Saturday, December 24, 2011

Somewhere along the line..

... savings went from money in your bank, to getting 30% off in a year end clearance sale..

... we went from 30 minute news telling 24 hours worth of stuff, to 24 hours news giving us 30 minutes of worth..

.. pushtaini jaaydaad became monthly EMI

.. Shahrukh Khan became a bigger star than Amitabh Bachchan, making crappier movies..

.. cricket matches went from simple bat vs. ball, to cries of war..

.. we went from expecting rewards when doing right, to avoiding getting caught when doing wrong....

.. I went from a human being, to a human resource

Friday, December 23, 2011

It's only thoughts.. and thoughts are all I have..

What is it about a blank piece of paper (or MS-Word, actually) that makes me forget my thoughts?

This morning, I had this great thought, almost Buddha like, which made perfect sense, and I made a mental note to write about it. The mental note is there, but the note seems blank. Like the piece of paper you leave in your shirt pocket and it comes out of the washing machine. It’s there, and you know what was on there, but the details escape you. It could have been your friend’s number, or maybe the bank account you need to transfer money to, or the medicine you had to pick up on your way home.

Like I have always been thinking as to how a perfect blog post would be something on how we pay attention to too many things, but very little attention to detail. Details are something like the plague in the medieval times, where we avoid them whenever we can, and someone infected with this affliction is an accursed individual who either should be avoided or needs to be taken to the neighborhood tantric. Also, how we keep confusing ourselves between informative data and an alternate reality where anecdotes rule. How rising above the noise, is impossible when there is a choir of anecdotal trash playing in your head

I don’t know why, but the details escape me.

Another fabulous one still in my head, (always, “still in my head” never on the blog) is how all I am exposed to from everyone around is a gigantic marketing campaign about a gazillion times larger than what Shah Rukh Khan came up with for Ra.One, and how everything about what I see on TV, seems made up, with the single purpose of some valuable goods in my possession (money, votes, TRPs) being handed over to someone else, with nothing really valuable in exchange.

I think I even had a title for that: “Your lips move, but I can’t hear what you’re saying”!!!

Or maybe it was a title for something else.

I was going to write a stinging post about how the Bharat Ratna for Sachin Tendulkar would be a bad idea. I don’t have data to prove why it would be a bad idea, but it seems like a bad idea, so it ought to be a bad idea.

Or how the year 2011 was weird because we had autocracies toppled in favor of democracies, and democracies hung in to inaction, calling for some autocratic leadership.

And how, at the end, we all may not get what we deserve, but we definitely deserve what we get. Just depends on how long you define the time horizon

Or how, we’re all doomed because Mamata Banerjee’s mother died last week, thereby robbing mankind of the one person who knew how to handle her tantrums. Or how I have this great idea about Manmohan Singh’s secret diary (well, that’s not so bad, I think I could write that in a jiffy, it will be a simple copy of whatever Soniaji says)

Similarly, there was one where I wanted to write about one of my favorite teachers in school, Mrs. R. Kulkarni teaching me a nasty lesson on how I should not accuse people of anything, if I have not personally seen them do it, and how that is the only thought that keeps coming to my head when I read Facebook posts on my wall, which tell me that Rahul Gandhi and his foreigner friends gang-raped a party worker’s daughter in 2009.

I have always wondered why we don’t believe a word of what our boss says, but every random word on our FB wall is gospel. The world would have been a better place, if everyone was in Mrs. Kulkarni’s class.

But I digress.

My personal forgotten favorite, is the one where I wanted to rant about Facebook making me more eager to please other people so that they “like” everything I say, write, link, paste, upload and whatever else that it is that we do on Facebook. I also wanted to ramble on about how Facebook really contains very little actual information (status updates, photos, maybe messages), and a whole bunch of tripe masquerading as information. A glorified web aggregator – where people insist on putting on my “wall” junk, in the hope that I will further like it and comment and nothing else. I mean, do people get paid to do so much time pass?? Where can I apply?? – and all that..

But, as I said before, the details escape me.

So, if you think blogging is easy, it ain’t so. You can’t just conjure up an 800 word post with ideas and little else.

Or can you?

The devil, as they say, is in the details.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The best sentence I have read today... Or maybe this year...

"….The politics of growth are difficult because those who lose from change are always present and are often more numerous and perhaps even more deserving than the present winners, the capitalists, the business people, the international mega corps; but today's losses and gains are fleeting, the permanent winners are the workers and consumers of the future who will know only the benefits of productivity."

Tyler Cowen

India and the Promise of Productivity

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Grouchy Marks..

It's easiest to do a job, when it is someone else's job.

I mean, when it's not your responsibility to do something, it is just so easy to come up with a plan for execution, the "metrics" and the perfect formula for success.

Somewhat like final year student projects, life is rosy, there is world peace, and water in your taps.

I could design the ICC Test Championship, plan how the Lokpal should be structured or help re-structure the Euro.

All during my lunch break.

I don't have to worry about the consequences of a poor design. I take my flights of fancy and if the sky has to be a shade of fuchsia, well, so be it.

But when it is your responsibility to do something, that's when real life has to be tackled.

Like legal obligations, laws of physics or simple likes and dislikes of other people

Minor details – pesky little irritants – with no business to interfere in my grand plan of worldwide domination.

They should be banned!!!!
Damn them!!!

Friday, December 02, 2011

Things I learnt when I went back into a classroom

-      A lot of your interest on the subject being taught depends heavily on the professor. But even more depends on you. If you don't pay attention in class, you will almost definitely not maintain interest in what is being taught.


-      A good way to pay attention in class is to maintain eye contact with the professors.


-      Another good way to pay attention in class is to pay the fees through your own pocket (or your nose)


-      I realized that my intense animus towards the morning shave would be described by most economists as "Diminishing Marginal Utility".


-      If I try that line of reasoning with the wife, I stand at risk of being a victim of some other Diminishing Marginal Utility myself!!


-      Accountants are historians. My respect for these historians, who record the passage of time in terms of money, has gone up by orders of magnitude when my damn Balance Sheet refused to tally


-      It went up even further when I realized that for centuries, they did their magic without MS Excel


-      Analyzing data is easy. Interpreting data is a completely different animal.


-      Mentee is a word in the English Language.


They say a day has 24 hours. Over the next 21 months, I will find out very closely if they speak the truth.


Monday, November 07, 2011

Reserve & Deserve

There's so much injustice in this world, no?


Reservation, nepotism, corruption, God knows what else.


I mean, merit ki koi value hi nahi rahi..


Life has become so unfair, I tell you.


People get all the things, which in a fair world, they have no business getting.


Just because their dad is rich, or their birth is in a certain caste


Or rather, other people get everything, and they don't deserve a bloody cent.


And I, poor I, don't get anything that I should get, given all that I deserve.


I remember, when I was studying, I studied so hard, all night and day,


Busted my ass out, and some idiot with 15% less than me, got the seat I deserved so dearly.


All because he was born to his father, and I to mine.


If only, I'd been in his place, I'd have gotten that seat in that prestigious college,


And I'd have gotten his life and maybe he would have had mine.


I'm told he's today somewhere in the US, earning in dollars


I'd have been him – a legal alien on an H-1.


And not a citizen of my country, doing something I love.


I'd have had a different wife perhaps and my own little ABCDs, growing up unsure of themselves and their parents


But not my own two little darlings, nor my soulmate.


I'd have been someone else, if life were as fair as they told me, it would be


But if it were, would it have been something I would have liked to live??

Friday, October 21, 2011

Whatever happened to the phrase "I'm Sorry"????

"Corruptio optima pessima ~" The corruption of the best is the worst.

-      Latin proverb

And so it is on this note that I start this post.

Really, I have no expectations of morality from the Rajas, Marans, Kalmadis, Chidambarams, Ambanis of this country.

None. Zero. Nada. Nyet. (or whatever)

To get to where they are today, they have had to trample on someone, and ensure their own practical ends are met, whichever way possible.

And even if that involves basically laundering money for political gain, or getting kickbacks for favours.

It is we, given our good fortune of decent men and women in politics in the past, believe that our political leaders should be human beings with unimpeachable integrity.

It is our folly that we hold such naïve expectations of people who are essentially representatives of the people.

But I have my heroes, the kind I look up to, and would like my kids to follow their examples.

The Kiran Bedis and the Anil Kumbles of this world. Human beings, but different from the rest.

Individuals I have utmost respect for

People who have achieved something, in spite of the odds.

Even a whiff of impropriety on their part, hurts, and hurts bad.

Especially, when they accept that what they're accused of is a fact.

But I could let it go, you know. I really could.

All they have to say, is "It was a mistake / misjudgment on my part. I wouldn't accept this behavior if done by someone else, and so you shouldn't accept this act done by me. I am sorry."

That's all you need say, Ms. Bedi (and Mr. Kumble)

It's their defiance and justification of their acts, that really makes me wonder, whether it is really worth having expectations of propriety from someone else.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What Rajnikanth can teach you about parenting, leadership and life in general..

"I will do what I say, I will also do what I don't say"

If I told you that someone said this to me, you'd probably look askance and ask me to look up the closest shrink.

Unless of course, I give you some more context to this "conversation". This is actually what the guy told me:

Naan solrathaiyum seiven, sollathathiyum seiven." - "I will do what I say, I will also do what I don't say."

- Rajnikanth  
Annamalai (1992)

At this point in the conversation, the context probably doesn't even matter. If I did something to piss Rajnikanth off, I must have done something horribly wrong. It doesn't matter whether why I did what I did, or whether I was in the right or Rajni was in the wrong.

I got Rajni angry..

And if I know what's good for me, I don't want to get Rajni angry.

He may be the poorest guy on the screen, but he has one thing that the rich villain who promises to make a million chopped pieces of Rajni's mother's liver does not

He not only does what he says he will do, but he also does what he doesn't say he will do.

And even an infant from P.O. Village Krishnapuram in district Madurai of Tamil Nadu State knows that Rajni does what he says he will do.

He's got style, panache, and class,

But more importantly he's got credibility.

And that's pretty much what every parent, leader, manager, terrorist, hunger striking activist, politician, and whoever has anything to do with anyone else pretty much needs, if she needs to convince another human being to change their ways.

PS: I really wish this was my original idea to begin with, but I cannot. Most credit goes to the Worthwhile Canadian Initiative blog post

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

A Sane Revolution

A Sane Revolution

If you make a revolution, make it for fun,
don't make it in ghastly seriousness,
don't do it in deadly earnest,
do it for fun.

Don't do it because you hate people,
do it just to spit in their eye.

Don't do it for the money,
do it and be damned to the money.

Don't do it for equality,
do it because we've got too much equality
and it would be fun to upset the apple-cart
and see which way the apples would go a-rolling.

Don't do it for the working classes.
Do it so that we can all of us be little aristocracies on our own
and kick our heels like jolly escaped asses.

Don't do it, anyhow, for international Labour.
Labour is the one thing a man has had too much of.
Let's abolish labour, let's have done with labouring!
Work can be fun, and men can enjoy it; then it's not labour.
Let's have it so! Let's make a revolution for fun!

-      D. H. Lawrence


Sunday, October 02, 2011

Things I want to do before I'm done

According to the data provided to the World Bank,  the average life expectancy of an Indian male is around 65 years as of 2009.

All this means to me, is that in a few weeks, I'll certainly be starting the second half of my life (!!!!!!!). Life is going to be all downhill from here on..

So, it probably makes sense of all the things I want to get done before I am done.. Presenting, in no particular order.

- See the birth of my kids  DONE ALREADY..
- Master Malayalam
- Make a visit to Lord's and Wimbledon.. and the MCG..
- Write a book
- Contest the Lok Sabha elections
- Complete a course in economics, ideally something to do with Game Theory.
- Have a library with at least 1000 books, the kind you see on TV in a lawyer's office, with a "branch" in my toilet.
- Run a marathon
- See Olympics and / or World Cup football first hand.
- Take a motorcycle road trip

These may be bloody easy to achieve, you may think.

But they're not. If they were, I would have done them already, no?

Will you help me? 

Monday, September 26, 2011

There's a scandal brewing in your own household, and you (probably) don't even know about it

Got your attention, didn't I?

But there is something seriously wrong in your household (and in mine) right now, and I'll be damned if I don't tell you about it.

Fear not, everyone around you is a nice person (at least from what I know), and even if they're not, this post is not about them.

And don't worry, your investments are safe.

And so is your house, and assets and everything visible is fine.

And if it weren't, I trust you'd do something about it soon enough.

But still there is something messed up in your house, and you still don't quite know about it.

It's that most of the information that is floating around you, is high on emotional content and very low on scientific basis.

Reality shows, newspaper articles, Facebook posts which are copy-pasted, YouTube videos. The kind that if it bleeds, it leads.

But if you're reading this blog post, I assume you're of a certain age, and educational background and honestly, I don't care if you're emotionally "blackmailable".

All things considered, you mostly deserve it.

But it's your kids I worry about.

They think you know everything.

And then you let them watch Chhota Bheem, and Sa Re Ga Ma Little Champs and God knows what else, where there is zero scientific logic being displayed.

Tantriks give ashirwaad, and the job is done. 6 year olds who can dance like Hrithik Roshan are considered role models. Even more so, if they have a single mother or a limp.

Maths and Science can go take a hike. Or maybe, be outsourced to a private tutor.

If your kids are messed up in the long run, don't tell me you weren't warned.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Times of Bullshit..

Over the last few days, my window to the world has been the Times of India. Kinda like life was, when I was a few years older than Annika. That's how it used to be. Regardless of what the 9 pm news said, life was what was written in the TOI. The rules of the English language were based on what was written in the TOI

But that was then. This is now.

Now is when winners of the "prestigious" TOI Social Impact Award get considered for the Padma awards, no matter that the award is in its inaugural year.

Now is when the Times Insight group, writes 10th standard essays on the petrol price in India being the 3rd highest by purchasing power parity, that grace the front page of the Sunday edition, while comparing the prices of gasoline in India today, with those in January 2011 for the rest of the world..

Now is when the Times of India leads a so-called ACT - Against Corruption Together to support the Anna Hazare campaign, but conveniently leaves out any mention of any dissenting voice.. (Could it have something to do with this development, I wonder.. but that's for another day.. )

Now is when the Times sells its masthead and its front page to anyone and everyone who will pay them top dollar.

Now is also when the Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd. Wikipedia page, reads the following disclaimer:
This article is written like an advertisement. Please help rewrite this article from a neutral point of view.

Now is when, accused of  found guilty of misleading readers through paid articles that look like actual articles through Medianet and Private Treaties, the CEO of BCCL has this to say:
Even if you make an advertisement, and put a circle around it, how is that important? Why is it important that it should be made clear to the reader?

At this point, does it matter what the TOI prints on a daily basis? Maybe they could just print receipts for their patrons in their daily tripe..

It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.
Harry G. Frankfurt
- On Bullshit..  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Things I think I think - (Second hand) post partum edition

- It DOES NOT get any easier the second time around. Even if you do have some idea of what you're in for.
- For some reason, everyone around you is more excited. You're just glad all went well.
- You're busy counting down days for him to start sleeping all night, also known as a race with no known finish line.
- Somewhere deep inside, both parents want a girl and a boy. So that they can dress them up in pinks and teach them a lefty cover drive like Brian Lara.
- Somewhere deep inside, neither parent cares which of the kids dresses in pinks and which one plays the cover drive, as long as they're healthy.
- A man who has witnessed first hand his wife giving birth should really have no more fears in life. Not even year end job reviews.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


... you read the books that you want to, rather than those that you HAVE to..
    or read books at all,

... you respect what you do
    and not your job title.

... you think enough, to not react,
    and not enough to judge those that you meet, 

... you listen to, and not just hear, what people have to say,
    and believe only what you've verified yourself,

... you tell the truth, as you know it, every single time
    with little concern for the consequences,

... you don't have to justify your actions
    "Because everyone is doing so"

... you live in the present but for the future,
    spend more time in the here and now, rather than the there and then

... your only regret is that you don't have one,
    and your proudest achievement is yet to come..

... you spend time thinking about people who spend some time to think about you,
    and have that one special someone that you cannot lie to.

... you think of your childhood and first up is a smile on your lips
    and think of your parents and friends and all those who have helped you get here. 

... you do something for a living, 
    and yet that is not all that you do in your life

... you enjoy yourself 
    but can face yourself in the mirror every single day

As I once read, 

And most of all - my dearests,
your father will die a happy man!!! 

Iss Wall per peshaab karna manaa hai....

Actually, given current economy, Bangalore can probably afford a Tomatina festival more than Spain..

Actually, the price of fuel is a good indicator of how much we use it..

Actually, believe it or not, the Government of India is not out to screw you.. (You're too tiny a fish to fry)

Actually, YouTube is a great idea to see videos which otherwise you wouldn't quite see..

Actually, it's sunny outside, 25C, and you're supposed to be playing games OUTSIDE...

Actually, your thoughts are precious and supposedly unique..

But yeah, why waste a good chance to copy paste???

Saturday, September 17, 2011

It's (probably) all about the money...

Nations are, for want of a better phrase, primarily created for identifying revenue payments.

This piece of land here pays India its taxes and that part over there pays it China, and there over the mountain, is Pakistan, though India believes that the people there should be paying them and not the guys in Pakistan… Or something like it.

There’s nothing relevant as such about land boundaries outside of this. Culture, language, religion etc. are all conveniences created by us to further symbolize the common revenue generation module.

And if you look at it, at some levels our behavior is reflecting this irrelevance of nations and the leaders of these nations.

In almost every country, across the board, the common sentiment is that life has never been worse. Yet almost every country, is at a standard of living that is better than ever before in recorded history.

You might think that the earth is unable to handle the 7 billion, that it houses (or will house around this time next year). But that’s not quite right. The earth is quite able to handle 10 billion people.

It’s just the world as we know it today will be unable to handle 10 billion.

In a global world supposedly brought together by technology, nations as we know them, are becoming irrelevant. If we can work out a common revenue generation model for the world, most of the problems in this world could be solved.

And it's not like it isn't happening. It has already started. 

Take a minute to think back on your life. 

Where you are today, is probably not where you were 10 years ago. 

Where you are today, is almost definitely not where you will be 10 years from now. 

If money knows no national boundaries, why should we? 

John Lennon was probably 50 years ahead of his time.. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

There's a lot you can learn from a 3 year old.

She knows a bit of everything. 

And pretty much nothing. 

She thinks she knows everything 

She thinks she knows nothing.

So the questions never stop. 

But always is "Who, What, Where, How.. "

Never "Why" 

It's such an amazing adventure for her.. 

Everyday is something new.. "Wow, did you know mixing blue with yellow, gives me green.." 

"Wow, mamma, look firecrackers.. " 

"Papppa.... Red potty... Wowwwwwwww"

A 3 year old is the ultimate lay man. 

You can tell her anything and she'll think it's the gospel

I can tell her that the red potty is because she was naughty yesterday, and not the beetroot she had for lunch

I can tell her that naughty kids who don't listen to their parents get ants in their pants.

She's my lab rat..

She's my moral compass..  

Pray for me that I don't screw it up.. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Things I think I think – Bloody corrupt politicians edition

  • Before we start, let's do a small role play

Think for a moment, that I am in a decision making position for the company that deals with the Government of India for something new. The first question I would have to answer on is the profitability for the company. Profitability (crudely) is the total income less the total investment, such that the return on investment is higher than what would normally accrue if we did nothing.

Regardless of which way you dice it, if there is "bribe" that I may have to pay, is something that goes in my "investment" column. The investment is made on the assumption of a certain amount of future income that would make my entire set of investments worthwhile. If that income doesn't accumulate as expected, my entire investment (legal or otherwise) is not worthwhile. Thus, the only way I would encourage this corruption is if the end income justifies the investment.

Now who provides me the income? In most cases, it would be end user. If the end user were to decide that they would not want to do business with my company, my entire business model on this project collapses.

  • I often think about this model, when people use their Reliance 3G connection at 1p/min to register their protest against corruption on my Facebook wall.

  • I don't think corruption is the biggest threat to India at the moment. Nor is communal violence, Sensex tanking, rising, or whatever it is that we feel right now.
 The biggest immediate threat to India is Anna Hazare believing his own hype.
 There, I said it.
  • I would like to meet the following people asking them what they are smoking:
  • The people who termed Anna as a Gandhian considering he advocates the death penalty for people guilty of corruption.  
  • The people who believe that it was Gandhi's hunger strikes that made the British leave India. My understanding of history, weak as it has always been, was that Gandhi undertook hunger strikes as a way for penance for the ills in our own society. What got the British out of India was more economics, where the benefits of running India wasn't quite worth the hassles given the income drop thanks to the Swadeshi movements and World War II. But then, I may be wrong, as in most cases
  • The people who sincerely believe that getting rid of corrupt politicians will turn India into a Utopia of sorts. 
  • The people who believe that Utopia is a fun place to be in.

  • I found it a bit strange that for all the history that was supposedly being created, and all the protests against elected representatives who take our taxes and do nothing for us in return, there wasn't much representation from the demographic which returns the highest voter turnout (rural / urban poor) and the demographic that pays the largest percentage of taxes (corporate types). Aamir Khan was there, but I also read somewhere that he's in discussions for a talk show that would highlight such issues, so let's discount that for a while. 

  • Maybe that's a story somewhere. Those who vote don't pay taxes. Those who do pay the taxes, don't really vote. A friend of mine, Adi Garg, whose thoughts I value tremendously once gave me this gem:
 "Middle class values are like a crutch that people like you and me use to justify why we are the way we are. The poor are too busy trying to survive to worry about shit like this and the rich really don't need to make any excuses"

…Or words to that effect.
  • I also think that given the constraints he faces, Manmohan Singh has not done a bad job as PM. "Given the constraints he faces" is the operative phrase here. For all chatter about "how weak he is, how he takes directions from a higher authority, how he is keeping the chair warm for Rahul baba, has been weak on corruption, etc.", the basic scorecard is that the matter is in the courts, with suspects (across the political spectrum) currently in jail. To me, Manmohan Singh's troubles are more related to bad PR than anything else. For those of you who believe that the Congress is the root of all evil in this country, the question you need also answer is this:

Would you rather have Sushma Swaraj as your PM?  

  • You might say that Narendra Modi has a great chance of being PM, should the BJP come to power. And he will use some Sudarshan Chakra to rid us of all our ills. We'll be number one in the world, and then all will be well. You'll then wake up, brush your teeth and then go back to work.  

  • It's a sad commentary on where we are as a society that the urban middle classes of India do not trust the political class. It is not personal issue against Manmohan Singh or Rahul Gandhi, but when there have been years of complete neglect, mistrust develops. Not really Rahul Gandhi at fault here, more his grandmother. But that most people would rather trust a random comment on their Facebook wall rather than the public utterances of their elected leaders' means there's some problem somewhere.

  • So, where does the problem lie? Electoral reforms for sure. So I am very interested to see what are the reforms that Anna Hazare's bunch comes up with next for him to fast for. That said, I don't think that given his past track record of "everything-is-black-and-white, I-am-right-and-you-bloody-politician-who-is-not-fit-to-be-in-my-celestial-presence-is-wrong-as-hell" hunger fasts I really don't think it amounts to much. His method is too much dependent on an idealism and then barring people who do not amount to that ideal state.

Kinda like Kelvin's absolute zero. We know it's there, but no one has actually seen it.
  • I wish I could say I knew what the problem was. I wish I could say that there's a quick switch that we need to flip and everything will be ok. But that's not how things work. But I do have some ideas, which even though I believe might help I am not going to go on hunger strikes for.

  • For example, I do believe that the stupidest thing that our leaders have done, is created states based on languages and cultural identities, rather than on administrative manageability. I also believe that the metros of India, and the larger cities, have no business being state capitals. I also think that electoral redistribution should happen on the basis of some formula of population and tax receipts, with a review every decade.

  • For this and many more, please let me know if you'd like to hear more. We can indulge in a debate online over email.
But let's keep it civil.

Let's consider both of us have the best interests of the country in our minds, and we only differ in our means of reaching that end.

Let's keep it such that we don't have to call each other names.

Let's doubt each others' philosophies, but not intent or competence.

Let's agree to disagree.

Let's not gloat in our victories.

Let's not call milestones as victories.

Promise me this, and then we'll talk.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Things I think I think - in 800 words

We've been through enough on the "I AM (not) ANNA" issue, that I needn't say more. On the issue that is. What I said a couple of weeks ago, is coming out in different forms today. So, to maintain my uniqueness, I need to say something different.

I need to say what I think.

Or (more accurately) what I think, I think:

I miss the days where I could listen to music while doing absolutely nothing. I write this as I am listening to the intro for "Where the streets have no name" on my phone using headphones. And it's not the same. I close my eyes (yes, I can type quite a bit with my eyes closed) and soak in the song for the while. So, do excuse me for a few minutes, while I am just re-living my past.

Ok, so I am back. It's quite refreshing to spend 5m 38s with loud music blaring into your ears. You should try it. Somewhere in those 5m 38s minutes, you'll probably realize that it's not that you miss the listening to the music, it's just that it's been quite a while since you spent 5m 38s without your thoughts disturbing you. And that's the reality of what I have become. I am unable to spend 5m 38s without a new thought, a new idea, a new opinion coming through and grabbing my attention.

You might say, that I think too much. Especially if every 5m 38s I have a new thought coming up. But I say, I think too little. If all I can dedicate on a particular topic is less than 5m 38s, how can I come up with an opinion that gives me a better understanding of the world? How can I decide whether Anna is right, or Rahul Gandhi makes sense, or whatever?

Are too many thoughts spoiling my (intellectual) broth?

Maybe that's what this is. This is a war on my attention span. For example I read in today's TOI, that 31 lakh respondents have voted for the India Against Corruption poll on their website. I am also told that 31 lakh (3.1 million) is more than the population of 78 countries, and that it is the fastest growing among the most visited websites in the world. And I feel proud of my countrymen and women who are actively participating in this citizen's movement enriching democracy. But maybe if I had spent a little more time on it than what I did, trying to analyze the information, I probably would have realized that for the active citizenry, it still counts for only 0.25% of India's population. And that is assuming that the TOI has taken enough care that only Indian citizens, residing in India are voting on this drive and that too only once. Suddenly the thought that 99.75% of India's population (according to the TOI) really hasn't bothered to drop in on the TOI website (even to look at the titillating photographs) is somewhat sobering and maybe even a little thought provoking.

And that is the core to the problem at some levels. My scales of imagination have dumbed down. I see someone put up their kids photographs, and it's almost like a demand of etiquette that I press the "Like" button. My internet connection may not be fast enough to support viewing of 3 mega pixel photographs, but I'll be damned if I don't "like" it or pass a comment worthy of a plastic smile. What I say doesn't matter, and really no one is bothered enough to read what it is that I have written. Someone will "like" it. I can use tools and implements to mask my hypocrisy and my lack of genuineness

Maybe that's why I'm all so restless these days. Maybe that's why Mika Singh songs are more popular than Kishore Kumar originals. Maybe that's why I keep thinking that my life is in the pits whichever way I look at it. Maybe that's why I need to blame someone for the junkyard of the life they have left me in. I can't blame Pakistan any more, I can't blame foreign hands trying to destabilize my life, I can't blame the CIA, I can't blame the politicians.

I can't blame anyone.

But when I think a bit about it, a bit more than 5m 38s, my life really isn't that bad. Granted, growing up wasn't quite what the marketing department told us, but what the heck? If Triumph of Good over Evil is given, and I am 100% confident in my "goodness", why should I worry?

Still with me?

Or did you already press the "Like" button the moment you saw a U2 song somewhere in the text?
"In life, there are only two truths, Music and Mathematics" – Bapu.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Putting your money where your mouth is..

The genesis of this idea comes from my friend Mohd. Haris, who calls his thoughts "erratic, random and sometimes stupid". But his idea of listing down things that people do in the full knowledge that they are wrong in doing so, yet do so with full approval from their conscience gave me an entrepreneurial idea.

It may not ethical, but hey, neither is the one the old man is fasting for. So here goes:

As mentioned, I as an individual, do things that I know are wrong, yet do them. I am in good mental and (mostly) physical health when I do so. For the sake of this example, let's just say, I know that I ought to not tweak my expense accounts, but you know, an odd fuel bill isn't so bad.. But now that I am protesting against corruption of the others, I must do something to show that I am not a bloody hypocrite. So what do I do?

That's where this new entrepreneurial venture comes in. Let's call it for sake of argument.

What is, you ask? Well, it is a customized portal which helps you to speculate on your own intentions. The intention has to be noble, (I shall not cheat in exams /  I shall not tweak on my expense reports / I shall not cheat on my wife/girlfriend, whatever). So I go to this portal, and say for the next 1 year (or 2 months or decade or whatever), I shall not do whatever it is that I know I am not supposed to do.

Still with me? Seems doable? I think so, but probably not practical. People will come in and pledge whatever the hell they want to pledge.

That's where's USP lies. The pledge stands valid, only if I am willing to put some money down in an escrow account for the duration of the pledge. It will have rates like you have at the temple for pooja, Cheat on taxes = 20% on taxable income, Cheat on girlfriend = 1 lakh, something.. But something substantial.

Once I've pledged it, comes the second catch. I have to provide phones and email ids of 10 friends who will be told that this is what you're planning to do. Unless they validate that you are truly capable of paying up, the pledge doesn't come through. Once they validate me, they will be told that should they ever catch me doing whatever it is that I am betting that I will not do, if they report me to, they will get the entire money, post due diligence based on current savings rates. They are free to forward to anyone they like to add more sets of watchful eyes on me.

Should I successfully avoid getting caught over the duration of the pledge, I get the escrow money plus interest.

- Acts like a fixed deposit of sorts
- Acts like a deterrant. I know I can tweak my expense reports, but if I were to get caught, I might end up losing 1 lakh..
- Makes me a bit more honest.
- Friends watch over me, but have a financial incentive in ensuring that if I am doing wrong, I will get caught. If I don't get caught, no harm no foul.

- Suddenly, har ek friend zaroori nahi hota hai :)
- Is it ethical?
- Can you think of anything else?

What do you think? Will work? Should I fast for this??

Friday, August 19, 2011

Shaanth Gadaa-dhaari Bheem..

Dear Sender,

Thank you for your photos, SMSes and Facebook messages. As you said, there is indeed a widespread fervour and nervous enthusiasm that this time we will be able to get a realistic change. There are people from my office, young and and old, who are actively participating in this movement, and Mr. Hazare is truly championing a movement that is bound to bring about change. Needless to say, if we didn’t have corruption, we’d be a better place to live.

However, I must be true to myself and admit to you that this movement is not one that I would like to be associated with. Not that it is not arguing for the right thing - I am not the person to judge that. People believe that someone is taking advantage of them, and they have every right to protest. However, deep inside this protest smacks of usual human hypocrisy.

In the last five and some years that we have been back in India, I must admit, I have paid bribes. I have paid bribes to public prosecutors, to police inspectors, sub-inspectors and havaldars, to traffic policemen and RTO bureaucrats. In each of these cases however, the bribe paid was to help me (or someone I know) get out of something that could be perceived as wrong on our part. In these 5 years, I have not had a single instance where someone has asked me for a bribe when I am in the right. Even the bribes we give when we need something that is our right, at some level it is to help us jump the queue. That someone asks for a bribe, is one thing, in which I am complicit too. In light of this, who am I to protest against corruption, when it has helped me achieve my ultimate end?

However, this is not the corruption which bothers me.

This morning, as I was on my way to work, I approached a traffic light at Mobo chowk. As I approached it, the light turned red, so I slowed down. However, before I reached the junction, along came a gleaming, golden Honda City cutting across me. It was coming from the cross street, however given that their signal was red, decided to take the free left turn, then take the U-Turn (to come to my way), and then take the free left turn available to us. Since the divider wasn’t quite the biggest, it pretty much amounted to a straight road for him. However I reached there before him. And I stopped my car since I was to wait for the red light.

I was definitely in the right of way. I was well within my rights to stop for the right turn. But my action was deliberate. I didn’t want this suit wearing, goggle totting gentleman to take advantage of this loophole, while I was doing what is right. But this gentleman didn’t quite see it that way. He thought I was being a smart Alec. Swearing at me, my mother, my sisters, and everyone else, he went from behind my car, and carried on, while all the way making me aware of my incestuous relationships with all my female relatives.

It sounds funny, but it’s not.

Corruption, is not only monetary. Corruption is (as I read from the Webster Dictionary website) "an impairment of integrity, virtue or moral principle". The monetary portion is, if anything, the most easily retrievable impairment. And on this count, I must say that it is not just the politicians, government machinery or the bureaucrats who are corrupt. This morning, on my way to work, I encountered at least 3 instances where someone failed this so-called corruption test. Whether it is people riding on the wrong side of the road, breaking a traffic light or even for that matter not wearing a helmet / seat belt, we do it not because it is right, but in the full knowledge that it is wrong yet there is minimal chance of getting caught. And it’s not just traffic sense (or lack of it) that I am talking about. Whether it is the shopkeeper who prefers the cash transaction to the 2% service tax he would have to pay for debit card transactions, or the buyer who prefers to get the stocked item for this “discounted” price, each one of us has at some level actively participated in cheating the rest of our country. We seat our kids on bikes and break traffic lights with impunity. To us, and to our kids, this has become acceptable behavior. Differentiation between right and wrong, has become primarily a one-way street, where everything done by us is automatically considered right.

We may complain, protest, demand against our elected representatives, but at the end of the day, the people we have elected are our mirror image. What they’re doing is, in my opinion, no way different from what I would do if placed in that position. We can blame the system, or we can admit that it us, you and me, who has created the system. We have created this system, because at some level we do condone this corruption. We condone it because we have, at some point or the other done the exact same thing that we’re now taking the moral high road against. Hazare’s protest is showing “civil society” a mirror, and supposedly intelligent, somewhat educated, people are demanding we change the mirror. Expecting highest levels of morality and “unimpeachable” integrity from our leaders, while demonstrating the exact opposite at every single opportunity is what we have come to.

As regards Hazare’s behavior personally, there’s something left to personal judgement. I was not around during Mahatma Gandhi’s time, and so cannot comment on whether he is Gandhian in the true sense. But something seems wrong, when he says that if you’re not agreeing to his demands, you’re not doing the right thing for the country. Gandhi succeeded in his protest, because his protest was simple. He told the British government, that they have no right to rule simply because they do not represent the people. And to prove his point, he simply followed the rules set by them.

As regards the Jan Lokpal bill, again I am probably not the best judge of that. Maybe it is the best thing since we discovered freedom from the British. But something tells me that it won’t quite be the solution we’re hoping for. Not because of its merits or demerits, but rather because it will create one piece of legislation, and that’s it. As a society we are used to proceeding with anything and everything that meets our ultimate objective, and legislations and rules and ethics that come in our way are mere occupational hazards.

What I write is boring, and I may be arguing without merit. It certainly doesn’t sound sexy enough to hit the front pages of the TOI - a newspaper which seems to have no hesitation in selling its front page and masthead to the highest paying advertiser. Maybe my protest against the protest is misguided and on the wrong side of history.

But that’s what is on my mind, and I will be damned if I don’t say so.

And to top Anna Hazare’s million Bollywood Twitter friends, I have some support from Hollywood:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

... Am in a Facebook state of mind...

What's on my mind?
The introduction of G+ is the best thing that can happen to someone who posts regularly on Facebook but really doesn't quite like it, because that someone sincerely believes that Google is the next best thing since mankind discovered God and FB is not Google, and stands for everything that is not Google, and therefore is the watchword for everything that is evil in this world, i.e. someone like me.

Not that I post more on G+. But now that there is G+, my self-loathing knows no bounds if I post on FB, and not on G+ (for reasons listed above) and it's a bloody bore to copy-paste. And now there's a Novak Djokovic to the Federer/Nadal debate with Twitter coming along, and it's just painful to say the same thing on 3 different forums. Particularly if, for some reason hitherto unknown to human intelligence, some poor soul follows me on all three media. Even I don't like myself that much.

I know, I know, I'm free to not put up status updates. It's a free, bloody country, and a freer, bloodier internet (unless you're in the harmonious People's Republic of China). But you're no one if you don't have a social profile. Even Anna Hazare has an FB page. So I have to keep up appearances. It's just something that has to be done, like shaving or tying your shoelaces. Somebody felt it was a good idea at some point, and so now we all do it.

But more crucial to the matter, is someone really interested in what's on my mind?

Has the "Like" button dumbed down our lives?

Do I really need to copy-paste what's on your mind, and put it on my mind, so that my friends "like" your mind or my mind or someone's mind?

Mind it, most of the outrage that spews on FB these days, can primarily be answered with "OK".

An OK that would mean something on the lines of:

"I see that you're outraged, and you probably have very good reasons to be outraged and you know what, you're really nice and all, but I really don't share your grievance, so can we all just move on?"

"I know you're incensed because when you were growing up everyone told you that if you do good things only good things will happen to you, and here you're doing all the right things but OMG is your life screwed or what?"

"You see, what they didn't tell you, was that life was just as messed up then as it is now. It's just that when you were growing up, they didn't want to spoil the surprise for you by telling that it's really not worth growing up, you know? You'd still have to pay the bills, you'll still have get the money on the table, and do whatever it takes to make sure that when your kids come along you tell them that only good things will happen to them if they did good things."

"You know, life is unfair. Live with it. We live in a world where the only fundamental difference between you and Rahul Gandhi, is that his dad didn't meet your mom at a café in London before he met Rahul's mom. It's neither your fault, nor Rahul's nor really anyone's. It's not really a fault. For whatever reason, your mom wasn't in London, and his mom was. End of Story. If your mom was there, and the son of Indira had taken a liking to her, we'd probably be making videos of you right now as to how you're looting the nation under the garb of democracy. I don't think you'd be complaining."

          Phew… Fit that in 420 characters, Zuckerberg...
Like / Dislike / +1, whatever…
We cool?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Dear God...

Dear God,
I like criticizing people. And the jobs they do, and the decisions they make.


I like to sit by my computer and my mobile phone and send Facebook updates and text messages as to how XYZ is not doing a good job.


One of my specialities is to take spoken lines out of context, especially from news clippings on YouTube and sharing them as my status update.


And then call her names


And faking outrage, is just sooooo much fun, You know?


How would You know? You're up there, where nothing goes wrong.


Even though my grandma told me that You know everything


I am sure you don't know that I don't like taking responsibility.


It's my little secret, one of many.


It's not fun to take responsibility


Even terrorists don't take responsibility these days,


They don't want the 72 virgins anymore.


Responsibility is what Spiderman's grandfather wanted him to take.


And look what happened to him, he died in the next scene


My grandpa, You bless him, never told me anything like this.


So, pretty please, with a cherry on top,


Make sure that I never come to power.


I am never part of the government.  


I am never a boss.


And if I ever do, I know who to blame..


And You can then read it on Facebook.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Let's play: "Shoot the messenger"

As you may or may not be knowing, we're expecting our second child. Come September, there's going to be another wailing voice providing backup vocals to the wailing 3-year old. Whether this voice would be male or female, we don't know yet, because the law prevents disclosure of the gender of the foetus. Female infanticide is a terrible problem in India. With modern technology, it is possible to know the gender of the foetus within 11 – 12 weeks of the pregnancy, at which point it is still medically safe to abort the foetus (I guess, but am not the expert). Thus, the Government of India passed a law in 1994, which stated that the determination of the gender of the baby, is a crime punishable by a fine and imprisonment of up to 10 years. The law was hailed by one and all as something which was a mighty fine thing to do. Most everyone I know supports the law, as do I.

Or I think I do.

The reason that I am not quite sure, is that in spite of the strict law, and the strong deterrent, the girls to boys ratio in India has gone from 906 per 1000 (bad enough) in 1996 to 835 per 1000 in 2005. This trend has been seen in almost every state in India, such that some experts suggest that over this 10 year period, somewhere between 4.2 million – 12.1 million unborn female fetuses were aborted through selective selection abortions. Given the range of the data, it is estimated that even rich, educated, well-to-do families indulge in this truly gruesome crime. The government believes that a large portion of this, has come through proliferation of illegal ultrasound centers who disclose the gender for a fee. The government is cracking on stricter implementation of the law and the illegal ultrasound centers are being sealed and closed. So the question to be looked at is:

Has the law helped in any way? How much have illegal USG centers contributed to the drop in the girl-boy ratio? I don't have the data to prove either way, but I do have a theory.

I believe the current approach is akin to shooting the messenger. We're going after these centers because they're illegal, which is ok, but we really won't solve the problem at hand, because it's not the machines that kill the babies, but the people who go to these centers that do. If we don't go after these cruel excuses for humans, we'll never solve the problem. We'll only get some other way by which people figure out how to get to their ultimate objective of this exercise.

Let's approach this through the counter theory, that let's say we were to (magically) eliminate all the illegal USG centers in India, would female infanticide (equally magically) go away? If your answer is yes, my follow up question would be to ask you, how confident you are in saying this. I'd say that you probably have some doubt on this happening. Primarily because no one has the data which says that how many of the 4.2 million mothers went to these illegal centers. Again, I don't have the data, but we've heard cases as to how the doctor signs the report in red ink if it's a girl and blue ink if it's a boy, or some version thereof, which is something you could do in a perfectly legal set up, with no evidence whatsoever. So I'd say there is some doubt in saying that getting rid of the illegal USG centers will kill the menace.

Another problem with the lack of data, is that it is tough to say how many of the total people who went to these illegal centers actually aborted the foetus. The reason I say that, is because I can confidently say that not everyone does that. A USG can cost up to 1200 rupees in a private hospital, and about 600 in a government hospital, both of which are somewhat expensive for a large portion of expectant families. Plus, if you've ever been to Sassoon, you're probably not going there again ever. In short, if the illegal center does it for 250, someone who actually cannot tell the difference between legal and illegal centers and cannot afford 600 might go there, and have a lifelong fulfilling experience as a caring parent.

A third issue with the lack of data is a bit more psychological. I think based on the data it is fair to say that there are some people in this country who are so against having a girl child that they'd be willing to kill. For a country with a relatively low homicide rate, I think that's a pretty chilling assessment. But without digressing, if there is some way by which I can be absolutely certain of not having this problem, with a small risk of being caught, many of these evil bastards will take it. Again, the risk is small simply because there is no data to prove that you're having a girl child.

The point is not that the law is an ass, but rather that there is no data on the basis of which we can devise solutions. We're working on solutions based on data which tells us there is a problem, but you don't need data to tell you the problem. The problem will exist regardless of the data. We need data to guide us to the solutions.

So I suggest why not flip the law?

Why not we make it mandatory to reveal the gender of the foetus to the parents? Those with no malicious intent will definitely prefer this, anyway. It also helps us to attack the core of the issue, which is that it prevents the very business model of the illegal USG centers. I don't see any incentive to set up an illegal center, if people can get the same thing at a legal center.

But most importantly, flipping the law gives us data. Data that can show us who does this, and some evidence that can be used to hang these people.

While we see posts of "post this to your FB status, or you're not a patriot, and while you're debating about posting you just killed 15 unborn girls" on various social media will anyone start a FB page for changing the law?

I don't have the guts.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Fable with no ending..

There once was a pond.

A pond full of fish. Lots of them. With a strict hierarchy, where the big fish ate the small fish, who ate the smaller fish, who devoured the smallest fish. Promotions from smallest fish to smaller fish to small fish happened through how much time one had spent in the pond. In all this fish-eat-fish business, the fish were so busy eating other fish, that they hardly remembered what it was like when they were the smallest fish in the pond. Those who survived, did so by doing whatever it is that the bigger fish wanted them to do.. You couldn't blame them, since the alternative was to be eaten. The only way to get out of this pond alive, was if you were lucky enough to caught in a net, that would transport you into the wonderful world of fish tanks. The lucky few, who escaped to the fish-tanks, never returned.

That was the life, where every most fish lived and died in the same pond. And died even when living.

Over the years, the area started suffering a tremendous drought which caused heavy water shortages. Our pond also suffered much. So the authorities did the only thing they could do. They built a canal system between the various ponds of the area, so that every pond would have sufficient water. Slowly, but steadily, the water problem receded. And it provided the smaller fish a chance to travel upstream and downstream to different ponds. You grew by picking up whatever came up your way.

That's where things stand today. Smaller fish have a choice. You stay in a pond as long as you like it, else move on to a new pond. Stay there, or keep moving. Those who stayed in the pond, were there of their own choice.

This has led to an interesting little generational gap.

The big fish today, had grown big through their old method of staying in the same place, and devouring smaller fish. They were too busy surviving the drought to bother with moving out. They had always known just one way to grow – Stay in the pond.

The next level had grown by travelling far and wide and learning from their experiences. They knew what life was prior to the drought, and they didn't really want to go back to those days. They'd prefer growing by what they had learnt.

Those at the lowest level, really don't bother much, since they know that they don't have to spend the rest of their lives in this pond, if they aren't liking it. They never knew what life was before the drought.  

I wish I knew how this story ends.