Monday, April 13, 2015

Castle Of Tears

I want a castle she said
High up in the clouds
So far away from the flowers rotten
So safe away from the land barren

He saw her longing glance
He hid his empty eyes
He said maybe we can try
To build with what we have
No stone, no gravel, no lies, no fears
Let ours be a castle of tears

Tears will bind it & hold it so tight
And so our dreams will take flight
With walls of empathy & floors of caring
No hopes fouled, just pain & its sharing

So lend me a hand, I pray to thee
Come my love, my darling, my dear
Ours will be a castle of tears
Ours will be the castle of tears


 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Finance Tools We Need: The DPF Method

The use of economics & finance in every part of our life has become exceedingly wide-spread, even invasive at times.

Money, to use a super cliche, makes the world go round.

Again & again, what strikes me throughout the course of various human & societal interactions, whether experienced, or observed, is how much economics & finance drive a lot of human behaviour, partially or fully. Practically everything can be valued in economic/financial terms these days.

Of course, eminent economists such as Gary Becker have studied these aspects in great detail.

In my case though, during the disorderly ruminations to which a pseudo-intellect such as mine is predisposed, the thought occurred - what if there was a way to value human waste?

One of the most basic ways of valuing an asset is to value the economic output that it generates over its lifetime as a series of cash flows, and to discount it using an appropriate interest rate. This method is called the DCF (discounted cash flow) approach.

Analogous to this, what if we had a DPF (Discounted Poop Flow) method?

Consider the wide variety of useful applications that this method would have.

Firstly, DPF could be used for valuations of companies with certain exotic products. Kopi Luwak, for example, said to be the most expensive coffee in the world, comes from the excreta of a cat known as the Asian palm civet. For valuing a company which sells Kopi Luwak, the DPF method would be extremely helpful. In fact, the value of the company would literally depend on the "output" of its cat asset base.

Next, DPF could be used for improving the pricing & valuations of real estate assets, particularly in Indian cities. Lack of waste could be valued and added to the already high prices. Some market savvy builders could even pass on the valuation as a discount. Happy buyers are always ready to buy at a discount. How's that for an economic stimulus?

Further, the DPF would be quite amenable to an extension to the metaphorical plane. So many people verbally discharge tonnes of waste every day. With a tool like DPF, one could calculate the EVA (Excretion Value Added) to the economy and compute the benefit in totality.

Finally, the DPF would help in improving the intrinsic value of human beings. It may make humans realise the value of the waste they generate & learn to accept responsibility for it. To paraphrase Eve Ensler (with apologies):

But mainly my orifice,
& everything coming out of it
Is mine
Mine
Mine...



Thursday, November 27, 2014

Gone Guy

She read the letter intently.

Beads of perspiration glistened on her forehead.

"Dearest:

This shit's getting too much for me to handle.

I think we need to consider a separation."

She snapped back to reality.

Such nonsense he talks, she thought.

She smiled sweetly as he lay beside her, cold & still, as he had ever since she first read the letter.
 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Promise

Bated breath, angry moan
Tear drop turned to stone
Oh the stare, that piercing stare
An empty nest, a bird flown
Smiles that lived, eyes that shone
Numb flesh, unfeeling bone
Oh the silence, that cold silence
A promise left all alone...

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Shaken, But Not Stirred: The Sky Who Crashed Me

The name's Bond. Games Bond.

Some weeks back I undertook a highly dangerous secret mission - to crash test the latest model developed by a leading luxury carmaker. We have an extra 4 crore to burn; please crash the car and tell us if its ok, they said. It's the latest thing in automobile safety checks I was told. A mystery crashing, if you will.

I was hesitant, but I agreed. Of course no testing track would do. To give it an authentic feel I was compelled to drive it in the heart of South Mumbai in the dead of the night. That would be the default habitat for the car in real life anyway.

So there I was, racing the car in all my secret agent glory when things got a bit out of hand. It was either a sleeping beggar or a paver block that came loose (not much difference between the two when you are going at 250 kpmh). The result was that I ended up banging the car into umm... other cars. That was not really part of the test. I was shaken, but not stirred of course. The sight wasn't pretty. A mangled mass of metal. I still get nightmares about it. And there were some minor issues, like some dead passers-by and stuff. Not that it matters much, since I have a licence to kill.

My clients realized what a mess it was of course. We must do something, they said. Can't let the competition know about this. And one of them hit upon an incredibly devious idea - what if we made it look like some bigshot was involved in the crash and that its all being covered up? People will focus all their energy on righting the wrong. Nobody will bother about what actually happened.

They managed to find a bigshot scapegoat incredibly fast. He was a driver for one of their subsidiary companies. Serves him right. These rich bullies, I tell you. They need to be taught that the entire world cannot be bribed into condoning their offences.

Somehow when I woke up the next morning, my head was hurting and my brain had taken a vacation. I didn't feel like Games Bond anymore. Who the hell is Games Bond anyway? I called my butler and told him to get the chopper ready on the helipad. A walk in the refinery will do me good. I love the smell of polyester in the morning.

So you have trouble believing this story. Ah well, what is truth if not an overrated figment of the imagination?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Milk

The cuts aren't enough
Slash it harder, deeper
Splash it, splash it all over
Paint your world, go on
Ride the crimson waves
And fill your buckets
Drink it, force it down
Feel the intoxication
Lick your lips & smile
Feel the milk of human cruelty

Thursday, March 28, 2013

BRICS Bank: World Bank Killer Or Has-Been MFI?

It has been reported in the media that the BRICS group of nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) has decided to establish "a New Development Bank for mobilising resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies and developing countries, to supplement the existing efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global growth and development"


This would, to my mind, be the first instance of an investor catchphrase becoming a multilateral finance institution. Jim O'Neill, currently the retiring chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, is widely credited with coining the term BRIC to describe the then-emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India & China, which were to go on to become global economic powerhouses.

The term has since been used and abused by many (One can almost imagine a Miss BRICS beauty pageant sometime in the near future)

However, it has managed to evolve beyond a mere acronym into a formal bloc, united not by geographical considerations or by ideologies or commonality of natural resources, but by the premise of future economic power.

In this context, the statement by the BRICS leaders on the proposed Development Bank seems to have its heart in the right place but the intentions are unclear and the details are missing.

As to intentions, one might argue, for example, that the BRICS Bank can be a tool for increasing the geopolitical sphere of influence of the BRICS countries as a counterbalance to that of the Western economies (and even relatively smaller but important blocs such as OPEC). But in that case, what is the incentive for the BRICS countries to lend to developing countries through the BRICS mechanism when they can do so directly? This has been happening in any case, with China in the lead. Much of Africa, Latin America and Europe now depends on China for its funding needs. In exchange, China gets the natural resources, trade and projects it needs to sustain its gargantuan economy.

Secondly, why should the BRICS lend to other countries, when there are huge financing gaps in their own countries? The problems in financial intermediation and access in almost all the BRICS countries are well-known and well-documented. India would stand to benefit far more, for example, with reforms in infrastructure financing than it would with a BRICS bank.

Thus, given the constraints, one should not read too much into the proposed BRICS Bank. While it may rise a notch above mere rhetoric and become a functioning institution, the commitment & incentives of the member countries to its sustenance will remain sketchy and suspect, leaving it at risk of becoming another has-been in the multilateral financial institution space.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Innocence

Cry, cry, cry for me
I need your tears
I need them so much
Bleed, bleed, bleed for me
I need your pain
I need it so much
Scream, scream, scream for me
I need your anger
I need it so much
Feel, feel, feel for me
I need your touch
I need it so much...

Monday, February 18, 2013

Prisoner

I lie down and shudder
The lewd caress chills my heart
Are you saving the world from me
Or saving me from the world?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Blind

Refuge in darkness
Comfort in black
I seek not to see
I seek to understand
I have no fear of falsehood
I have no truth to find
I am transient solace
I am the ephemeral blind...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

(Yet Another) Response To "An Open Letter To India's Graduating Clases"

A response to: http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/23/an-open-letter-to-indias-graduating-classes/

Dear Employer:

You are not only an Indian company/Bank/Consulting Firm/MNC/PSU; You are also a KPO, a BPO, an IT company, an FMCG company, a Startup, a Social Enterprise, looking for bright, energetic individuals to swell your ranks.

You are not the givers of our paychecks. Your customers are. You not only give us the brand names we covet, you also need us to propagate those brands among all your stakeholders.

Your definition of open-mindedness and enthusiasm in a graduate is that they should do what you want them to, no questions asked.

You want the ASM to tour risky areas in order to push sales with recalcitrant distributors. You set up a system which forces them to manipulate data, primaries and secondaries, undercutting and so on just so that you don't fire the gun which you hold to their heads at the end of every month.

You want the fresher to work on the presentation at Sunday night to cover up for your tardiness so that you can impress your client on Monday morning.

You maintain half the strength you should in your investment banks so that freshers work their asses off till 3 AM on some arcane models and archaic regulations, so that you can deliver your uber cool pitch to some unwilling hapless promoter to get him interested in a deal which won't benefit him in the least.

You are the corporate which thinks freshers come with fringe benefits, such as getting your coffee and cigarettes and photocopying your daughter's homework.Thats how they did it in your day.

Your talk till the cows come home about professionalism, meritocracy and performance based progress. Yet you indulge in politics, bitching and backbiting and favouritism.No fresher comes with all these things ingrained. You have developed a system which makes him imbibe it the hard way.

You produce verbose, jargon oriented rhetoric about frameworks and skill sets and value drivers to impress your clients by confusing them into oblivion, and then complain when freshers try to project themselves as being capable of producing such junk.

You ensure that you "benchmark compensation" and use the "bell curve" to keep employees just below what they deserve. Then you complain when they leave for somewhere with better pay.

In short, as the typical Indian employer so often does, you blame the freshers and make convenient assumptions which reinforce your own prejudices, absolving you of the need for any introspection on your part, as to what it is that you need to do.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

27 Things I Have Learnt As I Turn 27...

1) Quantification is a belief. Numbers lull us into a false sense of precision. The real trick is figuring out what lies behind those numbers.

2) The Digital age is spoiling us into thinking everything is seamless, instantaneous and customizable. Many important things aren't like that.

3) Some categories of people whom we hate - politicians, bosses, policemen, cab drivers - are more or less like us, with a disproportionate ability to impact our lives because of the positions they are in. Hence the hatred.

4) It is a waste of energy to try making optimal decisions. Picking an option which meets all your criteria and which you are reasonably sure you won't regret is, a good thing to do, rather than trying to figure out the best one all the time.

5) There are no good or bad decisions. What matters is the willingness and acceptance to live with their consequences.

6) Being clear-cut, on the whole, is beneficial.

7) The more you understand people, the more you will be misunderstood.

8) Managing life's risks and our perceptions of them is a tough job. A state of perennially heightened alertness wears you down. At the same time, complete ignorance can be fatal.

9) You will act with indignant righteousness at some points of time, and grovel for mercy at others.

10) Sympathy needs to be prioritized.

11) Deviations from routine are painful because we have preset expectations about the future. We don't take things as they come.

12) At times one may start anticipating things so much that the actual happening of those events goes unfelt.

13) People are short-term. Most people just want to move forward to capture the next available gap that they see in front of them. And there's nothing right or wrong about it, that's just the way they are.

14) Beliefs that people are being vindictive towards you or are deliberately making your life miserable, are overstated most of the time. More often than not, things happen to work that way randomly.

15) The ability to anticipate all future possibilities is bounded. Hence, it is better to simply leave a cushion for the unknown - to accept that unforeseen things will happen.

16) We possess a remarkable ability to exaggerate the importance of our own decisions in shaping our lives. That is not to say that we don't have any control or choices, just that we may be overestimating their impact. 

17) Money is important, but it can rarely be an end in itself. It is needed as an enabler or hygiene factor for pursuing other ends, and in this it is important.

18) Goals need not necessarily be defined as end points. In fact, goals are better defined as processes, a template for how you want to lead your life.

19) It is easy to be dismissive of the idiosyncrasies of others, but difficult to acknowledge one's own.

20) People are afraid of exercising judgment and discretion. Many would prefer mathematical rules to make their decisions for them.

21) Life exists in shades of grey.

22) Getting people to commit time, money or attention for something is extremely difficult.

23) Search engines and all the other tools can destroy our ability to expand our horizons if we are not careful. They are all based on more of the same; Highlighting similar stuff; Making the popular even more popular. Which search engine tells you "No dude, you already tried pizza the last time, this time around try sushi"?

24) We are incredibly inconsistent

25) While some people can have an overriding passion in life which they want to dedicate themselves to, for most of us its difficult. Its better to figure out a few things which interest us, then see which of them interest other people who would be willing to pay us for it. Or, we pursue what we want to, without bothering about what we are getting for it.

26) Relationships change. People aren't always around. They all have their tracks to run on.

27) Don’t live life, before you have lived it. Wait for it to pan out, to flow. Your time will come. Welcome it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Cost of Information

To use a cliche, the world is changing rapidly. Really rapidly.

Or put another way, the granularity, detail and depth of information that we have about the world has expanded manifold, creating the perception of rapid change.

I don't know if it's just me, but the cornucopia of data, news and soundbytes with which we can bombard ourselves these days is mind-numbingly enormous. Some big changes, and several smaller ones, in the wide realm of technology, have enabled this. Gadgets, websites, software - you name it. 

Our methods of seeking and sharing information are increasingly customized, push-driven and self-reinforcing. The modern juxtaposition of technology and information allows us to freeze our preferences, prejudices and judgmental shortcuts with alarming rapidity.

Our reliance on systems has increased to levels where slight deviations from our routine (or the expected path) cause us severe heartburn.

At the same time, too much information is being churned out, much of it increasingly useless. Information, at such levels of accumulation, seems to have negative returns to scale.

Additional information crowds out the mind without adding anything of value to comprehension, enjoyment or decision-making. More information actually impairs them, affecting judgement and making us feel helpless.

Worse, prioritizing the flow of information itself becomes a challenge. 

The mind seems to have reached its natural limit in its ability to process, retain and make sense of information. The analytical reasoner is bound to wear himself out, trying to comprehend all of it.

We are in the age of the information treadmill, running just to stay in the same place. The pace of information flow leaves no time to stand still; Comprehending and understanding it takes up all of our time & energy. And unless we learn to actively cut down on our information consumption, we shall continue to be slaves to the flow.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Misery Marketing

An oft stated mantra of marketing in the Indian context is "Jo dikhega, woh bikega" (That which is seen, will sell)

No one knows this better than the beggars on Mumbai's streets. (In the interests of political correctness, perhaps I should use something which sounds better - how about Livelihood-challenged?)

The regulars learn their lessons fast and quick, for the city is ruthless at weeding out the inefficient, be it billionaire or destitute.

Wounds are not covered or stowed away discreetly. They hit you in the eye, in your face, bared for display; Just the right amount of gore to stimulate your lachrymal glands (C'mon sonny, show me some more of that burnt skin, that deformed stump where an arm should have been; I want value for my money)

Facial expressions assume the most gruesome proportions (Look at you, you worthless India shining types sitting in your AC vehicles while I dehydrate in the hot sun outside. Inequality's increasing. Yep. Ask me.)

Then there are, of course, the ladies with babies (Much better if its a baby girl, goes down well on my FB status you know; Affirmative action always gets the likes)

Go for the open window vehicles first. Bikes? Yes. Autorickshaws? Hell yes. BMW with closed windows? Forget it.

Trigger my impulses, as I make my "purchase" decision.

Old and disabled? Give.
Child? (depends - but its all a racket, you know, there are these dadas who teach them to beg..)
Eunuch? (Uhhh...How intimidating is he...she...whatever...)
Glazed eyes? (Uh-oh! Drug addict, only food, no cash)
Arbit stuff seller? (Give, at least hes not really begging)
Car wiper (Ditto, but fast: Don't want him to spoil the windshield)

Signal about to turn green; Quickly now; If its fated he will get it...

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Confessions of a Serial PJ Cracker...

PJs. The most under-rated of God's Creations.

Some believe that PJs are a contemptible form of indulgence, a crude titillation for under-evolved senses of humour.

I beg to differ.

Creating a sublime PJ requires the dexterity of an artist, an eye for opportunity, a proclivity for semantic gymnastics that few can aspire to or achieve.

No word, event, situation, news or remark passes the PJ cracker by without scrutiny.

A PJ cracker is a humour entrepreneur, always excited by opportunity, by combinations, looking beyond the obvious to see what can be...

And then springs forth the perfect PJ, enrapturing all in its wake;In one climactic moment of epiphany, when the entire gathering of unwilling listeners stands stunned at the spectacle that just unfolded.

No autographs, please.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Grandma

The rickety fan was making that irritating sound again.

The first occupant in the room stopped knitting, looked up, and sighed deeply.

"We must do something about that fan, mustn't we, my dear?" she said

The second occupant of the room, seated in her lap, purred softly.

"That's right, I knew you would agree with me. You be a good boy while I go and look for someone to repair it"

Saying so, the old lady got up from her rocking chair. With great difficulty, as her weak 82 year-old knees struggled to bear her weight.

Hobbling unsteadily, she picked up her shawl and put on her shoes. And of course, the walking stick, her other significant, though inanimate, companion.

She stepped out of the room. The weather outside could have been marvelous, but fell short; There was something subtly wrong, as if the perfect day had changed its mind suddenly and decided to throw a tantrum.

She saw him again. He was holding that girl by her wrist.

"Why don't you come with me, darling and I will show you what the good life is all about..."

"Let me go" the poor girl pleaded, nearly in tears.

The man laughed cruelly in reply.

She peered through her spectacles, struggling to make out the two people, one forcing, the other forced, in front of her.

"Young man, it will be better if you let go of her" she spoke sternly

He looked at her with disdain.

"I suppose you will stop me, you old hag?" He sneered.

She didn't reply

All of a sudden, there was a loud bang. The man looked with horror as his shirt turned crimson. He fell, coughing, as the look of surprise froze on his visage. His eyes remained open.

The girl ran away, screaming and sobbing.

She came back inside and plonked herself back on the rocking chair.

"I couldn't find anyone to repair the fan, dear" She sighed.

She started knitting again, picking up where she had left off.

There seemed to be a flurry of activity outside. The wail of sirens could be heard.

"We seem to have visitors" she remarked, as she petted his head.

He looked at her, thumping his tail in assent. The rocking chair moved back and forth.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Terror

The cellphone rang. It was eerie, in the dark room, as the the bright lights of the phone flashed. Unknown calling, the display displayed. There was something predatory about the ring, as if it were a hound baying for the blood of its potential prey, as if it would ensnare anyone who answered its call. At the same time he felt fascinated by it, experiencing the primeval urge to touch something which may be dangerous. Beads of sweat accumulated on his forehead. He buried himself deeper into the quilt.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Strong Coffee, & a Lot of Random Thoughts...

A strong coffee makes you stay awake and think random thoughts. Or so a friend believes. There was a hint of self-disapproval in the way it was stated, almost as if it was something to be ashamed of, as if it was a sign of weakness or mental aberration that people would make fun of. It set me wondering.

I believe increasingly that we are in a world that places a premium on action. We seem to be a society of doers. Working, hanging, chilling, travelling, watching, commenting. Thinking seems to be a lesser activity. Not many people want to think. Most just want to move forward to capture the next available gap that they see in front of them. There’s something about survival and perpetuation which is deeply ingrained in the human DNA. Thinking directed towards improvements in these is respected. Thinking for its own sake is not.

I struggle to remember, but obviously can’t, as to how I used to think when I was a baby. It’s particularly difficult to remember how I used to think without language. And now it’s become impossible for me to think without language. My thinking is bound by the languages I know. Why this is important is because over a period of time we allow constraints to bind our thinking. Language is the first one.

And slowly, we train ourselves as to what we should think about. We do it by stifling the so-called random thoughts, by blocking them out of our mind repeatedly over a period of time till we are no longer conscious about them. There’s a contradiction here. All the thoughts that we think are originating from within us. Then where’s the question of some being random and some being not? It’s only that our brain has introduced some sort of filtering device, some sort of self-censorship mechanism which tells us what is right to think about and what is not.

And that’s the reason why random thoughts that manage to sneak through are scary and difficult to handle. Like death, we are unsure of where they will take us, because we are all grown-ups. And the essence of all “growing-up” is learning to define our own bounds. What we “can” do and what we “cannot” do.

People talk of self-acceptance as being important in the path to self-realization. I believe that one of the primary aspects of such acceptance is the acceptance of one’s thoughts. We tend to question our thoughts, in particular things such as “Why am I thinking about this” or “How could I think something like this” That doesn’t allow the completion of the thought to take place, because it is discarded beforehand.

One of the fascinating aspects about being a writer is the ability (or need, depending on which way you look at it) of being able to view yourself as a third person. When you are both the observer and the participant. That enables the evaluation of thoughts with detached, almost scientific, interest. A realization that the thought doesn’t reflect on our character or our mental state, but is intrinsically a part of us, to be duly considered and put in its rightful place.

This realization is what enables us to overcome the fear of vulnerability. We feel vulnerable with our random thoughts. But that’s the trade-off in all aspects of life, always: Safety versus the Richness of the Experience. Where we draw the line, is what we have to decide.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Old Lady of Bori Bunder...

I saw her standing in a dark corner, in one of the bylanes close to CST.

"Hi. You look familiar" I remarked cheerily.

She gave a strange smile, as if she knew more about me than I myself did. "Do I, really?" she asked.

"Yes, well at least I think so, though you look a bit different" I continued.

"Bit?" she questioned, as she stepped forward into the light.

I stood aghast, shocked by the transformation that I saw in front of me. Her face seemed completely hidden behind a veil of garish make-up, which was in absurd contrast to her age. Her dress, ill-fitting and gaudy, seemed almost obscene. Her demeanour seemed seductive, pre-calibrated to elicit a favourable response, instead of adapting to the person at the other end.

She smiled mockingly and asked "Am I not a pretty picture?"

"Who did this to you?" I managed to stammer out.

"You did" she said, very matter of fact, as if I should have known it all along.

"I? How could I have? You were always my conscience!" I protested.

"Your conscience?" She asked, the derision unmistakable in her voice. "And, did you consider what happens to conscience? What is its end?"

I remained silent.

She continued. "Conscience has only two possible ends. It either withers, or is brokered away."

She paused to look at me, then said "And you allowed me to be brokered. You allowed those fingers to crawl over me, fingers that knew what they were searching for, fingers, swiftly moving, as they went about their purpose..."

"No!!" I shook my head in denial. "I cared for you!!"

"Don't care for me!" She shouted. "Use me, as the rest of them do. Ravage me. Enjoy me. Don't care for me. I cannot bear it. Care is temporary. Care is unstable. One push, and care is destroyed. Submission is the equilibrium. Submission is permanent. Never questioning, never caring. Just flowing along."

She kept speaking. "You must learn to flow. You think, feel & question. Thats an unsustainable combination. You will become insane. You must give in. Learn to act, learn to rush, learn to grab the vacant space. Survive. Adapt. It's your only chance"

"Only chance to what?" I shot back. "To end up like you?"

A coquettish ripple of laughter burst forth from her. It was ludicrous and painful at the same time.

"Someday, you will use me" she said, and vanished into the dark recesses whence she had emerged.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Insanity

Insanity takes various forms.

One form is when a person increasingly thinks he alone can best decide for others & controls their fate; He tries to control, repress & subjugate those around him; Most people experience this occassionally; For many it becomes a way of life. A national leader who is a tyrant is an extreme example of this; But we see many other examples scattered throughout our lives - pushy Bosses, mean Relatives & insolent Children. Such insanity is harsh, uncompromising & more often than not, unconscious.

Another form is when a person over a period of time finds it increasingly difficult to fall in line with the ways of the world. He dances to the tune playing in his mind. He doesn't seek to manipulate the world; Only that the world allows him to do what he wants.Try as he might, he is unable to transplant what he sees to the rest of the world, though occassionally people understand those glimpses. Such understanding is rare and occurs at the intersection of their mutual insanities. This is the kind of insanity a true artist displays. He understands his insanity and is at peace with it.

Friday, November 25, 2011

25th November, 2011

Morning. The pure white sky streaked with soft hues of pink. She smiled & nodded, as I sought permission, not to go forth, but to remain where I was.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Travails of Printers...

Pause. Think. Reflect. What makes a really serious difference to your quality of life? Pollution? Roads? Home Cooked Food?

You are all wrong.

The only thing that truly matters is Printers.

Printers are a driving force for much of our adult life. The predicament starts (or at least used to start, earlier) when one enters college. Parents watch their children with a mixture of pride and trepidation thinking "Wow! My child is now old enough to take printouts. May God guide the connecting cable" Students feel powerful, bold, ready to take on the world.

And then reality sinks in. One printer. One printer! One printer??? One miserable little dot matrix, for a class of 60 students??? "That's because this is an A Grade college" quips the Lab Attendant. "In the B Grade colleges, they have to get all printouts taken from outside. In the C Grades, they write the programs by hand" Ouch!

And then we learn what life is all about. Backstabbing, double dealing, groups, politics. You form coalitions, frame codes, making sure one of your groupies is always there in the Queue for printing. You also form secret agreements with other groups without telling your friends, "just in case..." You make sure there's at least one local language speaking person in the group to beg borrow and plead with the watchmen & lab attendants if needed, when you need to get the lab opened at 6 AM in the morning because the submission is at 8:30 AM. You quickly learn to speak "Urgent submission. Please help us, O most Venerable One" in the local language. Also helps if you have got girls in the group; You don't even need the words, the look alone does the trick.

Of course, the printers have an infallibly accurate track record of failing EXACTLY when most needed. The computer's print command doesn't register, the papers get stuck, the ink runs out - everything happens. Right when time is at a premium and beads of sweat are clamouring on your brow. Then you invoke the spirit of the Printer Baba with a fervour that would put even the most ardent devotees to shame. Printer Baba, people mention in hushed, awed tones, is the spirit of a lonesome student who ages ago died of a heart attack because He couldn't take printouts in time for his submissions. With His dying breath, He swore He would help all those who believed in Him. (Additionally, Printer Baba being a male engineering student responds much faster to the feminine touch; I swear the printers worked better when girls handled them!)

Some poor miserable souls try to work around the system. They buy a printer from their hard earned pocket money keeping it guarded in their rooms or at their homes. Woe betide you if you every try this. Your room will be invaded at all odd times by rapacious souls salivating for the elusive printout. And there's nothing more pitiable watching the printer owner helplessly pleading with them ("Guys I wont have ink left to take my own printouts!") and watching the swarm exhaust every last drop of CMYK left.

And if you think things get better when you enter the corporate world and start working, you are in for a rude shock. Printers are THE most jealously guarded resources in a company. They are almost instruments of State Policy. Hello, don't go around touting your bonus and your top performer rating - You haven't arrived in the company till you have access to a colour printer! After years of praying and yearning, you might get access to one. But before that its an uphill task. Consider the following scenario:

You spend all night working on that knockout presentation for your Boss, who has to discuss stuff with his boss. Being an MBA from a premier Indian institute, if nothing else, you make sure it at least has the jazziest, most colourful graphs and diagrams ever to grace Microsoft Powerpoint. At 3 AM in the night you send a mail to your Boss (Yay; He knows I have been working all night) and in the morning you pay him a visit.

"Sir, I sent you the presentation"

"Yes I saw the mail. Can you give me a printout please? A little quickly, I have to leave in 10 minutes"

"Sir, I thought, since I had sent the e-mail..." and you stop.

He gives you The Look. The "E-mails are for sissies. Real Men take printouts" Look

"Is it a problem?"

"No Sir, of course not, I will get it..."

And you come out of the cabin, your heart racing faster than Michael Schumacher on full throttle. Words come out of your colleagues' mouth, but they don't seem to be making any sense.

9 minutes.

You look around frantically. Everyone has an Agony Aunt / Uncle usually - the one who gives you pearls of wisdom on "The way we do things here" Your eyes pierce the cubicles till you manage to locate him. You rush like theres no tomorrow, panting and breathless and blurt it out "Bossneedsaprintoutin10minutesidonthavecolourprinteraccess"

He looks at you, adjusts his horn rimmed spectacles, and says "Calm down. Tell me whats the problem"

8 minutes.

You go staccato.

"Boss. He. Needs. A. Printout. I. Don't. Have. Access. Please. Its. Urgent."You see him firming up, preparing himself with steely resolve. You wait with bated breath.

"This is going to be difficult. Very, very difficult"

7 minutes.

"There's only one option. The Cleaning Services Audit department." And he gives you a look of grim understanding.

Cleaning Services Audit? We have a department to audit that??? And why on earth do they have a colour printer!!!

"Make it quick. The clerk there knows me - we take the same train back home. Tell him I sent you"

While you eyes are about to brim with tears of gratefulness, he pauses, looks around to make sure no ones looking and then says "And while you are there, can you take a couple of printouts for me? I need it for my daughter's homework assignment. I will give you the file in a flash drive"And you rush there at top speed, looking around for the clerk. You finally locate him based on the Agony Uncle's subtle description (wears earrings; Doesn't shave)

5 minutes

You explain the gravity of the situation. He nods his head in patient understanding and says "But what to do; Saahib will be angry if he knew other people are taking printouts"You plead, beg, anything to make him agree...

4 minutes

Please, please, you tell him. You must have also faced this situation sometime. Didnt you have to take a printout in an emergency ever???
The statement triggers a chain reaction of thoughts in his mind. His eyes moisten and he says "I will help you" and gets up to switch on the contraption in front.

3 minutes.

You insert the flash drive, locating the files at lightning speed, praying they open (they do). The printer's connected, you check the preview, and with an invocation to the Almighty, click on "Print"

1 minute

Nothing happens.

"C'mon, c'mon, for the love of Heaven, by the grace of everything thats good in this world - work, you damn thing, work!"

You see with a look of horror that your Boss is stepping out of his cabin, asking his secy "I had asked for some printouts, where are they..."

You stand glum, in abject surrender, your faith in machinity about to be destroyed...

And then on cue, with the finesse of Amrish Puri in DDLJ's climax scene ("Jaa Simran Jaa, Jee Lay Apni Zindagi), the machine splutters, gasps, and out come the most beautiful sheets of paper you have ever seen.

0.

Is this what Nirvana feels like, you wonder. They are not bad, really, Printers...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Creaking News: KingFissure to use Gobar Gas, Ethanol blend to control costs...

With ATF prices shooting through the roof, beleaguered air carrier KingFissure has decided to use a blend of Gobar Gas & Ethanol as fuel for its aircraft. This has been made possible by breakthrough research conducted at KingFissure's own internal research centres, where a stray cow accidentally got drunk. The resulting discharge was found to be suitable for powering planes.

Commenting on the breakthrough, the Chairman said : "This discovery has brought a ray of hope. Not only will this reduce costs for us significantly, it will also help us in appearing more socially responsible. It will help us in integrating and expanding our target market to include the bovine population of India. To popularize this, we are also planning to launch the KingFissure Cow Calendar 2012, which will feature 12 of the hottest and most gobar-acious cows in India"

Well known animal rights activist Womaneka Chandi has protested this move "It is shameful. Each cow has the right to use her discarded waste as she deems fit. The poor cows will get exploited"

An irate recent passenger of KingFissure commented "As long as they operate flights on time, I dont give a shit what whether they use shit in powering their planes!"

Friday, October 21, 2011

Apple to Target Footwear Market, Designs New Throwing Shoe

Apple Inc, known for its innovative technology products, has now come out with iThrow - shoes, designed specifically for throwing at people.

With celebrity targets such as George Bush, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and Arvind Kejriwal, Shoe Throwing has evolved to become an activity which unites people across the globe.

Mr Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, said "Given recent events, it has been a period of great soul searching for us. Our search for the soul, led us to the sole. Our motto has been simple - often the customer doesn't know what he wants, till you place it in his hands. We believe shoes designed for throwing are the next big opportunity. It's not a shoe we are selling. Its hope and experience"

A leading Tech Commentator stated "The shoe's advanced design allows seamless removal and ejection using Apple's proprietary iTouch system. Astonishingly, the shoe functions completely by touch - right down to putting it on and tying laces"

The shoe, named iThrow, will be the most software intensive shoe over. There is already a library of over 10000 apps, including apps which take a snapshot of the target just before hittng it as well as apps which help you decide the best angle to throw the shoe from. There's also an app which instantly updates your Facebook status once the shoe reaches its target.

Apple is rumoured to have included an 8 megapixel camera which films the entire throwing sequence automatically in HD. The shoe can also be synced with your iPod to play the right kind of tense / pulsating music during the throwing, to suit the atmosphere.

"Our new Siri technology will also be integrated with the shoe" Mr Cook said. "While its still experimental, some of the capabilities are truly mind boggling. For instance, you can train Siri to abuse the target on your behalf. You can also give voice commands to make the shoe change its target midway"

Nirdosh Kumar, a self-confessed Apple addict, said hes very excited about this new offering. "I have no idea why I need it, or how I will use it. But those things can be figured out later once I buy it"

Surprisingly, the shoe is not walking / running compatible.

"Human locomotion as a use for shoes is outdated" Mr Cook declared "As an innovative company, it is our duty to design products which challenge existing mindsets and paradigms and expand technology into the realm of the unknown. We made FM outdated with the iPod. I don't see why we cant do the same with Walking and iThrow"

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Green Tea Speech

Ladies & Gentlemen of the Class of 2011:

Have Green Tea.

If I could offer you only one piece of advice for the future, Green Tea would be it.

Green Tea is low in caffeine and has antioxidants which reduce the risk of a wide variety of diseases, from cancer to schizophrenia to hip-hop music & hypochondria.

My other advice has no such benefits, and may seem self-indulgent, grotesque and completely incomprehensible.

Slow Down.

You rush too much for your own good. What seems like a journey to nowhere now will seem like a great idea later on. Or at least it won’t seem like a bad idea. At some point of time, you will realize that the journey was the destination. Or at least it’s more comforting to think that way.

Don’t be so serious.

No one is judging you. Heck, 99% of the time people don’t even have time to think about what you are doing, much less to evaluate you. There’s only one person who thinks you are important and that you matter, and that’s yourself. Or your kids, till they turn about 5 years old. After that, the roles reverse.  

Don’t Undo.

If there’s one function I could banish from the realm of technology, it would be Ctrl Z. Ctrl Z is a sneaky little thing, designed to lull us into a false sense of security into thinking that things in life can be reversed all the time. Don’t be fooled. Make mistakes, knowing they won’t get reversed. Creation has given you the license to fail.

Read Spam.

I love reading spam mails. If you ever needed proof that not everything in life makes sense, spam is it.

De-Systemize

Be afraid of technology. Not from the fear that it will replace you or challenge you, but from the fear that it will make you forget how to live. Watch The Terminator, knowing that it’s a work of fantasy which will never happen. Watch Wall-E, dreading that we could be heading there soon.

Don’t outsource your life to technology.

Accept that Relationships fluctuate.

People aren’t always around. They all have their tracks to run on. Don’t take it personally. It’s better to understand and be misunderstood, than to misunderstand and be understood.

Nope, that didn't make sense to me either. But it sounded right.

That's how relationships also are.

Love your Parents.

It’s selfish. And it’s important. We all have our 2 AM friends. Sometimes, however, the 2 AM friend is the problem. Parents work 24/7. Thank God.

Experience. And Share It.

Be appalled. Be happy. Be sad. Be enthralled. Don’t jump to the endpoint. Don’t conclude in advance. When your friend tells you about the new movie he saw, listen to him. Don’t Google the review. He’s sharing an experience. He’s doing it because he wants to tell YOU about it.

Facts are not important. Conversations are. Otherwise, everyone knows everything anyway.

Free yourself.

From the pressure of optimizing. Of perfecting your choices. You are not an algorithm. You won’t always get the best fit. Sometimes, it’s fine to just have a good fit. Most times, in fact. Optimization isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

Don’t Pre-Live.

Don’t live life, before you have lived it. Wait for it to pan out, to flow. Your time will come. Welcome it.

Love.

No one’s important enough to be hated. Everyone is insignificant enough to be loved.

Follow my advice. Or don’t follow it. Advice is more necessary for the giver than the taker, because he wants to be sure of what it is that he thinks he really knows.

Which isn’t much anyway and could be wrong.

But trust me on the Green Tea.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Thought & The Self

She smiled derisively and said "So there you are"

I acquiesced.

"Thats the problem with you. You are everywhere"

I shifted uncomfortably. "I am with you, too"

"Ohh yes, you are with me, but you are not for me. You belong to everyone. Don't you see how flawed that is?"

"I didn't quite..."

"Understand? Of course you didn't"

"I love..."

"Hah! Was there ever a thought that was in love?"

I waited, uncertain

"You just don't get it do you? A thought, that's what you have reduced yourself to. You have no Self. You, who allowed your fears to starve and your aspirations to wither! Where are your jealousies, your insecurities? You thought, you worthless piece of thought!"

I protested. "While I may have no Self, at least you have one. Can a thought not love a Self?"

She shook her head pityingly. "It is true, I am a Self. But a thought cannot comprehend a Self. It can only comprehend other thoughts. What it comprehends of the Self will be only a thought"

"But then..."

"No. I know what you will ask next. Even thoughts can't fall in love with one another. Thoughts are abstractions. Abstractions crash against one another, as do the waves against the rocks on the sea shore, as the wind rustles the leaves and grass; touching each other, but never staying on..."

“But...”

“Don’t you see what a terrible thing it was to have sacrificed your Self thus? Did you not realize that thoughts have no form unless they possess a Self?

“It was to...”

“Better yourself? You believe this is better, that you have no burdens, and no control either? That anyone may allow you to enter, grow and then be discarded as they deem fit?”

I grew sadder “At least, I am pure. Unbiased. I am not weak. I drive the Self”

“Thats the mistake you are making. You don’t drive the Self; The Self allows itself to be driven by you. You have worth only if the Self allows, only as long as it allows”

I stood shaking, trembling, defeated. “Is there then no hope for me?”

She was smiling again “No, I don’t say that. Though you may not love, you may still be loved by others”

“But this is a price too terrible to pay; Condemned, to being loved by others without the ability to love them! What would I not give for the reverse, to love others without being loved by them, for there I am doing that which is within my reach!”

She sighed. “So it must be, for remember, you chose. You chose perfection over foible, you chose strength over weakness, you chose nothingness over form, you chose peace over insecurity. So also, you ended up choosing to not love over love. But don’t grieve, for when a Self truly loves you, you may become a part of it; then you may regain that which you have lost”

And as I looked in wonder, she departed, a terrifying promise, a sobering question...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Why I Love Birthday Cakes...

I love birthday cakes.

It could be because they are cut only once a year.

They cleverly make you hanker and yearn for them the full year for one perfect moment of unabashed sensual epiphany...

They are the supreme manifestation of the unbridled ecstasy that restrained enjoyment brings;

I love birthday cakes.

It could be because a birthday cake is a world in itself.

Watch the tiny candles, struggling with the icing to hold on to their own little corners; Content to burn because they were lit, not concerned about the fact that they will be extinguished soon...

Watch the knife, which must sever and destroy every crumb that comes in its way, to let the cake achieve salvation; Watch its ribbon, tied almost an apology for that which it is about to do...

I love birthday cakes.

They show that people are not inherently chaotic. People give Beauty a form and try to preserve it. Careful with the box, don’t ruin the icing...

Preservation of Beauty is not a futile attempt. Beauty is temporary, yes, but it must be preserved till its time comes...

I love birthday cakes.

People are brave. They make an effort. They start clapping and singing aloud, no matter if they have forgotten the words; they know their intent is clear...

They are all present in homage to the cake, the most patient embellishment for an impatient world...

I love birthday cakes.

I love the Moment. The Moment when you are just about to blow and cut; The Moment when someone is frantically scrambling for the camera; the Moment when everyone waits with baited breathe for you to proceed...

Pause. Reflect. Ponder. Wonder.

That Moment is my own.

I brought this Moment for you, the cake whispers. Because you are you...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What Technology Still Can't Do (And Might Do At Some Point In The Future)

I wonder if there's a term for the set of experiences that are not shared, but that we know exist because we have experienced them ourselves. How do we know that another person experiences something called hunger? Because a) He tells us so & b) We have experienced it ourselves. Otherwise there is no proof of hunger.


There are so many of these experiences - dreams, pain, emotions, hunger, thirst, thoughts etc. Our understanding of these has been shaped by thousands of years of shared experiences. And yet we have never (in the literal sense) experienced someone else's pain or dreams or thoughts. We believe it when a person says hes in pain because we trust him. The level of trust will vary with, among other things, his physical condition. A wounded person for example, who says hes in pain is more likely to be trusted than a person who appears to be completely fine. But it still hinges essentially on our trust & judgement.

That's one real tough nut for technology to crack. Can it synthesize, and improve our sense of trust & judgement? Can you have a pain monitor to check how much pain a person is experiencing? Not in its current state.

Language is a beautiful thing. It has its set of rules, but if we so choose those rules can be modified to various degrees. Look at how much of material must have been written in English using jut 26 letters! Trillions of words! And increasingly, the written word is becoming automated. Search engines have become intelligent. You can have essay & story generators. These are all becoming increasingly sophisticated with greater processing power and software development.

However, technology still cannot generate essays ab-initio. The program needs repositories of words, it needs to be taught grammatical rules & syntax. But dont we humans learn the same way? I guess not. The base for computers was mathematics, and not language. The evolution of computers started with the diode and binary logic and Boolean algebra. Over the years, this is the paradigm which has been worked upon and developed. Thus, all computing technology based upon this will face inherent limitations because deep down, beneath all the advanced circuitry and LCD screens, it all still a series of zeros and ones. Its like a human being trying to learn English using Mathematics. Only the quantitative part remains, the qualitative gets missed out.

And this is true, not only for language, but for all art. Computing technology cannot synthesize art beyond a point so long as it is based on logic. I wonder what would have happened if the computer had been developed by the Medicine or Literature profession, instead of the Mathematicians, Physicists & Engineers. Medicine, Arts & Social Sciences are used to dealing with imprecision and subjectivity in their research and analysis to a far greater degree. What if the computer was not based on zeros and ones but on some other paradigm completely? Say a computer which would behave like a human, throw tantrums when overworked, respond with greater enthusiasm at times and so on.

Artificial intelligence will remain artificial because it is an abstraction, an oversimplification of human intelligence into only the quantitative part. Human intelligence is both quantitative and qualitative. (Diversion - to ensure your job is not made redundant by technology, try to work in an area which makes use of qualitative human intelligence) This explains, among other things, the failure of models to predict the 2008-09 Economic Crisis, even as some people were able to predict it.

To make artificial intelligence natural, it is necessary to rework from the grassroots. One can't synthesize the qualitative from the quantitative; A new technological paradigm from the ground up is needed - one which is free from the restrictions of binary logic. We need a system which incorporates qualitative-ness. And for doing that, the core computing technology will need to incorporate inputs from all spheres of human activity in its design. And who knows, perhaps, the next Siri will tell you what you dreamt of last night and help you in composing a blog on it...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Design

I was walking along the promenade. The lights of the Queen's Necklace visible in the distance. The sea waves gently crashing on the shore.

Words kept flitting in and out of my mind - Inflation, Corruption, Rating Downgrade, Crash, Double Dip, Eurozone, Unemployment, Unusually Uncertain...Facts & Figures, Graphs, Pictures...

Then I saw him.

There was something eerie about him. Dirty, unkempt, mangy. His clothes torn, his hair dishevelled. And yet his face seemed oddly familiar.

He saw me. His fingers were clasping a piece of paper tightly. His hands were quivering.

He spoke to me, as one does with someone known but unfamiliar.

"The Design. The Design. I have figured out the Design"

His eyes had a strange gleam. His face had a suppressed smile, as if he was trying hard to restrain his excitement.

"Can you see? Can you see the Design?"

He pointed to the piece of paper. It was blank.

I stood, struggling to make sense.

"This is the Design. Why don't you see? This is the Design!"

I shook my head sadly. "Sir, that paper is blank" I said

The man could no longer contain himself. He burst out laughing.

"You don't see. You just don't see."

I got irritated. "There's nothing to see!" I retorted.

"Exactly" he said, and walked away; While I was left standing...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Main...

Pakadkay jisay chalna seekha tunay, Woh ungli main hoon
Sisak-sisak roya tha tu jispay, Woh kandha main hoon
Hamesha judi thi jo tujhsay, Woh umeed main hoon
Bimaar dekh tujhay jo uthti, Woh bechaini main hoon
Bheed mein tujhay jo dhoondti, Woh nazar main hoon
Niraasha mein sambhaala jisnay, Woh aashwaasan main hoon
Soch ko teri banaaya jisnay, Woh protsaahan main hoon
Sudhaara galtiyon ko teri jisnay, Woh tamaacha main hoon
Panapnay diya vyaktitva ko jisnay, Woh prerna main hoon
Meri kamiyaan dikhaai jisnay, Woh aaina main hoon
Chuppi saadhay hai tu jinsay, Woh armaan main hoon
Jawaab bhool raha hai tu jinkay, Woh sawaal main hoon
Mooh pher raha hai tu jissay, Woh niraasha main hoon
Pehchaannay se inkar hai jisko, Woh darr main hoon
Andekha kar raha hai tu jisay, Woh saakshaat main hoon
Jo tera bhavishya hoga kabhi, Woh vartmaan main hoon...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

FBpath...

(With sincere apologies to Dr HRB)

FBpath, FBpath, FBpath
Friends hon online bhalay
Hon chat pay present teray
Ek status like bhi
Maang mat, maang mat, maang mat
FBpath FBpath FBpath

Tu na log-off hoga kabhi
Tu na offline rahega kabhi
Tu na sign-out karega kabhi
Kar shapath, kar shapath, kar shapath
FBpath FBpath FBpath

Yeh mahaan screenshot hai
Browse kar raha manushya hai
Spam-virus-apps say
Lathpath, lathpath, lathpath
FBpath, FBpath, FBpath

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister Sir, Dr Manmohan Singhji:

For the last 15 years or so, I have been reading and hearing about the impending miracle that India is. It first started with the Prophecies of Nostradamus, who supposedly predicted more than 400 years ago that India would one day rise to become a global superpower. Slowly the idea took shape, in the media, in magazines, books, the TV, people all around started talking about it. And the talk only grew with time. By 2004, your leading opposition party had even made "India Shining" its poll slogan, albeit one which resulted in abject defeat for it.

I grew up with an air of quiet confidence, and I saw change all around me. I didn't carry the baggage of our previous generation, which was used to a very different kind of India, which was restricted, which bound people. I grew up reading about the brain drain, about value conscious, money saving Indians who shunned ostentation, about engineering and medicine being the only possible career options (or else, elders would thunder - you are resigned to cutting grass). But I also remember sensing a tiny voice inside my head, telling me that this doesn't seem to be correct. What I was seeing was at odds with what I was told was the truth. I remember reading something vaguely about a payment crisis, about "liberalization", a word which I struggled to pronounce.

And then, more than 7 years ago, I remember that you became the Prime Minister.

I remember hope. About a decent man who would be at the helm of affairs in running the country. I shrugged aside the cynicism, the malicious remarks about "family retainers" and "seat warming"

I remember pride. In forwarding your exceptionally distinguished CV to everyone I could think of, with the "Can you guess who this person is" tagline

I remember confidence. In the quote of Victor Hugo which you used while commending the Budget to Parliament on that fateful day in July 1991.

I remember euphoria. When your party won an overwhelming majority and stock markets rallied by 20% in one day.

Thats how big a game changer it was. I rejoiced. No longer would you need to grovel before the ungrateful Left or the Ammas & Didis of the world.

You were always a decent man in an indecent time. I commiserated with you for the set of people you had to work with. Men and women of a far lesser standing, I reasoned.

But now, I am unable to comprehend anything.

I do not comprehend the deterioration in internal security that has taken place with alarming proportions.

I do not comprehend the corruption scandals which tumble out one after the other with numbing alacrity.

And worst of all, I do not comprehend the helpless look on your face. I do not comprehend your loss of dignity.

The Mahabharata states that Yudhishtira alone of all men, was truth personified. His chariot used to float above the ground, in honour of that status. But one small half-truth changed everything, and his chariot from then on always touched the ground.

I see your chariot doing the same. All those mediocre people who surround you, look at what they have reduced you to - from a great statesman to an ordinary politican. It is painful to watch.

True, you head an elected Government. India can remove you at the end of your 5 year term. But India is changing too fast. India cannot wait for 5 years to seek change. In fact the need of the hour is to introduce a rule which makes the Government seek a popular referendum at least mid-term to continue in office.

I would love to believe you. I would love to believe that things will be all right. I would love to give hope another chance. But somehow I am not able to do it.

Yours Sorrowfully,

An ordinary Indian

Monday, August 22, 2011

Identity Hierarchy & Religious Leaders...

A person can define his identity in innumerable ways. It can be on the basis of nationality, religion, education and so on. These identities will usually follow some hierarchy. For me, for example, species comes at the top. I think of myself as a human being first. When its a question of nationality and religion, I am somewhat confused. I believe the Indian ethos of secularism allows us to choose our hierarchy as to nationality and religion. I am not suggesting that nationality is subservient to religion or vice-versa. I am only saying that to some extent, India allows its citizens to define their identity by their religion first and their nationality second if they so choose. There is an apparent contradiction here, for to have this freedom of hierarchy, one will need to be an Indian. However, Indian nationality needs to be one of the levels of the hierarchy, not necessarily the topmost in all circumstances. The clearest illustration of what I am saying lies in the fact that we don't have a common civil code.

Throughout history, "religious heads" (no matter which religion) have always tried to increase their importance by declaring such things to be un-religious as which undermine their power; By restricting the flow of knowledge, ensuring economic backwardness and maintaining ignorance, they maintain their hold; What a religious leader says, is not the word of God; It is his interpretation of it; And it is more often than not, twisted and restricted to suit his ulterior motives

I still remember an episode of (of all things) Jonny Quest. One of the protagonists, named Race Bannon is being given some false mumbo-jumbo by a person who claims he can talk to spirits. When Race argues, the person says "You must not question the spirits, Mr Bannon". Race snaps back "It's not the spirits I am questioning. It's you". Bingo.

Imam Bukhari's statement I don't deem important enough to comment on. Hopefully he's becoming more irrelevant over time; The greatest enemy for such people is lack of attention and publicity and I hope it will increase to the point where people are not bothered about what he says anymore.

Indian Muslims would be as or more aggrieved by corruption in India as any other community They can and should protest accordingly; They need not be part of Anna Hazare's movement for that. Anna Hazare's movement is just one part of the battle against corruption.

However, if saying "Vande Mataram" is against the tenets of Islam (which according to me is a matter of context and interpretation but I leave it at that), then why don't we come up with an Islam compliant slogan, which can also suitably convey the feelings of Indian Muslims for India? This idea is in consonance with the thoughts that I have expressed in the first paragraph and retains the spirit of Indian secularism as to the freedom in identity hierarchy. Rather than imposing a nationality-first ideology, it allows space for Indian Muslims to reconcile any conflicts they may face in pursuing their faith and their nationality.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bond in the USA...

(With apologies to The Boss)

Got issued in an unwind spree
The first yield I got was when I hit the screen
You end up like a short that's been down too much
Till you spend half your cash just covering up...

Bond in the USA, I was bond in the USA
I was bond in the USA, Bond in the USA...

Got in a little ceiling jam
So they put a downgrade on my band
Sent me off to a foreign land
To go and woo the yellow man

Bond in the USA...
Came back home to Wall Street
Goldie Man said Son if it was up to me
Went down to see my Federal man
He said Son, don't you understand

I had an auction at Hong Kong
Fighting off the Spec Longs
They're still there, that's all gone
It had a bank who bet money a lot
I got the news of its failing just now

Down in the floor of the Assembly
Out by the terminals of the Treasury
I'm ten years maturing down the road
Nowhere to default got nowhere to go

Bond in the USA, I was bond in the USA,
Bond in the USA, I'm a Gone Long Asset in the USA
Bond in the USA, Bond in the USA,
Bond in the USA, I'm a Cool Rocking Asset in the USA...

Monday, August 15, 2011

On Independence Day, 50 Reasons To Be Happy & Hopeful...

1) The soon to happen overtaking of Japan. The 3rd largest economy in the world.

2) The 2011 Cricket World Cup. It was a high. Admit it.

3) The media. Rambunctious. Misguided. But free.

4) Over 700 million mobile connections. India is always calling.

5) The Supreme Court

6) No censorship in Google searches

7) The 1 auto rickshaw driver out of 100 who takes you where you want, cheerfully, at the first attempt

8) Secularism. Imperfect, but existing. Aren't we all?

9) Ads. The HDFC Standard Life Insurance ad. Two fathers, very seriously & positively discussing the futures of their daughters. Alternatively, the SBI ad where two old ladies visit their brother. Always brought tears to my eyes.

10) Food. Was there ever such an amazing variety! Tandoori Chicken, Dosas, Pav Bhaji & Rasgullas, never ends!

11) Festivals. Don't we love them all? The myriad colours, the ceremonies, the celebrations?

12) Nimbu Paani. Nothing's more refreshing

13) CAG

14) Modern Airports. If anyone had told me 10 years back that there would be spas in our departure lounges, I would have died laughing.

15) The Delhi Metro.

16) The Super-strong Family System. With you. For you. Always. (With apologies to Delhi Police)

17)  Traditional Weddings. Elaborate. Outsized. Required.

18) Musical Instruments. The mournful strains of the Shehnai, the captivating melody of the Flute, the mellifluous tingling of the Santoor, the rhythmic resonance of the Sitar...Bliss

19) Monsoons. The longing. The oneness.

20) IT. Yes, its something we are good at. 

21) Education. And its ethos. So much respect.

22) Historical monuments. Thousands of them. Each one tells a story.

23) The saints and reformers. Who spread the message of equality, peace, compassion and harmony. 

24) 845 spoken dialects

25) 0

26)  The Armed Forces. Protecting our borders. Keeping peace in far flung foreign lands.

27) Mythology. Every conceivable topic under the sun. So rich, so complex, so mesmerizing.

28) Freedom fighters. So brave. To die for hope, for the unseen.

29) Hill stations. Up above the world so high.

30) Jugaad. Can do. Will figure out.

31) Beaches. Who's to question what the sea-shells say?

32) Movies. The drama. The song & dance routines. The immortal lines.

33) Yoga. The perfect union of mind and body.

34) Classical dances. Far beyond the material plane.

35) Sand dunes in the deserts. Challenging. Inspiring.

36) Literature. Too vast to even begin describing.

37) Election Commission. A 120 crore strong democracy. Not an easy task.

38) ISRO. Don't underestimate all the satellites.

39) Television. 200+ channels. Spoilt for choice.

40)  Folk Dances. Bhangda. Laavni. Daandiya. Really get you in the groove.

41) Sportsmen. P Gopichand, Saina Nehwal, Leander Paes, Karnam Malleswari, Rajyavardhan Rathore, Vijender Kumar. Against all odds.

42) Fauna. The majestic tigers. The magnificent elephants. The stunning peacocks. Mind-blowing.

43) Theatre. Powerful narratives. Tell it like it is. 

44) RTI. Have you tried it yet?

45) Online transactions. Banking, Ticketing, E-Filing of Returns. So much time saved.

46) Progress in health standards. Live better. Live longer.

47) Demographic dividend. The biggest challenge. The biggest opportunity.

48) Aadhar. It will work.

49) Artists. Singers, Actors, Musicians, Painters. So much talent.

50) Possibility. Its difficult, but its possible. It's India.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Blurred...

I draw on the canvas a form indistinct
The rains lash across; A blur remains

Your tears were your own to cry
No one, you said, had the right to pry
Was I wrong not to wipe them all off?
Was I wrong not to give myself away?

You said you found peace in the darkness
How could I then take you to the light?
Was I wrong to watch you, helpless?
Was I wrong because I was right?

There was & is only nothingness, you say
But that was choice, and also was fate
A cruel pair that held us in its sway
Why does hope now make you shy away?

I stand inert, the blankness is the same
How blurred my canvas, how empty my frame...

Friday, July 29, 2011

Mumbai's Auto Waalas - Cheats, Thieves, Blackmailers and Robbers...

There was a period of time when auto rickshaw drivers in Mumbai were very professional and ethical people (Yes I have experienced it!!!)

Over the years, and since the last one year in particular, when the fares were increased by 30% in June 2010, they have become far ruder, lazier and more unethical on an average. Almost all meters are manipulated to the extent of at least 10%-15%.


Hailing an auto has become a nightmare for most of us. These people simply do not want to go anywhere. The problem post the fare increase is that they are able to make a living with fewer trips and hence do not give a damn about where commuters want to go since they manage to find enough people anyway.Traffic policemen are too busy harassing hapless commuters to fulfill their official and unofficial fine collection targets, to be disciplining them.


They have no civic or traffic sense. They spit all over the place, have no lane or signal discipline and park where they please.

One of the worst places to hail an auto from is the Airport. It is a complete nightmare. I start dreading that part of it months before I am taking any flight.

Now they have a list of demands: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/Transport-chief-meets-auto-union-over-demands/articleshow/9401613.cms

Firstly, even if they go on strike, I don't think it will affect too many of us. We don't get an auto most of the time anyway.

Secondly, why should they be allowed in the city limits? Aren't the suburbs a shining example of how bad things become with them? The modicum of sanity that prevails in the city will be lost. Imagine places like Marine Drive with autos crawling all over it. Ugly.

Thirdly, just a year back fares were increased by 30% without any increase in fuel prices. What cost of living index are they talking about? Its just plain greed because they think they can make more money.

Fourthly, what do the commuters get in return even if the demands are agreed to? Things will only become worse. With the additional city area for them to ply in, they will only agree for long distances, the way taxis do now. It will be a nightmare.

Fifthly, what assurance can they give about their rude behaviour and refusals to ply? None. They are just out to make a fast buck. And they are increasingly trying to bias it in their favour and make it worse.

I think refusing a commuter should be made a non-bailable criminal offence. Then there may be some deterrent. Let that be a counter demand from the commuters' side.

I wonder how stupid those one lakh people who signed on the petition supporting the auto drivers are. They don't realise they have signed their own death warrant. Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.

The problem is that their demands will be met in some form, increasing the horrors for most of us. If there was a strong Commuter's Union, it could co-ordinate effectively and make sure that commuters grievances were taken into account. We are too scattered and disenfranchised for that. In that kind of a situation, we can't depend on the system to take care. We have to fall back on the old maxim of jugaad.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Pannay

Aaj mainay kuch pannay paltay
Kuch yaadein jholi mein bikhar gayi
Yaadein jo beetay kal ki umeedein thi
Yaadein jinki ab umeed hai nahi

Kitna kuch tha tab jo ab nahi hai
Kitna kuch nahi tha tab jo ab hai
Kuch qaid hai lekin pannon mein ab bhi
Jo mujh say wohi sawaal poochta hai
Aakhir yoon na hota to kaisa hota?
Fir un pannon ka aakar kaisa hota?

Lekin umeed pannon ki fitrat mein nahi
Fir pannon ko kya kosna, palatna kya
Umeed to kal par aaj ki parchhai hai
Woh kal to apni marzi se hi aayega
Us kal se hi to umeedein saji hain
Us kal se hi to naye pannay banengay...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Escapism 2.0

Bollywood has long been derided for producing and promoting escapist cinema. The antics of lead characters, action sequences, song and dance routines, melodramatic finales and the underdog triumphing against all odds - these were the hallmark of Bollywood films for a long time. For an economy which operated under an autarkic, insular mentality for nearly 5 decades after Independence, cinema, apart from cricket, was the one ray of light. It provided much needed succour to the ordinary Indian, buried under corruption, scarcity and underdevelopment.

This was Escapism 1.0 - the escapism of a country that wasn't quite sure where it stood, the escapism of a country which had so much of reality in reality that it desired no more in cinema (In many ways, Dabangg last year was a tribute to Escapism 1.0, while Bollywood Calling was one of the most masterful depictions of it)

With time, film-making has changed and evolved (evolution is not necessarily a positive term by the way - it is just a fact). One can suppose that a near-total consensus exists that on an average, the films being made now are more realistic than before. The use of the word realistic however, is open to interpretation and highly subjective. Delhi Belly is realistic (arguably) in many elements such as the conversational styles between characters, their professions, living standards and so on. But is it more realistic in the core plot? How many of us are expecting to be the target of a diamond-smuggling gang tonight? What then is "realistic" cinema? A truly realistic film based on the lives of many of us would show the lead character working from say 9 AM to 7 PM every weekday, going home, facing hordes of insurmountable traffic on the way, watching TV, going out on weekends and so on. It sounds mad when put that way, but that is what our reality is! In that sense, Delhi Bellhy definitely is not "realistic" cinema. In fact, no movie would then come under that category.

Reality is routine. Reality is continuous. Reality is boring unless we are constantly engaged in processes that stimulate us and we take up tasks that we enjoy doing. And that simply is not possible most of the time. In fact more many of us, its the exception rather than the rule.

With time India has changed and is changing. I can't claim to be an expert on it, but I can feel it everywhere. Surveys now highlight how brand conscious Indians have become, vis-a-vis surveys 10 years back which used to harp on how value conscious Indian consumers were. Indians have become richer on an average and are spending more. We are more conscious of what's happening in the world and are more confident about ourselves. Growth has changed India.

At the same time, growth has not been uniform. I remember an article in my English textbook, which had the following line about India: "India is like a snake, with its head in the 21st century and its tail in the 17th century" The same holds true today. In particular, while many people have become richer than before, institutional and infrastructural growth has not kept pace. That is why the same city where a bungalow is sold for 270 crores has its phone lines jammed after a bomb blast.

This leave many of us confused and irritated. Many of us now earn well, work hard and party harder. But the eyesores do not go away. We yearn for a controlled atmosphere, a system. We yearn for someone to take these irritants and drags of traffic, slums, bomb blasts and pesky auto rickshaw drivers away. If done, it would leave us free to concentrate on our core ambitions. Its no longer about having a secure job and getting Munni married. It's all about dreams, ambitions and personal fulfilment now. We are still bored in our daily lives. We crave for exaltation of a different kind. We desire a system in which we are free to pursue what we want, without encumbrances.

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara exemplifies this. Everything is very nice, almost utopic. There are no murders, robberies or safety problems. Everyone is reasonably to very well-to-do. It's  a film which not only sells well-toned bodies, captivating poetry and breathtaking locales; it also sells a controlled atmosphere.

Taking all the drags out of the picture leaves the films of today to focus on what perhaps many of us today want to see - smart dialogues and punch lines, good performances, interplay between characters, emotions, personal struggles and how they are ovecome. Its not about sacrificing oneself for the country or saving the world. The focus is on individuals. Its more about self-actualization for the confused soul. We have the physiological basics in place. Or rather, the "we seem to have everything, but something's missing" mentality. Cinema now depicts people finding that missing piece.

Welcome, then, to Escapism 2.0!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Kaisay rahun dekhay bin...(A translated song)

Always wanted to translate this English song into Hindi (would be superfluous to name it - figure it out; Will be much easier to sing along then!)

Jaagun saari raat, mahsoos ho teri saansayyy...
Chehray pay woh teri muskaan, teray khwab woh haseen
Guzaaron jeevan, teri hi panaah meinnn...
Khoya rahun hamesha is pal mein
Har ek pal tere saath hai kitna anmolll...
Kaisay rahun dekhay binnn...
Tujhe har raat aur din
Kyunki tu jo nahi to
Main bhi kuch nahin hoon

Khwaab ho chaahay jitna haseen
Tere bin woh khwaab nahi
Kyunki tu jo nahi to
Main bhi kuch nahin hoon

Tere paas rahun, sunoon teri dhadkanein
Aaun khwabon mein teray, sajaaun sapnay saaray
Main hoon khush itna, ki tu jo meray saath hai
Tere saath hi rahun main bas hamesha, hamesha, hameshaaa....

Kaisay rahun dekhay binnn...
Tujhe har raat aur din
Kyunki tu jo nahi to
Main bhi kuch nahin hoon...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tears...

Tears of joy. For the absolute good. The good not asked for or striven for. The good that just is.

Tears of rage. For violations. Transgressions. The subservience of morality to indulgence.

Tears of fear. For hunger not satiated. For protection not available. For vulnerability.

Tears of innocence. For purity to be nurtured. For it to not get ravaged.

Tears of grief. For the mockingbird not saved. For possibility denied. For the choice that couldn't be.

Tears of reason. For the willful neglect of logic. By family. Friends. Colleagues. Strangers.

Tears of loneliness. For emptiness. For the mind tethered and left by itself.


Tears of hope. For that which may. For the slim chance. For the ray of light.

Tears of fulfillment. When the outcome long foreseen happens. When the illusion of control is foregone. When peace is attained.

Sherlock Holmes - Favourite Quotes

The body of Shelock Holmes' literature created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is replete with a rich assortment of quotable quotes. Though they occur in the context of his narratives of Holmes as an investigator, they are applicable to all walks of life. I find that a lot of them apply to business management and financial markets. Below are some of my favourites:

1) "...when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth..."

This is one of the recurring statements; It is mentioned in multiple stories with slight variations. Simple as it sounds, it's one of the cornerstones of any logical analysis.


2) "It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."

We all do this so many times. We have our own views, hypotheses, prejudices and biases. Once those are framed, we obstinately cling to them even when the evidence suggests otherwise. Many financial market traders make this mistake in particular.


3) "You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear"

4) "There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact."

This happens in financial markets all the time. When everyone "knows" something and takes it for granted, the markets end up moving the other way!!!

5) "The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes."

6) "It is of the highest importance in the art of detection to be able to recognize, out of a number of facts, which are incidental and which vital. Otherwise your energy and attention must be dissipated instead of being concentrated."

80/20 at its best. Humans tend to use inductive rationality to make decisions for the future, which is necessary. They cannot process all the information that is available, nor is it necessary. Merely processing additional information does not add to the quality of the decision that gets taken.


7) "We balance probabilities and choose the most likely. It is the scientific use of the imagination."

This is THE requirement of decision making. It is a mistake to construct only one scenario as a possible future outcome. There are multiple scenarios possible, each with differing probabilities.Construct, and then choose.


8) "It is impossible as I state it, and therefore I must in some respect have stated it wrong."

Many a times I have noticed, seemingly, one arrives at the same view or possible outcome, even in differing scenarios. For example, if inflation is higher, equities will react negatively, so buy USD-INR. If inflation is lower, interest rate differentials will narrow, so buy USD-INR. Clearly, we are missing out on what factors are really driving USD-INR.

9) "Education never ends Watson. It is a series of lessons with the greatest for the last."

Truly instructive on how important continual learning is!

10) "We must look for consistency. Where there is a want of it we must suspect deception."

While forming views, often people become subservient to it and try to manipulate opinions accordingly.There has to be consistency in what assumptions one makes. Assumptions are made in two areas: 1) What will happen, and 2) What will be its effect. We may mistakes in either or both at times.


11) "The more outré and grotesque an incident is the more carefully it deserves to be examined, and the very point which appears to complicate a case is, when duly considered and scientifically handled, the one which is most likely to elucidate it."

Beauty of a statement. Many a times we observe that market movements are contrary to the kind of correlations which we expect. Further examination and thought reveals that they actually make complete sense.

12) "I cannot agree with those who rank modesty among the virtues. To the logician all things should be seen exactly as they are, and to underestimate one's self is as much a departure from truth as to exaggerate one's own powers."

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Understand

You may not understand my bad habits. Understand the good ones.

You may not understand the times when I was not there. Understand the times when I was.

You may not understand the times I did not praise. Understand the times when I did not criticize.

You may not understand what I spoke. Understand what I left unspoken.

You may not understand why I didn't do what you told me to. Understand why I did what you did not tell me to.

You may not understand the lies I spread. Understand the truth I hid.

You may not understand my dreams. Understand my passion for them.

You may not understand what I am thinking. Understand what I am feeling.

You may not understand how important I am to you. Understand how important you are to me.

You may not understand me. Understand yourself.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Aching News: Al-Qaeda to float IPO, raise funds

In what is being dubbed as the first ever transaction of its kind, Al-Qaeda, the world's leading discretionary terror dissemination MNC, has decided to raise funds for expanding its activities through an IPO.

A spokesman for Al-Qaeda said "We believe investors worldwide are looking for newer avenues to put money in. We believe we have the right fundamentalists to attract investments. In the long term, we aim to be present across all components of the terror value chain, with best in class services. People are our biggest assets, with most of them being current assets"

Dim O'Meal, Head of Research of Goldie Gold Investment Bank, has a bullish view on the stock. "Our proprietary Stockwise Holistically Integrated Technicals (S.H.I.T) model suggests that the stock is a good defensive play to hedge downside risks for investors. The stock acts as a leading indicator of  downturns in economic activity, for obvious reasons"

Chiina has already expressed support for the IPO. "It is a natural hedge for us to diversify out of our huge base of worthless US dollars. Between monetary terrorism and people terrorism, we have always preferred the latter"

Al-Qaeda is also considering issuing a convertible bond. The spokesman remarked "The structure of the convertible bond is quite simple. At the end of the maturity period, the investor either converts or gets redeemed..."

Thursday, June 30, 2011

First Salaries...

I see a lot of fresh, enthusiastic minds from the 2011 batch of XLRI putting up status updates on Facebook about the ecstasies and raptures of them receiving their first salaries.

It's a powerful, heady feeling. The ultimate coming of age event. A voice rings withing you saying "Hereupon, I cease to be a dependant monetarily. Henceforth, I take responsibility for fulfilling my needs and those of others connected with me, whether now or in future"

I recollect Mr Narayan Murthy's statement in a TV show: "Money bestows upon you tremendous power. The power to give"

No no, don't get me wrong, I am not advocating donating it all to charity or something (though a small percentage towards that end will certainly not be harmful!)

But there's still a lot that could be done.

The classical Hindi film hero would get a sari for his Mom after 25 years of her wearing the same sari.

Or if you are Salman Khan, you would slug it out with Mohnish Behl and his baddies in rain and slush before you could take the money home to convince your beloved's father to let her marry you.

One time-tested technique is to remember all those who really, really matter to you and who made a difference to your life. There must be at least some of those. You could get something for them. Nice, thoughtful and personalized.

Like that beautiful song from the movie Papa Kahte Hain: "Yeh jo thode se hain paise; Kharch tum par karun kaise..."

Or that touching lesson in the old Hindi textbook about a little boy who works hard to buy a pair of pincers for his mother so that she doesn't have to pick up the rotis from the hot stove by hand.

Particularly when buying for elders, what works well is identifying something that you believe they need, but which they will never in a million years buy for themselves. I had bought a cellphone for my grandmother with my first salary. She looked at me, with all the accumulated unease of 77 years and said "Beta, what will I do with this?" I could only smile in reply. Happily, she's used it quite regularly since then.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Those People...

There are those people.

Why do you have to struggle so much with them at times? Why don't they understand your silence?

Why do they forget the times when you pandered to their whims? Why don't they understand what's important to you and let you make mistakes accordingly?

Why are they so binding? Why can't they trust your intentions and set you free? Why is there a need to prove your loyalty every time?

Why do they tell you that there's a problem and then not tell you what it is? Why do they want to watch you helplessly seeing them wither away?

Yep, there are those people...