Friday, March 30, 2007

Reservation?, forget that...Hear Pentagram's Voice

I love this song...Pentagram's latest offering coupled with Channel V's "Shot By You" initiative, that lets people send in their video clips, to compile the video for this song, is an absolute treat.

The link for the mp3 hosted by Channel V is here
Rush to get it, I don't know how long it'll remain hosted there.

The lyrics can be found here

A YouTube video with the anti-reservation theme for this song can be seen here

Are you anti-reservation? Are you pro-reservation? or Are you unimpressed by the hoo-haa, and would rather let those insane monkeys in parliament beat themselves up over vote-bank politics, while the SC tries lamely to discipline them.

I don't know how reservation in educational institutions and private sector companies will benefit anybody. Whatever happened to the merit-based selection process? Hasn't this process ensured that the cream of the crop gets into the IIM's and IIT's? Hasn't this selection process proved itself successful over the years? Why fix something if it aint' broke? Is Arjun Singh the most persevering politico around? he's been in quota mess for as long as anyone can remember!

Word on the street is that the govt will squash all attempts at resistance....both from demonstrators, and the Hon'ble Supreme Court.

Somebody told me that reservation (she called it affirmative action), will work only to divide society. I told her not to worry...our society is already so fragmented, one more won't even be noticeable.

What do you think? tell me...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Brainbench Personality Evaluation.

I love taking tests, sometimes it delights me to see how badly i fail..:)
A certain busybody asked me to get my personality(huh?) evaluated by Brainbench. I figured, might as well post the damn results goes nothing.


Trait |<--|---|---|---- Range ----|---|---|--->| Trait
Introverted |..........X.............................| Extroverted
Candid |..................X.....................| Considerate
Impulsive |..X.....................................| Cautious
Excitable |..............X.........................| Relaxed
Practical |..................X.....................| Imaginative
Concrete |......................................X.| Abstract
|<--|---|---|---- Range ----|---|---|--->|

Your Social Boldness: Introverted VS Extroverted
You are moderately introverted. I bet you hear this a lot,
"You are so nice." That is because you do not have a
brash, bold personality, instead you are warm and friendly
and a pleasure to be around. You are not into the wild,
crazy nightlife scene. To you a nice social atmosphere
tends to be a quieter, more comfortable place where you can
spend time with good friends. Your cooperative nature is
especially pleasant in a group atmosphere where decisions
must be made. You may not always be the person who
initiates conversations or talks first in a meeting, but
when you have something important to say you are willing to
share it. At times you can be shy, but this does not mean
that you are being standoffish, just that you are cautious
and need time to assess the situation.

Your Agreeableness: Candid VS Considerate
You are slightly candid. Social harmony is important to
you, as is evidenced by your cooperative, generous, and
helpful nature. If someone asks you what you want to do,
you may reply, "whatever you want". That is not because you
are indecisive, rather you genuinely want the other person
to be happy, and so whatever they want to do is fine with
you. In general, you are straightforward and sincere with
others, which makes you very likeable. People always know
where you stand. You regard others positively - you trust
people and feel they are honest, so you have no problem
responding in kind. No one will accuse you of being
arrogant. Your self-esteem is just fine, but you do not
think you are better than anyone else. Your desire to help
others is seen in your altruistic nature. You enjoy helping
others and you do not expect anything in return.

Your Self-Control: Impulsive VS Cautious
You are very impulsive. You are an independent thinker. You
do not need a book of rules to tell you how to behave - you
know inside what is right and what is wrong and you act
accordingly. You are able to live life spontaneously,
because you are able to make decisions without endless
deliberation. In fact, when you and another person are
making a decision, you are able to reach a solution fairly
quickly while the other person has to cautiously plan every
step. Eventually, they will agree with you, which is
frustrating when your first impulse is usually the correct
one in the decision-making process. You tend to be a little
more casual, and you do not feel out of sorts when your
home or office is not perfectly neat. In general, your life
is pleasurable - you know how to have fun and will never be
accused of being staid or stuffy.

Your Anxiety Level: Excitable VS Relaxed
You are moderately excitable. In trying situations, you
feel somewhat stressed and frustrated. At times you are
able to overcome these feelings, but other times you feel
overwhelmed. This could run the gamut of just being in a
bad mood to experiencing anxiety, anger, or depression. In
general, you prefer a stress-free existence, so that the
possibility of negative emotions would not be a factor. You
tend to be somewhat self-conscious in social situations,
and are worried that people may judge or criticize you. You
may react emotionally to people or circumstances that you
find threatening, because you want to protect yourself.
Every so often you cave into urges or cravings. Sometimes
you feel a little guilty about it, other times you are just
fine with your fun streak.

Your Openness to Change: Practical VS Imaginative
You are slightly practical. It is apparent to those who
meet you that you are well educated. You are able to speak
on a complex level to one audience, but adjust to a more
basic level for another. You are bright and capable of
thinking logically. On one hand you are down-to-earth and
traditional, while on the other hand you are creative and
imaginative. Sometimes you feel more comfortable with
familiarity and routine in your life, other times new and
novel experiences are more enjoyable. You are not afraid to
try new things. You tend to like to do a variety of
different activities, so you do not grow bored.

The way you Think/Reason: Concrete VS Abstract
You are very abstract in your thinking. You tend to be
quick to grasp ideas, are a fast learner and intelligent.
You possess a hallmark of intelligence that potentially
separates human beings from earlier life forms, the ability
to think about future consequences before acting on an
impulse. Your reasoning activity involves contemplation of
long-range goals, organizing and planning routes to these
goals, and persisting toward one's goals in the face of
short-lived impulses to the contrary. You also have keen
interests in intellectual matters and love to play with
ideas and think theoretically. You tend to be open-minded
to new and unusual ideas, and like to debate intellectual
issues. You often enjoy riddles, puzzles, and brainteasers.

---ends here..the rest is all me...

Oh, and one more thing...Brainbench tells me...

Please keep in mind that scores on a personality assessment are neither good nor bad. As with any personality inventory, scores and descriptions can only approximate an individual's actual personality. Questions about the accuracy of your results are best resolved by reviewing and discussing your report with people who know you well.

So if anyone wants to review or discuss this report of mine....bring it on...

He, She and your's truly

He: It takes him a couple of seconds to decipher the code....but this time theres no mistaking it. She definitely smiled at him. He drops his gaze and almost violently pores over the menu card, pretending to read those items he knows almost by heart. Too afraid to look into those dark brown eyes. Afraid of encouraging even the briefest bit of conversation. Its a defensive impulse. He's been here before. The memories still make him wince, as if in physical pain. But he does not let these emotions control him. He has stored all those feelings neatly, behind closed, locked drawers in his subconscious. Although he is sometimes forced to frown, angered by their presence, clouding his otherwise expressionless features. Maybe this time it will be different? Quickly, his conscience shoots him down. Fool! optimistic, romantic, pathetic fool. He quietly accepts the inevitable negativity, and resigns himself to stay alone....unhappy maybe, but unhurt, and somewhat alive.

She: She cant believe what just happened. She just smiled at that quiet, serious looking guy at the corner table. But this guy did not react like the others. She saw the ghost of a frown on his face, and his blatant rejection, as he buries himself into the menu. What is his story?, she thinks. Is he damaged-goods?, a broken hearted, pessimistic ex-romantic like herself? Maybe, just maybe, he needs someone like me, who better to understand that pain, than a fellow sufferer. She recognizes his instant rejection as a product of his strong instinct of self-preservation, further enhanced by the sorrow's from his recent past. But why risk it, the hell with him, he doesn't know what he's missing...She consoles herself by ordering her pasta, and to spite him further, seats herself facing away from him.

Me:Too bad, neither took the leap of faith. Both so well entrenched in their own troubles that they never gave coupling a chance. And both found themselves trapped in that inescapable black hole of self-pity. Too bad. They would have been perfect together. But who am I to comment...I was too busy pretending to read that damn menu...

Friday, March 16, 2007

The window-sill visitor

He sits by the window, waiting, watching for the little bird to make its way past the towering buildings to his window-sill. There is a strange relationship between them. He whistles Mozart's Violin Concerto No.4 in D Major every morning at 9:30, and the little bird comes to peck at the pieces of bread, sipping at the small plastic bowl of water that he keeps at the window-sill. This routine has been going on for 20 days, and he sits as usual, behind the half-drawn curtain...waiting for his friend to come visit him. It takes all his strength to shoo away the pigeons and crows, so that his friend can have a pleasant breakfast....unhurried and uninterrupted. Today though, he cannot whistle the tune, his lungs have been eaten away by cancer...and even a whisper sends him into paroxysms of pain. But the bird doesn't seem to mind the lack of music, it still feeds on the bread, and seems to thank him with a few chirps and a flap of its wings from time to time. Soon, he knows he won't be allowed to come to the window, the needles intravenously confining him to the hospital bed. With a sigh, he drops his head, and at that instant the little bird looks at him questioningly...perhaps sensing his sadness. In a few months, the doctor said, he would be on life-support...meaning his worn-out lungs would be no longer capable of even the strain of breathing. The thoughts running around in his head cause even him to laugh out loud...that deep, booming laugh which used to echo around the house, today comes out more like a wheezing cough...instantly frightening away the little bird. He isn't thinking about his impending death, nor about the wife and children he's leaving behind, he's wondering who will feed the little bird once he's gone.....

Decisions Decisions Decisions...

Buy this, or buy that, do this or do that, go here, go there, or go elsewhere....heady is the power of the decision maker. And such power is as likely to create the stress of responsibility as much as it can create that nagging question, should I have done that, should I have waited a little while longer, will this decision come back to bite me in the ass! How do we make out decisions. What instinct drives us to select option A over options B or C or D. Is life always this sort of multiple choice test, firing questions without any warning whatsoever?

Or am I unprepared. Where is the README file for life. Where can I look up my Questions for hints and feasible solutions. Or am I supposed to just shoot off the hip. Small wonder that I end up missing the target entirely, on occasion.

Ok.. so I make the usual newbie mistakes, I then learn from them and learn to avoid repeating them. Now how to I maximize their impact? How do I ensure that every decision I make plays out to be the smartest, most profitable one possible. Instinct, that must be it. This is the key to decision making. The same instinct that drives a man to protect and a woman to nurture. We must overcome these genetically hardwired tendencies. For decision making needs a blend of both aggression and the instinct of preservation.

How does one achieve this synthesis. how does one subjectively analyze one's own thoughts to ensure this congregation of instincts. The answer probably lies hidden. Hidden in human thoughts, and in the collective human experience...honed over years of silent, sometimes expensive practice.

Where does one go, in order to tap this vault of human knowledge. Where can one access this zeitgeist, or spirit of the times that we live in. We cannot rely just on our peers, Their knowledge has not withstood the test of time. We cannot even rely on the advice of our elders. Their experience is limited by the circumstances surrounding their decisions. But we can, and must rely on History.

We have to study the mistakes made by legends of the past. It will be a long and obstacle ridden journey to attempt to unravel the faults of the great men of history. Though their successes are well documented, their failures and the lessons learnt from them are, shall we say, obscured. For history is written by the winners, the dominant ones, those who have vanquished their opponents and their own weaknesses. To ask them to detail their failures is to ask a man to betray himself.

Persevere, stick with the damn thing. Dig deep enough to uncover their mistakes, not in an attempt to discredit their legacy, but to only learn that legends that they were, they were only human...just like you.

So you learnt from their mistakes, and their ability to turn moments of weakness into occasions to showcase their genius, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, as the cliche goes. This is where your theory lesson ends. I wish I could just as confidently tell you that this is where your practical experience begins. It is not so. Most men are not fortunate enough to be allowed to test the strength of their bodies and minds like the Greatest, Muhammad Ali. Generations of men have waited for the opportunity to test their fortitude while being under the stresses and circumstances of greats, such as him. That chance is only given to a chosen few. Only they can claim greatness, who have endured what the legends have endured, while still making their mark on history. How can we ever ascertain that our own untested skills and strengths will not fail us under duress. We cannot. We can never compare the reaction of a great with our own.

So what is left for us, just the opportunity to carry on, breathe, live, decide...but this time with the experience of legends to back us.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The differences between men and women.

I just realized something. Before I share it with you I'd like to ramble on a bit, thinking aloud and trying to organize my thoughts...STOP !who am i kidding, I'm a man and my gender never thinks aloud, and never needs to organize its thoughts, they are organized logically anyway! Yep you got it, I've realized that though men and women belong to the same species, they are different creatures, with different characteristics.

It all started when I began analyzing my own parents. My dad with his quiet thinking, efficiency of words and actions, logical thought process, and ability to compartmentalize his entire universe without ever needing outside help, can never find that packet of biscuits in the kitchen. While my mom, with an incessant compulsion to think aloud, obsess over details, indirect communiques, inbuilt lie detector, her complicated relationships with friends and relatives, uncanny ability to predict who it is thats calling, or who's at the door when the bell rings...will be able to locate the packet of biscuits with little or no effort or thought. This is not to say that my dad couldn't have found it given enough time, and hunger as an incentive...but he'd rather ask mom about the probable location of the biscuits and then perform a sweeping search of the area, using the process of elimination to locate it. To him, mom's ability to swoop in and locate the biscuits with an apparent lack of effort or thought, will remain an unsolved mystery. Rather than analyzing her ability, he'd prefer to grumble about how she's always hiding the things he needs. There is a scientific explanation for these differences between men and women. Experts have suggested many theories, that women have better peripheral vision, hearing, sensory apparatus, a nurturing instinct , while men have narrower, more focussed vision, dulled sensory organs as compared to women, and an instinct to protect rather than nurture.

And yet, civilized society insists on proclaiming men and women equal. Don't get me wrong, I am not some kind of misogynist (or am I?), all I want to state is, society can shout from the rooftops about gender equality, and of breaking free of gender stereotypes, I will not be able to silence them, and do not want to either, because they speak(shout) the truth. But the fact of the matter remains, that we are not equals. A man is taller, stronger, loses hair quicker, dies earlier, will sooner go to war if provoked, than his female counterpart. She on the other hand, is of slighter build, less strong, more likely to express emotion, talks more, will live longer, would use retail-therapy to counter mood swings etc. These are differences visible to even the narrowest of perspectives. Then why the insistence of equality? Is it not evident that differences exist in the way each party functions, talks, thinks, moves, smells, listens, lives. Then why does the insistent society still proclaim their equality?

Society has evolved from the times of the cavemen. In those days, gender stereotypes were accepted completely, and were the reason for the survival of the human animal. The men hunted, and the women kept the cave clean while nurturing jr.caveman and little miss.cave girl. Everyone was completely at ease with their roles and were happy enough to procreate and survive for many generations. Then civilization happened. Men were no longer required to hunt for food, and women were more likely to venture out of their homes for basic daily functions. Slowly this shift in accepted roles became a part of society. And hence the argument for equality. We must however remember that when these roles were first identified, the early periods of human evolution were in progress. The early human was still evolving, and his/her role in that society was hardwired into his/her brain, and his/her genetics. The human brain has remained hardwired with these roles till the present, for the basic reason that human evolution is not in its nascent stages anymore, the mind and body are not evolving at that same rapid pace evident in the beginning. So we are left with a lot of hardwired genetic programming that seems obsolete to today's evolved cultural and sociological conscience. So where does that leave us? How do we erase genetic information or overwrite it to match with social evolution, rather than the Darwinian theory of physical evolution through natural selection? Get Darwin back here, give him a computer!

I believe that our equality has less to do with equal rights, abilities or anything else. It is instead more relevant to the continuously evolving sociological and moral aspect of civilization. Pure scientific reasoning will never support this claim of equality among the genders. And evolved morality will always defend it. Be that as it may, dad's of today and tomorrow, and the day after... will always be blaming mom's for hiding the biscuits...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

No. I am sure...No goddamit NO!!

Lets get this over with. I do not want a home-loan, no I don't even want it on zero percent interest, you see, I have zero interest in being in debt..! I don't want direct-cash, or any other crazy scheme you are pushing on me. You know who you are, you banks, insurance companies, dimwits! You think just by getting a girl to push buttons on a phone, stealing my number from some list you bought off a consultant, you can persuade me to be in your debt. Ha! there's no chance of that happening.

I remember the days when members of my family had to almost grovel at the feet of some bank manager to wheedle a loan of such minuscule proportions, at interest rates that would ensure that none of us got that new piece of jewelry or that vacation to the hill station. Now you blatantly pimp your services off the phone, and expect me to dive into debt. No. Yeah, you heard me...No. Stop calling me. I will abuse your employees, then I will demand to speak with their supervisor, so that I may abuse him, then I will send you a very vulgar email detailing every abuse, in some cases even translating them for your complete understanding. If that does not suffice, I will proceed to then pose as an employee of your own company, and when that oh so irritating call happens, I will wheedle out details from that girl. Details like-her phone number, where she got my number from, who gave her that big list, why doesn't the bank contact me directly, who does she report to in the bank, what is his phone number, email address even. And then I will reverse cold call you. You will be amazed at my lack of ethics, and in awe of my command over abuses in multiple languages. You see, I have been abused in many languages myself...but that is another story, for another time.

And another thing. This one is crucial. When I do want to talk to somebody from the bank, why do I have to sit patiently listening to MIDI music, purportedly Beethoven playing. I'm not asking you to respond quickly or any such sacrilegious thing! I merely request that you play me proper audio, preferably 128 bit encoded mp3, and not Beethoven, gimme Mozart.

PS: to all my friends working in outbound call centers and in those lousy banks...screw you too.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

of watering holes and other musings...

It is amazing what patronage of the local watering hole can provide. Complimentary snacks, the occasional tidbit of gossip, your favorite corner table, unlimited time to ponder the mysteries of the universe while being lubricated with your choice of liquids, aerated or otherwise. All of this in exchange for a few well placed tips and a smile here and there.

Now news filters through of a girl being assaulted in a taxi somewhere in Colaba. The waiters here are of the opinion that the absconding taxi driver was bribed for his silence. Amazingly the view here is that the Mumbai police know who is responsible, and fat bribes have ensured not just their silence, but complete cooperation. That being as it may, it is said of the Mumbai police that it knows in advance the details of most major crimes before they are committed, but are held back by forces not within the democratic process.

Forget all that, lets get back to the famous, or should I say, infamous watering hole, the subject of this post. "Ek taraf uska ghar..ek taraf Maikhana" - Pankaj Udhas' honey sweet voice lingers hauntingly inside my head . It is but the truth. Nowadays, the latest Bollywood tracks play in the background, forcing me to realise two disturbing truths. One, this generation's utter disregard for lyrics of any quality ; Two, the contemporary music director's complete understanding of this phenomenon and compliance with it. So what if the results are the often senseless lyrics that are frowned upon by the so-called connoisseurs of hindi music. This is after all pop culture, and complying with it surely is no crime...or is it?

And I digress yet again. What was intended as a post about the watering hole, has mutated into the kaleidoscopic equivalent of random thoughts pretending to be facts when they are in fact umm...random. This is just the nature of the damn thing, or should I say place. Coming back to the topic, (I promise, no rambling this time ) . There is a clear hierarchy here, as in most such establishments. Let me start from the bottom, there is Gopal, the waiter's assistant. He gets you ice, spoons, tissues, your favourite brand of nicotine, and intermittently cleans your table - all with a smile if you are a regular, and a poker-face if you are not. A 10 rupee tip ensures this smile for eternity. Then there's Manoj, my favourite waiter. If you are a patron, he knows your usual by heart. But will also suggest other 'specials' for your dining pleasure. His special is usually the best dish you would have tasted in ages. So you ask him to bring it, like you ever had a choice anyway, and then he's smiling at you like a co-conspirator of some sort. Come now, lets look for where the buck stops. This is Sudhir, the resident cashier. His links with the local police and government are legendary. He never speaks to customers, and a nod of the head is about as agreeable as he will ever get. The king of the jungle is a faceless entity known only as 'Seth' aka Lucas Shetty. Him being the owner of the place. From a long line of Shetty's, his description fits the stereotypical gold-embellished, ultra-rich Shetty who signs every bodies paycheck. Apparently everyone and his dog here knows Lucas personally, though they may be embellishing on the truth a mite. Enough about him, he is best relegated to the darker side of things.

Of course, there are hundreds of such watering holes in the city, each with nuances that identify them, and yet unite them under the umbrella of their combine. They are all patronised by others, such as myself, and have never felt the need for any publicity or marketing. In fact their very existence depends on their ability to blend with the shadows of Mumbai's gullies, never disturbed by local authorities, unnoticed by the yuppie crowds who swear by the Barrista's and 'happening' lounges and eateries which usually have their own DJ playing the latest UK-Bhangra/underground genre of music...Yes, I detest them, those yuppies and their hangouts. I am paranoid about letting them pollute my watering hole, and will fight them till the very end...for now though... my favourite watering hole shall remain unnamed.

what doesnt kill you...

hmmm, there is a theory that the body does not retain any memory of pain. Thank god for that. If only the mind was as cooperative now, there'd be no problem. But it isnt, is it. The damn thing insists on not only recounting painful episodes, but exaggerating their importance until they seem so tragic, that surviving them seems heroic and incredible. The hopeless optimists among us use these thoughts as inspiration; that they could survive some bouts of depression and still come out sane, diminished a little, but on the road to normalcy. Bloody idiots. What doesnt kill
you makes you stronger is their way of rationalizing their traumatic experiences.

How i would love for them to come look inside my own head. The amplification of past pain seems to be a favourite exercise for my mind. And there is no heroic ending here, nothing to support the idea that 'i've lived through it once...and can do so again!". There is only dejection at being exposed to pain, by circumstances entirely within my own control, and yet foolishly
persisting in activities that were guaranteed to encourage the process.

In hindsight of course, there is much rethinking done...many avenues previously unnavigated, or considered unnavigable, suddenly appear to be the sanest, most logical option. Well, in those moments of high passion and intensity, logic and sanity are both overruled by their lesser cousin-instinct. Yes, I have read all the heady stuff of gut instinct being the best guide,
to be relied upon by heroes of our time, to get them out of tight spots etc. Mine though, is not as fine tuned, as it turns out. My instinct somehow manages to pick the least logical, most unnecessary paths, and is terribly consistent.

My instincts though, have begun a marked improvement. In the sense that, those previously illogical solutions are now being replaced by shortcuts. Problems are being solved not by systematic logical analysis, but by looking for the least effort solutions. Of course most of these solutions are straining conventional ethics, but they are showing that trademark of innovativeness-daring. Going through with these suggested solutions is quite another thing.
But their existence in itself relieves the mind of its only fear-emptiness.