Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fast Forward

In school, far away from our families, the only means of news reaching each other was through letters. Infact, in junior school, every Friday, the last two periods was officially the “letter writing” time. We would write religiously & the letter was devotedly same. We started with “My dear Mummy & Daddy” and ended with “Yours Lovingly”…. In between there were four paragraphs, the first declaring that “I am hale & hearty” and I pray to the Almighty of all near & dear ones “sailing in the same boat”. The second paragraph was for general happening of the week at school, the third & the shortest paragraph for the “Sunday movie” and the fourth giving the details of the weather. Oh, since we had “nothing more to pen down” we closed the letter sealed it with a kiss! This was a ritual every Friday till class V. As time passed by, letters became shorter, frequency became longer & very naturally the content kept changing from letter to the frequency of it. To ensure letter writing remained a religious activity, every house had a Letter Writing In-charge whose job was to collect letters every Friday from every class, count it to the number of students in the class, report shortage to the House Master & handover the letters to the Head Masters’ Office Bearer to post the letters.

No one complained. because it was as much fun writing those letters as not writing & bribing the Letter Writing In-charge which made the House Master run behind you & finally writing a letter himself that “your ward has been penalized for not writing to you”. The penalty was no pocket money for the Saturday Tuck Man. What was funny that time was that there were guys who went through various magazines to make “pen-pals” & regularly exchange letters, but would avoid writing letters to their parents. It seems even more surprising that we would spend more than four to five months without hearing the voices of our parents & siblings sitting & waiting at home for us to come on vacation. There was a year in between when students refused to go on vacation stating it was very hot in summers “down in the plains”!! How selfish could we get? Or was it simply bliss of being in heaven? May be both….

Times changed, we went to college. Parents started giving us extra pocket money so that we could go to the nearest STD Booth & call them regularly. The same routine ensued. Initially we would call them religiously twice a week, one working day and every Saturday night or Sunday morning. This slowly became once-a-week call, which progressively became once a fortnight. However, the “extra” pocket money never stopped.

Mobile phones changed the way we started communicating. There were parents who could not afford two mobiles. They bought one and gave it to their bright young child. To save money & inconvenience to the child, they would call and beg her/him to pick the call whenever they did so. Guess, times change, people don’t. Initially, we picked calls regularly. Then we would pick and cut short the conversation stating some excuse. At times, we have not even picked calls from our parents saying we are in no mood to talk to anyone! Some would type in an SMS saying, “am busy, will give a missed call later”. But we never forget forwarding SMSes to each other, sometimes useful, mostly a non-sense sentimental message or some joke & sometimes just a smiley!! Forwarding an SMS means you are remembering that person in that short moment & “keeping in touch” in a way. Communication has surely become fast. But it’s getting based on forwards, more often…

I want to rewind to the times when we would play at leisure and not live life on fast forward mode….

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Two to Tango

It’s been a long time that I got time, chance or an inspiration to write something. Or rather, I could not get all three in sync. If there was time, there was nothing to write on. If I got chance to write, it was not the right time. There had been some incidents which did have its little impact but then, there was no time.

Well, today I have time, there is a chance to sit and think too. And there are couple of inspiring thoughts too. One of them is usual, one is a risky proposition and there is one which certainly can wait for some more time to mature. So, I shall choose to write something on me.

I always thought I was a regular guy with a normal life. Not that I have realized I am a maniac and lead an abnormal living. I am a sane being with common verve. But what I have started realizing lately is the existence of more than one person inside me. It’s getting more and more obvious to me everyday. I fear if others have realized it.

Just like everyone else, I like being in attention but I love my solitude. I don’t like being asked to do things but I want to be supported. I believe people spending overtime at work actually are less productive and I myself end up spending more than needed hours at work. People ask me if marriage has changed life. I know it has, but I reply otherwise.

I agree there are situations when one does things which s/he may not totally agree to. Sometimes circumstances make it tough for people to follow their convictions. On many occasions I too have been burdened by times when I had to operate on others’ will. I would want to believe that most of the times that I felt I was not this person were when I was forced into being someone else. May be most of the times were such too. I cannot say if it never dawned on me or may be I was avoiding it. But I have started to wake up to the fact that during those times it is not me. We are at that stage of our lives when out of 24 hours, more than half of the day is spent at work. Hence, most of the incidents when I fight with myself are in office. And it may not be because of my Boss always. The reason may have been a colleague, a subordinate or even a visitor. I would have to confess though that there have been not so professional times of internal conflict also.

I am sure this is not what is called split personality. But there are moments when there are more than one thought in my mind. Many of my thoughts are different from my actions. Some of my actions are what I would not think of ever and then, there are some which are only a part of my odd fantasy.

But now, sitting, thinking and writing this column, I am again made to think by someone inside me. Is the other person really not me? In two different situations, I may react differently. But in the same situation, can I have two different reactions? I want to say yes, but I am thinking no.

To an open mind, asking a closed ended question. Does it always takw two to tango?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Dance with Me

I still don’t know why was it called Fancy Fair? Infact, unlike city schools we never even had a fancy dress competition. Following the British rules and regulations, students were not allowed to even keep civilian clothes in their custody. For every formal occasion we were supposed to wear our cleanest, smartest and the same old maroon school uniform! The British while leaving the country had passed on this school to be run by Indian Railways. What a coincidence! Our school color was maroon. No prizes for guessing, we were famous by the name “rail ka dibba” school. Well, back to the Fair.

It sure was the day of the fairer sex. Everyone knew you could not do much with the way you looked. Everyone had to wear a white shirt, grey trousers, maroon school tie, a maroon blazer and black leather shoes. But it had to have something fancy, to get its name, right? So, some boys had fanciful double breasted blazers. I don’t remember any girl wearing one of those. Girls too had almost the same combination of colors to experiment, with white shirts, navy blue tunics, maroon school tie and maroon blazers with black leather shoes. Now that I recollect, I think most girls used to keep it low profile by wearing a navy blue pair of socks while the more bold babes used to match their navy blue tunics with white socks.

Was there anything more innovative? Oh, there were few bolder than the rest. There was atleast one Rahul Roy hair style flaunting “chap” in each batch and one Pooja Bhatt hair style flaunting mushroom cut “dame”. Yeah, yeah, these style icons used to date, sometimes changing partners in quick succession. My guess would be because deodorants not being very popular back then. I did see some boys using hanky perfumes as deodorants though.

Anyways, just like any school annual fete, enthusiastic teachers and the simple, stupid but studious kind of students used to make teams to run stalls. Every student used to get about Rs. 100/- worth coupons to spend in the whole day. Some boys used to sneak in currency and buy coupons from others though. There would be about 30 stalls with variety of offerings. Food stalls were the most popular because this was the only day when you could eat as much junk food as you can be sold by the same teacher who would have handed you “one tight slap” across your face yesterday. It was followed by sporting stalls especially the Russian Roulette. The least favored were the toy selling stalls with kids from Junior School spending most of their coupons there again and again. Toys were of the worst quality with one toy being bought atleast thrice to see it through the day.

It’s hilarious getting reminded. Hot Dogs were the hottest selling item despite it being sold by a Junior School teacher who was dreaded even by Class XII students. She was the only teacher who would hit a girl as hard as she would hit a boy and hit a boy as hard as she would hit a fourth class staff. Russian Roulette was run by a Boys School teacher whom very few in their entire 12 years of life in School had seen smiling. I passed out 12 years back. He still resides there. Latest news coming in still says he barely smiles.

How I can I forget the “Juke Box”? This was our Dance Floor. You got few minutes to dance with girls on the songs of your choice. This was one of the very few avenues to interact with girls. We used to hear steamy stories of what used to happen inside this stall. Best part was, it was covered from all sides. Hence, whatever happened inside were stories turned into epics being passed on from batch to batch. The first time I went in, I was becoming part of history. I remember the looks on others faces when I walked out. The ones who had never been inside the Juke Box had exclamation marks. The ones, who were there before, had a question mark. The former still believing the epic, the latter as if asking did we do anything what the epic says? I was in a dilemma. I did not know whether keep smiling because I had been in such close proximity with the “dame” or to curse myself blue and black. She had said, “dance…, the music blasted and I started dancing, unmindful of her presence.

She completed the sentence standing alone.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Preparations would start as early as a month prior to the day. Cultural programs to be performed were selected first, with performers for the cultural programs chosen next. Rehearsals would begin finally with costumes being decided, characters switching acts to suit the occasion. During one of those auditions only I discovered that I could sing too! This was in Junior School where everything was conducted under the able guidance of teachers. More on it, later. In Senior School, it was different.

One thing common in both schools though, was many students keeping a full day fast for Lord Krishna. Children who used to fast would get boiled potatoes and milk for breakfast and lunch. Well, am sure all the girls did it for the Lord. I cannot say the same about the boys. Certainly, not the few around me. And, these few include me. In Junior School, it was the Dinner. Breaking fast at dinner which was a grand and lavish affair for the ones who used to fast, tasted like the best menu of the world.

In Senior School, there were no cultural programs to be rehearsed for, no costumes to be decided and no hoop-la around the day. It was just another holiday for boys to chuck studies for the day and just play, jump around and relax. Boys used to fast, dinner becoming just an incentive, though. I don’t even think we ever thought of Lord Krishna. The main reason was the princely pocket money of Rs. 10/- for the day which the select few who fasted would get to buy fruits! And, did we buy fruits? Krishna knows, we did not; atleast not for our own consumption. In the junior most class, Class VI, part of that money went to serve fruits to seniors. We could kill or die for ‘Aam Paapad’ and ‘Chatpati’, a moong dal snack. But one boy could not afford to buy both. So, it was dutching of whatever was left in our hands to buy both items and share among hungry boys. But as we were growing, our appetite was growing too. We now had some more money to buy our Aam Paapad and Chatpati. We were hungry no more. But then after these snacks, we used to feel thirsty. How to quench our thirst?

Our stomachs were full, but an empty mind is a devil’s workshop. After some thought, we had a plan ready. We announced a one day football tournament for the junior section (Class VI, VII and VIII). Entry fee was Rs. 20/- per team. To increase entries, we said, one class could field upto three teams. Matches would be back to back and of 30 minutes duration. The winner would get a trophy, a memento each for the six players and the two teams reaching the finals would be treated to… yes, Aam Paapad, Chatpati and Pepsi (quenching thirsts, more of the organizers than the team as all matches were back to back and only water was served to players). At the last moment, the master mind, Master PK Singh introduced another interesting rule. No substitutes were allowed ensuring the number of mementos to be distributed being fixed, fixed number of bottles of Pepsi being ordered and minimum organizing skills involved. All classes fielded three teams each. The tournament was a huge hit. The best part was both teams in the finals being from our batch.

Needless to say, no trophy was handed over, no mementos were distributed. There sure was a Grand Treat. We were hungry no more. We were thirsty no more. It was a perfect Janamash-tummy full day.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Vicious Circle

Michael Phelps consumes 12000 calories of food a day, which means, he eats more than atleast 12000 Indians in a day. Naturally, he has the strength of 12000 Indians and can win such absurd number of medals and set world records and then himself break them! I wonder why does he win so easily? I think with those 12000 calories a day, he must be farting better under water to give him that extra buoyancy to float, swim and surge ahead of his fellow competitors!

On a serious plunge, ofcourse, it’s an achievement. We have started winning medals at Olympics. It only shows the determination, grit and the mindset changing in Indians. We have started believing we can win. But what upsets me again is the limits we set for ourselves, still. We have now started saying, “a bronze is what is assured”. Why? Why cant we think that we can win and assure a Gold & Silver? Only when we start thinking and then begin saying it loud and clear, is when we will finally start believing in it. But then, we believed in KPS Gill. I really don’t know if one man can single handedly screw a national game? I am sure there were other reasons. But if a single man can be attributed to control and save a whole state from burning out, he sure can manage bigger stick tricks. Am sure he did his best on both fronts.

We have always believed in belief though. Our belief system is stronger than belief itself. We believe in existence of God. Actually, Gods. I hear India has more than a crore Gods to believe in. Not a surprise. With more than 100 crores minds, there is always different mind sets and separate beliefs. At one age, we believe everything anyone says. A little later, we don’t believe our parents but our friends, we don’t believe our teachers but the rogue rickshaw puller. Infact don’t believe as much in our own self as on a stranger and the various colored stones he promises will change our world. Belief is such a relief.

Life is a vicious circle. One does not have an answer to if the chicken came first or the egg, count starts from zero or one. You never know if you have to start believing you can win only then you can win or only when one starts winning, one starts believing s/he will always win?

My guess is everything comes from habit. When something becomes a habit, belief follows. If no kid is told s/he is a hindu or a muslim, taken to a temple or mosque every Monday or Friday, s/he will never get to know the difference. Only when something is repeated endlessly to ensure it becomes a habit, it becomes belief. Once it becomes a habit, one starts defending it. The ones who do not follow it brand it as a good habit or a bad one. Smoking becomes a bad habit, drinking milk is a good one.

When the only jobs in India were offered by PSUs and a handful of private companies, it was always a six days a week working. No one complained. Sunday was the only holiday. It was cherished and enjoyed by one and all, working or the unemployed. With MNCs coming in, they brought their value and belief systems. We started changing habits. We wanted Saturdays off too. We needed more relaxation and de-stressing. Why? Do you think you work harder than your mother or father worked in their working days? I don’t believe so. But our parents do believe so. The circle is complete.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I am a (p)roudy Indian

I have not seen much of the world. Like many, whatever I gather is from the limited exposure I get by meeting people, listening to strangers speaking among themselves, observing situations around and reading a bit of newspapers and magazines. And I realize, there is not much of a difference between an uneducated but street smart stranger and the worldly wise evangelizing Indian. None of them have done anything much for the country. The former, is in the country and votes for money. The latter has become a citizen of a so called more civilized, modern and developed country and comments on the functioning of our government for which he never voted. I did not vote for this Government. I never voted for the earlier ones either. Why, is another day’s writing….

In my friend circle, we had been talking about it for quite sometime now. Why in a country with 100 plus crores population, we have yet not bagged even one individual gold medal? There are some good defenses but no clear winning logic. Yes, we were (are we still) a third world country, a nation with an amazingly low economy and growth rate and a country with close to zilch infrastructure when it comes to development. Come to think of it, our Government’s focus was never even Education, leave alone Sports! But with Anubhav Bindra’s feat, I could not but sit and think of the so many heated arguments we used to have among friends. It is India’s 61st Independence Day and the year also goes down in India’s history as the first individual Gold Medal year. He brought a cheer to one and all. But what have all of us done for this one boy and his country? I cannot think of anything.

One of my friends’ has not even cared to vote. Beggars are a parasite to the society. Never give them even one rupee. But since my friend is giving up smoking and doing it slowly he throws away half his cigarette which costs five bucks per stick! Oh don’t tell anyone, one of my friends evades paying taxes only because it’s getting so expensive to live. There is no alternative. Another of my friend is interested in social service though. She has even opened a small office in a lavish neighborhood. She meets rich people and convinces them to donate. It is such a daunting task. No wonder she has goes off abroad to unwind, atleast twice in a year. About me, huh, well, Singh is King. And I am the King Maker. I do not think twice before spitting on the roads. It does not matter whose watching, when I am under pressure, I pee. Keeping the roads, stations and public areas clean is the administration’s job. My job is to dirty them so that their job is safe. When am in high spirits, I play music in my car which has a music system installed sway hundred ships to shore. I am not bothered that my neighbor may be having an entrance exam the next day or there was a death this very day itself in the locality. There is a low beam in headlights too? When my dad has bought even the road for me, why should I not use the headlight in full beam? Why did he buy a big car which cannot even blind the driver of the bloody small car coming from ahead? Next time, I will kill him if he crosses my way. What is the possibility an aspiring Anubhav Bindra being in that car? One in a hundred crores. So, why bother?

I will not talk of another poor country like ours, Jamaica, which has possibly won more Gold Medals than us. Till now, Michael Phelps of US of A has won 14 individual Gold Medals in 2 Olympics, i.e. 8 years. He sure will get more. India has won 9 Gold Medals of which just one is an Individual Gold Medal in 108 years.

Anubhav Bindra has made us proud and I am the (p)roudy Indian.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Vodka & (vir)gin

Vodka & (vir)gin

I was meeting my school boys after a long gap in time. Walking in, just one look at the faces, changed in many ways, but still the same genuine and warm welcoming smile and the bear hugs, brought back the smell of wet moss and oak trees leaves. Back in hostel just off Mussoorie, we were amidst Oak groves, hence, the name Oak Grove School. It was a British school passed onto the Indian Railways once India got independence.

Not to mention, it was an all boys’ sit out. It started with the clinking of glasses and ended with ‘one (more) for the road’. And all talks were of school days. The two most outstanding and long discussed topics though were, well, no kisses for guessing. The name has them - pegs and legs. What stressed me to write are the two extremes. About how we never even thought of booze ever while in school. Never did we think, talk or discuss of trying out booze. Not even once. And about how we always used to talk of sex. All the time.

Sitting there, I was wondering how the discussion kept swaggering between these two extremes but sides had changed. Boys were discussing how often one of them would go out on drinking sprees in groups and return with a new set of acquaintances whom he would have befriended in one of the pubs while pub hopping, how one would doze off in the loo of a pub all sloshed and others equally sloshed would forget him and zoom off home! There were unabashed confessions being made. Pendulum touched the other extreme now…

There are Don Juan De-Marcos in every batch, eternal lovers who can’t keep their eyes off budding flowers, and on whom Cupid pours all his love showers, blindly. He never has any shortage of love games. Players of the opposite sex come running to him like opposition rugby players charge the player with the ball. There were stories of their sexcapades doing the rounds of corridors and class rooms. How a senior was seduced by a junior girl, a junior boy impressed a senior girl, how a girl got even with another girl by enticing his so called boy friend and how boys won bets of kissing a girl within three meetings. We were discussing all this and how was our current our sex life, or was it alive at all? To the utter dismay and shock of most, the ones predominantly thought as future macho men and current dudes were the ones still looking to be laid. The laid back and easy going guys were getting it easily. I am sure there were guys who had mastered the art of either faking it really well or making it like the sticky snail in the shell.

Sex was being discussed lesser and lesser as time passed by in our lives and during that evening too. Being men, most of us were surely having an animated discussion and debate on sex-episodes but then there were some who were passive contributors. Not that they did not like the topic. They loved it. Either their vodka shots were short or their virgin days (and nights) were longer than the others. I am not telling you who was on which side.

One thing was certain and clear though. We all were still virgin to the thought of sex. Like normal men, after those light talks and heavy booze we were as horny as ever. I must have pressed my car horn even for an ant trying to cross the road before me.



Saturday, August 09, 2008

Growing (B)old

Growing (B)old

Never in my life have I ever thought what I would do, once I am old. I certainly am growing old. But with age, one tends to get more and more confident of things. Right? I mean, shouldn’t that be the case? You see more, experience more, learn more and hence start reacting better with each passing day. During a conversation with one of my newer acquaintances, the individual time and again kept referring to age being a barrier to most of the things in life. Going out, enjoying life, experiencing new things, giving up old things, getting that new hair cut, high time to start taking risks. What started me to think was the next statement after the word risk, “Guess I should get married”.

Have people started thinking marriage as a risk? Or was it always this way and just that they have now started accepting the fact that it is? I believe, the point where you have to decide whom to get married to is the risk. Everyone fears pointing her/his finger towards that one individual with whom your life would be spent. I could visualize the old movie scene, where the judge says, “to be hanged till death”. Then the pen signs the dotted lines and the nib is broken, once for all. Is that how most people think?

What crap am I writing anyways? I was about to write something else. Or is it? Was it marriage or was it about getting old? I think both. You get married by a certain age and start taking life as if it’s changed. You are asked to start thinking differently (read responsibly). And why, because now, you are not one but living as a family. You are responsible for more than one life. One has to think twice before even thinking anything, ten times before doing anything and hundred times before saying anything. But a life partner should be someone who can extrapolate the joys of life, someone who gives you a new orbit of existence. And not start restricting your thoughts, words and living. You have to start doing new things, which may not necessarily mean giving up some old ones.

Ladies are asked to give up their jobs after marriage. Men are asked to stop visiting friends as often. Smoker men are asked to quit, non-drinking ladies have to start drinking. I don’t understand, what is the harm in maintaining status quo? Sometimes, one has to do things to make the “other” happy. But doesn’t that “other” has to also understand that this gesture is to be reciprocated. If you expect something which the basic human need which can be provided by another human being, that same need is expected by the first human being too.

I believe, we all at some point do think of the times when we hurt someone knowingly or unknowingly. We do realize some action, some words; some act of ours has turned that other person sour. Most of us, ignore that moment. Not because we are insensitive but because we want to avoid the reality that we hurt that person. We do not want to accept the fact that we have made someone go, suddenly silent. During those silent times, you look for that one thing that could have triggered the start of the end. Sometimes, it is not the last word you said before the conversation trailed off to silence. Infact, it was the silence that you kept when a reaction was expected from you that is the cause of the silence now.

I am getting old. I am trying to get bold. Bold enough to react when needed. Say what is expected of me and expect what is said to me. I am old enough, getting bold enough to start accepting my mistakes and others. Bold enough to be forgiven and forgive.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Learn to Learn


Last two months have been hectic, tiring to say the least. First it was the joining of a new top person (read CEO) at the business, followed by exit of my immediate Boss. Being a small team, once he was on his way out most of the work which had been performed by us in the last 12 months had to be explained to the new set of people.

New people have new, seemingly better and eager to ‘change-the-world’ ideas. Nothing which is in practice is good enough. Not that we were doing a fabulous job of whatever we were doing. But then, everything was functional and well understood by the current set of people. I agree there were areas to improve on. We were learning.

I started in a company where I was the first Management Trainee (MT) ever taken in a support function. I was a fresher with no previous exposure to any work place of any kind. But, I had a great pack of colleagues. Not one person in the company ever treated me as a Trainee. They expected me to have a solution to situations at all times. Coming from a reputed B-school, atleast in that part of the country (did I say World Famous in India??!!??) has its toll.

Thankfully, my Boss was a person who had been in the company for as many years as the age of the company. He knew exactly what to do with me. On the very first day he had told me, no one knew what to do with me. No one had thought on my utility, if any. I would not have any scheduled Trainee Program nor a Mentor as in other ‘matured’ organisations. Management was hiring MTs because many so called ‘good-to-great’ organisations do so and we want to be a great company one day. Not realizing, between good and great, there may be some more evolutionary steps. Also, one first needs to become a ‘good’ organisation to start treading the path as flash-lighted by some publicly acclaimed thought leader. He told me, I have to learn. And to start learning, I need to know what the best way to do so is? Different people learn differently. He told me, may be he cannot help me learn anything. But, atleast he can try making me realize how do I learn?

And what he taught me shall remain with me all my life. He would point out the moment when not to react than react at the wrong moment, understand the difference between urgent, important and what people may need in life and what they want from life. He had told me, there are things people can do without. But just because someone else has it, we want it too. Not realizing that if they don’t have that, the other person does not have what we have. And if we have to possess that, we will have to give up what we already possess.

It is important to learn. But what is more important is to learn to learn. May be, my Boss was not a jargon throwing, hi-flying, slick and suave, smooth-talker. Guess, what he meant was that I need to have a learning attitude. He may not have taught me much on the professional front. Or may be, he did try teaching me some professional stuff too. But what I learnt from him was more subtle yet stronger. He taught me how to learn. Thank you, Mr. Nair, Prabha Boss to all his learners.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ready made

Ready made

I know someone who got married at the age of 22. When I heard that, for a moment I almost started laughing. And suddenly, I was impressed. The most common discussion we used to have among friends while growing up was, what is the right age to get married and finally, when to start a family? The number of people I have had this discussion with and the number of times I have had this discussion, 22 yrs was no way close to the age we ever finally agreed upon.

I keep thinking when is the right age to start, well, anything. When should children start going to school? When should one start tuitions? When is a boy/girl ready to start body building, dating etc. When does one decide to get married or start a family? Someone who is settled financially, has a supportive family, no or minimum personal liabilities and ready to take on more responsibilities. In effect, s/he is ready to move onto the next level of existence, the higher orbit of living, the next stage of maturity. Does one get married the day/month/year one gets into a job? Or wait for a reasonable bank balance, a fair amount of soul searching for the soul mate, a considerable research on prospective partners? Does all this depend on a certain age? May be or may be not.

Since the time I have started working, the most common phrase hear is, “we are not ready for this.” Companies are wary of many “new” ideas. Well, not exactly new, per say. Many of them are being practiced by big companies. I call them, “best practices”. Any practice when repeated over numerous time intervals becomes a habit. Proper documentation supporting this habit makes it a process. A process is a document with a valid scope, consistent inputs, logical flow, quantitative and measurable outputs. When these measurable outputs over time are linked to business imperatives assisting to increase productivity, generate revenues or cut costs, in the long run is called a “best practice”. Nothing is achieved in a jiffy. Neither 90% marks in exams, 6-pack abs or creation of an MNC.

Why are people apprehensive of following best practices? When is an organisation ready for the next challenge? When a start-up, an organisation will have the ‘ignition’ issues. Management gurus call it the gestation period I think, so be it. Six months to a year, they have the teething problems. A year to a couple of years down the line, they have to do the balancing act between a start up and a rapidly growing company. Next comes a new set of issues of becoming a successful brand and hence people and promoters leaving the organisation leveraging on the new found success. So, when does an organisation start following best practices? One year of starting, two to three years of running and settling a business or right from the word go? Does it depend on the age of the company? May be or may be not. By the way, I don’t support the term “Indian MNC”. All Indian companies are “lala companies”.

There is nothing ready made. Everything is made ready. Even a so called ready made trouser needs alteration. Customization of processes may be necessary. What is important is ‘intent’ and ‘value add’. Best practice organisations have an ‘intent’ to institutionalize processes with business metrics which ‘add value’ to the organisation. Long run is the key here.

One mother and nine months make a baby. Nine mothers and one month do not make anything.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Be Patient

Just this Thursday, I was informed by my parents that a very young cousin of mine was being operated in AIIMS for some eye problem. It was known that the kid was born with deficiencies and needed special care right from the start for his low vision in both eyes. Otherwise, he was a very intelligent kid and highly energetic. Despite his vision being low, he still manages to run faster than kids his age, passes all his subjects with high grades and is known for his practical pranks, age no bar.

Knowing him since his birth, I thought I should pay him a visit post his surgery. I reached AIIMS and called my uncle to know their ward number. He said they are at the ENT department for some check up and clearance. I was impressed. Just after a day of surgery, the patient was being checked and cleared for discharge. I asked the enquiry desk and got to the ENT floor. What I saw and got to know there was unheard by me till date.

The kid patient had not been operated on Friday as there were no pre-surgery clearances attained by various necessary departments as mandated before an eye surgery. They had spent 5 days already in the private ward of the hospital talking to all possible eye specialists, doctors and nurses. No one had once mentioned the process to follow. How on earth would I know if there is water in Mars? Only a Martian can tell me that, right? Did I tell you that the private ward for which they were paying 1500 bucks per day had a TV which was not functioning, leaking bathroom taps and an Air Conditioner plug which gave out sparks sometimes?

If that was not enough, at 0800 hours in the morning the ward boy who was to take them from the private ward to the ENT department actually took and made them sit in the Neuro-surgery department. When in doubt and asked by the parents of the kid, some official of the hospital reassured them that this is the right place as the ENT and Neurology department have shifted to this New Building, where they were waiting. Till 1100 hours with no sign of the Doctor, they enquired again. Their papers were taken and kept by an Attendant. When the Doctor finally arrived, they were told the real news and that they would have to come back to the Old Building and visit the ENT specialist. By this time I reached the hospital and was with them. This was not all. The ENT specialist recommended nasal and Chest X-Ray, based on which she would give a clearance or otherwise. When asked where the X-Ray department is, she told us the way but she was not sure if it would be open as it was a Saturday. Rightly so, the X-Ray department closes by 1100 hours on Saturdays. The kid who had woken up at 0600 hours for clearance checkups had not had breakfast as advised by nurses. It was well past 1300 hours and we had got clearance from even one department. We went back to the ward and made him finish his lunch. We had to go out for X-Ray and wait for an hour for the report.

It was 5 days that the patient had come for an eye operation. Leave alone the eye, when we came back and showed the X-Ray report to the ENT specialist there was a new recommendation been made. The kid needed a nose surgery as his nasal glands had expanded and may pose a problem in the near future.

It was 1800 hrs. All departments were closing. The only department that we could finish during the day had given us news of a new surgery which am sure would entail a new set of pre-surgery clearances to be taken, new buildings to sit and wait at, some more X-Rays to be taken and may be news of another possible surgery.

I may be over reacting as this was someone known to me. No hospital can ever become a tourist spot. No one likes visiting the place either. But I suggest all to visit a hospital. Especially, a Government hospital makes a wonderful setting. It is worth mentioning that many private hospitals are not far from becoming perfect examples for aspiring proprietors of hospitals. Just walking across one of the corridors will give you an idea how not to run a hospital. Ofcourse, the population, the amazingly ill facilitated, mismanaged and disdainful medical facility of our country is such that I really think MHA (Masters in Hospital Administration) as a professional degree and aspirants of this course should become really serious about it. Proprietors and our Government, no matter which party forms it, will gain much from this set of academia and professionals in a big way. The patient community will certainly be benefited on a large scale.

As to parents of the kid, all I can say is, he is our patient, let’s be patient.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

My Fish Philosophy

We all want to make it big in life. And only big names give you bigger opportunities. So, target is to get into a better engineering college or a higher ranked management school to get that big opportunity. Big names do not visit small campuses. The notion is you don’t get a good job in a small company. There is certainly difference between job and work. You may have a job but may not be working. You may be working but you cannot call it a job. What they do at big brand companies is totally different, more valuable and ofcourse better paying. What one does there is a good job. What others do is just work. Right?

What big brands do certainly would be valuable and that’s why they have become bigger and a more valued company. Being much bigger and more prosperous, they certainly can pay well. But is what they do different? The sales guy sells, the marketer creates that USP, the finance guy ensures working capital; the HR official tries to keep people engaged. I guess in all companies that’s what all these people do in their respective domains. Isn’t it? But then, everyone wants to be the best. Every company wants to be No. 1. So whose pressure is bigger? No. 2 racing to become No. 1? Or No. 1 trying to maintain his position at the top? Their pressures being different, I presume their strategies are different. Strategies being different, shouldn’t they do different things? May be, Mr. Shiv Khera is right. Winners don’t do different things. They do things differently.

I started working as I was not from a big named or high ranking campus. To put records straight, I loved my work. I still do. Infact, sometimes, I am tempted to call it a good job. But how I wish I could say that. Or, in other words, wish I could lie a little better.

Anyways, having seen some of the seemingly big brands closely, working in small subsidiaries of some and interacted actively with others, I have come to a safe conclusion for the moment that they certainly do something different. They make sure it’s either different people doing the same job or the same people doing different jobs. So, a sales professional after a while would get into marketing, finance professional would start his HR stint soon and a finance professional would be asked to run a business. When job rotations like these happen, it is planned well. However, if it is the first set of rules - different people called in to do the same job it has to be well planned. Heads have to roll. Cabins have to be vacated and name plates have to change. There are indirect remarks, slow accusations, false disagreements, direct confrontations which finally end in quick exits and even quicker replacements. It is not an easy sight. In both situations, for the company, big or small, it is an important thing to do. When it is important, someone important will be impacted.

Growing up, I used to reckon, how important is being important? During one of those days I had read somewhere, “it is nice to be important, but it is important to be nice”. I doubt, somewhere in the effort of being nice, I missed becoming as competitive as it was required to be. And till today, I keep asking the same question to people. What is important, being a small fish in a big pond or a big fish in a small pond?

I have the same buying confusion, to buy an aquarium with variety of fishes or a gold fish in a small round vase?


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Testing Times

One dayers or test matches, which is the more enjoyable version? This question has been doing the rounds for along time in a lot of discussions. More recently, with the introduction of 20-20 version, the smallest version yet, has been preferred by many. They have their logic clear. They say it is less time consuming, more power packed performances, more exciting and thrilling to watch and ofcourse, more money generating. Granted. But, where is the game in a 20-20 match? A basic cricketing sense is needed, but a “wham-bam-thank you-ma’am” attitude is what’s required. A test match is where the game is in its full grandeur. Captains strategize, bowlers introduce tactics, batsmen are in their elegant best and teams play with flamboyance of gentlemen. There is panache, power and purity. It’s akin to making love. In the other version, there is no foreplay, just the three letter word… SIX or OUT. Who does not love having some quick fun? But the choices you make define you. Speedy dates makes one a much talked about personality in her/his own circle of influence for a while. But a long standing relationship creates respect, makes you an example.

I love test cricket. In all sincerity, not many, including the undersigned was hopeful of a test win when India traveled to play against the Aussies in Australia. Still one of the best batting line ups on paper, a decent bowling line up and a couple of renowned fielders, India had a good mix. But probably not good enough to beat a team which had 14 straight test wins and were eyeing to break the 16 in a row test wins set by their own countrymen! Moreover, with Australia playing 13 players against our mere 11, it was never a fair game. I thank them who decided umpires should stop wearing their white coats. Doesn’t go well with the colors of the game.

But what a win! Finally, after 5 years a team was able to beat the world beaters and that too in their own courtyard. India has done the unthinkable. And what a test match it was. Every minute was a thriller, every ball not to be missed and every appeal exciting. It was pure magic. Cricket, at its best. When a cricket match yields a result a day before its supposed to finish, you are assured it was gold class cricket played. Both sides have to be congratulated. There is only one winner though.

Contemplating now, I believe times have changed. Time is at a premium. We don’t have the patience to invest time and energy on even things we love. So, if we have a one-day match why watch a 5-day test? If we have 20-20 version, which starts and ends in half a day, why go for a full day match? Why just cricket, even for relationships, we have speed dating as a way of life now. Try out twenty people for 2 minutes and decide who is a catch and who is out of the boundary. Only here, it’s the reverse. The one caught stays and the one lifted out is, well, out. Strange are the rules, stranger are the players! Game on.

So, what does one like, a test match, a one dayer or a 20-20? Can we have a shorter version from 20-20? Who knows? May be. It sure is testing times for the thinkers of the game. How to make the game even more interesting, even more gripping and even more profitable? Guess, the question should be, what does one want?

Why do we call it a one-night stand, where all we may get is a lay?