Friday, December 22, 2006

Lateral Thinking

You have your back against the wall, very few alternatives, an invalid support system, and still you keep fighting. Finally, you come out victorious. That’s the symbol of a winner. You are one of the few who can perform under pressure.

You get a vague target to achieve, very few resources at hand, even a more ridiculous timeline to achieve the target. That’s the time you start thinking ‘out of the box’. In management parlance, it’s called ‘lateral thinking’. You become an unconscious fan of Pepsi. You are eating, sleeping, breathing, watching (thinking ofcourse) and working on how to achieve the one objective you have been handed over? Yet again, Management has put their faith on you. You are proud of yourself. You need to come up to the expectations of all, yet again. More importantly, you have to yet again prove to yourself that you are the best.

Thinking laterally, I imagine you being a chain smoker. People have accused you of being an alcoholic on most weekends. To meet this deadline, there is a new adjective, workaholic, attached to your sub titles. Most of the people in your life – in office, among relatives and all so-called friends that you have give you the most soothing ideas - to relax a bit and take it easy, sometimes. They reassure you that you are the best and you will, as always, do the best for the company and yourself. But deep in their hearts, all of them despise you. All pray you fail. They just wonder how do you manage, what you do? You don’t like some people either. You have made it obvious to some too. To some you are sarcastic, to a few you are ignorant and to some you have to put up a smile every time you cross ways. This is so, as most of them are either senior in professional hierarchy or elders in personal relationships. To ensure these people don’t affect you negatively, more often than not, you keep a fair distance. Their actions are predictable and hence negotiable. There are some people who don’t like you and they make this feeling very clear to you. These are the most harmless set of people. They know that you know that they don’t like you. Hence, the negative impact, if any, is minimum. The worst lot is the lot who doesn’t like you and have not come out in the open ever. They make sure that your back is always on the burner. Professionally, they get a sadistic pleasure in watching you come earlier than the peon who opens the lock of the office entrance and work your bum off in office much later than everyone has left. On the personal front, they are the ones giving you free advise on marital issues which was solved by your maid in her life in a week. But they ensure to stretch it to such limits that you end up becoming a chain smoker, an alcoholic and now, a workaholic. You don’t want to go home and re-start the war.

You start living under pressure always. You don’t know why but if there is no fire in the house, it’s not worth living there. In office, there is no work if there is no crisis. Your only workshop you feel which added value to you is the Disaster Management workshop. Surprisingly, you start liking the wall on your back. You don’t want a support system. You are aggressive and a creative fighter. You are eating, sleeping, breathing, watching and ofcourse thinking on how to achieve what you want to achieve? Early morning, you are in the toilet and Voila!!! An amazing idea strikes you. You know this is the clincher. Most of the best ideas come in the toilet.

Thinking laterally, most of the best ideas come when you are shitting in your pants.


On our present

As humans we love making comparisons. I agree, in a way it does help. Comparison during healthy competition makes the fight worth it. But more often than not, we take it too seriously. It becomes much more than comparison. Competition does not remain healthy too.

I will ‘restrict’ myself comparing what I have grown up watching.

Till the age of 5-6 years, I don’t remember much to talk about. As 7-10 year olds, we would compare our height growing, apparently, almost every week. Between the years 11 to 15, we compared bikes and our hand writing. By the time we were 16, we had reached puberty. A lot of changes had taken place physically, mentally and psychologically. We had a lot of things to compare, ours and some ‘visual’. We compared our growing moustaches although it was like the grass on a cricket pitch. We were comparing baggy trousers to V cuts and we were comparing height, weight and lengths (read sizes) of lot “stuff”, some our own, some of the ‘restricted’ species. During the last years in school and first years of college, we had nothing but our ‘conquests’ as the only topic of our conversation, almost everyday. For people like me, a conquest ranged from a glance by a girl to a “hi, hello, how are you”? conversation. For some it ranged from a glance and ended only with heaving breathing and panting. Those who had similar encounters had hi-fives. Most of us would come out consoling each other that the guy was bluffing. Nothing serious was happening in life. There was nothing serious to compare.

Then came a time when we had to start thinking about life, seriously. We were on the verge of completing college and we still had no idea what did we want to do in life? We started comparing ourselves to people who had got through some engineering, medical or atleast some professional course. Most of my group was oblivious to what lay ahead, pretty clueless on deciding a career and utterly confused. We stood nowhere infront of our peers. This was the time we started comparing our past. Parents suddenly became the best people on earth. We commented on their selfless duty of taking care of each of our needs, substantial or whimsical, with a smile on their face. School years were the best. The place we hated the most, suddenly was haven. The place where teachers were demons and books like leaches, became the utopian sphere of life. There was no thought of future or past during school days, just plain entertainment and fresh living, every day.

Once we decided what to do in life, we started working towards our future. But then again, we compared our future with other peoples’ future. We saw where others had reached. We saw the fruits that others were reaping. We also wanted to have the same. We compared our income to theirs, their lifestyle to ours. We vehemently discussed and criticized everything happening, against us. The biggest problem laid there itself. We never compared our efforts to theirs. We never compared their determination to ours. We never saw the present coming and going right infront of our eyes and become our past.

We never compared their present to ours. We only compared the past and the future.

That’s what we do most of the time, always compare the past. What we had was the best. We then, jump to the future. What we could have is the ultimate. We never pay any attention to what we have in hand. We never appreciate or realize the importance of our present.

Films do affect us. The dialogue that affected me was - one foot in the past, one foot in future. That’s why we are pissing ‘on our present’.


Maid in India

One of the most important people influencing our lives is our domestic maid. If she does not come at the time she should, the whole day goes haywire. We do not wake up on time, do not get our bed tea, have to wash last night’s dirty utensils and invariably get late to office. If one has a maid who comes twice in a day and misses coming for the day, right from the morning tea to the Herculean task of washing and drying our linen and in some cases ironing them comes onto us.

How can she not come? How can she take us for granted? We got to get up early, get ready, negotiate the traffic on way the hour-long drive to office, sit infront of the computer the whole day with just one tea break, miss our lunch sometimes sitting in an useless meeting and drink liters of tea/coffee during those meetings. We have to cut across the same traffic for more than an hour on the way back. She cant’ expect us to come back after a tired day’s sitting work and then start rubbing detergent to the cup in which we drank tea! This is intolerable. This is so unprofessional!! If the day she is not in attendance happens to be a weekend, home turns into hell. Most of us get only two days in the week when we can relax a bit and do a little of our ‘own thing’. If she does not arrive on any of these two days, we turn totally helpless. We don’t know where the washing powder is kept. We have not clue where the clothes hanging clips are kept. We have to find all these and more. The washing scrubber goes missing. Sugar is over so no tea. It’s the worst day in a long time. Sounds similar?

Just imagine a maid’s life. If she has to ring your bell at 0630 hours every morning, she has to wake atleast by 0430. She has to work around her house, cleaning and clearing her garbage of yesterday. She has to cook for her family, as she would be back home only late afternoon. She has to work on her personal hygiene because we make faces when she shows even an iota of dirt on her already mud and sweat stained saree. We have a grace time of atleast 15 minutes to enter office. But if she is late by even 15 minutes we smack sarcastic comments on her for the whole week. She will finish your home and then work in atleast five more houses before thinking of her lunch. Not many of us ever offer her tea. Even when we do, we pour tea in the broken cup, which we were thinking to keep our washing detergent. Some gracious people I know actually offer their maids slice of bread and/or chapatti with her tea. Only the slice will be a toast kept for two days in the fridge. The chapatti also will invariably be atleast a day old. She is delighted if she is offered a snack. She is not bothered if the snack is stale or she will have to work with an empty stomach, anyways. We all envy friends who have a 5-day working week. Those of us, who have a 5-day working week, cherish our weekends and exploit in all ways possible. The maid is expected to come 7 days a week, 365 days a year. One day of unanticipated absence and she is touted as a ‘lazy, work evasion’ personality.

I don’t refute there are some maids who are foul mouthed and explicitly rowdy. But, you have an option to change the maid. The maid, soft spoken or a defiant one does not. She has to still wake up earlier than you, clean your muck, remain famished for half a day and still cannot fall sick, attend family rituals or expect a grace time to come in the morning.

All this because of her tag, “Maid in India”


Friday, December 15, 2006

Profitable Loss

Most of India follows cricket fervently. There are a few, ofcourse, who are fanatics. But most countrymen (and women) truly love cricket. And that is why whenever Team India does not perform well; there is a general gloom across. You walk the streets and there will be a group of retired people comparing Sehwag with Polly Umrigar and hailing the latter’s patience to the former. There will be a batch of auto rickshaw drivers, commenting on Dhoni’s locks (of hair) and lost key to his form. A group of nothings’ will actually show how Sachin should have got out on his front foot and tackled the ball on the rise. Everyone has a point of view. Everyone is an expert. I don’t blame erstwhile cricketers who would have actually played barely 10 tests and a mere 25 international one-day matches, commenting on TV. If a nobody on the streets of India can criticize Sachin, atleast he reached the National Team and played alongside Sachin. (I still despise the ladies on cricket shows, though). I was supposed to write on something else. But I have filled most of the space on cricket. That’s the power of cricket in India.

I was watching TV last night and then saw the newspapers today morning. I saw the pomp and show and the heavy celebrations on India getting their 10th Gold Medal at the 15th Asian Games at Doha, Qatar. What amazed me was not that we stand 5th in overall Medal totals, or that we got fewer Gold Medals than countries smaller than our National Capital Region. I have forgiven our athletes. They just don’t have what it takes to make it big in athletics. We should be awarded the “Fair Play Award” every time. We play to participate. Winning is never our Agenda. But what took me by utter shock were the comments of athletes about the National Athletic Association and their respective Sport Associations? Be it Shooting, Weight Lifting or the simmering differences between the Doubles Tennis players of the country, who at one point were ranked No. 1 in the world? It was sheer disgust that set on me. A country of 100 crores population, fourth largest economy in the world, $ 3.11 trillion GDP (I still don’t know how many zeroes are there in a trillion) and a blind faith on anything that represents the tricolor, how can we fair so badly?

I believe, there is a flaw in our intent. As a nation, we don’t want to be the best. We are happy, content and with a highly selfish mentality kind of people. Why only sports? Why do most IIT and IIM graduates leave for US? Why do biologists and scientists go for “further studies” to Europe? Someone told me there are three kinds of people. One, who will ensure no loss to self, the other may or may not suffer. Second, who will ensure no loss for self, if not a profit, and ensure loss for the other. The third and the best/worst lot is the one who will ensure a bigger loss to the other even in exchange of a lesser loss to self. I could not fathom the difference of three then. Now I do. Our so-called nation loving, innovative thinking and highly focused bureaucratic big wigs are of the third kind. What they don’t realize is that what they consider as “less” personal loss is “national loss”. For them it is a “profitable loss”. They profit, others loose. But at what cost? We don’t loose money, time or efforts alone. We loose faith, patience and mental peace. We loose our dignity.

I don’t think its only we Indians who compare these Medal Tallies and curse people responsible, directly or indirectly. Other countries compare these Tallies and gain confidence event after event, year after year, time and again.

Out intent strengthens theirs.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Lucky Side Up

Lucky side up

For eons people have discussed, debated and questioned the correlation between luck and effort. Most believe, no matter how much you work, (I will not use the term ‘hard work’ as I believe the ones who work the hardest on earth are donkeys) the ‘final touch’ is always given by the slice of luck one has in life.

Not only in corporate parlance, any space in life, it is a conical diagram. The best of the lot form the peak, the law of averages rules the mediocre and there are vast majority of dwellers at the bottom. Pick any example. Take a country’s government; led by few, followed by many and voted my millions. Take an economy; there are very few billion-dollar valuation companies, many million-turnover companies and a swarm of aspiring outfits. In a company, a hand few of individuals run the company, many of them manage the company and loads of them work for the company. Talk to the top management and they have their version of how they made it to the top. They have sound knowledge of their domain, expert and practical exposure, innovative thinking and aggression. They also add a flavor of ‘luck’ by saying, “and ofcourse, I was at the right time at the right place”. The second rung people are more upbeat on luck. They all agree to have made their way up through maximum input-maximum output mentality, optimism, a very good Boss and a lot of luck on their side. The base of the cone with the maximum population cries hoarse on being the most talented, most used (read misused), exploited and the unluckiest of all the three slabs.

Certainly, am not at the peak. I don’t feel am the unluckiest, either. So, I guess, I would fit in the middle bracket. I did not want to pursue Maths after the compulsory classes. I got enough marks to call it good, not good enough for my school to offer me the subject (I was lucky). I took up biosciences. By the time I completed a year, I was confident I would never become a Doctor. I graduated with Commerce in college. In a herd mentality, I enrolled in Chartered Accountants’ course. Ofcourse, I knew the percentage of people who pass the CA Exam every year. What the heck? There is no harm in trying. There are no marks for trying, either! I failed miserably. During my preparation for Management Schools I was gaining confidence. Maths was not that bad. Especially, at this level too if people want fundamentals to be clear, I did feel at some point I should have worked on the subject a little more in my elementary days. Anyhow, the high point of my life came when I cleared the written test for the most reputed and esteem B-School in India. But only the peak of the cone gets in there. I wasn’t there yet. I did not go further than GD and interviews. But I made it to a decent B-School in the next rung of institutes. (I was lucky again). With my aptitude and psyche, I would have never come out of the so-called ‘esteemed’ B-School. I would have never made it through the first year, leave alone walking out with a 7-figure salary job. My institute was the perfect fit (matching-matching!!). I participated in all sports and cultural activities, had outings every week, got assignments that were done in a ‘group’, learnt more from conversation than big, fat books. But the two most important things which I got from my institute were my future wife and sleep for atleast 7 hours a day. I eventually bagged a decent job from the institute, though. I am working in an MNC now. I am happily married to a Tamilian who does not understand a word of my mother tongue, Bengali. (I am lucky here too!! I can crib about her infront of her without her getting inkling of my conversation with like-minded people). But now I realize, its neither effort or luck that makes you a happy person.

You are lucky if you see the luck side up!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Nothing else matters

“Love your work and you will never work a day in your life”. Sounds amazing. Now, taste this – “get what you love or love what you get”. Sounds logical. My question is, is love for sale? The day you start getting paid for something you love, love is sold that very moment. The moment there is a possibility of a transaction in a subject matter, love doesn’t exist. It’s called business.

Having a conversation with one of my friends, he gave a very stunning example. That of a Gigolo (I hope I got the spelling right!!). It’s a known fact that men want to have ‘good time’, always and anytime. Believe it or not, 91% men have a deep desire to work as a Gigolo. The other 9% are gays. And this 9% serve about 36% of the 91%, of men, for whom the grass is ‘pink’ on both sides. Men, just imagine yourself as a Gigolo. It will be the best time of your life, initially, I am sure. You will have a ‘good time’ and get paid for it too!! But after a point in time, will you love ‘doing’ what you do? From ‘ being in demand’ you will be ‘demanded’ to do, because you are paid. Will you love it, still?

I am not sure how many would say, I love my job. Most of us do our jobs and do it really well but only because it pays. (How well do we perform and how well does it pay is really subjective). Ofcourse, there are a lucky few who love doing what they do, or do what they love. Concern is, expectations. Not only does expectations of the one paying you matters more, your own expectations from yourself change. Ask the software engineer who codes for 15 hours in a day, drives for an hour and plays the drums/guitars for 3 hours with his Garage Rock Band. Ask the lady who manages four stores across the city, runs home to watch her child drink the evening milk and then rush to her dance class.

Where there is love, it shows. The biggest differentiator being, you don’t expect anything in return. Be it your mother or father, your ‘beloved’, your son, your company or even your job. You romance with ‘experience’. The soul takes charge of the moment. You are guided by emotions running in your veins. The moment you start thinking about your parents as people who gave birth to you, hence, people who are responsible for you all life, love is dead. The moment parents expect children to take care of them in return of them being responsible for children growing up to be successful people, love never was. If love ever existed, parents and children will not need to think so. The feeling for each other will make them do what is the ‘need’ and not the ‘want’.

I love writing, but suddenly if tomorrow, my Boss calls me and says, “your job is to write”, will I love it anymore? I don’t know. My worry is not with writing. It’s the choices that we have. Rather, the choices that we make. What is the extreme of being in a National Team and wanting to sit on the sidelines? I love the Sony Erickson advertisement, wherein, a professional football player listening to music on his phone says, “I love being a substitute”!! Now, that’s what I call love.

You cannot force anyone to love. But you are free to love. As Mettalica sang, “nothing else matters”.
5th Dec 2006

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Exceptions prove the rule?

Most of the people I know, hence, I assume, most of the people I don’t know, don’t like getting out of their beds on winter mornings (I don’t have statistical figures, but I believe it is a fair assumption). I feel more awake and energetic getting out of bed on a chilly winter morning. During summers, the AC/cooler blow just doesn't throw enough enthusiasm or the ‘intent’ at me. The moment I remove the blanket or/and quilt (depending on the temperature), the cold air around the bed freezes the moment. It does not let the sloppy (or is it sleepy??) mind wander back to the unfinished dream. The two parts of the body to wake up first are, the nose and toe. The palm cools next and by the time I can grab the pull over and pull it over, I am almost ready for Office, raring to go and start blogging! (Anyone from my office reading??)

A little embarrassing, but I don’t like mangoes. Now, who on earth doesn’t like mangoes? Well, yours truly. Likewise, most people I know love warm ‘kheer’. I detest any warm sweet dish. Not even ‘gaajar ka halwa’. I love the ‘kheer’, which is kept in the refrigerator over night. The ‘gaajar ka halwa’ can be cooled down and served to me.

Another very funny and ofcourse ‘exceptional’ instinct about me is about shoes. Historically, it is a well-known fact that your shoes say a lot about you, the real you. From ages, people have perceived one’s wealth, character and personality from their shoes. Hence, people spend hundreds, some thousands and the lucky few people from and named ‘Paris’ may actually spend millions on shoes! Now, you walk on rut, kick mud and step on God knows what all. For God’s sake, shoes are something you wear on your feet. Why treat it like you want to keep it on your head as a crown? I, somehow, could never treat shoes other than something on my feet and hence to kick and be kicked around. I have never crossed three digit figures when buying shoes. And that’s because nowadays, you can’t even have slippers in two digits. I have a I do cherish my first white cadet shoes (we used to call them ‘keds’), though. That infact was priced in two digits. Things really have got pricey!

Am I one of the few forming the "exceptions" bracket? (atleast, in the above mentioned aspects). I believe so. So, just as the Americans say most of their sentences with two negatives, “baby, is there nothin’ in life with no exceptions”? I certainly believe, exceptions prove the rule. This is so, because the very fact that exceptions exist proves there exists a rule.

To prove a theorem, one needs to make a set of assumptions. That’s the rule, right? Any exceptions to this one? Did I prove myself wrong?

Am still thinking….