Saturday, June 27, 2015

Who wears the trousers here?

The division of labour has been the key factor in determining the success of a team since time immemorial. Different people with varying skills come together to perform a complex project. The complex project is divided into a series of tasks. These tasks are carried out by individual members to achieve a goal. The division of labour is found not only in a professional environment but also in personal life. There are difficult choices to make while dividing the tasks. Who is the right person to be undertaking this tasks? Is this person already overloaded with work? Recently, I heard an interesting incident about a friend and his partner.

My friend and his partner are both working, and hence all household chores are undertaken during the weekend. The partner is meticulous and organized. So she writes down all the tasks and the name of the person on a whiteboard in their apartment. When my friend woke up on a Saturday, he was not surprised to find the tasks on the whiteboard. What piqued his interest and also irritated him immediately was another factor associated with these tasks. Hence, he decided to confront his partner.

My Friend(MF): *in a combative tone* Why are these tasks assigned to me?

The partner(TP): *intrigued* You are the one who has to do these.

MF: *refuses to mellow down* All the tasks are assigned to me. You have none. Why?

TP: *smiles* That is because I am smart. I finish all my tasks.

MF: *tongue tied* Err...

TP: *smiles*

MF: *thinking for an eternity before coming up with an alternate line of reasoning* This is unacceptable!

TP: *listens with no interest*

MF: *uses the only argument* Who wears the trousers here?

TP: *smiles victoriously*

MF: *confused*

That is when my friend realizes she is indeed wearing a trouser!

Tags: Musings, Labour, Trouser, Partner

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The fishermen of Kerala

Everyone has a cellphone these days. Do you remember the time these were introduced? When the first generation cell phones arrived, not only the handsets but also the carrier charges were exorbitantly high. Though the cell phones indicated a lot about your financial status, the cell phone owner also was the butt of jokes, at least in Kerala. I remember in the concluding years of 1990s, a friend of mine asking a friend brandishing a cell phone if he was a fisherman. I was surprised to hear this question. Incidentally, the fisherman were using cellphones to find the best market to sell their catch and hence the question

All these years, I have narrated this anecdote in many circles. I considered this fisherman tale to be the best example of how technology changes one's life. I always wondered why there were no case studies on this. Now, I realize I have been wrong. The Economist quotes these stories which is also one of the stories often used to extol the benefits of technology. According to Robert Jensen, a professor of Business Economics, information makes markets work, and markets improve welfare. I agree with the first part of the statement. As for the second part, the jury is still out.

Tags: Musings, Kerala, Fishermen, Technology

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Your dream is bust

The man has a house situated near the green paddy fields. He built this house after After retiring from his job. The house was a long cherished dream. The calm greenery surrounding this house resonates with his inner calmness. He has achieved everything in life. He has achieved everything he needs. He can take leisurely walks enjoying the beautiful scenery, read books and engage in conversations with his beloved. There are major events happening in the world. The impacts of these events never reach this secluded corner of the world. He connects to the outside world only when he feels it is necessary. At the same time, the outside world can come in search of him. The doors are always open.

If you are wondering this man is, he doesn't exist. I constructed this image based on many conversations with my friend. The man described above is an amalgamation of various visions of themselves in a few years. Although the specifics may vary, there were an underlying theme in their visions of the future. All of them wanted to make a lot of money, build a house in Kerala and retire. When you have made and invested a lot of money wisely, you don't have to worry about making ends meet. You can indulge in worldly pleasures. While talking about worldly pleasure, agriculture emerges as the top favorite. When I look at agriculture, it is not a leisure activity but back-breaking hard work. Why would anyone make a lot of money and then end up as a farmer? Then, who am I to question aspirations and dreams?

The world is changing fast that the change is the constant. To achieve your dreams, you need a steady job. Even the job demands you to change constantly. There is always a room for improvement. If you have done it, you can do it better in another way. Your work has slowly creeped and engulfed your life. Most of us behave the same way at work and home. While we struggle to improve ourselves at work and life, look who has turned up for the party. Skynet. If you haven't seen the original Terminator, forget it. Let me do it again. Look who has turned up for the party! Robots. Now, they are going to take away our jobs. They are going to destroy our dreams. That beautiful house near the paddy field is in your mind. Even if you manage to build that house, what are you going to watch from there? Robots harvesting paddy and carrying it over their head is not a pretty sight.

Tags: Musings, Dream, Retirement, Robots

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The inferior philandering man

A few days back, I happened to overhear a bizarre conversation. Two women were talking to each other loudly oblivious of me. I could follow the conversation because they were talking loudly, and I was sitting close to them. They were not bothered by my presence. Interestingly, the two women were talking about a man. In normal circumstances, this conversation should be interesting for me. Instead, it turned out to be a bizarre one as it was about a weak man who succumbed to temptations.

The adjectives of the man, our protagonist, were deduced by me after what was being discussed by the women. The man had recently divorced his wife. Apparently, the two women knew the man and his wife. So the divorce came as a surprise. The reason was infidelity. The man was having an affair with another woman. At this point, they decided to investigate the man's reason for straying. Without realizing, they were giving the man a clean chit. According to one of the woman, the man was in a job where there were a lot of "beautiful" women walking around him. So she understands his predicament. Hearing her stand, I hit the stop button on my eavesdropping machine.

I should be glad when the opposite sex justifies the actions of men. But I was disturbed. Is it a foregone conclusion that men will go wrong? Are men so lacking that they need justification for all their actions? Are men so weak that they can't fight temptation?

Tags: Musings, Men, Women, Infidelity

Friday, June 12, 2015

Dealing with the ordinary

Sometimes, I am awestruck by ingenious creations by others, and I know one thing for sure. Never will I be able to think, act or create like these people in spite of trying hard. Though my statement may sound defeatist to you, there is a limit to our brain capabilities. You may cite the often used study conducted on London cab drivers and how their brain size increased by navigating the London streets. The truth is most of us never gets a chance to increase the size of our brains. So, I wonder. What is the capability of a man? Is there a way to measure this criterion? When I ask these questions to myself, I am referring to a specific time. To be clear, I am referring to capability and not potential.

Men are not created equal. The above fact is the reason why men struggle all their lives to either catch up or race ahead. There are great men. They are either great from birth or achieve the greatness with hard work. Then there are men who will never achieve anything in spite of trying. If you look at what is happening in our world, there are no mention of these non-achievers. The world talks about ordinary men overcoming difficulties to become great men. If you ask me, they were already great, and they unlocked the chains that were holding them back. What about ordinary men remaining ordinary? There is no mention of this category.

How do you deal with ordinary men? There are volumes written about inspiring an ordinary man to rise. There are many ways to motivate people. When a man realizes his shortcomings, it is easier to set him on the right path. What happens when an ordinary man thinks he is great. There are men who realize they are pedestrian, in their later life. This moment, when the bubble breaks, is the most painful moment in his life. Then there are ordinary men who go on living in a delusion of self grandeur. They will never listen to words of wisdom and also prove difficult for others.

Tags: Musings, Ordinary, Men

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Photos: The winding stairs of South Stack lighthouse

Lighthouses have captured our attention for ages. The lonesome towering figure along the coast guides the faraway ship of both safety and danger. But in the modern world with GPS-enabled navigation, what is the relevance of a lighthouse? With modern telecommunication technology, you receive cellphone signals a few distance away from the coast. On top of this, the satellite navigation system has become cheaper. South Stack Lighthouse in Anglesey provides a breathtaking view of the creative powers of both nature and man.

South Stack Lighthouse is situated on a small island. You can walk from one end of the island to the other in less than 5 minutes. Nevertheless, it is an island. When you are visiting this place, you arrive at the top of the cliff by car. From this point, you can look down to see the lighthouse from the edge of the cliff. Then you walk down to the lighthouse using a manmade winding pathway. The winding path ends in a small bridge that provides the connects the mainland with the island. You cross the bridge to set your foot on the island. 

I walked down these stairs and the bridge to see the lighthouse. Although it was not a strenuous march, I couldn't help wondering about the men who fought their way down the cliff to build the lighthouse. You will never question the significance of a lighthouse when look at the treacherous cliffs. But you will never be able to imagine the hardships encountered to build this lighthouse.

Here is a view of the winding stairs created on the cliff ending in the bridge.

Tags: Photos, Wales, Anglesey, South Stack, Lighthouse

Monday, June 8, 2015

Photos: Over the cliff

I have seen rocky cliffs in adventure movies. A group of brave men battle their odds to climb slippery and wet rocks. The drama behind this act is indeed engaging and energising. In India, I have never come across dangerous and alluring rocky cliffs. Even though I have spent a lot of my childhood near the sea, it was at the end of the flat land. In the English coast, you find a lot of cliffs. You have to walk down a steep path to wade into the sea. Recently, I visited Wales. I took the picture at Anglesey, Wales near the South Stack lighthouse.

Tags: Photos, Wales, Anglesey, South Stack, Lighthouse

Friday, June 5, 2015

What is the needful?

Kindly do the needful. If you analyse the statement, it is a simple instruction. The real power of the statement lies in the ambiguity. What does the speaker or writer mean by the needful? How do one find out the needful? How much effort will be expended to find out the needful? The chances are that you have encountered such request in the past in your professional life. What was your reaction? I would like to know for I talked to a friend over the phone who was very upset with such requests. I can understand his point of view. When they are multiple requests, the search for an answer can consume a lot of your time.

The professional world is full of forwards and replies with FYIs and FYAs. Both are dangerous. With shrinking of the available time at the workplace with everyone on the run to do more with less, what does FYI aka "For your information" mean? Is this something I have to worry now, tomorrow or in another 15 days? Compared to FYI, FYA is specific. For your action. But what is the action here? Sometimes, the subject line can be misleading. The conversation might have started on a simple subject where Q & A has shifted the whole discussion to different pastures altogether. Sometimes, the Q & A spans multiple pages that it's hard to figure out what is the action in "For your action".

What stops us from adding a line or even a paragraph while sending out to do the needful? I wouldn't belittle the efforts by saying it might take only 2 minutes of your time. It takes more than 10 minutes for me to articulate the needful while sending it across to someone else. Although I am usually struggling to find the right words and also always wary about the borrowed time from other tasks, it usually works out for me in a different way. I usually get speedy resolutions without spending additional time. Next time, do yourself a favour. The next time you ask for the needful, try writing two sentences on what is the needful. Let me know how that worked out for you.

Tags: Musings, Needful, Request

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