Monday, May 30, 2016


Have you ever wondered about luck? No, there is no need to rush away. I am not about to tell me my hard luck story or touch you for a loan. I know that the only interesting hard luck story to anyone is his own. I should actually rephrase that question because what I was really wondering about is who believes in luck.

Ever seen a phenomenally successful man express belief in luck? Say he has become a millionaire by winning a lottery, what do you think he will say? Obviously, it is a reward for persistent hard work and his genius in assessing the lottery ticket numbers with some mysterious app in his mind to pick the winning ticket. Luck? Luck is for losers. (You know someone who called it luck? Either the success has not been completely digested or you have met someone who belongs in the Guinness records).

I have a faint suspicion that this belief in systems to beat various probabilistic games must have come out of the fact that almost all the winners have achieved their wins not merely through their persistent hard work in applying themselves to these games but also by the application of their, no doubt, superior brains in making their choices. Such esoteric studies, though, I leave to academicians.

Naturally, when luck does not figure at all in even games of chance, it is even less likely to be a factor in other areas. The director, who noticed your acting in a school play and picked you for a role? If not he, someone else would have noticed. After all, genius scintillates. The chance that the only woman fool enough to fall in love with you happened to be the Chairman's daughter? Well, if not she, then someone else, after all you are Adonis and Casanova rolled into one. The chance of being catapulted into the only project that your company had on hand of which you knew something? You just cannot keep a good man down; if not this, then there would have always been something else.

There is no such thing called luck - it is all genius and hard work. It has to be, does it not, for otherwise what is to bask in success, if it is a consequence of luck?

On the other hand, ever heard of anyone saying he failed because of his own shortcomings? WHAT shortcomings? It is merely bad luck that the MD landed up in his section on one of those days when he came in two hours late, instead of the customary half an hour. Ill fortune is what causes questions in the exam to be asked from the only portions that he left off by choice. His time must be bad since the only customer for a big order had to be a cantankerous chap with whom it was impossible not to pick a fight. Only, and only, misfortune!

Effectively, then, there is nothing called good luck; it is invariably bad luck. Success comes from hard work, genius and persistence - with no admixture of luck in the mix. Failure is always a consequence of bad luck - it just has nothing to do with  lack of ability or effort. And, what do you mean, maybe it requires a bit of both - ability and effort as well as luck? The world is black and white, don't you know that?

It, probably, would be better if the successful attributed the success to luck in their own minds - it will make it unnecessary for those around them to permanently wear sunglasses, even indoors, to avoid being blinded by the persistent glare of their success. If those who have not yet succeeded believed in effort and ability, it would make it less likely that their approach will make people feel like unfurling umbrellas to shield themselves from the copious flow of moisture that would follow; and, possibly, make it more likely that they succeed eventually. But, Humanity is a contrary species. Say that this way is best and everyone rushes to do the exact opposite.

Do I believe in luck, you ask? I do and I always will...till I succeed!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Decoding likes

It is one thing to BE stupid. It is another to KNOW that you are stupid - rare, though, that is since most of the problems of the world are caused by stupid people who think they are Socrates reborn. But to have your stupidity rubbed in your face so often is, shall we say, not exactly the experience for which I joyously spring out of bed every morning and greet the new day. Yet, THAT is what happens, especially when I venture into social media.

Take this matter of Likes for example. Long gone are the days when you used to pick petals off a flower murmuring, "She likes me. She likes me not", to find out exactly what she does, by what you say when you run out of petals (Yeah! I know it is 'She loves me. She loves me not' but allow me some poetic license. And there is no need to snigger at the thought of my writing poetry). NOW, she strews 'Likes' like confetti and you are left wondering exactly what it means; exactly what is it she likes.

Is it raining in Chennai today?

Seven Likes and no comments for this Facebook status. I am sure it must mean something. But what, exactly? Growing up with the idea that a response to a question is an answer that addresses the question, I am stuck. The world has gone elliptical and I am still stuck with the linear thinking of my past days. The other, more nimble, brains probably decoded the 'Likes' in a jiffy. "Ah! He likes the possibility that it is raining in Chennai", maybe; or could it be, "She likes the fact that someone is bothered about rains in Chennai"?; Or is it "I like this person and let him not feel that he is shouting into an empty room'? If only I knew exactly what it meant.

Feeling sick since morning

21 Likes? Now what does THAT mean? Are all of these people in the medical profession in my vicinity and slavering for a possible customer? Do they only like the fact that I was not feeling sick till yesterday? It cannot be my subordinates rejoicing at the fact that I shall probably not come to office, since I am not working any longer. Maybe...just maybe...the meaning of 'sick' has changed to something like 'promoted'; maybe they are all rejoicing in my luck at getting 'sick' today. I cannot help feeling low, though, about the fact that so many people like the idea of my being sick and even all those comments seeking my recovery are no help. I really NEED to stop being stupid - if only to avoid getting unnecessarily hurt.

But how much can one learn? Just as I am gearing up to learn the real meaning of 'Like', Zuckerberg adds some more icons to the mix.

Is there someone offering coaching classes for this, somewhere? Oh! You shared the link some time back and I 'Liked' it? Hmmm!

Monday, May 16, 2016


The more I hear from doctors about the nutrition, the more I am certain that our bodies are programmed for suicide. We drool, dream and splurge on all the foods - the pastries, the burgers, and all the deep-fried goodies - which doctors say will destroy your body's plumbing. Ever really had any ecstatic dreams about biting into a bitter-gourd or chomping on some greens?

I can still remember that one time I went on a diet. If I ever forget it for a moment, the smell of boiling cabbage can bring back the memories - along with an irresistible urge to barf. Thanks to the fact that the day started with cabbage soup, was punctuated with cabbage soup throughout, and - you guessed it - had ended in a glorious crescendo of cabbage soup, while on that diet. Tell me, if you ever had to spend a week splurging on samosas, say, do you suppose the smell of them would make you feel like throwing up later? Would that period give you nightmares, which you wake up screaming from, or live on as a joyous memory akin to your first date (unless, of course, your first date WAS a nightmare).

But, then, can we really believe what the doctors say? There may be - there possibly are - doctors who do studies without a prima facie idea of the point that they intend to prove. If they do exist, they probably get no funding for their studies and, if they do get funded, their studies probably get drowned out. An over-statement, perhaps, but just hear me out to know why I feel that way. (It is not merely because I want to enjoy my pastries without guilt-tripping).

If I said that 15% of the population of India goes on a vacation abroad once a year, do you seriously expect that there is a 15% chance of your servant maid announcing a trip to Paris next year? No? Why not - she could be one of that 15%, couldn't she? After all, when they start quoting study reports saying 85% of Indian population suffers from lack of nutrition in food, you rush out with palpitations to buy that health food, which will help you avoid malnutrition, not bothering to check what the percentage is for people who can afford the nutrition YOU can afford. Do you stop to ask if how many of that 85% actually belong to the class of people who can afford these health foods, before going down on your knees thanking god for the kind favors that the manufacturers are doing to a suffering populace?

When the first quip was made about 'White lies, lies and statistics', they really had no idea HOW useful statistics can be. If you use the proper methods, you can bring it out to be anything you want and use it to prove any point. And THAT is one big reason why anything professionals say has become totally vitiated and unbelievable. Professionals, including doctors, can be only as good as the theory they are taught; and the theory is only as good as the integrity of the people who massage the data to support the theory.

Having proved that doctors cannot be relied upon (and, thereby, ensured that I can dine off Alu tikkis and samosas tonight without guilt-tripping? Yes!!!), I cannot still refrain from worrying about them. It is true that when they say something is not good for health, I can be sure that the damn thing will not rise in price like a helium balloon. The problem IS with those things that these chaps SAY are good for health. One month before the dratted thing is being practically given away and now, presto, you have to hock your family jewels to buy it. For example, there was a time when jaggery was a third as expensive as sugar and look now!

Alas! NOW they are making noises about the benefits of dal-chawaal! God knows what stratosphere the prices of rice and dal are going to reach now! (AND, soon, they will be reporting 88% malnutrition in India and selling more health-foods!)

Monday, May 9, 2016

The right words

By now, you know that I have missed out on learning all the important lessons of life or learned them all too late to be of any use to me. It will not surprise you, therefore, to hear that I missed out on understanding the importance of using the right words - jargon, as people love to call it.

I always had a misplaced idea that understanding a concept was all that was important. It never struck me that it is necessary to let people know how wise I was by also telling it in the appropriately impressive words. A lesson that I learned even later was that, more often than not, it was enough to know the words. There is no need to spend time learning the concepts; you are better off using that time to learn more words and sound even more impressive.

Of course, when it came to management, things were a bit easier. An education at IIM automatically equipped you to use impressive words. You never just plan an action, you evolve a strategy. You do not merely have an dream of what you want in the future, you have a vision (Too many of them - visions, I mean - and you could end up in a straitjacket).

They say there is a difference between information and knowledge. How true that is, I realized within a few days of joining what pleases the world to call a 'productive life' or, in other words, becoming a wage slave. I could only look on and wonder at my colleague, who was from finance like me, as he sits in on a new product 'strategy session' and said,"Could you guys not find a niche market for this?" He later admitted that he would not recognize a niche market for the product, even if it bit a hole in his ear, but asked me in obviously genuine surprise, "But what has THAT got to do with it?" Naturally! Not everyone is as stupid as me to not know that the easiest way to appear wise is to throw in this jargon, when you are sure you cannot be saddled with the implementation of your suggestions. Which accounts for why the finance guys are the most impressive performers in what is primarily a discussion of marketing strategy, whereas the marketing guys really come into their own when you are discussing how to source funds.

I try to get my importance by joining in on philosophical debates - after all, I could never be saddled with implementation here as long as I stoutly refuse to contest any elections (AND, yes, I would bow to popular opinion here and accept that anyone who voted me dog-catcher must have a special soft corner for stray dogs). A few days down the line, I had learned that nothing in the world is simple. Mukesh does not fail his exams because he had the mistaken impression that yapping on Whatsapp all night was great preparation for Physics and sharing selfies was the way forward to crack Mathematics. No! He is the 'victim of a class struggle'; or, maybe, his failure is a prime example of the 'deteriorating standards of education and the undue emphasis on marks over learning'; or, if one wants to get closer to the real cause, 'the invidious and deleterious impact of modern technology and social media on the impressionable brains of our youth'.

Equipped with my new knowledge, I trotted that gem about 'victim of class struggle', when a boy in my neighborhood failed to get a seat in Engineering despite being a good student. Despite the fact that he was poor, and qualified for some sort of 'class struggle' comment, I got roundly panned and drummed out of the group for heretic attitudes. How was I to know that you can never be a victim of a class struggle when you are Brahmin, even if you were dirt-poor; that some things were heinous crimes against humanity and some others merely redress historical injustices; that some historical crimes are so horrendous that it is utterly wrong to even express sympathy for someone of that class for frivolous excuses like the fact that he wasn't even born when those crimes were committed? You may not need to know exactly what the underlying idea is but you certainly needed to know the rules of when the jargon can be applied, else you do get into trouble.

Anyway, that ended that brief attempt at becoming the next Socrates. Having started writing, the itch started to be known as wise at least in this area. The problem, though, is that I know the words - 'Show vs Tell', 'head-hopping' and all that - but others seem to know where they are to be used and I had no clue. What if I used it and got into trouble like I did in my 'Socrates' days?

Slowly, though, I realized that THIS was MY area. You CAN use these words, even when you do not know the concept, and no trouble shall ensue. The guys who know what they are speaking of have little time to be reviewing other reviews; they are too busy reviewing books. And the author cannot even squeak in protest. If he does, all you have to say is that he should learn to take criticism in the right spirit and he slinks away...or is booed off by the rest of the crowd.

NOW is my time to use jargon and be seen as wise. Bring on your books!

Monday, May 2, 2016


(For Indian customers - my book 'A dog eat dog-food world' available at more than 50% discount - at Rs.49/= - for a short period. Just so you know - the book is rated around 4.6 on Goodreads with 50 ratings and 32 reviews)

There are a select few in this world who cannot identify that they are standing right in front of their own house, if they are brought there from a different direction. I am a charter member of that select group - in fact, I could probably claim to be a founder-member but for the fact that I would disdain to have my reputation for absolute laziness sullied by the accusation of having founded anything. (Oh! That bemused look tells me that you do not belong. You do not understand what a 'different direction' is, merely because you lack this exquisite inability to remember more than one route to any destination, if that.)

I never realized what a bane this mobile phone revolution would be to people of my sophisticated ignorance. Till the first time when someone seeking to deliver goods to my house called me up asking for directions. Ye Gods!

"How do I get to your house?"

Yeah! Right! Where from, O Hermes? From Washington DC; Rajpath, New Delhi; Yeswanthpur, Bangalore; or the sub-registrar's office next door? Unfortunately, sarcasm would probably result in a 'Addressee not found', so I swallowed my ire and ask him, "Where are you?"

"Opposite the Axa building."

If only I could figure exactly where that meant. Is he on the Outer Ring Road, or on the residential road that intersects the Outer Ring road?

I duly ask him and he says, "On the Main Road."

No great help - since the residential road is also called 32nd Main or some such, as is the wont in Bangalore.

After a ding-dong, exploring the various meanings of 'main road', I figure out that he IS on the Outer Ring Road. Now, it is time to explore what opposite means. Did he mean he was opposite the building as in just outside the gate, or did he mean he was on the other side of the road?

After another longish conversation about which way the nose of his vehicle was pointing, I finally figure out that he was on the opposite side of the road. From then on, I thought things went swimmingly well, as he listened to my directions and cut the call.

After an interminable wait, he calls again.

"I am opposite the Manjunatha Tea Stall..."

Ye Gods! Was I now supposed to have memorized every single shop in every single lane and by-lane in my vicinity? Considering 'Manjunatha' in Bangalore is used with the same gay abandon - for shops - with which people christen their sons 'Tom', 'Dick' or 'Harry' in US/UK, and considering that there are some six tea-shops within stone's throw of any location you choose to stand-in...

Whatever happened to the good old methodology of asking someone near your vehicle for directions, as was the modus operandi in the days before mobile phones? He, at least, does not need to do a twenty questions only to figure out where your vehicle is positioned currently.

Well - suffice to say that by the time I got the delivery, I would have become bald, if I had not already gone bald. (Preemptively? I wish I could claim such sagacity.)

They say that the GPS will eliminate this problem. Maybe it will, but I shudder to think of how human beings will use that to make things more difficult for the rest of their ilk. If there is one thing I know of humanity, it is that they can create complications from out of anything!

AND they say technology makes life probably will, if humans will let it!