Vantage point

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

I read a feature in TOI last year after the Gujarat riots about the communal problems in India in recent years. They detailed the problems in various cities, and named the worst places in this regard. Among the worst was apparently Kanpur, where Hindu-Muslim violence is very common. However the article also noted that just 70 km away, Lucknow which has the highest concentration of Muslims in any non-Kashmiri city in India , has absolutely no history of rioting.

We can think of many reasons for this. The people are more cultured, the police are more efficient, the fundamentalists aren't that strong....but I think there is a different reason for this. And this reason can be spotted by observing the names of shops in Lucknow.

Now let me tell you some of my assumptions about rioting. Rioting is never, and I mean NEVER the fault of just one community. Both communities share the burden of this heinous stupidity. We can blame the politicians all we want, but the fact remains that riots have happened in India even before these politicians wielded any power, and even befgore the Britishers came, lest you would like to lay the blame at their door. A riot happens when a small spark, be it a local spark like some minor squabble, or a national spark, like the Babri Masjid demolition, gets enough fuel. Sure, there will be the goons hired by politicians to cause trouble, but basically people get compartmentalised and start thinking in the "us vs them" mentality. In most cities, there are "predominantly muslim" and "predominantly hindu" neighbourhoods. These "ghettos" serve easy fodder for such sentiments.

Suppose there is a Hindu neighbourhood which has heard of riots in the city. The people there, not trusting the police, will set up vigils of their own. These vigils will inevitably get a "hindu" shade and there will be a rise in the anti-muslim sentiment even though no muslims ahve attacked this neighbourhood.

Observe the shop signs in Lucknow. I challenge you to find me 5 shops in a row anywhere in the city, which all have names belonging to one community. It won't happen. There are no "Bhindi bazaars" in Lucknow, i e in Lucknow both communities are mixed together. This means even logistically it is very difficult to actually "conduct" a riot in the city.

Of course, this is not the only reason. As I said, it is difficult, not impossible. In Kashmir, Hindus and Muslims lived together in a similar non-ghettoised manner for year, and yet the KPs were efficiently removed. Tomorrow if VHP/BJP/RSS decide to do that, they can aim at kashmirising Lucknow. But they haven't done that. It means even the people here are more in harmony with each other.

Whatever the reasons behind this absence of communal turmoil in Lucknow are, let us hope this aspect of the city stays this way forever.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Imagine 3 people blind from birth. Their ages are 10, 30 and 50 respectively. Each of them is kept in a room which has white walls, a white floor and a white ceiling. They are all completely naked, bald and have just one black chalk. Now suppose their vision is miraculously restored with an instruction that they should start drawing on the walls using the black chalk.

What will they draw? What will be there in their visual memory that they will try to reproduce? Will the drawings be related to their age? How different will a 10 year old's drawings be from a 30 or 50 year old's, not in terms of the shapes or sizes, but in terms of the underlying meaning of those drawings?

When we draw, are we just reproducing stuff that we have seen? Or is it an expression of our innermost thoughts? Is that what separates great artists from normal artists? Normal artists replicate on canvas the beauty that they see around them. But great artists replicate on canvas the beauty within them. So would a great artists like, say, Picasso be just as great an artist if he had been blind until he was 40? Or did his ability to see contribute to his greatness? What is greatness in art anyway?

I wonder what the visual memory of a baby or a blind man would be like.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

I just noticed something, my blog crossed 50,000 visits today. The page views are a shade under 63,000. I suppose this calls for a celebration of some kind. A "Happy 50,000" cake or something. So all of you who read this, go have a piece if cake, and send the bill to George Thomas who got me into the blogging world.

You know, as is inevitable for a materialistic, greedy, exploitative MBA, my mind has immediately started wondering if the blog with 50,000 plus visits is worthy of being mentioned on my CV. ;-)

Saturday, October 25, 2003


This is not an honest world we live in, no sirree. I have suffered from people's questionable ethics at every step of the way. The most regular one is song stealing.

I never encountered this theft before I came to IIML because I used to live in a house. The bathroom walls went all the way up to the ceiling and when you took a shower, what you did during that remained confined to the four walls. In a hostel however, the government seems to have issued a decree that the walls and ceilings can not meet. So in IIML Hostel 11, you have 5 cubicles next to each other with walls that stop a foot short.

Nah, nah, nobody is perverted enough to climb up the walls and peek at what you are doing. What bothers me is everyone else can hear what you are singing!

Now I am what you might call a melodiously-challenged person. When I sing, people want to bung the closest brick at me. But again, this is not why I mind those walls. I am not afraid that someone will bung a brick over the wall (suddenly I feel like listening to Pink Floyd!!). Yet when I start singing, through habit, I have expected people to cluck their tongues in exasperation and pray to the almighty that my bath ends quickly. Not your hardened IIML blokes though, no sirree (didn't I use the phrase once already?).

The guys showering in the other cubicles, or brushing their teeth at the washbasins, they steal your song!! By that I mean they start singing the song themselves. And I don't mind them singing in sync with me, to form a sorta bathroom chorus you know. But they are out of phase by anything from pi to 3pi radians. That means if I am singing "Ae Zindagi gale laga le", and am on the line "Chhota sa saaya thaaaaaa....aankhon mein aaaayaaaaa thaaaaaaaaaaaa....", it clashes with the dude in another cubicle shouting at the top of the voice, "Humko sahara mil gaya hai zindagiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii". Now I can understand his joy at finding Sahara in Lucknow (!). But doesn't he realise he is barging into my song-space?

Grumbling I concede him that song, and start singing another one. This time, the fellow in another cubicle hijacks it and makes the song do its own bidding. Then I shout "Hey, get your own songs, don't steal mine", and in response I get a rendition of "Ready reckoner of the 20 most popular expletives in North India".

As the last resort I have started singing only marathi songs in the shower. But that backfires too, because 4 of my 11 wingies are Maharashtrian.

Jab main raaja banoonga, I will introduce a legislation banning the theft of songs being hummed by others. I dream of a society where heavily armed 'Song Police' will patrol the streets...and make sure everyone's songreignty is protected. Come join me in the movement to make this dream a reality.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

This story developed over a telephone conversation with Sarika few weeks back. She had put me on hold because she had to talk to her Mom, and when she got back on the line she said to me
�Kya keh rahe thhe?�
I replied �Kaun main?�
�Haan yaar, tum. Aur nahin to kaun? Ramu Panwaala?�
�Hey, don�t discount Ramu panwaala. He leads a pretty interesting life you know.�
�Who the hell is Ramu panwaala anyway��..�

And in the course of this conversation, the skeleton of the story was created. This week Saru and I were �ganjing� when we stopped to have some paan, and suddenly the story came back to me. Now that midterms are here, I have some free time (!!) and so am committing it to paper�.word doc anyway.


Ramu woke up that morning at the crack of dawn. He woke up, very surprised with himself. He could not remember the last time he had woken up of his own accord. Usually his wife had to goad him to get up, sometimes even sprinkle water on his face. He had once slept through a major earthquake, and had once woken up to find himself half submerged in water, because their village had been flooded. Ramu�s sleeping habits were a big joke in the family, and everyone had at least one �Ramu�s sleep� story up their sleeve.

Which is why Ramu was astonished to find himself awake at 6 that morning. His wife was still asleep next to him. It took him some time to realise that this was not a dream and he had actually woken up early. He got up, and surprisingly, did not feel bleary like he usually did in the morning. Sauntering to the window, he looked out.

�Hmmm, so this is the �sunrise� thing they keep talking about.� Ramu observed it with a scowl on his face for some time. �What is the big deal anyway? It is like someone is rewinding the sunset.�

The talk of the whole household that morning was Ramu waking up by himself.

�You know, I feel something in my bones today�, he told his wife. �As if this is a special day. I feel as if something major is going to happen. That this will be the day�.�

His wife stopped listening. She often wondered how could a man be so verbose. Ramu had lofty concepts of everything. He had a great sense of the dramatic and had the ability, nay, tendency to describe even the most mundane thing like a haircut sound like a historic event. She often thought that he should either be a politician or a historian. Which other paanwaala would speak of his profession in such a grandiose manner.

�Paanwaalas are artises� he would say. �Artistes unique to India. Everyone has painters, sculptors, musicians, chefs and writers. Only our nation has paanwaalas. A paan is an object of art. The nuances of paan-making are too subtle for someone to actually institutionalise. Which is why no one has been able to manufacture a paan-making machine. Can any assembly line ever aspire to recreate the aura of Michelangelo�s David? No! Similarly, no pretenders can recreate the magic of a perfect paan���

So on and so forth. His eulogising of his profession was not without reason though. It had made him a very successful man. After taking 6 years to complete his graduation, he could not get a job anywhere in Lucknow. He thought about going to Mumbai like his entire neighbourhood, which mass-migrated in the 70s, but decided the effort wasn�t worth it. Ever since he was a kid, he had been enamoured by paans. So he decided, on a whim, to become a paanwaala. He bought a shop, bribed a policeman, a bureaucrat, an MLA and an MP, and very soon his �business� was on its way.

�Ramu Kalakar Paanwaala�, the sign on his shop proudly proclaimed. The sign also had a crude version of what looked like a flat-chested naked woman, but was actually meant to depict Michelangelo�s David. Ramu owed his initial customers, who were students of a college nearby, to the very fact that the image looked like that of a naked woman.

But Ramu was good at his work. The customers came upon hearing of the image, but stayed because of his paan. It really was delicious. Ramu himself did not eat tobacco or any tobacco paan, so he specialised in making meetha paan, the paan without any tobacco. That was the USP of his shop � the tobaccoless paan shop.

Surprisingly, the shop did better than most paan shops. It attracted the cr�me-de-la-cr�me of Lucknow. Ministers, MLAs (yes, both terms did not have the identical meaning in those days in U.P.), IAS officers, singers, ��in short everyone.

Ramu often launched into monologues about the art of paan-making and more often than not he found a sympathetic and even interested ear. In fact his interviews had been published in Lucknow Times, Lucknow Newsline and he even found a mention in an issue of Outlook. The success of his paanshop had made several venture capitalists approach him with offer for setting up a chain of �Ramu Kalakar Paanwaala� shops all over the country, but he politely refused.

�My art can not be recreated. Even in my shop, I have hired help only to handle the cash register. I still make each and every paan with my own hands. Did Michelangelo hire help to make sculptures?� he asked vehemently to a reporter from the Sahara Times who was chewing on a yummy meetha paan.

�So what is your dream, Ramuji?� the reporter asked.

�My dream? Oh as I keep telling the wife, my dream is to achieve the purpose of my artistic life. And that shall be done when I have created a David of my own.�

�A David?� the reporter asked quizzically.

�Yes, a David. Like Michelangelo�s greatest creation is the statue of David, I too am waiting for that paan which shall be the pinnacle of my artistic ability. The zenith of my god-given skills. A crescendo of superlative paan-making achieved by the perfect combination of these ingredients, like select musical notes. Yes, I dream of that David among paans.�

The reporter did not know how to react to this barrage of verbal grandeur.

�Errr�ahem..� he cleared his throat �And when you make this David paan, what will you do with it? Store it for posterity?�

Ramu looked at him like a teacher looks at a kindergarten kid who spills his milk

�No, no. It will be eaten. For that is the purpose of the paan, to be eaten, relished, enjoyed, savoured, and finally swallowed.�

So that morning when Ramu woke up early, a bee started buzzing in his bonnet. However he could not quite pin the thought down. He reached the shop that morning, and reached his table to start making some paans.

He examined the betel leaves that day and noted how fresh and juicy they seemed. The first leaf he picked up had a perfect shape. He smiled at the symmetry and applied kattha on it. The he reached for the gulkand. Ramu used his hands and spoons to put the stuff on the paan. The way Ramu worked was all set in his mind. He had definitions for what the perfect quantity of each ingredient was supposed to be. If course he did not measure it, but he had an unstated amount in mind. Whenever he put a helping of anything in the paan, his mind automatically said to him �You put a little too much� or �You didn�t put enough�. However these variations were too minute to be corrected. To get an idea of what he felt like, try stopping a stopwatch when it is showing a predecided number of milliseconds. We lack the quickness or the sense to do it. But when it is stopped, we can see if we missed or succeeded.

Usually, because of the gel-like and uneven texture of gulkand, his first error would be at this ingredient. Today however, his mind said to him �Perfect� as soon as he put the gulkand on the pan. He put some minced date and crushed almond, and then proceeded to sprinkle grated coconut on it. �Perfect, perfect, perfect!� his mind cried. He stopped for a second. Could this be the reason his day started in that unlikely manner? Could this paan be his David? He added munakka�perfect�..cashew powder�perfect�.pistachio powder�perfect! He took a deep breath and froze for a few seconds. This was a historic moment that was nearing him, if all went well. His greatest performance! Was he ready for it? He waited till his trembling hands became steady. He then added some salli supari, and waited for the last ingredient� a rookie Wimbledon finalist serving for a match point. His right hand reached for the rose powder, and he sprinkled some of it on the pan. PERFECT!!!! He had done it!!!

With a huge smile on his face, he looked at Ghanshyaam, his assistant. Ghanshyaam knew his boss too well and guessed what had happened.

�Davidva hui gawa?� he asked.

Ramu furiously nodded as he folded the pan perfectly, and put a piece of clove through it. He placed the pan in the box and felt like a virtuoso who had just finished his greatest recital.

Ghanshyaam started clapping, and an elated Ramu could not stop himself, as he ran and hugged Ghanshyaam.

�You must call the press!� Ghanshyaam said.

�Yes, I will, but not at once. I have a plan. Have been thinking about this for years.� Ramu smiled. �First, I will mark that paan with something special�..yes, I will wrap it in this silver foil�..and make sure I give it only to one of our regular patrons. I will just tell the patron that paan is special, won�t tell him it is my David. Then when he eats it, I will tell the press about it, and they will interview him to ask his opinion about the paan.�

�Good idea, sir�.

Everytime a regular customer came, Ghanshyaam looked at Ramu, who would nod his disapproval. He was waiting for someone really special to come in. And that someone special entered the shop an hour later.

�Ashraf Faizi, the greatest Urdu poet alive and our long time patron�, Ramu thought and decided Ashraf would be the lucky one.

�Salamalekum, Ramu Kalakar�, the suave shaayar said. �How are you today?�

�Oh I am very happy today, Ashrafmian. Aap sunaiye kya haal hai.� Ramu said, signalling Ghanshyaam to get the �David�, which was wrapped in silver foil.

�I am in a bit of a hurry actually. I need 10 paans immediately.�

�Sure. But this is one paan I want you to have, he said placing the David in his hand. It is very special�..�

Just then a boy who worked in the shop next to his came running

�Ramuji, your wife is on the phone. Very urgent message.� Ramu�s phone had been dead for a few days and his neighbouring shop was receiving calls for him. Ramu rushed over to the shop and was very angry to know that the �urgent message� was that Ramu should not forget to get some potatoes while coming back.

Grumbling, Ramu entered his shop and was shocked to see it was entirely devoid of any shaayars.

�Where is Faizisaab?� he shouted.

Ghanshyaam looked apologetic and said

�Errr, he wanted all the paans parcelled. He said to me �don�t forget to pack the paan with the silver foil as well. Ramuji said it was special.� And then left in a hurry saying some guests were waiting for him.�

�Oh as long as he knows it is special, it is fine by me. I would have loved to see the expression on his face when he ate that paan. I guess I should call the reporters and then call him up to ask him about the paan.�

And Ramu reached for his telephone diary.


Ashraf Faizi reached home with the paan and entered the living room where all this guests were sitting.

�There you are� his wife said. �Got the paan?�

�Yes, I got the paan. Here everyone, have this. I will just park my car and come.�

Everyone started taking a paan each from the box. A dainty hand reached for the David.

�Hey, this one is in a silver foil. So cool.� she drawled.

She opened the foil and started taking a bite, when Mr Faizi said

�Not like that. You put it completely in your mouth, Christine.�

Christine put the paan in her mouth. As she started chewing, the taste of the gulkand, the cashew etc sunk into her tongue.

�Oh my god, this is sweet!!!� she said and spat the paan out into her hand. �I am on a sugar free diet, I can�t have this.� And ran to the sink to throw the remnants of �David�.

�Oh no, you spat out a Ramu Kalakar paan. Ashraf will get very upset about it. If he asks, just tell him the paan was very tasty. Don�t tell him you spat it out, OK?�

The group of European exchange students from IIM Lucknow who had come for dinner at the invitation of Mrs. Faizi, professor at IIML, nodded their heads. Christine was still trying to clear her mouth of the sweet gook. She admired her own svelte figure in the mirror and repeated to herself her resolution - stay away from sweets.


Ramu Kalakar Paanwaala shop in Hazratganj was full of reporters. Flashes were being heard as Ram made a statement about the David of his paans. Then one reporter who had hooked up a chordless speakerphone told those gathered that the call could be made. A call was placed to Faizi�s place.

�Faizisaab, Ramu Kalakar here.�

�Arre Ramu, how are you? Yaar, I could not eat even one of your paans. These European exchange students had come over for dinner. They polished them all off.�

There was a deafening silence in the shop for a while. Then with a quavering voice Ramu asked.

�Err, could I speak to the person who ate the paan in the silver foil?� he asked. Faizi was puzzled by this request, but he gave the phone to Christine. Christine was puzzled as she took the phone.

�Allo?� she said.

�Miss Christine� the reporter from Lucknow Samachar said. �We have a question for you.�


Sunday, October 19, 2003

Pune's own Hell's Angels?

Such hilarious articles are the speciality of Sakal, the leading Marathi daily of Pune. Not only do they manage to uncover the funniest and weirdest stories because of their extensive network of correspondents in the city, often readers too forward such kisse to them.

This particular article had me in splits.

Once you go to the page, read the story in the lower half, the one titled
"ChheD kaadhNaarya yuvaanetyaas mahilaancha prasaad". (Eveteasing youth politician gets a "taste" of women)

For those who can't read marathi, here is a gist of what the articles says -

This self styled "youth politician" ( In India this term refers to a man between the ages of 20 and 40 who can't get even the lowest paying job and so joins a political party) from Shivajinagar made some comments about a particular girl from Pandavnagar while passing her on the road. The girl was tolerant for 2-3 days and ignored him but when he called her 'Dimple Kapadia', her patience crossed all limits.
(This is where I burst out laughing for the first time. I wonder how Dimple would react to this piece of info :-P)

The girl informed a few ladies around her on the street about what our "youth politician" had been doing. The ladies got so upset that they immediately marched to the guy's house in a big group. They entered his house and....the article euphemistically implies....beat him up black and blue. After that they dragged him to the Pandavnagar police station and handed him over to the cops.

This news reached the ears of the City Chief of the guy's party. Funnily enough, a leader of the opposition party also got wind of it, and both of them landed up at the Police Station at the same time. The CityChief tried to make the police let the guy go with a warning, while the opposition fellow err... opposed it. Finally the opposition fellow, true to his opposition status, withdrew his opposition and the casanova youth politician was let off without a formal complaint being lodged against him.

The article ends in a typical Sakal manner -

When you indulge in eve-teasing in a city like Pune, which is the bastion of culture (Sanskrutik maaherghar), you get a sobering "taste" of what Pune women are capable of - this lesson was learnt by the youth politician belonging to a party that claims to be a protector of culture (implying that the guy was probably from the Shivsena or BJP). However because of some politicking by his mentors, he could not experience a "taste" of what the Pune police are capable of. The women of Pandavnagar are furious about this turn of events and are now thinking if something can be done to the policemen along with the youth politician.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

I have stumbled upon hitherto unknown rich deposits of self-restraint. :-P

How(and more importantly WHY) to make a Choctail

Take a slab of Cadbury dairy milk chocolate and put it in a glass. Then pour 200 ml of your favourite cola on it. What you have is a choctail.

Why make it? The pesticides in the cola will kill the worms in the Cadbury chocolates.

....errr.....I bet someone has already cracked this one before. Darn, i should update my blog more often.

Sunil had gone to Pune this weekend. He told me about how a big gang of VHP/BD/RSS types commandeered 2 reserved bogies of the Pushpak Express and did not let passengers with legitimate reservations even sit in their own place. All those harrowed passengers had to come to Sunil's bogie. Needless to say, all these saffron loonies were headed to Ayodhya.

This morning I went to our "Leadership Development" class where the Prof showed us clippings from the movie Gandhi. The guy sitting in front of me said "Man, I just hate Gandhi...what can we learn from him?".

One clipping showed him address a big gathering of angry Indians in South Africa whom he first arouses into feeling angry and then channelises their anger by peaceful means. He convinces them to follow non violent means and yet not give in to injustice. The remarkable thing is those angry people agree!!

That was then, in 1894. Now we have members of so called "volunteer organisations" and "religious organisations" using muscle power to illegally take over seats paid for by other people. These people the sanghists kicked out, they were mainly Hindus. yet they were meted this treatment, all for the sake of a temple for a god whom we call "Maryadapurshottam".

Suddenly I realise that I shouldn't feel surprised if the revulsion of people like my classmate is reserved for Gandhiji and not for these people. That is the sort of society I live in.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003


Like a crocodile engulfing me in its jaws
Like a python wrapping me in its grasp
Like a tiger holding me down with its paws
Like an octopus arresting me in its clasp
The tentacles of sleep pull me deeper still
Like a venus flytrap swallowing its kill
Yet with the last bit of will I go on fighting
Hitting, stabbing, pushing, biting
Away from the dangerous limbs and teeth
Far away from crocs and tigers, trying to breathe
Yet the joy of the victory only a moment will last
Its retaliation will be strong and fast
The minions of the sandman will try every new ruse
As my battle with sleep continues......

Saturday, October 11, 2003


With a bowl of popcorn and the screen in front of me I sat
bent over the keyboard
to put down my thoughts in a decent lyrical format

What I'm about to type here won't bear any insight
on anything in particular
and hence should be taken in a spirit light.

Here begins my whine-about a day that was a drab
thought i warn you before
that paperweight, to fling at the screen, you grab.

On my way to the office today, i saw a goat rolling about to and fro
it was being kicked all over the road
wouldn't have been much to write about, had it not been without a torso

The goat was a real happy goat once upon a time you see
or so it believed
and so it rollicked about the dried out pastures filled with glee.

Little did it know that there'd come a time
a few hours post-decapitation
when a girl with nothing to write about will make a silly rhyme.

The day isn't much to write about i'm afraid
unlike the goat
about which already a lot has been said.

This is a indeed a situtation that brings utter dismay
talk about a headless goat
takes up more space than the cribs about my day!!

Wait a minute!! that goes to say that my day was good
which isn't such a bad thought afterall
now that it is recognized and understood

this is a guest post so i'll refrain
my goofy self
from writing some more and be the cause of unwarranted pain

so now that the day is done
a goat and a good day
talked about and another already begun

i'd like to end this here on this note
when your love has a blog
and you need to guest post, write about a dead goat...


A hilarious poem as a guest post by Sarika. I was all smiles and chuckles as I read it.....and i have been reading it repeatedly and laughing. :)

The idea of guest-posting on each other's blog came about when I wrote a poem during our MSN convo. She wanted me to post it on our joint blog ~~Dewdrops~~ but I said why not post it on hers. So it was decided that the poem would go on her blog and she would write one for mine.

And that is how this post was created. :)

If you are wondering how Sarika managed to write a poem like this, you should know that currently she is reading Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and some influence is but natural.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Oh yes how could I forget to post this here.

Have started a new fotolog

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

The long break in blogging came about due to a quiz fest I attended at IIM Indore called Nihilanth. It featured six quizzes and was an invitational event with only the 7 IITs and 6 IIMs participating. Here are a few soundbytes from the Indore visit

- Lack of quality practice for over a year has left my quizzing skills barely half of what they were. I reached the finals of 4 quizzes - Entertainment quiz, General Quiz, Lone Wolf Quiz and for the first time in my life Busines Quiz!!! However in all quizzes my team or I could not get into the top 3. The second IIML team however stood 3rd in the Biz quiz. I am wondering whether the decline of my trivia quizzing skills is related to the upsurge in my Biz-quizzing skills :-P.
- The IIMI guys pulled off a phenomenal challenge by successfully organising this event in the "middle of nowhere" (as someone succinctly put it). Out of the 13 instis, only IIMK was absent, and considering this event was being organised for the first time in an infrastructurally challenged town like Indore, this level of participation is phenomenal.
- One place where the IIMI guys goofed up was the selection of quizmasters. IITs and IIMs maintain a high level of quizzing standards. So one was expecting the first IITIIM quizfest to have great QMs with amazing original questions. However 3 out of the 4 QMs were not up to the mark. Siddhartha Basu's general quiz was tepid, but then the reasons for inviting him are obvious. No one calls him to fests for quality questions, but for the celebrity status he has and the subsequent pull with sponsors he grants the event. Joint worst with Basu was Gautam Ghose. He is an IITK-IIMC alumnus, but he studied there at least 30 odd years ago. That is why he probably finds the concept of infinite rebounds too complex to employ. The biggest disappointment to us all was that in an IITIIM quizfest there were 4 quizzes out of 6 that did not follow the infinite rebounds method.

Short break to explain the "Infinite Rebounds"(IR) system - It is a system which has 2 main conditions -
a) Direct as well as pass questions have the same number of points
b) The team that has just scored will be the last team to get a chance to answer the next question. i. e if team 2 was asked the question, but if team 4 answers a question when it passes, then the next question goes to team 5. This has been universally accepted as the fairest method since it evens out the luck factor.

Ghose conducted 3 quizzes using the archaic direct-pass method. All quizzes in Pune, even the tiniest ones are conducted using the IR system, and to have all the IITs and IIMs battling it out in a direct-pass is like playing the World Cup with a tennis ball.

What made it worse was the quality of Ghose's questions, which was appaling. Not even 5% were original and some of them were so are a few examples

* In the "Western audio" round, for one question he played the familiar starting music of Highway Star. I started thinking what the question could be, wondering if I remembered the video, the funda behind the song etc. However after the music stopped, Ghose asked "Identify the pop band". All the participants were aghast and yelled in chorus "POP??????" and he says "yeah, pop, rock whatever". The guy for whom it was a direct said "I resent the use of the word pop, the band is Deep Purple". Deep Purple is also the colour we all had turned in disgust on hearing a question like this in such a quiz.
* There was a round straight out of Antkshari in which you had to identify the song on the basis of the intro piece. One team actually got "radha kaise na jaley from lagaan"!!!!
* There was one particularly horrible question. The visual showed the Mercedes Benz logo and the picture of a rock band and we were supposed to connect the 2. I couldn't identify the rock band, so I thought I should give a funny answer and say "Maybe the band is the Eagles and the connection is that in a line in Hotel california, Merc Benz is mentioned...", but then I said to myself "You dont want to be the laughing stock of the place by giving such a lame answer even in jest" so I passed. A guy after me gave the answer and turns out it was right!!!! Yeeeesh, that question was so lame it needed a leg transplant.

There were a lot more questions that were even worse. The only decent questions were from a second hand source like the quiznet. Funnily, when he was talking to us later, saying that we could invite him to our isnti if there was quiz in our fest that had to be conducted, he actually said "I never copy paste questions, I work hard on them". Yeah right!!!!

But I guess I should be mild in my criticism. I guess it is difficult to come up with newer questions at that age. Identifying a song by Deep Purple may have been a good question in the 1970s but it just doesn't cut it now.

- Arul Mani's 2 quizzes were quite decent, but somehow I expected more from him. Most of his questions were again old ones. But then he had been given category quizzes to conduct - Sprits quiz and Science-Tech quiz, so his options were limited. However I was sad at the selective range of sports that his quiz covered.

- The best QM at the event was Satyajit Chetri who conducted the Music, Entertainment, Lit, Arts (MELA) quiz. His questions were original, he used the IR format, and it was fun thinking about the answers. Hardly any of them were the "you know it or you dont" types and were always guessable if you thought hard enough. Later I came to know that he is a blogger too. He is Beatzo on LJ. Go to his blog to check the elims questions and you will see how good they were. My personal favourite - Number 18 which I can't stop raving about. One teeny tiny crib about Beatzo though. There was one question in which he played a song "Dil se mere door na jaana". I knew the whole funda behind the song. But suddenly he changed his mind and asked the question to the audience instead. No one there knew fact no one among the finalists knew it except for me. But he hadn't asked it to us and though I knew the answer I couldn't get the points. Getting the points won't have made a difference to our standings, of course, but still, I think it was a finals quality question, not an audience one. Great quiz there and the only one I had fun at.

- Lately I have realised that I have more fun conducting a quiz rather than participating in it. Lately I have also been thinking that I can be a very good QuizMaster. In fact I think that I am a better QM than a quizzer. This does not mean that I think myself as a poor quizzer, but it means that I simple think of myself as too good a quizmaster :-P. So made my first pitch to an insti at Nihilanth offering to conduct their quiz. I will be sending them a sample of my questions today and if they do like them and decide to hire me, it will be the beginning of my freelance quizmastering career. :-)

- About the city of Indore, the roads and the facilities there are so horrible that they make Lucknow look like a European city by comparison. My bones are yet to recover from the travel on MP roads. It is sad to see the city of my birth in such shambles. In this maze of lunar surface roads, I suddenly realised I couldn't feel any bumps. I saw we were on a 6 lane cement road in Indore city!!!!!! How the hell did this happen, I wondered. Maybe it was a road that politicos use. But later I came to know that the reason is not selective efficiency by the administration, but the determined efficiency of people. The people in that locality got tired of the bumpy road, and decided to pitch in a few thousand rupees per household to build a road. What resulted was a high quality road which does not have a single bump. This is another small demonstrative experiment to show that India is ready for libertarian policies. When you yourself have invested in building the road, you will make sure the best contractor builds it and does a darn good job of it. It is your money so you spend it well. The administration doesn't think of taxpayers' money as their own and spend it on making shabby roads.

Coming back to Lucknow was a pleasure in more ways than one. :-)

Iti revakhande nihilanthpuraney prathamadhyaya!

Thursday, October 02, 2003

I love this flower.

I look at the petals, marvel at how fresh they look everytime. How just a mere glance at each petal leaves me feeling all mistily exhilarated. Even the faintest whiff of their scent is enough to make my brain feel as if it has been marinating all night in a pan of bliss. The touch.....the soft touch of the flower....sends miniscule shivers of delight all over my body.

The flower floods my senses with so much happiness......I can't help but smile all the time. It may make me look like a fool, at least I am a happy fool.

I can trace the happiness back to the day when the bud bloomed into such a breathtaking flower. How can I not celebrate that day?

Happy Birthday Frangipani.