My first ever published piece of writing

So the first time ever I published something was in 2003, in The Fourth Estate, IIT Madras’s campus magazine. It was a rather scandalous piece. So scandalous that I declined to put my real name as the byline instead preferring to be called “The Wimp”.

I was rummaging through my computer and actually managed to find a soft copy of that issue of The Fourth Estate. I have no clue where I had downloaded it. In any case if any of you is interested, do let me know and I’ll send over the PDF to you. Anyway, here goes the piece. Copypasting from PDF, so might be some formatting issues. I’ve quoted the whole thing verbatim

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Quotable quotes

Over the last week or two, I’ve been doing a fair bit of “social networking”. I’m not talking about online social networks – if anything I’ve significantly cut down on that (I’ve taken a break from twitter). I’m talking about old-fashioned social networking, where I meet old friends and acquaintances over coffee or drinks or a meal.

Since the last two weeks were “holidays” in most of the world, a number of people happened to be visiting Bangalore and I ended up meeting a lot of people. I’ve met so many people that now it’ tough to remember what I spoke about with whom. And it’s only a good thing, for nothing gives me a bigger high than a nice long intellectual conversation, and my discretion means that I’ve only met people who have afforded me such conversation.

During a couple of such conversations I think I said stuff that is rather quotable. Since the people I said these things to don’t have active blogs, I thought I should be rather pompous and put up quotes here from my own conversations.

Last week I was talking to a friend from IIT. I was telling him about getting some petitions such as “IITians against article 377”. What is the point of putting all IITians as a group, I asked. Apart from the fact that we did rather well in a supposedly tough examination, I don’t see any particular feature that sets IITians apart from the rest of the population and I find this grouping of IITians rather amusing. The conversation went thus:

“I don’t see what is special about IITians. During my time at IITM I found 80% of IITians rather unspectacular and uninteresting”
“I agree with that number but what sets IIT apart from other colleges is that it is 80%. Elsewhere it will be 95%”
“Yeah, but that isn’t a big improvement”
“Of course it is a big improvement. 80% is so much better than 95%”
“Ah, now I get it. If we have a class of 100, and if 95% are uninteresting that means there are only 5 interesting people. With 80% uninteresting, it means that there are 20 interesting people! 4 times the number of people to hang out with!”

Ok I admit there’s nothing particularly quotable in that but I wanted to talk about the concept of inverse proportion here, and hence all the build up. And perhaps this thing about inverse proportions would have made more sense on my official blog, but since there is a little bit of bitchiness involved I’m putting it here.

Coming to the other quotable quote – earlier this week, a friend was asking my why I don’t push myself harder professionally. This guy has had an exceptional professional career so far, and was pointing out the benefits of his professional focus over the last few years. This is what I told him:

“I used to be like this, but after a few years and a few incidents, I realize I don’t have that appetite for delayed gratification anymore. I’m not willing to slog it out for a while to wait for the fruits of labour later on.

“So it is 10 pm in IIMB, and you need to submit your Supply Chain Management case analysis by 8 am the next morning. this guy who is in your discussion group comes by, ostensibly to work on the case. And he says ‘one game of AoE before we start the case?’

“And so we sit down to play AoE. It is 5 am by the time we have finished solving the case. We started, in fact, only at 1 am – we were playing AoE till then.

“Now, even if we had started solving the case at 10, there is no guarantee that we would have finished significantly earlier than 5. In that case, we would still have not slept, and not played AoE either. The way we did it, we didn’t sleep but we we at least managed to play a solid round of AoE.”

Difficulty of Indian Education Boards

With the IITs now having a requirement that students should have scored in the top 20 percentile of their respective boards in order to qualify for admission, we have a chance to evaluate the relative difficulty of various Indian boards.

The IIT Delhi website has the cutoffs for each board. These cutoffs represent the “80th percentile scores” for each board, i.e. if you were to  rank all students who took that particular board exam, these are the marks scored by students 80% from bottom. If you have written any of these board exams and got more than the corresponding 80%ile score for your board, you are eligible to join IIT (provided you score sufficiently in the JEE-main and JEE-advanced, of course).

This plot shows the cutoffs (80th %ile score) for various boards:


Note that the four southern states are on top. These states are reputed to have high educational attainment. Could this be a consequence of easier board exams in these states? We don’t know.

Also, interestingly, these four states are followed by ISC and CBSE, before other state boards. Interestingly, the cutoff for ISC is higher than that for CBSE, which flies against conventional wisdom that CBSE is “easier” than ISC.

Also, if you look at the data, some states have more than one board, and the JEE council has used separate cutoffs for each of these boards. For purpose of my analysis I’ve arbitrarily chosen one board for each state – typically the one whose total is the “roundest” number.


Relationships and IIT

So the basic premise of this post is that being in a romantic relationship is like studying at IIT.

Everyone wants to get into IIT. They do thipparlaaga to try and get in. They join expensive coaching classes. Some of them even move cities. They wait for several years giving multiple attempts. People work extremely hard. Still, success is not guaranteed. There is that luck factor. There is the day’s performance that matters. Some days are important than others. Cracking the JEE is a “discrete” job.

While preparing for JEE, everyone thinks that if they clear the exam, their life is made. They come under the impression that after JEE, life will become smooth. That they won’t need to put any fight for the rest of their lives. That all that matters for their future is their cracking the JEE. And so forth.

It’s only after people come to IIT that they realize that life is not the cakewalk they assumed it to be. It is only after they get there that they realize that life after JEE is quite hard. That it is necessary to work hard. That if they don’t work hard, they will do very badly, and might flunk. It is only when they get to IIT that it hits them. Some learn quickly but others get disillusioned and give up in life. Several people do badly. Some even drop out.

So it’s similar with a romantic relationship. Everyone wants to get into a romantic relationship. Everyone looks only about the “entrance examination”. Everyone believes (before they get in) that life ban jaayegi after they get into a relationship. And getting into a relationship is a “discrete” job. It’s about how you “perform” during those blading sessions. It takes that bit of luck. It takes those set of fateful events to happen together in that precise coincidence.

And it is only when you get into a relationship that you realize how hard it is (provided you haven’t been there before). It is like being in IIT all over again. You know that you will need to work really hard to keep it going (applies to both parties). It is a continuous job, and you need to continuously “perform”. The randomness is much smaller than it is during the “relationship acquisition” phase.  However, you necessarily need to work hard. There is no “stud way out”. Some people give up when they find this out and break up (drop out). Others understand and put in the requisite effort and sustain the relationship. And continue to work hard.

The thing with arranged marriages is that you are typically forced to commit as soon as you’re done with “evaluating” the other person. You don’t get to test the counterparty on their ability to work hard and keep things going. It is like offering someone a job as soon as he has cleared the JEE.

And I wonder if one can draw an analogy between marriage and (academic) tenure.

Bangalore trip update

The recent inactivity on this blog was mainly due to my inability to log on to wordpress from my phone and write a post.  I had gone home to Bangalore for an extended weekend (taking Friday and Monday off) and the only source of net access there was my phone, and for some reason I wasn’t able to log on to NED from that. During the trip I had several brilliant insights and brilliant ideas and wanted to blog them and finally such NED happened that I didn’t even twitter them. Deathmax.

The main reason I went to Bangalore was to attend Pradeep (Paddy)’s reception. I think this is an appropriate time to share the funda of his nickname with the world. Before he joined our school in 9th standard, there was this guy two years senior called Pradeep, and for some reason not known to me he was nicknamed Paddy. I vaguely knew him since I used to play basketball with him, and after he graduated there were no more Paddys in school. So when this new guy came from the Gelf, it presented a good opportunity to get back a Paddy into school. It turned out to be such a sticky nickname that not even IIT could change it.

Friday was Ugadi – yet another reason to be home in Bangalore – and was mostly spent visiting relatives. When they heard about my impending market entry, all of them brought up stories of not-so-successful marriages of people they knew well, and put fundaes to me about avoiding certain pitfalls. These fundaes were liberally peppered with stories. Mostly sad ones. Mostly of people who have chosen to continue in their marriages despite them clearly failing. It is amazing about the kind of stuff people I know have gone through, and yet they choose to not run away.

Saturday morning was rexerved for my first ever “market visit”. I was taken to this bureau in Malleswaram and asked to inspect profiles. “There are profiles of hundreds of girls there”, my uncle had told me “so let us go there before ten o’clock so that you have enough time”. The profiles were mostly homogeneous. The number of engineering seats available in Karnataka amazes me. Every single profile I checked out over there had studied a BE, and was working in some IT company. Things were so homogeneous that (I hate to admit this) the only differentiator was looks. Unfortunately I ended up shortlisting none of them.

One of the guys I met during my Bangalore trip is a sales guy who lives in a small temple town without any access to good cinema. So he forced me to accompany him to watch Slumdog (in PVR Gold Class – such an irony) and Dev D. I agree that Slumdog shows India in poor light, but filter that out and it’s a really nice movie. We need to keep in mind that it was a story and not a documentary, and even if it were the latter, I think documentaries are allowed to have narratives and need not be objective. Dev D was simply mindblowing, apart from the end which is a little bit messed up. Somehow I thought that Kashyap wanted to do a little dedic to his unreleased Paanch.

There is this meet-up at Benjarong which is likely to contribute enough material to last six arranged scissors posts. I’ll probably elaborate about the discussions in forthcoming posts but I must mention here that several arranged marriage frameworks were discussed during the dinner. The discussions and frameworks were enough to make both Monkee and I, who are in the market process, and Kodhi who will enter the market shortly to completely give up in life.

One takeaway from Paddy’s reception is that if you can help it, try not to have a “split wedding” (and try not to have a split webbing also) – where different events are held at diferent venues, on disjoint dates. In that case you won’t have people lingering around, and you will lose out on the opportunity to interact with people. Note that there is zero scope for interation during the ceremonies, and the only time you get to talk to people is before, and after, and during. And it is important that there is enough before or after or during time to allow these interactions. In split weddings guests are likely to arrive and leave in the middle of an event and so you’ll hardly get to talk to them.

One policy decision I took was to not have breakfast at home during the length of my stay. I broke this on my last day there since I wouldn’t be having any other meal at home that day, but before that visited Adigas (ashoka pillar), SN (JP nagar) and UD (3rd block). The middle one was fantastic, the first reasonably good except for bad chutney and the last not good at all. Going back from Gurgaon it was amazing that I could have a full breakfast (2 idlis-vada-masala dosa-coffee) for less than 50 bucks. Delhi sorely lacks those kind of “middle class” places – you either eat on the roadside or in fine dining here.

Regular service on this blog should resume soon. My mom has stayed back in Bangalore for the summer so I’m alone here  and so have additoinal responsibilities such as cooking and cleaning. However, I think I should be having more time so might be writing more. I can’t promise anything since blog posts are generated by spur-of-the-moment thoughts and I never know when they occur. Speaking of which I should mention that I put elaborate fundaes on studs and fighters theory in my self-appraisal review form last week.

Year Ending Post

Last december 31, I wrote a this day that year post. Two years back, I had published a short story. The year before, I had written about the events of the day, and one year prior I was mugging for what was going to be a disastrous marketing exam. As I am writing this, I’m playing scrabble on facebook, and bridge with my computer. I’m listening to music, and am planning to hit the sack soon.

This afternoon I received a mail from my boss, which he said is a standard format mail he sends to friends and colleagues. It was full of pictures of him and his wife and his kids, and stories about what they did this year. About the changes and special events in each of their lives. About how the year has been from different perspectives. And so forth. I think I have received a couple of other similar mails (from US based people – this might be some american funda; my boss also lived in America till early this year) from other acquaintances (though, without pics) which I haven’t bothered to read. Since I’m clueless about what to write, I think I’ll just do a standard year-end roundup.

The most significant thing for me was my move to Gurgaon, and to this new job. That had been preceded by four months of joblessness, and more than two years of acute NED (in fact, I think it was during this period of extended NED that I actually invented the term NED).

The concept of NED also seemed to advance by leaps and bounds this year. I have heard of people who are at least three degrees away from me use it. The message of this concept seems to be spreading. I am sure that one day it will be famous, but then I’m not sure if I, as its inventor/discoverer, will get due credit.

Another significant event of the year has been the movement of this blog from livejournal to its present location. I must mention that this website has been like “glad bangles” for me. A week after I inaugurated this, I had a nice job offer, ending over a year of NED. There were a few other changes also in my life around that time, which I don’t remember now. What I do remember was classifying this website as “glad bangles”. and I like this better than Mad Angles.

On the louvvu front, it was a very quiet year, apart from one quick episode. Maybe one of the least productive years – comparable, maybe, to my years back in IIT.

Ok I think NED is happening. i just resigned my scrabble game. I had resigned my bridge game ages back, and I’d closed the program. I’m feeling sleepy now. So I’ll close it here. Happy new year. And I think this is the worst year-ending post that I’ve written in a long time. This website maybe deserved a much better new year post in the year end but it’s ok.

An old delta hedge

I learnt finance only in 2005. It was around that time that I first came across the concept of delta hedging. However, I now realize that unknown to me, I had indeed used this concept to great effect in 1999.

That was the year when I had started preparing for the JEE. I had joined BASE, the best JEE factory in Bangalore. I was having a hard time since I hadn’t studied one bit in all of 11th standard when my friends had dilgently solved Irodov and other books. I had missed one whole month of prime summer holiday JEE prep thanks to the Math Olympiad Training Camp. I knew I needed to be focused. I knew I didn’t want to be distracted. However, I also knew that I would be under tremendous pressure for a year, and any means of easing a bit would be welcome.

During our monthly counselling sessions at BASE, the Director would call for us to create angst. “You need to have the fire in the belly”, he used to say. “And be able to channel it in the right direction in order to fuel your effort. Without fire in the belly, nothing can be done”

I must mention here that this was one of those unintended consequences things. I didn’t plan out this delta hedge. I realized the hedge only in hindsight. I had just followed my instinct in doing what I eventually did. Looking back 9 years down the line, I think it was a fair idea. Only, that like in everything else that I do, the implementation was horrible. Nevertheless, I think the learnings from this are going to be useful, and are going to have a net positive impact on society.

I put blade like naayi on a classmate, who is perhaps the most brilliant woman I’ve ever known. She was a good friend back then, at the point of time when I started the blading process. As you might have come to expect of me, I did a pretty horrible job. Disaster would be an understatement. It was depressing. I lost many nights of sleep to this. If I were less informed, I would’ve classified it as a blunder.

If you noticed, I had slipped in a little para where I mentioned the need for creating fire in the belly. This failed blade would fire it. This failed blading attempt would provide the angst, which I could channel in the right direction if I so wished. This failed blading attempt would make me angry, would make me upset, and would help me focus on my goals. And the sleepless nights this failed blading attempt gave me – I used them for mugging for the JEE.

I don’t know if I’ve told this particular bladee about it (I probably have), but I’ve always internally dedicated my success in the JEE to her.

However, this story was not to end happily. The delta was hedged, but the gamma would come back to bite me at a later date. The angst and the anger and the pain was fine when I needed them, but now (after I joined IIT) that I didn’t, it led to NED. Terrible NED. This would go on to be one of the biggest causes of NED during my life at IIT. As Shah Rukh Khan says in Baazigar, “kuch khaane ke liye kuch pona bhi paDta hai”.