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Thursday, August 02, 2007

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Atlas Shrugged ...

This is to inform all you people who doubted me - I finally finished Atlas Shrugged!
Woohoo !!!

Okay, I shamelessly took 2 years and 2 attempts (the first time I gave up mid way at the John Galt speech) to finish it, but I finally did it last week and just wanted to pat my back a bit for the achievement ...

Honestly, Atlas Shrugged is not a page turner per se ...
It requires a good amount of dedicated reading and a lot of effort to get through some pages sometimes.
But saying that, its an awesome, awesome book - and a definite read if you had read Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead and liked it.

I am not going to do a book review here (because I am pretty sure I'll suck at it) but if you have sometime to spare and want to get into the entire philosophical reading mode (without reading absolutely boring theoretical stuff), I suggest this book would be a good read.

The scope of the book is quite far fetched and exaggerated - and yet you wish such things could happen. You wish one person could stand up and stop the functioning of the world.

The name comes from the question about Atlas.
Atlas is shown carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders ... What would happen to the world if he shrugged?

One of the most powerful lines from the book and my favourite (which is kinda clich├ęd) is by John Galt - the main protagonist of the book. It goes like this:

"I swear—by my life and my love of it—that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."

[ Min number of posts to go till Mar 17, 2008 : 83. Why am I counting? ]

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The getting to places on time thing ...

I am generally a pretty punctual guy (though results may vary sometimes)
I do get to places within a couple of minutes of the scheduled time - and then spend 30 minutes waiting for other people to show up ...
All this waiting experience, has given me qualities of a saint and one thing I can do for eons is wait for people to show up ...
Though it is absolutely frustrating sitting somewhere "alone" and looking like an idiot waiting for people to show up, I guess I have gotten used to it ...

Some people from my college group of friends (you know who you are) are so often, so obnoxiously late that they believe that you would be stupid to expect them to be anywhere within 30 minutes of the scheduled time. (An exception to this is Mr. Mayank Tripathi who actually turns up much before the scheduled time)

After all these years and with the friends that God has gifted me, I have learnt that it is entirely stupid of me to actually get to the place "before" time - so I am trying to devise ways and prediction algorithms to get to the place "exactly" on time - give or take a few minutes.
(In my definition a few minutes = not more than 5)

So how do I do it you ask?
Well, what I am now going to share with you are years of careful observations and conclusions ...

[Step 1]
First you figure out who are you going to meet and check whether these people have a history of being punctual. If yes, keep the scheduled time as it is.
If I am meeting my school friends (who are generally mostly on time), I add about 5 minutes.
If I am meeting my college group of friends, unless I have called one of the attendees up and made him solemnly swear to be on time - so that I can have company - I add about 20 minutes.

And when you are going to meet really important people, you MUST always be on time.
This has two benefits.
If the really important people are prospective clients or people you meet for business, there is nothing more pathetic than turning up late and wasting the other person's time ...

When the really important person is not a someone from the above category, it makes sense turning up on time because when she turns up later, you can make her feel guilty for having to make you wait for so long ... :)

[Step 2]
After you have properly selected your end goal time, you have to move backwards.
You first figure out how much time it would take you to get to that place given perfect roads, no traffic and no signals.
Then you add all factors in ...

[Step 3]
If you are going to face bad traffic, add that much time to it.
Other things to consider:

  • Time of day (early mornings and late nights have less traffic and all signals are turned off).
  • Bad and potholed roads (reduction in speed of travel)
  • Whether you will be riding with a pillion (can't drive like a maniac then)
  • Whether there are some excruciatingly long signals on the way
  • The vehicle you are traveling in (cars take 50% more time than bikes in traffic)
  • etc etc
[Step 4]
Once you have considered all these points, and gotten the estimated time of travel, you have to start calculating the time it will take you to get ready and leave the house.
Other factors that come into play in this scenario are whether you will be alone at home while leaving - because in that case locking all the doors and gates would throw in an additional 5 minutes before you can get out ...

Putting all these steps into use (1-4) you will come across a time at which you have to stop doing whatever you were and start getting ready.

I shall explain with an example:
Say I need to meet school friends at 6:30 for coffee in Camp which is about 9 kms from my place.
Mode of travel - bike.

[Step 1] - Umm ... I guess I could reach on time (some of the guys come on time) - so 6:30 it is.
If I was meeting college friends, this would slip to 6:50 (You get the workings ...)

[Step 2] - Perfect roads, it takes me 15 mins to get there on bike.

[Step 3] - Adding the time of day, signals, bad roads and traffic, it would take me 8 mins more.

[Step 4] - Time to leave the chair and get ready to leave in the evening - about 10 mins.
No body at home - so have to lock up - 5 mins more.

Putting it to a total of 15+8+15 = 38 minutes to get to the place from my chair.
Rounded off to 40 minutes.
So, I gotta stop doing whatever I was and start getting ready at about 5:50 in order to make the appointment on time.

So there! Now you know ...

I hope this extremely nerdy, though very insightful article will inspire some of you to get to places - more on time. (Yeah! You know who you are! Don't make me spell it out)


[ Min number of posts to go till Mar 17, 2008 : 84. Why am I counting? ]

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Gandhigiri actually works!

Before I actually start this post, I must disclaim that I am not very fond of the word "Gandhigiri" - but it has come so much into the everyday parlance, that I cannot find any other alternative.
I wouldn't be surprised if the word finds itself in the Oxford dictionary pretty soon.

For those unfamiliar with the term, "Gandhigiri" means doing as (Mahatma) Gandhi would. The word comes from a very popular (and extremely hilarious) Hindi film - "Lage Raho Munnabhai" in which the protagonist follows on the steps prescribed by Mahatma Gandhi to bring about revolutionary changes.
This involves using the path of non violence and satyagraha.

Though, I found the movie to be extremely hilarious and enjoyable, I didn't actually think working on these philosophies would produce results in our modern, day to day life.

However, the cynic in me was silenced when I actually happened to try the technique at home for a very interesting (though trivial problem) and it produced astonishing results.
Let me enunciate as follows:

At the onset of summer, the chore that becomes the biggest pain in our house - is filling up bottles of water to store in the refrigerator.
Though the cold water is consumed by everyone, it is usually my mother and me who end up filling the water. This is actually frustrating, because we have a "Fill up water when you consume it" policy which no one seems to follow.

You will empathize with me when I tell you how homicidal I feel when I open the refrigerator to find that - not only is all the cold water over, but bottles are missing entirely - the ones which my brother conveniently bootlegs to the confines of his room.

This naturally infuriates me because not only do I NOT get the cold water which I so painstakingly filled up, but I know that after I fill up the bottles again - the same scenario will take place and I might actually end up strangling my brother.

None of the tactics to make my brother start filling up after he drank worked. No amount of tantrums, abuses, nagging ever got him to fill a single bottle.

Then, while re-filling the bottles that evening, the concept of Gandhigiri hit me.

One of the biggest and most pro-active emotions that human beings experience - something that more often than not makes someone get up and do something is that of guilt. And this is what the principle is based on. (I think)

So, I decided, to somehow make my brother feel guilty for what he was doing. (He's human - so he has to eventually - right?)

That evening, once I had done filling up the bottles, I poured in a glass of ice cold water and took it up to his room and put in on his desk.
After looking suspiciously at the utensil on his desk, smelling it and finally taking a sip, he asked what was wrong with me.

To which I replied: "I am now embarking on the path of Gandhigiri and everytime I fill up bottles of water which YOU drink, I'll get you a glass of water."
He was on the floor laughing and told me that there was no way in hell he was going to fall for this, and I could go and keep filling bottles till kingdom-com for all he cared.

I knew this was coming and had mentally prepared myself to go through this ritual for a couple of months atleast!

I couldn't be more wrong.
The next day, I get back home after work to find the refrigerator completely stocked - every empty nook and corner of it - with bottled water.
My mom was as shocked as me - and told me that my brother had come to the kitchen, dug up hundreds of empty bottles, filled them up and stocked them - all without her telling him anything.
I couldn't believe it!

It worked!!! Gandhigiri worked!
Results within 1 day (though your mileage may vary).

So, if you have similar problems, I suggest you give this a shot. The trick is finding the right angle to make the person feel guilty as soon as possible (you don't want to keep doing this forever and look like an idiot) - like in this case offering a glass of water did the trick.
If this does not work, threatening the concerned person that you are going to blog about this usually does the trick. :)

[ Min number of posts to go till Mar 17, 2008 : 85. Why am I counting? ]

Thursday, April 05, 2007

And I was transported ...

Our family dinners are generally boring ... we have a selection of a couple of places we generally go to - and as no one is particularly fond of experimenting with their food, that too is generally from a tried and tested selection.

Anyways, the incidents which took place today were far from the usual boring stuff that we end up doing. (I know I am using the words boring a lot - which I just realised how dinners generally go anyways - I mean what else can you do besides eat, drink and talk?)

In the evening, my dad comes up and asks me whether I'd like to go out for food - and being the hog that I am, the question was redundant. This time around, we decided to go to this far off place called "Chandraphool Gardens" which is a huge garden restaurant - little ahead of Dighi on the way to Bhosari.

We've been to this place only a couple of times - way back in the past and have always had a pleasant experience.
The place has sprawling lawns, good natural air, decent lighting and decent food - which made it a decent enough place to visit any time of the year.
And, as we had not been there off late, we decided to pay the place a visit.

So, all of us ready and 40 minutes later - turn up at the venue.
We're surprised to see their pretty huge parking lot, full with cars - as it was a very sparsely populated place on our previous visits.

Once we entered, we realised that there was a party going on at the other end of the lawn (which is again pretty, pretty big - easily about 200 - 250 mts in length).
After being seated and having ordered the drinks, we realised that it was sort of an all - mens party - probably thrown by a guy for his co-workers who recently got promoted.
This was underlined by the fact that extremely loud, item number type of music soon started playing including "Babuji zarra ...". The sight of grown up, formally dressed (possibly drunk) men - holding hands and gyrating to these numbers was particularly amusing.

I was instantly transported to the Bihar of the movies and the ambiance and the crowd added to the effect.

Things got more interesting when two drunk men sitting on the table behind us, got up and assaulted the waiter who was serving them for no apparent reason.
The waiter fought back - but was soon over powered by the two goons who looked like some cheap political party workers.
Soon, the poor waiter was falling around, dropping plates and landed next to our table.
(Just to be clear, by assaulting, I mean - being slapped repeatedly, lots of pushing, shoving around and trying to sock the other guy in the face)

Thankfully, the manager showed up in time with a couple of other waiters to break up the fight and save the poor guy's life.
"Perfect" I tell myself - an experience worth driving all the way out of Pune for.

All this while, my extremely charged up little brother shouting - "If anyone did that to me, I'd _beep_ him and _beep_ him and _beep_ him", added to the entire experience of seeing a guy get clobbered. (Just to clear matters more, my little brother is not so little - he's almost 6 feet and pretty big and probably capable of doing the _beep_ things that he said he'd do. So you better not try messing with me! I've got protection :))

Funnily, after the break up, the two guys get back to their seats and continue with their meal, booze and even order something more.
(If cooks and waiters spit in your food for being slightly rude to them - I'd hate to see what they must have done to their food for assaulting a fellow worker).

These two fellows might have gotten scared of being clobbered by the rest of the waiters when they stepped out - because one of them calls his other goon friends up for back up.
In fifteen minutes, four other equally goony looking men show up.

All my hopes of a goon Vs waiters show down went up in smoke when instead of barging into the kitchen and clobbering up the waiter, these guys made for the exit. Whether they paid their bill or not - is sort of irrelevant at this point I think.
However, the other families sitting around looked sort of relieved at their departure.

And if you're wondering, the party men at the other end of the lawn, were dancing all this while - holding hands to the tune of Babuji, a Titanic Remix, a Himmesh Reshammiya number and also an "We're going to Ibiza" track.

So if any of you people are interested in experiencing the "Bihar of the movies" ambiance, please head to Chandraphool Gardens - I'd be happy to give you directions.
This place beats the artificial environs of Horn Ok Please on F.C. Road hands down.
Brilliant experience and highly recommended.

[ Min number of posts to go till Mar 17, 2008 : 86. Why am I counting? ]

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Sweltering Summer Heat ...

It's that time of the year again - Summer.

Some years ago, while back in school, summers would bring with them unlimited joy and would be regarded as "My favourite season" in the so many essays we've had to write on the topic back then.
More than bringing with them longer days (the sun sets at around 7 p.m) - which meant more time to squeeze in another game of galli (road-side) cricket, summers would be so much fun because of the 2 month, blissfully long summer vacations which would stretch from April to the first week of June.

Back then, the temperatures would be moderate and going out to play even in the then hot sun at 4:00 pm would be a possibility.

Not any more though ...
For all those debating on whether global warming is for real, I have experienced first hand, temperatures of Pune rising steadily over the years to unbearable levels now.

Back then, winters would mean cuddling with a book under a warm blanket.
Winters nowadays can be easily seen through without the use of a single blanket.

The temperature right now in Pune is touching 42 degrees Celsius - something at which I remember, people died of heat stroke in Ahemdabad some years ago (Ahemdabad is one of the hotter Indian cities)

This is what my weather bar displays so frequently nowadays ...

I would blissfully sit in the comfort of my house the entire day, but I have to go to work.
We have completely flexible timings at my new company and we basically get to decide what time we should come and leave ...

We get to work between 9:30 and 10:00, then leave for lunch for an hour or so at around 2:00.
The company being close to home, I come home for lunch and then leave in 40 minutes.

The really sucky part is that once you are all well fed and stuff, going back to work in the extremely hot and dusty conditions on your two wheeler is extremely painful at 3:00 p.m.

We then supposedly work till 7:30 - 8:00 and head back home for a total of 8 to 9 (apparently) productive hours.

This schedule is turning out to be sort of difficult due to the excessive heat we have to face on two trips back and forth.
Any suggestions?

Summer basically ain't so great anymore ...
Can't wait for the first showers to hit ...

Yeah, and also - please stop polluting the earth!!!
And please go watch "An Inconvenient Truth"

It is one of the most hard hitting documentaries I have seen off late and is extremely well made.
Definitely deserved its Oscars I think ...

[ Min number of posts to go till Mar 17, 2008 : 87. Why am I counting? ]

Monday, March 19, 2007

Why do we Indians have to suck at providing quality service?

I have always realised, that we in India - don't give a damn about quality.
I don't exactly know why, but I am guessing it has something to do with the demand always exceeding the supply - considering, we're bursting at our seams with the large population.
So, as long as the goods keep coming, the manufacturer (and not the customer) is king - and they can keep dishing out crap - because there will always be someone to buy it.

I have a complete live example to give - hence this post.
This is about the Pune International Film Festival (PIFF website).

Last year, we guys from college had gone for the 4th Pune International Film Festival and it was tonnes of fun (even though the organisation had a lot to be desired).
So, when it came around this year - we went for it again (It is still going on - at the time of writing this).

This time around, the movies are pretty good and we're having lots of fun again - but nothing has changed organization side.
And considering it is an "International" film festival, the standards are far from it.

The schedule of movies was available extremely late - just a day before the festival and the catalogue (which has the synopsis of all the movies) - only a couple of days after the festival started.
The schedule is given only for the next 3 days (out of the total 7 days of the festival).
So, if I am working and need to really catch a movie and need to inform my boss about it, there are chances that I would be doing it only hours in advance

Quite a few movies had their running times mis-reported in the schedule - which caused a mix up of our plans.
Then, the schedule (or the catalogue) ends up having movies in the wrong category - so you never find the movie you're looking for (there is no index or a table of content).

In 3 days the festival has been running, the schedule has on been changed on 2 occasions , on the fly. They exchanged the timing of a couple of movies minutes before they started - which again threw all our plans out of the window.

Their website (which I think is one of the most important things) is totally un-updated and you have news from PIFF 2006 lying around.
It also has a schedule section - which lists movies which have already finished showing and a catalogue section which contains information on only 1/10th of the movies running.

But, the icing on the cake is this - which actually prompted me to write this blog.
I wrote the organizers, the following email:

Dear Sir / Madam,
This is a very humble request to the organising committee to please put up the complete schedule of films on the website (preferably in the document / excel / pdf format) which is also up to date.
Today (18th), the schedule for the remaining days became available at the venues (19th onwards), but the website still shows the schedule only till the 18th.
I request you to please update this - so that we can better plan which movies to go for.
Thank you and regards,
- Saurabh Jain
To this, I got the following reply from a Moti Irani:
Please stop visiting our website we are all far too busy collect the schedule from INOX or Esquare

Hows that for providing shoddy service and having the audacity to tell your customers to F*** Off? A perfect case of demand more than supply.
I don't know, but if something is worth doing, its worth doing well.

In my opinion, if they have a website running, it should be updated - otherwise there is absolutely no point in having it in the first place.

[ Min number of posts to go till Mar 17, 2008 : 88. Why am I counting? ]

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Awesome upsets ...

I woke up today, to the news that India lost to Bangladesh in their Cricket World Cup opening match by 5 wickets.
For those who do not follow cricket very much, or don't see the magnitude of the situation, here is a brief comparison.

Bangladesh is a small country to the north east of India with an area of 144,000 sq. kms and a population of 147,365,352 compared to India which has an area of 3,287,590 sq. kms and a population of 1.027 billion.
Bangladesh was given the status of a test playing nation only in 2000 as compared to India who is playing tests from 1932.
And out of the previous 14 encounters, Bangladesh has managed to beat India only once.
[ stats courtesy - ]

In all fairness, Bangladesh deserved to win the match yesterday.
They played an awesome game - did everything perfectly and I am really happy for them.

The other major, major upset was Ireland beating Pakistan which was such a shocker that the Indian upset match looks pale in comparison.

But this is not what the post is about.

This entire upset situation got me thinking about the difference in professionalism exhibited by professional cricket players playing in the Indian Cricket team and working professionals in other professions (software, automobiles, etc - you get the picture).

I did some research and found out that the Indian team is the highest paid sports team in the world in terms of sponsorships.
Moreover, even if you leave out the sponsorships and other things which contribute to the income of players, the top Indian players get a salary of about Rs. 5,000,000 (USD 113,324) which makes it a professional sport.
By professional sport, I mean - Indian players now, do not need to get other day jobs (like players from other countries like Scotland, UAE have to do) - they can make do by just playing the sport.

So the thought that comes to my mind is - shouldn't the players be made accountable if they lose a particular game - especially very pathetically?

I mean, how difficult is it to play cricket?
Every kid in the country can play cricket - so there is no extreme skill involved per se.
And when you're a professional player, all you are supposed to do is just practice, play and be good at what you do.
At the time of writing this, the Indian team ranks 6th out of the 11 test playing teams - not a very good stat considering the amounts they make and they come from a country of a billion people compared to higher ranked, much smaller countries like New Zealand (3rd), Pakistan (4th) and Sri Lanka (5th).

If cricket is like any other profession, why shouldn't you be penalized for screwing up?
If you're working in say, an automobile company, and make a major mistake - you'll not only get your salary docked, but may also lose your job.
So, why can't this be done to our cricketers?
If its a profession, why should there be different rules and points of views of judging performances?

Maybe losing marginally to a much stronger team very closely could be forgiven - after all its a sport, but then any major loss should be properly penalized and salaries should be docked.
I might be prejudiced and harsh and just talking through my head, but don't most of the people think that nowadays, its the "money" which is the biggest incentive for the men in blue?
So be it ...

What say?

[ Min number of posts to go till Mar 17, 2008 : 89. Why am I counting? ]

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Coming soon ...

I always tend to do this ...
Take long blogging breaks - I dunno why - but it just stops all of a sudden, and I don't feel like writing, or just get too lazy to actually sit and type out a blog even if I do feel like ...

Writing makes you think, and helps you maintain your control over the language - so, I have decided to actually force myself to write once in every 4 days at least.

So, I should clock at least 90 good posts a year.
Now, that I have put this into writing, I will try to keep this up.

So starting from today, (this post is of course not counted), I plan to take my post count to a minimum of 240 posts by the 16th of Mar, 2008

Watch this space for more :)

Monday, January 01, 2007

Being emotional versus being logical ...

I've wondered about this a lot lately ...
Human beings are logical creatures (when they are in the right frame of mind) ...
Very, very logical creatures ...

And I feel (out of a lot of personal experiences), that any problem can be solved and worked out by being completely logical about it, thinking in a clear and concise manner.
Keeping emotions out of the equation ...

Emotions - always get in the way of things ...
But that cannot really be helped, can it? Human beings are also very emotional creatures ...

Sometimes, you take drastic steps - by just being emotional about the whole episode - without thinking things through - and later are happy about the fact that you did.
On some contemplation, you will realize, that you would have not taken those steps if you had sat and thought about the situation in a logical manner.

Which brings us to an interesting juncture - what is the right mix of logic and emotion that needs to go in making an important decision ...
This can actually be a dumb point, because when you're highly charged about and emotional about something - you're probably not thinking straight about it - no logic.

Whereas in many situations, if you actually sit and think about something through, the charged up feeling and emotions have probably drained off ...

I can probably enunciate with a couple of situations where this dilemma may arise ...

Say you're at work - and have probably been wronged in someway.
Maybe you got passed off for the promotion you were expecting, or probably someone (your boss) insulted you etc. etc. - and you're in a rage.
Very charged up, very emotional - you probably want to quit right then and there - throw your resignation on the guy's face and walk out of there ...
Maybe its a stupid thing to do - and maybe you'll regret it later. But you want to do it.
You'll probably regret NOT doing it at all ...
Thats the defining moment ...
If you take the plunge, you will probably be happy at the fact that you served just desserts.
You're ego will definitely have jumped a couple of notches ...

However, once you start thinking about it, you probably will NOT do it.
Maybe you will feel guilty of being tame and afraid of a confrontation. Things will probably go on as they were - without much change.

So, what would probably be a correct alternative to take?
I know I am generalizing this thing to a great deal and it depends from person to person ... But still, what according to a third party watching the proceedings, would be the right thing to do?
Listening to your heart or to your mind?
Another completely different situation can be as such ...

Say you like somebody a lot and want to ask him / her out.
You are pretty much at a point in which you cannot help but think about this person a lot.
Pure logic would suggest that you talk to the person concerned and find out whether he / she feels the same.
If they do, awesome. Otherwise, you will know for sure and you can move on.
When emotion kicks into the scene, things get pretty messed up.
You don't know whether you should ask, whether its the right thing to do, whether you will mess up his / her life, whether you will mess up your life, whether you will still be able to be friends, (and lots of such whether questions).
As Dennis Hopper would say (from Speed): What do you do Jack? What - do - you - do?

It is a very interesting situation actually - and probably millions of people find themselves in it every day of the year.

Basically, I feel - the underlying principal in all such scenarios is "change" - and how much people are afraid of it.
Or maybe, I am just generalizing again and may be completely off the topic.

If you read the book "Who Moved My Cheese" - there is an interesting question:

"What would you do if you were not afraid?"

I think the answer to this probably would help a bit in such situations ...