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This happened the last time – and I bet it will happen again once the dust and smoke settles down.
Last time, people commended – how life went back to normal and the resilient nature of the people of Mumbai India.

It is actually sad that people approve of how life gets back to normal.
It should not! Lessons need to be learnt and things need to be changed …

We Indians are probably one of the most tolerant and laid back group of people in the world.
It’s time to get a little bit angry and a little paranoid …

It’s not too late to have a plan. Terrorism is upon all of us now – not only in J&K.
Time to stop covering our eyes and prepare to deal with these guys as and when the situation arises …

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It’s 12:20 AM and people are still out having a gala time bursting fire crackers – even though the guidelines set by the commissioner of police said it should be done by 10 PM max.
But what can you do? We’re a democracy right?

In India, I have learnt this the hard way – you just need sometimes to let go.
In a very funny sort of a way, you have to are forced to respect the collective decision of many people at your own expense even though each individual in the collective is being a selfish idiot!

Speaking about diwali, a couple of interesting incidents took place in the days leading upto the festival.

The first incident has to do with our dead telephone and the line repairman.
Mysteriously, about a couple of days from diwali, our main land-line phone went dead. I raised a complaint on Saturday but we were all pretty sure that nothing would get done until the long diwali weekend (stretching upto Thursday) was over.

Imagine my dad’s surprise when the phone magically rang on Sunday morning and the person at the other end of the line was the repair man asking whether the phone was working now. (Apparently there was a fault with the underground wiring … apparently)
My dad was so elated and surprised at the same time, that he profusely thanked the repair man for fixing the phone a day before diwali – and that too on a Sunday! He even wished him a happy diwali.

Imagine our surprise, when the repair guy says “Thank you for your wishes. I’ll come to the premises myself and meet you in person!”

Come he did, in a good 10 minutes.
And when he left, he had downed a good glass of soft drink, some exquisite sweets and pocketed an easy Rs. 51/- (diwali bakshish)

You give your little finger and pull out your entire arm :)

The other incident however was to do with our maid.
All through the diwali cleaning – which lasts a good week, my mom asked our regular maid to help out with some of the nitty gritties. Now, all maids in Pune (and I’m pretty sure in India too), look forward to demand an extra bonus during diwali.

My mom promised the maid a whole month’s pay for the bonus – provided she helped her with the extra cleaning of the place.

So today, on diwali, when my mom finally gave the maid her one month’s pay and two boxes of diwali sweets (which she had specially gotten packed and gift wrapped for her) our maid instead of graciously accepting it and thanking her, turns around and asks my mom “Where is my sari?”

My mom was completely taken aback and couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
Definitely dented her trust in the human kind a bit I’m sure.

Ofcourse she didn’t get her sari. There was no talk about a sari. An extra month’s pay itself was a substantial amount. Another case of giving someone your little finger and they trying to pull your entire arm out.

But what can you do? C’est la vie!
I read that in Japan, it is impolite to leave a tip. They believe a person gets paid for doing his / her job to the best of their abilities. Expecting money for doing a better job (that they do right now) is just insulting.

Sigh …

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I spent a good hour at Landmark (which is a pretty large bookstore in our city) the other day – having nothing to do. I ended up buying two books even though I entered the shop with the intent of just casually browsing through the store and passing some time …

While browsing, I had picked up a couple of books with the intent of buying them – but later placed them back on the shelf, changing my mind the last minute.
The books I eventually ended up buying were – The Alchemist (something that I have wanted to read since a long time) and Games Indians Play (a book in which the author tries to explain why Indians behave the way they do using Prisoner’s Dilemma in Game Theory)

The books I ended up placing back on the shelf were – “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini (not the right time to jump into a large novel) and “It Happened in India” by Kishore Biyani (wasn’t very keen and would be able to borrow it from a friend later).

Anyways, getting back to the topic at hand – the reason I wrote this post – is because I was wondering — how we willingly spend money for different things.

I have never felt the pinch while spending money on books – I spent a good 400 bucks on books I didn’t even intend to buy when I got to the place.
Similarly, I never quite feel the pinch while buying computer hardware – say a new hard disk or some ram.

Honestly speaking, I have started feeling the pinch (computer hardware) a little as compared to my college days – but nothing compared to spending a similar amount on getting my bike serviced — or on buying clothes for example.

I found it ironic that I could buy books worth a 1000 bucks in the morning – and cringe when my mechanic told me later that evening that I would have to change the brake liner of my bike which would cost me 250 bucks.

I really wonder why…

Maybe its because the way we are brought up.
Maybe because I had a sort of a “no questions asked fund” for buying books as a kid – that I continue not to feel the pinch now.
Or maybe I just strongly believe in the benefits of buying books.

I really don’t know – but I definitely do believe — different people do have different policies on spending money on different things. I just really do not know why.

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I met up with a friend of mine recently who is working with this big multinational company.
Lets assign this company a completely random name – just because I am too lazy and don’t want to keep typing it again and again … Umm .. lets call it TM.

Okay …
So this friend of mine – an extremely bright, intelligent and hardworking student from back in college joins TM thinking that its a big company with thousands of people – and he’ll have every opportunity to grow and learn there …

He couldn’t be more wrong …
When he met me, he was completely stressed out – and very dejected …
I couldn’t believe it was the same confident guy I knew back in college …

He was suffering from something I call – “The Big Company Syndrome”.
I’ve had so many of my friends tell me the same story this friend of mine tell me – and about this same company – TM.

Moreover, you can smell something fishy when a company asks its employees to sign a two year bond of Rs. 100,000 (or was it 200,000?) as means to retain them…

Anyways, in bigger “service” based companies such as TM, people get treated as resources.
Most often than not, your superiors don’t give a crap about you and you end up being the extreme end of the tail in which everyone above you is trying to please everyone else above them and as such, don’t bother with those below them.

A very common occurrence in companies such as these – is having no work and ending up on bench for a long, long time.
This might be extremely hard for many to swallow .. but according to me, you are already in an awesome spot.

If life gives you lemon … Make lemonade!

How difficult is it anyways?

  1. Cut the lemon in half.
  2. Get a glass of water.
  3. Squeeze each half of the lemon into the glass.
  4. Add a pinch of salt.
  5. Some sugar to taste.
  6. Stir well and drink chilled :)

My friend here, tried his best to get work – but his superiors just neglected him …
All his requests were met with a few peanut jobs – which he completed in a matter of days – and again, had nothing to do.
This, he explained, bothered him a lot – and rightly so …
When you have been hired to work, it hurts not getting any responsibilities …

But the really sad thing is that in such large companies, nobody really cares …

Unless you have a terrific team leader or project manager, you are going to be in the same predicament.
And chances of getting a great superior are very, very low …

If you are stuck in a similar situation, you have two options:

Option A
This is the more ethical and fun option to do:

  1. You type out a nice resignation letter.
  2. Pack up all your stuff.
  3. Delete all the personal files from your machine.
  4. Walk up to your manager – preferably when he is surrounded by other co-workers.
  5. Tell him what a jackass he has been.
  6. Throw the letter at his face.
  7. Storm out.

You’ll definitely get a better job. Don’t worry.
If you were good enough to be hired by this company, many other companies will take you easily.

Option B
Though I agree that this option borders on the unethical side, it is completely justified in such a situation.
Company loyalty can go take a hike.

In this option, the first thing you should do is stop asking your boss for work. That is simply the dumbest thing to do.
Come to work on time, punch in and relax.

You’re still getting paid right?
Do the work they give to you – but don’t be too enthusiastic about it – because honestly, nobody cares!

In your free time – and you’ll have tonnes of it, read, blog, write some pet hobby projects, put it up on the internet for others to use and grow yourself …

If you really get good at it, you can even consider freelancing – but this depends on how good you are hiding it during company hours.

I have heard stories of people running entire software side businesses using the company phone of TM itself.
They work as software contractors – getting work from some people – outsourcing to others – and taking a cut in the middle. They make this money in addition to also getting paid from the company for doing nothing.

This would be entirely shocking to many – but sadly, this is the way most large Indian software companies work.
You just have to learn how to work the system …

If you can’t, you’ll probably screw up your health with all the tension or commit suicide with all the depression.
And if you look at it – in the long scheme of things that is life – a couple of bad years in a bad company does not make any difference …
On the other hand, it just makes you stronger and wiser …

So when life gives you lemons, just make lemonade yaar!!! :)

[ Min number of posts to go till Mar 17, 2008 : 75.]

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Today has been a pretty horrendous day actually …

We had no electricity for almost 12 hours …
From about 12 in the afternoon to about 12 now …

It is a pretty sad experience really – something we haven’t faced for a while …
There was a time – about a year ago, when there would be no electricity for 4 hours daily in the summers due to load shedding …

Thankfully, that situation has improved tremendously now – and electricity disappearing has reduced quite a bit …

Anyways, what was really cool today – was the experience of it all …
Allow me to get a bit philosophical (and a little kooky) while I try to explain what my experience was …

Before I get started, just a little background information …
Our house has two floors and each floor has its own UPS (inverter) backup which allows us to run a couple of tube lights and fans for 4 – 5 hours …

When initially the power went out, it was still bright outside – and everyone — in the optimistic anticipation that power would be restored soon (it generally does by around 6 P.M.) – spent the back up electricity running fans when they could actually do with some discomfort – in order to save the power up for later …

However, when the inverter beeped and let us know (at around 7 P.M.) that it was almost drained — and there were no signs of the power coming back, we cramped up into two rooms (from four initially) to save up on the remaining power …

After a while, when the inverter complained again, we were forced to move into the drawing room to further save up on power …
And we eventually had to switch from the single bright tube-light to the very dim, power saving lamp — when the inverter started beeping – notifying us of its final stages …

This is a pretty depressing feeling – knowing that you’re at the end of your line …
The inverter would give up any second now – and we’d have to spend the rest of the night in complete darkness …

At around 10:30 P.M., the inverter finally croaked. All of us gave up, switched off the lamp and went to bed.

A lot of work still had to be done.
Mail had to be replied to. Some coding was still left. My brother had to do his assignments and journals.
Everyone felt so helpless…

I somehow could relate to the movie “Children of Men” – in which there was no hope for mankind even at the peak of their civilization — when all the women become infertile.
(However, I related to it at a slightly different level)

At around 11, I crawled into bed – anticipating an extremely hot and humid night – with the guilt of leaving tonnes of work incomplete — that needed to be done by today.

Suddenly, just as all hope was exhausted, the inverter clicked – letting us know that power was back on.
Electricity was finally restored!!!

The street lamps outside — slowly came to a glow, televisions were switched on in the neighbourhood and the fans in my house started rotating again…
Suddenly, out of nowhere – I felt hope …

I don’t know how and why … but I felt everything was going to be alright …
Whatever the worries – at home, work, about the future, etc – I felt everything was going to be okay …
(This is the kooky part I was mentioning about)

I am not being an idiot by pinning my hopes on the state government – and every time they restore power – but on a more general phenomenon …

So many times in our lives, when we’re feeling down and out due to situations not within our control — something miraculously happens and everything is back to the way it is supposed to be…

Though this may not happen everytime – it does give us something to live for…
Perhaps this is something which makes humans – humans…

As ‘The Architect’ from the Matrix aptly put:

“Hope, it is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness.”

Or as I would prefer to put it:

“Everything will be alright in the end. If it is not, its not the end!”

:)

[ Min number of posts to go till Mar 17, 2008 : 77.]

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I know that this topic must have been done to death uptil now, but the immense realisation of it all just hit me.

My uncle from the states, sent me an email and asked me to reply back with everybody’s phone number in the house.
I say okay, hit the Reply button and go:

Home (primary): XXX
Home (secondary): XXX

Dad’s Cell: XXX
Mom’s Cell: XXX
My Cell: XXX
Bro’s Cell: XXX

When I keyed in the last number – was the exact time it hit me.
6 phones !!!!

6 bloody phones for 4 people!!!

And just about 4 years ago, we were extremely happy with one landline number – which I would proudly tell everybody.
And now, the first thing I grab hold off – even when I am moving through rooms in my house is — yeah — my cell phone.

Technology is a very funny thing.
You do not realise how badly you needed something until you start using it.
I resisted buying a cell phone till I was in my final year for this very same reason — and now, it’s something I cannot do without.

There was a time when I had only one email address and was extremely happy with it.
Now, I have one personal email address, one for spams, one for business and a couple more which I need to check for the websites that we have (activeciti, thinkingspace).

I have an account on each popular IM (GTalk, Yahoo, MSN, Skype) and a couple of social networking sites (Orkut, Facebook, LinkedIn).

The thing which really baffles my mind is – do we need all this?
And if we really do, where do we stop? How do we know where to stop?

I can see kids in the future spending a good couple of hours checking all their mail and then checking all their messages in their social networking circles, etc. etc.

Makes you really really want to run away to a distant village for a couple of months – with nothing except some cash and some clothes — an exile from being digitally connected.

PS: I found the calvin strip above by searching on this awesome tool: http://www.reemst.com/calvin_and_hobbes/stripsearch

[ Min number of posts to go till Mar 17, 2008 : 78.]

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If you really think about it, India is in a pretty mixed up place – economy wise …
We’re nowhere near a capitalist economy – nor are we entirely communist either …
We are somewhere in between …

I am talking about this because of late, there have been incidents in my life – caused by this aspect and I was wondering – whether a right balance could ever exist …

When I was returning from Proto a couple of weeks ago, I was to come to Mumbai by flight and then catch a bus from there to Pune. My flight was supposed to land at 10:40 PM – but it being Indian Airlines, it only landed sometime around 12:20 AM.
Luckily I had no checked in baggage and I was able to get out of the airport by 12:30.

I rushed to Dadar, and in my heart knew — that the last State transport bus would have long left and I would have to spend the night at the bus stop. I reached the bus stop at 1:00 AM.
Unbelievably – there was still a bus going to Pune (which I think would have probably been the last one).
It left with around 10 passengers (out of a capacity of 35 – 40) at 1:15 AM and albeit an extremely bumpy ride, I was home by 5:00 AM.
I secretly thanked the government for running such buses – even when there were hardly any passengers at such odd timings.

This is the other incident.

I live on the outskirts of Pune. As such, we have all the benefits which come with such a setting.
Clean, calm and pollution-free surroundings, lots of open spaces, etc. etc.

At around 10 kms – the main city isn’t too far either …

However, we also face the problems which come along with such a setting.
Namely, that of infrastructure — in this case, the internet.

The place where I live, there are no private players providing high speed internet services (or broadband).
This is primarily because not many people would go for it – so it does not make sense for these companies to lay fibre cabling all the way for a handful of subscribers.
The only one which does – is the government owned BSNL.

Until sometime ago – they had the monopoly in the telecommunication sector – and if you had a phone, it had to be from BSNL.
As a result, they have cables already setup – through which they provide the internet services.

The service though, leaves a lot to be desired – and the sorry fact is – being a government enterprise, no one gives a damn.
I’ve been having connection issues since eons (it works sporadically and mostly, only at nights) – but no one seems to be bothered. After about a hundred complaints, nothing comes of it.

I seriously have started believing that if anything needs to come of a government run agency, some palms eventually have to be greased. Haven’t tried that yet – but sadly, we’ll probably have to do it eventually.

So coming back to the issue.
Living in an entirely capitalist economy definitely has its merit. I honestly believe that the entire country progresses at a much, much faster rate as compared to living in a communist one.
People who are smart, talented or hard working get their just rewards – encouraging more people down that road, thus leading to faster growth of the entire nation.
(Monopolies are a negative – but then, thats just the way you look at them)

However, if we were actually in a completely capitalist economy, I would have spent the entire night at the bus stand and would still be on dial-up connection at home.
And if the government does step up and provide services like the state transport bus running at night or me getting my broadband at home (even though its on only half the time), am I right to demand good service — or should I just be grateful that I am getting such services in the first place and be happy with it?

The Indian consumer at large, I think, follows the latter ideology …
What do you people think?

(My connection went off and on 7 times while I wrote this post)

[ Min number of posts to go till Mar 17, 2008 : 79.]

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