Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wedding bells are ringing !

Well then that is not exactly what I wanted to make it sound like. It is my brother who is getting married and I would not be in town for about 1 week and chances are that I might be sporadic on my comments or blog notes when I am in Germany. I will come back and promise to write more or perhaps rant about the experience there ;)

I am looking forward to this event and hope to have a nice time around. Until then, take it easy.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Why Love bites?

Oh no that was not my recent experience but usually this is the common phenomena every where I see. Not that I detest or loathe the real idea of that but I still wonder why it is like that? I know for real no one in this phase of earth - not even any animal or not even the Neanderthal man could have avoided. If not, we never would have existed. However, If it is so important and hard to be left alone event, why is it that we hurt ourselves in the process. Perhaps the feeling is like holding on to a hot gas balloon in winter thinking it will give us all the warmth forever; fact is if held for a long time, it sure has a ripping effect.

Now I don't mean to even misconstrue the whole idea of this love and being loved. The fact is most of us at some point of time hold the cards closer to our chest and end up being too passionate about the other person, leaving the actual feeling alone. What this ends up being is a Butterfly effect(Scientific phenomena more technically the "sensitive dependence on initial conditions" which is an essence of chaos). As in the website reference point, for some people the chaos factor is limited because of several reasons and for some unfortunate ones it is trauma since it starts.

Knowing this why is it that every living organism in the world feels secured and wanted by go into the abyss and love to experience butterflies in the stomach? BTW, butterflies in the stomach is a medical condition characterized by the physical sensation of a "fluttery" (hence butterflies) feeling in the stomach. Some believe that this is caused by the release of epinephrine, or adrenaline, when one is nervous, pulling blood away from the stomach and sending it to the muscles. Butterflies in the stomach is most often experienced prior to important events, when stress is induced, but can be experienced in situations of impending danger. Now, we have an internal signal too to decipher impending danger and yet we crave and want to experience this? Why? I always wondered, though I know there is nothing as good as the feeling when you like someone and are wanting and waiting to hear from them. However it is the disappointment and pain that keeps accruing with every minute of possessive experience. I personally am disturbed seeing few things happen to people in real life and they find themselves in hapless position. Why this misgiving?

I am still not clear and I do more research on "Why we love and why love bites". Tell you what this is one nice research analysis LOL. The more I look around to find the meaning and reason for love - good and bad, I am confronted by several theories justifying love - Scientific, Psychological, Biological, Formulaic Models etc etc. There are websites that have made a living out of the Love Sign compatibilities and matches based on each of the theories mentioned above.

I was compelled to stratify love into several phases and then was sure why love falls off in the middle for some people, why it never took off for some and why it lasts like a charm for some. I appreciate Robert Sternberg's "Triangular theory of love". Details entail the basic phenomena of love between man and woman. It is quite compelling and quite demonstrative.

The size of the triangle functions to represent the amount of love - the bigger the triangle the greater the love. The shape of the triangle functions to represent the kind of love, which typically varies over the course of the relationship: passion-stage (right-shifted triangle), intimacy-stage (apex-triangle), commitment-stage (left-shifted triangle), typically.

However, is'nt the theory with respect to any relationship we have with other humans around us - Friends, Family, Siblings, Enemies, Acquaintances, Colleagues, Class mates etc? Then why is it that it hurts the most when the relationship between the man and the woman goes for a toss? Why is it that we still want that X-Factor in life even after we slipped and hurt ourself once? Why is it that we feel complete when we love again (or for the first time)? Why is it that when you are in love you can't breathe or think right? Why is the feeling different?

I don't know but as much as the theory holds the ground, it is upto us to find appropriate personalities who can compliment our feelings and vice versa. A lion just cannot fall in love with a rat ! If it does it is not because of love but because of compassion. I realized this in my personal life as well and for love to be all successful, I think it is the opposites that attract each other the most. And may be at the end of it there are few questions that can never be answered and this question in me could as well be a mighty contender for more years to come ! But as of now I just have no idea why we love and why love bites.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Movie Review - Shoot 'Em up => "Dine in hell"

Are you tired of all those heartless, senseless, generic and cliché, action-driven Hollywood films? That honor style and blood over character and plot? Well then I have news for you: don't go see "Shoot Em' Up". But it's a shame that you won't. The film I pointed to and said 'that's what film-making has come to these days; all attitude and no heart', turns out to be the most fun and riotous satire I've seen in a long time.

However, it is one of the great ways to screw up your mood is to watch a movie with zero story line, zero performance, zero 'believable' stunt topped with a sultry heroine action. A friend of mine and I watched this forsaken movie called "Shoot 'Em up". I should have realized this was a disaster in making before but my friend said rotten tomatoes gave a 69% rating. Hmm.. FUCKING SADISTIC CHEATERS. We said in chorus after the end of the movie. What do I even have to critic about the movie. It was like bull shit all wound up in a satin cloth sprayed with the oomph factor spray and the director threw it straight on the audience ! What a nice feeling?

But this however made me think a little bit, apart from bitching about the movie. I did a little research and found that this movie has actually got the following rating from all the movie watchers.

The demographic split is below:The user report (per age) split is below:

I reckon the rating is on 10 and 7.6 would mean a good movie?? I am still surprised coz I am advocating for a -2 for this. OK lemme give you a few plots and you figure out what the movie is made up of. Say what would you do when a person breaks both middle fingers and one of your thumb in your hands and he is chasing you and got you point blank? Perhaps die. Heck no. The hero in this movie decided otherwise. When he was chased, he kept about 5 bullets in the webbings in the hand and goes and keeps his hand on the fire(in the fire place) and guess what the heat from the fire makes the bullets spring out in real speed and all the bullets hit the villain and he falls down "UNCONSCIOUS" for sometime. HELLO - Bullets don't cause or contribute to drowsiness. He wakes up again !

If this one part, in another sequence the supposedly claimed hero jumps out of an aeroplane (flying at 35,000 altitude!) with his parachute and soon there are close to a dozen who jump out with machine guns and start firing as they go free fall. No bullets hits the hero. And we are still free falling and for some reason, the guy controls his free fall to catch up with the mates who are also free falling and basically kills everyone of them at several points of time and suddenly a chopper comes up at around say the 1000th altitude mark and a few are severed too with the blades doing the job. However, the hero is still active and has escaped the chopper blades and "lands" on the ground only to find all the dead bodies of the people that he killed to be on the same vicinity where he landed !

Oh I have to say this. This scene was a rip off. Now the hero has a fast car chase sequence where he shoots at the wind shield of the car and breaks it open. There is this head on collision sort of thing with another car nearing his car at a real cool pace. Now the entire theatre is on the edge of seat. Well not to be worried what would happen to the hero but we are hoping the head on collision works and atleast for once the hero is injured. Folks in my row were optimistic he was going to die. Director thought otherwise. The hero with a 'clear' vision from his car, rips the wind shield of the oncoming fast car/van. Now with clear view, there is this head on collision. BANG, BOOM. The hero is seen flying out of his car into the other car through the wind shield (praise the precision and foresight of the driver that he would only go through the wind shield) and the fella is now into the enemies van and the killers hired to kill him are all so flummoxed that they don't know what to do. The hero in context goes straight to the back of the van and falls on his back only to get up fast and fire 4-6 bullets and everyone dead !

He does not stop there. He kills the Senator this way too and case is closed without any doubts, kills about roughly 450-600 people with automated guns, saves a pregnant lady, has fun with the Italian actress, Monica Bellucci - wonder why she agreed to act in this movie !!

Why did the director steel my sunshine, I wondered? Friday, weekend spirit and movie and BANG we just had a bad taste of the movie. In short the film takes the best cartoon elements, makes them flesh, and still kicks in that over the top craziness. Bad puns that are so bad they're good, action sequences that there just for the sake of having an action sequence, and the wildest sex scene's amazing. The whole project, through controlled chaos and witty abandon, is made as a single, continuous in-joke. As in most films that take themselves too seriously, Clive Owen's hero (enigmatically titled Mr. Smith) quite literally never stops shooting. He shoots while having sex, he shoots while in the middle of free-fall, he shoots the umbilical cord off of a baby, he shoots with his fingers broken. Davis takes over-the-top to a whole new level; poking fun at action movies by taking their ridiculousness to its brinking point.

In the end, I give a thumbs down to it and if there is anything below zero, I would suggest that as how I truly felt. However, to people who like characters who call themselves hero's of south - Rajnikanth, Vijaykanth, Chiranjevi etc etc, your taste buds would be mighty satisfied to have seen this movie.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Smart Businesses and women

Now don't look at this as a serious post - yawn another one ! but it has been what I perceive of this manager in a Star Restaurant(would be 5 soon) called Rain Tree in Madras. Well nothing drastic but what perception does to the entire business is to be seen to be understood.

I have been frequenting this place for my lunch with my friend since it started and it used to be not such a crowd puller then. I am told that there was a position change, non performers were fired and soon a very young manager was appointed and he dutifully came and introduced himself to us considering we were the few who had been visiting their den , sorta loyally. So what this dude does is staggering for us to imagine.

He goes around and recruits this such a hot blonde babe.. Jesus christ, I am so out of words to say this. She is the women's answer to Shah Rukh Khan's flat six pack. I almost counted 3 but anyway she was such a hot property and soon a few teens stepped in and used to giggle around seeing her. BTW, before I forget the lady's job in the restaurant is limited to keep an eye on who comes to lunch. She basically stands through the day and laughs and smiles. Dear god how cute she looks ;-)

Now the business has caught up fast and when we visited this place again, this place is a buzz of activity. There are the Belgians, the Americans, the Brit and the chinks and the common feeling is towards the oomph factor. They are doing exceptional business and the lady is still there shying and coying around like a teenager. A small word like "Hey why don't you take it easy. You been working hard and you should need some break too". This, the plain statement is all she needs to start blushing and smiling. And I don't know what or how to respond to this and I leave for my place. She has been so phenominal at work that we have been going there every day this week and promptly introduced and now she exactly knows what we want.... Well, when we go there for lunch.. so much so that she knows which brand of beer I prefer, the food that suits us, where to place the non veggies and me. Whoa...she is a bomb ticker waiting to blow any time and interestingly our bills have been bouncing around till the ceiling. So am I justified to say that the manager was smart coz he exactly knew what was kicking around and now he has got some serious business in hands.

Now a few peers have started carrying tale that I have quit the organization and taking it easy with the folks from Belgium. Dang !!! Now I got to get back and atleast pretend I work but I still cannot take my mind off her - It is like I am hearing Jessica Simpson's version of Take my breath away and 50 cents Outta control together with T-Pain's I am in love with a stripper forming the base ! Sigh ! I realize now how much women can contribute towards successful businesses - how ever you look at it.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Indianness personified.

Today was a very very interesting day. There are many arbitrary things that interested me in writing it down.

Point 1, the actor Chiranjeevi (read hero) down south, who resembles like a father to 25 and grand father to, say 10, has to face a script (which he has had opportunities to be casted as the mainstay in reel world) in real world. The fact is how many Indian films would have had this heroine eloping with the hero under the pretext of love and subsequently become rich over night after antagonizing the parents and relatives. This is what happened erstwhile now it is out there for all to see the event. Here is how it goes.

Not that I rejoice on seeing this happen to anyone but the mere fact is this guy would have advocated this concept and acted in zillion movies with the same story base. If the guy is well accepted and convinced that the role he did, which reaches several illiterate homes who think what they see on the big screen is so true, then he should have accepted to what happened in his house as well. But he did not. So this is going to be so Indian personified.

Point 2, Another thing I could think of is the incessant urge to out beat the pace of the vehicles before us in a traffic line and eventually to jump the signal when it is red. This pisses me off so much that I almost get into a good argument with them. Today morning when the conversion from Orange to Red happens, I stop, the car behind me honks so much so that I get off my vehicle and look at him. He says "It just got to red illa. You should have gone man and not stop. They don't worry if it is like for a few seconds". I was quite wild. "Hello, the signal opens up in another freaking 20 seconds so why make it a big deal". For records, he sounded and looked like a person holding high position in some work place. What is wrong us that we invest so much on the short term goals rather than look at it so that it may be a discipline. These are the same set of people who would never think about jumping the signal when the go abroad and would be the first ones to bitch about their home land - thinking they are saints here.

Point 3, why is cricket the only big sport in India? Considering there are so many people in India there should have been someother sport well funded and marketed. Sadly so anything and everything about cricket is what we see in the end :-(

Point 4: Why do the girls parents take excessive interest in filling up the "About me" column for the bride in any matrimonial sites? And why is it that the bride use the "catch" words, good in Bharatanatyam, Sing carnatic music and all that standard stuff. Why are women not forthcoming in that regard? Oh I tell you one thing, if there is one good way to make money, then it definitely ought to be the matrimonial sites and their weird membership rates. Can't believe the profits the make.

On a dead serious note, Bharatmatrimony site actually has an IT division too and they are looking for programmers to take care of the "increasing" user base and their queries. Sounds so strange to me anyway. Marriage is one thing , IT is one thing, quite strange how this whole system(arranged marriage) still works !!!!

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Rated PG - Hell yes !

I was into another dull day at work and was random googling - rather using all possible nuances to test google results and I keyed in something and the first result was - Rate your blog site.

This interested me a little bit and being a narcissist I just love to rate myself, talk about myself, praise myself on how I look regardless of what the fact is blah blah... When I checked the site, I got a bizarre result. The fella classified my blog site as - PG 13.

{Oh! I also think that this rating would have such a good impression about me and what I write in the minds of the mothers of all the girls checking my blog site - Sigh what a wonderful world !! }

Click on this link "here" to figure out what is your rating ! Pretty weird their justification as such. They claim since my blog note has a few questionable expressions so they rate me with this. "This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:butt (2x), death (5x), tit (7x), sex (6x), shit (1x), "

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Weekend Book Review - Games Indians Play: Why We Are the Way We Are

Just finished reading the review of V. Raghunathan's book titled, Games Indians Play: Why We Are the Way We Are.

In his book, Raghunathan, a former professor at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, uses game theory -- a branch of mathematics -- and related concepts such as the prisoner's dilemma to explore why Indians so often tend to focus on winning immediate gains at the cost of long-term benefits. He further goes on and theorizes that Indians are privately smart and publicly dumb. He also mentions that Indian's ability to understand the need for cooperation is very low. Indians believe that cooperation and selfishness cannot go together.

A great book. The author clearly feels that the Indian national character has some fundamental problems - we are free-riders, seek to serve self over society, are way too intelligent for our own good. These traits lead to the phenomena which plague Indian society - things like corruption and it’s general acceptance, unhealthy levels of public hygiene and pollution, the pathetic state of core systems like education, and the tendency to pursue loopholes relentlessly even when they do no good in the long run. These points, while perhaps not representing the complete picture (India has improved a lot, in my opinion) are still very hard to argue against. However, I will accept everything he said. What appealed to me most was to be classified as "Free Riders". Fantastic representation coz that is how I think Indians are as well. They forgot that "Free something" was in the dinosaur era and not now !!!

He explains this in terms of a game-theory concept called Prisoner’s Dilemma (PD), which is basically a story about how two people have a choice to either co-operate with each other or betray - and it turns out that the overall best case scenario happens to be when both cooperate, although it could be argued that it would seem more self-serving for each to betray. Of course, the link is that Indians tend to betray (society) to achieve personal gains - like throw garbage on the road for personal convenience, or cut queues where ever possible - but which lead to a non-optimal society and thus reduced benefit for all.

The example is used convincingly to address a lot of issues; however the author stops at making any scientific claims (he says in the prologue itself that his ideas are not exactly backed by scientific data but could be valid hypotheses for constructing tests). However, he does talk about studies done to solve PD, and explains that entirely self-serving strategies tend not to do too well.

A classic example that I can think of (though not mentioned in the book) is the use of “water pressure amplifiers” in some communities. As all Indians know, water can be a big problem in India and it’s common for the water pressure to be low during summer. So someone installs this device which, when inserted into the plumbing, amplifies the pressure into your house - at the expense, of course, of slightly decreased pressure to everyone else. Short-term gain for sure - but soon enough everyone’s heard about the device and every household has it’s own. The end result? Back to square one, since there is only so much water pressure available, and everyone is now drawing it equally. Oh, except that everyone has spent a certain amount of money buying the device, and everyone is continuously paying electricity bills for it. And of course, nobody will dare stop using it because if you’re the only one without an amplifier, you can forget about getting any water at all in your house!

In the last chapter, he explains how this modern version of game theory ties in perfectly with ideas conveyed in the Bhagvad Gita. The Gita encourages one to just abide by “dharma” (or right action) - and promises that this will achieve the “highest good” - which is presumably the highest good in terms of society and even the person in the long term. Given a problem like PD, it turns out the most optimal actions are in fact those that are taken in good faith, and not ones immediately self-serving even though plausible arguments can be constructed that one stands to gain more in the short-term by taking the “selfish” action.

A very readable, short book, not only with interesting discussion on game theory but also on the state of India - the work is full of examples of just how much Indians can be self-seeking while ignoring the greater good. At once poignant, humourous and fascinating.

Rating: 4 / 5

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Excerpt from the Interview - Games Indians Play: Why We Are the Way We Are

In his book Games Indians Play: Why We Are the Way We Are, V. Raghunathan writes about a farmer whose corn won top awards year after year. When a reporter asked about the secret of his success, the farmer attributed it to the fact that he shared his corn with his neighbors. Why, the reporter wondered, would the farmer want to share his seed when those neighbors also competed with him for the prize? The farmer's reply was, "The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grew inferior corn, cross-pollination would steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors do the same."

That Indians often fail to act like this farmer is the principal theme of Raghunathan's book. Using examples as varied as their tendency to drive through red lights to their failure to protect the environment, Raghunathan argues that Indians often act in ways that focus on winning immediate gains at the expense of long-term benefits. What makes Raghunathan's approach unusual is that his argument isn't a moral diatribe: He employs game theory -- a branch of mathematics -- and related concepts, such as the prisoner's dilemma, to present his case.

A former professor at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, Raghunathan in 2001 was named president of the ING Vysya Bank. He now works for the GMR Group as managing director of GMR Industries, the group's agri-business division, and CEO of the GMR Varalakshmi Foundation. Raghunathan also teaches game theory and behavioral economics at the University of Bocconi in Italy. To relax, he repairs mechanical clocks.

India Knowledge@Wharton: Your book is titled, Games Indians Play: Why We Are the Way We Are. What are Indians like?

Raghunathan: In the first chapter of my book, I describe what I believe Indians are like by offering 12 canons of "Indian-ness." For example, one of our traits is "low trustworthiness." By that I mean we are most likely not to cooperate in a prisoner's dilemma kind of situation. Privately, Indians are reasonably smart -- in fact, we are as smart as anybody else -- but publicly we are dumb. Our ability to understand the need for cooperation is very low. We believe that cooperation and selfishness cannot go together -- which is not true. We also tend to be very fatalistic in our outlook. We give excuses such as, "What can I do alone? Everybody else is looking out for himself, so why shouldn't I?"

India Knowledge@Wharton: What exactly is the prisoner's dilemma, which you just mentioned? How do you use it to explain the behavior of Indian business people?

Raghunathan: The prisoner's dilemma, which was first developed by researchers at the Rand Corporation during the 1950s, is a concept that has come to occupy a prominent place in game theory. The problem statement goes like this: Assume that you and I are co-conspirators in a crime. Each of us is selfish and coldly rational. We are being interrogated in two separate cells, and we are unable to communicate with each other. The interrogator tells you that he has enough evidence to put each of us away in the slammer for two years each. However, if you squeal on me and help him prosecute me, he will set you free immediately and imprison me for five years. He also tells you that he will make an identical offer to me (though you and I cannot communicate). If each of us betrays the other, he will put us both away for four years. Being selfish and rational, we have to respond to the offer in terms of what is in our best self-interest.

Now, here is our dilemma: Should we defect and squeal against each other, or should we cooperate and hold out against the interrogator? You may reason that if I defect, it would be in your interest to defect as well -- otherwise you will be stuck in prison for five years while I go free. And if I do not defect, it is still in your interest to defect, since you will walk free immediately. So you decide to defect. I follow the same reasoning, and I defect as well. As a result, each of us ends up with four years in prison. If we were to cooperate, though, each of us would be better off because the interrogator has evidence to put each of us away for just two years. But for us to end up with that outcome, we need to recognize that the two-year punishment we will have to accept for cooperating is better for each of us than the four-year punishment we would get for defecting and ratting out each other.

Our situation is such that we believe that if we do not cooperate, we benefit more. We put ourselves in the other person's situation: We ask, if he does not cooperate, why should I? If he cooperates, it may still be in my interest not to cooperate, because I benefit by not cooperating.

Although this may sound abstract and theoretical, this is often how Indian business people tend to think. Very often our exporters show samples that are of a high quality, but when the time comes to ship the goods, they send something inferior. This is very much like a prisoner's dilemma situation. You may initially make money because you have gotten something for nothing, but going forward -- in an iterative kind of a context -- you will most probably fail. You will stop getting export orders when your customers figure out that they cannot depend on your quality. They will stop trusting you and start suspecting you. In my book, I cite the example of some Indian companies that had won orders to export powdered red peppers (or chillies) to Korea. Apparently, when the goods arrived, the Koreans discovered that the very first consignment was adulterated with red brick powder. The Koreans emptied the whole consignment in the high seas, vowing never to import this product from India. I read a similar report as recently as last year.

The prisoner's dilemma also explains why Indian companies often fail in joint ventures. We tend to be over-argumentative and often look out for our own narrow advantage rather than trying to make the venture succeed. If you look at the way we behave in all kinds of situations -- whether it involves jumping a red light or dumping our garbage in the streets -- that kind of behavior can be explained by the prisoner's dilemma. I will keep my own house clean, but the streets are not my business. Since everybody thinks the same way, the public interest suffers.

India Knowledge@Wharton: Is that what you meant when you said that Indians are "privately smart and publicly dumb?" Why is that so, and what are the consequences of this behavior?

Raghunathan: Another way of expressing this idea is that we are good lightning chess players but terrible long-term chess players. If I have to see two moves ahead, I may do just fine, but if I have to see 10 moves ahead, I may not. Public interest is like seeing 10 moves ahead, while seeking out private advantage is like seeing two moves ahead. In the prisoner's dilemma, it is clear that in the short run, it pays you to defect. It takes you a longer period of reflection to realize that even given your selfish motive, you are likely to benefit more if you cooperate -- and if each player does the same thing, both come out winners. I came to this conclusion through many other concepts of game theory that I have written about in the book. Having seen how people think in other countries and in India, I [realized] that Indians would tend to conclude in a jiffy that it is in their interest to defect and squeal against their partner. It takes longer to think through that if the partner also defects, both would be worse off. Unfortunately, Indians often don't think that far. That is why I say we are privately smart but publicly dumb.

India Knowledge@Wharton: In taking the long-term view, what is the "tit-for-tat" strategy, and how does that apply to business situations?

Raghunathan: We tend to deal with the same people over and over again, even though we may interact with hundreds or thousands of parties over our lifetimes. If I tell myself that I will never be the first person to defect, but after that, I will do whatever the other person does, that is the "tit-for-tat" strategy.

In my book, I cite examples from the experiments that the mathematician Robert Axelrod conducted on this concept. Life is a series of interactions of the PD (prisoner's dilemma) kind, and you deal with the same people several times. I may cooperate with you in an interaction, and you may cooperate as well. Then I go off and interact with other people, and then come back again to you. Remembering that you had cooperated in the past, I cooperate again. Essentially, I keep cooperating in every interaction until you defect. In the following interaction, I too defect, remembering our last interaction. Now it is up to you to decide whether to cooperate or not. If you cooperate, I go back to cooperating as well.

This strategy is different than that of a so-called "massive retaliator," whose response to one act of defection is to never, ever cooperate again. The tit-for-tat strategy does not have a long memory. It is forgiving. It is a good strategy in the sense that it is never the first one to defect, but at the same time it retaliates against defectors. It makes it clear that it will not respond to defection with continued cooperation. It responds to defection with defection, and will not resume cooperation unless the other party cooperates first.

I show in the book that the tit-for-tat strategy never wins against any one individual. But in the long run, people get to know that you are a gentleman; you are never the first to defect. They know that you are forgiving, but also that they cannot take you for granted. All these are, broadly, the hallmarks of a gentleman, and so I call this the "gentleman's strategy."

This strategy can easily be applied to a large number of business situations. For example, consider a businessman who normally supplies materials of high quality but once in a while -- one out of 10 times -- he supplies sub-standard materials. In other words, he defects one time out of 10, and cooperates nine times out of 10, hoping that you will not retaliate. He is trying to gain some extra points over his interactions. Such a businessman is not using the tit-for-tat strategy; he is using a random-defect strategy. What happens with this strategy is that if one of the players he runs into is a massive retaliator, that player will stop dealing with him completely. His ability to collect any further revenues from that party will end.

However, a tit-for-tat strategist will never defect first. As a result, it becomes clear to all the players over the long run that the tit-for-tat player will never retaliate unless they did something wrong to him first. Unfortunately, in India such business people are few and far between.

India Knowledge@Wharton: In one chapter you cite the example of the TVS Group, a company in Southern India, which recognized that foregoing short-term benefits sometimes helps you gain long-term advantages.

Raghunathan: Yes -- Suresh Krishna, chairman of Sundaram Fasteners, which is part of the TVS Group, told me this story about his father, T.S. Krishna. His father had told him this anecdote during the 1960s but he still remembers it.

The TVS Group, like other traders in Southern India, imported diesel engines during the 1940s. The engines were imported from London for about Rs. 1,100 ($220 at the prevailing exchange rate) and were sold in the local market at a 25% to 30% markup for about Rs. 1,400 ($280). But during the mid-1940s, supply was disrupted because of World War II, and this led to an extreme shortage of engines. Anyone who had an import license could easily sell the engines for Rs. 5,000 ($1,000) -- many customers were willing to pay such prices. At one level, you could call this market pricing since the demand-supply situation was so skewed. It was a seller's market. But, at another level, you could also view this as a defection of sorts because the sellers were exploiting the wartime shortage to force buyers to pay a higher price.

Krishna decided that the TVS Group would not follow that approach. Despite the shortage and the prevailing high prices, he insisted on charging the normal markup of 25% and kept selling engines for Rs. 1,400 throughout the war. At that time, the local business community thought he was either naïve or downright daft for missing out on the opportunity to make as much money as possible. When the war ended, however, the traders who had profiteered from the shortage went out of business one after another; today no one remembers those companies. But the TVS Group survived, and it continues to be recognized as a valuable company.

In today's terms, we might say that TVS had better corporate governance, and its strategy paid off because it delivered long-term shareholder value. Back in 1945, though, it was just one decent man trying to do the right thing for his customers. Krishna refused to defect just because the timing was against his customers. The consequence is that even today, TVS is regarded as a name to be trusted. If the company lists its shares for sale, people subscribe to them. If products carry the TVS brand, people buy them. Krishna probably did not stop to think about the "brand value" of his behavior; still, his actions helped build the TVS brand.

India Knowledge@Wharton: Why do you think Indians are bad at regulation and self-regulation?

Raghunathan: I think self-regulation is molded by regulation. Even in the U.S., when you are driving along a highway, if you did not know that a police patrol car might unexpectedly appear behind you with lights flashing, you might be tempted to drive faster than the speed limit. If the U.S. government had not come down hard on emissions, maybe the auto industry would have not revised its production standards. I believe that self regulation is indeed affected by regulation.

In India, part of our problem is that the regulatory environment is weak. Combined with our fundamental lack of self regulation, matters tend to spin out of control very soon. As I said above, we are like lightning chess players and a little too quick to see where our immediate self-interest lies. When we think we can get away with something and the probability of getting caught is low, we tend to do whatever we want to do.

For example, consider the Companies Act, which governs disclosure of financial information by publicly listed firms. Today, if a public company does not disclose its financial statements on time, the penalty is Rs. 1,000 ($25) a day. This implies that if a company is willing to spend $9,125 on fines, it can go a whole year without making financial information available in the public domain. To me, that almost sounds like an incentive for companies not to file their annual financial statements. How can we have self-regulation when the regulations themselves are so weak? The reality is that back when these regulations were formulated, a thousand bucks a day was a lot of money. Today, you would need to charge corporations a penalty of Rs. 10 million ($250,000) a day for it to be a deterrent.

The trouble in India is that the chances or being caught are low, and the consequences of being caught are weak. As a result, we have forgotten what self regulation means. Democracy has been misinterpreted to mean the right to do whatever you want.

India Knowledge@Wharton: Why is it so hard for Indians to work in teams? Even in a team sport like cricket, one-upmanship often undermines collective performance. Does game theory offer any explanations?

Raghunathan: That is a good question, but I don't know to what extent game theory can answer it. The only thing I would say is that it depends on how the team players resolve their own prisoner's dilemma-type situations.

If you approach the resolution of the dilemma externally, you will never resolve the issue. By approaching it externally, I mean asking yourself, 'If the other party defects, what should I do?' or 'If the other party does not defect, what should I do?' If you ask yourself such questions, the answer at which you will arrive is that you should defect. If both parties ask themselves the same questions, they both end up defecting -- and losing.

The only correct way to resolve the prisoner's dilemma is to ask yourself, 'What is the correct thing, deep down, for me to do?' In other words, what is the action that if everyone were to follow it, would lead to the collective good? If you were to approach the prisoner's dilemma that way, both accomplices would arrive at the same answer -- not to squeal against the other. You need to approach the issue internally. The problem arises when you expect others to defect, so you try and pre-empt the harmful consequences by defecting yourself.

India Knowledge@Wharton: To what extent are such tendencies uniquely Indian? For example, if you have been following the horror stories about the recall of millions of toys manufactured in China, wouldn't you think these are human traits rather than Indian ones?

Raghunathan: Absolutely. I agree completely that these are human traits. You will find them everywhere in the world. The theories I discuss in my book were not developed in India but outside, and people have been writing about and talking about them long before my book came along. But one major difference is that in other parts of the world, the tendency to defect is much lower when you play the prisoner's dilemma type of games. In India, the tendency to defect is much higher.

Consider the example about the toys being recalled in China. It is of course true that in this one dimension Chinese manufacturers -- or their subcontractors -- did not pay attention to quality. But I can think of 10 other dimensions in which the Chinese have chosen cooperation with one another over defection. For example, Chinese people show enormous discipline when they work in a team. I have seen Chinese cab drivers stopping before a red light at 2:00 a.m. -- no Indian taxi driver would ever do that. The number of medals they win during the Olympics shows that they have systems that work very well.

In Shanghai, in four years they built out the magnetic levitation train that connects the airport to the city. Or consider a simpler example. When I was in Shanghai, I saw a newspaper ad that addressed the citizens and said, "If you want to be residents of a world-class city, you must behave accordingly and not hang your laundry out to dry on your balcony." When I drove around the city, I did not see a single Chinese home with washed clothes hanging on the balcony. In India, it is unthinkable that you could even make such an appeal.

So it is true that nowhere in the world are people immune to the prisoner's dilemma. But the incidence of defection in almost every walk of life seems to be unique to India. This may seem to be a caricature, but if I am exaggerating certain features, it is because I want to draw attention to them.

India Knowledge@Wharton: Do you have any reason to hope that the way Indians are will some day become the way Indians were?

Raghunathan: I am not a spiritual person. But in doing research for this book, for the first time I read the Bhagavad-Gita [the Sanskrit text that is regarded as sacred by Hindus]. I realized that the Gita has a lot of things which help resolve the prisoner's dilemma readily. For example, if you do your dharma [duty] towards humanity, the level of cooperation could be much higher. That is what having a good character is all about.

This gives me hope for the future. As India's economy improves and education spreads, I hope defection will be replaced by cooperation. My question about why Indians are the way they are is a rhetorical one -- it is an expression of my frustration. But my attitude towards India is like that of a parent towards a beloved child who needs correction. You don't love that child any less; it is because of your love that you want to bring about change. I hope these ideas will encourage some introspection about how to make things better.

Can also be found "here" .

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Friday, October 12, 2007

And the consequence ....

You know life is funny. What goes around comes back and takes a big lump of something from you. No no not about anything bad. It was all because of the previous note which was impervious to a few. The intent was not to showcase anything bad but to have something akin to a shoutbox where you just lend your voice and just feel good that you flushed your system with regards to that topic. That day that time to me it was the Extra Marital affair sequence.

So then I go out to my usual French class (YEA!) and on my way back I get to a coffee joint and have a quick sip of my usual coffee and a quick bite. As I was munching along and lazing around reading an interesting book "Games Indians Play: Why We Are the Way We Are " (review of which would be out in a day's time), I suddenly heard two girls, with their usual accent of Ya and I know thing, came along and one of them said "I read about an article a jerk wrote. It was about EMA and some bull crap". I figured vaguely if they were talking about me. Damn! don't ask me why. The guilt that I wrote something is one thing and the interest to hear them talk with those gesticulations was another. But for the time being I knew it was either me or someone who committed a serious offense. The other one voiced over "Oh yea". The first one goes, lemme show you that piece of crap. I was not quite edgy and that lady quickly rammed something in the puter and since it was a joint to laze around, I thought it was going to be trivial and took it easy with the book.

Guess who the "jerk" is. Viola ! you get nothing for guessing right. It was yours truly and I thought the template of the blog was such a common thing that no one would have recognized. But I was damned. They were actually getting to my blog and were roasting me alive. I was sitting near by and I almost spit everything I had in my mouth when I saw that "Hippie" picture on the right. I was dead sure it was me. All I managed to do was to ask for the check and slipped out of the joint in a jiffy. Along the way I thought there could be something wrong in what I said or wrote. But should'nt I be, like, having that wee bit of freedom to offload what I think. :-(

Anyway, the damage is done and I realized one thing. I will continue to write what I write regardless of what they say. But interesting they called me a "Jerk" :-)

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Why is marriage intricate and an extra marital/after committed affair a sin?

** The whole idea of this "note" is not to take sides to anything but to make a sincere effort to put forth the ideologies. Please refrain from getting personal and debate with an open mind.

I have been thinking about this strange topic for a while now. I have had debated hard and long with a few loyal, outspoken friends and colleagues of mine on why or what is marriage to them and if a breach in the relationship, say, an affair or an one night stand would hurt his/her relationship. A few people said "Oh yea! It does and I would say all quit". I thought. My pedigree friends thought.

We closed the conversation there and opened it up on a Friday night in an 'accepting' environ. The question that came to my mind was - In an extra marital who is responsible? Everyone has had gone through this 'intriguing' phase and not many have come out unscathed. I don't blame them. It is hopes bellied. But a finer thought, my brain figment always wants to this analysis, will not really hurt anyone.

To start with lemme give you a very contrasting debatable point: We live in a family and like normal, the food is made and all that. One day some one breaks the sequence and has the food outside the house. But the following day the sequence again continues from where it was left. Would that be unpardonable or something that should be like a heart burn? And when on the same line, if there is a sequence deviation say an affair, particularly extra marital affair, we immediately think this happened because the "Man" wanted to have Sex. Is'nt extra marital affair also related to both the sexes of human species? Why is it that we attach too much sentiments to the privates of our body and it's function. Why is SEX the delimiter? I mean should'nt it be normal like urinating or eating or walking or anything. Why have me made it into a situation and why have we classified it as a "bonus round" which you can get when you get married and that you cross "boundaries", it hurts the other person. Who is responsible for this? The man or the wife.

Now, this would not have gone well with anyone.

To add more, let's say, The topic needs a correction. It is not who is "responsible" for the extra marital affair that matters.It is who is "irresposible" that needs to be found out.If you are a responsible person, it means you value the relationship. If one is responsible, it means he/she is committed.If one is committed,you work to fulfil the obligations arising out of marriage.When there is lack of commitment, the deviation occurs.Lack of commitment is lack of responsibility.
Irresponsible in other words mean that both the MAN and the WOMAN are collectively responsible for an event like this. Remember, it takes two to tango?

That takes me off to a joke that I heard recently which I can relate much to the situation,
"A wife walked into the kitchen to find her husband stalking around with a fly swatter.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Hunting flies" he responded.
"Oh! Killing any?" she asked.
"Yep, 3 males and 2 females" he replied.
Intrigued, she asked "How can you tell?"
"3 were on a beer can, 2 were on the phone" he responded.

That should be more like it. We got both to blame for what they have been doing.

The end result of an event defined by the society as Extra Marital is that the people in this era would feel pained and would feel betrayed. My friend got a bit worked by now and said "You can try to trivialize the whole thing with religion and any other philosophy you may want to use. Some of you may marry for sex only, but there are people who marry for love. If you can not distinguish between love and sex, you are missing out a lot in life!!! If you are married just for sex, you can become a swinger and change your partner every night. Who cares? If you are married because you love someone, even emotional affair of spouse can be extremely hurtful, let alone physical one!" and walked out creating a silence in the group. Thinking I was advocating the extra marital affair anyway!

We started again this discussion. I quipped and as I gulped another shooter, I said "On an unbiased note - without taking sides, what goes on between a man and a woman should not be the business of any other person unless the man and woman are doing anything in any way in breach of THE LAW of the Land.

As you know, the Law of the Land is not the same all over the world. Eskimos,I believe consider it their duty to offer their wives to their guests (This practice is called mehmanawazi in Urdu, milmastia in Pashtu, puranadari in Punjabi).Would this be an "Extra marital affair"? Would this mean that the relationship outside the marriage is acceptable and it is a subjective thing in which culture we end up using.

My friend came up with this fantastic explanation on what he felt. It was out of the box the way he related it and it made me feel he was making a compelling point hard to ignore. He said "For many of us, extra-marital affair is more than just relationship outside of marriage - it is betrayal of love, trust, and faith. I would relate an extra relationship to be like a natural phenomena say volcanoes, earthquakes, supernovas and even nuclear fission (atomic bombs). They are dramatic cases of dynamic equilibrium lost to "unbalanced forces". Loss of equilibrium (dynamic or static) leads to disintegration or catastrophe. An Extra Martial Affair(EMA) has such an effect on the dynamic equilibrium of a social system. So though EMA falls in the personal domain of the individuals involved, they are breaking a promise they have made to others which is an "unbalanced force". Since i'm presently part of the system, for my own self-preservation i cannot encourage/accept/tolerate anything which has the potential to disintegrate our social system"

Just when I thought this topic was dying down to an unanimous feeling, my friend made another startling point :

"If really a wife is unfit for sex due to some medical reasons or whatever it is, the man can always got to a prostitute for that purpose and forget her after half an hour act OR vice versa. This is happening for several ages in our history. This happens and happened in India.This will not spoil the married life. Here the person is not getting attachment with the call gal, he more often change the call gals in order not to face any fuss. His love towards his wife and persons related to his family remains the same. Also, a close look at the history of human evolution to date, we can realize that human was never hard-core monogamous even when he was a monkey. As he started becoming civilized he started making his own rules and laws. And what was against the liking of the head of the group never became a law. Slowly so it became a custom and the longer people followed it the more the believed in it to classify the laws and rules as beliefs and customs. And it is totally acceptable to express who you are and even if that meant an affair or an one night stand it is considered alright. But in some conservative set up, talk about sex is a taboo and sin. In India we prolong everything under the pretext of Marriage and if there is an emotional fall off between partners and if there is an another person who can substitute that feeling, then we feel antagonized. Perhaps let down because we feel that we have to start over again in life. Unlike the past this time there is a stigma attached by the same society that married you off. They classify you as a "Divorcee", "Separated" and many more forms of "status". Why is the feeling of importance given to some arbitrary people that form the society? As long as the partners are loyal to each other and express to each other their intent I think an one night stand is all OK. However it is a shock and a hurtful procedure when people don't get open about anything. That is when they start bashing one of the two sexes, claiming them to be responsible for this escapade."

I, personally, was quite satisfied in what he said finally. The main point of contention to me all along was the society set up is in India. I mean the whole marriage point is a butt of ridicule. I mean both in Christian or Hindu form of society, the marriage that happens in India is not valid because unlike priests in the west who have the power to be the "Registrar of Marriages" under civil law has the right to issue the marriage as legal and the Church is authorized to give "Certificates of Marriage". As far as I know neither Christian nor Hindu priests have any such authority in India and the "sacramental marriage" is legally void if not registered in the courts. Once registered all "marriage vows and deities invoked" cease to have any meaning. Yet, we follow the die hard custom there by making marriage more intangible and cryptic. May be more intricate. But do we get married only because the Church in west have more "legal" power than the east? This makes marriage intricate to me and puts me at lurch wondering what is the expectation. Being husband and wife is one thing, but being pronounced by a system that is not legally bounded appalls me.

When it comes to relationships before marriage it does not matter much coz you are not really stalking without that someone else noticing and getting hurt. To me it does not matter even if we end up expressing ourselves by having a few sexual exploits too but what becomes more important to a man and a woman is to know who can take the role of the partner and from there on be more communicative, express to each other and be open. It does not make more sense if one gets interested in another person after the marriage reason to me is not what my friend said. I don't attribute it to natural calamities like effect but rather it is the trust and belief that goes for a toss. May be most of whom I spoke with also said the same in the end. Debating why it is not bad is one thing but when it happens to one's life then it is an another 'sad' story to deal with a lot of introspection to do. In the end it is strictly how one wants to live his or her life. But how without hurting the partner physically and emotionally is one thing that everyone should be considerate about. In the end I give a "Thumbs down" to the extra marital relationship - physical form, as a substitute to the bride or vice versa.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

No job for life or is it?

Another day at work and today was quite strange that I was getting sorta more worrying about where I was headed to - Cafeteria or Pantry or the Reception or Hit the road again. I was so jobless at work today and that was how I was feeling. That prompted me to do a bit of research on why should "Men" be always forced to work. Perhaps for the money they get in return from "someone" to appease themselves and people surrounding them and eventually at the month feel like you have "proved" a point to one too many around us - like they care. However, there are some "lucky" souls who get to do what they like the most. They are not someone I am willing to compare my situation with (to make it even worse).

What I found in this bit of search was that it is not "me" feeling I am stuck working for say seven years now on the trot, there are some countries that have some interesting reading. The latest poll got me thinking that there are many people who tend to spend more time working for someone. For instance, Greek workers see the longest job tenure in Europe. In 2005 they had spent an average of nearly 13 years with the same employer, according to the OECD's Economic Survey of the European Union. Within Europe workers changed jobs quickest in Britain and Ireland, where flexible labour laws make it easier to hire and fire and where growing economies mean workers are tempted by new opportunities. Employees are most mobile in America (or perhaps most-easily fired), putting in an average of just four years for one boss.

I would be interested to see where India would be positioned at. But on a serious note is'nt it truth that we end up spending lot of time working for a *discreet* employer major part of our life - regardless to whether we like or not.

On a further introspection it is the money matters that force people to work - where ever they are. Maybe that mortgage debt or that money you might have spent on the children's education or whatever be the reason ensures that people end a good amount of their doing what they are doing. But does loyalty to one company, say for 13 years, mean anything - financially? Would that liberate one of all their commitments? I don't know. People long and yearn to get into that "working community" soon after they graduate and how life changes if one does not get into a job and how life changes when one eventually does. But for the time being it looks like I have a long hop !!

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

EBay and You Tube - For anything and anyone !!

There are two incidents that I really wanted to write about when I think about E-Bay and You Tube. They are the typical internet storm creators when it comes to ruling their own mass. There has been no other bidding site that could match the muzzle strength of Ebay and more so we know what You Tube is capable of in it's own way.

First the scanner on EBay, I read an article in BBC on how an unusual item was up for sale: "For sale: Belgium, a kingdom in three parts ... free premium: the king and his court (costs not included)."

Reason for the odd ad being posted by one disgruntled Belgian was because he wanted to protest at his country's political crisis, which reached a 100-day landmark Tuesday with no end in sight to the squabbling between Flemish and Walloon politicians. BTW, if you did not know Belgium wants to be divided as separate land for the Flemish government and Walloon government. And the Walloon's are constitute the French speaking part of Belgium whilst the Flemish the Dutch speaking group.

Gerrit Six, the teacher and former journalist placed the advertisement Saturday, offering free delivery, but pointing out that the country was coming secondhand and that potential buyers would have to take on over $300 billion in national debt.

Six claims that he decided to vent his frustration through the Internet ad and for his act Six' idea got a mixed reaction on the streets of Brussels.

EBay was happy to take Six's advertisement !! However, the company decided to pull the ad Tuesday after receiving a bid of $14 million. This just summed up that "anything and everything" in this universe is salable and there are always some buyers who can manage to do greater than life stunts. I still cannot believe how a website agreed to throw up an ad to sell a country ** Chuckle **

Likewise the other incident is a rather unfortunate one as for as the celebrity cricket player Ricky Ponting is concerned. It was not long ago that he led the team of the invincibles to the land of Kama Sutra - India. And what he had faced was something that he never would have imagined. Being "force" kissed by a straight faced sober Indian and if he thought no one would ever know, he forgot about You Tube ! And this just sums up that "Anything and Everything" can be found in You Tube.

The next day there was this video posted and there goes the pride of the lion. Wonder how I would ever react to some petty incident for that moment to suddenly become a source for being a butt of ridicule to many others. If I was the opposition captain, I would be really tempted to have a go at him and see how he reacts. Interesting world this is !

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Monday, October 08, 2007

The plague

The Black Death, or The Black Plague, was one of the most deadly pandemics in human history. No I am not talking about the pandemic, Black Plague that took unprecedented deaths estimated at 75 million people worldwide;I am talking about how my body and soul were connected in the extended break from the blogger world. I wanted to write so many things, so many nicer changes and lots of expectations I have from my life suddenly but my body just let go of me, it was acting like how Joey acts Nonchalant in Friends episode; it knew all it had to do was to cooperate but it was a stranger and I ended up being a stranger to myself all along.

Perhaps, everyone goes through the phase of wanting to say something but unable to do so because they 'feel' they are preoccupied else where and that bug bit me as well and thus the plague alike feeling within me. However, I have now made an effort to make an attempt to write something and start over where I left a while ago, may be long time back.

One of the many things that I wanted to write was my experience in the recent weeks and that being returning back home a few months back this year when I was having so much fun, switching over my job when I was going great guns and that is when I realised how much of a creature of habit I had become with time - unknowingly. By the 25th of October, the known job, the known lunch mates, the known co-worker, the known loyal friends who laughed at any shit I said, the known place - suddenly became unknown and new. Strangely, I felt so vulnerable and realised I was going through this metaphorsis of re-inventing myself again. Steve Waugh, a renowned cricket player from Australia, wrote in his book "Out of Comfort zone" how much you learn when you make an attempt to get out of your zone, out of your known territory and out of the known enemies. I cannot appreciate that liner more than anyone right now.

Now that this ended up being an event and an important one that too, I thought I should start giving it a thought to start writing and continuing from where I left. I know I have not checked what my (few) "loyal" bloggers have had written over time. I will check out and promise to me more orderly now that I have managed to line up my ducks in this long break. With that, if ever you get bitten by the "plague" bug, you know don't feel lonely [:)].

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