Thursday, October 27, 2011


Everyone of us will have a favorite Diwali memory (or memories). I have one too. I have had a lot of fun-filled and happy Diwali moments but whenever I think of the festival of lights, this particular one is the first thing that comes to my mind: making it a lingering memory that will stay forever in the realms of my mind! But the interesting fact is: it is not my memory. Neither was I a part of it nor did I witness it, in fact I wasn’t even born then. But then a memory, when seen through the eyes and felt through the heart and soul of someone who made you, eventually becomes yours! Doesn’t it?

My mom absolutely loves Diwali and every year during Diwali, I get to see the child in her. It is indeed an endearing sight to watch her enthusiasm and fervor in everything she does right from making delicious sweets and snacks to bursting a 100-wala! Just watching her makes my Diwali so memorable! But this specific memory actually dates back to 1955! Yes, you read it right. This interesting Diwali story comes from the days when my mom was in her 10th Standard. She is the 3rd of 11 siblings in what you can imagine is a pretty big family and so the fun of celebrating Diwali is also extra-special. So that year as well the Diwali craze had set in with new clothes, delicious sweets, mouth-watering savories, an excited bunch of crazy kids and loads and loads of crackers to make it super-exciting!

But this time, destiny decided to bring them some agony with just a hint of irony. It so happened that some distant relative in the family expired just a day before Diwali. In case you didn’t know, that would mean that the family does not get to celebrate Diwali (or any other major festival) that year. While the others eventually made peace with it, my mom couldn’t accept the predicament. She was crest-fallen and she sat looking at her new dress and her share of crackers for about 2 hours. There was one particular cracker which was her favorite. I don’t think it is available these days (at least not in the form she describes). The literal translation of its name is: the tank/cannon! It is somewhat in the shape of an army tank with a steel pipe and if you fill the pipe with the flash powder (explosive compound) and slam it against the wall and it makes a loud bang!

The more she looked at the tank, the sadder she became. Then suddenly an idea crossed her mind: “What if I can’t have any fireworks, I can sneak in some flower works”, she thought. My uncle (her brother) agreed to be her partner in crime. So they silently sneaked out, lit up a candle and got the big box of the flash powder. My mom broke a small wooden twig from a tree, dipped its end in the flash powder and brushed it on the candle to create beautiful sparks of gold and green. It was her own ingenious hand-made sparkler! Soon my mom and my uncle were engrossed in their secret Diwali ritual!

They were having so much fun that they didn’t realize the small flame that got to the twig when it was exposed long enough to the candle. Completely unaware, my mom dipped the twig into the big box of flash powder for getting a sparkle once again. But instead what she got was a huge gush of colored fire and light which resembled that of a giant flower pot! And this time there were sound effects too. My mom felt a little burn in her hand but she quickly moved away, thrust her hand between her legs and watched the spectacle that unfolded in front of her with great awe. The fireworks lasted for about a minute and the flames hit the roof of the house. Everyone around witnessed this glorious umbrella of colorful embers. It was like fire drops raining from the sky!

But all good things come to an end. And the magic was over in a flash! The neighbors went back to their business. When my mom and her brother turned around, they saw their parents, faces red with anger, waiting to give these 2 kids the beating of their lives. Just when my mom was wondering what sort of a punishment was in store for her, she felt the unbearable pain in her hand which she had completely forgotten about! She slowly took it out to see that her entire forearm had burnt and her skin had come out completely! Now she realized how much excitement it should have taken to conceal such a writhing pain. She burst out to a huge laughter which finally culminated in tears of unbearable pain. My mom was immediately treated to coolants which included coconut oil, ink, dosa batter etc.. and then all was well after 2 months of treatment! My mom still feels that this saved her from some grave unfathomable punishment and made her the center of attraction in the house for about 2 months and needless to say she enjoyed every bit of the attention! And every time my poor uncle would add that he got her share of beating too on that day!

I have heard this story at least 10 times and every time my eyes witness the fascinating spectacle of the giant sparkler-flower-pot, my hands feel an agonizing pain, my heart feels that infinite excitement and I feel my mysterious presence on that night; which makes it “my memory”!

Wish you all a glorious Diwali; be safe and have a blast!

      -    Dedicated to my dear Mom! 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


For a Finance guy, month ends are busy and quarter ends are crazy. So just 3 days into last week, I was already feeling like a pilot trying to emergency land a plane with engine failure into a desert! Amidst all the chaos we were lucky enough to sneak out for a team dinner. It was a “despedida” for a colleague who was moving to another team. I was so spent that I felt I could use a lot of wine and some food too! So here we were spending 2 hours in complete oblivion of our Budget fears, projection misses, sales estimates and EBIT numbers!

Extreme exhaustion accentuated by hunger and the tempting aroma of food around, cocktailed with wine can sometimes give rise to weirdly random conversation! Our Director is French and my colleague is American which cooked up a spicy recipe of small talk and trash talk. We forgot about everything and engaged in absolute gibberish. Here are tidbits from that entertainingly weird conversation between my director (DIR), my colleague (COLL) et moi (ME).

DIR: Friends, here is to a hellish week and a bullish quarter. I hope we end it on a high today. Literally! Raj, you looking forward to the weekend, my man?

ME: I am looking forward to the next one as well!

DIR: As long as you get me the final P&L tonight! Kidding... It has been a rough month actually. But it shall pass.

COLL: I think I have heard that before! So Raj, how do you feel about your role? Happy to be working with a lot of figures, eh!

DIR: "Well, with the wrong ones apparently!". There was the first sprinkle of French humor!

Our weird conversation brought the waitress to our table. “Would you like to start off with a drink tonight?”

DIR: Let us get some authentic French Wine. Bordeaux please!

COLL: Oh yeah.. Time for some elegant French wine and good American food. And Raj, add your masala chai to that and we have a nice cultural mélange here!

ME: "Why not! On our way back home for sure! Oh, by the way, historically you guys have had a love hate relationship, don’t you?” Obviously the wine was already working on me. The seed for trash talk was thus sown!

COLL: Well, that’s a rather interesting dinner topic. The French and Americans have been good friends and supported each other on most occasions.

My friend was quite diplomatic about it. Well, our director had a different spin on it!

FR: Well yeah, often times. Although, I remember something really funny back in 2003. When we didn’t support the US war in Iraq, one of my colleagues swore that he will not eat French Fries!  

ME: Whoaa… If that had happened, our 2 friends would have been out of business: McDonalds and Mr.Obesity!

DIR: Well, here is the fun part. I told him: “My good friend! Be informed that French fries didn’t really come from France.”

COLL: Holy cow! I didn’t know about that. But obviously there must be some connection, right!

DIR: Not really! We don’t take credit for French Fries. As far as I know, the potatoes came from Ireland. And unproven records tell that the concept of French fries first originated in Belgium.

COLL: Wow.. Now that’s a gracious Frenchman for you! I doubt how many of your countrymen would agree to that though! But, seriously, what did you guys have to do with it, then?

DIR: Ohh.. we do eat a lot of that, of course. He burst out into laughter.

COLL: But hang on, why isn’t it called “Belgian Fries” then?

DIR: Well, “French fries” sounds better, doesn’t it?

ME: May be! But I can shed some more light into this. Apparently the term “French fries” was introduced by American soldiers during World War I. They were in Belgium and loved the fries but they called it “French” because it was the official language of the Belgian Army. All of this is unverified though!

DIR: Ahh.. there is our “Wiki”-man!

ME: Yep.. i-Wiki! I said winking at my i-Phone.

COLL: Perhaps, it is just the wine, I guess! If he does the P&L now, our EPS numbers will look even prettier!

"Would you like some appetizers?" The waitress interrupted our scientific discussion.

COLL: Belgian Fries please.

Waitress: I am sorry Sir, we do not serve those.

ME: Oh yes you do!

We all had a hearty laugh much to the amusement of our waitress!

Saturday, October 22, 2011


For people who just received the shock of their lives reading the title, let me put you to peace. Rest assured that in 24 hours you can make 2 round trips between Delhi and Pilani (if you are fast enough!). This is just my fond recollection of a mad first winter trip to BITS Pilani that will stay in the memories of a few of us forever just for the sheer overdose of excitement, frustration, anxiety and relief we experienced in a span of 24 hours!

For starters, Pilani is in Rajasthan and is really cold, and I am from Pondicherry where I guess most people might not know what a sweater is! And by the way, it takes 2 days to go from Pondicherry to Pilani. So after a one and half day train journey, we alighted at the Delhi station. We then usually took a car/sumo to Pilani. There came our first surprise. There was intense fog all around and visibility was near zero. And as a result, most of the cars hadn’t returned and we were told that it was a 4 hour wait. We thought: “Okay.. not bad. We are a big group of 15. Let us have some fun!” And we did. For about 8 hours I guess!

Finally at about 8 in the evening, we had our first sigh of relief. And the last I guess! 2 sumos had come back and were ready for us! “We are 15 of us. Where is the third one?”, one of our friends inquired. “Not until another 4 hours”, was the curt reply. We decided that we have had enough fun already. So we believed that we could squeeze in and it was just a matter of 6 hours. So we thought!

“One small problem, Sirji”, said the driver. “What now!”, my friend yelled. The frustration was already creeping in.

“One of the sumos doesn’t have a carrier on top. So we will have to tie the entire luggage on top of the other one”, he said; matter-of-fact-ly! So we loaded everything atop the sumo I was in. Didn’t know this was going to play its part later on!

So after those small hurdles, we were on our way. Momentarily though! It was already pretty dark and we could faintly see the road. But our man was calm and relaxed. Or rather slow and steady. 15 kilometers per hour it was. He had a sound strategy of picking a vehicle and following it. First it was the other sumo, then it was a truck. Soon the truck had lost us and we were following a scooter. Eventually he was fast for us too and there we were behind a lone bicycle man. He gave us good company and direction for a long time and our man was able to match up with his speed until: well no surprises there: Flat tire!

11 0’clock in the night and in the middle of nowhere! Mr.Cool inspected the tire and decided that nothing could be done. He didn’t have a spare tire but he had a plan! “We will sleep for a while inside: someone should come sooner or later for help!” We all looked at each other in disbelief! There was no room even to sit properly and he was already snoring. So we decided to step out and get some fresh air to think this through! It was a bad idea I tell you!  

Not that I was not warned about the winter, but I was a little adventurous. I wanted to see how cold can “cold” be! So I was heavily armed against the biting cold with a T-shirt, jeans and chappals. To make our experience a little more chilling, it was the coldest day in Rajasthan in 2 years. Surely that little statistic didn't help much! There I was in the middle of a sub-zero night, teeth clattering, waiting (hoping) for some help to miraculously arrive! My friends were only a little better off – they had a sweater/jacket on! Well, our prayers were answered in about an hour! 

2 jeeps were gracious enough to stop and they had place for 5 of us! So fitting in 8 of us wasn’t a big deal but: moving the luggage of 15 was! I couldn’t feel my hands for about 15 minutes. We all sat in thinking that the adventure is finally over. Then it slowly dawned that it was an open jeep. Brrrrrrrr…. I sat next to the driver and noticed that there was no wiper. The driver had read my mind. He handed me a towel and asked me to keep wiping the fog on my side of the window. I asked him curiously: “So what about your side?” “Don’t worry, I will do that”, he said. My friend was shaking: “Did he just say don’t worry?”

Then we had the adventure of our life! This guy was driving the jeep at about 55 kilometers per hour, one hand on the steering and the other wiping the front glass window and I swear even after that I couldn’t see anything in the front. I still cannot believe how he drove all the way at that speed with absolutely zero visibility. Either he was a mad man or a genius! I guess both! In just 2 hours we were in Pilani. I didn’t even feel the cold in the mad excitement and rush of blood! The madness was over and I strangely felt a little sad. Why didn’t we meet this guy in Delhi! That was a crazy fun ride I will never forget and I sure could have had more!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


“Today we are really fortunate to have our favorite son amidst us. A genius who has brought fame and glory to our little village!” the school headmaster was all praise for Selvam. Selvam heard his voice but the words were different. “You good for nothing idiot! How many times should I tell you? Don’t use your peanut sized brain to come up with your own stupid equations! Can’t you just vomit what I teach in class? Mark my words: You will never come up in life. You lunatic born on a new moon!”

Selvam was back in his village after 25 long years. What has really changed, he wondered! “I was a lunatic then and am a lunatic now”. There was a difference though: Once he was notorious, now he was famous. The people who had once marooned him as a “disgrace” were celebrating him today as an “idol”. His wretched childhood unfolded vividly in front of his eyes. He remembered beaten by his father, scolded by his mother, ridiculed by his school teachers, abused by his classmates, chased by villagers and loved by no one.

His only mistake: He was born on a new moon. His mother believed that he was cursed. His father had lost his job a month after he was born. She thought he brought bad luck and was always worried about him. People in the village were superstitious enough to label him as a thief and a bad omen. Anything went missing, teachers doubted him and students conveniently pointed fingers at him. His father couldn’t believe that he could be his son. He even doubted his mother! Selvam hated his father the most. The hatred was mutual. It was this superstition that drove Selvam to science’s refuge! It sowed the seed of retribution in his heart. He wanted them to celebrate him one day! And here he was: adored and respected by his haters. But strangely he didn't feel any sense of victory!

The only person who really believed in Selvam was his Science teacher. Durai was sitting somewhere in the crowd but Selvam’s eyes were fixed on him. Durai had a bright smile in his face and immense pride in his heart. His boy had come of age. It was still fresh in his eyes: the day Selvam came running to him after his father almost killed him with his leather belt. Selvam was the most intelligent kid Durai had ever seen. He made sure he got out of this hell. He gave Selvam a new life and the world a great scientist. Today their eyes silently shared a tear! One meant happiness and the other: gratitude!

“Selvam was always a very naughty and inquisitive child. His quest for knowledge was immense”: his Tamil teacher’s voice shook him up. “What a great con artist he would have made”, wondered Selvam. He could forget being accused of stealing a pen from a fellow student but he could never forgive the man who tore his first ever poem! He gave him a cold stare but the Tamil teacher continued unflustered. Selvam joined the kids in the front row in making funny faces at his Tamil teacher. Seemed like  a nice idea for revenge!

Soon it was time for a small elocution from the school’s best kid: Parvathi. Her topic was: “My Mother”! Selvam shut his eyes hard to resist but Parvathi unlocked his mind and brought his mother in front of his eyes. His mother loved him the most but yet she never believed in him. He did not know which one hurt him more. Her last words to him had been the most painful yet were the fuel to the fire that had propelled his spirit all along.     

“Amma… I didn’t take his money. Please believe me. No one else does, Amma.”, he had pleaded when their neighbor had accused him of stealing 100 rupees.

“Every time some one complains about you, I have supported you. But for how long? I don’t think I can believe you any more. It is all the curse of the new moon! It is all my fate!” She burst into tears. And then she said those words: "Tell me.. you took the money right?" Selvam still remembered the belief in her eyes and the disbelief in his!

That was the day she shattered his heart into a million pieces! She never saw him again!

He was so lost in his thoughts that the headmaster had to call him thrice to present the award to Parvathi. He wiped his tears quickly and hugged Parvathi tight. She whispered in his ears: “Is it true that you were born on a new moon?” Selvam didn’t know what to say. He handed the award to her instead!

Parvathi saw the dark scar in his hand and wondered: “What’s that in your hand?”

Well… my father used to smoke a lot of cigarettes. One day he did not find an ash tray to put off his cigarette. So he used my hand instead! He was surprised at the complete lack of emotion inside him.

Parvathi touched the scar soothingly. She then turned to leave but stopped suddenly. She came close and whispered in his ear: “Sir, I was also born on a new moon. Can I also become like you one day?” Selvam felt a gush of happiness like never before and he didn’t know why! He smiled a “yes” to her!

Somewhere way back in the crowd, an old lady was watching him. She had a strange emotion mixed with pride, guilt and shame! A drop of tear rolled down her cheek. She couldn’t tell if she felt happy or miserable!

           -     A short story by Raj.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Perennial question that continues to haunt most of our lives, right? For some of us, it is an internal question while for others it is an external dilemma. Some people are born to do something and realize that very early in their lives while few others get a revelation down the road and focus their energies towards this new found purpose! And kudos to all of them! It is really a gift and hopefully a purpose worth living for!

But a majority of us do not know what we are here to do, don’t realize if we are here to do something specific and most probably will die without knowing we did something spectacular. Now note here, I say we die without knowing we did something special! What I mean by that is we all still achieve a lot in our lives but fail to realize the significance or we have the wrong parameters set that makes us see our lives ordinary! And that is truly sad!

This question has made its way into my life in several ways several times and, believe me I haven’t found an answer to this one yet. Nor do I intend to really! As a small boy (I think I was 10 years old), I remember being asked by my dad’s friend: “Raju kanna, what do you want to be in life?” My answer was spontaneous and very innocent: “I want to be happy.” That is the answer I like the best till date. But he wasn’t very amused. “That is okay. But what do you want to become?” I looked at him clueless! He tried to help: “Okay... who do you want to become? Who is your role model?” That was my first encounter with realistic hypocrisy!

I had always liked Albert Einstein. He is my favorite. Well at that age I was not intelligent enough to understand the theory of relativity. Not that I understand it now! But I was really fascinated by his hair. I thought he was really cool. So I said: “I want to be a scientist!” He liked the answer but he felt it was impractical. I did not know what practical was!

The second time I underwent this crisis was when I was in school and getting ready for college. It was my teacher this time. He was pretty sure that I should become a doctor. Pondicherry has JIPMER, the renowned medical college and I was good at Biology. So it was an open and shut case for him. Not for me unfortunately. I remember telling him this: “Sir, I am really afraid of blood! I don’t want to be a doctor!” He was furious. He felt that it was the most ridiculous explanation he had ever heard. I wouldn’t blame him for that. Trust me, if there was a way I could have become a doctor without using a knife on any creature, I would have certainly become one!

So as it goes, I was good at Math and Science as well and so I got into BITS Pilani. And if you are wondering, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be an Engineer either! But I stuck to it faithfully for a while. And the reason was I really enjoyed what I learned and my work after too! But then after 5 years of work, it was time for another self introspection. What do I want to be in life? “Happy”, was the answer again instantly. I have always liked that answer but I wanted something more tangible. That is how the idea of an MBA came along. I remember this one conversation with a friend of mine when I was justifying my idea of doing an MBA. He asked me the same question again: “Who is your role model?” I had a new one this time around: “APJ Abdul Kalam”. He was perplexed. “So let me get this straight. You want to be a scientist or the President of India?”. “Scientist would be good for now!” I replied. Sadly, he didn’t find it funny. “It is not practical dude”, he remarked. I have to agree he was right!

Nevertheless, after a lot of brainstorming, I decided that Finance was good for me and rest is not history but my present. MBA over and a Finance job right now keeps me busy. And again, I loved my MBA experience and my job is challenging enough to keep my brain occupied. But the point is the fact that I cannot become a scientist does not prevent me from wanting to become one.  And I don’t feel as if I have not accomplished the purpose of my life by not becoming one. I still enjoy the small things in my life; celebrate the small victories at work and in my personal life and still love Einstein and Abdul Kalam.  And still my best answer to the question of what I want to be is: “I want to be happy and possibly make others feel happy as well”.

So don’t always look for role models or landmarks in your life! Aspire to be but don’t feel as if the world has ended if you can’t be! Don’t underestimate your caliber or talent or that of your loved ones. Don’t try to be someone else for the sake of it! Try to be proud of what you are and happy in what you do! Helping a child have a day’s meal could be more meaningful than earning a business contract for your employer! It is okay to be clueless. Sometimes it is fun not to know what life has in store for us!

Monday, October 3, 2011


A great idea is a paradox really: It is very difficult to come by but at the same time it is brutally simple. It takes a lot of time and effort to strike, but once you have it, it gives you the potential to change the world. Today I wanted to highlight one such brilliant idea envisioned and conceptualized by my good friend and MBA colleague Vinay Kolluru. In this fast paced world, the toughest thing to accomplish is to get the time and attention of somebody. And for a candidate trying to get in front of a recruiter, the challenge is even more phenomenal. Vinay recently has come up with a unique solution via his small business Jet Pitch which has landed a spot among the 10 finalists in Dell’s “America’s favorite small business” competition.

I know your time is very important. And as my friend Vinay promises to put candidates in front of recruiters in 60 seconds, I will try and lay this out for you as a 1 minute read.

What is a jet pitch?
It is just a liaison between recruiters and talented candidates. Jet Pitch not only brings deserving candidates to the doors of employers, it also opens that door for them. It is an innovative service that helps professionals to jump start their careers and offers recruiters an easier and more efficient way to find an exact fit for their requirement.

So what does it do and what is unique about it?
There are numerous candidates with a vast array of skill sets and the résumé has become a tedious and time consuming medium to assess and identify a potential fit. Jet Pitch has come up with a unique concept of a 60 second video elevator pitch. It provides a simple and elegant platform for candidates to concisely encapsulate their career aspirations, background and skill set in a 60 second video elevator pitch.

This video elevator pitch presents the candidate in 3 dimensions and gives the recruiters a true and unbiased first impression of a candidate in virtually no time. In simple terms Jet Pitch brings a candidate to life in a 1 minute video to the audience: top companies around the world!

Why is this needed and what else does it offer?
Geographical remoteness, time and budget constraints, lack of visibility and several other factors lead to companies ignoring talented students. Jet Pitch aims to fix these inefficiencies or gaps in the recruiting process and helps companies find motivated and passionate candidates whom they would have overlooked otherwise.

It works with businesses, universities, HR professionals, UI experts and cutting edge graphic designers to help put students on the map of major employers and streamline the recruiting process and helps companies make informed decisions in a time efficient and cost effective manner.

That is Jet Pitch in short for you: a brilliant and powerful idea with a potential to work wonders. If this business idea resonated with you and you would like to support Jet Pitch in its wonderful journey, you can take a look at Vinay's entry vote for it using the link below!

And if you want to know more about this business idea you can visit:

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