Thursday, July 30, 2009

A method to the madness - reloaded...

Long long ago, fresh out of a 'think clearly' - corporate team building exercise, I had decided to bring in some method to the madness on my blog. I had then decided to structure my blog in the following way.

Moody Mondays
Trends on Tuesday
What I saw on Wednesday
Thoughtful Thursday
Festive Friday
Sporty Saturday
Something Sunday

Here is what I wrote back then.

I diligently followed the approach for a while. But insanity never leaves once it gets to you. And so, all it took was a global economic meltdown and all structure went for a toss, just like structured products and securitization went I know not where! Now, 10 months later, at 3.30 am on a fairly cool, calm, relaxed weekend, I make another decision.

Again, I want to bring in some structure to what I write, so that I can be consistent in what I write and I can never be at a loss to decide what to write! So, my new structure, given my current way of life is as follows.

Mumbai on Monday - Anything and everything about Maximum City
Trends on Tuesday - Will include current events, some trends I observe and so on
What I saw Wednesday - Will include my time at ISB as well
Thoughtful Thursday - My take on anything
Funda on Friday - I need to make use of some of my learning at school. So some gyaan on what I learn comes up on Friday
I cannot commit to sport on Saturday, since my schedule has left me with precious time for sport! Sigh!! So, Saturday and Sunday are for surprises :)

That said, Worklectica - my workplace blog - gets updated every week, Thursday. So watch out for that space too. This week, the focus there is on work and ethics.

In addition to all this, if there happens to be some event that I havvvvvvvvvve to speak about, I will put in a mention irrespective of the day, but over and above the day's stuff. Again, fingers crossed. Hope I can pull this off and maintain it as well....

So, till tomorrow's funde on Friday... adios...

Monday, July 27, 2009

The king is back - All hail Michael Schumacher

Formula 1. This year particularly, this sport has been in the midst of a whole host of stories. Last year, the championship was won by Hamilton, on account of points, though Massa won more races. Lots of people criticized this turn of events and me and my blog were no exception! So this year saw a change in rules! Again, these rules were flailed by many. Then a new team came along - Brawn GP, and swept entrenched players and race winners off their feet.

As if that were not enough, cut to Hungaroring. A spring weighing 0.65 kg, flies from Barrichello's car, hits Massa's helmet in the most gruesome, freak accident in a long time. The incident triggered morbid pictures of Ayrton Senna, another Brazilian, whose accident is the only case of a casualty on track in F1. The parallels were way too many. Similar mode of injury, only that in Senna's case the accident had dire consequences. In Massa's case, one must say that it is indeed a miracle that he survived.

But look at Ferrari from a more holistic point of view. Ever since Schumi left the team, the team has almost sort of lost out a lot! First Brawn left, then last season was a disaster, thanks to Massa losing the championship by a meager point. As though that were not enough, this time around, though Ferrari and Massa were not in a very strong position championship-wise, Massa suffered a near-fatal accident, that knocked him out of action for goodness knows how long. Sounds a lot like Ferrari of 1999. 20 years of having run without a single championship victory, they were sooooo close to victory that year with Schumi, till the accident at Silverstone that broke Schumi's leg and knocked him out of the championship that year.

But things cannot be all bad all the time! So, Schumi came back after his injury in 2000 and won all championships thereafter. One of the best periods in F1, at least for me, since I got to see Michael magic time and again, and I got to see a piece of history being made! And now, HE IS BACK... He will drive for Ferrari for the remainder of the season - 7 races in all, beginning with Nurburgring - the European GP. As an ardent Schumi fan, I couldn't have asked for more.

I quit watching F1 this season, since there really was no one to cheer for. When Schumi raced, victorious Sundays were happy. The following Mondays would have me dressed in red while going to college. Sundays without Schumi on the podium were days when people were better off not talking to me. Such was the admiration I had for his talent and his sportsmanship. All hail the return of the king. Schumi thanks for coming back. Hope you add a touch of your magic to an otherwise forgettable, drab season in F1.

P.S. What are the odds that a sport superstar would make a comeback albeit brief, into a physically and mentally demanding sport? For me, this is nothing short of momentous. Note to self - a post for every Schumi race this season....

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Kargil - the memory remains, and a hope lingers... 10 years down

So much has happened and there is so much to say. Today marks 10 years since the Kargil war. This was the first 'Indo-Pak' war I saw. Till then stories of the Indo-pak war, for me, were just legends. And here was an honor war being fought, against the colluded militants and Pak Army on Indian soil - at several thousand feet above sea level, in inaccessibly cold and icy mountain ranges. At that time, the war was being fought in the Himalayas, but we were watching it unfold in our living rooms. The blood of every Indian boiled, to see a soldier slain. That too soon after a very happy happy visit by the then Pak premier Musharraf to India. The betrayal and treachery seemed blatant. But all we could do was watch. But somewhere deep inside, most Indians felt that we would eventually win. Somehow or the other, the Satyameva Jayate concept kinda kept ringing out. And win we did! I remember the celebrations that rang out near where I lived when Tiger Hill was captured. I remember the sudden patriotic fervor that bubbled within us.

I also remember the debates that rang out in school about the whole war aspect. There was the question on whether India should have crossed the LoC while fighting the insurgents and nipping the weed in the bud and so on. At the time, almost all of us vociferously opposed the way India conducted herself in the war. Young blood spoke out, when we said that India should have crossed the LoC. Our reasoning was highly Keynesian! Extraordinary times can call for extraordinary measures. But then someone once told me, that everyone is a revolutionary sometime in life. And so were we.

Today on the 10th anniversary of Operation Vijay, we had around thirty of the finest officers of the Indian Army, Navy and Airforce, in a delegation led by the Commandant of the College of Defense Management (CDM), Rear Admiral Batra VSM along with Lt.General Aiyyengar, PVSM, AVSM, VSM, an expert in defence strategy visit us on campus and they spoke about the Kargil war, the sterling leadership shown by every military person on the front and so on. Some things in the talk really stayed on in my mind.

For instance, he mentioned that India's stance of not crossing the LoC actually elevated her in terms of ethics in the eyes of the world. Our childhood revolutionary stance immediately sprang into mind. He then spoke of the brave and fearless officers on the front, who led by example taking a bullet in the chest while trying to protect their teams. It sounds very nice to hear these stories. But think of the deceased soldier's parents, relatives and friends, who perhaps squirm with grief each time they hear a mention of these valorous acts. Think of the number of houses and families that have been razed to the ground thanks to the concept of war. Think of the gross frivolity of war in itself. Think of the platoon leaders, the squadron leaders, the Air Chief Marshall, and everyone at the higher echelons who each day had to hear reports of casualties. The very people they knew and trained, and interacted with, were now part of a statistic - a death toll, another brave individual who had given the supreme sacrifice.

Which then brings me to talk about the new face of war these days. And that evokes images of 26/11 in Mumbai, (another 26, albeit a sad memory here). And then again, images of the commandos swinging into action to release hostages, fight the deranged terrorists springs to mind. Another whole bunch of lives lost. Another set of young India was being decimated in yet another war which serves no purpose. While drawing parallels, a thought struck my mind. After Kargil, the powers-that-be realized the intel was not strong, they did not get wind of the imminent attack; they also realized their gross unpreparedness for a war of that scale in such terrible terrain. But then again, when Mumbai lost Karkare, Kamte and Salaskar, there were talks of unpreparedness again. So, why did we not learn anything in 10 years?

One thing we must accept is the awe that the armed forces continue to inspire. They are perfectly disciplined, and the sheer nature of the people in the armed forces, their enthusiasm, dedication, ensures that the people of the nation can be at peace, rest assured that the country is in safe hands. I remember the feeling of reassurance when the commandos swooped into action in Mumbai during 26/11. But how can we respect these heroes for the selfless service they render to the civilian Indian population? The brave soldiers and policemen do not deserve just a posthumous memorial service and a citation, or a decoration. What we can do is to try to prevent these brave young Indians from having to perform the supreme sacrifice. That is when we would do our fallen heroes justice. So, Kargil - the memory remains, and the hope for a war-less, peaceful tomorrow lingers....

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My first tryst with Hari Puttar....

Harry Potter. Ok. Long long ago when the hoopla started, I took the stance of a die hard Enid Blyton fan. I said that I would not, under any circumstance, allow my idea of a kiddie book be changed from an Enid Blyton perspective to something else. I refused to allow Jo, Bessie and Fannie of the Enchanted Wood be dethroned by Harry Potter and his exotic name wallah friends. And thus I lived for a very long time. I read no book in the Potter series. Malvika told me scores of times that I must mussssssssssst read Harry Potter. I snobbishly repeated my stance, and she very sweetly, very patiently tried to reason with me, that the two genres were different. I refused to listen, since I was very very contented with my view. My cousins swore by Harry. My nephews never touched a Blyton, but read Harry Potter in 2 nights! My cousin, who is all of 20 years elder to me was a fan. My watchman told me about Hari Puttar, whose books his son used to read - Apparently, his son decided school books were worthless, and he needed to find his own Hogwarts! And yet, I stood my ground

Then many many years later, while I was vacationing in Mumbai, my friend in Hyd, assumed that I would be a Potter fan, and when Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince released, she booked tickets for me as well, when they were going out together as a gang. I got to know from an SMS at 3 am, that I was meeting Harry Potter on such and such date, time blah blah blah. I kept quiet. Upon reaching Hyd, I told her meekly, that I did not know the funda of Harry Potter, and I tried preaching my 'value system' - Kiddie book = Enid Blyton and none else! Sounded more like 'Moochein ho toh Natthulal jaise ho, warna na ho - from Amitabh Bachhan's Sharabi'. She responded with a look that combined one of aghast + disdain + 'Kya pagal ladki hai' etc etc. So I decided not to belabor my point and just go with the flow.

This, turned out to be the turning point in my value system life! So, I was seeing the sixth installment of the Potter franchise. I did not know the names of Harry's friends. I had a vague idea of the premise and I had 2 Potter fans on each side at the theater. The conversion was complete. I fell in love with Potter and Hogwarts, and everything Potteresque. I loved the picturisation, I loved the old old cupboards in the upper stories of Hogwarts - it kinda triggered a new wave of imagination in me. I loved the magic, the characters, the nuances, the premise. I now want to read all of the books!

And that's when I realized that there was a key positioning folly here. Potter is not in direct competition with Jo, Bessie, Fannie, Saucepan, Silky and Moonface. Potter is for another generation, another age group. So my assumptions underlying my 'value system' were flawed on account of the prevalent data then (thanks to flawed advertising... huh), and hence some minor tweaking was desired! So I was justified in holding my view and even more justified now, in changing it. So now, I have my work cut out for my next term break. Harry Potter and the Goblet of fire, Harry Potter and the chamber of secrets, Harry Potter and the order of the phoenix, Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the deathly hallows, Harry Potter and the half blood prince - HERE I COME!!!!!

Friday, July 17, 2009

All that I came back to - Part 1

Enigma in the background, filter coffee in hand, rains outside the window, mild cloudy atmosphere, perfect food for thought...

As one moves on in life, situations and surroundings change and each change brings with itself a new perspective. Each perspective in turn adds on to one's kitty of thoughts, memories and learning, which at the end of the day, when one looks back at a life led, makes the life look full and complete. Does that sound abstract enough? Maybe. But a change from a certain way of life certainly makes you think back on the life that was, and appreciate all the smaller things that you perhaps leave behind. This and my undying love for maximum city formed the basis of my writings on 'All that I leave behind - Part I to IV, with many more to follow. And now, on my small 'back home' sojourn, I have begun to look at All that I left behind with a deeper shade of nostalgia and an even greater appreciation towards the smaller things that make life ... complete.
Ok, so let me cut to the chase. For me, life is a collage of incidents. What makes the whole thing beautiful is the way in which some people manage to make this collage very colorful and pretty, and each time you think back about this collage, you come out with a huge smile on your face.

So here is a small list of things I came back to.
  • A place where they don't make Lauki and Turai together (I have no idea what those vegetables are. My mess made those two vegetable dishes look identical, and Aneesha's reaction that betrayed something like 'SACRILEGE! TREASON! PUNISHMENT FOR SUCH A CRIME SHOULD BE DEATH BY THE GUILLOTINE!!!' kinda gave me the idea that maybe... just maybe these two vegetables don't go together.
  • Filter coffee - the elixir of life. The magical brown nectar that is the essence of a southie's life.
  • Rains - the real deal. Monsoons where clouds gather, winds blow, the environs get cloudy and romantic, aaaaaaaaaaaaand, surprise surprise - IT RAINS AS WELL!!!
  • Trains, buses and traffic jams - When one misses every aspect of the city, these things that form the life of the city, are missed as well. I missed the noise, the vibrancy, the continuous lively chatter of the city.
  • My people. People who have been with me through different walks of life. Such people, after meeting whom, I come back with sweeter memories. Chief, who of his own, remembered my birthday and called me up while I was sitting alone and homesick in a remote room on campus, missing home, friends, and getting tense about exams! Chief, who when I went to meet him the other day got out of an important meeting, just to come and talk with me for a while! Nadu and Bakhtu, - my first friends in the corporate world, the sweetest people ever, Teepoo, who only counted down to my time of arrival in Mumbai some 1000 times, Bond and Rohit, JC, Sangy, Shilpu, all from a part of my life I had left behind over a year ago! Why? There was no reason why they took the time out of work to spend time with me. There was no reason why they spent time with me and then worked late that evening, to catch up with deadlines. With tiny gestures, they effectively made one person very very happy. And then, my kiddie buddy, Archi, who still counts me as an important part of her life, in spite of all the myriad changes happening in her life. And what matters the most to me is the fact that after meeting all these people, their statement to me is, 'it felt so nice to see you after so long!' My day was effectively made!

But the fact of the matter is, that spending time away from all these things that matter to me has made me appreciate them all the more. Things which till now were taken as a given, now mean a lot more to me, than they did before. All I can say is - VIVA LA VIDA! three cheers to life in all its forms - family, friends, city, home, people and relationships.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My first tryst with the Bandra Worli Sea Link

July 1 2009. Momentous day for all us Mumbaikars. Many called us (read me) insane. A bridge was being opened, and I was feeling sad that I couldn't be there to go cruising on it. For me though it was not just a bridge. It was the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, called a modern engineering marvel by the designers. Now, whether it is an engineering marvel or whatever, is something left for my civil engineer friends to debate, comparing the Golden Gate with BWSL, and so on. For me, the BWSL (Bandra Worli Sea Link) was something that would redefine the Mumbai landscape forever. Why am I so attached to some piece of infrastructure being developed in Mumbai? Well, the answer lies in the fact that I - like almost all of my friends who sat together lamenting the fact that we were away from the sea link - am a true Mumbai-phile - one who loves anything and everything about Mumbai - from the Vada Pav to the rains, from the people to the trains! So, yesterday while I was finally on my way home, my list of things to do included an 'I HAVE TO VISIT THE SEA LINK' entry. Getting home, after downing my cup of filter coffee, I started 'pataoing' dad to take me on the sea link. Heavy rains rocked Mumbai all of yesterday, and even more rains were forecast for today. My dad was a little wary. He wasn't too keen on agreeing to the plan up front, but, the blackmailing power of a homesick girl coming home after 3 whole months is rather immense, (as dad soon found out).

Today, as though on cue, it rained, and rained but thankfully not as much as it did yesterday! So after some more rounds of pataoing and promising never to ask him to go driving in colossal rains again, dad relented. We decided to leave at 9 pm, go to the sea link, approach it from Worli and return through Bandra. Ta daa!! It didn't rain all evening, and I thought that perhaps I had sold too low - my promise of never asking dad to take me on a drive in pouring rain (asking him to let me drive in a drizzle, let alone a downpour would be imbecile, let alone futile!!!) was perhaps too high a price! Call it winner's curse if you will? But as though the rain Gods were reading my nefarious thoughts, it started to rain, and rain it did indeed! We were somewhere crossing Worli Naka to enter Sea Face when it rained like the clouds were out to empty their store on just this one night. My dad was driving at the pace of, well a snail, since he could not see beyond his own nose! He looked at the rear view mirror and gave me a look that conveyed a whole host of emotions ranging from ' I told you so' to 'GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR' to 'Pampering hamein kis mode pe le aaya......' A sheet of drops thudded down the car, while I chose to maintain a dignified silence. As we drove on, we realized that we had entered Sea Face, and there, slowly moving away from my field of vision was the Sea Link on my right. I screamed out! 'We missed it.. It's gone, now we'll hit Haji Ali and have to retrace all the way back!!!' Exasperated, dad just said, " The entry is on the other side of the road. It's called the Bandra Worli Sea link for a reason - The ease of entry and exit is from Bandra to Worli, not the other way round. We would need to traverse the whole length of the sea face, to make a U turn and take the road that leads up to your dearest bridge." Afraid that any protests might result in either me being 'de-carred' (as in de-planed) or in a U turn that'd lead back home instead of to the sea link, once again, I chose my dignified silence. The rain continued to pelt down mercilessly, the speed of the wiper was 10 times that of my car, the guy ahead of us was even slower, and the guy behind us decided to pull up to the side flashing his distress signal. My mind kept screaming ' Dignified Silence, Dignified Silence'. Finally, we reached the curb, and took a U turn, and traversed the whole Sea Face again, to hit the entry point of the sea link.

A wave of emotion swept through me and forgetting my resolve of 'dignified silence' I just let out a whistle of awe! Yes, it is an imposing structure, and the feel of whizzing on it, while imagining the sea underneath was truly immense. Add to that, the fact that the rain was pelting us from up above, while we could imagine the sea lashing at the pillars of the bridge from down below. It felt like creative poetry of sorts! I know, some would call me crazy, but who cares, it felt awesome! Smooth roads, no congestion, people driving like civil human beings, felt like as if I was in another plane altogether! And then we reached the section of the suspension bridge. The part of the bridge that is generally seen in all pictures and images - the picture that evokes images and the inevitable comparison to Golden Gate. the gradual triangular picture of the cables slowly rising up, culminating at the peak of the pillar and then descending back in a perfectly isosceles manner honestly left me thinking about Rembrandt! Ok Rembrandt is perhaps an overstatement, let me say Rothko. (Who else models pictures on geometrical shapes???) And then within around 10minutes, we were at the end of the link, and at Bandra! Fast and fabulous was what came into my mind, and I thought back about the numerous times I spent almost an hour and a half in the bus to college at Bandra! If only I were a few years younger and were going to college at Bandra now, I would wake up at 8 for an 8.15 class!!! Well, if I were wishing things like that, I guess I have a separate wish list. Anyway, I somehow felt that I had paid my respects to a new development in Maximum city, given the due that the creation needed.

But somehow I felt I wanted to do this again, perhaps approach BWSL from B instead of W??? So, all through our return journey back home from Bandra, I embarked on another pataoing session, this time careful to avoid mentions of promises, and monsoons, but rather playing the 'thank you sooooo much', 'I am soon heading back out of here' card, much to my dad's chagrin. The pataoing is still on, and when it produces the desired results, I will tell you about my BWSL part 2 - the daytime story... Till then.. tata...

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Happy birthday to me... 2009 - A new year, a new place

Third year in a row! Yup yet another highly memorable way to bring in my birthday. 2007 gave me a totally unexpected surprise party in an unknown country, thrown by relatively new friends. Last year gave me a 2 foot tall memorable moment sent by my closest K* friends, to make my day in an unknown place. And this year again, its cheers to new friends, who brought in my birthday in a spectacular manner - in a way that would go on to occupy a special place in my heart for all the years to come.

ISB is tough. No doubt. So far the rigor has been nothing short of military. But throw in 560 super intelligent, super achievers, and you get nothing short of a scintillating bunch of fundoo people! The very pace of the things grilled into your head can send you into a tailspin! And at such a time, if you have a bunch of friends around, life can actually look beautiful.

Here I was, getting homesick. And here was a birthday. In ISB, the birthday celebrations begin where life started. Yeah, we all know that the earliest life forms originated in water, and here at ISB, we begin birthday celebrations by throwing the hapless budday person mercilessly into the pool. We call it 'DUNKING'. For what joy? well, the throwee - birthday boy/ girl feels like a basketball as he/she gets tossed high up and goes splashhhhhh into the pool. You feel petrified as the sky swings overhead, as the throwers chant - 1....2.....3 above your head, but you hit the water, and peace prevails - sending you into a spiral of buoyant joy. Yeah - buoyancy, Archimedes etc etc... Ok, back to my story. It has been pouring like crazy these past two days, and today especially was tooooooooooooo cold. Some were in two minds, wondering whether it was indeed prudent to get thrown into an open air pool, only to end up cold and shivering thereafter. But in a way, I was kinda clear that I wanted to go through the ISB budday experience, on my legit birthday! So armed with well, easy to dry clothes, I walked on to the pool, only to be greeted by well, practically all of my friends - my jhund from class, my quadie, Filter coffee, PK and of course my fin club pals!

PJ asked me whether I was sure I wanted to get dunked today, and I said, Hell, I won't get to be a year older at ISB again. And so, I was all enthu to go right in! I don't know how to swim, but Barry couldn't care less, neither could Shaurya, since clearly I was taller than the depth of the pool, and according to them, I'd be safe as long as I didn't do 'CP' once inside the water... What nice friends, right?

So there I was, ready for my 1... 2.... 3 moment. It happened, as the guys swung and tossed me in perfect co-ordination and I landed splotch into the water, and yes, since I am writing this in past tense, I did survive to tell the tale! Whoopppaaa... Then, one by one, my gang was thrown in - Pandeyji, Funky Pavan, Chinzzz and the icing on the cake was the Olympic diver - Aneesha, who managed not one by 3 somersaults before hitting the pool! Man, that was some sight indeed, and then came Preeti, who by very strict standards wanted to stay out of the pool since exams were nigh. But the sport that she is, she was soon in the pool, bringing in my birthday.Then, out we hopped, and off to the most wonderful looking cake ever and again in traditional ISB style, there was more cake on my face than in my mouth. As usual, we had the perennially peppy Chandni and Reetu, not to mention Dixie, Panda, Atin, Anunay and well, everyone else adding cheer to the moment, as they all brought in my birthday...

And, then a few dorky, goofy pictures later, we were off back home. But as I walked back, I thought. This is what I came here for. For someone who looks at every prospective friendship wondering whether it would translate into a friend for life, I think my purpose is more than served. Since here I am, surrounded by some of the most wonderful people, who took the time and effort to come and make one person's day. So what if exams are here? So what if assignments are due? So what if it's biting cold outside? They all came....So with a spring in my step, I walked back, home, happy in the knowledge that here I was with a group of real good buddies I can hold on to for life... HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME.............