Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Baraati on hire...!!

Parties ki shaan, baraat ki jaan
Humse behtar nahi milega mehmaan
Dulha ho ya dulhan sabko hasayenge
Khud bhi nachenge aur tumhe bhi nachayenge…

I should have considered giving an ad like that – alternative employment you see, the times are not really the best for people in the finance domain L
While that might seem an eccentric idea to many, it would certainly not seem that way to one of my friends, who insinuated me with the serious allegation that I would have attended 100 weddings in the last one year. Be reasonable yaar, it was not 100. It is only 10. In the last 13 months. ONLY that is. And why is that a big deal? Let us look at some data. I have 792 friends on FB (while that might seem to be directly proportional to the vella time I have, I assure you that is certainly not the case. It’s only pure FB dedication), 91% of them are of marriageable age (of which 61% are now married, a number which has gone up from 19% some 18 months back). So if you do the maths, I have attended the weddings of only 1.28% of my friends. Such a small number! That looks much better, puts things into perspective!
Let me be clear, I am not even attending every wedding I am invited to. I still wish I could have been there at 4-5 others, which unfortunately I could not because of some occupancy or the other L
Now of course, I have my reasons to rush to these weddings. And when I do tell you those, I am sure you would concur with me. Let’s get started:

1. Golgappe – Yes, golgappe and all the heavenly and delightful chaat items that it is representative of – the kind you find only in North India. I am sure every North Indian residing in Mumbai shares my plight, my pain. Who the hell mixes hot ragda and cold water to make Golgappe? Everything here has ragda! And the genuine dearth of spices! I mean, what’s chaat unless after eating it one of your eyes gets closed, your tongue comes out crying out for water! That is the feel of it! Anyways, so yes, North Indians (and Kolkata wasis) always have chaat delicacies as a part of their wedding spreads, and the wedding is a great excuse to indulge yourself! J

2. Bharat Darshan – In the last 13 months, in the course of attending these weddings, I have got to explore so many places – more than the no. of places I had been to in the rest of 26 years of my life! So I got to go to Kolkata (4 times – Every second person I know is from Kolkata), Kanha National Park (on way to Raipur), Chandigarh, Nainital, Indore, Bhopal, and sadda gaon Agra (I know that does not count).  Now the handful of you who are still bachelors, please keep weddings in Rajasthan, Goa, Gujarat, or North East, and I promise you will see me there :P

3. Lone reading time – I enjoy reading, but am not an ardent reader. I am hardly able to get time or commit myself to reading while at home in Mumbai. My frequent travel has become a great excuse for me to read whatever is on my reading list. At all times, I have an inventory of 4-5 unread books, and as soon as a trip is on the horizon, BINGO! 2 more down!

4. Skill building – As they say, practice makes a man perfect. From being a left footed, shy guy in the first wedding I would have attended 13 months back, I am now the over enthusiastic vanguard of the baraat army! And with my own collection of perfected baraat steps! “Le jayenge le jayenge dilwale….”

5. Meeting old friends and new – Weddings are the best place to meet so many old friends/acquaintances at the same place, share some jokes, relive some memories, laugh your heart out, before you eventually return to the mundanity of everyday life. And at the same time, meet friends of friends, who eventually become your friends (FB friends, at least) J

6.  Crispy takeaways – In my experience, every wedding eventually results in some moments, which are totally random, and which you bring back home with you to end up smiling whenever you think about it. Now be it missing a sangeet due to a hot tub bath, missing an engagement due to “Cheers to abcd” cries in the hotel room, missing a varmala coz you were too busy chatting with the dulha’s female friend, late night long drives, loads of card games, lots of leg pulling, I have been there, done that. And what fun it has been!

7. Prospect hunt – People say an eligible bachelor steps into a shaadi to identify candidates for his own crisis situation. Actually in my view, finding the right girl is a stagflation situation (negative growth in number of desired girls combined with ultra high expectations). In my defense, this is another allegation people make towards me. Poor me, just because I am of that age, I am subjected to such generalization. Obviously I do not go on a mission; whatever happens is just, collateral damage ;)

While the above reasons are important enough, there is this another one I would not like to miss out on…

I go to these weddings to complete some stories. Stories of my school friends, college friends, office friends and my flatmates – people from every stage of my life, whose weddings I have been to. People whom I have spent considerable time with, whose journeys I have witnessed. I have seen love win and lose; the shock of despair and the surprise of happiness, hearts being broken and hearts being won, even violins playing in thin air. Some of the stories reached where one would have hoped for, the others took a detour, but eventually each one of them reached where they were meant to be - a happy ending. Or rather, a happy beginning. Beginnings that could not be foreseen a while back. I was there to witness those beginnings. I could not have missed that feeling for the world!

So this is it, my 4 cents on being a “wedding hopper”. Long way ahead…still some very close friends to go…waiting to take the plunge. Many stories still to be completed. I am 10 and counting. Next stop: Delhi, 24th June 2012. If you happen to have any upcoming engagements, you should give me a call. The perfect "Baraati on hire" :D

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ohh Mumbai...Thank You for caring!

So I have been living in Mumbai for over 2 years now. And over this time, my love for this city has just, kept growing. It has infact, grown so much that it is now overflowing, and that is the reason I am spilling it here. And no, there was no thirsty crow who put pebbles in my jar of love, its all authentic! Ekdum dil se!

Mumbai loves you in its unique ways, it nurtures you in a fashion you might not understand at first. For instance, I do not understand why people keep on cribbing about the traffic on Mumbai streets, and the way they are stuck in traffic for...lets say, minutes in the 90s, hours in the 20s, and looking at the state of things, days might not be far away. Especially given the pace 'The Kid Brother' is building the Metro. Just imagine, stuck in traffic for a day. How exciting! At least we would have something to show off to those Chinese people. Ha! When someone asks you, where were you last Tuesday, your answer could be, "I was between Andheri and Ghatkopar". How cool is that. I mean, just imagine the things you could do stuck there which you would not get the time to do in your otherwise busy lives. For me personally, the time when I travel by auto is the time I catch up with my friends on whatsapp, whom I had long forgotten. I make repeated attempts at playing games on my phone in a hope to beat the mammoth score created on my phone by my friend (how unfair!), at the same time trying to soothe the anger of some birds who have lost it completely. This traffic does even more interesting things to other people. Take an example, how grandmoms can knit a full sweater in this time for their grandchildren, and present to them a token of their warmth and love, remembering that the grandchild had once said to her, "Yo Grans, Take a chill pill!", and all they could sense out of that was "It's chiilly, I might need a pill". So Mumbai essentially is bringing people close together, nurturing relationships, and also inculcating the spirit of healthy competition in them.

There are others who complain how autos would not ply in Mumbai. Leave alone ply, they would not even stop to hear where you wanna go, as if there's a race they are missing. Now stop here and look deep within yourself, have you been doing justice to yourself? Most of us promise ourself an hour of workout daily in order to stay fit, but we do not want to compromise on the wee hours of slumber. This is not acceptable! Mumbai, like a true guardian angel, therefore takes care of this. It ensures you get your daily dose of workout by walking for kms in search for an auto, and at other occasions running behind them. Not the best treadmill at even Gold Gym could give you that satisfaction. Most of all, its not an artificial environment. You are close to nature. All right, you cannot see it because of the 25 storied buildings, but its there, behind them. You can always smell nature, especially near Bandra when travelling on the highway, and of course, hear it..sometime it sounds like Pom-Pom, at other times, Honkkkk! Yes, that is nature talking to you!

Mumbai keeps you grounded. Literally. Almost fixed to the same spot on the floor. I am referring to the travel in a Mumbai local. Once you find a spot to stand there, you just hold on to it. On one foot. Leaving more space to the mankind. Accomodating everyone, welcoming them with open arms...and smelly armpits! You stand there against all forces. You defy the law of momentum. The resolute you. From outside, from within. And for people like me who happen to have a lean structure, it gives me another feel good factor. I do things which others cannot do. That is, fitting myself somewhere in the gap. And I look at the ones who fail to do that and remain outside with an air about myself, saying, "Try and beat that!"

Mumbai drives ambition in a man. An ambition, not to build a Tajmahal for the love of his life, but to provide his family with a decent space to live, yes, one of the average apartments with slums on either side, and a high 5 digit number as the rent quote. It teaches you never to give up, and keep chasing that dream of getting your own house one day. When you passed out of B-school, you thought you now need to take care only of the Top 2 items in the Maslow's hierarchy, and bang! It brings you to Ground Zero. Its always good to start afresh, right?

But most importantly, Mumbai is like a mother to bachelors. Or at least a Mausi (Mother's sister, for the uninformed), who happens to have a Service Level Agreement with your mother. If you are a bachelor staying in Mumbai, try finding a house. If you haven't, add it to your bucket list, and you can live eternally trying to make this happen. There is a stigma attached with bachelors, their lifestyle, their stability, and God knows what, and the pricing expectations from them turn out to be materially different; of course if we haven't been turned down like at the other 80% of the places. Why not keep a signboard, "Dogs and bachelors not allowed"? So one of the landlords' arguments is, that we will party at home excessively. Now even if we want to try to give them comfort that this would not be the case, in our hearts we know that might happen. Because if we would want to go out and dance at a good place, we would not be able to. The reason, no male stags please! At some places, male stags allowed at exorbitant prices only. It is almost a crime to be single in this city. Credits to my friend N who once put it beautifully, "The money that you are saving by not having a girlfriend, has to be shared in equal proportions with the Clubs". Hmm...now stop back and think, what is going on here? If you haven't guessed yet, it is the universe's conspiracy to get you married! Du-uh! You get married, your mom is happy, even your friends are happy, who could not go to half of the places because of you being single. One of my friends A had actually pleaded me, "If not for your sake, for our sake, please get married!"
So see, the world is a happier place, I am not so sure about your happiness, but then small sacrifices don't matter to make the world a better place.

In essence, if it were not for you Mumbai, I would not have learned the virtues of patience, affection, confidence, and perseverance, I would not have learnt how to dream, and I could not have brought a smile to my Mom's face. Hence Dear Mumbai, Thank You for caring!

Why does this song ring in my head right now? "Dekho sabka katega, sabka katega Raam....yun hi kat ta rahega..."

P.S. I genuinely love Mumbai. But no senti stuff here. There is no water problem in Mumbai which I want to solve by making my readers cry and fill up tubs. And yes, I do not want to get married so that I can get a house and go partying (someone had actually asked me that question)!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A banker's take on marriages, arranged

Long time, no see. Missed me?
Limits. You could have said yes just for the heck of it. I don’t bore you that much, do I?

Anyways, I wasn’t able to think of a suitable topic for the blog. And this time around, I wanted to write a happy one. Enough of the sarcasm already. And the happy blog would also go well with the way I am feeling these days (dunno how many days this is gonna last, I want to feel alive every moment. Wait, did I just do a Pritam and steal lines right out of ‘Kal ho naa ho’?)

Why the happiness? Well, last couple of months have been quite happening. It seems I am gonna get reasonably close to my professional aspirations. And I can, without much ado, visualize a period where I would not be planning my next move, not trying to prove myself, just focus on doing my job well, and chill out. OK, at least to the extent my job permits me. So obviously, given the labyrinth of a mind that I have, and the serious problem I have with sitting idle and purposeless, I started thinking, what is the next thing I should be worried about? There must be something I can ponder over. Ramdev can go to hell, India WI series I don’t give a damn about.......tik tok......tik tok.......bang! The answer was right here. The big BIG task at hand. Arranged marriage! Om mangalam mangalam! Yes, that.

So I had kind of promised my parents, as soon as I get a check mark on my job stability front, I will enter ‘The Market’. Yes, the market is what I would like to call it. I wonder why people laugh when I quote it like that. Especially coming from the environment I grew up in. To give you a background, I am a Marwari baniya, coming from Uttar Pradesh. You know what that means. If you don’t, well, let me try and provide you some more color.

In our part of the world, the discussion around a marriage does not start with compatibility, liking, families, or even horoscope for that matter. It starts with a very basic question, “Kitne ka rishta hai”? Does that sound alien to you? Strange.  Because for us, it’s so much like a cultural heritage. To put it in simple terms, it is an innocuous attempt to arrive at the valuation of the groom. This is of prime importance, as it determines the access to cash flows the bride would have after the marriage! A perfect way to ensure that only families at the same societal and economic level get into a relationship. Flawless, only until that devil came into the picture. And provided a loophole. Yes, that idiotic, stupid thing called love. What farce!

So coming back to valuation, for the uninformed, I am a finance aficionado, and I was very curious to understand the dynamics of these groom valuations (augurs well for me as well :B ).Hence, I did some primary research, ran some numbers, made a couple of calls, and all that. The results were quite flattering, and I am presenting them below free of cost for now, as this is a PR exercise. Please refer me to your friends for a 16.67% discount on your next lesson. For anyone who wants to understand basics of valuation, I doubt there will be better study material available in the market. Money back guarantee.

Chapter 1: Applied valuation

There are two types of valuation: absolute valuation, and relative valuation. We will cover both one by one.
Absolute valuation: Arriving at the ‘intrinsic’ value of a product by discounting the future cash flows which are available from that product. I had earlier worked with a simple case. But realization of a calculation fallacy and voices raised from some of my female friends about missing luxury elements made me re-work the whole thing and make it complex (why do they want everything so complex?)

Let’s consider the case of a male, non-smoker, healthy MBA grad from a top-tier institute in India (Do not mistake me for an insurance sales man, we need these assumptions, sach me!). It has been 2 years since he has been earning, has accumulated approx. 5.5 lacs in his account (if you don't have this much, maybe you should hold back your marriage a bit. Bas thoda aur intezaar. Warning you, else liquidity crunch ho jayega). Marrying a girl who does absolutely nothing. Nothing at all. Just sits at home and lazes around. How some of you female readers would want to be that, right!

Cash inflows:

1.     Current salary = INR 15 LPA. (Not applicable for 2009 passouts- Sorry)
2.     10% increment every year till the age of 45, with two big promotions where the increment is  30%. Wish the real world was this smooth! But after you become the big boss, the increment is only 5% per annum. (Usse zyada company afford nahi kar payegi). Do not worry, you retire at 55 with a package of INR 1.8 crores...which seems good enough (unless you think of yourself as no less than Premji in the world of mortals)!

Cash outflows:
3.     Taxes = 30% flat. Do not cringe. You have already exploited enough of all those tax saving options. Desh ki sadkein kaise banengi?
4.    Roof on your head– Rents at INR 35,000 per month (Mumbai), escalating at 10% every two years. Life was smooth and Mumbai was slowly sucking you dry, till the point at age of 39 when you start disliking your accumulating bank balance. You choose to buy a house, that too for INR 2 crores with a 20% down payment, rest coming at an 8% interest rate (oops, apologies for calling it a house, when it should be pigeon hole of a house- all that you can afford in Mumbai with that sort of money 10 years from now)
5.     Misc. domestic expenses – Adding up to approx. INR 25,000 per month, escalating at an inflation rate of 5%, 4%, and then 3.5%. Wish this were it! Add annual travelling expenses to shaadis, maykas, sasurals, mausis, buas and all which is another 40 grands, escalating at 3% each year.
6.     Main nikla, ho gaddi leke...yes sire, we need a car. You buy a Hatch in the first year, a City in 5 years, a Civic in another 5, and finally, an Audi at 45, when you become the big shot DGM/ CXO of the company (only due to reputational risk- won’t look nice if you travel in a lower range car na...and of course, the bliss of travelling in an Audi :P)
7.     What about the fun part ya? Obviously we would have to keep aside INR 120,000 per annum for movies (4 a month), dining (5 times a month), clubbing (twice a month) et al. Zyada ho gaya kya? But I believe in the rule ‘work hard, and party harder’ J
8.     Come age 32, and here comes the new money sucking machine (read baby). With him comes child maintenance of INR 100k per annum which goes upto 150k later. And no, we are too poor to afford two babies. Then, he would want a car at age 18. Bloody show off in front of the girls! His father was known to be so shareef, aur ise dekho!
9.     As if this were not enough, your dear wife comes up with her unique set of demands. And she uses all kinds of techniques that ultimate cause you to concede. M sure you have seen PKP! Her demands include one international holiday (2 lacs ka fatka, ouch!) every 4 years, one domestic and 2-3 weekend getaways every year. And for all the parties she would be attending, she also wants new jewellery to the tune of 2 lacs (ouch, ouch- fainting) on an average every 2 years, again escalating. (My reco: buy gold futures now. Or marry a gold tycoon’s daughter). If you still think you can escape this, all I can say is, ‘May the force be with you, other than a belan-proof jacket!
10.   Last but not the least, save appropriately for the child’s education, his marriage, and your retirement. Make some short-term investments also. Get your life and health insured. (So that you don’t end up saying ‘Ohh teri!!’ in Aamir Khan style at some point in life)

Other assumptions:
11.   Retirement at the age of 55. Death at age of 80 for the couple. Bahut jee liye. Ab kat lo! And time to live up to the saath jiyenge saath marenge promise.
12.   Other expenses assumed constant from the age of 60 till 80. 60 ke baad kya hi kar loge life me, uncle! Please don’t do a ‘Buddha hoga tera baap’. Entertainment expenses die out at 70. Uske baad sirf tragedy ka scope bachta hai. Entertainment ke liye kuch bhi karna, risky ho jayega. Time for the ‘Sugar Free and ‘Lauki ka juice’. Though you can own a car till 78..a vintage one..I grant you that one.
13.   Spare balance in bank called upon whenever required. Especially during old age, to add to the returns from pension fund, when you are a non-performing, forget performing- non-moving asset. Weighted rate of return on bank funds assumed at 8%.
14.   Expected rate of return: 10%. Just because I like the song ’10 bahane kar ke le gayi dil..le gayi dil’

So whatever is left of the inflows after meeting the outflows, is all discounted back to the present time, to assess what is the kind of money the groom is sitting on (I always wanted to be able to not only sit, but swim in money like Uncle Scrooge). That, ladies and gentlemen, is the number you have been searching for, which in the above case is resulting in a valuation of INR 60,10,625 only. That’s the upside the lucky bride is getting over the dream lifestyle highlighted above. So even if her parents pay out this amount, the girl is in a profitable position, the envy of her friends’ eyes. The dulha is at a bargain! Mr. Buffet would have been so proud.

·     Moving on to the second method, this is the method of comparable valuation. It is much more straightforward in nature, and one only needs to look at the multiples of earnings other grooms with a similar profile (industry) have been traded at.  You take the median of some of the transactions in the same industry, multiply it with your own earnings, and you have your value. For reference sake, I am quoting the median multiples of some of the popular industries below. Note that I am being conservative and providing you a bear case scenario, pretty much like the stock analysts whose predictions go wrong every second day. I am sure that will give you the confidence enough to trust me!

1. Engineer: 3x salary. Key attribute: Stable but low income.
2. Doctor (MD): 4x salary. Key attribute: Blue-chip profession. Windfall gains expected (from critical illness patients- kya karein, life is unfair). 
3. MBA from Tier 1 institute: 4.5x salary. Key attribute: Stable and high income (which always looks like peanuts).
4. IAS: 10x salary (white). Key attribute: Upside potential from associate income, dominating market position (to be dominated however by Behenji).
5. Business: NA. The comparable method fails to explain the valuation ranges from 5 lacs to 5 crores.

Please note that if the dulha is a very docile one, or as some (SS) may like to put it as, bovine one, then the multiple goes up. This is on account of control premiums. There are other subtle considerations like caste, and sub-caste within that, that would also move the multiple (this is the point I feel proud to be a marwari baniya- as if I have earned it ). But the caveat is to make sure the sub-sub-sub-caste doesn't match exactly, otherwise the girl ends up being a sister :P (some gotra funda - following the same lineage of our great ancestors).

Using the above technique, the valuation that we get for our non-docile Tier-1 MBA grad comes out at INR 67,500,000. Reasonably close to our valuation from the earlier analysis. Which means our calculations are perfect! (Yes, speak a lie 100 times and that becomes truth!)

Note: Salary at all places indicates Cost-To-Company (CTC) due to lack of public information. No one quotes their in-hand these days.

So, that brings us to the end of the Chapter 1 of our Valuation Primer. For further details to confuse your mind, drop me an email at nerdybachelor.withoutasaathi.com.

That would have given you the logic behind me using the word ‘market’. So you see, there is a reason behind every word that I use. 1,522 words full of that. Clever. Ha!

As it appears, women stand to benefit much more from this transaction than men. They get this unrestricted access to a fantabulous life over and above the free cash flows, absolutely free! In exchange for their companionship, and love. As if we are not giving them that. But then, so is life. Unfair. You can’t live without one of them by your side. At a certain point you will be so much out of your senses that you would call it ‘worth it’. Wtf! 

Now, what was I saying? Yes, that I would have to enter the market eventually now. Feels weird. I always thought arranged marriages were stupid. I have no fishing idea of what is going to happen. Feels funny though, imagining the kind of experiences I would have. At least from the vicarious understanding I have got about the possibilities at such ‘encounters’ from the snippets of my dear friend Raam Pyari a.k.a. Ruchita Misra’s soon to be released book, ‘The (In)eligible bachelors’. Just hoping I do not turn out to be one. Another tension is the serious capacity crunch - of single, smart, and qualified Marwari girls in the system. Good I got my mom to approve any potential suitable match within the larger Hindu community- saying “Beta jaise tum khush raho” :P. She is a darling. OK, focus, focus. To start with, I think I should start thinking about the ‘About Me’ section. I really wish to write just one line: “Hum teen cheezon ko kabhi underestimate nahi karte- I, Me, Myself”. Lol. But don’t think the aspirants (or rather, destinations for us aspirants given the demand and supply imbalance) out there will understand my emotions. On second thoughts it would be better to let that one pass. I could think of an easier, more closer to mortal way. Waise, I am also open to suggestions. You would already noted down my email ID by now. So go ahead! Just don’t experiment guys, zindagi ka sawaal hai. Be serious. 

I won’t write anymore so as to avoid making the post girly. Either ways, all this melodrama was only for the sake of blog. There is still some free life remaining to be lived. I am sure I will be dancing on ‘Ek kunwara phir gaya maara’ in at least 4-5 more weddings to come before I give my friends a chance to derive the sadistic pleasure and avenge themselves. Acha hai, competition thoda kam hone do. Warna bekar me mujhe gaaliyan denge, unke options churane ke liye..:P

Disclaimer: All figures in this post are for reference only; they do not in any way indicate my tangential attempt to making a market (in layman terms, setting price expectation) for me. I am against dowry, an honest and righteous person, open only to whatever the girl’s parents provide to their daughter, with love, for her happy and comfortable life going forward, in some large sacks and cartons kept in her (ours) brand new Red VW Beetle, kept beside the gold bricks. I am serious. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Shells from the HK shores..

Woaahh!! Last night in HK...can't believe 6 weeks have passed...and I write this with a heavy heart...
Just kidding..
Definitely not a heavy heart..I don't think I am gonna miss being here at all. I am too excited to go back to India. But guess when I look back at the last 6 weeks, I would have to admit, it wasn't that bad. I read my earlier post in an attempt to assess whether my concerns were justified, and I again end up with a mixed feeling.

To start on a lighter note, well, Chinese people do have eyes..but still there is something different about their looks (Now don't say 'Really, we didn't know that...Da ah!!'), which I cannot seem to figure out..and as a result of this I was caught staring at a lot of them :P One opinion I have formed about them is that they are very innocuous, kind of innocent people, who are comfortably living in their own world..they get excited at things which are stupid for most of us (they click a picture of everything..even ATM machines!!), and they do not like to interact with foreigners, unless of course, they are the shop owners of a shop targeted at foreigners..in the process, trying to rob them (I speak from personal experience..damn frustrated at being thugged by a shopkeeper..so much for Atithi Devo Bhav...hum hi kyun follow karen yar pure world me??)

Food was not at all an issue, and I think I had a better lunch here than my rocking office canteen..several Indian restuarants, with limited, yet manageable number of vegetarian options..and of course, the yummy jumbo pizza slices. However, one thing that was the most disgusting was the pungent smell of sea food at many of the places which would cause even my non-vegetarian Indian friends to cringe!!
Language was a BIG BIG issue. Except my office people and a few others, no one even understands English...cab drivers don't understand where you want to go, people on streets would not give you directions..and I have don't remember how many times I have gone round and round in certain areas. But thank God the city is very well organized and there are some maps at crossroads..which made my life a little easier. Coming back to the language, well it was actually fun sometimes not knowing their language, coz my dumb charades skill are now all sharpened up..bring it on, guys!

I think I did make K proud after all..I exhausted most of the places there were to visit in HK..special thanks to the awesome company of the few people I knew there..had they not been there, it would have been a pain, m telin u. Be it the shopping with my college friend, the dinners with my boss/friend/mentor, the drinks with my colleagues, or the World Cup with some co-workers from India, the sum of it all made it memorable. However, if you are planning a trip to HK, I would recommend only a 3-5 day one, coz I found most of the tourist attractions very run of the mill and somehow overhyped, coming from a land of rich cultural heritage myself. Watching the world cup here was fun! Am sure India would have been super, but even this was special. 50 or so Indians gathering in bars to watch matches on big screens with beer in our hands, screaming our lungs out on every single taken (or saved in Aus/Pak's case)..it was amazing...and especially what followed after the win..when proud Indians took HK by storm!!

Coming to the spicy stuff...the trip to Macau was an amazing one..the water show, the gambling, and everything else..lot of things added to my 'been there, done that' list..and yes, had a couple of crazy nights in HK as well...thanks to my local HK colleagues who showed me what the nightlife here is like..man, these people know how to party!

All that said and done, the crucial question still remaining unanswered is that in what light do I see this trip in retrospect? The answer that is going to come should surprise you as much as it does me! I can say I am glad this trip happened. Why? Let me tell you. I think there could not have been a worse time for this trip to happen ..I was in a disturbed state, and I was expected to stay away from my family and friends (virtual family), out of my comfort zone, struggling to cope up with things, and at the same time perform in an excellent fashion at my new office...However, now I think there could not have been a better time as well for this one to happen. This trip has helped me grow, helped me discover, and helped me become more confident.
I am more confident now that if I have survived this period of my life being alone, anything that life brings on now is only going to be better. I am not only going to survive, I am going to kill it, baby.
I got to see a totally different environment, a mix of cultures, and I have grown into a more tolerant person.
But most importantly, I have discovered what I want from life. Professional life, and personal life. The trip turned out to be a semblance of an opportunity, and I took some bold decisions which I never thought I would be in a position to take. It restored my faith in my abilities which was facing whirlwinds a while back, and it brought my priorities, which were buried deep inside, to the fore. It feels great to have that sense of clarity once again, and knowing that my life is somewhat, somewhat, a result of my choices as well. Actually, this time I surprised life. I made a choice it would never have expected me to make.

On the personal front, well, I think I am prepared to start things afresh. I feel much more closer to my friends I have made over the years. I got in touch with the old ones from here by being online for chats again, I made some new ones, and I realized how time can run away in their company..and there is no emotional drainage involved. Does this happen with everyone? Don't know. But glad its turning out that way for me. The world seems perfect like this! Why spoil it?

So tomorrow I fly back to India..eat a Cheese Burst and Garlic Bread for starters, send out a 'Chocolates at my desk' email to my office acquaintances, pass out all the toys I have bought to my lil bhajis and witness their million dollar smile, get a haircut finally (or maybe not if people don't make fun of me), and then go for a well deserved break to Mahabaleshwar on the upcoming weekend with my gang..once I come back, a new team at work, and a new world awaits me..my world..its time I take up everything I have been delaying for so long..things I wasn't able to give time to..like my long cherished desire to learn guitar...maybe buy an Xbox and become a gamer..and some more random stuff! Of course, watch my quota of at least one movie a week. Strengthen some faded ties and lay the foundation for new ones. Everything else now waits, this year is mine! Even getting into new commitments. Nice old song playing on the online radio.."Kisi ke ishq me khud ko mita lunnn...ho nahi sakta, ho nahi sakta!"

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Championships are not won overnight

I write when I feel strongly, and the feeling of being the world champion has consummated me. Well, where do I start? I would like to take a slightly different take on this win, something which I could not already find in whatever articles I read after the win...

It feels different to be a world champion. Last night, a team of 15 did not lift the world cup. A 1.2 billion did. At our homes, at bars, at streets. Finally, we were able to see what was the big deal about 1983. Finally, we were able to overcome the agony of 2003 and the despair of 2007. After so many years, one game made us laugh, cry, shout, and jump at the same time. One game that united us. And undoubtedly, gave so many Indians the happiest moments of their lives. Speaking on behalf of some die hard cricket fans and patriots, the comfort in dying peacefully even if 2012 is a reality...because we have experienced the best!
But if I step back and think, what did we, the 1.2 billion do to earn this feeling? Yes, we chose a team, we gave them our hopes, our trust, that THEY would do it for us! But that's where it all ends. It is a glory to cherish for those 15 men and the people in background, as they have also borne the brunt of our criticizm, our anger, and our hatred. When it comes to cricket, Indians are volatile, impulsive, and emotional. We WANT to lose touch with the reality that exists, that we are not the only one hoping to win the cup, that the 15 men we have sent to fight our battle are also mortals and are allowed to commit mistakes. They haven't asked us to treat them like superheroes, and we are only burdening them. If that were not enough, we target them through all possible channels, be it social media, the streets, or sometimes, even their homes.

What gives me the right to point this out, when supposedly I am also a part of this community? Well because at the expense of sounding 'I-knew-it-all', I can say I had a stronger faith in the team than what the average Indian had. Not a faith that they would win the cup 100%, only a hope for that one, but a faith that they will give their best, and their best is really good, and intimidating, for the opposition. Be it the uncomfortable wins against the minnows, the tie against England, or the loss against SA, I had never taken it as a sign of Indian team's weakness or an indication of them not deserving enough to win. I would never criticize a sportsperson for the number of brands he is endorsing.  Because I am a patient person, and I believe. What is shaken by chance occurences is not belief in my dictionary. Admittedly, I am not flawless either! I did have my doubts around Ashish Nehra after the inital matches. Glad to acknowledge, he proved me wrong against Pak! And what a way to do that. Salutes!

I would not switch off the cricket match once we have lost Sehwag and Sachin. I did that in Natwest, I did that on another occasion, but not this time. I have grown, and understood my team. I know inside out that this is what a strong team looks like, and it is not a two man army. My huge respect to the formidable forces in the team, but I now know that each one of you in the team there is a match winner. You have the talent, the spirit, and the commitment. And when you join forces, boy, the opposition can only think about packing their bags early. What has a normal Indian done or achieved to have the right to challenge this? Nothing, yet he would act as the expert of the game, and pass judgments without any rationale. This is something where we have gone terribly wrong, and there is a need to make amends.

For starters, I would like to take this moment to thank my team, who have made me proud and the happiest person on earth. I thank them for giving me the opportunity to walk with a high head in a foreign land when people salute me for being Indian. I would like to thank you for once again reminding me of the core patriot in me, just the way the national anthem does everytime its played in Mumbai theatres. But at the same time, I want to apologize to you, on behalf of the entire country, for everything that we have made you go through, when you were not having the best of days. Not bad days, but not Rajnikant like days. And I want you to know that I would have been as proud of you had we lost as I am now. Disappointed, yes, but still proud for the journey. We have asked you for explanations all the time, and it is well deservedly your time to ask us. And frankly, we would have no answer to your questions. All the people who had lost faith in you will only take a moment to realize how wrong they were, and come back to feeling proud on the awesomeness of the feeling you have given us! Once again, thank you! And hugs! :D

Cannot even think about ending this note without sending out some personal postcards:

Team India: Respect for your game. And for your spirit. We saw what champions are made of! Men of strength, men of honor, men of character.You did it for 1.2 billion, and one man in particular. Don't know if you realized it or not, but you just gave that man enormous peace to sleep with, for the rest of his career and beyond. You made sure there was not a single black mark on his career profile, and the master does retire as a masterpiece!

Gary: You picked us up when we were in shambles. And look where you brought us! Goes without saying what you have done is unforgettable, and we wish you could continue as our coach.

Physio: Thanks for keeping the boys fit, especially Zak.

Sree and Piyush: Would have loved to see you guys play more matches, and take your share of intimidating the opposition.

Ashish: I am sorry for losing hope in you. Thanks for your brilliant display against Pakistan, when it mattered the most.

Munaf: In the absence of spearheading fast bowlers, it was a lot of responsibility on your shoulders, and glad you did your job.

Ashwin: You have a bright future waiting ahead of you. You have lived up to the confidence shown in you so well. And that is the only think you have to continue doing!

Yusuf: Your presence is enough to keep the opposition intimidated. Hope it continues to be that way.

Viru: Thanks for the blazing starts. No total seems unachievable if you are around. Just keep doing whatever you are doing!

Gauti: You are the wall, Gauti! You rose to the occasion, and told us why you bat at No. 3 for India, why you got the highest price in IPL auctions. Looking forward to a lot many hundreds and doubles from you.

Raina: Consistent flamboyance! You have shown that we can always depend on you. People who lost their faith in you during SA must have got their answers. What spirit and what commitment. One of our own Jonty Rhodes. Hats off to you! And yes, keep hitting those sweet midwicket sixes- what a sight to watch!

Bhajji: Salute you for the true patriot that you are. We all know what playing for Team India means for you, your tears said it once again last night. You have displayed it time and again why you mean to us what you do, and I am sure its never gonna change.

Virat: Mr. consistent. Have you ever failed us?? You won't even think about it, would you? You are the reason IPL will never die in India, because it was able to unearth the talent that you are. With that cool head on your shoulder, no situation is a pressure situation. But even your brilliance took a backseat when you won our hearts with your comment about Sachin last night, "He has carried India on his shoulders for 21 years, its time we carried him on ours.' No answers to that one.

Zak: Without you it was not possible. You were the knight in our army, and your 10 overs were like the most precious possession we had! Thank you for staying fit, and bringing us here! Keep playing and don't get injured, please please!!

Yuvi: The lion in the Indian team. Boy, you have made it large. You are a testimony of how one rises from ashes, and rises BIG, to the stars. After that year that passed, after being dropped, after being in the middle of controversies, the way you have come back is exemplary. And straight to 'Man of the Tournament' in world cup! It is huge Yuvi, and know that you will always be known as the man who got us 2011. Holding the ship in the middle overs, making up for poor bowling on other ends, and flying on the field- you gave it every drop of blood and sweat you had! I read somewhere you said after SA defeat that you will bring us the world cup. You have done it Yuvi, and that can never be erased. And when the lion cried yesterday, we very well knew what it felt like. People will be fools to ever challenge your abilities again, know that!

Sach: God, you deserved this! Thank you for being there with us, throughout all these years. You have seen the highs and the lows of the team, you have seen people come and go, but you have stayed. With you has stayed the greatness about the team. You have defied biology with your game which is getting even better with your age. One match after the another goes, but it is your photogenic moments that we wait to witness. Because form is temporary, only class is permanent. Hope to see you playing another world cup, and another...Indian cricket is unimaginable without you now. And yes, do get that No. 100 soon. We are waiting!

Dhoni: Captain. That is the word. Had it been possible with anyone else at the helm? I do not think so. Had to be you! You have made international stars out of youngsters with your belief, and I can very easily credit Raina, Ashwin, and Virat to your account. You saved the players from the load of expectations and took it on your own shoulders, enabling them to give their best without feeling the pressure. You took all those wild decisions which perplex the common mind, and clicked, and told us why instinct is not extinct. You have been one of the best wicketkeepers of the tournament, and one of the best India has ever had. You have modified your own game for the team's balance, and its a pity people do not understand that and question your abilities. I was jubilant yesterday, and remembering about all those people with whom I have argued for you. But that's about your leadership and performance. The best one is yet to come. Most of all MS, you have shown what it is like to be modest, and composed. You win the world cup for India, not only as a captain but as a batsman, yet you choose to stay in the background, without feeling the need to attract any limelight which was deservedly yours. Because you wanted someone else to have that moment yesterday. As an individual, you have earned tonnes of respect in millions of eyes yesterday, and we can only be proud to have you as our captain!

And last but not the least,

Dada: This heritage is built on the foundation that you laid. We are the tigers that we are becuase you made us that way. We have the stars that we have because you identified them and nurtured them. It was terrible we could not win in 2003, but we have not let your effort go waste. This one's for you, Dada!

For Yuvi, Raina, and Dhoni: "Main na kehta tha, mere Karan-Arjun ayenge" :P

Sunday, March 6, 2011

From Chandni Chowk to China

(Getting to post it a little late)

OK, I am not from Chandni Chowk exactly (but 200 kms from there), and not going to China to be precise (just a nearby SAR), but the title seemed interesting. I will be leaving India in another hour and 20 mins. And then, for whole 43 days, its gonna be a strange land, different people, and a different world.

I am in the midst of that strange, eerie feeling you get when undergoing any big change. Don't know whether everyone gets it, but for me it kinda gets uncomfortable, thinking about issues as trivial as 'Whether I would be able to figure out my way out of the airport' :P

I have been postponing this trip for long now, for reasons unknown to me. Somehow the prospect of my first overseas travel is not being able to excite me enough as well. I am clueless whether I should take this trip as a welcome honeymoon, a challenge, or just another assignment in a different location. My friends say my mind is a cobweb, or rather a multitasking processor where n number of things are going on in the background. So it is this time around, and there are several thoughts fighting with each other. You would think why I am making this such a big deal. Just go through the list and answer yourself whether I am overdoing it. Ha!

The predicaments:
1. Being in a foreign land, away from desh ki mitti (seriously, getting this feeling as well!)
2. I don't speak their language, don't eat their food, and at the expense of being called a racist, they don't have eyes!!
3. Can I count for company on the 4 Indian people I know there? Or in the absence of company I am going to rot in office or my hotel?
4. Will I be able to live up to the high expectations my dear friend Krina has loaded me with and fully leverage her excel sheet (she has provided me with a comprehensive 'places to visit' guide for HK - m telin u, its bloody brilliant- she is stuck in the wrong job), or would I be a subject of leg pulling for the rest of the year by my office gang (they take having fun in HK very seriously)?
5. Would I be able to pull off some crazy acts and be on level footing with my friend Mr. 'Stud' Bajpai? (What does he think of himself? #@!@@$)
6. Would I be able to cheer for India in the world cup? Seriously hoping they have some Indian addas there!
7. Would my office gang do a lot of parties here in India while I am away. Guys, if you are reading this, beware..don't go to a lot of happening places. 'Sabr ka fal meetha hota hai'

OK, coming to the more serious ones.

8. Is this trip really an opportunity in disguise? If yes, would I be able to make the most of it? Would it be a step forward towards my dream?
9. Would this trip be the change that I needed. Developments in the past few weeks haven't been really great- would I finally take my mind off things and come back ao be larger than life?
10. Would I be able to figure out what I want? And will I act to implement one of the answers?

And last but not the least, am I forgetting to carry something?

I guess no journey was successful with so much negativity to start with. So here is what I think I am going to do: Blank my mind, and take things as they come. Anyways, seeing the goras on the international airport is getting me lil excited :) And the best feeling was, to hold the US and HK dollar in my hand. So it must not be that bad I guess.
Ohh, the boarding announcement is here. Signing off, Adios!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Yeh saali zindagi...

Life’s a bitch. Nothing more, nothing less, simply a bitch. It is unruly, dogmatic, uncompromising, and unrelenting. And it is a bad enemy to have. Really bad! You can’t win over it, you just can’t.

I am not a person who gives up easily. I am an optimistic, energetic go-getter, and I believe in making things happen. And I am not a person who would sit, sulk, and procrastinate over why certain things did not go my way. That is the way life, that bitch, has taught me to be.

Why the swear words? Well, simply put, I like to be in control of my situations, which is precisely what I have failed at. Failed repeatedly and miserably. No matter what I plan, no matter what I do, things go according to a plan which definitely does not seem to be the one designed by me. As if there is no swimming against the tide. And I have only life to blame and plan my revenge against, coz being an atheist, it wouldn’t really suit me to go to a temple in Mr. Bachhan’s style and say, “Aaj khush to bahut honge tum, haiin?” It has been life, that has been giving me choices I didn’t need, de tours I didn’t plan, and potholes I didn’t expect (at least I think so). 

Life would ensure that you never get the thing you want, or at least the thing you think you want. It would put you in discomforting situations, and push you away from your desire. And it is not modest, it is not empathetic. It chooses to slap you in the face with harsh realities after a good bit of time has passed. Yes, I agree, that life’s plans for you eventually turn out to be better than your own plans for yourself, but there has to be a better way of doing this yaar! What’s with all the chaos? Can’t it be plain and frank and present choices which are the best suited and let me choose my way? No, because it enjoys watching me make all the moves in the wrong direction. It gives it some sort of sadistic pleasure. To top it all, the activity that it enjoys the most is unsettling comfortable, relaxed people. As soon as you try and accustom yourself to a certain state of things, it would try and tempt you, present you with newer, unexpected options…with the sole intent of unsettling you, and making you think again, and again, and AGAIN, about what is it you really want. It loves to have the last word, and so it always finds a way of showing you how YOU were going to make the wrong choice, and how, life has given you exactly what is best for you. And that is what I hate about it the most. The bitch is always right. Dead right everytime!