Monday, December 24, 2007

Warrior Politics

Thought provoking.

It’s not very often that one comes across a book which delves into subjects that you particularly like. This book blends two of my favorite subjects-history and politics in an insightful analysis of how ancients lived and ruled in societies. More importantly, what one can learn from them.

Quite a lot as it turns out. The book is based on the firm view that all that is going on in our lives, has parallels in history. Thus by learning how people tackled issues not quite different from our own, we can govern ourselves better. From time immemorial, history has been faithfully recorded by preceptors, who in turn through their rigorous analysis have influenced it.

The most diverse set of luminaries are chosen in this book. It commences with Winston Churchill's experiences in the late 19th century in Sudan, fighting the Mahdi. It was here that he gained his initial military experience, and a sense of the importance of history and people. These insights stood him good stead in fighting Nazism and co-opting the Americans in WWII. He is praised for his foresight in aligning with Stalin despite his abhorrence of communism, only to repel the advance of Hitler. No book on policy can be bereft of Sun-Tzu and Machiavelli. The author vividly portrays these philosophers as well as the historical context within which they lived. Thucydides who wrote the opus, "The Pelopponesian War" is also profiled. Set in the background of the war between Athens and Sparta, it remains a fascinating read combining the military might and political battles in these city states.

Increasingly states might collapse due to the non-availability of resources and massive unemployment of the youth. It has also to do with the unwillingness of people who live in city-states to consider themselves as part of a larger nation. Here Kaplan studies Malthus, whose essays on economic demand and scarcity of resources proved crucial for thinkers of his era.

Finally Kaplan delves into studying political structures in the ancient civilizations of Sumer, India and China. He finds that multiplicity of cultures did not deter successful empires from being formed. Rather, commerce and some astute political maneuvering led to formation of dynasties which survived the ravages of time...until more powerful ones toppled them. He studies Tiberius, who ushered in a long reign of peace and prosperity in the Roman Empire. Thus, while Tiberius did not expand his suzerain, he certainly managed to govern it better.

The impression one gets from reading this book is of fast paced change, shrewd political masters and the primacy of political opportunism. We live in similar political scenarios, where war and the fight for dominance will increasingly become asymmetrical. The astute politician is he who knows how to navigate this.

Next stop : Plain Speaking by N. Chandrababu Naidu

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Games Indians play...

During one of my regular hunts at the LRC, I chanced upon a book with this title.For someone who is fascinated by India and her meandering millions, this book seemed just the right tonic.Add to the fact that it was quite lightweight and written by an academic of IIMB, and I felt this book would pack quite a punch.I picked it up.

The book attempts to answer some basic questions about Indians with a game theoretic approach. Some of the key questions were :

1. Why are we individually so brilliant, yet collectively dumb ?
2. Are Indians the world's greatest free-riders ?
3. Can we learn any lesson from the concepts of game theory ?

The author has made a good attempt at doing justice to the title. He starts with why Indians behave in such a bizzare fashion, something which he seeks to explain with our focus on short-term results versus long-term goals.

Also, he attacks our collective sense of fatalism and the cavalier approach we extends to issues which do not concern us individually.He bemoans the fact that Indians have never work collectively, and when they are put into teams each comes with the impression that work is a zero-sum game. Small wonder why the author compares us to crabs in the bucket,each trying to outdo the other! He concludes with an interesting reference to the Gita, and analyzes how the verses of the Gita actually enjoin us to incorporate a C-C (collaborate-collaborate) outlook to life.

My key "takeaway" from this book was his reference to Axelrod's experiment, which sought to define which game theory strategy works the best irrespective of circumstance. To his astonishment, a strategy with only three words in its program survived every other plan. It was............Tit for tat.

The book somewhere meanders into discussing various game theories and focussess incessantly on potraying the negative aspects of Indian society. Regrettably, it does little justice to ordinary people we meet who despite their fears are warm, friendly and a tad too forgiving at times. Also it fails to even tread on India's greatest glue - religion. India is a tremendously religious country, and much of our lives centre around our beliefs. Logic would suggest that religion should also guide our interaction with others, but this aspect is not covered by the book at all. I wish the author had applied his thoughts on this issue. Finally,he also makes a passing reference to politicians but does not do much of game theory analysis here as well.

All in all, an absorbing book, perfect for those few minutes of welcome nothingness that thankfully creep into our everyday lives !

Coming up next - Warrior Politics !

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Count your blessings !

We live in a dirty country. It is corrupt. People trash their garbage at will. There is no civic sense in most of us. Besides castigating a bunch of politicians, and worshipping a dozen FMCG super-salesmen in white, there is little which unites us. We pollute the rivers which we are supposed to worship. We mercilessly cut the trees on one hand, and earn carbon credits on the other. Our neighbors, depending on which direction you start from, consider us over-bearing, sloven, extra-smart, dirty and loud-mouthed. World over we have a reputation for being the only country which is yet to win a Gold medal at the Olympics, despite the legions of sportspersons we send. We are mercilessly blown into bits in trains, temples, mosques, chat shops, laser shows, but have neither the balls nor the brains to hunt these scum and drop them at death’s door, all expenses paid. In short, a country high on hype and short on mojo.

Yet, it is this country that our neighbours look up to in envy. Why they say, you can actually vote out somebody you don’t like! Emergencies to you mean a trip to the hospital! You are champions in maths and science, and wrote the code which runs the world of today! You have the power of the creator, the tenacity of the preserver and the purity of the destroyer!

Riddle me this- Then why in the blue blazes don’t we realize this? And more alarming, what will it take the people of the country to actually wake up? How many rivers of blood shall spring before we understand that we actually have a greater responsibility to the land that nourishes us?

Two instances actually make me write this rant. First, an open letter from the people of a neighbouring nation who have seen glimpses of democracy only to be denied their rights, time and again. Yet, the people there soldier on. Despite the threats of bodily harm and even death, they charge. That is because the worst form of existence is that which has no freedom. And on the other, an all too familiar proof that Wimpistan exists. Yet another series of well coordinated blasts. Only 13 dead this time. For now, that is. Tomorrow, breakfast will see a bunch of all-knowing “Porter analysis” trained heads, clucking their heads in disapproval, cursing the all too familiar politician. And soon, next week will see the presence of yet another term, more PPTs and group meeting and preps. In short, back to work.

Which leads me to the sad conclusion that the people of this country don’t count their blessings. They see not the beautiful country which I can see, not far into the future. If only each and every one stood up, without waiting to see if anybody else is already standing, or moaning that nobody will stand. They count not their blessings, but curse others for their failings.

Freedom was won sixty years back when the people knew that they had lost their all and had nothing to lose. Today’s youth criticize, but prefer their Dominoes,KFCs and cafe lattes. So be it. If only they knew the pride in standing up to their beliefs, if they had any, that is.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Not enough time !

Not enough time for all that I want for you,
Not enough time for every kiss,
And every touch and all the nights,
I wanna be inside you...
- INXS " Not enough time "

This post should never exist. I just dont have the time for this. In between maddening assignments, group meetings which lead to nowhere,resume prep sessions,arbit CP in class, admiring admirable people(hey i'm being honest!),eating,you tubing,playing snooker,reading an amazing book by Robert Rubin,where do i have the time ?

Which brings me to this entire hoo-hah about managing time.Interestingly, i've noticed i spend more time griping about this than doing something relevant about it. Why ? Maybe i'm super smart, so i can do it all at the last minute, and do well at that. or perhaps, i'm just plain lazy. Or perhaps, comforted that i am from the pulls and pressures of real life where i do a much better job, I'm just well...whining.

Some time back I faced a similar problem at office. It got so acute, I seemed to be slipping away. Thankfully, Dad came across this article in the ET which made lots of sense. The first thing to do in the day, it said, was to swallow the frog. In essence, hit at the toughest job of the day and the work will soon move on.

Problem is,there are too many frogs here...sigh !

Monday, October 8, 2007

Badrinath bats for India !

Finally !

I have waited to write this post for years !

I have ELP to review, PAEV to work on, term 5 and placements work all of which is easily measured by the ton. But I put all that aside to write about my friend who today has taught me what perseverance is all about.

They said only one boy from TN can make it into the squad. You need influence, and not just skill to get in, they said.When he was a youngster, he was too young. As he matured in stature, we feared whether they would say -"He's too old". Scrawny and thin, would he match the sledging of the Aussie, the build of the South African,the wiles of the English,the pace of the West Indian, the passion of the Pakistani ?

I remember him on the playfields of PSBB, as the batsman who never got out.The guy who sat in the last bench of my class and was always easy with his laugh. The boy who gave his all for the game, and finally, finally has been rewarded in turn.

Now,as he dons the baggy blue and shares a locker with Sachin,Dravid,Dhoni et al. my prayers go to him for his success. May he do well.

Finally, I've always shunned the game taking it to be a waste of time. I've always bet against India, because I still believe they are an all-star cast first and a team later. But now Badri, I'll cheer for India, and watch every ball when you step on the field. This is my tribute to your triumph.We'll all be watching out for you.

Chak de whatever !

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Aparajita !

It all began at lunch. One president, two directors and an ex-GS employee at the table. A simple question to the president from yours truly.

"Why aren't you dressed in the section colors today ? "

" Thats because I have this women's club meeting you see, so i dont have time to change "

"ok, whats it about ?"

" we are having this person from M who is a HR head, she is coming to talk to us about Negotiation techniques for Women "

" Hey, but why only women.....? "

And so began my curious quest into the thinking of women. Why pray, would u have a club exclusively for women ? Do men have the men's club here? (Ans - Nyet.) Some thoughts behind this made sense, others tickled my thoughts, and got me thinking about the role of women today. When I started this blog, one of the first assertions I made was that if we as a society have to improve, we MUST empower our womenfolk.

Not some condescending talk, but driven by cold blooded experience that :
a. The average female is more aware, intelligent and sensitive than the average male (unfortunately for men)
b. Women think through problems in a multitude of ways, and if we have to shed some of the baggages of the past and move ahead, society needs all the radical thinking we can get.(truly).

And at the heart of all this lay my pet theory, that all women appear alike but are different and the converse is true about men.Think about it. Men for all their differences are primarily concerned with the following:
a. Power
b. Money
c. Sports
d. Women (note, sports came before )
e. Glug, Glug, Glug !

Not necessarily in this order, but I'm sure a vast majority of my tribe would agree. Switch to women. I dare not talk of 5 things which drive women, for each lady has completely different views of the world around her and what shapes her life. Thus while we may argue that women spend too much time on the phone in general, or swap mails about lady drivers, the truth is that each is an enigma unto herself. And thats what makes every girl special.

But, coming back to the point, I think that such inequality exists always, across nationalities, races, cultures and yes even the sexes. Yes, men would not like to cede control, but thats natural to any dominating group. But then, all such differences disappear when people are given opportunities equally for them to flourish in. That’s because insecurities best disappear when you face the fear. That’s when you become Aparajita !

Moral of the lecture: Next time, please ask the men too. We'd love to come, and no, we don’t eat girls for dinner.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Greed is good?

I must confess to entering the first class of Government, Society and Business with some trepidation. It immediately conjured a vision of endless and inconclusive talk-talk amongst the poor professor and the class participation warriors. Add to this me being strategically located in the last row of class, and I thought I had the perfect combination to catch up on sleep leftover from the last 3 terms.

No such luck. And thank god for that! This subject has clearly been a winner. Not one class has gone without spirited debate, and the manner of teaching has been excellent .Prof M sure knew how to provoke the debater in you, and I’ve seen him skillfully draw out even the most tongue-tied of my friends. Not that the CP warriors needed any motivation…

However, my beef in this class relates to one topic. Bribe taking. While most people would expect a harangue against bribe taking and giving, Prof M did exactly the opposite. He showed graphically how a bribe might represent society’s response to allocate scare resources for specific economic activity.

Without going into the technical mumbo-jumbo, simply put a bribe is described as an economic mechanism designed to ensure that inefficiencies in production and distribution of resources, which could be due to government diktats, are resolved to the satisfaction of the sector that requires it. Take for instance infrastructure vs. housing. If the government mandates that a ceiling price for cement (incidentally that is what is the situation in India right now) and does not back it up with strict implementation, it is a recipe for bribe taking.

Without the proper monitoring in place, all that happens is that the housing sector offers the cement suppliers, a purchase price which is a notch above the ceiling price. Lo and behold! There is insufficient supply to the infrastructure sector, with the cement being diverted to the housing sector and a bribe taker’s paradise on our hands.

The prof’s advice? Look at things in context and you might actually see the relevance of bribes. But I disagree with the rationalization. Slapping one another does not make us friends. How will you explain the economics of bribes to the poor people at the ration shop who have to bribe the officer to get provisions? Or the monies which should be doled out by hapless people for sundry governments certificates?

Do two wrongs make a right?

Sunday, September 9, 2007


As I removed the last part of cake strategically plastered by DJ in my inner ear during my birthday celebration and soaked in a good hot shower my mind went back to the scene on day 1 of ISB, and day 1 of Sec B in particular.

Seemed a lot like first day at pre-school! Lots of new faces from different parts of the planet, and a bunch of super-smart brains to boot. I started out by facing this mythical beast called the core group (we’re still doing fine–touch wood) and this most mysterious aggregation of specimens under one roof – the quad.

Quickly coming to grips with the idiosyncrasies of both, it was time to know the folks of Sec B. I have to thank the Insti for giving me ample opportunity to do that. Sundry games of little consequence but a lot of pride value, singing, debating, you name it Sec B did it all. And the best bonding of all – the time honored ritual of dunking the birthday boy/girl and then slamming luscious cake all over their face (and pate – if you include my fate today).

And why only Sec B? All across the batch, I came across people I found interesting, likable or preferably both. There’s something mysterious about this process of finding and making friends. Complete strangers then, but the first people you want to be sitting down with for coffee now. The person you want to be sharing the latest salacious gossip or scandal. Your crib partner. Your counselor. Your fellow Maggi cook. Your co-dunkee in the pool…

6 months back, U would have passed me by in Mumbai without a glance. Today, she shyly mumbled a “Happy Birthday” in my cake-filled ear. R would have looked up from her comp in her software company, seen me stride into her office and got back to work without missing a beat. Today, she giggled and took a picture of me in all of my cake-splattered glory. V would have brushed past me at the airport, and caught the return flight to his consulting office. Yet, he spent time with me in the pool tonight, shivering to the bone. DJ would have given me a horribly handwritten prescription for my cold. Today he licked the chocolate cake from his fingers and wiped them on my shirt (yuck!)

F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Thanks for being there guys.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The new Jataka Tales: Mice and the Shadows

Once upon a time, in the land of Wimpistan, there lived a great congregation of mice. These mice, like all other mice lived in peace and quiet. For years, despite occasional rumbling, by and large there existed great peace in the mice kingdom. The mice leaders were proud of this and proclaimed “ If we remain meek, others shall treat us with meekness too.” For years this remained the golden rule of engagement in the society of mice, and all was cheese.

Then suddenly, the mice began to die mysteriously. For some time, the vast population ignored this, fearful as they were with the prospects of the national cheese-eating team and the volatility of the chensex (the cheese index)! But the mice continued to die.

They fell while returning from work in their mice trains, or while frolicking in parks, even when they were savouring the spicy cheese delicacies in the neighbourhood shop! The mice leaders, long accustomed to an era of cheese siphoning were clueless. Who was killing the mice?

The leaders then hit upon the answer- it was the shadows! Yes- the shadows! True, said the others – was it always not dark when the mice fell? Surely it must have been the shadows! Blame the shadows! The mice people asked for drums and sticks to face the shadows. But the leaders would not let them, because they knew it was not the shadows! But if they admitted this to the mice people, they would lose their cheese!

The mice people knew the leaders were wrong this time. On the other hand, the leaders were always right! Why bother -Be meek and the shadows would leave us alone! they thought.Not so fast, said some young daring mice. Was it time to be bold? To forget fear? To stand fast? Not remain meek forever and die like flies do?

They decided to be brave. Slowly but surely they told the people to first be alert to danger. Then they asked them to keep their eyes and ears open and not flee at the first sign of a shadow. Finally, they trained a band of mice who would walk into the shadows if need be so.

Slowly the reports trickled in. A survivor of another “shadow” attack reported that he saw whiskers on the shadow. Another swore that the shadow had fur. Yet another said the shadow moved with something swishing behind…

Finally, gathering courage, the mice moved into the shadows in the direction of the latest attack. And lo behold- it was a cat! Thinking quickly they tied a big bell around the cat, while it snored away its latest mice meal. And then they went back and fought with their leaders and won the sticks and drums. And soon enough the cat was powerless! The mice heard the cat coming from far away and were able to stand up to it. Soon, it was the cat that had to flee for its life. The mice people were happy once more. All was well.

Moral: The mice people learnt from their lesson. Can we at least start now?

First among Equals ?

For the fourth time in my life, I shall announce my presence by a rectangular strip of firm paper. This paper shall be stocked by me on my person and liberally distributed to ease the process of networking- the stuff that corporate life is made of. For the first time however, I shall be representing an educational institution. It’s a feeling of satisfaction to belong to someplace!

So why am I writing about this? Well, we recently concluded the exercise of ensuring the cards are OK before printing. That also involved, as our dear leader D put it, “making sure names and titles are ok”.

Titles? What titles? Oh, those representative posts which some of us enterprising (or cunning –depending on whether your candidate won or lost) individuals got elected to. Well, a quick glance at the sheet made me wonder whether I was sitting at one of the CII conferences at Davos or someplace equally exotic. All around me sat Vice-Presidents, Presidents, Brand Managers, Directors and what have you in full bloom! Looked like being ordinary was well…not ordinary.

But pardon me; didn’t they say only those elected could put up their titles? Were so many of us elected? Democracies don’t lie and democratically elected people, never. If there were 10 folks in a club and each of them voted to make the other Vice-something or Executive- something else, wasn’t that a proper election process? Hell, that’s right!

Tintin fanatic that I am, this reminds me of a scene from Tintin and the Broken Ear. General Alcazar is told about a drunken Tintin, who was saved from the firing squad at the last minute, saying “Long Live General Alahambra (hic)! “ The happy general immediately appoints Tintin as a colonel and his aide-de-camp. To which Colonel Diaz suggests that given there are more colonels that corporals, could not Tintin be appointed corporal? Alcazar re-affirms Tintin’s appointment and promptly demotes Diaz to corporal! Which brings up the moot question- what are all of these people going to do? There is no one left to lead!!!

For the record, the author was elected as Director to a post, but has graciously decided to spare his visiting card the blushes…

Friday, August 24, 2007


When the term is won,
and our pencils are sheathed,
while the books rest in quiet,
we shall all go home,and sleep at night.

Monday, July 30, 2007

How I won praise, had a blast and lost my (ummm)……….

W1 of T3 is over. How time flies here! I turn and look over my shoulder. Was it not the other day that I marveled at Prof F’s dedication? Or was bowled over by Prof S’s sheer devil-may-care attitude, and passion for his subject?

Back to the present guys. Here we are, well into W2. And lest anybody forget, the school makes sure that nobody misses out on assignment fun…there are tons of them here!

Week 1 was like the other weeks. Fast, heavy content, tons of pre-reads and the all too familiar CP and assignments! On CP several of my friends have written reams, but it just amuses me that folks who not so long ago were corporate animals, with spit and polish an what-not show considerable agility in coming up with mundane issues to discuss. Some may blame the profs for being indulgent, but the truth is that no question is ever stupid in such fora. Only the questioner is.

The notable addition (or deviation -depending on how you see it) was the LDP programme. I for one, found the current LDP programme quite interesting. It had the mandatory please-introduce-another part to it, objective being of course to shake us up from our public speaking slumber. I discovered that on TV, I have this annoying habit of bouncing around like a jack-in-the-box. Also, I could do with wearing lesser brighter ties (D’s perfectly arched eyebrows rose just that micro-inch when I entered the class, which meant “what in the world has he done?”), besides shedding some pounds. Lest I sound too critical, let me be a narcissist and say I liked myself on TV, warts and all. So there!

Part 2 was the best, as it required me to speak about my “passion”. Well Wimpistan has been my conduit to thoughts and passions which I kept within, and so it was but logical that I talk about this. Well, I knew I had done a decent job when I saw the audience in rapt attention with nobody dozing off. And the response sheets said it all- it looked like some perfect 10s rained down on me! Even our co-coordinator said it was well done. I dunno, it was just me being me-like always. Guess I should get more involved in some public speaking opportunities…

On more casual things, we celebrated DJ’s/Col. Bday and dear D’s engagement. D has a beautiful smile and an attitude to match, so I am pretty fond of her. Well, that meant I had to be there to wish her and the others! And what a party it was. Sec B really rocks! It may be simple- no plunging necklines to oohh over or drunken monks to “manage” back to the SV, just clean,simple music and happy folks having fun! I had to slink away early as I had an official engagement in the morning, but I heard it was great fun. Here’s to more of them!

And finally the scandalous event - loosing my sensitivity…

When you see me next after reading this remember to say to me, “You have a big loud mouth !”

Nothing else can explain the situation that I put myself into; amazing myself at the uncanny ability I have to make an absolute ass out of myself with cheeky comments. Here I was chatting nicely with a good friend, who I find very interesting for some time now. Interesting because said person has absolutely no airs, is very disarming by nature, and is frank in expressing one’s mind. Oh in addition, a maddeningly attractive dimple…

And while we discussed that and this, and came to some sensitive point, I had to go and make a pretty insensitive comment. One that immediately made the whole conversation go into a what-did-you-say from the other side of the border and an uh-uh-uh from this side. Pretty much made an ass of myself. Thankfully, said person was far more forgiving that I thought, but it did not stop me from thinking twice whenever I make these smart comebacks. Hopefully I’ve learnt my lesson. If this person ever comes across this post, let it be known that I was sorry.

A more sunny post next time- that I promise!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

About a Girl…

Now that I have your undivided attention, let me begin.

Going home after a long and stressful term is bliss. I mean, I can tolerate the awful traffic to the airport, even more repulsive airline food, quite often insincere smiles from pretty airhostesses (this time they were pretty and had genuine smiles –thank god !), and then finally a ride on a perpetually dug-up main road. All for that wolfish grin from mom and bro when I walk into the door. A Lufthansa moment, if there ever was one!

Things have changed. The home now has a spanking new HUGE telly (a surprise for me supposedly), the Bose belts out a Nirvana song that lives up to the group’s name and the movie collection has some more classics, courtesy of my bro’s efforts.

And then the phone rings, and my grandmom is on the line and my mom is hunched over the phone looking at me. And history repeats itself…

Lest somebody reading this think I’m rambling, which I am, let me furnish the basic facts by dipping into my favorite subject, history. Not so long ago, I was loath to let my mom listen to conversations which I entertained with the fairer sex from school. Now, mom shows similar characteristics when I walk into a room when she’s talking to grandmom. It does not take too long to find out some of the key points of that conversation.

Soon enough, while I’m stuffing myself with some awesome food and too hungry to think straight, we discuss so-and-so who decided that this was the right time to walk the aisle. And what about miss that-and-that whose wedding has just been fixed to him-and –him?

I know where this topic is going when I notice a microscopic grin on my bro’s face as he contemplates the complicated drama unfolding in front of him. If you’re 3 years younger, come what may you always have the elder who goes through it first. And its good fun for him to notice how I extricate myself out of this conversation. McDonald’s moments really exist you know, gotta be careful !

I approach the subject with some trepidation. Thankfully nobody’s really putting the squeeze on me but I know what this all leads to. The big M.

M. Potent in meaning, infinite in experience. What does it mean when I sign up for M? Is M a rite of passage? Is it Fun? Even better fun than that which I enjoyed as a child? Can I play games? Break rules? Cry? Laugh? Do both together? Do I choose my playmate? Will I get my playmate? How do I ask her?

On other things, I did some legal homework for doing some work in the field of education, especially for the girl child. It meets the thoughts that I penned in the 4 Pillars of Respect – for the unaware. Mom is thrilled with the idea and will take charge. Need to set up the legal stuff for this. Will talk to SG in my class for some help. Thank god for diversity at ISB!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Enemy at the Gates !!!

Some opening frames of conversation amongst the populi these days :

“(Expletive) man! We got s#*%^ed in BUFFs ! “

“How’s your SAMA doing? “

“MDS ya Sematic ? What about conjoint?”

You know something’s amiss when the men stop discussing women’s attire (or the lack of it on campus) at the dinner table and talk like this. Welcome to Markstrat ! The word is now synonymous with ISBians, bringing to one’s mind long hours and countless of cups of coffee, ferocious arguments, lost hours of sleep and poring over tons of charts and graphs in search of that elusive manna from heaven – NET CONTRIBUTION!

Markstrat is a lot like speed dating. Lots of planning and preening, a touch here, a touch there, scanning out the other hopefuls, finding out missing parts in your wooing strategy, and when the moment arrives, you’re either onto something or damned to eternal celibacy. Markstrat takes no prisoners. But then, you could get lucky too :-)!

Is it addictive? Yes. Fun? Yes! And brutal? I’d say that too. My group sat up late into the night poring over maps, shooting mails declaring a jihad on competition, and egging each other on to victory. If that isn’t war, what else is?

Well, enough of this dispatch from the frontline. Excuse me while I go back to adjusting the sights on my weapon, and aim hard. Its time for the war council to meet. To lift a line from a war game – “Shoot, communicate, move, A-ha! “

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Revenge of Durga

Tiger, tiger, burning bright,
In the forest of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

I must confess to a life-long fascination of the tiger. Silent, brooding, awe-inspiring, and majestic, a tiger is poetry in action.But not so i guess, to the vermin who hunt him down.For causes as ridiculous as invigorating tired cojones,to curing every conceivable malady which could have been averted with some regular exercise,the tiger is fair game.

No where is this more relevant as in India,where more than 50 % of the tigers reside.Wimpistan would be a better word to name this country, given the pathetic efforts we seem to be making on this issue.Sanctuaries are left poorly staffed, gaurds are saddled with vintage equipment,and corrupt officials look the other way. And depressing news trickles in of bones and skins being found ,again and again.

But nothing hurts the tiger more than public apathy. Public reaction is non-existent.Those who can raise their voice do so when it comes to debating the next President,corruption in public life and gender issues. What action actually comes out of all that talk ? As one of my favorite professors would remark - "More heat, less light !"

Should we debate the tiger's fate or talk about the next President ? Well, we need to do both. However, if you wanted a rational explanation to the former, a tiger is clearly worth far more alive to the economy than if he is dead. Think of the money that can be earned on safari tours to watch the tiger! Not to mention jobs that are created in setting up infrastructure,and maintenance. Tourism which should be a money spinner in India has not recieved the attention it deserves. The "tiger trail" could change all that. This fact can be hammered home only if the people at the frontline - the villagers, the guards and the officials who oversee this are empowered and motivated by all of us. If the tiger is really the national animal that we proudly proclaim it to be , clearly it deserves a much better treatment. Is it that monkeys and elephants are revered in Indian society only because they can be "domesticated" in a temple and the proud tiger can never be so ? And at a basic level, who has the right to push another species off the brink ?

It should be our responsiblity to come out and support the tiger. What we need is awareness first. And it is upto all of us to understand the magnitude of the problem, put down our caffe lattes and move on. But I tire of asking questions and getting no answers. Will I really make a difference or are we too late in staving off the revenge of Durga ?

PS: If you would like to read William Blake's wonderful poem " The Tiger", here it is :

Friday, June 1, 2007

Nash, A Sarod and wet earth …

Is equal to bliss. Here I am, sitting in my room all alone working on some fundoo stuff on the famous Nash equilibrium late in the night. Giving me company is Ustad Amjad Ali Khan on the sarod with his mellifluous music.

It’s raining outside, and the scent of wet earth wafts in like the perfume of a beautiful woman. A pea hen coos in the background. I’m reminded of a phrase attributed to Jehangir, which he exclaimed in the Mughal gardens of Kashmir :

Agar firdaus bar roe zamminast,
hamminasto hamminasto hamminast !

(If there is paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here!). Thank you my Lord.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Head above water!

The wee hours of Sunday found me in the pool with my group mate. No, we did not have a bet to see who could get into chilly water and freeze to the bone last. See, there’s this time tested tradition of dunking the birthday boy and his/her groupies into the swimming pool. Last night happened to be my groupie’s celebration, and so to cut a long story short, I found myself in a great bath of chlorine. For the second time in a month. And I have a team of 5!

Confidence Intervals. Marginal Utility. Cash Flow Analysis. Kotler & Keller. Covariance. Correlation. Depreciation. LDP. ISB Radio- Zimbly South. Finance, marketing, commodities clubs. Head above water!

It’s been a month since I left campus. I listen to video clips of news, while I’m working the math. Multi-tasking to save the time on newspapers. A far cry from the time mom would be behind me to drop the paper and head for office. Hyd could have burnt to the ground for all I know of. Chennai and the life I left behind seem to be in the next galaxy. New friends made, old friends without touch. Got a mail from a friend few days back asking why I did not make it to another’s wedding? I miss them all, all of them. Days go by. Life’s like that and all that stuff… Now i know what it feels to set up an outpost, an empire from scratch.

Looks like I left the barn door open when I walked out. The horses are bolting!!!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

RollerCoaster !

If there was one word to describe last week, this would be it. Getting out of Madras with tons of luggage was fun enough. Add to that a new city, a sea of faces whose names you need to remember, a 270 acre campus that stretches into infinity, a plethora of clubs to sign up for, and soon it looked like I had a mini Disneyland trip on my hands.

Not that I am complaining though, I just love my decision to let go and swim into the waters of academia. It’s a pleasure to brood over assignments, figure out the next party and work on the upcoming case discussion and presentation. Who says you can’t worry and have fun doing it?

The last week has also shown that boys with be boys and girls will well… be girls. Yours truly managed to hog minor celebrity status by coming second on an RJ Talent Hunt on Campus. Soon, my silken voice shall soothe my fellow mates on the Campus Radio!

But enough of this talk, my books call out to me. Let me get back to caressing their beautiful spines and drink deep of their ambrosia. Yes, I’m in love again – with mathematics!

Moral: Never leave pen and paper to a guy sitting up at 1: 30 am with a night out on his hands and 5 ppts to absorb.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007


Ever seen a German shepherd when he sees a bowl of his favorite dog food? If yes, you can get an inkling of my feelings upon hearing that I’d been invited to Manipal. Manipal! TAPMI! Yes!

Sweeter than the invite was the fact that I, as an alumnus of that blessed institute had been invited to serve on the Admissions Board. For me, having spent 5 years fighting impossible deadlines, even more unreasonable bosses, and a social life tending to zero at times, this selection was a sweet vindication of my worth. Made saccharine by the fact that it was an all expenses jaunt. So before you could say “hallelujah”, bags packed, and face scrubbed to a shine, I was on a plane off to Mlore.

I love flights. If it’s not the thrill of take off, and the feeling of freedom while up in the clouds, then it’s the hours spent observing the good folk at the airport. Smart stewards, sexy airhostesses (why shy away from saying so?) and curious passengers caught up in their own busy world make for amazing watching. Or is it that my co-passengers are too scared to put down their make believe world of Mr. PPT, Mr. Excel and Miss Blackberry & face real life?

Finally, I got to Mlore, rushed over to grandma, got fussed over BIG TIME, grabbed some sleep and hit the road to Manipal! How do I describe the ride? Lush green fields, clean water, quaint little bridges and miles of road, with cheerful little girls selling jasmine flowers, all along the way.

And so I alighted at Eden. Some prelims later, I was all ready for interview time. Hitting the men’s washroom to freshen up, I chanced into the old crooked mirror. Seven years back,at my admission interview, I glanced likewise, mirroring a face with edgy nerves and queasy stomach. Now, here I was, the prodigal son, leaner (poetic license here…), meaner (what do you expect after 60 monthly sales target meetings?) and definitely more richer (courtesy the customers who contributed to my incentives). I seemed to have bartered my innocence for all this though. Did I lose it for my own good or otherwise?

The next two days saw me wading amongst howlers, smart Alecs and smarter people. Given that I was being paid for institutional and perfectly legal ragging, boy did I emerge as a fast learner! And so we discussed college discipline, chewing gum, the farthest way to Goa and simultaneous equations. Pummelled cute girls into jelly. Converted aggressive men into whimpering pageboys . And took the occasional fire from the smart ones. Evenings late into the night went into sampling some delicious street food, tall milk shakes and ice cream. The highlight as always was the experience strolling down the pavement, into armies of college girls from all over town, and being relentlessly assaulted by Miss. Gucci and her pretty sister Miss Nina Ricci. And sometimes their glamorous cousin, Miss Chanel herself! Did someone say Scent of a Woman?

Like all good things, before you could say, “wake up!” I was flying back into dear Chennai and the real world. Still it was nice to feel wanted, so far away from home. Till I go back again, reflections are all there are to keep me company!

PS :

5 Years have gone by since I graduated, the world is a sadder place, governments have come and gone,stock markets defy gravity and sanity, but Manipal remains pretty much the same. The bikes are all there, as are the beautiful girls, slumped scandalously all over their boyfriends, riding into the sunset. The girls as always order from the menu, and the men pick up the bill. Equality – pfah!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Valentine Blues !

This Valentine’s Day is one I would love to forget in a hurry. Then again, it’s not so easy.

I knew this day would be different, when I accepted a call to drive someone all over town and back for keeping some mundane family politics in shape. Not that I refused to do it. Next, my car got a Valentine card from my Exide battery, complete with a rose, in the center of the city. Followed by picking up folks from the station in the night to take them to a hospital, where a 2-year-old kid had had his eye removed. And watched his family members weep. To top it all I did the drive, and was a mute listener to a one-hour dirge on social, health and gynecological problems.

Oh, and what about my Valentine? Don’t get your hopes up on that one…

Days like these better be the stuff of a strictly one-time rant. Hopefully my next Valentine’s Day will treat me kindly.

Friday, February 9, 2007

When friends part ...

I miss her a lot. Her laugh, her pout, her grin. Evenings with her wolfing down spicy panipuris have come and gone in a flash. Her glaring look if angered, standing at the doorway, arms akimbo…

She descended into my life ,literally. Working in the bowels of a cold building a few summers back, I warmed up to a cheery “ Hi! “. My bum chum at work fell for her instantly. Not me, Mr. Reserved Banker with a stiff upper lip. For some time after this meeting, our conversation bordered on the Hi’s and the how do you do’s. We seem destined to end as casual acquaintances. Fate willed otherwise. Sitting with her at yet another boring office party, celebrating yet another mundane milestone, we got talking. Many stories, scandals, and great laughs later, our pact of friendship was sealed. In her, I had come across that truly rare species; a warm, genuine human being.

Many moons and several plates of panipuri later came the time to part. I drove her to the airport, hoisted her bag and bade her good bye. And did not ask for a hug. And yes, I wanted one.

I’m sure she is well settled and happy back home, no doubt making tons of friends anew. In this age & time, I’ll never be far removed from her either. But when will I get that hug from her? Or see her smile again? Or gulp panipuri together? When friends part …

Friday, February 2, 2007

Decisions, Decisions …

As a legendary procrastinator (does this word exist? – it must, spell check says ok) and a recent convert to the world of decisive thinking, I’ve always marveled at the ease with which some people take decisions. Take Dad, for instance. While I’m still flummoxed with the intricacies of the broken egg on the spotless floor, and delicately balancing the nuances of the issue on hand, he is on Step 3 of the resolution. Often, the only speed breaker he has had to handle while assisting me in solving my problems has been my own sluggishness.

Decisions fascinate. If it’s not the unknown horrors lurking in the aftermath of the choice, then it’s the fear of failure that inspires dread. My favorite reason however is the feeling of oneness behind every decision. Once a door is opened, contrary to popular myth there is only a particular door (and not multiple ones) that can be opened. Fishbone diagrams look good on fish, not in reviewing alternatives in real life.

A close second is the puzzle of why other people react to a decision. Does not my decision impact me the most? If so, and when I am at peace after deciding, why are you so hurt/ angry / jealous/ envious / aghast with it? Is it because you are forced out of your tortoise shell into making a decision, much against your natural inclination to procrastinate? Or is it because you have nothing better to do, than criticize every bloke who makes a choice ?

Why this rant on decisions? Well, I have taken some pretty significant decisions this year. I’ve identified a path for myself to walk on. More importantly, I’ve willed myself to walk on it successfully. Decided, after much sighing at the moon, to tread carefully in my love for someone. Resolved, to work harder at spreading my message of the Four Pillars of Respect. But, the most important decision I’ve taken this year till date, is to never bottle up my voice. The truth is out, thanks to this blog.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Incognito !

Fancy an Indian Captain, going unnoticed in a public place, not being mobbed by autograph hunters. Or a team player who will never be hauled up by his sponsors for mixing up the multiple brands he endorses on the field . Or the legions of girls who will never swoon over the triceps/quadriceps/ gluteus maximus of the center forward. A match not accompanied to the din of thousands of crazy cannibals (read sports fans) baying for blood ? Or a media that has no arm chair analysts to dissect performance ?

Bliss did you say ? Welcome to Indian Hockey ! I'm not exactly the neighborhood athlete, but two different experiences beg me to speak for them. The entire office that on any normal day can sit in front of their laptops till 10 pm seriously studying absurd emails is currently transplanted on the month end to the cricket stadium, screaming their throats hoarse leaving me all alone with my beloved pen.

And the second, a conversation at my office that showed me how big an ignoramus I can actually be, even without trying. Sample this:

Intro: Satish, meet Mr. Mohd Riaz, he’s an Arjuna Awardee

S : Wow ! That’s great Mr. Riaz

R: Thanks Satish .

S: But sir, what sport did you get the award for ?

R (stiffening ): Hockey .

S ( turning pink and finding a huge foot in his palate ) : Sorry Sir, my knowledge of hockey is a bit poor …

Upon beating a hasty retreat, a quick wikipedia search showed Mr. R to be the Captain of the Indian hockey team that made it to the 2000 Olympics. A part of me wonders even now, how we can turn our back to almost all of those souls who represent us, while immediately deifying those who constantly deceive our expectations.

The more sober me wonders when we shall learn to respect all of these men and women. But I live with the hope that some day all of us shall get our act together. Until we get our sensibilities straight, Mr. R and co. shall have to live with good-natured humiliation.

Ring for Jeeves !

Ever been in a fight and seen that knockout punch coming at you, tracing a trajectory to your plexus ? Or when the Indian cricket team lurches from cruising victory to abominable defeat ? And what about picking up that Math paper and all you can figure out from it is the D on the report card ?

Yup, that sinking feeling. On the surface things are sangfroid. Dive deep beneath, and the stomach is in a churn, the intestine in knots ,and the liver is AWOL . Reminds one of Bertie Wooster on his way for the seemingly definite trip to the altar ...

Saturday has left me searching for the restoratives . But how should I tackle it ? Fight or flight ?

No easy answers for this one.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Tale of two Writers.

The last week has been a sad one for the Writer’s Republic. Two trees were felled, in different settings and differing circumstances.

Art Buchwald is no more with us. For the average reader, filled to the brim with all of life’s tragedies, Art came across as a breath of fresh air. Millions have hung on every column of his, filled as they were with incisive wit and humour. Art succeeded in converting every possible tragedy (including his slow death) with characteristic humour.

Sample some of his jewels:

A bad liver is to a Frenchman what a nervous breakdown is to an American. Everyone has had one and everyone wants to talk about it.
New York Herald Tribune (January 16, 1958)

Every time you think television has hit its lowest ebb, a new...program comes along to make you wonder where you thought the ebb was.
Have I Ever Lied to You? (1968)

People are broad-minded. They'll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater and even a newspaperman, but if a man doesn't drive, there's something wrong with him.
Have I Ever Lied to You?

Just when you think there's nothing to write about, Nixon says, "I am not a crook." Jimmy Carter says, "I have lusted after women in my heart." President Reagan says, "I have just taken a urinalysis test, and I am not on dope."
Time magazine (September 29, 1986)

If you attack the establishment long enough and hard enough, they will make you a member of it.
International Herald Tribune (May 24, 1989)

People ask what I am really trying to do with humor. The answer is, 'I'm getting even.' ... For me, being funny is the best revenge.
Leaving Home (1995)

Whether it's the best of times or the worst of times, it's the only time we've got.

I'm having a swell time. The best time of my life.
About his dying

In the 90’s I remember eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Sunday Hindu paper to read what he had to say. As an avid fan, I can only say I shall miss him a lot.

Hrant Dink. Dink who? Until last week, I confess this would have been my response to this name. Not any more. Last week, this Turkish writer of Armenian descent was shot in broad daylight as he walked to his newspaper office. His crime? His outspoken attitude, especially on a controversial segment of Turkish past. While I’m no expert on history, this event coming just a week after I wrote about the Four Pillars of Respect, only goes on to buttress my resolve that the India I cherish has to be protected at all costs. Is there anyone listening out there?

I take leave with a few words from the last article of Hrant Dink, written this year before his death.
"For me, 2007 is likely to be a hard year. The trials will continue, new ones will be started. Who knows what other injustices I will be up against." – Hrant Dink.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

4 Pillars of Respect

Come one, come all ye cribbers of India Inc. Take an atlas and a compass. Place the sharp end on the dot that’s Delhi. Now cut a wide swathe such that your circle extends upto the boundaries of the EU. Now step back and look at the circle. How many countries in this “circle of hope” have regular elections? Or a vibrant fourth estate? An independent judiciary? An army that stays put in its barracks? Or all of the above? I pen my thoughts knowing that in some countries in this circle, for writing the last 2 posts, I could land in jail, have my teeth knocked out, or both. Or worse. Thus, to that accent faking johnnies, who cringe and wail about India, doing nothing else, I say - get a plane ticket out of here.

However, incorrigible MBA that I am, let me say “ On the other hand ...“ ( I just love saying that !) . On the other hand, there is very little else to talk home about. My beloved land lies buried deep under lies, politics, sex and greed beyond parallel. Dissent lives in the shadows, while intrigue basks in the warm Indian sun. In short, I’m an Indian in Wimpistan.

How have we come to such a pass? Where’s Gandhi? Asoka ? Swami Vivekanand ? Shivaji ? Ranjit Singh? Akbar? Tipu? The Buddha? Is all history a pack of lies? Did these people really spring from the land I walk today? Where is our way of life? Our culture? Morals? Why the morass despite potential? Where are our heroes?

Looking at all this, I believe what has made Wimpistan possible is a fundamental lack of respect amongst us minnows. Respect that leads to self - awareness, thence to humility and therefrom a desire to grow and achieve. What are desired are four pillars of respect, to build a strong society.

I believe these to be :

Respect for the aspirations of women.
Respect for our environment, our culture.
Respect for the laws of the land and its people.
Respect for the rights of the individual.

This is my litmus test for a true democracy and an Indian. We all have a long way to go to clear this test, but it is good to start today. The future is too precious to continue dithering.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007


Three letters that can mean a lifetime of privilege, power and the ghastly perks that go with it. It’s a divide – between the greaser and the greased palm. The difference between the long wait for passports, PAN, IT refunds and the mother of all mother documents a.k.a ration card and having them delivered to your residence. From gun toting guards, slavish cronies to salaaming bureaucrats and the world at your feet in general. In short, an India represented by a tiny icicle on the proverbial iceberg tip.

I write this trapped in a leafy one way of my beloved Adyar, opposite a V.I.P showroom waiting for the Prez AND the CM to pass us plebians. And pass they did, after 41 and 22 vehicles respectively had zoomed pass my humble car. (Yes, I counted them to kill time). Against the pale full moon, the Ambys’ looked ghostly and were they fast! I wonder if the speed was to put the miles between them and the urban squalor or for kicks. My heart goes out instantly to the great residents of Delhi who have to put up with 534 such holinesses not to mention an army of other such elite.

Where does all this splurging really take us? Do they see the millions at the bus stop with no vehicle to drive? Cant they see the slums, the potholes and the giant hoardings promising manna from heaven? If they only rolled down the windows they could also smell the perfume that wafts from our rivers, or what is left of them. It seems criminal that a nation of overwhelmingly poor people should pay for these excesses.

Why do I write about this? Because deep down I have to stand up to what is ridiculous. Its time to think of a change, and its all of us who need to act. Remember, somebody soon has to pay the bill for this party, and I have a feeling its going to be my generation.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Birth !

What is the recipe for this blog ? First, take one large generally empty brain. Next, expose it to some wonderful cinema and stuff it with star performances . Then immerse it in the sights and sounds of the lives of ordinary folk, no Movenpick and caffe latte please. Finally, add a generous dollop of advise from a tech-savvy lissome Lass . And voila - you have Wimpistan !

This burst of thought had its seed in an electrifying experience over 2 years back, aptly in a cinema complex. As a tall, dark, handsome (cinematic license this) member of a super aggressive MNC (who else )bank, my team got free tickets, popcorn and skirts to ogle for a must watch movie -Dev from our grovelling distributors. I must confess to have emerged from the hall, a changed man. As one who has grown in the splendid security of the South, and being a sales guy spouting the merits of an " India Shining" beyond compare, I saw a contrarian India . One that plundered and killed its own, for ends that were childish from the start. Logical thought held, one of these India could not exist. Rather, I saw two Indias, one all IT & cappuccino and the other with 10 hour load shedding and women abusers. Must I add, that seeing grown up men cry ( Big B breaks down in this Govind Nihlani movie ) is a powerful catalyst ?

Thoughts that reared their head again when I went on a vacation to interior India, last month and saw some of the gentlest people living in conditions that I thought were the stuff of history books. Girls reading in candlelight at night destined for a life of burden , entire villages with no electricity , the works. Thus was born Wimpistan, the brute India .

Hope came in the form of the Lass who initiated me to the power of the written word. After some initial hiccups, here I am. While I might struggle to find my feet ,and be truthful in word and soul ( I'm in sales, after all ! ) rest assured, this pen will not run dry !

To those who gawk and jeer, I have but this to say :

Blind may be I,
lame I was born with .
Deaf i am destined for,
Dumb I shall never become .