Aliens exist – Thoughts from a travel diary

“Have you seen aliens?”

“Yes, of course. I see them everyday.”

End August, and I’m at the fag end of my road trip to Pondicherry and half a dozen other places around. Our second last stop was Mahabalipuram, known for ruins of an old temple, and amazingly well-detailed artwork in stone at multiple sites. (Pictures to be uploaded on Facebook.)

I was walking along the main street of Mahabalipuram, bordered on one side by the exquisite beauty of the shore and the blue sea beyond, and on the other side by local hawkers for food and local handicrafts. One long stretch along this road is only sculptures, Gautama Buddha, Ganesha, Natarajan etc etc.

Among these shops was a quirky little shop, and the owner of the shop was immersed in sculpting his latest. Read More


Imperfection works.

Everyone dreams of the perfect product. The perfect service.

No one wants the proverbial insect in their soup. Come to think about it, that insect doesn’t want to be in your soup either.
Nothing is as powerful as marketing “perfect”. Or as easy.


Watching a few ads on the television yesterday made me realize that we’re almost following the same pattern of advertising, irrespective of the product.
Shampoos, skin creams, insect killers, even food products – none fall short of being the perfect product for you and your family. Phones, cars, apps – they’re overly-useful, never fail, suit all your needs.

Are we still falling for these gimmicks? We’re in the age of social media, where the public should seek out these ads and destroy them, no? Wrong. Social media makes it worse. We don’t target the product or the ad, we target the sentiment behind the ad. We are the moral police we were so eager to get rid of a couple of years back.

Buzzfeed was a revolution for bringing great stories to the purview of the public. Indian copies have just focused on the monetary aspect of running such sites, and everywhere, buzzfeed lookalikes are spamming social media with ad-driven stories, very unsubtle promotions and blatant lobbying in some cases.

Traffic isn’t generating revenue, revenue is generated, and then desperate attempts at meeting traffic targets are made. My feed, my phone, my television viewing experience as so full of ads it just makes me gag. I want to dissolve into my world of fiction, books and non-capitalistic filter coffee.

And yet you can’t avoid it. Social Media is making our lives expensive.

From random travel ideas we get because our friends are doing it, to food we want to eat, to check-ins, to hotels, to exotic locations to continuous phone usage. From a time of recharging our phones once a couple of months for a hundred bucks, we are now lavishly spending three to four times that in the urge to stay connected. Our phone usage exceeds our mouth usage, and though we have read through hundreds of articles on Facebook regarding how it’s ruining our lives, (ah, the irony!) we can’t let go.

In our little world of Facebook and Twitter, we are so glorified and connected, that we absolve ourselves of the little tasks that make us happy in the real world. Because they aren’t as rewarding as a couple hundred likes on a blog post, are they now?

But we’ve discussed the social impact way too much, and everyone knows the ifs and buts. But the economic impact? The energy we’re consuming through our phones, the internet, the cost of servers to store our daily nothings on Instagram and Snapchat, our media circus regarding online newsrooms and sports forums, the energy lost in cooling those thousands of servers, apart from the amount we spend on all those things we do to be popular on Social Media come at a cost.

More users>>More Servers>>More Demand>>Higher Pricing>>Costlier Servers>>Higher Prices>>Costlier Lives.

You get the point.

The most crippling of all this, is the fact that imperfection works. It sells, and yet we don’t give it a second look.

Just because we dream of perfect, we dream of everything and everyone around us being perfect. Our actors have perfect bodies, our superheroes always save the day, our stories always have the happy endings. But nothing connects like imperfection.

I can relate to the imperfect. I can relate to mistakes being made. I can accept it, and I can even trust you more if you tell me the truth rather than a white lie. You need to tell your story, to help me understand where you come from. And I’m sure we can find more common things and trust, just builds on that.

The places we go, the pictures we take, the food we eat, the friends we make, none are perfect. Why are we on an endless struggle to perfect those imperfections? Why not revel in the imperfections that are alive. Because that crooked photograph, the wrong note played on the song in a guitar, the one white hair in a million black ones, it makes it real. Keeping it real.

IIT Jodhpur – A few selective thoughts

So I’m sick and tired of outsiders leering and asking me repeatedly if there is an IIT in Jodhpur. Yes, it is, and in case your general awareness was a little better, you’d know that there are now 16 IITs. All this debate about Smriti Irani deciding to open up a whole new set of IITs and the rage against it has got even more people talking, and I see all this negativity and hate about how the established IITs need to be improved before any such thoughts can be entertained.

And justified these arguments are completely, because it is not the smartest move in the book when all the 16 IITs can be much better than they are today. I am not an eternal optimist, and I am not biased against any institutions in particular, but I am a graduate from one of these “new IITs”, and though the picture is painted horribly and looks gory, the intrinsic beauty of all that gore is missed out by these posts.

And I decided not to argue, not to put myself into the storm’s eye, but when people from your own college, your batchmates, your juniors, start questioning the point of it all, the judgement of placements, and the idea of starting our own IIT, it all gets a little muddled for me. I want to seek the truth, but I have my own argument as well, and please read objectively before you feel the need to insult my intelligence.

My judgement could be flawed, but whom are you (you who speak ill of us) comparing yourself with. And on what criteria?
Maybe I like being rebellious, liking the underdogs, and generally just disagreeing with the whole lot of you, but let’s have a rational argument on this.

What exactly are your expectations from an IIT, or for that matter, any engineering college? Fantastic labs? Latest infrastructure? Brand name? Jobs? All of the above? Is it something as simple as canteens, good mess food, or career growth and opportunites?

I see IITJ students holding their own wherever I go. There is no weakness in terms of academics too. I admit, the gestation period is too long, but otherwise we’re doing fine as an institution aren’t we? A few hiccups are always felt in any organisation of this size. Any one who has organised a festival will know this. IITJ may not equip us with getting into the Ivy Leagues across the world right now but it equips us with life skills.After that, it’s what you do with it that matters.

I’m not saying the faculty couldn’t be better, the facilities couldn’t be better, but even with that, there’s no saying we’ll have better placements, if jobs are what you’re looking for. Which college today has the best infrastructure, the best labs? The private ones with the most money? IITJ has some very good students who do something – they teach you how to live. I’ve told people the same thing and I get a statement saying that that’s not what they came to IIT for. Are you just looking at placements and careers as an end motive?

But then in your defence, you are not comparing yourself with these private colleges. You are comparing to older IITs?
At an old IIT, you get a nice good 20 lakh job once you graduate. As soon as you collect your certificate, companies jump the line to get you and pay you lakhs of rupees. Just because you are from an older IIT. Right? Look again.

Again, I’m not blaming the students who didn’t get placed. Sometimes it’s just hard luck. But that doesn’t mean that getting all these facilities would have gotten jobs. Don’t blame the facilities hence.

Enough companies come to campus to pick each and every one of us. But so many times we hear of companies who come and don’t pick anyone and return. Do you think these companies spend lakhs of rupees to fly all the way, spend three days of their time with you, and not pick anyone just to tease us? Let’s look inside before we blame outside. But the blame would have to be shared by the administration or the faculty for not creating the conducive atmosphere. So what’s a conducive atmosphere?

I can understand if on weekends also students want to go to labs and do work and we’re not giving them the conducive atmosphere. I still remember how people used to shout when the TV cards used to be taken away for an event or a festival to increase attendence. At the end of the day, we’re large pampered kids who want to have their cake and eat it too.

All people want to do is enjoy their time, and be handed a job at the end of the road. Sweet!

Well, it doesn’t work that way!

I heard this once – in August of the best year of CSE recruitment till date: “Where are the CSE companies? You placement people are doing timepass. We want our jobs.”

Taking part in extra-curriculars works. I’ve seen it on countless occassions. You ask me if not brand name, if not good infrastructure, what will get you a job?
Companies want proactive people, along with some smartness. Smartness almost every person in college has.
You can see it in the confidence at the end of four years.
You can differentiate easily between people who worked and who didn’t. And that is where our IIT is going in the direction of other IITs. We’re adopting the bad habits. In an ideal world, you shouldn’t be able to differentiate between any two randomly picked up students from a batch. The deviation should be zero, and the average should be high. Kalra sir warned us about this.

Another thing, there is no ownership. People don’t care about what other people are upto as long as they can enjoy. And then, they want a nice fat job offer waiting for you at the end of the tunnel. Well, wake up, reality is here. If you slog, life will reward you. No matter the circumstances.

This essay of sorts is the making of random conversations I’ve had with some of you over quite some time, as well as majorly with Krishna Sudhama over the past few hours. Many thanks to them for their inputs. If you have more, kindly let’s start a discussion below. I would appreciate if there were no name calling, and definitely, if this does not concern you, refrain from commenting.




General Category.



Lives in Bangalore. Oh, he must work in IT. NO HE DOESN’T.

Some tags never leave you alone. But once you’ve fallen into this rut, very few break out. So what does one do to break out?

Some take up an MBA – oh, classic mainstream.

Some go abroad for an MS – Throw a stone and you’ll hit an Indian in the US two times out of three.

Some pursue Civil Services – Do I need to count the number of students sitting in Delhi preparing for India’s most prestigious exam for graduates?

Jobs – Don’t even get me started.

Even entrepreneurship is so pseudo-popular nowadays it doesn’t classify as “path-breaking”, but it is a noble course.

In fact, all of them are. My point, when I started to write this, was not to point fingers and call each one of you pursuing these paths “common”. My point is, standing out in India seems tougher than ever before. Everyone’s doing their best, which isn’t making it any easier.

In an ideal world, your hard work and effort is recognized and rewarded. In a non-ideal country with 1.3 billion people, no one gives a shit. Because they’re all trying their best to stand out, among their peers, relatives, friends, family. But the question is, can you be unique in 1.3 billion specimens of the same specie?

You can try. But won’t that make you all the same?

So why not stand down, take a step back, observe the rat race from afar and enjoy life as it comes?

Mostly, there’s no point to that. Not because it’s unproductive, but because someone’s beat you to it already. Population, bitches.

Dalton: I’m exercising the right not to walk.

- Dead Poets Society (1989)

An Insignificant Life

She was lost. Like everyone around her. Unlike everyone around her. And yet, she couldn’t recognise why she was different.

Too smart, they called her. Huh. That was funny indeed, considering she felt so dumb right now. She didn’t fit in right, anywhere. She was not dogged by bad luck, she was bad luck. And unluckily for everyone around her, she was good at being herself.

Friends had come and gone for years. She missed them sometimes. Sometimes she forgot about them. She had never experience true love. And yet it was all around her, making her feel hollow. As if life wanted to let her know what she was missing.

But then, she had accepted long back that she wasn’t the kind to love and be loved. She couldn’t possibly care for a person so much as to put them through so much pain. And she would change everyone she was with, so what was the point of loving someone who wouldn’t be the same in a few months time.

Her family was dead. She spoke to dogs when she felt lonely. And yet, here she was convincing her people could one day accept her for what she would be. Or was. Or could be. She didn’t know. Maybe.

And yet, she would wonder what would happen if she died. Would there be a funeral? Would people mourn? Would someone cry? Would he rue the moment when he wanted to speak to her but hadn’t? Would someone feel lonely, like she did right now?

Would she at all be missed? It was an enticing question. One that everyone would love to know the answer off. The question that really mattered. Did she have any impact at all on the world around her, or was the impression of her body on her bed the only mark she left in this world? She couldn’t answer these questions. She wanted to know the answers.

One day, she couldn’t take the pressure and decided to find out. It was an insignificant death.