Nostalgia Bites

May 28, 2003

I’m on the last day of a five day break before my last endsem. In a couple of hours, I’m going to zip out of Delhi, reach Patiala, study through the night, give the exam tomorrow, and zip back into Delhi.

The past two or three days, I’ve been calling up almost my entire phonebook. More of my old friends are back in Delhi right now than ever before. It’s a delicious feeling.

In the past thirty-six hours, I’ve talked to Asim, Vedant, Rukhein, Deeksha, Shiven, Pranita, Nidhi, Arnab, Akshay Bhatla, Zubin, Shiv, and Rishi. Vedant, after four years, and Rukhein and Deeksha after almost three. There are even more people who weren’t at home or whose phones seem to be dead- Divyanshu and Charu. And there’s lots of numbers still to call.

I’m swimming in a sea of nostalgia, which to my mind is even more pleasurable than swimming in a sea of chocolate. (Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mannis.)

My self-conferred title- Keeper of the Memories is beginning to actually become relevant. In the conversations I’ve had the past two days, I’ve been having to remind people over and over of stuff they did. After about five minutes of prompting, Rukhein finally remembered the great day we had three years ago (Damn, it’s been so long!) where we went to Sagar and had dosas, after Mriduben got frustrated sitting on the bed while he gobbled up meat curry and paranthas. That was such a cool day.

I had to remind Rishi of the significance of NSCP and IP, and though Vedant remembered who I was, he had forgotten all about giving me and ShrutiG lifts in his Contessa at the peak of the monsoon.

Sigh. Everyone’s growing old. Hopefully they’re growing wiser too.

The next stage is to meet people- some of whom I haven’t met for even longer periods. I haven’t met Asim or Deeksha since first year, and Rukhein or Vedant since they passed out. I’ve already fixed up with Bhatla for some sort of plan for the 2nd of June, before he leaves for training.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make a few more phone calls.

Commercial Break

May 24, 2003

Back after a long long break. Blame it on exams. (The long break, that is, not the being back).

Coming to the point- Indian TV ads these days are filled with cute kids. Cute to the point of inducing nausea.

I Am Not A Grinch and I have nothing against cuteness per se, but in the past two or three years, ad agencies have overstepped all limits. They’re trying so hard that cuteness has mutated into a sort of fake tweeness. It shows. And it induces murderous thoughts- not in me, for I have a sunny disposition, thanks in large part to Preity Zinta- but definitely in my brother Bhavya and other hair-trigger, short-tempered, type-A control personalities. Bhavya, I should mention here, has gone over the edge, and is engaged in compiling a list of kids in ads for whom to lay ornate death-traps.

The most prominent example of smarmy little gits trying to sell us stuff these days is the kid in the “healthy AC” ad. He’s horrible. “Why take chances?” he pipes in that ingratiatingly concerned voice. The effect of the ad would be to make one rush out and buy blood pressure pills, and not ACs, but somehow advertisers don’t get it. In the face of all common sense, they seem to be convinced that this sort of soppiness is a good thing. And they persist with this tactic.

Not that other ads are any better. There’s the McDonalds ad from a couple of years ago with the whiny brats, to name an extreme example.

The whole trend of twee kids in ads, like many of our other modern ills, can be blamed on Karan Johar. It’s all his fault. He started the trend.

Yes, Karan Johar. It all started with that diabolical miasma of sickening sappiness, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, which was filled with horrible little kids acting cute. Acting cute, mind you, not being cute. Things have been going downhill since then.

It’s not really the ad agencies fault. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was commercially succesful, and emulating it must have seemed a good idea. But then, it’s commercial success was assuredly the result of a pact with a devil.

After all, the characters in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai were some of the most repellent specimens I have ever come across. There were Shah Rukh Khan, and Salman Khan, whose faces are enough to make one throw up. There was that disgusting kid sardar, who was mentally deficient even by the standards of his species. And there was that precocious girl, who- infamy of infamies!- was named Anjali. Anjali, a name that by rights belongs only to the sweet mechanic in Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikandar.

But despite all that, these stereotypes are being perpetrated. And there’s no escaping them if you have TV. You’ll be forced to suffer through kids selling you ACs, kids selling you cold drinks, whether fizzy or not, and kids selling you all other sorts of goods and services. And all of them condescending to be cute.

So, if you too are ready to explode and grab a gun, do so by all means, but don’t go after the kids. They’re just the symptoms. If you’re planning to mow down someone, go for Karan Johar. It’s all his fault.


May 15, 2003

In the India Today Special Issue on the Best and Worst States of India, there’s a guest column by a Market Strategy consultant called Rama Bijapurkar. I can’t seem to locate the online version anywhere, but you can try your luck on

Anyway, the article discusses how Indian small towns are catching up with metros at a blistering speed.

That was just the article. I’ve been noticing it for the past two years. Patiala is going wild. There’s a dynamism here that you don’t see in Delhi- at least, not in the established markets like South Ex or Greater Kailash. Sure, people in the previously mid-level markets like Green Park are tearing down their old shops and building new ones, but it doesn’t compare to Patiala.

The thing about Patiala is that people here will do something, fail at it, do something again, fail at it again, and keep doing something new until they get it right. This may be due to the fact that most of them are Sardars, and have a historical tradition of rushing in to battlefields without planning and preparation. Then again, it may not.

Take, for example, this one place about half a kilometre down the road from the college gates.

In the first semester, it was a Domino’s Pizza- a sit-down Domino’s pizza!- which folded up after about six months. Six months after folding up it was reincarnated as an NIIT franchise. The NIIT franchise never took off, what with the tech meltdown, so now it’s a Ford Dealership. It’ll probably be something different- a call centre, perhaps- by the time I graduate next year.

Down the road from that, there are a bunch of PCOs which have indulged in price wars until you now get photocopies at 50 paise a sheet- equivalent to 1 USD for 74 sheets. There’s a Chinese restaurant, a mini-mall, and a Reliance WebWorld. And that’s just one road. In just one town. And $deity knows, Patiala’s no comparison to Ludhiana.

On the other hand, Patiala and other small towns might be growing up much faster than Delhi as far as economic development is concerned, but Delhi finally seems to be getting its act together where the softer sides of life are concerned.

The air is cleaner, the traffic moves faster, and road rage notwithstanding, is really more disciplined than in Punjab. It’s got a ways to go before it hits international standards, but I think we’re getting there. Delhi’s going to be a very good place to live.

French Toast

May 14, 2003

My brother is a racist. He looks down upon French and Bengali people. One of these prejudices has returned to bite him in the ass.

Those of his batchmates who had taken French as thir optional language in Class X are currently on an exchange program where they’re visiting France. The ones who took Sanskrit- such as my brother- are stuck in Delhi, where they’re wilting under heat and dust.

That’s not the half of it.

One of his friends- named Gian- is being hosted in France by a “hot French girl”.

That’s not the half of it either.

They have been going on picnics to the wine country in Bordeaux. Chaperoned by her parents, but it still counts for something. Meanwhile, my brother goes for tuitions to Malviya Nagar. Oh, and there’s a strike on in France, so he’s not even going to get the olive oil seeds that he asked for.

But that’s still not the half of it.

The girl’s name is Fanny.

Let that sink in.

And let your imaginations run wild.

And let this be a lesson to you to never be racist.

This Was My Week and These Are My Plans

May 14, 2003

It’s been raining for two days now. The temperature has fallen, the air of Patiala smells fresh and clean, and my feet aren’t tanning any more. W00t!

As a point of fact, my life is quite wonderful these days. Here’s a quick runthrough of why.

I am almost assured of getting As in my two elective courses. I received my evaluated engineering drawing sheets today, and it looks like an A in that course might not be too far off either. That will be good for my CGPA. Chem, though, is another matter altogether, but there’s still the endsem in that. Plus, my Chem practical evaluations went pretty smoothly- three concurrent readings in three attempts, baby!

Only a drawing viva-voce tomorrow and an SPM quiz on Thursday. After that, I’m done with the semester (barring the minor inconvenience of endsem exams, of course).

The big news, though, is that I scored 114 out of 145 in the Career Launcher Diagnostic CAT. This is supposed to be an excellent score, according to them, I don’t know if they say that to everyone to boost their morale, or if it actually is a good score. But hearing so sure feels nice.

Arising from that, here’s the career/ life plan for the next two years.

I’m enrolling in Career Launcher’s two-month crash course for CAT preparation this week at the South Campus centre. It’ll begin on May 25. After the two months, there’s a series of thirty tests, to be followed by two months of Personality Development- read practice with Group Discussions and Interviews.

So here’s the answer to what some of you must be wondering- why an MBA, and not an MS.

Well, it’s what my family would like me to do. What’s more important, though, is that I have no desire to do an MS and specialise even further in Computer Science and Engineering.

What I love about CS, see, is the fundamentals- Discrete Maths, the Introduction to Programming, Basic Algorithms. Cool as specialisation is, I no longer feel any desire to get into a narrow area, and lose my focus on the fundamentals. Hence, an MBA, which is ultimately a generalist course covering the basics of everything.

So, the plan for Semester 7 is- prepare all out for the CAT, and don’t sit for placements unless someone immensely cool like Infosys comes to campus.

If the MBA plan doesn’t work out, try for campus placements in Semester 8- the final semester. If that works out, get a job of any sort, get a year or so of work experience, and then go for MBA entrances again and yes, the GRE also, if I feel like it.

If even that doesn’t work out, I’m doomed. So let’s not go into that.

For now, let’s focus on IIM-B.


May 12, 2003

There are many problems associated with summer. The fruits and vegetables are tasteless and unappetising. Walking around Delhi dehydrates you, and iced tea isn’t exactly cheap. For that matter, neither is fruit juice. Until this year, there used to be frequent power cuts, but the privatisation of the distribution companies seems to have heped in that matter.

One problem that is of more immediate consequences to me, though, is the footwear I wear in summer. With the ground hot enough to fry an egg on- not that you’d want fried eggs at the height of summer anyway- heavy sneakers are ruled out. My mum threw away my canvas shoes, so that leaves me with floaters.

Floaters keep your feet well ventilated, and air-cooled. You don’t need to wear socks. As a direct consequence, you don’t need to wash socks either, and thus you lose less socks. It’s a win-win situation.

On the other hand, when you wear floaters, most of your feet are exposed to the elements. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that in the height of summer in an agricultural state; water, air, and space are in short supply. The only elements left, then, are fire and earth. Or to put it plainer, heat and dirt.

Wherever my floaters are open, my feet have gone dark and splotchy. I’m not sure whether this is a tan, or just dirt, but I don’t like it. Last year, they didn’t fade away until November, and I intend to truncate their existence this year.

Truncating their existence, though, will require a change in footwear.

I’m thinking canvas shoes or Adidas trainers.

Almost three years ago, after a happy and enjoyable day spent with Rukhein, Mridu and Asim, I had bought what became my favourite shoes ever- Adidas trainers on sale at 800 rupees. They were cheap, light, and very comfortable. Alas, six months later the right shoe was cut to shreds when it got caught in a rickshaw-axle when I bicycled to close to it. Damn.

Adidas trainers are still to be had for less than a thousand rupees (just a rupee less, but less is less). I can’t find canvas shoes anywhere.

On the other hand, maybe I should tolerate the strange stains, and spend the money on food and books. Or again, maybe not.

So Much For FM

May 4, 2003

I got back to Delhi yesterday. Once I hit the border, I switched my Walkman off my self-compiled tapes (Metallica, Ugly Kid Joe, Aerosmith, Rolling Stones among others for those who’re interested) and on to FM mode. I was curious to see what the three private FM stations that had launched while I was away were like.

My first impression, after surfing through them for about an hour and a half from the Delhi border to home in Safdarjung Enclave, was that they’re lousy.

This was because all I heard on them was the very worst Hindi film music. By contrast, AIR FM 102.6 – yes, the government owned AIR- was playing amazing soft bluesy guitar rock- Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Fleetwood Mac. And the RJ knew her stuff.

I gave the private stations another shot today. I’ve revised my impressions somewhat. The private stations aren’t all that bad. At the same time, they’re not much better than AIR.

This is the situation- AIR has terrible radio jockeys for the general shows- news, Hindi music, Indi- and English pop, countdowns, request shows, and the like. On the other hand, for about the four to six hours of niche programming they do everyday- classical, rock, jazz, and the like- they have fantastic jockeys who know what they’re talking, and play very high level stuff. Those four to six hours are excellent- even if you don’t listen to that particular niche by yourself, the radio jockey will educate you and ensure that you won’t really turn off- unless, of course, it’s the heavy metal half hour, and you’re still unable to digest iron.

The private stations, I discovered today, have very good RJs for the general shows- self-assured and funny. They don’t do what the AIR RJs do- try too hard. But here’s the problem- they don’t have niche shows. It’s twenty four hours of current Hindi movies and pop. Not even news. Phew.

The last bit is surprising. It’s understandable that there won’t be much of an audience for rock or classical music (Hindi, Carnatic, or western) in Delhi, but even so, one would have thought that they’d have at least an hour of news. I mean, the number of 24-hour TV news channels had run into double digits by now. Then why this strange recitence on the part of radio?

Hopefully things will improve, but for now, I’m sticking to my cassettes.

British Swear Words

May 3, 2003

British swear words are wonderful.

They sound much more posh and poetic than their American or Punjabi counterparts. This may be because they tend to be longer. The extra letters and syllables seem to indicate that a lot of care and precision has been taken to cuss. You aren’t mouthing off in abject frustration, say those extra letters. You’re making a calm, cool, and collected decision to use bad words.

Then again, maybe not, but I like this theory.

Another advantage of British swear words is that they’re never censored. Star Movies and HBO, which revel in pressing down the mute button on the slightest provocation and will even clip frames containing an upright middle finger, do nothing of the sort when foul language comes out in a British accent. ‘Bollocks’, ‘poof’, ‘wanker’- they all remain audible and intact.

Until last night, that is, when Star Moves muted all instances of ‘shag’ during the Bridget Jones’ Diary broadcast.

I put the blame for this on Mike Myers.

As long as the word ‘shag’ had a British mystique about it, it was inviolable. Then along came Austin Powers, and made it generic. Nobody outside Britain used to use the word, much less know what it means. Austin Powers changed all that. Everyone started using it- why shouldn’t they. Four letters and one syllable- it was accessible and easy to use. And now the party’s ended.

However, the Austin Powers franchise seems to be winding down, so it does not appear likely that more Biritsh cusswords will be brought into the public domain, and then similarly muted. That makes me feel very relieved.

Is This What People Call Getting Stoned?

May 2, 2003

I forget how much I’ve told you about the massive floor battles that have taken place within my family. So here’s a quick recap.

Due to a judgment by the Supreme Court or the High Court, it isn’t feasible for us to move to Sainik Farms, and so we’re reconstructing the current house to make it more livable.

My bua has a fetish for pure white marble- the sort that Mughal despots used to make mausoleums out of. She thinks it looks simple, serene and elegant. The architect said that sort was obtainable from the Ambaji mines at 300 rupees per square foot.

My mother, on the other hand, hates pure white marble. She thinks it looks cold and dead- like a mausoleum, in fact. She respects marble as a material, but likes marble with green splashes and streaks much more. She thinks it looks organic, alive and welcoming. What she really likes, though, is wood- it looks warm. But since wood is not feasible for a climate where it hits forty Celsius in April, she had her eyes and mind on Italian Pergo tiles that looked like wood- being sold at 190 rupees a square foot in Greater Kailash II.

My brother, displaying the degradations two years of an education in DPS will afflict one one’s brain, suggested aluminum- light and strong. Evidently he didn’t consider ‘expensive’ and ‘hot as a handbag and a can of mace’ to be significant traits.

A compromise was reached. The entire ground floor would be floored with white marble, and the first floor would be done as my mother saw fit.

Subsequent research revealed that the Ambaji marble was not three hundred rupees per square foot, but, in fact, four hundred per square foot. If you have money, you might as well spend it building your dream home, but at this point it was looking as if we would run out of money after finishing the floors, and buying a few bricks. I began to have premonitions of living like Enya- sleeping in marble halls, with nary a bed in sight.

However, this week my female relatives visited the Makrana mines, and it appears that we are saved!

Bua found marble that was so white it looked like it had been washed with Surf, or possibly Rin Supreme. At this very moment she is probably fantasizing about having the Kapoors, whose drawing room she set as a benchmark asking themselves ‘Bhale Dr. Khanna ka marble hamare marble se safed kaise?’. What’s more, it was for 180 per square foot- more than half as cheap as the Ambaji.

Ma also picked up colourful marble for the first floor- my room is apparently to be done in a sixty-five rupee per square foot beige-pinkish marble with hints of orange. Yow. But she assures me it’s not shocking pink. I’ll see the stone myself this weekend or the next.

Ma and bua also claim to have learned a lot, and are threatening to abandon their regular jobs and become material science professors.

This is only the beginning, of course. Big fights over walls- bricks, paint, wallpaper- not to mention windows, doors, what sort of carpets to cover the marble with, if at all- these are inevitable. Watch this space.

Time Dilation

May 1, 2003

Even Preity Zinta can’t get me out of this mess: dt/dt = exp(-t)

The above equation looks meaningless whether you have done calculus or not, but it’s true. What it means is that as the semester passes, time starts moving slower and slower. And thirty days before the semester ends, the rate of flow of time crosses a significant limit. Time slows down so much that you can feel it wash over you like viscous German chocolate.

In direct contrast, the first two months of of the semester move like, well, non-viscous German chocolate down Manasvini’s alimentary canal. Whether I stay at college or return home for weekends (or, in the case of my more degenerate days, the entire week), time passes by in a flash.

It’s got me depressed. I spend the last thirty days of the semester studying (yes, I do study- ignore the vile propaganda that has been spread about me) and anticipating my vacation. While time dilation has obvious advantages in that it triples the length of an hour, allowing me to finish my syllabus in one third of the time, it also triples the length of time I have to wait before I can start spending pleasant and instructive mornings (and afternoons, and evenings, and nights- but especially nights) with my friends. That is agony.

But, there are certain advantages that could be drawn out of this. Time travel springs to mind.

Rohan Deuskar, the columnist at once suggested that ladies rooms, by the simple virtue of being ladies rooms are time vortex engines where time dilates in a particular geographical area. A semester also seems to be a time vortex engine, where time dilates over time.

If you could combine a semester and a ladies room after figuring out the physics behind the whole thing, you could have a time machine. It wouldn’t be as dangerous as all that mucking about with Improbability Factors, and it would possibly be cheaper than a Bistromathic drive.

Any takers?