December 07, 2008

A sample business-school application

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am interested in joining your esteemed business school this year. I have perused your website and I am sure that I am a good candidate for the MBA program. I attach my application form herewith, and I address some potential concerns below.

I do not see the need to tell you my university grades, for they are but fragments of opinion; each mark but a human (and therefore necessarily flawed) estimate of my ability. Moreover, a transcript is a miserably one-sided conclusion: it lacks the opinion I personally hold regarding these estimates, which is, to say the least, uncharitable.

I am also apparently required to submit the results of certain competitive examinations. I have not bothered to sit for them; I have discovered that they are meaningless evaluations of verbal and mathematical skill, pedantic quantifications of the intrinsically unquantifiable. I refuse to suffer the indignity of being assessed in these matters by individuals that I neither know nor respect.

I do not have the time or the inclination to write those four 1000-word essays you seem to expect me to give you. It appears that you wish to know personal things about me, to understand the inner workings of my mind, to "know what makes me tick", as you so abhorrently put it. I do not, however, wish to tell you personal things about me, or to tutor you in the inner workings of my mind; I have better things to do, like watching my new Star Wars DVDs. They’re digitally remastered and all. Well, not the prequel movies, which were already kind of remastered because they came out so recently; but the sequels, by virtue of having come out so long ago, did need some touching up, like the scene at Mos Eisley where those aliens .. but we digress. You want to know what I intend to do after finishing your wretched little course? What insufferable audacity. You should be thanking your stars that I even considered your school, dammit.

And what be this fee you speak of, vermin? What diabolic spirit hath possessed your feeble brain that you quote amounts so random, and yet so astronomic? Let me get this straight. I'm the one who is expected to drag self halfway across the planet, study diligently, do those obnoxious assignments, stay up late - and I have to pay you for it? Greedy little weasel, aren't we? The way I see it, you should be the one paying me. For flying over, for staying in your godforsaken little town, for doing all those little Powerpoint presentations and cost-benefit analyses and whatever else it is you folks pretend to do.

Thank you kindly for your time and consideration. I hope to hear from you at the soonest.

October 02, 2008

Oil, slick

So in the course of what we shall loosely refer to as an education, the young One was told of huge ships constantly patrolling the maritime borders of the Motherland. This, the teacher opined, was the reason one was able to sleep soundly at night. While her apparent knowledge of one's private life was disturbing, what caused greater concern was this: one pictured a sturdy fleet of tankers spouting petrol into the ocean with the intent of demarcating the nation's territory.

To begin with, one felt this was a rather crude (so to speak) method of establishing jurisdiction: since the oil would all wash away, the ships would have to turn back at some point and re-petrol the same stretch of ocean. With the fact of re-petrolling even the teacher seemed to agree: we all reached consensus that this was a thankless sort of activity.

Of course, one surmised, soldiers petrolled the land borders, and petrol tends to stay longer on soil – this explained those dark lines between countries in the Concise World Atlas. It all Fell into Place, clear as fractional distillation. And those soldiers were clever, hardworking chaps – between states and districts, they painstakingly made dashed petrol-lines and sometimes dotted-dashed, dotted-dotted-dashed, and dotted-dashed-dotted ones.*

And thus were matters well understood. But the young One, never one to accept received wisdom without a probing analysis, realized that petrol was not the best medium for the purpose. For petrol was flammable, and it was expensive. Clearly, the order of the day was to consider Suitable Alternatives.

The most evident alternative, largely by virtue of it being under consumption during a reflective moment in class**, was Kala-Khatta Rasna. The more one thought about it, the more it made sense. This most exalted beverage would, to the untrained eye, be indistinguishable from gasoline. Rasna was not particularly flammable, as proven by numerous kitchen experiments and a ruined cigarette lighter. It was cheap, since a single packet would make untold gallons of Kala-Khatta, at least if you didn't mind it being a bit watery, and that should hardly be a concern when it was to be pumped right into the sea anyway. Add to that some clever spindoctoring about sweetening international relations, and that should be that. (One was also on the verge of coming up with an environmentally-conscious argument before one realized that Kala-Khatta Rasna was, in the long run, the more important resource.)

Perhaps it was the impending examinations***, or perhaps it was WWF Summerslam – one does not remember exactly what stunted the progress of this line of reasoning. But, like ol' Leonardo's helicopter, this was yet another groundbreaking idea that never made it to the limelight. It's too late now to tell people about it – they probably use lasers or something nowadays, and Google maps has international borders all figured out anyway. But every time one sees a navy ship on the History Channel, one does try to spot a hidden nozzle patriotically squirting a stream of crude into the high seas. Or maybe it was Rasna all along.

* Later in life one developed a theory about how it's all part of an international conspiracy involving Morse code.

** Consumption of Kala-Khatta Rasna, as an activity, was forbidden in class and carried the same sort of stigma as Talking. The motive could however be met by peering into the schoolbag with the ostensible purpose of retrieving a stray notebook, while surreptitiously consuming the beverage from the water-bottle within. You needed to have a water-bottle with a straw-like mechanism, the details of which one would like to dwell on, but perhaps we shall do that some other time.

*** One never actually studied for exams, but they were a great excuse to not do anything else.

June 17, 2008

O Caption! My Caption!

Are you an obsessive reader, gentle Reader? Let us presume that you are. Don't you think your life would be much simpler if you weren't?

One is a compulsive reader. Always been so. If only this compulsion had been channeled wisely towards the classics, towards the Epics, towards the formidable Western Canon, one might have become a Learned Person. But right from the stripling stage one chose instead to target juice cartons and cereal boxes and FMCG-type items in general, consequently acquiring a profound (and purely theoretical) knowledge of Maggi preparation, a sibling-like familiarity with the child on the Parle-G packet, and considerable insight into the composition of Kissan's Mixed Fruit Jam.

What of it, you ask. These matters are trivial, but what one would essentially like to convey is that one has this habit. One has managed to get by, just about, and made it this far. But an unexpected matter has recently arisen, from a fairly innocuous quarter.

As the retentive reader would recollect, one often repairs to the local cinema hall to view the latest Bollywood offering. These being Phoren Lands, the films are annotated with subtitles for the benefit of those who do not speak Bollytongue. And there lies what has been referred to as the Rub. Because reading these captions, one finds, is severely detrimental to the film-viewing experience. Particularly for us connoisseurs, who should not be distracted for even a moment from cogitating over camera angles and dialogue delivery and suchlike.

So ignore the subtitles, one hears the gentle reader point out. But, as one has been trying to explain, one cannot. The written word has maintained an eerie grip, a Vaderean force-choke, on the One ever since one's Maggi days. One must, absolutely must read each subtitle. One must, absolutely must ruminate over perceived mistranslations and come up with superior alternatives, and one must, absolutely must explain one's entire line of reasoning to any unfortunate soul/s who might have accompanied the One to the silver-screen experience.

But let us not dwell on how these infernal subtitles have affected the already-deficient Social Life. Nor shall we focus on how they have reduced entire three-hour K. Johar candyfloss parades to exercises in interlingual jugglery. For matters of far greater consequence are in what is called the Offing. Yes. These subtitles might, in fact, precipitate the End of Bollywood As We Know It! *

To adequately grasp the mechanism by which these devious annotations operate, we must first acquaint ourselves with certain key concepts:

1) There are in most films a few Jokes. Let us illustrate by means of an example Joke:

Arrey bhai, kya body hai! Bachpan se hai ya baad mein banayi?
(Subtitle: "Hey brother, what a body! Have you had it since childhood or did you develop it later?")
- Partner, 2007

2) There are in this world two types of mortal. The Fast Reader Lexicus alacritus, alumnus of Rapidex English Comprehension and pride of his CAT coaching class, naturally looks somewhat askance at the Slow Reader Lexicus sluggiferus. Even L. sluggiferus, however, can generally finish reading the subtitle before the dialogue is actually delivered.

And now, let us examine in some detail what happens during a Joke Scene. Also, let us continue in Pointwise Form because we have taken rather a fancy to it:

1. (t-3 sec) Appearance of joke subtitle. Immediately, the population of the cinema hall is conceptually divided into the two aforementioned species of mortal.
2. (t-2 sec) L. alacritus finishes reading subtitle and commences laughter.
3. (t-1 sec) L. sluggiferus commences laughter, either by virtue of having read and comprehended subtitle, or because L. alacritus is laughing.
4. (t) Punchwords are delivered, but drowned out in general roar of laughter.

It is hence clear that audible punchwords are no longer a requirement for NRI cinema. The astute reader can doubtless extrapolate that with content of an emotional nature, a nearly identical sequence of events shall ensue, with laughter replaced by convulsive weeping of roughly the same auditory magnitude. Eventually, we may choose to eliminate the audio entirely and come to rely exclusively on subtitles.

And thus shall subtitles take over the world. One shall protest, of course, but ultimately one must, absolutely must give in and meekly read them.

* That is to say, The End of (Bollywood As We Know It). Not (The End of Bollywood) As We Know It, because we do not know the End of Bollywood yet.

March 09, 2008


Breaking up is always hard, especially when you've been together for years and years. When you've stuck together through thick and thin, ups and downs, highs and lows.

After much introspection, extensive correspondence with leading agony aunts and repeated viewings of Oprah, the decision was made. Enough was enough, and it was time to move on. One clearly needed a new barber.

The lowest of the lows, by all accounts, was the haircut that was administered on the sixteenth of November last year. It was then that the first seeds of doubt were sown in the ol' subconscious. These feelings tend to fester, dear Reader, and these seeds tend to germinate, until drastic measures are taken.

So, after some deliberation, one went to Another Barber (whom we shall refer to as AB) who runs his shop with his son (whom we shall call AB junior). Ten minutes later, it was complete. A trim of impressive quality.

So that, you may have thought, would be that. Except, of course, that it wasn't. Because the Ex-Barber's shop lies strategically en route to almost everything (i.e. office and pub). And so it was the very next morning that one found oneself walking by the Ex-Barbershop. And hence the Ex himself.

Now barbers, as the astute reader may have noticed, are sensitive folks. They're also observant, and they're as sharp as, well, razors. His eyes immediately darted toward the ol' cranium. It dawned on him, gently as a receding hairline, that there had been a Cut. Locks had been hewn, curls had evidently been sheared. And, the end result being rather uniform and admittedly rather dashing, it was clearly not his own work.

He looked at the One in wounded scrutiny, betrayal writ large upon his countenance. How, those eyes seemed to implore, could one have gone elsewhere? Did one not enjoy his earnest banter? Did one object to his ludicrous prices? Or, horror of horrors, had a Lady Barber come between us?

One did what one most often does in these situations. One chose to lie. One turned the ol' laptop-bag around, letting the artfully-positioned Air India tag loom as large as possible. One was what you might call 'outstation', one conveyed through a helpless look. I don't know what 'outstation' means, his eyes beseeched right back. It means one was visiting the Homeland, one ocularly elucidated. And Patel Hair Art charges about a twentienth of what you charge, one added disdainfully. He seemed satisfied at this, for Homeland visits are the One Exception to the Rule of Barber-Loyalty. And that was, in fact, that.

One can't keep lying forever, of course. Eventually he shall realize that he has been, how shall we say, Replaced. Never mind, dear Reader. He will cope.

And the agony aunt types have taught us much. It's like this : if one returns to the Ex-Barber, then one shall be his forever. And, if one never returns to him, then one was never his to begin with. Et cetera.

And one doesn't know how long one will stick with the ABs either. You see, there happens to be a rather fetching Lady Barber just down the road.