Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tales from SPJCM – revelry at Clarke Quay

Most of our batch mates said Singapore was different. We all were scattered in our groups, and it’s difficult to do anything (read booze) in the sanctity of our rooms. But the answer to each of these concerns was quickly found and accepted by us – Clarke Quay (CQ).

We had landed in Singapore and almost a month had passed, and today was a Saturday. The day when our weekly special to Clarke Quay (CQ) would start around 9 30, 10 in the evening and more than half of the batch would be found there!! Yes, we religiously followed the routine.

CQ was the place to be. With its riverside open areas, a bridge where people would sit on the parapet top and booze and smoke, enjoy till the last drop and then head towards many of the discos and pubs located there. There was no restriction, as we would carry our own stuff and sit back and enjoy. For most of us, it was real fun, as it would give a chance to get together at a place where there was no one to put a check on us and we could easily let our hair down, go with the flow of our booze and enjoy in the real sense of the word. The mood there was at best summed up by the famous Dev Anand song “main fikra ko dhooyein mein udata chala gaya…”

CQ housed many famous and “mast” discs and pubs – Attica, Zirca, Rupee Room and many more. And how can we forget China One, as it was our refuge, on most of the occasions, for it didn’t charge any entry fee, while the rest would. We would head to China One, and dance to the tunes of the DJ there. Some lovely dance numbers, and if we are lucky, we might get a chance to dance to a Punjabi or a Bollywood number there. If some of us were lucky some day, they could get English or an American partner to dance too!! So wasn’t Singapore or for that matter CQ different?? :)

After boozing, smoking and dancing the whole night at CQ, we would head home at around 4-5 in the morning or at times, even late!! The revelry at CQ was the time to remember!! Such are the charms of CQ that most of us still yearn to relive those days!!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

From the steel city – The first taste of notorious ragging

The second day, we quickly got the admission formalities done and got ourselves a room allotted in the hostel. As we got our hostel formalities done, it was already the lunch time and we could see our batch mates all looking down and wearing formal attire with a tie. We could feel the fear around!!

One of the seniors, who took us to our hostel attendant to get a room for us, took us towards some fellow guys from UP, who had already joined a few days back. The senior started “See, here are your new brothers…they are in room 4 and 5…meet them and give them all the ragging fundae…we will come in the evening to check…” (Ragging Funda # 1: Always call all your fellow batch mates from your state as your brothers & Funda #2: old ones would pass on the ragging fundae to he newer ones, as and when they come). All of them, looked at “3rd button” (Funda # 3: to look at the third button of your shirt while taking to a senior) and as they were about to speak, took permission to speak (Funda # 4) and he started,
First year batch mate (FYBM) – Sir, May I have the Golden opportunity to talk…
2nd year senior (SYS) – No
FYBM – Sir, may I have the diamond opportunity to talk…
SYS – No
FYBM – Sir, may I have the platinum opportunity to talk…
SYS – No
FYBM – Sir, may I have the lifetime opportunity to talk…
SYS – No
Oh man, this continued at least 2-3 times till he obliged and by that time we had gotten scared of what was happening. At one hand, I felt disgust at the thought that even I would have to do all this nonsense from now on, but at the other hand, we laughed at ourselves and our batch mates. But man, our seniors did it, we did it and as did our juniors!!

After all the formalities in the hostel, I was allotted room # 4, on the ground floor and even mathura and buddha were allotted the same room. But my seniors, requested the attendant to allocate some other room, may be some room in the back gallery, but he said no, saying, there were none available there. Then, the seniors told us to take care in these rooms as these rooms are prone to senior wrath due to being near the front gallery and being at the ground floor. We got even more scared!!

We had slept by now – our very first day in the hostel and in the middle of our sleep came some sound as if somebody is banging our door. Having gathered our courage, we quickly understood that it was some senior banging windows for us to open, but since we didn’t respond (this was against the ragging funde though!!), he gleefully did it against room 5 and after a few minutes the noise vanished, we thought that even room 5 folks didn’t respond to this and the seniors had gone away and smilingly dozed off.

Suddenly, after 5-10 minutes, we could hear someone banging against our door, with gathered courage, we tried to get up and the voice said “Open the door…I am Maneesh…” and we opened the door…knowing that we were some what safe!! Then he continued…come quickly…seniors have come and they are calling all UP guys…and mathura said “they have to come only in the middle of the night and *beep*, *beep*, *beep*” and we quickly got into our formal attire, wore the tie and the third button mark and ran towards room # 10, where the seniors were waiting for us!! And one of us uttered “Imagine…the goat is itself going towards the butcher!!” :)

Reaching room 10, we were called towards the window, one by one, and were asked to introduce ourselves. My chance came…and I started “Sir, May I have the golden opportunity to say my name…and he replied…Yes…(ah!! Lucky me, hit it in a single opportunity!!). My name is Uphar Gandhi from Meerut, Uttar Pradesh (There is nothing called as UP, always give full name of the state, ragging funda # 5). The senior said “okay…then what to do…” Hearing this…I felt like…what what to do…nothing…go off to sleep and let us sleep too!! But before, I could utter anything…the other senior asked me to come closer to him (and I knew, what was it, as I had already seen the scene many times, by the time my chance had come) and after I came closer…I couldn’t hear anything for a few moments as something has hit me hard…and again. Then the seniors said “okay now go away”…as if they had just called me to slap us!!

I swear, that was the only part of ragging that none of us liked ever, but on a different note, I believe that had it not been the fright of slaps (the number of slaps was called your “score” and whenever a senior would ask you your slap, your answer has to be “zero”, funda # 6 & 7), we would never have taken it seriously and would have missed the real fun of ragging!! I am very proud and happy to admit that by the time I was ragging free, my score was 32 and this ragging only made me friends with the huge NIT group that we have now!! We shared all our agony, pain, ecstasy and happiness during those times, still share them today and would do so in future!!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

From the steel city – as I entered the gates of NIT Rourkela

Having secured a position in one of the top engineering institutes in the country, I was feeling happy and proud to be amongst the few who are able to get there. However, who knew what awaited us, in the quaint and little steel city of Eastern India – Rourkela.

Having already met Nishant (keli:)) and Anand (Dwivedi) during my counselling at Lucknow, I knew a few people before I reached Rourkela. On board the famed Kalinga Utkala Express on September 28, 2001, I and my dad headed towards our destination. At Jhansi, we suddenly hear some noise in the nearby seat. As the chat became clearer and loud, we came to know that these 2 people were headed to Rourkela too. And we knew that the father is accompanying his son to NIT Rourkela as my dad was and we started off. After exchanging those usual pleasantries, we shared our identities and I came to know that I have a new friend Abhishek Sharma (Mathura) from Mathura joining me and a lot others at NIT Rourkela. Mathura, as he affectionately came to be known in the college, seemed a docile and a shy guy and I guess, his initial reading of me would be the same, though, I was not that shy, as he seemed :)

Well, we reached Rourkela in the evening and were quickly taken to a nearby hotel by an auto rickshaw guy. I still remember, the whole night, I couldn't sleep properly as the thoughts of stepping into a whole new world ran in my mind. After getting up the next morning, we hired an auto rickshaw to reach the college. We had just reached the gates of the administration office, and a few senior students welcomed us there, checking whether we were from UP or not? As we said, we were, they readily greeted us and our fathers and told us that as the college was closed today, we could be admitted only tomorrow and hence we should go towards the hostel, where all the arrangements for our stay were made!! We were quite surprised at the hospitality and the warmth shown by the seniors and promptly agreed to go along them, little knowing the fact that we were headed into a soup!!

We reached the Hall 3 (the hostel for second year boys) and were taken to room no 32 where another 6-7 second year seniors were waiting for us with a few first year students like us. Quickly we introduced ourselves and then again they made us and our parents very comfortable and requested them to excuse us as they would take us around and show the campus. And we knew we were heading towards something. The only pleasing factor was that we were 5 of us together and beamed in that fact!!

The second year seniors didn’t spare minutes to give us the fundas of college. The so called “ragging ke funde”!! Did I love it? I must admit, at first thought, they sounded too harsh and strict, but believe me, to our astonishment, anyone who had gone through all that, had loved it always and cherished those days the whole of his life!!

We were then as a tradition, taken to the hostel of the final year students. That, I must say was a jolly good time, even though, some of the acts were really funny and embarrassing. Those were the acts, which we still laugh at, when we sit together. How can one forget the way Mathura picked up the pen, Sandeep (Aala boy) talked and I, Amit Verma (Verma) and Rohit (buddha) were asked certain embarrassing but yet funny questions. I swear, each one of us still remember them!!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tests need mavericks and their charisma

With the widespread demand and supply of T20 and ODI games in cricket, Tests face the fear of getting defunct, if not by the day, but definitely by the years. And IPL, Champions League and the barrage of media and financial coverage offered by the business houses and the associate name and fame hasn't helped the cause either!!

The increasing affinity of the audiences, business houses and sponsors towards the fast paced T20 format of the game has even led to ICC toying with the idea of 3 – 4 day Tests instead of a regular 5 day affair!! But I think, to stall the dwindling spectator interest and in fact to increase it to make it more interesting (if I am allowed to call so) and result oriented, an effort is required from both the administrators (to bring in changes like the UDRS) and the players (to show an intent to take games towards eventual results). In this regard, I would like to quote the Australians, who over the years, have fought hard and always looked for results, to the effect that they even look to declare their innings midway of the 3rd session of the 4th day of a test to affect a result!! An approach like this is what will make Tests more interesting, and not something where teams would bat through to safety and then call the opposition in again. Cricketing reforms like the UDRS is again very good, because it brings in technology to improve the quality of games and eventual results.

I think, ICC can even limit the amount of money a player can make from sponsorships and other games outside the ambit of International Cricketing calendar. I know, this type of regulation would ignite worldwide criticism especially from players and from the boards too, because that would restrict the money they can make outside of cricket. Even regulating the laying of pitches at the Test centers in all the Test playing nations shouldn't be tough either, considering the limited number of tests played across the world in a year. I strongly believe maintaining a consistent approach across for the pitches should encourage results, more often. Similarly, more such changes and reforms could inspire the spectators and bring more interest to Tests.

Apart from this, I believe that there are players like Virender Sehwag have the potential to attract new genre of spectator interest in the Tests. He has played some true blinders over the past few years and already 2 such innings in the just concluded Test series between India and Sri Lanka. He has been called a maverick, entertainer, destroyer, but they still fail to capture his true essence. He has affected the results more often than none, and who would not, having a strike rate of more than 80 in Tests when compared to the best in the business having anywhere between 50-60. He sets the game for his team and leaves and onus on the rest to take it to completion. And in most of the matches, where he has fired on all cylinders, which he usually does, India has won the match!!

All in all, I believe, instead of playing only a few number of tests or decreasing their duration by a day or two, ICC should think of bringing in cricketing reforms to add more zing and make tests more result oriented. Tests are not only the test of your cricketing skills, but also your mental and endurance skills. Believe me, encouraging results or at least a fight by initiating some thoughtfully crafted changes should do the job!! Till then, we should hail players like Virender Sehwag and Steve Waugh who have made results possible by their entertaining and forward looking tricks.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Corporate Valuation led to negative EV!!

After having successfully completed the Dubai marathon of Gimba…our folks quite eagerly, like the curiosity of a 10 year old reached Singapore. Quickly, we got through the immigration at the airport and out we were, to have a first look at one of the Asian Tiger economies!! Sitting in the college van to reach the hostel, we all gazed through the windows to leaning towers all around the city state and its gleaming highways network. One thing that struck to everyone who came to Singapore for the time, including me, was the greenery around (I am talking about the green trees and gardens all around the city)!! Some of us were so enamoured at the greenery that they even declared that post MBA, we would look to work in Singapore only!! No one knew what was in stored for us in 2009.

Upon reaching the hostel, we quickly got our respective rooms and then moved in to relax a little as our dry eyes needed some rest after a round of ornithology (bird watching) in the greens!!;) Having rested for a few hours, we all got together to head towards the most famous Indian location. They say, all the Indians, even before coming to Singapore, know about this place, its location and how to reach it from different parts of the city!! The same thing happened to us, our very own globetrotters took us to Mustafa Center and Little India  Few hours well spent in the midst of the “desi” Singaporeans, we rushed to the hostel, as we had to get ready for the next day, as the classes start!!

The next day, we quite eagerly reached the classrooms, expecting something great to happen – we were starting one of the most interesting subjects in Finance – Corporate Valuation. And as luck would have it, it did become one of the most interesting subjects ever!! The professor was always ready to teach in his own inimitable manner, always ready to self praise himself at the drop of the hat!! It grew to a level that students started to have quarrels with him and one incident take an ugly turn that the professor got it right on his face and he eventually gotten so angry that he left the class in between the lecture!! OMG, the whole class is stunned!! Complete silence!!

Quickly, some students went to the batch co-ordinator to discuss the issue and let the college authorities know of what was going on in the class and how the student felt of him. Though this did go in our favour, in the sense, that no disciplinary action was taken against any one of us!! The professor came back to the class, the next day, teaching us more disinterestedly and yet again giving us that gyaan about “I can earn millions, if I get into a job with an investment house…” Oh man, cut the crap!! And get over this!! The subject got over, we shouted a lot with the college authorities to help us with this subject and assign a new teacher so that the subject can be covered again!! Nothing ever happened, though we had some “refresher” sessions on the topic!! But, in the whole game, we lost ground in the most important and interesting subjects in finance!! Some of us, lost so much, that we shouted “after learning Corp Val from him, for every company I value, EV comes negative!! (courtesy all the wrongs things and ways thought to us ;))

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Need Web hosting? Don’t think again…just read this…

Planning to host a website for your company or for your self? Confused, must be!! Well, in this world of hosting jargons and hosting companies with each having series of plans on offer, any geek would be!! Let me make it easy for you to decide the way you should go about eventually selecting a hosting plan that suits your needs both technically and financially!!

First of all, one should know what is what they want to host and what is the target audience of their website? If we are able to answer these 2 simple questions, we should know that we have made a good start!! Yes, answering the second one can be a little tough, what in their era of web, anyone can access the website, so I am silly in even thinking of this question? Actually not, because knowing the target audience and hence the location of the audience would help us evaluate the benefits that accrue from hosting our website from vendors from different locations. Lets say, we are a small enterprise in India and most of our customers are located in India and hence our website will have maximum hits from India.

Then comes the technical aspects of the game, like the hosting space, bandwidth, IO performance, processing speed and support for different web technologies. Actually all these parameters will eventually determine the performance of the website. So, once we know the expected usage of the website, then we can know what technical requirements are needed. Generally, all the web hosts will stand equal on most of these, as they offer different plans at different rates, having all necessary combinations that run in the market!! So, the prerogative is on the client to know what he wants for himself and what he wants to pay for them!!

Generally, in India, most of the hosting is done from web hosts from the US or Europe. Or from a big few in India. For companies with maximum hits locally from India, hosting from the US or Europe doesn’t make sense because of two important reasons, viz; very high latency up to 300ms or more and exorbitant prices. Add to this trans-Atlantic cable cuts which have become so popular off late!

So what about the Indian biggies? I think, they are good, but only if you are yourself a biggie with time and resources to spare dealing with their long sales cycle, waiting in queues for critical support and what not!! But, if you are a small company or a company which values time and other relevant resources (which, I think every organization should, because every penny saved is penny earned!! And this adds to your bottom line), one should make a judicious choice of its web host.

Choosing a web host should be given its due importance and time. Effort should be spent in doing some kind of market research and competitor analysis in terms of what is being offered vis-à-vis what is being charged!!

In my opinion, having a generous dataflow limits, excellent network performance, generous bandwidth (which can be increased as one goes), large disk space, low to minimum redundancy and quality of storage disk space (like RAID) and other factors like ready availability of RAM processes, guaranteed CPU share and overall complete independence to deal with our hosting space is very-very important. And if one can get a host which provides low latency to the tune of say 100ms or less then one can think of opting for him. Offcourse, price should be a major criterion eventually.

But do you think, in India, there would be web hosts, who would provide any such hosting facility at cheap prices say USD 50 / month? I think, it is possible in India, with the hardware prices coming down drastically over the last few years. For example, have a look at this company and try and compare their prices with anything else available in India– I think they should overall score high!!