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She was the root of all evil. But she was a darling to him. Despite being painfully aware of her manipulative nature, he held up their relationship; there was just no other way. He’d likely not survive not having her, such was his subversion.

She, of course, knew of the control she exerted over him; made the most of it, really.

Found this in my drafts on GMail. Prolly a story arc at some point, never developed it fully.


Analysis of ICICI Bank’s iPad promotion

ICICI Bank ran a promotion for its credit cards – for every hour starting 10am to 10pm of every day in October 2011 an iPad 2 was given away to the person who charged the highest amount to their ICICI credit card. Results.

The geek in me had to crunch the numbers. Raw data. (All this assumes they have not awarded more than one iPad 2 to the same person and have not awarded anyone who reversed the transaction, the economics of which, depending on the charge levied by the bank, might still make this lucrative. Also we don’t know how many instances had a tie, if at all, and how was it resolved.)

  • The average amount spent: Rs.208,553.51
  • The maximum amount spent: Rs.1,065,072.00 on 5/10/2011 (Wednesday) at 6:02:41 PM. Wonder what was purchased!
  • The minimum amount spent: Rs.58,574.00 on 26/10/2011 (also a Wednesday) at 9:54:46 PM. 5 minutes and 14 seconds later, he’d have forgone the iPad.
  • 88% were VISA cards (average transaction amount of Rs.211,586.01), 12% were Mastercard cards (Rs.186,271.27). Both minimum & maximum purchases were on VISA cards.
  • If the people who won in a particular hour had delayed their purchase by another hour, ~46% of them wouldn’t have won (neglecting the roll over post 10pm). If, however, people had purchased an hour earlier, ~53% of them wouldn’t have won.
  • ~65% of all transactions were below 2 lakhs, and~92% of transactions were below 3.5 lakhs. ~42% transactions were between Rs.1-1.5 lakhs.
  • Incidentally, 4/10/2011 (Tuesday) was the day with the lowest average transaction amount of Rs.130,822.2, while 22/10/2011 (Saturday) was the day with the highest average transaction amount of Rs.277,338.5.
  • 24/10/2011 (Monday) had the highest winning total (sum of all winning transactions) of Rs.6,467,864 and 4/10/2011 (Tuesday) also had the lowest winning total of Rs.1,569,866.
  • Day-of-the-week wise, Fridays had the lowest average transaction amount of Rs.196,416.6, and Tuesdays were a close second at Rs.197,753.04, while Saturdays had the highest at Rs.216,510.1.
  • Mondays had the highest sum of all winning transactions on a day at Rs.15,425,312.8 and Fridays had the lowest sum of Rs.9,427,997.59 with Tuesdays being a close second at Rs.9,492,145.9
  • Time slot wise, your best bet to win an iPad at the lowest possible average amount of Rs. 134,709.53 was, not surprisingly, the 9pm to 10pm slot (most retail stores would shut down by 8pm-9pm?) while the highest average amount of Rs.244,938.33 was spent, quite surprisingly, between 4-5pm. In fact, the 11am-noon and noon-1pm slots was the only other sub-2-lakh slots.

As I was writing this, I was wondering why the averages and sums were different – in case this slipped your attention, go back and read again. It should be the same for a said date / day, as sum = average x 12, in this case. Unfortunately, (or fortunately for the winners), for some reason on 24/10/2011 (the Monday before Diwali week), ICICI gave out 24 iPads instead of the 12 – 2 for each hour. Which means a lot of numbers up there are flawed to some extent, but I am too lazy to spend any more time on it!

Moments of tragedy – I

It is the evening party of the annual town-hall of the firm. Free-flowing drinks, music, food, and ambience – the usual company sponsored “look-we-care-for-you” fun. Family is invited. Everyone is having a gala time. Well, almost everyone.

The 5-year-old kid certainly isn’t. She can’t understand the noise, or the silly grins on the faces of her sloshed parents; dancing to the music as if there was no tomorrow, while she sits on a bar stool looking lost.

All she needs is some attention. She tries her usual antics and then some – tantrums, throwing assorted hors d’oeuvres at her parents, tugging at her mother’s less-than-decent-for-a-mother evening gown, even pulling her long hair. But to no avail.

The young mother has decided she had had enough – today she isn’t going to care. She is being romanced by, what is believed to be, her husband. They are clearly reliving their yesteryears; something she hasn’t indulged in every day, certainly not in a long long time. No, she isn’t a bad mother either, really. But her life is a compromise – today she’d let her daughter make one instead.

Of course, you would see and absorb all of this in the fleeting moments you spend scanning the crowd from the opposite side of the hall. Feel sorry for the moment – but unsure who is it that you really are sorry for; the kid or her mother – and move on. You care, but you have your own problems.

So you ignore, instead.

That’s just your style of coping.

Positive Outlook that Compromises

There is always a thin blurry line between positive outlook and compromise leading to outcomes that are worse-off. Sure, it is non-intuitive and non-obvious, but the more I think about this, the more certain I become about the interchangeability of the two.

We, as social and emotional beings, are great rationalizers. That is, we are really amazing at justifying in hindsight to past events. If something goes against one’s wish, the positive attitude bearing person will rationalize the seemingly out-of-control event by hunting for a silver lining. The problem starts when every event starts appearing to be out-of-control, and every situation is rationalized in a positive light – essentially leading to a compromised life. Unfortunately, this often occurs so subtly and gradually that it is easy to miss the early indicators till it is too late.

Let me provide some concrete examples, from mild to extreme.

At a more everyday level, consider your daily commute. If you live in any of our big cities, chances are you travel by public transport at some point or the other. Imagine you just missed the bus or train that would directly take you to your office or school. Instead, now you must take a roundabout route that drops you off a little bit further away. How many times have you rationalized this compromise with the thought that the longer roundabout route will give you more time sleeping or reading or listening to music? Or that because you are further away from your destination, you will walk the last bit and get some much needed exercise? Sure, these positive outlook rationalizations make you happy, and by all means, be happy – but in the end, these are all nothing other than compromises.

Imagine yourself as an eager-to-please student or a new joinee in a professional setting. It is extremely easy to play with your emotions and positive attitude to drive you to work harder, to provide better output and in general, to develop you, by highlighting that you can do more, perform significantly better and up the bar so that it becomes a way-of-life for you. You rationalize the often unnecessary hard work by justifying that you are doing it to maintain standards, to improve your capabilities and to grow. Not working actually makes you guilty, to the point that you cannot really relax and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Living in the slow rustic lane is just not an option anymore.

I work as a management consultant, and the hours, effort and stress are anything but normal. Sure, there’s satisfaction and money in the bank at the end of the month, and for some people, that is rationalization enough. Others, at some level, accept the status quo of having to lead a life that is beyond their general control, coming to terms with the fact that they will have to actively manage their life to restore some sense of normalcy. They believe that they are living what passes for a productive life – rich and wholesome – and I don’t blame them, or even insinuate that this is wrong. But this positive outlook is essentially a compromise – a compromise that people won’t voice out, or worse, even believe, because they have rationalized it with their positive outlook. Many times over.

I could go on and on with examples, but three is as good a number as any.

The positive outlook based rationalization is a short-term coping mechanism – something that gets us through the bad patches in life. It is what stops us from getting multiple coronary disorders. It is easy for the mind to retreat in a make-believe world where everything is hunky-dory while the reality is stark – ala the Matrix. The real question, like in the film, is, should we recognize this as a problem and tread cautiously on the blurry thin line, or just take the easy way out of incepting compromise as a positive outcome?

Alternate Realities

There were / are a lot of expectations from digital media — one of them being the ability to allow people to choose alternate endings, or to choose the path that the storyline / plot will march down — and in some ways, technology has made this possible. But that isn’t the core theme here. Instead, it is about being able to experience each of the possible options. Technology allows that too. Because someone scripted, acted and recorded each of these options.

Unfortunately, life does not provide this wonderful opportunity.

Every choice (or as my Matrix-loving readers will be quick to point out — the appearance of choice — but that is material for a separate post) implies a choice of one alternate reality. Every decision fixes one version. No other.

There is simply no way to experience, or even know, what the alternate realities are. Sure, one could argue that before making that choice, one evaluates in his head what those alternate realities could be like, and only then chooses what appears to be the best among the lot. But I say, imagination is no substitute for reality, now, is it? How can one possibly know completely what the alternative would be like?

We should invent a way to go up the decision tree, choose an alternate path, and then go back once again, choose yet another path, till the entire tree is traversed (or we get bored). Wishful thinking, maybe.

On the flip side, what would be the point — if one could live every reality, which one would we actually belong to? Worse, no one would actually make any decisions, since we could go back and change it if the path one is following is less to one’s liking. Essentially, one would live in a separate self-contained instance – kinda like Spore.

Perhaps the system we have now is best suited for leading lives the way we know them. Anything else would simply fail.


This was originally written for my other blog. But it didn’t come out personal enough to be posted there.

Why tortoises will one day fly…

Now consider the tortoise and the eagle.

The tortoise is a ground-living creature. It is impossible to live nearer the ground without being under it. Its horizons are a few inches away. It has about as good a turn of speed as you need to hunt down a lettuce. It has survived while the rest of evolution flowed past it by being, on the whole, no threat to anyone and too much trouble to eat.

And then there is the eagle. A creature of the air and high places, whose horizons go all the way to the edge of the world. Eyesight keen enough to spot the rustle of some small and squeaky creature half a mile away. All power, all control. Lightning death on wings. Talons and claws enough to make a meal of anything smaller than it is and at least take a hurried snack out of anything bigger.

And yet the eagle will sit for hours on the crag and survey the kingdoms of the world until it spots a distant movement and then it will focus, focus, focus on the small shell wobbling among the bushes down there on the desert. And it will leap…

And a minute later the tortoise finds the world dropping away from it. And it sees the world for the first time, no longer one inch from the ground but five hundred feet above it, and it thinks: what a great friend I have in the eagle.

And then the eagle lets go.

And almost always the tortoise plunges to its death. Everyone knows why the tortoise does this. Gravity is a habit that is hard to shake off. No one knows why the eagle does this. There’s good eating on a tortoise but, considering the effort involved, there’s much better eating on practically anything else. It’s simply the delight of eagles to torment tortoises.

But of course, what the eagle does not realize is that it is participating in a very crude form of natural selection.

One day a tortoise will learn how to fly.

From Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods.

In Memory of Stripes

Stripes was a Barred Angelfish (Centropyge multifasciata). Not much is known about his family, but he was bought young – only about two centimetres long when he was introduced to the fish tank.

His favourite pastime, if you want to call it that, was piling coloured pebbles around the tank floor. He would spend hours sorting and classifying them – by size, and possibly by colour, but no one can be too sure, what he actually saw. Every day would be a new pattern, a new pile. Hours could be spent observing him labour around with his mouth and fins – pushing and tugging at the pebbles. Wonder what he’d say if he could!

Today, however, there is fair reason to believe that it were these pebbles that led to his demise.

Fully grown, Stripes was about 10cm long. He was minding his pebbles as any other day, and he was left to that. A few weird jumps in the tank, followed by the really big splash that spilled water out of the tank – and he collapsed to the bottom, never to wake up, move or play with those pebbles again.

Closer examination revealed pebbles stuck in what goes for his neck. Sure, they breathe from their gills, but there is no other way to explain what could have happened.

After a short ceremony and a moment of silence, he was flushed down the toilet. R.I.P.

Stripes is survived by his deeply saddened human family. 😦