A Desi MBA’s Quarter Life Crisis

For the purpose of this post, let me state a couple of assumptions first –

  1. Most MBAs in India graduate somewhere in the age band of 23-27, which is somewhat different from US and other developed countries. There is a very small proportion of people in the 27+ age group. 23- would be fewer.
  2. Let’s assume that all these jokers would work between 30-40 years after their MBA. Some stars would retire in the carribean much earlier, maybe. But only some. Most would continue to stay close to work.

And hence, the quarter life crisis I am talking about hits you around 8-10 years after your MBA. And in age terms, its closer to 30, but not very close to 40.

So, what are the signs of this quarter life crisis?

  • You are settled.
  • You are somewhat successful. You are not the CEO of a fortune 500 company. But you are/close to becoming a Partner in a consulting firm, BU head in a reasonable sized business, 200-500-100 people span of control depending on the industry/ function, healthy P&L of a few hundred crores, managing an account generating in excess of 5-10 million dollars every year for the firm, etc. In short, you have managed it well so far.
  • You are somewhat known as well. So, within your industry circles, some people have started knowing you and valuing your opinion or judgement. Some of you may even be in the Top 30 by 30 or Future CEO of India kind of futuristic categories
  • You are the equivalent of upper middle class. You are not necessarily a part of the middle management, but in more cases than not, you are not executive leadership as well. And if you are a part of the Executive leadership, you are the lower echelon guy. You have your days when you feel really important. And you have your days when you feel like you’re that tiny little thing in that big bowl of salad that has been chewed and spat away.


And one fine morning, shit hits the fan. There is four of you sitting in a room. And a discussion happens. And it could be the most profound discussion for an outsider. However, for you, its an annual, and then quarterly, and then monthly, gradually going on to becoming a daily profoundness that engulfs your life. The core question is – “what the hell are you doing with your life?”. Have you been asked the question? If yes, then you’re a part of the QLC gang. The QLC is about choices – there are two paths ahead of you. One of unsettlement, risks and possibilities and another of stability and boredom. At least that’s how people portray it. One which has some risks, and the other has such predictability that makes a masala bollywood movie seem like a classic murder mystery in comparison.

But I think QLC is when you doubt if what you’re doing is really worth your time and energy. It’s about the allocation of scarce resource against endless possibilities, under the broader construct of “little knowledge is dangerous”.

After going through several such QLC discussions, as some of you may remember, I decided to throw in my towel. For the time being. I said – unsettle. Break the rhythm. And see what comes out of it. As someone said – you need really giant cojones to do this. But I think you need one of two things – a moment of extreme clarity or a moment of extreme irrationality. Whichever it might have been, but I did. And since then, my profound discussions have changed. I have had numerous conversations with people who are on the other side of the line, are looking at the line intently, and debating furiously with themselves. In a very Tyler Durden way. It’s violent, yes. What’s surprising though is the common theme – my generation of MBAs is going through an MBA’s quarter-life crisis. Some nod their head and go back to boredom. Some keep debating. Some have rationalized. Some have actualized. Some have evaluated. Many have forgotten. And few are lucky. To be happy where they are. And a miniscular proportion have found a life so blissful that everything else is secondary. And some are on the precipice of making that leap. I am wishing them and myself some luck. May the crisis be over soon 😉

“Why do we fall Master Wayne? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up” – Alfred Pennyworth in Batman Begins.

I wish that was one thing they taught you in school or college – the ability to take risks and fail. In fact, that’s one thing that they most definitely ask you not to do in our education system. Otherwise, someone would have encouraged the study of history along with mathematics in  XIth grade, even if the ultimate aim was to be an engineer!

Side note: I have been told that the QLC timelines are getting compressed. Since a lot of the new-gen folks want to retire sooner, the going in hypotheses is – everyone who MBAed after 2002 is going through a QLC. And B.Techs too.

A Sliver of Memory from 1997

29th June 1997 – The 25th marriage anniversary of my parents. I was in Std XII then, my brother was in college, and my sister had just started working at TCS in Mumbai. We all felt that we should treat it like a big deal. And so we planned a lot of things. Except that the real sources of money at that point were what we could scrape together from saving something every month from our pocket money, my annual NTSE scholarship (a princely sum of Rs 1750) and whatever my sister could save from her first month’s salary, assuming that she also had to reach Ranchi from Mumbai in reasonable time.

The countdown was interesting. A train from Mumbai would reach Kodarma/Dhanbad from where one of my cousins (Sanjay Bhaiya) was going to pick my sister and get her to Ranchi (hopefully before 6PM). Till then, me and bhaiya would have tried to get everything together. We had enough support from Mamas and Mausis and Bhaiyas and a whole bunch of relatives in Ranchi.
We bought a nice Kurta Paijama set for dad, a his and her watch set, a tiny gold earring and a sari for mom, made arrangements for the cake etc. and tried to get ready. And it was great fun. This now brings me to the picture here.

Mom and Dad aren’t used to this sort of public display of affection where Dad would put a piece of cake in Mom’s mouth or vice versa. Esp. in the presence of so many people. SO, mom was majorly embarassed and this one picture is of that particular moment as my Mom was trying to avoid the cake. On a side note, my mamaji who had the camera (of the famed 36 ka roll era) in his hand had decided to not wear his glasses because of the usual problem that all bespectacled people had with clicking pictures with old world cameras. This also implied that this is one of the rare few pictures from that anniversary album which is pointed at the right place at the right time. Most others have the heads of key people missing.

This moment remains close to all of us for how we scrambled to pull everything together, the great time we had and of a time when we did not have much, and fortunately, we did not need much.

In Anticipation

Tomorrow morning, in all likelihood, if not tonight itself, we begin our road trip. The plan is to hit Bangalore first, and then hit the western coasts closer to Kozhikode, and then drive along the Konkan highways back to Mumbai. The trip should be somewhere in the 2500+ km range, and while we have 10-odd days budgeted for it, we are going in with a couple of planned things and leaving the rest to the flow of the moment. I said “in all likelihood” because I hate jinxing things by referring to them as being 100% in my control.

First, this might end up being the first real real break for us in a long time. It will be the first time in a long time that my mind would not be wandering back to the office or the work or the projects (the same can not be said about the biwi, even though the biwi is much better than me at leaving office behind). That does include the long break I had taken at the beginning of the year, which served as a reasonable vacation but didn’t really help me take my mind off work. And with me not switched off completely, the biwi has had to bear the brunt of planned imperfect getaways.

Second, I have a habit of trying to pack too much in any given day to be able to relax fully. People to meet, stuff to write, books to read, music to listen to, notes to take, tasks to do, etc etc. To the extent that sometimes the day never ends and the next day is already here. And I am hoping that at the end of these ten odd days, I would know that the world doesn’t end if I don’t do too many things, and better still, I would have a few more answers for myself.

Third, driving on long stretches cleans my head. It’s my meditation time of sorts. And I am not sure if it happens to you, but me and the biwi do actually manage to stay silently together for very very long stretches of time before (more often than not) breaking the silence for the exact same topic. Like that song on radio or the movie reference behind it, or that ad on the highway, or the car that we might have just overtaken. Somehow, we notice very similar things that brings us back from our reverie. In silence, we converse. But the short of it is that these drives tend to be a good medication for my generally confused mind.

Fourth, this, much to my happiness, and not exactly to biwi’s unhappiness, is probably the least planned trip for our 7 years of knowing each other. Biwi, like a true biwi and like a true female, loves to have a plan. Me, like a husband, and like a true desi male, is not fond of planning. I believe in that perfectly executed plans might give you satisfaction of execution, but they take away the joy of discovery. I think the word is Epiphany.

And last, I am a firm believer that while my facebook feed is full of my friends’ announcements of their phoren-vacations and ubercool DSLR-photoshopped photographs with 117 likes and 63 “wow! when did you go? I went their last year” kind of comments, there is much that our poor little country has that should be seen-shot-photoshopped. I plan on only seeing. Maybe some shooting. No photoshopping.

It also means that marathon blogging may focus on the road trip, OR to some mindlessly mindbending meandering musings on the road (example of anupraas alankar). I am looking forward to sharing something interesting. And if nothing else, the roads to take 😉

Mumbai Roads, Autorickshaws, and Zen

I enjoy driving. Much as the city has tried taking the joy out of any kind of driving, i still am in love with driving. How? I don’t quite understand myself. So, I can’t explain. What prompted this post? This, I can explain.

See. This morning I dropped the car for servicing. It has suffered some body damage recently, but due to some problems with the RTO, I was not in a position to claim insurance, and hence the delay. That RTO problem will require a separate post. Anyway, since no car and break time implies that I shall travel and little more around the city, and shall have to take the auto rickshaw. This post follows as a zen like experiential memoir. You SoBo snooties, don’t bother with this post. You have too much money to worry about the problems of the commoners. Yes, we can eat cake if we have run out of bread. Kthxbye.

If you have ever felt any doubts about the exact shape, contour, smoothness, friction, etc of Mumbai roads, you should take an auto rickshaw.

The backseat of an auto is Buddha’s shrine. Or the antithesis of it. There is no need to say Om loudly, and feel its vibration, hence. Every inch of your body feels every possible vibration every possible measurable unit of time. Sometimes, your teeth chatter long after you have taken the customary pissing break in the middle of the movie (assuming you took an auto to get to the theatre). The silence inside an auto reminds one of Kiron Kher im Devdas. Shotti. If you needed something to focus on, you could use the auto’s meter. These days, it moves at a pace that reminds you of stationarity in motion. And then there is the fluidity with which an auto navigates this congested traffic. Great way of learning how to deal with life. Rules don’t exactly matter. If you are smart, you can scare the big guys. You can brake to slow down. Or not to let the other guy slow down. There is no harm in taking the longer route. Because the ever changing customer’s loss is the stationary in time rickshaw driver’s gain.  The customer is the king that rewards the prajaa. And once you have been in there for a bit, the Mumbai auto rickshaw has the capacity to drown out everything else from your life.

Yet the thing that teaches me the most is the Mumbai road. Life will not be fair. Yet it can be called so. Its ok to get it 50% right. Because the optimist believes in a glass that is half full. It also tells you that – Traveler, there are no roads. Roads are made by Walking. That the journey is sometimes more important the destination. Every day a large sea of humanity searches for the road less travelled. And a few succeed.  You will encounter a road bump or a pothole when you least expect to. That these constant up and down movements that seem to break your back are a blessing in disguise. Because what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Or stranger. That you can stop a cavalcade with the power of an outstretched hand. We don’t need roads that resemble hema malini ke gaal. We have hema malini herself in the city. So the road shall resemble not her gaal,  but her wholesome self. Smooth? Are the state operators. Those who plan skywalks that need to be demolished soon afterwards.

Bollywood Titles: What’s In A Name!!!

Every time I hear about a bollywood movie launch, I try to imagine what the movie would be all about. Old hobby. Not one I’ve consciously thought about, but its there somewhere in the back of my head. And quite often, I am disappointed because the movie is nothing like the title. Or even related to the title. Worse still, there is a very low amount of creativity in this department. These days, we have resorted to making movie titles out of old hindi movie songs, for heaven’s sake. I mean the only thing that comes close to Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is Love Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana or Matru ki Bijli Ka Mandola.

So, I thought I would pick 10 recent names and re-imagine their stories.

  1. 1. Ek Tha Tiger – A quality sports movie on a fictionalized version of Dhyan Chand’s story and the peak of Indian hockey.
  2. Jab Tak Hai Jaan – Just renaming Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna would do. But an alter version has six people signing a pact in blood in the opening sequence and this pact is given to a “protector”. Twenty years later, the world is divided into two. A self sufficient city run by these six families and a larger powerful adversary With the protector being the force that keeps utopia intact.
  3. Kaminey – An adaptation of 100 bullets for cinema. The families are easy to pick – Gandhis, Ambanis, Tatas, Kalaignars, etc. One thing I know is – Abhishek Bachchan will not be one of the minutemen. Nor Bobby Deol. Amitabh as Graves – that sounds right.
  4. Son of Sardar – A sequel to Sholay, where the son of the ultimate sardar – Gabbar comes back, kills Veeru and Basanti in the opening credits, and Radha plots the ultimate strategy to save the son of V-B. Jai is dead. Thakur is dead. Veeru is dead. Basanti is dead. Can Radha save the son? From the son of sardar. And yes. Sambha’s son will be there too.
  5. Student Of The Year – I’d get inspired from “The Great Debaters” for this. Show the legacy in the opening credits. And then, a quintessential underdog story.
  6. Talaash – Going in with the flavor of the season, this should be a sequel to Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron featuring the search for Dmello’s dead body. While Sudhir and Vinod are being convicted, they furnish the evidence (pictures, cufflinks), but the critical evidence is the dead body which Tarneja (thinks) has hidden somewhere. But this time, Anurag (Kashyap) and Imtiaz (Ali) are two small-time journos who decide to stand for their cause. And this time, we will have the twitter, facebook and blogworld involved too. Public opinion vs. Politics.
  7. Dabangg – The story of Vallabh Bhai Patel and the Bhoodan initiative. Fictionalized to some extent, but that should be interesting.
  8. Chakravyuh – I’d want someone to be able to tell a fictionalized but epic retelling of the Abhimanyu tale. Just that. I think the war strategies, what chakravyuh was, why it was so difficult for anyone but Arjun/Karna to be able to break it, why it required archery skills of the highest level, etc., will make for some amazing story-telling.
  9. Barfi! – The indian version of Chocolat. That brief should be sufficient 😉
  10. 20 Saal Baad (this is in lieu of 1920 Evil Returns – I have no opinion on that movie)– Art-house cinema about an aging couple. 20 years after they first met each other, are married, and apparently, happily settled.

Does it ever happen to you? I mean what emotion does a bloody title like Jab Tak Hai Jaan evoke?


Culture of Whites

As a young kid, impressionable, ambitious, and a little crazy as I might have been back then, there was a little thing that was sacrosanct. That someone who was really serious about his Cricket, wore the “whites”. The other colors were for fun. Like the Benson & Hedges tournament down under. The cherry was supposed to be red. For it to be menacing and serious. You get the point.

So, when I went for my first cricket camp, since I could not really have a separate set of appropriate whites for playing cricket only, it boiled down to my white school shirt, and that white school trouser that you were supposed to wear on a specific weekday, for example, a saturday. I had white canvas shoes as well. But this time, thankfully, big brother came to my rescue. He had played school league already, and much as it would have affected the monthly budgets, my parents had bought him a pair of cricketing shoes with spikes and everything. He had outgrown them, and they were available for me. A little worn out, but a matter of pride, because not everyone had them. And you had to go to “Main Road” to buy them in Ranchi.

But, in short, the whites were sacred. Once you donned the whites, you played seriously. The stakes became higher. The intensity, that much stronger.

And the players wore those white V-neck sweaters in winters. The ones which had a combination color rim around the neck. The colors representing your country colors. Indians had blue. Aussies had yellow and baggy green. Me and my brother had pleaded with mom to get her to knit one of those sweaters for us. And she did. And we wore them, and felt let like the real deal. Nothing could go wrong after that. Yet it did. You did gt thwacked around the park. Or bowled out for a duck. But that could happen to Kapil. OR Kris Srikant as well. It’s just that you felt that you were giving your 100%.

And you imitated. That wonderful Kapil pose. Or the long Kumble run up. Or, that menacing Akram yorker. Or, even Gladstone Small. Or, that Shashtri defend and take a few false steps trick. Or that Kris Srikanth twitch, walk to the leg umpire, stretch your feet apart much more than any other batsman would, and try to take on the Akrams and the Ambroses of the world.

And much as the game was called a gentlemen’s game, complain like rowdies whenever you felt that a decision was unfair against India. Be ridiculous about supporting Sunny’s walking out. Be kiddishly gleefuk about that akram yorker that brought some ofthe finest to the ground. And discuss the match for several hours after it ended. That hit and that miss. Quite different from the post-match package by Sony Entertainment.

And just as the day would be coming to an end, with a little bit of light still left before sunset, run to the ground to get a five over game in. You and your band of fellow gentlemen. Whites or no-whites.

Such was the culture of whites. As I remember it.

aisa hota, waisa hota (ऐसा होता, वैसा होता)

उसका सर काँधे पे होता
ऐ खुदा कुछ ऐसा होता
हम भी थोडा मुस्कुराते
गर कभी कुछ वैसा होता

सोचता क्या ख्वाब होंगे
उन हसीन पर्दों के पीछे
मेरे रातों का भी साया
उनके ख़्वाबों जैसा होता

हाय वो चेहरे पे हल्की सी हँसी हल्का सा ग़म
इन बदलते मौसमों में एक मौसम वैसा होता

आज की तहरीर होती, कल की दो-इक ख्वाहिशें
मेरे दिल का हाल सुन कर उनका दिल भी ऐसा होता
कुछ भटकता, कुछ बहलता, और थोडा खुशनुमा
ऐसा होता, वैसा होता, जाने कैसा कैसा होता….


RD – The Man, The Possibility

(Image Courtesy: Internationalreporter.com)Haven’t blogged much, because more often than not I am not sure if what I am going to write is allowed by organization’s social media policy or not. Despite the blog being all personal thoughts and rants and what not.

Nevertheless, I am sure you all know about the retirement of probably the best match savior (and hence, winner) of India – Rahul Dravid. There are reams and reams of great articles out there. So, I won’t add to that pile.

I have just one thing to say about why I am so fascinated by him – He makes me believe that I can be like him. Great. Without my greatness being a gift of God as is the case with a Sachin or a Laxman or a Lara or a Warne or a Ponting.

RD – Thanks for showing an entire generation of players how it’s done. Because that’s how it’s done.

Wake Me Up When You’re Done

(Warning: long post.
Disclaimer: Views are completely my own and independent of any of my personal and professional associations)

Another season of recruiting is almost about to come to an end. And this season again, I had the privilege of interacting with our bet for the future (the IITs, IIMs, etc.)

Lest people call me a pessimist, let me call out the positives first. The resumes and the interests these young students have are a lot more varied. The number of funny little clubs and posts held by students has increased too. And I have been pleasantly surprised to find a large number of them actually doing some work as part of those responsibilities. People have, generally speaking, started being better at speaking the working language- English. Their spoken English has improved with the advent of sitcoms like Friends and Two-and-a-half-men. They are more ambitious. And now, I think I am stretched too thin.

I have gradually come to hate campus recruiting. Companies have lost it (with 10-minute interviews to select, hoarding students in a corner so that other companies cannot meet them, etc.). And students have totally lost it (most of them come unprepared, with a lot of attitude, and want life to served to them on a platter). But most importantly, it reinforces my belief that our education system has become dumber since I graduated (and it wasn’t smart then either). The number of students who walk in and give you the impression that they are a mistake (on the part of their campus and their own self) and that they just don’t deserve to be sitting in that room has increased. I remember back in 2004-05 or so, campus interviews used to be more exciting and challenging, because the choice between really smart cookies who are passionate enough to give it their best shot was an interesting problem for us. It was a problem of plenty. These days, we have loads of people who might have been smart in 2004-05, but have since decided that they are done being smart or hardworking. Now they want things to be served on a platter to them, by Google or Facebook preferably. More people retweet than have their own share of links to share.

Anyway, based on the last few years, here is what I would suggest to the future breed of students. Assuming that they are not all about – I am god’s gift to humanity and I need to be treated such. And that being someone who looks at them from the other side of the table, I might have a couple of valuable inputs to offer.

1. Be realistic. Consulting/ Private Equity etc. are glamorous, but across the premier firms, the best case scenario is that some 60-80 people from your campus are going to be placed in these firms. At an IIT, it means only 8-10% of the people. And that’s the best case. Are you likely to be one of them? What have you done to deserve it? Before you ask questions like “why do you only look at grades?” and reveal that you don’t have good grades, ask yourself questions like “what have I done that tangibly differentiates me from others” or “What are the three reasons that a company X should hire me for?”. And, those reasons need to be NOT something that your entire campus will quote as differentiators.

2. Prepare. If it isn’t too much effort, do not watch the 55th rerun of Friends or Two-and-a-half-men or something like that. Instead spend an hour talking to your seniors about the interviews they had and what worked and what did not work for them. If you follow step 1 well, then your target list of companies cannot be more than 15-20 company long. Across 3-4 years, taking out 15-20 hours to read about these companies should not be a big effort. Assuming that the games, and EPL/F1 schedules allow you to. I know there is so much to invest time on and so little time.

3. Prove that you are smart enough to not repeat like everyone else – I want to do consulting because I am a good problem solver, and it offers me a lot of variety. The number of times field consultants may end up being at the same client for 3-5 years is not funny. Many senior Partners build successful careers by helping grow relationships at a single client by being that credible partner who is not bored of going back to the same client and solving their problems. Also, many-a-times, the job is about doing things right over and over again for a very long period of time, without losing your patience with a client, and that problem solving that gives you the kick in consulting, may end up being about 10% of the first 5 years of your life. Possible. Thought about it? Never? Why?

4. Learn to speak well. That guy next to you who occasionally talks in good and proper English (even on Facebook) is not pansy. Not even a “chom”. He or she probably has a better chance of having a more client ready conversation than you. Unfortunate, but the fact is that your ability to have a good conversation is about two things – listening first, and speaking second. Not speaking first, and not listening because you are the smarter one and can get away with not listening properly. Practice. In front of a mirror at times. Take those opportunities to be in front of an audience. And don’t worry too much about the “accent”. Even your bihari or tamil or bong or gujju or dally accent is fine, as long as you speak slowly, and clearly.

5. Be humble. God, in his infinite wisdom, has let so many people take birth that most of us have not bothered to keep the count of (unless we are doing market sizing). And while most of us are so, there are precious few of us who deserve to be treated as god’s gift to humanity. The person who is interviewing you from the other end has almost as much a right to be that gift, as you do. And both of you have no such rights, by the way. A 5-50lakh job does not make either of you extra special. So, stop acting like a snob. Give respect, get respect. That open button, that loose tie (bad knots), unclean shirt, unshaven look, punk dishevelled hair, etc. – yeah, we all were thirteen once!

6. A job is a relationship. If you did not get through, the company did not deserve you (in a good or bad way) and you did not deserve the company. If you want it badly, analyze and prepare again. Keep knocking politely. If it was just a backup, move on. Companies act big because you’ve made them something bigger than what they are. Just as IIT/ IIM students tend to act big, because companies have made them bigger than they are. In a relationship, both the parties commit and invest. Show your investment first before you expect the other party to invest.

7. Likewise, a job interview is an interaction. People ask you cases because they experience cases. People ask you mundane questions because life, in general, has a lot of mundaneity. Do you know how many times a Partner in a consulting firm might have to answer that dumb question – tell me something about yourself” in a day? With new clients, to new people, at new forums, without being prompted with a question, they always introduce themselves in a way that makes it interesting and relevant for starting a good conversation. Give a cue. Get people interested in your story. It’s your chance to sell your abilities and fit with your client (the interviewer). It’s ok to flirt without being cheesy or corny. Show your wit without rubbing it off snobbishly. Be relaxed, but not frivolous.

8. PLEASE set right expectations with your parents and yourself. Those newspaper articles that suggest a 70L salary to a B.Tech graduate etc, we know the truth, right? 2 people across forty three thousand five hundred colleges mass producing over a million engineers every year? Dollar salaries multiplied by 50? Median salary of the batch is still 6-8 lakhs at an IIT, I believe? On an average, an average person cannot be better than the average. Also, you were better than the average to get inside a premier college. That does not mean that you are still better than the average in the lot that you are studying with now. Chances are that more than half of you will be below average (not median), assuming pareto rule applies. So, if your parents and your society is going to harass you because you did not make the headlines, the real answer is that IT’S ABSOLUTELY FINE IF YOU DID NOT!!!

9. Use common sense. If you can. You have it. Just learn to use it.

10. Lastly, use your five sense. If you’re boring the person in front, stop. Right there. And adapt. It’s a date going wrong. If the interviewer has lost interest in your story, there could be a chance that they have lost their interest in you.

Otherwise, just wake ’em up when you’re done boring. You might’ve hit some oil that they failed to notice.

Cricket Can Be Like That

Long ago, I was working on a difficult project. The analysis had been difficult, the recommendations not too obvious, the storyline not so coherent. One of those engagements where V75 of the deck looks completely different from V01, and quite different from the final version of what is shared with the client. Intense debates happen. All the time.

At about 4 in the morning, we finalized the presentation. After 2 hours of going through pennies and dimes and the lines and the fonts and the colors and the boxes and the flows and words and the sentences, we sent it to the client. We were all sure about the great job we had done. We had couple of hours left to lighten up and get refreshed. We had a plan. And we felt good about it.

First 20 minutes were by the book. It was a good feeling. Then we hit the third insight on the sixth slide, which made us refer to slide 192 of the appendix section. That number was wrong! Shoulders dropped. We all lost a bit of our altitude and attitude. From that point onwards, for the next 1 hour 40 minutes, things were on the tenterhooks. We could not be sure any more. And the client was not sure. They double checked everything. They had a feedback about almost everything. We felt bad. We were not ready to concede our mistake so easily. They were not ready to acknowledge the work that had gone in. Everyone was unhappy. And we get into that mode of well, give us another chance and we will set it right. But some problems are just difficult. Sometimes.

Critics often remind me of clients. They are the gatekeepers of the collective insights, through their (right or wrong) opinions. A mistake, that nudge or that poking of that ball that you should have left, the ambitious loft, the failure to get your act together in the face of crisis, are dissected in every possible way. And if nothing else, the leader. Uneasy is the head that wears the crown.

What did I do when it was all over – I was terribly upset. I got all defensive initially. Angry in a bit. And finally… I don’t remember :-).  I would have liked to remind myself – Shit Happens!

Seeta Haran (2012 Edition)

Lady Seeta has just been abducted by Ravana. Ravana used his personal 747 to abduct her, an act he would describe later with as much pride as the counter-espionage stories of some intelligence operatives (once they retire, of course).
Jatayu, Lord Rama’s friend, spy and comrade, had sneaked in as Captain Jatayu on Rav Airways. However, Jats had no real flight time experience nor a valid CPL. He though, had an ipad, and he had pulled the wiki pages on “learn to fly 747 in 5 minutes”. Moreover, the real plan was to crash the craft over the ocean, with the hope that Ravana being a ten-headed imbalanced creature, will find it difficult to swim either free-style or breast-stroke (his heads are a hindrance for most swimming styles, he mused, unless he had learnt the dog style). Lady Seeta, on the other hand, born and brought up in and around Mithila (modern day Bihar) had experience of swimming during the annual flood season, so most likely, she will survive. At least till Lord Rama gets his cruise ship along. Worse case, Life of Piscean Seeta could be the next booker prize winner. Even worst, Lady Seeta’s latest cellphone is waterproof. She was just about showing how she picked it off ebay in an auction. She should be able to call for help assuming she is able to connect with the customer care agent (in time) and they understand what she is looking for (again, in time). Jatayu wondered for a minute whether the IVRs had put such help as part of standard navigation patterns.
In a twist of events, Ravana logged on to facebook from his seat (First Class privileges and all) and saw Jatayu’s status update – “Out to slay Ravana. Wish me luck.”. Ravana immediately liked the status and commented -“Wlcm bk. Itz bn sm tym luvrboy!”. Jatayu saw Ravana’s comment and started blushing immediately, much to the chagrin of his co-pilot Captain Sampaati. “Focus!”, he screamed. Jatayu immediately commented – “Ra.One.. delete the comment. Two. Spell properly. I am a #grammarnazi. Three. Can’t wait to see you. Four. I meant “slay”, not “lay””. Rama and Lakshmana liked Jatayu’s comment. By this time, entire vanar sena was unsure of Jatayu’s loyalties. He seemed like a double agent. At the same time, the possibility of Ra.Two to Ra.Four in 2012 made the Mayan prophecy seem true. It was going to be the end of the world. Sita’s hands were tied, and she wasn’t aware of this conversation. She was totally going to hate it later. She had tried using Siri, but Siri had not yet adapted to her Bihari English twang.

Jatayu’s plan was good, but he left his ipad in the cockpit in a hurry to jump. So, Jatayu jumped off the plane, thinking the plane would crash. But two things went wrong. He asked Sampati to put the parachute on his back. Sampati instead, sensing dange, put himself on his back. “Blimey!” is all Jatayu could manage before crashing heavily on the water and sinking deep.
Ravana, in the meantime, picked Jatayu’s ipad and learnt all about “learn to fly a 747 in 5 minutes” and took control of the ship, put it on autopilot, and tweeted – “Jatayu crashed. I am safe LOL! So mch 4 spel prprly”. Ram tweeted, “-1 RT @Ravana: “Jatayu crashed. I am safe LOL!””. Ravana Replied, “@Ram_Original: Thrz nuthn lyk ‘-1’ on twitter U twat!”
Lakshmana was furious. He started a new meme – #RavanIsGay. People confused it with #RaOneisGay and Ravana became the next Kolaveri/ Wilbur Sargunaraj. Soon, everyone was tweeting about Ravana and the, by now, G.one Jatayu. The big parallel debate led by @BDutt, in the meantime, was – if Ravana and Jatayu are on, then why was Sampaati on top of Jatayu under water?
Ravana grew furios-er. He had this uneasy feeling of coming out of the closet. For centuries that alternate-universe hogwash of Sita not getting violated by Ravana because of some celestial curse was about to be exposed. But he wasn’t a n00b. He immediately tweeted – “I will post my nude pic with @ipoonampandey soon. Hang in there”. Some tricks never fail, he thought to himself.
Rama was besides himself. He knew that he had to win this social media war to get Seeta back. But these were modern times. So, he could not continue playing fair. To hell with the Maryadapurushottam bullshit. Desperate times need desperate measures. He invoked his crown prince status. From his pack of pokemon cards, he pulled out a Kapil Sibal. Immediately, Ravan was censored and taken off air. So much for the 747.
Once grounded, Ravana was as good as that poor south Indian kid with a 16 initials long name (and a cute nickname of Subbu) introducing himself to a glam mumbaichi mulgi.
Vibhisana warned Ravana. “Bhraatr! This is the time to accept defeat and cut down the losses. This is social media and we can always get back at Rama. We will humiliate him. So much that Sita might start to follow you and unfollow Rama. Maybe as soon as 5 minutes later.” All the heads of Ravana LOLed. Meghanaad ROFLMAOed. Everyone laughed, except Kumbhakarna. Kumbhakarna was a laggard. He was still proof reading his blog post about the tragic demise of Tataka and Khar-Dooshan, which he thought will generate a lot of traffic for his blog. And maybe some sympathy for the ruling party at Lanka-Shire. Somewhere, he still hoped to get rich using the adsense thingy he had learnt from a 5 year old blogpost at TechCrunch.

Do they even want to play?

Several years back, when I played competitive sports for the last time, I was still in school. I did not play a lot, but like every cricket playing kid in the country who focused on studies, I truly believed (at that time) that I sacrificed a fledgling cricketing career at that time.
Nevertheless, I was playing the school league cricket tournament back then. When I started representing the school, I was only a fringe player, waiting for someone to get injured or unavailable so that I could get a chance to play. Practice seemed a drab affair and the matches were the real deal. And occasionally I got my chance to play. It were those chances that I wanted to make my own. I knew that I would not be the strike bowler. And for most part, when I was playing the first match ever, people expected me to not bleed runs, rather than take wickets. However, on my part, if I wanted to play the next game sooner, I needed to be better than that. I needed to take wickets and not bleed runs. I was eager. I was tense. I had planned things in my head many a times and things were supposed to work perfectly. And I had no idea who I was bowling to. But as long as I bowl the perfect delivery I would get the wickets. I had a plan.
Except, the plan did not work. The plan was dependent on my ability to bowl a particular line and length with the appropriate amount of turn and flight and drift, and my expectation of what the batsman would do. First over, the plan did not work. For more than one reason. And that’s when I had my first realization. The need to adapt. The second realization came in a little later. You need to setup wickets at times. Its about playing it in the batsman’s head as much as its about planning it in your head. And more importantly, its quite possible that the dude on the other end is going through similar emotions. So, you will get hit. A swallow maketh not a summer. Neither a boundary destroys your career. However, with every run scored off me, I wanted to fight harder. I would sometimes flip into the run saving mode. At other times, I would want to get that batsman out the very next delivery. And I made mistakes. And of the many that I made, there was one that I did not make – I did not stop trying. I did well occasionally, and not so well on other occasions. But I was satisfied. Objectively speaking, I’d not have made a good cricketer, but I was not an unsuccessful one while I played (with all the boxes ticked while I was still playing).
Why am I writing all this today? Because when I watched the bits and pieces of the previous test match at Sidney and the one before that, it seemed like we had a perfect side capable of winning the test matches, but we were not trying. Not hard enough. And I know that’s not a good place to be, if you really want to win. It seemed like I was watching a team going through the motions. I remember a funny window. Gautam Gambhir in the second innings seemed positive, and got a few nice drives and strokes in. And then Dravid was clean bowled. We had a drought after that. For 50 odd deliveries, not a single run was scored. I can believe that the bowling was good (even though the pitch was flat and had nothing to offer to the bowlers). What I cannot believe is that if you want to rotate strike every now and then, you are not able to. Not the kind of batsmen who were on the crease at that point. We sent out a message. That we could be dominated. And we were dominated. Again.
Are we a bad side? I don’t believe it. Is Dhoni a bad captain? I really don’t believe that either. Let the analysis paralysis happen. I actually believe that he is a great leader, and there is more to come from him. Did we play bad cricket? Yes. Individual or collective? Collective.
My saddest observation right from the England series is that our team does not want to be on the field. The matches we won in India were also not because our team suddenly wanted to be there. It was because the other side was playing bad cricket. And with the crowd rallying, sometimes the theatrics kick in when they are playing at home. But, as a team, most of them would rather be at a beach drinking cocktails than be sweating it out. That’s a dangerous mindset. Oversimplifying it, it’s the same feeling that I’d have about going to office every now and then. But oversimplifying it again, I know that once I am on the job, I better be on the job and not elsewhere.
I really don’t see the team coming out of this rut for the next two tests. It will continue in the one-dayers as well. Once we are back home, we will win some. And we will lose some. But this team needs a psychological conditioning more than the athleticism that Harsha Bhogle is recommending. Or maybe, a break. Sometimes, you’ve got to let Lee Germon be the captain.

New Year Celebrations…

Circa 1991, I remember going out on a New Year picnic with my joint family. It was to the nearby “Nursery Park” in Mecon Colony at Ranchi. It was a small 2-3 level park/nursery where some 50+ families from in and around Mecon would come for their New Year picnic/family outing. This was when I was still studying at Central School, and did not have friends in DAV (the school in Mecon, which meant that my chances of bumping into my friends during the picnic were slimmer), though my cousins did.

Back then, new year celebrations meant just that much – barely staying awake beyond midnight watching the line-up of programs on Doordarshan (DD-1) that announced the arrival of new year, celebrating Penaz Masanis and Usha Uthups of the world, really getting awed by Javed Jaffreys break dance, taking blessings from the elders, talking to a lot of friends/ relatives before going off to sleep, getting up at 6 or 7 in the morning and then getting ready for this day long picnic _with family_. Mom and chachis and mausis had to worry about the food arrangements, dad and chachas and mausas about transportation and other logistics, while we kids had to worry about the Bats, Balls, Badminton Racquets, Frisbees, and so on. Somewhere around then, Housie/ Tambola had also gained prominence an end of the day event on many picnics. And also, for these “Nursery Park” picnics, you needed a small permission letter from the park management authorities for having a picnic there. It was event management in totality, with each family being an event management company hosting an event for captive audiences.
The venues would change every now and then. When we got adventurous (or bored), we would pick places farther away, create more logistics problems for ourselves than we could conveniently manage, and go as far as Dasham Fall, or Kanke Dam, or some equivalent thereof. We did not have a car in the family, so it also meant arranging those mini-buses (through “contacts”, because we always planned last minute). But it was always about family, relatives, picnics, eating, playing, talking. The plan never changed. And we all looked forward to it. At least, I did.

This is how it stayed, till quite some time. Somewhere along the (Facebook) timeline, I did my MBA, and started working. And it was around 2006 or 2007 when, for the first time, I was not at home on the night of 31st Dec. That was the first time I was looking for “party venues” and was with friends (usual Inductis suspects – Shumeet, Shilpa, TG, Aziz, Sonu, Sulabh, etc.) on that night. We loitered around and spent some time at this pub/disc in New Friends Colony. It was fun. I remember how we were driving one car behind another because of the heavy fog and extremely low visibility in Delhi. Aziz had just learnt driving and was scared of driving that way, while Sonu was too drunk to remember anything. We went to Khullar’s place. I went back home early morning, and then spent the day with family. We went to Millennium Park that year, I think. On a side note, my Dadaji always looked forward to these New Year picnics and would totally brave the Delhi winters to go to an India Gate or a Millennium Park.
I moved to Mumbai after 2007, and I realized what big deal New Year events are/ have become. Probably, it was the glitter and glamour of Mumbai lifestyle, or probably it was just the fact that I was no longer at home. Or, that, in Mumbai, it’s just painfully difficult to get 5 family branches from different corners of the city to come to a park or something to spend the day together. Anyways, back to the phenomenon of New Year Celebrations (guess it’s time I got that captured in bold and Title Case)

These days, friends would (compete) discuss with each other as they decide their plan for NYC. Colleagues compare notes. Once it’s done and over, Facebook pictures are uploaded/scanned to assess who had the most happening time. Bitching about it, but still going ahead and “like”-ing the pictures and updates, and at the back of their head, without saying a word, planning the next New Year venue OR the next vacation spot. Traditionally, Goa and its drunken druggedness was a favorite. Lately, Lonavla’s farms, Bangkok’s beaches, or if you are a lowly mortal, a 5-star hotel’s celeb night (appearances by a popular DJ, singer, dancer, actress) would beckon you with all their might. Mumbai Times is a full size advertisement of how much you are missing out on if you decide to stay at home. The midnight by itself is another phenomenon. A frown on the forehead, as you miss someone’s call while you were drinking/dancing your way into the next year. A smile when you realize how man smses you have received and a sigh when you realize that you need to reply to them. A dread if you are one of those who spent the night at home (maybe because you didn’t feel like going out, maybe because you didn’t want to go out, maybe because your plans crashed, maybe because you had other plans (like taking care of your baby or someone who is not well)). Tomorrow morning – when people would be discussing what they did the previous night, you won’t have much to say, right?
The New Year day, by itself, is somewhat faded. Because you were partying till about 5 in the morning. Couple of days later, you may get a New Year card that wishes you well, and an intellectual realization that you have stopped sending cards, except to your business contacts. Somewhere in the middle of all this, there would be thoughts about losers who post Facebook status updates as the clock struck midnight. Somewhere, those who are not nearby are lost in the excitement of the night gone past. Somewhere, in the middle of all this, some people would still call us at midnight and wish us. Some old rituals continue. Some die. Some new ones take birth.

Here’s to hoping that this New Year eve/day, whatever you are doing, your heart is in the right place.


ऐसा क्यों लगता है मुझको
जैसे रात सदा रहती हो
पर्दों के पीछे छिप छिप के
दिन से आँख मिचोली खेले
दुनिया पर हंसती रहती हो
जैसे रात सदा रहती हो

ये इक प्रयास है जीमेल के हिंदी वातावरण का उपयोग करना सीखने के लिए. कई बार ऐसा हुआ है की मातृभाषा में सहेजा हुआ सवाल आंग्ल भाषा में अनुवाद के दौरान अपना स्वाद खो देता है. कई बार ऐसा भी होता है की आंग्ल प्रतिलिपि में हिंदी का संवाद ऐसा लगता है जैसे किसी प्रवासी अथवा परदेसी के होठों से बूँद बूँद हो के गिरता बॉलीवुड का एक डाइलोग. शायद ऐसा करते करते वापस वही हिंदी भाषा वापस जीवन में आ जाये जो मेरी थे, मेरी है, लेकिन मौजूगा वक़्त की जरूरतों में दबी कुचली शायद कल मेरी ना रहे.

Dilli.. and the love for horan

I am sure about this.

Someday, I will see a resume in my mailbox. Someone from Delhi. With "Other Interests" being "Honking", OR, "Extracurricular Activity" being – "Honked non-stop for 37 minute 23 seconds. To be featured in Limca Book of Records, subject to verification".

I can imagine the lengths that dude (or dudette) would go to if asked probing questions about this hobby of his (or her).

"Ji.. ik dafe ik marutti wala saaid ee ni de raa tha. maine vi vo horan bajayee, vo horan bajaya, bhai ki aulaadein bhi ab mere saamne nai aani ji".

"Sometimes, you are in a real hurry. And you see a traffic jam that’s half a kilometer long. I mean, what can you do? Really, what really can you do? So, I starting honking. Did anything change? NO. Did I feel better? Yes. Damn right I felt better. And you know what. Within 30 seconds, there were at least fifteen other cars that started honking. I am sure they all felt better. That was one instance where I showed true leadership."

Perseverance is a strength. So what, if it’s mindless.

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