Working for money

One of these days during lunch at office, we had a fairly heated discussion about why people work. One guy and I were of the opinion that the primary reason people work is for money, and everything else is secondary. The third guy, who among the three of us perhaps works the hardest, argued that “people who make a difference” never work for money, and that it is only “ordinary people”, who have no desire to “make a difference” that work for money. He took the examples of people like Steve Jobs and a few famous scientists to make his point.

Now, while I agree that money is the primary reason I work, and which is what I argued that day during lunch, I disagree that the end-of-month salary credit tells the whole story. The way I see it, you need to take a longer-term view of things. So while the short-term money you make is important, and affects important decisions such as quality of short-term life, a more important thing is sustainable returns. While you do your work and get that end-of-month salary credit to bolster your bank account, an important thing is about how much the work you’re doing now will contribute to your income later on in life.

Digression 1: I keep oscillating between wanting to retire at forty and wanting to retire at sixty. And I must admit I haven’t frankly decided which one is more suitable for me. This analysis is more relevant with the retirement at sixty model (which is what I think I’ll end up following, health etc permitting). End of Digression 1.

Digression 2: Not so long ago, some people in my firm wanted to recruit “software engineers from IIT with two to three years of work experience”. Being one of the “CS guys” around, I interviewed quite a few people for that role. Their CVs indicated that had we “caught them” on campus, they would have been sure hires. But two years at a software services shop, I figured in all cases, had made them “rusty”. Spending all their time in mind-numbing activities (like building UIs), they had failed to build on the skills that would have been useful for the higher-up-the-value-chain job I was recruiting for (finally that team went to IITs and got a bunch of campus hires. They gave up on lateral hiring altogether). End of Digression 2.

Those two digressions weren’t particularly meaningless. I guess you know where this post is headed now. So, the thing with a job is that along with the short-term benefits it provides, it should also help you build on those skills that you think you can monetize later on in life. Every job (most jobs, really) teach you something. There is constant learning everywhere. But what matters is if the learning that the job offers is aligned with the kind of learning that you think you are geared for, which you think you can monetize at a later point of time in life.

I still claim that I work for money, but just that I take a longer-term view of it. And I strive to learn those things on a job which I think will be helpful for me in terms of monetization at a later point of time in my life.

 

Arranged Scissors 7: Foreign boys

This post has been in the pipeline for a long time now, but a recent article in the Wall Street Journal documenting the diffficulties faced by NRI men in finding brides has finally resulting in my writing this.

For a long time, the grooms that came highest in the pecking order in the arranged marriage market were the NRIs, as most women aspired to migrate to America. In communities where dowry is practised, these guys used to get the maximum dowry; where dowry isn’t practised, the more beautiful and smart women would be the prize for being an NRI. Actually, one can make a weak case that since most of the good-looking women migrated abroad one generation ago, a lot of their daughters who would have otherwise been prize catches in the arranged marriage market here have now grown up as ABCDs, leaving the local (indian) markets poorer.

The three-way ticket protocol for bridehunting by NRI grooms has been well documented (I would especially recommend this article by noted AI stud and ASU prof Subbarao Kambhampati). I think I might have written about this in my blog some time back, though I wouldn’t have used this name for the protocol. The protocol goes something like this:

  • Boy lands in india on a two or three week trip (this is getting shorter nowadays)
  • On the way home from the airport his father hands him a sheaf of CVs and photos. By the time they reach home, a shortlist has been made.
  • Boy rushes off into the kitchen to eat the long-awaited home food, while his father quickly calls up the parents of all shortlisted girls and arranges for “bride-seeing sessions” (i’ll put a separate post on that) with each of the shortlists in their respective houses. Boy’s father needs to make sure to allow for some slack so as to account for traffic jams
  • Bride-seeing ceremonies happen wrt all the shortlists
  • End of the day boy and parents sit down with a list of all girls, and objectively note down each of their strong and weak points. Appropriate weights are given for each point, and an objective sumproduct (nowadays this is done on excel I think) reveals the winner.
  • In the classic version of the protocol, wedding would happen a week later in the US and the couple would go to Madras the following day with marriage album in order to apply for the wife’s H4. Boy would return to the US and girl would hopefully follow him a few months later
  • In the modern version, where you have cheap tools to keep in touch across continents, the first trip for the boy ends with engagement (usually held less than a week after he landed in india). He goes back to India six months later for the wedding. In some cases, the engagement is followed by a discreet registration of marriage in court, so that the girl can have her visa ready by the time she gets married formally.

In fact, I sometimes get the feeling that the speed with which NRIs want to process their “scissors” is what has led to the common minimum programme model. Given the absolute lack of time in order to make a decision, they would look for checklists. “good looking enough”. “smart enough”. “dowry enough”. etc. Now, the girls that they would usually end up getting were “premium”, because of which what these girls did would be “aspirational” to the rest of the girls. (waves hand furiously). And thus, the entire market tilted in favour of the common minimum programme.

I know of a NRI boy who got ditched by his fiancee a week before they were supposed to get married (it was the usual protocol; he had come to india six months back; seen this girl; got engaged and flown back to return just in time for the wedding). Now all arrangements had been made and he had also spent thousands of dollars for the India trip, so it would have been suboptimal for him to have gone back emptyhanded. So what does he do? Within the course of the one week between the ditching and the original date of his wedding, he does another round of scouting, finds another girl, and gets married to her at the same time and place as he was supposed to originally get married!

In another case, I know of the cycle time being as short as four days. Basically two days between the bride-seeing ceremony, and the first wedding ritual. And some other cases have had the two parties agreeing to get married to each other by just looking at each other’s photos. Bizarre is an understatement.

So¬† I suppose I’ve spent most of this post talking around the mechanics of the NRI marriage, and making a few random pertinent observations about them. Next, I want to talk about segmentation in the arranged marriage market (which I had briefly touched upon in this post), which I think vaguely ties in to this NRI concept. I hope to write that sometime this weekend.

Arranged Scissors 1 – The Common Minimum Programme

Arranged Scissors 2

Arranged Scissors 3 – Due Diligence

Arranged Scissors 4 – Dear Cesare

Arranged Scissors 5 – Finding the Right Exchange

Arranged Scissors 6: Due Diligence Networks