The Ringside View

My attempts at writing have always been stacked up in old diaries and scraps of yellowing paper.Time,neglect and phylum insecta however, always ensured that the gibberish i scrawled, never would see the prying gaze of an alien eye.Years later, i still scribble once in a while - this time in word documents stored in some obscure folder somewhere in the innards of my C drive.I am unearthing some of them and opening them up for the interested.To get what i call - The Ringside view.

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Location: Bangalore, Karnataka, India

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Where the hell is goold old Bourbon

The curly haired, cute looking boy from the neighbouring house is a regular visitor. And his visits unlike most kids his age are not noisy or tantrum filled. They are in fact, quiet and business like. He gets off his cycle, goes on his toes to open the gate and then parks his cycle like all gentlemen do, before hitting the doorbell. Nice size zero footwear are neatly parked at the threshold before he quietly makes his entry into the house. The routine is clinical. He first mounts the sofa and sits there for a while. A minute, maybe two. And then quickly dismounts and heads off to the kitchen. ‘Swalpa kara kodi (something spicy please)’, he then matter of factly asks mother. And whether the savory of his liking is available or not, he promptly gets to business. His daily dose of biscuits - chocolate cream biscuits. Its Bourbon and Bourbon alone that will pass. It’s this little man’s caviar. You give him anything else and he nods dismissively with a ‘why don’t you understand’ look and says ‘Cream brown irbekku (the cream has to be brown)’. And seeing him tuck away one into his pocket and hold onto one for the road, as he cycles away into the sunset is what life is one of life’s little joys.

Father has been ill the last couple of days and the little man’s Bourbon routine has been severely affected. A supply side shock of this magnitude has taken even this ‘no thrills and frills’ gentleman by surprise. And so, for the third consecutive day, when he was turned away from his quota, he just nodded disgustingly and headed home almost in protest. And did not bother coming today. After all, how much ‘No’ can a man of 5 hear?

In a quick move to appease the little guest, home affairs quickly dispatched me on a biscuit shopping errand today. Wonder what happened to good old Bourbon. Three different shops and no stock anywhere. So I bought chocolate cream biscuits of two varieties – Pure Magic and Tiger Chocolate. Will the little man like it? Only tomorrow will tell.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

What do you do?

What do you do when you have two lousy days back to back* like it were some one plus one offer of Hamam soap? Yes please, do throw me the kitchen sink. I don’t mind as long as you throw me the bouquets and true love and all that jazz later.

What do you do when confidence level is generally at the Marina Trench levels and shows no signs of floating up? Buoyancy did Archimedes say.

What do you do when everything you pick up to read turns out as academic and boring as Corporate Strategy 101? Bill Bryson, why did you stop ‘The Short History of Nearly Everything’ at page 580 something?

What do you do when you become an exhibit in a random experiment to prove boredom does not kill? Because if it did, I’d be dead by now.

What do you do when you are always the one who turns up thirty minutes too early every time you go out to meet a friend of yours? ‘Too much work da macha’. Ok, my watch is not working and I don’t have a job, so what?

What do you do when your daily evening getaway is only as exciting as the insipid coffee at Java City? Sigh.

And then what do you do when a friend calls and asks you if you want to drive 250 km to check out the ruins of a 19th century French Rosary church? Obviously, ‘Come on I say’.

* Well it was not two whole days to be honest. The wee end of day two was the party at DS place and it was a swell affair. Let truth be told.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

And let there be light

Going to B school is like packing your bags and going to Tahiti. One morning you decide to quit your job, borrow truck loads of money and set off like the great sailors of yore. And like them great sailors, you don’t have a freakin clue what you are going in search of. But you can feel an excitement like you have never felt in your boring jobs for gods knows how long and that is reason enough, you convince yourself.

There is one difference never the less between the men of the Spanish Armada and us, B school going types. The former very often do not return. Sea, sickness or over ambitious fellow seamen will generally ensure the journey is exciting but short. But in the rare cases in which they do return, it’s with the exuberance of having found new continents or the uninhibited joy of having a good many pots of gold by the deck side. The latter on the contrary, return for sure. With or without a world view; with or without answers; and in such times, with or without a job even.

Anyways, talked to an old classmate of mine over chat the other day. Some exotic US business school he was doing the soul searching in. Congratulations, he wished me; on graduating in one piece. I reciprocated. He asked me about the Bangalore weather and I asked him about the American economy. Both incidentally had been dull and cloudy.

Now, when two freshly minted B school grads meet, it’s like the meeting of two pistol totting cowboys with finger on the trigger. It’s about who lets it fly first. I was conscious but still erred. Taking the Dravidesque slow and steady ‘How are doing – is it fun out there – are the women pretty’ approach was bloody well long winded. He went for the jugular almost immediately. ‘So?’, he asked me. ‘How was the B school experience and all that?’. I paused and then paused more. He had let fly before I did. ‘Well, it was touted as a rollercoaster ride and it bloody well was. I liked it. It was well worth the effort’, I replied.

‘Mmm’, he responded; clearly unsatisfied with the lack of depth in the answer.

‘But that said and done, the bottom line is – the MBA is not the answer to all woes in life. I so well hoped it would be. Like at the end of it all, there would be bright light and reason and the meaning of life like in a 20th Century Fox production. But alas, that’s not how it works’

‘Well said. I completely agree’, comes the reply, with a smiley and all.

We MBA types like reassurance. Now, who doesn’t? But I am still left wondering. When does the bright light appear?

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What dumbness

Mount Carmel in our days was what Jerusalem is to a Jew. It was holy land. It was where every woman was pretty and every second woman a Miss India contestant. Or so the legend said. It was where beauty met brains and if the girls looked down upon the rest of humanity, it was considered slightly arrogant but yet appropriate. And when ‘Cul-ah’ (the ah we always thought was orgasmic, but let us not digress here) happened, the best of men in the best of clothes lined up in serpentine queues to get into the forbidden land. Come to think of it, it could only have been the male libido which could have braved pesky policemen, the occasional swing of the lathi and the almost disappearing self esteem to still stand there and hope for utopia.

Anyways, we went there with the best intentions to participate (however believable that is). And at the coffee table yesterday, we were talking team names, which is why I am writing this in the first place. Dumb Charades was one of those big ticket events. Suri, KB and Paaps formed the triumvirate while me and Seige preferred watching from the sidelines and every now and then gaily suggesting ‘What dumbness I say’.

The boys had practised for god knows how long. They had almost ceased talking. Even words like ubiquitous and preposterous were being enacted and cracked. Secret cheat codes were practised. The mid night oil was being burned. Anyways, there the boys were finally – on stage. The moment of reckoning had come. A smart looking girl who was organizing the event called the team on stage and asked one of the team members to go register the team name. Paaps was obvious choice to be sent as envoy with team name. He strides up to the three pretty women in the ‘spotters’ panel and registers - ‘Two plates idly with extra sambar’. The girls giggle. And then recomposing themselves in full MCC demeanour blurts back – ‘This is too long. Make it shorter’. Paaps turns back and communicates the message. ‘No worries’, quipped Suri. ’Make that one plate idly then’. Paaps turned back and with a charming smile told the girls -‘Make that one plate idly please’.

Mount Carmel girls don’t smile at strangers. At least, not at ‘Cul-ah’. But I think they smiled then. And the name stuck.

The only other team who had a wackier name was one called themselves ‘Men wh(o) pause’

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

CTR re-visited

I had been through the revered gates once. And the milling crowds had dissuaded me two times. Non-descript and unpretentious, it stands oblivious to the endless traffic that weaves past it in an all too obvious urban frenzy. I was mildly hungry and it was purely incidental that it occurred at the revered corner. Perhaps, it’s a hunger that most if not all at Malleswaram will vouch for, when they reach this neck of the woods. It is after all, one of the Holy Trinity – the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost of masala dosa.

CTR, Malleswaram has stood the test of time. And their Benne Masala Dosa is probably as divine as divinity can get. We jostled past a waiting crowd and scanned the seating arena. Blank walls and expectant faces – waiting like pilgrims wait for the pearly gates to open. It’s old world fairness. You jostle around and find place for yourself. Today was a lucky day; a day when being at the roulette table would have been as good an idea as being at CTR. Two gentlemen rise and we slide in, like in a musical chair. What a fair world.

Traffic flowed ceaselessly on the main thoroughfare. And the little boy, who came for the order, flashed no menu card. The order is placed and Nicky re-iterates the ‘bring the coffee with the dosa’ routine that is very much the style. I talked like I always do; about some inane happening that both of us at that point were hardly interested in. The dosa does not take time; and it probably should not, the waiting crowd will cry out loud. Small, golden and crispy – every morsel tastes of soaked in butter. Like some divine entity the butter is never visible and yet all pervasive. Put one morsel into your mouth and it appears mysteriously in your hands.

At CTR, people hover around you as you eat, like defenders at the Arsenal goal mouth; silently hoping that you would finish at the earliest; praying you are not one of those gluttons who would order for one more. We just take our time and deliver justice to what is on the plate. The trick is in being in oneness with your food; and ignoring the unnecessary. After all, at CTR you earn your right to be where you are. By the time we get to the wash basin and back, different men and women are already gracing our seats and waiting expectantly for their plate of happiness to be delivered.

Twenty-two rupees is what it takes. But the old Bangalore experience as a television commercial selling credit cards once said – is probably priceless.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Hello world

Hello world.

If anyone’s reading, believe me, it’s good to be back. Apart from the few ‘What was the URL? What was the password?’ kinda moments, the coming back has been pretty much seamless. But before I begin on what I call the second life of this blog, a few updates and confessions. To dispel notions as someone recently brought to my notice, it’s purely incidental that the first two words gracing by blog for the last one year has been ‘Holy fuck’. It’s also purely incidental that my blogging stopped exactly one month before I joined business school and the revival is now happening exactly one month after. Hand on heart honestly; B school does not kill the writer. People, who write will write nevertheless while others will look for nice sounding excuses like the one that I am currently searching for. But all said and done, it’s good to be back to the ringside view. And if you insist to ask, the last one year has been a blast. Much learnt. Much forgotten. But all in all much enjoyed.

And before I rant anything new, here is some writing recycled from the year gone by.

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The Bullet point (Flashback series)

It was the year 2001. The dot com bubble had busted. And even men with unambiguous sexualities were handed down slips in pink. Companies with a skewed sense of humour even played Aerosmith’s ‘Pink is my favourite colour’ as they handed it down. Protagonist, rookie programmer is sitting hunched over his desktop, concentration writ all over. Such were the times. Big Brother CEO had appeared over video conference the previous day and announced dourly ‘We need to save every penny ((read) there shall be no toilet paper in the loo from tomorrow); we need to increase productivity ((read) kiss your kids goodbye, you might not see them in a while); and employee performance will be tied in with health of the company ((read) Damn, we’re fucked!!!)

He stared hard. The debugger danced through the lines of code in harmony for a long time. And then, somewhere in the innards of a for loop, it careened out of control. The exception on the screen looked as unfriendly as the CEO in the video conference screen. Protagonist, rookie programmer, rubs his brow. Breathes hard. God knows what the code means. God knows what the error means. If only he had bothered to read that ‘Be a Java god man in 21 days’ book from the library. Or better still, if only he had chosen a better career. Tensed and quivering, he reaches down and restarts the machine. The blanking; the restart; the stupid Windows start-up music. He runs the code; and voila, it works. The golden tenet of software programming had worked again. The one that is handed down from one generation to the other but mentioned not once in any book on computer science – when in doubt, restart the computer.

Code compilation. Production roll-out. And imagine. Bits of data figuratively skimming through the lines of code. Transactions happening. Flags turning from 0 to 1. More transactions happening.

In distant somewhere a grumpy customer clicks a button and the whole damn thing does what it’s expected to do. And in distant somewhere in the corporate coffers, a penny is saved. And another. And another, until it is a million USD.

In 2008 a bullet point on the erstwhile rookie programmer’s resume summarizes it all – ‘’Successfully initiated and executed system improvements to re-engineer process methodologies of a critical system to realize cost savings of up to 1 million US dollars’.

Wow, what profoundness.

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Conversations with the alter ego (Flashback series)

‘Heard you’re writing for the ISB blog and all’, altar ego snapped suddenly, breaking the calm of the mid night nothingness.

‘Eh…..ya’, I replied uneasily. I hate it when he appears uncalled and unexpected. Just when you don’t want questions. Just when you don’t want conversations.

‘And I heard it’s this glorified story of how you mere mortal transformed into this Kryptonite eating B school grad of sorts. Of how you can read Adam Smith beyond page 26 and solve optimization problems that have double integration signs and Greek symbols you don’t even know how to pronounce’, he laughed. I hate that laugh. That questioning laugh. Sarcasm, derision and all things negative written all over it.

‘How do you know?’, I wanted to ask. But what the hell; he’s my bloody other half. How would he not know?

‘I know it because I know it’, he giggled.

And even before I could interject, he continued ‘So what’s it gonna be like. The Harvard Business Review meets Economist kinda articles eh? Think of you sitting in front of your laptop pouring over HBR articles for inspiration, just because your blog submission is due by 12 o clock’. Laughter.

‘Hey, hey, wait a minute’, infuriated me quips back.

‘And do write one of those wishful thinking ‘If I were a consultant, I would wear Giovanni to work everyday’ kinda articles as well. If not perspective, they will at least add humour’ he continued, like my voice never carried at all.

I had half a mind to smash the face peering out of the mirror with that questioning snigger plastered all over.

‘Listen. I don’t think you’re ever gonna get this but what makes you think I am gonna make this a blow your trumpet space for godsake. All this aims at is to give a perspective to life in a B school. And I swear it’s gonna be as interesting as any of those 150 other book versions plaguing the roadsides screaming perspectives from a B school grad. But I swear I’ll be different. For one, I’ll give a perspective – to life, the times and all that jazz’, I screamed profoundly.

Laughter. Uproarious laughter.

Sound of shattering glass. I hate it when he laughs like that.

There are no stitches; but take rest, the doctor told me. And I am still trying to convince the housekeeping guys that it was the freakin dynamites at Gachibowli that made the mirror mysteriously fall onto my hands and shatter. I don’t think they are buying it. Damn.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Vote of Thanks

Holy fuck. Here I am skimming through my blog posts for 2008 and the first thing that strikes me is that, it’s been a ‘whine’ trip all along. An overdose of pining for old times and reminiscing all that is not current and happening. So I stopped mid way through my next post which was shaping up on similar lines and decided to write something more befitting my age and all that.

Ok, I guess I have got to be honest and also tell you that I was looking for a reason to do this one. And when buying a new pair of jeans and turning one year with the blog (both of them ecstatic, commerative happenings nevertheless) did not qualify as reason enough for a thank you note, I was almost getting frustrated. When do I get to do an impromptu Oscar like speech, I whined. And then it happened, making it to business school. This has to be big enough for a thank you note I told myself. Decent financial liabilities stacked up. The effort of writing a letter of resignation in less than 600 words (I don’t think anyone read it, to be honest). And the looming prospect of pouring over Adam Smiths’ ‘The Wealth of Nations’ has to be freakin big enough (if not exciting enough) to thank the people who made it possible. And if it is not, then I care a damn. I am going ahead anyways.

So without much further ado,

I’d like to thank mom and dad, for safekeeping all the documents and wiring them by the most reliable forms of postal service known to man, so that I could apply for the darn course in the first place. Thanks also for not questioning why the fuck I planned to spend double of what I earned over five years for a one year course. Thanks really for not asking because I don’t think I know myself.

To cousin, who despite seeming dangerously unreliable to start with and despite have a clogged theatrical itenary, managed to wire that one last document so that I could scramble home in the nick of time before the application deadline. Phew!!!

Freak. They want all the documents scanned. And in 300 dpi and some specific godforsaken resolution. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. To Kini, who unfettered and for one quarter chicken at Nandos alone, helped me with all the scans.

Cometh the hour and the fuckin man disappears. Suddenly realized that I needed one more document scanned and the man is holidaying in some Parisian boulevard. To John G, for being there when the most reliable are not around :)

To Prad, for cooking great food; keeping me away from the kitchen like I were the human form of bubonic plague and letting me swipe his credit card - not once, not twice but many a time. I am sure I paid him back and all. Atleast as far as I can remember. Next.

To SS, who was sweet enough to ask me time and again if I wanted to use her credit card. And who knew I’d be reticent and so asked again.

To KSP, who gave me some Ferris wheel analogy in the dead of the night, to prove why I would end up trumps and all.

To Bebo, who through many a random conversation proved to me that if I don’t make it, I don’t really lose a shit. The sun would still continue to rise in the east and Sainsbury would still continue selling bread.

To LM who I sincerely hoped would not take off on a holiday when it was time to send in the reco. I still owe you a pint by the way. And to GD who said ‘Tu do lik, me do liktha hu’ when it came down to his share of recos. Thanks for writing in the good words.

To Bindi and AR, who on the way to Fatsos one night, told me ‘Arre, what nonsense, why will you not make it?’ Such questions never have answers. Thankfully.

To Seige and Suri, for telling me – ‘Bob, tell you what. It’s all a bloody hogwash’. Probably is. And when I am through it and realize bloody prophecy in your words, we can all say in unison and in a louder voice – ‘It’s all a bloody hogwash’.

To Paaps. For being Paaps. For showing me that when you want something, you just go for it. And if you fall down enroute, you just get up and go for it all over again. And who despite knowing how unrelenting I would be, called me and tried convincing me that Manchester is where I should be heading. All the best for your year ahead at Manchester brother.

And to all others, who I have comfortably not mentioned but know they had a fuckin role. Thanks ya’ll.

(Bow) (Applause)

And I thought I was a self made man!?!

P.S: Freak!!! lest I forget and end up looking thankless. To Nick’alaus who signed on the dotted line. And MP who searched in vain for his Tax return forms. Thanks.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

The old neighborhood

The 1980’s is a long time back. So long time back, that I can only think of it in grayscale. Nascent memories; many of which I think, are mere fancy sub conscious fabrications and nothing more, flash by on recall like reality itself. Like say, images of me shrouded in a blanket and gasping for air on that ferry to the ancestral home. Grandmother had died. I was but a few months old. Winds lashing. Rain pouring down in angry torrents. Signs apparently were so ominous, that even the oarsman feared for the little one’s life. But as it appears, the little one gasped; and gasped hard, and lived on to tell this tale.

But wait a minute. I was but a few months old at that time. And there is no way I can have a visual image of that scene. Funnily enough though, I do. Etched, clear and crystal. How can that ever be so, ponders the pragmatic side of me. Pat comes the answer. No Freudian logic involved here. The image is but a picture reconstructed from oft repeated hearsay I say. Conjured up by the creative mind, to scale up to the melodrama that the scene demanded. That’s all.

Ok, disclaimer. The reader is at this stage forewarned, that if you find me speaking eloquent about the early eighties, Woodstock 69 and the man on the moon, remember, it’s merely reconstructed from other people’s stories. So if you happen to spot something to the effect of ‘When I was a year old, I remember the blooming gulmohars lining the promenade. Crimson and lilac, fluttering in the wind like colours on a painter’s canvas……..’, remember it could very well be bullshit.


The Bangalore real estate scene in the sixties was as lukewarm as lukewarm can be. People gently enquired in good quintessential Bangalore spirit, if you wanted a plot of land in ‘modern day as costly as Sunset Boulevard’ Indiranagar. ‘Why don’t you take it sir; you can pay me later’, some shortsighted gentleman had offered father. Circumspect and risk averse, dad very myopically replied ‘Very generous of you sir. But I am fine, thank you. And further more, who will stay so far’. And those were the days when the wallets were thin and aspirations of settling down in the city minimal. (Talk about foresight and sound financial planning. Godammit.)

A decade or so later, father was still working in Bangalore. And when familiarity with the city and matrimony, both happened, he eventually decided to buy this flat which has been home for the last 27 years. It was spanking new, cousin tells me. And the strong smell of whitewash ensured the cold that I perennially had, stayed with me like an alter ego.

A wild undergrowth of parthenium flourished in the neglected land in front of our multistoried building in those days. ‘I have seen snakes in there’, cousin claimed confidently of a distant past which I am sure he never did see. But whether it was that or the constant tirade of ‘how many times to tell you not to go near those bushes chasing the ball. You will end up with rashes I tell you’, I do not know, but the early days were all spent playing along the fringes and hoping the ball did not roll into the uninviting wilderness.


As years ticked by, and the school routine kicked in, I remember the parthenium shrubs had cleared out. A barbed wire fencing, made a feeble attempt by the corporation to convert the clearing into a park. And whether it was the grass or the gravel I know not, but the rubber ball used to turn at Shane Warnian proportions in our evening games of cricket. We would come back home and keep records; cousin and me. And he would always claim my 100 against Azib, the neighborhood bloke would not qualify. ‘You ran the last 20 runs without even hitting the ball’, he would assert himself. ‘But it was getting dark and he said it was ok. I swear.’, I would argue. What an unfair world it was, in those days.

We shifted to playing at grounds further away from home as we grew a bit older. It somehow seemed a little too childish to play in front of your own home. We were big boys now you see. And what’s more, the cover drives now had more power, so why put your own window panes at risk.


The rains washed down. The occasional hailstorms showered. The sun on summer days shined unrelenting. The plasters came off. And the odd pipes broke. The storm drains overflowed and new kids replaced old ones on the same track where the ball spinned square. Familiar people disappeared, new ones appeared. You walk down the flight of stairs and it still at times transports you back to images in grayscale. It’s still the same old neighborhood but in a changed time. And there will always be memories of a distant past; hidden in every bend and turn.

But for now, it’s time for me to disappear like all those people who disappeared before me. Into some place new, where someone else will sigh and tell – ‘old faces disappear and new ones appear’.

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