Bangalore trip update

The recent inactivity on this blog was mainly due to my inability to log on to wordpress from my phone and write a post.  I had gone home to Bangalore for an extended weekend (taking Friday and Monday off) and the only source of net access there was my phone, and for some reason I wasn’t able to log on to NED from that. During the trip I had several brilliant insights and brilliant ideas and wanted to blog them and finally such NED happened that I didn’t even twitter them. Deathmax.

The main reason I went to Bangalore was to attend Pradeep (Paddy)’s reception. I think this is an appropriate time to share the funda of his nickname with the world. Before he joined our school in 9th standard, there was this guy two years senior called Pradeep, and for some reason not known to me he was nicknamed Paddy. I vaguely knew him since I used to play basketball with him, and after he graduated there were no more Paddys in school. So when this new guy came from the Gelf, it presented a good opportunity to get back a Paddy into school. It turned out to be such a sticky nickname that not even IIT could change it.

Friday was Ugadi – yet another reason to be home in Bangalore – and was mostly spent visiting relatives. When they heard about my impending market entry, all of them brought up stories of not-so-successful marriages of people they knew well, and put fundaes to me about avoiding certain pitfalls. These fundaes were liberally peppered with stories. Mostly sad ones. Mostly of people who have chosen to continue in their marriages despite them clearly failing. It is amazing about the kind of stuff people I know have gone through, and yet they choose to not run away.

Saturday morning was rexerved for my first ever “market visit”. I was taken to this bureau in Malleswaram and asked to inspect profiles. “There are profiles of hundreds of girls there”, my uncle had told me “so let us go there before ten o’clock so that you have enough time”. The profiles were mostly homogeneous. The number of engineering seats available in Karnataka amazes me. Every single profile I checked out over there had studied a BE, and was working in some IT company. Things were so homogeneous that (I hate to admit this) the only differentiator was looks. Unfortunately I ended up shortlisting none of them.

One of the guys I met during my Bangalore trip is a sales guy who lives in a small temple town without any access to good cinema. So he forced me to accompany him to watch Slumdog (in PVR Gold Class – such an irony) and Dev D. I agree that Slumdog shows India in poor light, but filter that out and it’s a really nice movie. We need to keep in mind that it was a story and not a documentary, and even if it were the latter, I think documentaries are allowed to have narratives and need not be objective. Dev D was simply mindblowing, apart from the end which is a little bit messed up. Somehow I thought that Kashyap wanted to do a little dedic to his unreleased Paanch.

There is this meet-up at Benjarong which is likely to contribute enough material to last six arranged scissors posts. I’ll probably elaborate about the discussions in forthcoming posts but I must mention here that several arranged marriage frameworks were discussed during the dinner. The discussions and frameworks were enough to make both Monkee and I, who are in the market process, and Kodhi who will enter the market shortly to completely give up in life.

One takeaway from Paddy’s reception is that if you can help it, try not to have a “split wedding” (and try not to have a split webbing also) – where different events are held at diferent venues, on disjoint dates. In that case you won’t have people lingering around, and you will lose out on the opportunity to interact with people. Note that there is zero scope for interation during the ceremonies, and the only time you get to talk to people is before, and after, and during. And it is important that there is enough before or after or during time to allow these interactions. In split weddings guests are likely to arrive and leave in the middle of an event and so you’ll hardly get to talk to them.

One policy decision I took was to not have breakfast at home during the length of my stay. I broke this on my last day there since I wouldn’t be having any other meal at home that day, but before that visited Adigas (ashoka pillar), SN (JP nagar) and UD (3rd block). The middle one was fantastic, the first reasonably good except for bad chutney and the last not good at all. Going back from Gurgaon it was amazing that I could have a full breakfast (2 idlis-vada-masala dosa-coffee) for less than 50 bucks. Delhi sorely lacks those kind of “middle class” places – you either eat on the roadside or in fine dining here.

Regular service on this blog should resume soon. My mom has stayed back in Bangalore for the summer so I’m alone here  and so have additoinal responsibilities such as cooking and cleaning. However, I think I should be having more time so might be writing more. I can’t promise anything since blog posts are generated by spur-of-the-moment thoughts and I never know when they occur. Speaking of which I should mention that I put elaborate fundaes on studs and fighters theory in my self-appraisal review form last week.

The Perils of Notes Dictation

Thinking about my history lessons in schools, one picture comes to mind readily. A dark Mallu lady (she taught us history in the formative years between 6th and 8th) looking down at her set of voluminous notes and dictating. And all of us furiously writing so as to not miss a word of what she said. For forty minutes this exercise would continue, and then the bell would ring. Hands weary with all the writing, we would put our notebooks in our bags and look forward to a hopefully less strenuous next “perriod”.

The impact of this kind of “teaching” on schoolchildren’s attitude towards history, and their collective fflocking to science in 11th standard is obvious. There are so many things that are so obviously wrong with this mode of “teaching”. I suppose I’ll save that for else-where. Right now, I’m trying to talk about the perils of note-making in itself.

Before sixth standard and history, in almost all courses we would be dictated “questions and answers”. The questions that would appear in the exam would typically be a subset of these Q&A dictated in class. In fact, I remember that some of the more enthu teachers would write out the stuff on the board rather htan just dictating. I’m still amazed how I used to fairly consistently top the class in those days of “database query” exams.

I’m thinking about this from the point of view of impact on language. Most people who taught me English in that school had fairly good command over the language, and could be trusted to teach us good English. However, I’m not sure if I can say the same about the quality of language of other teachers. All of them were conversant in English, yes, and my schoool was fairly strict about being “English-medium”. However, the quality of English, especially in terms of grammar and pronunciation, of a fair number of teachers left a lot to be desired.

I can still remember the odd image of me thinking “this is obviously grammatically incorrect” and then proceeding to jot down what the teacher said “in my own words“. I’m sure there were other classmates who did the same. However, I’m also sure that a large number of people in the class just accepted what the teacher said to be right, in terms of language that is.

What this process of “dictation of notes” did was that teachers with horrible accents, grammar, pronunciation or all of the above passed on their bad language skills to the unsuspecting students. All the possible good work that English teachers had done was undone.There is a chance that this bad pronunciation, grammar, etc. would have been passed on even if the teachers didn’t give notes – for the students would just blindly imitate what the teachers would say. However, the amount by which they copied different teachers would not then be weighted by the amount of notes that each teacher dictated, and I think a case can be made that the quality of a teacher is inversely proportional to the amount of notes he/she dictates.

Teachers will not change because dictation is the way that they have been taught to “teach”. The onus needs to go to schools to make sure that the teachers don’t pass on their annoying language habits to the students. And a good place to start would be to stop them from dictating notes. And I still don’t understand the value of writing down notes that you don’t really bother to understand when you have a number of reasonably good text books and guide books available in the market. I agree that for earlier classes, some amount of note-making might be necessary (I think even that can be dispensed with), but in that case the school needs to be mroe careful regarding the language skills of people it recruits in order to dictate these notes.

why is the level of English in North India so low?

I had sent this mail to a mailing list of 60-odd super-intelligent people. unfortunately, in their fondness for Savita Bhabhi, Vidarbhan farmers and child-eating, they weren’t able to come up with any convincing explanation for this. So I thought you super-intelligent readers of my blog might be able to help. I begin.

Three months back I moved to Gurgaon from Bangalore. And one thing I’ve noticed is that here practically no one can speak English. I’m referring to service providers here, people who are typically from the lower middle class. Taxi driver. Electrician. Waiter. Accountant. etc.

None of them can speak a word of English, and  I mean that almost literally. In Bangalore and Madras, we can see that people in these professions at least make an effort to speak English, and even if you don’t know their local tongue you will be able to communicate with them and get your work done. Here, unless you know Hindi, it is impossible. There is only so much you can communicate in Dumb Charades, right?

I suppose one argument will be that people in the North would have never had the need to learn English since most people they come across can speak Hindi. And that since linguistic regions are much smaller in the South, there is greater incentive for people to pick up and learn new languages. And since they know that a knowledge of English helps get them more business, they make an effort to pick it up.

But again – even if you exclude those who haven’t gone to school, the knowledge of English here is horrible. Isn’t it aspirational in North India to send kids to English medium schools? If not, I wonder why this is the case – given that in the South practically everyone want to send their kids to English medium schools.

Ok here is my hypothesis – remember that it is a hypothesis and not an argument. I wonder if people who are native of regions where the same language prevails over a large geographical area are linguistically challenged. because everyone they need to interact with know their language and there is no need for them to learn any new language. and this affects their ability to pick up new languages. on the other hand, people from linguistically diverse regions will tend to find it easier to pick up new languages.

extending this, it might actually help if the medium of instruction in your school is not your native tongue. having learnt a new language early, you will find it easier to pick up new languages as you go along.

sometime last month I was at a high-end restaurant with a couple of friends. spoke to the waiter in English and he didn’t understand. one of my friends who was with me said “don’t bother talking to these guys in English. if they knew some english, they’d’ve been working for Genpact and not become waiters”

Of Pepsi and Perk

Can be best described by looking at the “objects” that defined our bets at different points in time. Most of those  phases seem to have faded away, but I clearly remember two of them – the Pepsi phase and the Perk phase.

The Pepsi era started with their “nothing official about it” campaign during the 1996 World Cup. It was a brilliant campaign, and had all of us 13yearolds hooked. This became our excuse for any little crimes we would commit (like i would hit someone and say “nothing official about it”). I’m not sure if we used it as an excuse for larger crimes, but I suppose we would’ve used it quite regularly as an apology.

Pepsi seemed to have done a good job of identifying itself with this slogan, as soon Pepsi too became our “weapon of choice” when it came to settling bets, and suchlike. This was the period of time when a tiny bottle of Pepsi had just become affordable by saving up on pocket money, and it was put to good use. The unofficial inter-class cricket tournament became “the pepsi cup” – the losing team was supposed to sponsor a bottle of pepsi for each member of the winning team. If my memory serves me right (it usually does), the tournament never got completed.

This phase lasted for almost all of my 9th standard, if I remember right. Maybe it was briefly replaced by other phases, but this was the defining brand of that academic year. All bets were settled with pepsi. Whenever we went out, usually to play cricket, we would refresh ourselves with pepsi. It was the time of life when people had just started courting. Budding couples would go out to have – a Pepsi.

I don’t remember the exact date, but by the time we had moved to 10th, Preity Zinta had struck. With her “thodi si pet pooja”. Perk was the thing now. Considering that a chocolate bar is a much better device for putting blade compared to aerated cola, the number of “couples” also increased. Also, in 10th standard, the number of people going for tuitions increased, and this seemed to cause an increase in the general levels of pocket money.

There were people in my class who would stay in class for lunch break (when everyone else went out to the field) because knew they knew that raiding a certain classmate’s bag would yield them a rich haul of perks (the guy was simultaneously blading some four females, so his stocks always remained high). Then, unlike pepsi, perk could be consumed discreetly. Copious quantities of it were consumed while sitting in class (i used to sit in the first bench so that I could have unhindered view to a certain junior classroom, but  that didn’t stop me from eating perk in class).

I remember that on a certain day in August that year, the shop near the school ran out of Perk stocks. It was the day after rakshabandhan, and given the quantity of unsolicited blade that was happening then, the number of rakhis tied had seen a sudden increase. And that had to be reciprocated – with Perk of course. Some rakhis weren’t acknowledged, which meant that this was probably the only day in more than a month when certain people DIDN’T give Perks to certain other people.

The first four of my five “pursuits” were low-cost (three of those were in school; and even the fourth was before I had drawn my first salary, so you can’t blame me). All four of them put together, I don’t think I spent more than a hundred rupees on blade. This included ten rupees that I had spent on a perk for #1. She had dodged me all day, and by the time I gave it to her at the end of the day, it had melted in my pocket.

I think I should incorporate this scene in one of the movies I’m going to make. Boy chases girl all day, trying to give her a Perk. She skilfully dodges him all day, and evades his offer of Perk. And each time she evades him, he is shown putting the perk back in his pocket. Finally at the end of the day, they meet. It’s time to go – in the distance you can see her father on the bike, waiting to pick her up. And he gives her the perk. She opens it. The perk has melted. And then her heart melts. Ok I must stop now.

An old delta hedge

I learnt finance only in 2005. It was around that time that I first came across the concept of delta hedging. However, I now realize that unknown to me, I had indeed used this concept to great effect in 1999.

That was the year when I had started preparing for the JEE. I had joined BASE, the best JEE factory in Bangalore. I was having a hard time since I hadn’t studied one bit in all of 11th standard when my friends had dilgently solved Irodov and other books. I had missed one whole month of prime summer holiday JEE prep thanks to the Math Olympiad Training Camp. I knew I needed to be focused. I knew I didn’t want to be distracted. However, I also knew that I would be under tremendous pressure for a year, and any means of easing a bit would be welcome.

During our monthly counselling sessions at BASE, the Director would call for us to create angst. “You need to have the fire in the belly”, he used to say. “And be able to channel it in the right direction in order to fuel your effort. Without fire in the belly, nothing can be done”

I must mention here that this was one of those unintended consequences things. I didn’t plan out this delta hedge. I realized the hedge only in hindsight. I had just followed my instinct in doing what I eventually did. Looking back 9 years down the line, I think it was a fair idea. Only, that like in everything else that I do, the implementation was horrible. Nevertheless, I think the learnings from this are going to be useful, and are going to have a net positive impact on society.

I put blade like naayi on a classmate, who is perhaps the most brilliant woman I’ve ever known. She was a good friend back then, at the point of time when I started the blading process. As you might have come to expect of me, I did a pretty horrible job. Disaster would be an understatement. It was depressing. I lost many nights of sleep to this. If I were less informed, I would’ve classified it as a blunder.

If you noticed, I had slipped in a little para where I mentioned the need for creating fire in the belly. This failed blade would fire it. This failed blading attempt would provide the angst, which I could channel in the right direction if I so wished. This failed blading attempt would make me angry, would make me upset, and would help me focus on my goals. And the sleepless nights this failed blading attempt gave me – I used them for mugging for the JEE.

I don’t know if I’ve told this particular bladee about it (I probably have), but I’ve always internally dedicated my success in the JEE to her.

However, this story was not to end happily. The delta was hedged, but the gamma would come back to bite me at a later date. The angst and the anger and the pain was fine when I needed them, but now (after I joined IIT) that I didn’t, it led to NED. Terrible NED. This would go on to be one of the biggest causes of NED during my life at IIT. As Shah Rukh Khan says in Baazigar, “kuch khaane ke liye kuch pona bhi paDta hai”.