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30 October 2012

The IT Impact.....

The other day I was interviewing a candidate for the post of Manager in our company. The role called for a knowledge of Finance processes and knowledge of IT.

The candidate was referred to me through a placement agency. 

After working for almost 25 years in a previous company he was wanting to move out. He had a basic graduation and had joined the company as a low ranking employee and had grown through the ranks to his current position as Manager-Finance in his current company. After almost 25 years, now he wanted to move out and explore the options.

He had some sort of relevant experience that I was looking for. The interview was held telephonically as the candidate was located in a different city. 

The interview went reasonably well. The candidate had enough practical experience to answer some of my questions, but was a little lost when I probed a bit deeper. Still, he demonstrated enough knowledge to sate my interest. 

At the end of the interview I asked him the standard relocation question. 

"Currently you are in Ahmedabad. Do you have any problem with relocating to Mumbai?" I queried

"No sir, my son is in Mumbai. He works for TCS", this gentleman replied.

I was shocked. Here was a person who had spent all his life in the same company, with a son old enough to be working, now wanting to change. If I make a safe assumption that his son is about 24 and he got married at the age of 24, he should be around 50 years by now. At a time when people of his age are planning to settle down, he is sharing his CV with the placement agents.  He does not mind relocating to a different city. More importantly, this placement consultant thinks that it is ok to send this CV to his customers.

How far we have come....

I remembered the time, about 10 - 12 years ago, I had started applying for jobs in IT companies. Countless placement consultants send me back my CV saying that 'your profile do not meet out requirements', which is a Placement Consultantese for 'You are too old for this job. Don't waste my time with your CV'. I had to put in a lot of effort to land my first job in the IT companies. 

Mark you, with BTech, MBA and about 10 years of domain experience, I was well qualified for the kind of jobs that I had applied for. 

I still remember, I had applied for TCS in 2003 and they told me that 'my profile do not meet requirements (you are too old!!)'. By 2004, I had become one year younger and TCS recruited me. 

As I mentioned in MY ANOTHER POST ON ATTRIBUTION EFFECT, the people of my father's generation spent their whole life working for one company. They did not have opportunity to change, even when they wanted to. 

And the current generation, like the 50'ish person whom I interviewed above, has lots of opportunities available if they have the right credentials. This is all due to the impact of IT revolution. This has made it possible for people, irrespective of their ages, to seriously consider job changes and have a reasonable assurance that they may land a new job.

Every time we talk of IT revolution, we glamorise it by talking about the modern young generation. To me, it is these 50 year old people, with basic educational qualifications and dreams in their eyes, who feel confident enough to apply for jobs in the area of Information Technology  (and are taken seriously by employers), who are the symbols of miraculous success of the IT revolution in India.

Let us salute them...

Modern Day Ramayana.....

Mom asked her elder son to narrate the story of Diwali to his younger bro.

He started.

"So luk, this dude Ram had, like, a big kingdom & people liked him and stuff like'at, bt, his stepmom or sumthin. was kinda bitch and she forcd her hubby to send this Ram to sum jungle or sumthin...

Coz he was going for 14 yrs, So his wife n bro got along...(U knw just 2 Chill)...

But dude, forest was real scary shit. Was full of devils and shit like dat,

bt this dude and his bro killed thm, wid arrows (Dude !! Guns were not invented. What a dumbo !!)...

Bt den sum bad gangsta -  Ravan, picked up his babe sita....

Dis dude and his bro got real pissed off...

So they got an army of monkeys...

dnt ask hw....

Atttackd dem, and got d babe n returned home....

People thot atleast they deserve sumthn...

They had no bars or clubs or smoke stuff to party....

So they lit lamps....

N this is hw it all started...

27 October 2012

Strictness Dilemma....

How strict a parent should be? When should a parent start to move away from active involvement in the child's day to day activities, from being the 'strict' parent, to guidance and oversight?

We in India lay a lot of emphasis on sons taking care of their old parents. The logic is that the parents took care of them when they were weak and needed support, hence the children should reciprocate when they grow older. Our mythology and history is littered with stories of the devoted son and his wife who take care of old and infirm parents. Right from our childhood, we are exposed to a series of such stories.

That is why when I read cases of sons ignoring their old and helpless parents, I feel very unhappy and sad. I feel as if my deeply held beliefs are violated.

Surprisingly for me, reasonably intelligent and knowledgeable as I am, I, till now, never thought that there could be another reasonable (I may not agree with it though) explanation to sons ignoring their old parents.

In simple words, this can be explained as 'What goes around comes around'.

You know, while the children are young and dependent, the parents need to behave with affection and respect to their children. Only if you give respect, you get respect, so goes the saying. If you analyse the childhood of the sons who abuse / ignore their parents, you may find that they were physically assaulted or worse, they were emotionally wounded or psychologically abused.

And when these kids grow up, the shoe is on the other foot.

I was reminded of this when I.....

Well, you decide for yourself.

A friend of mine had recently gone to his son's school to attend a PTA meeting. A few of the parents were sitting around chatting with the PE (Physical Education) instructor.

"Nowadays parents are not strict with their children", expounded the knowledgeable PEI, "they given in very easily to the demands from the children. When were growing up (oh, there you go again), our parents used to be very strict. It was not like what is happening these days".

Generic comment. Meaningless platitude.

All the parents sat there with silly smiles on their faces. Most them had been through this lots. They have been told by irrelevant people out there on how to bring up THEIR children. Many of them have had many intellectual debates with their children and have been routed in most of them. Most of their kids might be teaching their parents about the new computers and languages. 

One would have thought that the best response to such a comment is just to ignore it. Not this lady. She had to blow her trumpet.

She was attending the session with her daughter who was studying in the school. 

"I don't allow my children to get out off the line. I am a very strict parent. I ensure that my children are scared of me. For example, now my son is in Engineering College. When he was in class 12, he once complained to me about the pressure that I was putting on him to study. He threatened that he can't take this pressure and that he will 'Commit Suicide'. You know what I did? I took him to the terrace of our 19th floor apartment and told him that I will watch while he jumps off the terrace. I told him to 'Jump off if he had the guts'. He came back, shamefaced and scared. After that incident, he hasn't had the guts to raise his voice against me." She said triumphantly.

None of those sitting there said anything. Her unfortunate daughter sat there, all shamed, covering her face.

This blind woman could not see what she was doing to her children. She couldn't see that she was 'competing' against them. And she was under this ridiculous impression that she was 'Winning' the competition. 

Her son may never overcome the kind of insult that he was subjected to when he was almost an adult. This lady will become old and infirm someday and I don't think that any of her children will be there to support her. 

Why did not any other parent point this out to her? Would I have sat there silently when this lady was touting this utter nonsense?? I don't think that I would have sat there silently. I would have pointed out to this lady that she was 'Competing' against her kids. I would have told her that sooner or later she is going to be in need of support and she need to strengthen her children rather than weaken them. I would probably have asked her to look at her daughter who was so ashamed of her mother.

I would have told her that no matter who wins the 'competition' between Parents and Children, the family would end up losing. 

PS: I hope that her children overcome this 'Psychological Trauma' and turn out fulfilling their potential.

26 October 2012

Do We Deserve?.... Part 3:The Stench City...

First it was called 'Garden City' and 'Pensioner's Paradise'.

Then they called it 'IT City' and 'Silicon Valley of India' for the plethora of IT Multinationals that started up from here. All the big names in IT including Oracle, Infosys, Wipro...you name them, they have office here in this city. 

Yes boss, we are talking about Bangalore, capital of the great state of Karnataka.

Of late this city is becoming famous for something else. Something not very good. Something that make Bangaloreans curse the city officials.

Bangalore is stinking..

Yes, they are having big problem finding landfills to fill the Garbage of Bangalore. The one landfill available was on the outskirts of the city. The villagers near the landfill has protested and so the city council has stopped dumping garbage in the landfill. 

It stands to reason that the council should have foreseen this eventuality and had taken the necessary precaution and planned earlier. After all they charge taxes thru the nose. This is one of the richest city corporation in the country.

There is property tax, there is road tax, there is fuel tax, there is tax on tax...

But it seems there is no money to buy sufficient incinerators. 

There is no place to dump the garbage. So it piles up. And stinks.

The other day, I went via the Banasankari Market at Sarakki gate. It was fascinating to watch respectable and polite Bangalore ladies walking by covering their noses with their Sarees and gentlemen with their handkerchiefs.

This brings us to the question. Why did this happen? 

All the great cities in the world have efficient waste disposal and solid waste management systems. Why can't we follow their footsteps. Landfills have become passe. The trend is towards the use of technology in Solid Waste management.

And this city council has let the issue rot (literally)

It is not that nothing is being done. In our apartment complex, for example, we are segregating the garbage into three categories, dry waste, west waste and recyclables. We segregate the garbage into three separate groups and the collection mechanism is different for each. We are also planning to install waste recycling mechanism and the target is to have 'Zero Waste' by the end of next year.

Indian Civilization was the first to have scientific waste disposal system in the form of sewers and drains found in the ruins of Harappa and Mohanjo Daro. That was about 5000 years ago. The question to ask is, why, we the pioneers of waste management from time immemorial, are struggling with Waste Management in the 21st Century? 

And stink our city.

Why?

23 October 2012

Sunder's evolution...

Sunder is my colleague in the workplace. I mean, we are co-workers.

We both share a passion for Stock Market investing. We like to talk about our stock market mistakes and experiences (of losing money, of course). Rather, I talk about losing money.

The other day, Sunder was telling me about his experience.

"I started investing in Stock Market in 2006," said Sunder, "at that time market was on a major bull run. I was always running after news and momentum. As soon as I hear that a stock is expected to go up, I will go and buy it. And immediately afterwards sell it. Since it was bull run almost everything that I bought went up."

"There was no method that I was following. In the morning train, I hear people discussing about a particular stock and I will go and buy it immediately. Most of the time, I had no idea about the companies. I had no clue about their business, no idea about their future potential and almost no information about their current performance. Graham will turn in his grave if he knew the way I was buying stocks"

"If people were talking about it in the train, I will buy it", said Sunder thoughtfully.

"Funny thing is that I was making money on the momentum. And BECAUSE I was making money, I thought I was a superior investor. The more money I made, the more I felt confident about my 'investment methodology', and more I followed the same method."

"Then the great correction started" said Sunder

"It took me some time to realize that I was losing money regularly. More stocks that I bought, more money I started losing. Having got into the habit of buying into news and 'train information', I found it difficult to give up the habit. The funny thing about following news is that you tend to be selective in the choice of news that you read. You somehow avoid news that goes against your beliefs."

"I ignored bad news, stayed longish in the market and lost some money."

"That is when I realized that I was not a 'super investor' after all." said Sunder.

"I realized that if you want to make money, and that too 'Serious Money' in the market, it is very important to identify the stocks that you buy, do your research on them and stay invested. It is also very important to have a clear target and sell when you meet your target. Just as a buying decision is important, a decision to sell is equally important."

"From a person who used to buy on every news, now I have become an investor who takes less risk, do my homework and follow clear rules to buy and sell. Of course I do punting a bit here and there. But most importantly, I have evolved to a more serious investor." concluded Sunder.

19 October 2012

My experiments with identifying 6 Habits that a young man should develop....

In 1933, Robert Littell wrote an article in Harper's Magazine titled 'What Every Young Man Should Know'. This article talks about various habits that a young man should develop and lessons that a young man should know. Mr.Littell talks about the habits considered important in the US during that period. The Littell list include habits like 'Learning to fire a gun' which I personally find abhorrent.

So I thought about it. Why not I write about the 6 habits that in my opinion every young man should develop.   It should be simple, I thought to myself. If Littell can, so can I, decided me.

So I set to work. Identifying six habits may be a bit difficult, but worth a try, I felt.

If you start identifying the 6 habits, you might as well start with a title. What is an article or a blog post without a title? A title is like a foundation. Every article need one.

Stands to reason.

So I started off the article with the title '6 Habits that every young man should develop'. Having got that one behind me (I meant, deciding on the title) I felt charged up.

I started off with Goal Setting, Perseverance, Hardwork, Integrity, Sense of Humour and Chivalry. In about a minute and a half, I had made it to 6. I was done.

That was easy.

I felt a little disappointed. That was not much of a challenge. I expected a bit more of a struggle.

Wait a minute..What about Patience? 

Ok. I will add this one. I added patience and I changed the title of the article to '7 Habits every young man should develop'. I had got it done, I thought.

I looked at the title. Why not make it '7 Habits of highly effective teenagers'? After all, today's teenagers are tomorrows young men. Also, more teenagers will like it if you call them young men. '

Catching them young, if you see what I mean. Just to be sure that it is an original title, I googled it in Bing.

I found that Sean Covey, son of Stephen Covey had already usurped that title.

Damn you Covey.

I was stuck with my old title. I didn't want any copyright war with Covey.

Now came Gratitude. What about me, it asked. Surely I have to be in that list. Of course, it had to be. I added Gratitude to my list

And my title changed to '8 Habits......'

Whatever be the goals that you set for yourself, you cannot attain it unless you start it. Only if you take the first action and start off will other habits like perseverance gets any meaning. Without action, perseverance is like a stool without any legs. What it will will persevere with? So 'Taking Action' got itself added as the 9th habit.

And changed the title of my article to '9 Habits....'. Of course.

I was fast losing control of my article.

By now I was becoming desperate. This task of identifying the habits seemed to have no end. There are so many of them out there. There was no way I was going to end this article. 

Then I remembered that a young man should not get desperate. You have to maintain calm among pressure. I remembered the old saying, 'Be like a duck. Appear calm above, but paddle like crazy beneath'. So I added 'Maintaining Calm' as my 10th habit.

And changed my title to '10 Habits.....'

That is it I am done. So I thought. Nice round number of habits. I had finished. Finito. The end.

I heaved a sigh of relief. It was scary. What if I was not able to end this article. The article would remain incomplete. I would feel incomplete. An unfinished task will forever remain etched in my conscience.

Being able to stop is as important as being able to start. I remembered all those silly coves who invest in stock market, reach their target, and without selling, remain invested and lose all their gains.

I should know. I had been there. I still am.

So got the habit 11 added to my ever expanding list. 'Learn to stop'. Eleven is not a very round number. So I added 'Teamwork' as the 12th habit to make it to a nice little dozen.

Changed the title of my article of course...

By now my list of habits was expanding uncontrolled like the universe. Or like US Fiscal Deficit.

Other habits came in torrents. What about us, asked 'Reading and Writing', put us under 'Communication Skills' said they. Without me, the young man will not be able to face any tough situations in life, warned 'Optimism'. 'Setting the goal is fine, but what about identifying the right goal to set', warned the habit that I will call 'Focus on the important' (also known as, 'Don't sweat the small stuff').

By now I had fifteen of them and counting. I can immediately see 'Keep Faith on God and Yourself' making a grand entry as the 16th in the list. 

Yesterday, while doing my exercises in Gym, I remembered that nowadays most young men only sit in front of their computers, uploading photos in Facebook or writing blog posts. A young man has to spend most of his life outside, managing people and ethically manipulating the world to ensure that he get what he deserves. To do this, he has to be 'Out there'. That got into my list as Habit 17.

My title got modified, of course.

They say old habits die hard. It stands to reason that my young man should be able to Stop Bad Habits and Start New Good Habits. My young man should 'Learn to Learn', whatever that means. That was  habit number 18.

The other day I was reading an HBR article on the key trait of leaders as 'Resilience'. Successful leaders are always resilient. That mean that my young man has to learn this habit. So there is my 19th Habit for the young man.,

I listed my selection of habits as below.

1. Persistence and Hardwork
2. Hardwork
3 Intellectual Integrity / Assertiveness
4 Sense of humor
5 Chivalry
6 Taking that first step / Taking action.
7 Patience
9 Gratitude
10 Reading and Writing
11 Team work
12 Goal setting
13 Ability to handle criticism positively
14 Don't sweat the small stuff / Identify what is important
15 Optimism and Positivity
16. Keep faith in God and Yourself
17. Be out there
18. Learn to Learn / Stop old habit and Start new habit
19. Be resilient. Don't let bad experiences get you down.

These are my 19 habits you Mr.Young Man.

Looking at my list, the 'Littell List' look more of a 'Little List'. Mine is more of an essay.

To make matters worse, I have a vague suspicion that I am not done. There are more habits waiting to be discovered.

And that gives me heebie-jeebies.

18 October 2012

Do We Deserve?....Part II: Dirty Gateway

Previously I had written a post on the bad traffic discipline in India in the Part I of this series. In this Part II I want to talk about my experiences in Gateway of India and Flora Fountain, in Mumbai.

Yesterday evening, I visited both these places. Both these are majestic monuments and form the pride of place in South Mumbai.

First, my impressions on Flora Fountain.

The lady looks majestic but Jaded. The statue and the pillar are covered with moss and fungi and there is no sheen on the statue. Brilliant light falls on the statue but in the moss covered structure the light gets absorbed instead of reflecting the same. The structure needs a bit of cleaning and repainting and will look as good as new. 

Why are we not able to do that?

If you travel in Paris, you will see a lot of such statues on various streets. Each of them is made of marble and is brilliantly maintained. It is a pleasure to walk near them and when you stand in front of then, the camera will beg you to take photographs of the structure. 

And here we have the lady Flora. We cover the old girl with moss and algae and litter the area with soda bottles, cans, paper packets, wrappers, paper glasses straws, cigeratte packets.....

Why? 

Similar experience in Gateway of India. There are signs of the administration having lost control everywhere. There are hawkers all over the place. You can't move a step without them blocking you with some stuff that they want to thrust upon you. If it is not hawkers, it is the beggars. They are sitting there, right in the middle of the area, and begging all over the place. 

Then there is litter...

The place is littered with paper and plastic. The whole of the area is one huge litter bin. No civic sense, not dustbins at proper places and there are a lot of vendors who sell a lot of stuff in plastic bottles and paper cups. 

I tell my son that we should treat the earth as our home and just as we do not litter our home, we should not litter the environment. People carelessly littering the place make me stuff those litter in their.....

Don't make me say what I think...

Just like the fountain, this structure is also covered with moss and fungus. You stand in front of the  moss covered Gateway and look at the glistening Taj Hotel and the contrast is stark and obvious. 

Again, if you stand in front of Arc de Triomphe in Paris, you won't feel like leaving. The majesty of the monument and the history associated with the same make you want to spent time. And you enjoy spending time there because the whole of the area is spic and span and well maintained. Despite similar history associated with the Gateway of India, Spicness and Spanness are not the terms that you associate with this structure. 

As you know, Gateway is on the sea front. The place is dotted with all those dilapidated boats. That they are waterworthy itself is a miracle. All of them looks old and ill-maintained. There are small canoes of different sizes and shapes. Each of the it is run by shabby and unkempt people. 

While litter is a cultural issue, everything else including uncontrolled hawkers, dilapidated boats, shabby boatmen, scary looking canoes....

All point to an administration that has forgotten to administer. Or has simply lost the will to administer.

If we want, we can repaint Gateway, have beautiful lights fitted, can have knowledgeable and experienced guides, can have world class boats and yachts and canoes and make this place a major tourist attraction.

What do we do instead?

We litter the place, fill the area with poverty, stink, hawkers, dirty dingies with shabby boatsmen...

India is blessed with a large population. Why not put a few of them into taking care of our monuments and structures? Give them good uniforms, teach them about our history, make them proud of our heritage and let them 'own' our monuments. They will keep them spic and span. They will impress the visitors with their knowledge of  the history of the country. They will act as our voice to the world.

India has over 5000 years of uninterrupted history. Imagine how impressive it will be if we are able to link the past to the present and hence to the future? This is what an educated guide with a knowledge of history and intersperse it with the present to paint a picture of the brilliant future. We can bring tourists in droves to our country.

Why not leverage the 'Demographic Dividend'?

If we aim to become a world class country, if we want to enter into the big league of developed nation, we have to make it county 'developed' worthy. Part of it involves having a competent administration, a proud culture and the will to embrace modernity and the responsibilities that come with it. By maintaining our heritage structures in this casual manner, we will never deserve to be a part of developed country. Till we reach that level, we will remain a country where foreigners come to see the 'Poverty' and feel good by paying good money to charities.

Is it what we want? Is it what we deserve?

Do We Deserve?....Part 1: The Violators

Every morning when I travel to the office in Mumbai, I regularly see driver violating traffic signs with impunity. In almost all the countries that I have travelled to, people religiously follow the traffic signs. They implicitly seem to understand that following traffic rules make your travel less stressful and paradoxically faster. 

But not us in India. We are proud of some pet themes like 'Life never stops in Mumbai' or 'People are always on the move' etc. We seem to have taken these themes literally and are 'always on the move' even when the traffic signs turn red, or are red..

In Bangalore, they wanted to have Video Cameras installed in all the major junctions. They wanted to track the traffic movement across the city from a central control room. They still have these installed in some key junctions and they work fine. In all the movie halls, they show scenes of traffic violations and accidents caused by drivers (especially bikers and truck drivers). Coming before the movie is screened, these are more exciting than the real movie. 

While this is working reasonably well most of the time, there have been cases of people stealing the cameras installed in some of the junctions, especially in the suburbs where the oversight is thinner. 

These cameras help police to identify traffic violators, levy fines on them, and most importantly, bring help quickly to the sight of accidents. Sometimes the innocent drivers get levied fines (Yours truly was one of the unsuspecting fine payer for a violation that I didn't cause). Despite the small issues, I still feel that such initiatives will bring in better traffic control in our cities. 

The key question that I am asking is, why do we violate traffic rules?

Is it cultural? do some cultures violate traffic rules more impuedently than others? Are we born  traffic violators?

Is it behavioural? Most of the people who come to the city are migrants from villages. In villages, there is lot of spaces and there is hardly any traffic rules. When you come from the vast expanses of the villages to the highly dense cities, some of the areas where the 'basic instinct' works is in violation of traffic rules. 

Is it just an excuse? Is it that world is not going to fall if you spend  seconds in the traffic lights. People are just habituated to violate traffic more so because there is not negative consequences to violating traffic rules? If there a way of promptly identifying traffic violations and firmly handling the same, people would just fall in line?

You often see that if traffic policemen are present, then everyone follows the traffic rules. Do we always need policemen? Can't we police ourselves?

Is the traffic violation is a symptom of something bigger? Perhaps governance failure. There are enough rules to ensure proper traffic in cities. However, with the politicians focussed on tasks other than governance, there is a general laxity in all areas of administration and this is reflected in traffic violations? 

Of late there is a lot of talk about India moving to become one of the leading economies in the world. With rampant disregard for public rules, do we have a chance of reaching there? More importantly, do we even deserve to be called a 'developed' country?

What say?

PS: Having said the above, I think Mumbai has much more traffic sense than some of the other cities in India. People stand in line to board the bus. Lane discipline is by and large followed. But still there is scope for improvement.

16 October 2012

Power of three ......


Note: Oracle uses TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) extensively in their internal communications. This article was written when I was working with Oracle.

Friends, I have a theory. In our company we have a special affinity for the number three. Where ever you look, you see the three letter words ..…

The effect of number three in our organization starts innocuously with the name of the organization itself.  Once it starts there, there is no end to the impact of this number in this organization.

Who is our new Boss? NAG

What is he?  He is the LOB head

We have the SCM Competency

We have the CRM Competency

We have the HCM Competency

As if this was not enough, we combine them to an SCH Pillar.

Talking of pillars, we also have the FIN Pillar….

We make money selling our consulting services. Have you ever noticed the kind of services that we sell?

We sell the EBS Service, the JDE Service, AMS service, XPS service and the E2O service.

To deliver these services we have the DBA team, the AIA team, the ODI team, the SOA team, the EAI team and the PIP Team, in addition to the SCM, the HCM and CRM teams.

Our CEMs sell our solutions and services to customers in LAD, WCE and MEA. We have the SDMs to manage the service delivery.

To provide us internal support, we have the PMO team, the SQA team and OPS team

Previously we had the RPMs, RDMs and an E2E service. But thankfully after the reorg, that is three three letter words less to remember.

By the way, talking of E2E (End to End Services) doesn’t the name remind us of the movie ‘Quayamat se Quayamat tak’

Nowhere our love for ‘Three letter words’ is demonstrated more than in the way we manage our internal applications.  We have the OSO and the OFO where we track the Proposals and the order bookings. We track the delivery in DTS and resource allocations in EPM. We use GPA to book time and expenses.

Have trouble booking time? Raise a support request with GIT.

Need access to mailing-list? Raise a request in APS.

When it comes to projects delivery, the PM is neck deep  in 3 letter words. The Bid gets transitioned to him in BTM after which he has to prepare an MOM and circulate it to stakeholders. After the BTM, the PM prepares a PEP and RAW and present it in the KOM after which he has to circulate the MOM.

We have the PMO and the SQA to keep the PM on his toes. Every month, the PM has one PPR session with the PMO and SQA to update them on the project status.

Got deliverables to release in your project? Get a peer review done and complete the RCL

Got an issue in the project? Did you do CAR? How many CARs did you do in your project?

Need to charge the customer? Get the POC from OPS team and send it to customer.

This is an organization where a failure to update ETC or EAC will get you a RAG update in DTS from PMO. And as if that is not enough, you will get an NCR from QA team during the audit.

Project is over. Mr.Project Manager, Have you completed the AAR?

How do the organization track your performance? By checking if you are adhering to WIGs.

We develop managers thru MDP and leaders thru LDP

Even in our physical layout we can see the impact of three. We are spread across three floors in PTP (Another three…)

Our culture manager’s name, UMA, has three letters. She has the right name for the right organization.

And how many pledges that the team has asked us to take? Any guesses? That’s right… Three pledges.

And finally, even external agencies recognize out affinity for three. That is why they have given our organization  CMM level 3 (there three again….) certification.

May be we need to use more four letter words ( I was thinking of  OPAS. What were you thinking?) to move to the next level…

Friends, I rest my case….

At the VT Station in Mumbai.....

Yesterday I posted a blog post on my train journey experiences during the twelve years that I was working in Durgapur. You can read the post here.

I wrote that post after visiting the VT station in Mumbai. I went to pick my wife, son and my in-laws who were coming to Mumbai from Bangalore. 

It has been almost 14 years since the time that I regularly travelled in Train. Even when I travelled by train during this period, the tickets were booked by my Company and I invariably ended up travelling by Upper Classes. 

Or by overnight train...

Whether you are travelling by Upper classes or by overnight train, you lose touch with the people on the ground. In overnight train because it is dark outside. In upper class because the windows are tinted.  You are segregated from the public and you are in a matrix of your own. Whereas if you are travelling by the sleeper class, you are in touch with the 'Real India' warts and all.

Especially in an upper class, you are like the proverbial Airline pilot who dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima. Up there, you do not see real people, people like you. From up there, you only see small creatures walking around or driving around in match boxes. 

When you travel in Sleeper Class, you have a physical and emotional connection with the people with whom you are travelling, as well as people on the ground. This is not there when you are travelling upper class. 

Why am I mentioning this?

14 years of no-train-travel can do stuff to you. You are changed, the railways is changed, the people are changed. 

Three incidents happened in the one hour that I was in the station, that made a lasting impression on me. 

I was all excited when I went to the station. I wanted to write this blog and upload a few photos. Hence I went to the station armed with a camera. I was clicking photos of various trains and the railway station with gay abandon. 

Suddenly a police man called me.

"You there", he pointed at me, "come here". 

I looked around to ensure that he was calling me.No one was there.  "Who me?" I asked to confirm.

"Yes you", he responded testily, "who else do you see there?"

I went to him. "I see that you are clicking the photos of many trains. What is the matter?"

I was suddenly proud of our police force. Highly observant, if you see what I mean.

"I have not been to the railway station in a long time. It was about 12 years since I travelled in train. I see that the trains have become very colourful. I liked the new trains. So I was taking the photos" I informed.

He became friendly. "If you want to see colourful trains, you should see 'Deccan Odyssey' he told me. "That is a very colourful train"

With that advice, I left him. 

I was a little rattled by this experience. It is not everyday that  a Policeman is asking you to explain your innocent photographs.

I moved on to see the other parts of the station. 

While walking towards the other platform, a very flustered lady approached me. "Sir, can you tell me where I can find a police man?" she asked almost sobbing. 

I wanted to tell her that if she is looking for poilcemen, she had reached the right place. If there was any one passenger in that station who can give direction to the policeman, it was me. After all I had just been questioned by one. I directed her to the nearest policeman.

I was rattled by this sobbing woman who wanted to meet a policeman. What could have happened, I wondered? Did somebody steal something? Did she miss her train? How will it get resolved? 

And the worst, could I have done something to help her rather than just directing her to the nearest policeman? Should I have got involved.?

Whatever be the answer to that question, I knew I was not going to like it.

I went out for a tea outside. On the way back into the station, I saw a number of beggars sitting and begging in the middle of the road. I espied this one girl, very small, around 10 years probably, who was sitting in the middle of the road with a cloth laid out in front of her. By now I was inured to the poverty and suffering around me and I watched this girl casually. Just as I was looking, she took out a dirty cloth and wiped the sweat off her face. 

It was a simple gesture of a tired person. But to me it was so heart wrenching. There was no complaint in her eyes. It was hot and sultry and she was wiping the sweat from her face. That there was no complaint in her eyes hurt me. It pained me. Here was a 10 year old girl, begging in the streets, reconciled to her fate and not having any expectations from the society, having given up on the society. "Your sympathies do not matter to me", she seemed to be saying, "By now I know that you will not be doing anything to help me. I am resigned to my fate (eventhough I am only a small girl). If you have something to give me, drop it on the cloth. Otherwise please move on"

14 years ago, I would have seen this girl, and would have moved on without so much as a cursory glance at that girl. Now, 14 years later, the look of resignation and acceptance on that young face is not leaving me.

The train journey....

After a gap of almost 6-7 years, I went to a railway station yesterday. 

Brought back a lot of good old memories.

Before 1998, I used to travel long distances only by train. I was working in Durgapur then and my native place was Kerala. I used to travel from Durgapur to Kerala regularly before my marriage. After marriage, since my wife was from Chennai, I used to travel from Durgapur to Chennai. I used to travel a lot, at least about 4 to 5 times in a year.

Since flight cost was prohibitively expensive and upper classes in trains were also very costly, I used to travel mostly by sleeper class. Travelling from Durgapur back to South was fun. The anticipation of spending time with the family was motivation enough. The return trip was equally melancholic. On the one hand I was leaving the family and on the other hand, I was going towards a place and work that I detested.

I used to travel in all the seasons. In winter, in summer, in spring, in autumn and seasons in between. There were two or three regular trains that I used to travel in. There was Coromandal Express, the queen of the trains running between Chennai and Kolkata. Then there were East Coast Express, Kamrup Express and other trains.

The trains used to take an average of 24 to 30 hours to travel between Chennai and Kolkata, a distance of about 1350 Kilometers. The key stations in the route used to be Chennai, Vijayawada, Rajamundry, Visakhapatanam, Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Kharagpur.

The whole of India, especially the east coast used to be very hot during Summer months. Some of the cities like Rajamundry used to touch about 48 degree Celsius in that season. In Andhra Pradesh, they dry the red chillies in that season. As the train chugs along through the state, the hot air laden with Spice of the Chilly will blow all over and for some time your eyes brn like crazy as the hot spicy air touches them.

Then there was that Hindi actress Jayaprada who was from Rajamundry. As the train touches the station, through the tear filled and sore eyes, you are wistfully looking all around the platform

For an off chance that Jayaprada will be present there.

Writing about my train journeys bring back a lot of memories. During one of my trips from Durgapur to Chennai, my co-passenger was a Bengali Gentleman working in Tata Steel in Jamshedpur. This man was travelling with his daughter with the objective of admitting her in a management institute in Manipal. He was carrying some money to manage the expenses in South India.  The train reached Cuttack in the early morning and every one was in a sleepy mood. In that twilight, one thief got into the train and walked away with his cash. He was distraught and stressed out. Being a proud Bengali, he was hesitant to ask for money. In one of the rare moments where I showed some sensitivity, I asked him how much money he wanted and gave him the money without asking for any collateral.

He took down my address and after a few days send me the money with a letter which said that 'very rarely will you will find a person like you (he was mentioning me) who is ready to help another person in trouble without asking any questions.' Needless to say, I was pleased as a punch at that letter.

I also remember a journey when I fell extremely sick and had to be carried out of the train at Visakhapatanam station and had to be admitted in the Railway hospital for three days due to acute attack of Bronchial Asthma.

Then there was a two day trip from Kerala to Durgapur where I had a group of pretty Malayali nurses for company for two days. Boy, wasn't that a pleasant journey !!

Kharagpur was the first major station in West Bengal. As the train entered Kharagpur, I will suddenly become sad. I was reminded that I still was working in Durgapur and that I hated it. Durgapur was like a jail and going back to Durgapur was like going back to jail after a pleasant few days of Parole. Sometimes I used to feel so hopeless and used to wonder if I will ever be able to escape the 'Chakravyuha' that I found myself in.

Those were desperate days. I still have nightmares that I have gone back to work in Durgapur Steel Plant.

Those were the 'Non-internet' days. You have to go to the railway station and stand in line to reserve your tickets. The reservations used to open about 60 days in advance and one used to mark one's calendar the dates when one has to go to the railway station to book the tickets.

I also found that the chances of my getting reservation was higher if I book my tickets from Kolkata. I used to board the 6.00 AM train from Durgapur to Kolkata, just so that I can go and stand in the line for booking my tickets to travel to my home town.

Those were expensive train reservations...

There was also a middle man in Durgapur who used to go to Kolkata to reserve tickets. He used to charge 20 rupees for a reservations. It was worth it.

While each of my train journey was worth a story, I will close the article with one of those incidents which in retrospect showed me who I am.

This was just after I had done my MBA in 1997. I was on my way back to Durgapur. During my MBA, I had done a project on analysis of Power sector in India. Having completed this project, I considered myself to be an expert in Power Sector. Remember, I also used to work in the Power Plant of SAIL.

The previous year, the Government of Orissa had initiated major reforms in Power Sector. They had created a new organization named 'TRANSCO' (Transmission Corporation of Orissa), and the consultant was PwC, which was based in Bhuwaneshwar.

Since I had done an MBA in Finance and was an expert in Power Sector, I thought that this was the perfect job for me.

Coramandal Express stops for just about 5 minutes in Bhuwaneshwar. On an impulse, I got down at Bhuwaneshwar.

Mind you, I had no idea about what I was doing. I did not know where was PwC based out of. I did not know if  they were going to recruit. I did not know anything about or anyone in the Organization. Still I got down at an unknown place with hardly any clue of what I was going to do.

PwC office turned out to be very near Bhuwaneshwar Railway Station. I reached the office Shabby and Dishevelled.

My objective was to meet Mr.Lakshmi Narayan who headed the Power Industry Practice in PwC in Bhuwaneshwar.

Needless to say, I was not even able to go beyond the receptionist. This tall, lanky, fair lady sweetly told me, who looked like a vagrant and did not belong to the posh ambience of PwC, that there is no vacancy in PwC in Bhuwaneshwar. She even refused to give me the contact details of Mr.Lakshmi Narayan.

Fair enough....

I shot my bolt. I felt stupid. I went back to the station, took the next train and returned to Durgapur.

It showed me that I was an impulsive person who is ready for adventure.

You know, for about 12 years, my life revolved around train journey. Train was the constant theme of my life. The Sun of my personal solar system and the nucleus around which the electrons of my life revolved.

Visit to the railway station brought back so many memories, so many experiences...

13 October 2012

The weight reduction drive....

I weigh 83 Kgs now. My goal is to weigh 75 Kgs by 29th December, 2012.

I am approaching this scientifically and methodically. It all started with my reading the book 'Goals' by Brian Tracy. I am following each and every step as outlined by Mr.Tracy to achieve this goal. 

The most important first step as per Mr.Tracy is the Goal Statement. As per him, any goal statement should meet the three P's criteria. It should be Personal, Positive and in Present tense. It will help if the goal has a specific timeline associated with it. As per him, one should write down the goal for it to be directly interfaced with the Sub concious and the Super Concious mind. 

Based on this I made my goal statement. It reads as:

"I weigh 75 Kgs by 29th December, 2012"

This meets all the criteria. It is in Present Tense, it is not like 'I wish to weigh' or 'I will weigh' or anything. It simply says 'I weigh'

It is personal. 'I' weigh 75 Kg. You can't get more personal than that.

It is positive, of course.

I also innovated a bit. Whenever we start a goal, we always talk about a specific date which normally is the last date of the some month. Any month. For example, 'I will quit smoking by 31st of March', or 'I will start running from 1st of February'. What happens in such cases is that the date do not register very clearly in the mind. When I put 29th December, there is a clear direction to the Sub and Super Concious minds not to mess with the dates.

As advised by Mr.Tracy, I just went about writing down this goal on paper every day twice, once in the morning and one in the night, just before sleep. One doesn't want one's goals not being achieved just because they are not firmly etched in all the 'concious' minds...

Stands to reason, doesn't it?

Next step in the process is to take action. I paid 14000 of the precious doubloons and joined 'Talwalkers', a gym very close to the place I stay. There is a reason I joined this Gym. This has pan India presence and I can do my exercise in almost all the major cities in India. Since I work out of Mumbai but travel to Bangalore often, since my house is there, a gym with a pan India presence is beneficial to me. Other gyms were cheaper but they have only local presence. 

14000 is for annual membership. Works out to about 1200 per month. If I spend about 350 Calories per day in the gym, in a month I would have expended about 10500 calories, which works out to about 15 paisa per Calorie. Also you get some muscles and some healthy body.

Not a bad deal, that. 

Having paid the doubloons, I am now on a spending spree. I have already purchased two track suits. I also plan to buy a duffel bag. I have also started looking at Jabong.com for some offers on running shoes.

Once you jump into the water, you might as well get fully wet. Go the whole hog...

This is the third or the fourth day at the Gym. It is not very easy. They have all these expert trainers who make sure that no parts of your body are untouched (well except some parts) by their expertise. If there is a muscle to work upon, they would have me work upon that. 

So far only muscle that I knew was 'Abs' That too because of the recent craze for 6 Packs among the bollywood heros. Now I am reading about deltoids and factoids and cuboids....

A few things are sure. I will be going to the Gym almost every day. I plan to work on my muscles and will have some packs by 29th December 2012. Lot of my fat would have been burned and converted to muscles by then.

I don't know if I will touch 75 Kgs. But I know that I would have learned the names of almost all the muscles in my body.

That is progress....

12 October 2012

About 'Nothing'....

I am caught in my own bind.

One of those days, I committed to myself that I will write one blogpost per day in this blog.

I soldiered on for these few days, with a book review posted, or a post on my travails with E mail etiquette thrown in. I also got an article on self promotion by sounding modest by attributing my success to myself thrown in for good measure.

I called that article 'My Attribution Effect'.

But today, I have shot my bolt. Today, I have nothing to write about.

I have an idea !!. I will write about 'Nothing'.

Hence this post. It is about 'Nothing'.Nothing in particular.

It is not about 'Spiritual Emptiness', it is not about vacuum, it is not about Blackhole, it is not about loneliness,  not about the vast, never ending sea .....

It isn't about anything. It is about 'Nothing'.

How can he write an article on 'Nothing'? you may wonder.

I do too....

In 'Seinfeld', George Constanza came out with an idea of creating an episode based on 'Nothing'. No story.  'It is about Nothing?' the broadcasting house manager asked him. 'Yes', he replied, 'it is about nothing'.

They ran three (as I remember) episodes just about 'Nothing'.

If Seinfeld can, why can't I?

I mean, people write entire books on 'Nothing'. If you are regular reader of Dostoyevsky, you will agree with me. (of course, if you are a regular reader of Dostoyvesky, some people may say that you ARE nothing, or you have 'Nothing' else to do.) If you have read Anna Karinina (I am sure I spelled it wrong) you know what I am talking about. You would have learned nothing and understood nothing. There are many modern writers who write tomes which are 'Nothing' but words in a particular sequence.

Why do I think of Chetan Bhagat, when I wrote that last line?

I am rambling. That is because I have 'Nothing' to say. 

With 'Nothing' to write, and having to write something about 'Nothing', I have a new respect for some of our news paper columnists. 

Like Chetan Bhagat (who is the crowd favorite today), who writes paragraphs of 'Nothing'  on everything. If there is something to say, Chetan Bhagat has a lot of 'Nothing' to say about it. 

And gets paid too.

I know some columnists, who with everything to write about, write about 'Nothing'. I recently read an article on a Fast Food Chain going Veggie, and the whole article was about 'Nothing'. Of course, there were lots of words there. But at the end of it the message was 'I am ambivalent if this chain should go veggie or not'. Fat lot of message, that.

Writing about 'Nothing' forces me to analyse and identify if there is 'Something' that I can write about.

Of course there are a number of them.

Like, I can write about my experiences with investing money in Stock Market.
Like, I can write about the good book that I read recently.
Like, I can write about the BAD book that I read recently
Like, I can write about the courage shown by the 14 year old child
Like, I can write about the 12 important habits that I want to develop
Like, I can write about my dream for my country
Like, I can write about 100 ideas to make more money
Like, I can write about how to start a blog
Like, I can write about my goal of reducing my weight and how I am taking action to achieve that
Like, my opinion on if you should go for Stocks or Investing thru mutual funds
Like, the top 10 Investment related websites in India
Like,.....

You get the gist, don't you? 

There is always 'Something' to write about. 

10 October 2012

E-Mailing Mr.Smith - An imaginary acquaintance

Mr.Smith is an imaginary name. Here in India we don't name our children as Smith.

This is about a real person, whom for the purpose of this article, I shall call as Mr.Smith. I don't want him to know that I am writing about him.

Outside of this article, I won't call him Mr.Smith, of course. That would be silly. I will call him by his real name which is Mr.....(had you there, hadn't I? for a moment you thought I was about to reveal my secret)

Mr.Smith is a person with whom I recently got acquainted with. Due to various circumstances, I have to write emails to him once a while. 

I have had disastrous experiences writing emails to him. Somehow, through reading my mails, without even talking to me, he has got it in himself that I don't like him. Which is wrong since he is one of my casual acquaintances and I have no stake in either liking or disliking him. When it comes to Mr.Smith, I am neutral.

The problem is that when reading the mail, Mr.Smith perceives what people 'might have been' thinking when they wrote the  mail. He goes through the mail with a fine toothcomb. He checks to see if he is the main recipient or he is in cc list, who are the other addressees in the mail, what is the subject line, how does the subject line sounds like, feels like, how is the body of the mail starts, does it starts with a simple 'Hello' or 'Hi'  or does it start formally as 'Hello Mr.Smith' etc...He also checks each and every word in the mail to see the hidden connotations, hidden agendas and hidden meanings.

Mr.Smith, almost always, thinks only the negative connotations of the mail. And unlike others, he takes action.

The action he takes is always tangential. He will not respond to me but to others. He will not mention what he thought about after he reads my mail, but will convey something and expect that others understand what he is talking about. This can be a problem for the recipient of his mails since they have no clue of what he is talking about. 

I tried telling him that he should call me back if he did not like what I have mentioned in the mail. But he never gets back to me. 

For a person like me, who like to click 'Reply All' with gay abandon, type a mail on the computer while listening to music, watching a video on my iPad and reading the latest Archer, who always start the mail with 'Hi' (sometimes not even that)  and hit the mail running without even a cursory 'How are things', and start off the mail without any context, and in whose mail, the body of the mail is totally delinked from the subject of the mail....

Writing a mail to Mr.Smith can be stressful.

I have learned my lesson the hard way. Nowadays I plan well in advance before writing to Mr.Smith. I look carefully at the addressee list. I almost never do a 'Reply all' without checking the recipient list and if Mr.Smith is in either the addressee list or the recipient list, I edit the subject of the mail and start off the mail with a formal 'Hello Mr.Addressee.....'

And I am very careful about what I write in the mail. Before I write any word I try to think what Mr.Smith will perceive as my thoughts as I wrote this mail. I try to think the way Mr.Smith will think I thought when I wrote the mail. I think not my thoughts, but his version of my thoughts. 

I do this exercise even if Mr.Smith is not the mail recipient. Who knows what Mr.Smith can think?

It has not been easy. It has been stressful. I let the steam off in my next mail. The recipient of my next mail gets it, full on. 'Reply All' is clicked with vengeance, even if only one person need to be replied to. Subject remains 'Re: Obama's Fortunes in the upcoming elections' and the body goes like 'I plan to reduce my weight by 8 KG in two months'. The mail starts with 'Hi' and the mail starts off  'sin context'.

I violate every email etiquette out there. Every one of them.

Once I do that I am relieved. 

Oh, and by the way, I have lost quite a few acquaintances in the past few months.

I don't know why.

09 October 2012

My 'Attribution Effect'....

Was listening to an interview on CNBC. The interviewee was talking about 'Attribution Effect' in stock market.

"Attribution effect deals with how you attribute your success and failure in the stock market. If you buy a Stock and it tanks, you attribute it to market forces. However, if you buy a stock and it does well, you attribute the success to yourself. 'I identified the right stock', you will tell yourself'.

So if your decision is success, the credit is yours, if it fails, someone will have to take the blame. 

This is attribution effect." concluded the interviewee.

"Attribution Effect can happen even in our lives", he mentioned as an afterthought.

This interview took me back to the winter of year 2000. 

Just after graduation, I had joined the Durgapur Steel Plant of Steel Authority of India  (SAIL)  in the year 1987. I had graduated the previous year in Mechanical Engineer, and SAIL was considered to be a dream job at that time. 

I started my career in the Captive Power Plant of the company as a management trainee and went thru various roles including that of Plant Operations, Maintenance, Coal Handling, Water Treatment.... the works.

I worked at this job till the summer of '95 when I went to do a two year MBA at the Kolkata University. I took a two year Sabbatical from SAIL to do this program. 

Having completed the program, I went back to SAIL since I was on contract with the company. 

The one year that I did in the company post MBA was torture. I had done my MBA in Finance and had come to enjoy it. I found that I had a flair for Finance and enjoyed the subject. However, the year in which we completed was an year of recession and since I was over-experienced, none of the companies wanted to recruit me. 

Having gone back to SAIL, I ended up doing the same work that I was doing previously and like I said, I hated every minute of it.

In the winter of '98, I quit the job in sheer desperation having managed a very low-paying job as Faculty in Finance in a management institute in Bangalore. I was ready to clutch even the last straw. 

This was a period of self-doubt, uncertainty and frustration. I had no idea where my career was headed. Only consolation was that I was in Bangalore, the most happening city in India at that time and I was always positive that something good will come about. 

Very near my management institute, there was an Organization training people in IT. They launched a new program to teach Oracle Technology. The cost was whooping 40000 rupees. 

This was a large sum even in those days. Also when you consider that other institutes were offering programs at significantly lower rates, one should be mad to join this program.

I was mad. I joined this program.

The program lasted for about 6 months. By the end of the program I had become pretty good at Oracle. I also realized that I had a flair for programming languages. I got myself certified in Java from Sun Microsystems.

Having completed the program, I landed a Job in an IT Company as an ERP Consultant.

This was in winter of 2000, the period that I mentioned at the beginning.

Now I found that I was good at ERP implementation. I enjoyed the overall process of ERP implementation. The feeling of bringing business value to an Organization through the use of ERP was exhilarating  I also found that I had an edge in ERP implementation since I knew how to handle the Shop Floor worker (I had done that for 12 years, remember?) and the CFO (and had an MBA in Finance). I also enjoyed training the workers in the new technology and relished the look of gratitude in their eyes as I made them understand their potential.

ERP provided me with instant feedback. And most of them were positive.

I was proud of my achievements. I was proud that I had seamlessly made the transition from Shop Floor to Academia and then to IT. While most people hardly change their career directions ever in their lives, I was in my mid thirties and had already changed career direction twice.

I was filled with hubris. I was one great guy, I felt. 

I attributed my success to myself.

Until....

I started thinking. There were many like me in the previous generations also. Why did they not do what I did.?  Take my father, for example. He worked in the same company throughout his career. Joined as a trainee, retired as the HOD. He was very intelligent and responsible. He had a flair for story telling. He had interest in various things other than work.

Why he couldn't do what I did?

Because, in his time, there were hardly any opportunities. You were lucky if you got even one job.

So, that means, I was able to do what I did partly because of my competence. But more importantly, the changes initiated by Manmohan Singh in 1991 were bearing fruit, 10 years hence, and India needed talented and knowledgeable people to drive the growth.

I might be good. But I was in the right place at the right time. 

Did I become more humble after that? Well, may be a tad.

How I lost my arrogance? That is another story for a later post.

08 October 2012

Book Review: 'The Krishna Key' by Ashwin Sanghi

Just completed reading the book 'The Krishna Key' by Ashwin Sanghi. Mr.Sanghi is the latest addition to the ever increasing tribe of Indian writers in English Language. 

The book follows the genre of mythological fiction which started off with the books by Dan Brown, including Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons and The Lost Symbol. The Krishna Key intrapolates the Story of Krishna from Mahabharatha with a modern day quest for 'The Krishna Key', the symbol left behind by Krishna in the epic. The book starts off with the archaeologist Anil Varshney, who discovered four seals and the base plate in which they were attached to. The four seals together with the base plate is supposed to contain some secret message left by Krishna regarding the presence of the mythological gemstone, the Syamantaka. This is supposed to be the Krishna Key.

I say 'Supposed' since I never found out. 

Each chapter starts off with a paragraph from the story of Krishna in Mahabharata. The book starts off with blood and gore. Anil Varshney is found murdered in his room with a sharp pointed tool pierced into his artery. The tool contains the words 'R M' and based on that, the police arrests Varshney's friend Ravi Mohan Saini (suspecting that he is the 'R M' mentioned in the sharp object. Which stupid murderer will do something THAT silly?). Police inspector is Radhika Singh, a ruthless specimen of the Indian Police Force, who chews Almonds and keep on chanting 'Hari' when stressed. Ravi Mohan has his doctoral student Priya, both of whom escape the police clutches and goes in search of Varshney's other friends Bhojraj, Chedi and Kurkude. Each of them has one of the seals given to them by Anil Varshney. 

The killer is Taarak Vakil (an anagram of 'Kalki Avatar', we are told) who is coincidentally born in a stud farm called 'Sambhala Stud Farm' (Kalki is supposed be born in a place called 'Sambala') and has a pet parrot named 'Shuka' (name of Kalki's parrot). He also owns a Horse named DeeDee (Kalki's horse is Deva Datta, DD), his father's name is Dr.V Y Sarma (Kalki is supposed to be born to Vishnuyasa) and his mother's name is Sumati (here author gave up finding similar sounding names and chose the mythological name of Kalki's mother). In Mahabharata, it is specifically mentioned that Kalki, who will end it all, will be born to a family who meets all this criteria.

And this family of three, meets all of them. The author lets loose all this information in one page (Let's give 'em). Too many coincidences in one page. Head reels.

Taarak is not his original name, of course. He took his name  when 'Mataji', his spiritual guru told him to do that. Mataji is vehemently anti christian and thinks that the Europeans have totally misinterpreted India's history and has decided to set it right. She is a member of a religious sangh and does physical exercises and gives spiritual discourses. Where have I seen this before?

Each of Anil's friends who holds the seal are murdered by Taarak and Mataji. Somewhere in the middle of the story we find that Mataji was none other than Saini's doctoral student Priya. 

The killer is identified in the first chapter, the accomplice is identified somewhere in the middle of the book, so what do the rest of the book deal with?

Sanghi soldiers on...

From now on Radhika Singh becomes Saini's friend and mentor. Now everyone, including Saini, Radhika, Maataji, Taarak Vakil, Sunil Garg (he is the CBI director or something) is in quest for Syamantaka. They look for it far and wide, in Mount Kailash and in Somnath temple, finally guess where they found it? Buried under the tombs in Taj Mahal !!!.

And they don't find it. In the last page of the book, they give up the search because 'Philosopher is more important than the stone'. No idea what that means.

In the cuisine of almost all the states of India, there is a special item called 'Mixed Vegetable Curry'. It is made by tossing in any vegetable that you can find, adding some masala and lo (and behold, of course) your mixed vegetable curry is done. It is known by different names but the principle is the same. 

I was reminded of Mixed Vegetable curry when I was reading this book. Ashwin Sanghi has tossed in multiple ingredients into this book to make into a concoction. There is dollops of Mahabharata of course, then we have a table spoon of the Indus Valley Civilization and the discovery of seals, and then there is pinch of geography, a dash of romance (and sex) between Radhika Singh and Saini added and topped up with story of Haji Mastan and Dawood Ibrahim thrown in for good measure.

Embellish it with a corrupt CBI official and garnish with Mataji who somehow remind you of 'Sadhwi Ritambhara' and you have all the ingredients for ennui.  

Chapters in this book are dedicated to recitation of historical events. Only history, mind you. No drama, no emotion, no love, nothing interesting. Just plain, old, boring historical facts.

I have never read so much history even in school. And Geography too.

And in my school I did read a lot of crap.

The optimistic guy at the publishing house says (rather wistfully !!) that the book is a 'Furiously paced and riveting thriller'. 'Furiously paced'? yes, it does move at a frenetic pace. Unlike the frenetic pace of a well directed arrow, this story moves here and there like a loose cannon. 

No focus I mean.

Riveting? of course not.

Reading this book, at times, I felt like tearing my hair. Something suddenly happens and you have no idea how it happened. For example, you leave Priya and Taarak, in an underground chamber somewhere in Nepal in one chapter, and behold (and lo, of course)  they are inside the Taj Mahal in the next chapter.

When you go to watch a 'Govinda' movie (Govinda is a movie star here in India), you are asked to leave your common sense at home and not to ask any questions. At some point, while reading this book., I felt like I was in a movie theatre watching a Govinda Movie.

The book goes on and on. At some point, you are frantic and wonder if the story has any ending at all. 

I purchased this book in the Bangalore airport. Reading this book was a part of my identifying new authors whose books I should be reading in future.

I tried Ashwin Sanghi. I am not sure that I want to read his other works.

PS: If you did not know what R M meant, it meant Ratna Maru, which is the name of Kalki's sword.

Take that.