Saturday, December 30, 2006

Who decides?

I am not sure whether a year should end on a good or bad note. Frankly, to me, it doesn't matter because the year is a fictitious entity whereas what happens in this world stays.

Saddam Hussein is dead.

I have nothing for him, but I would like to look at some data (unverified).

1. Khmer Rouge: Was Pol Pot hanged to death? Was the US as determined to see him hanged or were they busy eliminating all traces of their involvement?

2. Massacre of the Afghans: Who should be hanged here? The then Russian president? Or Mr. Carter for also participating in the war to ensure that communism doesn't spread? Or all of them?

3. Tibetan Genocide: So who is going to be hanged here?

4. Bosnian Genocide: Are we going to say that we would have hanged Milosevic, hadn't he died earlier to a less dramatic cause?

5. Iraq war: So why did US really invade Iraq? Awwww, really? Once more, remind me why! So where were those weapons of mass destruction or mass hallucination, Mr. Bush? Read more... And for all the US versus Russia talk, here is a comparison.

6. Rwandan Genocide: Why only life imprisonment for Kambanda? Shouldn't we hang him given that this genocide was the most unprecedented?

7. East Timor Genocide: I don't think many people heard about this one. Neither had I till I started collecting details about genocides wordlwide. Who are we going to hang here, Mr. Bush?

Enough said. I don't even want to talk about the East Pakistan genocide lest this seem like an India versus Pakistan post. Saddam should pay for the crimes he committed, but I would be stupid to think that the system of trials in this world are for the sake of cleansing this Earth. Trials are created only where the Empire is not to be affected. I can't believe that the world with all its globalisation crap has come to this, that a handful of people decide whom to try and how.

It is most disappointing to know that some people can get away with their crimes but those who commit crimes against a few powerful countries will be chased till hell seems rosier. The US took Saddam personally and went about ruining their country and killing thousands of civilians in order to get this one man hanged. If they had cared about justice, they would have done the same in all the situations that I have mentioned and more. I would have granted decency to Saddam's trial and execution had other dictators and killers received similar fair and just treatment. He just didn't have many bigwigs supporting him to pull him out of this mess.

Does the US or this god-forsaken world really care about justice? Isn't there a more decent and civilised way of ensuring that justice be delivered? Can governments (esp. the powerful ones like the US) stop training armies and delivering arms and drugs to other countries? Don't look away, Mr. Bush. I am talking to you.

I am ashamed of this world and myself. So let me wish all of you a very happy new year. May there be more years of shame and stupidity and may the powerful nations become more powerful. Bottoms Up.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Happy New Year

And a year is about to be born Dear Reader,
Thanks for reading with me. Before I proceed with the next installment of Vaahana Samhita, I thought I should wish you and your loved ones a very very happy and prosperous new year 2007. (Warning: What follows is banter)
Frankly, I never quite get to understand the hype that surrounds 00:00 hrs of the 1st of January. Our folks would stay up and watch TV or participate in the celebrations that were conducted in the colony, but I would be sleeping away. I like to start a year, fresh.
Friends of mine told me that whatever one does at 00:00 hrs 1st Jan. they will be doing that throughout the year (damn! where is Carmen Electra when you need her?). I really don't spend a whole year sleeping. But if you believe in that and it works for you, then I wish you spend every minute (ok, maybe not every minute) in happiness and success (come on! share some with me). Now this means that you should be working hard and hugging your spouse/mate at 00:00 hrs. Best of luck!! :-)
I wish I could spend it writing or reading, but I think old habits die hard! ;-) So, please don't expect anything new from me (except maybe a new dream). The posts would be new, of course. Hope you find enough stuff worth reading on this blog in the coming year as well... :-)

Would love it if you could spare a few minutes to drop a comment here...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Lover's Clasp

There hasn't been a day -
And comets have passed since -
I felt happy in the arms of another.
Now there is no warmth I love
Though I lay in the arms of loneliness.

With a loving heart
Like a well used hearth
I wait for that smile
That is meant for me
And that shant pass;
But years have passed
And so have mistaken love
While I lay in the arms of loneliness.

Each day sharpens the
Barbs of black hope
Which I tighten around my waist
Lest the feebly wanting garb
Of mine, slip to reveal the nakedness
Wanton in the arms of loneliness.

I yearn for the butterfly caress Aaj ka din meri ummeed ka hai aakhri din...
Of a lady who shall call me hers
While I whisper into her hair
That she is mine.
But all I get each lovely
Taunting morn, is the sliding
Cotton of a towel from around my waist
And leaving me there
Ugly and reflected
Ugly in the mirror too.
No one to see this solo tango.
No one to reassuringly sigh
While I dance in the arms of loneliness.

Won't you cry for me
If you can't be by my side?
What is now mine,
Would have once been yours
Till one passing soul
Is poverty best forgotten?
Is the single thump of an
Aberrant heart in a suffocating night
Best not recalled?
Why lie and say I am happy
And in best company
In the arms of loneliness?

Another year shall pass -
Another smile shall too.
The spikes of hope shall
Dig deeper to lick shameless blood.
And every day will light my
Hours with a threnody
And an empty duet.
A single tear rolls down
The narrow end of my eye.
Onto the arms of loneliness.

What use be such life?
Even the waves recede
While I walk amongst the rocks.
Oh, yes! I have thought of it
Many a time, so don't waste
A suggestion on me.
But do you know how
To kill the living-dead
Breathing in the arms of loneliness?

Monday, December 25, 2006

Another one in the pocket


A while ago someone wrote the following:

I have always loved writing but have wondered whether making it public is in alignment with my tastes. After all, what I write is for my pleasure. I decided to blog all that is in my head which I would want to share with the world. There would be matters close to the heart which I will not place before an alien eye...

My disclaimer to all the posts I make is thus:
What I present is my opinion. I do not present it to you for vivisecting. On some matters I do invite your comments, but that would be it. My scribbles do not come forth with an assumption that I am infallibly correct. No Ma'am/Sir, I am but a normal human being who is looking within and without, and trying to learn. I often stumble and I often surmount great peaks. Of neither am I proud and of neither am I ashamed. I am swimming in the fine ocean of this world, trying to understand what few have understood, what many haven't and what many more care least about.

Let's see how the journey is. I have merely started out and expect the least and the most from this, in the garden called Life...

and I still wonder what made him write thus.

Its been two years since I started blogging. I am not sure whether I should have said "TWOOOO years" or "just two years". It was and still is fun. I have enjoyed the sheer bliss in writing which I thought was merely fabulous. It is real. Trust me. When you sit at the desk, cracking your neck and wondering "What should I write today?" and then you see the keyboard in front of you, with every key merrily dancing away, enticing you to tickle them all to tell a story which neither of you knew - you know you are going to write a piece which is going to make you forget the world, even if only for a few minutes. The sheer joy of watching the scene of a story, or the boatman sing the poem which is suddenly, Oh! suddenly on the screen in front of you, or the cleaving of the self over and over again into several Erotemes all sitting with their jaw in the cup of their palms but asking very different questions and taking very unique stances (a friend of mine rolled her eyes when she said that she thought that I could never make sense because I had Rand and Krishnamurthy arguing in my head! Since then, it became a fantasy of mine), the sheer joy of all that is simply immeasurable.

This blog has been kind enough to let me be whacky and serious and deliberate and careless and sensual and devastated. I have cried while I read some posts out here and have had a few friends of mine play tricks on me by quoting lines from this blog only to have me wondering where they ever got to read them. I have lost myself in nearly each and every post that has gone up here. A very dear friend of mine would stick to her belief that each and every post of mine reflected something about me. I would always shake my head and laugh at her statement. I couldn't be all of this, can I? Another friend told me that she likes visiting this blog simply because consecutive posts are usually not of the same tone or on similar matters!

This blog, to me, is not about posts. It's not about what friends say. It's not about anything tangible. It's about losing myself even if only for a few minutes. It's about serendipity. It's about a kind of love which I am cynical enough to claim as extinct. It's about consciously remembering to breathe. It's about washing your face over and over again because you simply don't want to sleep before the writing is done.

A year ago, I had written a similar summary of a year with this blog. This one is about spending two years with this blog and being undecided as to whether it's been a long time or just-like-yesterday. Well, its clear that I haven't had enough of it.

I am glad that this blog helped me create a magazine (which hasn't published the last 2 issues) and introduced me to a whole bunch of wonderful people. Thank you for being with me. The pleasure's all mine.

I would like to collect a few posts from this year and not from earlier (early-year?) as they can be viewed in the summary I mentioned above. Hope you enjoy this selection.

Last year I had celebrated it in a coffee shop. This year too, I shall like to celebrate this on the 24th at India Coffee House (I love that place for its antediluvian look-and-feel) on M.G.Road from 16:30 hrs. Care to join me?

Trounced (Fiction)
Faith (Poetry)
Animal Instinct (Fiction) (This happens to be one of my favourite)
Lucrenifor (Fiction)
Penne alla Eroteme (Nonfiction)
Fading (Poetry)
When he loved (Fiction)
Never marry a writer (Fiction)
Eighteen (Poetry/Philosophy) (This is the post which makes me happiest)
The inevitable (Fiction)
Straight spines tingle me (Nonfiction)
Zen Koan (Philosophy/Fiction)
A duet (Poetry) (Touched by a comment that came towards the end)
From the diary of a cuckold (Fiction)
Self (Poetry)
Gizmos (Nonfiction) (My family loves this)
Excuse me (General)
The curious incident of a bus at night time (Nonfiction)
Silk Butterflies (Fiction)
A divine request (Poetry) (Loved the discussion on this thread)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

On Education

I recently had the honour of interacting with some very intelligent and deep people and we spent most of our time discussing education and its role in the society. Most of them were educators at an alternative school and some were from other schools and fields (psychology, publishing houses, NGOs, journalism, academia, etc.). We were, without the telling of time or under the watchful need to arrive at a conclusion, discussing the various issues related to education. Most, if not all, of them found it quite surprising that someone from the software domain (that would be me) would be interested in education. A professor (and a rather young one) told me, "Surprising that someone like you (and the tone, fortunately, wasn't derogatory) has thought so much about education." Well, I don't do much on weekends and week days... :-)
Some of the most interesting points/questions that seemed to emerge from the rather short duration for which I spent time with them, were:

1. What is education?
2. Why should people be educated?
3. How should we approach providing education?
4. What is happening to society and how much is the state of education the reason for it?
5. Why aren't many people considering educating as a career option?

Our discussion around these points were very interesting.Where should we go from here?

My personal take was that if we thought that education was the reason behind the current abysmal state of society, then we are giving too much importance to education. If we further went ahead to feel that a modified education system was going to dramatically improve society, then we will simply not be able to achieve it.

The problems with society aren't new. The scale might be different, but the issues aren't new (Atilla the Hun, World War 1, concentration camps, racism, poverty, inequality, 9/11, extremists... did all this happen only since a formal education system came about?). So the problem is not with the form of education that people are going through. There is no statistical evidence that products of the current scheme of education are the people behind the miserable state of current affairs. Secondly, the current state of innovation and advancement (in the fields of medicine, management and technology) owes a lot to the education system and infrastructure in place. [I managed to recover this post only till here and this forms only 1/5th of what I had written and lost :-( ] I personally don't think that approaching the world with a preconceived idea that society is already bad, makes sense. We need to understand society and realise why it is the way it is. I think that is where education comes in; in helping the child to understand society and then realise and decide on what s/he wants to do with it. Was there ever an era of an "ideal" society which owed its existence to the format of education that was in vogue then? Is it possible to have an "ideal" system of education which will churn out "ideal" citizens who will always conduct themselves in an "ideal" manner? Is it then a question of proportion of "ideal" students churned out? Wouldn't a student churned out with the notion that society is "bad" react adversely, condescendingly towards the world around him and then find himself in the sorry state of being drowned in the voice of reality? I am thinking aloud...

Education is not restricted to the initial 18+ years of one's life. Did we ever think otherwise? Then why do we place such an enormous emphasis on what happens in the initial 17-18 years? Because the child is most impressionable then, which is not necessarily a good thing. I hope we realise that not everything about the world and about life can be captured in those few years. So what should the focus of an appropriate education (and I prefer this phrase over good or complete education) be? Shouldn't it be to provide the essential skills which can be used to build more? Shouldn't it be to empower the child to gather, to assimilate, to discern and then to decide in the most intuitive manner? Shouldn't it also be to provide a variety of raw material (sciences, math, history, etc.) which might allow the child to understand the physical world better? Is the physical world not important? Shouldn't it be to help the child realise that s/he will always have a lot to learn and s/he should always be curious and receptive as well as analytical and deductive while also being sensitive to the matter at hand? Isn't the initial education then about building a foundation for what the child is inclined to do, or might be inclined to do? How bad is the current education system as far as this is concerned?

Education is not restricted to the school. Would you expect a child to switch off while outside the school and only be impressionable in the presence of teachers and books and educational equipment? What about the influence of his parents, friends, TV, relatives, movies, the street? How does any educational system intend handling the sheer volume of information that a child receives? And what about the data which each child seems to process uniquely? Shouldn't the responsibility of the school then be to equip each child with the necessary tools to vivisect issues that s/he encounters? Shouldn't the school work on encouraging the child to discuss issues with several people in order to gain perspective as well as insight? Wouldn't the facts of life (1+1 will always be 11) be provided to the child in order to use them wherever required? Or should they be called mechanical details and mere cramming of data and denounced? Shouldn't the school encourage understanding ideas and issues rather than reacting and memorising?

Education is a part of life and not what decides life. Though I personally believe in perfection in everything, I am real enough to smile and nod my head when you shriek "Enough" in my ears. Education cannot be blamed for everything that goes wrong. How about commending it for all that goes right? For the birth of Buddha (did I just say that was right!?)? For the rains in Rajasthan? Why not? I heard someone say that behind most crimes is a PhD or a MBA or a B.Tech (that's Bachelors in Technology for those not in India). Really? Wow! And what about the M&As and new stem cell research not to mention carbon fibre utilisation in building strong wheelchairs? Well, what did you say? That was expected of them? Actually no., I could get an MBA and then realise that I am done enjoying the world of business. It's not the degrees that make someone criminal, but the way a person thinks. Education is not meant to make people think alike and acceptable. Do you think I would like Poe or Van Gogh to be sent into an Art of Living session and risk losing the beauty they created?

Education has a purpose. The purpose is not unique. No particular purpose is inherently base. Do you think that a child in Africa, US of A, rural India and in Columbia be educated entirely similarly? Does everyone approach life philosophically? Is philosophy essential? Is making money bad? What if a person is fascinated by the stock markets and wants to become a stock broker and nothing else? He gets married, loves her till she has no regrets, has children, provides well for them, lives as an example to them of passion and dedication, makes piles of money, takes his family around to various places on earth, ... you get the picture? What is wrong with this? What is wrong with someone who wants to immerse herself in physics and the study of it? What is wrong with a person who simply want a 9-5 job and spend time with family or in front of the TV? They might all view their education as having served their particular purpose of realising these needs/wants/desires/drives/passion. So should we condemn them for not having bothered about the Darfur situation? Should we call their education worthless because the person is not doing something to change the world around her? Why should purposes be categorised?

Education is individual and not for the mass. The efficacy of an education is to be determined only by the individual. An individual who is innately philosophical and deep will not like a school which makes them memorise chapters and commands that their students clear the popular entrance exams and tests. An individual who loves colour and beauty would find a school that focuses on academics or philosophy as quite boring. A beautiful young girl who loves living life in full spirits would find the confines of a convent school quite stifling. A young boy who is like water, would fit just about anywhere and emerge as water. There can never be a single educational system that would fit all. Never. Facilitating a child to grow and develop as is her natural course (and do forgive me for my Taoist phrases) is the only way to raise a child and this doesn't constitute a system.

Educating is not a career. Teaching could be. Educating a child is about connecting to the child and facilitating an environment where she can realise her true self in this world. A career is about personal aspirations. Do you see them going together? What can I aspire for, while I am living for the sake of a child and helping her bloom in this world? Would I call that as an aspiration? Not sure. When my personal aspirations include financial security and status, would I imagine myself educating someone? When I am clear that I wish to educate a child, would an institution and institutional goals help me? I would distinguish between educating and teaching and I have this gut feeling that only one of them can be a career.

Wouldn't it be better if school systems worked together rather than pick individual identities for themeselves and worked at cross purposes? Mainstream schools already have the resources and infrastructure in place. Alternative schools have the wisdom that they have gained over years. Is marriage impossible?

Well, I am still getting educated... :-)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Another thousand words

The last time I published my photographs was way back last year when on a whim I decided to post a new post everyday for a week, ensuring that the genre of each one of them was different. Those were fun days. :-)
Photography for me has been mostly a side effect of my travels. The last time I went out for a photo shoot (and I recall this just as I am writing) was while preparing for the Feb 2006 issue of Alvibest (and had my car run into by a girl who was learning to drive on the Marina beach). Yesterday was different.
Bangalore Weekend Shooters is this very interesting club of people who go out nearly every weekend to different places and... shoot. There are over a hundred members and they usually go to places over the weekend in small groups (which may vary in size, but I believe stay well under 15 or so). I have been a member over past month or so, but never got to join them. Yesterday was different.
A good bunch of us decided to hit Nandi Hills (outside Bangalore) and shoot (starting 5:30 in the morning). Most of the people were meeting up at M.G.Road but a couple of us met up near Hebbal. The minute I got into L's car, all three of us (P, L and I; no, these people are real and not the ones in this post) started chatting and sharing information about the club's activities. I was mostly doing the listening. While we were waiting for the rest of the gang to join us at Hebbal, P took out his camera and decided to shoot the flyover in the mist (with headlights punching the air and wiggling their fingers while coming over the bridge). I bravely took out mine. One look at his camera, and I shoved mine (no, it doesn't have all those colourful things as in the link) back into my pocket!! These guys had huge cameras with lenses which were huger still. They actually had a bag to carry their equipment; I simply stuffed mine in my pocket!
When we rode off towards Nandi Hills we stopped for diesel and shot a bit. P saw me clicking and asked, "What are you doing on auto-focus mode? Get to manual!" I had to console myself that once I used to be a manual-focus-only guy before I got a digital camera!! Digital cameras spoil you. You needn't worry about focusing, wasting shots or even waiting for the picture to develop. I quickly turned the dial to manual and managed to escaped his look with a sheepish grin.
The guys in the club are quite serious about photography. The average cost of equipment in the group was about Rs. 25,000 (and here I was carrying a camera worth 11K). They had tripods and filters and polarisers while I had a bulging pocket. They spoke about 24mm and 3-by-2 and USM while I just listened. Man, it felt great being in their midst!! Honestly! There is so much to know about cameras and photography.
Then we started shooting and no one disturbed the other person. Often we would share what we had shot and the settings that enabled such a shot, but that was mostly it. Once we stopped shooting, we were back to chatting, joking and having fun. I was so happy when I kept asking them, "What is HDR?" or "Why shouldn't I shoot in sepia?" or "What's so good about that lens? Firstly, what is it called?". We also stopped at vineyards and bought freshly plucked grapes. It was amazing...
Here are about a dozen or so images from there, enjoy. For more, you can check out the BWS website.

Dead, but still on earth...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Seriously Serious

As often as I lay my thoughts on this matter, I fail at each instance to realise the profound complexity of this problem whose solution stands on this rather softly lit alcove waving out to you and then crossing its arms across its chest and smiling: smiling in the know that you will not come over to shake hands with it. Well, it is a rather terrifying solution in all its simplicity and nudity. Why else would I be writing about it and not spending afternoons with it under an apple tree?

The seriousness of the world grips me and makes me wonder about the taut expanse that we call life. This outpouring owes itself to the oft heard (and now in India as well) phrase of "quality time". A mother tells me that she will spend quality time with her son. A son tells me that he will take his mother out to dinner on Saturday thereby spending quality time with her. And what about other moments in life, dear? They lost their quality in the light of your serious activities? God bless you!

What I fail to understand is how did the artificial routine of life and the notion of dedicating all of it to serious pursuits come about to infest this earth. I do not debunk the position that seriousness holds in this world, but think about it, my friend. Why is there so much seriousness?

I think most of the seriousness in this world stems from the sense of personal worth and the money that is involved therein. People want to be taken seriously and that is usually ensured when their personal station is fortified and puffs its chest from the ramparts. A poor but extremely talented artist is usually not in high regards as is a moderate artist who knows how to make money. Recently, a friend and colleague of mine from UK was discussing his career with me and was amazed to see that I had surpassed his rank in 4.5 years what he couldn't in 30+ years. It only made me ashamed while I pondered over how naive I must be to assume that I can do all that he had acquired over 30 years. I do not deny the edge that my education or my career path has given me, but still, look at the difference. The funny thing is that I wasn't serious about most of the things in my career and let a lot simply happen. But let's not go there.

So in the quest for personal worth is this need to establish oneself in the ranks. I smell work here. So did they, and the industrial revolution of the West brought in longer hours and more driven men who wanted to do it all. They worked hard to improve their worth and acquire money whereby they promised themselves and their dear love that they would have a lot to enjoy life. But I hardly see that happening, then or now. You might want to visit this page, and click on each of the individuals in there (on the right panel): And we go on and on...

Do you know that I would give my right hand to be in McKinsey and dash around solving problems in a jiffy? But such hours!? Life isn't something that happens around work, is it? Work is an element of life that provides means to realise several facets of life, but what be said of that work which denies the opportunity to transform the gains into the desired provisions of life?

With such rushing around, comes the need to pile all good things on a weekend. TGIF. I never quite understood that. Friends would mail me or SMS me sharing their relief that the weekend was arriving and I would frown and wonder: "What's so exciting about it?" I do not say that there is nothing good about a Saturday or Sunday (given that most theatre shows and the like are scheduled on weekends and I get to cook a variety of new recipes) but why do people not try to enjoy their weekdays and not associate "quality time" to weekends? And that is when I read this (which in turn made me write this post):

I agree with him-who-has-a-difficult-surname and would love to read the book (anyone kind enough to gift it to me? I can cook up some occasion! :-).
This article and the contents of the earlier link in this post jumped in with memories to raise the stench of this question: What are we doing with our lives? Seriously, what are we doing with it?

People love talking about passion (and I raise my hand here) and the courage it takes to follow your calling (I lowered it). People admire the John Woods and Muhammad Yunus of this world as much as they admire the Chandralekha and Shankar Mahadevan but all this is better for others.

In all this maddening rush to be serious and achieve and augment, we seem to have lost the essence of simply living and doing nothing. I tried it this Sunday, switching off my faculties to recall (couldn't help switching it on while I cooked the new pulao. I had to reel it out to my mom!! ;-). My Sunday disappeared in doing a lot of nothings. What did I achieve? Nothing. But I feel at peace and I got to speak to a few relatives in Bangalore and friends around India and did a lot of reading and writing... I feel happy.

But this is not about me (though I give you samples to assure that this is not mere banter or preaching). It is about looking at life as a whole and not looking at it as fragments, some of which require you to only give them "quality time". Life is a composite. People who look at their career or their family as being the one most important thing, seem to be missing something. It is easy to go piecemeal about life. It is vital to look at it as a whole. Seriously, you have only one life.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Decision Theory

A friend of mine and I had this rather involved discussion about decision making. In her honest opinion, I stink at it. I would agree with her not based on the success rate of my decision making, but that I do tend to press on it for long. I enjoy the decision making process and award each option its due, thereby giving the appearance of a perennial activity. But today's discussion about a certain decision I need to make in my life, got me all excited and forced me to drop everything and ponder over this.
Decision theory appears to be a well researched area. I have not read a single article/book nor have I visited any lectures/conferences on decision theory. I like taking a stab at something of which I only have an intuitive feel. Like curing AIDS (I had this wonderful idea when I was in the 8th class but a visiting doctor thought it was silly and too sci-fi. All that it involved was keeping the patient in suspended animation using cryogenic techniques and quickly draining the system of infected blood, followed by a super-quick cleaning, followed by a refill!! ). Today tickled me with decision theory.Do I have to decide?

What follows is my theory about the same. I would invite your critical review of this. Keywords/ideas are highlighted.

I think the first step of taking a decision is identifying what is desired and what is the worst consequence of not consciously measuring the decision towards realising the desired outcome. Once that is figured out, the cost of decision making can be justified.

I suppose the next step would be the enumeration of tuples of current options and their expected outcome in the context of the desirable. This would include the default null set of dropping the desire itself. The default null set will be a part of the enumeration of all options in every decision making exercise. Hence, a person always has an option. Outcomes are only probability expressions and should not be detailed at this stage, lest the human mind starts making unconscious assumptions about various parameters which are yet to be defined. Any tuple that is not in the context of the desirable has to be discarded right now. Expected outcomes are different from desirable outcomes; in other words, expected outcomes can be negative courses as well.

The next step is to identify parameters affecting the course of action and any decision that will be made. Once the parameters are listed, the next step is to categorise them into: Immediate and Unavoidable, Immediate but Avoidable, Historic and insurmountable, Historic but surmountable, Impending, Expected but Avoidable, Conditional (i.e. will come into force only along certain courses of action).

The next step is to create meta-categorisation of parameters, which, in essence, helps us understand which parameters affect each of the tuples that we have enumerated. This categorisation is at a meta-level as it is not a real categorisation of the parameters themselves in their native form but in the context of the identified tuples. One cannot and does not assume that all parameters and all tuples have been identified before this stage. This stage facilitates identifying any new parameters/tuples and in clearly understanding the relationship between them.

The next step is in attaching lucre and probability to the categories and courses of action. Lucre is the weight attached to each expected outcome, taking into consideration the cost of functioning on the associated parameters in the context of achieving the desirable. Probability is the value assigned to each tuple which takes into account the amount of certainty in adopting a particular option and the likelihood of the associated outcome being realised while the parameters are being provided in their required substance (quality and quantity). Not always will the probability be available and needs to be statistically obtained or guesstimated in order to define uncertain paths. Often, when the probability is not available, it might be wise to chart the course of action (described later) assuming the best and worst case probability and guesstimating a probable mean. Depending on the worst consequences of not making a conscious measurement towards the decision (as mentioned at the outset), uncertain paths can either be dropped or considered on the side while adopting a more certain path.

Now the decision-maker has the required variables in reducing the decision making equation to provide maximum benefit to the stakeholder (who could well be the decision-maker). Resolution of the equations provide the courses of actions available to the stakeholder and a plan/strategy can be drawn based on them. A second iteration, on the courses of action can be run based on the strategic input in enhancing the nature of the tuples defined as well as the substance of the parameters involved. The two iterations will be separated by a phase of discussion and consulting with the stakeholder and associated parties.

I am frankly not too excited about mathematical models and am too busy to consider them right now, so I will not get into how the equations can be reduced and resolved right now.

What say? :-)

Now let me go and google for "decision theory"!! :-D

Sunday, December 10, 2006


She was absent for three days,
And we knew why.
Menaka had moved on
To the group of girls
Who were now women.

They talked in hushed whispers
About straps, seams
And what they can now do.
While we couldn't.

She was my best friend.Fading...
Now she sashayed
Where she had once walked.
I wouldn't understand, she said
For things which we had
Once spoken in no words.

They were a group now,
And I had to choose
From girls or
Women ashamed.

I wanted to be with them;
Smell like them,
And have the breeze
Press against my salwar
To reveal the richness
Of my womanhood -

I wanted to talk with them
About different sizes
And giggle at Mrs. Anne's.
I wanted to coyly throw
My shoulders back
And hold my breath.

All this I wanted
And more
While Menaka and I ate
From our lunch boxes
As if she ate for a higher purpose -
And I, for none.

I wondered
Whether I should eat
Something different,
Or press my stomach
Against something hard
While I slept,
Or drink more watermelon juice
Or sit without bringing my knees together
And gently clench my navel

What must I do,
To wipe the red line
That separates my once-best friend
and me?
What must I do
To wipe the girl in me
With the sanguine brush
of Womanhood?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Zen Koan: Way of the sword

The air wrote poems in cold white words and Master Yoshikazu watched their affair with the dark green leaves of the kumquats outside his window. His fingers trembled as they reached to hold the cup of jasmine tea. It wasn't old age or the heat that caused the occasional flutter but the coming to terms of what the body felt and what the body needed.
While he was sipping his tea, he heard sharp rapping noises and shut his eyes. His hands were free of the cup and all he could now sense was the hardness of the tatami mats and the noise from outside. He tried to recognise the source of the sound.
"Yuudai? What is he doing outside at this hour?"
He opened his eyes and sipped the tea. Once he was done, he slowly rose and walked outside his room.
Yuudai was practising against a stout bamboo. He placed small flowers in a wedge and moved swiftly to chop one petal at a time. His katana was a blur of shining silver against the bamboo. The first petal had barely fallen off when the remaining five followed it earthward. When he planted another flower in there, he heard his master open the sliding door. He turned around and waited for his master.
"Yuudai, what are you doing at this hour?"
"When the hands are cold, precision is an issue. I am practicing to improve that."
"What for, young man?" asked Master Yoshikazu, with a smile.
"I need to perfect it if I wish to become Samurai."
The Master looked at the young boy who could be anything he decided on becoming.
"And what will become of you then?"
"I will lead my men."
"And then?"
"My name will melt the katana of my enemies."
"And then?"
"I will become Shogun."
"And then?"
"And then? I am not sure what else would be left to achieve then, Master. Please enlighten me."
"I wouldn't know what you have achieved even then. Give me your katana."
Yuudai knelt down and offered the katana with both his hands.
"Pick that long sliver of bamboo and defend yourself."
Yuudai got frightened but obeyed his master. He held the limp and arching slice of bamboo, which could be a better whip than a sword and faced his master.
"What is it? The shogun of the future trembles?"
Master raised the sword in one swift move and brought it down towards Yuudai's head. Yuudai raised the feeble shred of bamboo, only to watch it cut in two. The sword stopped just after splitting the hair on Yuudai's head, though he could feel the cold blade breathing on his scalp.
"First, learn to transform even the air into a katana, and then you can be Samurai."
So saying, the master handed the sword back to Yuudai and picked one of the halves of the bamboo sliver that had fallen to the ground.
"Attack me with your katana." The blade and its cut
Yuudai hesitated for he knew that the slip of bamboo couldn't protect his master. He moved slowly as to poke his master in the ribs. Master Yoshikazu slapped the flat of the blade away from him and hissed at Yuudai, "Afraid you might hurt me? Go on, attack me, you coward who will never become Samurai."
Yuudai was stung by these words and swung the sword in a a circle that cut a bleeding gash in the blue sky. Master moved along with the blade and escaped the edge while swiftly reaching forward to place the point of the sliver at Yuudai's jugular.
"Think you can move fast enough to save your neck?"
Yuudai conceded defeat and wondered how his master managed to move like that.
"To offer least resistance to the sword, is the way of the sword. Those who rush to stop the sword, will always perish. You can never cut air or water, nor can you harm an opponent who always moves in the direction of the sword and away from it. Of course, it is a hundred times easier when the swordsman is incensed."
Yuudai bowed his head in shame.
"Know the way of the sword to be the way away from it, and you shall have peace. Being a Samurai or a Shogun is any man's job. Any swordsman who can stay on his feet for five straight hours and move his katana and wakizashi in wide and narrow circles can be a Samurai. If people around him cannot manage that, he can also become Shogun to them. All it requires is endless effort and some skill. But those who realise the beauty of pausing to collect flowers to offer them to the Buddha, will know the way of the sword. Not they, who stick them in a groove in a bamboo."
Yuudai lowered his head further but managed to whisper.
"Master, if I may ask."
"Why does sensei and scholars claim the worldly way to be mean? Isn't the world in which we live real enough to warrant a way of the sword for this world?"
Master Yoshikazu smiled and turned around to walk away. He stopped and said over his shoulder, "The worldly way is not mean because there is no worldly way beyond that which is in your head. Life is not about achieving, young man. It is about nourishing and being nourished. The worldly way simply takes you nowhere. Meditate on this Haiku, dear Yuudai.

A caterpillar -
Embarked on a ten year march
In spite of grey clouds.

A Guy Thing - 2

I was in Bombay, a while ago. It simply relaxes me to be there and do nothing more than walk around with friends and go to places I used to as a child. They look so much smaller now. The corner shop at Matunga, where mom used to buy turmeric, camphor and baby-onions was quite an expanse then. The burly bearded man who ran the shop had shrivelled along with his shop, but everything was still as sweet as the raisins on his counter.
L, P and I decided to go to the net browsing centre in Santacruz. L was not interested but I had to check my mails. P had nothing specific to do and he liked to go against L's preferences, so he just came along. We agreed to complete the browsing in 30 minutes. I did a quick check and found that there weren't any important mails. L was sitting outside solving a crossword puzzle and I went out to sit with him.
"Let's get P and get out of here", he said.
"Let's just sit for some time."
I was busy looking around and admiring the girls who were pouring out of the colleges nearby. P was busy with his crossword and occasionally looked up at some passing girl while busy counting the letters on his fingers.
"Don't mouth any words or they'll mistake you for getting fresh with them."
He smiled and shook his head before writing something down and stopping when he realised that it would overflow the grid.
"I think that would be "Juvenile" down and hence "Eton" across"
He looked at me through angry slits and was about to say something when I flashed him my best smile. He returned to his page.
I spotted a person dressed in black walking on the other side of the road. Without my specs, I wasn't able to figure out the sex (well, there was nothing obvious) from this distance. The person was slim enough to be either.
"L, do it casually, but can you check out the black figure there and tell me whether it is a guy or a girl?"
He didn't look up from his paper but asked me, "Can you see any calf?"
"Shoulder or upper upper arm?"
"A strip of brown around the waist?"
I squinted and strained hard before I said yes.
Without looking up from his paper, he patted me on my shoulder and said, "Congrats, its a girl!"
This was too crude for me to accept and my urban sensibilities kicked in.
"Come on L, that is so biased. It could have been a guy too!"
"Not possible on this road."
"This is so... so... old fashioned. Not done. Come on, its so conservative!"
He carefully folded the paper and looked me in the eye.
"E, keep your metrosexual bullshit to yourself and see things as they are."
I was shocked at that and was silent for a minute.
"You won't find guys dressing up like that. It's not their role in the mating game to do that. Girls will."
"Come on. Girls could dress that way simply because they feel comfortable in that."
"And guys never thought about it? Guys have no sense of comfort? Who are you kidding? You think I am some school kid?"
"But girls could just dress that way, because they want to."
"Why, is the question you must always ask. Always."
"Because they want to."
"Gimme a break. Girls want to be noticed, not bothered, but definitely noticed. They care about the number of eyes that look at them. Makes them feel surer, more confident. You think they would dress in flashy stuff if they were all marooned on an island with only a dozen other women who were all straight?"
"I thought the island theory was mine!" I said sheepishly.
"Think beyond your blog title and apply it to nearly everything in the world to understand the intent behind things."
"Are you telling me that they always dress for others, and to show themselves off?"
"Most of the times, yes. And other times, it might be pure inertia."
"That is so silly."
"You know what, let's settle this once and for all. Ok? We have another 20 min. before P steps out and few more minutes before he fumbles around in his pocket trying to pay that man in there and join us. In the mean time, you spot one guy who shows off his calf, shoulder blade, skin belt, sternum and I'll keep my mouth shut about such things. Mind you, I don't want you coming back to me with a list of girls who didn't reveal anything from the list. We aren't talking about them. Ok?"
I had to prove him wrong. I signed up.
I looked up and down the road and inside passing cars. I found guys in obnoxious shirts and jeans. For the first time, I was consciously looking at men and I found it terribly boring. I spotted a south Indian man walking down the road with his "veshti" (dhoti) pulled up and wrapped around his thighs. This could pass.
L looked up at the man and looked at me askance.
"Next what will you pick? The mad man who has torn off all his clothes and is walking around with an apple in his hand?"
I was desparate to find a sample to prove L wrong. The truth is, I might have missed a guys with revealing shoulders while I was busy watching the crowd of girls who came out of the ice-cream parlor. Very cute...
P walked out after paying for the 30 min and stood facing us.
"L, what are you doing with the crossword puzzle?"
L looked at him long and hard before replying: "Trying to remember what my mother had asked me to buy from the grocery store. I think it is 33 across: "Scammers gone straight?" or it should be 39 down: "Egg Manufacturer". Any clue?"
P scowled at him before turning to me.
"What are you doing?"
"He is looking out for skimpily clad men."
"Damn it L, why can't you give me a straight answer when I ask you something?"

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Guy Thing - 1

"And when the girl you loved walks away, what do you, Oh! mighty E?". My girl-friend (which is different from girlfriend) S never hesitated to get sharp with her words, and that is why she is still my friend!
"Well, I watch her walk away!", I said.
"See? That is why you'll go nowhere.", said S.
"But what can I do? My girl would surely be a sensible woman, and if she has decided to walk away, I can't do anything but watch her walk away."
"Hai, kya kamar!" (Oh! What hips!), said my pal K who was the only one who could get S more irritated than I'd ever manage to.
So this is what we were doing on a lazy Sunday afternoon. A few of us had gotten together at K's place. We counted S and R amongst the ladies, K, A and myself amongst the guys and we were always undecided about H.
"Shut up! K. This is serious." said S.
"Oye! Kamars are not serious?", he asked and quickly dodged the sauce pouch that was hurled at him.
R was always concerned and unlike S, didn't care to make a point unless she really cared about it. We've known each other for several years now and I have always been unable to answer so many questions about why R and I aren't going around steady. Neither of us felt that way and neither of us felt stupid enough to keep away from each other fearing more questions.
"See, E. You can't keep living in your world of fiction and poems. Life is real. If you find a girl whom you like... love (that took a while to come out), then you should go ahead and marry her.", said R.
"Marriage is so important, da." chirped H.
"You know, R is right. I think you have lived too long in your head and in your world of romantic heads of poets and writers. You aren't going to get yourself a woman like what you think. You'll only get a woman like what you feel", said A.
"What poets? What fiction? When did I ever quote a single line from any of them?" asked I, quite exasperated at this repeated innuendoes to my world created by myself.
"Percy Biscuit Shelly, Jane Iyer, Trueman Kaput, Lady and the Sanyasi..." K was counting on his fingers.
"Take Pico Iyer. That is what will become of you." said S.
"What? Famous and well travelled?" I asked.
"No, enjoying Cuban girls and finally settling down with a Japanese kudi and her kids. Oye! Balle Balle!" K was dancing around with the beer bottle in his hand. He hadn't had a sip and was already on a high.
"Guys, I don't know what has infected all of you. Marrying is not timepass. Why should I marry unless I find the right woman for me?"
"Oye! You are not getting married, biraathar. So, let's drink to that."
"What do you mean "right woman"? asked R.
"Yeah! There is not a single girl in the thousands you have known who matches your "criteria"?" asked S, drawing quotes in the air around criteria.
"Hmmm. Nope."
R smiled and S caught it just before she shot a, "Not even R?"
"Guys, let's not get personal. R is wonderful and we'll be this way till an unprecedented incident occurs."
"Saala! you sound like the weather forecast guy on CNN."
"Did anyone come close?" asked A.
"A few did, but for some strange reason I thought they would be better off with someone else."
"Good! You should become a marriage broker. What software waftware? This is more soft-ware, yaar!"
"So you haven't met any girl like that, your mom hasn't been able to locate any girl like that, so what do you plan on doing?"
"Become gay!?" asked H.
"Saala, chance maar raha hai" (Bloke, trying his luck on you!) said K.
"Guys! Marriage is not the only thing I can do in the next 24 hours. I have a lot to read, write, talk, code, design, invent, see, relish..."
"Yaar, especially on Brigade Road. Lots to see."
"It's quite simple. I am in no hurry or desparate need. Ayegi to ayegi." (she'll come if she has to)
"Guys are just afraid of commitment."
K rushed to my side and plopped on the cushion next to mine... actually more on me than on the cushion.
"Oye! Guys shies - don't generalise!.... Boss, I just composed poetry. Man, E, you are powerful. Bless me. May I compose more and more poetry, to bore.... See!? Another one! Jai Eroteme Maharaj ki."
I couldn't help laugh, especially knowing that S was going to slap K pretty soon. Would you believe that they were once going around, and K called it off? I thought it would have been S, but I think love makes women quite tolerant.
"Its got nothing to do with commitment. Why simply commit, because its fashionable?"
"I agree", said H.
"Girls are like beer", and K and A clinked their bottles, "though that is a bad analogy for you, E. But most guys drink beer so girls are like beer to most guys. Let them fill you with the joy of living!!"
"I agree", said H.
"And then you go to the next bottle... or girl?" roared S. I was hoping this didn't get into a fight.
"I agree, that's bad."
"Oye! Sweetie, you will never understand. Beer stays the same always, so does the girl you truly love. Bottle is not the girl. Beer is."
"I agree."
I hardly get to hear K get "philosophical" so I managed to quote him as verbatim as possible.
"And what is your beer, E?" asked R.
"Plain water."
"Abhe, she didn't ask literally."
"I know. I didn't reply literally, either."
There was silence for a few minutes, while R read the meaning from my eyes. She smiled. I turned to the guys.
"A mate is a companion and someone with whom I'd like to have my dinner."
"No wonder you eat dinner all by yourself."
"Exactly, water fills any space, contains itself at any temperature and nourishes. It can be as calm as in a lake, or as full of life down a rapid. Water accomodates any colour that you mix in it or any taste. And the beauty of a fall or a fountain is usually unmatched."
"Complicated, yaar. Try it again in English."
"Simple, boss. If a woman can't be balanced, I would have no interest in her. Overly sentimental, overly ambitious... at the cost of balance, doesn't appeal to me. And I mean balanced in a different sense. A bit of everything in the right combination enough to love life in its fullness and not adhering to just one outlook. Got it?"
"Yeah, right. When did anyone ever understand you in the first 60 seconds of you explaining it?" asked S.
"Ok, here goes. Time me, H." H fumbled around to find a stop clock, before A smacked him on his head and handed his watch to him.
"Ok, start."
"A person needs to enjoy life in all its stages and take shape accordingly. A woman who cannot be as is the norm with elders, or who cannot be a child in the midst of children, wouldn't interest me. A woman who doesn't enjoy the arts and who cannot pull up numbers to cut a wicked chart or design, cannot appreciate the variety of the intellect and the spirit. A woman who cannot tango with all her senses and enjoy Chanel 5 and petrichor alike, curd rice and penne alla Eroteme alike, jazz and sparrows alike, sail canvas and a baby's bottom alike, wouldn't interest me. A woman who can't talk for hours about the recent shift in consumer demographics and about an evening through the mist in Ooty and just listen for an equal length when someone has something to say about the trip on the Nile, wouldn't interest me. A woman who can't laugh, giggle, pout and be serious when the room calls for it, wouldn't interest me. A woman who doesn't look beautiful when she wakes up, or just out of the bath, or in overalls, or in pattu-saree, wouldn't interest me. A woman who can't handle an American guest, a Japanese one, an Australian and my grandmother at the same table, wouldn't interest me. If she is not all this and cannot learn, she wouldn't interest me. Its plain water, not champagne that I look for. Done. Time?"
"58 seconds."
"But why should a woman like this be interested in you?" asked S, always ready to speak for the women!!
"I never said she would be; I am telling you what interests me."
"And of course, you haven't found such a woman?" asked R with a wide smile.
"Not really."
"Yaar, you are not getting married. Let's drink to it."
"I agree."

Monday, December 04, 2006

Unheard Screams

The unknown other half...She watched her lips dance towards her nose and break into several ringlets as soon as the tiny pebble struck between her eyes. She smiled and watched the many circles which made her seem larger than what she was. Minu balanced herself on the rope over the pulley, with an empty aluminium bucket serving as sole counterbalance. Of course, there was Viru trying to pull her skirt and yelping for no reason. He was nearly pleading her to get off the ledge, but why was he worried today? He had seen her play with her "friend" in the well on so many days and would simply peer over the mud walls and bark at that ferocious creature staring back at his Minu.
"Leave me, Viru. What's wrong with you?"
Viru simply barked and ran around in circles before he started tugging at her skirt.
Minu turned her attention to her "friend" who was swimming as wildly as she could. Minu let out a "Ho" which bounced off the greenish walls, down to her "friend". Her "friend" replied with a meek "Ho" bathed in the splashing waters. Viru cocked his head to the side and wondered who else was around. He carefully walked around the well and started chasing a chameleon, rebuking it for speaking so loudly in his mistress' presence.
"You know what happened today, right?"
Her "friend" simply danced around and ignored the question.
"Don't do that. I have only you to talk to and you are busy playing around."
Her "friend" stopped and looked Minu in the eye.
"No, I do not want to marry him."
Her "friend's" eyes narrowed and silence between them seemed to throttle Minu into divulging the details.
"Yes, I did that, but that was just to tease him. I knew he was watching from the terrace and could see me through the gap between the door and the roof. But that was just for fun. Does every thing have to end on a serious note?"
Her "friend" grew serious. Minu drew in a long breath.
"He thinks I want him."
Her "friend" turned away in disgust, or was it the spray of mud falling from under Minu's palm?
"He came to my room last week."
Her "friend" stared back at her.
"Yes... I couldn't stop him, and I couldn't scream. He was sick and treated me like ..."
Minu turned away and let the bucket fall into the well with a loud splash. The noise thundered out and joined her nerves in their trembling. Minu shuddered. Fate and her inner repugnance raised the bile to her mouth.
She turned around and tugged at the rope, slowly drawing the bucket out. Manual labour was the only way she could cleanse herself of thoughts that tortured her over the past week. She let the ropes slip a bit and cut into her skin, cleaning all remnants of his torso as she had tried to push him away. She held the thick rope between her legs and let the bucket slip further. As the rope rushed and tore against the far end of her inner thighs she bit her lip and accepted the pain which was the only way to silence the palpitating horror of that night. The bucket slammed into her "friend" and both of them screamed. Minu was bleeding from between her legs. Viru was back and could smell it. He lowered his tail and crouched near her feet whimpering. She raised the bucket again and now wrapped the coarse coir around her chest. She took one more deep breath before she let go. The ropes screamed across her chest, mercilessly cutting through her fabric and deeper in before she heard her "friend's" muffled scream.
"No", Minu gasped, "Neither of us can be happier than the other."
Her hands and nearly all of her were bleeding when she leaned over one more time to look at her friend. The water splashed violently under the recent battering.
She sat down with her back against the mud walls. Viru placed his muzzle on her lap and looked up at her. He remembered what his friends used to say: "Thank god we never live long enough in the midst of human beings to be infected with their invisible worries." But today he wanted to share his mistress' concerns. She scratched his head and he started licking her hands. She wasn't looking at him, and her hands moved as disconnectedly as the frown on her forehead.What you'll never hear...
Minu stared straight ahead along the narrow mudpath that lead to the village's only well. She had to return on that road, but she couldn't imagine walking through all those voices which lined that path, like milestones, announcing every gory detail of that night. Every time she thought of forgetting that incident and living with him as if she had been his wife while he tore away at her clothes, and she rolled her head on the mud wall uttering a low moaning "No". She dug her nails into the sand hoping to bury that night when she nearly gave into him only to see his face above her and...
She grabbed a handful of sand and flung it into the well. She pulled herself up (her legs had grown numb) and stared into the well.
"You can't get to stay pure while I am thrown around like a rag doll for a dog to play with."
She flung some more sand at her "friend". She pushed the bucket in and threw in the rope. She tried to shake the wooden beam that held the pulley. She rattled it with all her might, while Viru kept barking. With all her might spent, and all her anguish dissolved in blood and sweat, she tried to lean against the beam to catch her breath. It finally gave way. Her "friend" spread her arms out.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Conversations with (so many) nobody(ies)

This post was up on this blog over a year ago, but it is special as the people mentioned in it are so. Between when it was published and now, one of the participants got married and two of them are going to get married very very very soon (like tomorrow!). MaheshC and I remain the same, unchanged by time ;-p
Those were days when a few of us used to blog and comment regularly. I think we have all grown up and become serious adults! :-( I miss those days when participating on blogs was so regular and full of life. With some folks we would comment and then discuss comments over the phone (across states, sometimes). I doubt whether that fervour would ever return to the blogging world. :-
It brings back a lot of fond memories (honestly, I couldn't make head or tail of the comments on this post!)... Here is to the wonderful people in this post.


This was a conversation I had with some very interesting thinkers. I am sure most of the readers of my blog have already visited their pages, or maybe not. It was about 20:00 hrs (while in bed) on 3rd March 2005 when I had this conversation although the conversation was in the coffee shop of Landmark in Spencer's a little before lunch time... You'll figure, don't worry. Meera, Extrospectrivia and I were sitting at this table with my back towards the counter (I had to look away from those brownies in the jar). We were waiting for Renuka and MaheshC. They had promised to arrive some time ago but they haven't.

Pan to a table where all of us are seated, still with my back to the counter.

MaheshC: I suppose you are the only one who actually writes such detailed comments
Meera: (Rolls her eyes) Yeah right!
Like A Feather: Actually, I like to write so ...
Meera: But longer than our posts? Puhleaaze.
LAF: Its not about the length. I like to point out what I felt and liked in the post. If I see something that could have been changed then I suggest.
MC: But I like those comments. Sounds genuine.
LAF: Exactly, I can't just stop by and drop a "Brilliant" or a "So nice"
Me: I agree with you, Eroteme. I was just pulling your leg...
Renuka: But people who drop those comments are not necessarily insincere
LAF: Agreed, but repeated "That was so great" makes me wonder "Why?". Think about it. When I say on your blog that I like your post, shouldn't I let you know what parts I liked and what parts I didn't? Wouldn't that make you feel a shade better, Renuka? Uhh, by the way, is there a shorter form to your name?
[MaheshC and Meera laugh. Extro smiles]
R: Renu
LAF: Cool. I'll keep alternating if that is ok. So back to the original point. Shouldn't people know why they like something rather than paste a comment like a smile on the corridor.
MC: You used that same expression on my blog
LAF: Yeah, I'm running low on creativity off late... So tell me Renu. Huh?
R: [After a deep inhalation] What you say is right, Eroteme, but not everyone wants to give a detailed comment, and ...
LAF: Then why comment? Simply to let me know that you also read my post?
R: What's wrong about that? As in, my friends ...
LAF: Nothing wrong. I am not saying that these guys are bad or wrong, all...
R: Don't interrupt me!
LAF: Oopsy daisy. Sorry.
R: [Smiles] Its ok I was just... See my friends would want to simply drop by and say that they liked my post. Why must they define their likes?
LAF: Nothing wrong with defining likes or dislikes. When I go to a shop and pick a shirt, and someone asks me "Why do you like it?" I think I would be able to give countable reasons for that. "I don't have this colour.", "Nice stripes, naah?", "I wanted a shirt like this ever since I watched Ace Ventura!"
[Laughter around the table]
LAF: Thank the lord. I thought I was in a morgue!
MC: But I agree with Renuka. Sometimes the comments would be general, because breaking it down to parts might make them lose the mystery of it. Sometimes its simply the feeling of joy in reading such a piece.
LAF: But defining something doesn't kill the beauty of the thing. I think it was Feynman who once said that studying the stars doesn't take the beauty out of them. Calling them a gaseous mass doesn't make them less beautiful on a cloudless night sky.
Me: Actually, they are right, Eroteme. In spite of the many conversations when we agreed on this, I think we can't help general comments at times too.
LAF: I am lost. I think it is a problem with what I think is the purpose of a comment. I think the comment is more to let a person know what I felt when I read the post. And in that...
R: Feeling nice or finding the post brilliant is ok, right?
MC: Yeah
R: It's like when someone says that he or she is in love.
LAF: Oh oh. Don't go there...
Me: [with a grin] Why not? I know you hate that topic, but...
LAF: I don't hate it. I just don't seem to be looking in the same direction that others have their faces towards.
R: What's wrong with love?
LAF: Nothing Renuka, but its more about my beliefs. I believe that Love too can be and rather should be defined.
R: What?
MC: This is getting interesting.
Me: This is only the start.
LAF: Guys, help me.
R: Love should be defined? As in what? How?
LAF: See, I think that when someone says that "I love someone" I think the person should know why.
R: Why?
LAF: Exactly
R: No, no. Why should they know that? Love is such a nice feeling.
LAF: Who said anything about it being bad? All I am saying is that a lover should know why he or she is in love.
R: You are mad.
LAF: What?
R: As in, can't someone just love somebody?
LAF: Yeah, anyone can do what they want. All I am saying is that, I would prefer it that way.
Me: But love doesn't have to have reasons. Its a feeling, an emotion.
LAF: But so is anger, and don't we always have a reason for being angry? And don't we find someone silly for being angry for no reason?
R: Its not the same.
Me: I agree with you. Anger is also an emotion and it usually has a reason.
LAF: Usually? I think it always does. Rarely does one say "I am mad at him but can't put my finger on it"
One of the coffee shop boys: Sir, would you like to place an order?
LAF: Sure. Would love to but in another 5 minutes. Is that ok?
Boy: Sure, Sir. No problems.
LAF: And to think that the Queen is working overtime trying to figure out whom to knight next.
R: What?
LAF: No nothing.
MC: How do you define love?
LAF: Nice piece. I really love the way the flute goes on that one tuuu-ruru. tuuu-ruru. And then the piano starts. Really nice. Mahesh, there is no one definition for love. Each individual needs to know why one loves and be able to put it down in words.
R: That is what has made love so mechanical and artificial.
Me: I agree. Though I have something ...
R: And that is why people keep falling out of love and divorce rates are climbing.
LAF: Actually I don't think divorce is the bad thing out here. It is the love that got them in there. Had they thought about the "Why" in their love they might have realised that a marriage, though nice, would not work.
R: What? And how does that happen?
LAF: See, Renu. Its pretty simple. When I say I love... say that lady in rust colour kurta over there...
Me: I was wondering why you were looking over there. She's ok.
MC: Looks good to me.
LAF: Me too. Nice stilettoes.
R: Guys. Relax. She's probably married.
LAF: Aaah. Experienced! Hmmm. Nice, really nice.
Me: [Laughs] No wonder you can't find a girl.
LAF: Of course I can, I am just not looking around.
Me: Sour grapes!
[Everyone laughs]
LAF: Glad that lightened the situation. Suddenly things seemed a little serious.
R: You still have to tell me about how divorce is good.
LAF: Boy! She doesn't let go does she? I never said that divorce is good. I am simply saying that divorce might not be the bad guy in the whole picture.
R: How?
LAF: See, if the two people had fallen in love after understanding what exactly made them believe that they were in love, then things make sense and then people are prepared for nearly everything.
R: Huh?
LAF: Let's go back to the woman in rust.
MC: Let's.
LAF: [Smiles] If I come to you and tell you that I love her, I am most likely to have a set of reasons. I might find her a wonderful conversationalist, a considerate person, someone who doesn't really have airs about herself, whatever. But I will have definite reasons. There would still be those "something only she can do" things...
[Laughter around the table]
LAF: No no. I don't mean that. God! I mean those things which people say... forget it. But most of my reasons would be there. Hence, tomorrow if I contemplate marrying her...
MC: The lady in rust?
LAF: Yeah
Me: But you hardly know her.
LAF and R: [Together] Guys!
LAF: So tomorrow if I plan on marrying her, I can at least be sensible about what I decide. I might love her but realise that her eccentricities can be too wacky at times, or the way she doesn't care about a thing is not really something cool in a family. I would still love her, but realise that I don't see marriage working out. Had I not such reasons, it would be likely that I would be riding the wave into a marriage and then think about these things, and if it gets out of hand and divorce is an option we both would consider, then yes, divorce it shall be. Here, divorce is not the bad thing but the baseless or unthought feeling of love that is the problem.
R: Hmmm
Me: What does this have to do with comments?
MC: Beats me.
LAF: Yeah, what does this have to do with comments?
R: We were comparing simple comments to simply falling in love.
Me: There is no divorcing comments.
LAF: Yeah, but haven't you felt often that comments of this sort on a piece you really didn't consider your best or one of your best, makes you feel worse?
MC: Eroteme, I think you need to realise that our blogs are not merely up for literary review. That is what you do.
LAF: And that's bad? Secondly, its not always a literary review. Sometimes it just about the way things are expressed. Don't I do that on your posts, Mahesh? Apart from the literary review?
Me: No, not bad. Just different. It feels nice to know that someone has actually bothered to read our work so closely.
MC: Yeah.
Me: Though it makes me wonder what mistakes I am going to make every time I post a new one.
LAF: Awww. Come on. I am not here for nit-picking.
MC: No, no. Its fine. Actually it is.
R: It is, but simple comments are fine too.
LAF: Hmmm. I'll agree with you. No, not because I have to. I suppose sometimes, and rarer the better, we would not want to think about what makes us feel nice about a post, but simply bask in the niceness we feel after reading it. So I suppose that it is ok. But, you will still get long comments from me.
[A little pause around the table, though everyone seems to be smiling and happy]
Extrospectrivia: What books did you buy yourself?
LAF: Chronicles of Narnia
MC: Isn't that the children's book?
LAF: Yup. Interesting one.
Ex: And the other book?
LAF: Cambridge's Etymology.
Me: What?
Ex: Together they pretty much summarise your life, right?
LAF: [Smiles] Actually, yeah.
Boy: Are you ready for placing an order, Sir.

None of what transpired in my head reflects anything about the participants (including me to a certain extent!). If I have offended anyone, I would like to know, and I shall rectify the situation to my best. I have met none of these people, except Meera. This conversation left me with a pretty disturbed night's sleep and really bad dreams! Nothing to do with the people in it, though I would love to blame the lady in rust for hastily walking away...Or maybe ice cream and sauce don't go well together for dinner!!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Room to Read: Must Read

I love books which reveal the spirit of the protagonist. Not moral tales or "You have it in you" self-help books (check out the book called SHAM and relate it to a post I wrote earlier). I am far away from romance, horror and sci-fi. So, when I pick a book, I usually do my research. Here is a book (and the protagonist is .. well, real) which I have been waiting for (without knowing that it was going to be written/published) ever since I read about Room To Read (from my favourite Fast Company website). John sure is a driven person and I simply enjoy reading about the passion he pours into his calling. I like the fact that he doesn't gloss over the tribulations of making the shift.

So what is this book about? Its about a man following his calling. It's not about a man doing something and then preaching that to be the right thing to do in this world. It's not about judging other people's lives or one's own and feeling a pseudo-motivation to mimic such things. It's about a John Wood, who left Microsoft (and that is not such a big deal; there are many of them) because he wanted to create and be part of a revolution to bring education to the young children of this world. It's about a man utilising his Kellogg MBA for something other than investment banking and directing his years of education (in the classroom and on the field) towards education where it was needed the most. It's about a man doing something which he feels passionately about, the results and effects of which will be known only after several years/decades. That is a tough thing. Many people might jump into something whole-heartedly but are disappointed when they don't see results quickly. Undoubtedly, he had several contacts in the big-money world and it helped, but he will still have to wait to know the full impact of his passionate journey (beyond the peace it brings to him). Nope, you aren't going to get a book review here. You might have to wait for an issue of Alvibest in the future!! :-)

I also love the management nuggets he carried with himself from Microsoft. I had the great fortune of working with wonderful people while I was at Computer Associates, and they helped give me words to what I believed in. Together, we had realised several truths about organisations which we had distilled into nuggets and I had them burnt in my mind. It was a pleasure to read some of them in this book.

So here is my request to you:

Buy this book (and you can find this in your local bookstore), read it. If you do not feel his passion and do not feel like working with John and his team at Room to Read, let me know. If I find your stance valid (I will only be listening to you and not debating with you), send me your bank wiring details, and I will refund the cost you incurred on this book (and I want you to send me the bill and other details). I mean it.
While you wait for the weekend to arrive to go shopping for this book, please do take out some time from your schedule to read about Room to Read, and if you find them to be a motivated organisation and on the right track, please spread the word. Feel free to spread word about this post and the offer I have to make.

We aren't in a country which can match the dollar and the euro, but this is the least we can do.

Think about this:
If every employee in your organisation contributes Re. 1 (that's 0.0224291 USD) per day, then it goes away unnoticed (it's less than the money you lose haggling with an auto-rickshaw driver, or the gum you spat out on the road). That's about Rs. 30 a month. In a 5000 person organisation, that's a sizeable contribution per month. Do the 'rithmetic for a year and that is about $40,000 or about 160 girl children getting to learn on a scholarship per year. Now span this across the several organisations in India and you can slowly pull that jaw back up and smile. This is just one of the many ways to get money (and this idea was inspired by my work in end-user computing and recalling a dialogue from the movie Entrapment) and I would love to brainstorm with people about other ways to raise money without having to make people frown.

A rupee a day is nothing. We only note stimulating sums of money (and that amount changes according to your earning capacity) and a rupee is usually nothing to people reading this post. Now, when you know exactly how that rupee gets translated (construction, books, overheads, etc.) then there is a greater relief than simply throwing the money into some charity organisation. I have always wanted charity orgs to send me their quarterly report with their expense report published online or sent out to contributors who contribute more than X amount. Well, I don't know any other place that does that. Room To Read does that.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


This is one of the submissions I had made to the CBA Short Story competition. As might be known ( the better ones won.


"But I don't like watermelons!"
"That's fine, Vivek. Take some chocolates if you want and go play with Sharmila", ordered his father.
"But I don't want to go out now", Vivek whined and turned to look at Sharmila sitting and playing with her rag doll. The flesh of her four year thigh was pressed hard between the chair and the hand which held the doll. He loved the ruddy marks chairs - or anything - left on her skin. He liked her, but not her mommy, mostly because she came when his mommy wasn't around. Another reason was that Sharmila didn't like his daddy. He stomped and grumbled as he went to fetch the plate. He picked one slice and bit into the translucent redness. Something about the onrushing sweetness made him look at Sharmila again, but she was too busy with her doll.

"Coming Sharmee?"
She got up without ceasing to comb her doll and followed him out. She continued fussing over the doll and Vivek spat the seeds as if to help her find her way to him. He spat one very far into the sands and, pleased with himself, turned around to her.
"How far can you spit?"
She looked up for the first time. He spat one for her.
"The last one went ten times as far", he said, hoping that her doll had kept her busy to notice what had really happened.
"I don't want to do this. It's so dirty."
He scowled at her and walked on, spitting closer to his feet. At the wooden pier they sat down with their tiny feet dangling over salt spraying waves. He put the plate between them and she kept her doll farther away from him.
"Do you want some…" and he belched loudly before completing it. Sharmila turned sharply, her eyes widening in surprise. Then she burst out laughing. Vivek joined her heartily and the plate moved behind them, and they, closer to each other.
"I can burp when I want to. See."
He gulped in pockets of air and craned his neck back and forth like an epileptic swan. Sharmila laughed at his preparation for the obnoxious. Then he burped a weak one for her.
"This is so dirty", she said and giggled.
"But you like it?"
"It's funny. Where did you learn this?"
"My father taught me."
"But it's so dirty", and she laughed.
"It's not dirty", he said and grew serious.
"What your mommy did to my daddy yesterday was dirty."

And as they looked away, the waves were a deadening roar between them and even the matted hair of the doll was a tattered flag whipping in a storm. Their legs stopped their extempore dance and the sea stilled with nothing to salt. With the abruptness of their ascent, the noises stopped, but in an instant, were drowned in those of yesterday.

She brought the doll to her lap and resumed combing its hair. Vivek pulled the plate between them and picked a limp slice of melon. As he ate, he watched her thigh pressed against the rough sand-covered wood. He recalled how he enjoyed dusting the sand from her thighs. He spat the seeds into the water. She watched the seeds plop into the foamy water below.

"Give me a slice", she said and reached over to take one. The doll rolled from her lap to the space between them. She caved her mouth and the seeds clung to spittle before reluctantly sliding on to her palm.
"Teach me how to spit it that far", she said and pointed to the horizon.

Submission - 2

This is one of the submissions I had made to the CBA Short Story competition. As might be known (, the better ones won.


Calcutta arrived after a display of wide tapestries of landscapes changing rapidly, tossed around the train like saris at a shop. I also heard tongues change and conversations becoming less meaningful with every passing station. Now I was here, where things hardly ever seemed to change but the constancy was most unhelpful. This numbing sameness was matched only by my belief that hope could replace the lack of an address or contacts in an alien city.

The city gave me food, wild guesses, frivolous misdirections - ending in stifled giggles - and little else. After asking at South Indian caf├ęs and homing in on a South Indian ghetto, I had finally gotten information about "A pretty woman with a betel nut sized birthmark on her jaw. Yes, from Madras and with long black silk for hair! Oh! She must have cut it recently." I reached the wide roads of Shakespeare Sarani where I was told that I'd find someone who fit my description. "There is a Madrasi couple at house 1521."
"And… their daughter?" I asked.
"I don't think they have children."
That left me puzzled and less hopeful of ending my search at that house.

In the dark, the road was defined by lazy silhouettes rolling over each other like an overturned pot of molten lead. The silver crackling spark above a passing tramcar was the only life here. House numbers stood ailing under the dusty yellow of the sodium vapour lamps. I noticed that I had nine more houses to go and each step thumped heavier in my breast. I clasped my hands which, after endless washing and bathing, hadn't lost the warm feeling of her hand on mine. Such warmth, like love, wasn't fatigued by flitting time and season.

I wasn't sure what those seven years did to her face and I kept conjuring images of possible aging contours and caricatures that might have affected her visage, though I always ended up with that strained face - honey shards for eyes, curved blood for lips - which pulled away with the speed of the train just after she had held my hand. 1521 greeted me with shouts and falling vessels while the whole world surrounding it with yellow punctuated blackness, lay calm and ignored the turbulence inside. I saw her clothes drying from a balcony above. Against the ebony skies her saris appeared like sheets, but there was a familiarity that only a lover's heart could recognise. I walked up the short flight of stairs and was about to knock when I heard a loud male voice with the raspy edge that alcohol is known to provide.

"Get out of my house, you whore! This is my house and I will do as I please."
Sobs broke out in reply and metal and ceramic crashed haphazardly in a grieving cacophony.
"This is common occurrence in this house, babu. Nothing to listen to so eagerly."
I turned around sharply to notice an old lady near the foot of the stairs. I slowly jogged down to her.
"I came to meet an old friend of mine. She was… is very special to me."
"I hope your special friend is elsewhere, babu", she said and walked away into the yawning shadows of the trees that lined the road.

She was right. The sheer repugnance of searching her out here pushed me onto the street. She couldn't be here… god, never! even though the figure against the French window, now clasping her mouth, now shielding herself, now crumbling, resembled her. As I fled, I caught a glimpse of the sheets fluttering outside the balcony.

Submission - 1

This is one of the submissions I had made to the CBA Short Story competition. As might be known ( the better ones won.

Life in black and white

There are things in life which cannot be reversed and that fact gives great solace…
"Are we done? Only the attic is left and I will..." asked Luke.
"I'll do the attic", I interrupted, "Why don't you check on the kids and see if they have loaded their stuff into the wagon?"
He paused for a minute and then agreed with the fluency of the smile that grew on his stubble.

Our attic was a long passage into another world, whose romanticism required us to bow low and walk through its four feet high walls. It spanned the length of our house and captured all the relegated wonders and now useless commodities into a uniform family of memories and sighs.

Stray teddy bears and hose pipes tripped me onto cartons of palm sized squeaky shoes and heart sized t-shirts. I took one long breath of musty air filled with cheerful voices and images of yesteryears: Must these go too?

I crawled towards the far corner where festering cardboard cartons housed things I had well forgotten. I lit a small bulb and opened one dust cloaked box with disgust - old papers. Another one contained moth ravaged curtains and rusting hooks. A few cartons and several sharp coughs and wheezes later I decided that all of these could remain and stay buried under the rubble.

As I turned around on my haunches to return to the pleasant cubes of memories of the euphoria which followed childbirth, I spotted a small suitcase covered in a large checked cloth. What was that? I pulled it out and fell back with the hollow plastic handle in my hand. I sat down and moved the cartons on top of it and opened the suitcase. In its dark interiors lay thick velvet labyrinths of memories wrapped in plastic.

My fingers trembled as I brought these photo albums to my lap, and I blamed it on their weight. I opened one to the traditional South Indian marriage of my parents, the most colourful event of their life captured in black and white, and the important scenes in the then costly sepia. Sepia was common when a smart young man, devoid of wedding finery held aloft a little nappy clad girl, as she happily sucked on her thumb. Eastman colour ruled the roost when she could walk and played with her toys, posing with her cousins. Kodak prints were affordable when she was in college. I put those albums back in the suitcase and picked the smaller convenient pocket-sized albums. Pictures of me while at Kent, while on my first job in Bristol, an occasional picture of my aging parents captured in full ironic detail and colour.

Amidst those albums were envelopes of dread. Envelopes which contained arguments about my marriage to Luke - a foreigner to them and one who transformed them into alien memories for me. Envelopes which informed me of my father's heart attack, of my mother's depression and refusing to accept help from me, of refusing to ever see me. Black and white images and dark ink cleaved the endless attic into pastel memories of my children and shadowy reminiscence of my childhood in India.

Later in the evening I stood with Luke and watched the machines nudge the walls down. I walked over to the man in charge.
"Yes ma'am?"
"Once you're done, it's impossible to get anything out, right?"
"Nope. Buried forever ma'am. You want me to stop for a while?"
"No. Go ahead, flatten her nice and tight."
"Sure ma'am?"
Over the accusing voices from the cartons I shouted hastily, "Sure."