Binging on Vacations!

I’m in the midst of long vacations, which are sometimes interrupted by Pre-Joining formalities of my future employer. Being a post graduate with a management degree has its own share of downsides. So yes, every social interaction these days isn’t a delightful affair. I start working with as Human Resources professional from the 1st of July, so yes, the last few weeks have been spent in absolute and complete boredom.

Everytime I sit down with people, the questions eventually boil down to Human Resources, and how it’s a soft career. As someone once said, Left is Right. Similarly, soft, is hard.

A lot of questions are asked, and some are plain infuriating.

1. “Beta, kitna kama rahe ho?” (Child, how much are you earning?)

An absolute favourite at social gatherings, everyone really wants to know the “Moolah” that I’ll be raking in. Except, the money may seem like a lot, but isn’t. As some people say, its never enough. I modify it to say, It’s never enough because its not there!

2. “Beta shaadi kab kar rahe ho?” (Child, when are you getting married?)

This question is something that makes my parents cringe with me. For god’s sake I’m just 25!

3. “Kitna deti hai?” (How much does she give?)

This was just to check if you were reading. Nah, no one really asks me that. Well, not till I own a car or a bike

4. “Mere liye Black label, paani ke saath. Inke liye Paani, Ice ke saath” (Black Label whiskey with water for me, water with Ice for the kid)

Seriously! I’m not in kindergarten. The problem with Free alcohol is, you can never have it. 

5. “Beta, gar pe bore nahi hote?” (Child, don’t you get bored at home?)

Of course I do! Why on earth would anyone in their right minds ask that question.

Moving on,

Netflix & House of Cards taught the world something us engineers already knew. (Unbelievable, isn’t it, Engineers knowing anything. These days, the littlest thing they know is a Quora thread. Can you believe it, I’ve even started writing answers on Quora!). Binge-Watching. In my days in undergrad (way back in 2011), boys would measure social standing by GBs on their external Hard disks, and the number of seasons they had. College is a great equalizer. People who were from smaller cities and had not been exposed to the kind of cultural upbringing people from the bigger cities have, changed, a lot. From being unaware of who Greg House was, to rattling off IMDB ratings of shows and movies, they’d traverse the entire spectrum of TV and cinema. (I was no different, becoming a fan of comedy shows in my time at college).

So now, as I finally quit college (postgrad!), after 4 years of Engineering, 2 years of GE and another couple of years of studying human resources, I’ve been given a long long vacation (almost three months) before I hit the grind again. And trust me, binge-holidaying, isn’t as easy as binge watching TV.

Life isn’t easy these days. The initial thrill of vacations has worn off, and the excitement of starting work hasn’t kicked in yet. It feels a little bit like a soft, listless existence. I tried picking up a few sports, but then, the Delhi heat got the better of me. And as luck would have it, all friends have ditched grand plans of taking a trip to the hills. Very very sad indeed. So what’ve I been doing? Read on.

Binge-watching: Well, lots of free time, a fast internet connection and a hard disk that’s finally not locking up and dying, what does one do? I’ve gone on multiple binge sprees in the last week, watching Despicable Me, The Thick of It, Veep, Kings and I don’t know what. TV miniseries like Band of Brothers, The Pacific etc get thrown somewhere in the middle. Over the last few days, I’ve been like an angry caveman, stomping out of my room for food, and then walking back in again. I’ve even seen Johnny Depp’s much maligned “Lone Ranger” and surprisingly, I didn’t find it bad. The train scene, out if the world.

The latest is Boston Legal. Having stopped at The Practice, I’ve never really started off with the spin-off, and after I saw Age of Ultron, I wanted to see James Spader in action. And somehow I think I like him better as a badass lawyer, than a Pinocchio singing robot hell bent on destroying humanity. My mother has permanently put a table mat in my room. She just doesn’t expect me to eat at the table anymore.

Sometimes, I just feel like randomly saying out, “Denny Crane” and I, have William Shatner to than for that.

Running: While running plans aren’t very regular, they do end up happening (with decreasing frequency now) because of the heat, and running a few rounds to Rid of the Valkyries, or the William Tell Overture (Loved it in the Lone Ranger) is very satisfying indeed. Also, with my mother breathing down my neck for ‘getting active’, (result of all the binge watching), I need to atleast try and look active. And, I spent 4K on running shoes from snapdeal. So yeah, Dil ki deal needs some running by the legs. 

Reading : Junk it, I’m not gonna write another book review here.

Meeting people: On the rare occasions that I do step out of my little cave, I do actually end up meeting some people. However, conversations just go on a single track. What am I doing with these holidays! If only I knew. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that Holidays are the WORST TIME EVER! For someone who hasn’t worked on anything meaningful this year, at all, the end of five months of meaninglessness are very annoying indeed. And I still have 37 more goddamn days left!

So, what does a TISS graduate do in vacations. (Adarsh MBA types. I’m sure we’ll have a meme on it soon). This post is having way more lists than I thought it would.

1. Meet overenthusiastic relatives who wanna know all about how I’m going to transform businesses. (Yeah right)

2. Meet overenthusiastic friends who wanna know all about how I’m going to transform businesses. (Yeah right)

3. Explain to people what HR is. And how its not only payroll and hiring. (Though that is quite a huge portion)

4. Try and seem knowledgeable but always have an exit route out of a tough conversation. (So what’s your company’s Topline and bottomline growth over the last few years? Well, fairly strong, considering the industry and the operating environment)

5. Explain to people how TISS is not a bschool, but we’re all doing bschool jobs anyway. And the best ones at that. Not a very convincing argument, but its true!

6. Look enviously at other people at work, and wish you’d start already. (Lots of seniors at work tell me that I will revisit these thoughts once I join, but then, what the heck)

7. Think of blog posts to write.

8. Make lists (and, I should stop.)

So to sum it up, I’m a bored soul, and if you have any ideas of what to do, please please let me know.

Else, very soon, I’ll be hollering the following words every minute.

“Denny Crane”

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Sisyphus and some Economics

(This post is built out of several ideas I had been working on simultaneously. While they could not each become substantial posts in themselves, this aims to be something of an anthology that brings these ideas together. It also, I hope, explains my hiatus)

There’s an ancient Greek myth I’d read about when doing a Coursera course on Greek and Roman mythology about Sisyphus. As I was randomly scrolling through some of my Dad’s documents, I came across an HBR article called the Sisyphus Trap, which draws parallels between Sisyphus, and working for the Government.

To recap, the Legend of Sisyphus is about a treacherous Greek King. He was punished for chronic deceitfulness by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this action forever. Even the French absurdist, Albert Camus, in his famous essay ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’ goes on to observe that Sisyphus was the absurd hero who lives life to the full, hates death and is tragically condemned to a meaningless task.

This story becomes important for the likes of us, the batch that will be stepping out as managers, consultants (that term makes me laugh, but I’d not want to paint the profession with my myopic, and negative view) and entrepreneurs, into a country where ease of doing business, inspite of the government going crazy in PR exercises is abysmally low. Camus is interested in Sisyphus’ thoughts when marching down the mountain to start anew, and calls it the tragic moment, when Sisyphus becomes aware of his wretched condition and does not have hope but still keeps pushing.

It is this moment that I’m scared of. The moment where I realize that I’m too small to make a difference, but have no other option but to do so. My greatest education in these 18 months at TISS has been my stint as a member of the Placement Committee. Conflicts, crises and celebrations aside, this stint has finally attached a tangible meaning to the phrase “Character Building”. As my responsibilities drew to a close after running two placement processes, I realized that what bound our committee together was us being oblivious to Sisyphus’ tragic moment. Because once that hope disappears, no matter how hard you push, your mind works lesser, your bones ache more, and you yearn to not reach the top of the mountain, because the boulder’s going to roll down anyway. However, maybe it was the boldness of our ambition, our the naivety of our thoughts, or the fact that we didn’t know about Sisyphus, that such a day never came about. And sadly, as the term slowly, but inevitably draws to a close, the anguish of being close friends who never hung out just to chill out together has slowly started creeping up to us.

I was having an interesting discussion with a professor a few days back, about how I really hated studying science as a kid. Now don’t get me wrong here, everyone who knows me, knows that I love science. And not only Asimov’s science, but studying science in general. My interest worked in the opposite way. Through history. The heroes of Bletchley Park and more importantly, Los Alamos, made outstanding contributions to science, and it was this very fact, their genius, coupled with their heroism, that made me feel that science was something I’d like to learn. After all, Fermi estimations just become a whole lot cooler, when you realize that Enrico Fermi built the first nuclear reactor on a racket court. Maybe it is the geek inside me, maybe it is innate curiosity but Oppenhiemer and Hiesenberg competing against each other to build the bomb first was something that made me read their works in greater detail.

Simple enough, no?

Similarly, my liking for economics is fairly recent. Sylvia Nasar’s work, ‘A beautiful mind’ made me read up about the Game theory. Another instance is Levitt and Dubner’s debut work Freakonomics, which made me explore the neoclassical microeconomic concepts of rational-utility maximization, something I’d have consigned to a few notes taken in a class otherwise.

Another book I’ve recently picked up is the new sensation that’s outselling both fiction and non fiction on Amazon, Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. A book replete with charts, tables and equations, Piketty’s magnum opus (as the Guardian puts it) in its graphic Ivory and Red cover is unmistakable. Even though I’m only a 100 odd pages through it, it says as wealth grows quicker than the economy, (a concept, Piketty captures elegantly in the expression r>g), there will be soaring inequality, unless there’s a global tax on wealth. I quite like the idea, taxing the rich. If Robin Hood were an economist, he would be Piketty. I will be writing more about Piketty as and when I finish parts of the book, but it is, if nothing else, an excellent link between history and economics.

The last part of this post is again, as unstructured as the parts above, and mainly recounts a recent evening spent at one of the popular clubs in Bombay, the Big Nasty. For someone who’s been averse to going out partying in huge groups, this was a welcome change. An overcrowded pub, a fun bunch of people, good food, and Miller High Life. Quite an excellent start to February, I’d say. Everyone had fun, whether it be headbanging in the course of a normal conversation, bumping into an old acquaintance after 7 odd years, spilling Millers on a friend’s clothes (and not getting beaten up for it) or just screaming out north Indian names in a heavy, pronounced south Indian accent, it was a fabulous evening.

That's a Nasty bit of fun!

That’s a Nasty bit of fun!

However, what was interesting to note was a particular guy, who made constant attempts to hit on a couple of my friends, through the DJ, through shady compliments, a bottle of kinley water (he said, “you girls are so hot, so I brought along some cold water”) and at one point, he even tried to make me drink Blenders Pride straight from the bottle. (Blenders’ Pride? Some class man, if you’re trying to join people having better stuff?). He was one of those muscular brawny types, but didn’t have a lot of brains, apparently. And then, I remembered the famous scene from A beautiful mind, where John Nash trashes Adam Smith and says that no one should go for the blonde. This guy, however, decided to go for everyone. It was quite funny. Also funny was the fact that I was thinking economics with “This club can’t even handle me right now” playing in the background.

To close, I’ll quote the American Economist Robert Solow, “Everything reminds Milton Friedman of the money supply. Everything reminds me of sex, but I try to keep it out of my papers.”

Patriotism and Humour

‘This is…a  large crisis. In fact, if you’ve got a moment, it’s a 12-storey crisis with a magnificent entrance hall, carpeting throughout, 24-hour portage, and an enormous sign on the roof, saying “This Is A Large Crisis”.’

– Captain Edmund Blackadder

Blackadder has, and will remain one of the greatest Comedies of all time. And the Fourth Series (because it was shot when the word, Seasons wasn’t as Popular) remains the funniest and the most poignant of all, in its brutal, yet funny retelling of the First World War. And that brings me to the subject of today’s post. And for all those who’ve seen Blackadder, while the humor does have racial / regional tones to it, in no way is it malicious or derogatory (mostly!).

I’m half way through a month long vacation, and, as expected, I’ve been watching a lot of TV. Now, before the Internet Police jump on me, and the supporters of our Prime Minister start reporting my post as anti-national, there’s absolutely no connection between Patriotism and Humour as I’m going to write about it. So please, go easy.

Honour , Glory & War

Honor , Glory & War

I happened to watch Fury today, and my, my, after doing cinema like Killing them Softly, and The Tree of Life, Brad Pitt felt, he needed to get his hands on a .50 Cal and let some rounds rip into Nazi scum. Excellently made, and a shining example of why the War Film Genre is a money spinner in the West, and non existent in India. While advertised with the Tagline Honor, Glory, War, honor and glory are short in supply in the movie. The crew’s morals are mutable, and the honor is non-existent. It portrays a violent transformation of Logan Lerman’s character, Norman, from an army typist, to a seasoned killer. A movie that is, in all aspects a finely made war film, but not a jingoistic advertisement for America. Their war-cry is not “This is a great adventure for the American motherland” or “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Hitler we’re coming, Berlin or Bust” but a very simple line which is “Best job I’ve ever had”

Overt displays of Indian Patriotism have, of late shifted to how much we hate the neighboring country, and not how much we look into our own failings as a nation. Case in point here being the reaction that Vishal Bhardwaj’s masterpiece, ‘Haider’ evoked. Heated debates, accusations that the movie was anti army, pro sepratism, anti India, pro India were found to be a major part of the repartee surrounding the movie. And if we look at the core argument which formed, it was mainly based out of strong jingoistic rhetoric. Nobody wishes to discuss, the simple truth, which is staring us in the face, that the insurgency put J&K back by decades.

Our nation needs to rise up, and take its place on the world stage, not by being a warmonger, or a nation ridden with distrust for a particular community. We have, of late seen Eunuchs (a wrongly maligned section of Indian Society) step up to stop Communal Violence in the borough of Trilokpuri in the National Capital, and we have seen violence re-emerge in another region of Delhi for the first time in years! This calls me to question the very definition of Patriotism we have assimilated. A lot of people in my generation had their first exposure to Patriotism through J.P. Dutta’s famous movie ‘Border’ and to a certain extent through his failed magnum opus, ‘LOC : Kargil’ and the same jingoistic emotions that form the crux of why a soldier fights a war, cannot be the crux of the reason why a civilian loves his country.

After all, they have to protect, so we can prosper. Our duty as citizens is to make the nation prosper, and not look for enemies within. The same jingoistic fervour, that serves the forces guarding our borders well, need not be how we view nationalism. As a very dear friend of mine, after reading a lot about Kashmir said ‘Our interests in Kashmir are strategic first, and national pride comes in later.’

And organizations are playing upon this card, simply have, on their own, decided to brand India, the nation, as Bharat. While nothing may be wrong here, I do believe that we are proud Indians, and staking claim to ‘Bhartiyata’ does not belong to any one group.

Now, since that’s done, I better run for cover.

Blackadder! The best, ever.

Blackadder! The best, ever.

The second bit I wish to write about today is Humour, and how the moral high ground has made people less likely to laugh. Jokes, historically have been cracked on the basis of idiosyncrasies of races, sects, groups and in a lot of cases, religions (Didn’t all of you, who watched Happy New Year, laugh at Boman Irani’s mother?). Any simple attempt to crack a joke today must be gender, race, religion and class sensitive, otherwise you’re branded a racist. . While I do not advocate the creation of a class divide or a gender bias through jokes, I also believe that everyone who makes fun of the amazing capacity Punjabis have for alcohol, or the anger a wife may have for a habitually late husband is not out of malice, but moment of humour. We need to start taking life a little less seriously. The racial divide and hate emerges, sometimes (especially among the young), when someone, takes a joke seriously. Heath Ledger immortalized those words, “Why So Serious?”, and maybe, they were probably the wisest words ever written for him.

“I remember Massingbird’s most famous case: the Case of the Bloody Knife. A man was found next to a murdered body. He had the knife in his hand. 13 witnesses had seen him stab the victim. And when the police arrived, he said “I’m glad I killed the bastard.” Massingbird not only got him off; he got him knighted in the New Year’s Honours List. And the relatives of the victim had to pay to wash the blood out of his jacket!”

– Captain Edmund Blackadder

A Good Laugh!

Resistance to Change comes in many ways. The first of those ways probably is the refusal to use the new WordPress Editor for typing out your posts. Thank you very much WordPress, I prefer the classic editor. Now that unrelated bit is out of my system, here goes!

‘We’re getting ready to get on a plane for that first frog town we never jumped into. All of a sudden Heffron stops dead in his tracks. Bing and a bang and a boom. Everybody banging into each other. Heffron’s just staring at the nose of the plane because on it is panted this beautiful pinup. And written underneath: “Darling Doris.” Doris, which just happens to be the name of the skirt who just, that day, sent Babe one of them letters.’ – SSgt. William ‘Wild Bill’ Guarnere, Band of Brothers.

William ‘Wild Bill’ Guarnere, Tyrion Lannister, Stephen Colbert, these three funnymen have something in common. They know exactly WHEN to crack a joke. So, yes, while most of us may have a sense of humour, the timing is very important.

The joke's on you, Joffrey!

The joke’s on you, Joffrey!

So when Wild Bill cracks a joke after Easy Company captures Normandy, Tyrion talks about Kings dropping dead like flies, and Stephen Colbert roasts George W. Bush at the annual White House correspondents dinner, you can’t help but feel, that humour is something we all need in our lives. A set of videos are doing the rounds on the Internet of late, with Bill Gates, Satya Nadella, Mark Zuckerberg, all dousing themselves with a bucket of Ice Water to spread awareness about ALS. While cynics may dismiss it as the ‘billionaires’ hobby’, if a few of us actually opened Wikipedia to read about ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, the joke would have achieved  something. (I personally cant wait to see Elon Musk take it up!)

There’s a laugh to be found in every moment spent at TISS, whether it be Malvika’s siestas, Menon’s Hindi, Damahe’s assumptions or Saha’s plain and simple laziness. Every corner one looks into, there’s a heart warming laugh. We’ve fought, we’ve cried, we’ve kicked and we’ve screamed, but now when you look back at those moments, there’s nothing but a big smile plastered across all our faces. That’ the power of humour, which I suppose is enshrined in the power of hope, and optimism, love and camraderie.

That's a cast!

That’s a cast!

I recently saw Wes Anderson’s latest movie, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, and simply put, the movie is a masterpiece. Set in the 1930s, it followed the adventures of M. Gustave played by the magnificent Ralph Fiennes, the hotel’s concierge, making “a marvelous mockery of history, turning its horrors into a series of graceful jokes and mischievous gestures”. The movie reinforced to me, the importance of humour. After all, who could find a prison sentence, a country ravaged by war, and a death report with four fingers missing, funny, if not Gustave H.?

There’s always some mention of love or women in my blog posts, simply because they’re both fascinating to write about. Out of personal experience, I’ve felt that more than looks, money or other materialistic things, the better halves (it goes for men too!) value humour and wit (However, please don’t ever be in the misconception that ‘it’s so bad it’s good’ works, ever!). A joke becomes so much more powerful when cracked at a tender moment, as an interruption between days of seriousness, as a way of letting of tension, and giving people relief. After all, what’s love, if not a joke (a cruel one at times, ask all the guys in the friendzone if you don’t believe me!). A friend of mine, who spent some time with me, in Vellore, knows the impact of a simple phrase like ‘What’s up?’ cracked at an (in)opportune moment. But that story is a post in itself, so more on that some other day.

Love’s funny, and while our generation today scoffs at the concept (as two people are always dating, but never in love) because having someone for keeps is not an aim, but a scary thought, and the fact that we want to know where the exits are so we can leave when we wish to has made us cold, bitter and machine-like. People set shelf lives to their relationships, or restrict it under rules, under regulations, and this leads to pain, to grief and to the loss of humour. My resolution is to never fall in what I call, ‘Conditional Love’, because I wish to be Severus Snape, and say the words ‘Always’, I wish to make sacrifices the way Rebecca did, and I wish to love with both intensity and tranquility, and I wish to live a life of acceptance. And if I fail, then I want to crack a really good joke out of it. Haha.

Forever in our memories.

Forever in our memories (Taken from the Apple Tribute)

To wind up, a deep sense of loss is what I felt when I read about Robin Williams’ passing. Ever since I was a child, I remember him making me laugh, and his comedies weren’t the Ben Stiller or Jim Carrey kind of mindless laughs, but comedies that touched you and made your soul smile. Right from Patch Adams, to Zathura and Jumanji to Flubber and Good Will Hunting, there’s a part of me that’s wanted to be a doctor, an astronaut, a wildlife conservationist and a Professor. And when I realize that there was a small contribution that he had to my dreams and visions, I can’t help but smile. Even in his absence, that goofy smile, the defiance in his eyes and the heart of gold will never leave us.

“Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand.”

Subtext

I’m the guy who plays with fire. After all, I’m writing a blog post before a taxing Taxation Exam. But as I’ve said numerous times, my creativity goes up by leaps and bounds during all exams. (I hope my professors don’t realize how much creativity I’ve used in my papers! (Game of Thrones references in Negotiations Management and Jose Mourinho’s examples in Strategy being prime examples)

There’s a book by Richard Feynman, and the great physicist subtitles it as ‘The Adventures of a Curious Character’. We’re all curious characters, and if we become half as good as Richard Feynman in the way we tell our stories, life would be very interesting indeed. After all, Zade’s ‘News’ and Malik’s memes need an outlet to do them true justice!

My parents are, lets say, very old school romantics. So yes, my father still believes in getting those bouquets for Mom after work, Mom always helps him knot his tie, and all in all, they’re two very happy people enjoying and celebrating life without the need to have anyone but each other. Right from reading excerpts of books to each other, to settling down with a bucket of popcorn to watch ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’, they’ve done it all, without ever letting age be an embarrassment.

Couldn't resist checking for Subtext no?

That’s Subtext! Copyright : XKCD

I’ve written a lot about Love in the past, and for good reason, because there’s a certain old-world charm associated with ‘falling in love’ with someone. But Love isn’t all powerful. I learn about subtext from my great Tamil friend Ananth Subramanian, when we’d sit and read XKCD for hours, Randall Munroe’s subtle subtexts (the text that appears when your mouse hovers over a picture) would have us in splits.

So yes, coming back to Love, it makes no sense to fall in Love without a subtext but unfortunately, a World War doesn’t happen when we want it to, so yes, we all have to look for that subtext in simpler things, like College, like a common theme in life, or in management jargon, Shared Values. So instead of my love story being titled something as ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’, or ‘Nights in Rodanthe’, it’ll probably be something like ‘Love in the times of Competency Mapping!!’

'Quite Apt, No?'

‘Quite Apt, No?’

We had an interesting discussion in our last Group Dynamics lecture, where the teacher asked the girls of the class what they find most attractive in men, and then she quoted a study, where women find ‘Risk Taking Behaviour’ attractive. Now, I know I’m stretching things too far, but our Compensation professor taught us that using equity based pay as a part of a compensation plan promotes risk taking behaviour too. So for all those people getting paid in Stock Grants and Options, Women are totally gonna dig y’all! Lucky chaps, eh? (Off the record, I indulge in a lot of risky business myself! Ask Godara about the 500 Rupee bet that I lost in ACB class! 😀 )

So how does one find Love as a subtext in today’s fast paced, tough and materialistic world? No one really believes in the ‘At first sight’ concept anymore, but everyone still watches heart warming, heart rending movies, listens to music that lights up their souls, or makes a teardrop glisten in the corner of their eyes. I do. And always will. I’ve written a lot about my favourite movies, and a lot of them are about this funny emotion, this giddy feeling that one gets when we’re in the company of the one. Sometimes, I practice jumping and clicking my heels, because I know when I find the one, I need that jump and the click to be perfectly timed. Whether it be David Bowie, Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton, or among recent names, Arijit Singh, have voices with that power, while Kazuo Ishiguro, Daphne DuMaurier and Sebastien Faulks have pens with the ability to go right down to your heart.

The first time I read about Margaret Mitchell’s ‘Gone with the wind’ was in Jeffrey Archer’s (Inspite of what people say, I love his books!) Kane & Abel, where William Kane’s best friend Matthew Lester’s passing is written as ‘Matthew died on a Thursday, forty pages still to read of Gone With The Wind‘. I could never grasp the significance of that one line, not till I read Gone With the Wind a few years later. The significance of Subtext.

Sometimes Love is as simple as can be, sometimes, it just cant make sense. Therein lies the beauty, and therein lies the subtext, I suppose. After all, there’s reason to why Freddie Mercury calls it a, ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’

‘I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can be Heroes, just for one day
We can be us, just for one day’

Through the pages

Today was a funny day. I slept through my morning lecture (and lost a precious 3 hours of attendance), attended a lecture on M&A Strategy and ate a sub with extra eggs.

A good enough day to retire to bed without really doing anything meaningful. But then, I happened to unpack a small carton, and voila!, there were three notebooks, all with a significant part of my first year at TISS packed away.

I’ve seen a lot of facebook posts put up by students of the junior batch where they’re learning to love their classes, their course, and TISS. And their posts, enthusiasm and experiences made me reminisce about my own. So here goes.

Stepping in

I still remember the day I wrote the TISS exam, with my best friend and my ex-girlfriend in an engineering college in Greater Noida. A simple test (read more here), followed by a night spent getting drunk on absinthe was how I remember that weekend. Simple days, where life revolved around pumping as much alcohol into the body as it could take, I’d give an arm and a leg (and half my liver) to have them back!

Why HRM? From my DAF. Haha!

Why HRM? From my DAF. Haha!

Time flew, and TISS it was. Bumping into Malvika under the tree near DM canteen for the first time, pushing off to Marine Drive in a deluge of rains, the death defying Trek, and committee work. It was a hectic a gruelling semester, on which rewarded me with grades and a great summers offer. But putting the tangibles (yes, HR Lexicon in play!) aside, the intangibles, like the Pasta Making Experiment (turned out quite well), making posters for elections (Amit Sharma still maintains that the Poster I drew him cost him the bloody election!) are what made life at TISS totally worth it.

Silence-Violence-Silence

Industrial Relations, something every TISSian claims to love in Sem 1. Unions, Collective Bargaining, Employee Relations, LTAs, these are certain words that excite all of us. We all wanted a plant in Sem 1 of fieldwork, and it was our Dean, who taught us Industrial Relations with the mantra of ‘Slience-Violence-Silence’, who made us feel excited about the subject. Industrial Relations is all about ‘trust’, he would say. I don’t know much about trusting unions, but the class, by the end of the first month had started trusting itself. Its a very critical period, the first month, before all the committees are formed, assignments catch up and life becomes a blur.

Silence-Violence-Silence
Silence-Violence-Silence

A few of the best bits of IR were taught to us by our Labour Law professor, Mr. Iyer from Asian Paints (his blog can be read here) with stories about Balasaheb Thackray, Justice Y.V. Chandrachud and his brilliant boss Mr. Chary punctuating discussions about Standing Orders, Conciliation Proceedings and CLRA. Mr. Iyer was someone who could spin a brilliant tale, keep you engrossed, and shout out ‘No’ in his booming voice, just to encourage you to participate more in class. Fabulous teacher, if there ever was one.

Messrs. Marx, Taylor, Sen and Foucault

 

The Marxist Manifesto!

The Marxist Manifesto!

What was Marx doing in my notebook in a Management Course? And why would I be studying about the Oedipus Complex instead of Business Strategy? Some questions that came to mind in first year, and are still unanswered. As a professor put it, ‘You kids use these courses to throw Foucault at IIMA Chaps’ and come to think of it, its probably true. My summers were spent talking about Welfare Economics to IIML and NITIE chaps and combating a horde of Pro Modi Supporters with sound logic (but now, its always #PMkoPranam) apart from working.  So yes, these lectures add a lot of value and demand a lot of effort (ask Menon about our Sociology Group and how we worked. I still remember Elton Mayo’s work thanks to her, though I doubt any of my group remembers Marx). All in all, just like Beckett, we all are waiting for some meaning to emerge out of life, and this knowledge goes a long way in helping us wait for our own Godot.

Regressing to the mean

The above statement was the answer to one of my summer interview questions at ITC. ‘Why is Regression called Regression?’and I responded by saying that the values were such that they regress to the mean, and form a straight line. There’s a life lesson on Multiple Linear Regression too. As Malcolm Gladwell says in his book, Outliers, ‘Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning. Once it does, it becomes the kind of thing that makes you grab your wife around the waist and dance a jig’, a life without meaning is a life regressing to the mean, a life decidedly average, and a life with meaning is a life we love, a life that’s brilliant and a life that makes us outliers. So juniors, don’t run after grades and assignments. Catch that movie at Sterling, that show at Prithvi, the food at Colaba, the jukebox at Mondegar, and the herb induced spinning of the fan in your room. After all, it sucks to not be an outlier, right?

Regression !

Regression !

To sum this post up, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

The Quirks of being crazy

The purpose of this post is to let off the fatigue that has set in through a hectic, enriching and potentially rewarding summer internship that I’ve chosen to pursue. While I cannot post the details of the internship due to the sensitive nature of the project, let me tell you, it’s not a typical HR project.

So let me start this post off with the something that happened  few days back. One of the more hilarious things I’ve been involved in with my dear friend Amit Damahe, this one deserves a mention on the blog.

Early in the morning, on my way to work, I was helping him figure out how to fill water in a steam iron. Just for the record, our boy is an engineer from Nagpur. And it took me exactly 20 minutes with phrases like ‘Isometric projection se dekh! No? Top View! Dude, flip and front view’ before he was able to figure out where to fill the water from. After which, he’s like ‘How much is optimal? Will 80% of the ironing be done by 20% of the water I fill?’. Vilfredo Pareto can add one more area of contribution after economics, supply chains and pea pods to his resume; Amit Damahe’s creaseless shirts. Maybe if he’d focused less on selfies and more on watching me use the iron, things wouldn’t have been this bad.

Too many Selfies! Iron chala le! :P

Too many Selfies! Iron chala le! 😛

Shirts aside, there’s some more madness that keeps happening around the place. I wrote the last post after having had a wonderful day with a close friend, and this post is written after a break from those boring HR concepts of competencies, recruitment and compensation.

Well, effective, dont you think?

Well, effective, dont you think?

To be frank, when I took up a course in Human Resources, I wasn’t really sure about how it would fit in with the cynicism that is a part of my personality, which often expresses itself in the form of a bit of offbeat humour. My friends know me to be crass, lame and brilliant in the way I make them laugh. But having spent a bit of time with actual hardcore HR professionals, I understand how important workplace humour is. TISS is different that way. With the absence of insane competition, (we’re a batch of 60, after all), there’s always something fun happening around. While I don’t mix with people too much, I do enjoy an occasional discussion about where I see my college, how it has changed me in a lot of ways. While a friend of mine maintains that I’m easy to get along with (I have no idea why she says this), a majority of my friends think I’d suck at HR, because of my propensity to piss people off. Well, HR as a function has a key function o driving productivity, not keeping people happy. I generally reserve only one paragraph per post for HR, so I’m gonna stop. But HR is an oft misunderstood field, and it really needs to be seen for what it is. I recently attended a lecture at TISS by Mr. Anirudha Deshmukh from Asian Paints. Not an HR graduate himself (being an IIM Lucknow alumnus), Mr. Deshmukh was able to give our class an outsiders perspective on running an HR function.

My writer’s block of late has been compounded by a busy work schedule. After all, there’s only one post I’ve written in a very long time. Once I go back to college, and the new batch comes in, I expect that will be a lot more to write to you guys about. For me, some personal highlights this year were Runners up in TBLA, Summers, Finals, Leopold, the movie Her (there’s a long story behind it, for some other post), Irish Pub with Damahe bang in the middle of first semester exams, Pre Placement Talks, HR Managers you could fall in love with, these are all stories that could go on forever, but like all good things, this blog post too, must end. (I know I’m being pompous :P, but what the hell). In a recent conversation, I was advised to dig deeper to find meaning, like a beaver does, so here goes.

“Human resources are like natural resources; they’re often buried deep. You have to go looking for them, they’re not just lying around on the surface. You have to create the circumstances where they show themselves.”

Three-Quarters.

So, I have an exam on Monday. We call the subject Performance Management Systems, and I call the subject, well, lets not go into abbreviations and acronyms, shall we? I was sitting with a friend from class yesterday, and while known to be a little crazy, she is one of the most sorted heads in our batch, discussing what we’ve managed to learn in the last few months. Apart from random words & phrases like ‘Competency Models’, ‘Compa-Ratios’, and ‘Good Time to Talk’ becoming part of our daily vocabulary, we haven’t learnt a great deal. As we see our senior batch leave college with good jobs, money and the amazing thrill of a new life up ahead, I’m filled with a fear. A fear of just wasting my last two one years (sic) of college studying Poppycock.

But all of that being said, HR never ceases to amaze. The’b-school’ phrase ‘Gas’ (Generally Acceptable Shit) assumes gangartuan proportions in Human Resource Management. But then, the good thing is that people cannot generally fail in Human Resource Management. Nothing’s ever wrong as such. The entire subject is gray, and that’s where lies the beauty. I can go absolutely unprepared to an exam (and trust me, I did that last year in Qualitative Research Methods. Scored an 8) and know, that yes, writing something is a possibility. Unlike the horrible nightmares I had in Digital Signal Processing where not knowing the Laplace Transform of a cubic trigonometric function was the end of your paper.

So now that the customary rant about HR is out of the way (no offense to people in my class who can maintain interest in even the most boring MIS lectures. I’m just not cut from the same cloth as you), let me tell you about what’s been happening, in my fiefdom.

These few weeks have been, umm, for the lack of a better word, strange. While there are a few things I’ve become very clear about, and a few things I’ve realized, are beyond my control. Life is all about acceptance, and that’s how I roll. Acceptance makes clinging to hope so much more simpler, because the stormy winds that make clinging necessary die down to a peaceful breeze, ruffling your hair, caressing your soul, and serving as a reminder of happier things to come. (I’ve been reading too much of Daphne Du Maurier, I guess).

The Elegance of Love lies in its simplicity.

The Elegance of Love lies in its simplicity. (Or Complexity, depends on your math grades)

Its stupid, but the first time I truly felt the power of love was when reading Harry Potter as a child. If there were something in this world to defeat absolute, terrifying evil, it is not good, it is not nobility, it is not bravery, it is love. The power of a five minute conversation, a coffee after a long day, a hug after a trying interview is unbelievable. It’s like this magical door opening in the darkest of times, filling your life and soul with joy. Haven’t you ever jumped up and clicked your heels in joy?For I have. (And without practice too)

Of course it hurts sometimes, but that’s only when you’re selfish, when acceptance is hard. But that’s like the trying trek before reaching the summit. Once you do, things become clear and fall into perspective. A lot of us, who’re in relationships can claim to love unconditionally, but can we? Will we forgive the other one being unfaithful? Will we forgive crushing days where her silence is deafening? Will we forgive her decision to walk away? If we can, and still love, then unconditional it is. And I think, that inspite of my idiosyncrasies, inspite of my previous experiences, inspite of my past (which is well documented on this blog), I can.

This is also the 75th post on this blog, and I’ve written about two of my favourite things, HR (in not so flattering words this time, but trust me, it’s not a trend) and love.

I cant believe this blog is 75 posts old. Something that started as an experiment in October 2009 (That’s 4 Years, 4 Months back), has now become a inseparable part of my being. Writing once every 21 days is not really bad, isn’t it?

‘I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away’

P.S. : For the anonymous publicly visible messages I’ve been subjected to of late, my deepest apologies, but I’m just not that kind of boy.

Some laughs on a Crazy Weekend.

“Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I’m not going to make it, but you laugh inside — remembering all the times you’ve felt that way.”

People complain to me, especially my undergrad friends, how this blog has changed from being a blog that was primarily humorous, to a blog that’s become, well, primarily philosophical.

It’s a transformation I’ve noticed myself, and while my readership stats show that his transformation is something that my readers like, there’s always that bit of me that wants to crack the jokes he would before, without being as crass (refer to this post. Sure to make you cringe. And lose me any feminist fans I have. But then, that’s something written three and a half years ago, back in 2010).

I’ve started writing this post at the worst possible time. And if you’re a TISS aspirant, this is my to do list for monday

1. Research Proposal (I’m on 1000 odd words of a 5000 word document)

2. Compensation Articles (2 Gianormous articles, but then, that’s Prof. Mulla’s staple. Heaps of Articles, with smiles thrown in). A Compensation article, unlike an Article in the Maxim Magazine (Yes, I love reading about how a fashion model’s favourite holiday destination is XYZ. Scant clothing is a bonus, i guess) is a combination of scary tables, unrecognizable charts, random stars, and a lot of footnotes. Oh, and they’re thick enough to be your pillow when you doze off. It doesn’t help, that a cold call in Prof, Mulla’s lecture is like a death knell. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but what the hell. But then (redemption time!), once you understand an article, it stays with you for sometime.

3. A marketing case. Yes, inspite of being in the course that leads to a profession that demands large vocabularies, random references to Schien, Senge and other famous gentlemen, we do try and pay some reverence to Dr. Kotler. Well, I do have the book passed down to me by a senior, and I genuinely try and understand marketing. All of that having been said, I still cant wait to skip ads on youtube, tv shows or football matches. Guess Marketing isn’t for me.

4. Organizational Behaviour Quiz preparation (Oh, the Aspirants’ Relation Cell will have my neck for writing this post, I’m supposed to encourage, not scare people) : I have some 8 odd chapters, 100 odd articles and I don’t know how many videos to watch for a quiz on Monday. While Prof. Palo is probably one of the sweetest professors in existnce today, it does not make her any less demanding. The amount I have put up trying to understand emotions and moods, perception and attribution would make my friends from Psychology proud. Its the transformation of  leftist to a rightist, this subject (I’m talking about the brains bit. My political affiliations will always be left of centre)

5. There’s a Labour Economics quiz also thrown in somewhere, but the length of this list is becoming depressing, and killing mmy jokes.

Also, right now is saturday night, and this is how my to do list looks like

The great To-Do List.  (Orange highlighters are bad substitutes for pens)

The great To-Do List.
(Orange highlighters are bad substitutes for pens)

As you can notice, there’s no tick. Not even on the blog post.

You know what I had in mind when I started this post? Religious Texts. I’m Serious. And now look at me, putting up to do lists, instead of the Ten Commandments. Profound. Haha. Lemme not even try and bring it up now. Saving it for another day.

Well, PhD Comics is brilliant.

Well, PhD Comics is brilliant.

I wrote a beautiful (self-appreciation is important, as OB will tell you) email yesterday about ‘Finding optimism’ to a few people who I think understand me fairly well, and while the contents of that mail aren’t that easy to put here (Yes, despite a close friend thinking so, I don’t act like a Maxim model on my blog and bare all), I forgot to rite that humour helps you find optimism. Bad grades? The teacher doesn’t appreciate your sheer awesomeness. Girl Trouble? The Girl doesn’t appreciate your sheer awesomeness. Humour helps. After all, don’t you think laughing at the past would make the present simpler?

Now look at my stupidity, I’ve used my creativity in writing 700 words of absolute nonsense, while my research proposal sits minimized on my desktop, waiting to be opened like a Pandora’s box.

To Quote my favourite scince fiction author, Douglas Adams, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

Clevinger’s trial was funny, what about your life?

Clevinger’s Trial from Catch-22 is probably one of the most brilliantly written comedic scenes in literature ever. And inspite of many authors trying to replicate Heller’s brilliance, no one was ever able to, including Heller. Here’s a small excerpt to pique your curiosity.

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How funny is your life?

‘There were members of the Action Board, the bloated colonel with the big fat mustache, Lieutenant Scheisskopf and Major Metcalf, who was trying to develop a steely gaze. As a member of the Action Board, Lieutenant Scheisskopf was one of the judges who would weigh the merits of the case against Clevinger as presented by the prosecutor. Lieutenant Scheisskopf was also the prosecutor. Clevinger had an officer defending him. The officer defending him was Lieutenant Scheisskopf.’

The colonel sat down and settled back, calm and cagey suddenly, and ingratiatingly polite.

“What did you mean,” he inquired slowly, “when you said we couldn’t punish you?”

“When, sir?”

“I’m asking the questions. You’re answering them.”

“Yes, sir. I–“

“Did you think we brought you here to ask questions and for me to answer them?”

“No, sir. I–“

“What did we bring you here for?”

“To answer questions.”

“You’re goddam right,” roared the colonel. “Now suppose you start answering some before I break your goddam head. Just what the hell did you mean, you bastard, when you said we couldn’t punish you?”

“I don’t think I ever made that statement, sir.”

“Will you speak up, please? I couldn’t hear you.”

“Yes, sir. I–“

“Will you speak up, please? He couldn’t hear you.”

“Yes, sir. I–“

“Metcalf.”

“Sir?”

“Didn’t I tell you to keep your stupid mouth shut?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then keep your stupid mouth shut when I tell you to keep your stupid mouth shut. Do you understand? Will you speak up, please? I couldn’t hear you.”

“Yes, sir. I–“

“Metcalf, is that your foot I’m stepping on?”

“No, sir. It must be Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s foot.”

“It isn’t my foot,” said Lieutenant Scheisskopf.

“Them maybe it is my foot after all,” said Major Metcalf.

“Move it.”

“Yes, sir. You’ll have to move your foot first, colonel. It’s on top of mine.”

“Are you telling me to move my foot?”

“No, sir. Oh, no, sir.”

“Then move your foot and keep your stupid mouth shut. Will you speak up, please? I still couldn’t hear you.

Trust me, it gets funnier.

With Clevinger lost, the board clueless, and the bloated Colonel belligerent, the way Heller captures the comic tragedy of the trial in a mind-numbing yet intensely funny way. And Clevinger’s trial isn’t the only thing. Right from Yossarian’s paranoia, to Milo’s war profiteering, every single bit of that novel oozes humor and satire.

I’m not writing a book review, but the reason I brought this up here is because a lot of situations in life are comedic, however only with the benefit of hindsight. I’m sure none of the characters in Catch-22 ever found the situations they were in even remotely funny. Work going up? Confused leadership? Directionless colleagues? Isn’t it strikingly similar to our lives, with assignments, teachers, classmates, all quirky enough to write Catch-22 all over again?

Life’s funny, in a very ironical way. After all, haven’t all of us got a story where we’ve been stood up while being fully suited? Had a bad hair day on the day we really cannot afford to? Submitted the wrong assignment? Texted the ex, complimenting her on her ‘hot purple sweater’? All of us have a funny story to tell. And a life to talk about.

We’ve all had unfulfilled childhoods, wishing our parents had done something differently, bad relationships, wishing our ex’s would have been a little more considerate and bad days at college, hoping our teachers would be a little more forgiving. But even if they weren’t, shouldn’t we take it as a sad joke and move on, instead building a wall around ourselves, and getting buried under the weight of the collapsing bricks?

Since I’m talking about humor, lets talk about how its rooted in reality.

For instance, there’s the last entrant to our class, and his struggles at making it to TISS is the topic for another blogpost. Almost everyone, apart from the Union HRD Minister knew about how he was being wrongfully denied admission into the institute of his dreams. Rumors are that he even sent out a Plea Tweet to Dr. Shashi Tharoor, Ratan Tata to ensure he wasn’t kept out of the seat he deserved! If there’s someone who blew down doors, knocked down houses, and charted his own way into TISS, its him. The story is greeted with peals of laughter whenever told to anyone in class, but the trials this poor fellow went through was not even remotely close to what we define as funny in our conventional, ‘Will Ferrell’ way.

Comic tragedies happen in life to all of us, right from screwed up days at work to a comedy of errors in presentations, we’ve seen it all with growing dread, and laughed at it with total insanity, in the same day.  Life’s a divine comedy, with a lot of coincidence, fate, luck all thrown in together for good measure. Even in my class, right from ‘Escalator Baba’s Curvy Tummy’ to the CR’s ‘Ambarrr-llaa’, there are unforgettable stories attached to each and every one of us. 

An eclectic mix of people is what makes every situation in class worth a hearty laugh. At the end of the day, we all need to hit our beds with a smile, reminiscing about that one moment of uncontrollable insanity in the day.

And as long as we’re getting that laugh, even the most painful flashback to it can be reduced to a stupid event, not an interruption in the way we live our lives. We are the masters of our own fates, our own sorrows, our own joys and our own jokes.

All of us have an Edmund Blackadder or a Jim Hacker within us. Its just upto to us to let them out for the world to see.

‘C’mon Kage, now it’s time to blow doors down
I hear you Jables, now it’s time to blow doors down
Light up the stage ’cause it’s time for a showdown
We’ll bend you over then we’ll take you to Brown Town
Now we’ve got to blow this fucker down’