Thursday, July 31, 2008

Life's lessons!

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Ok! this is going to be another forward sent to me by a friend. This was one of more interesting speeaches I heard. Not only that, I've seen people who come into a situation with lot of spark and then let their spark die and become listless and dull. Recently I saw a school friend of mine, thousands of miles away from where we both went to school. She was one of the bubbliest people I knew in school. Now, into a job that she aspired for and with a family behind her, she should have been jumping with joy. Instead I saw a person who is pushing her everyday life as if it was a punishment and not a joy to live(which it rightly should be). Now what went wrong? I know this question cannot be answered by anyone(maybe her) but I do know that it is sad that she is not having a good time. And, I also know that it is harder still to rekindle that spark once you let it die. Most of my friends ask me why I become excited even for the simplest of things as there is so much to do in life and that simple things don't matter. Well, pal, that is because I'm not sure if I'd be around for the big things to happen and even if I am, I'm only increasing the net joy I have in life by getting excited for the simpler things as well. I'm sure that if I get a new job, a new house, a new car, etc I'd be excited. But that doesn't stop me from getting excited and happy when I get a new book of my favorite author, when I meet a friend unexpectedly, when I play with my friend's son, when I win a pool game, etc. Since this forward related a lot to some of the discussions I've been having with my friends, I thought it would be appropriate to put it on my blog and discuss it with my readers as well. Let me know what you think about it all. I know, some of you have asked, "when is your next post going to be?". I'm caught up in work now and am sure I'd get a handle on it soon. Till then, take care and enjoy this:

Inaugural Speech for the new batch at the Symbiosis BBA program, Pune - 23rd June, 2008
- By Chetan Bhagat

Good Morning everyone and thank you for giving me this chance to speak to you. This day is about you. You, who have come to this college, leaving the comfort of your homes (or in some cases discomfort), to become something in your life. I am sure you are excited. There are few days in human life when one is truly elated. The first day in college is one of them. When you were getting ready today, you felt a tingling in your stomach. What would the auditorium be like, what would the teachers be like, who are my new classmates - there is so much to be curious about. I call this excitement, the spark within you that makes you feel truly alive today. Today I am going to talk about keeping the spark shining. Or to put it another way, how to be happy most, if not all the time.

Where do these sparks start? I think we are born with them. My 3-year old twin boys have a million sparks. A little Spiderman toy can make them jump on the bed. They get thrills from creaky swings in the park. A story from daddy gets them excited. They do a daily countdown for birthday party – several months in advance – just for the day they will cut their own birthday cake.

I see students like you, and I still see some sparks. But when I see older people, the spark is difficult to find. That means as we age, the spark fades. People whose spark has faded too much are dull, dejected, aimless and bitter. Remember Kareena in the first half of Jab We Met vs the second half? That is what happens when the spark is lost. So how to save the spark?

Imagine the spark to be a lamp's flame. The first aspect is nurturing - to give your spark the fuel, continuously. The second is to guard against storms.

To nurture, always have goals. It is human nature to strive, improve and achieve full potential. In fact, that is success. It is what is possible for you. It isn't any external measure - a certain cost to company pay package, a particular car or house.

Most of us are from middle class families. To us, having material landmarks is success and rightly so. When you have grown up where money constraints force everyday choices, financial freedom is a big achievement. But it isn't the purpose of life. If that was the case, Mr. Ambani would not show up for work. Shah Rukh Khan would stay at home and not dance anymore. Steve Jobs won't be working hard to make a better iPhone, as he sold Pixar for billions of dollars already. Why do they do it? What makes them come to work everyday? They do it because it makes them happy. They do it because it makes them feel alive. Just getting better from current levels feels good. If you study hard, you can improve your rank. If you make an effort to interact with people, you will do better in interviews. If you practice, your cricket will get better. You may also know that you cannot become Tendulkar, yet. But you can get to the next level. Striving for that next level is important.

Nature designed with a random set of genes and circumstances in which we were born. To be happy, we have to accept it and make the most of nature's design. Are you? Goals will help you do that. I must add, don't just have career or academic goals. Set goals to give you a balanced, successful life. I use the word balanced before successful. Balanced means ensuring your health, relationships, mental peace are all in good order.

There is no point of getting a promotion on the day of your breakup. There is no fun in driving a car if your back hurts. Shopping is not enjoyable if your mind is full of tensions.

You must have read some quotes - Life is a tough race, it is a marathon or whatever. No, from what I have seen so far, life is one of those races in nursery school, where you have to run with a marble in a spoon kept in your mouth. If the marble falls, there is no point coming first. Same with life, where health and relationships are the marble. Your striving is only worth it if there is harmony in your life. Else, you may achieve the success, but this spark, this feeling of being excited and alive, will start to die.

One last thing about nurturing the spark - don't take life seriously. One of my yoga teachers used to make students laugh during classes. One student asked him if these jokes would take away something from the yoga practice. The teacher said - don't be serious, be sincere. This quote has defined my work ever since. Whether its my writing, my job, my relationships or any of my goals. I get thousands of opinions on my writing everyday. There is heaps of praise, there is intense criticism. If I take it all seriously, how will I write? Or rather, how will I live? Life is not to be taken seriously, as we are really temporary here. We are like a pre-paid card with limited validity. If we are lucky, we may last another 50 years. And 50 years is just 2,500 weekends. Do we really need to get so worked up? It's ok, bunk a few classes, goof up a few interviews, fall in love. We are people, not programmed devices.

I've told you three things - reasonable goals, balance and not taking it too seriously that will nurture the spark. However, there are four storms in life that will threaten to completely put out the flame. These must be guarded against. These are disappointment, frustration, unfairness and loneliness of purpose.

Disappointment will come when your effort does not give you the expected return. If things don't go as planned or if you face failure. Failure is extremely difficult to handle, but those that do come out stronger. What did this failure teach me? is the question you will need to ask. You will feel miserable. You will want to quit, like I wanted to when nine publishers rejected my first book. Some IITians kill themselves over low grades – how silly is that? But that is how much failure can hurt you. But it's life. If challenges could always be overcome, they would cease to be a challenge. And remember - if you are failing at something, that means you are at your limit or potential. And that's where you want to be.

Disappointment's cousin is frustration, the second storm. Have you ever been frustrated? It happens when things are stuck. This is especially relevant in India. From traffic jams to getting that job you deserve, sometimes things take so long that you don't know if you chose the right goal. After books, I set the goal of writing for Bollywood, as I thought they needed writers. I am called extremely lucky, but it took me five years to get close to a release. Frustration saps excitement, and turns your initial energy into something negative, making you a bitter person. How did I deal with it? A realistic assessment of the time involved – movies take a long time to make even though they are watched quickly, seeking a certain enjoyment in the process rather than the end result – at least I was learning how to write scripts, having a side plan – I had my third book to write and even something as simple as pleasurable distractions in your life - friends, food, travel can help you overcome it. Remember, nothing is to be taken seriously. Frustration is a sign somewhere, you took it too seriously.

Unfairness - this is hardest to deal with, but unfortunately that is how our country works. People with connections, rich dads, beautiful faces, pedigree find it easier to make it – not just in Bollywood, but everywhere. And sometimes it is just plain luck. There are so few opportunities in India, so many stars need to be aligned for you to make it happen. Merit and hard work is not always linked to achievement in the short term, but the long term correlation is high, and ultimately things do work out. But realize, there will be some people luckier than you. In fact, to have an opportunity to go to college and understand this speech in English means you are pretty damm lucky by Indian standards. Let's be grateful for what we have and get the strength to accept what we don't. I have so much love from my readers that other writers cannot even imagine it. However, I don't get literary praise. It's ok. I don't look like Aishwarya Rai, but I have two boys who I think are more beautiful than her. It's ok. Don't let unfairness kill your spark.

Finally, the last point that can kill your spark is isolation. As you grow older you will realize you are unique. When you are little, all kids want Ice cream and Spiderman. As you grow older to college, you still are a lot like your friends. But ten years later and you realize you are unique. What you want, what you believe in, what makes you feel, may be different from even the people closest to you. This can create conflict as your goals may not match with others. . And you may drop some of them. Basketball captains in college invariably stop playing basketball by the time they have their second child. They give up something that meant so much to them. They do it for their family. But in doing that, the spark dies. Never, ever make that compromise. Love yourself first, and then others.

There you go. I've told you the four thunderstorms - disappointment, frustration, unfairness and isolation. You cannot avoid them, as like the monsoon they will come into your life at regular intervals. You just need to keep the raincoat handy to not let the spark die.

I welcome you again to the most wonderful years of your life. If someone gave me the choice to go back in time, I will surely choose college. But I also hope that ten years later as well, your eyes will shine the same way as they do today. That you will Keep the Spark alive, not only through college, but through the next 2,500 weekends. And I hope not just you, but my whole country will keep that spark alive, as we really need it now more than any moment in history. And there is something cool about saying - I come from the land of a billion sparks.

Thank You.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Golf course dinner!

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What lesson can be learned in a golf course over a seven course dinner? Loads actually. Today was a very interesting evening where I got to do loads of firsts like go to a golf course, have a seven course dinner and a wonderful conversation(I always thought formal dinners were more a formality than a place to actually do something), meet some really awe inspiring people, get a view of three downtowns at the same time, etc. Let me not go into the details, but three of the most important lessons I learned were:
1) Don't fight all the battles because at the end of the day, not all of them matter.
2) Learn to know the goal and keep that in mind. Don't let the egos come into the picture.
3) Have fun, be passionate and know yourself.
I know this is not new advice, but the way it was said made all the difference, especially the last one. Thanks for all those who made this dinner possible. I HAD FUN!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Happy or Guilty or both??

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Have you ever felt happy and guilty at the same time? Well, I had such a singular experience last weekend and I'm penning(rather typing) it down before it wears off.

Last weekend, the company that I was interning with hosted an intern event. The event itself was cool with only us in a large and scenic park and two bands playing for us. But the coolest things were just before and after the event. We were asked to take the bus from the company to the park and there were loud grumbles from the interns(around 1000 of us, some even flown from different parts of the country) as it was a Friday evening. If you had lived anywhere in the US, especially in any of the major cities, then you would have a really good idea as to how clogged the roads become on a Friday evening when the entire college crowd tries to hit the downtown and the hot spots. It was no wonder that we complained as well. But our complaints were to no avail. So, all of us got into some 20 or so buses and we were on road after ten minutes.

That was when I felt that something was different! We were on highways and freeways and there were no cars on our side of the lane. That was freaking unnatural, simply because cars are the most common mode of transport in US. Then we saw cops before and after our bus. Finally, realization dawned on me that we had police escorts and that they had stopped the traffic on the freeways and highway. I saw long lines of cars waiting at the intersection allowing us to pass and that was a unique experience. I have NEVER seen such a thing happen, especially in US. In India, I have waited a couple of times for certain VIPS(read, CM or Governor or XYZ) to cross and have always been furious as to how much time is wasted because of it. But for it to happen in US? I haven't even heard one so far. So, the entire incident was freaking and I couldn't stop feeling happy that I was also a VIP(albeit for a day) and got the same welcome as a Governor would. It was so ingrained in me that only VVIPs get such a treatment and the fact that Microsoft did exactly that sent a message that we were VIPs for them. But when I heard on the radio that the traffic on I-5(the highway on which we went) was gridlocked, I couldn't help feeling guilty at having wasted the time of thousands of others who were waiting for us to pass on a friday evening. Hence, the story of feeling happy and guilty at the same time.

Though I wouldn't want it to happen because it was a waste of money and effort and others' time, it left a part of me feeling different. Imagine thousands of people waiting for you. A friend of mine put it succinctly, "I have never felt so important in my life before". This statement from a person who has finished in the top five in India, went to one of the top three universities(in US) for college and is working at Microsoft for X years gave the incident a different view. Though money and education are important, everyone craves for some recognition and larger the mass recognizing/respecting you, the better you feel. So, Microsoft DOES pamper its interns. For more info, check this link.

About the coolest thing after the event, I got an amazing gift from my company. It was all the more sweet because I truly needed it and it came at the right time :) And the entire show was supposed to be a replacement for another big event(yes, you guessed it right, Bill's Grill party), a returning intern said that it was better than the Bill's Grill. The fact that I was among the first batch of interns to have received this attention(escorts and all) makes me feel all the more special. So, if you want to intern somewhere really cool and really awesome, do check out Microsoft. Because, they DO pamper their interns. :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Where the hell is Matt?

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Found this on one of my net ramblings:

Just one word: Sweet!!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Heights of geekiness!!

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Sent by a friend of mine. As always, kudos to the original author and the geek in him/her:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary
Over many a long and boring tome of programming lore
While I coded, tab aligning, suddenly there came a whining
As of the compiler pining, pining at my display’s floor,
‘Tis not possible’, I muttered, pinin, nearly a roar,
‘For my code is so hardcore.'

Monday, July 07, 2008

Chocolates are better than kissing!

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I read this interesting article about chocolates being better than kissing. Any comments?
Btw, Happy Chocolate day to all the chocolate lovers out there! Remember me and have a big piece of the most tasty(I know all chocolate is tasty) icecream. My personal favorites are Godiva chocolates :) Let me know your favorite chocolatey secrets too ;)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Top ten reasons why America is the best country in the world!!

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Now that we have the Fourth of July upon us, there have been loads of forwards floating about the best and worst of America. Though America has its bad points(like every other country in the world), I respect it for its people's hardwork, individualism, open mind(some call it crazy mind!!), diversity, etc. Here is a forward from two of my American friends. They said that they had the comments written up when they were bored at work.

Disclaimer: None of the opinions given here are mine and I don't endorse any. So, please don't flame me. I post it here because I see a sense of wry humor in this forward. If you don't, well and good, just lite it.

Top ten reasons why America is the best country in the world

1. Only in America......can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance.
I’m not sure that this is actually accurate. That is, has someone actually put together a graph with the locations of every hospital, fire department, etc., and analyzed this with traffic patterns? Somehow this seems fishy.

2. Only in America.....are there handicapped parking places in front of a skating rink.
There are legitimate reasons for there to be handicapped places in front of a skating rink. Say we have a handicapped parent. Should we really make it extra hard for him because his able-bodied children are able to use the skating rink. (You can make arguments just about anywhere for things like this; hence why ADA requires them)

3. Only in America......do drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.
Perhaps because cigarettes are an impulse buy that you remember when you leave the store and prescriptions are not? OTC drugs are also a high-value item for shoplifters. Putting them in the back allows for more reaction time. Cigarettes are behind the counter and more difficult to shoplift.

4. Only in America......do people order double cheese burgers, large fries and a diet coke.
Interestingly enough, the caloric content of a soda is non-negligible. For example, a large coke at Taco Bell has 350 calories. A McDonald’s Double cheeseburger has 440 calories, and a large fries at McDonald’s has 570 calories. The soda has 80% of the calories of a double cheeseburger and 61% of the calories of a large fries. Assuming that you’re eating three meals of this a day, such a diet would have 3000 calories daily. Not healthy, but much better than 25% more calories.

5. Only in America......do banks leave both doors open and then chain the pens to the counters.
What bank doesn’t have its doors unlocked during business hours? Pens are chained to the counter to keep you from inadvertently walking off with them. If you assume that you have a thousand customers in a bank a day, 10% take a pen, and pens cost ten cents each, then you’re costing roughly $10 a day in pens. Unless you’re trying to advertise, you probably don’t want to spend something like $200/mo in pens.

6. Only in America......do we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and put our useless junk in the garage.
If you have a lot of useless junk, you can’t very well put it out in your yard. Cars can be locked, and even if it’s not great for the paint job, you don’t have much of another option if you want to create the illusion of cleanliness in the home. I don’t think that this is unique to the US either.

7. Only in America......do we use answering machines to screen calls and then have call waiting so we won't miss a call from someone we didn't want to talk to in the first place.
Although we end up taking messages from people we didn’t want to talk to, answering machines are primarily so that we don’t miss calls at all. What’s wrong with managing information?

8. Only in America......do we buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight.
This has to deal with bakers tending to do things in multiples of three and four, not some wide conspiracy. You’ll find that they do this in Europe as well. Hot dog manufacturers use a more natural multiple of 10, as do many other items.

9. Only in America......do we use the word 'politics' to describe the process so well:'Poli' in Latin meaning 'many' and 'tics' meaning 'bloodsucking creatures '
This is a false etymology. The derivation is from “politicus” or “citizens of the state”.

10. Only in America......do they have drive-up ATM machines with Braille lettering.
ATM machines are made mass-manufactured, and we still have ADA in our pocket. It’s also possible for a blind person to walk up to an ATM machine.

Privacy online??

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Here is an article I came across about Viacom and Google and Youtube and our privacy. More on this topic this weekend. Succinctly, life with internet has less freedom and more intrusions than life without internet. Share your thoughts!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Sondha Mannil.... (In the native land!)

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I received this poem through a friend of mine. I usually read the poems and either store them in my mailbox(if they are really good) or trash them(if else). But this one struck a chord somewhere and so reached my blog. Here, it is:


I tried translating it to english for my nonTamil readers, but the beauty just gets lost. Kudos to the original author whoever they are. It just portrayed what every person who knows what a happy and carefree childhood is and who is now into the grips of technology(in this grip willingly, so can't complain much! But the heart yearns for those simpler days!) feels at heart. Its worse when you are away from your family because the pangs are harder and take more time and effort to be quelled. Do you guys feel the same way too?

Vegan or Not?

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Do we have a choice to decide our food habits fifty years down the lane? Or, more importantly, would our children have the same food choices as we have right now? I remember my parents talking about Raagi and Kambu and Cholam(varieties of corn) being more popular when they were kids and rice and wheat being less popular. But now, these grains have become almost non-existent(the last time I ate Raagi dosai(a speciality from Raagi) was about seven years ago). So, do we get to make a choice as to what we eat or would all of us be forcibly changed to being vegans(not even vegetarian or eggetarian is possible according to this article)? If so, what is the point in having the luxuries of life when you don't have the freedom to choose what you want to eat and how? Are we moving towards a truly free world? or is the world getting into more and more mess that we can't come out of? Well, time will tell! But it might be too late by then. Shoot your thoughts!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Canada Day!

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This verse was sent by a friend of mine. I don't know from where he got it. So, the appreciation goes to the original author, wherever he/she is. Happy Canada day to all Canadians throughout the world. Canada is a proud country and I admire your resilience.
In honour of Canada's 141st Anniversary:

Hey, I'm not a lumberjack, or a fur trader....
I don't live in an igloo or eat blubber, or own a dogsled....
and I don't know Jimmy, Sally or Suzy from Canada,
although I'm certain they're really really nice.

I have a Prime Minister, not a president.
I speak English and French, not American.
And I pronounce it 'about', not 'a boot'.

I can proudly sew my country's flag on my backpack.
I believe in peace keeping, not policing,
diversity, not assimilation,
and that the beaver is a truly proud and noble animal.
A toque is a hat, a chesterfield is a couch,
and it is pronounced 'zed' not 'zee', 'zed' !!!!

Canada is the second largest landmass!
The first nation of hockey!
and the best part of North America

My name is ......!!
And I am Canadian!!!

PS: Thankyou Madhan, for pointing out the source :) Here is the link.