31 December, 2009

Ten years and counting

In the dying hours of 30th December 1999, 5 idiots bought general class train tickets from Suratkal station to Madgaon (After stocking themselves and their bags up with some lots of rum). The trip which followed is hard to explain in any rational or irrational manner. Over the next 40 hours, the following things were done or undone:

1. Sharing of 60 ml (nahi nahi 40 ml) of a drink with strange friendly boy - no
2. Nattu had to turn off the ayshee - yes
3. Papa asking us to take a helicopter to Goa - no
4. Seeking Shah on a train from Gujarat after speaking to his mother at 5am- yes
5. Finding a lot of Shahs on the train - yes
6.a. Finding our Shah - no
6.b. Finding two friends from school who recognised you - yes
7.a. Putting yellow paint on trousers - yes
7.b. Going through the motions of getting a hotel room - yes
7.c. Walking out of a hotel when deemed too expensive - yes
8. Getting drunk by 1pm - yes
9. Puking on one's self while lying down faceup on the beach - yes
10. Ushering in the new year with a drink - no
11. Nursing a hangover at 4pm - sunset - yes
12. Drinking water only after asking friend to borrow it from topless middle aged woman - yes
13. Eating Tandoori chicken - yes
14. Going into Tito's (stag entry - rs. 1800 for everything, girls could enter for free) - no
15. Mysteriously vanishing for a few hours - yes
16. Sleeping around a bonfire - yes
17. Cursing odd looking boy with hot looking girl (and wishing him dead) - yes
18. Almost dying in the cold - yes
19. Sleeping on bus back to goa to be woken up by conductor - yes
20. Sleeping on bus back to station to be woken up by conductor - yes

Addy/Goldie/Rao/Jazz - I am touched to note that we are still in touch.
Everyone else at baccmavs - We have done 50% of 'bees saal baad'

28 December, 2009

Mama's wedding

I am a married man now since Dec 9th 2009. More on that in a separate post, very rarely do things happen in my life which I want to write about so I do not want to loose out on them and stick to the order.
About two weeks before my wedding, I took a flight to Mumbai on my way to Trivandrum via Mangalore. The plan was to visit KREC for a day and then take the train from Mangalore to reach Trivandrum the next day for two days of fun and frolic at Mama's wedding. My flight from Mumbai was preponed and I missed it. I spent the night at Chaku's house (who is also from KREC and was planning to come to college with me - bag baggage missus and son) and all of us took the flight the next day to Trivandrum.
We were in Trivandrum one day early. I was a bit worried about getting bored, but then I had Sid for company (more on him below) and by the end of it, I really liked my stay in Kerala. Everyone we asked about what to do in Trivandrum  and the answer was - go to Kovalam. Kovalam was the daytime and the nighttime capital of anything we wanted to do there... so go to kovalam we did. The first evening, we ended up in the Leela Kovalam, which has a large infinity pool (you can see it in the closing shots of the movie Rock on) overlooking the Arabian sea. We planned to have a massage but turned it down in favour for their nice buffet dinner, which has authentic kerala cuisine (all 6 items) and a lot of north indian fare (tandoori chicken, aloo gobi and so on).
Early next day, we took a cab and were back on the beach by 8 (I think). The cabbie shocked my by his timeliness. He arrived exactly at 7:30. I think that I am so caught up with all the trappings on living in a big city that small city life never fails to please me.
Some pics below from the fun I had that day - Chaku + Deepti + Sid + me + Kovalam. The day started with a few hours on the beach - the early sun and the fishermen pulling in their nets. It was followed by a nice oil massage. Chaku and Deepti took turns for their massage so that Sid was not left alone. I ended up alone with him for a bit as Chaku was taking his shower while Deepti's had started. I was scared imagining Sid bawling for his Papa or Mummy but Sid remained the happy and sunny child that he always is...

After a bit, we dragged ourselves to this place called the German Bakery which is also on Kovalam beach.
(Kovalam beach is a series of beaches - by themselves, they are not very long, but the beach is perfect. They are shorter than many other beaches, including the one at KREC. However, the beaches are perfect. Clean sand, gradual inclines into the water, decent waves).

Later, quite a few others made it to the same bakery. Riju (flying in from Delhi), thePingus, the KCPs and so on. Below - Sid at the bakery, the lighthouse (on the lighthouse beach) which looks very similar to the view on KREC beach and a pic of almost all of us (Except for Chaku and Deepti) towards the end of the day at the German bakery.

I really liked the functions I got to attend. The functions were straightforward and uncomplicated.
On the eve of the wedding, there was a simple function with the groom's family and friends (us) where Mahesh's brother's availability as a single man was announced. The function had a bartender who insisted on leaving very little space for any thing other than Chivas, an excellent meal and great fun.
Even the wedding and the reception were very to-the-point. Lots of things were done with minimum of fuss.
We arrived at the church at 11:15 and got seats which were somewhere in the middle. By 11:35 the groom had walked in and soon after, so did the bride. By 12:30, all was done - the wedding as well as the sunday (?) mass. By 1:00 pm, we were all at the Trivandrum club for the reception. At the reception as well, both the families were introduced, from great-grandfather down (5 minutes), along with the bride's and groom's current education and employment status. The groom's younger brother's availability was announced to a larger audience (about 600 people). With all this out of the way, the lunch layout was explained. By 1:45, there were a group of about 20 IIMA friends + spouses ready to go home and fall asleep after carefully stuffing themselves with chicken/meat/beef/pork :).

Overall, it was a great wedding to be at, made more fun by Sid and so many of my friends who could come.
It was a nice way to spend my last bachelor weekend, not really for any last gasp 'bachelor' activities, but a reminder of how things are with friends - laughter, lazing and lunacy.

02 December, 2009

Five year plans

How important is a planner to the plan? If the plan outlives the planner or if the plan and the planner are no longer in the same frame of reference, then what. I do not think I am making  any sense...

I have made plans all my life. Here is an example of a plan for things to do before I turn 35:

1. To get married
2. To travel to Peru, south of France, Morocco, Egypt, New Zealand and Kanha national park
3. To have one or more child
4. To own a house/home/flat
5. To donate 50 computers to Netarhat school
6. To be fitter than I am
7. To be connected to friends and family

There are instances of co-planning, but the conspirators are far removed from my life now.
Life will always be about planning and I have a long term co-planner moving in just over a week to live with me for the forseeable future and beyond :)
I just hope and wish that the plans are fulfilled to varying degrees of success. I hope even more for more and more planning...a plan captures the present, future and even the past within itself.

15 October, 2009

Getting married

I am getting married to Sugandh on the 9th of Dec in New Delhi. There are going to be a  few functions around it and the dates are below.

4th or 5th December: - Cocktails (Club 84, New Delhi) Not happening due to lack of quorum

6th December - Engagement (Taurus Mess, Delhi Cantt, New Delhi)
7th December - Tilak (PWO housing society, Gurgaon)
9th December - Wedding (Great India celebration, Noida)
10th December - Reception (Taurus Mess, Delhi Cantt, New Delhi)

27 September, 2009

Climate change up close and personal

One of my parents old friends visited us last week for about half a day. They used to live close by to our house in Ledo, Assam for about 7 years and have kept in touch ever since. They have since moved to Calcutta. Uncle has worked in tea estates all his life and continues to work as a director for a tea company with estates in northern Bengal.
It is always great fun to meet them. Some of my father's friends are from Telco, Jamshedpur or earlier. I was around 7 when we left Telco, which is why I dont remember any of them. However, with Raghu uncle and Shiela aunty, it is very different. I remember meeting them for the first time as well in Assam and most of the time I have spent in their house. They had a typical tea planter's bungalow. As with many tea bungalows in Assam, all of this had been built long before independence - a time when all the tea managers were British.The bungalow had 2 lawns, each the size of two tennis courts, a vegetable garden the size of a football field, a temple and a swimming pool. There was a separate cooking area and two staircases, one for the sahibs and one from the back for the servants. I was taught how to swim in this pool. Every summer, the pool would be cleaned and filled up. I would reach their house soon after breakfast and swim for a few hours with their son - Akshay. We would break for lunch (heavy) and an afternoon nap(deep). We would be in the pool again in the evening. Uncle and Aunty would also join us later in the evening. At times, even my parents joined. Those were long, happy days.
I asked him if he had seen any changes in the climate in the years in the tea plantations. His job is very close to nature. Tea grows in Assam well because of the climate. It needs a lot of rain (about 100cm a year) in well distributed installments, in a somewhat cool climate and needs great drainage so that the rain water does not settle. Because of this, the entire industry is also a dedicated climate watcher. Tea estates keep detailed daily records for rainfall and temperature. He said that the changes were very, very visible. The temperature regularly crossed into the 40s, where only ten years ago, the yearly maximum used to be around 37 degrees. Rains are now less predictable. He also said that animal habits were changing. Wild elephants and bisons strayed more often into the estates as their forests are getting encroached upon. Entire species of birds were vanishing. Some of the estates used to become a resting place for bees. Every winter, thousands of bees would fly in from Sikkim and make over a hundred hives all through the estate. They have not returned for over two years.
There would be millions of such stories of people who feel a tangible impact of climate change. I cant help but notice that city dwellers like me with oil powered cars and oil powered electricity feel only a negligible impact of climate change.
Speaking of earth-shaking changes, I have a big personal one to add.
I am getting married. The dates are not cast in stone yet, but the person is. She is an absolute delight to be with. I will upload pics when I have some. All my readers (all 5 of you) are invited to the wedding. More details to follow.

23 September, 2009

Diditz @ DEMO

Diditz made it at Demo today. It is an app made and financed by a few friends of mine. It comes as a standalone social network as well as a facebook application. It links up very well with existing communities and walls on facebook and helps organisers tap into search engine traffic to promote their events.

I think it is very cool. TC missed covering it but it still looks to go places.

19 September, 2009

I dreamed a dream....(the same dream again!)

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high and life worth living...

(Susan Boyle sang it out and swayed so many people - me included - I had heard this song for the first time with some of my friends falling asleep on my shoulder in a theatre in London and impact was no where close to Ms. Boyle on a 14" youtube window)

Then I was young and unafraid
Dreams were made and used and wasted.....
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted

I had a dream my life would be
So different from what I'm living....

Anyway, this post is about a dream but somehow thinking about dreams and i started thinking about the last few lines of this song. It is not a repetitive dream, but there is this particular theme (se1) around which I dream about everytime there is going to be some change in my life. I have mentioned this earlier (here and here). In fact, given my lucid dreaming tendencies, last night, when I was having another one of these dreams, I was not even surprised. It was more like a "here we go again" moment for me. But I thought I will write about it to make sure that I record this for future introspection etc.
Why this dream?
If my head was a personal computer, remembering something is like accessing a hard drive and then playing it after decoding the file. A dream is also about accessing the same hard drive, but using more fuzzy decoders and maybe even about accessing different parts of the hard drive. The point is that this is a closed system. There is nothing new going in, especially if you are dreaming about the past. The only inference is that such points in my life always activate this particular set of memories in my head.
Or not even that.

08 September, 2009

My Home Theatre PC - Oh yeah! (Part 1.5)

It has been over just over two weeks and things are looking very good so far with the system. My parents and my sister are getting used to it and I am very happy to note that even my mother is using the system as a PC to check emails and surf the internet.
The things left to write about are the power supply, TV card (not yet purchased), Software and final configration. I think I can not really write about all this just yet because the TV card is not here yet, the different software are being tested and the final configurations need DDR2 1033Mhz memory chips which I have not been able to get yet.
I went to Mumbai for the weekend and came back. The main purpose of the trip was to meet NK - even though that did not happen, I ended up having quite a good time. I met VM and some of her P&G gang, Chaku + Chaki + Sid (who is the friendliest kid I have come across so far), spent loads of time with Mama and also met up with the Pingus and the Aruls. It was a nice lazy weekend with both days beginning with a hearty breakfast at Candys and both evenings ending with a whiff of Laphroaig. Mama was good fun as always and I will miss him a bit when he gets married - though I am hopeful that things dont change much and I can still pileon as and when I want to.
I guess half of the men get married because they fall in love ( and with the six people involved being all in agreement at the same time) and the other half of men get married because they have no one left to hang out with.*
I like Bandra in the rains. Mama's latest pad is just off carter road on Pali hill and it is a very leafy and spacious (yes spacious) neighbourhood. I could reach the sea without encountering any sunlight, long stretches of the road completely covered with leafy green trees on both sides. People were all caught up in their own acts studiously trying to relax and unwind by lazing around, meeting friends, lounging at the promenade, walking slowly in the constant monsoon gusts.

I had to meet a potential future client at the Taj Lands end and the security at the gate reminded me of the Nov 29 terrorist attack. How quickly life has moved on since then for us, the audience, while the survivors would be having trouble facing each day. (posting a link for a well made  documentary which was aired by the BBC but did not receiveany media coverage in India).

We did a quick drive of the new Bandra Worli sealink with Mama cribbing about how India always thought small and never over the top (As the sealink has only 4 lanes while it should actually have 16). All in all, a great trip. I think I am going to be able to visit college also thanks to Mama's wedding in Kerala end of November. It might be a trip with Chaku and co which should be great fun and I am looking forward to it.

*I have tried to be in the first category but I guess I will end up in the second.

03 September, 2009

My HTPC (internal pic - 1)

You will say that this does not deserve a blog post of its own.

I beg to differ.
In the picture, a top view of the motherboard, the hard disc (centre bottom) and the cdrom cabinet (right bottom). Also visible are the 2 cabinet fans and the CPU fan (which covers the CPU).

01 September, 2009

My Home Theatre PC - Oh yeah! (Part 1)

My home theatre PC - or the centre of my world is finally up and running. It is a very long story and I will only give you highlights.

The aim was to own a PC which would do the following
1) Play movies/DVDs/CDs and also TV
2) Play music
3) Be a living room centrepoint and not a study room artifact (aka Look cool)
4) Be silent
5) Surf the internet
6) Have a remote in place of a mouse and a wireless keyword
7) Download everything
8) Record everything including TV shows (without ads)
9) Cost less than $1000
10) Run on open source but without any compromises

(Note how gaming is missing from the list above)

It took me 18 months to finally decide upon what I needed to buy. After that, I needed about 4 weeks to get everything in one place and about 5 hours to assemble it.This is what I came up with.
There is a lack of many such options in India except for some boxes which I saw on ebay. They were usually intel based and were not really close to the kind of system I had in mind. I was also not able to find too many systems in the US which I liked, though there is a lot of choice. I found this where the computers ranged from $429 to $3299, all were Intel based (nothing against intel but I think you can get the same computing power for lesser on AMD), had things which I rather not pay for (touchscreens, warranties, expensive video cards) and did not have things which I would have wanted to have.

The writing was on the wall - To get what I want, I had to make it myself.
I had to assemble my own computer. Computer engineer I am, but I am and have always been concerned with bigger issues
(Always tended more towards the later Vinod Dham and less towards his earlier days when he designed the pentium chip) and have been able to live for 4+8 years (college,since college) without assembling a single computer. In any case, I had to do what I had to do and I dived in for quite detailed research on the following items:

Motherboard and chip
You have to decide on the motherboard and the chip together. Gone are the days when all chips went into all motherboard for a particular type (long long gone). AMD and Intel both have their own families. Motherboards do a lot nowadays. They have on-board sound and video cards (which means that if you like, you dont have to buy these cards separately), support for a lot of input and output formats (HDMI, DVI, VGA, Stereo, Digital Audio and so on) and give power to cooling fans, Hard discs etc.
I chose an Asus motherboard - not top of the line, but with excellent reviews and with support for a 3.0Ghz AMD chip. The motherboard has three features which I really liked
- You can surf the internet, listen to music, play DVDs without loading windows if you like
- You can shut down parts of the CPU if you want to cut down power consumption
- You can run a memory chip of speeds upto 1033Mhz
The chip I selected was the AMD quad core Phenom 940. (What it means is a quad core chip with a speed of 3.0Ghz)

The PC cabinet has to to look good, make less noise, dissipate heat and support a remote while housing a lot of things inside it - chip, motherboard, power supply, hard disc(s), CD/DVD/Blue ray drive(s). The cabinets can only support motherboards of a particular size and form factor (ATX or miniATX) and also have a fixed number of hard disc and drive bays. They also can house a power supply of a given size and have a fixed number of fans for cooling. They have to have a particular design and noise absorbing components.
I chose an Antec cabinet - dull black, with separate internal compartments for power, HDD and motherboard, 3 fans, a small LCD display, a volume control knob and an i-mod remote.

(Still to write about - Power supply, TV card, Software, Final configuration)

London, Scotland, Bizdev and other stories.

All of a sudden, this one is one of three blogs which I have to write on. There is a blog on Envigo and I have been asked to write on a website called asiaonlinemarketing.com which is a novel way of subjecting a new set of unsuspecting audiences with my writing.
A lot happened this week and I am still figuring it all out. A lot has been happening in life overall as well. I was in the UK for two weeks - with a short holiday to Scotland in the middle. It was my third trip to Scotland. However, this time, I hiked and also went to a whiskey distillery (called Dalwhinnie) - things which I had somehow not been able to do earlier.
London summer was fun - though quite hectic because of the work. I have decided to visit London more often as I always end up getting some work from the UK for us.
Bizdev otherwise has been slow - sort of flattening out. I am speaking with NK - figuring out a way for some more work to come my way with him.

28 July, 2009

Would you change anything?

Today is the last day of me as a twenty something. It is vaguely depressing.In fact, it is quite depressing. I remember a conversation from five years ago. I had been in London for about 6 weeks and found myself having drinks with the few friends that I had from office. One of them was a very pretty, absolutely dreamy looking content writer. When she found out it was my birthday, she asked me how old I was and shared her age with me. She expressed surprise at my age (always wonder why) while I felt a bit sorry for her becauseof hers.
Tomorrow, I will have a significant amount of pity and sorry-feeling for myself. 

A few days back, RG and I were at drinks at SS's place, when he asked me if I would like to change things in my life. I took a deep breath and started talking about all the things I would like to change. He stopped me and said he wanted a longer term view. Were there things in my life I would do differently?
It is quite a lethal question to answer for a thirty year old. A 'yes' means that  you are not happy with 10 years of your life - which is pretty much most of all you have got, given that life begins at about 15 years of age. And you can not really say no, because that would mean having a perfect life. 
There are plenty of things I would like to change in my life. I would have tried to be less lazy (though I think such things are hardwired biologically and I am not to blame for the genes I possess), been a bit smarter during college and MBA, taken certain decisions differently soon after, listened more to my parents and less to myself, used my time at ebookers/London more wisely and overall played more sports.
At the same time, I would not like to change broadly where I am at now with all the non-ideal bits as well. I just hope that such questions let me learn what I need to from the past without pulling me down!
That is what I answered - No.

And I found this, so I feel much better in the fact that I am not alone.

(image courtesy - Sirdrinkalot)

27 July, 2009

And it all came pouring down....

Rainfall and I have something going. I am sure Assam and Meghalaya had some record breaking years between 1987 and 1994 when I was living there. I won't be surprised to find out that there were record south westerly monsoons when most of it used to fly over my head during my years at Suratkal between 1997 and 2001. Similarly, I am certain that the repeated flooding in the UK in the past few years was no El nino.
(There was a character called McKenna in the HHGTTG who was the rain god and had similar characteristics, his hit rate was 100%, I am not anywhere close thankfully).
With such a history, when people talk about strange weather and untimely rains in Delhi and Gurgaon, I just shrug. The monsoons are in full swing now, so rains are not unexpected, but the 18mm we got yesterday was close to an all time record. 

I think that Delhi looks very pretty just after the rains stop. Waterlogged streets with water receding, traffic reclaiming the streets, the freshly washed look of everything and so on. So many things happens at once. Traffic moves through like a stream  - It is an obstacle course and it finds the path of least resistance -   punctuated with pools of water, groups of two-wheelers waiting out the rain, broken down cars and buses, parked animals and so on. Last night was great that way - my personal traffic stream was undulating as any but the traffic was light and I was home in regular time.
So many things happening at once - this is life... and living in India during the monsoons is life at its fluctuating, pulsating, vibrant best.
(Images courtesy: soumik, evrensahin)

(The tone of the above paragraph would have been much different had it taken me a few hours to get home while walking through waist deep slush, but I did not)

An individual's life is sometimes only a by-product of so many macro changes that have happened or are happening, so much so that it would be depressing as it leaves little to no credit for him to relish and relate to his friends.
My entire life reads like one. I have parents who were educated in institutes set up at the eve of this country gaining independence. My father found employment in the 70s with TELCO (now Tata Motors) building trucks and then with Escorts (building tractors). In the mid 80s, we found ourselves in Assam with my father working in plywood. Economically, India was also just about chugging along with a hindu rate of growth and very little political initiative. (I think that the fifteen years from emergency onwards were a colossal loss for India). We then moved to Delhi in the 1990s which was the roaring decade for India's manufacturing sector and my father was back into the thick of it. I also went to colleges set up by the government in the 1950s - now coming of age and having a vintage respected widely in industry both in India and elsewhere. So many of my friends moved to the West (very able and products of some of the most competitive exams in the world, educated on government subsidised education, all of them will do well - their competence will enrich India only as remittances and not as managerial or entrepreneurial inputs). Some of us came back for very personal reasons, but also because economically, India now offers much more fun and opportunity than some of the countries in the west (me included). My penchant with rainfall I think can be explained by this cute little thing we call climate change.

13 June, 2009


A post has been due for over a month or so now. Business picked up somewhat and we are moving into a new office which also has added to the work. I had a trip to London planned and ticketed etc, but I had to cancel it because I fell sick. It was diagnosed as viral (wrong) and then as chicken pox (right). It has been a week in the passing and now I am feeling much better, just that I am still infectious and have been confined to a room.
Such forced rest is great, though frankly, as of now, I am over-rested.
There is not much more to write about - I read somewhere that the best blogs are those which have frequent albeit short and messy posts. In my mind, that sounded like blogging tending towards tweeting... bleeting anyone? 

24 April, 2009

Superbly mediocre or then some.

I look back at life and I know that I have wasted time, no matter how much I try to justify things. As a result, there are things which I could have done or should have tried to, but never did and now will not be able to.
Life for me had been a constant attempt to maintain a straight line - the shortest distance from one point to the other. (I have failed miserably at times in that as well)
Sure I can learn to play an instrument or come up with a fancy hobby now but I should have done it when I was younger and I did not. It is not as if I was under too much stress from studying that I could not do any of this even if I wanted to.No.
Even now, things are not getting any better. I should have saved more and spent less, should have gotten married by now (not for not trying this one though, but still), should have travelled more, exercised more, listened more, made more friends and known more people and so on. It is not that I have had a super busy job and I have been denied all this. No.
People say that one should stop to smell the roses. I am the guy who falls asleep next to the roses every day but never smells them. 
Never has circumstance given me the excuse for any of my behaviour. It is only the way I am.
The silver lining - I have started to look back and regret and maybe some day I will regret enough that I am moved to take some action. 
At business school, I was selected to apply for a scholarship with 20 others. There was a form which had two pages and most of it was about the academic and co-curricular state, national and international level achievements which an applicant would like to share with the interview board. I wanted to ask our mentors what my chances were if I did not have much (anything) to write about. Someone else, who later went on to become an investment banker at GS, asked his question before me. His question was whether he could attach extra sheets if the space was not enough.
I did not bother asking my question. I also did not get the scholarship.
The point is not about missing the scholarship. I think that it is one of the best scholarships in the country and even getting that chance to apply and failing to get the scholarship is the definite highpoint of my academic career. The point was that how was it that someone with a similar background and education had so much more to write about than I did. That day I realised that I had never even thought on these lines ever before. Life for me had been a constant attempt to maintain a straight line - the shortest distance from one point to the other. I have failed miserably at times in that as well.

Lessons for the future -
1. As my project partner from final year (MSA) used to say, "mukman, try to do round-trips in circles, never in straight lines"
2. Hurry up with everything!

19 April, 2009

Tube power

This is the week when Susan Boyle happened. She did not get much attention in the Indian press (I really need to write about the Times of India soon, they are beginning to piss me off more and more now) or even on TV, but she looks like swooping over the UK and the US. Google News today had over 3000 stories in the global English language media about her. Her youtube videos have over 35 million views in just under a week. 
The clip is a short one - seven minutes - but it is quite a roller coaster. You can click this link if the video above does not load. I found the link on facebook and I had a look. My emotions went from to pity to contempt to shock to disbelief & guilt to joy and wonder I guess.
It is rare that so many find so much joy from such simple things in life. I wish her all the best. I think that there are only 35 million or so viewers (at least) who are tracking her from the world over and rooting for her. 

11 April, 2009

Wind of change

Delhi has oppressive weather. It is hot from April till October, with the rainy months being very humid. The rainy season is short and the winter months are chilly. Personally, only the beginning and the end of winter, which are the months of November, February and March which are pleasant.
The past 12 months have been better. The rains lasted much longer in August and september. The winters were mild. There was also some rain in April this year (which never happens). I think the weather is changing. (Since it sucks so badly in Delhi, any change is for the better). The weather change is also depressing. I think these are our very local experiences of the global climate change.

I wonder if we will be able to mend our ways in time. The only piece of good news is this - more and more people are scared now about this than ever before.

I do not think that we can ever comprehend how rare and precious life is. Humans are even more so. Actually, I am not sure about that. Humans are definitely numero uno on this planet at this time. However, we are but the latest episode in a gigantic evolutionary soap opera which has been on air for the past 4 billion years on this planet. Can we assume that we are the end of the evolutionary chain? I do not think do. Other species too have been on the top of the ecological pyramid (I have seen Jurassic park), but humans would probably be the only species who are directly contributing to their own downfall. Anyway, humans could and should be just in a long line of species who made their presence felt for some time and then subsided.

Words can't express the irony well enough - 'the smartest species was dumb enough to skin its own goat'

On a lighter note, election fever is here in this country. Envigoman is of the opinion that we had predicted a lot of things two years ago which are close to correct. I need to read that post again.

05 April, 2009

Stretching coincidences

I am not a superstitious person. For me, a coincidence is a random event which, out of randomness, is linked to past or present events in such a way that causes further thought or excitement.
I am also somewhat lazy and need to fill up some of this time when I am not doing anything with thoughts. I take every excitable coincidence and analyse it to the limit. It is like connecting random dots to see if a picture emerges. The catch is not in how the dots are placed. The catch is in the number of dots. If you have enough dots, you can draw whatever you want.
What happened was this - I met someone (s1) who reminded me very strongly of someone else (se1). The funny thing is this - every time I have something new happening in my life, I experience an se1 event. Usually, it is a dream or an email. This time it was an entire person. It has been quite a while since se1, so I am not sure if I remember things completely/correctly, but still, it was quite close to what I remember.
So yes, stretching it is what describes it completely.
So, envigo.blogspot.com was visiting this weekend along with wife. I got to meet wife's sis envigo's brother. Overall, it was a great weekend except for one unpleasant incident.
The things we talked about included:
1. My life
2. His job
3. His future plans
4. The recession
5. Why I like living in India?
6. The case of two/three Indias in existence today and the overall apathy of everyone involved (us included)

The last topic was depressing, a bit more than I would have imagined. I will definitely have to write more about it.

Recently acquired the complete monty python series and have to go through it. I still have not managed to get the last four episodes of house season 4.

The first copies of my Nana's book got sold - envigo.blogspot.com being the first customer.

21 March, 2009

Couture chai

We finished a year and after we finish March, we will be able to do our first YOY comparison. Things are looking up with some big boys speaking with us for the first time and so on, and work is exciting.
I got to watch a fashion show for the first time this week. I did not expect much but I thought that it was something worth capturing in a post.
It all began with SS. She was shocked to find out that I had not ever seen a show, while I was shocked to think that something like this was shocking. I claimed (correctly) that none of my friends had watched one either. So there I was, at the Delhi fashion week which was being held quite close to the office.
You need to be a designer, a model, a member, guest, staff or hired help of the FDCI to be allowed in, or you need to know the right people (unless of course, you are one of the right people).
We waited for a bit for the show and lots of people seemed to know each other. Air kissing was the norm. In some cases, they also had stuff to say to each other. We entered and managed to get decent seats for the show. They were two rows away from the ramp and located just about midway from each end.
I noted/wondered about the following:

1. All of us who have seen tonnes of fashion TV know that models walk with their legs crossing over to the other side. I also found out that all models walk at a 10 degree backward slant to vertical. Apparently, this is called walking like a horse and this pose 'pushes your chest out, tucks your ass in' and gives a good form/shape to the clothes you are wearing.
2. There were often two models on the ramp - one going back and the next one just walking in. Personally, i thought that it was very distracting.
3. The hall was well lit. I realised that a lot of the audience were checking out the audience more than the models on the ramp. So was I.
4. The man to woman ratio here was amazing. It was better than expected. I have come such a long way from KREC. Amen.
5. There were almost no straight men.
6. 4 and 5 make such events heavenly for all straight men lucky enough to be there.
7. All the shop owners were standing in the corridor. All of them. Not a single one was inside. They were all just standing there looking at the crowd throbbing past them.
I even made it to the lounge which was like a small vip area with complementary snacks and beverages (yes, even the good stuff!). SS never fails to impress. Anyway, so we had a cup of tea there.
I felt like a child reaching a big city for the first time. Everything was new and not familiar. Every one was full of energy. Every one was pretty and well dressed. The air smelt mysteriously of grass every 20 yards or so. I loved it.

Ps: Someone asked me for recent pics. Please add me on facebook.

11 March, 2009

Confessions of an Entrepreneur

This should be simple but I am actually scared to write this one out completely. Here goes:
1. I still wonder if I qualify to be an entrepreneur. In my mind, an entrepreneur has to do something uniquely. Either the product or the service offered are unique, or the delivery is unique. In my case, it is a little bit of both, but only a little bit.
2. I miss being in an office - a huge big office with all kinds of bells and whistles. Coffee machines and snacks and sandwiches, I miss having the office in an office district, with all its eateries and bars.
3. I miss being treated as an equal. Right now, I am always right and only those things happen which I think of and those dont which I dont agree to. There were quite a few times at ebookers when things happened despite my vehement opposition and they all panned out well. At envigo, free will exists (but only if it is aligned to mine). I am not so much of a dictator and I always try to encourage people to get an opinion. My hit rate is low.
4. I am always in a state of excitement (except for when I am sleepy/sleeping). Tiny things excite me - the higher beta of a running a business is quite evident in the way my mood changes. It is very important for me to smoothen out the edges - not getting too excited at good news or getting too depressed at bad news. I can see why people who run a business can have a heart attack at the age of 45. I need to start exercising.
5. I sometimes get this urge to earn a lot of money very quickly. However, I also realise that the same time that I am very happy where I am and I look forward to every single day at work. I am sure this is not very common.
6. I understand cost structures better now. Not that I can understand why someone would expect me to pay rs 3000 for a meal for two in Delhi...
7. Time passes faster now. I can remember days and days from ebookers when time dragged. Now, time gobbles up weeks in a go.
8. It is a strange feeling to know that you are completely responsible for what happens - no bosses, corporate strategy, colleagues to hide behind for big and small failures. It feels like a rush of blood standing at the edge of a dark abyss.
9. I understand the value of working in a team and getting a team to work more than ever. It is funny because entrepreneurship is almost talked about in a context of an individual.

I guess that is it. I know I have not posted in a while, but this post took thinking.

20 February, 2009

The cable guy

My father often speaks with our cable company. The conversation which I get to hear usually runs like this:
"What boss, it has been 4 days since xyz was released in the cinemas and you still have not shown it on cable? (silence) tell me this, do I have to go to the cinema to watch this now? or wait for the DVD release? (silence)And make sure the print is good. Like Tata sky", including the last bit to remind him that he remains a fickle customer and knows about competition arriving now in India.
I am always surprised by cable television in India. There are about 120 channels which I get, including about 30 regional ones. Almost all of them are junk, but then I can get this junk for about $4 a month, compared to about $50 in the UK.
And yes, the movie which is asked for, is featured, especially if it is a new one. I do think that this is completely legal, but I am not sure. Increasingly, these cablewallahs are also getting more tech savvy. This one in Gurgaon has an interface where he shows the program for the next day. He also plays background music and shows movie trailers between two movies. Quite a far cry from about ten years ago when a cablewallah uncle went to prison for a day or so. He was playing a movie, which was recorded on top of an adult movie. So when the movie finished, the tape went on to play a full fledged adult movie at 3pm in the afternoon. Prime time for senior citizens (unhappy), school boys (very happy, jumped at the mute button), school girls (shocked) and school mothers (tearful). I am not sure how many people complained, but many did.

(Why does it feel like today is someone's birthday? Ok so thanks to facebook and orkut i have a list of 200 people, let me check.hmm)

12 February, 2009


Sharat was a friend of mine from Netarhat. Netarhat is a residential school located in the Chotanagpur plateau about 100 miles from Ranchi. After finishing my schooling in 1967, I went to the Engineering college in Sindri (BIT, Sindri) to pursue a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering. It was a five year course and as was quite usual in those days, the course took just under 6 years to get over. I was interviewed and accepted by the Tata Engineering and Locomotive company (TELCO, now known at Tata motors) and moved to Jamshedpur in 1972. 
My parents were based in Chhapra, which is about 50 miles from Patna across the Ganges. The bridge across the Ganga at Patna had not been built. To go to Chhapra from Sindri and Jamshedpur, one had to reach Patna by train, cross the Ganga by steamer at one of the ghats and then take a bus to Chapra. Every year, a significant part of the outgoing batch from Netarhat school would move to Patna. They would either study at the Patna Science College or at the Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH). Because of this, I had a number of friends in Patna. I made it a habit to stop at Patna for a few hours on my way to Chhapra and back. I got married in February 1978. My wife's family was based in Patna. Because of this, my links with my friends who were in Patna continued as we stayed for a part of the holidays each year in Patna. 
Sharat wanted to become a doctor. He moved to Patna after being accepted by PMCH into their MBBS program. He came from an illustrious family of Patna. His sister was married to Dr. C.P. Thakur, who was one of the most renowned doctors in Patna and a gold medallist of his batch from medical college. Sharat was a good looking young man and had a pleasing personality. His family was well established in Patna and he lived with his sister and brother-in-law on Fraser road which was quite close to the station.
Every trip home from Sindri or Jamshedpur involved meeting Sharat. I would write a letter to him to let him know of the date on which I would be crossing Patna. He would wait at home for me. He had an old scooter which would be used at the occasion. He used to ride it at about 20 kmph, which was slow for a scooter, even in those days. We would have sandwiches, then go to another one for tea and then top it up with Paan from another place. The three shops never changed and were not particularly close to each other. However, they formed part of my itinerary during every trip due to Sharat. We would go to the college hostels to meet friends. I would then get dropped off at the station. At times, he would not be able to be at home because of his classes. On such days, I would make my way to the college hostels and meet my friends before heading to the station. Sharat would unfailingly meet me at the station a few minutes before the train left. He would have a Paan for me. 
My son was born in July 1979 at the Patna Medical College & Hospital. There were not many good doctors in Bihar at that time. Every city had a few established doctors, but it was rare that such a doctor was also a good doctor. I always asked my doctor friends to refer me to a doctor. It was like using insider knowledge in the stock market. By this time, Sharat was a doctor and was working at Dr. C.P.Thakur's clinic. He wanted to study further as well. I was advised by  Sharat and a few other of my friends to ensure that my wife and child spent as little time as possible at PMCH. They warned of possible infections at the hospital. Sharat also advised me to meet Dr. Jaiswal. We left the hospital less than 24 hours after my son's birth. On our way back from the hospital, we went and met Dr. Jaiswal. He checked both of them and prescribed two shots of a gamma globulin injection for my newborn son. He also gave one to me and asked me to get the second one done after a month. Sharat offered to give the second injection. My wife and her parents were going to have a small get-together so that our friends and family could come and see the new born baby. Sharat offered to get the injection on that day itself. 
Sharat did not turn up for the party. It was unexpected and also mildly irritating. I got someone else to give the injection. I waited for him to show up for a few days. After that, I made my way to his house. 
Sharat had been missing for about a week. He had left a letter telling his family not to look for him and that he would not ever come back. Till this day, he hasn't. 
I still wonder what made him take such a step. None of our school friends who knew him then were aware of any reason why he would take such a step. He was a good person and people liked having him around. He was a doctor and would have led a comfortable life. 
Dr. Jaiswal remained my son's physician till we moved to Delhi.

This story was narrated to me by my father on the eve of his birthday. I realised that I did not know too much about my father as a person. The other thing worth remembering about his birthday this year was that four people forgot about it till 10am in the morning - my mother, my sister, yours truly and my father.
The last thing I wanted to mention here is that I have added a Suggestions box on the side. You can either leave suggestions about future posts or vote on someone else's suggestions. Have a look at the section labeled "Tell me" in the right bar

01 February, 2009

TV lows

After watching TV in the UK for a few years - big brother, x factor, fear factor et al, I had honestly believed I had seen it all. However, a chance encounter with something called "Roadies" on MTV changed all that for me.
I know very little about the roadies - there are two teams and they play different games and there are eliminations and a 'winner' emerges in the end. I am not sure what the winner is supposed to be good at, but he is an MTV Roadie and he gets a lot of money and usually also gets invited to take part in Big Boss, which is India's version of 'Celebrity Big Brother'. One of the essential qualifications for appearing on Big Boss is that this lot were able to block out 90 days from their calendar without batting an eyelid.
I am not sure what career options are available to Big Boss winners.
So, there I was gorging, on lots of chicken tikka and roomali roti at RG's house, where we were all treated to all the roadies getting very excited about someone getting kicked out, a slanging match between two girls (one of them was wearing very large and very dark glasses indoors) and then the game. The game was as follows - all of these early 20 somethings were let loose with Pushkar animal fair in the backdrop, with the glorious task of collecting animal dung. That was the task - collecting shit with bare hands. The dung was divided into two categories - fresh and not-so-fresh, with the fresh variety getting a higher weightage in the final score.
I am not really sure why I am disgusted - quite a few things rush to my mind, but I I will let it be for now.
With the realisation that I had hit a new TV record which would be hard to better, I resumed dividing my attention with RG, SS and Chicken Tikka.
The universe had other plans.
Roadies returned, with its infinite capacity to surprise, with a bang!
This time around, the two teams were participating in a quiz. The questions were to be answered by the girls of each team and correct answers would get them points. In case of an incorrect answer, one of the boys of the team would get hit by a paddle on the balls.
Apologies, but this had to said as there is no other way of saying it.
Oh yes, the quiz questions were about translating words from English into Hindi and vice versa. As you can imagine, there were a lot of wrong answers and lots of bats and balls being connected.
So yes, I know that I have seen all that there is to see on TV. (As long as I dont watch roadies again).
I feel bad when I see such television. I feel worse because I could see that this program is very popular (every commercial break had about 5 minutes of advertising). I will not get into comparing how things earlier, but I think that a few such data points can help us extrapolate where things are headed -
- where TV is headed
- where public acceptance levels are headed
- where education levels might be headed
All we know has been taught to us - from teachers, parents and friends. Of course we read, but then it is our peers and soceity which decides what are the first few things we read, or even that we start to read. Media plays an ever increasing role. Reading and discourse probably leads to opinion and action and so on.
What if an entire generation of teachers, friends and parents are brainless, wont the succeeding generations lose out on a lot and would have to reinvent the educational and cultural wheel? I like to think that such things have happened before - for example, the ruin of the various south american civilisations (I guess we dont even know how long it will be before we understand their abilities completely) and their replacement by the Europeans.(Funny how the Europeans called labeled all these civilisations as barbarians. The sense of humour of this universe knows no end.)

Drastic change of topic -
I also got to see "Luck by chance". I liked it. It is a good movie.
Since SS has threatened dire consequences for talking about it on the blog before she gets to see it, I will just say that a murder mystery of such finesse is very rare to come by.
Also, for all of you who read my blog, please wish me luck. There is something up for which I need all your wishes.

27 January, 2009

Neemrana Palace and Hotel

I went to Neemrana (palace and hotel!) over the Republic day weekend. It was my second trip there and I noticed how the new wing which was being built was now complete. I was also taken aback by the entry fees - Rs. 500 per person. Just as a comparison, entering the Taj costs Rs 20 (for an Indian, Rs. 750 for a foreigner). I was not very happy and promptly turned back. I have been inside and I know that it is not worth Rs. 500.
The other thing about Neemrana I remember from last time around was that their dinner was overpriced.
Anyway, enough with the cribbing.
I love driving through this bit of Haryana and Rajasthan. You get to see a country on the move. There are villages with electricity and irrigation and fields full of a mustard crop, which shine bright yellow in the sun. (Remember ddlj?). The fields give way to industrial parks, which again are bright new things. The ride is smooth and fast.
All this is quite a big change from 10 or so years ago. Now would a nice time to run through a list of thens and nows, but just one - my favourite one - internet speeds from 1991 (zero) compared to today!
I wonder if it is only our generation or every generation which thinks that they have seen the 'old' and the 'new'.

12 January, 2009

Jai Ho Slimdog*

Watched the first show of the movie here in Gurgaon yesterday.
Technically, it was the premiere show, which was a first for me. I think that this movie will get a few Oscars. I will tell you why I think so. After the movie got over, the song 'jai ho' started playing while the credits rolled. Not one person got up. Usually, the last shot marks the beginning of the race to the exit, then to the stairs and then to the car park. The end-of-movie race is a 'working model' of the rat race. All defining characteristics are present. It is not ex, every one else is your enemy and there is no real payoff. But race is always there to be played and participants take it very, very seriously.
This movie paused the rat race in this small movie hall by about 5 minutes.
This is why I think it will win.
The movie was about India, had only Indians in it, was very mainstream and still was not Bollywood in the least. I did not think such feats were humanly possible.

* Oh yes, I want to be a Slimdog. (Thanks Ved!)


2008 was a blur. Too many things happened -

- Coming back and setting up
- Trying again and hoping and then giving up and hoping for the best
- Hiring and firing, winning and losing
- Working hard and hardly working
- Setting up processes and then rubbishing them (I would not know a good process even if one hit me on the head)
- Driving around and then being driven
- Meeting tonnes of new people a few times
- Meeting fewer and fewer people more and more (aka, nt=c) (I love it when life can be expressed as an equation)
- Partying and then deciding that I am too old and fat for it
- Gaining weight and gaining more weight...
- Shaving my head
- Spending tonnes of time with my parents and sister (after about 16 years)
- Trying to get married
- Trying to figure out if relinquishing control is ok
- Getting used to Delhi
- Getting used to Gurgaon!
- Getting back the nonchalance which is required to read the papers every day
- Writing more, reading more, reading less nonsense
- Looking back at life in London, not regretting moving back!
- Loving it

12 months, 10 trips, lots of friends, countless conversations and memorable moments - I hope and pray that 2009 is as eventful as 2008.