26 July 2016

'I don't like Diesel Cars'...

"I don't like diesel cars", he comments almost non-sequitur

I don't like absolute statements like this. I HAVE to get to the reason.

"Why don't you like diesel cars?" I ask

"Their vibration make me feel like vomiting", he announces

I have a diesel car. I don't feel the vibration in my car. I don't feel like vomiting when I am in it. I can't let this go without a fight.

I review the weapons in my armory. I could use technology, or I could use fuel economy. I chose technology.

"The new diesel engine technologies make the vibration in the car almost non-existent", I throw down the gauntlet. This is the brahmastra of arguments. A motherhood point that closes diesel / petrol debate in almost all cases.

Not this time. The discussion has just begun.

"Are you talking about CRDi technology?", he asks

I have no clue. I have just heard of CRDi. I don't have any idea about any of the diesel engine  technologies out there. I realize that I have entered into this battle without much preparation. I have underestimated the competition.

I am not about to give up.

"Maybe", I bravely reply. The trick to win a debate is to give your opponent the impression that you know much more than you are willing to divulge.

Fortunately, he doesn't ask me to expand CRDi. (Much later, Google tells me that it stands for 'Common Rail Direct Injection"). He assumes that I know.

"CRDi is not as great as it is made out to be. The difference between petrol engines and diesel engines is that in the former, there is a single source of ignition is created using a spark plug. This means that the flame moves in a uniform linear direction. This ensures smooth and complete combustion of the fuel. In diesel engines, on the other hand, the the ignition is caused due to high pressure. In this case, during the suction phase the diesel gets injected and remains as separate small goblets and the ignition causes multiple flame fronts inside the piston. This damages the surface of the piston and the inside of the cylinder. Also some fuel do not get ignited and this leads to waste of fuel", he says

He is throwing his Timoshenko, Rankine, Carnot and Khurmi at me. I  have no clue about what he is saying.

But, he is in his elements.

"What CRDi does is that it uses air compression to maintain a uniform air pressure inside the cylinder while injecting diesel into the piston. This high pressure breaks the diesel into very small goblets thereby ensuring homogeneity inside the piston and resolving the problem of multiple flame fronts from happening", he continues

I sense an opening.

"This means that CRDi is good technology. That is what I am saying.", I tell him jubilantly

He has not completed. "The problems is that over a period of time (30000 to 40000 Kilometers), the holes will tend to become bigger. Then what will happen?", he surprises me with a question from the left flank

I have no clue. I throw a dart. "The air pressure will reduce", I reply

Surprisingly, this one hits the bull eye.

"Correct", he gives me a quick appreciation and continues, "As the holes become bigger, the air pressure reduces, the goblets become bigger and hence less homogeneous and we are back to the problem of multiple flame fronts", he concludes

I have no way of arguing with him since I have no clue of what he is saying. Apparently at this point he seem to have won the debate.

But I have the weapon of 'Fuel Economy'. I have never seen it fail, though with the recent oil price hikes, the weapon has dulled a bit.

"What about fuel economy?", I play my last card, "Diesel vehicles give more milage per litre of fuel, don't they?"

It is almost like he is expecting this question. "Lets do a quick math, shall we?", he asks and continues without waiting for my answer. "Let us take this car for example. It is a Swift Petrol and I get about 16 Kilometers per litre of petrol. Diesel costs about 7 rupees lower per litre and gives me 4 Kilometers more per litre. So the cost per kilometer for petrol is Rs.4 and for diesel is Rs.3. So the cost benefit for diesel over petrol is approximately Rs.1 per kilometer. A diesel car costs about a lakh (100000) more than a petrol car of the same specifications. Which means that to offset the extra cost, a diesel car has to run about a lakh (100000) kilometers, just to breakeven. An average person runs his car for about 10000 kilometers in a year, which means that it will take 10 years to breakeven. Which business man will invest in such a business?", he completes innocently.

I sit there battered, my arguments ruthlessly demolished. I remember that I paid 1.5 lakhs more for my diesel car, purchased in 2010 and till now, I have driven only 30000 kilometers. As per the above calculation, I will need to drive 150000 kilometers just to breakeven and given my driving history, it will take......till eternity...

Friends, I give you Premnath, one of the few pure play, theoretical and conceptually strong mechanical engineers of Tec'86 batch.

After graduating in '86, Premnath worked for three years in Mumbai. In 1989 he wrote the GTRE (Gas Turbine Research Establishment, under DRDO) entrance examination. Those who came within the first 20 ranks were selected. Premnath scored 21st rank.

"That was a wakeup call for me", Premnath told me over dinner at his home in Palakkad, "I suddenly realized that I have lost the technical edge. Immediately I joined TKM College for MTech in Cryogenics"

Having completed his MTech in '91, in the same year he joined NSS College of Engineering, Palakkad as a lecturer in Mechanical Engineering. He has been in Palakkad ever since.

In the year 1992, Premnath married Usha, she being a BTech from REC Calicut and MTech from TKM College of Engineering. Usha, his always-smiling wife, works as an Executive Engineer in Kerala Water Authority in Palakkad. They have two children. Elder son Dr.Ramu Vinayak is a Dental Surgeon and the younger son Govind Vinayak is currently pursuing graduation in NSS College of Engineering. Unlike his father, who like badminton, Govind loves football and is also goes to gym regularly.

In 2012, Premnath got his PhD in 'Data Centre Cooling Optimization'. I asked him how he managed to do PhD at such a late stage in his career. While all of us aspire to do PhD there are only handful of them in our batch. So his feat, achieved at such an age, is very impressive.

"I, along with a friend of mine, used to do heat transfer audit for data centres ever since they became the norm. We used to travel all over India auditing data centres and documenting results, suggesting improvements and analysing patterns. Since I had the habit of making regular and detailed notes on all that I observed, over the years I piled up a lot of significantly useful data."

"Once I had all this data, the idea of writing a thesis germinated in my mind. I approached one of our seniors, who was a professor in Cochin University to be my guide and he immediately agreed.", Premnath told me.

"But you would have had to put in a lot of reading, a lot of research to prepare the material for your thesis?", I asked

"Nothing. I did not have to do anything special or read anything more to get this PhD. The field was new, I was probably the only person in the world to have done such assignments and the research. So what I write was the first material of its kind ever. Even my guide told me, "Premnath, I don't have a clue about this subject, I can't guide you. So you present any thesis and I will send it for evaluation". So I had it relatively easy", Premnath chuckled at the thought. 

"You are one lucky guy", I thought to myself. Talk about being at the right place at the right time...

We are sitting in the drawing room of his 3000 square feet home in the outskirts of Palakkad, away from all the noise. The entire house is lined with wood paneling. The doors and the pillars are made of teak wood, the ceiling is made of rose wood. The floors are made of exquisite tiles that he purchased all the way from Krishnagiri. 

"If I had purchased them here, the same tiles would have cost me 7 Lakhs. The total cost of these tiles, including transportation from Krishnagiri came to about 2.2 Lakhs", Premnath told me.

The analytical, engineering mind at work, ladies and gentlemen.

The house is situated in a land covering 20 Cents. When he purchased the land, the cost was about two lakhs per cent. Now it has become about 6 Lakhs.

"With the new railway overbridge coming up, the cost will escalate", he told me.

Being a practicing mechanical engineer, Premnath has designed the house with 'Thermal Design' concepts in mind. 

"The ceiling is 11 feet and above that there is a false ceiling of about 6 feet. The entire heat in all the rooms flow out through a duct in the middle of the house using convection currents. At any point, there will be a 13-14 degree difference between the temperatures outside and inside", he says.

I look at the ceiling fans.

"You are wondering as to why we have fans if the rooms are cool.", he says, . "The reason is that during summers the outside temperature can touch 46 degrees and even 33 degrees inside is hot"

Friends, most of us go all over the world in search of getting work, getting money and hoping of finally coming back and settling down in our home state. Then there are few lucky people like Premnath, who have managed to get a steady, well paying job in the home state, build two houses in a very peaceful area of the town, very near railway stations and his work place.

He and family regularly go to any of the many temples dotting nearby. They wake up to the mellifluous voice of Yesudas singing devotional songs, sit and listen to the chirping of the birds or wake up to the crowing of a distant cock...Premnath tends flowers in his garden, his son plucks coconuts from the coconut tree and his wife gets the chilly and Kariveppila from the kitchen garden and make chutney and serve it with hot home made Idli for breakfast....

There is not much of a work pressure for Premnath. He has classes of about 18 hours a week and a lab oversight of another 6 hours. He regularly plays badminton in the morning in the college indoor court and goes for a regular one hour evening walk at Kotta Maidanam in the middle of Palakkad Town.

Regular and relaxed life in the home state. Life that many of us dream about....

Over the years, he had met with a few tragedies in his life. He lost his father in '96 and his elder brother in an accident in 2003. He took care of his elder brother's children and got them educated. His nephew is currently working as Financial Advisor to crown prince of Abu Dhabi. Again in 2015, his sister became a widow and Premnath again stepped up and supported the education for his nephew. In addition to his family, Premnath continues to take care of his mother and sister as well.

In Hindu philosophy, being born in earth is the ultimate punishment. You face a lot of challenges and many tragedies. Many people get in to your train of life, share some time with you and leave you. There is something honorable  in being out there, facing the challenges head on, taking the tragedies and happiness in your stride, continue to do what you are supposed to do irrespective of whether you like it or not. 

Premnath has managed it exceptionally well. Great job, Premnath.

02 June 2016

Case Study of a Conflict Resolution...

Caveat: The views expressed here are personal. This is intended as a lesson in Conflict Resolution. 

They never prepare you for this in management schools, I thought. There are esoteric case studies on conflict resolutions, but a real life conflict? That is tough.

The issue started innocuously, as it were. In our management meeting, the manager (Lets call him ‘Manager2’) of DBA team presented an issue which was related to an area managed by the manager (Manager1) of Technical Team.

The problem went like this. Our organization is on ERP. Manager1 heads the technical team which makes technical modifications to the ERP Application. We have multiple instances of ERP Application, Development Instance, Testing Instance and Production Instance.

The technical team is responsible for developing reports, get them tested in the Test Instance and get the same moved to Production instance. The initial development is done in Development Instance, Tested in Test instance and finally moved to Production Instance.

There are two steps in moving a report to Production. One is to move the report code, known as .rdf file. And the other is to move the system configuration required to run the report, known as .ldt file. The entire process of movement to Production Instance is handled by the DBA team which is headed by Manager2.

To move the .ldt file to production, the developer will first copy the same from Test Instance and then the DBA team will move the same to production. In this particular case, instead of moving a single .ldt file, the developer moved ALL the .ldt files from Test to Production.

We use a tool called Serena to move any code to Production. Serena provides multiple levels of review of the code before the same gets to Production. The process in Serena is as follows. There are three areas in Serena namely development area, testing area and production area. On developing the report and completing the unit testing, the developer moves the code to the development area in Serena and informs the Technical Lead (Tech Lead). The Tech Lead then does two tasks. One, she moves the code (both .rdf and .ldt) to the Test Instance. Two, moves the code from the development area in Serena to test area in Serena. Once both these tasks are done, the Tech Lead asks the users to test. Once the user completes testing and certifies the result, the Release Manager then moves the code to Production area in Serena and raises a request on the DBA to move the code to Production. The DBA picks the code from Production area in Serena and moves the code to Production Instance.

As you can see, the Code movement is synchronized between Serena and Production. Also there are different responsibilities for moving the code from one Serena area to another thereby ensuring multiple review and oversight.

In this case, the Process was not completely followed. For one, the developer directly developed the code in Test Instance and not in the Development Instance.  Secondly, the developer himself (not the Tech Lead) moved the code (.rdf and .ldt) to the Test Instance in Serena. While creating the .ldt file for this specific request to move to Serena, the developer copied the .ldt files of all the objects in Test Instance and moved the same to Serena. While copying the .ldt file, the developer did not follow the basic review process of reviewing the log file. A review of the log file would have helped him to realize his mistake.

On confirmation from the Developer, the Tech Lead moved the code from the Test Area in Serena to the Production Area in Serena and asked the DBA to move the same to Production. The DBA Team picked the code from the Test Area in Serena and moved this to Production as per the request raised by the Tech Lead.

Since the Test Instance was more than 2 months old, all the reports that were modified in the last two months had the wrong .ldt file in the Production Instance !

The complaints started pouring in after about two days. The DBA Team under Manager2 was asked to analyse. They identified the issue and steps were taken for rectification.

Also, the developer who made the mistake was advised to be more careful in the future.

While the issue was under analysis, we had a management meeting. In this meeting, Manager2 highlighted the same as ‘Violation of Serena’ process. Manager1, a veteran in the Industry, took affront at the issue being presented to management without the same being discussed internally between the teams. He felt that we should have waited for a thorough analysis and taken the issue together to the management, rather than, in his perception, one team trying to do ‘one up’ on another team.

Fair enough.

Our organization follows an open culture. We believe that it is better to bring out issues in the open as soon as possible. This will ensure that they are resolved quickly. The objective was to avoid conflicts and blame throwing that follows an unresolved issue. Given the culture of the organization, it was expected that even an expected issue should be presented to the management rather than the same being kept within various teams. This would build the health of the organization and lead to better analysis.

Our organization believes that ‘Crying Wolf’ is better for everyone. Issues gets escalated, reviewed and resolved quickly if brought out in open.

The point made by Manager1 was escalated to the management. Management understood the sentiments of Manager1 and instructed both the teams to analyse the issue and resolve the same quickly. Management also instructed both teams to present a single presentation in all the future meetings. This would ensure effective co-ordination between the teams.

One would have thought that the issue is resolved. It was not to be.

This means that there were two issues. One, the violation of Serena Process. And two, the hurt sentiments of Manager1.

Manager1 started writing nasty mails to Manager2. He focused on identifying the various mistakes committed by the other team. He started looking into mails as old as a year. He started ‘Shouting’ in his emails, by writing in all capital letters.  

The members of DBA Team took offense to the tone and tenor the mails.

Our organization underwent a minor restructuring a year ago. Prior to that, Manager1 was handling both the teams. The organization decided that the team was too big to be run by a single person and divided the teams into two and brought the new team under Manager2.

There had been issues with these two Managers in the past. I as the boss of Manager1, had, on multiple times, counseled both managers of the need to work together. I had told them that our teams were new and the Organization had high expectations from the team. Still there were occasional flare-ups and this was the latest in the series.

As the manager of Manager1, the onus was on me to diffuse the situation.

Always in similar situations, there will be many stakeholders. Some of the stakeholders were visible, the Organization, the company management, me, Manager1, my boss etc for example. There were invisible stakeholders too, mainly the teams that report to the Managers 1 and 2.

The first thing that I did was to inform my manager that there was a conflict situation and that I needed his support to resolve this conflict. He offered all the support that he could provide to help me resolve this. That was a relief.

There was one more advantage to this quick escalation. My manager took it upon himself to inform this issue to the senior management. That enabled me to focus on the issue at hand.

My approach to resolving this was to look for win-win. I made a note of the ‘wins’ that should accrue to each stakeholder.
  • The Organization was looking at a quick resolution to the issue and return to normalcy. 
  • The management of the company was looking at an amicable resolution that will strengthen the teams once the issue is resolved. 
  • Manager1 was looking for an opportunity for his grievances to be heard, he was also looking for a clarification of the basic issue and a clear guidelines for the future. 
  • I was looking for a very good resolution that will strengthen the interaction between the teams rather than weaken the same. The basic issue should be brought out, the mistakes made by various stakeholders had to be pointed out and processes should be put in place to ensure a smoother functioning between the teams and personal references to be avoided at all costs. 
  • My manager was looking for a quick and amicable resolution that will lead to lesser escalations in the future. He also wanted to convey to the management that both the teams comprised of mature individuals who can amicably resolve a conflict.
I had observed that many a times, in such situations, the issues soon deteriorates into the level of Personalities thereby clouding the issues. I was determined not to let this happen.

I called a meeting between the two teams. As an introduction, I informed the Manager1 that his behaviour was unacceptable and that was creating disharmony within the organization. I informed him that he had to take personal responsibility for creating this disharmony. I pointed out to him that he was a valuable player of the team and that he was a cog in the wheel of the team. I brought in context by pointing out how his actions were impacting others in his team and in the other team. It was obvious that he understood the consequences of his action.

I moved on to the actual issue that had caused this flare-up in the first place. We quickly identified a process gap and a communication gap that led to this issue. At one point in the Serena process flow, there was a clash of ownership. I quickly plugged this gap by making Manager1 the complete owner of the process.

Then I asked Manager1 as to the cause of his abnormal behaviour. Initially hesitant, once he started he poured forth a litany of complaints against Manager2 going back almost a year. We identified that there was a lot of communication gap between the two teams which had over a period of time deteriorated. We discussed with the concerned managers and put in place a communications mechanism which was supposed to bring out the issues out in the open at an earlier stage in the cycle.

That was it. The issue was resolved as quickly as it had come. Everyone had got their wins.

This was a perfect win-win for all.

18 May 2016

How Sagarika Ghose spoiled three days of my life...

The day started innocuously.

I got up and as usual checked my mail and checked social media for any interesting bits of information.

One tweet by Sagarika Ghose caught my eye.

I read the original article in IE. It talked about Tina Dabi being the first ever Dalit Girl to top the UPSC Civil Services Examination.

The previous day I had read about Athar Aamir Ul Shafi Khan from Jammu and Kashmir who won the second rank in UPSC Civil Services Exam. I was feeling really proud that only in India this kind of achievement possible. First ever Dalit Girl to top the exam ever. A muslim from strife torn J&K topping the exam. This was a classic example of the strength of diversity of the country and I strongly felt that we should nurture the diversity, the culture of excellence and the enabling environment that this country provides for such achievements.

Add to that,  first ever Dalit Girl to top in the history of exam (She got on merit and not through reservations)!!. This breaks all notions of caste and religion. This is the true India. I felt proud. I should tweet about it.

And so I did. I tweeted the following tweet.

 I was very sure that people would see my tweet for what it was. Celebration of the greatness of the country that enables such achievements. That the first ever Dalit Girl topper in Civil Services exam was a proof of how much progress we have made. That we should be proud of the diversity and the culture of excellence in the country. To emphasis the point I added #ideaofIndia and #Proudtobeindian for good measure. Readers of my tweet should have no doubt about my intentions.

And within minutes Sagarika retweeted it.

Almost immediately, Arvind Kejriwal, CM of Delhi retweeted Sagarika's tweet.

I felt happy. With a leading journalist and the dynamic CM of Delhi retweeting my tweet, I felt that I have arrived as a 'tweeter'. And that my message was being well received.

I was waiting for kudos and likes from the public. After all, who will argue with my point? Who can miss the spirit of my tweet extolling the greatness of India? I just have to count the 'Likes' to my tweets. I would have done my bit to make India happy and proud of itself.

Or so I thought...

I had not factored the power of Sagarika Ghose and Arvind Kejriwal to evoke strong emotions. It is almost Pavlovian. The moment they tweet something, some people will have to oppose, mostly using bad language.

Twitter notifications started coming in thick and fast. They were mostly directed at SG and AK, but I was also included since I was the originator of the tweet. It accused SG and AK of focusing on 'Dalit' and 'Religion'. They criticized them for trying to divide the country along caste and religious lines. Many of them pointed out, rather paternally, that the topper was 'Indian' and the second topper was 'Indian'. Some asked us to stop this 'Gandhi Soch'. One nasty tweeter, supposedly a student, also called it 'Kutti Soch'. He may be a student, but definitely has not learned anything so far in his life.

Some tweets hurt.There was one dignified middle aged lady who tweeted a terse 'Sick Minds'. One guy said that the 'Guy who tweeted should be ashamed'. Some of them were inspirational. 'The lady who topped is an Indian, the guy who topped is an Indian', said they. (How would that have looked? "Indian top civil services exam, Indian is the second topper. Proud to be Indian'. Would not have got retweets from Sagarika Ghose and Kejriwal). 

Also, it would have been a boring tweet.

In all fairness, there were many who appreciated the spirit of the tweet by retweeting the same. Unfortunately, they, like the electorate in MCD, were the silent majority. Personally, I think that they have to speak out much more. They should not be cowed down by the expected negativity from one group of tweeters. 

To say that I was taken aback by all the negativity will be an understatement. However, soon I realized that most of these negative tweeters have not understood the real message of the tweet and were tweeting negativity only because of their reflexive antipathy towards Sagarika and Kejriwal. Once I realized that, I calmed down.

But I was not done. I decided to respond to each of the negative tweeters. On day one, I was very factual and objective. I pointed out that 'My tweet was to celebrate the achievements of the winners. The focus was on the diversity, culture of excellence and rewards for hard work that India offers. This kind of achievement is possible only in this country. The tweet conveyed my pride about being a citizen of this great country. The tweet was never about Caste / religion. Caste / religion of the candidates are publicly known facts. They are incidental to the tweet'.

Of course, this was the message that I conveyed. In some tweets I emphasized the diversity, some I focused on Culture of Excellence, Reward for Hardwork was stressed in some other tweets. However, the Pride in the greatness of the country was common in all the tweets. I emphasized that the tweet was not about Caste / Religion.

Some understood my response immediately. They came back with dignified responses like 'Ok' or 'Appreciate' or 'Now it is clear. Thanks' etc. Some blamed Sagarika Ghose and Kejriwal. Their response was something like 'We understood the spirit of tweet. But people like Sagarika and Kejriwal and determined to try and get votes based on Caste / Religion.' While I responded to most of them with 'I respect your opinion', to some I pointed out that they were 'missing the greatness of the country by focusing on one or two individuals'. Most of them did not respond further. What I did not tell them was that while disliking some people was Ok, using bad language was extremely uncivilized. 

They wouldn't have understood anyway.

There were others who were very idealistic. We should strive for classless and casteless society, said they. Tweets like these (mine) were only encouraging the casteism in this country, they opined. I pointed out that the caste and religion of the candidates was a public information. While a casteless and classless society was an ideal we should aspire for, we should celebrate these small achievements on its way, I pointed out. Most of these discussions ended up pleasantly with me sharing with them my blog post on 'My Idea of India'.

That was my gift to their civility and readiness to engage in idea based debates.

Some focused on the word 'Muslim' in my tweet. Their response was like 'What if a Hindu had topped? Would it not have added to the 'idea of India'? I am sure you would not have been so '#ProudtobeIndian' as you are now.'. I tried to respond that theirs was a hypothetical tweet and I am not going to respond to hypothesis.

The tweets came thick and fast on day two also. Now I had got the hang of how to handle such tweets. On day two, I was aggressive in my response. My response was to hold them responsible for their statements. I asked questions like 'The focus of tweet was on the greatness of India. Why are you focusing on two words?'. My attempt was to point out that while they talk about the greatness of India, it was hypocritical to miss the spirit of the tweet, which was the greatness of India, and focus on caste and religion. 

On day three, the flood of tweets subsided. I had become adept at handling the tweets and had realized that most of the tweeters can't hold a decent facts based debate. I had become bored with their negativity and reflexive responses. I decided to have some fun and decided to do a 'Trump'. To the few tweets that came, I responded with 'My tweet was about the greatness of India and you find only caste / religion in the tweet. Sad' or to that effect. I did this because I understood that they have not read the tweet properly and had responded only because Sagarika Ghose retweeted the same. If anyone responded to that tweet of mine, I beseeched them not to miss the greatness of the country by focusing on two words which were public information, anyway.

At the end of it all, two tweets stood out. One was from a lady, who kept insisting that I was a casteist and mine was a propaganda to strengthen casteism in the country. I think she was a Brahmin from Tamil Nadu (I am just going by her Tamilian Name), because I  had heard similar arguments from my relatives in TN. While I sympathised with her, I pointed out that my tweet was limited to the greatness of India and I did not have any other agenda.

Another tweeter left sour taste in the mouth. His twitter profile stated that he was a student. I was wary of responding to him because, you know, he was a student and he was at the beginning of his life and all that stuff. He started off by using bad language. When I tried to clarify the tweet (this was on day one, I was on a clarification mode), he responded by asking me to 'Shut Up' and stressed the points in his original tweet (that I had clarified). I was losing patience with him and pointed out that 'the easiest way to win arguments was to use bad language and accuse the opponent of being biased'. He responded with more invective. I had had enough and so I responded replying that 'I respect your opinion'.

He had the last word though. His reply? 'And I don't respect yours'.

He may be a student. But he need a lot of education.

I learned two things. One, most of the people in twitter can't handle facts. And they can't debate. Sooner or later they will resort to bad language. Smart people can easily see through their emptiness. That is the reason Sagarika Ghose is not responding to most of the tweets. She understands that by responding to the tweets, she is wasting tweeter's time and is not adding any value to the tweeter. Two, I am not an expert on everything out there. I am not an expert on Cricket, Politics, Caste, Religion....It is better to be modest and try to hone my ideas by engaging with others in serious debate. 

And if they can't debate, or if the debate is not going anywhere, or if you really respect their opinion, or if you are not learning anything new, close the thread by saying 'I respect your opinion'. Also if you don't know something, accept that you don't know. Your respect will increase manifold.

Remember, whatever you tweet is public information. Do the 'Grandchild' test before you tweet. Answer the question, 'Will my grandchild be proud of this tweet of mine?'. If your answer is 'Yes', then tweet.

Finally, most of the tweets in my thread were response to Sagarika Ghose. Just by retweeting my tweet, Sagarika Ghose made me waste three days of my life.

Why Sagarika Ghose? Why?....

12 May 2016

My tryst with back pain...

Note: This is not a medical recommendation. I am not a medical doctor. I am describing below, a treatment that helped ease my back pain. This is to illustrate that even complex illnesses could have simple solutions.

In the year 2006, I suffered from an acute back pain. I could not get up from the bed. Standing up was painful, sitting down was painful, bending forward was painful....As soon as I get up in the morning, the pain will start.

Many a day I used to spend wondering if I was destined to spend my life in back pain. It was terrible.
I went to a series of doctors. Neuro-surgeons mostly. They said that I was suffering from 'Disk Prolapse', commonly known as 'Slipped Disk'. As they explained to me, the gap between bones in the vertebra are separated by a thick viscous liquid. In certain cases this liquid leaks out and start pressing the nerves next to the vertebra. Most of these nerves control lower body functions. As the nerves get pressed, they transmit the pain to the lower body parts, especially lower back, bottom of the thighs and calf muscles. This radiated pain is unbearable. You can't sit or stand. You can't turn on your bed. etc etc...

All the doctors recommended lower back surgery. Every one has this statue in his office, provided by some pharma company, demonstrating how the disk fluid seeps out and presses the nerves. It is very graphic. The vertebrae is in deep brown colour, the nerves are deep red in colour and the white colour of the seeping disc fluid stands in stark contrast. When you look at the statue, it is very clear that the only cure for this is lower back surgery to remove the protruding disk. 

My wife, who is a doctor herself, was not happy with the suggestions for surgery. I have seen too many cases recur despite surgery, she told me. Through her contacts, she came to know of a very senior neuro-surgeon, who she had heard, was good at treating such cases. So off we went to meet this doctor.

As we had heard, he was a very senior doctor, who had graduated in 1969. During those days, the medical science had not developed and surgery for slipped disk was not available. He used to treat them the old-fashioned way - lifestyle changes, exercise, strengthening lower body and physical movement etc. 

Despite being a allopathic doctor, he suggested to me Yoga and Ayurvedic Treatment. While Yoga was not very useful, 41 days of oil massage did the trick for me. I was mostly cured of my back pain. While still, I used to get back pain once in a while, it was never as acute as it was before. I had been relieved completely of my back pain.

Or so I thought...

Somewhere in the mid of 2014, my back pain returned. As acute as before.

Despite my attempts at exercise, yoga etc, this pain continued. I knew that I needed an Ayurvedic Massage. But in the place I was in, 41 days of ayurvedic massage was next to impossible. So I tried the quickfixes.

The pain refused to subside.

I struggled for over 6 months like this. The pain was as acute as it was in 2006. I did not go to a doctor since I knew that they will diagnose a 'relapse of prolapse' and would definitely recommend surgery, especially since I was struggling for the second time. To adjust for the pain, my body had started bending towards one side, 'Bow Shape', being the classic symptom of disk prolapse.

Then I discovered self-massage. 

Marico had brought in a new version of its famous parachute coconut oil that it called 'Parachute Hot Oil'. It was nothing but coconut oil enriched with some spices and herbs. In a whim, I bought one small bottle (50 ML) of the oil, just to try. On day one, just before going to sleep, I applied the oil and massaged my back for may be 10 minutes at max. Next day morning, the pain was still there. Again I applied oil on  day two and did self-massage of my back for 10 minutes. I did on day 3 also...

On day 4, my back pain, which I was suffering for over 8 months, had miraculously disappeared. No pain. My body had straightened to its natural 'reed' like straightness. I bend forward, I bend sideways, I pressed my back, I poured water in my eyes to ensure that I was not dreaming.

I was not. I was awake. And my pain had disappeared.

I would have used about 15-20 ML of the oil for massage...

That was more than 7 months ago. Ever since applying the oil for massage, my back pain is under control and do not bother me at all. Even when I espy the start of the pain in the back, I apply the oil and massage once. And the pain ceases...

Why am I telling this story? Today, in CNN I heard the story of someone who had surgery and later took pain medications to assuage back pain and became addicted to it. 

I was there. While I had not become addicted to pain medications, I had become a "Paracetamol Popper', till I discovered oil massage.

Perhaps the guy in CNN could use some oil massage as well.

PS: I don't think the type of oil is important. You can use any oil for massage. If you apply it a bit warm (not hot, but warm), the effect will be better.

A commitment to democracy.....

There is a leading doctor in Bangalore, one of the few in India whose work is highly regarded. More than one chapter in Medical Text books are devoted to his work. He is originally from Tamil Nadu and is currently working in Bangalore.

He is over 70 years old and is still practicing. Of late, ever since the elections were announced, he was stressed out. He is very busy with surgeries and has hardly any free time. However he wanted to vote in the Tamil Nadu elections. Unlike many of us and those experts on Social Media, who only talk and do not do, he did not want to waste his vote. So despite his very busy schedule, and despite the extreme heat that he will encounter in Tamil Nadu (we have only three types of weather in Tamil Nadu, hot, hotter, hottest !!!) he took two days leave to go to his native place in TN to cast his vote.

If that is not commitment to democracy, I don't know what is !!!

Hats off to you, doctor...

10 May 2016

The Dream that I had yesterday...

Today is 7th August 2014.

Of late I have been very seriously thinking of leaving my job and doing two things. One, start a 'One Person Company' (OPC) and Two, starting on my own Consulting Practice. 

In fact I have been thinking about this for about an year now. There are two things that is holding me back from taking the next step. One is my current job. It is a good job, well paying, with a lot of autonomy. Second is that my family is not very supportive of my idea to go on my own. 

What I don't like about my current job is that it is in Mumbai and my family is in Bangalore. I want to move back to Bangalore and rejoin my family.

Emotionally I want to quit today. Intellectually, my current job, the pay, the fear that I will take time to settle down in my new role are holding me back. How will I handle my regular payments including my mortgage payments? I know that I will succeed exceptionally well if I start on my own.

Heart says quit. Intuition says quit. Head says stay on...

This is the background on which I saw this dream.

I am standing on top of hill and am all alone. There is another hill nearby and I have to jump to the next hill. The jump is dangerous. I am waiting there desperately wanting to jump to the next hill but afraid of the chasm between the hills. One my left side is another smaller hill. My guru is sitting there. I look down at my Guru for guidance. 'Jump', my guru says, 'You will be easily able to cross over. Do not think about the Chasm below. You are not going to fall'.

As I wake up, I am still indecisive. I am yet to jump.

This dream exactly summarizes my current situation. I am on top of a hill which is my current job. I am already on top. I am interested in jumping to the next hill which is taller. The height of the next hill shows that in my mind, the transition will be a progress. The Chasm shows that I will be totally moving to a new way of working and leaving my current approach behind. 

What does the fact that Guru is sitting on a smaller hill to my left and that I have to look down to the guru indicate? I think that the Guru in my dream is my heart. My heart is asking me to have confidence in my intuition and to take the next step. That I am on the top of hill and am not able to decide shows that my head is intellectualizing and creating a lot of worries and fear in my mind. That I am alone on the hill indicates that this is a decision that I and only I can make. My heart is telling me to take the next step. As per the book 5 Secrets you must discover before you die, the first secret is to Follow the Heart. 

Signal is very clear. I should take the next decision immediately. I am not going to fail, in fact I am going to be an exceptional success in my job. 

That is what my heart is telling me.

And my heart has never been wrong.

PS:Today is 10th May 2016. It took me another two months to listen to the advice from my heart and resign from my job. I have started doing Independent Consulting. Though the opportunities are few and far between, which only shows that I have to improve on my marketing, I am enjoying my freedom.

09 May 2016

Coincidence? Or What?....

I don't know which year it was (I think it was 2004) or which paper it was where I read this Letter to Editor (most probably Deccan Herald)...
Dear Sir
I am a foreigner from Europe who is on a work project in Bangalore. I see that you are into developing your road infrastructure. What I am seeing makes me believe that you are on the wrong track. There are two models of Road Construction. One is the American Model, where the design of roads is vehicle (especially cars) centric. In this model, the roads are wide with lanes for more cars on the road. The walkways are narrow so that the pedestrians do not have enough space for walking. The second model is the European Model where road design start with a focus on pedestrians. More space is devoted for walking, cycling etc and less space is devoted for big vehicles. European model is very healthy. It creates healthy public since they will enjoy coming out and walking and cycling. It reduces pollution. 
I see that you are following the American Model, which will encourage more vehicles on City Roads leading air pollution, noise pollution and stressed population. This will increase illnesses like Blood Pressure and Cardio diseases. In my opinion you should do a thorough review of your infrastructure development philosophy and keep people at the centre of your philosophy....
Having watched the movie 'Before Sunrise' just a few  days ago, this letter made an impression in my mind. This movie shows Ethan Hawke and Julie Deply, who meet each other in a train and spend one night walking in the streets of Vienna. The roads were wide and it was pleasure to see them walking. I had also seen pictures of the famed 'Interstates' of US and found them to be abhorrent. To me, the author of this letter made a lot of sense.
I wondered who the author could be and from which country was he from. Despite passing of time, the contents of this letter was entrenched in my mind. What he said was common sense. Being a walking and cycling enthusiast, I hoped that the government would listen to his suggestion. 
Two or three years passed. I was asked to go to UK for a project with TESCO, the second largest retail chain in the World. This was a project to develop a single global instance of Financials for TESCO. I was the Solution Architect. There were teams from across the globe including from Hungary, Czech, France, US, Taiwan, China, UK and India as a part of this project. I used to talk the team over the phone. 
The head of Finance called a meeting of the team to discuss the progress of the project. The members came from all parts of the world. There I met Michael Dakin, working in Tesco, Prague. 
Surprisingly Michael could speak good English. On being informed that I was from Bangalore, he said, 
"I was in Bangalore, two-three years ago and I had written a letter to editor in one of your newspapers about the 'Road Infrastructure Development Philosophy' that you follow in India. I had cautioned against going for US Model of Vehicle Centric Philosophy..I guess they have gone ahead with that philosophy, haven't they?"
That letter was still in my mind. 
I remembered THIS letter, I wondered who it was who wrote it, and now I was getting to meet him.
Coincidence? Or What?...

Six fears that hold you back from achieving your full potential....

In his book 'Think and Grow Rich', author Napoleon Hill talks about 6 fears that impede a lot of smart people from achieving their full potential. The book provides 13 rules of success and stresses that to prepare to receive the full benefits of the contents of the book, one has to be aware and overcome the six basic fears. 

The three enemies of success and riches are indecision, doubts and fear. These are blended together. Indecision breeds doubts and lead to fear. The blending process is slow. They germinate and growt without their presence being observed.

The six basic fears are:
  1. Fear of poverty
  2. Fear of criticism
  3. Fear of ill health
  4. Fear of loss of love
  5. Fear of old age
  6. Fear of death
Anything that is created physically has to be first conceived in mind. The corollary to this is that any thought impulse in mind will be immediately translated into their physical equivalent, where the thoughts are voluntary or involuntary. This means that a 'Lucky' person is one Who is always thinking positive thoughts that are translating into positive outcomes. This also means that you cannot continue thing poverty and fear and expect prosperity and success outcomes.

Fear of poverty
The first fear is the fear of poverty. This is the most destructive fear since it is a state of mind. This fear paralyzes the faculty of reason, destroy the faculty of imagination, kills-off self-reliance, undermines enthusiasm, discourages initiative, leads to uncertainty of purpose and encourages procrastination.

This is the fear that is most difficult to master. Fear of failure is an offshoot of fear of poverty. You start off any initiative with the assumption that you don't have it in you to succeed in your initiative. In other words, you are 'poor' of the ability to handle the challenges. Since you fear that you don't have it in you (fear of poverty), you fear failure.

Symptoms of fear of poverty are:

  • Indifference: Commonly expressed through lack of ambition, willingness to tolerate poverty, acceptance of whatever compensation life may offer without protest, mental and physical laziness, lack of initiative, imagination, enthusiasm and self-control
  • Indecision
  • Doubt: Providing alibis and excuses for failure
  • Worry: Spending beyond income, neglecting personal appearance, intemperance, lack of poise etc
  • Over-caution: Knowing all that can go wrong, lack of execution, pessimism etc
  • Procrastination: Habit of putting off till tomorrow what should have been done last year. Reflected by willingness to compromise, planning for failures, intellectual laziness etc
Fear of criticism:
This fear robs people of their initiative and discourage use of imagination. Symptoms are:
  • Self-consciousness: Expressed through nervousness, timidity, shifting of eyes etc.
  • Lack of poise: Lack of voice control, nervousness in the presence of others etc
  • Personality: Lacking in firmness of decision. Lacking in ability to express opinion freely. Agreeing with others for the sake of pleasing them
  • Inferiority complex
  • Extravagance: Trying to keep up with Jonesses
  • Lack of initiative: Failure to embrace opportunities, Fear to express opinions, Lack of confidence in one's ideas etc
  • Lack of ambition: Mental and physical laziness, lack of self-assertion, slowness in reaching decisions, lack of tactfulness of manner and speech etc.
Fear of ill health:
The symptoms of this fear are:
  • Auto-suggestion: Habit of giving negative internal suggestions about health. Always thinking 'Am I healthy', 'Why am I having stomach upset regularly', 'Why am I having pains and aches in various parts of the body' etc
  • Lack of exercise: This exacerbates the problem.
  • Susceptibility to ill health
  • Self-cuddling: Looking for sympathy
  • Intemperance: Taking too many medicines
Fear of Loss of Love:
Symptoms of this fear are:
  • Jealousy
  • Gambling 
  • Finding faults with others
Fear of Old Age:
Symptoms of this fear are:
  • Fear of poverty
  • Fear of ill health
  • Fear of loss of freedom and independence
  • Tendency to slow down
  • Consistently referring to oneself as 'Old'
  • Habit of killing off imagination, initiative and self-reliance
Fear of death:
Symptoms are:
  • Habit of thinking about dying and not making most of life
  • Lack of purpose
  • This fear is closely associated with fear of poverty.

08 May 2016

Major attributes of Leadership....

In his book 'Think and Grow Rich', Mr.Napoleon Hill details the major attributes of leadership. These are:
  1. Unwavering courage
  2. Self-control
  3. Keen sense of justice,
  4. Definiteness of decisions
  5. Definiteness of plans
  6. Habit of doing more than paid for
  7. A pleasing personality
  8. Sympathy and understanding
  9. Mastery of detail
  10. Willingness to assume full responsibility
  11. Co-operation

10 Major Causes of Failure of Leadership...

In his book 'Think and Grow Rich', Mr.Napolean Hill discusses ten causes of failure in leadership. These are:
  1. Inability to organize details
  2. Unwillingness to render humble service
  3. Expectation of pay for what they 'Know' instead of what they do with what they know
  4. Fear of competition from followers
  5. Lack of imagination
  6. Selfishness
  7. Intemperance
  8. Disloyalty
  9. Emphasis of the authority of the leadership 
  10. Emphasis of the title.

Personal Inventory for Self-analysis

In his book, Think and Grow Rich, Mr.Napoleon Hill discusses a set of questions that one should answer on a regular basis. He suggests a frequency of one year. I would suggest a quarterly inventory. You should answer these questions sincerely and take corrective actions where required. The list of questions are:
  1. Did I have a goal for the year?
  2. Have I attained my goal for the year?
  3. Have I delivered service for the best possible quality of which I was capable, or could I have improved any part of this service?
  4. Haas the spirit of my conduct been harmonious and cooperative at all times?
  5. Have I delivered this service int he greatest possible quantity of which I was capable?
  6. Have I allowed procrastination to decrease my efficiency and if so, to what extent?
  7. Have I improved my personality? if so, how?
  8. Have I been persistent in following my plan to completion?
  9. Have I reached decisions promptly and definitely on all occasions?
  10. Have I permitted one or more of the six basic fears to decrease my efficiency?
  11. Have i been either over-cautious or under--cautious? 
  12. Has my relationship with my associate in work been pleasant or unpleasant? It it has been unpleasant was I at fault?
  13. Have I dissipated my energy through lack of concentration of effort?
  14. Have I been open-minded and tolerant in connection with all subjects?
  15. In what way did I improve my ability to render service?
  16. Have I been intemperate in my habits?
  17. Have I expressed, either openly or secretly, any form of egotism?
  18. Has my conduct towards my associates been such as to motivate them to respect me?
  19. Have I taken decisions based on accurate analysis?
  20. Have I followed the habit of budgeting my time, my expenses and my income and have I been conservative in these budgets?
  21. How can I re-budget my time and change my habits so that I will be more efficient in the coming year?
  22. How much time have I wasted?
  23. Have I been guilty of any conduct that has not been approved by my conscience?
  24. In what ways have I rendered more and better service that I was paid to render?
  25. Have I been unfair to anyone?
  26. If I had been the purchaser of my service for the year, would I be satisfied with my service?
  27. Has the purchaser of my service been satisfied with the service I have rendered and if not, why not?
  28. Am I in the right vocation and if not, why not?
  29. What is my present rating on the fundamental principles of success?

06 May 2016

31 Causes of Personal Failure....

In his book 'Think and Grow Rich', Mr.Napolean Hill lists 31 major causes of personal failure. These are:
  1. Unfavorable hereditary background like physical / mental disabilities
  2. Lack of a well defined purpose in life. No definite goals
  3. Lack of ambitions
  4. Insufficient education
  5. Lack of self discipline
  6. Ill health
  7. Unfavorable influences during childhood
  8. Procrastination
  9. Lack of persistence
  10. Negative personality that repulse people
  11. Lack of control over sexual urges
  12. Desire for something for nothing. Interest in gambling
  13. Inability to reach quick decisions
  14. One or more of 6 basic fears: These are fear of poverty, fear of criticism, fear of ill health, fear of loss of love, fear of old age and fear of death.
  15. Wrong selection of mate in marriage
  16. Over-caution. not risk taking . Risk averse
  17. Wrong selection of business partners
  18. Superstition and prejudice
  19. Wrong selection of Vocation
  20. Lack of concentration of effort
  21. Indiscriminate spending: No savings
  22. Lack of enthusiasm
  23. Intolerance.especially connected with racial, religious and political differences of opinion
  24. Intemperance
  25. Inability to co-operate with others
  26. Possession of power that was not acquired through self-effort
  27. Intentional dishonesty
  28. Egotism an vanity
  29. Guessing instead of thinking 
  30. Lack of capital
  31. Others.

05 May 2016

Old lady and the villa...

I don't know when I had written this story. I found it very amusing...
"Yeah! it's finally over! Today is the last day" I thought to myself as I shutdown my laptop to go and stand in the boarding queue.
I stood among the other passengers at the Changi International Airport thinking, "2 more hours and I would be in the taxi back home"
Little did I know that it was the beginning of a very long journey.
Just as we began boarding, a petite old lady in a bright purple dress began cheerfully arguing with one of the ground staff saying "son, I would never do that" and then suddenly out of nowhere a few guards appeared holding their AK 47s menacingly.
The ground staff was holding an inhaler in his hand.
"What is this?" he asked suspiciously
"This is an inhaler for my bronchitis. I need to use it in case I develop spasms during the trip" replied the lady pleasantly.
"You can't carry aerosol spray in your cabin baggage. I will hand it over to the crew. You can ask for it if you need it during your trip" replied the staff.
"Thank you" replied the lady
Something about this lady intrigued me. Was it her pleasantness?
In the flight, I found the lady sitting next to me. We chatted a bit. She told me that she is from Madrid. And she was on her way to See and feel the 'real India', as she put it. Her first stop was Bangalore.
She had made no plans. She will first visit Bangalore and then take off from there to different parts of the country.
The flight landed out in Bangalore. After completing the formalities. I got out and took a taxi.
Suddenly out of nowhere, this lady got in my taxi.
"Take me anywhere. I want to see the real India. You are the only person I know here" she said.
It was 12 midnight and I was sitting in a taxi in airport with a loony lady who wants me to take her 
anywhere. I was perplexed.
I looked at the cabbie. There was a serene, 'Its-your-problem' look on his face. No help there.
"Maa'm where do you want to go?" I asked her.
"Take me to Vidhana Soudha" she said
"At this time?" I was frantic.
"Yes, it says that the structure is brilliant at night." she replied
Off we started off for Vidhana Soudha. Once we reached there, as she said, the structure was 
awesome. 20 years in Bangalore, and I never knew that Vidhana Soudha is lit up beautifully at night.
Next she wanted to see Shivaji Nagar.
I had the ride of the life. We visited Bangalore Palace, Cubbon park, Lalbagh, MG Road, Temples in Vijayanagar...All at night.
We had snacks to eat from 'Thindi Veethi' near lalbagh, had tea and bun from roadside stall. The doctor in me told me that junk food is not good, but hey, what the heck? It was delicious.
The whole experience was new for me. Driving in Bangalore at night, I saw how much I had missed the color and smell of the city. Bangalore was beautiful by night. And after 20 years in Bangalore, this was the first time I was seeing the city in the night. In the dreary every day life of 'Home-Work-Home', I had missed 'Living'.
By about 6 AM in the morning, I was so enjoying the trip that I felt a little disappointed when she wanted me to drop her at any hotel so that she can take some rest. I dropped her at Hotel Atria near Vidhana Soudha and headed home. Before leaving her, I handed her my visiting card.
To say that I forgot the whole experience would be wrong. How can you forget such experience? 

I received this letter two months ago.
"Dear Ram,
Thanks a lot for taking me all over Bangalore that day about 6 months ago. It was one of most cherished days of my life.
As you know, I wanted to see the real India. After about 4 months of traveling, I reached Haridwar. There I attended a sermon by Baba Shubhanandaji. He convinced me to give up my material life and embrace a life of spirituality.
I have decided to follow Swamiji's advice and give up all my earthly possessions. I don't have any living relations.Since you were the kindest person that I have met in my life (ever since my husband died), I have decided to make you as the sole heir to my fortune."

That would be one heck of a disappointed Swamiji, I think
Anyways, I pen this story, sitting in my Villa in my Vineyard in Madrid.

04 May 2016

The art of being tired....

 In his book 'Five secrets that you must discover before you die' (Read my blog review), author John Izzo, talks about two types of tiredness that people feel. On the one hand, there is 'Good Tired', the tiredness that you feel after putting your heart and soul into a worthwhile objective, working day and night to ensure that your objective is attained. On the other hand, there is 'Bad Tired', the tiredness that most of us feel, after a day of boring work, boring meetings and wasting our days potential.

Both are tired, but one is happy and tired while the other is just tired...

Ever since I heard about the movie 'Yes man', I had decided to do just that, become an 'Yes Man'. For those of you who do not know, this movie portrays Jim Carey in the lead as Carl Allen, who challenges himself to say 'Yes' to any opportunity that comes to him in the next year. Somehow I took a liking to Carl Allen and decided that in my new incarnation as Independent Consultant, I was going to say 'Yes' to any opportunity that came along, we'll see about execution later.

So when an opportunity came across for an assignment in an area totally new to me (I didn't know it then) and was still evolving, without much detailed documentation available, without anyone to guide me on the subject, of course I said 'Yes'.

Because I was stupid. No, because I had become 'Yes Man'.

As I took up the challenge (that is what I projected it as in my mind, then) I told myself that with World Web being as Wide as it was, I was sure to find supporting materials. The assignment was on an evolving area called 'Revenue Recognition and Compliance'. The statutory bodies were expected to set up stringent revenue recognition standards for what was known as 'Bundled Sales' (for more info Start from here). Every industry which undertakes 'Bundled Sales' have to establish standards for recognizing revenue for each of the elements in the Bundle, irrespective of the contract value of each element. The aim was to bring in standardization in revenue recognition across the industries.

Confused? So was I...

Soon I found that the famed Web was just a web of irrelevant, high-level, complex, disparate, complicated, useless and unreliable bits of information. I had to sift through the huge amount of chaff available to sift out few grains of wheat that I could use for the assignment. There was no one, literally no one, out there who could help me.

I was all alone, with an assignment that I had taken on myself.

Pride did not allow me to back out of the assignment. I soldiered on. I read as much as I could, I noted down as much information as I could, I identified the key use cases that I could use for this assignment. It helped that I had some time. I spent days and nights, feverishly trying to make sense of the information that I possessed, filling in each puzzle in the jigsaw of my assignment.

I woke up at 4.00 AM, worked till about 11.00 PM, without any gaps, without any rest, just taking bathroom breaks. I did this for the last two weeks. I never felt tired.

And yesterday, I delivered the assignment. It was well received. I got good overall feedback that told me that 'I had brought the much needed clarity to a very complex subject'. In the area of consulting, that is high praise indeed !!!

Coming out of the presentation, I felt tired, really tired for the first time in two weeks...

My mind was numb. My body had gone weak with tiredness. My hands were limb and I could barely hold the steering wheel of my car. I drove very slowly.

I stopped for a coffee. Sitting relaxed with a cup of coffee, I was tired. But I was happy. It felt very good to be tired.

I was 'Good Tired'.

28 April 2016

Tribute to a great teacher....

I wanted to post this article on Teachers Day. But as they say, better late than never.

Those were the late 70's, I was studying in Class 12. In Kerala of those days, it used to be called Pre-degree.

I was in an aimless phase of my life. Having confined to the strict precincts of a boys school till my 10th, I had suddenly found freedom in the college. Since I did not have any goals in life, wasting the new found freedom was very easy. I was lazy and irresponsible and rebellious.

I had good scores in my 10th exam and for Pre-degree, I could choose either of the two main options, Maths-Physics-Chem (called 'PCM', the path chosen by students who had interest in pursuing Engineering) and Physics - Chem - Biology (called PCB, the path chosen by people who had interest in pursuing medicine).

Since Biology involved dissecting frogs and stuff, I had chosen PCM, without realizing that I was terrified of Maths. I found it a difficult subject to master. I could learn by rote all the other subjects, but Maths? that I had to learn!! It consisted of breaking down complex problems into simple  logic and I couldn't figure out how to do that. More over the subject was very conceptual. My god, all those permutations and trigonometry and algebra and probability !!

Man, they were impossible.

In Kerala, we have public exam in both the 1st year and the 2nd year of Pre-degree. For the purpose of higher education, the marks obtained in both 1st and 2nd year are totaled and the total marks scored is used as the evaluation criteria for admission to higher studies. Total Marks for the three subjects put together was 450. Those who scored above 380 stood a chance to get into one of the six engineering colleges in the state. The rest had to pursue other courses like BSc (Bachelor of Science), BA (Bachelor of Arts) etc. In the economic situation in the country of those days, finding a job even with an Engineering Degree was difficult, talk about if you do BSc or BA!!

I did very badly in all the three subjects in 1st year of Pre-degree. If I remember, I scored 37 / 60 in Maths, 28/40 for Physics and 24/40 for Chemistry. With such scores, I had no way of getting into engineering. No way !!.

I blithely continued my lackluster and lazy  lifestyle nevertheless. One of the reason for this was that I did not have confidence about my Math skills and was sure that I was not going to do well in that subject. And if I get into Engineering? It will be more of math.

Then I discovered 'Namboothiri Sir'.

He was an Engineer who was teaching in a college near our house and like godsend, he came to live bang opposite to our house. What was even better he was giving private tuition on what else, Math...
As my second year exams neared I was panicky. I did not know what to do about my lack of Math skills. I had decided that the problem was me and not the subject. I can't learn Math, even when I tried, period. That is what I told myself day in and day out.

Outwardly, I put in an air of insouciance and acted all nonchalant. But inside? I was freaking out inside.

My father forced me to join Namboothiri Sir's tuition. Since I was convinced that problem was with me, I resisted. I was convinced that Namboothiri sir will call my bluff. He will find that I was not that smart and confident as I acted.

Joining tuition was the best thing that happened to me. Namboothiri Sir was a great teacher and like any great teachers, he had this knack of simplifying math problems. He loved solving problem. He will break them down into tiny logical steps and like an architect building a castle, will put these steps elegantly, one on top of another till he solved the problem.

No problem was complex for sir. In addition to his interest in solving math problems, he had this beautiful handwriting and while writing the steps, like a musician humming a difficult tune, he will keep reciting the steps as he was writing them down. One could literally visualize the various steps of the problem juxtaposing together to form the final solution.

In the two months that I attended tuition, I hardly solved any problem on my own. I was only watching the master in action. Even when he asked me to solve a problem, at the first sign of doubt on my part, he will jump in and solve the problem on his own. I was like a music student, sitting in front of a maestro who liked the sound of his voice.

Into my second month of tuition, I suddenly realized that I had an instinct for math. I realized that my mind had the ability of logically sequencing the steps of a math problem, just the way sir was doing. Till now I had not known how to break down a complex problem into logical, sequential steps. Watching sir solve the problem, I learned to elicit the logic out of math. I was fascinated. I wanted to solve problems like the way sir did in that beautiful handwriting.

Once I learned the logical approach, I did not need any further support. I discontinued the tuition. But I had learned the approach to solving math problems. I had tasted blood.

I purchased the recommended text book. In the next two months or so, I completed almost all the exercise questions in the text book, all without any help. My dream had been fulfilled. I was able to solve the math problems the way sir had done and since I had done a lot of writing, my handwriting also had improved tremendously.

Did I do well in Class 12? Did I get into engineering?

Check out my LinkedIn profile.

The Mango Seller and his ego....

Recently I traveled to my home state of Kerala in South India...
I am a Malayali (a native of Kerala). For work and career purposes, I have moved out of the state but occasionally visit the state.

This time the business took me to Kochi, in central Kerala. On a Sunday, early morning, I went to Town, for a morning walk at Marine Drive, a walk way by the side of the sea.

There were a few fruit vendors near Drive at that time. I wanted to buy a Kilo of Mango.

"What is the price?", I asked the vendor.

"Rs.100 a kilo", he replied. I told him it was expensive. In other places, I can get the same for 80 a Kilo.

"How much are you going to buy?", he asked. I said I wanted to buy a Kilo.

"Why are you arguing for just 20 bucks?", he wanted to know.

I took the high road. "It is not the money. It is the principle of the thing", I replied.

"Here mango costs 100", he replied flatly. It was like 'you take it or leave it'.

I checked other vendors. Every vendor around was selling mango for 100 / Kilo.

I could have bought it from anyone, but I wanted to buy from the first vendor. For, I had taken the high road there, you see. I wanted to make amends.

I went to the first vendor and told him, "I will buy from you. Give me one kilo"

"I won't sell mango to you", he came up with a surprising answer. Now it was his turn to take the high ground.

I tried to explain. "Boss, I am the customer, I have the money, you are here to sell stuff. If anyone has to feel ashamed, it is me. I had rejected you and now I am back here to buy from you"

No effect. He did not sell me the mango.

Who is right? Who is wrong? Is it only Malayalees? Who knows?

Who cares?