Friday, November 20, 2009

'Boss'ing around....

Its time for me to dedicate a post to the different "bosses" i have had the privilege to work with or observe from a close distance, till date.

1) Gyan Master Zorro - I believe the name here is self explanatory to a great extent. The gyan master riding a horse like the protagonist in the movie "the mask of zorro" with the mask on,doling out copius gyan irrespective of the situation/requirements.He was like a leopard on the prowl and i was like the prey running around for cover.Our usual conversations went like this:

moi- arey issue mein finally kya karna hai?
Zorro -See..we can do it this way...also that way and not to mention that other way..there are so many ways of achieving the desired end
moi - sir..woh sab to theek hai par...should i go ahead and do it the 'abc' way which i feel is correct
Zorro - yes i think u shud do it the way u feel is right but at the same time u can do it this way also...that way also and that remotely possible way also...
moi- but sir...big boss is saying 1234 way is better
Zorro - yes that can be better...but this way can also be gud...that way can also be gud and not to mention ur way cud also be considered...
moi- arey sir...finally boliye kya karna hai...main ab...1234 sey hi kar deta
Zorro - see it all depends...
moi- eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
moi-runs away with an excuse of fake important call on the mobile.

Now as is evident from the above pointless rambling of his, he was an engineer and an MBA.His making a decision tree at every drop of the hat had its roots in the engineering curriculum and the golden "it depends" phrase must have caught his imagination during his MBA.All in all he had taken his studies way too seriously.And that was the source of his ever flowing "Gyan Ganga".On one occasion i saw him measuring the angle of the serpentine line depicting stock market crash that had happened on that day with his index finger on the computer screen of one of my colleagues. Gyan Master Zorro was trying to prove that he is quite gyani in that sphere also but my colleague looked at me with the expression "yeh agyani tumhara boss hai...tumhein dava ki nahi dua ki zaroorat hai".

But his 'gyan dene ki adat' helped me a lot when it came to making a decision of leaving for the day. He has developed this irritating habit of dropping by at my seat just before leaving for the day to "give gyan" on a randomly chosen topic.Those sessions lasted for about 15-20 minutes.But that was indicative of the fact that he would be leaving immediately afterwards. These were the only times when i tried to listen to him with great intent but more often than not my mind kept thinking about the prospect of his leaving as early as possible.

2) 'Nag'endra - Incessant nagging was his hobby. He was the boss of my colleague who sat adjacent to me.'Nag'endra kept calling him every 4th minute to ask the same"xyz task ho gaya kya?" question making my frnd go insane at the 10th call.In between this calling marathon he used to visit the seat of my friend whenever he had a suspicion that his subordinate might have run away not only from his responsibilities but also his home, may be this country due to a nagging boss.During all these visits he assigned new tasks to my colleague.

Nagendra - arey tum zara abc pehle karke do
prakash - are sir aap xyz ke liye already 5 baar call kar chuke hain
Nagendra - xyz bhaad mein jaaney karke do pehle
prakash - sir efg bhi karna hai...badey sahab ko dena hai 1 ghantey mein..
Nagendra - to maine kab roka hai shud be efficient
prakash - par agar abc beech mein karoonga to efg delay ho jayega
Nagendra - to abc bhaad mein janey do..
prakash - efg ke liye data mangana hai sir back office sey...time lag sakta hai...
Nagendra - to efg bhi bhaad mein janey do...but abc,xyz aur efg jaldi karke
Then he went back to his seat and started the tele calling excercise immediately again.

3) 'Piya'relal - He was a sweet-heart drunkard who just lived from weekend to weekend with the hope of drinking some more beer before he withered away from this ephemeral world.He was drinking his way to glory i felt at times.He discussed the same stuff over his mobile every friday eve."Yaar kahan baithna hai?...2-2 beer lagayenge....nahi nahi ghar ke paas yaar...drink karke ghar janey ko dimaag 'g****' hota hai...arey wife nahi hai...isliye aaraam hai..ludhiyana gayi hui hai".He just kept shouting from inside his cabin at people regarding the status of random tasks and obtained immense sadistic pleasure out of hurling "teri Maaki/Behen ki " type of abuses on those who did not respond to his shouts. All this he did standing in the middle of the office space feeling triumphant when females made faces at his "gandi zubaan".One of the new joinees was an attractive female who was standing at the printer for some print outs. 'Piya'relal shouted coming out of his cabin " arey tum log sab usko hi dekhte rahogey ki kaam karogey" when i am sure no body was so absorbed in ogling at her that work was suffering. This was more to convey that Mr. Piyarelaal found her attractive as per the girl.This girl who had read a few articles on women empowerment and emancipation felt so disgusted at this behaviour that she was about to commit suicide.Her shared love for pizza and a strong resolve to decimate the empire of lizards at home stopped her from doing so.

4) S't'are khan - "He must have loved to ogle at females big time in his youth" was the feeling i used to get whenever i came across this fellow. That ogling had developed into an obsession of staring at people irrespective of their sex. He just kept staring at you untill either you withdrew or a person like me with no depth of character whatsoever winked an eye at him. His tendency to stare was indicative of the fact that his wife was simply not making eye contact with him at home leave alone talking.Hence he kept checking if the fault was with him or with the others.After all this staring he interacted with the colleagues telling them that he is reachable anytime in his cabin and on his mobile. This to all the female colleagues was like an invitation to enter the den of a hungry lion like a prey.Obviously there was not even a 'd' of desire present in them to 'reach' this "bhookha bhedia" at any point in time in their lives.He also yelled "fuck it ..chuck it" at his team members 5 times daily reaffirming his supposedly wicked intentions towards the entire human race.

5) I Robot - He came straight out of the issac asimov's I-robot series. Every thing had an algorithm.Numbers numbers everywhere."Internalize the numbers...Internalize the numbers...i say" he used to say everytime one of us was not able to recall a number to the 3rd decimal place. I felt he had taken the Turing machine and compiler type subjects during his engineering extreamly seriously.Our conversations with him either general or to apprise him of some thing,PPTs etc. everything had to be in steps.Every document produced was to have an underlying super structure like the IF-THEN-ELSE structure in computer programming.And strangely enough his turing machine comsumed the end result first and then went backwards if required or just halted at the final state. Once i had to follow up with a guy for which i was trying my best. I had called that guy up 3 times and he was in a long meeting it seemed.

I- Robot - "howz the follow up going?"
moi - I tried calling him.....
I-Robot - shut up..answer a 'yes' or a 'No'
moi - ummm...yes and no...i called him up 'yes' but have i spoken to him 'no'
I-Robot - bullshit
I-Robot - What is relevant and important here...the talking and not trying..
I-Robot - you should say " No" first. Then you should blurt out other words on need to know basis.
moi - yes sir. Subedaar dubey to follow your orders sir..
I-robot - What about the other 13 tasks u r looking at ?
moi - no, no, no, yes, yes , no , yes........................hufffff

6) Dodo kumar - 'As dead as a dodo' is what describes him.He always had the same dead stony expression on his face. Came to office at 9:00 sharp, kept staring at his pc till 7:00 in the evening as if porn was on display and left for the day with the same expression in his wagonR. Looking at him i could only think of Bertrand Russell who once had said that had he been a medical person he would have recommended one day's rest to every patient who thought his work was important.Dodo kumar's demeanour said that he was on a mission critical task like the 007 and he was to be the great survivor in the end.I had seen him smiling & singing with theatrical expressions only once.That was when a nursery rhyme played on the mobile of a co-worker.An extream longing for a child or may be the lack of it due to the child inside him, had made him like that i suppose.

7) Mr. Washroom - This person always bore a look on his face as if he was feeling an unresistible natural force to relieve himself and his running to the washroom for the same could happen anytime.Even his smile reminded me of the usual smile of a 6 year old school boy, marking fear and embarassment both at the same time,of my school, who could not reverse the nature's call during the prayer session and relieved himself of his duty on the spot but could not speak a word about it as prayer was on.One day Mr. washroom came to me and said "boss finish this on a priority basis...big boss might ask for this at 6:30 pm...and it was 10:30 in the morning...just 2 slides to be modified".I said 'ok'.His nature's call intensified "arey u understand naa...its urgent...jaldi sey kar do...fir wahan boss ke cabin mein rakh dena..ok??".I wanted to say"sir..washroom is towards the right...pehle aap aaram sey washroom ho tak main kar deta hoon...zyada der ho gayi to izzat sare-aam neelaam ho jayegi".One of my colleagues was so ruthless that upon recieving orders from Mr. Washroom for doing a task he first proved the uselessness of the given task on the spot before starting with it. This took the anxiety levels of Mr. Washroom to such levels that i at times feared his succumbing to the pressure created, on his seat itself.

8) "Devi"prasaad - The name 'Devi'prasad is borne out of the frantic head movements he used to make as soon as he was placed in front of his seniors,making me remember the incidents that usually happen in interior india when some lady starts making such head movements and is believed to be governed by a Devi residing inside her body."Arey iske oopar devi aa gayi hai"goes the standard description.Once during a meeting with some foreigners where his seniors were also present he started moving his head at such a pace that the outsiders thought it was 'power yoga' in progress. I couldnt tell them that he was just in agreement with every word spoken by them even before they delivered it.He was a 'pre'sage of india afterall.He was a typical management person with his umpteen excels that he maintained for tracking almost everything even remotely related to his life. He had an excel for the work his team was supposed to do with different colors representing different resources.Note the word 'resources' as we all became mere objects to be goaded once we started featuring in his "almighty" excel sheet.Then he had an excel sheet to apprise senior management of the systematic damage he was doing to the entire cultural and financial fabric of the organisation.He had an excel to track his stock market portfolio which supposedly gave 30% return YOY which is why he 'made love' to the portfolio excel sheet for hours together everyday delegating all official work to the resources allocated to him.I had heard that he even had an excel sheet for the daily chores like buying vegetables and a broom as per the orders of his wife.He also was an easy boss to deal with, in many situations due to his unsatiable thirst for awareness.We the resources were just supposed to provide a status-update to him about all the tasks we handled every 20 microseconds.This was all he wanted irrespective of the chances of the eventual completion of the task.

9) Johny Walker - 'taking a walk in the park' is how he appeared while traversing across from one end to the other on our office floor. With hands swinging in happiness he rode across with a spring in the steps and a smile on his face. Throwing greetings and even winking his eyes at almost everyone passing by, even those hiding behind the pillar due to an unfinished task, he was respected by one and all.Not to mention his laughter which was extreamly contagious and a very high self esteem for he took no shit from nobody no matter how senior he/she was.He had such confidence and composure in his talk and his body language that the entire team took him as their natural leader.He backed his team members too.He used to visit every desk in his vicinity cracking jokes and delivering small lectures on the scope of improvement sandwitched in between the layers of jokes and anecdotes.I saw great leadership traits in him and always thought of him as a role model with respect to all the positives he exhibited.May be i did not scrutinize his behaviour very closely but if all i remember is what i have written till this point he definitely was an example of a good boss for sure.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Getting out of the 'Comfort Zone'

I came across some powerful peices on 'getting out of the comfort zone' in life. I found them a source of pleasure as well as instruction.I strongly believe that if one wants to realise one's true potential in life, the ability to get out of the comfort zone at any given point in time is essential.It has been my observation that irrational fears about the future have been one of the major roadblocks that i have encountered in my life till date whenever i have tried to step out of a comfort zone. And i have discovered new dimensions of myself and have found myself stronger everytime i have finally stepped out after having won over those fears.

Some of your hurts you have cured,
And the sharpest you still have survived,
But what torments of grief you endured
From the evil which never arrived.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Piece 1

When you face your own truth, you’ll find it’s an enormous relief. If you’re maybe not as wonderful as you’d like to be, you aren’t nearly as bad as you fear either. The truth really does set you free; free to work on being better and to forgive yourself for being human; free to express your gratitude to others and recognize what you owe them; free to acknowledge your feelings without letting them dominate your life. Above all, you’ll be free to understand the truth of living: that much of what happens to you is no more than chance. It can’t be avoided and is not your fault. There’s no point in beating yourself up about it.

What is holding you in situations and actions that no longer work for you often isn’t inertia or procrastination. It’s the power of habitual ways of seeing the world and thinking about events. Until you can let go of those old, worn-out habits, they’ll continue to hold you prisoner. To stay in your comfort zone through mere habit, or—worse still—to stay there because of irrational fears of what may lie outside, will condemn you to a life of frustration and regret.

If you can accept the truth about the world and yourself, change whatever is holding you back, and get on with a fresh view on life, you’ll find that single action lets you open the door of your self-imposed prison and walk free. There’s a marvelous world out there. You’ll see, if you try it.

Piece 2

Steps (for getting out of the comfort zone)

Make a fool of yourself. One of the biggest things that holds many of us back is our fear of what people think. After all, you don't want people to think you're weird or rude or creepy or obnoxious or annoying, do you? But wait -- think about the most lovable, magnetic people you've come across in your life. Odds are, they weren't the meek, agreeable people who are reliably pleasant to be around. They were the people who were crazy and charming. People who blurted out silly, maybe inappropriate things, or who made huge, slap-your-forehead mistakes, or who were over the top most of the time, but others forgave them for being less than perfect and in fact, liked them for it. So shatter your concern for what people think of you. You're allowed to be less than perfect, and you may find that people like you more for it, because it makes you a more exciting person to be around. Get laughed at, laugh with 'em. Do something you normally wouldn't do for fear of looking like an idiot. Be that idiot. You'll be fine.

Face your fears. There are the big fears, such as heights, spiders, tight spaces, and germs, but there are also hundreds of subtle fears we bow to every day. Like the fear of breaking a bone, or falling down, or getting caught in the rain. What are the precautions you take every day to circumvent "negative" circumstances? And are those circumstances really worth stepping around? Those steps add up! It's good to be proactive, but it's bad to let a significant portion of your life be devoted to averting things that never happen--Little things that could turn into adventures or funny stories if you allow yourself to deal with a little discomfort.

Become comfortable with taking risks. Your comfort zone is comfortable because it's where you know what to expect. Going out on a limb can be scary because you might fail. You might lose something. But you might also gain something, huh? In order to become comfortable with that uncertainty, you'll need to practice the following:

Non-attachment. When you decide to do something, do it for its own sake, not so that you can get a particular result. If you gamble, gamble with money you're ready and willing to lose; gamble for the fun and exhilaration of gambling. If you win, that's icing on the cake! But if you lose, no big deal. In other words, let go of your attachment to a certain outcome; instead, focus on the joy of doing whatever you're doing. Live in the moment.

Acceptance. When things don't go your way, and they won't, shrug it off. If you're clinging to your comfort zone, you're hanging on to an idea that the world is supposed to be a safe, predictable place, and that's an illusion. You're setting yourself up for frustration and disappointment. Open your eyes. The world is a dynamic place where things go right and wrong. That's just the way it is!

Enjoy the unknown. When's the last time you felt excited about not knowing what was going to happen next? If you're deep in your comfort zone, it's probably been a while. Don't you miss it? Don't you miss the mixture of anticipation and anxiety that makes your heart flutter and stomach turn at the same time? Bring that feeling back into your life.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Random cosmic events & yours truly

Today it has been raining since morning in Mumbai. I feel these are post-monsoon showers as i can not call these pre-winter showers akin to pre-monsoon showers for 'winter' is a word which went out of the Mumbaikar dictionary zillion years ago.Compared to a phased transition from a plain t-shirt to full-shirt to full-shirt plus half-sweater to full-shirt plus full-sweater in my hometown bhopal its a plain promotion from absolutely no-shirt to a half-shirt in mumbai when it gets cloder. This i am talking about my clothing at home and not the workplace where such clothing pattern can negatively effect the productivity of my co-workers in all probability.Now coming back to the rainy weather, one of my friends called me just a while back to recount what happened to him while he was travelling back home from the office.As it was raining it had become difficult to catch a "ric" (as the 'rikshaw' of the society circles and 'rikshaa' or 'Aaaato' of the lesser circles is known in Mumbai).He thankfully got hold of a 'ric' in no time. And as the driver ji rotated the meter-shaft in the clockwise direction a girl waiting in the rain looking for a 'ric' caught his eye. He offerred a lift to her till Bandra station which was her destination anyways. The extreamly favourable cosmic events did not leave him there.Just when he started towards khar (west) from Bandra Station another girl asked for a lift till linking road. My dear friend obliged gleefully.Now these females were not only very attractive in his words but he had very pleasing conversations with both of them. All this he narrated in a somewhat happy but indifferent tone as he is "morally" not allowed to feel elated due to an imminent wed-lock.

Listening to the description about this string of positive cosmic events i could not stop myself from visualizing what would have happened had it been me instead of my friend today in his situation.This visualization takes inspiration from the various random cosmic events as they have occured in my life till date. In simpler words i can say it is based on my experience in such similar situations untill today.Here it goes...

I would have walked out of the office. Looking at the rain i would have thought " today i need to catch a ric really fast or else i m doomed". And from here on the extreamly unfavourable cosmic events would have hit me real hard. The 'ric' which on any other day would have "taken me for a ride" in about 15 mins, would not have simply turned up. I would have kept running after the 'rics' one after the other to the point where i would have been totally drenched and pissed off like hell.But all in all i would have gotten hold of a 'ric', after some solid hard work though.When the 'ric' would have started with the meter running like "Milkha Singh" i would also have spotted a girl waiting to be "lift-ed" but just when i would have thrown my head out of the vehicle to offer her a lift a male voice would have rather pre-empted my effort. That voice would have said "boss..thoda aagey tak chod dena yaar...kaafi bheeg gaya hoon". With utter disappointment i would have given him a chance to share the limited seating space available to hear some more words being blurted out of his mouth "boss 2 frnds aur hain mere...peechey aa rahey hain...woh bhi bheeg gaye hain". And i would have thought " haan saaley...poora desh bheeg gaya hai aaj...sabke sab mere sar par baith kar hi samandaar paar karenge".In this manner i would have shared a lowly 'ric' with 3 other hefty men rather than the girl waiting for a lift and would have listened to their ranting rather than a melliflous voice of the female left behind.Now while that girl would have wanted me to drop her at bandra station these men would have taken the vehicle to some unknown corner in Chembur citing the devilish rain and would have just run away at the first opportunity of doing such so as to evade the meter-fare sharing excercise.In the end it would have been just me and no girls to have a nice conversation with,in the rain, coming back from chembur where i never wanted to go in the first place, with the entire fare against my anyhow very low salary.And then last but not by any means the least unfriendly cosmic event would have struck with the 'ric' breaking down somewhere in the middle of chembur and my home in santacruz and driver ji announcing " bhaisaab..kharaaab ho gaya...ab nahi chalega...doosra rikshaa le lo aap". I would have mumbled " gadhey ke bacchey...tera rickshaa pehle hi nahi leta to accha rehta...ab yeh doosra kahan sey milega". And i would have spent some 30 more minutes to get hold of another rickety 'ric' to get back home just to feel utterly cheated and fooled by these so called cosmic events which occur always in a friendly mode when they happen to others but show their evil self when it comes to yours truly.

Monday, November 9, 2009

My fav English poems - 2

The Road Not Taken - Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

My fav English poems - 1

'if' by rudyard kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master,
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

Friday, November 6, 2009

some food for thought

I recently read this book called " Guilty Men of India's Partition" by Ram Manohar Lohia.Reproduced below are some excerpts from the book which forced me to think. Even though i somehow intuitively agree with the ideas expressed therein but i would personally want to contemplate over these in the times to come.

"The Haldighati spirit takes a long term view and does not mind a succession of defeats. It does not believe that the world will end with the current generation. It believes that the ultimate source of strength and goodness lies in the power of the will. How clean, knowing, unselfish and undefeated in this spirit. The indian people have only rarely known the Haldighati spirit, at least in their politics. They have known too much of the Panipat,Kanva and the Buxar spirit. This latter spirit measures and calculates and does not generally give battle to the foe. Even when it does,it continues to measure and to calculate, and is ready early to accept defeat and to surrender, or at least to run away without the intention to fight again. It does not regroup after a defeat. I would refer such as have not understood the Haldighati spirit to the Thermopylae spirit, for both are alike, except in location and personnel. For one Haldighati there are at least a hundred Panipats, Kanvas and Buxars in Indian history.India shall truly change when her youth vows to cast out of the mind all the Panipat, Kanva and Buxar manipulations."

"Those in india who sometimes threaten - more in private conversation than in public speeches- to destroy Pakistan by the force of arms are either lunatics or cheats, probably the latter.Such a thing is impossible in the present international context.Probably because of this, the anti-Pakistan spirit has generally deteriorated into an anti-Muslim spirit.As it is impossible to strike at Pakistan, the mad men or the scoundrels decide to strike at Muslims whenever they get an oppotunity. Such activities reinforce the Partition of the country.Partition can be undone only with increasing identification between Hindus and Muslims, the absence of which was the prime cause of Partition."

"Manipulation may be all right,at least in the selfish way, for men of great skill, who are also backed by some decisive strength.It becomes a curse in persons with lesser craftiness and little backing."

"A look back at history can at best analyse and enumerate alternatives, but it can in no way ascertain whether these alternatives were possible at that time.Such an analysis and speculation may be at best broaden the mind,which is what goes into the future and is not part of the past."

"Sugary sentimentalism is part of the Indian character.This weakness also derives presumably from the absence of identification between the ruling class and the masses. What is not obtainable through strength is sought to be achieved by prayer and wheedling and praise and hyperbole.The otherwise rich languages of India, than whom no language of the world is richer in a total way, suffer from this grievious malady of hyperbole and sugared sentimentality.Everything is turned into sacral shape.All becomes holy. Everything is turned into a nectar.Everybody is an ocean of something or the other, of learning or generosity, of wisdom or courage."

"Not disunity, but caste has been the prime factor behind India's susceptibility to invasions and her frequent submissions to them."

"Who knows if, after all, the man is not really to blame, and that in his blood courses the art of adjustment, acceptance without acquiescence and surrender without cowardice, the capability for limited sacrifice and the desire for unlimited recognition and superb intelligence of statecraft and groupcraft, of which India's ruling castes of four thousand years or more are the world's unmatched example."

"Some are tempted by power.Some are frightened at the prospect of holding power. Both attitudes can become equally hazardous. A politician , who is also a statesman, would so strive that he is neither tempted by power nor shies at it."

"The revolutionary, down to the lowest village revolutionary, is a bit of a prophet. He wishes to change his people, their mind as well as their life.He is not distressed over much if he cannot witness the last stages of this change in his lifetime.He is satisfied that he is piling up the conditions for that change, which will most assuredly be accomplished by his successors"

"Groups and people are often unable to percieve thier own true and large interests and are easily led into running after doubful or less fruitful ends"

"Most men reason by example.They do not reason by premises"

"India is the land par excellence of spiritual equality, of which Mahadevi* is a grand example, and Europe is the unmatched region of social equality, of which the British Duchess is no less grand a symbol"

"The system of castes has given to the Indian character certain extraordinary virtues and vices. The virtues are obvious. The indian character, moulded as it is by the caste system, does not easily take to change, which it inspects over and over again before acceptance and, more often than not, which it strangles by a surface acquiescence and a basic rejection. In times of prosperity and strength, such a character strives for an odd kind of justice and, at all times, for stability and maintainance of identity.The vices are much more numerous and deep going. Indian character has become the most split in all the world.The total loss of identifiaction between higher and lower castes has produced a situation of great unreality, of lying and double dealing, of tensions that have become a normal part of the mind, of readiness to whine and wheedle and cajole at the moment immediately before or after threatning, bullying or assaulting, or great bravery without tenacity and cowardice without total submission, of a ruling class unparalled in all the world for its duration or its ability to adjust, alongside its stubbornness to maintain its identity."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Introducing Mr. Sleeparound

One of my good friends called me up a few days back and announced that he had finally 'arrived' in Mumbai.And that to him it is just the right time to have a few (kindly notice the plural nature of the word) females "sleeping around" with him who are also genetically allergic to the word commitment.All this because of his high paying job in a US based consultancy after passing out of an IIM. This was probably the 500th time a male was telling me his wild fantasy, thinking that it sounded like a possibility. And once again this was in words so passionate that even i could feel the force to not entirely rule out the possibility of such happening. I have nothing personal against that friend in general or that idea in particular but how could have i believed in such an outrageous idea given some facts.It takes on an average 30 years for an average indian male like 'yours truly' to sleep around with 'a' female and that happens usually after marriage and unusually otherwise.Here Mr. Sleeparound was not only 3 years away from that "striking" age but also was talking of a 'few' females and not just one.On top of this he never in his recent past (stretched to a period of 27 years to counter his claim that he had a girlfrnd in school) could get hold of even a "non-sleep-around" type of girl leave alone the target variety.The definition of an average indian male above obviously excludes those blokes who get initiated in this "sleep-around" art right from an age of 16 and reach the "striking age" with an amazing talent to "sleep-around" with almost anyone who comes in thier way.And Mr. Sleeparound was definitely not of this category for sure.All this made me flay his proposition in my mind rightaway but the wise man in me instructed me not to "jump the gun" and atleast try and look at some other capabilities of his which might have acted as a basis of his new found confidence.

He had very recently acquired the virtue called "drinking" to probably make himself ready for that proverbial "sexual encounter" which is a common dream of all males from early puberty. The ground work to such encounters (as shown in the movies) happens with the male buying a few drinks for the female at a pub,both shooting off immediately afterwards without talking, having assumed the inclination of both the party and the counterparty for "one night stand". To me "One night stand" means standing outside the room for an entire night while your "could have been" girlfriend ecstatically sleeps with her actual boyfriend. But in the present context my defintion does not apply due to the serious nature of discussion in progress.

A habit of drinking i think would anyways have been helpful in his case for atleast helping him with creating an imaginary "sexual encounter" in his mind as probality of such an actual happening was always sub-zero.It is a historically proven (and experienced by yours truly) fact that the dream of a "wild sexual encounter with a hot babe" brings all 'single at that point in time' men to pubs on the new-year or any such other eve, thanks to the free passes distributed left,right and center by the wicked salesmen.But after having 'arrived' at such places these men invariably realize that the only encounter that could happen is with other males bearing "you filthy insect ...go kill yourself" look in their eyes.At the same time they all feel cheated by the "smart ass" boyfriends of the target "hot babes" who took their girls to some other place where the so called untouchables 'the stags' were not allowed to enter.

Coming back to my friend i thought he had increased, very marginally though, his chances of such an encounter by taking to drinking.This forced me to ask the next question that "how do you plan to bring this dream to reality". He started answering in all earnest as if i had already fallen in his trap of"wishful" thinking."I have my own room here in the flat that i share with my roomie" he said."And you know room is so good in terms of the sexual ambience that my roomie and i intuitively feel its the best room to have sex. It has mirrors all around". Whatttt.Was he talking of having sex or playing hide and seek with her "Bruce Lee" a la Enter the Dragon.One thing was for sure that his roomie also never had got an oppotunity to sleep-around with any female whatsoever as two such men only could indulge in such childish talk.I have seen 'men' who just get up, get ready and go for the kill. And all they have is a sofa set in the in the hall of a flat shared by two more roomies but thats more than sufficient for them. They dont believe in talking they just believe in 'doing'.

Just to carry the conversation further i said "may be having a full flat might have been better".In such a case the girl might get an impression that the guy is rich and could afford a few more "sleeparound" sessions before being dragged into penury due to the overly expensive nature of such sessions.I added " Why dont you buy a car also dude. That will really help". Imagine a situation where a guy has bought a few drinks for that 'hot babe' in a pub.Just when she is turning into a 'wild cat' the guy shouts " Aye rickshaw...Master Dina Nath colony, kanjurmarg (east) chalogey kya". This will make the wild cat (already turned into a wild boar) run away with immediate effect.He conformed to my view and said he was already thinking in that direction.

Having talked to him all this while i felt my initial belief stood vindicated that the chances of his dream turning into reality were second only to none. Only a divine intervention could make him walk his talk. With this at the back of my mind and having given the suggestions of owining a flat as well as a car i wished him best of luck in his endeavour. I hope the execution of his plan will get me some more stuff to write.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The world of numbers - as i see it

It was my first job in pune where i first came close to the "Stock Market". As against the sabzi market where i went and bought stuff after haggling with the seller, here i just had to login into the online trading account and buy whatever i thought was appropriate with absolute peace. This false sense of peace prevailed untill i saw stuff i had bought a few days ago being offerred to new buyers at a flat 50% discount to what i had paid for.

Investing my own money in the stock market got me into understanding different businesses and industry sectors as my investments were supposed to grow based on their perfomance in the times to come. Its always believed that markets discount the future and to my mind a discounting for the next 6 months is usually what happens. So not only i was required to understand how the businesses earned revenue and made profits but also the macro level stuff which helped taking a view on the future. For the first time in my life i was looking at numbers under different headers like PAT, EBITDA , Revenue, Inventories , Current assets, Fixed assets etc. and was trying to make sense out them.I for one found it very interesting and that helped me in deciding to go for an MBA so that i could understand businesses to a greater depth.

Now having done my MBA (where finance was my major area of interest and to which i dedicated most of my time during the course) and having worked at a bank in project financing for more than an year i think i am well placed to atleast list down a few of my observations till date about this world of numbers.

First- Numbers are for measurement. They are used to measure objective things like the number of mangoes in a basket and also the subjective stuff like the expected growth rate of revenues in a business. Its amazing that putting things in numbers makes it so easy to understand a situation, the effects of an event or to compare, among others.But this does not take away the fact that numbers themselves don't say anything. What is being expressed with numbers is what makes them either very useful or completely useless.

Second - Finance is a language. Like Hindi/English which help us with understanding what is being communicated, finance is also a language for understanding the system that human beings have put in place where production, consumption, buying and selling happens at the activity level or where the resource called money is getting invested/managed at the conceptual level.Businesses express themselves in this language and people understand their talk with the help of the same language.

Third- Finance is so deeply entrenched in our daily lives that it should be taught in the school curriculum as a compulsory subject. Be it looking at one's assets/liabilities in life , making a budget, deploying resources to the optimum use,investing money or a cost/benefit analysis of decisions, its there making its importance felt at every point in life.

Fourth - The field of finance to my utter surprise showers at you pearls of wisdom no end. Like "any decision is as good as the a underlying assumptions". What all things we assume at the time of our decision making, be it a financial decision or a social one, decide the exact course of future.Change the assumptions and you could have taken a different decision altogether. Like "returns are linked to the risk we are ready to take".Playing safe attitude can give you a comfortable life but charting troubled waters might lead you to realising your true potential which will in turn rank very high on personal satisfaction index and might give to a lot of money too.Also the golden rule that "for every debit there is a credit and vice versa" applies to almost every aspect in life.The list goes on.

Fifth -Numbers are not sacrosanct - Numbers are not something on which one should bet one's life. They can be manipulated, tweaked and played around with. Which one of these will happen depends on the purpose for which numbers are to be employed. Some of the most frequent applications of numbers that i have noticed are to support an already formed belief or to justify an already taken decision through effective story telling.Financial statements i felt were the home of numbers where atleast we could find them in their purest form. But even here almost every number has a schedule/note/footnote linked to it exposing the slieght of hands that has gone into generating that number. From the investment decision point of view numbers can not be entirely relied upon and decisions taken finally are based more on things like judgement which are completely subjective.

All in all i believe numbers are a framework for putting "a number" to different things.This in turn helps us in simplifying a situation in front of us making it easier for us to make decisions.In situations where a lot of subjectivity is involved they can only provide an approximate measure and not at all an exact one. How close the number is to the real depends on how close our assumptions are to the reality.Finance as a language gives us the ability to understand, analyse and communicate these numbers better and to learn things for further decision making.And finally in making decisions numbers can only provide an additional comfort to that obtained through the understanding, judgement and interpretation of an investor which are subjective at best.Numbers afterall are just a means to an end and not the end in themselves.