Sunday, December 31, 2006

SURVIVING THE ENGINEERING COLLEGE EXPERIENCE - PART TWO

Continued from the previous post...

5. Copying during exams: The moralists among you would be taken aback. How on Mother Earth can copying be deemed a virtue?! But the fact of the matter is, it's the way to survive! Microsoft made billions copying the Mac OS. Apple admitted that the ubuititous iPod is not their own idea. Eddie van Halen became one of the greatest guitarists though his techniques are borrowed from others, notably Jimmy Page's tapping.
Copying in exams is just that - a way to survive in a rat race where only the streetsmart get through. But there is another angle to this - a willingness to help others, even while risking their own marks! In an industry, will any professional take a decision without consulting others? (Leave George Bush out of this for now) Of course not! So what is wrong in a student confirming whether his answer to question 3(a) is correct? You tell me!

Furthermore, to avoid the prying eye of the invigilator, the copier has to master many a skill... Acting, sign language, reading esoteric cutpieces of minimal font size (the epitome of space efficiency, surely!), mentally calculting how much more he needs to score before he can ensure the safety of not having to buy another exam form (I always said if Shaun Pollock had been an engineer, SA would have won the '03 World Cup... Instead of that quite terrible communication error). Add these to the aforestated list of friendship, judicious risk-taking, survival... How can copying be looked upon as anything other than noble?

6. Tackling Failure: They say that the stepping stone to success is failure. In that case, the engineering student is quite simply among the cream of successful people! From suppli to appli, he is the quintessential manifestation of someone who has looked failure in the eye. And the *success*? Well, the very fact that he manages to pass out of college (erm, most of them, anyway!) is itself a great success!

7. Adjustments: Ah. Now this is a part of college life that noone can avoid. The lab is, quite simply, one place where honesty does not pay. Adjustment (or 'standardization of values', as I prefer to call it) is an age-old tactic. And before you yell at me saying this is going too far, take a minute off and think what the higher echelons of the faculty do to our internal marks before publishing them. Isn't 'normalization' a type of adjustment too, so that everyone becomes happy? I've been to companies and I know that 'adjustments' are a very common tactic... It's essential to survive in the industry! I'm not talking Enronesque billions being sifted away from the rightful owners. But our type of adjustments ensure that everyone is happy, and have less work to do.
Minor example: Software training: "Mark course complete". Need I say more? ;)
Sometimes I think they make us do experiments just to get acquainted with the fine art of adjustments....

There you go :)
Engineers: Now don't you feel much prouder of being who you are?

Non-Engineers: You poor guys have no idea what you're missing!

SURVIVING THE ENGINEERING COLLEGE EXPERIENCE - PART ONE

This is an article I wrote in my college magazine a few months back... And thought I'd put it up here as well ;)
================================================

For those of you who are apprehensive, who think this is going to be an other article that rubbishes our course, and talks of how useless the subjects we study are, can allay your fears. This article does exactly the opposite - how great engineers are groomed in an engineering college - or to be more specific, our grand alma mater, GEC Thrissur!

Now please understand, when I say 'Engineer', I don't allude to someone who knows a hundred equations by rote, a thousand circuit diagrams inside-out, or a zillion experimental theories like the proverbial back of his hand. For that is not what makes an engineer. Yes, anyone can become a university topper by locking himself in a room with stacks of references, cutting himself off from all civilization (my apologies to actual toppers... I tend to exaggerate at times!).
Being an engineer is not about knowing the derivation of the Darcy-Weischbach relation, the corollaries of all of Kirschoff's laws, or the reaction conditions of the Perry-Wilkinson synthesis. Really now, once you're in an actual industry, do you think your boss would actually allow you to rely on your memory? Imagine - in your calculations, if you used density where you needed to use pressure drop, your faux pas may run the industry to bankruptcy!

This is why, 'memorizing', the common tactic we adopt to steer clear of supplementary examinations, won't help you become a good engineer. However... In our stormy GEC lives... Four years of chaos, struggle and doing nothing at all, we learn a lot of other skills. Subliminally, these skills are imbibed into most of us... Here are a few...

1. Planning and deadline-meeting: If we really want India to develop,p we should get rid of all politicians, kill all bureaucrats, and put engineers in their place. Tell them to get things done in two months or they will face demotion. In the first month nothing will happen. In the next two weeks, there will be minor activity among the junior members. In the suceeding two weeks, though, there will be frenetic activity to meet the deadline. Sounds familiar, all this? Rewind to what happens a month before the University exams. Engineers are like the best bikes: We can go from 0 to 60 in almost no time!
[Another analogy would be the time period of 09:25 to 09:30 in MH bathrooms]

2. Diplomatic Skills: Many a time, business deals and bilateral talks fail because of the inefficacy of managers and diplomats. Engineers make excellent diplomates. Need proof? Watch what happens in any class in which an internal exam is declared upon the poor souls. Hectic lobbying and discussions with the concerned teacher ensue, only to get the exam postponed! Kashmir would have been solved in two weeks!

3. Endurance: Engineers have an infinite suppli... Oops :P ... Supply of patience. This skill arises from the practice of four years, pretending to nod your head in lectures.

4. Strategists: Engineering students are among the best planners that I have ever seen. This is not becasue we studt graphics - which has plans and elevations. For example, there are a few people who utilize a system I like to call the Cut-O-Meter, wherein he/she tabulates how many hours he has cut, and how many more he can afford to do so without compromising the 75% barrier. Such planning would do the Harappan Municipal Corporation proud.

Continued in part 2!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

LESSONS FROM A MISSING PENCIL

Yep. This Sunday I realised that I could make a decent manager, if any institution worth the foundation on which it is built decides to enlist me in it's rolls.

The reason for this sudden enlightenment is not because I have scored 99.9999999 percentile in certain exams abbreviated to give feline family members, or because Warren Buffet calls me up every other weekend to seek my advice on whether the market is bearish, bullish, or exhibits characteristics of any other member of the wildlife club.

This is because I sat through a whole Management entrance exam with just one pencil.

Yep. One - Ek - Onnu - Un - Uno - Waaaan - Pencil.

Sceptics who have for long believed that I should be in the safe custody of men in white coats may please use the Exit and leave for the time being and allow me to gloat over my fantabulous achievement.

For, ladies and gentlemen, and anything in-between, it is not easy to get through an exam with just one pencil.

Before I tell you why, let me give you the gory details.

On Sunday, 10th December, 2006 in the Anno Domini, I had two management entrance exams - JMET in the morning, NMAT in the afternoon.

I finished off JMET, rushed off to have a Pizza, and then caught an auto where the son-of-unmarried-parents charged me double the rate of what any conscientious auto driver would charge. However, the exam was scheduled to start soon, and I was not in a mood to discuss illegitimate gynaecology, so I decided to resign myself to this fate, and just hop into the auto. Did I mention it was raining?

On reaching the exam center, I was finally relieved. Until the time came to open my bag, to scavenge for my pencil box.

Now, at this point, I just ask you to think back. Look back into your life. Dig into the deep recesses of that scarcely-used medulla and see if you can think of any moment in which your heart feels like it's left it's casing and finds itself sinking?
That is how I felt when, on scouring my bag, I realised that my pencil case was not to be seen. No wood-enclosed graphite to be seen.

So I sheepishly had to borrow a pencil from the guy in front of me. And told the gal sitting behind me that I may borrow her sharpener during the course of the exam.

At the end of it, I finished a decent paper (how decent it was, I'll let you know on January 5!). But I was left reflecting. I managed to finish a goddamn 2.5 hour, 200 question paper with just a pencil. The operative word was 'managed'!

So on the bus ride (Oh no... Not that auto guy again!) back home, I reflected. Yes, the mirror helped, but not that type of reflect.

What skills did I realise I had? Hmmm....

1. I had to make sure that I used the lead properly - I had to do calculations for 100+ questions using them, and mark the OMR sheet. So I had to use a fine 50-50 between too light and too dark :-/

2. I had to use minimal calculations, obviously, so that my precious lead would not get wasted doing looooooooong calculations. So at the end of it, I actually managed to skip the questions that were extraneously long, and do the ones that required minimal calculations!

3. I had to put on a nonchalant face while signing the attendance sheet with a pencil, while everyone else did it with pen.

4. I used my pencil so economically that I didn't need to borrow the sharpener :D

5. I had to make sure I made no mistakes while marking else I'd have to borrow an eraser too :O

Well, there we are. Quite an insipid thing to post, I know, but for me, it was like a whole new realisation. I am now confident of steering a Fortune-500 company to greater heights after I pursue a Management degree.

PS: If that guy and that girl who were helpful during the exam happen to read this, thank you ever so much :)

Enough pencil-iary action for today!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

REFLECTIONS OF A SOFTWARE ENGINEER - PART THREE

Dementia returns. Another post outlining the life in Chennai follows.

I'm going to keep this short and sweet. Well, as pygmic and sucrosic as my previous posts, that is.

So what's been up this month?

An earth-shattering revelation for all of you now : My company has actually saddled me with work! Yes, can you believe it? Computer-gazing, keyboard-pounding, AC-room-sitting WORK!
But it really isn't too bad.

After all, I learnt a lot of Excel. And the fruit juice at the cafeteria rocks. Why, I'm upto my ears in Vitamin C!

What would a blogpost chronicling the happenings of the month of November ever be complete without a mention of the Common Admission Test? I allude of course, to the not-so-furry, but still very cranky, CAT.

I'll spare the gory details and just sum it up saying it was okay.

And by okay, I mean that I should get a call from MICA, which is all I care about anyway. I am not one of those people who get onto management education forums and post things like "my scr is 190....... ppl cn u tell me if i'll gt a call frm atleast 1 iim.... plleeeeeeeeeeeez... i'm deper8"! I mean, for Chrissake!!!!! :D

Moving on, the other exams were okay tool. My last post would have enlightened you on what is likely to happen when you don't make sure you're well-stocked with stationery before going to the exam hall. :|
So that's CAT, JMET, NMAT, SNAP down... XAT and FMS to go!

Moving on to life @ office.

The day is a very well-structured routine of getting there by ten, eating, doing some arbit work, Wiki-ing, pretending to work, checking mail to appear busy, more Wiki-ing (now you know why we call this the knowledge industry?), eating, drinking (er... fruit juice!), spending some time at the Gym (Really!!!), blah blah. Oh and eating.

People have asked me how *aesthetic* the place is. I'd say that Salim Ali would have had a decent time here. If you didn't understand this line, don't ask questions, just move on!

Get back home, read a bit, waste time on GTalk and Orkut before collapsing to bed with the soothing music of Iron Maiden putting me to sleep (yes, I have a strange choice of lullabies. Duh).

Uhmm... That's about it, really...

Let me confess I'm getting writer's block :(

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

REFLECTIONS OF A SOFTWARE ENGINEER, PART TWO

I know many of you are eagerly awaiting part two of the "Reflections" series after the first one was received with much fanfare and also ACfare and also Auto fare (Muahahaha!)

And I myself needed a few light topics to post on this blog after addressing matters of international importance like the need for Manmohan Singh to get tough with Pakistan :D

So, anyway... In a return to the insanity that has become synonymous with me, I present to you the happenings of the last month in this crazy little city which I have come to love.

When the last part ended, I was being fattened by the munifiscence of my company, who believed that their new recruits should be accomodated in nothing less than a four-star hostel. Hey, are we complaining?!

Anyway... The more cerebrally gifted among us got it into his head that these 14 days were not going to last forever, and so we decided to scout for houses. This involved scanning through the newspapers, consultations with people who've been-there-done-that, and frantic attempts at trying to talk in Tamil. For pete's sake, what's the effing point in advertising in an English newspaper if you can't effing speak the language?!!!

We stumbled upon a broker whose English was thankfully fluent, was rather decent, found a couple of good houses for us, and keeps helping us. Of course, he is dispossed to be in inebritated company in the latter hours of the night, hence rendering post-sale customer care slightly ineffective.

However, all this was taken in good humour, after all, man cannot live by bread alone. We see our first house, and take a liking to it. Spacious, all amenities are nearby, and dead cheap.
Being of cynical upbringing, we scan the area for possible chinks. At this very crucial point, I notice something like a swamp outside our window :

ME: So... Er... Are there mosquitoes here?
BROKER: Slight problem.
ME: Okay.

And when a broker says "slight problem", he probably means "This area has more mosquitoes than the Sahara has grains of sand. The last family who stayed here ended up looking like human dartboards. You'll be lucky if any of you survive malaria or dengue. Why the eff do you think we're offering this house to you this cheap?!"

However, we are also the adventurous sort, and not to mention desperate for a place to stay with the four-star honeymoon rapidly drawing to a close. So a week later, assuring ourselves that any plasmodians who had designs on our blood could be repelled by products of the Good Knight mosquito repellant company.

Of course, the area was what Mallus would describe as 'thara'. Shanty, let's say? We felt rather out-of-place as we walked in immaculately clean clothes (these adjectives are used because our laundry work is outsourced!) amongst a rather filthy environment en route to our bus stop.
And what exacerbated things was the fact that certain members of the bovine family decided that the roads were places where they could freely deposit the end products of their rather long digestive process. That was not exactly therapeutic for our sensitive noses :

And it wasn't that bad, actually. The weather in the area is pretty good, and the mosquitoes, even though they weren't 'slight', were tolerable. And then, late one night, Tamil Nadu Electricity Board decided to drop the bombshell. They cut off power :
And that, my friends, was when we realised what 'slight' meant.

We dismissed the event as a one-off problem, but this was the first of a few incidents, and we realised that staying in this house was untenable (un-tenant-able, maybe?). In the seasons where the sun decides to turn the intensity knob slightly higher, we'd have absolute hell. Add to that, we have a single-phase power connection. And any electrical engineer worth his salt will tell you that if you try to plug in two ACs on a single phase connection, then we'd have a party :P

So the search began for another house, and we found another one, in a more posh area, and will be moving there soon. In part three of 'Reflections', you shall be made privy as to whether there are rabies-spreading tarantulae preponderating the new residence.

Work, now. Or the lack of it!

It was a not out of place for the rest of the GECTians to wonder whether our gang was being paid to Orkut... Well, I was luckily in testing, which entails hardly anything to do, in training anyway, and we had a blast :D
Loads of blogging, CAT prepping, Wiki-ing, etc... All while pretending to listen!

And now... First few days in the company.
We are assured that the first three weeks would entail no work, and even the weeks that follow would have just nominal work. Hee hee.

I while my time away in the library, where there are a stack of magazines. I have greatly improved my GK and can now clearly see why they call this the knowledge-industry. :D

So, workplace. The place is amazing. The work culture, from what I hear, rocks. The cafetieria is great (the diameter of my waistline, and the presence of spare tyres will testify to that), and the gym is AMAZING (after CAT, I'm planning to join up... Hopefully, that will offset the goodness of the cafeteria!), and the systems are pretty good too. And since there's not much work to do, our team lead really doesn't mind if we take a few days off.

So, as of now, just a week into the company, things look good. Hell, I just want everything to go fine till CAT :D

Hmm... So what have we learnt this month?

1. 'Slight' is a very subjective term : :

2. Share autos are a boon to anyone in Chennai.

3. Chennai is actually a nice place. Spencer's rocks :D

4. Listening to Iron Maiden late at night and headbanging while noone notices is a great way to stay awake while studying for CAT.

5. Just because you live next door to a discount store doesn't mean you save money, because you're so carried away by the prices, you tend to buy more stuff :

6. I bought a tee that reads "Do the right thing. Then do the left one" :D :D :D

7. Working in software companies greatly improves many skills, like: Table tennis, snooker, carroms, Solitaire.

8. Going to the HR department and sheepishly saying that the tee that you got on induction day was of the wrong size is not a smart thing to do :

That's enough for now.
My next 'Reflections' post will come after the deadly feline on November 19 is over!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

REFLECTIONS OF A SOFTWARE ENGINEER, PART ONE: SHEEP FATTENING

It's been a week now, in Chennai as a direct consequence of my company deciding that they need my services.

Anyway, I'm not going to get too philosophical, at the risk of sounding like a raving ranting lunatic who has nothing to do but to regurgitate the psychological and metaphysical effects of a month-long tenure at the training center :D

Here goes. Some observations about this rather crazy city, geographically quite interestingly positioned so that it's occupants get a tsunami once every 1000 years to extenuate the scorching heat we are subjected to everyday.

THE INDUCTION PROGRAMME:

This is where we were introduced into the world of our new company. A bird's eye-view, as our ornithological friends would put it. That consisted of a few boring speeches, a few interesting ones, at *drumroll* Hotel Le Meredien. Really. We made sure we did not hurt the chef's feelings, by gorging down anything that was offered to us.

Anyways, the induction programme in itself saw a few tolerable speeches, some people going on an on about system security (make your password difficult to guess - Duh!), and when the fun-loving HR people took over, it usually meant an impromptu game of Dumb Charades or Pictionary. There were some senior engineers in the group, though. And heaven knows what for, unless they wanted to give us Junior Software Engineers (JSEs) an inferiority complex. They nodded their heads, gave out answers, and worse, made jokes about the Greek that we saw on the presentation. I mean, imagine this...

PRESENTER: Our company has CMC1xxxx certification.
JSE 1: Sea-em-see WHAT?!!!
SE: What about CMCyyyy?
P: That is being implemented, maybe in the next 6 months.
SE: *murmurs something to fellow SE*
BOTH SEs: Hahahahahaha.
JSEs (all of us): *WTF?!!!!!!!*

It was sort of like putting kindergarten kids into a biology class, and teaching them alphabet with the DNA code.

SOFT SKILLS TRAINING

Now THIS was serious fun! And largely thanks to our trainer, Lekshmi. We did all sorts of things - make a 3-D model of a proposed Bangalore amendment, play cards (I sucked at that, and made sure any aspirations to foray into stocks were nipped in the bud), command robots to find a hidden key... And we all took away something or the other from the programme. It was massive fun. We even PJed away to glory, and Lekshmi is someone all of us can look upto, not just because of the way she taught, the way she made comparisions... But she was so damn helpful, very erudite and well-read, but what truck us most was, she did what we wanted, and was HAPPY doing it. Inspiration.

HOTEL STAY

We were put up in a temporary accomodation, till we find a place to live. And boy, we made the most of the magnanimity of the Company guys. Breakfast is complimentary, and we usually starved ourselves the previous night so that we could stuff ourselves :D
Me and my roomie, Matthew, now have a proud collection of soaps and shampoos that the hotel provides us everyday.
Hell, we've even taken to using toilet paper just so that we get our 'paisa vasool' from the Hotel. Even though we're technically not paying any 'paisa', it's the principle of the thing!

NEW STAY

The honeymoon of the hotel accomodation had expired, and even though we had plotted various ways to make Mr. Rosario extend our stay by a few more, er, months, none of the plans had materialized andwe were resigned to our new accomodation. A decent bungalow, cheap, accomodating seven people. It's fun here :D

TRAINING

All I'll say about training is this: Orkut for eight hours, AC room. Period.
(Yes, juniors, I know you're drooling!)

And yes, that's about it. We're still the beneficiaries of feet sharpening... I mean, sheep fartening... I mean, sheep fattening :P

Some observations, now...

1. Auto drivers in Tamil Nadu must be slayed when they reach hell. With a Mallu Satan standing with a spear, laughing. If they decide from your accent that you hail atleast 30 km away from Chennai, they decide to triple their normal rate. They take us for a ride, in more ways than one :|

2. I have also discovered that the things least used in the world are TN auto meters :|

3. No matter how terrible hotel soap is, GECTians will use them frantically, trying to finish one in one day, so they can get a new one tomorrow. All hail the GEC tradition of 'oss-adilkkaling'.

4. The heat in Chennai is not actually all that bad, when you consider that the surface temperature of Mercury is 427 degrees celcius.

5. Putting dumb JSEs and experienced Software Engineers in the same induction programme is a disaster :|

6. You can never have enough of free internet.

7.
It took us quite by surprise when a security guard answered our 'Where do we get a bus...' question in fluent English. Coming from a land where English is not very popular among the mass populace, leave alone members of the constabulary, I can tell you it will make our soujourn in this city a lot easier. I have never had prior experience of living in a metro, and I can only suppose the case is better in other parts of India too.

8.
Toilet paper is the most disgusting thing ever invented! It's a shame that upper-class hotels equate prosperity with the usage of rolls of cellulose in the john. It's a disgusting, icky practice. I don't mind them hanging the bloody thing there, for there may be people who are accustomed to wiping their posteriors with *ech*, but this is India, damnit, where poor people like us are used to cleansing with plain ol' H-2-O. And they don't even provide a bucket!
This is akin to the American domination of the world... Enforcing their laws onto us, without leaving us an option :D

More nonsensical reflections after a month or so!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

SIMPLICITY - THE NEXT BIG THING?

Recently, I read an article in a communications-advertising magazine about why Google was such a household (indeed, room-hold!) name now. The fact that it was so friggin' simple and easy to use.

And it made a hell lot of sense. It's so uncomplicated. The interface is uncluttered by the plethora of ads that preponderate into other search engines.
Like Yahoo! for example. There are so many other links given on the page - that it takes away the 'singular importance', as it were, of the search bar.
(Granted, Yahoo! has feet in a lot more boats than Google, but let's not get into that now)

When you get to the Google page - there it is, the Google logo, and a huge searchbar. And to make it better, the cursor is automatically placed in the search bar.

Simple. Direct. Pragmatic.
And uncluttered.

You want to search for the life and history of Jawaharlal Nehru. Go to Google and type it.
You want guitar tabs for a van Halen song. Google it.
And there are no superfluous extra links - they exist, yes, but not in a manner which leaves the user tearing his hair out distinguishing between the sponsored links and the links which the engine has come up with.

With the burgeoning of design and animation, more companies feel the need to put in as much eye-candy into their sites as they can. The more flash animations, the better, seems to be the credo. The more GIFs and moving ads, the better seems to be to driving force of whoever designs their web pages.

Does it have to be that way? Not necessarily. The eye candy is good for an initial impact, yes. But then, what keeps the visitor coming back is the practical functionality of the site, and here is where Google scores over the others.
Even the most munificent judge of beauty would not give Google a consideration for the prettiest site, but it's so effing useful, so effing simple to use!

And hell, that's what matters! In this new age of instant business and quick solution and all that razzmatazz, it's not the prettiness that counts anymore.

The article states it, companies have realised that they've reached a saturation level when it comes to eye candy (etc). They are now turning towards practicality and usefulness.

Another case in point : www.cricinfo.org.
This site has been around for ages. Why? It's so damn simple to use, and so easy on your browser, and optics too.
In the internet boom of the late 90s-early 00s, a plethora of cricketing sites cropped up - some even had film stars endorsing them - and today, none of them exist. Why?

Because they believed that putting a flash animation of a dancing cricket ball and singing stumps were what kept the visitor amused. Oh yes, that was amusing alright. And so was trying to find out where the hell the links to the scorecards of the current India game were *sarcasm here*.

Cricinfo on the other hand. Neat, white interface. No background or anything.
Front page shows the links of the matches being played currently, clearly giving links to the scorecards. You could never get lost in a place like that.

And another example : the ubiquitous iPod by Apple. It looks sexy. Why? It doesn't have 3 billion buttons on it. Just the screen and the innovative scroll wheel. The USP of the iPod (leaving aside massive storage) over other players has always been it's ease of use.

Simplicity. Directness and to-the-pointness.

That could very well be the next big thing. Because when you run out of flashy (pun intended) and RAM-hogging animations that leave the user wondering what on earth to do, you fall back on the tactic of simplicity.

Hell, it's almost hip to be 'simple' these days.

Vanilla, anyone?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

BACK TO DEMENTIA!

Okay, after a few serious topics, the Chuck we all know and love is back.

I've been reading a lot of MAD magazines these days... And well, one of my favourite articles is the "MAD Odds/Causes of celebrity death".

For example...
for Simon Cowell, the magazine predicted that the odds of him being murdered by an American Idol participant were a very realistic 1:1.
for Bill Gates, the puntering Nostradamii of the publication placed similar odds on his getting lost in a 50,000 sq. foot house and starve to death.

So, this inspired me (yes, that is a cause of worry) to try my hand at something similar. The only thing that I am familiar with is myself.

So, I shall offer my own odds of "Celebrity Cause Of Death". I allude to myself as a celebrity, not because I have a 50,000 sq ft house, or because I have the looks that make women fall in my path (they do, but that's more because I don't bathe very often).

Anyway, cut the chatter... And here we go...

CHUCK'S CAUSE-OF-DEATH BETTING ODDS
===================================

1. Hammered, beaten and mauled by angry mob of fellow students who couldn't stand his PJs any more 1:1

2. Due to shock that free messaging has been stopped by AirTel 2:1

2. Asphyxiation from trying on a tight vest that hasn't been used since 8th grade 4:1

3. Sudden surge of power flowing through electric guitar (a la old Hindi movies) while attempting 'Stairway to Heaven' solo 10:1

4. Pounded into oblivion by GECT's Mechanical Engineering students when, in a state of inspired insanity he expands "TMS" to a derogatory phrase 12:1

5. Slashed in the heart by an E-string that he tried to tune on to guitar, which broke off and whiplashed 20:1

6. The sudden banging head on table when falling off asleep in class, during lectures in college 30:1

7. Succumbing to gravitational forces while walking on terrace and oblivious of surroundings, because he's too busy SMSing... 32:1

8. Drinking too much Coca-Cola :) 35:1

9. Drowns while attempting to swim, mistaking the deeper end of the pool for the kiddies' section 40:1

10. Killed in Enyclopaedia avalanche when attempting to perform weightlifting stunts with 45-volume Britannica 45:1

11. Gets stuck in canteen freezer while attempting to reach out for the coldest soda at the bottom 50:1

12. Run over by bus at public bus stand while painstakingly trying to read the Malayalam on the board of an other bus 56:1

13. Run over by a MIG that uses hostel roof as launching base 472394329:1

So there you have it...
Ah, feels so good to be my own insane self again ;)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

KERALA - THE ENGLISH ABHORRERS !

Yesterday when I was coming back from town in a bus, along with two friends, we were discussing our favourite comedy movies. Since all three of us were most comfortable with English, we were using that as our medium of communication, as we always do.

When we were five minutes away from our destination, we heard someone grumble, "Have these kids landed from America?" in Malayalam. We chose to ignore him, as it was late night and he was probably drunk. He got off at the next stop and asked us if we knew Malayalam. We replied, in that language, that we did. He asked us why don't we talk in that language then. That needled us. We angrily told him that it was not him that we were talking to, and he should mind his own business. He gave us a huff and went off.

Then, after we were contemplating his level of inebriatedness, a gentleman who was sitting nearby said, ignore him... But you guys must realise there are certain 'protocol' to be observed while in a bus. I asked him what the eff he was talking about. He said, you know, all this talking in English and making a nuisance on the bus. If we didn't have to get down at the next stop, then all three of us would have ripped him apart. I blatantly told him to go soak his head when I got off the bus. No doubt the first guy was drunk, but when an ostensibly sober chap makes a comment like that, it is something I can't stand.

So that's the story, of three 'English-speaking' guys, ostracised by the rest of society in this part of the world for knowing and speaking a language which everyone else knows is important if we want to succeed in life. Atleast for now. And this is not the first time something like this has happened. I for one, was born and brought up in Bahrain, and have been with 'English-speaking' friends all my life. Circa September 2002, when I joined Engineering College, I was in a hostel where majority of the inmates were 'English-haters'. They looked down upon the language, and felt that anyone who spoke the language well, particularly NRIs, were all show-offs and what they call 'Yo' guys.

I in particular was subject to quite a bit of teasing and picking because of my (in all modesty) fluency in the language, by seniors who didn't speak it very well. I was not treated very kindly, and the fact that all NRIs are, in their view, spoilt brats, exacerbated the problem.

There was one chap in particular, who never failed to get on my nerves, and always teased us, whenever someone from my gang was around in my room and both of us spoke in Angrezi.

To all these people, I have two words. Due to cyber decorum, I am not publishing those two words here, but you get the idea, I'm sure.

This is why Kerala will NEVER ever develop in terms of opening their minds to other people. People are xenophobic. They can't accept the fact that some people know a vital language better than them. They know that it is absolutely essential for existence today, but they still will abhor it, and ostracize anyone who speaks it better than them. A fact that has irritated me no end : Keralites are among the most closed-minded people I have ever seen. And they wonder why people are scared to set up enterprises or BPOs in Kerala? Apart from the red tapism, this abhorring of English, looking down upon anyone who can speak it well - is the reason.

I once read an old story about politicians yelling 'Angrezi hatao' to earn political mileage, and quietly packing their kids off to private English-medium schools, as they know the language is absolutely vital to survive in this rat race.

Now, my personal message to everyone who looks down upon the Queen's language. I know I can freely express myself here, because the chances of one of you numbskulls coming onto the internet for anything else other than porn is as likely as Glenn McGrath breaking Brian Lara's record of 501*. The chances that any of you sh*theads know what Wikipedia or a blog is, are as remote as finding a rain forest in the Arctic circle. All of you idiots can insult us, tease us and call us names. But we will have the last laugh because we have the most important ammo in our arsenal to survive in today's world : communication skills. And yes, a large part of it is English, and how well you can speak it.

We (by we, i mean the English-speaking populace) are the first to grab jobs, to hold offices, and not shy away from work that involves communication. I particularly love the fact that I grabbed a job in my sixth semester, while those pathetic goons who called me names are still out there searching for something to click. And some of them probably have landed pathetic-paying jobs involving cleaning of vehicles, two years after their more vernacularly gifted classmates landed jobs from college itself.
I simply love that. It may be slightly sadistic of me, but I feel that they have got their just desserts.
Kerala's attitude is not very likely to change in the foreseeable future. People who abhor English, yes, the same people who make a beehive to English-speaking courses when they realise it is too late, still preponderate. This mindset is unlikely to change.

Till then, NRIs, NRKs and English-medium school passouts will remain a minority in Kerala, will continue to be ostracized and teased, and will continue to be successful. Somehow the last part of that statement makes up for the rest.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

HOW CHUCK SAVED THE UNIVERSE

It is a lesser known fact that I have, indeed, saved the universe. While lesser mortals have been occupying themselves with engineering text books and crappy Hindi movies, I have embarked on a more noble mission.

I was coming back from the neighbourhood supermarket, on my cycle. Attempting to balance a week's worth of grocery over two handlebars, one of which houses a dysfunctional braking setup, while maneuvering through an assorted collection of potholes is not an easy task. Lance Armstrong should try this. Anyway, I was riding around an old valley, when I saw a shiny bright light, emanating from the sky. At first, I assumed it just to be another new constellation, but it grew bigger and drew closer. It is at this crucial juncture that our protagonist (moi!) stops to think..."Constellations, no matter how recently formed, do not generally expand in size or feel the urge to pay planet earth a visit... atleast in the infancy mode". So i did the only logical thing one could do under such circumstances. I panicked. I began to run, abandoning my cycle. In retrospect, that was a stupid move. Then, a sort of light, of the type that dropped Mr. Bean onto the earth, shone and i was sucked into a spaceship.

So here i was. I felt like Arthur Dent. Inside a goddamn spaceship of all things. And that too at a night when "whose line is it anyway?" was showing. And that bar of Snickers was melting away, in that alley. I was pretty annoyed.A door opened. A man came in. I use the term 'man' loosely. It was more of an alien. Hmmm... Three eyes, green skin, four arms, and his first words were "oughujiakougloulou lougloug". Yes. Surely Alien, or someone who went for a fancy dress party and got stuck in his own costume.

"Greetings, my good man!", I counter to the aforementioned babble. "Take me to your leader".
"That's our line, sh*thead!" replies the alien. His skin clearly reminded me of the curry that was served at my previous hostel, but I'll skip that.
"Hmm... So you've managed to procure one of those nifty alien-gibberish-to-English gizmos that all aliens who invade earth when no other pastime prevail, have.", i observed.
"Quiet, moron!", said the alien, visibly taking umbrage. I couldn't matter less. I wanted my Snickers.
"Listen, dude, couldn't you possibly take someone else for hostage?", i requested.
"Quiet, imbecile! You shall come with me, and meet our leader, the overlord of all destruction, Beorge Tlair the fourth."The name was too close for comfort.

I realised that all my pleading about finding an able substitute was in vain, and i had to acquiesce to this Extraterrestrial's diktats. I was led into a room, where, ostensibly, sat Beorge Tlair. Indeed, there was a big, huge, monstrouos chap, the sort that you find in Engineering College Mens' Hostels.
"Furkulotropoouhyguif", observed the intellectual that is Tlair."Listen, mate... i know you have a few universes to destroy, but could you please leave me alone?""QUIET, IDIOT!", the overlord demanded, switching on his gizmo.

"We come from the planet Ameringland to destroy your puny world."I stood there for a minute, contemplating this overlord. Big and strong, yes, but definitely stupid looking.
He looked at me and guffawed, "Look at this". At this point he took out a gun the size of an obese cannon from his pocket. "This is a Rumsfeld 989. The deadliest weapon in the galaxy. One pull of this trigger and i can eliminate your city. Imagine what an army of 70,000 can do to your planet. This is what we have. Aur aapke paas kya hai?"

I stood there, looking at this beast. How juvenile can people get? Or i guess we could give Tlair a bit of leeway as he is not technically "human".
"Our greatest weapon", I said, "is the Poor Joke. The PJ.""Huh? I have not heard of this weapon in all my 56 xilitrons as chief destructor of Ameringland".

"That's because, dude, you Ameringlands have glands for brains. Allow me to demonstrate my weapon.""Hah. We have analysed Earth, and see that your greatest weapon, the Nuclear bomb is mediocre compared to our Rummy."
"Allow me to demonstrate", i reiterated.
"Go on."
"What do you call two waists that are separated by a small distance?"
"Huh...?!!!!"
"A spaces-hip."

The alien reeled. I knew it was working.

"Where do aliens have a party? At the GALA-xy."
"Nooo!!!! Stop!"

I sensed my chance to finish him off."Do you realise that if you steal the Earth, you will have to steal Phase and Neutral as well, otherwise your electricity won't flow?"

That did it. They opened the door of the spacecraft and kicked me in the small of the pants, and i was thrown out. I traversed a projectilesque path, and landed, arse first, on the ground. The aforementioned protrusion, being of well-padding, rendered me bereft of pain. The door of the craft shut itself, but only before the Overlord's last words were heard : "Make sure we go back and tell General Bony Gush to stay away from this accursed planet. Grtoutyhgyofw!"
And with that last burble, the ship shot off. I couldn't care less. I opened my Snickers, had a bite and rode off.

Thusly, ChUcK saved the universe. A lesser-known fact.

A BAD, BAD CASE OF WRITER'S BLOCK :|

Now what do I write about today? I have as much political insight as a dead chihuahua, and my views on life are as boring as college lecture hours. But hey, I registered here, so might as well get some crap in...
I'll just pick up some random topic and go along..

MUSINGS OVER A DEAD TARANTULA (now THAT's random...!)
=============================
I was walking down the river,
And i saw something that gave me a quiver.
It was a tarantula, all squished and dead,
It looked like hostel food it had been fed.

The poor scary thing, lying there flat,
On this vision, i too, on a rock, sat.
I thought, it could have been worse.
Atleast the ending was very terse.

It looked like it had a car run over it,
I imagined the scene and said, oh sh*t.
I drank my bottle of apple cider,
and i was glad i wasn't a spider.

Okay, I know that sucked. It probably sucked more than a Black&Decker Vacuum cleaner. But the point is, seeing a dead tarantula can leave a deadly implant on your mind, scarring you for life. Oh, you think not?
Well, my friend, try the following exercise...

1. Go and get yourself a tarantula. This can be easily arranged for by anyone who frequents the continent of Africa every fortnight. Otherwise try eBay.
2. Squish it. This can be done by placing it in the path of incoming automobiles.
3. Observe it.
4. Think of the above poem.

You see your doubts and yourself melting away, as MKG put it?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

MY ALL-TIME DREAM CRICKET TEST TEAM ... !

1. SUNIL MANOHAR GAVASKAR : The man with over 10k, who could take the shine off any new ball? Gavaskar... The quintessential opener. Would flourish in today's game as well... But to put things in perspective, i hate his commentary.

2. MATTHEW LAWRENCE HAYDEN : With Gavaskar at the other end, you need someone to score runs as well. Matthew Hayden is the perfect manifestation of the modern-day opener : Brash, quick and successful. Drool... Sunny and Matty as an opening pair...!!!!!

3. DONALD GEORGE BRADMAN : 99.94, Period.

4. RAHUL SHARATH DRAVID : Yes, i think he is a better batsman than Sachin Tendulkar. Especially under crises. What, you want proof? Remember the 148 at Headingley? The 270 at Rawalpindi? The 180 at Kolkata? The 233 at Adelaide? He has played more match-winning innings than any other Indian. Tendulkar is a legend, yes... But does he have a portfolio of innings like THAT?!

5. ISSAC VIVIAN ALEXANDER RICHARDS : This is the attack in the middle order. Viv could take the dent out of any attack... And imagine Dravid and Gavaskar grounding the opposition bowlers to dust... Then, leaving Viv to smash the guts out of the hapless bowlers...

6. GARFIELD SOBERS : THE GREATEST CRICKETER THAT EVER EXISTED. Garry was a revelation... And could do anything on the cricket pitch. One feels that had he been asked to carry drinks, he would have made an art of that as well...

7. ADAM CRAIG GILCHRIST : Mind, i was in two minds whether to put Andrew Flower in this spot. But then I realised that none of the top 6 could be made to bat any lower down the order... But if I was asked to select the best batsman-keeper of all time, i would definitely opt for Flower. But in the context of this exercise, my vote goes for Gilly... a terrific striker of the ball... and in the unlikely situation that a team of this stature can find itself in the ditch at 50/6 or something, Gilly is the man who can get them out of it... And add to that, he is such an acrobatic keeper... From the day he got boo-ed when Ian Healy was kicked out of the team to make way for him... He's come a long way...

8. WASIM AKRAM : The greatest left-arm fast bowler ever. His guile and variation will complement the sheer pace of Marshall. Plus, when you have number 8's who can score 257 not outs...

9. SHANE KIETH WARNE : The man who brought the art of leg-spinning out of the deep dark canyons that it was dug into, and out into the open... And taking 600+ wickets in the process. If this man does not make it into the all-time XI, I don't know who will. Consider, he had to take wickets when his bowling mates were McGrath and Gillespie. I rest my case.

10. MUTTHIAH MURALITHARAN : What, you say? TWO SPINNERS? And why not? We should consider ourselves fortunate to have the two best spinners ever playing in the same era... But what if they played in the same team? The man who can ostensibly make the ball "spin on glass"... His variations ... Some sort of Akramian incarnation in a spinner's body... A true genius... And to just picture him bowling alongside Warnie... Wow !!!

11. MALCOLM MARSHALL : Undoubtedly... My favourite out of the West Indian pace battery... His career should have been much longer...

12th Man. JONATHAN NEIL RHODES : When you want a sub fielder, why not go for the very best? The only man to win a Man-Of-The-Match award for his fielding, Jonty was the way to go!

So there we are... 5 batsmen, one bowling allrounder, one wicketkeeper-batsman. Two pacers, two spinners. You have one more quality seamer in Sobers. Just ferpect, isn't it..!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

THE MBC EXPERIENCE : PART TWO

So... We get up early morning, reluctantly, in order to practice... Perfunctory attempts at ablutions follow... The same stinky tees we wore the day before embraced our torsos.. And off we practice. Keep in mind that till now, we hadn't practiced with a full drum kit... We were doing only two songs :
  • Before the dawn : Judas Priest
  • Like A Stone : Audioslave
And the former didn't require drums. The latter, however, did.. And Babyface resorted to drumming on the back of our acoustic guitar for practice!
So off we go with our axes for the show... The two teams before us blew us away... And then we got on... Totally messed up the first song, where our acoustic was as audible as Shivnarine Chanderpaul during an interview. Second song went off like a dream, though! Came out really well. But we knew that we blew it. Oh well. Decided to watch the other teams as well... They were a mix of good and fair. After officially confirming that we didn't make the judges' top 3, we went off... Along with another team, back to Thrissur. Of course, we had to get down at Kochi to return the effects unit. And this is when the fun starts.
For those of you who don't know, there are two stops at Kochi : south and north. Coming from Trivandrum, South comes first. The train was not supposed to stop at south, where Draco's house was. So when the train made one of those unplanned stops at some point before South, Draco wanted to get off. Here goes the conversation :
DRACO : I'm getting off here, guys...
US : See ya, mate...
*Draco gets off*
BABYFACE : So, what's our plan?
CHUCK : Get off at North, take an auto to Vaduthala, and return the unit...
BABYFACE : And the money...?
CHUCK : Oh, some 20 bucks by Auto...
*It was at this pivotal point that realisation dawns on us. There are certain times in your life that realisation dawns. Like when your fave team does not win the FA Premier League. Or when you realise you have no more underwear left. This was one of those moments. No, we had our underwear, but what we didn't have was money. Draco was our sole World Bank this trip, and he said he'd give us the money before getting off. Looks like all of us forgot.*
SNOOPY : (frantically calls up Draco) Get off, everyone!
*So we hurriedly jump off the train, in the middle of nowhere, and walk to the point where Draco was standing. We walk with him in unseen-by-civilization places, and reach an Auto. The unit was returned, and we get a late night train back to Thrissur.*
And i lost a temporary filling while eating a Cheetos. Do not ask me how that happened.
Back at the hostel... Took a bath that felt like heaven, considering we were bereft of Sodium salts of carbonyl... Oops... Soap for two days. Getting rid of that tee itself gave an effect that a wave of Rexona engulfed the world.
So... We didn't win anything, we lost all the money we had, but we had loads of fun. You get the same experience while visiting Vegas, for a pittance of the cost. Good fun, ya! Maybe our next sojourn into the streets will bring a Disneyland-like experience!

THE MBC EXPERIENCE : PART ONE

Right. Now what better way to start of my first blog, than to recount a truly marvelous experience that me and my 'band' (I use the term loosely) had when we went to a Western Orchestra competition at Trivandrum... Here goes...


So it was some day that our lead singer, Snoopy, announces that Mar Baselios College Of Engineering (MBC) was holding a Western Orchestra competition. Great, I say. When? Snoopy : Next week. Me : Hoo-ha! How on earth are we going to get anything done by then?! But then, Indians have always been hardcore optimists who believe that relations with George Bush are going to help us, and peeing on the sidewalks is good nutrition for the plants that grow there. So hence we embarked on our journey of practice. Our band consisted of :
  • Snoopy (our diminutive lead singer)
  • Babyface (our guitarist-drummer)
  • Draco (our guitarist)
  • Chuck (yours truly, the most under-rated bassist in the world)
Oh, did I mention that we don't have a drum kit? The odds were all against us... We had two days for the show, and here we were, our first day of practice!

We managed to get a drum kit from a friend of Babyface's. Then after getting the damn kit all the way to the top floor of our college building, we start practicing. Only then does a gentleman knock, knock, knockin' on our door inform us that exams are in progress, and we'd have to clam up. Sheesh. I listen to Jovi and Metallica while studying...!!! For the good of our fellow engineer-wannabes, we decide to ditch it for a while and go unplugged.

Once the clock hit 04:30, though... The sound of a snare and a bass drum reverberated all over! Along with distortion guitar and of course, bass! Then the watchman told us he was closing up for the day. At 5 PM?!! Good heavens, these people have something against music or what?!!!
So then the fun started, transporting the drum kit back to the hostel... A few bike journeys, and scaling the bass drum over the college wall... I know now what those Egyptians felt like while building those pyramids.

Anyway... Next day, me and Babyface went to Kochi to rent an effects processor... Got a bit of practice done after that... Found out that one drumstick was missing... Then had to hurriedly get another one...! It was during this time that i scared the sh*t out of poor Babyface by displaying my scooter-riding prowess. Anyone who has mastered the dragon ride at Veegaland or the rollercoaster at EsselWorld, and are looking for scarier stuff, I would recommend taking a bike ride with me. It's a life-changing experience, I guarantee.

Then next morning, we wake up at the ungodly hour of 6, pack and leave. Just managed to catch the train to Trivandrum. Random practice with acoustic guitars in the train, while fellow passengers looked at us askance, with the air of someone who just discovered a disgusting caterpillar in their afternoon salad, took place and the train assisted us in our practice by being four hours late.

We ended up reaching the college (four people+3 guitars+amp+few bags in one auto - what's the record for density, again?) of our performance (I use the term loosely, again), MBC pretty late. We were told that a pro band, RAGE, would be performing. After practicing in our room for a few hours, we went to watch Rage, and what a performance it was...! Three Maiden tracks, including HBTN, and three by Metallica, including MoP. Truly amazing, the lead guitarist had fingers that moved like lightning.

After the awe-inspiring performance, we found out that the drum set that the college had rented out was pathetic. The cymbals were strategically placed so that if you hit it, it would fly off and render your face dismantled. The snare reminded me of some loosely-structured diaphragm i saw in the Fluid Mechanics lab back at college.
Anyway, it seemed that the event had to be postponed to the next morning, as they had to go get new drums. Damn! And we so looked forward to doing it in the OAT.

So then, we had to spend the night there. Stinkin' idiots that we were, we were bereft of spare clothing, save undergarments. So there we slept, shirts off, under a slow fan. Tired, dead, and definitely lookin' forward to a great next day. The remaining part in the next post.