Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Exam fever

If there is one thing I dont really like about the education system in India, it is the fact that we are consistently fed with the idea that the next exam we write is going to be the biggest one of all time. You can fool some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time .... What is it with exams anyway ? After you start working you realise that all those exams written way back when were an excercise in futility.

First it is the 10th standard exam which gets touted as the biggest and baddest exam. After you pass it you realise that it was just to get into a good institute to do your last 2 years of schooling. By which time your attention is forced onto the twin evils of your 12th standard boards (what would the world think if you got anything less than 85% ?!) and your entrance exams (to get into a good college). Which means daily coaching classes, numerous tests and mock exams and what not. Oh dont forget to add managing a teenage life. No wonder Indians turn out to be good multitaskers. Balancing puppy love and complex organic chemistry - piece of cake for us Indians. But it doesnt end there.

You start working for a couple of years and the inevitable starts to happen. Talk of the dreaded W word. And whoever said parents dont know how to manage our generation? In all innocence they will start mentioning to you how all your uncles and aunts are starting to suggest that it is time to search for a good match for you (cue horrified look on your face & indignant protests). To add more masala (not that you would know it at that time) they will mention how this aunty (Ive noticed its always the aunty's who want to make sure beta is settled asap. Why is this ????) was saying that her neighbour's daughter is well educated and beautiful and we should think of making a proposal as her family is very good and she is such an angel. Cue double gulp. Perfect time for them to slip in the "....or you could always do your MBA and buy yourself 2 years, after which you will need time to settle down, right?... " And before you know it your very own parents have conned you into signing up for CAT coaching classes and youve bought a dozen application forms to India's finest B-schools. Suddenly its time to dust the dust off your old books and start studying for your 'new' most important exam in the world.

And it would be fine if life's never ending cycle of exams ended there. What else could be there, right? You do your MBA, get a good job and then start working before your aunties start helpfully suggesting how their neighbour's daughter .......

I place the blame squarely on the shoulders of all those greedy Wall Street morons (the majority of who are incidentally MBA's like you) who set the avalanche rolling. Now that they have done their damage, companies across the world are resorting to massive cost cutting including the easiest of all - firing employees. The merciful ones are conducting exams for which you have a fixed number of attempts. Failing which its tata-bye-bye time. Which reminds me my retest is in a few days time (notice the re in retest) . When will this ever end????

Training Vegetables !

It certainly was a day for rather unique 'insights' on life from others. First I hear how the carrot (which Bugs Bunny made famous) is the chick among vegetables. The young lady who said it felt that if all the (apparently male) vegetables had to woo a particular vegetable it would most certainly have been the carrot. Here's one more reason why they say Men are from Venus & Women are from Mars.
Later in the day I heard how marriage is akin to catching a train in India. The point being that you want to get onto a train knowing that there is an empty seat waiting for you and only you. Otherwise it will be like getting onto the general compartment with every other guy. Impressively deep.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Metal or flesh ?

Think of using a fork and spoon - chances are more often than not visions of an elegant dinner in a restaurant with everything perfectly in place will come flowing through your mind. Shift gears and think about eating with your hands - this time images of your south indian friends eating sambar soaked rice with a content smile on their face (not to mention dipped in sambar fingers) have a higher probability of being what is pictured.

Not that anything is wrong with either approach, I for one am perfectly comfortable with any of one these 2. Using your hands to rip apart a misbehaving piece of chicken while meeting your clients is a strict no-no as is asking for a fork and spoon (asking for tissue would make it worse, not something worth trying) paper while a heap of rice with a variety of curries and a papadam on a banana leaf is placed in front of you. To be honest I've heard a number of discussions on this topic with no side having a comprehensive seal-the-matter final point. The most recent differed as the proponent for the 'hands on approach' said "Using a fork and spoon is nice but you really have no idea how clean they are as you dont know where they have been before you used them. I know what I have done with my hands and how clean they are." End of discussion.

Summer & SIM's

For the sterotypical Indian male (SIM) the arrival of summertime heralds the (I can almost imagine him rubbing his hands in glee) onset of sleeveless tops for Indian women most prominently of the teens to mid age spectrum (high degree of political correctness being employed to avoid trouble from any women I know reading this and falling in this category). I dont know what the fascincation is all about, its just a few square centimetres of skin being displayed near the shoulder. I mean you probably see most of the armthe rest of the year, for 3 months you get a chance to see it completely. And yet serial ogglers will continue to well oggle while the others might just let an accidental glance linger for that extra second, these 2 categories being the way the stereotypical Indian male is divided into.

Maybe they (the sterotypical Indian male) think they are making up for the cold winter months in which women covered themselves from head to toe with tops, sweaters, stoles and whatnot and not a trace of skin could be seen. Maybe they are just being guys. Maybe they believe that they are only appreciating natures creations and I think it is fair to say that women do the same when it comes to guys.

Which is where the whole 'Hey I think I saw that guy give you a second glance' (a genuine compliment) versus the 'Lets no go there, those idiots are leching like its their last day on earth' (which is when you wish a bus load of policemen get off a bus surround the cheapos and beat them black and blue) discussion crops up. Disclaimer : the following applies to both sexes for the sake of correctness.
Type 1: The shameless of the shameless will openly admit to leching which includes checking out the other persons physical attributes in a negative manner whatever be the time, place or occassion.
Type 2: Then there are the casual lechers who will ordinarily not stoop to such levels but given the right time, place or occassion they wont stop themselves from having a casual glance.
Type 3: The third type is those who genuinely would think now that woman is pretty/attractive/ any-other-adjective-for-a-woman or guy is handsome/cute/ any-other-adjective-for-a-guy. Which doesnt mean they keep staring at every person walking by admiring and appreciating but i believe they would do so in moderation. For some strange reason I tend to compare such people with wine-lovers. Dont ask.
Type 4: Fourthly there are those believe that appreciating/admiring/harmlessly checking out/leching etc for those few seconds or minutes wont make a difference to your life and hence dont bother with the entire effort. Their argument does have some degree of reasoning - after all seeing someone on a bus, train, in a mall, in office or anywhere else for a couple of minutes wont really change your life unless you really believe that you can emulate Bollyowod's heroes who can woo a woman who hates them by whisking them away to some snow capped mountain where they will dance while being under-dressed for the biting cold. (How do these heroes transport them from Bombay to Switzerland and bring them back the moment the song gets over anyways ..... hmmmmmm but I digress)
Edit : Type 5 - Came across a new classification today while chatting with the guys - 'the lighthouse', used to describe a person who will check out someone and strain his/her neck while only looking at that person until they are out of sight (which doesnt necessarily result in out of mind but still....) Usually involves a 360 degree rotation of neck + body, hence the name.
So how does one draw that thin line between whats acceptable and whats not? I really dont know. I guess you will have to ask the stereotypical Indian woman(SIW). Which is one topic I know nothing about.


Its only February but the summer sun is making a rather unwelcome early appearance this year. Make that a couple of months too early (this should convince all the non - Al Gore believers...) Im not one for much roaming around Bangalore on weekends - a rather unequal combination of1. bad traffic (on saturdays) and its accompanying pollution (try waiting at any one of our numerous signals where autos refuse to switch off their engines and give out unbelievable amounts of smoke) empty wallet for which the soon to arrive R15 is to blame3.exhaustion (for which weekdays are to blame) and 4.laziness all combine together to push me towards my book collection which is growing faster than I am reading them.

Last sunday however necessity overcame this comfortable combination and I was roaming around town with my brother. The result - my weekend exhaustion has moved to weekday exhaustion and ive got a major pain in my neck due to my rather heavy GP One helmet. And yet I actually enjoyed it.

Come to think of it theres something about the summer that makes people upbeat. School kids are understandably happy as its sports time until they are old enough to (wrongly) realise studies are more important. Parents are happy cause they dont need to get up early and put send their kids to school. Tourist spots see higher revenues. Music artists get to croon/rap/etc etc about their favourite time of the year. I mean think about it, how many songs about the winter have you heard? The only end of the year songs Ive heard are christmas songs. But summertime brings out the best of music artists. The song summertime aptly captures the spririt of the season

In the summertime when the weather is fine

And you can strech right up and touch the sky

Now when the weather is fine

You got women, you got women on your mind

Im gonna drink and drive and see what I can find

Now if her daddy is rich take her out for a meal

And if her daddy is poor just do what you feel ......

Monday, February 09, 2009

The price of education ....

As I stepped out of the rather grand entrance hall into the parking lot and turned back to look at the quaint architecture, it struck me that I could very well be in some century old school in England. As I looked around, I noticed the perfectly manicured and tastefully laid out sprawling garden which even included a mini Stonehenge. Looking at the mini layout of the school, my eyes enviously rested on the 2 basketball courts, 2 tennis courts, swimming pool, football & hockey ground. Some people have all the luck....
Back to waiting in the lobby and my PSP was my saviour as noisy boys roamed the corridors between classes who gave more than a second glance to the rather eye catching helmet of mine (here we go again .....) Everything done, my bro & I were ready to leave the school and head back to town when my brother dopped a bombshell in a matter of a fact way " ....really nice school, well mannered kids. Guess what the fees are? 6 lacs a year" Thats a shade under what you would pay for a 2 year MBA in a pretty good Bschool in India! Not many things can make me speechless. This one most certainly did. Im still in shock. Holy cow!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Safe and sorry ......

The last time I went to the Electronics City office (situated 20 minutes away from Bangalore city) by bike I got stopped by a cop (who to be fair was stopping a lot of bikes) in front of the Madiwala police station. He checked my bike papers and since I dont have the No Objection Certificate (NOC, a document by your local Regional Transport Office that says you are cleared to ride in other states) I had to slip the cop a 100 buck note. In all honesty it was my mistake as I was riding right in front of him despite being warned by my friend that since I have a bike that is registered in Kerala I should avoid riding right in front of them as we are easy meat. Lesson learned the hard way. And I was determined never to make the same mistake again.

So there I was, passing through the same road today morning when I remembered this incident 500 meters before I reached the police station. So I moved to the middle of the road in between buses and cars when from out of nowhere a cop sees me and charges onto the middle of the road and asks me to pull over. Surprised would barely begin to describe what I felt and after the mandatory 'Uncle Cop' role he started taking out his charge booklet. Out came my wallet and I gave him a 50 but he was like 'Only 50 ? it should be 100' but then in a kind gesture he decided to take the 50. Wallet lightened and I was still puzzled as to why he suddenly charged across the road to pull me over.

5 minutes later I stopped at a signal & was checking my rear view mirror when it struck me. The last time I was caught was in front of the police station and I am sure that todays cop wouldve seen me at that time. How did he remember it was me? My more than colourful GP One helmet with an iridium visor & orange DSG gloves, thats how. I am pretty sure I must be a pretty stand out in terms of bike gear (as if a helmet & gloves is sufficient but compare that to other bikers, most of who wear a cheap black helmet without even securing the helmet clasps, and you get the picture) and he wouldve remembered how I had to pay the last time.

So have I learned my lesson & will I go get the NOC from my RTO and come to the Bangalore RTO and pay the state tax ? errrr no. Not only will a lot more plams have to be waxed, a lot of time will also get wasted. Plus that R15 is looking all the more desirable, with a Bangalore registration no issues will arise. Im assuming I wont get caught enough number of times till the R15 is in my garage. So the 2 options in front of me - get a new helmet (been on my mind for a while) and / or find an alternate route that doesnt go through the Madiawala police station to get to office. Time to hit Google Maps.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Weekend Blues

You know that you really need a change when your weekends start painting themselves with that drab scent of monotony. And so it was that we decided to go for a KK concert to be held at IIM-Bangalore last Saturday. His performance was scheduled to start at 18:30 and so we reached their early enough to give us time to check out the campus and the other events. Managed to catch a Punjabi group dance competition complete with a sardar whose clothes were falling off .... I kid you not.

Anyways 18:30 became 19:00 which became 19:30 which became .... We were pretty frustrated by the time KK got on stage at 20:00 but his performance did take away some of the pent up anger.

Fortunately we didn’t stand in line or get into the jam packed enclosed ground. Found a good vantage point at an elevation from where we could see the screen pretty clearly and there wasn’t a constantly-on-the-jump crowd to further get on our nerves. The next 2 hours were pretty enjoyable with KK entertaining us with his hits, special mention to the Summer of 69 song. All good except for the fact that KK kept hopping to the back of the stage to the drummer with his back to the audience while shaking his bum. Dont ask how I noticed! I cant tell you that he's a must watch act as I think his music is a bit soft-ish and I prefer my music to have a tad more rock entwined in it. Like Rock On. But a welcome change it was, now to make plans for this weekend that dont include a movie or a mall.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Oz Open errr Aus Open

It truly was a battle of the titans. One for the ages. Roger Federer against Rafael Nadal for the Australian Open title. It was billed as the final everyone wanted to see and they sure didnt disappoint.

Impossible angles were the norm rather than the exception. Once again it came down to Roger Federer's grace versus Rafael Nadal's never-give-up spirit. One has to give credit where credit is due, Nadal chased down every single ball and had the ability to return more shots (often winners) than any other player I have seen. Phenomenal I think would begin to describe him.

It was only in the 5th set that finally the signs were finally visible. Federer's face started showing those creeping moments of doubt as suddenly every shot of his seemed to be going out. And before he knew it Nadal had a commanding lead and walked away with the title. The commentators mentioned that its probably at a stage now where Nadal is in Federer's head. He beat him on his Rolland Garros. He even went to Wimbledon & beat Federer on his home court. And slowly but surely it appears that the mantle is being passed. From one great to the next, the heralding of the new while gracefully ushering out the old guard. I for one still prefer watching Federer but it is Nadal who is the better player for now.

As a side note, NDTV immediately began flashing the headline Nadal wins 'Oz Open' not realizing that the Oz Open would equate to the New Zealand Open. Morons.

It wasnt me !

Stumbled upon a BBC discussion on the economic crisis yesterday which had among its panelists the head of AIG (who a year back in a discussion on the same topic said there was no reason to worry), an expert nicknamed 'Dr Doom' because he predicted the housing crash among other things, the head of Guyana and the Swiss finance minister and a couple of others (am a bit hazy on the exact backgrounds of everyone but this is it rather more than less). Some of the rather eye-opening moments of the discussion included
- the AIG guy claiming that you cannot expect the board of a company to know what is happening within the same company
- some lady who kept claiming that it was the system that was at fault and what was done was in good faith and people didn’t know what the ramifications of their actions on the entire system would be
- a guy from the audience who mentioned that companies are paying out huge bonuses to their top management when they should be rewarded on their long term performance rather than the short term gains they bring which will have a negative impact on the company in the long run

- the Guyana Premier who said that had it been a developing nation that had made the same mistakes, we would all be sitting listening to a lot of preaching which isn’t happening now cause it is the developed world which is at fault (which received applause)
- the AIG guy who claimed the $85 billion dollar bailout for AIG wasn’t really for AIG but was a bailout for the entire system

Sometimes the bullshit was so evident I felt bad for the people doling it out - either they really believed what they were saying or that they knew that they had to keep maintaining the same stand lest they (!horror of horrors!) admit that they were wrong and should be accountable. Its really sad when I see the number of people being laid off each week and when the people who can make a difference hold their hands up in indifference and claim its not their fault.