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Showing posts from 2009

A Brickhead's Confession from 2003

It would be dishonest to state that I have not done stupid things in the last decade. It is definitely a long list. And Jan 1st 2010 is an opportune moment to confess what I believe tops that list of stupidity. My friends/well-wishers may disagree and quote competing incidents which are in the same league. But let's tackle those in separate posts.

The idea occured to me yesterday while watching 3 Idiots. In typical Rajkumar Hirani style, the movie was quite preachy in its core message - of not learning by rote, that mastery of the subject does not happen by replicating the old, with an overaching theme of following your own dreams. While nodding at the presented philosophy, I knew that at least once I had been on the wrong side of the divide between thinkers and brickheads.

In our fifth semester at IIT Kharagpur (July-Dec 2003), we had a week-long workshop which involved a design problem for a team spanning 2nd year, 3rd year and 4th year batches. As 3rd year team members, we were t…

Sense and Indian Sensibility

(warning: a mature philosophical rant)

Many a times, walking down the plastic lanes of Singapore, I have questioned my identity in this melting pot of business and culture. Having acquired new habits, tastes and routines - have I really moved away from my true roots? What really defined me as an Indian? An year in this city had seeded some acorns of fear that I was moving away from our values and traditions. But today, a succinct grave discussion with my flatmates reassured me that deep inside, we had not changed.

So Rohan came out of the kitchen this night, visibly perturbed. In his left hand was a fat bunch of tissues from Khan-sama restaurant - leftovers from our Kaminey Nights party. In his other hand was a standard white roll of kitchen wipes. The conundrum was simple, yet quite formidable. Which of the two would we three wise men recommend to use as a substitute for toilet paper? It was quite unfortunate that our supply had unexpectedly exhausted at 11 in the night.

A cold hearted …

Safety First- A Guide to handling chakkas on trains

Last week, for no particular reason, my flatmates and I had an intense discussion on our key tactics for dealing with chakkas in Indian Railways. Any Indian male who dares to claim that he is 'truly' Indian, should have had at least a couple of such experiences when traveling sleeper class. Before I get lectured on Human Equality, or the members of facebook groups 'I love the guys in the middle' and 'Those freaky Chakkas are awesome' bombard me with their wrath, let me state I don't have any particular angst against the chakkas personally. They are a pain to comfortable travel and this guide will help the newbies. It's all with the aim of making the world a better place! (Inspired by the current favourite flowchart meme)

Chikna - Means a clean shaven guy with a skin tone relatively fairer than the average Indian male. The stereotype states that chakkas like chikna people more. This is never been proven and I am sure Human Equality commission ha…

Lesson of the Day - 4

An innocuous dance compliment, conveying that one has a firm lead, when exposed to the office atmosphere and its employees, can morph into quite a mutated and sexed up creature, oozing embarrassment, no longer possessing the charm of the lady who gave the compliment in the first place.

Previous Lessons of the Day

Tuk-Tuk Uncle: The Con man who couldn't

Dangers and Annoyances
Bangkok's most heavily touristed areas - Wat Phra Kaew, Jim Thompson's House are favourite hunting grounds for professional con artists. Smartly dressed and slick talking, their usual spiel is that the attraction you want to visit is closed for the day and they can arrange a bargain for you elsewhere. This is the bait for the infamous gem scam.... - Lonely Planet: South-East Asia.

The bible of travel Lonely Planet opens its chapter on Bangkok with this early caveat. The authors were kind to so accurately describe the modus operandi of con artists across the city. And we (Saurabh and I) were equally stupid to not look up Lonely Plant before our Bangkok trip. Consequently we fell for an identical scam. Of course, what happened to us was not exactly the same. But since you asked....

A few weekends ago, Saurabh and I found ourselves blessed with a whole weekend to explore Bangkok. On a bright Saturday morning, we were enjoying a pleasant ride on the Chao Phraya…

IIMA Scoop: Watch Your Step

The whole batch of IIMA 2006-08, or at least the ones who know Harshal Mehra are repeatedly delighted by his marathon tragedy. Harshal is constantly goaded to repeat this story to fresh audiences. The irony of it kills us every single time. It would be a shame if you didn't hear the tale in your lifetime.

It took some effort to persuade Harshal to allow me to write this article. Harshal is a straightforward person who speaks his mind. He laughs heartily when he feels like it and abuses ideas he hates with equal ferocity. Fearing a backlash like had happened with my previous blog subjects, I had prepared a pitch for why this story had to be told to the world.

'Harshal, I am planning to write about your marathon tragedy on my blog.'
'Nooo! Iyer! I don't want to a celebrity!'
That settled it. Any person, who has dreamt of celebrity status from such a measly blog would surely be delighted even by a nugget of online attention. Any consequent embarrassment or character m…

A Letter to Kaminey Aunty

Dear Kaminey Aunty

Greetings to you.

My friends and I could not help noticing your presence in the theater. You were seated just a row ahead. You weren't conspicuous because of your black top. You weren't blocking the screen too. In fact, I must compliment you outright that your skull was reasonably sized. It's the brain it ensconced that bothered me through the movie.

I get it. You found the S to F jokes to be quite humourous. In the initial few minutes of the movie, when Charlie cracked the Fortcut and chota Fortcut joke the first time, you guffawed and really took off with your reactions. We could have ignored you. But we failed to do so the first and the ensuing 20 times.

I admire your impartial sense of humour. It did not matter to you whether Charlie called Shortcut as Fortcut, or Cellphone as Fellphone. You laughed loudly and proceeded to paraphrase the joke to your neighbouring friend with similar gusto every single time. On some later day, I might reopen this chapter …

I Disagree

Zouk - A Guide to Romantic Dancing

My friends, at every given opportunity, tease me about my salsa dance classes. And more or less if falls into statements like 'Oh now you can hit it off with salsa chicks', 'chance pe dance' or 'wow, paas paas dance karta hai, sahi hai' etc.

I don't blame them. After all, from basic laws of phyics we have learnt in school, you have a greater probability of pataoing a girl if by physical distance you are closer to her than farther. Or at least that's the theory we Indian males have internalized. You may mock us. But believe me you'll shatter the founding theory of every guy, who blessed by the god of randomness gets paired with a girl for Lab work, or the one who has a random brush of conversation at a college festival (though it may have only been a polite query asking for toilet directions, eh Shailesh ??). Every clubbing journey carries with it an eternal hope of a 'bump into'. Every one of us guys, in his light-walleted days of college, h…

The Sunday Yatra

Honestly, I do want to tell you this tale. What I fear is a distinct lack of empathy from your heart. As I describe the Sunday Yatra, you'll label it as petty cribbing: After all, it was just a matter of 4 hours - Taxi rides across the lush green freeways of Singapore; Picking up small artifacts from mall outlets; Is that worth whining about, you may wonder...So if you have a heart of stone, please avoid reading further.

The broad objective as I set out alone this warm Sunday afternoon was to collect Japanese goodies for a company event. Daiso, selling all Japan stuff at $2, had stores in four locations across Singapore. I had a ready laundry list of items from each outlet. It should have been a simple task without the influence of grave errors on my part. I can confidently attribute these to a combination of education, IQ and personality issues.

Underestimation of the bulk of items

Sure, these Japanese artifacts are adorable. But they lose their cute quotient when you have to carry…

The Super-Retort

Tu dimaag kyon lagaata hai? / Why do you apply your brains? - the most despicable, terse, one size fits all, insensitive Super-Retort that I frequently receive when I express my elaborate opinion about a movie. I loathe this reply. Movie make wonderful topics of conversations - two people independently experiencing the same two hour life experience and sharing their version of it. It is criminal to trivialize reactions to it. I dislike the super-retort so much that I start getting annoyed with the person itself. And I feel this happens to a lot of people out there. So here's my attempt to dissect the retort, so that there is less animosity and global warming in the world!

"In the movie, most of the energy and brains(if any) has been applied to shooting songs independently, which were brashly splattered in the movie, interrupting the storyline. Otherwise time was spent in making the actors look good on screen - not the character, but the actor himself; With pronounced actions (…

Some things just can't be explained

"So there are these good robots and bad robots living on a planet."

And here I started smirking.

"Stop laughing! It's not that bad a movie."

"Oh sorry. No I am still listening. Go on...So the good and bad robots are living on the same planet?", I said.


"Ok. So what happens?."

"Apart from the robots, there is this cube of energy."

"A cube of energy?" I interrupted.

"Yes! A cube of energy."

"Ok. Just confirming..." To keep the conversation flowing, I smiled within.

"So the cube of energy lands on Earth. And the good robots follow it and land on earth to protect it. They are disguised as cars."

"As cars? Why cars?"

"Because they can transform into such stuff. That's why they are called Transformers.."

"Oh! The good robots are called Transformers?"

"No they are all Transformers. The good robots are called Opus Prime. And the bad ones are called ...I forgo…

After you m'lady

Our office lobby has six working lifts and the general courteous behaviour here is not to stuff your elbows into other people's guts in the quest to be the last guy in. Usually, even when it is half-full, people stay put politely and wait for the next lift. As an Indian, I think this is very unusual, but I've eventually got used to it.

Today Mallika and I reached Novena on the same bus and were walking up the escalator and through the mall corridors to reach the office lobby. As we got off the escalator, I saw my ex-boss trailing by around ten feet and greeted him with a formal eyebrow raise.

As we approached the lift lobby, from the distance I saw the nearer lift door open and just a few people slowly trudging in. Oh sweet lord there is a special joy in winning races like these! And hence I had an unbearable itch (not that kind) to make it in time. Of course, it would have to be orchestrated in tandem with Mallika (or so I thought...).

We were 5 feet away from the lift. That'…

Grace: A Guide to making a good first impression

Any management veteran will tell you that as you walk into a room with new people, it is important to crack that first impression. It is also a much proven and repeated fact that 93% of communication happens through body language - a solid amalgamation of eye contact, handshakes and grace.

This Tuesday's agency meeting was my first one on this brand. As I walked in early, I saw three agency reps in the room, new faces for me. From my brief exposure to the corporate lifestyle here at P&G, I knew self-introduction was useful and expected as well.

My colleague Lipi was already seated, nibbling gracefully at a pastry (remember the body language tip?) and sipping her drink. The agency folks, curious about the new face in the room, looked at me and smiled. Hence I smiled back at them, sliding the laptop on the table next to Lipi. As I did that, Lipi's styrofoam cup, so solidly resting on the table by the weight of the water in it, got tipped over.

I watched the water, glistening un…

Living the moment

At 12am today, as we sat satisfied after smearing delicious vanilla cake on birthday girl Chetna's hair, we began a new standard ritual of birthday questions. A spirited discussion about 'The Best Birthday Ever' did not materialize, as Chetna got increasingly disheartened by the quality of our interrogation. Regardless, we continued to annoy her. I too began my own independent thread of thought on what was my best birthday.

It just took a second to pick one. 9th grade. A good selection of gifts from friends which were promptly torn open and inserted in the music system. A barrage of new 90s music of Backstreet Boys and Ricky Martin for the party! Lots of dancing. Snacks. Some more dancing, followed up a standard Army party cuisine of samosas and chips. A 'return gift' for each guest and a huge exit procedure of Thank you Uncles, Thank you Aunties.

A note to my early 80's born Indian friends - admit it! You did listen to and enjoyed Backstreet Boys/Boyzone. You ma…

Lesson of the Day - 3

Say your boss is addressing a meeting, and you, succumbing to a curiously strong urge, send a corny webpage link to every other person in the room. As all stare at you inquisitively, it is advisable not to wink back in delight at one of them because if the former act doesn't incriminate you, the latter surely will.

Previous Posts
Lesson of the day - 2
Lesson of the day - 1

I should have never answered that phone

Three weeks ago, as I was spending my Sunday sans activities, I received a phone call from a caller ID titled UNKNOWN.

I should have never answered that phone [to be read in a thrilling, Hollywood baritone].

It was a tele-marketing from Packtrue - an international calling service with affordable rates. As the agent Pooja spelt out the fantastic offer of 4cents/90sec, I had no clue whether that was a good or a bad rate. Having finished Predictably Irrational recently, I thought I shouldn't turn down the offer without assessing its value. A normal person would have grunted and ended the phone call. Instead I chose to continue the conversation.

'So how is this rate compared to the competitors?'
When they didn't have a decent answer, I, being in the business of marketing, thought that it was my added responsibility, apart from those of a rational consumer, to educate them about having effective claims for value and differentiated services.

Hence Pooja politely heard everything …

Wait Until Dark

On May 17th 2009, a long gap of over 5 years since the incident, Ambuj Kumar confessed to having slapped Nimesh Priyodit in the dark RajMahal theatre of Jaipur. This information was shared with his remaining eleven batchmates and it was a euphoric day for all of us.

Aside from immediate curiosity about the slap protagonists, you may also be wondering why such a nonsensical confession is precious to us. Here's the full story. Trust me, it is absolutely superficial and quite bizarre.

The slap took place during our IIT Kharagpur Architecture Dept's annual tour in December of 2003. The tour involved close to 40 students, two randomly selected overzealous professors with a broad objective of introducing us to the best of architecture across India. Overall it was a wonderful 12 day experience except for the architecture elements. As evidence for their interest and observations, the students had to carry sketchbooks.

The quality and quantity of entries in the sketchbooks would rapidly p…

Finding the right one

Firstly, I must congratulate Bharat Matrimony for placing so much faith in Orkut and its patrons by consistently grabbing banner ad spaces for the last 6 months. While every self-respecting Indian social networker has fled to Facebook to poke and chatter (or at least has stuck a leg into that ecosystem), this wedding website still expects some healthy ROI from Orkut. When the fraandship dudes make the final jump, obviously the key clientele for marriage, I am sure Bharat Matrimony will follow them too.

As seen on Orkut, May 12th 2009

What I found particularly interesting about this advertisement is the generic Indian girl personality it tries to capture. Do go through the ad once. My strong contention is that the copywriter is a male; and he decided to pen the first few thoughts in his head and froze the final output - which in order were Cricket and Food.

As a general rule, Indian girls don't enjoy sports. Stuck between playing stappu games and cheering their elder/younger brother&#…

Rubik's Cube: A Guide to not appearing Stupid

We, the chummy male company enriched, happy go lucky, sniggering, T-shirt wearing, loud desis found ourselves to be complete misfits in the ToysRUs store. After failing to find the game we had hoped to purchase, my friend Kunal and I found Rubik Cubes stacked up in the adjacent shelf. Succumbing to unexplained temptations, we each ended up purchasing one.

As we left the store, we faced typical post-purchase dissonance pangs. We gazed at the multicoloured cube, unsure about whether it would serve any purpose in our lives. Eventually I spoke in favour. "Hey we can use it to kill time while waiting at the bus stop.". His eyes lit up.

The movie Pursuit of Happyness may have revived popularity of this mathematical contraption. But real life serves it up differently. Even on bus stops, a person makes his first impression with these accessories. While the venue does have a congregation of people who have no role to play in your life, it is still important to make a good impression. A…

No Jai Ho!

The last time I got newspaper coverage was in July 2006, in the first few weeks at IIM Lucknow. As you can imagine, I was thrilled by it. Front page stuff!

HT Lucknow Live - Think Different

That wasn't the case when recently a photograph of mine was sneaked into a Singapore newspaper article. Curiously, the context wasn't very different. It too was unexpected; The article talked about dance and creativity; I was dressed for the occasion, surrounded by females, looking not too unattractive and most importantly - in the centre of it all. In college, any publicity is good publicity. But at work, I realize there are zones of pride and huge cavities of discomfort.

The Article - Slumdog Dance Fever

First, a brief background on the dance picture. This is a 12pm to 1pm Bollywood Dance class at the gym close to the office, free for P&G employees. Instructor: Female. Female Participants: around 8 to 20. Male Participants: One. Me. Through some occasional sophism, I have convinced one od…

Earth Hour Fail

"Oh my god...It was much fun! We sat by the river/beach. All the big buildings had dimmed their lights. Even Esplanade seemed a bit". My friend and her family made a trip to the Singapore beach area (ECP), while another made a similar family event out of it, as a few CBD areas darkened for Earth Hour 2009...sigh..

I would have hated to have this pseudo environmental gimmick succeed this year at Singapore. Thankfully, it didn't. News articles may quote otherwise, but I am reporting what I saw. In the designated Earth Hour, I happened to be traveling through major central areas of city - Dhoby Gaut, Orchard, Novena - and nobody had flinched or bowed down to this pretentious celebration of darkness. To show solidarity, we played futsal in a brightly lit court after witnessing the Earth Hour fail at Singapore. Jai ho!

I place this symbolism in the same league as the bimbo solutions from Miss Universe pageants.

(From Seinfeld)
KRAMER: If you wer…

Lesson of the Day - II

Previous: Lesson of the Day 1

When making polite conversation with a lady for the first time, do not succumb to your gut feel. Choose to ask 'So are you married?' over the presumptuous question 'So how many kids do you have?'. Chances are that she may not be married at that point of time. It is then unlikely that you receive favourable responses to your question. Innocence and stupidity are seldom confused with each other.

Related post by Poornima: Haute Couture

Off with your head

Dear Vague Acquaintance,

Why did you choose to add me on Facebook?
Maybe you thought I would take pleasure
In reading 25 Random Things About You, and
Which Friends character you resemble the most

Maybe your status messages are quite delicious
And ooze copious wit
And your hallowed scores in Online Ludo
Delight your wondrous friends

Maybe you want to express niceties
By wishing me on my birthday
Throwing a sheep at me
Or hollering Nice Pic when your creativity fluids dry out

Well, no thanks

Sure, we went to the same college
Or have a friend in common
Well that's not my doing, is it?

In your spree of increasing your size
It might have missed your attention
That I spent a long happy time
Without your presence in my life
And did fine too

I would have preferred to dislike you
But I'd have to know you to do that
And for having briefly imposed yourself
And cluttering my online space
I'd have liked you to read this rant
But hey!
You'd have to be on the list for that

I don't know you
I don't want…

Persuasion Fail

We try so hard to sell our ideas. The warm fuzzy achievement from convincing others about our point of view is unique and treasured. Sometimes we do succeed in having good discussions. But it's the failed ones that seem to settle in my memory.

Sometimes the argument itself is at fault. Sans facts, sans direction, all we are left with is our brute capacity for emphasis and a few friendly abuses for garnishing.

"I think our batch had much more PhD people."
"No. Our senior's batch had a lot more students who went abroad."
"No no... Paagal hai kya? Our batch had even more..."

Sometimes we lose touch with the very purpose of starting the conversation. My dad once tried to convince my (then) eight year old cousin to come along to his office.

"Hey Bharat, how about a trip to the RKPuram office?"
"All right.", said Bharat.
"There are lots of computers there. You can play games and..."
Bharat then cheekily cut short his pitch and said,…