The Idi Amin of Malleshwaram

Yesterday I was seeing an Indian movie made over half a century ago ‘Musafir’. It was the times when technology had not progressed and obscene amount of wealth was not being poured into films. But the movie turned out to be much better than any of the current day movies. The movie had a nice simple theme and executed in a sensitive manner. Even the songs made sense. It is the story of 3 families who come to stay at a rented house one after the other and their lives, their joys and sorrows, their triumphs and tribulations. The term ‘Musafir’ means traveler in Hindi, Urdu and Arabic. Here the tenants are called travelers as they travel from one rented apartment to another. The theme was kind of nostalgic one for me for I have been one such ‘Musafir’ or traveler. I have stayed in 11 different rented houses, three student hostel accommodations, one hotel room accommodation and my father’s home. That’s 15 different places in a span of 30 years. My mind went on a time travel reminiscing my life and times at each place.

My memories of my existence starts at a little house in an area called Malleshwaram in Bangalore. The house had a small veranda, a smaller bedroom and a still smaller kitchen and of course a bathroom and a toilet. It was way back in the early 1980s and the concept of combined toilet and bathroom was yet to become popular. The owner of the house was a genius who had managed to squeeze in 6 houses within his tiny strip of land: two on each floor. Four of the houses, the two on the ground and first floor and ground floor were rented out while the owner retained the two penthouse apartments, if you can call them that. We stayed on the one of the first floor houses. The other one was occupied by my dad’s childhood friend, who had a son called Gowtham who was around my age. He was the first friend I have ever had. The two houses on the ground floor were occupied by two couples, one of them newly married and the other with a baby. Anyway I don’t have too many memories of them except for one small incident with the baby and her mom, which I shall be narrating soon.

When light is scattered from an atom or molecule, most photons are elastically scattered (Rayleigh scattering). The scattered photons have the same energy (frequency) and wavelength as the incident photons. However, a small fraction of the scattered light (approximately 1 in 10 million photons) is scattered by an excitation, with the scattered photons having a frequency different from, and usually lower than, the frequency of the incident photons. Now where did this come from? Have no clue what I am talking about? Actually nor do I. No. I am not going nuts. This is a portion lifted from Wikipedia description of Raman Effect discovered by C V Raman, the famous Indian scientist and Nobel Prize winner. However, this is not the Raman Effect I am going to talk about here. The one I am going to mention is going to be a Raman effect of a different kind for the owner of our house was also called C V Raman and was no less an exceptional man in his own way. There is this old movie of Rajnikanth called 'Munru Mukam' where the villain says babies will stop crying if the mother mentions his name. Rajnikanth responds by saying that when mothers say his name, the child will not only shut its own mouth with one hand, but shut the mouth of the mother with the other hand. Such was the effect Mr. Raman had on his tenants. He was a dictator who ruled over his family and tenants with an iron hand, an Idi Amin in his own right.

Where there are dictators, there is usually a rebel faction. The rebellion against Mr. Raman was lead by able rebel general Gowtham and his faithful lieutenant: "yours truly". We used to hatch conspiracy after conspiracy to overthrow his evil regime. But our plans and courage lasted only till he was out of sight. The minute he was in sight, General Gowtham would immediately salute him smartly and wish him good morning. I would still hold out a defiant posse and receive a couple of taunts from Mr. Raman. Gowtham later explained to me that we were operating undercover and must not let him get scent of the rebellion till the time was ripe. Other than hatching conspiracies, we also indulged in scientific exploration, adventure, travel and commerce. We used to create controls of rockets on the walls with chalk piece and launch reconnaissance missions to outer space. We used to explore dark caves that used to be the lair of monsters in quest for hidden treasures: the area below the staircase was dark and used to be the abode of cockroaches and one may find a chalk piece or an old bottle or old bus tickets there. We used to go on long bike trips on the corridors outside our house on our tricycles. We used to collect old lottery tickets, shining stones; I don’t mean diamonds, more in the lines of pieces broken from marble slabs in construction sites, chalk pieces and ‘tick tuck’ , the name we gave to tablet covers for the sound they made. We used to run a thriving business in these commodities.

My parents were becoming gravely concerned about the influence Gowtham was beginning to have on me. He had become my friend, philosopher and guide. I often used to quote him as an authoritative source to support my arguments during verbal duels with my parents. My parents tried to counter this by trying to develop ’independent’ thinking in me by getting me books such as Knowledge Bank books published by Pustak Mahal. But reading general knowledge books is not a five year old kid’s idea of fun. Needless to say, the books retain their brand new look to date, which cannot be said of many an other unfortunate book that fell into my clutches over the years. But the following incident confirmed my parents worst fears.

Every tribe has this coming of age ceremony, where young men have to prove their mettle by a feat of daring. So Gowtham devised one such task for us. Mrs. Usha, the tenant on the ground floor was standing with her baby in hand and talking to someone. So the task was this. We had to take aim and spit such that our spit landed exactly on the baby’s head. Gowtham, as the leader lead the way. He accomplished the task successfully and ducked before Ms. Usha could see who was responsible for the mucous fluid globule on her poor baby’s head. Next it was my turn. I prepared myself, waited for my mouth to fill and carefully took aim. The time of trial had come. I could not let down my leader at this crucial juncture. The rebellion against Raman needed staunch hearted men and I had to prove myself worthy of the cause. I managed to hit the bull’s eye but could not evade being seen for mama had become alert after the first attack on her beloved one. The impudence of attacking her poor little one a second time totally enraged her and she was at our door in no time.

My mom was rudely awakened from her sleep and had to listen to 15 minutes of the virago’s ravings. Anger is so infectious. By the time the lady left having blown the steam off, the devil had taken possession of my mom. She seized me and dragged me to the kitchen and lit the gas stove. And then she proceeded to heat a steel spoon and with that she proceeded to brand me on my forearm. And that is how I first got my first lesson on branding. I wonder how many people know the marketing term 'branding' originated from the practice of branding livestock and slaves with a hot iron. In Dutch ‘branden’ means to burn. From that day I was known as the ‘Spitting warrior of the steel spoon clan’. They say some people are born great, some people become great through their efforts while other have greatness thrust upon them. I would say some people are born with a silver spoon while others achieve a steel spoon through their feats of bravery.

But then all good things come to an end and same was the case with our adventures. By the time I was nearing my eighth birthday, Gowtham’s dad had decided to move to the defense quarters and my dad had got transferred to Kerala. But the memories of the house were etched deep in my mind and it was with a heavy heart that I took leave of the domain of Raman the tyrant. As the dialogue in the movie Musafir goes, you have to eventually leave every rented house and when you leave each one you will carry your unique memories with it.

Related Post: The Hunchback of Ernakulam

The Cursed Credit Card

All of us must have read the story of Aladdin and the magic lamp. In that there is a sequence where the evil wizard disguises himself as a lamp seller and goes about offering shiny new lamps in exchange for old ones. “What is the big deal?” some may say. Even now we have exchange offers for cars, watches, pressure cookers and many other items. But the catch is that it is not a straight exchange but just a small reduction in price. But in the case of the lamps, it was a straight exchange. As it turned out later, this wizard had ulterior motives. Now I encountered a similar situation in the current times. There was this stranger who called me up and said “Sir, we are calling from Customized Unchartered Bank. We are offering you life time free credit card. All you need to do it to furnish a Xerox copy of your identification card and put one signature. We will take care of all the documentation.

 I being a strong believer that ‘there are no such things as free lunches’, was naturally suspicious. But he was persistent. “You don’t have to pay a penny, sir. Also we are offering free gifts for all subscribers. Additionally we have a whole lot of schemes with our partner merchant houses offering discounts on a wide range of products

The whole deal sounded very fishy. Who would lend you money and also give you gifts for borrowing from them? But then everyone seemed to have one. Also I found I needed a credit card for online transactions. So I told myself that all my suspicions are a result of paranoia I had inherited from my dad and brushing them aside went ahead to put my signature on that form.

Let us now move ahead 1 year ahead to see the consequences of this small moment of weakness on my part. I am frantically calling a customer service executive at the bank.
Can you please cancel the credit card?

Why do you want to cancel the card, Sir?

Because the card has brought nothing but trouble

What is the problem, Sir? Some way I can help you?

Yes. It would be very helpful if you can cancel the card.

I shall do that, Sir. But can you tell me the reason for cancelling?

This way the conversation kept going on and on without reaching anywhere. I realize that come what may she is not going to take the cancellation request. These call center employees are not paid to make decisions but to keep talking smoothly, beguile the customer and lead them around in circles. If you are a busy person and want to get something done, they are probably not the best people to talk to. On the other hand if you are a desperate Indian male deprived of female company, eager to have any kind of communication with a female, and don’t have money to pay for professional chat services, then this is the best alternative. Getting back to the telephone conversation, she continued,
Sir, any way your card is due to expire in another 3 months. So why unnecessarily cancel?

By then I had realized the futility of this enterprise. So with an air of resignation, I replied.
Ok, whatever. So you are not cancelling my card. Thank you for nothing.

You are welcome, Sir. Can I help you with something else, Sir?

Why don’t you go and stuff your pretty little empty head down the lavatory pot, you bitch?

Probably I was over reacting and crassness was uncalled for. But the smooth unperturbed and of course unhelpful voice was getting to my nerves.
Ok, Sir. Hope you were satisfied with our service. Have a nice day, Sir.

This was the last straw and I broke out into an outburst of expletives. But she had already kept the phone down. So now getting rid of the card was becoming difficult. My earlier attempt to rid myself of the card 6 months back when I had received a bill for the annual fee, had resulted in my gold card being replaced by a downgraded classic. But this classic one seemed more difficult to get rid of than the gold. Maybe that’s why it is called classic. Because it is timeless, lasts with you forever.

But I was not the one to give up so easily. If the mountain did not come to Mohammed, Mohammed had to go to the mountain. So if they did not come for the card, the card will go to them I decided. And I marched boldly towards their office. But my courage lasted only till I reached the office. At the entrance of the office was a burly security guard, who was looking quite menacing. I tried to ignore him and walk in with a bold face. But he stopped me. I told him I had come to meet the customer service executive and told him my purpose of visit. He sent an attendant boy to get me audience with his or her royal highness the customer service executive. He came back and told something to the security officer. He turned to me and told me that customer service executive is too busy and I have to wait. I had been prepared for this and had brought along a nice novel to while away the time. But just as I was about to proceed inside to make myself comfortable on the sofa, the guard stopped me. “Sorry, Sir. That area is only for new customers.

I again lost my cool and was about to give him a dose of what I had given to that call girl. Did I just say call girl? I meant call center girl. But then I realized that prudence is the best part of valor. Hurling abuses at an unknown unseen girl down a telephone line was one thing. But this was a different ball game. This guy was here in front of me, 6 feet tall, muscular and a mustache that would have given the brigand Veerappan inferiority complex. Wish our nationalized banks had these kind of security guards. So I decided to live to fight again another day and made my quick exit.

I contemplated just throwing the credit card somewhere and forgetting about it. But credit cards bills don’t get forgotten along with forgotten credit cards. They linger on long after credit cards are forgotten and keep coming after you, with interest being added to the annual fee every month. And some people warned me that if the bill is not paid for a long time, I would be on the hit list of their bill collectors, who weren't too unlike the security guard I had encountered. So this was fast becoming a matter of life and death. As I was pondering over the issue, the postman arrived. It was yet another bill. Examining it closely, I found some mistakes in the address. But the local postman knew my name. So he had been delivering it correctly. Strange are the ways of Murphy, I mean God. The letters that you do not want always have some uncanny knack of reaching you against all odds. However, this gave me an idea. I put an online request for change in address. I gave the address of an empty plot 15 Km away, near my colleague’s house. I then went to that site by nightfall, dug a hole and buried my credit card there. That way I was ensuring that I was not being untruthful. I have always believed that honesty is the best policy. Some of the local stray dogs were looking at me curiously. They must have been wondering if humans had at last begun to see the merits of the ancient ways of canine kind. They had been burying bones for centuries.

There was still the danger of the bill collectors tracking down the old address after finding me missing from my new address. But that was where my company came to my rescue. I was going away to Germany on an onsite assignment for 9 months. At last my salvation had come. So I fled the country and was absconding for the next 9 months. I think things may have cooled down by the time I returned for I have had no communication from the bank after that.

Three years have passed since and I have been managing without credit cards managing my online transactions thanks to those kind souls who carry the heavy burden of credit card on their shoulders. Recently I received a call from a stranger, “Sir, we are calling from JDJDJ Bank. We are offering you life time free credit card. All you need to do it to furnish h a Xerox copy of your identification card and put one signature. We will take care of all the documentation.”

I had heard enough. The credit cards were out to get me again. I immediately put on a mechanical voice and told him, “Please check the number you have dialed. This number currently does not exist”. I repeated it again to seem like a recorded message. I had at least learnt something from that call center executive.

If credit cards had existed in Greek mythology, cancelling a credit card would probably have been one of Hercules' 12 tasks. I remember a sticker on some vehicle with the words “Jesus never fails”. Someone had scribbled below it. “Ask him to try the chartered accountants exam.” I would have written “Ask him to try to cancel a credit card.

Great Indian Bride Hunt - The Final Problem

I wonder what J K Rowling is planning to do now that Harry Potter series has come to an end. Anyway she has made enough money that would allow her to rest on her laurels rest of her life. Probably Arthur Conan Doyle was faced with a similar problem after concluding his Sherlock Holmes series. His other series such as Brigadier Gerald or Professor Challenger failed to evoke the kind of response that Sherlock Holmes could. Though personally I would rate ‘Lost World’ of the professor Challenger series as one of the best books I have read, the fact remains that Professor Challenger, true to his violent desire to avoid public notice was fated to remain in obscurity. So Arthur Conan Doyle had no other go but to bring Sherlock Holmes back to life. J K Rowling unfortunately does not have the luxury. I however still have not yet slammed the door on my popular bride hunt stories. So back I am with the next episode. I hope I am able to connect to the readers as I have been able to in the previous episode.

The number seven has some kind of aura attached to it in Indian tradition. Heroes in myths cross 7 seas and 7 mountains. There are 7 notes in Indian music. And even Indian marriage is supposed to be a relation for 7 generations. Given that I kind of thought I would stop my bride hunt with 7 girls and hinted as much to my parents. But one has to appreciate the tenacity of Indian parents when it comes to the question of marriage of their wards. So back they were with 3 more girls. They claimed they had brainstormed and come up with some break through shifts in their bride identification strategy that promised a higher success rate. What was I to do but yield? Even rocks finally yield to the tenacity of the sea waves. So that Monday night the father of girl no. 8, let’s call her Octavia was to call me. Girl no. 9, who we will call Nova was supposed to e-mail me that week sometime and Deca’s parents had promised to release the detailed communication strategy by that weekend. Octavia and Deca were from the finance industry, Nova from software. Deca’s dad had apparently through his industriousness managed to accumulate not too small a fortune. So I wanted to check her out first because I felt I was through with my learning curve on dispatching off cases of daughters of rich fathers. She seemed to offer the best chance of the three to further my hopes of besting Mr. Yogi’s record. Even Nova seemed to be a good candidate, being yet another software engineer but with no ‘nag’ in her name. Anyway I did not have much say in the sequencing of brides. So Octavia was the one I got to interact with first.

We kicked off Bride Hunt season 2 with telephonic conversations on two successive days. I did my best to steer clear of controversial issues such as cousins, bosses, romance and its expression, BMW cars and monks who deal in Ferrari cars. To her credit, she also did not get into the rapid fire mode. So we just chatted on lazily about the life, the universe and everything. We then agreed for a live meet the coming Sunday. I purposely avoid giving unnecessary romantic flavor to the otherwise unromantic Indian arranged marriage process by using the term ‘date’. Of course there as some who pretend romance like the character in the Hindi Movie ‘Jaane Tu’ who wants to close her eyes to reality and see the world she wants it to be. For such people, the person your parents introduced you to is your boyfriend/girlfriend. It is just a lucky coincidence that your parents got involved. The meetings arranged to discuss the issue of marriage are dates. Does the venue really matter? The lobby of a 5 star hotel your staying with dad is as good as candle light dinner or Movie Theater or park. And why does one have to take love at first sight literally? Isn't it more convenient to have the first sight, sound, taste, smell and everything else after the parents have fixed the marriage?

So it came about that for a second time, I was on my way to meet a girl. Last time many people had given me the feedback that chocolates and flowers worked better than biscuits. But somehow I could not get over my obsession with biscuits. So I sought a compromise by taking some chocolate biscuits with pictures of flowers on the wrapper. This girl had made no claims of humor. So no hassles of trying to procure nitrous oxide. Of course I took care of combing the hair and rest of the stuff. I managed to reach the venue 20 minutes before time and spent the time patrolling the road outside the pizza corner we were supposed to meet at. It always helps to get a feel of the pitch before a match so that you’re not surprised by uneven bounce or the ball keeping low during the match. She arrived on the spot exactly 53 seconds late, which was very good by Indian standards where tardiness of even 53 minutes would have been passable. So overall our meeting began on a positive note.

Availability of generous helpings of food helped further lightened the atmosphere. She was very reserved by nature and I occupied myself with the food. So overall the conversation went real well. As they say speech is silver but silence is golden. I wonder why so many people ignore this golden rule and ruin wonderful conversations by talking. But you still have the one bouncer per over rule. So I was mentally prepared when it came. “Do you think I am fat?

 Now this may seem like a very simple question to the uninitiated. The question can have only one of 2 answers, right? And that gives you a 50% chance of getting it right. But those who have had a wife or a girlfriend or at least read about the kind of people who have them would know better. Of course I am assuming a normal wife or girlfriend and not an anorexic one. If you were to say “Yes”, you would be insensitive whereas if you say “No” you would be untruthful. Neither of them seems to be the right answer. Though many of them are familiar with the question, not many know the right answer. And you know what? I am happy to announce that I have discovered the answer that has eluded philosophers and psychologists and relationship counselors for years. The answer of course is not ‘42’, which is the answer to a different question. To know more about it I suggest you read ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ by Douglas Adams. The correct answer to our question is …………………………….. ‘Ooble Ooble’.

People might be wondering whether this is in some foreign language. Actually it is in the universal human language and can be used by people in any part of the world. For people with difficulty in pronunciation, let me give a small instructive note. Take a piece of Pizza roughly 4 inch by 4 inch and stuff in it your mouth, chew it for 20 second to make uniform dough that fills your mouth. People with bigger mouths are instructed to go for a bigger piece. After that, try to say the name of your favorite brand of alcohol. And ‘Lo Behold’. You have the perfect answer. "Ooble Ooble". If you don’t drink, you could try your favorite swear words. If not, try the name of your ex-girl friend. If even that is not applicable to you, probably something is seriously wrong. You need to take some time off by yourself and introspect what you have been doing with your life. And as far as the Pizza goes, that can also be replaced with any other item of your choice as long as the 4 inch by 4 inch size is maintained. However if you’re trying it with bread, do not practice so much as to reduce its marginal utility to zero.

Having cleared the last obstacle, it was the time to close the deal. In human society, there is a high premium on how one proposes. In traditional Indian society, the young men did not have to concern themselves with this difficult problem as usually his dad would propose to the girl’s dad. So it was more of dad’s problem. But already Western influence has begun to corrupt Indian society, requiring young men to undertake such hazardous feats. So I was left pondering how to go about it. So I decided to give it a deeper thought. I took a piece of pizza 4 inch by 4 inch and thrust it into my mouth and started chewing. Food helps one think, you know. 20 seconds passed. I wondered if I should take the plunge. But though highly effective in other circumstances, ‘Ooble Ooble’ would hardly be viewed as a marriage proposal. So I chewed for 40 more seconds and then with my eyes still on the food, I mumbled incoherently “So I guess I have no issues with you”. She said “Excuse me”. I said a bit more loudly “I guess I would not object to marrying you. What do you think?

 She thought for a while and said "You know this is a big decision. I need time to think. Probably we should talk a little more. Maybe I will call you up sometime again middle of next week."

Phew! Was this never going to end? When would I get my salvation? That ended the meeting however. As she was about to leave, she mentioned that her house was close by and whether I would like to see her parents. Did not know if this was again one of those trick questions. But I thought if she thought I would find it interesting to see her parents, let me do that as well. I spent 15 minutes at her home talking to her parents and was on my way back home.

When I reached home, my parents informed me that girl’s parents had already communicated the girl’s decision in women’s parents’ language also known as Jupiter language. “Our daughter seems to have taken a liking for your son. Even we found him to be quite pleasant. We would like to visit you sometime next week to discuss the weddings arrangements

And so my most popular bride hunt series winds down to a tame end, unless I begin to invent more stories. But you know, in Indian arrange marriage system, finding a bride is just the beginning.

Next Post        :  Great Indian Bride Hunt : Fool's Reflections
Previous Post  :   Great Indian Bride Hunt : Parallel Process
Series Start     :   The Great Indian Bride Hunt

Software Engineer Life cycle

One would not be too much off the mark if one were to say Narayanamurthy was the best thing that happened to the country after Mahatma Gandhi. IT industry has served to galvanize a nation in paralysis and capture the imagination of the country's youth. I was also one of those who jumped on to the IT bandwagon leaving behind my core branch. I share some of my observations from my years in the industry.

One of the early concepts one is introduced to in the software industry is 'Software Life cycle'. In my time, the software life cycle was mostly based on the waterfall model. The term 'Waterfall Model' might give the uninitiated wrong ideas. But then this is the industry of Narayanmurthy and not Vijay Mallya. So one can be sure we are not talking of a semi clad lady posing for a calender in front of a waterfall. Exciting or otherwise, every IT consultant will attest to the fact that software life cycle lies at the heart of any IT project. But what about the life cycle of the engineer who makes the software?

It seems God created various animals and offered different life spans to them. He gave 20 years to the human, 50 years to the donkey, 30 years to the dog and 20 years to the monkey. The animals felt their lifespan was too long. So the donkey had its lifespan cut by 30 years, the dog by 15 years and the monkey by 10. But the man felt his life span was too short and asked to live the years of life the animals had refused. God immediately granted his wish. So from then on, Man lived the original 20 years given as an intelligent being, dominating the planet. The next 30 years he lived the life of a donkey, bearing the burden of family and work. Then he went on to live that of a dog for 15 years ferociously guarding his family and fortunes. The final 10 years were spent in senility, giving way to frivolity like a monkey. No wonder love makes a man a donkey; nature’s way of preparing him for his life of hard toil.

Professional life in the software industry follows a similar cycle. Just that the order of the phases is a bit different. When a developer enters a software company, he starts as a donkey. He is given all kinds of odd jobs. All that is expected is hard work. For instance one of the persons was given the task of finding a word and replacing it throughout millions of lines of code for his first 6 months. Morning to evening he toiled away industriously proud to be working in one of India’s leading IT powerhouses. The ‘donkey’ phase come to an end with a rude shock when your manager tells you during your fourth or fifth mid-year appraisal that it is not enough to do what you’re told but you need to take up initiatives of your own. It is the time for soul searching when you realize that one does not live a donkeys years doing just donkey work.

This brings on the onset of the ‘monkey’ phase. You begin to try various initiatives like a monkey jumping from branch to branch. At one time you are doing defect prevention, at other time configuration control. Then you suddenly decide to develop a tool to automate some process. Developing tools for automation is a really popular initiative among the bosses. It hardly matters that setting up your tool and giving input to it, interpreting its output and manually correcting the problems caused by it is going to end up taking more time than the original process. For only the tool’s running time is counted against the old process time. Other than winning you your manager’s favor, “I developed a tool that improved productivity by 50%” sounds impressive on one’s curriculum vitae (CV). Another popular initiative is creating ‘knowledge assets’. It is of course besides the point that even your girl friend in the same company is unlikely to read what you have written. What matters is that you are enriching the company’s body of knowledge. Also the confidence that no one is going to read what you have written gives you a freedom to express yourself freely. There was this friend of mine who, armed with a similar confidence, thought it interesting to fill up the comments section in his programs with lines from the songs of Pink Floyd. How else was he supposed to satisfy the quality guideline that comments must contribute 50% of the code delivered to the customer? Probably Pink Floyd’s lyrics made a much more interesting read than long drawn, verbose and often boring explanation of some obvious program logic which anyway no one was ever going to read.

This is also the time when people jump across companies running after higher pay scales and promised onsite opportunities like monkeys chasing bananas. By the way, talking of monkeys, I remember seeing an article that monkeys have shown ability to write visual basic programs. A few days after publication of the article, a sudden splurge in the monkey population on campus sparked off a rumor that the company had taken the article too seriously and was trying to hire monkeys as a latest cost cutting initiative.

As I mentioned earlier, usually appraisals bring on the winds of change. When you find your manager starting to talk about your lack of leadership qualities, you should realize that it is time to stop monkeying around. At last the time has come for you to enter the dog eat dog world, the world of management. As a project manager, you need to be barking at the people below you all the time to get work done and reserve your bite for the appraisals. If you’re a kind soul, hopefully your bark would be worse than your bite. If it’s the other way round, God save the poor developers. When it comes to handling customers, the project managers and delivery mangers need to run around clients wagging their tails for getting business. This phase dogs on much longer than the previous phases. With time you grow bigger. But even though you become a top dog, as they say  after all 'a dog is a dog is a dog'.

And then the human phase? Well, any guess why such a large number of software engineers appear for MBA entrance exams? Whether doing a MBA is really going to make things much better or not is a different questions all together.

Related Post : The MBA and the CEO

Great Indian Bride Hunt - The Fool's Reflections

The hunt finally came to an end. All that remains now are reflections at the end of the day. Of course finding the bride is just the beginning. There were lot of things that followed - atrologer's approval, due diligence on either side, hall booking, engagement, the actual wedding ceremony. But thats all another story. Life keeps moving. What remains are the few pearls of wisdom that we pick up as we go through the process of life. The below were some I picked up.

"By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you'll become happy; if you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher."
- Socrates, Philosopher, 4th century BC

"By all means, search for a bride. If you find a bride, you may be happy; if you don't find one, you may become a famous blogger."
- The Fool, Blogger, 21st century AD

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?''
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don't much care where --" said Alice.'
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.
"--so long as I get somewhere," Alice added as an explanation.
-Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

"Would you tell me, please, how we can take this forward from here?"
"That depends a good deal on what you want from life," said the Fool.
"I don't much care what --" said the Bride
"Then it doesn't matter how we take this forward" said the Fool.
"--so long as I get something, say a BMW car," the Bride added as an explanation.
-The Fool, The Great Indian Bride Hunt

Politics is the last resort of the scoundrel
- Samuel Johnson, 18th century Lexicographer, Essayist

Violence is the last resort of the incompetent
- Isaac Asimov, 20th century Novelist, Biochemist

Arranged marriage is the last resort of the unromantic
- The Fool, 21st century Blogger, Bride hunter

Great Indian Bride Hunt - The Parallel Process

Even when talks with Anusuya were still in progress, my parents brought in a new girl into the equation. As I mentioned in my last post, I was becoming adept at parallel processing of multiple prospective brides. Given the title of the post is parallel process, you can expect me to rant on about parallel processing and multi-threading before I move on to the actual story. But I guess that will make my typical reader feel the geeks are having their revenge. What with so many geeky blogs burgeoning all over the internet. Maybe I can instead talk about parallel lines and geometry and Euclid. But that would make it school boyish. What do school boys have to do with marriage, unless we are talking about 'Balika Vadu' here? And I definitely do not want to talk about the Hindi soaps. For this is no damn 'Lux Perfect Bride' program. This is my own personal blog.

Lets get on to Girl 5. Here we did not start with g-talk as usual. Instead I was asked to call her up and talk right away. She started off much more enthusiastically than the others “I just have three requirements from my prospective husband. He should not smoke. He should not drink. He should not eat non vegetarian food.

Fair enough. I told her honestly that I had indulged in tobacco for a brief period but five whole earth years had elapsed since I last experienced the ethereal sensation caused by the passage of smoke from burning tobacco leaves through my lungs. I had enjoyed the pleasure of dissolving my ego in solvents made from fermented grapes, barley, wheat, rice and other substances for a more extended period of time. But I had put that also behind me and had taken a firm resolution six months back that my ego needed no further dissolving and had so far stuck to the resolution. And yes, though I had not consumed any items derived from killed animals for the past six months, I was still open to the possibility whenever I happened to be a stranger in a strange land. But I was willing to forego the option for her sake. She told me she does not care about the past and was concerned only about the future which I took to mean I had come clean. She then told me she could not focus her mind on the trivial issue of marriage when there were more important things at stake such as Sachin Tendulkar’s performance in the ongoing one day match, Federer’s quest for a sixth Wimbledon later in the evening and the F1 grand Prix race still later on. So I was advised to present my case through electronic mail and she promised to dispose of it at leisure.

I complied with her majesty’s wishes and faithfully wrote out my plea to her the next morning. One day passed. No response. Another day passed. Still no response. Yet another day passed. Situation still remained the same. So I decided to act and sent a gentle reminder. Immediately I got a response
Good morning. Extremely sorry for not responding earlier. I was held up with some work. Your conversation and the email communicated to me clearly about yourself and what is your expectation. Even if I appreciate your values of life and profession, I feel that my dreams and goals in life are quite different and are not in sync with yours. Sorry that we are not in position to proceed further with this alliance. Kindly convey the same to your parents. I wish you good luck for your future endeavors.

This was fine but what surprised me was the way in which the girl’s parents conveyed the same fact that the girl had conveyed to me to my parents. “We do not want our daughter to having anything to do with shady characters like your son, who indulges in immoral acts such as smoking. So please don’t bother us again.

 I was thinking of suggesting to John Gray to write a sequel to his book ‘Men are from Mars, Women from Venus' titled 'Women are from Venus, Women’s parents are from Jupiter'

As I began to see more and more girls, my efficiency had begun to go up and lead time was coming down drastically. For the uninitiated, lead time is an operations management concept closely related to the philosophical concepts “Everything that goes up has to come down” and “Everything that goes in has to come out”. The lead time is a quantity that measures the amount of sand that falls into Father Time’s hour glass while what has gone in is trying desperately to come out. In this case it is the distance between the point a contact is initiated with the girl and the point the communication comes to an end, on the time axis.

I spoke with the sixth girl for an entire hour on a Sunday morning. She conveyed to me that she would let me know when we can talk next by Sunday evening. Her parents conveyed the same fact to my parents by Monday evening “Our daughter informed us that your son’s interests are not compatible with hers. It was pleasant interacting with you folks. We wish your son best of luck in finding a bride”.

A similar conversation ensued the following Sunday with a different girl. My opinion of the girl was neutral and I could not come to any kind of conclusion either way. We parted ways promising to get back to each other for another round of discussion soon. Meanwhile my parents contacted me and got my feedback. They were not too impressed with the girl and her family and wanted to call off the match unless the girl had managed to form a strong positive impression in the first meeting. But they did not want to hurt the girl’s parents. So they decided to convey it in the ‘Women’s parents’ language also known as Jupiter language. My mom called up the girl’s parent and told them “Our son informed us that your daughter’s interests are not compatible with his. It was pleasant interacting with you folks. We wish your daughter best of luck in finding a bridegroom”.

But there are occasions where the best of punch lines fail when used inappropriately as one Bishop in a British church had discovered. This bishop was traveling in the United States where he heard that ministers regularly used humor in the pulpit. He decided he would try to learn from the example of his American colleagues. One Sunday he found himself in a large Methodist Church. Suddenly the minister said, "The best years of my life were spent in the arms of another man's wife." The congregation was in shock until he drew himself up and said, "My mother." The congregation then laughed and the English bishop thought, "Jolly good! I must remember that!" On his return to England he entered the pulpit and decided to repeat the story told by the American. "The best years of my life, were spent in the arms of another man's wife." At this point he drew a complete blank. The congregation began to whisper and murmur. His wife folded her arms and became cherry red. His mother-in-law, who had come to church that Sunday was gritting her teeth. So he repeated himself (hoping to remember the punch line): "The best years of my life, were spent in the arms of another man's wife... ." Alas, to no avail. So he said "For the life of me I cannot remember who she was!"

My mom found herself in a similar situation when the girl’s mom replied “Your son only spoke to my daughter about his interests. My daughter never told him anything about her interests

But my ever resourceful mom was not the one to be put down for long by a minor gaffe. She responded nonchalantly “We do not want our son to having anything to do with shady characters like your daughter, who indulges in immoral acts such as smoking. So please don’t bother us again.

The girl’s parents were too shocked to even think of a reply. My mom used the temporary reprieve to make a quick exit. While the punch line from the parents of girl no. 6 had backfired, the one from the parents of girl no.5 had saved the day. Luckily for my mom, the parents of girl no. 7 never called us back.

So there ends my bride hunt chronicles. Though by and large I have reported the actual facts, at many places I have used my prosaic license (what’s the equivalent of poetic license?) to give a slight strategic twist to the facts to spice up the narrative and give the reader a more enjoyable experience. I bear no malice toward the girls mentioned in the story and mean no disrespect to them. I hope none of them ever read my blog. But just in case let me put a disclaimer.

Disclaimer: The story narrated here does not claim historic authenticity. The events mentioned in the story and all the characters are a product of my fertile imagination. Any resemblance to real life events or real life people is purely coincidental. After all isn't life itself a series of fortunate and not so fortunate coincidences?

However things did not really end there for as you see I am have still not married and begun to live happily ever after, right? So obviously there has to be more, right?

Next Post        :  Great Indian Bride Hunt : The Final Problem
Previous Post  :   Great Indian Bride Hunt : Rotation
Series Start     :   The Great Indian Bride Hunt

Great Indian Bride Hunt Rotations

I would like to say I am naming the concluding episode of my bride hunt story ‘The great Indian bride Hunt Rotations’ as by now I had acquired sufficient skill in bride management to see more than one girl at a time and smoothly rotate from one bride to the next and then back. But in the name of truthfulness and honesty I refrain from making such a claim. For most who have read the second part it would have been a foregone conclusion that the concluding part would be named ‘The great Indian bride Hunt Revolutions’. But that seemed cliched and I wanted something more original. So I named it ‘The great Indian bride Hunt Rotations’. Isn't that what originality is all about? What with Rumi Jaffrey the director of ‘God Tusi Great Ho’ claiming in an interview that his movie was a completely ’original’ concept having nothing to do with  'Bruce Almighty'. I also remember the 'completely original' questions in CBSE mathematics paper as compared to the Tamil Nadu state board exam paper. Whereas Tamil Nadu State board had problems directly from the text book in the board exam, CBSE introduced ‘originality’ in the paper by changing the numbers. Most writings are usually a healthy mixture of ‘good’ and ‘original’ stuff, though it often turns out that the parts that are good are not original and those that are original are not good as the great playwright G B Shaw once remarked to an aspiring writer who showed him his work. Having devoted adequate space to the usual male bovine’s excreta, let me now move on the actual story of the fabulous four, the last four girls I encountered.

After having seen a journalist, a chartered accountant and a HR executive, my parents decided to stop looking for fancy profiles and go for plain vanilla software engineers. In my dad’s generation bank clerks made excellent wives. They had so little responsibility in office that they could do full justice to their homes and families while at the same time making a significant contribution to the family fortune. In fact my dad’s three brothers had married bank clerks and even my mom had an appointment order for the post of a bank clerk at the time of marriage. The software engineering profession seems to hold similar esteem in the current times as the clerical jobs in a bank used to hold in my dad’s times. So my parents found a software engineer who was currently on an onsite assignment in the United States of America. Her dad as such was not too well off but who can say no to a ‘dollar Bahu’?

So I began my interactions with Anusuya Nagarajan (name changed to protect identity). The name seemed ominous with the word ‘nag’ in it. But fears were unfounded and she seemed like a breath of fresh air with the typical simplicity of a software engineer. She told me that she liked to read books on philosophy. She also told me that she was very fond of physical activity and enjoyed long walks in the open country side. My hopes began to soar and I began to dream of long walks in the country side discussing the nuances of philosophy with her. Philosophical walks have been popular from times memorial. In fact there is a path in Heidelberg in Germany called the ‘Philosopher’s walk’. But unfortunately my companions on the trip had neither the energy to complete the long walk not the fascination for philosophy. But unlike my companions then, this girl seemed to have both.

However there was a small hitch in our communications. My mobile phone did not have ISD call facility. So I had to wait for her to call me. One of the conversations got cut abruptly and the next day I was waiting for her to call back. She did not and the next morning I tried to call from telephone booth and I reached voice mail where I left a message. No response from her till that evening. That evening as I was boarding the local train I got a call from an unknown local number. A woman with a very feeble withered voice introduced herself, “I am Anusuya’s aunt. Anusuya gave me your number and asked me to speak to you. Is this a good time to speak to you? I hope you don’t mind me calling you.”

Now this was a new twist in the tale. I had not encountered this situation before. But I had read lot of books by PG Wodehouse where aunts played a pivotal role in marriages. Probably this aunt was also trying to assert her rightful place as the pivot in our marriage. Anyway I had nothing to do during the train journey. So I agreed to speak with her. She babbled incoherently for 10 minutes and then wanted me to speak to her husband. He wasn't much better either. I found myself not too much wiser at the end of 20 minutes. But anyway it was not going to be on my telephone bill. However I was curious what they wanted and asked my parents to find out. They had a similar experience and this time the telephone bill had been on our side. I presumed this was probably a test devised by the girl to see my ability to handle uncertainties in life. I developed a new respect for the girl for devising this kind of an innovative test. I wanted to come out of this test in flying colors. So next time she called up I told her “Your uncle and aunt spoke to me. Very nice people. I fully understand their concerns. Let them know they can put the concerns to rest. However there are some things I can’t compromise upon. We need to work them out. But there is nothing that can’t be worked out. I really appreciate their frankness in speaking out openly.

If she seemed surprised at my response, she did not show it. But luckily for me, she did not press on further about the ‘concerns’ or ‘things I can’t compromise’. So I guess I passed her test.

We moved on to other topics and came to philosophy. She told me that she subscribed to the 'Robin Sharma School 'of philosophy but then believed that philosophy is mainly for ‘recreational’ purpose and should not be applied to practical life After all who would be stupid enough to give off his Ferrari in real life? Yes. She was not really too materialistic. She did not dream of having a Ferrari but she dreamed of having a BMW. And she began to go on on similar lines about what all she wanted to have. I began to reflect upon the ‘nag’ in her name again. And once she was done with her wish list for Santa Claus, she started talking about her cousin and what a good married life she was having. Once again a cousin! I began to fully appreciate the one child norm being advocated by the government. Other than population control, it had an additional advantage of eliminating these troublesome cousins over the next two generations. I could visualize what a wonderful world our grand children will inherit without any nosy aunts and cousins popping up at all the wrong places. Slowly the conversation winded down inconclusively. There was no contact after that day. I had lost interest. It seemed like she had also lost interest. No rejection mails like the previous occasions. After all, when minds think alike, where is the need for words?

And seems like the words do seem to have run out. There don't seem any left for the other three. The next three girls would be needing another post I guess.

Next Post:       :  Great Indian Bride Hunt: Parallel Process
Previous Post  :   Great Indian Bride Hunt: Reloaded
Series Start     :   The Great Indian Bride Hunt

Great Indian Bride Hunt Reloaded

Whenever a Hollywood movie becomes a hit, you can always expect a sequel. If that become a hit too, make one more. Keep at it till people are sick of the concept. In terms of economics, keep making the movies till the marginal utility of a sequel tends towards zero. For the uninitiated let me give an example to illustrate the marginal utility concept. Give a hungry man a piece of bread. It has high marginal utility. Give him one more piece of bread. The marginal utility is slightly lesser. Keep on giving him more and more. The marginal utility starts dropping rapidly. At some point the man would yell if he sees another piece of bread. At this point one can say margin utility is tending towards zero. Hit him on the head at this point and block his nose to get him to open his mouth and stuff the bread inside. Once we are done with the experiment, he will never eat bread all his life. Probably it is not a very kind thing to do. But who said economists are the kindest people on earth? Before feminists begin to protest that my example is male chauvinistic, I would like to clarify that the experiment can be done using a woman too. Just ensure that there is a woman economist in the room when forcibly stuffing the last piece of bread inside her mouth. Getting back to movies, Bollywood is also beginning to adopt the trend as seen in the case of Munnai Bhai MBBS and Dhoom. Keeping with this trend, having seen the popularity of my earlier post about my bride hunt, I could not resist posting a sequel. So here I continue the story of my misadventures.

It was not long ago before my mom came up with the third girl. This time it was a HR executive, again the daughter of a rich dad. But I was wiser from my last experience. I started with few mails and fixed up the coming Saturday for a Gmail chat. The first chat went very smoothly. She was very quiet for a girl and what more - a good listener! And I went on lecturing away to glory. Every now and then she would stop me and ask an intelligent question. Note I have not put the intelligent within quotes. It seemed as if I had at last found my ideal match. Nothing puffs up the male ego especially one with pretensions of intellect like a woman attentively catching on to every word he says. So I was quite Ok with the girl. But she wanted to chat with me one more time probably the next weekend. On reporting the conversation to my mom, she told me to leave no stone unturned in trying to impress the girl and closing the deal.

The next week again the chat started well. But it was not long before we were approaching dangerous territory. “
So what are your expectations?” she asked.

Had I heard this question before? I said “I am looking to find my soul mate

I remembered a book by Richard Bach called ‘Bridge across forever’, where he talks about his attempts to find a soul mate. I had not read that book as I am not into that kind of mushy stuff. But someone had mentioned about the book to me and it seemed like a ‘cool’ thing to say. At least better than frugality and stuff, eh?  “So are you a spiritual person?

Now this was a trick question. I decided to think carefully before answering this one. I remembered my friend who had recently attended a preparatory course on marriage conducted by his church telling me that women are likely to be more spiritual. So I decided to use my ‘phone a friend’ life line on this and told her “Yes. I am very spiritual person”.

 She responded “Well I am not”.

This was unexpected. I seemed to have miscalculated. Maybe only Christian women are spiritual or only the Christian women belonging to the same denomination that my friend belonged. “But I have a cousin who is very spiritual and I am very fond of him” she continued.

Finally some spark of hope. Then we had a long discussion about what spirituality meant to me and my philosophy in life. Rather than discussion, we can call it a monologue as she had nothing much to contribute by the way of information or views but kept asking questions to keep me aware that she was still there on the other end. Gradually we moved on to more earthly topics. I remembered my mother’s words and decided to try for a deal closure. I had often heard most women like chocolate, flowers and Harry Potter. I had no clue about flowers and chocolates but I had read all the Harry Potter books, the last one, one day before the official release. “So how did you like the latest Harry Potter book?”.

She replied “I do not read that kind of kid stuff”.

Again a bouncer. It seemed like I was getting back my natural ‘charm’. But I was a fighter and continued to toil on and managed to secure a telephonic interview the next day.

On Sunday afternoon a squeaky voice greeted me “Hi. How was the day?

Like all other days. Sunny in the morning and in all probability dark in the night”, I replied. I am not too good at answering these trick questions.

 “So what are you doing today?” she went on enthusiastically.

Talking to you, of course. What else did you think I was doing?” I replied.

 After we had spoken for 5 minutes, she mentioned that I sounded very much like her boss, who was also from a premier management institute. This sounded ominous. But I decided to find out more.
So what kind of a person is your boss?

She burst out “He is so weird. He is a total nut. Probably because he is from such a well known institute of management. I really hate him” “But that does not prejudice me against you” she added as an afterthought.

I had already begun to get a déjà vu feeling regarding how this was going to end. So I decided to limit my losses. So I said “Hello. Hello. I can’t hear you. Hello. Hello. Can you hear me?” and cut the phone.

I thought I would at least save on the mobile bill. Within a minute she called me up and we resumed our conversation. The boss and the philosophical cousin who had made a brief appearance earlier began to appear with increasing regularity in the conversation. I began to suspect what this was all about. Typically most humans like to think in dualities. For Christian, it is ‘God’ and ‘Devil’. For Hindus, it is ‘Ultimate Reality’ and ‘Illusion’. For the scientist, it is rationality and irrationality. For the cold war American, it is democracy and communism. This girl was not a spiritual person as she had mentioned earlier. So she had no use for God, devil, reality and illusion. Nor was she a scientist or an American. So for her the duality was cousin and boss. She had probably simplified the marriage issue to a simple question of whether I was a Type B (Boss) or a Type C (Cousin). It is amazing how human mind simplifies complex issues. Thankfully however there was no type A as the only word I can think of starting with A is not very nice. (Though probably Type B in all probability would have been a Type A as well) I refrain from mentioning the A word however as I do not want my blog to get a R-rating for profanity.

The following Wednesday turned out to be my day of judgment. And the final verdict
I have been giving a considerable amount of thought to our interaction in the past 2 weeks and I am sorry to convey that I will not be able to take this forward. I feel our preferences on varied issues are quite different and did not find many similarities during our interaction. Wish you all the very best in your future endeavors. It was nice taking to you and knowing you.

So it turned out I was a Type B specimen. But I liked the nice way she had put it. In the words of my grandmother “It was like inserting a needle through a banana

You can never beat these HR executives at this. For instance, I really loved the rejection letter XLRI sent me after my interview for their PM&IR program. I wonder how many termination letters she has sent so far. I am sure she has a wonderful career before her and I wish her all the best.

So that brings an end to my third story. Based on the response and my continued interest in this topic I will see if I need to move on to my fourth tale of woe. If before that either I or the readers find bread being forced down the throat, I would call it a day and move on to other topics.

It so happened that readers did find the story interesting and here we move to the next part of the story.

Next Post:       :  Great Indian Bride Hunt: Rotations
Previous Post  :  The Great Indian Bride Hunt

Great Indian Bride Hunt

In the late 80s, before the advent of cable TV, when the 9.00 o’clock serials on Doordarshan used to capture the attention of the Indian middle class, there was one of these serials called Mr. Yogi. It was a comic-tragic series where Yogesh Ishwarlal Patel, an NRI (Non Resident Indian) returns to Bombay looking for a bride. As a school boy, having a good laugh at the expense of Mr. Yogi, being in a similar situation 20 years down the line was the last thing on my mind. But then isn't that what life is all about? A series of unfortunate events occurring when you least expect them to. I actually fail to remember if Mr. Yogi ultimately found a suitable bride. I wonder whatever happened to Mr.Yogi, if the same fate awaits me. But then who cares? Isn't the journey more important than the destination? Without much more ado let me get into the story of 'Travails of the great Indian Bride search’ or ‘The Seven damsel damnation’.

In our families, typically, 25-27 is considered an ideal age for marriage. A strategic onsite trip to Germany for a year, a year of preparation for MBA entrance and 2 years of MBA helped me postpone the inevitable. But at 29, parents had reached the limits of patience and the bride hunt begins. As soon as I returned home from my convocation, the first girl was already ready. The girl’s mom had already sent the photos and her e-mail id and the stage was set for me. I mailed her and started chatting with her on G-Talk. The talk was going on and on. ‘How are you?’, ‘How was the weekend?’, ‘Did you watch IPL?’ and then more challenging questions ‘Do you like your mom or dad?’, ‘Tell me 3 things your friends dislike about you’, ‘What is the weirdest thing you have done?’ I thought probably the girl was also following adaptive testing methodologies like GRE where questions kept getting tougher as you keep answering them right. So I was sure I was proceeding along the right track.

I have always been a believer in continuous feedback mechanism, So I thought mid way I would summarize our discussion and give her my assessment of her behavioral competencies based on the discussion so far and also get her feedback about my progress so far. I tried my best to employ motivation theories in appraising her. But somehow the whole idea of appraisal seemed to upset her. So we dropped the idea and chatted for a couple of times and then for 10 days I don’t hear from her. Then this mail
How are you? I hope everything is fine. I wanted to let you know that I am not very comfortable taking this forward. I know we haven’t spoken much. But I feel we do not have similar ways of thinking or doing stuff. I think we also communicate differently. By this time, I must have felt a bonding of friendship at least. I am still not getting that. I do not think it is worth spending time on this when one of us do not feel comfortable. Anyways. all the best!! I am sure you will find someone who is more compatible to you. Cheers!! Have fun!!

So I decided to take her advice and have fun that day by planning a trip to a nearby Jungle Lodge with a couple of classmates. It s not everyone who gets to interact with girls who talks through her nose and picks up things with her feet and walks using her hands. Isn't that what she meant by doing things differently and communicating differently?

Let s move on to episode 2. This girl had written lot of interesting stuff in her profile something about woods and trees and something like that which I found quite interesting. She was a journalist and done lot of other courses as well including a foreign MBA. Her father also seemed to be quite wealthy and well educated. Seemed like the family would provide the ideal life for me. After all who has not dreamed of a wealthy and well connected father in law at least some point in life?

There was a rapid exchange of mails one after the other almost on a daily basis for a month. Then came phone calls. And then the fateful day where a meeting was scheduled. Things had progressed too fast. I was wondering whether I had hit my head against something or what. She was coming down to my city and we had scheduled a meeting that evening at the lounge of a 5-star hotel she was staying at with her dad. I left office early, went home, took a bath and put on freshly ironed clothes and even combed my hair, which speaks volumes of the regard I had for this girl (and of course her family fortune!). I caught an auto and reached there taking a brief detour to get some biscuits for her. By the way I forgot to mention. She was supposedly a self proclaimed half-wit. I hope that’s the right term for people who make lot of witty comments? I used to laugh a lot at her ‘witty’ comments as it is quite easy to laugh in mail. How difficult is it to type ‘Ha ha ha. That was funny’? But it was going to be a different ball game when in person. I wondered whether I should take a flask of nitrous oxide with me to enable the laughing process. But with all the recent bombings, police seemed to be on an alert. So decided not to risk it .

There was this girl in some kind of fancy clothing (I can’t recollect exactly what it was except that it was something fancy as she mentioned about it) with her dear old daddy waiting there at the lounge. He spoke with me briefly and left, leaving me alone with the young lady at the snack lounge. I gave her the biscuits and then rolled up sleeve and geared myself for a good tuck in. But unfortunately the girl had other plans. She just ordered some soup and Russian salad and in order to maintain my dignity I also had to make do with the same. So it was going to be all talk and no food. Maybe more food would have relaxed the atmosphere and lead to a more positive outcome.

So we began talking. I started off about books and places I have visited. An interesting conversation seemed to be evolving despite the lack of food. But she soon cut it short and said “let’s get to business”. “As you wish, milady”. She said she wanted to finish her studies which might involve a bit of travel every month. Fair enough. Wanted to visit her parents now and then. Again fair enough. Have her friends for an evening over now and then. That was also fine as long as I was not the curio on display for the evening. Then she asked me what my expectation was. I told her about my views regarding the need for thrift. She said she also fully agreed and hardly spent anything except for those ‘small’ monthly expenses on those 3-4 little gold trinkets, fancy shoes and few of those designer wear. Other than it was just the regular expenses such as the car, the chauffer and the daily meal at the nearby 5 star restaurant. I asked her if she could give me an estimate of her total month expenses. She said “Well it must be around some 5000 Rs.” I did not tell her the chauffer alone would draw a salary of not less than Rs. 6000. Probably daddy darling was paying all the bills and dear husband would pay up after marriage so that our little Miss Mary Antoinette could continue to live in the world where 5000 Rs can buy you heaven on earth.

Then she moved on to other things. As we were talking she asked suddenly “So how would you express romance? Would you kiss my hand or something” I thought “Tell you what. Get a dog. He will not only kiss your hand, but lick it as well

But said nothing. She also kept asking me what I thought about her looks and clothing. I said her eyes, ears, nose and mouth were in their proper places and as far as her clothing was concerned, it covered most of what needed to be covered. She did not look too satisfied. Then she pressed me to tell her what kind of girls I found attractive. I said physical beauty did not matter much with me but if I were asked what kind of feminine features I found aesthetically appealing, I would go for sharp features. Incidentally her features were rounded. So she started off “So you don’t find me beautiful

I tried to tell her looks did not matter. I was not buying a art piece for my showcase. But she would not listen. Then she began to go on and on about how she is not getting the romantic feeling with me and stuff like that. I could see where she was coming from. Earlier during our conversation, when I was mentioning about my alignment with Mahatma Gandhi on carnality in marital relations, I had noticed her mouth had begun to blob in and out like a gold fish. There itself I had begun to sense it was not going to work. It was confirmed when she responded to my remark “True love has its basis in sacrifice” with “But that’s platonic love”.

So I just held fort till her dad came and made a quick exit promising to meet her again to explore how I could ‘express romance’. Next day morning, I wrote to her saying the best way for her to find romance is to find another man. I am finally inclined to agree with the anonymous wise man from the past who had said “Don’t marry for money. You can borrow it cheaper

No communication from her after that though I offered to maintain friendship with her even if I did not marry her. Wonder why she even disconnects my phone calls .It’s difficult to understand these women.

That covers 2 episodes of my search for a bride. I think I am mentally exhausted after writing such a long piece. No energy to proceed with the other 5. But I guess these 2 give a flavor. Maybe sometime later I may venture to write about those as well, Or maybe not. Even Mr. Yogi has begun to get boring after a while. So I guess same for my blog as well. And I am sure the number if going to be much more than 7. Probably after a while it would become more like a déjà vu. Even now I am getting the feeling at times. I wonder how things shape up. If anyone has seen Mr. Yogi and remember how it ended, you can put it on the comments in my blog.

Next Post  :  The Great Indian Bride Hunt: Reloaded

From Dog Bite to Sanyas to Cigarettes - Story of the Evolution of my Relegion

My first serious tryst with religion began at the age of 10, when I was bitten by a dog or thought I was bitten (dog's jaws brushed close to my ankle and later I discovered a scar on that spot, which may or may not be attributed to dog bite). I somehow managed to hide the fact from my parents. But within a month I began to get scared and started fearing I may get rabies and started researching the library about this disease. The research only served to worry me more. In order to save myself, I bargained with God that “Please save my life and I shall never hide anything from my parents”. But I did not keep up the promise and then fearing God would punish me began to inflict voluntary punishments upon myself such as denying myself the pleasure of playing football and other such self denials and also sometime inflicting injuries upon myself. Thus my initial conception of God was that of a heartless dispenser of justice, who does not spare the wrong doer. But I viewed him as someone with whom you can bargain and trade God's justice for self inflicted punishments. Thus I began to deny myself various things, denials which at times I would violate to atone for which I had to take on even more self denials.

Thus by the time I was 13, I had denied myself almost everything. I could not play football, I could not collect stamps, I could not talk to or even accidentally touch girls, I could not swear – the list can go on and on. These denials made me look eccentric and began to isolate me from my peers and the attitude towards girls not only made me a kind of laughing stock but for many years to follow stood as a barrier to healthy interactions with members of the opposite gender.

But as I was heading to 15, I began to feel the insufficiency of my current concept of religion. Also important questions such as what happens after death and the purpose of human existence had began to appear in the periphery of my mind. At that age of 15, I temporarily sorted the issue by deciding to drop all my self-imposed punishments and submitting to the mercy of a much more benevolent God, described in the New Testament and accepting Christ as my savior and living by the Christian moral code set in the bible and my parent’s basic moral code. So for outside appearances I was a Hindu, but at heart I had converted to Christianity. I used to read the New Testament regularly. Incidentally my new school was also a Christian school. I was highly influenced by the saintly character of the school principle who was a Catholic monk. So I was at peace with myself for the next 2 years.

As I neared the completion of my 17th year, an obsession to get into IIT had gripped my mind. As the exam drew near, the obsession crowded everything else out. At last the D-Day arrived. Much to my chagrin I performed so poorly that I was sure I could not make it to this elite institute of my dreams. I was a living copse for the next 2 days. On the third day, flipping through the pages of the newspaper, I suddenly came across a headline 'IIT JEE canceled’. I could not believe my eyes. Now my belief in God was vindicated. I believed the exam had been canceled for my sake and next time I was going to make it and so it happened and thus I landed up at IIT at the age of 18. The first term at IIT was fully occupied in settling down. There were so many new things. It was also the first time I was staying away from home. I was still on the top of a cloud, hardly believing I had made it into IIT, one of the only 2 to have done it from my school, where I was not even in the top 10 ranks in my class.

By the time second term came, the charm had faded. I realized IIT, in spite of having some of the best professors and students, was not what I had dreamed it to be. Also with the obsession to get into IIT fulfilled and no alternate obsession to fill my mind, I experienced a void. At this juncture once again thoughts about life after death and purpose of life surfaced. The simplistic philosophy of the New Testament no longer sufficed to satisfy me. I needed something richer. That’s when Swami Vivekananda came into my life. Just the year I joined some of the senior students had formed a group to study his philosophy. Slowly I began to be drawn to the group. I got acquainted with lot of senior students with state of mind similar to mine in search of answers to the big questions in life. They started taking me regularly to the Ramakrishna Mutt nearby. I was also introduced to the rich literature of Hindu philosophy - Bhagwat Gita, Yoga Vasishta, the complete works of Swami Vivekananda, Life of Swami Vivekananda, The Great Master (life of Sri Ramakrishna), and the gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. I took initiation at the Ramakrishna Mutt (In principle it is similar to the Upanayanam done in Brahmin families with the differences being it is given to both men and women, irrespective of caste, creed and color, a different mantra, no external trappings such as threads and most importantly it is administered by the highly spiritual president of R K Mutt and not by some local priest who does not even know to say his mantras properly). With that I started meditation. I also used to interact often with spiritual people at the Mutt and in my college, and used to listen often to the Ramkrishna Aratrikam composed by Swami Vivekananda. It seemed as if I had attained ultimate peace of mind.

But the story did not end there. This new found religious zeal began to affect my day to day life. I had stopped paying attention to my studies and my grades had started heading downhill. In an effort to keep only holy company, I began to categorize more and more people as unholy and avoid their company. People who smoked, those who drunk, those who swore, those who watched porn and talked about sex - all were evil people and had to be avoided. As in any other group of young adults, 80-90% fell in one or the other of these categories. This meant I could interact with only 10% of the people. I probably knew only 10% of the students, which left something like 1% of the students – my 4 friends. Thus with no interest in academics and nil social life, any further continuation of the current life was impossible. So I decided to join the Ramakrishna Mutt as a monk. I wrote to the president of the order and got the permission when I was in my third year of engineering. But the monks told me that they want people who can keep up their commitments. So I had to keep up my commitment of finishing my degree. Moreover the order did service work and so they needed qualified people to serve the community better. So I had 1 year to go and a vacation in between. I tried to avoid going home that vacation by getting an internship. But those days, internships were rare at IITs and so I did not get one. So I had to go home. However when I saw my parents, my heart melted and I did not want to leave them and go. Moreover further thought showed me that I was not becoming a monk for the right reasons. It seemed more like escapism than true renunciation. So I decided to continue a regular life
By then it was too late to write GRE and go abroad. So I took the first job that came to campus – one of India’s leading IT companies. This was time for another shift. Through my association with Vivekananda literature I had become an Advaitist. I had begun to believe that God is nothing but the universal soul that exists in each one of us and every other living being. So by meditating I had tried to remain connected to the soul of the universe.  But I realized in spite of all external trappings of a spiritual person, I was not able to maintain concentration for meditation for more than 6-7 minutes. So pure Raja Yoga was not my method. Also I felt if whole world was God, then why would certain words and certain actions alone be spiritual. Every action we do can be spiritual. Also I realized I had become proud and was considering myself superior while considering all the other people who smoked, drank etc. inferior. So I had become proud and judgmental, which are worse faults than smoking and drinking. So at the time of leaving college in 2001, I wanted to give up the holier than thou attitude and live like all other people and learn to relate to them. As part of learning to relate to people, I developed the habit of smoking and drinking. I found that brought me closer to people. Unless I indulged in those so called vices, I would not let go of the prejudices against people indulging in them.

So that began a new journey in my life. It's been over a decade. I have had lot of interesting experiences over this time. But I will leave that story to another time.

Reflections on Gandhi - Part 1 (Godse's speech during his trial)

Why I killed Gandhi ? Godse's Original words in the court during the proceedingsWhen I was searching for the R'day topics my web search lead me to many interesting subjects. One shock I got is on reading Godse's last official words ... Even the people who had gathered in court room were strongly felt for him. The judge who convicted Nathuram was on record saying that had the public been the jury, Nathuram Godse would have been surely aquitted. - Harish In the pic (L to R) :Nathuram Godse, Narayan Apte and Vishnu KarkareHere is his speach ..." Born in a devotional Brahmin family, I instinctively came to revere Hindu religion, Hindu history and Hindu culture. I had, therefore, been intensely proud of Hinduism as a whole. As I grew up I developed a tendency to free thinking unfettered by any superstitious allegiance to any isms, political or religious. That is why I worked actively for the eradication of untouchability and the caste system based on birth alone. I openly joined anti-caste movements and maintained that all Hindus were of equal status as to rights, social and religious and should be considered high or low on merit alone and not through the accident of birth in a particular caste or profession. I used publicly to take part in organized anti-caste dinners in which thousands of Hindus, Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, Chamars and Bhangis participated. We broke the caste rules and dined in the company of each other. I have read the speeches and writings of Dadabhai Naoroji, Vivekanand, Gokhale, Tilak, along with the books of ancient and modern history of India and some prominent countries like England, France, America and' Russia. Moreover I studied the tenets of Socialism and Marxism. But above all I studied very closely whatever Veer Savarkar and Gandhiji had written and spoken, as to my mind these two ideologies have contributed more to the moulding of the thought and action of the Indian people during the last thirty years or so, than any other single factor has done. All this reading and thinking led me to believe it was my first duty to serve Hindudom and Hindus both as a patriot and as a world citizen. To secure the freedom and to safeguard the just interests of some thirty crores (300 million) of Hindus would automatically constitute the freedom and the well-being of all India, one fifth of human race. This conviction led me naturally to devote myself to the Hindu Sanghtanist ideology and programme, which alone, I came to believe, could win and preserve the national independence of Hindustan, my Motherland, and enable her to render true service to humanity as well.Since the year 1920, that is, after the demise of Lokamanya Tilak, Gandhiji's influence in the Congress first increased and then became supreme. His activities for public awakening were phenomenal in their intensity and were reinforced by the slogan of truth and non-violence which he paraded ostentatiously before the country. No sensible or enlightened person could object to those slogans. In fact there is nothing new or original in them. They are implicit in every constitutional public movement. But it is nothing but a mere dream if you imagine that the bulk of mankind is, or can ever become, capable of scrupulous adherence to these lofty principles in its normal life from day to day. In fact, hunour, duty and love of one's own kith and kin and country might often compel us to disregard non-violence and to use force. I could never conceive that an armed resistance to an aggression is unjust. I would consider it a religious and moral duty to resist and, if possible, to overpower such an enemy by use of force. [In the Ramayana] Rama killed Ravana in a tumultuous fight and relieved Sita. [In the Mahabharata], Krishna killed Kansa to end his wickedness; and Arjuna had to fight and slay quite a number of his friends and relations including the revered Bhishma because the latter was on the side of the aggressor. It is my firm belief that in dubbing Rama, Krishna and Arjuna as guilty of violence, the Mahatma betrayed a total ignorance of the springs of human action. In more recent history, it was the heroic fight put up by Chhatrapati Shivaji that first checked and eventually destroyed the Muslim tyranny in India. It was absolutely essentially for Shivaji to overpower and kill an aggressive Afzal Khan, failing which he would have lost his own life. In condemning history's towering warriors like Shivaji, Rana Pratap and Guru Gobind Singh as misguided patriots, Gandhiji has merely exposed his self-conceit. He was, paradoxical as it may appear, a violent pacifist who brought untold calamities on the country in the name of truth and non-violence, while Rana Pratap, Shivaji and the Guru will remain enshrined in the hearts of their countrymen for ever for the freedom they brought to them.The accumulating provocation of thirty-two years, culminating in his last pro-Muslim fast, at last goaded me to the conclusion that the existence of Gandhi should be brought to an end immediately. Gandhi had done very good in South Africa to uphold the rights and well-being of the Indian community there. But when he finally returned to India he developed a subjective mentality under which he alone was to be the final judge of what was right or wrong. If the country wanted his leadership, it had to accept his infallibility; if it did not, he would stand aloof from the Congress and carry on his own way. Against such an attitude there can be no halfway house. Either Congress had to surrender its will to his and had to be content with playing second fiddle to all his eccentricity, whimsicality, metaphysics and primitive vision, or it had to carry on without him. He alone was the Judge of everyone and every thing; he was the master brain guiding the civil disobedience movement; no other could know the technique of that movement. He alone knew when to begin and when to withdraw it. The movement might succeed or fail, it might bring untold disaster and political reverses but that could make no difference to the Mahatma's infallibility. 'A Satyagrahi can never fail' was his formula for declaring his own infallibility and nobody except himself knew what a Satyagrahi is.Thus, the Mahatma became the judge and jury in his own cause. These childish insanities and obstinacies, coupled with a most severe austerity of life, ceaseless work and lofty character made Gandhi formidable and irresistible. Many people thought that his politics were irrational but they had either to withdraw from the Congress or place their intelligence at his feet to do with as he liked. In a position of such absolute irresponsibility Gandhi was guilty of blunder after blunder, failure after failure, disaster after disaster.Gandhi's pro-Muslim policy is blatantly in his perverse attitude on the question of the national language of India. It is quite obvious that Hindi has the most prior claim to be accepted as the premier language. In the beginning of his career in India, Gandhi gave a great impetus to Hindi but as he found that the Muslims did not like it, he became a champion of what is called Hindustani. Everybody in India knows that there is no language called Hindustani; it has no grammar; it has no vocabulary. It is a mere dialect, it is spoken, but not written. It is a bastard tongue and cross-breed between Hindi and Urdu, and not even the Mahatma's sophistry could make it popular. But in his desire to please the Muslims he insisted that Hindustani alone should be the national language of India. His blind followers, of course, supported him and the so-called hybrid language began to be used. The charm and purity of the Hindi language was to be prostituted to please the Muslims. All his experiments were at the expense of the Hindus. From August 1946 onwards the private armies of the Muslim League began a massacre of the Hindus. The then Viceroy, Lord Wavell, though distressed at what was happening, would not use his powers under the Government of India Act of 1935 to prevent the rape, murder and arson. The Hindu blood began to flow from Bengal to Karachi with some retaliation by the Hindus. The Interim Government formed in September was sabotaged by its Muslim League members right from its inception, but the more they became disloyal and treasonable to the government of which they were a part, the greater was Gandhi's infatuation for them. Lord Wavell had to resign as he could not bring about a settlement and he was succeeded by Lord Mountbatten. King Log was followed by King Stork. The Congress which had boasted of its nationalism and socialism secretly accepted Pakistan literally at the point of the bayonet and abjectly surrendered to Jinnah. India was vivisected and one-third of the Indian territory became foreign land to us from August 15, 1947. Lord Mountbatten came to be described in Congress circles as the greatest Viceroy and Governor-General this country ever had. The official date for handing over power was fixed for June 30, 1948, but Mountbatten with his ruthless surgery gave us a gift of vivisected India ten months in advance. This is what Gandhi had achieved after thirty years of undisputed dictatorship and this is what Congress party calls 'freedom' and 'peaceful transfer of power'. The Hindu-Muslim unity bubble was finally burst and a theocratic state was established with the consent of Nehru and his crowd and they have called 'freedom won by them with sacrifice' - whose sacrifice? When top leaders of Congress, with the consent of Gandhi, divided and tore the country - which we consider a deity of worship - my mind was filled with direful anger. One of the conditions imposed by Gandhi for his breaking of the fast unto death related to the mosques in Delhi occupied by the Hindu refugees. But when Hindus in Pakistan were subjected to violent attacks he did not so much as utter a single word to protest and censure the Pakistan Government or the Muslims concerned. Gandhi was shrewd enough to know that while undertaking a fast unto death, had he imposed for its break some condition on the Muslims in Pakistan, there would have been found hardly any Muslims who could have shown some grief if the fast had ended in his death. It was for this reason that he purposely avoided imposing any condition on the Muslims. He was fully aware of from the experience that Jinnah was not at all perturbed or influenced by his fast and the Muslim League hardly attached any value to the inner voice of Gandhi. Gandhi is being referred to as the Father of the Nation. But if that is so, he had failed his paternal duty inasmuch as he has acted very treacherously to the nation by his consenting to the partitioning of it. I stoutly maintain that Gandhi has failed in his duty. He has proved to be the Father of Pakistan. His inner-voice, his spiritual power and his doctrine of non-violence of which so much is made of, all crumbled before Jinnah's iron will and proved to be powerless. Briefly speaking, I thought to myself and foresaw I shall be totally ruined, and the only thing I could expect from the people would be nothing but hatred and that I shall have lost all my honour, even more valuable than my life, if I were to kill Gandhiji. But at the same time I felt that the Indian politics in the absence of Gandhiji would surely be proved practical, able to retaliate, and would be powerful with armed forces. No doubt, my own future would be totally ruined, but the nation would be saved from the inroads of Pakistan. People may even call me and dub me as devoid of any sense or foolish, but the nation would be free to follow the course founded on the reason which I consider to be necessary for sound nation-building. After having fully considered the question, I took the final decision in the matter, but I did not speak about it to anyone whatsoever. I took courage in both my hands and I did fire the shots at Gandhiji on 30th January 1948, on the prayer-grounds of Birla House. I do say that my shots were fired at the person whose policy and action had brought rack and ruin and destruction to millions of Hindus. There was no legal machinery by which such an offender could be brought to book and for this reason I fired those fatal shots. I bear no ill will towards anyone individually but I do say that I had no respect for the present government owing to their policy which was unfairly favourable towards the Muslims. But at the same time I could clearly see that the policy was entirely due to the presence of Gandhi. I have to say with great regret that Prime Minister Nehru quite forgets that his preachings and deeds are at times at variances with each other when he talks about India as a secular state in season and out of season, because it is significant to note that Nehru has played a leading role in the establishment of the theocratic state of Pakistan, and his job was made easier by Gandhi's persistent policy of appeasement towards the Muslims. I now stand before the court to accept the full share of my responsibility for what I have done and the judge would, of course, pass against me such orders of sentence as may be considered proper. But I would like to add that I do not desire any mercy to be shown to me, nor do I wish that anyone else should beg for mercy on my behalf. My confidence about the moral side of my action has not been shaken even by the criticism levelled against it on all sides. I have no doubt that honest writers of history will weigh my act and find the true value thereof some day in future. "

For whom the bell tolls

A book of faces