Saturday, November 20, 2010

How to become a successful astrologer

Note: This post is not intended to be insulting towards astrologers or numerologists . It's just a take on an idea to mimic an astrologer without any knowledge. Please take in lighter vein :)

In my school and college days, my Dad got an interesting hobby- numerology. He found a book and then used to tell people things about them from that book - and it looked as if the book was 60-70% accurate.

One other time, I had an encounter with a self-proclaimed 'Gyaani' who told me things about myself. Slowly and steadily, I found a pattern . There was something about this that would work without any astrology skills.

I have tried this trick on a few people and it has worked. It's simple really.

1. Claim that you have studied astrology via a book/parents/guru for a short time

2. Generate some interest by claiming that you have generally been accurate

3. Take the person's birth details , ask some questions [ like if they say they were born on so-and-so date, ask for time , confirm somethings ]. This simply builds your reputation and makes people think that you know a lot.

4. Start out with the predictions

i. You are a very hardworking person

This is really a line which no one in the world will every deny. Even people like Arjuna Ranatunga will say that they would always claim that they are extremely hardworking

Interest piqued.

ii. You have not really achieved what you are capable of . Something that would match your intelligence and diligence.

99 % of the world thinks like this. I do. My boss does. His boss does. It's human nature. This might result in a sign of "So true!!"

iii. You are very helpful and considerate to people's needs.

This one works in a crowd setting. No one is going to admit in a bunch of people that he or she is the most selfish person born on planet Earth. Even without people, it's extremely difficult to tell your inside ego that you are really quite selfish from inside.

iv. You have had a really major incident in your life in the last x years [ Make x between 5 and 10 depending upon the person's age

Trust me, everyone of us has had one major incident in the last 5-10 years [ Getting a job, an accident, moving countries, getting a baby, starting a new business]. Most people will be like , 'Yeah, absolutely correct! This happened 5 years back!'

If you know the person and his life history well, try to be more accurate here. It'll work wonders.

5. At this point, check the mood. If you think your reputation is built, move to next step. Else loop around

6. Time to start with predictions. This is the easy part. There's no reference to check, so you can get away with what bu** you say.

i. The next 5 years are going to be very important in your life

This is a charge-up line. Like having a coffee before an exam. It'll suddenly get the feeling of "It's time to do something"

ii. You should take more risks at this age

This thing is sure to get some questions. If you are comfortable, make up a Ekta Kapoor-esque story involving Jupiter, Saturn and the Sun ( or in Indian languages as Rahu, Ketu and some term that they have never heard of ] Most people will not understand a word of it and also not admit that they did not understand it.

iii. Predict Marriage

This is a very sensitive one.Of course, it's for unmarried people. Give them a date 2 years from now. "The best 'Yog' to get married is in 2014 . February." After all, who's going to sue you if they don't find someone by that time. If they do, your reputation will work wonders. After all, your luck is also good sometimes .

iv. Predict Age and Wellness

This one is amongst the easiest. Predict an age of about 75-80. If you see a long lifeline and can make up something, put it to 90. Do some jargon about the behavior of the line.

Predict one illness from the present date to the time of death. It's fairly logical and averages out well.

7. Come up with lucky entities.

This is a good time to use your knowledge and end on a high. Check what facts you know about the person, like wife's birthday, anniversary, color of car. If you know some secrets about them, you got a big bonus.

i. Life partner names
If you know that the person is already committed secretly, pick up the letter of the spouse's name and say that that letter is extremely lucky for him

ii. Colour and number combo's
Pick up a color from Red, Blue, green, yellow , a number between 0 and 9, a stone from sapphire, pearl, ruby, emerald, a month of the year and claim that that's lucky for them.

I myself am not too keen on this step since it induces unnecessary superstitions, but nevertheless, something that works .

8. Say "God Bless You" and move on before people get too sentimental .

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A tale of 3 captains

The rarest of rare post- I seldom blog about cricket [ These days , I am sure people would point out that I seldom blog at all ] , but something that I saw for a while and I have been wanting to write about it.

It's really simple. It's about 3 captains that I have experienced in Indian cricket, and in some ways , how their attitudes have spoken about 3 different teams, 3 different attitudes and 3 different feelings that I have experienced as a fan.

It all started when I read this article which referred to the time for which cricket started for a lot of us. For me, it started around the time Tendulkar first came in. I remember a news bulletin in which Azharuddin was made the new captain. I was too young to realize that there was a little bit of politics in the move, but nevertheless, Azhar was a great cricket player (of course, sidelined by his part in scandals) , and under him India won several great accolades, the most memorable ones for me being a great test series win in India against England (3-0 including 2 innnings victories) and a win in the Hero Cup. Then came Ganguly, pocketing a great win in England in the Natwest series, and years later he was replaced by another captain - MS Dhoni.

I have excluded temporary captains like Jadeja, Raina, and (maybe surprisingly ) Sachin Tendulkar. The reason is , that for the tremendous respect I have always had for Sachin as a batsman, player, human being - I think he was never comfortable in his short reign as captain- and more importantly, his 'captaincy' in itself did not match his greatness at all.Anil Kumble too was made a leader very late, and anyways, his captaincy was only for Tests while MS Dhoni led the one-day side.

So brings us to the 3 again- Azhar, Ganguly and Dhoni. It's a change that has been over time, but now it seems true.

It was the 1992 world cup game against Australia. India were chasing - a field they considered themselves terribly bad in. We were close, very close agonizingly close. Kiran More came in and punched 2 boundaries. But then at the brink of victory, we lost. Lost by one run. Painstaking. But, I remember this match distinctly- watching it with Mom, Dad who had seen many matches earlier- and the verdict was clear before the match- India can't win a close one like this. They had lost by one run in 1987, and most likely will face the same fortune. And they did.

Fast forward to 2002. A final at Lord's . India chasing a mammoth 326 and 146 for 5, as Mohd Kaif and Yuvraj Singh guide them to an amazing run-chase. The famous Ganguly shirt incident. But more than the attitude, it was a match that instilled in the generation of fans- that India could win a nervous chase. That they could put their act together in a time of crisis.

2007. The T20 final. The new captain-cool, MS Dhoni keeps terribly cool as Sharma bowls a wide in the first ball of an all-important over. And as Pakistan Mis-ba 5 runs , India become the champions, and more importantly, it establishes the confidence of this Indian team in a tight situation.

2010. The commentators are talking about Ricky Ponting finally getting to a win in India. (yeah right). But an injured VVS Laxman and an amazing Ishant Sharma have other ideas, as they take India to their first ever one-wicket win and that too against Australia. It was sweet revenge for most of us especially because it was against Ricky Ponting ( at least for me). The important thing here was that right till the end, there was this confidence, this instinct that in such a close situation, India could still win. and they did...

As greatbong put it rightly in his farwell to Ganguly

"If there is one enduring legacy of Dada, it is that he taught an almost perennially defeatist Indian cricket team “to believe” (For those who have sat through wimpy, gutless Indian performances through the 80s will appreciate even more the truth of this statement). "

We have learnt to win . Or should I say, we have started believing that we can win. And that according to me is the most important transition from the days of Azhar to the days of Dhoni.

Let's hope it stays on.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The magic called KBC

I actually wanted to associate this blog with this post , but as most of you would know , laziness sometimes wins me over and never finished it .

In 2000, we started seeing early promos of Amitabh Bachchan , with a phone number to call to win one crore rupees. Till this time, the concept of quiz-related TV programs had never taken off past the highly educated masses. The problem was really the trade-off between keeping the sanctity of a quiz versus the level of popularity it could generate. On one hand, we had programs like Cross-Fire and Bournvita Quiz Contest, which, though being extremely knowledgeable in their own right, were never past the highly educated minority of people. On the other hand, there were serials similar to the Deal-No deal types which were popular amongst the masses, but depended mostly on luck and hardly had any kind of intellectual touch to it.

As the suspense began to clear up- the rules of the game were made clear. I remember reading somewhere that you needed to answer 15 multiple-choice questions to win 1 crore rupees. Seemed too good to be true. With the experience of the NTS exams behind me - I had the impression that multiple-choice questions were one of the easiest to crack :P .

And then it evolved. From the first person who won Rs.25 lakhs - the show had changed the way India approached general knowledge. Phrases like 'Lock Kiyaa Jayee' and 'Galat jawaab' became household terms - as people from every walk of life imagined themselves in the hot seats. The best example, I remember, was when I had asked a Chemist (Drugstore) owner upto what time did they keep their shop open. The answer was

"Vaise to beta 9 baje tak khulla rakhta hai, lekin ab Crorepati shuru hua hai, to 8:45 ko bandh kar dete hai"

And that was it. Forgotten politicians, sportsmen from otherwise unknown sports, literary gems had come back to the Indian middle class.

But the question was: what made this show so popular? Was it just the money? Was it the the Big B? Was it the unique concept?

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Enthusiasm levels of a blog

Enthusiasm levels of a blog:

Day 1: The fact that you decide to start a blog stems from the fact that you've decided your first blog post. Probably first 2-3, some interesting event, some story or just your funda of life. You write it with full energy, and share it with all your (close and not-close) friends

Day 2: Whoa! you are excited about those 2 comments, and those chat messages congratulating to start your blog. Super excited, you write one more blog entry, whose first lines are how you really are interested in blogs. Again, you share it with everyone.

Day 3: The feeling of "I never knew I had so much talent in me". Blog entry # 3. In most cases, the quality of this one will be a shade lesser than #1 and #2. People will be "Yeh kucch zyada hi ucchal raha hai". Number of comments drop.

Day 4,5,6,7: You bask in the glory by not writing any more blogs. Secret reason is that you don't have much to write, since all your enthusiasm was spent on the first 3 entries

Day 17: You read one great news on rediff/cnn/ndtv ( or any stupid news site - included onion ) and you blog about it . Whether people respond or not, you carry a sense of great 'comeback' pride

Month 2-12: This phase defines how good a blogger you would become. Most bloggers don't reach this stage. A little more enthusiastic bloggers blog once or twice ( or more if you are a phd student, even more if you are an engineer without much work)

Year 2: A majority of bloggers, good or bad, are filtered out by this point. Most feel that blogging was not what they thought it to be. Either they did not like blogging or blogging did not like them. Many of them still bask in the glory of their first (and only) blogs . A few lazy bloggers (like me ) blog once a month. Good bloggers still blog regularly.

Year 3: If you have come upto here, you are a , no not great blogger. You are quite a perseverant and persistent fellow. If you get comments on your blog - you are a good blogger. If you get comments on your blog without forcing your friends to do it- you are a great blogger.

Year 4-5 : If you still blog once a month, you are a hard-working blogger. If you blog more than this- there are only 2 outcomes. You have attained Great heights in blogging or people are like "Khudko Arundhati Roy ka bhai samajhta hai " :P

Year 6: Start writing a book 

A great idea!

A few days back, I got a call from a friend. Her father was undergoing a heart surgery and needed AB+ blood in Bombay. She asked me if I knew someone. My answer ,"Sure, I'll get you someone in about an hour". As promised, within an hour,my father had called a gentleman with AB+ blood and he agreed to be present wherever required the next morning.

Many years back, my father did something on a small scale, which I feel is of great significance. We had a small health camp in our society (it was primarily for cancer , but served some other purposes ). Here's what he did:

1. Get 2-3 local doctors/nurses to check and make blood group cards for all the people who came. A simple test, and you get a card which carries your emergency contact info and your blood group, so that God Forbid, if you are in an accident, and some good Samaritan tries to help you, he has all the info he needs from that card.

What you had to give in return was to register your name/phone number and blood group in a small diary that my father has maintained till date. it contains the names of all people and their phone numbers with blood groups. If someone ever calls us in the middle of the night asking for blood, we can ask the concerned person if they would be interested in volunteering and then connect the two parties together.

While I loved this idea and thought this was important enough, when someone actually thanked me more than profusely for getting info about a donor, I was overwhelmed. And that's why this comes as a blog-post because I think it's an idea that can and should be implemented in co-operative housing societies across India.

2. The Indian Cancer Society used to assist in organizing Cancer Detection Camps. Their funda was simple. They would charge Rs. 65 ( am sure it's more than that today) for basic testing of a person for cancer . All they needed was that there should be 100 people attending and that logistics (like tables, electricity , lunch/snacks for staff) would be provided, and they would come and conduct the check. It would either clear you of everything or , if they suspected something, they would recommend a further check.

What I found particularly interesting was, that for a person in India , if I ask them to do a checking on a weekday for cancer, they would think about costs/excuses. But then, on a Sunday morning, a low-cost test would be kind of welcome. Especially when you know that it's done by not-for-profit [I am not sure if the ICS is not-for-profit or not ] .

One more significant advantage was that since it was mostly done on a non-charitable basis, you did not have to go through the processes of fundraising. Anyone could think about it and do it done in one days of effort. As far as volunteers were concerned , kids can always be roped in to do simple things like crowd control and money collection .

The camp was particularly successful as it helped a few people go for further checking and treatment in early stage of cancer.

A small idea- but quite visionary. Kudos to you, Pappa :) .

Monday, July 26, 2010

The true hero

I wanted to write this on July 7, but as most of us 'complaining type' people would say, I did not quite find the time, given the various challenges of life , this , that, bla bla bla!

But then, you think of some men, who have overcome so much, achieved magnanimity and won the hearts of millions and had constraints compared to which our life would seem like a complete cake walk.

It was 1999. I just turned 18 and was stepping to the next stage of life. I personally felt that that was also the year when I understood politics, life and developed interest in trying to understand how deep these things were and their importance and influence in our lives. It was the year of the nuclear tests, a year when Atal Bihari Vajpayee , as a politician, suddenly had a fan following among the youth , a year when NDTV and Barkha Dutt, then a relatively new, getting-popular and if I may use the word, extremely humble journalist were getting popular , and the youth of the country was getting involved in political discussions more than ever before. I like to think of it as the golden period in Indian television news reporting, since it was the phase when we had lesser, high-quality channels and people actually were completely fond of this new source of information .

It was also the year of coalition politics, the blackmailing of the ruling Govt by Jayalalitha, and with AIADMK finally pulling support, the Govt had to be relegated to a caretaker Govt, but by that time, AB Vajpayee and his men had won enough popular support.

In the middle of all this, intrusions by terrorists and Pakistani soldiers began in Kargil, Drass and Batalik and the Kargil war began. This war was the first Indian war I had seen and one of the first which had so much of media coverage. In a time, when such media coverage was very new, it was very welcome to see journalists risk their life and report from the warfront giving us sights of shelling, bunkers and indirectly infusing a deep sense of respect for the army personnel in the minds of the younger generation.

And one day, there was an interview of a captain. My mother asked me, what's his name? I said , Capt. Vikram Batra Little did I know that the name I took would be etched in my memory for life.

(Part of the footage is here )

The captain was speaking about how his boys were so charged up , and Pepsi's 'Yeh Dil Maange More' , a famous ad jingle then, being the war cry. He was cheerful and was joking as to how his soldiers wished that there were more bunkers that they could attack. As a smile came to our faces hearing this man, the screen blanked out, and Barkha Dutt's words came

"Captain Vikram Batra died on 7 July 1999 while fighting in Drass"

A moment when things suddenly stopped. A moment when without a word, tears came to our eyes, and you felt as if you had lost someone terribly close to you. A moment whose memory still makes my eyes moist. A brave young man, had sacrificed his life for the nation. I could not sleep that night. I am sure hundreds of us must have had this feeling.

That one day forever changed my outlook towards men in uniform. A sight of them, and I would feel enormous respect, and sometimes even a bit of shame that I could do practically nothing compared to them for the nation and the people.

What this incident also signified ( and I absolutely credit Barkha Dutt for this, though I am sure a number of us disagree with her today) was how the media could create an awareness in a population which did not even know the names of it's great heroes who had won Param Vir Chakra's and died to protect this country.

Simply put, a true hero. Words are not enough to describe the bravery of these men. RIP, Capt. Batra. We owe it to you.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Of Bollywood and Amrika

Having been in the US for a few years, I have kind of developed this love for Indian-American movies, or just the way 2 cultures tend to portray each other . The amazing assumptions , the great ideas and of course the overpowering imagination.

I'll start with Hyderabad Blues - the first movie I probably saw which dealt with an Indian guy's opinion of India after returning back. To an extent, the film was quite honest - and one particular point that amazed me was when a girl in India describes the USA as ' Fast cars, everyone carries a gun' and perhaps that is the best starting point for this topic.

Most of us - on both sides of the globe, have derived our image of India or the US based on films and somehow some films really mess it up.

Like, in Chachi 420, an America-returned guy is shown as a complete idiot - to American Chai, where an Indian who comes to America (FOB as is popularly called :P), is shown as a sycophant - and in general very irritating.

In fact, one of the very first movies- our very own Ram Lakhan had a nice scene which said 'Arre Chacha, America mein maine 12 saal dance hi to kiya hai' - which gave an impression of the US (link - it's at 5:48 ) . Then, there are some movies which show as if an Indian kid raised in the US is so much similar to someone in India, that it again does not seem to be too believable.

On the other hand, American films have been pretty mixed about Indians or FOB - as called in popular culture. The film American Chai really takes a dig at people like me- who've come from India. While i don't agree completely with the portrayal, I must say- that it's not really untrue as well. There are some characteristics in all of us- which I am sure American raised kids or Americans in general find funny :) and I think we should understand and accept that.

The movie Flavors is one movie that really seems to capture a lot of 'flavors' literally of India life. From the I-know-it-all consultant to the bored housewife, from the parents of a super busy engineer, to the American girl who chooses to marry an Indian guy, a film that does not really bluff too much.

One more film that particularly piqued my interest was Green Card Fever , which , though not being directly connected to student life, gave a glimpse of the struggle here ( I was told by a gentleman that in the eighties, the food vs phone was indeed a dilemma which a lot of really poor Indians faced) , as also the various funny incidents described in the movie.

I would not deny that there are a lot of films made in the USA which look at India as a land where people still use elephants as a daily mode of transportation :) - however, the focus is really not on such films.

I believe, that while all films will most definitely have some kind of bias towards one section of the population, a well researched film with intelligent humor is definitely a refreshing change and especially to people like us, who've both experienced and best and worst of the east and west.

As far as the poster is concerned, I haven't really seen that film :) => but I did like the message , Nothing is what it appears to be !

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Classic Problem

This has been one of the most challenging situations- however big or small it might be- I always find myself struggling with this thing.

The situation: You can do action A or action B. A has a set of rewards A1 and a set of problems A2. So does B. The chances of maximizing A1 or B1 is subject to a lot of uncertain factors. So, what do you do?

My typical solution to this problem involves asking about a 100 people the same Q, taking their opinion and finally doing what I initially thought was the correct thing to do anyways. In most cases, people tend to complicate the situation more than they resolve it. Still, it's emotionally better to get people's opinion.

I am sure if you tell this to my mother, she'll agree 100 % to this scenario. She's been the tie breaker more often than not and she absolutely dislikes it.

So , what's the solution to this problem? I found this answer in an email forward. Solution is to flip a coin . But hey, that's not it.

1.Decide that if it's heads, you'll do A and if it's tails, you'll do B.
2.Flip the coin.
3. When the coin is in the air, freeze the moment and think what you hoped the coin would fall as .
4.You got what you need to do! Go for it! And DON'T look at the coin!!!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The quest for a Jamba Juice

Wow! This is an amazing story. Remember the famous 'essay' in school of ' The Day When Everything Went Wrong' and the kind of things you bluffed in that-

Well , some time, you do feel that going true. Today wasn't a bad day, just that I started the day thinking of something and the as the day progressed, the quest seemed to turn into an impossible quest. Here's a brief description

Morning 10 am: A very hot day, and I think, well today's the best day to have a nice fresh jamba juice . I had to get my car repaired , so thought well, might as well do it then

11 30 am: Get out on a hot hot day in mountain view, the resolve to get the Jamba juice is really over me now.

12 noon: I reach the car repair - I remembered that there used to be a Jamba Juice close by, so I thought, well let me leave the car and walk back to find the Juice center, since the car anyways would take about an hour to get repaired

12:10 : Start walking on one of the hottest summer afternoons thinking that the jamba juice would be about half a mile away.

12:30 Walk for about a mile, and then check on my iphone to find that I might have passed that. Walk back and find that the juice center just got closed a month back. All hopes dashed!

12:40 : Walk back to the car repair, by now I have walked about 2.5 miles in the hot sun and without anything.

12:50 : No worries, now I have my new and improved Corolla. Again, I trust my memory and go for a Jamba which I know is close by. I reach the place, see the board from a distance and feel proud of my memory [ Or as some people might say, 'Maine to Makkhan kaam kiyaa hai ;) ' ] . Reach the complex, which is bustling with activity

1:05 pm: As I reach the door for the Jamba juice, find that it's locked. As if it was the perfect trap for me,every single shop in that complex is open , except for mine.

The next shop is about 4 miles away. Decide to make a quick stop at home and then go for the juice. After all, I have spent too much time on this juice.

1:10 pm: Reach home, have lunch , and think that now I can do some work before going out for the Jamba.

5:30 pm: Think that the Jamba wasn't meant for today. Decide to play tennis instead

6:30 pm: Reach tennis court and start playing- the heat rekindles the craving for the juice

7:30 pm: Finish tennis, call mom and tell her about the incident

7:40 pm: Still talking to mom, and somehow wish that I should try and reach the Jamba Juice before it closes at 8

7:50 pm: Reach the complex, but don't quite find the Jamba. A moment which is like the last few minutes of the exam.

7:55 pm: Find the shop! Reach out my hand to open the door, only wishing it's not locked....Luckily enough, I am on time....

7:57 pm: Get the last juice for the day, as the door is locked behind me. It's the most satisfying ever :)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Review of "My Name is Khan"

Being in the US for 6 years has had one impact on me- whenever I see a Bollywood film depicting the US, or people of the US , I get into this 'reality check' mode- where I try to gauge the film by how true it really is in the portrayal of this country.

I have always not liked films which give a bad image to expatriates like us, or of the Indians grown up here (American Born Cultured Desis as a friend suggested me to call them), or in general of Americans. The truth is that while we are all different, we still have a heart, laugh, cry, have emotions and will not fail to act when the situation demands.

My Name is Khan scores a lot of points for what I would term as a honest and well-researched picture of the US, it's people, it's land, the life of Indians here , the problems that have surfaced in this country post 9/11. What is impressive about the film is it's storyline which is fast paced, and (thankfully) lacks the bollywood numbers popping up at the most inappropriate events . For example, I had seen the film Bombay , which though being fast-paced had the song 'Kucchi kucchi rakma ' in the middle of the riots.

SRK's role in the movie is done well, and though I do have a grudge against him (for the stupid publicity stunt), I must say that he does a good role ,especially with the Asperger Syndrome . But much more than that, it was Kajol's role , the kind of emotions shown, and her acting which really made the movie much much better. There's one scene in the movie ( not putting in here, since it reveals the plot), where she cries and there was a pindrop silence in the theater. One of those performances that can actually touch you, make you cry . One of the role that reminds you that it is also her performance that has been the reason for a lot of hits by the Khan (DDLJ, K3G and the likes)

And, the one thing, the message of the film "My name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist", which is obviously much better understood if you have been in the US for an extended period of time. It's pretty clear that post 9/11, the kind of security checks which have increased sometimes tend to display a tint of religious bias , which can be felt and which honestly, is not beneficial to this country. The message at the beginning of the film, about there being only 2 kinds of people, the good and the bad, and one man's attempt to change the mindset of people who have been affected by 9/11 and have changed their beliefs.

I would again repeat, that one scoring point of the film , is it's honest portrayal of Americans - I must say that Aunt Jemma was someone whom I could identify with , the kind of innocence and friendliness I could associate with most African Americans I have met, to the motel-running Gujju, to the Punjabi beauty parlor owner , to the security officals at SF airport, they all looked like real characters I have meet on the streets here in America.

All and all a film worth watching. A final note to Mr. Khan. The publicity stunt about 'My Name is Khan' was not welcome enough. If you read through the lines, you could clearly understand that it was some check, and you did not need to say, that they checked you when you said 'My name is Khan'. In a world which is already waging a battle against religious intolerance, it would be better to not increase it. People have loved you as Raj or Rizvan, and they have never considered you different because you were 'Khan'.

[Correction: It was pointed out to me that the film is not too honest about America after all. The film does show an event attended by the President where only Catholics are allowed entry. Apparently that's not possible. Thanks Arnab for pointing it out.