Wednesday, December 27, 2006

And another....

Walt Whitman this time. Rather deep, but oftentimes I have felt like this:

To a Stranger
by Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892)

Passing stranger! you do not know
How longingly I look upon you,
You must be he I was seeking,
Or she I was seeking(It comes to me as a dream)

I have somewhere surely
Lived a life of joy with you,
All is recall'd as we flit by each other,
Fluid, affectionate, chaste, matured,

You grew up with me,
Were a boy with me or a girl with me,
I ate with you and slept with you, your body has become
not yours only nor left my body mine only,

You give me the pleasure of your eyes,face, flesh as we pass,
You take of my beard, breast, hands,in return,

I am not to speak to you,
I am to think of you when I sit alone or wake at night, alone
I am to wait,
I do not doubt I am to meet you again
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.

A song of love

Thanks to Andre De Souza (for his choosing impeccable verse to grace his orkut profile), I googled for classical verse. Here is a good sample from Robert Burns:

O my luve's like a red, red rose.
That's newly sprung in June;
O my luve's like a melodie
That's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will love thee still, my Dear,
Till a'the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my Dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun:
I will luve thee still, my Dear,
While the sands o'life shall run.

And fare thee weel my only Luve!
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho' it were ten thousand mile!

- Robert Burns

Monday, December 25, 2006

Value creation

I met a couple of old buddies of mine over the long weekend, and we got talking about what we thought of life while we were at IIT and how it has turned out. That conversation set me thinking quite a bit - what is the right way to lead life? What leads to long term satisfaction and happiness?

After some deliberation, I have come to the point of view that the most important thing one can do towards one's life is to invest in assets that can create value over the long term. For example, I went to IIT and did a course in CS just because it was the 'in' thing to do and because my rank could buy me the entry ticket. Thankfully I enjoyed the course and (hopefully) learnt something!! But I fear most of us just go and do something because we are allowed to.

Often we start getting into routines and stop questioning whether what we are doing is really creating an asset for us. For example, a lot of my b-school colleagues got into jobs on campus because they could, not because they wanted to. The monotony and routine of our regular jobs often makes us oblivious to the fact that what we really want to do is something else altogether. Only a few can break out of this trap and create long term value for themselves. Investing in learning at the early stages of a career, even if not immediately rewarding, is always beneficial in the long run.

There really is no short cut to long term value. The sequence is quite simple: figure out what you want, picture yourself in the end state, and constantly ask yourself if your single steps are leading towards that milepost. If yes, keep the faith and soldier on, if no then cut your losses and start afresh.

Asset creation is the key. Investing time and effort in value creating assets (whether jobs, learning or relationships) is what can make life meaningful and satisfying in the long run.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Major insight: What women want

Today I was part of a very interesting conversation with a bunch of friends over a leisurely cup of coffee - a young colleague was despondent with his inability to make any positive (amorous) impression on multiple girls he had been hitting on. Somehow the topic of conversation veered around to his dilemma, and eveyone else jumped in with advice on what he should be doing. However, being a smart dude, he turned to the women in the group and asked point blank: What do women want???

Now, each woman in the group had some idea on what model works best with women, but here is a synthesis of the insights that could be gleaned:

  1. Women (and even men) apparently want things they cannot have - so the critical aspect of attraction is unattainability. And yet one must be attainable at times. This game needs to be played really masterfully - any error on either side can make the other party either give up, or worse - lose interest. Unfortunately I was unable to pick up tips on what exactly makes you either - but I got the general concept and agree with it wholeheartedly.
  2. The other aspect of attraction is desirability - here the insight was that it helps if you are a good conversationalist, are genuinely passionate about something, can make the girl laugh, and most importantly - are ambitious. The implication for us males is: Guys!! WAKE UP! And do something with your lives!!!
  3. Another insight was that women are usually looking for guys they can mother i.e. the girl needs to believe that she can either a) improve the guy or b) without her, the guy will just waste away.
  4. The last insight was that girls dont care too much for looks, build, height etc etc. Now the women were very very insistent on this (even though I dont really believe it :-). I do think its much easier for strikingly handsome guys to strike up friendships with girls.

I realized also that this list is extremely long and demanding - there does not seem to be too much hope for my poor brethren, unless they are just PERFECT :-). Therefore my two bits of wisdom to my worried colleague: Dont worry, just be yourself. Along will come the right girl for you, and you will be tied to her for the rest of your life!! Amen.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A tale of two cities

As they say - there is a thin line between plagiarism and inspiration :-). My buddy Saini's post brought to surface one not-so-cooked thought that has been bubbling in my mind.

Recently, I paid an almost-flying visit to that city of dreams - Mumbai. Being a hardcore 'Dilliwala' (I have been told by some girls that I'm the quintessential Delhi guy, even though I dispute the assertion stoutly), the city just does not cut it for me. Now before the Mumbai folk crucify me, let me present my credentials - I have lived in Mumbai for close to a decade, the most recent instance being a two year stint at work. Therefore I speak of the city as I would of an old friend, with frankness and familiarity.

In my opinion, the most objectionable thing about Mumbai is 'lack' - lack of space, lack of time, lack of comfort and lack of civility. Somehow, I can never be comfortable with the bustling hum of activity in the city 24x7. Everywhere one goes, one is accosted by 5000 other people trying to get in...contrast this to the vast spaces of Delhi, the wide roads, the gardens which let one reflect and the thrill of trying to prevent everyone else from taking you for a ride :-). I have never (in Mumbai) gone to one place and actually had the inclination to think, or even just observe - all I ever seem to be able to do is negotiate room to walk in, protect myself from bulldozing crowds, watch out for potholes or just plain long for the silence of my room. Even the Crossword book store this time seemed too full and noisy.

This is not to say that Mumbai does not have its points - it has the ONE thing that I love most - the sea. Walking along the Marine Drive hearing the roar of the sea is something I am willing to do anytime. But even there one has to be careful that the ever-continuous pavement repair work, the milling crowds of lovers, joggers and families do not trip you up.

No one in Mumbai seems to have time for anything - people actually time their lives according to the local train timings. And the poverty is so open and in-your-face. There is also so much of it. Delhi scores much better on both parameters.

The weather is also a negative factor - the humidity and heat of Mumbai make me twitchy (not to say Delhi has great weather - but at least its not dusty and humid like good ol' Mumbai).

As I wrap up this litany of complaints against Mumbai, I must say - winter in Delhi makes me want to spend sunny days in Mumbai!!


For a couple of days now I've been bereft of ideas on what to write. However, in blogging, as in life, inspiration can come from strange quarters - in this case it was a chance visit to the orkut homepage of my buddy Nitin Saini. I chanced upon his irregular blog and found some good pieces - for example this one:

My advice to you my friend (if you are reading this...) - dont stop!!!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Two victories

Today is a day for good news - with India winning their first ever test in South Africa, and much more importantly, the murderer of Jessica Lal getting convicted by the High Court in Delhi.

A couple of things that stand out about both:
  1. The test victory really proves that re-invention is necessary for achievement. For example, the test success came on the back of solid batting performances from Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman, both of who had been axed from the team not so long ago. Their exclusion probably reignited their hunger for success and more runs. Therefore, Saurav Ganguly, with a well known weakness for the short ball, is fighting and succeeding where other Indian batsmen are failing. Perhaps there is a lesson here for the Indian selectors, who have been letting a few superstars fail too often?
  2. The other, and much more significant victory is of course the conviction of Manu Sharma and his acolytes for Jessica Lal's murder. I think it proves the old adage that the windmills of the Gods grind slow, but they grind exceedingly small. In other words: "yahan der hai, andher nahi". Good precedent for public involvement in a travesty of justice. Now only if Arjun Singh was convicted similarly for his short sighted short circuiting of our education....(Sigh! Am I being too idealistic??)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


My current project at work seems to be jinxed. Nothing is as it should be - extremely long hours, working weekends, early morning (make that really late night) flights, tons of negative feedback, lots of angst and general unhappiness have been starring features of this project. But what takes the cake is events of this morning.

I write this as I sit inside a grounded Jet Airways airplane, approximately 3.5 hours after I boarded. After a late night (slept at 1am), I got up again and left home at 4:30am, to be in time to catch the 6:15 am flight to Kolkata. Just as we boarded, dense fog enveloped the airfield and that was the end of flying hopes. Even now, the cabin crew confidently expect a delay of 'only' 30 mins before we can be airborne.

In this happy situation, I can think of two lessons for myself:
  1. When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade - I have tried to live by this and catch up on some sleep. But the cramped seats on Jet are not exactly conducive to this activity. The next best activity in this situation is blogging, which I am doing now.
  2. Its time to think of other things - this thought actually came to me last night after a particularly frustrating day. Maybe this is not how I was intended to lead my (apology of a) life. I'm sure there are many better things out there, waiting to be tried. Maybe it is time to jump into the deep end.

At the end of the day, I think all that matters is the ability to look detachedly at situations and figure out how they can be used to make the future better. In that context, maybe this project is not jinxed after all!!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A new invention: QQ

As I was driving home from work on a late Saturday night, I thought of a totally random idea - a scale for rating people on the interesting / non-interesting dimension. I call this the 'quirkyness quotient', on the principle that the more quirky people are, the more interesting I find them.

First, a definition of the word 'quirky'. I think quirky is another word for eccentric, unique or plain mad. A quirky person is obsessed with trivia, is interested about inane stuff, and gives a damn about what other people may think of his / her preferences.

I have been fortunate to associate with people I consider quirky - Gullu (of Bland Spice fame), Gaurav Saxena (who was interested only in quantum physics and little else), good buddy Mahender Bisht (who backpacks through the Sahara desert and Peru in his spare time), Pratik Biswas (a guy I interned with in Munich, and who was mad as a hatter), Farhad Mehta (who lived in his own world of fractals in IITD) and others too numerous to mention here.

As I struggle to find uses of the QQ, I can think of some - like it should be a necessary input in a job resume, in a matrimonial column, in a social networking website like orkut etc.
Even blogs could have QQs - thus attracting the right kind of readership. Research institutes could insist on high QQs.

In fact, once QQ becomes all pervasive, we could even get quotas in jobs, schools etc for high QQ cohorts.

So from now on, there will only be 2 kinds of people in the world for me - high QQ or low QQ. May the former thrive and multiply!!