August 30, 2013

Ahead of the curve

"My favorite hero made more money than your favorite hero" seems to be the latest trend in Bollywood. This validates my theory that Gult people are ahead of everyone and are leading the nation in things that matter the most.

For instance, we sang “Aa ante Amalapuram” way back in 2004. Bollywood copied it when, 2012? We inappropriately ogled at Genelia D'Souza in 2003. They only started doing it only a couple of years before her marriage. We are way ahead!

Between 2001 and 2008, our movies blew up more SUVs into the air than America did in Iraq and Afghanistan during the same period. Bollywood discovered the magic of flying Tata Sumos only after Rohit Shetty happened to it.

By 2009, district-wise collection numbers of recently released mainstream movies was Breaking News on TV9. NDTV reached that state only recently. Based on these trends, I am predicting frenzy caste based violence between Akshay Kumar’s fans and Salman Khan’s fans in London by 2016.

It’s not just in patronizing useless movies (where we clearly kick ass) that we lead the nation. Among separate state movements for instance, movements for Bodoland, Vidarbha, Kodagu, and Gorkhaland etc. are just waking up now, after we crossed the finish line and Telangana is waiting for the presentation ceremony.

Our students have consistently dominated (dowry fuelled) migration to the US for at least two decades now. We are also the first ones to detect America’s decline and started migrating to Germany and Scandinavian countries because a foreign degree is cheaper in those semi-socialist countries. Again, ahead of the curve!

Narendra Modi’s paintings of a glorious “developed” Bharat may look new to you but Gults are not really impressed to be honest. You know why? Because our ex-CEO Babu Chandrababu already showed us the same neo-liberal dream in 2001 through his vision document called Vision 2020 which had visions of Hyderabad looking like a cheap 3D animated knock-off of Dubai. It was probably the first PowerPoint presentation to be shown in all movie theatres.

Multinational Corporations dictating laws in the country may be catching up now at a national level but we hired McKinsey & Co. back in 1999 to give us a road map of how to implement neo-liberal policies dictated by the World Bank and IMF. So all this talk of development and growth… its déjà vu. We’ve been there, done that. It ended in a lot of farmer suicides and 10 years of Congress rule (from which we may never recover).

The only regret about our Swarnandhra Pradesh phase, if any, is losing to Maharashtra in farmer suicides. We finished at a close second position just behind Maharashtra which continues to be the undisputed champion of Agrarian Crisis. All credit for this must go to Sharad Pawar. I give credit where it is due. 

All this talk of politics is useless banter. We don’t really care because we know God is on our side. Which other state can boast of a temple that patents its prasadam and commercially sells it in select outlets across three states? Some of our Churches gift eight cement bags to anyone who attends the Sunday prayer for six months without fail and our mosques make news only during real estate disputes and communal disharmony. Tax-free enterprises all of them!

We are also pioneers in preferring English education to our mother tongue. Parents take immense pride of the fact that their kids cannot read or write anything but English. In fact, we started this trend way back in the 1890s. It is beautifully captured in the literature of those times but we abandoned much of the progressive literature, theatre, and music of the last century, so we wouldn't know much about it.

What we do know is that our news media is the best. Did you know that there are over sixteen Telugu 24x7 news channels that look the same, feel the same, and make the same hysterical cacophony about the same non-issues at any given point of time? No other regional language or state has that many news channels. We are spoiled with choice.

The cross ownership of national media is something that is being debated in recent times but in Andhra, conflict of interest has been the norm for over 30 years now. Tamil news media however continues to define the term Conflict of Interest.

Our news channels have been leading the nation with their radically disruptive journalistic practices too. For instance they routinely barge into pubs, restaurants, hotels, bedrooms, bathrooms, and hospitals to shoot videos of people minding their own business and edit them to look inappropriate so that they can blackmail them. This ‘Either black money or TRPs’ business model is what seasoned entrepreneurs call a win-win situation.

Same trend in the paid news department too. What Telugu media was doing during the 2004 elections was quite ahead of its time. It took five more years for the national media to internalize this election rigging business model and stoop our level.

Forget politics, religion, the media and other things. India's greatest asset is its human capital and when it comes to raising the next generation, we are the all-time undisputed heavy weight champions in school education and parenting best practices.

As trailblazers in the education sector, our corporate schools and colleges have done some ground breaking research on how children spent their time and how each activity affected their performance in standardized tests. Studies have shown that children with healthy childhoods scored slightly less marks than children with no childhood. And “slightly less” is not acceptable for a competitive Andhra parent and thus the Apartment Complex High School was born.

The Apartment Complex High School is a really simple idea. I wonder why no one has ever thought of it before. It is basically a high school packed into a four storeyed apartment building. The first two floors consist of 2BHK apartments converted to class rooms. The third and fourth floors are hostels. The parking lot is converted to a kitchen and the balconies are fitted with iron grills to prevent depressed students from jumping to certain death.

The school ground is a token half basketball court with a rusted hoop and no net used for parking white SUVs belonging to the administration. But that’s okay because the kids are not allowed to play. Yeah, we abolished the games period in school sometime between 2004 and 2005. Playing games doesn't help kids score better in math, so what’s the point?

Literature, languages, social sciences, arts, games, craft and library periods also had to go to make way for “study hours” where students mug up printed notes and All-in-One guides because that is what is required for success in exams and success in exams is the ultimate goal of education in this country. Let’s not pretend any other way.

This paradigm shifting bottom-line education with focus on math, physics and chemistry marks alone has reaped us rich dividends as we can see from the number of Gults flooding the IITs each year who ultimately serve the country by doing an MBA and/or get married, hopefully with a huge dowry.

Vijayawada got its first apartment complex school more than 10 years back. Bangalore is getting them now, and we are the ones building them! Parents in other states are slowly appreciating the convenience of locking up kids in an apartment complex school from 7:30 AM to 8:30 PM. Besides, it mentally prepares them for the dead end corporate jobs they will have to do when they reach adulthood. Now that is preparing the next generation for the economy of the future.

If you are wondering what India will look like in the future, look no further than the soon-to-be erstwhile state of Andhra Pradesh. Gultisthan Zindabad!


  1. I read almost every one of your articles. Most of them are funny and heavily influenced by the likes of Carlin. This one is beyond funny. It is pain-inducing. I don't know if that was the purpose behind it.
    Good one.

  2. Well you've been through the same grind during inter (waking up at 3:30AM, etc.). Do you regret that? Would you have done it differently if you were to relive those years again?

  3. Personally, I haven't been through an industrial level grind. I started my coaching only in 11th and that too in the evening batch (so sleep not sacrificed).

    If you look at the larger picture, only 5% of the students who go through the grind make it to IITs. For the rest, it is just a bad memory (and a source of regret). IIT JEE doesn't really need that kind of a grind. It is possible to achieve the high level of performance even while reading general books, learning music and playing sports. And the fact that most of the kids now start in 8th or even 6th class makes things even worse!

    So yes, I'd do it differently :)

  4. There isn't really a purpose. Just wrote what came to my mind.

  5. People who "flee" India to the countries you mentioned get to send their children to a better education system, and then their kids will become better citizens (of a different country though). So why do you look down upon emigrants?

  6. reading this made my day :)

  7. best one yet. i predict housefull in a,b and c centres

  8. Is lot of psychological wind entering your mind lately? :P

  9. Superbly done... covered everything....Politics, Bollywood, IT, Media , Education...Did we miss any ???

  10. Lot of angst bro! But, too elite.

    Despite all that and Rs.40000 fee payments to apartment complex schools by parents, the kids manage to forget all the guide books and become social-media savvy job-less engineers from the local engineering college and replace every "the" with "da". (puzzling some of us oldies, why not skip the whole article...)

    Who exactly needs a "normal" childhood when one has parents to provide 'smart phones' as gifts?

    Then, they export themselves to every which country (or go in to politics or media....) but make sure to buy an apartment in the old town and send their kids to the new apartment complex schools started by their own caste persons (got to be more discriminatory - not just any school would do).

    Rinse and repeat.

    P.S. Tirupathi had the concept approx. 20 years ago, Nellore 18 years at least, Ongole caught up fairly, I am dating myself...

  11. On one hand you say only 5% make it despite the grind and in the next breath that you don't need that kind of grind. Then what will be the figure without the grind?

    Sorry, just because you are smart doesn't mean everyone can do it without the discipline.

    There are no general books, learning music and playing sports in a normal household. Not going to "coaching" will be replaced by TV, movies, street cricket factions, hanging out in groups at local auto center and movie star fan clubs.

    I don't know which idyllic world had kids with all the extra-curriculars. Elite kids who had access to all those were almost never put in coaching. Their parents can afford donation or foreign-student fees.

  12. I am not against discipline in anyway. Most people from Delhi (or north in general except Kota) have come to IIT only with 2 years of coaching. There is a very big difference between two years of rigorous prep and 5 years of grind which eats up a student's 8th, 9th and 10th classes and I am trying to point that out.

    And most of my friends who went through the grind irrespective of whether they cleared JEE feel that the three extra years really didn't give them such an extra edge that justifies the grind during high school neglecting exposure to literature, arts, hobbies, socializing, or even TV!

  13. Oh.. I was following Rajahmundry and Vijayawada timelines. Schools that came up till about 2003 had grounds and not many study hours.

  14. IMHO most of the 8th, 9th, 10th coaching is not really to teach anything but only for authoritarian control.

    Teachers begin complaining of "unruly" students, and parents can't do anything about their kid walking on second floor balcony ledge on a bet (happened with a nephew). So, put them in "jail-like" place and fully controlled environment.

    Hobbies, socializing, TV, all of them are giving ideas about being "independent" or love & romance......scary for an average Andhra parent even after they become grand parents..:D

    Not that kids don't start playing "book-cricket" or compose love letters in evening coaching....

  15. I guess it will be the same 5 % ? but with the same over all test scores .. the constraint is not offered by your efforts but the fixed number of admissions possible ...

    having said that, the argument is not about how to make it but why this obsessive emphasis on making it via this formula only and the methods we assume that would get us there ...while the concern of the parents regarding the welfare of their kids is most geninue, the methods and the understanding of what we are doing to them collectively as a culture needs a lot of discussion, yelling, bickering and bellowing ... we will be doomed if we are not having this ...

    also, the last of all traits IITians have in life is discipline and work ethic ... an obsessive result oriented, entrance examination based culture like this teaches kids one value : "results matter , hook or crook, failures are unacceptable" - an extremely pitiful worldview in a larger context ...

  16. Good. way to go , kids. dont give in the bullshit from parents and teachers !!!!!

  17. Brand value does that. IIT has that brand value irrespective any other criteria of discipline or work ethic..

    The fixed number admissions are also a part of brand value and to restrict numbers is what causes cut-throat competition, no? It sure won't be 5% from Andhra if overall test scores are reduced without Andhra grind.

    Is it really so surprising that most cheaters are at Harvard? The more brand value = more crooked methods. :)

    Let's not act like we are unaware of the life-long networking benefits an elite ranked institute can provide. Any smart engineer outside India is asked if they are from "IIT" thousands of times. It is as if people refuse to believe there are other places to make good engineers too. :)

    [And we give them that opportunity with hundreds of back yard engineering colleges that can make a CS engineer out of person who can't string a single coherent sentence]

    Well, why should a person not have the advantage of "peerage" then?

  18. I guess we are stuck where usually get stuck ... me arguing why it should be only this way and you, saying that's the way it is ... :)

    yes. IITs are a brand and sure render all thing good brands give. just to be clear, I am not disenfranchising them nor de-recommending them ... if your kid can make it to one of those elite brands , why not ? but if they don't, what then ?

    our entire complaint is this often pitiful levels of obsession to something that has a 5% success rate ... and that the resulting cultural side effects may not be worth it ...

  19. I guess my point has always been, it's the way it is for a bigger reason than what parents can control. Parents aren't omnipotent Gods, but mere humans who respond to what life is throwing at them.

    People begin to risk the most when they have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. So, giving 3 years (or 5) of a young person's life is nothing in comparison to the gains from IIT for the next 30-50 years. Parents do that kind of calculation. It is same as saying why do Olympic level athletes practice so much sacrificing everything (entire childhood...gymnasts start at 4-5 year old.) when there is only one gold medal (or at the most 3 gold medals within an athletes competing life. At the max 9 medals of any kind).

    IIT is the Olympics of middle class. If we had many more (in proportion to the population) mid-level good schools that provide placements or reasonable jobs (with wage enough to spend only 30% of it on housing), then I would blame parents for pushing their kids.

    But no, either we have to try for IIT or settle for fight for survival either getting additional certifications, or GATE for master's level at IIT or carrying around kids of the people in hiring positions. Most of all forgo all "culture" for the rest of the life. 3-5 years looks like nothing compared to that.

    I am also saying there are whole bunch of other people too, who know their kids will never make IIT. They use coaching for temporary juvenile detention because there isn't any "rich" cultural life to keep them out of trouble.

  20. I am worried about the somehow terrible misreading of my arguments which is : Its all parents fault. that is not at all what I am arguing here. parents act to the best of their knowledge or whatever their life exposure allows them to imagine for their kids. no one is doubting their intentions. no mater what the intentions are, that kids are being subjected to a maddening process under the devious garb of education and its a serious cause for concern. kids should have access to an outlook in life that promotes self-discovery and curiosity - they can get it from parents or teachers or movies, doesn't matter, but the culture overall should provide this reaffirmation. that this is not happening as often as it should is at the heart of my complaint here. rather than being goaded to get onto the treadmill of "if you try iit, at least you will get eamcet" ... or that lottery ticket behavior like "3 years of enduring pain and your life is set after cracking IIT" are seriously screwed up values rising out of fear that kids dont deserve to be exposed to, no matter how commonly they prevail in middle class families ...

    besides, there is no wronger analogy than olympics because there the athlete himself wants it badly. risking everything and even losing this way has true honor and hardly leaves any regret. sure parents and coach play a terrific supporting roles but athlete is at the heart of the effort. can you make that claim about the entrance exam crap. do kids know that they want something that badly? heck, do we even let kids think about those questions ever ? everybody's heart knows that entrance exam and even college degree has nothing to with real education and life confidence ... so how much to get obsessed over necessary evils like this is a question I leave it to individuals themselves ...

    sure, 3 or 5 years is nothing... in fact, passionate people dedicate their lifetime towards somethings ... I don't think there is anything wrong in setting that as a gold standard, telling each other, "none of this is going to end any time soon. so you better figure out something you like to do" for a starry eyed teenager rather shove down the cynicism and resigned attitudes of adulthood ...

    just an opinion ... let them try something, realize its all luck and nothing else, fail a couple of times, develop their own version of sickness and resentment to the world and look forward to passing them on to their kids ... lets wait a little while is all I am saying ... :)

  21. Again, it is the same thing, "ECONOMIC PRIVILEGE". Why is it screwed up to make a 14-yr-old face economic reality in a society where 7-yr-old is pushed to earn money as household labour or garbage picker? Is it not simple economics?

    The more money one has, the more relaxed and "curious" one can be. What does even 'culture' got to do with it?

    "Outlook in life" or "cultural values" is a privilege of security of income. All the thinkers in a society emerge when there is enough prosperity within the society to let some people think instead of being in daily grind.

    BTW , check out 'Penelope Trunk' or 'unschooling'. They are seriously on the other end of 'self-discovery' of kids and promoting only their curiosity. They can do it and get away with it as the most privileged group on the planet. There is a fall back of earning money even if one can't solve a algebraic equation within half a minute or can't even remember how '2' is written as a 11-yr-old.

    Regarding Olympians:

    Do you really think a 4-yr-old really knows what they want when they are signed up for gym classes? Are "Tiger Moms" only somehow a Andhra feature? Last time Chinese gold medalist didn't even know her grand mother died 2 years ago. We hear only "winners" who wanted it, how about losers who are pushed to burn out and then come out with "self-help" books?

    On the other hand, why are we are assuming universal hatred for coaching? There are several who cried, literally, because their parents can't afford coaching or against coaching (may be it is only a "girls" phenomena, notice most high-end coaching centers started as "boys-only residential" ones).

    Life confidence comes up magically when one holds their first pay check. There is more to life than teenage, and it is going to suck no matter what you do during those years. It is not a dire situation.

    Let's save our angst for truly screwed up parts of society where nobody blinks an eye that a 8-yr-old comes to pick up garbage from each apartment or a 14-yr-old comes to wash dishes and clothes or to teach a little kid that it is OK to slap around a 5-yr-old because he is only watchman's kid. (All real life events within a 3-week period this August).

  22. o ..k ... But we are talking of the economically privileged. aren't we ? If the parents can afford IIT coaching and all that ? I guess, part of this argument is due to the confusion that we are keeping two entirely different class of people in mind. If we are talking of people with real hard-ships, what's there to argue about ? Of course, I agree with most of the points you made.

    But I think I will disagree that prosperity is a necessary precondition to "thinking" or "self-discovery" as a general rule. It's an ancient, simplistic argument at best. A lot of successful people talk about the importance of constraints and I firmly believe that to be quite true. Self-discovery is not some kind of weekend hobby and happens in real-time. I am sure you will agree with that. I guess what I have been arguing for is a culture where everyone - poor / rich - at least tries to discover what he's good at and we don't have that at all. The way I look at it, at some point in life, you got to embark on that risky adventure of stepping out of your safe-zone if you can. That's what "really making it" means to me. The best would be if you have parents or institutions or an environment who can support the risk-taking habits instead of cramming their insecurities onto you. We simply don't have that culture. I have seen countless cases in my own circles where not a thought is spared in this direction and I can also see the results of this - disinterested kids already cynical about school, job, work and life by the age of 14. So much for realizing the economic reality !!! I don't think kids are even given a chance in our pressure-cooker culture of default settings. Again, I am talking of reasonably well off people taking default decisions ...

    All this is not so much of an angst rather than a wistful pity towards the kids. The angst is still at the spineless business people running these coaching institutions preying for unsuspecting customers / parents and soiling the process of schooling for kids as easily as we soil a lavatory in a 2nd class sleeper compartment. That, to me, is a pretty screwed up part of the society ...

    Yours Hopefully ...

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