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Oh Boy!

There are only a few moments in life when you are speechless (apart from being on stage , frightened). Its the moment when you become a dad or a mom.

The day after Christmas ’13, I was left speechless when I saw my son for the first time. Life changed forever as he looked at me.

 

 

After a two years hiatus, Wafter is back.

While these two years have been eventful both politically and economically for the world, they might have been uneventful for most people who have been trying to maintain status quo by clinging on to their jobs. We were all parallel parked holding on to our spots waiting for the tide to pass.Given the importance of knowing how to Parallel Park or Reverse Park (as the British would say), I present to you a neat trick to parallel parking. Credit goes to Mrs. Wafter for memorizing the trick and to her driving school instructor for teaching her the trick. It should be noted that Mrs. Wafter was against  publishing the trick in the interest of maintaining the livelihoods of the driving instructors, however since wafter came into the trick without any non-disclosure clause and being a firm believer in opensource, here it is :

Image

The Lot: 25ft X 6ft space

1,2,3,4 – Represent 4 cones for practice. 2 can be imagined to be the rear bumper of the car parked ahead of yours. 1 can be imagined to be the rear edge of the rear passenger door.

Step 1:  Park your car parallel to the parking spot.

Step 2: Align your car such that the front seat is in line with cone 2. Make sure that distance between the cars is approximately a foot, not more.

Step 3: Three R’s :Turn Right indicator on. Turn your steering full Right. Take the full right in Reverse and keep looking in the front mirror.

Step 4: Keep Reversing until cone 3 appears in your mirror. Now Stop. At this point, your car would be at an approximately 45 degree into the spot.

Step 5:Turn steering full Left. Continuing Reversing into the space until you are aligned to the curb. You could adjust your right (passenger) mirror to look a bit downwards before the whole exercise and keep checking your alignment with the curb during this step.

Step 6: Put Car in Drive and take your car slightly forward while turning your steering to straighten your wheels. Park.

Once in a blue moon

Today is a blue moon day. No, not because I blog once in a blue moon. But because today really is a blue moon day ! Whenever there is a second full moon in a calendar month, it is a blue moon.

Talking about blue, we are reminded of the blue species created by James Cameron in Avatar. Yes I saw the movie. Twice. Second time in 3D.If you haven’t watched it, you are definitely missing something. In my opinion it is a game changing movie with great technology being used to create great entertainment. The creativity of Cameron in taking us to a fantasy world with vivid imagery is astounding. The movie is flawless. What adds to the beauty of any movie are subtle messages. In Avatar, its the exploitation of climate , the corporate greed, shareholder returns, the handling of an armed conflict , the joy of a paraplegic in achieving super-human ability and the acknowledgment of reality that man doesn’t know everything about everything.

The second movie I saw was 3 idiots. Very good light-hearted movie. It takes all engineers back to their colleges. Makes them nostalgic and that is why it is the highest grossing hindi movie ever. Goes to prove the point in the movie – India is full of engineers ! Throw a stone and you know it will hit who. This takes me back to my June 2,2008 entry. Finally a movie which tries to address the issue. The movie preaches a way forward, which unfortunately cannot be implemented on a huge scale. Unless you are very very sure of your wild – life photography skills or writing skills, it always is better to be an engineer and doctor in India. That indeed is the way out for millions of teenagers living in middle class homes. Because mediocrity in any other career will leave you fighting for food. While mediocrity in engineering and medicine isn’t going to make you earn a way less. My friends snickered at me at the dialogue in the movie criticizing people – doing engineering, then mba from US and becoming a banker. But if I had not done engineering I may not have done my mba..etc..etc. So the flaw in the system lies in the lack of lucrativeness in other careers in India. Don’t blame the parents. Yes do it if they are parents of sachin tendulkar , who make him do engineering . Good that he didnt make it past high school, otherwise he may indeed have become an engineer..like Anil Kumble. Even engineering can’t sometimes suppress the ability to take 500+ wickets! Only if you are Anil Kumble though.

Its interesting that R Madhavan , one of the main actors in the movie, himself was denied a career in armed forces by his parents…and he went on to do -  guess what….engineering ! And ultimately he became a successful actor, which he might not have if he had not followed his parents advice. Engineering is useful after allShades

3 Idiots however had glaring lapses in the plot , recycled engineering jokes and fantastical situations. But it touched me in a different way. I really felt a deja-vu on seeing Raju enter the office of the director with the prospect of getting suspended. Believe me, the prospect of having your whole career at stake is frightening. Only if there was a window in my director’s office
Big Smile..I might have done what he did. No I wouldn’t have. Although I was also asked to implicate a few of my friends……or face consequences. Sometimes movies really depict truth. To the T. For example it would be hard to come across engineering college campuses wherever no one committed suicide in 4 years. A masters student in my campus committed suicide on valentines day in 2003. Everyone thought it was because of rejected love. But he was an engineer. A stag. It was actually a case of disappointment with thesis guide pushing him hard.  The movie should actually be seen by all those uptight professors in college campuses.

The new year beckons with a blue moon. Stay hungry . Stay idiot.

Passing of a Stag

Marriages are made in Heaven. But Arranged marriage invitation cards are not. If you are an eligible bachelor or bachelorette and you hope to have your beautifully scripted name on such a card then you have got a game on. Getting the partner of your choice and being the choice of your partner is surely an onerous task. A Huge project of critical value. Often involving all of these ingredients in varying proportions – internet connection, bio-data, scanned or digital photo, mobile phone, newspaper ad, matrimonial website ad, flight tickets, train tickets, “learned ” pandits, worried family members, sleepless nights, incessant debates with friends and family, plenty of green bills (often down the drain – similar to that spent by oil exploration companies in barren lands)…and so on…
It involves nothing less than the luck and the pluck, the meticulous planning, the operational capability and the timing and single – mindedness of a LeT mission.

 
The Changing Landscape

 

A few years ago, before the dot com era, alliances were decided through a referral process. Relatives took active interest in match-making and were often over zealous in getting boys and girls settled as soon as possible. By the inherent nature of the process, alliances were restricted geographically, so marriage between a girl from Nagpur and a guy from Kanpur would require a miracle!

 

Fast forward to the dot-com boom and the late nineties to-date , more and more girls and guys ventured from their small town homes into the IT sector and other growing sectors, earning cash and independence from their match-making relatives. Café’s opened, multiplexes mushroomed, and sms’s zoomed. Many a matches were made in the barista’s, Inoxes, PVR’s and cubicles of companies. And then there were stags. The guys who either didn’t have the knack to take a girl out for coffee or who were caught up in the whirl-gig of going for higher studies. Indeed many a stag has taken refuge in going for higher studies so that he could claim that he was “busy”. Therefore it can be safely assumed that lesser the knack you have to end up at Barista with a girl implies greater your probability of going for higher studies. Which implies that cash flow of Barista is diverted to the b-schools and higher education institutes of the world and to hedge against this risk, Barista should start b-schools/higher education institutes. And IITs and IIMs should start a coffee-shop chain. Ridiculous but true!

 

But we digress. For the stags, there is still hope. There are matrimonial sites with thousands of profiles where they can find a dream match. So just make a profile, write interesting stuff about you and your family, upload pics shot in a studio such that Irffan Khan can pass off as Shahrukh Khan and just wait. No wait…..did you just say that it is as simple as that?

 

The Struggle

 

It’s not as simple as that! What the stag has just done is filled in the forms for an exam where he might have to take multiple attempts to get the seat of his choice.

 

Wafter over the course of his (re)search tried to map the reasons for the struggle:

 

Constraints

 

Boy and Girl were matched according to the following constraints:

 

1) Age of Boy – Age of Girl > 2 years

2) 5 inches > Height of Boy – Height of Girl > 3 inches
 

3) Complexion of girl is lighter than complexion of boy (tested in broad daylight)

4) Caste of Boy = Caste of girl

5) Tangible Net worth of Boy’s Family ~ Tangible Net worth of Girl’s Family

6) Distance of Parental Home of Girl from Distance of Parental home of girl < 200 miles

7) Salary of Boy > Salary of Girl

8) Qualification of Boy>= Qualification of Girl

 

These constraints are more or less in place with slight modifications. You can easily imagine that finding a match is almost like searching for a needle in a haystack. Hence the struggle.

 
 

The real crux of the reason for the struggle lies in the fact that love marriages are widely prevalent now and have significantly depleted the cream of the arranged marriage database. So with the pool of prospects very less, it’s no wonder that people spend years searching for the right match.

 

It’s important to mention the psychology during the process as well. As time passes, people get more desperate or more rigid. With more rigidity, the search gets tougher; With desperation, you end up trying to prospect people who waste your time.

 

Matrimonial sites

 

Websites like Shaadi, Bharatmatrimony and Jeevansathi also aren’t entirely helpful. Each website probably has 65,000 potential matches for you; a large chunk overlaps between all three sites. Wafter for one, believed in casting the net and so had paid account on all three for quite a bit of time. Funny thing, if you pay in $, it costs a lot more to be a member than if you pay in rupees.

However the websites have a lot of problems. Out of 65000 matches, you can easily discount 15,000 which are dummy profiles or abandoned long time back. Another 10,000 are those who got recently married by some means and still show up in searches. That leaves 40,000 at max.

Wafter estimates that you will hardly have to peruse through 200-300 matches which meet your criterion potentially.

 

However the website causes a lot of problems. Many people don’t have photos (most probably because they are very average in looks), many have doctored photos to pass them off as some movie star and many other hide crucial details which are a no-no for you. Frankly the way Indians/we work – is to waste each others time. Transparency is a huge problem. Then in many cases, the parents man the website while the girl gets only filtered prospects, which she ultimately rejects. In other cases, girl mans the website and parents reject.  Initiating interest in a match, parents talking to each other the first time and boy and girl talking to each other can take more than a month or two. Exchange of bio-data and photos is also sought with friction. Many naïve protectionist parents don’t want to give away the photo of their girl for fear of misuse, little realizing that their daughter has posted photos on facebook and orkut which may tell a lot about her. Wafter has even had cases in which parents have initiated interest and the girl is “committed” on orkut.

 

Expectations

 

Then there is a big issue of expectations. Parents of girls expect that boy hails from a high-status family with plenty of wealth to keep their daughter happy (with wealth). Parents talk insensibly/rudely a lot many times. Salaried middle class fathers earning 3-4 lpa, feel that if their daughter works for some software company and takes home 4-5 lpa then she is the most eligible bride and you need to grovel before them to ask for the hand of their daughter. No regard for the intelligence, qualification, personality and character of the groom. There have been cases of father of the girl stating in the very first conversation with the family of boy – “My daughter doesn’t like facial hair and she will only consider clean-shaven grooms “..!!  So my poor stag, gillette is the way to go. It’s a meat market out there. Be presentable for the business deal.

 

Some quick ways to save time/money in the process:
 

  • Don’t go ahead if the parent/daughter/son is acting pricey. Snap it there and then.
  • Ask and clarify things which are a no-no for you upfront, before spending $$ or Rs. Visiting the girl and her family…By the way why is it that the boy spends money to go all the way to the girl , spending time and $/Rs ..Oftentimes returning unsuccessful and bearing all costs?
  • If the girl is not interested, the interaction won’t be smooth. Don’t put extra boyfriendesque efforts to win her over. No flowers or chocolates. Snap it there and then.
  • Before visiting, ask the girl for clear and close-up pics. Save time and money.
  • If conversation with parents revolves around salary, property, and how the girl’s nanaji was a district magistrate and how her cousin phoophaji is a “respected zamindar”, then snap it there and then. Unless you are of the same type or your khaandaan can match zamindar for zamindar and magistrate for magistrate with that of the girl.
  • Some people search for NCR (National Capital Region) match. If you are no way near, don’t waste your time.

 

Don’t stress out too much. It will happen when it will. Make proactive efforts but enjoy the process also. Make friends along the way. (Stags who haven’t ever dated, here is a golden opportunity to date chicks in the garb of match-making. Sneaky! You bet! Smart! )

 
At the end of day it’s all luck. Marriages are made in heaven.
What do you say Mrs. Wafter? Ok. Ok. I owe you one.

The Wall Street Meltdown

Time to catch up. With the job . With the subprime crisis. With passing of lehman. With going of ML and Wachovia. With the passing of bulge bracket investment banking. With the bailout With Fed fund rates at 1 today. With Obama and McCain. With Sarah Palin.

Its been eventful times since I last wrote. These are the worst times to start a job on wall street , in fact in finance. At the same time this will impact the mindset of all people starting a job now. Now everyone knows that there is no firm too big to fail. Now everyone knows that the bigger the bubble, bigger is the crisis looming after it bursts. Now everyone knows that risk management is such a big deal. If you can price the risk, you have achieved nirvana in finance. This downturn has been slow in coming but it surely and slowly gained speed and mass and became an avalanche.

There are always silver linings in the cloud , if you can see it. Now with the passing of pure-play ibanks and all banks becoming commercial banking , commercial bankers have more choices available now ;)

I guess this crisis is not going to end any soon, so I will keep touching on it in future posts.

It has been great to start a job with Citi. Its the biggest brand in financial services and has a lot of talented people. The best thing is that you can make a long career in Citi since it is so big by geography and business. Citi really never sleeps.

Moving to NY was pretty easy. I found a place through craigslist
on a waterfront apartment in Jersey City. This view of manhattan downtown from my apartment is really beautiful. There are a lot of indians around which is both good and bad.

I am slowly getting used to the fast paced NY life. You walk fast. Catch the subway. Stand in the crowd on the train. walk out quickly at your station. catch another train. walk fast……and so on….My train to long island city is one stop away from manhattan midtown. Since citi is the only company there, i see the same faces everyday going on my train.  NY reminds me of mumbai except that it has much nicer trains.

I do miss the lovely Carolina life. Sunny and wide open and beautiful.  The weather in NY is getting worse. A funny thing happened yesterday. While i was walking from the subway station to my home, I saw a girl waiting at the corner of the building. I found it surprsing that she was waiting outside in such wretched weather. As soon as I crossed her beyond the corner , she fell in step behind me, closely following me. I then realised that she was waiting to follow someone bigger in the 15mph cold head-wind !

MB- Yay !

I am finally done with it and I am a lot poorer than I was two years before. The shock of the amount of money spent is mitigated by the concepts of NPV and IRR taught, interestingly, in the very curriculum I was spending my money on.

Overall I am glad that I am going to apply my knowledge learnt in MBA in my job. My undergrad knowledge of mechanical engineering was no use in developing a banking software product. Which brings me to the point of the flaw in the Indian education system and the way kids are pushed to becoming engineers, doctors, MBA’s. Recently IIT-Joint Entrance Exam and other engineering college results came out and there was a frenzy of excitement to be seen wherever I went. Excited dads and moms were discussing how there kids got so and so rank and were therefore going to get so and so branch in so and so institute. It’s almost an assembly line of kids doing math, science and then engineering and then going to Bangalore to sit in cubicles and code, suppressing all their creativity and inclinations to live the dreams and aspirations of their parents. Most of the parents don’t know what they are pushing their kids into; and they would be happier having their kid work for some Indian recognizable brand name like Infosys, TCS( which they can boast to their colleagues and neighbors )rather than Oracle, Nvidia or Synopsys.

I know I was in the same glut and doing an MBA was also following the same design. While I have followed the conventional track, yet I would like to believe that there was a subtle difference to my MBA as against an Indian MBA. A lot of learning happened through my classmates, most of who didn’t think in the way I thought, which is to say that they were not engineers. In addition to learning new ways of approaching a situation, I felt these two years gave me time to consider various career options (which I never got before in my life) and choose the one I felt the happiest with. That’s a big thing for us Indian mechanical engineers turned software engineers – the freedom of choice. Investment banking didn’t happen to me in these times of recession but I am pretty happy with what I have. The one thing I have learnt in the past few years is to do the best with what you have and keep trying to pursue what you enjoy. The quest for success continues.

I missed writing for a long time, partly due to being under excessive workload to complete credits early in time for H1-B application( Foreign non-resident students have additional challenges on the track) and then enjoying the last mod by going to the gym, playing a lot of racquetball, some tennis and a bit of golf.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t want to graduate. Studies were wonderful, you could choose classes starting a bit late and not get up early, let people see you unshaven and sleepy without raising an eyebrow, have Friday’s off the year long and not be too responsible to anyone. All this will change now I guess.

Believe it or Not !

It’s the interview season and there are some really funny stories. A few excerpts:

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A US-only company(one which doesnt sponsor H1-B) shortlists x candidates of which half require sponsorship.
Telephonic Interview Starts.
Interviewer introduces herself and then goes on to reveal that they dont sponsor visas.
Candidate(Without going into the resume walk) – The rest of the list requires sponsorship.So should i tell the remaining candidates this information?
Interviewer(In a spot)- Umm…welll…..

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Disinterested Interviewer: Tell me a joke.
Candidate: I know jokes in Hindi and all of them are vulgar. Do you want me to translate ?

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The same Disinterested Interviewer : Cricket seems to be a boring game. I heard its played over 5 days..blah blah
Candidate: What do you know about cricket. Let me clear your misconceptions. ….goes into the formats of 20-20 and one day….

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Interviewer : What are essential leadership qualities
Candidate: Inspirational..motivational..charismatic..team-person
Interviewer(taking notes) – Tell me more
Candidate: Innovative , Strong interpersonal skills….blah blah..
Interviewer(taking notes) – Tell me more..see im writing down what you say and the HR will then call u for round 2 based on your responses…so just tell me more
Candidate(WTF !)- blah blah blah….
Interviewer(taking notes)- More?
Candidate (looking incredulous)- I have told you the universal set !!!!

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Interviewer : How are your unix skills on a scale of 5
MBA Candidate (thinking WTF!) – How do you define 5 …is it kernal programing..? then its 4

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