Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My thoughts on baking.

I heard someone say recently that he is afraid of failure. And he made it sound like one of those answers we prepare for 'State three weaknesses' type questions for HR interviews - something that might be a negative on the surface, but might actually be a positive in spirit and substance.

From my own experience, and from lots of other persons' I have known, and one does come across a disproportionately high number if one studies/has studied at the 'premier' institutions of the country, I have come to believe that anyone who truly believes this is blinded by narcissism. There is an inherent assumption in the statement that you have been really successful in most of the things in your life, whatever success means, or at least have failed less than your lesser peers. Or that everyone else enjoys failure and looks forward to it. What it truly means, whatever truth means, is that you are just too hung up on living up to the commonly held notions of success; in fact, scared of not living up to people's expectations. And the higher you move up on this invisible ladder propped up by your eagerness to fulfill everyone's expectations, the more difficult it gets to let go. You have managed to convince yourself that living your life, doing things that you might actually want to do, and enjoying your work, is a set completely exclusive to the set that defines success. That not 'putting fight' is the same thing as stagnation or failure. That you are too much of a coward to even accept that you can't bear the idea of people not fawning over your superficial 'success'.

I don't exactly feel very confident about discussing what one should do with his work and how much fight one needs to put to 'succeed', and would probably never feel confident doing that for a long time with people who have been in touch with me over the last two-three years, but my faith in the notion of anything not being worth it if one has to force oneself to do it, whatever 'it' means, has, surprisingly enough, only got strengthened over these last few years.

Giving up is not as evil a thing as we make it out to be. Even giving up on life. And fighting, over and over again, is probably not as virtuous as we have been brought up to believe.

But even when you don't give up, and honestly this world would be so much worse if it weren't for the fighters amongst us, and even the worst of us give-up-ers do fight at some level, it is, frankly, very funny if you cite excuses like fear of failure to hide a much bigger issue. ‘Success’ and ‘failure’ are ascribed to certain things, almost always, based on what the majority believes. The majority, let’s accept it, isn’t exactly very intelligent. And if you, despite your supposed infinite brilliance, have been forced to kowtow to the majority’s notions, even when you yourself do not subscribe to them, I am not sure how successful you actually are.

This might sound like the much abused quote by some management guru (Shiv Khera, is it?) but one doesn’t necessarily need to do different things - leave everything and become an ascetic or choose a completely unconventional career - but one can at least try and do things differently from an average rich or professionally successful idiot who rues at the end of his 35-40 year stellar career that he didn’t enjoy life’s little pleasures when he could.

One can, most definitely, have the cake and eat it too.

Monday, May 21, 2007

If Books Could Kill

Gradual wrapping up of the internship has begun. After the first couple of weeks, time flew by really fast. There are a few, albeit not particularly interesting, places left to visit, which will remain unvisited, unless we don't sleep at all next weekend. The trips to Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand didn't materialise. So lots of stuff to do when I return again, in better company.

We had a one-day training session last week. The stuff taught was fairly pointless, but was a good break from work, and the highlight of the day was working in groups for a session on consulting (don't ask why a bank did a session on consulting, especially when it lost all its IIM interns from last year to consulting firms). There are several interns from other countries too - both MBA and undergrad - and working in mixed groups, making fun of the instructor, cracking jokes, or generally flirting (with the female interns), was great fun. This was pretty much my first interaction here, and, in fact, one of the few in my life, with people my age from other countries in a non-office environment. Over the slightly difficult-to-understand accents and brief conversations in native tongues with interns from one's own country, we realised that we are amazingly similar, bred on the same pop culture elements, with similar interests and aspirations. And similar weird sense of humor too. We'll meet over lunch again this week.

I think I have been to at least one branch of all major bookstore-chains in Singapore now. Have forbidden myself from going into a book or a DVD shop any more. At last count, I had bought 11 books here. I intended to buy books as gifts for some of my friends and cousins, but I really don't think I am going to part with any of these. I also found the book I had been looking for a long time - Great Movies by Roger Ebert. And considering the speed with which I have been reading books over the last year, I am sure it'll take me more than a year to finish these off. The more immediate worry is how I am going to carry this extra load back home.

Bought a couple of DVD sets as well. And am feeling really stupid now, because I would have easily found something like that, at a much cheaper price in Delhi. But my single biggest extravagance so far, and one I am definitely not feeling stupid for, has been the 5th generation model of an electronic device. It's a fantastic thing, saw a movie on it yesterday. But, to use a quote from a recent (boring) ad (for some other product) - it's not one thing, it's MANY!

My worst moments of splurging are still better than what my co-intern did this weekend. He bought a Mont Blanc wallet and a Mont Blanc pen for a total of SGD 1100. That's Rs 33,000 on a damn wallet and a stupid pen. I didn't smirk then because I didn't want to ruin his enthusiasm, and the wallet does look really nice, but it's still way too much money on such stuff. I don't think I'll ever spend so much money on over-priced designer labels. At least not for myself.

But things change. If you had told me a year back I would be spending my khoon-paseene ki kamaai on first-hand books, I would have taken you for crazy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Some more of the old stuff

I stopped posting (I wrote several drafts but didn't publish them) because I was getting bored with my own writing. It's become a series of sentences filled with adjectives, describing every minute detail of what I am doing here. I have stopped thinking. Which is not a bad thing actually for an incurable, compulsive, thinker (not in the same sense as great thinkers like, say, Vivekanand or Mayawati) like me, but absolute blankness and just hurtling down life's alleys is not good either.

Though I am not sure I am going to write anything profound, or even worth two cents of thought, even now.

Since my last post I have visited the Singapore zoo (alone, in sweltering heat, but it was still worth it) and Snow City (with friends, sliding down icy slopes at tempertaures of -8deg C), rode on the DHL balloon (10 min in the air at a height of over 40-storeys to convince oneself how astonishingly small this city is), attended a cocktail party given by the Singapore governement for all IIM interns (great food, free alcohol, inane conversation, the government trying to convince us to settle down here, which is not all that bad an idea), partied at pubs (including a great evening at Hard Rock Cafe), partied at friends' places, bought some stuff, and worked a bit.

Last night I tasted some sushi, some caviar and some octopus. It was a damp affair (quite literally so) because I had hoped to do it with friends, but I realised there are very few people as foolishly adventurous as I am, and none of them is interning here from my college. I don't think I'll have a sushi again. I can imagine people liking it (unlike a durian), but I am so sick of the smell of fish (I almost puked when an Indonesian senior at work took me to have Korean food that was drenched with the flavor of fish) that I am afraid I'll not eat it back home either. The caviar was nice, but a very cheap variety and I would like to taste slightly better ones sometime later. The octopus was garnished with lots of spicy stuff, so I didn't even feel the rawness. Though I am really not interested in having it again.

I also tried some sake (pronounced 'saa-kay', give or take a few vowels, for those who aren't pseud enough to know). Have got three-fourths of the bottle still left in my room. It's got almost no taste at all but gives a nice high (13% alcohol only). But I think I'll stick to Tiger Beer.

I could see so much more of Singapore and the neighboring places if my co-interns weren't so damn lazy and so damn gay. They spent the entire weekend shopping!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

M'aidez m'aidez

I had never known I would care for Labor Day so much. A non-weekend break is heavenly. We are celebrating the day by watching a first-day show of Spiderman 3.

Last night was spent having a nice dinner at one of the restaurants adjoining Boat Quay and then spending time drinking and listening to some good music at one of those posh pubs at Clarke Quay. The crowd's amazing, but also one that I would always feel like an outsider in. Drinking beer, talking on the phone, walking along the river, at 1:00am, in an area teeming with some very beautiful people - one can get used to this place.


The result of buying all those books last weekend has been that I have got back to the habit of reading. I finally managed to finish Manticore's Secret. The book gets really tiresome at times and feels as if Samit Basu is only trying to increase the number of pages. Characters indulging in inane conversations is not funny if done too often. Ditto for killing off characters all of a sudden. But it's still one of the more enjoyable books to come out of India in a long long time.

Have moved on to a very interesting read called Out, by Natsuo Kirino. Am one-third into it, and the pace is building up, moving towards, what feels like, an interesting climax. The book is a winner of Japan's Grand Prix for Crime Fiction. Honestly speaking, I have no idea how prestigious that is, but it sounds grand. And had read some great reviews on the net. She's just come out with a new novel and I might buy it with my next month's salary if this book delivers what it has promised so far.


After staring at a computer screen for long hours everyday, watching a movie when I am back in my room is not a very exciting proposition. So I haven't really been watching movies with the frequency I am used to. The last movie I saw on my laptop was more than two weeks back. I finally saw a movie, chosen quite at random, Sunday afternoon.

The movie was slightly scary for me because it resonates with the kind of thoughts I have been having once I started off on this internship. I don't want to end up like Warren Schmidt. I want to find my Ndugu(s) without having to wait for retirement.

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