Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Despicable Boss

Disclaimer: This post has no connection with any person. Any similarity is PURELY coincidental.

It was 8 am in the morning. He pressed 2 on the quick dial and that Bob Dylan sang through the empty room…

“Good… Good Morning Mike” came a voice as Bob became silent.

“Good Morning Arthur, How are you?” , he said in his nicest tone, not that he had to pretend too much in doing so.

“Very well sir, How are you doing this fine Monday morning?” , Arthur replied trying and pretty much succeeding in hiding the shock of getting a call at 8:00 on a Monday morning. Call at 8… This had to be bad… Arthur could have done well to begin this week without this early morning call – especially after the disaster o a week the last one was.

“Very well Arthur. Good job last week.”

“Uh Sir?” Did he get it right? Why, rather, what was his boss praising? Did Arthur get a hint of sarcasm? He decided he shouldn’t drop his guard just as yet.

“Good job managing the crisis last week, Arthur. It did become quite a scare, dint it?”

“Oh yes sir. I’ve seen tough times before but never as much as the last week. Well, thank you sir. I try to do my best.” Phew… That was close. Arthur felt the blood rushing back to his numb hand holding the phone.

“Well Arthur, why do you think it happened?”

“Well Mike, the HR policies for the last few months have been changing so much. A buildup was taking place for two months now, since the incident with Hailey.”

“Arthur, but did we talk about the same the last time? You had assured me you would take care of it.” Mike’s voice slightly hoarse and rising.

“Sir, I tried to but did not get any support from the logistics. I had informed the same to you. Even you had talked to Hamish.”

“But did I not tell you to go ahead? Hamish and I had worked out the details. In fact, I worked the whole of the weekend to settle that. Even after that, you have not been able to find a way out.” The exceptional stress and loudness of NOT was unmistakable. Arthur wondered why he ever let his guard down. Why hadn’t he seen this coming? He just hoped, this was the end of it.

“I know sir. I tried sir…”

“Tried is not enough. Or else you haven’t tried hard enough.”

There was a long uncomfortable pause.


“Every time this happens, I have to step in and play the last minute fiddle. Why can’t you get these things done without me? This is the fourth time this is happening. We were lucky this time. Next time you might not be.” His voice was slow and forceful. Arthur knew Mike meant business.

“OMG, I might not be lucky? Why did Mike say ‘you might not be lucky’? Am I going to be fired?” Arthur wondered.

“But Mike Sir, you know I couldn’t have done anything to prevent it. The management pressure is far too much. And…”

“And you need to find a way out.”

“Ok Sir.” Arthur resigned.

“Listen Arthur, you have grown from where they are today. I remember you always used find a way out. I’ve immense respect for the way you work. But then, I also have high expectations from you. I try to help you rise to those, but you can’t expect me to solve them every time you are in trouble. Please try a little harder.”

“Yes sir.”

Mike kept the phone down and had a glass of water. He was sweating. That went well, did it… Arthur was a good subordinate – one of the best he had – high performing and creative. What did he do to deserve such a rude early morning call…!!!

Well, in his defence, Mike was just trying to be a good boss but all he could be was… a BOSS...!!!

Well, now he knew why the adjective “despicable” got associated with the noun “Boss”.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Learning to play for Pizzas (John Grisham)

Just read a John Grisham novel – “Playing for Pizzas”. It’s about an NFL quarterback who has to move to Italy because of a few fumbles in a NFL match. It’s about how he hates anything to do with Italy but grows to love the game so much that he decides to stay on in Parma for the second season, barely playing for pizzas and not the hefty contracts he was used to.

If nothing else I realized how easy it is to do what one completely believes in and loves doing. Is the contrary also true? It becomes extremely tough to do something if you do not believe in it. And ‘sales’ is one such career. You never believe in the targets that are given to you. You always see those as a little too high – but then the field is as ruthless as it can get. You either achieve it or you don’t. You either hit it or you never will.

And as a manager, initially you are more of carry-and-distribute-agent. You receive a target – you carry it in your mind – you distribute it. While doing so, you might make it sound that the target was the simplest possible and can be achieved with just a little extra effort – while in your own mind, you harbour doubts the size of Titanic – you make it sound like it is the unsinkable but know there are irrefutable chances this Titanic is gonna sink.

Initially you hate it. But… Slowly over time, you have seen many-a-Titanic go down the ocean and you now become impervious to another mishap and just look forward to creating the bigger and the more unsinkable ship. And as these too keep sinking, you learn the right way – of playing for pizzas – forgetting your baggage of playing in the NFL (say those ‘elite’ B-Schools) – and playing for the fun of it – the fun of making the ship safer. And that my friends, is when sales start to happen.

As for me, till now, I’ve just built my first Titanic and it sure is gonna pain if it sinks. Pray it doesn’t :D

Monday, August 16, 2010

I AM an Isolophobic

I confess. I AM an Isolophobic.
They say, ‘solitude is bliss’. They sure dunno the meaning of either solitude or bliss. Or is there something amiss?

Over the past one month, I’ve come to face my worst fear – of being alone. For a social butterfly like me who HAS to talk with people to stay sane, this life of living alone in a 1000sqft space demarcated by walls to create rooms, can be quite an experience – and not in a good way. They say the only way to get rid of your fears is by facing them head-on. Well, for an isolophobic, this is pretty much the nadir of life and if this can’t get rid of the phobia, nothing can. This is as head-on with isolophobia as I can get.

They tell me I’m in the most wonderful of lands – oh sure I am. Whichever way I look, there are beautiful mountains partially covered by rain-bearing clouds. There are these famous “view-points” where lush green valley extends upto infinity – only cris-crossed by those mountainous rivers flowing aimlessly. Many times, I’d love to be that river – it has those trees that whistle every time it passes through them. I whistle only to myself – that too only when sure no one is looking for it be seen as indecent. It has that boulder which continuously talks to it in that gush language. The only talk I hear is that constant rumble I have in my head. It has those small pebbles that accompany it till it meets other rivers. Those small pebbles are my excel sheets – which constantly hound me till I meet others and even later.

They tell me I get the best food around. The only thing would taste good right now – is a piece of my mind. Well-cooked and deep-fried – treated with lots of boredom – garnished with a sprinkle of irritation, it must taste awesome. It is a stage where I dread the sight of restaurants – eating that big plate of that awesome ‘choumin’ alone or ordering those 4 pieces of paneer day-in-day-out because you know anything else you order will be too much for one person. Those roadside chats have their charm only when you are able to describe how wonderful they taste – when your taste-buds start talking to your teeth, it’s time to stop. Those famous ‘rasgullas’ and ‘ras-malai’ seem to melt no more in your mouth – or they do – a little too quick – they are there for a second and the next, gone – and then all you can think is, “Did I really have that or was it an illusion – must have been one – Phew…”

They tell me they would die to be in my place – oh you need not die – I want you to live – through what I live.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Bitten by the movie bug

I always thought very few people believed in movies. And even less would do something being inspired by the movie they saw over the weekend. But the events of the last few days have made me believe otherwise.

I was influenced by movies but to a very small extent… I saw “Requiem..” and decided I was never even going anywhere near narcotics. I saw “God Tussi…” and decided I’d never question the will of “God” if ever there was any. “Pursuit…” changed the way I talked to salesmen. (Little did I know that I’d be entering the same field four yrs thence) Never have I shooed a personal selling agent away after watching that movie – no matter how distracting or persistent!!! There were a few other movies that changed the way I look at things and people. But hardly was there ever a movie that made me change the way I do things. The last movie I watched did just that…

I’m talking about the 2000 not-so-hit movie, “Pay It Forward”. With a host of Hollywood celebs in movies that I absolutely love, it was the unknown boy Haley Osment who affected me the most, proving content always matter more than cosmetic makeovers and star-power. The last few days, I’ve been looking for ways to help people – though not in the life-changing way Trevor wants us to, but yes in small ways that I can.

Just yesterday, I was on a business trip to Haridwar. On my way back I couldn’t get a taxi and decided to take a bus. Since the route was pretty much a plain route with good roads, bus seemed a comfortable option. The bus grew very crowded very soon. Just as the bus was about to start, I saw a family with two young kids (must be 2-3 yrs old) get on. The lady got a seat but the man was left standing. He held his daughter in one hand and clung to the support with the other. The roads were good but the ride, no less bumpy, thanks to the ‘brilliant’ drivers. I noticed his discomfort but in that crowded bus, thought I couldn’t do much. The small girl, with her head on his shoulder was sleepy but her head kept bumping around. Around 15 mins into the journey, I noticed the man grimace with discomfort. Holding to the overhead bar support while holding to his daughter in a bumpy bus is no easy task. I thought of getting up but there were a good 10-12 people between me and the man. I called out to him once but the call was drowned in the chatter around and the groan of the engine. I tried the eye-language once or twice but unsuccessfully. Finally I called the guy standing next to me to call the guy in front. Ignoring a few angry stares from the “middlemen”, I completed the chain and used the eye language to indicate that my seat was on offer. He understood and came over. The child slept peacefully as I stood next to the guy for the rest of the journey. The guy thanked me and asked me how he could repay that small favour. I smiled and told him to “Pay It Forward”. The guy laughed at first but soon understood I was serious.

By the time I reached home, I was broken - make no mistake – the bus ride was bumpy and standing was no easy task. But weighed my discomfort against the man and more importantly the child’s discomfort and decided I was in a better situation to handle it than either of them. I was tired but happy. A small gesture, but meaningful... This was far bigger joy for me than the entire Joy of Giving Week with all its media fanfare and glitzy flagging offs and ceremonies.

Oh yeah, if you read the above content, please promise to “Pay It Forward”…

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Last Few Days on XL campus...

Everyone I met had just two questions, “What will you do?” and “Why are you not going home?”. The first one I could easily answer, “I’ll find something to do.” The second one was slightly more tricky. If I said XL was a home to me, it sounded very cheesy. If I said, “I loved the company of friends in XL”, as with a lot of other things in XL (and me), GRAX circles would be having a field day trying to guess the “friend” I was staying back for. But surprisingly, both of the statements were true. Obviously I love going home but that is something I would be doing a lot of times in the future. Staying and relishing the campus, unhindered, was not something I’d get to do a lot after March 27th.

So as it figured out, I went to a trip North-East and came back. There are about a score of us on campus. And there has not been a day when I’ve been bored. I’ve found myself something, and something interesting, to do. Others might see it as vellapanti, but after two years of being involved with so many things that happened on this beautiful campus, I deserve my moments of vellapanti.

Spending time in Googling the most arbit (also arcane) stuff, updating Wiki stubs, reading book reviews (I even read a novel after a long time), movie reviews (I’m yet to see one though) doesn’t seem a waste of time now. And I don’t get the FRAXer tag for doing this too. I don’t FRAX. And I’ve got some actual work lined up in the coming week. So here I am, spending the last few days of XL campus (Oh, I’ll keep coming back, but then, it won’t ever be the same). Cherishing the free time... Cherishing the beautiful campus... Cherishing the election process, this time as an outsider... Listening to cribbing about how SAC rules are unjust and outright redundant... It’s fun being on the listening side of GRAX too :P

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tourist info - Yumthang Trip

I recently visited the North of Sikkim. This is a travelogue of the Yumthang Valley.

We left Gangtok (the time is early March) in a Mahindra MaxX. (The tour operator had arranged the trip and the permits. You need to carry a Photo ID and two passport sized photos for the permits. This process takes at least one full day when done through a tour operator.) Sikkim tours are arranged in 10-seater Sumos, MaxXs. These are “shared” cabs as they are called. So the five of us took one of these and luckily, were the only 5 in the back two rows which was very comfortable. Just as we left Gangtok, we entered the rural Sikkim which is very picturesque.

Spice forms the major cash crop and can be seen along the hills. Waterfalls can be seen trickling down the slopes every few kms. (In early March, they are trickles but there are tell-tale signs of rocks on the sides bearing the brunt of these dancing waterfalls after the rains)

The valley with the fast flowing Teesta deep below you looks daunting (almost freaky at times, spl if ur driver is too confident :P) on the left side of the cab for a large part of the trip upto the border checkpost (which is arnd 20 kms from Chungthang).

Naga falls come enroute. The sight of white water flowing down the mountain, bouncing on the rocks along the sides is actually very beautiful. If the flow is not very fast, you might be able to convince the driver to drive right through the falls. Beware – the water is really chilly; Enter at your own risk.

Chungthang is the dam-site for the Upper Teesta Hydro Power project and is a sight to savour for any engineer. The sight of the fast-flowing Teesta being channelled into the foot of the hill while huge trucks work on the construction of the dam is something you don’t see often.

Beyond Chungthang, you reach Lachung where most tours stay on for the night. The road to Lachung is quite narrow and travelling in fog can be treacherous with visibility reduced to a few metres. In winter this place is covered in snow but in early March – the only sign of snow was the driver talking of it. Nevertheless, the feeling of staying in a wooden cottage at night was different and fun. (Be informed that searching for a lodge or restaurant in this place is extremely difficult and though he might charge a premium, let the tour operator book both for you before starting from Gangtok) It creaked at times giving the eerie feeling of being watched (OK I’m no chicken but yeah, creaking wood in a desolate hill location does give birth to those eerie feelings) We had a simple dinner (Rice Dal Roti Aaloo) and retired to bed under two layers of quilts.

Early morning (around 5:30 am), I decided to venture outside in the chilly morning breeze and was greeted with the first sights of snow on distant hills – the ones we were destined for further in the day.

We had steaming tea (which cooled down before we could finish it) and decided to hv breakfast later. After renting the snow gear (Boots @ Rs. 30, Jackets @ Rs. 40 and skull caps @ Rs. 20) from the cottage owner, we set out for Yumthang Valley. The driver kept telling us that he’d rather take us to Katao but with a deep-rooted mistrust we ignored his suggestions. Going to Zero Point cost us Rs. 1750 for the whole cab. (We were 7 of us, so Rs. 250/- per head)

The sight of the Yumthang Valley is one of pure bliss – pure peace. Set amidst tall snow-capped hills, the valley is an absolute must-see for a tourist. A dry valley with a river (Teesta) running right at the centre... In peak winter, it is covered in snow and during rains, the river is a lot wider.

Close-by, there are few shacks where we got our breakfast (consisting of bread and butter) made. The pine forest around was covered in snow (at some places about 6 inches deep). It had rained the previous night and as such there was not a sign of any cloud and the early-morning warm sun helped in the winter. Being a valley, there was not much wind though the slight breeze was enough to send shivers through you if your ears or feet were exposed to it. The water in the river, expectedly, was chilling (almost untouchable).

The valley offer panoramic view of beautiful snow on the hills. There is hardly any flora-fauna other than the expected conifers and lichens in this region though the driver did mention that in February, herds of Yak do visit this region. During the rainy season, the route apparently has beautiful rhododendrons. From here we decided to go to Zero Point - the end of the well-maintained NH 31A. (apparently the Tibet Border is visible from there but it is often closed due to security or safety reasons) That climb is indeed on of the more steep climbs of the trip. Within a span of 20 Kms we climbed around 2500 ft. The air feels light and few of my friends felt the first effects of light-headedness due to the altitude. After going on through winding roads for around an hour, we reached a sharp bend in the road beyond which no vehicle was allowed. (Apparently Zero Point is 500 mtrs from there.) The first sounds that greet you is calling for having hot brandy and hot coffee...!!! There is snow is every direction you look.

The sun glares into your eyes even if you are not looking directly. This glare can indeed be unnerving and very uncomfortable for some (One of my friends had to sit with his head bowed for the entire time). But the fun of playing is the snow is something tourists come here for – and we were not disappointed. Snowmen, throwing snowballs at each other – carving texts in snow – we did it all.

The locals (selling brandy and coffee) told us that there were snow animals including snow leopards (I hope not mythical) in the region. However, the only form of fauna we saw was a crow that kept hovering over us. After a stay of around half an hour, we decided to come back. The altitude sickness was slowly getting to us all. Breathing had fastened though no cause for any alarm was raised by anyone. On our way back, we visited the hot water springs. Now these are pretty petty to the tourists who have visited Manikaran or Badrinath but a tourist destination nevertheless. Just outside Lachung are the Amitabh Bachchan Falls (No kidding!!!) Water falling of a tall steep ridge into a small pool below. A word of caution – it is situated at a high-speed righter and hence beware of speeding vehicles.
The journey back to Gangtok is fast and covered in around 7 hours. The whole trip cost us 4K for a group of 5 people. This included the travelling, staying at Lachung (in two 3-bed rooms), all food and visiting. The rented winterwear was separate.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Things I'll take back from XL - 2

Quite accustomed to the long queues of the bureaucracy that a govt. college (I was in NITK) brings, I was actually shocked, even scared, by the free ride that registration in XL was. For all you know, I could not be Puneet Aggarwal and still be completing the two years in here. And that my friend is the freedom that XL accords you with – of doing anything as long as you deem it right; if you are ready to bear first, the costs and then, the consequences of what you do, no one here is gonna tell you what and what not to do. An independent life, devoid of any rules but your own is not one that less responsible people can handle. That is the true test of a manager and that, thankfully, I passed. So, responsibility that comes with being free is the second thing I’ll take away from XL.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Things I'll take back from XL - 1

From today I wud try to post one new post every two-three days till the day I leave... all about something in XLRI that I’ll take with me... will try to keep it chronological...

I was travelling alone from home (Bellary) to XLRI, Jamshedpur. Apparently that was new for ‘freshers’ who were generally dropped off by parents but then, I was always an independent child. There was anticipation and even an iota of neophobia. As I reached platform number 19 of the Howrah station, that neophobia seemed to melt a little. I saw another family which was going to XL to drop off a classmate. As I boarded the train, Steel Express, that neophobia was all but gone as I realised, where I go, I’ll never be far from an XLer. There were so many of my to-be batch-mates on that train. One family, on realising I was travelling alone talked to me through the journey to Jampot and I realised how big getting into XL was. And that, though we curse the location, the journey from Cal to Tata ensures we all travel together, wherever we go, whatever we do. And that is the first memory of XL that I shall carry with me... Of being close to friends even in a completely new city...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Mercenary

He was just ten – a toddler in his world full of soldiers – tin soldiers with a metal head and a hollow chest. He was no 10 – for he could carry weights much larger – of those hammers, belts and arrows – all together. He was just ten – he mistook the ticking mechanical sound from those tin soldiers to be a heart-beat. He was no ten – for he could do tasks others twice his size couldn’t – fighting a lone losing battle for example. Not just a battle – but one that was never his own; One that he chose to fight because the king was weak – too weak to even acknowledge his presence – or when he did – follow it up with further battles.

And just like that, after the battle was won – litres of his blood spilt – he walked on – to the next battlefield. And just like that, if the battle was lost, he vowed to come back – never any taller – never any stronger – Just in his battered state – to avenge the defeat – to bring glory to a gory king who never knew he existed. The king – the dear loved king who he idolised – the one with those green eyes which saw everything green – green, not as the expanse of grass before him – but the barren battlefield – greened by the impure blood of the other tin soldiers.

And just like that he fought on – and on – and on – swords flung at him from all sides – including his 'own side'. His own side – or the one he thought was his own – for he never had a side of his own – and also, always did. Every time he turned – whichever way he turned – his back felt a sharp sting – from the hammers, belts and arrows – the sting he was no stranger to – a seasoned hard-bound bag of sand – who ruffled every time it was hit – ruffled to the core – and in no time – reformed to get ready for more. And his king looked on – at times sending a bludgeon to the weak spot – the tender spot – ensuring he was seasoned fully.

Could he run away from battle – but run from which battle – and go where? Back to the loins he came from – to the place he was born – born to fight – or so he thought – thoughts of a warrior –here to please and appease – just waiting for one strong paw of the beasts to pin him down – the thought of being the gladiator – when in fact all he was – was an expendable, replaceable – but always available – a mercenary.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Every Child is Special - Proved

I've been so bitten by the Aamir Khan movie bug that I think about a of lot of them these days... One of those thoughtful moments, I happened to be reading Wiki entry on "Interesting Numbers". I just thought, Aamir's statement in Taare Zameen Par could also be proved, and logically, using this paradox... :)

Aamir says, "Every Child is Special."

Let us prove this using the method of contradiction. Assume that not every child is special. That means the set of all children can be divided into "special" and "not special" children. Assume this set is mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive. Now not special is akin to saying there is nothing unique in the child as Aamir believes every child has something unique in him and is thus, "Special". Let us consider this set of "not special" children. Arrange them in order of height.

Now we find that in the set there is a child who is the tallest. That is something unique. The Tallest "Not Special" child. so we should remove him from the "Not Special" set and add him to the other set.

Now from the remaining, we arrange them in order of their ages. There is an eldest child. He'll be the first "Not Special" child to become an adult. Now that is something special. Let us transfer him too.

Going in the above way, we'll be left with one child who is "Not Special". He's the only "Not Special" child. That is really unique and special.

Q.E.D: Every Child is SPECIAL :)