Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Financial Epiphany...

I know I generally don't write anything about work / workplace in this blog but I just had another WTF or what-the-hell-is-happening-to-me moment which I really have to write about. For another realization moment go here

What was the epiphany?

I laughed at a joke. Yes, innocuous as it sounds, that was it. Read on for my tale of horror.


Regular coffee break conversation where you crib about everything to do with whatever company you work for - pay not enough, work too much blah blah blah.

Colleague 1: Dude, we get paid such peanuts, I think the biggest chunk of my salary is actually the Sodexho food vouchers I get!

Colleague 2: You're right. All of us should pool in our Sodexho vouchers and do a leveraged buy out of the company!


Yes ladies and gentlemen, in another shocking turn of events, your favourite blogger has started understanding and laughing at Finance humour. This is the first step on the downward spiral that ends with finally understanding what goes on the credit side and the debit side in a balance sheet.

Oh, woe is me :(


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spin the web...

Just saw a movie on TV and just had to write about it. It's that brilliant.

The movie's name is 'Wag the Dog' . And acting in it are two absolute stalwarts - Robert De Niro and the awesome Dustin Hoffman.

The plot is a bit over the top in it's conception but these two make it as believable as ..umm..2+2=4

De Niro plays a spin doctor who works for the President of the United States. This President gets embroiled in a sex scandal with a teenage girl just 11 days prior to his re-election. Obviously the opposition candidate pounces on this scandal and goes to the media with it.

Enter, De Niro. He knows that there is only one way they can hold the President afloat for the next 11 days. Create a story bigger and more interest grabbing than the scandal.

Enter, Hoffman. He plays a super successful film producer who can create a story from "spit and polish", give it life, a body and run it till the world believes it. He has countered so many problems with innovative solutions that any problem setting up the counter-plot is treated with a disdainful "This is nothing..." anecdote.

A brilliant slightly over-the-top performance (perfect for a film producer) by Hoffman sees the plot being created. The plot, incidentally, is to create a scenario of a war with Albania because they are harbouring terrorists who plan to smuggle a nuclear device into the US from Canada.

The way they plan the story and execute is spell binding and very very funny. It's also a bit poignant because it is so easily possible that many news stories we believe blindly in could be fixed this way. The movie is a great look at the beginning of viral marketing in the pre-internet era as well.

A great watch with a very O'Henry-ish twist in the tail (tale) kind of ending.

Go watch it.

And have a good week ahead


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Trouble in Paradise...

I was thinking of writing about my current favourite TV series 'The Big Bang Theory' but something much closer to my heart and frankly a bit disturbing has come to my notice.

I have to warn you that this is a rather topical serious post and not funny at all. So you may want to get your laughs elsewhere this time...

As many of you would know, I studied for my undergraduate engineering degree at Delhi College of Engineering (DCE). It is one of the top engineering colleges in the country and I am genuinely proud to be an alumnus of the college. And this is not just a jingoistic 'my college' syndrome. I have seen people's eyes widen and a drop in the volume at which they speak to you when they realize you have a strong undergrad degree from DCE. I know for a fact that the college and it's reputation have opened opportunities that would certainly not have opened up otherwise.

More importantly I have had life lessons there which have moulded the person I am and the way I think and react. I have made some of my best friends there and it is something to say that these friends are still going strong 7 years after we graduated. I have seniors who I still go to for any advice pertaining to professional or personal life.

But there is trouble brewing in paradise.

A year after I graduated a new principal joined DCE. He had been the principal earlier but was coming back from retirement. Since he came some amazing things happened for us alumni. We were seeing excellent news coming out of the college. Students were doing dedicated research, writing papers, media was covering students' participation in conferences, building cars, experimental submarines, bio-fuel etc etc. I was extremely happy to see this because if there was something missing in my four years it was this quest for creating something new.

Visiting DCE during this phase was a bit disturbing though. Hostels had sign in- sign out times, the campus buildings were off limits in the late evenings, students were not expected to move around too much, the baba with maggi outside the hostels was closing down at 10-11 as opposed to 2-3 am like he used to, students were roaming around with books even when there were no exams in the offing, and there was even an unsaid rule against girls and boys hanging out on the legendary road outside the girl's hostel.

But maybe these were acceptable changes. Discipline was certainly required to guide the students towards engineering excellence, except the girl-boy rule - that's just stupid, and the results were showing.

But now things are changing in a way which I feel could be detrimental to the institution. There was a rushed bill passed, allegedly without a lot of discussion with either the faculty or the students, for the conversion of DCE to a state university called Delhi Technical University. There are wide scale protests against this by students and faculty members, the details are at :

This may have some hysteria and name calling but this one is pretty clear about the concerns which to me seem very genuine:

My opinion on this entire issue is that DCE needs to remain DCE. It has an established reputation in the industry for a reason. You cannot make getting into DCE a piece of cake by increasing the number of seats (I heard numbers like 10,000 seats - that'd just be crazy). This cannot be made a place to just churn out engineers - it has to be a place where there are adequate resources for path breaking stuff for the smart people who are passionate about engineering and not just looking for a job in a bank!

I also think that if being a part of Delhi University is holding it back then the only logical path for an institution of it's calibre is to make it an IIT. I don't know how easy or difficult it is to do that but really a move downwards would be extremely disappointing.


Friday, March 5, 2010 why did Karthik call exactly?...

Just came back from an impromptu movie evening. PS and I went to see Karthik Calling Karthik.

This is a movie from the iconic director cum actor Farhan Akhtar who made his mark and gave indelible memories with his first movie Dil Chahta Hai (First day second show after all of us bunked class - remember?). Prior expectations from the movie were therefore quite high. Of course the official and word of mouth reviews of the movie were very harsh. There was actually a lady on one of the numerous news channels who panned the movie so badly it seemed Farhan may have been her estranged ex-boyfriend or something.

With the slew of such reviews we were a bit apprehensive about going for the movie but in the end decided to bite the bullet and see for ourselves.

And what a brilliant decision this was! The movie is a super exciting thriller with edge of the seat suspense and nibble-your-nails-to-the-bone mystery. Unfortunately, the only mystery we could perceive was whether Farhan Akhtar had actually chosen this script and made this movie! And if yes, WHY??

Easily one of the longest drawn out, cliched, rambling, unintelligent, factually incorrect movies I've seen in a while - and that's saying a lot ( ).

Karthik is a bumbling loser (if anyone misspells 'looser', i'll kill him / her) in life who despite a good education works as a sort of pseudo clerk/sales person in a construction company (?). (Obviously people born with a silver spoon in their mouths should not try to create realistic workplace scenarios). Anyway, you have all the regular stuff about people dumping work on him, boss screaming at him, pretty-young-thing-who-he-loves-not-being-aware-of-his-existence, office peon making snide remarks at him. And then some more shit happens and he is publicly humiliated and fired - the good thing being that the pretty young thing finally gets aware of his existence before promptly forgetting again while canoodling with her in-office-in-your-face-goateed-boyfriend.

K goes home devastated and tries to commit suicide. But just as we were all going to be spared more KcK torture, the phone rings and it is Karthik calling Karthik to save him from himself (see? so smart)

Anyway, the guy on the phone advises him and after a series of unlikely incidents K is installed in a corner office, makes a lot of money and gets the pretty young thing (PYT) (Incidentally the boyfriend is shown to be a married guy. Now how unlikely is this? K was in awe of this girl for 2-3 years and isn't it far more likely that she actually got a perfectly normal boyfriend in the meantime? But Nooo, the hero HAS to get the girl. I think in such makeover movies the guy should get another nice girl rather than the same one - far more likely).

Of course things cannot run smoothly as K still gets hour long calls from K. He tells PYT and his psychiatrist. Lots of unlikely doodah happens till the mystery is finally revealed. Now i'm not giving any spoilers here but trust me, you're not missing much...

One good thing I liked about the movie was when some scenes faded into black & white with some colour element accentuating the change. Like the window with the red light flashing across it in the Cochin scene. I thought aesthetically that was very interesting.

Dil Chahta Hai, Lakshya, Rock on....Karthik calling Karthik - really? What's happening Farhan?