Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sex and the Desi (or the lack of it)

One colleague was surprised to know that I was single, and sharing an apartment with two other guys.

He said "Damn that would cut down your sex life to half"

I shake my head with a grin and ask him, "which half? Thinking about it or talking about it?"
("though definitely not blogging about it" I can hear the sceptics say)

I guess he is still dumbfounded (I am telling you, for the westerners meeting Indians is as much of a culture shock for them as much as it is for Indians travelling to the west)

Anyways since the Indians are the ones who invented the concept of zero, he was not wrong in my case.

And for more about sex and the desi read this.

Multiple Nationalities

Recently had to get a Schengen Visa to be able to travel to Europe and the whole thing is a bloody chore.
Every day in the newspapers I read about the visa problems of Indian Nationals in UK (HSMP problem) and the US (H1-B). More and more Indians are migrating out of India (Read Rashmi Bansals blog on Migration)
I guess coming from a third world country has its fair share of problems, especially when travelling to first world countries, even though you have no desire to migrate illegally. (Sure many of my desi readers might identify with that)

Every time I have been waiting in the queue for a visa I have cursed the firangs (especially the Americans who can seem to go anywhere without a visa and now I guess its the same with EU Nationals, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders)

At the other end of the spectrum are guys with dual passports.
And yes many of my colleagues fall in this category.
Brazlian and German, Algerian and English, American and English, Russian and English, Romanian and English, Bulgarian and American, German and American and the king of them all,
3 nationalities, English, South African and American.
Damn damn damn. This enables them to travel to many countries without any issues.

But the question arises, whom do they feel loyal to? Now its unlikely that these countries go at war against one another, but whom do they support during soccer matches?

Take the case of this person.
Born to German parents, in Ghana (you know this diplomats children) and raised in Turkey, India, and other parts of the world. Studied in America, and works in London and is married to a French lady.
Where does he belong?

His accent is a confusing mid-atlantic one (some where between British and American) and I dont know what national anthem would their children sing.

Right now since India doesnt give dual citizenships many Indians give up their nationality. Having friends who are contemplating giving up their Indian Passports, an act I cannot imagine doing right now. (who knows what happens in the future though :P )
I guess it is like selling your soul to the wild capitalist west (as if I havent by working for them)

Is the queue and hassle of Visa interviews that painful that you give up your nationality?
I guess Lakshmi Mittal who has been living outside India for more than 2 decades still holds and Indian Passport, I am sure we all can manage it.

Inspite of all the caste politics, the pandering of vote banks, the stupid subsidies, the rampant corruption, crumbling infrastructure, excessive crowds, loads of poverty, humungous amounts of filth, retrograde bollywood movies, even more regressive television serials, a joke of a cricket team (not to mention other sports), ruled by a party of sycophants, I still am proud to be an Indian, and Indian I shall remain. (for the time being atleast)

I saw the movie "The Namesake" which shows the life of the Desi Immigrants in the US. People who leave everything they have to go in search of the great American dream. A house in the suburbs with a backyard and a 2 car garage. The immigrants there take up US citizenship just so their children can have a good future. In todays materialistic times, I am sure its the worst reasons.

In the UK Lord Tebitt proposed the Tebitt test, that the country you support in sports (e.g. cricket) when your adopted country plays the country of your origin.

Suprisingly in the UK, most second as well as third generation immigrants support the homeland of their ancestors (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka) during cricket matches.
I guess it has as much to do with the social acceptances of children at school i guess. If you are not counted as british by the brits, then why would you support them?

Nevertheless I have rambled long enough, and atleast for a few years (while I am away from my homeland) I shall keep living this existential dilemma

Saturday, May 19, 2007

How to pen a best seller?

Recently I read 3 books which have been on the New York Times bestseller list. All 3 have been authored by Ben Mezrich and all of them are nice quick reads, but nothing so fantastic as to be a must read for everyone. But reading his three books I sure can make out a formula for penning these best sellers. (though they are classified as non fiction, I am sure one can write fiction with the same formula) The books:

  1. Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions
  2. Ugly Americans : The True Story of the Ivy League Cowboys Who Raided the Asian Markets for Millions
  3. Busting Vegas : The MIT Whiz Kid Who Brought the Casinos to Their Knees

Have some of the critical ingredients, like smart Ivy League students from a middle class back ground, all of whom might have struggled hard to make through to MIT, Princeton, Harvard, Yale. All of these with a engineering, computer science or mathematics as a major. the main protagonist is invariably a hard working smart guy (Kevin Lewis is the half Asian Black Jack whiz who can count cards, Seymon who is a son of Russian immigrants has techniques much more powerful than card counting and brings down Casinos around the world, John Malcolm is a son of a working class mother who goes to Princeton on a football scholarship, and moves to Japan to trade derivatives on the Osaka exchange)

The second major ingredient is money, and lots of it. Betting worth a few hundred thousand dollars on Black Jack, or arbitraging the volatile Asian derivative markets for a few hundred million. Come on every one is interested in making money. The more the better.

The third ingredient is the underworld. Come on, the main protagonist has to be in danger for his life (else the book wouldn’t be interesting, the risks taken by him would be trivial) From the casino bosses in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, to the Japanese Underworld the Yakuza. Guns, beaten up people, death threats. Surely it gives cheap thrills to the readers.

The fourth ingredient is sex. (by far the most important one) In the book, throw in references about Lap Dancing in Vegas, strip clubs, Geisha bars in Tokyo, prostitutes, and surely it will get lot of people interested in the content. And I am not counting alcohol and drug abuse. Come on they are now expected to be there every where.

This combination surely doesnt fail. For most Americans (Ben Mezrich's target audience) would have aspirations. Every one would wish to go to MIT (or Princeton or Harvard or Yale ... for that matter even CalTech and Stanford) . If they were already not there, then at least wished they were there or wish their children will be there. Again every one would want to make money. The idea of smart middle class bunch making easy money compared to the big bosses who control the casinos or the mafia surely seems fair. And add to that, people buying Ferraris and Ducatis and rolling in cash, lights up the imagination of readers. The underworld being portrayed as the bad guys. Come on, this is the oldest formula right from the Hindi Movies. The essence of a good story is a powerful villain. Imagine Ramayana without Ravana (or even Kaikeyi) or Shakespeares Merchant of Venice without Shylock. Damn there would be no story. And coming to sex, need I say anything? the thriving pornographic industry, tells us that there is a market out there. Show me some one who wouldn’t be interested in those high class hookers, with sculpted bodies and experienced in the most exotic forms of carnal pleasures and I will show you some one who has a difficulty in expressing their inner thoughts. Deep down inside most people are perverts and though not many have the courage to do so, (damn those moral, ethical, and social dilemmas) every one would want to be in that position, and surely would nt mind that in form of entertainment. (print or electronic media)

This surely makes me think about writing a book. So what if the American market is big, the Indians with 1 billion are an even bigger audience. With rising incomes and aspirations, more and more will be reading such books about other middle class people who made it big, in the bad bad world. Similarly other authors have written about the Big Bad world of Investment Banks (Monkey Business, Liars Poker ) I am sure now there is a market out there for Desis. I am not sure when would i write some thing, and even more skeptical if any publisher would be in their right frame of mind to publish the trash that I dish out, but then hope is ever eternal. Also I am sure one of these best sellers would surely leave me with enough royalties to retire.
Hopefully in the Bahamas.

On another note even Chetan Bhagat followed a similar formula for 5 point some one. Middle class boys going to IIT Delhi. There is not much money involved but the villain is the head of the Mechanical Engineering department, and there is a short love story with the main protagonist and the villains daughter and smoking grass, drinking vodka on the roof the hostel. I dunno about One Night @ The Call Center (link), but I am sure though most Indians are employed in Call Centers (after agriculture and shopkeepers I am sure Call Centers are the third largest employers in India) no one aspires to be a call center employee. Damn when did you read a book on life of a grocery store owner? (though most people, Gujarati Banyas especially end up becoming one).

That way I am a little late. In this day and age everything is electronic, and some one has beaten me to this idea by having a blog on this. Leveraged Sellout is written by a Princeton graduate who ends up in the M&A division of Goldman Sachs in New York.

Thats true we all are selling dreams. I hope I can sell some more. Surely there is a market for the story of a Middleclass Gujarati of conservative Brahminical upbringing in the fixed income division in a Bank in the City of London :)