Archive for July, 2013

23
Jul
13

Same sex marriages in India

A few weeks back on Quora I found a question that asked, ‘Should India legalize same sex marriages?’. I’ve always found the same sex marriage debate a little ridiculous. Its fine to not be in favor or dislike same sex marriages but why would anybody protest against it? What a waste of placards and boards.

My opinion has firmly been that same sex couples are no different than hetero couples. While I think all marriages are fraught with dangers of incompatibility and babies, I sometimes suspect same sex couples might have it easier.

My first reaction to the question was, ‘Hell yeah!’ but I remembered reading an article over a decade ago about a same sex wedding in India which was protected by the local police. The story mentioned how it wasn’t actually illegal to get married to someone from the same sex according to the Indian constitution. Sure enough, on reading the marriage act it was clear to me that genders hadn’t been specified in the act. Link for the interested: The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

A different commenter had suggested that the genders hadn’t been specified because of ‘incompetence’ or carelessness of the drafters. I had no doubt that this was not the case because the constitution of India is possibly the most comprehensive constitution in the world. The team that drafted it had tremendous amounts of patience and foresight to create an exceptional document. Missing such a critical detail could have only been a deliberate attempt.

The clever drafting says: A marriage may be solemnized between any two Hindus. Thus allowing for same sex Hindus to have a fancy ritualistic wedding as they might please. This is definitely because of the foresight of the people who drafted the constitution.
The British and Irish constitutions which are considered inspirations  for our constitution, did not, allow or recognize same sex unions. How  could the people who drafted our constitution leave out this very  important detail? Unless of course they were giving their blessings to same-sex unions.

This law protects Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists. Unfortunately same sex marriage is invalid under Islamic and Christian laws, even punishable by death. So there is vehement resistance from Muslim and Christian leaders. But thankfully Indian courts already uphold rights of same sex unions. No cohabiting same sex couple has ever been legally persecuted. Social and familial persecution is of course commonly heard of.

If you are wondering why did you not already know this, then you could point fingers at folks(straight or not) who’ve taken time to read articles and protest against American laws but have forgotten to read ours. Yes, some American states explicitly bans same-sex marriage or have defined marriage as union between man and woman.

Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, so go read about your rights yourself and Google for court cases against same-sex unions.
If this answer is reason for you to tie the knot, please invite me. I like weddings and free food.

I shall now await for an actual lawyer to correct me if I’m mistaken. 🙂

23
Jul
13

Assholes

The other day on a college email group somebody asked something on the lines of ‘What/Who is an asshole?’. The idea was to avoid working or hiring assholes. I decided to share my wisdom on the subject on the email, reproduced below.

I’ve been an offender as well as a victim or an observant fly on the wall. To save you money from buying the book I shall write what I know.

They come in all sorts of shapes and forms. What they say or think matters not, its their actions that shall help you identify them. As the label is generally given by a different person, I would argue that intent or lack of it behind an action is irrelevant since its clear only to the person being an asshole.

Let me break it down here. What is assholery?

  1. Inconsiderate social behavior ex: Talking loudly in a move theater, walking out of a meeting because your phone rang, insulting or castigating a person/group in their presence, not apologizing, etc.
  2. Deliberate attempt to deceive somebody for personal gain ex: Saying you are working from home when you are not, making a ridiculous excuse when you are late, actively or passively taking credit for somebody’s work, etc.
  3. Complete and utter disregard for others ex: Reneging on an internship or a job offer because something better came up after a firm commitment, disappearing when you agreed to be responsible for something, bitching about somebody when they aren’t around, etc.
  4. Shifting principles and standards on the basis of who is on the other side ex: Charming your girl friend while being a daily pain to your mother, mistreating a waiter/server while expecting great customer service, being non responsive to a particular person without explanation etc.

I’m sure all of us have done these things. Repeat offenders are labeled assholes. If they can be avoided, they best be avoided. A few of them are reading this right now.

11
Jul
13

The time when I took a break from college

I once took a semester long break from college. It seemed like a nutty thing to do back then but in hindsight I feel pretty good about it.

 

Here’s the story.

Image of a man holding a caricature of a well dressed monke on his way to work. The monkey hold's a suitcase that says, 'No more routine'

Break the routine. From Flickr.

 

I dropped a semester after my seventh semester and I had three more left to graduate. The decision was very hard to make because there was nobody else I knew how had dropped a semester for non-medical reasons yet I strongly felt that if I didn’t drop a semester I would ruin my career.

The reasons were multiple:

  1. To buy more time: My goals and aspirations weren’t clear, so I wanted to try out new sectors and roles. I had already gotten some experiences in non-profits(CEL projects), web programming(via part time projects), microcredit(helped an alumni launch a startup in Bangalore), business consulting(summer internship at Intellecap), bio labs(PS2 at Cancer Research Institute), etc. Yet none of these really excited me.
  2. Academic Counselling Board(ACB): Since I was doing the above, not attending classes, even skipping exams, bumming around and other random BITSian timepass, I was in ACB that particular semester and was pretty sure that I would be facing Dr. RK Mittal, the dreaded ARCD dean, next semester as well. Being in ACB a second time also meant, being forced to attend all classes which I dreaded more than the wrath of the ‘counseling’ board.
  3. I was unhappy: Being in ACB was tough, not something I enjoy thinking about. I was ashamed of being in ACB again because most of my friends were the geeks and would often coast through exams without trying. And there I was, nearly failing and trying to hide that. I’ve always been a pretty confident, optimistic and secure person by nature but Dr. Mittal had the most sadistic way of using words to convince me of my worthlessness instead of counseling me. He was a close minded, short sighted and a cruel man, I today genuinely pity. I know a friend who’s been seeing a therapist for years since graduating from Pilani, that’s the effect this man had on some people.
    I desperately needed time and freedom to think, to figure out the strategy for my remaining semesters because I was on the expressway to career ruin.
  4. To find a job: My CGPA was not stellar, to put it mildly. My disciplines were biological sciences and pharmacy, you can’t have picked worse disciplines to sit for campus placements in any economic situation and we were in placement hell that was 2009/2010. I wanted a job, a well paying job that I actually liked.
  5. To travel and network: A year earlier I had ended up at an elite conference(my first one ever) with Fortune 500 CEOs(edit: Link to the speaker page: FORTUNE Global Forum) and got a chance to see up close how business deals are closed. It is a lot about who you know and how. If I socialized with the right person, I had a better chance at scoring a job at his company. One of my goals was simply to party, travel and meet as many people as possible.

Once I had made up my mind about dropping a semester I had about thirty days to find a company ready to take an intern for six months and hopefully pay enough so that I could travel to the magical continent of Europe. I informed my parents of this decision, since I had a snow flake’s chance in hell of convincing them so I didn’t try too hard. They were annoyed for a little while. My father just had a mini panic attack when I told him I was writing this answer on a public forum, he doesn’t recommend dropping a semester. Its not for everybody.

Finding an internship was simpler than I thought because I got replies to most of my cold emails begging for an internship. I wasn’t aiming high because I had very little time and I scored an internship at my top choice, New Energy Finance(now owned by Bloomberg). During the internship I wanted to understand the renewable energy sector and gain skills to possibly apply for jobs in investment banks. They had just opened an office in Hyderabad with an American lady leading the team.

My role was that of a financial analyst and entailed poring through financials of renewable energy companies in Indo-China, churn out reports, interview experts, etc. It was tremendously interesting in the first three months and I got a chance to work with a lot of people in their SA, UK offices. Hyderabad was incredible and people A few months before the end of my internship I also went to the St. Gallen Symposium in Switzerland which gave me a new perspective to work and life. More here Abhishek Nayak’s answer to When have you most successfully hacked some (non-computer) system to your advantage?.

I coasted through the last months, mostly bored and unchallenged. The salaries of my colleagues bewildered me, perhaps it was an apology for the unsatisfying work the company gave them. During this time my first serious relationship also bloomed with a lovely girl. By the end of my internship I was convinced I never wanted to work on spreadsheets or routine finance. This wasn’t for me. At the end of the internship I had a job offer which was going to pay me about 70K a month in India and required frequent stays in London(by some magic the CTC was 13.5LPA). I was ecstatic.

When I went back to Pilani, I attended classes with new vengeance and with real interest. My main goal was now to be Happy, with a capital H. Life looked amazing, I was certain that I wanted to start a company perhaps in the energy sector and didn’t have the pressure to go through campus placements.

So a B1-A5 five pointer ended up with one of the highest paying jobs in my batch, not something I would have bet on. Life is funny.

I of course ended up starting Gharpay, got funded by a bunch of top investors, having a fun job(though still trying to reach that CTC) and I wake up everyday hoping that I’ll get to do what I’m doing right now, for the rest of my life. I know this is happiness. Full points to the 20 year old me.

This was originally posted on Quora.




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