Saturday, August 30, 2014

Is that heartless son-of-a-bitch really a heartless son-of-a-bitch?

Aren't we too quick to judge people? Have you ever stereotyped a person and felt foolish about the misjudgment when you get to know the person better? We all have gone down that road before. A friend narrates an incident from his past illustrating not only this point but also a goof-up at work.

A few decades ago, my friend was working as a contractor at a firm reporting to a manager with whom he shared the coldest of cold relationship. Whatever my friend did, it was not sufficient to bring happiness for the manager. It was then when my friend was entrusted with a new mission. Recently, they had found around a million pounds lying around in the system which was never billed to the customer. So my friend was going to come up with a solution that will regenerate the invoices for this amount which was never billed.

My friend spent considerable amount of time to develop and test the routine. On a Monday, he rolled out his solution and was happy to see the solution picking up some of the amount which was never billed. This is where my friend left the scene feeling happy about the whole thing. Three days later, he received a call from a colleague about the unusual activity around billing. Invoices for around a million pounds were being generated every night. That is when my friend realized he had forgotten to include an important check in his solution.

Now, my friend was in a difficult situation. He was no coward to owning up his mistake. But given his equation with the manager, he knew this was going to be a very costly mistake. Nevertheless, he walked into the manager's room. He explained the issue. He accepted the responsibility of the mistake. He also said he was fixing this at the earliest and not going home till this was fixed. As he was a contractor, he was not going to charge for his services till the time this issue was fixed. After saying this much, he waited for the sword to fall.

The manager was cool. He shrugged and said it was part of the job they were doing. Mistakes happen. So my friend just had to fix it. Whatever my friend said, his manager wouldn't accept him working free for correcting his mistake.

Tags: Musings,Work,Contractor,Invoices

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pappettan on looking forward

If you are wondering who Pappettan is, click on this link and find out.


Every one of us experience a slump in their lives. The lucky ones among us has to go through it only once. Some never. Most of us has to go through this many times in our lives. I was going through a rough patch myself when I met Pappettan. Pappettan has always been a sympathetic ear. So I opened up with him.

Me: *agitated* Nothing is going right. Whatever I try, I just can't steer myself out of this depressing state.

Pappettan: *listens*

Me: *getting more vocal* Remember what we were doing the same time last year. It was nice. The weather was good. We were going out to take photographs.

Pappettan: *gives complete attention and waits for me to complete*

Me: *goes on without caring about the surroundings* I was writing every day. I was taking pictures every day. I had great friends around me.

Pappettan: *silently listening*

Me: *senses something amiss, stops, looks at Pappettan for a few seconds and then in a slightly irritated* What?

Pappettan: *like a sage* There is something wrong when...

Me: *eagerly* When...???

Pappettan: *in clear soft voice* There is something wrong when someone constantly refers to the past. You should look forward to the future while enjoying the present.




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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Photos: The Girl With the Camera

I was alarmed at first. She is a girl, not even a teenager. Should she be carrying an expensive camera? Even before my brain has finished this line of thought, my friend and his son came into my mind. My friend had gifted his old camera to his son. The camera is as expensive as mine. It is the kind of model lugged around by an advanced amateur. There are perks in being a photographer's kid. You get to use your parent's hand-me-down cameras and lenses. These hand-me-downs may also happen to be the state-of-the-art depending upon how addicted your parent is.

What I observed, in both this girl and also my friend's son, was the ease and comfort in which they reacted to the camera. There are a few things a photographer does before going in for the shot. These actions come naturally to them. When they place the viewfinder in front of their eyes, the arms are held in such a way that it is holding the camera from down and also adjusting the angle from above. As a result, the feet are apart with the weight shifting to the side of the body which is closest to the subject. After the shot, the photographer relaxes and moves on as if nothing has happened. It is fun to watch the people observing this act. They are surprised when the photographer gets ready and breaks up with a smile when photographer walks away after the act.

With young minds, there is one another aspect after taking the photo. They run to their parent to show what they have taken. Interestingly, when we are learning photography, this is what we do too. As soon as we take a shot, we run to the more experienced one for approval.


Tags: Photos

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Books: Palestinian Walks

Have you gone back to the place where you spent your childhood, after many number of years? When you visited your old neighborhood, did you have to search harder into your memory to find the familiar land marks? Did you feel unsettled at the changes brought in your neighborhood in the name of progress by the hand dealt by time? If you have answered yes to all the above questions, then this book Raja Shehadeh will interest you. It is more dramatic than your visit to the old neighborhood. Here, the author is visiting and revisiting his country which is no longer recognizable and is becoming increasingly restrictive.

Raja Shehadeh is a Palestinian who is chronicling seven walks on the hills surrounding his village, Ramallah. These seven walks are undertaken at different points in the time. The walk chronicles the beauty of the land, the then political events and the effect of the turbulent times on the author poignantly. For Raja Shehadeh, it is a sarha. Sarha means a man wanders aimlessly without any restrictions on time and place. Essentially a walk without a plan. It also means letting yourself go. Over the period of time, Raja continues to have abundant time on his side but the same cannot be said about the place. More and more restrictions are imposed on where a sarha can be undertaken by the political events and policies affecting this region.

Even the least newspaper-savvy ones among us has known there is a conflict in this region. Most of us attribute it to religion. This is where Raja Shehadeh has a difference in opinion. For him, this has nothing to do with religion. It is colonialism. It can also be termed as a real-estate scam. The land of the natives have been acquired in the name of expropriation. There is no plan or intent for integrating the occupied territories which creates an imbalance. On top of it, there is step-brotherly treatment of the people in the occupied territories. The construction of new settlements is destroying the natural beauty of the area. Also how the different settlements are linked together is another way to drive out the original inhabitants in the occupied territories.

There is another misconception in the minds of people who are not from the region. Why do people in this area fight for this a piece of land in the desert? This is thwarted when you read through Raja Shehadeh's description of the wadis. The valley is fertile and also beautiful with a multi-colored spread and graceful animals which will sooth our eyes and heart. The rage of the author is clearly evident in the writing. This is evident from the author's confrontation with an Israeli settler in one of his walks. This also makes us feel helpless since there is nothing the outside world can do lessen the rage and pain. It is no longer the peaceful land where Raja used to take sarha. Now, both sides have made the valleys a dangerous place to stroll.

The book offers no solution. But it is an eye opener to the conflict in the area especially for the uninitiated.



Tags: Books,Raja Shehadeh,Palestine,Israel


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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Teaching a healthy diet is not easy

When I say I love to eat beef, I have noticed pain and reproach in the face of the listeners. Once when I ordered pork, a barely noticeable silence engulfed the table before the boisterous tone of the ensuing conversation resumed. If you are too baffled by my preferences, let me assure I haven't eaten dogs or snakes yet. In fact, it took me a year and an excellent company to try out snails and also frog legs, all on the same night. If you are traumatized by my eating habits, you should have hung out with the boys from my neighborhood. They were into crows.

I have trouble eating only healthy food for a prolonged period. I need to have my boost of meat shooting up my blood streams to function in an efficient manner. The love for unhealthy food was also evident when my friend sent me a long email extorting the evils of fried chicken from one of famous chains. After carefully reading the article, I wanted to run out to get a bucket of fried chicken. On hind sight, my friend should not have send the pictures of fried chicken along with the email. 

At the same time, I do not force my eating habits on others. In return, I expect the same. Recently, I was a silent listener to a conversation between a eight year old and her mom. They were talking about food.

Mom: Do you like chicken? I can make it for you

Daughter: *smiling*Yes, I do. *pauses and then reflects* I like beef too.

Mom: *shocked* How can you? Have you seen a cow? It is a very big animal.

Daughter: *listens*

Mom: *explaining* They kill such a big animal and you are eating it.

Daughter: *listening and processing the information*

Mom: *drives in the final nail* It is a shame to kill such a big animal and eat it.

Daughter: *excitedly*We are not killing it. They are killing it. We are only eating it.

Tags: Parenthood,Mom,Daughter,Food

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Monday, August 4, 2014

The Ever Changing Windsor Castle

While returning the audio guide after visiting the castle, there are two predominant emotions, disappointment and awe. The disappointment stems from one factor. The fire of 1992. Although there were no injuries or death from this accident, a fire breaking out in one of the important castles in British history is indeed shameful and disappointing. The royal house of United Kingdom is known as House of Windsor, a name chosen by George V when he decided to change the name of the Royal Family from a German one to a British one. This itself should be an indication as to why this castle is important.

The awe generated by the castle is due to many factors. Originally built for military purposes by William the Conqueror, the Windsor castle has changed from a military castle to the home of the Royal Family. The Windsor Castle has adapted well to the changing times, sometimes neglected for a long period and at other times, pampered. For instance, after the recent fire, St George's Hall underwent a major transformation where the ceiling was redesigned with coat of arms of Order of Garter, the highest order of chivalry. In one of the adjacent rooms, they came up with a simple way to restore the wooden floors after the fire.They decided to the turn the wooden planks while restoring the floor.

Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest inhabited castle. The kings and queens of different era made changes to the castle to make what it is now. Charles II, in order to re-establish the royal authority following the beheading of his father by Cromwell, commissioned a lot of changes. One of the best pieces is seen on the ceiling of the banquet hall, a baroque by Antonio Verrio. There are quirky facts associated with the castle especially a king's bedchamber where the king never sleeps yet puts on a show in this room of getting up to noblemen in waiting with grievances.

George III declared Windsor Castle as the royal home. George IV decided to do away the architectural diversity by adopting Gothic style. He also commissioned what is now known as the Waterloo Chamber. The walls of this chamber adorn the portraits of all those who were instrumental in defeating Napoleon. Then there is the amazing collection of miniature items built for Queen Mary known as Queen Mary's doll house.

Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside the castle. In a way, it is a boon as it forces you to give attention to details.




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Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Bollywood effect on project planning

What has got Bollywood to do with project planning? Is this another one of my tireless efforts to get your attention? Before you even embark on that line of questioning, let me assure I am very interested in all the footfalls in this area. At the same time, I also urge you to be patient and listen to the tale I weave. As always, I promise not to disappoint you.

Now that we have decided to let the connection Bollywood and project planning be revealed at the appropriate moment, let us pick up the next point. Do you laugh at Bollywood movies? I do. It is driven by style and no substance. Am I a Bollywood fan? Of course, I am. But is Bollywood important in the world arena? Yes, it is. It is so important that even project managers take a note of it while planning.

I am planning a project that spans a couple of Christmases and also Onams. As with any project, we start with a few people, then we reach our maximum size and after which, we dissolve the team steadily. The line plotted using number of team members against time looks good and resembles the one drawn for any successful projects. We are also aware about challenges on abruptly bringing in new members especially in a far off development center in India. If we do not plan this phase effectively, the new members will be on board and do no have nothing to do.

My counterpart is a project manager who is British. So we were brainstorming on how this phase should be handled. There is extensive homework to be done by our existing team before we even bring more people on board. According to my British Project Manager, "If we do not plan how these new engineers are to be trained, they would show up and have nothing to do other than watching Bollywood movies on iPhone!".

The British Project Manager has never been to India. But Bollywood has already touched his life.

Tags: Musings,Bollywood,Planning,Project

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