From smack-bang in the middle of the bell curve

Archive for June, 2006|Monthly archive page

Big boys do cry

In sports on June 25, 2006 at 5:49 am

The first game was as if a welter-weight contender had blundered into the ring against a heavy-weight. If you supported the scandinavians, it was painful to watch and you were in fact thankful when the end came. The other one though, was markedly different. Mexico and Argentina went at each other hard, for all of regulation time. Mexico scored the first goal to show why they’re the #4 ranked team in the world. The day however belonged to the bigger South American name in the game as they won in extra time. As the cameras panned over the exultant Argentinian bench and they piled on each other, you saw the odd figure in green on the pitch, each spaced from the other similar figures, trudging towards their bench.

My enduring image was a closeup of one of the faces as he stood still, as though petrified, looking into the distance. Face lined with fatigue, a far-off stony expression nevertheless, the only sign that he might be made of living tissue apparent in the moist eyes. He finally blinks as an Argentinian player approaches him for the traditional exchange of jerseys. They hug, the victor and the vanquished. Wholehearted, because, the former knows that his opponent was worthy and with some quirks of luck, the roles could easily have been reversed. The latter, though his will, fragmented like eggshells that have been stepped on, aware that his opponent was just that l’il bit better on the day. He doesn’t grudge him his win, but that doesn’t ease the lump in his throat, or that heavy feeling in his chest. It will be a few days before he can smile, he will play other times, and win. But for now, he has to deal with that unduplicable feeling, that comes with wanting something with every fibre of your being…and being denied. Not for him, the excuses about unfair refereeing or insufficient training or incompetent teammates. He and his team will walk off the pitch with head held high, cliches about the importance of winning (those oft-quoted by ‘the onlookers’, those who wouldn’t dare step on the playing field themselves but take viacarious pleasure in tearing down those that come off second best on it) don’t apply here. Its funny that you think of them as absurd on two occasions – when you win and when you lose . It then…must really be about how you play the game


My Game

In life, sports on June 21, 2006 at 7:16 pm

Its fitting that I talk about one of my passions at a time when the world’s living “Life in an 8″ diameter”, the Football World Cup. Anyone who knows me also knows that if there is one thing on this planet that I’m not lazy about, its the game of the flannelled fools.

Being exposed to the cricket marketing blitz from the very early years and starting to watch the game with interest at the same time that a certain Mr. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar started appearing on the India Team-Sheet certainly acts as a catalyst. Watching, and listening to the game’s most respected commentators also helped. The likes of Richie Benaud, Michael Holding et al gave out many lessons that I seem to remember a lot better than stuff from the classroom. I remember how I started a daily regimen of push-ups on hearing how upper body strength was a requisite to bowling quick or how I started paying minute attention to my delivery stride trying to ensure that my head stayed upright and that I followed through with force, all this while playing on concrete surfaces with rubber balls! Wasn’t until college that I actually got to feel the brand new leather ball in my hands and that selection routine facing up to the college team’s ‘finest’ is an unforgettable memory. Having never in my life faced the leather ball, the possibility of broken cheekbones flashed through my mind. But I couldn’t care less, only kept repeating to myself “keep your eyes on the damn ball” can’t help but laugh at the thought now. Have had the opportunity to play a fair bit of cricket since then, be it university, leagues in the US or our good ol’ team at ISB. Doesn’t seem to matter where it is, but the cricket field is where I experience true bliss…sigh 🙂 yeah…its like that…

Got to reminiscing about a few of the best moments I’ve experienced on the field:

  1. 3rd year engg. Inter-College Tourney. Finals against the defending champions, the final year Elec Class. Their lineup was pretty much that of the college team. Big partnership as they chase down our respectable score. Then, short ball, pulled hard, arching over the squareleg fence where N runs around full tilt, leaps with one arm extended to grab one of the best catches I’ve seen! The team finds its voice…and a collapse ensues. High-energy, charged cricket..loved it! We win!
  2. Day 1 of the league season at the Whitewater ground in Univ. of Wisconsin – Madison. Our newly formed team’s first game. First over, opposition captain faces. Ball 5, goes forward in defence, ball nips, takes shoulder of the bat, My hands reach in the nick of time to pick it out of the air at gully. First wicket down! The Sabers had arrived!
  3. The Winter League – Milwaukee Sports Club. Defending a low score in the final. Fielding at wide long-on when the batsman smashes one straight down the ground. Spotted the ball in the air, went hard towards the ball and dived as the ball dipped. Caught it in the finger-tips of my extended right hand inches from the ground. Pumped up a flagging team. Lost when a six was hit off the last ball but what a game!
  4. Regal League game; wookiees v/s jedi. Was asked to open the bowling for the first time. white ball, big swing, erratic first couple of overs. Captain calls for other bowler to warm up, cudnt blame him. I walk over to him and conversation ensues “me: One more over cap: dude, they’re already upto 30/0 me: one more over cap: u know we’re defending a small total me: onnne more over cap: nods…slowly…” next over, couple of decent away swingers. ball 3, reversed the ball in my hand…swings in, batsman hit in front…big appeal…gone! cap and me point at each other…thats what am talkin’ abt!
  5. Glendale academy, Hyd ISB v Intergraph. Chasing a big total, we needed a bright start. Quiet 1st over, 2nd over, Ball 1 – short outside off, slashed through point 4! Ball 2 – slightly fuller but width, square drive 4! I know the bowler is going to over correct and pitch it fuller and on the stumps. Sure enough, expecting it there, launched into it. Ball disappears out of the ground straight back over the bowler’s head – 6! Damn, that felt good! only if we’d won that game…

Indiana Jones and the Island of Intellectual Asphyxiation

In life on June 20, 2006 at 6:31 pm

So here’s the deal. You’re on this strange island (you probably got there thinking there’d be island booty and lots of it) and have been informed that you’re to be inducted into the slave-labor force. Now you’re thinking, thats not necessarily a bad thing because there are different slave-duties, ranging from cleaning the green stuff that grows under the fridge to being used to propogate the species. so, here you are, having resigned yourself to being a slave, and looking forward to being assigned that task of entertaining the nubile young things on the island who need help with getting suntan lotion applied and other initiations into womanhood. sure, like that happens…and you’re unceremoniously told that you’ll be providing the use of your family jewels for the purpose of generating electricity while helping overweight middle-aged men put their jockstraps on. So, you do the only sane thing, you run! But then careful analysis tells you that you can’t go too many places on an island. (hey! dont blame my genes for the sub-100 IQ). Tearing down dark alleys, dodging poison-tipped arrows, vaulting over electrified fences (ok, sue me for the anachronism), all in the hope of finding that secret passageway that leads back to civilzation. But as blood-sugar levels reach new lows, the shadows of the slave-drivers falling on your ankles…its geting desperate, just as you’re steeling yourself to the feel naked copper wires coming in contact with parts which were meant to be treated with much more affection, your hands find a lever, and pull. A whirl of revolving stone slabs and yes! you’re out of reach of those maniacal slave-drivers…you’re free!

But wait, now all you see is dense foliage and a cacophony of sounds…you now don’t know what’s out there…and whats more…you’re alone.You grin…

road rage

In life on June 18, 2006 at 2:11 pm

Its like being stuck behind a semi-trailer thats moving at 45mph on a one-lane highway. The speed-limit says 60 but the trucker apparently charges by the hour and not by distance. You crane your neck to see around the roadhog to see whats ahead so you have an idea of whats coming but no dice. frustrating…very bloody frustrating…not long before i go off-road to get around the SOB!

Perfumed Groins

In sports on June 17, 2006 at 6:56 am

The most popular sport in the world..not doubt about it…and why wouldn’t it be…eleven members on each team, a pressurized sphere with the rather uncomplicated objective of putting it in the net at the other end of the field. Football fever makes our country’s obsession with cricket look like trying to piss upwind. Its interesting that we suck at a sport that countries the size of the suburbs of Bbay seem to’ve mastered. Where else would you hear names like ‘Cote d’Ivoire’ – translated suitably from french to ‘Ivory Coast’.

While one can’t but help getting caught up in the excitement and of course the high quality of football being played, there is another aspect that many might’ve noticed. The perfumed groin syndrome. Its what seems to affect most strikers when an opposition defender passes within a tripping distance of them. Contact or no-contact, these talented players then take the most spectacular dives, spinning around in the air and writhing on the ground with their heads ucked into their nether regions, while clutching their ankle/calf/foot while their faces contort in agony. Referees seeing the atrocity committed on the fearless attacker award a free-kick and sometimes also a yellow card to the defender. The noble warrior at this point seems to miraculously recover and gets back on his feet and goes tearing off to receive a pass.
The physical safety of the games most prolific strikers used to be a concern in the early 80s when coaches used to assign their defenders the rather uncomplicated task of felling the opposition’s finest if they got possession so as to discourage them and if possible even remove them from the field of play. FIFA then gave referees instructions to protect these chosen few and to stamp out all malevolent tackles. However, that then made defences the hapless target as striker after striker tore into the penalty area and crashed to the ground when faced with an impossible situation to earn his team a penalty. The Argentinian striker Ariel Ortega took this act to new heights in the 2002 cup. While you still see the odd dive, it was refreshing to see the referee book the Dutch striker for diving in the penalty box. What’s more, such cards also attract a 5000DM fine! Now, there’s a game where all involved seem to want to improve and not just shamelessly milk for advertising revenues…wonder what game i’m referring to….

Of arrogance…

In ISB, life, opinion, work on June 11, 2006 at 7:00 pm

You guys are arrogant“; words from one of the Delivery Managers who was giving us this presentation on a certain business unit at my new job. The ten-strong batch of inductees (6 ISB, 3 IIMC, 1 IIML) into the Business Analyst track looked at each other, with some incredulity. He went on to add how management grads from the premier institutes tend to have little patience when working with people of ‘conventional’ and ‘ordinary’ caliber (both his words not mine!) The problem he said wasn’t limited to management grads and was present in engineering graduates from the illustrious IITs. Quoting himself as an example of the latter, he explained how ‘we’ (apparently we were the latest additions to the fraternity), join any organization with expectations of revolutionizing the way it conducts its business, making sweeping changes to its strategy working in teams with other like-minded individuals. The reality, however, hits when your job description is anything like the expectation and your responsibilities are almost identical to those being handled by that deadbeat who graduated from <gasp> a tier-II college! Indignation turns to disillusionment as your performance on the job seems to be no better than his and you reason that the mechanical nature of the job shackles you from unleashing your true potential (” even a monkey could do this job!“). The true challenge, he said, was to work with people, and get work done, not judging them by the names on their degree certificates (in our case diplomas).

Well-intentioned advice all of it, in fact would serve us well to keep in mind some of that. A year and a half ago, when my peer group was mainly engineering graduates from various colleges affiliated to Mumbai University (not too favorably compared to the Carnegie Mellons of the world), I would’ve been inclined to agree. Just look at those schmucks in suits with fancy titles who seem to do little else but attend meetings all day! The proverbial shoe’s on the other foot and I find myself protesting that very idea, so energetically propounded by the DM. I only speak for those of us who, after not insubstantial experience in various lines of work, set out to obtain that management degree. By no means is it a slur on fresh graduates, but I think as individuals, the former group puts more on the line. Putting careers on hold, be it to attain incremental growth or to switch tracks altogether, is dicey business. Its only during the course that does one realize that its much more than an additional qualification to add to your CV, its a completely different way of looking at the business of running a business. So, I think its completely fair that we then come out of B-school demanding more from our jobs, in some part in how big the figure on our paycheck is, but more importantly in the exact nature of work. Exposure to the different facets that go into running a successful business means that you have a much better idea of what you’d be good at doing and anything different is just a waste of everyone’s time. I think its this finickiness(sometimes confusion?) about what you want to do that comes off as arrogance.

So, no, we’re not arrogant, but we sure are proud of our alma mater and there’s nothing wrong with that…

One Bye One

In life, work on June 3, 2006 at 5:25 am

The fact that my current employers believe in blocking every productive website that there is, accounts for the delay in writing the post and actually posting it…

Pune…Week 1…
Chill in the air, more than a slight breeze and random specks of a light drizzle hitting my face as I turned in towards the hotel entrance after a longish walk. Its 10.34pm and the end of week one in my new job location; Hinjewadi Pune. My first day off in Pune, even though only had half the day after the morning and afternoon were spent hunting for what seems to be an endangered species in this city, the ‘To Let’ apartment.

The Rajiv Gandhi IT Park is a distance from the city with sprawling campuses with every Indian IT major and not-so-majors. The Infy campus is easily the biggest (surprise surprise!) and while Phase I of their campus has a respectable capacity of 4000, Phase II is a gargantuan 15000. The arhitecture is something to behold, with the latest building under construction resembling a crash-landed UFO. The CTS campus, while not as dispersed, has a couple of large ‘high-tech-looking’ structures.

The week has been demanding and the opposite in different ways. Days filled with presentations from different departments, most of them, vertical, some horizontal. The organization, as has been pointed out to us, is very distinctly partitioned into discrete components that function with almost complete autonomy. After a Delivery Manager in the Manufacturing and Logistics vertical expressed surprise that I would be working for the Insurance vertical and how he wasnt aware if that vertical existed in Pune, I decided to form a new entity, the Diagonal! Our batch of 10 inductees promptly agreed that I should head it.The function of this diagonal is as yet undecided, but for those who specialized in geometry would have figured out that this entity would be longer than and therefore have more clout than the plethora of verticals and horizontals

Scouting around the city, looking at one apartment after another have removed all doubt in my mind that the business of brokering transactions between home-owners and hapless software professionals is far more profitable a vocation than the one I am in. Another couple of days of training and then Im guessing therell be more to my day than sitting back in dimly lit presentation rooms pretending to listen while typing out smses.

Mumbai…Week 2…
Training ended tuesday…elongated affair with 3 different hotel rooms…owing to miscommunicated reservations. Went in on wednesday, all spruced up to meet new boss. Located his cabin on the campus and went in with a resounding “Good Morning Mr….”. His smile faded as I told him that I was there to join his vertical as a BDM. I didn’t expect him to fall over himself wanting to hug me, but this?! Turns out he didn’t seem to have appropriate work for me at this stage and therefore had informed HR that my services wouldn’t be needed. So, I left wondering if my stint with this company was at an end…when I was informed by the HR contact assigned to make us feel at home that it’d be sorted out in a jiffy. Next morning, I get a phone call saying that my prospective boss was going to chennai for a meeting to decide what I could possibly contriubute to the organization…that kinda thing usually happens after I’ve spent a few months at a workplace…chuckle! So, am expecting a warmer welcome (and sniff…work!) come Monday morning…now for a hearty homely breakfast…bwaa haa haa….

Oh yeah…signed the lease to our apartment in Aundh…right now consists of 2 buckets, 2 mugs, a host of cabinets and little else…phase 2 of operation makaan to begin next week…

p.s: title of the post…saw it on a rickshaw this morning on my way here…for those who still look for logic on this page…

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