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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Books and Beyond…

This is not a promotional campaign for the store. It’s a tag on some of my favourite books, passed on to me by Roshmi.


The rules are: "Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Tag up to 15 friends, including me because I'm interested in seeing what books my friends choose."


1. Macbeth – Shakespeare’s characters are horrifyingly real. The image of Lady Macbeth trying to wash blood off her hands is a powerful metaphor.


2. Winning – It’s a joy to read Jack Welch’s insights into business. He avoids too much of jargon, and writes stuff that is awesomely readable. For any aspiring manager, this book ought to be one of the top-reads.


3. The Bartimaeus trilogy - (comprising The Amulet of Samarkand, Golem’s Eye, and Ptolemy’s Gate) This chap called Bartimaeus (henceforth called Barty) has an awesome sense of humour. Jonathan Stroud wrote this book for teens, but I think Barty’s wisecracks would have anyone in splits.


4. HMS Ulysses – If there’s one author whose war novels are irresistible, it is Alistair Maclean. I love the way he writes about war because you learn to not take sides. You don’t subscribe to the conventional notion of the holier-than-thou Allies and the evil Axis powers. All the killing that happens in incidental, and is almost regretted by the author. I rate this book better than ‘The Guns of Navarone’.


5. The Lord of the Rings – If you hadn’t guessed it already, I’m a sucker for the fantasy genre. (I guess the real world is just too brutal and ‘unreal’ sometimes.) Tolkien’s masterpiece is one of my favourites in fantasy. The entire realm of dwarves, elves, hobbits, ents, orcs, men and what not is simply magical!


6. Illusions – Richard Bach’s book is like a bible. Whenever in doubt, one could just flip it open, read the few insights on the page, and draw an entirely new meaning out of the words, than one did last time. Simple, flowing and poetic…


7. Murder on the Orient Express – The queen of crime, Agatha Christie weaves a plot that leaves one gasping for breath till the tense finale. It has to be one of THE best murder mysteries that I’ve read.


8. Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish – A compilation of entrepreneurship stories, by Rashmi Bansal of JamMag fame, this is an inspiration for any budding entrepreneur.


9. Gerrard – The autobiography of one of the best footballers of our era, and my favourite player – Steven Gerrard of Liverpool. It is awesome to read about the 2005 Champions League final and see what was going through the minds of the players as they made one of the most historic turnarounds in the history of football to win the club. You’ll never walk alone!!


10. Atlas Shrugged – The masterfully crafted characters, the impeccably woven storyline, hold you spellbound as you are taken in by Ayn Rand and her theory of objectivism. Wonderful reading!


11. Brave New World – I wrote about this book earlier, and I find the satire created by Aldous Huxley both amusing and horrifying at the same time. It is terrifying to think of the lengths to which our society goes, in order to build conformity.


12. To Kill a Mockingbird – This has to be one of the best books ever written. Scout is a wonderful story-teller, and all characters like Atticus, Jem, and even Boo Radley are nicely fleshed out. Fluid and subtle, this is a wonderful book.


13. The Tale of Two Cities – The lines ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…’ are immortal. I seriously salute Mr. Dickens for this book. I read David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Hard Times, Pickwick Papers and Great Expectations, but this book is simply incomparable. Fabulous job, Mr. Dickens! Take a bow. :)


14. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad writes about imperialism, the brutality heaped upon African ‘natives’, and how greed ruled the colonial powers. The horror of what man can do to another man for a few pieces of gold is shocking.


15. The Count of Monte Cristo – A tale of love, lust, betrayal and revenge is that this book is to me. Alexandre Dumas brings out the transformation of the innocent and naive Edmond Dante into the cold, calculating, suave Count beautifully. The best part is that he does not kill off the love Dante had for Mercedes. Even after coming back as the Count, Dante still dotes on the lovely Mercedes. In fact, Stephen King’s ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ also draws some loose parallels with this book.


Now, I get to decide who should be tagged for this. I choose to tag Carol, Floreta, Neha, Harshad, Himanshu, Ram, and Scriber for now. Of course, I’m supposed to tag Roshmi again. I’ll think of tagging more of you soon.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Love Fool…


Into little pieces, with heart broken,

and eyes shedding tears, and red,

I prayed to God for you,

and told him how I bled.


He asked me to make a wish,

and he’d make it come true,

I’m a hopeless fool in love,

and told him I wished for you…


(Image courtesy: Topnews)

The Happiness of Pursuit?

Due to some circumstances of a personal nature today, I was just wondering… Which gives more pleasure, the happiness of pursuit or the pursuit of happiness?


If it sounds too cryptic, just think about whether journeys are better and more fun than destinations or not.


(I’ll explain the chain of events leading to this later sometime…)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Where boys do cry…

It has been a raging debate over the years – to rag or not to rag.


The evil of ragging juniors is something that seems to have seeped deep into the Indian educational system. And with each passing year, the levels of sadism exhibited seem to grow worse and worse.


Apparently, engineering colleges and army colleges are the worst of the lot. (I say this, not based on my perceptions, but after speaking to numerous folks out there.)

I guess the biggest question is – what exactly constitutes ragging? Some of the ‘events’ that constitute ragging at some colleges are:


a) Asking people to parade around as ‘Supermen’ – with their innerwear worn over the outerwear.

b) Making people perform obscene dances or gestures.

c) Talk about the anatomies of classmates of the opposite gender.

d) Making people burn themselves with cigarette butts.


I’m yet to understand how one can be sadistic enough to cause physical pain and/or mental anguish to other people for no reason at all. No one acknowledges that ragging happens in some of the best places to study at in India, but we all know that it’s there. Despite Supreme Court orders decreeing the strictest of action against offenders, people are just too scared to come out and speak, for fear of social ostracism and ‘bad consequences’.


Unfortunately, they don’t even tell family or friends and sometimes, suffer in silence till there’s nothing that can be done.


A friend of mine who joined a reputed institute recently narrated some such experiences to me, and I recalled a documentary called ‘Where Boys Do Cry” made by a friend who happens to be an amateur movie maker. At an army institute, a friend of his had killed himself after suffering humiliation through dastardly acts of ragging. I had voiced over for some sections of the documentary, and I was appalled when I read the script.



The sad part is that many of us pretend to be ‘custodians of society’ and wouldn’t rag anyone, but we wouldn’t stop our classmates/batchmates from doing it either. But, turning your face away doesn’t stop such incidents. By cranking up the volume on your iPod, you can’t drown out the pleas for help around you.


Yes, there are forms of ‘harmless’ ragging or ‘just routine fun’ ragging. But, harmless for whom? Fun for whom?


I wonder who makes this distinction, and how…

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Simmering Summer…

It’s been less than a week since I moved from the cool climes of Bangalore to hot, sweltering Jamshedpur. Yes, the weather is killing me. And I do miss the lilt in the Hindi accent of the people there, the numerous book shops, the awesome eateries, the brilliantly pleasant weather, and most of all – my erstwhile employers, Microsoft.


However, it has been an exciting time since I returned to campus. There’s a whole new crowd of new juniors, so we guys can enjoy being the ‘exalted’ seniors, who are fountainheads of knowledge. (hee hee)


Many facets on campus have undergone a facelift, and it’s nice to see freshly painted buildings, neatly trimmed lawns, better air-conditioning in classes, and lots of other changes (though the mess food is as bad as ever).


The best part is the junior ‘interaction’. There are 240 of them, and there’s just me with my limited processing power. How in the name of God shall I remember 240 names? And it can be doubly tough when almost all of the others know your name.


Anyhow, this term promises to be a mix of fun and learning, a mix of sweat and tears, and victories won and battles lost. (I’m just hoping that the wins exceed the losses.) Since we get to choose our own subjects this term, I’ve picked up some that I think I am interested in. They promise to be quite a mouthful.


In addition, the personal startup venture is still hanging fire, but hopefully, will take off by the end of the month. Once that happens, life should be suitably busier. Also, there are other responsibilities on campus that one needs to take care of, and they assure me of their time demands as well. :|


Overall, the summer seems to be a super-busy time but I am guessing that it will be satisfying and rewarding too.




P.S. Sorry for the drabness of this post. And thanks for reading it. :)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

XL Meri Jaan…

It’s been two months away from a place that was described by our dean as the ‘home away from home’. That time, I had inwardly smirked at the terminology used each time the phrase was (ab)used. But over the last couple of months, during my internship stint, I’ve realised how much more the place means to me.


Make no mistake, the last two months have been fabulous – in terms of experiences, learning, and fun! With a highly supportive boss, and a good, impactful project problem, it was great working at Microsoft. In fact, it will be with a lump in my throat that I will leave those gates inscribed by the name of the inaugurator – Mr. Bill Gates. But, I will take away with me some great memories, lots of learning – both personal and professional, and more zeal and energy than I came here with.


Tomorrow is the day, when ‘I’m leaving on a jet plane’ towards those beckoning doors – to the place that is now seriously a home away from home. Interacting with juniors, I can’t help but succumb to a wave of nostalgia and a strong sense of déjà vu, as I see people who like me a year ago, are full of questions, excitement, apprehension, nervousness and lots more.


It has been a year of battles won, and some battles lost. It has been a year with its ups and downs. As Mr. Dickens would say, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… “.


Yes, I’ve learnt a lot, and unlearnt a lot more probably. I feel more confident about myself, more competent, and also proud of being an HR professional. I’ve learnt to deal with ambiguity and stress better, though I guess I still need to learn to prioritise things.


During my Microsoft days, I’ve learnt an important quality - resilience. Also, there’s a whole new sense of self-belief that I am basking in.


The last year has seen some new relationships develop, and regrettably, some old ones dissolve away. It has taught me to value people, and their contributions in one’s life. In that sense, I think it has also taught me to leave the past behind, and move on carrying some learning away from it.


Overall, the next one year promises to be crazy, hectic, fun, unpredictable, but yet promising. I look forward to it as the notes of the song that always sends chills down my spine ring in my ears.…


Socha tha MBA kar len, hum tum bhi thoda sa padh len, lo aa gaye hum XLR(I),

khwabon mein socha jo humne, aaye usse poora karne, lekin hui aankehn chaar,

karke humen bekaraar, meri jaan, meri jaan…..

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Weekend woes

This is proving to be a rather tough weekend, even though it’s only begun. The next week will be my last at Microsoft, as an intern. On Friday, I shall be ‘leaving on a jet plane.’ Of course, I don’t know when I’ll be back again.


Due to some issues with the data that I was supposed to analyse, much of what I had done over the last few weeks has gone to waste, and I need to fix things and get them back on track in about 2 days. Like I told my guide – tough but not impossible. I will always value what she told me then, “Sumit, resilience is an important virtue, and I’m glad you have it.”


If I’d been in an army and she’d been my commander, I’d have marched into battle, and wiped out the entire opposition on my own, after those words. (Luckily for any potential opposition, she’s an HR person and not an army commander.)


Still, yesterday was a rather frustrating day. After all, there was mountains of rework to be done. Also, most of my XLer friends have finished with their internship stints and have gone back home. Even my new friends from IIM Indore left yesterday. So, the next week promises to be boring, at the very least. (I hope I’m proved wrong.)


However, I am hoping that the avalanche of work that threatens to hit me, at least keeps me busy. Moreover, there’s also work to be done on the new startup venture front. My team mates and I are pretty excited about the whole thing, and a lot of time has gone into planning and strategising. Now, we execute. :D


Hopefully, you’ll hear more about that in the near future.


This is the last weekend in Bangalore, and I realise that I have missed out on visiting awesome places like Alleppey, Mysore, Coorg, Coimbatore and lots of others. I wonder what ate my time away, without me even realising it. Anyway, not much can be done about it now.


The worst part of the weekend will be PACKING! Heck, if there’s one thing I hate more than packing, it has to be unpacking. I have no clue how I’m going to fit these piles of junk into my bags, and then con the airlines representatives into believing that the bags are well within the weight limit.


I think I have cribbed enough, but if need be, dear reader, you shall be taken on another trip into a dreary life. So, watch out!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Bringing to Life…

Bringing to life...


I just thought of getting clicked in front of this giant wall-to-wall poster at work today. I thought it came out pretty well. What say?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

If God ‘was’ a Banker…

No, I’m not discussing hypothetical possibilities here, at well past the midnight hour.


Dale Carnegie did say, “Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.” But, I think he forgot to mention what to do in case the object in question were to be completely unworthy of praise.


Well, I’m referring to the book ‘If God was a Banker’ by Ravi Subramanian, an alumnus of IIM-Bangalore. I picked up the book just out of curiousity at a bookstore a couple of days ago, and just finished reading it.


The first thing that struck me about the book was the incorrect title. Ideally, the title should have been ‘If God were a banker’ instead of ‘If God was a banker.’ Since the latter is correct under certain conditions, I decided to give Mr. Subramanian the benefit of doubt. Hence, burying the vociferous protests of my ‘editorial’ self, I bought the book.


Sadly, after an hour and a half of reading the book, I feel as if I have wasted my time, and hard(ly) earned money. Even if the back cover had not said that the novel is the author’s first, I’d probably have figured. In fact, there’s nothing ‘novel’ about the story really. It just consists of some half-baked characters, a rehashed, beaten-to-death story, and totally inane dialogue.


I’m confident that my 14 year-old cousin could come up with more engaging conversations that Mr. Subramanian.


Also, someone please tell him that the word is ‘ma’am’ and not ‘maam’. There are loads of examples of incorrect apostrophes, names not being capitalised, and convoluted sentences. In my opinion, the book could be given to budding editors to practice their craft. Perhaps, one could have a contest like ‘Spot the maximum errors within a minute’ or something.


What I fail to realise is why people believe that just because they are at a bschool, they are entitled to dish out lame-duck stories, which people will buy. And why can’t readers be discerning enough? Just because someone from a premier bschool has written a story, it doesn’t become eminently readable. (After reading books by a certain Mr. Bhagat, one ought to have realised that. )


But, all is not lost. Perhaps, the book could be made a mandatory read for amateur writers like me. After all, if this guy can write, I can write.


Just two points to finish, Mr. Subramanian:


a) You say this is your first novel. Please let it be your last too.


b) If God were a writer, I’m sure he wouldn’t do such a shoddy job.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

On writing...

Since I've recently finished writing the story 'The Magnolias Still Bloom' on this space, and have heard/seen a lot of online and offline comments, I've been thinking about the feedback I got.

I'm glad a lot of you liked reading the story, even though it has a sad ending. I'm just an amateur writer, trying to learn to write better, but I thought I'd just share what makes me tick. (Perhaps it is presumptuous of me, but I think I'll still do it.)

When I write, I like to 'live' the character, so that's why most of my main protagonists are simply 'I' or 'He' - with no names specified. That helps me blend into the character better, and assign him my thoughts and my emotions.

And since I actually imagine myself going through all the experiences that a character does, I think I tend to be more visual, more descriptive and more 'raw' in my emotion. (That's both a good and a bad sign, as far as I know.)

When I started writing 'The Magnolias Still Bloom', I wanted to write a story about how a boy has a chance meeting with a mysterious girl, and how his infatuation changes to love. I wanted to write about how she spurns him, and is not very comfortable with the idea of a relationship.

But between the time the story was conceptualised and written, the boy grew up. I discovered that I could no longer believe in a fairy tale romance - 'and they lived happily ever after'. (Make no mistake, it's not that I don't believe in love; it's just that with love one also has to accept disagreements, arguments and other 'negative' emotions.)

I didn't want the boy and the girl to end up as two bickering middle-aged people, bored and frustrated with life. I didn't want the love they had to fade.

Even though she died (and I did feel very sad when writing and editing that section) I would like to believe that their love lives on. She died in pain, but happy at having found true love.

He lived (for many more years, hopefully) with the knowledge that true love exists and he shared it with her. He will always be able to go back to memories of happy times spent with her, and smile, even though that smile may be tinged with a bit of sadness.

Nevertheless, the magnolias still bloom.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Soulful Melody

Born in the recesses of my heart,
the sweetest song I’ll ever sing,
delicate notes crafted with Love,
taking flight on gilded wing.