AR speaketh...

The questions, the answers, the thoughts, the ideas and the other crap that make me, well, me.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

What do you want to do in life?

Pretty deep, eh? Actually, I was watching tv the other day when a sitcom trailer came up: for a show called "Zoe" (pronounced Zoe-y). From what I could gather from the trailer, its about this young female called, surprise, Zoe. Zoe wants to go to a top university and major in Psychology, after which she wants to marry and underwear model.
Pretty well thought out, what? Just got me thinking, dont we all want that? Personally, I would settle for a PhD in Psychology, followed by a holy union with Giselle Bundchen/Heidi Klum/Elle Macpherson...How about you?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Irregular? Huh, me?

Have been irregular and will be till 25th June. See ya then

Steve Jobs' speech

Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky – I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation - the Macintosh - a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me – I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I retuned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

My Articles (contd...)

Midnight’s Children?

Some lives are connected in a way that scarcely meets the eye. Infact these ways rarely see the light of the day or are seen by those not directly connected to the lives in question. The connection is not as complex as the last sentence suggests. It is actually far more complex than that. At times the connection is so peculiar that one of the parties concerned: a connectee, himself is unaware of the bond.

But the tie is very much there, intertwining the two destinies like a twisted pair cable: one around the other and the other round the one. This was a good opporunity for using some of my newly acquired(?) French: but having had the thought after putting that down (an afterthought?), I will say it now- one around the other and vice-versa. Voila!! (That’s two!!!). Take for example, your run of the mill The Prince and the Pauper kind of stories. This is the case of a bilateral, bidirectional and hence bijective kind of a connection where each is influenced by the other. Such cases are full of poetic justice in the sense that both parties have the consolation of having caused exactly the same amount of distress to the other. Being such a hideous concept and above all having a romantic edge to it, the subject has been dealt with in considerable and- one might add- laboured detail by Bollywood and other sources of infallible knowledge.

Carrying the sense of poetic justice, described at the beginning of this article, a little forward, we shall discuss the other twin of the bijective connection. Decidedly distressing and poignantly picturesque, such a connection is not the comfortable symbiosis characterized by its twin. It is quite a parasitic relationship in which the carrier is always under attack by the vector. And the sinister part is that the vector has no idea of what it is doing to the carrier. Usually the vector is unaware of the existence of the carrier.

I hear voices questioning the veracity of the above statement. The objective “How can A exploit B and be unaware of B’s existence?”, the intellectual “This is clearly a contradiction: check your premises”, the factual “The guys hopping mad”, the sympathetic, “One would have thought such diseases affect only the genius. Poor guy, he could barely scrape past being classified a retard.” Voices as these frequently cloud out the truth, but not this time. Truth shall prevail. It will come out like the sun before or after the storm, I forget which. Not that it has any bearing on the fact that truth will infact be known.

Somebody once said, “A picture is worth a thousand words” (my art teacher did have a couple of thousands of not so glowing words about the pictures I used to draw: but that’s beside the point) and accordingly I am going to give you a picture where such a relationship does exist. Yes, ye of little faith, open your eyes and see the light. As a perfect example of this relatoinship where one party while being unaware of the other’s existence, not only harms it but almost drives it to the point of extinction, I present Salman “Shirtless” Khan and your truly. Hush! Followed by guffaws. Now indignation. “I never heard such rot before.” “Salman wouldn’t even know if this bugger exists.” “Bloody name droppping @#$#@$.” To this I only have to say Q.E.D. This is exactly the point I was trying to make. I do not contest the fact that bare bodied Khan is not aware of the entry in the municipal records that announces the arrival of my being in God’s world. (It would seem not being a black buck or a pedestrian on the streets of Mumbai has its advantages.) I merely state that despite his apparent and obvious ignorance of the existence of the apple of my mother’s eye, S.K. spares no trouble- including blank calls, black eyes, and dire consequences, to ruin my love life. Silence, stunned but shorter this time, and laughter, much louder than before. “Salman! Does he have a dearth of women that he would consider inrerfering with this non-entity’s life?” “I am waiting…” “Yeah right! And my Dad’s superman: only he wears the underwear inside.” Giggle giggle, hem hem, haw haw, ha ha, HA HA…

To this, like before, I can only say, exactly my point! Does that pedestrian crushing, shirt tearing black buck shooting, obscene mass of muscle have a dearth of silly women? Why the hell does he have to go woo every single female I have eyes on? Sorry about the outburst: just a case of pent up fury forcing its way out.

Lets look at it objectively. Perhaps some explanation is in order too.

Cut to circa 1994. The year when Indian beauty stepped out from behind the veils and into the limelight to dazzle the world with its sparkling display. The year when yours truly entered his teens. The year when Aishwarya Rai became the queen of the world and and my heart. Not that her newfound kingdom had me enchanted, for I was smitten from the days of “Hi, I am Sanjana. Got another Pepsi?” Slowly but steadily she had come to occupy most of the space in my heart, the rest being devoted to its unromantic circulatory obligations.

I watched with an avid interest as she rejected a whole bunch of suitors, led my Mr Hot Male Sabir Bhatia himself. I knew then, that this was the genuine woman of substance, the lady who was the lamp- of my life. With each passing day I grew more and more confident that she wouldn’t fall for the male equivalent of a brainless bimbo. And then it happened. My goddess fell, and for the worst specimen of the male of the species. You guessed it right, she said “hum dil de chuke sanam” to the simian Salman Khan! The guy who cant talk, cant act, cant do anything right- apart from, may be, take off his shirt (I wouldn’t be too sure of this either, who knows why he doesn’t wear one?), is a disgrace to the human race in general and the male sex in particular.

How could she? My tender heart broke. I cleaned up the space she had once occupied and returned it to its erstwhile owners: the aorta and the cross pulmonary artery. I had loved and lost- and lost to the most hopeless competitor in human history, someone I would consider eligible for a ‘Doodh Bhaat’ in an IQ test.

I put that down to the eccentricities of women. Thought she would have felt protective towards such an obvious moron and hence had taken on the responsibility to help him grow some wits. Of course I was quite off the mark there, as history tells us, and the bugger went on not only to break up with her but also most of her. Since I had already decided to have nothing to do with the affair anymore, I did just that: nothing.

Meanwhile, insignificant developments kept occurring in my life. I had, by this time, successfully cleared the tenth and the twelfth standards and was at the receiving end of a technical education when ‘she’ decided to enter my life. Well she didn’t exactly walk in to my life like the night, to take a cue from Lord Byron, she kind of danced her way into it. For the first time that I saw her was in an ad for some television. I don’t think the ad quite achieved the result it would have, had a less enchanting model been used. I can guarantee that right through the ad none of the male viewership would even remotely have cared what product was being sold- let alone what brand. Katrina Kaif had stolen my heart. She was beauty itself, oozed oomph and had just the right amount of brains- not too much and not too little. She was the love of my life, simple. So much so that I sat through the entire two and odd hours of Boom, to show the world how much torture I was willing to undergo- all for her sake.

As she sashayed down the ramps in numerous fashion shows and appeared as ‘Goddess’ on Channel V, I began to give her the same place in my heart that I had once given to Aishwarya. But then, this was not to be. Sadist Salman of the bulging biceps and busted brains had other ideas. After having completely wrecked my previous romance, he came back to play the villain in my current one. I recently learnt from trusted sources that Mr Spoilsport is going to marry Katrina.

Having presented all the evidence, I submit that the only conclusion that can be drawn from these is that Salman Khan has some kind of a connection with my life. And this connection cannot exactly be termed a genial one. Now I am not sure if Salman is aware of this or has the mental faculties necessary for reaching to this conclusion, but it certainly seems to me that he deliberately picks the women I am attracted to.

However, I have thought of the perfect plan to hand out my own bit of justice. Justice that’s so poetic, it should be sung. Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby profess my love for Mayawati…


The loves of my life

Life has been pretty kind to me. It has rarely given me a chance to complain. It has quite been a most charming hostess, catering to most of my whims. But finicky as I am, I do manage to notice the lone stain on the tablecloth. The French call it amour (and I am told, they are guys who invented it) and I am sure even the Greeks have a word for it (I mean it would look pretty weird to use your fingers to show what you mean, especially in public.), though I do not remember it. However, learned friends tell me that “Durex” suffices for most languages.

Not that I am a sex starved, wanton male in pursuit of anything that has a slit that drips: in fact, I am quite the gentleman Jeeves would have been proud to serve. But I have had this rather predictable end to most of my amorous endeavours.

I have always been an early starter- what with the healthy doses of Bollywood ‘entertainers’ I have fed on- and consequently, had my first real serious interest in the female of the species at the ripe old age of five. As I enjoyed the company of my beloved and her group, I realized that unless I give them a pretty solid and valid reason for wanting to hang out with me, I might as well count my romance as “having lost the spark”. Being the puniest guy around also didn’t help matters too much. Then there was also the problem of my friends indulging in the “Johnny’s got a girlfriend” chant and I had to make the right noises to please the brotherhood.

Acknowledging, that the subject in question- yours truly, is quite extraordinary and has been called a genius by people other than his mother, one still has to admit that the problems at hand were, shall we say, insurmountable in the wake of his years?

(Purely for the record, so that posterity does not accuse us of misrepresenting facts or concealing evidence, I feel it pertinent to state that I did try to invent some story about a rather dirty looking character called Ali wanting to thrash the living daylights out of my fair maidens. How much of it they bought, I cannot say, but it did provide my sinking ship with a few grammes of M-Seal. This effort sadly bombed when the bugger Ali refused to show any indications of his hideous designs. Having established our sincerity with history, lets move on.)

Then came the time when having reached nine years of age, I found myself another object of affection. This woman (I feel she, at age nine, justified my use of the word, particularly after having watched and admired Al Pacino in “The Scent of a Woman”) was most sought after, though these seekings were hardly advertised. I had a distinct advantage over my competitors in that I had the guts and the opportunity to speak to her. This was due to the fact that (at the risk of sounding immodest) being a reasonable student at school, my homework had a pretty impressive clientele. Even the most dimwitted idiots among you would have figured by now that I supplied my angel with my notes and that it didn’t do my chances any harm. Again, to be fair to history, I will have to mention that it was she who made the first ‘move’. On the covers of one of my notebooks, she wrote a little ‘Thank You’ note. After that, the notes became a regular feature. One of her friends was our sole confidante in the whole business. Not that the notes ever got round to saying anything more than ‘thank you’ (technically, this is incorrect as I distinctly remember a few of her notes mentioning that she was sending her eraser therewith, which I was to use to rub the message of gratefulness off) or I ever managed to pen my feelings in my most romantic fashion for a formal proposal. Like all sweet things, my little affair died of its own accord and was certainly not helped by the fact that my angel was shifted to another section and had no more use of my class notes.

Purely for purposes of maintaining the absolute truthfulness of this account, I wish to state that between the ages of five and nine I did develop an interest in another girl. This female was the class monitor -together with yours truly. This love story ended with her having caught chicken pox (The disease finally caught up with me some 15 years later). Like they say, out of sight, out of mind.

Coming back to my tenth year on the planet, this was to hold the most important learning of my life. This year I got attracted to another girl. The only difference was that she was a better student than I was. By this time I had committed the ultimate childhood sin of wearing high power spectacles which made me look owlish. Now, some people have gone on record to say that I have a predisposition to being owlish and some even say that I have a natural talent for it- but I choose to ignore such malicious comment: after all who the hell is writing this shit? Anyway, so this girl is smarter than I am and she’s the class teacher’s pet and I have fallen terribly out of favour with the same teacher pretty recently- now doesn’t that look good? But wait: now she goes and scores 709 to my 618 in the first term. That should have been enough to make me fall out of love with her but no: love makes us stupid and hence I persisted (I scored 714 to her 715 the next term) and learnt the most valuable lesson of my life. Never fall in love with a girl who’s smarter than you. With that I changed schools and left an entire choir of angels behind who, admittedly, weren’t singing paeans to me.

The new school was quite bigger than the previous one and again, running the risk of sounding immodest, I state –absolutely dispassionately- that I was noticed. Here I lay low for a year before hopelessly falling for a female who, for a change, was also attracted towards me. I know, because there were rumours about ‘us’ in the grapevine and if you cant trust the grapevine, what can you trust? She even paid me a compliment about my (school uniform) shirt (not that there was anything wrong with it: didn’t it have buttons and sleeves?) in the presence of a classmate who later dated her.

That was all about all the times that I have been in love. Having put everything on paper and in perspective, I guess theres no point complaining about the stains on the tablecloth when you’ve been spilling the curry. But let me tell you and you might as well call me an optimist, that theres always a chance of finding a vase of just the right size that covers the stain exactly. Until that day, let me wait in the wings for her to take my breath away.

P.S.: As most of you would notice, this account has no mention of a certain daughter of a certain carpet merchant cum oil baron in Dubai. This is because, she’s already married and pregnant and being the gentleman that I am, I will not let her name pass my lips. But I end the reservation there: at the name. For any other part of her, my lips are ready and waiting.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Lets see....

What next? Well, since I spend quite a lot of my time yapping like crazy, I decided to put those on paper, figuratively, that is, and hence dished out all the crap that I had written... Feast your eyes.

Let there be my blog...

And so my blog was born and there was much rejoicing...

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