Saturday, April 24, 2010


It's kind of unfortunate that I so look forward to a movie despite it having the irritating Aishwarya Rai and the even-more-irritating Abhishek Bachchan.

Of course, if I knew Tamil I would have watched the Tam version, which I am sure is going to be better.

In the meantime, listen to Beera (

Monday, April 12, 2010

Consult Focused

Please do read the post below, where I appear to be a heartless capitalist bastard, but say, and more importantly, don't say, enough to show that I might not just be one.

I just found a few interesting articles that I really wished to share here, before I forgot, and hence this abrupt increase in frequency between consecutive posts.

Vibhor mailed me this link to a series of articles written by an MIT alumnus called Keith Yost, who worked for The Boston Consulting Group in Dubai for a few months and got back to Boston a lot wiser.

He writes extremely well, and even though I feel he is being a bit too harsh on Dubai, and way too harsh on BCG, thanks in no small measure to the immediate surge of antagonistic feelings one is bound to experience when leaving a job or a posting (refer my posts on Bangalore from last year), I enjoyed reading his articles on life in Dubai and life as a consultant.

Dubai's artificiality I can vouch for, and have written about more than once earlier. There can be few places I despise more.

BCG, on the other hand, is an interesting pack of people. Would reserve my comments on it. And other similar firms, who are the easiest targets for disillusioned grads from the top colleges across the world who think of themselves in more complimentary terms than they ought to.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Leaving Vidarbha

It might be evident that suicide is one of my favorite topics. I am intrigued by the various reasons why a person would want to end his/her life. In that spirit, I have been trying to understand the Vidarbha farmer suicides, including visiting some parts of the region because of some work-related assignment recently, and I have come across some startling facts. Startling for me, at least.

Most of the farmers who are committing suicide had a much better standard of living compared to farmers in backward states like Bihar, UP and Orissa. They owned significantly large pieces of land, their families owned cell phones, they had married off their daughters in grand style.

In fact, just taking loans to hold grand marriages so that neighbors would not consider them poor was the reason for so much misery. Relying purely on cash crops - like cotton and soybean, alcoholism, sending sons to private colleges they could not afford - these are just some of the reasons I had not realized were responsible for the much-publicized deaths.

Farmers were just living beyond the means they could afford to, and many took their lives, without thinking about the wives and daughters they were leaving behind, because they could not bear to not afford those means any more. Many were expecting that the compensation their families would get from the government after their deaths would help tide over the situation.

I cannot feel any degree of support for these people. Yes, there might be genuine cases of destitution in Vidarbha, where excessive reliance on unsustainable crops or belief in the wrong kind of financial institutions might have caused farmers to hang themselves or eat pesticides, but it largely comes across as another crop of Indians stretching their feet beyond what the bed-sheet permits.

The problem is not so much from the Government's side, as many self-righteous NGOs and social reformers allege, but from within. Tackle alcoholism. Teach the farmers to live within their means. Let them know that marrying your daughter by taking unserviceable loans is not intelligent. That might help save some lives.

Only some though. The impression I also get is that the situation has reached a tipping point where men almost unanimously feel that killing themselves is a good way to handle relatively temporary difficult times. It is a scary situation when a large chunk of the population decides to give up and not fight instead.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Reading Hood

I read Sidin Vadukut's Dork recently. That and responses from some of the people who have read the books by Arnab Ray and Fake IPL Player have sort of convinced me that it might not be a great idea of asking every popular blogger to pen down a book. Writing a blog-post for laughs/comments and writing a book that, apart from other differences, people would have to pay for are two different things. One sure can be good at both, but being good at one does not certify being good at the other.

Dork was not unreadable, and really quite enjoyable in parts. But, at many points the antics seemed extremely forced and unnatural. As if the publisher had rushed Vadukut to make a submission by a deadline. All said and done, though, the book is among the better ones churned out by IIT and/or IIM grads in the last few years. Maintaining even this for a trilogy (why does every new writer have to come up with a trilogy!) might be too painful though. For the readers.

The whole premise of The GameChangers sounds like a bad idea. I have not read the book, but just rehashing stuff from the blog, very obviously to make a quick buck in the IPL season, does not a good book make.

As far as Arnab Ray's book is concerned, I have read bits of it, which bit me enough to not try reading the whole thing. I have not exactly been one of his fans, and feel that his writing is way too over-rated. He comes up with some funny stuff once in a while, the instances of which have gotten rarer over the years, maybe because of the constant pressure to amuse the many regular readers waiting thirsty for some drop of humor in their lives, no matter how dull and stretched the joke might be.

I do appreciate his ability to poke fun at all sorts of cows, holy or not, which is always a good thing in our times, when everyone has a reason or two to get offended.

So, what I have been reading instead are some very good books. Just finished Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill. A plot that essentially revolves around a killer ghost being bought by a retired rock star, who then tries to find a way to save himself, his girl-friend and two dogs, driving across a stretch of America, pursued by the ghost in his own ghost truck sounds extremely corny. And I would not have tried this out if I hadn't just got done with Hill's 20th Century Ghosts - a collection of some brilliant short stories - some time back. But, if writing spooky stories can be genetically inherited, Joe Hill has the best genes possible. His dad's Stephen King.

I also recently read Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindquist, the Swedish writer who had written Let the Right One In. Just as the latter is a unique take on vampires, Handling the Undead is a curious tale of the dead coming back to life. With very little actual 'action', unlike what we would expect after having seen films like Dawn of the Dead, the book is a look at how normal people react in such a situation.

These days, I am alternating between Way to Go by Upamanyu Chatterjee and An Englishman's Cameo by Madhulika Liddle. I have liked Chatterjee's writing, even if not all his books, ever since I read the phenomenal English, August. Very often, the sum of the parts of his books ends up being less than the parts themselves. As in, there are parts that are just brilliant, and the manner in which he describes extremely mundane happenings - an FIR with the local police in the first scene of Way to Go, for instance - is something I have not seen any other Indian writer be able to do. He has this knack of observing things that we see but do not register consciously. And end up having a sense of deja vu when we read it in his books.

Way to Go has started off on an interesting note, but remains to be seen how long it can maintain that.

Madhulika Liddle's book is a murder mystery set in Shahjahan's kingdom. I am through the first 80 or so pages of the 270-odd, and the investigation by the young and handsome Muzaffar Jang is still in its early stages. He has just spent some quality time with the courtesan Mehtab Banu, and we can look forward to some good sleuthing. No idea who the Englishman is.

I would have preferred the book to be darker, more in the zone of My Name is Red, but the tone here is not un-enjoyable either. I doubt if every custom, nuance of language, geographical and structural detail in the book is authentic, but the author has made a great effort and the sheen never fades off.

Next up is Agassi's Open.

In the recent series of interviews I conducted with B-school candidates, it was painful to see that even those who would mention reading as one of their interests had not gone beyond Dan Brown and Chetan Bhagat. It was just too dull talking to them about books in most cases.

I had once read an old mail from an alumnus who had been involved with the IIMC interview process about how he and the professors felt that the young just don't seem to have any interesting interests anymore. No one has any passion. No one goes beyond the common. The same books, the same sports, the same films, everything. I can't recall the exact theme of the mail, but it was roughly about the same dullness.

It made me feel quite old, but I had the same feeling during these interviews.

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