Monday, January 30, 2006

Masala Dosai

The South Indian family that we are, my wife and I invited a friend for Dinner. He specifically requested Dosai for dinner. My wife started with the batter and all the usual pre-dosai stuff. As the afternoon wore on, I slowly talked to my wife and convinced her to take the dinner preparations - a level higher. "Masala Dosai would not be a bad idea", I kept telling her. I throw in words like 'constant pressure' - 'unbelievable workload' to dramatize things. "A dosai would releive all this temporarily" - I rested my case. One thing led to another and cocunut chutney also sprang into the scheme of things.

My friend arrives. We spend 2 minutes saying hello and quickly put the plates and sit on the table. My wife starts making m.dosai and serving it to us. We start talking and eating. Things are on a roll. Bitching about MBA and stuff is always engaging.

30 minutes later:

The batter is almost done. My friend is on his SEVENTH m.dosai. I am on my EIGHTH. And its Masala Dosai. Not just regular ones. I am keeping count. Under normal circumstances my wife would have closed shop after my 3rd. But a guest is around. She can't say a word. Especially since I have been carefully avoiding all her signs asking me to stop. I am mentally begging my friend to go for 2 more. He gets the 8th dosai. Realizes that we have been talking and eating for quite some time. His eyes droop. The poor fellow runs out of gas and says "can't have more baba! I am stuffed. Here dude.. you have half". So I take the half and cooly tell my wife (without looking at her) - "I'll stop with one more honey!". She decides to dare me and says "No I think you have had enough".

Never the one to be cowed down by a stare fight, I double dare "No I'll have one more". I think she must've looked at me for a while before throwing in more 'maavu' on the tava. I can say because the 9.5th dosai took a while to appear on my plate. I usually like the new one dropped on my plate as I am having the last piece of the previous one. It is all one smooth motion. Like music. But its all forgiven once I get my 9.5th Masala Dosai. On the flip side we did have a small regret that my poor wife barely got 2 Dosai's for her dinner (and masala for just one dosai). I guess its just one of those things.. I am sure I'll apologize.... but it all depends on when she starts talking to me again.

Did you people hear about the incident in Madras where a guy climbed up a pole and threatened to jump if the police did not pay him Rs 500,000? It happened right next to my parents house. There is a cell phone tower next to Pandian Store (W.Mambalam). A person it seems climbed the tower and threatened to jump. Apparently he was not from the city. The entire public stopped and watched the show for 2 hours. My mom's neighbor literally dragged her to the terrace to watch the guy. It seems people were saying " I have to go to work and finish something important. But.. I won't, because I'll never get a chance to see something like this". Ice-cream sellers and Balloon sellers began to set up shop to cash in on the excitement (Source: My Aunt). Fire Engine, Police and all the kings men had come to convince Mr.Humpty Dumpty. Luckily he didn't have a great fall. The police managed to save the guy's life. I live there and nothing happens. I leave and its all drama. Nothing ever happens in Mambalam. 1 spoon less sugar in Kameswari's coffee house is enough to set residents talking about it non-stop for 3 days. I think this is the most exciting thing that has happened in W.Mamalam since the East India Company landed on the shores. And I missed that. People will not stop talking about this. Be it inbetween overs during Ind-Pak cricket matches or while grabbing 'free' (oosi) news paper from neighbor's house. Its unbelievable. Its all happening out there.
P.S: Hey it came in the papers

Monday, January 23, 2006

Hajmola Candy

Remember the advertisement.

The sweet little kid in dormitory, hiding under the bed trying to get away from the warden. He is busted and he comes from underneath the bed and says "hajmola candy sir".

I just learned that the sweet little kid is one of the 1st year MBAs going to school with me for the past 6 months.


Furthermore, he has acted in some bollywood movies and some TV soaps too. Then there is another girl who has acted in "Kal ho Na ho". She is also a first year. I must've been living under a rock. I dont know my batch mates.


I have to tell you this. There is something with me and fringe movie actors. First there was this guy who played a pivotal (extremely crucial) role in "poove poochudava". A performance that left an "indelible" "mark" on Nadhiya ( A separate blog on this later). Then the future-to-be-paruthiveeran (He is no fringe actor btw. we are all rooting for him to become the next biggest thing since kothu barotta). Now this.

Anyway. I will now go back to hiding. I know not when I shall return.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

What is your salary ? - II

Note: This blog is a sequel for this blog. So read this first.

Salary is one of those sensitive pieces information that nobody wants to talk openly about. People dont even argue/disccuss philosophies and issues concerning salary or revealing of salary information. People dont even blog about such topics because it can so easily backfire. When people are young and still in undergraduate college, job and job related things are vague subjects. Manager is a designation that everybody knows, you always have this position called "software engineer". Beyond this nobody knows anything about the job industry. At that time, I heard in my relatives circle about somebody asking someone his salary and then the someone got really offended and refused to say it and then later the sombody also got really offended. I was thinking, "whats the big fuss about?" Just tell some damn number and get lost. The higher the number the better. Well! it was easier said than done. Innocence is worse than virginty , there is no chance that you may not lose it.

I think the laws of life with sub-sections like growing up, experience, maturing etc are wonderful source of enlightenment. Many people try and avoid the learnings. I tried to side-step this like the way I cut classes in college. But it doesn't work. While you can spend time outside college, you can't spend time outside life. Once you step outside the country and spend 2 years as Grad Student, your eyes open up to a whole new world around you. The locals and other students you interact with -- stun you with their maturity and sense of political correctness. You don't get to meet well-oiled corporate employees here, you only get to meet raw students who are the same age as you are and from different parts of the world. Students were from remote villages in America, who have never seen a forigner before, students came from Kenya, Spain etc. It surprised me so much that nobody asked even a single question that could be construed as an invasion of privacy. While I was stunned by many Indians who asked deeply private questions (hmm.."is she your wife" is a private question ;-)). So I went on to investigate the psycological basis for (many if not all) Indians to be so intrusive and insensitive to personal space.

I compared this to my school-kid life, where on the first day of school, students were asked their name, their father's name and his employment. This was how we were asked to introduce ourselves when we were kids. So many times I have seen kids cringing with inferiority complex, when they had to say "un employed" or "mechanic" or "Tahsildar office pune". It became worse when they had to say " I don't have a father (and upon further pressed for info about their mother)... she does domestic work" . Looking back at that, it was the first time I realized "hey! that was wrong and very bad thing for the teachers to do". The very (noble) purpose of having uniforms in school was to make sure there is no differentiation. This "introductions" vitiated that intent. Thinking back friends-circle got formed based on these introductions. Students from poorer backgrounds developed complexes. People who were perceived as rich were surrounded with friends (because they would buy chocolates for everybody in canteen). This insulted the rich kid's intelligence also because they were pursued for their father's money. While this was not always the case, you can never deny the fact that this happens in school.

The same thing happens with grades. The bad manners of scolding students publicly in the class for bad grades. Openly comparing them with other students. How does this help the student? if at all it does anything, it reduces her self-esteem and makes her develop a complex. Thinking back, looking at classmates who got yelled at by the teacher, I developed a low opinion about those classmates and thought them as people who were bad and incapable. Most of my other classmates thought they same too. They once-in-a-while talked and moved with such students as acquaintances, but thats it. Because a judgement was implicitly passed in our minds. As a result academically poor kids moved only with similar kids. In my second year at college, they stuck our first-year mark sheets in the bulletin board. Everybody's mark sheets were on the publicly viewable notice board. I have to say that incident alone directly led to a mini caste-system in our college. In my 3rd year, a lecturer read out everybody's grades during class. We were a class full of people sitting and she read out grades like she was announcing election results. While, at the time I let out a huge whistle of relief that I passed in all subjects, I didn't really think about the people who did badly. They would lose out on friends and even a decent conversation because they did badly in an unrelated field. What has friendship got to do with grades? Even if you did not judge them based on their marks, s/he would develop the perception anyway. For the people who did well in studies -- they have to live with nonsense comments like "you are a big guy.. you have no are a brilliant person". While they can't reply anything but just give out a stupid smile, the "brilliant guy" begins to worry about a dispropotionate reputation and things like "drishti" etc.

The problem why asking for personal information is bad is because, people tend to transalate that into other unconnected fields." you said your father was some General Manager, but you don't know how to eat properly with a spoon". There are things like " you get college first etc.. but you dont know how to hold a cricket bat". Then comes " you are earning so much, you dont wanna spend more on xyz, you wanna split lunch as dutch treat. Why are you so stingy". Sometimes when you think of saying "thats bloody none of your business".. then you get replies like " oh!.. he is showing if he is the only one who is the son-of-a-GM/College-first/high-salary earner"

In a new place (like a foreign country), where your experiences is not normal or is just among one of the many alternatives, Your opinions (silently or otherwise) get challenged by your friends, room mates, and sometimes even professors. Suddenly normal is wrong here. You are now standing in a neutral ground, where you tend to question your education upto that point. I think this is true for everybody who falls in the grad student-work-GC formulaic category -- while we knew that discussing job offers in the final year of education with room mates and friends were okay, we sort of knew that -- that would be it. We woudn't be able to discuss salary with the very same people two years later. Side Note: (as a result of some comments in the previous post) For a person going to US as a so-called "H1-B party" or a "H4 Party" this "realization" could happen the first time they get snubbed/ridiculed when they ask for salary information from a collegue, which invariably is another Indian. I sometimes think the direct H1-B folks from India are unfairly ridiculed by the F1 (student) -> to -> H1B (work visa) folks. While students have had a chance to make mistakes and correct themselves in a relatively secure school environment, the H1B folks get exposed in a more volatile corporate environment. That is the big (if not the only) difference. End Sidenote

One you step into a corporate environment, it is almost cast in stone that asking for salary information is bad manners. In the eyes of others it is uncivilized and reflects poor upbringing. I believe it is true to a great extent. 9 out of ten times, people ask salary for the wrong reasons. Yes! sometimes it is genuine, elders want to know how times have changed ( but then in that case they should get it from their sons/grandsons etc). I have been advised by some good friends, that I am capable of earning more and I should negotiate better. I have told some other friends that they are underpaid and they should look around for better options. These are the right reasons. But it is in minority. For two people, to exchange salary information, there should be mutual trust. Otherwise it could lead to huge problems. For example: One of my relatives was paid very well, he told his father his salary and his father told his friend whose son was working in the same company as my relative. That "son" found that he was getting paid less and argued with my relative as to why this was happening to him. So sometimes if you see someone refusing to divulge information to his own parents don't judge him so soon. A degree of closeness is also required to discuss salary. Me and my friend "Thanga Balu" have argued many times on whether it is appropriate to as for peer salary information, just to know if you are being paid on-par. I was naive then and thought this was okay. But it is wrong. It is NOT right to find out if you are being paid on-par by directly asking others. You have to work for it. You dont go to a good looking girl and ask her if she would like to go to bed with you and have sex with you --straight away. There are guys who are helping chics do groceries, walking their moms, running up astronomical restaurant/movie ticket bills, learning poems, starting and arresting gossip -- just to acheve the same objective. What do you think -- those hard working guys are idiots ? :-)

There maybe many motivations to ask for a person's salary information. Not all of them -- in fact most of them -- do not justify really asking them. 90% of the time it creates jelousy, unwanted competition even animosity. The two factors "fathers employment" and "grades" in the examples above. Remove them and replace them with "salary" and read this blog again. The results would be the same. Salary is just the same shit but goes by a different name. It causes the same problems and creates the same polarity those two factors created. To me -- asking for such salary information is like asking a guy's underwear size or a girl's cup size. There maybe 1000 reasons why you want to ask that. It maybe sexy to know even if you aren't doing anything with that info. Just don't ask it.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

IndieBloggies Vote

Voting for IndieBloggie of the year has begun.

I cant believe I've been blogging for such a long time. Initially started writing to distract myself from work/apps and other related stuff. I was pleasantly surprised that so many people have taken to my writing. That I have been nominated for Best indian blogger of the year only means that my English composition teacher was wrong.

I feel kind of silly asking other people to vote for me. I can't believe how our Lok Sabha folks do this for a living. Since I am writing just to satisfy my needs, I don't think I can bring myself to alter my style to suit popular interests. If you feel you share my sensibilities, go vote..whatever. Or vote for a person whom you like the most. Follow the link to register your vote.

Like many other bschool bloggers who have shut down shop for a while, I expect to to be very busy in the next month or so and this blog may not be updated regularly.

This blog has been an interesting tool, making the world smaller and smaller. I wanted to finish writing application essay strategies, I regret not doing that before Round - II application deadlines. I apologize to those readers and I wish you all the best in your application process.

Friday, January 06, 2006

What is your Salary? - Redux

Note: If you came looking for the Michael Jackson post its here.

Long long ago, I completed Engineering, stepped in to this independent life thing and into the big bad world of graduate-students-in-the-USA. Having been spoon fed by mom and grand ma' for a big part of my life, I was incorporating unnecessary and unwanted knowledge of Rasam Podi, Samabar mix, etc into my life. In about 2 months, I learned to differentiate between different varieties of oil and began to appreciate the "making of the food that appears in your plate while you were in India". While it was good for the boy-grows-into-the-man philosophy, I didn't care. I didn't wanna grow up (because it didnt seem to help me acheive anything in particular) and I certainly did not want to be responsible for anything. So anyway the anecdote I was trying to narrate is -- one fine day, as we grad students called it - it was my cooking turn. This cooking-turn is the round robin system created by room mates. This system decided who will cook when. In our little heaven, we were 5 students, each from completely different backgrounds. Four were garden variety engineers, one extremely rich and influential in India, one who worked like a horse and even slept in school, one extremely geeky and serious, and finally one extremely lazy and irresponsible (that would be me). The fifth guy was an architect and he was the only non-science-based-engineer in our team. He was the only guy in our house who thought algorithms and logrithms were the same, thought programming languages also had swear words and gaped in surprised whenever printf's spit out a simple "hello world" ( He even said "wow" the first time he saw such a thing happen).

So I had come back from my school early, at around 4:00 PM to start my cooking. Since nobody else made potatoes that week and boy! did I like potatoes, I sat with a knife, a cutting board and a bag of potatoes by my side. I switched on the TV and started the hour long peeling and cutting process. In came the geeky dude with a handful of letters. It was that day's postal mail, something which I had never picked up from the mail box all my life. He said to me "bharath don't you ever get the letters from the post box". I was thinking " wow! we have a letter box and we get mail too..what else dont I know about this place". So geek boy begins to triage the mail and separates the mail due to each person. He hands me over a letter from my university and says "here are your Autumn grades in post". I again went "wow! they send grades via post too" ( I already got em via email). So I went back to my potatoe peeling. Now the fun begins, the geek-boy wonders if he should rip open the envelope containing grade information due to the architect and see his grades. Among us four engineers the rich-guy, geek-boy and myself were in the same batch, and so one way or the other we sort of knew each other's grades. The workaholic stopped taking courses eons ago and so we didn't really care about him. The architect guy was a surprise packet. So when geek-boy asked me if he should rip open the envelope, I knew instinctively that there was something wrong about doing it it. I couldn't articulate what was wrong about doing so. I had to cut potatoes, which was proving to be very difficult. I wanted to make them small and tiny'ly cut - just the way my mom did. I didn't know how many horizontal Vs vertical cuts I should do to get there and didn't have a clue whether peeling was good or not for this kind of an ambition. So I said to him, " I am not really interested..I am kinda busy now. You do it if you feel like.. its upto you". He paced for about 10 minutes up and down the hall in a Gollum like fashion saying, "should I.. should I not", while I watched him from the potatoe peeler point of view. While I listened to his rhetorical debate, I was trying hard to keep the cut potatoes from dropping out of the cutting board and into the dirty carpet. Shheeesh! how could women do this in the kitchen for a lifetime, amazes me. In the end, he finally succumbed to temptation, ripped open the envelope, and saw that guy's grade. Of course I made him tell me what the grade was :-). But then again I wasn't really that interested in the grade as opposed to what was going to happen, when this act became known to the architect guy. The Geek-guy probably realized the same thing and left the house immediately.

At about 5:00 clock, the architect guy came home. I had changed TV channel to HBO and they were showing some movie that had nude scenes. So we were both staring at the TV for sometime and thought "wow! porn during the day.. what else should I know about this country?". After the scene got over and we had finished paying respects to what we had just seen, archi-dude began to sift through his mail and saw that his grade-envelope had been torn and opened. He asked me intimidatingly " who the fuck opened my mail?". I became scared. My brain was already clouded. Porn does funny things to me. I was just cutting potatoes. All I wanted was a hearty meal. I managed to live a dreamy existence for so long and the only serious debate I had until then was regarding Aishwarya rai's hip size and Sushmita's silicon implants. The last thing I wanted was to get involved in a serious ethical debate that really didn't concern me. I was in a new territory called seriousness. But still, I managed to spit out 3 things quickly -- "geek dude bought the mail. nobody else came home after the mail was bought into the house. i did not open your mail". As archi-dude's face began to compute what I just said, his face went red. I was even willing offer my envelope to him and ask him to tear it to his heart's content if that would appease him in anyway. Right at that moment geek-dude walked back into the house. Archi-dude turned towards him and growled " did you open my mail" and geek-dude sort of bent his head down in shame and said "yes! I did". And then the real fun started. Mr.Architect sent out some swear words that would make some sailors feel shy. I was surprised by his rather extensive vocabulary. He must have interacted with rickshaw people a lot. After dissecting and critiquing geek-dude's family lineage from various perspectives, archi-dude said something I will never forget all my life -- he said -- " Why do you have to judge me based on how some one else has judged me on a completely different field".

Today when I think about it, I can't help but realize how true it is? So how is this anecdote related to the blog's topic? Talk to anybody who has lived for a reasonable time outside India and returned back to India. Ask them how their return-to-India experience has been? Whether they may appreciate or critisize India on any other topic, you will certainly hear them say 1 BIG HUGE critisism about India. "Why does everybody whom I talk to want to know my salary". This will 100% be part of anybody's return-to-India experiences. Then comes "What is the price of your car, How much rent do you pay? What is the cost of your house?". These are parameters that a person asks so that he/she can calculate your worth as a person. Based on my experiences and those of people whom I have talked to -- this bad habit is an undeniable tradition of India. No matter how much patriotism you have for India, even if you drape yourself in the tri-color and go to bed everynight this is something that will never go away. While salary is calculated based on your skills, your marketibility and your usefulness to the company, you often wonder how this factor should influence the people who are unrelated to all of this. Is the psycological basis of asking for salary information connected to what my room mate had so profoundly said years before? Why do they judge you based on a factor that is decided by completely unrelated parameters? The answer... same Bat channel..same Bat time... well.. er... More on this in the sequel blog :-)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

IndiBloggies Awards

The nominations of IndiBloggies awards are out.

If the winning prize will pay my college fees, I am gonna talk to the jurors :-)

Monday, January 02, 2006

College Reunion

Taking the wife along and meeting undergrad classmates and their spouses is a very wierd and refreshing experience. Ofcourse we found out that we still haven't outgrown making fun of each other with gay/porn/matter jokes. I don't think we ever will. But it was bloody embarassing to be "ottified" (made fun of) in front of my wife. It was like getting an atomic wedgy in front of her. But I loved the expression of "what you watched movie like this?" given out by spouses when it was revealed that her dear husband had visited 'Raja' theatre to watch an 'art' movie. That eventful day, 10 of us left college early (at 11:30 AM) saying we were going home to catch up on some sleep. We split and started home in different ways (bus/bike/train). One thing led to another and instead of going home, I entered 'Raja' theatre with a friend. As I was searching for a seat (in a theater which has pillars inbetween the seats and the screen) I heard my name being called from the back row. It was one of the other guys. Hearing my name being called another two guys from the front row turned back and yelled "is that you?" Finally we found out that all of us independently ended up in the same theater and none actually went back home. I think Sirocco is the most popular 'art' movie to get released in Madras. Man! if living those days was great. Reliving them is a pleasure in itself.

It was finally nice to "get away from it all". The past 4 months have been quite intense. The 4 hour/day sleeps, the cramming all was getting to me. When you read the prep books and listen to career search advise from MBA2s - you come across lines like "it is easy to over prepare and burn out. take a break during the new year". You think "thats for others, not for us - we are used to all work and no play". But a lot of us found out the stupidity of that assumption. And by Christmas we were begging for rest. So most of the students began to make plans for vacation.

Thanks to a quickly arranged re-union by one undergrad friend, I had a chance to go to Chicago to meet some old college friends. I am one of those folks who likes to look back at the past frequently and fondly. I think this will happen to most people. Someday all of us will get married (well most) and get buried in everyday activities. Suddenly you are pulled out from the routine and presented with a chance to meet old classmates, who are also married and equally curious to find out the whereabouts of their past classmates. The thrill of seeing old 'dogs' in a family setting is too valuable to pass.

I guess when we are in college, we don't really imagine the future as 5 potbellied/bald 50 year olds meeting each other up with our spouses. In college its all about 'today'. Education is an incidental thing. Its the friends, the fun that forms the main purpose. At that time we are all a bunch of half-shorts playing cricket on the beach, eating in Gangotri, going to Saarang and sqeezing out mileage from the last drop of fuel in the Kinetic Hondas, Yamahas and Chetaks. In my mind that was the last of the carefree days. I seriously had no purpose in getting up on Monday morning and going to college, except to hang around with friends. Today that is unimaginable. Bunking classes and sitting in the canteen/under the tree seems like being in heaven today but it was nothing then. I understand that nostalgia makes the past appear much better than it really was. But still it is so sweet. We talked about the guy who tried to take a running catch in front of a girl, missed the ball, which hit his face and he fell flat on the ground. We talked about those nervous proposals, who ran behind who, the paper rockets on new teachers, dorm escapades, and beasant nagar beach episodes. Our friends had names like jollu babs, kaatu panni, idea mini, booman, cholarajan, psycho, periappa etc. I am pretty sure most ex-college students can relate to this.

Seeing the same half-pant dudes and dorks - today - is a gift. Because it compresses time and teaches you the vagaries of life. From Potheri to Chicago may not be a big leap in todays age. But it is still a leap. Beyond geography, it is the people your friends end up with that is more interesting. There are dreams and then there are college dreams. 8-10 years after college is an interesting time to take stock and find out how everybody started and where they are right now. Who married who? Will two classmates end up with each other? Who has progressed where? This is not seen in a judgemental/evaluative way but in a more romantic way. In an effort to understand the fickle nature of life. It provides an interesting setting for extrapolating how we all might end up in another 40-50 years. Sometimes I ask my dad about his childhood friend and he said this about a friend who passed away "He was a great person. he was poor, no father and two sisters to sustain. he studied under the street lights and rose to become secratary to the government. my village has produced great people". I am thinking if that friend knew he was doing this. I am also thinking what one-liner will be attached to me by my friends. And vice versa. The big picture is interesting and scary.

Anyway. I return to reality. The big push begins tomorrow. To where I wonder...