Thursday, 28 January 2010

If Only

If only we knew
That we are sent here only to view

If only we understood
That the world here is contrived

If only we realized
That love was the only thing real and unfeigned

If only we learnt
That nothing was ours when sent

If only we recognized
That nothing comes with us when we are cauterized

If only we were not men
And were sent down not to make any sin

If only we didn't create
Those that backfired and made us prostrate

If only we stopped
Hoarding money that is after all man-made

If only we thought
Life was more than what we have got

If only we were loved
If only we were to love
If only we were surreal
If only we were to live a dream
If only we were to exist and do nothing more
If one we didn't create the world we live in

We would not have been part of Mankind
We would not be part of the rat race

We would have realized that what cometh goeth the way it is destined
And we are mere actors who perform on stage
And we were no better than any other beast
And we are not the creators
Nor the destroyers

Life would have been a lot better

Friday, 22 January 2010

Freakonomics: A Review

After a really really long time, I have tried my hands on yet another book review. Though I was slightly late in embarking upon this classic, now is not the bad time because the sequel: Super Freakonomics' is topping the charts at book stores.

Steven Levitt (a famous economist and a Harvard graduate) and Stephen Dubner (a New York journalist) have produced an impeccable work in Freakonomics. Using statistical data to reveal grotesque connections and heterodox behaviors is the basic concept behind the book by and large. Having said that, it is important to note that the book does not have any unifying theme. The authors have chosen to call this approach a treasure-hunt approach to the art of explaining the oblivious.

Is there an incentive for real estate agents to sell their own homes for more than they sell their clients' homes? How would parents react if child care centers started charging fees when they pick up their children after closing time after it had been previously free? Who is most likely to cheat when bagels are paid for on an honor system? Why do drug-dealers tend to live with their moms? What is common between school teachers and Sumo wrestlers? How did the police break into the Ku-Klux clan in 'reality'?Answers to all of these and much more is what is contained in the book. Those answers are simple but surprising. Behavioral economics is the name of the genre that includes this type of number based behavioral reasoning.

Though the book proclaims no unifying theme, to me personally, the unifying theme behind the book is obviously to make the reader find ways to asking questions. The revised edition of the book contains additional texts which are excerpts from the Freakonomics blog and columns. What I got out of the book is a new dimension to my thinking - an economic way of thinking. The Abhorring conventional wisdom was clearly an intention of the authors. Causes of problems that seem obvious usually, might not be the real causes more often than not. Hence, questioning everything is the right starting point to decode any conundrum.

Malcolm Gladwell's thoughts are very very closely aligned to the thought process behind this book. Super Freakonomics is slightly different from the prelude. The authors have taken a counter-intuitive approach to peep into the future.

Verdict: An excellent read. Should be read at one go. Will most likely entice the reader to buy the sequel and in some cases entice the reader to buy all of Malcolm Gladwell's in wholesale. (Last point was true in my case)

Happy Reading!!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Season 3 Preview

With the auctions just behind us, it is time again for Season Three of the money-rich Indian Premier League. Unlike last year's transfer market, this year didn't bring in too many big names for bidding. Kieron Pollard was the pick of the lot. With his masterful performance in the recent KFC Big Bash and his heroics in the Champions League Twenty-20 last year, he is pipped to be a massive hit in the coming season. As expected ( with two players worth $1.5m in the aquad already), Chennai Super Kings were one of the bidders for the 22 year old West Indian All Rounder. Other bidders were Mumbai Indians, 'unsurprisingly' (because they had an all rounder void in the line up) and Deccan Chargers, 'surprisingly' (because three of their overseas player are all rounders). But at last, after a tie on the $750000 ceiling, an impressive $2.3m bagged the coveted prize of IPL3 for the Ambani's.

With the teams and players availability almost confirmed, there seems to be no surprises for most of the teams. Mumbai Indians is the team I want be backing this time around. Albeit not just because of the new arrival. The team has appealed to me over the last two years. The only weak link being some sporadic sub-standard captaincy. The team is a well shaped bunch of promising faces. A Jayasuriya-Harbhajan-Duminy-Tendulkar-Zaheer force (Pollard not included) is unquestionably formidable. Having been a staunch Super Kings fan for the last two years simply due to nativity reasons, this time I have decided to back India's cricketing God for once in his last few years at cricket's helm. I reckon he will lead the team better and overcome those minor hassles that they've come across in the last two seasons.

I bet nobody predicted a Hyderabad-Bangalore final in season 2. And going by the same logic, I am sure one can not write off any team (including KKR :-) ). On the viewership front, though season two was an extradited affair, viewership showed a 10% increase from its first season numbers. Given that it is back to India once again, i am sure it is going to be a massive hit for the advertisers. Personally, I am not looking forward with much excitement or some such thing to this IPL 3. But all around me, there has been an overflow of chitchat in the past two days about the auction and the event as such. Hence the post.

Nevertheless, what's in store this time?
Mumbai Indians for the trophy!
Loads of money for the already rich bureaucrats and advertisers!
Some fun for us viewers!
And if one wants to witness the event from the stands, a small hole in the purse.

Om Criketaya Namaha!!!

Monday, 4 January 2010

Sunny Day at the Portmants

For the first time in twenty three years, I have tried my hands on writing a short story with little (or no) substance and still make it a story like the way P.G Wodehouse does with his impeccable fiction writings. So in short, i tried to imitate his style and thus goes the result:

Disclaimer: Below goes a slightly long short story which is totally open to critique and suggestions. One can choose to skip the story if there is any better job or urgency at the moment. Hence i declare the next few minutes of yours a waste of time. But if one wants to read and comment.

Sunny Day at the Portmants

It was a brilliant day and the Sun shone brightly into the drawing-room on Lord Gregory Christensen, the Third Earl of Peterburg who was reading The Great Gatsby, by Scott Fitzgerald and extended into the dining room to illuminate my Aunt Merilina who was busy making tea for the party. With a lot more warmth, the Sun peeped into the bedroom through the balcony door to wake up from slumber, the youngest soul of the Portmant Castle, Freddie Christensen. The day was a remarkable one with cute clouds moving gradually over the head and birds chirping to glory on tree-tops. I had come down to the Portmant Castle on a weekend errand at the behest of my Aunt Merilina to attend to the family get together meeting that has been an annual event for the Peterburgers since long. The inception of this AGBM (Annual General Body Meeting) could be tracked back to the period of Lord Montegry Thewsaid, my great-grandfather. I was in great mood after an energizing morning ride on my two-seater from London and my mind was chirpy to say the least. I was hobnobbing with a couple of other cousins from the female fraternity in the family when I heard a loud shriek behind my back. It would be grossly understating to the reader if I said the noise shrilled my ears and caused me to jerk a little bit. On deep examination, it was found that the devilish shriek came from the loudest cousin present at the castle for the AGBM. It was this thing about the gentler sex that I have disliked since I was a boy. The prejudice was well founded by way of a handful of experiences with their overly articulated social behavior at clubs and outings. Having been engaged to about seven or eight beautiful girls from London and its suburbs, marriage should have been a thing of the past in my life but it had held its nerve and conducted itself fairly by not coming in the way of my happiness till date. Touch Wood. The reason for such a hide-and-seek with the devil of marriage can be solely attributed to the Gwendon habit of detesting cries and shrieks at public places proceeding from the fairer sex by and large.

The sound that had thus emanated from the eligible spinster in the surroundings had caused a roar around the dining room at Portmant and had succeeded in attracting the attention of all and sundry at the castle irrespective of how far they had been from the source of the noise. “What the hell? Was that Amelia?”, I said, shocked and stunned. “I say, Tommy is a sweetheart”, she riposted. That, in general didn’t explain much to any of the onlookers at the dining hall. Everybody was understandably perplexed still and was waiting for a better explanation. “Ooooooohhh! What a beautiful necklace, this one”, she continued. It takes one ounce more than the average human brain to understand such situations completely and I, being at my best on a fine morning, saw it all. Amelia, for whose engagement, this gathering had come together had just opened her birthday gift from Tommy Fretwood, her school time pal and distant cousin. To a person whose IQ is at least 30 points more than the average IQ levels of an engineer at Harvard or Stanford this would ring a bell and it rightly did to me. As these bells and thoughts were going through my mind, I looked inadvertently at one of the other two testosterone loaded figures present at the hall, the Hon’ble Dingo Kittle who was supposed to be affianced to Amelia shortly. As he saw the reactions from Amelia with that necklace from Tommy at her behest, his eyes began to turn a darkish red and I didn’t miss that paradigm shift in the emotions of a man who has had a gala time in his stay at the Portmants till now. It was clear that jealousy was making the better of this otherwise composed gentleman in his late twenties.

It has to be noted that this is the third time that Dingo and Amelia were about to get engaged and on the two occasions earlier when such an event occurred, something had come in the way of the peacefully affianced couple. The first time, if I remember correctly, doom arose when Dingo spotted Amelia hugging Harold the vicar, among the rhododendrons at the garden behind the castle two hours post the engagement. To a newcomer to the castle, it would not be a well-known fact that Harold was Amelia’s school headmaster and that they both shared an intimate father-daughter relationship ever since the death of Amelia’s father in a shipwreck two years back. Dingo was not aware of such a thing when he spotted them mollycoddling together. He called off the engagement and rushed out of the Portmants without giving any chance to anyone for an explanation. The second time, the engagement was called off by Amelia when she got to know that Dingo had a phobia for rats since his childhood and was not able to display his manly spirit when there was a rat in his bathroom.

After two bumpy rides for these two made-for-each-others, this time luck had smiled upon them and they started addressing each other as darling, sweetheart, pimpoo and that sort of overtures after both had realised their mistakes last week. Amelia said she loved him endlessly and he had lived up to that remark by calling her the only girl of his life. Dingo’s suspicions that Tommy had been secretly wooing his wife to be and that she had just fallen for him on seeing his expensive birthday present for her was the only grave threat to the serenity between the two. But actually, Tommy had given two jewel cases to Gregory Christensen last night and told him to give the first one to Amelia and wire the second one to his neighbor Finky. He had insisted that the pendant go to Amelia as her birthday present and the necklace to Finky who had told him to get it polished before the weekend reverie at the Portmant castle.

To say that the engagement was about to be broken for a record third time would be as good as saying that doom was looking upon Gwendon. Such was the situation because it was not a secret that Amelia looked upon me as her second darling and it would be inevitable that she would ask me to buy her the diamond ring if Dingo called it quits once again. It was a sad thing to digest all of a sudden and the situation called for some witty thinking to find a way to stitch back the engagement as before. The only other person in the dining hall who understood all these complications was my best friend Hermett who had come along with me to the Portmants so as to take a look at the vintage coin collection of Lord Gregory Christensen. He was a man of action and needless to say that he wanted to come to his friend’s rescue in the predicament at all costs. The only leverage he had in this affair was the fact that he was a mutual friend of both myself and Dingo. Thus, he resolved that he was the only possibility when the person who should appease Dingo at the moment was concerned.

The fact that Lord Gregory was such an absentminded dumb head was well-known around Market Portmants and it was this that convinced Hermett to attempt the appeasement by revealing the gross mistake done by Gregory Christensen. In this world, men can be broadly classified into two varieties overall, those who understand what the other person says and those who don’t. Unfortunately Dingo belonged to the second group and he was in no position to listen to what Hermett was trying to say. He was chewing his tongue and clicking his teeth and proceeded to give a burrrppping sound to show his anger and indignation towards Amelia at the moment. Gwendons are optimists per se and usually look for a sliver lining each time the clouds darken around them. It was with this attitude that I was witness to the developments at the dining room when all of a sudden, Gregory barged into the dining room saying “Tommy, Tommy..I’ve made a blunder”.Not realizing that Tommy was at present unavailable among the gathering at the dining hall, he said “Where is Tommy?” about seventeen times as a result of his disturbed emotions before I came to his rescue. I said, “Tommy is at the moment taking a quick shower and would be back for tea and burger anytime now”.To this Gregory said “Oh alright” and stood there waiting for the man’s arrival. With the circumstances being as they were, it was as if everybody at the hall was waiting for Tommy to come and solve a couple of problems. Tommy is a man of quick wit and by means of telepathy or some other “pathy” realized the void he should fill ASAP at the dining room. He entered with a “I say, Hi Dingo, How have you been?” and it would have been a better thing to do if he had chosen any other member from the group for his greetings. Dingo was in no mood to say “Dashed good, how are you doing, Tommy old man” or some such thing. In the meanwhile Gregory who could not wait for his chance interjected by saying “Tommy, I’ve made a blunder”. To this, Tommy asked “Oh What Gregory?”, which was anyway the logical thing to ask. Gregory explained that he had confused the boxes and given the pendant to Amelia and had wired the necklace to Finky. This beat Tommy completely, for as per his instructions to Gregory, this was the right thing to do. He could not see what blunder could have been committed in this. The weaker sex are a disadvantaged fraternity when it comes to the grey mater and as expected, Amelia did not read between the lines and make out the flaws in Gregory’s articulations. As a result, she did not come forward to show the necklace and prove the absence of the pendant at the scene. But as said earlier, Gwendons are quick-witted and understood the situation well. Hence, I grabbed the necklace from Amelia’s hands and held it up in the air for everyone to see. I said, "It is a fact that Gregory has mixed the jewel boxes but after the mix up, the expensive necklace has wrongly come to Amelia as her birthday present." At this, there were two faces that became pictures. One was Amelia’s of course, as she started to realize that Tommy had not gifted her the necklace after all. The second picture was in the form of Dingo’s face to whom the last 10 minutes had sprung a pleasant surprise as he understood that Tommy had not been wooing Amelia after all. My eyes were oscillating between the two pictures with contrasting emotions when I noticed one picture move swiftly towards the other. In a split second, the dining hall was witness to a passionate lip-lock and such a wise act on the part of Hermett should be credited for having brought relief to many a soul at the dining hall. I heaved a heavy sigh of relief and proceeded to have my morning tea that was waiting and continue in my jocular mood from the morning drive into the bed room to wake Freddie Christensen from his early morning slumber for a game of Poker.

The End