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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

Dear Bloggy Friends

Wish you a very happy new year. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, opinions, ideas, and feedback. :)



The grimy twilight fades into dusk,
and I see them wither and fall,
those drifting leaves of memories,
and I struggle to gather them all.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Fourth Idiot

Raju, the chronic worry-wart – Is always frantic about situations, and prays, wears rings of various kinds, and stresses himself out.

Farhan, the dreamer – Wants to be something else, and doesn’t express his choice to his parents for fear of his stern father

Rancho, the maverick – Always questioning tradition, possessed with a probing and inquisitive mind, and willing to invent – be it gadgets, or even excuses

These are not just characters in a movie that goes by the uninspiring name of ‘3 idiots’. Aren’t these characters alive in all of us? Don’t you think each one of is part Raju, part Farhan, and part Rancho? Don’t many/most of us dream of going against the grain to accomplish something different, something non-stereotypical?

Does that give us the role of a fourth idiot, or is it pragmatic to be like that?

What do you think?

Friday, December 25, 2009

All is well…

I’ve always resolutely maintained that Chetan Bhagat’s books are not worth the paper that they are printed on. However, I got the chance to watch ‘3 Idiots’ – a movie allegedly based on his book ‘5-point someone’. I went in with bated breath, with a gaggle of friends, fearing the worst was about to hit me.

Thankfully, I can still maintain that Mr. Bhagat is only marginally better than a monkey let loose with a typewriter. According to the film-maker, the movie has only 5 percent in common with the book. (Perhaps, that’s why I felt that the movie was only about 90-95 percent ‘there’ in terms of quality.)

The tale of a maverick, madcap student who gets admission to one of the most prestigious engineering colleges in India – the Imperial College of Engineering (ICE) and proceeds to question every norm, every tradition and everything else mired in ‘tradition’ is well-told by Rajkumar Hirani. Of course, almost every institute has some stereotypes:

a) A tyrant of a director/principal who is a reincarnation of Hitler

b) The most studious chap in the class who wants to win, win, and WIN all the time

c) Some funny chaps who don’t believe in studying, but are game enough for fun

d) A crazy chap who doesn’t believe in blind authority

At face value, none of these is unique. But, the way Aamir Khan portrays the role of the maverick, Rannchhod Chachar (Rancho), Sharman Joshi and Madhavan – his madcap friends, and Boman Irani the tyrant is fresh. And funny. In parts.

Almost every character – be it the chaiwallah or the principal’s lissome daughter is well-written and contributes something to the story. I did think that this was one of Boman Irani’s less likeable performances, with an affected lisp ostensibly inspired by Shahid Kapoor in Kaminey, and a perpetually grumpy expression that is reminiscent of Wile E. Coyote from the Road Runner cartoons.

But Rancho is an endearing character throughout. Right from the moment he electrocutes a senior wanting to rag him, to when he makes a point to the principal in his inimitable style, to when he uses his innovation to help out with a classmate’s project – a toy helicopter, he displays various sides of his personality. He can be cocky, witty, blasphemous, and practical – all at the same time. One gets to learn the phrase ‘Aaal eej wellll’ (All is well) that makes an appearance throughout the movie, from one of Rancho’s anecdotes.

The second half takes us on a journey with his friends and his love-interest, Pia (Kareena) who are trying to trace him down after 10 years of his disappearance, right after college. The movie has its set of highs, lows, emotional moments, laughs, and a few scenes that can be best described as ‘hammy’. Still, without revealing any further, I must say that the movie is a must-watch.

Yes, if you are a prude, you will find some jokes slightly offensive or below-the-belt. If you need to watch ‘realistic’ movies, this movie will give you a few of those rolling-your-eyes-in-exasperation kind of moments. If you are a college student or were a college student ever, you should be able to relate to the happenings.

The movie is shot in a variety of locations, that are all pleasing to the eye. From the college hostels of IIM-Bangalore, to Connaught Place in Delhi, and the scenic locales of Ladakh – everything is awesome. The music is eminently hummable (even in my eminently horrendous voice).

The bottomline is that you are being the 4th idiot, if you don’t go out and watch this movie. I’m not saying that it doesn’t have flaws. All I’m saying is that despite some very obvious flaws, it’s fun! (I say that after pushing my way through a horde of spectators stampeding through the entrance, sitting on seats with lots of leg room only if you had been born a midget, listening to wolf-whistles and catcalls from the elite crowd every few minutes, and watching some people actually dancing when a song appeared.)

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Media demons…


Sometimes, I really detest the media for the role it plays in shaping public perception. After the 3rd one-day international against Sri Lanka on Dec 21, 2009, the picture above was clicked. The description of the picture on a reputed cricket news website said, “Sachin Tendulkar makes a point to Dinesh Karthik after wrapping up the match…”

The facts of the case were that Tendulkar was batting on 96. With only a few runs remaining to be made, Mr. Karthik decided to have the heave-ho and promptly hit the ball over the boundary to score 6, and end the match. Hence, his partner was left high and dry on the other end at a score of 96, 4 runs short of another milestone, another century.

The picture, with its caption seems to suggest that the legendary man – Tendulkar, was remonstrating with his partner for denying him yet another feather in his cap – another one-day hundred.

Somehow, I refuse to believe that. A man who has served India  at the highest level for 20 years, a man who has left a trail of broken records, and has found a place in the hearts of even his most ardent critics can surely not be guilty of such pettiness.

An anecdote about Tendulkar from India’s tour of Australia in 1991 says that he was batting on 99, when he was bowled by the fast bowler, Mike Whitney. However, the umpire ruled it to be a no-ball, thus rendering Tendulkar not out. Off the very next ball, the great man reached his century and walked up to Whitney, saying, “I’m terribly sorry, Mr. Whitney.”

Whitney recounted this incident later, during a discussion on Tendulkar’s greatness. Bitter rivals like Shane Warne suffered nightmares of Sachin Tendulkar whacking them to all corners of the park. Captains like Steve Waugh shuddered at the thought of setting a field to contain a rampaging Tendulkar. And while the great man is always at his uncharitable best in the middle, he does spare a thought and a lot of help for the economically weaker sections, in need of support.

Of course, with the media trying to grab eyeballs, they have no qualms about trying to tarnish the image of a demi-god, just to generate a bit of controversy.

a) I don’t give a rat’s ass if Sachin actually made a point to Karthik. But, without adequate videographic evidence to support, you can’t interpret a still photo to mean that.

b) Even if he did scold Karthik, it wouldn’t lessen his stature in any way.

The bottom line is that I am not trying to agree/disagree with anyone here. But, my only point is that the media ought to be more responsible before carrying such reports.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Journey to Remember…

Term 6 at a bschool - a time for chilling out, having fun, and travelling a lot. Well, considering it is the last term, one ought to do any or all of these. But, one has recently discovered a new definition to the travelling bit. One realises that some people have been 'travelling' throughout the last few terms. Ah, they've been 'passengers' who have been gracious enough to smile at one politely, despite the bumpy ride.

One thinks it is much more pleasurable to be in a group with a few such passengers, so that they can take a look at the life that whizzes by, while one puts one's sore shoulder to the grindstone and slogs it out. After all, one needs to get some external intervention to realise that there's still life out there somewhere. So what, if one is missing out on it? These nice folks make sure that they watch enough sitcoms, sing enough songs, go on umpteen walks with 'close' companions, and do enough social 'butterflying' (or caterpillaring) to be able to share their experiences, and ensure that one gets to enjoy these pleasures, so what if only vicariously? They also ensure that they sleep for a good 8-10 hours a day, so that they're fresh enough to regale one with their exploits, and make life better.

Of course, there are other losers like oneself, who burn midnight oil and work feverishly, to ensure that deadlines are met, if only by fractions of seconds. Thankfully, one has the passengers who occasionally peer over one's shoulder to point out a few defects or errors, or make their contribution by suggesting ways to con those poor, unsuspecting profs who were born yesterday and know nothing about the 'corrupted pdf' technique or the 'Outlook date format' scam.

In fact, classifying one's group mates can be an interesting experience. Let us look at some priceless 'exhibits' to understand them better. (This listing includes both passengers and non-passengers, so that their distinctive features are brought about clearly to you, O discerning reader.)

a) Exhibit A - The Workaholic - He/she is always driven by the sight of that deadline zooming in closer and closer. This person will have reminders, post-its, alarms et al, set to make sure that work is divided, milestones are decided, and the entire process is completed on time, with the necessary quality. An invaluable person to have in your group, though one must concede that one does tend to get a little frustrated when Exhibit A does not allow one to behave passenger-ically.

b) Exhibit B - The Righteous One - He/she has a holier-than-thou attitude, a fiery temper, and the inability to tolerate shoddy work. This person detests passengers. Of course, that could possibly be because he/she is one, and there's only room for so many, on a ride. Right? So, beware! If one's work does not match up to his/her standards (which are presumably copied from some website or another) one is in trouble! However, to set you on the right road, this person will claim to have hoarded tons of data, and information that you can use when you eventually stop being useless and decide to work.

c) Exhibit C - The Spanner-in-the-works - In football, there are some players who accidentally put the ball in their own goal, thereby causing more loss than gain. These people fall in such a category, and one finds oneself wishing that one had steered clear of these folks in the first place! One would rather burn more midnight oil and do this person's share of work, rather than let him/her loose and risk spending even more time, undoing the damage he/she causes.

d) Exhibit D - The Who-me? - Aww, the innocent one!! He/she wonders why YOU, the useless freak didn't ask for work to be done? Why didn't you send out a mail dividing work, outlining what is to be done, and set timelines? Sheesh, this poor babe-in-the-woods type was up till 3 am, wondering why no one has been doing anything. YOU evil one, to have caused so much hurt to this poor thing. Awww....

e) Exhibit E - The Creative One - A brilliant asset to have. He/she can think logically and differently, is prepared to work well, and generates lots of quality work. The only possible limitation - his/her batteries die out at 11 pm, so you have to wait for the next morning for creativity to happen. Still, worth every ounce of his/her weight.

f) Exhibit F - The well-oiled cog - A total group player - this person may debate with you, argue, prove to be a tough nut to crack, but will contribute meaningfully to the group. When one is burning midnight oil, this person will be sitting beside you and helping out. Apart from reducing one's workload, this person also reduces one's carbon footprint. How, you ask? Well, midnight oil is divided by two now, innit?

g) Exhibit G - The push-me-pull-you - The name is derived from a fictional animal that had two divergent personalities, in some story that I read as a kid. This person has two personalities - somewhat like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Still, he/she can be useful, provided you only have a moderate sprinkling of other Exhibits in the group. He/she reacts violently to some of them, and is perfectly at peace with the others. If you are sensible enough, you'll value his/her presence.
Of course, there are many other categories too. But, we shall delve into their intricacies later. The list is barely inclusive, and hardly exhaustive. Moreover, some people cut across categories and display various traits. So use your discretion, dear reader when you try to identify these people who are all around you. (Remember, the use of he/she is intentional, so do not make unfair assumptions, relating to gender.)

P.S. I have worked with some of you in groups, and haven't with others. Hence, kindly take this purely in jest, and do not attempt to map any of the Exhibits to your respective personalities. :P

Friday, December 11, 2009

Nostalgia bites…

I walked down the lofty corridor of The Saint Thomas Men’s Residence, with a wistful look on my face. Walking slowly, I absorbed all the sights – the notice board that congratulated the receivers of recent placement offers and had details of some competition or the other in garish colours, the whitewashed walls, and the lack of all human activity.

I smiled as I recalled all those futile trips I had made to the board to check if my name was on the shortlist for some company or the other. I could almost taste the feeling of defeat that had encompassed me on not seeing my name there, and feel the encouraging pats of friends on my shoulder.

I walked to the lift and smiled as I remembered the number of times that it had broken down, and I’d had to trudge up to the fourth floor using the stairs, huffing and puffing and cursing using all the expletives he knew in various languages. I decided to take the stairs this time, just to relive those memories.

Perhaps the current crop of students were on their term break. Perhaps, they were attending the class of a prof who’d have flunked them if they missed. Perhaps, they were sleeping after submitting an assignment due at 9.00 am.

Room no. 414 – the place that had seen fleeting moments of frustration, grief, delight and boredom. Sadly, it was locked. Idly, I wondered about the person who lived there now. Did he also make the room look like a tornado-struck zone? Did he take a minute out of his routine to admire the view from my window? Did his alarm ring incessantly in the morning till an irate neighbour pounded on his door in irritation? Did he belt out his brand of ‘music’ much to the consternation of nearby folks? Did his room also overflow with books of all kinds, shapes and sizes? And most importantly, had he inherited my love for LFC over the years?

If looks could kill, mine would have shattered that lock into a million pieces, giving me access to a flood of memories from the years gone by. But, nothing of the sort happened.

I took the lift this time.

On reaching the ground floor, I decided to go over to Rooms 15 and 16, where more laughs than an entire season of ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S.’ were created and shared. Room 16 was unlocked. I couldn’t resist knocking, almost expecting a familiar voice to say, “Yeahhhh, come in!” and opening the door to be greeted by some of the awesomest people on this planet.

A stranger opened the door, a questioning look in her lovely, hazel eyes. “Yes?” she asked. I snapped my gaping jaw shut, with an audible snap that made her jump. “Oh, nothing! I’m just an alumnus, who graduated in 2010. I was visiting someone in the city today, and decided to come over to my alma mater. Sorry, if I disturbed you.”

She invited me in with a warm smile, but the room felt cold. Gone were the decorations, the charts scrawled with funny one-liners, and the book-rack with the coffee-maker on top of it. Gone were those people, I’d half-expected would be lounging around the place. I didn’t see any of them there, but I still heard the faint echo of their voices and their laughter.

“Are you ok?” she asked, with some concern.

“Yes, I’m fine. Actually, I think I ought to go,” I said, looking at my watch.

I stopped by at the pond with the fountain. Multi-hued fish swam about, frolicking in the clear water. A moss-covered waterbody, with ugly catfish was what it had been, until a friend had come up with the idea to clean it up and maintain it better. We’d all pitched in – some had donated money to the cause, some had helped in selecting the right varieties of fish to keep, and others had rolled up their sleeves to do the ‘dirty’ work. (Of course, some had stood and snickered at the futility of it all, but then looking at the brightly coloured fish today, made me snicker back at them.)

The benches outside the Mother Teresa hostel were unoccupied. A strange phenomenon- made possible only by the fact that the students were not on campus. Otherwise, there would always be a bevy of folks – some reading, some engaged in long, intimate conversations with faraway loved ones, and others simply hanging out.

Ah, a familiar soul at last! Dadu – the proprietor of the campus eatery, warmly greeted me with a cup of coffee and chattered away, trying to bring me up to speed with all the changes on campus lately. I was too lost to respond, and made do with randomly sprinkled ‘hmm’s and ‘haa’s. The old rascal didn’t forget to charge me 12/- for that measly cup of weak, sugary coffee. When I pointed out that one thing that hadn’t changed on campus, was his propensity to fleece his customers, he just grinned and made the age-old excuse, “Kya karen Sumit, har cheez ka rate badhta hi rehta hai?

Deciding to take a look at the classrooms of yore, I felt a twinge of sadness at seeing that they had been revamped completely, with state of the art infrastructure and advanced gadgetry. Having never been especially attached to the classrooms, (since a large component of my learning had taken place not inside but outside them) I moved on to take a look at yet another place that was special – the Placecomm office. For, it was there that the 16 of us had spent long, sleepless nights slogging towards ensuring the best of placements at XLRI. And what a brilliant job we had done too!

I strolled over to the GMP area, the location for many heart-to-heart talks with friends. The silence there threatened to choke me, so I had to beat a hasty retreat and take refuge in the huge common room of The Father Enright Men’s Residence. The old TV where we had watched countless Premier League matches, cheering on our favourite teams was still there. The memory of bunking two important classes and a quiz just to watch Liverpool trounce the Red Devils 4-1, and revelling in the gains from the ‘tradeoff’ I had made was special.

The TT table, a little battered because of the rough handling it had undergone over the ages still stood, a relic of the times when there had been epic tournaments, having played best-of-5, best-of-10, and even last-man-standing games played amongst us.

The last stop was the iconic JLT – which had been the forbidden place early on, but had turned into a regular haunt in the final term. Funnily enough, the XL journey had begun with a dunking for ‘trespassing’ on JLT and ended with a dunking to celebrate getting placed, and the corresponding DJ nite, where all of us had exchanged hugs and fond farewells.

I walked out of the campus slowly, as a lone tear made its way down my cheek. I turned up the volume of my iPod to drown out the silence, and those haunting words pervaded my being:

Socha tha MBA kar le, hum tum bhi thoda sa padh len, lo aa gaye hum XLR….