Tuesday, April 26, 2005


I am a very angry guy right now. Very angry.

I was all set to leave for Ahmedabad on the morning of the 20th (I have to report there on the morning of the 23rd), and was two minutes away from booking my ticket, when a couple of elderly people pointed out that I hadn't checked the Panchangam to check if it was an auspicious day.

For the uninitiated, a Panchangam is a Hindu Vedic calender, a series of sheets of paper with dates, numbers and arbit arcane markings. It tells us which days are good, and which would get you killed or eaten by a croc or something. And it's all based on the stars and the alignment of miscellaneous celestial bodies. And this document says that the 20th of June is a bad day for travel. As is the 19th. And the first half of the 21st and the 22nd.

No offense, but b*lls! I refuse to accept that a bunch of stars guide my life and decide what I should do when. We are told to dream big, to make our own destinies and all that, yet we are shackled by having to bow before the diktats of a Vedic calender. I mean, come on!

I don't believe in astrology. I think it's all mumjo-jumbo, whatever MM Joshi may claim. I don't claim to be a maajor man of science or something, and am willing to give in to 'tradition' and 'custom' at times, but I do draw the line at stuff like this. I'm sure there are plenty of bad days in the year, yet we hardly find catastrophes occuring on a regular basis. It seems to me a singularly idiotic way of making travel plans.

I'm sure that atleast half the days I've gone to college, I've left home at a forbidden time like Yamagantam, yet nothing particularly bad has happened. My cousin was the only person in her class who took her exam hall ticket during Rahukalam, yet she topped her school with 95%! Given the way the bad times keep coming around so frequently and at different times each day, following a policy of checking for auspiciousness is bound to lead to a LOT of wasted time and seriously low productivity.

And another thing I find infuriating at times is the blind belief that some people place in these things. Ask them why they follow it, and all they'll say is that this is what their elders told them. Oh, please, why did you never think of questioning anything at all? (I've noticed this tendency most among those who were my age not in the rebellious 70s but in the not-so-rebellious-and-absurdly-acquiescent-40s, 50s and 60s.)

Free, getting too hot under the collar... just can't stand all this astrology crap.

Am very angry. Now I have to either travel by train on the 18th and end up there 3 days in advance, or take a flight that cost three and a half times as much. #$%@.

<-- update -->
After a bit of an argument with the family priest (in spite of the scandalized protests of the aforementioned elderly people), I got him to admit that the inauspicious times strike only in the last minute of the 20th, and it is therefore Vedically and celestially alright for me to travel on the 20th.

I still don't hold with astrology, though.
<-- end of update -->

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Can you stomach the news?

You've seen a very large number of policemen have it. 80% of the professors in my college do too. As do 3 out of every 10 kids in America, if statistics are to be believed. (That may not be easy, as reports suggest 48% of all statistics are crap.)

The guy who comes to collect our waste paper has one, as does the gangleader at the auto stand at the end of street. Atleast 3 of my close uncle-level relatives have it. A number of my friends do, and now I have one too.

Laies and gentlemen, I am now the not-so-proud owner of a paunch. OK, maybe owner's not the right term to use (how about possessor?), but you get the point. The bottom line (no jokes about the ass crack, please; this is a family blog) is that I have a paunch.

Sure, that's a huge advantage if you are aspiring to be a Tamil movie star. It obviates other requirements like a face that won't make babies cry and a basic ability to act. If you're tubby, chances are you'd almost definitely be cast in some movie with a heroine (or female hero, to be politically correct) who will rival you in terms of lard, and you'd get to be a part of weird dances in foreign locales or the lush hills of Ooty to songs that have no relation whatsoever to the movies they appear in. You might also get advertising offers that lean heroes who stammer, need no excuse to take off their shirts or have an extra thumb can only dream of. An example? Bye bye Bebendum, you'd be the new face of Michelin.

But the fundamental point I would like to ram home is that I do not want to be a Tamil movie star. I don't want a paunch. And I don't like the way it's kind of sprung up suddenly.

My paunch has developed like a bird's egg. [Feel free to scratch your head in perplexity. While you're doing that, I'll scratch my head coz it itches. Much relieved, I'll get back to the egg analogy.] Now, bird's eggs hatch after a long period of being warmed by the mother's bottom. But the exact moment when the shell will crack and the little birdie inside will peep out and cry 'Mama!' to the first thing it sees (hey, I get all my info from cartoons) is completely unpredictable. Like one's marks in an Anna University exam. You stay awake for 72 hours in the fervent hope that you will be able to experience the joy of watching a bird-birth... but there's no sign of the bird. Not even a beak. You decide it's not gonna happen anytime soon and settle down for some shuteye, when a crraaack signals the opening of the shell. You rush to the egg only to find that the bird is now frolicking on your table and that the kettle has upstaged you as the little winger's Mama. OK, I had a point to make there, somewhere...

Ah yes, the unwelcome guest appeared all of a sudden. Out of the mists, even. Totally unexpected. I mean, there I was, happily paunchless on the day of our college photo shoot (people grumble about posing in the sun and then go completely berserk in taking weird group shots - B Batch guys, CSE Girls, Infamous Rowdy Gang, CSE Girls with Nandan, All people whose names begin with H...) and posing in my favourite kurta (theme: ethnic. Lungis allowed). I peeked at a friend's digital camera to see how the shot had come out when, out of the blue (literally; it's a blue kurta), protruding insolently from my middle, was the @#$% paunch. I reeled, stunned. I knew I'd been putting on a little weight (OK, OK, not a little), but not to the extent where I'd grow a mini potbelly! Nobody else seemed to notice it, but I could notice nothing but it. In the camera's 2D screen, it stood out in 3D. Bold. Unafraid. Proud to have gone where no lipidinous mass had gone before.

I sucked in my breath, but that made my face go red and I really didn't want to appear in all the photos as though I'd just swallowed a college chappathi the wrong way. It was either the face or the tummy. I went in for a compromise. My tummy looks relatively OK (suck in just a bit and hunch forward so the kurta falls over and not around the stomach), while my face looks like I badly need to pee, but not so badly that I can't wait to finish the shot. Perfect.

This astonishing development (if your thinking of a PJ about the photos being developed, I must inform you they were all digital cameras) is a result of my enforced layoff from college since November 2004. I've only had to attend college two days a week since then, and that has seen my waistline and weight competing to see which can increase by the higher percentage (my weight is currently in the lead).

Drastic situations demand drastic action. I'm gonna go have a snack. Then I'll watch some TV, and then I'm gonna start a strict exercise regimen. I don't want to panic and stress my body too much so I'll go slow but steady. Look out for a fitter, stronger, faster, slimmer me in June 2007.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

I look at James Bond's boss - Part 2

Why is this blogpost titled thus? What madness prompted it? And what does this have to do with 53 dead monkeys?

Why does Noot want to kill Pancho? Whose magic cloak was found at VT? And what does this have to do with the weird hieroglyphs on Sammy-Boy's coffin? Will Noot and Pedro live happily ever after? Or will evil Sven Korastapoupolous triumph?

To find out, read on...

But to understand what the hell is going on, read Part 1 of this post...

Flashback: 06 April, 2005.

The dark room is lit only by the glow of the computer monitor. A shadowy form is hunched in front of it, typing details into a form feverishly.

Please enter your Test Registration Number and Date of Birth

Test Registration No. : xxxxxxx
Date of Birth : Date Month Year

The words flash on the screen...

Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad
Admission Status : Post-Graduate Programme in Management (PGP 2005-2007 batch), IIMA

You have been selected for admission to PGP (2005-2007 batch), IIMA.

The shadowy form pushes back its chair, toppling it over, and breaks into a wierd and wild celebratory dance, vaguely reminiscent of the rain dance of the now extinct Lobofilipogolo tribe of the Saharan rainforest.

Flashforward: 08 April, 2005.

The screen flashes...

CAT 2004 result

You have been selected for admission to PGP (2005-2007 batch), IIMB.

The frenzied dance begins again...

YAHOOOOOOOO! I'm over the moon, like the cow in the poem. Though why on earth (semi-pun unintended) it jumped over the moon, I do not know. Or care, to be frank. Cows that are psychotic enough to jump over moons do not figure high on my list of priority things to be dealt with.

I'm just jumping and singing and dancing coz I've got into the institute I wanted to get into. All that's left is to decide where I'm going - A or B. Not an easy decision at all.

I want to thank each and every person who's made this possible. My parents for putting up with me and encouraging me to dream. Goach, Nandan, Kitty, Appi and everyone else in class at college who kept throwing good-natured insults at me when I was working out CAT exercises, spurring me on to work out even more. Everyone at the coaching class, who pushed me to prove myself and help me out with stuff I had problems with. Archana, Murr, Mul and others who helped me believe in myself and my capabilities. Sujatha, Aditya and the other CAT-takers who helped me benchmark my performance, taught me to work in a group, shared info with me (did you know that the IT (or is that ITES?) sector employs 1 million and contributes 4% to India's GDP?), and helped me aim higher... And basically everyone else who supported and encouraged me, and believed in me even when I did not.

And last but most definitely not the least, the awesome folks at PagalGuy, the bestest ever CAT resource.

Just to complete the Oscaresque thank you speech, I'd also like to thank the pet dog I never had, the pet puppies it never fathered/mothered, the pet cat it never fought with, and Kishore Kumar.

What have I learnt from the entire GD/PI process?
Feeling kinda lazy, don't feel like typing out everything. Here's some; if you want more gyaan, just mail me or leave a comment or something.
1. There are a lot of pretty women in Bangalore. And a large number of them are at IIMB.
2. The atmosphere when one is waiting to be called in for an interview is very conducive to coming up with PJs and lousy puns. Maybe the nervousness helps.
3. There are approximately 57 different ways to say 'I don't know,' ranging from the 'shit I'm nervous and I'm gonna pee in my pants oops there I go' kind of I don't know to the 'hah I'm super confident that I don't know and proud of it and I'm gonna show it' type.
4. Panelists love math and neural networks.
5. The IIMB campus ROCKS!
6. I sleep better on a berth in a moving train than I do in my own bed at home.
7. When wearing the same shirt for multiple interviews, it might be a good idea to wash it once in a while.
8. Ditto for socks.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I look at James Bond's boss - Part 1

For those not tuned in to the weirdness that is me, the title of this post translates to 'I eye M', which is a very very tortuous way of saying 'IIM'.

The messages in my TagBoard got me thinking. I had written this post long ago (10 days, to be precise) but decided against putting it up coz I didn't see the point. But I shall now, just for the heck of it. Part 2 follows in a while.

NB: The following information may not really be of any use. For a proper, unbiased perspective on good GD/PI tactics, ask someone else. (That's about as legal as I can make my disclaimer).

Flashback: 02 April, 2005. Any time of the day. Say, 1400 hrs. Why, you ask? Well, why not?

I'm back from Bangalore, from the last of my interviews. 5-odd weeks of trying to convince guys who are usually old and sometimes humourless that I am not as much of an idiot or as incompetent as they insist on believing I am. Telling them time and again why management is really what I want to do, and that having me in their institute is a win-win situation for both. Selling my dreams and myself.

I don't really know if it'll work... anyways, the results will be out in a couple of weeks.

A lot of you have been asking me how the interviews have gone... so here goes... here's what I felt about them...

IIM Kozhikode
Super peaceful GD, only six of us! All about cricket and its relation to other sports, very very satisfying talk. On the interview panel was a very friendly mallu guy, with a very mallu moustache and a very mallu accent. The panelists were smiling and laughing throughout, though I still don't know whether they were laughing with me or at me...
Rating: 3.5/5

IIM Indore
Nice, peaceful GD. First case. Also first time I met Sujatha, Teerthankar Dubey (a nice IITM chap with 99.99 percentile), and a whole lot of other IITians at the GDs; we were fated to be thrown together at practically every other GD too... very serious panel, but I managed to crack all the Qs they threw at me... All networks Qs (IP, addressing, security, Email). This is the first time in my life I've managed to correctly answer five Computer Science questions in a row!
Rating: 3.5/5

IIM Ahmedabad
The biggie. Very jargon-heavy discussion. Supply chain, horizontal and vertical expansion, core competence, cross holdings, back-door entry... these and more such phrases were thrown about with gay abandon in a session where we ran out of ideas in about 10 minutes but we mercifully stopped before we made fools of ourselves by going round in circles. Cool panel, very easy to talk to, lots of laughter again. Came out feeling really good, but so did a thousand other candidates, so that isn't much to go by...
Rating: 4/5

IIM Calcutta
A warning was circulated among the gathered candidates not to champion capitalism to the comrades on the panel. No one knew where that came from, but there it was. Not that the chance for an intellectual discussion on capitalism arose. A rather boring GD topic, with the irrepresible Deepak Mahadevan in full flow and Teerthankar threatening to shut me up if I interrupted with the stock phrase 'If I may just complete my point...' Thankfully, just a 10 minute discussion.
A really really fun interview (no tech, yay!), where I had to convince the guy that quizzing rocks and that it makes sense to be a day scholar and not a hostelite in my college.

Panel: So, what kind of music is your favourite?
Me: Old Hindi music
Panel: What do you mean by old? For us, 1998 is old!
(Polite little heh-heh-hehs all around)

Oh, and they asked me to sing a song!
Rating: 4.5/5

IIM Lucknow
A disaster from the start. Two member panel, one super irritable guy (who didn't seem to like the way his life was going at all) and the other a chap who would definitely have nodded off had the other guy not been talking. Political GD, all about Kashmir. Easy to talk about but somewhat zzz.
Interview was one big gooey yucky bleah mess. All about economics, which I'm OK with. But all about economics statistics, which I am only half OK (i.e. O or K) with. At three different instances in the space of 8 minutes (which all clever CAT types will work out to be once every 2.67 minutes), the irritable dude (ID) said "You don't seem to know anything. I don't know what to ask you."

ID: You don't know what the percentage contribution of Manufacturing is to the GDP, you don't even know it's absolute rupee value. And you want to be a manager! (Derisive snort) You need to have this information to make a decision now.
Me: (puzzled) I realise that, Sir, and if I ever need to make a decision I'll ensure I have all the necessary information. But, in this case, what precisely is the decision we are talking about for which I need to have this information? (Or something like that)
ID: A decision of National Policy
Me: (WTF?!?!?!?!)

Rating: 1/5

IIM Bangalore
The other biggie. Another case... Loooong discussion - 20 minutes! Got jacked in the interview. One of the panelists was a Professor of Quantitative Methods (Math Dude MD), and he asked me one hell of a lot of questions on mathematics, none of which I had a clue about. The Other guy (OG) was rather quiet, except for the first 5 minutes. As soon as I walked in,

OG: You're a Computer Science student right?
Me: Yes, sir.
OG: OK, I'll ask you some questions.

And he proceeded to open up a notebook and read out multiple choice questions from it! It was all rather disappointing; I mean the fact that he did not know Computer Science himself (he read out a coupla questions/terms wrongly) and was purely checking whether my answer matched the tick in his book...
MD then took over and that's when things went downhill faster than a drunk Calvin riding an avalanche. Or whatever, I'm lousy at imagery.

MD: What do you know about conditional and unconditional optimisation?
Me: Huh?
MD: Optimisation.
Me: I'm sorry Sir, I've never come across it. We've never learnt optimisation.
MD: (Something about maxima and minima)
Me: (Nodding my head vigorously and excitedly to indicate that I had heard of these terms before and that they were not strangers to me. Not exactly bosom buddies, but not complete strangers either.)
MD: Now, optimisation (gobbledygook) two ways (more gobbledygook) maxima-minima and
Legrangian methods. Which is suitable for conditional and unconditional optimisation, and why?
Me: (Reeling) Ahem... (winning smile) I don't know.

And more and more math... Even now, I shudder as I think of it... And then Sujatha goes in and gets questions like, "What is the equation of a line?" !!! Grrr...
Rating: 2.5/5

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Dum dum diga diga
Mausam bheega bheega

The oppressively humid and sultry weather that Chennai has seen of late has been broken today by a few hours of good rain. Beautiful, wonderful rain.

I've just got back from a very peaceful and invigorating walk in the rain. I'm thoroughly drenched and thoroughly happy. I love rain. I share a very special relationship with it.

I have spent over 13 years of my life in Dubai. It's a mindblowingly awesome place, except for the fact that it rains only for a period of two months in a year, if at all. In addition, the rain is very ordered, soft and quiet, just like the traffic there. In fact, showers are mere sputterings of H2O from the clouds, and are barely worth being called rain. My first encounter with real rain came at the age of two when I visited Bombay (a notorious place for seasonal downpours). I was moved to tears. OK, to be frank, I was scared shitless. I had never known that rain could be so powerful, so angry, so evil (as it seemed to me at that age and size) and so LOUD. I burst out crying and ran to my mommy...

But over the years I've seen all types of rain, and have come to understand and appreciate its simple beauty. There's light, soft rain that caresses your skin. And the type of shower that feels like a million fairies planting soft kisses all over you. The 'shower' shower which is like, well, a shower in terms of force and droplet impact. Also the 'fat rain', as I call it, with big fat drops which is like a big fat auntyji planting a wet, sloppy kiss on your cheek. And the heavy types which pound into and onto you, similar to the manner in which my classmates attack me after a particularly unbearable pun. And, of course, the destructive and powerful big daddy type, which you can only stand aside and watch in sheer awe and curiously excited horror.

Rain always puts me in an exceedingly good mood. I tend to go about skipping and singing and dancing and generally losing all my inhibitions. There have been several ocassions when the old lady next door has given me a disapproving glance when I let out of whoop of joy on feeling the first few drops of rain...

Rain also puts me in an exceedingly romantic mood. But the dampener (pun intended!) is the fact that I generally don't have anyone to be romantic with... and no girl (next door or otherwise) gives me a glance (disapproving or otherwise) when I let out of whoop of joy on feeling the first few drops of rain...

It is undeniable that rain has been a very important part of my life. It forced me to stay indoors and study when I was younger. (I don't stay indoors now. Nor do I study, rain or otherwise) Monsoon duets exposed me to a whole new genre of love songs... and rain-drenched Hindi actresses sated my adolescent longings (Zeenat Aman in Satyam Sivam Sundaram : mmmm!). It's helped me make new friends (co-rain-lovers), and always cheers me up with either pass or compartment... er, without fail. It gives me a chance to curl up on the sofa with a hot cuppa and a good movie, and allows me to wash away my worries and grumpiness by going on long drives with the rain and wind in my face. It also eases the chronic water shortage that cripples the fine city of Chennai. (People say, "Save water; shower with your boy/girlfriend". For those without boy/girlfriends, I say, "Save water; don't bathe." You can save more than the mere two buckets you'd save with Surf. And don't worry, nobody will suspect a thing. I've managed a once-a-week-bath lifestyle for six years now.)

Rain also causes the city drains to clog up, leading to entire roads being submerged. It gives auto-drivers a ready excuse to hike fares 250%. Perhaps the most important effect is that a steady shower makes it damned difficult to get six copies of a 150 page project report printed and bound the day before the submission deadline. In the past, a downpour has resulted in my contracting leptospirosis. (If you would like the whole story - it's a long and entertaining one! - including graphic details of mid-thigh-high water levels and cockroaches climbing up my trouser leg, do leave a comment to that effect.) A sharp shower will result in stagnant pools that will breed mosquitoes which will keep me up until 3 a.m. killing them. And once the rain stops the general mugginess will be unbearable. Yup, rain can cause one hell of a lot of problems.

But, for now, as I see the tree branches bending gracefully under the force of the rain and take in the beautiful smell of fresh, wet earth, I can't help but praise Nature

Surat aapki subhan Allah, hai Allah,
Surat aapki subhan Allah.