Friday, July 29, 2005

Engineering counseling

So it begins today. An article in The Hindu talks about what "the experts" think students must choose. I remember these "experts" when I was in the same position. Who are these experts? Are they teachers and professors in some college? What do they know about career decisions? In 2002 when my article on engineering counseling appeared near the start date of engineering counseling, I had sort of attacked a lot of departments and bad practices, which was carefully edited out. Unfortunately I lost the original draft.

To put my thoughts on this engineering counseling briefly, just in case some body is doing a last minute google search on what group to choose (Far better than asking the next person in counseling or the computer operator itself)

1) If "experts" are professors. They know nothing.

Group Vs Brand Name:

2)"Group" is far more important than "college brand name". Don't be deceived by brand name. What may be popular in your 18 taluks may not be popular in Chennai, Bangalore or San Jose. I chose a top private college in Madras. Rejected an REC other state and a Govt Aided College (Dote 1 in those days) to be in Madras. Was worth it. Nobody who mattered would have been able to recognize all three colleges.

3) From personal experience, I can say people who took funny groups like "production engineering", "civil engineering", "Bio-technology", "instrumentation", "leather technology", "naval architecture" and "printing technology" in super brand name colleges (College of Engineering, Guindy, REC, Trichy) are now one big flop. Self-confessed that too. They confess it themselves and point the bad decision to the engineering counseling.

4) In my days people who didn't get COE, Guindy, REC, Trichy, PSG, Coimbatore rejected all the other Govt Colleges and started choosing Venkateswara, Crescent, SRM etc. I think the only change I see nowadays is that Venkateswara has moved above PSG, Coimbatore. The bottom line is Govt-aided college has no meaning now. Group choice and location choice takes precedence.

5) Under some circumstances -- It makes sense pick a college near your place. So if you are living in Madurai or Coimbatore picking the Govt college close to your house makes sense. Anybody who gets in that orbit -- should pick REC, Trichy or COE Guindy above everything else (unless you are an IIT admit).

6) Being in a City helps. Always! being in Madras, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Bombay helps a lot (it helps you develop a cosmopolitan outlook towards life which is zero in other places). When I was in a place in TN South of Madras, I used to think place does not make a difference. I used to get into arguments saying "no xyz is better". After I moved from Thanjavur (sorry Anti! but Thanjavur is a very sucky place, but then again that only makes you look better) to Madras, I realized that it was not true. The kind of people you move with usually changes radically. I am not saying everybody else in any other place are bumpkins but the chances are more that you will meet aggressive people who constantly talk about higher studies. I think in entire Thanjavur jilla, I was the only person to have subscribed to that stupid Brilliant Tutorials correspondence JEE coaching.

7) The govt is partially right about coaching centers in the City areas. If you want to do higher studies, Madras is certainly a better place to be in TN. Madras is one of the biggest exporters of students to foreign countries, IIMs, IISc and IITs. The statistics (read The Hindu's report on Muffasal Vs City statistics every year) is not even comparable. Cities far outweight Muffasal places. The IMS, Datamatics, USEFI and the general awareness among students about higher studies makes Madras a far better place to study. People from southern parts of Andhra also prefer Chennai to their own native place.

8)The state-firsts and other medalists may appear to contradict points (6) & (7) but scratching the surface might give a different picture. (Source "The Hindu" again) On an average I think City students have better infrastructure that maximizes their probability to succeed.

9) Did I say Govt Aided colleges like Govt. College of Thirunelveli, Salem have no meaning? If you live in Madras there is no point relocating there for a non-existent brand value. Compromising on a group to be there is harakiri.

10)I took, what in my days was a new-fangled thing called ECE. I didn't have much respect for ECE also. But off-late I have stopped saying that because it has become a "popular" group. ECE syllabus is a funny syllabus in that it doesn't prepare you for any sort of industry. It is increasingly becoming more funny (I looked at the syllabus again some 3 months before). And now legends have been developed by ECE fanatics that ECE will prepare you to be even an astronaut, walk on water etc. Maybe I am misinformed, I think all ECE students end up doing software jobs just like EEE (and mechanical, naval architecture, production engineering, civil engineering , B.Com, B.A History ) students. Just because you get to say things like "interrupts", buses, PSW registers, and microprocessor once every 3 months does not make your job a non-computer science job("machaan I work directly on assembly language machaan" doesn't make it any better). I think people who are in embedded systems are more deluded about this than anybody else. So any ECE folks out there who are doing stuff other than signal processing domain, please send me a mail/drop comment telling me such ECE job exists. Let everybody's world knowledge develop.

I have unfortunately lost faith in 12th std students who claim they have a field of "interest". It is because on deeper probing the "interest" is wafer thin superficial. Seriously.... at 12th std only very few of Mandolin Srinivas and Bhakta Prahaladan ilk have real interests...rest have something that they picked up after a 2 minute conversation with a cousin or a friend's friend.

If you don't have any "interests" think of yourself as a cinema distributor who wants to invest in a movie. Invest in the Rajini movie (computer science) even if you don't like him. It will run for 100 years. While a small few may end up in super jobs in other career paths, for most other groups, career paths are much much more difficult, less rewarding and more frustrating....that is until they land in a software job.

Or think of this other favorite analogy of mine. Chosing a group is like "arranged marrying" your daughter. If you marry her off to a person who may look like a a Bollywood hero (super brand name college) but is not well-qualified (group has poor commercial value).He will struggle to make both ends meet (no career prospects). Then by marrying your daughter to him, his problems become your problems. You have to unnecesarily learn about and worry about career prospects for his qualification. Why? Why this unnecessary trouble. *In this situation* looks dont matter (that much). Go with what works.

Yeah! right! I have watched too many K.B films

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Disclaimer Blog.

It is always a good idea to put a disclaimer before starting to write blogs that counsel on applying for MBA/MA/Jobs. So I write a blog exclusively for this disclaimer and I intend to put the disclaimer link on the top right hand panel of this blog so that everybody can see it. This blog just contains a medium-size disclaimer so if you aren't interested in disclaimers don't read further. But then again if you are bored reading the same old cliched fine-print stuff then this disclaimer may be 'slightly' interesting :-).

Do I have Copyright?

I have all sorts of copy rights on every idea/thought/quote/expression on this blog. That's the first thing you learn before becoming the MBA variety. As they say "Own what you really own.. son!". Actually nobody said it. I just made it up. So if you are going to use this line, you have to pay me money. But seriously, plagiarism is bad, So is using stuff without crediting.

Whats in a Name?

Hawkeye is a character from a T.V Series called M.A.S.H. I am a huge fan of M.A.S.H. A black-comedy T.V series that ran from 1972 to 1983. I have seen each episode of M.A.S.H around 25 times. I think M.A.S.H has around 250 episodes. I started watching M.A.S.H in 1993 and have been watching it for more than a decade. The lead character in M.A.S.H was called Dr.Benjamin Franklin Pierce, he was nicknamed 'hawkeye' by his father because of a character called hawkeye in The Last of the Mohicans. I have not seen/read "Last of the Mohicans". So I do not know anything about the 'real' Hawkeye. I feel, I connect with the 'hawkeye' in M.A.S.H at many levels (not the smugness traits but other traits). Which is why the url and now my display name is 'Hawkeye'. Oh! What did you say? Wouldn't this name change cause a confusion among other bloggers? Yes! it would. But when I myself am constantly confused about my own identity why shouldn't you be?

Lightning Strikes Everyday?

It might be three nonsensical words uttered by a madcap blogger to you. But to me its the governing fact of my life. Something which no reader can understand and something which I have to live with. I created this blogger account in 20 minutes. For 19 minutes and 59 seconds, I spent time writing my profile and groping around other stuff needed to maintain a blog. It took me a second to fill the 'Title' section of my blog. For a person to say 'I am the unluckiest man in the world' is easy. For person who does not believe in luck to say so is complex and dark. For a person who is aware of the philosophy of self-fulfilling prophecies to say so is extremely convoluted, complicated, confusing and fool-hardy, which is exactly the kind of person I am. People say lightning never strikes a man twice in the same place. The probability of lightning striking the same place twice times the probability of the same man being there again is already minuscule. However, for that to happen to the same person several hundred times reduces the probability of such an event happening to one person over the number of people who have ever lived on earth. I am that one person. I epitomize Murphy's law. I should be researched, written about and my stories archived for the rest of mankind to awe at. On one hand a person who believes so strongly that he is jinxed can hardly be called an optimist but on the other hand to survive the kind of odds that I am bestowed with and still get up everyday morning thinking something good will happen to me, one needs to draw from enormous reserves of optimism. To sum up, any succession of ill-fated events that you would think can never happen or makes you go 'nah! maybe one or two might happen, not all. not all to one person' - you can assume that it has happened to me several times. But I still exist. Somehow.

Praise and References for this title

- At the beginning of the MBA program, I remarked to a person who later on went on to become on of my closest friends that I was jinxed beyond belief. He laughed in my face and said that I shouldn't be such a pessimist. I told him that it had nothing to do with 'isms' and that I was simply stating a fact of life. He just rolled his eyes and thought I was a weirdo. At the end of the two year program as we were driving madly to the airport to catch the flight in the last minute, he said to my brother 'do you know that Murphy's law was created for your brother'.

- A reader of my blog, who also knows me personally said only recently 'I never believed you when I read your blog. Now I can see where lightning strikes comes from. This (incident) has never happened before and its happening to you. It is so weird'

some other related posts on the same topic

Disclaimer:

1) I consider myself to be an essayist. If you don't understand what the word means - I write long blog posts. That's because I love writing them. I love writing long posts because I love reading long posts. Reading for entertainment is such good time pass. Think of this as a big time pass newspaper article that you would read over a cup of coffee.

2) I am not here to give you an executive summary of what I want to say. You are no executive. Even if you are, I don't really care. I don't write to give you a brief synopsis or a succinct post. Just because you are retarded and can't digest anything longer than 4 sentences, does not give you the right to blame the author. That you have an 8-bit register, which constantly overflows - for a brain, is your fault. Not mine. If you are grown-up, have more than 2 brain cells and can read, you ought to be able to read longer documents. Most of the good writers that I have read don't try to be succinct. They try to write well. If you are busy and have no time, you shouldn't be wasting whatever little time you have, reading arbitrary blogs that don't provide you any useful information (like this one).
3) I don't have a lot of respect for people who claim that they aren't good readers. People who start skimming things after the 4-sentence limit have been crossed are retards. Educated people should be able to read well. Engineers, especially those who might have to read, review, edit & write long detail-oriented documents shouldn't claim that they can't read.
4) This blog does not give out privileged information concerning any organization/institution I work/worked. In fact I try hard not to mention anything related to any place I have worked in the past or one that I'll work in the future. I will simply not blog about any topic, which I feel can even be remotely considered as "conflict of interest" or violates "Confidential information" that I may possess. I also do not believe anything in this blog space will even remotely fall in any of these previously-mentioned categories. Anything that appears here is something that can typically appear in a book. I am trying to do stuff which may benefit others. That's the bottom line.

5) The blog will center around open-space public domain issues/situations/concepts like applying for higher studies and vying for corporate jobs. This is a huge space in which a lot of strong opinions can be expressed.

6) All these opinions are mine. Obviously! This is my blog. Somebody else's opinion will be in somebody else's blog. For a reader who is 20 years or older, it should be obvious to him/her if some part of my blogs are/is not relevant to him/her. I don't feel the need to say in every blog insipid things like "All this is IMHO and take this advice with a pinch of salt/pepper/cucumber/tamarind etc". In fact even this disclaimer itself is a waste of space.

7) This blog talks about my experiences and things I learned in the process. This is also a prescriptive blog. Not all things suggested/mentioned in this blog has been experienced/done directly by me. Some ( a very few) are things I believe I should have done and didn't. I am writing these blogs because I believe it will work for other people. I hate putting disclaimers which say "It may not work for everybody", when I am specifically trying to write something for others. It is purely up to you to determine whether the suggestions offered here fits with your individual requirements. If you are a normal garden variety engineer from a regular Indian college, most probably things in this blog will fit you.

8) I also won't force myself to be politically correct and in the process push myself into a corner where I can't express any opinion at all. If I have to take a stand on something I won't wimp around saying "I dunno..my thighs feel weak" etc. I'll just take a stand on what I believe.

9) Again that does not mean I'll leak out company secrets and any confidential information I know. I am not a controversy monger. I respect corporate and institutional laws and won't break them.

10) In the public domain space that is outside/mutually-exclusive of these legal stuff, I like people who stick up to what they believe even if they fail at a later stage. I do not like people who don't say anything concrete because they don't want to be looked upon as people who are wrong/failures or worse so that they can avoid getting into a controversy (again this with things in the public domain). These people are boring and a waste of space. For example many Indian cricket commentators like Mohinder Amarnath will say "anything can happen. Cricket is a funny game". When India is chasing a target of 369 and is now 28/9 in 49.5 overs. Funnily enough, they are being politically correct. To me they are also stupid and I really hate such people. At the same time I won't "always" do a Kris Srikkanth and say "India has lost. The match is over", when we are 30/3 and Tendulkar, Dravid and Sehwag have gone back to the pavilion. Oh! I do think the match is lost, but I'll wait for a few more overs or one more wicket before saying that. But I have to say in this spectrum I am more 'Cheeka' than 'Jimmy'.

11) Oh! and for god's sake dont come running with one exception and claim that what I wrote isn't what happens. That your 3rd uncle's son managed a Wharton admit with a 430 GMAT is good, but it doesnt mean anything. Almost everything I say will have exceptions. Learn to distinguish exception Vs norm using the 80-20 rule. Don't complicate yourself saying 'you cant say that for sure its all situation dependent'. Yes! there are also many situation dependent scenarios. So wherever relevant, I'll try and say its situation-dependent.

12) What I am blogging about is something that has worked/works. This is intended to inspire 'other people'. It is meant for ordinary people like us. If you have a sense of humor and you think it talks about extra-ordinary things then it is meant to inspire ordinary people to do outside-the-ordinary stuff. This is a collection of my experiences/mistakes and other people's experiences/mistakes. If it works for me and people whom I knew, then it must obviously work for a lot of people. I have tried to present it in a way that will help a big majority of people benefit from my experiences.

13) If you followed some ideas in this blog and still didn't go anywhere, it only means you screwed up somewhere. Find out where you screwed up, instead of coming here wailing like a baby saying "i failed because your theory did not work". That only makes you a Loser and a sore one at that.

14) Off-late, I hate putting his/her and she/he. I'll just put one of 'he' or 'she'. Most probably it will be 'he'. Since many of you have obviously finished 8th standard Biology, you know what your gender is. Please understand such references to mean your own gender, wherever applicable.

15) There are a lot of people who have done MBA and who are writing blogs. Even more people, who have done an M.S/working, are writing blogs. Their opinions/contradictions/criticisms/love/money are welcome. As long as they realize there is a more than one way to slice a cake/ nail a cat/ cook sambar rice.

16) If I have contradicted myself anywhere or said things in an inconsistent fashion in my blog. Please point it out to me. There is a good chance I may not alter any of my past statements. But I'd like to know where I contradict myself. I have long since reconciled to a self-contradictory life. I do think most other people contradict themselves many times over, even if they claim otherwise. We'll have to live with everything.

17) I make a lot of spelling mistakes. I am very poor in 'ie' and 'ei' related things. Please point them to me. I'd like to change.

18) I hate songs in movies. Although I review movies that has songs, and may even appreciate song-picturization, I still think songs shouldn't be part of movies. I don't think songs-in-movies have anything to do with Indian tradition and I'd like to see movies without songs in the future. I used to believe in the 'sneezing' superstition among the list of superstitions blogged delightfully well here.

19) The quote above (the one about advertisements under "Lightning Strikes Everyday") is from the TV Series M*A*S*H. MASH is my all-time favorite TV Series. I have watched each episode of MASH around 20 times. Hawkeye in MASH is a character I am crazy about. His dialogs resonate with my views like crazy. If I don't change this disclaimer to reflect a new source but just delete this point, when stuff under the title changes, please assume it to be my own stuff.

20) Most of the posts don't have a point, a moral or a message. If I unintentionally make a point or write something like 'the point is' - that post maybe an exception.

Before we start -- a little terminology lesson.

1) Graduate Studies in the U.S is Post-Graduate Studies in India. While in India a person who has completed his Bachelors degree is called a Graduate in the U.S he is just a person with an Under Graduate degree.And while in India a Masters level degree is called Post-Graduate degree, in the U.S its just a Graduate degree. Wokay?!

2) oh! almost forgot. While in India you stop going to a school after XIIth Grade (High School), In the U.S you are going to a school as long as you are studying (even if you are doing a Ph.D). Any place which offers education can be called as a school in the U.S. Whereas in India once you throw away your uniform and finish high school you start going to college and not school. In all the blogs concerning education the terminology that will be used will be U.S terminology.

How to spend a vacation?

Okay! I have not slept this many hours since my 12th grade vacations. If you guys didn't already know how to spend a vacation, I'll tell you. Stop all activities that you do, one-by-one until you merge in and fade-out with some of the furniture in your house. To do this -- you have to develop a reputation that "this guy wont do work around the house even if he was paid every second". So they don't trouble you if you have been sitting and staring at nothing for 40 minutes after you get up ( in the morning...its only 20 minutes in the afternoon). If 12 hours in the night and 4 hours in the day don't prepare you for a tough demanding 2 years then what will. In case you were wondering how I get away with murder...that was my reason. I have not done any work at home in the post-independence era. And I was born after independence. Oh! btw.. I charge 60$/hr for lessons on "How to avoid work at home". Great specialists on this subject have gone to great lengths to avoid work. But they haven't realized that "going to great lengths" is also work. I can teach you to avoid even that.

Oh! Some people still think I am newly married. Which is good. The truth is in the last 4-5 months, I have been so busy with other things that I did not visit any of the near-and-dears category. Every house we visited we had the "aarthi" plate, ya the one with the red liquid, two ladies moving the plate in circular fashion and singing a song welcoming us. Ah! The traditional newly-married-couple welcomes. I love it. I forgot that people flood you with great gifts the first time you visit them after marriage. If the relatives are your wife's then the gifts double. Ask me! I am 7 T-Shirts, 3 Dhotis and 2 Shirt-Cloth-material richer. All this was earned in 1 evening. How you may ask? "But you just said you didn't do any work , why do you say earned?", you may wonder. I'll tell you. I went to their houses, had coffee, tiffin and in more than one place - dinner. While my wife was on the emotional " I don't know when I'll see them again", I was thinking, "I am sure they will serve me basundhi". What... take care of the girl who has been the darling of the family! ya sure! why not? No problem.. Foreign country..BAH!!!! Detroit is the safest place in the world :-).

And then I was forced to do work.

Trained 3 people ( 2 cousins and a wife) for their car driving license test. I thought driving license tests in India was like "hmm.. lets see your face.. good looking chic..eh.. PASS". "Lets see unshaven.. bum in faded jeans..and T-Shirt with stuff written on it.. reverse..gear-up ..gear-down, drive left.. drive upside down". But it has changed now. They really test. My cousin was denied license the first time, when I thought she would be given one before she sat in the car. So here I was teaching girls how to drive a car. That's like teaching me to watch Mega Serials. A lot of people are politically correct when it comes to women and driving licenses. I am not. Sorry women! I don't think 60% of you, driving around in India, deserve a license. Really you don't. While men fail license tests because of "drives too rashly".."brakes jerkily" kind of reasons.. women fail driving tests because " didn't press clutch before changing gears", "Didn't know what a clutch was", "tried to ignition an already running car".

my throat is hoarse yelling "clutch..clutch..brake...brake...BRAAAAAKE".

Birthday's used to be nice once-upon-a-time. Now they are nasty reminders of old-age. It seems like only yesterday I was jumping with joy for breaking into double-digits age wise. Now its like "don't pile on the agony...man". But then I got more T-Shirts. Advise to folks in Chennai. Vridhavan restaurant in New Woodlands is not a good restaurant. We were a 15 member troupe and everything from service to food sucked. Puliyodharai, Adhirsam, Vadai in Triplicane temple rocks. I ate 2 in each variety. Thanks Mr.Parthasarathy. Give my regards to Arjunan and all the ladies there.

Did I tell you. And I told this a billion times that day. Me and my wife share the same birth date (the DD/MM in the DD/MM/YYYY string). We were also born the same day of the week.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Campus Interviewing

Note: This post is only relevant to final year engineering students preparing for campus interviews. It is my intention to write a series of blogs on post-college Job and Advanced education Opportunities. If you find that the opinions are more biased towards engineering stream folks, I apologize because this is the only area on which I can blog about with reasonable credibility. I will however try and keep the future blogs as "degree-neutral" as possible.

Campus interviewing in engineering colleges in India has already begun for students who will graduate in summer of 2006. For those graduating in May 2005 the recruiting season is almost getting over. A broad spectrum of emotions can be observed among the various categories of students out there. The fourth year students should be eagerly looking forward to their first job interview. Many graduates are probably excited to join their first job. There are also the unfortunate few who are silently suffering in nervous tension as they watch the recruiting season wind up with no job offer in sight and final hurdle, the 8th semester exam results looms large before their eyes. For all three categories of students there is still a lot of work still to be done. In fact the journey has just begun. Here are some vital tips packed with information for each of these three categories that will hopefully enrich their decision making process.

The 7th semester students are obviously gaping in surprise. Companies interviewing 6th and 7th semester engineering students is not a common phenomena. It is a reflection of the much talked about “boom” that is now prevalent in the IT sector. Companies want raw talent and they intend to grab the best Computer Science, Electronics, and Electrical engineering students available in the academic market. While this is obviously good news, I would also like to point out two of the most common pitfalls related to aggressive college recruiting that students should be aware of; or rather beware of.

1. The first company that arrives on campus is not necessarily the best company for YOU.

Welcome to the era where the employee is the king. You are indeed lucky to be in undergrad college now. Job interview is the first step in a person’s maturing process. So here is the first lesson. Companies want people to do a specific job and they will recruit people who can do that job. However, consider this question -- Before making an offer, is it the responsibility of the company to make sure whether you like the job and whether the job will suit your career ambitions and talents? The answer is an emphatic No. Welcome to the big bad professional world. While, you -- as a resource are important to the company. You -- as a person may not be that important. It is your responsibility to find out the details of the job before accepting the offer. It is up to you to find out whether you will like the job or not. The company will recruit you if they feel you can do the job that they have open. They cannot know, do not have the time to know and they are least interested in knowing if the job will do justice to your talents.

The companies that usually attract fewer candidates from the lateral entry (people with prior work-experience) market are the ones who vie hard for the first few campus interview slots. The reason being, at the very beginning of the recruiting season when no one has a job offer in hand, everybody is anxious to get a job. This includes first rankers, gold medalist, whiz kids et. all. These students like all other students are also insecure and unaware of their potential in the job market. The common pitfall that happens here is that these students compete hard to somehow secure a job offer and commit themselves to a company that may not be their number one choice (they may not know this at that time). Furthermore, colleges forbid a student, with a job offer from attending any further campus interviews. Some colleges also force students to decide between applying to US universities and attending campus interview in his or her third year itself. Such colleges forbid teachers from giving students, with campus job offers, recommendation letters required for applying to US universities. Most or all colleges go one step further and limit the number of job offers a student can compete for - to just one. So in effect the moment you accept one job offer, your options are all closed. As to how this practice is allowed in a democratic country and a free world is beyond anybody’s imagination. However, as undemocratic as this may sound, this is the reality. So students should try and play by these rules and smartly attend the campus interviews of companies they are reasonably sure they want to join. There is no point in accepting a job offer regretting the decision once you see a better company arrive at the campus for interviews.

Solution: Asking the interviewer about the company and job profile is a good idea. If you find the interviewer to be someone who has been unwillingly dragged into this recruiting safari (something not uncommon) please talk to the accompanying HR representative and let them know that you are interested in knowing more about the kind of job you would be doing. Talking to industry professionals is also an excellent idea.

2. Know thyself and know thy wants, needs and limitations.

Knowing what a person wants in life is an outcome of intense introspection and research. The first job after graduation is often a vital factor in determining a person’s career direction and his professional happiness. For example -- if you work for one year in mainframes you will find that two years later you cannot move to a networking or embedded software related field. If nobody tells you I will - mainframe related jobs suck. Four years into working in mainframes kind of jobs you wont need anybody to tell you that the jobs sucks. You will sort of know :-) After that you can only tell college kids that your job is cool coz' nobody else will pay a lot of attention. So in effect your first job determines the next 6 to 8 years of your life. That such a huge decision is taken when a person has the least amount of professional maturity makes this decision all the more daunting and important. Self-discovery and identifying your talents & goals are easier said than done. Students who are just looking out for a big fat paycheck usually brush this important step aside.

The pitfall is that students in India usually define success or quality of job offer based on the salary package and brand of the company. These are the students who typically say “as long as I am getting paid a lot, I can keep typing characters into a keyboard.” The third year students and final year students, who already have a job offer, must understand this; nothing could be farther than the truth. Salary is the least important criteria for a person attending campus interviews. Learn to refuse money now otherwise you wont have anything to refuse later. You will just take whatever comes your way. I am not suggesting you live life like a hermit or a sanyasi and say "money is maaya". No thats not it. Two to three years into a professional career when everybody is earning a lot, job satisfaction and positioning oneself for the future become top priorities. It is during these times that many people regret making decisions when the only two designations they knew in the software industry was Project Manager and CEO. There are intangible things like dignity, style, reputation and class that comes into play. Long-term benefits are extremely important and if money distracts you from that then money should become secondary. It is extremely common to see people ruing a decision they made at a time when they did not know the difference between Embedded Systems and Mainframes. Nobody then will remember that you were first dude to get a job offer. The happiest moment of your academic career, the campus job offer, later becomes the biggest mistake of your professional career.

Solution: The interviewer will always ask your area of interest during the interview. From my experiences visiting college campuses, I have often seen students blinking when asked this question. The whole career part of the interview is a black box to them. They ask "field.. what all fields are there?" When the students are unable to answer this question, I have often seen interviewers pencil in their own department’s name (which could be mainframes) as the student’s career interest. It is staggering to see such an important decision being made so casually. It is extremely important to know thyself and find your interests clearly and make a choice that justifies your engineering degree and intellect. Ask yourself “is this an engineering job or could anybody with a training certificate from a private software institute do this job?” and then decide. If you are intent on working in a specific technical field, taking a job offer from a product company (such as Microsoft, Oracle, Sun etc) is more reliable than a services company (TCS, Infosys, HCL etc). This is because the priorities and projects that a Services Company handles changes drastically from the time you were made the offer till the time you join the company. While you may have been promised a particular job profile at the time of the interview, you may find yourself assigned to a completely different field/department/planet on the day of joining. Usually services companies decide your job assignment 3 days after you join. Is it unprofessional? Yes! it is. But market forces are more powerful than professionalism. Money needs to be earned and that is more important than the stupid career aspirations of a whining campus recruit. If market dictates that your job assignment decision should be deferred until the last minute then that is what will happen. If it is your interest to gain the advantages that a services company offers, such as onsite/abroad opportunities etc, it is better to work in a product company for two years and then transition to a services company. This way you would have acquired reasonable professional maturity and insight to have your cake and eat it too. I may have Forrest Gumped my way into this path but I can also tell with reasonable authority that this algorithm works. Plus! Product companies have better reliability in job assignments. If you were told that you would be writing device drivers at the time of interviewing, chances are -- you will be doing just that in your first assignment. After two years, once you have garnered a reputation of being a ‘specialist’ in a particular technology there is no way a service company can wrongly assign you to an unwanted field. Always have these questions in mind – Is the job you are doing worth the time and effort spent on your degree? Is there some logical connection? If you are an engineer, are you really doing engineering? At the time of my graduation, I was not smart enough to ask these question on my own but people around me often wondered about such questions. I was at least smart enough to copy them.

To the last category of students who are still awaiting a job offer, your hope is not over yet. Many companies recruit fresh graduates outside of campus. You should network with software industry professionals and find out about walk-ins and other avenues where such recruitment happens. Planning for a post-graduate degree in India or abroad is an excellent recourse. However, joining a Call Center is not such a bright idea. Call Center experience are usually not looked upon favorably by technology companies (in fact it is looked down upon) and the unbearable working hours leave you with little time to prepare for competitive exams or search for other jobs.

In this boom era one can be reasonably confident of securing a job that matches one’s interest and liking. As the immortal saying goes, “We live in exciting times”. And since the sun is shining we might as well make some hay.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Turn of the Tide

Day 6, Sathyanarayana Temple, Brahmotsavam, July 2002:. A cable wire slowly got caught onto the top of the chariot bearing the Uthsavar of Lord.Sathyanarayana as the chariot tried to turn right from Srinivasan street on to Thambiah road. The crowd of 1000 people gathered did not notice it. This was the very first Brahmotsavam this temple "celebrated". A festival that was put together and organized with lot of pain and hard work. As the people pulling the chariot increase their speed, the wire entangled itself to the chariot and pulled it down. The huge 20 Ft chariot toppled and killed 1 person as it fell down. Many residents of W.Mambalam left home in tears as the days event was abandoned.

Some say good bye to people and some say good bye to events. This is a time in my life when I am closing things related to the current phase of my life and moving on to the next phase. I am saying good bye to people, events and a little more. The Brahmotsavam activities in the Sathyanarayana temple close to where my parents live in Chennai is something I have been increasingly involved in for the past three years. The 2003 Brahmotsavam happened at a time when I had just 1 week's gap to switch between jobs. And that was no mean coincidence. I had read about the 2002 fiasco in the online version of "The Hindu" newspaper, while in the U.S. The next year I was present in person. As the chariot negotiated the same right turn, we all watched with bated breath. A person was stationed to lift the very same cable wire that played the villain the previous year. We all let out a big collective sigh of relief as the chariot thudded and gawkily turned right and rolled its way into Thambiah road in its noisy wooden wheels. Among other things, this event taught me that bad starts don't mean a thing. If you want to, you can comeback from bad events and bad phases. Sometimes it is good see failures early on in life. It provides the rich base of experience required to negotiate bigger challenges. Since that time my involvement with the temple increased and I took active interest in learning things concerned with daily activities of the temple and the sort of festivals they celebrate. Why they do it and how they do it? While I am excited about moving on to what I think are 'greener pastures', I am also a touch misty that I will be missing the festivities next year and possibly for many many years to come.

The Brahmotsavam is an interesting festival. In the pre Doordarshan days, Brahmotsavam was the major form of entertainment for many people living near a temple. Nowadays retired parents, whose children have gone outside Chennai ( or out of the country ) to pursue career interests, find that such temple related activities occupy a major portion of their retired lives. I find that people walking towards the evening of their lives find sudden attraction towards God and involve themselves in such activities to attain some sort of fulfillment in their lives. I see that many of the participants are people who consider their involvement as an atonement to the many years of theistic neglect. A neglect that is possibly a result of material and career related compulsions. This leads to another interesting thought. Is what we consider important today really that important 50 years from now ? (or) Should we really worry about such things? Are we all condemned to do things that are important only for a very short period of time? In a "long enough timeline", it is interesting to note the changing importance of many things that we do. What we consider as "the big thing to do" now and in different stages of life is also largely disconnected. Isn't there no way to link these short-term "importances" to achieve a much larger and more satisfying long-term goal? Can career, spiritual, artistic and other goals be inter-connected to achieve a larger meaning to life? Now in this disconnected state -- there are things that you know before hand as ones that may not matter in the long(er) run. However, they are the ones that we still have to do (and do very well) because they are immediate, closer to our current reality and so more important. The M.S, MBBS, MBA and other material and career related aspirations are good examples of what I am talking about. I realize that someday I may become one of these people and whatever I do in the next 30 years may not be as important as what I do after the next 30 years.

In any case -- Brahmotsavam is usually a 7 to 9 day festival. Many Temples customize Brahmotsavam to their own style. Thirupathi has its own style of doing Brahmotsavam. While Kancheepuram, the temple town, does things slightly differently. Our Sathyanarayana temple here features the Hamsa Vaaganam, Yaanai (Gaja) Vaaganam, Simha Vaaganam, Garuda Vaaganam and last but not the least The Chariot. IMHO, in Madras, no other place outside of West Mambalam can celebrate Brahmotsavam in such a grand style. Given the congestion and traffic problems, I do not think, any other part of Madras (even Thiruvallikeni) can host such an elaborate and grand celebrations. The rectangle formed by Thambiah Road, Bhaktavatsalam St, Arya Gowda Rd, and Srinivasan St offers the correct amount of seclusion and has enough space for a crowd of around 2000 to 5000 people.

There is the Oonjal sevai (A sort of a swing/cradle) every day. The Uthsavar ( The version of the God that can be taken out of the temple and into the streets in a Oorvalam) is brought outside in a grand manner. Music is provided by a Nathaswaram group and a band. 4 people bear the Utsavar on a Palanquin (I hope the usage is right here.. I really did not get a better word. Palanquin usually means A covered litter carried on poles on the shoulders of four or more bearers, formerly used in eastern Asia . Only that here it is not covered but open.) as they come out of the temple. Outside the temple, the bearers dance to the music and it appears as if the Utsavar himself is dancing to the band. Later they place the Utsavar on the Oonjal. The Oorvalam (The procession of the Utsavar on the streets) then happens on a much bigger palanquin with 4 people bearing each leg of the palanquin, making it a grand total of 16 bearers. Depending on the day of the Brahmotsavam, the Utsavar is placed on an elephant, Garudan etc and taken out. The people who bear the Utsavar on the Vaahanam are specially trained. While this temple is assembling its own set of bearers, in the past specialists have also been brought in from Mylai's Kesava Perumal temple and The Srirangam temple to assist in the proceedings. These specialists know how the handle the palanquin and can move it in a style that will provide an illusion of the Utsavar dancing. The work of these specialists in any Brahmotsavam is something that we all neglect to recognize. I was thoroughly impressed with the way they did some moves, which made the Utsavar appear as if he was walking with a swagger and at the same time dancing wonderfully to the tune.

The chariot (or the Ther) is something that I pulled for the 3rd year in succession. Starting from Srinivasan St pulling the chariot using a rope ( called vadam ) was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Admist loud whistles all the cable wires floating above were cut down. None of the residents complained about this at all. I guess for once, these old people did not mind missing their soaps/mega serials in their lives. The funny thing about such events is that there are always thousand people shouting gzillion instructions. Each offering his own advise on how the chariot should be pulled. As it happens, nobody but the person next to him would be even remotely interested in that piece of advise. It was hot and humid but the kind residents of the four streets gave us water, butter milk and rose milk along the way. A person was specifically appointed to cut the over hanging wires (see picture on the left). There were fireworks on display too. Late in the night (which is 9:30 PM in W.Mambalam) people gathered for a huge fireworks display. Needless to say the fireworks sucker that I am, I kept taping every aerial bomb that was sent up. Then there was the classic thing with Thirumangai Mannan/Alwar. Legend has it that there was a person called Thirumangai Mannan who stole jewels and valuables from people. One day he stole it from God Himself. After releiving God of all his jewels Thirumangai mannan finds that he is unable to remove the metti-like minjee from His feet. After trying hard he realizes that the person whom he is trying to steal from is God Himself. God then catches him and fines him a lot of money. Thirumangai Mannan on realizing his folly apologizes and writes some paasurams (hymns / verses) in praise of the Lord. He was granted moksham because of this and was henceforth called Thirumangai Alwar. There is a sequence which was enacted where masked people carrying the palanquin of Thirumangai Mannan enact a robbery-chase scene. Then a big litigation ensues where God names each stolen article and Thirumangai Mannan is fined for various thefts. Then a group of Veda Parayana Goshtees sang the relevant paasurams before the day's events got over.

Standing with near and far family members and with people in the neighborhood, enjoying a common event, brought out a variety of emotions. I wasn't here hundred years before so I do not know things were then. But this festival must've done its best to take us back in time to the way Brahmotsavam was celebrated decades or centuries ago. The simplicity and innocence of the whole thing is the key here. People just want to celebrate. Especially the Thirumangai Alwar enaction. It is so difficult to find temples that do it in today's times. Nobody has the land or space that such elaborate pursuits require and certainly the people who are interested in spending time watching such medieval form of entertainment are dwindling. But here the team spirit was unmistakable. There was a collective pull in everything we did in the last 7 or 8 days, I began to develop familiarity with many faces. I was nodding and acknowledging more people than I ever did in all my life in this area. I am to start my M.B.A in University of Michigan, Ann Arbor this Fall of 2005. I worked my rear-end off all last year to get where I wanted to be. I quit my job 2 weeks ago and am getting ready to leave. Now, I find myself increasingly unwilling to and unable to disassociate myself from this temple, this neighborhood, this city and this phase of my life. But such things have to be done. Standing every night, watching the fireworks on display, I knew that I may not get to see this event for some years to come. And I couldn't help but feel a touch emotional. These are innocent, simple times. I was leading a quiet and peaceful life (well! at least by my standards). I had to go and complicate things, didn't I? Like Gollum and Smeagol, I think inside everybody there is a personal guy and a career guy. While for a major part of the year, the career guy dominates you, kicks you, makes you get up at odd hours, sleep at late hours, miss birthdays, functions, events, makes you lose touch with people. Then in the end when the career guy's job is done and he dusts his hand and gives over the reins to the personal-guy and leaves the scene. The personal-guy finds that his side of life is in tatters. He cleans up the leftovers, renews the broken bonds, the missed events and shouts at the career-guy, "My god man! Look what you have done. What did you do? Don't you know what is important?".

Well! Who does?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Sorry For The Break

"Rukavat Ke Liye Kedh hai" --- " Thadangalukku Varunthigirom".

I hate to say " I am sorry I am not blogging now but I will return with more blogs soon". I'd rather post a real blog than just waste space blogging out excuses. But a lot of things are happening in my life. I am *also* travelling a lot these days. Plus ... Plus..I was immersed in our temple's Brahmotsavam festivities all this week. Have been more inside the temple than at home. All this has contributed to this short period of no-blogging. Now I am reasonably free for the next two days after which I am off to Ooty for some rest. Have lots to blog about but Thirumangai Alwar just stole a lot of stuff from God himself and there was a big pursuit... litigation etc :-). I was taping everything live. Its 11:00 PM and I am very very tired. Too tired to Blog. So I hope to throw out some stuff starting tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Batman Begins - Movie Review

Anniyan Batman is essentially a comic character meant for children. This movie is a PG-13. Though that doesn't say it all, it says a lot doesn't it? What these hollywood people have done is they have taken a fantasy world with a fantasy hero created for children and pyscho-analyzed it to the point where children cannot understand the movie at all. The biggest audience for the movie is lost right there itself. So it becomes a movie for fans, who liked batman when they were children. Batman was my least favorite among the big Superhero's. Well there was Plastic man, Fantastic Four, Mandrake the Magician etc.. who came lower than batman. But Batman had no real super powers and he just brooded a lot.

As the proverb goes "no matter how hard you try you canot make a lie true". No matter how hard these hollywood folks try they cannot make Batman as real and as identifiable a teenager as Spiderman was/is. It is very difficult to make it work (although the movie does the hard work required to make it work to some levels). Although I think Batman hanging upside down and talking was un-intentional ... as hanging upside-down is more a Bat quality than a Spidey attribute. But that reality-connection is the attempt here (the background theme score has a Spiderman familiarity to it too). They have tried to make Batman a character that someone (at least 1 person) in the world can identify with. Thats not going to happen is it? Batman, the concept with his bat wings itself is unreal. There is no city called Gotham city, which is at best a mix of Chicago and NewYork City. We know it. We know that even in the fantasy world Batman is slightly off-the-top. The movie takes the dangerous path of trying to explain the whacky stuff. Why try and explain stuff? is my contention. Just go with the flow.

But...but...but...having said all that. Having put all the disclaimers, I think this is the best Batman movie that has ever come out. We have seen 2 starring Michael Keaton (Batman & Batman Returns), 1 starring Val Kilmer (Batman Forever), 1 starring George Clooney ( Batman & Robin???). I thought the Val Kilmer-Batman was the best prior to this movie and this Batman beats all the other movies mainly because it has not been directed by nutcases like Tim Burton or Joel Schumacher but by a very intelligent person called Christopher Nolan. Chris Nolan has already startled the viewers with the brilliant Memento. And if Tim Burton is the only choice we have to make children see batman, then I'd rather not want children to see batman at all. This adult'ish version of Batman is far better.

This movie goes slightly back forth in time in the beginning, exploring the death of Bruce Wayne's parents. Although most of the previous movies have dealt with Bruce Wayne's parents dying in a quick brood-flashback, this one takes its time to explain all that in detail. Chris Nolan brings a style to his movie that is hard to explain. In Insomnia, his whole movie has the foggy look to it. There were no night scenes in that movie (the location being alaska) and at the same time there were no bright lights. In Memento it appeared as if the movie was shot in a hand-held camera. Here, like the movie Seven, its dark, foggy and rainy. Even the scenes in Nepal aren't overtly bright. Its more toned down. Obviously this is a Bat movie and darkness is the central theme here. But the style to the black-bat theme is certainly noticeable. There is certainly style when the Bat Mobile jumps in and out of the cave and runs atop buildings.

The movie succeeds in showing Batman as some mystical fear-inducing terror character in the eyes of the movie's goons. The good thing about explaining stuff in a Batman movie is you can see the story develop nicely and can follow what everybody is doing and why they are doing it. The journey of Bruce Wayne in a far away land trying to understand suffering is brought out well. Liam Neeson plays Ra's Al Ghul. I am sure Liam Neeson is still experiencing the after-effects of playing a Jedi. His dialogs are more jedi-like. When he was speaking, I was thinking "where is your light saber dude?". The Bat gadgets and the Bat Mobile are the closest to the real thing (if ever there is such a thing :-) ). This movie is no muck with the special effects either. The climax scene is certainly thrilling and edge-of-the-seat stuff.

There is a dignity that actors like Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson bring to characters. I like these actors. I want to watch movies in which actors like these appear. Katie Holmes (oh.. i wont mention the Tom Cruise- Scientology link... oh... there I mentioned it) came with a reputation of being the current most hot-lookin chic (everybody comes after Angelina Jolie in my world). Although there were some evidences to suggest that she might be really hot, this movie does not really have scope for her to appear in baywatch like outfits for us to get a "better" view. We'll leave the Katie Holmes argument for some other movie. Bale's acting looks pale in comparison to the stalwarts around him. But he does well. I still can't get out of the "Wham" "Pow" "Sock" characters that Adam West and Burt Ward played in the Batman T.V series. I loved them even 10 years before. As funny as they are now, they were thrilling to me when I was a kid. That is the key here. As a kid you don't care about psycho-analysis. You just want some good clean action. Even if it is as crude as "Wham! Pow! Sock!" you are okay with it. As an adult you tend to justify and explain things to make them sound real and end up making everything more complicated than necessary. This movie, while it makes this mistake, is certainly suited for adult fans of Batman. There should be some sort of balance that should be struck while trying to appeal to kids of two different generations. It should appeal to kids but at the same time should not be kiddish like the earlier Tim Burton movies. Although this movie errs on the side of sanity... but Oh! Ya this is the best Bat movie ever. This is the treatment that maybe best suited for a Batman movie and future Batman movies.

Monday, July 04, 2005

War of The Worlds - Movie Review

Should one feel happy that Steven Spielberg after all his Oscars and blockbusters is not satisfied yet, and is still trying to make movies (or) should one feel sad that he is failing in that process and thereby diminishing his brand name? When I saw War of the W. -- I was reminded of Sivaji Ganesan, the great actor, and his 1970's 1980's movies where as a 50 year old he was making a fool of himself acting with 18 year olds like Sridevi. I have watched all the movies of this great director called Spielberg and seen the DVD commentaries given by him. It feels as if he is my family member and I know the way he works and thinks. But he lets you down. So bad. And you are left thinking "Is he getting old?" After an eccentric AI (which I actually liked in patches), a decent Minority Report, Spielberg has given a drab and insipid, "Catch me if You can" and stale over-sweet, rank bad "Terminal". And now it is War of the Worlds. Ok so tell me once more ..why do these Aliens want to invade the earth and that too in such a primitive badly planned fashion?

Agreed that even in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" the aliens did not have a purpose to come and visit the Earth. However, here in this movie, for the aliens to come and destroy the earth after going through a rather extravagant process of planting some industraial revolution era machines gzillion years ago seems a little too contrived. It was almost as if Mars(or whoever else it is) was fighting a huge intergalactic war with some other huge planet and sent a moquito army to destroy the Earth as a bonus out-of-syllabus question attempt. Instead of planting the machines then, they could have simply taken over the earth then itself and not allowed humans to flourish or at least breed humans in some poultry like farms and then eat them. There wouldn't be any bacterial problem this way would it?

There are some good aspects to the movie too. After all Spielberg is just out of form and not completely spaced out. The biggest plus of all is that movie has a linear narration style. There are no multiple threads in the movie's narrative, which Spielberg has to tie and converge later down the movie. The movie does not focus on global equations -- like it does not care about what Earth's strategy to counter attack is.. it does not have "experts" talking to some blinking president and tell them how to "Whoop E.T's ass". This movie tells a story of one person who survived the attack and Tom Cruise plays the person. Tom Cruise is not a hero. He doesn't survive because he is Tom Cruise (and Tom Cruise simply can't die). Tom Cruise excellently plays the role of a frightened, selfish man who somehow manages to survive. Tom Cruise is a good actor. You see the world through the eyes of Tom Cruise and like any body in such a world you do not know what's happening globally or whether there is any hope for human survival etc. If this happened to me, I would have pissed in my pants and run for cover. I wouldn't have cared if human beings win or not. I would have wanted to run away from the scene of action and just stay in hiding until the army does its job. Tom Cruise does the same thing. He is a completely selfish person, who only wants to get away from anything interesting these martians are doing. So selfish that if anybody gets in the way of his survival he will kill them. Fair enough.

I liked the chaotic way in which the movie progresses. You don't know whats happening. You expect the camera to widen its focus and take you aerial view into the White House for an important Security meeting any moment. That does not happen. The Camera never expands into a bigger view. It is shown from a single person's point of view. Even the things that Camera focuses is shown from the point of view that a normal eye can see. It doesn't show the entire Earth, Europe , Asia etc burning. It shows three to four streets completely destroyed. Thats it. Typical of Spielberg's movies a young child is your reference point. She is your connection with "what would I do if I were in that world?". You already have Tom Cruise to identify with and then there is this girl. The character Rachel blows your heart out. Boy can she act well! The one scene in that basement alone is worth the price of the ticket. But then again Spielberg has done this before. His orchestrated movements of a particular situation getting worse was on full display in (a) the final scenes in Jurrasic park where the 2 kids escape from the raptors in the kitchen (mirror was used there also) (b) the scene in Lost world where the 3 people try and escape the trailor falling from the hill top. He starts with a situation and tunes every parameter in the situation to make things progressively bad and thereby increase your anxeity levels and then slowly unwind it down to safety. All the time the background music of John Williams plays tricks on you with sudden silence. But much like this movie even this scene is not Spielberg's best. The scene where the train of fire runs through was quite eerie. See... those are the magic moments Spielberg is known for. If only the movie had many many many more of them.

Neither I nor anyone else who did not like this movie can exactly articulate how the movie could have been made better. To put it simply -- It lacked the magic of Spielberg that was present in his earlier movies. The magic which surprises you and makes you think "this guy is intelligent". I guess he has underplayed the movie and overplayed the hype too much. This is atypical of Spielberg. I know he is a master money maker but usually puts his money where his mouth is.. that is up until now. The movie is so low key always that it never really gets up and seriously kick ass. Maybe its not Spielberg's fault for giving so many awesome movies so early on in his career. Our expectations now are so sky high that it is impossible for even Spielberg to exceed them. Spielberg may already have given his best to us. That makes me even more sad. I love Spielberg and I can't bear to this. I think the Oscar folks should have held on to the awards a little longer and not given Spielberg any Academy awards. That would have been the motivation factor for Spielberg to continue giving us great movies. This would have prevented him from giving overly optimistic, too sweet movies where *everybody survives*. Why the hell can't he kill the boy at least for heavens sake? The last time I thought he gave us a truly great movie was after watching Saving Private Ryan. I just hope it is not the last time ever.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Qualification -- Part II -- Closure

Note: this is a sequel to the Short Story that began here

Chitra and Srikanth entered the room at around 4: 03 PM. Minutes after Srikanth's family had arrived, Srikanth's father had suggested that they get right down to business and insisted that the girl and the boy should start talking soon. Rukmini led them to Chitra's father's office room where they could talk. Varadarajan had not arrived and was still talking with Guru Moorthi. Rukmini was angry but she did not show it ..yet. Chitra did not have a chance to look at the boy. She had only seen his blue jeans and the collar-less black T-Shirt. Chitra always perceived arranged marriage in a calculative mode. It was her defense against the randomness introduced by such moments. People behaved incoherently and inconsistently when romance was even remotely involved, thought Chitra. She thought Love marriages and Arranged marriages were essential similar in that both leaped from a cold ruthless calculation to a palpitative emotional decision -- the moment a love proposal comes in or the moment she stepped into a room with a potential bridegroom. Chitra rejected three people who had proposed to her in her NIIT days. That was because she never allowed herself to wander into the mental state where she actively considreed their proposals. She rejected without analysis. This, she thought was the best strategy to avoid falling into the love marriage pitfall. She considered her friends who did love marriage as people who fell into the trap of considering proposals seriously. Not that she was against Love Marriage but she knew her family couldn't really afford one at the moment.

Today she felt a little more excited than usual. For some reason she wanted this to work. But she still began by asking her regular questions, which indirectly expressed her vision of her future husband, " Are you a responsible person"..."Do you keep your house clean"..."Are you serious about your career". She never asked "are you a honest person".."will you always tell the truth". To her these were silly questions and invariably people would say "yes". She focussed on things that were quantifable. She was always nervous to meet the eye of the boy directly. So her eyes wandered around the room or focussed on some point slightly aboove Srikanth's head and once-in-a-while she met his gaze. He was matter of fact, serious and sincere. When it was his turn to ask questions, Srikanth did not stress on the boring "will you be okay with the joint family and respect my mother" question. Chitra thought the question was too obvious and did not understand the purpose of the question. Most girls would say "yes" anyway. She in fact thought low of the boys who asked her that question. Srikanth's opening line was "I do not care to ask if you would like to live in a joint family. To me, thats not an option. If we face a situation where we have to live with the joint family, I expect you to cope with it. I think its a stupid question to ask and I won't ask it". Chitra smiled. She agreed. This was good. After a few initial questions Srikanth said " There is no easy way to ask this, so I will be direct. Have you ever had an affair, been in love, been in a live-in relationship with anyone. Be it for a day or a year". Chitra was caught by surprise. This was the first time she was asked such a question. So she said, "Do I look like a person who has been in love". Srikanth replied " I think it is a stupid question and I think you know it too". Chitra laughed and said " yes! its a stupid question. Sorry I was caught by surprise. Anyway the answer to your question is -- No. People have asked me if I wanted to marry them, but it has always been -- No.". Chitra spoke the truth. Like most people in such a conversation, when asked such deep personal questions, she was candid. Even if she had a relationship she would have been upfront and would have told so. Not because she was a swear-to-god honest person. People are always afraid that their past will catch up with them. So they take care to put the record out in the open. It was the sensible thing to do. Chitra was a sensible person. Chitra now had regained her composure and asked, "Why do you ask? and What will your answer be if I asked you the same question".

Srikanth had been in a live-in relatioship with a person called Janani. After he completed engineering, he ignored his M.S admission and took up a job in Hyderabad to be with Janani, who also had got a job in Hyderabad through campus interview. He had been madly in love. Janani had been his engineering classmate. Janani never really committed to Srikanth and she never really did say -- No -- also. Srikanth's friends thought she was playing games with him. In all honesty even Janani did not have a clue. In about 6 months, one other office collegue proposed to Janani and right under Srikanth's nose, he took Janani away from Srikanth. Srikanth could not believe that the person who he was staying with, up until 3 months before could now be with someone else. This was something he imagined would never happen. He lost the Janani he loved and saw one who avoided him and even lied to be away from him. Srikanth was devastated. It took him quite a lot of time to recover from - what he called as a betrayal -- and take up on the M.S offer the next year. He lost trust in girls and always feared, the one he loved would run away with some other guy. Srikanth carefully considered Chitra's question and replied " I do not want to marry a girl, who has had an affair before. It is a personal preference. The answer to your question is -- No". Srikanth lived life off-the-wall. He was a risk taker, a gambler. He was a sensible person too. He liked Chitra and wanted this alliance to work and he was well on his way to acheive that objective.

When Sundaram entered Janaki's house, he did not know what to expect. He had so little information about the girl. This was something that he usually did not approve. But he trusted his mother to have done the right thing. Sundaram was born to a person who started his career as a mechanic. When Rajendran, Sundaram's father, was 20 years old, he fought with his boss and in a moment of fury stole Rs. 10000 from the cash box and ran away. From that point Rajendran, who started his life near Trichendur, had cheated several banks and had run away from most places he had lived. With the money he obtained from cheating others, he started his own business and 30 years later, except for bribing some government officials now-and-then, he led a reasonably honest life. Sundaram grew up like everybody else. He wore glasses from his 2nd STD. Kids in his class called him "Soda buddi". He felt himself an awkward and less-confident teenager, when he had his glasses on. He hated glasses and he hated the fact that he had to live with glasses. He missed out on sports opportunities and even on some girls because of his stupid glasses. He still wore them and disliked them none-the-less. He vowed to himself at a very early age that if he ever grew up he would never want his son to go through what he went through. This was primarily the reason why Sundaram looked for a wife without glasses. He thought that would give him some (even if it was a slim one) chance to father a child without glasses. A week before Sundaram saw an opportunity for a dream job in Singapore. While submitting his resume to that company, Sundaram had lied heavily and also falsified his employment dates. He had done this to somehow secure his dream job in Singapore. When Rajendran learned of this, he pulled Sundaram aside and told him " Do not lie Sundara. It is a sin to lie. Never falsify information in your life". Sundaram looked at his father and in a sneering way replied "What gives you the qualification to advise me. Look at your life. You have lied in almost every path of your life. You are a cheat. Didn't things work out for you? How dare you give me advise when you are least qualified to give it".

Rajendran looked at Sundaram and said with some emotion, "Who else will know the evils of lying and stealing better than me? Have you ever stole or falsified in your life before? Do you know how agonizing the experience is? Do you know how many sleepless nights I have spent worrying if my past will catch up with me? Do you know how afraid I was when I went into the bank for an education loan? Frightened to death that someone from my past will come and call me out". Sundaram was stunned at this reply. He had never thought of this issue this way. His father was talking sense. Rajendra continued, "If at all anybody has qualification to talk about this issue, it is I. I have more qualification that you or anybody else to comment about this. How can a person who has never had cancer talk about its pain. I have had that cancer and I know what I am talking about. I have stolen and lied in my life and I know better than anybody else, how bad it is". Sundaram never forgot that conversation. Sundaram was thinking of this conversation when he listened to Janaki sing Marugelara.

"My dear Lakshmi", Lord Sathyaranarayana said to the Goddess and his consort, who was quite confused by the incongruency and the vagaries of life, "People have severe misconceptions on the meaning and applicability of the word -- Qualification. This is what makes them so judgemental. People constantly want to think of themselves as ethically, monetarily, and holistically more successfull and better than others. And so they invent this thing called qualification, which to their eyes, makes others lesser human beings, when compared to them. This qualification factor allows humans to brand others as hypocrites and in-consistent. They have created a mini caste-system based on qualification. Who can say what -- who can do what -- is determined based on qualification. People with spectacles are forbidden to prefer spouses without glasses, while the reverse is allowed and even appreciated. People who are perceived as less educated, are made fun of when they look outside their "less educated caste". While again the reverse is allowed and appreciated. What you just saw is a small example and many evils happen in the wide world that I have created. But it gives you a lot to think about doesn't it. Think about real caste system, it is based on and centered upon qualification. *** Who has the qualification*** constantly disturbs people.". Lakshmi then asked " Isn't there then -- no qualification required at all" to which the Lord replied "yes! quite a strict list of qualifications exist in this world that I have created. Qualifications of the highest order exist even for my creations to see their creator and attain salvation. But it is so individual and person specific that not everybody gets to evaluate and judge another person's qualifications." The Lord paused and said in an emphasizing tone. "There is no general rule that is applicable to all, which directly implies that there is a general rule that can be applied to all also" The Lord winks at his consort upon saying this because the phrase so wonderfully summed up His Whimsical world. He then continues, "A person may do things that appear to be incongruent and contradictory. But these things will still make him **Qualified**. To the fool he may appear as a hypocrite and self-contradictory but to me he is not, because I know where he comes from. While fools confuse the meaning of qualifications and abandon the things, which make them qualified, these contradictory people follow the path that makes them -- qualified"