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Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Bad Word of the Week

So dowry is the new bad word in India cos Aamir Khan says so.

Satya Mev Jayate (SMJ) truly is trailblazing by mirroring India’s problems back to us Indians so much so that my facebook friends who specialize in updates that have historically been socially inappropriate, are now using socially relevant words like abuse, dowry etc on their status updates… of course, every week, the social issue changes - but only as long as Aamir Khan approves. Sample this fb update from an fb friend : “full form of ‘DOWRY’ = Donkeys Of the first order Who can’t stand on their feet Rely on their wives’ riches Yet shameless.” :D (yes, the Department of Abbreviations resent this one!)

Well, me haven’t seen any of the Aamir Khan episodes yet and my attempt at catching the youtube version was aborted cos I found the flow to be pretty depressing and too serious for a Sunday morning. (Please don’t brand me a bad person becos of this – I still pay my taxes, I respect women and I often do offer my seat to elders in the bus. Yes I do ogle at the occasional PYT or curse and envy the idiot boyfriend she’s with; but don’t we all??? )

As an eligible bachelored Indian guy, I can tell you that the concept of dowry is pretty tempting – imagine getting a car/money/furniture for well,… just being a guy. Though my take to dowry is that if you ask for dowry, you lose respect - a marriage’s most important component - in both your wife/in laws’ eyes; hence me ain’t a big supporter of the ‘D’ word. But I am yet to make an opinion about people who do ask for it – I mean, I have both kind of friends who married with and without dowry – and they’re both equally miserable! J So I’m not sure if I particularly know of anyone that the papers or Aamir Khan has named as “victims of dowry” or of the “atrocities” dowry bring about to women across India – so I can’t argue with that and hence I won’t.

But my point is that dowry and other social ills existed even before SMJ and people need to understand that SMJ is just a well made show made for the sole purpose of entertainment. It successfully strikes an emotional connect with the viewer, and is ensuring better trps for the channel and more advertising moolah for the producer, which incidentally is the Khan. But what is the key motive of the show - highlighting social evils to us or making money? Or both? Or is there one? Or is it just general entertainment, which is what I think it is. And it looks like the start of whole new genre so don’t be surprised if more celebrities start similarly themed shows soon.

My personal take on abolishing dowry is to abolish the concept of arranged marriages – in the name of “tradition”, arranged marriages put a premium on one gender that require the other gender to compensate for it. But tradition overlooks the social fact that women today are no longer dependant on men and that women today are as capable, if not more, than men in almost every area. If people get married for love, marriages would be conducted in a more understanding and practical way and more often than not, people know what they’re getting into. Of course personally, I am a strong believer in the animal kingdom credo of ‘fight for the girl’ – you know, the “alpha male always gets the girl” rule – and arranged marriage stands grossly in the way of us Indian men getting any practice in the art of wooing and winning women – incidentally, we Indian men grossly suck at charm and seduction.

But since last year, I strongly opposed dowry and advocate that it should be seriously banned. And here’s why - In my earlier company, I remember this guy in my same team and both of us had the same boss and the same work profile. In fact, he was the lesser mortal between us both as I still had a bike that we used to pool together to office every day. Things were hunky dory with me having a slight upper edge(on account of my bike) till one fine day he got married. And then, everything bloody changed and how! And ever since, I’ve been vehemently against dowry and its ill effects to society. You see, this dude is from some remote village in the hinterland, and in his place, he’s like some feudal land lord or something and dowry is a huge thing there with people giving away whole villages and towns to the groom and this dude’s family owns like half of Andhra Pradesh or something. So the simple act of marriage made him richer by….. hold your breath….. 10 crores. Today, when I’m on my bike waiting at signals, I see him in his C Class. And I remember the days when I could have, would have and should have been kinder to him…. Alas…… Dowry should be banned I say!

Yes this post is too frivolous to address an issue like dowry but seriously, if dowry need to be abolished, it goes beyond sending one rupee sms to SMJ which they claim will be donated to charity (never mind that the number of smses is actually a metric to judge the success of any tv show J). It needs to start with changing our basic mindset. Lets understand that men and women are equally unequal and need each other to complete each other. And let’s not forget that a wedding is actually about two people and the society is only secondary. And lets advocate more love marriages. And lets understand that SMJ is just a good entertainment program and nothing more. And since we’re at it, let’s make this blogger popular by visiting his site more often here.

Cha ching!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

".....How u doin???" :-D

Ok, so what the hell does a guy do at women’s blogging contest where you know for certain that the winners are gonna be women? 

Well, as the topic requires, fantasize about Kyra…… JJJ

Well, Kyra is the brand mascot for Lakme’s new product for the summer. Now since I’m a respectable person (indulge me for a minute by ignoring the blog name please), I treat women with upmost respect and honor. So what would I do to … err, apologies.. do with Kyra this summer?  Now let me see…. If I get it correctly, Kyra’s gonna have fun on some exotic beach (wow, she’s bringing her friends too!), play beach volleyball (obviously in beachwear) and sip a nice cold drink (oh wow, she gets drunk too!)….. ok, now which guy would say ‘No’ to such a proposition?!!?? J

So lemme get this contest right – I need to blog about how would I’d spend my summer with Kyra, Lakme’s Sunshine girl, who as the write-up says, is fun loving, enjoys her music and loves traveling! Seriously, if Kyra is willing to spend her entire summer with a stranger like me, well, she’s now my new best friend (well, at least till the summer is over or till she runs away for her life or whichever comes earlier…)

So assuming that Kyra does choose to spent her summer with me (and not with the countless other male bloggers contesting), I think I’ll first pack her and her friends (only if they’re pretty!) to the mall to get the skimpiest two piece swim wear for all of them (save cotton, save trees I say!) - methinks Kyra’ll look great in hot pink…. And of course, sun shades for all, all on me! And I’ll refurbish my uncle’s jazzy but immobile Premier Padmini convertible to be our official wheels for the summer.

To take care of some longstanding unfinished business, the first place I’d take Kyra and friends would be to my college reunion to show some losers who said that I could never ever get a girlfriend. And as we walk out of the limo (with doves flying out for effect!), we would be the toast of the party with old college guys jumping over each other to get a glimpse of me, my Kyra and her hot friends. I’ll introduce Kyra and friends to them as my new girlfriend(s) and that we’re committed for life (ok, at least till the summer ends or till she runs away for her life or whichever comes earlier …) 

Now, a man on a date always wonders if he'll get lucky; a woman however already knows - so to increase my chances, I'll choose a vacation spot that is home –  so now with the gorgeous company of Kyra and friends, our summer spot is Bangalore!

So what can one do in Bangalore? Well, lots!! Kyra and I decided to start our mission on a Sunday morning at 6:30AM with the famed Bangalore Walks – it’s a three hour walk on MG road, where presenters tell about the history of Bangalore, starting from the famous Trinity Circle, MG road, with each building having a story that added to the history of Bangalore. Under the pretext of careful observation of the buildings, my attempts to hold her hands failed spectacularly. The walk ends it with breakfast, after which we drive to the seat of power, the Vidhan Soudha; also an architectural wonder constructed in the swadeshi style of architecture, and is one of the most important landmarks of the city.

Still feeling cool under the hot Bangalore afternoon sun, we drove off to another Bangalorean landmark for lunch – the MTR near Lal Bagh – to try their legendary ware. After the customary long wait and a sumptuous meal, we hit off to original garden in the heart of the garden city – Lal Bagh, a botanical garden that houses India's largest collection of tropical plants, has an aquarium and a lake, and is one of Bangalore’s main tourist attractions. As Kyra and I get connected to the lovely parks (all my attempts at holding her hand were responded by tight slaps on mine- ouch!), her friends go to see trees that were planted by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. Truly, nature at its best!

After that, its shopping the Bangalorean way and we find ourselves in Commercial Street – where you’ll find everything at a price that needs to be “discovered” –bargaining is expected, required and needed (smart guy that I am, I "forgot" my wallet at home - smart girl that she is, she "remembered" to take my wallet from home).  Bangalore today is only a pale reflection of the ‘pub city’ it was once known as so next shot, we hit one of the oldest watering holes here – Pecos for its beer, bacon and banter. Continuing with the pub hopping, we drop into Hint, fuga, Skyye Lounge and finally land up at Hard Rock. After which we head off for a late night bite at Empire and drive off to Corner House to have the Bangalore specialty of ‘Death by Chocolate’ ice cream.

The next sunny summer day would be for exploring the arty part of city B and the girls and I dash off to the National Gallery of Modern Arts for the beautiful paintings of Raja Ravi Verma, Jamini Roy, Amrita Sher-Gil, Rabindranath Tagore and a large number of Modern and Contemporary artists, and then to the J N Planetarium for the spectacular cosmic shows that truly are “out of this world.” After the cosmos, we go to connect with our spiritual side by visiting the Shiva Temple and then the Iskon temple. After lunch we decide to go for a play at the renowned Rangashankara Theatre Stage (all my attempts at holding her hand were responded by tight slaps on mine- ouch!) after which we call it a day by attending a music show at Cubbon Park. 

After Bangalore, to do justice to the swim wear we bought for Kyra and her friends, next stop is the virgin beaches of Gokarna. Gokarna is clean, serene, quiet and has amazing sea food. The only thing better than Kyra and her friends in beach wear are the other firang babes in beach wear. Beer flows unendingly, the fried food comes incessantly, the sunny summer sun shines continuously and the fun only keeps rolling. (Yes, and all my attempts at holding her hand were still responded by tight slaps on mine- ouch!)

So this is my plan for living it up this summer with Kyra. Of course, the only thing going against this above plan of mine is my horrible luck with women - in fact my luck with women is so bad that, like many indibloggers know, the earlier Lakme girl, Elena, quit after she came to know of what I’ve written here. I’m just praying that Kyra does not share the same sentiments.

And since I have a lot of practice in waiting for women to call me (invariably they don’t – I'm sure its the damn cellular network!), I’ll diligently wait by the phone for Kyra and her friends to call ……

… Still waiting……(till the summer ends or till she runs away for her life or whichever comes earlier …)

Mera number aayega.....

This is an entry for the Lakme Diva Blogger contest (have fun in the sun @http://www.facebook.com/ilovelakme ).

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

India Re-Shining

“On some days, my head is filled with such wild, wonderful and original thoughts that I can barely utter a word……..  on other days, the liquor store is closed.”

So my friends and I were boozing the other day and as is customary in our booze sessions, we find solutions that seek to, what else, “to save the world”! J  I think a lot of us will agree that alcohol usually provides the best answers to life’s greatest problems…. Like Homer Simpson says, “” Alcohol is the root cause and solution to all of the world’s problems”

So last weekend, our daaru-session topic was on the changing India story. 

Now even though I don’t act it, I actually have done my schooling (I have certificates to prove it.. so there!).  And in my school when we studied, we were brought up believing that India’s biggest problem was its population… you know, poverty, droughts and the usual drill…. But today, India’s biggest advantage is its gargantuan population – and the key reason why the world is going ga-ga about India is because of the fact that a huge chunk of us are moving up the social ladder, spending more money, consuming more and more -  and this yummy consumption is at the crux of the awesome India story, with more people buying more and more companies making more, in a mutually beneficial, profitable and harmonious relationship. And as expected, the government and regulators ensure that this consumption is done in a fair, just and profitable manner so that everybody wins.  Savvy? J

So what messes all this up?  Well.. It’s the “leakages”, or grease-money that “oils” the system.  And corruption has really brought everything to a standstill in the last few years – the sensex is down, investment is down, demand is down.  And in spite of Anna Hazare, court orders, license suspensions, what not, … corruption has only become more complicated.  But if you really think about it, corruption is almost always about unaccounted cash - so the trick to tackle corruption then is to make cash accounted for or to completely kill cash.

So last week, the daaru in me n my buddys’ systems came up with a winning solution to this issue – and the solution is – the internet (..tada…! J).

Imagine if all money transactions were done only through the internet via the humble mobile phone, which experts say will be owned by every Indian very soon.  A 1 rupee mint to a 1Cr Bentley could be bought via mobile money and hence accounted.  And you would never need to carry physical cash ever - money gets transferred anywhere via mobile internet and thus be accounted and thus documented.  And who better to accomplish a project of such large scale, complexity and security than our good ol’ world renowned Indian IT guys.   Internet, along with Indian IT, Indian telephony and Indian ingenuity can bring about transparency and accountability to the system, thereby greatly reducing corruption. Sure, I will agree that it is hard to be done but you will agree that it can be done.  

And we already know that the internet is helluva fun (70% of it definitely is ;)) – for example, our lil booze party was conceived by the guys on facebook, then we google mapped the nearby drink joints in indiranagar, went through their menus online through burpp.com on mobile, decided it’d be too expensive, and then agreed to have it at someone’s house.  A quick online poll decided the venue to be my place and then we google mapped again for the wine shops near my place; one dude agreed to get the booze and another agreed to drive him.  Finally, we had a whale of a daaru party and somebody videoed it on mobile, shared it on facebook and showed the world what a superfun weekend we had - and all this via mobile net.

Today the internet is not just fun, its life - we connect, we converse, get info, we buy, we sell, we game, we play, we watch n we do so much more on the internet. And for me, its the 'connect with friends' aspect of the net that make it so priceless in my life.

So if we could use the awesome power of the net to also clean up our system, it’ll only add to the internet’s growing relevance and importance in our lives.........Cool idea, na??? J 

Next week, our booze topic is the Euro crisis.

Drinkers invited. Wanna join???


This is an entry for the Vodaphone ''Internet is fun'' contest (find the fun@

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Friday, May 4, 2012

The 'Man' Particle

So I’ve been working in Analytics for a while now…

Somebody once said that statistics is like a mini skirt; but don’t you so wish that it was almost as interesting???

And I’m told that statistics reveals as much as it hides; or maybe, it hides even more than it reveals – what do I know? – as a personal pet policy, I don’t do drugs, beef or stats.

A celebrated atheist is claimed to have said, “In god we trust, everyone else must bring data” – unfortunately there is no data to prove if he was celebrated, or an atheist or if he actually said these words. But nevertheless, my take on this subject is slightly different – yes I think that we must trust in God, but for everyone else, well…. keep reading.

Now in our Market Research and Analytics industry, I think there are two types of analysts – those with and without a stats degree; but it hardly matters as both are equally confused on the subject. I used to represent the comfortable majority who stayed as far away from stats as possible all this while but the annual goal setting carnival this year has forced me to bring stats in my life starting this year. So my goal for this year to learn stats and to “educate and enlighten my client of the benefits of stats in our engagement”. But the problem is – who’s going to educate and enlighten me of the benefits of stats? If any, that is. And I realize that my paralyzing fear of stats is not really helping; in fact, my fear of statistics always ranked high in my list of fears – way higher than my fear of heights and somewhere near my fear of clowns. And I’m also told that neither counseling, medication nor exorcism can cure one of one’s fear of statistics.

I think my first brush with Stats was in high school. I was then one of those kids with extremely low self esteem – I mean, I was so bad on self esteem that I didn’t even know how to spell it – but my enterprising dad made me believe that I was always ‘one in a million’ and hence, always different. And it seemed to work for a while till my stats teacher told me that even though I may be one in a million, statistically speaking, in India, there’s still a thousand more like me. And that pretty much plundered my self esteem for life.

And then there were those innumerable instances in my earlier companies where I needed to mentally convert a million into a billion (which I later found out was surprisingly easy) and to convert a billion into a crore (which was nothing short of mental hell!). Of course, we could all use our scribbling pads which would have greatly helped this conversion but we wanted to show the clients that we breathe and chew such basic mental calculations all the time. And so, our many mental maths used to turn clients’ billion dollar initiates into lakhpathi ones and vice versa, often in the same breath.

But with time, I started to like numbers and figures (the mathematical sort, you filthy mind J). I mean, data and data mining was kinda cool - in a way, data mining could be seen like finding a needle in a haystack or even a more complicated version of hide and seek. And making sense of data was also a very interesting exercise in creativity. And you always had an alibi if it falters - if all else fails, you could always blame it on incomplete data, the data source, the methodology or all of the above. But as imminent as old age, taxes and death, with great data comes great responsibility – and also not-so-great statistics.

One thing I never get about stats is the ‘confidence levels’ thing – I mean, historically, it’s always been a question of ‘to be or not to be’ - there’s just two arguments to any situation and none more. But with stats, you get to say ‘to be’, ‘not to be’ and also ‘could be’ – and that too, with various levels of confidence!! I mean, why are statisticians never fully confident? Do they also have self esteem issues??

But my biggest grouse against stats is something related to what I’d refer to as the ‘God Particle’. For the uninitiated, the ‘God Particle’ is that factor that’s responsible for the unexplained good things that happen in life – so you got a hike this year, the occurrence of which surprises you as much as it shocks your team members (or vice versa) – that’s due to the God Particle; if you win a lottery and you can’t remember even buying a ticket– that’s the God Particle at work; if you get an auto rickshaw willing to take you to office, charges you by the true meter and even gives you back change – that’s the God Particle on steroids.

So what does the God Particle have to do with data? Well nothing actually. But at the other end of the same spectrum is the Man Particle and that has everything to do with data. If the God particle represents all the best things that can happen in life, the Man particle represents the exact opposite - and the only thing suspect about data are the humans working on it. Data is actually contaminated all the time by the Man particle – and stats, which is defined as “whatever is being done to data - collection, organization, analysis, and interpretation of it”, in fact, recognizes the human factor in data; they even have a sophisticated word to call it – they call it ‘non sampling error’! But don’t let it fool you – it basically means ‘the unbelievable blunders that only we humans are capable of.

Few examples:

  • For my summer internship, I was working with a research agency that was at the time working for a global leader in optical lenses. This client had just entered India and had commissioned our agency to do a market sizing study to find out the overall optical market in India, its different segments and the various players in each of the segments. After two months of data collection, the senior director of our agency was to present the agency’s findings to the India CEO of the optical company, who had specially flown down for this presentation. The director knew that findings were not too favorable for the optical company as the data showed that the company was always a distant No 3 or 4 in all the major segments in the optical market of India. To infuse a sense of cheer and to start on a bright note, the director identified a segment where the data showed the client company to be the market leader. The director cheerfully started the presentation by highlighting that “You should be pleased to know that our data says that your company is number 1 in the XYZ segment.” The room went quiet and the CEO blinked a few times amidst the pin drop silence in the room. The CEO then humbly told the director that they do not operate in that particular segment and never had any products there. Ever.

  • Company A had to come up with a strategic response to a particular situation and was in a dilemma over deciding between two opposing courses of action. So it commissioned an agency to come up with the right decision. Now, one way of creating a strong impression on clients is to impress him with things that he does not know – so the researcher waxed eloquent about the power of statistics and did a hypothesis testing with the company’s data. Unfortunately, the researcher fumbled on setting the null and alternate hypotheses and unknowingly suggested the wrong course of action to the company. Later somebody else found the error but it was already too late as the company had invested heavily in the recommended action point. The irony however is not that the researcher got it completely wrong; the irony is that the company met great success by following that path.

  • This happened to my friend’s market research agency. Both the top two competing firms in the ABC category were being serviced by two separate teams from this same agency. Both teams provide their respective clients with data and analyses on a periodic basis and this data is used by the client for strategy, competitor intelligence and study of market dynamics. Needless to say, contractual obligations did not permit these two agency teams to interact with each other in any ways whatsoever and hence were housed within the same agency on different floors. However, the two teams shared the same courier dispatch team of the agency. For the much awaited annual data analyses, the courier guy sent the dvd file of one company to its competitor and vice versa.

So as you can see, data in its purest form is like God – a source of unlimited knowledge and powerful information. But when humans intervene, well…..

So what do I do about data? Well, only in God, booze and money I trust.

For everything and everyone else, I keep a personal pet policy.

I don’t do drugs, beef or stats!


P.S – This post is a work of fiction - I actually like beef.


P.P.S – By using the term ‘Man’, I refer to both genders – I mean no disrespect to the ladies; I know that whatever blunders men can make, women can probably do it better.