Tuesday, February 26, 2008


  1. What is the connection between the following companies: Bumi Resources (Oil-Gas-Coal, Indonesia), Tetley Tea (Tea, Britain), NatSteel (Steel), Teleglobe International Holdings (Telecommunications, Canada), Ritz Carlton Boston (Hospitality, USA), Daewoo Commercial Vehicle Company (CV, Korea)?
  2. One of the most famous cricket grounds in the world, this ground is commonly referred to as the ‘Gabba’. It gets its name from Woolloongabba, a suburb of the city in which this ground is situated. The city also happens to be the capital of the state of Queensland. The official name of the ground or the name of the city will fetch you full points.

    Solve for X and Y

    X= ________________
    Y= ________________

  4. He is the descendent of the Ku Klux Klan founder and had an IQ of 75. In his illustrious life he taught Elvis Presley his famous hip gyrations, got selected to the All American Football team of 1963, met Presidents John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery in the Vietnam War, made a fortune in the shrimp business, co-invested in a start-up company called Apple Computers (which he called a ‘fruit company’) and inspired John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’. Who is this versatile ‘genius’?

  5. Although the first prototype of this technology was made in the late 1960s by Robert Huber of Switzerland, the first mass produced version (developed by the Denso Corporation, Japan) came with the Hino Rising Ranger truck in 1995. Fiat did further work on this technology to bring it into cars and later, the design was acquired by Robert Bosch GmbH. In 1997 they extended its use for passenger cars. The first passenger car that used this technology was the 1997 model Alfa Romeo 156. What technology?

  6. The flag shown in the picture is the only non-quadrilateral national flag in the world. To which country does this belong?

  7. What was started by the Indian Railways to commemorate the birth centenary of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru in 1988/89?

  8. This company was the first joint-stock company in the world (shareholders owned stocks) and was formed in 1600. Elihu Yale, who founded the Yale university made his fortune by investing in this company. The Boston Tea Party (a precursor to the American War of Independence) involved products of this company. The company had a system of administration that is still followed by corporations – it was led by one Governor and 24 directors who made up the Court of Directors. At the height of its power, 20% of the entire population of the world was influenced by its trading. This company ceased to exist after 1858. Which is this company?

  9. Identify the person.

  10. X was a FIFA referee who, among other achievements, officiated in the world cup qualifier between El Salvador and the Netherlands in 1988. But his illustrious career was cut short because of FIFA's age limit of 45 years for referees. But this allowed him to pursue another career where he earned his nickname "Slow Death". Name X.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

At Your 'Service'

The other day, I was out shopping for some T-shirts and suchlike. Typical male shopping - straight from work, jumped into the first decent looking shop I could find. It was only after I had taken a couple of steps inside and had a good look around that I noticed that the salesman looked rather gay. The first thought that came to my mind was escape. But it was too late for that - I had already made clear my intentions of buying something. Besides, the politically correct and liberal part of me was protesting against this prejudiced attitude towards homosexuals. So I decided to face the situation head on.

Within 2 minutes I was wishing I had run away from that shop. To say that the guy came on to me would be an understatement.

"Let me see what size T-shirt you'd require," he said and started a slow caress of my shoulder.

"I wear size 40 shirts," I replied quickly (cursing myself for not getting out when I had the chance), and much too quickly for his liking. His hands reluctantly left my shoulder.

He went away and brought a T-shirt which looked to be my size. Just to cross-check before trying it on, I placed it in front of me.

"Perfect length," he remarked as his hand straightened the hem of the T-shirt. Wait a minute! Did his hands just brush my, uh..you know, that part of the body? Probably was a mistake - come on, nobody moves from perfect stranger to cojone caresser that fast.

I was by now desperate to get out of the shop. So I decided to try on the T-shirt and be done with it. He led the way to the trial room, T-shirt in hand. I followed, looking around to see if there were other customers being subjected to similar tortures (what if this was one of those places with a pro-gay reservation policies?). The shop was empty except for me and I did not have to break my head to figure out the reasons for it.

As I entered the trial room and stretched my hand out for the T-shirt, I realized that he had no intention of giving it to me.

"You remove your shirt, sir. I'll put this T-shirt on you," he said.

"Why can't I put it on myself?"

"I want to ensure that it doesn't get crumpled," he said with a slightly embarrassed smile on his face - as if I was making it difficult for him by making him explain the obvious. I was supposed to understand the ishare.

This was getting out of hand. He was no longer happy simply touching me. He wanted to touch me without my clothes on!

"Look here. Either I put on this T-shirt myself or I walk out of this shop now", I replied.

He seemed to have concluded that something was better than nothing, because he let me change into the T-shirt in peace. But the moment he saw me in the T-shirt he was back to his normal self.

"Excellent fit. Perfect length," he said as he ran his eyes up and down. I wasn't sure whether he was talking about the T-shirt any more. "Let me just straighten it over here," he said and started reaching out for the T-shirt.

But this time I was prepared and before he could touch me I was out of the place.

It would have been a really funny incident had it not made me feel really sick. But it set me thinking about sexual harassment and how it applies to men as well. Sexual harassment laws in India assume that the victim can only be women. Consider, for instance, these sections of the Indian Penal Code:

Section 354: Assault or use of criminal force on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty.

Section 375:
A man is said to commit "rape" who, except in the case hereinafter excepted, has sexual intercourse with a woman under circumstances falling under any of the six...

Section 509: Uttering any word or making any gesture intended to insult the modesty of a woman [I've never understood why they still use such archaic terms like 'modesty of woman'. What would be the equivalent of that for a man? Or don't men have any 'modesty' which could be insulted?]

If the same yardsticks of sexual harassment were to be applied for men, I'm pretty sure that a lot of men would have been victims of sexual harassment at some point or other in their lives. Possibly very few cases of the assault or rape, but definitely a lot of the last. But whether the victim is male or female, the perpetrator of the crime is mostly male.

And if you have got the time, check out this humorous article dredged from the depths and back- alleys of Wikipedia by Mathew about, guess what, gays and Wikipedia editing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

You're the Man

Kunz is one hell of a funny guy. And the best part is that he's funny without trying to be.

Here's a sample of his gems: [Insert heavy Bengali accent for Kunz's lines]

1. [Kunz is planning to buy a motorbike, but there is one small problem: he doesn't know how to ride a bicycle (I'm surprised at how many Bongs don't know how to ride a cycle)]

Me: Kunz, how the hell do you plan to ride a bike without knowing how to ride a cycle?

Kunz: Abe shaale, I know how to ride a cycle. But I did it when I was small. I just forgot how to do it.

2. [Kunz is trying to figure out what bike to buy. For an automobile designer, he has absolutely no clue about bikes. (For that matter, he has absolutely no clue about half the things he talks about. But he gets away most of the times by speaking firmly and confidently.)]

Me: So Kunz, what bike have you decided to buy?

Kunz: I will most probably go for a Spencer or a Karizma. I'm looking for 100cc bikes only.

Me: WTF. It's 'Splendor', dude. Not Spencer. And Karizma is a 220cc bike.

Kunz: In that case, I'll buy a Pulsar 120 cc.

Of course, engineers at Bajaj would do anything for a star like Kunz, even if it means changing company policy of not targeting sub-125cc segment and designing a new DTSi engine of 120cc capacity.

3. [We are debating about where the Birlas are from. I claim they are Marwaris from Rajasthan, Kunz and Mono, proud Bongs that they are, claim that the Birlas are from Calcutta. A wikipedia search reveals that the Birlas are indeed from Rajasthan, but moved to Calcutta more than a century ago for business purposes]

Me: Whatever you say, once a Marwari, always a Marwari. Indians who have lived in Britain for 2 generations still consider themselves Indian.

Kunz: Arre nahin yaar (pronounced 'ade nahin yaad'), if you've lived in Bengal for more than 50 years, you get the CITIZENSHIP OF BENGAL (emphasis added).

Mono (barely able to contain his laughter): It takes only 5 years to get Indian citizenship, but takes 50 years to get "citizenship" of Bengal! Getting a Green Card is easier.

Of course, nothing can substitute the pure mirth that comes with being around Kunz. What I can convey through words is a miniscule fraction of the phenomenon called Kunz. His bullshitting is not limited to our circle. Even the Big Daddy (BD) of our company was subjected to it. And Kunz got away cleanly, with a pat on the back for his 'good knowledge'. We were dumbstruck, but had to admire his audacity.

BD: So can somebody explain to me about the emission norms currently in effect in different cities and what our engine emission levels are?

[Nobody moves. BD has a Hitleresque persona and the person who opens his mouth is likely to get his balls passed through a paper shredder. Most people have a sudden urge to check whether their shoes are polished or whether their pens are working fine. Kunz suddenly gets up, goes to the board, takes a marker in his hand and confidently starts his lecture]

I'll save you the details of the lecture, but the bottomline is that he didn't say a single thing that others in the room didn't know and all he wrote on the board was "Euro 1", "Euro 2" and "Euro 3", one below the other. Whatever small details BD asked, Kunz replied that he didn't know the 'exact details', but he could check and come back with the data. In fact there were others in the room who knew more about it than Kunz did. But BD thought otherwise. The silence from the others led BD to think that nobody knew anything. It was a gamble by Kunz and it paid off.

His stories don't end there. For example, do you know that he is the first person to sit on Tipu Sultan's throne after the man himself? Kunz was nearly thrown into jail for doing that, but the fact is that only he could have done something like that and got away with it. So Kunz, if you are reading this, thank you for the non-stop entertainment. This post is just let others know what they are missing. You're the man.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Valentine's Day Post That Never Happened

I had planned to write a nice little Valentine's day post this time around- 'planned' being the operative word. Nothing really came out of the hours that I spent in front of the laptop trying to squeeze out something from a temporarily non-functioning brain. I plan to blame it all on my roomie Mono.

My misery is compounded by the fact that while I sit and drum on the keyboard, a lot of folks out there are celebrating this day. Of course, my views on the subject of Valentine's day are clear - it's a crappy idea. However, you wouldn't be far off the mark if this stand reminds you of an old story involving a fox and some grapes.

Now, coming back to the issue of Mono screwing up my Valentine's day post. He chose the wrong time to get severe abdominal pain. But the all-time worst decision he ever took was to go to Apollo Hospitals to seek remedy for the pain. Once he stepped inside that haunt of money hungry 'doctors', there was no stepping out before they had extracted their pound of flesh which, in this case, was 2 days. In the meantime they managed to conduct, with admirable speed and efficiency, every test for which a machine was available in that hospital. As a friend, I had no choice but to stand and watch this calculated assault while trying to assure my friend that he would have enough money left to hire an auto to get back home.

As news of his hospitalization reached the office there was a stream of people wanting to know his condition, mostly because the vehicle drawing releases were getting delayed in his absence. When people came to know the hospital he was admitted in, there was a murmur of concern - people didn't go to hospitals like Apollo if they had a choice. That could only mean that he was seriously ill.

"Appendicitis", announced Anu as she announced her diagnosis without looking up from the computer. Kidney stone was what Rags thought it was. My boss thought it was a case of VD (I'm serious!). Of all the amateur doctors in our R&D centre, only Mono's boss didn't venture to give a diagnosis. All he wanted to know was when Mono would get back and finish off the designs.

Unfortunately, doctors at Apollo weren't any better. They were playing a trial and error game in the truest sense of the word. Hence the huge number of tests. At the end of two days at the hospital, we still didn't have a diagnosis and they were not done prescribing tests. The consultant (that's what they call the big doctors nowadays) had probably met the patient for about 10 minutes over two days. While that was not enough to find out what the problem was, it was enough to jack up the doctor's consultation fee to a couple of thousand rupees more than what you would normally expect to pay.

It's 2 days now since the discharge from the hospital. Mono has done a smart thing by seeing another doctor. His doctor at Apollo is persuading him to carry out colonoscopy and endoscopy. Probably they forgot to do these two in the beginning.

Apollo's motto is 'touching lives'. A lot of inappropriate touching, I think.

Friday, February 08, 2008


1. NYKline, Hanjin, P&O Nedlloyd, Hyundai, Maersk, Hapag-Lloyd are all companies engaged in which business?

Ans: Container transport / Logistics

2. This element’s soft, blue luminescence earned it a name derived from the Latin word for a ray of light. It was used to paint glow-in-the-dark instrument panels and clock faces until the painters noticed it seemed to kill them - despite prior warnings from the element's discoverer about not putting radioactive things in their mouth, they shaped the paintbrushes with their lips.

Ans: Radium

3. Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ goal in FIFA World Cup ’86 is (in)famous. Against which team did Maradona score this fatal goal?

Ans: England

4. According to legend, this city was created by mythological king Putraka by magic for his queen Patali, which literally means Trumpet flower. The history of this city starts around 490 BC when Ajatashatru, the king of Magadha shifted his capital to a more strategically advantageous location to fight his main enemies, the Lichavis. The city got its present name during the rule of Shershah Suri in the 16th century. Give both the ancient and present names.

Ans: Pataliputra, Patna

5. * Tuvalu is a tiny Pacific island, (the fourth smallest in the world and the smallest member of the UN in terms of population). However, with the internet boom, this country started reporting a surge in cash inflow amounting to USD 4 million a year. What ‘national asset’ was the reason for this?

Ans: Tuvalu’s .tv internet TLD, which it licenses to television companies

6. This list has a name. It is very specific and exhaustive. Give me the exact name.

a. Shadja 1

b. Rishabha 9/8

c. Gandhara 5/4

d. Madhyama 972/729

e. Panchama 3/2

f. Dhaivata 5/3

g. Nishada 15/8

Ans: The Saptaswara of Indian classical music (you could have got this by just looking at the first few alphabets of the words in the list – Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma..)

7. The first cloned sheep was called Dolly. When scientists at the Seoul National University (SNU) created the world’s first cloned dog, what did they name the newborn puppy?

Ans: Snuppy

8. Which is the largest Indian company in terms of revenues?

Ans: Indian Oil Corporation

9. According to Greek mythology, what happened when the Goddess of marriage (Hera, sister of Zeus) spilt some milk while suckling her child Heralces? For such a small event, the consequences were astronomical!

Ans: Formation of the Milky Way galaxy

10. Which organization’s motto is ‘Touching the Sky with Glory’?

Ans: The Indian Air Force

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Quizfest '08 - Be There

My alma mater is holding the third edition of its Quizfest on 23rd and 24th of February, 2008. It is the biggest quizzing event in central India and has some juicy prizes on offer. The standard of quizzing is excellent and the competition is very intense.

It is organized and conducted by Quiz Pro Co, the quiz club of VNIT Nagpur, which has changed the face of quizzing not just in our college, but also in the city of Nagpur. Being a past winner, I can vouch for the quiz - it is simply two days of unadulterated quizzing of the highest order.

Some of the quizzes are open to corporate teams while others are strictly students only. Apart from the usual General-IT-Entertainment-Sports quizzes, it also has open quizzes which go well into the night as well as contests for Sudoku, crossword, etc and an online quiz which has already started.

Check out their site here.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Please Cry for the Movies, Kerala

I like art films. There was no other way. My first movie in a theatre was ‘Vaishali’, a Bharatan classic, in a theatre in Ernakulam which I sat though at the age of four without an inkling of what was going on. I only remember all the people in the movie dancing in the rain towards the end for some incomprehensible reason. Imagine a 4-year old watching a movie about a courtesan seducing a sage. I had no choice but to live up to a start to my movie watching career like that.

I know that it has become very uncool to like art movies. Every second blogger these days is writing about how he/she loves the masala films of Bolly/Kolly/Tolly wood, how it is better and more entertaining than the depressing art-house movies. It’s a far cry from the 80’s and 90’s when you were looked down upon if you professed a love for masala films. The in thing then was to comment on the movies of Ray and Kurosawa. It didn’t matter whether you actually saw their movies, but you had to know those names and more importantly, let others know that you knew.

That does not mean that I don’t like mainstream movies. I thoroughly enjoy movies like Chak De, for instance. All I expect from a movie is a little bit of intelligence to keep me engaged. Whether it is an art-house or Bollywood movie, as long as the director gives me that, I embrace the movie with all my heart. In spite of maintaining such low standards of acceptability, I find that very few movies manage to get my embrace. And more often than not, I’ve found that it’s the art movies that have given me something to think about.

Malayalis have been lucky in one respect – we’ve had higher than average number of intelligent movies and directors giving us intelligent movies compared to most other Indian languages. But we’ve been losing many of the good filmmakers and the standards of Malayalam movies have gone down drastically. While I’m happy to see that the quality of the Bollywood films have been steadily increasing (Lagaan, Swades, Rang De Basanti, Chak De, Munnabhai, etc.), the quality of the Malayalam movies have gone down.

The golden age of Malayalam films was the 80s and early 90s with directors like Bharatan, Padmarajan, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Aravindan, K G George, etc turning out movies of outstanding artistic quality. Most of these movies were special in that they were commercial successes too. Padmarajan, Aravindan and Bharatan are no more, all of them dying within the space of a few years, all of them in their prime – perhaps the biggest blow that Malayalam movie industry has had. Adoor is not exactly a prolific filmmaker, so he cannot fill the void left by them. Other directors who showed some promise before are making barely watchable movies nowadays.

My angst about the direction of Malayalam film industry reached new heights last time when I was in Kerala. I watched about 10 movies in the space of 10 days I was in Kerala. Their quality ranged from the absolutely unwatchable to the brilliant. Needless to say, the good movies were all made at least 10 years ago except for one (Kazhcha by Blessy who, interestingly, is Padmarajan’s protégé). Kadhaparayumbol, written by Srinivasan, was a good movie. But like many Srinivasan scripts, it ends up being too preachy. Flash was an absolute disaster. Who would have thought that a filmmaker like Sibi Malayil, who showed so much promise with his earlier films, would end up dishing out such wholesome crap?

Luckily, I was able to catch 4 Padmarajan movies during this time - Aparan, Kariyila Kaattupole, Thoovanathumbikal and Njan Gandharvan, which only served to emphasise what we are missing nowadays. It sounds so incredible when we think that 15 years back, if you dropped into any cinema at random, there was a more than high probability that the movie would be a great one. People had started taking good cinema for granted.

Whenever I see a Malayalam movie nowadays, it is not with any expectations of seeing something brilliant. It is more like doing my bit to keep the industry going so that some day, from some corner, a new filmmaker will arise and remind us of the movies that made us laugh, cry and, more importantly, think.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

My Views on Religion - FAQs

What religion do you practice?

None. But my family is Jacobite Syrian Christian.


Because I never felt that the concept of god was necessary to explain anything that we see around us. We don't know the answers to all the questions yet, but attributing the entire unknown to god is taking the easy way out. The voyage of discovery is the lifeblood of human existence, it is a voyage fraught with difficulties and nobody knows when we will find all the answers. But to know, we must make that journey. We cannot sit at home and draw a map saying, 'this is how god made things'.

Oh, and one more thing – studies have shown that intelligent people are more likely to be atheists. At least by claiming to be an atheist, I can hope to be confused for an intelligent person. Here's the Wikipedia link.

Does that make you an atheist, sceptic, agnostic,..?

I think there is no difference between these. A person who does not believe in god does so based on certain reasons which convinces him of the non-existence of god. If somebody were to conclusively prove the existence of god one day, it means that the reasons for disbelief are no longer valid. Hence he would start believing in god, whether he is called atheist, sceptic or agnostic.

Are you against others believing in god and practicing their religion?

The straight answer is no. We wouldn't have so many holidays if we had no religion, right? However, I don't have much respect for people who simply follow a religion without asking the 'right' questions and without being aware of what they are doing. The fact that a majority of the people practice the religion that they were born into is proof enough that people are brainwashed into practicing the religion of their families from childhood.

Others have a right to believe in whatever they want in the same way that I have the right not to believe in god.

What are these 'right' questions?

Some of them are: 'Am I practising this faith because everybody around me is doing it?', 'Why should I believe what somebody else has told me about god, faith and religion?'

You must be a morally corrupt guy without any happiness in life in the absence of any religious faith.

I find the association of morals, happiness and hope with religion very ridiculous. Even atheists have a conscience, which is the source of all morals. The writers of holy books just copy-pasted what people already felt through their conscience so that they made the emotional connect with its readers. This made the religion seem 'right' to the people following it. It doesn't take much brains to write 'Thou shall not kill' and nearly all religions give similar messages. Not believing in any religion does not mean that I find it acceptable to kill people.

When did you become an atheist?

Ever since I could think on my own, I have been an atheist. Earliest memories of my atheism include arguments with cousins (devout believers) about the existence of god until horrified uncles would break it up. I would have been 7 years old at that time. I'm pretty sure my parents would have got a lot of advice about getting me to go to Sunday school, a practice which I discontinued after we shifted to Trivandrum, because the church was too far away. Later on I had to resume the Sunday torture, but more about that in later posts.

Does this mean that you do not go to any places of worship?

Not at all. I go to church whenever my grandparents are around or whenever I go to my 'tharavadu' (ancestral home) or when I'm in town and my parents want me to meet some family friends who we haven't met in a long time. As my grandmother keeps reminding me, I have to regularly show my face there or the church may refuse to let me get married there (the ultimate insult to any Syrian Christian family). I'm not the kind of atheist who won't go near a place of worship. On the contrary, I see it as a social activity. It is also one of the few places where you get to see a lot of pretty girls together outside their houses in Kerala.

Since my visits to places of worship have nothing to do with religion, I don't mind going to temples or mosques either. In fact, while doing my engineering, I went to a temple more often than church because I enjoyed the bike ride with my friends.

When are you going to publicly denounce religion and take a religion-neutral name?

Never. I quite like the 'social' angle that religion has and the contributions it has made to culture. Festivals bring people together and give us reasons to celebrate. Religion originated from man's need for answers as well as his need for socializing with fellow humans. It's only the first part that I'm rejecting because that's a role now being fulfilled by science. The second part is still relevant.