Thursday, May 29, 2008

Book Review: The Name is Rajinikanth

Among the authors who have displayed ignorance on the central subject matter of their book, Gayathri Sreekanth displays maximum (in fact complete) ignorance. Her book 'The Name is Rajinikanth' is more idiotic than Rajini's super-flop movie 'Naatukku Oru nallavan'. I am not a fan of Rajinikanth, don't particularly like him. However, there are only 4-5 of movies of his that I haven't watched. With this as disclaimer, I say - This is the worst piece of writing I have read in any form of media. As far as I can recollect, I have not read such a poorly researched, poorly presented piece of work on any topic. To write about Rajinikanth without knowing anything about why people watch him is a tremendous achievement. In her preface, she says that her well-wishers asked her "Why write about Rajinikanth?". It seems her answer was "Why not Rajinikanth?". She then goes on to give a bucket full of clich├ęs - "I believe him to be one of the best human beings. Vices don't maketh a man, quality maketh. Habits don't make a man bad, only his attitude. Rajini hasn't forgotten his roots; he is still basic well-grounded Shivaji Roa and enjoys the company of his driver, conductor and depot friends (huh?). He is spiritual, hate hypocrisy, love simplicity..." - essentially she is saying "bla bla bla, bla bla bla - I don't know anything about his movies". What her well-wishers were probably trying to say was "but.. do you know anything about his movies?". She indeed didn't know anything. And given the fact that this book has seen the light of day, she never got around to realizing that fact.

If I was asked use purely this book as my only source of information and speculate/ stereotype Gayathri's background/qualification to write this book, this is what I would conclude; Gayathri has written this book for North Indian/ North American readers, she hasn't seen many Rajinikanth movies, probably very few in a cinema theater. She is not a Thamizh movie fan or an avid Thamizh movie watcher. She has no idea why Rajinikanth clicks, why he has the pulse of the audience. Although she may not really be - She resembles the stereo type of a 2nd generation South Indian who grew up in North with superficial knowledge of Thamizh movies. She is probably wealthy, is related to (or in the same social circle) as movie big shots like AVM Saravanan etc. The only reason she wrote this book was because she was well-connected and was the first one to think of seriously implementing this idea. The success of Sivaji probably made her, a 'peter' puluthifying 'i don't see taamil moovies' chic to become aware of Rajinikanth or at least made her think she could put her "high society English knowledge" to write a book about him for N. Indian audience. Nobody I repeat nobody would write this in a biography on Rajinikanth; "His first film as a hero was block buster Apoorva Raajmangal. K. Balachander, his mentor, again cast him as the main lead in a slapstick comedy Moondru Mudichu.". If she is blaming people for "nit picking" on this error again and again, then it is time for her to realize why nobody else would have ever made that mistake. And this is not the only mistake. Her lack of knowledge brilliantly shines throughout the book.

She has a "screenplay" for her book. And it does not add any value except serve as a masala piece. Even-numbered chapters describe Rajini's childhood and odd-numbered Chapters describe his life as a movie star. And it is not written in a style that biographies are usually written. She fills the gaps in her knowledge about Rajinikanth's childhood by creating fictional "this is what he must have said as a child" and writes this book like a fantasy-fiction novel. This makes the book really horrible and completely unreadable. And then she makes it even crappier. She has little child Shivaji Roa Gaekwad, growing up in slums of Bangalore, saying phrases/words that suburban kids in Ohio would say - "I want summmmmoooh" (I want some more) etc etc - and you get the point. Maybe she wrote the book with the intention that kids, North Indians or worse North Americans would read it. All 3 categories would definitely not touch this book. And North Indians don't like Rajinikanth. Many make fun of him. Somebody needs to tell her that. I have no idea what made her think otherwise or why she thinks this is so important an aspect to exaggerate upon. Her idea of using Hindi words like 'ghas poos' to describe vegetarian food, 'hai hai', and spelling Latha as Lata (first, I thought it was the Thanglish word - Late'aa?) was probably with this audience in mind. No Thamizh speaker residing in proper Thamizh Nadu would speak like this. Certainly not the characters she mentions.

Don't expect a commentary on his movies, the movie phenomenon called Rajinikanth, why he decided to make a movie with xyz story Vs a movie with abc story, how he built his image, his 80s movies, his love stories, action movies, his 90s image-based movies. Don't expect to read anything regarding his movies in this book. Expect to read on Latha's father Rangachari, how handsome he looked, how he adhered to the 11-day 'vriddhi theetu' after Latha had a child and some such nonsense. Gayathri has got connections. That makes her aware of gossip - the kind that appears in Vaara Malar's thunukku mootai, Dhina thanthi, Rani and Devi. So she writes about why Rajini was not friendly with Khushboo or Sripriya, the fact that he slept around, how he almost divorced Latha (or should I say Lata), how K.B influenced his personal life, how Kamal influenced his personal life, Cauveri issue Raj kumar kidnapping issue, Aishwarya Rajinikanth's crush on Simbu, Rajini's psuedo foray into politics, relationship with Jayalalitha/Karunanidhi etc etc. Of course she also spends a few mandatory chapters on the boring oft-repeated topic of his spirituality, his gurus (some *.nanda is his guru), his good-hearted’ness and bla bla bla. Yawn!

Maybe, due to some irony, this bad book befits Rajinikanth and the legacy he will leave behind. The book indirectly leaves an impression that one cannot write a book on Rajinikanth with extensive details about his career/professional/onscreen life. While a biography typically touches on personal aspects of the person, it is irritating that this book does only that. Rajinikanth's fans will probably cringe on reading this book. On the whole - it is shocking that this book was not reviewed by Rajinikanth, his family members or any cine person this author "profoundly" thanks in her book. Should one be surprised that Rajinikanth will let such a poor book be called his biography and endorse it? It also tells me that if you have money, publishing a book is like publishing a blog post. This book is hastily written, poorly formatted, unedited, and has not been proof read extensively. Miraculously, at any point in time prior to it getting published, this book about a movie star has not been vetted with a person who knows or understands movies very well. I hope she never writes a book on Kamal Hasan. I have been duped. I want my Rs 500 back.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Movie Review: Indiana Jones & Kingdom Of Crystal Skull

Spielberg has created an Indiana Jones world as a Rajinikanth parallel world unto itself. When Indi sits inside a Lead insulated fridge at the epicenter of nuclear explosion. The fridge is thrown 3 miles out and as it falls down, the door opens and Indi just rolls out and starts walking. You are reminded that things that happen in that world aren't logical, believable or even possible but they are really entertaining. One has to remember why one liked 'Raiders of The Lost ArK' and why one thought the Last Crusade wasn't as good as the Raiders, to put this movie into context. We loved Raiders because of the Adventure, the characters, the 'cool' laid back way in which it was told, the amazingly stylish presentation and a smooth storyline. Not because of its believability. In fact the fantastic'ness of the storyline added lustre to those movies. Yes! this movie just like 'Temple of Doom' and 'Last Crusade' cannot compare to Raiders. But that is only because these movies were preceded by a movie that is so close to our hearts and that we feel extremely nostalgic about. Barring this - the movie captures all the elements that I liked in Raiders and reopened the Hollywood 'masala' Adventure genre in its truest sense. This is the definition of a stylishly made adventure movie. Our hearts race, we lean forward expecting some grave to open or some large insect like creature to suck the blood out of the characters in milliseconds.

The movie opens with the mandatory jokes about Harrison Ford's age which unfortunately impact's Indiana Jones' age. Spielberg knows that the audience will notice Harrison Ford's age and joke about it. So he makes the Jones and other character's preempt those jokes by talking about it first. This, I suppose will lighten the impact. Harrison ford looks old. He even crouches a little when standing and walking. It is hard to believe that it is Ford who walks up all those crates quickly in the opening scene. Age is a cruel and sad process. The story is reasonably tight. Although one wonders that it could have had more twists and turns to match the previous story lines. I think the story aspect must have been the hardest part of this movie. I can imagine why many story writers (Shyamalan was one) struggled when asked to come up with one. Given that most plots have already been exhausted and it is impossible to match the freshness of 'Raiders of The Lost Ark', this is a hard job. This movie has the Russians as villains. Hollywood has moved on from using Russians as villains. The thinking nowadays is to have Aliens and Large Animals as villains. The psychic team among the Russians ( I suppose they are KGB) are interested in finding the missing 13th skull of a council of 13 Aliens (they other 12 skulls are intact on the Alien's head). The russian leader seeks to "know everything" by completing the head count (he he).

The puzzles that Indiana Jones solves in his movies are more interesting than the end that he seeks to achieve by solving those puzzles. The action sequences are usually taken very imaginatively and stylishly. A good dose of humor is added to make everything really interesting. This movie has a little less of the puzzles, less of humor (there were some attempts made at it though) and more of action. Spielberg has to be given credit for the way he conceives the action sequences. The bike chases, the van chases, the grave yard fights, and many many others are all very creative and stylish. The small little plots that he creates to execute the action sequences are simply marvelous. The creativity he shows in building the sets and the suspense is fantastic. Some of the sets are breathtaking. Among the really great action sequences were the ants, the small monkey sequence and especially the receding circular stairs. The thrill that one experiences upon seeing such stunning action sequences brings joy. This is why I go for movies. Yes! I may never get to experience the freshness of seeing a movie like Raiders again. I am slightly disappointed that Spielberg has explored the same concept again instead of creating new fresher concepts. But this movie will entertain you in its own unique way.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

MBA Career Series: Investment Banking (Updated)

Disclaimer: I explain the process as I saw it or as it was described to me by people in other schools. This process is fairly consistent across most US B- Schools.

Investment Bank (IB) is one of the two big career buckets that students in Bschool typically pursue. It is not possible to give a comprehensive definition of everything that IB entails in a post, so I will stop with a "brief" introduction that gives a rather superficial taste of what this career path is.

What is this job?

Traditional IB jobs involve (but not limited to) working on M & A, IPO and raising funds in Capital Markets among many many other activities.

M&A: Mergers & Acquisitions is an important service that an I-Bank offers to companies which seek to merge with or acquire other companies. For example if Company A wants to merge with or acquire Company B. Both companies would have a bank consulting them on the negotiation and valuation process. The price of the deal and the stock purchase price are negotiated and built by the I-bank. Typically there are more Company A equivalents in the market who partner with I-Banks and search for appropriate targets to acquire. Company B equivalents are hard to find. It is a relatively easier deal for an I-Bank to partner with a company who seeks to bought than partnering with a company which seeks to buy. For example: It was reported that in the recent attempt by Microsoft to buy Yahoo; Morgan Stanley and Blackstone group were the Investment Banks partnering Microsoft while Lehman and Goldman Sachs were the Banks partnering with Yahoo. An instance of a merger & acquisition project is called a 'deal'. The team that works in this deal is called a 'deal team'. While there is no typical structure to a deal team - a deal team could possibly be assembled in a pyramid structure. With higher number of Analysts and Associates at the bottom of the pyramid and smaller number of more senior people at the top of the pyramid. The deal team try and evaluate the deal based on the mutual value that the companies bring to each other, the over all sense in them joining, and on whether joint-entity would be more beneficial than going alone.

IPO: An investment bank helps companies come up with an Initial Public Offering. A privately owned company may decide to do a public offering of company ownership in order to obtain more financial resources for future investments on projects. This allows potential shareholders to invest money in a company and own a share of the company's profits. While this results in more cash inflow there are cons to an IPO. The company going for an IPO would need to comply with increased/more stringent laws and disclosure policies as a result of an IPO. An investment bank finds potential investors and helps a company build a profile and share price for IPO. An investment bank earns a cut of the IPO offering, which is typically around 7-9%. However for companies that IPO greater than a billion dollars the cut maybe less - around 5-6% (Just a random example). For example: Google had a complicated IPO. It really did not need to go for an IPO but it wanted resources for acquisitions. At the same time it did not want to open itself up to the vagaries of institutional investors and wanted greater spread and distribution of its stock. It eventually went on to do an IPO using an unconventional variant of a dutch auction and in doing so partnered with up to 10 investment banks including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and CS First Boston for underwriting.

As you can see an I-Bank does not work alone when partnering with a company but as part of 'deal team' you could be an associate working along with Associates from other banks. The above-mentioned functions are among the main activities done by an I-Bank. Other notable functions of an I-Bank include but is not limited to Sales and Trading, Merchant Banking, Investment Management etc. Anyway - the idea here is to give a basic introduction.

Recruiting Process:

The key aspects of I-Bank recruiting are as follows. Most of which are common for other career paths but the magnitude of each element varies.

Networking: IB recruiting has a complicated, long and intense networking process. Networking is defined as the process in which a candidate connects and holds conversations with people who work for an I-Bank. The professed purpose is learn more about working at the I-Bank by talking with an employee first-hand. However, the real purpose is to get a spot on the Bank's interview list. In the case of an I-Bank networking extends beyond just a spot on the interview list and has bearing on job decisions. This is a rather complicated process because you need to push in your ulterior agenda without making it obvious. I found the small talk and the 'connection' part reasonably challenging. With the exception of Goldman Sachs, networking is the vital and most important aspect of getting a interview spot and a job.

Meet The Banker: The banks visit the school in early fall (September) for internship recruiting purposes. Within the first 1 month after joining school, you might see most of the interesting banks visit campus for a presentation and a reception. The post-presentation 'reception' is a mixer between Bank Associates and students. The bankers hang around and answer questions by students. This is the window of opportunity for students to accost a banker, introduce themselves and try to make a connection. The objective here is to position oneself for a follow-up phone conversation (which sadly means you need to get his business card now). When Banks visit they also have 'office hours' where you can schedule a 30 minute 1-to-1 with a bank representative (There is a proper dog fight for this spot). The purpose is to try and find out more about the bank. This presents a more dedicated networking opportunity. I had an 'office hour' with Lehmann Brothers within 2 weeks of joining B-School. This is daunting because one needs to have intelligent questions to ask. The 'office hour' is typically a screening process that involves both parties finding out how good and well prepared the other is. Given that in less than a month after joining school a student is expected to have a decent list of insightful questions to ask a banker - it is better to start preparing before you join school.

Thank you for talking to me - Can I call you?: In a typical week you could have 2 banks visit campus/week. If you walk around and talk to bankers during the meet & greet - around 6 representatives per bank could give you their business cards. You come back and send 'Thank you' mails to all these people. This could sound funny to people who haven't experienced this but standing out of the crowd in the category of sending 'thank you' mails is a difficult process and you have to pick out some aspect of your conversation with the banker that hopefully he/she would remember later. This makes having the actual conversation important (This is important for the annoying students just stand around and let others talk and stretch out their hand when the Business Card is distributed).

I Just Called to Say I love you: The next step after the 'Thank you' email involves sending an email to set up a phone conversation. The Phone conversation is like an 'office hour' - a dedicated networking opportunity. While you have no hope of being on the recruiter's radar with just a conversation in a 'meet & greet' a phone conversation puts you at the entry point of the radar. The above is pretty much common with other career streams. The following is rather unique to IB jobs. Now the more complicated IB networking game begins. The next step towards firmly being on the radar is requesting (or being called for) a personal face-to-face meeting. Students typically make 6-7 trips trips to NYC throughout the fall semester. Of course Wharton students get to travel by train but the less fortunate ones spend significant $ on flights to NYC (about $5,000 overall).

Dating: The general idea is to hit the appropriate 'recruiter target'. That is meeting and impressing those who have a say in recruiting. If you impress them in the phone conversation they would invite you for a face-to-face meeting. Once you get enough traction from such people, you schedule a trip to NYC that would cover representatives from 2-3 banks. If you did well in the face-to-face meets they would want you to meet other representatives (these would be people who have increased say in recruiting so that there is more buy-in) from the same bank and you would schedule another trip like that. And so on.

Show me Love: There will be occasions when the bank will show return-love. They would invite you for dinners and these dinners are again mini-interviews. If you don't get dinner invites it means you are not on the radar and you need to do some more networking

Time Management:

Time management is as critical as networking. Assume that you could get six business cards from people per bank and 2 banks could visit campus each week. This means you could be sending 'Thank you' emails to 12 people that week. Taking time to remember conversations and say something small could take up to 15 minutes per email. Scheduling phone conversations and talking to these 12 people for 30 minutes each during the subsequent week is time consuming again. The average prep time for a phone conversation could start as high as a day for a 30 minute conversation and could taper down to 2-3 hours for the later phone conversations. Course load in the first semester is high. Projects, home work, exams and club activities are really demanding. Companies keep visiting campus everyday and they pay particular attention to attendance (not-attending company presentations has a high correlation with not getting an interview spot) . So this is not an easy schedule to live with. As weeks go by more banks come and it gets worse. They key to all this extravaganza is your ability to manage time and do several things in parallel and do them well.

Courses:

A typical first semester course work involves basic introductory courses in Accounting, Finance, Economics, Statistics, Marketing, HR, Corp Strategy and an optional course. Some schools let you take an exam on finance/accounting or economics to waive the course so that you can take advanced courses. I-Bank aspirants, although do need to as a rule, typically get a few courses waived and take Valuation, Options and Futures and other advanced Accounting courses. 'Valuation' is a key course that will help immensely during the recruiting and networking process.

Of course you need to get the best grade possible in every course you take. As you may be asked for your grade in your interview. Poor grades don't always mean a 'ding' ('ding' is a slang for 'reject')but instantly takes you pretty close to a ding.

The Interview: What do you need to know really well?

The Payload: Questions on the interview will focus on what you learned in core courses. It really not a lot. If you are engineer-types the concepts are pretty easy to grasp. For starters you need to know Statistics 101 well. Things like probability, sampling distributions, confidence intervals, hypothesis testing, correlation, and simple and multiple regression analysis. In Accounting you need to know; Basic Accrual Model, Analysis of Transactions, Balance Sheet, Income Statement and Cash Flow Statement Construction and Analysis. In Finance; Capital budgeting criteria (NPV, IRR), cash flow estimation,, the concept of risk, CAPM to derive cost of equity and then, the weighted average cost of capital (WACC).

Interview questions center around problems that test one or many of the above concepts. Questions that you would crack easily if it were given as a homework but you be interesting in a high-pressure interview environment

How to get an IB interview?

Payload yes! - But Are you Hot?: Your knowledge of the concepts mentioned above will be tested during your interactions with the bankers. Most people know all the concepts well. That is not the big thing. The key is to give an impression that you are fun or easy to work with. Geek engineer types who talk with eyes pointing to the feet have a challenge here. Being personable is a vague thing. Being likeable to a bunch or arbitrary people makes the process a little bit random. People Skills - This is most challenge part. As you network on the phone, in bank organized dinners and while in some Starbucks in Manhattan - you will be confronted, pushed, challenged (mildly insulted) and asked some hard questions. You need to come out as still likeable (You will know when they don't call you). You could potentially have interactions with C-level executives of a company. What the rexcruiters are trying to find is - maturity. On whether you wouldn't come across as a fool who talks out-of-turn in front of CEOs and embarass the bank.

What is Love? 95% of your job is done when they voluntarily invite you for the interview list. That means you have already been tested and they think you are good. You are on track to get a job if you don't screw-up. The odds of getting an IB job without being invited by the bank for an interview are astronomical. Bidding for an interview spot is almost useless

Interview Process:

Delivering Payload: While the general mechanics of B School interviewing a separate topic for another day, IB interview process is unique. The first week of recruiting is filled with IBs. Job offer decisions are made within a day. JP Morgan sometimes has first round interviews during the day and second round late in the evening (you get a phone call from your interviewer with the result in a few hours). On an average in 2 business days the whole interview and job offer process is complete.

Good, Bad and The Ugly: IB interviewing is internship intense. The biggest pipeline to an IB job is an internship in it. Goldman Sachs rarely recruits full-time. In that if you don't do an internship in IB chances are high you will never get a full-time job in IB. Full-time recruiting is minimal and only for candidates who jump from one bank to another. Not getting a full-time offer after IB predominantly means end of the road for your IB career. It is rare that another bank will speak to a person who does not have a full-time offer from his/her internship employer.

Is the Deal Worth it?

To me, the definition of a good salary a satisfactory answer to - is the $ amount paid to you proportionate to the amount of crap you have to put up with? Is the amount of pain, nuisance and work that you have to put in being compensated adequately? For the parts of the job that people love to do, they don't expect to be compensated astronomically for doing it. However, they'd expect a high price for the nonsense part of the job. IB career economics gives you tremendous of money. This job more than any other job is skewed on the 'I am doing it for money' than 'I am doing it for fun' part of the spectrum. All the cliches you have heard about this job is true.

Salary

The Base Salary is very low. Statistics released by college recruiting tells us that about $95,000 per annum would be the ball park of base salaries across all Wall Street firms. And it is not unusual to find all firms offering the exact same base salary. Where an IB excels and literally pays off is in the Bonus. Bonuses can be anywhere around 100% to 120% bringing your annual pay close to $200,000 (the range is between $160K - $200K) per annum. Not bad for a fresh graduate. If you manage to stay in your job for more than a year (IB is probably laying off folks now) then the pay is supposed to increase quickly. The 'Up or Out' culture in IB means that if you are doing well you get the 100% or so bonus and you get promoted. If you aren't doing well you wont get a high enough bonus and you are shown the door. So things happen rather quickly. While I never had visibility beyond 1st year associate salary levels, conversations and networking gave me the knowledge that people quickly go anywhere between 600K - 800K per annum in their 5-7th year period. While this has the possibility of being true, I have no clue if it indeed is.

Works Hours

So given that you are paid a lot, there is good chance that work is proportionally intense. The first thing a 2nd year told me when I asked him about IB as a new student was - "it is true". A person in my batch recorded hours of work put in per week during internship in an excel sheet and shared it with me. It was on an average 112.5 hours per week ( now, this is when you wonder how many hours are there per week - a week has 168 hours). The general consensus of people in my batch and 1-year senior to me was that - a typical day begins at 8AM potentially ends anywhere between 12:00 midnight or 2:00AM the next day. There could be lot of travel too.

Additionally, you could work in different industry verticals in IB. You could work in Telecommunications, Technology, Real Estate and so on. Where your work will be focused on banking deals within that vertical.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Web 2.0

(re-edited)
If Business Standard wanted to communicate somebody's opinion on the definition of Web 2.0 to its readers, it should have paid some royalty and published O' Reilly's definition as a 5 part series and be done with it. He did the "Web 2.0 can do something. We really don't know what it is yet. But this is what I think it is" plug very well. People have been quoting O' Reilly since the sangam period. Publishing second hand stuff like this that weakly rephrases what somebody else had attempted to rephrase devalues other concepts such as 'salary' and 'newspaper-fame'. My biggest problem with the article was that there wasn't anything 'original' written that stemmed from from the author's experience of working on such web 2.0 concepts. Secondly, it did not seem to touch the core of topic and I was left wondering - "so what. This is fluff?"
While this may impress 'give me 5 of those' type people and prompt them to do the web 2.0 thing - this could also inflict damage on intelligent readers, who aren't tuned into web 2.0, causing them to form theories that sound something like: "My physics teacher in thookunayakampettipalayam didn't explain physics very well to me. So physics is all fluff".

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Gaptun: Heyyyy! Do wat I say

Foochar Seef Ministaar Gaptun Speaks English.

The Complete Opposite of George

I have decided to follow the path of peace. Avowing to be less cynical, pessimistic, angry, critical and impatient. I will be positive and use nonsensical, positive reaffirmation, feel good proverbs in my email signature. Instead of making fun of people who spend hours photographing non-living things, I will photograph stones, signboards and far away mountains like a tourist on a hyper drive. Instead of dipping my Masala Dosai in both chutney and sambar, I will dip it in either chutney or sambar. Instead of fighting with arbitrary people, I will shower love. Instead of pointing out that Barack Obama's ears look like Spock's ears, I will point out that his ears look like Pillaiyar (Ganesha) pithaji's ears. I will stop shouting at people who will put elachi (cardamom) in my food (or tea).
A muni(var) I met in the Krishna and Vishnu temple at the bottom of grand canyon convinced me that the opposite of me is better than me. I have decided to see how the opposite works.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day

Perpetuates the habit of the father buying expensive gifts for the mother, like a gold pendant etc, and creating a make-believe scenario that it was really the 8 month old baby or 2 year old kid who bought the gift. While the kid can't freaking talk or say 'potty' when it really should have - the parents keep telling anybody they see that it was the baby who went to the shop, selected and bought the gift. They exclaim"this is what baby xyz bought for her mother". This elicits "wow! that's so cute" from other people who have babies, who really don't care but want someone to listen to them when they tell their stories of what their kid bought for its mother. Of course during Father's Day, the women buys some inane crap for the man and passes it off as a gift from the diaper kid.
Criticism against such "days" play the stupid tune of condemning Hallmark and other genuine companies for a job well done. The 'akshaya thrithi' perpetuating corporates are doing a good service of taking money from people who never deserved to have it in the first place. It is hard to comprehend what joy desis see in this circus. Going through life and faking ourselves into believing that we are actually experiencing things which confirm to the society's opinion on what people should experience in a lifetime is a tiring enough process. Adding more weight to the set of things "one needs to do" to be considered normal is highly unnecessary. If only the first desi man who was given a father's day gift had the gumption to say "please don't waste time and money on this - next year" to his baby-faced 6 year old daughter - we wouldn't have to deal with such a large scale torture.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Doing the Thing

I am doing the suburban middle class dad thing of LA+Vegas+Grand Canyon. Patel point #2 is getting gloriously covered. I am now driving a minivan made by Honda/Toyota to boot.

Escaping the hair-loss/early-grey-hair-before-30 problem gives me some 'alpa sandosham'. If I had that in my resume my life would be complete.

Monday, May 05, 2008

On Frustrating days

If I don't write this I will go mad. There are unbelievable things that only seem to happen to me. People, I am sure, have faced embarrassing moments on the cricket field. My friend Kaatu Panni had probably seen worse stuff a good decade ago. Stationed at long leg, he spotted his 'love interest' (daavu) walking towards the cricket ground. He despo'ly wanted to do some heroic stuff to impress her. As the daavu approaches the ground and is only but a few yards away from him, right on cue, the batsman hits out a skier. KP does the unnecessary thing of cockily flipping out his collar, moves a few inches positions himself underneath the ball and slowly closes his hands on the ball. The ball misses his hand finger et all, lands on his cheek. He falls down and stays down for a while. I don't have a clue as to what the girl thought of him but we made sure he never forgot that day.

I have had some share of good luck. 6 years ago, during my first match for a team, I was stationed at point. The batsman cut a short ball in my direction and the ball was flying away from me. I am not a super-duper fielder and can be considered as 'safe and steady' at best. I had no hope of catching it. I just hung out my hand arbitrarily, the ball hit my palm, bounced up and, funnily enough, I unbelievably caught the rebound. Contrast that to last weekend. The return of cricket into my life met with disaster-levels that KP could have never even imagined. I was fielding at point for one end and when the batsman changed ends - I had to run and field at mid-wicket. A Zimbabwean opener from the opponent team was making us look like dogs. He had made 50 and already had benefited from 2 dropped catches.

I was standing at point and saw him hit 2 sixes in that over. Last ball of the over and I thought if only he hit it towards me, I wouldn't miss the catch. And the unbelievable happened. He swung, took a top edge and the ball came towards me as the frustrated bowler yelled a blood chilling cry "caaaatch ittt". There are times when everything appears in slow mo, I could see the seam of the ball spin furiously. It was a sitter, I remember thinking the word "sitter". I thought I had caught it. However, the ball hit my hand and popped out of it, only for me to tap the ball back up in the air again but the rebound fell too far away.

And I heard someone shout "can anybody in this team catch the fuckin' ball".

I was embarrassed and wanted to bury myself somewhere. My only prayer was that the ball would never come near me for like really long time. The very next ball, and now I am at midwicket, the same batsman (who had changed ends) pulls a short ball high into the air in my general direction. The ball travels so far up that my eyes are blinded by the sunlight and I lose track of the ball. After a few seconds of desperately searching that stupid white thing in the air, I give up in disgust only to find the ball land barely a foot away from me. I look up to find my entire team staring at me. The batsman goes on to make 98.

And the day gets even bad.

Given my 'altimaate' performance, I wasn't hoping to get a bat until 8 wickets had fallen. My confidence was at shit-level. And as luck would have it I was asked to pad-up for 2-down during the change over. I walked in at 50 for 2 and before I could face a ball it was 50-4. Soon the bowler got into a fight with me for backing-up too much. I have this habit of standing behind the umpire at the non-strikers end and take a start by doing walk-run as the bowler approaches the delivery stride. This calms down my frayed nerves and gets my feet moving. Apparently this distracted the bowler. We had the usual 3-minute argument about rules and regulations and finally I was told that I could do my back-up thing. Arguments are good. It distracts one from getting nervous.

With that argument won, I find that the new batsman at the other end couldn't score a single. For 3 overs - he kept playing and missing. When he managed to connect he only went as far as hitting the ball straight to the fielder. In his great excitement he starts calling me for non-existent singles. After a few 'stay' and 'no' - he gives me pearls of wisdom about "run! don't care where the ball goes". Apparently that is his way of distracting himself from getting nervous. Arguments are followed by sarcasm and then a few minutes later - anger. The inevitable fight ensues and four letter words get exchanged between the striker and the non-striker. Now we are drenched in distraction and nobody is nervous.

Not ideal an situation for batting. Some days batting is all about controlling oneself from suthifying. Every ball is a plea from one inner voice to the other inner voice to resist the suthify-urge. This was one such day where the other voice wouldn't listen at all. As expected I 'gaada suthify' the next ball and get out by top-edging to, who else, the point fielder. The other batsman did the same, the very next ball. We lost. I can't think of a better way to begin a season. Sometimes there are days when everything one does is so wrong.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Political Correctness

As India evolves and the so called IT culture begins to penetrate into traditionally male-dominated places like Madurai and Lucknow more and more sex-starved men get exposure to HR courses on sexual harassment, equal opportunity and other mannangatti. The average joe-Murugan suddenly realizes that being vocally supportive of women is like the latest fad. Over a period of time what started off as a logical and supportive behavior towards the progress of deserving women has turned into a 'vayishaal' pandering and servitude to the concept of over-praising women. Objectivity and logical thought process has now gone out of the window and gay sounding men are now queuing up and fighting each other to express support, admiration and devotion towards women equality and career. This has reached the proportions of those 80s style politicians who compulsarily praised Gandhi as a matter of reflex and say arbitrary proverbs. Everything starts with "Gandhiji said...". Most politicians would pass of their own lies by starting with the "gandhiji said.." phrase. If one weren't awake they would have concluded "Gandhiji said centripetal force does not exist". Gandhiji was the women-emancipation-career equivalent of the 80s. They had to be super-duper right always.
While I don't care enough to have a particular opinion on such women-career topics, I find the obsessive conformity of the modern 'saaftwear' gen Y men offensive. Men who are abnormally vocal in praising women and over-do the "women are great and will be better C programmers/Presidents/WashingMachines/CEOs than men" sound byte are essentially giving a mating call. The intention of being so loud is the hope that some women would get impressed enough to go to bed with them. While women claim to hate stereotyping and generalizations, they apparently love it when men do all this to praise women. Statements like "women are more versatile" or "women make good prime ministers" are just plain nonsense. There is no statistical evidence or logical backing to this 'vayishaal'. But women love hearing this. So men say it. It has been a long time since I saw a man contradict another man, when the latter is going on and on about expressing his lifelong commitment and admiration regarding the great progress of women. Because if anybody contradicts and asks a perfectly logical question surrounding the said encomium - the questioner is looked upon as a wife-beating cave man. Thousands and thousands of MCP-category stereotypes await this man. The gay men suddenly switch focus and start taking enormous pride in condemning the logical man - as if they suddenly found a new mating call.
Human beings can never maintain moderation and balance in anything. Women who are making genuine progress and small buds and flowers who are really growing against the grain get swept away as part of the cliche. The easiest way to gain popularity today is say/write stuff over praising women and repeatedly insist that women are better than men in just about everything. One is regarded as educated and cultured only if one indulges in such nonsense. I am reminded of those men who praised Jayalalitha to the skies in early 90s and ended up not even a getting a MLA ticket. The political correctness has taken such abnormal proportions that telling mega bytes of lies, white lies and more nonsense - just to be politically correct or popular - is considered hep. If a scientist makes a discovery using DNA/genetics and some such nonsense to prove beyond any scientific doubt that women are less capable than men in some small, unimportant capability (like men have better developed bones in their little finger than women) there is a good chance that a witch-hunt would be initiated for that scientist and he would be publicly burned to death.