which will roughly last between 2010 and 2060. In short, I have been preparing for a future without any idea what challenges it holds for me and for the human race. Isn’t it surprising?

The current education system in India as well as throughout the world is rooted in a nineteenth century mindset. The whole approach was such so as to meet the steady demands of industrialization. No wonder topics like mathematics and science are right at the top of the subject hierarchy. And dance and drama right at the bottom. And this trend continues even today. Especially so in India, where the insatiable hunger for manpower from the services sector results in the churning out of thousands of engineers and IT professionals. Among these thousands are quite a few brilliant dancers and actors and artists whose natural urges of creativity have been stymied by the narrow minded perceptions of their elders and society.

If we continue on this path, we stand to lose an unimaginable amount of human capital. More people are graduating now than ever before in the history of the human race. Academic inflation is rampant. Suddenly degrees have become worthless. It’s high time we move away from the present system of education as evidently it is not suited to the needs of the twenty-first century. Now we must value creativity at par with literacy. The current system is such that the worst thing one can do is to make a mistake. But how can one dare to dream and try something new if the constant fear of being wrong lurks round every corner. Children have an extra-ordinary capacity to be inventive. We adults have lost that capacity. Right now we are educating people out of creativity rather than it being the other way round. The current system rewards one’s academic ability. In that case, the superlative human would be a university professor. But we know that’s not the case.

We have to stop equating intelligence to academic ability. There are innumerable cases where brilliant and highly talented people think they are not so. That’s because what they are good at is not valued by their schools and teachers. We need to reconstitute our view of education which should be based on harnessing the immense human ability which surrounds us. We need to incorporate the fact that intelligence is diverse, dynamic and distinct. The current system mines our mind for something very specific. This method will not work for the future.

Let us create a new concept of human ecology which celebrates human imagination. Let’s work towards a system where a child can dance and sing if he wants to. Instead of suppressing his natural talents lets educate his whole being. Let’s open their doors of perception. And then as Blake mentioned, the possibilities are infinite.

Every child is born an artist. But very few remain one as they grow.”- Picasso.

* I am thankful to Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk for giving a proper shape and direction to this train of thought.

Monday, February 05, 2007





"Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
That is known as the Children’s Hour."
- H W Longfellow.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Saarang 2007.

25th-29th January.

Stella Maris. Rs 500. 29C. Lufthansa. To click or not to click. The disheartening fusion. KK’s tricks. Tchaikovsky on Shuffle. Rs 100 Coupons. Fish Burger. Seinfeld. First ever SpEnt qualification. Shoes stolen. Theo Walcott. The Huge Humiliation. Noah. Marooned on an island. Troy. Rich dad, poor dad. VIP gate. Sunny B. AS. With Baille at Tiffany’s. Salaam-e-Ishq. Morning at 1 pm. Newsletter. Qutub Minar. Coffee. Mighty Ducky. Mr India. SMS. Sensex. Bobby. Interrogation. Videography. Origin dice. Litchi juice. Temple. Stadium. Arya. Oat at 12. Kabala. Stephen Colbert. Defeat…Yet again. 3am. Aloo Parathas. United Colors of Benetton. Vatican city. Netaji. Decent score for a change. Defeat. Room. Eleanor. Goteborg. Douglas Adams. Oliver Stone. Wikipedia. Business greetings. Evening sleep after so long. Paining jamba. Student burger. Microsoft powerpoint. Lan after 1. Pota at 6. Apple. Empty CHLT. Kayfabe. Oliver’s story. Flash drives. Road blockade. ICSR. Finals. Sarcasm. Kakkar. Bulb. The whole grub. Credit Suisse. Kabala again. Final defeat. Winners list. Extempore. Thank you ladies and gentlemen. The walk back. Pizza hut. Anne Hathaway. The devil wore prada. And finally…….Meryl Streep. They don’t make em like her anymore.

It felt good. Even when we lost. Even when we almost won. And even when we just watched.