Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Play It Safe

The phenomenon is typically an Indian one,more so a Bengali one. And it sucks ! Big time. The concept is called "play it safe". The manifestation of this concept finds expression in various spheres of life - some mundane, some exciting, some insipid while some bordering on the horizon of incredulity and utter stupidity.

These are the following scenes that are typically enacted in practically 999 out of 1000 households. Till the time I was cocooned in the comfort of my dear city Kolkata, I had presumed that this was a purely Bengali concept only to be fooled later on in life.

1. Post Board Exams - Choice of Stream

Only in India, does this ridiculous idea of choosing one's career exist. And once done, it is irrevocable. Considering this context, for someone, who knows not what his calling in life is, the safe choice is to go for science. "Beta engineer banega..."

The alacrity by which this decision is reached and the analysis that precedes it will put any McK consultant to shame. It is entirely inconsequential that the person under consideration might not be suitable for science, might have literary skills which if nurtured could be capable of creating something more worthwhile than computer programs later in life. So, "play it safe", do your engineering, get a job, get a life.

2. Post 12th - Computer Science

Of course, if you are an engineer, you HAVE to be a computer engineer. Again, it is irrelevant whether the engineering college does not have a building or a space to sit, or even a computer!

And going by the reaction of India's educated elite, who have their own prism to look at life, condascending in their attitude, patronizing any or everyone who do not conform to their opinions, all other streams of engineering are, well, unmentionable. In all their glee and superfluous concern they would enquire about your son and what is he doing and how well their son is placed and if you happen to exude their same level of nonchalance in mentioning that your son is a Mechanical or a Chemical engineer, you had it. You would be diagnosed with a severe disease of non-conformance to societal benefit and wastage of intellectual prowess depriving mother India of a worthy contributor to the GDP of the nation !

So, "play it safe". Be a Computer Science engineer in a college without a computer, and if you do happen to get your hands on a machine, start churning out Tower Of Hanoi programs, brace yourself, convince yourself that in a few years time you would be part of the most educated labour force in the world. And do tell yourself and all others around you - "I am an IT Consultant, I work for a company driven by values and which looks beyond the obvious and powered by intellect!". As if all others are not.

3. Do an MBA

In about ten year's time, when there would be as many B-schools as there are engineering colleges now, those three letters would invoke the same kind of adulation from the society and equally intense smirk from some exceptions.

Ask any TDH why they want to do an MBA and after you have worked through the maze of "holistic perspective, cross-functional expertise, understanding business, synergies of past,present and future competencies and leverage" kind of answers you will realize that those words are just instruments to camoflage their inherent confused state. When will we ever hear someone say in an interview "Am doin it for money, you know. All work is shit work and if I have to do shit work, I would rather get paid more and do shit work".

Ohh, by the way, these kind of responses would ensure that you are not considered for further selection in case you are applying to institutes which try to blend eastern ethos and western efficiency - whatever that means ! (Shit !I AM an MBA!)

4. Placements @ MBA

Focussed Candidate: "Yaar, mujhe BFSI(Banking, Insurance, Financial Services - for the uninitiated) mein jana hain"
Placement Committee Member: "Tera experience kis domain mein hain?"
Focussed Candidate:"Pharmaceuticals!"

I guess this sums it up. Now, you know why placement committee members become slightly eccentric, little cagey and more so fiercely risk-averse. Such archaic mindset on part of candidates is one of the reasons why in spite of a booming economy and obscene salaries placement committees refuse to do anything different. "Boss, agar sab place nahin hua to?"

If you are a wannabe MBA, and by a magical illusion want to do something outlandish (like not go to BFSI!!) then try to talk to your senior placement guys. If you even get a hint of that statement then, think again. Insecurity is self-mutative, self-procreative. Be assured that there would not be any change in that mindset. Like Vedas, this theory will be propagted through ages by the sages from one batch to another. But you cannot blame them. After all, there would always be that critical mass who would want to go to BFSI.

4. Marriage - What?!! Marry a non-Brahmin ??!

Yep, non-brahmins, non-bengalis, non-tamilians, basically non-you - they are untouchables. Come on, you know they might bite - who knows ? And maybe at the wrong times, at the wrong places ?!!

So you are a racist ?
What crap ! Me ? A racist ?! I am a firm believer in equality of all races except that I dont want my son to marry a non-me. I have voiced my strongest criticism for Jade Goody (I hope I got the name correct. If not Shilpa, please help) when they called Shilpa a fu**ing dog.

Of course, racism is only restricted to absence or presence of pigments and not to absence of threads ! So, "play it safe". Marry a girl from your own clan. At least, they don't bite.


Friday, February 02, 2007

An Agonizing Wait

I was 10 years old. And he looked just like me. He epitomized my dream. He was living it. I stayed awake all night when he with a veteran fought all day for India. And I was elated when he did it - saved the match. Little did I know, that it would be the first and last time he would do it. For the next 18 years.

I was fifteen. The time when I first started to understand the beauty of batting. The courage involved in playing an open-chested pull, in stepping out to a fast bowler and
playing it straight over, the skill in casually lazing into a cover drive, in knowing the significance of pacing an innings, in appreciating brutal murder - on the field. And he did all of this. Just started. And by the time I was 20, he was India's most prolific scorer.

Yet, I waited.

For him, to lead India into its first away win in tests since 1986. It never came. I still waited. For him, to score the greatest innings an Indian can ever play abroad. Or at home. It never came. I waited. For him to play a part by scoring runs in the fourth innings chasing achievable targets. It never came. I waited.

For that time, when all doubts would be put to rest - when I would be proud enough yet not blind enough to proclaim in all gloriousness that this man - my hero, is the greatest ever to take the field - knowing fully well that someone called Vivian or Sunil would pose some disconcerting questions. That I would never have to shield myself behind 25,000 runs and 75 centuries and 52 MOMs to justify that. It would be one name. That would be it. In MCG, Barbados, Rawalpindi, Kandy - I would be looked upon as a man from that nation.

I was twenty-five. The flashes are gone, the elbow hurts, so does the spine and also the toe. And did I mention the fingers? Yet, the runs came. I was indifferent. And I am tired. Of waiting. The drives, pulls, cuts have given way to nudges, flicks and pushes. The most talented Indian ever to grace the game still is a handful. Possibly more than that. It is hallmark of that genius that in spite of all this, he scores run-a-ball. A century in 76 balls. And is cocky enough to say that he knows best how to bat. Which he does !

So, why am I tired ?

Greatness comes with achieving something outlandish. Something, beyond ordinary mortals. Things, which you and I would not be able to think of. Let alone dream. Sunil and Dev did it. While one chased 406 the other bowled with a torn ligament and won. In Australia. Both won the world cup - an unlikely proposition at those times. Out of the blue. That is greatness. Barry and Vivian will never scored tons of runs. Yet, they in their cricketing span did things which shaped the cricketing destinies of their nations. They made their mark, they defined greatness. Has he ?

How many series have we won abroad in which he has played a significant part ?
How many test matches have we won chasing where he has made his mark ?
How many one-dayers have we won - which appeared to be impossible to win and which he had made possible ?

So, if he has not broken new ground, not given Indian cricket a new life, a new direction, would it be fair to put him in the same pedestal with those who did ?

I have grown up watching him and the few of the others - 'jokers', who had limited talent, very limited - those who did not get bowled through the gates but fended off short-balls, or did not get out to rookie left-armers but fished outside off-stump and even got maligned as "match-fixers", those who never scored in the bulk but stayed as a wall and pulled India through. These jokers, played out of their skin - much more than expected, much more than they are capable of.

They were my life. They still are. They always will be.

But whom should I give more credit to ? To these 'jokers' who have outperformed themselves or to that genius who has a crateful of runs and marvellous flamboyance which has not translated to anything more but pure visual delight ? The choice is for you to make. IF you want to, that is ! A better suggestion would however, be to rest in the cocoon of the preconceived notions and justify them with statistics or to say that people from different eras could not be compared ! (Let us then immediately stop comparing Nehru and Indira with Vajpayee and Manmohan)

And, I am still waiting. And I am sure you are not !