Friday, July 31, 2009

Blogging Behaviors

Nearly all bloggers I have ever interacted with and discussed the topic "Why do we blog?" have come up with the clichéd statement "I blog for myself". Duh! Of course we all do. If we wrote for money, or for fame, or for others, we would be writing a book, or contributing to a magazine, or writing for a website. But we dont. We write our own crap on our own space, hence we blog for ourselves. True. But I have a problem with people who say "I blog ONLY for myself". Especially when they have public blogs and know that they have a good readership. Now cmmon. You cannot blog ONLY for yourself. If you wanted to write stuff ONLY for yourself, you'd pick up a paper and a pen and pen down your thoughts. Or open a MS Word file and type down all your thoughts and save it on your hard drive (I have done this and still do it at times when I write ONLY for myself). Or, even if you did choose to use the Blogosphere, your blog would be a private one. So if you blog on a public blog, then apart from blogging for yourself, you also blog for the readership of a lot of people who might choose to visit your blog. And when you do that, you ensure that you write something which you connect with and relate to, but at the same time also something which your blog followers relate to. And not to mention my old "wife and prostitute" theory, you can read about it on my post on About Orators, Bloggers and Prostitutes.. HERE .
But now that I have started on the wrong (or right?) note by angering all those public bloggers who have declared "I blog ONLY for myself", I will come down to the point which I wanted to discuss. Ok, I am assuming that every blogger blogs primarily for him/herself and secondarily for the audience. Given that, is there discrimination amongst the readers of blogs? If so why? If not, then why are some blogs more popular than the others? Does popularity of the blog affect the blogger (either in a positive or a negative way)

Recently, thanks to the Sweden summer vacations and the excess of time on my hands, I was able to wade through a lot of blogs on blogosphere. Some I liked, some I didnt. Some I found absolutely and shockingly disgusting, and some which completely bowled me over. I dropped in a comment on some posts that bowled me over, but not all because I have an aversoin to "celebrity-bloggers-with-a-fan-following" (more on that later). And with my limited knowledge and visibility of blogs I noticed certain trends in readership and popularity of blogs.
  • Blogs written by female bloggers are always more popular. Now dont growl at me for being sexist, I swear I noticed this trend and it has very few exceptions. I came across very few blogs run by male bloggers that had overflowing popularity (with the exception of celebrities like Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bacchan). Certainly there were male bloggers with an exceptional gift of the gab who had extremely popular blogs, but they were the exceptions. If you ask me for the reason for this trend, your guess is as good as mine. You may say that the fairer sex are better at expressing themselves, and are more capable of deep emotions. But I will not be entirely convinced about this reason being the only reason for the above mentioned phenomenon. I can make a few other guesses but then I dont want to make this more controversial than it actually is. I MUST mention though that some of the female bloggers had an exceptional and mind blowing skill of expressing themselves. And they deserve to be as popular as they are, their popularity has nothing to do with the sex of their author, I follow quite a few of them and it has nothing to do with the authors being female. But to be honest, in some cases, I wonder if the blogs would be as popular had the author been male. I also wonder why somehow nearly all the followers of these aforementioned blogs are male, is there a connection?
    Disclaimer: None of the blogs I follow or comment on come in the category mentioned above, so ladies who own blogs I follow, please do not take offence :)!
  • There are some blogs whose popularity is uncanny, even given the fact that the author has an amazingly unique line of thought and a very good way of expressing herself. Like this one blog which I was reading, it was only the authors third post and she had started the blog 2 days back. She had 40 followers for her blog (no kidding) and her first post had 74 comments. Whew! She did mention that she earlier used to have another blog which she closed down and this was her second attempt at blogging, but even then... this kind of popularity is unprecedented. As far as I could see, she was neither a celebrity nor a professional blogger, just an ordinary blogger like you and me. No doubt she has an exceptional and unique way of expressing herself and writes like no one else, but whats the secret of having such amazing popularity? Tell me, tell me. If I could have that kind of popularity, I would seriously think of giving up my boring life of a consultant and think of doing some professional writing. Rane, if you are reading this take my suggestions seriously :). Disclaimer: Most of the blogs I follow come in the above category, will any of you guys share the secret of your popularity, so that I can switch my profession and become a professional writer?
  • Blog followers for each blog have a very distinct categorization. You can say that "birds of same feather flock together". Some blogs I read have the most classy and sophisticated followers, nobody bullshits in the comments of the blog (one example of this is the blog I mentioned above). Shobha De's blog is another example. I love such blogs, the comments of such blogs are almost as interesting as the posts themselves. However there are blogs with the most disgusting group of followers and you almost want to curse yourself for being one of that group. I even came across a pretty sophisticated blog with the comment trail having the worst profanities you could think of. Some blog followers use certain blogs like social networking sites, flirting with each other or some even wooing the blogger. Its almost funny when you read comments like "I-liked-the-post-so-much-that-I-swooned-and-now-I-am-in-love-with-you-will-you-marry-me?". Guys, grow up, and dont tell me you came to the blog because you were interested to read what the author writes... I am sure the author is very good looking and you are crazy about her and are looking for ways to catch her attention, but please respect the sanctity of the blog. Dont pretend to like the intellect of the blogger when your interests lie elsewhere. And puhleazze dont convert a blog to a dating site, please use for such endeavors.
  • Sex sells. Even on a blog. So you have a whole group of "erotic writers" out there with pretty much their own exclusive blogosphere. Dont venture there if you are not into pornography, I wandered there by mistake and retraced my steps. No, I do not have anything against them, just that I wonder, if someone wants pornography shouldnt they just go to the numerous pornography websites complete with photos/videos. Or maybe I am just one of the ignorant fools who do not understand the beauty of erotic writing. Honestly I did not expect such an exhaustive category of erotic writers, some even giving detailed descriptions of their personal encounters. Needless to say these had immense fan following! Disclaimer: I dont think I need to say this but NONE of the blogs I follow or comment on come in the category mentioned above, so bloggers who own blogs I follow, please do not take offence :)!
  • There are professional bloggers who blog with the sole intention of blogging to make money or to popularize their blogs. Refer the first para of this post, these bloggers are not blogging for themselves at all. They will write things that make their blogs popular and will do anything in order to get more hits. Once again, I do not judge them, just that I find them very superficial and it is not interesting to read the blog of someone who is not genuine or someone who is faking. For most of it, you can always make out the genuine ones from the fake ones, if it seems too good to be true, know that its a fake. But sometimes it is scary, because I dont want to get carried away by a fake blogger pretending to be a genuine person. Disclaimer: Once again, I dont think I need to say this but NONE of the blogs I follow or comment on come in the category mentioned above, so bloggers who own blogs I follow, please do not take offence :)!
  • There are bloggers who, though they run public blogs, are not very keen on a lot of publicity. In a way I respect that feeling, and I dont think I myself would be very comfortable with the kind of popularity some blogs have. I was requested by one blogger whom I know in real life to remove the link to his/her blog from my blog list because he/she felt that the blog was getting too many hits, and some of them were through my blog. He/she felt that the consciousness of knowing that there are too many people reading ones blog, some of whom could be people you know in real life, hinders the freedom with which you can write if you dont have a care in the world. And then of course there are bloggers in my friend circle who changed their blog from public to private with very limited readership, so that they could write in peace and write whatever they wanted to. There are bloggers I know who changed their blog domains in order to retain their anonymity. I might ponder one of these soon :).

All said and done, most of the blogs I read have helped me broaden my horizon. What I love about most blogs is that it makes me think. It gives me a glimpse into the minds of people who are in different phases of life. Some remind me of the phases I have been through, some make me realize that there are phases of life that I have not yet reached. There are some very interesting high school bloggers, and believe me there is nothing kiddish about their blogs. For me it brings back so many memories, I so completely relate to them. There are college going bloggers, my favorites, writing about the difficulties of adolescence. There are romantic bloggers, who write about the beauty of love, and the sweet nothings of life, they take you to a different level altogether. There are bloggers with children, and it is fascinating to read about how different life is when you have kids, something which seems so far away for me, but yet it seems so exciting.

I am a bit wary of "Blog Celebrities", and I dont know why. There are times when I come across an awesome post, and feel like commenting, I click on comments and go through a sea of people who have already commented. Sometimes as many as 70 to 80 people. Everything that could be said has already been said and I dont feel that I shall add any value to the comment chain. And I humbly bow out. Sometimes its good to follow blogs silently, because there are too many loud vociferous followers who are already giving all the required flattery/criticism/opinions and there is more than enough competition to catch the bloggers attention :).

I also feel the need to explore the blogging world outside of the Indian blogosphere. I somehow mostly read blogs of NRI bloggers, people who have an Indian origin, but live outside India. Obviously I am able to relate to them better, and I am very curious to know how others cope with the life of an Indian outside India. However I have lately been thinking about reading outside my "Indian" and "NRI" blogging world, especially as my blog has an international audience. I dont think I will be interested in technology blogs (in spite of being in the technology profession, I prefer technology articles to technology blogs) or political blogs, but international blogs which tell us about the lives of people all over the world is something that will surely interest me. And as always, I shall keep you updated of any note worthy blogs I come across :)

And heres something to chew on:

Truth in Blogging
Modern Day Bully

Top image source: Cartoons from:

Monday, July 27, 2009

MJ: A Great Human Being. RIP

When MJ passed away, the blogging world went berserk writing everything that could be written about him. People who had never heard his music suddenly had very strong opinions about him. I didn’t mention him in my posts anywhere, not because he had not touched my life, but because there was too much being written about him, and I was a bit dazed and confused by it. Somehow in the entire furor that followed his death, everyone was too busy celebrating or desecrating MJ the star, nobody bothered about MJ the person. Hence this post comes a bit late, because it took me some time to come to terms with all the information overload that the media created, and to look a little bit deeper and understand that the MJ that I admired was not the MJ that the media and most (thankfully not all) bloggers were writing about.

I have been, as a kid, touched and bowled over by his music. Like most teenagers my age that time, I was at one time listening incessantly to all the songs in Bad and Dangerous over and over again, day and night, to the point where I was banned from going near the tape recorder (I know it sounds ancient, but that’s how we listened to music that time) for weeks. But as I grew up and started googling MJ on the net, I got to know stuff about him that made me admire MJ, the person. Most of the stuff has been written and talked about to the point where its common knowledge for any layman. But for some reason there has been little or no admiration for a guy who was a pioneer in things other than music. MJ was not just a successful singer, or a successful dancer, MJ was also a successful human being.

Few things that I admired about him:
1. MJ was a perfectionist. A meticulous planner. He planned his own shows, to the smallest of details. He heard the sound remixing and the instrument blending a hundred times, and did not settle for anything other than what he had exactly wanted. He would spend months trying to perfect a dance routine before performing it at a show. He would spend weeks synchronizing steps with a team before a dance performance. Ever noticed, that in any dance performance, somehow MJs dancing would be what caught your eye, with the perfect and most graceful moves, and how none of the troop dancers in the background even came close to the perfection MJ had?

2. MJ was a pioneer, he created and used sounds that had never been used in music before. And I am not just talking of the “glass-breaking” sound in BAD. Its there in all the music, he blended, mixed and remixed till he had something that had never been used before. Listen to all the music, most of the sounds you hear was not regular music “sounds” at that time.
The same applied to his dance style. He was an inventor, a creator. He wanted to do new things all the time. He has created and popularized more number of dance moves than any big pop star living or dead. He was also famous for the most innovative music videos.
He is credited with being the first to use the concept of music videos to popularize his songs. There were music videos where he invested more money than what he could make through the sale of the songs. But in the long run it paid off. The concept of spending effort and money into making innovative music videos to popularize music and brand artists caught on. Incidentally, he is also the first “African American” artist to be covered by MTV, the legend goes that MTV tried not giving coverage, but in the end had to give in to the huge popularity of his innovative music videos. A lot of his music videos were creative to the point of being controversial, some were even banned, the controversial ones being Black and White, Bad, They don’t really care about us, In the closet.
He is also one of the first, and perhaps the only person to use the most creative gigs on his shows. Simple stuff that caught the imagination of all his fans. His shadow dancing behind the curtain, strapping himself to a rocket launching himself off and a hundred other crazy things he did on stage made him the favorite of zillions of people.

3. The humanitarianism in MJ. He did not just talk about it, he lived it in his daily life. There are not a lot of stars that walk the talk like MJ did. Creating music for humanitarian and charity purposes is not something a lot of musicians risk. Sex sells, so does the hip and happening “bad” songs with dirty lyrics. MJ had been there and done that. But he took a pause, and created the likes of “Heal the World”, “We are the world”, “Man in the Mirror”, “Earth Song” which reached out to his audience for a cause other than to make money and create music. And I shall not even talk of him being in the Guinness Book for his charity.

4. But the thing I liked most about MJ was that he was an all-in-one, he was a master of all trades. One of the best musicians of the world, the best dancer who ever graced the stage, one of the most innovative choreographers, a heart-stealing song writer, the most fabulous singer, one of the most brave cinematographers, a near-perfect event planner, and most of all the kindest of humanitarians. Think about it, how many people in the history of mankind have achieved near perfection in so many fields.. simultaneously?

I do not know how true or false all his scandals were, and to be honest his personal life does not concern me. But it breaks my heart to ponder.. what if, just for a moment, I assume that all the accusations were lies. It breaks my heart to think what a man, who dedicated himself to giving the world so many new things, had to go through because of the selfish, money-driven motivations of a few people. He never really recovered emotionally from the second lawsuit, even though he fought it to the end and won the case. As for the other infamous rumors I will quote him from his Oprah interview “I admire Michelangelo and his art, and if I got to meet him, I would ask him what inspired him to create that art, not whom he went out with last night!” Bottom line, it doesn’t concern me as to how many cosmetic surgeries he did, or if he had an oxygen chamber in his mansion, its his life, his money, his body, and he can do what he wants with it. He is a star, and entitled to a stars life!

Here is an ode to a man who has been more than an ordinary pop star. Someone who has done and achieved more in his short lifetime than what races of people have been able to achieve over generations. To a person who has given us amazing music, introduced us to dancing as a way of life, and taught us some valuable lessons about giving back to the world what the world has given to us.

These JC quotes are sacred to me, and I don’t think I can use them for any person other than MJ.

“The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones”

For some reason scandal sells more than the noble things done by people, and MJ has been no exception to the rule. But I think for a moment we should separate the good from the bad, and appreciate the amount of good that MJ had in him.
Amidst all the numerous comments that people made in the zillion interviews that were aired on TV, the comment that caught my attention, and shall perhaps be my most memorable comment about MJ ever was something stated by a young girl who was in the troop of dancers who were practicing with MJ for his upcoming tour. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was something like this “It was tough and complex dancing that we were doing, and even for us young professionals who do it on a regular basis, it was grueling work, that completely sapped all our energies. And to think that MJ, who was twice our age and hadn’t had the practice for years, was jumping from zero to a 100 mph and doing all the things that we were doing must have been crazy. I don’t think its humanly possible, but that guy just wouldn’t give up. He wanted to be there, practicing as much as any one of us”. That for me explains MJ in a nutshell “the-guy-who-wouldn’t-give-up”.

P.S. My apologies to those who are not interested in MJ or in music, and those who think that senti posts about celebrities on a blog suck. I do not usually write about celebrities because I think too much is already being written about them and they anyway do not deserve so much attention. But I let MJ be the only exception. Because I believe that he was more than just a celebrity.

Whether you are a MJ fan or not, do stop by to have a look at this 10 minute MJ video, which I believe is the perfect example of the perfection in the life of this man. I have been watching this video since I was a kid, and have seen it a zillion times, but I never get tired of watching it because it is so "Perfect". When you watch this video, think about how much of effort and dedication that has gone behind it all. Check out all the gimmicks, the dance moves and the choreography, and think about one man being behind it all. Make sure you watch his dance moves in the time bracket 4:20 to 5:30 and from 6:25 onwards. Believe me, one has to be a genius to be able to put together something like this!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Post 2

Back in high school, did you ever take a pause and wonder where you would be 20 years down the line? What you would be doing? Whether you would be the air force pilot / rock star you had plans for, or you would be the cab driver who lived around the corner? Did you ever extend your thoughts to your friends, and wonder what your best friend will be upto 10 to 15 years hence? Of course you would have thought that nothing would separate you from your best friend (s) but ever wondered what everyone would be doing after “growing up”?

Well maybe you never gave it a thought, but back in high school, we used to have such thoughts every once in a while. After playing cricket for 4-5 hours in the scorching summer, we would be lying down under the cool shade of the largest tree in the colony. Tb, the foodie amongst us, would be crunching some local made chips, the cheapest available in the small store at the corner of the store, and sipping a coveted “Frooti”. Ba would be sheepishly stealing a quick smoke, looking as guilty as a criminal. T would be straining to peek into House no 384, trying to catch a glimpse of the pretty girl who had recently moved in. And then the conversation would start about where we would all be 10 maybe 15 years down the line.

We would have the craziest dreams, and wonder if anyone of us would make it big. If anyone would be a millionaire, if someone would be a movie star, or a pop icon. T would wonder if he would be able to get married to 384 (code name for the girl in House no 384). And we would talk of all the people we knew in school, and make predictions of who will do what. At home, in my colony we were some ‘core’ friends. T, Tb, Bu, S, Ba, and Bb.

T was the funniest of us all. He was 3rd down in the batting line up, spin bowler and used to field in the long-on position. Very emotional and falling in “love” with a new girl every other week. A lot like Saifs character in DCH. He was not the brightest student in school, but was very intelligent and had a passion, the only problem was that he didn’t know what it was for. He loved ogling at girls, hated studies, loved roaming the streets on Bu’s Vespa and spent huge amounts of money buying gifts for girls he had never spoken to. T went on to lose touch with all of us (he got back in touch only a few months back), and hence I have very little information for the in-between period. I heard that T dropped out of college, joined Pantaloons in Sales, did very well and got promoted to a team lead, then changed a few companies and is now an Event Manager with an Event Management company. He was the first amongst us to get married and did not invite any of us to the wedding as he was not in touch with anyone. He continues to be very emotional and I wonder if he would still go around in Bu’s Vespa if he could.

Tb was the most studious of them all. He was the perennial topper, very hard working and very focused and ambitious. He was mostly at home studying, but when he came to play on some occasions, he was 4th down in the batting line up, was a medium fast bowler and fielded at short mid-off. He was a quite guy you would tend to under-estimate, but he was very sharp and very smart. His biggest regret in life was that he did not and could not have a girlfriend, because he somehow got very nervous when talking to girls. Tb went on to go to IIT for his engineering, passed out with flying colors, got a job in a big Indian IT company, was not satisfied, and switched to a smaller company for nearly double the salary. Tb continues to do very well in his job, he recently got a promotion. Tb has still not managed to get a girlfriend.

Bu was the talkative one. Opening or 1st down in batting, spin bowler and fielding at mid-on. Bu was not very studious but managed to come in the top 10 at school. He was level headed and was called the politician and the leader of the group. Usually flitted between being the captain or vice-captain of the team. Known for going up on stage, planning out and directing the drama for the local puja and hosting shows at the colony functions. From a boys school, he also had a fear of girls, but everyone believed he had ‘potential’ for making up for it later. Bu went on to do his engineering from some unheard of college in Maharashtra, joined an Indian IT company, got restless and left his job, did his MBA from one of the better Business Schools in the country and went abroad to some obscure country to work for a global IT giant. He got married to his classmate from college, they say she is quite a babe.

Ba was the notorious one. He didn’t come for practices so in the inter colony matches he was usually an “extra”. The rebel and the spoilt brat he had bikes and gadgets at an age when we were still struggling to have enough money to buy chewing gum and balls for our cricket matches. Ba went on to flunk board exams at school multiple times, went to engineering college but dropped out in second year. I hear he is doing pretty well for himself in some not-so-legal-activities back home.

S was the sportsman. Opening batsman, super fast bowler, and ace fielder in any position. He was our star player, we would declare a walk-over for matches where he could not play. Alternated the captain/vice-captain position with Bu. S used to laugh at Tb for wasting his time studying, realized later that it was such a mistake. S stayed on in my small home town while most of us went to bigger cities to study. I didn’t stay in touch with him, but I heard he is an insurance agent now.

Bb was the guy who never played cricket or football or any game which required physical effort. He didn’t like sports, none of us have till date understood why. But he was a great guy and nice to hang out with. So he used to sit with the batting team and entertain them with his knowledge bank of weird things. He was a TV addict, I have learnt about most TV shows (which later I have obsessed about) from him, which includes “I dream of..”, “Wonder Years”, “FRIENDS” and a lot more. He was the one who got me crazy and obsessed about MJ when I knew very little about music, he forced me to listen to all his songs. He had the full collection of Tintin, and was the reason why all of us still quote Calculus and Captain Haddock in our day to day lives. Bb had an uncanny talent of making small model cars out of cigarette boxes. His cars were SO real that I often told him to take it up as a profession, but he was very embarrassed about his hobby because he thought it was very sissy. He would take apart old radios and TV sets, and even had an old Fiat car to experiment on. Needless to say he wanted to be an automotive engineer. Unfortunately he couldn’t survive the rigors of engineering college and dropped out in between. He is now working somewhere in eastern India, I have immense faith in him that he will, in the end, do something great with his life.

There were more of them (in case you are wondering of the missing slots in the batting line-up), but these guys were the closest to my heart. We have grown up together and then have just “scattered”. If someday we all went back and sat together at the same “adda”, the corner stone where we would sit for 20 minutes after our evening cricket, I wonder if the conversation would be as exciting and interesting, and if we will be able to relate to everyone as we used to. Do we change and evolve to become completely different people than what we were as kids? My heart wants to think that we don’t. It tells me that I will be able to go back, sit at the adda and laugh just as much as I used to, and that nothing would have changed. We would just be a bit older, a bit more mature and with a bit of a different background than we used to have, but it wont change our friendship. Nothing would change our friendship. Heres a toast to all our cricket, our “Saat Pitto”, our Kabaddi, “Maara maari”, football, “Cycle Chhor Police”, “S-T-O-P” and all the other games we have played. “Those were the best days of my life!!”

1. This is the second post in the series of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. posts that I will write when I feel nostalgic, please bear with me. Inspired by the first F.R.I.E.N.D.S post HERE.

2. Don’t try searching for me in the picture above, it is symbolic and taken from a different source, as given below the pic. Though I am very tempted to put up a picture of our cricket team from back then, I will not do so out of respect of everyone’s privacy.

3. I have now installed tracking software to be able to track my stalker and anyone else bothering me. God help the guy/gal if he/she is some college youngster wanting to have some fun, because, thanks to the Swedish vacation, I now have the time on my hands to track them down and call their parents :). Hence comments are now open once again, please comment!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

And a good day...

I was determined to make today a good day. And I did succeed to a great extent! In spite of the nasty escalations calls (why cant people talk nicely on escalation calls? Cant everyone just decide that they too want to have a good day?). And so I smiled, talked nicely to everyone (including the people in the escalation calls and successfully disassociated myself from some stupid moronic stalkers! I also had a great Iranian lunch, which you probably already realized from the picture above. I listened to some good music on the way to work and back and did not crib about the long time it takes to travel to work. And I spent a lot of time listening to other peoples woes. I realized that if I can be of help to people, even by doing the smallest of things it brightens up my day.

So that was my day in a nutshell. Thanks to all for your valuable legal advice and sympathies about me being stalked. No, I was not serious about suing anyone :). Even though I traced the persons IP, found out that the person got referred to my blog through the Orkut scrapbook, and even found out the persons location. But I realized I dont have the time to involve myself in such frivoulous pursuits. And I was determined to make today a good day. So my stalker has been spared of the wrath of an IT super geek :).

I have recently realized that all my close friends have for some reason now settled in the US. Damn, not a single soul in Europe. There is the Connought Place Friend, the Sardar Friend, my "Langothia" Cousin, Iya and the Harvard Doctor. Harvard Doctor, whom I have known since I was 11 years old, now even has plans to buy a house in Houston. So I will now have to seriously discuss a US trip with MBF. Too many invitations on the card. Ab ek visit banta hai!

Monday, July 20, 2009

A bad day..

After having glorified my new apartment in my mind, I am now feeling the negative impacts of staying so far away from my workplace. Travelling more than one hour to reach is not a pleasant thing and I need to get used to it. One cannot have a great apartment, live in central Stockholm AND have less travel time. SIGH! Music shalt be my savior on my trip to work :).

I spoke too soon about the lack of work, today was a day of escalations. Hence not the best of days. But it’s a pleasure coming back to such an amazing apartment, it compensates for everything :).

Some moronic people are stalking me (yes, at last I am a celebrity), hence comments will be disabled till the stalker loses patience and finds something better to do :). I even talked to a very good lawyer friend of mine, who said “Get the IPs and just give it to me and I will sue them out of their minds” but what the hell, in all probability its some kid who has nothing better to do, so I wont do anything till the kid decides to continue. Most people forget that there is nothing called “Anonymous” on the internet anymore. It takes very few tools and a few minutes to track down anyone’s IP, ones location, the OS and the web browser being used, the city and even the exact computer. Being in the IT world gives one visibility to such things and its strange how most people do not know about this and believe that you can still be anonymous. So keep this in mind the next time you think of doing something fishy anonymously on the internet :) !

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Summer in Stockholm

Three blog posts in three days??!! When was the last time I did that? Umm... when I started blogging (my first 10 posts came on 10 days). :) Why this sudden rush of blogging? More time to think, more time to observe, more time to ponder and more time to write. Why more time? Because of the Swedish summer holidays. Oh you didnt know about that one? Well let me tell you about it then. I found it wierd at first but have now gotten pretty used to the idea. It all originates from the fact that Sweden has an extremely hard and gruellingly cold winter and a beautiful, heavenly lush, warm summer. So the Swedes work hard during the winter, without any reprive and with a determination that makes you admire them. And come summer, they all close shop, pack their bags, put on their bermudas, caps, tanning lotions and shades and head out. Where? Anywhere, it doesnt matter, as long as they head out somewhere. Everything shuts down, shops, government services, schools, colleges, offices, even the visa office is close to non operational! I always marvel at how a whole country can completely shut down and go for vacation for one whole month! The favorite destination is Thailand, because its cheap, its exotic and its a far away country. Closer to home, vacation spots include the general touristy parts of europe.. Greece, Spain, the Mediterranean, anywhere with a lot of sun and some beaches to get tanned. Those who cannot afford exotic far away places settle for the swedish archipelago, but getting tanned is a basic neccessity of every Swede in summer.

Hence currently nearly all my clients are on vacation. All of my swedish colleagues and swedish managers are on vacation. The work load is considerably less. Are you going to ask me why I am not on vacation? Well, my client is a global company and people around the globe are not on vacation, hence someone has to be the backup for all the people who are on vacation. And that guy is me. No, dont feel bad, I get to take my vacation during Diwali in India. (>> crosses his fingers and says "hopefully!")

I have to end on a good note, so heres what Stockholm looks like on a bright cheerful summer day, every person in Stockholm is out enjoying the sun!!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Moving House

I have been in a bad shape for the last 2 weeks, because of “apartment problems” and have had to solve the problems in a very short time span. But I decided not to blog about it so as not to jinx the solution.

So heres the story, I can narrate it now that it has a happy ending :). The lease of my current apartment, where I have been staying for the past approx two years was supposed to expire at the end of July. My landlady, who had been living in Italy, had decided to return to Sweden, so she would not be able to extend the lease. I had seen a few apartments and had liked one in Skänstull. Everything seemed to be going fine till one day early morning a few men, dressed in repair overalls rang the doorbell. There had been a major leakage downstairs in the Storage room and the Söprum (Garbage disposal room) and they will have to rip out the kitchen walls and floor. No, they cannot wait for even one day, it is urgent. So out came all the furniture and appliances of our nice modular kitchen. And guess where everything was shifted to? The Living room/Parlor of course! So we had our beautiful kitchen walls and floor ripped out, and our living room had a non functional fridge, a big OTG oven, a dishwasher, a microwave and loads of utensils.

The kitchen BEFORE disaster struck

The kitchen AFTER disaster struck

Overnight life became a nightmare. Nothing could be cooked and it became tough to eat out two times a day (thankfully my friends were sooo nice, there were free flowing dinner and lunch invitations :). Even morning coffee, made with hot water from the microwave became messy because the only place to wash the cups was the basin. The workmen in the kitchen would drill the floor and the noise and the dust was sickening. The fuse would trip every few hours because of the machinery being used. And to top it all, the guy who was supposed to rent out the Skänstull apartment changed his mind because his shift out date got changed. And so if I did not want to live in the hell hole I had to start searching an apartment and fast.

So I saw a number of apartments. And I realized how difficult it is to find the right apartment. As Iya was telling me the other day, for a crab, the home and everything related to it, the house, the location, the size, the partner/bf/gf, is very important. I guess it holds true for me as well. So either the apartment was not located in a good place, (like the amazing lavishly furnished, ground floor 90 square meters apartment in Akalla). Or it was in the most sought after locality in Sweden, but was not a good apartment. (like the 46 square meter apartment in Gamla Stan, small, creaky, falling apart, but a kilometer away from the palace of the King of Sweden, in the old town of central Stockholm).

And the day our fuse refused to take the load of even a bulb, the basin started getting clogged and the heavy noisy machinery started being deployed in our kitchen, we finally saw the perfect apartment. Located in Gullmarsvägen, it was close to the metro station (a very important factor in winter, because you don’t want to walk a lot when its minus 15 degrees with inches of snow on the pavement). Beautiful locality, roads lined with trees, lawns around the buildings and spacious sidewalks and parks everywhere. Amazingly large apartment, very well furnished, a big living hall to have nice parties in and a big kitchen. I love cooking, and it is very important for me to have a nice kitchen more important than any other room in fact (now you will not hear a lot of guys say this!). This one had a spacious kitchen with a nice window facing the trees and great kitchen appliances. Ok, I wont go into the details, but in short, I love the apartment. It is as good as it gets. My office is a bit far off, but I have no regrets about travelling the extra distance (12 minutes extra on the metro) because the apartment is so awesome :). And now I should really stop raving about the apartment. The move, with all its intricacies and hurdles has been completed with everything intact. Alls well that ends well :).

For those who have are on my Orkut/Facebook friends list, I uploaded my apartment pics there, for the rest, heres a nice view just in front of my apartment :).

Friday, July 17, 2009

My Favorite T-Shirt

Everyone who puts up their own pic as the profile pic on Facebook/Orkut think they are looking cute in it. I am no exception. There is however a small catch. People used to think that the caption on the T-shirt I am wearing in that pic is cheesy. Now they don’t. Now they don’t THINK that its cheesy, now they KNOW it is, because of this post on Shobha De’s blog:


I don’t care. I got this T-shirt from Prague and its my favorite T-shirt. And it will continue being on my Facebook/Orkut profile :). And you can call me self-obsessed if you want to :).

P.S. Too bad this blog is anonymous and I had to cut off the face from this pic :P.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

SQCA: Simple Questions with Complicated Answers

Ever been the brunt of a very simple question that you struggled to give an answer to? A really simple, ordinary question, for which the inquirer usually expects a one word straightforward answer, but for which, just in your case, the answer is extremely complicated. When asked this question, your response is usually a ridiculous answer, or a thoughtful/confused look, a lot of fillers while you try to think of an appropriate answer and go "err..." or "umm.. lets see" and make the person asking the question think "Damn, its such a simple question, why does this guy/gal make it appear like its the KBC 1 crore question?". We all have our SQCAs, Simple Questions with Complicated Answers. For most of my single friends a classic SQCA is "So when are you planning to get married?" For others the question is "Are you single?" For my married friends it is "When are you planning to have kids?". For some ambitious career oriented people I know even "Are you happy with your current job?" is a SQCA. For most of my NRI friends a classic SQCA is " Are you planning to settle abroad permanently?". I even know some people to whom a question as simple as "Was it a love marriage or an arranged marriage?" is one of the toughest SQCAs!!

So yes, I have some SQCAs, one of them is “What do you do professionally?”. Some people don’t ask further when I mention the two golden words “Information Technology”. Some don’t go further if I give them the name of the company I work for, it’s one of the most recognized companies in the world. Its strange, that when I say I work for XXX, they just don’t ask further, even though this company is into more than 15 different diverse fields and has more than a hundred different professions. But other than the few who do not ask further, I get this question a lot. Yes I know, it sounds like the easiest question in the world, but I have struggled to answer it. Because anything I say will not be understood or will be misunderstood. But with time I have realized that I should give the technically correct answer. So now my standard answer is “I am a consultant by profession”. The problem with consulting is that there are too many types of consulting and they are very diverse from each other. Management consulting and Application Consulting are two ends of a stick. Business Information consulting is somewhere in between. If you call a Management consultant an Application Consultant, he will be insulted, call a SAP consultant a Management consultant and he will be flattered. The other problem is that there are way too many jokes about consulting. And the perception of the profession is undermined beyond all imagination. I hold Dilbert responsible for it. Anyway, when I give this answer, I am met by blank looks, or sometimes further questioning. What are your job responsibilities? Are you a manager? What does the role require you to do on a day to day basis? Umm… so I explain, my job requires me to do B2B sales, pitch for new business, do baseline business development.. the role is also into service delivery management, program management, client engagement… and very soon I realize that the person in front thinks I am talking gibberish. And then I shut up and give a stupid grin and say “As I said, I am into consulting”. I am not alone, I recently realized that a lot of people have the same SQCA when I was talking to some of my colleagues. And I didn’t realize the extent to which I confuse people till I created this “How well do you know Merlin” quiz on FB. One of the questions was “What is my profession?”. The options were Consultant, Sales Manager, Project Manager, Software Developer, Chief Information Officer. Nearly all my friends got it wrong! SIGH. And even in spite of all the confusion and in spite of all my self obsessed Reggie Mantle bragging, nobody thought I am the CIO. Damn!

Here another SQCA. “What are your work timings?” Umm… eh.. like.. Typical response to this SQCA as well. I work for one of the best employers in the world (as per the most recent survey :P), one of the perks of working for this employer, and perhaps of being in my profession (which I bet you have still not been able to fathom) is that I don’t have fixed work timings. I can work when I want, from where I want. MBF will disagree, MBF will say, my profession means I work ALL the time :P. But the truth is I don’t have to reach office at a designated time or leave after a designated time. Its the most ideal scenario, as long as I get my work done and keep the moolah coming in, nobody cares when I come and when I go. Of course, I need to be present at client meetings and client events, and they can be at some absolutely ungodly hours. I might be called to attend meetings at short notice, might be on call continuously through the day, a lot of times at night as well. I might be attending client dinners on my birthday. And yet, I do not have any “regular office timings”, which I feel is a big convenience. It means that I can WFH (work from home for the uninitiated), when I don’t have any major meetings, and I don’t have to mail/call/inform my manager or anyone that I am doing so. Hence sometimes I am leave for work at 7.00 am, sometimes its 2p.m. sometimes 7p.m. only for some client event.. it varies. Now you know why this one is a SQCA for me?

Umm.. other SQCAs I have.. “When will you permanently return to India, will you ever?” (The standard SQCA for nearly every NRI), “Are you satisfied with your job?” (The day I am satisfied, I shall retire!) “How much do you earn?” (I know its rude, but people still ask, and I get my salary in two different currencies, its complicated!!), and some others which I am embarrassed to even write about :).

Some interesting answers to SQCAs of some friends, and I swear these are real ones from real life:

Q: What is your ethinicity?
A: Its complicated. My father was half British, my mother was Spanish, I was brought up in Italy, and studied in Australia and now I am a Swedish citizen in Sweden. However my wife is Iranian and I identify with the culture a lot.

Q: How many children do you have?
A: Umm.. that’s a tough question, I have 1 boy from my previous wife, and one from my current wife, my current wife also has 2 kids from her previous marriage, and we have 3 kids in the house presently.

Q: Where do you live?
A: Hmm.. interesting question.… my family lives in London, but I work in Sweden, so I am in Stockholm 3 days a week and in Malmo 2 days a week, and back home in London on weekends. But I have a house in Italy and one in Thailand, and I usually spend my vacations there.

SQCAs are widely acknowledged, not the term (that’s invented purely by me), but the general concept. Recently my business school alumni team opened an online google document where we were supposed to update our current status, company, profile, location, email etc etc. There was also a column for “Relationship Status” and the options in the drop down were Single, Married, Committed and Its Complicated :).

So heres tagging all my Blog friends (if you are reading this, and if you know I read your blog, you are tagged!).

What is your SQCA?

Quote of the day (yes, once again, but its relevant!)
Before you call someone a weirdo, remember.. Everybody is someone elses weirdo!!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Itz My Birfday

It was my birthday some time back (that shouldn’t be news, I guess on a number of occasions I have pointed out that I am a cancerian!). No, please don’t comment and wish me a belated happy bday right now if you didnt wish me already :P, the intention of this post is not to gather belated wishes! I don’t like publicizing my birthday and want it to be a very small private day for myself with very near and dear ones. Most people I know want to celebrate it with as many people as possible, they don’t mind celebrating it even with strangers, as long as there are lots of people. Although I am in general a “people” loving person, love parties, crowds, people, but just for my bday, I like keeping it low key. So I like it when I spend it with the people who are closest to me, and am happy when just a few handful who are close to me remember and wish me. And I don’t get offended when people don’t remember my bday. For the simple reason that I don’t remember theirs :). But every bday it is very interesting to find out the people who remember and wish me and the people who don’t, because of the huge variations.

So the regular ones, the ones closest to me, wished me this year as well, like always. I am lucky that way. I expect few, very very few people to wish me. And I have never been disappointed. When others wish me, I am amused at the thought that they remembered. I have had fights and tiffs with most of my friends because I have not remembered their bdays. Most of them (nearly all the girls) get extremely angry when I forget their birthdays. It doesn’t stop me, however, from forgetting it the next year again :P. What amuses me though, is that they never ever seem to remember mine :). I don’t mind, really, for me its just another day. But I just cant help smiling at the irony. More interesting however was when some "acquaintances" pinged me and talked to me for quite some time without realizing it was my birthday. I was wondering if I should tell them and make them feel miserable, then thought WTF, Itz My Birfday, I shoudnt be naugfty :P.

So everyone asked me, what did you do on your bday? And my answer is, nothing. Nothing special that is. I like it that way. In general I am an obnoxiously self-obsessed, self-admiring, self back-patting, ego-centric Reggie Mantle kind of creature. But on my birthday, I like things to be simple. Nothing grand, nothing extra-ordinary. And so I don’t know what to tell people when they ask me how I celebrated my birthday. I woke up, was wished by a few near and dear ones, and then wished by a few not-so-near-and-dear ones. I worked from home. I am very secretive about my birth date, so I made sure nobody at work knew (I find it a bit awkward when people I know professionally are forced to wish me!) I spent the day with My Best Friend (MBF). We had planned to go out for lunch, but we had already eaten out the previous night, and so on request, MBF made me some nice home cooked lunch. We then went to the temple, like I have done every year. Not because I am religious, but just because it is very peaceful, and I have now done it for so many years that its like a habit. For dinner, I had an important dinner meeting with a senior director on the client side, and my account Vice President. The dinner was critical, and I couldn’t cancel it. And so I ended up at Grill ( Theme restaurant, exotic food, expensive wine, and no enjoyment. That’s another irony of life, when I go to these really expensive places for client dinners. The bill comes upto more than 800 SEK (roughly Rs 5000) per head, and I realize I have hated the food so much that I am tempted to go back and have proper dinner at home. I guess I am still very desi at heart!

And keeping up with my resolution to re emphasize the “definition of blogging” here’s a blog of another Cancerian. Its eerie what she says about Cancerian bloggers.. why do I feel that a lot of my Cancer friends who blog will be a bit taken aback ;) Check this one out:
Matter-of-fact writing style. Reminds me of MBF. I wonder if Wishes Galore and MBF would hit it off real well if they got together!!
A pic of the restaurant, even if the food wasn’t good, the ambience certainly was :).

Grill picture:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Ever noticed that your rate of making new friends decreases over the years? Yes, it is a cliché, but sometimes the realization just hits you, and its not a good feeling. Because its so difficult to retain your old friends given geographical distances and the rapid pace with which people change… and there is more people you are losing touch with than getting back in touch with. Till a point when I feel that with time will I just be left with one or two people I can call friends? Maybe some of you do not identify with what I am saying, I am more of a people person, and have always had a lot of friends around me. And feel a bit lost when I am not surrounded by a million friends. No, I am not cribbing, I am lucky to have my best friend always beside me, but its just a passing thought.

I am working on a strategy assignment with a senior strategy consultant who has been in Sweden for 2 months and will be leaving this weekend. We have developed a very good rapport and have discussed on topics ranging from politics, philosophy, life, marriage, children, career, consulting, company vision and what not. And yesterday he was telling me how strange it is… the way we meet people, gel well with them, have an amazing time, and then just “scatter”. I like the word “scatter” even though its probably not the most relevant word to use here. Because it signifies what I feel about friends I have had a great time with. We haven’t grown apart, we haven’t lost our friendship, we haven’t stopped thinking about the good times, we haven’t stopped craving to get back and recreate those magical moments. We have just scattered, and its just so tough to gather all the pieces and put it back together. And I am in the phase of my life where all old friends are getting married, having kids, going abroad and changing jobs with lightening speed. So it’s a bit weird when you find your engg. college friend on Orkut, and in the first pic it’s a single photo of him, and you think man, hes not changed at all, it seems just yesterday when we were hanging out at the run down “tapri” outside college and ogling at pretty girls. And in the next pic he is standing with his wife and two kids with the NY skyline behind. And there is a sudden disconnect. Have things changed SO much? Will we still be able to get back together someday and laugh at the same jokes. Will he be scandalized if I tell him the latest dirty joke I have heard, just like old times? Will his wife understand the bond we share, the extreme times we have gone together in college, violent ragging by drunk seniors, student politics and college romances? Will life ever be the same, or will all the memories also scatter like the friends?

Sometimes they find me a bit too sensitive and mushy, but I like holding on to the friends I have.. sometimes a bit too much. Maybe its because at times like these I understand their value!
Just a weird nostalgic thought!