Thursday, March 31, 2005

Whats with the Beards?

What wrong with Tamil movies these days? I haven't seen one in a long time ( the MBBS movie being the last one) but every odd time I switch to the songs channel ( there are are three of them thereby bring the total number of Thamizh channels to 9) -- I see heroes with semi-beards.

Either you have a full-grown beard like ugly-over-grown-polar-bear T.Rajender or come clean shaven like some of those non-actors who appear in the bollywood soft-porn movies (which is just about every other movie isn't it?).

I see Vijay, Madhavan, Jayam-ravi, i-am-a-leach-worm-Dhanush, i-am-ape-man's-son-simbu,Rainboy-colony-crap-boy-now-in-sukran (i dunno his name), i-cant-act-at-all ajith, i-am-actually-a-woman Prashanth, all the fellows are running around with half a beard.

Is there a razor paucity in Tamil Nadu or what? Or is it some vague attempt at developing a stubble that was popular in the 1980's pop George Michael days ( remember the Faith album cover). Nowadays every dude that steps on the screen is half-shaven. I have usually seen stuff like this in the old Mallu movies but now its in TN?

I am thinking of asking T.Rajender to set up a charity shop in front of Tharamani film city and give out free razors to everybody. Lets say yaaa! for some clean shaven faces!

The chick in the err.. M.Kumaran Son of Mahalakshmi's ( thats the name of the movie) Chennai Sen-thamizh song. She looks good!?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Goodbye! John Wright.

After a long time a blog about things that are cricket. I avoided writing cricket because I usually pretty caustic on this topic and dont hide behind the Indian flag like a scared kitten. But anyway..

These are interesting times for Indian cricket. What with the change of guard coming at a time when our performance curve is dipping from the peak it touched in 2003. India's performance curve has definetly dipped in the ODI's and we are now probably half as good as what we were in 2003. But Test cricket now is more interesting. This is where things are "happening".

So whats Johnny done to us?

A lot perhaps! India as a country in general and Indian cricket in specific lacks the "professional" touch required to be competitive in global sport. The "associations", the "honorary" posts and general lack of basic intelligence ( let alone any kind of vision) among the men who hold higher positions are the reason why were have been mediocre to pathetic in every other sport ( barring cricket) . I believe the country now has a system in place which will eliminate, pretty ruthlessly that too, any sort of intelligence, creativity, vision, attempts at professionalism in any sport. They've gone and done it. Built a system which make sure we will remain mediocre forever. To put it simply an Indian cannot do the job of a coach very well. The system we have in place that searches for an appoints coaches will eliminate trained professionals and in the end come out with an ass like Kapil Dev ( with all due respects -- he sucked as a coach) or even worse Madan Lal. If A.C.Muthiah in his short one-year term as the BCCI president did not identify this evil system that prevents sense from happeneing and appoint John Wright as a coach, we would probably had someone like.. Navjot Singh Sidhu as a coach. Sidhu, who according to me is the biggest fool to ever hold a bat and a collosal idiot in the commentators box, would have made sure Indian cricket was completely ruined by the time he was done as a coach.

So John Wright, who was spotted by Rahul Dravid in his Kent playing days, came in - inspite of Jaggu Dalmia doing his best to prevent such a thing from happening. Names like Greg Chappell and Marsh were thrown in and a few ex-indian cricketers were made to say "is there no Indian who is good enough to do this? why a foriegner?". Normally people would hide behind the flag and say nothing. But Muthiah by appointing Wright said just that - No Indian is good enough. Muthiah promptly paid the price for doing the right thing. He was sacked as the BCCI president by Jaggu Dalmia Evil Inc. By the time Jaggu could change the coach in the pretext of showing allegiance to the Tri-Color, India won the 2001 series against Australia. A single day at Eden Gardens ensured that Laxman, Dravid, Wright, Ganguly, Harbajan, Leipus would have an extended career in their respective roles. Mr.Dalmia saw a perfect setting getting foiled in his own home town.

In these 4.5 years we have seen Indian team making slow and steady rise in the ODI and Test rankings ( and rankings do matter). Regardless of my obvious disrespect for Ganguly as a batsman, you have to say he formed a good partnership with John Wright. I often said this before - the main reason why Indian cricket improved under Wright was the decoupling of its performance to that of a person called Sachin Tendulkar. For almost 6 years it definetly was Tendulkar and 10 other dudes playing cricket. The fierce struggle to promote the "Team India" feeling was to make everybody feel that everybody carried equal weight in the playing XI. Success came when the team began to evolve a strategy where it always assumed Sachin would fail. And today Sachin failing and India winning is not an uncommon as it was in the 1990's. For the past 3 years it has been heartening to look at the organized way in which the team has been managed. There are specialists for every requirement. There is a clear defintion of roles in the team. In short we know that they are giving their best. At least a majority of them, which was not the case before.

Some Key Players who have made an impact in the test arena during Wright's tenure are

1) Virender Sehwag: "A good student will study anywhere - A good batsman will bat well in any position and anywhere." Obviously he has been a big difference at the top of the order. After the openers juggle-athon that happened all through the 1990's -- he is a welcome relief. That he is a batsman of Sachin's quality ( or even better) is a bonus and a boon. The key differentiator is his combative attitude. I have seen this in Sachin during the early nineties and so I am not surprised by his I-dont-care-if-you-are-a-big-bowler attitude. . But I expect that to wane once India becomes a one man team based on Sehwag. If things dont happen the right way - thats what I predict in the years following Sachin/Dravid's retirement. And if Sehwags career follows Sachin it will not be bad for him but he ( and Sachin ) could do a lot better. A good opening partner for Sehwag and my choice would have been Sadagopan Ramesh. Outside of Sehwag he is the best opener in the land today. Anti has written good pieces about Saddu here and here. Sadly his exclusion has be inexplicable. Anyway Sehwag's promotion as an opener was a master stroke and one that has so far been credited to only Sauvrav ganguly. I think John Wright needs his share of the gold too. Another wonderful opening combination would have been with Rahul Dravid. Sadly he refused to step-in. I dont think walking in at 0 for 1 is any different from walking in as an opener, especially for a person of Dravid's calibre. He just didn't want to do it and boy! does he have the right to refuse.

2) Rahul Dravid: He is the best batsman India has produced in the last five years and the most influential batsman after Sunil Gavaskar in Indian cricket history. He is definitely intelligent and that seems to help him organize his batting in a strategic way. This combination of intelligence and talent is what makes him better than Sachin Tendulkar nowadays ( this was not the case prior the that eden innings). That Eden Garden innings, I believe, gave him the self-confidence that he could be the best batter in the world and can produce one great innings after another. his self-confidence was the difference between him and Sachin previously. Now with that difference eliminated, he is able to think plan and organize his innings and his entire career in a way that would result in his talents to be utlized effectively to maximize results. He has contributed to every major Indian victory and near-victory since the Johanessburg match in 1997. Not all of them were strategically planned the Dravid-way but a big chunk of them certainly were a result of a directed effort. He has the stuff to get into the greatest-batsaman-of-all-time category. He has nearly the same talent as Sachin ( he may lack the 5th gear) but he is infinitely more organized and intelligent.

3) The Three-man Pace Attack: Three of Balaji, Pathan, Nehra, Zaheer, Srinath and Agarkar ( ahem..ahem) always delivered in the Wright era. More importantly it took away our dependence on spin during overseas tours. The sidelining of Kumble ( and deservedly so) made sure that the spinner realize that his place in the team was not for granted. Kumble's performance today is certainly a result of bomb-under-the-chair phenomena that most Indians are totally familiar with.

4) Sachin Tendulkar: Dissapointing may look like a harsh word but it can be used. Strange is a more appropriate word. He has done well and all that but man! he is strange. At best he has supported the Indian team during some important victories. He has played the lead role in victories also. There is always a stupid expectation that he did not generate a single-handed victory. I do not have any such expectations from him. Since that was the scenario the Wright era precicely tried to avoid, having such an instance(where Sachin won a match single-handedly) would mean a decline in standards. The Dravid-Adelaide effort was a one-off brilliant one-man-show and may never happen again even in dravid's career. Another thing I won't comment in detail and waste time is on whether he is a team guy or whether plays for himself. Usually I have found that the people who make such comments are not serious cricket followers or are completely cricket retarded. Giving respect to such comments is a waste of time and not worth any sort of analysis. To put it simply at this level you cannot play for yourself even if you wanted to and its plainly obvious that he is putting his all for the team. As to why he did not make as big an impact as the above three, it maybe be because (a) his role in the team was very vague (or) (b) his technique of batting slowly is so unlike him that the actual value to the team goes un-appreciated. For example his 241 in sydney was probably done at the same speed as Dravid's 200+ in Adelaide. But it looks slower because you dont expect that from him.

Having said that one has to concede that his batting quality in terms of "impact" generated is lesser than expected. He did play a lead role in away tests wins at West Indies, England and Pakistan but something is missing. I can't put my finger on it. But it just looks like he got morphed into a Rahul Dravid kind of player and that combination doesn't seem palatable. Only Rahul Dravid can be Raghul Dravid not Sachin Tendulkar. After seeing him blaze 140's and 160's you sort of expected him to blaze away a Sehwag like 300 not a Amarnath-Dravid like 200's. I think maybe that expectation is the problem. Furthermore, it has been a long time since he has successfully delivered. I am not referring to the silly expectation that he should remain a not out batsman and help India chase a 400 fourth innings target with a tailender. But more of doing his job as a number four batsman. The almost masochistic way he defended for 15 overs in the last match was surprising. His defence technique was in full display, an isntructive manual for any upcoming batsaman and all that. True! except Rahul Dravid I can't see anybody good enough to defend without scoring for that long. If I remember right, he had tried this and failed before. Trying the same tactic one more time is either arrogance to show off his technique or just a geeky determination to find out if he is realy that good. One last word - He should really take care against over-exposure in TV. He appears in TV too much nowadays. Even his mother may start hating him.

Saurav Ganguly: His batting has made no impact in Indian cricket. Any cricketer with a below-par average like 37 can never claim to have any sort of impact whatsoever. So the same standards that was applied for Dravid or Tendulkar cannot be applied to him because he is really not that good. In 1996 when India were trailing England at Lords by 400 runs at the end of second day, Geoff Boycott asked Shastri " So what do you think Raaavi". Shastri the politcaly correct guy replied " the new boy Ganguly and Sachin are there and they could save the game". Geoff typically ignored the full comment and says " so you are saying India depends on Sachin". Shastri promtly rebutted " No both Ganguly and Sachin are there and they can bat". What happened is history and it remains in history. Dead and Buried. Ganguly as a captain has done many good things which have already been exagerated and praised by the lickass media. I like him as a captain too.... but thats it. Ganguly has effectively managed to brainwash the cricket followers and the biggest example is -- when it comes to Sachin Tendulkar he has made them ask "is the individual important or the team important" and when his name comes up for scrutiny he has made them ask "are you going to support an Indian or a foriegner" ( referring to some foreign commentator who would have pointed out his lak of form which was obvious anyway). This is a nice public relations trick he seems to have done. one that projects Sachin as a person who does not play for the team and Ganguly as the only true red-blooded-Indian alive. While, the idiot section of the public has clealry bought the view, nothing could be farther from the truth. Ganguly is the most selfish player in the Indian team. Thats it period. Kumble must be laughing his ass off. He scored more runs in a match than ganguly did in the entire Pakistan series.

About God and offside play: I take strong exception to that comment and think that saying that is the biggest black mark on Dravid's career. Ganguly is pathetic on the offside. He gets out to the outside-the-offstump-line 95% of the time. Club bowlers are getting him out that way. He can't play leg side, he can't hook, registers blip on the ondrive. So he is a one-dimensional player who can survive on the square drive and the cover drive against mediocre bowlers. Agreed his timing is great and all that but he is nowhere near being called a great player. For gods sake! - His net impact to Indian cricket in terms of innings of substantial quality is abysmal. 1 innings in Lords to save a match. 2 innings in England ( along with Dravid and Tendulkar) to save and win a match. 1 inings in Srilanka to win a match and 1 in Brisbane to save a match ( Even in a rain affected match, we were galloping towards defeat. He prevented that. That much is true. Whether we would have survived without the rain is a different matter). That is his net career impact. He has not done well against an attack that had a top quality bowler like McGrath, Akhtar, Donald, Pollock, Akram, Ambrose, Walsh or Shane Bond ( or even Merv Dillon). Imagine that kind of abysmality in a career spanning 9 years. He is in because of the Calcutta power center. If the ODI's arent there to mask his wretchedness he would have been dropped ages ago. India would do well to drop him. But the thing is he won't get dropped. I dont see him losing his test or ODI position until he retires.

His contribution as captain marginally abates his dismal performance as a player. But only Marginally.

Good Bye! John Wright! We dont know what will happen without you. What with the Zonal selection policies and the narrow-minded zonal thinking? hell can break loose and Azhar can become a coach! :-) We can only hope you change your mind!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

From Inside The Garlands - Part Deux

35 days since I have been married and all I have to show for is a solitary post on the marriage stuff. Bad? yes.. but its hard to drag myself to the computer these days. Try asking my manager at work. He can never get me to sit in front of the computer.

So the sailient points are as follows

  • In the olden days, these marriage things used to be 5 day affairs. Essentialy they were Eat-athons. The relatives would cash in on the weakest moment of the girl's father's life and storm the eat-all-you-can marriage party. Really even a 2 day marriage is just eating every 2 hours and talking a lot with 'actual' marriage events speard out unevenly. But due to several constraints ( money and time being the biggest) marriages were "cut short" to 2 day affairs. Things like saying a sloka and sleeping for a night were simulated by saying the sloka and covering the groom's eyes with a piece of cloth for 2 minutes.
  • Its a lot of fun being the star of the show. I loved it! Coffee, cool drinks, water - you just have to clear your throat and 10 people will be hanging on to every word you say.
  • We had this grand beauty trip. Me and 4 other people visited the beauty parlor had the full works. Haircut - Head massage- golden-bridegroom-facial - pedicure - manicure. Cost me 1500 Rs and a 100 Rs tip.
  • Had the "Janavasam". I loved it when Kamalahaassan in MMKR ( if you didnt know what great amazing classic movie this abbreviation refers to -- you may not get the point at all) would be in the Janavaasam car and Nagesh would look at him and say "No problem! All problems Solved". ( Ofcourse Kamal would be promised 6 lacs for saying the "Bhim boy" dialog and there would be three people in his first night. :-) )
  • Janavaasam(where the groom is taken around the city on a open car so that everybody can see he is getting married) is really cool. You have to get police permission to flaunt the Bridegrrom on the roads. Travelling in a open convertible left hand drive car was amazing. The entire W.Mambalam ( and parts of Ashok Nagar) got to see me. Sitting in a car with 3 other people and looking at people gawking at me was not bad at all :-)
  • It was a highly "local" marriage. My base station all my life had been W.Mambalam, the bride grew up in the K.K.Nagar/Vadapazhani area. The marriage hall was in Ashok Pillar. The Jaanavasam temple, the now-incredibly-famous Sathyanarayana temple is one I have been visiting since god-knows-when childhood. All within a 5 Km radius.
  • We had a record 30 garlands put on each set of shoulders. These garlands were specially ordered by a higly devout( and devoted) uncle. Mind you! this takes a lot of time effort, money and organization skills to pull such a thing off. This was probably the highlight of the marriage. Something I strongly encourage many to follow. Each garland came from one of the Divya Desams ( There are 101 (approx) such places, and the place is called so because each one has a famous a Vishnu Temple) . A representative of a particlar temple in Divya Desam came to the marriage with a garland. From Thirupathi , Sri Mushnam, Udupi to Kumbakonam, Srirangam and Srivalliputhur people came from everywhere.
  • As the garlands started accumulating - it sort of became a "can they go for the record ?" competition. The gathered crowd were saying "oooh!"'s and "Aaaah" as garland # 20 and #22 turned out to be really huge. The big huge crowd stopped short of saying " you can go for it man" " c'mon" "yeah!" . My facewas visible until the 26th garland the bride's face being rather small wasn't visible after the teens. Thank god! for the 4 people standing behind us and holding these huge garlands.
  • Shoulders:... oohhh.. aaahg.. aarrgg.. Amrutanjan balm. Satisfaction: unbeatable
  • The crowd was amazing. Given the Laaaaarge size of my father's family the bride's father was forewarned about the crowd. The Muhurtham and reception each sported a 800 strong crowd. Around 2500 hungry people were "fed" over the 2 days.
  • The huge crowd meant the people on the diaz during Reception had to be regulated fast. So in a single photograph, I was standing with my uncle and aunt, my wife's 3rd cousin and her husband, my dad's collegue from 10 years before and the bride's office collegue's cousin. The crowd was regulated fast but the photos looked rather confusing!
  • The priest had strictly told me not to shake hands after the "Mangal Sutra" phase.( the part where they say "mangalyam thanthunanena" ). I was given to understand that I am only allowed to touch my wife's hand until the sapthapathi (and some more things) got over. A Rule is a rule and I believe unlike Indian traffic rules, rules are meant to be followed. I had to appoint a tag team of body guards to protect us from approaching handshakers.
  • Two important dignitaries, (one of the two had also moonlighted as the BCCI president sometime ago) tried to ignore the Handshake ban and came forward saying "ignore that.. c'mon shake hands" -- Lets just say my dad was left trembling in embarassment on seeing an outstreched hand being met with a big huge NO. Hey! if "you can touch only your wife" transalates to "any body I touch becomes my wife" then I didnt want a 60 year old man to be my wife..
  • Moving on.. what do you say when someone walks up to the reception diaz and shakes your hand? "thanks for coming" " so nice to meet you" ...err.. if its your wife's relative or her friend do you say.. "whats inside the gift box? dude" .. (shaking the box vigorously) "is that money or just paper" ( obviously kidding! but... this may be my last and fatal joke though..). I said these 4 lines in a round robin fashion around 500 hundred times in one evening.
  • I have lost the ability to smile or say "thank you". For the next 2 weeks, it hurt when I smiled
  • We ofcourse had the Nalangu, which is sort of the ice-breaker function where the girl's and the boy's relatives get together and play games ( mostly making fun of the groom). It sort of breaks the ice between them. I suspect this function was primarily introduced when the child marriage system was rife. This was probably introduced to get the children involved in the whole process and make things interesting for them. The rolling of the cocunuts ( which seriously desn't require the amazing athletic capability of a grown up) and the breaking of pappad-appalam on the grooms head, singing ( and thank god there wasn't any antakshari - i hate it) all suggested that this was meant for children.
  • From the Nalangu -- I have to say one thing. And boys beware of this -- Girls have a subtle knack of slithering away from attention. They are there in the same place as you are but somehow take care not to get caught. They dont put a foot wrong and say something politically incorrect. Somehow the attention is always riveted on the boy. Half the time I was left pulling my big foot out of my mouth, while she was happily sitting untouched.
  • The video and photographs were the other big "wins" of the function. I had carefully planned and orchestrated the whole thing like I was directing a movie. I will disclose only parts that I cannot patent. I executed the Black & White photos to completion. There a whole big album separate for B & W photos. It gives out that retro look and is really cool! My friend Ape-man Jai tried it and failed because his friend bungled the whole thing up ( thats me :-)). But I was intelligent enough not trust friends and employed a professional.
  • The video ideas will put Paul Reisner to shame. yeah! I was the manirathnam in the making. I took out all my frustrations of not being able to become a movie director during my marriage.

Post Marriage

  • The number of breakfast-lunch-dinner invitations we had and the number we actually attended ( which was more than the the number of invitations) was staggering. Almost everybody knew my favorite dish. I was served the same line-up day after day after day. I ofcourse didn't mind it at all. hey! it was my favorite food - so I gulped down tonnes of it.
  • Downside of marriage: As a result of the above point - I now have to consult the 'signifcant other' before accepting new invitations. And while eating, I have to look for her approval before saying "yes" to more food. grrrr .. hmph!
  • Madras is still old-fashioned ( which is why I love it so much) - So you get free advise on all topics ranging from "filter coffee" to "family planning".
  • Yes! you can brainwash your wife -- if you plan well in advance.
  • Looking back now with newly acquired super powers -- I can see that - Yes! almost all men whom I know AND who are married have brain washed their wives one way or the other
  • It still works and will always work (even after I have said this) because every woman likes to believe that her husband is not the kind who will brainwash her.
  • I am not the kind of husband who will brainwash my wife :-)
  • We of course went on a honeymoon ( will blog about the Swiss Alps later).

Things To Remember ( for meand for anybody else who is getting married ):

  • While going outside -- Don't walk fast! and storm ahead - as if "you are running to catch a train". It's got to do with the whole Venus-Mars kind of psycology, which nobody understands.
  • A sambar-vada is the correct order for evening tiffin. Not - 1 masala dosa, 1 veg pizza and a bhel puri.
  • Cannot wear Half-pants outside. Definetly not to her parents house. And Madras heat is no excuse!
  • With a lot of haggling -- Aishwarya Rai is the only person your are allowed to have an affair with. And thats only because you have a "negligible" to " impossible" chance of meeting her during your lifetime. The probability of her liking you and wanting to have an affair with you is too embarassing to give out!
  • Cricket match is equalant to a girl you "might" be having an affair with. No! Ind Vs Pak doesn't make it any less offensive.
  • VH-1 Classic and Classic MTV in the morning are signs of cultural degradation. During channel surfing -- do not pause and linger on FTV longer than you have to. And always remember you have never seen porn and you barely know what it means.
  • For expenses - only Rs 200 would be given to you at any point in time.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Moral Policing - III - The Trilogy Ends

I don't think I am the first guy to point out something called the "Free Market" theory. But I think this theory definetly needs to be rammed into the heads of Administrators of many institutions.

A long long time ago, nearing the end of my under graduate degree, a small bunch of students ( a miniscule bunch) decided to pursue graduate studies in the US. My motivation to pursue this option was because of the following;

(a) Complete lack of respect for the visiting recruiting recompanies. The jobs weren't that great then ( the situation is much better now) to justify an engineering degree and usually they put fresh recruits in the crappiest of all jobs ( still true today). There was an article on "campus recruitment" I sent to "The Hindu" some long time back. I'll try and post it here tomorrow.
(b) There was a huge gap between what was taught in undergrad colleges in India and the what I thought was "good" work. I thought only a graduate degree in the US would make an entry into the "good work" category possible ( partially true today).
(c) There was this huge gap between what I thought was good graduate education and what was offered in India ( barring IISc ). This is true even today.
(d) Well..For a long long time at college... After the GRE-like written test that the recruiting companies conducted, no company ( not even a single one except the Indian Army) called me for a second round of interview.

To support that reasons (a) - (c) were more true then the "grapes are sour" (d) -- I'll say that we had written the GRE exam, applied to U.S Schools and some even got admits a good 2-3 months before Campus recruitment schedule began. Infact by the time I was attending my second campus interview, I had 1 admit with financial aid in hand.

This is when the rebel thing started. A group of students in my class began to raise some objections. They did not want people who had written GRE exams, appearing for campus interviews. The department management leaned towards the "communist" part of the common sense approach and began to seriously consider the objection. A group ( a miniscule..small number of 3 - 4 people) severely fought against stopping students who had written GRE exams from appearing in Campus Interviews. Democracy won in the end and we were allowed to appear in all campus interviews.

As a result of our protests -- Of the 12 ( out of a class strength of 74) students who actually got jobs in campus, 6 of them had writen GRE. 3 of them chose to take up the campus-offered-job and the other three rejected the job offer and pursued higher studies. 2 of the 3 who chose to take up the job, went ahead and pursued graduate studies, the following year ( a decision that turned out to be good for them in the long run).

In case you are thinking "whats this fellow yapping on and on about" -- I do have a point here. This long introduction was to make that point more credible. In today's world democracy is dead. Nowadays, colleges require of students to make a clear choice at the beginning of the final year. In my days applying to US was prevalant but not profuse. Today its so common that there is a systematic and organized policy in place, within the college, to handle the applicant crowd. This policy is highly local and systematically works at undermining the right of the country's student community. The policy is -- If they opt to pursue higher studies they will not be allowed to attend campus interviews. If they opt to attend campus interviews, the college teachers are instructed to not provide the students with recommendation letters, which are required to send a complete application to gaduate studies. They do so because they feel companies tend to visit the college less frequently if the yield on job offers made is less than 80%. Moreover the college wants to publish statistics like 60% of students -- job offers made and 40% of the students -- opted higher studies. This is again police work done by people ( administrators) who have no right or business to impose such guidelines. I'll give you the logical reason(s) as to why.

1) Higher studies is a stochastic process. A job interview at campus - you will know by the end of the day whether you have a job or not. For higher studies, it takes 4-5 months for the college to get back to you with a result. Even then you have to wait until June to really know your fate at the Consular Visa interview.

2) Preventing students from having a backup option ( which could be either graduate studies or a local job) is a crime against democracy. Because one set of people can end up with nothing at the end of graduation because they weren't allowed to make their own choice.

3) The people who were interested only in local campus interviews, watching the proceedings with glee, got their delayed justice (punishment) when many job offers were retracted during bust time. This probably reminded those students the value of having a backup option ( if not American studies, something like IIM or some other GATE thing).

4) If I am a visiting company looking to recruit campus freshers, I need to have a fair shot at all the students who want to compete for the job. If the college administration is preventing a section ( possibly the brighter, more intelligent section) of students from competing for such jobs then I will be dissapointed. Because I want a fair shot at convincing that bright student that a job in my company is better than graduate studies. If a student who was made an offer refuses the offer in the end then... its just too bad! But atleast I did the best for my company.

5) As a recruiter, I will definetly not go back to a school, which sent me an idiot. Especially if at the time of recruitment, I thought this was the best talent in school and then later found out he was a incompetent ass, I will never go back to that school. On the other hand, I will go to the school which had the credit hsotory of some intelligent students refusing job offers in order to pursue graduate studies. I may go with a better package this time to better convince students in a similar situation. I will go back because I have had the satisfaction of seeing the entire competition pool. I selected the ones I wanted and even if they did not come. Fair enough.

6) Losers who feel extra competition may spoil their chances do not deserve to compete. If the only way they feel they can get a job is by preventing good students from competing then the recruiting company definetly should be allowed to even look at them. People who are interested only in local jobs through campus recruitment and feel they are as intelligent as the next guy, shouldn't really bother who is competing and who is not.

7) Last but the most important thing: This is a free country. At the end of the engineering, I as a student and a citizen of the country have the bloody right to apply for grad school, an industry job, a circus clown position, a bomber in the army, and an animal porn movie audition. All at the same time. It is my perogative. I do not need an idiot to tell me where I should and where I should not apply.

The time has come where the appropriate authorities should really look at de-linking and removing affiliation for schools which follow this practice. This is in violation of democracy and the Indan Legal system. And believe me!! most colleges around the country have this practice in place, just to excersice control over students.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Moral Policing - II

The main intention of writing about the Moral Policing was the sudden knowledge of certain practices that are followed in a few but significant colleges in and around the city. These practices are the full blown avatars of the small little buds that were sprouting a decade ago. What I mentioned in the previous blog was just to lay the foundation for the topic and to mention how small practices by wielders of the "power axe" can lead to many different dangerous things.

Picture this: In the counselling hall for engineering admissions, which is the place where you are allotted the engineering college of "your" choice, I chose an Engineering college in old Mahabalipuram road with a lot of reluctance ( I did not want to move out of Madras). It was reputed to be a very strict college. Usually parents who wanted their daughters to study engineering but still get an education in a strict environment -- would choose a college like this one. My conversations with a 3rd year girl student in that college taught me that there is no "life" possible in that place ( She had ofcourse given a beaming, exaggerated and positive view of that wretched place and I had to read between the lines to find out that the college was for a completely different set of people. Infact although she was praising the college -- my conversation with her was the best source of info about that place among the many sources I had ).

The first day in that college, we found out that we have to pay Rs. 12,500 / year, more to the college ( Although the government guarantees you that since you are merit based "free seat" student - your fees will be only Rs 6500 a year). The split up is 2500 - Bus, 2500 for books 2500 - food 5000 - computer course ( the quality of the course and the real intention of offering such a expensive mandatory superflous course when you are already enrolled in an engineering school is too crass to mention). All these items are mandatory and you have no choice but cough it up.

Added to this pain was my experience on the first day. My father ( parents were invited to visit college on the first day) spotted the 3rd year girl ( the one I mentioned a few paras b4) and walked towards her to say "hi". Suddenly someone tapped him on his shoulders from behind. We turned around and we saw the head honcho ( "The Correspondent" which is equalant of The Dean ) of the college standing behind us. He told my dad " please do not talk to girls within this campus. Inside the campus girls are not allowed to talk to boys"." What the .... My first thought even at that age and time was no different from what I feel now - " Is there a legal system that allows the practice of this policy". Later I found out ( apart from the Dean's one-hour horrible speech on the girls-boys topic -- in a language that can only be described as a murder of the english language) that there were chains in the college bus dividing the seats into the girls section and the boys section. My dad ofcourse went home by car and I had to go by bus the first day.. The 50% of the bus where girls were supposed to sit was nearly empty and the boys section was so overcrowded that students were standing atop each other. The conditions then resembled something that i read about in Thihar jail. I also learned that there was a mini-jail within college premises where students who "misbehaved" ( read as "developed friendship") with girls were incarcerated for a day or so. ( The college students must confirm if this this true even today) T-Shirts were not allowed. You only had to wear shirts with collars. The mandatory food, it seems, got worse over time.

I was so freakin' annoyed that I came back home threw the drafter that is used for engineering drawing ( i was given this stupid instrument on the first day itself) on the floor and let out a tanrum so loud that my neighbors rushed out of their houses. My theory was that - I'd sit out of college for a year and try to get into a better college the next year. I tell you what - in my days discontinuing college because it did not suit your lifestyle was pretty rare. Nevertheless, I didn't care a rats ass about it. I stopped going to college and that was it. My father ofcourse was shattered by my stand ( he too was pissed off that he had to fork out extra Rs 12500). I hadn't gone to college for a week. So, he went and appealed to the directorate of technical education that we couldn't afford such an expensive education and got me transferred to a better ( a much better college rankwise too). Crescent engineering college was and still is the best thing that happened to me. They did not even ask us a single penny for group allotment ( the "bribe" money in the form of donation you have to pay in other colleges to get into Electronics and Computer science groups).

Anyway coming back to the topic -- my peeve is - whats with this crap about " you cannot talk to girls within campus". What right do these administrative quacks have to tell us whom we should talk to and what we should wear. Even in my college, I remember this girl-boy issue to be a sensitive thing. I remember my class Advisor and a Math teacher made 2 girls stand up during class hours and insult them in public. All because they were seen with 2 other boys oustide of campus. Rather than getting emotional, my only problem with this issue is logic. A math teacher has no business intervening in the private lives of students. How can a legal system in a democratic country, not punish such individuals.

In the present day -- a popular college in the heart of the city called is perpetrating this insane offense in a big way. A popular arts college that it was before now flaunts an engineering school too ( it previously had only an arts and sciences school). Students who are into college things now know very well about the tempermental, eccentric and often idiosyncratic behavior of this arts college principal. Now the engineering college principal ( her sister) is no different either. Girl students are abused in public if there has been a slight rumor that they have developed friendship with a boy. Girls and boys are not allowed to talk to each other inside the campus. Whats more the parents are called in and abused in such a way that a casual bystander would think the girl was into prostitution. And it seems the language used by teachers is so crass that students are picking up new swear words from teachers.

This does not mean that all the colleeges in this city are this way. My question is can you even tolerate 1% (the real number could be 20% of the colleges) of all colleges following such practices? What can you do if you dont wan't to tolerate? Nothing. The unfortunate thing is - nobody can rebel against the system. Because you will be failed in your Lab exams if you are seen as a rebel. A slight provocation would lead to a dismissal based on disciplinary grounds. Nobody can do anything becuase once you are dismissed you are a loser -- and nobody wants to talk to a loser. Complaints to Higher authorities that the college children are made to sweep and clean the college premises becauses corporate recruiters had scheduled a visit was of no avail. As everybody who has anything to do with colleges knows -- the administration can put up an "act" when investigating authorities are in town. Even if they get caught, a suitcase full of money should take care of things.!

Ofcourse! what I have detailed is specific to only a few places in South India (and few in the north). In my travels I have seen equally offensive things happening all over India ( there is a topic on Bangalore schools that burning inside me but I'll blog about that later). The bottom line is all this nonsense about 'logic', 'freedom' and 'democracy' could really be a farce when you get down to the details. What India probably needs is more and more lawyers who will sue anything and everything. I suspect even that will not help.

Edit 1: I really wanted to mention names. But then decided against it. Its really not a big thing, the names of the colleges should be obvious anyway.

Edit 2: The funny thing is that when we went on our fourth year excursion to North India - Shimla, Kulu Manali and the likes - in the train to Delhi we had The electronics group and Electrical group from my college and 3 groups - electronics, electrical and mecanical group from the "strict" college. The way the girls and boys from that college were "making out" in the train and in Kulu-Manali was almost amusing ( entertaining but still amusing). The students from those colleges behaved as if they discovered a new sexual freedom and were indiscriminately making out behind rocks in Kulu manali.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Moral Policing

A decade or so ago ( and I can't believe it has been that long ), when I was finishing up on high school and standing in line for the engineering college admissions, I just had one clear thought in mind - I needed to have fun in college. Not that I had a nerdy-geeky school life. It was normal by any standards. But schools in general have stupid restrictions. For example you are stuck inside the school buildings from 8:30 AM until 4:00 in the evening. When you are in high school, the teachers usually devised N thousand ways to make you behave well. Some students receive threats that if they behaved badly then they may never get hall tickets, which are required while entering the examination hall to write the final exams.

Ofcourse nearly all students knew that the internal valuation which counted for 25% of the score in the three science exams was directly propotional to the students personal relationship with the teacher. This system or theory is still valid now in any part of India. This bugs me so much. Someone has to stand up for this injustice and stop it. In my opinion, a fair system should clearly allow a student to disagree strongly with his teacher and still be graded only on his performance in the exams. Why? because the 100 or 200 points for which the student is graded does not factor in his relationship with his teacher. There are 20-30 questions that appear in the theory and practical question papers. Each question carries its own weightage. The sum total of the weightage of all questions is the 100 or 200 points. Now if there was a section which specifcally asked the grader to evaluate the students relationship with his teachers then the grader ( who invariably is the teacher) can deduct ( or add, which is rarely the case) points. Otherwise the grader should only be interested if the student had answered the question asked. Period. This logic is so simple and plain that it does not need any special explaining.

But, that is not the case. The teachers and school administration do the following to keep students under leash.

1)Academically weak students: Threaten them that they won't be given hall tickets. So students who have studied 2 years in high school are not guranteed a spot in the examination hall. This I feel a school normally does to protect it 100% pass statistics. If a school has been claiming that 100% of its students pass the common examinations, it only means it has been denying weaker students a spot in the exam hall at the last minute. My take on this is - unfair. If a student after 2 years in that school still sucks. Then the school is incompetent. If the school feels the student is a born-moron and cant study to save his life, it should not have admitted him in the first place ( so its the school's mistake). Admitting students based on the money they can donate makes the student pool look like drawing cards in a casino. Plus the school had two years to deal with the student if they can't get him to pass (seriously! merely passing a public exam is not that tough) the exams they they don't deserve a 100% pass claim in the newspapers.

2)Students who are academically sound but are sports or cultural enthusiasts - Normally these students were reputed to freak out with the opposite sex or have a primadonna image in high school. Boys who fell under this category weren't liked by the teachers. Girls who were in this category were almost treated like prostitutes. No kidding! This is true. I have seen and still see many academically sound girls suffer as a result of this. If you are a good looking chic and your name starts doing the rumor rounds linking you with some boy, inside or outside of the school -- you have a really tough time ahead. These students are tamed in a different way. The 50 points for the practical exams are used as the blackmail tool to make these people "behave". Students who had the balls to disagree with the teachers on this practice ( or any of their other stupid practices) were also tamed the same way. If I had anything to do with school administration, I would look at dismissing these teachers on the spot. What they are doing is wrong. On the question of "how to find if a salt is lead nitrate in 2 steps", they have no right to deduct points because the student was rumored to have had an affair with a person in his/her after-school tuition class. It is simpy illogical.

Items #1 and #2 usually intersected in a big way. I am not claiming that school kids are saints in uniforms. They may not be. But this is not the solution to deal with them. This really affects fringe people like me. Until VIIIth grade or so, I was the kid who belived in fighting for causes. Sometime in IVth grade which my mom and aunt still remember with great fear, I created a record in P.S Senior Secondary school, Mylapore by securing 23 blackmarks ( there was a blackmark chart in each class and students was given a blacknmark if he did not behave well. 10 blackmarks - u had to stand out of class a whole day; 20 - a visit to principals room; and 30 - u are out of the school). A big bully ( name arvindh) was tearing my anaemic, thin, fragile friend ( i think his name was srikanth) to pieces during a class break and when I stopped him, he made fun of my glasses (in some distant past, I used to wear glasses ) and threw them to some corner of the class. When the teacher came in I was standing on arvindh's face .. and jumping ..with the whole class baying for his blood. It was my moment of childhood glory. I got a record 10 straight blackmarks in a single shot. Nobody had ever got so much for a single offense before ( Later, I had high school students seeking me out and asking me the reason). From then on I earned a blackmark even if I sneezed, 5 blackmarks if I farted. Srikanth got none from that incident and arvindh 8. So the bottom line was I'd get my behind in trouble standing up for some stupid thing and then watch other students slither away ever so silently. Ya! its true some people just had a knack of disappearing and becoming part of the background and some people had the knack of stepping out of the bathroom and walk into the spotlight - naked.

So, I learned to keep my ass shut the hard way. But still, tolerating this perversion in high school was a big thing for me. What made things even worse for me was to put up with the "Lick Ass" clan. This system of student threatening has led to the "Lick Ass" group of students. They lick the teacher's ass at the drop of the hat. These are average students whom you could outwit outbeat out-excel hands down in a theory subject but in turn they would beat you by N Thousand light years in Practical subject, where internal evaluation counts for a lot. Its because they ran behind the teachers continuously. Got them chalk pieces, gave them "Happy Teachers Day" Bouquets. When a question was asked in class, they repeated the right answer loudly to the teacher, milliseconds AFTER the brightest boy in class had spelled out the answer. Volunteered to borrow a textbook from the next class whenever the teacher wanted it. They wouldn't give you a pencil if you wanted to borrow one in the last minute, whereas we would sharpen a pencil both sides, break it into 2 just to share it with a friend. These were the gang of students whom I hated passionately. I blame the 2 items I listed above for the rise of such students. Why? because if there is a system in place for teachers to give students an unfair disadvantage over other students, then the same system can be used ( as opposed to misused because you really cant miuse whats already being misused) to gain an unfair advantage over other students. So this gang figured that if you can do the lick ass and improve your score why not? Of course the public exams, which was ( and still is) graded by neutral people ( and the answer papers were anonymous with no identity linked to it - thanks to the system of dummy numbers and blind correction) levelled these dorks to the ground.

hmm... I actually started out to write something about college ...but look how much I have digressed.. I will make this is a 2 post double-bill and continue about college in my next post.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

From Inside The Garlands - Marriage Blog

9:00 AM [ Muhurtham( 8:00 - 9:30) ] , Lakshmi Hall, Madras

There were around twenty or so ladies standing around me and most of them singing. I could have counted around sixty familiar faces watching me go through the Oonjal part of the 90 minute Muhurtham procedures. These were faces I had grown up seeing. The people the faces belonged to, their personalities and their association with me had been part of my life's infrastructure.

[ During the Oonjal, the Bride sitting on her maternal uncle's shoulders tries to put garland over the Groom, who inturn is sitting on his maternal uncle's shoulders, as he playfully moves away from her. I personally loved this photo because of the smiling faces surrounding us ]

I was told that on the day of the marriage, events would unfold so fast that the main participants wouldn't know what hit them. I was told that everything would be a haze. I can now see why I was told so. But it didn't happen to me. Maybe I tuned myself to this expectation so much that I didn't allow this to happen to me. This 90 minutes was the essense of the marriage and as I looked around -- the laughter and the songs slowly faded away from my ears and I was able to shut them out and slow down the pace. Actually, what was happening was, I was mentally zooming into each face that surrounded me and tried to remember how they looked when I first saw them. The first time I did this, I was so energized that I spaced out. I kept doing the same to every face I saw.

I recommend everybody who is about to get married to do this. Since you are the groom nobody talks to you anyway for those two days so might as well occupy yourself with interesting things. What you are doing is taking stock of your life at a moment that is perceived (more on this below) by the world as a milestone in a person's life. It is amazing to see how people grow over time. I remembered the times I spent with many of them and how we played and ran around as kids in other people's marriage. The marriage halls looked big then, you didn't care whether something was missing from the menu items or if all the guests were being received properly. All you cared about was to have an amazing get together with your cousins and find out if you can now run faster than some of them. These cousins and friends were defined in your mind as " A can paint well, B can run fast, C knows to play 2-cards and A-Spade very well"

That perception changes. Age and time erodes the simplicity and innocence of that perception. Now, during my marriage, when I looked around, A had a big moustache and 2 kids, B was a person who screwed up in studies and is now fighting hard for survival, C was someone who did an inter-caste/inter-religion marriage and half the people did not speak to him/her. I was almost tempted to ask myself "who are these people? where are those kids I grew up with? " . Life's journey is indeed amazing. I still love them all but then the different directions a set of people take in life is often unexplainable. Who you are as a kid is no indicator of what you can become as an adult. The young and middle-aged men I remember from the marriages in the 80's and 90's are now almost greying older people who are walking towards the evening of their lives. For most of them -- their vision, ambitions and to-do lists have been validated. The young cool guys are now old fathers with responsibilities. Girls who were babies or kindergarten students are now beautiful young ladies, now talking amongst themselves about other boys in the wedding. When you compare across such a big timeline you tend find that the contrasts are bigger and sharper. Although, I had some wild times and great fun as a kid, when I looked at these people at the moment of my marriage, I felt a sense of regret that my childhood did not last just a little bit more longer. The innocence with which we perceived others as a kid was more sweeter and much better than the prejudices that seems to grip a person as they get older.

To be honest, marriage as an independent event, has not drastically changed my life. Emotionally, I perceive the world the same way as I did some 30 days before. I feel no change. My life has not been drastically altered. I do not feel flutters or butterflies in my stomach. I do not feel the weight of anything or anyone on my shoulders. It has not (yet) cramped my lifestyle. I also do not feel a sense of graduation or believe I have crossed a significant milestone. This is true. I was told all the above would happen. But it has not. I guess all the above is said as a result of a retrospective view. A hindsight that people get years after marriage. So the best I can say is -- I may feel some of the above many years later. I was forewarned, soothsayed, advised that I would mutate ( I was tempted to use "metamorphasize" ) into a completely different cell based organism after marriage. This almost guranteed prediction has not (yet) happened. The emperor is not wearing new clothes ( but at the same time ain't naked).

Having said that and at the risk of appearing to contradict the second sentence of the previous paragraph, the marriage journey has been emotionally satisfying. I am not talking about the long journey of two people after marriage but rather during it. The events and the (rather huge) gathering of people gave me an opportunity to take stock of the changes that had happened to my life since childhood until the point of my marriage. I was thankful for the great attendance and gathering this occasion made possible. I got to meet my father's school teacher and his school friends at the same time. That to me was nice.

Before I set out on the Kasi Yatrai ( which is where I am supposed to renounce my car, stereo system, TV, amazing CD collection and other wordly things and set out to lead life as a hermit) the bride's mother was supposed to put that mascara thing on my eye. This led to some really funny scenes. My eyes are.. lets say... "rather" small and I am extremely sensitive in the eye area and tend open and close it wildly when doctors try to come near it. So the poor lady ( who was already a little shaken by the way my relatives were laughing and whistling) repeatedly tried to get her hand close to my eye and I kept pushing her away and kept looking the other way. Finally she locked on the target ( and some surrounding areas) and applied the payload. I then set out on the Kasi Yatrai and thankfully my Father-in-law dissuaded me from going. He struck a deal that he would marry his daughter to me, if I chose to be a non-hermit (non-sanyasi). I said " oh! Well! Why not? " :-). Many people thought he was out of his mind to call me back. I let out a sigh of relief. Have never been to Kasi and don't know what entertaintment sanyasi's get. I love my stereo system so much

This was the occasion, where at the end of this Oonjal Phase, the bride is asked to hold all the fingers of her right hand together and make them face upward. The groom then wraps his right hand around her fingers and leads her to the marriage hall for the more important marriage formalities. This is "supposed" to be the first time the groom touches the bride.

As I was taking her back into the marriage hall, I looked at the road, where buses cars and cycles were speeding. Some people were looking at the occasion and talking to themselves, some in the bus gave a non-chalant look and went about reading their books etc. This is a big Highway where I travelled for 3 years until high school. I have seen this exact Oonjal moment during marriages hundreds of times. Many times, I didnt even give a second look. I was rushing for my mid-terms, half-yearly and public exams or at least had some record notebook to fill. I suppose at any given time, life could mean different things to different people. One day you are crying nusiance kid to your parents and one day you are the main guy, the groom and their darling. One day a person could be a failure whom nobody wants to talk to and some day he could be too busy to even watch a wedding from the road. people go through different states over time, much like the circles in a state machine diagram. I smiled to myself at the the prospect of some tuition going kid rushing for his class in a bus and non-chalantly dismissing my marriage as a noisy distraction. Next time I'll remember to stop and watch a wedding, just to remember, how I felt when my turn came.

Monday, March 14, 2005

I am Back

In more ways than one! :-)

In case you folks thought I was "lost and not found" in Switzerland. I am not. I am back after a wonderful week in the Swiss.

Too tired to write anything interesting other than this news item ..that I am back. I am definetely emotionally and physically drained after the drama(s) and events over the last month. Ideally I would have been happy if the experiences over last one month was spread over 300 years but than I used the word 'ideally' and that is really not the norm in my life.

I promise to write blogs about marriage and other interesting Swiss stuff once I get over this severe writers block that has been... wel.. er.. blocking me.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Off to the Alps

So finally after a lot of drama tension and suspense that would put many all-time great thriller movie classics to shame, my honeymoon trip has been finalized. Bharath is off to the Alps. A significant chunk of reservations and travel documents came to my hands 4 hours before and I leave to the land of chocoloates and the land of watches in about 3 hours.

If you are thinking the {1 - (significant chunk) } of the travel documents came before 3 hours... you are wrong. The missuus is now blisfully spending her time memorizing Swiss tourism guides, unaware of the peril lurking ahead.

Remember the movie Indiana Jones and the Last crusade, where in the final few scenes Jones has to step on to empty space (thin air). He neither knows nor sees the path that will take him to his destination. He just steps into air and the path appears as he walks forward. I am hoping some equalant magic will happen in my case.

Only the first 60% of my travel plans are confirmed. Pssst: I do not have a proper reservations for the last 3 days of my trip and my return ticket is not yet in order. But I am leaving in 3 hours. Ah! the thrill of unplanned vacation. I seriously am looking forward to the confused tourist experience of vague reservations and exasparated looks that I expect to be giving of being in the wrong place almost all the time :-) There is great fun in randomness ( try putting your winamp player in random sort for kicks) It will be quiet in the blogging front for sometime ( a week or so... if its longer I screwed up in my travel plans and am either lost in siberia or been beaten to pulp by the missus).

So long folks!! Have fun and stay warm. Coz I am sure gonna freeze like crazy ( haven't bought winter coats yet and the temperature there is sub-zero... hope my credit card works!)

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Yoohoo! I'm Married

Married Posted by Hello

And I can upload photos in a blog too. Boy! Can marriage turn things around ?? :-)