Photo Essays

Over the last 2-3 weeks I’ve been uploading photos on to Facebook from my recent trip to Italy and Greece. I’ve been doing it in bits and parts since I wouldn’t want to flood my facebook watchers with too many pics at a time. So I’ve been uploading them by city.

Looking at the photos I’ve uploaded, I realize I’ve given fairly lengthy captions to most of them. There are a few photos which don’t have any descriptions,  but they are a minority.

I realize I’m a writer first, and the photos I take are there only to enhance the story. I don’t think I’m ever capable of replacing a thousand words with a picture. I might put a picture in their place, and still write five hundred words.

And I keep this in mind every time I take a picture, I realize. I think about what story I can build AROUND the photo that I’m taking. It’s never about the story that the photo itself will tell. Perhaps this means I’ll never improve that much in my photography..

Facebook comments

I find most comments on facebook fraud and think they don’t add value. These are of the format of “oh how louuvely! you are looking grrreat in this pic”. I don’t know what value the commentor is trying to add. They are essentially of the “i vas here” kind of comments, and do nothing in order to further the conversation. Yes, I believe that pics on facebook are there so as to foster conversation. To bring people together. To get different viewpoints on certain momentous events. And you have people spoiling the show with motherhood statements.

Speaking of motherhood statements, a batchmate from school has recently put up pictures of her newborn daughter. And once again most comments ranged from “oh so pretty” to “congraaaaaaats” to just “awwwwww” – again none of them adding value (plis to be noting that this is all context sensitive. There are certain situations where any of the phrases I’ve mentioned here add tremendous value. Just that they’re mostly grossly misused). I wanted to write a comment there saying “stop making motherhood statements” but then held back since the new mother was also of hte “awwwwwww” “soo pretty” types.

When I write comments somewhere, be it on other blogs, or on people’s photos, or events, or statuses, I try to make sure that I’m adding some value to the discussion. If not anything else, I’ll write something that could possibly lead to further discussion, rather than just leaving comments to announce that I vas there. Perhaps the only place where I leave out of place comments is twitter, where I’m guilty of putting the odd “i’m listening” comment.

And then there are people who put up their own pics  on facebook. Someone, in a valiant attempt to mark their attendance, comments saying “nice pic”. And then you have the subject of the picture (that is the one that put it up) saying “thanks”. Even though the nice pic was supposed to be of the marking attendance type, I suppose it was a comment aimed at the photographer. I don’t know why the subject is even trying to claim credit for the pics – or maybe they just assume that it was their extra photogenic faces that made the pic as nice as it was.

I remember that back in B-school, a number of courses had marks for CP (class participation). And professors would emphasize that it was not the quantity but hte quality of CP that would matter. Occasionally you would have a Teaching Assistant sitting there marking people instantly on their CP. The threat that valueless CP would draw negative marks was enough to keep the discussions interesting.

So yeah you have people telling me that some of my CP on their pics is usually arbit. Arbit it might be at times, but at least it helps foster discussion. It raises crucial questions that might have otherwise not been asked, and helps keeps the putter of photos honest. It helps draw in other intelligent and mildly arbit people to the phpoto, and sometimes results in absolutely brilliant conversation. Now tell me – how many times have you seen an “oh so louuvvely” comment leading to brilliant conversation?

So the next time you want to comment on a picture on facebook, think twice, and think if your comment adds value. Think if it will foster discussion; think if it will make people pull up their socks and ask themselves uncomfortable questions. Think if it will draw in other similar-minded intelligent people. And even after all this you can’t decide whether to put the CP, you only have Gandhiji’s talisman to help you.

PS: you don’t need to think twice before putting CP on this blog. however, useless CP will be ignored and not be replied to


I was going through a friend’s wedding album. Here are the comments on one of the photos:

  • Great pictures! You look gorgeous, _________!
  • Aaaww…You look so beautiful __________! I’m so upset I missed it all 🙁 Hope you had tons of fun!!! 😀
  • Congrats ___________:))

The friend (i’ve blanked out the name) hasn’t replied to any of them (and all the above comments are by girls – refer to megha’s comment below).

And then on another pic, there is a valoo-adding comment – which goes something like – “is this the part where you run around trees singing songs?” That adds great value. Unfortunately, the person who got married has replied to this comment with a fairly lame comment so I don’t know how far this conversation will go.

Arranged Scissors 4 – Dear Cesare

(this is a collection of stuff I want to collectively say to all Cesares out there. Some of these might be based on stuff that has happened to me. Most of this, however, is imaginary. Nevertheless, I suppose I’ll end up saying some of these things sooner rather than later. Rather, I won’t be able to say a number of these things which is why I’m writing them here.

Cesare is a generalized term to refer to the father of the girl that you are seeing/checking-out/blading/marrying. It was collectively invented by Monkee and Kodhi, and alludes to a former AC Milan and Italy manager)

Dear Cesare,

  • You know, we are modern people. Yes, my mother is religious and all that but we think horoscope is a fraud. How do we know you haven’t frauded your daughter’s horoscope? Even if you didn’t, I was born through Caesarian section. What if the time of my birth had been timed to make sure I have a good horoscope? Do you still want it? Do you still think it matters?
  • Your daughter doesn’t look good, but I don’t know how to communicate this to you. Obviously, you won’t like to hear that your daughter is ugly, since that is a comment on the genes that you’ve passed on to her. But given that we’d cleared everything till this round, and are saying “no” now after inspecting the photo, isn’t it clear that we are rejecting based on looks?
  • Maybe next time I’ll ask you for your daughter’s horoscope along with her photo. Fraud it (horoscope) may be, but you think that is a better reason for rejection than looks. So next time I call you up and tell you “jaataka didn’t fit” you know what I’m talking about. Oh, and one more thing – you need to get the timing perfect. Both the horoscope and the photo should be sent together – else I won’t be able to reject based on horoscope
  • Every time I say “no” to your daughter, you ask me why. Why should I give you the reason? What if I had met your daughter in a pub (assume she’s a pubgoing, loose and forward woman) and hit on her for 2 days and then ditched her? Would I have to give reasons then? And you don’t take “not good fit” for an answer. There is a good chance you don’t really understand “fit”.
  • According to you, if I say no, there is something wrong with your daughter. And if she says no, then there is something wrong with me. I suppose you haven’t heard of something called the interaction term right? I suppose you haven’t been taught to add vectors, where there is a cosine term?
  • Yes, your daughter looks decent enough. She is smart enough. She is nice enough. From what I have understood she cooks just well enough. She earns enough. She is flexible enough. I agree with all of these. Excellent Common Minimum Programme, but I’m afraid that’s not what I’m looking for.
  • Of course, for the purposes of symmetry, your daughter can also say no to me without having to explain her stand. I’ll completely respect her decision. Being told “no” without being given reasons is not new to me. It’s happened in different markets.
  • And then you have a problem if I’ve already said “no” to too many women. You think I’m a loose guy, and that I’m in the market only to check out and hit on unsuspecting “hen makkLu”. But isn’t checking out and hitting on the main purpose of this process of finding a partner? Or do you mean that this market is for finding CMPs only, and I need to get out because I’m not looking for one? In any case, it would be good if your daughter were to be suspecting.
  • During the interview, I’m going to ask your daughter if she is a virgin. If you think she is the type that will be scandalized at such questions, you need not shortlist me.
  • Remember that this is the most important decision of my life. And that of your daughter’s life. So please don’t make us hurry up and make an uninformed decision on this. As long as both of us are still interested in each other, you should let us be. It takes time for Interest to move to Desire. Till then, don’t force Action.
  • I understand that you might be scandalized that I’m writing all this on my blog. nODi swamy, naaviruvudu heege (trans: look sir, we are like this wonly). I just hope that you and your daughter don’t really mind this. If you do, then we have a small problem here. Oh and btw, this is one post in what I intend to be a fairly long series on “arranged scissors”. You can find the entire list downstairs.
  • Just one thing – the tone of this post is siginficantly harsher than what I normally talk like. You are validated if you were to un-shortlist me because of the content of this post. But you are not doing the right thing if you were to un-shortlist me based on the tone. My apologies for that.
  • I hope that some day I’ll be able to call up Radio Indigo and dedicate a song to you. The song is by Iron Maiden. It is called Bring your daughter to the slaughter.

Thanks and regards,

(yes, that is my name. And if you came here looking for Karthik S’s blog, I assure you that you have come to the right place)


Arranged Scissors 1 – The Common Minimum Programme

Arranged Scissors 2

Arranged Scissors 3 – Due Diligence

Arranged Scissors 2

One of the greatest sins in the normal relationship process is tw0-timing. If your statistically significant other figures out that there is yet another other who might also be statistically significant, she is not going to take things lying down. The most likely scenario will be that the yet another other will indeed become statistically siginficant – since the original SSO puts ditch. It might be a stretch but I’ll anyway say that tw0-timing is probably the worst mistake you can commit in the course of a relationship.

The arranged marriage market puts no such constraints. Even if you are ten-timing, people won’t mind. Especially if you are an NRI. The typical NRI process goes like this. Boy lands and is given a “shortlist” – a sheaf of CVs and photos. During the drive home, the shortlist is made shorter. The next day, “interviews” are arranged with each girl in the shorter list, typically at her house. End of the day, after sampling data from various sources, boy picks the one that he thinks will be likely to be most statistically significant in the long term.He takes her out for lunch the next day, puts a ring on her finger the following day and flies off, promising to return in a few months for the wedding. Occasionally, he claims he can’t get leave from his employers for another year and so puts off thaaLi also before he returns to vilayat. Girl can follow him later. For now she’ll follow him on Twitter (sorry, bad PJ).

Local boys don’t have it that lucky. At least, it is unlikely that they ten-time. There are two quirks of the arranged marriage market which pull in opposite directions when it comes to two-timing. On one hand is discretion. You don’t announce that you are “seeing someone” until it’s all fixed and proposal has been made and accepted. Discretion also means that you don’t want to be caught together in public. It also means that you can’t write funny things on each other’s facebook walls. And it obviously rules out PDA – in fact, all forms of DA are strongly discouraged until the contract has been signed. Heck, my cousin was putting DA during her engagement and that led to much gossip and condemnation. So no DA till marriage.

So yeah – one of the “advantages” of this discretion is that it allows you to two-time. What tugs from the other side is the time to decision. Due diligence in the whole process is outsourced, to the bankers. Typically it is finished even before the parties concerned get a chance to  explore each other – and in this, this process differs from the typical M&A process. So now that the due diligence has already been done, bankers prefer that the parties reach a decision quickly.

I don’t know how this happened, but the time to decision is fairly short. In olden days, I’m told that the due diligence was the beginning and end of the deal process. All that the parties had to do was sign. Things slowly improved – to showing photos, to being shown glimpses, to being allowed to talk for two minutes. I don’t know where things stand in terms of the general market, but I’ve been trying to insist on a proper blading process to allow enough time for tiki-taka.

Ok here is the grand unification for this post. The time to decision is a function of discretion and ability to two-time. Given the discretion that has normally been practised (i suppose this came about because societies were tightly knit and small and things would become awkward for all parties involved if each expression of interest were made public), the cost of two-timing became quite low. Thus, in order to make sure that the counterparty is not two-timing their kid, parents started demanding that decisions be made early. This cut both ways – the counterparty’s parents also wanted to make sure their kid wasn’t being two-timed. From the point of view of bankers, the short time-to-deal was an absolute win.

From the point of views of the interested parties, all it did was to increase the incentive for Common Minimum Programmes. Time allotted is generally too short to properly check out the counterparty, and you need to prioritise. You want to check for obvious mistakes. In the short time, you want to make sure that the counterparty is not an obvious misfit. Realizing that you will never have that time to figure out propely if a prospective counterparty has those “spikes”, you settle for someone who “clears the basic cutoffs”.

You thus get yourself a common minimum programme spouse.

Earlier in the series:

Arranged Scissors 1 – The Common Minimum Programme