Pensive

I first saw her on the opening day of school in seventh standard. Do you know that feeling when you feel like talking to someone the very first time you see them? That’s exactly what I felt as she walked into class that day. As always, she was late and you could see her go red as the teacher scowled at her. She meekly walked into class and took her seat somewhere behind me. During the English period, our teacher asked us to read the poem ‘Daffodils’ and try to make sense of it. As luck would have it, she didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘pensive’. She tapped my shoulder and asked me if I happened to know the meaning. Coincidentally I didn’t know the meaning either but I was never one to shy away from a challenge, nor the kind who admitted to not knowing something. She was looking at me expectantly and I simply had to give an answer. With an easy swagger that came out of knowing that nobody in class had a dictionary, I assured her that pensive meant solemn. I knew it was something close enough and that was all that mattered then, I guess.

*
You know how there is this certain point when someone goes from being a friend to a FRIEND? Sometimes the change happens so slowly that it is almost imperceptible but sometimes you just know when it happens. In our case, it happened one afternoon during the Biology period. Our teacher used to ask us to bring our workbooks once in a while and she’d go absolutely ballistic if anyone happened to forget. As luck would have it, I just couldn’t seem to find my workbook in my bag. I know what you’re thinking right now but honestly, I’m not as forgetful or absent-minded as Nikhil would like you to believe. I remember becoming extremely flustered as I went through the contents of my bag over and over again because I remembered seeing the book in there that morning. Nikhil seemed to notice that something was amiss and smirked. I could almost imagine him grinning while Anitha teacher scolded me and chucked me out of the class. Seeing that I was close to tears, he simply pushed his Biology workbook towards me… ‘Take it. I don’t mind getting kicked out of class. I’m used to it anyway.’ I couldn’t comprehend what was happening. For the life of me, I couldn’t imagine why he’d actually do something like that for me…

*
Sounds like a pakka movie at this point, na? Actually I just didn’t give two fucks about getting into trouble because I was so used to it by then. What difference would standing outside class one more time make? And besides, I knew that she needed that book way more than me. When you know that someone else wants something much more than you do, it’s so much easier to make that sacrifice for them. But in the end, she did find her workbook and neither of us got chucked out of class…

Dilwale: Movie Review

WARNING: Contains Spoilers.

There are these movies that you watch only because one of your friends calls you up and says, ‘Let’s go watch that film. Heard it’s really bad. I wanna see how bad it can get. Trust me, we’ll have fun.’ Dilwale is definitely that kind of movie. And it doesn’t disappoint. Not one bit. What else can you possibly expect from a Rohit Shetty film? After all, this is the same guy who directed all three Golmaal films. And Singam. And Chennai Express. And Singam Returns.  And from the way he’s going, it won’t be long before Singam Returns! Again!!

Dilwale is extremely predictable. There’s your usual dose of seemingly harmless gunshots, cringe inducing action sequences and shout-outs to old Bollywood films. Shah Rukh Khan is named *you guessed it right* Raj yet again. Because naam toh suna hoga! In case you were wondering, SRK has played a character named Raj in 8 films. And he’s played a character named Rahul 8 times. And towards the end of the film, you find out that he was adopted. But wait, didn’t they already do that in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham? Ah, who cares anyways?

I’m someone who loves puns. I love coming up with really lame ones. One of the reasons I love Eminem is because of his puns. There comes a point when you have to learn to say NO to all good things, even puns. (Read: Diminishing Marginal Utility) Dilwale comfortably manages to overshoot that point. By an entire light year. And yes, it is a unit of distance.  For instance, ‘Raj bhaiyya, Veer was going fast. That doesn’t mean you have to become furious.’ In case you somehow manage to miss that reference to F&F, they subtly reinforce it through the fact that half the movie takes place in a garage. If you ever pay a visit to SRK’s garage in the movie, have no fear because gaadi par Raj raj karega.

Kriti Sanon plays a character called Ishita, fondly called Ishu. And somehow everyone seems to have an issue with Ishu.  There are a few moments of startling clarity like when Johnny Lever’s character Mani (if I remember correctly) wonders out loud whether you present somebody with a gift or you gift a present?

If anyone was wondering where the wreckage of MH370 was, you’ll be astonished to learn that the crew of Dilwale managed to find it in Iceland and even included it in the Gerua song sequence. The song-writing reaches a whole different plane altogether at times like when ‘Tera jalwa dekha toh dil huaa Milkha’ in Manma Emotion Jaage. What did Milkha Singh ever do to you, huh? There’s also this sequence where SRK is upside down in his car and Kajol asks him if his duniya palat gayi… Strictly rhetorical question, of course. Right after that, Kajol breaks the fourth wall by looking straight into the camera and asks quite seriously, ‘Kaisi lagi meri acting. World class, no?’. Again, strictly rhetorical but nobody in the theater seemed to get that. Everybody took her too seriously and started screaming, ‘Nooooo!’

 

Watch Dilwale only if you appreciate bad puns. And for an opportunity to see Johnny Lever in action once more.

The Facebook Book Exchange Scam

As is my wont during the exam season, I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed when I noticed numerous posts which said: ‘There’s a book exchange chain going on. I need six people of any age to participate in it. All you have to do is send one book and you will receive 36 in return. Let me know if you’re interested and I will PM you the information.’

As someone who loves reading, the entire scheme piqued my interest. But at the same time, it seemed way too good to be true. So I did what any sane person in such a situation would do, I carried out a Google search. Always remember, when in doubt, Google!

After a little googling, I found out that schemes of this sort are called pyramid schemes. I’ll try to illustrate how a pyramid scheme works. Let’s assume that you convince 6 of your friends to participate in the book exchange. For this to work, each of them will have to refer 6 friends. So 6 friends*6 referrals make 36 people. It is these 36 people who send you books. So far, so good. But now if all six of your friends are to receive their 36 books, 216 people would have to be involved in the next level of the pyramid. The number of people involved in each level of the pyramid keeps increasing since we’re dealing with a geometric progression.

1
6
36
216
1296
7776
46,656
279,936
1,679,616
10,077,696
60,466,176
362,797,056
2,176,782,336
13,060,694,016

Try going fourteen levels deep and you’ll have already surpassed the entire human population on earth. But usually such pyramid schemes fizzle out long before they hit such numbers. One reason is that at some point, your circle of friends is going to overlap and get saturated. The second reason being that your scheme will quite simply run out of people who are interested in participating. At this point you might be thinking, ‘What’s the big deal? Even if I get just one book in return for the book that I send out, I’ll be happy.’ Let us take the best case scenario where you receive 36 books since you’re lucky enough to be on one of the first few levels of the pyramid. However at the end of the day, the people you refer could be the ones losing out. Stop and think for a moment. In reality, aren’t you cheating the people below you on the pyramid? The people who might end up receiving absolutely nothing at all? I don’t see how you people can raise the argument that this is harmless fun when you’re basically misleading people into participating in this chain by saying ‘buy one book, get 36 books in return.’

Let’s take the math a little further and assume that our chain propagates quite successfully and our pyramid becomes 8 layers deep, which is reasonable considering how the post has spread on Facebook, and let us assume that all the people in the first 6 layers of the pyramid receive their books while those in the seventh and eighth layers do not receive any. This assumption is valid since people who receive books receive them from those two layers below them on the pyramid.
Number of people in the first 6 levels=1+6+36+216+1296+7776=9295
Number of people in levels 7 and 8=326,592
Percentage of people in the first 8 levels who get books=2.86%
Percentage of people in the first 8 levels who do not get any books=97.14%

Do you still feel comfortable sharing a post that basically cheats 97.14% of the people participating in it? Do you still think that this is harmless fun? And don’t forget that we assumed that everyone in the first 6 layers gets at least one book. The actual figures are definitely going to be worse. The percentage of people left empty-handed remains pretty much the same even if you assume that the chain is even more succesful and extends to more levels. Don’t believe me? Do the math!

The fact that books are involved seems to lower everybody’s guard.  Would you feel as inclined to participate in an exchange program like this if someone said, ‘Send Rs. 500 today to the bank account mentioned and you’ll soon get Rs. 18000 via bank transfer very soon.’ Now it sounds like a proper scam, doesn’t it? So if you’re into reading and all you want to do is spread the joy of reading, why don’t you just surprise one of your friends with a book? At least you can be sure that they are pretty likely to return the favour somewhere down the line.

A similar model, that takes advantage of a geometric progression, called Ghost to Ghost hookup is used in the Three Investigators series of novels. Whenever the Three Investigators (Jupiter, Peter and Bob) need any sort of  information, each of them calls up five friends and ask for what they need. If their friends can’t pitch in with info, they’re each asked to call up five of their friends and pass on the message. Pretty soon, all the kids in Rocky Beach are on the lookout and it’s inevitable that the Three Investigators will get their hands on the info that they need sooner or later.

At the end of the day, if anything seems too good to be true, it probably is. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a pyramid scheme that promises you insane returns for a small investment or a Nigerian princess stuck in the UK who needs money to get back home, you should watch out for the Internet is dark and full of terrors. And if anybody actually does get 36 books through this chain, I’ll eat my hat. Not that I even have one…

You might want to share this post with friends and family who might fall victim to this scam. And you might also be interested in knowing that pyramid schemes and related Ponzi schemes are illegal in India as well as numerous other countries. (Read this)

In case you’re planning on buying books online, click here to view the best deals offered by Amazon.