The Price of Ambition

During one of my travels, I was seated next to an elderly Indian couple. They seemed to be in their mid fifties and they were in US to attend a wedding. As our flight was a couple of hours long, we spent the time, talking to each other about ourselves. So after the customary interchange, the conversation went like this.
Before I begin, any Indian person who is 10 years older than me is considered an uncle/aunty. Jokes apart I quite like this cute avuncular culture !

Uncle: So, how old are you?
Me: I am 27.
Uncle: You are married?
Me: Nope
Uncle: It is the right time, you should get married. What are you waiting for?
Me: I still have some distance to go before I think I am mature enough for that.
Uncle: What nonsense, you seem to be in the IT industry. How much do you make?
I disclose my salary after which he felt sorry for me and suggested he will put in kind words to his nephew who owns a start up company in SF.
Aunty interjects: What is your caste, beta?
Me: Uhm, I am not sure.
Aunty: Well, what is your last name? I can deduce your caste from your last name.
Me: Mind – Blown!
So here is the thing about Indian Aunties, they come pre-programmed with “” database. So they can spell out your ancestors, what they did for a living, where they lived etc… all by just learning your last name.
I personally think they would have made very good Nazi’s as racial profiling comes easy to them. Don’t be offended, in India, ethnic cleansing looks something like this:


I watched an interview of George Harrison, the fabled Beatles man. When asked about his cult status in the music industry, he said how he felt trapped under the limelight. Everyone around him thinks that he is a genius, but he alone knows that he has no idea what he’s doing.
I am officially an adult and I am really not sure how why this is the case.

Growing up, I was very excited and looked forward to the day when I would become an adult. I wanted to do what the cool people did, like go anywhere they want, eat anytime they want and talk to strangers as if they knew each other.
But more importantly as a career move, I never knew how people figured what they wanted to do. I mean, I am okay with computers I guess but I never understood  why would anyone pay me to do stuff which seems fun and quite easy?

So I asked a friend who went to IIT because I thought that he would surely know how to decide on a career. He said something brilliant.

The world loves mediocrity, if you are average, people aren’t threatened by you. So they would accept you, as a peer. And you would never be over-qualified for a job. So you can gradually make progress and be at a stage in your career. I mean imagine, if you were a genius at an entry level job. Wouldn’t that guarantee depression?

We all adore people who are brilliant but I feel most of them lead turbulent lives. Especially the ones who made an impact in history. And I am not talking about insecurity, I worship intelligence. When I listen to a Brahms composition, or read “Edward Bernays “Propaganda” or watch a performance by Martha Graham, I go numb. I am awestruck but at the same time sad that I would never be able to reproduce that. Ever.

I hope I didn’t come across as a douche with my choice in entertainment. I just wanted to sound eclectic! I am a regular guy with regular choices. And I think I am comfortable with that, because I know things that I am not.

Which brings me to another theory that I find fascinating -Peter’s Principle.

Peters principle: “Members of an organization where promotion is based on achievement, success, and merit will eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability”.
What it means is say you are an excellent programmer, you’d be promoted to an average senior programmer, then if you do stick on and hit the targets, you’ll become a manager. But since you were promoted for your technical skills and not people management, you’d end up becoming a terrible manager. But you can’t work on the same pay check years after working in the team. So getting promoted to a job you’ll be terrible at, seems to be the only logical way!
This might have been a demotivational article so far but look at the bright side. I think there is a reason why Indian and Asian students thrive in the western economy.  We are number one in IQ and intelligence and shit last in self esteem. So we ride this hamster wheel of hard work without realizing that, we have achieved our goals.
We seem to have an enforced sense of humility that prevents us from selling ourselves. I am tired of smart people complaining that “I do my job and expect rewards. I can’t go around prancing and announcing how terrific I am at what I do. That is just not me”.

And don’t even start about the inflated self purpose that us STEM folks have. We are just more relevant at the current time stamp in history that is all.
I would really recommend everyone to watch “Dirty Jobs” produced my Mike Rowe. He educates us about vocational education and it’s relevance in the job market today. You don’t have to cut it out as a marketing manager or a software analyst or an investment banker to become financially independent.
You could still lead a comfortable and a fulfilling career while being an electrician, crane operator or even a plumber. Those jobs won’t be automated. At least not in the near future. If my parents waited for their perfect job, they would never have provided me the opportunity to pursue what I wanted to do.

During my time in the middle east, I came across a lot of immigrant workers from Nepal, India, Philippines and Sri lanka. They would scourge and live minimally and send all the money back to their homes. And hopefully channel those resources to pay for their kids tuition’s. Unfortunately, due to their poverty they don’t think free will exists for their children.

They won’t allow their kids to become electricians or plumbers or a mechanic. They want them to be engineers and doctors. And if chips don’t fall the right way, they are just carving a very expensive tomb for their children in the form of student debts.

I am still trying to understand why paychecks are seen as a barometer for ambition? I just don’t get it. When people my age push their limits to get a better job and an upgrade in quality of life, I get it. Totally, but what is the answer to the question , what’s next?
Surely it can’t be just a better car, an expensive house or an exotic vacation. It just seems stupid and narrow to me.

In my own naive opinion, I feel we should measure our lives by experience rather than achievements. I am 27 now and frankly I have no idea how I got here. And I am pretty sure that when I become 40, I still would not have a clue where to go.
But I don’t want to extinguish this stupid addiction I have for experiences. I may change my opinion in the future, but isn’t having an evolving concept of what I want, an experience in itself?

But at present, I am comfortable with ambiguity. It doesn’t keep me up at night 🙂


Satyamev Jayate?- An Insight

It’s been a while since I wrote something new; I want to accuse my cruel Graduate studies for that. It sucked the life out of me and kept me running from pillar to post.  I had to dress up formally almost every day to college, suit up occasionally yada yada. I was very sincere with the whole thing you know? I would even iron my shirt and trousers, spray deodorant over my socks the previous night. Gosh! My mother would be proud of my preparedness.


Anyway a new television phenomenon seems to have hit our Indian Telly. I have respected Aamir for his gutso, dedication and sincerity to art with a faint disregard for commercialization. Dhobi Ghat, Taare Zameen Par and Lagaan were testaments to his caliber. And it is refreshing to see him take on Indian television with the same attitude.

I believe gender bias is the reason for whole female feticide episode. It has many causal effects, reduced sex ratio as shown is just tip of the iceberg. As the gender gap widens, it creates logistical problem for men. It is like studying mechanical engineering in Anna University for the rest of your life, no girls for you.

I think the issue is by large a projection of our society, our values and our culture. I want to tie this issue to my generation which grew up in the late 80’s and early 90’s.I feel the change agents are my generation; hence I feel it is our moral responsibility in some way to uplift the image of our society.

I in some way was brought up in a gifted society. My parents were very educated, secular and the educational environment they provided was orthodox to say the least. My schooling was from a government school, nothing fancy. To share an example our extra-curricular activities would suck, they wouldn’t even let the boys dance with the girls in the group dance events. And mind you the dances won’t even be mildly provocative; the regular Daler Mahendi marries “My India the greatest” albums.

Let us look at some of the rules that our well educated, progressive yet orthodox society had set for us which could plague our social outlook towards women in the future.

Study well: For a majority of the guys like me who hailed from an  orthodox middle class family, we didn’t have the luxury to easily befriend girls and date them at a young age. Not that the 16 year old me would send the ladies toes curling. Girls were seen as distraction to boys and parents infuse a sense of guilt if a boy is spending time loitering with girls, irrespective of the academic performance.  Our teachers would report us to our parents if they found we were fooling around with a girl. In summary we were promised that girls would come eventually to us if we were successful with our academics and career. Isn’t that incredibly sexist? I bet you didn’t think so when they summoned you.

As girls are seen as an end product of success, it becomes a mild mental block to think of them as individuals. To be disappointed with the newlywed wife is akin to saying I bought this toy and it doesn’t listen to me anymore. Most guys who seriously believe that studying well is the cardinal rule to marry a hottie think again.

Imagine this scenario(Arranged marriage): Sincere boy abiding by their parents rules studies well and is at the girls house to seek the girl. Guy fantasizing that though the address is Anna naga there might be a Megan fox in this house hold dressed up in madisaar. But when ”homely” looking girl shows up and churns out dialogues like “Got 97% in tenth standard, strong communication skills and ability to make coffee while discussing editorial in Hindu” How heartbroken the guy would be. It is the same feeling that suicide bombers face after they discover that the 72 virgins are actually World of Warcraft nerds with sweaty underarms and ample acnes.

No wonder they turn out to be assholes during the marital life. (I think I might have offended both feminists and terrorists in one go. Never thought I would do this. Again.)

Think about this, we are taught to respect girls as our sisters and mothers but never as equals. We mask a hidden sense of disparity and indifference under the cloak of respect.

The problem with Elders: The show depicted women being cruelly dealt by the inlaws, some of them so uncharitable to mention in the space of this blog.  Now those in laws used to be children once, what changed; what exactly went wrong? You would find sapient 50 year olds writing columns and columns of how we need to improve as a generation, but what can they say about their conduct?

We are taught to treat our elders with veneration and adulation. There is nothing wrong in that, but when respect is transposed as unquestionable faith in their decision making; it bothers me. I had a huge tiff with my parents growing up where my parents and uncles were teaching me “manners”. Often they would go about how “parents/elders know what is best for their children”. I think to use todays jargon, I trolled them big time. I was forced to attend Java and VB classes. So I asked them which language do you think would be more productive, Java or VB? The fact that I didn’t know jack shit about programming nor do I know now is not the issue here.

The “elders” stood flummoxed but I do remember hours and hours of drama after that question, because I had proved to them that elders do not know best. They know only what they have been through and even then it doesn’t grant them any authority in my decision making. There is this untold fixation with authority that plagues our elders. Now I am in no way giving tips on parenting for it would be as pointless as reading an erotica written by L.K Advani.

The social divide: In the first world countries the only place where I see a gender divide is in the public restrooms. But take a look at our country, from ticket counters to public transport to election booths. We have separate lines for men and women. Shouldn’t they be more comfortable around us as we should be around them? How long do we need moral policing and forced guidance in social etiquettes?

Societal Pressure: I am talking about dowry system. This used to be the prime culprit for female feticide as poor people couldn’t afford to pay dowry to get their daughters off married. And they thought them of as burden as they couldn’t work with them in farms. This pathetic condition still holds true in many of our villages. But are we as metropolitan cities any better?

And if you ask the parents or the girls why they agree to it they would say that in order to be a part of the society we need to do it. If your neighbor spends X amount of money on wedding, you should at least spend X+1 on it. This social imbecility has to stop sometime, but I reckon it won’t.

Educating and empowering women has shown to be a great solution to eradicating poverty and as a majority of our population still lives in villages we should embrace it. Aishwarya rai’s apparent expulsion from a movie prompts a twitteranche (avalanche + twitter) but would they hike the salary by the merest of margins if their maid got pregnant?

I want the show to put us at unease and ask uncomfortable questions which we have been avoiding for a long time. Under the aegis of technology and industrial revolution lies many a skeleton which haven’t seen the light. I hope we work towards a society where we are treated on basis of our behavior rather than our gender.  Good luck Aamir and Team!

Educated Insolence

Ever heard this term? Educated masses are considered rude towards the lesser privileged, an outcry by the latter. We consider education as a privilege and an acclaimed status over others. Whenever a village bloke says something in broken English or logically flawed we do not wait a second before questioning his/her education. Read the funny invectives on youtube video’s of politicians speaking [butchering] queen’s language.

The city school Vs village school routine. Inter school competition, bruised ego’s any one?. Whenever the lesser educated failed to understand our ways of living, we shrug it off by saying that it was a misconception and they are uneducated and hence they couldn’t know better. Irony isn’t It.? I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t listen to an educated person spewing out nonsense with perfect grammar rather than listen to a village bloke whose parlance is riddled with errors and inconsistencies. I feel that what the uneducated denizens from the underbelly of rural grounds say has some truth to the claim.

Education does render us a brazen quality which we should not proud of. Once my friend said that being graduated in Georgia tech did enable him to begin a conversation with any one in cutting edge technology, but when it came to holding a conversation a local vegetable vendor he was lost for words and waiting for his mom to come to his rescue. This problem has roots in our childhood.

I still remember when my mom used to drop me off to school had once constant advice that I mingle with students who are good at studies and not bad. If my grades dipped one of the constant reasons would be, “why did you roam around with keshav, see vinod his friend circle has all students who got above 90% . You better join his group now”. Even the teachers would rehash this preamble by seating the good students with better students in order to augment their grades with not any regard to their personal like/dislike. We are taught that being bad at grades is wrong and that poor grades might breed contempt and bad behavior. The gulf widens as age grows and I would dare say that replace education factor with community, religion, race we place our selves in a higher plane than the lesser privileged.

When I was in 3rd grade I was really bad in math[still I am] and whenever I was bad at some problem I being a proverbial doubt-master would raise question’s whenever I did not understand any concept and my teacher would solve the whole question all over again. And once during a parent teacher meeting she said that

I was her favorite student despite being bad at math. I was left puzzled but after a few years I went back to my teacher and asked her why she said so, she looked withered and wrinkled but she still had the sparkle in her eyes. She said that “Your doubts were helpful to other students too, and it gave those who were afraid to raise questions a better explanation”. Never did I see an iota of anger or frustration in her even at that age after decades of teaching the same problems. Yet i would fly off the handle often trying to teach my parents about internet.

I feel bad now and i am more sympathetic and take a lot of effor to help them out. However during engineering or high school if we were to question our professors a simple doubt in front of the class we would be[9/10 cases] damned and asked to solve it for ourselves. We wouldn’t be encouraged because of the fear of feeling stupid is very overpowering.

So does that mean that the more we are educated the deeper the divide between us and others? Though I am not apologetic about it I sure do think so.