Monthly Archives: February 2010

Real

‘Trrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrringg!’

Kingsley woke up. The alarm was quite loud.

It was a cloudy, humid, Summer day. Kingsley hated such days. In addition to depressing him, they suffocated him as well. For he could not venture out of his shack on such days. Not because it was cloudy and humid, but because he was a wanted man.

He switched on his old desktop machine and waited for the Windows to load. Windows 98. Kingsley has been using ‘Ol Win 98 for about a decade now. He had no other option.

The screen lit up as the machine chugged to life. He waited patiently for each icon to load – they all seemed to take a lifetime. To load. He leaned his plastic chair back on two legs, still staring at the screen.

“Ping!”, Yahoo! Messenger popped on. Internet was still available. Kingsley sighed in relief.

He double-clicked on the IE icon and waited again for the webpage to load. Waiting was something he was getting quite adept at. And eventually the loading happened, with Yahoo! Mail, his chosen homepage in sharp relief.

Kingsley checked his mailbox. 4 new mails. He felt something flutter within him. Something he thought had died a while ago. Hope.

One by one, he read all 4 messages. And slowly but surely, the bird of hope within him died once more. All 4 e-mails said the same thing, in various euphemistic and not-so-euphemistic terms.

“Get Lost!”

**********

Morris had turned up by mid-day. His incessant knocking continued until the battle-scarred wooden door came almost off its hinges, and it was only then than Kingsley slouched off to open the door for Morris.

“No news?” Morris entered the single-room shack with the white-washed walls, the tiny bed and the table with an old desktop on it. His inevitable question. No news?

“Not yet. But I’m hopeful. Something might turn up.”

Morris sighed as he sat down on the bed. He was carrying a packet wrapped in old newspapers. Kingsley remained standing.

“I wish we could do something, Kiko. You have been hiding here for almost a year now, and the SSS has not given up. Nor will they ever give up. You are one target they would chase until they die exhausted.”

Kingsley looked up at the old man, at his bearded face which used to break into wrinkles when he ran after young Kingsley in the palace, calling him “Kiko…Kiko”… Those memories belonged to the past. A past to which he could never return.

“I can hide here for all life long, that does not bother me. But I still carry some hope. Someone, somewhere is bound to turn up”, Kingsley’s eyes wandered over to his computer, still humming as it stayed connected to the internet. His only connection aside of Morris, to the world outside his shack.

“The money would get me out of here, Morris. I could go to Europe, maybe to America… I could live as a free man! Far from this evil land and its evil rulers”, his words trembled in excitement and hope.

Morris sighed again and kept the packet of food on the bed. This contained Kingsley’s two daily meals. The man had eaten all his meals in this fashion since his past life ended and the present one began, a hidden life confined in a shack.

With one last look at the young man trapped in his meaningless existence, Morris left the shack.

*********

“Open the door! Thud! Thud! Thud!”

The burly man in uniform knocked on the wooden door for the third time. And there was no response yet.

The late afternoon heat was sweltering. He wiped his sweating hands on his uniform sleeve and tried one last time.

“Open up! This is the State Security Service! Thud Thud!”

The door creaked, but remained closed.

The burly man shrugged at his similarly-built companion in a similarly-stitched uniform, standing besides him, in a strangely similar posture. On the count of three, the two burly men drove their tank-like arms into the door, neatly breaking the wooden structure, the pieces of which clattered to the floor one after the other.

The men rushed into the shack in combat mode, but that was hardly necessary. Their prey was seated calmly next to his computer, staring at the screen, apparently oblivious to the happenings around him.

“Kingsley Oduamadi?”, the first burly man had his blood-traded machine gun aimed directly at the seated man’s forehead.

The man did not respond, but continued staring at the blank screen, and at the reflections of the men behind him. His eyes wore a glazed expression.

The second burly man had begun ransacking the room by then, and it did not take him long to find what he was looking for. A photograph, faded with age, but clearly showing the smiling faces of the two men in it, dressed in royal robes.

“It’s him”, shouted the second burly man, with barely suppressed glee, “We’ve got the prince.”

The first burly man let loose a quickly stifled whoop and lifted the seated man out of his seat using a single hand, the other still clutching his machine gun.

Kingsley put up no fight and even as the two burly men led him out of the shack, his eyes remained focus on the far end of his computer screen. On the small Y! icon which would light up upon receiving a new mail.

*********

Kingsley’s hands were cuffed and he was roughly pushed into the back of a jeep, where the second burly man joined him. The first burly man went behind the wheel, and seated next to him on the passenger’s side was a foreigner. He was well-dressed, Asian and seemed somewhat out of place in a dusty jeep in Africa.

“This is your man Mr. Goopta”, the first burly man spoke out loud to the well-dressed Asian as the jeep roared to life, “You can tell your people in India that we have caught the man behind the scam. And we are grateful to your computer people who traced this rogue down. Criminals like him shame our proud country.”

Kingsley looked strangely at the balding Indian man seated ahead of him and then at the second burly man, who wore a thin little smile, almost a smirk.

Kingsley knew that the second burly man was not smirking at him, but at the foreigner, for not knowing that there were indeed real Nigerian princes.

Old Morris stayed hidden behind the shack as he watched the jeep disappear in a trail of dust, carrying the last of the Oduamadi royals in it. The young man who would undoubtedly meet the same fate that had befallen his father – death at the hands of the President, whose sole ambition was the extermination of every royal clan in Nigeria.

And the riches of Kingsley’s family would stay useless in a Swiss bank far, far away.

(This of course, is my take on the famous ‘Nigerian prince’ scam of which several variations have plagued mailboxes in the last decade or so. References are this and this. The title has a double meaning too – it could be interpreted as the English ‘Real’, signifying the plot-point that Kingsley is a real prince and not a scam artist, or it could be read as the Spanish ‘Real’, meaning ‘Royal’.)

Advertisements

Stoke City (No, not a football post, come back)

In recent years, IIM-A has been churning out entrepreneurs after entrepreneurs, brave enough to make it on their own in the big, bad world and therefore snubbing all those companies which came for placements.

This trend reached a peak last year, probably due to recession 2009 being the Chinese Year of the Ox, a noble animal known for its many feats of bravery.

But a bunch of us, including FreeWilly, Lord Sabnis, Kuttappan et al found out that no, we just weren’t gutsy enough to take this deep plunge into waters unknown and would be much safer in healthy, corporate jobs (Which make us fat. Sob.)

And thus, we continued our peaceful existence within the confines of our respective jobs, nestled within the cocoon of multi-national corporations.

Until one day.

It was in the washroom of my office that it happened. I was staring at the mirror with the tap open and Abdul Khadar, a fellow mallu colleague, was yapping away rather agitatedly on the phone to his stockbroker, in the far corner. And all of a sudden, everything clicked into place.

I yelled, “Eurekaaaa!”

“Screw you. Your Ikka”, spat Khadar as he exited the restroom.

Excited, I ran out and immediately got hold of FreeWilly, Lord Sabnis, Kuttappan et al (on the Internet) and breathlessly told them,

“I’ve got the perfect idea! The perfect entre idea!”

“What? What?”, they all muttered (typed) with much curiosity.

“Pant…Pant..”

“Tried it. Doesn’t work”, Lord Sabnis dismissively turned his Gtalk button from green to red, “I had tried selling custom-made jeans in Borivali. Low-margin business. Quite useless.”

“I was panting, for God’s sake.. That’s not the b-idea. It is something that has not been done in a long time. Something which was quite common in ancient India, but not in recent days. Something absolutely novel, yet completely in synch with the current market trends.”

“Out with it, you bugger”, Kuttappan typed, “Is it rabbit-farming? Is it? Is it? Tell me it is.”

“No. I call it Stalk-broking.”

“Typo – you meant Stockbroking..”, FreeWilly banged away on his keyboard, “And why in the blue hell do you think that’s new?”

“It wasn’t a typo. Stalk-broking. Stalk. As in Stoke City, the football club.”

“Dude, ‘stalk’ and ‘stoke’ are pronounced differently.”

“Dude, I’m a Mallu.”

********

The days that followed saw a bout of frenzied activity from all parties involved in the above online conference, and we were all rather excited at the end of it. The basic fundamentals of the stalk-broking business had invigorated us all, and spread new hope in our monotonous existences.

Several online conferences later, we had chalked out the basic tenets of this business, unique in nature but all-encompassing in spirit. Here we go…

The Stalk-broker’s Manual

What is Stalk-Broking?

Stalk-broking is the unique and fruitful merger of stockbroking and stalking. It is the magnificent union of financial wizardry and romantic conquest. It is the profound merger of Giacomo Casanova and Rakesh Jhunjhunwala.

Right. In English now, please..

Stalk-broking is the noble art of stalking an individual through his/her online presence. The information obtained through the aforementioned stalking shall be used to broke alliances with interested clients. This shall lead to a happy and prosperous life for the Stalk and the Client. And also for the Stalker, who gets paid by the client.

Stalk?

The person being stalked by the stalker. Usually feminine.

Stalker?

Us. The Company. We do the stalking for the client. We plan to call ourselves Indian Stalk Brokers. ISB. Yes, it is a dig on the b-school.

Client?

Really? This is not the “Idiot’s Guide to English” you know..

Stalk-Market?

The virtual markets where stalks of all shapes and sizes can be found. We at ISB diligently scout such markets, and unearth facts about the stalk in question which can be used by the client to his/her advantage. Predominant stalk-markets are Facebook, Orkut and Twitter.

Now that the essential basics of Stalk-broking have been covered, we shall peruse some extremely relevant terms. The language of stalk-brokers.

Zensex – Social networking tools which are true indicators of all the stalks currently trading. The Zensex provides important hints on dealing with the ‘stalk’ in question.

– Zen – Some stalks which are not trading well should be met with a strict ‘Zen’ mentality. Wait and watch. These might bounce back. In the meantime, interaction with these ‘stalks’ should be limited, probably to the extent of a ‘Happy Birthday’. And only on the stalk’s birthday.

– Sex – These are the ‘stalks’ on the other end of the scale. Trading heavily, and ripe for some action. Analysts are crying out ‘Buy!’ All sorts of activities can be done with these stalks, starting with ‘poking’ them in Facebook.

Trust Friends – These are Facebook/Orkut users whom clients can add to their portfolio in order to gain access to prime stalks. They are almost always trusted blindly by the stalk in question and are often gay. When the stalk sees the client listed as a mutual friend of the trust friend, she/he spreads a little of the trust to the client as well.

Mergers & Acquisitions – The ultimate aim of a stalk-broking operation. A Merger would be the resultant of a successful stalk-broking exercise with a stalk of similar credit-rating as the client. While an acquisition would be the takeover of a stalk with a lower credit-rating by the client. Acquisitions are often desperate attempts by clients to gain access to stalks.

Credit-Rating – This of course, varies from A, B, C, D, DD etc. For female stalks, DD represents a higher credit-rating than D and so on. For male stalks, it is the exact opposite. DD is the worst. A client has to be really desperate to perform a DD-male acquisition. Has happened in the past though. DD-male readers, don’t worry.

Hostel Takeover – A planned, large-scale operation to gain access to prime stalks, residing in Private Hostels. Involves carefully done schedules, bribery of stalkwatchmen and scaling of Chinese walls. The result of this shall most often be mass screaming by the stalks, but there is always a very small chance of acceptance. Recommended for veteran traders who are mostly shameless.

Hostel Teqover – The above, when performed after 7 shots of Tequila.

Chinese Wall – The thin wall separating stalks operating in the public domain and those operating in the private. Public stalks are also termed Professional Stalks or ProStis. There is an implicit understanding that private stalkers such as ourselves would never recommend a public stalk for the client.

Bonds – A type of stalk to which the client shall be indebted to as long as the bonding continues. Bonds have a fixed tenure, after which the client must forfeit all rights to the bond. Bonds are often male, and female clients are well-advised not to have a long-term view in mind while establishing relations with a Bond. An extremely famous Bond goes by the name James and carries a gun. Be careful.

Initial Public Offering – A recent phenomenon which has become common after the advent of Facebook. An IPO happens when a particular stalk decides to dip his/her feet in the market and form a merger with an interested client. This is often signified by the stalk changing his/her Facebook status to ‘Single’ from ‘In a relationship’ or a blank state. An IPO results in heavy scrapping on the stalk’s wall by clients desperately seeking an alliance, and the number of scraps determine whether the IPO is oversubscribed or undersubscribed (Undersubscription leads to much shame for the stalk). We promise our clients hourly updates on available IPOs in the market.

Arbitrage – A devious practice carried out by certain stalk-brokers. This involves stalking person A for person B, and simultaneously stalking person B for person A. The stalk-broker takes advantage of the information asymmetry between the two parties involved and stalks them for each other, getting broking fees from both parties. We at ISB would never even contemplate doing this. If your stalk ever approaches us to stalk you, you shall be the first to know.

Beta – A measure of the variability of return of a stalk compared to that of the whole stalk-market. A high beta signifies an alpha girl or an alpha man. Beta is not to be pronounced like the Anil Kapoor movie.

Twitter – A stalk-market exclusively for female clients and homosexuals. Because there are hardly any girls in there. Female clients looking for brevity as a necessary quality in men would particularly be interested in this market. They all speak in 140 characters or less.

Long Position – A physical position taken up by the stalker representing a client, when the stalker has extremely high hopes on the stalk’s performance. Experienced stalkers such as ourselves are very careful not to let the long position affect our concentration while stalking the stalk.

Short Position – Stalkers do not have much hope on the stalk outperforming the market. Therefore, we remain ‘meh’ as we perform the necessary stalking to unite the stalk and the client.

Leveraged Buyout* – A special and extremely attractive service offered by ISB to its clients. We understand that the client might not be very attractive to the stalk in which the client is interested in, especially if the stalk’s credit-rating is higher. In such cases, we build up the client’s portfolio as well, complete with professionally morphed pictures and carefully recommended status updates for the client. Thus, leveraged with our additional awesomeness, the client stands a better chance with the stalk.

Case Study – We have had a client Jignesh, whose usual Facebook updates had included “Jignesh is about to sleep”, “Jignesh is thinking how good MNIK was” and “Jignesh is wanting badly to have coffee with Genelia” before he hired us.

We recommended suitable status updates to him (Such as “What does not kill me makes me stronger – Nietzsche”) and subsequently the several stalks in his radar had all started commenting on those updates. One even went back to “Jignesh is thinking how good MNIK was” and commented “Awwww, so cute”. Jignesh is now happy.

* In the event of a Leveraged Buyout, we dissociate ourselves from any consequence that shall arise after the merger with the stalk is carried out.

“Stalker brought you to me, baby” – An often misinterpreted ancient expression which a client makes upon delivery of the stalk, by the stalker. This expression originated from the following anecdote.

The ancient Indian stalk-broker, Tenali Rama, had successfully delivered an 18-year old stalk to his client, the king Krishnadevaraya, upon which the king told the stalk, “Stalker brought you to me, baby”.

A visiting minister from Iran, confusing the stalk to be the middle-aged king’s daughter and ‘stalker’ to be ‘storks’, spread the story in his country that storks deliver babies to couples in India. Such ignorance.

Stalkastic Process – After years of study by experts, it has been determined that Indian stalk-markets are indeterministic and unpredictable. Therefore, our stalking operations represent a stalkastic process.

For instance, let us consider a medium such as Orkut. A stalker might work carefully, unearthing information about the stalk from his/her testimonials, scraps and photos and then send the same to client. The client, armed with the information, might still completely fail in his quest to conquer the stalk.

Say, we find out that the stalk is obsessed about men who can play the guitar. The client might casually post a video of himself strumming a classic guitar piece by Bach and yet fail to elicit a response from the stalk. At the same time, a casual “Hai. Wanna make frenz?” by a rival on the stalk’s wall might well work.

So to sum up, stalk-broking is a stalkastic process, quite unpredictable and just like mutual funds, is subject to substantial market risk.

But do hire us.

Dhrishtadyumna

Chaos, the chaotic cultural festival in IIMA happened earlier this month and an abnormally large bunch of freshly anointed worker bees from my batch turned up in the campus, including me.

Why the abnormally large numbers? Well, there were several reasons being bandied about in discussions (by us, about us, to us – rather lame, yes), such as –

a) Recession – We all wanted to verify and confirm that all our friends were equally happy and equally miserable in this post-apocalyptic world of trivial bonuses and rare pre-placement offers. There were unsaid conspiracies to isolate studs who had already bought cars (without car-loans) and run them over with their cars. Unfortunately, those select few did not turn up as they were working overtime in their respective offices.

b) Sonuuu Niiigaamm (sp?) – The esteemed singer who had long since elbowed out Udit Narayan as SRK’s voice (that’s obviously his biggest achievement, isn’t it?) was performing at IIMA. So, some people were quite excited at the prospect of listening to him LIVE. Some others were quite excited at checking out his beard. Some wanted to see if he would do that thing with his hands he did in the ‘Phir Mile Sur’ video while on-stage at Chaos (Don’t remember? This one).

c) Demographics – Interestingly, it had come to the attention of the extremely networked chaps of our batch with our fingers on the pulse of the institute (Ok, my ex-neighbour told me) that the new batch of students had an inordinately large number of girls. This perked up most of us and in those fleeting windows of free-time we get in a working day (squeezed in between rescuing poor little ugly ducklings who keep wandering into farms and killing ‘Black Hanky’, the famous Mafia Don), there was a general arrangement made to verify the veracity of a verily verdant verisimilitude. I mean, verily verdant batch.

d) Air Asia – Have you heard of Air Asia? If not, let me enlighten you. They were one of those South-East Asian companies which came up nicely along with the English Premier League boom. As most of Asia became addicted to the super-athletic and completely mindless football being played in the EPL (see the irony? Asians – smart and not athletic), several such companies were set up with the sole intention of sponsoring bits and pieces of it. Air Asia used to sponsor the referees’ shirts I think. Anyway, now they’ve launched these obscenely cheap flights between several sectors in South-East Asia and some of the Indian metropolises like Trichy, Cochin etc.. FreeWilly hopped on one and came to Chaos.

e) Gruesome Murder of an Orange-Seller – As always, this was my motive for going back to campus. Long story short (will write that long story some day – after the murder is done), there was this fellow in our campus who used to park a cart outside the cafeteria and sell oranges, among other things. One fateful afternoon in my first year, as I was skipping back to my room after one of those surprise quizzes which spreads much sweetness and joy in the life of an IIMA student, I saw this fellow. I don’t really know his name, but for the sake of the anecdote, let us call him something simple. Like Dhrishtadyumna.

We, Dhristadyumna and I, stared at each other for a few seconds. I should have noticed his evil glint then. But that surprise quiz had slightly dampened my instincts.

After the staring was done, he offered me 3 oranges. For 10 rupees. And not a penny more. Nor a sheldon more.

“Wooot”, I thought. “This couldn’t be true! This is dirt cheap!”

I immediately worked out with my razor-sharp intellect that I was being offered an orange for less than half the market price. Wait, there had to be something crooked about this! I inspected the oranges that Dhrishtadyumna was holding out and by god, they were the ripest, plumpest, orangest oranges that any man had ever seen! This was indeed, the real deal.

I looked up at Dhrishtadyumna with a happy smile and held out a ten-rupee note.

“Take this, my good fellow, and wrap me these beauties!”

After touching the tenner with his eyes in a gesture of gratitude, the good fellow wrapped up those beauties and bid me farewell.

I resumed my journey and to cut a long story short story shorter, I ate those fruits, found them to be the bitterest of all bitter fruits, cursed Dhrishtadyumna, decided to murder him, hatched several plans, Dhrishtadyumna escaped them all in several cunning ways, and now I’ve decided to just stab him in the back as he watches Sonuuu Nniiggam (sp?) sing, and therefore went back to the campus.

Yes, to murder Dhrishtadyumna, the orange seller.

*****

The moment I stepped into the campus though, I smelled something wrong. People were looking at me strangely. Some talked in hushed tones as I made my way past them. A few were giggling.

Did they know? I wondered. Did they know of my murderous intentions?

“What the! Dude!”

A sharp IIT-KGP accent brought me to a sudden halt, and FreeWilly appeared out of nowhere. But before I could greet him and enquire after his willy-being, he continued..

“You’re fat!!”

I whirled around like a whirling dervish and cast several fleeting glances all around me. No, not another soul in sight. Just FreeWilly and Me. Then who was the fat guy!?

“I’m talking to you, man. You’ve become a fat blob!”

Stunned, I gave myself the once over and realized that I was indeed, quite healthier than I used to be 10 months ago in IIMA. Those Aloo Parathas which the company guesthouse cook and later my maid fed me so lovingly had turned me into a fat blob!

Unsympathetically, FreeWilly cackled with evil laughter and left the scene, undoubtedly to spread the tale of my unfortunate state to all and sundry.

“At least it is FreeWilly”, I sighed. The man was so stick-thin that anybody broader than a ruler would appear like Yokozuna to him. He was once famous for being blown into the sea by a strong wind at some random Chennai beach.

Thus, with much resilience, I had some yummy Aloo Parathas from our cafeteria and set out to watch the Nnigum sing. That, at least, had to be good. Especially if he did those things with his hands.

Louis Kahn Plaza, the lawn in the middle of the campus where the concert was to be held, was filled to the brim with IIMA students, ex-students, faculty members, staff, families, friends and one orange-seller. My task was simple – Find that orange-seller and bury my 7-inch Stiletto knife deep into his heart. If the heartless man had a heart. Which I seriously doubted. Kashmalan.

Some sort of charity show was going on, with a bearded distinctly beggarly-looking man crooning on-stage. A prelude before the big concert, I thought. And the man was singing exactly like Sonuu Niigaam (sp?). A wonderful imitation.

The Beggar, I mean Bugger singing. Leather Jacket donated by Prayaas, IIMA

“Fortune lies at the bottom of the pyramid and so does singing talent”, I sighed poignantly and walked straight in to Dhrishtadyumna!

He was facing the stage, apparently enjoying the bearded man’s songs, immune to my presence behind him.

This was my chance!

I extracted my knife from the bag, slowly but steadily. I sneaked in behind him, my footsteps drowned in the cacophony from the stage.

It was time for revenge.

But suddenly, the song ended. The music came to a grinding halt. Dhrishtadyumna whirled around humming a line or two and stopped short when faced with me and my raised knife.

And he broke out laughing!

I stared in disbelief as the orange-seller doubled over, not with a stab wound as I had intended, but with sheer hilarity. He started rolling on the floor laughing and this continued for a few minutes. Finally, in between clutching his stomach and rolling on the floor, the man somehow spoke a few words out loud –

“Tu..hahaha..tu….guhahahaha….itna mota ho gaya..buhahahahahaa”

The 7-inch stiletto fell from my outstretched hand as it finally occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, it was time for me to work out at the gym regularly. More about that in the next post.