Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Blast from the past

It's strange, the way one is sometimes brought face to face with one's past when one least expects it. I don't mean it in an ominous, cimematic sense, like a situation where a person enters a restaurant and suddenly sees the son of a man he murdered 20 years ago. (Naturally, the son looks exactly like the father did. The mentally challenged audience wouldn't catch the drift of the movie if this wasn't so.) Said son then proceeds to take revenge either (a) killing the villian, or (b) ensuring he is apprehended and sentenced to death, while fighting 20 people simultaneously, dancing with buxom beauties and giving sentimental speeches about family and love along the way. But I digress.

Context: Earlier today, I was cleaning up some of my junk, as my mother puts it. Or, as I prefer to put it, I was mining my treasure trove of stuff collected over the last ten years I've lived in India. I'll admit it, I'm a bit of a hoarder. I tend to keep little scraps of paper, worthless pictures, broken stationery and hundreds of odds and ends for sentimental value. It was one such pile of objects and papers that I was clearing yesterday... and out tumbled a host of things that brought back memories of the younger, happier, simpler days.

The bus pass I used in school, complete with a photo of a very young and awkwardly-smiling me in my school uniform (I'm still smiling awkwardly in my current passport photograph - I find it very unsettling and uncomfortable to pose for a snap. My father actually dances behind the photographer's back to elicit a genuine smile from me!) Hall tickets from exams long forgotten, class notes with poems scribbled in the margins, friendship bands. Playing cards, hundreds of games of noughts and crosses. A naughty love letter with no name on it. A small teddy bear with a heart that says "I love you" (And before you ask, no, I don't know who gave it to me.)

Notes that were passed to me in school. Caricatures of teachers, scraps of stilted poetry, arguments about cricket, snide comments about classmates.

Birthday cards. Lots of them. From friends who cared about me, and whom I cared about. Friends whom I am now no more it touch with, friends who are consigned to the photo album and video archive of a part of my memory marked 'nostalgia'. Friends whom I want to contact, want to make a part of my life once more but don't know how.

Declarations of undying friendship, comradeship, passionate promises to stick together through thick and thin, to go through life together laughing, drinking, enjoying life to the fullest, together, always. From people whose faces I don't remember, whose names I can't place.

Acceptance letters and Proceedings of conferences where I presented my papers, the culmination of months of slogging. Recommendation letters (written by me, given the once over and signed by the accomodating profs in my department), acceptance letters from US universities that I gave up on to pursue an MBA.

A miniature BMW car. From a friend who asked me what I wanted most in life. At that point in time, cool dude that I was (OK, I'm stretching things a bit, but what the heck, it's my blog! I'm allowed to pump my image, given no one else will.), I responded I'd like a sleek shiny BMW. And whaddya know, that's exactly what she got me for my birthday.

And a small, beautiful earring left behind by a girl my classmates and I saw years ago under a waterfall in Coorg. A keepsake from a time of crazy, inexplicable adolescent rushes.

All making me wish I could go back in time, to ten years ago. When life was so much more fun. When everything was so much less complicated. When I knew less and therefore worried less. When I was less cynical and depressed about the world, about society and my place in it. And when I felt more secure and more at peace than, probably, any time since.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Interesting ad...

I've been meaning to mention this earlier, but it's always slipped my mind...

I've seen this advertisement for Deccan Chronicle newspaper (which has grown at a phenomenal rate of 30% p.a. in Tamil Nadu the last two years) on quite a few hoardings around the city of late.

Hot Deccan Chronicle ad

Does it really mean to communicate what I think it does, or do I just have a dirty mind?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

License to... kill?

Yesterday, I accompanied my brother to his driving tests, to get his Motorcycle With Gear (MCWG) and Light Motor Vehicle (LMV) licences. The tests were simple enough. For a bike, one had to execute a figure of eight and a U-turn with the appropriate hand signals (left, right, stop) without resting one's feet on the ground. And for a car, all one had to do was drive 100 metres on the road near the testing office. Simple. Too simple?

In my opinion, the test for a motorcycle is sufficient. The ability to execute sharpish turns with a reasonable degree of confidence is probably good enough to serve as an indicator of a candidate's ability to drive. Once the basic maneuvering is in place, driving a bike on any terrain or under any condition is not very difficult.

The test for a licence to drive a car/LMV, however, is another matter altogether.

Driving a car down a straight road for 100 meters is hardly a test of driving ability. I am reminded of the driving tests my parents and their friends went through to get a licence in Dubai, where I spent my childhood. There, the entire affair was a painfully thorough one that tested multiple aspects of a driver's capability to handle a car. From what I've been told by those who've gone through it, some of the tests involved are as follows.

Test 1: Theory
This was an oral/written test on traffic signals, road signs, driving etiquette and what-if scenarios. The RTOs in Tamil Nadu (I don't know how things work in other states - in India, Driver and Vehicle registration is a State subject - but I guess it must be similar) check only one's knowledge of the road signs.

Test 2: Parking
This test comprises of two subtests, if I may use the term. One was garage parking, where the candidate had to back in to a small garage sized space, drive out, and then drive forward into the garage and back out of it. The second parking test was kerbside parking, which was a test of parallel parking on a street, and then taking the car out onto the street with the appropriate signals. I found that the only way in which the test I saw yesterday came remotely close to this was when the candidate had to pull out from the sidewalk onto the road. The ability to park straight (this test is critical given the tendency of people in Chennai to park every which way) is never tested, much less in reverse or at an angle.

Test 3: Hill
This is the one thing that occasionally worries me when I'm driving in Bangalore, my lack of experience with hills/slopes. I doubt I'll ever drive in San Francisco, but if I do it'll be a nightmare. In Dubai, the hill test evaluated a candidate's ability to start a car while on a hill/slope, drive up to the top and then drive downhill all in complete control of the car without it going off at any point in time. The candidate would then have to stop the car, start it again and go up the hill in reverse. Now that's a test.

Test 4: Road test
This involved about 20 to 40 minutes of driving around on the city roads, through intersections, roundabouts and the like to thoroughly test the candidate's ability to drive in all sorts of traffic conditions and all forms of road configurations.

All this is in stark contrast to the driving tests here. I didn't too well on my driving test a few years ago (the car stalled twice - once because I got stuck in a ditch and didn't accelerate enough and the other because it just wasn't my day.) Not to put too fine a point on it, I failed the test. All it took was a Rs. 100 bribe and I got my licence anyways. It was only after that that I really learnt how to drive confidently, thanks to long drives in the city with my father. I had attended some classes before the test, but I was far from a finished product at that time. So, in spite of not being able to drive 100 meters (hey, it included a turn!), I obtained a licence that was valid for 20 years!

Neighbouring Pakistan has an interesting policy, the Graduated Licensing System. If Government sources are to be believed, a driver is issued a probationary licence on passing his driving test, and this gets converted into a permanent licence after two years only if the driver hasn't committed any traffic violations in that period. In addition, there are some intermediate traffic classes every licence holder is expected to take in this period. From what I've read the system is just as corrupt there but it appears to be better, atleast on paper, and more geared towards issuing licences to those who can actually drive.

Sweden, Finland and the UK have specific guidelines on the number of hours of classes/instruction a candidate must undergo with a qualified instructor prior to testing and/or specific traffic courses every candidate must take (such as one on hazards). Australia, New Zealand and Canada have a series of licences which increasing probation timespans that one has to earn based on how long on has been driving without incident. Most developed countries have similar checks in place to regulate licence issue through either stringest testing criteria or more rational issuance of licences. [Source]

Reports indicate that the number of accidents is constantly on the rise (that's not very surprising). In India, on average one person dies every hour in road accidents. Tamil Nadu features six road accidents per hour. [Source] As an increasing percentage of the population gets their own wheels in these economically fantastic and consumerist times, it is imperative that some care is taken by the authorities to ensure that licences are issued to those who can really drive, and drive responsibly.

Someone could get killed.

N.B. Although I bribed my way to a licence, I am now a confident and capable driver with five years of driving experience. That said, my brother (with an official driving experience of one day) is probably better then me. Ah well, it isn't the first time the student has bettered the teacher ;)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

What are you looking for today?

When I starting blogging in November 2004, one of the first tools I added to my blog was a hit counter. And no, this isn't leading to a bad joke about how many people have hit me for my posts, or a worse one about females hitting on me. Which, if my recent life is evidence, really is a joke.

Anyways, this hit counter thingy has proved to be one of the wisest decisions in my brief online life, and has helped me answer some very fundamental questions:

How many people are actually reading my crap?
Nearly 31000 to date!

Where are all these wierdos coming from?
60 countries worldwide, from Brunei to Guam; if you prefer it alphabetically, Australia to Venezuela.

How do they get here?
About 30% through referrals from friends' blogs, and a further 40% through online searches

What are the poor Googlers (86%) or Yahooers (10%) looking for?
That, dear reader, is the subject of this post.

A casual perusal of the search strings unsuspecting victims have used to arrive at my blog reveals that my blog is a veritable hotspot when it comes to certain topics. These search strings / keywords can broadly be classified as below

1. Things to do with IIM. And not just Ahmedabad.
2. Rain and, more importantly, Zeenat Aman (note to self: buy a bowl to catch drool)
3. All things Keralite (OK, I'm exaggerating a little... but it's true!)
4. The Bangash brothers. And their love lifes.
5. Off-beat things that I have mentioned once in a while
6. Weird things I have NEVER mentioned (the most varied and interesting category!)

I know that's a rather large set of classifications, but what the heck... I've got time on my hands and if you're actually reading this blog, you obviously do as well. So let's take a look at them in just a little more detail... and, as a disclaimer, every search string I've mentioned below really, truly has been used to get to my blog!

1. Things to do with IIM. And not just Ahmedabad.

This makes sense, given the fact that a very large number of my posts (about 25% of them) are directly about the IIMs, or mention them in some way.

Some stumble onto this blog looking for advice ("decide iim kozhikode indore 2005", "why join iim kozhikode?", "which iim to join lucknow kozhikode interview"), some looking for information ("IIM Ahmedabad mess food", "life in IIM Ahmedabad dorm", "nice wildlife park near Ahmedabad") and some just have their own peculiar worries ("IIM Lucknow failure rate", "how to survive at IIM ahmedabad calcutta bangalore")

Most of these have landed on one of the following posts
- My fascinating experiences at the IIM interviews: I look at James Bond's boss Part 1 and Part 2
- My commentary on the mess at IIMA: Week 2 - whoooosh!
- My initial impressions, and the flora and fauna at IIMA: July 2005

2. Rain. And Zeenat Aman.

Now this is one thing I didn't expect at all. I have only written about Zeenat Aman in one post - this one - in the context of the rain, but any pervert or connoisseur (needless to say, I fall in the latter category) seems to drill straight to this.

Some of the subtle search strings used have been one variation or the other of "satyam sivam sundaram zeenat clips". But it's the one's that aren't quite as subtle that make for the most interesting reading such as the relatively acceptable "zeenat aman hot", the anatomically correct "satyam zeenat bosom" and the rather more passionate "satyam sivam zeenat aman wet dream". Here's hoping the generous mention of Zeenat Aman in this paragraph (6 times!) draws these Zeenatphiles evermore!

Zeenat Aman (number 7) apart, there are also a fair number of those who appear to share my love of rain (with search strings like "soft rain light drops" or "Zeenat in rain wet dance". Another massive draw is the title of the blog
Dum dum diga diga
Mausam bheega bheega
which has brought loads of those searching for the lyrics to my blog. There is the occasional variation though, such as "wet smell of earth after rain Raj Kapoor" and "dum dum diga diga little girl kerala". Which brings us very smoothly (pat on back) to Classification #3.

3. All things Keralite

An astonishingly large number of people on the internet are running searches on strings that begin with the word 'mallu'. The search strings themselves range from the boring and cliched "mallu girls" to the mildly interesting "mallu beach party" and "gods own country parathas" to the confusing yet fascinatingly peotic "mallu pallu" What makes the whole thing even wierder is that I have barely mentioned anything mallu at all, much less about mallu pallus. All my blathering about anything remotely Keralite has been restricted to two posts
- An account of a fun trip to NIT Calicut: Omanakutty Chaikadapatti
- A very brief mention of a Malayalee interviewer from IIM Kozhikode: I look at James Bond's boss Part 1

4. The Bangash brothers

I have it on good authority that Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash are not single. I know it, you know it (now that I've told you), but there are loads of people out in Cyberspace who apparently do not know it. Which is why they end up at my post Sarod and Saarang begin with 'S' with hopeful pleas such as "Are the Bangash sarod brothers single?" and "ayaan ali bangash looking for girlfriend" Those who aren't necessary looking for a relationship have relatively staid search strings ("amaan ali bangash interview 2005", "bangash sarod iitm"), but there is a certain class of discerning blog visitors who are looking for the little extra something, as evidenced by those Googling "ayaan ali bangash banging girlfriend" or "bangash sarod player hot smooch". Oh well, it takes all types...

5. Off-beat things that I have mentioned once in a while

Apart from routine requests for "ranting swede" and "panchangam", some of the more interesting search strings that have led, quite understandably perhaps, to my blog are
- "iitians and girlfriends": Not something I can claim to be an expert on... but this is where it led to
- "sucked in paunch" : something I have a long history of experience with, and which made its blog debut here. Even as the days go by, I'm fighting a losing battle with my paunch, which is now firmly entrenched on a growth trajectory outwards and downwards. Sigh.
- "badly need to pee": Ah, a kindred soul! This leads unerringly to one of my more recent posts here. Nowadays, of course, I lose more fluids through incessant perspiration than either forced or natural excretion.
- "tuby heroine": I'm assuming this was meant to be tubby heroine... again, a term I've mentioned only once in 46 posts, here, in the context of Tamil film heroines. Come of think of it, tuby may not be too far off the mark, either... hmmm...
- "mosquito killing finland": Aah... this one's a personal favourite, only because it brings back pleasant memories of my early days in the blogosphere. I had discussed this fascinating contact sport in this post in November 2004.

6. Weird things I have NEVER mentioned

OK, now this beats comprehension. I have NO idea why the following search strings led to my blog... I've tried tracking them through Google but to no avail... try them yourselves if you have the time (which you do) and the inclination (which you probably don't), and do let me know if you can figure them out!
- "college guy jerking off"
- "maurice green weight statistics"
- "gay comic lord of the springs"
- "dream big and bedding and stars and blue"
- "joshi maths coaching lucknow"
- "winking giraffe video clip": This takes the cake for most wierd and arbit search string to hit me ever. Ever.

So there you have it, dear reader. I've spouted all the data and statistics I have, much like a consultant report. Not that it's really going to do either of us any good. Except, of course, for the fact that I might just get more Zeenat Aman hits from now on!