more learning from Gods

Recently I had written about certain lessons I have learnt from Hindu Myth. Here are a couple more, which are perhaps more relevant in the corporate context.

Ganesha Subramanya

Ganesha and Subramanya had a race as to who could go round the world faster. Subramanya immediately jumps on his peacock, which is the fastest thing in the world, and instructs it to go round the world as fast as possible. He makes it in a reasonable amount of time.

Ganesha thinks different. “It’s a small world”, he reckons, “and my parents will be impressed if I tell them that they are my world”. So he just goes round his parents, and wins the race.

Most companies are like Subramanya. Got a tough deadline? They hire the best peacocks and flog them in order to do a quick job. Great companies are those that follow the Ganesha paradigm – they get a good reason, and take the easy way out!

Brahma

Each minute of Brahma is supposed to last several thousands of human years (I’m not too sure of the exact number). Similarly if someone says “this job should take only a few minutes”, you should quickly understnad that it is a “few minutes” according to Brahma Standard Time. Similarly, you have “I’ll get back to you in a minute” or “I’ll join you in a minute”. All according to Brahma Standard time.

Let me know if you can think of more such analogies…

probability distribution of terrorist attacks

Following the planned terrorist attacks 2 days ago on UK-US planes, security has been beefed up majorly all over the world. I reached Mumbai airport at 5:15 for a 6:20 flight to Bangalore and I boarded the flight on the last call. Procedures have been intensified, there are multi-colored stamps on the boarding pass, and all such.

I’m sure these intensified measures will be in place for a couple of months or so after which they will die a slow death. In a few months’ time, things will be back to normal.

Now, I would like to try and figure out whether the “process” of “terrorist attack” is Markovian. Whether the fact that there was a foiled attack a couple of days ago increases or decreases the probability of an attack today.

On one hand, terrorists might have planned a series of attacks all around the world in a short period of time, and hence if it were in London on Thursday, it could be in Mumbai today. For example, the Mumbai blasts last month were serial – the first blast was followed by seven others in an hour.

On the other, having tried to attack 2 days back, terrorists now know that there will be heightened security today so they are more likely to attack next month than attack today.

The net effect could be that the two things (and many more such factors) cancel out, and indeed make the distribution of worldwide terrorist attacks markovian. Can someone provide me the necessary data with which i can test this?

As an aside, due to the strict enforcement of the “one handbag per head” rule today, there was plenty of space in the overhead cupboards on board today.

my latest love story…

i think it’s finally time to spill the beans on this one. don’t ask me who the girl is, though. i’ve sworn secrecy. i begin

lost in thought yesterday, i kinda remembered why i got in touch with her in the first place. it was march 2005. a few days after the dire straits concert. the days when i used to crib that this friend of mine was troubling me with her cribbo SMSs and was expecting me to provide emotional support. and that was the term when we learnt investments, under the wonderful Prof. Vaidyanathan. and that was the time when we learnt portfolio theory.

now, there was some day when i was really bored and had no one to talk to. a little analysis revealed a glaring incompleteness in my portfolio – all my friends whom i regularly kept in touch with was in IIMB. so, with the ongoing end-terms and submissions there, everyone seemed busy and i didn’t have too many people outside of IIMB to generally talk and crib to.

my brilliant mind put two and two together and realized that “investing” in this woman would diversify my portfolio and help me handle stuff better. the investment started paying dividends immediately (in terms of tlaking to me). and i continued to invest more in that.

soon a time came (jan06) when i suddenly realized that i had overhedged and what was originally the hedge had now become my primary investment! and that it was an extremely volatile stock i had invested in (i had somehow ignored the volatility all these months, though i was fully aware of it). and now i had to invest more in friends at IIMB, who were originally my “investment” to hedge the overhedge! somehow at that point of time i didn’t have too much heart to sell the volatile hedge, since it had till then provided pretty good returns and not caused too much downfall. so i invested more in the hedge-of-the-hedge.

however, soon after we graduated that stock started showing its real volatility. like the BSE Sensex at that point of time (and now), it kept hitting new heights and depths each day. and caused much heartburn. and refused to declare dividends even. a couple of falls were incredibly hard then, and i decided enough was enough. i sold the stock, albeit at a much lower price than i had bought it at.

now, once again, i have an unhedged mostly-IIMB-only portfolio! and a mutual fund called orkut to partially hedge it.

learning from the gods

When I was a kid, my grandfather used to tell me stories from Hindu Myth and say “dEvarann nOD kalthko” (look at the gods and learn). Here is what I have chosen to learn.
The Ganesha Principle
Instance 1
Vyaasa was looking for a scribe to write the Mahabharata, and hearing about it’s length nobody wanted to do the task. Finally the sage approached Ganesha, who immediately agreed, but upon one condition. “I need a continuous supply of dictation”, he demanded, “else your book will remain incomplete forever”. Vyaasa put a counter-condition that Ganesha understand every word he writes, and thus the deal was stuck. Thankfully both parties lived up to their contracts, which is why the great indian epic exists today.

Instance 2
Ravana was taking the Atmalinga from Kailasa to Colombo when he saw the sun setting. Being deeply religious, he needed to do his Sandhyaavandane before which he needed to have his bath. Now, the property of the Atmalinga is that once it is kept on the ground, it stays fixed forever. Ravana thus had the problem of finding someone reliable to do the job for him. Once again, our hero surfaces at the right time disguised as a Brahmin boy, and by the time Ravana has had his bath, the Atmalinga is on the ground and fixed forever (this is supposed to have happened at Gokarna, Srirangam and some temple in Bihar).

The Hanuman Principle
Only one story here, and I’ll keep it short. Hanuman was asked to bring the Sanjeevini herb which grew on a particular mountain in the Himalayas in order to cure Lakshmana during the Battle of Colombo. The god he is, he decides that it is less effort to carry the whole mountain back than to search for the herb. So he carries the whole mountain to Sri Lanka.
Learnings
The chief learning from Ganesha has been aptly summarized by Magnus Magnusson (or whoever is the Mastermind guy) – “I’ve started so I’ll finish”. Any job I do, any task I have to do, I like to do it at a stretch. Initially I thought this was restricted to programming (I still have to write all my programs in a single session), but of late I have figured out that it extends to all work I do. I face an inordinately long startup time after every break in work, and the only solution I find is to do what Ganesha did – do each task start to finish in one sitting.

Then there have been a number of blogposts, programs, essays and projects which I, for some reason put on hold for a while. They have been on hold ever since. Also, when I figure out that something I have started helping out on might have some malicious intent, I immediately put it down and fix it to the ground – thus ensuring that the malicious intent is “grounded”.

As for Hanuman, I have figured out during the last two months (of this job) that it sometimes takes less effort to do more than what is actually asked for! Especially when I have been working with tools like SQL, when my boss asks me to provide data for say 2-3 groups, I find it easier to pull out the data for all groups of items! And do it. Yeah, the boss does have the task of finding the “herb”, but they now have many more herbs, which they would have asked me to fetch anyways.

Unfortunately, I figured out that these two principles didn’t work out too well at my first job. I hope to figure out what kind of job will actually allow me to successfully apply these only learnings of mine from the Gods soon enough!

breakdown…

too many relationships have been breaking up around me nowadays. people who were the best of friends, who were thought to be inseparable, suddenly seem to be having issues with each other. and promising to never talk to each other again. (i haven’t been personally involved in most of these, but when you’ve known both parties really well it does rattle).

some choose to downplay this and say – “i believe people enter your life exactly at a point when u need them to grow together and exit/fade away from your life at the right time, enabling you to move ahead. its sad but true”. others like me would prefer to take these things to heart. it hurts.

two mails i received yesterday…

Early in the morning Neha sent me this: I hope your uncanny ability to put together seemingly unrelated incidents and bring out strange, yet logical linkages between varied experiences in life, turns out to be an asset for your consulting career.

And later in the evening, Ranga sends this: Any kind of symbiotic relationship ends up being remunerative.

Profound…