Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Five Point Girlfriend

An IIT grad wanting to come back to India after working in Europe for 1.5 years in supply change management pings me on messenger.

"Know of any good jobs?" he asks.

"Er, when I hear words like supply chain management my eyes typically glaze over", I respond. "But why do you want to come back anyways?"

He gives the usual spiel about India being 'hot' and then adds, "Actually my girlfriend is in Mumbai."

"IITian with girlfriend... rare species!" I remark.

"The trend is changing," he declares,"Most IITians have girlfriends now..." He gives the example of IIT Kharagpur, where students commonly have girlfriends in Kolkata.

"Hmm... interesting. But what do these girls see in IITians?" I ask.

"Sense of humour," he says.

Or nice, stable boys who will get jobs in Supply Chain Management and make good husbands someday, I think.

Tell me, dear readers, which of the two it is :) And are IITians really inhabiting Girlfriendville right now, or only in their imagination?

I am counting on that famous 'sense of humour' in IITians who choose to respond... The others, I guess, will stay single till Mummy finds someone.

P.S. If anyone does know of an interesting opening for a Supply Chain Management professional in India - drop me a line at rashmi_b at and I'll put you in touch with Young Man Mentioned Above.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The JAM Engineering Admissions Handbook 2008

Is now available.

To all the wonderful people who read this blog, my sincere and heartfelt "thank you" to you all.

You circulated the JAM Engineering College survey.

You contributed articles and advice.

You made it happen.

Putting this book together really was a mammoth task. And that's why it got delayed. The point was to produce something which would be of real and lasting value, instead of rushing out with a half-baked product just to catch the admissions season.

So we waited, worked and came out with it in 2008.

Any of you who may like to buy the book can do so at a 15% discount from the JAM website. The book is also available at bookshops across India, distibuted by IBD. Must admit I was pretty excited to see it stocked on the shelves of 'Landmark'.

(If you happen to see it at a bookshop near you, could you snap a pic and mail me? Just, first-time book publisher enthu :)

Secondly, if you would like to help in any way, to market this book in your town, do get in touch. You would earn attractive commissions.

Lastly, I have 10 books to give away to bloggers/ media types. All you have to do is review the book. And of course, feel free to praise or pan it - as you deem fit. You can get a sneak peek into the contents and some sample articles here.

I know we have given it our best but there is always scope for improvement. We see this as the 'Lonely Planet' equivalent of the education world and this is the first of a series. As always, I will invite you to participate in the onward journey.

P.S. Those who contributed articles will receive the book from our side shortly. Those who wish to review the book please drop me a mail at rashmi_b at

Friday, May 23, 2008

Crimes of India

Details of the gruesome murder of Neeraj Grover were everywhere just yesterday. And we have already moved on to the next episode of this gruesome new reality show called Who-Knows-What-The-Neighbour-Is-Upto: 14 year old Aarushi, and servant Hemraj's murder.

Both are extremely riveting because of the cold bloodedness involved. In the case of Neeraj Grover, the mind boggles at how someone can chop up a body into 300 odd pieces in order to dispose of it. That is, at some level, even worse than the actusl murder .

But a father killing his own child - if true - is absolutely stomach-churning.

Crime is not a new phenomenon and neither is media attention. I don't know how many of you have heard of the Nanavati case where a naval commander killed his wife's paramour on finding out about their affair. Interestingly, the media played a huge role in this case - way back in 1959.

Of course there was no tabloid television back then but its ancestor - the Blitz newspapper - was at the forefront of it all. According to wikipedia:

The incident both shocked and riveted the entire country. Such a crime of passion, as it was termed, was unusual, especially in the upper echelons of the society and that too by a highly decorated officer...

The weekly tabloid Blitz, run by R. K. Karanjia, a Parsi himself, publicised the story, ran exclusive cover stories and openly supported Nanavati, portraying him as a wronged husband and upright officer, betrayed by a close friend.

Blitz painted Nanavati's image, as that of a man representing the ideal middle class values as against Ahuja's playboy image, that symbolised the corruption and sleaze of the bourgeois. A copy of Blitz during the trial sold for Rs.2/- per copy, up from the normal rate of 25 Paise or 0.25 rupee. Peddlers on the street sold 'Ahuja Towels' and toy 'Nanavati Revolvers'

Nanavati was sentenced to life but had enough friends in high places to secure a pardon after serving just 3 years. He emigrated to Canada, where he died in 2003.

The Blitz is no more and there are no 'middle class values' left to defend. If you commit a crime of passion you would rather cover up than give yourself in.

And for all the hype and hoopla about solving cases, what happens to the ones which fade away from the limelight? Like the infamous Maninder Singh Pandher...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Watch 'Cracking Careers' on UTVi

There are two things that young people worry about a great deal: love and money. In India, where love is supposed to happen to you only after you 'settle down in life' we spend more of our youthful energies on building a career.

However, people are just as confused about careers as they are about relationships. And hence the need for information, advice, someone to assure you this-is-way-forward. I guess that is why I wake up each day to half a dozen emails from distressed souls!

There really is a need for a mass medium like television to take up the subject. That was the genesis of Cracking Careers, a half hour weekly show on careers on UTVi (the recently launched business news channel from UTV).

I am the Consulting Editor for this show. So please do tune in and let me know what you think! You can also email me if you'd like your query featured on air. Or, have any subjects you think we should cover.

Every episode of 'Crackin Careers' covers:
a) An issue related to bschools
b) A hot career option (other than MBA)
c) The inspiring story of a young entrepreneur

This week's episode features:
* How to choose a bschool if you haven't cracked the CAT: where do you go with an 80 percentile? We feature the story of Alifia, a student faced with just such a dilemma. And offer advice for others in the same situation.
* Merchandising: an interesting option in the fashion industry
* Little Company: a creche with a difference set up by two young mothers

I also answer some queries from viewers each week.

You can catch 'Cracking Careers' at these days and times:
Saturday 3.30 pm, 6.00 pm
Sunday 12 noon, 5.00 pm
Tuesday 5.30 pm

Dekhiye aur hamein feedback dijiye. As always you can drop me a line at rashmi_b at

Friday, May 16, 2008

The 3 mistakes of my life: review

'The 3 Mistakes of My Life' is actually 'Five Point Someone' part deux. The only difference is, the three 'five pointers' are not in an IIT but strugglers in the real sense of the word - running a small business of their own in Ahmedabad.

The difference is that '3 mistakes' is better designed, better marketed and ready to be snapped up by the now numerous 'Chetan Bhagat' followers.

Fans will not be disappointed. This book has all the ingredients CB is loved and lapped up for. Characters and storyline one can relate to. The small joys and the big frustrations of growing up (which are pretty much common across India).

So I won't discuss the plot - read the book if you like CB style storytelling, keep away, if you don't. What I will discuss is the small stuff which I think Chetan always gets right...

- The ambience of Gujarat and Ahmedabad in particular.
Sample lines like: Gujarat is the only state in India where people tend to respect you more if you are in businesss than if you are in service (v true!) and 'Gujarat is a dry state.. people here get drunk on food'.

- The dynamics of running a business with your friends.
The fact that each individual has his own motivations for going into business.

* Govind is driven by the desire to prove something to himself and to others. He dreams of becoming a big businessman someday,

* Ishaan or 'Ish' is driven by passion. The shop is an excuse to stay close to the thing he loves most in the world: cricket.

* Omi is in it because of TINA (There Is No Alternative). But he gets his uncle to give them a shop on rent cheaply.

So in their own way all three contribute to the success of the business!

- The India style love story.
As with his other books, '3 Mistakes' captures a reality where young people are less likely to make out in bars and discos than on the building terrace. And more likely to enter 'true-close-friendship' while studying maths problems together than at a coffee shop - especially in small town India.

- The feisty small town girl.
Medical entrance exam is just an excuse to escape to an anonymous place. Where your brother won't be standing by to thrash every guy who gives you a second glance.

- The angle of religion which is handled well for the most part.
Govind's impression of the Hindu fundamentalist leader captures what many of us feel when listening to arguments about the need to rise up against thousands of years of injustice: "I was both attracted to him and repelled by him. He had charisma and lunacy at the same time".

- The author appearing into the book as himself.
This is a clever touch which Chetan used in One Night @ the Call Centre as well. Makes him all the more 'one of us'. Weaving in real events like the Gujarat earthquake is the new Big Idea.

What could have been better:
The climax. It felt contrived - as if the author were thinking, "Hey this would surely look good in a movie." Ditto feeling re: the chapter in Australia.

The entire plot around a boy called Ali. I know it was important but it became a little too predictable...

The '3 mistakes' were not really mistakes... After all life is not an exam with right and wrong answers! Some of it is choice and some of it destiny. Of course it is an attractive title...

A couple of other glitches:
If the story was set in 2001-2, surely cellphones were not so very common then? Vidya and Govind smsing incessantly would have been difficult!

And the Gujju term for Ahmedabad residents is not Ambavadis but Amdavadis.

But overall, the book packs enough punch and of course the price is just right (Rs 95). We have another winner. My rating is 3.5/5.

As always, there will be other opinions. More reviews here and here.

An earlier post on One Night @ the Call Centre (Nov 2005)

Also see Chetan Bhagat covered by the New York Times (March 2008)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Does the Wall Street Journal do a swimsuit issue?

That was the first thought that came to mind when I picked up the Mint 'Lounge' section this morning. Because the cover feature 'Every Girl's Beach Basics' looked like it had escaped from the Elle magazine office and mistakenly taken refuge here.

So it is summer, and some of us will be on holiday or found in local pools. But even then, I would expect a business newspaper's lifestyle supplement to cover the subject more intelligently - and differently - from the fashion magazines. You know, the ones with 200 pages of ads, 100 va va voom pictures and 14 one paragraph articles to hold all that thick and glossy paper together.

My first question is: how many of the readers of Mint wish to 'make waves in the best of the season swimsuits'. And how many of us wish to 'get the look' using Ceramide Sun Beige and all that blah.

The basic issue with Indians and swimsuits is;
a) We don't have the bodies
b) And we don't have body confidence.

Now these are two different things. I was at a resort in Goa last month and there were a lot of Russians all over the place. Not all of them had perfect bodies but they were so comfortable in their own skin that you wouldn't really notice the flab.

But getting pack to the Mint spread, these pics of some gorgeous professional model lounging on a yacht do NOTHING for me. People like her... it's their job. What's more, the absurd prices of stuff I need to be a 'bonafide beach bum' left me feeling very poor and wretched indeed:

Reference pic above:
Lime Green swimsuit (La Perla) - Rs 12,000
Emerald satin shoes (Nine West) - Rs 4800
Giant stud cuff in black patent leather - Rs 10,145
Gold plated aviators (Mont Blanc) - Rs 23, 450

(And that's just 'one outfit')

But here is what REALLY took the cake. The black and white striped beach dress by Chanel for... Rs 50,000.

Tell me dear writers and editors @ Mint, would YOU ever pay up this kind of money for a beach dress? And if not, why are you recommending it to your readers??

I bet every single person on the Mint team would go buy a beach dress/ sarong from a Janpath or Colaba Causeway for Rs 150.

I bet you guys use Lakme, Lotus and Garnier sunscreen (or at best Banana Boat) - not Vichy costing Rs 1090.

I bet you guys would be terribly embarassed if you were asked to wear any of the swimsuits modelled on that yacht...

My point is, if I want to see pretty girls in bikinis and expensive aspirational products, I will buy that kind of magazine. This is not what I expect from 'Lounge' which is the first paper among the four which come to my home that I pick up on a Saturday.

And my final grouse: Don't men in India ever go for a swim? Because Mint has no advice for them at all. Or maybe they're all guys like the one in the Ceat tyres ad who hang around pools... hoping to click pics of bikini clad women.

P.S. Since we are on the subjects of swimsuits, here is something I wrote on the subject on this blog a couple of years ago: Tere mere beach mein

Friday, May 09, 2008

Bhoothnath - 2.5 stars

This is a film for kids. But wait, after the interval it turns into one of those 'aatma ko mukti dilane wali' pictures with copious tears and melodrama.

Directorji, decide what you want! A fun film where a kid befriends a ghost... or a tearjerker about dads deserted by their kids who go off to study abroad. What you've made is two different movies separated by an interval!

What more is there to say?
- Amitabh Bachchan is a ghost who hasn't bathed or changed in years. Maybe there is no Lifebuoy for bhatakti aatmas yet...
- Shahrukh Khan in a guest appearance is fine as usual. He is aging nicely but the lines add character to his face. But then he is a dude.
- Juhi Chawla is also looking older but charming. She still sounds like a cho chweet little girl tho...
- Banku - the kid - is good but will inevitably be compared to Darsheel and sorry, he is not THAT good.

The other characters ham and overact majorly. Rajpal Yadav as an alcoholic - strictly ok. Satish Shah as the school principal who eats up students' lunchbooxes - surely could have done better.

I think the makers of the film believe kids WANT over the top characters and acting. I'm not so sure. There is a fine balance you can achieve.

The problem is the film is inspired by many sources - Sixth Sense (only Banku can see the ghost), and well, numerous other Hollywood films whose names I now forget (I think one of them is Beetlejuice). And unfortunately it's not been stitched together that well.

You needed someone like a Robin Williams to play Bhootnath. I don't quite think Amitabh did justice to the role!

Anyhow, my daughter enjoyed it and that's what matters. Bhootnath is a 'summer holiday' film and will do well with the family crowd. In short, there's no need for the rest of you to see it!

P.S. And oh, there is a 'message' in the film: Bhoots can help you make your principal look like an idiot but they won't help you win a race! You see, sports is sports. Bhajji, hope you're listening! Us paar wali duniya mein bhi naatak nahin chalta.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

'Why we are the way we are'

Bombay always looks beautiful when you're flying over it by night. But yesterday was espacially nice. There was an IPL match going on at D Y Patil stadium and it looked stunning from up there.

I'm still admiring the moving canvas of light, we're minutes away from landing when there's a tinkle. Yes, a mobile phone tinkle. The guy sitting right behind me has his phone on.

My co-passenger and I exchange a horrified glance. The phone continues to tinkle for a while and then stops. The plane lands and we come to a halt. I glance behind and see a youngish Sardar busy gathering his stuff.

"Um.. your phone was ringing some time ago?" I say to him.

"Yeah.. heh heh. I must have left it on."

Wow. You don't look like someone who is flying for the first time.

"If it's any consolation," he adds." I did not take the call".

Okay, so the point is not whether mobile signals really interfere with navigational equipment or not. The fact is, the airlines advise us here in India that this is the case. They have laid down a rule and we need to abide by that.

But Indians and 'respect for rules' are about as likely to be found together as IPL viewers in Fayetteville, Arkansas. And there's an interesting book on this subject which I happened to read recently: 'Games Indians Play' by V Raghunathan.

Raghunathan uses game theory and in particular the prisoner's dilemma toexplain 'why we are the way we are'.

The dilemma illustrates how co-operation always produces the optimal benefit for both individuals. And in the context of choices we have to make in our everyday lives, co-operation is what leads to a 'greater common good' as well.

This para from the book sums up his central argument:
When I jump a queue or a red light, or throw that garbage on the sidewalk, I am taking a rational 'squeal' decision, since it seems to get me ahead of others or make life easier for me. Here I am being privately smart.

But then, as others are no less rational, intelligent and smart, they too start squealing for the same reason and before we know it, we have unruly traffic, filthy streets and stinking urinals. So collectively we are all worse off, just as the two prisoners in the dilemma.

You can read more on why Indians are privately smart and publicly dumb here.

Coming back to the Sardar and his mobile phone. You could argue he was just forgetful but methinks he was too brazen about it and hence I would classify his behaviour in the 'squeal' category. It's just a really dumb squeal because if leaving your phone on is a risk, the squealer would go down with the rest of us.

Sadly one must be political correct in this day and age but it reminds me of a classic joke... And I shall say no more.

On a completely unrelated note...
V Raghunathan used to be a cat finance prof at IIM Ahmedabad and taught me Fin II when I was on campus. I will never forget the day I got an 'A' in one of his quizzes, one of the two awarded in that particular quiz. For a few shining moments I thought I might have a future in finance.

Results of the next quiz came in and the moment passed :)

Monday, May 05, 2008

Hairy Himesh and the Mane Makeover

They say money can't buy you love but one thing's for sure - it buys you HAIR! Check this pic which appeared in Mumbai Mirror yesterday.

Himesh Reshammiya, without the quintessential baseball cap. Himesh Reshammiya with hero ishtyle, shoulder length hair!

Speaking to Mumbai Mirror, he says: "This is a subject of much curiosity, or should I say inquizitivenes? Everyone wants to know my hair story but I will tell it some other day..."

Yeah and do tell us where you took advanced English classes. Inquijitive jaise shabd aapke mooh se pehle to nahin sune...

In other Himesh related news, his new album is out. I mean Dashavtaram, the Kamal Hasan film he has composed for. Yup, the same one which has been in the news for the wrong reasons. Mallika Sherawat 'outraging' Tamilian modesty and so on.

Mallikaji has a way of attracting these controversies of course but in this case I say she was just being 'in character'. Check out her pic on the CD cover of Dashavtaram - isn't that exactly what she wore to the album launch?

And note the thunder thighs... Wonder if they're real or digitally enhanced to suit the tastes of cinegoers down South!

As for 'music', it is not good, not bad - just ok. Although I am not a Himesh fan I can see that some of his songs have a 'stick in my head' quality. These songs don't, except Oh Sanam ho Sanam (maybe). There is one nice song though - Mukunda Mukunda - a soothing and totally unHimesh like number.

Please note Himesh hasn't sung any of the songs, which is a good thing or a bad thing depending on your feelings towards the singer!

By the way there are 5 songs in all + 1 remix version. And so they have bundled in a bonus CD - 'Greatest Hits of Himesh'.

Hey wait, listening to this CD several times a day would be a hair-raising experience. Could that be the secret of Himeshbhai's hairy makeover?

Disqus for Youth Curry - Insight on Indian Youth