Nov 21, 2009

The Sixteen Sutras...

It was a normal, boring day. I was sitting in the cramped ICWA library, struggling with my Saxena-Vashisht and VS Datey. My exams were around the corner. I had this unexplainable pride in my ability to concentrate on the sub-sections and case laws of the most arcane tax laws and quote them in my exam papers. That I don’t even remember the basic definition of excise duty today is indicative of how ‘useful’ those sessions were. But I digress.

That day, my Arjuna-like concentration was disturbed. It was not my fault. Any guy would have been distracted. She was that beautiful. She caught me staring at her. Or at least I thought she did. I quickly looked away. Back to Mr. Datey’s explanation on applicability of excise duty. CENVAT and MODVAT to be done after this. “Concentrate, concentrate, you need to crack this” I told myself. Or rather, the inner voice angel did.

And then, despite myself, I looked up again. Into big black beautiful eyes. Sitting across the table. “Of all the 3 seats available, she had to sit here?” the angel asked. “Maybe, this is your lucky day!” suggested the devil (in case you hadn’t read this, I have these conflicting voices going on in my head, most of the time, but especially in situations like this). “Concentrate, concentrate!” the angel repeated.

“Excise levy cannot be imposed on imported goods or goods manufactured in Nepal. This is also true if goods are imported in SKD or CKD condition and they are only assembled in India, as no new product emerges - Walchand Nagar Industries  v. CCE - 1995 (79) ELT 485 (CEGAT - 3 member bench order)”, my eyes were merely glossing over the words, nothing registering in my mind.

“You should at least say hi. Make small talk. What’s a few minutes when you have hours of studying this crap to do?” the devil was a convincing salesman. “Yeah, ask her if she has read CENVAT rules” the angel was no less convincing when it came to reading up on Excise duty. “Duh, CENVAT rules! Can’t you think of anything better?” the devil sniggered.

I needed to stop this cacophony of voices inside. I got up, went to the water filter, wiped the film of dust off the inner side of the tumbler, and slowly filled it up. All the while, my eyes never left her. “Pervert!” the angel barked. Glug, glug, glug, refill, glug, glug, glug. “Ok, we say hi, if she responds, we take it forward, else we go back to the book”, the devil made a pact. Apparently, he is an experienced hand at that.

I walked back. Breathe in. Deep. Deeper. Ok, here we go.




I open my mouth. Nothing. Not the first time it has happenned. Won’t be the last time too. The tongue freezes. The brain decides to go along. Damn. Never mind, get back to the book.

And while taking that 'one last glance', I noticed something that hadn’t caught my eye till then (not surprising, considering that there was tough competition around as far as catching the eye went). A book with a bright reddish-pink cover, with “Vedic Mathematics” written in bold on it. “Ooh, a figure with a thing for figures!” the devil could hardly contain himself. “Hmm, sounds interesting. Check it out at the Fountain book sellers” said the angel. “Vedic Mathematics? What for? To calculate how many cow dung cakes to put in the homams that you don’t do?” the devil retorted, with his usual display of bad sarcasm.

But, check it out I did. Bought it too. For a hundred precious bucks. All the money I had in my pocket. Skipped lunch, went home and devoured the book instead.

Went back to the library every day of the week. She was nowhere to be seen. At least I was making good progress with Mr. Datey. However queer that sounds.

And then she turned up one day. The book was still in her hands. “This is your best chance. Make some remark about the book. Much better than those CENVAT rules anyday” the devil pushed.

“Hi, er, interesting book that, nahi?” I was surprised that I managed to say something coherent.

“This? I don’t know. My brother was preparing for CAT. He said he wanted it, so I picked it up for him. Personally, I hate Maths”, she said.

“Hate this stupid costing as well. I am here, only because my father forced me to take up this course. Said I am wasting my time doing only B.Com and loafing around. I am going to flunk this exam just to get back at him!” she continued.

Before I could say something appropriately sympathetic, a guy in a flashy tee with a picture of a fist-and-one-strategic-finger-raised appeared... “hey babes, wanna go for some coffee?”

And off they went, hand in hand, looking very much in love.

Sigh. Breathe in. Deep. Deeper.

And back to Mr. Datey.

And, to surprising fourth standard kids in family get-togethers with my ability to say “74 square? Hmm... 5476” in less than a minute. I stopped doing that only when even they started give me the “eww, the geek” look.  

Nov 17, 2009

Bad Pun Alert!

Example of a good pun:

"The ‘fakhta Marathi’ directive could end up doing just that..."

from one of my favourite columnists...

Example of a bad pun:

Q: Why does the Gujju get all orgasmic when Sachin's at the crease?
A: Coz of the master batting...

PS1: Apologies to any Gujju bhai/ben who might feel like taking offence... please don't crash the stock market in anger.

PS2: Extremely busy days at work... but there's always time for a bad pun

Nov 14, 2009

In all humility...

What is it about us that we, as a society, give inordinate pride of place to the virtue of modesty?

Why is it that we teach our kids to be humble, and not go to town tom-tomming their achievements?

Would we have admired and applauded Sachin the "master-blaster" if he had acted like say, Sreesanth, on the field? Ceteris paribus, if the only thing Sachin did not have was his trademark modesty, his ability to be superhuman but not appear as one, would we still have oohed and aahed at his copybook straight drives and punched off-drives? Or would we have gone "oh, what does he think of himself?" and dusted him off in our perpetual search for a more modest hero? In short, would we have been as proud of him if he had been overtly proud of himself?

Is it a coincidence that some of our most-beloved heroes, from Mahatma Gandhi to Narayanamurthy to Sachin Tendulkar, have been seen to be very modest in spite of achieving all that they did? Or is it, that we as a society, love to remember and highlight the success of people who don't proclaim it themselves? In the process, probably, glossing over some equally talented people who happen to score a little lower on the modesty-meter?

Is it because of our own insecurities? That we feel bad because we cannot achieve as much, and if someone  says so in our face, we would feel worse. And hence, we all gravitate towards those who do a lot, but don't speak about it as much, just so that we no-hopes may feel a bit better.

Is it because of our need for hope? If our heroes appear to us as super human, may be we would just shake our head at our own inadequacies and admire them. But if they have super human abilities but appear humble, appear like "one of us", we all get to renew our hope and think "hey, maybe I can do something too. After all, he has done so much and he looks like one of us..."

To put it more crudely, is it because we want to feel like better people than we are that we demand our heroes to act like lesser people than they actually are?

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying humility is a bad thing. If I have kids someday, I'd teach them the same too. But sometimes, I cannot help wondering if it is a tad overrated. This "aww-look-he-is-so-great-yet-so-modest" fetish that we all seem to have.

I can't help but wonder, if in our collective subconscious, we reject people who may have oodles of talent, but somehow come packaged with oodles of self-pride as well.

I can't help but wonder, if there has been actually another kid as talented as Sachin, but who got the short shrift since he went about proclaiming at age 15 that he will be the greatest batsman of his times... and some selector decided to "put the boy in his place" by making sure he never got the chance to do something...

I can't help but wonder, if as a society, are guilty of placing so much emphasis on modesty that we are blinded to everything else... or even whether we should even feel guilty about it at all...

after all, what is a hero that doesn't give us hope...

Disclaimer: I am an out and out Sachin fan... for a long time in my life, I used to select my friends on the basis of whether they liked Sachin or not... while I am not as vehement as before, I still find it difficult to get along with people who question Sachin's abilities, temperament, committment etc., So the above post need not be interpreted as questioning Sachin's virtues...

PS1: I wanted to write a 'dedication post' for his twenty years of international cricket, but found that whatever I wanted to say has already been said, and much better at that, by many people. So all I can say is, thanks for all the wonderful memories...

Nov 5, 2009

Remember, Remember, the fifth of November...

How long will we stick to the Brit version, cute bald actresses notwithstanding...

So we came up with some suited to our own country...

Congress version:

remember, remember, the last of october
when our Great Iron Lady was shot
The surds wanted a state and went to war
but our lady gave them Operation Bluestar
so now we put ads to ensure it is not forgot...

BJP version:

remember, remember, the sixth of december
when our Loh Purush got on a rath
he wanted a mandir for Shri Ram
and so we declared it our only kaam
and on a mosque, we inflicted our wrath...

AIADMK version:

remember, remember, the 24th of december
when our puratchi thalaivar's kidney failed
we went crazy, burning, rioting and looting
the police couldn't control us with their shooting
and finally, Puratchi Thalaivi Amma was hailed

I would love to come up with more, but I have some serious work deadlines to adhere to... so no time to spare :(