Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Travelling Crab

I am a Cancerian. No, I am not a frantic believer in astrology, but I find the definitions amusing enough to ponder over them once in a while. I have a few friends who have deep interest in astrology, so my generic knowledge is pretty good, even though I am not a follower of the faith (ah, believe me, it is pretty much a cult). Hence I have read about my sun sign, which is Cancer, symbolized by the crab, and surprisingly a lot of people (including me) think that I pretty much embody the description of a Cancerian to the letter. There is not a single thing written there which doesnt match my behavior, and it amuses me. Someone once told me that its the way the astrology people write the stuff, you can read any one of these and think its you. Ummm... maybe not. Even if it is that way, well its a nice muse, and I let myself indulge in it once in a while.

And sometimes it is a bit of an irony. Cancerians are known to be clingers. They cling to everything in life. Relationships, possessions, people, jobs.. and even cities. They love the concept of home. It is supposed to be a very important thing for a cancerian to have a "home" and go back to it everyday. Cancerians in effect make bad vagabonds and bad gypsies. And it holds true for me. Cancerians love the security of home, and are not fit for travelling jobs. Holds true for me. But it seems Someone up there wanted to have a good laugh at my cost. And hence wrote the script of my life with that in mind. Out of my home at age 17, I have lived in 7 cities since then. And have travelled to more than 10 states in India and 8 countries in Europe... Finland, Estonia, France, Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Italy and Czech Republic and one in Asia. Dont get me wrong, I am not complaining about the wonderful opportunity I have had to see new places. I love seeing new places, its just that I dont like travelling to get to see them. Ok, I know it sounds ridiculous, but maybe its not about cancerians, its just plain simple me.

So the reason why I am writing about this? Well, the list is going to get longer.. here goes:

2nd-3rd May: Travel to Riga. The beautiful capital city of a beautiful country called Latvia. This is to celebrate a very special day in my life (those who know me, please do not ping and ask me what, the powers of Merlin shall be nullified if the answer to this deep secret is revealed). I take an A-Class Classic View cabin on a 9 storey cruise liner which takes me from Stockholm to Riga, and back the next day.
15th-17th May: Travel to Manchester. I escort my client to watch the tussle between Manchester United and Arsenal live at Manchester. Some of my football crazy friends would kill to be in my place. These are some of the few perks of being in a client facing position of one of the largest and most respected consulting companies in the world. In my profession after a certain point, playing golf, going to business dinners and networking on the side becomes your bread and butter. Yes, it seems enticing, but I have been told by some wise men that a regular 9 to 5 job is much more relaxing and rewarding. The grass is always greener on the other side.
25th-29th May: Travel to Switzerland (Zurich, Interlaken, Lucrene). A mini vacation I have promised my parents for a very long time. Planned and executed by yours truly. My parents continue to cover Rome and Paris and the seasoned traveller, yours truly, who has already visited these places returns to Stockholm.
I know I am lucky to have these opportunities. But once, just once, take a moment to think of this guy who would give anything, literally anything to have a simple unchanging life with a "home". And he ends up having all that he could ask for except this one khwaish. You have to admit, Bhagwan kuch leta hai aur kuch deta hai, so this is the deal that I have got. Well, I am not complaining.
P.S. If you are a cancerian, or know a cancerian who travels, you might be interested in reading this interesting article about the Cancer Travel Profile HERE!!!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

An Evening Walk in Stockholm

Took a really pleasant evening walk yesterday with my best friend.

Heres a snapshot of the places we walked by. I am no photographer unlike some of my dear friends.

Camera specifics: An old worn out Nokia phone camera 2 Megapixels
Cameraman: A man with a sharp eye for beauty. Beauty lies in the eyes of the cameraman, and not in the lens of the camera.

Spring in full bloom... the vibrant pink colors covering the trees was amazing. And it matched so perfectly with the blue of the sky at dusk. God was surely a fashion designer before He (or is it She?) became God :)

The fountains were speaking a language of their own... mirroring the color and joy that Springs brings with its flowers and beautiful weather!

The perfect road for a pleasant evening walk, made more pleasant with wonderful company!

The Royal Theatre, more beautiful than most other buildings in Stockholm... looking pretty with the Golden toppings. Plan to see a show here sometime..

One of the more expensive apparel mega stores in Stockholm, if you have a lady friend/gf/wife in tow, the English translation of the above Swedish sign means, Warning, Keep Away :) !!

Alma Mater

The other day I was confronted by a very strange dilemma. One of my engineering college juniors, whom I had mentored some 7 years back, pinged me on Orkut. I had completely lost touch with him for 5 years, but thanks to Social Networking (read more about it here) I have gotten back in touch with most of my school and college mates. Now my junior (lets call him Mr. A), after a successful stint with a leading IT company had finally decided that it was time for some higher education and had appeared for CAT, the common MBA entrance exam in India. With his decent CAT score he had got an interview call from my alma mater T. A. Pai Management Institute (TAPMI in short). Mr. A was always an ardent admirer of moi, and valued my advice a lot. To him I was the guy who had made all the correct decisions in life (ah.. I wish...) and so he wanted my honest opinion whether it was worth it to pursue a degree at TAPMI (he had other options as well). Now me being me, the first response I had was 'of course.. its the best institute' but then I stopped myself. Just because I had done my masters from there was perhaps not a reason to reccommend it to someone who was asking me for an honest opinion. And so I wondered whether I should be loyal to my alma mater and say 'of course.. its the best institute' or I should be genuine to my junior and give him an unbiased opinion. My honesty won over my loyalty and I asked him to wait 2 minutes and did some quick online research (long live Social Networking!)
So I did three things. First I pinged all my friends online, most of whom were in very good professional positions, some from TAPMI, some from other MBA insititutes, some without MBA, asking them what they thought of TAPMI as a place to pursue MBA. The second thing I did was to google TAPMI and the third thing I did was to go to the official website Here are the responses I got.
1. Most of my friends who were online told me that in the current market you dont have to be from IIMs to excel. In fact being from IIMs could hold you back, as most companies are looking at cost cutting and it is no secret that students from IIMs expect compensation packages which do not exactly promote cost cutting. Hence, go for the rung 2 of B-Schools. In the rung 2, it is more important to be at a place where you learn the right things, and also in a B-School which is respected in the industry, and has the right contacts. TAPMI was a perfect fit. Out of the 6 people I asked, 4 said go for TAPMI. One didnt know about the existence of TAPMI, and the other one thought his own alma mater was better.
2. Most of the unbiased opinions online were good. I trust a lot for honest and unbiased opinions, 5 years back when I started preparing for CAT, this website used to be my homepage and virtual bible for anything to do with MBA. Pagalguy gave great ratings to TAPMI for the current year. I was also most amazed to find a TAPMI professor with an official TAPMI id answering questions in a forum. That just did it for me, a B-School which can keep with the pace of technology, culture and social networking is certainly a place you want to be in. It was interesting to note that not all B-Schools had done this, either because they were not bothered, or because they had not caught up to the hottest website in MBA aspirant circles. Either way it spoke in favor of TAPMI, here was an institute which was upto date AND cared for its applicants.
3. The website of TAPMI bowled me over. I have been a web designer for some time now, and when I was a student there I was not exactly excited about the TAPMI website which had an old banyan tree on its homepage. I always felt it sybolized an institute which was old, extremely conservative and not agile. I had expressed my opinion to the management, and they had formed a committee to look into it. Things had stalled somewhere midway. And now I was pleasantly surprised to find a new vibrant website complete with flash supported drop downs and vibrant colors. I went through the website, it was professional. Long time back, Bill Gates has said "When you cant make it good, make it look good". I cracked by TAPMI GD by quoting Bill Gates with a twist saying "Even when you can make it good, make sure you make it look doubly good". TAPMI came up to my expectations with the latter quote!
The verdict was unanimous. "Go for it!" Not because I hail from the institute but because its a good career move for anyone. Honestly, I feel everything has changed. And it has been just two years. The Director, the PGP Chairman, even the Placements Chairman. All the Professors for whom I was the 'favorite student' are gone from the instiute. (though still on my radar, thanks to LinkedIN and Facebook :) ). But it feels good to still be able to reccommend my alma mater to a junior with a completely unbiased mind. It feels good to come from an institute which has kept up with the times.
It seems like not-so-long-back, I cant believe it has been two years! Things have changed for me, I have changed my country, my role and my position (thankfully not my organization). Most people in Europe do not know about any MBA institute in India other than the IIMs. And thats just too bad. I hope that they meet more of the bright non IIMs (and sometimes non MBA) new-kids-on-the block. The change is already there. I look at the Indian management guys around me who are doing well, more than 70% are non MBAs.
MBA has been a highly debated topic on the Indian front for a few years now. I stick by the mantra, IIMs (the premier Indian Institute of Management) are not the end all and be all of MBA. A management graduates success depends more on his/her personal calibre than on the institute he/she hails from. That is why you have people not placed in IIMs and people with top jobs in 'lesser' institutes. I am from TAPMI, widely considered the 'second rung' institute, but I am at par with all the top management graduates of my batch, in terms of role, compensation package, company profile and opportunities. A lot of european executives I meet in my job ask me if I am from IIM. And I say no, and always add with a smile, the brightest youngsters in management positions are not always from IIMs. There are a lot of bright guys and girls out there who dont need even a management brand tag to prove they are smart. They go and prove it with their actions. In todays economy you need people with their feet on the ground who do not lean on their alma maters logo to get them into jobs. Today you need people who understand cost cutting, competition and narrow margins. People who have seen the tough times. People who do not use fancy management jargon to wriggle out of situations. And sometimes you have to look beyond the IIMs to get such people :)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Spring in Sweden and Elections in India

Though it is extremely tricky to make such statements given the unpredictable weather in Sweden, I will still venture to declare that finally, Spring has arrived. I think the flower on the porch, and the temperature on my kitchen temperature indicator are pretty much insistent about it. There has been no snow for some time and the temperature has managed to remain at a respectable level above zero. Not to mention the short showers and the pretty flowers. Yes spring has arrived and I am happy.. and so are most people, if you can judge happiness by the noise levels of the Stockholm metro.
It is a very interesting phenomenon for me, this whole season thing. In India, I think we have 3 seasons only, Summer, Monsoon and Winter. There is no fourth season. So its either cold, or hot or raining cats and dogs. In most places. Some places, like Manipal there is only one season, the Monsoon, and it rains 7 days a week, 365 days a year. And so I spent a good part of my geography classes in school wondering why people have come up with wierd seasons like Autumn and Spring. Well I got my answers now. I wish they had mentioned that in school. I am sure the kids in Sweden wonder what Monsoon is like (if they have ever heard of it), rain to them means a drizzle, and it is certainly not important enough to be classified into a season.
Is it common for bloggers to be influenced by other bloggers and write on similar topics? I have lately found that I am doing that a lot. If I read about something that is relevant to me, and think a lot about it I usually blog about it.
Shobha De has been writing a lot about the Indian elections. The couple of decades of my life that I spent in India, the elections had very little direct impact on me. Of course the effect of Indian politics on the macroeconomics of the nation had an indirect effect on me, but other than that I did not feel much. It could be because I have lived in 6 different cities of the country and never had a chance to vote from my hometown. It could also be because the political scenario was so complex that though I had views on political parties, I did not have an opinion on the local candidates. Yes, I have abstained from voting most of my life, hence its a bit wierd when my European colleagues ask me if I have voted this year, sitting here in Stockholm. And I have to answer, no, I havent.. because a) India yet does not have an electronic system for NRIs voting from abroad and b) Because even if they did, I would still prefer to abstain from voting. It is tough to explain why to my European colleagues. I did try explaining the whole situation, and though my Indian friends nodded and smiled from their desks, my European colleagues thought that I was not really a patriotic guy because I was not interested in voting.

Shobha De talks about a lot of 'common men' contesting the elections this time. I thought this was typically the Shobha De talk... but recently found out that the father of one of my classmates from business school is contesting the elections. I was impressed and amazed. Is there going to be a major shift in the mind set of the Indian junta? Is there a transformation already in the pipeline? I shall wait and watch and meanwhile continue to cheer all 'common men' who leave the comfort of their lives to plunge into the muddy waters of Indian politics.

I cant but help come back to the topic of Europe when I talk of my European colleagues. Today, one of my European colleagues made a random remark about something Asian and I started saying "Being an Asian..." and he interrupted me and said "But I thought you were an Indian". And for the nth time I had to explain that India was in Asia and so in effect, I was an Asian. It is inexplicable image that everyone has about Asians... that they are either Chienese, Japanese, Thai, Malasian or other races with small eyes and a chinese script. It is tough enough trying to convince the Europeans that India is a part of Asia, I can understand how tough it will be for a person from Iran or Turkey to convince them that they are Asians. And for someone who is a citizen of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Republic of Tajikistan or the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, well... they will have a tough time convincing people that their country actually exists. For those who are confused, you are advised to brush up your Asian geography here. And for those of you arent, please consider us humble Indians when you generalize the 'Asian' culture and think of 'Asian' cuisine (though I am totally stumped by what either one of these generalizations refer to)
Irrelevant fact of the day: The swedish word for the number six is 'sex'. Now before you call me cheezy for finding that funny, let me tell you that the swedish word for sex is also sex. Umm.. now that can get a bit ridiculous. When I go to a counter which sells peppermint strips, I say 'Give me six'. I wonder what the swedish guy tells the lady sitting at the couter ;).

Monday, April 20, 2009

Single and ready to mingle.. but successful!

Some of my close friends are female, nearly all of them are very successful in their career. Most of them are single. We share more of less the same background, either the same school, same college, or a previous organization where we worked together. We all have the same 'wavelength'.. we connect very well intellectually. I have immense respect for all of them, one of the reasons why they are my close friends. However for the ones who are single, have a tough time finding their Prince Charming.

Some of them I know very well, and have known for a long time. I know that though they worry a lot, eventually they will find the guy of their dreams. Some, I am not so sure of. For the ones I am sure, I keep giving my reassurances that its just a matter of time, and they should not spend so much time worrying about the right guy, or about growing old alone. But at the same time I understand their concern. And I marvel at how dumb or how insecure some of the men in their lives are. They will continue to have a cause for concern if they keep associating with insecure men. But, all said, I still understand that it is very difficult to find the 'right' man. Or the 'right' woman for that matter. But it is all the more difficult when you are a well educated, self confident, successful career oriented woman. What becomes a huge plus for a man, for some reason becomes a huge minus for a woman. And the reasons elude me. Women tend to swarm around men who are more successful than they are, men tend to get romantically repelled by women who are more successful than them. I can only conclude that men are more insecure about their professional success than women. A woman who has no professional or educational achievements can still be extremely attractive because of their beauty, their sexuality, their feminity or just charm. For a man, all these are add-ons. The female race doesnt consider any man 'husband material' unless he is moderately successful, or at least has the capability to support himself at par with the woman in his life. Which means that for a man, his professional success is the only thing he can bank on. Not just for bagging a woman, but for social acceptance. Maybe this, to an extent makes him extremely insecure about his carrer and professional success. And hence a woman who threatens that, or makes him look inferior in that sphere, is not someone he will fancy as a wife. Its the way society is structured. No I have not justified why a lot of smart career women cannot find suitable guys, but I am just trying to reason this sitting inside a guys head.

Or maybe its a cultural thing. Maybe its more predominant amongst Indian men. I know of a British colleague who works in one of the largest and most respected consulting companies in the world. He is extremely successful, is one of the highest paid professionals in his field, and very highly respected in the professional community. When he had his first child, his wife did not take maternity leave, it was he who took a one year sabbatical in order to bring up his child. His wife, who is a Yoga teacher (and no she is NOT an Indian) and runs a very successful Yoga centre catering to corporate clients continued to work while he looked after the baby and after other domestic responsibilities. Now why can I not imagine an Indian man ever doing that? Or is it that his professional success made him secure enough to be able to do something like that? I do not know, he could be the exception to the rule.

But maybe some are not like most men. Unfortunately the world is not balanced. Women want men who are successful. Men either dont want their woman to be successful, or like me, say it doesnt matter. Successful women dont want unsuccessful men, I have not yet met a single woman who can say "It doesnt matter if my spouse is a professional failure and is socially branded as an intellectual moron, as long as he looks pretty, loves me and can keep house". Most men I know feel that, some I know have actually followed that philosophy to the letter. Hence the disbalance. I call it the Gaon Ki Gori (The village beauty) syndrome. Guys are attracted by so-called "innocence" and feel they can find it only in the village.

There is no magic formula to solve this problem. As I said some of the single successful girls I know of, are loving, caring and have a golden heart. By virtue of being that they will get the right man. And their career will not come in the way. For others I know who dont boast of a golden heart, I am not so sure. In the end, I believe that it is all about the human being you are. Yes, there are fewer eligible men of our age around in the world, but then, there arent many women who are as loving and caring as well. I have been laughed at for saying this a lot of times, but I still persist in my belief "Good things happen to good people", I will stick by that and risk being laughed at once again. Crucify me if you will but I believe in Karma. I believe in it because I have experienced it. And its not just about marriage. What goes around comes around, and if you have good Karma, you will end up being happy, with or without marriage.

1. It will be a sin to not mention that this post is inspired by another one I read, please read it HERE ... if you get the time, it is highly reccommended.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Social Networking and me...

If you are reading this, you are in the same boat as me. The boat that the web media has categorized as "Social Networking". Blogging is but a small part, its a huge sea out there.. the picture above shows some of the drops from the vast pool. The world is changing, you can either hop on or stay out but you cannot say "This is just a craze, it will pass". Some people said that about the internet and about e-mails, am not sure whether they still think of themselves as the smarty-pants of the world. You can get on to the boat of Social Networking or opt to stand on the shore and wave, but the worst thing you can do is to call this phenomenon an insignificant trend that will fade out.

After a long long time, I got back in touch with a very close friend. No, I hadnt lost him in the Kumbh mela, I always had his phone number and could have called him anytime, but we had both been busy and had stayed out of touch. In the period we had not been in touch, some radical changes had happened in our lives, marriage, job changes, and even a change of country. I had tried getting in touch with him on multiple occassions.. I had sent him a FB friend request, had commented on his Orkut photos and scrapped him on his Orkut Scrapbook, but had not gotten a response. I had concluded that for some reason he was angry with me. Finally one day I got him on Yahoo messenger and pinged him and asked him if he was upset with me for some reason. He laughed and said he had thought that I would be upset with him for him not staying in touch.. So we laughed about it, and he called me using Gtalk voice messenger on his mobile phone (gosh.. i didnt know you could do THAT!) and introduced me to his new wife whom I have never met. We talked for a long time, two people in two continents who had had a misunderstanding because of stupid social networking, and had sorted it out with some smart social networking.

Yes, now you can break up and make up on the internet. Or have misunderstandings with friends on it. I have even heard people falling in love over it, I have 2 friends who found their life partners while on social networking sites and are now married to the ones they found. I have 2 friends I found over social networking, they are now really close friends and I can count them in my 'top ten' friends list, but I have never met them or seen them (except on social networking sites), one of them is in a country I didnt know existed till I first talked to her. One of my friends is somewhat a celebrity blogger and has a huge network of followers all over the world whom she is very friendly with, people who are an integral part of her lives. Even my parents, who till a couple of years back didnt even have an email account, are on Orkut, have multiple mail accounts, and voice and video chat with me on Yahoo and Gtalk (I am thinking of introducing them to blogs, but dont know if its a good idea or not :)). Its simple, they have found they can stay in touch with a son who is abroad, and a lot of loved ones who are scattered around the globe by just joining a web service and buying a microphone and a camera.

For me its a boon. I recently became active on FB, after being coerced by a lot of friends. I am already on a similar site called Orkut which is not as 'international' as FB, so I was not very keen but finally had to give in because even my best friend started thinking I was outdated (lol.. yes I am THAT influenced by close friends). I thought it will be tough to cope with following so many sites but I am coping well. And so are most people who thought this will be a passing phase. I wonder if very soon the good ol' mobile phone will only be used for local calls.. maybe soon not even for that. What will be the next wave? Will I be able to hop on to that as well? Or will I get old and lazy and say "Its just a passing phase, nothing can replace the internet?". I dont know. With age also comes the fear of being left behind. Of being outdated. I turn 28 in a few months, and the fear of getting old is looming large. LOL.. Did you believe me on that? Of course I am kidding. 28 is the best age to be! You are just old enough to have the maturity to do most of the things in life, you have the money and the enthusiasm and you are still on the right side of 30!! And I know of some people who will frown and say thats not the right side of 30, and I love you guys for your spirit. But the right side of 30 is always the side you are on :).
Irrelevant fact: Because of lack of having a licensed version of Macromedia Flash, I am now trying to make a presentation in Movie Maker.... It is like tying up your hands and legs and asking you to climb the mountain. It is frustrating and yet its a new way of doing this, especially if you have climbed the mountain a million times already!
Quote of the day:
Calvin : You can't just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.
Hobbes : What mood is that?
Calvin : Last-minute panic.
- From the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
Photo reference for above photo:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

When in tough times...

The pressure is on in the corporate world. Everywhere. In all spheres and all circles. From Banking to Manufacturing to Services to IT. And I guess not just in the corporate world. I am still pretty untouched but everyday I hear some news which makes me feel it is one step closer to me. And I am hoping that the optimism of Obama works and the economy stops its downwards plunge and stabilizes.

You know things are getting serious when its no more fashionable to talk about recession anymore. When its stops being the gossip and starts being a reality. When it becomes too sensitive to talk in a public gathering because you do not know who in the group could have been deeply affected. In the last three days, three friends in three different continents in three different companies, in different industries actually, told me that they have seen layoffs in their department. And they were upset by it. When it gets that close to you, I guess its not a very comfortable feeling.

I was reminded today that my blog is anonymous, and I would try to keep it that way. Its easy to forget because most people who comment or talk to me about it are close friends who know its me, and I have no idea if people I do not know read this. Why is it anonymous? Because it gives me a wee bit more flexibility to write things I wish, and not be judged by people who are not good friends. So why is it on my google status? Because all the people on my friends list are considered close friends, and I am not THAT secretive. And even if the world knows, what the hell, its fun having an alternate identity, just for kicks.
The other day, when I was at this really high flying corporate get-together (I still get an adrenaline rush outta that, dont groan.. I AM a geek) and was getting introduced to everyone. When I introduced myself to one of the serious looking bespectacled global Vice-Presidents, he leaned forward, shook hands and with a very straight face said "Hi, I am John Doe.... by day.... Superman by night". I had a tough time trying to decide whether I should burst out laughing like I wanted to or suppress my laughter and smile politely when he said "Dont think... laugh.. when the Vice President cracks a joke, you always laugh". I always feel that corporate life lacks a sense of humor. And it is so refreshing when once in a while you come across someone in a corporate gathering with a genuine sense of humor. Different cultures have very different types of humor. People from nation X have dry humor (guys u know whom I am talking about :P ) Some cultures have ironic humor.. so much that sometimes it pricks even if the joke is not on you. Some have only dirty humor. Some have no humor. Its worst when there is no humor.
Indians take humor for granted, and dont realize how important it is for us till we go into a group of no humor. As one of Danish managers once remarked that he likes Indian attitude a lot and wants to develop that for himself. When asked why he pointed at a group sitting far off at another lunch table and said, look at your watch, the whole group will laugh every 15 seconds. And we all did that and it was true. Every 15 seconds the Indian group would burst out laughing about something or the other. And all the other groups sitting at different tables were having serious conversations, the maximum you would get would be a polite smile. I guess no other country gives a gurgling, rumbling, thundering belly laugh as often as Indians do. And its something nice. We are a happy race. We can plot, politicize, frown, scorn, slog, manipulate and bitch at work, and yet go for lunch and laugh once every 15 seconds. Even in a recession. Sometimes I am proud to be an Indian :).
Moral of the story: When in tough times... have lunch with an Indian group, and have a hearty, soul belching, thunder rumbling, good laugh! When the times get tough, the tough should get laughing...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Some famous 'Debators' (?)

And while we are talking of debates and debators, here is some from one of the ladies known for her awesome debating style (though in print). Two recent posts from Sobha De.. in true debating style:

1. The Lone Rangers in our midst...

2. Looking for Albert Pinto...

The Soul of a Debator...

I have always been a debator... since I was 13. There was a time in engineering college when the last 2 pages of my CV were a list of debates that I had won, till someone told me that might not be the most important thing for an engineeing job, and I shortened it.... to one page :P !!
I appreciate a good argument, even when I dont agree... thats the soul of a debator. I can argue for both sides, and you can never make out what I truly believe in... comes out of years of "switch debating", where you switch for the motion or against the motion in the middle of your speech when the panel asks you. A lot of my friends are also debators.. including Iya (whom I met at an Univerity debate) and Ms NRI. Iya continues to have the soul of a debator.. and most of our conversations sometimes tend to be a debate. I remember a chain of mails we exchanged about some Harvard article recently, in the midst of a week which was very hectic for both of us. That was more of a debate. You just cannot help but support your motion with more and more arguments.. and if you really feel about the issue, then God spare the world. Here is a comment trail from one of my posts, How Global am I? ... you will know what I mean if you read this. (You might have to read my post.. link above... to understand whats going on)
Iya said...
I think each and every one of us who are avid internet users are 100% global. I rest my case there.
April 9, 2009 9:07 PM
Merlin said...
Are we?? I have been an internet user since I was 17.. and I dont think I was global at all that time.. I still dont think I am.. not compared to some people I know. I believe you have to travel to at least 5 countries each in at least 3 continents to be truly global.. Thats my benchmark!
April 9, 2009 10:55 PM
Iya said...
As long as we have access to information across the globe, we are global. Global does not mean u have to travel the globe. Definition of global as per the dictionary"involving the entire earth; not limited or provincial in scope "I am definitely global in that case. I have often felt that English language is the most abused language. We use words to convey their perceived meaning and not their true meaning.
April 10, 2009 4:39 PM
Merlin said...
I agree. I do not have to travel the globe to be global, but to me having information about a country does not mean watching Discovery Channel, or reading Wikipedia. It means a bit more to me than that. I believe I know Iran closely, because I am around 2 people who are very closely linked to Iran, so I know the customs, the places that surround it, the beauty, the darker side, the image, the humor.. not everything perhaps, but certainly more than I could have ever known from Discovery or the internet. If I can have enough of what u call 'information' and what i call 'the feel' from such sources I would consider myself global. And till I feel that I have seen but a drop in the ocean that is the world, I will not consider myself global. 'Having information' is a vague term. I am more demanding from myself when it comes to being satisfied by information. Take a look at the non-Indian people around you who think they know India by virtue of having watched Slumdog Millionaire. Is that information enough for them to say they know India? Or having read the Wiki page on India? Or having watched an Indian episode on a travel channel? No, you do not become global by visiting the airport or the tourist attractions of a country, nor do you become global by having read the Wiki page of every coutry in the world. It takes a little more than that.As for definitions, I once put in the word 'love' in the online dictionary. The dictionary gave me 28 meanings of that word. I was not satisfied by any one of them. I realized that day that some words are just facilitators to a feeling, and they are better felt than defined. I dont blame the language if there are some feelings too difficult to encompass into a simple word. I define my own words, and respect those who define theirs.I rest my case. No more counter comments from my side on this topic :)
April 10, 2009 4:57 PM
Iya said...
Do you realize why we never debated in the same motion now.. If I was for u were against and vv.. I remember that.. Thats what we are .. It is like I can argue from both sides, But I like arguing against you. We should have totally debated as a pair, we would have rocked a lot of contests :PI love this ! Thats why I was very very happy when you started blogging. I was looking forward to this very thing !A toast to debating !
April 10, 2009 5:04 PM

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Fond Memories - I was always a blogger!!

A screen shot from my old website "My Diary" section. I was always a blogger, even when the word 'blog' didnt exist :).

All the Worlds a Stage

Disclaimer: Yes I keep coming back to this, but my blog will remain incomplete without a post on this most revered topic. For those of you who have read and liked the stuff I used to write some 5-6 years back, you will know that this is a more mature Merlin, in the way I write, in the way I think and the way I live. For those of you who have groaned and moaned at this foolish blabber trigger of mine, bear with me and my love for Shakespeare... for I owe it to the old Merlin to include at least one post in my blog, and you can call it a tribute to the old times! Parts of this are from my website section of "My Diary"
“All the worlds a stage and all the men and women mere players, they have their exits and entrances and every man in his time plays many parts”
All of us have had our parts, and mine have been especially amusing (don’t we all think the same for our individual parts?)

My life is defined into clear phases, so distinct and so different from one another that when I look back it always surprises me. These phases have such clear boundaries that I can almost tell you the date when one phase ended and the other started. For me it has been defined more so because I have lived in 7 different cities in my lifetime, and the phases of life can be more or less divided into the 7 phases for the 7 cities. I used to think that my life is unique in having these phases till I stopped to think about the lives of the people I have been really close to. My best friend, who is the person I am closest to has also had pretty distinct phases in her life, I can almost take a marker and mark those phases. My cousin J, whom I have referred to in my phase before has had distinct phases as well, as different from each other as mine. Iya, whom I know from her blogs, and little bit more from engineering college days has had her distinct phases too! I have known Ms NRI (the girl from Singapore I have talked about in my previous blog) closely for a long time, and I know that her life has most certainly been segmented. Hence I am not unique, and I tag all the people reading this post (specifically my best friend SS, Iya, Swollen Tomato, Shura and NRI)to take a moment off and define their phases, and hopefully blog about them as well!
So here are my phases, maybe more in number than most people, but I have changed (and sometimes taken a U turn) too many times in life :).
Phase 1: The Dumb "Good Boy": Location: A small but not-so-insignificant town in East India characterised by high class living, and an ethnic mix of people. Starts with the dumb scared guy sitting quietly in the corner of the class in one of the most prestigious schools in the city, (a typically elitist school)… wondering about what the secret of becoming what they called “smart” is... The guy from an all-boys school, who has never talked to a girl who wasn’t his sister or cousin, who thinks that girls come from another planet, and it is natural to stammer and stutter when speaking to one of the species. Towards the end of the phase things change a bit. There is a little bit more confidence, and a high school girlfriend thrown in. There are foolish Romeo-like motivations, but some tiny sparks of ambition which are threatening to start a big forest fire. A person low on confidence, high on motivation.
Phase 2: The Student Leader: Location: An Engineering College, outskirts of a city in Central India. Starts with a few incidents that enrages the good boy and make him take up some diverse activities that teach him to lead from the front. A small entity called the Literary Club thrusts the good boy into dirty student politics, all inclusive of plots, scams, violence and dirty games. The good boy is no more a good boy. This is perhaps my most transitional period, when my life changed completely. I discovered myself as a person, found out about my strengths and weaknesses, got to see the darker side of life.. violence, booze, crime, road rage and some more unspeakable things. The four years of engineering has taught me to appreciate a lot of things today that most people take for granted. It also gave me my most treasured friends, and redefined friendship in my mind as something you should be ready to give your life for.

Phase 3: The Nondescript Worker: Location: New Delhi, Northern India. From the fame of being a college celebrity to the dull life of a first job which was not a dream job. I spent most of my time working my ass off. It was almost as if I was trying to fool myself by burying myself in work which I neither enjoyed nor aspired for. I had taken up the job for all the wrong reasons, and even those reasons had failed to justify myself. When I was really young and people talked about being successful, I always used to wonder how one defined success. So one day I sat down and defined it, I must have been 10 or 11 then. I decided that to be successful, I needed to have an apartment to myself (rented or owned, who cares), enough money to be able to eat chaat whenever I wanted to, a bike and a girlfriend. I had all of it in this phase, and yet I was not happy. Something was wrong, I needed to set it right. But before I could do something about it, things took a drastic turn...

Phase 4: The Freelancer: Location: Kolkata, Eastern India. The drastic turn in my personal life threw me back into the fire to start from scratch. Which in a way was good. So I left my job abruptly, even though I was given the 'best performer' award and was due for a promotion. I changed my city, which was a very good move. And I started preparing for the MBA entrance exams. I was trying to run away from myself, hence I did some things during this phase which I am not particularly proud of. This was the phase where I was depressed and I was doing things which were against my character and was blaming it on my depression. But thankfully my guardian angels were watching over me, I got a good percentile in the entrance exam and got admitted to a one of the top 10 Business Schools of the country.

Phase 5: The B-School Lover Boy (B stands for Beach): Location: A small scenic beach town on the Konkan (west) coast of India. I had gotten into a good business school, and my confidence was at its peak. I was confident that I would sail through academics, so much so that I engaged my time in more fruitful pursuits like finding a life partner for myself, and spending my time discovering picturesque waterfalls, beaches, biking and travelling around. My 2 years in business school can perhaps be defined as a love affair, with nature, with bikes, with beaches and some more interesting entities. To add icing to the cake, I also won some random national level business debates and research/paper presentation competitions, getting me some limelight in the national business students circuit. I came out with flying colors, landing a dream job in my dream company, with a compensation which far exceeded my expectations. And the degree and the job were not the only take-away from the business school

Phase 6: The Management Intern: Location: Bangalore, IT Hub of the country in Southern India. A new job, a new city, a new place to live.. new friends and a new life. To think of it I can say the previous sentence for every phase, damn! A very short and confused phase. But a very lucky one. They say that sometimes you need to be at the right place at the right time for some things to work out. Well opportunity knocked, and I opened the door immediately. This phase was sort of a turn around, some tough decisions, which took me on the right path. This is the phase when i wrote "A Brick in the Wall", I think the piece defines the phase pretty well!

Phase 7: The Mature Man: Location: Stockholm, Sweden. There is a time when one knows that he has found his calling. This was such a time for me. Everything just fell in place.. it seemed like this is how it was meant to be. Like this was a destination of the journey so far, and the starting point for another more exciting and more enticing journey ahead. I left a lot of things behind, and I missed some of them a lot (and I cant stop talking about it >> HERE ) but this was the road to discovering completely new things. I had everything I had wanted, the girl of my dreams, the perfect addictive job, a lovely country. Touchwood!

These have been the phases of my life... tell me yours..

Tagged to: My Best Friend, Iya, Swollen Tomato, BG Friend, Young Architect and NRI

Happy to be happy..

The happy phase continues. I have realized it is very important to state to ourselves and maybe to the people close to us that we are happy. I believe that we spend a lot of time mulling over the reasons and the times when we are sad, when we are upset and when we are disappointed. But we do not spend any time stating that we are happy. Even when we are moderately sad or upset we always express it.. "I am not in a good mood today".. "I am cranky this afternoon"... "What he said upset me".. very few people state when they are happy. There are people though that do that, and I admire them and aim to be like them.

The other day we were planning to go out for a fancy lunch at a nice joint some distance off which one of my married colleagues really looks forward to, as he does not get much of a chance to participate in such activities. However he got a call from his wife and we heard him say “No worries, I’ll be there ------ Its ok, I understand” and then he said, his wife is going out with some friends and he needs to pick up his kid so he cant join us. One of my pretty blonde team mate said “Your wife is a lucky lady”. My colleague smiled and said “You just made my day, I am glad that someone as attractive as you can think my wife is lucky!” The blonde lady blushed a deep shade of red.. My colleague was not flirting, knowing him really well, I know that he was just stating that something had made him happy. And that is the spirit. To tell oneself and others around you that you are happy. Believe me it does loads of good to you and people around you. And then you will no more have the complaint that the troughs in your life are so long and the crests are so short lived. The crests will seem longer when you will know and acknowledge that you are at the crest. I am happy that I am at the crest and will cherish the time I have there!!

Some of you asked me why I am happy. I can give you some random weird reasons, like its Easter, the work load has been less, the sun has been bright, the weather has been great…. But to be honest there is no one specific reason. I am happy about the smaller things in life, a lot of them. I have a happy life. I am lucky. I am happy that I am at the crest and will cherish the time I have there!! :)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

How Global am I?

It has been a happy two days. Yesterday was one of the best days I have had in a long time.. and today was well.. umm.. as good as it gets. So heres something I wrote some time back when I have these crazy bouts of analyzing some weird stuff about myself...

How 'Global' am I?? The thought gets triggered as I go back to a bleak humid night in a smoke filled room with my cousin and me inside... a few beer bottles and coke cans strewn around.. and some crazy unknown rock music banging in my ears... and a haze over my consciousness.. Its cold, but the smoke needs to be cleared, and so the fan is whirring at full speed, making a crazy buzzing sound, and I am not sure if its the fan or if its my head buzzing. I am in Kolkata in India.. in the most uncertain phase of my life. My cousin.. lets call him J, is lying down.. he is high.. and he is best when he is high. He is my best buddy, we have grown up together... he is an amazing guy.. made more amazing when he has alcohol and some other interesting things in his veins. He isn’t talking, but we are in a comfortable silence, we both know that we are thinking of some really weird stuff, something totally ridiculous and disconnected. And we allow each other that luxury, you don’t get such opportunities everyday, to have the freedom to think weird ridiculous stuff. I am wondering if the buzzing sound is coming from my head or from the fan.. and if the smoke in the room can make the room catch fire.. and if the music has dimmed in my ears, does loud music dim after u have heard it long enough. Yes.. it gets this ridiculous.. sometimes more... and we wait till the one person strikes something ridiculous enough to talk about. Usually its J, he is better at this stuff than I am. I somehow always come up with boring ridiculous, he comes up with interesting ridiculous.
Just as I am feeling irritated enough because I still cannot figure out if its the fan or me making the whirring sound, J speaks. It is sacred in such conditions to give utmost concentration when one person speaks, because it is kind of easy to get distracted in ones own weird thoughts and then we lose the conversation.
J says "B... you are a really global person.. I wonder how global I am"
Under normal circumstances this would be a ridiculous statement. J and I have grown up, been educated in and have lived an Indian life. The only things outside India that we know about are what we see on TV and what we read in books.. and the occasional 'phoren' stuff some relative sends in from "umreeka". But the circumstances are not normal..
Me: "How am I global? I don’t know a single frigging blonde person"
J: "But you have a classmate who works in Singapore"
Me: "I am sure you have some classmate who works in Singapore too!"
J: "But that doesn’t count, I don’t talk to or talk about any such classmate, you do"
Me: "But how does that make me global?"
J: "Because you receive international calls on you mobile"
Me: "But how’s that Global, its just one friend in one country"
J: "But you told me that she has friends in South Africa and the US"
Me: "Umm.. yeah.. actually.. but will that not make HER global?"
J: "No.. it makes you global.. she is abroad anyway, what does she care about being global?"
Me: "Yeah.. makes sense, I guess I am global"

I am sure J doesn’t remember any of this, we have had too many of these conversations, but there are some I remember more than he does. J would kill me if he ever read this. Thankfully today, J is a very busy software architect who is presently in New York, and he doesn’t have the time to read stupid blogs like this one.

Sometimes I think back, and I wonder how life was so much simpler than it is today. And I ask myself the same ridiculous questions. It helps me put things in perspective, shows me how far I have come, where I stand, and how far I have to go... Some people measure how global they are by the number of countries they have travelled, some by the number of countries they have lived, some by the number of nationalities they have dated, some by the number of countries they have friends from. A colleague recently told me that he has 'dated' girls from 17 nations. I probably cant name 17 nations off the top of my head.. so I guess I am not THAT global yet.

So I tried measuring how global I actually am.. At work place... my previous manager was Swedish. Prior to him, I had a Danish manager. Now I report to a British manager. The colleagues in my team of around 70 people include people from Australia, Iran, Greece, India, Lithuania, Malaysia, Singapore, Germany and UK. I am based out of Bangalore, India, currently work in Stockholm, Sweden, interact with delivery centers in more than 10 geographical locations and work for a client with offices in 175 countries. In personal life, I have Indian friends who are in Singapore, London, Copenhagen, NY, Australia, and some other places within US that I cant recall. I have one American and one Bulgarian friend who live in the US and Bulgaria respectively, and I have friends in Stockholm who are of German, French, Iranian and of course Swedish origin. I have travelled to and visited at least one city in Finland, Estonia, France, Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Bhutan, Italy and Czech Republic.

So how global does that make me? Not much. My friend from Singapore mentioned above is still way ahead of me in all parameters mentioned above, she has nearly seen all continents and probably has a friend from each country. Well, someday when I have the time, I will try becoming more global. For the time being I will someday try to go back to the same room at my cousins place, create a similar situation and try asking J the same question, "J, how global are u?"

Loved this from Iyas post HERE, so this becomes the

Quote of the Day:
The happiest people don't necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have. Peace is seeing a sunset and knowing who to thank.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Weekend...

The weekend was satisfactory and fulfilled all the requisites that qualify a weekend as nice and satisfying. Loads of lazing around, some travelling, some cooking, some eating out and some chatting with friends. This weekend there was no volleyball because of some random reasons, and its the second week in a row. I miss volleyball and I am growing fat, and so I hope that the volleyball matches will resume next week. And to add to my luck my colleagues also seem to have had a good weekend and I was not bombarded with zillions of work related mails over the weekend which need instant action. Yes, you can call me a loser but I do check my mails on weekends, its one of those harsh realities of life.

Today I just felt like discovering more of Stockholm, so after a very late lunch at 3p.m. (thats late even by Indian standards.. did u know Europeans actually have lunch at 11.30 - 12.00??!!) I just hopped on to a random bus from Kista and travelled. Then at the terminating stop (Morby Station), I took the bus to the other end of the city (Bromma) and just sat back and enjoyed the view. Call me freaky.. but I like doing this some times, especially when I have good company ;). But the weather was good, it was sunny, there was lots of light, and I couldnt find any other outdoor activity that could be as lazy as this (why arent there lazy sandy beaches where I can lie down put on my shades and drink "orange juice"? :P) What I love about the busses in Stockholm are that they have big windows which let you enjoy the scenery. So I travelled for 3 to 4 hours, which left me not wanting to travel on a bus for the next few months :). But the view was good, and I got the chance to see parts of Stockholm I havent seen before. I also overcame my laziness a few times to click some snaps to share with you.. so here they are:

Windmills in Stockholm? I thought you found them only in Denmark cities. Well, at least I discovered something new in Stockholm :)
I never thought that I will ever read and like a celebrity blog. But then Iya follows Shobha De's blog (I really wonder if you can call her a 'celebrity') and I read it once because the topic was interesting. And then once again, and then again. Till I am pretty much a regular. And grudgingly, very grudgingly, I became the 674th follower of the blog. I do not like the lady. I do not like the lady because I feel she is an arrogant high class socialite who puts up the facade of being a very down to earth, straight forward aam aadmi (ordinary man) when she writes. She writes to connect to the junta, the masses by pretending to be one amongst them when she is not. Hence my dislike for the lady who I feel is not being honest. But when she does what she does and writes, she is exceedingly good at it, and for a moment I forget all about the facade, hence my respect for her blog. Moreover, her blog is a more interesting way of reading the news. I get to know all thats happening back in India with a gossipy touch, and not look like a fool when I talk to my Indian friends back home.
And for the record, following her blog does not change my feelings for the lady. I still do not like her. Surprisingly she confesses to finding the blog her favorite media of expression. Considering that she is more or less accepted as the Indian 'mother' for expression of thought (she is an expert commentator on any random topic, from politics to fashion to sex, for those who dont know her.. famous author, columnist, socialite, media commentator blah blah blah) that IS a big statement for the world of blogging. Her post titled "Bloggers of the world unite...!" which you can read HERE, (actually an article she wrote for the Asian Age and Deccan Herald) actually talks about her addiction to blogging. Interesting to know that we mortals are not the only ones who have blogging addiction.

Which reminds me. After ages of trying to keep out, I am finally on fb. When I used to tell people back home that I am not on fb, I used to be met with looks of utter disbelief.... usually followed by the comment "but you are abroad!". I do understand that fb is more 'international' than Orkut, but I do not understand why every Indian who is abroad has to be on fb. Guys get a life, I will not join a website to boost my NRI status, I think that is ridiculous. But now that I have had to finally succumb to the pressure to become active on fb, I shalt not complain... and try to focus my energies on understanding the whole site from scratch. And inspite of repeated reminders from everyone that I will eventually fall in love with it, I still think Orkut is a much better application.
It has not been a very good weekend for some of my close friends, Shura got sad news about a friend on Friday and Iya has officially declared that she will be going into her shell and will not venture out (now what do I do with these crabs!) My best friend was also not so happy on Saturday and I have tried my best to dedicate my Sunday to making my best friend happy, I hope it has worked :).
Travel seems to be on the charts... I might be going to London on a business trip in May, and might be going to Switzerland to give company to my parents who are visiting Europe in June. I shall keep you posted :).
Quote of the day:
Today I had difficulty finding an appropriate quote, so I will put up one of the old forwards I had got, which is one of my favorite ones. The relevance for me is that I am an engineer with a MBA who is now in management... and hence I find this hilariously relevant :). If you have read it do not whine, this is worth reading once more!
I would have liked to give references, but have not been able to trace the source, this one is in too many places without appropriate referencing.
A woman in a hot air balloon realized she was lost.
She reduced altitude and spotted a man below. She descended a bit more and shouted, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago but I don't know where I am."
The man below replied, "You're in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You're between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude."
"You must be an engineer," said the balloonist.
"I am", replied the man. "How did you know?"
"Well, answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is technically correct, but I've no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help at all. If anything you've delayed my trip even more."
The man below responded, "You must be in management."
"I am," replied the balloonist, "but how did you know?"
"Well," said the man, "You don't know where you are or where you're going. You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air.
You made a promise which you've no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. When they cant you somehow make out as if everything is their fault"

A Trough...

I dont believe in writing about the miseries of life. They don’t do anyone any good. Neither to the people who read the stuff nor to me when I read it later. I don’t want to remember how things sucked or how miserable I felt at some point of life. I want to be the one who picks the beautiful moments of my life and stores it in my memory and throws out all the bad moments which were painful.

But sometimes, just sometimes, it does me good to write when I am sad. For the moment it allows me to let the thoughts flow out. It’s like talking to someone, maybe a little bit better. I have friends I can talk to when I feel low, but sometimes I feel that writing does me more good than talking. And I tell myself that if life is about lows and highs, then while you are at a low, waiting for the push which will take you back up, you might as well pass the time with some writing.

I don’t think I want to record what makes me sad. It’s usually the small things of life, things which are irrelevant. The reasons don’t matter, the thoughts that result do. And maybe sometimes, but just sometimes, its ok to record them. There was a time when I used to think that though I am surrounded by a crowd of people who love me and care for me, I feel lonely because I am complex and nobody understands me. And I felt that till I met someone who felt exactly the same, and then another one and another one. Till the point when I thought that most people out there think exactly the same way. That it doesn’t matter how many people care for you and are close to you, it will be very few, or sometimes none that will understand you as well as you understand yourself. And for some, it is tough to even understand oneself.

I am a lucky guy. Not because I have the perfect life. Nobody has the perfect life. I have seen enough people and been close to enough friends to understand that. I believe that life is perfect in its imperfections. I am lucky because I have most things that matter to me. I have achieved all the targets I set for myself, and a lot of those that people close to me expected of me. I have a happy life, I have a girl who loves me as much as I love her, I have parents who adore me and are proud of me and I have a nice job which I enjoy, am addicted to and am successful at. To me these are the things that matter most. The big things in life. The things that make a difference. The things that I will remember a few years from now. The rest will fade out.

I have my own ways of cheering myself up when I am in the dumps... I have a quote from my other blog which describes one of these ways….
“There are some things which are as important for your sustenance as water and air... there are some things you live by, and die for. For me, words are that important. I can live through the worst of situations, the worst of nightmares, the most horrid things by just reading some words... yes I know its bizarre... but thats what keeps me going ....”

I have recorded some of these words I keep falling back on in another blog which I started some time back.. these are words that have sustained me through the worst of times… and there is a video as well.. Sometime, when you have a few moments to spare, take a look at the video, when I am at a low, this video has helped push me to my next high on more occasions than one, so have a look, maybe it will do you some good too!!

Here’s the link to the blog: the first post there (posted today) is for the video and has the video link: Click here to view Merlins Alternate World .

So let me go watch the video and get pepped up, and soon I’ll be back.. with some positive things to tell you about :).
Quote of the Day:
“You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.”
- Gautam Buddha

Friday, April 3, 2009

Blabber Trigger: What I miss most about India

Everyone has it.. the blabber trigger. You can call it different names.. and you can like it or dislike it, you can even try denying you have it, but its a fact.. everyone has a blabber trigger. A blabber trigger is basically a trigger that sets you blabbering. Sometimes people like the blabbering, sometimes they don't. Depends on who you are. If you are Shakespeare, you will make history, if you are me.. well lets just say you will not have any interesting company till the time your trigger is active.

Well, its kinda dangerous to change your blabber trigger to your blogger trigger, but then blogs have the convenience that you can press Alt+F4 and you do not have to tolerate the blabber any more, so I will proceed to blog about my blabber trigger(s). I still dont know all of them.... I have identified some by the way my friends roll their eyes and sigh when I talk about certain things, but havent nailed them all.

One of the things that typically get me going on an obsessive rant is what I miss about India. I am not exactly the most patriotic person in the world, but this is something close to my heart because even after 1.5 years outside, there are still a lot of things I havent come to terms with. So here are the things I miss about India, more specifically about my past life:

1. Home: I miss home the most. I left home when I was seventeen and have lived in hostels and rented apartments since, but home was always just 2 hours of flight time away (in student days it was more measurable as a 500 rupees train fare). I could always go home whenever I wished. When I was sad, when I was happy, when there was some celebration, or a pooja, when I broke up with my girl or just for moms, dads or my own birthday. It just meant bunking a few days of class, or using up a few days of leave at work. Now I am on a different continent and it takes 14 hours of flight time and some good amount of money to go home. I talk to my parents over phone/net more often than I did when I was in India, and I wish I could talk more. By home I also mean, my sis, my nephew, my cousins, my close friends. And the only reason I can survive here is because I know that soon I will go back, and be close to everyone again. And I would have learnt to cherish them much more than before I travelled abroad.

2. Food: I am a typical foodie and the biggest fear of my life is that I will grow fat and not be able to impulsively go to a restaurant and hog. Thankfully that day is still a bit far off in the future. I believe in experimenting with food, till date I have tried a few notable cuisines, french, english, spanish, portugese, thai, chinese, mexican, italian, finnish and iranian, however I still like Indian food the most. Specifically north indian food. And I miss north indian food, especially bengali food a LOT. Some of my NRI friends scoff at me and think I am an inferior creature because of this, but what the hell, I am too much of an Indian when it comes to food. Thats what I miss most abroad - Indian food. The chaat, the pav bhaaji, the rawa dosa, the vadas, the egg rolls, the biryani.. I can go on and on. And I know there are some who are wondering why I dont just take a trip to an Indian Restaurant (Indisk Restaurang in Swedish), one of which is a 100mts from my apartment. Well because the food in the Indian restaurant is anything but Indian. I am a horrible cook, but I can still make more authentic Indian food than the Indisk Restaurangs in Stockholm. I miss food so much that I plan my trips to India based on the extreme food urges I have. The last one was for egg rolls, I nearly had one egg roll a day when I was in India! Thank God my best friend has learnt how to make egg rolls in Stockholm, but they arent as good as the unhygenic ones :).

3. Biking: Biking was always my first love. When I was really young and people talked about being successful, I always used to wonder how one defined success. So one day I sat down and defined it, I must have been 10 or 11 then. I decided that to be successful, I needed to have an apartment to myself (rented or owned, who cares), enough money to be able to eat chaat whenever I wanted to, a bike and a girlfriend. The last two were more important than the first two. And I still stick by the logic. When I joined my first job I achieved success as per my pre set standards, but what I was most attached to was my bike. It was my source of sustenance in a city and a life which had given me a lot of hardships. I used to meet my girlfriend maybe once a month (yes, parents of girls in India can be really conservative) and my bike was my companion through all the good and the bad parts of life. It was my first bike... and it gave me company through 4 cities and 5 years of of my life! I miss biking. I miss taking off on a long ride when I am tensed up, I miss treating myself to a fast hair raising scoot when I am happy, or a slow gentle ride when I am thoughtful. I miss the thrill, miss the euphoria of biking.. I would have saved every penny to buy a bike here but in Stockholm, for 8 months in a year its too cold to ride. Damn! I am not a successful man anymore!

4. People: And by this I do not mean the people I know and am close to. These are general people you travel with, see on the streets, walk with in a mall, talk to in a shop. People with brown skin, black hair, black eyes. People who talk loudly, laugh a lot and dont mind bumping into each other. People who would collect and pick up your things if your bag fell on the pavement and everything spilled out. I miss the common quotient that I share with them. People who haven't been here never believe this, but in Stockholm dogs dont bark, cars dont honk and babies dont cry. My European friends mock me about the fact that I miss the noise, but its not the noise that I miss. Its the warmth. Its the familiarity. I think I could live here for 10 years and still not feel fully at home with the blonde hair and the blue eyes. And yes, my NRI friends scoff at me for this too, so much that I will post a full blog about my NRI friends soon :).

5. Weather: You always take the weather for granted in India. It can be really sunny, or hot, or humid, sometimes cold, but we always take it for granted. The weather is like traffic, everyone thinks that their city has the worst of it (with the exception of Bangalore, they have the best weather and the worst traffic, and nobody argues about THAT). But even the chilliest of winters in Delhi, the hottest of days in Nagpur and the most humid day in Kolkata (and I have lived for years in all 3 cities) are no match to the extremities of the weather here. And here though the temperatures dip to minus eleven, sometimes minus fifteen, I never find that as a problem. Its the sunlight, it kills to live 6 months in darkness. I miss the sunlight in India, 12 months a year. And I promise that I will never take sunlight for granted. It was indeed a big day when He said "Let there be light", just that the message wasnt taken very seriously this side of the earth.

These are the top 5 things I miss the most. There are other things as well.. I miss the festivals of India, I miss going for really cheap buying sprees, I miss Manipal beaches, I miss being able to afford anything and everything, I miss driving around in Manipal.. and Bangalore.. yes I can go on and on...

I have grown to like Stockholm... a lot.. certainly more than I had ever imagined. It has some things that I will perhaps miss a lot and even crave for when someday I return to India for good, and just like every other city I have lived in (there are 7 cities I have lived in), this one too has taught me a lot. However I think I am still a long way from calling Stockholm my "home". But as I have learnt never to say never.. I will wait and watch..

Quote of the Day:
"My home is not a place, it is people."
Lois McMaster Bujold, "Barrayar", 1991

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Aesthetics and Problem Solving

I sometimes get obsessed with some really foolish and trivial thing that I am doing, and get totally carried away, spending hours, and sometimes days, obsessing over it. Does this happen to everyone? I usually have these bouts when I try aesthetics for some web designing. Or when I am working with Movie Maker... or photoshop... or html... or a web designer. It was actually ok to do this in engineering college when I didnt have much to do (yes you CAN pass with top marks and some glowing reccommendations even when you do nothing through 4 years of college). But now its a bit ridiculous, considering I have a hectic work life and a demanding social life.

But to be honest its fun. It gives a sense of creation, a sense that I am still good at some stupid applications and at html. It also lets me flatter myself that I have a sense of aesthetics.

The reason for me saying this is because I spent the last 2 hours redesigning the blog webpage. I currently own 2 dormant websites which I designed from scratch using HTML. This webpage however is a template which has been downloaded and modified. The time was spent to convert the fonts to pictures, lay it on the template and merge it. I only have MS Paint and HTML to help me. I am too honest to install a hacked version of Photoshop and too stingy to buy an authentic version. Though there was a time when I used to be obsessed about Photoshop. The same time when I used to be sure that I will grow up to be a graphic designer. Then I changed that to a media expert, then to short movie director and finally settled for being a corporate moron.

Spring is in the offing, its a battle between the flowers and the snow Gods. The flowers peep out and the snow Gods send their wrath and there is heavy snowfall. And a day will pass and the flowers will peep out again. And the snow Gods will send in the snow throwers again. Its an interesting struggle, and even though you know who will eventually win, its nice to watch how long the struggle will go on. Needless to say, I am on the side of the flowers.

Today was another bad day, work wise. I would hate for this blog to be a record of a number of bad days I have in a week, but I wont run away from it. I realize that with age and experience one stops getting affected by difficult situations at work. Ever noticed how excited and tensed the new intern becomes when there is an escalation, and how cool and relaxed the senior manager is? It has its up side and down side. I feel that till I get excited and tensed about a tough business situation, I will always be able to respond to it sharply. When I get relaxed about tough situations and have the "been-there-done-that" laid-back attitude, I will run the risk of losing control, and letting the competition overtake me. However you cannot help slowly getting settled down about difficult situations when you face it again and again. And that is why it is important to shift roles when you see that happening. Luckily for me, I still get tensed when a difficult situation crops up. The day I dont, I will feel my work is less challenging. And I will know that the time has come to move on. Different people have different drivers to choose the job they do. For some it is money, for some the prestige, for some the number of good looking girls at work. For me it is the type of work and whether it gives me a high.

I like problems because I am a problem solver. And if there are no problems then I will be out of employment. Everyone finds something they are really good at, and I have discovered that I am good at problem solving. Damn. So I will always end up being in problematic situation. Give me a calm, organized environment where things work like clockwork and I will wilter and die. Give me a nasty escalated messed up environment and I shall rise and flourish and in an efficient manner calm down the situation and make it into calm, organized environment. I love being a hero. So in a way, my work is to lessen my work opportunities. Its the same logic as saying that if there was no crime in Supermans world, then Superman and Spiderman would be out of a job. But luckily for Superman, the world will always have crime and luckily for me, businesses will never run short of messed up situations.

It takes some time to understand what gives you a kick, and then it takes a lot of time to come to terms with it. One day I shall come to terms with just how screwed up I am. Till then let me crib about the problems at work and about my bad days. And let me give really screwed up justifications and convince myself that bad days are actually good for me. :)

Quote of the day:
"I'm a simple man, Hobbes."
"You?? Yesterday you wanted a nuclear powered car that could turn into a jet with laser-guided heat-seeking missiles!"
"I'm a simple man with complex tastes."´
- Calvin and Hobbes