Thursday, December 03, 2009

Flow - The Neurobiology of Excellence

Here is a very interesting excerpt on the concept of "flow" - from the pages of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman :

A composer describes those moments when his work is at its best:

You yourself are in an ecstatic state to such a point that you feel as though you almost don't exist. I've experienced this time and again. My hand seems devoid of myself, and I have nothing to do with what is happening. I just sit there watching in a state of awe and wonderment. And it just flows out by itself.

His description is remarkably similar to those of hundreds of diverse men and women-rock climbers, chess champions, surgeons, basketball players, engineers, managers and even filing clerks-when they tell of a time they outdid themselves in some favoured activity. The state they describe is called "flow" by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the University of Chicago psychologist who has collected many such accounts of peak performance during two decades of research. Athletes know this state of grace as the "zone" where excellence becomes effortless, crowd and competitors disappearing into a steady absorption in the moment. Diane Roffe-Steinrotter, who captured a gold medal in skiing at the 1994 Winter Olympics said after she finished her turn at ski racing that she remembered nothing about it but being immersed in relaxation: "I felt like a waterfall".

Being able to enter flow is emotional intelligence at its best, flow represents perhaps the ultimate in harnessing the emotions in the service of performance and learning. In flow the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand. To be caught in the ennui of depression or the agitation of anxiety is to be barred from flow. Yet flow(or a milder microflow) is an experience almost everyone enters from time to time, particularly when performing at their peak or stretching beyond their former limits. Its is perhaps best captured by ecstatic lovemaking, the merging of two into a fluidly harmoniously one.

The experience is a glorious one: the hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture. Because flow feels so good, it is intrinsically rewarding. It is a state in which people become utterly absorbed in what they are doing, their awareness merged with their actions. Indeed it interrupts flow to reflect too much on what is happening-the very thought"I'm doing this wonderfully" can break the feeling of flow. Attention becomes so focused that are aware only of the narrow range of perception related to the immediate task, losing track of time and space. A surgeon for example, recalled a challenging operation during which he was in flow; when he completed the surgery he noticed some rubble on the floor of the operating room and asked what happened. He was amazed to hear that while he was so intent on the surgery part of the ceiling had caved in - he hadn't noticed at all.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

row your boat

Row row row your boat
the journeys' half done
the morning is yet to come
still time for the rising sun

Dark doubts cloud over the horizon
a trace of fear, a hint of uncertainity
add more meaning to the black eternity

But all these fade away
no more with the wind you sway
when you conjure up an iron will
and push like hell towards the distant hill

So you row row row your boat
the journeys' half done
the morning is yet to come
still time for the rising sun

In the pitch black darkness you see clearly
the green grass the dotted trees
the temple on the hill and the monkeys
on the beach kids play and scream
all vividly in your dream

Your doubts were mistaken, you realise
you'll always have good company
never did you think you'll come this far
but just look up, theres always with you the northern star

So you row row row your boat
the journeys' half done
the morning is yet to come
still time for the rising sun

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

-Steve Jobs

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Been a month

Its been around a month since I arrived at Purdue. So many things have happened in so less a time. The ability of humans in general (and me in particular)to adapt to surrounding environments constantly surprises me. In just a few days things have started to turn from the extraordinary to the routine. Im no longer overwhelmed by the different sights, sounds and smells (or the lack of them by Indian standards) around me.

You cant help being inspired by the professors and the research happening in this place. You begin to realize how much more there is to learn. By learn I mean really learn.. and not "get good grades" or "pass an exam" and the like. The teaching in class (for most part) makes you think. Which is good.

Not being in contact with people back home is like a dull persistent body ache. You can talk on the phone or chat online, but there's never a good time to say goodbye. Some things will just take some getting used to, I guess.

Of course as a grad student you have no time. There is always something important to do right away. And more often than not (at least in the beginning of the semester) the tasks are very interesting. Very difficult and time consuming, but interesting nevertheless. This is one of those rare occurrences when I don't feel guilty of spending time writing a blog.

More to come later. Fervently hope I get the time (and the clear conscience) to blog again!

Sunday, August 30, 2009


I dont think my blog's all bullshit. But simetimes I might get quite close to it, dont you think?

Friday, August 21, 2009

First Impressions

I came to the US on 1st August 2009. To New York in fact. These are my three first impressions of Unites States :

1) Where are the people, people??
Coming from India, you are used to having people around. Physically I mean. Be it small villages or big cities we all sort of stick to each other. I found exactly the opposite in US. There are hardly any people around you. When I was told that JFK is one of the busiest of airports, I expected to see loads and loads of people . Somewhat like what we see in Railway stations in India. There was nothing of that sort. I was half afraid I got down at the wrong airport. On the drive back from the airport to Mangalas' home I didn't see a SINGLE pedestrian walk on NY streets for around 20 minutes. This really freaked me out. Theres this underlying concept of personal space here. Maybe this might explain the no people concept:
Population density of India: 349/km2
Population density of US : 31/km2

2) Loads of Infrastructure.
The buildings, the malls, the roads, the vehicles are all a sight to behold. All structures here are massive and as automated as possible. A lot of technology goes into all kinds of contraptions used to make living very independant. This is something in which India is regrettably very far behind. Here even the homeless have access to basic humane facilities.

3) Auto Fanatics paradise.
Big red trucks.Not big,HUGE. Every kind of car imaginable. Every make of car heard of and many unheard of. Roaring gangs of Harley Davidson's. Convertibles cruising in morning sunlight. This country worships automobiles. Without them everything here would grind to a halt.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Off I go

Somebody’s off to Purdue this year to do his Masters degree in Electrical Engineering.
If the manages to hop on to the plane before it takes off.
If he miraculously avoids misplacing his passport.
If he doesn't get stuck in maddening Bangalore traffic.
…you get the drift.

The last year in general has been one hell of a year for me (for those with no sense of humor…should I say no sense of bad humor ... by somebody in the previous para I meant myself).The last two years in particular were easily among the toughest in my life in more ways than one. Shifting companies, losing touch with once-close friends, preparing for cat, applying for ms, battling loneliness, picking up pieces. Trying to make sense of my part in this universe. And what not. I’ll try to pen down those memories some time later in another post perhaps. For now…its been one hell of a roller coaster ride.

And I'm guessing the coming years won’t be a cake walk either!! So here I am , writing posts in the lull before the storm. Here’s me wishing myself the best of luck. I know I need it!!

Sunday, July 26, 2009


“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he's always doing both.”

-James A. Michener

Friday, July 24, 2009

Using Google For Ranking Colleges

Here is an interesting way to rank colleges, based on Google's Page Rank system :
College Rankings

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Lick. Yumm. Slurp. Burp!

Ive just got around twenty days left in India. So following every one's advice, I'm doing a lot of desi food eating. Every day I'm in a good restaurant or a mausi or kaka's house stuffing myself.

After a month I'll have to eat my own cooking. I don't know anything sadder than that. Maybe eating my roomie's cooking might be sadder..who knows. But then that would mean I cook for room mates and myself which would be the saddest case. Or maybe evennnn sadder would be being such a bad cook that I have to wash the dishes instead. Hmmm. Think I'll abandon this depressing para and move on.

So I'm enjoying myself now. Ive seen more restaurants last few months than ever before. Ive also seen many many relatives in the last few months. And relatives especially the old granny variety (oh no no! I meant elder aunty) mean only one thing.. getting your stomach, small and large intestines, and food pipe all stuffed with sweet and spicy goo that was awesomely mouth watering food just half an hour ago. Delicious!!! And just a tad disgusting.

Friday, June 19, 2009

People with Passion

There are a few people in my life Im very grateful to. They are people with passion in whatever they do. Talking to them for a good twenty minutes is a big shot in the arm. Their passion rubs off on me.

Just recently Ive had a few such conversations and it feels really good! Man needs roti kapda aur makaan to exist, but passion and vision to really live life. In fact as I write this I realise how most of the times most of us are lacking in this respect. Any other time I wouldnt have given myself the permission to write this. Thinking how silly it might sound to someone reading this. But not now. There are times man needs to exchange ideas with like minded people. Talking with other big dreamers allows you to remove the mental blocks and fears, and sort of fly through the castles in the air that the mind conjures. Castles are first built in the air, then they are resurrected on the ground. The castle on the ground is just symbolic of a much much bigger thing - an idea - maybe with only a hint of possibility. It serves the purpose of reminding us of the wonders our brain can conjure. The real world is within the mind!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Visa Power! Went and got it.

I got my visa today from the Chennai consulate.

Luckily for me my cousin lives in Chennai, so accommodation,food and entertainment was well taken care of. Yesterday was spent mostly in the last minute arrangement of documents, ironing of shirts, ignoring of comments from well wishers on how people in general(and I in particular) should keep everything ready a few (read many) days before an important event.

Next day morning I was all set for my interview. Adrenalin was oozing in my veins. I found an auto and the infamous haggling over fares began. The entire journey was spent having alternating animated discussions on how tough life is for auto-karas in Chennai, and how often passengers are taken for a BIG ride (in more ways than one ) by the aforementioned autokaras. I didn't have much time at all to ponder over the questions that could be fired at me. I left the auto decidedly refreshed and invigorated by all the verbal jostling.

The VISA consulate at Anna Salai is quite a fortress. In a not so auspicious move I got down and tried to enter the building from the exit. And I was kicked out before I could get in. Anyway I walked all the way around to the entry point and stood in the looong queue. Nervous candidates and more nervous parents were standing there. I met so many people from Bangalore, from my college , from my school.. the world is really a small place.

One thing I probably realised - how I was lacking in good organization and filing of documents. Most of the people had come with such neat plastic "document suitcases" which contained flaps for all papers and even little coloured labels - ready made with text like Marks Card , TOEFL , I20 etc. And there I was carrying ALL my important original documents in a simple plastic cover.

As usual I had come around one hour early for my interview at 8:30 am. I had to wait till around 10.00 am till I got my chance. And five minutes later, a plump jolly American woman told me my Visa was approved. I did a wild tribal celebratory dance after hearing this. In my mind of course. And then had a coffee and walked out of there.

About the interview and the two plus hour wait .. I'll probably try to write in another post..suffice it to say that its not an easy wait and you get a zillion thoughts and emotions running through your head. So now its time to look forward and hope for the best...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Men ...cry??

Only few men cry. Like Roger Federer for example.
The others all hold it back.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

No perfect time

Philosophical musings :
For most of the important things we do, there is no perfect time. Some of us spend eons planning, forecasting and trying to make things go exactly the way we want them to. This is where we forget the doing things right is nowhere as important as doing the right things. At the right time. We often post-pone the most important tasks waiting till we get enough time or the quintessential mood and environment that the important task deserves. And guess what, the perfect time more often than not never comes. The task then remains a nagging shadow following you all around all the time. Finally things come to such a boil that you just want to get get over with the damm task at hand. At some point you become convinced that things cannot possibly go any worse(which is wrong in the first place.Things can always get worser). And proceed with the task painfully. Once this is over its such a big relief! And then a few days later you look back and discover that your life didnt depend on the single task.And wonder why the hell you made such a fuss about it in the first place.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Few days back I went to the dermatologist. A skin doctor if you please. Now what’s so special about going to the skin doctor… you might have wondered in your head. Hello... wait till I tell you the full story, I might have retorted had you expressed your thoughts aloud. And now having achieved the double objectives (objective?) of creating an artificial impression of suspense and managing to conjure up a opening paragraph with zero useful information when nothing writable was flashing in my head (third objective being writing a ridiculously long sentence that the reader wishes will get over, only to confront an another equally long ridiculous line at the end - within parenthesis) …gasp… I shall continue with the actual story.

So there I was in Jayanagar 4th Block walking around. A little aimlessly. That’s when I got this sudden urge to finish some pending stuff on my to do list. And there was point no 6 in black ink - ripe and fuzzy with age: Do something about rash.

It’s a silly little rash really. Not so silly that it can be ignored for long. Something that lies around until the day I’ve just forgotten about it. And then decides to erupt in indignation a little later. Not something contagious though. So if we've been in touch don’t worry! ( but again, you have only my word for this. And I’m not a Doctor. Yet.)

I took a little detour and sauntered into the dermatologists' clinic, pleased with myself. Just the day before I'd read some fundae by J Krishnamurti about how the "the first step is the last step". I’m taking the first step, I’m taking the first step I thought as I nearly tripped on the last few steps leading to the clinic. I entered the clinic and saw people packed into seats like French fries in a fat boys’ mouth. I decided to forget about J Krishnamurti's fundae for the time being. I entered gingerly, tried to fit in between two French fries but lost courage and ran back to the receptionist.

“Eh huh.. I don’t have an appointment. How long will it take to meet the doctor? “

“There are seven people before you. And its already 12.30 now. You will most probably not get an appointment by 1.45. Better you come after lunch around three.”

So I went back home. I knew the right thing to do would be to go back to the clinic at three. But I could make up some excuse and avoid doing this. So much work to do on the computer (I made myself think, handing myself a guilt free pass in the process).I headed blissfully back home knowing fully well I'd end up reading random stuff on the net instead of going to the Doctors’. But guess what. No current at home! And no marks for the second guess. No UPS at home!!

Once in every million years, when a first step is taken in the right direction, many other things conspire to make the right thing happen.
Sounds quite corny but you can quote me on this ... as "Nikhil Balaji's counter corollary to Murphy's law circa 2009”. So come 2.45 pm I headed back to resignedly to the dermatologists'. And finished my business with him.

One more thing which struck me was how far ahead the dermatologist was booked for appointments. When I asked for an appointment, the only slot I could get was for 3 weeks later! And appointment on Saturdays and Sundays... Forget it. Why what’s with the skin? Is it more susceptible to diseases and problems than other parts of the body? Or aren’t there enough dermatologists in India? Haven’t the medical fraternity figured the simple logic of supply and demand…why don’t more of them take up (for lack of a suitable word in my dictionary and a lethargy on my part to look up the internet) dermatology studies?? What the hell!!
Note to self: Meditation is apparently not working for you right now.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Lying on the lawn

Not many things give me more pleasure than lying down on the ITPL lawn nowadays. After a hard days work (hard days work....I can hear the cynics!) a good lie down on a bed of lush green grass does wonders to the body. And more so to the mind. The process is a natural tension remover, the moment you lie down all mundane worries vanish with the wind!

I’ve been doing this regularly for quite some time now. An ideal time to do this would be in the evening around 6.30 to 7.30. A sunset can’t be seen from ITPL, but at least the changing light can be appreciated. You should take a stroll at this time, go down to the ITPL lawn and look for a decent spot. There used to be a lot of open space in ITPL sometime back. A big chunk of the grounds are now closed with construction work going on there. Presently there’s only a small rectangular patch of grass right opposite the Inventor building I work at. While the grass cover over here is not lush all around there are quite a few good spots you can find.

Picture this:
You are lying down on the lawn. As you look up you see towering steel and glass structures on three sides which seem to be welded at the edges. The U shaped monolithic block frames the deep blue open sky. There are a few Gulmohur trees on the lawn. Green leaves and few bright red bursts of flowers present an almost stark contrast with the unforgiving gray and glass all around.

Roll your eyes around and you can see chauffeur driven cars circling past you and your patch of green grass. A few irate cab drivers circle around the lawn waiting for passengers while other sleepy passengers yawn at passing cars hoping it is for them.

The lawn is riddled with muddy brown patches and there are places that are water logged. But all these just add to a sense of natural beauty that tries to thrive in the midst of computer filled concrete behemoths. As you continue gazing up, you see birds (and bats?) flying around at various levels in the sky. Some go in neat circular arcs, others make zig zag arbit flights. Many seem to be chasing what look like smaller birds or insects. As time passes a few mosquitoes appear from nowhere. Some get too close for comfort. They mosquitoes have a sense of taste (pun intended) too.. a selective few on the lawn walk around with black fuzzy clouds over their heads.

The light all around is diffused and golden - partly due to fading sunlight and partly due to the glow from the lamps encircling the park. Sometimes when there is a cloud or two, the lighting and scenery looks like its taken right out of an illustrated children’s book. As time passes the lamps grow brighter and white lights spill out on to the lawn from the concrete monsters. The sky meanwhile turns blue green orange copper purple. Somewhere in a corner a minuscule white dot becomes visible in the sky. With time more such scattered dots come into view and begin to sparkle. Things in the mind seem to become clearer as dots become stars become constellations on the sky above.

Some random building begins to emit a low pitched vibrating buzz. A wailing siren brings relief to factory workers somewhere close by and momentary irritation to others next to me. A steady white noise flows from the river of traffic just outside. In the background of such noises from man made jungles, happy voices float all around punctuated intermittently by raucous peals of laughter. People walk around on the lawn with cell phones - talking earnestly, arguing, cajoling, negotiating, flirting. The waterfall of voices around you is predominantly bubbly and soothing, quite unlike the crisp and somewhat harsh sounds within the buildings. Steady streams of people leave the buildings and pour on to the sidewalk. They look carefree and visibly happy.

A tiny wriggling sensation creeps up the ankle and moves on to the shins, cleaving a path towards the knee. Soon many such tiny tickles begin to be felt over various parts of the body. But you are comfortably lazy and decide to ignore them, taking in all the sensations. Time seems to stall and you are almost half asleep. In fact its almost time for the bus already! You stagger on to your feet and leave the lawn, whistling with the wind, kicking pebbles on the sidewalk……

Sunday, May 10, 2009


What does it really mean to be happy?

Is being happy a journey or a destination?

What is the connection between happiness and excellence?

Does long term happiness imply sacrifice of momentary happiness?

Are happiness and sadness two sides of the same coin?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Random Pics

Cannibalism in Computers

Edible Soap??

My name WAS in the rolls this time...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Abysmal Jokes (AJ's) Part 15

Message I recieved..
Hi! An update..Ive changed my mum.

Silly sidenote: he didnt send me the x's. I put them there.

If you have some abysmal jokes and like getting hit with tomatoes, send them to

Saturday, April 11, 2009

no need to apologise, really!

some times at night when I flop on to the bed
I think of what I should or should'nt have said
everything seems to have happened by chance..
should I or should'nt I have cared for a second glance?

no one is all evil, not everyones perfect
its best not to have too much to expect
everyones trapped in their own little world
in their own actions and emotions they're hurled

its ok if sometimes I cant get
whats going on in your mind
there are some awkward pauses i'll bet
but its time to leave all those behind

so let you be you and let me be me
theres no need to apologise, really!

Friday, April 03, 2009

A near-perfect blackout

While returning home late last night there was a power cut.Not that power cuts are anything out of the odinary, but they almost always occurred in the afternoons in my locality. The darkness would have been pitch black but for the lights in the Brigade Gardenia those people to have uninterrupted power supply. And right in front of my home too.

Immediately the power cut took me down memory lane back to younger days when power cuts were amazing fun. Having lived for quite some time in apartment colonies, I remembered that in those days nothing was as fun and scary at the same time as playing hide and seek in the fading twilight, with no current powering up apartment lights and TV's in the various houses. And its not an everyday experience to be sitting on an open terrace under the stars with friends and family. You could do this any day, but its not quite the same as doing it on a power cut day. A power cut sort of gives you the moral license to sit back and relax without worrying about mundane daily 'action items'.

Theres something magical, naughty (I don’t mean eloping couples, but that’s probably a good way to spend a power cut too right?) and unnatural about a power cut. Its like going back in time. With no instant gratification like the TV and the net, time dilation seems to occur, suddently there is too much time on one's hands and nothing immediate to do till power comes back again. I get an eerie feeling thinking .. so this is how my great-great-great-great-grandfather must have spent his time in the evenings! A little depressing really.. Im so lucky to be living in this generation!

The other side effect of a power cut is the 'family bonding' thing which happens. Suddenly you have to spend time in the house together with only family members for company. And you realize how much you take the main people in your life for granted. In fact a routine power cut may do more good in the family bonding sense than a hurried visit to a movie in a mall through maddning traffic jams.

This also got me thinking - how five minutes of a power cut can trigger thoughts which I can never get even if I force myself for two hours. There must be some sense to these soft "stuff" like ambience, setting ,architecture of a place etc..things which we genarally take for granted.

Anyway, the power has come again, and the ambience has changed! Time to go, the internet is calling …

An abysmal joke before signing off..
Which is the most proactive environmental organization in Karkataka?
The Karnataka Electricity Board of course!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

How to Take A Big Decision

Here are some fundaes I'd like to share with the readers (ie mostly myself) on taking big decisions in life. There is no right way to do this, and its not many a time that you have to take a big decision. Im talking about really important decisions and choices one makes like choosing a college, a career , a company , a partner and so on. Most of the following are random thoughts that come to me now and then and Ive tried to organize them below..see if you can make sense.

a) Dont over-analyze. Indians in general are the calculating and brainy sort. And engineers in particular. So we have the habit of trying to approach life decisions in a rational and logical manner. And fail miserably most of the time.
Its often best to go with intuition. In all these decisions, its possible to do only so much of analysis. Using obvious logical methods, you could probably narrow down your search to anywhere between 2-3 choices. In my experience the choice almost invariably boils down to two close ones. After elimination the obvious choices, its really dosent matter which one you choose.
The important thing is to go with the gut feel. Rational explanations are far more useful to eliminate obvious choices than to select the optimum ones. You could say with some confidence that going to College ranked #10 is better than going to a college ranked #30. But to choose between colleges ranked #10 and #15 ?? If you factor in things like location, peer group, alumni network etc.. you could take months to decide which is better. And after these months of confusion you'll still be at square one, there is no return on the time invested in making the choice. You could have chosen college #15 two months back and prepared for it , and be in much better shape. Its takes some skill to identify when its time to stop thinking and start doing.

Contrast this with the way a child makes decisions. If you hold a red and a blue shirt and ask him to choose, theres' one color he'll immediately like. Ask him why and he'll probably not be able to tell you why he likes it , or may give a random reason. But the main idea is to choose. After a point in time all that matters is whether you have a shirt or not, and not if its blue or red!

b) There is no such thing as a perfect choice, its up to you to make your choice perfect. Making the choice is just the beginning, most of the effort is in sticking with the choice and ploughing down the path you choose. Once you make a choice ,you really need to 'subjugate the self' and proceed with it . There is often a tendency to look back and wonder what would have happened if you did the other thing... But this is only going to take away precious time from proceeding with the present choice. There is this thing which people call passion, belief or faith which is much much more important than the actual choice you make.Whatever choices you choose, you have to believe that it will work out. And there need not, or should not be a rational/scientific or rational explanation to this belief, its all an intuitive process.

Wherever humans are involved, there is no such thing as a correct choice. Because, err..we all know that to err is human. And add to it the fact the human problems are a function of time and external factors. Todays problems and questions will seem insignificant tomorrow, and one meeting with a long lost friend is enough to make you want to re-evaluate your life goals. So how do you solve a question that keeps changing every now and then??
Anyway, I think I might have digressed a little here and missed the point of this point. What Im trying to say is once you take a choice, get on and just do it!
By the way here's a first(and very crude?) approximation of the human brain according to me:

c) Dont ask too many people for advice, only talk to the people who really matter. When you are making a big decision, the best feedback you can get is from someone who knows you very well as a person or someone who knows you well professionally. Asking anyone else for advice is quite useless and just adds to the confusion. In fact the more you ask many people about what to do etc, the more it means youre not sure what to do yourself. This almost always points to your lack of confidence in the decision you've taken. Perhaps you need more time to think over your decision.

d) Dont follow others peoples footsteps blindly without knowing exactly why youre doing this. This is a similar point to the prevoius one.. Till now most of the decisions we take are in reality already made. Many of us end up doing engineering , taking up jobs or going for higher studies without really deciding why. For a fortunate majority of us, there were always some seniors or some general path laid out that you could follow. Of course the path in itself is tough, but the decision to take it is already made most often in a group phemomenon. We see lots of friends taking up the path, we see society (family/friends) generally nodding in approval when we take this path and decide to follow the gang. We never get the chance to ask some important questions to ourselves before choosing such paths like :

  • Would I do the same thing if all my friends backed out tomorrow?
  • Would I do the same thing if later I fail to get the kind of response from the people who matter to me?
  • Do I consider taking this path and possibly failing to be still better than not taking this path at all?
  • Would I have any regrets later on for not having done this ?

Its not wrong if the real reason for making a choice is any of the points above, but its wrong not to be aware of it.
For example the real reason you are taking choice A may be because you want to generally please society. Thats fine as long as you know thats the reason for making choice A. But if you dont know this , and later in the future you find that choice A does not really please society, youre screwed. By then you've already walked down path A and youre probably wondering why youre finding this path so difficult. Then at this crutial time you have to do some soul searching and figure out what you actually like...Choice A or pleasing society thing. And you have to fight the inertia factor..making a choice once youve decided while on Path A is one hell of a lot tougher than making a choice in the initial stage.

e)Keep the Planning and Execution part separate. Ive come up with the following gyan on how to make a choice, plan for it and go ahead with the decision. Also I learnt how to use basic Visio features in the process.

There is a Plan and Execute phase for every choice you make. During the planning phase, you sort of weigh in all options, see which choice will lead to the most favorable outcome and make a decision. And before entering the execute phase you pray, meditate or generally pep yourself up to tackle the way your life is going to shape up in the future. And then once you enter the Ecexute phase, you forget about the result and bother about the process of achieveing whatever goals you set for yourself.

So the four stages in the 'choice making process' are shown in the diagram. Lets now see the various common ways of making a choices ... (I cant believe how much of a lecture this blog is turning out to be!)

  1. The ideal case Well this is the mose optimum way to come up with a plan and execute it well ahead in the time frame. You spend some time understanding your choices, take some time making a good plan, decouple yourself from the other plans and start executing the plan. The main point here is to ensure you enter the Execute phase only after ther Planning phase is well onver.
    Decouple?? Decoupling refers to giving up or forgetting the remaining choices that you didnt take. The little orange bar is the most crucial part in the decision making process. Personally I find that the toughest to get through. The decouple stage is the one in which you really get ready and begin to accept the choice you have taken. If you do the decoupling properly, there's no looking back on the choices from then on. This is important because its natural human tendency to start questioning tha choice, once the path taken becomes more and more tough. In some sense the orange part is where you build your resolve to focus single-mindedly on the task at hand.

  2. Heres what would happen if there is no sufficient decoupling. The choice is made and you're in the execution phase, but youre not 100% sure of the choice you made. Invarialbly there will be many a time during the execute stage when you start to question the choice you made (indicated by the numerous blue bands during the execute phase). Every time you hit a fairly big obstacle during the execute phase , you start re-evaluating your goals. This is a double whammy - you lose time trying to make new plans and you take an equal amount of time to come back to reality and get in the groove of carrying out your present unhappy choice. So by this way although you started the execute phase earlier ,you take much longer and more painful to reach the end.

  3. The third case is one which you usually make when you are younger/ inexperienced. Here you do some research, planning and decoupling but all in a limited manner. Because of the short time before execution, there is more of a chance that you didnt make the most optimum choice. But due to the decoupling , you dont bother too much about this and proceed to the execution phase. Once you finish the process, you can probably see a lot of scope for improvement. There would be some hard lessons to be learnt, and you begin to see how to make a more informend choice next time.

  4. The last one is a sad attempt at bringing some humor into this post. These are guys who are day dreamers and who dont have the balls to do anything (add appropriate metaphor for girls here). They can come up with some choices to make, but are too insecure or lazy to begin any choice in particular.

So here's to big decision making in the future!

Happy Ugadi ..

Heres Wishing everyone a Very Happy Ugadi!!
Hope all your (and my) dreams for the new year come true.
And hope I'm able see more bella than bevu on my plate tomorrow..

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Abysmal Jokes (AJ's) Part 14

What do you call a wealthy, strong, incredibly clever magician ?

RichHard FeignMan

If you have some abysmal jokes and like getting hit with tomatoes, send them to

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

ITPL. Traffic. Politicians.

The company I work for happens to be located in ITPL (International Tech Park Limited). It’s actually ITPB (International Tech Park Bangalore) and this is how you will find it on the web. ITPL is a huge place and with an aura of regality around it. But don’t let that deceive you. It’s almost like a city on the outskirts of a city. ITPL is home to many IT people in more ways than one – in addition to working , the people live here from morning to late evening, doing all their stuff in ITPL and returning to their ‘room’ or home only to sleep at night. If there were enough bunkers or cheap accommodation available, there would be a group of people who wouldn’t see the outside of ITPL gate for weeks on end.

The main pain in the backside about working at ITPL is the commute. This is especially severe if you stay out of a 5 km radius from ITPL, and it varies acc to the square (or cube ?) of the distance of your dwelling from ITPL. The two big factors exacerbating the pain in the pain in the backside are peak hour traffic (figurative pain ) and the bumpy roads (literal pain).

Peak hour traffic: traveling a great distance up and down to ITPL teaches you a great deal about time management (or conversely teaches you what a mega disaster can await you if DON’T practice time management). It’s a little like water surfing, only instead of trying to ride the crest of a wave; you try like hell to avoid the crest of the traffic. You need to time yourself just right. There’s a fine line between getting caught in a maddening peak hour traffic jam, and sailing through greeny traffic signals one after the other in a smooth flow. Like all other lessons of life this comes only with practice and experience. For example if I leave my home at JP Nagar at 7:30 am or earlier (on my bike), I can comfortably reach office in 45 minutes, worst case. But leave at 8:15 am, and I’ll take at least an hour and a half. Missing the time window has severe consequences, the time taken to reach ITPL leaving home at 9:00 am can easily be upto two and a quarter hours.

Bumpy Roads: Ah bumpy roads of Bangalore! No dearth of words can describe the wrath you unleash on the poor Bangalorean soul. The basic funda is : Don’t sit on the last few seats in the ITPL bus, unless you cant afford Dashing Cars at WonderLa (at least in dashing cars you can get down in 5 minutes). Also you are screwed at both ends because sitting too front near the engine will make your eardrums scream for mercy. But of course the option of the middle seats first goes to the traffically handicapped. These are the people who wear collars around the neck or carry special pillows to sit on.

Not too early to coin the word Traffic Related Injuries or TRI? Remember you heard about it here first. The unemployed youth can organize mass ergonomics classes with themes like

  • Best Practices while travelling in the Bus
  • Traffic Yoga – Calm yourself and make three hours of traffic a pleasure
  • Rulebook of Ideal Sitting Postures while travelling (available for all vehicles)

This way we can solve unemployment and traffic related problems in the same breath.
But wait! This can give birth to a new economy too, which focuses on traffic.I can already imagine the brash young politicians talking..

Guptaji Dude “To hell with roti, kapada aur makaan ….the future is in traffic, jaan! We need to build more city outskirts and inject traffic problems into these outskirts, so that we can solve them later. ”

Mukeshji Dude “Now we’re in luck. All cities In India are built embodying the lofty goals of frugality and simplicity. So they have little or no roads at all.”

Guptaji Dude “Right … the small city will form the core of our master plan. All we need to do is to declare some fad announcements like SBZ‘s … “

Mukeshji Dude “It’s actually called Special Economics Zones (SEZ's) dude…”

Guptaji Dude “Ya Ya I know you have completed 11th standard your own, stop showing off. You know dad gifted me a MBA Degree for my birthday, so remember who you are talking too ! Anyway, we will make a lot of Special Economics Zones and similar things. And all the IT companies will fall over each other to set up companies here. While letting out this place we’ll just make sure the roads are not too big! Plan good enough? “

Mukeshji Dude “I don’t think we can build bigger roads even if we wanted to! (Polite heh hehs from the chamchas and politicians) Also we SHOULD not build bigger roads. Our forefathers have worked so hard for this; there haven’t been big roads in India since time immemorial. We may be the future, but we can’t forget where we come from! “

One chamcha gets up and starts playing “Yeh jo desh hai mera ” at the background.

Abysmal Jokes (AJ's) Part 13

Teacher : What is half plus half ?
Kid : Zero
Teacher : Thats wrong. The two halves make a 'one' .
Kid : But we learnt last English class that two halves make a hole.

If you have some abysmal jokes and like getting hit with tomatoes, send them to

Abysmal Jokes (AJ's) Part 12

Before spell check : We would like to express our heartfelt congratulations to Srimati Kavita ….

After spell check : We would like to express our heartfelt congratulations to Primate Kavita …

If you have some abysmal jokes and like getting hit with tomatoes, send them to

Monday, March 02, 2009

Abysmal Jokes (AJ's) Part 11

Why did the soldier scramble and try to get a seat in the armoured military vehicle?

Because the other option of fighting the war on foot was a tankless job.

If you have some abysmal jokes and like getting hit with tomatoes, send them to

Sunday, March 01, 2009

CAT. And Afterlife.

The CAT exam has been a very touchy subject for me for many reasons. Since the CAT results were announced I've tried to write on this, but the whole project of preparing for and writing CAT was sooo intense that I could not get a perfect post to do justice to what I wanted to say.
So after much deliberation, I gave up on getting out the perfect post and I'll just put three random lessons I learnt from writing CAT ...

1) Failure is not as bad as the fear of failure.
2) Confidence in whatever you do is a prerequisite for success.
3) Having a set of like minded people with you on your journey is essential.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Abysmal Jokes (AJ's) Part 10

What do you call a collection of birthday snaps where the unlucky chap gets more than a few kicks on his backside?

Photo All Bums !

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Abysmal Jokes (AJ's) Part 9

Carefree Employee : So what program this Sunday man ?

Stressed Out Employee : Same bloody program I was supposed to finish last Sunday man!

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009


"I'm going to Savandurga tomorrow for a trek with my friends" announced Gaurav.

There was momentary silence in the Kulkarni household. Everyone was waiting for someone else to begin. No one wanted to be the first to take the blame for starting the whole drama.

"So does that mean you are going to miss physics tuition tomorrow?" sister asked. Gaurav's silence was answer enough. This was promptly followed by a derisive snort, some rolling of the eyes and a few coughs from father, mother and sister respectively.

All knew what was to come next. There would be an explosion of fireworks from four big mouths. Each person would chip in to give very well meaning and very bitter advice to Gaurav. Gaurav would declare he was fed up of being controlled by everyone.

"But you just went to the farmhouse party last week"

"All my friends are going tomorrow. I cannot miss it"

Ah, using the friendly example to evoke feelings of emotional repent. Now mother and sister began to tread carefully, trying to modulate their voice so that they cannot be perceived as being unjust or sadistic. The situation was a little like India Pakistan fighting for Kashmir.... either a constant war or undercurrents of it other times. But no solution in sight.

"Friends or enemies, you cannot go. That’s it." Dad said.
So it was decided then. Once dad put his foot down, NO one could lift the handkerchief from below it.

Next Day Gaurav started using the next tactic in his bag of tricks. He began pitching for his upcoming birthday. "You didn’t let me go to the trek, at least get me a nice birthday present" he told amma, the softest target. Gaurav was really competent in using diplomacy.

"You spend so much on makeup. Have you ever considered making up with me by buying me a good birthday present?" Gaurav said to sister.

Gaurav knew such tricks won't work on his father though. Dad was an accomplished diplomat and was a role model for Gaurav in a weird sort of way. Probably he had pulled off similar tricks when he was a kid. But dad had one weakness : studies.
"I got 86/100 last maths exam. I need money for books and maths tuition, or else I may not get good marks in the coming mid terms"

Ah, he had touched a soft and wanting-to-help-at-last nerve.
"Little kiddo wants to buy books and study! He wants to do well in life!!
This birthday I'll will break the rules and give him a present." thought dad.

The birthday dawned.

Gaurav got a home made cake and few Tin Tin books from amma.

Gaurav got an original Reebok sweatshirt from sister.

Gaurav knew he would get nothing from dad for his birthday, but he was to get the money for his books and tuition today. That would be his biggest present!
Gaurav's dad came and placed a hand on his shoulder. "I have always thought giving presents on birthdays is a stupid idea. Look I never got presents on any of my birthday's ever (wife glared at him now). Other than from Amma of course..heh heh..Sure... Correct!!"

Whenever amma stared at him, he forget his lines and suddenly became very optimistic in general. "Er..anyway, this birthday I wanted to get you something."

Gaurav's throat became dry after hearing this in spite of the Pepsi he had drained a few moments ago.

"I remembered what you asked for sometime back!"
Gaurav also desperately tried to remember what he had asked for last time.

"See you always complain I don’t take any spontaneous actions! So I personally went to Manju sir and booked the maths tuitions for you!! " (When no one clapped, dad continued) Lucky chap! Not many people can afford tuitions for two subjects. Now you will definitely get super marks in the coming mid term!"

Mother and sister looked at dad with mock disbelief.
Gaurav looked at Dad with real stomach wrenching disbelief. He was screwed. This was the worst birthday had ever had. What a terrible sirprize!


In these times of recession, praying to God and faith in religion can help only so much. However much you pray, your religion may not help you fix the innumerable bad patches in your life. So it is good to consider the option of having a backup religion. Much similar to having backup offers in college placements during rosier times.

After some searching , I stumbled across this religion called Adityaism. It looks like an ideal backup religion in these recession times. Also many people dont know about this religion yet. So now is a good time to adopt this auxiliary religion, before this religon also becomes big, cumbersome and political. Check it out!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Mugged at Garuda Mall

Last Saturday six friends went to see Delhi-6 at Inox, Garuda Mall.And it was there that I got mugged.

Well, not exactly.

But bear with me, Im trying to build some suspense into this post. So after seeing the movie all of us were hanging around in the lobby/atrium area for a few minutes, wondering what to do next. There was some kind of 'show' happening in the middle, where general public was called on stage to do funny things (funny for the watching crowd, not necessarily for the bakra on the stage) and win prizes.

Silly volunteering people, I thought.

No marks for guessing who the next bakra was.

The tall dark and somewhat handsome compere walked towards our group and beckoned me to come near him. Our group was in no mans land, neither in the atrium-circle nor out of it. We were the juciest prey the compere could lay his eyes and mike on.

He called three of us onto the stage, and told us the rules. We were supposed to do a silly gig in which we take out all the contents of our wallets, line them up on the ground for everyone to see (and laught at in some cases) and put everything back into the pockets. The guy who did this first was to win a prize. The whole episode was hilarious , with none of us following the rules correctly. The person next to me was carrying loads and loads of cash, and didnt seem to have any interest in winning the prize. He slowly separated his 500 rupee notes from each other for better visibility. Saleswomen at Garuda mall were lustfully eyeing this exhibition.

Needless to say, the three people from our group finished the gig the earlist, having had the least cash to take out from the wallets. My friend Vikram BP officially finished the earliest, but the compere picked me as the winner, probably I had a better chance to make the crowd laugh (at me).

"So whats your name?"
"Hi everyone, Im Nikhil"

"So Nikhil what are you doing at Garuda mall today?"
"I came to see the movie Delhi 6 "

"So Nikhil, can you act like Aamir Khan? "
"??" Did this guy not know Abhishek Bachchan and not Aamir Khan acted in this movie ? "Uh Huh...I can try ..."

By now he seemed to have realized his mistake and asked me to imitate Abhishek Bachchan instead. Thank God!
I thought Abhishek Bachchan didnt really know how to act.
I thought I really didnt know how to act.

Having thought thus, I put my thought into action and proceeded to do the silliest sort-of-dance ever allowed to occur in Garuda Mall. In the middle I forgot the steps (step would be appropriate..I kept doing the same thing again and again) and started doing Hrithik Roshan's steps instead. The crowd was pretty dumb, no one got it when I switched over from Abhishek Bachchan to Hrithik Roshan.

In the end , I got a mug with a green frog painted on it for my erforts. By the way another friend Ankith also did a dance on stage, which was very good. Lots of people clapped.

But even he got the same silly frog mug that I had got.


Abysmal Jokes (AJ's) Part 8

Who comes most often to haunt John McCain in his nightmares ?

The Obaminable Snowman

What did God do when he couldnt understand a word of what was being said in the global economic summit ?

He called for a re-session !!

If you have some abysmal jokes and like getting hit with tomatoes, send them to

Abysmal Jokes (AJ's) Part 7

An office colleague on being aksed if he remembered what Pauli's exclusion principle was :

I knew it 3 years back, but my son is in engineering now. I will learn it again when my daughter comes to 12th standard

Why did Hermione bid a tearful farewell to Ron and Harry as they left for Australia?

They were her sole mates

If you have some abysmal jokes and like getting hit with tomatoes, send them to

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Confused Cyclist

Am I a vehice or am I a man…
which of these two roles should I don
when I'm stuck in a terrible traffic jam

Slowly but surely I can weave my way
between honking cars and smoking buses
without being led by glaring autos astray

Now that Ive reached the end of the line
I see a traffic policeman ready to foil my plan
can I ride across the signal and yet avoid a fine ?

On both road and pavement Im in no mans land,
equipped with only a useless bell going tring tring
why, why such fate had God for me planned?

Flashback : Trip to Kodachadri

I decided to delete another blog I usd to write - Wanderlust , primarily since the blog had only one post in the past two years. And I was loath to lose that one post , so heres a repeat of it ... basically a travelogue of a trip of Kodachadri Hills and other places during college days.

We (Manjunath RG, Manoj, Mohan, Nikhil, Puneeth, Raghunandan, Sumedh, Vikram) left Bangalore Railway Station at 11:10pm on the 29th of December 2006. The plan was to visit sringeri, Kodachadri, Jog Falls and other interesting places we came across on the way. We were to spend the last day of 2006 trekking on the Kodachadri Hills. The journey aboard the Shimoga Express was pretty uneventful, we played UNO until midnight, with the occasional company of a drunken policeman.

We reached Shimoga bleary eyed and cold early next morning and took a Qualis to Hotel Mathura Palace to get some lost sleep and to freshen up. We had breakfast at the same hotel and left towards Sringeri at 8:05am on National Highway 13. On the way we stopped at a nearby dam and tested Mohan's Nikon camera on the riverside scenery.

Further along on the way we stopped at Elephant Camp.We had a first hand view of the elephants befing given a bath in the early hours of the morning. The mahouts were very meticulous and the elelphants seemed to be enjoying the attention.

We hit the road again and travelled on winding and tortuous roads lined with eucalyptus, arecanut and a host of other trees. The roads were no bed of roses though,they were riddled with potholes.

There was a farmhouse-turned resort on the way :Vihangama Resorts I think, where Sumedh had stayed before, we stopped there for about twenty minutes. The place was very scenic with its plantations, hillocks and most of all, the beach-like sand and rocks framing a nearby river. We left the place conjuring up plans to buy a similar farmhouse sometime in the future.

The next stop was at Kuvempu's (widely regarded as the greatest writer/poet of Kannada language) house. The place was well maintained, the house and its accoutrements gave a glimpse of the lifestyle and culture prevalent during the great poets time. We saw the memorial where his body rests, the place was encompassed by Stone henge- like structures that bemused us, i guess we didnt grasp the full import of it.

We reached Sringeri at 12:30pm. We payed our respects at the Sharada temple (dedicated to the Goddess of learning and wisdom), but could not visit the Shankaracharya Mathin the vicinity. We fed puffed rice to the fishes in the adjoining Tungabhadra river.

We had lunch at Sringeri and left for Nagara, the town close to Mohan's Chikappa's farmhouse . On the way we stopped at a nondescript Jain Temple, and then at the ruins of Shivappa Nayakas fort. The views at the fort were pretty scenic, the terraces on the fort resembled the famous and now cliched place shown in Dil Chahta Hai; the one with rocks on the edge of the sea where Sid, Akash and Sameer hang out.

We left for Chikappas house , but had to take a detour on the way due to a collapsed bridge. We reached the place at 5:30pm. The route to the farmhouse-Kalkai for the last 30 min was pretty steep and winding, vehicles other than jeeps and SUV's would have found plying it a herculean task. It made us wonder just how different our city life is from that of the locals here. The house was charming and idyllic in an old fashioned way, seemed to be bereft of the noise and rigours of daily city life.

We looked around the place and left for a small night trek to a nearby hillock to catch a signal on our cellphones. It was past sunset, but there was bright moonlight. The sky view was amazing, with no clouds in sight and stars gleaming all over the place.

We ruturned from our jaunt, discussed about tomorrows plans with the folks in the farmhouse and had dinner, which was excellent. We planned to tuck in early as we had a tough day ahead but ended up playing UNO until nearly midnight again.

We had breakfast the next morning and left for Kollur at 9:30am. At Kollur we visited the Mookambika Temple and spent some time buying odds an ends we might require on the trek. We had a few heated discussions and squabbles before deciding on the exact itinery for the day ,there were two alternatives to take : a 3 hour trek from Vallur or a 5 hour one from Kollur itself. Finally we decided to walk upto Arasangudi falls and return, and then take the 3 hour trek to reach the temple priest's house Bhattru mane (just half-an-hour before the Sarvajna peak you will find this temple, which is an ideal place for camping).

Here is some general info about the peak which I convinently plagarised:
Kodachaadri in Hosa Nagar taluq in Shimoga district in West Karnataka is the highest peak in Shimoga District. At the peak it is believed that ‘Shankaracharya‘ did meditation. And to substantiate the same you will find a ‘Sarvajna Peetha‘ at the top. On the way to the peak you will also find a moderate sized waterfall deep inside the evergreen forest of Kodachaadri, which is called ‘Agastya Teertha‘. The peak presents a not to be missed lifetime opportunity in the evening as the sun sets in the west and in the morning as the sun rises in the east. You can also have a
golden glimpse of the Arabian Sea for a moment.

After having lunch we started the trek to Kodachadri from Vallur (a small village which has a single mallu tea shop) along the forest path on foot. The path was pretty well trodden and frequented by jeeps who raised huge clouds of dust that had us gasping for breadth. Some of us decided to look for alternative less treversed forest paths. We soon discovered that the winding "jeep path" had offshoots which cut through the forest and were a little difficult to negotiate (which was how we wanted it anyway). We began climbing these smaller paths stopping now and then to watch the scenery unfold before us. The panoramic sights more than made up for our weariness and we continued with a spring in our stride.

We reached Bhattru mane at about 6:30pm and began arrangements for the night. We entertained ideas of sleeping on the mountain side but with no camping gear and lots of plans for the next day, decided to sleep in Bhattru mane itself. The dinner in Bhattru mane was very good, or maybe our hunger knew no taste. We explored the place around the temple for sometime, there were a lot of other folks with campfires who were welcoming the new year by drinking, dancing and making merry.

The next morning we got up early and left to see the sunrise from a nearby hillock. The sunrise was beautiful and intoxicating, we were thrilled to see the white trail left by what looked like a space shuttle streaking past the sun.

We then walked up to Sarvajna Peetha and spent some time there.

We decided to take a jeep on our way back to Vallur from Bhattru mane as we were tired and had some more plans for the day. We left Vallur in our Qualis for Jog falls, stopping at Sagar for lunch. We spent about 3-4 hous at Jog falls, before we left for Shimoga. We had dinner at Shimoga and boarded the train back to Bangalore at 10:30pm.

We were back to Bangalore at 5:30am the next day, each of us pondering whether or not to go to office that day.

This, my friend is the story of our trek/road trip!